Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Daily Electricity Bill

Way back at the end of July I started looking into how to graph current cost data. I was looking at this from the point of view of putting the information together on a web page somewhere and potentially sending out useful information via e-mail to me and Beth on our power usage.

Recently I've been looking into this again and over the past couple of weeks we've been receiving a daily HTML formatted e-mail with an attached graph image that might look something like this:

This is a really handy reminder each day to try and be as green as possible but also to show us how we did on the previous day. The graph shows two lines, the red one showing the actual power usage in watts and a straight blue line showing our average usage for that day.

Also attached to the e-mail are the charges and a few summary statistics for the day. So on the example above you can see we averaged 240 watts throughout the day with our minimum usage recorded as 61 watts and maximum usage as 2359. The total usage doesn't mean very much without time associated with it, but I've listed it there all the same. The total can be used to work out the kWh reading for the day, total divided by 1440 minutes in the day (and points on the graph) divided by 60 minutes in an hour.

The costs are rather crudely calculated. We're charged for electricity on two levels, our first 225kWh per quarter are at a higher rate than any usage thereafter. For us, this averages out at around 10 pence per kWh cost so that rough average is used to calculate an estimate for the total cost in GBP.

This only a really simple way in which the current cost data can be used, Dale is way ahead of me on other applications for the data. I intend to extend the e-mail we're getting at the moment to integrate into a little web system we can use at home to log in and look through historic records of our usage and also produce other summaries such as weekly or quarterly usage. Also, the ability to add notes to each day will needed so when we look back over historic data we might have recorded what particular spikes in our usage are. All this is an effort to educate ourselves more in our power usage so we can change our behavior to be more efficient with it.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

One A Day

I'm taking part in a little Flickr group project at the moment to take and upload one picture a day for a month. The group is called A month in my life... and was the idea of Mirriam, an old school friend I've recently got back in touch with through Flickr.

It's a great idea, I bought a new camera earlier in the year and only really used it in anger when Beth and I were on holiday in New York. Having to take one picture a day is forcing me to get off my back-side and look for interesting things to picture. I'm also finding I'm looking at the world slightly differently, stopping to appreciate and think about light and colour a lot more. If I take a picture of a boring subject I'm thinking about how I can make it more interesting while taking the picture but also with a few trivial editing techniques.

I've been going for 7 days now and so far I think my favourite shot of the ones I've taken is this one:
One a Day

I'd not heard of this one-a-day type idea before, but apparently people on Flickr commit to doing this for a whole year so it looks like I'm getting off lightly with just one month. There's plenty of interesting work going up in the group at the moment, with a lot more people about to start contributing through December. Should be exciting, I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with too.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Super Computing Project Ends

Not blogged in a while, will spare the details/excuses but back in September I had the opportunity to get back into Super Computing for a one-off project. It's this that has kept me so busy throughout October and into November where I was really very well submerged into work for an extended period. Normally I like to keep balanced in my work-life balance. However, this project demanded a lot of time and attention and fortunately my wife, Beth, was away for a couple of weeks on business too so I really had the opportunity to get stuck in.

As I suspected (from much experience in the area) in my previous post there really was a lot of information missing at the beginning of the project. This is to be expected, the customer cannot be expected to know 100% what they want, they may not even know what is available, possible or on offer. To compound this, even the best sales team can't look into minute details when proposing a solution or making bid. So we had a productive kick-off meeting, made a lot of good decisions and recorded these to concrete the design details.

What happened next you can never be prepared for, but we've probably all experienced it. Yes, the iron fist of the bean counters barged their ugly way into the project. The previously neatly agreed deadlines and design proposals were lobbed into the air with such careless abandon it was almost humorous. The promise at the start of the project from my ex-manager that "this one would be different", and we "wouldn't have to work silly hours or cut corners" was about to be viciously broken into pieces. (Wow, I can sound like such a drama queen). Project deadlines were brought forward by give-or-take 50% simply to meet a financial deadline (of one of the parties involved not IBM I should add) way out of my control. When you're met with this kind of single-minded decision making as the technical leader of a project it's very frustrating but you know there is nothing more to be done except save time where you can and work your butt off. Anybody who knows me and my work will know I hate to deliver anything less than the very best solution I think is right. So I openly request to Mr Financial Man, whoever and wherever you are to listen to people, who like yourselves, are considered the expert in their area.

This was a Linux cluster, which for the uninitiated consists of a number of computers set up to be joined to work together on a single large problem that would take any one of them an unrealistic amount of time to compute. Using the example raised by OzBeefer on my last post, climate modelling algorithms are quite large and complex taking a single computer a long time to run, so loads of them need to work together in order to predict the weather in the future before it becomes the past! Fortunately, the design of this cluster wasn't rocket science and it was quite small. Things progressed very smoothly without any potential problems that might otherwise have occurred and with some very long working hours (read 12+ hours/day) the cluster was eventually delivered to the new schedule at the customer location.

Well I could ramble on about Linux, clustering, algorithms, networks, storage, optimisations and the projects I've worked on for hours yet, which gives me an idea... for those people reading this in the Hursley community answers on the back of a postcard, comment, e-mail or whatever if you think hearing my ramblings about this stuff might be vaguely interesting some time over lunch, tea/coffee, beers, etc?