Friday, February 19, 2010

Lessons learnt on Smart Meter rollout

Just reading an interesting post on Greenmonks Blog on how not to roll out a smart meter system.

The crux of it is that if you want people to change their behavior, you have to make the information they need to adapt highly visible. In this rollout, the company was expecting customers to shift their loads from peak (high cost) periods to off peak (low cost) periods and thereby reduce their overall bills. But there were no displays on the meters giving the current cost of electricity, no way of seeing current consumption or current spend. I previously suggested in this blog, that to reduce our car driving we have the current cost of our journeys displayed in real-time on the car dashboard to keep reminding us how much we have spent. As it stands, we only have the short pain of filling up our tanks followed by a long period of driving for free, and judging from our steadfast reluctance to reducing the time we spend in our cars, fuel price increases don't lead to behaviour change.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Very chocolatey Cookies/Brownies

400g of Lidl 40% chocolate grated
115g butter
-- melt together --

2 eggs, wisk with
140g demarara sugar

Add melted chocolate/butter
Add 1 tsp cinnamon
Add chocolate chips
Add about 40g cup of flour pending on whether you want cookies or brownies. For brownies add flour until just pourable, for cookies add flour until they can be shaped.

Bake for about 12 mins in 170/180 oven until just cooked.

Keep eating one more but try and stop before you feel sick!

Banning the use of the word Sustainable

In a finite world due to be sucked into the sun in only 7.5billion years, nothing is truly sustainable. "Sustainable" has become so meaningless that the local chamber of commerce referred to a "return to a sustainable economy" recently, so would we be lost for words if we banned the use of "Sustainable"?

I'm going to try very hard to remove the word from my vocabulary from now on and use some of these instead:

Resilience - the ability to bounce back, and often the opposite of efficiency. A highly efficient system is designed for the highest gain in the short term. It is tuned to current circumstances and as soon as those circumstances change it is no longer efficient. The more efficient and specialised a system, business or organism becomes the less adaptable and resilient. Resillience is about the boring stuff. The boring banks were more resillient, the boring businesses producing essential goods and services for local markets - funeral directors, tyre sales, food markets are all ticking away. Resillience is about reliability and repairability. Resillience is about having an infrastructure we can trust - energy, transport, broadband, water.

Continuity - the value in keeping some things the same while others change. The loss of a business is not simply a monetary loss for the economy but the loss of intelligence. An established company has an intelligence and learning of it's own which is held by it's staff. While some of that intelligence may be written down, breaking up the people means losing that intelligence. Continuity is about keeping and using that collective intelligence, even if the original purpose has changed.

Balanced Portfolio - In the old days, a couple of decades ago, financial advisors talked about a balanced portfolio. You had your safe (!) bonds and blue chip stocks, your more risky stocks and shares and a few high risk investments. If our economy was a balanced portfolio, the safe investments would be investing in our own elf-sufficiency, making goods and services that are needed in our own economy. The medium risk would be making goods for export markets, attracting multinational FDR and investing in foreign businesses. High risk would be relying on cycles that are likely to be short lived - housing booms have historically been followed by housing busts and there seems to escape from that cycle.

Natural Lifespan - while long term thinking, continuity and resilience have their place, being able to exploit short term opportunities, the high risk element of the balanced portfolio, is also of great benefit and the trick here is to build in the demise as well as the creation and the skill is in knowing when to change.

What all of these words have in common is a longer term view of success than we have become used to, so rather than asking for the speaker's or author's definition of "Sustainable" as I have in the past, I will ask "Do you mean continue indefinitely, or do you have a more realistic timeframe in mind?".

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Installing OpenCV 2 on OSX with Python

Starting with instructions on the Willow Garage site, I fell at the first hurdle because thought I didn't need to install svn. Briefly, this is what I did and the more detailed explanation follows.

The short route:

1. sudo fink install svn-ssl (which takes a long time!)
2. sudo port install cmake
3. svn co opencv
4. cd opencv
5. mkdir opencv/build
6. cd opencv/build
7. cmake ..
8. ccmake . (option c then option g)
9. make
10. sudo make install

On my osx 10.5 it copied the shared objects file to:


so I needed to move it to the site-packages I was using

11. cp /usr/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/ /Users/phoebebr/Development/site-packages

Now I can do:

>>> import cv

no error

and I can run the tests in my downloaded opencv folder,

cd opencv/opencv/tests/python

This did report a few problems but most stuff seemed to run. Tried to run some tests calling opencv from Aptana but this caused the following error: " cp /usr/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/ /Users/phoebebr/Development/site-packages". Having installed successfully (I hope!) will have a go a writing a few programs next week....

The long route:

Already had svn so did:
svn co opencv
and got
svn: SSL is not supported
so thought, I don't need https
svn co opencv

and got

svn: PROPFIND request failed on '/svn/opencv/trunk'
svn: PROPFIND of '/svn/opencv/trunk': 301 Moved Permanently (

So tried the instructions from the top:

The-Black-Book-2:site-packages phoebebr$ sudo port install subversion
---> Fetching apr
---> Attempting to fetch apr-1.3.5.tar.bz2 from
---> Attempting to fetch apr-1.3.5.tar.bz2 from
---> Attempting to fetch apr-1.3.5.tar.bz2 from
---> Attempting to fetch apr-1.3.5.tar.bz2 from
---> Verifying checksum(s) for apr
---> Extracting apr
---> Configuring apr
---> Building apr
---> Staging apr into destroot
---> Installing apr @1.3.5_0
---> Activating apr @1.3.5_0
Error: Target org.macports.activate returned: Image error: /opt/local/bin/apr-1-config already exists and does not belong to a registered port. Unable to activate port apr.
Error: The following dependencies failed to build: apr apr-util expat libiconv gperf sqlite3 ncurses ncursesw readline cyrus-sasl2 openssl zlib gettext neon serf
Error: Status 1 encountered during processing.

So found this URL:
which explained that I needed the server version of svn and I only had the client version installed.

and did

sudo fink install svn-ssl

and that install svn so could continue with instructions above, missing the first step. Phew....