Ex-Facebook Engineer’s New Startup Aims to Improve Management of Data Centers...

A former Facebook engineer who led the first designs of the social networking giant’s Open Compute Project recently launched a startup aimed at reducing the costs associated with operating data centers — using a method called “community-based analytics.” According to a February 25 PC World article, Coolan is a service that uses data collected from its customers’ servers to predict failures and prevent outages, allowing companies to save money on data center management costs. Coolan’s service is still in the beta stages, meaning it may be some time before widespread implementation takes place. However, ex-Facebook engineer and cofounder Amir Michael said he wants Coolan’s service to offer its customers more control over their server equipment — a very similar mission to that of Facebook’s Open Compute Project. What’s interesting about Coolan is that it aggregates data from all its customers, and applies the techniques it learns from looking at one customer’s servers and data to all its customers’ server issues. If one of its customers experiences an outage, Coolan will be able to pinpoint the issue with its historical data and fix the issue almost immediately. All of this is possible due to an increased openness toward sharing data at many data centers. “People are starting to feel more comfortable about sharing information about their infrastructure,” Michael explained. All the data Coolan aggregates is collected over a secure HTTPS connection, PC World reports. Private information about individual data centers is never released or shared, either. Each year, the computer server industry generates approximately $14 billion in revenue. Coolan’s pricing model for its service is still being hammered out as several companies test its beta version. But ultimately, Coolan hopes the savings from limited server downtime and optimized hardware use will more than make up...

How Is Facebook Addiction Leading to Fatalities? New Study Explains...

About 50% of mobile phone owners use their devices as their primary Internet source, which is likely why there are some 1.9 billion mobile active Facebook users as of the end of January 2015, a 26% year-over-year increase. While that’s all perfectly fine, a new study suggests that such mobile device usage is getting out of hand, and having real world consequences. Last year, over 500,000 drivers used their mobile devices while driving — an increase of nearly 50% since 2008 — and “Facebook addiction” is being blamed. The United Kingdom’s Department for Transportation surveyed tens of thousands of motorists about their mobile phone usage habits, and found that just 1.5% of drivers used their phone at the wheel. However, people between the ages of 17 and 29 were were found to be four times more likely to use their mobile phones while driving. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving makes a motorist 23 times more likely to get into an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that in 2012, driver distraction caused 18% of all fatal crashes, killing 3,328 people. This increase in hazardous behavior is being blamed on Facebook addiction, as the DfT report found that two-thirds of those who use their mobile devices while driving were using their phones to text or check social media. According to a California State University study published late in January, the brains of “Facebook addicts” — those who report compulsive urges to use the social networking site — show similar patterns to those of drug addicts, in that each has more activity in the impulse centers of their brain. Facebook addiction doesn’t seem all that strange of an idea, either, when you consider that the site has all the...

How You Could Soon Be Staying Cool Without an Air Conditioner...

Those living in hot, arid climates often have no choice but to rely on central air conditioning systems to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors. However, a new 3D “cool brick” could change all of that — removing the need for air conditioning in even the most unbearably hot of climates. According to a February 22 Daily Californian article, Ronald Rael, an associate professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, designed the brick along with former professor Virginia San Fratello. The brick consists of porous ceramic and has a lattice-like structure through which air can flow. These bricks absorb water vapor like a sponge; when warm air subsequently passes through the bricks, this absorbed water vapor cools the air, causing the interior air to be simultaneously cooled and humidified. Central air conditioners, which are normally located outside the home, regulate indoor temperatures by circulating cool air through supply and return ducts. It’s estimated that air conditioning accounts for as much as 9 – 14% of energy consumed by homes and buildings. With Rael and San Fratello’s cool brick, however, this energy would be saved — along with the not-insignificant amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted by traditional air conditioners. Further research into how the bricks will function in a practical setting is required before they can be used commercially, the Daily Californian reports. In the meantime, another eco-friendly air-conditioning alternative exists: radiant cooling. According to JustMeans, radiant cooling involves cooling a building’s walls, ceilings and floors with water rather than forced airflow. While radiant cooling does require some air movement for circulation reasons, this method of air conditioning uses just 5% of the energy and 20% of the ductwork that central air conditioning systems use. Radiant cooling has been popular throughout Europe for 25 years...

Health IT Field Still Debating Best Approaches to Usability and Interoperability Fixes...

Electronic health records have been promoted by both the private companies that create them and the federal government as being an integral part of improving care coordination, public health and overall efficiency (EHRs have been shown to improve efficiency by 6% annually, in fact). But in order to reach all those goals, EHRs must be both usable and interoperable, and the health information technology industry has not yet reached a consensus on how those standards should be approached. As Kyle Murphy detailed in a Feb. 11 article for the website EHR Intelligence, much discussion lately has turned to what sort of regulations the government might impose on the EHRs that make healthcare providers eligible for financial compensation under federal health incentive programs. Some in the health IT field have also called for a EHR monoculture, in which almost all providers use a single dominant system. But not only does this sort of top-down regulation create implementation problems, it ignores the fact that usability may look different across fields and types of facilities.   How to Achieve Better Usability So how can the field go about developing more user-friendly and interoperable EHR software? Murphy’s article suggests that the basic economic principle of supply and demand can go a long way. If individual users need to wait for large-scale updates from large companies, it may take longer to implement the changes they need. Currently, the best option for most healthcare providers is to work directly with smaller software companies to get the functionalities they require. In a Feb. 16 article for industry site HIT Consultant, Donald Voltz pointed out that this is a very similar process to the one business databases went through in their early years. His recommendation is that middleware — software designed purely...

Plant Power: Scientists Develop Bionic Leaf That Uses Bacteria to Convert Solar Energy Into Liquid Fuel...

The future of solar energy has just turned over a new leaf, literally. Solar power is considered an inexhaustible fuel source that is both pollution- and noise-free, and now its future is looking even brighter. A team of researchers from Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have found a way to convert solar energy into liquid fuel by designing a bionic leaf, which uses a specific strain of bacteria to carry out the process. Recently developed by a team of scientists led by Daniel Nocera at Harvard University, the artificial leaf creates oxygen and hydrogen. A bacteria called Ralstonia eutropha then consumes the hydrogen gas, converting it into protons and electrons, which become integrated into molecules of carbon dioxide that become part of the bacteria’s reproductive cycle. This new form of energy takes advantage of bacteria to effectively convert sunlight into a form of liquid fuel, seamlessly blending artificial technology with biology. “This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel…we had a mission of wanting to interface some kinds of organisms with the harvesting of solar energy. It was a perfect match,” Pamela Silver of the Wyss Institute explained. This comes at time when both consumers and government leaders are eagerly turning towards alternative fuel and energy sources as prices within the oil, gas, and electric marketplaces continue to steadily rise. Considered one of the earliest alternative energy options, solar cells have yet to gain deep traction. One reason for this is the lack of infrastructure that supports solar cell energy use in vehicles, despite the increasing popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles. It’s likely that environmentally friendly energy options, such as...