* Posts by SImon Hobson

1206 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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Ordinary punters will get squat from smart meters, reckons report

SImon Hobson
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Re: FFS- are you sure?

Are you sure? It didn't work for 48% of Britons who voted in a recent opinion poll?

There, fixed that for you ;-)

Yes as already said, there was an enormous amount of crap spouted on both sides. I voted leave for none of the mainstream fear mongering reasons - but because I thin that the pain we'll have from leaving will be less than the ongoing pain would be for staying. It's clear that those with the controls in the EU have no intention of listing to any of the voices warning of the impending shipwreck when they hit the clearly visible iceberg dead ahead.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

> ... 100,000 separate meters made, installed and administered by 30 different companies

But all built to a common standard for comms and security, and linked up by one network, to one database.

And like the data is going to be ours (as per the article). Presumably that will mean it's ours in the same way as our health data - only as long as we are vigilant and kick up a sh*tstorm every time the government spots an opportunity to flog it if we don't realise and opt out. Or, of course, until it's leaked or the database is hacked, or ...

As has been said many times, almost all the benefits of "smart" meters can be done without any of the security problems or privacy intrusions. Remote meter reading doesn't need a detailed analysis by 1/2 hour of our consumption - it just needs a reading of each register.

But this is a "we can collect it, we don't bother with whether we should collect it".

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Disney rollercoaster helps pop out kidney stones

SImon Hobson
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Re: Horrible fascination

> Magically, they did this without cutting me open. (You can use your imagination but I simply refer to it as Pee-hole Surgery.....)

Ah, I like that name.

When I had to have a stone taken out, I'd have people asking me what seem pretty silly questions - one asked if they wen't down my throat to get to it ! Once I start with an explanation of why there's only one route in, there seem to be a lot of legs crossed :-)

As to what a kidney stone feels like ....

I didn't pass mine, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. But having the stone, I would describe the pain as like someone having crept up from behind, stabbed you with a blunt screwdriver and is twisting it around. Meanwhile, someone else has lassood one of your nuts and is swinging off it. All I can say is, the IV paracetamol when I got admitted in A&E was a welcome relief.

Now, I mentioned I had surgery - pee-hole surgery - to get it out. After they'd taken it out, as a day case but kept in overnight, the day case unit and ward failed to properly communicate. So the day case unit send me "out" with some pain relief, the ward didn't give it to me. The first time going to the loo after pee-hole surgery is ... "eye watering". It just isn't describable, and I imagine the aftermath of passing a stone is similar.

People in the know kept saying that it's worse than childbirth.

If it could be induced on demand, a kidney stone would make an excellent torture.

As an aside, according to the CAA, the peak times for recurrence is after 2 years and 7 years - that's when they require re-examination to confirm absence of any further stones for a pilot's medical.

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Security man Krebs' website DDoS was powered by hacked Internet of Things botnet

SImon Hobson
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Re: GRE packets?

> ... just block the GRE ports and ignore such requests?

Well that would be what the DDoS management service would do. But it needs the ability to divert all the traffic through a site which a) has the bandwidth and b) is able to apply filters to that volume of traffic.

Most ISPs won't have the means to redirect all that traffic AND filter it - even if they have the upstream bandwidth. Trying to filter it at your own site is useless because it's too late then - a few Gbps of traffic down your 10-100Mbps pipe will completely overwhelm everything.

And then there is the issue that dealing with this needs prior planning. It's no good phoning up your ISP and asking them to do it "on the fly" as they won't have anything in place. This is where the DDoD mitigation services come in - what to do when it happens is pre-arranged, so you call them up, they trigger the required changes (typically changing the advertised route), and filter the traffic from their own network before passing it (the filtered :good: traffic) on to you.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: What's an IOT device owner to do?

> ... what can an IOT device owner do to minimize the risk of their device being used this way?

Unplug it ?

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WTF ... makes mobile phone batteries explode?

SImon Hobson
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Re: Charging

> ... your 2 amp charger is delivering 4 times the energy of the 500 milliamp charger ...

Have a downvote for not understanding how these things work.

The 2A supply will only supply more current IF the device demands it. It's a complete and utter myth that swapping out (say) a 1 A supply for a (say) 2A one will somehow "push" more current into the device. The number of times I've had to correct people because they believe that a (say) 85W supply will damage a laptop that originally only came with a (say) 65W supply ... well I;ve lost count.

So if the 2A supply doesn't signal in a way the phone understands* that it can do 2A then the phone will not take 2A - it will limit it's draw to just 0.5A. Now extra current, no extra power, no problem. If the supply correctly signals that it's a higher power device, then the phone may draw more power for fast charging - but it will have been designed to do that and it should be safe.

But if a device isn't designed to use more power, then plugging it into a higher current capable supply will not make it draw any more current.

* There are now standards for signalling, but in the early days, each manufacturer had standards of their own. So (for example) a supply that would fast charge an iPhone wouldn't necessarily fast charge a Samsung, and vice-versa.

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TV industry gets its own 'dieselgate' over 'leccy consumption tests

SImon Hobson
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So let me get this right ...

${regulatory_body} lays down tests that ${product} must pass. Manufacturers make products which pass those tests. ${regulatory_body} acts all surprised when it's noticed that products passing it's tests behave differently under different conditions.

Just like the dieselgate row, the product passed the tests laid down - that's all there is to it. If ${regulatory_body} wants ${product} to behave in a specific way under specific situations/conditions then they need to make their tests representative of those conditions.

All this shows (yet again) is that if you lay down specific tests/targets, then people will work to them. This isn't news to any of us - except perhaps the people doing the complaining.

Schools get assessed on certain things (like exam results) - so they start to teach towards maximising those things they are assessed on. Those with long memories will recall when cars were taxed on engine size, with breaks at 1600cc and 2000cc resulting in all manufacturers having 1598 and 1998cc engine options. Then taxman decides he's missing out and moves the goalposts - resulting within a very short time in 1798cc engine options. Hospital waiting lists are another example.

None of this is news, sigh

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IPv4 apocalypse means we just can't measure the internet any more

SImon Hobson
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Re: How much is a IPv4 address worth

I would expect the standard allocation to be a static /64; is there reason to suspect something else?

Err, how about because most large ISPs are run by complete sh**s who will do anything to make it easier to squeeze more money out of "power" users. Given that some ISPs will not give a static IPv4 address, and others will only do it if you pay extra for a business connection AND also charge you extra rent for the address - I see no reason they won't do exactly the same with IPv6.

These are the ISPs in the race to the bottom of the murky pond where life is a muddy mess of squeezed margins and gullible punters who can't see past the headline price. Having outcompeted themselves on how cheap they can sell the service, they then need every trick they can muster to make a profit.

Needless to say, I'm with an ISP that costs more, but doesn't do this sort of stuff.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: How much is a IPv4 address worth

reboot the router and your address changes

And of course, with no address translation, this means all your internal addresses also change. That's one heck of a PITA for anyone but the "consume only" ones for whom the internet consists of Google and FarceBork.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: How much is a IPv4 address worth

>I fear there is a disjunct between what I am saying and what people are reading into it.

No, I see no disjunct there.

> Nothing I have said contradicts the way that network kit works.

Wrong again, sorry.

> Afraid all I can offer as credentials is 45 years in computer networking development and troubleshooting a large number of very convoluted large system problems.

"Oh dear".

The DNS is irrelevant - because as stated, the bad guys won't be using it. Fixed vs dynamic IP is irrelevant, because the bad guys aren't targeting YOU, they will be scanning address ranges just looking for open ports etc. And if you don't trust your own router, then YOU have the power to install a decent one - expecting your ISP to do it better is (in many cases) ... err lets just call it optimistic !

So basically your rant comes down to paranoia over a DNS entry that the bad guys won't be using, paranoia over the potential for your router to have flaws, and an irrational belief that your ISP will do it better.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: How much is a IPv4 address worth

> The address used by my local devices is irrelevant to the point I made about ISP NAT

Err, no it isn't. That was given as a way to see that you are indeed using NAT. But in any case, the "problem" you have is that you have a static IP address - if you don't want that, just ask your ISP for a dynamic one and it'll change every time your connection drops and has to be re-established. If Demon won't do that, then you can switch ISP - I switched ISP not long ago for the reverse reason, apart from being a sh*te ISP, they didn't do static IPs for residential connections at all and I want one for various reasons.

If you aren't using any inbound connections, then just ignore them. If you haven't configured your router to send them somewhere, they'll just be dropped.

Sorry, but it's a non-problem. Getting the ISP to put you behind a CGN gateway won't actually make that much difference since (for various reasons) you are still likely to have a "slightly sticky" public IP. And trust me, if you had a truly dynamic (as in every outbound connection got mapped differently) IP then you would hate it due to the amount of stuff it would break.

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Microsoft sues Wisconsin man (again) for copyright infringement (again)

SImon Hobson
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Is it just me ...

But as I read it, Microsoft are claiming that he's selling codes which they themselves created - but are also claiming that he's lying when he says that they are authorised by Microsoft. Either MS did create them and they are genuine; or they didn't create them and they aren't.

The fact that they were generated for a different purpose to what they are being sold for is a different matter - but it doesn't change the fact that these are, according to the article, genuine keys generated by Microsoft.

And I'm with the other - a pox on MS for their deliberately opaque and confusing licensing system where a licence key for "Windows $version" apparently isn't a licence key for "Windows $version" if you have the audacity to want to install and run "Windows $version" from the wrong (and not in any way labelled as to the differences) "Windows $version" installer disk.

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Apple seeks patent for paper bag - you read that right, a paper bag

SImon Hobson
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Re: The problem

> If this blatant absurdity goes through

Which based on past performance it will ...

And then Apple will have another stick with which to beat smaller players. Once they have a patent, they can go round suing pretty well anyone making OR USING paper bags - basically it's the joker in the litigation pack and pretty well gives them ammunition against just about everyone.

So when some small retailer falls out with Apple in some way, Apple can sue them for patent infringement - and it's then up to the defendant to prove the patent false (or that their own bags don't infringe). Given I've read that such action can cost in the order of $250,000 or more, how many small retailers could defend that ? So then it becomes a "how little will Apple settle for" game and there's a nice little extortion racket - with a "and as well as the damages, you agree to do/not do <whatever it was Apple doesn't like>" tacked on, making it another means for the big bully (Apple) to stop smaller people doing things Apple don't like

Yes, it will get invalidated when Apple take on someone able to mount a defence, but that can take years.

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Target lost, Cruz missile misses: Ted's ICANN crusade is basically over

SImon Hobson
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Re: Sooo ....

You missed the bit about ICANN showing all the signs of a body who's primary function is to ensure that the pork trough is as big and full as possible regardless of anything else.

Now I think we can look forward to "revised" costs for TLDs just about anything they have a role in, and that can only mean one thing as the effects trickle down - higher costs for us to fill up their pork trough.

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HP Inc's rinky-dink ink stink: Unofficial cartridges, official refills spurned by printer DRM

SImon Hobson
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Some years ago I was foolish enough to buy an HP OfficeJet 9100. We'd used them at work and they seemed "OK", and they were on clearance from some ex-rental/demo outfit so the rpice was reasonable. Then one day it wouldn't work - the ink had expired. Not "run out", but expired. Completely undocumented was that the ink expired 18 months after installation in the printer regardless of how much is used or the fact that it was still working fine (or as fine as the clogged printheads from lack of regular use would allow).

Surely this is wrong I thought ? I phoned Consumer Direct (because in those days you weren't allowed to contact your local Trading Standards any more) to be met with a "so what" attitude. The person really couldn't see that this was any problem whatsoever - and THAT is the biggest part of the problem. If the authorities won't stamp on manufacturers that do stuff like that (especially without warning) then they'll do it.

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Songsmiths sue US antitrust over Google-friendly rules ruling

SImon Hobson
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So how does this fit with the Berne convention ? As I read it, it's starting to sound distinctly incompatible.

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Google's become an obsessive stalker and you can't get a restraining order

SImon Hobson
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Re: Opinion: Your choice

You just don't like any of them. The 4th is to not use a smartphone.

Unfortunately if you want the benefits of a smartphone you have to make the best of the available choices.

And that's where the authorities (in various places) have yet to catch up. I;ve made complaints in the past about things like this - only to get the stock response that "you don't have to use X, there are other choices". Unfortunately a choice between whether to lose your right arm, left arm, or a leg (or go and hide in a metaphorical cave) isn't really any choice !

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SImon Hobson
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and only armed rebellion will change things

Except that by then, it'll be impossible to organise armed rebellion as they'll know enough about you, who you communicate with, what you say to each other, etc, to be able to spot it well before you have the ability to do anything meaningful and get you locked up as a terrorist.

Read the articles on "how to build an authoritarian state" - there are several steps, two of them being "pervasive surveillance" and "oppression". Google are near enough to the state of having pervasive surveillance, and the governments (in various countries) have furnished the vague "anything we don't like is terrorism if we say it is" laws.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Do people care?

I got home from work to find a Penalty Charge Notice from TfL ...

Better than my mate who got up to go to work (worked nights on that contract) to find his car had been stolen. Went to police to report it, and was told it was in the pound.

Went round to the pound, to be told that it had been towed away for illegal parking - even though it was actually legally parked. The complete shysters had towed it away and then painted the yellow lines on the road ! The way he tells it, he's lucky he didn't get banged up got GBH because I think he'd have been happy to reach over the counter and drag the person behind it through the narrow gap that's too small for a person to get through. But he would have had no proof whatsoever except for an amazing stroke of luck.

A voice from the back office chirped up and said "I remember that car - I noticed it because it's parked there during the days and gone at night which is unusual". One of the admin girls recognised it and was able to corroborate that it was in fact parked legally so he got it back without forking out.

These days, if I'm parking anywhere I'm not familiar with, I snap photos with the phone showing where I'm parked and any markings/signs showing - and the ticket if there's one involved. There's been enough reports on the telly about people doing dirty tricks like this - so a few seconds with the phone is worth it. And as others have said, it's a PITA and costly if you end up having to travel half way across the country to defend yourself.

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End all the 'up to' broadband speed bull. Release proper data – LGA

SImon Hobson
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Re: nothing wrong with upto.

whilst VM's coax technology ensures they can guarantee their access speeds to all, the others are different and variable.

Actually, to a certain extent it's the other way round.

With xDSL connections, you have your own pipe back to the aggregation point - whatever speed that line supports is what you get, regardless of what the neighbours are doing. Yes that speed varies between lines, but it's more or less fixed for each line.

Cable internet (the coax sort) is a shared medium. A number of users will share one coax and it's possible for your speed to be affected by what others are doing. As an aside, that is one reason (of several) why they insist that you have to use their provided router or modem, becase unlike a faulty xDSL modem, a faulty cable modem can take out (or severely degrade) service for other users on the segment. But on the upside, as pointed out, the coax is designed to (and does) carry much higher frequency signals which allows for much higher speeds.

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You should install smart meters even if they're dumb, says flack

SImon Hobson
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Also for condensing boilers to actually achieve their claimed efficiencies they need to be used in the right way, namely allowed to run hot so that they spend most of their time in condensing mode ...

A correction on that.

Non-condensing boiler have to run hot (return above about 55˚C*) as condensation will kill them quickly.

A condensing boiler works best when the return temperature is below about 55˚C* and they can recover the extra energy from condensing much of the water vapour in the exhaust.

As you say, many condensing boilers are installed and gain nothing over the old reliable one they replaced - simply because the system isn't set up properly to allow them to work. Combi's make this worse due to the need to grossly oversize the boiler (to give something approximating to an adequate hot water supply) relative to the size needed for efficient space heating.

* 55˚C (or thereabouts) is down to the chemistry of the gas burning.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Missing the best bit...

Hard to know if you are being sarcastic or serious ...

Smart meters to show the rough price per kWh we are using

That's what the in-home display is for

Smart meters to record the half-hour consumption data so that ...

That's what they do

But the issue is that once the suppliers have the chance, that £15/kWH in the dark winter won't be getting averaged out in the same way. That will get passed onto the users daft enough to have smart meters as a way of "persuading" them to not use lecky then. That's the point, rationing of demand by pricing - so the poor will sit in the dark, shivering while they starve, while the well off can moan but carry on regardless.

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SImon Hobson
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If your electricity demand is big enough to have a "maximum demand" factor in the price, you're in a different ballpark ...

Until that is, they start offering tariffs including a maximum demand element as a way of skimping on the local distribution network.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: I like them

Has anyone found an Energy-Monitor that just lets you log to local storage?

How into DIY are you ? WOuld Open Energy Monitor be of any interest ? There are other even ore DIY projects, one I've fancied having a go at is a 16 channel one (meaning you can monitor each circuit in the "fuse" board) which is very DIY.

But to re-iterate - there is nothing that the smart meter does AND which is of benefit to the end user which needs a smart meter.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: It won;t help

... unless there is a hidden plan to introduce swingeing tariffs for peak usage times

Funny you should say that, because that IS the primary function of these meters - price based rationing. The whole point is that at peak times, the cost will go up - and so, the theory goes, people will voluntarily change their patterns to use lecky when it's cheap. As the ever so witty comment above suggests, it'll be getting up at 1am to cook lunch and stuff like that that creates the cost savings - but no actual energy savings.

Eventually, the idea is that you'll buy washing machines and tumble dryers that can "talk" to the hub and will automatically run themselves when the lecky is cheap. However, as also pointed out above, look forward to the anti-social behaviour injunctions when you try doing that in anything but a fully detached house !

IF the cost rationing doesn't lop enough off peak demand, then the next step will be familiar to those of us old enough to remember the 70s. The only difference is that the power cuts will be more granular.

Of course, it won't be as simple as "delay cooking dinner till 10 pm" since the cost will depend on how the wind is doing. There's no enough wind generation nominal capacity in the UK that it's making keeping alternative *backup) plant open very expensive, but without that backup plant we don't have enough if the wind isn't blowing. I know the eco terrorists behind wind will claim this is all lies, but the facts are that we do have spells when it's really cold, demand is high, and there's flip-all wind for days on end. December 2010 was a good example - we managed (just) then, but we don't have the capacity now to deal with another period like that fortnight.

So when you get home from work, on a cold December night (it's night, so that solar PV is doing nothing), there's a frost on the ground, and clear skies. The snow is falling down quietly as there's no wind. You'll get home looking forward to a nice hot dinner - only to find you can't afford to cook it as the price rationing has kicked in.

THAT is what is behind smart meters. No they don't talk about it, all those adverts are outright lies, but that is the one and only function of these things - control demand (to match supply) by "pricing pressure" and if that doesn't work to turn people off. The wealthy will moan but carry on regardless, the poor (who will be poorer because they are paying for all this expensive and unreliable renewables carp) will sit in the dark and shiver while they starve to death.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Why Wireless?

Wouldn't it be smarter to just build the signal into the grid and have the DNO's collect the data?

Data over power lines. Yes it works, well sort of, if you ignore the huge amount of radiated interference that takes out anything else using radio - broadcast FM, licensed bands like radio amateurs, even the CAA has expressed concerns that newer Powerline Ethernet devices could start interfering with aircraft radio.

OK, this wouldn't be in the same league as high data rate ethernet over power lines, but they were looking at something similar for internet - and it was fairly quickly abandoned as they realised it was fundamentally impossible to avoid massive amounts of interference by sending radio signals down what looks very much line a long wire antenna to them.

While it's not quite comparable, you can read a lot here :

http://www.ban-plt.org.uk

Essentially the problems are the same.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: It was damn cold

the gas meter LCD has a narrow field of view so I have to lay on the floor to see it

My late father solved that simply. Take a stick of wood, a couple of small mirrors, mount the mirrors on the stick so that when held in front of the meter you can read it from above. It needs two mirrors so the digits are right way up and right way round.

He also mounted a magnifying glass and a small torch on another stick for reading the water meter in it's hole outside.

after replacing the gas meter the bloke could not get the old boiler fired up so condemned it and sealed off the gas

Was it actually faulty, or did he just do a "scare a granny" British Gas job on it ? Note: Not calling you a granny, it's the nick-name in the plumbing trade for BGs tactics in getting their service engineers to sell new boilers by declaring the old one dangerous and scaring a granny into having it replaced - they did that to my Mum, but I had her cancel the order, got a local in who found it to be perfectly safe, but as it was getting on scheduled a new boiler install for half of what BG wanted.

If it wasn't faulty then you should have got a third party engineer to come and sort it - and then complain to trading standards about it. Complaining to Gas Safe is a waste of time - firstly they won't do anything unless you leave it as it was until the come and look at it in a few weeks time, and secondly there's naff all they can actually do anyway.

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SImon Hobson
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had a quote for £3k for a new combi boiler and associated work

Well there's part of your problem - don't FFS get a combi, except for a few uses they are the spawn of the devil. But installers lurve them because they are easy to install, and builders/developers lurve them because it means they can shave about 1 square yard off the size of a house by doing away with the cylinder and cupboard. But for most users, they are "a poor choice" - especially for a family with a bath !

Gas takes much longer, if I have it on for an hour then ...

Right, so you are using it wrongly.

I don't however know what the cost of the gas is vs the approx 24p of electric used in that half hour.

Almost certainly less than the lecky - unless you are on LPG from a tank in the garden. Mains gas is typically around 1/4 the cost of mains lecky for a unit of heat. Even if your existing boiler is old and inefficient, I bet it's cheaper (by a good margin) to run than the immersion heater.

Suggested steps to take :

1) If there isn't one, get a cylinder stat fitted and wired into the heating system. This will be able to run the boiler when the cylinder needs heat, and turn the boiler off again afterwards (unless the heating is also demanding heat).

2) Set the time controls to allow the boiler to heat the cylinder for a decent amount of time each day. In practical terms, there isn't really a reason not to allow the cylinder to be set for 24 hours - the boiler does not run on the timer, it runs on the cylinder stat and will not run if the cylinder is already hot.

3) Make sure you have a good room stat for the heating and use it. Don't be like SWMBO who treats the room stat as a switch.

4) The boiler controls need to be set such that the boiler does not shut down on it's own stat before the room and cylinder stats are satisfied. Boiler cycling is very common (usually because the clueless plumber set things up wrong) and is very expensive.

5) At some point (consider it when either the existing cylinder and/or boiler are giving problems) consider upgrading to a modern fully pumped system with "fast recovery" high capacity coil and a condensing (but not combi) boiler. You'll get much better cylinder reheat times and it'll be more efficient - IF the system is setup right (most aren't as "plumbers" are often completely clueless).

And for a few more bits. When (not if) people tell you that it's wasteful to store a tank full of hot water, and mutter about standing losses, ignore them as ignorant idiots ! Provided you've taken measures (like the above) to make the controls work for you AND you have it well lagged, then the losses are low. Plus, unless the airing cupboard is outside of the house, then the losses aren't wasted as they'll be contributing to heating the house. I actually did side-by-side comparisons of a thermal store I'd just installed in one property with the combi next door - the combi had higher losses with no demand than the store (about twice in fact). Combi boilers have significant standing losses because they fire up at intervals to keep the heat exchanger hot so as to avoid the "turn on hot tap, wait a minute or two while the boiler obliges with hot water" problem they are so famous for - and this repeated firing is very wasteful. That's one of the "dirty secrets" about combi boilers that their supporters will never mention.

So TL;DR version.

You are being wasteful, almost certainly not using your systems to best advantage, and having a smart meter won't help with that. You can get a much better saving by using what you have correctly, without the "remote turn off" facility and without handing over a lot of detailed information into a massive database where it's almost certainly going to leak.

And the "spot when the lecky use is high because the immersion is on" bit doesn't even need a smart meter - a slip on energy monitor for a fraction of the price* will tell you that.

* Don't believe the outright lies that these meter are "at no extra cost". You might not get a bill itemising it, but you, and I, and everyone else here paying lecky and gas bills, is paying for it - to the tune of (current estimates) 11 BILLION quid on our bills during the next few years. It works out at around £200/meter.

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Brexit makes life harder for an Internet of Things startup

SImon Hobson
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Re: Harder life for IoT

Am I the only person feeling relieved?

Ordinarily I;d agree with that sentiment ...

Except that, in this case, you'll find that this isn't one of those "solution looking for a problem" devices, and yes security has been considered, and no it's not actually internet connected (unless you decide to extend it to make it so).

In this case, the OpenTRV project is to produce a smart radiator valve which is actually smart - it maintains room temperature based on occupancy and a simple "hot-cold" dial. Each valve can signal by radio (one way at the moment) to a remote relay to turn the boiler on only when there is at least one rad needing heat.

And it's all designed to be cheap - so it's within the grasp of those who would most benefit from the savings on heating bills it could bring. IIRC the target price when it goes on general sale is something like £150 for five valve heads and a boiler relay - which is considerably less than any of the commercial offerings currently available.

But switching to geek mode - it's all open. So if you want to hack it and do your own thing, you can :-)

You'll find more info over at opentrv.org.uk

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SImon Hobson
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Re: It may be better; or even worse.

Has that changed?

No, but you are missing the point.

At any time, someone could walk into steamnut's office and ask "that flurblewidget you made for Bloggs & Co 5 years ago ? Let's have a look at your records for CE marking it - we've had a complaint". They can then start picking apart his justification for having put a CE mark on it. So steamnut needs to be able to show, to whatever degree of evidence is needed, that he did in fact design it right and it does in fact qualify for having a CE mark.

Just a simple thing like "does it emit more electromagnetic interference than is allowed ?" isn't simple to answer unless you have actually paid more than the selling price of the flurblewidget to have it professionally tested. Using the technical file, you can say that it shouldn't have too-high emissions, but without actual testing then you can't be sure. The sort of kit to do the testing yourself isn't cheap, so unless you are doing a lot of it then that won't necessarily help.

While steamnut may have chosen good quality parts (all CE marked themselves where appropriate) and purchased them from a reputable source, and assembled them with care into a carefully designed system housed in a nice screened box - there's still no guarantee that it won't knock out next door's telly. Personally, I've knocked up an audio amplifier (well, stuffed a transformed, rectifier, and some amplifier modules in a box) which proceeded to do a good impression of a (roughly) 5MHz signal generator. A colleague tell of how in the past they had to certify all their products to new standards and setup a facility in a salt mine (in theory, a nice radio-quiet environment) - where they found that everything picked up Radio 2 due to a piece of wire left behind in a shaft that was resonant at just the right frequency to re-broadcast the signal down the mine.

TL;DR version. Yes you can use a technical file, but in the absence of actual authoritative test results, you can always be open to "not good enough, here's a fine for selling non-compliant equipment with a CE mark".

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Edward Snowden's 40 days in a Russian airport – by the woman who helped him escape

SImon Hobson
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Re: A fair trial?

... patriotism is not rubber stamping whatever your country is already doing ...

From A few Good Men

Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Dawson: Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willy.

It's a while since I've seen it, but ISTR it was a good film. And that bit at the end really hits at the point you make. Apologies if you haven't seen it and I've spoiled the ending.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Elections

Patently untrue. Under PR, parties get precisely that response they deserve. ...

... A proportionally-elected Commons would have to sort themselves out, and work to represent us - not just the few people who voted for each of them.

We saw during the last government a glimpse of what happens when there's two large parties and a third "runner up" with the "casting vote". What happens is that horse trading happens, and rather than working to the public good, it's more a case of the minor party cutting a deal with the larger party that will pander best to it's policies.

The end result is that the small party can have a key policy that perhaps few of the electorate like, was even campaigned against by both the larger parties, but the smaller party can effectively blackmail their way to getting it through. The blackmail basically goes ... "X has 45%, Y has 45%, we have 10% - we can derail ANY vote regardless of whether X or Y forms the government and we will unless X or Y gives us <something>".

It happens every time there is a coalition in this country.

"Full" PR might change things a bit - but I doubt if (in this country) we would get anything other than Labour and Tory as major parties with Liberals as a significant runner up. The main difference PR would do is get a handful more minority parties with seats - but at least for a long time I very much doubt that they'd be enough to derail the "give me <something> or I'll derail everything you want to get through" power of the third placed party.

That's not to say I think the current system is either right or the best - it clearly has a lot of faults, and I (amongst many) am wasting my time voting since my parliamentary constituency has only once elected anything but a candidate from one party in living memory. Under PR, my vote would carry some weight, while under the current system it does nothing.

But, I would also not like to see "pure PR" since (as many have pointed out) there would be a (potentially) bigger disconnect between how people in this constituency vote and who we get representing us. Test: Without looking it up, can you say who represent *you* in the EU Parliament ?

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'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

SImon Hobson
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Re: Machine Operating System

If you remember what floppy disc transfer rates were like you can imagine that took an absolute minimum of 20 minutes at each station, plus waiting times for the train to the next station.

Ah, you answered my question. I was just thinking that "wouldn't it be great if there was an easy to use transport system that linked all those places together ?". But then I realise when this was, and perhaps the answer is (was) "the road system" :-)

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PCI Council wants upgradeable credit card readers ... next year

SImon Hobson
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Re: Why don't they simply have a socketed ROM?

You'd need an insider to have an identical seal.

You'd need a quick call to Taiwan* to have an identical seal.

There, fixed it for you. Thing is, things like seals and stuff - the fakers can have the fakes out before the genuine ones are in use if they have any incentive to do so.

* Or wherever the favoured "we make anything you want, no questions asked" places are these days.

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Sony wins case over pre-installed Windows software

SImon Hobson
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Re: No Operating System Workstation.

What would actually work better for the likes of PC World is to actually buy, open up the machine (ie open all the packaging etc), and then decide you don't like the terms of something. Especially if there is bloatware on it and it's not clear before you open it exactly what you are getting or the terms under which it's there.

Under UK (and I think pan-EU) law, you cannot be held to any contract unless all the terms were made clear to you before you entered it. Thus if there is any term in the "click OK or you go no further" agreements then you're entitled to take the machine back and get a full refund. That's the quid-pro-quo for being allowed to use the click through agreements - you must have the opportunity to reject it when you first become aware of the terms.

But of course, an obviously opened package is now worth less to the seller than the unopened box it ;-)

At one time, the click-through on Windoze said you could take it back for a refund - hence people getting a refund for the nominal value of the Windoze installed. Now it specifically says that vendors may have a "all or nothing" policy so you either accept the terms or return the whole package.

It's just a pity that so few people even read what they are agreeing to, let alone care about what it actually means.

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Spinning that Brexit wheel: Regulation lotto for tech startups

SImon Hobson
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Re: One day we will revisit this with hindsight

In the meantime, it seems to me there are 2 possibilities:

Downvote for missing the important 3rd option ...

3) The EU struggles on, still sticking to it's dogma and refusing to admit any possibility that currently entrenched policies are not "110% correct". Meanwhile, while the EU is dragging itself down the toilet, we get one with dealing with the rest of the world and end up in a better (than if we'd stayed) position when the EU finally reaches the handle and flushes itself away.

Personally, I hope that us voting to leave is a trigger for some introspection and the EU ends up in a "break up or reform" situation, and chooses to reform. What I feel sure of is that had we voted to remain, then option 3 would have been the outcome - except that instead of having made our own way, we'd be whizzing round the U-bend to oblivion along with the rest of the EU.

Or put another way, leaving will be painful, but I think staying would be even worse.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Your Spanish mate

the UK would be in a much better place to reform this stuff as a member of the team committed to reform ...

But what if the rest of the team has very clearly not only rejected reforms, but is refusing to even acknowledge that there's any issue to be reformed, and the only possible way forward is even faster towards that iceberg that everyone but the bridge crew can see clearly on the horizon ?

That is the problem. We've been trying to reform from the inside, we've been trying to steer the ship onto a better course - but we've been rebuffed at all stages. Sooner or later you have to accept that the iceberg isn't getting out of the way, and we'll be better off if we've left the ship before the crash happens. Because that's what's going to happen - the under-reported problems in Greece aren't a Greek problem (OK they share some of the responsibility), but a symptom of trying to impose something that pretty well anyone with a few brain cells switched on could see in advance would not work - a huge part of the Greece problem is them being in the Euro and so not being able to take the normal sorts of measure that they could have taken. But then, given how many (current or ex) Goldman Sachs people there are doing nicely out of Greece's problems, I don't see it being likely that we'll see any admission of that.

I voted leave, not because I think it will be "good" for us, but because I think it will be "less bad" than staying.

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Childcare app bods wipe users' data – then discover backups had been borked for a year

SImon Hobson
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@ Shadow Systems

They weren't charging for it - perhaps they should offer refunds :-)

@ JimmyPage

"Precious" =/= "valuable". Some of my most precious things have no intrinsic value whatsoever.

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EU 'net neutrality' may stop ISPs from blocking child abuse material

SImon Hobson
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Re: It's all just (encrypted) data

If the ISP can, (it is still not clear from my reading of the article) offer such blocking as available, opt in options ...

I don't see that offering such a service, as a customer selected option would be a problem. What is a problem is where a provider arbitrarily filters traffic, without the knowledge/approval of the user - typically to force users onto certain services to the benefit of the service provider.

Functionally, if a user asks the provider to apply some sort of filtering (eg the kiddie porn filter) then that is no different in functionality or effect on the end user than the end user doing it locally - it's just more efficient for the provider to do it. But that is only if the end user asks for it, or is at some point given a clear "would you like this ?" option and is free to turn it off.

As a comparison, my landline phone provider intercepts my phone calls which is illegal in the UK - but they are doing because I asked them by turning on the answering machine service they have as an option. So it's functionally (almost) the same as me having my own answering machine.

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Ankers away! USB-C cables recalled over freakin' fried phone fears

SImon Hobson
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Re: Bonkers!

... as they rely on installers and users not doing certain things that they currently do most of the time

And that time honoured "use only the power supply and cable supplied" in the instructions.

Elsewhere, I've suggested on a manufacturer's forum that their choice of micro-USB connector but running at 9V is "not the best idea" for a router which is a static device. But apparently it's safe, and their answer to the inevitable "it's not working" when plugged in with a different (5V only) supply will be "are you using OUR supply ?".

So what's the point of "standards" when very quickly we are departing to a "yes it's USB, but it's not the right one of dozens of different USBs" world of confusion. The moment you have to look at, and decipher, one of many tiny illegible symbols on a cable to determine if it's the "right USB-C cable/supply/whatever" is the time the people responsible for it have failed.

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Sysadmin sticks finger in pipe, saves data centre from flood

SImon Hobson
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Best generator tale I've heard was this.

At a previous employer, we had our own substation, and when they needed to do tree clearing work, the sent someone to our site to isolate our end and be sure that we couldn't backfeed the line. I got talking to the guy and he told me this tale ...

They were doing some work on the lines ito a nearby town, and had brought in a couple of portable generators. These were hooked up and running, but under no load.

A manager was walking past, in his clean hi-vis just as the load went onto the generators. As the power went on, anyone who knows about diesels will realise that all sorts of oily sh*t comes out the exhaust - and this manager was head to toe in black oily smuts from the diesel exhaust.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: A few years ago . .

Ah, the old generator trick.

Starts fine when there's mains, but doesn't when it needs to because the batteries aren't very good.

Or the diesel is many years old and full of biological sludge - there's a bug that lives in diesel tanks.

Or it's just simply clogged up from all those "start, run with no load, stop" cycles because there's no way to put it under load without a short power drop.

Or, the diesel tank is in the basement and the fuel pump is mains powered.

(in the UK) There are outfits you can sign up with who will manage your generator and get you STOR payments from the grid. It will need some switchgear changes for many customers (to allow the generator to parallel with the grid), but once that's done you can fire up the genny and run it at full load for a proper test. Further, when it gets called on for short term grid supply, you get paid for it and get to turn over your fuel - you get paid a small amount just for having it available.

STOR = Short Term Operating Reserve. This is the "oh sh*t" reserves the grid can call on when (for example) a large generator goes offline without warning.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Speaking of boarding up things.

the girls would turn off the AC and turn on the heating, rather than say wear something longer than a belt of a skirt, or a cardigan over the strappy sleeveless top

Ah, you've had that too.

The ones who turn up when there's snow on the ground wearing some very summery outfit and complain that they are cold - at the same time that some of the women "of a certain age" are complaining that they are hot. Any suggestion that they wear something more fitting for the conditions is met in the same sort of way as if you'd been proposing a dirty weekend away with them.

Of course, you're expected to keep the office warm enough, and cool enough, and all without any sound or moving air.

To top it off, the way to the canteen was through the factory - and although they tried to keep the walkway clear, a natural consequence of what the factory did meant that it was always a little on the slippery side. Again, suggestions that the office girls wear some more sensible shoes was also met with "a certain level of disdain".

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US Treasury to launch pre-emptive strike on EU's Ireland tax probe

SImon Hobson
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The other side of that is that everybody is bound, both by duty and by law, to give a certain moderate part of their earnings and/or wealth to maintain the civilisation which sustains them

And the key point is that the governments get to set the laws that determine what part of your wealth they are entitled to take. As long as you comply with those laws then you have discharged your duty<period>. Now if those laws have loopholes big enough to sail a supertanker through, then that's a problem with the laws, not with the people working within them.

Our own HMRC in UK are very fond of declaring what they think you should owe according to how they want the law to be. Apparently they quite often lose when people stand up to them and tell them to get their shovel out of the pile.*

* That's a reference to a historic judgement by Lord Clyde in 1929 :

"No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer's pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Avon_Clyde,_Lord_Clyde

Key is the basic principle that tax avoidance (ie arranging your affairs, within the constraints of the law, so as to minimise your tax) is completely legal. There is no legal or moral issue with avoiding as much tax as you are allowed to.

Tax avoidance (not paying that tax which you are legally required to pay) is a different matter.

Unfortunately, much of the press is illiterate and incapable of understanding the distinction, and "the masses" lap up the accusations that "X isn't paying their tax" - when usually, X is in fact paying all the tax they are legally required to.

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Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died

SImon Hobson
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Even if, for a moment we suspend reason and accept that everything Corbyn said is true, if he thinks that is "ram packed" then he really is a stranger to rail travel on popular routes. He could sit on the floor, he could walk around, that really isn't ram packed !

Ram packed is when you daren't drop anything as there's not enough room to bend down to pick it up.

As for nationalisation, I can remember what things were like under BR - I'll take Virgin or Trans-Pennine any day over that thank you.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: OK Jeremy--renationalization--what then?

And if the lines are nationalized, how is Labor going to assure that neither ...

What would happen is like in the past (under all colours of government), they'd use it as a cash cow, suck all the money out and do no investment or maintenance. For a few years it would work, because there's been so much work done since the end of the last nationalised period - so it would be a while before it started to show.

Then after a few years it would start to show, and people would realise that we were back to the bad old days. It's notable that when you see people on the news complaining about the state of the railways and calling for nationalisation - they are typically relatively young, ie too young to remember what it used to be like !

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£11bn later: Smart meters project delayed again for Crapita tests

SImon Hobson
Silver badge

Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

I will add that on a large scale, loads doing their own thing based on frequency is a bad thing. For fairly small amounts it'll work out fine - just like one user switching on the kettle doesn't make the lights change in the next street. But if really large amounts of loads were self controlled like that, then there is the risk of instability.

Eg, frequency drops, lots of load sheds just as supply is being ramped up, frequency recovers and overshoots, loads go back on just as the supply is being ramped back down - rinse and repeat.

As I say, for small amount this isn't a problem - the small loads won't all switch at the same thresholds or at the same time. Get enough loads operating autonomously and it would make the grid somewhat harder to control.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

I am talking from the point of view that I worked in the power industry for a number of years with direct experience of the issues.

Ah the "resort to authority" approach. Pity you don't seem to have learned all that much in that 40 years then.

The assertion 'frequency has to be, give or take near-unmeasurable differences' the same across the grid is just nonsense, for a start it defies the laws of physics!

It defies the laws of physics for the whole grid (talking UK, all AC connected, grid here) to not be at the same frequency. There may be phase differences, but over a few cycles these cannot be more than an imperceptible difference in frequency. Lets face it, if the phase different across the grid exceeded some "not very large" fraction of a cycle, then things would be tripping or going bang due to the excess currents caused.

Just see what happens if you try over-driving a generator. It'll change phase (become more leading as the power goes up) - but it will not change frequency as it's locked to the grid. Only if you drive it so hard that it electrically "cannae do no more" then it will slip - yes it'll now be running at a different frequency, but not for long before either all the breakers trip or something goes bang in a big and spectacular way !

So some small fraction of a cycle, averaged over (at least) a few tens of cycles is going to be "fook all" in terms of frequency deviation. At very most you could get a small deviation to register if (for example) you suddenly opened the taps on a big generator and significantly changed the current flows in part of the network. In the long term (where long is measured in seconds), phase differences across the network due to power flows etc simply cannot show up as a frequency difference.

The US, with their larger grid, for precisely this frequency control problem, section their grid using Direct Current inter-connectors, but I digress.

You are confusing the terms here. The US grid is decoupled for stability control, not frequency control - though the two are fairly closely linked. It's due to the increased difficulty of the problem of balancing supply and demand across the much larger number of organisations involved.

Simple example, of a large generator in (say) New York trips, then that will have an effect across the whole network - reduced voltage and reduced frequency. If the whole network were AC coupled then you could then find generators in California opening the taps to compensate - when what you really need is generators local to New York to open the taps. The result could be significant changes in power flows, and if load is high then the risk is that you exceed capacity on some line somewhere with the risk of that tripping and causing a cascade failure (cf Niagara Falls incident).

Yes, the phase across the network will change, but the relative frequency (once you average ofer a few seconds) will still be exactly the same.

And this is why we have A (note the singular) central control room orchestrating our grid. We don't leave it to all and sundry to try doing their own thing, the control room orchestrates it - just like an orchestra would make a horrible cacophony if all the musicians tried to do their own thing rather than have the conductor organise them.

Splitting the US network with DC interconnects allows frequency control to be done in several smaller regions - thus simplifying the task somewhat. In addition, over long distances (which they have in the US), HVDC can have lower losses than AC.

It's also the same reason all our inter-country interconnects are DC - it avoids all the problems that would be caused if we had to co-ordinate our frequency control with the rest of Europe. Not to mention, the AC-DC and DC-AC converters offer very easy power control, much easier and quicker than tap changing on a transformer.

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Your wget is broken and should DIE, dev tells Microsoft

SImon Hobson
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Isn't it rather quaint that MS says it can't change something without consulting users. What f****ing hypocrites. They go out of their way to change sh*t all the time regardless of how much users complain.

People were mostly happy with the XP UI - so they changed it to something else. People were mostly happy with the Win7 UI so they changed that. OK< people really loath the Win8 UI and they did change that - just not for anything much better.

Then there's the ribbon bar in Office. And just don't get me started on that pile of steaming manure that is their online Sharepoint offering where they keep fooking about with the UI - usually for the worse.

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BT best provider for 10Mbps USO, says former digi minister Ed Vaizey

SImon Hobson
Silver badge

Bloke on cloud nine talks rubbish

He is correct to suggest BT should be sweating it's copper - it's right that any company should attempt to make as good a return on it's existing assets as it can. But that's as far as it goes.

He is talking bollocks when he suggests they shouldn't be pushing FTTP. Not pushing the sensible option for decades is what got us to the mess of needing to sweat copper now.

The thing is, it's a huge task - yes, converting the country to fibre would be a massive massive MASSIVE task. But that's only if you look at it in terms of converting what's already there. If we started by putting fibre in where new investment is needed then we'd be making a start. If they started that a decade ago, then we'd have (picking WAGs from the air) perhaps 5% of connections now on fibre. Not a lot perhaps, but it's a chunk into that massive task.

There's a saying that you can eat an elephant if you do it a small piece at a time - the problem is that we're concentrating on how hard it is to eat a whole one, and not even starting on the task of trying a bit at a time.

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