Incandescent to CFDs to LEDs … but will the power bill come down?

There was a time not so long ago when just about every light in a house was an incandescent bulb. An incandescent bulb that drew 75 watts of power to put out about 630 lumens of light.

Then the CFDs (compact fluorescent discharge) became popular and affordable around 2000. CFDs vary a lot but on average a CFD that draws about 18 watts of power puts out about 600 to 620 lumens of light. So CFDs used about a quarter of the power and produced about the same amount of actual light. Also, in theory, CFDs lasted about five times longer than the ‘average’ incandescent bulb although I never found this to be true. My experience is that CFDs did not last as long incandescent bulbs.

Another problem with CFDs was that—being powered by fluorescent discharge—they flickered. They flickered really fast and 95 percent of people could not even notice it, but people sensitive to light flicker could pick up this very fast flickering.

The other thing some people did not like about CFDs was that they needed to warm up before they put out their full brightness. As they got better and better the warm up time got less and less, but even the latest of CFDs still have a little warm up time required.

But now we have the modern LED lights where with just 9 watts of power they put out 650 lumens (depending on the actually LED unit being used). Also they are instant on with full brightness. When these first started arriving on the market about five years ago they were $100+ per ‘bulb’ but now they are down to about $10 per bulb making them generally affordable. Also, from what I have read, the LED bulbs actually do have a long life of up to around 15,000 burn hours. So if they were used for eight hours a day for every day of the week you should easily get five years out of them.

So compared to the incandescent bulb in the mid-90s that drew 75 watts to produce 630 lumens of light we now have LED ‘bulbs’ that draw 9 watts to give out 650 lumens. This is about a tenth of the power consumed to provide the same light.

Over the last few months I have gradually changed all the long-use lights in my house over to LED. This spreads the $10 per light cost out over a more manageable period.

Now to watch my power bills plummet. Well that’s the plan anyway.


I’m excited: NFL Super Bowl tomorrow

Well … technically it’s played Sunday in America, but it is broadcast almost-live by Channel 10 (1) in Australia as from 7:30 a.m. tomorrow (Monday).

Traditionally, for the last 10 to 12 years anyway, I have taken the day off to stay home and watch the Super Bowl. This indulgence comes at significant cost because I am a contractor and if I am not working I don’t get paid. So basically this half day of Super Bowl viewing costs me over $300 in lost income (because I take the whole day off).

What a sacrifice. I bet the tickets to the actual Super Bowl don’t cost that much!

I am not a huge follower of sport. Or should that be sports? I can’t decide. Anyway, whatever … I can sort of get through a whole game of Australian Rules Football if I have to (mainly when one of the two local teams are playing); and I have been known to get into watching the occasional game of tennis about once every two or three years (which seems to be directly related to the cuteness of the girls playing). I have even watched a few games of rugby now and then and this is probably because, in a number of ways, rugby is sort of similar to American football.

I do watch a bit of cricket now and then. Cricket is good. Cricket is a deceptively strategic game. I like just about all the ‘types’ of cricket. The five day test matches, the 50 over one day games, and the T20 (20 over) slog-em-hard games. I was a huge fan of the Indian IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket, but it seems this no longer gets broadcast on free-to-air and I don’t have Foxtel (that would be akin to ‘cable’ for my American readers).

A useful thing about cricket is that there are sort of three ways you can watch it. You can be doing something else, like painting a wall or working on your car, and just take notice now and then. This is sort of like 10 to 20 percent watching. Or you can sit in front of the TV but be doing something else as well like playing Sudoku, surfing the Web on your notebook, or keying up a blog post. This is kind of 50 to 60 percent watching. Or you can have a beer and chips happening and be paying almost complete attention. That would be 80 to 90 percent watching. These all work perfectly when you are watching cricket. Very useful. Probably a bit like American baseball … or not.

But back to grid-iron, or is that gridiron? Just checking my 20th Century Chambers on this. The hard copy version obviously. Okay. It is an actual word. It’s gridiron.

I find gridiron amazing.

I got interested in watching a gridiron game when my boss’ boss described the game to us one day at work. He was the CIO of the company I worked for. I can probably say his name as he, sadly, is dead now. It was Allan Nelson. He died from motor neuron disease.

I would have been about 30 at the time and I was part of the Systems Programming group. We programmed and fixed the NOS/BE operating system that ran on our CDC (Control Data Corporation) Cyber 170 mainframe computers. And these were ‘real’ mainframes. You could tell they were bona-fide mainframe computers because they took up a whole frigging (large) room, floor to ceiling, and they were cooled using chilled water. As the old saying goes “If it ain’t cooled with chilled water then it’s not a mainframe”.

So one day Allan Nelson proceeded to tell us about gridiron football, complete with all the required arm movements and jumping about. He obviously loved the game and was very animated when explaining it to us. I cannot remember

We learnt about how the quarterback would hoick the ball (Australian for ‘throw’ the ball) out somewhere into the downfield, and at the time there was nobody there. But then, out of nowhere, someone from his team would dart into place and catch it. Now if that catch was at least ten yards (yeah … no frigging metres being used here) from where the ball started then that was good. But if it wasn’t then they had to try again, and they got three tries at getting the ball ten yards further towards the goal line. If they didn’t make it in three tries then the other team got the ball and then the game went the other way.

There were specialist measuring guys with ten yards of link chain attached to posts that made sure where the ten yard marker was.

As an alternative to throwing the ball the quarterback could hand it off to some other team mate who could try to run the ball ten yards down the field. And good luck with that. Considering there were about 30 hulking great opposing team members trying to stop him. Okay. Probably not 30. About a third of that (11 actually). But still challenging.

Very simplified. VERY simplified. But basically it.

Oh. And then he mentioned the specialist kicker(s). Their only job is to be expert at kicking the ball. Sometimes they kicked for distance (when trying to kick a field goal) and sometimes they kicked for ‘air time’—to keep the ball in the air as long as possible to give his team time to get downfield and stop the other team from getting the ball when it landed. And while the kicker is trying to kick this ball the 30 other great hulking opposing team members (errrr, make that 11) are rushing at him to try and stop him from even being able to kick the ball.

So, based on Allan’s very interesting overview I decided to watch a game, which in itself was a challenge because back then—this would have about 1985 when we only had about four channels in Perth—very few gridiron matches were shown in Australia. And the ones that were shown were replays shown at midnight or later.

I was hooked after the first game. I loved how tightly controlled the game was. How crisp the rules were and how well they were applied. There are just about as many umpires/referees as there are players.

It was fascinating how the teams knew all the patterns of play and how strategic each play was. How the quarterback called the plays. The various play options that were available: like go for a ‘fourth down’ in a last desperate attempt to get the 10 yards (but if you don’t get the 10 yards you lose the ball); or to just take the safe option and kick a field goal.


Initially I decided to follow the Dallas Cowboys. Not too sure why. Maybe it was just that the name “Dallas Cowboys” sounded pretty cool. Or it could have been that, at the time, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders were reputed to be be the most attractive (examples shown above). Not that you hardly ever get to see the cheerleaders during a telecast game.

Then I moved over to the San Francisco 49ers.

But for the last few years I have been behind the New England Patriots.

Sadly none of the above teams are in the 2014 Super Bowl. The New England Patriots made it to the semi-finals (as we call them here), but they lost to the Denver Broncos. So the 48th Super Bowl will be between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.

I am going for the Seattle Seahawks … because Twin Peaks was set in and partially filmed not too far west of Seattle. However the Denver Broncos are the starting favourites.

So tomorrow morning between 7:30 a.m. and about midday I will be having breakfast and sipping coffee and watching the 48th NFL Super Bowl—unless they cancel it!!


Xmas Crayfish

My son and his girlfriend got me a crayfish for Christmas.

A full sized, good sized, crayfish. Complete with legs and horns.

In order to do this my son had to instruct his anti-fish-smell girlfriend to go to an actual specialised fish shop in Midland. This was a pretty tough assignment as I am the only one in my household that eats fish. The girlfriend said she basically had to hold her breath most of the time while she conducted the transaction.

Okay, it didn’t have ALL its legs. There were four missing. But the point is that if you buy a ‘whole’ crayfish from the supermarkets you generally don’t get the horns and legs. Also the crayfish is generally only just legal size which means they are about two thirds of the size of the crayfish I got for Xmas.

So tonight I got it ready for eating.

I did this while my wife was napping—so she would not be put through the torture of having to smell it. And the girlfriend was in her room with the door closed. So I got no complaints about the smell while I was preparing it. I took all the rubbish directly out to the wheely bin outside and (as far as I know) our rubbish pick-up is tomorrow.

So here is what I ended up with. How good does that look?


I didn’t do anything complex to go with it. I had it just how I used to have it with my mum and dad on the front veranda of our house in Morawa—so many, many, years ago. Just some pepper, brown malt vinegar, relatively fresh bread, and some salad. Oh! And the the crayfish.

I was out of my recent favourite alcoholic beverage, which is Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuveé, so I zoomed down to LiquorLand to pick up a couple of bottles of that before woofing into my crayfish delight.

Just me by myself at the table; so there were no complaints about the smell, or comments of “How can you eat that?”.

Dipping in the vinegar, then dusting with pepper, then in the mouth. Followed by some lettuce or cucumber or onion or capsicum from the salad (left over from the night before). Then maybe a sip or two of Chardonnay.

Seriously, without a word of lie, it brought tears to my eyes. Thinking of mum and dad in Morawa (both departed now), and me at about 15 or 16, sitting around this little table on the front wooden veranda on a stinking hot day (we only had ‘stinking hot days’ in summer in Morawa).

Dad, who ran a very General Store in Morawa, would have got the crayfish from someone who had brought it into the shop for him from Dongara.

Here it is after I had eaten the tails.


From left to right: a bowl of water to clean the fingers in (should that be required); my Leatherman pliers to crack the horns with (back at home in Morawa we just used fencing pliers or a hammer); pepper shaker; bottle of ‘fake’ champagne; the plate with the tails now having been consumed; my glass of ‘fake’ champagne'; a bowl with the malt vinegar; the bottle of malt vinegar; and the left over salad from last night.

The crayfish meat was sweat and firm. I am getting misty eyes again now just keying this up.


I wonder what happens to all your Internet ‘stuff’ when you die

As one gets older one has more thoughts of the final unavoidable never-ending sleep.

I sometimes wonder what happens to all our Internet ‘stuff’ (sorry, I can’t think of a better word right now).

Things like:

  • Sites where you have subscribed and they are sending you e-mails daily or weekly.
  • Automatic subscriptions you have to services, such as the monthly US$9.95 I pay to Citrix for the GoToMyPC service.
  • Accounts at Facebook, Twitter, SmugMug, etc.
  • Data you might have in ‘free’ cloud storage services like Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
  • Your e-mail if you used Internet e-mail services like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.

I guess for things like SquareSpace, as nobody is likely to go in and pay that each year (they presumably will have no idea what the password is anyway), they will just close the account.

Ditto for yearly renewed domain names. Once they expire the domain name will be de-registered.


The ‘Serial’ comma

There is a saying in the world of writers that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those that know when to use the serial comma and those that don’t.

The serial comma, sometimes also called the Oxford comma or the proper comma, is that comma that needs to go before the ‘and’ when you compose a sentence that contains a comma separated list. Incorrect usage of the serial or Oxford comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

The following graphic found on the Web provides a great example of this.

Oxford Comma

The first sentence above is “We invited the strippers, jfk, and Stalin”. With the serial comma used before the ‘and’ this sentence clearly indicates to us a list and tells us that at the party there were:

  • Strippers.
  • JFK.
  • Stalin.

In the second sentence—which contains the exact same words—the serial comma has been dropped. Now this sentence is no longer presenting a list; it is telling us that at the party they had strippers and the strippers were named JFK and Stalin.

This shows the care needed in use of the Oxford or serial comma.

Another example sometimes used in underlining the use of the serial comma is the statement “I’d like to thank my parents, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe”. This statement clearly says his is thanking:

  • His parents.
  • Elvis.
  • Marilyn Monroe.

If we omit the serial comma this becomes “I’d like to thank my parents, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe”. Now it is staying something a little silly. It is saying he wants to thank:

  • His parents.
  • And a married couple called Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.


Boo! . . . 21 days since I last posted . . .

I have not checked back through all my posts to see what my previous largest posting gap was. It is too hard. But I am pretty sure this is a record for me. Twenty one (21) days since I last posted. That is three weeks.

It is not because I can’t or don’t think of things to post. Pretty well every day I pop up OneNote and enter in an idea for a posting. Now that I have a Windows 8 smartphone I can pop up OneNote with the greatest of ease and enter in notes about posts on my phone.

I would confess I was a sceptic about Cloud Computing but I do see it has its uses. Using Microsoft’s Skydrive I can have my OneNote notebook file in the ‘cloud’ at Microsoft. Then I am able to check and add notes from any computer that can access OneNote someway or another—which basically means any computing device anywhere including all the various Android, iOS (Apple), and (obviously) Windows phones devices.

I think the reason behind my 21 day posting gap is a combination of the intensity of work over the last month or so, plus the relatively low daily unique count for my site that is not getting any higher over time (like it is supposed to); on top of which I have been in a bit of grump rut for a few months.

Anyway I am going to pick at least three topics out of my OneNote notebook and craft up a post on them over this weekend.

Update >>>>

Can you believe it? I craft up my first post in 21 days yesterday morning and then when I go to post it I find that there is something not working between SquareSpace and Live Writer and I can’t upload it. I logged the issue with SquareSpace immediately and by 11:00 p.m. Sunday night they had a working solution for me.

Pity I have to take off to site again at 5:00 a.m. in the morning so I won’t get to do any posts tonight before I go.


Observation: Intelligent people don’t comment

According to the statistics provided in the SquareSpace management console for my site I have had 447 comments in total posted to my site since I started it back in August 2009. That works out to around 10 comments per month. Roughly two and a third comments per week.

Not counting this post I have posted 859 entries. So, on average, I am getting just slightly better than half a comment per post. To be more precise I am getting 0.52 comments per post.

Comments this year are down on the average. So far this year there have been 18 comments compared to 45 new posts. This works out to a ratio of 1:0.4 for posts to comments. So the comments frequency is trending down.

I make it really easy to comment compared to a lot of other sites . You can use any alias or nickname you want. There is no validation. You do not need to register to comment. You do not need to enter an e-mail address to comment, although entering one is optional—but it will not be displayed as part of the public comment.

If you actually want your e-mail address to be ‘public’ (some people do) you have to enter it into the actual comment.

All you have to do is prove you are not a bot by deciphering the glyph correctly.

Assuming the bulk of people who read this site are at the higher end of the intelligence curve, which I think is a fairly safe assumption to make, then the obvious conclusion to draw from this is that, by and large, intelligent people don’t comment.

The more I thought about this conclusion the more I liked it.

In the 30,000 or so hours I have probably spent on the Internet in the last 20 odd years—going back to 1200 baud dial-up modems, using Archie and Gopher to search for stuff, and spending hours reading through NNTP Newsgroups—I doubt if I have commented more than about ten times.

I think I have left about five comments over at DPReview (Digital Photography Review), and the other five are just fill for other comments I am sure I must made somewhere at sometime.

IPDG-1I decided to research this. Interestingly as I started to type in my search Google provided its four most frequent searches starting with “intelligent people don’t”—which you can see at right.

Well I did not find much evidence to support my theory that intelligent people don’t comment. But I found some other mildly interesting bits and pieces—depending on your point of view.

It seems Ernest Hemingway is famous for saying “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. As scholars will know, Hemingway himself eventually committed suicide.

Research in the UK indicates that intelligent types are likely to be very light consumers of alcohol in their teens (often being teetotal) with consumption increasing in their early twenties, and they become heavy drinkers in their late twenties.

Apparently intelligent people don’t smoke. Over at ‘The Stir’ not smoking is one of the Top 10 traits of intelligent people.

IPDG-2According to an item at ‘Business Insider’ if your an intelligent guy then you don’t sleep around.

But (see clipping at right) it seems the same is not true for females. This is because only having the one mate has always been the female way—so the item says anyway.

This next one certainly applies to me. It is from the socyberty site (Yeah, I had never heard of it either) from a list of traits that highly intelligent people tend to exhibit. Number 6 is Intelligent people are not neat freaks. If this means intelligent people have messy desks, then that is me.

So as you can see I didn’t find any proof for my theory that intelligent people don’t comment, but I still think I might be on to something. It is sort of in the same zone as real IT people don’t use facebook.


Part of re-birthing an ‘old’ PC into a ‘new’ 1Desktop PC

I am currently neck deep in BHP Billiton’s worldwide project to upgrade of all of its 35,000+ PCs to 64-bit Windows 7 with Microsoft Office 2010 (32-bit). The vast bulk of BHP Billiton’s existing legacy PC fleet is running 32-bit Windows XP with Office 2007—as is the case for most other major companies (and many not so major companies) around the world. But with Microsoft formally dropping all support for Windows XP in April next year, BHP Billiton is working hard to get all their PCs upgraded to Windows 7 by April 2014 (plus or minus two or three months).

In BHP Billiton this activity is scoped into the 1Desktop Project.

The 1Destkop Project actually encompasses much more than simply getting tens of thousands of PCs upgraded to Windows 7 but getting this part done is a major plank of the project.

At the BHP Billiton operation where I am located, as would be the case for most other BHP Billiton operating sites, the massively oversimplified steps around deploying a new Windows 7 1Desktop PC are:

  1. Pre-build a heap of Windows 7 1Desktop PCs ready for deployment.
  2. Work out who can have their ‘old’ PC replaced with a 1Desktop PC.
  3. Load the pre-assigned 1Desktop PCs up with the required tools and applications.
  4. Drive out into the site at the pre-arranged time and pick up the ‘old’ PC.
  5. Bring the ‘old’ PC back to where all the work is done and, usually overnight, transfer over (i.e., migrate) all necessary user data and settings from the ‘old’ PC to the ‘new’ 1Desktop PC.
  6. After testing, deliver the ‘new’ 1Desktop PC back to the required location.

Within what seems to be a simple process there are many and numerous wrinkles and complications. Many things that can and do go wrong.

As one tiny indication of the complexity involved it will take the site I am working at about five months to replace about half of their ‘old’ PCs with ‘new’ 1Desktop PCs. And these are the easy PCs to replace. Plus, this is after well over 18 months of preparations to get to this point where we can actually start replacing PCs.

As another small indication of complexity, many of the PCs have multiple users with some PCs in certain locations having over a hundred users that use them.

Then there are the PCs that, when they are brought back into the preparation area fail to start up again (you will see why later in the video). They are DOA into the preparation area. How do you migrate user data and settings from a PC that is DOA? The disk has to be taken out and put into another PC—assuming the disk is not the part that has failed.

You get the idea.

Anyway, the whole reason for this post is to get to the point where I can show you the following video I took the other day in the preparation area. This video shows one of ten PCs being ‘cleaned out’ on this particular day.

I had previously been told by one of the Deployment Engineers about how much dirt and crap they blast out of these ‘old’ PCs and I indicated that I would like to get some pictures of that. So last Thursday they gave me a call and said they were about to blast out some PCs.

So following is a short one minute video showing an ‘old’ PC being blasted clean as part of the process of getting it ready to be rebuilt and then re-deployed as a ‘new’ 1Desktop PC. This video was shot using my recently purchased compact Canon G15. Clicking on the picture will take you to the Vimeo video site where the video can then be played.

I am very new at editing and preparing video for online consumption so forgive me for the roughness of the production.


The Deployment Engineer has to wear eye protection and a breathing mask when blasting the dirt and dust out of these PCs.

Sadly I have no idea how to make a Vimeo video play on Android or iOS. Vimeo is a very popular video sharing site so I am sure it can be done … somehow. If anyone knows how to make this work then feel free to leave a comment and I will then add those notes into the main posting.


The approaching extinction of the AFR newspaper

To me it seems to be that it is getting increasingly difficult to find the Australia Financial Review (AFR) newspaper these days at the newsagents.


Most weekdays while I am away at site working I pick up an AFR newspaper in the evening when I go back into town. It amuses the attendant at the newsagent where I go that I refer to the AFR as ‘the most depressing paper on the planet’. I usually walk in and ask if they have any of those ‘seriously depressing newspapers’ left and these days she knows exactly what I am referring to.

Having the AFR gives me something to flick through while I suck down those first couple of nice cold beers when I get to the motel. Nothing like a depressing read to improve a beautiful drink of good beer.

I find the AFR even goes very well with a glass of red wine.

But lately, over the last three or four months, I miss out on my depressing read at least one day in the four days I am away at site. There are none left at the local newsagent. There is a second newsagent in the country town where I stay but most times there is no point in going down there. They won’t have any left either.

Then, on top of this, back in the big city on the weekend I am having more and more trouble getting the Weekend Edition of the AFR and the Weekend Edition of the AFR is my favourite weekend newspaper. It is usually cock-a-block full of depressing reading about the economy.

This weekend I went to my local newsagent to put on Saturday lotto and pick up the weekend AFR. You guessed it. No AFRs left. So I drove about three kilometres to the recently refurbished newsagent down on Lesmurdie Road. Same outcome. No AFRs left. The girl tells me they had sold out of AFRs by about 10:00 a.m.

So now I am faced with going to the newsagent in the main village at Kalamunda. Crap! Parking is usually at a premium in the village on a Saturday. I brave it. But I need not have bothered. No AFRs there either.

This is not a cheap newspaper. At $4.30 compared to the weekly Western Australian newspaper it is downright expensive as newspapers go.

So what is happening to the AFR newspaper?

There are only two reasonably logical explanations. Either (a) the publishers of the AFR are purposefully making the newspaper scarce in order to force the readership to purchase their ridiculously expensive on-line subscription (AUD$69.95 per month) or (b) the numbers of people reading the AFR have increased significantly but the newsagents have not increased their door drop-off count.

I think it is (a). I think the publishers are trying to make those people who are fence sitting about taking out an on-line subscription decide to go ahead and do it. But $69.95 per month works out to $840 per year. Okay. This does work out cheaper than buying the newspaper every day. Buying the AFR five days a week and the Weekend Edition would come to something like $1134 per year. So based on that the on line subscription works out as $300 cheaper actually. But $69.95 per month for on-line access to the AFR still seems a little steep to me.

Maybe if they did an annual subscription for $500 I might dive in. Maybe. But even $42 per month seems a tad expensive too.

In the meantime I am just going have to put up with missing out on getting the most depressing paper on the planet for a relaxing read a couple of times a week.


Google release their own Chromebook laptop

After the somewhat spectacular failure of the original Chromebook, Google themselves have now released their own branded Chromebook laptop computer.

For those that completely missed it, and it was not hard to miss (although I did do a posting or two back then about the Chromebook), about 18 months ago Google released the Chromebook ‘operating system’; and a number of vendors actually made and released Chromebook computers. A couple that I can remember were from HP and Acer. Samsung may have also released a Chromebook. I can’t remember and I can’t be bothered researching it to find out.

Basically the ‘operating system’ on a Chromebook is (was) the Google Chrome browser. That’s it. Just the browser. So all you could (can) do with a Chromebook laptop is browse the Web. Full stop. Done. Nothing more.

Needless to say sales of Chromebooks was tiny. So tiny that on a pie graph of computer sales by operating system the Chromebook sales were in that slice of the pie labelled “Other”.

I have not actually seen a Chromebook computer and in my line of work I mix with a lot of IT junkies who buy almost all computing devices just to check them out.

Anyway, to get back to the here and now, not to be put off, and not to be outdone by Microsoft who have just recently released their very own computers (the Surface RT and Surface Pro), Google have just released their very own Chromebook. It is called the Chromebook Pixel. Here are a couple pictures of it.



[The first image above links to the Chromebook Pixel on the Google site. The second image links to the review of the Chromebook at The Verge]

It has some neat specifications, such as:

  • A beautifully crisp high resolution 2560x1700 screen. So much better than the crappy HD 1080 screen on most laptops.
  • A touch screen.
  • A large high resolution touch-pad.
  • A stunning back-lit keyboard.
  • Five hour battery life.

If this was a Windows PC I would be seriously considering it—just for the screen resolution alone.

But … it is a Chromebook. Basically all it runs is the Google Chrome browser. When it boots up all you get is the Google Chrome browser.

And it is going to cost somewhere around $1400 in Australia when it gets here.


Seriously? I could be totally missing something here but I just don’t see the Chromebook Pixel becoming a sales run away. I fear the Chromebook is destined to remain in the “Others” slice of the pie for the foreseeable future.