Category Archives: Core Dumps

Attacking The Electric Bill, Pt. 2

Nice ViewWhen my wife and I moved from Hilo back to Maui, we looked into buying a house, but settled on a nice townhouse condo at Ho‘ole‘a Terrace, just outside Wailuku on the road to Waikapū. One of the few drawbacks of this choice (see one view to the right) is that we don’t have the option to add photovoltaic or solar water heating panels. I have written previously about our attempts to get our electric bills under control in our old home in Kurtistown, and these limitations proved to be motivation to find other ways to lower our electric bill.

The water heater for our unit is in a ground floor storage room that we are forbidden from entering without advanced approval from the management company. Fortunately, the circuit breaker for the heater is in our unit. We’ve been manually turning it on and off to save electricity, but you know how that goes–some days we forget to turn it off when we leave in the morning, or when we go to sleep at night, or forget to get up early to turn it on to have hot water for morning showers.

Mi Casa Verde LiteI considered adding a simple, mechanical timer to the circuit, but also wanted to get a grip on other appliances that unnecessarily drained electricity. After looking at various X25 and Insteon units, I decide to get a Z-Wave system from Mi Casa Verde called VeraLite. It looked like it had a pretty nice web interface with flexible programming, and could be accessed via my mobile phone. There also seemed to be a nice selection of receptacles, switches, web cameras, door locks, sensors, and other devices that could be controlled from this unit. So I ordered one and several receptacles.

Elk 9200The next task was to find a 220v relay for the water heater. It turns out there is no receptacle or any other Z-wave compatible device that can control a 220v appliance. I did find this Elk 9200 220v relay that could be controlled by a 110v Z-wave receptacle, so I ordered on of those as well. At this point I needed to call in a pro, but opted to call in my father instead. Hehe. The Elk relay was a bit bulky and housed in an unecessarily large white metal lock box. The excessive size turned out to be a blessing, and it was large enough to hold a receptacle box.

GE Zwave receptacleWe pulled another line from the breaker panel to power the relay, connected the water heater’s line to the other side, and brought in another 110v circuit to power the Z-wave receptacle outlet that controls the 220v relay. Confused yet? Dont worry, we were for a while, too. What we figured would take about two hours turned into a five hour job, but hopefully it’s worth it.

Mi Casa Verde’s MiOS web interface turned out to be not as intuitive as it seemed at first glance, and took about a half hour to figure out. Their docs are not that great, and lack any really helpful examples or explanation of their scenes, triggers and schedule, or at least how they are interconnected. But I set up the heater to come on in the morning, turn off after two hours, turn on again in late afternoon, and turn off again in the evening.

The next step was to find an Android app that works with the VeraLite, and House Buddy turned out to be the winner. I simply logged into my account on Mi Casa Verde’s site, it automatically showed all of my “scenes” and devices. Turning the water heater relay on or off from my HTC One V was almost instantateous.

KillAWattMonitor_DetailThe next step was to seek out vampires… vampire loads, that is. Vampire loads are devices that use electricity even when they are not in use. The power supplies that come with just about everything we own use electricity all the time, though in recent years they have gotten much more efficient. I pulled out my trusty Kill-A-Watt, as I had done at our old home, and began sleuthing. The technician from Time-Warner Oceanic cable that installed our equipment warned me against using anything to power down their devices for any length of time as the system updates it frequently, and if it were powered down during an update it could disable the unit and require service. A quick check with the Kill-A-Watt showed that all of their devices combined, as well as our Apple Time Machine, cost about $20 a month to operate. Figuring someone is in the house and probably using the Internet about 60% of the time, the cost saved by  powering these units off didn’t outweight the inconvenience of having to get a disabled device working again.

My CPAP uses about $5 a month just being plugged in as it has one of those block DC power supplies like many printers do. That will be the next to receive a Z-wave controlled outlet so the power supply will be disconnected during the day. Another nice feature of these receptacles is that they have a button on them that allows you to turn them on if they are off, or off if they are on. Pretty handy. Until I get a computer desk and some of my other equipment online, it doesn’t seem that there is much else worthy of the cost of these recepticles. The electric bill for the first full month in our unit was $127, so I’ll report back when I figure out if this was worth the time and effort we put into doing this.

And thanks, Dad!



New Windows 8 Operating System Supports The Hawaiian Language

While still a devout Macintosh user, I’m extremely grateful for friends at Microsoft who shepherded this project through to completion, and saw that the work we did stayed embedded as Windows 8 was being developed. I’ll be documenting how to activate the keyboard and type the ‘okina and kahakō later, but if you have Win 8, please feel free to explore and experiment.

And I would like to ask my fellow Macintosh aficionados to refrain from the normal litany of Windows bashing. This is significant development for the language that will help other important projects move forward.

I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be my swan song when it comes to technology and the Hawaiian language. This PR piece went out today from the UH media office.

Kahului, HI — November 8, 2012 — In a major step forward in promoting and perpetuating the Native Hawaiian language, Microsoft’s recent launch of Windows 8 includes support for the Hawaiian language, thanks to a collaborative effort with University of Hawaiʻi faculty.

The Windows 8 operating software includes a Hawaiian keyboard layout in the operating system, many fonts containing the diacritical marks used in the Hawaiian language, and other localized resources such as the ability toshow days of the week and months in Hawaiian.  This development was made possible by the joint efforts of staff of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Microsoft.

Keola Donaghy, formerly of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani and now a faculty member in the music department of University of Hawai‘i Maui College, collaborated with programmers in Microsoft’s Local Languages Program for several years to develop these resources and see that they were included inWindows 8. “We’re getting very close to the day that Hawaiian speakers will be able to take for granted the fact that they can simply type in Hawaiian when they buy a new computer, tablet, or smart phone without installing special software,” Donaghy said.

“Providing technology support in a native language is critical to helping people access the tools they need to create better economic opportunities,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education for Microsoft.  “Language preservation and support also helps preserve cultural identities for the next generation of learners.”

Keiki Kawae‘ae‘a, a faculty member of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani added, “We are thrilled that Microsoft has recognized the significance of the Hawaiian language to its people, and how important it is for us to be able to use it on our computers. Given the high percentage of personal computers that ship with and run the Windows operating system, this is one of the most significant developments that we’ve made.”

Language support for computer operating systems and programs has historically depended on the number of speakers of the language and perceived market. Major European and Asian languages have been widely supported by software vendors for many years, while speakers of native American, Polynesian, and other indigenous languages have had to depend on customized fonts and keyboards simply to be able to view, type and print the characters used in their languages on personal computers.

However, in recent years major operating system and software vendors such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple Computer, Inc. have recognized the importance of supporting a wider array of languages.

Maui Here We Come!

It’s official: I will be joining the faculty of the music department at University of Hawai‘i Maui College this summer. Marie and I are going home after 18 wonderful years in East Hawai‘i, and for me, 18 years at UH-Hilo. We leave with lots of great memories, some not so great, but all in all I don’t believe I could have been better prepared for the challenges of my new position, helping to move the Institute of Hawaiian Music forward, and working with the staff and faculty at UH-MC. The adventure begins August 1. E ho‘i ana mākou i ka ‘āina aloha.

A Hunter’s Christmas Lament

My sister June Donaghy Kramin (AKA, Aunty Bug) and her husband Thomas Kramin live in Minnesota. He liked my little TSA Christmas Carol, and challenged me to come up with one for him. He’s an avid hunter, and once I got rolling on this I couldn’t stop. Took all of 10 minutes:

(Sung to the melody of “A Christmas Song”)

Tom’s nuts roasting on a barbeque
‘Cause he pissed off Aunty Bug
He shot at a deer but his aim was untrue
Now there’s one less cat for her to hug

The ground’s too hard for him to dig a hole
So the cat’s just chilling in the barn
It’ll keep until spring, he gives thanks for the cold
And hopes she lets him stay on the farm

He knows that hell he’ll have to pay
How she’ll take it isn’t very hard to say
He puts the kevlar vest upon his chest
And walks toward the house where she’s at rest

Tom sleeps in the barn with a frozen pet
And he will for the rest of his life
They say that an elephant never forgets
And sadly neither does his wife

Call For Help With Hawaiian Braille!

Aloha kākou. Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, our College of Hawaiian Language at UH-Hilo, is having a new building constructed on the UH-Hilo campus. Some of the foundations and concrete columns are already done, and we are anticipating the building’s completion in December of next year. We are having one issue that I would like to get out there and seek some advice and/or help.

As our college functions in Hawaiian, we are very picky about language use in the new building. Most of the office and other signs in the complex will be either Hawaiian-only or perhaps Hawaiian and English, with the Hawaiian being larger in size and prominence. What we are having issue with is the Braille. We want the signs to have Hawaiian in Braille, and include the ‘okina and kahakō. The sub-contractor handling the signs says he cannot manufacture the Braille signs with the diacritic marks, even though they are in the IPA Braille spec. We’ve made numerous inquiries, and cannot find a Braille sign manufacturer that can do this. We need help in finding someone who can make these signs for us. To be clear, these are the hard plastic signs that are found outside of each office and in other areas of the building.

According to the IPA Braille spec, these are the two characters we need for the ‘okina and kahakō:

If there is anyone out there that knows anything about making signage in Braille, or knows someone who might know something about them, please contact me. We can find no prior use of these diacritics in Hawaiian in Braille, but like much of the work we’ve done with technology, we hope that we can blaze a trail for the use of Hawaiian in Braille. Mahalo.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together: More ‘Ōlelo Support in iOS

A new iPhone was announced today, the iPhone 4S, and the response to Apple’s press conference was a bit lukewarm. Many were expecting the iPhone 5 and/or iOS5 today. But one of the more exiting developments for us was found on the specification sheet for the phones (tip o’ the cap to Joseph Erb for the heads up): there will be a Hawaiian keyboard and spell-check document included. Yes, we’ve had support for the ‘okina and kahakō in the iPhone and iPad for a while; however, while you can generate them from the soft keyboard by long-holding your finger on a vowel, you could not type it when your device (iPads, mostly) was attached to an external keyboard. With this new development you will be able to do so. As soon as these features show up I’ll discuss them further. I believe all you will need to do to activate the Hawaiian spell-checker is select the Hawaiian keyboard.

Mahalo e ko Apple i ke kāko‘o mau ‘ana i ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i!

My Relationship With Beer? It’s Complicated

For all of the comments and jokes I post about Guinness on Facebook, I never was much of a beer drinker. When I turned 18 (back when the drinking age was still 18), my best friend bought me a six pack of Heineken. On my 21st birthday, I gave the last four bottles away. Didn’t care for it at. Over the years I tried a number of different beers, mostly of the mass-produced variety, and didn’t care for any of them either. I recall a conversation I had with a bartender in Ireland during our 2002 trip there. He asked what kind of beer people in Hawai‘i drank. I explained that most of the people I knew drank Bud Light. He replied, “No, I asked what kind of *beer* do they drink.” Touché.

During that same trip to Ireland I developed a taste for the Guinness, though it does taste quite different there than anywhere else. Perhaps it was simply the influence of the place. When I returned I found it difficult to enjoy Guinness on tap where it is served. May obviously don’t know hot to pour the perfect pint. Others seemed to do it right, but it still wasn’t the same. Since then I’ve been a bit more adventurous about trying new beers, both at home and while we travel, and try to support micro-brewers where we can. Some of have been great, and others, well, blech! Here are my current faves, in no particular order. Don’t ask me about the citrus-y taste or how it finishes. I’m no beer-tasting expert, just know what I like.

Guinness Extra Stout
While I don’t care at all for the Guinness Draught in a bottle or can, with that funky widget they put in to to aerate the beer, Guinness Extra Stout definitely whets the whistle. Dark and heavy deliciousness. It also has the advantage of being available just about everywhere.

Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale
My partner in musical crime, Kenneth Makuakāne, brought a six pack of this local wonder to my house on night a few years ago and I was hooked. Has a nice bite but still smooth. It’s also found throughout the state, in stores and on tap in many places.

Sam Adams Boston Lager
I tried Sam years ago and didn’t like it at all. I know it couldn’t have change that much between now and then, so it must be that my taste buds are getting more sophisticated. Like Guinness, widely available and a solid fallback or for a change of pace.

Hawai‘i Nui Brewing Southern Cross
I said I wasn’t going to put things in a particular order, but I have to admit that Southern Cross is my current fave. One of the more flavorful beers I’ve ever encountered, not too light, not too heavy. In the past it’s only been availably seasonally (October through March), but they are now bottling it and it is supposed to be available year round now. I have a growler and tend to fill it up at their tasting room on Kāwili St. in Hilo, but the bottles will do in a pinch.

I’m still not a big beer drinker. A six pack will last me a few weeks, and a filled growler a bit less. Then go weeks or months without. But when I do, I appreciate the wisdom of that Irish bartender a decade ago about Bud Light. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundeee, “that ain’t a beer. These are beers.”

Attacking The Electric Bill, Pt. 1

With electric costs soaring, we started to take steps to reduce our electric bill as best we could. Several years ago we replaced the bulbs in all of our most-used incandescent light fixtures to CFL (compact florescent lights). We also put most of the electrical devices I know use power when they are plugged in – whether or not they are in use. This included my computer equipment and our media system (TV, satellite receiver/DVD, Wii, audio receiver, etc.). When they are not in use, they are all switched off. It helped us cut down on our power use about 15% at the time.

Recently the bills have been climbing again, so I invested in a Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor that lets you plug in any electrical device, and, given your area’s cost per kilowatt hour (in East Hawai‘i it’s currently about $.45 per kwh), it tells you how much your device costs per hour, day, week, month, or year of use. I tested a few devices around the house, and was surprised by a few things.

First, the power supply for my MacBook Pro cost approximately $5.20 per month / $63 per year when plugged in. Plugging in the MacBook Pro did not register any sigificant difference. I had heard for years that these kind of block power supplies do use a significant amount of power when simply plugged in. I have a separate power supply for its monitor, and along with a few other computer related devices, they are all on a switched outlet strip that is turned off when I don’t use them.

The power supply for my Droid X consumes little power, and no difference whether its plugged into the Droid or not. Kept plugged in, it used $1.95 a month or $23.85 a year. My CPAP has a large block power supply that is in turned plugged into the CPAP. Plugged in but not with the CPAP itself not turned on, it only uses $.32/mo or $3.95/yr. Turned on is another story – $1.52/mo. or $19/yr.

I had always been told that televisions used up large amounts of electricity whether turned on or not, so the devices in our entertainment center were the first I put on switched outlets. Our Samsung flatscreen (not LCD) uses on $3.95/mo. or $3.95/yr when not turned on. I was quite surprised it was that low. Turned on, the Kill-A-Meter showed its use as $40/mo. or $484/yr. A nickel per hour of use. That seems more like it.

The biggest suprise so far was our DishNetwork satellite receiver/DVR. Plugged in but turned of it uses a whopping $17/mo. or $204/yr. Turned on it’s just slightly higher – $17.50/mo. or $212/yr. Fortunately this is also on a switch box, though I must admit we occasionally do forget to turn it off at night. I’ll be a bit more diligent about doing so. Powering this unit off means that it takes about five minutes for it to boot up and re-acquire the satellite signal. It’s worth it.

I was also interested to hear about the Google@Home automation system that is under development, and need to keep a closer eye on that. It runs, or will run, Android, so I’m hoping it will allow me to control and program home automation from my phone. Wouldn’t that be a hoot.


Online Hawaiian Dictionary For Android Users

Last year we launched a mobile interface for the Hawaiian dictionaries on Ulukau. The system should detect all mobile devices automatically, and for those that it doesn’t, you can simply go to to see the mobile interface.

The one limitation of this system is for Android users: Android’s default font does not have a glyph in the correct location, so Android users see a box instead of the ‘okina. We’ve looked into fixing this, but found that it would be costly to do the recoding necessary to make this work under Ulukau as it currently stands. I have been in contact with people who are trying to address the lack of the ‘okina in Android’s font. For the time being, Android users can use this page to search the dictionaries. The PHP script that drives it parses the returned text and replaces the ‘okina with a single open quote. Visually they are exactly the same, but reside in different locations in the Unicode font specification. iPhone users can use either this new page or the stock mobile interface at

A big mahalo to UHH webmaster Sunny Walker for putting together this script!

Hawaiian Language Support in Windows 7

This document shows which fonts on Win 7 have the ‘okina and kahakō characters used in Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages. You’ll find that only the following Windows 7 fonts have the ‘okina and all vowel-kahakō characters (at least in the standard install on our Dell):

Arial, Arial Unicode MS, Calibri, Cambria, Cambria Math, Consolas, Courier New, Lucida Sans Unicode, Meiryo, Meiryo UI, Microsoft Sans Serif, Segoe UI,Segoe UI Light, Segoe UI Semibold, Tahoma, and Times New Roman

Some others have some or all of the vowel-macron characters, but not all. Some fonts have none at all. This document is provided without warranty or guarantee, though if you find any errors I will be happy to correct it.

Win 7 Hawaiian Support