I was in Bletchley Park last week for the Over the Air event. One of the highlights was a tour of the museum in which we got to see a reconstruction of the first computer the Colossus. Originally the computers were left on all day but now they are only switched on from time to time for tours due to the high cost of running them (and for environmental reasons).
Colossus computer at Bletchley Park
The machines use a whopping 5.5 kilowatts of electricity and standing near them you can certainly feel the heat. The sheds in which they are kept apparently get pretty warm in winter too.
The increasing energy efficiency of computers is formalised in Koomey’s law which states that “at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every year and a half”. This trend has all sorts of interesting implications as it will allow computer to become smaller and more ubiquitous in the future.
I did an interview and filled out a logbook with http://www.suslabnwe.eu/ on home energy use. One of the activities was to document and take pictures of an everyday activity which was much easier to do as a blog post hence this post. Apologies if this bores you to tears!
Why did you do this activity
I made soup because I was hungry after work and had load of vegetables in the fridge that needed cooking!
Here are the step involved in me making soup:
Turns the lights over the kitchen work area (I usually leave half the kitchen lights off)
Read the recipe on my iPhone
Take vegetables out of the fridge
Turn the radio on
Boil some water in the kettle (usually takes two boils to fill the pot)
Open the window so the kitchen doesn’t stink up
Turn on the extractor fan
Set the timer
Put the stuff in the pot and stick the lid on the pot
Blend the soup using the hand blender
This is obviously pretty banal but it is eye opening just how many electrical and energy related things are involved in such a mundane activity.
Air Quality Egg
AirQualityEgg NO2 data
Current cost electricity usage
Current cost electricity data
These two data source aren’t pumping out data anymore but you can see an example here.
At uSwitch, I often work with multiple MongoDB databases as part of the same system. Recently I spent a lot of time in the Mongo shell jumping between the two databases to reset data to its initial state.
This requires several commands
Plus I often forget which database I’m in.
Happily you can use the db.getSiblingDB method to access another database without having to switch databases. This shorten it down to a single command:
I’m a member of Brixton Energy, a cooperative in South London that installs solar panels on social housing. The projects are crowd-funded by community members, with some of the profits used to support energy efficiency in the community. We are transparent about what we do and we want our investors to able to see the impact of their investments. One way we are doing this is by sharing how much electricity the panels are generating to anyone who is curious.
Opening up solar generation data
Unemotional data and graphs in solar log
The solar generation data is logged to a website called solar log which came with the solar panel system. I wanted to integrate the data more closely with our website so I hacked together a really nasty script to scrape it from the solar log website and post the generation data to Cosm, the Internet of Things platform. In Cosm you can easily set up automated tweets based on changes to the data. I did just that and created a new twitter account @BES_Generation that tweets when electricity generation for the day exceeds 20, 50, 100, 150, 200 and 250kWh.
It’s a lovely day in Brixton! Brixton Energy Solar 1 has generated 154.723kWh of electricity so far. #solar#brixton
I set up the auto tweeting for my own use. First, to make sure that the data was posting successfully to Cosm and second, to get push notifications of how the solar panels were doing without having to visit the solar log website.
I was surprised by how cheerful and happy the tweets made me feel.
It might have been because it was March and winter was finally ending but the combination of sunshine, being involved in a cool environmental project and knowing my investment was doing well was a real buzz!
But then I was even more surprised that other people liked it too:
I love that the solar panels on the housing estate at the end of my street tweet to tell us how much energy they have just generated.
Zurich is easy enough to get to with the Eurostar and the TGV (I booked via Loco2). The journey takes about 8 hours, which is plenty of time for some pleasant hacking/reading/looking out the window, with a stopover for lunch in Paris. Its really straightforward and quick to change at Paris as long as you follow the advice given on the Man in Seat 61 website (which co-incidentally was the seat I end up in on the TGV between Paris and Zurich!).
The city itself is in pretty good nick, presumably as it has been trashed in any of the numerous conflicts that the rest of Europe has had. There are trams everywhere including this one by the university that goes through a building.
The university where the conference was held was pretty grand too:
On the Saturday I took a walk by the lake which is a close to the centre of town. Along the edge of the lake there is a few interesting buildings, including the Le Corbusier house (he is also on the money) and a Chinese Garden.
I ventured over to the old industrial side of town later on to visit the MFO Park, an old factory that has been converted into a park area. The mix of the industrial features is very well done and you can climb stairs to the top for views of the surrounding area.
By co-incidence I was in town during Carnival, which proved that the swiss do know how to party (or at least drink lots of beer and do brass band covers of sixties tunes.)
Candidates are currently campaigning for the by-election to Lambeth council in the Brixton Hill ward where I live. Previously, council elections have just passed me by, but this one has caught my attention a lot (perhaps because its January and not much else is going on).
Where Brixton Hill council candidates live (The Brixton Hill ward is in blue)
In fact out of the 7 candidates only the two front runners Andrew James Child (Green party) and Martin Tiedemann (Labour) live in the ward. Three of the others live in Clapham and one lives in Vauxhall. But at least they live in Lambeth – one candidate Daniel Lambert (The Socialist Party) lives many miles away in Chislehurst.
I used the excellent Prawn gem recently to create a PDF. I needed an application form style like layout for the PDF like this:
Simple form layout
Using Prawn this is straight forward. We just create two bounding boxes one for the left side and one for the right side of the page. Then we render the labels into the left bounding box and the form boxes into the right bounding box.
Filling in the fields
Filled in form
In some case I need to fill in the fields as well so I generalised the code into a method that takes a hash: