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Posts under ‘Technology, science, and math’

Tesla and Texas

Tesla Motors currently can’t sell its cars in Texas via its preferred model of direct sales to consumers. Its attempts to modify state laws to allow for direct sales went nowhere last session, blocked by fierce opposition from the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. They’re now looking for a place to build their new batteries. Why […]

Who’s spamming you?

Probably someone from Dallas. Figures, right? When it comes to those annoying and unsolicited text messages you get imploring you to reply for weight loss tips, “free” money, and adult-oriented services, Houston and Dallas are smartphone spam lords of Texas, acccording to Internet security firm AdaptiveMobile. The funny part is that most of the SMS […]

Google energy

Fascinating. Google may not seem like an energy company, but it sure is acting like one. Through more than $1 billion in investments and through large contracts for renewable power, Google has become the most significant player in the energy business outside of actual energy companies and financial institutions. The Internet search giant’s efforts to […]

Tesla will be back

This story was from earlier in June. Texas’ state legislature failed to vote on a bill backed by Musk’s Tesla Motors (TSLA) that would have loosened the state’s restriction on dealerships owned by automakers. The legislature concluded its most recent session last week, and won’t be back until January 2015. Tesla has tangled with dealership […]

Hello, Motorola

Welcome to Texas. Cellphone pioneer Motorola announced Wednesday that it’s opening a Texas manufacturing facility that will create 2,000 jobs and produce its new flagship device, Moto X, the first smartphone ever assembled in the U.S. The company has already begun hiring for the Fort Worth plant. The site was most recently unoccupied but was […]

Dan Wallach: Energy Pricing 2013

Note: The following is a guest post by my friend Dan Wallach For the past two years, I’ve written a guest blog post here about electrical rates. Let’s do it again, shall we? Last year, I switched from a variable rate to a fixed rate electrical plan, to avoid the occasional shocking price hikes that […]

Making the world a better place, one baby at a time

This is awesome. Conditions associated with premature birth, often related to breathing problems, are responsible for about 30 percent of neonatal mortality. In the developed world, these conditions can be treated using bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. But these CPAP machines cost $6,000 and are out of reach of most hospitals in Malawi. So […]

Medicaid expansion is now double secret illegal

Whatever. In a surprise turn in the House on Monday evening, a bill to reform Medicaid long-term and acute care services became a vehicle for the GOP’s platform against Medicaid expansion. “Many of us are very weary of Medicaid expansion,” said state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who offered an amendment to Senate Bill 7 that […]

Three four six

Meet your new area code, Houston. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) on Thursday announced the addition of area code 346 to accommodate continued growth in and around Houston. The 346 area code will overlay existing area codes 713, 281 and 832 in Harris, Fort Bend, Waller, Austin, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston and Brazoria […]

Check this out

Scan while you shop, and other technological advances to get you checked out faster. In February, San Antonio-based H-E-B invited customers to try out a new scanning “tunnel” for the first time at its McCreless Market location on South New Braunfels Avenue. The company spent about three years developing the so-called Fast Scan technology, which […]

Mobile payments

Austin is a hot spot for the hot new thing in retail technology. Mobile payments technology is gathering steam across the country, but Austin is one of the hot spots, both for deployment of new technology and for development of new software for payment systems and payment processing. Dozens of merchants have affiliated with Square […]

The HPV vaccine

This story about HPV and its vaccine is from a couple of weeks ago, but it needs to be read. The vaccine that blocks a sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical, oral and other cancers was hailed as a home run when it was approved seven years ago, but, given usage rates, doctors still aren’t […]

What other environmental groups think about “One Bin For All”

As you know, last week the city announced that it had won the $1 million runnerup prize from the Bloomberg Foundation that would enable it to begin work on a single-bin solution for solid waste and recycling. While this announcement was generally met with cheers, the Texas Campaign for the Environment was not among those […]

Nationwide WiFi?

This sounds like a big deal. The federal government wants to create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion […]

TEC approves texting campaign contributions

From Jerad Najvar: After brief discussion and comments by Jerad Najvar, attorney for Harris County Republicans, the TEC voted unanimously to approve a draft opinion permitting Texas political committees to accept contributions by text message. APPROVED OPINION HERE (the first page is a diagram of each method) The request proposed two methods for processing text […]

Free WiFi finally coming to Houston airports

And there was much rejoicing. Free WiFi is set to land at Houston’s two main airports by year’s end. As wireless fidelity service becomes a consumer expectation, the Houston Airport System told the Houston Chronicle it is working to develop a complimentary – as well as fast, reliable and easy to use – network for […]

The 311 app is here

I’ve been waiting for this. The brand-new Houston 311 app will allow residents to file a complaint and then track its progress. The program officially goes live Tuesday, city officials said. Here’s how the 311 app works, city spokesman Chris Newport said: “Say you see a pothole on your street. Before you even leave for […]

Green batteries

This is very cool. In one more step of a global effort to develop greener battery technology, researchers at Rice University say they have found a way to replace a costly metallic component in lithium-ion batteries with material from a common plant. While many of today’s lithium-ion batteries incorporate cobalt, which has to be mined […]

Aereo

From Dwight: Aereo, which already has disrupted the television landscape in New York City, is coming soon to Houston and 21 other U.S. markets – but only if it survives legal attempts to kill it. On Tuesday, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia announced at CES in Las Vegas that the company would embark on a major […]

Open source textbooks

This is a great idea. The words “free” and “college” aren’t often used in the same sentence, but a philanthropic venture at Rice University is drawing attention for bringing them together. OpenStax College, a nonprofit publishing organization founded by a Rice professor, offers free online textbooks for the five most-attended college courses in the country. […]

CompSci in the curriculum

HISD Trustee Paula Harris coauthors an op-ed in the Chron advocating computer science to be part of the standard school curriculum. While STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is a hot topic in education circles these days, only math and science courses are required for graduation from high school. The few computer science courses […]

Recreating a Galapagos tortoise?

How amazing would this be? Lonesome George, the late reptile prince of the Galapagos Islands, may be dead, but scientists now say he may not be the last giant tortoise of his species after all. Researchers say they may be able to resurrect the Pinta Island subspecies by launching a cross-breeding program with 17 other […]

When will we have truly electronic voting?

When will there be an app to cast a vote in a US election? So at a time when we can see video shot by a robot on Mars, when there are cars that can drive themselves, and when we can deposit checks on our smartphones without going to a bank, why do most people […]

Texting campaign contributions

I see no reason why this should not be allowed. A Houston-based PAC is asking the Texas Ethics Commission to approve a proposal that would allow the committee to solicit text message contributions from donors in the state. The Federal Election Commission has approved a text-to-donate model for federal campaigns, but demand for the service […]

Driverless cars in Texas

You have perhaps heard the news that Google’s driverless car has been approved for street usage in California; specifically, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations for autonomous vehicles by Jan. 1, 2015. You may be wondering, with varying degrees of wonder or […]

Electric cars and the power grid

Fascinating. It doesn’t take too long for visitors of Mueller, a 700-acre master-planned community in Austin, to realize that the neighborhood is peculiar. The planned community, built on the site of the former Mueller airport, boasts almost too-perfect rows of homes with cheery pastel exteriors and quaint front porches. And then there are the neighborhood’s green flourishes—solar panels […]

Dan Wallach: Energy pricing 2012

This is a guest post that follows up on an earlier guest post. Last year, I wrote a guest article for Off The Kuff where I discussed the complexity of trying to get a good price on your electric bill. In Houston, we have seemingly hundreds of companies who will gladly take our money in […]

Hang up and walk

We all know that texting and other smartphone tomfoolery while driving is a bad idea. Turns out that texting while walking isn’t so safe, either. On city streets, in suburban parking lots and in shopping centers, there is usually someone strolling while talking on a phone, texting with his head down, listening to music, or […]

Pothole app

Harris County now has an app for reporting potholes and other problems. Users must download the app and set up a profile. After that, one can take a photo of the problem, point to its spot on the map or let GPS technology mark the location, label the report with a category – say, “dead […]

Happy birthday, Atari

The iconic video game company turned forty last week. Although it wasn’t the first company to make video games, Atari was the first to make a lasting impression on an entire generation. At arcades — or at video game bars such as Barcade in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn — nostalgic patrons still gather […]

Environmental drones

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! A plane! A drone! One year into a $260,000 two-year grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, [civil engineer Thom] Hardy and his crew of biologists, geographers and spatial analysts have used the drone to track bird habitat in Galveston Bay and the growth of invasive […]

Apps for apes

This new program at the Houston Zoo sounds great, but we all know how it ends, right? A digital revolution is sweeping the ape house, and now its denizens, formerly preoccupied with classic chimpish activities, are turning their attention to computer offerings originally developed for human toddlers. “Chimps and orangutans and other apes are very […]

Fighting identity theft

The U of Texas is studying it. Identity theft is a cradle-to-grave problem that costs U.S. businesses $50 billion and affects at least 10 million consumers each year. At least 1 million children’s identities are stolen over the course of a year — often misused by their parents, said Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at […]

New frontiers in spam

Text message spam. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to be seen as a major problem. Once the scourge of e-mail providers and the Postal Service, spammers have infiltrated the last refuge of spam-free communication: cellphones. In the United States, consumers received roughly 4.5 billion spam texts last year, more than double the 2.2 […]