Haruka's Diary
Chasing After Rainbows: October 2015

29 October 2015

717th post: Indirectly helping reduce utility bill

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I may not directly seem to be saving energy, but there are indirect ways that I help to reduce the household utility bill.

Solar Panels with 2 USB type-A ports
It began after I bought my first power bank in 2012. I didn't know it was a power bank then, but the only input it had was the retractable power plug and the other side covered in solar panel. The down side was the small capacity it had, and certainly couldn't charge much with the size of the panel. However, the idea that you could get some charge from placing it in sunlight without ever plugging it in since completely draining power was new to me. It now only works as a USB wall charger since it can't hold charge now, if it doesn't overheat while charging. Solar panels do still work, but effectively useless with the little power it generates.

The solar panel idea came about as I was looking as a result of that device bought in 2012. I research that I certainly need panels way larger than what I had, and the necessity to unlink the solar panels from the power storage, and make use of an existing power bank I bought for my Europe trip in 2013. (This is one reason why I did not look at another power bank with built in solar panels.) I bought this off from Amazon US.

I also took a look at USB power meter at the same time as a way of knowing what kind of output exactly I am getting out of it, and finding an ideal spot at home to place it. (There is no outdoor area at home; the best were windows facing east or west.) Later on, I used it to figure out energy losses and efficiency of the cables and chargers I have. Not every device uses exactly 5V 1A, or whatever is stated!

It took me a while to fine tune the positioning. While it can produce enough energy to charge the power bank, it isn't enough to charge a smartphone directly unless there's constant direct sunlight. Something I can't get at home the whole day.

I noticed that it worked if I shine an incandescent spotlight bulb at it. Fluorescent ones don't work, and very weak for LED ones. Obviously I'm not going to bother wasting energy to shine lights at solar panels.

Using the shower
I do it in the afternoon when the temperature is warmer than in the morning. In summer days where it didn't rain recently, I don't even need the heater at all. But when the water is too cold to use without a heater, the heating I set is less than what the others had set.

(I know it may not be hygienic, but unless I get dirty or sweaty, I usually take a shower only once a day. This significantly reduces water and electricity consumption.)

Now this is a strange one. I bought the first set of LED bulbs for my room, which turned out to be dimmer than the CFLs I replaced. I bought another set that had higher lumen rating (higher wattage does not equal brighter bulbs as LEDs themselves get more power efficient over time) than the one I had, but those were still not bright enough. By the third set, which has even higher lumen ratings that should be bright enough for reading (as I researched prior to buying), I realized it was just bad furniture placement blocking out the lights and needed additional lighting around the desk I use my laptops on. Overall, the brightest LED bulbs still consume less energy than the CFL counterparts. As an added bonus, I get less insect bites at night for some reason.

What happened to the first and second batch of LED bulbs I bought earlier? Those were used on other parts of the house that still used CFL bulbs. Now I have stockpiles of used, but not end-of-life, CFL bulbs lying about. I would like to replace the non compact variant of fluorescence bulbs, but the equipment to power the fluorescent bulbs is in the lamp holder itself (CFLs have this integrated as part of the bulb design), so an overhaul of the lamp holder is necessary to make it work with LED. On top of that, the LEDs used for these kind of fixtures are more expensive. In the end, these remain as fluorescent bulbs.

Lighting for rooms that are infrequently used, or lit up for only a short time, are somewhat tricky. Lights being used for only a short time are not good for the lifespan of fluorescent bulbs. Its long warm up time, and flickering as it happens if it has a starter plug, are not ideal for these kinds of places. LEDs are the most suitable for this kind of situation, but not from a cost perspective if you don't already have one (and lasting way longer than the rated 15 years due to less-than-usual usage). Since I have plenty of incandescent bulbs lying around, those are the most ideal kind of bulbs for this kind of situation, though some adapters are needed to fit into the socket. Thankfully, none were fixtures for fluorescent bulbs.

Well, this isn't exactly saving the environment kind of method, but to minimize the home electricity bill is to use electricity that you are not (directly) paying for. You can get even more out of this by charging your devices (including power banks).

18 October 2015

716th post - Seperating the confusion with USB type-C and 3.1

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When I look around YouTube comments in videos, particularly that of the 2015 MacBook, people seemed confused that the two USB type-C and 3.1 are together, or an Apple-only standard. (In fact, Google's Chromebook Pixel and newer generation Nexus phones uses it too.)

What is USB 3.1?
Here's the confusing bit. USB 3.1 has two different versions: Gen1 and Gen2. Gen1. Gen1 is basically renamed 3.0, where maximum transfer speed is 5Gbps. Gen2 is the real new 3.1 with speeds doubled to 10Gbps.

It's not Thunderbolt 3, which uses the same USB type-C connectors with the thunderbolt logo on it, so don't expect a USB type-C to mini-DisplayPort adapter to work unless it's between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 1/2 or DisplayPort protocols. Separately, you can have video output with just USB 3.0 3.1.

What is USB type-C?
Well, we all know what it looks like and how reversible it is, but here is the list of what is is and what it isn't.

What it is not:
  • It's a propriety standard by Apple - While Apple is among the first to introduce it and among those behind it, it's not. Do you even know what USB means?
  • USB type-C is also USB 3.1 - Not necessarily. Since type-C is designed to replace type-A and type-B (and their mini/micro variants), USB 2.0 with type-C connector is possible. USB 1.1 too, though there is no supported backward compatibility to 1.1 for 3.0 3.1 Gen1.
What is new about it over older standards:
  •  It makes using USB On-The-Go (OTG) devices less troublesome and confusing - Type-A is for host devices, type-B is for slave devices, but with portable devices like smartphones these days acting both as a host and slave this is tricky: storage device you want to connect has type-A, but host device uses micro-B. Using type-C on both ends eliminates the weird female type-A to male micro-B adapter/cable necessary to make it work.
  • Charge a device with another device instead of plugging it to the wall or PC -The concept of is not new with power banks having been around for a while, but the difference is that you can basically charge a phone with another phone. Helpful if you are running low and your friend's has more charge to spare.
  • Supports "Alternate Modes" - It supports different protocols with the same USB type-C cable where, like Thunderbolt 3 mentioned earlier, utilizes the same cable, provided the hosts supports it.
  • Supports USB Power Delivery 2.0 - Now supports up to 100W (20V 5A) of power. Older standards supported between 0.75W (5V 0.15A) and 7.5W (5V 1.5A). This means a whole new group of devices, like laptops, could just be powered from USB without the need of a separate power brick. You can use the same 100W charger to charge your phone at 5W, but don't expect your phone charger to charge your 100W device any higher than 10W (5V 2.1A).

You will need an adapter if converting to and from type-C, but as time passes by, this may not be needed as more devices come into the market.

At the time of writing, there are a few devices released with USB type-C connector, but quite rare. The common "standard" USB cables should have type-A male on one end, and type-B male on the other. the type-B end can be replaced with mini-B (deprecated in 2007) or micro-B. USB 3.0 variants of these add additional pins, but still usable with 2.0 cables without the need for adapters, though limited to 2.0 speeds due to the lack of pins needed for 3.0. A standard type-C cable should have type-C male on both ends, where anything else is non-standard. You may encounter type-C to type-A at this time, which is fairy common for any USB to non-standard USB ports like that 30-pin connector, or a particular dual-screen portable handheld device.

Micro and Mini variants of type-A do exist, but are strangely uncommon. Even though type-C is about the same size as micro-B, it is wrong to call it a micro connector. It may be possible to have an even smaller variant of type-C, but that doesn't exist at the time of writing.

09 October 2015

715th post: Early preperation for Halloween everywhere

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When you go out to the shops since around August, what do you see slowly creeping in? Decoration for Halloween! To remind you, that's on 31st October, which is practically November.

I do get how big of an event this is, plus the time between production of goods and preparing venues of with said goods, but I feel that it's way too early to have have it in stores in August!

Even online, you can't escape it as people began talking about it. Pumpkins, orange colour, ghosts, bats, witch hats, skeletons... The usual things associated with it.

When the day has come and gone, everyone removes the decorations a lot more quickly than setting them up, only to be replaced by... Christmas decorations.

You can never escape these things, do you?

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中野区, 東京都, Japan
帰国子女 英語能力は堪能。趣味はアニメや漫画やプログラムコードを編集。通常、あたしの小説を英語で書いてです。Grew up abroad &travelled to different countries. I write my own fictional novel on my blog.