This past Monday I (re)joined a team that I was involved with for many years. I have accepted a role in the Dynamics AX world working on our next release. In many ways it’s like coming home again. I see many familiar faces and have had a chance to say hi to a lot of people I haven’t really talked to in a few years. Of course a lot has changed and there are a lot of new faces. I can’t wait to see what everyone’s up to.
It’s good to be back and I look forward to talking again about application architectures, programming models, and line of business systems. Once I get settled in and get an idea what’s fair game to talk about, I’ll start writing again. It’s been too long.
By the way, in case anyone is still listening, the reason I went dark was twofold: first, summer came along and I really needed to spend some time enjoying it after the last big ship cycle; second, I’ve moved, along with the rest of the team, over to Windows Embedded. I’m working as an architect, but not on anything related to Hohm. I’ll be able to start talking about the new stuff pretty soon. I think we have a few conferences, presentations, MVP gatherings, etc. coming up and I’ll get to open up a bit there.
For what it’s worth, the rest of Hohm is intact and working on a bunch of new stuff. I ended up moving out of the team primarily because WEB architects are a shared resource. Anyway, hope everyone’s enjoying the new year. I’ll try to post a bit more as I can.
I was walking through the “underground” garage this morning on the way into the building. As I entered I was immediately hit with that weird effect of having a smell slam me back in time. It was this, what I really consider, nasty mix of tire rubber, burning oil, gas fumes, and cigarette smoke. It really is a nasty combination, but at the same time it’s really comforting.
You see, I spent a lot of time in my grandfather’s garage either just hanging out or learning how to repair damned near anything that could be repaired. Most of this stuff was cars or trucks that needed some love, or small engines that had just been beat to hell by their owners. Either way, there was always that smell, most of the time mixed with some flavor of welding equipment off-gassing. But, the one thing that brings it all back is the smell of cigarette smoke.
I hated the smell and still do. I remember coughing in restaurants, coughing in the back seat of my grandparents car, sniffling or coughing in the cabin at the lake. But, the one place I didn’t cough was the garage. Why? Hell, I don’t know. Same smell, closed area, a few packs per day.
Anyway, that same smell that I hated and that made me feel ill, now brings back memories of some really great times. I don’t remember the exact day my grandmother died, it was 25 years ago now, but it’s coming up very soon. I do remember the day my grandfather died, but that only 15 years ago. I miss them both and that crazy ass garage smell reminds me of them every day.
The Microsoft Hohm team cranked through the night(s) for the last month. What they did came out this morning. It’s amazing some of the things that they were able to drive in the final hours. Watch for the new Hohm widget (shown here) to show up on a bunch of sites. That way you can quickly look up zip codes, addresses, and other regions to see how you might compare. Make sure you claim your house and update your profile. We want to see those numbers go up!
Well, the lack of sleep thing isn’t much fun, but the end result is amazing.
Today the Microsoft Hohm team is launching a significant update that changes how consumers look at energy efficiency. As of now, over 60 million homes in the U.S. will have a Hohm Score, an estimate for a home’s energy efficiency. The Hohm Score makes it easier for people to understand if they are “energy hogs or energy misers”, helping consumers easily save energy and money using our product.
Just by entering your address, you can see your Hohm Score and compare it to regional averages and to other addresses in the U.S. The Hohm team developed its own sophisticated algorithms to utilize public record information and advanced analytics licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy to give users an engaging, personalized experience.
There is nothing like this today, and it gives people a tangible way to see the impact they’re having on the environment by changing a few simple habits and/or investing in energy efficient solutions. As one reporter concluded during a pre-briefing yesterday, “I love this stuff! Microsoft has a very cool product in Hohm”.
Please help us make this release a success by a couple quick steps: 1. Checking your own Hohm score 2. Friend Hohm on Facebook, follow on Twitter 3. Share your Hohm score on FB and Twitter 4. Send emails to friends and families to check their scores 5. If you blog, share this on your blog
This effort has been a stellar example of cross group collaboration and creativity. The engineering, PM, testing, marketing, ops, design, biz dev and legal groups all demonstrated smart thinking, perseverance and exceptional teamwork to make this Hohm Score release happen. Congratulations to the team.
The release today follows the announcement with Ford Motor Company a few weeks ago to help better manage the energy consumption of the upcoming electric vehicles. Hohm is on an exciting journey towards becoming the solution that provides everyone with clear insight about any of their energy use as well as easy and convenient tools to manage and reduce energy usage. Hohm is leveraging technology to address one of society’s biggest problems – core to the SBG mission.
This is likely to get lost in all the news, but in case you haven’t heard yet, Microsoft Hohm and Ford announced a partnership this morning to help EV owners better manage their vehicles. Hohm has reached beyond the house to help people manage another high-value asset in their lives. Instead of just copying a bunch of text from all over the place, here’s the partnership announcement that the Hohm team made this morning on our team blog.
Watch for a lot more news around this in the coming months. And, if you haven’t checked out Hohm yet, give it a try.
The Microsoft Hohm team has announced two sets of protocol documentation. The first has been in use for some time and it goes by the name “Microsoft Hohm Integration SDK” and the second is the “Microsoft Hohm Device Platform”. The problem is that these were both released as something called an SDK.
Well, that’s just the wrong thing to call them. These are protocol specifications only. The first “SDK” (on MSDN) is a set of WSDL and XSD that describes what the interaction between a utility company and Microsoft Hohm looks like. For what it’s worth, it was actually internally tested by building a Glassfish implementation of the utility side. That’s right, we built the sample utility in java. There’s nothing specifically Microsoft about it. Anyone on any platform can implement the protocol.
Same thing goes for the Device Platform that was announced a month or so ago. Its current incarnation is a PDF file that describes the REST protocol, authentication scheme, and entity schemas. That’s it. Nothing particularly Microsoft about that one either. Again, this specification was developed and tested using a 16-bit embedded controller on a small development board.
So, if our poor choice of terminology is scaring you off, don’t let it. Integrating with Hohm is simple and has no proprietary technology ties. So, get the Integration Protocol Specification (which is what I think I’ll call it from now on) and have a look. You’ll need to wait a little longer before the Device Platform Specification is publically released, but if you ask firstname.lastname@example.org nicely, we might be able to get the document to you.
I’ve had a number of requests recently about integration at the B2B level with Microsoft Hohm. These range from the “how does it work” to “have you thought about X”, so I thought I’d put some of that information here for now. Before I go into any detail on the SDK, I just want to make it clear that this isn’t the Hohm Device SDK that’s been talked about and was recently announced. Stay tuned for more details on that as I’m able to talk about it.
The integration SDK is used for linking customer energy consumption data (gas, electricity, water, oil, propane), customer invoices, and pricing information with the specific customer account in Hohm. The SDK is standards-based, secure by design, and utility-friendly. The following is a stripped down but extended version of a presentation that I do for our utility partners. This is public information that can be found on MSDN, but with additional clarification and details.
One thing that needs to be stated up front though: “SDK” is a bad name because it implies technology requirements. This SDK is a collection of protocol specifications in WSDL and XSD. That’s it. Nothing more. No reason to buy anything from Microsoft to make it work (well, if you want to read the pretty documentation which is in CHM format you need something like Windows).
Early this morning the Hohm team launched a release we called the Holiday Express. This release took a little longer than we expected, but it was well worth the wait. We now provide home energy costs, recommendations, and potential savings for all US zip codes directly from the home page. You don’t need to sign up to get this level of detail, but if you really want to see what’s behind the numbers, and to see the reworked home profile, you need an account. It’s simple. It’s free. It’s for the planet.
In addition to the home profile questionnaire update, we’ve also provided detailed energy consumption breakdown information. That is, we take a shot at telling you where you’re spending those hard earned dollars on your energy. Where we used to provide 6 high level areas, we now expand each of those areas into a dozen of so components. Check it out.
Let me know what you think. I’ll be more than happy to send requests to the PM team.
In November, IEEE Spectrum ran an article titled Biofuels Aren’t Really Green. The short version is that pushing an all-biofuel solution to our current energy problems is intractable. There’s simple not enough water or space on Earth to grow all the biomass necessary. Before you jump to the conclusion that this is just another “sky is falling” attempt to scare everyone, read the article and try the model yourself. The model allows you to decide how prosperous various parts of the globe will be, over what timeframe, and to what level.
We really only have a few choices here and they start with energy management and conservation. We must reduce our consumption while helping other countries come par with our lifestyle. It’s only fair, and it’s only a start.
This morning, KPLU aired a piece on the power consumption of holiday lights. The BPA says that holiday lights count for less than 1/2 of 1% of energy consumed by BPA customers. That’s really not that much. But, we can do better. According to the folks over at ENERGY STAR, compliant lights use 75% less energy than traditional lights (and, my personal opinion – they’re easier to install because you can string many, many more in serial).
Granted, there are also several other great benefits too: the run cooler, they last longer, you can shake them up a bit more while installing them, and they might even be a bit brighter.
We installed LEDs this year for the first time (I wanted to make sure the old ones had sufficiently worn out before I dealt with the disposal issues). I won’t go back. Now, it’s time to work out a Hohm plug-in for the energy modeler that can calculate my savings.
A few days ago a cousin of mine posted some pictures that I haven’t seen in years. They really got me thinking. The first one was a picture of my grandfather from around Christmas 1953 or so, they year “the twins” were born. The next was a picture of him in one of his many workshops, I think this one was in the basement of his house. The last one though, that one threw me for a loop.
Nearly every picture I’ve ever seen of my grandpa shows a man with a smile in his eyes. I think a lot of it was his philosophy. He was from that generation of men who likely didn’t finish school before they went out and started working. That was just the way things were. For a long time I thought that was strange. How could a guy with an 8th grade education do all the things he could do? But then he said something that made me take pause and think a bit. He said that the day he died would be the day he stopped learning.
On Sunday I was thinking about this again after I saw that third picture, and I started wondering if he’d actually said that the day he stopped learning would be the day he died. Yeah, there’s a really subtle difference there, and one that I had to think hard about. The difference, as I see it, is that one of them puts learning in a passive place, and the other in an active place. I believe that my grandpa took the active approach and always tried to learn something new every day. If you know me, you might recognize that trait. If you knew my grandpa, then you know where I got it.
That third picture. I don’t know the date it was taken, but from it’s location, and the lack of smile in his eyes, I can place it some time just before he passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s. I want to believe that he was still in there, still looking out, and still trying to learn. Damn, I miss him.
Yesterday was World Standards Day. Mark Ryland, one of the guys I work with on a regular basis, posted a great article yesterday talking about Microsoft’s position on standards and the smart grid. I sat in that same room (well there were several drab hotel rooms) and have to say, there’s a serious push to get standards in place for the grid NOW.
This crossed my desk today. These guys busted their butts to get this done and out. Congrats to the Utilities team.
Dear Power & Utilities Community:
We released the Microsoft Smart Energy Reference Architecture (SERA) on Tuesday and we hope you will familiarize yourself with its content and goals.
SERA establishes a vision and strong foundation for migrating power and utilities companies to the new infrastructure and services. SERA informs customers, partners and prospects about the Microsoft technologies that can serve as the basis for their development of the what we often call the integrated utility of the future. In this vision, the silos of utility business processes (generation, transmission, distribution and customer service) become integrated from an information access perspective to deal more effectively with the major disruptions changing the industry (growing demand, environment, government policies, zero carbon energy sources, etc..).
SERA supports our view that utilities will enjoy significant benefits by ever greater collaboration, especially as the Smart Energy Ecosystem evolves and requires the industry to integrate everyday business processes and regulatory compliance.
We have announced SERA on our blog at: http://blogs.msdn.com/mspowerutilities
I completely forgot to tell anyone. Seattle City Light has passed all of their Hohm integration certification tests and they’ve gone live. You can read the SCL press release here. Congratulations to SCL for being the first and for a job well done.
For now yes, Hohm is targeted at US single-family households. Sure, it’s possible to use it for multi-family homes, but some of the assumptions start to break down. Over time we’ll extend the models to support other countries. In the meantime, if you want to try out the site, the US models generally apply if you pick a zip code that climatically matches your own (and has comparable energy prices).
There is a known issue with browser language settings that we’re actively addressing as I write this and we expect to roll out a hotfix soon. To get around this problem you can simply switch your browser to use en-US as the default locale. And no, we don’t really think your annual energy costs are in the US $1b range. That’s a bug. It’s a beta.
If I might ask a favor as well – if you use the site, please send us your feedback via the feedback links. We’re still in beta and we’re listening to everything our customers are saying. Thanks.
[Edit 8 Jul 9:45am] We released a hotfix yesterday which should address the browser language setting. It was a mistake on our part and it was fixed. The huge energy cost problem, as one might imagine, was related to the language fix and shouldn't appear from now on.
[Edit 8 Jul 11:10am] Ok, so we didn't roll out the hotfix yesterday. We decided at the last minute to take one additional fix. I'll update when the us-EN assumption is fixed. Sorry.
Other than a few minor DNS hiccups, Microsoft Hohm went live this morning. The team’s been sitting in a conference room on campus since about 5:30 this morning watching things spin up. We’re triaging other issues, but so far there have been no show-stopper bugs and no reason for any of the dev team to stay late tonight.
Way to go Hohm team. Considering this is the first major web application that most of the team has shipped, things went extremely well. More later.
So, I haven’t been blogging much over the last year or so. But, there’s a reason. I couldn’t really talk much about what I’ve been working on. Turns out, starting today, I can. This morning we announced Microsoft Hohm. Once again I’m playing the role of architect of a Microsoft start-up. This one has been loads of fun because I’ve been getting a chance to play with a ton of new technology, have had an opportunity to do a mini-degree in Electrical Engineering, and learned more about energy production and consumption than I thought I’d even want to know.
We have a few final things to work out over the next few days, so go to our home page, add your email address, and watch this space for more about what we learn.
By the way, my home falls below the “efficient” home in my area, mainly because of all of the work I’ve done on it over the last few years. Where does yours fall?
Actually, I don’t have an answer. For some reason thermostats still seem to follow a 1980s user paradigm. There are days where a simple T-50 (you know, the round thermostat) model would work tremendously better. I needed to change my thermostat settings, first to deal with the newer insulation and windows, and second to deal with out of town situations. Both changes require setting the “program” for multiple days.
My thermostat is powered by the 24VAC provided by the HVAC system and doesn’t use a battery backup. That’s pretty typical. But, it means that there isn’t an “armchair” programming mode, and that means I need to stand in front of the device running through an arcane sequence of key presses. Sure, after three or four cycles, assuming I want every day to be just like every other day (and I don’t, weekends are clearly different, but so are a few of the week days), my fingers get into a groove and I can just press Next Day, Program, Copy, Save. However, those buttons are in a criss cross pattern – a big X – and it’s unnatural feeling to press them given their placement. And if that groove gets interrupted, all bets are off.
There are days where I’m convinced I’m going to walk by the thermostat and see it flashing 12:00 at me in warm LED red. Really. I’m convinced of it. For those of you too young to remember VCRs, before DVD, before TiVo, before DVR, they were devices capable of recording your favorite TV shows as long as your either had a Ph.D in VCR programming or were sitting in front of the TV and pressed the Record button right when you were ready.
It wasn’t a pretty picture. And because it wasn’t a pretty picture, nobody could ever figure out how to set the clocks, so they always flashed 12:00. (And if you can’t figure out how to set the clock, you certainly can’t tell it to record Sunday’s football game.)
Yeah, I know, I can buy a remotely controlled thermostat, or one of those “armchair” models that lets me take the thing off the wall and program it from the comfort of my favorite chair (in better light, with a martini in hand). But, the remote control versions are really expensive or have some weird requirement to install software on my PC or take a “programming remote control” over to that same armchair. If the experience wasn’t so horrible the armchair model wouldn’t be bad, but it just moves the discomfort from the hallway to the chair. I would still need to do the criss cross thing.
I want to make my house comfortable, I want to save money, and I want to save the planet by using less energy. My thermostat has a big sticker on the box that says it’ll do that for me. I don’t believe it right now.
Well, turns out doing a bunch of home “tightening” has some interesting effects on the climate in the house (and helped locate a few external leaks that were missed). My house is what’s called a tri-level. That is you enter on the main floor which has all the common living spaces, and can go up or down a half-flight of stairs to the bedrooms / office area or to the media room. Well, the rooms that used to be cold (defying logic and physics) were the upstairs (warm air is supposed to rise, right?) are now the warm rooms, and vice versa. So now the office and bedrooms upstairs are almost uncomfortably warm when the downstairs rooms are at a comfy 68°F. Turns out that the thermostat in our house is located near the stairs, but on the main floor. So, the main floor follows all the rules and seems cold when you walk down to it.
Sounds like it’s time to revisit the air return ducts (one at the top of the stairs and one downstairs in the media room) to see if they can be tweaked to move the right air at the right time. Or, time to figure out how to tweak the thermostat so it does the right thing. And no, my house is too small to have multiple zones (trust me, it’s small for the area, and small in general).
By the way, those external leaks were places where the old cable TV lines were pulled into rooms, but the siding wasn’t replaced during remodels we’ve been doing. There was an actual paper-moving draft in my kitchen a few days ago coming from between two upper cabinets. Yup, there was a hole on the outside wall right behind that. I still don’t know where the path is, but plugging the source helped.
I’ve been paying attention to two different things about my house for the last year or so (while I’ve gone dark). The first is that it’s unusually cold in parts of the house, the house is showing its age, and the single-pane windows always seem to be wet. The second is that it costs me an arm and a leg to keep the house warm or cool depending on the time of the year.
So, last week I had a crew out to do an insulation check. Turns out that there really wasn’t any. The walls, except where we had remodeled, were empty (and cold to the touch), and the ceiling above the bedroom area had something like an R8. Oh yeah, and none of the knee walls – those vertical walls between living space and cold space, like in the attic – had insulation. None. Just drywall and paint between.
Step one was to fix that problem because it’s the least expensive, there’s an energy rebate available from my local energy provider (PSE), it’s quick, and it has immediate benefit. Yeah, immediate. The first night after having the new insulation blown into the attic and stuffed through little holes in the outside walls was uncomfortably warm.
The next step was to remove all those single-pane, aluminum framed windows with something that is energy efficient. We noticed that the rooms where we had already done windows – the living room, kitchen, and other main-floor spaces – had a very different feel to them already. No drafts, no damp windows, no uncomfortable spots.
Side benefit – the new windows are exactly the same size as the old windows, but the egress size was more than doubled, that means that in case of an emergency where we need to get out of the house ASAP we can easily do so without squeezing out of the old opening. Oh, and if we open the windows upstairs there’s a breeze now. Ah, fresh air.
I’m looking forward to seeing a few of my energy bills this winter to see what the bottom line looks like. I suspect that this will be a long term investment (about $12k worth) that will take a few years to pay back, but the impact on my family’s comfort and the environment is well worth it.
Call me a greenie cheapskate if you want. But this is one of those cases where spending (a lot of) money is well worth it.
As much as I want to play the game and use stored procedures for data access logic, time and time again I run into yet anothe rissue where I get bit. I've always pushed back on developers who want to use stored procedures for any number of reasons. There's a great list of reasons here. This time it turns out not to be the usual reasons - this time it's much simpler: there's really no way to make the whole deployment story scale in any way. As soon as you have more than one database (i.e. a multi-tenant application hitting a "private" database) you WILL run into a problem when you need to fix the always present data access bug.
Ugh... why can't I have a single place where I can put all my data access logic? Like, maybe, just maybe, a shared database holding no structure, only proc definitions? Or, maybe a DLL. Yeah, that'll do it, I'll use a DLL with dynamic SQL.
Yeah, yeah, I've been really quiet for a really long time. I know. I'm sorry. But, I've been busy with my new venture in MSR. I can't talk about much of it right now, even our internal email messages go through DRM. Let's just say that I've been having fun with hardware (ya know, soldering and stuff), embedded systems (not CE), and lots of toys.
Anyway, the point of popping my head up is to try to figure out why the sudden increase in CRM-related traffic into my inbox. Seriously, it's like I started over or started posting a bunch of interesting things about CRM. It's been a long time - I left when we were just thinking about what CRM V4.0 was going to look like under the covers (and it even looks like I thought it might). But nothing since then. Anyone else have any idea why I'm suddenly popular again?
I'll post a lot more information about my new project in the coming months and may even start posting stuff about the group I belong to independent of that.
I really respect GP's opinions on a lot of SaaS-related issues, but this one might be pushing my boundaries a little bit. GP is starting to confuse a rich client experience sitting on some "free" cloud storage as an S+S story. I don't know about this. It's a very small step from storing a document on a file server somewhere, anywhere. The only difference is that the "save" API used is slightly different.
Now, if something happened to GP's document once it was stored, or even better, while he was editing it. And that something happened because GP had signed up for a cloud-based service that added value to the client, then I'd have to say have another sip. But, this is not what I think of when I think of S+S (disclosure: I'm not part of the DPE organization that truly believes in S+S and I'm no longer part of the MBS organization that wanted to believe in S+S).
The "light-up" scenario just doesn't cut it for me. I want SaaS - either the stuff runs in the cloud and that's my primary interaction point, or the cloud is completely indispensible like in IM, or we finally start building service-oriented applications where stuff just runs and the fabric figures out where things happen. But, saving an Office document to a SharePoint site? Not so SaaS.