Archive for September, 2010

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

90% of Photoshop’s Features, automated for the Newbie, at 10% of the price.

Vendor: Adobe Systems, Inc.
http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelwin/?promoid=121DJGRZ_P_US_FP2_PSEW_MN&tt=P_US_FP2_PSEW_MN

Trial Download — https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=pepe
Release Date:             October 19, 2009.
Cost: $99.99 USD (List Price, currently $79.99 with rebate); $99.48 CND. No price was found for a UK or Euro version of PSE 8 (Mac)
Ratings           4.5  or whatever

Minimum System Requirements: Multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 or later including Snow Leopard, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB VRAM, 1 GB available hard disk space, DVD drive. QuickTime 7.2 (is required for multimedia features, and an Internet connection for Internet-based services. Processor Compatibility: Multicore Intel only

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Audience: Novice and to busy to learn Photoshop intermediate-level Macintosh users needing a simple but powerful photo-editing program, that is more powerful that Apples iPhoto.

Strengths: Simple intuitive photo editing, manipulation and sharing.

Weaknesses: No that affects a newbie like me.

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Introduction

Many people use Apple’s free iPhoto for organizing digital photographs, but if you capture pictures that are almost perfect with some flaws, you can do minor corrections within iPhoto itself, such as straightening out a crooked picture or removing red-eye caused by the flash.

However, for heftier and more serious photo editing, you’ll need a program like Adobe’s Photoshop or Corel Draw. Since Photoshop is a tool for graphic designers, it’s usually far too complicated for casual users to tackle.

As an alternative, consider Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 8 ([PSE 8] instead. The price for PSE is far cheaper ($99 <$79 with the rebate> vs. $699 for Photoshop). In addition, also Photoshop Elements provides tools specifically designed to help you, a non-photography editing expert, modify and correct digital images. All of this ‘accomplished’ without having to go through a multiple of obscure-seeming steps required in earlier PSE versions. Worse yet would be a need to become a Photoshop expert to edit photos.

With this release, Adobe Systems continues to set a new benchmark for power and convenience with its release. From my perspective, PSE 8 for the Macintosh has finally come to the point that FileMaker Pro achieved with Bento… a tool for the rest of us. In fact, the new program hosts a wealth of new features with many of the new tools, features and interface elements that come from Adobe’s Photoshop CS4

For Example, the useful ability to recompose images is now simpler (more intuitive) to use. For example you captured an image of several people, but they’re standing too far apart? Photoshop Elements lets you smash an image together, eliminating the space between people, and create a new image that makes objects appear closer to each other than they really were. Not only is the composition more attractive, but also your focus changes from the scenic background to the people you care about.

In the past, photo editing required a lot of patience and skill, but with Photoshop Elements, you can let the program do most of the work automatically. It goes without saying that if you’re more interested in creating images from scratch then you should prefer the full-blown Photoshop or a similar program such as Corel Painter. However, if you just want to fix digital images as quickly as possible with the least amount of pain and effort, then you’ll probably want to use Photoshop Elements 8.  Its low cost and multiple features make it a bargain especially for someone who can’t afford the leaning time or money.

Features Summary — Some Meat and Let’s Not Forget the Potatoes

Photoshop Elements 8 offers some very useful tools, both old and new, that are fairly simple to use once you get the hang of them. Learning the new program, despite the lack of a good Adobe based getting started guide, is relatively simple, albeit not intuitive. ‘That’s okay by me’ sez Doc.

The Family Spread Out in the Field

Together Again

“For instance, you can recompose your photos without harming its key elements. Let me explain visually. In the original photo above on the right. The Problem — I have a picture of my kids, and me but we’re fairly separated in space across the field.Let’s say I want to put this in a portrait frame, but not a horizontal frame. 

In addition, a feature called recomposing allows one to alter the orientation by simply dragging the frame, keeping the important elements without distorting them, and merging the rest. Sometimes, dragging is enough. More often than not, however, it’s better to specifically tell the program what to keep and what to lose. You can see that I’ve {Wang} have painted over what I want with green what I don’t want with red. <Wang Review>

“Elements 8 gives you other powerful tools as well, such as photo-merge, which allows you take multiple images at various exposures to get a perfectly lit image. Use the same basic tool(s) and working steps can be used to remove unwanted elements from an image. Take the same shot multiple times to sample various elements and cleanup the background. Along the way, although there were a total of about five images used to produce the clean image on the right. Source: Appletell reviews Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac OS X by Kirk Hiner — Nov 7, 2009. Doc Sez, not there’s no magic wand, but I’ve watched friends do this in Photoshop, loosing me completely. Using Elements is easy and intuitive by comparison.

Doc Sez, not there’s no magic wand, but I’ve watched friends do this in Photoshop, loosing me completely. Using Elements is easy and intuitive by comparison. Recomposing the image; the selection process.

Not all of the features in Elements 8, new and existing, are quite so delightfully and drastically ‘automated’. Many are simply the use of traditional Photoshop filters, transferred to PSE. These allow touch up or add interesting effects to your photos. You can, as noted earlier, correct red eye and brighten teeth with a simple click, or you can add or remove some unwanted space in your photos, as in the samples below. I am under the impression that many Photoshop filter work with PSE, but until you try, you’ll never know.


“Even for my graphic professional friends, Photoshop is work. It’s fun work, quite often, but it’s work nonetheless. You had to start using it after successfully mastering an initial steep learning curve. To become as master like Scott Kelby, you had to keep studying. With Photoshop, there’s a lot to initially learn, more to gain professional level expertise. Doing so requires learning (and relearning), and patience ding extended periods of plenty of trial and error.

Quite honestly for my needs, although I received an NFS copy of the CS4 package including I know its overkill for my needs. [I’ve served as an Adobe beta tester (Acrobat Pro).]

My friends, graphics professionals, and serious hobbyists all love the program, and I love watching (awestruck) them demonstrate its capabilities. For the many Mac users who have never tried it, it’s quite intimidating (and, of course, too expensive). I know expense in a relative thing, which relates to your needs… FileMaker Pro is a better database tool for me than the easier to use more consumer oriented Bento. But for graphics needs its Photoshop Elements all the way.

Thus, Adobe has continued bringing us the less expensive Photoshop Elements (Macintosh) for years, but although I’ve chippied with earlier versions, these earlier versions never caught my fancy. This new version has, for the first time a friendlier image manipulation program whose interface has become more task/goal/effect oriented and automated. Adobe’s claim ca. 90% of Photoshop in a low cost easy to use package is true.

Even the export features have been enhanced and simplified.

With Elements, you don’t get nearly the amount of power or control you get with Photoshop, but you do get enough to produce some very cool images from you photos or downloaded stock images.

With this iteration, Adobe has not only added some great new editing tools, by also improved the way you organize and share your photos.

Kudos

Working with PSE’s Smart Brush ToolsExcerpted from Gary Coyne’s review. Since I’ve not yet tried to master, these seemingly mysterious tools. I must rely on others’ words to share my findings and research. “Whether in Quick or Full Edit mode, using the brush tools is a very interesting process. PSE does a variety of very sophisticated tricks and techniques that are mostly invisible to the PSE user. Trust me, I say this in a good way. What it boils down to is if someone were to look at your PSE images in Photoshop, they’d assume that you were astute in your Photoshop activities. Meanwhile PSE is doing a lot of things under the covers to help give you some excellent results.” Do read Gary’s fine review. Read Gary Coyne’s AppleLinks review for more explicit details.

Discomforts

Integration With iPhoto — Despite Adobe’s claim to the contrary, there is no active well-integrated support for iPhoto in PSE 8. In order to import your iPhoto library (or portions of it) to Elements, you have to drag the photos out of iPhoto to your hard drive, or dig into the archaic iPhoto folder hierarchy from within Elements. It’s a pain, but it’s what you’ve got. The hidden benefit is that your iPhoto images remain unharmed, as all Elements 8 work will be done on the duplicates. I’m not an active iPhoto’s user, but do collect and catalog my photos with Apples tool so am not seriously bother by this limitation, but many of my friends are.

Lack of An Adequate Getting Started Guide — Another complaint about Elements 8 is that the included Getting Started guide is useless. Even $15 dollar shareware products have better guides. Perhaps main worth is the 13 blank pages that were perhaps meant to describe the new and improved PSE features. Alas the getting started guide mentions only a couple features for this excellent program and only in passing, and provides no detail on any of them. Indeed I learned more from the description proved on the MacUpdate site, which abstracts the features detailed on Adobe PSE’s site. [http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelmac/features/?view=topnew]

Photoshop Elements Online Help Resources and Tutorials

You’re going to need a third party manual for Elements 8 to become more than a casual and limited user. , However, while waiting to buy and read a book, (I’ve proved a suggestions in the appendix) you might be able to rely on the Adobe online videos.

Providing on-line tutorials is a fairly common practice for developers these days, but many of us like to work with written text in a book that can be annotated with marginalia. Finally, considering that many Mac users are used to the intuitive interface and capabilities of iPhoto, Adobe is kicking itself in the privates by not providing a smoother transition to Elements 8.

Review Summary

There’s far more to Elements 8 than I or any other reviewer can cover but you can read about the new features, see video demos (that I recommend you watch so you can see how easy all of this is to learn, if not perform) and compare product versions at Adobe’s website. Many features are purely for fun, but others are there specifically to make your photos look better: bluer skies, more striking black-and-whites, etc.

I don’t usually share more than a few images, none to any social networking or other externally accessible photo-sharing site. Despite this, I suggest you check out image sharing, as Adobe has gone out of their way in Elements 8 to make sure you can show off your work.

Of course, as in iPhoto, you can print your images, but you can also create photo books, collages and scrapbook pages, create a PDF slideshow, publish them to a web gallery, share them via iPhone, and more. And as if to spite Apple (the inability to communicate with iWeb and iPhoto apparently wasn’t enough), you can create CD/DVD jackets and labels. Take that, Apple! — Adobe actually wants to burn discs!

Regardless, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is a great program that provides some amazing capabilities. It’ll be a bit frustrating at first when your results aren’t as impressive as those in the samples, but with some practice and the acceptance that every image will require a slightly different approach, you’ll be surprised by what you’re able to accomplish. Just don’t tell anyone how easy it was. This is your chance to use “Photoshop” as a verb, and I suggest you do it.

In short, Adobe has done a fine job with the new Elements-8. What Adobe is trying to do, and mostly succeeds, is to create an image processing program that lets you obtain the same results as the professionals. If your images are the right kind of images, you will get great results right off the bat. On the other hand, a few subtle differences can cause an “easy to fix” image into a “oh, this will take some work” kind of image. I think they are promising more than can really truly be delivered at this point in time. If you try to use these tools and do not obtain suburb results, the features within Photoshop Elements 8 in the Full Edit mode are there to get your desired results–you will have to learn how to do that, it’s not really hard.

The amazing thing about Photoshop Elements 8 is that it can do so much of what Photoshop can do at 1/10 the price. I am not sure if Adobe considers Elements a gateway drug into the full Photoshop program, that’s your call. But there’s no doubt Photoshop Elements is a great tool

Try It — Buy It — Make it your tool for optimizing your photo-based graphics with a minimal learning curve. Although I’ve bought and tried earlier version of PSE, this is the first time I’ve felt I’d gotten my money’s worth. For me, at 74 young, it a question of how I spend my time and photo-shopping was never my choice even in the earlier versions (PSE 7.0 and earlier.) So for me it’s a worthy 4.5. what-ever’s

PS: Some of the comments in this review were abstracted from sources such as Wally Wang’s review listed in the references below. Where this was done, I quote the other reviewer’s material despite having paraphrased it.

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APPENDICES

Photoshop Elements 8 (Mac) Features Set

Recompose Photos To Any Size With Out Distortion (New) — Ever want to change the size or orientation of a photo to fit a certain frame? Now you can quickly resize — even going from landscape to portrait or vice versa — without distorting key objects like people or buildings.

Quickly Clean Your Scene Of Unwanted Elements (New) — You took five shots of your subject, but pedestrians and cars distract from the scene in every one. Now, use Photomerge Scene Cleaner to simply brush away any elements that changed positions between photos and create a composite with just the look you want.

Select and Apply Changes to Your Images with a Single Stroke (New) — Simultaneously select a specific photo area and apply incredible effects with a single stroke of the Smart Brush tool. Improve an images lighting, add rich textures, and more with eight libraries of over 50 sophisticated effects.

Choose the Best Result (New) — Perform a full range of common photo adjustments —including color, contrast, and lighting changes — with just one click. Then choose the best result from a group of adjustment previews.

Give Your Creations a Fresh Look (New) — Experiment with new artwork and templates to give your printed creations fun and stylish new looks.

Count On Step-By-Step Assistance (Enhanced Capability) — Need to touchup a scratch or blemish but not sure how to begin? Let Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 software for Mac walk you through each editing step to easily get the results you want. New Guided Edit options help you achieve both basic and more sophisticated artistic effects.

Quickly Retouch Skin and Soften Other Surfaces (New) — Soften surfaces while keeping edges and details crisp with a Surface Blur filter that works great on portrait shots.

Share Photos On The Web In Fresh Ways (New) — Share your photos in new, eye-catching web gallery templates that you can easily preview before uploading.

Go From Flawed To Phenomenal In Seconds (New) — Get just the photo fixes you’re looking for with new one-step shortcuts that whiten teeth and change grey skies to a vibrant blue.

Recompose Photos To Any Size With Out Distortion (New) — Ever want to change the size or orientation of a photo to fit a certain frame? Now you can quickly resize — even going from landscape to portrait or vice versa — without distorting key objects like people or buildings.

References to a Few Other Well Written PSE 8 Reviews

A PSE 8 Book of Potential Worth

I’ve not yet reviewed this, my only PSE-8 book. I’ve only casually skimmed it contents, stopping occasionally to read the authors comments on a topic of interest. Of course, I did not have the time to work my way though the detailed tutorial examples and exercises… soon. However mastering The Photoshop Elements 8 Book for Digital Photographers is part of my plan to enhance my ability to make Photoshop Elements 8 my own. Oh you want details — The book was written by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski for New Riders Press, © 2010, Amazon Price $31.50 (List $50.)

There are a myriad of choices for other books on Amazon.com – read the descriptions, Goggle and read their associated book reviews— go out and master PSE 8 (Mac).

And as an added reader gift check out…

20 Years of Image Editing: Photoshop from 1.0 to CS4, Mac Life Magazine, dated 02-18-2010
http://www.maclife.com/print/5994

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Sidebar #1: Reviews were carried out on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.4 with all security updates installed.

Sidebar #2: Disclaimer: When reviewing software I will often use the developer’s product, functions and features descriptions. At times I paraphrase key parts of a well-written review whose author I always acknowledge. Usually, unless I’m quoting directly from another source, I do no clutter up the review with quotation marks. All other comments in the review are strictly my own and based on testing. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

By Ted Bade, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Distant Suns 3 is a nicely designed astronomy program for the iPhone/iPod Touch. It includes lots of information, images, and easy navigation of the skies. It’s an excellent choice for an astronomy buff.

This application, which was originally designed for the Commodore Amiga computer in 1985, has been updated to take advantage of all the power packed inside our modern portable devices. Don’t worry about how long this program has taken to reach your finger tips. 25 years is less then an instant in the life of our universe! There are 130,000 objects in the App’s database, 6000 you can see in a good sky and a lot more that require a telescope to see. A lot of information is packed into this App. In addition to the coordinates of all those objects, there are images, text descriptions, and other information about many interesting objects.

If you are an astronomy buff, you might have looked at a few of the many astronomy programs that are available for the iPhone/iTouch family. I know I have. There are several things I like about this App including easy selection of objects one can see, images of objects, Easy means of turning on and quickly off labels of objects, and easy to see cardinal point markers. Since it was designed for the iPhone which has a nicer display, GPS, and compass, there were a few features I was not able to test nor take advantage on my Generation 3 iPod Touch.

Distant Suns can take advantage of your device’s location services to determine where it is (even using WiFi) or you can tell it where you are by entering nearby city names or coordinates (longitude and latitude). If you have an iPhone, your GPS would also be able to tell it where you are. You don’t have to use your local coordinates, if you want to see what the sky might look like anywhere else in the world. This App will also use the compass feature included in some iPhones, so as you move, so will the view.

After the App starts, you are presented with a slice of the sky facing north at the coordinates that you entered for a location. The time starts with that of the iPod and you can change the time and/or date to anything you like. Your point of view can be easily changed by swiping along the screen. Cardinal point markers scroll along the bottom of the screen to keep you oriented. The sky below the horizon can be visible or invisible. If you like, an image can be used to cover the areas that would be below the horizon. The image also gives a realistic view of the sky, since few of us are blessed with a clear horizon to horizon view.

For more information on any object on the screen, you just tap the screen twice, a new cursor appears, now moving your finger on the screen moves this cursor. When the cursor moves over an object on the screen, it locks on the object for a moment and basic information about it appears on the bottom of the screen. Leave the cursor on the object and click a button labeled “More” to bring up a lot more data about the object, usually including an image. The App includes images of a great many of the deep sky wonders.

There are a number of preferences that control how the information on the screen is displayed. Here you can tell the App to show names or numbers for a variety of different objects like stars, galaxies, nebula and so forth. You can also turn on or off constellation information. A very useful button turns off all labels, in case you need to see a natural sky, but doesn’t change the preferences. Which means a second click of this button turns everything quickly back on.

The bottom of the screen provides three different sets of functions that let you control Distant Suns. Quick movement to the major cardinal points, compass information if your iPhone has that feature, and a tour guide (more on that below). The next set has links for setting the clock, various preferences, and more. A feature called “What’s Up”, gives a quick chart of which planets/moons are currently above or below the horizon. The final set provides search functions.

The tour guide is a very useful tool for observing. It shows where, in your sky, the current best viewed objects are to be found. After you start the tour the image centers on the first item. Just as if you selected the object, a small window appears at the bottom with some basic information and a button linking your to a lot more. If the tour object is a constellation, it shows the classical drawing and the names/numbers of the major stars. When you click on the next (or back) arrow, it moves the view so the next object is centered, arrows on the screen hi-lite the location of the object.

The search section of this program is limited, but in a very effective way. Here buttons provide links to menus for the moon, our  Sun, the planets, constellations, and “other” (deep sky wonders). Select one of these items and you are presented with a menu listing related objects. For instance, selecting planets provides a list of planets and their moons. Click on the name to show the planet on the screen, select a rocket ship icon to go to a view near the object, or click on the arrow for more information and a picture. For other types of objects, the choices are related to the object. For instance, you don’t get to fly to a constellation, but you can get a view of it and the classical image associated with it.

Of course, you can explore the sky manually, by turning labels on and off to see what is located in various parts of your sky. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with dark skies you might even see some of the brighter objects.

While you can shift the device into a landscape view, when you do you loose all the menus and controls. In this mode, you can scroll the sky but not change time or select an object, etc. I like this view better, but the lack of menus hampers it.

Overall, I think Distance Suns 3 is a very good choice for an astronomy App. I really like the fact that it provides not only a lot of information about objects, but an images as well. This could be enhanced, of course, if links to sites with even more information were provided, especially now that multitasking makes it easy to switch back and forth between the browser and an App.

If you are considering an Astronomy app for your device, definitely consider Distant Suns 3.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

One of the first computers I owned was a Commodore 64. It was far less expensive and vastly superior graphics over DOS-based computers, and it had a lot of games. While those C64 games are primitive compared to modern ones, they were better than any other platform offered at the time. I started my writing career covering Commodore Amiga products, and had a great time covering many new and innovative applications for home computer users. I no longer have a C64, but I do own a Amiga 2000, which I need to turn on every now and then to make sure it still works.

Why is this article in the Environmental Posts area of our site? Because it refers to the computing environment.  A company (www.commodoreusa.net) has announced that they are releasing an updated PC64 this year. The picture to the right is from the company’s site and the system configuration is more than reasonable for a computer running a flavor of Linux (it is). The company is retaining the old mechanical keyboard which will only appeal to old fans of the machine like myself. I hope they decide to offer more modern keyboards like the ones on Macbooks. The exact shipping date and product price was not listed as of today, but we will be keeping our eyes on this site to see how this Commodore compares in price to the original one. I would suspect that this computer will come with a C64 (and perhaps even an Amiga) emulator for old fans to be able to play their old favorites – it wouldn’t cost much and it would be more fun that running a C64 emulator on a HP or Toshiba laptop.

Did you own a C64, C128 or Amiga computer? What did you like/dislike about it, and when did you move to a different platform? What platform are you now using: Windows or Mac OS X or Linux?

The big question: What is the most you would pay for the new PC64? I don’t think we’re going to see it offered at $199, so your two cents on what you’re willing to spend for this replica of a bit of the computing world past.

BTW: In case you’re interested, it is easy to find C64 and Amiga emulators on the internet. Check out this site if you want to order a a C64 or Amiga software emulator.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

It’s Fall and school finally started. I’m enrolled in the St. Thomas GPS (Graduate Programs in Software) program, where I’m working on my MS in SE (Software Engineering) degree. I have wanted to go to grad school for a long time and this economy made this an easy decision. I feel that advanced degrees, undergrad as well as graduate level, will be necessary to stand out from the crowd of developers in the near future.  Most of the recruiters I’ve spoken with agreed and were enthusiastic I made this career move.

I am enrolled in two classes: Software Engineering, taught by Dr. Chih Lai, and Web Design, taught by Marius Tegomoh. I’ve been to one Software Engineering class and two Web Design classes so far and I’m loving it. The St. Thomas campus and facilities are very nice, the staff seem very polite and considerate, and the chance to finally study computer science at the graduate level is fantastic. Several of the professors have mentioned that there are opportunities to do research projects, which has a lot of appeal but something I’ll postpone until at least one year in school. I am interested in researching the fastest way to transport large quantities of data via the internet, so I have a good reason to try to excel in all of my DB courses.

The first night of class was for my Web Design class, and the room was packed. There were computers for the students to use and the lecture was interesting to me, even though I’ve been working with the web since the mid-1990s. It is always fun to learn how to use new tools to do development and this class promises to be interesting for students of all levels of internet experience. The second day of class was for the Software Engineering class, and it too was packed. The material is so appropriate for people working as developers in the industry, and I had no problem following along as I’d read ahead. One thing Dr. Lai required for SE was that we sign up for a Twitter account, which I’ve never used. I already have 2 blogs plus I’m working on a new website with a friend, so I just don’t have the time to spare on something else, but I went ahead and signed up. I’ll try to write about the experience in this blog over the course of the semester.

What about your education experience? Did you take some college classes, complete your undergrad degree, take some grad school classes, complete a graduate degree, or none of the above? Do you think it would help or harm your career? If you’re considering grad school, look at those with programs for working students, because you can go to school while working and raising a family.

That’s all for now.
Mike

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

There are many schools that offer different programs for people to earn college degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. I earned my undergraduate degree at Augsburg College, where I attended all but one course on campus. I did History of Jazz online and enjoyed the subject, as well as the interaction with the professor and classmates, but felt I got more out of being in a classroom. I’m now in St. Thomas’  graduate program, and I like seeing the professors and classmates regularly in person. It is nice to see other people with the same goal I have, which encourages me to keep working hard so I too achieve my goal of an advanced degree.

I’ve only spoken with one person that received a degree online (a Masters Degree in Computer Science) and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. This person said he earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science, but he couldn’t write code well enough or fast enough to do it for a living. I have to wonder why he bothered with the time and expense. He said his school (some unaccredited city college in Seattle) didn’t bother teaching computer science theory – they taught the students how to use Visual Studio and some programming languages. I believe he said they spent a total of 2 weeks learning how to write SQL queries… Whoa! I can honestly say my undergrad and grad school profs don’t take that approach. I’m certain other online schools offer a more traditional approach to teaching computer science.

What about your education experience? Did you go to some of the online schools like the University of Phoenix or Capella? Are the schools and programs accredited locally and nationally? How was the experience and would you recommend it to friends and family members? Lastly, did you go online because work/family considerations made it the best course of action? I’d like to hear some positive stories about online schools from students, which we can share with out readers.

What is your take?

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

In a moment of passing enlightenment, I finally figured out how to speed of my almost daily searches for explicitly selected articles I wanted to collect and archive. These are the items I tabbed for downloading while reading my paper magazine subscriptions. The consolidated information in most downloaded articles appears as illustrated below.

However the articles as published in the paper edition of the Economist had information on the magazine’s name, issue date, and page numbers, in the magazine page header or footer. The actual article name or category is exemplified above. The general headlines of the article show up first. A descriptor or perhaps subtitle, is located below the article ‘headline.’ At times an author’s name is listed. Now, readers, what is the real ‘searchable’ title of the article. We can all, if not in the general listed information, then in an articles first paragraph, figure out its subject.

But for what do search on the publisher’s web site. Well, folks, it depends… depends both on the magazine and the mechanics of a site’s search engine. If one entry doesn’t work, say “Good Policy and Bad” then try another such as “Some mitigation policies are effective, some are efficient, and some are neither”. If there’s an author listed that the third item I check. Struck Out?

Dig deep and look at all the special reports or whatever the article category lives in, but do so within a range of publication dates. Why a range? An article, initially posted on the web edition of a magazine may have a different date then that listed for the date the paper copy was printed. Sometimes it takes more than three strikes before you get a hit.

Dumb, getting long in the tooth, Harry. The solution for me is Google it.

Most of the time any of the three choices I’ve provided works when googling, and using the find feature of your browser you can skip thought irrelevant items at a click of a mouse. I usually do this by entering the magazine into the pages find field, no not into the search field!

Read on for the rest of the story, I’ve provided you the punch line. Don’t be a kitten on the keys.

Background

As many of you are aware, I spend most of the time, when not actually writing, doing searches on my Macintosh. What I’m looking for is fairly eclectic. My interests range from climate change, nuclear science and energy, folk music, technology especially energy related themes, to all things Macintosh, with side trips for fining obscure widgets and gadgets needed by someone in my family. After burnout usually around 10:00p, I turn toward recipes, cooking related (free) eBooks and on occasion obscure movies that I saw in art deco movie houses in the 50-70’s.

I have not yet worked with Microsoft’s “Bing” [http://www.bing.com/] or the new beta search engine from Wolfram, and will not until I read that its gotten more robust — Its an omission I can live with. I also, for now, have not learned to use data mining software and methods.

I also subscribe and read almost cover-to-cover, a variety to magazine, no e-editions for me, ranging from Time to the economist and Scientific American. As I read these, I mark (PostIt tabs) articles I want to collect for future use, either as references of as a basis for future exploration – most of my curiosity cats are dead, but there’s so much of interest out there; so… I keep on truckin‘.

A few generalizations — Searching individual websites for information can be either easy or maddening. If a site has opted to use the Google engine to power its search, it is easy to use, tolerant of syntax errors and even forgives my frequent misspelling. But first, I’m from the government and am here to help you! Let us count the ways.

Department of Energy [DOE] and most other Federal Sites such as that of the EPA and NRC Sites — Please note, I have published over 100 documents, papers and articles during my 30-year career as a supporter of DOE’s waste management effort. Therefore my criteria for success are “how many of these Babad co-authored goodies will a search find. In addition, I have an extensive list of citations, again form my professional work at the Hanford Site, how many of these can I find to replace shelf-hogging paper copies.

Note this does not include my academic or industrial career, or the articles I’ve written about folk music and the Macintosh. They would be out of scope for most of the Federal databases to which I have free access. (I’m sure big brother is watching me, but I can’t check what he’s seen.)

The various government sites I need to check for background or reference materials, supposedly peer reviewed or at least check for quality, when writing books and articles is pure horror. I habitually check the DOE, NRC, EPA and IAEA sites and on occasion the NSF and NIH portals.

One of the most exasperating are the two DOE OSTI (Office of Science & Technology Information) on which I can usually find public domain references to R&D and DOE programs, but pot with multiple rephrasing of either search criteria or syntax. Specifically most simple searches, say for instance the publication of Harry Babad (me)

First I Tried To Work With Science Accelerator — This is a ‘newish’ gateway to science, including R&D results, project descriptions, accomplishments, and more, via resources made available by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), U.S. Department of Energy. Using the ‘Science Accelerator” to do a global database search turned up one item, a shared patent issued in 1980. [http://www.scienceaccelerator.gov/index] Checking “Harry Babad:” turned up zilch, as did “Harry Babad” Author and other {thinking cap} input variations.

Okay, the Since Accelerator doesn’t do authors. However my search for ‘Desalinization” gave me 184 hits, which I could sort by date or even burrow down into by limiting the list by subset subsets; the later did not help because the indexer and I didn’t obviously see eye to eye on what a subset defines. That’s a matter of selecting key words we’d both label a document. Since I don’t have the data dictionary for Science Accelerator, I can’t get into the site sysop’s mind. However accelerator contains helpful links to Wikipedia, which I used to my advantage — a springboard to digging deeper [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desalinization].

A data dictionary is a concept/term most often used in database creation and use. In part, a data dictionary is a bit like the cloud ‘items lists you find on a few websites or the tags you now find on many individual web pages, like our blog. The difference is that the data dictionary is more formal and constrains the choice of key words a use can use to search with. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_dictionary

Let’s Try The OSTI Bridge Site. [http://www.osti.gov/bridge/]  — It comes in two flavors, only one of which is accessible by the general public. Although dealing with cleared and released documents, the DOE/DOE contractor option, which also deals with so called Freedom Of Information Act [FOIA] contents such as correspondence or guidance, requires a password, which I not longer had. Wow – Instantly I got 101-matches which I could sort by date or even focus by doing an advanced (field related) search. Great, I’ve solved my problem and have my citations to guide me to the references I want. Not so fast, Doc.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that those 101 hits contained articles by many of my colleagues, in which I was not a contributing author. My only relationships to the papers were the fact that some of my work was referenced therein. Only 11 of the papers contained my work. Searching H Babad turned up 991 hits, some of which were clearly mine. A narrower ‘field’ search [H. Babad] correctly turned up 30 relevant documents, while Harry Babad turned up none. Hmm!

The Mostly Private Sector My magazine article collecting experiences

As mentioned earlier in passing, I subscribe and skim/read/study to Consumer Reports, Business Week (now Bloomberg’s BW), Chemical and Engineering News (ACS), Chemical Heritage, Discover, Time, Nuclear News (ANS), National Geographic, The Economist, Technology Review (MIT) and Scientific American. Were applicable I have a subscribers access to content. Of course, this does not count other subscription, both electronic and hard copy that are science and technology oriented, including my Macintosh related items.

Periodically, usually every-other month, I recheck the paper copies, go to the publisher’s web site and download the articles of interest as well as any other closely associated documents linked the highlighted original. All of this lives in a 40 GB partition collected ion nested folders. Although I’ve developed a database (FileMaker Pro] I’m to busy to do the data entry so live with a combination of title searches (EasyFind by DEVONtechnologies) and contents (Houdah Software’s HoudahSpot, a great front end for Spotlight).

Now I can give you a blow by blow of the strengths and weaknesses of doing searches on each of the magazine publisher’s web site. Search capability ranges from fair to good, and often require either varying the search terms, or changing the display order (usually by Date.) NO I will not, it is a waste of all our time.

However, I finally made a discovery, after blundering around d individual sites for years.  The closer a site has come to adapting or mimicking the Google search engine, the easier it is to find things. Our macCompanion site uses this tool, although the site also provides search by ixquick, which did not meet my needs since its output was broadly focused and mostly irrelevant stuff from the entire WWW. However, the Google engine on the macC site turned up over 200 hits. Searching “Doc Babad” turned up 1580 hits, many more then the 250 or so items I’ve published. The truth lies somewhere in between, it just takes more time to ferret it out.

Conclusion

Okay, this is a little bit like the number of angels on the head of a pin. “To Site Search or to Google, That is the question.“ The answer is both!

If you only need to search a few webs sites, over and over again, consider mastering is search tools. If you stay close, then all the hits or misses are limited to the site you are searching.

If you however have broader multiple-site specific needs… Google them to pieces!

Doc.

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Appendix — Advances Search’s

Almost all search sites such as Google, MSN (Bing), and Yahoo as well as many others including MacUpdate, ‘stute magazines and newspapers, have advanced search features. The image below is what Google offers. Alternatively, like a good reference librarian, you can take advantage of Boolean search methods to sometimes narrow down your search, More on this can be found in my July 6, 2010 blog posting called Google to the Max at https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/july-6-2010-google-to-the-max/. In addition there’s lot of generalized information on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boolean_search#Boolean_operations/. It’s a bit of heavy reading, but well worth the time.

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End Notes:

An earlier version of this article was posted in the March 2000 edition of the now defunct eZine — macCompanion. Since it’s no longer accessible, I updated it and am posting on our blog.

Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Reviews and tests were carried out on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.4 —Snow Leopard.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Publisher: Isaac Wankerl
, Kerlmax LLC

Web site: http://www.iwankerl.com/Software/

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later, including Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
 Mac computer with either an Intel or PowerPC processor
 8.9 MB Hard Drive space

Release Date: September 15, 2009        Download Size: 4.2 MB

Shareware Cost: $15 USD — Free to try for 30 days.

Star Ratings — 5.0

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Audience: Anyone who takes screenshots

Strengths: Sharpshooter is a helper utility designed to give you more control over your screenshots. It lets you choose what to do with your shots as you take them.

Weaknesses: None, I wish I had this tool when I was writing my nuclear textbooks. I was so overloaded with screen shots and cropped clippings that I almost screamed into my coffee.

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Introduction

As an author and blogger (no, they are not the same), I often need to capture images from software I review or clipped parts of images I find on Google [Trimming an image does not require a graphics program such as iPhoto, PSE or GraphicConverter].

Over the years I’ve tried programs that do screen captures, including such stalwarts as:

All of these products were and still are highly regarded in both Macworld and MacUpdate reviews and indeed I gave SnapNDrag a “5” in the October 2009 issue of macCompanion. However, I’ve most part I’ve stuck with Apple’s finder commands and the use of Apple’s Grab application. Why — That’s all I needed, then and now.

Apples Screen Capture Tools Limitations — But that didn’t/doesn’t stop me from grousing about the limitations of Apples tools. The image below shows the Sharpshooter solution.

  • One gripe was my desire to capture all my images as JPEGs, something I figured out how to do awhile back, but now don’t remember the necessary steps.
  • The second was my desire to give the images names at the time they were captured getting way from the ‘picture 1 – picture 2… metaphor. After all I knew what I was thinking about when I captured the image, and really wanted to label it appropriately, in real time. That would save me from dinking around when narrowing down the number of images I used, an editor’s constraint, in my articles.

Eureka, I found Sharpshooter meets my added ‘naming’ needs, as well as allowing flexibly in changing their format, it a real find.

Publishers Description — Sharpshooter is a small application, which aids the management of screen shots. When you take a screen shot on Mac OS X with Command-Shift-3, Command-Shift-4 (or with another variation). Sharpshooter is a background agent application so you. I did, may want to add it as a login item to always have it running in the background. You can control Sharpshooter through the menu status item on the right side of the menu bar.

Getting Started

Drop the sharpshooter application into your, you guessed it, application folder. Use it free for 30 days or pay the modest shareware fee and enter your license code. There it was, its icon sitting neatly in my menubar. The develop claims that begin able to name your images, while the subject is still fresh on your mind, is a great time-saving advantage. I agree. You can even, if your addicted to scanner naming conventions or those on your camera, use its default name (e.g., Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 2.10.50 PM), with or without the file extension.

As it always when I’m in a hurry, I found a screen shot I wanted to capture. In less then two blinks of an eye, there it was. The software’s’ main window was there ready to use as described in the review. Type in what you want for an image title, change to the format you want – your done. I actually used the product for a few days before I decided to check to see what it’s preference panes offered. If you use two monitors, that’s the place to ‘tune’ things up.

Review Limitations

I found the product to be rock stable, but there were two attributes (features) I did not test.

  • First, Sharpshooter has the ability to work with screen shots that span multiple monitors, If you have more than one display connected to your Mac. My iMac screen although 24” in size, lives alone on my desk.
  • Second, an attribute identified in an Aug 13, 2007 review of Sharpshooter version 0.4.1, review in Macworld by Dan Frakes was its ability to deal with the output from other screen capture tools. Since I don’t use any, I could not pull this string. Check http://www.macworld.com/article/59453/2007/08/sharpshooter.html/.

The product also has a folder-watching watching feature that I did not test because all my screen shots go to my desktop!  Then I can sort them out and put them into the folders that best reflects the project in which I to use them. However, this is not a problem since the software has a first class help function so I can get the information should I ever need it.

A Wish, Unfulfilled

I would welcome, either from this or any other screen capture tool, the ability to quickly add information to a file’s spotlight comments [-I] because unless I remember to, I usually have to do an extra search to document the source of the images I capture, especially from Google images. Yes I know this is not a function of a screen capture tool, but “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Conclusions and Recommendations

This as a simple to use, intuitive and great product. By using its main, and ‘only’ window Sharpshooter where you can review the picture and choose what to do with it. You can either rename, move the screenshot to the Trash, or cancel the operation keeping the captured screenshot as is. The Move To Trash option, combined with an in-window preview, is useful for quickly spotting and deleting obvious screenshot mishaps.

From the perspective of time it already saved me, it is well worth the $15 shareware fee — a 5 ‘Flower” product!

APPENDICES

What Are Mac OS X Key Combinations For Taking Screen shots?

Action Shortcut
Take a picture of the whole screen ⌘-Shift-3
Take a picture of part of the screen ⌘-Shift-4, then drag to select the area you want in the picture.

To cancel, press Escape.

Take a picture of a window, a menu, the menu bar, or the Dock. Press ⌘-Shift-4, then press the Space bar. Move the pointer over the area you want so that it’s highlighted, then click.

To drag to select the area instead, press the Space bar again. To cancel, press Escape

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Reviews were carried out on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.4 with all security updates kept current.

Disclaimer: When reviewing software I will often use the developer’s product, functions and features descriptions. Because of this unless I’m quoting directly from another source, I do no cutter up the review with quotation makes. All other comments are strictly my own and based on testing. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

by Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Apple announced new products today. Their updated their iPod line of the Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iTouch. They also released a new version of iTunes (version 10) which incorporates some social networking aspects. The final new product is a new and inexpensive version of the Apple TV.

I bought the first generation of the Apple TV with a 40 GB drive – too small, so I do a lot of streaming. I do like the Apple TV and now I’ll buy one for the TV in the basement, so I have access to the same movies and music that I have upstairs. Apple dropped the price down to $99, which is a bargain and I imagine they’ll sell a lot of these this coming holiday season.

For more information, go to here.

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at :-}

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. However, as a fallen chemist I still subscribe to Chemical & Engineering News. A magazine published by the American Chemical Society. I’ve been a member of that organization for over 50 year, despite having switched my attention to the safe disposal of high-level (the hot stuff) nuclear wastes including both those generated in the defense of our country and from the generation of nuclear electricity. So I decided to see what I could glean fro the last half-inch or so of back issues, that might interest our readers.

Chemistry is related to, by less than three degrees of separation, to most aspects of our lives from energy we use, to the production food and safety, medicine to extend our lives, and is a critical part of all the widgets and do-dads that make up our technology toys. So, enough blabbering, here’s the best what I found.

Doc.

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Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The Titles of My New Snippets

  • Our World is Really Warming
  • Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention
  • Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny
  • Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.
  • The Value Of Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future
  • Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill
  • The Gambler — My degree says I’m a doctor, would you let me perform open-heart surgery on you?

As always my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

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Our World is Really Warming this despite the naysayers who keep blowin’ in the wind.

Ten measurable, global features all provide evidence that Earth’s climate  has warmed during the past half-century, according to a report released last week by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 2010, 6, S1). Seven indicators showed an uptick: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and temperature of the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of the atmosphere. And three indicators declined: the extent of Arctic sea ice, the mass of glaciers, and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. “These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: Our planet is warming,” explains NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. NOAA’s “State of the Climate” Report for 2009 is based on information from scientific institutions around the world and includes data from satellites, weather balloons, ships, and field surveys. The report was published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available at www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2009.php.

Doc Sez, no matter how you drink your tea, it can’t all be a conspiracy. Perhaps a universal global hallucination fostered upon us by ET’s whose motives we’ll never figure out, but no a conspiracy. Once again I ask who will gain by fostering denial. It doesn’t mater whether you believe that the change is anthropogenic (Man caused) or not. If the continuing tends, which rely on:

  • Additional varied and improved instrumentation,
  • More and varied collected data sets, and
  • An increasing number of studies by independent investigators

…continues to trend as it has, cause is irrelevant, man, Gaia or G-d, we can become victims or do something about it.

For an excellent, easy to follow overview on the factors that appear to strongly affect global warming check out the Blewbury Energy Initiative UK site   http://www.blewbury.co.uk/energy/warming.htm

Article by Cheryl Hogue, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010. http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i31/html/8831govc2.html

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Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) opened a greenhouse in La Jolla, Calif., last week to begin testing methods to produce affordable biofuel feedstocks from algae. The two companies became partners a year ago when Exxon agreed to invest $600 million over the next decade in R&D at SGI and in its own labs.

Algae are considered a promising biofuel starting point because they are fast-growing and can be raised on non-arable land. Various companies, from biotech start-ups to Dow Chemical, are pursuing algae-derived biofuels, but the Exxon-SGI alliance is by far the most financially ambitious.

Moving out of the lab into real sunlight is “a small, but important, step,” SGI CEO J. Craig Venter said at a press conference. Although the partners are not yet using a real-world environment, they will begin assessing natural and engineered strains of algae in systems that range from open ponds to closed photo-bioreactors. They plan to evaluate and optimize growth conditions, oil production, harvesting, and recovery.

The collaborators also have conducted lifecycle and sustainability studies to determine the impact of biofuel harvesting on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on land and water use. In an effort to be independent of agricultural resources, their process uses sunlight, salt water, and carbon dioxide, Venter explained. “Fuels cannot compete with agriculture if this is going be successful.”

They hope to find or design a strain of algae that can secrete the desired long-chain hydrocarbons. “The greenhouse will enable us to go into the next phase of our development plan, which will include a larger test facility outside,” said F. Emil Jacobs, ExxonMobil’s vice president for research. Scaling up into that facility is expected in mid-2011.

So far, the algal products look similar to intermediate streams processed in existing refineries, Jacobs pointed out. Both he and Venter emphasized that the project is long-term and that it will take billions of dollars to reach commercial scale. “We are committed to this activity and will spend money necessary to be successful,” Jacobs remarked.

By Ann M. Thayer, Chemical & Engineering News, July 19, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i29/html/8829notw2.html

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Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny

Doc says, net to resuming offshore drilling, obtain large amounts of natural gas, trapped in US shale deposits is the next big energy brouhaha. What is see is folks getting polarized and hot under the collar, rather than working together t find cost effective solutions to any negative potential environmental impacts for such drilling. After-all oil the burning natural gas for transportation fuel and electricity generation creates less carbon dioxide when burned, in shale based gas is a made in America product. It’s sure has heck easier to move natural gas, and were done with the radioactive, unregulated slag piles that surround our coal powered electrical facilities. — I have only accepted a few ‘semi-random sections of this excellent multi-page article, to wet your appetites. The reason I am sharing this particular article, among the many I’ve googled, is that it ha , despite appearing an a chemistry profession oriented magazine, is even handed about both the hopes and the fears of producing shale stored natural gas by hydrofracturing.

The U.S. has a plentiful supply of natural gas—a clean-burning, efficient  fuel that could help solve the nation’s energy problems, ranging from climate change to dependence on foreign oil, industry proponents contend. But critics say this view is overly optimistic, because the technology for releasing gas embedded deep underground in massive shale fields has not yet been shown to be economical. Such technology could also contaminate water supplies with toxic drilling chemicals.

Geologists have long known that natural gas is abundant in shale rock formations running from the Appalachian Basin to the Rocky Mountains. But the resource has remained largely untapped because of the difficulty in extracting it. In recent years, however, advances in a technology developed decades ago by the petroleum industry to boost production at aging oil wells has helped unlock vast reserves of once-inaccessible natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressure to generate fractures or cracks in shale rocks and release trapped gas.

Recoverable U.S. gas reserves might now exceed the proven reserves of Russia, the world’s largest natural gas producer, some experts say. In 2009, the Potential Gas Committee, a panel of U.S. industry specialists, found that the nation’s estimated gas reserves had surged 35% since an assessment in 2007. The jump was the largest increase in the 44-year history of reports from the committee.

The U.S. now has about 2,074 trillion cu ft of technically recoverable natural gas resources—enough to meet domestic demand for more than a century at the current rate of consumption.  “New and advanced exploration, well drilling, and completion technologies are allowing us increasingly better access to domestic gas resources—especially unconventional gas—which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue,” says John B. Curtis, a professor of geology and geological engineering at Colorado School of Mines.

Natural gas is the fuel of choice for a wide range of industries, including chemical manufacturing. In addition to its use in generating electricity, natural gas is also a feedstock for a variety of products, including petrochemicals, plastics, and fertilizers.

Environmental Concerns and Initial Assessment Actions — Although hydraulic fracturing has the potential to turn gas deposits in shale formations into an energy bonanza, the method is coming under increasing scrutiny. Environmental activists and some lawmakers are concerned that the drilling technique may pose a threat to drinking water. Consequently, they argue, the federal government should regulate the drilling practice. Individual states currently monitor fracturing activities.

What worries critics are the chemical additives used in the process to reduce friction, kill bacteria, and prevent mineral buildup. The chemicals make up less than 1% of the overall solution, but some are (may be) hazardous in low concentrations. [The critics provided no peer reviewed references that I could find.]

“We have significant concerns not only about contamination of our water resources, but also depletion of the water table,” says Tracy Dahl, president of the North Fork Ranch Landowners Association in Colorado. “We have already seen significant impacts and expect more to come.”

In an attempt to determine whether federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is warranted, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has asked eight oil-field service companies to provide detailed information about the chemicals used in their drilling operations. These will be evaluated to determine their toxicological properties, relative to ground water protection.

Hydraulic fracturing “could help us unlock vast domestic natural gas reserves once thought unattainable,” Waxman noted in a statement. “As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems.” The inquiry, he added, will “help us better understand the potential risks this technology poses to drinking-water supplies and the environment, and whether Congress needs to act to minimize those risks.”

The Environmental Protection Agency also intends to conduct a comprehensive research study of the effects of fracturing on water quality and public health. A committee of EPA’s Science Advisory Board is expected to recommend a strategy for conducting the $1.9 million study by this summer. Agency officials have said they intend to have their initial research results completed by the end of 2012. EPA reviewed various past studies on fracturing in 2004 and concluded that the technology poses “little or no threat” to drinking water.

Environmentalists dismissed the finding, claiming it was politically motivated and scientifically unsound.

Poor bewildered Doc! I can’t understand why, according to the referenced link, the environmentalist bashed the 2004 studies but are pleased to have EPA expand and update it?

By Glenn Hess, Chemical & Engineering News, May 31, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i22/html/8822gov1.html

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Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.

This equation embodies the use of solar energy to rip apart water molecules to produce hydrogen, which can be used as an energy-rich fuel for vehicles and to produce electricity. If perfected and made affordable, the technology  could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050.

Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

Two U.S. research groups have recently reported breakthrough developments that could signal a new wave of progress in producing H2 via solar water splitting. Daniel G. Nocera and coworkers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made a heterogeneous cobalt phosphate water-oxidation catalyst <chemical stuff> with improved stability. And Craig L. Hill of Emory University and coworkers have created a related homogeneous cobalt catalyst supported by bulky polytungstate ligands <more great chemical stuff> that displays improved catalytic activity. Both catalysts are made from Earth-abundant elements, avoid organic ligands that are prone to oxidation during electrolysis, have a built-in mechanism for self-repair to improve lifetime, and operate at neutral pH with modest electricity input.

Development of such cobalt water-oxidation catalysts do benefit from federal initiatives to harness solar power to make hydrogen fuel. If perfected and made affordable, the technology could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050. Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

A company, which Nocera started last year to develop inexpensive solar-powered water-splitting systems <E.g., Direct sunlight to electricity via hydrogen as fuel to make H2 for a fuel cell that generates electricity. His company has garnered more than $4 million in ARPA-E funds. “ARPA-E is having an incredible impact on other small companies, enabling us to follow our dreams to turn science into technology and eventually into commercial products,” In a full, but not totally energy conserving cycle, In fuel cells, which also require catalysts, the opposite reactions take place to release the energy stored in the H–H bonds: hydrogen and oxygen are fed into a fuel cell, releasing electrons to make electricity and producing water.

Commercial technology to derive H2 from water by electrolysis has been available for nearly a century. Because electrolysis remains expensive, industrial H2 production continues to be primarily by steam reforming of petroleum and by coal gasification, both of which are based on limited fossil resources, comments Matthias Beller of Leibniz Institute for Catalysis at Germany’s University of Rostock, who studies iron-based H2-generating catalysts. “Clearly, on a mid- to long-term basis, there is an essential demand for alternative technologies to generate H2 in a more sustainable manner if it is to be used as a transportation fuel and for producing electricity,” Beller says. “Photocatalytic water splitting offers the most straightforward production of H2 from H2O. In this respect, the recent work from the Nocera and Hill groups is highly interesting.”

Water splitting is a two-stage process. In an electrolysis cell, water is oxidized at the positive electrode, or anode, to form oxygen, along with four hydrogen ions and four electrons. The hydrogen ions migrate to the negative electrode, or cathode, where two hydrogen ions [H+] are reduced by two electrons arriving through an external circuit to form hydrogen gas. Of the two electrode processes, both of which require a catalyst to be efficient, the water-oxidation reaction is more complex and thermodynamically demanding.

Also check out Mitch Jacoby’s article Hydrogen From Sun And Water, Chemical & Engineering News, AUGUST 10, 2009. It shows how the science is increasing the efficiency of such catalysts, a key to making them cost effective.http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/87/i32/8732notw.html 

For a different approach check out Getting to the Hydrogen Highway Via the Nano Road, by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, August 20, 2009. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2009/04/20/hydrogen-highway-nano-road/

There’s lots more… if what I shared is not enough check both “fuel cells” and Water Splitting in Wikipedia or just Google the terms. You’d be amazed! Not much of this has approached cost effective commercialization, but methinks were getting close. One interesting sidelight — Fuels produce direct current, not the usual AC current in our walls; this is the type of electricity that Edison was promoting in days gone by.

Article by Stephen K. Ritter Chemical & Engineering News, 88(27), July 05, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i27/html/8827sci1.html

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The Value Of Carbon Dioxide Where some see pollution, Andrew Bocarsly sees products

I found this article while browsing a recent C&EN issue and decided to share it because it pushed a button in my mind. Almost of the ways of dealing with the excess carbon dioxide in the environment call for what is in essence throwing it away.  Whether that’s by pumping into a deep geological formation, or precipitating it into the ocean bottom; even using it to enhance oil recovery for spent wells — it’s all a toss the stuff game.  Albeit, Dr. Bocarsly’s science is just at the invention stage, it is one of the few approached that I’ve read that use the infamous greenhouse gas as raw material. The other alternatives are to grow trees, or other vegetation including algae to use them for creating bio fuels.

Andrew Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton University looks like any photo-electrochemistry lab you might stumble into. Crumpled pieces of aluminum foil cloak light-sensitive chemical reactions. Three-necked flasks decorate the bench tops like vases sprouting electrodes instead of flowers. But it’s a chemical you can’t see that’s become a focus for the Bocarsly lab in recent years—carbon dioxide, specifically the CO2 pollution that pours out of cars and power plants each day.

Two years ago, Bocarsly reported that with the help of a pyridinium catalyst he was able to use visible light to transform CO2 into methanol (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 6342). The process uses a light-driven gallium phosphide semiconductor electrode to reduce carbon dioxide gas that’s bubbled through a pyridinium solution. <Okay, that more chemistry than you wanted, but keep reading anyway – this is just another hopefully great magical POfS*>.

Since that time, the research has spun off in two directions: In Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton, there’s been an intensive effort to understand the mechanism behind this process and in a research park five miles north of campus, a small company called Liquid Light is trying to capitalize on it.

In 2008, Kyle Teamey, Liquid Light’s chief operating officer, was working as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Redpoint Ventures. He read Bocarsly’s Journal of the American Chemical Society communication and thought the technology had promise. “With any catalytic process there are certain things you look for,” Teamey says. “You look for energy efficiency, the stability of the catalyst, the kinetics. Several factors need to come together for a catalytic process to work efficiently, particularly when you’re looking at commodity markets where products are made at large scale. We were attracted to this technology because it displayed factors that generally indicate it has potential.

“Ultimately what we’d like to do is make CO2 a feedstock for producing fuels and chemicals. That’s the ultimate vision,” Teamey says. For that to happen, Bocarsly’s process needs to compete cost-wise with traditional methanol production. It’s not enough to be doing something that’s environmentally friendly by removing excess CO2 from the air. Liquid Light needs to compete financially.

There’s a lot more including so me interesting chemistry for those like me who are so inclined. Also note that POfS is a pinch of stuff.

By Bethany Halford, Chemical & Engineering News, JUNE 28, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i26/html/8826sci1.html

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Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future Technologies to reel in greenhouse gas emissions abounds, but can’t move forward without policy actions

With world population climbing, and energy demand along with it, countries are trying to figure out how to minimize the global-warming consequences of carbon-based energy. The challenges are enormous: Because of differences in energy resources, nations around the world have different abilities to shift away from fossil fuel and to adapt technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. And many of those technologies are not moving as fast as they could be because of uncertainty in public policies to reduce CO2 emissions. These are the take-home messages from a conference held to stimulate ideas and form collaborations to quicken the pace of development and implementation of CO2-emissions-reducing technologies.

“Many scientists and engineers recognize that energy production and controlling greenhouse gas emissions are our biggest technology challenges today,” chemical engineer Frank Zhu told C&EN. “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.”

Zhu pointed out at a recent global warming related conference’s opening remarks, that countries around the globe are pursuing three CO2 solution pathways: (1) CO2 reduction, (2) CO2 rejection, and (3) CO2 dilution,

To “reduce” CO2, countries can cut emissions by improving the efficiency  of vehicles, electricity generation, and industrial processing, he said. To “reject” CO2, countries can develop ways to burn coal cleanly and use technologies to capture and store CO2 to keep the greenhouse gas out of Earth’s atmosphere. And to “dilute” CO2, countries can reduce their use of fossil fuel and increase use of carbon-neutral biofuels and alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind.

The public would like to have clean energy from these new technologies, but at the same price as petroleum-based products, Powell said. “We can’t implement new technologies for free, but our challenge is to do it at the lowest cost possible and with as limited a footprint as we can—new energy technologies have to be cheap, clean, and convenient.”

Doc sez, I can’t figure out how to get any more than two of three of these goals optimized simultaneously – something has to give. This sounds too much like ‘a free lunch’. On top of that there have to be customers willing to pay for what you produce.

Globally, three sequestration technologies are actively being developed: storage in saline aquifers in sandstone formations, where the CO2 is expected to mineralize into carbonates over time; injection into deep, uneconomic coal seams; and injection into depleted or low-producing oil and natural gas reservoirs.

Overall, billions of tons of CO2 must be captured and stored per year to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at levels that should moderate global warming. Global capacity for sequestration is pegged at hundreds of billions of tons of CO2, adequate for several hundred years of storage. Currently, only tens of millions of tons of CO2—most of it from natural gas and not coal-fired power plants—are being squirreled away by demonstration storage projects and oil and natural gas mining operations.

George A. Richards, focus area leader for energy system dynamics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, agreed: “We need more energy, and it needs to be affordable, especially for countries with developing economies,” he said. “Like the U.S., these countries are going to use the fossil-fuel resources available to them first. It’s imperative we develop CO2 capture and sequestration technologies that will allow us to do that. And that means we can’t abandon fossil-fuel energy research solely in favor of renewables.”

Like most of the attendees at a recent CO2 summit, DOE’s Richards believes many different energy technologies, from coal to solar, will be integral parts of the future energy mix. It’s not possible to know politically or economically which ones will play leading roles. “Predicting the future is easy, but predicting it correctly is more difficult,” he quipped. “I can say with confidence that we need more energy, and we want to manage the CO2 emissions.

There’s lot more about the international perspectives on how to control and dispose CO2.  However, most technical experts continue believe “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.

By Stephen K. Ritter, Chemical & Engineering News, July 26, 2010.

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i30/html/8830sci1.html

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Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill

The fate of spilled oil in the Gulf rests with the hydrocarbon-digesting microbes colonizing underwater plumes.  Millions of gallons of oil now drift throughout the Gulf of Mexico in massive, underwater plumes. Last week, scientists from the University of South Florida confirmed that this submerged oil came from BP’s leaking well more than 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Over the past three months, the high pressure at the wellhead has pulverized the oil, while chemical dispersants have broken it into microscopic droplets. Unlike surface oil slicks, which physical forces such as evaporation can degrade, the fate of these hovering oil clouds—and by extension the Gulf’s ecological future—lies chiefly with a biological process: the conversion of hydrocarbons into less harmful byproducts by marine bacteria.

After an April 20 explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon exploration rig and started the largest oil spill in U.S. history, microbiologists have converged on the Gulf to investigate the microbial composition throughout its waters and affected coastlines. According to Joel Kostka, a microbial ecologist at Florida State University, Tallahassee, the fundamental goals of this research are to determine the oil’s impact on the Gulf’s microbial ecosystems and to assess how limiting factors, chiefly oxygen concentrations, influence microbial oil degradation. Results could supply insights not only into the Gulf’s ongoing recovery, Kostka says, but also into how scientists might direct cleanup operations more efficiently.

Preliminary data collected by these researchers show that marine microbes have mobilized across the Gulf and are in fact chewing their way through the oil plumes. These monitoring efforts have chiefly focused on drops in dissolved oxygen levels, a sign of microbial metabolism. Graduate students working with Andreas Teske, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, collected water samples from May 26 to June 8 aboard the University of Miami’s research vessel (RV) Walton Smith. They found that alkane hydrocarbon -digesting bacteria have colonized the Deepwater Horizon oil plumes and have begun to consume significant amounts of dissolved oxygen.

Likewise, David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has observed microbe-associated oxygen declines in plumes of oil and methane gas. In these “gassy” plumes located within a 5- to 7-mile radius of the wellhead and at depths greater than 2,500 feet, oxygen levels drop by between 5 and 35%, he says. Valentine gathered his samples from June 11 to June 20, while aboard the RV Cape Hatteras, operated by the Duke/University of North Carolina Oceanographic Consortium. Also in a July 23 report, the US government’s Joint Analysis Group described dissolved oxygen drops at depths below 1,000 meters near the wellhead, where BP crews have injected dispersants directly into the leaking oil.

But scientists don’t exactly know yet which bacteria species are present in these plumes. The Gulf has a “leaky” seafloor, populated with natural seeps that discharge between 560,000 to 1.4 million bbl of crude oil ever year, according to a 2003 National Research Council report on oil spills. Also hydrocarbons in general are ubiquitous in the ocean and can be found not only in seeping oil, but also in plant waxes and lobster shells. Myriad marine bacteria have evolved to consume these hydrocarbons, and now the spill has allowed them to travel beyond their natural food sources.

Doc sez, like all solutions, natural or man-made, there’s a bit of Yang with every Ying. The bacterial action may reduce spilled oil toxicity and other damage, but we don’t know how server the oxygen depletion effects will be on the marine ecosystem. Guys and Gals – this is nature. Not man-caused in action so we need to watch the wheel turning to intercede, if we can, should things go badly awry.

By Charles Schmidt, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010.

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i31/html/8831news1.html

Also check out:Cleaning Up The Gulf Oil SpillResponse teams use multiple techniques, including a new one, to try to protect coastal wetlands. Article by Michael Torrice Chemical & Engineering News, May 13, 2010  

http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8820sci3.html

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I’d like to close this column with a copy of an article called The Gambler sent to me by my colleague John Droz, jr. — A physicist & environmental advocate.

The Gambler

When we are confronted with questions of science we often have neither the resources nor intellectual rigor to properly do our homework. In our ignorance, we have a habit of bestowing quasi-mystical properties on our own creations in much the same way as the faithful can be moved and inspired by splendid architecture or pious icons. Our instincts suggest that this level of expenditure, the moral correctness of the enterprise, and the weight of our investments in hope and good intentions, must surely prove the underlying theory.

It stands to reason that we wouldn’t have gone so far down this path if the technology didn’t work. We take it as a given that somebody — our scientists, our politicians, our priests, or our parents — has done the intellectual heavy lifting already. Alas, this is seldom the case, and definitely not so here.

In the disciplines of politics and parenting, expedience is quite often the order of the day, and obfuscation, misdirection and white lies are the tools of implementation.

In a world currently focused on all things green it is perceived to be politically irresponsible to be circumspect or behind the curve. “We have to do something, or every little bits helps” have now become the mantra.

The “something” our representatives are endorsing is for us to pay exorbitant premiums to people who have no more background in power production than does the local school marm. We are asked to line the developer’s seemingly limitless pockets with unrequited subsidies and incentives — despite the fact that green energy solutions on the production side of the equation have been shown, the world over, to be window dressing, canards and delusions.

In so doing we will divert resources, time and attention away from more meaningful solutions, and from programs like conservation and reuse — options and programs that we know reduce our impact on the environment.

Instead, we will expend greater resources, build bigger more impressive monuments and blindly put our faith in the promises of others — despite all the empirical science to the contrary. We will convince ourselves that our good intentions plus the size and scope of the effort is evidence enough of its merit.

We are being seduced by the splendor of the temple without taking the time to see the emptiness of the catechism.

Frankly, I’d rather just pray. It costs less, holds equal promise, and is not a blight on the landscape.

The Gambler — Translated from a post by Gord McDonald — in the Wellington Times, April 16, 2010” http://wellingtontimes.ca/?p=1025

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics, usually indented.

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In Closing

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequences. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you shall always end up paying the piper!

Readers Again Please Take Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable and cost effective. They also have to demonstrate that we will not fall victim top the law of unintended consequences when we implement them. If you care to Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that whose authors remain skeptical. Putting ones money where one mouth is creates one method of determining the reality of a dream still to come true. Ask any one with a technical start-up company – the big cost is the leap from bench scale to operational facility. Sometime not that is a good test – look at the ethanol plants that have shut down in the mid-west.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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