Safety at what cost?

The NHTSA is thinking about regulating backup cameras for all cars by 2014
backup camera body

They say that the new cameras could save 100 or more off the 300 people killed a year in "back-over" accidents.

The cost? $1.9 to $2.7 billion dollars a year. Billion. That means saving each life costs between $17 million and $27 million dollars. The very best case scenario, by the government's own estimates, is that 300 people are saved for $1.9 billion. Which means each life saved would cost $6.3 million. Does that make any sense? I'm sorry, but no. Realistically spending $20 million per person saved just does not make any sense. Maybe in 100 years, when all other threats are dealt with, this legislation would make sense. Right now, this is completely ridiculous. There are so many better things that the world should be spending its money on, that would actually contribute in a meaningful way.

In case you have not noticed, this is just one in a string of new 'safety' regulations which will push the cost of new cars in the US up by $1,000's per car, with little real benefit. These include the new "black box" which is really just being put in for the benefit of lawyers, as it does not actually increase safety at all, in any way.

This is the kind of shit which slowly cripples an economy, the kind of shit which wastes time and money, the kind of shit that the current administration wallows in and calls gold.

Boeing Wins Air-tanker Contract Again, Bribes, Again

Boeing again won the $35 billion competition for the Air Force's new tanker.

However, everyone knows that the EADS bid (basically Airbus), was better. It was a better airframe, better engines, better operational capability, and lower costs.

What did Boeing have that EADS did not? Two things: a "Made in the USA" sticker, and lots of bribery.

Boeing has been bribing people for years. The contract was first awarded 7 years ago, and was pulled because of a corruption scandal. While nothing illegal has been found, yet, on this latest round, Boeing outspent EADS $18MM to $3MM on lobbying efforts.

What is just idiotic about this is that the US is happy to export its arms around the world and pushes our allies to buy them, but then refuses to accept a far superior European product at a lower price, with lower operating costs. Cost the taxpayers billions because of corruption and isolationism. Brilliant.


Need Peak Power? Go to Gwynedd

When people talk about "green" power - they often talk about baseline vs. peak capacity. But here's the rub: green "peak" capacity does not usually come at the peak consumption times. Generally, wind and solar align alright with peak times, but by no means perfectly.

If you want perfect alignment, you need instant, on-demand power. A pipe dream you say? Nope.

Meet the electric mountain.

Dinorwig Power Station (aka Electric Mountain) Gwynedd, Wales

Dinorwig Power Station (aka Electric Mountain) Gwynedd, Wales

The Dinorwig Power Station is a 1,800 MW pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, near Dinorwig, Llanberis in Snowdonia national park in Gwynedd, north Wales. It comprises 16 km of tunnels, 1 million tons of concrete, 200,000 tons of cement and 4,500 tons of steel.

It does not actually "produce electricity" in the sense that it is about 75% efficient. Water is pumped up to the reservoir at low-demand times (middle of the night), and then is released when there is a sudden surge in demand.

And why does the UK especially need this? Tea and Soccer.

Back in the day, my Mom worked on the national natural-gas grid in the UK. She learned about the greatest spike, to this day, on the UK electrical grid: half-time at the finals of the 1966 World Cup (the UK vs. Germany). What happened? As soon as half-time came around, half of England walked over to their kitchen to make some tea, plugging in their 220v electric kettles. The grid almost failed under the massive surge in demand. Enter the electric mountain.

from wired:
"When millions of British football fans flip on their electric kettles at halftime, Dinorwig’s hydropower operation kicks into action to handle the spike in demand: 10 million cubic meters of water in a reservoir on the surface rush down a network of pipes to drive six turbines located 300 feet below the surface. The hall that holds the turbines—a former slate mine and Europe’s largest man-made cavern—lies deep below Elidir Mountain. Dinorwig can generate 1,320 megawatts in just 10 seconds, making it the zippiest power generator in the world."

Pretty damn amazing. This is 70% of the power of the Hoover Dam delivered on demand. Incredible.

Worst Commercial Ever

I just saw a Pepperidge Farm commercial, which I think is one of the worst I have ever seen. Why? Because it starts out with Milano's, which I love (and I know you do too), and shows a big spread of delicious chocolate.

Right after that, right after you have been thinking about Milanos and chocolate, it switches to advertising their garlic bread. And if you are anything like me your mind jumped to mixing chocolate and garlic bread together, and then you were instantly treated to a sense of revulsion so deep that you wanted to get up and run from the tv. It would be like co-marketing orange juice and toothpaste. Ugh.


Last flight of the space shuttle

In one context, the Space Shuttle has been a complete failure. It has had two spectacular and horrific failures. It costs 10x more per launch than it 'should' have. It has completely lost the satellite launch market and was never commercially viable, and only briefly viable for the interests of national security.

In another context, it has been an amazing achievement. We build a reusable space plane. Come on, that's pretty damn cool. We built a plane which goes into space, stays up there for weeks at a time, and then comes back and lands on a runway. Getting into space is goddamn hard. Operating in space safely is harder still. Space is less forgiving than your mother in law, harder than a monk at a strip club, and more expensive than keeping peace in the middle east. Was the Space Shuttle ever really great at what it did? Not really. But in the big picture, we still built a goddamn space plane.

And it is now in space for the last time. It is the end of an era, but I think, the beginning of a much more interesting one.

The last time that people really cared about space was 40 years ago. Even nearing the end of the Apollo missions, the nation started to tune out, to the point that I have gone and visited Apollo 19, which lies on its side at the Houston Space Center, because even though the amazing vehicle was already built, it was deemed not worth the cost of actually running the mission.

Now, we are reaching the point where space will become economically viable for private operators. SpaceX with their new contracts with NASA is leading the charge, but little guys flying just above the atmosphere such as Virgin Galactic will also prove that there is money to be made in space. And profits are what really drive exploration.

Why did the US colonists always move west? They wanted more land, so they could make their money. Eventually, they wanted the fertile soil of Oregon, or the gold of California and Alaska. They knew how to get there in part because of Lewis and Clark, whose main objective was to figure out the animal and mineral worth of the Mississippi river basin and the lands to the west. Profits drive exploration, and they are what will drive our move into space.

So pour a beer for the Space Shuttle, but celebrate this new era we are moving into.

Idiocy: Supreme Court Allows Idiotic Liability Lawsuits

In CA, the family of a woman sued Mazda after their crapbox 1993 MPV hit another vehicle head on back in 2002.

1993 Mazda MPV
Why would Mazda be liable? Because the woman was in the middle seat in the back, and was only wearing a lap belt, there was no shoulder belt. The other three people in the car, all with shoulder belts, survived.

The suit claimed that even though the MPV met all safety requirements at the time it was sold, and even though a goddamn idiot knows that a lap-belt is not going to be as safe as a shoulder belt, the suit was seen as having merit. On what basis, I don't know, because this is friggin idiotic.

Mazda did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. They built a car which for 1993 was a safe and perfectly normal car. There was no malice, intent to cover up defects, or intentional use or instillation of unsafe features. At the time, lap-belts for the middle seat were standard. Let me repeat, it is absolutely clear that Mazda did absolutely nothing wrong, had followed all regulations, and the car was not defective at all, in any way.

And yet, they are going to be liable. Let it be know that if you own any old car, and new safety technology was not available on it, you can now sue the car company. If you rear-end the car in front of you, sue because your car does not offer stop-short radar and braking. If you don't bother to look before you change lanes on the highway and smash into the car next to you, sue because your car did not offer blind spot detection. If you royally suck at parallel parking, sue because your car does not offer automatic parking. Hell, if you are injured in any way, sue the car company, because I can guarantee that unless you are driving a top of the line Mercedes S-class, your car is missing some safety features.

This is just idiotic.


webOS and the Xoom

No, the Xoom (Motorola's new tablet) does not run webOS. However, Android 3.0, the tablet version of the OS, has been largely designed by Matias Duarte, the man who designed webOS. Why is this? Google realized as soon as webOS came out that they were way way behind in building an intuitive interface. First, they copied webOS. Then, when Palm crashed and burned in one of the great marketing failures of our times, El Goog started to poach devs and execs jumping off the sinking ship. The result? Android 3.0 and to some extent 2.2 as well.

Read the review over at engadget, but basically, like a lot of 1st gen Google services - this is more of a Beta. However, down the road, it seems that the new user interface and software package will be enough to challenge and then take down the iPad.

GM Makes Money: First time since '04, Most since '99

General Motors has officially announced earnings for its first full year of business after its emergence from bankruptcy. The automaker brought in $135.6 billion in revenue with a net income of $4.7 billion, which marks GM's first profit since 2004. Additionally, that profit was the largest for The General since 1999. Previously, GM had racked up $100 billion in losses, most of which were stuck to the secured bondholders so that the Obama administration and the UAW could have their undeserved $.

So will the General make it? Yeah, they will. They are building better cars, and have streamlined the business. Personally, I would have kept Pontiac and made GMC a commercial-only brand, but maybe that's just me. However, life is hard, and because the market is down, and because the street was looking for more, GM is currently down 6%. Make sense? Not really.

32.44 -2.15‎ (-6.22%‎) Feb 24 1:46pm ET

Open: 34.90
High: 35.00
Low: 32.37
Volume: 42,374,193
Avg Vol: 16,513,000
Mkt Cap: 48.66B

Search Results

    Pure Awesome: Morgan Threewheeler

    Morgan makes some of the coolest cars on the market today. Some people think that they looked dated. Well, yeah, sorta. Its more that they have not changed in so long that they have gone from current, to dated, to retro. Some of their latest models are simply gorgeous, and drive well to boot, ash (real wood) frame and all.

    For example, the Aero 8. Mmmm

    However, Morgan used to be known for more than quirky cars. They also used to build quirky threewheelers. I have actually seen a couple of these over in the Lake District in the UK, and I have some pics of them somewhere I will try and put up. First, let me point out that they build the threewheeler the right way around (2-1) rather than the 1-2 more-roll-than-Jack-and-Jill Reliant Robin

    And so now Morgan is bringing it back. And it looks fantastic. It will counts a motorcycle for regulatory and insurance reasons, is powered by a fuel-injected, 115-horsepower V-Twin engine mated to a Mazda five-speed gearbox. In other words, it should be a crazy little thing. Hell yeah Morgan, screw the 21st century, its more interesting with these guys running around.

    Morgan Three Wheeler

    One Sausage, Three Sizes

    Quick, name this car:

    Nope, not the A4, this is the new A8. Confused? You should be.

    Because they are pretty much identical looking. The A8 is just 30% larger.

    The car is meant to be great and all, but I think it is pretty interesting that Audi is back to building the same car in three sizes. This is the old old Audi strategy, one that they used to follow much more than Mercedes or BMW ever did. Audi has said they expect to grow massively over the next five years, and personally, I think they are going to have a hard time doing it when their $80,000 flagship looks exactly the same as the entry-level A4. Mebbe thats just me, but I don't want people thinking their perspective has gotten all screwed up and rear-ending me.

    Norm's Car Review: Saab 9000 Turbo

    Back in the day, I wrote about my 10 Best Performance Bargains. Since that time, I have owned two of them: the 300zx, and more recently, the Saab 9000 Turbo, specifically a '94 9000 CSE Turbo.

    In the pic, you can see the car, and what killed it: a little old lady in a Prius speeding for a green light and hitting the front of my car. Sadly, I did not do my civic duty and take a Prius off the road. It will go down as one of the greatest failures of my life.

    First, let me tell you that the rated 200hp is a complete lie. It has much more than that. I would estimate 230hp or so, a number backed up by a lot of owners and Saab insiders. You have to remember the time and context: back in '94, 200hp was a lot, and Saab was trying to sell the car as a luxury car as well as performance vehicle, while the range-topping Aero was given a higher hp rating. So they lied. And that's a good thing. This thing is a Rumpelstiltskinian sleeper.

    The damn thing is fast. Granted, with front wheel drive, you get some torque steer, but it handles well too. I could take corners with this car at speeds which many modern cars would blush at. Remember that the car (due to '94 safety equipment) is light, only just over 3000lbs, which for a car this size is great. The 5spd manual is smooth and quick to shift, the clutch well balanced, the pedals well placed.

    In terms of usefulness? The hatchback is amazing. What the hell is every other car company and Saab today doing not building sedans with hatchbacks? Do they weight too much? Do they cost too mcuh to build? I just don't understand it. It makes owning a sedan so much more useful. Fold down the rear seats and you basically have a Saab-camino.

    Lets run through the stats: 230hp, 5spd manual, high 20's mpgs, 3100lbs, lots of interior volume. And the gadgets? Tons of them. Trip computer with everything a brand new car would have. Climate control. Leather interior (with a fallen down headliner usually...). Competitive in '94? Hell yes. Competitive in 2011? Actually, yes.

    Long story short, if you have one in good shape, keep it. If you can find a nice one, buy it. If you have never driven one, drive it.

    Sadly, Saab has made almost no progess since this time. I was just looking at and test drove the new Saab 9-5, which is quite a nice car. The base car is the only one which comes with a manual. 220hp, 3400lbs, 27mpg, trip computer, decent dashboard, good but not amazing handling, FWD... and no hatchback. The 9-5 could have been a strong competitor to the 5-series and A6. Instead, it is nice alternative to the A4 or a Volvo. Too bad, because it could have been so much more.

    I did just buy a new Saab 9-3 2.0T, which I really like, but more on that another time.

    Aston Martin Virage: More of the same... which is good

    Aston Martin has been building some of the most beautiful cars in the world, dating back to the Ian Callum design of the Jaguar XK8 from 1996, one of my favorite cars, and the car which really saved the Jaguar brand. At the time, Aston Martin was the big brother to Jag, and they developed the DB7 off of the Jag platform.

    And it was gorgeous.

    Since that time, the new cars (Vantage, DBS, Vanquish, Rapide) have really been just an evolution of that styling.

    And now there is the Virage. While the ultra-rare One77 is nice, this is the car I want.

    Golf Convertible is Back

    I always liked the Golf Convertible. It was the small, fun little convertible which you could justify buying because it just did not cost that much. Similar in some ways to the older Saab 900/9-3 convertibles from the mid-90's, one of which I just sold. Get it with a stick-shift and even with less than 130hp, you could have a lot of fun in the summer. If I had a beach house, or a place on a little island off the east coast, I would love to keep one of the old ones around.

    But in 2003, with the New Beetle convertible and the folding-hardtop Eos on the way, VW killed off the drop-top-golf.

    And now its back. Convertibles are rarely a practical option. And at this price range, you are generally looking at the convertible as a second car, one which can do commuting duty and be fun in the summer. The Eos is too expensive and too heavy: folding hard-tops are nice, but they are often the worst of both worlds rather than the best (no trunk space, heavy, complex, expensive).

    The new Golf? It looks good. Having just sold my convertible, I can tell you: I want one again, sometime. Any convertible is fun. Make it kind of sporty, give it a stickshift, and make the soft-top automatic, and its a hell of a fun car. So, I am glad VW decided to bring this fun little performer back.

    2012 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet


    Ok, this is more a personal call than a stock call, but let me explain.

    Apple has jumped the shark. The iPad this summer was the peak of Apple for the foreseeable future. The last 10 years have belonged to Apple in terms of innovation. The next 10 will belong to Google and their Asian hardware partners.

    Android will beat iOS, have no doubt. The iPad is a nice piece of hardware, as is the iPhone. But there is a reason that Mac's are only 10% of the market, not 90%. One form factor, closed down ecosystem, limited channel distribution, high price point and limited feature set will mean Apple looses in the end.

    And right now they are overvalued. Wildly overvalued. They are the second largest company in the world by market cap. Which makes about as much sense as electing a college professor to be President.

    So, short AAPL is my call.

    If you want to buy something, but SNDK - the future will be ruled by flash memory, and SanDisk will be providing it.

    Libya in Flames

    Libya is burning, as Quaddafi is trying to hold onto power through the use of force.

    The situation is so bad in the country that Quaddafi has been importing thousands of mercenaries from other African nations, and those mercenaries have been firing indiscriminately upon protesters, and using small aircraft to bomb the squares as well.

    His own special service (a clear sign of a crazy dictatorship is always when there are two separate militaries) has also been firing on protesters, but regular police and the traditional Army have been standing aside or joining with the protesters.

    He really needs to go. the man is insane. In his last UN speech, he stated that Jack Ruby was an "Israeli," the Security Council is a "terrorist" group, and Barack Obama is "my son." It is disturbing that the US and the UK have done quite a lot to keep the madman in power. The recent deal with the UK for the Lockerbie bomber in exchange for BP oil rights will do down as one of the most despicable and deplorable acts of the British government.

    Thankfully, the people are taking things into their own hands. What would I do if I were the US? Take out the mercenaries. A few predator/tomahawk strikes would go a long way in this instance. Do it well, and it would never be clear that the US was involved at all.

    Again, the risk however is that all of the nations in this region end up not as democracies, but as Islamic dictatorships, in which case we are in for a very difficult balance of international politics in the region. We should be doing all we can to support true democracy in the region.

    Sea Shepherd Epic Win

    The Sea Shepherds have defeated the Japanese whalers. Woot woot.

    First a little background.

    The Japanese have continued to commercially hunt whales even with the international whaling ban, a treaty which they have signed. They kill about 1,000 whales per year, mostly in the Antarctic whale sanctuary.

    In the last few years, they have been increasingly harried by an environmental action group called the Sea Shepherds. This group, founded by the crazy but intelligent Paul Watson, is sort of a militant wing of environmentalists for the oceans. Funded by the hit TV show Whale Wars and by a couple of big donations (Bob Barker and Steve Irwin both donated large funds and have ships named after them).

    Now, let me be clear, I do not generally support militant environmentalism, or a lot of the ecomentalist BS which is foisted upon the world. But whales are different. Whales are intelligent animals, possibly the most intelligent animals on earth (including us - some studies show that humpbacks especially may in fact be more intelligent than we are) and at a minimum highly intelligent animals which are at population levels still far far below they were 300 years ago.

    Though they tried all kinds of different tactics (throwing stink bombs, trying to foul props with ropes, harassing the ships with small inflatables, boarding the ships in protest) they found that with their new faster ships, the absolute best tactic they had was to find the Nisshin Maru factory ship, and simply sit right behind it, blocking the slipway so that no whales could be processed.

    Above is an image of a whale being brought onto the factory ship from a harpoon ship. The Steve Irwin will try and get right behind the factory ship, and block this from happening. And this year, they did it early in the season, and have been sitting right behind the Japanese ship for weeks.

    And now, the Japanese are turning tail and running. They say that it is because of safety, but it is really because they are not making any money. Paul Watson, crazy as he is, is no idiot, and his whole purpose was to make whaling a bad economic proposition. Now that they realize they wont be making money (the clear purpose of the Japanese fleet - they care as much about science as Exxon Mobile does about geology research) they are getting the hell out of there.

    Run assholes, run.

    In Mother Russia...

    Putin has built himself a 80,000sq foot palace. Whoops, got that wrong.. 800,000sq ft. Oh no wait, I was thinking in you know, western kinds of terms.

    This is Mother Russia.

    Putin has built himself a 8,000,000sq ft palace. Yes, 8 million. To put that another way, the INSIDE of his 'house' is 184 acres.

    Read on..

    Vladimir Putin 'has £600 million Italianate palace'

    Vladimir Putin has had a lavish £600 million Italianate palace built for himself near a Black Sea resort with the proceeds of "corruption, bribery and theft", a Russian businessman has alleged.

    Vladimir Putin 'has £600 million Italianate palace'
    Image 1 of 6
    Set in 74 hectares of prime land near the Black Sea coast, the palace is reported to be almost eight million square feet Photo: AFP/GETTY

    The claim, made in a letter to Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, was boosted on Monday after the Novaya Gazeta newspaper obtained what it said was an authenticated copy of the original contract for the palace signed in 2005 by Vladimir Kozhin, the Russian presidential property manager. Mr Putin, now prime minister, was president at the time.

    Set in 74 hectares of prime land near the Black Sea coast with its own vineyard, the palace is reported to be almost eight million square feet and has its own helipad. Other features include an indoor cinema, a summer amphitheatre, a casino, swimming pools, a gym and a clock tower. Sergei Kolesnikov, the businessman who claims the palace is Mr Putin's, has likened the structure to a palace built for Russia's Tsars outside St Petersburg. He said that the Russian prime minister had personally approved the design and materials.

    Mr Kolesnikov has called on President Medvedev to investigate his controversial claim. "A palace is being built on the Black Sea coast for the personal use of the Russian prime minister," Mr Kolesnikov wrote in his original letter. "As things stand, the cost of the palace is $1 billion. The funds were mostly raised through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft," he said. It was in President Medvedev's powers, he added, to show ordinary Russians that everyone was equal before the law including Mr Putin. Mr Putin's spokesman has dismissed the allegation out of hand however, as has Mr Kozhin, the Kremlin official whose signature allegedly appeared on the original contract. President Medvedev has not responded to the allegations either, at least not publicly.

    But Mr Kolesnikov, who said he was involved in the project himself until 2009 when he was removed for raising concerns about corruption, is sticking to his story and pictures of the lavish residence have appeared on a Russian whistle-blowing web site. Mr Kolesnikov said that a state construction company was being used to build the palace and that state funds had been illegally diverted to the project.

    "Corrupt officials building themselves personal palaces at a time when children are dying due to lack of funds for medicines is Russia's shame," he wrote. A Russian magazine, Kommersant Dengi, reported last month that Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev share between them at least two dozen palaces, villas and mansions. In his official income declaration last year, Mr Putin said he earned the equivalent of around £80,000. Mr Putin may contest a presidential election which is due next year. His supporters believe the claim about the palace has more to do with politics and may be part of a dirty tricks campaign against him.


    Intel has been pushing a mobile linux based OS called MeeGo. For a while, MeeGo and Nokia's Maemo were set to merge, and become the new high-end touch screen OS for Nokia phones.

    But Nokia just abandoned that option and instead has gotten in bed with Bill Gates to create some Finnish-American love children.

    For some reason, perhaps the anger of a jilted partner, Intel has been advertising MeeGo extensively. Which really does not make sense, because there are 0 major release devices in the world which run MeeGo. It also does not make sense because Intel does not even produce a chip which can run the OS, or run any mobile OS for that matter.

    webOS Everywhere!

    Yeah, so turns out that HP did not just want webOS to build the Pre 3 and a tablet. Turns out that HP, the largest computer manufacturer in the world, is going to put webOS on all of its computers.

    The interesting part here is exactly what webOS is doing on laptops and desktops. And on that, no one is completely sure.. HP says that it will be "integrated" and not some kind of virtualization or dual-boot option, and they say they are working with Microsoft on the OS experience.

    So, not really sure what HP is going to be doing here, but a big webOS install base will be good, because it means more devs, more apps, and a better chance of not going to the great OS graveyard in the sky.

    Colombian Submarine Confiscated: Actually a Submarine

    Over the past 10 years, many drug "submarines" have been captured and confiscated. However, most of these were not at all submarines. They were boats which floated with very little above the water line. In other words, they were designed to be difficult to be seen from the air and by ship-borne radar, but they were not actually submarines.

    Until now.

    This new submarine is 100ft long, can carry four people and up to eight tonnes of cargo, cost an estimated $2 million to build, and... here's the kicker... can travel up to 30ft below the surface.

    Pretty damn interesting. Given the history of small and homemade submarines, I would never want to get into this thing, let alone take her down.

    You Protest too Much?

    Egypt has seen continuing protests. This is not a good thing. The military has taken control of the country, and it seems that the nation would be on track for democratic elections in September.

    But, as the pendulum swings, it often swings too far.

    Now, protests have moved on to wages. And while yes, wages are terrible right now, the one thing that the military cannot do (or one of the things really) is immediately start raising wages. First, they need to figure out how to get the economy going again, and people should really go back to work and get things going: big, positive, economic change does not come overnight.

    In a move of some hilarity, the Cairo police are also now protesting. These police officers, agents of the deposed regime, are protesting over pay and the fact that they were "forced" to fire tear gas etc at protesters before the military stepped in and stabilized the situation. They are generally hated by the Egyptian people, and I think now recognizing that they are screwed by backing the wrong side, they are trying to pull an Italy and change to the side of the victor.


    Anyway, I hope that the country can get back to work and the military can start to improve the economic if not the political situation.

    Nokia Fail: R&D with no D

    Quick question: which company spends more on R&D:
    1) Apple
    2) Nokia

    How about I told you that Nokia spends not just more than Apple, but more than twice what Apple spends? Nokia throws down $4 billion a year into its R&D rat-hole. Apple, $1.8 billion.

    That makes no damn sense.

    What the hell has Nokia been doing with that money? Symbian is a disaster, and is about 3-5 years out of date at this point. Their dark-horse operating system, MeeGo/Maemo, never really reached maturity, much as my Nokia N770 tablet was badass back in 2006.

    And yeah, their hardware is nice, always has been, but is not nearly as nice as all of the touchscreens that the relatively tiny HTC has been churning out.

    Nokia has now announced that they are ditching their operating systems and going to use Windows Phone 7. While this is a big win for Microsoft, it is pretty pathetic coming from the world's largest phone maker, that they have failed so completely.

    But really, where the hell does their $4 billion a year go? Nokia has not been "market-leading" or innovative in years - probably since the early 2000's.


    The Many Flavors of 4G

    This is courtesy of PopSci, but is a very good overview of what you are really looking at when you go to buy that "4G" phone this summer:

    All of the mobile carriers are liberally tossing around the same "4G" label for their new networks and gadgets here at CES, but the real meaning of the word is not as clear-cut

    The Four 4G Networks

    Almost every high-profile smart phone to be unveiled at CES this week boasts a super-fast "4G" network connection. But depending on the carrier, "4G" can mean many different things. Here's the breakdown.

    Essentially there are three types of networks the carriers are currently calling 4G: HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access Plus), LTE (Long Term Evolution) and Wi-Max. And each carrier uses a different one (or a combination of two or more). You're probably already familiar with the GSM/CDMA divide, with Verizon and Sprint on CDMA and AT&T and T-Mobile on GSM. The difference between the 4G networks works in a similar same way.

    Verizon: As you've probably seen via their recent marketing blitz, Verizon's moving fast with their next-generation LTE network, which is actually based on GSM technology (an interesting change, because Verizon's 3G network is CDMA/EV-DO). The network is largely deployed already (Verizon's current count is 38 major cities and 60 airports). LTE's capacity is huge: Verizon boasts download speeds of 5-12 Mbps, which is on par with a standard home broadband connection. Another benefit of LTE is that it's an entirely different network than VZW's CDMA 3G, which means the chances of overcrowding are lower.

    AT&T: AT&T is also rolling out LTE, but not yet: today they dropped a cagey "mid-2011" date for an initial LTE rollout (in a limited selection of cities, to be sure). They hope to be done with their LTE rollout "by the end of 2013." In the meantime, AT&T is calling their enhanced HSPA+ network "4G." HSPA+ is at its core the same protocol used by their current 3G network, just with added capacity. HSPA+ is the slowest of the three main 4G options. Today's AT&T phone announcements are the first hardware devices to take advantage of the HSPA+ network, and AT&T is still fairly cagey about their 4G coverage map. Basically, AT&T is playing catch-up.

    T-Mobile: T-Mo is further along with their HSPA+ than AT&T, currently claiming "over 100 major metropolitan areas" with coverage. So while their enhanced 3G network is fairly beefy and you can use it today on a variety of phones and laptop cards, they currently have no solid LTE or Wi-Max plans for the United States.

    Sprint: Sprint is the only major player that stuck with Wi-Max, another GSM-based protocol that was an early contender for a 4G wireless broadband standard. Generally speaking it's faster than HSPA+ but not as fast as LTE. Sprint has had 4G hardware available for several months to take advantage of this network, including the HTC Evo 4G smartphone and a variety of modems and dongles.

    Phew! As you can see, the 4G landscape is pretty crazy. Another interesting thing to consider: moving from 3G to 4G connectivity is more of a hassle when the two networks' protocols are different. If you drop out of a 4G zone on Sprint, for instance, your device has to switch to a different type of radio band to re-connect to the CDMA/EV-DO 3G network. On T-Mobile's (and presumably AT&T's) HSPA+ networks, this is less of an issue.

    Cuba gets Internet Access

    Well, I'll be fair: they already had internet access. But only by satellite.

    Actually, all international calls and internet access in Cuba had to be routed through satellite connections, which is damn expensive.

    Due to this and the extensive government control, only 3% of the population has internet access.

    The Communist government has always blamed this on the US economic embargo, as Florida is less than 100 miles away.

    Now, Chavez has funded a 1,000 mile fiber optic cable from Venezuela to Cuba.
    Ship laying undersea fibre-optics cable

    Interestingly, they say that they will still limit access and are trying to play down what this will offer, because they don't want everyone getting on the internet all of a sudden.

    This to me is another example of where freedom leads to freedom, and where capitalism and open trade would be more likely to lead to revolution and democracy rather than embargoes and limited freedom of expression.

    Quite simply, look at Egypt, where Mubarak has just fled Cairo. I think the US giving the internet to Cuba rather than Chavez would have been a good thing.

    RIP Palm, Long Live webOS

    Palm is now officially dead, but will live on in spirit.

    And by spirit, I mean operating system.

    The New WebOS HP/Palm

    webOS, Plam's last chance at survival was... well.. fantastic from a software point of view, and a complete and utter failure from a marketing point of view. Someday, someone will write a case about this, because it really was an incredible screwup.

    How good is webOS from a technical standpoint? Android has heavily ripped off webOS since it was launched, including a new home screen they called "more webOS like." Apple has tried but failed to copy webOS's fantastic notification system. Symbian and Win Phone 7 have ripped off the "card" system. And finally, the new OS found on the BlackBerry PlayBook is a complete and direct ripoff of webOS. Basically, everyone else knew that Palm had created the easiest to use, most intuitive, and most advanced mobile OS. They just failed to sell any phones.

    However, along with killing off Plam, HP did have some good news for us true believers.

    First is a nice big tablet, swinging spec for spec with the Xoom and iPad, and runing webOS, which should be damn nice.

    Also, is the Palm Pre 3. I'll be honest here, the difference between the Pre 3 and my Pre 1 is really not all that much. Given that my Pre will be 2yrs old when I go to upgrade in the fall, I will have to seriously evaluate my options.

    Let me explain why:

    The new phone is just like my phone, but with a 3.6 vs. 3.2in screen (granted, higher resolution), a 1.4ghz processor vs 500mhz (which is pretty big), 5mp vs 3mp camera (meh), and 512mb vs. 256mb RAM (good, but not amazing). One cool thing is that it is now a worldphone, which is nice

    Palm Pre 1

    HP Pre 3

    Dimensions59.6 x 100.7 x 16.9mm64 x 111 x 16mm
    Processor500MHz TI OMAP1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8x55
    Display3.1-inch 480 x 3203.58-inch 800 x 480
    Camera3 megapixel with VGA video capture, no secondary5 megapixel primary with 720p video capture, VGA secondary
    Storage8GB8GB or 16GB
    Cellular radioGSM / HSDPA or CDMAGSM / HSPA+ and CDMA
    WiFi802.11b/g802.11b/g/n (dual-band)
    Bluetooth2.1 + EDR2.1 + EDR
    Touch-to-share capabilityNoYes
    Battery capacity1,150mAh (mine is ~3,000mAh)1,230mAh

    So, will I get the Pre 3? Yes. But, I was really hoping for more form factors. I suppose that is what I was most frustrated by. However, one damn cool feature is that if you touch a Pre/Veer to the TouchBook tablet, you can instantly transfer directions, website URL you are currently looking at, and a few other things through near field communications.

    They did release a phone to update the Pixi as well. The real issue here you can see from the pictures: the one thing about the pixi that was much much better than the pre was the keyboard. It was as good as a blackberry keyboard. Now they have made just a smaller Pre, which is kind of cool, but means you get the harder-to-use pre keyboard, though you do also get a very small and highly capable smartphone.

    Palm Pixi Plus

    HP Veer

    Dimensions55 x 111 x 10.85mm54.5 x 84 x 15.1mm
    Processor600MHz Qualcomm MSM7x27800MHz Qualcomm MSM7230
    Display2.63-inch 400 x 3202.6-inch 400 x 320
    Camera2 megapixel5 megapixel
    Cellular radioGSM / HSDPA or CDMAGSM / HSPA
    Bluetooth2.1 + EDR2.1 + EDR
    Touch-to-share capabilityNoYes
    Battery capacity1,150mAh910mAh (non-removable)