Tag Archives: geekery

Awesome maths geekery

Pi pieI loved this story. Google bid random mathematical numbers for the Nortel patents, including Pi billion dollars. Fantastic. Trying to imagine Dr Evil demanding that in a blackmail demand, and I can’t quite do it – so it must be true that Google isn’t evil…

At the auction for Nortel Networks’ wireless patents this week, Google’s bids were mystifying, such as $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128.

Math whizzes might recognize these numbers as Brun’s constant and Meissel-Mertens constant, but it puzzled many of the people involved in the auction, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation on Friday.

Outlook 2011 defaults to local Exchange server details [troubleshooting]

I can’t fix this one or find information on it anywhere, but – probably due to Outlook 2011’s clever autodetect capabilities – when its within a corporate firewall it takes the local name of the server – not the externally visible OWA address – so when you leave the firewall the server doesn’t resolve.

My only fix at the moment is to keep changing the address manually in the settings. I’ve tried this but it doesn’t work – I’ve also tried configuring the mailbox manually from outside the corporate firewall but that resets once I’m on the office Wifi too.

Any tips from Macheads or Microsofties appreciated. Will keep scouring the forums, too.

Are rechargeable batteries worth the money?

DIY Light Tent

I should probably have done this before I bought the rechargeables, but here’s some quick maths working out the ROI on some rechargeable batteries – are they worth investing in for your house?

8 batteries and charger  cost £17 – thanks Duracell / Amazon.

1 pack of four regular batteries costs, let’s say, £1.50 and I’d use one per month (principally in a baby monitor!).

Let’s say I have to recharge twice as often as I’d replace the batteries – twice a month – and that they would last for two years, after which I’d have to spend another £9 on fresh batteries. So let’s work out the total cost of ownership over 2 years for a comparison.

How much does it cost to charge the batteries? Well, this site gives me the maths. I can’t find specific power usage for my charger  but let’s assume its the same and do the maths on that basis.

First, EON’s local electricity cost for my postcode is about 23.3p per kwh. Actually, it’s slightly less as I get direct debit and dual fuel discounts of around 8%, but let’s call it that.

Then – I apply the maths – 9 hour charge * 300ma * 12v = 32.4 watt hours (from the Protog website above)

32.4 / 1000 * 23p = 0.74p

x2 (as assume 50% efficiency) = 1.49p per charge

In two years, that would be 52 charges minimum = around 77p.

TCO in two years of the charger, batteries and charging – £17.77. And assuming the charger lasts longer… the next two years would cost approx £9.77. Of course, I’m not modelling for energy price increases (folly!).

Buying the 24x packs of 4 AA batteries I’d otherwise need? Around £30 at least, if I buy in bulk, and more if you go on the £1.50 per pack price. So it’s about 100% cheaper to buy rechargeables (not to mention environmental impact, other types of batteries and devices etc).

In summary – good household ROI!

I’m not sure about all my assumptions, though – is the assumption of rechargeable battery life fair? Is the assumption of 48 recharges reasonable before performance degradation kicks in? Is the assumption on charging costs accurate? Is the assumption of the power capacity right, such that they’ll last us a couple of weeks of typical usage?

Interesting exercise – much as I’d like it if all consumerism could be evaluated for returns, I can already hear my wife making her geek noise at me….

Geek nostalgia–newsgroups

When I was a naive 12 year old and massively into Transformers – the 80s animated series, not today’s Michael Bay monstrosities – I discovered newsgroups. These were a predecessor of modern web forums, and you’d use a desktop client (like Microsoft Outlook Express) to access a series of newsgroups relating to your interests where people discussed. I think they’re still around, but suspect remain principally the domain of the die-hard fanboys.

Now these newsgroups had various forms – moderated and unmoderated alike – and one of the most popular was alt.toys.transformers. People would put up requests to buy/sell toys, discuss the new TV series (Beast Wars came along in the mid 90s) and more. Hundreds of posts and replies came up each day.

And then, sometime shortly before I lost interest, the “Flame Wars” began. Some rather unpleasant chap decided to troll the forums with hundreds, thousands of spam messages, replying with offensive comments to anyone that actually tried to use the newsgroup for its intended purpose. The unmoderated forums took a battering and were nigh on unusable. These were the days predating pervasive broadband, so spam took a toll on your dial-up connection, and so cost you money as well as time.

Being home for a longer stretch this time I remember trying to combat these anti-socal spammers – finding an IRC room for hackers (IRC being Internet Relay Chat – another Internet antiquity that allowed people to chat on whatever topics they’d like), to try to find some sympathetic white-hat hackers willing to take on the digital ASBOs. Totally naive, but what’s amazing, in retrospect, was that whoever was in that chat room at least made sounds indicating that they were going to look into it.

Of course, they could have been an equally naive 12 year old pretending to be a hacker…The joys of the early interwebs!

Home alone

Emily and Amanda are off visiting friends and I have the bizarre prospect of the first few days at home alone since we moved here.


Managed to keep busy with a little blogging, life-sorting-outness, and a terrible Disney film (Amanda hates Nicolas Cage, but ever since he uttered the line “Why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box ,” in Con Air I’ve had a soft spot for him). Despite the fact that seeing a nerd take on magic is clearly a good formula for geeks everywhere, the dramatic climax of the film sees the hero emit the horrible putrescence that was:

“I’m not alone. I brought a little science with me.”

I know it was meant to be a little tongue in cheek but it’s nowhere near the comic mastery of  XKCD and just made me shudder a little. Randall Munroe is legend, Jerry Brucheimer, not quite so much.

Still, there was something about seeing the scene from Fantasia take CGI-tastic form.