Saturday, 28 June 2008

Standby power in the home

A few months ago I was visiting our local library, when I noticed some interesting kits behind the the desk. They turned out to be "Home Energy Action Toolkits" (which has an acronym of HEAT!). I put my name down on the list, and finally last week it was my turn to borrow one of the kits.

They include the following items:

  • Power-mate power meter
  • Infrared thermometer
  • Stop watch
  • Compass
  • Worksheet

I was primarily interesting in using the power meter to gauge how much power various appliances use in our home.

Here's what I discovered:

Appliance Standby (Watts) On (Watts)
DVD Player 2.1 12
VCR 5.6 16
CRT TV n/a 56
2400 W Heater 1.3 960/1370/2210 (low/med/high)
CD Cassette Radio 1 5.3 8.5/6.5/6.3 (Cd/Tape/Radio)
CD Cassette Radio 2 4.0 5.9/5.3 (Tape/Radio)
Computer + CRT Monitor 8.5 160
Computer speakers 2 3.6
Small CRT TV n/a 44
1000 W Heater n/a 960
Camera battery charger 0.4  
Automatic garage roller door 10.4 100
Mobile phone charger 0.2  
Microwave oven 5.4 1550
ADSL Modem n/a 8.3
VoIP ATA n/a 2.9

Two other appliances were also measured, using a feature of the power meter which calculates running costs by allowing you to enter in the cost per kilowatt hour (I used 17.99 cents). The results were very interesting:

Dishwasher 14.44 cents per standard cycle
Bread machine 8.3 cents to make 1.25Kg loaf

So it probably is cheaper to make your own bread after all.

As a family we’re not too bad at turning off things that we’re not using. We’ve also started the move to compact fluorescent lights, and I intend to make use of a service like Envirosaver, which will come out and replace all your incandescent bulbs with CF ones for free.

CodeCampSA 2008

CodeCampSA is on again, over the weekend of July 12-13th.

The speaker list looks impressive:

(Yes, I've put up my hand again!)

The event is free, but to assist organisers you're encouraged to register your interest. There's also a dinner at Marcellina's in Hindley St on the Saturday night which sounds great.

I'm definitely going on Saturday - will have to see about Sunday though.

Updated Jason’s surname, and added links to speaker blogs – let me know if I’ve missed someone.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Security tools

Microsoft have just released a couple of new security tools that might be useful, especially if you’re still running some legacy ASP applications.

  • Microsoft Source Code Analyzer for SQL Injection - a static code analysis tool for finding SQL Injection vulnerabilities in ASP code
  • Microsoft Urlscan Filter v3.0 Beta - a security tool that restricts the types of HTTP requests that Internet Information Services (IIS) will process. By blocking specific HTTP requests, UrlScan helps prevent potentially harmful requests from being processed by web applications on the server.

UrlScan has been around for quite a while, so I’ll be interested to see what new features are part of v3.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Version control for your database

Getting your code into a version control repository is relatively easy. Doing the same for your database schema has historically been a bit trickier. I think this is partly because modern databases (like Microsoft SQL Server) come with quite useable graphical interfaces, which means that you can make many significant changes without ever writing a line of SQL.

The good thing though is that all of these changes are done using SQL, so version control is usually about keeping versions of the SQL scripts.

Some common techniques include:

  • One single production database and all changes are made live (be careful!)
  • Make changes to dev database and then migrate the changes to production (SQL Compare is great for this)
  • All schema objects are stored in scripts that need to be executed to create the database.

Creating the initial database isn't too bad, but pushing out updates can be more difficult, especially if you need to deal with updating from different possible versions.

One tool that might prove in solving this problem is DBDeploy.NET - a port to .NET of the Java-based dbDeploy.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Internode hosting Sourceforge mirror

I needed to download some files from SourceForge earlier this week, and what a pleasant surprise it was to see that Internode is now hosting the Australian mirror.

Even better, it is unmetered for Internode customers (such as myself), and means that the 4.7Tb of SourceForge files are available to download super-quick. Not that I want to download 4.7Tb all at once mind you!

Friday, 13 June 2008

"You are not running on a supported operating system"

After attending Sasha's talk at the Adelaide SQL Server User Group yesterday, it inspired me to get the ball rolling in preparing for my own presentation, which is pencilled in for August.

Figuring it would be appropriate to try and use as many of the "2008" products as possible, I planned to install Windows Server 2008 and then plonk Visual Studio 2008 and the just-released SQL Server 2008 on top.

I downloaded Virtual PC 2007 SP1 (which was updated to support Server 2008) and then ran the installer.

To my surprise, a dialog appeared saying "You are not running on a supported operating system".

Hang on, I'm running Windows XP with SP3. Double check the system requirements, and yes, it does list XP SP3.

Now I used to run Virtual PC just fine before I reinstalled the OS a few months ago, so what's changed?

Ah ha! I was running Windows XP Professional before, and now I'm just running XP Home - that's what's different! While it doesn't explicitly mention "Professional" on the web page, it is more specific in the installed help file:

Windows Vista™ Business; Windows Vista™ Enterprise; Windows Vista™ Ultimate; Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition; Windows XP Professional; Windows XP Professional x64 Edition; or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

But having said that, when they say "not supported", at least they don't appear to mean "doesn't work".

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

SQL Server 2008 RC0 and other things

Release candidate zero of SQL Server 2008 is now available.

Some other interesting things that have been released recently include:

I’ve also downloaded the latest technical preview of Windows Live Writer and am using it to write this post. So far, so good.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

ABB Day 1

Today was my first day at ABB Grain Ltd. Carl (my manager) gave me a tour of the facilities where apparently 400 staff are based. I was impressed to learn that not only is tea and coffee provided, but there's even an on-site gym.

The location is very pleasant, overlooking the parklands. Veale Gardens is directly across the road, which is a nice place to walk around at lunch time. The office is reasonable quiet (yay, no loud conversations from people supporting video conferences! Some people will know who I'm talking about!)

I'm starting to learn a bit more about the application that I'll be working on. Timothy Walters has had a couple of weeks head start on me, but with the combination of C#, WPF, SQL 2005, NHibernate, ActiveRecord and CAB (and maybe the possibility of Castle Windsor), this is going to be really interesting.

Timothy also mentioned he's keen to do some pair programming on this project. Looks like we're going to get to do a bit of extreme programming.

Other good news is my computer did have dual monitors (though hopefully one will be replaced as I had trouble connecting with a funny DVI plug). They're also using IP telephony, which is cool. Unfortunately their SIP server is not public, so no free calls from home though :-(

Instead of TFS, they use OnTime for bug tracking and CVS for version control (though we might be moving to Subversion).

So all in all a pretty good first day, and I'm feeling excited about the project work (even if I did discover the database has no foreign keys at all - aargh!)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Looking at LCD Monitors (Home Theatre PC)

I've had a couple of comments that trying to use our ancient CRT TV with the HTPC is not a great plan. So I've been doing some additional research into buying a new TV. The criteria I've been using include:

  • Less than $1,000
  • Full high definition
  • At least as large as the current CRT (~52cm/20")
  • HDMI input
  • Not overly power hungry
  • Decent colour and contrast
  • Audio support
  • Good WAF

The first big choice seems to come down to plasma or LCD. I'm leaning towards LCD at the moment, as I don't want a ridiculously large display (which the plasmas seem better suited to) and and would prefer something that doesn't suck heaps of power (and consequently $$$).

The next thing is that many manufacturers sell both LCD TVs and LCD Monitors. Now unless I'm missing something obvious, it doesn't look like there's that much difference between the two categories. Some of the "TV" models have in-built tuners, but as the HTPC will have that I'd rather buy one without and save a few dollars.

Contrast ratio is also important, and here bigger is generally better.

Response time is also apparently relevant, as that determines how well it can display fast moving images. Smaller (faster) is better.

So here's some of the models I've come across so far:

Model Size (inches) Contrast ratio (dynamic) Response Time (ms) Price (AUD)
ViewSonic VX2835wm 28 800 3 635
BenQ V2400W 24 1000 (4000) 5 629
Samsung 245B 24 1000 (3000) 5 712
LG L246WH-BN 24 2000 5 460
Samsung 2493HM 24 1000 (10,000) 5 599
Samsung 2693HM 26 1000 (3000) 5 699

I still haven't made a decision and it would be good to actually have a look at some of the candidates in person. I'm open to any other suggestions too.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

SQL Replication talk

Browsing the Australian SQL Server User Group site today I noticed there's a talk on SQL Server 2008 Replication in Sydney next week.

I then wondered what might happen if the replication got out of hand...

sql replication joke


My contract with DECS finishes this Friday. I hadn't heard if they were planning to renew, and in the meantime I was asked to interview for a contract position with ABB Grain. I've accepted a 6 month contract position with them beginning next week.

ABB (which in a previous life was the Australian Barley Board) are located in the Adelaide CBD, though down on South Tce so I'll have to investigate some different public transport options.

Apparently I'll be working on some WPF applications. This will be new to me, so I hope it will be a good "learning on the job" experience.

So it's farewell to DECS and the nice people that I've had the privilege of working with, and looking forward to finding out what my next workplace will be like.

Candle (as my first agency) have been good, and I really appreciated the unexpected present and card from them on the birth of our new baby. The new position however is through Icon. One difference I've noticed already - they have online timesheets.

Every workplace has its own unique attributes - I wonder what ABB's will be?

I guess I'll find out next week :-)