2013-12-27

Power usage

If you live in Romania, you might have one of these at home:


And you may want to use it if you don't feel like buying a wattmeter for like, 100-150 RON, since you're a nerd, and aren't afraid of using measurements and unit conversions to get to the result.
Well, you're in luck, my friend, since I made a spreadsheet that can calculate that for you.
Simply copy the spreadsheet and replace my input numbers (in the yellowish boxes) with your own (and extend the formula fields if necessary, and the averages' ranges in the Notes column).


Details

I explain each field:
  • On (sec/rot) - Time of the meter's disk to do a full rotation, in seconds, when the device is on
  • Off (sec/rot) - The same, but when device is off/unplugged
  • On (rot/sec), Off (rot/sec) - Computed inverse (speed instead of slowness)
  • diff (rot/sec)diff (rot/h) - Difference in speed between when on and when off
  • Usage (W) - The usage of the device. If you have a digital power meter, which shows you the current current usage :D then you don't need the previous columns.
  • Cost (RON/h), Cost (RON/month) - The hourly and monthly cost of running the device continuously
  • Price/kWh (RON) - The price of electricity per kWh: get this from your power bill, it may be different than mine
  • Rotations/kWh - The number of rotations your meter's disk performs for each kWh (you'll have to trust the meter)
To measure most accurately, alternate the On measurements with the Off ones, so that when something is turned on and off, you notice it (the Off time changes drastically). I marked the rows where this happens excessively as outliers, with red, and ignored them in the final averages.

Use a precise timer, that can show you tenths of seconds, and make sure you stop it at exactly the same position of the disk as you started. I used the end of the black line on the disk edge as a reference; that way, I could see exactly how close it was to the end.

Also, you should preferably perform the measurement at night, when there are no other people awake to turn other things on and off.
I found out that my old Pentium 2 uses about 27W when idle, and 40W when booting/busy.
Also, my laptop uses 13W when idle, 43W with 1 CPU core fully used, and about 50W with all 4 cores at 100%. So, more incentive to use multithreading :)

I needed this to find out whether it's worth leaving my old home computer on, as an internet proxy through which I could play games on any ports. Turns out it's not worth it (~60 RON/month, might as well get mobile Internet at that price). And I'm glad I did this calculation, because I saved endless power.

2013-11-26

Free markets - good for the environment

So, I recently became an anarcho-capitalist. Yes, there are things you might not expect possible in a fully private system, such as education, health care, retirementpolice, arbitration/justice, but they are very possible (if not even better) and already exist to some extent (to resolve the needs not met by public institutions).

In order to try to invalidate this crazy and ridiculous belief, I wanted to verify my expectation that capitalism tends to go nuts about resources - polluting like crazy.

I created a plot of the Economic Freedom Index (how free the capitalism is in a country) and the Environmental Performance Index (how well a country takes care of the environment). I totally expected a clear, definite inverse correlation. However, what I got blew my mind.


So, this is actually a weak positive correlation (see the data here). I find this very intriguing and unexpected. And my belief that no government at all is the best government is reinforced. Please prove me wrong.

Edit 23 Dec 2013: I found a video of an AWESOME guy who offers a great solution for protecting the environment without a government.

2013-11-17

Global warming and society

So, there's this figure from "Estimating global impacts from climate change", a meta-study by S. Hitz and J. Smith:


It shows how the mean temperature affects the world economy.
While the studies may disagree on the actual damages done, they seem to have a consensus on about +0.5 degrees extra being the optimum to support human activity (such as agriculture and industry), while reducing the damages caused to it (such as rising sea levels, .

The current temperature anomaly is +0.64 ± 0.11. Which means we're on the right side of the sweet spot right now. However, the temperature is rising, which means the benefits are decreasing.

The world economy, based on capitalism, should spontaneously adapt and perform corrections as needed. This could be done using contracts between persons, which are enforced by the government.

However, it is difficult to create a contract between everybody on the planet. So, in order to prevent unnecessary damage while capitalism struggles with it, governments should help. Governments have the power to create contracts with the people and corporations (through the law), as well with other governments (treaties). The Climate Change Conference of Parties is happening as of writing this article, and is an example of the negotiation I'm excited about.

 But it takes time for governments to react, as well. The only way to speed it up is through activism, fighting ignorance, and raising awareness. And that's what this article does.

2013-04-21

Anarchy

Later edit: while what I say in this blog post is still true, I have since discovered a better way to maintain order in society - pure anarcho-capitalism (or libertarianism).

This is because corporations can certainly become big, and they are much more motivated to do the job and not become corrupt because of competition - a competitor may expose them and do the job better.

You even have the freedom NOT to buy their services, so even a monopoly would have to work harder. States, however, are monopolies that force you to pay. Not cool.

Derived from here?
A while ago, I stumbled upon the idea of anarchy - nobody recognizes any authority, everybody is free in the broadest definition of free, no taxes are paid, there are no wars, and societies are built on trust.

It is a system in which only your own conscience can stop you from doing whatever you like. Be it building a house, sport, learning - nobody has the authority to stop you, or slow you down. Nobody to censor your input, or your output, no discrimination. No interference in the way you live.

However, there are some things that your friends can't do. Your friends likely can't stop a murderer. Your friends can't make sure everyone knows how to drive before getting behind the wheel. Or how to use a gun before owning one. Both of these have implications for surrounding people as well - accidents happen.

Would you trust your friends with your life, at midnight, when some unpredictable event happens to strike? Bringing you justice when you've been wronged? Establishing what is wrong and what isn't? Well, even if you would trust them, few of them can help. Only a big and well-organized entity could provide such services, and the people to run them in a timely fashion.

When the State started giving me a scholarship - free money for intending to help society, no strings attached! - I changed my mind for good. I value its intentions. The State does what it thinks is good for its individuals, as well as for the group. It consults scientists, tells the people, listens to the people, and takes action. At least, ideally. No state is perfect, but they try!

To all public servants who are not corrupt, a big thank you!

2013-04-04

Why web development is better than mobile

I was taking the Udacity course on web development, when some philosophical insights struck me. Here they are.

Web development is like writing - the expression of your ideas to the world.

Writing is used for telling someone what you think. For exposing your thoughts, feelings, experience about the world, and letting other people know your beliefs. For improving the lives of others by showing them what can happen. For allowing them to feel what you feel, have them sympathize, and tell their peers.

Web development pretty much does the same things. Except there are not just thoughts, but also functionality, technology. You show people what is possible. What the world has to offer through computers, and how they can help.

The most important software industries are currently web development and mobile development. If one were forced to pick between those two (which isn't necessarily true), I argue that one should pick web.

This is because web development allows more freedom, both for the developer and the user - the user is sitting comfortably, casually exploring, seeking new patterns, learning. Whereas on mobile, the user is in a hurry, wanting to get stuff done, not interested in interacting with a complex system through clumsy interfaces.

On mobile, the user expects a quick experience, and a no-nonsense, YAGNI attitude. All clutter must disappear to satisfy that need. Therefore, the developers must constrain themselves to the most barebones, pragmatic, material of needs - such as location, calendars, quick news/status updates, and basic communication. There simply isn't the interest of doing more complex things.

On web, however, the users have all the time in the world, and want you to amaze them to your best ability. You can show them your intricate and subtle algorithms. You are allowed more complexity, less focus on the necessary, and more on the art.

So there you have it. Web development is a form of expression, while mobile development is solving worldly needs. This is why I choose web development.

2013-03-31

The cost of a sandwich

Since I'm an avid sandwich eater, I've decided to measure approximately how much it costs to make one sandwich, on average.

The prices for the ingredients are from Auchan in Cluj-Napoca, and the measurements are made by manually approximating, because container shapes aren't quite simple. I believe the most inaccurate product was the lettuce, since density, leaf area, usable leaf size, and shape all varied with the radius. I just guessed.

The picture on the right doesn't do my accuracy justice, since I only had one hand, but was included for fun. You can see the markers for "0" and "2", meaning how many sandwiches had been made when the ketchup inside was at that position.

The ingredients I used were lettuce, ketchup, ham, cheese, bread, and electricity - because I used a sandwich maker.
The most pointless to compute is the electricity, which means I'll dedicate extra effort to it. It involves unit conversion and adding the VAT (the most complicated mathematical operation involved in this analysis).
My sandwich maker uses 750 Watts, and one sandwich is done in 2min15s. Which means I use 0.028125 kWh per sandwich. Electrica Distribuție Transilvania Nord says a kWh of "active power" is 0.02207 RON. The "reactive power" is negligible here, since my sandwich maker has a very high yield (electricity to heat). However, with the VAT, that's 0.0273668 RON. Therefore, it costs me 7.7*10^-4 RON to cook one sandwich. That value is invisible on the graph, when compared to the other ingredients:


The final cost is about 2.3 RON, if you pick either the cheese or the dill cream. If you're planning to start a business, remember the rent and the salaries.
As expected, the most expensive item is the ham. Become a vegetarian and save money, your health, and the world! Or perhaps a partial vegetarian if meat is too tasty. Also, don't take me as a role model. I don't always practice what I preach, try as I might.
Also, you're extremely unlikely to enjoy the same ingredients in the same proportions as me, so your results will vary. They shouldn't vary that much, though. If you do such an analysis yourself, feel encouraged to post your results!

You can view and play with the data here.

Update - 4/12: here's a pic:

2013-03-12

Why I am trying to reduce jobs

If a politician told you he's trying to reduce the number of jobs in the economy, you'd probably not vote for him, and consider him a lunatic. However, here's what me and Paul Țiței have come up with, for improving everyone's lives:
Make everyone unemployed.

What is our reasoning? How could this possibly have any good effects? How would this work?
Well, we believe technology is going to be so disruptive, so efficient and useful, so ubiquitous that it will replace all jobs. There'll be robots doing every menial job there is. After all, why couldn't they, or why shouldn't they? See one of my earlier posts to convince yourself.

Nobody will have to work again. Only the people who enjoy doing something will do it. There'll be learning,  There's going to be a utopia. Socialist revolution anyone? Honestly, I think social democracy is one of the best ways of governing (hint hint - the Nordic model).
When I study (computer science, which is one of the hardest fields to automate), I sometimes motivate myself by thinking, "a lot of people will lose their jobs because of me, and it's going to be the best thing that happened to them".
Stop looking down on people who lost their jobs. Their job was among the most easily automated ones. They were automated out. They spent an important part of their life practicing for something that they'll not be able to do. People are competing with machines, and machines are way more competitive. What does 3D printing mean for carpenters? Automated trucks for freight drivers? Scientist robots for scientists, for crying out loud!

Once nobody has a job anymore, we will have been forced to find a better political model, that will unify us and provide for us, using machines. Everything will be for free (or perhaps, given limited resources, meritocratic). Perhaps, money will become alike tokens of merit - karma, and will be only used for donations. The world will become a better place.

The moral of the story: take out someone's job!

2013-01-23

How Long Bets works

You may have heard of Long Bets. It's a great website and service that allows people to participate in bets lasting a long time (at least 2 years), with the winning party having the stake paid to a charity of choice. People who have heard of it are quite favorably disposed to it. While I approve of the convenience and publicity each bet gets, I think people should avoid it, in favor of individual contracts. Here's why.

As soon as the bet is made, the stake must be paid to The Long Now Foundation, as a donation. (In addition to the $50 Publishing Fee). This money then gets invested in a long-term portfolio  - "The Farsight Fund" - and through the magic of Compound Interest, it (expectedly) rises exponentially.


This kind of interest visibly occurs especially over long periods of time. As you can see in this picture shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia, a 20% annual interest compounded yearly can yield upwards of 6 times the original sum in just 10 years. But a realistic, less risky level is more like 15% - which still manages to quadruple the amount within 10 years. 

The deal-breaker for me is that Long Bets gets to keep 50% of that interest - "growth", they call it. They only donate 50% of what has grown out of the original sum to the chosen charity. But the growth becomes significantly greater than the original sum, especially on long-term bets!

So, there you have it. If you really want to match a donation by betting for your favorite charity, do it more efficiently by placing the stake in a mutual fund, instead of giving away half of the increase, and bypass this site by using legally binding agreements.

Also, if you want to, publish it by announcing your favorite newspaper/site/channel, which will be more than happy to report on it, especially if there's lots of money involved.