The Elephant on the Roof

This year I’ve blogged about tables, doors, and drinking while using power tools.  But the elephant in the room is the solar power grid I had installed on the roof.  So I guess it’s about time I write about it and show some photos. First things first: yes, it cost a LOT of money.  But there’s a rationale.  I decided to bite the bullet and install a 6 kilowatt system, which is big.  That will generate something around a hundred dollars a month of electricity on average.  My timing was almost entirely driven by tax incentives.  Which is to say, I’ll get them this year, but won’t be able to get them next year.  NC’s current legislature has, in their infinite wisdom, eliminated tax incentives for things like historic preservation, renewable energy, and other “green” initiatives.  So, here we go! To answer some questions: no, I’m not going off-grid, and I didn’t install batteries.  I’ll feed back into the grid and get a credit, which I can use later.  I plan on building a pottery studio with an electric kiln, so running it on solar is impractical.  Second, yes I financed at 0% interest for 18 months, which is enough time for me to pay off the 35% not covered by tax refunds, and to get that check back from Uncle Sam for the rest.  Third, the return on investment is going to be about 6 years, while the equipment itself is warrantied for 25.  Fourth, there isn’t going to be some magical performance improvement on the solar panels; what I mean is they won’t be obsolete in a year or two.  The...
The Big Day

The Big Day

Today is the big day.  Not daylight savings, or tax day, or even my birthday (send presents, because you just missed it).  No, today is the day Google is making their big algorithm change to favor “mobile friendly” websites. If you’ve been paying attention, you might be ready and it’s an exciting step forward.  If this is news to you, don’t panic.  We’re here to help. What it Means “Mobile friendly” is a pretty broad term, but Google are focusing on usability.  From their post last November: A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash Uses text that is readable without zooming Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped A follow up in February says: Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. Reading between the lines, it means that your traffic will be impacted one way or the other. Who Needs to Change Google has released a mobile-friendly test tool to help you analyze your home page.  It only analyzes one page at a time, so it can’t analyze  your entire site in one pass.  What it’s good for is getting...
Non-Violent User Experience

Non-Violent User Experience

I recently had solar panels installed on my roof.  I could write a lot about the experience and what I learned, but one thing in particular stuck out: the folks who built the computer that controls my solar array have a totally different understanding of user interactions than I do. In my work life, I am in a world of web browsers and mobile devices: there are clicks and swipes, navigations and refreshes, logins and authorizations.  If you think about it, there’s a lot of imaginary stuff going on in the world of web and app development.  We expect that the user is going to interact with subtle and controlled gestures, and the computer or smart phone will respond with a something that “feels” like a real world reaction.  Try rotating your phone while browsing, or even just scrolling on it: the page moves as if there’s inertia.  Someone did a lot of math to get that imaginary inertia to appear natural. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the way to wake up the computer on my solar array is to hit it.  The conversation with the installation tech went something like this: “If the screen is blank, just hit it.” “You mean, like a button or something?” “No, there’s a symbol down there that shows you what to do.”  He pointed at an icon of a fist with an arrow pointed toward a box. I examined the icon, pushed it with my finger tip, and he interrupted, “No, like this,” and punched the screen with his fist.  It lit up merrily and provided a read-out of system...