Household hardware

I have written before of my bad luck with my external hard drive, but there had been a few more more failures at my house, not related to computer hardware though, mostly related to household appliances: both the dishwasher and the washing machine decided to break up.

On the bright side the washing machine is under a 5-years warranty (I extended it when we bought it, my parents didn’t want to) and the dishwasher was quite cheap at the time. I’m going to replace the latter with a new AAA-class (highly energy efficient) appliance, possibly with programming support so that my mother can make smaller loads (for instance when she’s alone eating at home) or make it run early in the morning while we sleep. Since the problem, at least with the washing machine, is with the hardness of water (it’s full of calcium) I’m also considering adding a filter to the tap the washing machine is connected: the boiler already has one based on polyphosphate “salts” (not sure if they are actual salts, I’m sorry but my chemistry is not really that good), and it seems to work decently well; finding something that would be refilled with the same stuff is better since it’d be less stuff to buy, and keep at home.

Luckily there has been also good news: I finally replaced the light fixture in my room with a 4-way (from a shitty 3-way that always looked like falling down); the new fixture uses GU-10 sockets, and was designed to hold four 50W halogen lamps (which would give it a 200W total energy use, which is definitely too much for my bedroom). I bought instead four GU-10 LED lamps, 78 LEDs each, declared between 2.3 to 3W the lamp. They are bright! They are brighter than the three CFLs that I used to have at the beginning, which, total, consumed around 30W. Sure there is still the problem of cost (€47 of the four lamps, from Germany), and the size (the fixture had some glass container that was quite nice to the eye, but the LED lamp does not fit in it), but it seems like that kind of technology is really flying.

I’ll have to see if I can get more LED lamps around the house, saving money with energy efficiency on lights will probably allow me to hide the money I spend on computers turned on all day long…

A few words from the cabling ladder

Don’t worry, to Ciaran’s disappointment I didn’t fell out of the face of the Earth just yet. Although I’m taking a lower profile in the last few days, there is no doubt I’ll soon be back full-fledged!

What I’m taking care of right now is mostly to fix my house’s cabling. It seems like all the light switches in the house are connected to the return line rather than to the phase line, so they aren’t really good for my idea of moving to LEDs as soon as they are feasible. Also, I’ve been replacing some 20 years old power sockets with some decent and more recent design (for who’s interested, I’m using Vimar Idea everywhere inside the house, I haven’t yet chosen the series to use for the ones outside, but they also need to be replaced).

Also, not sure if you seen it, but I’ve got an article published on LWN! I have to say this is exciting like the first day of school. I hope I’ll be able to write something more after this. Thanks to those users who suggested me to try, and to Donnie who actually convinced me :)

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My current working setup… temporary of course!

As I said, I’m limited at the laptop right now, which not only limits my action in Gentoo, but also makes it harder for me to write on the blog, as it keeps me from leaving a Konqueror window open with my current draft if I’m still half-thinking of something. I was just able two days ago to find a way to share data between my BootCamp Windows XP installation and my Parallels one, by using iSCSI on Enterprise. Trying to get Parallels to access the external hard drive in a stable fashion was probably asking too much. I have to say iSCSI looks seriously cool over Gigabit.

For the time being, I could suggest you to try out FriendFeed, you’ll find me as Flameeyes there. My reason for saying this is that I’m using Google Reader to keep myself updated on Planets and generic blogs, and I started “sharing” interesting posts that I would like to write about once Enterprise is back online with its screens. You’ll also see the photos I upload on flickr (if only it had Anobii support…)

Oh and I’ve almost finished Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction in Challenge mode (that is, the second time you play it, with extra weapons and tougher enemies). I suppose I should be buying Devil May Cry 4 sooner than expected. Playing some games the night when I’m just too tired to work but I don’t feel like reading is something quite relaxing indeed, I was just not used to that.

Digital light dimmers

We almost all are well comfortable with the idea of a light dimmer, it’s a simple device that usually changes a resistor in series with the an incandescent or halogen lamp to allow reducing or increasing the light that it makes. It ha a very nice effect when you want to have a more softer tone of light in a room, for instance a bedroom.

There is one huge problem with light dimmers though: they work only with lamps that reduce their light depending on the current that passes through them. It does not work well with LEDs (it works up to a point, if my electronics skills tell me good, but it’s not very efficient anyway), and does not work at all with fluorescent lights.

So what is a digital dimmer? Well, it’s not a dimmer at all, at least the one I’m thinking about ;)

You can easily achieve a softer light tone without using actual dimmers and incandescent lights, by using different lamps with different light bulbs. I wrote about this before, I think, saying that I prefer using LED lights in bedroom as they give a softer tone to the light, which is perfect to read, or play the PS3, without getting the eyes tired. Unfortunately, it ’s not very good to clean when there is no light coming from outside.

My solution to this would be to replace the ceiling light with a different one, with, say, five Edison connectors, wired 32 with two different switches. I’m just looking around for what I want to use. The idea is then to put two CFLs on one switch, and the tree LED lights on the other: when I need to clean up the room, I could just light up the CFLs and be done with it.

A similar thing I want to do in my office, which is now empty to be cleaned up and refurnished. Instead of changing the light support there, which is quite nice for me and quite nice to light the room, I want to use different lamps entirely.

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A picture of my 2008 home office desk with a fading LED lamp on top.

You can already see in the photo on the right that I have a desklamp on the desk (well, I had, the desk is now closed in half waiting to be replaced too), with a LED bulb that I use when I’m working the night and I don’t want to stay awake too much. It gives me light reduced to the area around the monitors and the keyboard. I used to have a CFL on that lamp, and it made a nice halfway to light most of the room, with a softer tone. As I can’t replace the bulb every time I need a different kind of light, I thought of a different solution for the problem.

I have an old standing lamp, very nice design, let me just ignore for a second the pink glass on it, but it’s not so bad to have around. Unfortunately, it is designed to use halogen lights, and it hasn’t been used for many years now because of that. The bulb in it is a 300W halogen light, so you can think of how bad it is. I’m thinking of removing the dimmer it has, replacing it with a big pushbutton (designed to be pressed with your foot), and replace the circuitry so that I can put a fluorescent light in it. I’ve seen kit with all the circuitry needed at a local shop, it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt to put it in the lamp.

When I’ll have analysed the structure of the lamp and I’m tearing it down to replace the circuitry I’ll see to blog about that, maybe with some photos, it might be useful to others :)

LED lights photos

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I didn’t blog more about them when I received them because I didn’t want to suggest to a friend of mine what I did get him for his birthday ;) I also wanted to make a long post explaining the difference in usage patterns between compact fluorescent lights and LED lights, but it’s late, and I’m actually working on quite a few other stuff at once, so for now I’ll just link this photoset where I’ve described a bit my LED lights :)

And to leave you with a link for today, I think this podcast from RTÉ looks quite interesting :) I’ve downloaded a few episodes but only listened to latest for now, I’ll have something to listen to tonight :)

I’m happy with my LED lightbulbs

Yesterday I received the new LED lights I ordered last week. They are quite nice, very little power consumption, and they do quite a nice light. The 2W spotlight version I have in my bedroom now make as much light as a 25W incandescent lightbulb.

It sure isn’t the flood of light I had before, with just two fluorescent lights, but I didn’t want so much light in my bedroom anyway, it distracted me wile reading, and caused me not to sleep when I wanted to read something. The new lights give me a cone of light just on my bed, and keep the corners of the room in half-shade, which is a very nice visual effect, I have to say. There is enough room to cleanup and to choose my clothes day after day.

I’ve traded 2x8W fluorescent lights with 3x2W, so it’s a decent improvement in consumption too.

I also bought another one, spherical, true white rather than warm (amber) white as the ones of the bedroom, to put in the lamp on my office room. I used a bigger 20W fluorescent light before, it flooded the whole room with light. Now it only lits the area of the desk where I work, exactly like I wanted. The bulb there is less than 2W, which is quite a nice saving too.

I’ll be looking for some different kind of bulbs for the stairs though, as the opaque types I found on the eBay store where I bought these didn’t seem powerful enough to light my stairs properly.

But, for all the people skilled with electronic out there, I’d like to know something. Somehow the lights I have in my room lit up even when I turn them off. It’s not entirely bad for me as I actually sleep better with a minimum of light around, rather than in pitch dark. But I’m a bit concerned. I thought it was a condensator before, but it doesn’t uncharge even after a whole night, so I’m more thinking along the lines of a possible electric problem, like a wrong return line, or some problem with the grounding, but I admit i have o idea how to proceed. If I unscrew the light, it shuts down.

Also, the fluorescent lights I removed started being employed already: one replaced one of the stairs’ bulb, that was the last one in the house, now I can say that the whole house is powered by green lights, either fluorescent or LED.

LED lamps, part two.

You might or might not remember that the last post on my blog for the three weeks I spent on ICU was talking about mirror lights.

Well, my interest in LED light bulbs hasn’t disappeared yet, so a few days ago I decided to take a look to eBay to see if there are other similar LED lights to put on a desk lamp (I needed one in my bedroom to read something before sleeping without having the ceiling light on, which makes it difficult to get sleepy.

When I looked for LED lamps last summer, the only eBay shops carrying them were Hong-Kong shops, and indeed I bought them there (they arrived while I was in the ICU). When I looked the other night, the shops were mostly German instead. Nice change I’d say, although I can’t tell how this happened.

So I ordered four new lightbulbs, two of a “candle” type, and two spotlights. The (cheaper) spotlights have a reddish light, unsuitable for me to read (I react better to greenish light), but still nice, they would probably be good for either my mother or for big flashlights. The two candles instead are quite good, they make quite some light, and consume less than 2W. I put one of them in an old ceramic and glass desklamp my mother was not using for a while, and put it in my bedroom (strange effect such a classic lamp against the modern bedroom, but the light is quite good); they have a soft white tone, which makes it perfect to read before sleeping, and it’s enough light even to get to the drawers to get socks and company.

Not sure if LED technology improved this much while I was in the hospital, but at least I have to say that the LED lightbulbs are becoming quite interesting even for ceiling lamps. Who knows, maybe in a few years we’d be all saying “fluorescent lights? bah you’re not green enough!” ;)

Mirror lights

When you feel depressed for your personal situation, there are many things you can do to stand up again and don’t think about it. Myself, what makes me feel better most of the time is bricolage. Just making a new hole for a frame, or recabling a power plug, or changing the disposition of my room. Today, it was changing the ceiling light in my bathroom.

Let’s skip over the fact that my neighbour had a new ceiling light at home, and just focus on why I wanted to change mine: the previous one was quite small and a fluorescent light wouldn’t fit, and the bathroom was the last room in the house with an incandescent bulb. Well beside a couple of desk lamps that are never turned on.

I’m not sure if it’s a testosterone thing or whatever, but punching holes on the ceiling with a 18V battery drill is something that makes me feel powerful. Am I a freak? Probably.

Anyway what I want to hear others’ opinions about is about the lights of the mirror: right now it has two E14 screws, with just one 15W incandescent bulb in it, I used it mostly while shaving (as the 75W incandescent light on the ceiling wasn’t good enough) or when I didn’t need much lighting and this was a nice power saving. Now, the fluorescent light takes 20W, so I’ll probably just turn that one on, as it has better performances when compared to the amount of light, and it shouldn’t be much of an issue while shaving.

Even if the need for the mirror light is now quite reduced, it doesn’t mean I’ll never have to use it. Sometimes you need some more near lightsource to look for instance at a broken nail. It bugs me to have to use a 15W bulb for so little light. First I thought to replace the lights with some kind of halogen bulb, but even if those have way better performances, they still consume quite a bit. I don’t need so much light, I just need to reduce the power consumption.

Then an idea was in my mind: I have a sort of flashlight in a three-in-one tool (screwdriver and spirit level are the other two tools); the light tool uses a LED, supplied by a button battery, and has quite some autonomy. This convinced me that the best thing for my mirror lights would be a LED-based light system.

Now, do you think there are already kits to set up LED lights on a mirror closet? Are there LED-based bulbs that just need a socket and a controller? Are those 220V supplied, or should I decide for something battery-based? Any pointer and suggestion is very welcome.