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back to article Wang charged in inappropriate electricity socket use

Electricity thieves beware: if the battery charge in your phone or laptop is getting a little too low for comfort, don’t just stick your tech gear into the first available plug socket or you could find yourself in the back of a police van. The warning comes from Taipei, where a man by the name of Wang was prosecuted this week …

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Anonymous Coward

@diodesign

You can't just wave your Wang about anywhere.

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Re: Re: Re: But, but, I'm here..

Actually, most of our outlets here do have the parallel slots and a mostly-round slot beneath for a ground prong to plug into.

There may not be an actual ground wire connected to that slot, but still; it's nice not to have to go fishing for an adapter everytime I need to plug a 3-pronged plug into a 2-pronged outlet.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Re: Re: But, but, I'm here..

The situation in Canada is getting a little better.

All new sockets must be 3-pin but for some inexplicable reason, a lot of power tools are still two pin, even ones that have metal bodies. I bought a power drill the other day from Home Depot. A good sturdy piece of equipment, but it had a metal gearbox with exposed metal casing. I just couldn't find one that was properly grounded with a 3-pin plug. It's (only!) 120V but you could still get a right good belt off that.

But then a lot of things in the electrical trade here make me despair. There're no screw terminals behind the sockets, wires are twisted together with little screw caps, I kid you not. First time I saw one I thought, "OK, this was done by a fly-by-night merchant", but the instructions on how to do this "properly" are in the building regs here. (Shakes head in disbelief)

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: But, but, I'm here..

>><i>It's (only!) 120V but you could still get a right good belt off that.</i>

Volts shock, amps kill.

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Alert

Volts shock, amps kill.

As tradies and engies here say:

"It's the volts that jolts, but the mills that kills".

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: But, but, I'm here..

> Volts shock, amps kill.

Truly, but as any fule no, given constant resistance, current is proportional to voltage.

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Boffin

Both 2-pin and 3-pin sockets

seem to be used in Taiwan, as shown in the image available here (don't know which type they have in underground stations in Taipei) :

http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/ecw/tw.html

Henri

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Anonymous Coward

Wait wait

So there's like metro stations full of sockets, all labeled "do not use on pain of massive fines"? I'd make fun of the "in chinese" bit except it was in china (alright, taiwan), but I digress.

Sounds like inciting and provoking to me. Why not simply remove the things? Or put them behind a lock with a standard key issued to cleaners or something? Why even waste police effort on "theft" worth less than pennies? Are they all this principled then?

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Anonymous Coward

Don't we have a similar law here, "Abstracting energy"?

Also, don't some stations here use a variant of the normal plug where each pin is rotated 90degrees to only allow authorised devices in?

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Boffin

The normal usage of such "unusual" plug designs is for "clean" mains supplies in Hospitals, and similar arrangements - this is actually to stop things like vacuum cleaners from being plugged in to the same circuit as a life-support machine.

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FAIL

So obvious I don't know why they didn't think of this...

Use a non-standard socket type, and just wire authorised kit to the appropriate plug. For example, a BS1363 plug, not that hard to find in that region as HK uses them. Or, the good old BS546 15-amp round-pin, as still used in South Africa.

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Anonymous Coward

More likely it's to prevent foreign cleaners who don't speak or read a word of English from -unplugging- the life support machines, in order to plug in their vacuum cleaner. Once they notice the plug doesn't fit, they're less likely to do so in future.

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Indeed so...

So the ICU is then limited to only one unexplained patient death per cleaning contract renewal.

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Anonymous Coward

Um when you have pins rotated differently (variant of the normal plug)them normal that's do the amperage is higher than standard plug.

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Facepalm

Did the phone in question have a removable battery? If so, he should probably carry a spare in future. :)

Seriously though, I think this is ridiculous. If it's that much of a problem, then the already mentioned idea of putting locks on the socket and giving the cleaners and any other staff that need them a key would be more sensible.

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Anonymous Coward

No, it's really not.

Cost of locking every plug, plus labour costs = millions.

Cost of dishing out a massive fine every couple of years in order to put people off doing it = zero.

We don't prevent dog fouling by fitting every dog with some kind of rectal valve that prevents it doing it anywhere outside of the owner's garden, or prevent petty crime by making it physically impossible. Instead, our systems of law operate by making it so that we don't want to break them, because of the personal cost of doing so.

Preventing people from physically breaking laws also impinges on personal freedoms. Far better that we have a choice, and then have consequences to face.

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Headmaster

I would generally agree with everything you just said there, except for one tiny thing:

"Taipei Rapid Transit claimed in the paper that the reason for its rigorous policy on such matters is that it is worried a short circuit may bring down the electricity-powered rail network"

If the consequences of someone ignoring the signs are that they can bring down the rail network, then spending the money on preventing people from using the sockets is probably worth it.

A dog fouling outside the owner's garden doesn't have consequences as severe as bringing down a rail network (unless you let your dog play on the tracks and it happens to be capable of producing impressive amounts).

"We don't prevent ... petty crime by making it physically impossible. Instead, our systems of law operate by making it so that we don't want to break them, because of the personal cost of doing so."

This doesn't hold true for everything. Many crimes are prevented (or attempts to prevent them are made) by imposing physical measures such as locks, be it kensington locks, bike locks, locked doors, or the differently shaped mains sockets employed in other public places that other posters have mentioned in this discussion.

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FAIL

First class crap.

"Taipei Rapid Transit claimed in the paper that the reason for its rigorous policy on such matters is that it is worried a short circuit may bring down the electricity-powered rail network."

Utter fucking crap!

If the system were designed that badly then it wouldn't be working at all.

Officious bastards!

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There are plenty of alternative electric socket designs they could use to avoid having standard domestic sockets available. Take away the possibility of joe-public being able to plug in, rather than just a sign saying they shouldn't.

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Go

"Taiwan charges discharged wang, incorrect juice acquisition"

The opportunities are boundless.

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Anonymous Coward

"had it not been for the fact that all sockets at the stations are labelled clearly in Chinese with a notice expressly forbidding the practice."

Well he's complete prat and deserves a telling off!

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Boffin

So how much electicity was stolen?

My phone charger uses 0.1A@240V. Assuming it was plugged in for ten minutes, that's 0.004 kWH, and at about 15p per kWH, that's 0.06p. Clearly Mr Wang is a dirty thief who should locked up and the key thrown away.

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Happy

Re: So how much electicity was stolen?

Hmm... given that Bernie Madoff got 150 years for scamming US$18 billion (give or take), our Taiwanese thief should be looking at 250 nanoseconds of in the clink, assuming some reasonable level of proportionality.

He'll be out in no time!

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Facepalm

thems the rules

so just follow them.

punishment seems a little excessive though. that said nothing surprises me punishment wise after being in SG for a few months

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Mushroom

Whatever happened to proportionality

How much electricity did he use? likely to be in tenths of whatever currency applies... so why the gestapo tactics or do they teach this in some sort of global training centre for Mass Transit Companies, sounds like the sort of thing TfL would do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whatever happened to proportionality

How much did it cost to take to court?

How much will this single fine and the news of it put others off from doing the same thing?

Seems like a good idea to me.

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Pirate

Stealing electricity

When I was a teenager, back in the Analogue Age, you could make free calls from phone boxes by jiggling the receiver rest to simulate pulse dialing. We called it "phone tapping", though even in those days that meant something different. A little later there was a technique for making long-distance calls at local cost by dialing local hops all the way to the destination. The attenuation was appalling, but long-distance calls were expensive. Finally, people learned how to manipulate the phone system with audio oscillators, a practice known as "phone phreaking".

I was led to believe that people who were prosecuted for these practices were charged with stealing electricity to the value of a fraction of a (pre-decimal) penny. I don't know what the penalties were - transportation to Botany Bay, probably.

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FAIL

Their motivation is clear, their reasoning is not

They don't want people plugging devices into these sockets. Fair enough; it's their infrastructure, they get to decide what goes. But "will bring down the train system" is utter and complete bollocks with a side order of nonsense and a large portion of hogwash on top, unless they haven't heard of circuit breakers, and power conditioning for the control systems. In which case they deserve to be taken out by a rogue phone charger.

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FAIL

Worried that a short circuit on an electrical outlet could bring down the rail network? System doesn't seem very fault tolerant. This is like a kid with a .22 rifle sinking a battleship!

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a kid with a .22 rifle sinking a battleship!

more like designing a space ship with an unshielded exhaust port that led directly to the core reactor.

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Facepalm

Public electricity

I guess they'll just throw him in jail for a bit, then. Where they'll be able to use a bit more public leccy lighting his cell, cooking his food, etc.

Maybe he'll even be allowed to charge his phone there too.

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Mushroom

terrorist opportunity

Small remote controlled relay embedded in plug bring Taipei to standstill .. $praise $deity

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Anonymous Coward

Bringing down systems from a socket

Way back when I used to do IT training I was sent over to Germany to teach a load of US Army guys TCP/IP. I needed to print something out so I found a spare IEC lead and plugged in a handy Laserjet.

Shortly afterwards a cloud of smoke (and a large portion of the army base being blacked out) revealed that US-specific models of Laserject want 110v and aren't keen on receiving double that.

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Unhappy

They may be dicks...

...but Taiwan *is* the country that outlawed public gum chewing -- their dick-ness is not only profound, it should be comnmon knowledge to the point where "don't plug that thing in here or you'll pay" should be taken seriously.

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Re: They may be dicks... @perlcat

"but Taiwan *is* the country that outlawed public gum chewing"

Sorry perlcat, that was Singapore :(

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Joke

Taiwan, Singapore

They all look alike.

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Re: Taiwan, Singapore

I see what you did there ;)

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Re: Re: Taiwan, Singapore

Mea culpa.

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FAIL

They were worried the charger would bring down their electricity network?

They run the trains off the domestic mains? The next time the substation outside Waterloo catches fire, the solution is simple. Just run an extension from someones house!

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Joke

Fiddling with sockets.

Hmm, wonder if I can get the Mrs imprisoned for unplugging the router when hoovering?

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One Swallow does not a bummer make

The Swallow Hotel in Dundee used to have signs in the bar area saying if you plugged your phone charger into a wall socket you had to pay £1 for the privilege. Apart from that flash of lunatic tight-fistedness it was a pretty reasonable hotel.

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Mushroom

When electricity belongs to everyone...

it belongs to no one. Wang stole the people's electric - GUILTY. Moral of the story - socialism, communism, it all sucks. Stay the hell out of China, and don't buy their stuff.

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FAIL

@The Grump

If you had actually bothered to read *and comprehend* the article, it might have occurred to you that this event happened in Taiwan, which to the best of my knowledge, and despite protestations from mainland China, is not part of China proper, and not very communist at all.

But facts are not your forte, as you have demonstrated several times already

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ACx

Gutted.

Not one single childish Wang joke. What is the world coming to?

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Anonymous Coward

Why bother with train stations?

It's just as easy to dig through your wall and tie into a neighbour's ring main, and it's not illegal, especially if you're only powering low energy lights, and computers and stuff.

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Happy

Stealing power - how the 'pros' do it

Stories (unverified) from my EE trades teachers many decades ago:

Phone company investigating excessive power draw on a line find a guy powering a basement packed with model trains from the 40volt phone-line float.

Power company investigating an unusually lossy major transmission line find a guy living adjacent to the line with big rolls of copper strung around his roof cavity powering his whole house.

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FAIL

Re: Stealing power - how the 'pros' do it

The first one is false. If you load the phone line with more than just a meagre indicator bulb, the exchange will see this as "off-hook" and drop the voltage to 12 volts, still with not enough current available to drive a gnat's electric wheelchair, let alone a model train.

Living next door to a major exchange and somehow getting a few wires connected to the battery banks, that would work, but you sure want to have a fuse in there. Shorting out those banks can lead to serious fireworks. A painter putting down his tin of paint, bridging the bus bars, got the battery room painted in a flash, not unlike Mr. Bean's way of painting the room (but without wrapping the furniture first)

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Silver badge

They are much more civilised in Finland

I once had a shave from a convenient socket in the Baggage Hall at Helsinki airport while my friend was being questioned by Immigration.

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