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Replace your computer with a Raspberry Pi?

Posted by admin on Feb 25th, 2013
Feb 25

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be working on replacing my full sized desktop computer, that used a 500w power supply, with a couple of credit card sized full function computers called Raspberry Pi. This little guy won’t be able to fully replace my desktop or laptop, but only because flash for web browsers doesn’t work on it because it hasn’t been compiled (nor will it ever, apparently) for the ARM V6 processor that the Pi comes with. The up side, though, is that the Pi’s are rated for 5V and .5-.7 amps – which should be well below the power requirements for my desktop.

I’m going to post a full update on what I did with them and which accessories I used. I’ll also show what the power consumption savings is by doing this. To be fair, I’m not a normal computer user…I don’t play video games usually and I run linux everywhere I possibly can. I don’t need a fast CPU generally and I plan to use multiple Pi’s to accomplish what my desktop did. Updates forthcoming.

Hypermiling on a Harley – part 4

Posted by admin on Sep 18th, 2010
Sep 18

It’s been about two months since my last update on my Hypermiling on a Harley series. The reason it has been so long is because I’ve been experimenting with different hypermiling techniques to get as much information as possible. The conclusion I’ve come to is: so far I don’t really see any difference or benefit to hypermiling on my bike. The range I’ve seen in the last two months has been a low of about 42mpg – usually with a passenger, and a one time peak of 48mpg, but the overall average has been pretty consistently about 45-46mpg. That’s pretty much the same as before when I was just monitoring my speed.

I’m going to continue to experiment and will report any noteworthy findings, but as of this post my official series is now concluded. My suggestions? Watch the throttle and check your tire pressure – nothing groundbreaking there, but obviously very important.

*Update: it occurred to me that I haven’t added any context to my hypermiling testing. I typically commute about 48.4 miles per day round trip. Of the 48.4 miles I was hypermiling (read that as “clutch disengaged”) about 4-6 miles per day. Not a lot, but if you average that to 5 miles per day, that comes up as about 10% per day. That should translate to an additional 4+mpg, but it didn’t.

Great wind turbine howto site

Posted by admin on Aug 2nd, 2010
Aug 2

I’ve been searching for more information about micro-wind turbines, power controllers, and general information on how to understand the technical specs of the math needed to figure out the sizing of the system and controller needed for whatever situation the unit is intended for. I’ve been focusing on micro-wind turbines specifically because we recently moved into an apartment and obviously can’t put in a standard sized turbine, yet I want to find something I can use to charge my backup marine batteries. Besides, the thought of using a small wind generator as a power supplement is kind of cool to me. I’ve posted about this before, and have found some new and interesting information during my recent search, but I think I’ve found a great website to help me with my quest. It’s easy to understand and broken down in a way that makes sense. It’s not in the scale I’m looking for, but has a lot of useful information that will help me to get where I’m trying to. I was so excited to find the page that it prompted this post. The link is – – and hopefully it will help others in their quest as well.

Hypermiling on a Harley – part 3

Posted by admin on Jul 19th, 2010
Jul 19

Since my last update I’ve gone through three full tanks of gas as my test base. I’ve tried to keep as close as possible to the test guidelines, which are keeping as close as possible to 70 mph or under and shifting at the factory specified shifting speeds (15, 25, 35, 45, 55 mph). I’ve done well at shifting at the right speeds, and have pretty much kept under 70 mph throughout the test. So, on to the base results:

  • Tank 1 = 45.6 mpg
  • Tank 2 = 45.3 mpg
  • Tank 3 = 43.2 mpg

On tank #3 there were two factors that worked against me. One was that I didn’t keep as well to the speed rule as I was supposed to, and the second is that about 40 miles were with my wife on the back.

Now for the next three tanks of gas I’m going to add hypermiling to the test and see what happens. My initial hypermiling tests showed I got about 46 mpg, but I don’t think I had integrated the shifting part yet. We’ll see what happens.

On a side note, I’m looking into two new projects (but don’t tell my wife 🙂 ):

  • One is to try to fix a heat issue. Our garage easily gets to 90 degrees now that we’re in the midst of summer in the San Fernando Valley. Unfortunately that’s where the treadmill is so it’s really been preventing me from using it. I’ve been looking at a lot of personal cooling device ideas – most of which consists of a fan attached to a cooler filled with ice and water that gets pumped through copper tubing attached to the fan. I have some ideas on that design.
  • The second is designing a 50w micro-vawt. It’s small enough to be portable, cheap enough to have several of them spread around, and not some big monolithic eyesore. Well, at least some people might think a big vawt is an eyesore 😉 The one concern I have about this project is my previous attempt and failure. I’m going to do some better testing before I start building this time though.

Hypermiling on a Harley, part 2

Posted by admin on Jun 20th, 2010
Jun 20

It’s been a few weeks since I started my hypermiling experiment. Unfortunately I decided to make two changes at the same time so I’m not sure which one has been more beneficial to my efforts. To cut to the main point of these posts, I’ve been able to go from getting 39-40mpg on my Harley, to getting 45-46mpg. How? I’ve dropped my freeway speed from around 80mph to 70mph, and I’ve been doing some hypermiling as well.

The problem with what I’ve been doing is that I’m not certain which one has added the most benefit. I’ve attempted hypermiling before but haven’t had much success on the Harley, so I suspect the added 6mpg has been due to the speed limiting primarily. To gather more useful data, I’m going to forgo the hypermiling on the next few tanks of gas and see what the results are. Any deviation from my current improved mpg will at least indicate that hypermiling does have some benefit.

Two side notes that I feel need to be added to this post. First – I am far from impressed with the coasting abilities of the bike. On the freeway when I take my exit to go home, going downhill, I go from 60mph to 45mph in about 300 feet. This may be improved by putting the transmission into neutral in addition to pulling in the clutch, but I shouldn’t have to do that.

Second – dropping my speed down 10 miles an hour (going from 80 down to 70) has done two things. 1) has afforded me a MUCH more relaxing ride – I really appreciate the time I spend on the bike now instead of focusing on just getting where I’m going as fast as possible. And 2) has shown me just how f**king crazy the drivers are on the road in L.A.. For some reason, when I was going 80 then most of the other drivers seemed somewhat sane. Now they all seem to ride each others asses, drive like they are vying for pole position at Indy, or are just plain rude.

Be back to report in a couple more weeks on this topic.

My first VAWT part 2

Posted by admin on Apr 22nd, 2010
Apr 22

Bottom line – it no workie. The blades are way too small, so I tried adding “extensions” to them, like so:

Admittedly it does work better, although not by much. it seems I’m running into a common problem with the design, going by other tutorial sites I’ve read through. I’m going to continue working on it though and hopefully I will have an easy solution. I’m trying to make it as easy to assemble as possible.

My first VAWT is born

Posted by admin on Apr 5th, 2010
Apr 5

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about building some type of a wind turbine solution in hopes of eventually taking my detached garage off of the grid. Being in the San Fernando Valley we get a fair amount of afternoon wind that can be utilized by such a device. I did some testing with a traditional turbine, which showed some potential, but I eventually decided that a VAWT (Vertical Access Wind Turbine) would be the best option. The reason I came to this decision is because of how the wind swirls in from so many directions around my backyard, as is seen by little makeshift cardboard wind direction pointer.

I had mentioned before that I was working with pvc tubing and 5 gallon bucket lids as the materials of choice for my contraption – well forget all of that. It wasn’t turning out to be as practical as I had hoped. I was trying to use easy to find and cheap materials for the project but I just couldn’t seem to find a good solution for attaching the blades to the lids. I ended up going to my local electronics junkyard (Apex Electronics – amazing place) where I found literally hundreds of wheels from electric scooters that would be perfect for the blade mounts. Unfortunately the wheels are only about 9″ in diameter, but they are good enough to use for my prototype VAWT. I bought four of them at $5 each, which was a little more than I wanted to pay but still within budget and they would end up making the assembly process much easier (even more than I had imagined – as you will see later). I only needed two, but as they say in the movie Contact – why build one when you can build two for twice the price.

Today I started the assembly process. A month or two back I bought 2 – 10 foot long 2 inch diameter pvc tubing. I cut the pvc tubes into thirds (i.e. 3 feet 4 inch long each) and then cut them in half, which left me with 12 – 3 foot 4 inch long “blades”. As luck would have it, the blades fit very snugly between the spokes of the wheels, which meant that I didn’t have to use any fasteners at all. Here’s a grainy phone picture of the blades set in the spokes:

VAWT blades wedged snugly in the wheel spokes. Click image for a larger view

The hardest part to this whole process was attaching the blades to the second wheel. Once I got that accomplished though then all I needed to do was build a quick frame to mount it in, which was made from scrap wood I had laying around:

Completed prototype, with my dog Loki running by trying to generate a breeze to start it moving.

So it’s completed and ready to go… but there’s no wind. There’s a storm heading in to SoCal tomorrow that’s supposed to bring lots of wind with it so hopefully I’ll get some decent feedback on its performance. I already have some doubts about how efficient it currently is, but I also have some improvements I’m thinking about as well. No matter how good or poor it performs, I’ve only used about $15 in parts on the project so far – 2 x wheels @ $5 each and 1 x 10′ @ 2″ diameter pvc at about $3.50 each. I’m going to use the rest of the parts for a second VAWT eventually.

UPDATE: I cleaned up my math a little – I was a bit off on the tube sizing and the amounts.

Solar oven part three

Posted by admin on Oct 10th, 2009
Oct 10

I have been an avid subscriber to the Instructables email list for a few years now and occasionally there is an instructable that catches my interest. This week’s edition had two such items – The Office Workers Portable Solar Oven and Non PV Solar Power. I’ve only read partially through the second one, but the first one, the solar oven, has re-kindled my intentions to rebuild my first attempt and second attempt (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) at a solar oven. I think this time I’ve got some pretty good ideas and, as usual, I’ll take some pictures and document my trials and tribulations in the endeavor. My goal this time is to pop popcorn!

The Office Workers Portable Solar Oven Instructable apparently wasn’t highly successful, but that may be due to the projects strict guidelines of using only what was readily available around the office that he worked at. I believe his biggest downfall was using a piece of a clear garbage bag as the cover for the top instead of being able to use glass or plexiglas. He did have an amazing amount of technical information provided on how he calculated the efficiency of the oven – which I’ll try to duplicate in my reporting of my third attempt.

Renter or no renter, these are some good tips

Posted by admin on Feb 27th, 2009
Feb 27

I signed up a long while ago for my daily dose of Treehugger newsletter goodness. Most of the stories I find are interesting, informative and useful. Occasionally I find a story that is particularly well suited for the founding basis behind my enviroblog and I feel I need to share it with those who may be regular readers. This article highlights 22 ways for renters to reduce their overall consumption. This is especially important for renters since they don’t have many options to alter their residence to be more efficient, but it really applies to anyone – whether they own *or* rent.

Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to keep up with my eco-updates lately. Things have been pretty crazy with the bathroom remodel, the job search, the weather (who says it never rains in Southern California!?!?), and guests. I start a new job next week so I don’t foresee much of a change in the frequency of updates but I will do my best. I still have a couple of projects that are still waiting in their final stages to be completed so I will hopefully be able to get them done soon.

The christening of the crapper

Posted by admin on Jan 30th, 2009
Jan 30

It’s been nearly a month since I started the unavoidable demolition and remodeling of our guest bathroom, which had been brought on by a water leak in the wall. The plumbing has been fixed, the walls have been put back up, the new fixtures are mostly installed, and finally – last night – we put the new Toto Aquia II dual flush toilet in. In a house that currently has 5 people and only 1 toilet, this was a BIG deal. We were all fighting to be the first to use it.

It was surprisingly easy to install, considering there are lots of complaints in various forums about how hard it is to get it to seal properly to the flange which can cause it to leak. I even read replies from plumbers on some forums who say they charge double to install these toilets. We didn’t have any trouble at all.

My wife was the first to have the honor of using it, while we waited patiently outside the door with anticipation of her review of the experience. A resounding thumbs up from her.

I’ll update with pictures and a bit more of an in depth review after it’s been tested a little more thoroughtly. For now, though, we did notice that the dual flushing mechanism is going to be something we’ll need to get used to. For the light flush, if we just push and release the button then there isn’t much water released into the bowl. If we hold the button down then it will release all of the water into the bowl – all 1.6 litres of it. We must be doing something wrong, but again, I’ll give a better review after the break-in period is complete.

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