Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Number of U.S. Oil Rigs Continues to Tumble No end in sight (BusinessWeek)

U.S. oil rigs continued to get hammered this week despite still-rising levels of production.
Drillers idled 98 rigs, dropping the number to 1,358 and marking the 10th consecutive decline, Baker Hughes reported on Friday. The total U.S. rig count is down 30 percent since October, an unprecedented retreat.
The collapse in oil prices has wiped out more than 100,000 oil jobs worldwide. That hasn’t shown up yet in U.S. jobs numbers, and American oil production is at its highest seasonal levels in decades. Still, there’s mounting anecdotal evidence of an industry in distress, and the rig counts appear to be in free fall.
Rig counts are a controversial signal for U.S. oil watchers. Some see it as a leading indicator of production. Rigs are used to explore for new deposits and to drill new wells, so when rig counts decline, that will inevitably affect production down the line.
On the other hand, rigs have become more efficient, U.S. shale wells have been more prolific, and the rigs being idled are often the least productive. It’s possible that despite the plunging number of active rigs, U.S. production will continue to be slow to respond.
Is the U.S. Drilling Frenzy Over?

Friday, February 13, 2015

What Apple Just Did in Solar Is a Really Big Deal (BusinessWeek)

It was a year ago this week that Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook responded to a climate-change heckler at the company's annual shareholder meeting with an impassioned rebuttal in which he famously told investors who care only about profits to "get out of the stock."

Now Cook is putting his prodigious sums of money where his mouth is, proclaiming the “biggest, boldest and most ambitious project ever,” an $850 million agreement to buy solar power from First Solar, the biggest U.S. developer of solar farms. The deal will supply enough electricity to power all of Apple’s California stores, offices, headquarters and a data center, Cook said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco.

It’s the biggest-ever solar procurement deal for a company that isn't a utility, and it nearly triples Apple’s stake in solar, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). “The investment amount is enormous,” said Michel Di Capua, head of North American research at BNEF. “This is a really big deal.”
The blueprint
  • Cost: $850 million
  • Power: Apple will get 130 megawatts, enough to power 60,000 California homes
  • Location: First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County
  • Contract duration: 25 years
  • Footprint: 2,900 acres (12 square kilometers)
  • Start date: Middle of this year
  • Completion: End of 2016 (in time to take advantage of a 30 percent U.S. tax credit)
  • Profitable? Yes, for both, although Apple and First Solar didn’t disclose the deal's full terms 
The agreement positions the CEO of the world’s biggest company at the center of the global debate about climate change and the future of energy—a role Cook has increasingly embraced over the past two years. The company has been ramping up its investment in solar, with two 20 Mw plants completed and a third under development in North Carolina, and a 20 Mw plant in development in Reno, Nev. All of Apple's data centers are now powered by renewables. 
“We know that climate change is real,” Cook said on Tuesday. “Our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. We’ve shown that with what we’ve done.”
Wind power has long been cheaper than solar, and such tech companies as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have taken advantage by investing heavily in wind.
But the sun is the future. The price of solar has been declining quicker than that of wind, and by 2050 solar could be the world's biggest single source of electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. The Apple deal is the first of its size for solar, a milestone on the road to cheap, unsubsidized power from the sun.

Electricity Prices for Similar Deals ($/Mwh)

Prices spiked in 2009-2010 as states rushed to meet RPS goals. 

Apple isn't investing in solar as a gift to humanity. It's doing it because it's a good business deal, Cook stressed at the Goldman Sachs conference. "We expect to have very significant savings," he said.

As if to underline that fact, within minutes of announcing the solar deal, Apple's stock ended the trading day with a record valuation of $711 billion, making it the first U.S. company to cross the $700 billion mark. Shares of both Apple and First Solar surged.

Follow the Leaders

  • Google: Last year Google signed a 400 Mw power-purchase deal in wind, bringing its total to 1 gigawatt. 
  • Microsoft: In the past two years, Microsoft has entered into deals for 285 Mw of wind, including one of the world's biggest contracts for a single facility.  
  • Amazon: Just last month, Amazon jumped into the race, signing a 150 Mw wind agreement.
  • Ikea: In September, Ikea and a group of large companies committed to becoming 100 percent renewable by 2020. The furniture retailer already gets a significant amount of its power through company-owned wind projects worldwide.
  • Wal-Mart: The big-box retailer has been busy putting panels on the tops of its big boxes, with more than 100 Mw of capacity installed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scammers Are Using a Fake Version of AdwCleaner to Trick People (How to Geek)

The latest trend in the awful Windows ecosystem is pretty ridiculous — scammers have a fake version of the reputable AdwCleaner tool, which is a real tool for Windows experts. And this one pretends your computer is infected and tries to make you pay them to remove it.
AdwCleaner is indeed a real freeware tool, with a good reputation for removing spyware and adware. It’s not as well known as MalwareBytes because it’s not all that user friendly, since it is meant for Windows experts rather than regular users. And the scammers have tried to mimic the interface, stealing the logo, and even ripping out the icon (badly) for their fake version.

Fake AdwCleaner is Being Distributed Through Adware Infections

The ironic thing is that this is getting on people’s PCs that are already infected with adware or spyware of some type, which then keep popping up windows to a page that looks like this one… which tells you that adware is detected. Which is surprisingly accurate, although the fake app isn’t going to remove that adware.
Malware alerting you about malware never has your best interest in mind.
Once you click through that dialog, it’ll give you a scary message like this, telling you to download AdwCleaner. Since you’ve probably heard your geeky friends talking about AdwCleaner, a normal user might be tempted to download it.
This is not the AdwCleaner you are looking for.
If you make the mistake of downloading and running this fake AdwCleaner, you’ll be quickly presented with a window that looks an awful lot like the real thing.
The fake version is actually a bit more user-friendly.
Once the fake one finishes scanning, it’ll present you with a dialog saying your PC is completely infected with spyware and browser hijackers, and then it’ll offer to remove it, as long as you pay $59.99 to them through Paypal. And of course that fire sale ends tomorrow.
It’s important to note here that the real AdwCleaner is completely free. You can download it from BleepingComputer.
That seems expensive, even for malware.
Hopefully somebody at PayPal can suspend the account by Mardel Innovations, because they are clearly a bunch of scammers.
Follow the money. That’s what the government should be doing.
The ironic thing is that the real AdwCleaner doesn’t actually detect this fake version at this point.

Removing the Fake AdwCleaner From Your PC

Freudian slip?
Removing this fake version of AdwCleaner is luckily really easy. Right-click on the icon in the Taskbar and click Close Window, making sure to notice that it actually admits that it is a piece of adware called AdwareBooC. Guess they forgot to change that.
Go delete the downloaded file from whatever folder you saved it to.
Now to stop it showing up at startup, use WIN + R to open up a Run dialog, type in msconfig and hit the enter key. Once System Configuration is open, switch over to the Startup tab, find the Adware line, and uncheck it. Notice the path, which currently is in our local appdata folder.
From what we can tell, the path might end up being random.
If you don’t have msconfig because you are using Windows 8, you can also use Autoruns from SysInternals (which is part of Microsoft). Find the startup entry in the Logon tab and delete it.
SysInternals tools are amazing. Read our full guide.
Now open up Windows Explorer and type %localappdata% into the location bar.
You can also use %appdata% to open the Appdata\Roaming folder
You should see the same file that is loading at startup. Delete it.
At this point your PC should be free of the fake AdwCleaner. But it isn’t free of viruses and malware, because you probably got infected with this thing because your PC is infected with other malware.

Scan Using MalwareBytes to Remove Other Spyware and Adware

The best bet for cleaning up spyware and malware is Malwarebytes. You might ask yourself why you wouldn’t just use your regular antivirus product, but the fact is that antivirus just doesn’t detect spyware very often. It’s only useful for viruses that try to destroy your PC, which are few and far between at this point. Almost all of the malware out there is trying to spy on you, redirect your browsing, and insert more ads into pages that you’re viewing. It’s all about the money.
So the only really good product on the market that will find and remove spyware, adware, and other malware is Malwarebytes. Luckily they have a free version that will let you clean up and remove everything — if you want to pay for the full version that has active protection to prevent these things from happening, that’s fine too.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you’ll be prompted to run a scan, so click that big green Scan Now button.
After it completes scanning, it’ll find a big huge list of things to remove. Click the Apply Actions button to actually remove all the malware.
You’ll want to reboot your computer to make sure that everything is fully cleaned up. If anything seems to come back, run Malwarebytes again, remove anything found, and then reboot again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Citi: Oil Could Plunge to $20, and This Might Be 'the End of OPEC' (BusinessWeek)

This time is different

The recent surge in oil prices is just a "head-fake," and oil as cheap as $20 a barrel may soon be on the way, Citigroup said in a report on Monday as it lowered its forecast for crude. 

Despite global declines in spending that have driven up oil prices in recent weeks, oil production in the U.S. is still rising, wrote Edward Morse, Citigroup's global head of commodity research. Brazil and Russia are pumping oil at record levels, and Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran have been fighting to maintain their market share by cutting prices to Asia. The market is oversupplied, and storage tanks are topping out.

A pullback in production isn't likely until the third quarter, Morse said. In the meantime, West Texas Intermediate Crude, which currently trades at around $52 a barrel, could fall to the $20 range "for a while," according to the report. The U.S. shale-oil revolution has broken OPEC's ability to manipulate prices and maximize profits for oil-producing countries. 

"It looks exceedingly unlikely for OPEC to return to its old way of doing business," Morse wrote. "While many analysts have seen in past market crises 'the end of OPEC,' this time around might well be different," Morse said.

Citi reduced its annual forecast for Brent crude for the second time in 2015. Prices in the $45-$55 range are unsustainable and will trigger "disinvestment from oil" and a fourth-quarter rebound to $75 a barrel, according to the report. Prices this year will likely average $54 a barrel. 

Q: What Will Be the Average Price of Crude in 2015? 
Price per barrel of WTI crude.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sony Sells Sony Online Entertainment (PCMagazine)

New York firm Columbus Nova has acquired Sony Online Entertainment and renamed it Daybreak Game Company

Everquest Title Screen
Sony, in a surprise announcement Monday, said it has sold off its MMO studio responsible for the massive multiplayer online role-playing game EverQuest and other popular titles.
The New York Investment management firm Columbus Nova acquired Sony Online Entertainment for an undisclosed sum and has renamed it Daybreak Game Company, according to a post on Sony's official forum.
"This name embodies who we are as an organization, and is a nod to the passion and dedication of our employees and players," the post reads. "It is also representative of our vision to approach each new day as an opportunity to move gaming forward."
Effective immediately, the former Sony Online Entertainment will operate as an independent development studio creating online games for multiple platforms, including PlayStation, Xbox, mobile devices, and more.
"It will be business as usual and all SOE games will continue on their current path of development and operation," according to the announcement. "In fact, we expect to have even more resources available to us as a result of this acquisition."
The company also hinted that it would bring some of its PC and PlayStation games to other platforms, promising some "new and exciting developments" for its existing games now that it has the freedom to "fully embrace the multi-platform world we are living in."
"Our games and players are the heart and soul of our organization, and we are committed to maintaining our portfolio of online games and pushing the limits of where we can take online gaming together," the Daybreak team wrote.
In a tweet Monday, Daybreak president John Smedley reiterated the company's multi-platform plans, writing "can't wait to make Xbox One games!"