‘Planktos Corp.’ Closes Shop, ‘Planktos Science’ Funded?

The ongoing saga of Planktos, which claimed to have had its ocean seeding plans dashed by environmental groups, took another turn this week. Yesterday, publicly-traded Planktos Corp., which is separate from the recently-launched Planktos Science led by founder Russ George, updated shareholders stating that the company would “suspend operations in order to seek out an alternative near-term business opportunity.” That includes a name change, restructuring, a consolidation of its stock and supposedly an undisclosed acquisition. Solar Energy Limited, the lead investor and issuer of the release, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The original founder of Planktos and current head of the reformed Planktos Science, Russ George, told us in a phone interview he was “very glad to hear the guys who bought the residual shell of Planktos Corp. have gotten around to changing the name. It’s the end of that painful saga. A tragedy for the planet.” George added that Planktos Science, which he says has most of the technology, intellectual property and personnel from the original Planktos Corp., has raised some venture capital. Though he declined to say how much or from whom he added, “We’ll be back. We are back. Planktos will rise again.”

We’re not sure who would give George funding, but it’s probably a little different than what Planktos competitor Climos has managed to secure, raising some $4 million from the likes of Tesla Chairman Elon Musk and Braemar Energy Ventures. And George is clearly still smarting from what he calls an “orchestrated conspiracy” of environmental groups and media outlets who scuttled his endeavors with Planktos. But he tells us that the new Planktos Science and its new funds will continue on its original course with the intention of making the ocean’s plankton populations thrive.

Gemini Division a Litmus Test for Old Media, New Media

When Gemini Division premieres on Monday, the show won’t just be the debut series for NBC’s new digital studio; it will be a litmus test for whether old media can play successfully in web video.

This web show has the weight of the traditional media world on its shoulders: In my opinion, the success or failure of Gemini Division will be critical for the web video economy in general and for traditional media in particular. CBS owns Moblogic, Sony inked a distribution deal just last week with Rocketboom, and for such marriages to continue, Gemini Division must thrive.

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Planktos Is Back, and This Time It’s Got Science!

Some of you might remember the beleaguered company Planktos, which was looking to fertilize the world’s oceans with iron in an attempt to stimulate phytoplankton blooms and reduce carbon emissions. Come on, you remember — its dreams went dead in the water back in February due to what it called a wave of “anti-offset crusaders” that waged a “highly effective disinformation campaign.” Critics on the other hand said the company flopped because of its lack of scientific practices. Well, like a bad horror movie sequel, it’s baaack. And it’s brought along a shiny new friend: “science.”

The newly named Planktos Science is based in San Francisco and consists of the original company’s science team and its founder, Russ George. According to its web site, Planktos Science has no business affiliation with the original Planktos Corp., which was publicly traded, nor its partner, Solar Energy (hat tip GreenCarCongress).

The launch post says that George was allowed to recover rights to the technology and use of the Planktos name, and that the company can now proceed with its work of seeding the oceans with iron. Planktos repeatedly describes that goal with the pleasant-sounding term “ecorestoration.” We’re not sure what the “new” Planktos will do to reassure investors and the science community that it will proceed differently, but likely stamping its moniker and web site with “science” won’t do the trick.

We appreciate the fact that ocean seeding has enough potential to merit scientific study. Startup Climos is pursuing the same objective — to investigate this technology’s potential — and has managed to convince high profile investors Elon Musk and Braemer Energy Ventures to invest in its plan. But as to whether or not ocean seeding is effective in reducing global warming, the jury’s still out.
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On Her Majesty’s Web-Based Workforce

With Gordon Brown‘s fiscal reputation following Dubya‘s own battered rep into a swirling black hole of oil prices and crunchy credit, it’s heartening to know that (sometimes) Her Majesty’s government can still do its subjects a few financial favours here in Blighty.

A couple of weeks ago, the UK’s tax authority – Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs Service – announced a number of measures that may benefit Britain’s web workers, and more broadly, any Brits working from home.

Those working from home whom have a portion of their residence setup as a dedicated work area or office can claim that portion as a tax rebate. Also, they no longer have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of their home.

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Ocean Seeding Startup Climos Looking to Raise More Funds

Ocean seeding startup Climos said back in March that it had become the world’s first venture capital-backed startup planning to attempt the controversial technique of fertilizing the oceans with iron to fight climate change; Climos was able to convince Tesla Chairman Elon Musk and Braemar Energy Ventures to fund its carbon-storing plan. Now Climos’ CEO Dan Whaley (who we named in our 25 Who Ditched Infotech for Cleantech) tells us the company is looking to raise another round in the fall to help it meet regulatory hurdles to start testing its project.

According to a pamphlet from the Dow Jones Environmental Ventures conference, Climos is aiming to raise between $8 million and $10 million in a Series B funding round that it will look to close in the first quarter of 2009. The round will be open to new investors. Whaley told us in March that its next round could be as high as $12 million to $14 million.

Research into iron ocean seeding has been largely done by government scientists in the past, and another startup, Planktos, which had similar aims as Climos, actually went dead in the water because it was unable to raise any funding.
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Web Worker Tips and Tricks: A Blast from the Past

After recently accidentally stumbling across a good, though older, post here by Leo Babuta on boosting Gmail efficiency, it struck me that some readers may never have seen some of the tips on popular web worker applications that this blog has run. Some of these have drawn a lot of really useful input from readers, and are worth revisiting. In this post, I’ll round up several to look into. Hopefully, they can help you work more efficiently.

How to Crank Through Your Gmail. Here’s that older post from Leo. Check out the more than 60 comments from readers.

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Hook a USB device to your Nokia N810 thanks to USB-On-The-Go

N810_otg1aThanks to Joel for the tip on this one. He shared a link to a Nokia Developer Forum that has a tasty little mobile tidbit in it pertaining to USB. Apparently, the Nokia N810 supports the USB-On-The-Run-Go supplement which, if you have the right USB cable, can expand compatibility of your Internet Tablet. Here’s an excerpt of this mobile goodness:

“In Slave role N810 acts as a FAT-format memory card or with g_ether driver as a USB networking card. In Slave mode you can connect your tablet to your PC and it shows up by default as external memory card. Using USB-OTG host mode you can connect your USB memory stick to your tablet, you can also connect tablet to various other memory devices like digital cameras, memory card readers or even to a external hard disk. The N810 can supply limited amount of power to external USB device and no extra powered hub is needed.”

The needed cable is nearly identical to most mainstream USB cables except for one slight difference: a single pin that dictates slave mode when open and master mode when grounded. Folks are apparently hacking their own although I’ve read reports that some online retailers carry this type cable connection. This of course doesn’t mean full compatibility with every USB device under the sign, but it shows potential. Thanks Joel!

jkOnTheRun Fourth Annual Geek Holiday Gift Guide

Gifts_2Deck the halls with gadgets for gee-eeks, fa la la la la, la la la la.  It’s that time again and what better way to find that perfect gift for the geek in your life than this Fourth Annual Geek Holiday Gift Guide.  Wow, that’s the fourth year for our special gift guide!  That’s 28 years old in dog years.  We’ve scoured the geek world on your behalf and present these gift ideas to make your holiday shopping easier.

1.  WiFi Detector Shirt.  Your geek is always trying to get online and that elusive WiFi signal is always driving him/her crazy!  Not any longer with this T-shirt that has a WiFi signal detector built right in.  $29.99.


2.  Ultimate Hoodie.  Whatever gadgets your geek needs to carry this Hoodie from ScottEvest will carry them in style.  Featuring 11 hidden pockets, a Personal Area Network and magnetic pocket closures, the Ultimate Hoodie has got your geek covered.  $69.99.


3.  T.One USB MicroDrive.  Your geek needs some way to hide protect those illegally legally downloaded music and video files and there is no better way than with one of these T.One USB sticks with a real MicroDrive inside.  There are two capacities, 5 GB and 12 GB and these T.Ones are small enough to fit on a keychain.  $44.99 – $109.99.


4.  Stainless Steel Wallet.  What would be cooler than giving your geek a new wallet from Coach or one of those other goofy makers?  Why giving them this Stainless Steel Wallet of course.  Each of these wallets is woven from ribbons of stainless steel yet has the texture of silk.  Available in 3 distinctively geeky styles.  $19.99 – $79.99.


5.  Metallic Video Watch with OLED screen.  If you know your geek well then you know that when you say the phrase "OLED" their eyes light up with that special glow.  The 128×128 resolution OLED screen on this video watch will keep your geek’s eyes all alight every time they wear it.  A special geeky bonus adds to the allure as there are buttons all over the watch.  $99.99.


6.  Komen Microfiber Laptop Tote– That female geek of yours needs something stylish to carry her laptop in and this Laptop Tote from Komen is just the ticket.  Your geek will really appreciate your thoughtfulness when you point out that 10% of the purchase price is donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  $114.99.


7.  Collapsible Chopsticks.  What better impression can your geek make on his/her friends when he/she pulls these collapsible chopsticks out of a pocket in that favorite Asian bistro.  Made of white ash and stainless steel there are no higher tech chopsticks anywhere.  $24.99.


8.  Caffeine Molecule Travel Mug.  Your geek subsists on coffee so this stainless steel Travel Mug that is emblazoned with the caffeine molecule will be an instant hit.  They’re going to drink too much caffeine anyway so at least keep it stylish and practical.  $12.99.


9.  3 Port Car Outlet with USB.  One thing for certain about a geek’s automobile, there are never enough outlets to handle all that geek gadgety goodness.  This 3 Port Car Outlet Expansion not only adds 3 power outlets but throws in a USB port for running those smaller gadgets.  $19.99.


10. The Cubes- Cubicle Playsets.  What could be more fun than working in a cube than also playing with them?  That’s what your geek will spend hundreds of enjoyable hours doing with these Cubicle Playsets.  There are ten playsets to choose from including our favorite the IT Department cube.  Your geek is always the boss in these cubes.  $2.99 – $12.99.



So this is our Fourth Annual jkOnTheRun Holiday Gift Guide and we are sure you will find just the right geeky gift for that special one in your life.

Atom.com to Be New Comedy Central Hub

AtomFilms is getting a makeover as the Comedy Central hub for original online comedy, building both a vertical portal and “a regular presence on TV.” The decade-old video site will finally find its home within MTV Networks, which acquired it and the rest of Atom Entertainment for $200 million over a year ago.

“People go to ComedyCentral.com looking for Colbert,” AtomFilms General Manager Scott Roesch told NewTeeVee at his San Francisco office on Thursday. He thinks that’s why the network’s original content didn’t attract much of an audience. Now, while The Colbert Report and other MTVN shows like The Daily Show and South Park are getting their own content hubs, original content will also get its own vertical.

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Skype Cracked?

Can Skype be reverse engineered? That has been the $2.6 billion dollar question Skype watchers often ask themselves. Alec Saunders points to this blog post by Charlie Paglee that claims that a bunch of chinese engineers have done exactly that – cracked Skype.

The hacked clients cannot act as super nodes, the said blog notes, quoting the CEO of the unnamed Chinese company. In other words, the said clients could ride the Skype network without doing any heavy lifting of their own. Virus has mutated, and the parasite has a parasite.

It is hard to vouch for the authenticity of this claim; though if they can reverse engineer stuff like Blackberry, router software and what not, this is not that outrageous a claim. We have contacted Skype PR seeking comment. That said, if the crack is true, then it could have some detrimental impact on the Skype and eBay.

Update: Skype has sent this statement, “Skype is aware of the claim made by a small group of Chinese engineers that they have reverse engineered Skype software. We have no evidence to suggest that this is true. Even if it was possible to do this, the software code would lack the feature set and reliability of Skype which is enjoyed by over 100m users today. Moreover, no amount of reverse engineering would threaten Skype’s cryptographic security or integrity.”