Posts tagged ‘environment’


Are hybrids better for the environment than pure EVs?

19.08.2022

Shared by a family member. Hear out Dr Graham Conway, principal engineer in the Automotive Division at Southwest Research Institute, and why zero-emission vehicles are not truly zero-emission. It’s a point I’ve made way, way back (in the 2000s) when I cited a study which showed the Ford Fiesta Econetic, a diesel car, was the best vehicle for the environment over its lifetime.

This TEDx talk is from 2020, and Conway believes hybrids are a better bet for the environment than full EVs. Have a watch as he explains why.
 

 

TED has flagged Conway’s talk with the following statement: ‘This talk only reflects the speaker’s personal views and interpretation. Several claims in this talk lack scientific support.’ I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t quote this. It’s also worth having a read of this from 2021 and this from 2020. Here’s one more link from Green Car Reports in 2020, titled ‘Lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are much lower than previously suggested’. All of these suggest that newer production processes and decarbonization may be helping EVs rank better when their lifetime (including production) emissions are counted.

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Posted in cars, technology | No Comments »


Forget Duck Duck Go, Bing, and Google—I’m trying Mojeek

17.07.2022

It was disappointing to note that after switching to HTTPS, and signing on to Bing Webmaster Tools, the search engine results for those sites of ours that made the change are still severely compromised.

I’ve written about searches for my own name earlier, where my personal and company sites lost their first and second positions on all search engines that I knew of after we made the switch. Only Google has my personal site back up top, with the company site on the middle of the second page. Bing has my personal site at number two, and I’d love to tell you where the company site is, but their search engine results’ pages won’t let me advance beyond page 2 (clicking ‘next page’ lands you back on the same page; clicking ‘3’ and above still keeps you on p. 2). Duck Duck Go, which uses Bing results, has it well below that—I gave up looking. And this is after I signed up to Bing Webmaster Tools in the hope I could get the sites properly catalogued.

It’s a real shame because Duck Duck Go has been my default for 12 years this August.

However, it was the loss of search results for Lucire that really bothered me. Here’s a site that’s 25 years old, with plenty of inward links, and c. 5,000 pages. Before the switch to HTTPS, the popular search engines had thousands of pages from our site. These days, Bing and Duck Duck Go tell me they have dozens of pages from Lucire’s website. Again, only Google seems to have spidered everything.

When I check Bing Webmaster Tools, the spidering has been shockingly poor.

The received wisdom that you should have HTTPS instead of HTTP to do better in search engines is BS, and the belief that search engines will eventually catch up has also not been realized. We made the switch in March, and I’m to believe that Bing hasn’t completed the indexing of our sites.

Are they using the same computers New Zealand banks do? (Cheques used to clear overnight in the 1970s, and now banks tell us that even electronic payments can take days. When we last used cheques, they were telling us they would take five to seven days. Ergo, bank computers are slower today than in 1976.)

The real downer is that Lucire’s website search box is powered by Duck Duck Go, so our own site visitors can’t find the things they want to look for. If you believe some of the search engine marketing, over 40 per cent of site visitors use your search function.

What to do?

I began looking at having an internal search again. We used to have a WhatUSeek (later SiteLevel) internal site search, but that site’s search functions appear to be dead (the site is still live). A user on Mastodon recommended Sphinx Search, an open-source internal site search, but the instructions were too complex. I even saw real computer geeks having trouble. The only one that I could understand was called Sphider—I could follow the instructions and knew enough about PHP and MySql—but it was last updated many years ago, and successive projects also looked a bit complex.

A Google internal search was absolutely out of the question, as I have no desire to expose our readers to tracking—which is why so many other Big Tech gadgets have been removed from our site(s). Baidu and Yandex also have very limited indices for our sites.

I am very fortunate to have tried Mojeek again, a British search engine recommended to me by Matias on July 2. What I didn’t know then was Mojeek has its own spider and its own index, so it doesn’t have to license anything from Bing. And, happily, it claims to have 3,535 results from lucire.com, which might not be as good as Google’s 5,830, but it beats Bing’s 50 earlier today—in fact, at the time of writing, it showed a grand total of 10. That’s how bad it’s got. Duck Duck Go now has 48, also down from a few thousand before March.

Like Google, it seems to have coped with the switch to HTTPS without falling to pieces! And guess what? For a search of my own name, my personal site is number one, and our work site is number two. Presumably, Mojeek is the only search engine which coped and behaved exactly as the experts said!

You can imagine my next move. Mojeek has a site search, so now all Lucire searches are done through it. And readers can actually find stuff again instead of coming up nearly empty (or having very irrelevant results) as they have done for months.

Duck Duck Go’s lustre had been wearing off as there were recent allegations that its browser allowed Microsoft to track its users, something which Duck Duck Go boss Gabriel Weinberg personally denied on Reddit, saying that users were still anonymous when loading their search results.

I still have good memories of chatting to Gabriel in the early days and figuring out ways of spreading the word on Duck Duck Go. My contribution was going to hotels and changing the search defaults on business centre computers. Back then I had the impression Duck Duck Go did some of its own spidering, but these days, if Bing has a shitty index for your site, the Duck will follow suit. And with HTTPS not living up to its promise, that’s simply not good enough.

Tonight, Mojeek is very much the site of the day here, and I heartily recommend you try it out. I’ve switched the desktop to Mojeek as a default, and I’ll see how it all progresses. Right now I feel it deserves our support more than Duck Duck Go. Finally, we might truly have an alternative to Google, and it’s run from the UK’s greenest data centre. With our servers now being greener, too, running out of Finland, the technology is starting to match up to our beliefs.
 

Google, the biggest index of them all
 

Mojeek, a creditable second place
 

This is it on Bing: a 25-year-old history on the web, and it says it has 10 pages from lucire.com. Altavista, Excite and Hotbot had more in the 1990s
 

Duck Duck Go is slightly better, with 48 results—down from the thousands it once had
 
After switching to HTTPS
Number of results for lucire.com
Google: 5,830
Mojeek: 3,535 (containing the word Lucire, as term-less searches are not allowed)
Duck Duck Go: 48
Bing: 10
 
Number of results for jackyan.com
Google: 878
Mojeek: 437 (containing the term “Jack Yan”)
Duck Duck Go: 54
Bing: 24
 
Number of results for jyanet.com
Google: 635
Mojeek: 297 (containing the word jyanet)
Duck Duck Go: 46
Bing: 10
 

Presumably the only search engine that could handle a server going from HTTP to HTTPS and preserving the domains’ positions

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology, UK | 1 Comment »


One award, one interview—positive publicity for May–June 2022

07.06.2022


 
On to more positive things. Earlier this year, Luxlife got in touch with us, to say Lucire had been shortlisted for their awards. It was later confirmed that we had become their ‘Most Pioneering Online Fashion Magazine 2022’, which I was very happy about—especially as we started 25 years ago.

The judges did know of our UNEP partnership, and the fact we had diversified into print in 2004 (and kept that going in different countries). These points differentiate us from pretty much every fashion magazine. The fact family (namely my father) helped keep things going even during the toughest times, including the GFC, also distinguishes us—and a lot of this success is down to him.

You can read our release here, and I mention it on the Lucire website, too.

I was also stoked to see my interview with Komoneed go online. Komoneed is an online community providing global and local knowledge on sustainability, while avoiding false and unfounded information. You can even read it in German, and I had to clarify to a few people that no, I’m not fluent—this was thanks to Komoneed’s translators. The Aston Martin is also not mine—this was a press car from 2007, but I said to Komoneed they could pick whatever photos they wanted from our photo gallery. In fact, I’m still very proud of the story I wrote on the car 15 years ago.
 

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Posted in cars, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, publishing, social responsibility, UK | No Comments »


Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


The Suzuki Swift: one of the saving graces on New Zealand’s top 10 list.
 
At the Opel relaunch briefing yesterday, I was shocked to find that these were New Zealand’s top selling vehicles for 2021. I knew about the first two, but had always assumed a Toyota Corolla would follow, plus some regular cars. From this, I gather the rest of New Zealand thinks the opposite to me. I personally believe petrol is expensive.
 
1. Ford Ranger
2. Toyota Hilux
3. Mitsubishi Triton
4. Mitsubishi ASX (RVR on the home market)
5. Toyota RAV4
6. Mitsubishi Outlander (presumably the outgoing one)
7. Mazda CX-5
8. Nissan Navara
9. Suzuki Swift
10. Kia Stonic
 

Not a very discerning lot, are we? We say we care about the environment yet enough of us have helped fuel the second biggest contributor to the carbon emissions’ rise in the last 10 years: the crossover or SUV.

And I’ve driven those RVRs. Why are people buying, in 2021, a vehicle that feels like a taller, larger Colt from the 2000s?

I have no issue with those of you who really need an SUV or ute. But for those who pose, you aren’t helping yourself or your planet. And even if you bought some electrified variant, I thought it was universally understood (certainly for any of us alive during the 1970s fuel crises and those who observed the aerodynamic trend of the 1980s) that tall bodies and big frontal areas would consume more energy.

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Posted in cars, culture, New Zealand | 1 Comment »


In the 1980s, I thought society would evolve to become more efficient and smarter

15.02.2020

Growing up in a relatively wealthy country in the 1980s, after getting through most of the 1970s, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world would just keep getting better and things would make more sense as humans evolved.
   From a teenager’s perspective: home computers, with a modulator–demodulator (modem), could bring you information instantaneously and from around the world. As an immigrant kid, that excited me: contact with people “back home” and from other places, making communication quicker. You could hear from others, and you could help others who needed you. And if you didn’t have a computer that could connect to a bulletin board, there was Teletext, which gave you regularly updated information through your TV set.
   Cars were getting more aerodynamic, which meant they would use less fuel, and that was understood universally to be a good thing. MPVs were very practical vehicles that had small footprints yet fitted a lot of people, or stuff, inside. Here in New Zealand, natural gas-powered dual-fuel cars were mainstream, and that meant we weren’t reliant on overseas oil. They also didn’t pollute anywhere near what petrol did—they burned cleanly.
   And since saving energy was understood to be a good thing, who knew? Before long solar power would be the norm for new homes and we’d be putting electricity back into the grid.


Alex Snyder/Wayne National Forest/Creative Commons

   I also heard about recycling for the first time as a teen, and that seemed like a good thing—all that old paper and plastic could have a second life.
   People were interested in being more efficient because no one wanted a repeat of the oil shocks of the 1970s. Nor did we want the government imposing carless days on us again.
   That same teenager would have thought that by the dawn of the 21st century—if the US and Soviet Union behaved—we’d have evolved to have recognized that we had the tools to make things better.
   When the internet came to our house in the 1990s, I saw it as a direct evolution of the 1980s’ optimism. It made sense.
   So through that lens, a lot of what the world looks like today doesn’t make sense.
   We have connected computers, milliards which are handheld, yet some of us are addicted to them and others use them to express outrage, rather than delight in having any contact at all with people thousands of miles away.
   SUVs outsell regular cars in some size segments. They are less aerodynamic, use more fuel, and are less efficient. We have American companies—Ford in the US and Holden here—saying that they’ll stop selling cars in most segments in favour of utility trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Petrol is expensive, and I complain about it, but I guess no one else thinks it’s expensive. Dual-fuel cars are a thing of the past here, for the most part, yet lots of people marvel at hybrids, conveniently forgetting we were decades ahead in the 1980s.
   And solar power isn’t the norm.
   We still, happily, recycle—but not everything we collect winds up being recycled. We have an awareness, but if we kept on progressing as I expected us to when I was Greta Thunberg’s age, then we wouldn’t have Greta Thunberg reminding us that we haven’t.
   I wonder if others in middle age realize that humans have the potential to go forward, and in many respects we do—but collectively there are enough of us who go backward and prevent any real advance in society.
   I like to have the same optimism as teenage me about the future. In terms of myself, many things bring me happiness, particularly in my personal and work lives. Yet in terms of society, I wonder if I can be as optimistic. I know deep down that we are interested in efficiency and treating our planet better (or we say we are), so then who are the ones holding us back, and what are we doing that stops us moving forward? Is it personal greed, hoping others will pick up the slack? Many of us choose products and services from companies that align with our views about what we want—yet are we doing the same when it comes to politicians?

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Posted in leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, TV, Wellington | No Comments »


A three-decade time capsule hanging on my door

15.07.2018

There was an Epson bag hanging from the back of my bedroom door, hidden by larger bags. I opened it up to discover brochures from my visit to a computer fair in 1989 (imaginatively titled Computing ’89), and that the bag must have been untouched for decades.
   I’ve no reason to keep its contents (if you want it, message me before Thursday, as the recycling comes the morning after), but I wanted to make some scans of the exhibitors’ catalogue for nostalgia.
   Let’s start with the cover. It’s sponsored by Bits & Bytes. Kiwis over a certain age will remember this as the computer magazine in this country.

You can tell this is a product of the 1980s by the typesetting: someone couldn’t be bothered buying the condensed version of ITC Avant Garde Gothic, so they made do with electronically condensing Computers and Communications. In fact, they’re a bit light on condensed fonts, full stop, as they’ve done the same with the lines set in Futura.
   While the practice is still around, the typeface choices mark this one out as a product of its time.
   Inside is a fascinating article on the newfangled CD-ROM being a storage medium. Those cuts of Helvetica and Serifa are very 1980s, pre-desktop publishing. It should be noted that Dr Jerry McFaul remained with the USGS, where he had been since 1974, till his retirement. The fashions are interesting here, as is ITC Fenice letting us know that he’s speaking at the Terrace Regency Hotel, a hotel I have no recollection of whatsoever. I can only tell you that it must have been on the Terrace.
   The other tech speakers have a similar look to the visiting American scientist, all donning suits—something their counterparts in 2018 probably wouldn’t today. In fact, the suit seems to be a thing of the past for a lot of events, and I often feel I’m the oldster when I wear mine.
   The article itself makes a strong case for CD-ROM storage, being more space-saving and better for the environment: it’s interesting to know that the ‘depletion of the ozone layer’ was a concern then, though 30 years later we have been pretty appalling at doing anything about it.



   The second article in the catalogue of any note was on PCGlobe, supplied to the magazine on 5¼-inch diskette.
   Bits & Bytes would have run the catalogue as part of the main magazine, and did a larger run of these inner pages, back in the day when printing was less flexible.
   It’s a fascinating look back at how far we’ve come (on the tech) and how far we haven’t come (on the environment). Next year, we’ll be talking about 1989 as ‘30 years ago,’ yet we live in an age where we’re arguing over Kylie Jenner’s wealth. Progress?

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Posted in design, interests, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, typography, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Endorsing Laurie Foon for Southern Ward

16.12.2017

While I no longer live in the Southern Ward in Wellington, I know whom I would vote for if I still did. It’s after a lot of thought, given how strong the candidates are—I count several of them as my friends. One stands out.
   I have known Laurie Foon for 20 years this year and have watched her genuinely take an interest in our city. This isn’t just political hype: two decades ago, she warned us about the Inner City Bypass and how it wouldn’t actually solve our traffic problems; her former business, Starfish, was internationally known for its real commitment to the environment and sustainability (its Willis Street store walked the talk with its materials and lighting); and as the Sustainable Business Network’s Wellington regional manager, she’s advised other companies on how to be environmentally friendly (she’s recently received a Kiwibank Local Hero Award for her efforts).
   In 1997, when I interviewed Laurie for Lucire’s first feature, she had enough foresight to say yes to a web publication, at a time when few others saw that value. (This is in a pre-Google world.) It’s important for our local politicians to be ahead of the curve—yet so many voters have opted to look firmly in a rear-view mirror when it comes to politics, fixated on re-creating the “good old days”. If I vote, I vote for our future, and Laurie really can make a difference in council—as she has been doing in our community for the past two decades and more, issue after issue. She’s forward-looking, and she can help make our city carbon neutral, waste-free, and socially responsible. It’s a wholehearted endorsement for Laurie to make good things happen.

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Posted in culture, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Wellington | No Comments »


It’s all going fines at Volkswagen

05.01.2016

Volkswagen Golf VIIGeneral Motors’ fine in 1995 for 470,000 cars using defeat devices against EPA testing: US$11 million. Volkswagen’s fine in 2016 for 580,000 cars using defeat devices against EPA testing: potentially US$40,000 million (or $40 billion, as the Americans say). The local companies get off far easier in the US. In fact, GM can even get a US$49,500 million bail-out from Uncle Sam. I realize there’s a difference between a settlement and a claim, but I wonder if Volkswagen’s going get away with paying less than a figure in the milliards.

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The flyover: every option now heard

23.07.2014

Embarcadero_Waterfront_s

Embarcadero Waterfront, photographed by Ricardo Martins/CC BY 2.0.

 

I was consistent about the Basin Reserve flyover in my campaign. Yes, I agreed we needed improvements to the area. But no, spending millions on it—it did not matter whether it was from taxes or rates at the end of the day, because that still meant you and me, as citizens—seemed foolish if there were better-value options out there. What I said in 2013 was: it’s not one flyover, it’s actually two, if you studied the wording in the plans. And by the time you add up the totals, it was looking like $500 million—and for what benefit? The more roads you create, the more congestion there would be.
   What if we could get the traffic improved there without the blight of a flyover—the sort of thing some cities were removing anyway, making them as liveable as Wellington—and save the country hundreds of millions?
   In San Francisco, when the highway around Embarcadero Drive (now just ‘The Embarcadero’) was removed (you can see it outside the dodgy hotel room in Bullitt), that area became far more lively and pleasant, where there are now parks, where property values rose, and where there are new transit routes. The 1989 Loma Preita ’quake hurried the demolition along, but there’s no denying that it’s been a massive improvement for the City. Younger readers won’t believe how unpleasant that area used to be.
   Admittedly, I get ideas from San Francisco, Stockholm, and other centres, but why not? If they are good ones, then we need to believe we deserve the best. And we can generate still more from Wellington and show them off. Making one city great helps not just our own citizens, but potentially introduces new best practices for many other cities.
   The Richard Reid proposal for the Basin was my favoured one given the traffic benefits could be delivered at considerably less cost and would not be a blight on our city, yet it was getting frustrated at every turn—the media (other than Scoop) had precious little coverage of it.
   A Board of Inquiry was set up and I am glad to receive this word from Richard yesterday.
   ‘Our practice is very pleased with the Board of Inquiry’s decision to decline NZTA’s Basin Bridge Project. We are equally pleased that the Board has accepted the evidence we submitted against NZTA’s project on behalf of the Mt Victoria Residents Association and ourselves. Of particular note is the Board’s recognition of our alternative at-grade enhancement of the roundabout (BRREO) which we prepared as part of an integrated and holistic solution for the city.
   ‘The Board notes: “We are satisfied the BRREO Option, particularly having regard to the adverse effects we have identified with regard to the Project, is not so suppositional that it is not worthy of consideration as an option to be evaluated” [para 1483]. The Board also stated that “We found that it [BRREO] may nonetheless deliver measurable transport benefits at considerably less cost and considerably less adverse effects on the environment. We bear in mind that BRREO is still at a provisional or indicative stage and could be subject to further adjustment by further analysis.”
   ‘Given the Board’s comprehensive dismissal of NZTA’s application, it makes sense that we are given the opportunity to continue to develop BRREO. We look forward to working with NZTA, the Regional and City Councils.’
   Regardless of which option you favoured, I think you will agree with me that all proposals deserved a fair hearing. The Reid one did not prior to 2014, and that was mightily disappointing. I said to Mr Reid that if elected, every proposal would be judged fairly. Let every one be heard and be judged on its merits—and I am glad the Board of Inquiry has done just that.

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Posted in design, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Frack away, IGas Energy: the Metropolitan Police has your back

06.02.2014

The spirit of Gene Hunt is alive and well in the Greater Manchester Police, in the form of Sgt David Kehoe.

   Arresting someone over drink driving when he has neither drunk nor driven reminds me of The Professionals episode, ‘In the Public Interest’, about a corrupt police force in an unnamed English city outside London.
   The only thing is: that was fiction. This was fact.
   So, IGas Energy plc, you may frack away. The British Government and the Met have your back.
   Dr Steven Peers was the cameraman and citizen journalist who was arrested. CPS did not have sufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution. I wonder why.
   He is now planning to bring a civil claim against the GMP for ‘wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault,’ according to the Manchester Evening News, which appears to be the only mainstream media outlet I could find that covered this incident.
   Another report claimed that the GMP never received a complaint from Dr Peers, though how are we supposed to believe any statement from this force? The video has gone viral, and global—and if Operation Weeting and the inquiry into police standards were insufficient to give the Met a bad name, then this surely will.
   What next? Legislation to make protests against oil companies illegal?
   No, that would be daft. It would totally be against the ideas of free speech, human rights and international law. No democracy would be that stupid.

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Posted in business, globalization, media, New Zealand, politics, UK | No Comments »