Everything as a Service

Three years ago I found a research paper that proposed a combination of distributed computing and heating as a service: A cloud provider company like Google or Amazon would install computers in users' homes - as black-boxes providing heat to the users and computing power to their cloud. In the meantime I have encountered announcements … Continue reading Everything as a Service

Anniversary 4 (4 Me): “Life Ends Despite Increasing Energy”

I published my first post on this blog on March 24, 2012. Back then its title and tagline were: Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything Physics versus engineering off-the-wall geek humor versus existential questions IT versus the real thing corporate world’s strangeness versus small business entrepreneur’s microcosmos knowledge worker’s connectedness versus striving … Continue reading Anniversary 4 (4 Me): “Life Ends Despite Increasing Energy”

How Does It Work? (The Heat Pump System, That Is)

Over the holidays I stayed away from social media, read quantum physics textbooks instead, and The Chief Engineer and I mulled over the fundamental questions of life, the universe and everything. Such as: How to explain our heat pump system? An astute reader suggested to create an 'animation' of the gradual evolution of the system's … Continue reading How Does It Work? (The Heat Pump System, That Is)

Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Peter von Rittinger's biography reads like a Victorian novel, and his invention was a text-book example of innovation triggered by scarcity. Born 1811, he was poor and became an orphan early. Yet he was able to study mathematics and physics as his secondary education had been financed by the Piarist Order. He also studied law … Continue reading Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Economics of the Solar Air Collector

In the previous post I gave an overview of our recently compiled data for the heat pump system. The figure below, showing the seasonal performance factor and daily energy balances, gave rise to an interesting question: In February the solar collector was off for research purposes, and the performance factor was just a bit lower … Continue reading Economics of the Solar Air Collector

Two Weeks After Lift-Off

After a little delay our photovoltaic generator went online - we had been waiting for the delivery of this sophisticated addition to our office decoration: People on G+ had very cool suggestions, such as a rotating alien-fighting device throwing darts. Closest to the truth were: fuse box and fire alarm. The box containing two knobs … Continue reading Two Weeks After Lift-Off

Ice Storage Challenge: High Score!

Released from ice are brook and river By the quickening glance of the gracious Spring; The colors of hope to the valley cling, And weak old Winter himself must shiver, Withdrawn to the mountains, a crownless king. These are the first lines of the English version of a famous German poem on spring, from the … Continue reading Ice Storage Challenge: High Score!

We Have Come a Long Way: Rooftop Solar Power Now!

We had considered it already a few years ago - when we decided to live and work in the middle of a dusty and noisy construction site for a few months: The upper part of the roof is inclined by 30° - which is the optimum angle for photovoltaic panels - whereas the windows in … Continue reading We Have Come a Long Way: Rooftop Solar Power Now!

Data Logging with UVR1611 – FAQ

I have received several questions related to my article on data logging on this blog, or to my postings on monitoring and control on our German blog. Thus I have decided to write the article I would have wanted to read when I once made myself familiar with this. The target audience for this article are … Continue reading Data Logging with UVR1611 – FAQ

The Ice Storage Challenge

The more we enjoyed our spring-like winter, the more we were worried if we will ever see much ice in our underground water tank this heating season. So we did what I had announced - we switched off the solar collector completely: Since February 1st our heat pump has been extracting heat energy from the tank … Continue reading The Ice Storage Challenge

More Ice? Exploring Spacetime of Climate and Weather.

I have become obsessed with comparing climate data for different regions in the world and in different years (space + time). Finally I have found the tool I was looking for; now I can compare average Ice Days quickly - days with a maximum temperature < 0°C. In the first quarter of 2014 there were: 5 … Continue reading More Ice? Exploring Spacetime of Climate and Weather.

Looking for Patterns

Scott Adams, of Dilbert Fame, has a lot of useful advice in his autobiographical book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He recommends looking for patterns in your life, without attempting to theorize about cause and effects. Learning from those patterns you could increase the chance that luck with hit you. … Continue reading Looking for Patterns

Waging a Battle against Sinister Algorithms

I have felt a disturbance of the force. As you might expect from a blog about anything, this one has a weird collection of unrelated top pages and posts. My WordPress Blog Stats tell me I am obviously an internet authority on: how rodents get into kitchen appliances, about the physics of a spinning toy, … Continue reading Waging a Battle against Sinister Algorithms

Cistern-Based Heat Pump – Research Done in 1993

One of the most recent search terms on this blog was: 'cistern for water source heat pump'. I wanted to double-check and searched for this phrase myself. This was the first Google Search result: Cistern-Based Water-Source Heat Pump System Design ... a research paper that had been available for download at the website of Iowa … Continue reading Cistern-Based Heat Pump – Research Done in 1993

Being Creative with What Is Available

This is a quote from Simon Dale's website who has built several eco-friendly 'Hobbit' houses. It reminded me of the cave house built into lava bubbles by Lanzarote's most famous artist César Manrique: Being creative with what is available has an appeal beyond economical necessities. As a teenage hobby astronomer I built a mounting for … Continue reading Being Creative with What Is Available

Google and Heating Systems (2)

I googled our company name. Then I found this: Auftrag means order and the obfuscated parts contain our full company name, the Chief Engineer's name, the URL of a vendor we ordered material from recently, invoice total, and a comment like The client said we should... The now inaccessible URL had pointed to a comma-separated … Continue reading Google and Heating Systems (2)

A 1970s Pioneer in Self-Sufficient Living

Living in southern France, Jean Pain developed a self-sustaining ecosystem in the 1970s that supplied his home with 100% of the energy needed. He built a 50 tons compost mound from chipped wood - brushwood that had to be cleaned out to lower the risk of forest fires. Heat exchanger pipes were buried in the heap while it was built. … Continue reading A 1970s Pioneer in Self-Sufficient Living

All Kinds of Turbines

I got an interesting question, related to the heat-from-the-tunnel project: Has anyone considered the fact that the water can be used to first drive turbines and then distributed to supply the input source for the heat pumps? I am a water turbine fan, and every time I spot a small hydro power plant on a … Continue reading All Kinds of Turbines

We Should Get Lost Sometimes – Nicholas Carr on Automation and Us

The Glass Cage is about automation’s human consequences. It is not intended to be your typical book about robots taking our jobs for better or for worse. Carr gives an intriguing account of the history of automation and robotics nonetheless - from Luddites to Google's self-driving cars. What we have known intuitively is backed up … Continue reading We Should Get Lost Sometimes – Nicholas Carr on Automation and Us

Pumped Heat from the Tunnel

The idea to use a reservoir of water as a heat pump's heat source is not new. But now and then somebody dares to do it again in a more spectacular way. Provided governmental agencies give you permit, lakes or underground aquifers could be used. Today a (German) press release about a European research project called Sinfonia … Continue reading Pumped Heat from the Tunnel

Biology / Chemistry Challenge or: Should We Really Blame the Dead Frog?

We often say we operate in Leonardo da Vinci Renaissance Mode - given our odd 'portfolio of diverse services'. But as much as the Chief Engineer does not like to work with mortar, cement, or any other slimy substances I tried to avoid pondering about the intricacies of living beings and chemicals so far. But … Continue reading Biology / Chemistry Challenge or: Should We Really Blame the Dead Frog?

Looking Foward to ‘The Glass Cage’ – Random Ambiguous Thoughts

On September 29, Nicholas Carr's book The Glass Cage - Automation and Us will be released. I have quoted Carr's writings often on this blog, and his essay All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines might anticipate some of the ideas he is going to explore in … Continue reading Looking Foward to ‘The Glass Cage’ – Random Ambiguous Thoughts

On Learning

Some years ago I was busy with projects that required a lot of travelling but I also needed to stay up-to-date with latest product features and technologies. When a new operating system was released a colleague asked how I could do that - without having time for attending trainings. Without giving that too much thought, and having my … Continue reading On Learning

Big Data, Big Plastic Worms, and How to Utilize Your Cellar

Our heat pump system will soon commence its third heating season. The amount of measurement data collected so far has exceeded the capabilities of the software I had once developed; so I crafted a new application based on a real database server. Now you know why I was not very active on social media recently. I have an excuse … Continue reading Big Data, Big Plastic Worms, and How to Utilize Your Cellar

When I Did Social Engineering without Recognizing It

I planned to read something about history this summer. Then I picked the history of hacking. My favorite was Kevin Mitnick's autobiography - the very definition of a page-turner. The book is free of hardcore technical jargon and written for geeks and lay audience alike. Readers are introduced to the spirit of a hacker in … Continue reading When I Did Social Engineering without Recognizing It

What Learning about Feynman’s Path Integrals Was Good for

I have gone to great lengths on this blog in order to explain how and why a degree in physics prepares you for seemingly different careers, or at least does not hurt. But it would have been so simple. I will now illustrate this - using just two incomprehensible images. Actually, I have a hidden … Continue reading What Learning about Feynman’s Path Integrals Was Good for

Network Sniffing for Everyone – Getting to Know Your Things (As in Internet of Things)

Simple Sniffing without Hubs or Port Mirroring for the Curious Windows User [Jump to instructions and skip intro] Your science-fiction-style new refrigerator might go online to download the latest offers or order more pizza after checking your calendar and noticing that you have to finish a nerdy project soon. It may depend on your geekiness … Continue reading Network Sniffing for Everyone – Getting to Know Your Things (As in Internet of Things)

I Am Too Googleable!

What a letdown. I wanted to report on near completion of The Website Resurrection Project - but I had a mind-altering experience. On the upside, I am not afraid of identity theft or surveillance anymore. My dentist had to cancel an appointment the day before. I showed up some minutes before the appointed time. The … Continue reading I Am Too Googleable!

Diffusion of iTechnology in Corporations (or: Certificates for iPhones)

[Jump to technical stuff] Some clichés are true. One I found confirmed often is about how technologies are adopted within organizations: One manager meets another manager at a conference / business meeting / CIO event. Manager X show off the latest gadget and/or brags about presents a case-study of successful implementation of Y. Another manager … Continue reading Diffusion of iTechnology in Corporations (or: Certificates for iPhones)