Cabbage Patch iPad

26 04 2011

The thing that pushed me over the edge this week was a fine blog  post by Elisa Wood.  My comment was that Gavin Newsom’s list of jobs created by resources including coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and EE, does not include return on investment.  Only EE has return on investment for the end user.  All other sources cost the end user, not save the end user money.  But this is not the topic of the day.

I am not a tech geek.  I just want things that are stable, reliable, and relatively fast and snappy.  I will pay for it.  I have long been out of college and therefore, time is scarcer than money so just give me something “fast” and reliable and I’ll gladly pay for it.

I also do not need, and in fact I do not want the latest and greatest thing.  Take Microsoft, which hasn’t had any substantial improvement to the Office suite for ten years – since they added the right-click menus.  It has become more stable and reliable in the past 15 years as reports we wrote used to become corrupted out of the blue and you couldn’t open them ever again.  Congratulations for this achievement!

I am not a Microsoft basher but I don’t think they have innovated (if I may use that as a verb) hardly a single thing.  Operating systems with graphical interfaces, mice, spreadsheets, word processors, web browsers, databases, and you name it; they didn’t develop any of these things and they comprise their bulk of gazillions in revenue and profit.  Microsoft is good at taking others’ ideas and packaging and marketing them, creating monopolies and crushing any competitors, or simply buying them out.  Like I said, I’m no Microsoft basher.

Apple on the other hand has been a major innovator with the Mac, Mac operating system, the iPod, and then really, really with the iPhone.  When the iPhone first came out, I thought “what is the big deal?”  It doesn’t even have buttons.  Then I experienced it as we work with clients who use them exclusively.  I look at my Microsoft kludge of a phone (again Microsoft following, not innovating) and think, wow, the iPhone is about 100x better.  (I now have a Motorola Droid which in many ways is better than the iPhone if you ask me, so my tech world is whole again)

At an AESP conference, I was fortunate to win an iPod touch, which is essentially the iPhone without the phone.  Other AESP-drawing winners of GPSs wanted to trade and I said get lost.  I’m giving this to my wife to replace her crappy iPod wannabee.  The iPod touch gave me hands-on experience with greatness.

Apple has built such a cult following that if they introduced a turntable, the iTable, people would camp out for a week just to be the first to get their hands on one of these 1960s makeovers.  They have already done this – it’s called the iPad.  It’s a ridiculous widget.  Why is it ridiculous, Jeff?

First, because it isn’t a serious business tool (yes, I will get to the consumer thing later).  Thinking we could use one of these possibly for field work surveys, I asked one of our iEverything business partners what he thought of this.  He said, no, it isn’t going to do well with spreadsheets or databases, if they can even be used at all.  It doesn’t even have ports like a USB connection for goodness sake.

Second, I was on a plane headed for somewhere sitting next to a guy watching a movie on an iPad.  I enlightened him by saying, “You know, they make these things that have a convenient platform to prop the screen up reliably for hands free movie watching.  You could just sit it on your tray and sit back and enjoy the movie.  It’s called a laptop computer.”

It’s a large version of a phone without the phone.  It’s a small computer with no capability.

Perhaps most ridiculous, I recall an article in The Wall Street Journal covering the various ways iPad owners can transport their iPads.  One solution was like a fanny pack with a big pouch in which you would carry the iPad along the small of your back.  Good grief!  Don’t use a computer bag.  That would reveal the stupidity of this device.

Conclusion: It’s a clunky, slippery, doohickey that is too large for your pocket, to small for a computer, and you can do little productive work with it.  The second conclusion is, Steve Jobs is a genius for generating a brand that will get people to buy anything with an i in front of it, by the hundreds of millions.

How do we do this with energy efficiency?  It has to have a strong element of “look at how great and cool I am”.  I suggest a web-based application that shows how rich you are becoming, in real time, as a result of your EE genius.  In one pane it would mimic a bank teller slapping down dollar bills as you stuff them in your wallet.  Once you accumulate a bulging wallet full of bills you trade them in for a hundred dollar bill.  You let the hundreds pile up on the counter.  After a while you swap currency for gold bullion and that starts stacking up on the counter.

In another pane you have a lot full of Prius and electric vehicles with dead batteries in front of a big box store called “Renewables R Us”.  As you accumulate enough savings and equivalent emissions of these cars / energy sources, King Kong circa 1976 walks onto the scene thumping his chest and roaring.  He picks up an electric vehicle and tucks it under his harm like a football and stomps off, maybe stepping on a couple screaming shoppers making their way to the store as they drop their iPads.  This would represent the equivalent Priuses taken off the road. Next time, Kong comes by but this time tripping on a Prius and falling face first crushing a dozen Nissan Leafs.  After doing the ceremonial thump and roar, he rips a solar panel off the roof and throws it across town, like the subway cars in the movie… followed by stomping off and squashing a few more shoppers.

The app should be exclusive to new chosen makes and models of devices and they are provided by the EE program as part of the incentive.  The devices are sleek and unique so everyone knows, that guy is cool and smart.  The devices would have functionality of iPods, phones, and laptops so they aren’t just a worthless status symbol.

So the next time you are sitting at the gate or in cattle class, your device is screaming – “look at how cool I am” while the inferior, insecure me-too stooge is gawking on, thinking, “Man that guy has some device!”

Copyright 2011

Tidbits

As gasoline prices are clicking past $4 across the country, citizens are crying to the feds to do something.  So what are both the President and Speaker talking about?  Eliminate subsidies for oil companies – as though this will bring down prices!  Again, politics rather than logic rule in Washington.  Prices are high and therefore the oil companies must be punished and somehow reducing profit will lower prices.  Good Grief! – popular with the lemmings but thinkers know better.

P.S.  I believe the “subsidies” they are talking about are tax breaks for depleting wells, which sounds to me like depreciation for assets of depleting value – like our office furniture and computers.  Anyway, let me say that subsidies should go, across the board, but office furniture and computers are the price of doing business and obviously affect profit so depreciation isn’t a subsidy, unless you’re a political hack.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP





Greenpeace – Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way

27 04 2010

Back in the day when I was in the nuclear Navy, Greenpeace was not so infrequently pulling stunts like running their zodiacs up on the top of submarine hulls to make their unfounded statements of radiation releases to the environment.  Since 9/11, you can bet they stopped this practice.  Even back in the early 1990s the hatch was guarded by a burly guy sporting a short barrel shotgun with the largest shell chamber I’ve ever seen.  Stopping power.  The fact is, the US Navy runs the cleanest nuclear plants in the world with thousands of operating reactor YEARS and not a single significant release of radiation to the environment – including the couple submarines that were lost at sea.

I thought maybe Greenpeace had gone broke and out of business, but they are still hanging on or they emerged from bankruptcy.  My most recent spotting was their protesting large data centers being built by and running on “cheap” coal-derived electricity.   They are also complaining about the use of cloud computing, which is less expensive due to economies of scale, but these humongous data centers are purportedly located to burn cheap, dirty energy.

One specific data center mentioned in the above article, the first one actually, is Facebook’s new data center being built in Oregon, Prineville to be exact.

Before I rant and complain about things I generally make sure I have the facts straight.  Greenpeace not only has their facts wrong on this one, they’re not just a little wrong; they’re 180 degrees wrong.  These gigantic data centers are being located in the Pacific Northwest to have access to cheap HYDRO power, which of course has no emissions.

This is Bonneville Power Administration territory.  I was thinking BPA gets at least 50% of their power from hydro.  According to BPA’s annual report it’s 82%!   All you have to do is tune into this site to see there is a sea of hydro plants, a few natural gas plants, a few biomass, and they are adding wind power like crazy.  Believe me when I tell you, if there is one region on the planet that will avoid building coal plants at almost any price, it’s BPA’s territory.

Greenpeace has a credibility deficit similar to federal fiscal deficit.  If you’re going to hiss and moan about something, at least have iffy facts to back it up.  This is completely bogus.

But let’s take the next steps.  I’m no IT expert, but as the articles note, massive data centers for websites and cloud computing are built for economies of scale.  As with just about anything, economies of scale means tremendous opportunity for greater energy efficiency.  It means fewer servers more fully loaded, which translates to much lower server power and also much lower cooling cost.  It means massive facilities where it is possible to put in huge efficient chillers that literally use 1/3 the power of cheap and crappy packaged air conditioning units ubiquitous among “mom and pop” data centers.

What would Greenpeace have these data centers juice up with?  If a data center needs anything from a power provider, its reliability.  I attended a BPA conference about a year ago and one presentation was about the challenge of keeping the lights on with wind power that bounces all over.  In one stretch I recall, they had zero MW from wind for a stretch of 14 straight days.  No place on earth has sunshine around the clock.  Do people use Facebook after dark?  My guess is, yes.  If there is one place in the country that has a beautiful mix of renewable energy it is the northwest where they have hydro that it seems they can ramp power up and down in no time, and store hydro energy while the wind is blowing.  It seems to me that Greenpeace is bashing the best place on the planet to locate data centers.

I can think of some questionable complaints regarding the greenness of some of the tech companies cited: Google, Apple, Amazon, et al, but no sense in giving Greenpeace something remotely legitimate to protest.

BTW, you may be interested Bonneville’s video for safety with trees and high lines.  It’s on their news page.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP