Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yes on S

We liked it so much we decided to buy one. We're on the Signature 1000 list now. Dang, that's a sweet ride. Can't wait to get it. Good luck Tesla. Make it so.

New Tesla Model S

Elon next to the S.

Monday, March 23, 2009

syslog for your body

I ran across this interesting post. Basically the point is that we don't really have any good monitoring for our bodies. Wouldn't it be cool if we had some devices that could monitor a bunch of health related stats and report them to some centralized dashboard? In Unix there is a system called syslog, where significant events get logged. It would be cool to have something like this for our bodies.

I wonder how difficult it would be to design a small sensor that you could swallow each morning like a vitamin. This sensor could dump stats when ever it's connected. Maybe it could be WiFi enabled, so you would just need to walk through a WiFi hot spot during the day to get your latest stats.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wattvision and The Others

Yesterday Wattvision presented at YC Demo Day. They did a great job presenting the company, which provides a device for monitoring your home electric usage in real time. They have a device that attaches to your electric meter and optically reads it, sending back data through the internet so you can graph it in real time.

I was particularly interested in Wattvision because I've been trying to find a solution like this for a while. There are a few options out there. Here's what I've found so far:

The PowerCost Monitor from Blueline Innovations also uses an optical sensor but it reports back to a device in the home, so it's not internet enabled but has the same ease of installation as the Wattvision solution. Similar sensor to Wattvision, but closed system.

The Energy Detective (aka TED) from Energy, Inc. is a hard wired solution. You open up your circuit breaker box and put a couple clamps on the incoming power lines to monitor the electricity. The sensor then reports back to a display unit (like PowerCost) or a USB doohickey that plugs into your computer. This this is better than the PowerCost solution as you can get the data into your computer. However, you have to buy extra software from Energy, Inc. that only runs on Mac or Windows. (No linux support.) It would be much better if they opened up the protocol so anyone could use it. I'm sure it could be reverse engineered, but they should just support something like Extended Environments Markup Language (EEML) and/or Pachube. Compared to TED, the Wattvision solution is better in that it connects directly to your WiFi.

In England there is a device called the Current Cost meter. The Current Cost solution has a single clamp rather than two smaller clamps like the PowerCost meter. See a picture of the clamp below. Presumably, this solution won't work in the US because of the differences in the electrical systems. It seems to have quite a hacker following in the UK, which should be a clue for the US vendors. Open your systems and you'll have a much better chance of success. Hopefully the Wattvision folks will take a more open approach. The fact that they're using WiFi and the Internet are good indicators that they may be more open than their competitors.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Front Door Camera

Our neighbor had a rude awakening this week. Some burglars started breaking into his house while he was asleep. Luckily they ran away when he came to the door.

I've had a security camera on the font door for a while. I figured I should do some testing to make sure it was still working. Here's a shot of me sitting on the front steps looking at a picture of me, sitting on the front steps.

There are a lot of cool things you can do with these cameras. More on that later....

ZigBee Internet Gateway

Rob Faludi of ITP is working on a ZigBee internet gateway. See his original post here. This is a great solution for getting those XBee widgets onto the net. I've been wanting something like this for a while. I would like to use it so I can create little XBee sensor devices and have them report back to a server on the net, maybe Pachube.

Adruino and Ultrasonic Sensor

In this video they have hooked up a motion sensor and are using the inputs to drive a display. The computer reads the motion inputs and then simulates the grass movement as if the motion was actually moving the grass. Very clever.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Zoe Chello

#etech performance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ETech Goodness

I'm hanging out at the ETech Conference in San Jose this week. It's a lot of fun and I'm meeting a bunch of great folks. I'm getting introduced to some great ideas that I'm putting on the list of things to explore.

Today I was amused to see the Truveo logo on a slide during the txteagle presentation. The presentation was inspiring. It makes me want to move to Africa and teach computer science. txteagle is basically a mobile version of mechanical turk that works in Africa. Truveo was one of a pile of companies that might be able to use such a service, perhaps for translations or tagging of videos.

I also learned that XBee radios have an API mode where they can communicate sensor data without the need for a seperate microcontroller.

My list of cool things I've learned this week is getting longer. I can always use more fun things to blog about.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Off-Peak Tesla Charging

The Tesla Roadster has a cool feature that allows you to set the time of day when charging should begin. I have mine set to 10PM which I thought was off peak. I decided to check the actual rate schedule. It turns out it's a bit complicated. (See the definition below.) Most of the time 10PM would be Partial-Peak. Of course there is no reason to charge the car at Partial-Peak instead of Off-Peak.

It almost never takes more than 4 hours to fully charge the Tesla. So I'm changing my charge time from 10PM to 2AM. Off-Peak starts at midnight most days but there are a few weeks per year when it starts at 1AM. I'm going with 2AM just to be safe. The earliest the rates go up is at 7AM, and then it's just to Partial-Peak anyway. This safely gives me 5 hours of Off-Peak charge time, which is plenty.

It's interesting how all these rules are setup as incentives but they are so complicated that most people don't even bother to try to understand them at all.

Click on the above image to see the entire rate description document in PDF form. Note this is for my rate schedule, E-9. It's special because I have solar panels and an electric car.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Facebook Connect Flaking Out

I'm working on a site that uses Facebook Connect so user's can log in with their FB accounts. I just saw this and it gave me pause. It seems FC is down and the login says to check back in hours. Hours? Really? Ouch. So this means my site would be down for hours just because the folks at Facebook feel like doing some maintenance? This is bad, very bad.

If you're going to provide a service like Facebook Connect. It better be up all the time. I may need to rethink the whole Facebook Connect usage if this is going to be an ongoing problem.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Everything is Amazing

The Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy clip is making the rounds. But it reminds me of a much funnier one by Monty Python. It still cracks me up.

Here it is for your enjoyment.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hacker's Diet

Back in November I realized that my weight was getting out of control (again). I started working with the folks at The Happy Body with great results. While following their exercise and diet approach was working wonders, I still found I had the daily bi-polar reaction to my scale. If my weight was down, I was happy. If it was up, then I was in a foul mood. Ran across The Hacker's Diet and in particular the chapter on Signal to Noise and it really struck a chord with me.

The following figure from The Hacker's Diet gives you an example of what I'm talking about.

The solution to this graph of terror is proposed by John Walker in the book: look to the trend. Don't get too focused on your daily fluctuations. Walker, being a hacker, has built some great tools for computing and graphing trends based on your daily weigh-ins. The graph at the top of this post is generated from my daily measurements for 2009. The red line is the trend. The floaters and anchors show the daily weights. More anchors than floaters means you're headed in the right direction, the trend is headed down. If you see a bunch of floaters showing up on the graph, then it's time to buckle down because the trend will be heading up if you don't get things back under control.

The Hacker's Diet has a lot of great advice and the combination of a free online web tools is very useful as well. I would recommend the online tools over the spreadsheets. Excel is just evil, in my opinion.

I would like to thank John Walker for taking the time to put his weight loss knowledge online for the rest of us.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Network Cameras

I've been playing around with network cameras lately. I've tried a few and figured I blog about my view of these cameras.

Linksys has two cameras that look very similar but are in fact very different. The Linksys WVC54GCA is ok. It supports a snapshot mode and motion JPEG streaming.

The Linksys WVC54GC is really bad. It only supports ASF streaming and doesn't have a snapshot mode. The resolution is just horrible. The only good thing I can say about this camera is that it supports WEP.

I have two D-Link cameras, the DCS-910 and the DCS-G900 that are pretty good and seem to be stable. The DCS-910 is not wireless though.

I have an Airlink AIC250W. It does the night vision thing, which is kind of cool. You can't turn it off though, which is a pain. The AIC250W also seems to be less stable. I find it drops off my network pretty often.

Recently I spoke to a guy who was installing a webcam at the local yogurt shop. He recommended the Axis M1001W. He showed me the image and it was very good.

All of these cameras come with horrible PC software for configuring and using them. Fortunately, it's possible to simply connect to the cameras with a browser and configure them directly. I wouldn't recommend installing the crummy software that accompanies them. If I get motivated, perhaps I'll post an entry on how to configure each of these cameras without the software.