* Posts by Steven Jones

1405 posts • joined 21 May 2007

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BT: Let us scrap ordinary phone lines. You've all got great internet, right?

Steven Jones
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Re: Not had a landline for 3-years

There most certainly is a "copper only" product that service providers can buy. It's called MPF and is what is used by all the major LLU operators (and is £87.48 per year). That they they also provide a voice service is simply because it's virtually zero incremental cost to them as modern MSANs effectively provide that capability along with xDSL.

Note that it's awkward if the 50V DC power isn't applied as it can be used as part of a cross-check that a line is allocated and can play a role in diagnostics.

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Steven Jones
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Re: provide only internet services

The wholesale charge for a copper line is £87.48 per year (for the fully unbundled MPF product). The WLR product (which is the one used by BT) provides voice too, but is only fractionally more. Anything above that level is due to a mixture of mark-up by the service provider and VAT. It's a lot less than that £192 figure you headline. The choice of which service provider to use is (for the vast majority) completely open.

Note that this includes a (regulated) level of return on what Ofcom deem the network to be worth as a level dictated by the regulator in addition to direct costs (workforce, maintenance, rates, power and the multitude of other items).

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The slow strangulation of telework in Australia

Steven Jones
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NBN progress

The NBN produce a weekly report on progress. It's not particularly fast at about 360,000 premised passed a year (to meet it's final targets it will have to go much faster). The much-maligned BDUK project is doing around 2 million properties a year. Of course it's always necessary to qualify this as the conditions in the two countries will be very different; Australia is much, much larger with a lower population density (but bear in mind the great majority of the Australian population live in urban areas and NBN are tackling the really remote areas with satellite).

The NBN is also rather a large budget, at about £18.4bn, or the equivalent of about £46bn in the UK if adjusted for population levels.

http://www.nbnco.com.au/corporate-information/about-nbn-co/corporate-plan/weekly-progress-report.html

http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/The-Superfast-Rural-Broadband-Programme-update.pdf

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UK.gov loses crucial battle in home-taping war with musicians

Steven Jones
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A jury at a county court?

Breach of copyright (unless you are actually making a business of it) is a tort covered by civil law, not an offence covered by criminal law. Civil cases in the UK are not held in front of a jury. (With the exception of some libel cases, but even that is now very rare as almost all of those are judge determined).

It's different in the US where some types of civil cases can be decided by juries.

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Steven Jones
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Re: Dear "music industry"

The music industry isn't gunning for you. It's impractical to enforce. They want the government to raise a levy against things like USB sticks, smartphones, MP3 players, disk drives and the like in order to create a fund to be distributed to copyright owners. That's what happens in several EU countries. So the impact is that you'd pay more for your equipment and storage devices.

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Steven Jones
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Re: Huh?

It's when domestic law conflicts with EU law. The latter takes priority.

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Steven Jones
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Oh the irony...

At one level this is an argument that can't be won by those representing musicians. Even if we revert to the position prior to the change of law that made copying music (which you'd already purchased) for private purposes a breach of copyright, it was always a wholly unenforceable law. Breach of copyright (unless you do it on an industrial scale) is a tort in this country, not a criminal offence. Consequently it requires the copyright holder to start civil proceedings, and the idea that they could find a way of suing people who'd ripped CDs to MP3 players and the like is ridiculous. They couldn't before, and they certainly couldn't now. Just about the best the musician's representatives could hope for would be some form of "slush fund" to be doled out based on some sort of levy made on manufacturers producing relevant equipment. Such things as smart phones, USB sticks and the like. This is, of course, the practice in some EU countries. The irony is that such a case was probably only possible by making the copying of music legal in the first place. If the law was left as it was it would have been much more difficult.

It is also interesting as it's an example of judicial review not just looking at the operation of executive powers, but of primary legislation where it conflicts with European law. There's another such case in the offing with the challenge to the law on the emergency Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act.

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'Right to be forgotten' applies WORLDWIDE, thunders Parisian court

Steven Jones
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Re: "the only realistic way to remove results based on a particular countries legal system"

It's fairly easy to bypass that too. To avoid this it would be necessary for Google to enforce the use of an authentication system before using its search engine. It's all a matter of how many hoops that somebody has to jump through.

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Steven Jones
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Another extension?

So does this Parisian court ruling go beyond even filtering google.com results by originating IP address? (Which, I realise they don't do at the moment, but presumably could be done). Whilst I can (just about) see how a Parisian court might be considered to have juridstiction over what is seen in France, I can't see how it can extend to the World at large. Indeed, I would have thought there is a good case it would run slap bang into a conflict with US constitutional law with regard to freedom of expression.

Of course, even if a watered down filtering by origin address location was implemented it's easily enough bypassed by use of proxies and VPNs. All that's happening is it makes like a bit more difficult.

It strikes me that Google could make life more difficult for the French if they just decided to remove their services from the country. If they have no legal presence, then there's nothing to fine. It would mean forgoing income, but at some point the cost of doing business outweighs the benefits, especially if it has knock-on consequences.

Not even China has sought to enforce what Google do in the US. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

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Competition risk? BT faces rigorous frisking over £12.5bn EE takeover bid

Steven Jones
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There are two perceived main issues. The first is that alternative backhaul operators will lose a major customer as BT makes use of its own fixed network for EE's fixed line interconnections. That could well reduced competition in the backhaul market used by mobile operators to their disadvantage, although any such BT backhaul will have to be available to other operators on the same terms under the equivalence regime. There are also more subtle issues such as OR having a guaranteed customer for products such as those being developed to support mobile "micro-cells" which exploit much of the infrastructure put in place for FTTC/FTTP deployments. This would be difficult for other back-haul operators to replicate and might, again, make mobile operators more dependent on BT.

As Ofcom have a proposal to force OR to offer a "dark" fibre product, this may go some way to ameliorating this issue, although it's unlikely any competitor will be able to replicate the "micro-cell" products in much of the country.

A second issue is whether BT retail will be able to exploit its fixed line customer base using bundles, although I've no doubt that Ofcom will look at those very closely.

There's also a general point from the point of view of a other operators, and that is they are going to do their utmost to oppose anything which will create a stronger competitor. Companies will always raise objections where they see themselves disadvantaged.

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BT's taxpayer-funded broadband monopoly may lock out rivals, says independent report

Steven Jones
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Re: The thing is

"BT's ducts and cable runs were, to a large extent, paid for by the taxpayer before privatisation."

Yes, and the government sold BT for (corrected for inflation) about £30bn, which is not so far off BT's current market capitalisation (about £38bn). There was also virtually not fibre in the network in 1984, being utilised only for some voice trunk links. Even then, that fibre will have been long obsolete as the early stuff was very lossy. So, in effect, all the fibre investment is post-privatisation.

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Messerschmitts, Sinclairs and a '50s living room: The Bubblecar Museum

Steven Jones
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Re: Memories...

In the 1960s, that would have been a Bond Minicar, not a Bond Bug. That latter was a 1970s bright-orange wedge of a two seater powered by a Reliant engine driving the rear wheels. The Bond Minicar was powered by a Villiers two-stroke engine to the front wheel and was unrelated. A friend at school managed to have two of them in succession, and I recall helping to spray paint it. Some models of the Bond Minicar could, indeed, seat five, although it wouldn't have taken them anywhere very fast.

The Villiers engine was mounted on a vertical, swivelling post driving the front wheel (on a trailing arm system) via a chain. There was no reverse, but some models were equipped with a starter motor and two sets of points such that the engine could be started in the opposite direction.

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'Tough' UK public sector blamed in BT sales hiccup

Steven Jones
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Re: Virgins view ...

Quite. Is perfectly open to developers to negotiate with any network supplier they so choose. Indeed, some do. Which is why some developers have done deals with fibre suppliers.

Of course many developers will just follow existing practices, but there's nothing stopping them dealing with VM if they so wish.

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Net neutrality crunch poll: Americans want to know WTF it is

Steven Jones
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The devil is in the detail

Most people have no idea what "net neutrality" actually means in practice, apart from something that sounds desirable. Once you try and map this aspiration onto the the reality of the Internet with its complex web of content delivery networks and peering connections it becomes immensely complicated. For instance, can a content supplier who optimises their own costs at the expense of an ISP expect the same service as one that assists ISPs by interconnecting at more points?

Of course it might be reasonable to treat all traffic equally at any one point in an ISPs network, but that's far from the same thing as all network traffic is treated the same overall.

The Internet isn't just a cloud to which an ISP simply leases a bit of bandwidth. The reality, both technically and commercially, is very different.

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Wheeee! BT preps for FIVE HUNDRED MEGABIT broadband trial

Steven Jones
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Re: Ha ha ha ha ha

You ought to do a bit more reading. For the most part, g.fast nodes will be installed much closer to the property. Typically in a DP (atop a pole, or down a hole). Power will be line-fed. Two possibilities, forward fed from a cabinet or other power point or using reverse power. That is using power from the terminating device in the customers premises.

Of course, with only 48V available, distance is an issue with typical 0.5mm diameter copper. To some extent this is dealt with by circuits which extract power from a number of lines and produce a combined output. You might expect a typical g.fast node to support possibly a dozen lines or so. Of course this means running fibre deeper into the D side of the network, which is expensive, but nothing like as much as running new fibre to every property, digging up gardens, replacing master sockets, installing an ONT etc. Another point about running fibre deep into the D side network is that it allows for a GPON node to be installed (which is just a beam splitter). That allows for the potential of a much cheaper form of FTTP on demand, as the customer would only have to pay for the work to run fibre for a shorter distance than from a current fibre concentrator. It might even be possible that combine g.fast/gpon nodes could be designed which are serviced by just one fibre.

A further point to note, it is not just the money required to run fibre to every property that would be the issue, but the resource and timescale. There are only a limited number of people in the country trained to do this work, and it's ridiculously expensive to try and increase workforces several times over for just a few years. So a technology that can be rolled out faster is to be preferred.

A lot has to be proved, but these are all stepping stones. It would get fibre deeper into the network and will benefit from all the work that has got fibre to the VDSL cabinets as the E-side network has already been extensively upgraded.

As to distances to DPs, these are typically in the 10s of metres, not the hundreds, or even thousands of metres (like cabinets).

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FCC will vote to cut off 41 million broadband users this Thursday*

Steven Jones
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Re: Seems they've forgotten what "broadband" actually means

Not necessarily. ADSL has higher natural latency, and it gets worse if interleaving is turned on. With VDSL the difference is insignificant unless interleaving is turned on (which is a time domain error correction system which adds latency).

From where I am 20km wet of London I get 9ms ping time to the www.bbc.com. I think that FTTP might shave a millisecond or thereabouts as it would omit one physical "hop".

The physics of it is that the speed of propagation of light down fibre (about 65% of the speed of light in vacuum) is not too far different from the speed of propagation of a signal down a transmission line (cat 5 cable is about 64%, and twisted pair phone cable much the same). The signal isn't actually carried by electrons whizzing back and forth from the source to the destination. It's essentially an electromagnetic signal which interacts with electrons in the conduction band of the copper. Or something rather like that.

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Brits need chutzpah to copy Israeli cyberspies' tech creche – ex-spooks

Steven Jones
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Re: hmm

Strange, I could have sworn I'd read stories of Israeli air strikes where there had been "collateral damage".

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Landlines: The tech that just won't die

Steven Jones
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Re: Dry DSL

There is a product called "SLU", or subloop unbundling which has been used for FTTC use (although the number of non BT FFTC deployments has been very low, although there have been some). However, there's very little difference in wholesale cost. That might seem odd, but the the great majority of the cost of a network is where it "fans out" from the consolidation points,. There may be less copper in that part of the network, but there are far more joints, miles of ducts, telegraph poles and so on.

In any event, the route back to the exchange has to be paid for, and those costs will just get transferred back onto the fibre backhaul.

There's a myth that the main cost of the network is in the copper. It's not. It's in all the infrastructure required to support it all, the manpower, rates, power, poles, cabinets, footway boxes, ducts, builds and so on. All those (or close equivalents) are required for fibre too.

A few years ago Tim Worstall on these very pages produced a laughable estimate of the value of the copper in BT's network (overestimating it by a factor of 20 or more). The value of the "raw" copper is around the £2.5bn mark, although when fashioned into cable it's perhaps double that.

So the return on capital employed in the copper in the "E side" of the network is a relatively small proportion of the total costs of the network infrastucture.

(Somewhere around there is a report that OpenReach has to produce annually on the "book value" of the network assets, albeit that isn't the one that Ofcom uses to regulate prices directly).

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Steven Jones
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Indeed it is regulatory

Call termination charges (that's what a network operator is allowed to charge for connecting a call on their network) have historically been far higher on mobile networks than landlines. Termination charges on landline numbers are, in comparison, almost insignificant. (The used to be about 0.2p/min, but have been reduced to 0.034p/min).

Indeed, Ofcom specifically engineered it that way as a method of financing the build out of the mobile networks. For a long time landline users have been paying for mobile networks, although this is changing as, mobile networks are having more tightly regulated call termination pricing.

The above is the reason why packages don't include calls to mobiles, whilst mobile networks do include landline calls. Mobile packages can afford to include mobile minutes as, on average, the calls into and out of a mobile network balance.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/household-bills/10874053/Ofcom-to-cut-mobile-termination-charges-to-below-0.5p.html

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Panicked teen hanged himself after receiving ransomware scam email

Steven Jones
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Re: Privacy and policing

You might, but many object in principle to the retention of logs, backdoors into encryption and much else, even with judicial oversight. We have developed such systems over hundred years for physical records, yet virtual ones are considered sacrosanct by many.

I still see from the reaction to my comment that some are still unwilling to accept the logical consequences of opposition to record keeping, even with judicial oversight.

So for those that promote untraceable financial transaction systems, be aware that this is the enabler and motivation for crimes such as this. Be careful for what you wish, because it may be granted, because everything has consequences to consider.

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Steven Jones
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Privacy and policing

Given the number of people who appear to object in principle to the whole idea of any state surveillance capability on use of the Internet (evidenced by the number of comments on this site, others, Twitter, mainstream media any time these issues come up), then it's pretty near impossible to track down the source of these scams, at least without a huge amount of technical and manpower resources, and even then it's doubtful.

These objections are based on the whole issue of traceability, privacy and (I often suspect), a good deal of egotistically driven paranoia. Unfortunately those very same measures which make it virtually impossible for the state to snoop on your activities also makes it easier for scumbags to prey on the vulnerable.

So, decide what you want. It's simply not possible to have an Internet landscape where you have effective policing and complete protection of personal privacy. You can have untraceable electronic transactions and currency. You can have unbreakable encryption, Internet anonymity and the like. But you can't have that with tracking down Internet crooks. Something has to give.

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Future imperfect: A UK broadband retrospective

Steven Jones
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Re: Back to the Futire?

Those exchanges are only market 1 because other operators don't seem them to be cost effective to deploy equipment into. LLU operators have the ability to cherry pick which exchanges to enable, and you can't really blame them.

So market 1 exchanges exist by default, not because they were built that way.

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Steven Jones
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Code Powers

As far as I'm aware council's can't prevent utilities digging up pavements as they have "code powers". That includes VM.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/street-works-faq

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/policy/electronic-comm-code/

The council does have powers over the placement of cabinets, but even then those have limits.

Of course, planning issues are a useful excuse for utilities not to continue with projects which they don't deem to be remunerative.

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Broadband isn't broadband unless it's 25Mbps, mulls FCC boss

Steven Jones
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Re: Rural Oregon

Look up bonding, although your ISP has to support it. Failing that, it's possible to do line balancing but that doesn't allow for a single data stream with 2 x the bandwidth. What it allows is several independent data streams which can be useful if the problem is congestion due to multiple users.

Of course, it's expensive. Two lines, two broadband accounts a modem/router which supports bonding.

Failing all this, you are wholly dependent on your telco bringing fibre closer to your property.

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VMware: Storage data functions can and WILL migrate to flash media

Steven Jones
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Neat

That, is rather clever. Of course once you realise that a flash storage device is really a miniaturised storage system, with it's own logical mapping it becomes obvious.

However, one thing occurs to me and that is it will be necessary to be able to coordinate these functions over multiple devices. For example, it's very easy to see single point-in-time consistent snapshots might be required over multiple devices, and it would be nice to be able to delegate that functionality without invoking higher layers.

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Healthcare: Look anywhere you like for answers, just not the US

Steven Jones
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Healthcare Triage's summary

This is Healthcare Triage's take on the Singapore system (they have an excellent series on various national health care systems). Despite the videos all being produced in the US (largely by doctors), they aren't too impressed with their own system.

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

One thing to note is that the Singapore system has a huge amount of state intervention in order to minimise costs. They tried open market supply, but found that competition was increasingly through expensive technology and then changed the system to stop it. In effect, avoiding the way the US went.

So this is a long way from being a free market system. The Singapore government is pragmatic if it is anything, but I can't imagine the system of co-pays and enforced medical saving being accepted in the UK. In effect, Singaporeans are forced down a route of compulsory saving for any number of things that are at least partly covered by state welfare systems in most Western European nations. (Of course it helps that income tax is so much lower). The whole philosophy appears to be to minimise state exposure to welfare costs through enforced savings and incentivising citizens to not make demands on the state.

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Steven Jones
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Re: Good question

@John Sager

People dying early and quickly are actually rather subsidising everybody else. The biggest cost is the treatment of long term chronic diseases, and particularly of the elderly. It is said that type II diabetes is a problem, not so much because it kills, but because it kills very slowly but involves huge expense over time dealing with all the related chronic diseases. That's just the medical costs. Add in pensions, welfare, free bus travel, heating allowances and so on and it gets worse. The deficit is largely down to us all living longer.

So those Glaswegians expiring early of heart attacks, lung cancer and stabbings are good value. Well, if you're an accountant (and we all know bean counters have no compassion).

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If BT gets EE, it will trigger EU treasure hunt for fixed lines

Steven Jones
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Re: In theory....

Indeed, there's already an Ofcom requirement for BTW and BTOR to supply wholesale communication services on an equivalence basis. This would simply roll over to any purchase of EE as it would not be part of BTW or BTOR. Of course, BTOR and BTW don't have to discriminate in favour of any BT-owned EE anyway. The fact that BTOR & BTW will gain a captive customer is a major advantage. However, I'm pretty sure that BT will not want to alienate other mobile operators who are significant purchasers of fixed line network services in their own right. It's in BT's interests to have a very strong offering for mobile operators.

It's also an interesting point that the BDUK programme has, unwittingly or not, allowed for a considerable extension of fibre deep into the network. Those new fibre concentration points could be very useful, although no doubt the state aid aspects could get rather complex.

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Cambridge boffins and Boeing fly first hybrid airplane over British skies

Steven Jones
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Re: Can you clairfy

It means the electric motor is being used as a generator driven by the petrol engine.

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Hackers pop German steel mill, wreck furnace

Steven Jones
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It could be worse

Possibly just as well that the Germans have decided to close down their nuclear power plants if they can't keep critical control systems safe from hackers. Although I would hope that things would at least fail safely, even if not cheaply.

nb. I initially found a few elements of this story not entirely plausible, but as it seems to be official then so must it be.

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Hipsters ahoy! Top Ten BOARD games for festive family fun

Steven Jones
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Gift idea

So now you know what to take as a gift to apartment 4A 2311 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena should you ever be invited for Christmas. Personally I'd take a bottle or two of pinot noir to apartment 4B.

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UK air traffic bods deny they 'skimped' on IT investment after server mega-fail

Steven Jones
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Ludicrous sub head-line

If the Register's summary is correct, Richard Deaken s didn't make a statement that "90s kit isn't 'ancient'". What he said was the system had it's roots in the 90's. To put this in context, the World Wide Web has its roots in the late 80's. For that matter, the first draft definition of TCP/IP dates from the early 70's.

It's wholly irrelevant from when the technology originated. What matters is how it has been developed. After all, we are still basing out day-to-day usage of geometry based on what Euclid set out over 2,000 years ago. Roots matter. They stop trees falling over when the wind blows.

In the meantime, please don't misrepresent what was said. The kit isn't from the 90's, and nobody seems to be seriously claiming this was a hardware failure.

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Beware of merging, telcos. CHEAPER SPECTRUM follows

Steven Jones
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Re: Correction: it wasn't Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown set the objective, which was quite simply to maximise the sale value of the 3G licenses. That he didn't personally design the auction, is not relevant. Although given Gordon Brown loved nothing better than to manipulate figures (like expensive PFI contracts to keep debt off the books), I'd be amazed if he didn't personally approve the final form of the auction.

nb. the economist who advised on the format of the auction was Paul Klemperer, an Oxford academic, who has been very active in defending the decisions made.

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Steven Jones
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Even if it's conceded that the original 3G licence auction maximised the prices paid by the operators, and this didn't result in higher prices to the consumer on the grounds that they were sunk costs (more debatable) and that it didn't adversely impact other aspects, like network investment and thereby economic activity (even more debatable), then there is a much more fundamental reason why the exercise can't be repeated.

That's because at the time of the 3G auction, there were more potential bidders for bandwidth than there were available chunks of spectrum. In addition to the incumbents, there were a number of other operators seeking entry into the UK market including the (state backed) France Telecom and Deutches Telekom. It was this unique blend of ambitious operators and limited supply backed by inflated telecom valuations (and some de-facto state guarantees) that drove bid prices far past their economic value. Once the shareholders and financiers came round to noticing this, the supply of ready money dried up and auctions all across Europe then got fractions of what was achieved in the UK and Germany.

These circumstances will never happen again. It doesn't matter if there are 3 or 4 operators. The costs of entry into the UK and building a new network are immense. The only way that spectrum prices could be manipulated upwards would be to offer fewer chunks of spectrum than there are operators. By definition, that will lose one operator from the new spectrum. It's quite possible that one of the weaker players might decide the whole thing is not worth pursuing anyway and seek to either run as a low cost operator on existing spectrum or pursue other options. Of course if the spectrum is auctioned off such that all operators can get a chunk, then that's less of an issue, but it will not, of course, recreate the circumstances of the 3G auction.

So now that the fit of hubris of 2000 is over, there is no way that the telecom companies are ever going to fall for this again. The 2013 auction fell short of government targets by about £1bn (it raise £2.5bn vs the £22.5bn of the 3G auction). The circumstances at the turn of the millennium are not going to repeat themselves.

There's also another issue. Seeking to maximise the value of the spectrum to the state simply in the capital cost of the license, rather than through more continuous revenues from taxation on increased economic activity is surely short sighted.

In any event, 3 or 4 operators. It's not going to make a great difference to state revenues. The CEO of Telefónica César Alierta, has noted that the industry is not going to play ball with states that manipulate the circumstances of an auction in order to maximise a one-off return.

(nb. in the US, a similar auction approach to that which was eventually taken by the UK government in 2000 was ruled illegal and had to be retracted.)

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FCC says taxpayer-bankrolled bumpkin broadband must be at least 10Mbps

Steven Jones
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What's in a name...

So they won't call it broadband. Simple.

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Which country has 2nd largest social welfare system in the world?

Steven Jones
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It's perfectly proper to include the publicly funded part of healthcare as welfare. Private expenditure on health is another issue (although you could make a case that tax breaks on health insurance could be included).

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Steven Jones
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Re: Sorta

I did link to a source. I think the 10-11% figure includes private health expenditure, not just public. When it comes to private health expenditure in the UK, it's not just those BUPA policies. There's a significant part of health costs that are only partly covered by the NHS. Expenditure with Opticians is primarily private as is much of the dental work.

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Steven Jones
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On reason why US welfare expenditure is so high is surely down to the incredible inefficiency (form a financial point of view) of the American medical system. It's not commonly appreciated that the US government spends almost the same % of GDP on their public systems (Medicare and Medicaid) as the UK government does on the NHS. Given the difference in coverage, this is astonishing. It's around the 8% mark in both cases, and in the same general area as many large western countries. It can't even be explained because the US has an older population. It doesn't, but rather the reverse.

A lot of this must come down to the basic cost structure of the US medical industry with al the insurance, legal indemnity, billing and other cost issues (and some very well paid medical staff).

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.PUBL.ZS

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Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register

Steven Jones
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Re: Then there is Jay Leno's Blastolene Special

Not to mention a motorbike powered by a gas turbine engine from a helicopter.

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Telcos spaff $36bn on gobbling Uncle Sam's radio frequencies for beefier cell coverage

Steven Jones
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Re: False economies here

It's true the UK and several other European auctions were setup to maximise the auction value. The German auction was even more expensive than the UK one. It wasn't helped by a number of state owned telco operators (like France Telecom) piling into the action with state backing. For the existing operators, it was an existential threat. They either got one of the new bands or they were essentially dead. Unfortunately for some countries slower off the mark, like Italy, the bubble has burst as shareholders and banks took fright. Then it all came crashing down.

Fortunately, things have calmed down a bit. To put this in perspective, the UK 3G auction raised $34bn in 2000 (about 2.5% of GDP). Correct for inflation, and it's considerably more than this latest US auction, a country with five times the population. Not exactly cheap, but not the insane levels of 2000 in proportion to the market size.

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Coming clean: Ten cordless vacuum cleaners

Steven Jones
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Wandered into an alternative universe...

Vacuum cleaner tests. VACUUM CLEANER TESTS? In The Register. What the hell is happening?

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The cloud that goes puff: Seagate Central home NAS woes

Steven Jones
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That's why everybody should have backup policies...

How many times can it be pointed out, have a backup strategy, and implement it properly. No device is foolproof. No cloud storage system will be perfect. Even if the hardware is perfect, software is not, and neither is you (the user) perfect. And then there's the little issue of ransomware or other malicious software.

Have a backup system, make sure it works and it validates what it does properly. Decide how much data you can afford to lose, and plan you system appropriately. Relying on a single storage device or service, not matter how well engineered is insufficient. Nothing on earth can guarantee you won't lose data, but you can improve the odds.

My mechanism involves two independent backup external drives, which I rotate frequently, and I always keep one off site. It is far, far quicker to recover from than any cloud system. And that includes driving 25 miles to my parent's house (where I keep the second copy) to pick up the "disaster recovery" system. (By all means use cloud for small incremental changes for interim backups as well).

I count this as a low cost solution given the risks of losing all your data.

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Toyota to launch hydrogen (ie, NATURAL GAS) powered fuel cell hybrid

Steven Jones
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Why is this called a hybrid?S

Count me as confused, but I don't understand why this is called a hybrid. It seems to be a straight hydrogen fuel-cell car (and there have been other examples, albeit mostly prototypes). In contrast, surely a hybrid (by definition) includes two (or maybe more) power sources.

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Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?

Steven Jones
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Re: Not this bloody chestnut again

Go look at the thinkbroadband.com site, and there's very clear evidence of increase in speeds. The upper quartile measure (which aligns quite well with an estimated 26% take-up of so-called superfast packages) has moved up a long way in the past year or so.

Of course, there will be something approaching 10% that will not get such speeds from the first phase of BDUK, but there's very good reason to believe (like Cornwall), that the original objectives will be overachieved by some margin. But that will still leave some disappointed of course, albeit there are later funding phases.

Of course if somebody could magic up the estimated £30bn required for a full fibre network, then all could change. However, nobody has managed to come up with a viable way for paying for it which is politically acceptable (equivalent to about £4 per line over a 30 year period).

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Million Mask March: Anonymous' London Guy Fawkes protest a damp squib

Steven Jones
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Re: Hackery

You're expecting neutral, dispassionate fact reporting from the Register? It's not the BBC news you know, who at least have to pay lip service to the idea.

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Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to REAL photography?

Steven Jones
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Re: Many good points - however

The only sort of back there is for large format are digital scanning backs, which work rather like a flat-bed scanner in that there's a linear array which physically move across the focusing plane. If you want, one model produces a 1.1GB files with 48 bit output.

Of course, they are useless for moving subjects.

http://www.betterlight.com/products4X5.html

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Steven Jones
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Re: Skill is all you need?

I'd certainly like to see a cameraphone produce a good closeup photo of a bird in flight, or a macro photo or a great closeup of an athlete. Or of a myriad of different subjects.

This trope that a great photographer will always surpass the limitations of their equipment, and outshine the mere snapper is always trotted out. Of course, a gifted photographer will beat the snapper, but it's still the case that for some sorts of photographs you need the right equipment.

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Steven Jones
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Re: Good article

There are a very few systems cameras with a fully electronic shutter, like the Sony A7S and the Panasonic GH4. Unfortunately, the problem is that they take a long time to scan the sensor as they lack what's called a "global shutter". On the latter, the senor can, in effect, take an instantaneous "snapshot" of scene. However, on a CMOS sensor, the photosites have to be read sequentially, and row-by-row. On even relatively low resolution sensors with 12-14MP, this process takes, perhaps, 30ms. In consequence, for even modestly fast shutter speeds, the sensor rows have to be cleared and read as a sort of rolling strip that passes up the sensor. Of course, this is essentially what a focal plane shutter does, by exposing a narrow strip for higher shutter speeds. The difference is, electronic shutters take about 1/30th second, whilst a half-decent focal plane shutter traverse the sensor in about 1/250th sec or less. What this means is the top of the image is exposed before the bottom, so you get "leaning verticals" on moving objects. That's called "rolling shutter". You still get it on focal plane shutters, but it's about an order magnitude worse on electronic ones. Also, this problem is worse the higher resolution the sensor, which is why you don't see the option on sensors of 16MP upwards. (A lot of cameras do have an option for something called "EFCS", or electronic first curtain shutter. That's a partially electronic shutter which uses electronics to clear the photosites (which can be done faster than reading), and this runs ahead of a physical second curtain which shuts of the exposure. It's quieter than a fully mechanical shutter, but far from silent.

You see the problem with "rolling shutter" on a lot of video cameras with CMOS sensors as you get weird effects like twisted aeroplane propeller blades. It';s technically possible to create a CMOS sensor with a global shutter, but (currently at least), only by creating a temporary charge storage area for each pixel, which means giving over silicon real-estate which, in turn, means compromising other aspects of sensor performance, like dynamic range and noise performance.

Having taken more than a few photos at gigs myself, I know the problem of noisy shutters. Of course it depends on the circumstances. In a full-on rock performance, especially if it's outdoors and you are in the pit in front of the stage, not problem. If it's a folk singer or a string quartet in a quiet concert hall, it's nasty (not to mention at wedding ceremonies).

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Steven Jones
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Re: Total light?

Yes, your 6D collects about 2.6 x the amount of light in total (as Canon APS-C has a crop factor of about 1.6). That translates to about 1.5 stops better performance across the ISO range.

For some things, bigger is better.

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Steven Jones
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Re: Good article

The four thirds system was actually defined as a joint venture between Olympus and Kodak, not Panasonic. However, it's now a consortium which includes Panasonic. The micro four-thirds system was defined by Olympus and Panasonic and essentially defined a new lens mount with a shorter register eliminating the option of a mirror box (but the sensor format is that of the original four-thirds system).

In the medium/long term it seems to me that fully electronic system cameras (like MFT, Sony. Fuji etc.) will gradually push DSLRs into a niche market as having mirrors flapping around doesn't seem like the future.

All that's needed now is for a manufacturer to crack the problem of the fully electronic shutters on systems cameras (existing examples all have serious shortcomings), and we can have properly silent cameras.

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