* Posts by Ledswinger

2984 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012

Google pulls Gaza games from Play store

Ledswinger
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"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.

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Cut price Android on steroids: OnePlus One – should we look gift horse in the gob?

Ledswinger
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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).

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Ledswinger
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Re: Send to China for warranty repairs?

"Who can live without a phone for that long?"

I've found international post to be as fast and reliable as UK domestic services. Factor in the often crummy support service from UK network operators and I think that the difference is more about the fear factor and the cost.

International, insured, signed for 7 day delivery to China by Royal Mail is about £21, compared to about £8 UK inland. If you've saved £200 on the phone, then an extra £12 and a few days if it does go wrong shouldn't be here nor there?

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HUMAN RACE PERIL: Not nukes, it'll be AI that kills us off, warns Musk

Ledswinger
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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.

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Ledswinger
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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.

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Ledswinger
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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.

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Ledswinger
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Re: The problem probably is profitability

"where corporations can do nearly everything people can, but they cannot be sent to jail."

This is true of any "body corporate", be that political parties, the sluggish control freak civil bureaucracy of government, the armed forces, the "intelligence" services, or corporations.

The problem is not profit as such (without which society wouldn't have a surplus to invest in health, technology, entertainment or higher living standards) but that the goals (and culture) of any organisation usually transcend any one person.

You mentioned HFT as a problem. And I'd agree that HFT is not about fair price discovery, but is actually purposed to rip off anybody else for the advantage of the HFT algo owner. But the problem is not profits, or bonuses per se, it is the culture of financial services, where they have collectively lurched from one criminal or immoral money making scheme to another, and the problem is that for all the fine words when they get caught, the industry chooses to keep any sense of propriety in the same dusty draw that stores its broken moral compass. In the UK, examples include private pension misselling, split capital trusts, endowment mortgages, CDOs, over leveraged LBO's, PPI, CPI, interest rate swaps, casino investment banking, payday loans, etc etc etc.

The persistent failure of the body politic to do what serves the electorate best, or even to listen to the clearly expressed wishes of the electorate is another example that is not particularly profit driven - there's an element of lining their pockets, but fundamentally it is about the culture of politics that says the job of electors is to elect me, and then to suck up whatever I do in their name.

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China: Microsoft, don't shy away from our probe

Ledswinger
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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.

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Israel snooped on John Kerry's phone calls during Middle East peace talks

Ledswinger
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"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.

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HP says it will sue former Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussein

Ledswinger
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Re: Wow

" 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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Ad biz now has one less excuse to sponsor freetards and filth

Ledswinger
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Re: I DON'T like filth

"Dull is good. Dull is how it was before Web 2.0, and it was perfectly fine that way."

Perfectly fine for those who were very easily pleased. The sort of people who thought Compuserve via dial up was exciting.

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It's WAR: Internet of Stuff firms butt heads over talking-fridge tech standards

Ledswinger
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Re: Love the picture on the first page

Before the designers of toasters get all dewy eyed over the prospects for their Internet of Toasters, perhaps they'd like to concentrate on the basic functions, and make a toaster that won't burn the bl00dy toast, and doesn't take forever to do the toast, and does the toast evenly without singeing the edges (and without me having to twiddle the knob every time I put a different sized slice of bread in).

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Pentagon hacker McKinnon can't visit sick dad for fear of extradition

Ledswinger
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"So you don't like US citizens because of policies the US government "

No, that's not what I meant. In fact, I'll go as far as to apologise if that's what came across. I have American friends, I generally like American people, and warts-n-all I admire the US as a country.

What I was getting at was the point you were coming to, that the wider reputation of the USA, people included has been really, really harmed by the actions that I mentioned, and that are indeed the actions of your political elite. My own (UK) government are culpable on 50% of the examples mentioned, and it has likewise harmed our global standing, and the reputation of the Brits as a people.

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Ledswinger
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"There are a few global reasons that everyone agrees on"

Yes. None of those were the ones you mentioned. You could consider some these:

A one sided view of all forms of criminal law

A one sided view of all international law

Shit-stirring all round the world

Spying all round the world, including on heads of state of friendly nations

Re-arming the Israelis to help them kill Palestinians

Inventing excuses for, and then prosecuting unjustified wars

Starting wars that reduce countries to rubble, then fucking off when it all goes rancid afterwards.

Have I missed anything? I suspect a whole lot more besides.

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Operators get the FEAR as Ofcom proposes 275% hike in mobile spectrum fees

Ledswinger
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Won't affect customers?

"Yet given the competitive nature of the market it's unlikely to affect consumers' mobile tariffs"

I suspect the vermin at O2 will use it as justification for further increases in prices for the majority of its customers, given that their contracts predate OFCOM's new rules on mid contract increases.

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Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs

Ledswinger
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Re: Where's my Windows update to fix this?

"Anything less than this is an NSA-ready backdoor"

And you don't think that the NSA had W7 equipped with multiple backdoors, unlocked front doors and open windows long before RTM?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Can you still buy memory cards/USB sticks on EBAY?

" I would guess that this sort of malware attack will produce errors if plugged into an OS it isn't expecting?"

Why? On initial connection, is there reason to expect that your Linux box would object to a device that identifies itself as storage and keyboard combined? And if you were crafting an attack against Windows machines, how and why would it produce an error message on the Linux box? "USBStealthDeath has an exception at 00000F:1H8C" should set the alarm bells ringing, and the authors would presumably make code failures silent, particularly since there's a few non-Windows machines around, and once you're rumbled that's it.

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Fiat Panda Cross: 'Interesting-looking' Multipla spawn hits UK

Ledswinger
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Re: Had a Fiat once ...

"but he may have just been unlucky with the car"

I doubt that, Fiat came 24 out of 26 UK car brands in the latest JD Power survey, and one of the two lower brands (Alfa) is also part of the Fiat Chrysler group. Those who rightly wish to laugh at Italian mass-car making craftsmanship may wish to consider that Fiat Chrysler is incorporated in the Netherlands, but tax domiciled in the UK, so maybe they are the spiritual successors to British Leyland.

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Ledswinger
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Re: 80 bhp?

"80Bhp is 30Bhp more than most land rovers had up until the late 80s, and no one with more than a single braincell would say they were bad offroad!"

BHP is power, not torque. Power is the rate of doing work, torque is (if you like) how much work can actually be done. Diesels have lower power and higher torque than petrol engines, and consequently have lower maximum speeds but far better pulling power than petrol engines.

Having said that, diesel Landies always had the reputation for being unable to pull the skin off a rice pudding, so the difference is probably moot.

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Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers

Ledswinger
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Re: Doom for US tech companies@ jnemesh

"I am guessing this will only accelerate the UK's plan to move away from MS products, as well as Germany's!"

I think it may have escaped your notice that GCHQ and the NSA are joined at the hip. They are both unaccountable, both share the same mission to spy on both native and foreign populations to the maximum extent that technology will allow, and operate with a complete lack of proper oversight and a near limitless budget. The US and British government (whilst still spying on each other) have happily co-operated to share the job of global spy in chief, and the idea that the UK is moving away from MS products or taking a stand over NSA intrusion is sadly nonsense.

I think you're referring to the supposed adoption with immediate effect of ODF by government instead of proprietary MS formats, but this is tokenism, as most departments continue to publish Word and Excel documents, and even if they used ODF or HTML they won't have used FoOSS to write them.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Doom for US tech companies

"Good luck with all your endeavors in the future."

Wow! I did enjoy that Mr Pott. Reading it was like watching some gobshite in the pub finally given the good kicking they richly deserved, each finely crafted paragraph like a fast moving boot decelerating against sensitive body parts.

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Ledswinger
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" I would hate to be the admin who convinced their company to move to the cloud within the past few years"

When did the admin have that much clout? It's usually an out-of-their-depth CIO who's going along with the CEO, who in turn was taken out for a very nice lunch by a bunch of IT or management consultants, and they told the CEO that the cloud was where it was happening, and if his company didn't move there, then competitors would eat his very nice lunch.

I'm not sure why directors are so gullible when faced with the sleazebag liars of the consultancy sectors, but all important aspects of corporate decision making seem to involve paying these people ludicrous amounts of money to sell poor quality and undifferentiated corporate, technological or commercial strategies that never address the real issues facing the companies concerned. Eighteen months later, the same consultants are re-employed and paid handsomely to offer some new insight, which in reality is a vast pile of powerpoint slides making irrelevant, selective and out of date comparisons, and has been marginally re-worked (by a handful of well qualified graduates with no real world experience) from a version touted round every competing player in the industry over previous months.

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China in MONOPOLY PROBE into Microsoft: Do not pass GO, do not collect 200 yuan

Ledswinger
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Re: Surprising

"Presuambly because it's much tougher to pirate it than with Windows XP."

I doubt that. If the Chinese government wanted to pirate W7, then they've certainly got the resources to do so by reverse engineering the code and replacing the bits they don't like - no need to rely on a handful of criminals working in a darkened room when you've got several divisions of the PLA dedicated to cyber warfare, plus free access to every university and major tech company in the land. For reasons of trade alone, though, the Chinese government doesn't want to cause too much offence to the US, so the current policy is that it would like government use to be above board and legal, just not as expensive.

There's some curious things here: I can't say why Red Flag Linux didn't work out - given the one party state you'd have thought the technologists could make it work, and the government users would adopt it because they were told to (with a side order of threat of force). But it didn't work, and looking at where they are now, if I were the Chinese government, I'd be offering a couple of billion dollar endowments to (say) Ubuntu and Open Office to make their products as slick and even more user friendly than Microsoft's offering with a view to getting a Chinese Linux version that people wanted to use, and of weakening the US corporate hold on global desktop software. By way of comparison, if Microsoft could sell Windows and Office at US prices, they'd be raking about $15bn a year from China, all straight to the bottom line, so investing comparatively small sums in alternative software they'd be much better off. And as another comparison the costs of getting Ubuntu where it is today are probably around $200m tops (initial investment, acquistions and operating losses), so a billion dollars on top would really make a difference.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Surprising

"Requiring Microsoft to port Office to the Linux operating system would be a rather novel application of antitrust"

That isn't a likely or intended outcome. As the article states, the Chinese government tried and failed to introduce their own OS (Red Flag Linux), and due to that failure still have hundreds of millions of PCs running either pirated or legit copies of XP. With XP no longer supported, Redmond wanted a lot more for W7 licences, and the Chinese saw no reason to pay the higher price, or the ransom for extended XP support. The Chinese government already have the option of migrating to any one of a number of vanilla Linux distros and Open Office for next to nothing, but that's not what they want.

The purpose of this investigation is simply to put some serious pressure on Redmond to offer much better terms for W7, and if they aren't forthcoming to fine Microsoft the difference between what they charge and what Beijing want to pay, as well as to force additional costs on them. The probable outcome of this will be that the Chinese government get a much better deal on W7, the investigation will eventually close with minimal or no fines. The only remarkable thing is that Redmond have tried to hold out against the Chinese government for so long, instead of accepting the inevitable, and looking for what would be the most positive outcome after accepting that China are going to pay them peanuts.

An example of that would have been to offer China the price they want, but only for the flagging W8, which then gives W8 serious volume and (hopefully for MS) more traction in corporate markets. Instead, Redmond's stance has hardened Beijing's position on W8, meaning that the discussions centre either on the now five years old W7, or at best on having to give away W9. Having to massively discount your next operating system before it is launched would be a staggering strategic blunder for Microsoft, but they do have a history of epic strategic blundering.

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SOULLESS machine-intelligence ROBOT cars to hit Blighty in 2015

Ledswinger
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Re: How does this square with the mantra of "public transport" ?

How it squares with the statist, red flag mentality of local government is that driverless cars will be most unlikely to be truly autonomous. At the very least they'll want to make them aware of traffic light sequencing that can remain deliberately messed up, but at a higher level you'll have the Stalinists of Brum rolling out their 20mph everywhere programme, and the self driving cars will dawdle along slower than a push bike. Factor in the unmissable opportunity for the state to mandate some central control logic, and remote management "to help the police and protect the public from Al Quaeda" and driverless cars are a wet dream for the control freak beards and sandals who work in local government.

Of course, that won't make public transport any more popular, but it isn't the state's job to deliver what you want, it is your job to lap up what the state thinks you should have.

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Ledswinger
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Unaffected by new laws

"However, the public-funded body's mouthpiece said work on these vehicles would be unaffected by the new laws because they drive on the pavement. "

I've noticed that most vehicles driven or parked on pavements are unaffected by both existing and new laws. Luckily speed and bus lane cameras are handling all the serious crimes.

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4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles

Ledswinger
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Re: Broadcast TV is a dinosaur

"Please, do explain what you're talking about..."

stu 4 works at OFCOM. It's what they all believe.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Gigabit fibre optic broadband @ Wibble

"If we valued the future we should do both: fibre everywhere and transport infrastructure. That's what the Victorians would have done."

No it was not. The canals, bridges, ships, railways were built almost entirely by private capital, in the times when the state didn't think it was the job of the state to provide everything to everybody. The consequence was that infrastructure followed economic demand. Some railways certainly were built to nowhere during the railway mania, but if they weren't economic the were promptly closed - rural dwellers didn't benefit from universal access to railways, canals, water or sewerage systems because it wasn't economic to serve them, and there was no mechanism then for civil servants to plunder the wider population's pockets to offer "services" where people would not pay the true cost themselves.

Far from modern day Victorians building out a national high speed broadband network, they'd do exactly what BT and Virginmedia do - chase the densest pockets of demand until the capital runs out.

Amusingly, HS2 is a modern day example of the Victorian railway mania - a vainglorious hope justified on fictitious traffic forecasts, supported by ignorant or crooked politicians, that goes between two thriving metropoli and ignores those living between them. The only difference being that it has been planned by the Stalinist central planning bureaucrats of Whitehall, using public money. In twenty years time HS2 will go the way of HS1 made large, where the British government backed the builders of HS1 with £5bn plus of guarantees plus operating losses and costs in the meanwhile (all because the traffic forecasts were made up numbers....), and then ended up selling the assets to a foreign pension fund for £2bn or so.

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Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Ledswinger
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Re: Why bother?

"Just because "social housing round [your] neck of the woods" seems to be inhabited by those not on the breadline doesn't mean that there are no people in that situation."

That's true. But the failings of the welfare state or employment policy should be addressed in those areas, rather than trying to artificially force down the costs of energy. Spending £200 on a smart meter might not help the legendary poor, but actually their bill doesn't take a £200 hit today. The costs of the new meters will be amortised and blended into bills over many years, JUST AS MECHANICAL METER COSTS ALREADY ARE. Given the modest efficiencies that smart meters incur, the actual cost of the programme on bills is probably neutral to moderately positive over the longer term.

Having said that, there always were better ways of spending the circa £14bn that the programme will cost in the UK, but unless you believe the limp-wristed British government could and would tell the EU to sling its hook, then the requirement is enshrined in EU and UK law, along with all the other drivers of higher energy costs - renewables, carbon taxes, energy efficiency schemes and the like.

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Ledswinger
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Re: If these meters were truely smart.....@chris 17

"If the complexity is the problem, then they should rip up the established procedures and start again. Keep It Simple and cut out the hidden costs."

The complexity is driven by unfortunate hard reality, and the outcome wouldn't be any different if you ran your own power generating set. Electricity involves capital assets, it cannot be stored, and therefore you have some assets that are used only infrequently, meaning that the cost varies. If you need one extra GW of plant to serve demand for ten hours in the winter, that's a £250m asset that will have a load factor of 0.1%. The cost of capital doesn't change on lower utilisation, and unfortunately even that low utilisation won't make it last any longer. The same concept exists for distribution, in that capacity costs are divided according to when you use power. And when you contract to buy electricity, because it can't be stored (cheaply or efficiently) you have to commit on a near take or pay basis.

All the complexity follows from these simple concepts. If you want it simpler, then rather than industry "ripping up established procedures", you need to change your demand to a load profile that matches somebody's generation asset - either by turning things on and off as the wind blows, or by creating completely flat demand that suits nuclear.

If it's that simple, set up your own power cooperative. Borrow to buy a package spark ignition generator, and see how you get on "off grid". If you run the genset to follow a domestic load profile you'll very rarely be running at optimal efficiency, and you'll have a double the number of breakdowns due to the thermal and mechanical stresses (my company has tried this, we know). And because your genset has to cover winter peak demand (all the lights, fan heaters, tellies, hair dryers, cookers all on at the same time) you'll have to buy one that's too large for 99% of your use, making it both expensive and inefficient.

The only simple solution is to live without electricity.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Which devices are using resources?

"Presumably all the fluff is just to conceal the fact that this is an installation of automated meter reading to put meter readers out of a job."

Smart meters are mandated by EU law, not by a business case from energy companies. My employers have no desire to own a fleet of millions of meters, so anybody believing that industry asked for this needs their head examining. As noted elsewhere, the costs of smart metering we think will be covered by the systemic savings, but the few quid a year from manual meter reading is only a small component of the savings.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Why bother?

"Maybe you should wake up, take a look around you and notice that some people struggle to find that amount of money for food."

All the social housing round my neck of the woods has a Sky dish on the side, and the denizens all appear well equipped with fashionable mobiles, and more able than I am to go down the pub regularly. Maybe they should prioritise their spending if there's not much left for food?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Here's an idea.@Neil Barnes

" Once every three months, say, a chap comes round and looks at the number, and calculates a bill based on that amount...Do away with smart meters...an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't exist.."

If you believe this, why are you reading a tech web site? I hope you posted this by typewriter (and only then if your quill pen wouldn't access the internet).

In reality my company's meter readers have to try and get access to meters inside houses where there's nobody in when they call, or where the occupants are actively trying to avoid having the meter read, or don't want strangers in their house. Then there's outdoor meters that are accessed via a gated development they can't get into to, or via a garden with an ugly dog. Then there's "unreadables" where the meter stopped working or was deliberately vandalised months ago but we never knew, or even meter cabinets bricked up, or with garden sheds across the front. The manual meter reading success rate is abysmal. That then (along with customer mis-reads, or reluctance to read) causes inaccurate bills. There's an overlay of the monthly direct debit for some customers that causes pain, confusion and customer service costs. It also means that the energy suppliers have to plan their business on guessed levels of customer demand because we have to balance and settle on half hourly periods, so knowing what residential customers used over three months is no f***ing use whatsoever, other than to send you the inaccurate bill. And when we have to guess demand, we get it wrong, that means penalties in the market, and your costs go up.

There's a lot of benefits to smart meters, but almost none of them are accurately recognised by the government analysis. Our experience on many thousands of smartmeters installed is that electricity demand reduces permanently by around 4% (gas is around 1% reduction or less). We can't really say whether that's better meter accuracy, or customer reaction to the new meter, but it's measurable across large numbers of meters, and those savings are in customers' pockets forever. Then there's the fact that we save both on manual meter readings (only about £15 a year) and upon all the mis-billing costs of estimated bills, and upon the costs of customer service to sort out resultant direct debit problems. Behind the scenes we can reduce our balancing and settlement costs, and we can reduce the costs and pain of moving people on or off pre-payment meters. We can offer new tariffs if people want time of use tariffs we can do that - and indeed adjust the times easily if that's sensible, unlike the set in stone Economy 7 times. If the regulator doesn't mess it up through Utopian Socialism we can even reduce the costs of bad debt and bad debt recovery. With a bit of luck we may even be able to pro-actively respond to lifestyle changes which at the moment are a notable cause of direct debits getting out of hand because usage patterns change compared to the assumptions underlying the direct debit. We also believe that the solid state meters will be more reliable and more accurate than mechanical meters.

There's things not to like about smart meters - the pointless in home display, the central warehousing of meter data, the unduly and expensively fast roll out programme, and the usual fraudulent green agenda being forced by the EU, but to suggest you'd prefer a flat capped MEB employee to come round and read your meter is akin to saying that's you'd rather go back to the old dial telephones and the GPO. Say hello to 1971 when you get there.

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Ledswinger
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"I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill."

The units themselves will be no more expensive than the ageing mechanical meters they replace (possibly much cheaper in volume). The main cost driver is the relatively precipitate replacement programme that has been mandated by the EU, and that means prices go up as supply and fitting skills are constrained, and it means higher write off costs for the mechanical meters.

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Ledswinger
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Re: If these meters were truely smart.....

"If these meters were truely smart they would automatically switched to the cheapest supplier on a second by second basis, directly paying for the electricity as I used it."

If you had automated switching it'd actually be on half hourly metering periods, because that's how the market conducts balancing and settlement. Automating switching to the cheapest tariff is conceptually simple.

But the role of suppliers is not merely sending you a bill, it is primarily contracting generation, hedging, balancing and settling energy accounts, and settling all the related systems charges, then offering that as a bundled flat rate tariff. Whilst sending the bills is the most visible activity it is also the least significant thing energy suppliers do. If the whole market is on automatic switching, then the suppliers can't contract generation ahead (because they'd go bust as soon as they found themselves out of balance, with take or pay contracts but no customers to sell to). What that means is that if you have automatic switching of tariff, then you're asking to participate in the wholesale electricity market. In theory the suppliers could operate in the spot market on customers behalf, but it's still a race to see who goes bust first, a bit like demanding that Tesco should sell to you at the price it pays wholesalers.

Lets' assume you want those peachy wholesale energy prices, that at face value look to be about half of retail electricity costs. But government need to raise about a billion quid a year to fritter on their beloved social obligations, so that'd gravitate to a new tax on energy supplied, or higher income tax. Then you've got the problem that wholesale power prices vary all day and all year round. Forward contract prices vary by a factor of three summer through to winter, and in winter you use three times as much leccy, so your December electricity bill will be around ten times your August bill (and without suppliers there's no monthly direct debit on offer). But even that variation assumes you contract your demand profile with a generator (because those are forward not spot prices). In that case if you use more than you;ve contracted in any half hour then you are "out of balance" and you would be hit for penalty payments because you want power beyond what you've contracted to buy. That means as much as 100x charges for the out of balance power, because in practical terms you're the person paying for all opex and capex on a generator that only runs for three hours a year. All of this risk and complexity is why we have electricity suppliers.

And even with that potential world of complexity and pain, as you've eliminated the supplier role, you need to rent your meter from somebody (or buy your own, and agree a service and assurance contract with somebody so that the meter can participate in the market. Oh, and lastly, unless you buy a separate hedging contract, then you're exposed to swings in wholesale energy prices over and above the normal daily and seasonal variations. You'll also need to pay feed in tariff subsidies to all the pensioners with solar PV on their bungalows.

And since you're in the wholesale market, you'll need to pay separately for electricity transmission systems costs, balancing system costs, and distribution costs. Distribution costs in particular at a bu99er, because they have a fixed charge, a maximum capacity element, unit charges that vary across three different times of day, and extra for reactive power (with so much domestic demand from CFL lighting, LED lights and displays, and refridgerant compressors you can expect to be hit for these).

You could of course contract an energy generator to do all this for you, and cut out the supplier.....except that they are then your supplier. The underlying cost structure and complexity of the industry won't change, so it'd be no different to how things are today (although worth noting that the spotty lawyers who populate OFGEM earnestly believe that integration between suppliers and generators is a problem).

So yes, it can be done, but just be careful what you wish for.

9
1

Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

Ledswinger
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"I for one WANT to see my films as they were projected in the cinema"

What, all scratched, poorly duplicated, covered in dust and drying marks?

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Ledswinger
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" it's only a TV. and most stuff on TV is shit anyway."

But on a 4k set it glistens more realistically, and you can see every hair on the flies' legs.

8
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In the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave ... you can legally carrier unlock your own phone

Ledswinger
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Re: The land of the slightly free.

"So you can buy something, pay for it, own it completely and by the grace of your corporation-driven masters you can even tinker with what you now own, in the Home of the Brave!"

Nobody said that the networks had to unlock the phone for free. The nastier networks will undoubtedly try and stiff the users for unlocking handsets (EE/Orange/Tmobile do this in the UK), and for a handset that's two years old, paying $30 to have it unlocked may leave a bad taste. Obviously you could get the high street shops to unlock for $10, but even so it is still a cost on the consumer.

If Congress had really been working for voters, then they would have banned network locking in the first place - so far from being a win for consumers, this legislation shows that big corporates still write the rules.

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Ledswinger
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"Begs the question, why on earth did the sheeples buy such things in the first place."

To state the bleeding obvious, because if you want a top line phone it is a lot less painful to have it on contract than to fork out $$$ for a sim free model, even if the maths shows that buying on contract costs more. For a single person with high disposable income buying SIM free is painless, for everybody else it isn't.

In this household I'm paying for a small fleet of four phones on the same replacement cycle, so buying four SIM free handsets would cost me a couple of thousand up front. And by choosing contract phones on run-out (eg Galaxy S3 at end of last year, probably S4 end of this year), I get a deal where I'd struggle to save money buying SIM free.

6
3

DAYS from end of life as we know it: Boffins tell of solar storm near-miss

Ledswinger
Silver badge

Re: power grid

"Let's just say it wouldn't be trivial to recover from"

I would have thought we'd have recent evidence to prove the claimed level of problems with power grids, if the report is accurate that the chances of a Carrington event are 12% per decade, since we've had national electricity distribution networks for many, many decades. Either we have been improbably lucky, or the (by and large) lack of grid problems caused by CME suggest to me that the researchers are fluffing this risk up (particularly since less powerful CME are common as muck). I also suspect that the impact of a major CME would have been over-estimated by New Sensationalist, because the modern grid is equipped with fast reacting surge control systems to protect against far more common modes of failures and lightning strikes.

I'd accept that satellites could end up as toast, and that some unshielded terrestrial electronics would be at risk, but this whole doomsday stuff, nah.

5
4

Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends

Ledswinger
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"Welcome to Paleontology, the science of extrapolation."

It's contagion, spreading from Climatology where extrapolation and correlation-as-causation are regarded as the scientific method.

4
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METRE-LONG DINOSAUR POO going under the hammer

Ledswinger
Silver badge

Re: [sigh]

Maybe they'll buy one of mine.

The other week, you know, I'd been holding off, and holding off (like you do) to the point where I was suffering from turtle's head, and then I gave in and tottered off to the trap. And it was probably the prescription co-codamol that I'd taken, along with beer and a lot of barbecued meat, but it was like squeezing out a cabbage. I called from the cubicle for a midwife, because it seemed that only a midwife would have the necessary skills to help, but there was no response. After an age of fevered laboring without pain relief or professional assistance, I finally launched not merely a fearsome dreadnought, but more like the entire Grand Fleet, all well formed, stiff, and of immense girth. Piled up glistening above the water they were. Had I been able to gently lay it like cable, moving very slowly along to avoid tensile stress breaking the log (and hopefully controlling the cigar cutter reflex), I'm sure I'd have easily got more than the puny 40 incher that this dino cropped off.

And then, not realising the vast monetary value of finely formed faeces, I flushed this work of art to oblivion*. In terms of monetary and artistic loss that flush must rank with the day when the Momart warehouse went up in smoke. In fact, the flush was far worse, because Momart only contained crap like Tracey Emin's sex tent,and stuff owned by Charles Saatchi.

In view of this exciting news, I shall taking to laying my dogs eggs on sheets of A1 craft paper in future, sun dry them, and then take them along to I.M.Chait to discuss terms.

* Well, the bogs at work have crappy syphonic flushes, and I tried to flush it to oblivion, but in fact left a sizeable residue for subsequent visitors to marvel at. I can be sure, though, that the article being auctioned here is of the wrong colour and inadequate girth to indicate that anyone recognised the value and fished it out.

3
0

Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket

Ledswinger
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Re: On Mars, on time, on budget.@ Neil Barnes

"Pick any two."

You, sir, are an incorrigible optimist. I would suggest "Maybe pick one".

2
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Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales

Ledswinger
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Re: Amazon seller europe - verification

"Then it wanted my passport details and a bank statement or utility bill. You what???"

Given the list you provide, this smells more like broad data scooping on the behalf of somebody else than like tax compliance data.

Considering that the NSA and GCHQ are now as welcome in most of Europe a dose of the squits, it might be more difficult to snoop all these details directly from banks and utility companies. Why not get a nice friendly company (and one with a nice symbiotic relationship with the US government) to collect intrusive levels of detail like this? Between Ebay, Paypal, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al, they can harvest vast amounts of detail on the majority of foreign nationals.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Pay no taxes post no profits

"Shop wisely, readers."

More like "Strategise wisely, Bezos."

Running persistent losses in retail, and then engaging in tax avoidance might be part of a grand scheme to build a dominant position, but it hasn't won Amazon any friends. With something approaching dominance in online retailing, how long before somebody (most likely the European Commission) decide that Amazon's retail strategy amounts to abusive practice?

The French establishment already hate Amazon. I suspect the other European liberal and left parties hate Amazon or are easily persuadable (over tax avoidance, labour relations, NSA integration of AWS, for treading on smaller companies, concerns over music and rights licensing, and for simply being American). And whilst Amazon have deep pockets for lobbying, so do Google, who definitely want a bigger share of content sales. The need of most governments to raise more tax means that busting-up online retailing helps - it is probably easier to have a market review that then create conditions for new (they hope) local entrants who don't have the scale and scope for global tax evasion than to tackle Amazon directly on its dubious, but claimed to be legal tax arrangements.

The link below I believe refers to US sales, but there's plenty of other evidence that suggests the position in Europe is very similar:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/30/amazon_dot_com_holds_ludicrous_lead_in_online_retail_sales/

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MPs to sue UK.gov over 'ridiculous' EMERGENCY data snooping law

Ledswinger
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Re: How long....

...or anything else?

It is truly remarkable that to achieve anything, government indulges itself in months and months of drafting "consultation", materials, then months and months of consultation, then months and months drafting impenetrable, poorly written, amateur legalese, meaning that new legislation inevitably takes years. Ask for anything to be done quickly, and the response is always "lack of parliamentary time". Clearly there's plenty of time for things that are high priority to them, even overlooking the ludicrously long holidays the scum take off at my expense.

5
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Climate: 'An excuse for tax hikes', scientists 'don't know what they're talking about'

Ledswinger
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Re: I think...

"The only people who DO know are the people who study it and work on it. No one else is qualified to give an opinion - literally. At least, an educated one."

Well, as somebody who studied climate science to degree level, I'm unconvinced by the claimed scientific consensus, and note that the main scientific cheerleaders often have significant vested interest both reputational, research funding-wise, and in terms of their personal status and orgnisational seniority. In all forms of research, what is looked for will be found simply because the funding is withdrawn from projects that don't produce "promising" results, and because stepping out of line with the establishment will result in loss of funding even for non-related research in future. The East Anglia Climategate emails showed the reality of vanity, unscientific and unprofessional behaviours that those involved think are acceptable, I see no reason to believe that such cultural attitudes have changed.

Having said that, I think the public are wrong that "climate change" is about raising new taxes. Politicians and civil servants by and large have no real world experience, no science or technology background. They've had to choose whether to go with AGW or not, and they have. As a result I don't think that it is an exaggeration to say that Western European governments are on a war footing over climate change. Almost every single aspect of policy, be it food, energy, buildings, infrastructure, agriculture, trade, industry is being critically directed by people putting "climate change" beliefs ahead of all other interests. So we despoil the countryside and seascape with wind turbines that are near useless, we are covering nothern Europe with solar panels despite the fact that our biggest issue is power used after dark in winter, having destroyed the power market with renewables, another toxic kludge comes along to pay fossil fuel plant owners to keep it working. Government regulations interfere in every aspect of home building and maintenance, from making it illegal for me to replace a broken window myself on "environmental grounds", to instructing architects as to what the ratio of windows to floor space should be (a number that laughably goes up and down every few years according to poorly thought through ideas of how energy is used and lost). Government bureaucrats scheme to encourage district heating in the UK under the incorrect belief that these are somehow more efficient than large central generation of power, and gas fired heating, and ignore the exceptionally high cost of heat networks. Waste policy tries to encourage both energy from waste and recycling (you can't have both, but policy seems to ignore this). All aspects of regulated industries have a big chunk of capex devoted to overcoming climate change (great for the regulated asset base). We encourage China to do our manufacturing, and happily chalk up the loss of our industrial base as a "benefit" for emissions, and DECC delightedly publish charts showing the reducing "emissions intensity" of our economy. We close perfectly functional coal fired power plant because the EU tell us we should on climate change grounds, ignoring the cost and emissions of the expensive and unreliable renewables. Private landlords will be compelled in a few years time to start putting expensive solid wall insulation on older houses at their own expense, because again government is spending somebody else's money, and because nothing is more important than fighting climate change.

If this were just about raising taxes, then we'd see a fall in the budget deficit. In reality government continues to live beyond its means (in the UK to the tune of £100bn a year), and seeks a narrative for continuation on its previous scale. The War on Terror was a previous narrative that justified the need for lots of government, although it is ringing a bit hollow after ten years of failure, in large part because of the disgraceful failure of the baddies to live up to their part of the bargain. The War on Climate Change will be fought for a good few years yet, but I don't think the proles have a clue how much government is bravely doing to them and for them to prevent it.

44
9

Home Office threw £347m in the bin on failed asylum processing IT project

Ledswinger
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Re: WTF?

"I'm just staggered that the project could remotely cost £347m, and be signed off as value. "

Why are you staggered? When you're spending somebody else's money nothing is too expensive, nor does it matter whether the system, product or service works or not.

That's why the MoD spent £4bn on Nimrod MRA4 before scrapping the whole lot (along with a shed-load more of epic and expensive procurement failures). That's why DCLG wasted half a billion on regional fire control centres that never worked. That's why HMRC, DWP and others have allowed around £22bn to trickle through their fingers in uncollected revenues. That's why DoH spent about £10bn over some years on the failed patient records system. Why the Home Office wrote off over £100m on the e-borders system. And that's without considering the many, many projects that saw costs balloon and inadequate functionality, but still managed to drag their carcases over the completion line, like DEFRA's third of a billion SPS that was obsolete by the time it was launched, or the Ministry of Justice's dysfunctional Libra system for courts that cost £400m, the write offs on and multiple and repeated expensive failures to implement shared back office services systems at DWP, DfT, Research Councils, MoD and others. You could include NATS, the inability of the DfT to let (relatively) simple contracts to run trains.

The list of waste and incompetence goes on and on, and nothing ever changes. It is important to note that it is not purely technology related projects that fail - this isn't just about the Civil Service and politicians being a bunch of Oxbridge politics and economics drips who don't understand technology, but also about rank organisational and individual incompetence in a penalty free environment.

I can't see the day coming ever, but the only way things would ever change is if senior civil servants are stopped from job hopping mid project, and are personally held accountable for delivering working projects. That would mean sacking many of the current bunch without compensation when the project fails. I'd be quite happy to wield a pair of bolt croppers to publicly remove both their knackers and their unearned, gold plated public sector pensions. I think a black balaclava would be suitable adornment to my features, and I'd like to go by the name of Black Led.

4
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Ledswinger
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Re: WTF

"It all comes down to poor management "

It most certainly does. Rather amusing to consider the lack of humour and pomposity that causes the Oxbridge educated top echelons of the Civil Service to have their own exclusive trade union entitled the "First Division Association". Talent free, overpaid cunts.

6
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Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months

Ledswinger
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Re: Only time will tell

"They won't be waiting 18 months, they have that covered with their R&D department, AKA Jolla :-)"

They won't be getting back into smart, dumb or feature phones now or ever. You don't run up a series of breathtaking losses and writedowns, then tell investors "we're selling your handset division because we're too incompetent to manage it", and as soon as you've completed start plotting to get back into that line. The 18 month ban on Nokia making handsets of its own is a normal non-compete clause any buyer of businesses would demand, but that doesn't mean for one moment that Nokia have any desire to get back into handsets.

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