Chasing the Power

Every once in a while I get a good dose of greeniness, and look around my little corner of geekiness and sort of wonder “How much juice is this actually using?” After asking Cat what our monthly electric bill was ($300!), I decided this question needed a closer look.
A month or two ago I had picked up a Kill-a-watt (terrible name, ain’t it?) power monitor. This little gadget plugs into a wall outlet, and tells how much power is being used by things drawing through it. Today I jacked it into the single outlet that feeds my nest o machines, and powered things up.
The meter dutifully reported the load as things came online, and steadied out at about 280 watts. All in all, that’s not too bad for 3 computers, 3 lamps, and associated peripherals, but I was curious how that load was distributed. What was actually pulling all that juice?
Unsurprisingly, the single largest draw is yawl, my 2.2gig P4 Linux box. It accounted for about 85watts of power (without monitor). The second biggest draw was, oddly enough, lights. I have 2 compact flourescent desk lamps (about 15watts each), and a single halogen desk lamp (35 watts). I knew the halogen light was pretty dreadful, and this pretty much confirms it. That chalks another 65 or so watts. Which leaves me with 140 unaccounted for.
Well, the two laptops were about 30 watts each (pretty nice considering the horsepower in clipper and hunter). Down to 80 now. This last chunk was pretty much the combined load of the LCD monitors, various chargers and other desktop doodads, a pair of external USB drives, and the like.
So what’s to be done about it? Well, I’ve been considering moving to LED based lights for a while. They’re small, cool, draw -very- little power, but have the current drawback of being ridiculously expensive. A single bulb equivelent to a 100 watt incandescent bulb would cost around $52. The equivelent compact flourescent bulb costs around $5. The advantage to using LED is the current draw is miniscule. For the equivelent amount of light, the bulb would only consume about 2watts of power, AND have the advantage of being dimmable – something impossible with CF bulbs.
If I replaced my 3 desktop lamps with LED lamps, I could cut my power consumption by a third. I also have 4 other lamps in the room that could be replaced as well. The question is, is it worth it?
I’m still puzzling this one out. If anyone has suggestions for good sources for inexpensive LED fixtures and lamps, please let me know!

A quickie XM comment

In all my driving around I have a lot of time to listen to XM Radio in the techno-van. Much of the time I spend listening to the various comedy channels – sort of non stop standup. It’s pretty interesting, but one unexpected delight keeps coming up.
Apparently XM Channel 151 has picked up the entire “Chicken Man” radio series. I used to hear this regularly on WMMR in Philadelphia, but hadn’t heard it since. It was a delight to hear that unmistakable introduction…

And now, it’s time for another exciting episode in the life of the most fantastic crimefighter the world has ever known… BRA BRAAA BRAH BRAAAAHHHHH CHICKEN… MAAAAAAAAN… (He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!)

For those that know this series, you can’t help but smile and hear the intro clearly when reading those words. Even after almost 40 years, it’s still a hoot to listen to, and I have to thank the anonymous genius at XM Radio who managed to get this show back on the air.
Some further details about the show are here. Thanks XM!

Bad Dell designers! No biscuit!

In many ways, working with clipper has been quite a joy. Everything works well, I only have to reboot once every 2-3 days (hey for Windows, that’s pretty good), and it’s pretty zippy.
But part of my job includes teleconferences every morning, which requires a headset. Headsets need to be plugged into the Mic and Speaker jacks.
Some Dell designer decided that:

  1. The jacks should NOT be color coded. Basic black works great for everything! I now know intuitively that the Microphone jack is toward the ‘back’ of the laptop.
  2. The jacks are NOT duplicated on the docking station. This is just daft. The docking station is supposed to be used to dock and undock the laptop with a minimum of hassle. NOW I have to plug and unplug my headphones -everytime- I dock or undock the laptop.
  3. And, of course, I situated the laptop to the -right- of my monitor stand, so it’s in the way whenever I need to do this. I blame Dell for that one too, while I’m at it.

Thanksgiving in Ashland


Originally uploaded by dbang.

Yesterday we all went over to Steph and Dwight and Sarah‘s house for their (now traditional) “Day after thanksgiving hang out and share leftovers” day. It ended up being an outstanding afternoon of socializing, food, kids, chat, and general friend-connectedness.

Part of the fun was being outside (after all the rain we’ve had) and playing football with the kids. John joined in as well, and we kept Zach, Ian, Andy, Mishka, and Alexei well entertained for an hour or two. Diana took this shot while we were tossing the ball around.

I really enjoyed having the time to spend non-business time with my future neighbors and other friends. It was just what the Dr ordered.

Flickr Command Line Uploading – sort of!

So the ongoing project right now is to upload all 4000-some odd photos that I have stored on various machines up to my Flickr account. The sheer volume of images is quite staggering, as each uploaded pic has to be put into the appropriate set and tagged. Some of the uploading tools have been somewhat handy, but since the vast majority of my pics are stored remotely on a linux box, GUI tools aren’t much help.
There’s really no decent ‘command line tool’ for batch uploading pictures, but I think I’ve found a fairly decent way using Flickr’s upload by email function.
Using a simple hand-entered script and Mutt‘s powerful command line functions, a directory full of images can simply be emailed to flickr, tags, text, titles and all.
Here’s a sample run uploading a single directory. The tags can be set in the Subject line of the mail, or via the email page on Flickr. You pre-set the tags, then submit the images:

dbs@boomer:~/pictures/maine-may9-1998$ for i in *.jpg
> do
>   mutt -a $i -s $i    echo $i done.
> done
dave-1.jpg done.
dave-n-michael.jpg done.
don-finishes-up.jpg done.
final-dock-assembly.jpg done.
house-1.jpg done.
lake-1.jpg done.
lake-2.jpg done.
ready-to-unload.jpg done.
scott-steel.jpg done.

Simple, eh? Then I go to Flickr’s ‘organize’ function, toss the new images into a set, and then I’m ready for the next batch. The images show up on Flickr in a matter of seconds, so I can do any size directory, from submission into a set, in about 2 minutes. The script is entered on the command line, so to upload the next directory, I reset the tags on flickr, cd to the new dir, and just up-arrow to the script, and hit enter. Boom!
Of course I have something like 400 directories to work through, but if I do a dozen or so a night, I’ll get through them eventually.

Powertools and the bedroom

The end result!

Originally uploaded by eidolon.

So yesterday we got notice that the new futon we had bought had arrived. It was only 5 minutes away by car, so we quickly scampered over to pick it up.

Since I was taking apart the bed anyway, I thought it would be a good time to follow through with a project I had been thinking about. While I liked the whole futon concept, I was really done with the “bed on the ground” thing, and wanted something I could actively sit on the side of. Mattress boxsprings and frames seemed silly – I already had a bed, I just needed to raise it up.

Futon frame under modificationOn with the power tools! The first step was to make the trifold kingsized frame rigid. It wouldn’t be sitting flat on the ground anymore, so it needed a way to support itself. Adding 3 2×3 stringers along the underside of the frame did that.

Next I needed to raise the whole setup. I added 9 posts to the bottom by connecting a 6″ piece of 2×3 to a 10″ 2×3, in a sort of ‘shelf’ arrangement. The bedframe sites on the smaller piece, and attaches to the side of the longer piece with a pair of heavy wood screws. With help from a visiting friend, we assembled the entire thing in about an hour.

After flipping it over and putting the mattress back on top, the entire arrangement is now easily flush with the window and sitting on it is quite comfortable. i can even see the TV while folks are playing games or hanging out. Hooray!

Oh, and a new futon mattress after being on the same one for 6 years? Priceless.


Details about where CCP is going with Eve Online are being announced by the CEO at their 2006 Fanfest.

Some choice tidbits:

  • A Linux client is being ‘actively developed’, as well as a Mac client
  • Avatars are coming, so characters can walk around the stations. The avatars are fully dynamic, with eyes tracking other characters motions, etc.
  • A revamped graphical system supporting ultra-high end cards, while still supporting older platforms.
  • “Eve Mobile” – a client that can run on handheld computers allowing skill updates, trading, and EveMail.
  • Embedded Vivox client for voice chat


The face of modern telecommuting.


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Every morning I spend an hour or so on the ‘phone’ with my client down in New Jersey. This has been tricky when we don’t have a ‘face’ to talk to on both ends.

We’ve worked out a combination of audio and video that works quite well. Using MSN (which is the standard for the client), we have a webcam in the conference room that someone hooks up to their laptop. It’s quite simple to just ‘make a video call’, and off we go.

For audio, we use, which lets us have a very robust dialin / conference call system. I use a VOIP client from called X-lite, which ties into our VOIP account from RNK Telecom.

All of that coupled with my Blueant X5 headphones make for a very comfortable, useable interraction.

All of this is running on clipper, my laptop. The niftiest part of this is I can do this from anywhere. I’m considering getting smaller, mort portable camera (I’m using a Labtec camera now, which is ‘okay’, but not exactly portable.)

Yay technology!

It’s all about the tools.

In a previous post I admitted to the world that I, an avowed Linux weenie, was now using a Windows desktop for all my geeky endeavours. This continues to be true, but I’ve taken the steps necessary to make my environment comfortable to work in, without going the easy route of “I will do everything in my power to make Windows look and feel just like my Linux box.” To me this defeats the purpose of potential learning experience of working with a new environment.
So about those tools…

Continue reading “It’s all about the tools.”

The code, she is a flowin.

Rain. Cold. Cloudy.
These to me are the harbingers of only one thing.
An excellent day of coding.
And an excellent day it was. Almost 12 hours, with a meeting and a good lunch to interrupt, had me rewriting an entire interface to the application, reworking a build script so it was more efficient, and implementing a ‘Priority 1’ change for the current programming sprint.
I’m coming to a happy medium with Eclipse and my forced migration. All in all, a very good couple days, with this one as a topper.
Tomorrow I have another bit of work, then drive back up to Boston. But tonight, it’s time for food, then rest.

I for one welcome our new silicon overlords.

I feel like I’ve taken the bluepill. All I see around me is a sham, the wool that has been pulled over my eyes.
But, ya know? It’s going okay.
A grandiose change has happened to my work environment at Chez Geek. Due to the long-running contract with ${customer}, we worked out a deal where due to the instability and possible imminent death of hunter, I was issued a new laptop. The laptop, however, runs Windows, and it was made abundantly clear by said ${customer} that they’d prefer I worked in the same environment as they do, that being, of course, Windows.
So here I am, with a spanking new laptop named ‘clipper’, and running it as my full time primary machine. After my initial revulsion at the concept, I have to concede – it’s going quite well.
I shan’t go into the details of what is different between WindowsXP and Linux. That subject has been debated, chewed on, spat up, kicked about, and shot out of a cannon plenty over the last few years. But what I’m using this machine for is exactly what Microsoft has been working on for 15+ years. A stable, high powered desktop environment that can interract with a multitide of peripherals, platforms, and hardware without very little fiddling or complaints.
Over the next few weeks I’ll talk more about some of the applications and challenges I’ve been hitting with this migration, but for now, I seem to have reached a happy detante. My view for the moment is “This is stable, it works, it does things I could not do under Linux, but I still have all the power of my Linux machines handy just a few network segments away. I can deal.”
I’m sure this will be the case until I get my first virus or malware installation, but for now, I’m a happy bluepill.

Idiot AP Reporters

What is it with supposedly ‘technical’ reporters? They apparently haven’t clue ONE about the material they’re writing about.

Take for example an article appearing in the Herald Tribune – Europe. The subject is a good one, Tim Berners-Lee discussing research into the future of the ‘net. A worthy topic, but the short article contains this little gem:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who is credited with creating the Internet, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that the way the Web is used should be examined by a broad spectrum of experts.

NO. WRONG. TBL had nothing to do with the ‘Invention of the Internet’. TBL is credited with first linking hypertext documents with a mechanism for linking these documents to remote servers. He wrote the first webserver, and the first web browser, and coined the term ‘World Wide Web’. This is an application that runs OVER the internet.