Week in review: The gold in being green

It's easier being green when environmentally friendly technologies and practices yield financial rewards.

Who knew that being green in an environmental sense could put some greenbacks in your pocket.

Pacific Gas & Electric demonstrated on the concept of the plug-in hybrid, which uses a higher-capacity battery than that used in ordinary hybrids like Toyota's Prius. Part of a program called Vehicle-to-Grid, the idea is to let car owners sell electricity purchased overnight back to the grid for a modest profit or to power their homes in an emergency, said Bob Howard, a vice president of PG&E.

The demonstration came during the Alternative Energy Solutions Summit, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and hosted by Advanced Micro Devices. Public officials from Silicon Valley communities and organizations gathered to hear discussions about how the region can invest and profit from demand for cleaner and more efficient sources of power.

However, many CNET News.com readers were dubious about the idea.

"Make it as affordable as an economy car, if you are really serious about fighting global warming, and you don't want to have it labeled as a scam," to the News.com TalkBack forum.

Meanwhile, dozens of exhibitors were on hand at the seventh annual Cool Product Expo at Stanford University to showcase products that are turning traditional business models upside down. Environmental sustainability was the overriding concept during talks among the roomful of entrepreneurs, including some who are just getting their inventions off the ground and others who are established in their chosen businesses.

Indeed, the room was packed with products touting eco-friendly features. They included Bambu, an all-bamboo line of kitchen items, including spoons, plates, chopsticks and more; the Frisper, a green take on vacuum-sealing bags used for saving food that allow multiple reuses of the bags; and the OptiBike, an electric-powered bicycle that allows a rider to add 20 mph to their own pedaling speed and can go 30 miles on a charge.

Hybrids not your style? Like a little more brawn in your beast? How about a Hummer that gets 40 miles per gallon running on fairly clean fuels such as ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel or natural gas?

It's all the work of Jonathan Goodwin, a biodiesel conversion specialist and founder of alternative-energy start-up SAE Energy, an emerging name in an unlikely niche in the clean-tech market: making muscle cars green.

He's already converted about 60 H2 Hummers from gas to diesel and has done the same for about 100 H1 Hummers, including one that can burn the whole menu of clean fuels. A 1965 Impala he converted from gas to biodiesel in a quarter-mile test and won. The car will be featured on MTV Networks' show Pimp My Ride on April 22.

Fixing a hole
Cybercrooks are using a yet-to-be-patched security flaw in certain Windows versions to attack computers running the operating systems. The attacks target Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 systems through a hole in the domain name system, or DNS, Microsoft said in a security advisory. The attacks happen by sending rigged data to the service, which by design is meant to help map text-based Internet addresses to numeric Internet Protocol addresses.

The latest vulnerability is a stack-based buffer overrun, Microsoft said. This is a common type of coding problem that has caused many headaches for Windows users. A successful attack will give full control over a vulnerable machine without any user interaction, Microsoft said.

A trio of what appear to be new, yet-to-be-patched flaws in Microsoft Office has surfaced, according to security researchers at McAfee. All but one of the flaws results in denial of service, meaning the application would crash, according to the blog post.

In addition to the Office bugs, a zero-day vulnerability has been reported in Windows. Sample code that exploits a flaw in the way Windows handles help system files has been posted to the Internet.

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