Light efficacy and political controversy in Spain

Early this week, Spanish government announced the plan on energy saving which shall be approved today. Among the rashly announced measures, one about replacing city lights for more efficient ones raised economic controversy among local governments and town councils: the central government does not allow them to increase debt but instead forces to invest in more efficient technology!

Minister Blanco went further by setting the example of replacing lighting devices  in tunnels by LED lighting saving 40% energy cost. Based on his statement, it is difficult to say whether politicians base their decisions on facts. It might well be that they have data on the lighting sources across spanish towns and data indicates there is room for improvement, but could they cite it?! Let’s be more precise: when Blanco says “LED lighting reduces 40% energy cost,what is he comparing LED to? Do you know? Does he know?

Regarding lighting efficacy, I found out an interesting document from 2009 by EnergyLab which summarizes some data. First, let’s take a look at the relative source of electric expense in Spain, which in the public sector looks relatively low compared to heating/cooling:

% electricity devoted to lighting in Spain, source EnergyLab

Second, let’s look at some relevant indicators regarding light sources: Luminous efficacy measured in lumens (amount of light observed by the human eye) per watt (electrical power consumed by the device) and half-life (in hours, given a population of devices the time at which 50% of them stop functioning):

Luminous Efficacy of lighting technologies, source EnergyLab

Lighting technology indicators, source EnergyLab

Clearly the top performers seem to be LED and sodium low pressure. A closer look reveals that the two tables are contradictory or mix different data sources: The first table rates LED efficacy to 55 and up to 100 (considering prototypes, I understand not commercially available) but the second table reads 80-120 for LED efficacy. Also, the first table does not include low-pressure sodium lamps that (from second table) outperforms LED.

Anyway, assuming data consistency inside each table and focusing our attention to the second table (best case for LED), still sodium low pressure lamps seem to be the best option nowadays. Aren’t they mainly used in towns and roads, Mr. Blanco?

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Elegant way to communicate

Watching a ted by Ken Robinson I stumble upon RSAnimate illustrative videos, a very elegant and entertaining way to communicate ideas. The work behind the illustration and video editing must be long and difficult, but seem to pay off  watching the outcome, which engages audience thru concept synthesis, aesthetics and entertainment. Don’t know what Tufte would say about it, but I find this technique terrific!
Do you know other powerful ways of presenting ideas? Share them, please!

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Education needs a revolution

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Something Tesla had envisioned is now very close to be a comercial product. WITRICITY, wireless electricity, might change the way we operate chargeable devices like cell phones, computers and cars.

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Logis Penedes to the EU parliment

On December 8th, the “Urban Master Plan for the Development of Road Infrastructures, Railways and Logistics in the Penedès” approved by the catalan government on July 15th, was took to the EU parliment by means of a written question presented by Oriol Junqueras and Raul Romeva. Now the parliment has 3 to 6 weeks to answer the three questions formulated:

Does the European Commission believe that the planning procedures followed in respect of the abovementioned project have infringed the Aarhus Convention, and hence EU Directives 1003/4/EC and 2003/35/EC?

Does the European Commission believe that building a road parallel to the AP‑7 contradicts the ‘20-20-20 Plan’, which seeks to achieve energy saving and energy efficiency?

Does the European Commission believe that the construction of the Logistics Park would be economically and environmentally efficient, given that it would be based only on road transport?

To know more:

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Agile software development

I cannot agree more with Peter Pontificates on his opinion regarding Agile sw development on his article (page 4) at insider, when he says:

My major objections to Agile come from what I view as the
unmitigated stupidity of its three most important tenets:

A maniacal emphasis on ―just getting something
working‖ as opposed to thinking something through,
designing how it should work, and getting something
working correctly.
Requiring detailed estimates of how long it‘s going to
take to implement some piece of functionality.
An insane reliance on – and limitation to
implementing features for – user stories (AKA
scenarios), which yield fragmented feature sets as
opposed to designing for well -reasoned
comprehensive functionality.

Agile, scrums and user stories are spreading like a tumor across sw building organizations. Imposed (not proposed) as the new process to solve software project management and execution, managers like it because it is a way of micro-management, the team is focused on one scrum after the other and project effort is estimated continuously. At least that is the theory. Reality is quite different, as Peter smartly points out:

On the Agile projects I‘ve worked on, the planning process is just a big ―everyone‘s in on it but the boss‖ joke:

Boss man: You, copiously large engineering unit over there, how long will it take you to create the huzzy-bub for the what‘s-a-ma-whosits?
Me: Well, boss man, I thought long and hard about this, and after consulting with my team members and the folks in test, I‘m confident I can have it done mid-way through Sprint 832.
Boss man: Well done! That‘s what I like, a compliant and focused, if slightly overweight, engineering unit. Do you have milestones for that?
Me: Oh, yes, boss man. I do. I definitely do! It‘ll take 2 days to modify the frobnitz, 3 days to code-up the blortz-fart, 2 days to test the blortz-fart and frobnitz together, 2 days to modify the frazzle-blow, oh… no need to bore you with the details, great one… I‘ll just put it all in our Online Agile Super Planner, oh mighty master.
Boss man: Well done! I like specific milestones. Why can‘t the rest of you give me nice, clear, specific milestones like the fat guy over there with the ponytail. Whatever his name is.

Of course, I‘d written all the code already, during the previous sprint. I just hadn‘t checked it in. So, during Spring 832, I could update the Online Agile Super Planner to indicate that I hit all my milestones, while I worked on whatever it was I wanted to commit for the next sprint.

Quite interesting and, if I was a manager, I would be quite afraid. Software development is, most of the time, not lineal, nor trivial. Serious software managers have read the mythical man-month or peopleware and know that what matters most is to have a solid and motivated team. Lately the Agile manifesto has landed in the company I work. Sadly, it has been imposed to a very small team (less than 4) with the aim of fixing most of the things that went wrong before: accurate effort estimates, on time delivery, requirement elicitation thru user-stories, mitigate bugs re-opening, …  Instead of analyzing what caused those problmes, they applied prescribed agile medicine. The root casuses: Insuficient skills to do the job and lack of commitment (motivation), I doubt Agile will fix.

Bottom line > “A fool with a tool, is still a fool”. If you (manager) follow models blindly, you’re the fool.

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