Discouraging news about benefits of weatherization programs 

Some recent analysis paid for by the Department of Energy claims that the benefits of weatherizing homes are many times larger than the cost. In contrast, a careful Randomized Controlled Trial of a specific program comes to the opposite conclusion.

Recently, we conducted a first-of-its-kind, randomized controlled trial of the nation’s largest residential energy efficiency program, the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The trial consisted of a sample of more than 30,000 WAP-eligible households in the state of Michigan. Our research revealed that investments in residential energy efficiency upgrades among weatherized households in our study cost about double what these households will save on their energy bills (efficiency retrofits cost about $4,600 per household and estimated energy savings are only $2,400). You can read more about our results here.

Source: Are the Benefits to the Weatherization Assistance Program’s Energy Efficiency Investments Four Times the Costs? |

Sadly, my reading is with the Berkeley authors. The DOE studies seem to be grabbing all kinds of hypothetical benefits out of thin air. This does not mean that all such investments are under water, just that the average investment is not worth doing.

There are certainly ways to tighten/redesign any conservation program to make it more cost effective. But this requires an attitude of continuous investigation and improvement  – not something that government agencies are good at. Once an agency has gotten money and gone ahead with a project, its incentives are to tout its benefits much more than to improve on the original design. This comes down to Congressional (and press) oversight. Any signal that the past project might have been less than ideal will be leapt on by political opponents. In my view, this set of incentives is one reason that so many government programs are weak, and furthermore do not improve over time.

RapidShare struggles to placate Big Content with anti-piracy plan

Introduction: Cloud-based storage lockers are becoming increasingly important. Most of us probably use Dropbox. But of course they can be used to move any kind of forbidden digital content around. Hence US strong-copyright-interests are suspicious of them.RB

The last year has been a stressful period for online locker sites. Hotfile is currently defending itself from a lawsuit by the Motion Picture Association of America. In January, the federal government shut down Megaupload and indicted its officers. While the courts have yet to decide whether either company is legally responsible for the infringing activities of their users, there’s no serious dispute that copyright infringement accounted for a significant fraction of their business.

RapidShare argues that its service is fundamentally different. The company promotes non-infringing uses of its service and actively polices its site for illegal content. On Wednesday, at an event at the National Press Club, RapidShare formalized its anti-piracy stance with a new document. Its “Responsible Practices for Cloud Storage Services” outlines the steps the company takes to fight infringement on its site.

As we’ll see, these steps go well beyond the minimum enforcement efforts required to qualify for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor. Yet even RapidShare’s aggressive anti-piracy approach has not satisfied piracy hawks like the Recording Industry Association of America. Ars talked to RapidShare General Counsel Daniel Raimer following Wednesday’s event.

via RapidShare struggles to placate Big Content with anti-piracy plan.

The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash – Charlie’s Diary

From Charles Stross’ blog. I agree that the PC is fast becoming a commodity – this time for real, and even for laptops. I’m thinking about replacing my MacBook Pro, and asking if I really want to spend $1700 when I could get equivalent hardware from HP for $500 less. (Answer: Yes. I value my time!)  His speculation on what comes next is provocative – he seems to think Apple has a better shot at making the shift than anyone else.

The App Store and the iTunes Store have taught Steve Jobs that ownership of the sales channel is vital. Even if he’s reduced to giving the machines away, as long as he can charge rent for access to data or apps he’s got a business model. He can also maintain quality whatever that is, exclude malware, and beat off rivals. A well-cultivated app store is actually a customer draw. It’s also a powerful tool for promoting the operating system the apps run on. Operating system, hardware platform, and apps define an ecosystem.Apple are trying desperately to force the growth of a new ecosystem — one that rivals the 26-year-old Macintosh environment — to maturity in five years flat. That’s the time scale in which they expect the cloud computing revolution to flatten the existing PC industry. Unless they can turn themselves into an entirely different kind of corporation by 2015 Apple is doomed to the same irrelevance as the rest of the PC industry — interchangable suppliers of commodity equipment assembled on a shoestring budget with negligable profit……

Here’s his conclusion.

This is why there’s a stench of panic hanging over silicon valley. this is why Apple have turned into paranoid security Nazis, why HP have just ditched Microsoft from a forthcoming major platform and splurged a billion-plus on buying up a near-failure; it’s why everyone is terrified of Google:

The PC revolution is almost coming to an end, and everyone’s trying to work out a strategy for surviving the aftermath.

via The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash – Charlie’s Diary.

Roger Bohn’s February 3rd talk

Hello everyone! This is L. Lin Ong, the Graduate Student Researcher for the How Much Information? Project 2009 report. I have a few photos to share from Roger’s recent colloquium talk.

The talk was particularly interesting due to the post-presentation discussion regarding different philosophical viewpoints on information, an issue we grappled with during the early stages of the report.