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* Posts by Nigel Whitfield.

504 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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Bright lights, affordable motor: Ford puts LED headlights onto Mondeo

Nigel Whitfield.
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New fangled nonsense!

Nothing wrong with my selective yellow headlamps. Other than the slightly disconcerting feeling of driving through a shower of piss.

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The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal

Nigel Whitfield.
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Yes, this has been a pretty disturbing trend, and it has chilling effects.

For example, the old Section 28, and its prohibition against "promoting homosexuality" was pretty vague, and had lots of knock on effects, because no one much fancied being a test case. At one stage, the council owned bus company in Edinburgh was unwilling to accept adverts from the local gay switchboard, because that might be promoting - though in fact, the actual paragraph was pretty clear that it referred to maintained schools, that chill spread far and wide.

Then there was the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which bravely tried to define what a rave might be and even offered up a legal definition of music:

"“music” includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats."

The noble tradition didn't start there, of course; obscene publications with it's "likely to deprave or corrupt" is a bit woolly, and governments of all colours have enjoyed passing poorly worded legislation in recent years.

This has been a charming month on the legal front really - not only have the police decided that just watching something might make you a terrorist, thereby leaving us all in mortal fear of auto-play video, but the appearance in court earlier this month of two people who had old material they'd not deleted from their phones potentially leaves us all at risk from an unsolicited MMS or Vine as well.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: They've got you...

They'd just redefine "transmit" to make sure they got you, much as when many people are charged with "making" indecent images of children, what they've actually done is viewed it on their computer, thereby causing it to be downloaded and so a new copy "made."

My cynical mind suspects there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it enables a longer penalty without changing the law (though that shouldn't be hard to do, even without whipping up a moral panic first). Secondly, when you hear about people being arrested for "making" doesn't it sound so much more impressive? It's as if they've actually tracked down and found the people physically abusing.

I'm sure, in a similar vein, they could find a learned friend who would argue that, for instance, the transmission of the video across the internet occurred as a result of you clicking on a link. Having established causality, it's merely a short leap to that that you, therefore, transmitted the video.

Few people with any sense of how technology works would necessarily agree with you, but the PR team would get to trumpet another terrorist suspect banged up, and everyone goes to bed feeling a little bit safer.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Accuracy? Pah

When Green says "People need reliable and accurate public information, and they have the right to expect it from the well-funded PR departments of UK police forces," I'm afraid that's more a hope than a realistic expectation.

Time and again, the PR department of the Met has shown that it is not accuracy that they favour, but putting themselves in the best possible light. There was a shocking amount of disinformation disseminated about the De Menezes case, and then later about the Tomlinson one, including some outright lies.

One would hope that they would have learned that if you can't stand something up, it's better to give a holding statement, like "we're reviewing evidence and we'll issue a statement when we have the facts" rather than, well, telling lies.

Personally, I'm of the view that when the PR office has a habit of willfully misleading to cover up mistakes, that goes a very long way towards creating a culture in which the relatively small number of bad apples feel they can act with impunity, because the communications team have their back.

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BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes

Nigel Whitfield.
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Payment charges and basic lines

As well as the increase in charges, BT needs to be slapped down over the payment processing fee, which is £6 per bill at the moment. They used to say it's for paying by cheque, but actually it covers everything except direct debit, and there's no justification at all to charge for people who are paying by internet banking, for instance.

Over the many years of incompetence I've endured from BT - especially when I had an ISDN2 line - they've overbilled, sometimes by hundreds of pounds, so there's no way I'm ever going to give them instant access to my account, yet they choose to penalise me for it anyway.

Their last bill change, suddenly charging many people for caller ID who had previously had it free, was poorly communicated, and this latest one is about the final straw - I'm waiting for an unbundled VDSL service, and when that comes to my corner cabinet, the landline will be unbundled from BT too.

Really, Ofcom should force them to provide a 'line only' service for DSL subscribers who don't want a dialtone. My latest bill is £57 for a quarter; £4 of that is rent for the burglar alarm that is plugged into it, which I'll happily replace. The rest is just rental, for a line that I don't use for anything else, and could easily do without - its sole purpose is to carry the DSL, and with it my SIP trunks. With the 'payment processing' charge, this is getting on for not much short of £20 a month for the copper wire, because of their bundling in things I don't need or use, like evening and weekend calls.

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Best shot: Coffee - how do you brew?

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Sorry.

The one thing I've never liked is the special "coffee milk" that seems inexplicably popular in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Moka Pot

Yes, indeed, as made by Bialetti since 1933:

http://www.bialetti.com/www.bialetti.com/coffee/stovetop/moka-express-c-1_7_22.html

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Aeropress with milk

I use a Bodum Latteo manual milk frother when I have to do this myself, which produces fairly reasonable results.

Thankfully, my normal machine has been repaired now, and that has a built in frother, and there's a definite advantage to just staggering to the kitchen and pressing a button.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: No mention of roasting beans at home?

We wouldn't want to use up all the ideas for things to write about on the first weekend, now, would we?

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Filter Best For Me

I've certainly found a far wider range over there - and I noticed last time I looked in Carrefour at Cité Europe, they had a much bigger selection for pod systems like Senseo than was available back in the UK, too.

I have to pop to France next month, so I may do some research

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One in 12 Tweeps are bots

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: A plague of bots

Not particularly, I suppose, but equally it's not something anyone's ever specifically asked us for. It would be easy enough to code, but I think the problem with RSS for something like that is probably discoverability - it's relatively easy to find our events via the appropriate hashtags, and for them to be shared by people, and I'm not sure that RSS is really a good solution in this case (especially as a lot of the people are decidedly non-techy; they 'get' things like Twitter or FB and use them anyway).

I suspect a lot of people would say "whuh?" if I suggested it in this case, whereas if it was notifcations of booze-ups for Reg readers, it might indeed make more sense to provide an RSS option. As ever, it's a case of going where the users are.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Twitter...

Arguably, the whole internet has a huge number of twats on it, and more or less always has. I remember back in the late 80s, people complaining on Usenet about the annual influx of new students, posting rubbish and breaching netiquette at the start of each academic year.

And then it was the complaints about people who got access through AOL...

Arguably, you could say that, given the high number of systems spewing out spam, internet email is pretty infested with bots these days too; despite filtering, I probably get a lot more spam that way than though any other service I use online.

It's fashionable in some quarters (see, for example, the comments on newspaper websites too) for people to protest loudly about how they don't see the point of one social service or another. I think the one great egalitarian thing the internet has ensured is that almost everyone can easily find another category of person on whom they can look down with a sneer.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: A plague of bots

Because some people don't like being subscribed to mailing lists, and having to give that information to an organisation, and then trusting that their details will be safe. Many people feel that following a Twitter account involves giving up less about them that handing over an email address.

We do in fact do email reminders, both for people who are members of the club, and for non-members who do choose to register with us for information; we list upcoming events on the main landing page of the site, we have a public events calendar, we have the automated twitter feed, and we post reminders on a Facebook page too. Some of the event posters are also distributed via Tumblr.

In short, there's more than one way of reaching people; some people choose to find out about our events just via email. Others just via Twitter or Facebook. Some might get the emails, but also appreciate the reminder that automatically goes out via Twitter on the day of an event.

All the methods have their own pros and cons; potential visitors use a range of different online platforms. Rather than saying "if you want to find out, you must sign up to our list" we instead choose to make the info available on the platforms they use. That seems eminently sensible to me.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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A plague of bots

I've noticed on one of my accounts that over the last month or so, I have been acquiring obviously fake followers at the rate of around a dozen a day. All but one or two have the coloured egg icon, zero tweets and followers, and are following around 200 people.

And, without exception, this particular plague all has obviously made-up french names, like Julienne Poisson, Fabienne Champagne, Isaac Meilleur or Arnou Couture from today's crop. Mysterious - but at least it's easy to just block them before they can do anything else.

As to the obligatory "It's rubbish and I'm so far above such trivial things that I'll make up a silly name for everyone who uses [social service X that I disdain]" posts, like any of these things, it's what you make of it. I run a large club, and we use a mostly automated feed to remind people of the events we organise around the world, as well as those of similar organisations. Not a whiff of Bieber about it.

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SCORE: Rosetta probe hits orbit of duck-shaped comet

Nigel Whitfield.
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I just hope ...

... that we get more out of this visit to a comet than a five year warranty and £100 HDMI cable

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Scottish independence debate: STV player flops under weight of viewers

Nigel Whitfield.
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@Hadvar I'm not assuming they would, just wondering what people think would actually happen if that were to be the result - and I don't think it's particularly an unlikely one.

Personally, I think it's long past time we had a proper federal constitution for the UK, where each constituent part has the same devolved powers, and there's a clear statement of what rights people have across the federation (eg with regard to things like tuition, medical services) to fix some of the anomalies caused by the current devolution settlements.

But, of course, adventurous reform is fairly unlikely in the UK, where "it's worked well for hundreds of years" is all too often deemed a perfectly good argument for stasis.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Worth noting

For future reference (a bit late for the debate), if you're a Freesat user, you can of course get STV instead of your local ITV just by re-scanning and entering a Scottish postcode when prompted.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Countries have the right to self determination. The same holds true for Northern Ireland, where it's long been established that any decision on whether to remain in the UK or to unify with Ireland will be the choice of the people there.

Otherwise, especially given the much larger population of England compared to all those areas that may wish to leave, what do you imagine should happen if Scotland or Northern Ireland were to vote to leave the UK, but the English voted to keep them within it?

Should we, effectively, hold them prisoner? While some might think that's exactly what should be done, I can't see it as anything other than a cause of much upset in the long run.

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EE rolls out London bus pay-by-bonk app – only fandoids need apply

Nigel Whitfield.
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"Contactless sex sounds bonkers to me."

Worked well enough for Barbarella...

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Didnt I read

Oyster is, essentially, a system that was bought in (albeit customised), while the new system was developed in house, and TFL are, I believe, hoping that they'll be able to make money by licensing it to other transport operators.

More info (and discussion) here: http://londonist.com/2014/07/travel-using-contactless-cards-an-update-from-tfl.php

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: NFC really hasn't caught on

My local pub has a couple of NFC capable card readers. Makes it much easier to get drunk without having to remember your PIN

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Too posh for the bus?

I don't recognise that description of bus travel at all; living in Hackney it's one of the main means for getting around, thanks to our lack of tube connections, and I find it perfectly reasonable most of the time, though I'm not a big fan of Boris' Bonkers Vanity Bus.

I'd far rather a bus than the simmering sexual tension of the Central Line.

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4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Concerning IPTV

Yes, it certainly would be more efficient, but as I suggested above, I think that the need for everyone to replace their kit makes a wholesale switch to HEVC a non-starter, politically - and it's not just the consumer side, either. If the current temporary muxes are cleared around 2020-2021 at the earliest, then given the timeframe for IPTV replacing terrestrial broadcasting, which Ofcom and DigitalUK reckon is ten years or so on from that, would the broadcasters really be that keen on a whole load of new technology that requires capital investment, and may only hang around for a few years?

Boxes with HEVC will appear, because it'll be used for some OTT services, but will anyone really want to tell consumers they have to replace all their STBs, integrated TVs, and digital recorders, and then do the same again in another ten years if DTT is switched off in favour of IPTV around 2030?

Technically, yes, it's a better solution. But if that's going to be done, then I think people need to be talking about it sooner rather than later. The hope right now (and the explicitly stated reasoning behind the temporary muxes) is to get more people buying T2/H264 kit, but there's no consumer message explaining why, as yet.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: A little alarmist...

One would hope so; but then, we're dealing with a bunch of people who probably wouldn't be said at any decision that drove more punters into the arms of Sky.

And, of course, this is a decision taken at an international level; so I do think it's important that responses to the consultation keep Ofcom on their present path of objecting to the co-primary allocation (and so too do some of the more cynical of my contacts)

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: HEVC for SD

It's a nice idea on the face of it, but how often does a new codec come along? You'd be adding a facility that most people would never use - and in many cases, there might be other parts of the set besides the decoder that would need upgrading too, to make any sense, which means likely making even more of it modular.

And modular things mean more connections - plugs, slots, and so forth. That in turn adds more points of failure, which will increase support costs - sending someone out to fix a set because the codec board has slipped a bit when they moved it round the living room - as well as an increased BOM.

We started with MPEG2 around the end of the last century. H.264 services launched on DTT in 2009 - roughly a decade later. I doubt we'll see affordable UHD kit for a while yet, so it's probably getting on for a total of a decade before H.264 ceases to be the newest codec in use.

So, if people keep their sets for the best part of a decade, there's not really a compelling need that I can see to provide the ability to swap out the decoder, given the cost and the potential effect on reliability.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Concerning IPTV

Yes, multicasting would be great; it works in theory. In practise, are all the ISPs going to invest in the kit and the upgrades to their networks to make sure it all behaves well? And then decide that they'll provide a basic TV service out of the goodness of their little capitalist hearts?

I suspect that, instead - as history might tend to suggest - they'll do the bare minimum they can get away with, offer sod all support, charge extra and when when the service collapses for some reason during, say, a major news or sports event, make empty promises about it never happening again, while reminding people they never offered a guarantee of any sort of service level for domestic customers and if they can't watch Eastenders, well they should never have chosen to live at the end of a country lane.

Net result most likely to be lots of punters paying more than they do now, for a worse level of service.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Cut or compress

Some of those perhaps could be accommodated via the IPTV functionality that's built into Freeview HD boxes, and I daresay more will be in future. But equally, others won't really want to have to switch to a distribution method that means they could lose a lot of their viewers (just as some have been resistant in the past to changing channel numbers so that things can look a lot tidier in the EPG).

Some of those shopping channels, for example, are oddly popular with older people, or the housebound, and those are also often the same groups who may not be able to afford the costs of a broadband connection with unlimited bandwidth, or live in an area where a decent connection is available.

Logistically - especially with the climate of puritanism wafting through the country - it might be much easier to force the porn channels off the airwaves and onto IP services. But I can't see the same happening with shopping.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Gigabit fibre optic broadband

Well, that would be nice. But what about people stuck out in the countryside? Who's going to lay fibre to them?

And with the mobile networks pretty firmly against the idea of mast sharing to provide decent coverage in rural areas too, this is one of the big sticking points for IPTV in the UK, I think.

We have had for a long time a very well established terrestrial network, with loads of small relays all over the place (though some of them did vanish with DSO). We still have 98.5% of UK homes covered by it, and whether you use fibre or badger mobile firms into rural roll-out, it's going to be a very long time before there's enough network infrastructure to match that coverage

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: HEVC for SD

HEVC would provide improvements (and, like most of these things, probably more in a few years when the encoders have moved on a generator or two).

But it would mean that nothing currently on the market or in peoples homes would be able to receive even SD broadcasts, other than a handful of very rich people with first generation HEVC silicon in their sets. So, as with the analogue switchover, it would be a massive leap that would require all new equipment - and that for a service that might, perhaps, only be around until 2030 anyway.

That's going to be a hard sell; won't a lot of people think "You know what, I got bitten once by going with Freeview, now I have to buy all new kit; who's to say it won't happen again?"

Using T2 and H.264 for SD means that there is an installed base of (according to Digital UK) some 11m receivers that will still be able to be used, and I think that would be pretty important to ensuring that it's a viable proposition.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I'm curious...

As long as the set top box has Freeview HD, then fine. But, given that there will almost certainly have to be an as yet unannounced shift to using T2 and H.264, which are presently just used for Freeview HD services, then buying any kit without it means you risk it becoming obsolete, or being able to receive only a subset of channels, far sooner than would be the case for HD stuff.

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Facebook: Want to stay in touch? Then it's Messenger or NOTHING

Nigel Whitfield.
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Splitting is the new 'thing', I fear

Facebook aren't the only ones doing this insane "we'll force you to use two apps instead of one" bollocks. FourSquare are removing the option to check in from their app, and trying to persuade users to use Swarm.

Some people may well respond faster when they use Messenger; anyone who tries to send me a message on Facebook now will likely get a slower response, because I uninstalled both apps from my phone, and they'll have to wait until I'm using a browser, and notice there's a new message.

The main app knows you have a message; it knows who it's from, and even at least a bit of the text, so it can pop up a notification that then allows it to say "hahah, gotcha, now install something else to read the message."

Sometimes it seems that the people creating these apps assume that everyone uses them in the way they do; that everyone has the latest devices with lots of storage space. With FourSquare/Swarm I honestly can't see the point for me; I don't give a toss where people are right now, because I'm not a 20-something valley geek who hangs out at just a few places with all my mates, which seems to be the point of the new app. I suspect FS on my phone is likely to go the same way as the Facebook app, because that'll be less frustrating than bouncing between apps to do different functions that all used to be in the same one.

Take two apps into the shower? Sod off with that.

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Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: but ....

You could be forgiven, from almost all the headlines about this, for thinking Oyster is going to go away. I daresay there are quite a few people feeling alarmed about it, if they're in a similar situation to you.

Thankfully, the third of the "Notes to Editors" at the bottom of the TFL press release states pretty unequivocally

"Oyster will continue to be available for those on concessionary or season tickets or who would prefer to continue paying for their travel this way."

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Oyster's not going

Although the current iteration of Oyster may be approaching the end of its life, TFL doesn't plan to do away with it entirely; there is still almost certain to be a new generation of Oyster card, for various reasons. There are people who don't have a contactless bank card, because they have limited banking facilities, yet still need to travel in London; there are tourists who may not want lots of foreign exchange costs on their cards. The main change is that, in line with the way the contactless card processing is done, in the new generation Oyster everything will be worked out by the back end, rather than the card doing a fair bit of the work, as it does at present. There's more on this at http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/much-delayed-but-tfls-contactless-rail-fares-cant-fail-to-impress/

A friend who works for TFL tells me of the problems with phones and pay by bonk so far is that they're slow - much slower than genuine cards. Whether that's the fault of the way phones handle NFC, or the ticket gate, I'm not sure. But it can apparently take longer for the ticket gate to react to the phone than to a card. Might not matter at a suburban station off peak, but even a couple of seconds on each transaction at a busy station in the rush hour could slow things down on the gate line.

Add to the fun that now you won't just need to keep your Oyster and your contactless card separate - you'll need to keep all your contactless cards away from the one you want to use to travel. I have two such debit cards (one business, one beer). Weekly capping is going to get lots of moans from people in a similar position if they don't realise that some journeys went on one card, and some on another.

Also, "penetrate the everyday lifestyle" ? Really? Back to your strategy boutique, sonny.

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Amazon France routes around free shipping ban with €0.01 charge

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Booksellers do deserve protection

I've pondered before the possibility of a "white label" e-book store, which could be simply skinned for local bookshops; a way to allow them to compete more equally - and to offer a value added service, helping those customers who aren't so technical, eg by allowing people to bring in their reader and have the latest book installed on it for them. A co-operative type model for that might also provide enough leeway though a mutally owned bulk purchase system for some of the independents to be more creative on pricing than they can on their own.

Wouldn't it be good, for example, if a local bookshop was able to offer deals on a local writer or decide that they want to have a crime week, accompanying a reading by an author with a deal that gets you the new hardback, plus electronic versions of the preceding books in a series?

I'm not against competition per se in the world of bookselling; I think that things like this could actually be very useful for both shops and readers - but it's unlikely Amazon, for instance, would allow that sort of thing to go on; they're not above strong-arming publishers, as we've seen. And, I do agree with h4rm0ny that online publishing has enabled lots of things to be published that previously would not have been, or would have languished largely unknown.

Ultimately unlike many other areas of commerce, I do believe that books, knowledge, literature are so important, in so many ways, that it is worth seeing what we can to do ensure that they're available to all who want them, with as few strings as possible. And independent bookshops are, to me, a very important part of that.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Booksellers do deserve protection

I go there to support a local business, because I think that's important. If they don't stock what I want, they will usually get it for me within 48 hours.

When buying books, for me the range available right now is not the most important thing. What's important that they can get the thing I want, in a reasonable amount of time.

I can't think of any occasions where my need for a specific book simply has to be sated within 24 hours or something calamitous will happen. And even if they don't have what I was after, I don't think I'd ever regard time spent in a bookshop as wasted.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Booksellers do deserve protection

I'm sure some rabid free marketeers will be along to vote down in their droves, but I do think book sellers are a class of shop that we should be doing more to protect. A good local store is an great resource - I'm lucky enough to have two nearby that do things like readings with authors, events for children, promote books by local authors, or about the area, and also have knowledgeable staff who can help with many things. Frankly, they're good enough that I feel guilty when I buy e-books.

There are still some things that I prefer to buy in hardback when they first come out, and for that I go to the local bookshop; sometimes it costs me more. But I think it's worth it.

You might not think this, if all you ever buy is the latest blockbuster novel or recipe book, but for many people, books are a lifeline, and an important resource; and so too is the ability to walk into a bookshop, pick something up, and pay cash for it. Even if they don't have it in stock, I can do that in my local store, and while they'll ask for a name when they order in, they don't ask me to prove it.

Why is that important? It's important because when the local booksellers are all gone, and the only alternative to online suppliers like Amazon is the supermarket, you're not going to find anything much beyond the blockbusters in places like that.

You may lead a blameless life, confident that you have nothing to fear. But there are people who may not have mainstream political views, or sexual tastes, who find being able to access, for instance, gay literature, an important aspect of their lives.

Drive the small bookshops out of existence, and there will be many people, I suspect, who will not be at all happy that the only way to get hold of, for example, The Carnivorous Lamb, is to give your name and address to a large corporation and trust they'll never hand over records as part of the next moral panic.

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UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Nigel Whitfield.
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Funny ...

We hear nothing concrete about the need to address the ruling when it's made, back in April, when there might have been time for a more considered approach.

And then, all of a sudden, we get two announcements of increases in airport security (first for US flights, then for others to unspecified legislation) and BAM! We really have to rush this security bill through in two days to protect us from terrorists.

Anyone would think they sat on it, until they knew the tension had been ratcheted up enough to make most people roll over and say "well, sure, if it keeps us safe, we'll ram it through in two days"

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You 'posted' a 'letter' with Outlook... No, NO, that's the MONITOR

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: But these are actually intelligent people ....

It does happen with cars, to an extent, but it seems with computers and similar tech, like a smart TV, some people are even worse - they're far more likely to start with an utterly useless generic complaint like "it's broken" and expect you to play twenty questions to try and find out exactly what it is that's gone wrong.

With a car, they don't generally restrict themselves to "it's broken down" in my experience; they usually manage to add at least a little clue, like "there was a bang from under the bonnet" or "it won't go into gear" or "there's smoke coming from the engine.

Supporting people with computers would be much easier if they could even manage that first little leap beyond "it doesn't work"

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Average chump in 'bank' phone scam is STUNG for £10,000 - study

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: What I don't understand

"I wonder though if it couldn't be set up to have a whitelist that can directly call, and other numbers get an answerphone which can be looked at "off-line". That'd solve my above problem, and still avoid having to deal with the so-and-sos."

That's more or less what I have set up with various rules on my phones (which are all VoIP now, and fed into 3CX; even the line that carries the DSL is bridged into that, via a FritzBox).

Office number, all calls come through, unless explicitly blacklisted, which are dropped, and withheld/unavailable, which go straight to voicemail.

On the number in the phone book, all calls unless blacklisted get an announcement reminding them I'll be very rude if it's a sales or survey call, and they can press a button to speak to me, or another to leave a message.

On the ex directory number, whitelisted numbers get through directly (typically older/more bewildered/best loved members of the family), blacklisted ones get dropped, and the rest again get the choice of message or reaching me

Net result is no cold callers that actually bother me, with a few exceptions on the business line, and tradesmen etc can still reach me, as long as they listen to the instructions and press the right number.

There are a few who call and start with "Can I speak to Mr Nigel Whitfield?" to which my usual response is "Who are you and what do you want?" If they don't give a good account of themselves, they get told to go away pretty sharpish.

If the bank calls (First Direct), I won't answer security questions on a call that I receive. I ask for their extension number and department, and call them back.

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MIT and CERN's secure webmail plan stumped by PayPal freeze

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: WTF is anyone still using PayPal for?

Yes, please do share who is a reasonable alternative - particularly for people who may just get a few donations here and there.

While some other outfits certainly do have smaller per-transaction fees, I've not yet found one that has small fees when you take into account their monthly payments.

If you have lots of small donations, and some months none at all, then a fixed monthly fee can wipe out a huge chunk of what you've got coming in.

Like many PayPal users, I'd be delighted to find someone more rational to deal with, but in a good month, I might get just over 20 donations to one of my sites, and I've not found anyone else that can do such low volumes without committing a large chunk of potential future donations just to provide the facility.

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Farewell Felix Dennis, deal-maker supreme of tech publishing

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Computer Buyer

John Diamond was a lovely guy to work with; though sometimes his copy was horrendously late. You knew it was going to be really really late if he got Nigella to call up and apologise on his behalf. Impossible to be angry with her.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: So what happens now to PC Pro magazine?

All the statements from people working at Dennis have been to the effect that he wanted them to carry on, and one of the things the company will be continuing to do is to fund the forest, according to the chief exec, James Tye (who started out on Windows Magazine, back in the 90s, before the launch of PC Pro):

http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/1300637/dennis-truly-force-nature/

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: El Reg

I came along a little later, starting on Computer Buyer - the 'me too monthly' John refers to in this piece - at Dennis in 1991, back when it was launching and the company was still in all the little offices around Newman Street and Rathbone Place. I took over the helm of that after John left, at the tender age of 25.

I too have had my share of stand up arguments with Felix in the past - which I always got the impression he rather relished, as an alternative to the "cult of Felix" which reached its nadir for me in an internal memo that began "Felix thinks, and I agree with him"

While, like John, I eventually decided to leave Dennis, it was a fun place to be, and got my my first break into the world of IT publishing. I began by compiling the buyer's guide listings in the back of the magazine; two and a half years later I was editor, and I don't think there were many other companies where that sort of rapid progression would have been possible.

So, though at times I found him vulgar and brash, Felix deserves a warm and hearty thanks for the opportunities and the experience his company gave me.

Former Reg Staffer Tony Smith, of course, is also a Dennis alumni, from around the same time as me.

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Home automation while it's hot: Winter warmth for lazy technophiles

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Clouds?

If you want something like that, then you could go for one of the RPi/Z-Wave solutions, like nCube, and control it via the local web server - though for their setup, you need to have the thing linked to the net, so not sure how well it will behave the rest of the time.

You can also locally control a Heatmiser Neo, via their JSON interface, but again it does have the box that links to their system, and I haven't experimented to see what would happen if that were blocked.

The earlier Heatmiser wifi range can be controlled locally over your LAN and doesn't rely on any could services. There's some code you can use to talk to it at https://code.google.com/p/heatmiser-wifi/ so you could link one of those, say, to an RPi or other gadgets.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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I would imagine that while that may indeed be very helpful, the problem is interfacing it with the many different boilers that are out there. Most will just have a simple 'demand' circuit which will work with one of these smarter stats, or an old mechanical one, or a simple timer.

To control the temperature of the boiler, you'd need a much wider range of options than, effectively, a simple switch; when it comes down to it, that's all that any of these generic solutions provide, albeit switches with fancy logic.

Without a standard to provide that sort of control, it's probably not going to be economical to retrofit.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Baffled?

When I watch the TV, I do it through the AV amp, for which the Harmony is pretty well suited (except for the fact that the front speakers are driven by the non-remote controllable Naim gear, which is an extra step that foxes most people), but some guests/cat sitters just find the whole activity concept of that too alien to grasp. For those, it's often simplest to dig out the remote for the TV and let them blunder around with that and put up with the built in speakers.

Regular guests get the hang of the lighting controller, but others just decide it's a lot simpler to use the physical switch on the reading light by the sofa than press buttons at random until everything turns on or off.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Certainly, a lot will depend on your usage patterns and (shudder) lifestyle.

For someone who's home all the time, or who works in an office at set hours, then I agree - there may be little need for any of these things, and the ability to do a simple remote tweak if it happens to snow when you're at work, or something like that, will fall into the merely "nice to have" category.

That's why I didn't want to pick one and say "this is the winner," because it will vary.

For myself, having first used the original HeatMiser WiFi, I found that while in theory I could turn it off when I went out to a meeting, I hardly ever remembered, and about the only thing I did remember was the holiday mode when I was going away.

The Tado, which works out when to turn things on based on how far away I am from home, does it all in the background, and for me that works really well (and I'd certainly welcome their AC controller at the moment, too).

But, I'm freelance, I work from home, go out and about a fair bit, and so don't keep regular hours that could be scheduled with a normal timeswitch.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Been there

The Tado does take into account things like the weather and the effect of the sun on the heating of your house, yes, but it doesn't have an external temp sensor, using data from the net instead.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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nCube and the other z-wave systems can do that - the TRV in their kit has a thermostat built in, and as they point out, you can use that in conjunction with many of the other systems, so allowing certain rooms to be cooler than the setting on the main thermostat.

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San Francisco issues SMACKDOWN on parking spot sale software

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Explain please!

I guess the people who came up with this idea believe that by calling themselves "disruptive" they magically acquire the right to do whatever they want, because it's "bold and innovative," whereas a lot of other people think it's merely bold as brass and the sort of entitled wankery that gives tech a bad name.

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