Friday, 10 November 2006

Newsletter Issue 122, November 2006


Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 122, November 2006
Hi guys,
We hear so much about our power or lack of it - but should we be dreaming Electric Dreams?
Read how universities may have one of their IT problems solved in Uni-que IT
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Electric Dreams

New Zealand's electricity consumption has been increasing faster than our population growth for a long time. Our usage over the past thirty years is as follows (from Consumer Magazine):
  • 1974 - 5300kWh/person
  • 1984 - 7100kWh/person
  • 1994 - 8100kWh/person
  • 2004 - 8800kWh/person
  • 2006 (estimated by usage to June being 2004 x 1.5%) - 8932kWh/person
  • 2014 (Projected using simple trendline) - 10000kWh/person
To me, this sparks two questions: why is our demand increasing so much; and is the Government being realistic in suggesting that we can save electricity and not have to invest heavily in new generation?
Firstly, I would like to deal with the question of our increasing demand, from a personal and observational perspective. I have seen a growing trend whereby nearly everything we use relies on electricity. If it is not run from the mains while you are using it, it has a battery that is recharged using mains supply.
The new technology is invasive and rather exhausting, when you consider what didn't exist for the hoi polloi in 1974. Our toothbrushes, the power-assisted head for the vacuum cleaner, our DVD players, our digital cameras, our landlines, our mobile phones, our lawn mowers, our heat pumps, our room deodorisers and our automatic garage doors. The hot glue gun, the can opener, the garbage disposal, the dehumidifier, the range hood, the espresso machine. The walkman, the iPod, the PC, the PDA, the printer, the video machine (if you still have one), the microwave, the spa pool, the air conditioning and the dinky little halogen lights that come on when we open the cupboard doors. And of course there is the stand-by mode, using electricity 24/7, that nearly all our equipment operates on, sneakily using more power.
In addition, we buy so much more STUFF in 2006. There is so much demand on our wallets that we have invented a new hobby; shopping. Take any rainy day & once upon a time we would have all been at home reading or playing board games. Now we are all out shopping, increasing our already blown-out personal debt situation.
And someone, somewhere along the way has to make all that stuff. And ship it to us. And in some shape or form, all the transactions along the way chew up more electricity.
That wouldn't be a problem, except we haven't invested in enough new generation to keep up with our increasing demand. Instead we have ridden high on the foresight of electrical engineers from the 1950s and 60s who built so much additional capacity into our national electricity grid and infrastructure that it has done us proud for fifty years.
So what will our legacy be for our descendent consumers, fifty years down the track? Will we have built extra fat into the large new generation projects that the country is investing in?
Pretty unlikely given our incredibly selfish attitudes (NIMBY and NOTE). The wind turbines furore in the Makara Valley in Wellington spring to mind... or the RMA roadblocks for the Dobson scheme on the West Coast.
Secondly, there's our ability to 'save' electricity. Most of the new equipment we buy is already very energy efficient. Sure we can all learn better habits - turn off machinery on standby for example - but as New Zealand domestic use is 13% of the total energy consumption, there is not a lot of energy savings to be made there. A saving of perhaps 5% on the 13% is not really going to reduce overall demand by that much.
Then there is the other issue of manufacturers are constantly creating new products to tease our cash and credit from our wallets. I don't think that this is a trend which is suddenly going to reverse. There appear to be no new or emerging technologies which are going to make the need for additional electricity generation redundant in the next five minutes.
So where does that leave us? I think this leaves us in a hole where we need more power at a commercial and domestic level. We do not have sufficient generation capacity or infrastructure to meet our needs now, let alone next year.
Apparently there is a ten year lead time to get new generation online - so there is no time to waste. We must start planning new projects, at a national level, today.


Uni-que IT

Just imagine being the IT Manager for a University. About the same IT job as for a large company, you might think?
Well, no. Universities aren't able to impose a security policies common to commercial organisations. And why? Because increasingly students own and administer their own laptops and broadband or wireless connections, and the Universities can’t dictate what hardware and software students should use on their own equipment.
So this creates a fairly large headache. How do you contain the threat of x to the x power of combinations of leaky software, downloads & email traffic; all charging through the Uni network at broadband rates? Threats can only be detected as and when they appear, then the University network has to contain them somehow.
To meet this issue, Alcatel has developed an “on-the-fly” software solution to address this problem which has already been used successfully in the United States. Alcatel implements the OmniVista "Quarantine Manager" software on its Omnistation backbone switch. It then works in each instance by locating an attacking device and applying a quarantine policy to it on the fly.
Typically, this will prevent the device from accessing any server on the network apart from a single, quarantined machine that can then interact with the infected device, and its owner, so as to clean-up the infection. To read more about it, go to Alcatel's article on Gordon College at http://www.alcatel.com/com/en/apphtml/atrarticle/2006q1delivering21stcenturyeducationatgordoncollege05enhtmltcm172659981635.jhtml
The IT gurus at our institutions of learning can heave a sigh of relief!


Random Numbers in Excel

Those of you who have used the straight random number generator function in Excel, '=rand()', might be a bit peeved because of the format limitations. Entering '=rand()' will return you a random number LESS than 1 and greater than or equal to 0. While you can have up to 9 decimal places (ie 0.999999999), it really isn't suitable for drawing the weekly office raffle.
However, if you want whole numbers (integers, or 'int' in Excel-speak), you can combine the rand() function with the int() function to return a whole random number. So keying in =int(rand()*100) would generate a random integer between 0 and 99 inclusive; =int(rand()*51) between 0 and 50, inclusive.
However, you probably won't have a zero in your office raffle draw, so to get whole numbers between 1 and 100 inclusive, then simply shift the range by adding 1: =int(rand()*100) + 1. To get dice rolls, use =int(rand()*6) + 1.
As usual, to update the random number, just hit F9, and a new random number will be generated (F9 re-calculates formulas on all open worksheets).
If you want to check that your formula is working correctly, fill-handle it into a string of cells, hit F9 a few times, and check that the random numbers generated are within the range you want.
 

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you:
  • LOBi, Line of Business Interoperability. A new feature in Microsoft Vista's Sharepoint 2007. There are a whole lot of acronyms and no doubt we will all hear lots about LOBi.
  • NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard. You build/change/install things where you like, but not near me because I don't want to look at it/be reminded of mans' ability to generate electricity/have to look at mussel buoys/have the speedway that I moved next to actually operating.
  • NOTE, Not Over There Either. Actually we don't want you to build/change/install things at all. Anywhere. We are Luddites and would rather the lights went out, the mussels weren't available, the speedway didn't provide a safe outlet for boys who wanted to race. Until they do go out, there are no mussels or the boys hoon on the streets, and then these people scream blue murder.
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we look at only one handy little shortcut:
  • Excel "Alternate between displaying cell values and displaying cell formulas" - Ctrl & grave (`)
This is a toggle function which shows all formulas on a spreadsheet, which is especially useful when you have a link to another workbook that you want to get rid of. Toggle Show Formulas on, look for a stray "C:/" in a formula and reroute it. Very, very handy!

Hot Linx
At a loss as to what to get people for Christmas? Or need to guide someone on what you want for Christmas (ah... a season of grasping!). Check out gift ideas at http://www.iwantthat.co.nz/
If you are stuck with a tech problem and can't find the answer, then this new website might be the place for you to find the answer. Check out http://qunu.com/
And for a laugh, check out the http://www.likebetter.com/ website. Click on the images you like better (hence the name) and 'the brain' will decide if you are male or female, went to varsity etc, etc.
The new UK Honda ad - reportedly made for £3m & over 3 months - can be seen on the internet at http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/honda.php

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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