Thursday, December 24, 2009

Solar Power - Winter Solstice and New Ducting Update

I've previously shared the first few months of output from our solar system, we turned it on at the start of September, and on a clear day we were getting around 24KWh. As the days got shorter and the Sun got lower in the sky, the clear day output dropped off, and earlier this week we hit the winter solstice, the shortest day. Wednesday was a clear day, and we generated about 16KWh, as shown in the plot below.

We have also seen the benefit of our E6-time of use rate plan. We generate electricity during the week while we are mostly out of the house at the highest rate, and use it at the cheapest rate. So we continue to be net consumers of electricity, generating between 50% and 70% of what we use, but our electricity bill is basically zero at this point. In addition, PG&E just gave us a rebate of $67 due to lower energy costs, so the standing charge of $11.50/month is zeroed out for almost six months.

We converted our gas appliances to electric, for heating water, drying clothes and cooking, and currently only use gas for the furnace that heats the house. We looked into replacing the furnace with a ground source heat pump (GSHP) but got wildly varying designs and costs from everyone we talked to so have postponed that idea. The one thing everyone agreed on was that our ducting was sub-standard, with insufficient flow for A/C and barely enough for the furnace, and it was poorly constructed using the lowest quality materials.

So we have just replaced the ducts throughout the house, changing the configuration to include separate zones for upstairs and downstairs, adding a new return path from upstairs and one extra outlet. The ducts are insulated to R8, rather than R4.2, so they don't lose heat, and they have fewer leaks and a properly designed balance of air flow into each room. This is done using something called a Manual-J calculation, and there is also an independent analysis service that verifies that everything is working correctly. The main effect of this is that we will use less propane, and have much better control over temperature upstairs. We often want to heat the bedrooms without wanting to heat downstairs to the same level, and we now have a thermostat in the main bedroom for upstairs, as well as one downstairs.

I'm planning to blog some more about GSHP options, its quite complicated....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Global Warming

Two essential books to read: Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by James Hoggan - how the oil and coal industries are behind the denialist spin doctors - will make you angry. Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen - will make you scared.

James Hansen is the NASA scientist who is probably the worlds top climate expert. Industry and politicians don't want to hear the message he has been trying to get through for years, that the situation is much worse than the IPCC projections already. He provides the research background for the safe limit of 350ppm of CO2 that is being promoted by some at Copenhagen at the moment. We are already at 387ppm, and increasing rapidly, and we are seeing irreversible changes in climate as the ice melts. James is calling for a worldwide moratorium on building coal fired power plants as a first step. The oil and coal has to be left underground.

Human civilization has occurred during a time of very stable sea levels, over the last 7000 years. Before that sea levels have changed more rapidly and over a range of hundreds of feet. Human induced global warming is forcing change an order of magnitude stronger than the natural changes in climate, and is still accelerating. With very unstable sea levels, ports and coastal areas are going to flood, and it will not be possible to establish new ports on a permanent basis, as they will be flooded in turn within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. The huge numbers of refugees is an even bigger problem.

What can we do?
Read those two books.
Sell coastal property while there are still people who will buy it.
Don't invest in oil, coal and insurance companies.
Put up solar panels and switch from gas to electric appliances.
Sign up at the web site, join the 350org facebook group.

I get books via the Kindle service and read them on my iPhone, instant delivery, and always with me to read.
Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

A good summary of the arguments is at Skeptical Science

I have read everything I can find on this subject over the last year or two, I have an Applied Physics degree and enough science and statistics that I can tell who and what makes sense and who doesn't. Every single denier and contrarian that I have heard of is backed by the coal and oil industries, often through opaque organizations and astroturf groups with innocent sounding names. They have been exposed as liars and cherry pickers, but really they are spin doctors sowing confusion. If you listen to them you are deluding yourself, and you should be investing in real estate in Florida...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CMG09 - Last Time Attendee

I presented a half day training class and a paper at CMG09 in Dallas last week. I won't be at CMG10. The conference has shrunk to a few hundred attendees, mostly mainframe oriented, a few vendors, and a bunch of independent consultants. Its main value for me was to maintain and extend my social network of capacity planning and performance people. There were some useful and interesting papers, but not enough to justify a full week long conference in a very expensive hotel. CMG10 is in Orlando FL, and I can't justify traveling to the east coast for more of the same.

A few years ago I discussed with the CMG board members what was needed to keep CMG from shrinking into irrelevancy, at the time I was at eBay, and early December is the peak business level for retail industry, so very few capacity/performance experts from retail can get away at that time of year, and I suggested they move the date. The dominant industries attending CMG have been banking, insurance and finance, which have been hit hard in the recession. The other change I advocated was that CMG should be held in the Bay Area, so that it could attract a lot more people from the major Web companies and computer hardware and software companies that are based here. Unfortunately CMG is locked into a long series of Hotel commitments for several years, and can't change its plans.

So my position now, is that I will attend CMG again when it comes to me. In the meantime, I will encourage the people I met every year at CMG to attend the Velocity Conference in San Jose next June. - the call for papers closes in January, so we have a few weeks to come up with abstracts.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Heading to CMG09 in Dallas today

various talks on capacity planning in the cloud on Wed, then I'm presenting on Thurs. My slides are at - this is probably my last visit to CMG, its been shrinking for a while, we will see how it looks on the ground.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HPTS at Asilomar

I'm attending the High Performance Transaction Systems workshop http;//hpts,ws over the next few days. I'm chairing a session on moving to the cloud. Quality crowd - Bechtolsheim, Stonebraker, Patterson, and so on, see the Agenda... Second time for me, it's an honor to be invited back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

FREE this weekend, iPhone Instant Queue Add for Netflix

The latest version 5 of IQ+ was released this week, and it is currently Free until Monday morning.

You get your queue, recently watched, and up to 100 movies per list for new releases, new TV, the 12 top level genres, movies you'll love, and seven highly personalized sub-genre and similars lists. All the lists are personally optimized for you by Netflix and will be the same as the lists currently shown on Xbox 360 or Media Center if you have one.

It's a free update for existing users (the app has been out for over a year now) and normally 99c for new users. The app also provides searching the instant catalog and sorting the lists by title, rating, maturity, ending soon etc. Sorting the queue doesn't (yet) change it at Netflix, but helps you find titles that you can then pop to the front or back of the queue with one click.

Please review/rate the latest release. So far thousands of existing users have upgraded, iPhone OS 3.0 or later is required.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

iPhone Copilot GPS navigator

this excellent app is a turn by turn talking navigator that works like a dedicated Garmin or Tomtom unit but it cost $35, with no additional subscription charges, and is amazing value. It's fast, has a very clear display and easy user interface. To mount and power it in the car I got a Belkin TuneBase FM ($89 at Frys) that plugs very firmly into the lighter socket and has a gooseneck that lets you adjust the position. The iPhone clamp works with a case fitted, and I was able to tune the car FM to hear the turn by turn directions along with the music playing. There is an output jack if you have an aux input socket on your car stereo, and a USB to charge a second iPhone on long trips or whatever else you have.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Solar Power - High and low usage and costs for the first month

The solar array continues to generate over 20KWh on a clear day, but our daily consumption varies a lot. On Sunday we were running the washing machine, dryer, pumping water from the well for a few hours, watching TV and baking/cooking/dish-washing for seven people, and we hit an all time high using almost 50KWh.

The next day, running pretty close to the minimum possible, we used about 13 KWh.

Our total generation for the month of September was about 700 KWh. The output is dropping as the day gets shorter and the sun gets lower, so our 4.2KW system peaked at about 3.4KW at the start of the month, after a rain shower cleaned the panels and the air we saw a peak of 3.7KW for a short period of one day, then it dropped back to 3.3KW and it ended the month at 3.2KW. The daily output on a clear day was 26KWh at the start of September and 24KWh at the end.

Our approximate total consumption for september was 1100 KWh, and since we are on the time-of-use E6 rate the net metering subtracted the 700 we generated and broke down the rest as -100 KWh at peak time (1-7pm), and 500 KWh mid and off-peak. We were billed $11.50 which is the base level for PG&E, and a total of $17 for 400 KWh was added to the annual accumulation.

In a year's time the net for the year is due to get settled. The very complex details are available from PG&E, but basically instead of costing us on a sliding scale of 11c-38c per KWh, the solar array keeps us at the bottom end of the scale and at the E6 rate it costs 8c off peak, 14c mid peak, and while we are running the meter backwards at peak PG&E pay us 30c per KWh. So our typical electric bill of $250 was reduced to $28.

I have been asked about the payback time for the installation. This is part of the calculation that the vendor sales-rep makes for your particular situation. In my case we made it much more complex by replacing the roof shingles, shutting down our use of propane, buying new appliances and increasing our use of electricity. However If we ignore all that and average $200/month savings, then after all the rebates the solar system installation of about $20K has a payback time of less than 8 years on a naive calculation. If we take into account a 5% interest rate on the installation cost it's more like 12 years, and if we assume that electricity costs would rise over that time it's somewhere in-between. I'm also assuming that the value of the house has gone up.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Power Usage Logging with the WELserver

Reading some forums about ground source heat pump installations, we noticed references to a logging system called the Web Energy Logger that collects data in your house and provides you with a detailed and customized view of how the systems in your house are operating. I bought a WELserver kit and have started installing some of the data collectors.

Here's the summary of what it does:

Simply put, the Web Energy Logger (or WEL) is the most economical way to monitor lots of temperature sensors, and a host of other energy related devices in your home or office. It's ideal to verify the performance or a solar thermal system, or to calculate the efficiency of a geothermal installation, or even to prove that your home really is Net Zero. Not only does the WEL give you a window into your energy environment, but it also provides a live snapshot and a range of trend charts that you can share on the WEB in real-time. Finally, the WEL records all your sensor data in monthly log files that are easy to download and import into programs like Excel. It's compact, versatile, and extremely configurable.

The minimal WEL in a Box is ideal for a DIY'er, and costs $375. In contrast, the more complete WEL Starter Kit is ready to run out-of-the-box with 10 temperature sensors and costs $525. All WEL's come with full monitoring software on the board, and a dedicated WEL logging site included in the price.

The monitors are all strung together in a daisy-chain configuration on a single twisted pair wire using the Dallas 1-Wire signaling technology. I got one of the optional current sensors and installed it in the electric hot water tank. Here is the sensor, one of the power wires needs to be threaded through the hole so it can detect current flow.

Here is the water tank. The orange wire had been installed without its protective shielding, so when that was fitted, we took the opportunity to add the sensor.

The recess in the top of the water tank has enough space to hold the sensor, with the black wire threaded through the hole.

The cover is in two parts, which gives easy access to the wiring again if needed.

At this point, I don't have the WEL configured. I need to add temperature sensors to the water pipes, and work out how to monitor the heat pump once we get it installed in place of the propane furnace. The WEL control box has an ethernet connection, and I'm not sure whether to run ethernet into the basement, or run the 1-wire cable around the house to monitor all the rooms. Spare wires in the existing telephone cabling can be used for this purpose.

Friday, September 25, 2009

GP Musumeci joins Netflix....

Adrian Cockcroft's Blog: Are any (ex-)PAE Snorclers looking for a new career?

My call was answered.... GP Musumeci started work last week at Netflix. He's the author of O'Reilly System Performance Tuning, and we worked together at Sun PAE in 2000-2002. Since then he worked on the operations side, building Time Warner AoL's video streaming service, and's infrastructure, then moved to become a developer of recommendation systems and distributed databases. The perfect mix...

Solar Power - Monitoring Consumption

We finally got Solarcity to install the consumption monitor, and we are now figuring out what the various bumps in the graph correlate to in terms of appliances. The first graph shows consumption on a hot day, with a portable room A/C unit left on all day. There is a characteristic bump in the morning that seems to correlate to re-heating hot water after showers, and random bumps during the day that are probably the hot tub cycling on to filter and maintain water temperature.

Another day where we didn't leave the A/C unit on shows much lower consumption. One of the common psychological effects of measuring something is a compulsion to optimize it, so we are now challenging ourselves to try and reduce consumption...

Since we are now on a time-of-use meter, the cost of electricity at nights and weekends is very low, and the cost in the afternoons during the week is high, but that is when we are generating more than we are using, so in $ terms, the meter is running backwards at high speed, and forwards slowly. This also makes it very hard to calculate the cost savings.

Total generation for the month is looking good. We turned on the system right at the start of the month, so the lifetime total includes a week or so before the output monitoring started to log data, and you can see the last few days of consumption data. We have had typical (for us) weather, sunny from the start of the day most days. We drive down into the clouds each morning. The drop off a few weeks ago was a cloudy spell that included about 0.25in of rain, enough to make sure the solar panels are nice and clean. There is a slow downward trend in the daily output, since the days are getting shorter and the Sun is lower in the sky every day. It's around the equinox at the moment. Over-all, I'm happy with how much energy we are getting, I expected to get longer effective days than most people, and it looks as if we will be generating about 600 KWh this month, our typical consumption has been around 1000 KWh.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Solar Power - Monitoring Output

The SolarCity web based monitoring system didn't work at first, there was a problem with the data-logging board in the inverter but they were helpful and sent someone round to fix it. So now we can track how much power we are generating. The graph updates every 15 minutes, and it reports the amount of power every half hour, so when it shows 1.7 KWh that is equivalent to 3.4KW averaged over 30 minutes. So far the highest peak instantaneous output reported on the Inverter is about 4.2KW.

We are still waiting for the energy consumption metering to be added, which puts a second line on the same graph.

The day shown was a typical day up here on top of the mountain, it was cloudy elsewhere, but we had basically clear sky all day. and generated over 25KWh.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Are any (ex-)PAE Snorclers looking for a new career?

I'm looking for someone who has been benchmarking and testing web services/cloud performance to work in Los Gatos CA, no remote work, sorry.

For the uninitiated, PAE = Performance Applications Engineering, one of the groups I was in years ago at Sun that built benchmarks and did performance analysis for a living. Snorcle = Sun + Oracle sinking beneath the waves...

This is a great time to join Netflix, we are growing fast, there are a lot of open positions and we pay very well for star players.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Solar Power - "City" Inspection

We passed last week (we live outside the city, so it was actually Santa Clara County), and how have another 12 days for PG&E to put in a new time-of-use power meter and bless the installation so we can turn it on.

It took a bit of prodding for SolarCity to get the inspections setup, at least that's the way it seemed. After the install, they sent me an email saying please pay the invoice, but they hadn't sent me an invoice. I waited a few days then asked them if they were going to send me one, then they sent it. After they get paid they are supposed to schedule the inspection. They say it can take a month or so to complete the inspections. After a week or two I emailed and asked when the inspection might happen, and a few days later it was scheduled for the following week. They sent someone to wait at my house for the inspector, so we didn't need to be there, other than making sure they had access to the basement where the inverter is installed.

The ground source heat pump is taking a bit longer than hoped. The supplies have been hard to source on the West Coast, it seems that there are relatively few GSHP installations in California so far. I'm hoping to get the detailed planning approval and install done in the coming week.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solar Power - Installation Day 4

All the panels are on the roof, the trench has been re-filled, the wiring is done, it was tested and span the meter backwards. Next step is inspections that can take a few weeks before we can turn it on for real....

I installed the Solarcity Internet monitoring system base station by plugging it into a spare Ethernet port on my DSL modem. It flashed some lights that told me that it had connected to Solarcity successfully, then started scanning to find the monitored devices. It talks to the inverter to track how much power is being generated, and I will have an optional consumption monitor that tells me how much power the house is using. I have to wait for the install to be complete before I can see any output on the web site.
Also, they were out of stock of the consumption monitor, so it will need to be added on later, but it doesn't affect the operation of the system.

I have also figured out the Ground Source Heat Pump, I'm going for a vertical well based installation, its a 3-ton A/C unit and heater made by Carrier that hooks up to my existing propane furnace ducting, and includes a water heater that replaces my propane hot water tank. It exchanges heat with the ground using three 200ft deep wells, and for every KW of electricity it uses, it pumps around 4KW of heat in or out of the house. This is over twice as efficient as a conventional air based A/C unit. It costs more, but there is a 30% federal tax credit on the full price, just like the solar power installation, thanks to Obama's stimulus package (this credit started in February 2009). I'm hoping to have enough solar power to zero out the running costs, we will see how that goes over time.

Classic car events in August

I go to the Monterey Historic Races every year, and this year I'm also taking my Citroen SM to a new event La Dolce Vita Automobili - it's set up to be a smaller and more fun alternative to the Concorso Italiano, which is on the same day Friday August 14th.

Here is the SM at Crater Lake a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Solar Power - Installation Day 3

Today about half the panels were put in place on the roof, and a lot of wiring was put in place.

Here are the installers starting to put panels in place in the morning.

In the evening the lowest row of 20 are in place, and about half of the next row. There will be a total of 60 panels when it's done.

Here is the underside of a panel, in a shipping rack on the truck.

A closeup of the panel's specification label, as I mentioned before, its a Cadmium Telluride CdTe thin film technology panel from First Solar. Each panel is rated at 75W, and the total installation is rated at 4.5KW.

Solar Power - Installation Day 2

More mounting hardware is now on the roof, the brackets that hold the panels to the rails are now in place. Since the PG&E meter isn't mounted on the house itself, they also had to dig a trench. Tomorrow a county planning dept. inspector will come by to make sure everything is to code.

I also got an email from PG&E today, informing me that they know I have solar being installed and will schedule an appointment to do their own verification and turn the system on, once the hardware is in place.

One subtlety, since I also want to connect a generator for when we get power cuts (I'm on top of the Santa Cruz mountains) we had to decide what order to wire everything together. The sequence is

PG&E service meter - Solar Power system - Generator - House breaker panel

The generator is only wired into a subset of the house circuits, so it is looped into the house breaker panel. When installed, it will have a sensor that can tell whether there is any incoming power from PG&E, and if not, it fires up after 20 seconds or so.

The solar power system detects the PG&E power, synchronizes to the 60Hz phase and adds its own power by providing a few volts more than PG&E, to get the power to flow into the system. If PG&E goes away, the solar system also shuts down, then the generator detects no power, isolates the downstream components and takes over powering the house.

At one point I looked at having batteries rather than a generator, but it is a lot less efficient, they don't last very long and they are far more expensive. A 6KW battery system with inverter was around $10K, while I can get a 8KW propane generator for $2K, and I'm thinking of putting in a 14KW Generac 5503 that is currently available from Amazon for $3.3K delivered, since that can supply a 40A 220V circuit for the heat pump. I'm likely to need it for up to a week each year, and that will be the only thing that uses propane at that point.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Solar Power - Installation Day 1

Here's the house, showing the mounting points and rails on the roof.

Top end of conduit at the roof line.

Bottom end of conduit at the basement level.

Bottom end and A/C shutoff switch on the front of the house at basement/ground level.

A/C shutoff switch. Safety rules mandate that this is easily accessible on the outside of the house.

Inside the basement, showing the connection to the back of the A/C cutoff switch on the right. In the middle is the D/C cutoff switch that has the conduit from the roof routed to it. There will be another D/C shutoff switch on the roof itself, again for safety.

This is the inverter on the left, and the D/C shutoff switch on the right. The pipe coming up carries the phone line into the house.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Solar Power - Installation Scheduled

The plans were approved earlier this week, and Solarcity called me on the phone and emailed to setup an installation time, which I was able to arrange very conveniently via email. The assigned installation team are finishing up another job, then I'm next, starting tomorrow (Friday 24th July) for a few days.

There has been nothing to show so far, but I will be taking pictures and posting them.

Looking at the options for electric water heating led us to consider a ground source heat pump (GSHP), plans are still in flux, but I'm looking at adding a heat pump that will heat hot water as well as heat and cool the house. The ground source part is that it doesn't have a conventional air fan based heat exchanger, it runs water through underground pipes. This is relatively expensive, but there are rebates, and it is very efficient. More later...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Velocity conference summary

Steve Souders writes a good summary of the Velocity Conference. I'd like to present something next year, I have a few ideas already, and have been inspired to try some latency testing projects at work.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Solar Power - plan submitted emailed me a very detailed pdf of the plan for 4.5KW on my roof, and submitted it to the County for planning approval today. Meanwhile the house is being re-wired this week for 220V and a 200Amp feed to replace the 110V/100A setup. Also putting in 220V outlets for the kitchen range, hot tub, dryer and hot water heater. Propane tank is now disconnected and I have to go shopping for new appliances...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Playing with Hadoop in the Cloud

I just finished writing a paper for CMG that is a tutorial on Amazon Elastic Map Reduce. I signed up, it was easy, and after I ran two of their demo jobs I owed them 26 cents. Very cool...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Solar Power - first step

There is a rebate for solar power systems, and the first step is that the power company (PG&E) reserves a rebate and notifies me and SolarCity that if we install a system by a deadline we will get a certain amount of rebate. I have also got an appointment on Monday for the SolarCity engineer to come and spend a whole day taking measurements and designing the system installation.

Last week we got the shingles replaced, since the old ones were getting near the end of their life, and its a good idea to put the solar panels over a roof that will last for a long time, so they won't need to be removed to fix anything.

I will be at Usenix 09 - San Diego - June 15-17

I'm attending a tutorial on care and feeding of Hadoop on Monday, teaching my own tutorial on tuning and tools tuesday, and staying for the first day of papers on wednesday. See you there...


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

New music: MirthKon's Vehicle

Some of the most inventive new music is coming from "unknown" bands in the greater San Francisco region. Through my connections with Fractal I have been a fan of Headshear for many years and now MirthKon have released their first full CD, "Vehicle". Fractal and Headshear have played many gigs together, and MirthKon founder Wally Scharold played in Headshear for a while a few years ago.

I have seen MirthKon play a few times, and they are currently on a west coast tour, having recently played SF and Berkeley, they are in Hollywood on June 5th and San Diego on June 6th, then Chico on June 18th, and Eugene and Portland on June 19th and 20th. They have a conceptual video extravaganza to enhance the musical experience at live shows.

So, what do they sound like? Well, lets start by saying that if you like Frank Zappa, and wished he was still putting out new music, then you will be very happy to take this Vehicle for a ride to Joe's Garage. Its impossible to really say what Zappa sounds like, since the mix of styles and influences is so diverse, but MirthKon have some of the same elements, along with their own unique character. There is a strong dose of humor, very complex rhythms and time signatures, some jazzy vocals on a few tracks, but a largely instrumental mix that combines clarinet and saxophone with guitar, bass and drums

They dub it "The first full-length CD from the Bay Area's most hyphenated thrash-jazz-prog-chamber-core ensemble", which probably doesn't help much. I have been happily playing it over and over again in my car for the last week, expand your musical horizons and support local music by getting your own copy....

miRthkon is:
Wally Scharold - guitars, vocals, composition, sound design, conceptual design, text, video, producer
Rob Pumpelly - guitars, composition
Nat Hawkes - bass guitar, vocals
Carolyn Walter - piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jamison Smeltz - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals
Matt Guggemos - drums and percussion
Jarred McAdams - video, text, conceptual collaborator

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Solar Power order placed

I signed up with for 4.5Kw of thin film panels (60 of them). Their web site is slick, walks you through the install process, they have online monitoring of the output of the solar array and I also added the option of monitoring the house's consumption of electricity, which is integrated into the same web based monitoring and graphing package. They visit later this week to do the engineering assessment, then I get plans (provided online) and planning approval etc. follows. Should be all done in 2-3 months.

Thin film is better in partial light, and high temperatures, and it can be mounted closer to the roof tiles since it doesn't need an air gap underneath to cool it. We have a hot microclimate with no shade, at 2400ft altitude, above the morning mist most of the time, so the longer power delivery period per day should compensate for the slight reduction in peak efficiency compared to silicon. Solarcity offered both at the same price. There is a combination of a rebate and a tax credit at the moment. The tax credit is about 30% of the cost, and was added recently by Obama's stimulus package.

As it progresses I will post pictures and updates.

Monday, May 25, 2009

FLOW - a homebrew Android gumstix phone (finally)

See more here.

A few years ago the Silicon Valley Homebrew Mobile Phone Club (SVHMPC) formed out of frustration with the closed market for phones, and set out to build something we could program in our pocket. We made some progress but the prototype Gumstix Goliath board never made it into production, and along came the iPhone, which gave some of us the application platform we were looking for to customize. The OpenMoko project is also limping along, and Google Android is finally out there in volume. The FLOW project is open hardware running Android with a Gumstix CPU module. Nice combination for making custom devices.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Memcached 500K ops/s on Niagara T2

This is some nice work, scalability analysis to fix lock contention in memcached, then running on an out of the box Solaris T2 gets 500K ops/s or 9.6Gbits/s depending on payload size. The Niagara 2 based T2 has built-in 10Gbit network, and 8 cores with 8 threads in one chip. Sub-millisecond response.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Usenix 09 - San Diego in June

I'm presenting again next month, at Usenix 09 in San Diego. I'm giving an all day workshop/tutorial on Tuesday June 16th. I have just updated my slides, combining the talks I have been developing over the years into Solaris/Linux Performance Tools and Tuning, which includes the Capacity Planning with Free Tools material that Mario Jauvin and I developed for CMG.


I have also posted the slides to

Please come along, I look forward to seeing you in San Diego.

Cheers Adrian

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I did for earth day...

Update: the electric mower works well, cuts better than my old gas mower, and the drive option works very well. Since the batteries make it heavier than a gas mower, the power drive makes a big difference. Hacking through very long grass, the batteries last about half an hour, keeping previously cut grass trimmed short I think it would last a lot longer. Its enough for me]

Actually, what really happened was that I tried to mow the grass last weekend and decided that my old gas lawnmower wasn't up to the job, so I did some research and bought an electric one. Its quiet, doesn't need gas, the throttle and air intake don't need cleaning out and just starts when I want it to.

I ordered it from on Sunday evening, as usual, with the free 5-7 day shipping option, and it arrived on Tuesday. I guess Amazon had nothing better to do than ship stuff... but it was nice to save $67 for shipping a 100 lb package and still get it very fast.

I got the latest biggest electric I could find, the Epic EP21H 24Volt cordless self propelled 21 inch. The rear wheels are belt driven from the main motor via a gearbox. It has a high efficiency brushless motor that drives the blade directly and two 12V lead acid batteries and should run for 40-50 minutes per charge. This is plenty of time for me to get fed up with mowing and charge it overnight. Its a bit bigger and more rugged than my old 4HP 20inch gas mower, and has a side discharge option so won't get clogged trying to mulch tall grass. I'll try it out after work.

I've also been looking forward to getting solar power installed on my roof, and I'm finalizing plans to make a commitment to get it done this year. I will blog my way through the process as it happens...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fractal iPhone app source code

I have posted the source to Fractal's iPhone app to google code. I'm hoping that other bands can replace the artwork and URLs and quickly get their own promotional apps out there. If we end up with bug-fixes and improvements, then everyone gains....

Thursday, April 09, 2009

iPhone apps that don't work on 3.0beta2

Both and PocketFlix fail immediately after they launch with iPhone os 3.0beta2

Most other apps seem to be working, and beta2 is faster and more stable.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Fractal - free iPhone app

App store link

It's finally ready for download.... Don't forget, Hotel Utah SF Sat April 18th is the next gig.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Using iPhone 3.0 beta

So far its working well, all the previously installed apps that I have tried work. I did a cut and paste from notes to Facebook, listened to some Pandora, downloaded a new app from the AppStore. I was a bit concerned about jumping on the release so early, but haven't found any downsides yet.

I have an older Mac that my first gen iPhone treats as its home machine, I upgraded that one to SDK3.0beta and also used it to do the full backup and restore and re-sync needed to get my iPhone running 3.0. I have a newer MacBook Air that is my work machine, and I have left that with SDK2.2.1, so I can work on current apps and make sure they run on 3.0.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's on my iPhone: Basic Instructions

One of my favorite cartoons, a collection of them is bunded as an app. Its not a live feed, but its good to be able to show people "how to wash a cat"... There is also a book out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What's on my iPhone: GoSkyWatch

Years ago when I had a Treo, a my friend Gred Oakes introduced me a to planetarium app, and I really liked being able to look up at night, and be able to identify the stars and planets. I live on top of a mountain, and have a great view of the night sky, and one of the first apps I paid for on my iPhone was GoSkyWatch. It has a cool feature that the accelerometer can tell you are holding it upside down snd it attempts to align its view with what you should be seeing. On a 2G iPhone with no GPS it doesn't know which way north is, so that doesn't work so well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's on my iPhone: Fring (Skype and IM's)

When I want to make an international call from my iPhone (or from my home phone) I use Skype. There is no native Skype application for the iPhone, so I use Fring,
although today's announcement of a deal with Nokia includes hints that they are working on more mobile platforms. They support Android already, so their main missing link at this point is the iPhone.

Fring is a decent substitute for now. I mostly use it to keep up with Skype and YIM chat sessions when I'm away from my laptop.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bill Scott's Designing Web Interfaces book - and he's hiring...

Here is a (long) slideshare presentation of Bill's talk, there is a webcast of it as well. Bill is also hiring for his group of UI engineers at Netflix, so if you are the best of the best of the best and want to work with the master himself, go for it!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Fractal CD Sequitur now available from

Fractal's new CD "Sequitur" is now available to review and buy on CD Baby at:

'Music to tap your brain to'. Progressive rockers Fractal return with an eclectic musical trip featuring complex rhythms, style-bending and -blending, and existential musical and lyrical outcries.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fractal Zoom video with Ellipsis

Here is a collaboration between Eric Bigas, who makes Fractal Zoom videos and the band Fractal who have provided Ellipsis as the soundtrack to this video.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fractal Performing Monkey's Paw at Hotel Utah

All the songs in Fractal's set in SF are now up on YouTube, I also recorded the Seattle and Portland gigs but had problems getting a good quality soundtrack to the video. The short and intense finale to their set is Monkey's Paw. Fractal and Headshear will be back at the Hotel Utah in SF on Saturday April 18th, put it in your calendar now!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's on my iPhone:

My favorite weather app is actually a lauchpad bookmarked web site rather than an appstore download. is an iPhone optimized version of the Weather Underground site that I upload to from the personal weather station at my house. The best features are a zoomable local weather radar view, and the option to show the detailed technical weather forecast in the form that meterologists use to talk to each other, rather than the dumbed down version everyone else sees.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's on my iPhone: apps I don't use, VNC, Remote, Weatherbug. I installed these but never use them. I tend to listen to Pandora, don't need a remote console, find the Apple remote inconvenient to start up and prefer other weather apps.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Netflix: I'm hiring a very senior engineer / application architect

Here's the details and links to apply via

Netflix really is one of the best places to work and we are hiring strongly, there are several other openings for engineers and managers in Web Engineering. We are very picky, only hire the best people and the best fit for the job...

Good luck!

The Position:
As a leading member of the Merchandising Systems development team, you will re-define the website architecture into components and services, enhancing the agility and pace of development at Netflix as we scale up and leverage cloud computing technologies to support our personalized movie selection algorithms. As an exceptionally talented and experienced architect you will hold your own among a very demanding peer group, you will learn a lot and so will we.

Netflix is scaling the company by increasing talent density in high performance, experienced and motivated teams. There is a flat organization, minimal process, and an emphasis on inter-personal over-communication to stay coordinated while keeping everything extremely agile.

Responsibilities will include:
• Architectural leadership, broad knowledge of cloud/web services and object oriented technologies and designs
• You will need to clearly articulate your design choices, mentoring and educating our engineering community
• Hands on coding of the key objects and interfaces that define the architectural boundaries of components and services
• Untangling existing subsystems using tools such as Structure 101, re-organizing build systems to create re-usable component jars
• Migration of existing SQL based persistence models to distributed forms that efficiently scale to hold billions of data items for tens of millions of customers

• 10+ years of application development experience, agile methods and architectural responsibility
• Mastery of object oriented architecture and design in Java
• Experience with high-traffic, highly scaling, multi-threaded distributed software design patterns
• Deep conceptual understanding of scalability, performance, queuing, availability, coherency, caching, synchronization
• Fluency in SQL and an expert in the evolution of persistent storage: Sharding, Hadoop, Eventual Consistency, SimpleDB, Dynamo
• Demonstrated ability to publish and present your ideas via conference presentations, technical blog postings, or published books or papers
• A Bachelors or Masters in Computer Science or equivalent engineering discipline

Characteristics of Success at Netflix:
• Freedom with responsibility. A focus on effective execution
• Strong customer orientation, both internally and externally
• Strategic thinking both technically and business-wise
• Self motivated / self starter
• Personal drive to achieve world class software development
• Desire to work in a fast-paced, evolving, growing, dynamic environment
• Love of technical challenges and a sense of pride in solving them
• Ability to work well in a cross functional environment

Friday, January 16, 2009

What's on my iPhone: Currency and Light

Currency makes it easy to keep track of how far the pound has fallen so far (which makes me happy because I get more for my dollars) and Light is trivial but very useful. It just turns on a full brightness white screen that makes a good flashlight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fractal Gig - Saturday Jan 17th - Hotel Utah San Francisco

I'm inflicting some new music by Fractal on people who visit my blog... They have just released their new CD Sequitur, which contains a varied mix of quite unique and hard to categorize music. I hope to see people at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco on Saturday, and for those of you in Seattle, they are playing Thursday 22nd, and Portland OR on Friday 23rd. Please connect to Fractal via Myspace or Facebook or Bebo.

Capacity Planning for Cloud Computing - circa 2003

Here is a link to a slideshare upload, of a talk I gave publicly in 2003, on Capacity Planning for Virtualized Datacenters (known as N1 at the time, which can be seen as a nascent approach to cloud computing).

I think it contains some interesting ideas, and dates reasonably well. I'm going to revisit some of these concepts as I think more about how to do capacity planning in the cloud.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

what's on my iPhone: Bloomberg

The built in stock market app just gives prices but I use the Bloomberg app to get news and more detailed information on stocks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Solid State Disks - 1 TB in a 2.5 inch announced

Like I said... the next thing for SSD's is to have higher storage capacity in each of the form factors than spinning rust. Here's another step in that direction. SSD's already have disks beaten on all the performance metrics. This one maxes out the SATA interface and does 300MBytes/s transfer rates.

I've also been seeing prices dropping as volumes increase for laptops with SSDs. I think the end of the line for rust will be 2010, as SSD's will no longer have a worse cost/GB and they already have higher capacity and performance.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's on my iPhone: Easy Wi-Fi

You can get free AT&T Wifi at Starbucks, and this app streamlines the process of getting online.

Friday, January 09, 2009

What's on my iPhone: Facebook

Works better than the web site... its also my main mechanism for photo-blogging, sharing something I've seen.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What's on my iPhone: my Pandora station

Pandora is one of my favorite apps. You can listen to Adrian's Prog Radio station too.

What's on my iPhone: Night Camera

Its very simple but it works amazingly well. When its dark, most non-flash digital pictures suffer from a lot of motion blur due to camera shake. The night camera app uses the accelerometer to wait until the camera has been still for long enough to get a clear picture.

Twitter fodder

I just used to tweet when I blog (infrequently).