* Posts by Nigel Whitfield.

623 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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Four tuner frenzy: The all-you-can-EEat TV Freeview PVR

Nigel Whitfield.
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Well, if the idea is to use local storage rather than upgrade the network, I'm not sure that would work brilliantly. While I can get 15/16Mbps downstream, my upstream is only 0.6 - admittedly I'm on aluminium rather than copper, but probably not even 500 metres from the exchange. You'd have to limit the peer sharing quite substantially to make sure it didn't impact on my downstream (as can be see when the wretched iDevices bork everything as they upload to iCloud).

You may also need some technical tweaks to the copyright rules; the exemption allowing recording at home is "for timeshifting" and explicitly precludes "a library for repeat viewing", which is almost exactly what would be created here.

While it may indeed be a rather archaic description that hangs over from the days of the VCR, and something ordinary punters won't worry about, it would very likely exercise the minds of a company's legal department, if they wanted to create a system based on something like this.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

I've amended that section of the article to reflect the updates here.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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BT to buy EE

Well, this is going to be interesting... I wonder how many of these they have sitting in a warehouse. And whether they'll end up having services like BT Sport added to them.

Perhaps in years to come, these will end up being as much a novelty as a HomeChoice box.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Wuaki.tv?

I think that must be your IP / the info relating to it in whatever database Wuaki are using for geolocation.

http://uk.wuakit.tv works just fine for me here - I get directed there automatically.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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This is the first box to do this in the UK, at least on the high street, but I recall there was a Japanese one that did the same thing, across all muxes, and possibly a BBC R&D project.

On the face of it, it's a neat idea - but to cover everything, you'd need seven tuners now, in areas where the temporary HD mux is available. And what happens if another mux is launched? You'd have a subset of channels that can't be recorded, which would confuse users.

The EE box manages 24 hours, across a selection of channels. If you were to do it for every channel, on every mux, for even 7 days, you'd need a lot more storage. To get up to the 30 days now offered by iPlayer, you'd need even more, and the cost of the boxes would likely go up a fair bit.

At some point, you're throwing quite a lot of extra money at each receiver, compared to the cost of a dumber one with no local storage. If that money were spent instead on upgrading the UK's broadband, it might make quite a difference. Plucking a figure from the air, you might well have the equivalent of over £100 per subscriber to spend on infrastructure.

Of course, the problem there is that the people saving the money (the broadband providers) aren't necessarily the ones who need to invest in the infrastructure, because the crucial parts of that are owned by BT Openreach. Because competition. Yay!

Nevertheless, it's a reasonable point - and perhaps hybrid systems where, for example, a few days catch up is stored locally on a disk and anything further back comes from the net, may well hit a sweet spot. It would be interesting to know the metrics, for instance, of how long after broadcast most programmes peak on services like iPlayer. Shifting some of that burden to the local device could be a stop-gap pending probably infrastructure upgrades.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Generous Space?

Generous not necessarily in financial terms, but regarding the amount of telly you can store. My main Freeview PVR has a third of that storage, yet still manages to hold a backlog of worthy programmes with subtitles that is likely to take me months to get through.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Soon to be redundant?

Well, yes; that is the big question. Had this come out a few years back, it would have looked pretty amazing, but as I said in the review, it's fallen in an odd space bewteen YouView and Freeview Connect, and if EE were to be snapped up by someone else who already has a TV service, you'd probably worry whether or not it has a long term future.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

I suspect this is probably down to the fact that it had previously been activated on EE broadband. Certainly, it worked without a glitch on my own non-EE service when I was testing it (but perhaps they made allowances on the review kit). I do know from an EE source that they can tell when the box has been turned on, so they may deliberately check if the box has previously been used via a specific ISP.

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Are you a Geek Dad/Uncle/Mum/Aunt? Ten Techy Gifts for kids this Xmas

Nigel Whitfield.
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Well, indeed, not a completely new thing, admittedly.

You wouldn't believe the number of press releases sent out this time of year that start "If your publication is running any gift guides..." full of the most bizarre stuff imaginable. So a certain number of trips to the pub and lateral thinking were involved in this one, trying to come up with things that would appeal, without taking the easy offerings from the PRs

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Not helpful

Sorry about that. Still, if he's not even two, I'd say wing it and just give him the wrapping paper. Cheaper and plenty of fun at that age.

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UK.gov STILL won't pop a cap on stolen mobile bills

Nigel Whitfield.
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Aaargh.

Please, enough of the politicians spouting stuff about "hardworking families"

Are those of us who are single, or without children, somehow not worth protection too? It's a loathsome meme, socially divisive, and the only reason this bunch of cowboy chancers use it is because they think it makes them sound both simultaneously fluffy and hard on those they deem not worthy of support.

Clearly, too, from the foot dragging, they're really not doing anything to protect consumers, whether in families or not. They're dicking around for as long as they can.

Even my VoIP service has a maximum spend alert to protect against fraud. If the companies, or the government, wanted to do this, it could be fixed pretty damn quick.

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Assange's WikiLeaks: Give generously this Xmas – for STATUE of our DEAR LEADER

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Suggestion

Clearly, that could result from the sculpture tipping over as it's imbalanced by a massive bell-end

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Oh dear...

If my recollection is correct, that mock up looks like they've set the statue in Milan, in the plaza shared by the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. I'm sure they think it's a lovely piece of work, but there are more appropriate places. (The bottom of the sea comes to mind).

What next? Perhaps they'll sensitively position it outside the Taj Mahal, or at Stonehenge on its world tour.

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The Information Age: A day out for grown-up children?

Nigel Whitfield.
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The display cases shown in the article, and the touch screen information boards do a fairly good job, I think, of allowing most people to get something from exhibits, whether it's just a simple "This is X. It did Y in 1863" or more details.

For instance, the galvanometer case can show a lot of information, explaining how it works to magnify the relected light, with diagrams and animations, and extra information at various points. The touch screen panels tended to have a couple of main screens of primary and secondary info, and then 3 or 4 pages of background.

That may still not be quite enough background for everyone, but I think they are making a pretty good stab, by using the technology, to display things in a way that works for a broader range of people

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Another lick of Lollipop: Google updates latest Android to 5.0.1

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Which reminds me

I recently did that on my N7 (2012); though not cracked, after a drop the digitzer stopped working, and I decided that a replacement screen would be better than buying a new tablet.

After Lollipop, I'm thinking I may as well not have bothered. I will try CM or perhaps going back to Jelly Bean.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Please, do tell me more about this subsidised Apple kit for journalists. Last time I checked, NUJ members got around 7% off some products, and iPhones are specifically excluded, along with some other items. It's roughly the same discount available to students and teachers.

The idea that we're all gifted the latest shiny stuff is a fiction. In fact, a lot of IT sites and magazines have always found it incredibly difficult to even get loan kit from Apple, who have historically been much happier to see it gushed over by far less technical types than you'll find writing on the Reg.

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Brit smut slingers shafted by UK censors' stiff new stance

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Just to throw in a subject for debate...

@Lamont, notwithstanding my earlier throwaway comment, I do tend to agree with you.

Certainly, from some recent conversations I've had with young gentlemen, the increased openness of recent years has meant that many desire to do things that, at their tender ages, I had barely heard of, let alone seen enacted upon a sticky computer screen.

And, you're also dead on that better education is the key. PSE (or whatever the acronym is now) should not be something that parents can opt their kids out of, and it should make them aware that things they might have seen in porn are not necessarily realistic, or everyday.

That, of course, would involve people talking frankly about sex, and sadly too many - especially those with power - equate talking frankly with corrupting and depraving. They still cling to the idea that the mere fact of someone knowing about sex (or about any particular sex act) is enough to make them do it, especially if the knowledge falls into the hands of a teenage boy.

This persistence in seeing sex as only something dirty, and from which people must be protected is, in my view, far more damaging than being open and frank. We'll have grown up over these things when a teacher can say "ok class, who's heard of bukake?" and engage the kids in a frank discussion of whether or not it's appropriate for a first date, matters of consent, and so on.

Until then, because this law won't stop people seeing porn, people will continue to see things in a false context, devoid of information about consent, and safety, and it is that lack of context and understanding when it comes to sex that is the killer, not the act itself.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Just to throw in a subject for debate...

Certainly, many people now have unrealistic expectations of how quickly a plumber will arrive

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Don't worry too much.

Unenforceable? Hah!

While they may not necessarily go out looking for some of this stuff - and a lot of producers will move their sites overseas - it's almost inevitable that this will become the sort of stick with which to beat people when the police have failed to find something else that they can use.

The original Spanner case, after all, came about because the police said they were investigating something different. They found no proof of that, but did find SM images and video, so prosecuted the participants.

We appear to be living in dangerously puritan times.

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Ten Mac freeware apps for your new Apple baby

Nigel Whitfield.
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Although not free after the trial ...

Two add-ons for Mail that I find invaluable are LetterOpener Pro, which decodes pesky winmail.dat files, and MailHub, which learns where you're likely to want to file messages, and suggests the correct folder. Makes it much easier to keep on top of things. $30 for the former and $20 for the latter. Well worth it in the amount of time saved.

Free stuff:

For fan control I use smcFanControl, though I am still on Snow Leopard and a 2008 MacBook Pro.

PeakHour is useful for keeping an eye on the throughput on the network via SNMP

For database fettling, I use a MySQL client called Sequel Pro

For checking wireless stuff, and what's being advertised via Bonjour, iStumbler

LastPass (I have the premium version, to sync with the Android phone, and allow Yubikey auth)

Dolphin plugin for Firefox, makes it easy to push tabs from the tablet or phone to/from the Mac

I second the votes for Graphic Converter too; got me out of many a tight spot. Also adds some useful options to the right click menu in the Finder, like 'Set file date to EXIF date'

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Be your own Big Brother: With the help of Apple, Facebook ... oh, HANG ON

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Tracking individuals day-to-day movements is inherently evil.

Perfectly valid comments, yes, and I did mention some of those in the article. In particular, I really can't see telling a teen that you're going to install a tracking app on their phone will do anything other than make the relationship even more fraught.

In the first draft, I referred to the "scare ware" industry, and I think there's a lot of truth in that. People are encouraged to use devices to protect from very rare events - and in some cases, rewarding a company with an ongoing revenue stream in the process. When, as all the figures show, it's far more likely that if something wicked is coming your way, it's not a stranger.

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Festive streamers caught in Vulture's claws: Gadget-ogle for audiophiles, video geeks

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

Looks a neat bit of kit; I saw a couple of videos, and the splendidly named Vintage Knob site has info on the non-changer version

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Roku3

As far as I know, the Now TV box is, essentially, one of the Roku 2 series boxes (the XS, I think), with customised software. Whether you could flash one with the series 2 firmware would be interesting to know..

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Roku3

Yep; and the Plex apps are on sale until tomorrow (29th) so if you have a Synology or something like that, you can put Plex server on and access content on the Roku that way.

£1.49 for the Roku plex app, which is a worthwhile addition, in my view.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

I have mostly fond memories of the old Hacker Cavalier record player from my youth, with a Garrard autochanger. The mechanics in those sorts of things are ingenious.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: For once Apple aren't the expensive option.

I used to use an Airport Express in the kitchen, but it died after several years service, and has now been replaced with the uStream for the time being. Though most of the time, it's Radio 4 in there.

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Nexus 7 fandroids tell of salty taste after sucking on Google's Lollipop

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Some niggles

OK. Spoke too soon; while playing with streamers for another piece here, I fired up Blinkbox and Netflix, and the former in particular was an absolute dog - trying to go to a specific part of the film was impossible.

I've also seen increased ANRs all over the place.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Some niggles

My 2017 N7, like many, was getting pretty sluggish before the update. Last week, I wiped the cache partition, and that perked it up a little.

After that, I wouldn't say that Lollipop has made it significantly slower - I've long since given up trying to do anything else when it's updating apps, for example - but there are some niggles.

The Dolphin browser sulks and crashes, and switching between things in the Kobo reader app is definitely slower, though there's no appreciable difference when actually reading. Also, whichever font I select in that, I now get a sans serif one, which is just a bit unpleasant for reading in bed.

These days, reading is the main thing I use the tablet for, so perhaps I haven't noticed performance as much as others may.

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'How a censorious and moralistic blogger ruined my evening'

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: cast the first stone

I rather think there's a world of difference between those hacks who dig up gossip and trivia about people's sex lives for the news of the screws, and those who make perfectly legitimate comments about the business practices of a company.

Or are you suggesting that because someone else once wrote something really tacky about <insert name of soap star> then a company like, say, Wonga would be entitled to dig up dirt about my private life, if I wrote something critical of them?

The remarks made by the Uber exec seemed to suggest that it was not a case of someone saying something like "that Whitfield hack, he got bought lunch by Yamaha, we can't trust a word he says" but information of a much more personal nature that would be sought out.

I don't think that's acceptable, whatever side - and I have just as much contempt for journalists who publish tittle tattle as I would for a company that thought it was a reasonable way to retaliate. Probably even more, in fact, as the sleazier hacks give us all a bad rep.

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UK digi exclusion: Poor families without internet access could 'miss out' on child tax credit

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: no friends with any computer literacy ?

For some people, this sort of thing is as embarrassing as having to say to a friend "Can I borrow your computer to look up STD clinics? I've got this discharge..."

They who would simply die of mortification if they thought that their friends would know they have to apply for tax credits.

There is a large number of people eligible for various benefits who don't claim them, for a variety of reasons. I think we should be trying to help those people more, not adding "can't afford a computer" to the list of reasons.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: What about Public Libraries?

Public Libraries are under threat in many parts of the country, and despite their legal obligations to maintain a comprehensive service, a lot of councils are cutting them, or handing them over to teams of volunteers (because who needs librarians, eh?).

So, for many people, there may not be a convenient library - and that will be particularly true in rural areas.

Even if there is, a lot of people may not be very keen on having to sit on at a screen in a public place where they could be overlooked, filling in details of their family's financial circumstances. That will be a situation that's exacerbated for those with poor IT skills, who may need someone to help them through the process.

Yes, doing government online can save money - but it should never be the only way, otherwise, as hear, some of those who most need help will end up being unable to access it adequately. And when that happens, it seems to me that it's less a way of making government more efficient and more a way of further inconveniencing the less well off so that others can be bought off with tax cuts from the 'savings' come election time.

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BAD SANTA: Don't get ripped off this Christmas

Nigel Whitfield.
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Yes, indeed, that was the intent - and the wording I've seen about the new CSRs does make it a lot clearer, for example the document available from BIS.gov.uk states pretty clearly that

"they can reduce the amount of money refunded for goods returned which show evidence of use beyond the handling necessary to see whether the goods are as expected."

The more consumer friendly version from Which? makes it clear that

"A deduction can be made if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of you handling the goods more than was necessary.

The extent to which a customer can handle the goods is the same as it would be if you were assessing them in a shop."

From AC's comment, and others I've heard, I suspect that some people have tended to view this provision of the DSRs in the past as more of a "no obligation home trial" than was originally intended, and the clarification in the new version will hopefully make things a bit clearer on both sides.

It must be very frustrating for businesses - especially small traders - when a customer not only maintains that they are always right, but that "they know their rights" when patently neither is actually the case.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Further shopping tips @John Brown

The current cheque clearing process in the UK (other countries are available) is 2/4/6 - on the second working day after paying in, the money starts to earn interest, by the 4th it's available for you to use, and by the 6th, it cannot be returned without your consent, unless you have acted fraudulently.

There is a plan to speed this up even more, by allowing banks to present image of cheques to each other, instead of the real thing.

So, if you do want to stop a cheque, you need to be pretty quick or make sure you do have good evidence that you've been defrauded.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: No EU, less cover

Some companies do seem to very badly train their staff, and in particular the DSRs (now CCRs) seemed to cause a lot of confusion, with some vendors telling punters that their time to reject was from the day of order, or despatch, and that the time limits included the time returning something.

That's one area where this year's update makes it much much clearer what the time limits are, and it should be consequently simpler for people to use.

A receipt is not a requirement to prove you bought something, though it can help establish time and date. You get the impression, however, that sometimes - as in the Tesco case mentioned above - the staff would rather you just went away and left them alone.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Further shopping tips @Nigel

If only! I have one client who pays me by cheque every month, and occasionally there are others who try the same thing.

There may well be those who are cautious of using online payment systems, especially after some of the stories of data breaches in recent months, and think that using something offline is less likely to get them ripped off, or have their card details stolen.

It may not be a huge number, but I do think it's worth pointing out to those people that, whatever the flaws in a service like PayPal, it will offer them a little more protection.

There are vendors on sites like eBay who ask for alternative methods of payment "to avoid expensive PayPal fees" and while you and I might automatically avoid them like the plague, not everyone does.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Further shopping tips

While not bad, I'd have to say, re PayPal, while I've never met anyone who actually likes using them, you will at least have some greater degree of protection paying that way than, for example, if you were to put a cheque in the post or make a direct payment to someone's bank account, neither of which is has any real protection at all, short of stopping a cheque before it's been cashed.

Amex does indeed have ok customer service (though from my own experience, I wouldn't say excellent). However it's important to remember the distinction between charge and credit cards. A credit card offers you statutory protection in the UK under Section 75. A charge card does not, so while Amex does have a chargeback scheme, I would always suggest using a credit card because of the joint liability.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: No EU, less cover

Just call it "business choking red tape" instead of consumer protection, and everyone will be fine

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Mastercard and Visa to ERADICATE password authentication

Nigel Whitfield.
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Yes, precisely. The card companies are always looking for ways to shift responsibility, whether on to the user ("oh, our systems never fail, you must have shared your PIN, so tough luck") or to the retailer ("you didn't use 3D Secure? The fraud's your problem")

I suspect they have been trying to do this ever since credit really started to boom in the 80s, and I doubt they've never liked the joint liability the UK's Consumer Credit Act imposed upon them back in the 70s.

I recall in the recession of the 90s, when I was working on Computer Buyer, and a reader had lost money when a mail order PC firm collapsed. When we spoke to their card company, they were trying hard to argue that things like lots of people ordering PCs by mail order were completely unforseen by the people who drafted the 1974 Act, and so they really didn't have an obligation to pay out.

In my view, they have been wriggling for years, and this is just the latest in a long line of attempts to ditch some of their obligations.

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VINYL is BACK and you can thank Sonos for that

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Quality Sound?

With shellac gramophone records, one of the things that people often forget is that the needles wear out very quickly. I have a wind up gramophone here, and a pack of Songster needles I bought years ago at Whitwams Music in Winchester.

The label says "use once only" but I think they were the last pack the shop had in stock, and I doubt I'll ever find another, so they get used a few times. Replacing the needle on a gramophone, even if you don't clean the records, makes a massive difference to the quality of the sound.

I wonder how often the museum changes the needles?

(If you want to see the pack, I tweeted a pic of it around noon today, @nigelwUK)

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: What's the point?

Well, a portable turntable for cars wasn't unknown. Though none of them seemed to been made for LPs.

Perhaps a mash up of something like that and the Lapanese laser pick-up mentioned in another comment, and you could come up with a sort of giant Sony Discman for vinyl. Add some massive headphones with big sliding volume controls on each ear for a Cyberman effect, and the hipsters would lap it up.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Wot - No LP12?

I still have my LP12, inherited from a friend. But, as you mention, that then induced an upgrade to the amp (Nac 92/ NAP 150 in my case) and eventually speakers as well. It does sound pretty amazing.

I don't go for the 'oxygen free cable laid along ley lines' nonsense, because that's just a load of balls. But there is indeed something about the whole tactile experience of vinyl that I love, far more than just pushing buttons.

I tend to find that, if I want to listen to something and indulge in the whole experience, I'll play it on vinyl. If want background noise when cooking, then it'll be streamed from the media server.

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Sky: We're no longer calling ourselves British. Yep. And Broadcasting can do one, too

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Pirate TV

Licence may not be quite the word, but BSB (the original one) was the holder of the officially awarded franchise for direct to home broadcasting in the UK. Sky was not, and so in that sense, could be considered a pirate - certainly, if someone were to do the same thing from a ship in the north sea, or from a tower block roof, they would be considered one.

Regulation was very different then, of course; I think this was even before the days of the original Television Without Frontiers directive, amongst other things.

While perhaps not a pirate in the traditional sense, he was operating stations outside the framework that had been laid down governing the allocation of frequencies for broadcasting to the home and the technologies to be used.

You might even draw an analogy with some of the 'disruptive' tech startups like Uber, in that like them, Sky decided the rules didn't apply, and just threw money at the problem until the incumbents had to surrender.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: In memoriam

Given how long that particular building has been disused, it's very unllikely to be anything other than a squarial, but if I can get a bit closer (there's finally hoarding up, and the possibility of building work) I shall see if I can spot any more marks on it.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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In memoriam

A rare sighting of a BSB Squarial in the wild (on the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre).

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U wot? Silicon Roundabout set to become Silicon U-BEND

Nigel Whitfield.
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Stepped access only?

Honestly, sometimes you have to wonder about TFL's level of commitment to accessibility. It's the 21st bloody century; it took a lot of nagging before it was confirmed that CrossRail would have step free access at all stations, and the last diagram of this shows that they're planning to rebuild some of the access subways with stepped access only.

That's bonkers; Perhaps they'll make up for it with a lift in the new entrance, but even so, if you want to get to one of the other roads, wouldn't step free access be a better idea - and not just for wheelchair users - rather than having to cross all the traffic at street level?

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Be Your Own Big Brother: Going to pot

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Nigel

Thanks; comments much appreciated.

There were a few other crowdfunded projects that I cam across when researching this piece, and some of them do seem to have a habit of going awfully quiet when the first flush of excitement is over. I hope the Edyn does bear fruit, but as you say, it's a case of wait and see.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Flawed Solutions & Superficial Analysis

Where we can, we get kit in - that's not always possible, and where we do, sometimes it's for a very short loan - I'm not sure that a single week with a plant monitor, for instance, would yield much useful information. So, I also try to talk with people who use some of the kit as well, who have played with it for a lot longer. Where possible, I do aim to get things in for longer so that we can do a full review of them later on (or, as in the case of the Netatmo, for instance, an earlier review informs a piece like this). I'm guessing from the tone of some of the replies, you'd prefer the latter way of doing things, and I'll bear that in mind when doing some of the next pieces.

One of the other things we hope to draw out in the comments on these pieces is exactly the sort of experience you talk about, because there are a huge number of Reg readers doing some of the things talked about here, and we'd love to hear more about your experiences.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Tamagochi in the real world

I'd rather like those for the foxes.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Indeed; I'd dearly love to have people lend us their kit for much longer, but sadly that's not very common these days. You will, obviously, find the BTLE in the Parrot kit has much better life than the WiFi used in the Koubachi, but the downside of that is also the need to have a device that supports BTLE to make use of it, and that rules out quite a lot of older phones.

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Forget 5G, UK.gov is making 2G fit for the 21st century!

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Underlying assumption

They also seem - and indeed boasted about this when building out networks in the past - to have focussed, at least initially, on motorway coverage, believing that the main users of the phones were travelling salesmen, with their Nokia 6310 clipped to the dash of the company Escort.

Whether it's a result of that, or just sheer laziness, I find that very often the coverage on trains is abominable. Travelling down to Winchester, I find huge chunks of the trip where it's impossible to get coverage, on both 3 and Orange, and the same is often true on other trips.

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