Solar Tech

I’ve always had a weird fascination with solar technology. Solar panels have become increasingly more popular these days as an option to conventional electricity generation approaches. By utilizing solar panels, we are able to harness the power from the sun and use it to produce power for everything from a 12 volt refrigerator to pool liners for inground pools used for heating the water. Have you ever noticed solar panel covered rooftops or school zone signs with solar power panels on top and asked yourself exactly how these solar panels do the job and what’s happening “behind the panels?”

Let us examine precisely what solar panels are made up of and just how the solar panel concept works…

Solar panel engineering is dependent on two types of solar heat collection: solar energy collectors and solar cells. Because practically all home and diy solar panel projects make use of solar cells, we will give attention to the solar cell technology. Solar cells, also referred to as photovoltaic cells, are what make up a photovoltaic panel, more commonly known as a solar panel. Don’t allow the word photovoltaic scare you. Let us break it down: photo=light and voltaic=electricity (consider volt or voltage). In simple terms, it’s symbolizing the thought of transforming light into electricity.

Those photovoltaic cells are mostly made up of a semi-conductor, most often silicon. I am sure you have read about silicon, and are actually utilizing the technology at this time… in your personal computer! Silicon, found in microprocessors in every single computer around the globe, is an extremely common semi-conductor, which means it has the capability to conduct energy. As light hits these silicon filled PV cells, the solar powered energy is soaked up and a current is created inside the cell. By simply stringing together these PV cells into a solar panel, as well as putting contacts on the exterior of this panel, we’re able to make use of this electrical current.

So now we know how solar panels work. What happens now?

After we have the solar panels wired and functioning with each other, they should be deliberately placed in order to assure they are subjected to maximum sunlight. In the event of using solar panels in your home, the rooftop will be the best option for the solar panels. It is crucial to pay close attention to the placement and angle of the panels to guarantee the solar panels work at their maximum effectiveness. If perhaps one of the solar cells is not completely subjected to sunlight, it can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the whole panel. Additionally it is fairly common to adjust the angle of the solar panels during the year to keep the solar panels exposed to sunshine throughout the diverse seasons. This may or may not be necessary for you dependent upon your own setup. Also, for those who have some type of antenna on their roof, it may be necessary to first move it to another location so no interference is present.

At this time we have produced electricity, however the process is not finished yet. Just to be able to make use of this energy in your home, we have to first manipulate the current from a direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC). To get this done, we could use an inverter, that converts this electricity into an AC current so the air compressor you just purchased can help you finish that new fence or that UV nail dryer your teenage daughter just picked up at the mall can be used. Another step is to be sure you keep this energy for instances when either there is little if any sunlight, such as at nighttime. This could be done by saving this energy in deep-cycling batteries. Deep cycling batteries enable you to completely charge and recharge your batteries so that you can draw a tiny amount of current spanning a long time span. This is different from a car battery, in which you require a larger boost for a short duration, such as when you start your vehicle.

The next time you observe solar panels at work, you will realize that it is in fact several panels installed together. If you happen to look carefully enough, you can observe the individual PV cells that comprise each solar panel. Additionally, pay attention to the position of the panels. Look to see how others have maximized the solar panels exposure to sunlight, by way of the height, angle, and position of the panel so that the solar panels can work most efficiently.

Sisyphus – The Modern Computer Game Developer

There is no question that the computer gaming industry has become an amazing one, producing products that literally allow people and players to immerse themselves for hours and hours in imagination. Unfortunately, the industry is also very fickle, demanding new products almost immediately after a current one is released. Ergo the life of the game developer is a bitter one, never producing enough of a product to gain a proper amount of rest or relief.

Constant Upgrading

Just release a video game is not enough. Particularly with online games, regular updates and changes are needed. Fixes need to be implemented to deal with new bugs and fixes, closing down loopholes that some players are taking advantage of, hacks that compromise customers’ accounts, and general improvement of the game with periodic changes. Boredom is the biggest enemy of any company that relies on video gamers to keep coming back, so change is the best way to keep things interesting.

Replacing Products

Games generally fall into two categories: online gaming clients and platforms, and standalone products for home or PC use. The second category is a huge market that requires amazing products to be released and then be followed up by complete replacements soon after. Each version has to be a stand alone package with amazing development far exceeding the earlier version or similar competitors. That means producing a new level of graphics, an entire story line, a system that may be compatible with existing platforms or usher in a new one, and cost-effective versus pricing. For the developer the whole process is a challenging task that often produces burnout after just producing the first game, much less a second or third one soon after.

The Resume Chase

To make matters more frustrating, job-hopping is common and expectations are high. Employers only consider recent work the most, so a developer is only as good as his last game produced. If the product was a market flop, then it doesn’t bode well for a developer who may be wanting to jump to a new prospect. In fact, it could lock him down until the next project becomes a success that can be quoted and claimed.

So?

The game developer’s job is a brutal one, driven by stress and frustration as well as high expectations. The best stars last only so long before burnout catches up with them physically, so there is always room for replacement. It’s a thankless job.

Camping at Crater Lake

Ever since I was a little boy I remember the many times I spent camping out at Crater Lake with my family, there was always something fun, interesting, and simply magical about the atmosphere. It had actually been quite some time since I had last spent a short get away weekend away from my hectic work schedule and as such, was nearing the point of a much needed mini vacation. Coincidentally I had some time off from my job as a game developer at a major game studio. Seeing this window of opportunity I seized it and took the time off, I was even thinking about taking an extra day.

Although it was only mid day I couldn’t keep myself from being excited about this vacation, even though it was only going to be myself and my Golden Retriever Sparky. Nonetheless, the end of the workday finally arrived and I was finally on my way to a long weekend of relaxing and enjoying nature at it’s finest.

Upon arriving and glancing at the brochures the man at the front desk had given to me I immediately noticed that there were a ton of different activities to enjoy. Rather it was swimming and/or taking in a tour of the area by boat it was plain to see that nature could fondly be enjoyed no matter what the weather was like.

While the area activities were considered to be seasonal I was looking forward to enjoying the full benefits as it was towards the end of June so summer was in full swing. However, for now it was time to pitch my tent as it was getting close to night fall.

sparkyAfter staying in the rest of my first night I decided to explore the area for myself and get the lay of the land, Opting for a nice soothing nature walk to start the day Sparky and I were well on the beginning of our Crater Lake adventure, and what a beautiful day it was. With the sun shining brightly and the warm breeze blowing it was not long before we had made our way to the area lake.

Set against a backdrop of mountainous scenery the lake was quite a wonder to look upon with its blue inviting waters so peaceful and still. Even though I knew that swimming was allowed it were as though the soothing waters had offered a personal invite to Sparky and I. It was in this moment when I made up my mind to go back to the campsite to get my swimming gear as well as Sparky’s doggie life jacket that he was used to wearing. Next time, we’ll upgrade his to the Ruffwear K9 model which Life Jacket Advisor recommends. His is getting a bit beat up.

Things went on this way for the remainder of my vacation and with a few small restaurants around the area I was glad that there was no need for me to take time to prepare my meals myself, furthermore, it was the perfect weekend because it was summer and there were no storms in the forecast.

Despite the fact that the drive to Crater Lake was a bit annoying to say the least the staff was helpful as there was a particular point on the way when I got lost due to the construction built detour that had messed the roads up badly. One of the best things was that their “open door policy” remained the same as I had always remembered it: no need to set a reservation. All in all, I was glad that I was able to take the mini vacation when I was able to because (as remembered) the scenery was worth the trip itself.

Facebook – Epic FAIL

When it happened, I didn’t know I was part of a movement or that I was protesting anything. I just quit Facebook because it was an epic fail for me.

Reactions varied. When I told people that I had gotten rid of my social media account, the responses ranged from incredulous (“But everyone has Facebook!”) to simply curious (“How do you stay in touch with people?”). One of my co-workers, though, told me that he was thinking of quitting, too, and he pointed me to some website where tons of people were pledging to quit Facebook with the same zeal and determination that drivers pledge to quit texting and driving. Huh.

Without knowing it, I had done something that’s a bit of a trend.

As a computer game developer and someone who cares about the environment, I don’t care much about trends. I leave that to the teenagers and hipsters who seem to inhabit every café in Oakland. I’m not even sure how I feel about being trendy. If that’s the price I need to pay, though, I’m still going through with it. Since getting away from Facebook, I’ve discovered too many benefits:

  1. Time is no longer a black hole. If anyone had asked me a year ago how much time I spent on Facebook, I would honestly have said “not much.” Well, call me Pinocchio because it must have been a lot more than I had thought. Without Facebook, I suddenly have more time to hit the gym, get a little creative on date night, or even catch a few extra hours of sleep.
  2. I’m suddenly doing real stuff. And it turns out that checking my iPhone for updates is not as much fun as hiking along the ocean, picking up a guitar, or going for a jog. Who would have guessed it?
  3. My friends are suddenly real. There’s a reason they call it FAKEBOOK. Once I quit, I never heard from some of my online friends again. Last week, though, some of my real friends showed up with wine and food for a cookout.  Sharing stories over food and guitar? Yes, please.
  4. I don’t feel like crap. Ok, my life is pretty good, but Facebook sure is not designed to make you feel better. Looking at all those photos of everybody having an amazing, perfect life online makes me compare my life to theirs, and that’s not something I need.  Facebook is about as realistic as glossy tabloids. And I don’t read them, either.
  5. I worry less about social media fallout. Whenever I hear about someone who accidentally posted pants-less pictures of themselves online or lost a job because their Facebook was filled with pictures of them smoking up and giving the one-finger salute, I roll my eyes. It’s 2014, how do we not know how to use social media without posting way too much information about ourselves? Still, with Facebook posts ending marriages, wrecking lawsuits, and losing people jobs, I don’t want to take the risk. Now, I don’t have to.

I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon and quit all social media – or live in a cabin in the woods to get away from technology. I’m not penning a Luddite manifesto with a pen crafted from twigs. I’m just bringing a breath of fresh air into my life by getting rid of something that was a fail for me anyway. No more annoying updates, inane comments, or trying to get a picture just to post it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a life to go lead.

My Quest to Eat Healthier

Let’s face it. A lot of us who make a living working in front of a computer screen all day don’t exactly have the best eating habits. For me, keeping a well-balance diet has been difficult (to say the least) for my busy lifestyle, but I realized my unhealthy habits are taking a toll on my health. I’ve been feeling a lot more tired, have constant headaches, and I know I know I could lose a few pounds so I’ve decided it’s time. Time to eat healthier, exercise, and break some bad habits.

My bad habits include stopping at fast food restaurants on my way home from work due to not having much time to eat at work and becoming too hungry. Also, heading out to them when I need a late-night snack. Sometimes I find myself stopping for a basket full of barbequed chicken with sides of mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits and a large Coke to down everything. I guess you can also say I’ve become an emotional eater, but now my eating and bad habits are taking over my life and my health.

A few days ago, I sat down with a friend of mine who’s a certified nutritionist to come up with a healthier eating plan. However, she also recommended I see a therapist for emotional support since my eating habits stem from my emotions. Well I didn’t see a shrink but we discussed healthier habits for replacing the bad ones I have developed over time.

One of the healthy habits I’ve started doing is writing down what exactly I’m doing/feeling when I’m craving some no-so-good food. It seems to be helping a lot to just get stuff down on paper. I also started doing exercise in place chowing down food when I have a craving, such as going for a swim, hiking, or taking my dog Charlie for a walk. I do find I spend less time “emotionally” eating by doing stuff like that. I used to play all sorts of sports back in high school so I soon realized exercise is actually something I really enjoyed. I shelled out some money for a pair of running shoes for my bad back and started walking daily. My goal is a to complete a 5k run next summer.

As far as my healthier eating plan my friend and I came up with, it’s going well. I stick to creating meals around whole foods such as dairy, fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, seeds and nuts, and whole grains. When I feel the need to stop for fast food after work, I visit the grocery store instead and pick up a piece of fruit or some veggie sticks with a single serving of milk to drink. It’s been much healthier and has actually been helping me lose weight. However, I still have my days when I feel the need to stop for some fast food. On those days, it takes everything I got inside me just to stay away. I have slipped up a few times already, but I’m always able to get back on track fast.

Best of all, my back is feeling better and I’m no longer having to use my neck traction device which I’ve been using since a bad car accident over a decade ago. That was a huge bonus. My chiropractor told me because of my change in diet, it may have also reduced inflammation in my neck as it did for my back. It’s crazy to think just how much of an effect food has on our bodies.

I’ve also learned that staying away from the middle aisles in the grocery store is key to eating a healthier diet with foods that actually nourish my body. I’ve learned that junk food only makes everything worse and healthy foods will actually heal my body so I have less behavioral issues such as mood swings and depression. When you nourish the body you are actually nourishing the mind and you do become less emotional, which helps with staying on track. Well, at least that’s what my nutritionist fried told me. The best thing in all of this is that because I helped her move a couple months ago, she agreed to provide her services for free. That was awesome news once I learned how much they charge.

My best advice to give those struggling with a busy lifestyle and emotional eating is to get help from outside sources so you can get the support you need to get your life and health back on track. Whether you get professional help or just spend some time Googling, you’ll learn a lot about yourself.

Considering Run Flats?

When I got my Leaf earlier this year, I promptly got my first flat tire. There’s nothing more annoying than heading to an appointment and feeling the wobble of the steering wheel because of a flat. This got me thinking about getting a set of run flat tires. Here’s what I discovered.

A run-flat tire is designed to keep running even after the tire has run out of air. This technology was created to buy motorists some time so that they can drive to a safer place to change a flat. Although this type of technology has it many benefits, it also has its cons as well namely price and sometime handling performance. The biggest benefit is that drivers can keep driving on a flat tire without fear of being stranded.There are three general types of run-flat tires and they are:

Self supporting – This type of run-flat tire has sidewalls that are much stronger than regular tires. This design was created to allow the sidewalls to bear the weight of your vehicle after it has lost air pressure. Self supporting run-flat tires also have a specially designed bead that ensures that the wheel rim is being protected in the event of a flat. However, the hard sidewall makes for an uncomfortable ride and the heavier tires will negatively affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Auxiliary supported – When a flat occurs, this type of run-flat tire ensures that the tread of the tire rests on a support ring that is attached to the wheel. They were designed in this manner to that the load is taken off of the flat so that you may continue driving your vehicle. This type of run flat tire are lighter than self supporting run flat tires but they are also more expensive and require special wheels.

Self sealing – This type of run-flat type has a special lining of sealant under the tread that automatically seals smalls holes as they occur. If a nail is embedded in your tire, the lining will seal the hole after the foreign object is removed. Unfortunately, the self sealing run-flat tire’s best asset may also be it’s biggest flaw. With this type of run-flat tire, you may drive your vehicle for a long time without realizing that it has been punctured. Nails, for example, can create bigger holes when left in tires for long periods of time which can be problematic for the sealant.

my-flatLike all things, these types of tires have their pros and cons but the positives far outweigh the negatives for some people. Personally, I still use regular tires on my car as the price doesn’t justify the convenience factor and I actually enjoy the process of changing a flat.

That said, I don’t use the cheap scissor lift jack to lift up the car. Ever since my autocrossing days, I’ve used a good impact wrench connected to my air compressor from Harbor Freight to make changing tires a breeze! All in all, run-flat tires can be a good choice for some people at delaying the time consuming hassle that is the flat tire but it may not be for everyone.

Planning for Baby

For those that don’t know me on a personal level, my longtime girlfriend and I found out a few weeks ago she’s pregnant! Craziness… I know. I never thought I’d be a daddy but I’m stoked! Since I’ll all about research, I was assigned the task of planning the nursery. With technological advances in every aspect of our lives is it any wonder the baby nursery is also becoming an area of the home that takes on the appearance of a starship’s cockpit. Some tech gadgets for the nursery are just fun and others are highly beneficial in making sure your baby remains safe at all times. Here is a list of several high tech nursery accessories that will be at the top of our baby registry (hint… hint):

  • Crib Monitor – There are a wide variety of brands that produce crib monitors. The monitor helps detect every moment of the baby while it lies in the crib. If the monitor does not detect a slight movement every 20 seconds, an alarm will sound. An indispensable addition to any nursery, a crib monitor can help alert you if your baby stops breathing and may help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by offering early detecting of any abnormality that your child may exhibit.
  • Remote Control Mobile – There is no reason to tip toe next to your baby’s crib and rewind its mobile. There are not remote control mobiles which allow you to control the mobiles speed and music choices from across the room. No reason to disturb the baby.
  • Monitor and Television – Do you want to keep an eye on your baby from you television, mobile phone or computer? Well now you can with a variety of baby monitors and televisions which will give you a clear view of your little one any time you want.
  • Crib Soothers – Most babies like the sound of a soft song, rain water or other soothing noises to fall asleep too or to calm them in the middle of the night. With crib soothers, you can pick the melody, time and duration for your baby. If your baby wakes up, the music starts to play.
  • Bouncy Seat – The bouncy seat is no longer for simple bouncing. Now a parent can program the bouncy seat to recreate a variety of motions such as a car ride, a hammock on a breezy day or the gentle waves of an ocean. No matter what your baby’s personal taste is in motion, the new age of bouncy seats will provide it.
  • Crying Analyzer – A crying analyzer is suppose to detect subtle changes in your baby’s crying to determine the baby’s problem. Is your baby wet, hungry or sick? The analyzer will help you learn what your baby wants and needs.
  • Sleep Sacks – Not electronic but these are the future of traditional baby blankets. Sleep sacks for babies have been used in Europe for over 20 years and are becoming more commonplace in the US. They allow babies to sleep better and remain covered during the night as well as reduce the chance of SIDS. Read more about sleep sacks here. All types of fabrics are available from cotton to merino wool and cotton muslin. You can even buy baby swaddles which put old-fashioned swaddle blankets to shame.

With so many high tech gadgets, parenting has never been easier. Your baby’s nursery will be a safe, secure environment that is beneficial to your baby and you because of the advances that technology has made to make parenting easier than ever before.

Turning over a new LEAF

Given my concerns with our environment, I have always entertained the idea of owning a purely electric vehicle. Despite my noble intentions, I was always put off by the practical limitations of the technology. The way I saw it was that these vehicles seemed to have problems with range and speed, or had the prospect of repair bills that would eat my bank balance alive.

Still, the Universe conspired and I stumbled upon the Nissan Leaf. Suddenly everything had changed. Here was something that seemed to have moved technology on enough to address my reservations. So now, after having become the proud owner of the latest in planet saving automobile technology, what are my first impressions of the car?

A lot of the information below was written by my good friend Chris, who helps write for one of the larger printed auto magazines as well as Garage Tool Advisor. When I first sat behind the wheel of the Leaf I was immediately struck by its high-tech layout, it ‘felt’ like something entirely new. Of course it is still a car with most of the important controls in the place where you would expect to find them. I still have a steering wheel to turn and pedals to move and stop. The gear shift lever is a bit strange though and takes some getting used to, more like a roller ball that you use to select forward and reverse. There is no motor and transmission in the traditional sense, instead an electric motor drives the front axle directly. This configuration is powered by a large battery pack, the same lithium ion type you will find in your laptop computer only much, much bigger… but I digress.

After orientating myself with characteristics of the Leaf’s unconventional drive arrangement, it was time to get out on the highway. The first thing I notice is the lack of noise, there really isn’t any. Gone are the sounds of the motor revving or the whining and clunking of the transmission.

The electric motors provide the car with instant power and torque on demand. No lag here or jerky gear changes to disturb what feels like extremely potent acceleration. Later I consult the blurb and discover the Leaf has an impressive 0-60 mph figure of around 9 seconds. Because of the 3-ton floor jack I was hauling to my dad’s, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be hitting that figure. This environmentalist is impressed, now I can be both fast and eco-friendly at the same time.

haha

Out on the open road, the Leaf has handling to match its performance. The ride is smooth and comfortable and cornering is stable and precise. This is all good news as bends and I have history, and the relationship has not always been an amicable one.

Most of my driving involves the commute to work, add on a few extra local miles, and I will do maybe 25 miles a day. The average range of the leaf is around 80 miles, so in theory I could manage 3 days on a single charge. Still with that said, recharging is a breeze; I just pop open the flap at the front and plug it into the charger overnight. In 8 hours I am good to go with a full battery… Yeah I know, just like a cell phone.

Owning a Nissan Leaf is not just all about peace and love either, there is plenty of attitude when required. At the mall parking lot yesterday, the Leaf’s compact size and awesome turning circle meant I was easily able to snatch the last bay from under a competitor before they could even find reverse. This is payback time you petrol heads!

What you need to know about Green Energy

Yes, I care about our environment. No, I did not vote for Trump. If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to introduce green energy into your life, you’re missing out. Green energy is less expensive, more safe, and cleaner compared to typical sources of energy, and it may in addition save you money after some time. Below are a few really smart methods to start employing green energy to your advantage.

  1. A great energy saving suggestion for those of us who like cooking food is, to make use of the properly sized pot or saucepan on the cooktop. Using a large burner with a little saucepan or pot is just wasting heat, and energy as much of the heat escapes towards the air around it. Whenever cooking food, using lids on pots and pans is surely an easy and highly effective way to help save energy. Adding a lid keeps heat within the vessel, so that you can keep the burner temp lower and save energy.
  2. When you purchase new appliances, such as refrigerators, ranges, and washing machines, try to look for the Energy Star label. The United States Department of Energy highly suggests these items because they conserve energy. Investing in a new water heater for your home is one of the smartest things you can do. Items that are energy efficient will most likely have a star on them.
  3. Use less water. Your home’s water heater uses more energy than any other appliance in the house. Obviously you can’t go with no hot water or life will just be miserable. Instead, keep your showers short!
  4. If you want to conserve energy, try not to use your dishwasher very often. Instead, let your dishes air dry. Dishwashers normally utilize a lot of energy and since they use a great deal of power, your electricity and your water bill is going to be quite high. If you have to utilize the dishwasher, put it on a lower setting.
  5. Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer open for a long period of time. Not surprisingly this can spoil your food, but it can also use massive amounts of energy. While you are cooking but you have to get items from the fridge or freezer, close it immediately once you get something out of it.
  6. Watch to make sure your refrigerator and freezer are at the appropriate temps. Do not allow the appliances to get too cold. The suggested temperatures are around 37°-40°F for your fresh food sections and around 5°F for the freezer. If your freezer is standalone and employed for long-term storage, make it about 0°F. Shift your frozen foods from the freezer to the fridge when you are thawing these out. You will defrost your food in a safe manner and your refrigerator will not have to work as hard with the frozen products inside. This might reduce your overall energy usage.

Now that you have read through my suggestions here, be sure you use them. Like owning the most comfortable work boots, they’re worthless unless put into use. When you do, you’ll find that green living may be easy, and that green energy is, in a lot of respects, favored. When you conserve energy in some ways, you don’t need to feel guilty about others such as figuring out the cost of a catalytic converter replacement for the best high flow catalytic converter. Take action and start putting green energy into your life, as soon as today!