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Google unveils Swiffy: turns high maintenance Flash animations into HTML5

Still hanging on to those sweet site loaders hoping they'd be of use again someday? Perhaps the time has come -- for some ads and animations, that is. Google Labs has cooked up Swiffy, which takes an antediluvian SWF file and creates an HTML5 version that will run in most current browsers (Chrome and Safari, for example). The converted file is pretty close in size to the original; however, the company warns that the project is fresh out of the oven, so it won't convert your entire Flash library just yet. Even still, software that makes existing animations useful without starting from scratch? Sign us up! Check out the source link for the FAQs and some of Swiffy's handiwork, then test drive this bad boy yourself.

Google unveils Swiffy: turns high maintenance Flash animations into HTML5 originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:11:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer

Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer It looks like the push to turn the inkjet printer into the next great manufacturer of solar cells has found another proponent in a team of engineers at Oregon State University. That group of resourceful researchers claims to have created the world's first "CIGS solar devices with inkjet printing," thus giving birth to a new production process that reduces raw material waste by 90 percent. CIGS (an acronym for copper, indium, gallium, and selenium) is a highly absorbent and efficient compound, especially suited to creating thin-film solar cells. The team has used inkjet technology to pump out a CIGS ink with an efficiency of five percent, and a potential efficiency of 12 percent; apparently enough to produce a "commercially viable solar cell." Unfortunately, the group has yet to announce plans to bring the ink to our desktop printer -- so much for that backyard solar farm. Full PR after the break.

Continue reading Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer

Oregon engineers roll out cheaper, less wasteful solar cells with inkjet printer originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:18:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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On one hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch. On the other hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch!

Stewart Brand reviews “Environmentalism for THIS century” [Tomorrow’s Table]

Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, recently gave a seminar at the Long Now Foundation. His talk was reviewed by Stewart Brand:

Kareiva began by recalling the environmental "golden decade" of 1965-75, set in motion by the scientist Rachel Carson. In quick succession Congress created the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act---which passed the Senate unanimously.

Green influence has been dwindling ever since. A series of polls in the US asked how many agreed with the statement, "Most environmentalists are extremists, not reasonable people." In 1996, 32% agreed. In 2004, 43% agreed. Now it's over 50% who think environmentalists are unreasonable.

Kareiva noted that as the world is urbanizing, ever fewer people grow up in contact with nature---current college freshman have less than a tenth of the childhood experience of nature as previous generations. And there's a demographic shift toward multiethnicity, with whites already a minority in California and soon to be a minority in the whole country. Asked to describe a typical environmentalist, current grade school students say it's a girl, white, with money, preachy about recycling, nice but uptight, not sought as a friend.

In general, environmentalist have earned the reputation of being "misanthropic, anti-technology, anti-growth, dogmatic, purist, zealous, exclusive pastoralists."

Kareiva gave several examples of how that reputation was earned. In Green rhetoric, everything in nature is described as "fragile!"---rivers, forests, the whole planet. It's manifestly untrue. America's eastern forest lost two of its most dominant species---the american chestnut and the passenger pigeon---and never faltered. Bikini Atoll was vaporized in an H-bomb test that boiled the ocean. When National Geographic sent a research team there recently, they found 25% more coral than was ever there before. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster last year caused dramatically less harm to salt marshes and fisheries than expected, apparently because ocean bacteria ate most of the 5 million barrels of oil.

The problem with the fragility illusion is that it encourages a misplaced purism, leaving no room for compromise or negotiation, and it leads to "fortress conservation"---the idea that the only way to protect "fragile" ecosystems is to exclude all people. In Uganda, when a national park was established to protect biodiversity, 5,000 families were forced out of the area. After a change in government, those families returned in anger. To make sure they were never forced out again, they slaughtered all the local wildlife. In the 1980s, Kareiva was a witness in Seattle for protecting old growth forest (and spotted owls). At the courtroom loggers carried signs reading: "You care about owls more than my children." That jarred him.

When genetically engineered crops (GMOs) came along, environmentalists responded with "knee-jerk anti-technology religiosity," Kareiva said. How to feed the world was not a consideration. Lessening the overwhelming impact of agriculture on natural systems was not a consideration. Instead, the usual apocalyptic fears were deployed in the usual terms: EVERYTHING'S GOING TO BE DEAD TOMORROW! When Kareiva was working on protecting salmon, he saw the same kind of language employed in a 1999 New York Times full-page ad about dams in the Snake River: TIMELINE TO EXTINCTION! He knew it wasn't true. Salmon are a weedy species, and the re-engineered dams were letting the fish through.

The Nature Conservancy---where Kareiva is chief scientist working with the organization's 600 scientists, 4,000 staff, and one million members in 37 countries---promotes a realistic approach to conservation. Instead of demonizing corporations, they collaborate actively with them. They've decided to do the same with farmers, starting an agriculture initiative within the Conservancy. For the growing cities they emphasize the economic value of conservation in terms of valuable clean water and air. They started a program taking inner-city kids out to their field conservation projects not to play but to work on research and restoration. An astonishing 30% of those kids go on to major in science.

Kareiva sees conservation in this century as a profoundly social, cooperative undertaking that has to include everyone. New social networking tools can be in the thick of it. For instance, people could use their smartphones to photograph (and geotag, timestamp, and broadcast) the northernmost occurrence of bird species, and the aggregate data could be graphed in real time, showing the increasing effects of global warming on the natural world. When everyone makes science like that, everyone owns it. They've invested.

--Stewart Brand

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Google+ invite received, we go hands-on

It's hard to argue with Google's track record. The company has scored a hit in nearly every space in which it's dabbled: search, email, ads, office software, etc. There's always been one glaring exception to this rule, however: social networking. The company hasn't made much of a dent in a world dominated by Facebook (and, once upon a time, MySpace and Friendster). For Google+, however, the company dove in with both feet, launching a multi-faceted service that brings a lot to the table with features like Circles, Hang Out, and Huddle. Is it enough to end the Google's streak? We take a deeper dive to find out.

Continue reading Google+ invite received, we go hands-on

Google+ invite received, we go hands-on originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 20:06:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The Iron Loony

“They're casting their problem on society. And you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families”
-- Margaret Thatcher, October 9, 1987

"...more than ever, Washington IS the problem, and the real solutions will come from our businesses, our communities, our schools and the most basic and powerful unit of all-our families."
-- Michele Bachmann, June 27, 2011, Waterloo, IA

A bloody-minded True Believer's faith in the Godliness of their dogma.

An unvarnished loathing for all opposition.

An boundless contempt for government.

A ruthless eagerness to sacrifice the lives and futures of the poor, the sick, the weak, the elderly and the outsider on the altar of unfettered oligarchy.

Slavishly loyal acolytes who happily blind themselves to the misery and ugliness their ideology leaves in its wake.

And fuck the facts when they get in the way.

Regardless of what feckless, dorm-room "real" conservatives may tell themselves to balm their wounded egos over being wrong about everything their entire adult lives, these are the real pillars of Conservatism, over here and over there, then and now.

All else is tactic, style and commentary.


Look at what they’ve already agreed to

Ezra reported this morning on the latest gossip about the debt ceiling negotiations:

Both sides, as they often said, were shooting for about $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. They'd already agreed on around $1 trillion in spending cuts and were making good progress on the rest of it. But Democrats insisted that $400 billion -- so, 17 percent -- of the package be tax increases. And that's when Republicans walked.

Gosh, I sure do hope that the President can hold tough and get that whole 17% in tax increases or it will make the Democrats look like they really got screwed in this deal.

See what's happening here? They aren't having any trouble agreeing to trillions of dollars in spending cuts, are they? The talks aren't breaking down over that. It's the measly little tax increases on some luxury goods for millionaires that they are now pretending to haggle over. The rst of the "deal" is just fine with both parties.

Believe me these Republicans are not going to crash the global economy over some tax loopholes for jet travel. Maybe they genuinely don't want to give Obama this band-aid and maybe Obama will hold out for it and get it. Or not. But who cares? I think it's pretty clear that the debt ceiling is going to be raised as a result of a deal that cuts trillions of dollars worth of spending from the federal government at a time of 9.1% unemployment and an economy that is slowing. The "win" they are building up here (and alleged capitulation by the Republicans) is a joke.

It didn't have to happen this way.


Cutting to prosperity: how exactly did America come to believe that slashing spending would save us?

The latest polling shows a deeply insecure and pessimistic public on the issue of the economy. But in my view, there's an even worse problem, one that is likely to persist long after this crisis is past:

But another result from the Bloomberg poll suggests a fair amount of of public confusion about how to turn things around. Fifty-five percent of respondents said cuts in government spending and taxes would be more effective at creating jobs than maintaining or increasing government spending.

The question is confusingly formulated, because economists usually think of tax cuts and spending increases as part of the same stimulus-based approach, not as opposing approaches. But at root, the results appear to indicate that most Americans think cutting spending, not increasing it, is more likely to create jobs.

But that's almost the opposite of what most experts--on both sides of the political divide--believe. "That wouldn't square with the way we normally think about economic activity in a depressed economy," Andrew Samwick, a former chief economist on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, told The Lookout. When the economy suffers from a lack of demand, as it does now, Samwick explained, most economists think increasing spending is the more effective way to generate that demand and get things moving again.

Why has the opposite view begun to take hold? In part, Samwick argued, it's thanks to the efforts of congressional Republicans, who want budget cuts and lately have hammered home the view that government spending has stymied growth. "You have the Speaker of the House talking about job-killing government spending," said Samwick, now a professor of economics at Dartmouth College. "But they have not been tasked with making clear exactly how the government is killing jobs."

It's true that Republicans have hammered this misinformation home. But has anyone really countered it? I hear the Democrats all fetishizing the deficit as well and in the context of people's angst about the economy and jobs, they hear they same logic from them.

I knew this was how it was going to end up if the Democrats didn't find a way to explain why the Republicans were all wet about the deficit being the most important thing in the world at a time of low demand and high unemployment. My personal preference was that they come out swinging saying that this level of joblessness was completely unacceptable in the United States of America and that if the private sector won't hire people the government has to step up and do it for them. I think people might understand that. Instead we got "Americans have to tighten their belts and so does the government" --- and here we are.

I think we're probably too far down the deficit rabbit hole now and I honestly don't know what it would take to turn this around. The liberal economic argument doesn't even exist these days except to the extent that you should cut taxes in a recession. Unfortunately everyone also agrees that deficit reduction is the first priority, meaning we must slash government --- which offsets any stimulus the tax cuts might provide. It's daft, and yet we're doing it.

Maybe after a full blown depression or a long and painful lost decade people will ask whether any of this makes sense. Right now, there's just nothing to do but fasten your seatbelt and hope you make it out of the train wreck alive.

For all their hatred of communism, these Tea Partiers sure do like the way they did business:

Bachmann is doubling down on her false statement [that the founders "worked tirelessly to end slavery"] and refusing to admit she was wrong — and not only that, now she’s claiming that John Quincy Adams was one of the founding fathers.

John Quincy Adams was eight years old when the Declaration of Independence was written.

UPDATE at 6/28/11 10:58:15 am
And now, someone has tried to edit the Wikipedia page for John Quincy Adams, to make him a founding father: John Quincy Adams - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Airbrushing history was a hallmark of the old Soviet Union. They tended to take out inconvenient people rather than put preferred people in, but the idea is the same: if you don't like what happened, just alter the history to reflect what you want it to reflect.

It's always so interesting to see the similarities in totalitarians of all ideological stripes. What they don't like, they change by force. All of 'em.


Why is European broadband faster and cheaper? Blame the government

Rick Karr is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Engadget Show. Join us below for a live chat at 9:00 PM ET on June 28th.

If you've stayed with friends who live in European cities, you've probably had an experience like this: You hop onto their WiFi or wired internet connection and realize it's really fast. Way faster than the one that you have at home. It might even make your own DSL or cable connection feel as sluggish as dialup.

You ask them how much they pay for broadband.

"Oh, forty Euros." That's about $56.

"A week?" you ask.

"No," they might say. "Per month. And that includes phone and TV."

It's really that bad. The nation that invented the internet ranks 16th in the world when it comes to the speed and cost of our broadband connections. That's according to a study released last year by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission.

Continue reading Why is European broadband faster and cheaper? Blame the government

Why is European broadband faster and cheaper? Blame the government originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 18:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Proposed Budget Delivers Blow to Law Enforcement and Mortgage Fraud Efforts

By Lynda Gledhill
Press Secretary for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

Law enforcement, public safety and key anti-gang operations are all at risk under the budget agreed to by Legislative Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown.

The cut of $71 million will wipe out the state's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence and eliminate more than 55 statewide law enforcement task forces.  These agents and task forces are on the frontlines of the state's struggle against sophisticated gangs and drug trafficking organizations.  The loss of these task forces, combined with the elimination of DOJ's role in the state witness protection program, will dramatically undermine recent gains made against gangs in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley.

Just weeks ago, the Department of Justice and local law enforcement partners arrested 101 gang leaders and members in the Central Valley.  They were members of a notorious prison-based gang with ties to foreign drug cartels, and this operation has crippled their grip on the drug trade flowing through the central part of the state.  The month before, we took down more than 30 members of a transnational gang operating in the Bay Area, seizing over 100 pounds of methamphetamine.

These are operations of statewide significance, which is why the California Police Chiefs Association is pleading for these task forces to be saved.  

But it's not only gang enforcement that's losing out.  This proposed cut will eliminate much of the California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force that our office recently launched.  The cut would eliminate nearly every one of the Strike Force's investigators, cutting off pending investigations and potential cases designed to protect homeowners and hold bad actors in the mortgage industry accountable.  

The last Attorney General fought against these very same cuts.  It was the right decision then and has even more urgency now, as drug cartel and transnational gang activity in California is rising and our homeowners urgently need protection from predators in the mortgage market.  

The cuts should be undone and, at minimum, be unallocated so that the Department of Justice can make decisions on where to cut and how best protect the programs most critical to Californians.


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