* Posts by Martin an gof

386 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Dutch bicycle company pretends to be television company

Martin an gof
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WTF?

Re: Doesn’t always work

Sometimes the parcel can't be delivered "because nobody was home"

Last week I genuinely wasn't at home. Parcel from CPC arrived a day or two earlier than expected but I had managed to squeeze "can be left with any neighbour" into that pathetically small "instructions for courier" box they sometimes (not always) give you.

Arrived home to find a UPS card on the doormat with a number "5" scrawled next to the bit that says "pick up at our depot after this time", but none of the tick-boxes was actually ticked to confirm that's what the courier intended. We are number 5, so had he actually left it in the shed or the greenhouse?

No.

Had he left it at number 4 or number 6?

No.

Went online to check and it was adamant that it had been delivered. "Proof" consisted of the single word, "OLIVER".

Who is Oliver? The delivery driver? Certainly no Oliver at number 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 or 9 neither forenames nor surnames (we're friendly with the whole street - it's a tiny place like that). Not sure about number 1 but pretty certain they're not Oliver...

...time to fetch the children from the school bus. On the way back, shout from behind the hedge of number 8 - "I have a parcel for you".

Would you believe that we didn't know our neighbour in number 8's surname was Oliver?

And why did he write "5" in the "collect after" box, instead of ticking the "I've left it with your neighbour" box and writing "8"?

Better than APC though - they flat out refuse to leave with neighbours and take the things back to their depot behind two levels of high security fencing about a 40 minute drive away. It's like trying to get airside at an airport (I'd imagine).

The postman tends to leave things in the recycling bin.

M.

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Heathrow airport and stock exchange throw mystery BSODs

Martin an gof
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Re: En route from CAI to NCL

When I worked at Magna in Rotherham (I started about six weeks after it opened and everything broke on the opening day), most of the machines were Win ME (IIRC), but we did have a single Acorn RiscPC doing an image recognition task - it used a video image and looked for strips of reflective tape on hard hats worn by visitors, counting them.

The thing just kept on working. Never stopped. Apart from having "a fiddle" (as you do) I never had to undertake any maintenance on this machine in my 20-odd months working at the place.

That part of Magna was flooded a little while after I left and I know that this part of the place - in the basement - had to be completely refurbished. I wonder if the Acorn is still in use?

M.

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Pull the plug! PowerPoint may kill my conference audience

Martin an gof
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Re: This is why....

I've often wondered whether, after a series of such presentations it would be more effective for the presenter to stand behind the lectern and look authoritative.

...and benefit from the built-in microphone, which actually means they can be heard at the back of the hall. I've met more than one speaker who doesn't understand that their voice simply doesn't carry well, however loudly they think they are speaking. These types often refuse to wear the proffered tie-clip radio microphone, so microphones on the lectern are a godsend, especially if you have hearing-impaired users who are relying either on clear audio or on an induction loop / infra red / RF system.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Amateurs

Switching laptops is just asking for trouble.

Especially if Apple - why the heck do they keep changing the connector(*)?

And all brands and OSes are guilty of pure dim-witted inability to "see" the projector sometimes. I have had Windows, OSX and Linux machines all fail to find the projector, whatever port it's plugged into, or see it but misconfigure it so you get 800x600 in the middle of a 1920x1200 projection with no way to change it until you reboot the blasted laptop and often reboot the projector as well.

It used to be the case that the sure-fire way to make it work was to make sure the projector (or second monitor or whatever) was always turned on before the computer, but even that doesn't always work now.

And then there's Powerpoint's recently discovered religious zeal for "presenter mode" which completely foxes some people who've only ever used a single screen previously and sometimes decides that the "presenter" screen is the projector, with the laptop as the screen for slides.

Oh, and the people who bring Keynote slides expecting them to work on Windows.

M.

(*)Slightly different, but was setting up for a big university event a couple of weeks ago. Most people (lots of "stalls" in our main hall) were happy without a network connection, or using our WiFi, which doesn't really work well if more than 20 devices try to connect. One group "needed" a solid connection, so I plugged through a wire direct to the back of the WiFi system. "Oh, but we need two.", "Ok, I'll just sort out a small switch"... only to find that the Windows laptop they've brought is quite happy, but the other laptop is a MacBook Air and comes without a network socket. I can't repeat what I (nearly) said to the girl who blamed me for providing "the wrong sort of plug".

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Martin an gof
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My phone uses more battery during the day than my old one did.

Have you tried turning it off and on again? I have found that some apps don't seem to sleep or exit cleanly and can sit there just drinking juice without performing any useful function. Rebooting clears everything out, until the next time you need to use the app...

M.

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Radar missile decoys will draw enemy missiles away from RAF jets

Martin an gof
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Coat

Re: Security by melting?

And how many will inexplicably land on Holiday Cottages?

Don't need help with that...

Ta ta, tai ha'

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Martin an gof
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Re: Security by melting?

I imagine the Welsh will be delighted to have incendiary bombs falling on them

I've seen plenty of low-flying aircraft dodging in and around the hills and valleys (there are several places where you can be walking a ridgeway and have fast jets flying below you in the valley) but never seen one actually firing anything. I believe they keep that sort of shenanigans out to sea in this country, or go abroad to use dedicated ranges (as mentioned in the article).

Here's an old map (pdf).

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Security by melting?

Re: "the ground" - don't flares and the like generally come down under parachute to maximise time in the air confusing things?

M.

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Two Sundays wrecked by boss who couldn't use a calendar

Martin an gof
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Re: At least make sure your contract include TOIL

So you're saying you would rather prostitute yourself, rather than some else who's willing?

No, I am saying that while there are willing people out there, there is no pressure on employers to change their practices. You may have very little leverage in your current job and have to put up with it. That does not mean you shouldn't be out there looking for a better job, but neither does it mean you have to walk away from such a job if you don't have something else already lined up. Some of us have mortgages and families (and other stuff) to support.

It is particularly likely to happen to young or inexperienced people, and the only way permanently out of such a situation is to get yourself into a position where you do have vital and (preferably) unique skills that the employer would struggle to replace.

That is not to condone employers who take advantage of willing people. To take an extreme example I have a particular hatred of the unpaid "internship" arrangements common among some employers, feel they should be outlawed, and am surprised that they aren't already.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: At least make sure your contract include TOIL

The "inventions" clause is almost ubiquitous, at least the "while on company time" one. I don't think many would have a problem with that one - after all, that's what you are employed to do. I personally have never come across a similar clause covering things you do outside working hours but if I did I'd want to do something about it.

similarly around "you may be required....outside of these hours" pay me or i dont work for you, its very simple

Define "pay". Rarely does such a clause come with nothing but it often comes with a very low level of pay, or an impossible-to-cash "payment" such as Time Off In Lieu.

The problem is that if you won't do it, someone else will. Unless you have unquestionably vital or unique skills, or can persuade your employers that you do, it is very easy simply not to renew a contract at the end of the "probation" period - which is often as long as a year - and employ a recent graduate who has very nearly the same skill set but is desperate to get a "proper" job to add to his/her CV, is probably single and child-free so much more flexible regarding working hours, holiday and the like and will put in the extra effort for little reward that you can't or won't.

We've all been there. Think back to your first "proper" job...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: At least make sure your contract include TOIL

answer the phone and you will be online within 5 minutes etc

In the days before mass mobile phones I worked for a radio station which was based in a city centre. I was expected to fix anything and everything vaguely "technical" (and a lot more besides) on premises, at any hour of the day or night yet I was almost the lowest-paid employee, just above the cleaner and the "roadie". I couldn't afford a mobile 'phone, but had to be within ten minutes of a phone whenever on call (which sort of ruined dog walks) and within 45 minutes of the radio station which was tight, considering how far out of town I had to live in order to afford a place on my salary.

On the whole however, I did enjoy the job. Call-outs weren't all that often and my boss was a bit of a hoot. The worst part was some (by no means all) of the "on air" talent, who would get all shirty if you didn't ring in as soon as they'd put the phone down to the pager company, and who often refused to perform simple remedial tasks which would have sorted the problem - even if only temporarily - and enabled them to get on with things while I travelled in to sort out the root cause.

Most common was refusing to switch to the "spare" studio despite failing equipment making working in the "main" studio very difficult. The studios were within about three or four footsteps of each other, but the swap-over procedure involved an "offer, accept, release" procedure that was easy with two people, but meant moving a couple of times between studios if there was no-one else available. Their biggest complaint however was "but it means putting all my records back in my boxes and moving them!"

Made a point once. A couple of years into the job I had had a bit of a salary increase and managed to save up enough for a mobile phone. One weekend I was up a local mountain with the dog and my parents when the pager went off. The problem was easily worked-around by moving a pair of jack plugs in the patch panel just behind where the presenter in question was sitting, but he flat out refused to do so, so I bundled mum and dad and the dog into the car, trundled down to the studio, and took the dog in with me, who proceded to snuffle around the presenter's legs while I swapped the jacks, fixed the root cause (which could easily have been left until Monday) and swapped the jacks back.

Didn't seem to bother the presenter...

...and as for the number of times I was called in for the likes of "yes, the printer is definitely 'on line'"...

When I left the company (to do a post-grad course on something unrelated) they didn't replace me. My boss left soon afterwards, and they found getting a replacement very difficult. For several months I found myself on a "retainer" to the radio station which was only a little lower than my original salary, with call-outs on top at twice my previous hourly rate. They'll only pay what you are worth when they realise what you are worth.

M.

Oh, and my replacement lasted a year, after which the radio station moved premises (so all new kit) and did away with technical staff altogether, coming to a call-out-only arrangement with another radio station some 60 minutes drive away, though as the record players and cart machines were gone as were most of the CD players, with networked computers playing out most content, a lot of fixing could now be done on-line. Nobody is irreplaceable.

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Rise of the Machines at Sea: The British firm building robot boats

Martin an gof
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Happy

Flightradar24

...are using an autonomous robot boat to track aircraft where land-based receivers can't.

See here for more info

M.

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Great British Great Bake Off gets new judge

Martin an gof
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Re: Sad Times

Goodies: we have the DVDs. Some spark definitely went missing in the move to ITV, and it might have been one of the factors contributing to the existing series never being repeated, while the contemporary Monty Python was seemingly never off the screens.

With the benefit of hindsight, MP was definitely more "modern" but both have preserved well. I'd contend that The Goodies was much more consistent, while MP suffered from too many poor in-fill sketches between the comedy diamonds.

Also probably tainted by the fact that my parents in the 1970s let me watch the Goodies, but turned the telly off for Monty Python.

M.

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Delete Google Maps? Go ahead, says Google, we'll still track you

Martin an gof
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Re: What's the problem really?

And no, I don't turn on GPS/location when using Google Maps unless I need GPS, which I rarely do

And to be even safer, get rid of GoogleMaps and install OpenStreetMap instead. It's not at all bad these days.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: GPS? We don't need no stinking GPS!

While you can't turn the radio off that allows the making and receiving of phone calls you can, without affecting the utility of a telephone terribly much, turn off WiFi (which you probably should do when not at home anyway), turn off Bluetooth (unless you are actively using it), turn off data (ditto) and, of course, turn off GPS. These save both battery (WiFi, data and GPS are big battery hogs, Bluetooth less so), probably some money (Android can have a certain background level of data use which might affect your data allowance) and will certainly make it harder for Google to find your precise location.

When you need to use the things, all it takes is a quick swipe and a tap to turn them on. Turning them off can be harder (particularly Location Services, which always seems to need a reboot to be certain it's off) but it really is worth it.

I would rather have a phone with 90% battery left at the end of the day, meaning that I can call home and ask them to put my dinner in the oven, than a phone with 10% battery left at the end of the day because it has been logging me as confined to the environs of my office for the previous seven hours - and struggling to do so (i.e. using oddles of battery) because both data and GPS signals are weak, and wondering whether it's worth making that phonecall or whether I should save that charge just in case I need to make an emergency call during my 75 minute journey home.

M.

Of course I have standby chargers. The phone will charge from 10% to 90%+ in the car during my journey. Making a point, don'tcha know?

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Martin an gof
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Re: Do no evil

They've just added a bit to it:

cf: Four legs good, two legs bad / better

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: You can turn it off...

and then it has a snit fit and refuses to work

So get shot of it and use a different app store such as f-droid.

By getting rid of a load of non-essential Google stuff (well, it looked non-essential to me, and the phone still runs just fine), I managed to make my original MotoG last up to 10 days between charges. Now that it's running Cyanogenmod it's even easier. Obviously if I turn GPS on it starts munching power...

Oddly, if I'm using OSMTracker with GPS, then finish and turn GPS off, battery use stays high, but a reboot sorts that :-)

M.

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Ad flog Plus: Adblock Plus now an advertising network, takes cash to broker web banners

Martin an gof
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Flame

Pintrest nag you into signing up, even if you leap in via a search you get a 25% shade on the screen demanding you log in, which then covers 100% as you scroll down

I came across this a couple of times recently with Facebook. I don't use Facebook, I don't have a log-in and yet it is assumed that I do. I was looking for information about a couple of performers (musicians) and the messages I got were effectively "go to my Facebook page for more information".

No bloomin' good if FB blocks the content with a big white rectangle asking me to log in!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Harrumpf

Steven Roper: Upvoted for eloquently mirroring my frustrations, but:

Since there's no real malware for Linux [...] I can safely browse the web with javascript on

Nah, wouldn't do that even so.

To be honest I've never used AB+; my desktop browsers have NoScript and Ghostery and on the phone I use Opera in proxy mode (or whatever it's called) which not only saves my meagre data allowance but also seems to filter out the worst offenders. Its main downside is that the BBC news site thinks you are an "international" visitor.

There is almost always a combination of script allows that makes a website work without letting it load unnecessary cruft or track you every time you pick your nose. A new website may take a few minutes to sort out, and maybe a couple of visits to get just right, but if the content is worth it, so is the effort. These are the sites that get permanent unblocks. If the content isn't worth it, blocks are re-instated and I move somewhere else.

I don't mind seeing the occasional non-intrusive advert. Disallowing Javascript blocks the worst offenders while often letting the quieter ones through. It also had the side benefit of blocking Flash by default, in the days before Firefox decided to do that anyway.

M.

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

Martin an gof
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Re: Machine Operating System

Another option would have been the cartridge one could put next to a Beeb's keyboard, but that would require the speech option upgrade

IIRC, that was solely designed to add "PHROMs" - Phrase ROMs for the speech chip. (Kenneth Kendal!) They were serial ROMs I think? The most common thing to see in that slot was a 28 pin DIL ZIF socket, connected by a ribbon cable to a 28 pin header plugged into one of the ROM sockets on the board. This allowed you to swap ROMs about without taking the lid off the machine, though of course you did have to remember to switch it off first.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Machine Operating System

deciphering the latest "funky format" used by a game developer

My "big win" on that front was Revs. Not so that I could make bootleg copies mind you, but so that I could change the names of all the drivers to those of schoolmates, and faff about with the gear settings to make the car go faster :-) Working from the "backup" also meant that the original was kept safely in its case.

I went on to write a disc sector editor as part of my A-level Computer Science coursework...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Machine Operating System

Probably not a Master or Master Compact because they came with ADFS).

But they didn't say "Acorn MOS", they said "BBC Microcomputer 32k" or somesuch. It was the Master and the Master Compact wot said "Acorn MOS". The Master came with both ADFS and DFS and could be set to use either (or cassette or net) as the default file system.

The BEEB *ALWAYS* booted from ROM,

(also to the other poster), yes, I'm aware of that. I didn't mean the OS, I meant the application software.

The first message ("Acorn MOS") implies that the OS ROM has started correctly. The second message implies that the DFS has started correctly and is looking for a floppy disc. Not knowing anything at all about the system, however, I was suggesting that any sensible person wouldn't have designed the thing to load its application software from a floppy disc. This was before seeing Vinyl's post about updating the systems via floppy. A sensible design would (I would have thought) have involved software permanently installed in a ROM(*), and a serial link to some central server for timetable information - this would also have enabled the thing to take account of delays or cancellations. To make the thing semi-autonomous in the case of a failure of the serial link, "live" data could have been cached in EEPROM or battery-backed RAM; again, such add-ons were available for the BBC Micro, and IIRC the Master had 2x16k of EEPROM as standard.

The Master also had a real-time clock, which I would have thought would have been vital. Again, add-on boards were available for the Micro.

Even back then, floppies were known to be unreliable (and some brands of disc drive for the Micro would permanently corrupt a floppy if the power was removed at the wrong time) so why anyone would design a system to keep one constantly spinning 24/7 I don't know.

M.

(*)For non Acorn-fans, this was a common thing for Acorn's 6502 line. An unexpanded BBC Micro had physical space for (IIRC) four 16k "sideways ROMs" and OS support for up to 16. BASIC already occupied one of the slots, and if a disc drive was fitted the DFS occupied another, but expansion boards to allow the full range were commonly available. Software was often distributed in such a manner, making it instantly available on switch-on. The BBC Master actually came with some application software already installed "in ROM" - a word processor, spreadsheet, terminal program and text editor if I remember correctly (probably don't - I never had a Master, but I did have (still do have) a fairly heavily-expanded BBC Micro).

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Martin an gof
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Re: BBC Master

1770 DFS was also an option on the Master, for compatibility's sake.

The original BBC Micro's official disc interface used an 8271 chip; while I believe some third party options were available with the 1770 or 1772 chip for the Micro, the Master used a 1770 chip as standard. Apparently the 8271 was already EOL when they specified it for the Micro, but the 1770 had the advantage of allowing "double density" recording, and also being compatible with the format used by the 8271.

The BBC Master therefore had both "1770 DFS"; single-density, compatible with discs created by and for the BBC Micro and "1770 ADFS", which was double-density. Disc capacities ranged from 100k (40track, single-sided, single density) to 640k (80 track, double-sided, "double" density). The main limiting factor for the single-density discs was a 31-entry single catalogue; i.e. there were no (real) directories, and a maximum of 31 files per side of disc, even if there was spare storage on the thing. Third parties had various ways of solving this (e.g. my Watford Electronics DFS allocated two additional disc sectors to allow 62 files per disc, but was otherwise 100% Acorn DFS compatible).

ADFS brought subdirectories and additional catalogue space.

The Archimedes used (I think) the same 1770 (or 1772?) chip, but fiddled with the format to allow 800k per disc. By default the Archimedes couldn't read DFS discs, but third party tools were available. Archimedes users used to crow that this was a good deal better than the PC at the time, for which the standard format was 720k. We conveniently ignored Amiga users who used some clever speed tricks (I believe) to squeeze 880k onto the same discs.

My Archimedes and BBC Micros are still in the attic and the last time I got them out (couple of years back) they did work, though both had some keyboard problems (dead keys).

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Machine Operating System

a photo of the fairly regular Acorn screens I used to see at railway stations

Yeah, but for that truly nostalgic feeling it needs to be on an amber-phosphor monitor with so much burn-in that you can read the most frequent destinations even when the monitor is switched off.

On a boring and slightly serious note, these things first started appearing in the early 1980s IIRC and were, I think, a thoroughly sensible solution to the problem mainly because they used teletext (MODE 7) which gave incredibly clear, easy-to-read text (by the standards of the day) and was extremely efficient in terms of data; an entire 40x32 teletext screen took about 1.2kB and so was perfectly suited to updates over slow (by modern standards) serial links.

Assuming that nobody would have been so stupid as to expect such a system to boot from floppy, I wonder if what has happened is simply that the AA cell keeping the CMOS memory alive has failed, so instead of booting from the ROM that it undoubtedly should have, it was looking for a non-existent disc?

M.

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

Martin an gof
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Strangely, all the info I've had is that the immersion is cheaper...

Check your bills. Last time I looked (UK), electricity was somewhere between three and four times the price of gas per kWh.

Your boiler can put more energy into the water in the cylinder more quickly than an immersion heater; the latter is usually 3kW while even an old back boiler could potentially output 12 or 15kW. A modern boiler can usually supply more than that, with a typical "system" boiler capable of 25 or 30kW.

Several factors in play here:

  • the boiler coil may not be able to handle all the heat the boiler can supply, though even a standard coil should manage more than 3kW - the normally-quoted "recovery time" (time to re-heat the cylinder from cold) is around 30 mintues. A "fast recovery" coil will handle more, and heat quicker.
  • An immersion heater (as usually installed in an otherwise gas-heated system) heats only the top 1/3rd or so of the cylinder (maybe a half), and the water underneath will remain cold, while the boiler coil is right at the bottom and heats the whole lot. Not sure if this link will work, but here's a picture.
  • Your coil may be furred-up if you have hard water, or haven't maintained proper levels of inhibitor in the boiler water - how well do your radiators work?
  • This is the big one: they are controlled by separate thermostats. The immersion heater has a built-in thermostat that is usually factory-set to 60C, with a safety cutout thermostat set to 80C (I think). If the water heated by the immersion is scaldingly hot it may be that the main thermostat has failed, and you are heating water to 80C on the safety 'stat.
  • The boiler will be controlled (usually) by two thermostats. The first sets the temperature of the water leaving the boiler, and is usually set to around 80C, which is the temperature at which the recovery time (and a radiator's output) is calculated. There is also a thermostat strapped on to the outside of the tank (more modern tanks have these inserted into the tank). This should be set to 60C because that is considered a "safe" temperature to avoid bacterial growth and not too dangerous if you happen to hold your hands under the tap. However, strap-on thermostats are exposed and vulnerable and (depending on design) can be knocked off-temperature quite easily.

So it's possible that the cylinder thermostat controlling the boiler could be set to (say) 50C, against the 60C of the immersion. It's also possible that the flow temperature from the boiler is set low for some reason - this is unlikely, but possible. Obviously, if the boiler is set to (say) 50C, it won't be able to heat the cylinder beyond that, however high the cylinder 'stat is set, and as the cylinder approaches 50C the rate of heat transfer will slow down.

Does this help?

Point 1 - gas is about a quarter the price of electricity per kWh

Point 2 - the boiler is heating the whole cylinder, while the immersion is only heating a third or so

Point 3 - there are at least two separate controlling thermostats, and they may not be set the same

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Massively beneficial ...

I discovered that the last electrical upgrade to the house used two cables in parallel between the meter and the fusebox - presumably as they are more flexible. The free induction probe for remote readings could only measure the current through one cable

Assuming you are in the UK, this is normal. They are what is known as "singles"; one is "live" and the other "neutral". You only measure what is in the "live" wire. (Electricians have different names for these). How do you tell the two apart? The live comes via the main fuse, the neutral is a direct connection.

The current in both wires is (unless there's a fault) exactly the same.

some low power switching psu "blobs" as having no consumption - presumably owing to the power factor.

Or the fact that even the plug-in types have a certain error and a certain minimum they can measure reliably? If an item is only drawing 1 or 2 W (and a phone charger plugged in but not charging a phone will probably draw a lot less than that) it simply might not register. All the plug-in monitors I've seen actually take account of PF and offer you "Watts" (assumes resistive, hence PF=1) and "Volt-Amps" (takes account of PF) as separate readings.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

They have been my worst. CFLs have cost me an order of magnitude more. Haven't had one last longer than about 9 months

I have had a few fail early, but the majority of CFLs I've had have lasted at least as long as the incandescents they replaced. I know this because I write on the lamp the date of installation. One lamp used in the hall (so was on quite a lot) survived three house moves and about 15 years of use, if I remember correctly.

Let's not get into the argument about illunimation "quality" or speed of startup.

CFLs are quite cheap now, even the "good" brands. Don't buy Asda or B&Q own-brand (B&Q don't sell anything except own-brand these days) - pop over to TLC or even Screwfix and buy a Sylvania or Philips or Osram.

LEDs I'm a bit more ambivalent about. They are maturing at an incredible pace, but they still have a little way to go. For example, I recently needed to replace an R63 lamp (reflector) at my mum's - the original was 60W and there's a 45W Halogen available that is acceptable (it's a similar brightness and colour) but has a lifespan of under 2,000 hours (by experience). The LED equivalents I found were all about 5W and noticeably dimmer than the lamp to be replaced. Experience at work is also that they don't last as long as it says on the packet, but mainly due to their power supplies failing rather than the LEDs themselves burning out. Oh, and LEDs also reduce in brightness over their lifespan.

To get the most out of low-energy lighting, you really need to start from scratch and design the lighting installation with the foibles of the new technologies in mind. Unfortunately this isn't always practical, as in the case of mum's R63.

That said, I have an old DIY book from the 1920s (IIRC) and in the part where it is discussing the installation of electric lighting it states that a 25W standard or table lamp would be perfectly adequate as a reading lamp. By modern standards, and considering that incandescents were even less efficient back then than they are now, that's a pretty dim reading lamp!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Boffin

a) all my lighting is LED, and I still switch it off when I leave the room (hopefully not contributing to deterioration of lifetime of the LEDs)

It's not the LEDs you have to worry about - it's the power supplies crammed into tiny spaces. We have hundreds of the things at work and it's almost guaranteed that the PSU will give out way before the LED itself, and it's pot luck whether any particular lamp lasts longer left on, or turned off when not needed.

I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on [WiFi]

Assuming an access point rated at 25W, if you switch it off between (say) midnight and 8am you will save 8*25W = 200Wh (0.2kWh) of electricity, i.e. two tenths of a "unit". If you pay 15p per unit, that's a total saving of 3p per night. In reality 25W is likely to be a maximum; in-use average will be lower, and overnight when it's quiet average consumption may be a half that. YMMV of course.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Boffin

I have a look what's been left on and turn it off. I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard

  • You have gas heating. Use it, it's cheaper, and probably quicker at heating the water too
  • Immersions have thermostats. Make sure yours is set correctly and when the cylinder is up to temperature it will turn itself off, just coming on now and then to make up for losses. If your immersion doesn't have its own 'stat, one can probably be added, or a new immersion with a thermostat is hardly expensive
  • Make sure the cylinder is lagged properly to reduce the standing losses
  • Fit a boost switch instead of a simple switch. If you need to use the immersion, this will turn it off automatically after a set time

I'd pretty much guarantee that the above will save more money more easily than the offchance that you spot the thing is on when it shouldn't be from a little display on the mantlepiece

M.

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Printers now the least-secure things on the internet

Martin an gof
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Re: Great product idea?

It's not "my idea". I was trying to say that many of the routers that people already have are capable of blocking this sort of thing. Not every router is a surveillance station for the Chinese secret service. I gave the example of Draytek as selling routers that have good reputations, but I admit they are more expensive than some. I also mentioned a much cheaper router that I have used that also has many of the same facilities.

What neither of these options has is the ability, automatically (i.e. with no or with minimal user intervention), to identify what should and what shouldn't be allowed access. How could you do it? Look up who owns the range of MAC addresses and allow Asus or Gigabyte through, but not Beko or Bosch? How do you deal with a company such as LG that makes both devices you probably would like to access the internet - mobile phones and smart TVs - and devices you wouldn't - washing machines?

And the other key thing that is missing is some kind of accreditation for routers where an independent company audits the devices for the ability to do what they should do, and nothing more. Best of luck getting that off the ground :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Great product idea?

Perhaps someone could design a not-sohopeless router that blocks Internet access by default and allows only the computer, phone and specific, designated appliances to get out?

But this is already possible with most half-decent routers. The trick is making it the default, and making it easy to use for non-technical types. This is very difficult.

My router has Bonjour and uPnP turned off, so devices can't tunnel, and although I haven't set it up, it has rules which allow me to block specific MAC addresses from, or only allow specific MAC addresses access to the "outside".

But this presupposes you have a reliable router, not one that has firmware that constantly re-enables features you thought you'd disabled. They are expensive, but I've been quite impressed with the few Draytek routers I've used. My previous router was a £12 TP-Link device that wasn't terribly stable, but didn't seem to be snooping or opening backdoors without my knowledge...

M.

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Hollywood offers Daniel Craig $150m to (slash wrists) play James Bond

Martin an gof
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Re: Sigh ...

'M", Vesper were both mentioned but not the "big" hit on his private life

I understood that the Daniel Craig films were essentially a "reboot". They are re-telling stories that have been told before and in some ways they seem to me to be closer to the books. I'm close to saying that DC is my favourite Bond(*).

Being a reboot, everything is wiped, though of course they put some references in to try to keep the fans on side and the carry-over of M is a bit incongruous, though Dame Judy was an excellent M.

In Daniel Craig's continuity therefore, Mrs. Bond hasn't happened.

At least, that's the way I work it out ;-)

M.

(*)Of course the "ultimate" Bond is the one in my head, but I also have three versions of him; first from the Fleming books (some of which were better than others) but also from the Charlie Higson "young Bond" books (not at all bad) and the Anthony Horowitz Alex Rider books. The Fleming books have dated badly, and even re-watching the old films - particularly the Roger Moore ones - with my children is a slightly cringe-worthy experience to modern sensibilities.

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HDMI hooks up with USB-C in cables that reverse, one way

Martin an gof
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Re: No need for dongles?

I think they're using the display port over USB-C

Until now a "USB to display" adapter was effectively a graphics card in a cable.

With this new standard, the graphics hardware stays in the originating device.

Didn't I already say that? Sorry. I'll shut up now.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: No need for dongles?

If I understand correctly, the dongles you can currently buy for USB (various flavours) to HDMI are effectively graphics cards in a cable and need a driver. The idea of this new specification is that the graphics card stays in the originating device so any required drivers are already loaded.

The first type of device is good for adding a second (third, fourth) display to your computer if your computer doesn't already have that number of outputs. The new type of device is best for a: portable devices such as phones and tablets, where loading a driver (or even finding one) is impossible and b: "air" type laptops where the comparatively bulky HDMI port can be removed.

Presumably though, if past performance is anything to go by, this will lead to laptops with very few physical ports, which means that if you want to connect more than one device (what, you want to connect a memory stick and a display, and a receiver for the clicky presenter device?) you'll end up with hubs or port splitters or something which is hardly ideal.

M.

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A plumber with a blowtorch is the enemy of the data centre

Martin an gof
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Re: Fun with Serial lines.

Slightly OT, sorry.

Wired corridor in a Polytechnic for Acorn Econet

Had a room full of Econet at the Poly I attended in the late 1980s(*). Place was mostly VMS but had a few rooms with alternatives in - some XTs, some '286es (optical mice on optical mats!), some Apollos, and a room in the maths department full of Archimedes.

The Econet was in the engineering block, and was used to teach 6809 programming. Acorn buffs may be wondering how, given that the BBC Micro was 6502 and although there were several second-processor units available, the 6809 was not one of them (as far as I'm aware).

The lecturer in question had built his own second processor. Full marks for initiative, but the power supplies in the second processor units were so flaky that if you had to - erm - "hard reset" one of them for any reason, you had to make sure everyone else in the room had saved their work first. I'm not entirely sure how, but resetting a second processor unit would at the very least "take out" the Econet segment (usually meaning that people couldn't reach the file server any more), and would often (presumably via a mains spike) cause other 6809s to freeze.

It wasn't a heavily-used lab, and it paid to get friendly with a technician who could let you in when it wasn't being used so that you had the place to yourself. Not that I ever did.

M.

(*)When said Poly converted to a university after I left, the sign on the nearest dual carriageway read - for a couple of years - "University of Glam". I wish I'd taken a photo.

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Labour's Jeremy Corbyn wants high speed broadband for all. Wow, original idea there

Martin an gof
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Facepalm

Re: Why ?

I did mean GB/s, believe it or not, but I did not realise that these sooper dooper new installations [...] didn't actually go up to those speeds.

As one of those who apparently erroneously assumed that you meant "bits" not "bytes", I'd like to add to the point about 1GByte/s not being available anywhere. Crumbs, there aren't even very many LANs that manage 1GByte/s to the desktop, which (effectively) requires a 10Gbit/s connection. No commodity motherboard (IFAICT) has 10Gbit/s net onboard, and a 10GBit add-in card - which will only achieve its full potential if it can use two or more PCIe v2 lanes (i.e. not a x1 slot) will probably cost more than any other single component other than the processor in a commodity computer.

Those sorts of speeds are often confined to the racks, and there are plenty of offices "out there" which still have 100Mbit/s to the desktop with uplinks from edge switches running at 1Gbit/s.

Add that even in this august publication, "MB" and "Mb" are often confused by commentards (and why not "MiB"?) to the fact you were discussing WAN speeds to the home, and failed to use a "Joke" or "Coat" or "Troll" icon, and you can see why many of us assumed you meant bits, not bytes.

And to return to the point I made, in most cases such speeds simply aren't necessary. I stand by my opinion that an internet connection of 10Mbit/s is perfectly adequate now, and will be acceptable to many people for a few years yet (even if ISDN's 2x64kbit/s isn't), but until everyone has at least 10Mbit/s reliably, public funding should not be used to ratchet up speeds for people who already receive five or ten times that.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: 2008?

not all of that water is delivered at the same pressure, bandwidth, or to the same quality

There are certain minimum standards that potable water has to meet, so barring accidents tap water in the UK is safe to drink wherever you are. Even if you are in Liverpool with stolen Welsh water(*) you can be pretty sure we haven't stuffed too many dead sheep in the reservoir outlets.

It'll taste different around the country depending on where it originates and local choices regarding chorination, fluoridisation (is that a word?) etc, but it is water and it is safe.

Pressure and bandwidth, well yes, but the crucial difference is that if it's really bad you can make adjustments at your end and by installing a tank and (if necessary) a booster pump. You can't do that with t'internet.

M.

(*)Yes, we do have far too much water in Wales for our own needs, but it is still a sore point in parts of Wales. I was looking for a balanced article on the subject, but that mug says it all ;-)

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Martin an gof
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Re: Why ?

The Bitrate alone for 480p would exceed what 1.7 MB/s can deliver (If you're streaming)

Not necessarily. It all depends on the other end.

My son's stills camera takes 720p video in h.264 at 20Mbps or so, but a 720p programme from iPlayer comes in at about 2.3Mbps. SD programmes are around 1.5Mbps. Bitrates over-the-air vary but there are no channels out there broadcasting anywhere near 20Mbps as far as I know. A 2Mbps connection is probably enough for SD, unless your connection is very flaky or the teenager is sending selfies to his/her mates.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Why ?

Just because you don't really use the internet doesn't mean nobody else does.

A bit strong? I'm more on the side of the OP, because even today 2Mb/s down is actually acceptable for most uses. 10Mb/s would be a good baseline figure to aim for, and one that a lot of people in the UK still dream of.

The area I live in is by no means "rural", though it is outside the main population centres locally and ADSL2 struggles to sync much faster than 6Mbps, with throughput rarely higher than 5Mbps and yet, apart from downloading ISOs, we - as a family of six - rarely find that speed limiting.We can stream online content pretty reliably and do all the "digital economy" stuff that modern life demands, though we do try to keep it to a minimum.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't aim for everyone to have much higher speeds, but let's get the basics sorted first, eh? Lucky for those who live in areas where faster speeds are available now, but if we're going to use public money for this sort of thing, let's put it to work where it is needed.

Caveat - my local DP has recently been upgraded so in theory FTTC is now available. I'm in the 80%.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: 2008?

Anyway, at the moment, 53% of the UK is covered by LTE/4G. So yes, in this respect 80% is a great figured compared to what's gone before it. And it's also fair to expect someone living 15 miles outside of Chester could get the level of service those in London get.

You've cited the problem right there. Corbyn's complaining that some parts of Wales can't get one bar, but by all precedent the 20% who won't get the roll-out are precisely those people. You can't solve the 80/20 problem unless you aim for 100% coverage, and there isn't a commercial entity in the country that would do that out of choice, so it ends up being paid for out of taxation.

In a way, that is actually quite similar to the NHS. The "last 20%" are the people who always lose out, unless you stick to basic socialist redistribution of wealth principles - i.e. paying for a service from taxation.

But if you are going to pay a commercial company to install the darned thing in the first place, why not retain ownership of it? Handing over ownership while still paying subsidies (in whatever form) is (IMO) the main mistake made by successive governments since Thatcher started selling off public assets at below their true cost.

A kind of Railtrack for the nation's communications infrastructure. Nationally-owned, but able to call in external (private) contractors when necessary, but crucially, just paying them for the job done.

M.

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Excel hell messes up ~20 per cent of genetic science papers

Martin an gof
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Re: Nice work if you can get it

Maybe 10% of what I do at work creates value, the rest just creates work for other people

You are Scott Adams and I claim my £10:

Dilbert, 14 August 2016

M.

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Martin an gof
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"formatted emails": there's your problem, right there ;)

Well yes. When I originate an email it's plain text, but when replying to an email it's invariably formatted, and getting rid of the formatting can muck up the "history".

You know, I still can't get used to top-posting and the way Outlook mangles / ignores signature separators...

M.

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Martin an gof
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problematic feature of Excel software

Reformatting affects all sorts of software, such that I usually find myself turning off nearly all 'autocorrect' features, just to stop the annoyances of having to re-type stuff. The one that's annoying me at the moment is at work, where Outlook insists on autocorrecting (in formatted emails) our postcode, which ends 3RD, to 3rd

And don't talk about the problems of writing emails with a mixture of langauges - in my case Welsh and English. Best just turn off all correction features.

M.

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A USB stick as a file server? We've done it!

Martin an gof
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Re: Slow campfire

backing up the SD cards from the digital cameras while on-the-go

This is becoming more of a problem, I think. A 1 week holiday we took back in May generated some 54GB of data between four children and two adults - yes there were videos in there too. Ignoring the video camera and the phones, there are six "proper" stills cameras in that mix. One has a 4GB card, four have 8GB cards and one has a 32GB card. The smaller cards, especially if video is taken, can sometimes last only a day or two of holiday, and you don't want the children to be forced to delete things just because they've run out of space (though there are usually some poor photos that can be removed).

These days I tend to take a cheapish laptop on holiday (also good for viewing the pictures in an evening), but have wondered about an independent device in the past. Thing is though that without an intermediary such as a laptop it would need to be able to read SD cards, so this particular stick wouldn't cut it. Might as well store the photos on the laptop. And I don't think this is the problem this USB stick is trying to solve.

It's all a very, very long way from a 10 day holiday I took with my parents back in 1980 - the first time we'd ever been abroad and the only reminder I have of it now are two dozen 110-format slides (bet you didn't know you could get Kodachrome in 110 size). Mum and dad think they didn't take a camera (and I certainly haven't found any photographic evidence that they did, and don't remember any), my sister didn't have a camera and I really must get around to asking my brother if he did. Not exactly a comprehensive record of the holiday, nor top quality.

BUT. I have to say that I do have to keep reminding the children that they won't get the best out of a holiday if they view the whole thing through a lens. I learned that myself when ma & pa bought a decent camera (OM1n - after the above holiday! I still miss that camera) and suddenly I could use it to take really good pictures, but not remember much about the trip.

M.

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Sysadmin sticks finger in pipe, saves data centre from flood

Martin an gof
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Re: location

I can never fathom the mentality of any company which puts their essential electronics/electrical kit in the basement or under the water tanks.

I've searched in vain for the reference now, but I'm certain that when the National Archive opened their new building near the Thames, there was a news story about the fact that they had decided to put all their "infrastructure" - building systems, IT etc - in the basement, below the groundwater level and at risk of flooding, because as far as they were concerned it was sacrificial and nowhere near as important as their physical records which remained firmly above ground. Presumably they had an offsite DR plan for the IT, and who cares if you end up having to mop out a comms room, but trying to extract the Thames from 500 year old unique documents is nigh-on impossible.

That said, at my current place of work, air conditioning units, heating pipework etc, directly above the racks. Who would have thought that a leak would even happen, much less cause problems? Just before I started here they had to deal with just such an event and as a result, the racks in each rack room now have "roofs", sloping to a bit of guttering and piped to... well... somewhere less vulnerable, and fitted with a leak detection system.

M.

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Scared of mobile banking

Martin an gof
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Re: The real problem is why it's only 36%

Last time I went into my local branch I was made to feel distinctly a problem because I wanted to talk to the teller and not use the machines. At least they still call me sir and do not (yet) use my given name.

My local Nat West has done this - got rid of a row of four teller positions for three machines (they had two anyway) and a couple of semi-tellers at a desk. Guess where the queues always are? The machines are only really useful for withdrawing cash or paying in small amounts of cash or cheques, and honestly it seems to take longer with the machine than it used to with a teller.

My local Co-Op, on the other hand, has three teller positions, a manager-type sat at an open desk, and not even a cash machine on site!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: The real problem is why it's only 36%

Statistically and if you think about it, you are far less likely to have an issue with a [well written and downloaded from an official source] banking app than you are with using a web browser whether on a PC or a Smartphone or just from simple banking/cloning 2FA flaws.

Not sure why that should be the case. Statistically, if I use neither a mobile app nor a web-based system, but deal with the bank almost entirely in-branch, then I know that every email or text message or phone call I get 'from my bank' is absolutely, definitely a scam. Apart from some awkwardness with opening hours (and there are banks out there that are realising this now) I find it quite a pleasurable experience dealing with things in-branch. Shame they are all closing, and I know I'm fortunate to live in a small town which has a good selection of banks still.

M.

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Apple allowed to put up bit barn in the Fields of Athenry

Martin an gof
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Coat

Re: 220kVA?

Nah, you're looking at it wrong. It's 0.5kVA per cabinet. They're using special low-power ARM servers which use under 5W each, power down aggressively and connect to a similarly low-powered switch.

Or, second thought, perhaps it really is environmentally friendly and the 220kVA is the power needed from the grid, with all the rest being generated on-site from solar, wind, water, geothermal, wave, whatever :-)

M.

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London's 'automatic' Tube trains suffered 750 computer failures last year

Martin an gof
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Re: So what's the message here, then ??

Not just the grim North - we suffer the same - 142, 143, 150 all still present and correct here on the Valleys Lines. They keep promising us better...

M.

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Tableau 10 is generally available, complete with visual tweaks

Martin an gof
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@allthecool...

Oh boy, that shirt, I can think of half a dozen people I could buy that for right now. Where's my list of birthdays?

M.

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