back to article Behind the candelabra: Power cut sends Britain’s boxes back to the '70s

“Would you like to watch a film with me tonight?” Although the timing seems good – it has just gone 8pm – the offer is extraordinary. You see, in the busy Dabbs household, each member of the family works to his or her own barely compatible calendar and so it is mandatory to book in advance before any interaction can take place …

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Most UIs are crap

Well put Mr Dabbs, the time settings on all these devices is much harder than it needs to be. Two simple HH and MM buttons for instance. And a decent capacitor that can hold the clock chips power for an hour might cost all of 50 cents and save so much blasphemy. And why is only a monophonic beep all that these monstrosities produce.? How about different tones for each control button ?

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Re: Most UIs are crap

I have an oven that has three different tones for the timer alarm. Two of them are inaudible when you're more than a metre from the oven, and the other one's not much chop either.

The button that cycles through the tones is also used to set the timer, so you never know whether you're going to hear your dinner burning. I've resorted to using the microwave timer's monophonic beep because I recognise it.

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Re: Most UIs are crap

I find the quickest way to set these things up is to google the model number and get the pdf of the manual.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Most UIs are crap

And why is only a monophonic beep all that these monstrosities produce.? How about different tones for each control button ?

NOOOOO. "No flaming beep at all" is the one and only setting I would like on electric and electronic devices. The benefit of machines vs people is that they don't get impatient - until some UI designer tw*t gets it in his otherwise empty head that it must beep because of safety or feedback or whatever else excuse is dreamt up to break out the most piercing piezo they can find and. make. it. beep. every. &%ç*. minute. after. it. has. done. what. I bought. it. for as if it is an attention craving teenager with a presentation problem.

Personally I would convict these people to a week in a room with enough beeping devices tuned to harmonic resonance with each other and the teeth of the designer to be re-educated, ending by sticking at least 20 of these preferably sharp edged infernal piezo buzzers where they will be remembered most before release.

It has gotten so bad that checking access to the wires of any built-in beepers is now a standard part of my procurement process. The only thing that should beep is a fire alarm. Full stop. May the designers of all other f(bleep)ng devices be struck with diarrhoea and a heavy cough at the same time.

Yes, I feel better now, thank you.

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Holmes

@AC, 17:16 - Re: Most UIs are crap

Wrote :- "The benefit of machines vs people is that they don't get impatient"

Some do. Some devices (and websites) will send you back to Square 1 or log you out if you pause long enough to RTFM, or if you go to look something up that it has asked for.

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Re: @AC, 17:16 - Most UIs are crap

I've got a phone that locks the screen as soon as you press the "unlock" button when in call mode to prevent accidental ear touch button presses. Only problem is, it makes dialing a machine impossible.

*unlock*

*presses option 1 for customer service*

"please enter your customer number"

*phone locks it's self*

*press unlock again*

*presses numbers to enter customer number*

"You have not entered your number in time, please try again"

*phone locks it's self again*

*I throw phone out of the window*

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Mushroom

Re: Most UIs are crap

Yes. Yes they bloody well are and there is no damn excuse for it, either.

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Unhappy

Re: @AC, 17:16 - Most UIs are crap

@TechnicalBen. Spot on sir!

This exact situation was the only time in my life when I lost all patience with a piece of electronic equipment and threw it at a wall.

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Microwave

I'm shocked, I say shocked, to discover a person who sets the time on their microwave oven. Good article, but save a penguin why don't you.

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Flame

Have you got your wood burner yet?

Of course, this is something we will have to get used to thanks to successive governments' failure to tackle the problem.

Fire icon, cos that's how we are going to keep warm in the future.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Have you got your wood burner yet?

You can't the government interfering with the Free Hand of The Market (TM). The Perfect Solution will be along any moment now.

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Power Cuts

I live in the sticks, and power cuts here are common-ish.

One time I was sitting on the sofa and at the *exact* same time I pressed the button on the remote control to turn the TV off, a power cut happened and plunged the entire house into darkness.

For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

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Re: Power Cuts

They're not uncommon here either.

I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering. We don't use it as a clock so I don't see the point. In fact the only clock I bother with is my wife's alarm clock which is easy.

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Re: Power Cuts

"I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering. We don't use it as a clock so I don't see the point. "

Two reasons: On present and last ovens, the beggars won't work without the time being set after a power interruption. And second, even if it will work unset, yu've got either a malignantly flashing display, or the wrong time forever telling you that you weren't clever enough to set a clock.

A pity that device makers don't build in MSF signal receivers (if Casio can do this on a thirty quid watch, no reason that a £100-£600 appliance shouldn't have it).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Power Cuts

I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering.

I'm borderline OCD (was full on OCD for a brief period). Used to be hell having to reset all the electronic gadgets with clocks after a power outage. Then I got a mains power monitor, and became obsessive about switching stuff off at the wall when not in use. As a result, my microwave is only flashing "00:00" on the rare occasions it's being used.

Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. One of these days a neighbour's going to call the police about the shadowy figure with a flashlight rooting about in my garden at 11pm every night ...

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Re: Power Cuts

Lay a trail of glue, then sprinkle salt over it. Snails won't cross it. Obviously no good in areas exposed to water or weather, but a handy way to keep them from crawling into the water-butt hole or up the air vents.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Power Cuts

For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

Some years ago in Belfast one of my colleagues had just plugged in a new PC, and as he clicked the switch on the 13A socket a hefty and unexpected carbomb went off just down the road. He came out of the office as white as a sheet...

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Re: Power Cuts

I am planning on designing a launching device for them. It won't take too heavy a spring to get them a few streets away. They have hard shells, they will be fine. Plenty of grass to land on.

Only two problems. What to use as bait and what to coat the launching platform with to make it easy to unstick them at launch time.

I'm sure I could easily sleep through the odd twang during the night knowing the little buggers aren't climbing the kitchen window again.

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Re: Power Cuts

"Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. One of these days a neighbour's going to call the police about the shadowy figure with a flashlight rooting about in my garden at 11pm every night ..."

Nah - just another gardener and mollusc hater. You are in good company. Snails are usually treated to the Dropkick of Destiny, while slugs get the Heel of Justice.

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Re: Power Cuts

"For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand."

A few weeks back, I was having an unpleasant motorway drive, though driving rain. I was relieved to reach my junction but the traffic lights at the end of the slip road turned red to spite me. I called to the great god Bollocks, who obliged with a lightning bolt which took out all the traffic lights. I smiled in thanks.

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Re: Power Cuts

Same here. Lucky my Panasonic Microwave seems to have been designed for that, if the power is cut it comes back as 88:88 but after it's first use it's blank. No blinking or wrong time display.

My Alarm clock keeps time for hours in a power failure, it just will not go off or display the time without power (also a Panasonic now that I think about it).

I think the worst clock UI I have to deal with is my car radio and daylight saving time.

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Mushroom

Re: Power Cuts

As a teenager I repaired our old TV - and my mother was very nervous about anything electrical. As I plugged it back into the mains there was a loud rumble - and a cloud of smoke went heavenwards from the large 11KV distribution centre in the next street. My mother took some convincing that it wasn't my fault until she read in the newspaper about the errant bird in the switchgear.

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Re: Power Cuts

In the middle of an electrical engineering lecture, the prof (Roger Jennison*, at UKC circa October 1988 for anyone else who remembers) was demonstrating nodes and antinodes in AC circuits - and at the exact moment he did so, the power went out over the whole city for several hours.

I'm still convinced he had something to do with it...

*Quite a character, even has his own Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Clifton_Jennison

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Re: Power Cuts

Bait - A can of Stella (it has to have be of use somewhere in society, and use grease proof paper for the launch pad.

Think I'll do an Apple now and go patent this..

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Unhappy

Re: Power Cuts

I'm guessing you don't have too many frogs/toads or hedgehogs in your garden.

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Coat

Re: Power Cuts

For just a moment, I thought you were referring to the devices that needed the time set on them...

I'll get me coat...

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Holmes

@a cynic writes... Re: Power Cuts

Wrote :- "I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering."

Let me know what model you have, it sounds handy. My microwave and cooker refuse to work at all unless you got through the entire ritual of setting time, date, and what colour socks you wear.

I live in a rural area which has many brief power cuts, like 2-3 seconds, twice a week. I have raised it with the suppliers and they say that the breakers, after a short circuit such as overhead wires touching in wind, reset automatically. Although this happens at any time in all weather.

After each such cut I have to spend about 15 minutes resetting central heating, computers, router, cooker, and microwave. I read the suppliers "customer charter" and it is all about length of power cut, as if the only things that matter are the lights and making tea. They do not see a 2 second drop-out as a problem.

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Re: Power Cuts

The other option is to very carefully select your microwave oven not to have a clock. I am resigned to having to set the time on the oven but every other clock in my house either knows how to get the time from a radio signal or is now in the bin.

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Re: Power Cuts

For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

I had almost exactly the same experience. Had not read in the local rag that the council were going to switch off the streetlights. Went out to walk the dog at 10 seconds to midnight and tripped on my extension lead on the path - and all the lights in the town went out!

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Re: Power Cuts

" Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. "

Have you tried leaving a shallow pan with stale beer in it in the garden?

It attracts them by the smell, then they drown in the beer.

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Re: @a cynic writes... Power Cuts

My microwave is a Panasonic,the only thing on the front is "Inverter system". Can't be bothered to pull it out to look on the back, but it's 8-10 years old so it's not like you could buy the same model.

If the power drops for a 10th of a second you get 88:88, but if you just go ahead and use it the clock feature is turned off. No wrong time, no flashing.

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Re: Power Cuts

"Even if it will work unset, you've got either a malignantly flashing display, or the wrong time forever telling you that you weren't clever enough to set a clock."

Microwaves are great for heating (some) things, but rubbish for anything close to proper cooking. So on a manically busy microwave week, we'll use ours for all of 15 minutes (cooking frozen veg, warming tortillas and similar). On a slow week it's lucky if it sees 15 seconds of use to defrost a little butter. So (like lots of other gear in our kitchen that doesn't get much use), it only gets turned on at the socket when it's needed. No blinking; no wrong time. And no guilt.

I have to admit, though, that I still have an indecent number of candles and holders readily accessible. And will do for the foreseeable future. Torches. phones and so forth are great for finding your way around the dark areas of the house, but you want light in whatever room(s) you settle in - and half a dozen well placed candles can make for a very pleasant environment.

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Paris Hilton

Re: @a cynic writes... Power Cuts

Asda Smart Price value microwave. Two knobs: One is a pot for power (i.e. Mark:Space ratio) and one is a mechanical timer.

No LEDs, no clock, no microprocessor, no PIC, no MIPS SoC, no embedded software.

http://direct.asda.com/Smart-Price-700W-Manual-Microwave---White/001576678,default,pd.html

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Re: Power Cuts

"I think the worst clock UI I have to deal with is my car radio and daylight saving time."

So that's one hugely over-priced piece of radio receiving equipment that can't pick up the time automatically. Check!

Another bug-bear is surely the clock on a distressingly larger number of low-end mobile phones. Hey guys! You're plugged into the world's largest network, almost certainly with a primitive TCP/IP software stack already written and loaded (for your overpriced data options). How hard can it be?

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Terminator

http://www.dilbert.com/fast/2013-08-30/

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>> http://www.dilbert.com/fast/2013-08-30/

Blimey! What were the chances?

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Not so much

> a freelance technology tart

Any self-respecting technology tart would have UPSs to handle all this (though admittedly not on the cooker or uWave).

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Coat

Re: Not so much

UPSs? That's why we've got laptops!

Yes, that one. The one with the spare batteries in the pocket.

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Re: Not so much

> UPSs? That's why we've got laptops!

But UPSs are for so much more than computers!

They also run LCD/LED TVs, Sky boxes, lights, WiFi+routers and most other things that don't have switch-on surges or excessive power requirements. Plus, they generally have spike/surge protection, so they keep your precious gear safe from the nasties that can happen when the power does come back, or only fails for a second or two.

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Re: Not so much

Every time the power goes here (not too often, but often enough), I have to explain to Mrs Dan 55 why I've just flipped the circuit breaker switch to 'off' and am waiting to see the neighbours lights going on before flipping the circuit breaker switch to 'on' again. Perhaps I should just buy a UPS and be done with it.

Yes, it's a first world problem, I know.

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Alien

Re: Not so much

I used to have a lovely surround sound system with enough inputs on the back for 2 consoles, Sky box and DVD player. Until a power cut surged the main board on it and resulted in full surround sound white noise ever after :(

To make it worse they no longer make those models and I've never found another manufacturer that does...

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Re: Not so much

UPSs are mostly great, I have them on my IT cupboard, and the TV/Sat setup.

The last power cut (lightning strike) was when I discovered that the UPS batteries had died. OK, they were 5 years old, but a little warning would have been nice. Even a beep...

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WTF?

Re: Not so much

You should just flip the breaker for your ring-mains, then you will see your own lights come back on.

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Re: Not so much

The UPS daemon on my Debian box does a monthly battery test for 5 seconds. I had enough power to get to the power company's website and report the outage. It was an amazingly simple one-click affair, as they used my service address to figure out where it was.

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Re: Not so much

Are you mad?! During power outages the damn things beep every few seconds!

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Childcatcher

Re: Not so much

UPS in a domestic environment? There is a reason for RCCBs.

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FAIL

Re: Not so much

Unfortunately I'm obsessive enough to worry about these things but not organised enough to be able to get my shit together to flip the right circuit breaker in the dark.

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Same here with the over and the microwave - well, at least microwave is pretty friendly about setting time, the oven - not so much, the combination is easy but I can't remember it...

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Our oven clock is a PITA to set, but for some reason the oven won't work at all (i.e. won't get hot) unless the clock is set.

So the procedure after a power loss is to mash all the buttons for long enough until it shows some sort of time (what exactly doesn't matter, we don't ever look at the clock) and then the thing will actually start cooking food.

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