Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Issue Driven Project Management

Recently I've partaken in a group project with two fellow software engineers (Branden Ogata and Jayson Gamiao) in which we developed a Command Line Interface (CLI) for energy and power consumption in the UH Manoa Dorms. More specifically we enhanced the wattdepot katas to have a more user friendly front end. This project also used many of the Issue Driven Project Management (IDPM) concepts such as breaking a project into meaningful tasks. Using IDPM really made our lives easier, since everyone had a specific job to do. At first I thought that this project would've been done faster if one person just coded everything since, he/she would know how the code worked. However I was proved wrong because each project member contributed and showed their areas of strength in programming terms.

To briefly explain what IDPM is; In software project management things can get very complex and the larger the project is the more complex it will be. Essentially IDPM has project members working on tasks, which are small jobs to complete the overall project. The project members should have a task to work on at all times and tasks should be meaningful. My overall attitude to what worked with IDPM was that it provided a framework in which group members know what to do and what other group members are doing at all times. This is evident with email notifications with each update and build tools verification.

The project implemented the following commands

  • current-power [source] Prints the current power consumption of the source
  • daily-energy [source] [date] Prints the amount of energy that the source consumed on the given date
  • energy-since [source] [date] Prints the amount of energy that the source consumed from the given date to now
  • rank-towers [date] [date] Prints the Hale Aloha towers in order of energy consumption between the dates given
  • help Prints a list of commands that the user may type in 

The functionality built in was a soft of idiot proof user interface where if users intentionally try to break the system, an error message would be printed. The functionality that was not implemented was the addition of more commands. The wattdepot API allows more commands than the 4 listed above, but for brevity sake our group chose to implement those 4 as a starting point. This project leaves room for upgrading the code, at this page.

The Google code page for this project is located here

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WattDepot Fun

Recently I've partaken in a kata exercise using the WattDepotClient. What is the WattDepotClient you ask? Well it is basically a Java Class that holds a lot of energy data from the dorms located at UHM. The purpose of the katas was to manipulate this energy data and print the selected data. All in all I completed 5 out of the 6 katas here, due to the difficulty in some of the katas I did not have enough time to finish all of them. What was most fun about these katas was the fact that we were given a system/API and was told to understand the methods and utilize them for our kata solutions. Most likely that without access to the API, the katas would've taken much longer to finish. It took roughly a day per kata but kata 3 was most difficult in my opinion. However I had gained insight to a possible solution with the help of my fellow software engineer, Russell Vea. 

I felt that WattDepot was a excellent exercise in a sense that it provided real world data. All the data collected were actual energy/power usage from dorm rooms, and it was fun knowing that I had access to this data.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Energy in Hawaii

Living in Hawaii, we unknowingly pay more for our energy use than the mainland. Coupled with the fact that our primary resource to create power is gas, we put ourselves in a situation where Hawaii is at the mercy of Gas. I know this firsthand because recently I just started to drive to school, rather than catch the bus. However as Hawaii tries to shift towards a clean energy solution, I think of all the pros and cons of this effort.

What was interesting to me was the fact that Hawaii pays around 30 cents per kWh while the mainland only pays 10 cents. This is a prime example of the 'paradise tax' we pay for living in Hawaii. Since we do not have a 'super grid' like the mainland, we rely heavily on electric plants that consume gas as a means to make energy. Keeping in mind that Hawaii is in a prime spot for other renewable energy alternatives, such as wind, solar, and geothermal. 

Energy in Hawaii is difficult to describe, but I would summarize it in one word, complacency. Most of the residents here are either unaware or don't care for the clean energy movement, and most likely they'll grumble and whine when it is too late. Hawaii clean energy initiative is a great idea but it requires a collective effort from the community. For example a small group of energy enthusiasts won't make a dent when hundreds of thousands of energy users don't preemptively change their energy usage.

I like to use the analogy of a person that thinks their actions doesn't make an impact on this situation as an example of the problem we face. If people in Hawaii don't begin to try become more energy efficient, I would ultimately be paying the price by a higher electricity bill, and paying an arm and a leg for gas. This bystander effect will be the biggest challenge that the HCEI would face in my opinion. However a lot of people are making efforts to promote clean energy in Hawaii.

For instance Jay from HNEI has received a grant from the US Department of Energy to do work using neat energy meters. These energy meters are a great tool to provide real empirical data on energy costs. For example if I installed an energy meter and suddenly realized that my energy usage has jumped twofolds just by watching tv, I would reconsider my habits to try reduce my energy usage. Hopefully this issue does find a solution to itself in the future, as Hawaii is in dire need for a clean energy solution.