The Invention of Lying

Last night B and I saw The Invention of Lying. Something I found very interesting was how they handled lies of omission. They took an almost pathological approach of avoiding lies of omission, meaning all the characters really did say exactly what was on their mind at all times. It made for some very interesting scenes! There was a whole slew of cameos too — I was very pleased to see John Hodgman and Tina Fey among them.

If you haven’t seen it, I think it’s very worthy of Netflixing.

I’m a spot color guy living in a process color world

Growing up in a print shop gives me a unique knowledge of all things print. Stray too far outside of the spot color domain however and I have to start getting resourceful.

My family’s business has always used offset presses. And even while they have T-heads to enable the simultaneous printing of 2 colors — the ink has always been Pantone spot colors. This means that whatever we designed, be it on the old negative-creating typesetter circa 1980 or Adobe InDesign, would come out black-and-white in the end to be “converted” to a single spot color on the presses. [Aside: I’m not even going to get into the use of halftone screens and the camera in order to make printable photos — lets just gloss all over that and say it all ended up in black and white.] At no time did I ever need to delve into the process color domain. I knew it existed, I grok the basic concepts, but I didn’t have to concern myself with it.

Recently Benjamin was designing a banner in Inkscape that was to be printed by a 3rd party vendor who specifically requested the document be in CMYK. I dug around and discovered that while Inkscape has some tentative support for CMYK, it is unable to export EPS files in that color space. The work-around is to import the SVG file into Scribus and create the EPS from there as Scribus has better color management support. The tricky part is that Benjamin had used three high-resolution JPEGs in the SVG — JPEGs that were in the sRGB color space. I attempted to use jpegicc utility from littlecms to convert the image from the sRGB color space to a CMYK color space using an Adobe ICC file which succeeded. However, viewing these images did not give me a comfortable feeling that they would look good in print. I ended up punting the work altogether and asked a friend to use Adobe PhotoShop to do the conversion. I was then able to do the Inkscape -> Scribus route to get the final EPS format.

The banner was reported shipped yesterday. Hopefully my color space wrangling worked and it’ll look good upon arrival.

TakeTime take 2

Today IBM announced that, like last year, they’ll be offering the TakeTime program. Once again — I’m very tempted by the possibility.

This year our life circumstances are a little different which will certainly impact the decision to take advantage of the program. This year is my 10th year at IBM meaning I get an extra week of vacation so I’m not as tight for vacation as I was last year. Also unlike last year, we’re in a different part of the development cycle for my product, so it might be more challenging to get management approval. If all goes well, Benjamin will have a full-time job this summer which should make things cash flow a great deal better, but sadly also means that it would be unlikely we could use it for vacation as he would have just started working. And I have high hopes that I might, just might, get some sort of a raise this year which certainly wouldn’t hurt cash-flow wise either.

The first step is to touch base with my manager to see if my management team would even consider the possibility before I get my hopes up too high!

A TED report on Earth Day

Last weekend while Benjamin was working, I decided to determine two things:

  • our electricity usage baseline
  • which devices contributed to that baseline and by how much

Like any performance analysis you need to start with a baseline: where are we now. I wanted to see how much electricity in kW our house was using with everything turned off. Of course “everything” isn’t, well, everything — it’s everything you decide to have explicit control over. For instance – while I’m all about reducing our electricity usage, I’m not going to go around unplugging our microwave, oven, washing machine, and alarm clocks at every turn. All of these devices use some amount of electricity to display clocks or respond to the ‘on’ button.

So with every reasonable thing unplugged or turned off on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I loaded up my good friend TED and observed that we use ~0.168 kW. I then went through the house with my Kill-a-Watt to find out which of those always-plugged-in devices were using power and how much. Here’s what I found:

  • UPS = 34 watts
  • 3 alarm clocks @ 5 watts = 15 watts
  • 1 microwave = 7 watts
  • 1 wireless router = 5 watts

That only accounts for 61 watts, or 36% of our baseline. There are several other devices which I know use some power but I didn’t get to measure yet due to it being a pain to get to them:

  • cable modem (always on)
  • 5-port hub (always on)
  • oven (has digital clock)
  • washing machine (non-physical switch)
  • dryer (non-physical switch)
  • hot water heater (gas unit but plugs into wall too)
  • garage door opener
  • radon mitigation attic fan (always on)

Sadly, the UPS does not have a physical switch so even after turning it off the only way to stop it drawing power is to unplug it and it’s simply not worth the effort to me at this point.

Our current electric rate is $0.11883 per kW, so the smallest our electric bill could possibly be (excluding service fees and taxes) is $14.37 (0.168 kWh * 24 hours per day = 4.032 kW per day * 0.11883 = $0.47 per day * 30 days per month = $14.37 per month). Granted, we have to actually live in the house, so it will never be that low, but that give me our lower bound.

During the past few weeks I discovered some other interesting datapoints:

  • My computer, which is on at least 9 hours every day, only uses around 30 watts.
  • Benjamin’s hair dryer uses ~1 kW – which explains why the time he gets ready for work is often our peak kW usage during the day unless we turn on the oven…
  • The oven uses ~3 kW.
  • The clothes dryer uses ~3 kW off and on throughout its cycle and drops down to ~1 kW at other times. That’s unsurprising once you think about it – you’re not baking your clothes, you’re introducing hot air, tossing the clothes around a bit, and then more hot air.
  • The iPhone charger, as well as most other wall-worts, don’t actually use electricity unless they are being used. I was under the incorrect impression that these AC/DC converters would use some small amount of electricity while plugged in but not being used.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the electricity usage changes this summer when our AC kicks in.

Inkscape development dependencies on Fedora 12

Just FYI, if you’re wanting to compile Inkscape from source, you’ll need (at least) the following dependency RPMs on Fedora 12:

  • gc-devel
  • glib-devel
  • gtk+-devel
  • gsl-devel
  • libxml
  • libxml-devel
  • poppler-devel
  • poppler-glib-devel
  • libsigc++20-devel
  • glibmm24-devel
  • cairomm-devel
  • pangomm-devel
  • gtkmm24-devel
  • ghostscript
  • ghostscript-devel
  • jasper-devel
  • ImageMagick-devel
  • ImageMagick-c++-devel
  • libwpd-devel
  • libwpg-devel

Hospital visitation for gays

Mid-February I posted about about my concerns regarding hospital visitation rights for Benjamin and I should something occur. Obama must have read my blog post, because yesterday, only 2 months later, he instructed his health secretary to make it happen. The new rules will only apply to hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid which is most of them according to the NY Times. I suppose any hospital who decides they don’t want to comply can just stop participating in those programs (and good riddance if they close because of it).

My family sincerely thanks you Mr. President.

My new friend TED

From my IBM bonus this year we purchased Benjamin’s college ring and my new friend TED 5000. TED is short for The Energy Detective – a device that installs in the electrical box in your house to measure the electricity usage. After a bit of wrangling yesterday1 I was able to get it installed and working and can geekily report that as I type this, we’re using 0.258 kWh. A point in time measurement is interesting and can be somewhat useful (it was educational for instance when we turned on the oven last night and the usage jumped an entire kWh) but trending data is much valuable and TED does that too.

The TED Footprints interface is accessed directly from a browser on the local LAN which renders it less useful for showing others. Thankfully the TED 5000 works with Google PowerMeter so I can know how much electricity we’re using when I’m not even there. That takes geeking to a whole new level.2

Armed with TED and another new geeky tool called the Kill-A-Watt I’m getting a much better picture of where we’re using and wasting electricity. Benjamin just shakes his head and loves me anyway.

More data and revelations to come I’m sure.

1 There are two pieces to the TED 5000: the MTU which sits in your electrical panel and the Gateway which plugs an electrical outlet and connects to your router. The MTU gathers the data and sends it to the Gateway using Power Line Communication (PLC). To do this the MTU connects to both A and B 120V sides of the power line so no matter which side the Gateway is plugged into, it can receive the PLC signal [aside: I’m probably using not-exactly-correct electrical terms here — there’s a reason I went Computer Science instead of Computer Engineering]. Unfortunately some devices, like UPSs, can obliterate the PLC signal if it’s on the same circuit. This was initially my problem as the most convenient outlet to plug the Gateway into was on the same circuit as the UPS for my computer. If I unplugged the UPS it worked great. If the UPS was plugged into wall, it stopped working. Drat. Thankfully the cables into our breakers are well labeled and I was able to locate an outlet in the basement that was on the A side not on the B side with my computer equipment. I plugged the Gateway into the A-side outlet, connected the MTU only to the breaker servicing that outlet and off we went.

2 Google’s too mainstream to be truly geeky. This takes us to a whole new level: the entire set of trending data is available through an API. Some folks have already developed some cool 3rd party apps, including an iPhone app. It should be pretty simple to develop a gnome-based applet that reports my real-time kWh usage via these APIs. More things to play with in my non-existent spare time!