* Posts by GrantB

237 posts • joined 11 Jun 2009

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Remember Netbooks? Windows 10 makes them good again!

GrantB
Holmes

Older Ultrabooks vs netbook

Last year my youngest daughter was keen on small, light and cheap device with keyboard after getting frustrated with producing schoolwork on her iPad.

I looked for a netbook and checked out Chromebooks, but in the end, an old 'Ultrabook' - a Toshiba R600 turned up on a local auction site ex-lease which I got for about £35. Hate to think how much they originally went for, but battery was still good, 12" screen (1280x800?), but small enough to go everywhere, 3gb ram, 200gb 2.5" HDD, CPU is duel core, but better than most Atoms. Was going to throw a SSD in it and maybe a light weight Linux distro, but after an update to Win 10 and keeping it clean, performs surprisingly well anyway.

Ended up keeping it for myself as traveling it has a couple of usb ports and SD slot; somehow boots faster than my i7 powered work laptop with w7 and a whole lot of services running.

So not a bad alternative to classic netbooks and can run any OS if Win 10 is not your OS of choice.

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Can't upgrade, won't upgrade: Windows Mobile's user problem

GrantB

Re: Here's hoping ...

Agreed. I have an iPhone supplied by work, (and an Android tablet for around the house use) but still use my old Nokia 520 as my preferred device for phone calls, txt and navigation. Small, simple, running almost no third party apps but decent offline map's for everywhere I travel.

I am OS agonistic and don't see the point of being a fanboy for any particular device family. Does however seem a pity that despite the ineptitude of Elop, Nokia almost got it right with the 520, but instead of bringing out a new and slightly better version of the 520 every year or two and building on that small success, encouraging owners to upgrade, they screwed it up. The later 530 was a worse device at a similar price to the 520, while other Nokia models never hit that sweet spot of a simple small phone that was as cheap as a bad Android phone, but smooth and consistent UX.

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The Day Netflix Blocked My VPN is the world's new most-hated show

GrantB

Re: Netflix is under pressure...

To be fair, content creators probably do maximise revenue right now by selling regional rights.

If you produce a hit series like Games of Thrones, then regional operators like Foxtel in Australia or SkyTV in NZ will bid up the prices for exclusive rights to the show.

Companies like SkyTV here in NZ get away with charging ~$60 per month (for basic set of channels and Soho) for people wanting to watch GoT legally, so can always outbid Netflix for the rights, as they only charge about $10 per month here in comparsion.

Total revenue from all the regions, with some paying way above the odds to prop up monopoly cable/satellite providers, must beat what Netflix offers as a global deal to content providers.

Interesting times though; Netflix is getting big enough that they could offer key content providers global offers that they can't turn down, as well as producing their own content as a counter to those who insist on regional rights.

Balancing act will be that if Netflix gets too big, then they will become a global monopoly and be able to screw down content providers too much.

I suspect in the long run, local distributors will lose out to global players like Netflix, Amazon and Apple/Google, but pirates and independant content providers selling individual episodes and niche series, will provide alternatives to too much locking.

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UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

GrantB

Re: "Tariff Data"

"In earlier posts I asserted that "the network" would have to be able to download price / tariff information to consumers' smart meters, a point with which one or two others have not agreed".

Not so much as 'not agreed', but just pointed out that this is not how it works.

Look at your electricity bill; you are charged on units consumed. i.e. KWh.

An example bill on a dumb meter would be something like 'read on 1 Jan 2016 = dial shows 000. Read on 31 Jan 2016 - dial shows 744'. Therefore bill is on 774 units at 10p per unit - £77.40 bill.

Classic 'interval' billing.

Smart meter gets dropped in. Now every 30 minutes it measures consumption - say you had nothing but a 1kw heater on, you would measure 0.5 KWh (0.5 unit) per HH. 48 HH per day, 31 days in a month, then the smartmeter would pass 48 x 31 x 0.5 readings to the data-collector that would calculate the same 744 units of consumption.

Only difference is that if you choose a plan that had say 12-hour day and night tariffs, then the billing system would calculate that half the consumption was at say 5p night rate, and 15 cent day rate. Giving the same bill in my example.

"If the industry / government wants consumers to make "informed choices" then the information on which to base those choices has to be provided; without it consumers' decisions - assuming that they actually make those decisions - will be entirely random and equally random on their effects on overall demand at any given time"

Yes, it is called the pricing plan you are on. Your bill should be showing the rates you are on - i.e. day/night/peak rates. When you signed up with your retailer, you entered a contract.

You can choose what works for you depending if you are low use, high use, people at home during day, air-con user etc. Amazing how many people don't bother shopping around for cheaper/better util bills.

"Smart meters have to be able to do at least some of the the following:

>"1. Show the consumer how much electricity has been used in total" -

Yes, of course.

>2. Show the consumer how much electricity is being used "now".

No (not generally) as this is not needed for most residential billing. Some meters probably show this on the local display, but other than on TOU meters, information is not that useful, and some people (see on this thread) think that people watching your power usage is some evil plot.

>3. Be able to switch parts of the comsumers' demand off to reduce overall consumption at peak periods.

Not really a core bit of smartmeter functionality, as appliances and meters don't generally communicate. So maybe control over a hot-water circuit like with old dumb meters, but the idea is that you can get on your bill, the cost of using power during peak and off-peak, so are encouraged to set the dryer or dishwasher to go a delayed start. You save money, the network company smooths demand; win-win.

>"4. Switch the rate/kWh (between predetermined costs/kWh) and provide that "rate data" to consumers so that the consumers make the decision about what to switch off until later when the rate drops again"

No, I think you are getting confused with something like a TOU meters and Spot pricing. A big industrial user might opt into something like that and have people manage consumption, even firing up generators or shutting down machinery to manage costs.

Entirely different with residential customers getting a smart meter which enables a better bill at the end of the month.

"(3) can only work if there are duplicate ring mains installed (see earlier posting) or IoT technology becomes widespread, and even if it is ever adopted it will be a very long time before the total load it controls is a really significant fraction of the gross load; until then it will achieve little"

Yeap, but look at the amount of upvoted posts, where people claim that smartmeters will mean that appliances will get turned off at the whim of the government...

"I would argue that very little of a domestic load is in any real sense "discretionary"; the washing machine is an obvious candidate for this household but that is less likely to be true where there are children in residence"

Domestic load is of course relatively modest. I can't even tell from consumption graphs when people are home in summer as the LCD TV/tablets etc don't even register. The few devices that do consume say 1KW or more such as hot water heaters, dryers, heat pumps, washing machines, dishwashers often have delayed start or timer functions, or tend to be devices that can be time-shifted by a few hours if there is encouragement to do so.

"The more I think about it the more I cannot avoid the conclusion that the whole exercise is doomed to be an expensive con from which consumers will gain nothing unless they are profligate in their use of energy supplies and are somehow persuaded to repent. Improbable..."

Will give you this; the UK implementation does appear to be very expensive way of doing things. I understand the reasons for the change, but the way it has been done is pretty awful.

In the long run though, just a little nudge with tariffs that reflect the fact that peak electricity is much more expensive than off-peak (which seemingly a lot of posters don't understand), will help make the system more efficient.

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GrantB
Facepalm

@swampdog

"It's because you're colonial. We have a Queen & secretly you like to be told off".

You mean Our Queen that appears on Our paper money?

I am not offended. Summer holidays here. And your posts are proving my point perfectly; paranoia about the government is driving this hate of the technology and nothing to do with any specific issues.

<joke.. of course>

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GrantB

Re: The paranoia!

"Yes we have choices. Why are you suggesting we choose to have less choices?"

What?

I am suggesting more choice is a good thing; and an advantage of smart-meters. You can choose to stay on the same tariff like UN24 (single rate, uncontrolled) the same as a dumb meter, so no change other than LCD display rather than dials. Staying on the old plan, might even be an advantage in some non-typical usage cases.

Analysis (and real world usage - smartmeters are not new) is pretty clear that there is generally an advantage to both customers and the utilities to go for peak/off peak pricing.

"There is no power to offload The turbines are either spinning or they are not. The kettles will go on during the adverts. If you've got some magical grid storage device then patent it. You will be rich very quickly"

The UK has plenty of apparently (to you) magical grid storage devices. Look up STOR for a start. There are some very interesting systems in the UK including Dinorwig.

One thing that might surprise you as well; there are (rare) periods when spot prices go negative; that is the system pays consumers to consumer more power as they have a surplus they need to offload.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response#Electricity_grids_and_peak_demand_response

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GrantB

Re: The paranoia!

Wait, you *overpay* your bill and you see that as a valid argument against smartmeters?

a) So keep doing that if you really want your supplier to earn interest you could be. Just having more accurate data in your bill, doesn't change when and how you pay

b) If you really want to even things out, switch to a retailer that offers fixed monthly direct debit payments. Called something like SmoothPay, LevelPay or other brand names, the system calculates averages over historical data and you end up achieving the same thing without overpaying. I don't know them, but eonenergy for one offer this.

Yeah, governments will shaft you, companies will to. You can wear tin-foil hats, shake your stick at 'em, but whether you have spinning dials in the meter or a computer in there will make little difference either way. Only thing that makes me feel a little better is voting for the least offensive choice in politics and switching companies where possible, so I don't reward bad performance & crap service. And try to do a decent job on systems I work on.

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GrantB

Re: Hot fill washing machines

I might be that Kiwi

Enduring a bunch of downvotes, but damm it, was on the end of my Summer/Christmas holiday, somewhat bored and people keep posting dumb-arsed things about a topic I actually somewhat familiar with. .

Switching retailers is very possible in the UK as with other countries like NZ. I did mention the company I worked for sold into the UK right?

Pretty much any supplier could read any meter. Some lag in the UK still (no surprise reading some comments), as some retailers still don't have systems for dealing with HH data, so they fall back to aggregating HH data and treating a smart meter as a single monthly read. Worse case would be for a backwards supplier to resort to sending a bloke in a van around and reading the display on a monthly basis. Still more accurate than pre-smartmeter reads + estimates, but once smartmeter roll out is largely complete and retailers have all installed/upgraded systems for managing the data, then no reason the UK won't be like other markets and easier switching.

One UK retailer I know of had this to say:

https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-answers/topics/smart-technology/smart-meters/can-i-switch-energy-suppliers-with-smart-meter.html

OT, but I would think that most automatic washing machines like our one; you select if you want to use a hot, cold, or warm wash. We use cold and save power.

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GrantB

Re: The paranoia!

"Smart meter costs (to customers) were estimated in an earlier post as around £300 initial, £500 lifetime - I'm not sure if the latter figure includes the costs of the additional power used by the meter itself"

Estimated by somebody who obviously does not have a clue. Retail, one-off in the UK for something like the Iskraemeco ME 372 - about £130. Brought in bulk from China.. much cheaper. Basically close to cost of doing a single manual one-off special read. If you are doing regular replacement of old units (that are mechanical and thus wear out), you will replace them with a smart unit wherever possible.

For manual reading, I had real data in previous job, but work out a human meter reader doing around 100-150 reads per day on average (rural areas are a much lower rate, inner city can be higher) over a few hundred days per year excluding holidays etc. 6 to 12 reads per year. Plus overheads (managers, car, office, computer system, bloody ugly rugged Symbol handhold, MDMS, dealing with complaints, dog / lock control, unreadable dials). Special reads are not that uncommon - people moving house, and check reads. Keeps coming back to human error - transposed numbers, dials read in wrong order etc. Trust me, I have had to deal with this stuff (and errors from smart systems)

The cost of a smart meter is easy enough to be found online, but simple and obvious point is that in markets like Australia and NZ, companies are replacing dumb meters without any government requirement to do so. Makes economic sense to the (private) businesses that have to collect data. One side-effect of this; once a residential street is largely full of smartmeters that are remotely read, the cost of reading remaining meters manually goes up incrementally.

BTW - the spinning dial style meter uses more power than a smartmeter, but trivial in both cases.

"Of course all customers will be paying for the smart meters via their suppliers irrespective of whether they actually have one - I'm guessing the suppliers wont be encouraged to include this as a separate line item on the bills they send out".

Retailers could probably break down bills by cost centers like meter reading, but manual meter reading is more expensive and will get more expensive.

But don't think basic economic facts get into the way of complaining about technology.

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GrantB

Re: The paranoia!

You do know what data is collected right?

Total power consumed in a period, probably half-hour period. Which is then made available to you via n app or website and aggregated up into billing periods like 'nights'.

Because you consume power and your retailer wants to bill you for the power you used. Wow.

If you are really worried about Intelligence gathering abilities of analytics, then more effective solution would be to stop using a cellphone and go back to non-smart rotary dial land-lanes as well.

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GrantB

Re: The paranoia!

"If it were just a question of making meter reading more efficient then installing smart meters that were interrogated every 3 months (or even every month at a pinch) would be all that was needed".

That is exactly what a couple of electricity retailers I worked with did; use smart meter HH data aggregated up to monthly consumption values, so billed on one 'virtual read'. Some minor issues with this (i.e. if there is a gap in the HH data, do you interpolate and/or estimate? or pull the data later and rebill?) but advantage is that it is just a cheaper way of reading meters, and the billing contract with the customer can remain unchanged. Contract law means that your retailer is limited in changing T&C's unilaterally.

"The fact that they want to monitor usage at levels down to every 30 minutes suggests there is more going on here".

Yes, they can measure consumption roughly in the period it occurs. That is it.

The retailer can then offer a better range of pricing, like cheaper power at night or middle of the day when they have power flooding the system they need to offload, and charge more when everybody is arriving home switching on ovens/heating and maxing out their local transformer. You have choices - you can stay on simple single rate plan or, if you are capable of setting a timer (some apparently can't) then take advantage and switch retailer and/or plans.

Network companies tend to use the information for planning consumption patterns so that they scale transformers or build out wiring if they can see things like a old office block being turned into apartments (they have information at a course level anyway, but can help planning)

If you think there is something more to it that, then tell me what it is?

I would think anybody working in the industry is as puzzled as I am at the odd beliefs that surround smartmeters. They can't watch you, won't give you cancer, and can't control your devices unless you choose to wire them in to some network controlled relay (and the network companies won't generally know anything about the devices attached). Even weirder is that the same people worried about smartmeters recording one variable (consumption in half-hour period) will also own phones. Telecom billing systems obviously collect much more personal information which _is_ used by governments and other agencies.

To put it another way, if you were selling KWH as your business, would you prefer to pay a person to wander slowly around the neighbourhood and read victorian era spinning dials, or get a read uploaded automatically on a daily basis?

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GrantB

Renewables don’t have to mean end-supply is unpredictable. Currently renewables here in NZ make up over 80% of electricity supply (and increasing) but extremely reliable. Similar in other countries like Iceland as well. In the UK, if you have nuclear stations providing base load, then throwing a bunch of renewable’s on-top makes sense; there is a grid and a bunch of systems in place including some skilled people for shunting load around to deal with wind, tide and solar variation.

Coming back to Smartmeters, just how and why do you think somebody in Whitehall or wherever are going to “remotely switch off our washing machine mid-cycle or our freezer or our fridge or our lights”?

Your Smartmeter is very unlikely to be connected in anyway to any relays controlling lights or appliances. Typically the power consumption for most appliances/lights is so low, that the only thing connected to a networked control line is hot-water heating, and that is generally managed by the network distributor and not the retailer. HWC's are typically hooked onto a ripple control on a non-smart meter, so no change there, other than more fine-grained control and monitoring - which is a good thing for most people.

In any case, shedding load at grid level is normally done with industrial users - a single industrial user can have systems setup to switch something like kilns off as/when required if there is cost/benefit to doing so. Hotwater heating is more likely turned off to benefit local transmission lines/transformers in residential areas, but obviously retailers and network companies benefit by selling power; hence incentive to keep the power flowing whenever possible.

I can tell from the downvotes that people don't like the government mandated change; and it is a bit odd really, as without any government interference old meters would slowly be replaced over time anyway, just as other electronic-mechanical devices make way for modern hardware and software with no conspiracy required.

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GrantB

Except the company I worked for sold into the UK, so I am probably more familiar with the UK market than you think. Same billing software sold into multiple markets, same HH data from meters, similar tarrifs, different currency and reporting.

But interested to know what exactly you think is so special about the UK electricity supply sector that makes you think it is so different from others like Australia and NZ? What makes the UK use of smartmeters so different from the rest of world other than the government mandate?

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GrantB

How it works

Information is readily available online about how smartmeter data is collected and used, but having worked in this area, can tell you that typical profile is for the meter to aggregate consumption over half-hour periods, store it in memory and upload say once a day.

HH data - 48 reads per day except day light saving +/- 1 hour, is collected by meter reading or network companies, supplied to your retailer who will multiply the consumption values by the tariff at that time (peak/off-peak/shoulder etc).

Lots more complexity under the hood to deal with missing data, reconciliation with bulk feeds from GXP's etc, but basics are easily understood.

Tariff data is not normally sent to the meter. Network companies with say 500k metres should be able to read all of them everyday; the amount of data is surprisedly small; couple of hundred bytes of raw data per meter per day if only recording KWH

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GrantB
Facepalm

The paranoia!

So many supposedly IT savvy people on this site showing a fair bit of paranoia about smartmeters.

Sounds like in the UK, the roll out has not been helped by government intervention and the costs don't sound right, but regardless, everywhere else in the first world, the old electromechanical dial meters are being replaced with smart devices just as old rotary dial telephones were swapped out in the past. Any other industry, where sticking to spinning dials is seen as better than microprocessors?

Having worked in the industry, being able to set up a bunch of registers and calculate consumption as/when required and get readings when needed such as when customers move in/out, makes accurate billing systems much easier than some person having to visit the property, avoid the dog, unlock gates etc every couple of months. When human meter readers miss readings or get them wrong, then the billing system has to estimate over many months, and algorithms then get very hit and miss. The cost of sending a person to do a special (out of cycle read) is very high compared with smartmeter costs.

Compared with a single or day/night non-smart meter in which the cost per unit has to be some average value that does not reflect the actual cost to supply power (which varies a lot between peak and off-peak), having a smartmeter has advantages to customers and electricity retailers.

Reading a lot of comments, so much misunderstanding from people who just don't know anything about these systems. Really think they will cause cancer, scare the horses, allow your local burglar to hack your account before breaking a window?

Here in NZ and in other countries, I can check consumption via an app, switch retailer and just don't see any problems either as a customer with a smartmeter, or when I used to work on utility billing & meter reading systems. Your mileage may vary, but generally smartmeters are a useful if minor incremental improvement to a complex electricity supply system that generally works so well that people don't notice how good the system is.

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Lights, power, action! Smartplugs with a twist

GrantB

Maybe one use

Have a swimming pool pump that gets switched on for a few hours a day during winter, on for longer during summer. At 750watts, the cost is not insignificant to run for hours but the cost of not running it would be ending up with 55k litres of algae.

Currently use a cheap digital timer that has a UI that makes me very reluctant to change anything.. and I do have a degree in computer science. But does turn the pump off/on with a fixed schedule.

So something with a simple API I could play with in my spare time, I could see some use for.. add sensor data or a feed of data like weather or sunlight hours and the pump could get turned off an on as required.

But like the review... I just can't see the point of most home automation until there are open cheap systems that allow people to tinker away and find stuff that really works and is useful.

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The Q7: Audi’s big SUV goes from tosspot to tip-top

GrantB
Boffin

Reduced drag coefficient?

I get that modern cars like this SUV are designed to look like bricks; part fashion, partly to make it look safe and to help frontal impact/pedestrian safety.

But so many reviews pass on the manufacturers claim of reduced drag for new models. In this case "...It’s more slippery too, the drag coefficient has dropped from 0.35 to 0.32"

Audi were achieving 0.29/0.30 drag coefficients over 30 years ago with the 100/200 series. So they must increasing drag every other model so that they can then claim to reduce it for some models like this.

I know that drag reduction is not a big deal in massive vehicles like this that have the frontal area of a barn (and spend most of the time tooling around urban zones) but why even try and make claims that they are more sleek? If Audi actually cared, they have the technology to improve drag over ancient models.

(I am just bitter as when I was a kid at school, I drew pictures of future cars, imagining them to be light, streamlined and cool; not agricultural boxes with big engines that prove with sufficient thrust anything can be made to move fast).

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Mathematician: SUNSPOT DROUGHT will mean mini ICE AGE from 2030

GrantB

Oh dear

"The paper presents a model for the sun's magnetic field and sunspots, which predicts a 60% fall in sunspot numbers when extrapolated to the 2030s. Crucially, the paper makes no mention of climate"

Just surprised it was not Lewis using the reporting as proof that there is no AGW.

But wonder how many people actually read what the Boffins concerned actually wrote?

ref: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11487632

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DARPA unTerminators gather for Robotics Challenge finals in Hell*

GrantB

Re: "Standing on two feet is easy when..."

I have seen a four legged animal drive vehicles:

http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/campbelllive/driving-dogs-test-out-their-skills-on-the-track-2012121017#axzz3cE2PSLPS

Not well admittedly, but when you have 4 legs and no opposable thumbs,... and are a dog, then getting around a race track at all is pretty successful proof that it could be done by a robot.

Adding arms/hands into a small centaur body shape would no doubt help.

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Welcome, stranger: Inside Microsoft's command line shell

GrantB

I remember setting up many machines with a basic toolbox of programs like 4DOS (and later 4NT), grep, PKZIP etc before I moved on to just using cygwin.

I think everybody in IT from the 80s and 90s who used DOS/Windows would have a collection of tools to extend and make MSDOS/CMD actually useful.

Thing I never understood about MS, was the apparent 'not invented here' approach to releasing better tools. They could surely have brought the rights to bundle tools like 4DOS into Windows and quickly improved the rudimentary command line.

Some bundled Windows utilities like Notepad don't seem to have changed much since Windows 3.11 days, despite Microsoft having better free editors available in-house.

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You know HOOQ? We don't either. But it's bringing the Asia Pacific OTT fight to Netflix

GrantB
Pirate

Re: Cheap netflix

Content is per region though.

Here in NZ looking forward to the arrival of Netflix, but content is key and apparently we won't be getting everything that US subscribers get, as competitors have already brought local rights to series like Orange is the New Black.

Frustrating thing is that here we go again; rather than an iTunes style solution where we can pay a subscription or per view charge and get access to nearly all content, we end up with 3 or 4 providers all offering a mixed bag of new good content and a whole lot of filler.

The only global provider with access to all content from everywhere will be Piratebay.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

GrantB

Re: What? Have these people learned nothing?

>You need to learn how to do the numbers...

Actually I just spent two minutes on Wikipedia to check your numbers, and you are quite wrong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy

(for the records I used to work in the Geothermal industry, but just wanted to check my facts were up to date)

>For power generation, even with specialised turbines, you'll need a steam source at about 180-200C >minimum.

With binary / closed cycle plants, you can generate power from about 120C up (remember you can boil a number of fluids with relatively low grade heat sources; and with geothermal needing no fuel, and no emssions, you can afford to have low efficiency levels)

>The typical rate of increase of temperature as you drill down is around 20C/km.

References I have say 25 to 30C per KM. But there are many places around the world including in Europe which have localised spots such as hot springs with much greater heat at shallow depths.

>That means you need bores of the order of 10km/33,000 feet

No, not unless you are drilling somewhere dumb, and need to get 200C flows.

> the record for vertical drilling is a small fraction of that (for example, the bottom of the Bowland >Shale formation is about 8,000 feet down).

Wrong - the record is the Kola superdeep borehole which is 12 kilometres down. Typical deep wells are only about 3km (not what I would call a 'small fraction') but in the search of oil, companies are getting experience in drilling deeper. Not that you need to go more than 1 or 2 KM down if you select

your drill site well.

>Even were you able to economically drill that deep, you still need more complexity - the old >Cambourne "Hot Rocks" project relied on drilling two bores a few metres apart and explosive >fracturing the rocks between them (it's far too deep, and hence ground pressures too high for >hydraulic fractuturing), pumping water down one bore and getting steam up the other. They found it >wasn't viable - the fractures tend to close up, and even if they don't you fairly quickly deplete heat in >the area between the bores.

Wrong again. Rosemanowes Quarry dates back to the 1970's and pretty much proved the process works, but the site was experimental not commercial (the data helped feed into a well bore simulator I worked on).It lead on to Soultz and other 'Hot Dry Rock' sites.

>Even if you restrict yourself to volcanic areas, the potential's not that big. The Icelanders reckon >their total generation potential is about 2,000 to 2,500 MW - about 2/3rds that of Hnkley C.

Pretty silly example as Iceland currently has a total generation capacity of under 3000.MW, and that is more than enough; average consumption per person is very high compared with the rest of Europe and most power goes to smelters. They could probably actually power the entire island with geothermal, so potential is pretty significant, but no need to when they have plentiful hydro resources. And nuclear would be silly in the Icelandic case.

Not to derail that nukes make more sense in the UK case, but spend a few minutes to understand the real numbers and you see that geothermal has a part to play in many countries, along with hydro, wind, solar and nuclear.

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GrantB

Re: What? Have these people learned nothing?

You are right about New Zealand of course, geothermal is now the second biggest source of power after hydro:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11372220

Note - no subsidies, competitive market and yet re-newables have almost entirely replaced coal, and well on there way to replacing gas for baseline load generation, Right now, adding solar panels to houses is almost at a tipping point where it will become a no-brainer to install solar panels at least in new builds.

With Iceland, they don't need to turn the geothermal energy into electricity so much, as they have a small population with limited baseline power needs vs much higher demand for district heating. So they tend to tap geothermal for heating rather than generating power to run electric heating.

I have some experience in Geothermal, and can also say that makes a lot of sense outside of NZ and Iceland as well; pretty much all the ring of fire countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and California etc., Even outside of those countries, some other areas such as Kenya, Ethiopia etc could benefit far more than big, expensive nuclear plants, when the current solutions are generally burning oil.

Basically there is no single silver bullet for power demand; nuclear should be in the mix but not for all countries and not the only answer.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

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The Nokia ENIGMA THING and its SECRET, TERRIBLE purpose

GrantB

Re: It's the Internet

Makes sense. The Internet is after all just a small black box with a blinking red light and completely wireless.

Hope that Nokia knows that if the red light on the top of the box stops flashing, the Internet will be destroyed.... or at least an epic fist-fight break out.

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Virgin 'spaceship' pilot 'UNLOCKED tailbooms' going through SOUND BARRIER

GrantB
Boffin

Re: Right Direction?

I used to think the same.

I saw images as a kid of the shuttle being transported on top of a 747; so thought why not just launch a disposable rocket stage + small lifting body return craft (say a Northrop HL-10) via a B52 or 747?. The carrier aircraft could be relatively cheap & reusable and carry the assembly to high altitudes & near mach 1, before launch rather than accelerating the rocket from zero feet and zero speed.

Turns out, it is not such a great idea in general, in particular when trying to throw tonnes of mass into space.

For a start, it does not win you very much. To make orbit you need ~mach 25 delta-v, so even if the carrier aircraft is traveling mach 1, you are only 4% there. Just carrying 5% more rocket fuel would give you similar win.

Then to hit that mach-25 you need a big rocket anyway. When you have a big (but very light) tube full of rocket fuel, the easiest way of assembling that tube of rocket fuel is having it sit vertically on the ground, rather than strapped under or over the launch aircraft & stressed to take G's horizontally and vertically.

Finally every Kg of mass you have to accelerate to orbital speed and have to bring back (especially if you have a reusable return vehicle that has wheels, wings etc) costs lots of money per Kg, so best that you dispose of as much of it as you go - i.e. a multi-stage disposable vertical launch rocket for putting stuff into orbit that you want to keep in orbit.

This is why the rocket scientists from Von Braun onwards stick to conventional rockets.

There are interesting alternatives of course; I liked the thinking behind the McDonnell Douglas DC-X, and for small payloads, something like a carrier aircraft or balloon to get a smallish (solid fuel?) rocket above the dense atmosphere might work out (i.e..nozzle design could be optimised).

Even the Skylon might fly one day, but DC-X/Skylon have never got anywhere near space and (as this accident shows), SpaceShip 2 is still a work in progress.

5
1

Gates and Ballmer NOT ON SPEAKING TERMS – report

GrantB

Re: Your "best idea was to quit reading."?

Did he take responsibility for Longhorn?

Seemed somewhat pointed that during this time, Bill Gates was responsible to software architecture...

Weird thing was that even Elop could had been successful during this time; Microsoft had few competitors, so all they really needed to do was crank out minor upgrades of Windows and Office to keep the gravy train running. They really didn't need to roll out any major architectural upgrades to Windows.

7
3

Apple iPhone 6 Plus: GORGEOUS FAT pixel density - but it's WASTED

GrantB

Re: Always Critical of Apple

You are the second poster to claim that in this thread.

Sounded a bit high so I actually spent the 30 seconds to Google it.

Looks like they did sell a lot; claiming 10m sold in 60 days, but not 30.

Apple will also no doubt sell an awful lot of the 6+ once they fully crank up worldwide, but I guess the most obvious point is that there is serous demand for big-arsed phones. Not sure I get why, but then I use a 4" phone as a phone in my pocket and tablets and lastops when I need more screen real estate

1
1

Siri: Helpful personal assistant or SERIAL APP KILLER?

GrantB
Boffin

Re: Book a hotel...

Can you imagine the Amazon version?

Where can I buy the Sonos 3? ... Amazon.

Where is nearest coffee shop? ... You can buy coffee via Amazon

Please book me a flight to... Amazon now allows you to book flights by one-click...

Basically, requires a lot of trust in the integrity and quality of the assistant, and I don't entirely trust the marketing departments of any company if the got there hands on the controls. Why do any mobile advertising, if your trusted assistant could just literally tell people what to buy?

That being said, I travel a bit and at times, if an assistant had good local data (they mostly don't yet), then could be huge advantage of using a bunch of apps like travel guides, maps, local websites etc.

2
0

Stand clear! Will HTC's One act as a defibrillator for Windows Phone?

GrantB

Re: I've said it before...

You have also summed up the big problem with things like Cortana; you are impressed by it doing things that Apple and Android have had for years.

I have a Nokia 520, and it does what I want for the right price, but don't have Cortana yet. Even when it comes, still going to just another catch up feature, but probably not quite as slick as the integration with Google on my Nexus 7 tablet. I don't use Siri, but it is a couple of years ahead of Cortana in development.

Thing is that the 520 is nice little low end phone; if they kept building up that modest success with small regular improvements, then maybe my next phone would be the next model up. Instead the newer devices in the range (like the 530), seem worse if anything, and the app situation is not improving; one app I used on WP8, is now defunct and no alternative is available.

I think phones like the HTC one, seem like afterthoughts - stick a model out there, same hardware but with WP and few Microsoft people might buy one, but given the same hardware for the same price could be running Android with more developed features and far more apps, I can't see any appeal (and that is from somebody with a WP8 phone)

0
0

Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530

GrantB

Not even a Nokia 520 killer

The Nokia 520 is actually a pretty good phone for the price; I brought one last year after comparing with similarly priced Android phones.

App support is very weak, but I mainly use the phone as a phone, GPS and for creating a wireless hot spot and using my Nexus 7 instead for anything else that needs apps. Have 8Gb SD card fitted and spare battery I can swap in makes it more useful as well for me.

Given the 520 is more than a year old, was quite interested in what the replacement would be. Few small improvements like better screen/camera and/or battery life and I might be tempted to upgrade and hand down the 520 to my daughter.

Problem is that the supposed replacement, the 530, is worse in just about every way than the 520. Screen is lower quality, less memory, worse camera, the quad core CPU being weaker than the old CPU/GPU combo , removal of hard buttons etc. Add to that, Windows Phone 8.1 sounds like basically a beta version of what was a stable OS, with a few useful features for me (eg swipe keyboard like my N7), but some backward steps and buggy.

Good review that covers the difference here:

http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/nokia-lumia-530-vs-520

Sad really, as the 520 was probably the only modestly successful Windows Phone ever, and the closest thing to a win that Nokia had got to in the last few years; but instead of building on it, Micro/Nokia seem to have failed yet again.

Oh well, my next phone will be Android and not by Nokia, which will be fine, but I still find with my wife's Nexus 5 running the latest version of Android, that Android still requires a little more fiddling to 'just work' like the 520 did out of the box.

0
0

How practical is an electric car in London?

GrantB

Re: On Street Parking

Strangely negative way at looking at it to point out that 37% of Americans might be using dirty power that adds to total emissions. Surely that means that most Americans ( near two thirds) would reduce emissions by using a Leaf? Not to mention that vehicles like your diesel VW are far less common in the US compared with vehicles like the Ford F150.

Even if there wasn't the option of buying electric cars, then the stats you present show it would be better for the environment to retire some of the big coal powered thermal generation and move to pretty much anything else, up to and including nuclear.

But key thing is that 'your milage will vary'. Here in NZ, power is relatively clean; the vast majority being hydro, geothermal and wind with gas/coal mainly being used to top up at peak. Add to that, second hand Nissan Leaf's are available as second hand imports from Japan for about £10k, and one suddenly looks like a reasonably option for a second car.

2
0

NASA finds first Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone around star

GrantB
Boffin

Re: Yay! They found Krypton!!

When you say 'distant past', it is 'only' around 500 light years away.

Not exactly in the neighbourhood, and would take a wee while to get there given we don't have a warp drive handy, but you would have to assume a fairly stable star and planetary system would remain ticking along for millions of years without suddenly exploding.

0
1

Faster, more private, easier to read: My 2014 browser wishlist

GrantB

Re: My requirements are simple

1. Yes, Chrome UI is pretty much good enough

2. Yes - I have only 3GB on this POS work computer, and Chrome or FF, a typical workload of dozens of tabs open call it to spin the (slow) lappy drive.

3 + Stable would be good. Desktop browsers are good enough, but Chrome on my Nexus 7 is very crash happy.

0
0
GrantB

Re: "Universal sync tools"

'Also includes possibility for different profiles with standard ones for Home, Work and mobile'.

This is such an obvious one, that Google in particular don't seem to get. Not that Firefox, Windows/IE or Apple are any better.

Google try and force one profile for Gmail, Google+ and Chrome, presumably to target one person with adverts. Even though Google+ has 'circles' they don't seem to be integrated into anything else.

In actual fact, at home/Home profile, I am going to be more interesting in gaming and stories like the one on the Sinclair QL. Might watch a Youtube video or something 'NSFW'. At work, I view a lot of internal web servers not reachable externally; no point having those links in my home profile, nor cache the history.

Same thing goes for things like Google+; I don't think Google knows what they want from hit, but while Google Hangouts actually works pretty well for online meetings, the integration as a business tool is pretty awful. Logging into a daily meeting on Hangouts, and get stopped by a Google+ prompt asking me if I want to spam all my old school friends? If I am inviting some random colleagues into a one -off remote hangout meeting, really don't want to add them and all their details into G+.. and so it goes

2
0

Big Beardie's watching: Alan Sugar robots spy on Tesco petrol queue

GrantB

They forgot something

"The OptimEyes does not store images or recognise people..." [yet] is the missing word.

Hate to admit I have worked in Market Research, but as advertising loses effectiveness (because we are exposed to so much of it every day), there is an arms race to exploit technology to try and target advertising.

Once the cameras are there and hooked up to an response based advertising system, they will want to track effectiveness. It always comes back to half of the money spent on advertising is wasted, but hard to determine which half. They will want to track things like increase in sales of products like chocolate depending if the customer has been subjected to advertising while waiting vs those not exposed. That in turn leads to demand to associate those 'throw away' facial recognition images with an unique ID which can be tracked, perhaps by credit cards, loyalty cards and things like blue-tooth ID's (I know of one local company analysing customer behaviour by tracking smartphones).

Can lead to some negative outcomes for consumers - for instance, 'pay-at-the-pump' was largely removed here in NZ, as petrol stations want you to come in and buy stuff while paying. Seems to also be a perverse incentive to force people to wait longer in the station as well - more likely to see advertising and buy more stuff.

Having worked in the industry, I would assume that people are working on taking the technology now deployed and adding functionality to it - for instance analysing BMI and switch advertising to offer weight-loss programs and/or fast food.

Funny thing is that when Minority Report came out, most people were appalled by the advertising that recognised individuals and exploited it like 'hey, dave, been a while since you last had a drink of X...', but of course advertising agencies where thinking the complete opposite - like 'mmmh, that is a great idea'.

Not sure I am that worried yet; a good salesperson will recognise you,offer you the usual and know if you like X, then you might like the new Y that is on special or just released. Not a problem if people do it, but automated scanning systems seem that much more scary.

0
0

Deploying Turing to see if we have free will

GrantB
Facepalm

Re: Stop making me think about sex. It's irrelevant.

Ok, so let me be the first to confirm that you are indeed old fashioned and sexist. Simple test of this would be to ask yourself if a women or young (< 25 say) person would have read an interesting article on the nature of free will, and had to comment not on the nature of determinism but because the author dared to use a female for an example.

I find people complaining about 'politically correctness' generally can't even define what it is, and why doing something like acknowledging 50% of people in any example scenerio might be female is so wrong..

The possessive 'his' may have for many years been defined as 'belonging to or associated with a person or animal of unspecified sex', but language changes, there are alternatives 'their', and without having read the paper, you don't know if the author was talking about a specific person like like Alice, Bob or Eve.

5
3

Microsoft: Oh PLEASE, HTC. Who says Windows Phone can't go on an Android mobe? – report

GrantB

Re: I don't think so..

"Unlikely - Microsoft can count activations rather than installs..."

Microsoft can indeed count every single Windows Phone and give a break down of which version and model etc.

The fact that they don't give actual numbers is a pretty clear indication that they are not something that they are proud of

2
0

iOS 7 SPANKS Samsung's Android in user-experience rating

GrantB

Re: Horseshit indeed.

I am somebody who reads the Reg. And yes, I am a geek.

Its not that "the average person couldn't even figure out how to set the time on their VCRs" it was just that it was often not worth the effort. I have a microwave that loses the clock time after a power outage (it is on a circuit that trips relatively often). Takes about 5 obvious button presses so if I am walking past and notice is is not right, takes about 2 seconds to correct. Compare that with the clock in my car stereo (not the car clock) - I had to read the manual to find the arcane sequence of mystery buttons to set. So generally I don't bother.

Coming back to Mobile OS UI, I feel that I am qualified to comment as an owner of a iOS (Touch/iPad 3), Android (Nexus 7) and WP8 device (Nokia 520). All have some nice features and some drawbacks. None are perfect. I haven't used iOS7 yet, but agree with the order: iOS6, Android second and WP8 the distant third. ICS on the Nexus is in many if not most respects the better OS for me, and but the share amount of variation among devices and customisation make Android much more painful to support.

Working in IT, I get to deal with support for family and friends. With Android devices (so many of which are still running 2.3), when people ask questions it is always a more painful. iOS is obviously more consistent and simple to support, explain how to do things. No family and friends own a WP8 device, so I am spared support on that.

4
0

It's Grand Theft Auto 5 day: Any of you kids remember GTA the First?

GrantB

Re: London 1969

Back in PS2 days, I really liked 'The Getaway' / Black Monday games which were Sony attempts at a European GTA.

Quite liked having realistic central London as a setting, Range Rovers, round-a-bouts and British gangsters for a change.

Never popular and the PS3 version which I was looking forward to never happened.

0
0

Swiss space plane to launch robotic orbital debris destroyer

GrantB

Re: The slow approach, good housekeeping

It will go away eventually, so you are right in that anything new should be planned to automatically de-orbit along with any rocket stages or other components.

Problems is that will still be exceptions - the scary one being the possibility of a collision with something big leading to a cascading shower of debris. This is pretty much what the Chinese achieved with their anti-sat test. Doesn't have to be all man-made either - there have been small Near Earth Asteroids that could have taken out some big satellites or space stations. Either could make a mess that force a clean up or face not putting anything into orbit for some time.

The other is that getting objects into space is still hard and not production line boring yet. That means things go wrong and satellites can still be put into orbit DOA or with unexpected orbital paths. That and simple accidents like dropped bolts and tools off the space station, or other parts simply breaking off/exploding.

So any investigation into accelerating the decay of space junk is reasonable, but still seems like a big job simply because space is big (even LEO to geo-stationary space) and changing orbits from one bit of junk to another will require huge changes in velocity. A reusable de-orbiter with Ion or chemical rocket thrusters, will takes ages to move from one object to another. Still careful routing and using the objects mass to help change orbit, might be possible over time to take down some of the largest chunks.

1
0

'Silent' staff stood by as £100m BBC IT project tanked – DG

GrantB

having been there..

This classic best explains why management claim not to know:

Genesis of Failure

In the beginning was THE PLAN.

And then came The Assumptions.

And The Plan was without substance.

And The Assumptions were without form.

And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.

And they spoke among themselves, saying,

"It is a crock of s--t, it stinks."

And the workers went unto their Supervisors, and said,

"It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odour thereof."

And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying

"It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,

such that none may abide it."

And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying,

"It is a vessel of fertiliser, and none may abide its strength."

And the Directors spoke among themselves saying one to another,

"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."

And the Directors went to the Vice-Presidents, saying unto them,

"It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."

And the Vice-Presidents went to the President, saying unto him,

"This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigour of the company, with powerful effects."

And the President looked upon The Plan, and saw that it was good.

And The Plan became policy.

And that is how S--t happens."

5
0

Ballmer's emotional farewell to Redmond: I LOVE THIS COMPANY

GrantB
Boffin

Re: Ballmer not a bad CEO give some credit

To be fair, a slash and burn manager would make Microsoft very profitable in the short to medium term. They have a 100,000 employees and you have to wonder just what the hell that many people do all day given that software development is normally not that labour intensive that you have to have an army of people.

Imagine for example if they simply stopped all expenditure on WP8; they would still make a huge profit margin just collecting patent royalties on every Android sale, not to mention they could hand the whole development mess over to Nokia to try and make it work.

The choice of new CEO will be interesting. Nokia happen to have a CEO who owns a chunk of MS stock, CEO experience at downsizing a large company during market transition.. and probably is keen to move job soon ;-)

0
0

Microsoft unveils push-button app generator for Windows Phone

GrantB

I actually now own a Windows Phone 8 phone

"It's hard to imagine that Windows Phone owners would want to install many of these, rather than just pulling up the corresponding web page in their mobile browsers."

Er, I have WP8 phone, and the ability of the native IE mobile browser to mangle webpages is unparalleled in modern mobile browsers. Safari on my iPod Touch, Chrome on my Nexus 7 are perfectly fine mobile browsers, so on those devices I am happy to just use the mobile version of a webpage, but with WP8 an app, generally works better.

Pretty obvious though that the aim of this is to generate large numbers of crap apps that nobody will use - but will blow out the number of apps in the store to match Apple/Android. Pretty sad really.

10
0

Samsung brings back clamshell phones with added Android

GrantB

nice idea

I had a Panasonic flip phone that had two really nice little features missing from my current smartphone.

First was that the 'gesture' for answering a call or unlocking the phone was simply to press the spring loaded hinge release button. Phone flips open and ready to make/answer a call without even having to look at the phone. No pocket calls either.

The other was such an obvious feature I have no idea why it has gone from newer phones; a nicely integrated multi coloured LED on the outside of the phone, which indicated status such as message received, power low, charging etc. It meant that when the phone was sitting on my desk at work, or when waking up in the morning, I could spot a missed message or the phone needing to be charged with out having to pick it up and check it. I notice lots of people now compulsively check their iPhones or Android phones for messages as the can't tell when the screen is off.

My daughter inherited the old flip phone, so it was funny to pick it up recently; the screen seems tiny, and weird not to simply press the icon on the screen, but even with an old battery, it still ran for days without charging. Progress.

1
0

Only 1 in 5 Americans believe in pure evolution – and that's an upswing

GrantB
Trollface

you forgot the troll icon

Take this one as your trolling badge.

0
0

CONFIRMED: Driverless cars to hit actual British roads by end of year

GrantB
Boffin

Re: All at once or none at all - or maybe only a few?

Hundreds of cars? Meh, guided missile cruisers and other military systems such as AWACS have been able to track and target hundreds of objects in real time and 3 dimensions for many years. That includes incoming threats moving at supersonic speeds.

Even on a busy round-about with 5 or more roads merging, you are probably only looking at a few dozens cars at any point in time being a threat or which the system needs to exchange signals with.

Compare that with meat bags currently driving vehicles in busy traffic; I occasionally ride through a complex round-about system with inner and outer lanes and 5 entrance/exit points. Even a ZX81 could navigate it better than some drivers I see failing to cope.

Should be pretty obvious from the road toll in most countries that extensive driver training and enforcement does not work that well.

0
0

Water, sunshine or pig s***: How will YOU power your data centre?

GrantB
Windows

Re: Has anyone tried...

" large volumes of lukewarm water "... once nice use of otherwise waste heat from a local geothermal plant is a prawn farm;

http://www.hukaprawnpark.co.nz/history

There are other agricultural options such as hothouses growing orchids or similar as well.

If somebody really is looking for a data centre somewhere with a bulk supply of 'leccy on tap, I would suggest Manapouri - underground, vast amounts of cold water flowing through and 800MW on tap would power a lot of ARM server blades. That power is currently mostly going into a smelter, but that is looking like it could be shut down, leading to an excellent lair/data centre for evil genius types.

( http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manapouri_Hydroelectric_Power_Station)

0
0

Apple dodged all UK corporation tax in 2012

GrantB
Facepalm

"Company's like Apple should be Made to pay the FULL TAX in the country where the profit was made. (BEFORE THEY MOVE IT OFF SHORE)"

Yeah, about that.

How do you decide how much profit is made? What is the correct <FULL TAX> amount is?

The issue is this. Profit = sales-price (ex sales tax) - cost of sale (the wholesale/build cost of the idevice + overheads).

Now the country (UK in this case) does in fact grab the sales tax. The consumer is paying of course, but Apple are collecting it and handing it over to the government. No problems there - hence governments moving increasingly to load up on sale taxes despite customers increasing ability to buy overseas making an ever increasing loophole.

The real problem with your plan is that the cost of sale is whatever Apple claim it is. So if the overheads of rent, power and wages is £1 per iDevice and the theoretical ex-VAT price of device happened to be £100, then all Apple have to do is pay £99 per iDevice to their Irish supplier. Result no profit in the UK, but the £99 goes back to pay the actual £10 build price of the device in a low taxation country. In actual fact Apple and other companies tend to bury the costs not in hardware costs but in brand or IP payments which are relatively intangible.

To challenge the profit being claimed, you would have to have a massive governments department to determine if every transaction claimed as a business cost was valid - and given that the transactions could be anything across any number of countries, this would be a near impossible task. How would the the tax man determine if the Apple brand (i.e. a payment made from Apple UK to Apple mothership) is worth £1 or £1 billion?

"Then if the company chooses to move profit to another country the country it moves the profit to has the choice to tax the incoming transferred profit"

Which means double taxation. And again 'moving profit' - how do you define that when you see a $1 coming into a company in Country A, is it profit, refund, payment or just another transaction?

1
0

Microsoft tweaks WinPhone YouTube app to fix Google gripes

GrantB
Facepalm

"...cheerily observes that it can't want to roll up its sleeves..."

I had to read that twice, assume it should be "...cheerily observes that it can't wait..."?

One thing I don't get; I thought the first rule of web app security was 'never trust the client', so why would Google have to ask MS nicely to please insert ads or implement controls?

I get that Google want to float targeted adverts and not force them to be part of the content stream, but guess they can simply turn off the API for MS clients, so MS don't really have a lot of room to refuse any demands if they want to produce a custom app for YouTube.

Is this really a WP8 app only issue? Would have thought MS would have provided a YouTube app on W8/W8RT as well.

0
0

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