Car Care: Service and Fuel Tracking

In addition to fuel costs, some people are religious in tracking their automobile repairs as well. I keep a file of service receipts, but I hardly ever do any analysis of this information to try and figure out how much I’m spending on repairs or how often. Now that one of my cars is getting a little long in the tooth, I decided I might want to take a closer look and see what it actually takes to keep the old lady of the garage running.
Care Care ($4.99) is an iPhone app that lets you track automobile expenses and fuel costs for multiple vehicles. It essentially takes a fuel cost tracking app and adds a separate entry item for service costs. The setup is fairly straightforward. Select your vehicle from a list of popular makes and models and then you can begin entering your fillups at the gas station along with other service items. When you add a new service entry, you can select from a list of common repairs and services like oil changes, radiator service, etc. or “other” and then enter the odometer reading and cost. You can enter some brief notes as well.
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Texas $2.3B Biomass Plant Gets Approved

Despite rising controversy over a proposed $2.3 billion biomass plant in East Texas, the Austin city council unanimously approved the contract on Thursday, the local Statesman reports. Under the terms of the contract,Nacogdoches Power will construct and operate a 100-megawatt plant, which will burn woody wastes, including sawdust and tree trimmings, and sell the power to Austin Energy over the course of 20 years.

The plan is controversial because critics says the contract was secured behind closed doors with Nacogdoches and a competitor says it could have offered a biomass plant for a lower cost than $2.3 billion. The CEO of competitor American Biorefining & Energy Inc. sent the Austin city council the company’s own proposal for a biomass project on Wednesday and questioned the bidding process. The approved biomass project is also being looked at closely for its environmental effects, and Nacogdoches will be required to report on how the plant is affecting forests, air and water quality.

The city of Austin has set a goal of delivering 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Austin Energy currently only gets about 6 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and John Baker, the company’s chief of strategy, told us earlier this year that wind energy alone wouldn’t get them to 30 percent. If all the planned wind, solar and biomass come through on schedule, Austin Energy could be getting as much as 18 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2012.

Austin Energy to Seek OK for $2.3B Biomass Plant

Austin Energy plans to ask its local city council for approval to build a $2.3 billion biomass power plant in East Texas, the Austin Business Journal reports. Nacogdoches Power has agreed to construct and operate the plant and sell power to Austin Energy over the course of a proposed 20-year contract. The plant will burn woody wastes, including sawdust and tree trimmings, to generate some 100 megawatts of electricity. Austin Energy COO Michael McCluskey told the Journal that he hopes the council members will review the contract when they meet on Aug. 7.

The city of Austin has set a goal of getting 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Austin Energy currently only gets about 6 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and John Baker, the company’s chief of strategy, told us earlier this year that wind energy alone wouldn’t get them to 30 percent.

While Austin Energy is adding more wind energy to its portfolio, the utility is also pursuing solar energy. If all the planned wind, solar and biomass come through on schedule, Austin Energy could be getting as much as 18 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2012.

Long-term contracts like this one are what the nascent renewable energy market needs as it develops. As this Forbes article explains, “without a dedicated buyer, banks and investors will not fund the projects.”” Massachusetts recently reformed its energy laws to require utilities to buy renewable energy on 10- or 15-year contracts.

Google Gears just cut the web cord on my UMPC

Google_gears
Google just made mobile computers quite a bit more useful when offline with their new Google Gears beta. The official Google description is:

  • A local server, to cache and serve application resources (HTML, JavaScript, images, etc.) without needing to contact a server
  • A database, to store and access data from within the browser
  • A worker thread pool, to make web applications more responsive by performing expensive operations in the background

Programming mumbo-jumbo aside, here’s what I was able to do after installing the small browser extension: download up to 2,000 of my Google Reader feed items for offline reading, starring and sharing on my UMPC. This type of offline solution could greatly reduce the dependency for always-on connectivity. Once I had my connection back, l simply told Google I wanted to go into online mode and my feed actions were synched. This extension can really change the game for web-based apps and data: it’s a potential paradigm shifter.

(via GigaOm)

Cingular Joins Mobile Music

When Cingular, the largest and generally the least aggressive U.S. carrier when it comes to new services, moves into a market, you know the market has been set to take off for awhile. Cingular will launch a mobile music service with deals in place with Napster, Yahoo Music and eMusic, says the WSJ. Supposedly the service will enable users to transfer those subscription music services as well as ripped songs via a cable, with over-the-air transfers set for next year.

Cingular is just the latest company that is looking to tap the mobile music market. Why now? A lot has to do with the availablity and the success of phones with music capabilities. Nokia says it sold 46.5 million music-enabled phones last year and has a target for 80 million this year. And we all know about the iPhone rumors.

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Mostly VoIP, by 2014

Market research firm In-Stat adds a dose of reality to the whole VoIP madness – they predict that that the mass migration to VoIP will happen pretty much in the 2010-2014 time frame. In-Stat believes that 2005-2009 is the consumer and small business VoIP ramp-up period. This time frame is largely dependent on carriers’ strategies for migration to the Next-Generation Network (NGN), but I still think that’s a reasonable guess, though my sources tell me that by 2020 the migration to all IP would be nearing completion.