Posts Tagged ‘Interesting info’

How about replacing all these…

phonebook

…with this (not necessarily the specific phone)?

nokia-n78

The company responsible for publishing the Yellow Pages, White Pages and other Telkom directory information, Telkom Directory Services, has changed its name to Trudon (why I do not know) and launched a website designed specifically for mobile devices, Trudon Mobile. The website offers access to all the listings in the White Pages and Yellow Pages – type in the name, search and you’re good to go; in addition, because it displays the details electronically, you only need to click on the number and it will dial it from your cellphone. Apple iPhone users rejoice – no need to copy and paste!

In addition to hosting all the directory listings (yep,no more having to fetch the latest publications all the time), the site also gives access to information on news, sport, weather and (a personal favourite) a mobile version of Wikipedia! All that information at your fingertips – what an astonishing thought. Also, because the site is optimised for mobile use, it loads quickly and isn’t too heavy in terms of data usage. Lack of graphics means that it isn’t the prettiest site around, but that doesn’t detract from its usefulness.

I’m a fan of anything that will lessen paper loads and that frustrating hunt for physical information when you really need it and Trudon Mobile certainly does that. It definitely qualifies as a seriously useful site: check it out on your cellphone http://www.trudonmobile.co.za.

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I’ve been waiting so long/To be where I’m going/In the sunshine…

At the height of the energy crisis at the beginning of last year, I (like so many others) wanted to find out what I could do to reduce my dependency on Eskom. One of the most obvious answers in this sunny country (well, not so much recently!) was to investigate the use of solar energy, but I found that it was a very expensive alternative and didn’t take things further. Thanks to some R&D done right here in the good ol’ RSA, that might be about to change.

solar_panel_field

As reported in a couple of sources (here and here) Professor Alberts and his team at the University of Johannesburg has developed solar panels that do not use silicon to convert sunshine into electricity and, besides being more efficient, are only a third of the cost of conventional panels. The panels are only 5 microns thick – half the thickness of a human hair – and a 300 square metre panel (only a 15mx20m space) would produce enough power for an entire house. Suddenly things start to look a lot more appealing.

As noted in the second source above, Sasol is considering building a plant to produce these panels on a large scale, with a potential investment of R1bn to do so. Other companies are interested in supporting the production of these panels, including Eskom, who must surely be aware that use of alternative sources would lessen the pressure on them. Let’s hope, though, that their support is more helpful than the subsidies they offered on solar water heating – those were so filled with red tape and disappointingly small that they were hardly worth the effort.

It’s great to see SA at the forefront of this aspect of renewable energy. I’ll watch developments with great interest.

Mr Doom and Gloom

Posted: January 21, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

If you think I’ve been pessimistic about the global economic crisis, you should hear the pronouncements of Mr Nouriel Roubini. Of course, said pronouncements do carry some weight since he predicted the crisis in the first place.

nouriel_roubini

In his latest observations, he declares the US banking system “effectively insolvent”. Bankrupt banks – charming. If that’s where we keep our money, where does that leave the rest of us?

Interestingly, though, the share price of SA banks tells a different story: FirstRand’s price is currently around 25% higher than its twelve month low. Coupled with general consensus about their basic health, they look like a good place to keep your money at the moment – tell your overseas friends! The number of reasons to be glad you’re still here may just be increasing…

No, not the little green men, I’m afraid – HG Wells wasn’t quite right and Tom Cruise can breathe easy. Well, so we think.

lifeonmarsbarc_468x290

As referenced in this article, NASA has detected large amounts of methane gas having been released into the Martian atmosphere. What’s significant is that the production of such gas is (on Earth, anyway) generally associated with animals and plants, or microbial organisms. The South African link is that the microbial organisms NASA is thinking of exist 2-3km underground in the Witwatersrand Basin and would be a good match for the kind of organisms that might have produced the methane gas spotted by NASA. A curious connection, no? Human life alleged to have started in Africa, life on another planet similar to something in Africa.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that it was not produced inorganically but it’s a fascinating discovery nevertheless and opens up quite a few possibilities. I feel a short story coming on…