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* Posts by Ledswinger

2480 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012

Home automation while it's hot: Winter warmth for lazy technophiles

Ledswinger
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Re: and your hot water (that must reach 60C to avoid legionella risks)

" I set my hot water thermostat to 40'C ....no family/friends/relatives have suffered from Legionella... "

If you're healthy and lucky it could pass for a mild case of flu. There's about 350 cases a year in the UK that are detected, or which about 10% are fatal. Half are from foreign travel, and the rest domestic. But, as respiratory infections in the healthy aren't tested for cause, the chances are that the incidence of legionella is much higher - even if you thought you had flu, you might go to the doc for a sick note, but he's very unlikely to swab you and send off the samples.

In large part the domestic risk is a legacy of the Victorian idea of the roof tank - combi boliers and direct hot water systems are far less vulnerable because the water doesn't get partially dechlorinated as it does in the roof tank, and these system tend to be less prone to accumulating dirt. Moreover, in summer, roof tanks can easily reach 30C or more, which is ideal for encouraging any legionella to breed before the water is drawn into the hot water cylinder.

I'd agree its a very small risk. With a direct hot water system you might choose to reduce the tank temperature to 50C and that should stop any legionella breeding (eg if it comes in through mains water supply), although that's below the recommendations of the HSE. Personally I wouldn't go to 40C, because that's within the breeding temperature range.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @Adam T

" I guess this could be partially remediated by having multiple thresholds around the temperate settings so that you delayed the switch on in one room until another room or two also wanted heat, provided the first room didn't breach some second threshold, etc. etc."

Certainly could, but that'd be a marginal benefit because the boiler is sized for peak winter demand, so running two rooms is still almost as bad as running one room.

I must say that if I was looking at the problem, rather than throwing money at trying to ring out 1% of the gas bill, I'd be inclined to look at super-insulating the house including high performance wall insulation (search Register, Aerogel if you missed that article a couple of years back) and paying attention to air tightness, and installing a big heat recovery ventilation system.

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Ledswinger
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"Isn't one of the big savings gained by adjusting the _boiler_ temperature (not the room thermostats) to be as low as practical (at least for condensing boilers) "

Generally no. Optimum thermal efficiency is generally where you have the largest difference between the boiler outlet and return temperatures, not the lowest system temperature, but the benefits of the greatest temp difference is constrained by the design parameters of boiler, system and radiators. When the architect or plumber (a balance of evils there) specified your system, the boiler and rads were sized according to expected heat loss of the room and rated radiator heat output assuming a typical boiler output aimed at 80C, an expected radiator input temp of 75C, and a radiator exit temp of 64C. If you lower the boiler output temperature then you reduce the heat output of the radiators against the design (because the delta T between radiator and room falls). In practice the house and radiators stats should arbitrage all of this away and out of sight so that it seems to be working, but you could actually increase your operating costs if the system efficiency is compromised by too low a boiler exit temperature. Set your primary heat circuit temp too low enough and you'll have a very low temperature differential between heat circuit and your hot water (that must reach 60C to avoid legionella risks), leading to poor efficiency on that side of the system.

Get yourself an infra red laser thermometer (a top gadget, available for about £18), and make sure that the boiler output is about 78C, then go round and with all TRVs turned right up, tighten the lockshield valve (other end of the radiator, usually with a blind cap that you need to remove) to make sure that each radiator is set to see an 11-12C drop between inlet and outlet temperature (the more closed the valve is, the higher the temperature drop, which is initially a bit counter-intuitive). When you've gone round and done that, do it again - the dodgy installation standards invariably mean that messing with some radiators changes the pump pressure arriving at other radiators, so the system setup is an iterative process. That's called balancing the system, and is what plumbers should do - in practice most apply rules of thumb like "turn the lockshield off and open a quarter of a turn", and some just leave the lockshield fully open, meaning the system is unbalanced, average return temperature is too high and you'll get a lot of boiler cycling. The £18 should pay for itself in two months, but I'd expect that you'd need to allow better part of a day to do this properly (oh, and you'll need something like black electrical tape to stick on any chrome fittings you're trying to measure the temperature of - partly because infrared thermometers don't work on reflective surfaces, and because you don't want to bounce the aiming laser in your own face).

Who says you don't learn anything on the Reg?

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Ledswinger
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@Adam T

"What I really want (and what I suspect could really make savings) would be individual control of each room and each radiator."

A lot less than you'd think, because the individual rooms are still within the thermal envelope of the whole house. So even with a radiator off, that room will stabilise at (say) 16 C, sucking the heat through internal walls, floors or via air exchange, and then your temperature gradient to the outside world in the "isolated" room is not actually very much different from other rooms through the critical winter period. It is possible (but uneconomic) to insulate individual rooms and fit seals on the internal doors, but then you've start having condensation and damp problems if the door was opened allowing warm damp air into the now cold room. And there's another consideration, that the more radiators you're NOT using because they've been turned off by timers, the more the boiler will have been over-provisioned, leading to less efficient operation from cycling and flue losses.

Basic thermostatic valves are a credible compromise where you want to gently "top slice" the heat output of a particular radiator, but remote control radiator valves are simply a complicated solution for people living in a house that's too big, or not understanding the basic thermodynamics of the house. And most timer valves have battery operation, so you'd need to factor in a couple of quid for each radiator per year, which makes a further small but regular dent in the savings.

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Google starts selling Glass to Brits – for £1,000 a pop

Ledswinger
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Re: Hmm.

"There are many cheaper ways to look like a complete and utter prick..."

But few come with better anagrams: Lax, gross leper.

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Traffic lights, fridges and how they've all got it in for us

Ledswinger
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" For example, the temperature of the fridge could be monitored allowing an alert to be generated if the temperature goes outside defined limits for a period of time, for example when a toddler (or drunken / sleepy adult) merrily raids the fridge and leaves the door open, ...."

Err, most fridges have crap control of temperature in the first place, so I'd have little confidence that the new web connected models would either be better able to monitor something they currently can't manage. Things are different for well made fridges by reputable makers, but then there's little chance of temperature going out of spec.

As for "door open" alerts, wouldn't it be simpler just to have good basic design that causes the door to close itself? Kitchen draws are expected to shut themselves gently these days, so I'd have thought that getting a fridge to do the same would be a better way of spending any available design money than stuffing it full of electronics to tweet that the door's open, could somebody do something about it?

Admittedly the compressor failure notification would be a new capability, but why spend money to monitor one of the most reliable pieces of equipment in the home? The incremental complexity of the monitoring kit and communications would probably make the new product less reliable than an old dumb fridge.

Which brings me to the root problem of TIOT. The internet of things is shaping up as a riot of technically possible solutions, desperately searching for some problems. On the occasions where a problem can be solved, it often seems an expensive solution for a mildly inconvenient or infrequent occurrence, often with significant additional risks. So TIOT has given rise (for example) to ninety quid fire alarms that require wifi and a user account to activate, and then turn themselves off if waved at. Or you could buy an expensive thermostat that requires professional installation, and then tries to guess your habits - great if you are too dim to programme a simple timer or programmeable thermostat, and you don't mind it telling servers all round the world when you're in or out. And at the end of that, these thermostats still need to be told if you are on holiday, or require heating on and off outside of the normal pattern.

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YouTube in shock indie music nuke: We all feel a little less worthy today

Ledswinger
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Re: Happens everywhere

"The problem is not the polices of Youtube; the problem is its actual existence. If we want diversity, we need new monopolies laws for the Internet age."

I suspect that we don't need new laws, and the existing ones would suffice just fine. On any metric Youtube has a dominant market share, with numbers circulating showing that it played 44% of music videos viewed worldwide even back in 2011. If a print distributor with a 44% market share tried to offer discriminatory terms to smaller publishers, they'd find themselves on the sharp end of a competition investigation in not time at all, and undoubtedly enjoying a draconian fine for abuse of market power.

As far as I can see, you are correct that the problem is one of corporate funding of politics, but the impact of that is not blocking new laws, rather it is ensuring that existing ones do not get applied.

In all of this, it looks to me as though Google are sowing the seeds of their own downfall. They appear to believe that this behaviour is acceptable and legal, and will have no consequences for them. The correct response for music enthusiasts is to try and live a Google free life - different search engine, no Gmail account, make sure your next phone isn't Android, avoid Youtube.

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AMD details aggressive power-efficiency goal: 25X boost by 2020

Ledswinger
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Re: Maybe answering the wrong question@ BlueGreen

"We really need to ask why we need these huge datacentres, why people have to have everything 'on demand' etc."

I have to say, the idea hadn't crossed my mind, so maybe you should repost that, substituting "I" for "we". Unless you're Charleyfarley, and that's the royal "we"?

But it's a fine idea, and it needs somebody to take it forward. Perhaps you could establish a people's soviet committee, who could prepare a list of "approved & permitted" purposes for computing. Anything not on the list would of course be bourgeois profligacy contributing to climate change, and by definition would be unapproved and not permitted.

On second thoughts, no, I don't like that idea. If you were to emigrate to North Korea, you needn't be troubled by the thought of fellow citizens indulging in frivolous use of computing power for trivial self gratification?

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Ministry of Justice IT bods to strike over outsourcing fears

Ledswinger
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Re: Just strike on principle!

"I agree, and I work for an outsourcing company!"

If you're posting under your real name you may have got the tense wrong, I'm afraid.

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US spanks phone-jamming vendor with $34.9 MEEELLION fine

Ledswinger
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Re: China: Figures

"China invented most of the things we use today. Paper, Printing, Gunpowder, the Compass, Alcohol, the Bell, Paper Money, The Blast Furace. "

OK, so what have they invented in the past thousand years?

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HP Enterprise Services staff feel the burn as managers turn off the cash taps

Ledswinger
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Re: Quick Win

For most customers the quickest win is to start planning now to bring their work back in house at the end of the contract.

Our group board signed up with HP a couple of years back and there are no polite words to describe how poor the service has been - but because their sales & legal people spend all day every day writing agreements, they can run rings around our (or any) procurement team who prepare an outsource IT deal either never before, or at most once every five years. As a result we find HP have a cop-out when the frequently don't meet the SLA terms, and it now costs us more for a worse service, getting anything done takes forever, and whenever something needs changing, the only sound is "ker-ching" as HP chalk up another highly profitable variation.

I say a pox on HP's managers and investors. Ideally a really nasty pox like Ebola.

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DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

Ledswinger
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Pint

Re: b*stards

"to read my old copy a second time AND for making them write a new comment"

Ahh, that was a fine exchange of views. But at least the Reg republished some good'uns, of yours, meaning that you wouldn't owe us for our wasted time.

But why need I make a NEW comment? What's sauce for the goose, sir! If when the Reg republished your articles, they also reposted all the old comments then they'd save all us commentards no end of time. Employers could then pay you for the improved productivity, and you in turn could let us have a small cut, but this time for our NOT reading of the republished article? Obviously payments would be limited to those who read the original article, but didn't read the republished version - as you can see, this has all been carefully thought through.

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Ledswinger
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Re: b*stards

I'm very, very tempted, but he's only just back from his recent ill health (welcome back, sir! You know the rascals were recycling your old stuff in your absence - did you get paid twice?).

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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

Ledswinger
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Re: Priced out

"by the same reasoning, wouldn't any overdraft / loan to clients be an asset to the bank?"

Yes. And this is the core of the dark wizardry that banks use to balance their books, because loans the bank makes are an asset on their balance sheet. The problem is that this only works if the bank is prudent in its lending decisions, and the asset is worth its face value. As has been shown time and again, banks behave cyclically, and often the herd stampedes after all and any borrowing, regardless of the risks, resulting in balance sheets stuffed with "assets" that are nothing of the sort. There's one other point, and that is that "assets" are not "reserves" - reserves are any form of ready cash or cash equivalents that are available near instantaneously to honour requests for withdrawals.

If you had a bank that loaned out only the value of depositors cash, then it wouldn't have reserves to cover all of the depositors' money, and you are expecting those customers to trust that the lending is prudent and safe, and the much lower reserves are adequate against expected withdrawals. That's what banks do at the moment, and it is completely at odds with the Worstal Bank model.

I think from your comments that what you're looking for is some halfway house between the reckless casino banking of the majors, and the near-Amish concept of a 100% reserve bank that can't lend. The nearest you'd get to that is probably a prudently run building society that offers retail current account facilities under the more restrictive terms of an FCA desposit taking licence rather than a banking licence, and ideally eschews all forms of commercial lending, but that still exposes creditors to the organisation's decisions on retail lending quality. If that's what you want, then Coventry Building Society will meet your needs, along with a few others.

Note that the Dunfermline Building Society managed to screw it up and had to be acquired by Nationwide (who incidentally have a full banking licence, and are just a big bank unanswerable to shareholders) so the idea that all building societies are low risk is not correct. And that's part of the case for Worstal Bank - if the management can't make loans, they can't make bad loans. And if they can't offer credit, they'd likewise neither need nor be able to trade derivatives, so there's another red hot risk that management can't take with other people's money (incidentally a building society deposit taking licence doesn't permit wholesale involvement in derivatives, commodities or currencies).

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Ledswinger
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Re: Where's the cash again?

" Not exactly going to be handy for small businesses to go there with their end of day takings."

This would be a strictly retail proposition, because business is based on credit. Nobody buys goods for cash, so suppliers need credit from their banks. They need to pay regular bills when income is variable. They need to borrow to finance new assets. They need complex products like credit guarantee insurance that a simple bank wouldn't offer.

The other thing is that to run a bank like this, I can't see that they'd have any physical presence. The only way a normal bank can operate retail branches is by selling products through them, Worstal Bank can't do much of that. A bit of insurance agency maybe, that's about it. Counter services and cash transactions are loss making, so Worstal Bank can't afford those, never mind the buildings, staff and upkeep. Everything therefore needs to be done by electronic transaction and call centre, plus paying other banks for cash services and ATM access, in which case you're paying whatever the banks choose to charge for those.

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Ledswinger
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Re: fractional reserve banking

"Erm, surely they've been into a fractional reserve banking model at least for the last few decades?"

Of course the whole banking system has been doing fractional reserve banking for hundreds of years, but this article was about a hypothetical bank that doesn't do that. My response to James M was that such a bank cannot lend any money to additional creditors (over existing despositors) because then it ceases to have 100% reserves for liabilities to despositors.

Fractional reserve banking works well when banks make good lending decisions. It operates really badly when they make bad lending decisions. So 100% reserving dramatically reduces the risk of banking, simply because the bank is unable to make any lending decisions, good or bad.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Priced out

"As has already been pointed out by another commenter above, "100% reserve" does NOT mean that the bank doesn't lend money out, it means that if the bank has £1mln in deposits, it can only lend out a maximum of £1mln. "

I believe you're wrong, because you've assumed that the "lending" is the only liabilities of the bank. In fact the bank starts off with liabilities to its account holders who are in effect creditors - they give the bank the money, the bank doesn't own the money, it therefore owes it to the creditors. In the case of 100% reserve banking 100% of the cash deposits are held with the BoE to cover liabilities to those creditors. There is nothing left to lend, unless you cease to hold 100% reserves against those creditor liabilities, and then you're into a fractional; reserve banking model.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Perhaps I should also mention

"That I know Matt Ridley. He's had a banking licence in the past so.....ah, no, that won't work, will it?"

Actually, if he's learned anything from the sinking of Northern Rock he would be an ideal person to run Worstal Bank. He's got a wide range of experience (including the better part of twenty years as board member of Northern Rock), he's bright, well educated, and he of all people understands why 100% reserve banking would be robust. Unlike RBS or Lehman, Northern Rock went down because of management error, not wilful recklessness.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Sounds a bit like

"Sounds a bit like National Savings and Investments"

Not quite.

I get a paltry interest rate for savings with NS&I. Given that Worstal Bank will get BoE overnight rates, there will be little or money to offer credit balance interest after bank operating costs, and systems and organisational investment returns to the equity investors. This also has an implication for Worstal Bank, that customers will use it only for transactional activity, and keep their savings elsewhere. Because corporate costs (directors, legal, compliance, and a tiny marketing budget) would swallow up the BoE interest (I just did some fag packet maths to establish that), that in turn means all operating costs need to be recovered from account charges. I'd guess that the costs of operations would be around £15 a month, which over the year is equivalent to 14% of the average balance.

Will there be a long queue for this product?

No risk!

No credit interest!

No overdraft!

And 14% charges for doing a few measily payments!

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Ledswinger
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Re: Im in.

"This is obviously competitive disadvantage, but would it scare customers away? "

Not for a quite exceptionally risk averse subset of customers. With no material income streams other than from base rate and charges, we're talking about a retail-only bank, and one that has to charge for everything. As a consequence bounced payments will have to be charged on top of normal account operation fees, and I don't think chronically risk averse customers will like being hit for bounced payment charges.

If they don't go overdrawn that's not a problem, but the practical way this pans out is that Worstal Bank appeals to an increasingly sub-setted niche of customers: highly risk averse people, sufficiently educated to understand but object to systemic risks in conventional banking, sufficiently liquid to be certain that they will never go overdrawn, willing to pay for basic transactional services (plus bank overheads, marketing etc), but willing to forgo easy access to other retail banking services from their main bank account provider. To an extent Worstal Bank's target market is paranoid well-to-do middle class pensioners. The poor will be excluded because they won't like charges for operation, but often have greater need of credit services.

I'm intrigued why Tim thinks Worstal Bank is a get-rich-quick scheme. I can't see the money myself, because I don't believe there's the customer volume, I don't believe operating costs will be particularly low, and I don't see the investment case as a business.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @Chris Miller

"I haven't had a personal loan for 40 years, and I'd never consider getting a mortgage from a bank"

My point was less about the personal needs of individual customers, than the wider economic impact of not offering any kind of credit. One of mankind's finest inventions was credit, because this enabled society to get richer by using wealth that temporarily was not being used by its owner.

I'd suggest a small fixed charge (a few quid a month) and a few pence per transaction. Sounds a better deal than 'free' banking that bombards you with requests for loans you clearly don't need or want and charges you £25 for a snot-o-gram if you go overdrawn by a few pence.

If you're getting physical spam then presumably you ticked the wrong box, and you struggle to throw the stuff away. Personally I put unwanted financial services post in their own reply paid envelope and let the post office return it to them, but each to their own. As for complaining about £25 for an unauthorised overdraft, how on earth do you think Worstal Bank will cope with payment requests that can't be offered? They won't offer overdrafts, so you can't go overdrawn - but then you'll certainly be clobbered for a bounced cheque or refused debit, and if it's a mortgage or insurance debit then the provider will also probably nail you for late payment (so £50 ish). My banks have always provided large standing overdraft facilities that I rarely use, but means I am only exposed to the interest, and if you're being charged for piffling overdrafts then you need to move to one of the many banks that offer free standing overdrafts.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Im in.

I'm not in.

The economy works on credit. 100% reserve banking means that Worstal Bank plc bank won't do overdrafts, credit cards, mortgages, personal loans. It won't support business through lending, won't do factoring or trade credit, won't run business overdrafts. And with no cross selling income it will struggle to break even without charging customers. All the money on deposit with the BoE is effectively sterilised in terms of wealth creation, which from a national perspective doesn't seem a markedly more responsible position than taking excessive risks.

As this operates to the same level of sophistication as a piggy bank, people can do this today, simply by withdrawing their monthly salary in cash as soon as it is credited, sticking it in the teapot on the mantlepiece, and then paying all ongoing expenses in cash. Only a few hours of bank solvency risk per month, what more could you want? There's a few loons do this, most of us aren't that fussed.

So I think the basic idea is flawed. People accept the FCS deposit guarantee scheme gives them the security most of them need, and the actual risks, costs and complications of legacy systems are probably overplayed (certainly against the non-trivial risks of building a complete new IT infrastructure from scratch). Obviously there's an attractive option of avoiding the casino banking operations that have caused so much grief, but there's a number of banks and building societies who don't engage in investment banking but who do offer retail banking services. And they do offer credit services that the economy relies on.

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Auditors blast Blighty cops over binned multi-million pound IT project

Ledswinger
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"Simply amazed, no clause in the contract that says the police can cancel the contract for convenience"

After eight years I'd guess that all the contracted costs and more were sunk, and plod would be on the hook for those. Termination for convenience only addresses costs not yet incurred.

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Indian DEITY hands down new manufacturing subsidy plan

Ledswinger
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Window dressing

Throwing subsidies at the private sector has been tried the world over with little or no long term success. It just results in subsidy tourism.

India's problems are graft, stifling bureaucracy, and poor infrastructure - subsidising tech manufacturing plants will not address any of those. Moreover, subsidising tech manufacturing doesn't buy high value jobs, it either brings in a big fab that employs relatively few people for its scale, or gets you a phone assembly plant that employs a lot of unskilled labour, but will move on as soon as the subsidy stops.

As usual we see a government that won't do the things that the private sector can't (rule of law, infrastructure planning, lower regulation), but wants to intimately involve itself in private sector activity and decision making. And the, also as usual, it will wonder why the money's been spent, and there's no enduring benefits.

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Google's too-smart-for-own-good Nest Protect alarm is back on sale

Ledswinger
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Re: Always wondered about this.

" I haven't touched it since, bar to change the clock twice a year. Even I'm not f***ing lazy enough to really want something connected so it can do that last bit for me."

That's one of my pet peeves, having to fuck around resetting clocks. The ideal fix would be for gormless politicians to wake up to the fact that the first world war ended the thick end of a hundred years ago, and we can cope without playing silly buggers twice a year for no good reason at all.

The second fix would be idiot appliance designers to build in MSF or DCF receivers so that the appliances sort themselves out (like every alarm in the house, and half of the watches). Internet connectivity seems a very expensive way of fixing that.

But coming back to Google's bloody expensive fire alarm. Who's daft enough to spend £90 on a glorified smoke alarm, when you could buy one for fifteen quid? Can you programme it to auto-tweet that you're on fire, and maybe broadcast live video to Youtube?

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Tesla, Nissan, BMW mull all-for-plug, plug-for-all electrocar charger plan

Ledswinger
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" but how many 120kW outlets can you install without your own sub-station?"

Never mind the sub-station, that's easy and cheap (certainly in the same league of cost as installing a petrol station's tanks). The problem is that the distribution network wasn't designed for this sort of additional load, so you need to reinforce your connection to the transmission system, and that tends to be expensive.

And that assumes you've got the electricity. Once you start using a number of electric cars you run into the problem that the UK grid is built for today's needs, of variable peak demand, winter to summer demand variation of 3x. In gross terms, transport fuels use more 20% final energy than all forms of household energy, and more than twice as much as all industrial demand. If half of all transport were converted to electricity, then your aggregate demand for electric power doubles. But that's aggregate demand over a year. In terms of peak demand you'd be talking of perhaps a four to eight fold increase.

Potentially smart charging could help minimise that, the problem is that minimising it isn't enough - if we have a week long winter high pressure zone sitting over the UK, that guarantees really cold weather, no wind output (and in winter solar output is negligible) then it is only practical to not charge your EV if you don't use it.

If people are happy to put off charging cars for periods of say ten days in winter and walk everywhere, then EV's might work. Urban eco-hipsters may find this acceptable, but they should be using the bus or cycling in the first place.

And there's a slight cost problem. Even with fat subsidies, EV's are more expensive cradle to grave than ICE vehicles. If take up of EV's is significant, then government need to start making up the lost tax revenues, in which case we see universal road tolling, so even for EV users, the costs of their mobility rise

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Stopping IT price gouging would risk SOCIALIST DYSTOPIA!

Ledswinger
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Re: Market prices.

"and FOSS is just as free in Oz as elsewhere"

Yes. But the Australian public sector doesn't have a good track record on procuring even simple software like payroll, does it? And having made a billion dollar pigs ear of the Queensland health payroll system, all concerned were rewarded, instead of being imprisoned forever:

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/353040,the-architects-of-qld-healths-payroll-disaster.aspx

With IT talent like this, imagine the mess the Aussies could make of FOSS.

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How practical is an electric car in London?

Ledswinger
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Re: @Rupert Fiennes

"Yeah, it would be great to see methane produced using technologies unsuitable for electricity generation (eg, wind, solar)."

Volume, mate. That's your problem. Total wind and solar output is around 3 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) annually. Total transport fuel demand is around 63 MTOE. Factor in the 50% end to end losses of renewable power to transport gas and all the wind and solar energy in the land would meet 2% of your transport demand. How much more of the country do you want coating in PV and wind farms?

From a performance point of view chemical fuels are a far better bet than batteries, so power to gas is a more promising technology, but it relies on huge volumes of electricity to cover an worthwhile fraction of electricity demand. If you electrified most UK transport you'd need about four times the generating capacity we have at present, and the only technology going to deliver that is a vast build out of nuclear.

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Blame WWI, not Bin Laden, for NSA's post-9/11 intel suck

Ledswinger
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Re: shot Brazilian

"I have always suspected there is an overwhelming venality within the Metropolitan Police"

In that case I'd differ. I honestly believe that the Met believed they were doing the right thing. The red mist descended, and some poor innocent bloke gets murdered. The Met didn't intend that, unfortunately they (in my humble opinion) were recklessly culpable.

However, the question is whether Sir Michael Wright, acting as coroner was correct to instruct the jury that "unlawful killing" could not be returned as a verdict. I am aware that the jury heard the evidence and I did not. But if Wright knew what the verdict could not be, logically he knew what is was. In that case why bother with a jury? A cynic might conclude that the government lent upon the coroner to do that. And of course the Blair autocracy was no stranger to forcing the mechanisms of justice, as the laughable Huttonwash over the death of Dr David Kelly showed. Funnily enough it was the Blair government that enacted the whistleblower protection rules under PIDA 1998. But as with all smug, lying, f*ckwit politicians, he didn't expect it could be applied to him. The continuing delays in the publication of the Chilcot enquiry suggest that the despicable political classes are sticking together on these things, but that's hardly a surprise given that the verminous Cameron idolises the even more verminous Blair.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Actually it goes back much further than that. Alien and sedation act.

"but the over all concept is nothing new."

Yes, but we plebs thought that we lived in a free-er and more enlightened age. Go back five years, and anybody who claimed the state was engaging in continuous, widespread, and ever more pervasive mass surveillance of the general population, complete with mass data retention and block recording of voice calls would have been deemed a tin-foil hatter, a conspiracist, or a loon.

Unfortunately we now know the tin-foil hatters were right on this one. An interesting thought is that the tin foil hatters are now warning of the increased militarisation of the police (in both the US and the UK). The apologists will say that there's nothing to worry about - SWAT teams throwing stun grenades into babies cots (US) is just unfortunate collateral damage, and the execution with soft nosed bullets of Brazilian electricians (UK), well, that was nothing more than a health and safety misunderstanding. For the first time ever in mainland Britain, the mayor of London is arguing that there's a need to buy water cannon for crowd control.

Personally I wonder why the politicians are tooling up the nearest things they've got to private armies. Are things really so bad that they think they need protection from a lynch mob? As somebody well in tune with the underlying economics (which, contrary to the politicians are NOT good), I think they may have point.

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Greenpeace rejoices after getting huge renewable powerplant CANCELLED

Ledswinger
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Re: Whats the choice?@ cray74

"Using the waste heat from dry cask short-term nuclear waste storage for the drying process has a more karmically appropriate ring to it."

Smooth, sir. I raise a glass to you!

Given that wriggling and runaway hippies could be a problem, presumably your idea would also "neutralise" them? Whilst shooting them would be fun, it's messy, bullets cost money, and there's all that risk to the gun operators. And there's a nice bit of karma in wiping hippies out with a good dose of radiation. They could all go out with their last words being "I told you nuclear power was dangerous". So even they would be happy - they'd proved a symbolic point, reduced fossil fuel use, and been recycled.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Hopefully no one living downstream

"The point being - the dam might still be upright after an earthquake, but if the water's been displaced a landslide then it's still going to get awfully damp downstream."

True, and not the only instance - Vajont in Italy had a similar disaster. But the fact remains that if you aren't going to take some risks then you won't build anything, the thing is to avoid situations where you've got half a mountain that can fall into the reservoir - usually this can be predicted, as it was at Vajont (just ignored by the decision makers).

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Ledswinger
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Re: Whats the choice?

"Just don't stand downwind unless you want to get stoned off the smoke."

Naaaah. I was thinking of dessicating the f*ckers first, shredding them, and using blower to move the shreddings onto a fluidised bed burner. Maybe have oxygen injection to get the temperature up further still. The weed residues would be converted to power immediately.

An alternative would be pyrolysis, and then burn the syngas in a gas turbine, which again would convert the psycho-active substances to kinetic or thermal energy. In that case I'd have the waste heat fluffed off through radiators just to spite the dead hippies.

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Ledswinger
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Re: is that Lewis's knee jerking?

"which seems to be a combination of national pride in their national parks/landscape, well founded distrust of their government, a genuine lack of belief that this project made any sense and the refusal of their government to consider alternatives"

You forgot to add "and being deceived by the strident, often inaccurate, frequently dishonest PR campaigns by smug, middle class, first world based NGOs, who personally enjoy the benefits of the modern world, but are only too keen to stop the less developed world enjoying them"

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Ledswinger
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Re: Whats the choice?

"Cut back the forests or cut back the number of humans?"

Burn hippies for fuel, mate. Gaia will be happy. Non-hippies will be happy. Electricity users will be happy. "Limits to growth" types will be happy. Pension funds will be happy. Welfare departments will be happy. Heavy rockers will be happy.

What's not to like?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Hopefully no one living downstream

Actually there's a lot of dams in tectonically active parts of the world. If the dam is well designed and constructed, and the geology appropriate they are amongst the most enduring assets ever created by man.

On the other hand, if the geology is inappropriate, it can be very difficult. A little story bears this out, along with the folly of building dams where they are convenient for people rather than where they are appropriate. Back in the 1970s, the publicly run Severn Trent Water Authority believed it needed additional reservoir capacity. After much umming and ahhing, central government granted the funds to build it, and also mandated that it should be built at Carsington in Derbyshire, largely on the grounds that they thought there was a dearth of recreational water sports facilities in the East Midlands, and with a side order of not needing to relocate too many of the natives. Carsington was a dry valley, with no significant water source, so this decision made it an expensive to build, expensive to operate pumped storage scheme, using 10km of tunnels and pumps to extract water from the River Derwent. It suited government because it was lightly inhabited, not exceptionally scenic, although the underlying geology was very poor. A Leicester based engineering consultancy went public when the work started, and predicted in one of the civil engineering publications of the day that the dam would fail, complete with diagrams showing the mode of failure. The water authority pooh-poohed this, and ploughed ahead. Some years later and few weeks before the topping out of the dam, it collapsed in exactly the manner that the Leicester based firm had foretold. £35m had been wasted building a castle in the sand, and it all had to be scraped away, redesigned and built properly, for an outturn price of around £105m, being completed years later, after privatisation of the water authority.

Had the dam lasted a bit longer, it would have been pumped full. And when it then collapsed, 35 million tonnes of water plus a few million tonnes of mud would have washed away the town of Ashbourne and most of its 9,000 inhabitants, before wiping out the 1,000 or so living in the village of Rocester, and causing untold damage further down on the River Trent in what would probably have been the world's second worst peace time dam failure.

All of this is a matter of public record if you know where to look, but is rarely presented in this way because the bureaucrats responsible didn't want to be embarrassed. I was involved a few years after the collapse, but as far as I know nobody was sacked (although the bitter and resentful engineers of the water authority made sure they never employed the consultants who'd predicted the outcome so accurately). The key takeaway is only ever build where the geology is ideal, and not to have your decisions swayed by the specifics relating to the peasants, be that the need to relocate them, or the desire to let a tiny fraction of them enjoy a bit of sailing.

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Ledswinger
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Re: woah there

"I say, yes, go for hydroelectric, but don't make a ton of people needlessly homeless to do it."

If you're determined not to "spoil" national parks and scenic valleys, and you don't move local residents on, then you simply won't be building hydro schemes. There's a dearth of geologically and hydrologically suitable, uninhabited sites, even though there's lots of sites that fill one of the three key criteria.

Even in the UK, most of our reservoirs have involved the moving on of "drowned communities" (1). Beneath the Derwent Valley reservoirs were once the villages of Derwent and Ashopton. Tryweryn Reservoir resulted in the flooding of Capel Celyn. Haweswater resulted in the loss of the villages of Measand and Mardale Green. The Elan Valley dams flooded Nantgwyllt, and so on.

It's a simple call: You build where the land allows you to build, not where it suits the current residents. Curiously enough, if I object to wind farms in the UK, I'm a NIMBY and should be ignored according to Greenpeace. However, if I were a Chilean peasant scratching out a desperately poor existence, then I'd be "an indigenous people", whose (supposed) views, traditions and rights should be safeguarded to keep me in picturesque poverty and ill health for the benefit of the consciences of interfering middle class do-gooders from developed countries, and to an extent for students travelling on gap years who often become middle class do-gooders on their return to the lands of flushing toilets.

(1) Did you see! I used the magic, magic word "communities", and that shows I'm a right-on, socially conscious sort of person.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Lower CO2 emissions maybe

" But I don't see the hippies protesting outside coal mines clamouring for the huge multi-meter sized holes to be closed down."

In western Europe that's because they've already won that battle, by virtue of persuading the EC and European Parliament to introduce emissions controls that most coal plant can't meet. The ever creeping standards for these things means that DECC expect there will be no active coal power plant in the UK power market by 2025 or thereabouts.

You did vote for that, didn't you?

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Ledswinger
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@ Naich

Sorry mate, it's many years since New Scientist was a reputable source, in my book (indeed, if it ever was).

The whole "flooding valleys creates methane" story is not universally correct because it depends on what and where is flooded, and where it may apply there's a simple answer of stripmining the reservoir bed back to sub soil or bedrock. Even if you don't do that, as IAS pointed out above, a hydro electric dam has an asset life of hundreds of years, so the short term methane emissions are a one time cost for a very long term reliable resource.

And as usual the hippies have ignored what nature does, which is to erode soil and rock, and wash living and dead plant matter into water courses. If the tossers applied the same logic to any lowland river in the world they'd find that nature generates millions of tonnes of methane all the time, and they'd be protesting in Parliament Square demanding the immediate closure of the River Thames. Likewise wetlands and rain forests are major sources of methane, but you don't hear the hippies demanding the levelling of the Amazon basin to stop its methane emissions (the Amazon basin alone is perhaps 5-6% of global methane emissions). What Greenpeace object to is the fact that somebody's lives might be improved.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Lower CO2 emissions maybe

" but there is an incredibly large amount of concrete in dams with the associated CO2 emissions."

But that's largely irrelevant unless the alternative is sitting in the dark shivering. All infrastructure uses lots of concrete. Hydro is admittedly worst at perhaps 3,000 tonnes per MW, next worst is that old hippy favourite, crappy, expensive intermittent wind power, at around 300-500 tonnes per MW. The best is CCGT at around 20.

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S is for SMACKDOWN: Samsung takes Galaxy Tab slab war fruit-side

Ledswinger
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Re: Yawn

"Don't feed the troll"

Why not? The initial responses were rather good, and far more entertaining than comparing pixels and screen sizes.

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Déjà spew: US would accept higher bills for less CO2 by two-to-one

Ledswinger
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Re: Bad poll?

"This is a typical sound-byte poll. It asks a loaded, nuanced question, while the audience is uninformed of context."

But it doesn't matter, because the US (like the UK and other western bi-ocracies) has two parties with few tangible differences, who are more than happy taking turns with the big chair.

This sort of "poll" is being used to support Obama's plans to tax carbon, but it wouldn't matter if the GOP were in power - they would need to raise money to support "defence" spending, and they wouldn't wind back Obamacare. In Europe similar polls and "focus groups" have been used to support similar policies.

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LEAKED: Redmond not allowed to sell 'Nokia' smartphones after 2015

Ledswinger
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Correction

"Almost everything has been rewritten since then, although the transition was so well executed that nobody noticed."

No, there WAS nobody to notice. The transition could have been excellent, it could have been appalling. If a mime is squashed by a tree and there is nobody to laugh, did it ever really happen?

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Dallas Cowboys to return 'dumbass' Texan's chopper

Ledswinger
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Re: Return home ?

"Do none of these drones allow you to control them through, say, mobile phone tech?"

AFAIK not out of the box. But a highly competent home-brewer could cobble together a lightweight phone into the onboard control system. For the truly ambitious it might be feasible to relay the onboard camera as a video call to the controller's smartphone on the ground, given a bird's eye view. Probably not feasible at the same time as a video call, but linking the GPS to give height speed and location data would give the ground controller data when out of sight.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Return home ?

"Eh ? So the return home mode amounts to "crash into any object that blocks radio contact". Some mistake surely."

Not for kamikaze missions. I would guess that ne'er do wells around the world have been looking at this (and mooted parcel/pizza delivery by drone), and thinking "we too have packages we'd very much like to deliver".

Maybe the drug mules and suicide bombers could go on strike against the threat of disintermediation of their bit of the value chain? That Ned Ludd, he was right all along!

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Ledswinger
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Re: Nice

"When the Chinese, and Russians start demanding payment..."

You assume the Chinese economy doesn't go pop like Soviet Russia did. The situation is the same, of vast misallocations of capital, although the Chinese have built infrastructure rather than military hardware, but the outcome will be the same. The Russians would be ****ed in a rather different manner, in that if the US economy went pop, their economy would deflate quickly with a rasping wheeze, because half of government spending is financed by oil & gas revenues. If the US or China hit the stoppers, demand falls, prices collapse, and suddenly they don't have the money to spend - Russia, like most other energy resource economies has got its government spending critically leveraged against high oil and gas prices.

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The Force of tax breaks brings Star Wars filming to Blighty

Ledswinger
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Re: fighting Princess Leia in a wet rubbish hopper

"who is wearing nothing but a wookie skin"

Mmmmm. That sounded even better. Until I followed the link. No problems with her clad in nowt but a wookie skin, but leaving the face on could put me off my stroke.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Crony Capitalism

"But it's in everyone's interest that UK companies get the business, rather than some random Californians who are much less likely to use the money earned to buy anything off

By that logic we should set corporation tax at zero for all internationally mobile companies, unless the objective is simply to generate work for a few carpenters, digital cinematography vendors, on-site caterers, a few itinerant thespians, and lighting experts.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Filmed in the UK for the tax breaks,

"But mostly filmed in front of a green screen."

Well that got us the Harry Potter Studio Tour (eye-wateringly expensive, but great fun if you enjoyed the HP films). It would be nice to think that we'd end up with Star Wars World, where we could ooh and ahhh at all the sets, animatronics, props and such like for Stars Wars. Maybe take it a step further, and offer experiences like fighting a bad tempered Princess Leia in a wet rubbish hopper (mmm...there's a pleasant thought).

Sadly I suppose they've long since lost all the props that were used in Star Wars and it's far too late.

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SPIDER-TROOP, Spider-troop, does whatever a spider troop can

Ledswinger
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If it's so good...

why does the pic show a bloke who needs a hard hat and a safety harness? Looks like the title should have read:

DARPA's Z-Man gecko tech turns MAINTENANCE LACKY into FRIGHTENED GUINEA PIG

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