Archive for August, 2006

Cost of water shortage: civil unrest, mass migration and economic collapse

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Analysts see widespread conflicts by 2015 but pin hopes on technology and better management

John Vidal, environment editor
Thursday August 17, 2006
The Guardian

Cholera may return to London, the mass migration of Africans could cause civil unrest in Europe and China’s economy could crash by 2015 as the supply of fresh water becomes critical to the global economy. That was the bleak assessment yesterday by forecasters from some of the world’s leading corporate users of fresh water, 200 of the largest food, oil, water and chemical companies.

Analysts working for Shell, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Cargill and other companies which depend heavily on secure water supplies, yesterday suggested the next 20 years would be critical as countries became richer, making heavier demands on scarce water supplies.


first seen on the Cryptogon

Skype – software you should know about

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

With my upcoming trips to New Zealand, I’ve developed an interest in how I might communicate between here (Seattle) and there (Christchurch) economically. I’d heard about Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) sometime ago but back then it had a bad rap. Poor sound quality, drops, stuttering, delays, echos. All of the sorts of problems you might imagine when your voice is broken up onto many discrete packets and each sent out over the Internet to all find their independent paths to the destination computer. Well, apparently the technology has gotten a lot better in the last year or two.

I’m going to tell you about a VoIP program named Skype which is given away for free in its basic form. Its basic form allows any two people with Skype, a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection to communicate with each other free from anywhere in the world. Yes, free – utterly and completely free.

Now, you might wonder how they make any money doing this. Well, these are idealistic people but they do have some money making options which, if you add them onto the basic Skype, will cost you a bit. These are called SkypeIn and SkypeOut.

So, what do you need? A high-speed Internet connection (I suspect it will work with slow-speed modems as well but I doubt the quality would be as good), a computer, a set of head-phones and a microphone – and, of course, the Skype software.

You can download Skype here:

Installing it is dead easy. The only problems and confusion I ran into had to do with getting it to talk to my sound card. Basically, you have to make Skype and Windows agree on which Sound Device they are sharing and you’ll need to make sure that Windows is ‘listening’ to your microphone.

You can find your Windows settings at Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices.

You can find Skype’s settings at Skype > Tools > Options.

You can enable the microphone by double-clicking the tiny speaker at the lower right of your Windows screen and then choosing Options > Properties > Recording and then make sure that the microphone is checked so it is ‘on’.

You mileage may vary if you are running a different version of Windows but it should be basically the same. FYI, I’m running Microsoft Server 2003 here.

I’ve got the Skype program up and running now and it shows 4,059,740 users on-line. Sound like a lot of folks figured this out before I got here, eh?

So, everyone on Skype has a handle or a name. Mine is ‘gallymon’. Yours can be whatever you want. The program has a lot of fun stuff you can do like setup a profile and a photo of yourself. But, you can figure all of that out yourself.

I’ve talked to Eugene, Oregon and Mumbai, India so far and the signal and clarity has been fine. I’m pretty confident that this is going to work for my wife and I when I’m down in New Zealand this November, December and January.

So, SkypeIn and SkypeOut. They charge for these. What do they bring to the party?

Well, SkypeIn means that people on real physical phones can call you on Skype. That also means that you’ll need a phone number. You can sign up for SkypeIn for $38 a year and that gets you a real phone number. And you can decide where it is local to. Want a local number in Paris? $38. Want a local number in Rio? $38. Me, I opted for one in the 360 area code where I live. That way all my local friends can just call the number toll free and, if I’m on-line and on-Skype, they’ll connect to me on my computer – where ever I am in the world. And, the best is, that if I’m not on-line and on-Skype, it takes VoiceMail for me for no extra charge. Next time I log on, my messages will be waiting.

SkypeOut is for going the other way. If you are on Skype and you want to call out to a physical phone, this is what you will need. I haven’t signed up for this so I don’t know the ins and outs of it nor the costs. You’ll have to noodle all of that out from their web site at

Skype does a few other things that are pretty cool. First off, it does instant messaging which meas that if you don’t want to talk, you can simply type messages back and forth real-time. Might be fun if you are too busy to talk but you can handle the bandwidth requirements of typing something inane every few minutes just to keep up a slow banter.

Skype also supports transmitting and receiving files while you are connected to someone. And, and this is big, it allows you to each have a webcam and it’ll fire your moment to moment pictures back and forth as well.

And then it support conference calls also. I don’t know if there’s an upper limit on how many folk can join in on a call though.

And, finally, it does something with SMS messages like folks send back and forth on cell phones. I couldn’t tell you just what though.

Have you got a long lost college friend that’s moved to Japan? Well, you can stay in touch daily now for free. Do you work at a computer all day and your friends do as well? Well, you can establish a group on Skype and all chit chat back and forth as the mood strikes you. Have a team working on a technical project that is geographically spread-out? You can maintain a moment to moment capability to speak to any of them as the need arises. Want to move some files from here to there? Well, you know what I’m going to say.

That’s it. Skype. If you fire it up and you’re jumping up and down to try it out and you’ve suddenly realized that you are the geekiest of all of your friends so that none of them will be up for trying it out with you, well, drop me a call at ‘gallymon’. I’ve got my headphones on most evenings.

Hubble glimpses faintest stars

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Researchers peering at the Universe’s first-born stars have uncovered the key to predicting a star’s destiny.

Stars that don’t have enough mass never shine, dying billions of years before their bigger counterparts.

But astronomers have never been able to measure the exact mass limit, because the lightest stars that do shine can be simply too faint to detect.

Now, new images show for the first time how big a star must be to avoid impending doom.

Reporting in the journal Science, astronomers have viewed high quality pictures of some of the faintest stars in our galaxy for the first time.


US judge rules wiretaps illegal

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

A US program to tap some phones without warrants is unconstitutional, and must be halted at once, a federal judge in Detroit has ruled.

The scheme, approved by President George W Bush in 2001, involves tapping conversations between some callers in the US and people in other countries.

Civil liberties campaigners brought the case against the program, which was uncovered by the US media.

The White House said the scheme was legal and it would seek an appeal.

Yah, sure – ya betcha… more…

060817 – Thursday

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Things are getting incredibly busy here. We’re beginning to schedule our days out completely before we leave so that we’ll get all the 1000 and one details done on time. It’s not easy leaving a running business and a pile of animals for two weeks.


Interestingly, I think the big Guy in the sky has a great sense of humor. In the past few days, things have been breaking left and right just to test our composure and fortitude, I think. Sharon’s system has developed the Blue Screen of Death syndrome every 20 minutes or so after running solidly for two years. Our HP Laser Printer/Fax/Scanner and decided it can no long align the scanner and shuts off every few hours with the message, “Scanner Error – Power Off – Power On”. In other news, my motorcycle front forks have blown a seal, the front wheel of my pickup truck was in danger of falling off but we caught it in time, our house sitter cancelled. Sharon’s pulled a muscle in her foot, we couldn’t find our international voltage adapter equipment and had to buy some on the Internet in a rush last minute fashion, and my lower back it telling me that I was unwise with some of the stretches I did in aerobics recently. Ah yes, and then there’s the airline bombing scare in Britan and the resulting uncertainty about what can and cannot be taken on the plane (and us with three airlines, three jumps and 28 hours of travel between Seattle and putting our foot down on the earth in Christchurch, New Zealand).

On the good side, New Zealand has not sunk into the sea and western civilization is still holding together . So, it’ll all be alright – we hope.

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Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

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Did Humans Evolve? Not Us, Say Americans

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

That our country is slipping towards becoming a backwards nation can’t be denied when one reads the following.
In surveys conducted in 2005, people in the United States and 32 European countries were asked whether to respond true, false or not sure to this statement: “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.”   The same question was posed to Japanese adults in 2001.The United States had the second-highest percentage of adults who said the statement was false and the second-lowest percentage who said the statement was true, researchers reported in the current issue of Science.

Only adults in Turkey expressed more doubts on evolution. In Iceland, 85 percent agreed with the statement.

More from this article…

Here’s a chart of how the 32 countries ranked:

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Water shortage ‘a global problem’

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Rich countries face increasing water shortages, a report by conservation organisation WWF warns.


A combination of climate change and poor resource management is leading to water shortages in even the most developed countries, it says.

It urges water conservation on a global scale and asks rich states to set an example by repairing ageing water infrastructure and tackling pollution.

The report was released in Geneva just ahead of World Water Week.

The WWF says economic wealth does not automatically mean plenty of water.Its report reveals that some of the world’s wealthiest cities – such as Houston or Sydney – are using more water than can be replenished.


‘More disasters’ for warmer world

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Rising temperatures will increase the risk of forest fires, droughts and flooding over the next two centuries, UK climate scientists have warned.

Even if harmful emissions were cut now, many parts of the world would face a greater risk of natural disasters, a team from Bristol University said.

The projections are based on data from more than 50 climate models looking at the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers gathered results from 52 computer simulations to calculate the risks from climate-induced changes to the world’s key ecosystems.


Typhoon death toll rises in China

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

The casualty figures rose after rescuers found 28 more bodies in the coastal city of Fuding, China’s official news agency Xinhua said.

Typhoon Saomai has weakened to a tropical depression but more rain fell on Sunday in inland areas.

The storm has destroyed more than 50,000 homes and caused damage of at least $1.4bn (£760m), officials say.