Earlier this year, some US defense contractors travelling in Canada were concerned about a coin shaped device planted on their persons. “It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source,” wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. “Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top.” They added that the strange object was “filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology.”
As it turns out, the device was a 2004 Canadian poppy quarter, and the “nano-technology” they discovered was there to keep the red coloring on the quarter from rubbing off. Stupid buggers. Now what I want to know is: what are US defense contractors doing in Canada? Perhaps we should plant a bug on them, something innocuous looking, some every day item like a coin or something.
~ o0o ~
Ever wonder why it is that electricity arrives at our homes as AC, but is used by most of our electronic stuff as DC? Why not go DC all the way, as Thomas Edison advocated? You would think this idea would be even more conspicuously obvious in computer data centres with hundreds, if not thousands, of computers all running to the same DC electrical specs. Does each and every one them really require its own AC to DC power supply heating up the place and taxing the limits of industrial strength air conditioning?
In the case of our homes, AC has the virtue of being easily convertible to different flavours of DC. You’ve had first hand experience of that if you’ve ever lost a DC adapter for an appliance and found yourself at a Radio Shack looking for one of those wall warts with a switch for different voltages and an assortment of different connectors. But it’s quite a different situation with our computers, which all use the same electrical specs, and could, in theory at least, be run much more efficiently on an all-DC distribution system.
As it turns out, telcos have been using such systems for years in their data centres, and now an intrepid team of engineers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have been conducting an interesting experiment at Sun Microsystems’ Newark, California facility. eWeek reports that while there are drawbacks to the idea, such as physical requirements for DC distribution which are more demanding than AC (another reason electricity travels to our homes as AC), the experiment has so far resulted in savings of up to 15 per cent on energy consumption and cost. C/Net is more critical.
C/Net refers to computer power supplies that are “90% efficient,” but it should be noted that only the high quality ones achieve that sort of performance. Your power supply is an oft-overlooked part, less glamorous than RAM or the processor, and vying with the hard drive for the title of most troublesome component. Which is exactly why you should pay more attention to it. When buying a PC, spend a little extra and get a good one, and don’t assume, as the C/Net article seems to, that all power supplies are great.
In fairness, I should note that the 90 per cent quote is from a spokesperson for Sun Microsystems, and it could be that all their power supplies are rated that highly. On the other hand, most colocation-type data centres are not filled with high end Sun systems.
~ o0o ~
Finally, I would like to close this week’s installment with the following hexadecimal digits; 09 f9 11 02 9d 74 e3 5b d8 41 56 c5 63 56 88 c0 . In the United States, that would be enough to get the MPAA after the site owner for violating the DMCA, something to do with circumventing the Digital Restriction Management on HD-DVD. I’m not following it too closely, since I don’t have a player for either HD-DVD or Blu-ray, but it is just another example of why it’s great that in Canada we don’t have anything like the DMCA. Yet. Here, we’re still free to publish strings of hexadecimal digits, in our true north strong and free! Brings a tear to the eye.