New Chip That Converts Heat to Electricity

From IT Week

Speaking in a hotel conference room near Tower Bridge late last week Dr Lew Brown, president and CEO of Eneco, is trying to convince a roomful of sceptical investors that its new chip technology will revolutionise the way we generate electricity. It has to be said that he is doing a pretty good job.

"This chip compares with the invention of the transistor, or the TV, or the first aircraft," he says. "It is a genuinely disruptive technology." Now if a claim like that won’t get investors' attention I'm not sure what will.

As reported last week, Eneco is a development stage company that claims to have invented and patented a "solid state energy conversion/generation chip" that will convert heat directly into electricity or alternatively refrigerate down to -200 degrees celsius when electricity is applied.

As one potential investor who has flown all the way from Scotland for the two hour presentation confides: "I had to come, it just sounded too good to be true."

He is not alone, interested parties have also traveled from Italy, Switzerland, Ireland and all over the UK to see if the miracle chip might deliver on its promises.

So is it too good to be true? Will it work?

Well, on first impressions it just might. And it could have a massive impact on how IT equipment, and in particular laptops and other mobile devices, are designed and powered.

The chip is based on the principles of thermionic energy conversion whereby the energy of a hot metal over comes the electrostatic forces holding electrons to its surface. These free electrons then pass across a vacuum to a cold metal and in the process create an electronic charge that can be harnessed.

The main difficulty with exploiting this process at a commercial level has been in creating the vacuum between the two metals. But Eneco has overcome the problem by replacing the vacuum with, what the brochure describes as, "a properly selected semiconductor thermoelectric that is thick enough to support a significant temperature differential between the emitter and the collector in order to achieve efficiencies of practical interest".

The result is a solid state energy conversion chip that can operate at temperatures of up to 600 degrees celcius and deliver absolute efficiencies in terms of how much heat energy is converted to electricity of between 20 and 30 percent.

If the energy conversion rate is impressive the potential list of practical applications proves equally exciting.

Initially Eneco plans to target the "low-hanging fruits" found in the existing thermoelectric market. The company says the technology would suit off-grid energy generation environments, such as pipeline monitoring stations and space craft, where its promises to outperform existing thermoelectric products. The company also expects to have its first order in this area from the US military soon.

The next potential market for Eneco lies in portable power, where it hopes the chips will ultimately replace high end lithium ion and polymer batteries used in laptops and other handheld devices.

The company says it is already in talks with both Dell and Apple about how the chips could be used in their devices. Initial talks have focused on integrating the heat conversion chips into the device so it can harness the heat generated by processors and turn it into electricity to power fans or other cooling technologies. By harnessing this power the devices, be they initially laptops and handhelds, or later even servers and PCs, should see improved energy efficiency, extended battery life and enhanced performance.

Brown also sees the chips ultimately replacing batteries altogether. He argues that by linking the modules to a microburner - a catalytic burner that produces between 275 and 600 degrees centigrade – you can heat the chips and generate enough power to run the device.

In theory this approach would be far cleaner as the burners that Eneco is planning to employ use Ethanol – a biofuel that is carbon neutral as the CO2 emitted when it burns is consumed as the original plant grows.

It is also more convenient than current battery systems, according to Brown, as it would prove lighter, less bulky, quieter and would not need recharging as "when the burner runs out you can instantly replace it by putting in a new fuel cassette".

The handheld device market represents a $5bn opportunity according to Eneco, but the real cash cow for the company appears will come from harnessing waste heat and turning it into power.

Currently we spend around $1,500bn a year globally on fossil fuels, but when they are burned around 50 percent of the energy is wasted. Eneco envisages a situation where integrating its chips onto the side of a furnace for example would help capture much of that wasted heat and turn it into useful energy.

This situation could be mirrored in any number of industrial environments where heat is created while on a smaller scale the chips could also replace alternators in cars.

Eneco claims all these scenarios are plausible even before you consider the chip's ability to act as a cheap and efficient cooling technology potentially deployed in air conditioning, refrigeration units, and, of course, IT equipment.

These theoretical deployments are all well and good but the big issue for investors is whether the technology works and how close Eneco is to realising these many applications. And, in fairness to Brown he has an answer to almost every question from the floor.

In response to questions about their durability he claims that current thermoelectric technologies used on NASA's spacecraft have a life of over twenty years with no degradation in performance and that the chips are expected to enjoy a similar lifespan. Meanwhile, the fact that there are no moving parts means there is no wear and therefore no maintenance requirements.

Questions about how easy it is to manufacture the chips are also batted away with Brown claiming it can be built using established microprocessor design practices, while he is equally adamant that 48 patents or patents pending mean there is no danger of the technology "being stolen from under us".

The main technical concern from the floor is around how you keep a temperature differential between two sides of a chip no thicker than a coin. But speaking to GBN after the presentation Brown explains that the design of modules incorporating multiple chips will resolve this issue.

"Within the module you have a top ceramic plate which makes heat distribution uniform, then you have the chips in between and another ceramic plate on the bottom that takes the heat away," he says. "These ceramic plates effectively act as insulation so the hot side will be significantly hotter than the cold side."

In theory this means you can stick the module on the side of a boiler, for example, and the external or cold side will still be very hot, but it'll be sufficiently cold compared to the side actually in contact with the boiler that there is a differential capable of generating a significant amount of electricity.

This makes sense but it does strike that the key issue for the chip when used practically will be in ensuring the insulation is good enough to make this differential sufficiently large so that enough energy is produced to make the deployment worthwhile.

So where is the fly in the ointment? Well, Brown does admit there are "issues" with the packaging. The chips are so small that packaging them together in a module is tricky and the focus of the development effort is currently in this area.

Eneco insists it is making good progress and its first products will be available by the end of next year or early 2008, but while this may be perfectly feasible in the thermoelectric market where the applications will be relatively simple getting the chips into other environments may prove trickier.

Talks with potential customers about how exactly the technology should be used are only at an early stage and even though firms such as Apple, Dell, Ford, BMW and Boeing are all interested there appear to be plenty of issues to iron out.

"We are talking to partners about what they need to do and what we need to do to get the first demonstration products built," admits Brown. "For example, we're not there yet [with Dell and Apple] on where [the chip will] sit on the motherboard. Though it is so small it could also be incorporated as part of the processor."

The lack of clarity on such fundamental design issues suggests it is likely to be some time before Eneco powered devices emerge. But if these issues can be overcome - and anyone with any experience of energy conversion technologies will tell you it remains a big if - the company does appear to have a truly disruptive technology that could deliver clean, cheap and efficient power to a raft of different industries.

Archiving Digital Data an Unsolved Problem

It's a huge challenge: how to store digital files so future generations can access them, from engineering plans to family photos. The documents of our time are being recorded as bits and bytes with no guarantee of readability down the line. And as technologies change, we may find our files frozen in forgotten formats. Popular Mechanics asks: Will an entire era of human history be lost?

[US national archivist] Thibodeau hopes to develop a system that preserves any type of document — created on any application and any computing platform, and delivered on any digital media — for as long as the United States remains a republic. Complicating matters further, the archive needs to be searchable. When Thibodeau told the head of a government research lab about his mission, the man replied, 'Your problem is so big, it's probably stupid to try and solve it.'"

And the next-gen winner is ... IBM?!

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are all in a battle to get their product in your living room. Slice it how you may, there will be one definite winner in the next-gen marketplace; that winner is IBM, which designed and makes the microprocessors for all three units.
Regardless of which console, IBM will be getting a cut of the profits. Read on...

read more | digg story

Just like every other gadget, light bulbs go flat

If you've got a room in your house that never seems to get enough light, has CeeLite got the wallpaper for you. The company's Light Emitting Capacitor (LEC) panels are flexible, paper-thin light bulbs that you can hang on a wall, coming in sizes as large as 3 x 6 feet.

read more | digg story

New File Share Startup Offering Unlimited Upload through FTP

Files-upload.com allows you to upload any number of 1GB files (splitted archives supported) through HTTP (for non registered users) and, after free registration, through FTP (sic!). No annoying upload/download limits.

read more | digg story

Google Accidentally Sends Out Kama Sutra Worm to 50,000 members

Google accidentally sent out e-mail containing a mass mailing worm to about 50,000 members of an e-mail discussion list focused on its Google Video Blog, the company said Tuesday.

read more | digg story

Learn While You Sleep

A team of researchers in Germany has found that a certain type of memory improves when a person's brain is stimulated with a mild electric current during a particular phase of the sleep cycle.

Neuroscientist Jan Born, of the University of Lubeck, has been studying the role of sleep in human memory for the past decade. In recent years, there's been evidence to suggest that REM sleep and non-REM sleep serve to strengthen neuron connections for different kinds of memories. While the scientific community is split on just how these phases influence memory, Born and his colleagues have recently focused on non-REM sleep, specifically the initial, drowsy, slow-wave phase. They're interested in its role in strengthening declarative memories, otherwise known as fact-based memories, as opposed to other types of memory such as motor-skill, or procedural learning.

"You remember the things consolidated during sleep better than not during sleep," says Born. "Our research is finding out which stages are more important for memories."

In previous studies, scientists have found that different phases of sleep are characterized by different patterns of brain activity. The most well-known is that of REM sleep, a period of heightened activity within the cortex when dreaming usually occurs. During a full night's rest, REM sleep occupies 20 percent of a person's sleep.

Every Vista PC to get a domain name?

According to APC magazine, every new Windows Vista computer will be given its own domain name to access files remotely. There is a catch though: to use it one must be using IPv6. Is the push for Vista also going to be the push finally to switch everything from IPv4 to IPv6?"Microsoft, meanwhile, is trying to convince businesses to adopt both Vista and Office 2007 at once. An analyst is quoted: 'In all likelihood, enterprises will tie deployment of both Vista and Office 2007 with a hardware upgrade cycle.' His reasoning is that it will be easier for companies to handle one disruption to IT systems than two. Or three.

read more | digg story

Democrats Win the Majority in The House!

Democrats swept Republicans out of power in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, riding public doubts about the war in Iraq and President George W. Bush's leadership to victory.

read more | digg story

Monitor your web addiction in Firefox

PageAddict is a Firefox extension that gives you a summary of how much time you've spent visiting different sites.

read more | digg story

Bush's Odd Behavior

This 16 minute video clip shows that Bush was acting VERY strangely on the morning of 9/11. The video was made by veteran journalist Barrie Zwicker, who wrote for numerous mainsteam publications, won several writing awards, and was a part-time media professor.

This is "must-see TV".

read more | digg story

Top 10 Bushisms: The best funny Bushisms and stupid quotes by George W. Bush l Bush bloopers

1. 'I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport.' —Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2001

2. 'Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country.' —Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

3. 'Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.' —Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

4. 'There's no doubt in my mind that we should allow the world worst leaders to hold America hostage, to threaten our peace, to threaten our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons.' —South Bend, Indiana, Sept. 5, 2002.

5. 'There's an old...saying in Tennessee...I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says Fool me once...(3 second pause)... Shame on...(4 second pause)...Shame on you....(6 second pause)...Fool me...Can't get fooled again.' —Nashville, Tennessee, Sept. 17, 2002.

6. 'See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.' —Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003

7. 'The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the -- the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice.' —Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003.

8 'I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend.' —on visiting Denmark, Washington D.C., June 29, 2005

9. 'Wow! Brazil is big.' after being shown a map of Brazil by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 6, 2005

10. A TIE BETWEEN:
'Rarely is the question asked, 'Is our children learning'?'
—Florence, S.C. Jan 11 2000
'The illiteracy level of our children are appalling.' —Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 20004"

Windows Live Barcode Launches

No this isn't an April Fool's joke. Windows Live Barcode enables users to store their own data in QR codes, which are already present on Spaces for markets like Japan.

read more | digg story

Unpatched, highly critical vulnerability in Firefox 2.0

This weakness has been known since June but no patch has yet been made available. The developers claimed to have fixed the problem in 1.5.0.5. So why did they release 2.0 without a fix? If "security" is what makes FireFox better, how do we explain known vulnerabilities unpatched on major releases?

read more | digg story

How the Landscape is Changing for Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Adobe

The days of purely desktop-based applications are clearly numbered, but so are the days of exclusively web-based apps...

read more | digg story

Touch-screen iPod directly confirmed by Apple

Apple's iPod documentation reveals that the touch-screen iPod is coming. You can verify it yourself.

read more | digg story

Napster launches 'free download of the day'

Online music service Napster is giving away MP3s again--sort of. Starting yesterday, music fans can download a free (and legal) MP3 every day.

read more | digg story

Six Arab States Join the Rush to Go Nuclear

The spectre of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programs to master atomic technology. The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.

read more | digg story

Saddam Hussein Is Sentenced to Death by Hanging

Iraq's High Tribunal found Saddam Hussein guilty of crimes against humanity on Sunday and sentenced him to die by hanging.Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death along with his half brother. Three Baath party officials charged with Hussein in the killings of 148 Shiite civilians have been sentenced to 15 years in prison, while a fourth has been cleared. He is to be hanged inside 30 days from now. Saddam Hussein has been given 10 days to appeal against the decision. His lawyer has warned to a bloodbath if the sentence is carried out.

read more | digg story

Microsoft to shut down MSN Music this month

Microsoft is about to shut down its MSN Music Store and redirect customers to the new Zune Marketplace. Microsoft has let down all the hardware vendors that support Microsoft's Plays For Sure as media from the Marketplace will only play on 1 device: the Zune.

read more | digg story

HP Ink Costs More Than Human Blood, Booze

"Gizmodo reader/potential vampire Shaun just popped this interesting graph in our email this morning, comparing the price of HP ink to other various fluids, some bodily in nature".

read more | digg story

Record everything you see

By the look of the Wearable Gaze Detector — with its many protruding wires and Cyberman-esqe design — it would have to do something pretty amazing to be worth committing the fashion felony of actually putting it on your head. Well, you see those rectangular thingies on top of each ear cup? Those are tiny video cameras, each tracking your eye movements by detecting the changes in electrical potentials that happen when they move. The idea is the Gaze Detector would record everything you're looking at, so later on you could watch a movie of your day with an accompanying "attention marker" pointing out exactly what held your gaze. Paired with a Web browser, the program could automatically call up information on the objects you looked at. Saw a nice painting as you walked through a building lobby? Review the video and find out who's the artist. Caught a glimpse of a cool car? Call up its make and model and where you can get the best price. Creator Manabe Hiroyuki would obviously have to do a lot of work on the design to turn the gaze detector into something you'd actually want to wear, but the eye-tracking technology certainly catches our attention.

Bush challenges Democrats to offer plan for Iraq

The battle for control of the U.S. Congress headed on Friday to a tense finish, with Democrats threatening to sweep Republicans out of power and President George W. Bush trying to stoke turnout among the party faithful.

Two years after a decisive election victory for Bush and Republicans, polls indicated Democrats were poised to recapture control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday for the first time since 1994 and make big gains in the Senate.

'What's your plan?' he asked of Democrats, encouraging the Springfield, Missouri, audience to repeat the phrase. 'Truth is the Democrats can't answer that question. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory.'

When the war in Iraq comes home

Alone and in clusters, collars up to block the rain, thousands of people lined the streets on a gray October day in 2005 to welcome their warriors home. For 13 miles, they rose to wave, a few to salute, as the buses rolled slowly past. More than one tough Marine, homeward bound after a brutal tour in Iraq, shed a tear.

When they reached solid ground, still wearing their desert camouflage, the Marines embraced their families and embarked on the most jarring of transitions. They would discover in the following year that seven months in Iraq had changed them more than they could have imagined, guiding and afflicting them in ways they are still struggling to understand.

Marines who expected duty so light that boredom seemed probable instead saw almost daily combat and 23 men killed in action, more casualties than any U.S. company in Iraq. When it was over, they traded an edgy, exhausting regimen of forced alertness and sudden brutality for sheer ordinariness. Nothing at home felt as urgent or as meaningful, as thrilling or as awful.

The 160 survivors returned to work or college, to wives or girlfriends, sometimes to childhood bedrooms grown suddenly small. Many suffered flashbacks, drank hard, quarreled with their women and sought refuge in one another, laboring to replace the rugged discipline, power and purpose they had left behind in Iraq. Some turned to counselors, some to God, others to the solidarity and beery narcotic of the VFW hall.

"It seems like everything you see reminds you of it. You drive through town and you see someone with a 'Support the Troops' sticker and it just starts going through your head again," said Sgt. Travis Brill. "Drink three, four, five beers. I find it easier to sleep when you don't have silly-ass things going through your head."

They fought as a unit and then scattered. In a series of conversations over the past year, more than a dozen Marines of Lima Company shared their experiences of Iraq and their reentry into the United States. Pieced together, scenes from their recent lives sketch a world of in-between, a landscape inhabited not only by them but also by countless others among the roughly 1 million military personnel who have returned from Iraq or soon will.

The survivors made it home from the war, but they brought the war with them.

Fall 2005: Columbus, Ohio

Staff Sgt. Guy Zierk broke up with his girlfriend on his fourth day back. He started drinking, ordering so many top-shelf vodkas and steaks that he churned through $5,000 in restaurant and bar tabs. He found himself "trying to find out the importance of things here," he said. "You think about car payments and bills and arguments in the family and who's going where for the holidays. And you try to compare that with the importance of who's shooting a rifle at you."

In some ways, Zierk, 31, had hated to leave Iraq, where he knew some streets better than he knew Columbus. He considered extending his tour. Then came the patrol when, exhausted and angry after watching so many good Marines die, he burst into an Iraqi house. He expected to find insurgents and make them pay.

Instead, he discovered two Iraqi women and a boy, maybe 16 years old. The scared teenager made no hasty moves, but it took every rational fiber in Zierk's body to keep from shooting him dead.

"The whole reason I didn't stay in Iraq was I would've killed people that didn't deserve to die," Zierk said, "and it wouldn't have served any greater good."

On Nov. 12, Zierk donned his dress blues -- white belt gleaming, black shoes shining, white hat crisp and snug -- for the annual Marine Corps Ball. Nearly 1,000 people packed a downtown hotel. His buddies were there, and so were parents and widows of the dead. The combination of clinking glasses and raw memories was too much.

He slipped away and walked through the streets of Columbus, alone.

A city's embrace

At McDonald's, customers thanked them. At nightclubs, people bought them drinks. Someone invited a group to the Super Bowl. A film crew produced a powerful documentary titled "Combat Diary." The mayor of Columbus, father of a Lima Marine, called them "true heroes."

The fact is, no one expected Lima Company to see so much combat, to become so decorated or so wounded, and certainly not to be adopted so strongly by the city. Lima was a reserve unit, an amalgam of students and workers, almost all from Ohio, who mustered every month to train for duty that might never come.

When it came, the citizen-soldiers found themselves posted at a Soviet-built dam on the Euphrates River in western Anbar province, home to some of the most violently contested territory in Iraq.

Between Feb. 28 and Sept. 30, 2005, the company launched patrols and fought joint operations amid 1,700 square miles of mostly Sunni areas from Hit and Haditha to the Syrian border, targeting anti-American insurgents and their supporters. In addition to the 23 dead, 31 Lima Marines were wounded, 17 of them badly enough to be sent home.

After the headlines and the public worrying, many well-meaning Columbus residents honored Lima's men and felt they knew them. The Marines were grateful but dubious, especially of the questions: "What was it like over there? How many Iraqis did you kill?"

A Dissatisfied Warrior

In central Ohio, 80 miles from Columbus, Travis Brill, 30, returned to work at a steel mill.

"I was leading combat troops in Iraq, and now I'm picking up scrap metal," he said one desolate day. "They even have rules for walking through the parking lot."

Trained as a warrior, he had prayed for combat, and months after returning from battle, his brain was still tuned to his Iraq soundtrack. He remembered Pantera's "Walk" blaring through military loudspeakers as he knocked off enemy fighters with his booming .50-caliber machine gun.

"If you know you're on the verge of being blown up any second," he said, "you're feeling alive."

Brill said he and maybe 15 other Marines had a bet of $100 each on who would get the first Iraqi kill, who would be the first Marine to be wounded, who the first to die. The "winner's" sum would go to his survivors. Once the war became a grind, the bet no longer seemed so clever and they dropped it.

"I was pretty optimistic at first. I went there with the right mind-set that I wanted to help these people, and they changed it pretty quickly. They don't give a damn, and all they want to do is blow you up when you're not looking. It sucks when you lose so many of your buddies for no good reason."

Even as he cursed the war's slow progress, he felt grateful to be part of a fight bigger than himself. As he left, he felt certain he was leaving business unfinished. Now, in the house Brill rents from his mother-in-law, he wakes up every night with Iraq on his mind. His baby daughter -- named Cami, for Marine camouflage uniforms -- cannot share her parents' bed. Brill is afraid of throwing a punch in his troubled sleep.

Open about how Iraq has changed him, Brill commented while playing poker at an Elks club that the challenge of killing enemy fighters took the fun out of hunting deer. "I'd rather kill a person," he said. "I love the hunt."

Fellow Marines have told him he needs counseling. He does not feel the need.

'You come back and . . . you're lost'

George Wentworth, a Navy Reserve medic known universally as "Doc," is the person Lima's Marines call when the walls are closing in. At 11 at night, at 3 in the morning, in the darkness just before dawn, they dial his number. Once when he tried to squeeze in a long weekend with his wife, he felt he never got off the telephone.

Within days of Lima's return, he abandoned his early goals of seeing no divorces and no domestic violence. He was not surprised: "You come back and, literally, you're lost."

Col. Charles W. Hoge, chief psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, recently told Congress that 10 to 15 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have post-traumatic stress disorder and a similar number have symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety. The rates are higher for reservists, a distinction that appears to emerge months after troops return home.

Wentworth, who has taken calls from panicked wives and distraught Marines, said: "There's no timeline for anybody to get over this. You look at Vietnam vets -- some of these guys didn't have problems until they retired from their civilian careers. And all of a sudden 20, 30 years later, it all came back to haunt them."

Spring: Washington, D.C.

One night at Shelly's Back Room in Washington, half a dozen lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers pressed Cpl. Jason Dominguez to tell war stories over Scotch and cigars. Instead, Dominguez, a legislative aide to a Republican congressman, offered a parable.

He recalled a political fundraiser three days after he returned from Iraq. As he studied contributors laughing and digging into the main course, he saw in his mind's eye a young American in uniform patrolling an Iraqi street, about to be blown to pieces. To the Ohio crowd, the dead Marine would be a news blip, barely noticed, quickly forgotten.

With a tongue sharper than usual, Dominguez, 26, wanted his new Washington friends to see what he saw, the American cause for which 23 of his fellow volunteers gave their lives.

"When I see things on the Hill, I think, 'This is all some big joke?' " he lectured. " 'This is a party?' This is not a party. It's a commitment. The men and women who died treated it that way. You need to treat it that way, too. If not, get out of our house, get out of our Congress."

They listened. He wonders whether they heard.

"There are times when I'm walking the halls of Congress and it would feel so good to strap on my body armor and be back in the fight," Dominguez said. "When I was there, I knew: This matters. We were able to bring them one step closer to what it means to not live under tyranny."

About day-to-day political life, he is less sure.

"Is this what my friends died for?" he finds himself asking on days when he feels alone in a crowd. "It's amazing how oblivious we are as Americans to how much all of this costs," he said.

March: Drill weekend

Lima Company mustered March 24 for its first drill weekend since its return. Radio bulletins reported that 26 Iraqis were killed that day in Baghdad. President Bush, speaking at a Republican fundraiser in Indiana, declared the United States could be beaten only if it lost its will.

"Democracy," he said, "is on the march in Iraq."

Inside headquarters, Marines traded high-fives and hugs. One walked with a wooden cane. Another had a special boot to hold his ankle in place. A third had a noticeable limp. Roughly half the company had mustered out or moved on, their places filled by fresh reserves who needed to be trained.

The next morning, Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell, commander of the 4th Marine Division, addressed the company and awarded medals to the families of the fallen. At 58, he keeps his gray hair short and his handshake firm, but tears ran down his cheeks as he faced the young widows, the parents and the children too young to understand.

Speaking later, O'Dell said that consoling those grieving a loss from Iraq was his toughest duty in his 38 years as a Marine. "Every one of them I have felt very personally. They're like my kid brothers," said O'Dell, a father of five whose own brother died at 17.

O'Dell believes Lima Company performed admirably, with guts and restraint, but was asked to do too much. That is as far as he will go. "These are not decisions I agreed with," he said, "so I will not be on the record until I retire."

Before he left the drill deck, the general announced that Lima Company probably will be deployed again next year, to Chad.

Beyond the casualties

To a man, Lima Marines wish outsiders would recognize them for their commitment and their successes, not for their casualties. They point to weapons confiscated and insurgents killed. They talk about holding ground where Iraqis voted in large numbers and delivering soccer balls to children.

The Marines say they were not inclined, by instinct or training, to question the mission.

"It was just like, 'Hey, we're going.' There was never any discussion of the whys," said Sgt. Andrew Taylor, who studies Arabic in hopes of becoming a U.S. agent overseas. "We didn't join up to argue about the right or wrong. I don't think anybody cared."

"If it fails," Taylor said of the Iraq campaign, "that doesn't change the fact that we were trying, we were making an effort. It's kind of a bad analogy, but it's kind of like Christmas: You give someone a present they don't like, but at least you gave it to them and made the effort."

What now, as Iraq struggles and a majority of Americans oppose the war?

"If we pull out of Iraq too soon, every single American who died over there will have died in vain," said Gunnery Sgt. Larry Bowman, 36, an Ohio state trooper who blames his recent divorce largely on friction over his Marine devotion. "I'm a big believer that fires you don't put out are going to burn bigger."

April: Arlington National Cemetery

The dogwoods and azaleas stood in glorious bloom at Arlington National Cemetery on April 27 when half a dozen Marines arrived from Columbus. With the Pentagon visible through the trees and the Washington Monument rising in the distance, they made their way to Section 60, where names of the Iraq war dead were newly chiseled into white headstones and the seams still showed on fresh sod.

Finding familiar names, they crouched close in silent conversation. There lay Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Youngblood, a husband and father attached to Lima as a medic. Nearby were Staff Sgt. Anthony Goodwin and Lance Cpl. Christopher Dyer.

One of the visitors, John Dyer, had been to his son's grave before.

"You walk up," he said, "and you hope it's not there."

Dyer found himself replaying his final telephone conversation with his son.

"Are you getting enough sleep?"

"Dad, when I get home, I'm going to sleep for a week."

A few days later, a roadside bomb exploded and 19-year-old Chris Dyer was gone.

"To a certain extent, you reconcile yourself to never being comfortable," Dyer said, motioning toward the surviving Marines. "You just fake it, which is what I do."

Pride and pain

Staff Sgt. Steve Hooper tells of Marines swerving suddenly on suburban Ohio roads after spotting what in Iraq would be likely hiding places for bombs, and of Marines on an Indiana training mission refusing beef jerky because it reminded them of seared flesh.

When he is with his girlfriend, he does not discuss combat.

"I don't tell her a thing. I don't want her knowing a lot of things I did over there," said Hooper, a quiet Bronze Star winner who talks often with fellow Marines. "Some people are proud of it. Some people wonder if God will forgive them for what they did."

Hooper's sharpest pain is the death of Cpl. Andre Williams, 23, his second-in-command and closest friend. Williams died while hunting insurgents not long after videotaping a message for his daughter's sixth birthday. Hooper keeps reaching, asking himself if he could have done something, anything, to keep him alive.

Late one June night, as Hooper was driving to a bar after finishing his shift as a prison guard, the radio began playing the melancholy Green Day song "Wake Me Up When September Ends," adopted as a theme by some Lima Marines as they counted the days until their tour ended on Sept. 30. Later, it was the soundtrack of a memorial video for Williams.

"Ring out the bells again, like we did when spring began," the song goes. "Wake me up when September ends."

Here comes the rain again,

Falling from the stars.

Drenched in my pain again,

Becoming who we are,

As my memory rests

But never forgets what I lost .

As the song came on the radio, tears filled Hooper's eyes. He switched stations.

The war-peace switch

A skilled assassin in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Brian Taylor is a healer back home.

"Lift your heels up, girlie. Like this. You've got to help me out," he gently and playfully coached a frail woman with a brain dysfunction and a broken hip. "Can you catch a ball? We're going to play ball. Here. Catch the ball."

Taylor, 34, feels as though he came equipped with a war-peace switch. In Iraq, he spent endless hours silently studying insurgents through the scope of his powerful sniper's rifle, feeding on the tension of deciding "whether they take their next breath."

"Most of the time, you've got to go with a gut feeling," he said. "More than likely, you're right."

A good day, he said, was "when we got a bunch of bad guys and we had no casualties."

But the insurgents' successes, particularly their killing of six Ohio-based snipers ambushed while supporting Lima, left Taylor begging for more missions.

"I don't feel we were defeated," he said, "but I wish I could've killed a lot more. They got a lot of us."

Back home, he focused on moving forward, even as his war experience sometimes colored his days; a ringing car alarm in his quiet cul-de-sac left him "huffing, puffing, trying to get out of bed. I felt like an idiot." He proposed to his girlfriend on an Irish vacation. She gave birth to a baby boy in August. He returned to his physical therapy practice, flipping the switch, even as he continued to train for the next deployment and to remember his dead friends.

"Thinking about that stuff sucks," Taylor said. "Really, it's a crapshoot. Some end up winners and some end up losers."

August: Louisville

The day the Marines returned to Columbus, when legions of Ohioans embraced them, Jason Dominguez drove to the grave of a friend, Andre Williams. To his surprise and dismay, he felt nothing.

"I was so frustrated. One of my buddies from my squad was lying there, and I couldn't feel a thing," Dominguez said. "I went to Arlington and five of our guys are there. Same thing."

Dominguez never looked at the clippings that friends had saved for him. He chose not to open the trunk holding his Iraq gear, still dusted with desert sand and flecked with blood. He threw himself into his Capitol Hill job and later campaign work, in part to avoid remembering.

For months, through intense stretches, Dominguez held things together. Some nights, he would stare at the ceiling, only to fall asleep and struggle to wake up. On the worst nights, when he felt a powerful urge to be drunk, he willed himself to stay sober.

The last weekend in August, he drove south by himself to Louisville to see Sgt. David N. Wimberg's grave.

"I'm there to pay my respects, but man, something happened to me. I just dropped to my knees, wrapped my arms around his headstone and started bawling like a baby."

"It was bad," Dominguez said, "but it was good."

Summer: Reconnected

When Guy Zierk was in Iraq, a former girlfriend began sending e-mails. Her name was Kelly Koby, and when they were together, long before the Iraq deployment, she was not ready for a long-term romance. But she wrote to Zierk in Iraq, and he sent war soundings.

"I thought things were going to get easier as we come closer to our return date . . . but they haven't," Zierk wrote. "We've taken a few losses . . . and it's messing with me a bit. I just need to get my head in the game and things here are just making it difficult for me."

Zierk was dating another woman when he left for the war, but he ended that relationship soon after his return. Still, Koby did not hear from him. She held back, saying later, "I knew he needed to come to me on his own terms."

Seven weeks later, the telephone rang one night at Koby's apartment. Zierk wanted to pull his life together. To be, in Marine-speak, good to go.

Within four days, he told Koby he wanted to marry her.

Koby, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher, remembers glimpses of the world Zierk had not wanted her to see. He struggled in his sleep. A wine bottle crashed to the floor and he jumped. He sometimes seemed distant.

"Those guys are always with him, who didn't come back," Koby said. "It's not just a job to him, it's a sense of being. It is who he is. He is a war fighter."

Sometimes, back in school at Ohio State, Zierk is hungry to return to Iraq, to finish the battle and to lead Marines who understand and care. He is considering a new round of Officer Candidates School but has also taken the Columbus firefighting exam, thinking it may be time to stay close to home.

For days, he ignores his ringing cellphone and withdraws into solitary projects, most recently woodworking and an Iraq video montage. He falls into conversation with Marine friends about Iraq and life. The nightmares that shook him awake are ebbing. He feels more at ease than the Marine who nearly lost his cool and shot an Iraqi teenager.

One mellow evening in Gallipolis, Guy Zierk and Kelly Koby were married on a green lawn near the fast-flowing Ohio River. He wore his Marine uniform, and she wore a grand white dress. Together they passed beneath the raised swords of 10 Lima Company Marines, warriors home from Iraq.

They entertained their guests beneath a white tent, setting aside an empty chair and a black-shrouded table for the fallen. On the table was a lemon, for the bitter memory of loss. Salt, for dried tears. An overturned wine glass, for toasts no longer shared. And a rose, for love.

More than anything or anyone, it was Koby who helped Zierk get back on track.

"It's having her with me when I'm having a bad night," he said. "She's good to go."

While guests danced and friends told tales as they worked their way through the 32 cases of beer on ice, Zierk thought about being home, far from the war being fought on the Euphrates. He could hardly complain on this, of all nights.

"Yeah," he said, "but I still wish I were there."

From MSNBC.MSN.com

Microsoft targets auctioneers of pirated software

Microsoft plans to file more than 50 lawsuits worldwide against online merchants who allegedly peddle counterfeit software on popular auction sites, the software giant said Monday.

read more | digg story

Former Agent Says Google and CIA in Partnership

Is Google's quest to manage the world's information leading straight to the CIA?

read more | digg story

Windows Users Start My Dream Windows App

"My Dream Windows App has just opened its doors, created by one Stefan Miganowicz of Leominster, Massachusetts. Stefan praises My Dream App as his source of inspiration, and gives 'kudos to [us] for pioneering an innovative way to bring applications to market', then immediately rips into the creativity of the Macintosh community…"

read more | digg story

29.8% of Windows XP users consider a move to Linux over Vista



read more | digg story

Is your Password among Top 10 Most Common Passwords?

thomas arsenal monkey charlie qwerty 123456 letmein liverpool password 123

read more | digg story

InstallPad: Automatically download and install your favorite software

So many software downloads, so little time. Who likes to download, launch and click through that installation wizard application after application? No one, that's who - especially when you've got a computer to get set up and running quick.

read more | digg story

One Soldier Against the Empire

It's hard even to remember anymore the true state of the U.S. military as the Vietnam War ground toward its bloody end. By the late 1960s, the statistics flowing back to Washington about the American war machine were enough to give any general nightmares. Drug-taking was rampant. (By 1971, up to 60% of returning soldiers admitted to some use.) Desertions stood at seventy per thousand, a modern high; small-scale mutinies or "combat refusals" were at critical levels; incidents of racial conflict had soared; and strife between officers ("lifers") and soldiers ("grunts") was at unprecedented levels; reported "fraggings" – assassination attempts – against unpopular officers or NCOs had risen from an already startling 126 in 1969 to 333 in 1971, despite declining troop strength in Vietnam. According to military count, as many as 144 underground newspapers were then being published by, or aimed at, soldiers. ("In Vietnam," the Ft. Lewis-McChord Free Press typically wrote, "the Lifers, the Brass, are the true Enemy, not the enemy.") And the country was experiencing the largest political exodus of potential soldiers, AWOLs, and deserters since large numbers of Tories left the country two hundred years earlier, after the American Revolution.

In 1971, Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. reviewed the evidence for Armed Forces Journal in an article entitled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces," and concluded: "[T]he foregoing facts point to widespread conditions among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by the French Army's Nivelle mutinies of 1917 and the collapse of the Tsarist armies [of Russia] in 1916 and 1917." Hardly less threatening to military cohesion at the time, active-duty soldiers in relatively small numbers as well as significant numbers of Vietnam veterans were by then beginning to organize against the war.

If you want part of the explanation for why the Vietnam War ended and all of the explanation for why the draft that once did result in a genuine citizen's army was abandoned for an all-volunteer military, look no further than this traumatic set of events. And it's been true that, whatever the problems – and they've been multifold – staffing an overstretched volunteer military to fight two increasingly unpopular wars without end in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam-style unrest in the military has been slower to grow. But there's nothing like a losing war in an alien land among an increasingly hostile populace to throw one's worst acts into strong relief. So, despite the obstacles, small but growing numbers of American soldiers – like Lieut. Ehren Watada, "the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refuse orders to fight in Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal" – have stepped forward to challenge the Bush administration, its war-making, and the military. Their often lonely acts of resistance reflect an extra degree of courage in comparison with the Vietnam era – and where it's been difficult for them military families as well as parents of the American dead in Iraq like Cindy Sheehan have heroically stepped into the void.

Former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, whose new book U.S. v. George W. Bush et al. will be published this December (and highlighted at this site), considers one of these new military resisters in her own unique way. If you want to look for "profiles in courage" in the age of Bush and Cheney, this is certainly a good place to start.

Walmart.com Wii Preorders end in less than 2 minutes

They hit at 2:40/2:41am, and were gone by 2:42am. Forced bundle, CoD3, Zelda, Madden, and Red Steel. The last chance for a preorder is now at EB's website.

read more | digg story