Google Wave Due Soon; Early Apps Are Arriving Now

When Google (s goog) recently announced its Google Wave initiative, there were a lot of posts going around the web characterizing it as earth-changing news, although some questioned the effort. Wave combines email, instant messaging, wiki features and more, conjuring up images of a next-generation communications tool. Now, the Google Wave team has posted an update on the project’s status, including information on how developers can start using it early, and when users at large can.


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Compete on a TV Game Show From the Comfort of Your Xbox

Quick: What’s the newest hybrid sensation that combines video games, television programming and social aspects? Is it:

X: 1 vs. 1oo on Xbox Live
A: Twittering With The Stars
B: Donkey Kong’s Digg for Dollars

1-vs-100-mobIf you said “X”, then you’d be right. Of course, savvy Xbox players might have been tipped off since the X, A and B controller buttons are used to answer questions in the Live version of 1 vs. 100. Microsoft (s MSFT) launched the game in late May, but I just got around to participating in a session last night. Players simply show up at the pre-scheduled “on air” time and play for free. In my 30-minute episode, over 15,000 people were logged on and collectively we were “The Mob.” Each of our Xbox Live avatars were shown in the mob and we could even control our virtual selves to a point; pressing the Y button repeatedly shows excitement, while moving the left stick can be used to taunt.

Unlike the original television show, you can answer questions incorrectly and still stay in the mob. You don’t, however, gain points for wrong answers and there are incentives for speed as well as answering consecutive questions correctly. The more incorrect answers in the mob, the more points you earn with a correct answer. Questions are answered in sets of 10 and during the commercial break, you can see how you stack up by viewing your stats.

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Oh Happy Day: Cleantech Players Cheer Draft Energy Bill

In a word, the draft energy bill unveiled yesterday by House Democrats, is “terrific.” That’s according to Erik Straser, who leads cleantech investment for Mohr Davidow Ventures. “Who knows if this will resemble what actually gets passed,” he said, “but we actually have a roadmap here for how to get to a 21st century energy infrastructure.”
The roadmap itself, a sign of Congressional leaders’ commitment to clean energy and energy security, Straser said, has value for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and policymakers. Straser doesn’t think it will dramatically change the investing landscape, or become the dominant influence on strategy, but he said it will inform industry players.
One company, Coulomb Technologies, has a lot of reasons to like the proposal. After all, it includes new funding for electric car charging infrastructure and smart grid technology, and Coulomb makes electric car charging stations that allow utilities to decide when cars juice up. “It’s refreshing to see politicians acknowledge that this (smart grid and electric cars) is the right technology,” said Coulomb CEO Richard Lowenthal. So what’s not to like?
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Obama Reiterates Need for Cleantech Entrepreneurs in Rebuilding Economy

President Obama last week visited an electric vehicle R&D lab in California where he called on battery developers to step up and innovate. Today, back at the White House, the President once again reached out to cleantech entrepreneurs, this time at an event dubbed “Investing In Our Clean Energy Future.”
Obama met with entrepreneurs and researchers to talk about building an economy that runs on renewable energy and creating green jobs — and to continue promoting his 10-year budget plan, which includes $75 billion to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent.
Paul Holland, who focuses on early-stage cleantech investments as a general partner at Foundation Capital and sits on the board of green building materials maker Serious Materials (and will speak at our Green:Net conference tomorrow), kicked off today’s session by telling event attendees about Serious Materials’ plans to reopen shuttered plants and rehire laid-off workers.
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Certified Refurbished Macs One Way to Help Weather the Economic Storm

icon-mac

Apple (s aapl) is taking a lot of stick (even more than usual) about hanging tough with premium pricing despite the global financial meltdown, and it almost never offers discounts or sales. So how can budget-constrained Macheads economize on system upgrades? One solution is to buy a less-expensive model than the one you would have perhaps preferred. Another is get an Apple Certified Refurbished machine instead of going new.

If you’re not familiar with Apple Certified Refurbished (ACR) products, here are the broad strokes: ACR units are pre-owned (or in some instances, such as store demos, never-sold) Apple products that undergo Apple’s stringent refurbishment process prior to being offered for sale. Most of these units have been returned under Apple’s Return and Refund Policies, but according to Apple, only some of them are returned due to technical issues. In any event, all ACR units undergo Apple’s quality refurbishment process.

  • Full functionality testing (including burn-in testing).
  • Refurbishing with replacement parts and components for any defective modules identified in testing.
  • Thoroughly cleaned and inspected.
  • Complete repackaging by Apple, including appropriate manuals, cables, etc. (albeit in a brown cardboard carton rather than one with full color lithographs on the box)
  • Operating software that originally shipped with the unit and any custom software offered with that system.
  • A new refurbished part number and serial number.
  • A final QA inspection.
  • Quality testing follows the same basic technical guidelines as Apple’s Finished Goods testing procedures.

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Western Governors to Obama: Invest Billions in Clean Energy

“When I am president,” President-elect Barack Obama said in a videogram sent to a participants of a climate change summit organized by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, “any governor who is willing to promote clean energy will have an ally in the White House.” And it was just one of several pledges he made. Governors from Western states have now issued a four-page letter to Obama calling for long-term commitment to clean energy in the U.S. While it is not a direct reply to Obama’s video (drafts have been in the works since June, according to Western Governors’ Association spokesperson Karen Deike), the letter amounts to a collective “Yes We’re Willing” from the states’ leadership.
Sent last week, this message came as global leaders made final preparations for another set of climate change talks, known as COP-14, that kicked off today in Poland. As the first international conference on the issue since the election, COP-14 represents a re-entry for the U.S. into global climate change talks largely neglected since the country walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.
Signed by leaders of the Western Governors’ Association, which represents governors from 19 states (including Alaska, of “Drill Baby Drill” fame), plus Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, the letter includes calls for tens of billions of dollars in annual investment in clean energy and vehicle technologies, assistance for industries transitioning to renewable fuels and more efficient technologies, and rewards for utilities that reduce customers’ energy usage. Read More about Western Governors to Obama: Invest Billions in Clean Energy

The World Preps for Obama’s Climate Change Policy

President-elect Barack Obama just held his first post-election press conference and focused on the economy, but it is his forthcoming climate change policies that are spurring the world’s governments and businesses to start reaching out to the next administration. Politicians and business executives are maneuvering to protect the aged fossil fuel industry while also looking to grab a piece of Obama’s proposed $150 billion clean energy plan. Let the lobbying for a new climate-conscious energy economy begin in earnest!
Less than 24 hours after the U.S. election results came in, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to begin talks on a climate pact with Obama. Critics have already pointed out that Harper’s hasty move was an effort to secure concessions for the lucrative but dirty tar sands business that has been booming in that country’s province of Alberta. Harper’s administration is confident that Obama will be lenient on Canada’s oil sands as they help provide energy security. At least, that’s what they’re saying. Whether that is in fact the case remains to be seen.
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What Obama’s Energy Speech Means for Cleantech

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama laid out a vision of America’s energy future yesterday in a speech from Lansing, Mich., in the automotive heartland. Speaking at Michigan State University, Obama presented his New Energy for America Plan in which he added several new concrete goals for America’s energy future and reiterated a number of previous stances.

One of Obama’s carefully phrased new goals needs some parsing: “[I]n 10 years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela.” It’s important to note that “the Middle East and Venezuela” represented just 30 percent of America’s oil imports last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Still, a third of the $700 billion we pay to import oil annually is a start.

Obama’s plan to achieve this goal comprises three steps, dispersing $150 billion over 10 years to build a new energy future:
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Seagate’s Digital Audio Video Experience

Seagate_daveI’m on the fence with the new D.A.V.E. device that Seagate announced on a recent PodTech video. I want to like the device, which is a small portable hard-drive with integrated wireless capability. You’ll see it in May for under $200 in both a 10 GB and 20 GB capacity. The concept as I understood it is that you can pair this up with a Bluetooth phone to provide extra storage for the phone or to access your digital content on your phone from the drive. I’m sure there will be other uses for it as well; some folks are already commenting about an iPhone add-on.

I’m going to sit in "wait and see" mode for the time being as I’m curious how Seagate will work with partners and developers (as Scoble points out, "there’s a software API") to see how the device evolves. At the moment, we’ve got a small hard drive with a USB connection that adds Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities; could be interesting, but I’m waiting to see what practical applications we see from this. What do you think? Watch the brief video and share the ways you’d use this interesting device.