Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ground Source Heat Pump - Intro

I am hoping this is going to turn into a regular feature with updates from time to time concerning this new project of ours. Essentially we are going to have a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) as the main energy efficient supply for home heating and partial hot water supply.

The concept of a GSHP is explained here. We are going for a horizontal closed loop system which will only supply heat as cooling (air-conditioning) is not required in the UK.

In a few weeks time I will be uploading some photos of the underfloor heating installation. Unfortunately I won't be able to show the external loop installation, but the image below does show where the input and return pipes pass down through the floor (they are the large black pipes to the left of the heat exchanger).
Ground Source Heat Pump
So why GSHP? Well, it's all about economy. With energy prices soaring, the future is in efficient technology that combines the provision of cost effective heat and high levels of insulation.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Still abroad but with Internet

As the last post noted, I'm moving around the globe and the photos I will be uploading to Flickr represent the journey so far. Lots of aerial shots coming, as well as a few portraits.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Away for a few days. . .

In case anyone was wondering, particularly those on Flickr, I have been busy traveling the last few days and will be doing some more. This is a brief stop in front of a computer with an internet connection. There will be lots of photos to upload but I simply don't have access to bandwidth at the moment.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Birmingham Gallery

A selection of my Birmingham photos is available from the hub. Scroll down on the left under "Galleries".

Marketing e-mails

So I get this e-mail from Orange, with whom I have a business relationship - my cell phone has their SIM card in it when in the UK. The e-mail encourages me to read their e-mail magazine. So I click on what might be an interesting subject and get a log in screen. This asks for my e-mail address and nothing more. I enter my e-mail address and it is rejected.

Wait a minute, didn't they just send me an e-mail?

So I decide to unsubscribe (that's a peculiar word, isn't it!) and ticked the boxes and then Return. This is what I got:

"Sorry, there has been a problem. Your unsubscribe request may not have been processed. The unsubscribe process may take up to 28 days. You may receive additional e-mail until then. Please accept our apologies in advance."

Time to switch on the junk mail filter for all things colored orange.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Springtime in Brum!

Went to Birmingham today. There'll be photos on Flickr to prove it. First of all, lunch with Pete (a sick Pete, hurry up and get better!) at the British Oak in Stirchley, then on into town for a meeting. I parked in Newhall Street which gave me the opportunity to photograph St. Paul's Church.

Next, with ten minutes to kill, I walked up to the newly refurbished Town Hall. More photos. Boy does it look great!!!

After the meeting I ventured inside St. Philip's Cathedral and took some interior shots, including the stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones.

It's early spring and I swear I saw more daffodils in the city than anywhere else along the way. The inner ring road has huge displays of daffodils. So very uplifting after a long winter. Well done, Brum!

Mountain Rescue Funding

This from the BBC suggests that Mountain Rescue itself needs rescue. Most of the Mountain Rescue services in England and Wales are associated with National Parks. I am reluctant to suggest an enrance fee or a tax on what are resources that should be open to all, rich and poor. (Canadian National Parks do charge a hefty entrance fee and use the funds to maintain their parks).

My preference would be an honor box system at every trail head where hikers and mountain climbers could make a donation on the way in - a sort of insurance policy payment, just in case. The boxes could be made of welded steel firmly anchored in place and need not be an eyesore. That way users of the mountains would pay for the support systems that might one day save their lives.

Dalek City!

This Flickr Set by Bollops and son Tom is a must see.

Wonderful to see imagination being used and brought to life. This series has all the magic that you recognize when a child opens an expensive present, puts the contents to one side and plays with the wrapping! One day Dalek City will be redeveloped into something else, I feel sure, but meantime the photographs will record a magnificent effort.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


OK, just for fun I entered in all the remaining results on the BBC's predictor for the Championship and it looks like this!

Which means that the Blues will not gain automatic promotion to the Premiership. Of course, my guesses will turn out to be completely wrong!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Who's Going Up to the Premiership?

While Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal vie over winning the Premiership, the more exciting finish to the football (soccer) season is in the next division down, the Championship. Right now there are four Midlands teams in the top eight with three of them occupying 1 2 and 3. My own (bluenose) Birmingham City at the top (we just beat the Rams), Derby County second and West Brom third. Good old Wolves are in there with a chance.

So, what will be the outcome? Chatting with my friendly butcher earlier today (who is a Villain*) he admitted that it would be really great if Aston Villa could have some company in the Premiership. Of course, I am thinking that what he really means is that Villa need some teams up there they stand a chance of winning a game against! Anyway, I am not going to predict the outcome but I would really like to see the Blues and West Brom gain automatic promotion with the Wolves winning the play offs for the third place. Go Midlands!

(*Villain = Aston Villa fan)

Texas Photos uploaded onto Flickr

A concerted effort to upload all the scanned images taken in Texas over the years has begun. Lightroom is making it easier to manage this process. Here's a taste:
The Alabama Theater, Houston

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Ring with many Corners?

The current jostling for position in the mega-tech world of Google, Microsoft, etc. is beginning to look a lot like a boxing ring but with more than four corners. The convergence of the internet, communications, entertainment, media, personal space and more will see some interesting face offs and alliances in the future. Increasingly it is no longer a hardware race but one of competing ideas, knowledge, know how and initiative.

Proof of this is Apple Computer Inc. dropping the "Computer" from its corporate name this past January.

Increasingly the profit margins on hardware wil shrink (even on iPods!) while new sources of revenue will take over. Companies like Dell will become the dinosaurs, providing cheap computers and peripherals. Companies like Google will challenge the likes of Microsoft with web based office software. The music industry will eventually cave in on digital rights management (DRM) and see their turnover and sales grow again. Personal space on the internet will continue to explode, first blogging, then photo-sharing, now videos, what next?

Those companies that can predict the "what next?" will be those who can innovate and not stay stuck in the ruts of yesterday's glory days. Here are my predictions:

Google will continue to be the pathfinder but will find life increasingly difficult now that it has become part of the establishment. Expect competitors and governments to file law suits at regular intervals!

Apple has demonstrated it has a pipeline of symbiotic products and services and the ability to negotiate those all important alliances. It's biggest challenge is to dispose of DRM (something Steve Jobs says he wants to happen soon). And keeping the hardware and operating system under one roof doesn't seem to be such a bad idea after all!

Yahoo will benefit simply by being the number two to Google. But it is likely always to remain number 2.

Microsoft has the inertia of ExxonMobil and will not fall too far. But, as pointed out in one of yesterday's posts, Microsoft shareholders cannot be happy with no growth. There's a big difference between not falling and growing.

Dell, HP, Sony and others will have to do something very different in order to maintain position. They are no longer proactive players in the tech world.

The media, in general, is facing up to the changes in the way its content is being distributed. Some media companies will do a lot better than others. Those with vision, but not necessarily television.

Telecommunications will continue to change the way technology is used. The iPhone may be a watershed in this respect but not much more than that. Expect hand held technology to be the next spurt of technological change, such that a 2007 iPhone will likely look decidedly quaint by 2010! As to those multiple button phones - who knows where they will end up!

Media companies who believe their customers are crooks will quietly fade away. DRM is on its way out. Senseless barriers like DVD Regions will disappear eventually. The media companies who made the early alliances (Disney, for example) will likely lead the pack into the new world.

That's my brief look into the crystal ball. I won't be right, of course, but I probably won't be too far wrong either!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

BBC to compete with iTunes?

This article in the Daily Telegraph suggests that the BBC is to compete head on with Apple's iTunes. This is an interesting development in that there is supposed to be a consultative period while the BBC Trust hears from non-Microsoft users about a proposal to have the iPlayer (Windows compatible BBC video player) make shows available for 7 days.

I did a search on US iTunes for "BBC" and 148 items show up. These are mostly podcasts that can be subscribed to free of charge though some items do cost $1.99 a piece. It is strange that a non-profit organization would compete with a commercial company and I hope the Telegraph has got it wrong.

Meantime I can find nothing on the BBC's own website to confirm this. Hmmm.

Frequent or Infrequent Upgrades?

Microsoft and Apple have one thing in common - they each offer a commercial operating system for personal computers, respectively Windows and OS X. Even though the visual experience might suggest otherwise, the companies' strategies are quite different. Apple produces regular upgrades in the form of various large cats - Leopard, Tiger, Panther, etc. while Microsoft has not, until now. Windows XP may have had numerous security updates and patches but it has served its community well without significant upgrades. Perhaps too well. Now that Vista is out it appears that Microsoft is having a hard time getting major clients to upgrade. The US Department of Transportation is a case in point. Reason for not adopting Vista in the near future is due to a major move into new quarters which would cause overload within its IT support. This would seem reasonable but, in reading between the lines, it is apparent that US DoT has simply got used to Windows XP, all its quirks and security problems notwithstanding.

So perhaps the criticisms aimed at Apple for introducing frequent upgrades (and charging for them) may be misguided. Apple has created an appetite for the latest version of OS X. Windows appears to have not done so with Vista. Time will tell, of course, and eventually the bandwagon will roll forward, bringing huge revenues to Mr. Softy. Meantime, MSFT's stock continues to languish in the high $20s. During the past five years when Vista has been in the making, MSFT has lost value (not counting inflation) while AAPL has risen 600%.

Here is more confirmation that Vista will gain acceptance but slowly: Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO, says that Intel will wait until Service Pack 1 is released in the second half of 2007. Read the last two paragraphs of this article.

Latest: Grass Canals!

As reported in the Express and Star, the canals in the West Midlands are currently manifesting a coating of green algae that looks a lot like grass. So much so that a driver of a new BMW thought he could park on it! With dire consequences as this short movie demonstrates.

Thanks to Brumblog for the link!

Claire Martin and the CBSO

Last Friday night we braved the rain and kept our date with "Ella Fitzgerald" at Symphony Hall. Claire Martin offered an excellent rendering of the many Ella Fitzgerald classics including some fine scat singing. The finale was a let down, however, as she surrendered the microphone to an audience who failed to live up to her exhortations to "join in".

As always, the CBSO played a superb role in providing support in an environment that is a far cry from a jazz club. Several guest players, obviously well known to the orchestra, joined the "band" and provided jazz skills in the brass and rythym sections.

A thought: I wrote "Symphony Hall" above without a definitive article. This appears to be the correct style but I wonder if it is derived from a belief that the fine auditorium stands alone and therefore does not require the "the". It seems to beg the question "which Symphony Hall?" which in turn prompts the thought "if you need to ask then you obviously don't know much!" Incidentally, a Google search for "Symphony Hall" lists Birmingham at the top, FWIW!