UN climate conference: switching to “green” electricity

Wind turbines in Denmark

The United Nations 2015 Climate Change Conference is an opportunity for everyone to think about contributing to the transition to renewable and sustainable energy sources.

One way to do that is to buy electricity that is produced from renewable resources (solar, wind, hydro, biomass…). With the worldwide opening of the energy markets, this should now be possible in most parts of the world.

So, with a power consumption between 4,000 and 5,000 kWh per year, we have decided to make the switch for our main office in Orange, France. But how to choose a good supplier?

Greenpeace turned out to be a very good source of information about this topic, comparing the offerings from various suppliers, and finding out which ones really make serious investments in renewable energy sources.

Here are the countries for which we have found Greenpeace rankings:
Australia France

If you find a similar report for your country, please let us know, and we will add it to this list.

Back to our case, we chose Enercoop, a French cooperative company only producing renewable energy. This supplier has by far the best ranking from Greenpeace, and stands out from more traditional suppliers which too often are just trading green certificates, charging consumers a premium rate without investing by themselves in green energy production.

The process to switch to a green electricity supplier was very straightforward. All we needed was an electricity bill and 15 minutes of time, whether you are an individual or represent a company. From now on, Enercoop will guarantee that for every kWh we consume from the power grid, they will inject the same amount of energy into the grid from renewable sources. There is no risk to see more power outages than before, as the national company operating and maintaining the grid stays the same.

It’s true our electricity is going to cost about 20% more than nuclear electricity, but at least, what we spend is going to support local investments in renewable energy sources, that don’t degrade the fragile environment that keeps us alive.

Your comments and own tips are welcome!

Tourist suggestions in Nice

NiceTourist tips for participants to our training sessions in Nice, France.

We used to organize public training sessions about embedded Linux and kernel and drivers training sessions in Vence, near nice. The sessions are now run in Avignon, but we can still organize sessions for customers in the area, or anywhere in the world.

To explore the area, we recommend to rent a car. Cheap public transportation is available, but their service doesn’t go everywhere, and above all, doesn’t respect its schedules well. You should leave your car though, if you wish to visit the centers of Nice or Cannes. Traffic and parking rates are horrible, and a good solution is to park at a train station, and reach the center of these cities by local train.

AntibesOf course, these tips only reflect my own interests and tastes. There are certainly others other worthy things to do and see in the area. I would recommend to buy a tourist guide book about the French Riviera, which will have a much more exhaustive and objective coverage. See also the French Riviera tourism website.

Around Vence

GourdonVence itself, where our sessions took place, is a nice medieval old town with very nice pedestrian streets. It takes just 5 minutes to reach the old town by foot from the hotel.

In the area, you mustn’t miss Saint Paul de Vence, a beautiful medieval village 3 kilometers away, which is famous worldwide. It is very nice to visit, though you may be disappointed by its lack of real life there. There are lots of foreign tourists and only art galleries and restaurants. If you look for similar but more authentic villages in the area, you can also visit Gourdon, Tourrettes sur Loup or Valbonne.

You shouldn’t miss Antibes either. It is the only well preserved old town on the sea shore, like the old villages uphill, Unlike Nice, and above all Monaco and Cannes, it’s an authentic place, with people like you and me, and less display of money and luxury.

Visiting cities: Nice, Cannes, Monaco

I would suggest to visit Nice and Monaco, and skip Cannes, which doesn’t really have anything special the others don’t have. Nice has a nice old town, and a beautiful park above. You can also enjoy walking or roller skating on the beach front (La Promenade des Anglais).

I don’t find Monaco as attractive as it is famous. The old town and the castle are nice, but the whole area is very dense with lots of tall, ugly concrete buildings. One thing that you shouldn’t miss there is its amazing oceanographic museum.

EzeI would still recommend to visit Monaco if you have enough time though, not for the place itself, but for the road between Nice and itself. You can go to Monaco through the Moyenne Corniche, a road on a very steep cliff and breathtaking views over the Mediterranean. A few James Bond movie scenes where shot there by the way, and the place should look familiar to you. On your way, you must stop at Èze, a beautiful village 1,200 feet above the sea. On the way back, you can take the Grande Corniche which offers a very nice scenery as well.

Exploring natural resources

Even if you don’t have a car, you can hike up a hill on top of Vence, called the Baou des Blancs. Ask the hotel people for where the trail starts. On top of it, you will discover a fantastic view on the whole “Bay of Angels”. Depending on how fast you walk, you may need from 3 to 4 hours from Vence for the whole hike. If you have a car or take a taxi to get you to the beginning of the trail, 90 minutes may be sufficient.

Cinque TerreIf you have a car, good hiking shoes and enough time, you could visit the neighboring Alp mountains, locally culminating at more than 9,000 feet. In particular, you could go to the Valley of Marvels.

With the same equipment, you could also explore the Verdon Gorge, a spectacular canyon 90 minutes away from Nice.

If you have at least 2 days available, you could also go to the Cinque Terre in Italy, 3 hours away driving. You can also reach the place by train, though you may have 1 or 2 train connections on your way. Just look at the pictures.

You should also be interested in visiting Provence, within 1 to 3 hours of driving. This is one of the most celebrated parts of France, with beautiful scenery, monuments and a special “art de vivre”. There are so many things to do and see there that its worth buying a special book about it.

CorsicaLast but not least, if you have at least 4 to 5 days, what about going to Corsica? You can reach this island by ferry boat (3 to 4 hours from Nice) or by plane. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with an amazing varianty of breathtaking landscapes: mountains, beaches, rivers. You won’t forget your stay.

Buildroot simplified for users!

Buildroot logoYesterday, a set of patches I’ve authored that aims at simplifying Buildroot for users has been merged into the official version of the project, and will therefore be part of the next stable release (scheduled for November, according to our 3 months release cycle). This work is probably my major contribution to Buildroot, outside of external toolchain support and various fixes here and there. Here are quick details about the improvements brought by these patches :

  • Remove the “project” feature. The project feature removal was the main point of this patch set. This feature, that allows to compile a system for different, but very similar platforms, without recompiling everything from scratch, was rarely used and introduced a lot of complexity in the usage of Buildroot for newcomers. Who hasn’t been confused by this project_build_arm directory? This thing is gone now.
  • Remove the BOARD/LOCAL feature, which duplicates another way of adding support for new targets in Buildroot. This is the kind of feature that has been added at the time Buildroot was basically unmaintained, when nobody was able to say « Hey, but you’re just trying to-reimplement something that already exists »
  • Move all output directories in an output directory. By default, when Buildroot is compiled, it generates several directories in the middle of its source code. Now, with this patch, everything is grouped into an output directory, unless out-of-tree compilation is used, of course (with O=)
  • Remove TOPDIR_PREFIX and TOPDIR_SUFFIX since the same effect could already be done using out-of-tree compilation with O=. Another duplicated feature that should never have reached the tree.
  • Rename the output directories. Now that everything is properly stored in an output directory, it was time to rename the subdirectories to make them more meaningful. So now, we have build where all packages are built, images that contains the final binary images of the root filesystem and the kernel, staging which contains the staging directory (all packages installed with their development headers and libraries), target that contains the root filesystem for the target (without the device files), host that contains the installation of the host tools that Buildroot requires for its execution, stamps that contains the stamp files used by Buildroot to keep track of the compilation progress. Therefore, all directories such as build_ARCH or toolchain_build_ARCH have disappeared.
  • Major documentation update, to of course make sure that our documentation is up-to-date with the latest changes.

Getting all these changes mainlined is really a nice thing. I also have tons of other ideas to improve Buildroot infrastructure, and I’m sure the coming Buildroot Developer Day will be a great opportunity to discuss these.

Call for presentations for the LSM embedded track

The Libre Software Meeting (LSM) is an annual event on free software taking place in july in France since 2000. The LSM meeting is organized this year in Nantes, France from 7th to 11th July. Amongst several tracks, the Libre Software Meeting will feature an « Embedded Systems and Open Hardware » track, for which the call for presentations has been released recently.

The purpose of the “Embedded Systems and Open Hardware” session is to give the state of the art of free software for embedded systems and Open Hardware. Technical topics of this session include but are not limited to:

  • Embedded OS Development kernel architecture, implementation and port for embedded systems
  • Embedded Development Tools: tool chains and project cases (tool chain projects, packaging for cross compilation, portability …)
  • Embedded Linux: µClinux…
  • Real-time extensions for Linux: RTLinux, RTAI…
  • Hard real-time kernels: eCos, RTEMS, ADEOS, Xenomai…
  • Soft Real-time kernels
  • Embedded Java
  • GUI for embedded systems: Gtk, Qt, Nano/X…
  • Linux and System on Chip (SoC)
  • Open Hardware, Open design, free IP modules (Intellectual Property) and softcores: opencores, OpenRISC, NIOS, Microblaze, LEONSparc, FPGA…

The conference will last 30 minutes, questions included. Round tables will be organized. Synthetic presentations are scheduled to last 20 minutes. PDF versions of the presentation are not mandatory but they will be greatly appreciated (with an online web access just after the LSM event, they are a very useful documentation source for the entire community).

If you plan to participate and to propose a presentation, please send a message as soon as possible to the following address: embarque@rmll.info with a summary of your presentation (and if you can, a summary in English too) no later than 15th march 2009. Feel free to forward this Call For Presentation to other places or to everyone you think could be interested.

Agenda of FOSDEM embedded devroom announced

The FOSDEM is now scheduled in less than two weeks in Brussels. The agenda of the developers room dedicated to embedded topics has been published recently. A nice set of interesting talks will take place :

As usual, I’ll be at FOSDEM with Free Electrons video camera, so soon after the conference, videos of the talks should be available from our website.

Embedded Linux From Scratch

This presentation shows how easy it can be to build an embedded system from the ground up, rather than trimming an existing general purpose GNU/Linux distribution. It is mainly targeted at beginners in embedded systems, but it also gives useful tricks that more experienced people may not know about.

Caution: the below document is not actively maintained any more. Therefore, it is likely to contain obsolete parts.

This document was used in our training sessions. It is available under the Creative Commons BY-SA license (see details and other documents).

It is available under several formats:

Back to our technical presentations

Embedded Linux optimizations

This presentation is a collection of ideas and resources for optimizing the Linux kernel and applications for speed, size, RAM, power and cost. Most of them are gathered and supported by the CE Linux Forum projects. Interested embedded system developers are invited to contribute benchmarks, testing, code and more ideas to these projects.

This document is used in our training sessions. It is available under the Creative Commons BY-SA license (see details and other documents).

It is available under several formats:

Thanks to people who helped, sent corrections or suggestions: Tim Bird, Robert P.J. Day