* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

4062 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Telly behemoths: Does size matter?

I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Hiding your TV in the cabinet...

Nigel W,

It would have to be a very long cabinet, or you'd have to use a small TV, given that all modern ones are widescreen.

In my friend's case, he often built the original cabinet, back when people suddenly had a large TV, VCR and many tapes to hide away neatly. Although some of them are decent quality furniture they bought. And obviously like, or they'd just get rid of it.

There ought to be money in that. My Mum bought a turntable/CD/radio a few years ago that looks like a 30s radiogram in cherry (or at least cherry veneer on MDF) - which sounds awful but the old look amused her.

Thinking about it, when I was very young Mum used to play me John Pertwee records (sadly Rolf Harris ones too), on an old humungous thing that was almost the size of one of those steamer cabin trunks. You lifted the lid, and the turntable was less than 1/3rd of the length of it. That was all polished wood and huge cloth covered speakers. That got replaced by an Amstrad HiFi with twin cassette decks, turntable and radio - plus a shelf at the bottom to hold your records. All in a glass case, and that wasn't exactly small either. You certainly got your money's worth in those days...

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Re: Eyesight and subtitles

That's also a problem with all these channels. In the old days, you just pressed 1-4 on the remote, and got your channel. Job done. Now you have to read the onscreen guide thingy. Fortunately the one on my TV is nice and big. Also, if you've got a Sky box, you can use the Sky app on a tablet to remote control it. So long as you're willing to connect it to the network anyway.

I used to sit right next to the telly. I had a beanbag for the purpose for a while. Now I have a 50" telly and can sit on a comfy sofa. Better yet, I paid £500 for my 50" TV. As I recall the 29" my parents bought in the mid-80s was £400. Although that did come in a rather fetching fake wood cabinet.

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Re: Hiding your TV in the cabinet...

Apparently there's quite a trade in turning old TV cabinets into something useful. My friend is a furniture designer (hand made bespoke stuff), and he's being asked to do something with the furniture he made for people back in the 80s to hold their TV, video and tapes. Now they've got Sky and a flat screen mounted on the wall.

He's been turning them into drinks cabinets.

I think my favourite of his over-priced stuff stories was from the mid-90s. He was doing pretty cabinets for a bathroom. The client was, of course, having gold taps. But the shower cubicle was having hand painted tiles - so they all had to go in the right order, and the guy doing the tiling was having ulcers because he couldn't break any. The cost of these tiles just, for the shower cubicle, was £14,000.

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Happy

Re: grumble grumble

I didn't want to watch Transformers Revenge of the Fallen thankyourverymuch. I want to watch The Wacky Races. Mum! Mum! It's not fair. Make him turn the telly over to proper programs! Sagafrassin' Rassin' Dick Dastardly!

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Re: 'ello Tosh....

Before the demise of my Mum's last TV (dreadful Bush HD Ready ugh!) I went round for dinner. I'd set the Sky box up to tell the telly when the piccie was widescreen and when not, as the TV didn't seem to be able to cope with this itself.

Something had gone wrong, she was watching a show that should have been in 4:3, but the sky box had decided to stretch it to widescreen, then the TV had for some reason decided that it was only showing 4:3 today. Because it was getting a widescreen signal, it had letterboxed it.

So she had a 4:3 program that had been stretched to twice its normal width, then had the top and bottom chopped off, and the TV seemed to have squashed the ends as well, so there were smaller black bars at the end. The whole picture was horribly distorted, and probably half the screen space was black.

I made some sort of comment about her picture looking truly hideous, and she said, "I can't see anything wrong with it". I pressed the buttons to make it go back to normal, and she didn't seem to think it much of an improvement. Even though the picture was twice the size, and the characters' heads were no longer horribly distorted.

I could understand ignoring it from not knowing how to fix it. The telly was crap, and the Sky box settings in an obscure menu. But not noticing it...

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Re: 2015 class joke....

old PC monitors were just as bad.

I do not have fond memories of all the juggling you had to do in order to set up a PC in the late 90s. If the monitor was 19" (or even bigger) then you had to be very careful lifting the thing around. Plus they were very awkward, as the easiest bit to hold was often the front, and all the weight was at the back. Wheeee! Smash! Ooops!

Then, once you'd heaved the bugger onto the desk, you had to plug it in. As the VGA lead was usually fixed at the back, you had to sort of slide it onto the desk, and on small ones hold it precariously at half over the side, while reaching behind to connect the cables.

When I upgraded it was funny to heave the enromous 19" lump off the desk, then pick up the 23" LCD easily in one hand, while using the other to connect the cables.

Similarly I had to go round to help my friend move his Sony widescreen 38" TV as he couldn't lift it. When the LCD he replaced it with weighs bugger-all. And yet I carried my 50" LED easily enough, I'd only need help if I wanted to wall-mount it.

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Re: Old Fart

My 50" TV looks ridiculously stupid in my small-ish living room. It's absolutely huge, and sticks out like a sore thumb. Thinking about it now, I can only bring to mind one person I know who has a 50" telly - and they've got a decently huge room to put it in. Most people have gone for the mid 30s-40s range. Even though you can now pick up a decent 50" for £400.

I sized it very carefully. I wanted to be able to read the TV guide and subtitles from over 6 feet away - which with my rubbish eyesight meant wandering into TV shops with a tape measure. I wonder if the guys in the shop thought I doubted their size labels...

Because of this, I did very briefly consider trying to hide my over-sized televisual embarrassment. I quite liked the idea of having a large painting on rails, so I could press the remote control to turn on the telly, and the painting would slide aside, with a satisfying motor hum. At which point it should probably activate the DVD player, to show a picture of circling sharks...

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Blockheads bork Bitcoin Foundation board election

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Re: Bitcoin - a fading fad

Tim Brown 1,

I don't think you're the only one who doesn't see Bitcoin lasting. A quick check on Bitcoincharts.com suggests that the price has now fallen to about $250, from that brief insanity in December 2013, when they were trading at $1,100 odd.

Daily trading volume seems to be a bit down as well, but there are far more days where trading spikes, which I guess would explain the increased price volatility. 5,000 - 10,000 transactions a day still seems to be normal, though many of those are not even for single Bitcoins. I remember checking once, and one transaction for 0.1 BTC moved the global price by over $1. Thus the volatility of Bitcoins still exceeds the transaction costs of traditional payment methods.

However, it's survived a few medium-to-big scandals and a steady 2 year decline in price, and people still seem to use it. So I guess, like the euro, it's eventually doomed - but eventually could be a long time.

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BOFH: The ONE-NINE uptime solution

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FAIL

Re: One Nine would be 90%, surely.

Our old email server had 5 Nein uptime...

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El Reg regains atomic keyring capability

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Re: Just be careful

Reminds me of an old Soviet joke:

Q. Why do KGB officers go round in threes?

A. One can read, one can write, and the other is there to keep an eye on the dangerous intellectuals.

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Happy

I'll sell you something that does. £100 for this special orc-detecting toilet roll holder. It's 100% tested. It's never failed to correctly show whether there are orcs present or not.

Obviously should orcs ever show up, the toilet roll will come in handy.

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Re: Also in US?

Surely worse than all that lot combined is the annual spate of haggis smuggling into the US for Burns Night. That's much more of a threat to your national security. Especially if the buggers deep-fry it for breakfast the morning after.

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Devil

Be fair. It's got to be delivered by special nuclear train...

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Mushroom

Bombing of Register HQ in 5.4.3.2.1.

So now that El Reg has joined the rogue states in going nuclear, when are the staff all going to get Kim Jong Un haircuts?

Enquiring minds would like to know.

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Thousands of UK drivers' details leaked through hole in parking ticket website

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One thing these scumbags definitely don't issue is "fines", in quotation marks or otherwise. Only the police or government can fine you for parking. It's a Penalty Charge Notice from the council, I think the police one is called something different. These guys aren't allowed to use the word penalty, as that would be fraudently pretending to be a fine. But Parking also begins with P, and any invoice can be a charge notice, hence parking charge notice (PCN) being so suspiciously similar. Often they even go to the trouble of making the tops of their letters stripey to look more official.

They are invoices. They are invoicing you for parking. There are various legalities that make a lot of them challengable, but in most cases they're only allowed to charge you a reasonable amount. So if it would have cost £2 an hour to park, and you over-stay by an hour, then they can invoice you for £2 + a reasonable admin fee. Not £120. So it's basically a highly speculative invoice.

They even then follow them up with fake debt collection letters. Given that they often have a trading name that's a 4-surnames-in-a-legal-sounding-row type. So they'll chase you up on behalf of, when it's actually the same company, or at least the same people running it.

There's a whole bunch of info on how to avoid paying these wankers on the excellent Money Saving Expert site: linky.

The DVLA should at least use this opportunity to say no more data for you wankers, as you lost the last lot, and put them out of business. Then legislation should sort them all out.

On the other hand, people also need to stop taking the piss and parking on private land. I used to work for a shop that had a small carpark, which was free for customers. And some people would try to park in there and go to work. Which isn't acceptable behaviour either.

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Trolls prevail because good men do nothing: boffins

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Re: @RyokuMas - "Good men"...

Graham Marsden,

That's strange. I've got one next to your name. It even shows up in the posting window, after I hit reply to your post.

I seem to recall that they initially released that to gold badge people, but then rolled it out to all badgers. And you obviously are a silver badger. Maybe they implemented it when they did the badges a few years ago, and forgot about it?

Anyway, I can see it, and I'm in Firefox. It doesn't show up in IE for some reason though.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: @RyokuMas - "Good men"...

Graham Marsden,

El Reg do provide a block user facility. By every username on the forums is a stripy sad face. It's between their name, and their badge (if they have one). You simply click on that, and their posts disappear.

Of course the problem is that you can't block anon posters. Otherwise you could block a particular post and then work out which other posts that user has made - and de-anonymise them (at least a bit).

Then again, I don't see the point. If I saw the name Eadon, then I could simply ignore the post - i.e. let my brain filter what I read in the same way I do everywhere else. Which is why I notice so few online adverts.

It also helps that many of the more annoying posters give clues in their first paragraph. So if I see: LIBLABCON, ConDem, FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING, HARP, sheeple - lots of capitalisation in general - then I know that I can safely skip the rest of that post.

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Mark 85,

I agree with most of what you say here. The trolls don't seem to believe anyone should curtail their "right" to say whatever crap they want. Even when they're on a forum provided by someone else. They have some weird self-centred notion of what's acceptable, and what their rights should be.

Although there's a weird subset of whiners who when you use the ban-hammer on them seem to sort of blame you as a moderator for failling to stop them from going too far. Why didn't you intervene sooner? Why didn't you stop him from winding me up? We had one user who wanted us to re-code our forums to have a special time based banning system, to stop him posting after about 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. That's when he came back from the pub, in a bit of a confrontational mood...

Others just think you're out to get them. To which my honest answer would be, yup - you're ruining my online community - I'd perma-ban you if I was allowed to. But the site-owners are too fluffy for that. I won't treat you any more harshly than anyone else, but I will enjoy it when I ban you - whereas normally I don't.

Then again, forum culture does matter. El Reg can be a bit rowdy, but it's a pretty nice community. You don't see much nastiness. Although it can get that way, but most of the trolling is anti-company.

I used to mod on an international game's forum. We had our share of arseholes on the English forum, but it rarely became nasty - even when the Mods weren't around. And there didn't seem to be much in the way of grudges being bourne. Except a couple of troublesome users.

Whereas the Scottish forums were an absolute vipers nest. There were a few camps that seemed to have formed, and they'd all participate in bullying certain users. Sometimes it would be all nice, then an argument/discussion would go too far, and then it would just become poisonous. You'd often find yourself having to ban 4 or 5 people at once. And want to ban more, who were egging it on, rather than calming it down or staying out of it.

The Irish forum was different again. Quite rough-and-tumble, but almost always taken in good part. The only problem was we were supposed to crack down on swearing, as the game owners wanted the forums 'family friendly'. We could not stop the users swearing, and it got really silly when we were told we couldn't allow "feck". No power, no God, no force of arms can apparently stop an Irishman from exercising his right to say "feck"...

So I definitely think that user-tolerance is a big issue. Each forum develops its own culture. I've intervened and stopped unpleasantness on forums before, when not being a mod. And it often only takes one person to get the digital lynch-mob organised. The thing about fear of online bullies is that although they're anonymous (for a given level of effort), so is everyone else. There was a brief period on El Reg when someone started down-voting every post I made. Or at least going through my post-history and down-voting every post on a page. Don't know what I did to cause that. But it wasn't terribly effective as an intimidation tool, it's not even that easy to notice. And I guess they couldn't be more direct, as this site is well modded.

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Dot-word sensation: Google forks out $25m for a fist of .app-y pills

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theodore,

If I remember rightly the original fee to register a request for a new domain was non-refundable. So if several pepole went for the same one, ICANN got to keep everyone's money, and run an auction for the winner to pay extra.

Similarly if your request got rejected, and no-one was allowed to use that new gTLD, then tough luck. ICANN still kept the money.

You understand they've got lawyers to feed. There's wear-and-tear on chairs, swamp insurance, dog biscuits massive quantities of cocaine and Crystal champagne, all sorts of things...

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Spotty Ceres baffles boffins with bright patches

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Alien

That's all very well, until Ceres turns on its own drive, and incinerates our puny craft. Swiftly followed by the launching of the invasion of Earth. If we're lucky. If not, it'll be the death ray for us. I hope you're all wearing clean underwear...

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Happy

It's obvious innit.

I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's just the reflection from the flash.

The reason the spacecraft sees two is that it's considerably closer than Hubble.

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Bloody TECH GIANTS... all they do is WASTE investors' MONEY

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Re: Their margins are different to most others

Well the tech companies could give their excess cash back to their shareholders. Who own it. Certainly Apple should do, as they've got far more cash than they could possibly need. Unless they're planning on buying Google anyway...

Admittedly there are tax issues with that, but it's the idea. Company sell shares to get cash. Company make loadsa' money. Company pay big fat dividends. Yippee!

Now Google have got a reason to lots of lovely R&D. Probably not as much as they actually do - as I suspect that Tim W is right, and the founders have basically created a playground for engineers.

But it would be interesting to know when (if?) they broke even on Android. I doubt they've made huge amounts from it, certainly compared the to the billions they've poured into it. But on the other hand, it's contributed hugely to local search, mapping and all the other things that Google can sell adverts on.

Things like Google+ are pretty cheap, so trying lots of those is probably pretty low cost.

I'm not sure I buy the idea of them moving out of their comfort zone of data gathering/organising in order to target ads though. Google Glass fits nicely with the phone business, and makes sense. But I struggle to imagine them being able to suddenly become a car company. I don't think they can do what they did to the mobile industry with cars. Partly because the timescales are just so much longer. But on the other hand, they may be building some very useful machine-learning technology doing it, and as they've got such huge amounts of data to deal with, they may not care about the car bit anyway.

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Re: Nuts! It is Not Big Tech.

Billy Catringer,

You do realise that it isn't just Central Banks that set interest rates. Sure they have a base rate that's conveniently used as a benchmark. But you can be sure that if there were safe high return investments out there, then money would be pouring into them.

Low interest rates are in fact the cause of the crash, not its symptom.

It was over-saving in the boom that caused interest rates to be so low, when they needed to be higher to stop the asset bubbles and over-consumption. This was by China (trying to boost exports by keeping its currency down), by Russia and OPEC (saving for a rainy day), by other far Eastern nations (saving and protecting their currencies from China) and by large companies (partly as part of international tax-avoidance, partly for other reasons). All this cash sloshed around the world, desperately looking for returns. It forced down global interest rates, and meant it was cheaper to invest in stupid things, like huge property portfolios.

That all went pop in the bust, but the savings were still there. China was still supressing internal demand, and exporting capital. The oil price was still high, so the oil exporters were still living high on the hog (and saving away happily). This is now reversing a bit, as with the oil price collapse they're now spending their savings - so taking some of that capital back.

But the global savings rate is still incredibly high, hence low interest rates. That's why Germany today was able to sell 5 years Bunds at negative interest rates. There's loads of savings out there, but the people with them can't find anywhere safe to put them. So they're willing to pay the German government to look after their cash for 5 years.

In microcosom this is what has caused the Euro crisis too. Too many exports from countries like Germany and Holland. They then had all this cash, but weren't willing to spend it on imports. So instead they invested it in Spain and Greece. Rather badly as happened. Whereas the interest rates were fine for Germany, growing slowly in the mid 2000s, real rates were actually negative in Spain and Ireland (who were growing much faster). Their inflation rate was higher than the rate German banks were willing to lend to them at. Which of course whacked up inflation, and caused the bubble.

Globalisation (and the way people have responded to it) has caused the financial imbalances that made the boom so huge, and therefore the recession so bad. Hopefully we can correct this, without losing the huge poverty reduction that globalisation has caused. But it seems built into the Eurozone design, which suggests that however good their Central Bank is, the euro is still doomed.

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Boffins baffled by the glowing 'plumes' of MARS

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Unhappy

Re: Speaking of Mars...

Oddly enough, I'm currently testing a new weather prediction algorithm. It's currently saying there's 150% chance of heavy cloud and rain on 20th February.

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Happy

Only Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA, has so far suggested any explanation...

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Chinese food safety officials drank so much during working lunch that one of them DIED

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And I thought it was bad in Belgium...

My Belgian boss used to order beers while we looked at the menu, and then a bottle of wine between two over dinner - when we used to go for lunchtime meetings at the resataurant opposite the office. Having come from working in the UK to Brussels, I wasn't quite expecting that much drinking. In his previous job he'd kept a bottle of whisky in his desk drawer, for the regular Friday afternoon 2 hour lunch followed by sitting around drinking the afternoon away in the office sessions.

Whereas I thought an "office bottle" was something Phillip Marlowe had, because he had a drink problem.

Admittedly I did once have a lunch involving 3 bottles of wine between two of us (plus coffee and brandies), but that was a customer thanking me for something I'd already agreed to sort out, so there was a minimal amount of meeting, and an awful lot of drinking and eating.

I suppose we did once sponsor a trade association Christmas breakfast. We paid for a glass of bubbly and a fried brekkie. I allowed myself half a glass, as I had plenty of time before my first meeting. But one guy got there at 6:30, hit the Guinness hard, and by the time things broke up at 8:30, he'd necked a glass of bubbles and 5 pints of the black stuff. He then went on to work, designing drinking water systems. I did wonder how many deaths we were responsible for that day, as a few of the others went to work on several Guinnesses. Whereas I ended up 12 stories up on a rooftop, with an only knee-high parapet, in a 20 knot December wind - glad that I was sober, but also wishing I had a few drinks inside me.

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Apple LIGHTSABERS to feature in The Force Awakens

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Coat

Re: Warranty void if seal is broken

Luke will be wearing a Jed-iWatch in the film. You mark my words...

One thing a more spitty lightsabre might be useful for, is making kebabs. "Use the chilli sauce Luke."

I'd best go now I think. Before I turn to the pun side of the force.

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Boffins grasp Big Knob, get ready to go ALL THE WAY at the LHC proton-punisher

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Devil

Re: Crash!

These new particles would presumably be the bollockons.

There are 2 flavours of bollockon - left and right. Each particle also can be in one of several states, droopy, tight, salty and clean...

The sweaty state is not yet fully understood, but is being investigated by a scientist called Dr Betty Swollocks.

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Happy

Re: Glad to see that...

So it is in principle impossible to tell if you live in a simulated universe or not.

You simply watch out for power ups, or big floaty letters saying INSERT COIN...

Oh that was easy. I'm just off to prove that black is white and white is black. I'll be careful of that zebra crossing.

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Happy

Re: What's the Fucking Point?

The large Hardon collider will soon tell us. How else are we to find the result of colliding two penises together at great speed? Short of sending Piers Morgan and Jeremy Kyle opposite ways round Silverstone...

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Reg hacks (and rest of 'Frisco) in LinkedIn measles contagion scare

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Re: On the "questionability"

For those who went to schools with 700 pupils and no deaths from measles, remember the majority of measles deaths happen to children under five. Who won't have lived to get a chance to go to school, by definition.

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Mark 85,

Is there actually any evidence linking vaccines to autism? And not that shit research Wakefield mostly made up. I wasn't aware of any, but then I haven't looked into it for ages. The developmental signs of autism turn up about the same age as childhood vaccination. To re-use the old phrase, correlation is not causation.

I know parents of autistic children who believe it. But then given the choice between an explicable cause, or just "your child's life was ruined by random", that's understandable.

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Re: Mountains and Molehills

I was listening to a program on Ebola last night. They were talking about relative risks, and contrasting with average risk. One outbreak of Ebola killed 90% of those infected, it tends to vary a lot by outbreak. The average death rate is about 60%-65%. Guess which figure the press went with recently...

Anyway the average mortality rate of measles is 10%, and it kills about 120,000 people a year. Mostly under 5s.

Obviously the West have been vaccinating for a while, or that average would be lower, as there'd be more cases with fewer extra deaths, with our better healthcare. But it's much more contagious than Ebola, being airbourne.

However it's not a trivial disease. One of the symptoms is possible meningitis, which is always bad. I have met kids who've had it, but then I used to do volunteer work at an RNIB Sunshine House school.

Interestingly enough, via the same route, I've also met children who were illegally used in his "research" by struck off Dr Wakefield. As well as making up some/most of his results, he was also making money from the parents he was lying to about the causes of their children's illnesses. And taking samples from them for his "research", without always bothering to get consent. Which is why he was repudiated by his fellow researchers, and struck off by the BMA.

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SpaceX HOVER-SHIP landing scuppered by MASSIVE ocean waves

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Re: I'd think they're ready to come down on land

GettinSadda,

I didn't mean a launch failure. I seem to recall that one of their attempts to recover the first stage failed as the rocket broke up while attempting to slow down from launch speed.

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Re: I'd think they're ready to come down on land

Didn't they have one rocket break up at the hypersonic stage, sometime early last year? They've had 3 or 4 successes since, where they've got down to ground (ocean) level in controlled flight, and where they were aiming for. But will probably have to succeed a few more times first.

Although this attempt will have helped them, as the 1st stage was going considerably faster this time, and yet they still managed to get it down to where they wanted it, in controlled flight.

However, flying across the continental US, where the rocket has to be under sufficient control to avoid air-corridors even if everything works (let alone cities), is probably a long way away. Much more reliable drones don't generally have permission to fly in civillian airspace. I'd imagine that what they can get permission for is flying in designated ranges out to sea, and then popping back to some nice landing spot on the coast. After a few years of success at that, they may be able to achieve more.

I wonder what the New York - London time would be in a Falcon/Dragon combo? OK the cost would be obscene, but it'd make a superb PR stunt.

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Basic minimum income is a BRILLIANT idea. Small problem: it doesn't work as planned

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There's also going to be a good chance that lots of people might use it to start their own businesses, or do artistic / charitable stuff or work less hours as part-timers. I'd carry on working full time, as there's mroe stuff I'd like to spend on, so hooray for more cash. But I know there's quite a low limit where no amount of extra money would persuade me to bother working. I know people who'd prefer to do something for a couple of days a week, and give the rest of their time to charities. Or their kids.

Working culture is changing anyway due to globalisation, technology changes, people living longer (and being healthy longer), demographic shifts and people's differing expectations. I don't think we can even predict what these changes will do, let alone something as different as a guaranteed income.

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I'd have thought it's more likely to be inflationary. Prices can't drop past a certain point - as the companies would go bust. So either certain services would disappear, or those services would have to get more expensive in order to attract their workers to not just sit on their minimum incomes and watch the Jeremy Kyle Show all day.

This would give an incentive for companies to automate repetitive tasks, where the current minimum wage is cheaper than tooling up with robots. Or at least similar, but less risky, as the capital costs of automation are so high - and take so long to pay a return. So I guess you'd have a mix of some things just no longer being economic, some getting more expensive and some rises in productivity as it becomes economic to automate.

I'd be amazed if anyone can come up with an economic model that'll predict all that lot...

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Re: Hmm

codejunky,

Your position is somewhat absolutist. There will always be some level of unemployment due to people moving between jobs, large numbers of employers going bust in one particular area, recession etc. If we don't maintain a welfare state then some of those people get to spiral into absolute poverty and possibly do annoying things like starving to death. Which, by the way, is also bad for the economy. Plus looks really bad on telly...

We can see how this lack of benefits is actually even worse for the economy than the deadweight losses of taxation, by looking at what happened in the 1930s. The Depression was eventually cured by huge state intervention. It also has horrible effects on society and individuals. Some balance will therefore always have to be struck, which is why we have elections to decided roughly how we'll do that.

Finally China is another example of how government intervention can actually help an economy. The Chinese have pretty much nothing in the way of a social safety net. This means that families save a huge amount of their income, in case. This is having 2 side-effects. It means they don't have enough internal demand to stimulate their economy and so they have to rely on exports. And there's too much money available to invest (excess savings) which lowers the cost of interest, and leads to the mis-allocation of capital (mal-investment). In the last boom, lots of that cash was being invested in the West, and was one of the causes that lead to the asset bubbles which so spectacularly popped in 2007/8. Oops. Now lots of that cash has been invested into China, very badly, causing huge excess manufacturing capacity leading to deflation, and a big fat housing bubble, that the Chinese government are desperately trying to deflate without crashing the economy. The other side of the over-spending and over-borrowing that we in the West just indulged in was the over-saving and under-spending of people in Asia - plus the huge surpluses built up by the oil-exporters.

Some sort of social safety-net, either a government backed insurance scheme or tax-and-welfare system, is an excellent way to allow a modern economy to function more predictably. It also stabilises recessions, by automatically causing government spending to rise, in order to stimulate demand. See Greece for how utterly fucking this up for stupid ideological reasons will turn out to be a disaster. Not that the Greek state has ever functioned properly, but German inspired policy in Greece in order to achieve "moral" rather than economic aims has been a fucking disgrace for which the IMF have admitted they're ashamed, but the European institutions and governments are still claiming the moral high ground. History will not be kind to them.

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We've had a recession. And that accounts for some empty shops. We've also had a revolution in buying patterns, where lots of people now buy things online. This also accounts for a lot of shops closing. Empty shops are therefore not a usable measure of economic activitiy.

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Re: We already have this

Mike Bell,

You've mis-read that Wiki article, partly as it's very badly written. Particularly the table on lending. It also confuses bank capital and bank reserves. Banks are in fact regulated to maintain two main types of assets:

1. Cash (or very liquid) reserves - which is money they use every day to cover normal withdrawals, plus stuff they can access if there's a run on the bank.

2. Capital. This is money the bank owns (or its shareholders do). This is to cover losses on loans - so that even if say 5% of the people they've loaned to default, they can cover the losses without taking from savers' accounts. From memory minimum capital adequacy ratios in the UK are something like 7% - but the Bank of England stress tests last year meant you had to have over 10% to pass - and if you didn't you had to sell more shares or bonds to get there.

The thing that the loonies who don their tinfoil hats and scream about FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING fail to understand, is the bank balance sheet.

Banks aren't legally allowed to just loan money. They have to have it first. If you save £100,000 with the bank, there are 2 transactions in the bank's ledger. They get £100k of cash (an asset) and a £100k liability (the balance on your account). These match, so the bank's books balance.

Banks pay interest on cash on deposit (well not much at the moment...). This means that they must make a profit on that money, or they can't cover the interest. So they loan some of it to someone else at more interest than they're paying their savers. At that point they have created another 2 transactions, £90k of the £100k saved goes to someone else (debited from the cash ledger) and they gain a new asset - which is the loan to this person of £90k. The books now balance again.

Here's a simplified balance sheet:

CREDIT ------------- DEBIT

£10,000 ---------------------------- operating cash (part of deposit from person A)

£90,000 ---------------------------- mortgage debt owed by person B

--------------------------- £100,000 savings account balance (owed to person A)

£100,000 --------------£100,000 - totals balance

Some explanations get very confused by a couple of things. The counter-intuitive bit that if I've got cash in the bank then they have a corresponding liability in that they owe me that cash. And the rather weird terminology that gets used about money. Basically we use various definitions of money when talking about the money supply. Almost no-one uses M0, which is the actual notes and coins printed/minted by the government - most calculations for the purposes of dealing with inflation use M3 (there's M0, M1 to M5 each includes everything in the earlier ones, plus some extra). M1 includes bank current account deposits as money-equivalents, plus notes and coins not held in bank vaults (that Wiki article explains this badly). I can transfer cash out of my current account to someone else's in order to settle a debt - thus the bank has probably created some M1 money when it lends cash at the same time as holding an account for me. However this is complicated, as I'm unlikely to have all of my money in a current account if there's lots of it - savings accounts aren't measured in M1, plus banks also may borrow from the markets in order to lend (also in ways that don't add to M1). Finally the money they lend out won't all make its way back into banks as deposits in current accounts, and therefore will not all create M1 either. What "money" means in different circumstances is a very confusing topic all to itself...

The short version is, it's bloody complicated. But no, banks don't have a license to print money. They don't get the money they actually do "sort of print" anyway, because everything they do has to have an entry on both sides of their balance sheet. Plus money doesn't quite mean what it ought to mean.

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Re: We'll probably need it within a century

Grade%,

I'm disappointed in you. I thought Soylent Sinister would mean eating the left handed...

If you make us eat our left arms, how are we going to look at our digital watches?

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Never going to happen, of course. There's no way that politicians will be be able to resist the temptation to take away from one group and/or give to another.

That's a ridiculous comment! If people are going to lambast politicians for being too stupid to think straight, they need to do so themselves. Almost everything politicians do involves taking something from one group, and giving it to another. Whether that's 'quietness' in allowing planning permission for something, taxation and spending, or a minimum income guarantee.

I know there's a need to be scepitcal of politicians and keep an eye on the buggers. But this mindless cynicism is really annoying, as well as being dangerous to the process of democracy (which is the only system we've so far found that at least vaguely works).

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Cannonbridge sells us a dummy – great premise, crap ending

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Re: Could always be worse

Pratchett is very odd. You're reading along happily, and suddenly he drops you into a 3 page Hemmingway pastiche, followed immediately by a knob-gag.

Often in the middle of one of his literary pastiches, he's also running puns at you, as well as one-liners. And as much innuendo as you can swallow...

I've almost completely forgotten Soul Music, so I don't rememember what the last line was any more. I've got it in a box somewhere at home, I'm now going to have to go and dig it out. An excuse to re-read it, although that's a dangerous game as I'll probably end up looking at some of the other books from that era like Moving Pictures. I don't recall ever re-reading Masquerade. You bastard! You've just destroyed all my free evenings for the next couple of weeks!

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Fraudsters make bank as exec wires $17 MEELLION to China

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It's 15 years since I worked in corporate land. But at the time, any transaction over £10k needed two signatures - one of which was from a manager/director in the finance department. And that was the form you filled out before going on the banking terminal to do the actual deed. I wonder if that's now changing in companies to getting an email or text from...

Even a secret deal the CEO is doing must require the knowledge of the Finance Director. And if there's a million in the amount, you shouldn't be taking the CEO's word alone anyway, just in case he's decided to run away with a chunk of the company cash.

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WATCH IT: It's watching you as you WATCH IT (Your Samsung telly is)

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Devil

At least being spied on by a homicidal maniac in charge of a spaceship, means that I get to have a go on a spaceship. I'm willing to put up with that, if it gets me into space. The risks of space travel are pretty high anyway.

Samsung are only giving me a telly. Then again, the risk of brain damage from watching X Factor, is probably the more significant threat...

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Re: Orwell

I preferred the Goon Show version. It's good to be alive, in 1985!

If you commit a thought crime, the Big Brother Corporation will cut off your subscription to the Radio Times...

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Re: @jnievele

So even the dumbest customer should be aware that they listen to spoken words - because that's what Speech Recognition IS.

Bollocks! Speech recognition is the magic computer-box understanding the commands you say. It's not the magic-computer-box recording everything you say on a totally separate company's servers.

Most people are not computer experts. UK contract law now basically says that you can't hide something in the Ts&Cs and claim you have consent to do it, if it's not obvious. So you have to point out important clauses as part of the sales process. Hence "your property may be at risk if you do not keep up the repayments" - and that sort of thing.

It's an interesting question as to what they record. Obviously they're not going to want a massive, stupidly huge, database of everything all of their customers say. But I bet they do want to do research on how often the TV is missing the command keyword. I assume you say something like "Samsung" or "TV" to wake it up, before asking it to change channel or volume. So they might want to record the odd evening's conversation to test that all instances of their chosen keyword were picked up?

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Re: Telly-what?

Televiewer?

"Turning on televiewer now. Contact."

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The Red Dwarf chilli chutney egg sarnie

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Re: Oversold it, major fail!

Jam is even worse. Not for nothing was the Pop Tart once described as "naplam covered in cardboard"...

But I used to love a jam toasty.

Egg toasties are still great. If messy. You need a maker that creates a good seal, as the egg escapes a lot more messily than melted cheese. But if you get it right, and can hold a depression in the bread, drop in the egg, put on the top slice and slam the lid in one fluid movement - you can have a wonderful snack, which is an excellent accompaniment to ketchup.

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Re: Nice Recipe

Until I moved to Belgium, I wouldn't have understood what this guy was saying. However, out here proper bread is a matter of course and the crap stuff is rightfully hidden away so that the Americans living out here have to hunt for it.

I used to live in Belgium too. And I agree that good bread is a good thing. Along with good beer, and mostly great restaurants. However, there are times when only the crap from your childhood will do. So one lunchtime, I left the office, and invested something like €5 in a pot of peanut butter, and a half loaf of Hovis wholemeal (there was no white sliced available) which cost me a truly scandalous €4.50. I had some nostalgic sarnies for my lunch. When I got home, I was feeling so nostaligic that I promptly settled on the nutritious dinner of 3 rounds of peanut butter sandwiches. Shame on me!

At one point, homesickness drove me to eating 4 Curly Wurlies in a 12 hour period. Weirdly I don't think I'd had one since the age of about 12, so I don't know why I should feel the need to feast on them 15 years later. Yet more shamefully I did this while living under 5 minute's stroll from several of Brussels finest choccie shops.

Belgium is a wasteland for decent crisps, fruit juice, cheddar, yoghurt and salted butter though. And mayonaise with chips is still a horrible idea. But the Brussels chippie curry ketchup is lovely stuff.

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