Today we rolled out a quick update to Granola Personal that solves a connectivity issue that many users were experiencing during machine boot. As usual, your software should update automatically, but if you want you can also download the software directly and run the installer to upgrade.
Archive for the ‘Granola’ Category
We released a new version of Granola Personal this morning, our first release since April. The new version includes a couple of bugfixes based on errors users have reported.
* Improved error handling for web-facing edge cases
* Upgrade Python library to version 2.7.3 to fix antivirus warning
TLDR – scale your CPU speed to match demand and your PC will be more reliable.
Microsoft Research has published a very interesting peer reviewed paper where they look at the causes of crashes in over a million consumer PCs. This is the most comprehensive investigation into crashes on home PCs that anyone has ever undertaken. The paper has a bunch of cool findings including what you can do to reduce the chances your PC will crash or die completely.
Apart from hardware completely killing itself, we have all been victims of software crashes. It is easy to blame these on the programmer but sometimes the hardware itself has done something to pull the rug out from under your program. Sometimes it is just an essay you have been working on, but every now and then it is right before your game gets saved.
Microsoft found, after studying the crash reports from more than a million PCs that there are a few things we can do to make our machines live longer. Some people will intuitively have guessed some of these conclusions but this is the first time we have had some facts to back them up.
When Intel or AMD make a CPU they perform a bunch of tests at the factory to choose which clock speed the CPU can reliably run at. You do not have to run your CPU at this manufacturer specced speed though. For years people have been overclocking their CPUs to run faster. When overclocking a CPU you ramp up the speed iteratively until you find a speed which seems to give you system stability. Often you will upgrade cooling or buy a bigger power supply to keep the CPU running at the higher speed. Microsoft found that over an 8 month period a CPU that is overclocked is up to 20 times more likely to have a failure than at a vendor rated speed. Microsoft don’t names names, but one CPU vendor does better when overclocked (figure it out).
People have been wondering if reducing the clock speed of a CPU will make it more reliable. The idea is that reducing the speed means CPUs do not get as hot and require less electricity, the reverse of overclocking. Microsoft found that running your CPU at a lower speed meant machines were up to 80% less likely to crash in the 8 month period.
The paper shows that reducing the CPU speed reduces the failure rate and suggests that you can minimize the likelihood of a CPU crash by operating at the slowest CPU speed to achieve the desired performance.
Matching CPU Speed to System Demand
As Microsoft points out, we PC folks already have a technology in our computers that can control the CPU speed called DVFS. The difficult thing is matching the speed of the CPU to the demand. If you set the speed too low you will be slowing the machine down, if you set it too high then you are needlessly taxing the CPU as well as wasting energy.
MiserWare has a consumer version of its power management software called Granola Personal which was designed to match CPU speed to system demand. We made it primarily to reduce your energy footprint but it will do exactly what Microsoft suggests, set your CPU to the lowest speed it needs to run at.
Granola is available for PCs running Windows XP-7 and Linux Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian and RHEL. By default after it is installed it will manage your CPU in “MiserWare mode” which will change the CPU speed to match demand. You can also force your CPU to its lowest speed if you wish, using the settings window which looks like the screenshot. Matching your CPU speed to demand has the bonus of saving you some money on your power bill.
If you have a large number of PCs like a university lab and do not want to have to install Granola Personal on every machine there is a simpler to version for you to use. Granola Enterprise (free to try) is designed to be rolled out on large numbers of machines and be centrally managed. You can find out more about it here.
Too Short – Want To Read More
If you find this interesting I highly recommend reading the paper. It has a wealth of cool stuff and technical details.
Professors and researchers are idea machines. We regularly attack problems so hard we refer to them as “Grand Challenges”. I’m surprised we don’t have more monuments erected to celebrate our glorious profession.
If ideas were enough, all of the following people I see regularly would have thriving companies we’ve all heard of: my brother, my dad, my in-laws, my colleagues at VT, my colleagues abroad, my barber, students that take my classes, students from various business schools, parents of my kids’ friends, random people that approach me after I give a talk, and many more.
… having a good idea is the easy part.
So, why don’t they? Because having a good idea is (frankly) the easy part. Average professors lack the skills to build a company. But I’m living proof that some professors can learn to build companies. The problem is that learning on the job is far from optimal.
Before I created my company when I first started talking to VC’s, the prevailing wisdom was that I was a typical (absent minded) professor and just about anyone would be better to run a business than me.
In fact, I had already built a business once — I had grown my research group from zero to ten people and raised enough research capital to sustain a $1.5M/year operating budget for about 7 years. I managed all types of personalities, built software, partnered with other groups and labs, wrote proposals, produced high quality papers, and my work changed the way people use computers today. I was the CEO of a small business that had international influence and was part of a multinational, billion-dollar company (my university). So, to trivialize my experiences as not even remotely similar to building a company was a bit insulting.
Early on when dealing with potential investors, my professor title was the elephant in the room.
Luckily, being a professor means having thick skin. Early on when dealing with potential investors, my professor title was the elephant in the room. Like people trying to tell you you’re crazy without saying the word “crazy”. “This is a great idea, Kirk. But, are you really sure you’re the right person to make this into a company?” Some, under the auspices of tough love, were more direct: “you should stick to your day job.”
Luckily, my experiences and my ego were enough for me to discount most of these folks. Now, to be honest they were partially right. What they should have been saying was that there are people out there who would be better at building a business from a good idea. That’s absolutely true. Having built a startup, I now admire business brilliance now as much as I admire scientific brilliance. But, don’t let anyone substitute an MBA as equivalent to business brilliance. Find people who have built businesses from nothing into something worth tens of millions of dollars at least.
… I now admire business brilliance now as much as I admire scientific brilliance.
Over the years I’ve found both those talented enough to run my business and those willing, but I’ve not found those criteria combined in one person. That means I had to convince others (my investors, my cofounder, my developers, my mentors) to take this journey with me based on a good idea and somewhat irrational optimism. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but luckily the mistakes I’ve made we’ve been able to recover from (so far).
So, when should you go for it? Some say that when you can convince at least one other intelligent person to join you, that’s the time to start. Others say you carefully analyze 1) the market potential, 2) the people involved, and 3) the technology, in that order. My advice would be to find someone willing to buy a product that captures your technology if you build it. Try to estimate how many more people would buy what you build. If there are enough people willing to buy, then start building your products. Find someone to take this journey with you since it is long and arduous.
What did I do? Well, I’m not sure if my story is something that will convince you to go for it, or dissuade you from it. While the stories you read about information technology companies still prevail in the press, most of these “overnight successes” are about a decade in the making. So, the get-rich-quick-fantasy ends shortly after you start your company. Successful entrepreneurs are not driven by money, but by passion for seeing their ideas propagate in the marketplace. As Guy Kawasaki would say, “make meaning.”
… our first customer evaporated …
For us, under my leadership, we initially built the wrong product. We built client-server software for Linux and our first customer (Merrill Lynch) evaporated in the Wall Street economic disaster. Luckily, we recovered and quickly built a Windows freeware version (Granola) that was wildly popular. Requests for Granola Enterprise versions started generating some revenue. We then realized we could not build client-server software for the Enterprise in an emerging Cloud-based world. So, we moved to a cloud-based infrastructure and adoption is picking up rapidly with our recent free software that measures your IT energy footprint. These were not technical decisions. We were responding to the market to build products for purchase so we could grow as a company. These key changes have enabled us to sustain ourselves long enough to attract several big government contracts and a growing user base of universities and corporations.
In summary, an idea is not enough – especially for a professor. Execution is everything. When you figure out how to productize your idea for the first time, be ready to adapt. If you can bring in a business builder who believes in your idea as much as you do, you are starting from stronger footing. If you can, find customers that will buy what you are selling as soon as you make it. But, if you lack all of these and can’t see yourself pursuing this idea for 5-7 years or more, you should probably just stick to your day job.
Most of our trials and tribulations so far have been business related. Our small size and technical capability have allowed us to adapt more quickly than others in the space. But, the CEO (me) was learning on the job. This means we possibly could have avoided some of these mistakes. What’s the biggest mistake I’ve made so far? Running out of money. But that’s the topic of another blog post altogether.
Several people have emailed us asking for a way to donate money to Granola using Paypal. I have resurrected a donate button we used to use in the MicroMiser days. Click the big donate button:
We will manually add your contribution to the list. Thank you all for your support!
A teacher of the highest rank in a college or university.
A person who organizes and operates a business, taking on financial risk to do so.
In Portuguese, this means “between teacher”. In English, this is a portmanteau combining the sound and meaning of the words entrepreneur and professor.
The Entreprofessor: Yet Another Blog? Well, yes and no.
Those that know me know that while I am a technophile in many aspects, I’ve been reticent about the world of social media. I’m not sure why I’ve avoided writing personal anecdotes more publicly other than to provide the standard “who cares what I have to say” argument I’ve used (at least to myself) for years. Optimistically, I could argue that generally I was waiting until I had something worth saying.
I am a firm believer that advice is worth exactly what you pay for it (and I’ve never been paid for advice to my best recollection). Nonetheless, I do have a unique set of experiences that may help someone somewhere. And to this end I, begrudgingly to some extent, submit to you the reader that I am often asked to recall certain experiences over the usual set of libations at workshops, conferences and the like. Admittedly, I find these discussions many times invigorating as they bring to the surface the raw excitement I encountered when first asking these questions myself.
So, in some ways, yes, this is the beginning of yet another blog. But, in other ways it is not since the topic is generally my experience at the intersection of academia and industry. You see, I have been a professor now for over a decade and an entrepreneur for almost half that time. I’m by no means done with either career; in fact you could say I’ve really just gotten rolling. Nor may I be the best person to seek advice from — while I’ve had my share of success, others have certainly surpassed my accomplishments on both sides of the fence. Still, perhaps the most interesting aspect is that my story is not finished and without taking the time to put some of it in print, I am likely to forget many of the details.
They say smart people learn from their mistakes and smarter people learn from the mistakes of others. I’ve tried to do both. And in this way I am indebted to many that have helped me along the way. Consider this blog part therapy and recollection, and part paying forward for the advice selflessly imparted to me throughout the years.
So, what do I plan to cover? Well, I thought I would begin with answers to questions I am asked frequently and go from there. For instance, after a wave of publicity surrounding my company and our initial products, colleagues began approaching me at conferences to hear my story and to understand the basics of spinning out companies from universities. Perhaps it is just red car syndrome on my part, or perhaps there is pent up demand for a roadmap on how to take an idea from the university laboratory and create a business.
But alas, a word of caution. The opinions in my blog are mine and mine alone. They are strictly based upon my experiences and in no way should be considered as representing the official opinions of my company (MiserWare) or my university (Virginia Tech). That means others may not agree with my conclusions or advice and you would be best served to read everything out there and draw your own conclusions. This also means I’m not planning on holding anything back — which means you’ll hear the good the bad and the ugly of starting companies from universities.
Now, let’s stop talking about what this blog is and get to writing actual useful content, shall we?
We have been offering Granola Personal for free since April 2010. Since then, it has been downloaded all over the world. We recently looked at which countries were still using Granola Personal and have created a map which shows which countries have the best ratio of Granola Personal users to population. We reckon this is pretty good indicator of where the geeks that care about the environment are living.
It is not a surprise that the tiny countries can fare quite well with this kind of data. But when you get away from island chains you see countries like Belgium which has more than 10 million people, and as of this evening they managed to get to 5th place. So you can’t just use your population as an excuse, some countries do care more about the environment.
As an Englishman it’s a bit disappointing to see us down in 21st. A good chunk of Europe is above us, not exactly a good showing. Just in case you are wondering, the Aland Islands are between Sweden and Finland.
If you don’t like where your country is on our list, you should download Granola Personal for free and tell other people about it. The map will update automatically and the environment will thank you.
If you have a load of computers and want to see how much energy you are wasting we also have a free energy audit product you can use.
Many Granola users have been wondering how to delete a machine that no longer exists or, equivalently, reclaim a license to use it for another machine. This task is simple. To delete a machine from the Granola dash:
- Log in to the Granola Dash with your account information
- Click the ‘Groups’ button on the toolbar at the top
- Select the machine or machines you want to delete from the machine list
- Drag the machines to the trashcan on the left-hand sidebar. You may need to scroll the sidebar down to see the trashcan.
- Confirm the delete. As mentioned in the confirmation dialog, there is no undo and all the data associated with that machine will be deleted.
After you complete the process, the machines you deleted will no longer appear on the Dash. The licenses those machines were using may now be used by other machines. Of course, if you haven’t uninstalled the Granola Enterprise client on those machines, they will attempt to check back in and if successful reuse the license.