* Posts by Martin an gof

311 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Time to re-file your patents and trademarks, Britain

Martin an gof
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any company producing goods in the UK may start looking to relocate - it won't be a sudden thing but it will certainly start weighting decisions on where companies invest in the future

Are you saying, for example, that next time Ford is deciding between (say) Spain and (say) the UK to be the production centre of the new model (say) Fiesta, Spain will get the work? Sounds about right to me.

M.

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Martin an gof
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And what about the Cornish Pasty?

With reference to a recent story, if patents are a potential problem, what about protected regional status for food items?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "Never was so much lost by so many due to one stupid decision"

That would be to have joined in the first place?

You can argue that, but you must realise that it is an entirely different thing to say that we should leave now.

Had I had the vote in 1973 I may well have voted 'no', but then again with the mess the country was in and the raw memories of a war that had finished less than a generation previously, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It would have been a much more difficult decision.

This one was a no-brainer. Pulling out now is a much more difficult and fraught process simply because we have had 40-odd years of integration in the intervening period. On top of that, much as I really don't agree with the amount of power the "financial markets" have over us, the fact is that they do, and because of that we are probably in for a five to ten year period of stagnation at best with those of us still with large amounts of working life ahead of us struggling even to do something as basic as obtain a mortgage. However "broken" the EU is, and however slowly reforms happen (and they did happen) it simply can't be better to run the risk of returning to the UK of the 1970s at best, or the 1920s at worst?

Anecdotal evidence (i.e. a neighbour) from around where I live says that in the run-up to the vote people simply stopped looking at houses to buy. Estate agents' footfall fell to near zero. The evidence so far is that it isn't improving since the vote.

I know several people who voted Leave. Some of them are beginning to realise what they did. There is far less "crowing" about the result than might have been expected.

M.

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Raspberry Pi 3 tops SBC poll for self-brew hackers and Linux folk

Martin an gof
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Re: Meh

Or - and this one has hit me several times with Pis that I'm using to play videos on loops - it's simply out of space. Tab-completion stops working when there's no free disc space.

M.

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Fedora 24 is here. Go ahead – dive in

Martin an gof
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Sub pixel patents

Fedora 24 also features some revamped font rendering tools that put it on par with Ubuntu's font rendering even though, for patent reasons, it still doesn't ship with support for subpixel rendering.

I didn't realise it was so complicated. Acorn introduced "sub pixel font rendering" back in the late 1980s IIRC, though it wasn't specifically intended for pixel-accurate digital displays. I'd say it was maybe ten years before MS launched ClearType, and I well remember the hype around it and wondering what all the fuss was about. I doubt Acorn was first with the idea, but they were definitely years ahead of Microsoft.

I still run a RiscOS machine, partly because it is much "easier on the eye" than even the highest resolution Windows or Linux desktops, and I prefer to use it - when possible - for word processing for that reason. Is Acorn's "sub pixel rendering" different to Microsoft's and therefore not covered by the patent? Was it sufficiently dissimilar that it couldn't be used as "prior art" to invalidate the patent? Or is it just that RiscOS is too small a fish to bother the lawyers?

M.

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Apple pollutes data about you to protect your privacy. But it might not be enough

Martin an gof
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Happy

Re: The third way...

I assume, if my phone is on, my location can be inferred

The question is though, by who. If you have just the cellular radio on and have turned off WiFi, mobile data(*), GPS etc. then realistically the only people who have an idea of where you are are the telco and any government-sponsored spooks who ask them nicely. The accuracy of this kind of location data varies enormously depending on cell size and whether or not the telco makes use of triangulation data. If you are worried about your telco knowing where you are then it's time to ditch the mobile phone altogether.

Me, I use my phone as a phone. If I need data I will turn it on for the time I need data. Likewise GPS. I have never signed up for Google Play and have disabled all the data-slurping apps I can. This has done me reasonably well for a couple of years with the added benefit of a battery that lasts between 7 and 10 days in normal use. Turn data on and that can halve, halve it again for WiFi, and if GPS is active the battery barely lasts a day.

But I understand that lots of people actually like constant tweeting and suchlike. Just can't understand why :-)

M.

(*)an interesting side-effect of turning mobile data off - on my phone at least - seems to be that it then prefers 2G to 3G networks, which in some circumstances can lead to more stable connections for - you know - proper "phone" stuff like talking to people. Oh, and without data, MMS messages are blocked...

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Should we teach our kids how to program humanity out of existence?

Martin an gof
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Re: Re "Now the chips are down"

Now the Chips are Down at the BBC (1h20min).

The other big influence was the book The Mighty Micro, later turned into a series on ATV. I picked the book up at a second-hand stall some years ago and it's an interesting read.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "Coding" ...

Gee, when I started programming they just threw me a manual and let me figure it out myself. FORTRAN 1, machine language, etc

Yes, but back then we were satisfied with barely-formatted output on a CRT or a dot-matrix and there was no requirement to have the thing interact with the user using little clicky boxes in a resizable window on an underlying complex OS, or host its own webserver so it could be fiddled with from afar.

When I did Computer Studies 'O' level, a bit of input validation and some clear text was all that was required for the programming tasks. The BBC BASIC manual was invaluable. Nowadays the "working" part of the task is almost secondary - the first objective is that it looks good.

And I am blowed if I am going back to low-level system calls to set up and decorate a window and deal with all the "events" that might happen to it, when I can just use some pre-written, pre-tested, nicely-documented library instead and concentrate on the stuff that matters.

In my first "real" job I wrote practically the whole operating system (if you could call it that) for a handheld device from scratch with no libraries other than a floating-point library. Frankly I could have done without the FP library too as I had about 24k of ROM to play with and a large part of that was taken up with the onscreen text. The screen? The "best" model of the device had a 2x16 lines of 5x7 dot matrix characters.

These days the thing would be expected to be a Bluetooth-connected device that sent readings to an app on an iOS or Android tablet, and rather than spending six months working out how to do clever things with the low-end hardware to give it the capabilities of devices costing five times as much, I'd be spending most of that time working out how to draw a pretty picture and wondering why the BT connection kept dropping.

Ugh.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Programming or coding?

Were you a PE teacher in a previous life?

Sorry, no :-) I did teach (primary) briefly, but I was rubbish at it so I went back to engineering.

We had to do Gantt charts as part of my engineering degree (business studies!). I still haven't recovered, and I still haven't found a real-life use for them that can't be done more easily in another way(*).

On the other hand I did quite enjoy flowcharts and Boolean algebra and binary maths when I did my A-levels. It turned out to be the last year those subjects were mandatory in A-level computer science for that particular exam board.

M.

(*)That said, we're about to embark on a huge project at home. This is the sort of thing that Gantt charts are supposedly designed for. I might give it a go.

Or I might not.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "Coding" ...

How is the BBC Microbit thing doing in schools?

The MIcrobit was supposed to have been sent out to schools already:

Excitement Grows

Cip Olwg (Welsh)

(the latter, filmed in February, says the roll-out will happen "this term". My Y7 child hasn't heard any news yet and is getting worried that the school will decide to hand them on to next September's Y7 pupils, which he would be livid about.

Various suppliers have the thing available to pre-order now, which implies it's probably in a container on the way from China:

CPC

Pimoroni

The Pi Hut

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Programming or coding?

The problem I found with many IT people was that they could only think in serial steps

Hmm, good point. Perhaps I shouldn't have said "steps", but rather "units of work". If you can't identify individual units of work in a problem it's difficult to get the problem solved. Once you have identified units of work you can then work out which ones are dependent ("I can't do this until I've finished doing that") and which ones are independent ("These two actions can happen at the same time").

The beauty of something like Scratch is that each block of program is effectively independent and this sort of thing comes naturally.

For the rest of us who grew up with linear Z80 or 6502 assembler, awful Sinclair BASIC or the vastly better BBC Basic, it's a big step. Maybe we should be teaching combinatorial logic, Boolean Algebra and even Gantt charts at primary school...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Boffin

Re: Programming or coding?

I only wish the Blue flashy 'weapon' actually had real lasers

Never had a Bigtrak myself, always coveted one.

The boys, however, do have one of the (smaller) modern re-creations. It came with a Nerf-gun style accessory. There is nothing like a bit of wanton destruction to motivate an 11 year-old. Set up a Lego model or a pile of no-longer-used building blocks or a row of minifigures and see how much of it you can program the Bigtrak to destroy given just four "missiles" and a limited amount of program memory.

I agree with Mr. Dabbs that "logic" is the first hurdle that must be overcome, and children really seem to find it hard breaking problems down into steps, but the way to do it is to give them motivation.

In the case of the boys it was a Bigtrak and destruction.

In the case of my youngest girl it was the crushed-upon teacher at school who ran the afterschool coding club. Said 7 year-old came home from school one day, fired up a web browser and "programmed" from scratch (not with Scratch, but something similar) a "collect all the apples" game in about 15 minutes, complete with score, re-spawning apples etc. I watched her do it. The only things she imported were the images!

I'm re-doing the heating at home. How's this for incentive? Each bedroom will have its own heating zone and a thermostat, probably constructed from an Arduino. If they don't learn how to program it before the winter, they'll freeze :-)

M.

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Wales gives anti-vaping Blockleiters a Big Red Panic Button

Martin an gof
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Re: Strange Sign

Lead carbonate is, and has always been, more expensive than flour.

You're probably right - it was the first thing that came to my mind. The principle stands though, in the absence of regulation all sorts of things were added to foodstuffs:

Adulteration of Food. (see also link at the bottom of that page)

Here's a Punch cartoon:

The Use of Adulteration

Oh, and 'lead' isn't a proper noun.

Isn't it? Isn't Lead an element alongside Copper and Oxygen and Hydrogen and Neon and all the other things we usually capitalise? (Well, I usually capitalise, anyway)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Strange Sign

do they actually just contain whatever shit some Chinese factory owner thinks might sell

Which is why I don't understand those who don't want them regulated at all. Some regulation is actually good. It stopped people bulking out bread flour with white Lead for a start!

M.

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Brexit threatens Cornish pasty's racial purity

Martin an gof
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Coat

Re: Heathens!!

- If the result of the referendum is a vote to leave, Cornwall should declare independence, become a nation state in its own right, then join the EU.

Which made me think.

Accepted wisdom is that Scotland, Wales and certain areas of England (parts of The North, the South West) are generally more pro-EU than the rest of England, yet the bulk of the UK population lives in the South East. An "exit the EU" outcome has been suggested as a possible trigger for a further Scottish "exit the UK" vote.

Why don't we Britons / Celts (don't lecture me on the history, I'm using them as shorthand for Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, Scotland, Northern Ireland, peripherally the IoM) just club together and vote to leave the UK at the same time, forming some kind of commonwealth-of-ex-UK-nations and rejoining the EU? Much more sustainable than going it completely alone?

M.

Disclosure: my ancestors on one side are Cornish (though probably not him as there's no evidence he ever had children) and on the other side are Welsh. I have lived in Wales for about 95% of my life so far.

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England just not windy enough for wind farms, admits renewables boss

Martin an gof
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Re: Storage, obviously

This map is interesting. I have an older version which has much more detail, but this is the best one I can find now.

I have found my older map online - at the BBC for some reason. Here it is (it takes quite some time to render on my machine).

This report from National Grid is also interesting reading, though not as pretty :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Storage, obviously

There are stations in the UK and I believe other places around the world where water is pumped from a lower dam to a higher one during times of less demand, and then used to generate power during times of higher demand. As safe as any hydro station and potentially far more efficient than wind.

They could even (shock, horror!) be used to even out some of the variability of wind, solar, wave power. Grid storage is a big issue, and pumped storage such as the UK's biggest installation is a good potential (hah!) solution. It wasn't the first, but it's by far the biggest. If you happen to be in the area, an older station can be found in Ffestiniog and there's a good view of the generating house from the Ffestiniog railway - zoom in on Tanygrisiau reservoir near Blaenau Ffestiniog on this map. There are several other small stations dotted around Snowdonia if you know what to look out for, and there are more in Scotland. This map is interesting. I have an older version which has much more detail, but this is the best one I can find now.

When Dinorwig was being planned my grandfather was an accountant with the NCB and a shareholder of Brown Boveri, and very interested in this sort of thing. If I understand the old information he left behind (he died when I was 10, so we never got the chance to talk about it), the CEGB was interested in Dinorwig to even out the demand peaks (the Corrie ad-breaks) which nuclear (at that time it looked like we'd eventually get the majority of our electricity from nuclear) can't cope with.

The interesting thing is that they originally planned two such stations, with the second being in the south west (Exmoor? Dartmoor?) somewhere. While Dinorwig really helps cover the demand peaks, these are less of an issue these days with less nuclear, less coal and more gas, which can react much more quickly, though nowhere near as fast as pumped storage.

The second station was never built. Perhaps it would be a good idea to build that second station now, perhaps even identify two or three additional sites (there must be some good locations in Scotland or Cumbria)? While I am totally in favour of new nuclear stations, the fiasco over Hinckley C makes me think that in the short and medium term perhaps adding a fleet of pumped storage units would be cheaper, quicker and less prone to NIMBYism.

M.

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Martin an gof
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turbine(s) in domestic water supply pipes

Except that the energy you extract has to come from somewhere. You will notice that your loos may take longer to fill, your shower will certainly be less powerful and to counteract it the water company pumps have to work harder - using more electricity.

Here's an interesting experiment which illustrates losses and just how little power is generated by small "turbines". Take two identical computer fans (the sort of thing we all have lying about, surely?). Connect the power leads together. Blow into one of them and notice how it is impossible to make the other one move. Try it with a can of compressed air, and notice how the second fan will move, but barely. It's quite good fun doing the same experiment with an incandescent torch bulb, especially with a class of children and comparing the result with that obtained from a 1.5V battery or two.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Tidal?

people with enough free space can achieve an economic return on solar, even without subsidy

Citation Needed

The last time the BRE did research on this, the cost per kWh was around 40p for solar PV, which is significantly more than the general price of domestic electricity, let alone the price that CCGT can generate at. I can't find it in this report (2007) but I distinctly remember reading that payback without subsidy was of the order of 20 years for domestic systems which have a lifespan of perhaps 25 years (for the panels, probably less for the inverter). I dare say that's improved recently, but I've not seen any research proving it. Given a high installation cost and the uncertainty of subsidy levels over governments for PV, I'm almost certainly going to install Solar Thermal (just an example) on the limited amount of suitable roof I have. It can be a DIY job, the raw cost is relatively low (even factoring in a "dual coil" cylinder) and the payback should be much quicker than PV.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Tidal?

Swansea tidal lagoon would be closer

Because I can see the site out of the window, here are some links:

Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay

Funding boost

All is not rosy

I also saw an analysis somewhere that claimed their figures for generation were out - they would not be able to generate for as long on each tide as they claimed. However, the idea of a chain of tidal lagoons around the country, taking advantage of staggered tides, is interesting and in some ways the Swansea project is too small.

Gotta be better than the Severn Barrage which would not only have wrecked the tidal mudflats upstream, but stopped for ever the awe-inspiring Severn Bore.

M.

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In-flight movies via BYOD? Just what I always wan... argh no we’re all going to die!

Martin an gof
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Happy

Re: "All they have to do is ensure the Wi-Fi is secure enough to stop Reg readers from...........

Actually, I didn't think Red Dwarf X was too bad, and my boys, who were introduced to RD when they were perhaps 10 and 12, quite enjoyed it, though I think their favourite episodes all come from series II to V, with the notable exception of the "Rimmer Experience" scene from - erm - series VII?

Put it this way, we are all looking forward to series XI and XII :-)

M.

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Surface Book nightmare: Microsoft won't fix 'Sleep of Death' bug

Martin an gof
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Re: Still copying Apple

Wary of this turning into a Monty Python sketch but...

...my 85 year-old dad, who had never so much as picked up a (computer) mouse in his life, was so motivated by FlightRadar24 (he's a bit of a planespotter) that on his birthday this year he started learning. He has a wireless keyboard with touchpad (which isn't the easiest of things to use) and a computer running OpenSuse connected to his TV which by default loads up with Firefox full screen, homepage set to FR24. Every now and then I go over for a coffee and introduce him to something new - tap-to-drag or pinch-to-zoom or the BBC News website or the fact that it's networked to the printer upstairs* so he can print pictures of aeroplanes off. Maybe email next?

Old dogs can learn new tricks.

M.

*Mum's a couple of years younger and has had computers since the 1990s, starting with an Acorn A3010 and graduating onto a PPC Mac with OS9, then a MacMini with OSX, then another. Tired of Apple abandoning OSX I'll probably shift her to OpenSuse too in a couple of years when the MacMini needs replacing.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Sleep and Hibernate have always been iffy

In around 3 years of using MacBooks I can only recall one time the MacBook hasn't resumed successfully.

Do MacBooks tend to sleep or hibernate on lid close?

I have to say that I have had problems with OSX devices, both losing monitor configurations (e.g. "forgetting" that there's an external monitor attached, or re-setting resolutions, commonly defaulting to 800x600) and losing WiFi. Getting WiFi back usually just involves turning WiFi "off", waiting a bit, then turning it back on again (and re-registering if it's a public network). Getting an external monitor back often requires a log-out, log-in or even a reboot.

What I have not had with a MacBook is a machine that won't wake up at all.

Perhaps it's this "it works fine for me so there can't really be a problem" attitude that is afflicting Microsoft. Perhaps with the sheer volume of complaints they will now acknowledge that something needs to be done.

MS will lose Surface customers to Apple

Maybe, when Apple catches up with the form-factor, and iPads can run Outlook and Office ;-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Sleep is used by many!

Before I start, I am not a Microsoft apologist and I only use Windows because I have to at work. I have never had a Windows machine at home, and even at work my main "work" machine dual-boots Windows and OpenSuse. However...

Sleep and Hibernate have always been iffy (also @Zoot)

While sleep really, really should work on a $3,000 laptop, and it really, really doesn't seem to be a problem on anywhere near this scale on other hardware, you are both correct. Sleep has never been 100% reliable, ever. Hibernate has been better, but I've had problems with both on scores of machines with dozens of different configurations from oodles of different vendors (including many self-built) using chipsets from Intel, AMD and others and motherboards (for this may actually be a BIOS issue?) from goodness knows how many manufacturers.

Guess what, it can also be a problem on the Linuxes I use (Mint, OpenSuse*) and on OSX and (possibly) iOS, as well as Windows (not a user of 10 or 8, but I have had problems on both 7 and XP - before XP came along, sleep and hibernate were simply not worth using at all). I have even had what I can only describe as a sleep-related problem on my Android phone where just occasionally if it has been to "sleep" for a very long time, it reboots when you try to wake it up.

Putting a device to "sleep" (whatever that really means) will often cause it to forget network connections, particularly WiFi (requiring a disable, re-enable of the adapter), sometimes cause it to forget display configurations, occasionally cause desktop or application crashes and I've recently even seen it disable Wake on LAN functions (though to be fair, this latter problem also manifests on a "proper" shutdown, and the computers in question shouldn't ever enter sleep anyway).

So, Zoot, I feel for your downvotes and I accept I'll probably get a few myself.

But to go back to the start. While this is a long-standing occasional problem almost everywhere, it should not be something that happens almost every time! Someone at Microsoft needs to find out what is happening and sort it, or if they find it's a hardware issue that can't be mitigated in software they need to give Intel a kick up the backside and issue a recall / replacement / repair notice.

M.

*Both my OpenSuse machines desktop machines will "crash" in quite significant ways if you try to put them to sleep, but both come back from hibernate pretty well. The OpenSuse laptop has issues with startup and shutdown (it can sometimes take 2 or 3 minutes to shutdown), but sleep seems to work ok.

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Citrix bakes up Raspberry Pi client boxes

Martin an gof
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I suspect both options are not quite ready for mainstream yet to run as dual large screen. And may be a drain on resources making other stuff slow

As both options use the GPU they do not stress the processor, but they do increase contention for the shared memory, so this may well slow things down. Quite how much, I couldn't tell you as I've never tried it.

While the DSI option is relatively new, the VGA adapter has been around for some time so if you are interested you can probably find quite a lot of discussion online. In fact the articles I linked above would be a good place to start.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: > "The Pi has HDMI and composite video outputs but they are exclusive"

AFAIK this is so for Pi 3

Just to clarify, before Pi 2 there was a 3.5mm stereo tip-ring-sleve (TRS) jack for audio, and a separate RCA, "phono" socket for composite video. The Pi 2 dropped the phono and moved the composite video to the additional ring of a tip-ring-ring-sleeve (TRRS) jack which also carries the stereo audio. This is a standard connector as found in many other devices. Yes, the same connector is used on the Pi 3.

M.

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Martin an gof
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HDMI and composite will output the same image, but you wouldn't want composite for a computer monitor if you could possibly avoid it anyway. The Pi has other options for attaching additional displays. I believe that two-screen output using the GPU for both screens is possible using either one of these or one of these so if it were a make-or-break feature for a small network client, it wouldn't be beyond a company like Citrix to make it work.

M.

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The ‘Vaping Crackdown’ starts today. This is what you need to know

Martin an gof
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Re: About time

I'm tired of seeing vapers flaunt their filthy addiction in public. It's a disgusting habit as is smoking.

While I don't agree with your tone of voice, I'm sympathetic to the sentiment. I rejoiced when smoking in a public place was banned, and I'd quite like to see the same happen to vaping, and yes, I do understand that it is "not as harmful as" smoking. If a smoker can transfer to e-cigs and gradually wean themselves off the addiction, that can only be a good thing.

However, if anything, vaping in a public place is more antisocial than smoking because the cloud seems to hang around longer and vapers have no qualms about blowing the stuff in the face of every passer-by. And with the sheer variety of "flavours" around, the mix of smells can be quite nasty.

Living in Wales, I might get my wish.

And don't get me started on people vaping or smoking while driving (should there be a hands-free law?), with the window down, in slow moving traffic, right in front of or beside my car. The number of times I've had to close the windows and turn on the re-circ.

At least vapers don't chuck their butts out of the window. More than once I've had one of those, still lit with half an inch of tobacco left, lodge itself under some part of my bonnet and cause noxious fumes to enter the air intake.

M.

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Nokia offers up 10 Gbps HFC demo

Martin an gof
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Re: "Symmetrical"

Backing up your SMB's files to a cloud provider

I have often wondered how "cloud backup" was viable for SMBs, or even domestic users with a lot of media to protect, simply from the point of view of time to upload (though assuming incrementals this is less of a problem than it might be), and then time to download the whole lot in the case of an emergency full restore.

At home I have ADSL2+ with sync speeds around 8Mb/s down, 1Mb/s up (not bad for a distant semi-rural exchange, though throughput is less) and at the moment just over 1TB of data that's worth saving. Saving that to a remote server would be rather slow.

It does begin to become viable at network speeds of 50Mbit/s and over, I suppose. In the UK even the much-maligned BT offers "up to" 76 / 19 for £40 per month on its "business Infinity" product (a fibre-to-the-cabinet product). Similar packages are available from third parties, for example The Phone Co-Op, which is a reseller.

M.

(linked to TPC not because I'm a customer - though I am - but because the website is much "cleaner" than the BT one)

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Label your cables: A cautionary tale from the server room

Martin an gof
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Re: It was Working Yesterday.....

1. Of Course it was working yesterday, otherwise you would have called me yesterday - you moron.

Really? It was already "broken" ... since a week or two, but...

Not just computers. I used to work at a radio station and once got a call about 10pm from the guy whose show was just starting, "half the desk isn't working". He flat refused to transfer to another studio, so I had to go in and try to fix it "live".

Turned out that the twit on air before him had tipped half a pint of cider in the desk, but had soldiered-on rather than calling me out when it happened. Yes, there was a very strict no-food-or-drink policy, yes, it was that person's last live show before leaving.

As it happened, that was the very newest desk in the station and the control surface was just a control surface - a pot, a couple of switches, a fader and a connector. No electronics. All the electronics were in a rack, well away from the cider, which had flowed through the faders and switches, out of the drain holes and all over the "talent"'s trousers.

Conductive plastic faders wash very well under the tap, and I only had to replace a few wipers.

Back on topic, labelling was paramount at the radio station, helped by the copious use of multicore cables that were numbered and coloured as manufactured. I have brought that culture of labelling with me and I rarely travel anywhere without a marker pen :-)

M.

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Spaniard live streams 195km/h burn-up

Martin an gof
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Re: I found...

are you going to stop mate? Are you? Press your brakes! Don't hit me after I've just avoided the accident in front of me!

Doesn't even have to be that. I was stopped at traffic lights on a 40mph road. Handbrake on, about a car length gap to the car in front - maybe a bit more. Bog standard safe. Two kids in the back.

Car behind was stopped.

Car behind that was stopped.

Car behind that, didn't.

Last car hit the next car, hit the next car, hit me. My car went forward by about a foot, no more. The two cars in the middle had been stopped, too close together and with handbrake off. I don't think the lady at the back had been speeding, but she certainly wasn't concentrating, and as for the two dolts in the middle...

M.

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Microsoft: Why we tore handy Store block out of Windows 10 Pro PCs

Martin an gof
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Re: You now see where the revenue stream is

I've called them Apps ever since using Risc OS in the early 90s.

They weren't "Apps", they were "Applications". Altogether more sensible and substantial :-)

We've just had an interesting discussion on the Living With Technology mailing list about the semantic and practical differences between "programs", "applications" and "apps". It probably depends on your own background what each word means to you.

M.

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Intel loses its ARM wrestling match, kicks out Atom mobe chips

Martin an gof
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Is it the 1970s again?

Intel sees growth in making computer memories,

It's always worth getting back to your roots. Not exactly high margin though, is it?

M.

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Tokyo rebrands 2020 Olympics

Martin an gof
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Re: The whalesong is deafening where I work...

Try sending it a white page

Funnily enough, that's almost what I'm doing to a different screen which doesn't have quite such bad burn-in problems - problems which were caused by showing bright images on a black background; it's possible to see where the edges were as a difference in colour rendition / brightness.

It has now been showing pictures on a white background for about three months, and it's not really a lot better. This set of images has a while to go then it'll be something else, at which point we'll see for sure what it's like.

On a similar-sounding subject, no it isn't possible to "kick" dead/stuck DLP pixels back into action by sending cleverly-crafted images or sequences. I've tried.

:-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Old Logo

The thing is that while I can see the "T" and the "L" being relevant to the theatre, I'm not sure what the "L" part means in the context of the Olympics in Tokyo. It certainly doesn't say "Olympics" to me. That's what the interlocking circles are for, as someone up there ^ somewhere has already pointed out.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: The whalesong is deafening where I work...

Personally I'd just love the channels to have discrete, unobtrusive and above all static brand logos in the corner (if they must have them at all).

While I completely and utterly agree with your comment (though personally I'd rather they were banned altogether, or at least banished except for the first 30 seconds of a programme), I offer you the thought, "screen burn". LCD screens may not suffer to the same extent that plasmas did (do*) but they do still suffer, and an animated logo stands slightly less chance of completely wrecking your screen as does a static one, though anything vaguely static (the animations are generally very short and confined to the same corner of the screen) will eventually cause differential ageing. I believe the jury is still out on screen burn and OLED TVs, but my money is on them being closer to plasma than LCD.

Oh, and if BBC1 and BBC2 and ITV can manage to broadcast without DOGs, why do BBC4 and CBBC and ITV2, 3, 4 need them? As someone else pointed out, crumbs, if I've forgotten which channel I'm on and can't wait for an ad break to find out, my remote has an "info" button that instantly puts that information on screen in such a way that I can instantly get rid of it too. It also has a button that (almost) instantly switches the blasted box off.

M.

(*)We have a large plasma screen at work that was used for three months to play a video game. Nearly four years later and having played "normal" video or slideshows for very nearly all of the intervening time, it is still possible to see blurred score digits and character logos in certain parts of the screen.

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BOFH: Thermo-electric funeral

Martin an gof
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Re: as if owning IT antiquity was one of those positive character traits

magnetic "cards" the size of the old computer punch cards but plastic with a mag coating on

What, Language Master? Can't say I've ever seen these used for computers, but I don't see why they shouldn't be.

Which calculator was it that used teeny versions of these for program storage?

An HP 65?

M.

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Hands up, who prayed for AMD? Well, it worked

Martin an gof
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I have just built an Athlon-based computer for my dad (4 core 2GHz) for around £250 all-in (except monitor). Having had that fun, I wondered how cheaply I could build a "usable" computer, and came up with a workable (where "workable" means not frustratingly slow for common tasks) AMD solution for just over £100 (inc. VAT), or a "one up from the bottom" solution for just under £150. This was all from one supplier and I'm sure if I shopped around a bit I could get a solid workable machine put together for under £100 (those systems excluded keyboard & mouse). One big saving was the case - I found one case with PSU included for £18.

All of which is very interesting if you consider that a usable Raspberry Pi solution is going to be somewhere around £60 by the time you've bought a case, power supply and SD card, and more if you need to add an external HDD for storage.

The other interesting thing was that as I didn't need oodles of storage, all three x86 systems featured SSDs rather than HDDs.

Then I looked at doing the same thing with Intel, and it is possible. There is a difference in cost of motherboards, with the cheapest Intel boards being about £10 more than the cheapest AMD.

The CPU is the other variable. The cheapest system pitched a 1.45GHz dual-core Sempron for £22 against a 2.7GHz dual-core Celeron for £28 and, unsurprisingly, cpubenchmark.net reckons that the latter is about three times as fast as the former and has twice the TDP (55W Intel, 25W AMD).

The £150 system pitched a 2GHz four-core Sempron for £32 against a 2.8GHz dual-core Celeron for £36 and this time CPU performance is much closer. I'm ignoring the inbuilt graphics here as I suspect both will be fine for desktop use, the AMD may be fractionally more efficient for HD video and games aren't in question. I'm also ignoring "integrated CPU" solutions.

So my conclusion was that you can build a cheap Intel system. The very cheapest Intel systems will probably be £20 or so more than the very cheapest AMD systems (which on a £100 computer is 20%!) but will have more powerful processors. If you up-spec the AMD systems to match computing performance the price difference almost disappears.

M.

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BOFH: If you liked it then you should've put the internet in it

Martin an gof
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the 'off' button on any video projectors in the building

Many projectors these days - if networked - respond to PJLink (PDF). Unless your admin has been particularly careful and enabled the security feature, this very simple protocol can be extremely useful. Of course, many projectors also have web interfaces, but these are often clunky and buggy and best avoided, and the less said about proprietary systems such as Crestron RoomView, the better.

I speak here as someone looking after a fleet of 30-ish mainly Panasonic projectors that are all started and stopped automatically each day.

M.

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Microsoft drives an Edge between Adobe and the web: Flash ads blocked

Martin an gof
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Re: BBC

Two things really - really - annoy me about the BBC News website:

1: the "breaking news" pop-up that can't be prevented from popping up at the foot of every tab that happens to be open

2: the "autoplay next video" feature that can't be permanently disabled

M.

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Field technicians want to grab my tool and probe my things

Martin an gof
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Re: Printer ink

have you seen the price of that ink?

They are not really printers designed for domestic use, though I do have one at home ;-)

The ink is entirely comparable, print-per-print, with domestic inkjet and laser toner prices, though the latter have come down quite a lot in the last few years. Doesn't mean it's not stupidly expensive, but it is no more stupidly expensive than the other options.

Yes, the ink has to be kept warm even in standby. It's a lot more than the <1W standby of a typical inkjet, but it's not a huge, vast figure on my model. I did measure it once, can't remember the figure offhand, but IIRC it averaged something under 50W, though this was very "spiky".

M.

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Martin an gof
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Printer ink

I’ve always hated the way printers force me to replace toner and ink cartridges that aren’t quite depleted

I'll just put a word in here for the Xerox solid ink Phaser printers. They do have their own downsides, but the little wax crayons come in tiny plastic yoghurt pots and can be added any time, even in the middle of a print run.

Solid Ink

M.

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Brits rattle tin for 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

Martin an gof
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Re: Scam

Yet another magic car scam being foistered on the taxpayer and public

What no-one seems to have pointed out, neither to this article nor to the previous one (nor indeed to the politicians involved in helping) is that this company has been pushing this car for quite some time. As for being "Wales-based", they are probably only here because they managed to get some kind of grant to move from Ludlow, where they were just as enthusiastic about the project seven years ago, then again six years ago, then announcing their first order, which was probably cancelled because soon afterwards they announced a trial.

The move to Wales happened almost a year ago, oiled with a £3.5m grant.

A mate of mine works for a company that designs and builds the sort of in-wheel motors this car is said to use. The motors bring almost as many problems (unsprung mass) as they solve (fewer transmission components) and he wasn't actually aware of Riversimple when I asked him about the project back in February.

Don't get me wrong; I think fuel-cells are a great idea, and the thing about marrying them to supercapacitors seems to solve the fixed-power-output problem, but other - more established manufacturers are already looking at the technology, with much pore practical and pretty designs. James May drove one, as did Vicki Butlet-Henderson.

If you want something really weird from Wales, how about the Mouse Car which once achieved over 500mpg from a Diesel engine. It's on show at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

M.

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Apple Fools: Times the House of Jobs went horribly awry

Martin an gof
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I still miss !Pluto for email

Always been a Messenger shop, mine. In fact I have the server version, which serves email to all the other computers in the house... though Claws (the preferred client on Raspbian) doesn't talk nicely to Messenger, and while Thunderbird worked fine on the other Linux machine (I now use Kmail), on the Mac it sometimes fails to open mails with attachments.

That said, a 200MHz StongARM with 80MB RAM isn't the world's fastest email server, and it does find it difficult to cope with larger email attachments, so my next step is probably going to be migrating the function either to another Pi, or possibly to a jail on my FreeNAS box.

Never let it be said that I'm an impulsive sort ;-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Way to go Acorn, we miss ya!

My RiscPC is still in daily use, albeit almost exclusively for email and the occasional use of Impression. I'm about to start looking seriously at RiscOS on the Pi, too, for various reasons...

By the way, have you all seen this post by ARM? The image at the bottom of the page is rather beautiful.

M.

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Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

Martin an gof
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Re: Optical mouse mat

At my polytechnic they used to keep the optical mouse mats locked away in a cupboard because they were pretty reasonable mats for ordinary mice too and used to go missing(*). These were on (IIRC) bog standard '286 machines running some kind of CAD software though, not Sun workstations, and the mice would not work without the mats.

The Poly as a whole was VAX / VT220 with a very small number of Apollo workstations for the graphics stuff. From memory the engineering department had one room of original PCs (8086) for general use, one room of XTs for teaching, the aforementioned room of 286es (all running DOS) and all other work was expected to be done on the flock of VAXen via the terminals and printed out on the line printer. Special forms had to be signed in order to use the laser printer...

M.

(*)Not guilty. At the time I was running RiscOS at home on an Archimedes, which was light years ahead of the PCs in the usability stakes. Around that time I also bought my own laser printer. My traditional mouse ran very nicely on a 3M "precise mousing surface" mat which seemed to have a surface made from teeny translucent pyramids, meaning that not only was it quite "grippy" on the ball, but it tended to clean the ball as you worked. Every now and then a quick wipe-down of the surface ensured continued pleasant mousing.

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When Steve Jobs was away, Apple's designers snuck out a penis-shaped remote control

Martin an gof
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Re: One of the things that doomed Kodak..

I'll give you Disc and APS (though the latter wasn't exclusively Kodak I believe?) but PhotoCD certainly filled a niche. Disc was an abomination but APS might have had a chance if it had been invented ten years earlier.

As for PhotoCD, at a time when digital publishing was beginning to be within reach of the many rather than the few, digital cameras didn't really exist and film scanners were somewhat expensive, getting photos at a half decent quality in a digital format was tricky for those on a low-ish budget.

At (IIRC) something like £5 for the disc and 40p per frame, PhotoCD returned your positives or negatives within a fortnight, professionally cleaned and scanned at a range of resolutions perfectly suited to desktop publishing (top end was 6Mpix?). Each disc held around 100 images (99?) and was "multisession" so you could add to it over time. Yes, CD drives in computers were still fairly expensive, but they had additional uses that made them a good investment and very quickly dropped in price. Overall for small run magazines, self-employed designers etc., PhotoCD worked well.

An additional benefit was the ability to have over 600MB of digital images available "on the shelf" and not taking up space on your HDD (or Zip / SyQuest / whatever) at a time when gigabyte capacity HDDs were only just beginning to become affordable.

I had two PhotoCDs myself and their images (ImageMagick will read them) still compare very favourably to those from my digital SLR (my 35mm camera was an Olympus OM1n). They compare even better with my self-scanned images, probably mainly due to the way the lab was able to prepare the originals before scanning.

I have only two PhotoCDs because processing labs started offering to scan films as they were processed for only £1 or £2 extra. I used the Jessops service mainly, but the scans were only (again, IIRC) 3 or 4Mpix and JPEG compressed. Perfectly sufficient for my then and subsequent uses, but probably wouldn't have suited more professional users. I never tried the Kodak PhotoDisk system - a whole film of images on a single floppy disc.

And that was the end of PhotoCD. It was good while it lasted, but it only lasted a few years, technology moved on and Kodak didn't keep up. I held out for a while, continuing to use film, but eventually bought my digital SLR in 2009.

Back in 1996 / 1997 I created a website using those images from PhotoCD. The thing was hand-crafted on an Acorn RiscPC using Acorn's PhotoCD reading software, Creator, Translator or ChangeFSI to produce JPEGs and Edit or StrongEd for the HTML. It was hosted by Demon, and disappeared when I moved ISPs, but the Wayback Machine managed to grab a copy:

Please don't laugh!

M.

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Elon Musk takes wraps off planet-saving Model 3 vapourmobile

Martin an gof
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Re: @Martin

I could (at non-trivial cost) get a dedicated 16A socket installed at home

Speaking as a former self-employed domestic electrician, it shouldn't cost a vast amount of money to install a 16A "commando" style socket. I believe these cars don't need any intelligence in the socket, so a bog standard socket with switch should do. Just about every domestic installation in the UK and probably Europe (not making any assumption about your location) should have capacity for an additional 16A circuit without any problem. In the UK (I really don't know about Europe) most installations should have capacity for an additional 32A circuit.

You know, this sort or this sort of socket.

On the subject of the UK, our "3 pin" sockets are rated 13A, not 10A and can therefore supply around 3kW without problem.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Gotta start somewhere

I saw a guy at our local recycling dump taking bottles out of the 'bonnet' of a funny looking Jag, I realised it was a Tesla S

We have seen a couple of Teslas at the charging point we host at my place of work. We see more Leafs, to be fair, but a good point was made early on in this discussion; leaving aside "range extended" cars, Tesla is the only company that is offering a 200+ mile (quoted) range, and I think it is this that will be the turning point. Once a car is in the £20,000-ish bracket, it starts to become affordable for many people, but when the quoted range is a mere 100 miles (I think the Leaf is 120 miles at the moment?*), "range anxiety" becomes a big issue, as does the fact that you simply can't take such a car on holiday.

My daily commute is a round trip of about 90 miles, and I know people who travel much further. No, it is not viable by rail nor bus. A "120 mile" car seems to have a real-world range of perhaps as low as half that, on the motorway in the winter with the lights on, the wipers on and the heaters demisting. Yes, it would probably get me to work, but as we only have two charging points I couldn't guarantee being able to charge up before coming home. A "200 mile" car would probably do the trick.

200 miles would also allow me to travel to visit family 150 miles away in one hop. With a 120-mile car the options are:

  • start very early in the morning and allow a minimum 4-hour stop for recharging
  • travel half way then stay somewhere overnight to recharge (hotel prices)
  • use a hire car (kinda defeats the object)
  • keep a second car(**)

M.

(*)Just looked it up, 120 miles with the standard battery, 155 miles with an optional bigger battery. Doesn't change my conclusions significantly though. Oh, and the 4-hour wait is to charge the standard battery using the optional "fast" charger. The standard charger takes twice as long.

(**)Actually we are a two-car household already, but they are two small cars and when we travel as a family we have to take both cars; we worked out quite early on that it wasn't actually much more expensive to take two small cars than one larger car, and for the 95% of the time when we don't need all those seats in one car, the larger car was a waste. So if I were to buy a 120-mile EV, we would also have to swap out the second, small, hydrocarbon-powered car for a bigger one.

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Martin an gof
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Gridwatch

in the UK, you are using about 8% coal, 20% nuclear, 45% gas and 10% wind and then a combination of Pumped storage, hydro, biomass, solar and some imported electricity

Just in case people here haven't met it:

Gridwatch.

M.

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