I’ve acquired an e-On ‘Energy Fit’ power consumption monitor, despite not being an e-On customer. The hardware is quite slick – a wireless data transmitter, which uses an inductive(?) clamp around the mains inlet to the fusebox, to record current and hence wattage.

This sends the data to a monitor unit, with a large LCD screen, three buttons and some information recording software, which shows the current and historical usage data. So far, pretty good – the monitor is a bit fiddly to use with just the three buttons, and the data-transmitter is massive due to being powered by two D cells, but everything worked pretty well.

Of course, a fixed-layout LCD is a poor piece of UI to view lots of data – what you really want is a way to use your computer to view this. And that’s what you can do – the monitor has a USB cable, and there’s a CD provided in the box. Unfortunately, the CD is Windows only (Mac users are given some confusing instructions about ‘adding Windows XP or Vista software’, aka ‘use a VM’). Running under my Windows VM, the installer presented the inevitable UAC dialog, followed by some deathly pauses, before giving up. Second attempt, it then has to install Flash 10 (even though it’s apparently a .NET app) with another UAC prompt, SQL Server 2005 (another UAC dialog), the Prolific USB-serial driver (another UAC dialog, followed by the usual new-hardware-detected -> installing drivers -> setting up your hardware dance) and the finally the software itself.

Which doesn’t start, due to ‘problems’. That’s the full extent of the information about what happened, at least with my Win7 VM – I’m sure when other apps crash, the report does contain a real stack-trace.

If I had a spare week, I’m sure the Mac Prolific driver and kermit would give a good start in reverse-engineering the serial protocol, and then knocking up some data-logging UI in Qt – perhaps I could sell it back to e-On – but their current attempt really reinforced the crappy state of deployment for some Windows apps, .Net or no. Especially if many users are disabling UAC due to continual pestering during installs – it’s a shame the UAC context doesn’t inherit (cascade?) for component installs.

Now I have to spend a tedious few minutes removing all this junk from my Win7 VM. Bah.

Posted Sunday, April 17th, 2011 under geek, Uncategorized.

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