Power consumption hall of shame

Some appliances consume quite a bit of power even when they are switched off. In the following table “soft off” means that it is turned off using the remote control or soft button. “switch off” means it is turned off using the (apparent) on/off switch.

Appliance On Soft off Switch off
Sharp TV 145 24 24
Samsung 22 inch TV 45 9
DSE DVD 14 10 0
Sony DVD 9 1

The so-called power switch is not always what it seems – for instance the Sharp TV switch just stops the TV being turned on using the remote, but power consumption is still 24W even in the off position.


Stupid serving suggestions.

Griffins suggests that you should serve two macaroons, one with a bite taken out of it, along with half of a miniature fresh coconut:

Macaroon "serving suggestion"

Tip top suggests that you should serve icecream by placing a ball of it on the table, and inserting two whole vanilla beans to look like a  moustache.  Then draw a red beret on top of it.

ball of icecream with vanilla beans
Tip Top serving suggestion

A Better Microwave Oven UI

What should a power user’s microwave oven interface look like? Not like My panasonic one

A sketch of a simple user interface for a microwave oven.
Microwave UI

Two vertical touch strips, one linear power 10% to 100%, the other logarithmic time.  Touch the power to set power,  touch the time to set time and start the cooking.  The controls have lights behind to show current power setting and remaining time.  Any time, just touch either control to change the power, or increase or decrease the time. + – nudge button on the time

Email collaboration?

Dan Randow recently asked “Is Email Killing Collaboration“.  He concluded

This preliminary investigation has confirmed my hunches that people are stuck with email and that email is not great for collaboration. But they seem not to be bothered by that. This raises more questions than it answers.”

I’m going to describe the situation at the technology company where I work, as one ‘data point’ in the collaboration space.   I’m certainly not holding it up as a great role model though 😉

I also conclude that while email has its weaknesses, it can’t be avoided…


New Zealand
E – software/hardware engineer
USA west coast
S – VP engineering, hardware engineer, manager, some software
H – technician
K – operations (organising making and shipping stuff)
D – accounts
USA East 1
A – software
T – software
R – test, support
USA East 2
G – CEO, sales
N – sales
X – software
P – Sales

With this amount of physical and timezone separation, the opportunity for real-time collaboration is limited, so needs support from tools…


  • email
  • wiki (private TWiki, can send change notifications by email)
  • issue tracker (private Eventum*)
  • IM – skype, private jabber server with conference rooms, logging
  • VOIP – private SIP provider
  • software repository (sends email notifications, checkins linked to issues)

*Eventum was chosen primarily because it allows interaction with customers using only email (Employees can access the web interfaces.)
Issues are created directly from customer emails, all subsequent emails are associated with the issue. So, when e.g. a new engineer is assigned to an issue, the whole history is available.
Notifications are sent by email (e.g. reminders, new issue created)

Tool usage
email : everybody
wiki : I think everyone can access. main editors are engineers though.
eventum: engineers + support
IM: some engineers, though S refuses to use it, which makes it less useful
VOIP: used for engineering ‘meetings, available to engineers + G


  • Email is the only medium guaranteed to reach everybody
  • Email is used for direct communication, but also to inform about changes in the wiki and issue tracker
  • Often a discussion that starts in email gets moved to the wiki when it gets too long or complex
  • However, stuff also gets buried in the wiki, because it is not ‘in your face’
  • VOIP conferences can be good, but often are wasting the time of at least half the participants.  E has noted that a weakness off VOIP calls is that no minutes or recordings are kept.  The wide time separation limits the opportunity for global collaboration.
  •   I set up the jabber server with the following thoughts. (So far, I’d say it is not a success because one potential important participant won’t use it for fear of ‘being interrupted all the time’ and ‘because I can’t touch type’)
  1. take advantage of near-real-time communication (phone-like)
  2. conversation could be logged for later review/audit (email-like)
  3.  persistent conference rooms to ‘meet’ in. (senders don’t determine receivers)
  4.  private (compared to e.g. skype,msn,gtalk)
  • With email, the sender chooses who will receive it, while with IM and wikis, they rely on readers actively choosing to “receive” the conversation.

Panasonic Inverter Microwave

The old Samsung seemed to be on its way out (no light, and really noisy fan), so I bought a new Panasonic Inverter, thinking this is better tech – no more on and off boil over then do nothing kind of low power.

The inverter variable power is fine, but as far as the U.I. is concerned, I’m missing the old Samsung.

  • No  one button, one minute on full power
  • Can’t change the power level while the thing is running, or even when it is stopped. To change power you need to cancel, set new power, set new time, then start again.
  • Can’t add time while its running. Eg. this looks like it needs another 30 seconds, add them. Again, need to cancel, set power level again if it is not 100%, then set new time, start.
  • It has a 12 button keypad, but the buttons are labelled 1 to 12.  They can’t be used to enter numbers for time or power.
  • No way to turn off beeps for every button press.

I can’t think of any excuse for this brain-dead lack of features.  I just assumed they would be available…


Navman S35 GPS

My lovely brother gave us a Navman S35 GPS navigator for Christmas.  Cool!  It works great in the car (its intended purpose).  However, he suggested we might enjoy some geocaching.

Hmmm. Not so fast.  On the surface this thing has some serious shortcomings for non-car navigation

  • small battery (<3 hours runtime away from the car)
  • Has the “feature” that it shows your position on the nearest road, rather than where you actually are.
  • Apparently the GPS has ‘static navigation’ turned on, which means position is not updated unless the unit is moving faster than some speed.  Makes it hard to get an exact fix when you are stationary.
  • Need to use windows software to load waypoints

But all is not lost. This thing is running a cut-down version of windows CE, and with some tweaking http://navmanunlocked.wikispaces.com/ other software can be loaded and run.

The S35 appears as a usb memory device when connected to my GNU/Linux laptop.  However, the default settings result in corrupt files when writing to it.   So the first thing to do is set up a script and udev rule to perform

echo 64 > /sys/block/sdb/queue/max_sectors_kb

I’ll attach the files when I figure out how.

So far NoniGPSPlot is the best freeware GPS software I have found that runs on the S35. I’ve even got it to show maps from OpenStreetMap using taho.pl to download the map tiles