Google Gets Into Energy Biz

While Google's archrivals have always been Microsoft and Yahoo, you can now start adding electric companies to the list. By now, you've no doubt heard of Google's latest initiative, dubbed "Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal." This is big news. The company will be hiring scientists and engineers to develop new approaches to generating and storing solar, wind and geothermal energy.

The first work will be on solar thermal energy. Google's plans call for using mirrors to redirect sunlight to solar panels, then using the heat energy to generate steam. Nothing like saving a little energy for a rainy day. Wind and geothermal initiatives will follow shortly thereafter.

In a prepared statement released during this massive press blast, Google co-founder Larry Page says, "Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades."

If anyone can execute on such a grand plan and such a corporate reinvention, it's got to be Google. Google first got interested in power generation and energy management projects while designing its massive data centers. Google also already has one of the nation's largest solar cell arrays at its corporate headquarters.

Lately, we've taken Microsoft to task for trying to be too many things to too many people. What do you think of Google's new direction? This is much more than merely dominating the search-engine world or doing battle with online apps. On the other hand, the company has the smarts and the cash to make it happen. Think we'll be writing checks for our electric bills payable to Google any time soon? Plug in and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Cyber Monday Racks Up Big Numbers
If you saw Peter Varhol's report on Cyber Monday in yesterday's Redmond Report, that may have reminded you to start your own online shopping. That means repeatedly clicking on one of my favorite phrases: "Add to Cart."

Cyber Monday may be a myth propagated by the nation's retail behemoths, or it may be a real phenomenon -- hard to tell. Wal-Mart, Target and several of the other usual suspects ran specials on Cyber Monday, ranging from discounts to free shipping.

Early indications from shop.org were that online clicking and buying rates were running three times higher than last year's electronic shop-fest. According to stats just released from market researcher comScore, Cyber Monday sales rose 21 percent over last year to a whopping $733 million. That's good news for an economy reeling from high gas prices, high war prices and the high cost of the mortgage mess.

Still, Cyber Monday may not be the ultimate "make or break" day. Last year's busiest online add-to-cart day was Dec. 5 or 12, according to two separate surveys conducted by MasterCard and shop.org, respectively. Either way, Cyber Monday certainly signals the kickoff of the online shopping season; I know it does for me. I found some funky, hard-to-find things for my mom and my son (fear not, boss -- it was during lunch).

Myth or reality, anything that saves me a trip to the mall is a beautiful thing. I'd much rather click "Add to Cart" for my entire Christmas list than face one hyper-caffeinated cell phone salesman or try to hold my breath through the barrier of perfume fog that guards the inner sanctum of any department store. I don't shop; I buy. It really is as simple as that.

And I think they should change the name of Cyber Monday to "Add to Cart" day. Don't you? What are your online shopping habits? Have they changed in the last couple of years? Were you a part of Cyber Monday? Stop "adding to cart" for a second and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Mozilla Patches Holes in Firefox
Earlier this week, Mozilla released the latest revision of Firefox, with the snappy label version 2.0.0.10. The latest update patches three recently reported vulnerabilities.

Two of the potential security holes involved cross-site scripting issues. Hackers can use these vulnerabilities to steal personal information while visiting certain sites. Exploiting the first cross-site vulnerability, an attacker could create a fake HTTP refer header when setting the window location property. There's a timing issue involved with this process that permits the hack. The other cross-site loophole comes into play with Web sites loading ZIP archives.

The third vulnerability involves memory corruption, some of which could be used to insert random or malicious code.

Mozilla is pushing the update to all current Firefox users, so that should get the word out as soon as possible. Check out the Mozilla Web site for more on these fixes.

Mozilla seems to have its own Patch Tuesday. And I thought Mondays were bad news. Are you using Firefox? Have you found any of these vulnerabilities? How about IE? Found any loopholes on your own there? Log in and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Local Hackers Get Nailed
It may not be on the level of breaking into the Department of Defense or stealing tons of credit card data from TJX, but we've just heard of a couple of local hackers who obviously aren't as smart as they thought they were.

A few students at the prestigious Milton Academy decided to pull a little digital Animal House and got into the school's records to change attendance records and grades. They even got a look at a test before it was given to students. The four students involved have been either suspended or expelled from the exclusive academy, where tuition rates hover north of $30,000.

C'mon, kids. You're obviously pretty smart if you could pull this off. Use your powers for good, not evil. Want to rule the world at the next Google, or rule your cell block at the state pen?

Sure, this is a local story, but it has other implications as it's yet another example of hackers getting caught and paying the price. Has your organization ever been hacked or had data stolen? Were the perps brought to justice? What was your role in the investigation and persecution process? Rest your case with me at llow@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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