Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Git and Unfuddle for python project - using .ignore

This is a reminder to me in case I forget how I got this working.

Main development environment is local laptop
Master reponsitory on
Live environment on remote server

There are a few files, like, that I don't want to be synced and as these files were already in the repository I'd created, git kept trying to sync them.

To resolve:
Assuming already have everything setup - remote server setup with clone from unfuddle.

Create .gitignore file as part of repository:

Remove from git without deleting on both local and remote environments.

In Local environment:
git rm --cached
git commit -a -m "remove"
git push unfuddle master
In remote live environment
git rm --cached
git commit -a -m "remove"
git push

That should do it. Now commits can be exchanged without being updated.

Jerky Mouse on Virtual PC on Dell Laptop

I'm recording the solution to this problem in case it helps someone else with this problem.


Install VPC 2007 on Dell laptop (with no mouse) running Windows XP and every time I'd open the VPC guest OS, the mouse would be so slow to respond, sometimes seconds, that it was unusuable. Installed Virtual PC additions, fiddled with the memory settings and all the other solutions I found online, no difference at all. Then found the suggestion to put something in a USB port and in desperation put in a USB stick. It worked! Well that only took 5 hours to solve.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Future of the Irish Sport Horse

Since the glory days of the 1960s and 70s, the number of Irish horses competing in Show Jumping at the top level have dwindled. While our Irish riders still compete at the top level, few of them ride Irish horses because there just are so few able to compete at this level. Horse Sport Ireland have put together a task force to consider what can be done to regain our ranking and their recommendations include education for breeders, better information and communication on breeding, improvements in the production of young horses and changes to the way mares and stallions are classified. All good stuff, but it got me thinking about the sport horse industry as whole and this is an extract from a submission on the subject:

1. We are currently very successful in the breeding of event horses. Any plan to improve show jumpers must ensure we do not lose that ranking.

2. Are we trying to breed IRISH show jumpers or EUROPEAN show jumpers bred in Ireland? I suspect that most of the potential breeding stock in Ireland already have a substantial amount of continental warmblood and that they would be taken to top class continental stallions. There is nothing wrong with that if you aim is to produce a top class show jumper. However, if producing Irish Show Jumpers was a business, we would be asking what is the USP (unique selling point) of the IRISH horse otherwise why will people travel to Ireland to buy a horse that differs little from those produced on the continent?

Maybe the advertising for an elite sales in Ireland in 10 years reads " Looking for a hose that is easy to train, will get you out of trouble and stay sound for years? Come to the Elite Irish Show Jumper sales... "

I am aware this is a challenge for which there is no easy answer but maybe this is a starting point. What gets measured gets done, goes the old saying, so identify what makes Irish horses unique and give these measures prominence in the stud book. Also ensure that these qualities are included in the branding of irish horses.

3. Consider the aim to produce top class show jumpers as part of the overall strategy of building a thriving sport horse industry in Ireland - that includes eventers and leisure horses. What is the traditional Irish Horse suited for? Clearly eventing, at which we continue to be successful, and the leisure and amateur sport horse where the good nature, intelligence and agility of the irish horse are highly prized. It would therefore make commercial sense to focus on the markets for which we already have a good product. That is not to say that I would not like to see Irish Show Jumpers represented again, but suggest that to achieve this we should focus on quality rather than quantity. Properly support a smaller number of specialist breeders with the interest and competance to breed and produce show jumpers, rather than hoping the farmer and small breeder are going to create a large enough pool from which a few good horses will emerge.

By developing all three strands - show jumpers, eventers and leisure horses, with a focus on breeding straightforward horses that are trainable, intelligent and sound, we build a solid foundation for all forms of sport horse and avoid a situation where horses bred for a specialist purpose that cannot fulfill their potential are not suitable for anything else.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Install Gas/Oil or use Night Rate for underfloor heating?My cold damp house is

My stone and earth, cold, damp house is heated by two wood (and occasionally a bit of coal) fired stoves. The wood has so far come from felling 40 year old Sitka spruce on the property and I have some willow and other copice trees growing. But unless I keep both fires going full pace all day, most of the house sticks at 5 degrees C through the winter. Miserable. I have underfloor heating installed, but rarely have enough hot water for it to make a difference and the cost of running the 12KW of immersions in the water tank is high.

Having been purist about using only wood for the first 7 winters, I gave in and started putting the odd bucket of coal in the stove and I have to say it makes a HUGE difference. Even one bucket of coal a day gives enough extra heat for the UFH to kick in a bit and at least one room is positively warm for most of the day. Having looked at the cost of installing more biomass solutions - a ceramic stove or gasification boiler, both costing over €10k, and the extra work and wood required, I've also had to consider gas or oil at an installation cost of only 2-3k.

But what I have been holding out for is real time pricing. The electricity companies buy from a pool supplied by the generators. When it's windy that price is low because wind companies can sell at whatever price they can get, their costs are the same if they sell or don't. If it's a still cold afternoon in winter, the price can be very high as extra gas fired power stations are fired up. So the electricity companies buy at variable prices and sell to us at fixed prices. I want to buy my electricity at a fixed premium above the pool price, so when it's windy I get cheap electricity and can turn on my UFH at a couple of cents and hour and when it's not, I put an extra few logs on the fire. You can read more about Real Time Pricing at Jerry Sweeney's blog at, it's coming but we need smart metering etc.........

So in the meantime, should I bow to pressure to get a programmable fossil fuel solution to my heat problem, get some heated fingerless gloves or use night rate electricity? I've experimented with turning on the immersions during the night - the UFH kicks in automatically when the water reaches a certain temperature. By using 60kw a night at a cost of €5.22, I can rise the temperature of the whole house from 5 to 10 degrees and the rooms with the stoves in maintain a toasty 12 degrees overnight. A huge difference in the quality of life of the inmates.

Here is the cost calculation:

Price of Night Rate Electric kw


Price of Gas per kw


Units per night


Cost per night electric


Cost per night gas


Gas saving/night


Installation of Gas boiler/tank


Worst case - 200 nights/year


Payback period years


Ignoring maintenance costs for the gas/oil boiler and assuming the ratio between electricity price and gas/oil price remains unchanged, 4.7 years before I'm saving by putting in another solution! And my bet is that electricity will become, relatively, cheaper as we increase the proportion of wind. And Once the real time pricing kicks in, I could be heating the house for €1 a night on renewables and helping to balance the load on the grid. Then I would be smug and snug!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Scenarios for Ireland 2025

Scenario Based Planning

Scenario planning is a technique for exploring the future by creating several plausible but challenging alternative futures rather than making a single prediction. It has been used by commercial companies since the 1970s when Shell was the only oil company prepared for the oil shocks of that decade as a result of its use.

Why use Scenario Planning?

A prediction is (almost) never right. The unexpected always happens and the assumptions, conscious and unconscious, that apply today may not apply tomorrow. For example, at the end of the last century, London could see no solution to the ever increasing amounts of horse manure on the roads, then along came the motor car. This highlights the difficulty with using forecasts: they carry forward current trends, problems and constraints and do not allow for the unexpected.

Scenarios are versatile. Scenarios can be used not only to prepare plans for the future, but to check existing plans for robustness. Will a plan work in more than one scenario or will fail if any of the underlying assumptions change? If we can develop flexible plans that will work with multiple scenarios, then, when the unexpected does happen, there is a better chance that the plan can be adapted to the new circumstances.

It is difficult to get consensus for a prediction. You can either agree or disagree with other people's predictions - and the tendency is to disagree. Scenario planning is about building plausible futures, a much less contentious task because we only need to agree that a scenario is possible to be able to use it. We don't even have to agree that it is likely.

Good scenarios challenge one's thinking and stimulate discussion. The human species has spent most of its history telling stories rather than looking at graphs and spreadsheets. As a result, the implications of a rich story about the future can be more easily understood and used. It is surprising how much information a scenario can convey in a few words. For example, the following classified advertisement can tell us a lot about what the future might be like under a particular scenario:

For Sale: 4x4 with axle suitable for conversion to wind turbine.

This can be interpreted as: Increases in the price of transport fuel have meant that vehicles with high fuel consumption are no longer in demand and it is becoming difficult to sell these vehicles. However, with increasing prices of home electricity, there is a boom in DIY windmills. A component of these windmills is the back axle of a car.

The original Energy Scenarios Ireland, originally described in 2006/7 have been updated, though in a many ways they have not fundamentally changed.

Business As Usual has become Celtic Kitten - our focus is to get back to 'normal' but without a property boom to support the economy and a mountain of debt to support, it's a bit of a disappointment.

Enlightened Transition has become Celtic Phoenix - rather than emulate the ambitions of others, Ireland plays to the talents we have. A well educated work force, adaptable and creative, a small country with plentiful renewables - just what is needed to build and trial new products and services. Ireland markets itself as a big hothouse for new and growing young businesses.

Enforced Localisation has become Celtic Hedgehog - Back to the land and a life of frugal comfort. It takes decades for Ireland to re-emerge.

Fair Shares becomes Celtic Fox - In honor of Colin Campbell who used the Celtic Fox in his presentations. Ireland applies it's abilities to make the best of difficult times to adapt to a high cost economy. Times are tough but we are now well placed to build a stronger economy.

Further installments to follow, with particular focus on Celtic Phoenix.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Himalayan village has the right idea?

When the retreat of a glacier left this village without water each year, they decide to move their village and build again nearer the river. Their new homes will have solar power and they plan to put in microhydro in the river.

Take Skibbereen, a town of about 2500 people on the Ilen river that floods regularly. If you compared the cost of endless repairs and capital costs of fighting the river against moving the town, how long would the payback period be? Financial and emotional. 10 years, 20 years, 100 years? This is a question that many low lying towns will be asking themselves over the next decades.

What could New Skibbereen be like? Warm, dry, cheap to run with renewables built in, cars separated from people, a square, trees, under cover market area, covered shopping area, A comfortable place for tourists to visit with trips, by boat, around Old Skibbereen!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Google Wave - After a day playing with the API

Have very mixed feelings about Wave after a day of heavy use. It has helped clarify in my ming what I want and don't want from an online comms tool. Here is the summary of strengths and weaknesses developed during a wave conversation with Bart.

Blip: What is your impression of wave - strengths and weaknesses?


- It's an 'Excel spreadsheet' of the messaging - giving you the power to do things your way
- open API
- realtime
- great if you want to carry on a number of chats at the same time
- can bring in clever gadgets/custom gadgets in a way that is not possible with googledocs etc. eg. voting, map.
- can develop custom gadgets and have the interface provided by wave - I could see this as being used for particular tasks/conversations rather than being open all the time.
- can be used for document sharing and commenting it (altho probably not much different from editing these documents on googledocs or )
- will give a new set of standards/language for doing this kind of thing - shares many ideas with tinycomms, making tinycomms an easier sell I think
- saves time on 'reinventing the wheel' by many contributors as everyone sees what other are thinking and writing about - avoids repeating the same tasks/ideas by all
- Wave as a wiki?


- Too much freedom - leading to mess quickly if not very very careful
- Right now feels like an island - no email like clients - you have to have your browser opened on the Wave page and keep lurking there
- inconfigurable interface (for now)
- Yet another thing to monitor and distract me - don't plan on leaving it open!
- not really suited for multi-user editing / brainstorming - but how is it better than etherpad or the dreaded googledocs. Just a smaller screen with people able to create new threads all over the place.
- Making any sense out of an advanced conversation may be a challenge (many contributors editing and changing things in-line over time) - the playback feature tries to make that easier, but still it is far from perfect.
- lack of built in support for voice/video - voice provided by gadget verillio (sp?) - yes but that's third party, not built in, no guarantees on its stability or usability
- if other people are editing at the same time as you but not within the same few lines, I can't see what they have changed. Snap! / it's not easy to keep track on cursor position of participants in a large document.
- too many ways to chat - yet none of them seem to be natural or streamlined.

Overall I'm left feeling this is another tool to help me multitask even more manically, whereas what I want is a tool that will help me focus on one thing at a time! So don't expect me to monitor wave and respond to your posts, I plan to use it for particular tasks, which will depend on the 3rd party gadgets developed. But this is after one day of use.....