Tag: Sun

German boffins make artificial sunlight

German boffins have turned on what is being billed as “the world’s largest artificial sun,” a device they hope will help shed light on innovative ways of making climate-friendly fuels.

The giant honeycomb-like setup is made of 149 spotlights, dubbed Synlight, in Juelich, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Cologne, and uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight that is often in short supply in Germany at this time of year.

By focusing the entire array on a single 20-by-20 centimeter (8×8 inch) spot, scientists from the German Aerospace Centre, or DLR , will be able to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface.

This creates temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius (5,432 Fahrenheit) which could be the key to making hydrogen.

Bernhard Hoffschmidt, the director of DLR’s Institute for Solar Research told the press that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future because it produces no carbon emissions when burned, meaning it doesn’t add to global warming.

But while hydrogen is the most common element in the universe it is rare on Earth. One way to manufacture it is to split water into its two components — the other being oxygen — using electricity in a process called electrolysis.

Researchers hope to bypass the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

Hoffschmidt said the dazzling display is designed to take experiments done in smaller labs to the next level, adding that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array, the process could be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry. Experts say this could take about a decade, if there is sufficient industry support.

The goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which cost $3.8 million to build and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.

Researchers develop solar powered super condenser

greek-mythology_7768_1Swedish researchers have come up with a super condensor which can be powered by the sun.

Researchers at the Laboratory for Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden, say their supercondenser contains no expensive or hazardous materials, has patents pending, and it should be fully possible to manufacture it on an industrial scale.

It means that soon there could be a completely new type of energy storage, charged by during the day when the sun shines, or by waste heat from an industrial process. The heat is converted to electricity, which can be stored until it is needed. The results have recently been published in the journal Energy Environmental Science which we get for the spot the photon contest .

Supercondensers are a type of battery that consists of an electrolyte of charged particles between two electrodes. The charge is stored next to the electrodes, most often in carbon nanotubes. If one end of the super capacitor is warm and the other cold – the ions rush towards the cold side and an electric current arises. How much heat is converted to electricity depends both on which electrolyte is used and how great the temperature difference is.

Postdoctoral students Dan Zhao and Hui Wang, and doctoral student Zia Ullah Khan, found the right polymers which could do the job after years of fruitless experiments. They produced an electrolyte with 100 times greater ability to convert heat to electricity than the electrolytes normally used.

“We still don’t know exactly why we’re getting this effect. But the fact is that we can convert and store 2,500 times more energy than the best of today’s supercondensers linked to thermoelectric generators,” Professor Crispin says.

Sun stealing solar panel town fights back

Kyocera floating solar raftsThe small American town which found itself at the centre of a viral internet story is fighting back.

The Woodland local council rejected a planning application from a solar farm after residents complained. According to the world wide wibble some of the residents complained that the solar panels would steal the sun and mean it would burn out quicker.

The story confirmed what many think of Americans – particularly when one presidential candidate thinks that the pyramids were biblical grain silos and the other believes you can get Bill Gates to turn off the internet.

However, according to the local council, while some residents had the sun stealing view that was not really why the scheme was axed.

The fact was that the farm would be too close to people’s houses and on prime agricultural land. All perfectly good reasons to reject a planning proposal in any parts of the world.

Ron Lane, who has been on the Woodland Town Council for two years. In the past year, noted the town approved zoning changes to accommodate three major solar farms, one of which is nearly completed.

Woodland simply got too cramped for a fourth solar installation, he said.

If not for the handful of public comments about solar farms stealing sunshine, Woodland’s solar moratorium would be as obscure as other local fights over solar farms. Instead, Strata Solar spokesman Blair Schooff said the company which was behind the farm plan was “getting calls from all over the planet on this one”.

Murdoch retreats on Sun’s pay wall

murdochRupert Murdoch’s flag-ship rag the Sun has given up on the idea of making money from internet paywalls.

It appears that the Current Bun’s readers could not be bothered paying for the internet version and there was just not enough interest.

The online subscription was introduced in 2013 and was the only one to be used by a British tabloid, and designed to rejuvenate the paper. It didn’t of course.

Getting rid of the paywall is the first strategic change from Rebekah Brooks since she returned to oversee the Current Bun and the Times after taking four years off to fight a court case where she was accused of criminal phone hacking. She was later cleared after jury accepted her defense that she didn’t know anything.

“I have every confidence that this digital evolution will ensure that the unique space the Sun occupies in British culture will be preserved – and enhanced,” Brooks said in a note to staff.

The website will be free to read from November 30, although some paid-for products will be retained.

The paper’s implicit admission that people were not willing to pay online for its journalism comes as the media industry is divided over whether paywalls or online advertising can sort out declining money from print revenue.

The only papers that have made a success of online paywalls are financial orientated rags like the FT, and the Wall Street Journal. The Times of London does a little better and will keep the paywall.

In September it had 1.1 million unique browsers a day, according to ABC data, far behind the Daily Mail on 13.4 million and the Mirror Group titles on 3.9 million.

James Gosling slams Oracle’s over Solaris

Four years after Oracle bought Sun, Java founder James Gosling has waded into the outfit’s handling of his former workplace’s key assets.

Writing in Infoworld, Gosling scolded Oracle on its handling of Sun’s products and was particularly nasty about Larry Ellison’s handling of Solaris.

Giving Oracle an F- for the way it treated Solaris, Gosling said that it was now “totally dead” and it was hard to think of anyone actually using it. “Hardware systems from Oracle make no sense at all.  I had to convert all my Solaris boxes to Linux, it made me weep.”

He gave Oracle a C for its handling of MySQL saying that although Oracle had not killed it, it was now totally forked and replaced.

Oddly, Gosling praises Oracle’s handling of Java, despite his past acrimony toward Oracle over Java.  He gave the outfit a B+ saying that they had done really well with it other than a few “growing pains” over security.

That is a good grade from the father of Java. The language was developed  at Sun in 1995.

Gosling was a longtime Sun technologist and, briefly, a CTO at Oracle right after Oracle bought Sun in January 2010.  He is now chief software architect at Liquid Robotics, which develops ocean-based robotics.

Oracle becomes open source's Dr Evil

Oracle has practically declared war on the open source movement and become public enemy number one amongst the weirdie beardy penguin fans.

When Larry Ellison wrote a cheque for Sun Microsystems, he became one of the significant Open Source players, something that he was not exactly happy with.

His outfit’s handling of core Open Source projects such as OpenOffice and MySQL failed to earn any respect from the Free Software community. Then, after Oracle attacked Android with its Java and failed miserably, it lost any remaining mojo it might have had.

Now it seems to want to make matters worse by releasing a report attacking Open Sauce. It has published a paper in which it repeats everything that proprietary outfits have been saying about Open Sauce for years.

In the paper, Oracle claims that total cost of ownership goes up with the use of open source technologies. It claims that the total cost of ownership for open source software often exceeds that of commercial software.

“While minimising capital expenses by acquiring “free” open source software is appealing, the up front cost of any software endeavour represents only a small fraction of the total outlay over the lifecycle of ownership and usage. And while cost effectiveness is important, it must be carefully weighed against mission – effectiveness,” the report said.

If this sounds familiar it is exactly the sort of stuff which Microsoft was releasing with its research papers until it worked out that it was better to have open source on its side.

Oracle said that community developed code is inferior and less secure than company developed products.

Apparently, only proprietary code is low on defects and well documented code.

“For the intensive, mission critical capabilities required by most DoD projects, Oracle recommends its flagship commercial software products,” the report said.

Writing in his bog  Open Saucer Swapnil Bhartiya pointed out that Oracle needed a reality check on the effectiveness of proprietary software.

It needed to deal with its own Java insecurity, it needs to be told how Adobe Flash is a cracker’s heaven and how Internet Explorer and Windows are used as ‘tools’ by crackers to hijack computers, Bhartiya said. 

Oracle's Larry Ellison enthusiastically applauds NSA spying

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has given his enthusiastic support for the National Security Agency’s global surveillance of the internet and everyone on it.

In a CBS interview, Ellison said some things people were saying about the NSA were misleading. He said that data was already being collected long before the NSA was seeing it, besides, firms like credit card companies had all this data long before the NSA.

There are some significant differences between a credit card company building a file on you and the most powerful government of the world potentially keeping files on absolutely everyone. Credit card companies usually don’t have the power to arrest you and lock you up in solitary for the rest of your life, either, and we can’t think of a single time a failed card application confiscated someone’s passport.

Ellison said that the privacy debate is “fascinating” to him as he has never heard of information being misused by the government. He can’t have been looking very hard or has had his fingers in his ears.

Clearly Ellison has never heard of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which said that on at least one occasion, the Fourth Amendment protections of an American citizen were violated. Through collusion with other allies such as the United Kingdom, it is possible for the US to get around irritating technicalities like Amendment protections – so in all likelihood it was many more.

The NSA, though, is as transparent as a brick, so most details about the spying programmes were classified for “national security” and would have never been revealed if not for the actions of a whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who was horrified by the actions of his representatives.

Ellison said that surveillance is “great” and “essential”, citing the need to minimise terror attacks like in Boston. But blanket surveillance of citizens did not stop that tragedy from happening, and the FBI even admitted snooping could not have flagged the Boston bombers.

Ellison admits that he is a little concerned about the possibily of the technology being used for political targeting rather than terrorism, but the US government would never do that – would it?

Why, then, could Ellison be such an enthusiastic supporter of the NSA spying programme? Well, the answer is that the technology does not come cheap and a top supplier for the NSA just happens to be Larry Ellison’s Oracle.

Oracle, the Atlantic points out, also solicits other defence contracts and just last June signed a $680 million deal with the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Based on that, Ellison is never going to question the antics of one of his best customers using gear his company has designed. In fact , the way Ellison downplays the Snowden revelations is downright misleading. The extreme, systemic surveillance, and collaboration between US allies to get around pesky barriers like the constitution, is one of the most important stories this decade.


Oracle snubs Sun's virtualisation

Oracle has decided the virtualisation technology it bought along with the Sun empire is not worth developing.

According to Parity Portal, Oracle will soon be announcing its decision to stop development of Sun Ray Software and Hardware, Oracle Virtual Desktop Client, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) product lines.

The announcement was buried in the company support policies for virtualisation software and hardware.

It said the move is part of Oracle’s efforts to tightly align “Oracle’s future desktop virtualization portfolio investments with Oracle Corporation’s overall core business strategy.”

We ran this through our management decoder and, once we’d scrubbed the paradigms, found it meant these particular products don’t fit with what Oracle wants to sell anymore.

Oracle has its Oracle Secure Global Desktop which is a server based VDI program, and Oracle VM VirtualBox software. This is pretty popular.

It is not clear when will be your last chance to buy the Sun software. Apparently Oracle will continue to support the existing hardware and software as well as renew licences. 

HP attempts to build zero net energy data centre

The maker of expensive printer ink, HP, is attempting to build a data centre which runs on solar power.

HP wants to develop what is called a “net zero” data centre that requires no net energy from utility power grids. The concept is being tested at a 3,000 square foot facility at the company’s campus in Palo Alto, California.

According to Datacentre Knowlege, which we get for the centrefold, the HP testbed uses a photovoltaic power array, a cooling system that can use either fresh air or mechanical cooling, and consolidation strategies that boost server use to reduce power demand.

Although the solar hardware would appear to be the key to the cunning plan, the secret is the data centre’s management software that can orchestrate the energy supply and demand to maximise the use of renewable power and reduce dependence on the utility grid.

The solar array has a limited capacity of 134 kilowatts and can only generate power when the sun shines. The testbed comprises of four ProLiant BL465c G7 servers, each with two 12-core 1.8 Ghz processors and 64 GB of memory and a total of 48 KVM virtual machines.

The data centre software allocates traffic so that it is a mix of critical and non-critical workloads.

The software estimates the output available from the solar array and the power required to run the applications, and then schedules workloads to take advantage of the daytime power peaks from the array.

It will not work for facilities that need round-the-clock availability and the ability to scale workloads up and down. But HP said it could be attractive to users with mixed workloads, particularly companies in international markets.

HP Labs researchers will present a new research paper, “Towards the Design and Operation of Net-Zero Energy Data Centers,” at IEEE’s 13th annual Intersociety Conference on Thermal and Thermomechanical Phenomena in Electrical Systems. You should get there early as we expect them to be queuing around the block to get into this one. 

Oracle does better than anyone could have expected

Maker of mega-databases, Oracle, managed to do better than the cocaine nose jobs in Wall Street predicted.

New software sales came in at the high end of the company’s forecast, offsetting a sharp drop in hardware revenue.

Shareholders breathed a sigh of relief and the outfit’s stock rose 1.5 percent after the news. This was not the scene three months ago when Oracle’s second-quarter profit missed analysts’ forecasts for the first time in a decade.

Oracle thinks its new software sales this quarter will range from a two percent drop to growth of as much as eight percent, translating from $3.6 billion to almost $4 billion. All this is a sharp drop from the 19 percent increase in the fourth quarter of last year, but the outfit is still making money.

Oracle chief financial officer Safra Catz suggested in a conference call that the outlook may not be so dire. She said she had been conservative in calculating her forecast.

Oracle’s poisoned chalice is still the company’s hardware business. Analysts had expected hardware revenue of more than $1 billion as the company turned around the struggling division it got when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Daniel Genter, president and chief investment officer of RNC Genter Capital Management told Reuters  that Oracle had made a significant turnaround and the only weak spot was the hardware. Hardware product sales fell 16 percent to $869 million. It had forecast a decline of between five and 15 percent.