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* Posts by Ledswinger

2704 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012

Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Ledswinger
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Re: Which devices are using resources?

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

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

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Ledswinger
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Re: Why bother?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: The land of the slightly free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: power grid

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

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

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

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Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends

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

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

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METRE-LONG DINOSAUR POO going under the hammer

Ledswinger
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Re: [sigh]

Maybe they'll buy one of mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Pick any two."

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: Amazon seller europe - verification

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

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

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

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Ledswinger
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Re: Pay no taxes post no profits

"Shop wisely, readers."

More like "Strategise wisely, Bezos."

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

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

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

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: How long....

...or anything else?

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: I think...

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

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

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

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: WTF?

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

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

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

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

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

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Ledswinger
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Re: WTF

"It all comes down to poor management "

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

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

Ledswinger
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Re: Only time will tell

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

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

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There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES

Ledswinger
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You jest!

"The BBC in the UK is often held up as a shining example of what public service broadcasting can do to retain local flavour"

OK, there's been a few gems in the clay, but if the BBC is the highlight of Europe then things must be grim. As TV technology gets better and better, so the content has become more and more sparse, and weak when it does come. It seems to take the BBC about eighteen months to conjur up three episodes of Sherlock (and the last three were pretty weak by the standards of their predecessors). There's a near total absence of the BBC's one time strength of costume drama (not my sort of thing, but great for buying me an hour on Sunday evening to play CS:GO or the like). And when they rolled out Jamaica Inn recently, they'd completely botched up the sound quality. Sci-fi is interpreted by the BBC to mean "more Doctor Who", just as kids TV is endless Tracey Beaker.

Rather than interpreting this report as a success for the British telly tax, I think the correct conclusion is that even when you throw tax funding at broadcasters, they simply can't produce anything watcheable (unless government-friendly news and Antiques Roadshow are your pleasures). I suppose somebody will want to watch the monopolistation of BBC1 by the Commonwealth Games for the next two weeks, but looking at my increasingly corpulent countrymen I have to conclude that the games are on because the BBC think they should be on, rather than any public appeal of athletics.

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Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists

Ledswinger
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Re: So sad

"From (a) & (d) I figure that we don't have to consider a great conspiracy regarding deliberate targeting of a civilian aircraft - it is very likely it was shot down by the separatist side simply because they have been routinely hitting aircraft from the government recently, "

All at low altitude. The immediate and vociferous blaming of the Russians without any real confirmation tends to indicate that at the very least the Yanks and their Western poodles intend to capitalise on this incident - just look at the UK/US newpapers, all howling that Putin did it.

It takes weeks, months or years to work out what really happened to a crashed aircraft, but funnily enough in this case Obama knew who did it immediately, and so did all the Western press. It could certainly be a mistake by either side of the Ukrainian forces, but it unfortunately has all the hallmarks of a false flag attack intended to implicate the separatists, and the Pavlovian response of the Western press is rather worrisome - both from a press freedom perspective, and from the suggestion that this tragedy is convenient for the US.

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Hi-tech Fagin couple used Apple scam cash to fly pickpockets to UK

Ledswinger
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Re: 8 years for 15K

"So the bosses of the phone company that overcharged 100k for sms will get mutliple life sentences?"

Only if you want to set punishments according to the aggregate financial outcome of crime, rather than number and type of offences. By that logic attempted anything can't be illegal because there's no cost, and the penalty for murder would be a reward if the victim was on any form of state welfare payment, as that would equate to a cash saving to the state. I suppose that's one way of getting the unemployed and disability figures down.

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Want to legally unlock your phone from its network? The US Senate says that's A-OK

Ledswinger
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"You guys should try some good old fashioned European style 'socialism' (or Effective Competition Where The Consumer Can Actually Choose as it's otherwise known)"

Don't be so hasty. On typical UK contracts there's a two year tie in that you'd have to buy your way out of if you exit early (which entirely covers the cost of the phone to the operator) and with some providers (notably the verminous EE, coincidentally joint owned by EU incumbents Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom) they charge for unlocking at the end of the contract.

So the claimed freedom of choice is not quite what it seems, because the deals wrap up the hire purchase of a handset with airtime. Legally I'm free to swap from O2 now, and take my number and use "my" handset, but that legal freedom is of modest value because I'd have to buy out the 18 month contract.

In all markets, it seems to me the best option is to buy your own handset SIM free, and then just buy airtime separately, trouble is that few of us want to pony up £400 in one go.

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Listen: WORST EVER customer service call – Comcast is 'very embarrassed'

Ledswinger
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Re: VP of product at AOL

"No kidding. I have fond memories of that entire working day I spent trying to cancel my AOL membership."

If there's an award for consistency, then AOL ought to have it. They were a bunch of cunts when I cancelled my subscription back in 1992. Which means that (even assuming they'd only just started that policy in '92) if they can keep it up for another few years they'll be able to proudly boast "Quarter of a century of the World's Worst Service".

And this consistency makes a mockery of the pathetic corporate apologies. The values of AOL (or "Comcast" as they now wish to be known) are inculcated in this history.

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New leaked 'Windows 8 screenshot': The Start Menu strikes back

Ledswinger
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Re: So I think it's safe to say that...

"And I can't help imagine how much money, good will and customers this will have cost them."

Cost in money: Nothing, as they'd have employed the same number of people doing different (unrequested) things, like the ribbon in Office.

Goodwill cost: Nothing. Microsoft don't have a good name to lose.

Customers: Next to none. Businesses keep buying the licences (be that for 7, or 8 with downgrade rights, or in a few cases for 8 intending to use it), home users buy whatever OS is offered with a new machine. OK so that's a big simplification, but the fundamental point is that they've lost few PC sales to Apple in the grand scheme, and few business or home users will chance their arm on Linux.

In theory there is also the economic opportunity cost that they could have done something different, clever, and market focused. In Microsoft's case I'd argue that they don't have a good track record of that sort of innovation, so the opportunity cost is nil as well.

When you're a monopolist, you feel no pain.

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May: UK data slurp law is fine, but I still need EMERGENCY powers

Ledswinger
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Re: Big Sister?

"Could also be another risk of "economic uheavals" in heat of august."

It does feel like 2006 all over again, doesn't it?

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Ledswinger
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Re: "perceived threat from foreign companies ripping the government's current regulations to shreds"

"However, it is foolish in the extreme to change the law before a new EU directive has been crafted."

Why? Haven't you noticed a trend for the UK, where we get all the crap EU legislation (eg the latest "Balkan" slaughterhouse standards), but as soon as the EU might do anything that might benefit the hoi polloi, Brave Dave leaps into action to block it?

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Plucky Rockall adventurer prepares to leave islet

Ledswinger
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Re: What are those plaques in the piccy?

" although I think Greenpeace put something up there too."

I hope our man put his time to good use and chiselled it off and threw into into the sea after crapping on it.

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Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

Ledswinger
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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

"There is a problem with that - concert halls with good acoustics are few and far between."

I didn't notice that problem at the Upton Jazz Festival, where people were making and enjoying good music in tents, in the street, in pubs, on boats, and even under a road bridge. Admittedly you'd struggle with a string ensemble or full concert orchestra outside of a decent hall, but the large orchestras seem to have that sorted.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

"As to weight, I need to replace my receiver some time, saw one in a Sony centre - first test, lift it up was it heavy. (it was)"

My mention of Sony wasn't really about my own opinion, mainly about the "audiophile" acceptance. I have a very heavy (if now rather old) Sony receiver for surround sound - works and sounds fine in that context, and at volume you can feel the subwoofer a hundred yards from the house, but there's far too much trickery and multipurpose compromises in there to trust it driving the electrostatics for real music. Electrostatics in any event have quite a tricky load for amps designed for cone speakers, but I'm sure I'd stick with a dedicated stereo amp even if I were just listening on a pair of LS3/5a.

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Ledswinger
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Re: They sell this as an improvement?

"[Now, if someone could find me a pair of Quad electrostatics at a sane price....]"

Depends where you live. In the UK your best bet is to buy an unrefurbished pair of Quad 57s on Ebay, and then take then to One Thing Audio in Coventry. The speakers should set you back about £600 for average condition. New electrics, new treble panels, clean & test, plus refurb and repaint of the grilles will be about £650, and a pair of proper stands will be another £200. They'll even do grilles in a range of fancy paint or cloth colours if you're into fashion statements.

I inherited a 40 year old pair of 57s in rather poor nick, had One Thing work their magic, and they now look and sound the dogs nads. If you want 63s or later the same route of buy secondhand and refurb makes sense, but the costs of refurb rise significantly because you've got more treble panels.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

"The formula you're looking for is QS = (PxW)/(NB x LOC)"

You need an exponent in there somewhere, and I'd suggest it must involve brand. As in all techy male interest fields, brand is everything. Audiophile sound quality is no different. Sony can make things as heavy, costly and button free as they like, and it'll never cut the mustard. On the other hand Mark Levinson could rebadge a Raspberry Pi and the true believers would worship it as the second coming.

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Computing student jailed after failing to hand over crypto keys

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Re: A masters degree in computing?

"You mean GENIUS ... Shirley"

Of course he doesn't. "Genious" is clearly the opposite of ingenious, and a highly appropriate term in the circumstances.

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Storm-battered Rockall adventurer recalls 'worst experience of my life'

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Re: So once again ... @BlueGreen

"It's hard to care if you can't see them die, innit. "

Perhaps you give generously to every single deserving cause that comes by. But I doubt it. So when we push aside your veil of sanctimonious cant, I suspect we'll find plenty of charitable causes you chose not to support, and probably some where you gave modest amounts, preferring instead to spend money on such fripperies and technology, excess food, and entertainment.

I've yet to meet anybody in the UK (although your language suggest you may be a Merkin) who earns a decent wack and then gifts all of that to charity, and I doubt that you do.

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Ledswinger
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Re: 1985??

"People can still claim bits of land for their countries by landing on them? I thought that went out in the 19th century at the latest."

Still works. China's busy doing it in various parts of the South China Sea. Russia's just done it in Crimea. Argentina tried it back in 1982. Obviously if there's a shed load of natives able to fight back things can get a bit complicated, but rule number one of territory grabbing is only to do it if you think that the previous owner can't fight back.

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Ledswinger
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Re: So once again ...

"which is why many charities now employ professional fundraisers and try to get people to subscribe to regular donations"

Ah yes, the joy of chuggers (every one of whom can FOAD). About time, in my view, that charities accepted that "charity" was about free will, not coercion and guilt laden marketing.

A few months ago the Red Cross sent my wife two admittedly cheap drinks mats and a begging letter for some humanitarian crisis. They didn't get anything back, but we've now had another two drinks mats and a cheap pen, asking for help in respect of Syrian refugees. Again, they got nothing, but I'm now getting hopeful of a full blown Middle East war, because if the Red Cross can raise the stakes accordingly by sending out matching place mats then it'll save me having to fork out for a full matching set of place and drinks mats. Have you seen the price of proper cork backed mats? It's an outrage.

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Dubai to get HUGE climate-controlled DOMED CITY and giga-mall

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Burj Khalifa: Cost USD $ 1.5 billion, One World Trade Center: Cost US$ 3.9 billion. I think the logic is sound. Build while its still cheap, make money later.

The reason that Burj cost a mere $1.5bn was because it was built by very poorly paid immigrant labourers earning less than ten dollars a day (and when you check this out, you'll also come across the realities of immigrant workers' total lack of rights and protections in Dubai, and their servitude to employers).

Be careful what you wish for.

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Ledswinger
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"We already have 100MW of solar power here with a heck of a lot more to come."

Not much against the 9.7 GW of thermal plant that Dubai relies on, though.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Conspicuous consumption @James Hughes 1

"So how would tourists get to Dubai once the oil runs out? Electric Zeppelin?"

"Dubai is on the coast.I'll let you fill in the details."

I presume you're suggesting people swim, given that a cruise ship uses around three times as much fuel per passenger km as a long haul jet.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Conspicuous consumption at it's worst

"But that's exactly why Dubai are spending their wealth rather cleverly"

Actually it's most unlikely to be their oil and gas wealth, because Dubai doesn't have much in the way of oil and gas, although other emirates like Bahrain do (all part of the loose federation that is the UAE). And history shows that Dubai don't spend this borrowed money wisely, either.

So not only is the Dubai property boom a case of building your house physically on sand, but financially as well. Back in 2009 Dubai World came a cropper after borrowing shedloads of money for vanity projects, and some $24bn of debt was "restructured" down to around $14bn. As you'd expect, arseholes like Royal Bank of Scotland had big buckets of exposure to the Dubai property boom, so British taxpayers ended up bailing a load of the Dubai World debts out for idiot London bankers. In addition to the writeoffs by international lenders, Dubai was bailed out by the oil and gas wealth of fellow emirates Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

Clearly property investors have learned nothing, banks have learned that the more stupid their lending decision, the more likely it is that they will get bailed out, and I think the same lesson has been concluded by the rulers of Dubai, so we're now back to business as usual.

Now, we can beg to differ, but personally I think that building a mercantilist economy and a global retail destination is actually a huge risk if people believe that oil will start to run out. How will people get there if there's no airlines or no affordable fares? And what's the point in zillions of square feet in retail space if the only customers are a handful of Russian oligarch's wives who flew in on private jets? Meanwhile, the other oil states are doing two far more sensible things - trying to build conventional economies to keep a fast growing and increasingly bored population happy, and using the surplus to buy relatively safe and diversified foreign assets.

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'Spy-proof' IM launched: Aims to offer anonymity to whistleblowers

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Re: commendable. But...

"What could possibly go wrong?"

Well, anonymity is pointless. Unless every unverified report or accusation is fully investigated, then being anonymous doesn't help one bit. And even then, the circumstantial evidence often points to one or a very small number of people.

A bigger concern is the treatment of whistleblowers who are traced. Here in the UK PIDA isn't worth the bog roll it is printed on. Didn't help Dr David Kelly, did it? Likewise my friend and former colleague who reported a serious fraud at a listed company. As a result three directors and two others were sent to the big house, but he's not worked since, not been compensated for his actions, and a subsequent well founded allegation of malpractice at a large and dodgy Scottish bank has been repeatedly ignored, stonewalled and "long-grassed" by UK government and regulators.

My advice to potential whistle blowers: Don't report it, you will lose out. Don't get involved, it is probably illegal. If it is the state, you're stuffed - go along with it after creating a suitable paper trail of questioning the behaviour, and then accept the official assurances that it is all above board. If it is the private sector and there's no violent criminals involved, do try and maximise your chances by asking for a golden goodbye under a comprehensive NDA if they so wish. And do stick to the NDA - why make your own life uncomfortable for no reward?

If somebody offers you a web site for whistleblowing, just laugh and keep walking.

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O2 and 'leccy firm's MNVO bid flops as £25m glugs down the drain

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Re: O2 hardly an appealing choice of network

Not much to choose, IMHO. But as the OFGEM limitations on energy tariffs doesn't apply to non-energy business we still don't know why SSE didn't follow through. Perhaps somebody close to the deal might care to let the rest of us know?

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F1? No, it's Formula E as electric racing cars hit the track

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Re: Are electric cars really usefull?

"Considering that an Astra with roughly equivalent spec (the 2 litre diesel automatic) lists at roughly £24k,"

I would contend that nobody actually pays anything like £24k for an Astra, regardless of spec or list price. "I could have an entry level Beemer 3 series, but an Astra diesel sludgematic coffin dodger special edition is a far better investment, and a superior ownership experience". Bwahahahahahahah!

As for rebates and "lower operating cost", that is certainly true at the moment, but only for a while. If EVs gain any market share government won't be able to cope with the lower revenues, and they'll have to end the ridiculous subsidies, and introduce road pricing or other taxes to raise an average of around £1k per vehicle in taxes that would otherwise disappear. The congestion charge exemption is a similarly time limited subsidy, unless EV's somehow cause less congestion than ICE cars? As soon as London is filled with EVs do you think they'll revoke the congestion charge?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Are electric cars really usefull?

"Take a look at the Vauxhall Ampera"

And take a look at its price tag of around £34k for a car the size of an Astra. You've got to be a rich eco-warrior to be able to afford one.

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Ledswinger
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"Give 'em a bloody chance!"

I think they've had ample bloody chance, given that the earliest semi-practical electric cars date back to the same years as the earliest semi-practical ICE vehicles, between 1880 and 1890.

I'm not sure how road car technology will be enhanced by having a dull race* between identical ultra-light non-road electric cars, where the drivers leap into another car when the battery goes flat? As much as anything, to spur innovation you need variety, but with single suppliers this smells like a bit of window dressing for Renault. And then there's the fact that EV's are all about the battery - energy density, cost, durability, and speed to charge - with 130 years of battery development still not offering much benefit, I can't see that a token bit of pretend racing will do anything. They'd be better off instead of spending the money custom building some undoubtedly expensive F1 lookalikes putting the money into fundamental research by blokes in white coats.

* Formula 1 is dull enough already - imagine it with quieter, slower cars with lower endurance.

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India’s Karbonn launches £26 Android phone

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Re: Trickle Down

"It was a miserable user experience"

It was indeed, but only against more expensive opposition. If you'd never used a capacitive screen smartphone before, a Galaxy Ace was a joy of capabilities. If you compared it to the then current Galaxy S2, it seemed awful.

But thinking forward a couple of years, this "old spec" niche may be filled by something of similar spec to the Galaxy S3. As the S3 can still hold its head up against the latest S5 model, this sounds great for users, but, shall we say, "interesting" for phone makers. The days of £600 list prices are numbered (well, for people not in a particular walled garden, at any rate).

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Top ten car gadgets: Get your motor running with new shiny-shiny

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Re: Devices limited only by the car you put them in.

"A dash mount phone holder is stymied because the dash is a textured finish."

The phone holder mentioned in the article is suitable for mounting on textured surfaces. I've got a different product that claims to do the same thing. Cheap suction mounts won't stick, but the more upmarket versions use some fancy 3M gel that sticks to almost any surface. For these mounts you'll be paying around twenty quid or so.

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Japan makes Prius palatable with road map to hydrogen cars

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Re: Oh dear

" converts water to H2O"

Yes, yes, I know that's not much of a feat. But hopefully you do know what I meant to type.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Oh dear

"hence 3-5x the CO2 emissions (given the same energy generation mix - in fact it would be even worse because clean energy sources are currently a limited resource)."

Whilst I'm no fan of renewables, I need to point out that the vast build out of the damned things means that most developed world markets are moving to a world where we (in the industry) expect to see some points of time where wholesale power prices are nil (under the committed FIT regimes we could even see low negative power prices at some times of low demand).

So from that perspective we expect to have got lots of electrical power kicking around when nobody really wants it, and converting power to gas is quite straightforward. In the medium sized plant we've already got operating in Europe it is working well, converts water to H2O (we blow the oxygen off because it's not economic to do anything else with). The hydrogen can be menthanated and pumped into the gas grid, or at low volumes fed in directly as H2. The simple problem is not really the efficiency issues, it is the asset cost - this is not cheap kit to build, and it is out of the money in a fossil gas world.

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