Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Launch of Online Gaming Site!



Long wait is finally over...

It is now live and free for all!

Enter here (Choose 'Play Now') for a quick visit and perhaps a game or two.

We hope you will like it and look forward to hear your criticisms, views, suggestions and ideas...  

Let the games begin and may the best player win!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ළඟදීම එනවා!



මෙතෙක් කල් ලිපියක් ලිවීමට නොහැකි වීම ගැන මුලින්ම මගේ කනගාටුව. අවසන් වරට පල වුණු ලිපිය දුටු සමහරුන්ට නම් තේරෙන්න ඇති මොකක්ද වෙන්න් ඇත්තේ කියලා.


මේ වැඩය නිමා වූ වහාම නැවතත් හමුවෙමු.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

ගූගල් මෘදුකාoග තරඟාවලිය - අදම ඇතුල් වන්න!


ලෝකයේ හොඳම සහ වඩාත්ම උද්වේගකර පරිඝනක මෘදුකා0ග තරඟාවලිය 2011 වාරය දැන් ඇරඹී ඇත! ඔබටත් අදම ඇතුල් විය හැකිය.

මෙවර තරඟය කූඹ්යන් ගුලක් වර්ධනය කර ගැනීමට සහ ආරක්ෂා කර ගැනීමට ඇති ක්‍රීඩාවකි. අනෙකුත් ක්‍රම ලේඛණ පරදවා ක්‍රීඩාව ජය ගත හැකි ක්‍රම ලෙඛයක් සැකසීම අභියෝගයයි. ක්‍රම ලේඛ අතර තරඟ නැරඹීමට හැකි වීමත්, සජීවීව ක්‍රම ලේඛ ලකුනු සටහනේ ඉහල පහල යාමත් තරඟයේ උද්වේගය වැඩි කිරීමට මෙන්ම ඉක්මනින් ක්‍රමලේඛ දියුනු කර ගැනීමටත් හේතු වේ. උදාහරණයක්.

මේ වර්ගයේ අනෙකුත් තරඟාවලි වලට වඩා ගූගල් තරඟාවලිය (Google AI Challenge 2011) ඉදිරියෙන් සිටීමට හේතු කීපයකි. එසේම මේ සඳහා දැන්ම එක් වීමෙන් ලැබෙන වාසිද රැසකි.

1) විනෝදය. මෘදුකාoග නිර්මාණ/සැලසුම් කරුවෙකුට (software developer/engineer) මෙයින් ලැබිය හැකි ආශ්වාදය ඉමහත්ය! කීමට බැරිය. කරලාම බැලිය යුතුය.

2) අත් දැකීම් අනවශ්‍යය. නැති තරමට වඩා හොඳය!

3) විශාල මෘදුකාග දැනුමක් අවශ්‍ය නොවේ. සාමන්‍ය දැනුමක් හොඳටම ප්‍රමාණවත්ය.

4) විනාඩි 5ක් ඇතුලත මුල්ම ක්‍රමවේදය එක් කර තරඟ වැදීමට පටන් ගත හැකි වීම.

5) විශාල දැනුමක් සහ ක්‍රමවේද සැකසීමේ හුරුවක් කෙටි කලකින් ලබා ගත හැකි වීම. විශේෂයෙන් සoකීර්ණ ක්‍රමලේඛණ (programs) සහ ගැටළු වලට මුහුන දීමේ අනගි හුරුවක් ලැබේ. කරලාම බලන්න!

6) ලොව වටා විසිරී සිටින අනෙකුත් දක්ෂ ක්‍රමලේඛණ කරුවන් හඳුනාගත හැකිය.

7) මෘදුකාoග ගැන දනුම හෝ පලපුරුද්දට වඩා නිර්මාණශීලිත්වයත් (creativity) ගැටලු විසඳීමේ (problem solving) හා තර්කණයේ/ගණනයේ (analytical skills and logical reasoning) හැකියාවට වැඩි තැනක් ලැබීම.

8) සම්පූර්ණයෙන්ම නොමිලේ! නැති වීමට දෙයක් ඇත්තෙන්ම නැත.

9) ශ්‍රි ලාකීය නාමය ලෝකයේ මෘදුකoග ක්ෂේත්‍රය තුල ඉදිරියට ගෙන යාමට යොදාගත හැකි මහඟු අවස්ථාවකි. වැඩි තරඟකරුවන් පිරිසක් සහභාගී වීම තුලින්ම අප රට ගැන මෘදුකoග ලෝකය තුල වැඩි අවධානයක් දිනා ගත හැකිය.

10) තමන්ට කැමති ඕනෑම භාෂාවකින් තරඟ වැදිය හැකිය.

මෙයට සහභාගි වීම සහ දක්ෂකම් පෙන්වීම ඇත්තෙන්ම ඔබ හිතවාටත් වඩා පහසු සහ සරලයි. දැන්ම එක්වී බලන්න!

වැඩි විස්තර සඳහා.

පසුගිය වසරේ තරඟාවලියේ මගේ අත් දැකීම් මෙහි සඳහන් කර ඇත.

තරඟාවලිය සඳහා පිවිසුම මෙතනින්.

උදවු සහ මඟ පෙන්වීම් අවශ්‍ය නම්, ඔබේ ප්‍රශ්ණ කොමෙන්ට් කරන්න. දන්නා අනෙක් අයටත් කියන්න!

ජය!

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's wrong with Prius ?


So, here we are again! As promised, in this post we will discuss whatever we know as cons in Prius. For those who are already feeling like left out : In part1 of this post we discussed few basics in Prius, in part2 we covered bit more detailed stuff.

Most of those stuff discussed in those previous posts, I could personally vouch from own experiences. Sadly, (for the readers that is :-) ) I can't vouch for most of things we are going to discuss today since I still haven't had the misfortune of experiencing many of them myself. (yet!)

Issue 1, Prius need a baby sitter!
Rechargeable battery is NiMH, so it is not good for this battery to be idle for a long time or fully charged or low charged for a long duration. While driving, Prius is making sure that the battery charge is around 50%-60% most of the time so that it's life will be prolonged. However, when the car is parked and idle, it is the owners responsibility to make sure the car doesn't stay like that for weeks continuously, that will make the battery fully dead!

In 2001 model, Toyota issued a open warning that if the car remained idle for 3 continuous weeks, the battery will be irreversibly and permanently damaged. (that could be a loss of about $ 2000-3000). So if you are out of home for such a duration with the car leaving in the garage, you will have to ask someone to start it and go for a little ride (or at least start and let the engine run for few minutes) once in every few days!

Believe it or not,  This actually benefited me! When I bought my car from a local dealer in 2005, they have put it in the show room for few months without knowing what that would do to the battery. So, they had to import and fix a brand new battery before selling the car to yours truly. That battery is still working in acceptable quality. Also, I'm not a person who get to leave the car alone for weeks on end, So the baby sitter problem was never an issue for me. 

Issue 2, crash impact on the rear could ignite the battery ?!
A Toyota engineer told me this. This has to be a severe crash, which is very rare so the available information is scarce. A quick search in the net will find you few cases but most of them have following characteristics. Either someone has put the car on fire deliberately, or this has happened to a plug-in hybrid (we will discuss this in little later) or the car got in fire for some other reason and what they are really claiming is it's difficult to put the fire off when it got close to battery compartment. So it's not really clear whether there is a proven fire issue in Prius. If there is one it is unlikely the car comes to the global market after passing safety tests. So I guess at most, this is a very rare case of a normal fire spreading into the battery pack. Even in a normal car, a fire could be lethal if it spread near petrol tank for instance. Nothing to fear about but something better to keep in mind I guess.

Issue 3, overall performance can degrade in extreme cold
This has been witnessed in some countries in winter. Little drop in battery performance and also due to engine heating required, I guess. Not an issue if you not going well into minus degrees often.   

Issue 4, performance can go down temporarily after sitting under hot sun for hours.
This too I heard from a Toyota technician. Curiously enough, I haven't seen a noticeable effect myself! May be it has to do with the high power needed for AC for a while after being under the sun, or may be the electrical parts performing sub optimally under excess heat.. We would like to hear from new model owners whether they see a difference. Meanwhile, it's better to park your car in a shade when ever possible. :-) 

Issue 5, Don't get it dropped in water or get caught in severe floods!
There is lot of electrical parts, computers and batteries inside.. So, water is understandably allergic to the internals of this particular animal. When cleaning or servicing, don't let people to use the water gun at the engine area! (after opening the bonnet) that part needs to be cleaned by air, not water.

If the the extremely funny case of car getting dropped in a river or a lake and the driver surviving, if it is a normal car and if you somehow manage to get it out of water, you would expect it to run after some basic repairs and servicing isn't it ? but not the Prius! In this case you would be most probably in for some series repairs and troubles with the electrical parts... Same goes for getting caught in severe flooding. I guess this is an extreme but an obvious case, so no need for further explanations. If you feel like taking a dive or two together with your car once in every year like, then the Prius is definitely not for you. :-)

Issue 6, reversing could be a problem when the battery is really weak.
New car owners will not see this for at least 10 years I hope. My old car sometimes gives up this complaint. This happen when the hybrid battery is weak and not charged to the expected level. Prius relies on the battery for the reversing. (at least my old model is, check with your one!) So, if I have to reverse a long distance, or worse reverse uphill then the car would simply not move! Will have to shut off the engine and start again in this case, sometime I had to do this few times. It can be embarrassing in a crowded park for instance. Fortunately this is a rare case even in my old car and can be averted by making sure the battery is charged before you leave the car (keeping the engine on for a little while), or avoiding parking in such ways as you have to perform a reverse uphill to re start your journey. As mentioned in part1 of the post, this problem went away after servicing the battery.

Oh.. we almost forgot to mention about the plug-in hybrid! This is a new model of Prius which is now being tested in few continents and expected to hit the markets next year. This can we can optionally charge in the night from the main line and can go up to 30 kms in a single charge without using a drop of petrol! This is in addition to behaving like a normal Prius.

Few observation :
1) One might think this is totally green but not necessarily so. If the electricity is being produced in a power station using fuel, then car is still indirectly runs on fuel. However, power generators uses fuel much more efficiently in converting them to electrical energy than a vehicle engine converting fuel into kinetic energy, so you are still making a contribution to the environment. Another aspect is sometimes electricity you use at your home is being produced by nuclear, hydro or solar power. In those cases, it will be a 100% fossil fuel free ride for you!!

2) One might think this is very cheap than running on petrol but not necessarily so. It depends on how expensive the electricity is in the country you live. I don't think this will be that cheap in Sri Lanka. However, in certain countries wherre they have abandon nuclear energy, this could turn up to be a big save and total independence from fossil fuel as well!

3) Even your current Prius can be turned into a plug-in model! There are 3rd party battery charges available in the market. (got to eBay for instance) using one you could charge the batter at night. However, these technologies are not recommended or endorsed by Toyota. In fact, they will  make your warranty null and void if you get caught using such a device. There are people who still do this, but it is advisable you do it knowing what you are doing and taking a risk as well. Personally I wouldn't even think about this until one day the electricity become cheap in here. Until (if/when) minster Champika Ranawaka get his nuclear power plant operational that is.

Ok... we are closing the shop now. I have no intention of writing any Prius articles any more. (at least not in near future) I didn't really intend to write 3 posts as I have ended up doing! Very happy to see the interest it generated and if these information were helpful to anybody somewhere. We can discuss more via comments.

See you next time then...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ශ්‍රී ලoකාවේ හොඳම මිතුරා කවුද ?


ශ්‍රී ලoකාවේ විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය කෙසේ විය යුතුදැයි නොයෙකුත් මතවාද මේ දිනවල අසන්නට ලැබේ. සාර්ථක විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තියක මූලිකම කරුණක් වන්නේ සැබෑ මිතුරන් සහ සතුරන් හඳුනා ගැනීම ය.  අනෙක් සියලු ක්‍රමෝපායන් හා උපායමාර්ග සකස්වන්නේ ඉන් අනතුරුවය.

අපගේ නියම මිතුරන් සහ සතුරන් කවුදැයි දැනගැනීම වැදගත්කමින් දෙවැනි වන්නේ අප කවුදැයි දැනගැනීමටම පමණක් යැයි සිතමි. රටකට එය වඩාත් එසේය. නිදහසෙන් පසු අපට වඩාත්ම හොඳින් (සාපේක්ෂව) මිතුරෙකු සේ සලකා ඇත්තේ කුමන රට ද ?

වැදගත්ම අවස්ථාවකදී අපට යම් තෝරාගැනීමක් කිරීමට සිදුවුවහොත් අප විසින් තෝරාගත යුත්තේ කුමන රටද? අසීරු අවස්ථාවක අපගේ පිහිටට එතැයි තරමක් හෝ විශ්වාස කල හැකි රටවල් අතර එය ක්‍රියාවෙන්ම පෙන්වා ඇති රටවල් වේද ?

ඇත්තෙන්ම මෙය එක එල්ලේ පිළිතුරු දීමට තරමක් අපහසු පැණයකි. ප්‍රශ්ණය පැති කිහිපයකින් බැලිය හැකි වීමත් අප අතරම පවතින විවිධ මතවාදීය වෙනස්කමුත් ඊට හේතුන්ය. කෙසේ නමුත් මෙය හැකිනම් පිළිතුර දැනගැනීමට වටිනා පැණයකි. එසේම, අවශ්‍යනම් එසේ දැනගැනීමට හැකි ක්‍රමයකුත් ඇත! ඉතින් ශ්‍රී ලoකාවේ හොඳම මිතුරා සොයා ගැනීමට උදවු වීමට ඔබත් කැමතිද ?

මෙන්න ක්‍රමයක් ....

දකුණු  පස ඇති මත විමසුමෙහි ඔබේ තෝරාගැනීම සටහන් කරන්න.

ජූලි 3 වනදා වනවිට "ශ්‍රි ලාoකිකයන්ගේ මතය අනුව" ශ්‍රී ලoකාවේ හොඳම විදේශ මිතුරා සොයා ගැනෙනු ඇත!

මත විමසුම සඳහා ඇති සබැඳිය (in google polls) මෙය  වේ. ඔබට බ්ලොග් අඩවියක් ඇත්නම් මෙය ශ්‍රී ලාoකිකයන් වැඩි පිරිසක් අතරට ගෙන යාමට උදව් වීමටත් හැකිය.

ඉදිරිපත් කර ඇති රටවල් අතර ඉන්දියාව, චීනය, ඇමෙරිකාව, පාකිස්තානය, එoගලන්තය, ජපානය වේ. රුසියාව ඇතුලත් කිරීමට අතපසු වීම සමීක්ෂණයේ සිදු වු අඩු පාඩුවකි. 'වෙනත්' රුසියාව සඳහා යොදා ගත හැකිය.

http://www.fundraw.com

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Toyota Prius Hybrid - Experiance from a user, Part 2

Part 1 of this was something I just casually wrote in the hope of it will be of some use for few. Turns out there were lot of readers than I anticipated! May be it will not be a bad idea to share some of more detailed stuff too... Things I didn't put in the first post since I wasn't sure about the level of interest on technical details of a  Prius.

Tires : My model came with the most uncommon type of 165/65/15 low resistance. This was the type recommended for 1997 model Prius. Since fuel consumption statistics, mileage meter all must be depending on the tire radius size, all the statistics the car indicates to us could go wrong if we change the tire radius. However, using a different tire radius is not possible without changing Rims so I guess this is not a common scenario. However, tire inflation level is! Fuel consumption difference between using properly inflated tires and poorly inflated ones can be noticeable! When the tire is deflated, the length it covers per a single rotation is less, hence more rotations will be needed to cover a unit distance, resulting in high fuel consumption.

Surprisingly, 1997 model recommended tire pressures to be at a staggering 42 psi. Normally in Sri Lankan roads we use a pressure level of 28-32, most people preferring 30. in 1997 Prius, front wheels needed to be pressurized at 44 while the lower once were expected to be at 42. Difference was to offset the additional weight of the front area. Now, I infact tried those! want to know what happened ? Well, I got amazing fuel economy for a while and then I had to replace shock absorbers! Understandably, I haven't tried it since then. This setting is certainly not for non carpeted roads of Sri Lanka. Then again, we have much better roads now compared to 5 years earlier and if you are one of those lucky ones who can use a carpeted road all the time, then you should definitely give this a try. Inflating tires is a well known strategy to conserve fuel, something which was even suggested to all Americans by Obama himself!

Breaking : Because of the electric breaking in Prius, it is expected that one do not need to replace break pads that often. Can some one give us some statistics on this for a normal car? in my usage of the car for 6 years (close to 100,000 km)  I had to replace break pads just once. Like mentioned in the previous post, most of Prius parts are compatible with other Toyota models, and Toyota parts are not so expensive either so this was not something to boast about really. On the other hand, regenerative breaking is saving much more in fuel than saving on break pads. Statistics say that if you use it properly regenerative breaking can save up to 17% of the kinetic energy which will otherwise go totally wasted. Here, 'properly' means that to get the full benefit of regenerative breaking, we need to apply breaking smoothly. A gradual slow down of the car over a distance where we can clearly hear the humming noise of breaking. A sudden break will not be turning much of kinetic energy into electrical energy. (but it will save lives in an emergency! so do apply breaks with full force when you have to...)

Fuel economy hints :
This fact has been mentioned before but let me go through it again as this is the single most, biggest reason behind fuel wastage, even on a hybrid!

Trying to speed up (accelerate) when that is not really needed or meaningful.

How many times we see someone overtaking us, but then we catching up to them after driving normally while they are waiting at a color light! That is insane driving, we get no benefit at all by accelerating and be the first to reach a particular color light! If we know there is a stop in front, best and most sensible thing to do would be to stop accelerating and allow the vehicle to slow down, we could time this to perfection so that the vehicle stops at the exact spot is should be stopping. Doing that is much fun too! On highway, the strategy should be to drive in a comfortable constant speed (around 30-70) by tapping the accelerator lightly. Display should tell us when we are doing well in fuel economy. (instance bar hovering around 30 km/l) It is those occasions that we should try to lengthen. All these help us concentrate more on our driving and speed, which make us good safe drivers. Some of US states have actually reduced insurance amounts for Prius noting that Prius drivers get involved in far less amounts of accidents than the others. I guess this applies to other hybrid drivers as well. Being sensitive to fuel economy and be attentive to driving both go hand in hand.

As mentioned in the last post, a one cool feature of Prius is that the engine can automatically stop when the vehicle is idle (like waiting in traffic). This saves lot of fuel in city driving. However, this also means that the engine get auto started when we eventually start to move. (initially the vehicle goes solely on battery and then switch into petrol) When the engine get stops and started again frequently like this, it will put up a higher burden on the normal 12V car battery. If the Prius has to perform well, this 12V battery also need to be in good shape. Needless to say, power steering also is on electric so the stress on this battery is really high. This is one lesson I learnt after going through some hassle. It is natural to pay more attention to the bigger costly battery and forget about the little one. So make sure you keep a good eye on the little 12V fella as well!

One caveat in auto stop and start of the engine is that it works as expected mostly only when the AC is not running! reason ? In older models of the Prius (such as my one), AC gets the power from petrol engine like in any other normal car, so if the AC has to work, you need the engine running. In this case, sometimes even if your vehicle is idle, petrol engine will keep running. Turning AC off when the car is at a stop is not always possible in hot days. However, in recent models (after 2003 I guess) Toyota has improves on this by making AC also to run on battery! So the owners of newer models... let us know whether petrol engine totally stops at  traffic (while AC is fully on)

Looking at the fuel efficiency more on the LCD display is a great way of adjusting our driving. In a display like the image above, rightmost bar is our instance performance that is how many km/l or miles/gallon are we doing RIGHT NOW. Other 6 bars are average fuel consumption in last 30 minutes divided into 5 minute periods. One thing you will see most of the time is that the average efficiency in the first 5 minutes of the journey is usually low. Reason for this is that the petrol engine (of any vehicle) needs to get heated up to a optimal temperature to perform well. Until it reaches that point it can't maximum efficiency. This means if the usual drive is about 20-25 minutes or shorter, then the overall fuel efficiency suffers noticeably due to the first 5 minute issue. In later models Toyota engineers have come up with an ingenious solution to improve on this. They have introduced a vacuum flask which will keep all the heated air when the engine stops and use that when the engine get started next time. This reduces the need to heat the engine all the time. Just a one example how far designers have gone to provide the maximum mileage for each drop of fuel..  

What about things which can go wrong... (As Murphy's laws predict, "If something can go wrong, it will - at the most inappropriate moment") I have some experiences to share on these issues as well. Will try to share them with you in another post. Meanwhile, feel free to send in any questions and your own experiences, those will be most welcome!

Happy, Safe, Clean and Economical Driving!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

අකාලිකෝ (for all times)

කටුකුරුන්දේ ඥානානන්ද හිමියන් ගේ ධර්ම දේශනාවකදී පහත විස්තරය අසන්නට ලැබුණි.

"බුදුන් වහන්සේ විසින්ම වදාල ධර්ම පාඨයක් නම් පහසුවෙන් හඳුනාගත හැකියි. අර්ථය ඉතාම පැහැදිලියි, කෙටියි, කිව යුත්ත කිව හැකි සරලම සහ නිවැරදිම ආකාරයෙන් දේශනා කර ඇත. පරස්පර නොපවතී."     

ගැඹුරු කරුනු විස්තර කිරීමේදී බුදු හිමියන් දක්වන මේ කියන විශිෂ්ඨත්වය හරිහැටි දැකීමට නම් ඥානානන්ද හිමියන් මෙන් ධර්ම මගෙහී ගමන් කොට තිබීම අවශ්‍ය වනු ඇත. එසේ වුවද පෘථුග්ජන අපටත් මේ සදහම් රසය විඳිය හැකි අවස්ථා තිබිය හැක.

පහත උදාහරණය බලන්න.

ආරෝග්‍යා පරමා ලාභා, සන්තුෂ්ඨී පරම0 ධන0
විශ්වාසා පරමා ඥාතී, නිබ්බන0 පරම0 සුඛ0 

පරම ලාභය නම් නීරෝගීකම වෙයි.
පරම ධනය නම් සිතේ සතුටයි,
පරම ඥාතියානම් විශ්වාසවන්ත තැනත්තායි.
පරම සැපත නම් නිවනයි. 

කොතරම් අගනේද ? සරලද ? සර්වකාලීනද ?

1) නීරෝගීකමෙහී අගය දැනෙන්නේ එය නැති වූ විටය. අප ලබන මොනම ලාභයක්වත් නීරෝගිකම නැතිකරගෙන ලබනු වටීද ?

2) සිතේ සතුට නැතිව වෙන කුමක් ලැබුවත් ඇති ඵලය කිම ? අනෙක් අතට සිතේ සතුට ඇත්නම්, අපට අවශ්‍ය ලෙස දකින බොහෝ දෙය නැතුව සිටීමට හැකිය. සිතේ සතුට අහිමි කරගෙන ලබන ධනය කුමක් සඳහාද? සතුට යනු අවසානයේදී මානසික තත්වයකි. (mental condition)  අවශ්‍යනම් දැනට අප සතු දෙයින්ම මේ සතුට ඇති කරගත හැකිය. ධනය සහ වස්තුව අත් කරගැනීමත් සිතේ සතුටත් අතර ඍජු සම්භන්ධයක් ඇත්තෙන්ම දැකිය හැකිද ? ඇත්ත සැනසීම ලැබෙනුයේ අරමුණු හඹා යෑමෙන් සහ ගොඩ ගසාගැනීමෙන්ද ? සැනසුම පසුපස එළවන තරමට එය අපෙන් ඈත් වනු දැක ඇතිද ? සැනසීම ලැබෙනුයේ අත් හරින තරමටය! අත් හරින විට ජීවිතය සරල වේ, බැඳීම් අඩු වෙයි, වගකීම් සහ සිතේ බර අඩු වේ, නිදහස වැඩි වෙයි.

3) ෆේස්බූක් මිතුරන් සිය ගණනකට සහ අප ලඟ නැති, විශ්වාසය තැබීමට නොහැකි නෑදෑ පරපුරකට වඩා විශ්වාසවන්ත එක සැබෑ මිතුරෙක් නොවටීද ? විශ්වාසවන්තයාට වඩා නෑයෙක් තවත් කොහින්ද ?

නීරෝගීකම, සිතේ සතුට, විශ්වාසවන්තයින්... ජීවිතයේ අරමුණු කර ගත යුත්තේ මේවා නොවේද ?

4) අපගේ අවබෝධයෙන් ඈතය. කෙසේ වුවත් මේ සඳහා වුවද, ඉහත කරුණු 3 කෙරෙහි යොමුවීම හොඳ ආරම්භයක් ලබා දෙනු ඇත.

Monday, June 13, 2011

පොඩ්ඩෝත් දැන් බ්ලොග් ලියති!

මගේ දුවටත් මෙන්න ඕන වෙලා බ්ලොග් ලියන්න!

දුවගේ වයස තවම යන්තම් 11 යි. තවම ශිෂ්‍යත්වය පාස් වුනා විතරයි.

මෙයාට ලියන්න කෙසේ වෙතත් පොත් කියවන්න ඇබ්බැහි කලෙත් මම බොහොම අමාරුවෙන් මේ ළඟදී. දැන් නම් ඉතින් ඒක ආයෙ අමුතුවෙන් කරන්න ඕන නැහැ. මහන්සි වෙන්න ඕන කියවීම ටිකක් අඩු කරන්න ඕන වුනොත් තමයි.

දැන් ඉතින් මට නිදහසේ කොම්පියුටරය ලඟ ඉන්නත් බැහැ හැම විටම. ලියන දෙයත් ඉතින් පරිස්සමින් ලියන්න වෙයි ඉස්සරහට.

මේ ප්‍රශ්ණය ඇති කරගත්තෙත් මම ම තමයි. දවසක් දුව මගෙන් ඇහුවා මෙහෙම.

"අප්පච්චි, මට පොතක් ලියන්න ආසයි"

"ෂා! හරි ෂෝක්නෙ.., ඉතින් ඔයා ලියන්න." මමත් කීවා වැඩි කල්පනාවක් නැතුව.

"හොඳයි මම ලිවුවොත් ඔයා ඒක ප්‍රින්ට් කරල දෙනවද?"

මදැයි! පොත් ප්‍රකාශකයෙක් වෙන එක තමයි මටත් අඩු වෙලා තිබුනේ...

ඉතින් මම බොහෝම අමාරුවෙන් දුවට තේරුම් කරල දුන්නා පොත් ලියන එක ලොකු වැඩක්, ඉස්සෙල්ලා අපි හොඳින් ලියන්න ඉගෙන ගෙන පුරුදු වෙලා ඉන්න ඕනෑ ආදී වශයෙන්. මගේම තාවකාලික බේරීම සඳහා බ්ලොග් ගිනුමක් මම හදල දුන්න එදාම. මම හිතුවෙ මේකත් ටික දවසකින් ඇරිල යාවි කියලා. ("මෙයත් යාවි කෙලවර වී" කිව්වලු ලින්කන් ගොයියා. "This too will pass away" - Abraham Lincoln)

"ඉස්සරවෙලා ලියන්න පුරුදු වෙලා ඉන්නකෝ, පොත් පල කරන්න පුළුවන් ඊට පස්සෙ"

ඉතින් මේක කාලයක් තිස්සෙ කෙරීගෙන ගියා. පොඩි එකීගෙ ලිවීම් වල අඩු පාඩු බොහෝමයි, ඒත් මම ඒ හැම එකක්ම නිවැරදි කරන්න ගියේ නෑ. ඇවිත් ඇහුවොත් දෙයක් කියල දෙනව ඇරෙන්න. ආසවට ඔය කරන හරියම මදෑ?

ඊයේ දුවට පොඩි අනතුරක් උනා. අද ඉස්කෝලෙ යන්නත් බැහැ. මම වැඩට යන කොට බොහොම ආසවෙන් කොම්පියුටරය ළඟට වෙලා හිටියා. (ඇයි එයට දැන් දවසම ඒක අයිති කර ගන්න පුළුවන් නේ)

මෙන්න බලනකොට දැන් කවියකුත් ලියලා !

බලනකොට පොඩ්ඩෝ මෙහෙම බ්ලොග් ලියන එක හොඳයි. ඒකෙන් ළමයින්ගේ ලිවීමේ හැකියාවන් ටිකක් හරි දියුනු වෙයි. ඒවාගෙම අන්තර්ජාලය හොඳ විදිහකට පාවිච්චි කරන හැටි ගැන හුරුවකුත් ලැබෙයි. ළමයි ලියන විහිළු දැකලා වැඩිහිටියන්ට හොඳ විනෝදයකුත් ගන්න පුළුවන්!

මෙන්න කවිය

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Toyota Prius Hybrid car - Experiance from a long term user

 (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/TOYOTA_Prius.jpg)

When the government reduced import tax for hybrids and people started to buy Prius cars, I started to get so many calls from friends and from friends of friends. For few weeks, it was as if I was a Prius dealer, expert or a mechanic! Well, I'm non of above yet I helped those callers to the best of my ability. It is then it occurred to me that if I put a blog post, it would be useful for some people and easier for me as well! The recent post by සඳරු at හිස් අහස prompted me to put that thought into quick action...

Now, the reason why people asking me about Prius issues are because I'm one of those rare guys in Colombo who was (put your favorite adjective in here. crazy/stupid/brave/lucky whatever) enough to buy an earlier model of a Prius (when at the time they were rather unheard of a model and a technology in here) and so have actual experience of 5-6 years in using them in Sri Lankan conditions. My car is a old 1997 model Prius (as one in the photo above), which is the very first Prius model to come out of factories. Japan started to export Prius only in 2001. The recent models 2008-2010 are far more advanced and superb in features than my old poor car, yet the main principles of the hybrid concept is more or less same so answers can be the same for most of generic hybrid car questions. 

Let me list most frequent questions I got and their answers :

1) How easy is it to find parts in here ?
No big deal. At least for my model, almost all the parts I have replaced so far were compatible with other Toyota models. Namely Corolla 121 or Allion. Parts I have to replace/renew in last 6 years since I bought my car were Shock Absorbers, CV joint, spark plugs, lower arm bush, mounts, break pads etc. They were all compatible, as you know Toyota parts are the easiest to find in Sri Lanka.

2) How expensive were repairs/maintenance ?
It's exactly same as any other Toyota model. I mean servicing the vehicle, renewing parts etc. I didn't encounter needs for repairing the hybrid unit yet, but will come to that later.. So, as for all the other repairs which you encounter 99% of the time of normal vehicle repairing,  It was relatively cheap. Reason was mechanics in Sri Lanka are more familiar with Toyota. As mentione d above parts ere not expensive either (when compared to let's say Honda, Mazda etc)

3) How many kilometers does it do for a liter of petrol
For some reason most people are under the impression that Prius does about 40 kilo meters for a liter of patrol! completely not true!! May be the reason for this myth is in the manuals it says fuel consumption is 40mpg. Note, that means 40 miles per gallon! and gallon means a US gallon. this need to be converted to kilometer and liters. 40 mpg is 24 km/l and that is ideal lab condition expectation. In reality, the car was expected to do somewhere above just 20. While this is still very good and almost double the fuel efficiency of a normal car, it is no where near what some people assume a Prius to be. In the newer models expectation is to near the efficiency level of 50mpg. This would mean about 30 kilometers per liter. Hope an owner of a new Prius car would confirm for us whether this can be observable under normal Sri Lankan conditions.

As for my car, it did about 20 - 22 outstations and about 15 in the city traffic. Averaging about 17-18 per liter at every month. I was very happy  with that. Since people were so afraid to buy this car then (I bought that in 2005), it had a lesser market value, so I did not spend any additional amount to gain that fuel befit. It was a total save! Besides the amount I spend to buy the car was actually even less than then market value of then recent model of Corolla!! So I had reasons to be happy.

Over the years, fuel efficiency dropped a little. After 6 years now it is doing only about 18 outstations and 12 in city traffic. Still not so bad considering the car is now 14 years old and have now done about 120 000 Kilometers.

4) How far can you go in battery without using petrol
This question is entirely wrong. Prius can't go any distance without petrol, petrol needs to be in the tank at all times. This is not an electric vehicle. You can view it as an efficiently built petrol car with some fuel saving features. Some of those features are :
  • High fuel efficient engine
  • Body shape to reduce air resistance.
  • Re generative braking. 
  • Extra power get saved in a battery and will be used later
  • Engine stops when the vehicle is idle in traffic
  • Newer models can provide air conditioning from the batter power.
  • LCD display with fuel consumption statistics.
So it's more correct to view a hybrid car as basically a normal petrol vehicle with few fuel saving features with the aid of a rechargeable battery among other things. I personally give lot of credit to the LCD display for high fuel efficiency as it helps us to find faults in our driving and help improve our driving habits to improve fuel efficiency. For instance, in the first week after buying the Prius I recorded just 10 Kilometers per liter. Once I get used to how to drive a Prius properly (in fact these techniques are true for any car), my fuel consumption reduced almost by 50% !  Basically you need to aggressively accelerate at the start, get into a comfortable speed quickly and then try to maintain that as a constant without pressing hard on the accelerator. This technique is called 'feathering' you give gas just enough to keep the current speed and not more.

Opposite of this is what most drivers do. Accelerate like crazy when ever possible and then brake like crazy. Lot of energy get wasted when we accelerate just to break few seconds later.  

Another false understanding on Prius is that people trying to go solely from battery as long as they could thinking that they are saving fuel. This is actual wrong! Once the battery discharges, then the car will have to waste petrol to get the battery charge again! This technique therefore provides no gain and even decrease the overall performance.  A mentioned above, when we try to drive in a constant speed without burning additional fuel, system will automatically decide to provide additional power via battery, this is the energy which  normally get wasted in ordinary vehicles.

5) What if the battery goes dead. how expensive is it to get imported ?
In the days I bought it, if the battery goes dead that would have been  a big issue for me since there were not many importers and the battery in 1997 model was a big heavy monster. I think it would have cost at least 2-3 hundred thousand to (2K-3K US$) get a new one from Japan, if not more. However battery never died, well not yet at least! Toyota is known to be very smug about this and say 'our battery never dies', (but we Buddhists should know better on that!). In my model, Toyota used to give a warranty of 160000 kilometers or 8 years for the battery! even though we don't get this in reconditioned Sri Lankan cars, this shows how confident they were on their batteries. The newer models should be even better! We all know how much dry fuel cell battery technology has improved since 1997!

Another thing is when I felt like battery performance is going down a bit, I used to go to a good friend of mine who had just the right equipments and know how to address the issue. (too bad I can't name him here due to  professional reasons from his side) Basically he could open up the battery, take down 40 odd individual small cells inside it and measure them for voltage. He says if one cell is defective, all the other cells after it will not charge properly and that's the reason of overall battery performance to go down. So he would just find the defective cell, charge it from the main (like I said he has equipments!) and reassemble the battery, problem gone! For the last 6 years I had to do this only once and he hasn't even charge any money for that! (Like I said he was a friend of mine!)

I have just mentioned above information to show the readers that there really is not a big problem to worry over. This is a technologically very advanced age and information can be found readily in internet. So there is nothing like a impossible technical problem when it comes to issues like these. Only reason I have about these batteries are that how are we going to recycle them in about 15-10 years of time from now. Batteries are very toxic and I hope there will be plans and places which does proper recycling, otherwise these batteries could cause lot harm to the environment to offset the good Prius is now doing with lowered emissions and lowered fuel consumption. This is a point most people pay little attention to.

Re-generative breaking mentioned above is the process where the hybrid car saves the additional kinetic energy at the time we are breaking in to a rechargeable battery. In normal vehicles, this energy get wasted as heat when we apply breaks. In Prius, a separate motor will work when we apply breaks. (that's why we hear that nice humming noise while breaking)  this motor will convert kinetic energy into electricity and save it in the battery for later use. Again, breaking need to be applied in a controlled manner for this system to work efficiently.

6) How good a car is this

This is a great car! On this you don't have to listen to anybody. Here is a simple test : Go to toyota site, check the prices of top range Toyota cars. You would see something like this : (prices in US$)
Corolla : 16K-18K
Camry :   20K
Prius :      22.5K  
Yaris :      13K
Avalon :    33K
RAV4  :    22K  

Prius is priced much higher than common models such as Corollo and Yaris. Even more expensive than Rav4 which is a SUV! Only Avalon is more expensive than Prius, but then Avalon is a super luxury vehicle which drink petrol (relative terms) if you are of that type.

So Prius is a expensive vehicle than Yaris or Corolla, yet due to tax breaks in Sri Lanka, a Prius cost less even than those economy Toyota models! Not to mention the amounts of money you can save on fuel afterwards! Therefore it's a definite attractive model to buy. In addition, Prius is possibly the most greenest of petrol / hybrid vehicles out there. It has been initially designed as a low emission vehicle to be environment friendly. It's a good part from the government to reduce tax and encourage people to go for the greener options like these.

Honda Hybrid models like Insight (World's first hybrid car If I'm not mistaken.) are also had to be good but I do not have hands on experience on those. Earlier Insight models used to be even better than earlier Prius models in terms of fuel efficiency but Insight lost market due to it being a 2 seater while Prius was categorized as a mid size sedan.

Got more questions on Prius... ? Feel free to ask!

PS :
Driving the Prius was always a very comfortable experience. Good handling, control, super sensitive breaking and power steering, short turning radius etc. Surprisingly pickup seems to be very good as well. Having battery is useful at hill climbing when you can get power from 2 sources. All this while saving the environment too ! In short I would recommend this car. However, according to what i know there is not much practical difference between 2009 model and 2010 model except in pricing. So going for 3rd generation 2009 model (which is lot advanced compared with 2nd generation 2008 model) seems to be the right choice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Services to the Rescue!


When we hear about most successful companies today, what are the first names which come to our minds ? Google, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft ...

What do they all have in common ? Well, they all produce software products, places where coding geeks work. Close answer, but still not it! They all produce services to people and none of them producing (manufacturing) anything material !!

Service industry is having a good time at the expense of the manufacturing industries!

Let's take a seemingly counter example. Apple. Apple do provide many services like iTunes, App Store, Mac OS, iPhone OS and SDK etc  However, they are more widely known for their gadget devices. iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook Air, iMac etc all cool gadgets! What do they all have in common ? They all have replaced the need of few additional devices we have to carry on with ourselves! They all have made us free from additional stuff by bundling many of them together and into a much smaller size as well. In effect, these gadgets have indeed reduced the total manufacturing which would have otherwise happen if they were not there! Just think about it.. MP3 players, laptops, phones, digital cameras, video game players, FM radios, Video CAM coders, GPS devices, alarm clocks, voice recorders.... we don't have to use all these devices anymore. It's not just that the digital divergence making progress, it is also a sign how much people like (naturally ) to be free from stuff!

When we use Facebook, Gmail, Skype or yahoo to communicate with our friends and build online communities, or use wordpress or blogspot to express ourselves and be accessible to others, or use wikipedia to learn something, Not only we are use way less paper, ink and so many other things! We actually psychologically moving away from consumerism since we adopt new goals and interests in life which does not involve buying, owning and keeping things. Naturally human beings are geared towards having a simple free life without having to hold on to so many properties (stuff).

I think stuff has started to get into us in a big after the industrial revolution. first we marveled at the ability of technology to make our lives easy by providing us with handy tools for everything. Of course after a certain limit, holding on to stuff just becomes a plain burden. It put strain into world's resources, adds onto produced waste, emit more CO2 and take up more energy. Once we trap in a consumption and purchasing lifestyle, things we buy no longer are the ones we absolutely need. We become prisoners beside a mountain of stuff we need to clean, arrange, move and maintain. When Paul Graham says "I'll take services over goods any day." he echos sentiments of most of future men.

Bypassing the safe and sane limits, buying and owning things have now become a goal and a drive in itself. Owning things become so important that it tends to even define us, and people (not to mention countries) compete with each other to own more! once it get to that level as it has now, of course it becomes nothing but a shallow activity, a bad habit (and a dangerous one for the ECO system) we need to drop!

People are indeed doing that unconscionably. Until now they didn't have an alternative avenue to put there passions in. To compete with others, to find a meaning to life. No let out to concentrate their efforts into. Hence purchasing, owning and collecting stuff became a life goal. Not anymore! With the advancement of information technology, people have finally found and finding alternative let outs for enjoyment, achievement, entertainment, expression, communication and lot more other things. Services we mentioned above are empowering people to lead satisfied lives without making them slaves of manufacturing industries and advertisements.

Now then, like manufacturing produced guns and weapons, Services too will produce negative things like ... (insert your list in here). Or people could chose to get lost in endless procrastination and loose sense of reality. In everything, there will be a choice for us to use it in a good way or in a disastrous way. However, in services there are few most noticeable benefits for all. Services do not take up natural resources to build them. Services do not produce waste. Services do not ruin environment. Services do not load us with stuff which we have to maintain and carry with us like a burden. Good services make us save our time, reduce stress. More importantly Services help us develop our real important skills such as communication, learning, gather knowledge, appreciating art, self expression... 

Improvements in service industry may help usher in the next phase of human evolution. Industrial revolution helped us giving more tools and equipment and brought about materialist, consumerism age. Similarly the revolution of information technology and services in general (Let's call it the Revolution of Services) will bring about the age of  knowledge and skill improvements. Human beings will value knowledge and the processes of acquiring it more and more instead of owning and collecting material stuff. Gaining soft skills like communication, analytical thinking, IQ, general knowledge will replace the crave for gaining more goods, owning property and even earning money, who knows! Service don;t cost much so the need for money will get reduced and that will replace by the need for intelligence, knowledge and other mental faculties... are we day dreaming? But look at it logically, once we are not so keen in buying and collecting stuff and more interested in internet, games, communication, education, self expression etc and when most of those come either free or very cheaply via new services, our need for money has to go bit down. 

There are other implications as well. What will happen to Adam Smiths theories on Supply and Demand ? Take a popular service like Gmail, Facebook, Wikepedia, Ubuntu or just even an online free game server. What happens to the supply ? that parameter doesn't seem to exist in that world! Well, unlike physical goods which get produced by limited resources (raw materials like minerals, fossil fuels, wood etc) a software product (for instance) does not take additional resources to reproduce. Once you build it first time, you can just distribute many copies for no additional cost! This is even more so for services like Gmail or Facebook. Those services can be made available for millions more without much of additional cost so the supply is no constraint. This is one reason why those services can be made available for free as they are now!

Now let's think about the implication of this. Supply and Demand which defined so many things in  manufacturing based economies will get increasingly meaningless in a service based economy. With the supply and Demand goes out, one will need to have new theories to define free market etc. May be the equivalent of that in services is Open Source. Now for old fashioned economists that might introduce more questions than answers! Without a price how can we measure wealth, progress, development etc... Well, not only soft skills a person has can not be measured by GDP, it is far more important and a valuable asset/indication than GDP. In other words our definitions of development, progress, economy all will need changes.

We can have an easy answer for all these. Google earning big money from advertisement aren't they ? so they can still be included in current economical practices, definitions and paradigms. Well may be. However, this is how old guards always tried to save their existing system, somehow trying to sneak in anomalies into the old system ignoring the fact that they don't really match nicely in it. For someone who takes the existing system as the bible, there is no other solution than to understand everything through the eyes and ears of the existing system, simply because for him, it is the only system there can ever be! However, to a open minded person, slight anomalies which highlights gaps in an established system just work as an opportunity to invent something new!

Future economists will invent new paradigms and theories to properly include service oriented economies with concepts like Open Source and 'free' which at the same does not adhere into Supply, Demand in a world where money and the importance of earning it is diminished.  This will be a vastly different environment than the current but we can already see a glimpse of it and judge how things might span out in future. Old concepts such as Capitalism, Socialism, Supply and Demand etc will either become outdated or will have redefined meanings in such a world. Which is good, for our priority is properly understanding, evaluating and modeling new events and phenomena rather than safe guarding old systems and outdated concepts!

Services will rescue human race from over consumption of environment. Services will help humans to find more challenging goals to achieve and self improvement. Above all, services will help us break free from consumerism and help save the world! At least this seems to be the best bet we have for the moment!!

Images :  http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/1824/30573932.jpg, http://www.wikipedia.org

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quality of Life in The 21st Century


                            http://www.allaboutlivingwithlife.com                                

Are humans just hard wired to consume as much as possible or is moving out of consumerist lifestyle the coming next big thing in human society ? This was the question we wondered on in the last post

Those who are new to this, also refer to this one and this and this, You will be fully armed with the context and ready to do damage!

We buy stuff mostly after falling victim to advertisement and marketing (whether we admit it or not). Advertisements are not just stuff we see in TV. Advertisements are in everywhere, some stays inside our minds from childhood as concept level, some get transmitted as fashion, advertisements even shape our thinking patterns and value systems.

We live in an era which preach consumption, consuming more means being more successful. Purchasing and owning more means more success. Ownership and consumption, those are the things which define us. What we own, in a way defines us, so we try to own better things more and more. Why do we try to earn more? Either to continue buying or to pay debts for the things we have already bought!

If everybody owns more things than really necessary and if every household is having more things which are not actually needed or not being meaningfully used, then it's obviously a big waste. More than that, it means we consume just for the sake of consuming as if we don't have any other meaningful goal in our lives. Do we live to buy that fancy car, own that big house and to use those handy gadget? Is there no other real purpose which drives us ?

Next problem is, can all of us (even if we have money) really own all those things we like? everything takes energy to get produced, every thing takes resources to get produced, only a part of those resources (if at all) get recycled back. While our craziness for owning things has no limits, resources the world has got to produce them, certainly has limits. Amount of waste the environment can absorb (generated by consumption) too certainly has limits.

The so called economical growth which drives from consumption is simply an impractical model to continue further. It is not that we have a dislike or a disagreement with the way current economies run, just that we will need something deeper and something more practical and sustainable in coming decades. Current systems may be ones evolved in last centuries and survived those times because they were suitable for those times where our ability to use up resources were too low to worry about. It is no longer the case now, will be no longer the case in future!

We need some new philosophy which help us not to run after accumulating things to be happy. Some new economical or social concepts/theories which produce more outlets to humans than just consumption.

Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that our own minds have accepted this as the reality and as the only (or main) worthwhile goal to pursue. So to make our minds happy and achieve that always illusive contentment, we are driven towards consuming more and more. If not by consuming, what else will motivate us ? What else can provide us with a drive to grow ? That raises an even more interesting question! What is growth really ? Is that the GDP ? Monthly salary we earn ? value of property we own ?

Going down the path of economic growth as defined in theories (produce more, consume more) is proving a dead end. All citizens of the world can not simply live as Americans do! Yes, even if everybody somehow manage to get 'rich', the world Eco system can not take additional vehicles on road, additional factories which require additional resources and emit additional CO2 and other waste, additional cutting down of forests to make way for additional houses, roads etc We have come to a place where we are using too much of world resources and emitting too much waste the world can take. A new practical philosophy is needed to take the world forward!

Can there be such a economy/society or a system which doesn't rely on people consuming more for it's own survival ?

I believe yes, there can be. Think about this.....

There are other goals, things we can achieve without owning physical goods. Things like having knowledge, enjoyment from sports, arts. literature etc, improving our minds whether it be mediation or positive thinking or any other psychological activity which help us feel good, feel important and makes us happy. Who says we have to earn more, spend more, buy more and own more to happy? That's the thinking advertisement has put in us for decades (for generations!)! and it's a myth! We don't necessarily need money, ownership and more things to be happy.

Is gaining more knowledge less important than owning a car ? Is improving our selves with better attitudes and mental qualities is not important than making our houses bigger ?  Is improving our brain capacities (to learn, to memorize, to analyze etc) not as important as buying things for our living rooms ? Improving our emotions and the way we react to things and compassion we can show to others, is that not as important as buying more expensive clothes to improve our outside appearances ? Is spending quality time with your family and friends inferior to spending time on increasing our spending capacity ?

There are so many better ways to enjoy the life and live happier and in a more meaningful manner without buying/owning/holding things. If that's the case whats the point of putting up a staggering amount of time on making money ? After all, the sole purpose of money is to increase our capacity to buy things. When we have more time we will be more able to appreciate the little things in life which we have missed all this time. We can make more friends, express ourselves more, love more, live more... Quality of life for the 21st century!

This could be a new philosophy which will guide this century. We simply do not need to consume more to be happier!! Sometimes letting go of things, be free from things is the best form of peace and happiness. That will be good for the environment too! Probably we will hear more and more about concepts such as Gross National Happiness

Does this mean going back to the stone age ? certainly not! Moving away from materialistic view open ways and new adventures for the mind and body. There are so much to achieve, so much to gain and so much to grow in the area of improving our own minds. We could foresee an intense competitive future where humans are driven passionately toward ever more challenging tasks for the mind and body, whether it be sports, self expression, arts, science, enhancing the IQ, improving attitudes, improving memory capacity and analytical thinking...

There is an endless world of possibilities, probably even more so and certainly much more satisfying and beneficial goals for us to achieve than just pursuing after material goods, stuff. Human mind is currently just trapped in a very limited materialistic world where it strive only about pursuing consumerist dreams. Imagine a world  where the human mind body and soul is unleashed and free to achieve it's true potential!

In the industrial age, we have transformed into a efficient societies which produces more and consume more, we proved ourselves as very good at it. Now that it's limitations are becoming obvious, isn't it any wonder that the next great age to come would be moving away from consumerism and pursuing goals of self growth, real happiness and advancements in mind and mental faculties? Pursuing happiness and greatness! In this sense arguments such as ones on socialism vs capitalism becomes outdated. All current economical systems and theories are for increasing production and increasing consumption. What we are discussing is a fundamental mental shift from that world.

Also, letting go of things is much more complicated than it sounds.... Sometimes you need the technology to make that feasible! How to get rid of bulkier things which need more resources and energy ? How to invent things which absorb human minds (which are no longer going after physical goods) and provide it with challenges and objectives to engage in with passion ? In fact, we will have a higher set of challenges for the technology which will have to play an even bigger role!

In a future post we will discuss the shape of those technological advances together with emerging trends, and wonder whether things are already moving in the direction they should be moving.....

PS : Services to Rescue the sequel of this post.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Farewell Ilandhariyo. ඔබට නිවන් සුව....

http://www.hisahasa.blogspot.com/

ඔබට නිවන් සුව....


http://ilandhariya.blogspot.com

                                                 
                                                 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A continent of mistakes

                                                                           (http://www.dailygalaxy.com)
There is a new continent forming in the pacific ocean! A vast new continent twice the size of Texas and it's growing each year!!

Unfortunately, this is not good news, as the new continent is formed by waste we throw away, things which are not bio degradable. When we made them, we knew these stuff (polythene, plastics) would last long and causing problems but we have simply thrown them away from our immediate neighborhoods and looked the other way pretending the problem is non existent.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a testament for human selfishness, ignorance and mad consumerism. Something we all should be ashamed of. A child born out of : ignoring a problem, laughing out early indications of a problem, pretending the world has unlimited natural resources and pretending the world has unlimited capacity to take on the waste we produce.

A continent of a monument to show, remind and alert us the on our greedy lifestyles and the direct results of consumerism! For more about this continent and to know why we are already powerless to reverse the damage, visit here and here

An interesting thing to note is the list of surrounding countries of the proud new continent. America, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan...  So called developed world and few countries who have achieved fast economic growths recently.

However, the biggest tragedy of all is may be the fact that even a continent of mistakes is not enough to waken us up! Instead of consuming less, producing less, re-use and recycle, we are still thinking of how to continue and even accelerate our proven faulty life style....

If this issue is so real, why don't we discuss about it more often ? Why is media silent about this ? There lies the other tragedy of current generations. Mass media is not acting as a solution, it's a part of the problem. Media needs consumerism to survive! If the real answer is to Restrict our usage and consumption, how many people will really like to hear that ? If the consumption and production to go down,  what will happen to our lifestyle and 'economic growth' we are so taught to believe in ?

OK, let's look at this from a different angle, What we just discussed was one result which we are powerless to reverse anymore. Let's start from the point of generation and see what produced this, how and why ...  

Let's Imagine a house with just the basic little amount of furniture, less electrical equipments and gadgets.. think about a place with only most needed equipments and nothing else. Such a place would have empty spaces to move about, less clutter, less amount of cleaning and maintenance. It will have simplicity and would serve to add a sense of serenity and peace of mind.

Now compare it with a house full of gadgets, equipments, furniture and what not. When we imagine, we have to be realistic (the things TV adds won't tell us), some of things in such a house may not be working. Some of things may be missing among number of other things. Some things may not be as clean as we would like them to be, for keeping all those things in an orderly manner, in working condition and keeping them clean at  all times need time and attention. Not just once or twice, but daily! Things demand time and attention from us don't they?


Things we have, sometimes tend to define who we are, if we have way too many things, we are bounded, restricted and limited in freedom because we have to maintain those things while a person without them is free of that burden! If we  have a car, we have to wash it regularly, make it clean, keep it serviced, get it repaired when it breaks etc. Now, what happens if we have 2 vehicles? it's even more of work. Those tasks of maintaining our cars eat up our time, energy and focus. In a sense, car will start to own us that way since it get us to do things for it. More things we have, more slaves we become of those things we own.

It's very important to decide exactly what things we really need and not committing to too many physical things in our lives. Even when we see a moderate convenience of having something, we should question ourselves, is it really worth the trouble of having it? How will it be few months after purchasing, will it still going to be that useful and look that pretty ? will we really use it that many times as we expect to ? or will it be like that exercising machine under a bed which we haven't taken out in a month?

Just buying something is not the end, paying the monetary value is not the end, things have hidden price tags attached to them. Every thing needs some time and attention from us. This untold price is mostly go unnoticed when we buy something. We are trained to see a purchase as a win if it's 'cheaper' than the market value. Well, come to think of it any price would be too expensive for something we really don;t have a need for. We are not entirely at fault for getting blinded for that simple fact, for we are being continuously attacked day after day by media and social peer pressure to buy this and buy that. Advertisements! If we have some extra money at hand, resisting the urge to buy something is simply not as easy as it sounds. Not only us who get those urges, our kids, spouse, brothers/sisters they also get the urge to 'take something home'!


So eventually any quite peaceful house becomes a junk yard over the years. Full of things which are either not used regularly or can not be used effectively for some reason or simply we don't anymore have time  to sacrifice for them.

What if we clean our houses of stuff which are not absolutely needed ? that is good but it's not the proper answer. When we buy a thing which is not absolutely needed, we have already done the damage! Getting rid of them from our houses means we are simply putting the burden on somewhere else and going to selfishly look at the other way. This was exactly what produced the continent of waste we just saw!

Proper answer is to limit the consumption and produce less, then reuse and recycle the rest! So called 3 R's of Green Peace. Restrict, Re-Use and Recycle.

After all, 80% of stuff we think are useful and must haves are really not! we could easily and more conveniently and more freely live without them! Still doubtful about the real 'value' of stuff we have and what it is doing to us? read here on the subject of stuff. To identify the shallowness of buying and owning stuff and to move away from it, one does not need to be an environmentalist or a socialist! Just stopping being a mindless slave (following the fashion) to consumerism is enough so it seems.

In a future post, we will look closely for the ways out of consumerism and how to live happy and healthy lives without destroying the world. Is it possible at all? Are humans just hard wired to senseless consumption or is moving out of consumerist lifestyle the coming next big thing  in human society ?

Meanwhile, here are few past related posts.

Middleground on Capitalism and Socialism, Where have you gone ?

End the burning, Cool down and Clean up!

Lighting Up The Dark!

 

PS : Added two sequels to this :

How to reduce consumption and still enjoying the life and

Current trends which are already taking us in that direction.
 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Lighting Up The Dark!

(wikipedia)

In the last post we came up with a short term solution to how we can immediately stop (well within 3-4 years that is) the additional carbon emissions by cutting down fossil fuel usage by 50% and save the world while keeping economies going as well. Of course we assumed that rich countries would agree to such a solution and invest money in building few efficient nuclear reactors pretty soon. While even the moderate kyoto protocol which is no where near cutting carbon emissions by half in near future, is not agreed up by the world biggest carbon emitter USA, we may be just dreaming in here.

Still, what we have is a practical solution. A short term one, something like this can happen one day when the world leaders finally realize it's about time to take some real action on carbon emissions. Meanwhile, let's see what could be a good long term solution.

As discussed in the earlier post, dramatically and aggressively increase the production of nuclear energy to about 50% of worlds total energy consumption (currently nuclear energy is at 8.5%) is our short term solution to meet increasing energy requirements while cutting down on fossil fuel. Still, that too will last only for 15-20 years, however, in this time we should learn to power up the ultimate energy source the world has got. Clean, abundant, plentiful, natural, and harm free, all powerful Solar Energy! 15 years of concentrated effort is all what this industry need to deliver goods...

The total solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses in one hour is more than the annual global energy consumption!

In the main post image, if only the solar power is harnessed in areas covered by black dots, total world energy requirement can be met! Those black dots are all situated in the deserts, the land currently can not be used for any other purpose. This is assuming the efficiency of solar panels will stay at the current levels of 8%-9% but this is something which is expected to rise up to 15% based on recent research.

Using the clean, free and abundant solar energy to fulfill all our energy requirement is a dream which can be realized and achieved in our life times!

Consider following statistics :
  • In 1950s at it's start, solar cell based power production cost was $286 per watt and efficiency of the technology was just 4%-5% 
  • In 2010 the cost for a watt was $1.80 while efficiency was 8%-9%
  • At the end of 2011 the cost is is expected to be $1.50 per watt. Efficiency too is expected to reach 15% in very near future. (wikipedia) 

There are 2 main methods of harnessing solar energy.
1) Photovoltaic (PV) using solar panels, direct conversion of solar energy to electricity (8-9% of efficiency) This field is recording a 20% of annual growth.

2) Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Using solar power to heat water/oil and then use that to operate a traditional electricity generator. Cost of generating electricity using this type of solar power is now approaching that of fossil fuel based generation. In addition, this method requires less area (space) about 10 times less area than PV methods above. However, CSP is large scale production while PV can be done even in households. Annual growth is 40%.

In addition to these there are other methods like thermoelectric where the thermal different of two sheets will be used to generate electricity or generation of hydrogen out of water molecules using solar energy. 

One thing very noticeable with solar energy research and advancements are that they have grown very rapidly during oil crisis such as 1970-1985 and again from 1997 - 2009 During these periods, governments have put lot of money into research and provided grants and subsidies as well to encourage the use and generation of solar power that has noticeably improve the innovation. During the times when oil was cheap, such as 1985-1997 growth in solar power sector got slowed down.

Recent innovations driven by the necessity in the last oil shortage was staggering and very promising as well as exciting. For instance, new technology of using viruses to convert sun light into electricity cheaply, 3D solar cells which can dramatically increase the efficiencies, thin wearable sheets of solar panels and photovoltaic  inks from nanotechnology etc are only few of several advances.

It is said that once nanotechnology advances and production cost of solar panels become cheap, our roads and highways will be built from solar panels which would power up whole world freely and forever without taking any additional lands! Now, that's just an indication of the potential and how exciting the prospects can be in the advancement of solar technologies...

This is the time world should  invest more on solar energy, it will definitely be able to pay back when we start to run out of fossil fuels and Uranium.

May be equatorial countries can export solar energy to industrial countries in northern hemisphere in the winter! equatorial countries can make some additional revenue from carbon credits as well in future when the world is concentrating on bring the carbon levels down! All this would be good news for the world as a whole and developing countries in particular.

After all, Sun is distributing it's blessings in much more democratic and fair manner than fossil fuels ever have!

End the burning, Cool down and Clean up!

 (treehugger.com)

In our last post which was triggered by some discussions at few other blogs, we discussed the problems of consumerism. There, we found the need for some vital statistics on the effects of consumerism. Anyway, some of most interesting and widely discussed subjects these days are on global warming, oil prices, when the oil going to run out what next etc...

Come to think of it, exactly :

How much Fossil Fuel do we actually have in world reserves currently ?
What are the rate we are burning them and how long will they last ?

On the other hand, can we really afford to burn the remaining carbon fuels in the light of increasing CO2 levels and the threat of global warming?

What are the  alternatives we have?

Well, answers to those are easy to find these days! At least the part of finding the statistics, analyzing them with common sense and existing knowledge and coming up with a set of logical conclusions is not too difficult. Difficulty will be in getting people (or societies, economies) to change their current beliefs and behaviors! not to mention the policy makers.

Anyway let's have a look at the statistics first (from wikipedia) :

Currently we have around 1200 billion barrels of oil in proven reserves. Of which we use about 84 million barrels daily at current production rate. Therefore oil is believed to last 43 more years.

Similarly, about 905 billion metric tonnes of Coal is available with the production rate of about 18 million metric tonnes daily. Therefore Coal will last for 148 years.

Availability of natural Gas is about 180 trillion cubic meters, at current production rates will last till about 60 more years.

These figures haven't taken into account the fact that the demand for these resources increase steadily each year by about 2.3%. However, world production for oil have already peaked, meaning we can not produce any more daily than we are producing right now! Coal and gas too is nearing peak production.

Now to the fun job of analysis :

The reason not to take the increased demand into account (in above calculations) is that it doesn't matter! What ever the demand is, world production is now peaked. Imagine a well with water to last 43 days. Your pump or the tap has a fixed limited rate of which you are taking water out. Now you get visitors and need more water and your well have got it as well. Still, you can not get more out since your output (tap size) is limited, so the well will still last for 43 days, you will just have to manage with whatever amount of water it gives daily until 43 days, after which you will not get even that limited amount. zero! nothing!

hmm that doesn't sound good does it ?  wait.. it's about to get worse! :

Demand increases but the supply stays stable, what does that tell us ? It means more and more fuel shortages and increased price in future. It will get worse in each year until about 30 years after which oil might get too expensive for many practical usages. This will have an impact on coal and gas too as non availability of oil will increase the demand for gas and coal, their prices too will go dramatically up. So we can have following conclusions form our analysis so far :
1) In short term, higher fuel prices and shortages will slow down world economies and growth.
2) In about 30 years, oil, gas and coal all will be too expensive to make their usage impractical for most of tasks.

Only two things can stop this scenario. Let's list them down..
A) Technical advances which enable us to get the same work done by consuming less fuel. (like hybrid cars)
B) Economical slow downs and low growth rates, driving the consumption down. This second outcome is the same as conclusion 1 we stated above, one thing leads to another. Same sad story!

So our only hope seems to lie in technological advances to get more out of same amount of fuel. Remember, this is not about burning less, this is about getting more out of the amount we are already burning per year to meet the growing demand for energy. How practical is that to expect in three decades? Well, history have taught us never to underestimate the advance of science and technology. Hybrid cars and Bloom Boxes are two examples.

Problem is not much about the technical innovations, it's more about peoples capacity and readiness to change and adapt to new technologies. This means relaying of new infra structure (this is one reason why Hydrogen fuel cells vehicles didn't take off), changing attitudes and mindset of people (even after more than a decade of history, hybrid vehicles are still a small fraction of all vehicles running on roads for example), mass production of new technology and survive early periods of trial and error. It generally take time to master a new technology and evangelize it, mass produce with new manufacturing plants etc So even if a technological revolution of increasing the fuel efficiency is possible, we may be running up on time for that. Remember we have only 3 decades left, we may need to start right now!

Now what about other available main energy sources, namely hydroelectricity and nuclear energy? Obviously, Hydro electricity has a limitation imposed by available good enough natural locations. Most available such locations are already being used. Other problems are the impact man made reservoirs have on wild life, environment, soil and eventual filling up of reservoirs by mud deposits resulting from erosion of soil over time. Still, production can be increased but no where near to a level of filling the huge gap fossil fuels going to leave  us with. Currently, hydroelectricity gives us only about 6% of total energy production. That leaves us with the possibility of Nuclear energy.

(wikipedia)

Even if we discard the potential dangers of nuclear plants like the recent tragedy in Japan after the tsunami, nuclear energy too has one big shortcoming. It is non-renewable! Like fossil fuels the fuel needed for nuclear reactors, Uranium is in short supply. According to statistics current known Uranium reserves (type which good enough in quality to be used in Nuclear reactors) which are economically and technically viable to use are enough to generate power for about 100 more years AT THE CURRENT PRODUCTION LEVEL.  Currently we use nuclear energy to cover about 8.5% of global energy need. Clearly, with fossil fuels diminishing and unable to supply the increased demand, Nuclear energy has to contribute lot more if we are to meet the energy demand and to keep economical growth.

This brings us to the next dimension of the problem. Even if we have fossil fuels, we can not afford to burn them anywhere near current rates due to environmental impacts! Now, Here are the statistics for that.

Currently, fossil fuels(oil, coal, gas) amount to 85% of total energy production.
Burning of fossil fuel is producing 21.3 billion tonnes of CO2 annually.
The world eco system can absorb only half of that amount for a year. 
(from wikipedia)

We are producing 10.5 billion tonnes of more CO2 yearly and it is increasing as well! effects of these emissions (global warming, climate change, rising sea levels, floods, cyclones) are well known and we are already experiencing them.

If we are to give priority to save the world and environment (which is nearing a tipping point in terms of global warming) and avert a disaster, reducing the use of fossil fuels by around 50% is a must. With only 50% of consumption from current we can double their life to about 85-90 years! that is enough time for new technologies to come in and make use of fossil fuels much more efficiently, enabling us to keep them for even longer periods! this sounds like win-win!  However, That means only 43% of current energy requirement can be allowed to fulfill by burning of fossil fuels. Remaining 57% has to come by other sources.

Currently, other renewable energy sources (hydro, solar, wind, geo thermal) are all producing only about 7% of energy need in total. Technological advances have to be made in these sectors to grow this amount significantly over the coming decades. Specially Solar energy (more on that later) obviously, this will take time.....

Until those technical advances are made, how are we to immediately fill the gap of remaing 50% of our annual energy need (further 2.3% get added to it annually!) ? The only short term hope is to go nuclear! It's current usage of 8.5% will have to be increased  by about 6 folds! If we remember the Uranium resources statistics, at current rates it was enough for 100 years but once we increase the production by 6 folds, Uranium too will be gone in 16 years!

Hmm looks like all we have a got here is a short term solution after all. What could be a long term strategy for this problem ?

Stay tuned.. in the the next post we will pick up a possible long term solution. We have 16 years for that! (kidding, I'm just splitting my post in two at this point as this is already getting too long)

PS : Just published. To the long term solution ->

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Middleground on Capitalism and Socialism, Where have you gone ?

                                                                  (chrismadden.co.uk)

In an earlier post, we discussed few fashions in our society and why certain fashions are harmful. Looks like there are more and more subtle not so obvious types of fashions for those we all fall into at one point or the other. Nothing terribly wrong with that either, as that's the usual way human beings learn, by trial and error. However it will be useful to be aware of our thinking process and be alert to occasions when we want to say or do something just because that is the fashion of the day to do so!

This thought occurred to me when following a particualr topic in the renown blogs of Chanuka Wattegama and Aruni Shapiro, where both were claiming to be capitalists but seems like there is a disagreement on the level of capitalism. Now, I don't mean any disrespect to those authors, infact I read them regularly and even learning new things from them, Chanuka of course we all know from Vidusara days, among other things. The thought occurred to me was something entirely different and nothing directly related to above bloggers.

It is not too long ago that we saw similar arguments and races to show and prove who among us are the real and most genuine socialists. The resulting irony of comparison of times (present against that of about just 2 decades ago) is too hard to go unnoticed. Do we remember those speeches we heard from stages, discussions, arguments on stage, arguments on TV and even on arguments in news papers ? Now, those days were the times where claiming to be a socialist was the order of the day. Socialism meant more progressive, more philanthropic, more advanced less greedy and purer. Different marxist parties actually fought over the rights of being true left. Intellectuals were no different! Openly and publicly claiming to be a capitalist was an unheard of thing those days.

When CBK wanted to introduce her new economy policy she had to choose the words carefully and offer something like a 'humane look for the open economy'. Just acknowledging to be a raw fan of open economic policies was a taboo. Do you support open economy.. no way! it's the cause of all evil that's why there is a war in north, the degration of social values, erosion of humanism and so on.. Fashion was to be against capitalism and open economy but to sound like a socialist. There was even a jargon, set of terms which sounded more socialist than others. Now, all this was not just among ordinary folks like you and me, it was the fashion also (or should we say 'specially') among intelectuals!  

So forgive me having a fun time watching how the world has changed. Today, the fashion is to be a capitalist! race is to be the biggest and most daring capitalist of 'em all! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make fun of any one. Just enjoying observing the social movements and changes in society which unravel rapidly in front of our own eyes. I myself was mildly following the socialism fashion for a time being. (Well, who wouldn't like to be little stylish when they are young? Unfortunately it wasn't fun for those who didn't survive in 87/89, some just didn't make it after following that particular fashion of socialism back then.) However, this time I will be extra cautious! Just following a fashion is not so smart when one is no longer young and expected to posses a balanced mind. Fashion these days is to sound like a firm capitalist, to talk about the benefits of freemarket and how the demand and supply going to solve everything, be against all form of subsidies and welfare etc. When so many of our people and politicians getting together and saying the same thing with lot of assuarance, that usually mean something is wrong!

Sometimes fashions can be correct too. Can this be one such occasion ? Whole world, after so many experiments have evolved economically and found the one true and real system which actually works. Capitalism. Can that be the case ? This, is an argument beyond the scope of a single (or a series of) post, I'm not even trying.  For fashion lovers, we will just show that even capitalism has it's limits and will become outdated much sooner than they might think. 

Capitalism grows when the consumption grows. When consumption goes down, capitalist creatures go into that hibernate mode of theirs call recessions. In fact, consumption is the metric used to measure how developed a economy is. How much do you consume per a month? a lot more than you neighbor? ah, then you are richer than him! that's how it works. So when we grow yearly, we get used to consume more and more and more. Why is milk food expensive now ? because Indians and Chinese have got rich and has started to consume more milk. Why is fuel prices going up ? because we are consuming more and more fuel, actually to sustain economic growth, it will be needed to consume more and more fuel. (at least until solar energy become cheap, but till that happens, there will be a deep recession if not enough fuel is available to consume). There is a saying that price of fuel will sky rocket to new dimension if all Indians take a fancy to driving own cars. With what Ratan Tata is upto, that just might really happen!

So what's the problem? we will continue consuming more, standard of living will go up, advance of science will find ways of consuming more and more things cheaply. There lies the problem.... There simply is not enough resources to go on doing this forever at this pace and acceleration! At one point, the world and it's limited resources will go on strike, that will be a one strike which will need little more than a pay hike to those socialist workers to subdue. The world, it appears has it's own few trade unions to talk through. Climate change is one, increased carbon emissions as a direct result of consumption is another. Rising sea levels, polluted air and water resources, dwindling forests.. wait! some minimum land mass will be needed to keep as forests to preserve the balance of nature. As of fossil fuels, all types of metals etc they would be non-reneawable sources, that is they have a cap. Once you use them, they are not going to come back again (not in our life time that is)

So, the capitalist consumerism dream is not going to be a one which can be sustained with a steady growth forever. If we have an endless source of resources, then one might argue even a greed (consume) based system might last long, but we haven't got one. Science will advance and help us to increase the efficiency of how we are using the limited resources but even that pace can't cope with the unlimited potential of greed. Greed has no bound, even if we increase our consumption levels by each day, we will then complain about the rate of our increase in consumption. The one who grows in the higher rate would be the man to beat then!


This is not a new argument or another doomsday forecast. The world eco system simply have a limit which it can endure, the world can support only upto a certain number of humans at a time, for instance. Similarly it can support only upto a certain levle of consumption by those humans, we will eventually need to limit our consumption and limit the amount of waste we produce and amount of carbon dioxide we produce. (Every production produces CO2, so consumption is linked to carbon emissions which is linked to global warming which causes rising sea levels which warm things even further etc.) Therefore the world will eventually need a new way of thinking which transform our mindset to check our desires, consume less and be contended. That will not be a choice but a necessity.

Now, all that was just to show that there is a limit to capitalism beyond which it too will have to be discarded. That particular thinking can be a fashion in future! When capitalism go out of fashion, who knows, we all might be trying to be the most 'greener' person instead! Well, if that were to happen, at least that will be a fashion which is actually a relief for the worn out world and the environment! Meanwhile, let's not scare off anybody yet and let us generously give the capitalist dream (so called American dream!) another decade or two. Like I said, this post is not about economy, it's about fashion!

Just one last caution for fashion lovers. It's the second mouse which gets the cheese! so let's not rush, let's wait and observe the first mouse a bit.


Feel free to express your burning, flaming disagreements (and meek agreements too!) and let all of us learn something from them.