Category Archives: Green Living

How Solid Ink Technology Can Revolutionize Workplace Sustainability

Think you know ink? In this guest author article, you’ll get an introduction to an old “new” technology – Solid Ink.

imageAlthough Solid Ink technology is far from a brand-new concept – having been around since the early 1990s – it remains unique in its innovative printing method as one of the most economical and environmentally friendly techniques in the printer industry.

It is not only an increasingly viable and affordable option for businesses looking to improve the color output and professionalism of their business documents; it has the ability to significantly improve a company’s bottom line.

Developed by Xerox and brought to market in 1991, Solid Ink is now said to generate up to 90 per cent less printing waste than comparable color laser printers; resulting in a very attractive low total cost of ownership.

As a cartridge-free technology, there are no cartridges to dispose of from the workplace and subsequently, less packaging to feed to the landfills. But how does it work and how does it provide such a vibrant print output in comparison to a conventional laser or LED printer?

Solid Ink images are printed onto a rotating drum that is offset onto paper with just a single pass of the print engine. This imaging process ensures an almost-100 per cent ink-to-page transfer for normal printing.

Unlike toners that can spill and leak, causing wastage, not to mention smudge resulting in poorer quality print output, Solid Ink sticks are incredibly safe and clean, generating a miniscule amount of landfill waste in comparison with a typical color laser.

Businesses looking to minimize waste of valuable resources on printer maintenance should look to adopt a Solid Ink printer immediately. These only consist of three main assemblies – the print head, the print drum and the controller. With fewer parts to maintain and repair and its ability to last for up to 10,000 prints on average, these printers also use considerably less energy over the light cycle and reduce the energy consumption of color printers from over 75 per cent by an additional 42 per cent.

There is a myth that Solid Ink devices can take a long time to warm up, holding back print jobs that result in delays and workplace inefficiency. It is not however regarded an issue in the typical office environment, particularly where Solid Ink printers are left ‘idle’ in low-power modes rather than switched off entirely.

Many of Xerox’s uniquely-developed Solid Ink printers boast a patented Intelligent Ready power management function that learns and adapts to the unique print usage patterns of your particular workplace.

With a low entry price and greatly reduced cost per page Solid Ink printing technology is now the most environmentally friendly way of putting image to paper and can greatly reduce a business’s carbon footprint in line with government targets.

About the author

“How Solid Ink Technology Can Revolutionize Workplace Sustainability” is written by authorized Xerox supplier First Choice Business Systems, one of the UK’s leading providers of Solid Ink multifunctional printers and print production environments. It aims to maximize efficiency, cost control and organizational fit for customers across a breadth of industries.

1 Comment

Filed under Digital Media, Green Living, Guest Writers

Smart Meters Make Us Dumb

Smart MeterSo what did Shakespeare mean, when he wrote “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Simply this  –  what something is, matters; not what it is called.

I can’t recall that electric meters were ever referred to as “dumb meters”, nevertheless, we now have a new breed of meters that the industry is calling “smart meters”. But are they really?

More to the point, are we being smart in adopting this new technology without a complete and probing review of the security implications posed by the rush to implement this technology? (I was forced to accept the installation of a smart meter earlier this year).

Smart Meters, on the face of it, sound ultra cool.  A Smart Meter, by definition, can monitor electricity usage and communicate with your electricity supplier. The supplier will then bill you on factors that include your consumption, cost adjusted, based on the time of day and the season. Use during high demand, or peak periods, will cost more money.

The stated objective is – billing consumers by how much electricity is consumed, and at what time of day, will force us to adjust our consumption habits to be more responsive to perceived savings, or additional costs. Hopefully, according to energy gurus, this will delay or eliminate the construction of additional generating facilities, and the associated environmental costs.

So what could be the downside to getting on board the speeding locomotive called the “green movement”, which is designed (we’re told), to make all of us more environmentally conscious?

Well here’s the rub with smart meters – according to industry sources, communication technologies being considered, or already in use for smart meters, include cell and pager networks, licensed radio or unlicensed radio, power line communication, and others.

So here’s my question – haven’t we learned anything when it comes to cost benefit and risk association?

The one indisputable commonality of communication technologies is this: each and every one can be intercepted, or hacked – and hacked easily.

image

Should we worry, should we be concerned, that the major lifeline (try living without electricity), to our way of life can, or will, be compromised? You bet!

In a recent article “Building the Smart Grid: Proven Methods to Secure the Future” by Joshua Pennell and Michael Davis, of security firm IOActive

They wrote:

“IOActive researchers were able to identify multiple programming errors on a series of smart meter platforms ranging from the inappropriate use of banned functions to protocol implementation issues.

The research team was able to “weaponize” these attack vectors, and create an in-flash rootkit, which allowed them to assume full system control of all exposed smart meter capabilities, including remote power on, power off, usage reporting, and communication configurations.

The initial attack vector could also be leveraged to deploy a worm, much like the Blaster worm that wreaked havoc on computer systems in 2003. The consequences of such threats are potentially widespread and devastating”.

Still not convinced; then read the CNN report by Jeanne Meserve, CNN Homeland Security Correspondent, “Smart Grid may be vulnerable to hackers

Excerpt:

…… cyber security experts said some types of meters can be hacked, as can other points in the Smart Grid’s communications systems. IOActive, a professional security services firm, determined that an attacker with $500 of equipment and materials and a background in electronics and software engineering could “take command and control of the (advanced meter infrastructure) allowing for the en-masse manipulation of service to homes and businesses.”

Experts said that once in the system, a hacker could gain control of thousands, even millions, of meters and shut them off simultaneously.

A hacker also might be able to dramatically increase or decrease the demand for power, disrupting the load balance on the local power grid and causing a blackout. These experts said such a localized power outage would cascade to other parts of the grid, expanding the blackout. No one knows how big it could get.

image

Not worried yet? Then you should be. If you’re unfamiliar with the prevalence of hacking and cybercrime, let me offer you this quote from my good friend TechPaul, “The Internet shadow economy is worth over $105 billion/year.  No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from Cybercrime”.

I find it impossible to believe that cyber criminals will not take advantage of the enormous attack surface that smart meters will present. These are the same cyber criminals, who frequently hold individual Internet connected computers for ransom using a vicious form of malware.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very tired of being held as a “hostage to fortune” in a present, and a future, created by and large, by the same illogical thinking patterns and by the same careless people (I’m being kind here), who in many cases, are responsible for the economic meltdown we are now forced to deal with.

Whatever happened to the application of logic? We need to stop listening to these morons – right now. They certainly don’t have your best interest at heart.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

4 Comments

Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Don't Get Hacked, Green Living, Interconnectivity, Networking, Personal Perspective, Ransomware, Smart Meters, System Security

Cleaning Your Computer – 5 Step Guide

Spring cleaning

Most of us do a good job of keeping our computers clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware and the like.

But how many of us are concerned with keeping the physical machine clean? Do you clean and maintain your computer as often as you need to?

As you’re getting ready to Spring clean your home, making sure you schedule time to clean your computer is potentially one of the most important cleanup jobs you’re likely to do.

Heat is the chief cause of CPU and other component failure in computers. CPU failure caused by dust clogged vents, which leads to reduced air flow, is a more common occurrence than many realize. In fact, in the last year I have seen 3 CPU’s toasted by excessive heat.

Overheating of the CPU will, at a minimum, cause the system to behave erratically: the computer spontaneously switches off, or restarts; frequent “blue-screen” error messages and more.

Keeping your computer in top shape with a regularly scheduled cleaning program will prevent the inconvenience of having your system go down, and in the long run save you money.

To make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning at the Spring and Fall time changes; just as I schedule smoke detector battery replacement.

Follow this guide to a spotless computer system.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver
  • A can of compressed air
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)
  • Paper towels or anti-static cloths
  • Water

Since a computer is an electrical appliance, make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and try to avoid touching the components inside the case.

dirty_computer_pc_cleaning

Open the case:

  • If required, use the screwdriver to remove the side of the case that’s opposite the motherboard. Blow compresses air over the components and interior of the case, keeping the can upright and nozzle four inches away from components.
  • Clean the power supply and the case fan with a shot of compressed air. Next, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drive. Give the inside of the case a wipe with a slightly moistened cloth before replacing the cover.

Clean the exterior:

  • Wipe the exterior of the case with a slightly moistened cloth; repeat the wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel. Be sure to clean all case openings using this method.

Clean the keyboard:

  • Since the keyboard takes more physical contact than any other component, if you can, clean it on a monthly basis. Blowout in and around the keys with compressed air monthly and on your scheduled cleanup rub down the keys and case with a clean cloth slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Clean the mouse:

  • Like the keyboard, the mouse gets substantial physical contact and requires cleaning on a monthly basis. If you have an optical mouse simply wipe it down just as you wiped down the keyboard. If you have a mechanical mouse then you need to remove, wash, and then dry the ball.
  • Next, clean inside the mouse with a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. Finally blow compressed air into the opening and then reassemble the mouse.

Clean the monitor:

  • Never spray liquid directly onto the screen. Instead moisten the cloth, or the paper towel, with the cleaning solution. Spraying the screen directly runs the risk of liquid penetrating into the monitor components.
  • Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints. Never touch the back of the monitor. For laptop screens, buy a special cleaning solution available at computer stores. Do this weekly.

Before you plug the computer back into the wall outlet, be sure all components are thoroughly dry.

Get free system tools and give your computer system a total clean up – read “Renovate Your Computer With 10 Free System Tools”, on this site.

Comments Off on Cleaning Your Computer – 5 Step Guide

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Green Living, Save Your CPU, Slow Computer

The plot behind killing electric cars

By Michael Kanellos, News.com

Who really killed the electric car?

You did. You and the periodic table of the elements, with a little help from physics. Don’t feel bad. Any individual responsibility seems to be spread pretty thin, but I figured it was about time to speak on the issue.

In the past few years, a theory has developed hinging on the notion that oil producers, in cahoots with auto manufacturers, conspired with each other in the mid-’90s to throttle the electric car in its crib. As a result, we’ve all been consigned to environmental doom.

The doom part actually seems to be on track, but the rest of the theory doesn’t hold up that well upon closer inspection. Don’t get me wrong: I think electric transportation (along with clean diesel) will become more prevalent over the next 20 years. And automakers have worked to keep emissions standards low. But here are some reasons why we’re not witnessing a modern-day version of the Knights Templar:

1. U.S. automakers. Think about it. This is General Motors and Ford Motor we’re talking about. U.S. automakers are the last bastion of industrial feudalism on the planet. The most innovative things they’ve come up with in three decades are the cupholder and the Lee Iacocca goggle glasses. (It was a huge fashion statement back in the ’70s, kids.) These people are going to engineer a global conspiracy that eludes regulators around the world, financiers and competitors? GM execs are more concerned about who gets named to the Rolling Hills Country Club membership committee.
There is no Moore’s Law for batteries that allows them to get cheaper, faster and better at a steady rate over time.

2. Japanese automakers. Toyota Motor and Honda Motor came out with electric cars in the ’90s. Japan’s economy at the time remained stuck in the doldrums and the government, fearful of competition from other Asian tigers, was scrambling to find a hot export. Instead of working with the government–something they’ve done in the past–Toyota and Honda were said to conspire with their natural enemies (GM and Ford) to help oil companies, which because Japan imports all of its oil, aren’t well liked in that country. The conspiracy had the automakers, led by GM, touting reasons why there was no market for electric vehicles, including the vehicles’ limited mileage range per charge. GM pulled its electric car, the EV1, off the market. Didn’t you guys listen to what Sean Connery was talking about in Rising Sun?

3. Hybrids. Toyota overtook GM as the largest car maker on the strength of the Prius, the part-electrical car that came out in 1997, the same year GM came out with the EV1. (GM leased 650 EV1s while Toyota sold 323 Priuses.)

To believe the conspiracy, you’d have to think of the Prius as a cover-up to keep the real reason under wraps. It wasn’t because the Prius worked better. Follow the money, as crazy people like to say.

4. Sales weren’t great and neither were the cars. There was a lot of customer curiosity, but few walked out of the showroom with a sales contract, according to Mary Nickerson, national marketing manager for Toyota.

“The Rav4 EV had a 100-mile range. That range was not sufficient for most people in the marketplace,” she said at a conference earlier this year. “If it is the only vehicle in your garage, it is not enough for a typical American household.”

Elon Musk, chairman of electric-vehicle company Tesla Motors, put it to me another way in July 2006: “Until today, all electric cars have sucked.”

5. The fans were visible, but small in number. “The people who had the car (the General Motors EV1) loved it, but battery life was a bigger issue for the larger market,” said Alan Gotcher, CEO of Altair Nanotechnologies, which makes lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. “I don’t believe in the conspiracy theory. The battery still only had a five-year life. It didn’t last the life of the car, so how do you handle that issue?”

Again, Gotcher, like Nickerson and Musk, works at a company that wants to make money from electric transportation.

6. Batteries are tough to make. Why did computer notebooks begin to explode more than normal last year? Battery makers pushed too hard to improve their products and the volumes of production. There is no Moore’s Law for batteries that allows them to get cheaper, faster and better at a steady rate over time. The gains are generally slow and incremental.

“People have tried all of the elements of the periodic table for a long time,” said Alain Harrus, a partner at Crosslink Capital, which invests in semiconductors and batteries. “The cycles, charge times, etc., are well known.”

Right now, car makers are examining both lithium cobalt and lithium phosphate batteries. Cobalt ones store more energy, but are more likely to have a runaway thermal reaction. The phosphate batteries, however, weigh 30 percent more, he added. Trade-offs. Ugh.

7. Batteries are expensive too. Making an electric Honda Accord would probably add about $30,000, estimated Ian Wright, CEO of electric sports-car company Wrightspeed, last year. Gasoline-fueled Accords on sale today cost less than that. That’s a tough marketing pitch.

Battery expenses are one of the reasons plug-in hybrids haven’t swept the world. The upgrade costs about $15,000. Even if gas cost $4 a gallon, you’d need to drive 150,000 miles–within the city–to recover the cost.

Companies are currently trying to figure out ways around this. Tesla and Wrightspeed are aiming at the high-end market, where performance rules over price. India’s Reva makes cheap cars for emerging market customers whose governments have begun to pass strict emissions requirements. Phoenix Motorcars and others target fleet buyers whose vehicles don’t need to go more than 100 miles before a recharge. How they tinker these pitches will be interesting to watch.

8. A car company is about the worst thing you can do to yourself. Ben Rosen helped found Compaq Computer and had a hand in a number of other tech enterprises, including Ask Jeeves. He was also behind Rosen Motors, a short-lived car company idea. Making cars involves constructing huge plants, assembling massive supply chains and undergoing millions of dollars’ worth of crash testing. Then you have to visit a whole bunch of dealers and drink some really bad coffee in those glass showroom cubicles before they will agree to pick up your cars. Good luck. I’d rather sell air fresheners.

So to sum up, consumers are cheap and don’t want to be inconvenienced by a car that will die on the freeway before they get to Ikeda’s produce and burger stand when they’re driving from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. And the people who win worldwide fortune and fame by bringing you an ideal mode of transportation have had more trouble than they thought.

I might be wrong, but I doubt you’re going to read about me getting strangled with a piano wire.

Comments Off on The plot behind killing electric cars

Filed under Green Living

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce
Really, the best thing that we can do for the planet is to use less of it. At the heart of the environmental crisis is our consumer society. Here are a few questions you can ask before you buy: Do I, or the other person I am buying this for, really need this? Is there another product that would do the same thing but more sustainably? Will this last a long time? Do I know how this item was made, how it will be used and how it will be disposed of? Where was this made and under what circumstances? Are the materials used to make this renewable and have they been harvested in a sustainable manner?

Reuse
Regrettably, because we live in a “disposable society,” we are encouraged to buy a new “improved” item even if the one we have can be repaired. When we buy, we should buy items that are durable, and we should maintain them and have them repaired when necessary. If we do this, many things can not only last a lifetime, but can be passed along from generation to generation. If something is truly unusable for its original purpose, try to be creative and think of how else it might be used. When you are done with it, think if someone else might be able to use it.

Recycle
Rather than throwing an item out when neither you nor anyone else can make use of it, have it recycled. And while recycling is not perfect — it requires energy and the process of changing something into something else often produces by-products — it is better than sending goods to the landfill or having them incinerated.

Find out what types of materials can be recycled in your area. Clean and sort the materials before putting them out on the curb as often collectors will not pick up recycling that is mixed or contains non-recyclables.

Comments Off on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Filed under Green Living