Tesla and the bailout

A “technology writer” at the NY Times attacks Tesla Motors, taking more from their editorial page than the tech pages should, at least IMNSHO.

Jason Calacanis disagrees also and has written a rebuttal article.

He makes a few strong points:

Yes Randy, the first version of technology tends to be expensive.
Personal computers used to cost $5,000, flat-panel TVs were $10,000
and–gasp–the first decade’s worth of solar panels were not worth the
price. You’re a *technology* journalist at the New York Times. You
understand all too well that expensive technology becomes commodity
technology within 10 to 20 years of its inception.

Personal computers now start at $200. Of course the first version of
an all-electric sports car is going to be expensive.

What’s the problem here exactly? You’re saying that America could have
a brand new startup car company that produces an affordable car that
goes an absurd range just 10 years from now? The cost is a $400
million dollar loan? You’re problem with this is what?

Read the whole thing.  Jason makes a strong case against a weakly written article.  A fairly obviously politically biased article too boot.   Randall Stross is yet another example of why the NY Times star (and stock) is falling so far, so fast.  My advice, forget Stross. Get Boston Globe tech reporter Hiawatha Bray out there to test drive the Tesla Roadster.  You’ll get an honest tech review instead of politically motivated hit piece.

About those jetpacks

I recently posted about flying cars and the question of where our 21st Century Jet Packs where.

I seems there are several Jet Pack companies out there, including Jet Pack, International, Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana of Mexico, New Zealand’s Martin Jetpack and Thunderbolt Aerosystems, based in San Jose, CA. 

Their products aren’t cheap, the low end ones run about $100,000 with the end end models cost in the $250,000 range. 

Most of their Jet Packs are actually Rocket packs and only can carry about a minute of fuel. So flight ranges are limited.  The Martin JetPack actually uses ducted fans, and claims a 30 minute (at 60 mph) range.  it is a bit big and still in the “barely off the ground” phase from what I can tell.

A Weed-Powered Passenger Jet

No! Not that weed, jatropha, a plant that is not a food crop and can be grown in marginal agricultural land.

Air New Zealand is planning on flying a Boeing 747 with a mixture of equal parts biofuel made from jatropha  and conventional fuel running in one of the engines.

Unlike many other biofuels, UOP’s jatropha jet fuel can replace conventional fuel without requiring changes to existing engines. Indeed, by several measures, the fuel is better than conventional jet fuel. It has a lower freezing point and can be exposed to higher temperatures onboard a plane without degrading. It also contains slightly more energy than conventional jet fuel, so a plane powered by jatropha could travel farther. 

The Fate of NASA

Key budgeting decisions have to be made by the incoming administration about NASA no later than April 30, 2009.

The ability to get into orbit is vitial for multiple reasons, including National Defense, technology, economics, weather predictions, and the standing of the United States in the international community.

‘blood pharming’ machine

Darpa is looking for a device to produce a steady supply of universal donor red blood cells.  They want to be able to produce ready-to-be-infused Red Blood Cell packets for use near the battlefield.

DARPA has awarded a $1.95 million contract to Arteriocyte, a Cleveland company that’s experimenting with a technology developed at Johns Hopkins that enables the rapid expansion of umbilical cord blood. The company wants to adapt it to a manufacturing technology that will feed the military’s thirst for universal donor red blood units. The technology, called Nanex, uses a nanofiber-based structure that mimics bone marrow in which blood cells multiply, according to the company.

Flying Cars!

Ok, ok…flying cars has been around since the 1960s. 

This time, Darpa is getting involved.  They want one that is useful for military needs,  a two-to-four passenger vehicle that can “drive on roads” one minute, and take off like a helicopter the next. 

This project is the very early, looking for proposals, stage.  So don’t expect your flying car soon. Personally, I operating on the theory that this is the 21st Century, and I want my flying cars, moonbase and all the other cool toys were supposed have by now!

At least we have Flaming Rocket Balls!

A long post on Operating Systems.

It’s an interesting time for operating systems.

The landscape was Microsoft dominating, Apple with a small, but fanatically loyal share and LINUX pulling up a distant third with a tiny hardcore geek base.

Then Microsoft decided to make its users relive the ME days with Vista, only worse. The timing was horrible, since Apple was gaining new customers with the iPod and iPhone. People who had deep, meaningful relationships with their iPod/iPhone and didn’t like what they were reading and hearing about Vista. So they figured what the Hell, and bought Mac desktops and notebooks.

Now, Vista isn’t as bad as its critics say it is, but it did have its share of problems. Lack of driver support when it was released was a big one. The overall bloat hurt them badly as well. People who upgraded not only found they had problems getting their various components to work properly, but what was a reasonably snappy system running XP became painfully slow running Vista. Then there was the outcry of the geeks against the new layers of “DRM Crap” stuck in the core of Vista. Ok, I was one of them, and it’s one of the reasons I’m still running XP. Then there were the multiple editions of Vista. Home Basic, Home Premium, a couple of business flavors, and for a bunch of money, the full featured version. This alone is all you need to know that Microsoft marketing is operating clueless and without a net. Given that, those who stuck through with Vista are much happier since Service Pack 1 came out. It seems that ugly blind date Microsoft stuck them with, cleaned up pretty good with SP1. Some users speak nicely of the new user interface, but a lot are still looking back at their XP days fondly.

Let us not forget our friend the penguin. LINUX was finally hitting non-nerd hands as the OS of choice for low cost netbooks. Personal computer manufactures work at razor thin margins, and an XP license can run $50. The whole idea of the netbooks was a lean device that did what you needed and not much more. Small screens, tiny keyboards, 4 Gig flash RAM hard drives and 512 Meg memory. Trying to wedge Vista into that wasn’t going to fly from a marketing standpoint, let alone a technical one. (ya, ya…I’ve heard geeks say they have Vista running on scaled down systems. I’m wondering what they had to turn off, and which of half dozen plus versions of Vista they were running).

Still, I’m not seeing much in the way of LINUX market penetration beyond the netbooks. Sorry geeks.

Since Acer got the netbook ball rolling, the larger manufactures have entered the market, specifically Dell and HP. They offer netbooks with LINUX at or near the Acer price point, and more robust (more RAM, bigger RAM flash HDs) models with a more consumer friendly XP loaded.

Even Microsoft figured out that Vista was a non-starter with the netbook market. That is why they extended XP beyond their already announced end of sale date.

Which brings us to Windows 7, which Microsoft has been frantically leaking information about. Call it Vista reengineered if you like. It seems that Microsoft actually learned something from the beating it has taken over Vista, and has its engineers going through the OS code and “cleaning up.” Actually removing unneeded code and rewriting modules to be smaller and faster. A couple of lines here, a few cycles there. When you have all the code teams actively doing it, those small trimmings add up. From what I’ve heard from people who have BETA releases, Microsoft has hit its goal of having Windows 7 run on netbook platform.

Before we get too excited, keep in mind the release date for Windows 7 is Q110. So you have another year of keeping XP running or taking the Vista plunge if you are a Microsoft OS user.

Now let us talk about the new kid on the block. Yup, Google. You have heard the rumors about Google getting into the OS market. Guess what, they already did. It’s Android. The Google OS is already loose in the wilds, running on a mobile platform and trying to pass itself off as a mild mannered phone.

Ok, so you can make calls with it. I can make VoIP calls with my desktop too. The lines are blurry these days. Most people with iPhones will tell you that the fact that they can make calls with it secondary. It’s a mobile internet device. Android is a Creature of the Clouds (You heard that description of a Cloud computing based device here first kids!).

Android is designed to work well with the existing Google net based services like Gmail and Google calendar. It also isn’t locked to a platform and provider the way the iPhone is to Apple/iTunes. Listen, I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my iPhone, but it’s getting dumped once Android gets a bit more mature and supports a few more platforms and providers.

I would not be surprised to see Android, or some flavor of it, running on netbooks by the time Windows 7 hits the street. I wouldn’t bet that Google couldn’t beat Microsoft in getting a netbook running Google OS on the shelves before Windows 7 is commercially available.

Updating right after posting! According to CNET, Microsoft is going to try and get Windows 7 out by Q409, specially for the Christmas buying season.  Good luck guys.  I’m still sticking by my Android on a netbook first prediction.