Categories describing the post, video, pictures, audio…
From my distant location overseas, listening to the news via podcasts is a great way to keep up: something I’m quite grateful to have access to on demand and via the internets. Until the end of Net Neutrality means that only “Verizon Insights” and “Life at AT&T” are still accessible, I enjoy a range of news sources on a daily basis using a podcatcher called Beyond Pod. One of the essential features it has is the ability to speed up the tempo of podcasts, some of which are a bit slow as recorded. But one…. one is like dripping molasses on a winter day: The Daily from the NYT by Michael Barbaro. I’m pretty sure silences are inserted in editing to draw out the drama to infuriating lengths and the tempo of the audio is selectively slowed to about half normal speed. Nobody can actually talk that slowly. I mean listen and try – like actually try to draw out a word that might take 1 second to pronounce to two full seconds. It is a pretty good news summary and has some useful information, but there’s no way I’d suffer through it without setting the tempo to 2x.
Every time I accidentally stream the podcast, rather than downloading and playing, the tempo control is disabled and while I scramble to skip to the next podcast before my I start questioning reality I often wonder for a moment just how bad the pauses are. Here’s my analysis:
I consider the BBC Global News to be a very professional, truly “broadcast quality” podcast. The announcers are clear, comprehensible, and speak at a pace that is appropriate for a news broadcast. I still speed it up because daily life is like that now, but if I listen at normal pace, it isn’t even slightly annoying.
The Economist Radio is fairly typical of a print publication’s efforts at presenting print journalists as audio stars. it doesn’t always work out perfectly and the pacing varies a lot by who is speaking and the rather eclectic line-up. In general it is annoyingly slow, but not interminably so. It comes across as a bit amateur by broadcast standards, but well done and very informative.
But then there’s The Daily from the NYT. This podcast was the reason I took the time to figure out how to speed up playback. There was no other choice: either unsubscribe or speed it up to something not aneurysm inducing. Looking at the waveforms, I suspect they might actually be inserting silences of around 500msec between words, perhaps for dramatic effect (there’s way too much dramatic effect in a lot of the stories, which speeding up only hastens rather than fully alleviating—never have you heard so many interviewees break into uncomfortable tears as they’re overwhelmed by whatever the day’s tragedy is, an artifice only slightly less annoying than broadcasting the sound of someone eating. OMG, that’s real. Rule 34.)
Many years ago (21 years, 9 months as of this post), I used some as-of-then only slightly out of date equipment to record a one week time lapse of the cats’ litter box.
I found the video on a CD-ROM (remember those?) and thought I’d see if it was still usable. It wasn’t – Quicktime had abandoned support for most of the 1990’s era codecs, and as it was pre-internet, there just wasn’t any support any more. I had to fire up my old Mac 9500, which booted just fine after years of sitting, even if most of the rubber feet on the peripherals had long since turned to goo. The OS9 version of QT let me resave as uncompressed, which of course was way too big for the massive dual 9GB drives in that machine. Youtube would eat the uncompressed format and this critical archival record is preserved for a little longer.
I noticed that my avocado tree was developing brown spots on the leaves, which were almost certainly the result of Persea mites.
So I looked up some possible cures, and it seemed like introducing a predator would be the best option and the least hassle. I’d had good luck with introduced ladybugs a few years back, which formed a stable population that survived for many years after introduction. For this pest, green lacewings are recommended. I found a nearby insectary that could provide larvae on cards and they shipped them overnight.
The little guys look cute just waiting to hatch…
I hung he cards on the leaves of the tree after incubating them overnight in a warm room, and they should hatch sometime in the next day or two, as long as the ants don’t find them first…
Update 8 Sept 2016:
The green lacewings seem to have eaten all the mites. It has been 9 months and there aren’t any signs of damage to this spring’s leaves. Yay!
The new leaves that grew seem to be developing without any bites at all. The old leaves that were too damaged have fallen off, but the surviving older leaves still show the scars of the mites. Green lacewings seem to have done the trick.
@United has new coach trays that are coated with a material that has an amazing coefficient of friction. They are not sticky at all—there’s no adhesion effect—it is all friction. Even low surface energy plastics don’t slide on it at all.
The approximately 75-80° angle in the picture is the point at which the cup topples over itself. It isn’t adhered to the surface and it doesn’t appear to slide at all before toppling.
This would be the perfect coating for a smart phone pad in a car.
A couple of years back a random sprout appeared in the yard. It looked like a volunteer avocado and grew bizarrely fast. After a few years, it is about 15′ tall and this year it fruited for the first time. It really is an avocado tree.
My kitchen has had halogen lighting for 20 years, from back when it was a slightly more efficient choice than incandescent lighting and had a pleasing, cooler (bluer, meaning the filament runs hotter) color temperature.
Progress has moved on and while fluorescent lights still have a lead in maximum luminous efficacy (lm/w), for example the GE Ecolux Watt-Miser puts out 111 lm/W, they’re less versatile than LEDs and installation is a hassle while low voltage LEDs are easy to install and look cool.
The goal of this project was to add dimmable, pleasing light to the kitchen that I found aesthetically interesting. I wanted a decent color rendering index (CRI), ease of installation, and at reasonable cost. I’ve always liked the look of cable lighting and the flexibility of the individual, adjustable luminaires.
I couldn’t find much information on how variable output LEDs work and what can be used to drive them. I have a pretty good collection of high quality power supplies, which I wanted to take advantage of, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to effectively dim the bulbs from the documentation I found. So I did some tests.
I bought a few different 12V, Dimmable LEDs and set up a test configuration to verify operation and output with variable voltage and variable current. The one bit of data I had was that using standard commercial controllers, the lowest output is typically stated to be around 70% of maximum output: that is the dimming range is pretty limited with standard (PWM/Transformer) controllers. The results I found were much more encouraging, but revealed some quirks.
I used a laboratory-grade HP power supply with voltage and current control to drive the LEDs, decent multimeters to measure voltage and current, and an inexpensive luminance meter to measure LED output.
I measured 3 different LEDs I selected based on price and expected compatibility with the aesthetics of the project and because they looked like they’d have different internal drivers and covered a range of rated wattage.
These bulbs have internal LED controllers that do some sort of current regulation for the diodes that results in a weird voltage/current/output response. Each bulb has a different turn-on voltage, then responds fairly predictably to increasing input voltage with increasing output, reaches the controller stabilizing voltage and runs very inefficiently until voltage gets over the rated voltage and then becomes increasingly efficient until, presumably, at some point the controller burns out. I find that the bulbs all run more efficiently at 14V than at the rated 12V.
As a side note, to perform the data analysis, I used the excellent
xongrid plugin for excel to perform Kriging interpolation (AKA Gaussian process regression) to fit the data sets to the graphing function’s capabilities. The graphs are generated with WP-Charts and the table with TablePress.
Watts v. Volts
This chart shows the wattage consumed by each of the three LEDs as a function of input voltage, clearly demonstrating both that the power consumption function is non-linear and that power consumption in watts improves when driven over the rated 12V. Watts are calculated as the product of the measured Volts * Amps. Because of the current inversion that happens as the controllers come fully on-line, these LEDs can’t be properly controlled near full brightness with a current-controlled power supply, though it works well to provide continuous and fairly linear dimming at low outputs, once the voltage/current function changes slope, the current limiting controller in the power supply freaks out.
4W LED 5W LED 7.5W LED
Lux v. Volts
This chart shows the lux output by each of the three LEDs as a function of input voltage, revealing the effect of the internal LED driver coming on line and regulating output, which complicates controlling brightness but protects the LEDs. The 5W LEDs have a fairly gentle response slope and start a very low voltage (2V) so are a good choice for a linear power supply. The 4W LEDs don’t begin to light up until just over 6V, and so are a good match for low-cost switch mode supplies that don’t go to zero.
4W LED 5W LED 7.5W LED
Lux/W v. Volts
This chart shows the luminous efficiency (Lux/Watt, Lumen measurement is quite complicated) by each of the three LEDs as a function of input voltage, showing that overdriving the LEDs past the rated 12V can significantly improve efficiency. There’s some risk it will overheat the controller at some point and result in failure. I’ll update this post if my system starts to fry LEDs, but my guess is that 14V, which cuts the power load by 20% over 12V operation with the 7.5W lamps I selected, will not significantly impact operational lifetime.
4W LED 5W LED 7.5W LED
Total System Efficiency
The emitter efficiency is relatively objective, but the total system efficiency includes the power supply. I used a Daiwa SS-330W switching power supply I happened to have in stock to drive the system, which cost less than a dimmable transformer and matching controller, and should be significantly higher quality. The Daiwa doesn’t seem to be easily available any more, but something like this would work well for up to 5A total load and something like this would handle as many as 40 7.5W LEDs on a single control, though the minimum 9V output has to be matched to LEDs to get satisfactory dimming. It is important not to oversize the power supply too much as switch mode supplies are only really efficient as you get close to their rated output. An oversized switchmode power supply can be extremely inefficient.
With the Daiwa, driving 13 7.5W LEDs, I measured 8.46A at 11.94V output or 101 Watts to brightly illuminate the entire kitchen, and providing far more light than 400W of total halogen lights. I measured the input into the power supply at 0.940A at 121.3V or 114 Watts. That means the power supply is 88.6% efficient at 12V, which is more or less as expected for a variable output supply.
Increasing the output voltage to 14.63 Volts lowered the output current to 5.35A or 78 Watts without lowering the brightness at the installation; I measured at 168 lux at both 12.0V at 14.6V. The input current at 14.63V dropped to 0.755A or 91.6 Watts, meaning the power supply is slightly less efficient at lower output currents (as is usually the case).
- Overdriving the 12V rated LEDs to 14.63V improves plug efficiency by 20%.
At the low end, the SS-330W’s minimum output is 4.88V, which yields 12 lux at the counter or a 14x dimming ratio to 7% of maximum illumination, a far better range than is reported for standard dimmer/transformer combinations.
- 7.5W LED modules from JackyLED
- Daiwa power supply (alternate version)
- 16 gauge speaker cable
- MR-16 cable lamp mounts
- Digital light meter
(MS Excel file, you will need the
xongrid plugin to update the data as rendered in the graphs)
I was feeling a little left out, reading posts by people digging out of snow storms and here I am in Basra where it gets down to 10C at night sometimes and usually hits the mid 20’s during the day. Rough. But the weather here came through with our own sort of snow storm.
Starting to look like a brown-out!
Obligatory shot of the yard furniture getting covered.
Kitty’s head is starting to show some accumulation.
With all this blowing through you can barely see a few hundred meters!
It’s really starting to accumulate. Where’s the snow blower?
It takes some special cleaning after playing out in it.