1154 posts • joined Friday 1st June 2012 10:28 GMT
Easy win for USAF
So the NSA hold a hacking competition, but only invited a few public sector mates?
That's not a competition. Hopefully next time they'll remember to invite the Norks, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Israelis, or any manner of East European crooks. Or perhaps pick on one of those as the competition location and invite all the others to do their best.
Maybe choose Iran as the "location", and offer specific prizes for conventional infrastructure disablement, military and nuclear foulups, state secrets revealed, intellectual property "liberated". And most importantly, a gold plated award for hacking Iran's single copy of Photoshop to compromise its functionality in a manner even more amusing than Iran's current use of the programme.
I'll bet USAF don't come top in that competition.
Re: 3rd place is still very much up for grabs@Zola
"I'm especially looking forward to "hybrid" devices, the likes of which you'll not see from Microsoft any time soon, if ever - I'm talking about multi-core and ridiculously powerful smartphones that when docked become fully featured desktop PCs,"
Actually, MS are the people who seem to be people who recognise this most of all. The launch of W8 and WP8 may have been met with an overwhelming indifference, but MS are trying to integrate their software platform to cover mobes, slabs and PCs, because they know that's the way things are going. I'd be the first to accept that they've not integrated touch and Keyboard + WIMP worlds very well, but who else has even tried? The Asus phonedock is part the way there (although the need for a physical connection seems a bit 1990's), but doesn't give you a KWIMPS environment for serious productivity.
If MS get W8.1 to play well between touch and KWIMPS, and they can really bring full fat 8.1 to phones (a bit sceptical myself, but you never know), then they really could be on to a winner. Apple would then have to play catch up, Android and BB are left high and dry with no "productivity" credentials. If Unbuntu & Firefox could do something really clever in the same space to integrate OpenOffice and provide that mobile to desktop switching they could perhaps also make the productivity claims, although getting business on board would remain a cultural barrier.
I'm no Windows fanboi - I think their track record has been outrageously poor on security, their products largely uninnovative, reactionary bloatware, and expensive to boot, with a dismal lack of customer focus. But for the future you describe and which sounds quite convenient, Fat Steve's team appear to be working on giving you what you want. The barrier to this brave new world is of course the age old bogeyman of X86 and backwards compatibility, plus Microsoft's inability or refusal to really programme new software from the ground up, preferring to endlessly put a modest new UI on the same ancient NT code and release it as a new OS. History indicates that 8.1 will be more of the same, and thus MS will give room for others to do what is really required, as ever its own worst enemy?
Re: My Z10
"You'd think the sales people would reserve their own opinions and give a balanced view to prospective customers!"
No, I'd think that the sales bod will push devices and contracts in the following order (a) whatever gets him the best commission, (b) whatever his boss tells him to push, or (c) whatever stock has built up in the back room of the shop.
Of course, if you can find a tech savvy, customer focused, ethically principled saleman, happily working for a company that offer no commission (or a flat rate regardless of the type and value of sales) then you might get impartiality, but equally pigs might fly. A successful salesman knows he generally can't sell ice to eskimos, but if you're seeking advice then you give the game away that you are persuadable - to buy a fatter contract, or to be upsold a 32GB handset, or to plump for a fruitphone over a top end Sammy or HTC, etc etc. The mistake your O2 guy made was not seeing the clue that you were upgrading from a BB handset, and really wanted the Z10 - but I'll guess his wallet-sniffing instincts are right more often than wrong, at least for his purposes.
Re: False Prophet...Oi! Wilco 1
It is patently obvious that you are emotionally attached to generating power by wind. You deny the operational shortcomings ("ooh, we'll just turn up a CCGT that happens to be lying around"), you deny the vast subsidies, you refute the merit curve as though listing plant in order of efficiency were some kind of witchcraft, you claim that the wind "sort of averages out so its always blowing a bit somewhere", which ignores the meteorological and seasonal reality.
But you're wrong. £20 billion quid has been pissed up the wall on UK wind power, and we get a miserable handful of our power delivered, unreliably, and we've still got all the same operational, asset life and emissions problems of the conventional generating assets that keep the lights on in winter. For that sort of money we could either replaced the ENTIRE UK coal fleet with around 30 GW of new high efficiency CCGT plus sufficient gas storage to keep the system reliable, or we could have had four to six new nuclear reactors, delivering power continuously, so giving us about four times as much power as your wanky wind turbines (and with an asset life about three times as long as the wind turbines are likely to last).
Renewables are an economic disaster that is going to wipe out Europe's economy, partly through pressuring manufacturers to offshore, partly through the crippling costs of subsidies and all the fixes to force the system to almost work, and partly because putting money into unproductive assets misallocates capital (this last one on its own destroyed the USSR's economy, albeit through weapons spending, but Europe failed to understand).
Re: Lunatics running the asylum@Charlie Clark
"All EU policy was sanctioned by democratically elected national governments"
Sadly, that doesn't mean that the policies have the support of the voters, or that even where they do, that the policies make sense.
Regarding "dust off your blackshirt", another straight call on Godwin. If you can't see the vast hole that Europe is digging for itself, then more fool you. And as for Germany's "achievement" in renewables, I'd just remind you that by 2016 subsidies under the German Renewable Energy Act will be running at €24 billion a year. That is on top of the nuclear phase out compensation, EU carbon credit purchases, and the cost of all the thermal standby (which the German government is going to have to come up with capacity payments to support).
Re: REminds me of a report...@Sammy Smalls & PlacidCasual
"'something we won't do in the UK' - Is there a reason for this? Has this been debated and rejected? A genuine question, as it sounds like a good idea."
It has been debated a bit, but has no enthusiastic supporters and very low profile. The electricity industry is deeply conservative, but more importantly there's no support and ecounragement, with DECC continuing their mad policies of pushing "renewables" at any cost. The economics of retrofit district heating are marginal on raw commercial terms, but compared to the economics of renewables they are excellent, and a far better and cheaper way of reducing CO2 emissions. As a rough guide, a 2GWe coal fired station wastes 2-3GW thermal through its cooling towers, and that's about the heat demand of a city of a million people. Obviously you'd need to fluff some up the cooling towers if running in summer, but summer demand is less anyway, so you could downrate the coal plant over the summer (coal plant is problematic to completely mothball, although it can be done).
PlacidCasual's comment about housing stock not being suitable seems logical, but isn't entirely correct. In southern Sweden I know that the district heating system is being built out as a retrofit to urban areas already supplied by gas, so it can be done and is done, in similar climate zones to the UK. Admittedly you're displacing relatively clean gas, but that's still unnecessary gas. Part of the lack of enthusiasm is for power stations really in the middle of nowhere (although the Danes have got some 20km+ district heating transmission lines, proving it can be done), and because of the sh!theaded EU plans to close so much UK thermal plant down. You'd be a nutter to develop district heating for something you're going to be forced to shut in a couple of years.
Notwithstanding that, there's no reason that the plants continuing to operate post 2015 shouldn't be encouraged to develop CHP, although DECC's idiot policy of a carbon floor price is intended to put these stations out of business by the early 2020s. And DECC are also busy developing yet another subsidy for us all to pay through our 'leccy bills, the Renewable Heat Incentive; You can be sure that will exclude CHP from large coal plant. It's part of their "any idea as long as it isn't sensible, low cost, and practical" scheme.
The pity is that modernised coal plant with CHP could potentially run at 75% thermal efficiency, even for 1970's plant, and that's a lot better than even state of the art combined cycle gas turbines.
Re: A fart in a hurricane@Dave 15
"Stupidly not all the decent hydro sites are in use. Mildenhall used to have a mill generating leccy for the town and nearby village."
Mildenhall? In flat as a pancake Suffolk? The problem you have there is that low head hydro generates utterly pathetic amounts of power. Hydro power is flow times head in metres, and in most scenarios like Mildehall you'll have both low flows and low head. That's why hydro dams are tall, or use aqueducts to have turbines at much lower levels. You certainly could generate some power from a mill race, but in the grand scheme such little power that it really won't make any difference. As usual the EU have already tried to throw money at this one, I forget the name of it, but it was an attempt to subsidise power generation from low head hydro and within drinking water distribution back in the mid 1990s. It didn't result in any useful outcome.
For a couple of houses or as a green hobby project it could be quite nice, but unfortunately it simply won't make much difference even if you stuck a hydro unit in every former mill race, and made as many again.
Re: Stop using postcodes
Entirely forseeable (indeed I posited as much round these parts some while back - where's my icon for "I told you so"?).
Remarkably Francis Maude is reported to have asked Shiney Faced Dave not to privatise the PAF, and that complete @rsehole Cameron has decided that it should in fact be sold.
This appears to be a done deal, sadly, so I move onto the simple question: Is it nature or nurture? Has Dave the Feckless worked ceaselessly to refine his unique gift for ALWAYS making the wrong choice, or is it simply one of nature's unfortunate legacies that he hasn't had to do anything to hold?
Either way we have a village idiot for a prime minister.
Re: False Prophet @ Wilco1
"No, it's a fact. Wind power costs are coming down, nuclear costs seem to only go up"
Well, if you build enough of anything you get the unit costs down, and that applies to nuclear as much as wind. But as noted, wind is NOT competitive on the grid without subsidy, and even with vast subsidies it still doesn't make it onto the grid unless forced. Unlike nice dependable nuclear, wind of course requires thermal assets in hot reserve to cover its unpredictability, a cost which (like so many others) it doesn't have to pay.
As for your ignorant, ill informed comments on the merit curve, of course it bloody works, with any power source, to give the optimal outcome for the bill payers. Just because the eco-twerps have knobbled it to try and justify their useless toys doesn't make it "no longer apply". Your reasoning is akin to claiming that if a car is driven up hill, the laws of gravity no longer apply.
But, don't worry. Notwithstanding the fact that you clearly speak from the commanding heights of ignorance, and that I merely work for one of the world's largest power companies, that my company operate a vast renewables fleet (farming the subsidies), that we are a major nuclear operator, that we have a large CCGT fleet, a significant coal fleet, interests in CHP, hydro and the rest, no, we''ll come and listen to you when the lights start going out.
Or maybe not.
Re: False Prophet
"Actually nuclear is more expensive than wind power"
Only in the wild imaginings of the wind power weenies. Not only is wind cash-subsidised through multiple mechanisms, it also has a bizarre "must run" status. The merit curve that normally ensures our most efficient plant runs first to meet demand is thus turned on its head, and we run our most expensive plant at the random convenience of the wind (and if there's no demand, we still pay the operators anyway).
Nobody has put a figure on this absurdity, but as we'd rarely run wind turbines at all if the merit curve were properly applied, you can infer that the value of the subsidy is about £140/MWh multiplied by total output, divided by the output wind would generate if run on merit. At a guess we're talking about wind's effective subsidy being one or two orders of magnitude greater than the nominal £140 MWh.
Re: A fart in a hurricane
"However, if we in Europe develop electric cars and other technology for reducing CO2 emissions ..."
Except that we aren't. Turbines on every suitable windfarm site plus solar PV across all suitable areas of Europe won't provide anywhere near our existing electricity demand (sunny, breezy summer weekends excepted), and electric vehicles have the potential to double electricity demand. The only way that EV's would reduce emissions would be if you had a mass nuclear build out, replacing all winter baseload with nuclear, and (because of the enhanced demand for EV charging) doubling that. In wax crayon numbers, winter baseload is 40GW in the UK, your EV charging demand would be about the same, so that's 80GW of new nuclear. Assuming £2bn per GW that's £160bn of spend on 25-40 odd new nuclear power stations, which would take thirty years to do (supply & skills constraints more of a problem than the money).
The lights are at risk of going out in Europe, and the only medium term solution is gas - cheap to build, cheap to run, relatively quick to build (albeit not as quick as government believe), and capable of running off imported Russian gas, Middle Eastern LNG, or Europe's vast shale gas reserves, if the will existed.
Re: This is not rocket science...!
"How can any anti-virus company release an update without comprehensive testing on a range of machines with various generally expected software configurations to ensure that this sort of thing doesn't happen?"
If it's free, are you getting what you paid for? Quite seriously, if they aren't charging, is it reasonable to expect much in the way of testing (or development, or anything, really)? I'm a happy freetard, using a range of free software, but I accept that there's no redress.
Re: REminds me of a report...@Graham Dawson
"it's safe to assume that there have been improvements in the meantime."
I think you assume the improvement will be greater than they are. Take our own Drax, which is a 1970's build, and is about 40% thermally efficient. Now take Datteln Unit 4, in Germany, which is an absolute state of the art hard coal plant (not yet commissioned even) and will be about 45% thermally efficient. That's hardly a breathtaking improvement for forty years, you'd agree?
Moreover, I doubt that India has the money or inclination to build coal plant to the latest EU & German standards, in which case there probably has been next to no improvement in the efficiency of Indian coal fired power plant.
If you want to improve the thermal efficiency of coal plant, then things like fluidised bed grates and higher pressure steam circuits only help so far, the real easy, easy win is to recover the heat for district heating (something we won't do in the UK, but could nearly double the thermal efficiency of any coal power station near an urban area). In India obviously there's little or no demand for heating, so they will always be stuck with at absolute best 45% efficiency.
Logically coal burning should be discouraged in tropical and sub tropical climates (encourage them to use gas), and at higher latitudes we should use coal with heat recovery for winter power, and gas for summer, and forget about window dressing like solar PV and wind.
Re: A fart in a hurricane
"It seems rather pointless us spending years agonizing over a single windmill "
But we're not. The UK has spent or committed something of the order of £20bn on crappy windmills, for stuff all output. There may be isolated examples of windpower being held up (usually onshore developments which should anyway be banned for their low load factor), but broadly speaking the programme is the one your former greeny mates have advocated, of building wind turbines pell mell, regardless of cost of consequence, and the ridiculous subsidy supported roll out of solar PV largely to middle class tossers.
As for hydro, what hydro? All the good sites in the Uk are already in use, pumped storage is a waste of money (expensive and inefficient, still no good locations).
I don't follow why any greens are downhearted. They've got exactly the energy policy they want - huge build out of renewables, all paid for by vast subsidies unwilling taken from electricity bill payers. They've got Kyoto, they've got the EU ETS, they've got a UK carbon floor price, and soon they'll have a post industrial Europe with a completely ruined economy.
Cheer up, this is what you wanted.
"How much of this 'trend' is due to China building coal stations?"
A big part, But Europe is doing its bit. Germany's phasing out nuclear (along with Belgium, Italy & Switzerland), and as their green lobby will block fracking, and the alternative is Russian gas, the Germans propose to build new lignite (brown coal) plants. Lignite is a rubbish fuel source, amounting to coal dust mixed with earth, so the thermal efficiency is rotten. Whilst I don't buy the CO2 bogeyman, the Germans do, so its a pity that lignite is just about the worst fuel in the world for carbon intensity. Hugely expensive, not good for the Germany economy or environment, and supporting the German mining industry, itself state subsidy supported in exactly the way that the EU tell us we can't subsidies things.
Meanwhile the UK's plans to shut down 12 GW of coal plant under LCPD mean that the operators are caning the existing plant to get the maximum permitted run time before closure, so our coal use is much higher than in previous years. UK coal use wil go down in future years, and the ccretins at DECC will undoubtedly claim this as proof their nonsense renewables policy is working, when in fact it will simply make us dependant upon imported power from France.
Icon because collectively and singly, energy "policy" across Europe is a joke.
Lunatics running the asylum
At least in Europe they are, with it's madcap attempts to destroy its own economy with hugely expensive and unproductive renewables, all funded by subsdies, then further "capacity payments" (more subsidies) to fossil fuel generators to keep their plant open during the long winter periods when renewables generate nothing. The clowns running Germany have written off billions of pounds worth of fully functional nuclear plant, which will require them to burn more coal and gas (although this does appear to have the support of the German plebs). And there's worse still for Britain. Not only is one eighth of our generating plant being switched off under the EU "large combustion plant directive (the biggest impact anywhere in Europe), but our government's idiotically conceived "carbon floor price" further increases the costs of UK fossil generation. But because the EU emissions trading scheme is pan European, any reduction in UK emissions will simply depress ETS carbon credit prices elsewhere. So British electricity customers and industry are paying higher power prices in order that Germany industry can enjoy lower prices due to the ETS prices coming down, even whilst German gears up to use more fossil fuels to replace the retired nuclear fleet.
Well done Ed Davey! A man so stupid he can't even see how his own department and its EU overlords are busy destroying the British economy, whilst they suckle enthusiastically on the warm public sector teat of "climate change".
Re: Good to see all the "heuristic malware scanners" are doing their job
"And how did it get there in the first place?"
Who says it's there at all? One AV vendor, who've offered no proof or detection method, although they obviously claim they can detect (and presumably) prevent it. A hardened cynic might wonder whether this AV outfit was previously involved in offering novel imperial clothing, and was now applying the same skills in the tech sector.
"TalkTalk will not be the ultimate bearers of this payment"
Depends on the terms of the contract between them. For starters, although the word "fine" has been used, I'd guess that this is one of the now-fashionable extra-judicial "civil monetary penalties". If OFCOM have applied that to TalkTalk, it doesn't automatically follow that they can stiff other people with it. Moreover, if anybody on either side had a clue, then TalkTalk and its call centre providers would have had a very, very clear SLA in place, that dictated what actions happened when an autmatically dialled call couldn't be handled, or the application of answer machine detection.
I agree that TalkTalk should pay the penalty for failing to manage their contractors, and that should be the incentive to control them in future. That does potentially let the call centre contractors off the hook, but (just as TT have been), their reputation has been damaged by this. If you were contracting for a call centre, would you shortlist somebody who had been caught flouting the law?
Re: And the cost...?@Kharkov
$1.9 bn for eight "production" launches and two tests, which is $190m per launch. That of course includes Orbital Sciences direct costs, their overheads and profit. In 2012 their corporate gross margin was 23.6%, so if Antares was operating at the same margin as the company then I'd guess that each launch had a direct cost of $145m. There's reason to believe that the launcher business has slightly lower margins than the satellites business, which would push the cost per Antares launcher up by perhaps $5m, and I can't see any compelling reason to believe they'd make a materially higher or lower margin on Antares compared to their other launch vehicles.
So give or take, $150m per shot. That might seem high compared to SpaceX, but remember that SpaceX are new kids on the block. Orbital Sciences have built and launched over 600 launch vehicles, SpaceX have around 50 under their belt. I very much doubt that SpaceX could loft a given payload materially cheaper than Orbital Sciences, as technology and fuel costs are going to be broadly similar. SpaceX are also privately held, so there's no transparency on their claim, whereas Orbital Sciences are at least a listed company.
Re: So let me get this straight ...
"... HOW many billion dollars, exactly, to park a few un-trained idiots ex-planet, just to watch 'em die?"
Exactly. Bring back roman games I say, but with HD coverage. I'd even subscribe to Sky if they had Friday night gladitorial combat live from Millwall Colosseum. Now that wouldn't cost billions, and I bet there would be no shortage of people wanting a piece of the action.
Re: Actually...@Christian Berger
"Sludge coming out of sewage treatment plants is already used either agriculturally or burnt to generate heat and electricity."
Actually, due to daft EU limits on nitrates (no proper underpinning science) it is increasngly difficult to get rid of treated sewage sludge to agricultural land (and that assumes you've not got heavy metals contamination from industry or hospitals). The methane from sludge digestion is used for power generation at larger works, but the sludge itself will only burn autothermically at best, meaning there's no net heat output, and that's because although the sludge contains lignin and related fibres that will burn well, it also contains a lot of clay that absorbs heat but doesn't itself burn, and inhibits effcient burning of the fibres.
The norm is to incinerate sludges using mains gas (possibly with some heat recovery if you use enough gas, although not really renewable), but the incineration is purely in order to reduce the waste to landfill to dry ash, which takes less space, is easier to transport, but crucially incurs lower landfill taxes. The most environmentally friendly disposal route for ttreated sludge is firstly direct to agricultutal land (and sod the EU nitrate limits), followed by dumping at sea (illegal under EU law, of course).
I have seen tech proposals to separate the lignin from sewage sludges, the concept is proven at pilot plant level, and that gives a product very similar to processed wood pellets. It is a very compelling offer because it gives you a saleable biofuel and it reduces the load on the sewage treatment works, but the technical conservatism of the industries involved, DECC's magical ability to over-complicate everything, and a lack of drive amongst those involved other than the current IP holders seem to be leaving it beached.
Re: Alternatively @Kevin Johnston
"it could mean the death of those restrictions which some smartphones currently suffer from such as delayed software updates or restricted functionality."
You, sir are an incorrigible optimist. For you, clouds have silver linings, and your glass is half full.
But why exactly would the separate hire purchase (or whatever) of the phone have any bearing on the network operator wanting to corral you to use their threadbare internet portal? Why would the fact that you have a more complicated bill (online only, that you never look at) stop them preloading trial crApps that the operator gets paid to pre-load? Why would this scheme stop them, in a fit of hopeless optimism, trying to lure you to their tumbleweed infested content stores?
Personally I'd expect that to stay, and maybe even get worse. As per an earlier post I made, under these arrangements it is probable that the customer won't own their phone anymore. Lockdown could get worse, not better, and the lockdown may not even be controlled by the network operator, but by a separate finance company who are selling you the phone on HP. And for anybody like that, unlocking the phone will most certainly be a chargeable extra.
Welcome to my grey cloud infested, glass half empty world.
Re: I don't see it
"How does the division described tell us anything. It just shuffles the subsidy into which ever part they want to look good."
El Reg seem to have swallowed O2's line about tranparency, personally I think there a lot more than tranparency, and it's not about shuffling the subsidy round quite like you think.
The clue is in the idea of a financing agreement for the phone. If there's a financing agreement then you're into Consumer Credit Act and financial regulation, you've got crappy VAT issues that increase your corporate costs by a small amount. There's an element of CCA regulation anyway with contract sales, but why make things more complicated? But now, consider that if there's a financing agrement, you've got a nice revenue stream attached to an asset which is not being "given" to the customer anymore, but now presumably "owned" for the duration of the finance agreement by somebody other than the customer.
O2 have something of the order of ten million retail customers in the UK, so making a guess that the implied average asset value of the phones at any time is around £100 per customer, then there's an asset base of £1bn. How about you now securitise and sell the receivables stream on the phone to a bank or asset finance company? They'd be happy to put the bulk phones on their balance sheet - if a user doesn't pay then the phone has to be returned. At the moment I'd guess O2 expense the handsets, so they move through the P&L but never reach the balance sheet.
The idea of the "free" handset disappears, but I wonder if they can make it appear "interest free". OFT requirements are pretty tough, and I'd be surprised if O2 could claim that the phone is sold at the price they paid for it, so there's a markup and costs of capital (customers already pay this, they just don't see it), but this could make the financing agreement carry a hefty APR.
But what the hell? If O2 can shift a worthwhile chunk of the £1bn plus of consumer handset net asset value out of their P&L, and if some asset finance house can buy a big chunk of reasonably secure handset receivables, then everybody is happy. And the great thing for O2 is that they are selling an asset that doesn't currently appear on their balance sheet (unless they capitalise future contract receivables, which I doubt, but stand to be corrected). What does the consumer stand to lose? Not much really. Legal title to their phone for the duraction of the contract, but that's notional anyway: there's usually a clause requiring you to send it back or pay the outstanding commitment if you want early termination.
Re: When they say "savings for consumers"...@Jason Bloomberg
"It will more likely be penalising those who don't fit the utility company's desired profile."
Do pay attention Jason. The utility companies are mandated by law to install smartmeters. We aren't doing it for our benefit, and we wouldn't be doing it at all if we had a choice. it's your elected MEP's who have come up with this idea.
Smartmeters are expensive, unproven technology, which costs a lot to install, but saves nothing but the five quid a year on some bloke in hobnail boots coming to read your meter. The consequences of the roll out are completely unknown, but when the same arguments were used over water meters the costs were realised, but the benefits weren't.
You're right that the savings trumpeted by the numpties of DECC are imaginary, from the same school of economics that wrote the business case for HS2, but they're not the product of the electricity industry, just a work of fiction from the civil service.
Re: traffic shaping for leccy companies?
"I already do run my washing machine & dishwasher at night, half the price leccy for me..."
But bizarrely the day time rate for Economy 7 tariffs is higher than normal tariffs. That increases the incentive to time shift your loads, but in some cases people sign up for E7 and don't move enough load to justify the higher day time costs. If you've got storage heaters, an electric immersion heater, and timers on washer, dishwasher and tumble dryer then you're laughing, but I'm not sure that applies to all E7 customers.
Also, something that the proponents of more demand shifting fail to realise is that the cost advantage only exists because of the excess supply overnight. If you shift enough demand off peak then the half hourly rate spreads shrink. In the unlikely event that electric cars took off, potentially you'd flatten the demand curve to the point that there's be stuff all price difference overnight. And in that case who's going to stick things on a timer? Overnight car charging would stay overnight for practical reasons, but the users might find that the cheap overnight electricity vanishes, and then with DfT's wet dream schemes for road pricing they're paying as much as they used for a generally shittier experience.
Re: There is more to smart meters...
"but eventually you'll be able to choose a cheaper tariff that includes this functionality"
Maybe. More likely that smartmeters are simply the thin end of the wedge to force far more complex charging schemes on the general public. Why, for example, do DECC's current smart meter specs (see page 52 in link below) require smartmeters to be able to charge by half hourly price bands? There have already been plans (so far unsuccessful) to force some SME's onto half hourly charging regimes (google the terms elexon p272).
Given the outcry of the "complexity" of bills featuring a single rate and a standing charge, is there a queue to have your electricity billed by varied half hourly bands, which further vary by the day? Thought not. Luckily DECC know what you want better than you do, and they are putting in place the technology to do this.
Regarding your comments about better network knowledge, yeah, yeah. Remember when OFWAT kicked off the obligations to extend domestic water metering, two decades ago? It was really going to help water companies track down and kill leakage. And reduce per capita consumption. In practice neither really came true, with leakage still only fixed by area network renovations, and detected by the same methods we used back then, and per capita consumption wasn't really impacted at all by metering because the unit cost of the product is too low, and demographocs and technology changes trumped eleasticity of demand. It'll be the same with electricity meters, with all involved queuing up to sing their praises rather than offend government , but the practical impact will be just a big slug of cost with no benefit.
"The plumber who installed it said the meter charges the Bluetooth device from the flow of water through the turbine inside the meter"
The plumber who installed it was talking out of his @rse. The highly varied and intermittent flows in a domestic water supply pipe are wholly unsuitable for powering anything, and for that reason the devices use long life lithium batteries with five to ten year life expectancies. There's other issues of head loss, cost and complexity, as well as the suitability of micro-generators in environments where debris and compressed air may be present.
"Yeah it'll be for their benefit for the most part"
Utter, utter rubbish. Smart meters were mandated by the European Union, on the misguided basis that they will lower energy demand. The UK government has, as usual bent over and taken it, and we are mandated to replace all energy meters with smartmeters by 2019. As electricity suppliers we are largely indifferent because the complexity and cost are not really matched by higher returns, on the other hand we're required to do it by law, and will be fined draconian amounts if we don't comply. Installing these will raise bills simply because there's hardware to buy and install. Estimates vary, but we're talking about £200 to £400 to replace an existing meter with a smartmeter, all of which goes on your bill in the end.
Because the smartmeters aren't that smart (and indeed the mass roll out specification isn't even finalised), the only benefits they bring are that (in theory) meter readfings are always prompt and accurate, that you cut out mass meter reading (saves perhaps £5 a year per meter), and the biggy is this idea that if you have a display somewhere visible you'll cut your consumption. That last one is true for a handful of people, but for most of us smartmeter displays are no different to the energy monitors doled out in their millions by the energy companies. And those energy monitors achieved little, often going in the same draw as the sandwich toaster after a couple of weeks. Most of us find the bills we get sufficient incentive not to waste power, but the EU, clever people that they are, know differently. At the moment I don't think there's any prospect of UK standard spec smartmeters limiting demand (other than cut off for for non-payment, but even that's heavily regulatedf and would still take weeks). The information flows will be centrally warehoused by a new government mandated body, but the energy companies won;t have access to the data from their own customers (typical 5hitheaded governemnt botch), so users still have the privacy risks downside, the energy companies don't have the chance to full understand customer needs and usage. Not sure where smartmeters stand on multiple charging bands, but I can't see punters wanting to see even more complexity from five charging zones per day or similar.
So there are two groups of people happy with the smartmeter roll out. Collectively the EU, UK government, DECC and all their tree hugger mates, and the suppliers of smartmeters.
Re: ... renewables to generate synthetic methane
"most sources of renewable biofuel, such as municipal waste and wood chippings, have been consigned to combined energy/incineration plants for the next two or three decades."
Why store syngas when you could simply schedule the burn of the waste? Obviously depends on the economics of the different elements, but I can't see why you'd want the complexity of gas cleaning and compression/decomp and the inevitable efficiency hit compared to simply over-sizing the CHP plant and burning when the demand is there for heat and power.
Generally speaking you'd expect heat and power demands to be well correlated, and the probably enhanced speed of response from stored syngas over scheduled (or requested) burn isn't going to be enough to make a difference across the whole electricity system.
Re: scale it up
"Surely the energy transmission and efforts to keep good vacuum should scale well with size"
I doubt it. Keeping vacuum on a very large vessel would probably require some extraction for the inevitable leakage, and then you start eating into the stored energy. Maintaining a good degree of vacuum isn't a very energy efficient process. Personally I'd have thought that larger masses and slower rotation were a better bet than fancy high speeds and vacuum, although the energy density would be quite poor.
Either way, I'll be surprised if flywheels scale well for grid storage. In terms of scaling, the Fraunhofer idea of using renewables to generate synthetic methane, and storing that in the gas network seems far more practical, given that chemical energy tends to have good energy density, but the net efficiency is still fairly poor.
Re: You want to know if it'll work?@Mike Richards
"Didn't British Rail used to have some electric locomotives that used flywheels"
Yes, British Rail's class 71, running on the third rail 750V dc system of the former Southern Railway had a flywheel booster, and that was a development from the Southern Railway's CC1 that introduced the system back in 1941.
Re: It comes with a price @4d3fect
"Wage erosion and the dehumanization of "human resources""
At some point the goods have to be handled by meatsacks, but absolutely essential to Amazon's price and service advantages is systems and automation. So (for the size of the company) nothing in the way of call centres or "customer services", and for the most part that gets me a better buying experience.
Now, tell me why Amazon should pay more than minimum wage for unskilled jobs? Most of us on this forum are better paid than average because we're lucky enough to be smart, we've put the effort in to earn academic qualifications, learned relevant technical skills,and we're willing to work hard in complex situations. Amazon's picking and packing staff are free to take other better paid jobs if they want, or to reskill if they want more money.
If you want to support higher wages, then you find yourself a supplier who pays their staff more, rather than expecting me to subsidise your lefty "social conscience".
Re: The GLC was dismantled ...
" You want to kill people, is that what you're saying?"
No, I think JaitcH was just announcing to the world that he's a bitter twat, part of that section of the population that think Mrs Thatcher is to blame for everything. Obviously he was (at best) in short trousers at the time, and can't remember the loony behaviours of the GLC, and its mates in third world hell holes like Brent and Haringey.
Re: Bloody public sector wasting my f***ing money. As usual.
Go check your facts. The build of the system wasn't "commissioned in 2005", that's the date the project was dreamt up. It was 2009 before they commissioned Memex to build the system, and as far as I can see from wider press reporting it was never operational.
So no, not good value, nor deserving of sympathy.
Moreover, Surrey plods are also reported to have wasted tens of thousands on consultancy fees for a botched attempt to outsource the back office support (and we all know where that goes). Now, maybe they've learned their lesson, but I think there's a big clue that they haven't, in that they have commissioned Grant Thornton to investigate the SIREN debacle. As a repeat offender, it seems unlikely lessons will be learned, and therefore paying GT to come in and tell them they've fucked up is merely throwing good monet after bad.
"Nowadays, people are mainly upgrading because ...."
...at the end of their contract their operator offers them another "free" phone. If you're not in pain from the charges, then why not keep paying and have an upgrade?
OK, at the end of contract you could go to a SIM-only contract, but on a like for like contract bundle the difference is what, £12-15 a month in the UK, I'd guess not that different in the States? So for the price a handful of Starbucks each month, you get the latest and greatest handset. How many buyers stop to think that the "free" phone is actually costing them £300-£400 or more?
There's some people who will say "I don't need a new phone", but they are in a minority. And not only a minority that are oblivious to obsolescence, but a subset that have taken good care not to mangle their handset.
Re: Where's the value?
"Britain invented national debt 250 years ago, and has always paid up"
Well, supposedly. If you were holding some AAA rated fixed rate ten year gilts in 1970, then you'd not have been too happy by 1980, when the actual value of your total return would have amounted to about one third of the value of the sum you'd invested.
And this time round the pattern will be the same, of some prolonged and generously proportioned inflation. Except that it won't just be Britain, but the Yanks and the Europeans will do the same thing, because they've got vast debt mountains they've no idea how to repay, along with impaired assets they'd rather not write down. Admittedly the Germans are determined not to see debt mutualisation, and not to see inflation, but their choice is simple: Accept those things, or accept some form of collapse in the Euro as the system currently exists. As Germany is an export dependant economy, and as the German Chancellor will always be a committed Europhile, my guess is that the German population will continue to be reassured that inflation and mutualisation won't happen, even as their leaders secretly plot to ensure they do.
Re: too many shareholders are too gutless
"It means that the people administering the funds are themselves part of the executive class"
Some are, some aren't. Actively managed funds usually have overpaid arrogant puffballs running the show, and they will clean out their own investors. But the majority of shares will actually be owned by relatively passive investors (tracker funds, pension companies, insurers etc), and in those companies the fund managers won't be so well paid, though they may have salaries that you and I would be well pleased to receive.
In both cases there's very little crossover from fund management to corporate management, so I think that there's not the back scratching that you suggest.
Re: John Lewis Partnership used to have this (they may still do)
"Senior management pay was linked to the lowest paid employee "
Well, highest paid director is on around £775k according to the annual report. Assuming somebody somewhere is on minimum wage for adults, that's about £12k, so if the multiple still exists it would need to be a stonking 65x. Which sounds bad, but compare that to Tesco, where the nerk that replaced Leahy is on about £7m a year, so the Tesco multiple is 580x .
Having said that, the directors of JL don't get any special bonus scheme, just the same proportion of salary as the masses, and they don't enjoy particularly preferential contracts - no fat cat severance terms, no rolling contracts of more than a year.
Re: I still don't get it@Promotor Fidei
"So Tom, Dick and Harry must be punished for working?"
Not at all. They must be harvested for working. That's what is going on. Government fully recognise that you have to work, and you have to travel. They need your money more than you do. So what better revenue raiser than a tax on such an essential activity as transport? At the margins some dodge their fair share by using subsidy dependant buses or trains, and a few by buying subsidy supported and barely taxed electric cars, but not enough to alter the bigger picture.
"That's fine for now. But how will we pay for the roads when we are all driving our 'lectric cars powered by windmills and solar panels?"
At the moment there's no prospect that we will ever be all driving electric cars. The local distribution network couldn't support the charging demand beyond about one house in five having an electric car, and if you're reliant on renewables for your generation then the power is not produced when it is most convenient to charge EVs, nor even reliably at any given time or day.
However, lets leap forward and say there's a breakthrough and we do reach that scenario. In that case the sensible course of action is to hypothecate road taxes and spending once more (because there's no good reason to treat minimally polluting transport as a revenue source unless your objective is to suppress transport and economic activity). To recover £9bn, the easy way is to do that through the tax disc (although directly combine the road tax with the MOT to simplify collection, administration and enforcement). The flat rate would be proportional to the axle weight of the vehicle because that's what drives most road wear and tear (well, fourth power of axle weight actually, but lets not go there). That could cover all types of road vehicle equally, but in broad brush terms we'd be talking about £100 to tax a family car. That doesn't vary with driving patterns, but so what? Few people drive for fun, congestion is self limiting, and the users are still paying a fee proportional to road use through their fuel and maintenance. Simple to understand and implement, difficult to dodge.
That would avoid wasting around £10bn on tracking boxes, monitoring and billing. But it does mean government need to either trim £20bn of annual public-sector spending (fat chance), or raise a further £20bn through taxes on something else. They've strangled the golden goose of cigarettes, and are starting to do the same on booze. So that's more to be raised through income tax.
Re: Time to just say "Piss Off"
"Honestly ask yourself, why should governments be treated any different than any business?"
You tell us. US public spending is about 41% of GDP, so not far off the 44% of Germany or the 45% of the UK. Your government spend less on welfare, more on weapons than Europe, but neither choice represents a productive long term use of resources.
The Soviet Union fell apart precisely because it spent too much on uneconomic activity (weapons and subsidies to the population) and not enough on real value adding investment. That lesson has not been learned in the developed economies, who misguidedly believe that their economic systems are superior. In fact their economic systems are worryingly similar to the USSR, more so when you include all the mandated spend (eg on enviro-crap) that currently doesn't count as public spending.
At the moment the most sustainable economic policy is probably that of the Chinese communist party, who (not without many economic failings) at least have public spending around 21% of GDP. Allowing for simple lying and state mandated spend, you could assume that its high twenties, but at least they've not saddled themselves with unaffordable defence, health or welfare costs that their population regard as some inalienable right.
Re: Automotive equivalent of Water Meters?
Water meters are an excellent analogy. And that's because they haven't materially altered consumption, but they've put everybody's cost up.
So consumption has remained broadly static on a per capita basis for twenty years or so. But what meters have done is increased costs, because mechanical water meters are surprisingly expensive for what they are (say £50 a piece), particularly with the installation costs included (eg boundary boxes, sub-pavement meters, etc, which average around £250 a property), and they have a painfully short average service life of around seven years. Then you've got the costs or reading and metered billing (say fifteen quid a year). The newer electronic ones are battery powered and usually easier to install. But with very long life batteries (not mains powered) that will probably make the meter obsolete when the battery fails.
So, on clean water services the typical UK bill would be around £140 a year, the incremental cost of installing and reading a meter is around 25% of the costs, for no benefit. Water meter users will note that the measured water is also used to charge for sewerage services, but the costs of sewage treatment are largely dependant upon the biological oxygen demand, so using a water meter simply isn't justified in that way.
Water metering was a great conn, in which OFWAT (pressured by DEFRA, the Environment Agency and assorted half-wit NGOs) pushed for widespread water metering, at a gross cost to the UK of around £3 billion, for no useful benefit whatsoever. As ever, those responsible for this waste have never been held to account, nor have they learned from the complete lack of beneficial outcomes, so government can be expected to continue to force people to waste their money on daft ideas like road metering. In fact, they're doing it again, with the EU mandating "smart" meters for energy consumption for every household in the land. As these meters aren't at all smart, the precipitate roll out will offer few benefits, yet cost around £14bn.
And another way that road metering would be like water metering would be the change of incidence. Under the old rateable value system, if you had a bigger house you paid more. On a water meter you pay for what you use. So the rich typically saw a huge reduction in water bills, but the poor saw them rise, both because their metered bill (ignoring transitional arrangements) would be higher for even relatively modest families, but also because the "lost" revenue from the rich needed to be made up for, as the operational cost base of the industry remained the same, with extra costs from metering plus EU mandated improvements in water quality.
Re: Not such a bad idea - aren't you lucky
"Provide public transport. ....Adding more tax and more complex tax systems is NOT the best way to make progress. "
So yes to more public transport, but no to more tax? I don't think that's going to work.
You'll find that the railways were removed because the costs outweighed the revenues, in large part because demand patterns were changing, and cars were becoming a cheaper and better alternative. In peak demand locations (big city commuting from large suburbs, on long-depreciated infrastructure) rail can just about pay its way, elsewhere it is usually subsidy dependent. Looking at rail franchises whose operations might be comparable to a reinstated rail network in your area (say East Midlands Trains) then we're talking about a subsidy of around 11p per passenger mile, although Northern Rail hoover up about 35p per passenger mile. Even on 11p per mile, the subsidy element alone would mean that on a ten mile rail commute you'd require a £440 a year subsidy from taxes over what you'd likely be paying in rail fares. And in the meanwhile, with governments incapable of reducing their spending, any foregone revenues from taxation on your car need to be made up by taxing something or someone else. By coincidence, the UK taxes on fuel equate to about £3.70 a gallon, and at 35 mpg on a similar distance, the exchequer will be a further £440 short. So all in, reinstating the railways to give you an easier drive to work would require somebody somewhere to pony up an extra £880 in respect of each person using this railway.
If you want more public transport then more tax is what you need to vote for. Personally I think that the simple solution is to build more roads, which can be constructed far quicker and at lower cost than railways.
Re: Surprised no-one's using KSD ...
" I'm surprised no-one's pull a Dilbert and started talking about 5G, 6G, or 7G)."
Well a Google of "5G network" may quell your surprise. But I can spill the beans as far out as 7G without the aid of Google:
- EE will launch early, although all the "investment" will be in the celebrity advertising
- coverage will remain as sh!te as decent 3G
- headline speeds will be astronomical but rarely achieved in practice
- costs will melt your wallet
- backhaul won't be able to keep up with the wireless technology.
And OFCOM will be trying to sweep all the mobile networks into a small band of frequency, messing everything up to free the rest of the spectrum for person to person wireless communication, which they are sure will be what everybody needs in five years time.
"16MW of power a day that is a mere drop "
Leaving them to w**k all day in their cells is the alternative. My offer of 16MW may be a small lunch, but it's a free lunch.
On reflection the mixing of metaphors across those two sentences may be disturbing for some readers.
"The charts were always only ever based on a snapshot of sales at a selection of record shops around the country"
And the record industry knew which ones, and would send cars loaded with their latest singles to them, bribe the manager to "buy" them, and thus buy a place in the charts. I used to work with a bloke who drove one of the cars. I've no idea how they manipulate the digital charts, but the record industry aren't one to change their spots, so I'm sure that the charts are as trustworthy as they've always been.
Re: Not such a bad idea
"The major difference for me is that my fuel is not spent in traffic jams or only doing 3 mile journeys where the fuel combustion is extremely inefficient"
And that's the beauty of fuel taxes. Proportional to consumption. So that shorter journeys that use more fuel pay more. Driving in congested conditions costs more than the open road. Agressive driving uses more fuel and pays more. Bigger vehicles pay more. And the meter's already there, and somebody else has paid for it - its on the fuel pump, with the revenue collection all done by the suppliers.
In urban conditions you'd be lucky to get a third of your open road consumption, so the limiting factor is that you've only got a three times multiplier built in. If that's not sufficient, then car mounted meters can go for much higher multiples, but then the purpose will become just like the London congestion charge, to free the roads of the poor, so that the rich can drive more easily (brought in of course by a certain weasel faced socialist, of course).
Why stick with something simple, robust and fairly egalitarian, when you could have costly, complicated, socially divisive and intrusive?
To be fair, many subsequent CD's that never made it onto LP had excellent cover art. Unfortunately it never shows up on the small and often poorly printed CD booklet.
And if the music industry have refused to play ball with digital music, the purveyors of digital music software have been shamefully neglectful of album notes, credits and art. Your typically music player programme is happy with a 200x200 thumbnail of the original cover art, which may suit the disposal music buyers, but all of the main players don't make the most of what could be there.
Re: The music industry: @Mark Honman
"But where are these cheap Chinese styli you speak of?" Err, I made that bit up. If this was an arts 'n' farts website I'd claim artistic licence, but in the circumstances it is probably better to 'fess up that I simply made it up, with not a jot of supporting evidence.
And that was simply to poke a bit of fun at the vinylites. I remember my Dual 505, and all the magic of LPs. There was certainly something reverential, symbolic and almost religious about the process of sliding an LP out of its cover, thence from the lined sleeve, gently holding the fragile platter, placing it on the rotating altar, starting the motor, lifting the tonearm into position, and then gently lowering the needle onto the run-in.
On the other hand, the sound quality was dreadful, commercial pressings of the most atrocious quality, and your music was trapped in whatever room became your music temple. And the deficiencies are a subjective choice - the wave like hiss of a warped or off-centre-holed platter were objectionable to me, as was the crackles of dust and lint.
Re: "returning to long term normality" (Primus Secundus Tertius)
"When the dinosaurs lived in Britain they did not have to worry about cold winters,"
Indeed not. But through the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic periods, the lump of rock now known as Britain was drifting across the planet's equatorial zone, and even at the end of that time was about as far north as Portugal is today, so you'd be better off using paleo-climatology to support your claim.
And although during those times the Earth was warmer, that's not really true across the span of geolgical history.
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