Saturday, 23 April 2011

Internet on my TV

Whoopee. I have now two good ways to get internet on my TV. My home system looks like this

Screen shot 2011-04-24 at 17.28.59.png

Everything that is possible is connected by wireless.

1 Using an Apple TV connected by an HDMI cable, this gives me streaming of movies from my computer (MacBook), access directly to iTunes movies, YouTube etc. But it did not give me the BBC iPlayer as they have neither done a deal with Apple to put the software on the Apple TV, nor do they allow the web site video to be streamed from my iPad by AirPlay (get with it BBC)

2 By connecting my TV, a Sony Bravia, by ethernet to broadband. The way I do this is genius... I have a home router and a WiFi network, everything in my home works by WiFi , music, browsing, movies.... Anyway what I did was to use an Apple Express. This connects to my network and lets me both stream music to my HiFi system from my iPad or MacBook, and it also provides an ethernet output which I have connected to my TV! So putting the TV on-line.

It works a treat. Now we have all the services provided by Sony on our TV.

3 And I can play music from my iPad (iPod) or my MacBook (iTunes). Stream video from my iPad (Video or any other program supporting Airplay) or MacBook (iTunes) to the TV. And control the iTunes on my MacBook remotely from the iPad or iPhone. I can also send photos between the iPad, iPhone and MacBook (Photosync), on the iPad and iPone the photos go straight to the Photo app, on the MacBook they go to either iPhoto or Aperture.

These blog pages can be written from either the MacBook (MarsEdit) or the iPad (BlogPress).


Our cars are emitting huge amounts of pollutants. And we are doing more and more miles.

The pollutants from vehicle exhausts are

1 Nitrogen Oxide

2 PM10 - or tiny particles

This pollution is always there! Just because the sun is shining do we see it as the Nitrogen Oxide breaks down in sunlight to form Ozone. And this give SMOG.

We are facing a £300M fine from the EU because of our pollution levels, and if we want to cure this we have to drive less, or use less polluting cars and trucks - i.e. smaller and more efficient engines. Cutting speed limits would also help a lot.

In France and Italy they have a similar problem, but there they allow cars with even number plates to drive on one day, and odd ones on another...

So when will we see the government mandate something like this?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Apple TV - yes an a actual TV

I have been pondering about system solution for Apple to provide household TV viewing. It involves a number of products which would work together

1 A Mac
2 A NEW Time Capsule
3 An iPad or iPhone
4 A NEW product, which is a digital TV receiver, either terrestrial or satellite, with WiFi streaming output
5 An Apple TV plus display, either separate or integrated

Screen shot 2011-04-21 at 18.47.28.png

And the good thing is everything is wireless. The Time Capsule sits by your phone in the hall, the STB is in the loft, the Mac is in your study, the iPad is on your lap, the Apple TV is in your lounge (and you could have others in other rooms!), The HiFi amplifier is in your lounge (and you could have others in other rooms!).

How would it work?

The minimum system would be

+ iPad as a remote control, bit expensive but it will have miriad other uses - for example viewing web sites associated with the program you are watching, like statistics while listening to politicians pontificating on Question Time!
+ An Apple TV/Display
+ The TV Receiver

This would allow you to watch TV and browse the web, it would also get you iTunes movies and YouTube, and BBC iPlayer if they decide to support AirPlay WiFi streaming (iPad to Apple TV)

A alternative system could replace the iPad with a Mac computer, and add DVR capability.

A high end solution would add a new version of Time Capsule. This would be a DVR, a WiFi router, a backup and an iTunes library. It coukd also run iTunes itself so you don't need a Mac in the video/audio media centre solution.

So there we are. And if you want icing on the cake let's have an audio amplifier with built-in AirPlay and remote volume control, with a high end performance.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What about the AV voting system?

Here's a few of my thoughts on the subject of the proposed AV voting system which will be decided by referendum on May 5th.

A new kind of government?

One of the background issues which we need to think about is how to turn our government from backward, firefighting, just massaging complex social issues after a criminal or dispute shock... to a kind of government which is a ahead of the curve in instituting those things we care about. We need an opposition which contributes, not just tries to find ways of shooting the government down.

We need core values underpinning everything. We need a focus on policies that make us happier and richer, not on bickering and in-fighting.

We need a vision driven government, who gets things settled before they become entangled, or cost a fortune or stimulate street riots. More a government of consensus, bottom up opinion gathering feeding central policy making.

How could we do this?

Well one of the steps is by changing our electoral system, to get more open thinkers, a wider range of skills into parliament. To bounce out the pathetic old stooges who haunt the chamber and make aggrandising, but totally un-contributory speeches ("In my day...", "I am opposed..."), replacing them with people who think and contribute ("I checked back with my constituents and...", "For this reason I believe we should...", "Why not let's try it this way?", "Let's ask people again and get some clear views...")

We need to get these better skills in power by forcing us, the public, to better evaluated the people standing, as people. With AV we will have to do this because we have to rank them based on their personality and know-how, not just rely on voting for a party, no matter who is elected. Often politicians think that they are elected because they have personally convinced the government of their ability, but they have in reality hidden behind the 'manifesto' and 'party' monica.

Just think about your MP, does he have the skills needed today, is he young, active and widely knowledgeable. Or is he the old foggy that has been conservative candidate for 25 years and has probably got left behind by today's issues and decisions? Has he any new ideas, or is he just a mouth peice for the leadership and manifesto?


We can hope. Hope that AV may bring about more free votes in parliament, less rigid party politics, less slave following of the manifesto, less reliance on whip driven voting. The current coalition is in some way pointing the way forward.

In other words we need a much wider range of candidates and more free voting.

As you can guess I will be voting "YES".

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Solar PV investments - worth it?

Is it a good idea to invest in Solar PV?

Not from an 'environmental do-goody' point of view, nor from the simple point of view of saving a bit of your electricity cost, but from the financial investment point of view.

Let's look at some numbers

A medium sized array of 6 panels will cost about £9000, this will generate 890 kWp/year, of electricity. For this power the government currently says your electricity supplier will pay you (a FIT, feed-in.tariff) of 43p/kWh, or in this example around £382/yr, and this will increase by the RPI every year. You get this money in cash not as a rebate or credit, no tax. If you generate more than you use from your current supplier, so you export some electricity, they will buy this at an additional payment 1.5p. And of course what you generate you do not have to buy from your supplier, this not earnings on the investment but it is a saving of your living costs (never confuse the two). All in all the sums look like this

FIT @43p/kWh = £380/yr
Investment = £9000

So a return of 4.2%… not so hot. But there are a range of suppliers and some say they can increase the Solar PV yield up to £450/yr giving 5%. Plus, remember the saving you make by not having to buy some of your electricity at around 13p from an outside supplier, i.e. saving costs. And don't forget the FIT increases by the RPI every year.

But now for the arguments

1 Performance and equipment

Solar panels are very new technology and there is consequently no long term experience of how the output goes down with time, best estimates are that after 25years the output will go down to less than 80% of the original - a 20% loss in FIT income.

Guarantees on the DC-AC converters are at best only 10 years, so who knows if you will need to buy a new one after that?

2 What the government says.

I queried the reliability of the FIT legislation, critical to the decision to invest to get the 5% return. Will it really be guaranteed for 25 years as all the suppliers say?

I got a letter back from Gregory Baker, Minister of State of the Dept of Energy & Climate Change. He says:

1 The coalition is committed to FITs (whoopee).

2 There will be periodic reviews to assess how the scheme is working (for the government, not for me!)

3 They could then make changes, to see if Solar PV makes a continuing real contribution to government renewable and other targets, and that the scheme gives value for money (again for the government not for me!)

4 2010 spending review committed to save 10% of the cost of FITs in 2014-15, or earlier if too many people take up the scheme (!). But still provide "value for money" (whose money?) by keeping costs down (i.e. my FIT payments?) and giving industry certainty to invest (i.e. not costing them too much to pay my FITs)

5 FITs are supposed to give certainty to investors (I believe this means the electricity companies and solar suppliers, not me???)

6 The "intention" is that future changes to FITs will apply only to investments made after any spending review… FITs for existing installations will be maintained. THAT MAY BE THE GOOD NEWS.

But the export tariff, the 1.5p you get for supplying electricity back to your supplier, could change.

7 When the scheme was introduced it said the tariffs would be paid for 25 years for Solar PV (See

8 Future governments could change any/everything


The guarantee of 25 years FIT payments increasing by the RIP is wooly. It looks good as long as the government does not change its mind. It allows for inflation, but put this against the 20% loss of power from the panels over their 25 year life. So it depends on how much you trust the government, or future governments and how the panels perform.

The export tariff will undoubtedly change at each review.

Shaky feeling

I still have a shaky feeling about this. Especially as the government approach seems to be seeing things from the point of view of their policy and the interest of industry, and not at all from my point of view. But it is me they are asking to invest.