2476 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012
Re: Payment Processor
"So the point isn't that nobody accepts Amex. It's that nobody (yet) accepts Apple!"
Other sources have reported that Apple are also signed up with Visa and Mastercard, so the lack of popularity for Amex is moot. I doubt that the payment processors want to tie themselves to any particular hardware or software, so chances are that there's similar deals in the offing for other phone makers.
The thing working in Apple's favour here is the single port of call (not only the software.hardware tie up, but that Apple can and will tell the MNO's to sling their hook). In the world of Android they've got to deal with a host of hardware makers, the vampire data squid that is Google, and the network operators. And each of them is daft enough to think they stand a credible chance of coming up with some proprietary NFC solution that will get them a big slice of the payment before they've gone anywhere near the payment processors.
Personally I might use Visa or Mastercard for NFC, but I wouldn't trust Google, hardware makers, and in particular MNOs. In relative terms Apple fall somewhere in the middle of my distrust spectrum (which only runs from "not much" to "not at all, in this universe and all others"), which is a pity given that I wouldn't touch their over-priced and under-specced hardware. And even Visa & MC can sling their NFC hook until they take liability for fraudulent use of NFC credentials.
Re: Bring it on@ Voland's Right Hand
"So while a great idea in principle, you will have to re-regulate the railways first (as in most places where they have working rail on the continent)"
Our railways are already regulated, so I presume you mean adding more regulation.
But that won't work. I work in a different industry that is currently very heavily regulated, and despite (or more likely because of that) we as an industry are under investigation by the competition authorities and the regulator who believe that the market is "not working". I can assure you that you cannot "regulate" a desired outcome through adding more and more rules, each of which has unintended consequences that require more rules to deal with.
By definition, the commercial rail operators in the UK do what they do to maximise their profits. If they are now doing things that you don't want, or not doing things that you want, then you want regulation to force them to take a course of action that will reduce their returns, and thus their willingness and ability to invest. This principle is why we are increasingly at risk of blackouts, as regulation and intervention to "improve" the energy sector has simultaneously reduced returns, raised costs to consumers, and made investment highly risky and unpredictable. The only answer to "improve" UK railways then is tax-funded subsidy, significant fare increases, or renationalisation. I remember the waste and incompetence of British Railways, I'm in no hurry to go back there, but even if that were an outcome it can only hide but not alter the fact that non-profit oriented spending diverts investment from better investment opportunities. In a state still spending around £100 billion a year more than it raises in tax, and with a £1.3 trillion pile of public debt, where will you get the money from to fritter on "improving" our railways in ways that rail users currently aren't prepared to pay for themselves? Taking the money from HS2 isn't the answer, because that's simply substituting one form of mis-allocated capital for another.
Re: Odd List
A more pressing concern than the odd list is that the w@nkers at VM actually have the time, desire and resources to censor user data that even their own employees shouldn't be able to see.
With several recent performance f*ck ups, and continuous upward price creep over recent years I'd rather they sacked the disciple of Mary Whitehouse who instigated this policy and put their effort into keeping prices down and services working.
"That was why I have Co-pilot."
Bwahahahahahaha! Another UK victim of Copilot's predatory UK pricing. £5.49 for all of the USA, or £24 just for the Western bits of Europe. I'd quite like Copilot, due to the limitations of the free Navfree app, and the neutered Google Maps service, but if they think they're fleecing me then they can FOAD, I'll manage with the two free apps mentioned.
"I'm still waiting for my piezoelectric shoes to charge my phone whilst walking."
Likewise, my methane harvesting underpants have not yet materialised. I can't speak for your shoes, but judging by the corrosion holes in older underwear the problem may be the need for FGD kit before the methane can be captured. From a chemical engineering perspective, my flatus must qualify as "sour gas", but I prefer to think of it as "fruity" or "mellow".
But regardless, can somebody sort out my phone charging underwear? Combine it with sweat power for those times I'm out of gas, stick in a QI charging pad and my phone can charge wirelessly and renewably in my pocket. Patent, please!
Re: If you need a payday loan then you shouldn't get one.
"They, at least, don't advertise on TV to make it seem like they're nice cuddly folks that just love to help tide you over."
They didn't need to. Every poor neighbourhood had one or two of these people. And I think you'll find that the "customer service" was quite obliging up front. It was only at collections and arrears that the pickaxe handle came out, and in that respect the circa 4% write off that payday lenders have can be seen as an act of absolute charity. Murphy & McBastard (Back Street Lending) LLC wouldn't have put up with £1 in every £25 not being repaid with full interest.
Re: If you need a payday loan then you shouldn't get one.
For some people that may be true, but there's a fundamental failing on the part of the moralistic opponents of payday lenders, and that's to understand that conventional interest costs don't scale down well for very short term and small loans to higher risk borrowers.
If you're a middle class liberal, you probably have ready access to a fairly cheap rolling overdraft facility and rather more expensive card credit. The former comes with an interest rate of perhaps 7%, the latter perhaps 18%. But because you already have arrangements with these people, the risk is low, the payment arrangements are in place, and they've already done the checks to know how much they think you're good for. You probably think this is normal and fair, and that everybody should have access at that price.
Now consider a payday lender customer. By definition the customer does not have access to a rolling overdraft or available card credit (either 'cos they've maxed it out, or they don't even have a bank account). When the lender sets them up as a customer, they've got few good ways of judging your creditworthiness, so they're pricing in a shed-load of risk. Then there's the admin of loan setup, which is probably five quid a pop (fully loaded call centre & systems costs, staff time and all company overheads). You've got to send out statutory written guff that nobody reads, so there's a quid or so on printing and postage. Then there's collections and payments processes, and follow up on overdues, all time consuming and costly. And of course you've got marketing and distribution costs. None of these largely fixed costs scale well for small payments, and that leads to apparently astronomical interest rates.
There's some really good analysis done a few years back on payday lenders in Ontario which looked at the costs of the industry, and structurally will not be dissimilar to the UK:
This established that the costs to the lender of a $300 loan for two weeks were $65. That's the fat end of 600% interest. Any additional fixed charges that get applied (like quite reasonably charging overdue customers quite modest fixed sums for reminder letters and for late payments) dramatically increase the measured interest rate. The liberals are outraged by all of this, but where's their answer?
You can't lend unsecured to the financially inept for 7% annual. The welfare state has bloated beyond belief and has nothing more to give (well until the whelk-stall bunglers get in next year). And the fixed costs don't go away. So the choices are to live with it, or to regulate the interest rates down to a nice, Hampstead liberal approved number like 9%, and then wonder why there's no payday lenders, and good old fashioned unregulated doorstep lenders are back, complete with their even more expensive loans and traditional approach to late payments.
Re: Inefficiency @AC
"Interesting that these days there is a need to re-open railway lines in the UK that were closed as a result of the Beeching report."
So you'd have kept loss making lines open for fifty years on the off chance that demand might return? And what about the many closed routes where demand hasn't returned? Presumably you'd keep those open for another fifty years, just in case? No wonder you posted AC.
The underlying problems of the railways were monolithic government planning that treated capital investment as both free and a universal panacea, yet failed to take account of demographic change (eg more urban less rural balance of population) failed to take account of changing technology and rising living standards (more cars).
"And major nationalisations were inevitable in 1945, because so much of the capital infrastructure was worn out through over-use and under-investment. "
All of the assets raddled by war were built by private enterprise with private capital, and the renewal could have been accomplished commercially (particularly if the state had paid for the damage its war requistioning had caused).
Nationalisation was simply populist Labour policy inspired by Marxist theology with no grounding in necessity. The longer term consequences of nationalisation included the loss of our previously diverse and competent aviation sector, the loss of our motor industry, and of our steel industry for that matter. The ineptly run and inefficient NCB (along with its militant employees) signed the death certificate of the UK coal industry.
And look at how government reacted to rail investment needs - first of all they built 2,500 steam locomotives which were then scrapped long before the end of their useful life (some as early as five years after being built), then they embarked on an ill advised attempt to build a vast diesel fleet using only UK makers both because failed Labour economic policies left the country bereft of foreign exchange, and because they really believed they could "create jobs" by trying to keep business in the UK by government command. Unfortunately the UK makers had little experience in the technology (primarily a handful of prototypes built by the private rail companies), leading to poor reliability, high costs and more early withdrawals. BR still failed to achieve standardisation leading to many types with small production runs, which worsened the cost problems. And in the meanwhile, despite government policies, car numbers were rising, and the rail industry would not adapt, resulting in the crisis that required the Beeching plan (which even then was not sufficient to address the move away from rail traffic).
No more turning over a USB thing, then turning it over again to plug it in: Reversible socket ready for lift off
Re: Standards proliferation
"Should have just stuck with the USB mini A, instead of the USB mini B. Yes it's technically the wrong one for a device, and it is marginally larger. But it was at least blatantly obvious which way it should go."
Should have got it right first time more like.
Which meant one "normal" and one "small" connector, reversible plugs, and no flimsy tat that breaks or wears out after a few hundred cycles. No weird and crappy A and B types, no mini and micro. What was going through the mind of the designer?
Re: good coverage Pah!
"Can the networks please sort out their existing coverage. 1 bar is not good enough in a large town."
And you think they will?
OFCOM seems content to regulate on the basis of network owners insisting that they offer a circa 98% success rate, when from the article quotes user experience of intermittent service (that I suspect we can all attest to) and dissatisfaction levels that in my view are unduly high - although that depends how easily pleased you are with around one in five users dissatisfied.
The problem is that the physical network owner/operators have a nice slice of the pie each, the cost of infrastructure represents a huge barrier to entry, and with no effective competition or regulation the service they can just sit on the behinds and laugh at their customers. MVNOs create a veneer of competition, but as that's just a reseller arrangement it offers no incentive to the network owners to improve their offer.
Re: Whither Nexus 8@ FartingHippo
"I don't have this device though my personal track record attempting procedures like this has me confident I'd break the device in the process."
But you tried in the past, and that's far more important than failing. And if the device is virtually unusable to the point of wanting to replace it, what have you got to lose?
I'd agree designing for user replaceable batteries is a far preferrable consumer outcome, and that's how I select my phones, but there's times when you can't get everything you want, and in that case the shed approach must be tried.
Re: Whither Nexus 8@ FartingHippo
"Where indeed is the next iteration of the Nexus 7/8? Fed up with charging my Mk1 every night."
Replace the stuffing battery then. £21 off Amazon, flip the back off using mobile phone disassembly tools, £10 or less from any mobile phone accessory seller (mind that bottom bit of the case around the speaker, that's fragile), unplug the battery connector, peel the battery off the double sided sticky, push in the new one, click, click, clickety-click and Bob's your uncle.
Bl00dy techies! "The battery's worn out so I'd better buy a new one"
Re: Public money
"You think it's any different in large private sector corporations?"
To an extent, yes. The BBC is public sector, it has a tax-funded ethos of easy come, easy go. I'd agree there are back stabbing shits in a good proportion of commercial businesses, but I have a choice of whether to support the business based on what it does for me. In most commercial businesses pissing £100m up the wall for no useful output would actually endanger the future of the business, and probably result in a complete change of both board and IT management.
Based on the performance over the past five years I've paid the fat end of £400 for nine episodes of Sherlock, a few news and weather bulletins, and quite a few hours of vile politically correct kiddy TV for my offspring, whilst the BBC continue to spew out cheap, neuron-neutralising pap like Antiques Roadshow, or repetitive formula crud like Masterchef. Or they rely on past glories like Dads Army, or even re-runs of once-funny but long, long-since-out-of-gas content like Only Fools & Horses, or nearly endless remakes of Dr Who. Buggers should have taken a few years off after David Tennant. And then there's the whole quality-destroying mess of BBC Worldwide, that managed to shit all over potentially attractive themes like Torchwood. And what about costume drama for the skirt wearers amongst us? That used to be a BBC crown jewel, now reduced to gloomy mumbling in infrequent outings.
Useless, uncreative bastards. Sack 'em all.
"The price has been pretty stable for the last six months."
But in a non-transparent market and potentially illiquid market it is at risk of massive volatility. And that could come from any one of a number of causes:
Crims decide that Bitcoin transactions don't give anonymity in an NSA world
Big institutions find Bitcoins not worth the work after compliance and capital reserve needs
Somebody comes up with a better way of mining coins, and supply expands
Bitcoin will remain a boom and bust economy whilst it remains part of the shadow financial system.
"Like much of the sat’s components, the camera is cobbled together from off-the-shelf components that have been ruggedised to withstand the rigours of space."
Assembled in a basement workshop under West Wallaby Street, I assume. Britain: Where science imitates art.
Re: I can't be the only one
"*Obviously it'll be Paris. Or depending on how September's vote goes, Edinburgh..."
What, we nuke the Scots when they fail to vote for independence? Sounds good to me.
And then we just write to the Welsh Assembly telling them they are now independent, thanking them for the slate and wishing them good luck as a sovereign nation.
Re: Putin's unground lair?
"Talking of which, is Brennan still in the job? Does he have to personally molest Obama's cat on the White House lawn in front of cameras for something to happen??"
Yes, and no respectively. The man is clearly asbestos regardless of what he does, presumably because Yank politicians fall into two overlapping sets: Those who think he's doing a fine job, and those who have something to hide and think Brennan's people have a big list with all the details.
Re: An Old Fogey Speaks
"Quit the generalisations and focus on the feature set. It finds a market"
Cobblers. Market segmentation is generalisation in practice. If you focus on the feature set you end up with differentiated offers like Nokia and Blackberry, where after initial success the customers just melted away.
Re: An Old Fogey Speaks
"Just because we're old enough to remember Zmodem and WinFax doesn't mean we're technological illiterates."
That's true. But a big print screen is useful once you get past 50.
Re: So basiclly,@ James M
"Unfortunately standards are useless if they are not kept. <cough>horsemeat<cough>"
That's true, but I'm mindful that probably the worst abbatoir safety disaster in the UK (BSE/vCJD) was as a result of misguided changes to regulations. Feeding a few TV-dinner addicts cooked horse meat is something relatively tame in comparison. I know you can argue that if people aren't abiding by the regs then anything can happen, but that's a bit different from changing the regs to knowingly allow something to happen.
Re: So basiclly,
"You still need to learn the joys of biscuits and sausage gravy, fried potatoes, and possibly pancakes."
But returning to the subject of what constitutes a proper breakfast, the article made three important omissions: Black pudding, fried mushrooms, and baked beans. Oooh, and fried bread.
On the downside for the Full Monty, recent EU changes to standardise Europe to Bulgarian meat hygiene standards (that the spineless British government have kow-towed to) now mean that it is increasingly difficult to trust mass produced sausages unless you want to eat minced ulcer, sore, carbuncle, cancer etc with an official stamp of approval.
Re: Lets get this straight
"perhaps as there's more commuting by public transport in the capital people tend to buy nicer devices and have them out more often?"
Reading the article suggests that business burglary is a major driver, rather than on-street robbery and pick pocketing. I'm sure both of the last two are prevalent, but if you're stealing things as a trade then a raid on an unoccupied business or even school is going to have far better pay off than snatching some bod's phone, running off very fast hoping that you don't run foul of an angry mob of commuters or a passing plod, don't get run over as you leg it, you aren't caught on high def CCTV, and that the phone is both saleable and not IMEI locked within minutes of theft.
Re: An alternative viewpoint is...
" An alternative viewpoint is...That Londoners don't have much else worth stealing."
And yet another is that London is simply a simmering cauldron of thieves, where a third of the population work in various forms of organised white collar theft (group A, AKA the City), a third work in blue collar and manual crime (group B, the subject of this survey), and the other third (group C) create the framework for crime to prosper, either by writing bad laws to allow group A to prosper, or operating the system to ensure that group B consider the benefits of crime (against groups A & C) worth the risks whilst creating the appearance of a criminal justice process.
The sooner we build a big wall along the route of the M25 and seal them all in forever, the better.
Re: And this is why...
"Oh the irony, blocking ad's whilst using an advertising agencies software."
It's like stealing from Google. There's an ethical conundrum - based on Google performance on copyright, media-owner payments, etc etc it seems OK to steal from them, on the other hand taken to the extreme in a Google free world we'd be choosing between WindowsPhone and Apple for mobile devices, and having to use Yahoo for search.
There would appear to be no right answer, so keep stealin'
Re: Disability Access
"If it's not hobbled, I could see this being useful as a tool for those with disabilities to interact with their computers."
What, a bit like Dragon Naturally Speaking, just fifteen years late?
Re: How long is the battery warranty
"Smells of conversion using an approximation followed by reconversion with an exact ratio"
Or smells of a clattering noise as the battery falls out the bottom of the car at 99,360 miles...
More seriously, what is the detail of the warranty? Most rechargeable batteries go off over time, so presumably what's being guaranteed is some percentage of the original range. With such a low starting range, and the need for a few miles contingency at all times if you're getting even 80% of the original range, then you're not going to be driving much in the countryside. Incidentally, the warranty is a bit of a crap deal - rather than having them promise me what amounts to a 95 miles range (after contingency) in five years time, I'd rather have (a) swappable batteries in some standard format, and (b) electrical control gear capable of managing a range of likely voltages and capacities, thus enabling a replacement of the batteries with something better in a few years time if better technologies become available.
Re: Nice apart from the range
"Are e-cars getting shorter ranges rather than longer these days?"
Almost certainly. On a G-Wiz, which is essentially a wendy house on bike wheels, all of the battery capacity went to traction. On this Golf, you can see there's a pretty fitted satnav and aircon, if there's an option of heated windscreen (itself a monster energy hog) I would reason there's semi-respectable audio, electric windows, central locking, and it looks in the photos like it has the full suite of airbags and sensors. So well done VW for that bit. I really like the idea of an EV that isn't a hair shirt experience, is comfortable, well equipped and doesn't run on solid tyres...
...but the worrying comments about range suggest that the answer to the question "are we there yet?" remains a firm no. I would have thought that fast swappable batteries and 250 mile range would have made all the difference, but sadly the budget that might have achieved that was spent making the under-bonnet look as though there's a combustion engine in it.
Never mind fast food
Some clueless politician who didn't even know what they were has already decided that the unloved QR codes should be used for, your energy bills:
The larger player in this sector are resigned to idiotic and all pervasive government interference, but the smaller suppliers are less than happy about this idea about kick starting competition, because redesigning bills, and making the QR code do something useful isn't cheap. And despite all of the polticos' vacuous thinking about "competition", this won't make any difference because the real driver of higher costs is global markets, and interventions by governments as they conduct their ongoing War on Climate Change (at our expense). But luckily your gran will be getting a QR code on her energy bill, and she can use her Hudl to move to a new supplier and she can pretend that she's saved money.
On the other hand, if the Rt Honourable Ed Davey really wants to help my household cut energy bills, perhaps he could stop passing new legislation, statutory instruments, regulatory guidelines, and launching market reviews, competition enquiries with the frequency of somebody enjoying norovirus, and then he could shove his beloved renewables and EU-directed energy policy up his @rse.
Re: geographic entity
"any reason it couldn't go the whole hog and be a wholly Welsh company"
It certainly could be incorporated in the Parochiality, but what are the chances of finding all the relevant skills and proper Cymric funding on the wrong side of Offa's Dyke? How would you be sure that no foreign capital was employed, no-non Welsh manufactured hardware or IP procured? And presumably you'd have an ethnicity test to make sure the employees were all accredited as officially Welsh?
And where's the advantage in doing that other than rubbing the belly of Welsh nationalism?
If government funded CERT-UK were focusing on the threat of Cryptolocker et al, why has the cure been provided by two private companies?
Completely honest question: Are CERT doing anything useful, or are they just a bunch of official hand wringers re-publishing the sort of advice that you can get on the Reg for free?
" it should not be necessary to debate the benefit of moving freight from road to rail "
Oh Mr porter! Except that little stuff is now made in Birmingham and shipped to London (or vice versa), and our volume freight traffic comes into places like Felixstowe, Southampton, Tilbury or Liverpool in containers. If efficiently shipped, it will be coming in close to the major population centres that it will serve, although I accept there's a fair bit of inter-regional traffic. The supposed need to free the WCML up for freight is a very weak excuse for HS2, particularly since the freight consolidation model necessary for rail freight doesn't work well in the UK because of the relatively short distances involved. And even Southampton or Felixstowe freight heading north wouldn't join the WCML until Birmingham or Stafford, where the four tracks from Stafford to Weaver Junction are under-utilised because there's little slow line passenger traffic compared to the stretch south of Birmingham.
Regarding train speeds, the whole WCML model was got right (remarkably) by British Rail back in 1960 when the WCML was electrified. You don't allow slow traffic onto the fast lines, the fast line traffic operates similarly capable traction equipment that operates to similar performance curves, and you can despatch "flights" of trains in quick succession. Build rail flyovers to stop slow traffic crossing over the fastlines and you're done. For the most part this is already done, and if Network Rail are mixing high speed passenger traffic with slower services on four line routes then that's simple incompetence that doesn't involve £60-80bn to resolve.
Unfortunately Network Rail are full behind HS2 and the fictitious traffic forecasts. Search out the DIRFT3 expansion report, and you'll see that they project that by 2030 WCML will be carrying 132 freight trains per day compared to 22 today. Obviously we need HS2 if that's correct, but where is the traffic going to come from for more than 100 additional freight trains? Will you be buying, using and throwing away six times as much stuff as you do today? Or will their be 400m people living in Britain? Maybe it could come off the roads, but we're talking about over half a million containers a day (read the report, all there in black and white) and that compares to M6 traffic flows of around 120,000 vehicles per day of all types - so perhaps 30,000 container lorries.
The arguments for HS2 are bad on so many levels that collectively they can only be considered a Work Of Great Evil (tm).
"if the people travelling first class are subsidising the fares then your plan results in all the people who normally travel second class having to pay more anyway"
But it avoids spending £60-80bn on a new railway line and its £1-2bn a year operating costs.
At typical government bond rates of 4% that's around £2.5bn a year just in interest and at least a billion a year of operating costs (assuming it isn't like HS1 and ends up with a thumping great annual loss). I guesstimate WCML first class intercity journeys around 7m per annum, dividing HS2 interest-only plus opex costs by the number of first class journeys, I calculate that for us to be better off allowing the fat cats to "subsidise" the second class passengers the surplus over operating costs needs to be £485 per first class journey. That's unlikely since the average first class fare is going to be around £250 (that's a tad over the current peak morning first class fare between Manchester and London).
" I don't think we can usefully expand the East Coast and West Coast rail lines. "
We could, it's just that fuckwit politicians would prefer to launch vast projects using my money to support a business case that only a complete idiot would believe.
If you believe that public money should go on HS2 or other infrastructure projects, then you presumably accept that infrastructure is a public good. Having accepted that, then the capacity of the systems is an issue of public good. Now, take an existing Pendolino set, rip out the first class seating that infests 40% of the coaches, and replace it with the entirely adequate second class fit out, and voila, 25% increase in carrying capacity without buying or running a single extra train. How difficult is that? Is it the job of the ordinary taxpayer to pay the ridiculous price of HS2 because the WCML is clogged by fat cats travelling first class? This isn't about whether they pay their way, its just about capacity limits, and the fact that by allowing wide, first class buttocks to occupy WCML, we seem to need (case unproven) to spend £80bn on a complete new rail line.
Add another one or two second class coaches to each train set and you'd need to extend the platforms again, but that's add another 15% carrying capacity for modest costs. If speed's an issue, then simply build a couple of brand new straight sections or straight tunnels at Berkhamsted, Linslade and Weedon curves. Capacity limits at Euston could be augmented by having (say) all Glasgow trains leave and arrive at less heavily utilised Paddington (WCML and GWR are within yards of each other at Kensal Green). Through the West Mids extra capacity and speed is available simply by four tracking the line between Coventry and Stafford via Birmingham. A long term signalling strategy for WCML could see signalling progressively upgraded to in cab signalling, and the Pendolino's then allowed to run at their design speed of 140mph. This also ignores two ten minute "holes" in the hourly fast line departures from Euston that could accomodate another four to six departures. Why are we talking about HS2 when that capacity is still not used, and the off peak trains are lightly loaded with students paying £10 a ticket?
And that's before doing anything with the under-utilised Chiltern Line, that could easily see 8 coach trains extended to twelve (50% increase in capacity London to Birmingham without any additional trains being run).
HS2 is a waste of money. It is an indictment of all front benchers in the Westminster House of Shame that the idea persists to spend the fat end of £100bn for something that isn't needed now, and won't be needed in future.
Re: One solution for ledswinger
"If it's currently the case that utilities' grid-maintenance costs are not covered by the current annual connection fee (meaning that they over-charge on the power bills to make up for the shortfall), then yes that would be the case. "
The way charges are calculated is very complex, and the basics are that in the very short term your costs are completely fixed, in the long term they are completely variable. It is always a choice about how you recover those costs, and the regulators and companies dance round their handbags to come up with an acceptable compromise. The reason things would change in a more self sufficient world is that you simply have fewer units of power sold by the grid, and it would not make sense to recover those costs on variable power use (for example, the grid and generator capital and non-fuel opex costs don't vary much year round, but if you recovered on usage they'd have no income in the summer months).
On your thoughts on self supply and reciprocal supply, the idea sounds lovely, but you either have to accept much greater supply interruptions, or have the full-fat grid capability plus generation. If you want grid backup, renewables are not cost effective against fossil solutions, and it gets worse the smaller scale each installation is. Let me offer you one illustration: An offshore wind farm uses as much capex per GW just on its electricity connection to the shore as to build, connect and commission a state of the art CCGT. Obviously the CCGT has fuel costs (although wind farms have O&M costs), but you've then got the actual wind turbine costs to stump up, and the fact that you'll only get 35% load factor off the wind turbines. Now factor in storage for wind and you start to see a very, very expensive solution that makes nuclear look cheap.
Re: One problem for James Micallef
"Nothing strictly wrong with staying on-grid even if you are self-sufficient, as long as you can feed in surplus electricity and get paid for it."
But paid how much? In the UK solar PV anoraks are bleating that they only get 14p/kWh. But 9p of that at least is a pure subsidy, because the wholesale offer price for good quality baseload is around 5p/kWh. If the smug solar bunch were actually paid appropriately for the dreadful profile that solar PV produces (ie centred on the middle of the day and seasonally biased towards the lower demand of summer months) they'd actually be getting around 3p/kWh.
3p/kWh isn't going to pay for much PV or other microgeneration, but because your suggested idea still requires a grid system & operator and some form of centrally despatched power able to meet peak demand in a bad winter, you still incur all the capital and maintenance costs of the current system in addition to your cosy world of house-generation. In practical terms that means that your standing charge becomes £400 a year instead of £60 a year, and your grid purchased units would be around 40p/kWh instead of 13p.
Re: @Steve Todd 3
"You seem to think that I'm in favour of EVs on the grounds of climate change. I'm much more in favour of them as a way of reducing pollution."
I'd made no such assertion that I'm aware of, and the whole EV thing isn't something I'd given much thought to despite the article being about Tesla - my lengthy digression was on the issues of district heating and CHP in response to another poster.
The low efficiency of transport ICE is probably not going to be much changed by renewable powered EVs simply because of the multiple conversion losses in generating, storing, retrieving and using electricity in this way. I can see lots of good things about EVs in principle, the problem is that they are still an emerging technology that is too costly and not yet good enough for most users. And when we've fixed that, there's the problem that an average user doing 12,000 miles a year in a modest family car currently uses around 13,000 kWh in fuel energy. If they use an EV then the net power required won't change much after the repeated conversion losses, so somebody has to find that additional 13,000 kWh per car, which compares to around 3,500 kWh of electricity used per house. In my house, with two working adults that means that we'd need to source almost eight times as much electricity as we currently use. Nationally that's going to be something of a problem, wouldn't you agree? And no matter what size of solar array I put on my house, it will generate nothing useful for four months of the year, so we're back to grid power as the solution.
Re: @Steve Todd 2
Re Drax & tomatoes: True, but that's going to be less than 1% of the circa 6 GW of waste heat from Drax, the problem is a huge point source of heat with no meaningful heat demand in miles. As a similar example the waste heat from Ratcliffe is sufficient to serve the entire space heating needs of fifteen mile distant Nottingham, but the cost of building a heat network to distribute it would be around £4 billion quid, plus some form of standby heat system in case the power station has to shut down. However, under DECC's Canute like plans to combat climate change they hope to see all coal plant off the UK grid by 2025, so the network wouldn't even have been built by the time the hippies manage to shut down the plant.
"Secondly you can use the waste heat in secondary generators"
It already is. Look up the details of most large UK coal plants and you'll find there a much smaller turbine using waste heat that the main steam turbines can't use. The problem is that there's still at least 40% and more usually 60% of the primary energy content lost as low grade heat via the cooling towers.
Re: Point of order!
"Sheffield was always held up as the biggest example of CHP/district heating in the UK (possibly Europe),"
Sheffield still has one of the biggest heat systems in the UK, although it is centred around heat to municipal buildings rather than residential heat. There's other big systems in Southampton, Nottingham, and developing systems in Leicester and Birmingham.
However, compared to Europe these are tiddlers. In the UK there's about 200,000 homes & apartments connected to district and communal heat sources. In Poland there's about six million homes on district heat.
"One is that there are energy losses in the grid, which arguably take the place of the inefficiencies of charging/discharging a battery bank locally. Some figures I have seen put these inefficiencies at as much as 25%, though that feels rather high. "
Actual grid losses are around 11%. You can choose to include or ignore power station conversion losses that are 60% of the primary fossil fuel inputs.
Re: @Steve Todd & Paul Crawford
"Now then, where are the GW sized generators, and is anyone prepared to dig up towns and cities for hot water distribution to make said efficiency worth it?"
You've hit the nail on the head, that the cost of district heating is too great in most cases in the UK, with the exception of high density housing. The fundamental cause of this is that the cost of heat distribution networks is too great. Heat distribution pipes cost around £1,200 per metre of length in real life conditions*, and that soon mounts up (even for terraced housing this typically means £4k of property specific heat network, before you've built your energy centre (say £2k per property served), or installed a heat interchange unit (HIU) and heat meter in the property (£2k). This compares to less than £2k for a gas combi boiler fitted and £600 of property specific gas network and perhaps £0.5k/property of upstream gas production gear.
If you've got a number of close together apartment buildings then a small area district heating system makes sense serving a few thousand apartments, but nothing on the scale seen in (say) Sweden or Poland, where winters are colder, average space heating demand much greater, and there's no national gas network like in the UK.
Then we come to the alleged efficiency benefits. In principle they exist - you run a CHP engine (typically gas fired spark ignition reciprocating engine) for heat and capture electricity as a by product. Problem is that the heating demand varies year round, and during the day and it's simply not economic to build a CHP that is mothballed for the six months of the year outside the heating season. Then, within day the heat load varies dramatically. Overnight a well designed system can coast on the thermal inertia of the system, but during the day you have to serve morning and evening peaks. If you run a CHP engine to serve that load profile then (a) you've again got an asset sitting around for three quarters of the day twiddling its thumbs, and (b) you have a problem with the reliability - regardless of what the makers claim, power generating sets respond badly to excessive cycling, and we've found that running the CHP on simple double cycling per day meant very noticeable decreases in reliability (which means higher maintenance costs and loss of use). You can build additional heat storage into the system to allow the CHP engine to run for longer, but the problem is that "storage" in this context is a bloody great insulated hot water tank, and when you build these at any scale they become very expensive. I work for one the largest operators of district heat in the UK and another northern European country, and we do know what we're talking about.
So, what this means is that for a UK heat system you size your CHP for your year round baseload, and all of your seasonal and daily peaking is delivered by gas boilers (sometimes biomass assisted, but there's lots of reasons to not want that). You could use all CHP, but the costs would be astronomical, and you have to remember that the system needs to be wildly over-provisioned against average demand, because you have to allow for a plant breakdown and maximum demand in the coldest winter conditions (say -15C). So a small scale district heat system serving a few hundred properties would have a 185 kW electricity/230KW heat spark ignition CHP that runs between 05:00 and 23:00 every day of the year other than when down for service. You then have say three 3MW boilers which would never be used all together - two of them can serve maximum heat demand, giving some leeway against severe winter demand, reduced output for lower mains gas pressure and loss of both the CHP and one of the boilers. This will be why the university is extending using boilers - unless you want to generate electricity at well above the cost of grid power it doesn't make sense. Over the year the electrical power output is around 5-10% of the total energy output, so even as a by product it isn't making much difference. This is in strict contrast to industrial CHP where the plant is typically a 50 MW gas turbine that runs at constant load, and produces 30% of power output as electricity, and the balance as process heat (with often incidental delivery of space and water heating).
So in aggregate terms, the overall efficiency benefit of district heating CHP units is much lower than proponents claim, unless you want to chase operational efficiency at a very high cost indeed. Despite this the clowns at DECC are earnest believers in the benefits of district heating, and are pushing developers and power companies to roll out heat networks - like wind and solar, very expensive non-answers to the question of climate change. Over the past couple of years DECC's heat network delivery unit has been handing out a few million quid to the beards & sandals of local government to encourage the take of heat networks, and they in turn believe this simplistic and inaccurate mantra that district heating is more efficient than centralised electricity and local heating systems.
Having said that the efficiency is a dream and the costs are high, I would point out that in high density housing it can be slightly cheaper than heat from an individual gas boiler (not permitted in high rises anyway), although the costs are very different - the operating costs are lower, but the capital costs are a lot higher. In functional terms, district heat works as well as gas: It is as convenient as a gas system, safer, requires minimal in home servicing (typically a fifteen minute check over of the HIU once every two years). Many middle class people in the UK have a problem with district heating that you can't change your supplier - the energy service company that owns and operates the heat network has you as a captive customer essentially for the life of the property. Residents in social housing tend to me more accepting because they're often used to communal heat delivery at a building level, or their alternative is crap and expensive dry electric heating systems.
So there you have it. Ledswinger's District Heating Primer. Conclusion: Works well for high density housing where you'd normally use a communal boiler or dry electric systems, but otherwise a very expensive idea that has few real world efficiency benefits.
* Heat pipes are expensive because circulation speeds are low to achieve efficient heat transfer and avoid high pressures that increase pipe bursts, so you have larger pipes than for gas or cold water distribution, usually steel for durability, and you then have a good thick layer of insulation. This means you're laying a more expensive pipe than MDPE gas or water pipe, and a much larger pipe, leading to greater civils costs. There have been experiments with "4th gen" heat networks using low temperature distributuion, meaning less insulation is needed and heat losses are lower, but this requires the house to have a heat pump on HIU, which increases capex, makes the device more complex, and increases the electricity bills, so its a bit of a zero sum improvement.
Re: Q from the US
"Virgin are well known for capping your speeds if you download more than Xgb a day, "
I'm a happy 100 Mb/s customer and I've never noticed the throttling. According to their policy on the larger packages (over 30 Mb/s) they only ever throttle users uploading large amounts of data (in excess of 1 Gb per hour at peak times), although torrents/P2P and filesharing via newsgroups can be slowed down during peak times regardless of your usage. As the slowdown is about 50% on filesharing I'd still be getting 50 Mb/s service even if I were throttled, which sounds a lot better than most of the country enjoy at best. And since I don't give a hoot about filesharing and P2P networking it doesn't really matter to me at all.
Of course, this could all change now they are part of Liberty Global....
"So it's ok to glorify a historical war but not a current one."
Well the original Counterstrike was released in 1999, and therefore was "glorifying" future wars, not current or historical ones, if we consider the format of Western ground forces interacting in the Middle East with local insurgent groups.
Re: Cheap... Too cheap?
"hard to know for sure if it has a special 'phone home to some agency in China' bit of firmware buried deep in there somewhere"
In a business context I wouldn't want a Chinese spyware infested phone, but I'd be quite happy with that for domestic use. If chairman Mao's successor want to go through the few dull snaps on my phone, peruse my contacts, or see who I phoned when, then that's no threat to my civil liberties, whereas it definitely is if my own government are doing it (or their "allies" doing it on their behalf).
Re: Pity the genius
"I would suggest, if we're to make the best use of artificial intelligence, we need to first make better use of conventional intelligence. To that end I propose the following societal changes:"
All very well, but that assumes that you can measure intelligence usefully, and that having done that it will be well used. I know several "thick" people who are commercially astute businessmen making things happen and employing others. I have come across many very well educated people that couldn't make a cup of tea happen. And I know a few people who are very intelligent, but totally devoid of important social skills, which leads to unpredictable and often uncomfortable outcomes. And in financial services and law I've come across a lot of exceptionally bright people who are at best amoral (the lawyers), and at worst criminal (the bankers).
I don't want a centrally planned society where fitness for high office is decided on the basis of who has the best degree. If you want to preview that society and its systemic ineptitude, go an examine the British civil service.
Re: Newsflash@ Vic
"then will likely run out of engines."
What about swapping engines with XL426 that is claimed to be taxiable? Or for that matter, refettling any engines still in the 10-12 other surviving airframes? I know that's not a trivial job, but presumably a lot easier than remanufacturing from scratch.
Re: design to fail.
" there may be no biological imperative to create offspring"
Not as such. But an AI can endure beyond all or individual components, unlike meat consciousness. Which would suggest that its imperative would be not to improve through breeding and reproduction, but through self improvement either in whole or part. Its a bit Tron-esque, but it is the code of an AI that would be sentient not the hardware. For an AI, Darwinism would need redefining to acknowledge that the code evolves without (apparent) reproduction, and the hardware may need upgrading, but is otherwise no more than the sort of physical environment that is required by any biological life form.
Re: If Windows is a mousetrap, I am a ?
"Actually MS were hired-on by IBM to design a mousetrap"
Which MS then went and bought, IIRC, in the form or QDOS. And in fact almost all of their products were purchased (or in a few instances conceptually copied). Microsoft must be a joy to behold for lawyers and accountants everywhere, proving that you can build a vast semi-monopolistic cash cow without being in the slightest bit creative or innovative, and without listening to customers.
The greyness, the lack of excitement, or risk, the whole corporate bureaucracy....yuk. If Microsoft were an item of clothing, they'd be XXL grey y-front underpants.
"Not all friendly countries routinely spy on their allies. Germany for example..."
Amongst countries of global significance (say the G20) I'd suggest they are virtually alone. And if you defined a G60 things wouldn't change that much.
" If the various Fraud offices don't take action after completing their investigations they'll have to make some hefty settlements to the old Autonomy board."
The SFO take years to bring a case. I worked for a large listed company that collapsed due to directorial fraud at the end of 2006, and it took the SFO until mid 2013 to get the case in front of the courts. Meg and her inept cronies know this, and are banking on leaving the mess for somebody else to sort out. If there's no meaningful action by state prosecutors, the settlement with Autonomy directors will (a) be peanuts for a leather-arsed dinosaur like HP, and (b) will be made long after Meg's bottom has been lifted out of the CEO's throne.
My guess is that HP are relying on their limitless pockets being deeper than the personal pockets of Lynch and his colleagues. Moreover, I suspect HP don't care if the process goes on for another decade, and that they don't care whether they win or lose. The real purpose seems to me to distract from the culpability of the directors and managers of HP including Meg in approving the Autonomy deal, and perhaps most importantly in calling off the shareholder attack dogs, because that action is the one thing that could harm Meg and the team of bozos that rule at HP. By kicking this into the long grass Meg is confident that she won't be held to account for her part, and any outcome will be apparent long after she has retired on a big fat HP pension.
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- Something for the Weekend, Sir? If you think 3D printing is just firing blanks, just you wait