16
Oct 09

Imagining Ruricomp

I’d been thinking, since I moved out to the country what relevance all that amazing and interesting work on Urban Computing and cities in general by far cleverer people than me (Matt Jones, Dan Hill, Adam Greenfield) had, here, in the middle of nowhere. Russell Davies picked away at it recently in his Ruricomp post and it’s been niggling me that the city kids are having all the fun.
(I’m not a book author or WiReD columnist like the others so forgive my writing, but hopefully I’ll make up for it with pictures).
The city street is bustling, overflowing with activity, both the physical as well as in data. It’s a lot less busy out here, and much less densely packed.

(or… The village is a nice pair of slippers for surviving the future)

I’d been thinking, since I moved out to the country what relevance all that amazing and interesting work on Urban Computing and cities in general by far cleverer people than me (Matt Jones, Dan Hill, Adam Greenfield) had, here, in the middle of nowhere. Russell Davies picked away at it recently in his Ruricomp post and it’s been niggling me that the city kids are having all the fun.

(I’m not a book author or WiReD columnist like the others so forgive my writing, but hopefully I’ll make up for it with some pictures).

DATA & APIs

The city street is bustling, overflowing with activity, both the physical as well as in data. It’s a lot less busy out here, and much less densely packed. I tried Layar out, and all it had was house prices, bah.

What data can we wring out of the rural environment that might prove of use to it’s residents and visitors? What embedded processes should have APIs opened up to the wider community?

Twitter as parish noticeboard

Twitter as parish noticeboard

So this is quite simple, mostly done or doable now but much more personalised and democratic than the traditional (and usually locked) noticeboard on the village green or by the church. We don’t get mains gas round here, but I have a 1600 litre tank in the garden full of LPG (or propane for americans). It has a tiny little dial on it telling me how much is in it – it also has telemetry sending this amount to the supplier so they know when to come and top it up. This data should be available: retweet me my gas! Chuck in local organisations (school, church) retailers (I choose, no spam thank you) and useful data from the outdoors (weather stations, postbox).

Duckpond climate data augmentation

duckpond-climate-overlay

It might be because my urban battlesuit protected me when I lived in the city, but the weather out here takes on a new importance. Rains a lot, and you get a lot wetter. But it’d be cool to have a bit more depth to that, and where better to construct the climate-data than on the duckpond. Show me the trends right here, show me the CO2 we collectively spit out – crickey that’s a lot, and the couple hundred trees here don’t really make a dent do they?

flood-map-overlay

Mash me up some data while I’m out walking too – here’s a floodmap/water overlay with some historical water levels of a stream near here. It’s not rained that much for the past month actually. There’s also an insurance-supplied party pooper there reminding me that the water’s not ideal even when it is there.

It’s all fields round here

wheat-to-bread

Yes, but fields of what exactly? Being a country newbie it’s good to learn about this stuff, and to put it into some sort of context. Wheat = bread clearly, but how much bread? Estimate me how much is an acre and show me with cute little infographics and Royksopp-style bakers how much bread that makes (2250 loaves per acre I calculated – could be miles out tho so I apologise in advance).

more soon…


08
May 09

Moving to the county – part 2

Off The Grid

Well, not exactly but we aren’t on the main domestic gas pipeline. We have a big 1600 litre tank in the garden filled with LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas, or Propane in old money) and after digging around I discovered that:

a) it can be quite expensive to use and
b) the rules around supply have just changed after a lengthy Competition Commission process

Short version of this is that after ringing round and getting quotes, the tank owner matched the best price immediately. We save 20% which leads me to think that the market was previously quite fixed and there is probably quite a bit of fat still in the pricing.

Heating the place full-on with gas is still going to be quite expensive, so we’re learning the art of making a fire and getting some smokeless solid fuel in during the summer. It’s cheap, it’s cosy, it’s the best plan so far.

And On The Net

Internet was a massive worry, and despite my best efforts we didn’t have broadband from day one. Cue a quick trip to the 3 store for a mobile dongle on PAYG folowed by much cursing as we realised out mobile coverage was frankly pisspoor. A week or so later (it was longer than it would have been, easter bank holiday got in the way) and broadband from ADSL24 was live. We get a good 6.5mbps down and 800kbps upstream reliably, thanks to being less than 400m from our village exchange. That’s OK for rural broadband I reckon, and it might get upgraded for 20mb in 2010. Maybe.

One Month In

So, we’re just about settled in, the difference in rent cost balances almost exactly the increase in travel costs. Working from home is much more pleasurable in many ways – space inside to focus and distractions outside for breaks to mention just two. Let’s see how it goes.


13
Apr 09

Moving to the country

After about 2 years thinking about leaving London and relocating to somewhere more rural we finally did it. Here’s some notes on the move and our first week.

The place

No we’re not loaded and haven’t bought anywhere – we are just renting. But what a difference in value – we’ve moved from a two bedroom ground floor flat (in a converted, slightly damp, victorian terrace, natch) to a three bedroom house cottage, with gardens and garage. Space! Stairs! Storage! Shed(s)! We’re paying a good deal less in rent for this than we were for the flat. In fact, I reckon renting a similar place where we were in London would be over £2000/month.

Apart from basic practicality, our charmless flat has been replaced by somewhere with light, space, green, quiet and charm in spades. Indeed, it even has a thatched roof if you like that kind of thing. It also, thankfully, isn’t one of those cottages with quaint olde low beams that would (bump) brain me at every (bump) turn. Recently refurbished, quite modern, white and clean but is at least 18th century. The manor next door is recorded in 1086. Old school, indeed.

Here’s a pic.

Working

We wouldn’t have considered this move if the daily commute was an issue. As it is, both of us are working at home most of the time now. In the old flat this had become a chore in itself, with the spare bedroom overtaken by SortOutMyVisa and a desk erected in the living room for my own work. The clash between our two working needs (V on the phone most of the time, me after quiet or concentrating with music) made this increasingly a problem. Now: we each have a room, V’s has two desks, space for her business partner, filing cabinets and shelves in abundance.

more later…