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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Belgian (and European) politicians keep saying that all of us must be ready to get on-board the unstoppable train of “digitalisation” (although the explanation of what that exactly means is not so clear). But everyone knows: digital is the future, if it’s not already today.

Modern society is noisy, especially so if you live in or near an urban / industrial area, or close to busy roads and highways. Noise is a known stress factor. Luckily, electrical vehicles are very silent, compared to their internal-combustion engine cousins. Electrical vehicles are taking over from their ICE cousins – just ask Norway. Hurrah! I’ll finally be able to sleep with the bedroom window wide-open.

Unfortunately, all new electric cars in Europe must by law emit an audible noise. So we’ll use a very analog solution to solve a problem caused by humanity’s technological progress. I can’t help thinking there must be other, quieter solutions to this problem.

But hey, I suppose it beats having to hire someone to walk in front of your vehicle, waving a red flag, no?

I found this image on Whaleoil, credited (I think) to ‘The giffgaff community‘…

 

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The last week has been very sunny and very warm in Belgium. Meteorologists tell us we had a real heat wave – not as severe as in France and Spain, to be sure, but enough to our photovoltaic panels produce the expected (but average) solar electricity of just below 300 KWh in June.

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I’m a bit older than Brent, and I had to buy my own first computer – a Sinclair ZX-81, in my case. But the feeling was exactly as he describes here:

Then the personal computer came along, and they had the freedom to solve problems on their own — when they wanted to, the way they wanted to.

This was a revolution.

Yes, it was about freedom, about full control over a tiny yet powerful machine, although at the start it was mainly about learning how much was possible with a computer and how you had to control it.

Image by Evan-Amos (CC BY-SA 3.00)

These days, even smartwatches have more oomph than the ZX-81, but they lack something that made the early “home computers” so attractive: they are increasingly closed-off by their makers. Is that good or bad? Personally, I love to tinker and explore and stumble and try again – that’s why I like all those Linux OS’s ;-)

Brent has a point when he says that “it feels more and more like we’re just renting Macs too, and they’re really Apple’s machines, not ours“. If I truly want to “play” with a computer, both in hardware and software, then Macs and portable PC’s don’t come into the picture. (Old) PC hardware or a Raspberry Pi will do, thank you.

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My first camera was an Olympus OM-1, and I still regret parting with it when the children became so active that I needed an autofocus camera to catch them on film ;-)

I still remember the build quality of the OM-1, and I loved the fact that the OM-1 plus a 50mm and 135mm lens (plus a bit of small junk) fitted in a small bag that could barely contain the Nikon F-something from my best friend. Olympus takes a top spot in my list of reputable firms, that should be no surprise.

In October, Olympus will celebrate its 100 years of existence, and they have created a website to show the history of the company and some of its products. It includes a nice video documentary about the evolution of the Olympus camera business.

Olympus: “A Great Moment” (click the image to see the video)

There’s a brief history of the company logo as well; that’s where I found the name ‘Tokiwa’.

(via DPReview)

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We spent 6 days in Crete, a week ago, because my wife wanted to experience more sun and better weather than we have had in Belgium the last few months. So where better to go than Greece in May, right?

Well, we actually had two days of grey skies and even a bit of rain. The White Mountains still had lots of snow on their tops. Several locals told us – independently – that we had the bad luck to live through what they called “strange weather“: for them, the steady patterns that bring so many tourists to Crete seem to be disappearing. Climate change was not yet invoked as the cause, but the term certainly came up.

This is not what Cretans want to see on a beach in May…

Crete and Belgium do not have weather in common, but according to our solar panels May 2019 was a sub-par month in terms of solar energy production. In fact, it was the second lowest production number in the history of our setup, and far low the number of last year.

 

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When we bought our CNG-powered car, the Audi A3 g-tron, one of the reasons was my conviction that using existing infrastructure would be the best route to cleaner and renewable energy, rather than starting a new power struggle over the resources needed to produce batteries on an enormous scale (where do you get your lithium?).

Scientific American published the article “Europe Stores Electricity in Gas Pipes“, which explains that my conviction might well become a reality:

Moving renewable hydrogen and methane via natural gas pipelines promises to cut the cost of switching to renewable energy. For example, gas networks have storage caverns whose reserves could be tapped to run gas-fired electric generation power plants during periods of low wind and solar output.

“Pipeline” by Alistair-Hamilton is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Original picture)

I don’t want to sound like a unconditional fan of Audi, but their building a factory to convert wind electricity into methane for the cars they produced was one of the elements that convinced me to go the CNG road.

Amsterdam wants to chase all internal combustion vehicles from its territory in the near future in order to get cleaner air. I wonder: what are they going to do about the heating systems of all those buildings, that are probably contributing more to the city’s pollution than cars? Those heating systems also have a longer mean life span than cars as well.

I can understand that the Dutch no longer want to pump up natural gas, since emptying those underground natural gas reserves is causing major damage to buildings on top of them in some parts of their country. So why not replace that with synthetic or “green” methane, given that the distribution and consumer systems are already in place? If there are good reasons not do to that, I would like to learn about them. The article mentioned above seems to indicate that synthesizing methane is rapidly becoming a commercially viable technology in the energy mix of the near future.

Moving renewable hydrogen and methane via natural gas pipelines promises to cut the cost of switching to renewable energy. For example, gas networks have storage caverns whose reserves could be tapped to run gas-fired electric generation power plants during periods of low wind and solar output.

I’m still waiting for major investments in hydrogen distribution networks – because that will likely prove to be the best way to store non-carbon energy (from wind, solar, geo-thermal, … power) in a from ready to be consumed where and whenever it is needed.

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Actually, no – I may not have published many posts lately, but laziness isn’t the explanation. I have more than 450 items in my list of “potential topics to blog about”, and I’m finding it harder and harder to decide which of those are still worthwhile writing material. I really need to review that list and start deleting the least interesting subjects. But that may take some time…

Today I can report that the solar electricity production number for April is (finally) incorporated into the overview on this site. April 2019 delivered 96% of what I expected, but that was significantly more than the three previous April’s. Still, the month was colder than last year, just like the first days of May – a year ago, we were burnt by the sun on a hot day while attending a wedding reception; today, the temperature hardly rises above 10° C (and it feels colder because of a strong north-western wind!).

 

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