How to Track Your Home Energy Use

Posted in Green, Howto, Websites on November 24th, 2011 by Andy

First of all, I admit it: data is geeky. But it can also save you a lot of money and reduce your carbon footprint.

As part of my drive to improve the energy efficiency of my home I’ve started tracking my energy usage through the site iMeasure. It’s a very handy site and free to use, plug your power and gas meter readings into it every so often and it’ll generate a load of stats about your usage.

After only a few readings it will have enough data to forecast your usage for the year, but by far the most useful trick it pulls is correlating your usage against data from the closest weather station. The point of this is that the amount of energy you’re using for heating is only really relevant if it’s compared to how cold it is.

A chart showing energy use against degree days

This iMeasure chart shows my actual gas usage at various temperatures. The blue regression line shows how efficient the heating system is. A more efficient system will have a shallower slope

It’ll also tell you how much CO2 you’re emitting through your energy use, and what your costs are.

Where the site really shines is if you’re making changes to improve your efficiency. There are ways to predict the effect of most measures, but there’s nothing better than seeing the change reflected in your actual usage.

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How to combine Facebook with Google+

Posted in Howto, Websites on September 2nd, 2011 by Andy
A combine harvester cutting a field of wheat

Combining stuff is cool

There’s a lot to like about Google+, but if you’ve spent a lot of time on Facebook it’s a pain to change networks. So it’s nice to know you can mash them both together.

You’ll need to install the Start Google Plus extension:

Chrome: SGPlus

Firefox: Start Google Plus

This not only allows you to post to both networks simultaneously, but will squeeze all your FB content into your G+ page. There are some other extensions that will add Facebook as a separate tab, but this one can seamlessly weave both sites together. Nice.

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Pixlr: Free online photo editor

Posted in Computers, Tech, Websites on November 20th, 2010 by Andy
A picture of a tank being edited in Pixlr

The interface is similar to regular photo editing software, but it's done in your browser.

Photoshop sucks. Most people only want to do a pretty limited set of edits to their photos, and paying out massive bucks or installing cracked software to do it makes no sense. If you haven’t checked it out already, point your browser at pixlr.com. It’s a free online photo editor that does everything most people want to do.

You can open and save files from your local machine, crop, scale, work with layers and adjust colours and levels. That’s 99% of what people normally do with their photos, and it’s free. And since it runs in a browser it’s ideal for low-powered machines like netbooks that would struggle to run heavyweight photo editing software like Photoshop or GIMP.

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BT and TalkTalk dump Phorm

Posted in Computers, Tech, Websites on July 9th, 2009 by Andy
A little battle in the fight for a free web has been won

A little battle in the fight for a free web has been won

Well, here’s a small victory for the little guys:

BT dumps Phorm, Phorm stock slumps

Talktalk do likewise

I’ve never been a fan of TalkTalk, their door-to-door sales tactics are horrendous, and bordering on deceptive, but they’ve done something right this time.

So that just leaves Virgin Media riding on the Phrom train. Can’t be long before they jump ship, surely?

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How to Stop Phorm Indexing Your Site

Posted in Howto, Websites on June 13th, 2009 by Andy
Phorm is used by several major UK ISPs to spy on their users

Phorm is used by several major UK ISPs to spy on their users

Phorm is a controversial adverising system being trialled by some UK ISPs*. It works by tracking any site a user visits, and then sending a spider to that site to index it for advertising purposes. So basically spyware, but alarmingly it’s spyware installed at your ISP, so you have no control over it’s tracking of your surfing behaviour.

If you own a site or a blog and you feel uncomfortable about this development you could normally choose to block the system by adding an entry to your robots.txt file. Phorm don’t play nicely with this though. They’ll only dodge your site if your robots.txt blocks both Yahoo and Google. Frankly, blocking spiders from the two biggest search tools isn’t an option (and we presume Phorm know this). I find this kind of unhelpful setup pretty revealing about Phrom’s attitude to users in general.

Your only practical option if you wish to block Phorm’s spiders is to submit all your domains manually to this email address:

website-exclusion{at}webwise.com

I’d advise all site owners to do so immediately, for the protection of your users.


*UK ISPs currently signed up to Phorm include BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. The latter of whom are bastards anyway.

Update (06 July 09):

BT have decided to pull out of Phorm. Hooray!

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Remember the Milk

Posted in Computers, Websites on March 28th, 2009 by Andy

Remember the Milk is my new favourite thing. It’s basically just a web-based to-do list service, but it’s done really well.

I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, and have to plan my time fairly carefully.  RTM lets me add items in categories, give them priorities, link to online resources, etc. If that was all, it’d be pretty boring. Where RTM rocks out is the number of ways you can use it. I have a little RTM applet for Avant Window Navigator sitting in my dock permanently, and for when i’m at work or out and about I use the nifty RTM gadget for my iGoogle homepage. It also interfaces with Google Calendar. Nice!

If that’s not your fancy there’s also apps for iPhone/iPod Touch, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Twitter, desktop widgets for OS X, plugins for IM clients and a ton of stuff i’ve never even heard of.

Basically, if you can’t find a convenient way to use Remember the Milk, you’re not trying. The basic version is totally gratis, too. Pay a bit extra and you get to sync it with your smartphone or PDA.

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Tech Show Roundup: BBC Click, Category 5, Tekzilla

Posted in Computers, Linux, Ubuntu, Websites, Windows on February 28th, 2009 by Andy

BBC Click

BBC Click

Broadcast on BBC News and available online through the iPlayer, Click is a high-budget magazine-style show. As you might expect, it’s focused less on nitty-gritty details and tech problem-solving and more on issues. You get a lot of interviews with important people, and examination of the impact of technology. There are the obligatory tech and website reviews, but it’s focused more on providing a balance view of things than pushing the latest gadget. Interesting stuff.

Category 5 Technology TV

Category5 Website

Sandwiched between two big players like Click and Tekzilla this homegrown Canadian minnow might look out of place. But what it lacks in budget it makes up for in accessibility.

Broadcast from the home of alpha-geek Robbie Ferguson Category 5 streams out live for an hour a week and interacts directly with users in the site’s chatroom. They also answer emails from users, and even take phone calls (!). The focus is mostly on Ubuntu Linux, but there are hardware reviews, and they”ve recently started dealing with Macs and other Linux distros, as well as fielding the occasional Windows question. Robbie is a nice guy, and extremely knowledgeable and helpful. His co-host Carrie Webb is there to keep things grounded and stop Robbie from talking too much technobabble, so the show stays accessible to all levels of geekiness. I like.

Tekzilla

Tekzilla website

As the name suggests, this is a behemoth of a show. Hailing from the massive American web video stable of Revision3, this is a big show, with big production values. What I like about it is that they aren’t afraid to say if something is crap. A lot of bg shows seems like adverts for whatever latest gizmo the tech companies are pushing. Tekzilla aren’t afraid to tell you not to jump on the bandwagon if they think the technology isn’t quite right yet.

Content covers mostly Windows/Mac, although they’re not averse to talking about Linux. They also produce some handy short videos dealing with specific (albeit pretty basic) issues.

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Ubuntu Brainstorm

Posted in Computers, Ubuntu, Websites on January 22nd, 2009 by Andy

Brainstorm is an official Ubuntu site where users can throw around ideas for changes to Ubuntu.

It’s had a rough start, but it looks like they’ve got the interface sorted now. Check out some of the ideas I like, and vote them up or down:

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Site last updated 7 February 2017