I really like contributing to Wiktionary. I've just added an entry for 'tradable'.


What Good Energy should do next

Good Energy used to be the clear leader in green electricity in the UK. Now I get the feeling that this space is beginning to get competitive. Here's what I'd do if I were Good Energy and wanted to jump ahead of the crowd again.

Retire 100% of the ROCs

Toby at work showed me the Energy Watch comparison of how different tariffs treat ROCs and LECs. I would retire 100% of the ROCs and LECs. I realize that this would mean that the tariff would be very expensive, but hey, it's green!

Wireless Meters

In the UK most domestic electricity meters are manually read by a person in a van. A less carbon intensive method is to have wireless meters that are like a mobile phone stuck to an electricity meter. The meter is read by a computer ringing up the meter.

Half-hourly meters

Electricity is cheapest at night, and most expensive in the evening. I should be able to set my dishwasher to come on at one o'clock in the morning and pay half the amount! I can't at the moment because my meter can't tell the difference between night and day, and I bet yours can't either. A half-hourly meter measures the amount of electricity used every half hour. Good Energy should install a HH meter in one's house.

Google App Engine

I set out to port Own-Id to Google App Engine but failed because Own-Id relies on people being able to point their own host name to the Own-Id app. This only works because Own-Id has its own IP address. With App Engine it seems you're not assigned an IP address. If anyone knows how I can make Own-Id work with App Engine, please let me know!

While looking at App Engine, it seemed that one of its limitations is that the datastore doesn't support complex queries. It's a big constraint when one is used to SQL. Having said that, I love the fact that it supports Python and the whole thing seems really nicely done. When I come do do my next web app, I'll certainly look first at doing it with App Engine.


Cars and CO2

A fine summer's evening meant a low turnout at the Raven on Monday evening, as the stalwarts gathered for the Science Cafe.

What sticks in my mind from the talk is the fact that CO2 emissions are proportional to the weight of the car, and inversely proportional to engine efficiency. Engine efficiency has improved enormously over the years, but today's Mini is twice the weight of the original, and I believe the same is true of the Fiesta. The result is that CO2 per km hasn't improved a great deal.

Much of the extra weight is a side effect of making cars a lot safer. Can we have low emissions cars that are safe? Surely we can.

My French friend Pascal gave a cheer when it was revealed that Peugeot / Citroen were the most likely to make low CO2 cars.

My bet for the future is on electric cars. The Tesla Roadster is already comparatively cheap to run, and with oil prices rising, I think the public will gravitate to the electric car.


Own-Id 004

Just released a new version of Own-Id. Now gives more detail in error messages.

Incidentally, we now have 188 ids now on Own-Id. As ever, I'm always keen to hear about your experiences with Own-Id.

For testing Own-Id on my local machine, I use the MyId OpenId server which is great because it's so simple to set up, and it uses Digest Authentication which is a RESTful method that makes testing easy. For me, the one problem with MyID is that is uses a META tag to redirect the browser, but I find it easier for testing to have a HTTP 302 redirect, so I modified the source (just a simple change) to achieve this.


The Singularity is Nigh

I agree with almost everything in this book, in fact if I were more intelligent I would have written it! Having said that, there are a few things I take issue with him on:

Intellectual property. Kurzweil says that as technology progresses, more things become information. This I agree with, but he goes on to say that it is important to protect the information so you have money to create new things. Here he's trying to perpetuate the idea of intellectual property. I believe that information can't be treated as property, and should be released as free content. You may then ask, how do you make the money to build new things? Well, free content is often available for no charge, but most of the inputs to creating knowledge is other knowledge, so substantially less money would be needed. Okay, but where do you get the small amount of money that is necessary? Well, advertising is the popular method. I'm sure Wikipedia could make an enormous amount of money if carried advertising.

Consciousness. I'm pleased that Kurzweil devoted some of the book to the problem of consciousness. Unfortunately nobody understands it yet as far as I can see. I think Kurzweil accepts that it is essential for our post-biological successors to be conscious. So until we understand consciousness and can recreate it artificially, I think it's difficult to make predictions.

The structure of society. Kurzweil quotes Hobbes, 'the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short' to support his case that improved technology leads to a better standard of living. But Hobbes wasn't merely talking about technology, he was describing life in an unstructured society, an anarchy, or what he called 'the state of nature'. Hobbes' point was that for life to improve and for technology to develop, a structured society is needed.

So I'm disappointed that Kurzweil does not realize the importance of the structure of society. Indeed, Kurzweil talks of the military applications of nanotechnology, but this is like our ancestors talking of how in the far future, technology will be used to defend our village from attacks from other villages. Thankfully we have national Leviathans in the form of democratically elected governments that means that each village doesn't have to defend against its neighbouring village. I predict a global Leviathan, a democratically elected world government, so that countries don't have to worry about defending themselves against other countries.