Going Solar: Our household electricity journey 2007 – 2016

Solar electricityBack in 2007, in a three month electricity billing cycle (September, October and November) our household:

  • consumed 5750 kwh of electricity;
  • used electricity at the rate of 63 kwh per day.
  • paid $695.00 for the supply of this energy;
  • paid at the rate of 12c per kwh for electricity;
  • paid around $7.60 per day for electricity.

In an effort to balance our household budget by reducing our energy consumption, we all took shorter showers (well, most of us), reduced machine washing cycles, returned unused parts of our home to darkness in the evenings, and wore more warm clothes on cold days. 

While this certainly reduced our consumption, it didn’t save us any money. Continue reading Going Solar: Our household electricity journey 2007 – 2016

Electricity supply realities

Solar v grid electricityIn a clear concession by our elected representatives that they are living in a different world to the rest of the population, political parties regularly convene ‘focus groups’ to discover how we, out here in the real world, are feeling about various issues.

I enjoy being a member of a number of personal ‘focus groups’ in the local community – at the golf club, at the cafe, at the tennis club, at the shopping centre, at the beach, at work, and at home – and the members of all these personal focus groups shake their collective heads at how often our elected representatives get it so wrong. How can they be so out of touch with those that they are representing in the parliament?

Or maybe their representation is skewed in favour of parts of their electorate more distant from where members my personal focus groups are based?

The latest issue that highlights our elected representatives’ disconnect from the electorate relates to renewable energy. Unlike our parliamentarians, I do not know one person (read voter) who believes that ongoing dependence on a finite energy resource is a good idea – from a personal financial perspective, or from a consideration of national energy sustainability.

I am happy to dispense some free advice here, a heads-up alert to our elected leaders: there is only so much of the black stuff in the ground. At the rate we are burning through it, one day it will all be gone. The lot. No more left to dig up. Hint: this is called ‘finite’.

And as those finite energy reserves diminish, just like all supply and demand situations, the cost of using our dwindling reserves of coal and oil is going to increase. Big time.

As a forward-thinking nation we should be subsidising sustainable energy installations now.

Read about our household’s journey from grid to solar >>>


Student wellbeing a better Indicator of success than tests

student-wellbeingWhile politicians have traded blame for the underwhelming NAPLAN results this week, there are some schools trying to take a more rounded measure of student progress. And the insights are what many have thought all along without having the data to back it up: if schools focus on student wellbeing, a good education will follow.

Almost 11,000 students participated in Gallup’s Australian Student Poll this year, which focused on measuring students’ hope for the future, engagement in studies, wellbeing and even entrepreneurship – rather than more traditional metrics of literacy and numeracy.

“Levels of hope can be more indicative of graduation than standardised testing,” said Anne Lingafelter, Gallup’s Learning Solutions Consultant. “We all know kids who are super smart and test well but because their hope levels are low, their wellbeing and engagement off, they are not resilient and do not succeed.

The last VCR

VCR TechnologyThe last company still manufacturing VCR technology, the Funai Corporation of Japan, has announced that it will stop making VCRs at the end of this month, mainly because of “difficulty acquiring parts.”

The announcement represents the end of a technology that was introduced in the 1950s.

It took several decades for VCRs to make their way into consumers’ homes, but in its heyday it was ubiquitous and dominant. According to the company statement, 750,000 units were sold worldwide in 2015, down from millions decades earlier.

Which NBN Provider? (2016 Update)

NBN RolloutSee also: NBN – First Impressions >>> 

In July 2013 I discussed choosing a service provider when connecting to the National Broadband Network (NBN) as it began rolling out across Australia.

This discussion was updated in December 2014.

In 2016 the NBN rollout continues across the country, albeit that the NBN structure has changed a little since its 2013 implementation, as a result of policies of the current government. Many areas will no longer have access to Fibre to the Home (FTTH) but rather fibre to the node (FTTN). FTTH provided a 100 Mb bandwidth service. FTTN will provide a maximum 25 Mb bandwidth service.

Below is a 2016 update comparing the NBN plans of popular Internet Service Providers (ISPs)….

Continue reading Which NBN Provider? (2016 Update)

Teacher Autonomy – Finland v US

autonomy-finlandImagine this: you spend a day in a typical American public school going from one classroom to another, observing what teachers do. Then you do the same in Finland.

What would you expect to see?

Many things would probably look similar. But, without a doubt, you would notice one big difference: teachers in Finland would be much less concerned about whether all students have reached the grade level, met the homework standard or feel prepared for the forthcoming standardized tests.

Does this sound familiar?

Read more at The Conversation >>>

Why are our 15 year olds falling behind in reading and writing?

ReadingOur 15 year olds are continuing to fall behind in literacy, according to latest figures from the national testing scheme NAPLAN.

So far, the solutions devised by our politicians have made little difference.

First the Labor government decided that naming and shaming schools on the public website MySchools might do the trick.

This has the same logic as saying to a child who is struggling with reading – we’ll publicly label you with a low reading level and see if that makes you pull up your socks and start reading. And no educator would be silly enough to do that…

Then the Liberal government decided that phonics was the answer.

If only 15 year olds knew their sounds, that would solve their struggle with comprehending inferential meaning in complex texts. Surely only a politician could see the logic in that…

Both solutions fail to understand the problem.

The Netflix effect: Your workmates are not your family

NetflixMove over Google – Netflix has pioneered a groundbreaking internal culture that has become the gold standard for technology companies around the world.

Other workplaces (and their managers) could learn much from the Netflix philosophy.

The company pays its workers top of the market salaries and has a loose expenses policy that is literally five words long (“Act in Netflix’s best interests)”. It offers staff unlimited vacation time and unlimited paid parental leave, an unheard of perk in the US where time off work is relatively hard to come by.

But above all else Netflix’s culture is built with a laser-like focus on “high performance”.

What does that actually mean?


The selfie was created pretty much by accident

Selfies“The front -facing camera currently seems to stand rather low on the list of system-critical features consumers demand,” observed PocketNow in in March 2012. “With the primary focus of this secondary camera aimed at video calling …one would think there would be a corresponding eruption in the usage of mobile video services. This explosion hasn’t happened.”

Such are the perils of jumping too far forward in trying to read social signals. It turned out that a front-facing camera was terrific for taking stills – stills featuring you, the phone owner. We all know what happened next.

iOS device sales outpace Windows PC sales

iOS v Win PCApple has reported that it had sold 47 million iPhone units and 10.9 million iPad units in the quarter, combining for a total of 57.9 million iOS devices (not including the iPod touch).

This means that iOS sales are now matching those of Windows PCs.

Android unit sales passed Windows PCs back in March of 2012. The PC install base is around 1.5 billion devices and Android has already passed that and should iOS continue growing at the rate it is, it could also pass that 1.5 billion unit number.

How times in the ICT world have changed.

Apple could have bailed out Greece twice

Apple GreeceIt’s kinda hard to imagine these sort of $$$$, and what could be done with them to improve the world….

“At last count, Apple had $US194 billion ($A262 billion) in cash and securities. That’s enough to cover the €86 billion ($A128 billion) Greek bailout deal struck overnight twice over — with a cool $6 billion still left over to spend on gyros and ouzo.

“Apple reaped a whopping 92 per cent of the total operating income of the top eight smartphone manufacturers in the world according to The Wall Street Journal.

“That’s a 65 per cent jump on the previous year, fuelled by the September 2014 release of the iPhone 6, which produced record sales.

“Apple’s biggest competitor, South Korean manufacturer Samsung, reaped 15 per cent of profits out of the top eight manufacturers. HTC and Microsoft both lost money.”

You need a ‘portable’ email address

email-optionsI know – e-mail is so last millennium.

But most of us still use it daily for communication and, even if you don’t use e-mail as a primary communication tool, most online services require you to provide an e-mail address to establish an account.

If you use Dropbox, Tripit, Skype, PayPal, eBay, Facebook, Edmodo, WordPress, etc, etc, or bank online, or pay your phone bill, road-toll, electricity bill, ISP, or other regular bills online, you need an e-mail address.

And if you want to preserve some long-term sanity, this address needs to be a constant.

Service providersIn particular, if you use an e-mail address provided by your Internet service provider (ISP), or your employer, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

What happens when you change to a new service provider? Or move to a new employer? You will need to visit every online service for which you have ever provided your e-mail address, to change the address to your new e-mail address. And send an e-mail to every person in your contacts list to get them to update their contacts list with your new address! Continue reading You need a ‘portable’ email address

Homework in the holidays?

Holiday homeworkAustralian children have the fifth highest amount of homework in the world, research from an OECD report into the performance of students has revealed, leading to a backlash from parents and academics about homework destroying school holidays.

University of Sydney Associate Professor in Educational Psychology Richard Walker has slammed the proliferation of homework across term breaks.

“Aren’t we losing the plot when people don’t have holidays and, if they do, they’re expected to work through them? Society needs to get real. Adults and children alike need to have a break,” he said.

“We need time to ourselves, away from the pressures and demands of study and work, that is the purpose of holidays.”

A font to help understand dyslexia

Dyslexia fontEver wondered what it’s like to have dyslexia?

UK designer Daniel Britton knew the feeling – but couldn’t communicate it to others.

Diagnosed with dyslexia during his final year of university, Britton struggled with professors and peers who couldn’t understand his learning disability and thought he wasn’t paying attention or was lazy.

So he decided to create a font that would mimic the feeling of reading with dyslexia by slowing down the time it took for readers to decipher sentences.

“What this typeface does is break down the reading time of a non-dyslexic person down to the speed of a dyslexic person,” Britton said

Do you need an Apple Watch?

Apple watchYou are in a meeting with 14 people, in mid-sentence, when you feel a tap-tap-tap on your wrist. You stop talking, tilt your head, and whip your arm aggressively into view to see the source of the agitation. A second later, the small screen on your new Apple Watch beams to life with a very important message for you: Twitter has suggestions for people you should follow.

A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day-for messages, e-mails, activity achievements, tweets, and so much more. Wait a second. Isn’t the promise of the Apple Watch to help you stay in the moment, focused on the people around you and undisturbed by the mesmerising void of your iPhone?