Sunday, September 30, 2012

The next-generation bionic eye - offers new hope to the blind

Earlier this year I wrote about LED Glasses that Help Restore Sight, developed by neuroscientists at Oxford University that allow visually impaired wearers to see once again.

Recently, as reported by the mainstream media, the medical science made some progress in helping individuals with age-related blindness. About 1.5million people suffer from such blindness, so, you may be interested in reading on.

Bionic eye2
How the 'bionic eye' works. Image captured from Daily Express Weekend Companion


The 'bionic eye'

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine in the US have invented an implant that could help the blind to see. The implant, which sits at the back of the eye, would help patients suffering from diseases in which photoreceptors cells in the retina slowly degenerate. It acts as an artificial retina, taking information from the outside world and converting it into electrical signals which a fed to the brain.

Several other 'bionic eye' systems have been developed previously, all of which have required coils, cables or antennae to be embedded in the eye to deliver power and information to the implant. But in this new system, near-infrared light is beamed to an implant made up off light-sensitive diodes. These convert the light into an electric current that's fed to the existing retinal nerves, reducing the amount of electronics that need to be embedded in the eyes.

"To make this work, we have to deliver a lot of more light than normal vision would require. If we used visible light, it would be painfully bright." says Associate Professor Daniel Palanker at Stanford.

Near-infrared (near-IR) light was the answer - it isn't visible to the naked eye, but it can be detected by the implanted diodes.

So far, the implant has only been tested on rats. But it has the potential to treat both age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the UK, and retinitis pigmentosa, which affects 1.5 million people worldwide. In both conditions, the retina's photoreceptor cells degenerate but the nerve cells in the retina, on which the 'bionic' implant relies, remain intact.

TheGreenMechanics: Let's hope that technological advancement is for the good of mankind, and not a showcase of military muscle that will eventually lead to confrontation.


Source: The Daily Express Weekend Companion, September 30, 2012, pp 13.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Homeowners can apply for Solar Rooftop from Sept 24

I wrote an article recently about SEDA Malaysia's target of 2,000 house owners to invest in solar power through the feed-in tariff incentive by the end of this year.

The good news has finally arrived. A couple of weeks ago The Star reported that owners of landed homes can start applying for the 2000 quota starting September 24, 2012. They can do this by applying through  the e-FiT Online System.

Roof top solar PV installation for landed home. Photo: Solar Power Buzz


The 2000 Solar Home Rooftop Programme

SEDA chairman Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn told newsmen that the authority would allocate 2,000kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) for the fourth quarter of 2012 and 6,000kW for 2013 to home owners interested in generating electricity from their rooftops.

“A directory of the solar PV service providers will be available at Seda from Sept 18 to assist home owners,” he said in a statement.

Dr Fong said the programme was open to only individual residents and each application must comply with the Renewable Energy (Feed-in Approval and Feed-in Tariff Rate) Rules 2011 and Administrative Guidelines under the Renewable Energy Act.

An applicant can only submit one application per day through the e-FiT Online System at efit.seda.gov.my. The e-FiT Online System was made available for public access since Sept 18 after going through system enhancements. - The Star Online, 14-09-2012


Programme Summary:

Programme            : 2000 Solar Home Rooftop
Period                    : 4Q of 2012
Organised              : Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA)
Quota                    : 2 MW (4Q, 2012) and 6 MW (2013)
Eligibility                : Individual residents
How to apply          : Submit application through e-FIT online system. One application per day.
Investment return    : Expected ROI of 6 years
Earning                  : Average of RM500 per month for the REPPA of 21 years


Bad news for those who have applied earlier

If you have applied online prior to this date, your application would have been 'flushed out'. Meaning,  your applications would have been deleted. This is because of what SEDA described as 'upgrading'.

The Star (Sept.14, 2012):
    "...Badriyah (CEO of SEDA) also said applications for feed-in approval that were sent earlier have been flushed out due to the system upgrade. She also encouraged interested applicants and prospective and renewable energy developers to attend Seda's roadshows which will be held soon to learn more about the programme."

For me this is a bad move (or weakness) by SEDA. The approval/quota is on first-come-first-served basis and because earlier applications are flushed out, they lost their advantages for registering early.

TheGreenMechanics: If you are eligible and you have what it takes to get it done on your landed home, go for it. Simple as that.


Abbreviations:
SEDA       - Sustainable Energy Development Authority
FiT           - Feed-in tariff
REPPA     - Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SEDA and PHTP (Perak) signed hydro-power training partnership pact

What is small hydro-power

The definition of a small hydro project varies but a generating capacity of up to 10 MW is generally accepted as the upper limit of what can be termed small hydro. We can say it is the development of hydroelectric power on a scale serving a small community or industrial plant. In North America, the generating capacity of small hydro can be stretched up to 30 MW or 50 MW.

Check here for an example of Proposed small hydro-power plants in Tuaran, Sabah.

Small hydro can be further subdivided into mini hydro, usually defined as less than 1,000 kW, and micro hydro which is less than 100 kW. Micro hydro is the one that I am so interested as I have always wanted to power up a small community of about 25 houses in my area.


SEDA approved small hydro-power

In Malaysia, small hydro-power as listed in SEDA Malaysia website, refers to installations with generating capacity of:

1) up to and including 10 MW (tier one)                 - FIT rate: RM0.24/kWh
2) above 10 MW and up to and including 30 MW   - FIT rate: RM0.23/kWh

These will qualify for Renewable Energy FIT for 'Small Hydro' for a period of 21 years from FIT commencement date.

Intake station of Amcorp's 4MW hydro-power plant in Sg. Perting, Pahang. It qualifies for Feed-in Tariff


Partnership: A smart move by Perak government.

While it is commendable that Malaysia rolled out its RE initiatives with by forming  SEDA to administer and manage the implementation of the feed-in tariff mechanism, it does little good if there is no technology transfer.

What Perak did was to get SEDA to actvely involved in its plan to train and maintain one of the RE sources, i.e. small hydro-power. One may say hydro-power has been here for ages, but Perak went the extra mile to go down to the grassroots - preparing the small players in hydro electric power generation.


SEDA to help Perak in hydro-power training

Bernama reported a couple of days ago that SEDA Malaysia has entered into a partnership with the Perak State Development Corporation, via Perak Hi Tech Park (PHTP) Sdn Bhd, to provide training on how to maintain small hydro-power plants.

The introduction of this course will benefit many prospective hydro-power plants developers. Under the partnership, PHTP will source technology experts from Brodarski Institute in Croatia to conduct the inaugural training, the first technical cooperation between Malaysia and Croatia.

SEDA said in a statement:
"One of the gaps identified by SEDA is the need to address the lack of competent human capital in terms of technical knowledge in designing, constructing and maintaining small hydro-power systems in the country. Hence, the collaboration with PHTP is most timely to address this gap".

Missile on a rooftop?

"Don't you dare come near"






Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gecko-inspired sticky tape can hold up a 42-inch TV

The next time you buy a LED TV, you may not need to drill a damaging holes on your wall. Especially if your wall have surfaces made of glass, all you need is a gecko-tape and you can easily hang your super-sized TV on it. Don't worry, your TV could just be 20kg at the most.


Gecko inspired sticky tape in action



For years man has been fascinated by the ability of geckos to run up walls feeling absolutely at home. Now a gecko-inspired sticky tape has been developed that could do everything from sticking a TV to a wall to holding parts of a car together. No kidding.

Not only is ‘Geckskin’ incredibly sticky stuff – capable of fixing 300kg to a flat surface – it can also be released with a gentle tug, and reused over 100 times without losing its strength.

Previous attempts to construct such an adhesive focused on mimicking the microscopic hairs that cover gecko toes. But it proved difficult to make larger pieces of these fabrics. Instead Geckskin, developed at the University of Massachusetts, Amhurst, employs other properties of gecko feet to impart its sticking ability- it is incredibly tough while being flexible enough to make close contact with whatever surface it’s sticking to.

In a demonstration of its abilities, the material was used to fix a 42-inch flat screen TV to a glass surface (refer to the above figure).
  1. A thin rubbery polymer layer in Geckskin sticks to the glass because of van der Waals forces – an attraction between the molecules of the two surfaces. As the polymer is so flexible, it moulds to the glass surface, maximising contact between the molecules in the glass and polymer.
  2. A stiff carbon fibre fabric provides the other important property of gecko feetstrength.
  3. A synthetic tendon is stitched into the material that’s stuck to the wall. This is attached to the television’s mounting bracket.

TheGreenMechanics's two cents:

Several tests and R&D's claimed that the gecko adhesive can hold weight in access of 300kg (700 pounds), which is good enough for a person to 'go-spiderman' and climb the Petronas Twin-Tower or Yayasan Sabah buildings.

But for now, I wouldn't bet my money on contractors using it for their glass cleaning works with sky-scrapper buildings just yet. It's a good addition to the existing safety measures though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wonderful English from around the world!

It's Monday morning, so, let's have something to make us all smile. If you've seen or read it somewhere before, just treat this as coffee break jokes alright. (Warning: authenticity of these captions is un-confirmed)

I can't imagine what the British will have to say about them.


Here we go:

In a Bangkok Temple:
IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER A WOMAN, EVEN A FOREIGNER, IF DRESSED AS A MAN.


Cocktail lounge, Norway:
LADIES ARE REQUESTED NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE BAR.

Doctor's office, Rome:
SPECIALIST IN WOMEN AND OTHER DISEASES.


Dry cleaners, Bangkok:
DROP YOUR TROUSERS HERE FOR THE BEST RESULTS.


In a Nairobi restaurant:
CUSTOMERS WHO FIND OUR WAITRESSES RUDE, OUGHT TO SEE THE MANAGER.

On the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi:
TAKE NOTICE: WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE.


On a poster at Kencom:
ARE YOU AN ADULT THAT CANNOT READ? IF SO WE CAN HELP.

In a City restaurant:
OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK AND WEEKENDS.


In a Cemetery:
PERSONS ARE PROHIBITED FROM PICKING FLOWERS, FROM ANY BUT THEIR OWN GRAVES.


Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations:
GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIOURS IN BED.


On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant:
OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.

In a Tokyo Bar:
SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.


Hotel, Yugoslavia:
THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE, IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID.


Hotel, Japan:
YOU ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHAMBERMAID.


In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox Monastery:
YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT THURSDAY.


A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:
IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.


Hotel, Zurich:
BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.


Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?


Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:
WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS.


A Laundry in Rome:
LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME.


And finally the all time classic:

Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop window:
IF THE FRONT IS CLOSED PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE.


PRICELESS!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Solarator - the portable 600W solar power generator

If you are living in a remote location where grid power is not available you would be familiar with the portable 600W or 1200W-rated gasoline generators. These are good enough to power up few fluorescent lamps, a couple of table fans, and your radio/TVs. Sorry, no air-contitioners please.

Save the petrol and go for the sun instead. Because HHV Solar (India) may have just helped you with what you need - a sustainable power supply without the need to re-fuel.

A suitcase you can bring anywhere? Not quite, it weighs 415 kg - not really portable. Pic: HHV Solar.


A leading solar module manufacturer, HHV Solar Technologies, in April 2012 announced the launch of its revolutionary solar device called Solarator, a trailer-mounted, solar PV power generator ideally suited for remote locations and as an emergency power source.

The company claims that it is the first such product developed in India  and the big advantage of the Solarator is that it is a “green” power device.

The Solarator was displayed at the London Solar Energy Exibition as reported by Syllogic.


The Solarator power generator

It consists of 2 high efficiency solar modules, each of which can generate 300 Watt of electricity. The modules utilise mono crystalline silicon cells which convert sunlight into electricity. During transport, the modules are folded compactly and at the site, unfolded to catch the sun’s rays.

The generator and the two-wheeled trailer on which it is mounted, together weigh only 415 kg which makes it easy for the system to be hauled or even air-lifted to remote places. A completely sealed water proof compartment at the bottom of the trailer houses all electronics and electrical, to avoid any short circuits. This compartment also has space for luggage/camping equipment which needs to be carried along. - HHV website.


Specifications

Product name             : Solarator
System power             : 2kVA on continuous AC power
Solar module capacity : 600 Watt
Solar module               : 2 x 300W, mono-crystalline. Make - HHV Solar
Storage                      : 300 Ah, maintenance free battery bank. Make - Powersonic
Power outlet                : 230Vac x 50Hz, 24Vdc, charger socket
Inverter                       : 2000 VA. Make - Outback
Weight                       : 415 kg, together with its 2-wheel trailer
Price                          : Estimated 3.5 lakh (US$6,500) although yet to be fully commercialised.

TheGreenMechanics:
Thanks to innovation, we can have more 'fully-functional' portable solar power generators; not just some solar-powered lantern lamps for the remotely located folks. With the many solar module manufacturers in Malaysia, there should be some innovations somewhere by some practical guys. How I wish I am in the solar photovoltaic industry.


Note: Pictures are from HHV Solar website and Syllogic whose active links are provided in the respective images.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A little milestone II

This is just for my own benefit, to lay another tiny milestone in this blog. Today this blog reach a humble 200,000 pagehits doubling the figure of June 20, 2012. I realised I like writing/blogging very much as it broaden  my perspective and it encourage me to dig and search further on things and issues that interest me.

The Green Mechanics' 200k

This blog is mainly about Green Technology, but of late there were many articles on IT especially gadgets and tools that affect our daily routines in big ways. Also, pictures from my photography passion seem to crop up more. However, in no way this would take away my focus on renewable energy and green technology.

By the way, you can read about the Solar-powered motorbike by Sunred, captured in the above snapshot. It's a very interesting armadillo 'scaled' scooter.

Friday, September 21, 2012

TNB set to get 1320 MW coal powered plant job in Bangladesh

Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) may have shelved its plan to build a 300 MW coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu, Sabah, but that does not stop the utility company to keep burning coal elsewhere.

TNB's proposal for installation and operations of a 1,320MW plant has been selected by Bangladesh Power Division. TNB beat other proposals from China and Thailand power generation companies.

Manjung coal fired power plant
TNB's other coal-fired power plant in Manjung, Malaysia. Picture: Instrumentations & Process Control


Bangladesh's New Age newspaper reported that the power plant, to be installed at either Anwara in Chittagong or Maheshkhali at Cox's Bazar, would be through a joint-venture company owned by the Power Development Board and TNB.


Quick facts and estimates

Plant capacity    : 1,320 MW
Fuel                    : imported coal
Owner                : Bangladesh Power Division
Cost                   : RM6.6 billion (US$2.15 bil) - The EDGE Malaysia's estimate
Project scheme  : Build-Own-Operate
Proposed J-V     : 50-50 share between TNB and the power board


Nothing official yet but it is expected that a delegation from the Power Division will visit Malaysia this month to finalise the memorandum of understanding on the installation and operations of the plant.


Bangladesh has more coal-fired power plants

Including this proposal, Bangladesh has so far initiated 3 big coal-fired power projects, each having 1,320MW power generation capacity, in joint venture with equal shares with three state-run agencies.

Being the biggest power utility company in Malaysia, TNB certainly has the experience and capability to install and operate similar plants. At present, TNB's combined generation capacity (in Malaysia and Pakistan) is 12,000 MW.

Bangladesh has set a long-range target to generate about 20,000MW power from coal-fired plants - 11,250 MW using domestic coal and 8,750 MW fromimported coal - by 2030.


TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

Coal advocateurs claim that there is newer technology that make coal 'clean' and thus it should be developed further to become the main fuel. Coal can never be clean from whichever perspective you look at it and a 'dirty' fuel shall remain dirty. Question is how well can you manage the waste and byproducts of burning coal. There is bound to be leaks somewhere. The ill effect of the pollution is not immediate (unlike other chemicals), and thus people's mentality towards coal is different from, say radio-actives and chlorine for instance.

Note that India and Bangladesh are still unsettled on the implementation of the latter's proposal for another 1,320MW coal-fired power plant initiated earlier than the one with TNB.

Meanwhile TNB's extension of its Manjung coal power plant in Malaysia by additional 1,000 MW is understood to be going ahead as planned.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fishing competition - Pulau Gandang, Tuaran

Do you like fishing? Then read on.

I saw this banner on Fishing Competition organised by one of the water operators in the state and I thought I should share it here for the benefit of all kaki pancing, hobbyists, and everyone who want to spend their weekend throwing rods for fun. Perhaps go home with some consolation.


Let's go!


Event             : Pertandingan Memancing Terbuka Corporate Dynamics Sdn Bhd 2012
Organiser      : Corporate Dynamics Sports and Recreation Club
Date              : 29 September 2012 (Saturday)
Time             : 7.00am - 3.00pm
Venue           : Pulau Gandang, Tuaran (it's not actually an island, just the shore in the vicinity)
Eligibility      : Open to the public

Entrance fee : RM30.00 per rod

For inquiries and to sign up for the competition, call (since this is an open competition, enthusiasts from other parts of the state - or the nation for that matter - can obviously take part):-

Tuaran & Tamparuli   : 088-782123 Thien Sen Fong
Kota Kinabalu           : 088-233511 Elizabeth Luan
Penampang              : 088-719006 Pantalion L Gihol

The prizes are quite attractive:
      1st place   : RM1,000
      2nd place  :    RM700
      3rd place   :    RM500
      4th place   :    RM200
      5th place   :    RM100

I understand there are rules and regulations for the competition (such as how many rods can a participant bring, its consequential fees, etc) and I will try to get a hand on one. I will update this page once the details are available.

Please click on this icon for larger view of the banner.



SYARAT-SYARAT PERTANDINGAN (RULES & REGULATIONS)
(In Malay language. Please ask around or Google translate if you have trouble understanding)
  1. Yuran penyertaan sebanyak RM30.00 untuk joran pertama. Manakala untuk joran berikutnya sebanyak RM15.00 sebatang dan terhad kepada dua batang joran sahaja.
  2. Peserta mestilah berumur 12 tahun ke atas.
  3. Peserta hanya dibenarkan mendaftar atas satu nama sahaja.
  4. Pertandingan akan berlangsung selama 5 ½ jam (bermula dari jam 09.00 pagi hingga jam 2.30 petang). Peserta diwajibkan menghabiskan tempoh masa yang telah ditetapkan dan mana-mana peserta yang balik awal akan dibatalkan kesemua hasil tangkapannya.
  5. Yuran penyertaan tidak akan dikembalikan terhadap mana-mana peserta ingin menarik diri pada hari pertandingan.
  6. Kejuaraan akan ditentukan berdasarkan kepada berat tangkapan ikan dan juga masa tangkapan. Sekiranya terdapat persamaan dari segi berat tangkapan ikan, maka masa tangkapan yang tercepat akan diambilkira sebagai pemenang.
  7. HANYA pancing yang mempunyai penanda sah daripada pihak penganjur sahaja yang akan diambilkira tangkapannya.
  8. Adalah ditegaskan bahawa penggunaan mata kail bermata tiga dan juga ambor (Hand Line) adalah tidak dibenarkan sama sekali.
  9. Peserta boleh memenangi lebih daripada satu kategori hadiah yang dipertandingkan sekiranya tangkapan berat ikan yang seterusnya adalah layak.
  10. Pilihan umpan adalah bebas dan perlu disediakan sendiri oleh semua peserta.
  11. Pilihan tempat memancing adalah bebas tetapi mestilah di dalam kawasan yang telah ditetapkan oleh pihak penganjur pertandingan.
  12. Peserta dikehendaki terus mengemukakan tangkapan ikan ke meja pengadil untuk ditimbang sebaik sahaja tangkapan dibuat. Semua tangkapan mestilah masih hidup dan tidak dibuka daripada mata kail semasa mengemukakannya.
  13. Hanya ikan yang ditangkap menggunakan pancing sahaja yang akan diambilkira. Kaedah mencandat (mata kail menyangkut pada badan ikan) adalah tidak dibenarkan.
  14. IKAN BUNTAL, SEMPARIDING, IKAN LANGUT, PENYU dan KETAM adalah tidak diambil kira di dalam pertandingan ini.
  15. Peserta tidak dibenarkan untuk memberi atau menerima sebarang hasil tangkapan ikan daripada mana-mana peserta lain termasuk bertukar joran pancing. Jika diketahui, penyertaan kedua-dua peserta yang terlibat akan dibatalkan.
  16. Penggunaan perahu / pelampung untuk tujuan memancing di kawasan air dalam adalah tidak dibenarkan.
  17. Sebarang bantahan boleh dibuat dengan menyertakan bayaran sebanyak RM100.00 di meja urusetia pertandingan. Keputusan pihak penganjur adalah muktamad dan wang tidak akan dikembalikan. Sebarang bantahan yang tidak disertakan dengan bayaran tidak akan dilayan.
  18. Pihak penganjur berhak untuk membatalkan dan seterusnya menarik balik hadiah kemenangan sekiranya mendapati wujudnya sebarang bentuk penipuan oleh mana-mana peserta pertandingan.
  19. Semua peserta perlu memberi kerjasama dalam menjaga kebersihan pantai dengan tidak membuang sampah secara merata-rata. Pihak penganjur akan menyediakan plastic sampah.
  20. Peserta yang ingin menuntut hasil tangkapan ikan bolehlah berbuat demikian selepas acara pertandingan ini selesai.
  21. Pihak penganjur berhak menunda tarikh pertandingan sekiranya terdapat sebarang kesulitan yang tidak dapat dielakkan.


LOCATION MAP


Please click on the image to enlarge.

Super Wi-Fi poised for growth

Wi-Fi and "Super Wi-Fi".

You'd naturally think of superior performance and far reaching Wi-Fi signal, and quite rightly. Super Wi-Fi is being deployed in the United States and generating interest in a number of countries, including Britain and Brazil. It offers a bigger range than existing hotspots.

Super Wi-Fi is not really Wi-Fi because it uses a different frequency and requires specially designed equipment, but it offers some of Wi-Fi's advantages, and more.

The name was coined by the US Federal Communications Commission in 2010, when it approved the deployment of unused broadcast television spectrum, or so-called "white spaces," for wireless broadband.

Super Wi-Fi could be useful for less dense population over a large area.


Much longer range

Think about covering few lots or blocks of shop. But with Super Wi-Fi we are talking about covering the whole town or city. Or villages.

The long range and use of the broadcast spectrum could allow wireless signals to travel farther than Wi-Fi - in theory as far as 100 miles (160 kilometers) - although for practical reasons the range will probably be only a few miles.

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation, said that is an advantage of using the broadcast spectrum.

"Wi-Fi has been booming, but it has been limited by the frequencies it operates on, which go only a few hundred meters," said Calabrese, who has been pressing for the use of "white spaces" since 2002.

In contrast, "television frequencies travel long distances at low power and penetrate through buildings, trees and bad weather," Calabrese said.

This could provide high-speed Internet to sparsely populated rural areas which lack broadband. It could also allow consumers to create their own hotspots, which could be used on devices while away from their homes.


Already deployed in US

The first deployment of Super Wi-Fi came last year by Rice University in Houston, Texas, followed by another earlier this year in Wilmington, North Carolina. A coalition of organizations has announced plans to deploy Super Wi-Fi to college campuses in rural areas starting early next year in a project called AIR.U, backed by Google and Microsoft.

Super Wi-Fi would be on "unlicensed" spectrum, like Wi-Fi, so companies would not bid on exclusive spectrum rights. This can lower costs. And there is often excess capacity, especially in rural areas, where fewer TV stations operate.

Mobile phone companies could use Super Wi-Fi, as they do now with Wi-Fi, to relieve some of the "spectrum crunch" from the explosion of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

But in order for Super Wi-Fi to gain traction, manufacturers of PCs and other devices would have to make chipsets that could operate on both systems.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents: Long range capability should benefit rural areas, especially with the government' effort to close the digital gap with urbanites.

For the consumers in general, this should provide alternative and possibly cheaper option in communication.


Source: The Star

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Energy Commission HQ in Putrajaya wins top award for Energy Efficiency

When Malaysia scoured the region to study some of the sustainable and energy-efficient buildings around South-east Asia back in 2005, there was going to be only one outcome - 'a first'.

It is the first building outside Singapore to obtain the island state's Green Mark platinum rating. Also, it is the first office building in Malaysia to obtain the Green Building Index, GBI platinum rating. Let's hope this will become a catalyst for other corporations and individuals to build more green buildings in the future.

Diamond Building
The Diamond Building, double-platinum award winner. Picture by ACICC Malaysia Sdn Bhd via The Star


The most energy-efficient building in SEA

Energy Commission headquarters, the Diamond Building in Putrajaya was named the most energy-efficient building at the Asean Energy Awards (AEA) 2012 held on September 12, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Diamond Building won the top prize in the category of “New and Existing Buildings”, which was open to buildings that were not more than 5 years old. The AEA, which began in 2000, is an annual awards programme that recognises “outstanding work for excellence, creativity, practicality and dedication to a cause in the field of energy”.

The seven-storey Diamond Building is the first office building in Malaysia to obtain the Green Building Index platinum rating and the first building outside Singapore to obtain the island state's Green Mark platinum rating.

Local firm NR Architect was involved in the design of the building, with Thai architect Dr Soontom Boonyatikam as the principal architect and IEN Consultants as the sustainability consultant.

The Diamond Building uses mostly natural light and its energy consumption is about one-third of a normal building. - via The Star


Quick facts about the Diamond Building

Officially launched           : May 2011 by DPM, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
Owner                            : Energy Commission of Malaysia
Principal Architect           : Dr Soontorn Boonyatikarn (Thailand)
Main Contractor              : Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd
Savings                          : RM1mil annually in operating costs – about RM950,000 from energy efficiency
                                       and RM45,000 from solar power generation.

Reduced CO2 emissions : 1,400 tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 700 cars off the road.
                                        (Assuming each car has travelled 12,000km.)
Building energy index      : 65kWh/m2 per year (without solar PV), 56kWh/m2 per year (with PV).
                                       (The index is the annual amount of electricity used per sq. metre of a building)

Solar PV cells installed   : 71.4kWp, which yields about 1,400kWh/m2 a year.

Energy savings              : 53% to 61% in overall electricity usage, including lighting and computers,
                                      and 34% in cooling.

Lighting savings of 77% compared to the Green Mark base, but is expected to increase once task lights are distributed. The Green Mark base uses a reference building which is representative of buildings in the country.

The eco-friendly measures cost RM3.4mil – about 6% of the total construction cost. The estimated payback period is 3.5 years.

Water-efficient fittings, rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling (water saved corresponds to consumption of 12 households)


Source: IEN Consultants Sdn Bhd (The consultant for the Diamond Building) & The Star.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Malaysia Day

Happy Malaysia Day to all citizens of Malaysia.

Today (16 September 2012) is a celebration that marks the formation of the Malaysian federation on 16-09-1963, whereby Malaya, North Borneo (renamed Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore joined together to form Malaysia.

Hari kebangsaan 2012
Cultural dances by Sabah's multi-ethnic groups during the August 31 merdeka celebration a couple of weeks ago. Photo: Victor Lo/InsightSabah.


There are two significant dates for Sarawak and Sabah prior to the formation of Malaysia:
  1. Sarawak gained its transitional administration from Britain on July 22, 1963, 
  2. North Borneo (Sabah) began its transitional administration from the Britain on August 31, 1963

During this year's Malaysia Day celebration, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak called for a stop to debate over Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day, saying both the dates were meaningful and important in the country’s history. Quite rightly so, and it should be taken in good faith.

This year's celebration was in Bintulu, Sarawak.

☺  ☺    "SELAMAT HARI MALAYSIA"  ☺  ☺  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solar-powered motorbike by Sunred

Two-stroke vehicles, especially motorbikes are known for their inefficiency i.e. energy consumption is higher due to the way the fuel is incompletely burned and wasted out of the exhaust pipe.

But people innovate and who say motorcycle cannot be made 'cleaner'.

Hobbyist who like riding their big-engine motorbikes, as well as clean energy enthusiasts will definitely find this interesting. SunRed demonstrated that you can ride your favourite bike and at the same time be a green advocateur.

Concept solar-powered bike by Quimera


How it works

Think about all those hours the motorcycle is left parked under the baking sun. The bike gets its power from this. Also, due to the snail shape design, solar plates are installed in such a way that they harvest energy from the sun no matter how the bike is positioned.

The prototype design of solar-powered bike by Spanish automotive company SunRED was showcased in an autoshow in Barcelone and won the prize for best innovative.

BusinessWeek reported that the bike’s 3.1 sq meters of armadillo-looking solar panels soak up the sun’s rays while it is parked, then retract to reveal the driver’s seat when it is time to go. While an alternative power source has yet to be included in the design, the solar cells alone would allow it to reach speeds of up to 48 km/h and a range of up to 21 km.

SunRED's snail shape design bike. Or scooter, if you like.


Further development

The project is still on-going and SunRED is collaborating with Quimera to build a complete purpose-built electric platform that allows customization to any type of bike/scooter. Once completed, it will be capable of recharging through both solar panels and plug-in electricity. The hybrid charging methods can take the bike around 120km of traveling with top speed of 100km/h.

120 km range is more like it, because a bike that can travel 21 km in a single charge is not really appealing to many.

Brief technical specifications made available by Quimera:
    Power               - 18kW
    Torque              - 96 Nm
    Consumption     - 10KWh/100 km in Euro cycle
    Range               - 100km (Euro cycle)
    Top speed         - 100 km/h
    Charge time      - 70% in 1hour
    Energy storage  - Lithium polymer batteries
    Cooling             - Water-cooled electric engine

TheGreenMechanics' two cents:
I like the armadillo or pangolin-shape design. On one hand, it says many things about nature and the impressive innovation of the solar modules; what you normally see is the square design. On the other hand, I am not too sure about the efficiency of the solar cells so arranged.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Study: Swedes are most Internet savvy

Question: Which country is the best at putting the Web to use?

Answer : the U.S.

Very close, but not quiteThat would be Sweden, according to a new report spearheaded by Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who basically invented the World Wide Web, WWW. I know many Americans would not agree to this, but hey this is just one study. Take it with a pinch of salt, if you like.


Untitled
The Web Index is the measure of the Web’s use, utility and impact on people and nations.


U.S. is second best country in the world for using the internet

The United States came in second place on the much-anticipated study, which was published online Wednesday by the World Wide Web Foundation.

Called the Web Index, the first-of-its-kind report ranked 61 countries across seven categories, including communications infrastructure, Web use, Web content and the political, social and economic impact of the Internet in those countries.

The group, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, collected five years of data from other sources and spent a year conducting surveys to arrive at its conclusions. The report was funded in full by a $1 million grant from Google. Yemen, the violence-plagued Middle Eastern country, ranked last on the list, behind Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso, both in Africa.

Overall, one in three people worldwide use the Internet, according to the report. But Web use is uneven. Only one in six Africans use the Web.

Sweden beat out the United States on the ranking in part because a smaller percentage of Americans are online. About three-quarters of American are Internet users, compared with about 90% of Sweden's population. Meanwhile, "the U.S. has a lower percentage of households with personal computers than a raft of countries, including Canada, Ireland, Japan and Norway," the report says.

The United States "also offers slower bandwidth per Internet user than a range of countries, most notably Iceland, Sweden and Singapore."

The United States is No. 1 in terms of access to Web content, which the report measures in terms of the number of Wikipedia articles in a particular language as well as "the type of data and information that is accessible on the Web in each country."

Iceland topped the list in terms of its Internet infrastructure and Web use. Nearly 96% of people in that country use the Internet, according to the report.

Singapore has the world's fastest Internet, and Ireland's economy benefits the most from the Web. Internet and communications-related exports accounted for 15% of its gross domestic product between 2007 and 2010, which the report says puts it "exponentially ahead of any other nation." - CNN


Most Internet savvy countries
Dark blue and purple ones scored highest and red the lowest


In summary, the report says:

1. Google granted $1 million to fund this report
2. The Web Index report ranked 61 countries and Sweden is best at using Internet
3. The U.S. comes second
4. Yemen ranked last on the list, behind Zimbabwe (both in Africa)
5. On average, 1 in 3 people worldwide use the Internet (in Africa only 1 in 6)
6. The U.S. is No. 1 in terms of access to Web content
7. Iceland is No. 1 in terms of its Internet infrastructure and Web use
8. Singapore (ranked 11 in the Web Index) has the world's fastest Internet
9. ASEAN nations ranking:
    Singapore (11th), Philippines (32nd), Indonesia (34th), Thailand (37th), Vietnam (47th)

To see the complete list, visit the Web Index.


How about Malaysia?

Now, where's Malaysia? Why isn't Malaysia included in the report?

Currently, household broadband penetration in Malaysia is 63.95%, so, we should sit somewhere between 20th and 30th place. As for Sabah, broadband penetration is about 35%, that is way below the national average.

Friday, September 14, 2012

iPhone 5 price in Malaysia

The US unlocked prices for iPhone 5 was revealed hours after its official launch on September 12, 2012. AppleInsider quoted Apple iPhone comparison page prices of unlocked 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPhone 5 models at $649, $749 and $849, respectively.


iPhone 5 unlocked price
U.S. unlocked prices shown with asterisk *


iPhone 5 Malaysia prices

It has not been announced yet but from past experience and by  extrapolating, prices for Malaysia market is likely to be as follows (at current exchange rate):

16GB : RM2,299.00
32GB : RM2,599.00
64GB : RM2,899.00

Given that Malaysia prices are RM100 lower than the extrapolated US versus Singapore prices, I am putting my money on Malaysia prices starting at RM2,199 (16GB).

Let's see in 3 to 4 weeks' time.


Other things to consider: nano-SIM

The new nano-SIM is a shrink-equivalent of the micro-SIM and measures 12.3mm x 8.8mm with thickness of just 0.67mm, or about 15% thinner than micro-SIM. You cannot cut your existing micro-SIM into nano-SIM, the same way you did it previously by cutting normal SIM to micro-SIM.

Nano SIM card
The card is shrinking further. From L - R: Normal SIM, micro-SIM, nano-SIM


There is still no confirmation on nano-SIM availability in Malaysia, so even if you get an iPhone 5 in the next week or two, you won't be able to use it as your primary device.So, you may want to reconsider your intention of asking your friends or relatives in Singapore to buy one for you.

New iPhone 5 is here. Should you upgrade from 4S?

The latest iPhone, the iPhone 5 was introduced yesterday that saw the still 'new' 4S being relegated to the mid-tier of iPhone devices. Announced on September 12, it will be up for pre-orders (in the USA and selected countries) on the 14th. Shipment starts on September 21st.

It will be available first in 9 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, then in other country world wide.


IMore iPhone
First impression: It looks exactly like the 4S and 4

The slab is made entirely of aluminum and glass. At 7.6mm, many online commentary - including some well known websites - wrongly quoted the new iPhone as the "world's thinnest smartphone". Instead, that should read "thinnest iPhone ever".

Vital stats of the iPhone 5:
        Display       : 4-inch
        Resolution  : 1136 x 640 pixel
        Thickness   : 7.6 mm
        Weight       : 112 g
        Camera      : 8MP, front-facing: 1.2MP
Prices of the iphone 5 are similar to the iPhone 4S when it was first launched. In the US, the iPhone 4S now available in single variant (16GB) only, sold at $99 while the iPhone 5 will be offered in 16, 32, and 64GB iterations for $199, $299, and $399 respectively. The retail price without string to telcos starts at $649 (USA).


Closer home: Singapore, one of the earliest wave

In Singapore, the iPhone 5 will be available without contract (unlocked) for a recommended retail price of:-

16GB model: S$948    (US$772)    - approx. RM2,399
32GB model: S$1,088 (US$886)    - approx. RM2,799
64GB model: S$1,238 (US$1,008) - approx. RM3,099


Compare iPhone 5 and 4s, 4
Second look: iPhone 5 does look tall, probably disproportionate.
A little bit of effort needed to get use to it.


The narrow but tall design reminds me of the long gone Nokia 9500, a premium Nokia product during its days. Of course iPhone 5 looks much better, but I can't help thinking about Apple's innovation in terms of look, or the lack of it.


Connector called Lightning
They shrunk the 30-pin connector into a digital type called Thunderbolt (Lightning). This new connector made the old one completely obsolete! There goes my docking station, my charger and data cable. They are completely useless without adaptor (additional un-necessary purchase).


iPhone 5 - Reuter image
My previous iPhones have all been of black finishes. I must admit though that this White & Silver variant of the iPhone 5 is appealing.


Dimensions comparison with its rival's flagship, the S3:

Height x Width x Thick
Galaxy S3  : 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
iPhone 5    : 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm


S3 vs iPhone 5
The new iPhone 5 compared to the latest offering from Samsung (Galaxy S3): There are a lot of websites offering information on technical & specifications of the two, but you have to feel the slab in your hand to appreciate the uniqueness of both.

Don't discount the iPhone 5 just yet until you touch and feel it. For me, I will stick to my 4S for the time being. With the gradual rather than radical changes in specifications of the latest device, I don't feel that the need to upgrade is sufficiently justified.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The story of a hungry crow

There are two of them. But one crow is hungrier than the other, so, let's just stick to the title.

I was in a 'animal-language' mode that afternoon and decided to speak their language, probably out of hunger. I thought I could help a bird or two if I go down to their level and try to understand their problem. It turned out to be less than pleasant experience:


He & She (singing): DO - a deer, a female deer...


So they started to sing - one on base voice and the other on second. I thought I heard 'him' singing the loudest while 'she' keep a low profile. I took out and brandished my gear and I was ready to shoot.

Please continue reading (or rather watching) here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The new iPhone (iPhone 5) is almost here

That's September 12.

And the Cupertino electronic giant is suggesting it will finally be a "5". Many expected the 4S to be a much redefined iteration when it was announced late last year, only to be (disappointed, are you?) with the same '4' with dual-core processor, a Siri and a better camera (8MP) as additional features to the squarish slab.


iPhone5-460
Today is September 11, so, That's tomorrow!


 UPDATES, UPDATES:  
1) Now that the iPhone 5 is here. Should you upgrade from iPhone 4S?
2) iPhone 5 prices in Malaysia?


No doubt the new iPhone 5 would catapult Apple sales but for now let's see some statistics for crunch. In the tablet market the iPad is still the king. But in the smartphone business, Samsung mobile phones remained the most popular in the US with 25.6% of the market (as at the end of July):

Samsung    - 25.6%
LG             - 18.4%
Apple         - 16.3%

Smartphones powered by Google's Android software continued to dominate the US market and elsewhere in the world. This is a case of 'open-source' Android versus propriety iOS system:

Android     - 52.2% (US market)
iOS           - 33.4%
Others      - 14.4% (Windows, Syambian, etc)


IMG_0222-600
The iPhone progression: Nothing much has changed.


In order to achieve the much-talked 4" display, the iPhone 5 is said to become longer but no change in the width. How ugly could that be? But wait. The iPhone is always full of surprises. Let's see tomorrow if it is a pleasant one.

For now I am a happy user of the 4S.

Malacca to build first solar farm, RM46 million

Malacca is well on course to achieve its target to become a Green Technology City State in 2020. Last month the government kicked off the construction of the first state-owned solar farm in the country.  Hats off to the team!

Not to deny the effort of other conglomerates and the private sector, but Malacca has to be given credit for the initiative. It started it's green initiative long before the feed-in tariff structure was drawn out by SEDA. The other notable solar installation is Cypark's Pajam 8MW solar park in Negeri Sembilan.


Malacca solar farm quick facts

Plant capacity     : 5MWp, to be constructed in 3 phases:-
                            Phase 1: 1.3MW to be completed in December 2012
                            Phase 2: 1.22MW to be completed in January 2013
                            Phase 3: 2.48MW to be completed in February 2013
Investment           : RM46 million (US$14.8 mil)
Area                     : 7,248.43ha
Location               : Rembia Industrial Area
Tenure                 : 21 years REPPA with TNB

Estimated energy produced :
                    Daily        - 17 MWh
                    Monthly   - 514 MWh
                    Annually  - 6,162 MWh
Example:
If the FIT rate is RM0.98 per kWh of energy produced, annual revenue based on the above estimated figure would be (6,162,000 x 0.98) = RM6.04 mil. So, yes, it is a viable investment and it create job opportunity for the people. Plus, there will be spin-off business activities, at lease in Malacca.

I am assuming that this production is based on solar irradiation of 3 to 3.5 hours a day, which is quite conservative, but perhaps taking into account rainy days as well. We understand that in Sabah the good sun irradiation period is longer.

Projected profit: RM73 million after 21 years



Malacca solar power 5MW
Chief Minister of Malacca, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam (second from left), gestures as they look a sample of the solar panel at the launch of the solar farm at Melaka World Solar Valley. Photo: Mohd Khairul Helmy Mohd Din/NST



Malacca to build solar farm at Rembia Industrial Area
(NST, August 4, 2012)

ALOR GAJAH: THE Malacca government will be the first in the country to build and operate its own solar farm, costing RM46 million, in line with its mission to be a green technology city state by 2020.

The 5MWp solar photovoltaic (PV) solar farm will be built on a 7,248.43ha site at the Melaka World Solar Valley in the Rembia Industrial Area.

This will be done in three phases -- the first phase to produce 1.3MW will be completed in December, the second phase (1.22MW) will be ready by January next year and the final phase (2.48MW) in February. The project is being developed by Kumpulan Melaka Berhad (KMB), which is wholly owned by Chief Minister Incorporated.

The proposed solar farm to be build at Melaka Solar World Valley.


Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said all the power generated by the solar farm would be sold to Tenaga Nasional Berhad and the electricity would be channelled directly into the national power grid (NPG).

"The power harvested from sunlight will be channelled into the NPG in three phases obtained which will be on Dec 15, and Jan 15 and Feb 15 next year."

He also said the plant would be able to supply 17MW a day to the NPG. "In a month we will be able to sell 514MW to TNB and in a year, it will come up to 6,162MW.

"We expect that after servicing the RM41 million loan which we had taken from the Malaysia Debt Ventures Berhad (MDV), a company owned by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, we would be able to make a profit of RM73 million after 21 years."

Rustam said this after performing the groundbreaking for the plant and witnessing the signing of the agreement to finance the project between KMB and MDV at the Melaka World Solar Valley yesterday.

Present were Energy, Green Technology and Water Deputy Minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon and Sustainable Energy Development Authority chairman Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn, who is also Alor Gajah MP. Mohd Ali said two more solar farms would be developed in Jasin and the Krubong landfill.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why do some fish swim in schools and others alone?

In biology, any group of fish that stay together for social reasons are shoaling, and if the group is swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner, they are schooling. You can also find interesting facts about schooling at wikipedia, including some great pics.


You can see this school of fish at KLCC Aquaria. | 55mm | f/40 | 1/40sec | ISO 1600 |


Why school?

Schooling is a tactic that has several advantages. It reduces vulnerability to predators, improves access to breeding partners and lowers the hydrodynamic drag when swimming at speed. It can also make it easier to find food, but not under all circumstances, and this is the primary reason that some fish do not school.


When feeding, will piranha school? | 24mm | f/4 | 1/25sec | ISO 1000 |


Why not?

When a fish feeds on large numbers of highly mobile prey much smaller than itself, swimming in a school makes hunting easier. This is because prey that jumps out of the way of a neighbour's mouth might land itself within striking distance. But if the food source is solitary or well hidden, or if the fish feeds on plants, then other fish just represent more competition for a limited resource, and it is better off feeding alone.

For us human, it's always better to 'school', just as the old Malay saying bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh (united we stand).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 price Malaysia - RM1,299

It was first announced to carry a price tag of RM2,199 in Malaysia.

Now, for as low as RM1,299 (DiGi) or RM1,388 (Celcom) you can get to own this distinctively different tablet. The full functional S-pen (a stylus) brings back memories of the old smart phones and electronic organisers, PDA.





The Galaxy Note 10.1 brings in a multitasking experience with its multi-screen feature where user can utilise two different applications side-by-side simultaneously on the expansive view of 10.1-inch screen. Main features of Samsung's new offering are:

Operating System    : Android 4.0 (Ice-cream Sandwich)
Screen size              : 10.1" WXGA (1280x800) LCD
Input                        : S Pen/S Note (apart from touch screen)
Processor                : 1.4GHz Exynos Quad-Core
Cameras                  : 5MP rear camera, 1.9MP front camera


Galaxy Note 10.1 Prices/Packages

The three main telcos - DiGi, Maxis and Celcom - have announced their packages for the new tablet. The recommended retail price is RM2,199 and as usual you can purchase this at much reduced cost in a couple of months.

1) DiGi



2) Maxis

Value Plan 50: Data quota - 1.5GB, monthly - RM50
Value Plan 75: Data quota - 3.5GB, monthly - RM75


3) Celcom



You may want to check out what's in store for you at U Mobile if your area is covered by this service provider.

I have used the services of all three telcos in the past for both my smart phones and tablet. My personal experience is that, Maxis is quite conservative (read stingy) in allocating data for the same amount of money you pay compared to the other telcos. But they offer the fastest surfing experience, for now.

Let's see if Celcom and DiGi buck up. I like Celcom in the sense that they provide the widest coverage and I can go practically everywhere and still get at least 1 or 2 bars of signal on my phone.

Girl found alive under corpses of slain family in France

No one should give up on anything but should keep going. Not until one's number is up.

In the case of life and death, there's this famous Malay quote: 'Berpantang maut sebelum ajal'. That's exactly what happened to a 4-year-old girl when her family members (including her father, mother and grandmother) were brutally killed in a close range shooting. It happened at a popular camping site near Chevaline, France.


Chevaline viewed from air
Viewed from air, beautiful Chevaline is very popular among campers. Photo: The Sun, UK


Girl, 4, found alive after shooting in French Alps
France, September 6, 2012

AFP - A four-year-old girl miraculously survived a shooting in the French Alps that left four people dead by curling up under the bullet-riddled corpses of her mother and grandmother, officials said Thursday.

The little girl spent eight hours concealed on the back seat of her family's car following a mysterious and brutal gun attack which also left her elder sister seriously injured and killed a passer-by.

Her father, who was found dead in the driver's seat, was identified Thursday as Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old born in Baghdad but resident in Claygate, Surrey in the southeast of England.

The fourth man who died is believed to be a local who happened to be cycling past the scene of the crime.

The girl's elder sister, who was found shot next to the car, was in a serious but stable condition in hospital after being flown by helicopter to the nearby city of Grenoble where she was visited Thursday by a British consular official.

Eric Maillaud, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said the four-year-old had emerged unscathed.

"She stayed, curled up under the bodies for eight hours and didn't move in all that time," he said.

The first police to arrive on the scene did not spot the girl and, with the car being left untouched and the area sealed off pending the arrival of forensic experts, she was left to endure a traumatic ordeal until she was finally discovered around midnight.

"It was only once we had access to the scene of the crime that we found her," Maillaud said. "The little girl spoke English. She heard noises, shouts but she can't tell us any more than that. She is only four years old.

"She is being looked after and we are doing everything we possibly can to care for her."


Entrance to Chevaline
Gendarmes block access to the killing site on Wednesday, Sept 5, 2012. Photo by The Straits Times


You can read the rest of the story at France 24 International News.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sewage-treating bacteria may generate electricity

You've heard of bio-fuel (biogas) harvested from the sewage treatment process. This biogas is then used as fuel to help turn the turbines and produce electricity.

Sewage treatment plant Malaysia
                   A sewage treatment facility in Malaysia. Photo by Hitachi PT


New science of electro-microbiology

What is relatively new to us is the fact that certain microbes can generate electrical current outside their own cells. What this means is that, we can bypass combustion and the expensive turbines to generate electricity. We just need to find way/s to harvest energy from microbes outer cells.

Scientists likened the process to the movie The Matrix where humans are hooked up to machines to provide electricity. In this case, microbes would be connected to devices to generate electrical current.

Major obstacle - for now - is the high cost of making such devices, and on how to improve their efficiency, and power capacity capacity of the devices.

Interesting! And in a long run, this should be the cheaper, better option.

+            +            +             +           +            +            +


Read the full article on Using sewage-treating bacteria in electricity-generation.

LONDON (Reuters, August 9, 2012) - Microbes used to treat human waste might also generate enough electricity to power whole sewage plants, scientists hope.

The technology is based on the relatively new science of electro-microbiology that is finding uses for the discovery that certain microbes can generate an electrical current outside their own cells. In the context of sewage treatment, they would purify waste water by consuming the organic matter in it and use that energy to generate a current that can be harvested and stored.

Co-author of the research, published in the U.S. journal Science, Bruce Logan of Pennsylvania State University, compared the process he is developing to the movie The Matrix, where hfumans are hooked up to machines to provide electrical power.

"In our article we describe a process which is somewhat like that but what we do is use certain micro-organisms which can be connected to devices to generate an electrical current that can be used to generate power," Logan said.

An estimated 3 percent of the electricity generated in the United States is used to run waste water treatment plants and at least 5 percent goes into the whole water infrastructure, said Logan, adding: "That's clearly not sustainable."

Logan says the technique, still in its infancy, has sparked interest from companies including Siemens and General Electric, as well as a number of small startup firms. There are some major hurdles, including the high cost of making the devices needed and improving their efficiency and power capacity.

"Right now it's a bit expensive," Logan said.

"What we really need to do is get the cost of the materials down and start putting the technology out into practice and that takes other things than just science and engineering. It takes political will and funding."

The same technique could see microbes used to generate biofuels, hydrogen gas, methane and other valuable chemicals from the cheap and abundant product of our trips to the bathroom, say Logan and fellow researcher Korneel Rabaey from the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Source: Reuters

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Malaysia’s first green library

Not too long ago, I wrote about Sabah's first ever Green Building in the form of Sabah Art Gallery Conservation Centre in Luyang Kota Kinabalu. Of course there's another one, the IEM Centre at KKIP but I'm unsure if the engineers' building has been completed yet.

The new library in Tanjung Aru will be the first Green Library in Malaysia when completed and made available to the public in 3 year's time.


"Itu dia!" (That's it), says Deputy Chief Minister, Yahya Hussin as Wong Vui Ying, director of Sabah Library nodded in agreement. Together with him are Azizah Dun, Welfare Minister and Jainab Ayid, an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Resource Development and IT. Photo by: Ille Tugimin


Green library gets support from private sector

It is Malaysia’s first green library. But half of the RM40million ($12.9mil) of the cost of the Kota Kinabalu regional library has come from a private company, the Lahad Datu Water Supply Sendirian Berhad. It is also the first such building funded by the private sector, according to Deputy Chief Minister Yahya Hussin who launched it at a groundbreaking ceremony in Tanjung Aru on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

“This is a very good cooperation between the private sector and the government,” he said. The library is expected to be ready by 2015.

Like the Sabah art gallery, the library will turn to solar energy, harvest rain water and use materials that will not add to carbon dioxide emission to keep global warming in check.

Steven Tan, managing director of Lahad Datu Water Supply Sendirian Berhad, says the funding is part of his company’s corporate social responsibility. - via Insight Sabah


TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

It's really good that we are waking up to realise the need to conserve energy and save the environment. This is the common practice for many architects and building designers in West Malaysia. I should make the trip to Tanjung Aru and take a look at this building soon.

But the real deal is Singapore with its achievement of more than 1,000 green building as at the beginning of this year.

World's largest Wakid


                             Captured with: Canon DIGITAL IXUS 750


98-year-old Message in bottle found in Scotland


Message Ina bottle
98-year-old bottled message
Photo: Scottish government/AP
The bottle was found floating on the seas and adrift for nearly a century, or exactly 97 years and 309 days before Scottish skipper, Andrew Leaper found it trapped in his fishing net.

The discovery in early April this year was recognised by Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest message in a bottle, beating the old record by more than 5 years.


The message is real

In 1914, Scottish Captain C.H. Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation released 1,890 bottles as part of a government experiment to map the undercurrents of the seas around Scotland.

Each bottle contained a postcard asking the finder to record details of where the bottle was located. The letter also promises a reward of six pence, according to AP.

The 6 pence coin no longer exist as it was discontinued by the British Mint in 1970 and completely phased out by 1980.


Still time to break the record

According to the BBC, of the nearly 2,000 bottles released, only 315 of them have been found, so, there is every likelihood that Leaper's record will be beaten in the future. Sooner or later.


98 year old message in a bottle
New Guinness record.


Message in a bottle
The message in a bottle discovered by Scottish skipper, Andrew Leaper.
Photo: Scottish government/AP

As you can see in the above picture, the postcard asks the finder to record details of the discovery and promises a reward of a six pence. Unfortunately for Leaper, the coin no longer exists but the Guinness recognition would perhaps be more valuable!


Message in a Capsule

Speaking of message in a bottle, how about the 'message' in a capsule in our very own backyard? During Datuk Osu Hj. Sukam's tenure as Sabah Chief Minister, he planted a time capsule containing some messages at the roundabout in front of the SEDCO building in Kota Kinabalu. It's supposed to be break-opened in 100 year's time.

I wonder what's inside it?