Monday, 10 October 2011

Sunshine farm goes live

Monday morning greetings from the solar powered computer lady! My Sunny Boy 1700 has just ramped up for another day's work generating free electricity from the rather gloomy and dull Caversham skies. It's an effort to tear myself away from its digital display for long enough to tell you about it.

I've thought really really hard about Solar Energy and I still can't see the catch. You get some panels put on your roof, and a cable comes down from them and into a smart red box (the aforementioned Sunny Boy). Some cables snake neatly from that into your fuse box so you can use the power you generate to write blogs without troubling the national grid. On top of that, a meter shows how much you have generated and you get 43p for every unit from an electricity company. Even though you've used it. I know, it's mad.

The whole project was managed for me by Roland Lee and Allan Tyrrell of FIT Solar Panels. Two things you need to know about Roland and Allan:
  1. They love the concept of solar energy more than the concept of making a fast buck. Good Lord, they remind me of myself!
  2. Everybody who works with them is a genius at doing an unobtrusive and damn near perfect job.
So all you have to do is call them and say you want some of those solar panel thingies. They send you a contract to sign. This includes some unintelligible info like Va+Vc = x but have faith, it will come right.

Presently a letter comes from the council saying planning permission has been granted. Next some cheerful men turn up and erect some scaffolding while singing popular songs. Then some roofers come and refurbish your roof, closely followed by Roland who has been awake all night trying to figure out what is the most efficient configuration for your particular roof. Then an electrician arrives and does the wiring, all the while apologising for getting in the way.

And it's done! Watching the Sunny Boy cough out its first unit is one of the most exciting things you are likely to encounter this Autumn.

The chances are that your roof is bigger than mine and your home uses less electricity. Your excitement and income will also be bigger than mine.

Finally - an intimate close-up of one of my panels.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Monday, 3 October 2011

Bejeweled Blitz wrecks lives

Bejeweled Blitz is an innocent puzzle game available from Facebook. You need to make rows of 3 gems and each game lasts only 1 minute. 60 seconds. Plenty of time for a game between sips of tea.

You need to understand, though, that this game is made by PopCap who have been making simple and addicting games for over 10 years. I still shudder to think of the lost year of 2003 when I did nothing but play "Big Money" all night and all day. At the time I was a development programmer and spent many hours on conference calls. I managed to keep it together by learning to say "Uhuh" while clicking like a demon on areas of matching colour.

But that was nothing compared to my current Bejeweled problem. They have integrated it with Facebook so well that it has added an element of cut-throat competition. In 2003, we could play at a leisurely pace, competing only with ourselves. Now, my friends appear on my screen with ridiculously high scores that one feels can only be achieved by cheating. In a stroke of brilliance, the scores are reset every week, so every week you must prove yourself all over again.

Just one more game... it only takes a minute.

Don't touch Bejeweled. Before long it becomes your career. A career with no pay and lousy prospects.

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