Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Global Warming - Street View & New Software

While the most senior White House aide since Reagan (interesting juxtaposition) is declared a felon and sentenced to 30 months in prison, president Bush is in Europe trying to convince a skeptical public and colleagues in the G8 that he is serious about finally recognizing global warming and doing something about it. He's not, of course. Not this president. He's all about image and PR, sticking to his reactionary guns, and never listening to advice that doesn't come to him from his trusted inner circle of yes-men and yes-women. So his conversion is immediately suspect.

We are well advised to critically examine what Bush is actually doing while he's posturing for the press. One recent revelation puts his conversion in some perspective. While he calls for new "studies" (god forbid we should have actual emission targets), his administration is practically eliminating the country's ability to track global warming with its array of weather satellites. Now that's intuitive, don't you think? Give me a break. Check out James Hrynyshyn's great post on the subject here. This president is all about oil, coal, consumerism and he's more than willing to live with the consequences.

The Germans appear to have him figured out. Der Speigel calls attention to "The Emperor's Green Clothes" here. And speaking about Germany, the same source has a fantastic article about what really is possible. A farming village collects its waste products, converts them to methane for power, then transfers the resulting heat to a variety of local settlements for free or very low cost. Read about it here.

Another controversy appears to be unfolding around Google's new Street View app. I know I'm coming late to this, following posts on Boing Boing and a firestorm of opinions, comments and net conversations. I submit, however, that the focus of these conversations is misplaced. Street View is not the issue, the images are in not in real time and the convenience of having 3-D views of areas mapped is profound. Again, Google is very good at balancing access to data with reasonable privacy concerns. They've built-in flagging capabilities and have a very easy procedure for removing offending images. The real issue here is around privacy in the digital age, the utter loss of anonymity and the ability of large commercial concerns to build deep profiles and share intimate personal data about customers. The National Academy of Science explores the issue here. So let's leave Google alone and take a look at the Pentagon, large corporate data-mining practices and archives, and the kind of "interception" that may be employed to grab our email correspondence, net-surfing patterns and personal data without our knowledge or permission.

Finally, some real competition for Microsoft Office and the new Google online office apps. Robert Scoble's post first attracted my attention to Zoho and their new suite of surprisingly robust office apps. Check out this hot new desi company and their equally hot software.

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