Kill A Watt EZ P4460 – Power Consumption Checker

I picked up the Kill A Watt EZ P4460 in order to see how much energy various appliances are using in our house. This little unit is great because it doesn’t lose its settings when unplugged (or the power goes out). It will keep track of the elapsed time and give you hourly, daily, weekly and annual consumption for whatever’s plugged into it. Great for things that cycle on and off (your fridge) or are used intermittently (like the hair drier which is hooked up to it now).

To make things easier, I have a short 3 prong extension cord attached to it so I can keep the meter in an easy to view spot while it’s in use so I can remember that it is there and check it periodically.

Georgia power is reasonably expensive, about 10.6 cents/kilowatt hour according to my bill, and I only expect it to get more expensive in the future. However, our energy bills seem to be reasonably modest, averaging about $115 per
month throughout the year so it’s not like this is a huge bite in our
wallet. But, even though almost all of our lighting is now compact fluorescent, I am sure there are areas where improvement can be had. I’d prefer not to waste energy if I can help it.

So, over the next few months I will be attaching the unit to whatever strikes my fancy and will let it sit for a few days to try to gauge consumption and cost.

To test it, I initially hooked it up to our CF tri-light lamp that Michelle uses most mornings and can see that consumes negligible power. I believe it was going to be 5 cents a year to operate (she only ever uses the lowest power setting anyway – about 13 watts).

I am anxious to see how our nearly 12 year-old fridge rates. Then on to the computers…

Posted under On the Home Front, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 19, 2008 at 8:29 am

Completed my Biennial Review – Why don’t we do this for automobiles?

02 Marc and PlaneI’ve been shifting around my priorities lately and finally took the time to do my biennial flight review.

For this review I elected to use a Diamond DA-20 as I’m intending to use this type of plane much more often on future flights. Also, it’s a stepping stone to the DA-40 and my local flight school has two of those at a reasonable price.

This is really a great idea, every two years, to be legal to fly, you must sit down with a flight instructor for an hour and then fly for about an hour in order to demonstrate that you still know your procedures and that you know what you’re doing.

I think, if we were to adopt a similar system for automobile currency we’d have a LOT less foolishness and carelessness on the roads. I think folks are *way* to cavalier in their approach to driving. Being forced to stay current – as well as to come up to speed on the laws as they constantly change – would be a good thing for us all.

There needs to be some kind of accountability linking people and their care or lack thereof back to the folks who made it possible to be on the roads. Having one’s name endorsing someone’s driving certificate should offer some incentive to ensure that at least some of the basics have been reviewed with that driver.

Obviously, the bloated and ineffective system used by the DOT for driver examination would be useless for this endeavor, but a privatized system of folks who would administer these tests and held accountable for their approvals seems like it would make a lot of sense.

Posted under Aviation, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on September 9, 2008 at 10:54 pm

What’s the Harm?

A worthwhile resource for when you are presented with questions such as “What’s the harm if Grandma wants to go see a fortune teller?” or “What’s the harm if uncle Jim believes in Feng shui?”.

I have no real problem with educated, intelligent people dabbling in alternative ideas but I want to do all I can to ensure that they are armed with all the knowledge they can have. Unfortunately, the Internet is rife with nonsense and good information, especially about fringe topics, can be very hard to come by.

It’s when folks subscribe to these unproven, unscientific and, sometimes, outright fraudulent notions that I think we all need to make an effort to educate our family and our friends. From Hydrogen (from on board electrolysis) to augment your car’s gas mileage to pulling out your teeth because there is mercury in your fillings it is important to keep a critical eye out for outrageous or alarmist claims to protect not only your wallet but sometimes your health or even your life.

The What’s the Harm? website cleanly and clearly lists example after example of cases where exactly this question is answered.

I listened to a great interview on Skepticality with the creator of the “What’s the Harm?” website and I admire and appreciate his motivation for gathering all of these stories in one place. There isn’t a permalink scheme on their website so you can find the show notes (and link to the mp3 of the interview) HERE probably in mid September 2008, until then just go to their MAIN PAGE to get it.

Posted under Skepticism

This post was written by Marc
on September 9, 2008 at 7:54 am

OK Things should be pretty much back to normal

I’ve pieced things together and have tried using as much “off the shelf” stuff as I can. It seems it all needs a little tweaking to do exactly what *I* want it to, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the results.

If you see anything odd, please let me know. I use Firefox as my browser as I can customize it to work the way I think. So my Internet explorer testing may be lacking on some of the more obscure aspects of my site.

I’m pretty excited about some of the new widgets that I’ve found. Most notably the “Related Posts” widget. When you open an actual post it will show items that it thinks are somewhat related both in the sidebar (useful for longer posts) and at the bottom of the current post.

I expect to keep tweaking things over the next few days until I get all of the info that I want up into the sidebar. So far I haven’t found anything that satisfactorily handles the rather over-long “Archives” listing. If you have any suggestions on that, let me know.

Posted under Tech Stuff, WordPress

This post was written by Marc
on September 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Tags: , ,

Fixing my broken WordPress Blog

If you don’t have an interest in the guts of WordPress or your WordPress blog isn’t broken, you can probably just skip this posting.

I had my own, fairly heavily customized theme based on the original “Kubric” theme from WordPress’ earlier days.

I also have a mish-mash of plugins that support insertion of “Gallery2” plus “Picasa” images into the blog and a bunch of other little nice-to-have functions.

A few days ago, my ISP decided to upgrade a bunch of things on my server that I seem to depend upon, PHP was upgraded, the Zend optimizer, etc. this plumb broke my site – all the text was there but absolutely none of the graphics or gross formatting (columns in particular) was there. It was like being back in the late 80’s on the web. 🙂
Any attempt to access the admin panels or to do anything except just look at the basic posting pages was met with an “Internal Server Error”

I realized quickly that the LunarServers ISP techs would be of no use to me so here is how I got back. I’m not 100% there yet, but the site is functional and be refining it over the weekend. You can bet I’ll be using much more standardized plugins and themes from now on.

I don’t know why it’s so hard but I have absolutely no idea what version of WordPress I was running before. I think it’s around 2.3 but I can’t seem to find a way to tell just from looking at the files.

First, I backed up all of my WordPress files – I always keep a copy of my website on my computer synched nightly with the server version. I backed these files up to a safe, temporary location.

Then I blew away all of my WordPress files except those in wp-images. I knew I’d need some of the files in wp-content eventually but I wanted to be as clean as possible to get my site up and then pull in my older content into a fresh install.

Then I laid down the new WordPress files (2.6.1 – it says so on the zip file 🙂 ).

I went and both created a new database for this test and backed up my old database… just in case.

I set up wp-config.php as described in the 5-minute installation document (and in the wp-config.php file itself) – I didn’t copy over my old wp-config.php ’cause I knew there were new elements in the 2.6.1 version in support of new security features in wordpress.

I keep WordPress in a folder off of the root so I need to specify it when I invoke the following scripts, you may not need to do this or you need to specify the name you gave your folder.

I used the script to initialize the site and the “new” site worked just fine. This proved to me that the issue was not with WordPress so much as the stuff I’d added to it.

I went back and changed my wp-config.php file to point to my old database. This resulted in a blank screen when I tried to invoke my site. No errors (either on screen or in the error_log file in the WordPress folder).

There were tables that I could see (using phpMyAdmin) in the new
database that were different from those in my existing database. So I used the script to upgrade the database design.

This still didn’t help. Remember that I was not able to disable my plugins (couldn’t get to the admin panels) before all this started. And my theme folder no longer existed on the server.

So I was thinking about trying to migrate my data from my old (not working) database to the new one. But most of the suggestions involved having a working WordPress installation- even for the older ones you could get a plugin that could be used to export your data. So that didn’t help me much.

I tried playing with my database by deleting all of the items listed in the “options” table for “active_plugins” and adding a row for “current_theme” (which did not exist in my old file but I could plainly see in the new installation’s db). But none of this worked so I backed out those changes.

Finally it struck me that my admin panels might be working now with the new WordPress install. They did!

So I opened them and walked through most of the panels, especially the design and plugin panels and just saved them. Tweaking here and there as I went along.

For the plugins I was informed that all of the plugins were being deactivated because the associated files could not be found (since I had removed them), Yes!

For the theme, this is most likely the cause of my blank screen, I explicitly selected the default them and activated it and *presto* the site was working again.

Admittedly I have a road ahead of me re-customizing, but I think I’ll just use plugins now rather than writing my own stuff since it’s WAY too much work trying to keep up with the various wordpress releases and dependencies.

Hopefully somebody else in a similar position will see this and can take advantage of what I ended up doing.

Posted under Tech Stuff, WordPress

This post was written by Marc
on September 5, 2008 at 8:58 am

Sorry for the messy site

My ISP (LunarPages) decided it would be just swell to go ahead and update a bunch of my server’s software without notifying me. It turns out my site relied rather heavily on the older versions of that software.

I have no idea what actually broke the site but I’ve had to do some work to upgrade the WordPress software and the database behind it and had to disable anything even slightly fancy including my formatting and sidebar.

I’ll take this opportunity to do some housekeeping so stay tuned for changes galore!

Posted under Tech Stuff, WordPress

This post was written by Marc
on September 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm