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* Posts by Nigel Whitfield.

473 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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

Nigel Whitfield.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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For one night only – Ibsen classic gets the Dolby Atmos treatment

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: playing one night only == pompous waste of time

The actors and people involved very likely are proud of their production, and far from pompous about it.

What's probably a lot more difficult is persuading cinemas that they should show things like this rather than Return of the MegaBlockbuster Part 17, which they know will reliably enable them to sell gallons of fizzy crap and several tons of nachos and mystery meat.

Until venues are persuaded that they can lure people in to watch a bit of Ibsen, then they're not going to have long runs of anything like this, and there is very probably a limit to how many theatres Dolby can subsidise to do this sort of thing regularly.

Of course, they could spend the same money doing a longer run of it in fewer cinemas, but then I'm pretty confident someone would come along to moan about how all the money was being spent in London/Manchester/Wherever, and how exclusionary that was.

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Tor is '90 per cent of the net' claims City of London Police Commish – and he's dead wrong

Nigel Whitfield.

Commissioners for the Met and the CoLP aren't elected.

The Met is overseen by the Mayor of London, via MOPAC, and the CoLP via the City Council.

Outwith the capital, there are "Police and Crime Commissioners" who are elected, but to an oversight position, not to an actual rank within the force that they manage.

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UK govt 'tearing up road laws' for Google's self-driving cars: THE TRUTH

Nigel Whitfield.

Taking their time about it...

The driverless DS was tested in the 1960s on a track at Crowthorne. They've had an awfully long time to think about legislation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwdjM2Yx3gU

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/how-the-first--driverless-car--was-invented-in-britain-in-1960-093127757.html

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Amazon turns screws on French publisher: Don't feel sorry for Hachette, it's just 'negotiation'

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Sucks to be a creator

A creator isn't the same as a copy editor, a proof reader, a marketing person, cover designer and all the other jobs involved in getting the work in front of an audience. There may be a few polymaths who can do all those jobs as well as writing a book, or composing a song, or whatever - but the vast majority of people either can't, or simply would prefer to concentrate on the stuff they're good at, and leave the other elements to someone else.

Charlie Stross has written a fair bit on that topic, and also directly on this Hachette matter; his comments are well worth a look:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/05/amazon-malignant-monopoly-or-j.html

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It's Google's NO-WHEEL car. OMG... there aren't any BRAKES

Nigel Whitfield.

Extra absorbency?

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: 25mph (about 40kmph),

There are already some London boroughs with a speed limit of 20mph on almost all their roads. And in practice, average speed in much of the city is less than that. Based on my trek across town yesterday, from the M3/M25 junction to Hackney, I don't think I managed even ten miles per hour. But I did discover exciting new parts of Acton. Which was nice.

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China 'in discussions' about high-speed rail lines to London, Germany – and the US

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: There's a sweet spot

The last time I read about the proposed DB service, the postponement was not to do with the passport controls, but with the delivery of new trains:

http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/100254/deutsche-bahn-postpones-london-rail-route

I've done London to Berlin before; leave London on the 0650, change at Koln, arrive Berlin Hbf at 1711. Very civilised (especially first class); and if you book a London Spezial fare in advance you can do it for €59 each way

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Windows Phone: Just as well Microsoft bought an Android maker, RIGHT?

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Microsoft Linux

There was also another alternative - Interactive UNIX; I think that ended up gobbled up by Sun somehow.

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EE & Vodafone will let you BONK on the TUBE – with Boris' blessing

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: No more cash

Indeed it will; but if you choose to have the auto-top-up, then there is an effective minimum balance, below which tapping in automatically triggers an automatic top-up of your card.

That has increased, as I said, so for anyone with auto-top-up, TFL is now sitting on several pounds of their money all the time.

If they were to insist that a pre-payment wallet on phones worked in the same way - though of course, it would be presented as "never run out of credit to get you home" - then that will be another chunk of users for whom TFL will effectively be holding on to money.

For an individual user, it's not huge sums here - but across the total number of people using this type of products, it must mount up, and it would be interesting to know how much cash (and interest) TFL sites on as a result of the increasing minimum levels they specify on products like Oyster auto-top-up.

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Nigel Whitfield.

No more cash

From this summer, London buses won't be taking cash anywhere, and you'll have to pay by Oyster or some contactless system.

While there are certainly some benefits, a cynic might wonder how much LT will benefit from all those tourists who forget to return their Oyster card as they dash to the airport at the end of their trip; potentially an awful lot of £5 deposits plus outstanding balances.

For that matter, does an Oyster card really cost £5 now, compared to the £3 deposit when they were introduced?

For the individual, the amounts are relatively small, but given the number of cards in use, it must add up to a substantial sum sitting in TFL's bank accounts. (Similarly with Oyster Auto Top-Up, where the threshold was first £5, then £8 and now £10, ensuring they hold a substantial amount of customers' money.)

I wonder how much of a balance they will require users to hold as a minimum on these systems, and whether they'll try, for example, to make auto-top-up mandatory with them.

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IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels

Nigel Whitfield.

Not the only high tech in the area

Growing up in Winchester in the 70s, there were quite of lot of IBMers around, but they weren't the only high tech people in the area.

The IBA had their engineering base at Crawley Court, not to many miles to the north. They knocked down a big old country house and put up a new building, and that being back in the days when TV companies besides the BBC actually did real engineering, they did a lot of early work on digital television there.

The site passed to NTL after abolition of the IBA, and now belongs to Arquiva

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BBC, ITV gang up on YouView with 'FreeView Connect'

Nigel Whitfield.

A Public Service Broadcaster is one that has public service obligations; the funding mechanism and presence of adverts isn't relevant to the definition.

It's about things like the amount of news programming, including local programming (though given the way ITV has been diligently jettisoning that, perhaps it shouldn't count as a PSB), and also childrens' material too.

Historically, heavy regulation meant the only broadcasters ( BBC, ITV and then C4) on the airwaves all had some public service obligations. As alternatives have proliferated, those original incumbents have been granted certain things (like mux capacity, guaranteed EPG positions) in return for maintaining those obligations.

There was a suggestion a couple of years back that ITV might be considering walking away from its PSB obligations, though that seems to have come to nothing; they probably just wanted to persuade Ofcom they should rip up their local news operations a bit more.

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'No, I CAN'T write code myself,' admits woman in charge of teaching our kids to code

Nigel Whitfield.

See that bandwagon ...

Let's all go jump on it. Yes, programming is important (one of the reasons I studied it at IC), and it should be taught rather better than it has been - but most especially to the students who have the aptitude.

I honestly can't quite grasp this idea that because computers are everywhere, everyone must learn how to program them. It seems to me a bit like saying that because TVs are ubiquitous, everyone must learn how to direct.

Yes, learning to programme can teach problem solving skills, but there are other ways to teach those too, which may well reach some people who have no desire to learn to code. And ultimately, some people will be better served by learning different skills, rather than programming.

How about a year of UX? Arguably, that could make just as big a difference as coding, couldn't it? That people still need to be aware of which physical or logical device they clicked on when writing a letter to a gas board seems bizarre, frankly.

This whole thing really smacks not so much of actually caring about what kids learn at school - if that were the case, they might, for example, make foreign languages more prominent - but of a quick simple way of looking like Something Is Being Done. "Oh look, apps are popular and in the news a lot. Apps are made with code. Let's teach children to code; it's bound to help the international league tables"

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New Doctor Who's new costume newly REVEALED by Beeb

Nigel Whitfield.

It's the pelvic thrust ...

.... that really drives me insane

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UK smut filter may have sent game patch to sin-bin

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: There have been stories like this...

And the magazine now known as "Canada's History" was formerly called "The Beaver"

Hilarious japes and mix-ups ensued.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/the-beaver-gets-a-new-name-1.865851

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4K-ing hell! Will your shiny new Ultra HD TV actually display HD telly?

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Broadcast HD resolutions

Yes, the BBC stuff was side by side; they did a fairly cunning simulcast a couple of christmasses ago of Streetdance 3D http://gonedigital.net/2012/01/02/more-3d-on-bbc-hd-streetdance/ where they used the side by side format for the main transmission, with a red button to change to 2D.

That used the scaling capabilities of the interactive engine to scale the left hand side of the image up to full screen. Less bandwidth than you need to do it the other way - a full HD stream and a separate side-by-side stream for the 3D version - but the consequence is that the effective resolution is lower whether watching in 2D or 3D.

Back when 4K was first talked about, one of the touted advantages of such a high resolution was that it would mean that there wouldn't be such a loss of quality when viewing 3D material. Of course, since then, 3D has become the red headed bastard that won't be inheriting the throne any time soon, and they'll have to think of another way to persuade us we really, really need it.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Wow... just wow

One of those graphs is included in an earlier piece we linked to, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/19/tv_sizes_deconstructed/

So far, most of the sizes of 4k panels being pumped out are excessive for a typical UK living room. Not to mention, quite simply vulgar.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: "Ready" = NOT

Technically, I'm sure that they would say it's not a misleading description.

The HD Ready symbol has a clear definition, one which distinct from the HD TV symbol, and it has never been claimed by those who came up with the label that it meant anything other than being able to display from a different source.

They are aided and abetted in that by the fact that a logo or symbol is usually treated quite differently to the actual words themselves.

I think, in the UK at least, you could make a much better argument for the "HD TV" symbol being misleading, where it's applied to kit that doesn't have DVB-T2 and H.264, because it won't receive the UK HD broadcasts.

I'm not excusing the massive confusion caused by the HD Ready symbol - just explaining that I'm pretty sure that, as far as the ASA would be concerned, the symbol itself has a clear meaning, which is explained on the website, and so is unlikely to actually be considered a misleading description.

Of course, a lot may also depend on the context too; just putting the "HD Ready" logo in a corner of the ad is one thing, but saying something like "Watch Freeview programmes in high definition on this HD Ready TV" is a different matter entirely and would very probably be misleading, if it wasn't made clear additional equipment was necessary.

Part of the problem, of course, is the poorly trained sales staff who didn't make things clear, too. And while the ASA can regulate ads, it has no power over the sticky labels granted to TV makers and printed on their boxes, or what salesmen say.

To be absolutely clear, I do think the HD Ready/HD TV labelling turned out to be a monstrous balls up. I'm just not convinced you'd actually have any joy with the ASA.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Quantifying those extra things is, one might think, precisely the sort of thing that a labelling system might try to do. A "Fabulous HD" logo might encompass "Sharper pictures; true-to-life colour; smooth movement" and so-on, in a way that might make it a little easier for the less savvy consumer to grasp.

Unfortunately, after the mess and confusion of "HD Ready" I don't personally have much confidence in that, and perhaps still less after seeing that the proposed DE baseline mentions only 8 bits of colour depth, when it's very likely that sources - including BD - will be offering more than that.

After the frustrations many had with 5.1 on Freeview, I'm also a little worried about the specification for audio simply being 2.0 PCM.

A quickly released labelling scheme could end up confusing things even more. But then, when it comes to labelling, I suppose there's a long and pretty dismal history of that sort of thing.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: But first

That's the switchover point, according to an interview with Netflix.

The general aim will be 15.6Mbps, from memory, and 11Mbps is the point at which their adaptive streaming will fall back from UHD to standard HD, using HEVC (H.265). They'll also, where possible, be using HEVC for lower resolutions, to save on bandwidth, though it'll obviously take a while before there's a substantial chunk of kit out there able to decode it.

The paper we linked to in the article really is well worth reading.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: But first

And that's why, even with multicast, which is only really going to make a difference with live TV, IP distribution will be a pipedream for huge areas of the country, for quite some time yet.

You might get HEVC to squeeze UltraHD down to 11Mbps (which is the point at which Netflix will fall back to 1080), but even that is way more than a lot of people can get.

And that's one reason why, for live stuff at least, there's still a need for broadcast services. Unless you're going to say to a large chunk of the population (including those, like you, in cities), "Sorry; you're never going to get 4K"

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Isn't bingo the preserve of the blue rinse brigade?

Indeed; and I have never felt as utterly slow and out of my depth as the time I stumbled into a bingo night in a lesbian pub in Islington. I simply couldn't keep up.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Broadcasters penny pinching

Some of that is the broadcasters, but it's also down to the evils of capitalism ;-)

Once spectrum became an "asset" or "resource" and was something that people had to pay for rights to, the end result was inevitable.

Commercial broadcasters want to get as much cheap cheerful schlock in front of the eyeballs of the viewers as possible, and so they'll squeeze in extra channels, regardless of the shocking effect on picture quality.

The BBC will want to justify their position by being seen to be broadly competitive, and so have their extra channels too.

The PSB services have at least some technical constraints imposed upon them, but beyond that everything is up for grabs, sadly.

And all this will be made worse by the intention to squeeze broadcasting into an ever smaller chunk of spectrum, so that the rest can be "monetised" more effectively; expect to see muxes switch to DVB-T2 and H.264 in future, even for SD, so that as the space shrinks, we can maintain roughly a similar level of service.

And one of the sad things about this is that, frankly, a lot of people don't even care that much about picture quality; they're quite happy to watch 4:3 stuff zoomed in weird ways, for example, or have their TVs lined up with the most lurid colours imaginable. The conditions in which many people choose their TV don't exactly help them realise what they're missing out on, either.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: 2K intermediate

There are quite a few 4K cameras around now. Netflix is making content in 4k, as I mentioned in the article. And there will be stuff filmed at various forthcoming sporting events, too.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

Damn good question; HDMI 2.0 was only last September; and even now, there are sets shipping that have 4K screens and HDMI 1.4.

I fear that at the cheap end of the market, we may well see lots of kit pumped out - like that 'bargain' Kogan set - that only has 1.4. But the less savvy punters will be smitten by the sales patter about 4k, and not realise that they won't be getting anything near the best quality for their money. They'll plug in a fancy new 4K BD player, or a network streamer, and it'll drop down the frame rate, and the colour depth, to match what the set is capable of, when for a little bit more they'd have been able to get the full package.

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Nigel Whitfield.

Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

Yes, there's some multicast, but not enough for the sort of wholesale switch away from terrestrial transmission that some tech-utopians believe will be coming along Real Soon Now. Wasn't it TalkTalk that gobbled up the old HomeChoice network, which was built primarily for delivering TV in the first place?

Unless companies dig deep into their pockets, those outside major areas are going to be stuck with pretty poor service for a long time, multicast or not; for quite a few years, I would guess that the only practical way to deliver multiple channels of HD to people in those areas is going to be via broadcast, whether terrestrial or satellite, rather than IP.

Some of the demos at recent IBC shows have used much higher frame rates; there have been some BBC demos with rates over 100Hz, and it does make a massive difference to how moving things look on screen. I didn't see the 2013 demos, but I was there in 2012 and it's pretty impressive. There's a little about that at http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/blog/2013/09/4k-crazy-at-ibc

Of course, if anyone's to broadcast at those rates, they'll still run up against the problem that the HDMI 2.0 spec only covers 4K up to 60p, so we'd need another spec bump on that side. Which, I guess, is another good reason to wait before jumping in.

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EU eyes UHF spectrum: What do you think, biz bods... broadband?

Nigel Whitfield.

Re: Whenever I hear of UK terrestrial broadcasting I start to break out in tears

But isn't cable penetration far higher in Germany than it is here? And you used to have (not sure it's still the case, though) a much stronger tradition of FTA satellite than we did. I know now you have things like Sky Deutschland trying to convince you that everything has to be pay, but for a long time places like Germany managed to do very well without satellite being centrally organised, a fixed EPG and so on.

In the Netherlands, cable penetration is over 90%; it's much much lower here.

To a pretty large degree, the UK has relied much more on terrestrial broadcasting in the past than a lot of other countries, notwithstanding Mr Murdoch's attempts to change that. The old analogue services covered most of the country very well, with lots of small relays, rather than the black spots that others countries put up with.

We only have 13% of households connected to cable, and I suspect actual reach of cable is not much over 50-60% (can't find the figures this morning); satellite has generally been associated with pay TV, and thanks in part to the BBC, we have a pretty strong tradition of free to air telly.

All that has helped shaped what we have today in terms of terrestrial services. Unfortunately, the spivs of the mobile industry want to grab some of that space for themselves; while coordinating spectrum at an EU level makes sense in many ways, it will be a shame (for consumers, though not big businesses) if the end result is to squeeze the terrestrial UK services so that they can only offer a small fraction of what is available now.

This squeeze is why, perhaps a little counterintuitively, we have just gained some extra HD channels; wider adoption of DVB-T2/H.264 kit will enable a later switch to that standard for SD, freeing up space for other uses.

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ESA rejoices as comet-chasing Rosetta probe wakes from 3-year nap

Nigel Whitfield.

I sent a probe to a comet once ...

All it came back with was an overpriced HDMI cable

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Pregnant? Celebrate your proudest moment ... by 3D-printing a copy of the foetus

Nigel Whitfield.

Utterly repulsive

It's bad enough working in an office where people don't have the manners to wait until their baby's been born before showing it off, and insist on bringing in their scans for people to coo over. Imagine the yummy-mummy-to-be bringing one of these in, wrapped in a hand knitted llama wool shawl, seeking praise for her fecundity.

And it will surely not be long before some nutjob american politician proposes a law that says anyone seeking an abortion must be made to hold a model of their foetus beforehand. Probably while praying, or something equally risible.

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BT 118 phone number fee howler lands telco giant with £225k fine

Nigel Whitfield.

It was free until 1991. (2nd April, according to http://www.britishtelephones.com/histuk.htm)

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Nigel Whitfield.

Quite. We used to have one number, easy to remember, which was free.

"Competition rules" decreed that that was apparently no good to the consumer.

So we had to have instead lots of different numbers, each of which had differing ways of charging, so in fact it was probably impossible for the consumer to be anything other than confused, and very probably pay over the odds.

But in the mad world of free marketeers, it's competition. And that always works in the best interests of the consumer. So it's clearly better.

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