Inexpensive LEDs

$60 for a light bulb? Sure, it’s an LED-based bulb and will save you real money — and last for ten years.  Using gallium nitride (GaN), they can last for sixty years, but costly to manufacture.  Work by the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride is about to make a real difference. The news, via EE Times:

Cambridge University’s Centre for Gallium Nitride has developed a new way of making GaN which could produce LEDs for a tenth of current prices and may see household lighting bills reduced by up to 75 percent within five years.

Based on current results, GaN LED lights in every home and office could cut the proportion of UK electricity used for lights from 20 percent to five percent. That is equivalent to eight power stations.

The Cambridge researchers have developed a method of growing GaN LEDs on silicon wafers. The lower cost method could enable cheaper mass produced LEDs becoming widely available in the next five years.

Read the press release from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for details.

Now, here’s the question: who’s willing to make and sell a product that will last for 60 years?

Frozen Smithsonian

You never forget your best moments in life (hopefully). I have many fond memories from all the places I’ve worked, including Smithsonian magazine.

Just read about how the new Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough, was officially installed earlier this week in a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian. Clayton Old Elk, a member of the Crow Tribe (and a health system specialist with the Indian Health Service) performed a welcoming prayer.

In his speech, Secretary Clough touched upon three great challenges faced by the Smithsonian: American Identity & Diversity, Education and Climate Change & Biodiversity.  Ironically, he’s a member of the international advisory board of the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Saudi Arabia.  He’s careful with his words all right:

Through the long-standing efforts of our scientists, the Smithsonian has been among the leaders in understanding climate change and biodiversity issues. Now we need to take two more steps. The first recognizes that these problems are not simple, and that communicating the complex science behind the dynamic processes is difficult, but necessary. Now is the time for the Smithsonian to extend its reach by communicating the research in such a way so that our political leaders and the public can understand it, so that global action can be mobilized to help our planet become more sustainable. This will position the Smithsonian to increase the impact of the remarkable efforts of our scientists. The second step is to bring our world-wide commitment to sustainability to our doorstep. We will commit to an overarching approach to sustainability for our museums and facilities here on the Mall and wherever in the world the Smithsonian has a footprint or a building.

The Washington Post chose to lead with the Smithsonian’s hiring freeze and banishing of bonuses:


The newly installed secretary of the Smithsonian Institution announced yesterday that he has implemented a hiring freeze and eliminated salary increases and bonuses for one class of its highest-paid employees. G. Wayne Clough has also asked several departments to reduce their current-year budgets by 5 percent to 8 percent.

The action, taken because of the decrease in the Smithsonian’s endowment by 25 percent last year and the uncertain economic future, follows a similar hiring ban, started last October, in the ranks of employees who are paid by the federal government. The Smithsonian, the largest museum and research complex in the world, is financed through private money and public appropriations from Congress. Public funds account for 70 percent of its $1 billion annual budget.

“We are concerned about our financial situation,” said Clough, who after six months on the job was officially installed yesterday as the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian. The freezes went into effect Jan. 16, and involve 67 staff members paid by private funds rather than taxpayer dollars. The departments asked to reduce their budgets are not federally financed and include the central development office. They do not include the museums.


Yes, its newsworthy, but I’m getting tired of reading about “the economy” and how bad things are getting. When will newspapers begin printing some good news on their pages?

Zombie Alert in Austin

Nice hack, but potentially dangerous.

Somebody in Austin, TX, hacked a roadside construction sign to read “Caution! Zombies Ahead!”

Fox News picked it up:

Austin Public Works spokeswoman Sara Hartley said the incident was not initially reported to police, but will be shortly. The sign was reverted back to its original message within hours, according to Hartley, who insisted the signs are tamper-resistant and equipped with external locks.

“This sign was broken into, it was not just a ‘walk up and change the sign’ kind of thing,” Hartley told “This is a new one for us, we’ve never had it happen before.”

She said she did not know whether any other signs in the area had been altered.

According to the blog, some commercial road signs, including those manufactured by IMAGO’s ADDCO division, can be easily altered because their instrument panels are frequently left unlocked and their default passwords are not changed.

“Programming is as simple as scrolling down the menu selection,” reports. “Type whatever you want to display … In all likelihood, the crew will not have changed [the password].” warns readers not to try to alter the signs, which cost roughly $15,000.

ADDCO Chief Operating Officer Brian Nicholson told that the company is sending out notices to customers on the potentially dangerous security flaw.

“It’s incumbent upon users to change the default password and secure the sign with a padlock,” Nicholson said. “We’re having our engineers review this information.”

Click here to learn more about ADDCO’s mobile signs, and here for an inside look.

Jäger Bombs

Jägermeister has become quite the popular liqueur of late. They broke new ground in the 1970s in becoming jersey sponsors in the Bundesliga (with Eintracht Braunschweig), and now we see them as presenting sponsor of a new TV show on Spike: “Toughest Cowboy.”

Emanating from venues in top major markets including Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Columbus, Raleigh, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, “Toughest Cowboy” features twelve daring competitors in one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. These fearless cowboys must ride in three dangerous disciplines each night – bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding – an unprecedented test of endurance in modern rodeo competition. One competitor will be eliminated each week in a Knock-Out elimination bull ride match. The ultimate “Toughest Cowboy” Champion crowned in the last tournament will win his dream—the deed to a spectacular ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.

Emmy-award winning producer Mark Burnett, behind such landmark series as Survivor and The Apprentice, serves as executive producer for “Toughest Cowboy”. “Toughest Cowboy” marks the first series to emerge from a pact between Mark Burnett Productions and AEG announced earlier this year.

Jagermeister is the most popular shot brand in the United States. Considered a tough competitor in bars and nightclubs, Jagermeister is excited to bring that competitive edge to rodeo.

So how does a German herbal liqueur get interested in rodeo? Well, there’s a special drink called the “Jäger Bomb,” consisting of a half-glass of the energy drink Red Bull and shot of Jägermeister.  No slouch when it comes to marketing, Red Bull is modern marketing success and prominent sports sponsor around the world.

Great idea and good work putting it all together. Winning a ranch in Wyoming is a good incentive, too. Bull riding is more responsible than sponsoring Jäger Bomb Dominos world record attempts.

Pharma Ads Work

Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I’d declare total war on The Pusher man.

From the Steppenwolf song “The Pusher” (Words and music by Hoyt Axton).  We’ve got a new president, but I doubt he’s ready to review the direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Maybe after he’s read the New England Journal of Medicine’s 2007 report on the topic he might reconsider:

Since 2000, direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs has continued to grow both in absolute dollars and relative to other forms of promotion. Although the evidence base is growing, there are few data to support an assessment of the balance of the costs and benefits of such advertising. The debate over whether and how direct-to-consumer advertising should be more tightly regulated takes place against a backdrop of growing concern about the growth of health care spending, particularly in the Medicare program. Gaining a better understanding of the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs has important public health implications not only for the United States and New Zealand, where such advertising is also permitted, but also for Canada and the European Union, where such advertising is banned but has been subject to recent challenge.

Yes, advertising does move pharma product. Take, for example, the phenomenal growth of ED drugs. Barry Silverstein’s pun-filled piece in suggests we won’t soon see the end of this type of advertising.  He offers these suggestions on how to make their brands more distinctive:

Barring governmental intervention, if drug companies continue to utilize DTC advertising, they will have to find ways to make their brands distinctive, if not memorable. That presents them with a number of challenges:

  1. Pharmaceutical brand names are vague and often meaningless. They do little to distinguish one brand from another. Consider such popular drug brand names as Celebrex (arthritis), Lunesta (sleep aid) and Vytorin (cholesterol). What do these names say about what the drugs accomplish?
  2. Drug advertising is, for the most part, dull and unexciting. It is a category that could use new, more effective ways of breaking through.
  3. Regulatory restrictions, no matter how lax, will continue to make it difficult to advertise drugs without including a list of side effects. Sometimes the recital of the list itself creates an unintentionally foreboding or even humorous aspect to a drug ad.

Ads for ED drugs does prompt a joke from the TV viewing audience. But for a real laugh, watch this clip of Robin Williams.

YouTube: YouSell DVDs

Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Remember that British import from the 70’s? We’d watch it religiously on the local PBS affiliate in the New York (WNET, “channel 13”).

A couple of months ago, Monty Python launched their YouTube channel and it’s become rather popular. The YouTube blog post on their “click to buy” program is getting results, specially for Monty Python:

We’re happy when we can help YouTube users enjoy the content they love, and we’re happy when we can help our partners build their businesses online – but we’re happiest when we can do both.

That’s why last year we launched our eCommerce platform for YouTube, which allows users to easily “click-to-buy” products — like songs and movies — related to the content they’re watching on the site. The past few months have demonstrated that great content on YouTube leads to increased sales. For example, when Monty Python launched their channel in November, not only did their YouTube videos shoot to the top of the most viewed lists, but their DVDs also quickly climbed to No. 2 on Amazon’s Movies & TV bestsellers list, with increased sales of 23,000 percent.

Nice sales increase.

Having clips up on video-sharing sites is good for business. Relentlessly pursuing “takedown” requests, one might argue, is counter-productive. I know I’ve had such requests in the past on clips I got from NASA, which is in the public domain. They’re still up, but the takedown requests can be a nuisance.

If people are profiting from pirated content, well that’s clearly a crime…

We The Internet

Should Internet access be an entitlemet? I think it should be and some day, it will. The President’s plan to make it available everywhere may be challenged by preferences expressed by those who are supposed to benefit. Maybe they don’t get it — or just don’t care.

Today’s Washington Post has a piece on a report issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Broadband costs more, and that’s holding people back:

According to the survey, 13 percent of non-users said they don’t use the Internet or e-mail because they can’t access broadband. Nine percent of those surveyed said they find e-mail and the Internet too difficult to use, 7 percent said they are too busy or don’t have time, and 4 percent said they don’t have access to a computer.

For those with dial-up Internet access, 35 percent said prices for broadband — which average $34.50 a month — would have to go down for them to upgrade to high-speed cable, fiber-optic, or DSL Internet service, according to the survey.

“The problem with price has to do with competition,” said Andrew Schwartzman, president of public access group Media Access Project. Schwartzman said that users are typically forced to choose between two to three options for high-speed Internet service.

The nonprofit group One Economy has urged lawmakers to include provisions in a stimulus plan that would renovate public housing so that all units in a building would have access to a shared data network, thereby reducing monthly costs per home by several dollars a month.

What if the FCC frees up so-called “white spaces” of radio spectrum and use it for free Internet access? Great idea. Finally, a modern version of the Minitel — only wireless.

Interesting results:

What is the MAIN reason you don’t use the internet or email?
(asked of non-users) Non-internet users = 25% of all adults
% of non-users     % of all adults
Not interested in getting online         33%             8.3%
Can’t get access                                      13%             3.3%
Difficult                                                   9%             2.3%
Other reason                                          9%             2.3%
Too expensive                                        7%             1.8%
Too busy/no time                                 7%             1.8%
Waste of time                                        7%             1.8%
Don’t have computer                          4%             1.0%
Too old to learn                                   3%             0.8%
Physically unable                                3%             0.8%