9/14/2013

Another thing I don’t get. Or at least don’t like.
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:08 am

Some websites now, and for a while now, automatically load more content as you scroll down the page. Take this NBC News article for example. I’m not sure that they’ve thought this all the way through.

This feature, if you wish you call it that, seems intended to keep readers immersed in content and thus locked in to the website. Despite feeling a bit manipulated, I don’t entirely object. I would rather they do this than the opposite whereby you have to click a million links to see all of something so that the website can increase their “clicks.”

No, the problem with these pages that have no end is that the designer, nonetheless, has installed a footer with what should be some other useful thing. Some other useful thing like maybe the “Contact Us” link. Someone like me might like to tell a website operator that their website sucks, but the site sucks so much I can’t even offer feedback. And I can only assume then that it must be a truly dumb — or perhaps cruel, designer who would do such a thing.

6/3/2013

More on Energy Vampires
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:06 am

After looking over my last post about energy vampires and especially how people always seem to talk about cell phone chargers when they are just about the last thing to worry about, I took a look at the standby power website by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. There they barely give cell phone chargers a mention in the text, but based on their images, even they are not immune from overhyping the “threat” from cell phone chargers.

Here’s some of their advice:

Unplug products that are rarely used. The best example is the television and VCR in the second guest room.

Sounds reasonable. Here’s some more:

Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. The most likely targets are computer clusters (PC, display, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.), video clusters (TV, DVD player, powered speakers, game consoles, etc.), audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.). Be sure to keep the set-top box and modem on a separate circuit to avoid loss of connection.

Notice they said “computer clusters”, “video clusters”, and “audio clusters” and nothing about cell phones or cell phone chargers.

Then possibly even better advice, emphasis mine:

Limited research suggests that an informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 30%. Frankly, there are more productive ways to save energy with an investment of an hour but if high standby energy use stands between you and the goal of a zero energy home, then it’s an hour well spent.

And lest you think I’m copying and pasting a bit too selectively, here’s a broader example:

How can I reduce standby power use in my home?

It’s not easy, but here are some suggestions:

  • If you aren’t frequently using a device, unplug it. (This works fine for the 6th TV in the guest bedroom or the VCR.) Warning, don’t frequently unplug and plug in appliances because you could get electrocuted from frayed wires and plugs.
  • Use a switchable power strip for clusters of computer or video products. That way you can switch everything to zero with one action.
  • When shopping, search for low standby products. (Asking a salesperson will probably be a waste of time.) ENERGY STAR products have lower standby.
  • Buy a low-cost watt-meter, measure the devices in your home and take targeted action. You will certainly be surprised at what you discover and this exercise might even pay back the cost of the meter in savings. A list of watt-meters is here.

Limited research suggests that an informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 30%. Frankly, there are more productive ways to save energy with an investment of an hour but if high standby energy use stands between you and the goal of a zero energy home, then it’s an hour well spent.

But as I said at the beginning, despite all their words making sense, they screwed up the images.
standby power
For one, they manage to show a car stero, which obviously you wouldn’t have sitting around your house sucking power. But then they have to include the cell phone charger instead of something that sucks way more power like a computer.

5/24/2013

Forget it with the cell phone chargers
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 10:14 am

On the occasion when I hear people talk about “vampire” electronics, I inevitably hear people talk about cell phone chargers, and how they’re sucking power even when the phone is not attached. Better unplug them and save power!

I knew this was overblown, but it really shouldn’t even be mentioned. Check out this table:

energy vampire comparison

Cell phone chargers are such a small deal in relation to other electronics that the continued mention of them takes away from the bigger issue. They are two orders of magnitude less of a problem than a host of other “vampire electronics.” Or, in non-engineer speak, they are basically a rounding error in your energy use, and maybe even less. If you’re taking the time to unplug your cell phone charger every day to save a quarter every year, then you’re basically just a big old idiot. And shame on people, even actual utilities (such as where I found this table) who continue to mention this unused-charger BS.

5/15/2013

And I Learned Something
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 9:28 pm

While trying to figure out why my recently purchased CFLs are failing with exceptional speed, I learned that I must be way behind the curve.
Efficient Lighting Lessons From This Old House TV – Your Fixtures May be Shortening the Life of Your CFL

By now, most of us know these bulbs will burn out quickly if they’re turned on and off too frequently or placed in enclosed fixtures that don’t let heat dissipate. But the same thing can happen if the bulb is installed upside down, with the ballast above the bulb. One theory is that excess heat from the bulb rises, potentially damaging the ballast components. “That’s why many recessed CFL ceiling fixtures are designed with the bulbs oriented horizontally, not vertically,” says Bergman, referring to U-shaped CFLs with prongs instead of screw-in bases.

I had no idea about this. I thought CFLs, aside from not being dimmable, could be used like regular incandescent bulbs. As best I can tell, I can use standard CFLs in only 5 of the 36 bulb sockets in my house, and those 5 don’t even get used very much. Blerg.

10/12/2012

Sounds for electric cars
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:23 am

AFter work yesterday, on the walk to my car, I swear I heard a car that sounded like the flying cars from the Jetsons. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if they used that sound to make electric cars more audible? Apparently I’m not alone. Crunchgear has a youtube clip with 10 sounds options. Some of them are pretty good. I thought ‘Caddyshack’ was a pretty good option, but the Jetsons wins in a landslide.

Caution: NSFWish

10/7/2010

Verizon Wireless Card Dormancy — Linksys Print Server
Filed under: Computing,Technology — nobrainer @ 2:35 pm

For my work, I’m granted a Verizon Mobile Broadband card. It’s a nice perk, but for the last several months, it hasn’t worked right. It would work fine until I would connect to my work’s VPN (so that I could actually, you know, work). About a minute after connection to the VPN it would go into a dormant state and then disconnect very soon thereafter. Any number of google and bing searches revealed solutions that didn’t solve my problem. Finally, today, I found the fix at the SmarterGeek Blog by Rex Moncrief.

Wrote Rex:

I decided to troubleshoot. After all, I rely on the service when I am not at my office. The first thing I did was try and think of anything that had changed between Tuesday and Wednesday on my machine. My laptop runs a very clean installation of XP Pro – and I know every piece of software that is installed.

Linksys Print Server Utility 1.0
On Tuesday, I was at a client’s office and we installed a Linksys WPSM54G Print Server, which requires the installation of Linksys Print Server Utility 1.0 and naturally Linksys thinks it has to run at start-up. Typically, I would remove software like that from startup, but in my hurry I just hadn’t done it yet.

Funny. I installed some Linksys print server software many months ago when I purchased and installed a Linksys Wireless-G Print Server for my brother. Rex was right, the Linksys software is the problem. I just disabled it and now my Verizon access is being maintained perfectly.

Thanks, Rex!


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