GMinutes Accepted into the Google App Market


We’re excited to announce the launch of 10 new apps in the Google Apps Marketplace today, joining the more than 150 installable apps made available to Google Apps domains in the Marketplace since March. Instead of
spending today patching operating systems, we invite Google Apps users to explore these new applications which can deliver immediate business value to your organization.

These apps, like all installable apps in the Marketplace, offer single sign-on with your existing Google Apps user accounts, so there are no new passwords to manage. Beyond single sign-on, many offer deeper data integration with Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar to help users work more efficiently, regardless of which app they happen to be using to get their job done.

As a Google Apps administrator, once you install and evaluate an app, you can deploy it to your users in only a few clicks. (watch how this works)

Several of the new applications help you manage communications more effectively, from tracking contact with customers and partners to making your inbox more efficient:

  • Bantam Live is an easy CRM &team collaboration app to track contacts, prospects, deals and organizeprojects, tasks, and events. It Integrates with Google Apps and social networks to import/aggregate contacts.
  • Etacts helps grow your relationships. The application and Gmail contextual gadget enable you toinstantly find out who you talk to the most and who you’ve neglected.
  • Organizer by OtherInbox helps cure email overload. It automatically organizes low priority email out of the way, leaving your Inbox much smaller so it’s easy to find the important messages from real people.

Here are the other apps launching on the Marketplace today for you to check out:

Aprigo NINJA for Google Docs provides advanced access management controls for Google Docs, giving organizations greater visibility and control over how documents are shared within and outside of the company.

Gliffy makes creating professional-quality flowcharts and diagrams simple, intuitively helping you turn complex information into attractive images everyone can understand

Gminutes is your one stop meeting minutes management solution for professionally executing meetings. All you have to do is create your meeting space, add relevant people to it and you are good to go.

Meetingmix helps you run meetings. It allows you to easily create agendas, take minutes, and share with attendees.

ReachPeople provides easy group alert notifications for critical communications. Now, schools and businesses can send one or thousands of mass notification messages via voice, SMS text, or email.

SiteKreator is an online service that allows anyone to instantly design, build and publish elegant, fully-branded, and interactive business websites.

TheDeadline is an intelligent Todo-Manager. The system makes collaboration very easy and helps users focus on the most important tasks and keep an overview of large sets of todos.

If you’ve #gonegoogle, and tried the #appsmarketplace, let other users
know what you recommend via Twitter or submit your suggestion for additional apps here.

Posted by Steven Bazyl, Google Apps
Marketplace team
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Obama commits billions to solar firms


President Barack Obama, under pressure to spur job growth, said on Saturday two solar energy companies will get nearly $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to create as many as 5,000 green jobs.

In his weekly radio and Web address, Obama coupled his announcement with an acknowledgment that efforts to recover from the recession are slow a day after the Labor Department reported that private hiring in June rose by 83,000.

“It’s going to take months, even years, to dig our way out, and it’s going to require an all-hands-on-deck effort,” he said.

All told, 5,000 jobs are expected to be created through use of $1.85 billion in money taken from the $787 billion economic stimulus that Obama pushed through the U.S. Congress in early 2009 over the strenuous objections of Republicans.

Obama announced the Energy Department will award $1.45 billion in loan guarantees to Abengoa Solar to help it build Solona, one of the largest solar generation plants in the world near Gila Bend, Ariz.

Abengoa Solar, headquartered in Lakewood, Colo., is a unit of Spanish renewable energy and engineering company Abengoa SA. In the short term, construction will create some 1,600 jobs in Arizona.

“After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America,” Obama said.

Obama said $400 million in loan guarantees will be awarded to Colorado-based Abound Solar Manufacturing to manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.

Plant in empty car factory
A Colorado plant is already being constructed and an Indiana plant will be built in what is now an empty Chrysler factory.

The announcement addresses Obama’s desire to create jobs related to green technologies.

Obama, whose Democrats are anticipating losses in Nov. 2 congressional elections because of the weak jobs picture, said the steps he is taking “won’t replace all the jobs we’ve lost overnight” and that “I know folks are struggling.”

He accused Republicans of blocking a $33 billion extension of unemployment benefits that failed to pass the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“At a time when millions of Americans feel a deep sense of urgency in their own lives, Republican leaders in Washington just don’t get it,” Obama said.

Republicans say the problem is Democrats want to pass legislation that would add to the country’s debt.

In the Republican response to Obama’s address, Senator Saxby Chambliss called the country’s $13 trillion debt “one of the most dangerous threats confronting America today.”

“At a time when many Americans are clipping coupons and pinching pennies, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue to spend money that they–we–do not have,” Chambliss said.

Story Copyright (c) 2010 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

N.J. county going solar with unique financing


From CNET:

Morris County, N.J., plans to install 3.2 megawatts of solar panels on county property roofs with the help of some creative financing, the Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA) announced Wednesday.

Self-dubbing it the “Morris Model,” county officials said in a statement that the project was funded with a unique two-prong approach. Part of it will be paid for with $30 million in county-guaranteed bonds. The rest will be financed in conjunction with the energy utility Tioga Energy, which qualifies for federal solar tax incentives through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The incentives are not available to municipal renewable energy projects directly, but Tioga Energy will pass on its savings to the county. Through a 15-year power-of-purchase agreement with Tioga Energy, Morris County will purchase any electricity generated from the solar panels at a 35 percent reduced rate.

SunDurance Energy will provide the solar panels and installation services. The installation will consist of 19 properties, including 14 schools, with 1.57 megawatts worth of solar panels to be installed atop the William G. Mennen Sports Arena, a 2,500-seat arena that includes three ice rinks, and an outdoor rugby field.

In addition to the Mennen Arena roof, SunDurance will also install an elevated roof of solar panels to cover its 500-space parking lot. The installation is estimated to supply the arena with 30 percent of its electricity.

When the total solar installation on all buildings is complete, the MCIA predicts the average annual savings in energy bills will be 35 percent for the involved school districts, at least 20 percent for the county.

New Jersey may seem to some an unlikely place to find solar projects. But the state is, in fact, a leader in solar development and clean-tech investment, according to national statistics.

The greater New York metropolitan area (which includes northern New Jersey and Long Island) was ranked No. 3 for clean-tech job activity in 2009, and N.J. itself was ranked 7th by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2009 for states doing the most to wean their residents off oil.

In July 2009, New Jersey approved a program that would install over 200,000 Petra Solar photovoltaic solar panels on existing utility polesowned by utility Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G). As of November 2009, regulators had also approved a total of $248 million in solar loans that PSE&G could offer, which translates into an estimated 81 megawatts worth of solar systems available to interested parties across the state including

Smart Grid Technology to Become Multi-Billion Dollar Industry


FROM CNET:

Investment in security for smart electrical-grid systems will grow tremendously over the next five years, according to a report released Wednesday by Pike Research.

Research analyst predicts total of $21 billion worldwide will be  spent on cybersecurity for smart grids between 2010 and 2015. (Credit: CNET)

With the U.S. electrical grid–and other national grids worldwide–poised to become smart systems with integrated communications, the possible threat of sabotage has become an obvious concern. To that end, the U.S. government has set aside funding to develop security protocols. Others are following suit.

Between 2010 and 2015, the report predicts, about 15 percent of all smart grid investments will be spent on cybersecurity. This will represent a total global investment of $21 billion over the next five years, according to the report.

North America will spend the most with a predicted annual figure of $1.5 billion by 2015, followed by Asia Pacific at $1.2 billion and Europe at $784 million.

The prediction is not especially surprising. Evidence collected in 2009 found that the U.S. electrical grid is vulnerable to sabotage and that it had been compromised by hacker spies testing the smart grid system’s access. Since then, there has been a major push by government and industry experts to better secure smart grids.

“Despite the increased emphasis, the lack of interoperable cybersecurity standards continues to be a major issue,” according to the report.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is being pushed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop standards that can be integrated with all the types of systems that make up the web of smart grid communications.

As of 2010, the report said, there are five major areas that make up a smart grid system in which standard issues may arise: “transmission upgrades, substation automation, distribution automation, electric vehicle management systems, and advanced metering infrastructure.”

Thinner Solar Panels


From CNET:

Stion, one of dozens of companies racing to oust current solar market leaders, has raised $70 million to ramp up production of its thin-film solar cells and modules.

The San Jose, Calif.-based start-up said on Wednesday it has raised $50 million from Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which will take a 21 percent stake in Stion and produce solar panels for it. Existing investors Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and General Catalyst Partners also invested, bringing the total Stion has raised since 2006 up to $114.6 million.

Thin-film solar panel from Stion

(Credit: Stion)

This latest, series D round will be used to expand its current San Jose facility to produce 100 megawatts’ worth of solar panels per year, up from the current pace of 10 megawatts.

The company expects to ship its first products next month and is in the process of lining up installers and distributors who serve the commercial market, said President and CEO Chet Farris. The company uses a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and sulfur-selenide (CIGSS) for its cells.

Stion is one of dozens of companies formed in the past five years to pursue thin-film solar technology, which promises to be cheaper than silicon for cells because of cheaper manufacturing processes. But despite a lot of money invested, many of these companies are still struggling to scale up their operations.

Farris said the company is partnering with TSMC partly to save the capital cost of building production facilities. Rather than design and build its own machines, most of its sputtering manufacturing equipment is off-the-shelf from the glass industry, he said.

“We’re really focused on the material science, the process, and the device structure,” he said. “People ask us what’s the one the unique thing about us, but the reality is that the devil is in the details and it’s a whole bunch of little things.”

The company’s target cost is to be about 80 cents or 85 cents per watt, which would be less than the $1-per-watt cost touted by thin-film solar front-runner First Solar.

So far, the company has managed to get the efficiency of its panels in the range of 10 percent to nearly 12 percent.

Next year, it plans to start manufacturing a “tandem” solar panel that will stack another layer of solar cell on top of a bottom layer. The material for the different layers is tuned to capture different light. The double module will improve efficiency by 35 percent and have the same cost per watt as the single-layer module, Farris said.

Stion plans to manufacture its own modules and license technology to others. That business model, combined with cheaper solar power, will allow it to stick out from the pack, said Farris.

“You have to have a product that’s fairly differentiated or you just won’t survive. We’ll see more of that going forward,” he said.

The Chevy Volt – Electric Cars


From CNET:

The folks at General Motors this week continued with hot weather testing of the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt went through a series of Grade Load tests on the Circle Track with a towing dynamometer, which simulates endless hill and mountain climbing. The towing dyno can simulate climbing an incline with anywhere from a 2 to 10 percent grade when it is attached to the Volt, and today’s tests were of the 5 and 7.2 percent variety.

A towing option will not be available for the Volt, nor is it recommended–in fact, the team at the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., cut the rear fascia to attach the hitch. This test put a lot of stress and strain on the vehicle to determine how durable it will be climbing a mountain in the hottest of conditions. It was about 103 degrees on Monday when the test was conducted.

Lead durability-testing engineer Steve Pratt described how the mountain-grade test measures the vehicle’s performance while driving up mountains in the following video.

Printer Cartridge Freeway


From CNET:

It’s no surprise electronic garbage commonly referred to as e-waste is piling up in our nation’s landfills, but the Australian National Park Service has a creative alternative: Repeat Plastics Australia just opened a new bike path made entirely out of excess plastic materials from discarded printer cartridges.

The 10.6-mile bike path stretches between Alice Springs and Simpsons Gap in the northwest territory of Australia and sees over 120,000 visitors every year. According to Parks and Wildlife Minster Karl Hampton, the bridge echoes the Australian government’s commitment to sustainable development, “saving landfill, trees, and ensuring a longer life with less maintenance.”

The bridge is certainly a refuge for local residents and tourists looking to enjoy the outdoors, but everyone can appreciate the money saved in using recycled materials–the entire bike path, complete with a viewing platform, only cost the city $330,000 to complete.

Great Lakes Wind Farms


From CNET:

The New York Power Authority on Friday kicked off a multiyear review process for an offshore wind farm in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.

The state has received five applications to build a wind farm, in a planning process that began in April 2009. The earliest that a functioning offshore facility could be operating is by 2015, according to the New York Power Authority.

A pilot offshore farm in Europe

(Credit: GE)

The outlined review process underscores the difficulty of siting energy facilities in the U.S. Even with growing support for renewable energy, large projects face a tangle of environmental and regulatory reviews as well as the possibilities of financial shortfalls and public opposition.

Having received proposals for the wind farms this month, state power authorities and specialist consultants will spend the next six or seven months picking a developer.

The project developer will then spend about two years undergoing environmental and regulatory reviews and seeking community input, a process that is estimated to go until about 2013. In that same period, the project developer will need to try to secure a power purchase agreement with a utility to buy the power generated by the turbines.

Project construction, estimated to start in 2013, would take two to three years with operations beginning in 2015 or 2016, according to the New York Power Authority.

If successful, this timeline would be significantly faster than that of the Cape Wind project off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, a planned project dating back to 2001 and, despite federal approval, still facing legal and regulatory challenges.

In addition to challenges based on environmental laws, Cape Wind needs to get the approval of state regulators for its power purchase agreements. In Rhode Island, a pilot offshore wind farm, which would have been in deeper waters than Cape Wind, was blocked by regulators because of the high cost of electricity.

There is another Great Lakes offshore wind farm project also going through the reviews process. Last month, General Electric and an Ohio-based developer said they hope to have a project built in Lake Erie by 2012.

Apple patent bid combines solar with touch screen


From CNET

Although Apple has yet to release a solar-powered gadget, its engineers clearly see the potential for solar power in multitouch devices, such as the iPhone and iPad.

A recently surfaced patent application, spotted by Patently Apple, shows that Apple employees filed a patent for a technology to embed solar cells under the touch screens of handheld devices.

Creating a single “stack” that combines the sensors for a multitouch screen and solar cell frees up more surface area, according to the patent description. The patent, which was filed in September 2008, also calls for the use of “light channels” to direct light to a solar cell underneath a touch screen, potentially using a parabolic reflector.

A diagram from a 2008 patent application submitted by Apple employees for integrating a solar cell beneath a multitouch screen.

(Credit: Patently Apple)

One of the notable aspects of the patent application is that it can be applied to a range of gadgets and could lead to the use of a double-sided solar panel that absorbed light from both the top and a glass-covered backing.

In August of 2008, Apple engineers submitted another patent application relating to the electronics circuitry needed to use a solar cell embedded into a small device. That followed a more general patent application from 2006 called “Solar Cells on Portable Devices.”

Standalone chargers for small electronics, including Apple gear, have been around for years. But embedding a solar cell into a device, with a power management system, is a far more challenging engineering job and it’s still not clear that can be done without adding significantly to a gadget’s cost.

In theory, a solar-powered device could use cells that harvest indoor light, rather than only direct sunlight.

Electric car goes 623 miles on a single charge


From CNET:

A car group in Tokyo recently drove an electric car 1,003.184 kilometers (about 623 miles) on a single charge, breaking its own record for greatest distance traveled without recharging.

The Japan Electric Vehicle Club has asked Guinness World Records to certify the event, held at a track in Shimotsuma, Ibaraki Prefecture, last month.

The modified Daihatsu Mira ran on a Sanyo lithium ion power system containing more than 8,320 batteries. The car ran for 27.5 hours at about 25 mph. Seventeen drivers took turns at the wheel.

Guinness recognized the club’s 345-mile journey from Tokyo to Osaka in November 2009 as the longest on a single charge, according to Kyodo News.

I’d like to know how many times the drivers stopped–and how this affected battery performance. Also, how do you fit more than 8,320 batteries (albeit small ones) into a car as tiny as the Mira? I doubt that there was much leg room left.