2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Solar panel performance – 2012

Another year, another desperately late solar panel performance post. It’s been sitting on my to-do list since January 2nd, but at least writing this will let me tick off something today.

solar 2012

So last year continued a downward trend that looks like it will be over by the end of 2013. At this stage in the year, the graph is the only source of information still recorded so we’ll have to guesstimate the heat output as 3666kWh.

Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. I use the gas rate of 5.06p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas. Interestingly this appears to be a lower cost than last year’s gas cost.

That means the solar panel gathered around £185.50 of energy last year.

The running total to the end of 2012 is therefore £831.06.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

This year I have had my annual half-hearted attempt to work out if it’s possible to do more comprehensive data logging using the equipment I have. I did pay extra for the ethernet connection with the idea of putting some sort of graph on my website to show how the system is doing in real time. I’m super jealous of this guy who has done exactly that with the same setup as me. And as a favour to everyone else he has made public the code to do it. And I don’t have a clue what any of it means or how to use it!

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

Munzeeing

So, a lovely visit to my family on the south coast has given me a new a hobby. My little nephews are currently obsessed with, among many other things, spotting munzees stuck to street furniture.

It is, at last, a real world application for QR codes that people might actually do. In my brother’s coastal town, there are clearly a bunch of people into this hobby as every lamppost for miles had its own barcode for people to hunt down and scan with the Munzee smart phone app.

Back in Nottingham, there are fewer around. My local park has a bunch and there are loads in the city centre, but neither of my local shopping districts has one at all. Well, we can fix that, I’m sure. Some near by towns have absolutely loads – Long Eaton is well represented. And one crazy local person has deployed over 4,000 of the little barcodes all over South Notts. You can use the website map to find if there are any near you.

Dahn sarf, I was clicking away like a mad thing, and captured a fabled seafront golden munzee – but in doing so, depleted my phone battery and it didn’t register. There are motel munzees with special features – the first five people to scan it get “rooms” in it and so they get points every time it is scanned. There are mystery munzees which award a different number of points each time they scanned and special holiday ones – for halloween, there were bloodshot eyeball munzees.

There are also social munzees, which don’t get you any points and don’t have to be located in a permanent physical location, so here is mine, which you can scan by downloading the munzee app:

My social munzee

Control your heating from your phone!

Apparently, Finland, home of the Nokia, has long been the place where home automation and mobile phones are linked. It’s possible, if not common, I remember reading somewhere, to send a message from your phone that tells your house to turn on your sauna, just as you get into the car to begin your commute home. By the time you pull into your drive, your sweatlodge has heated up to the right temperature.

I’d really like to have more of my house automated and connected to the technology that’s already there. Sure, yes, we have a bunch of lights and the fish tank on timers, but that’s not the same. How hard would it be to have car-style keyfob remote locking for the entire house? Preferably with a gizmo that automatically shuts all the windows when you press a button.

This week, my brother sent me a link to a type of thermostat that fixes to your central heating and can be controlled by your mobile phone. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. Next time I’ve got over £100 spare, plus the yen to poke at my existing thermostat with a screwdriver I’m totes giving that a whirl. If nothing else, it would be so much easier to set program times from a website than from the poor UX of a tiny LCD screen and only 3 buttons.

Then there’s Belkin WeMo – things that sit in sockets and can be turned on by your iPhone. At the minute, it’s Apple only and pretty expensive. But it can also be controlled by IFTTT which at least gives you more options. (Not sure if you still need Apple in the loop there somewhere too.)

I’ve also wondered for a while about a series of temperature dataloggers scattered about the house just to get some data about how the heating actually works. You know, just because it’s interesting. All the loggers I have been able to find on the internet after not really looking that hard were either very expensive or required the sort of programming or soldering skills I do not have.

But right at the bottom of the page for the Android thermostat guys was a link to a new service called My Joulo. It’s a university project that wants to gather hard data about people’s heating systems. So they post you a datalogger of their own design and ask you to use it for a week then post it back. In return they crunch your data and make basic suggestions about how to save money on your heating bill. Basically, just some fancy graphs that say “turn down your ‘stat and stop fiddling with it” I imagine. Anyway, it’s free, and data-ry and nerdy and to do with heating, so I have signed away the little form and eagerly awaiting the USB logger to arrive in the post.

Solar panel performance – 2011

Another year, another desperately late solar panel performance post. It’s been sitting on my to-do list since January 2nd, but at least writing this will let me tick off something today.

Solar panel annual graph

So last year was a little under the year before. At this stage in the year, the graph is the only source of information still recorded so we’ll have to guesstimate the heat output as 3700.

Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. At 5.24 pence per kWh, the value adds up to £193.88

The running total to the end of 2011 is therefore £645.56.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

This year I have had my annual half-hearted attempt to work out if it’s possible to do more comprehensive data logging using the equipment I have. I did pay extra for the ethernet connection with the idea of putting some sort of graph on my website to show how the system is doing in real time. I’m super jealous of this guy who has done exactly that with the same setup as me. And as a favour to everyone else he has made public the code to do it. And I don’t have a clue what any of it means or how to use it!

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

Troubling news about TEDxNottingham

Great news! TED is coming to Nottingham!

TED is the awesome, highly regarded website with fabulous videos of world leading speakers talking about interesting things.

TEDx is their programme of running local events, which, it appears are run by volunteers across the globe.

TEDxNottingham brings all the fun of TED really locally to Nottingham on March 17th this year.

So where is the troubling news? Normally if someone gave me this information I would have no qualms about letting people know as widely as possible.

The trouble is I learned about it because the TEDxNottingham twitter account are spamming the heck out of anyone with a vaguely local twitter presence. Which I think is MORALLY WRONG. This is not how you do twitter! Stop it at once!

So I don’t know whether I should be spreading the news because it’s interesting and lots of people I know would like to hear about it, or to stand well back and let the EVIL SPAMMERZ FOAD.

I called them on it, and they apologised, saying they were running their spammy tweets late at night so as not to splurge people’s timelines, but I still think they should not be doing it at all. Still, I’m not PR savvy enough to suggest what they might be doing instead…

Solar panel performance – 2010

It’s a bit rum writing a post about this so many months into 2011, but it is supposed to be an annual thing, after all!

Solar panel performance 2010

As the yearly data graph shows, despite feeling a little disappointing, last summer, or at least the year as a whole, provided more hot water through my solar evacuated tubes than any previous since the installation was put in.

3,999 kWh of heat is just ever so slightly frustrating. An extra hour of sunshine on Dec 31st and we might have had 4,000…

Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. At 4.40 pence per kWh, the value adds up to £175.96.

The running total to the end of 2010 is therefore £451.68.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

But if you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

“What’s a permalink?”

Earlier today I tweeted at CllrKemp that he needed to learn about permalinks.

That’s because whenever he tweets about a new blog post (which by the way, is always worth reading), he uses the base address of his website – http://richardkemp.wordpress.com/

The problem with doing this is that if you come across the tweet a couple of days later, the tweet will be pointing at the most recent blog post. It may no longer have anything to do with the rest of the tweet.

Every blog post you create has a permanent address that refers to only one post. So today’s post by Richard Kemp about new councillors has a “permalink” that is http://richardkemp.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/some-advice-to-new-councillors/

Now the clear problem with that is that it is too long and won’t fit in a tweet. But any time you use that you can be sure it will point at exactly the right content, whilst the base address of the blog will just point at the most recent content.

The way most people square the circle is to use URL shorteners. I use bit.ly – it converts the long url above to http://bit.ly/mwe8Uh – again, we’re back to something short enough to fit into a tweet.

The other advantage of bit.ly is that with a simple twist, you can also satisfy your urge for metrics. If you add a + to the end – ie http://bit.ly/mwe8Uh+ – you get a page that tells you how many of your readers actually clicked on the link.

Eek! They’re switching off BBC2 in just over a month

This post on Wartime Housewife prompted me to visit Digital UK again to find out what is happening in our area.

I was dimly aware something was up. I have spoken to Digital UK at Lib Dem conference in the past, and know that they are rolling out the digital switchover, and the end of free-to-air analogue television, in stages, across the UK. The first few regions have already completed the change. I know that the East Mids was soon.

I’ve also had something pink and scary through the post that explains very briefly what is going on.

But I hadn’t really appreciated till now quite how soon it will be.

Plugging my postcode into the website gives me the information that they are switching off BBC2 analogue in just over a month, on 30th March. All remaining analogue stations will go a few weeks after that, on 13th April.

For people living in Notts: if you are currently using a digital TV receiver, for example a set-top box, you will need to retune it on both of those dates.

If you are currently receiving your TV through your aerial and don’t have a digibox, you will lose BBC2 in just over a month and will lose all TV on the second date. Time to make the switch! If you have cable (Virgin) or satellite (Sky) TV you are not affected.

Back again II

This blog has now moved host and is hopefully with a more attentive provider who knows more about how WordPress works.

In doing so, we identified a 300 MB error log that the previous host hadn’t mentioned I should look at. Unfortunately a log of that size is simply very difficult to open, so the only thing we’ve done with it is delete it. If it starts to get large again we’ll have a look to see whether it’s anything important.

I’ve been very impressed at how easy it was to transfer hosts, once I’d divulged my cPanel login details to my new host. There was a “copy everything” tool that works on two website backends running cPanel, and one cPanel can switch everything automatically behind the scenes from one host to the next with just a single script running in the background. Then DNS needed restarting, and voila, the site is moved.

Since we’re now relocated, I have turned everything back on, so the automatic reposting of things I write for libdemvoice.org (should there be anything; at the moment I am allocating my time to uploading other people’s posts and struggling a little to write about politics) and my daily tweet post should keep things ticking over when I’m I’m too busy and disorganised to post.

It is controversial and I know not everyone likes it. However, I have had comments – mostly in person – from people who are not on twitter and like keeping up with my twitter witterings. It does strike me that those that like it least are the ones that have an opportunity to read them already because they are twitter members.

I’ve been looking for a plugin that allows readers to select which version of the site they like – sans, or avec tweets. I have found plugins that automatically exclude entire categories based on the host’s settings, but nothing that allows the readers to make their own choice, or set up a feed for one or the other.

Unless you know different, as they say?