Solarfun’s Year Is Looking Joyless

Just when a rebound in solar shares is offering investors some relief, Solarfun (s solf) comes out with dismal fourth-quarter results that make clear there’s still plenty of bad news to go around.
In addition to a large quarterly loss, a pile of solar modules it can’t sell and the need for substantial borrowing in a tight credit market, the Chinese company is also losing Chief Financial Officer Amy Liu, who is leaving at the end of the month “to pursue other interests.” Terry McCarthy, a former chair of Solarfun’s audit committee, has been named interim CFO.
“When a CFO leaves, it’s not perceived particularly positively,” said CEO Harold Hoskens in a conference call. “We fully understand that. I think in this case, you shouldn’t read more into it than is necessary.”
In the last three months of 2008, Solarfun swung to a net loss of 418.8 million Renminbi ($61.4 million), including $47.8 million from writedowns related to a drop in inventory values as well as products that the company says it can’t sell in the current market. Solarfun reported a net profit of 66.4 million Renminbi in the comparable quarter in 2007.
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Daily Sprout

Smaller Automakers Line Up With Big Three for DOE Loans: A $25 billion auto industry loan program from the Department of Energy is open to any company with a plan to make more fuel-efficient cars. Startups EcoMotors, XP Vehicles, and Tesla Motors have applied under the program. — New York Times

No Fun for Solarfun: Solar-cell maker Solarfun Power Holdings (s SOLF) reported third-quarter results today. The company saw a 53 percent increase in module shipments, but shares of the company have lost nearly 79 percent (excluding the fall seen in early trading this morning) of their market value in the last six months. — Reuters

Obama National Security Advisor on Climate Change: President-elect Barack Obama introduced James L. Jones, Jr. as his national security advisor yesterday, saying he understands “the connection between energy and national security.” But Jones has headed up a U.S. Chamber of Commerce energy institute that challenged climate change, worrying some groups that he may compromise the administration’s environmental agenda. — LA Times

Power Plants and Fish Protectors Go to Court: The Supreme Court is hearing a case today over use of billions of gallons of water for cooling power plants, and whether electricity producers are doing enough to protect fish and aquatic organisms. At stake for electricity producers is the cost of expensive upgrades for existing power plants. — Associated Press

BP to Commercialize Energy Tech in China: BP and the Chinese Academy of Sciences agreed last week to form a $73 million joint venture to commercialize energy innovations from China’s research institutions. It’s called the Clean Energy Commercialisation Centre, but planned focus areas range from zero-emission technologies and carbon capture to cleaner coal. — Press Release

GT Solar, GCL Silicon Brave Troubled IPO Waters

It takes some serious nerve to brave the IPO market these days. It takes even more if you’re a solar energy company.

But whether it’s pure craziness or contrarian cunning, two candidates are continuing to do just that. Merrimack, N.H.-based GT Solar is pushing ahead with plans to sell $530 million in shares on Nasdaq this month. And today, China’s GCL Silicon filed for an even more ambitious offering: $863 million worth of shares to be traded on the NYSE.

Solar energy has a promising future before it, and yet 2008 has not been kind to solar stocks. The WilderHill Clean Energy Index is down more than 30 percent this year. The performance of solar companies that have gone public is mixed.
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Cool iPhone apps at the App Store

OK, the new App Store on iTunes is definitely a huge time sink for me this morning but I just have to go through it and see what programs are already there.  I’ve already mentioned eReader and Pandora but I’m finding some other really cool and useful programs the longer I play around with it:


Best mobile note-taking app around!


Speak your mind.


Gotta get me some New York Times!

OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

UPDATE: TypePad Mobile is there too.  🙂


Where’s the Solar Stock Rally?

Solarfun Power Holdings (SOLF) said Tuesday that it signed a long-term supply deal with Jiangsu Zhongneng Polysilicon. It also said it bought out Jiangsu Yangguang Solar.

So overall, two pretty positive business deals for Solarfun. And how did the stock react? It fell nearly 8 percent.

Wading into the solar sector is like dating a manic-depressive. Day-to-day events matter less than the prevailing, protean mood. And these days the mood among solar investors is dark, indeed.

Shares of all the major solar cell and panel makers closed lower Tuesday: Solarfun, Sunpower (SPWR), Suntech (STP), Yingli Green Energy (YGE), Trina (TSL) and JA Solar (JASO) saw declines of between 6 percent and 8 percent. And with the exception of First Solar, stocks are significantly down from their 200-day moving averages as well: Shares of Hoku (HOKU), for example, are down 45 percent from their trading average, Yingli is off 35 percent and Suntech is down 30 percent.

solar stocks, first half of 2008
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Two-Finger Scrolling for Pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks

I was reformatting a Powerbook the other day and after a fresh Leopard install I went to use the two finger scroll function to scroll down a page…but it wasn’t there. I have been using intel based laptops for so long that I just take the two finger scroll feature function and the two finger secondary right click function for granted, and sorely miss them when they’re not available. Luckily, with the help of some third party software the two finger scroll feature and the two finger secondary right click function are easily added to older G4 laptops.

iScroll2 is a modified trackpad driver that adds two-finger scrolling capabilities to supported pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks on OS X 10.3 and up. Supported models include most aluminum PowerBooks introduced from 2003 to 2004 as well as most G4 iBooks.”

Download iScroll 2 here,and install. After the install and a quick restart iScroll 2 will be an option in your system preferences.

I found that the default settings were way too sensitive, and I couldn’t easily scroll with them. I used the settings like the ones pictured below and they worked well, but I would suggest taking a few minutes to tweak them.

Broadcasting to Your Social Networks

Social Aggregation Broadcast ToolsI’ve been working with clients to set up social media “satellite sites” as I call them to extend their brand and take advantage of the exponential power of social networking for reaching out to consumers. The question I hear time and time again is “How in the world can I manage all these social networks if I can’t even get to the rest of my work?”

I know we are all crunched for time. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I keep up with all of my writing and blogging, client projects and social networking sites. But I have found some cool “social aggregation broadcasting tools” that are making at least some of my tasks easier to handle.

What is a Social Aggregation Broadcasting Tool?

Okay, I have to admit, I just made that term up but I think it covers what I’m trying to convey. There are tools out there that help you aggregate your social networking sites for the purpose of broadcasting a message to more places with fewer steps hence Social Aggregation Broadcasting Tools (SABT? lol!).
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Solarfun Profits Dazzle Investors

After a rocky start, Solarfun may finally be winning the respect of investors. Its stock is up 8 percent in Wednesday trading after delivering earnings that showed revenue in the first quarter of 2008 had grown six-fold from the same period a year ago. Net profit of 32 cents a share (versus a one-cent loss a year earlier) was twice as large as analysts were forecasting.

And that gain looks pretty good, considering that the stock has been on a tear in the past week in anticipation of a strong earnings report today. As of yesterday, SOLF had risen 69 percent over seven trading sessions.

Wall Street hasn’t always been so bullish on Solarfun. The Shanghai-based company listed its shares on Nasdaq in December 2006, and for most of its first year on the public markets, it traded near or below its $12.50 offering price. After shooting up to $37 a share in January, the stock had fallen below $10 a share in March.

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MindBites Launches Instructional Video Marketplace

MindBites, a marketplace for instructional video, formally launches tonight with about $1 million in funding led by True Ventures. The company is looking to charge about $1.69 to $1.99 per lesson, handing $1 of that to the instructor. Instructors maintain full ownership of their videos.

So, umm, isn’t everything on the Internet trending towards free? At the very least MindBites will have to compete against the legions of free alternatives. I have to say I am pretty skeptical about this one.

“When people are looking for instructional content, they don’t want to be getting an infomercial, or lead-generation, or taking time to find free content,” was MindBites CEO Jason Reneau’s justification in a call last week.

Austin, Texas-based MindBites was founded early last year and opened its site to the public last October.

Other paid video startups include Zipidee (our coverage) and the Open Television Network (our coverage). iTunes is the market leader.

Please note: True Ventures is also the lead investor in NewTeeVee’s parent company, GigaOM.

magicJack: coolest home VoIP gadget PC Mag has ever seen

MajicjackWe gave the $40 magicJack a brief shout-out last March, but I haven’t seen any reviews of the device up to now. PC Mag gave the little USB gadget a run-through and it appears to have passed with flying colors, earning a 4.5 out of 5 rating. The majicJack USB dongle plugs into a PC and offers an RJ-11, or standard phone jack. Service can be had for just $20 a year, which is quite reasonable. As a SkypeOut user, I’m curious how that price compares to my per-minute Skype plan, but I’m sure that varies on quantity and location of calls. My take: $20 is probably a steal.Configuration seems pretty simple and the service does support Emergency 911 calls, based on the location info you’ve provided. I suspect that if you’re using this on the road, the e911 service won’t be accurate but at least you can “take” your home phone with you. majicJack is PC-only for now, although Mac users should have support soon. Of course the most important aspect is voice-quality… according to the review, it’s “amazing… almost too good to be true.”