2686 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
"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.
Re: Wow. Non voting "B" shares that give you *no* control whatsoever in the company.
"You are indeed all Marki Mark's "bitches.""
Indeed. But nobody here is speaking out for Spotty Zuckerberg, so I'll have to do it.
What a coup! The bloke enriches himself fabulously with dumb share buyer's cash. He cements his position in such a way he can't be removed. He ensures that he can pay himself what he likes without any effective challenge. He awards himself absolute levels of executive authority. He ensures that not only does he have a board of cronies (or patsies), but that even if one did suddenly find a bit of moral fibre in their soul, they've got no clout with Zuck. He cashes out sufficient of his ownership to mean that regardless what happens to Facebook (including his options) he need never work again, and he'll still die as one of the richest people to have ever lived.
I've seen people in the UK using a listed company as a personal ATM, but they're now in prison. Zuck appears to have managed to do this within the law. But who's lost out in the Facebook example? Everybody had access to the prospectus, and subsequently to SEC filings, and they've presumably invested money they can afford to lose. Many have made a killing, some have lost. Any sensible investors recognise that this is a big, over-priced Ponzi scheme, but so what? Every buyer is hoping the music doesn't stop whilst the parcel is in their hands.
Hats off to Zuckerberg, I say, even if Facebook is a pile of privacy invading cr@pware, and even if he is a ***t. I wish I'd thought of this.
Re: I need to get some t-shirts made up...
"The financial side of things rather depends on what the financial incentives are, wouldn't you say?"
For using EV batteries for peak lopping, no. The problem is that the grid demand profile is largely fixed (unless you're going to have an alarm that only wakes you when the wind is blowing, or on a rota basis through the off peak hours). But EV use is broadly correlated with peak demand (travel from commuting and business use), so regardless of the incentives you won't be able to offer up your fully charged EV to support the morning peak because you'll be using it. In the evening the same applies, and later into the evening peak your EV batteries are low on charge, so there's not the spare capacity.
Obviously if EV's have larger batteries (impact on cost, weight, efficiency) but there's still the degradation from battery cycling, on an asset that will be very expensive to replace.
Re: I need to get some t-shirts made up...
"(unless it's a repurposed electric vehicle, a storage concept which Mackay  seems to like)"
Mackay may like it. But if you think about it is a daft idea. Demand has a morning peak, and a higher evening peak. During the morning peak chances are the EV is actually in use, and during the evening peak the battery is low on charge. Obviously if you don't use the EV much then things are better, but then why bother having one? Factor in that batteries are expensive and have a finite life, and you'd have to be mad to allow National Grid to empty the "tank" just because DECC have messed up the electricity system.
"What's the point in having judges (magistrates even). If all they can do is read a matrix of number of offenses vs. crime, and dish out the relevant penalty?"
I think you'll find that the system is a little bit more nuanced than that. What's being talked about is the maximum fines here, and those are rarely imposed (in the same way that maximum prison sentences are rarely imposed). The magistrates do have some discretion, some use it well, some use it poorly. What will be of interest is how these pan out in practice - if the maximum fine quadruples, does the average also?
On the one hand this is not about deterrence or punishment, its simply a reflection of a wider move amongst governments who have realised that they can raise more money through punitive fines - the Spanish government did something similar recently, and I think the French also. Think of it as a selective stealth tax. Of course, it is targeted at you and me. The true riff raff don't pay fines anyway, the rich won't give a toss about these fines still (a days pay for a Premiership footballer, and that's if his lawyer can't get him off), and as Huhne demonstrated, politicians believe that the law doesn't apply to them.
The next step will be far more widespread use of all types of enforcement cameras, but with a particular emphasis on speed cameras, because that's one of the easiest things to target. As usual poor or deliberately dangerous driving will be ignored because that's too difficult.
Re: @Ledswinger Thoughts
"Their silence, however, is not something I would complain about."
Neither was I!
"but they can't look behind at the same time - that's why ears were invented."
So we'd better make push bikes noiser, then?
The unpleasant and pervasive noise of traffic is on the threshold of becoming an avoidable evil, and clowns who like the status quo are working hard to keep cars noisy. Maybe they could have a pedestrian with a red flag walk in front of each electric car, to ensure that the car sticks to a responsible speed and doesn't knock anybody over?
"Seems sensible to me."
Possibly because you haven't read and thought about it. As the single system can be challenged and interpreted in regional courts, then you'll see "challenge tourism", where (eg) French companies challenge a Danish-owned patent through a French court. Any company with dodgy grounds for appeal will use courts in the third world parts of the EU where judges can be suitably bribed or threatened. Patents that don't suit particular governments will find the challenge much tougher in those countries. And the costs of defending your patent against wrongful challenge will (in the words of the European Economic and Social Committee, the whole new system could "undermine the defendant's rights to have access to justice".
Admittedly there's the prospect of appeal if somebody doesn't like the findings of a court challenge, but as far as I know there's no inherent right to appeal, leave usually has to be granted by the court system of the country concerned, so if the local justice system is weak, it may be incredibly costly or even impossible to get a fair outcome.
There's certainly plenty of theoretical sense in a pan-European patent system, but given the unstable, politically motivated beast that the EU is, and the patchwork quilt of cultures, levels of economic and infrastructure development, how well do you expect this to pan out? There was lots of theoretical sense in having a pan-European currency, and that's hardly worked out well, has it?
"Why the need for a custom machine and the complete clusterfuck attempt at security?"
Because this is the Post Office. The same people who think that having a retail outlet closed for 75% of the weekend is just fine, the same people who moved away from weight as a means of pricing to complex user unfriendly mix of weight and various combinations of all dimensions so that nobody has a ****ing clue about the cost of postage until they get to the post office, the same people who charged so much that Amazon now use any crummy fourth rate courier they can find because the post office are uncompetitive, the same people who like to have ever expanding lists of things that are supposedly too dangerous for them to carry, the same people who slashed their already derisory standard levels of compensation for lost or damaged post, the same people who seem to put all parcels marked fragile in the drum of a cement mixer for four days before (maybe) delivering it. And the same ****s who now charge over twelve shillings to post a small letter first class.
Re: And for the rest of us (Fanbois included)
"Get fat but hey, isn't the body art cool?"
Looking for the positives, at least it creates more options: Get fat before the tramp stamps go on, and you can fit more on. Or, get fat after you've been stamped and you have your own expanding work of "art".
There could be a whole new class of tattoo art for the obese: Themed art, like Jabba the Hut belly tats, hidden tats in the flab creases for the morbidly obese, or tats designed to use natural wobble and flow to create the impression of a moving image. Maybe use military developments in invisbility cloaking paints to offer "airbrush" tats, so that somebody with the physique of Roseanne Barr appears to have the body of Rhianna?
"Nah.. It would have happened already "
I hope you're right mate, but worth considering that the costs of termination on calls to mobiles is still three times that of landlines. With one in eight households now having no landline, the phone pests are seeing the pool of targets shrink, and if termination rates are near enough similar then logic suggests that you start calling mobiles.
We shall see....
OFCOM seem to think that lower termination rates would be a good thing for consumers. Unfortunately, as soon as mobile termination rates match landlines, the cold callers and scammers will realise there's a much better chance of a mobile phone being answered than a landline, and it doesn't cost any more to pester people on their mobile, and then where will we be?
Oi OFCOM! You useless knobs! How about customer-set termination rates, so that I can establish how much it costs to call me, according to the dialling number? Nothing for known friends and family numbers. A very small amount for businesses that need to have my number (again on a permitted number basis). And an arm and a leg for known spammers, number withheld, and international calls (ideally accompanied by a cost per minute that I can levy, perhaps around 70p).
"I'm not sure I'd describe someone else reading my quite frankly rather banal email traffic "terrifying"."
I think their concerns have passed over your head with quite some clearance. I doubt my web activity is of much interest, but I *do* find it terrifying (1) that the state considers it necessary and appropriate to have absolute access to what I read, write, watch of listen to on line, or say over phone lines or even VOIP. And that the fuckers record and store this whenever they can in as much volume as the hardware I've paid for them to have allows.
Considering that the state rarely backtracks, is a serial offender when it comes to both mission creep or outright incompetence, and will not allow itself to be held to account, the last people on earth I want to have oversight of my in and outbound communications are my own government. It's a sorry state of affairs when I'm more relaxed about the Chinese or Russian government's ability to spy on me than my own or "allied" governments.
(1) Admittedly in an arm chair manner, rather than an "about to be eaten by a lion" manner.
Re: All good stuff
"Unless you produce yourowm power..."
Actually no, it's just the same. If you produce your own power at any scale then you've got exactly the same issue that your capacity investment is fixed, but your power demand varies. That's why wholesale and B2B power prices vary by day and by season, because meeting peak demands means more lightly utilised plant.
What Google are doing (in the article) is reducing off peak demand, and that's the least useful form of power reduction whether you generate in house or buy from the grid; What you really want to do is reduce your peak load, or to reschedule your peak load so that it is different from the peak grid demand. To an extent they can already do load shifting across time zones where the data connections permit that, but as far as I know there's not sufficient cable capacity to run all of continent A's data processing on continent B during continent B's dark hours when power demand is minimal and prices low. And as we now know, you most certainly can't trust continent B.
All good stuff
For commercial customers your prices are determined by four things:
How much you use
When you use it
The maximum you use in any half hour
The grid connection capacity
So a 35% power saving won't alter maximum demand or grid connection capacity needs as these are set by the data centre running at full chat. As the power savings will be maximised at lower utilisations (so off peak) the unit cost savings will be lower than Google's average unit rate as well.
At a guess this is a 5-7% cost saving on the total power bill rather than the claimed 20%. Still worth working for, but nothing to get in a lather about.
Re: You ignore China to your peril
"Whatever you think of China, it's a huge, huge, err pretty damn big market."
Not for software, or foreign IP, branded goods etc. A market is where you have a meeting of demand (a desire to purchase backed up by the means to pay), and supply (a willingness to sell at some price offered by a segment of potential buyers. China is still (on a per capita basis) a very poor country, and culturally (as with all emerging economies, including the US and Europe in their times) expensive stuff is there to be copied or stolen.
Re: Software piracy?
"However, a home brew OS would have the necessary protections from the government along with enforcement provisions."
Certainly the latter. But they've already tried this and failed. Who now remembers Red Flag Linux?
Given the vast number of alternative distros in Western markets, you might assume that home brewing an OS isn't that big a deal, but the reality is that there's precious few competing desktop operating systems, even from those regimes (China, Russia, Iran etc) who might seem to have a damn good reason to want an OS not under US control, and who you'd assume could throw the necessary resources at the matter.
Maybe all the recent NSA/GCHQ news has persuaded them that enough is enough, and they'll deliver Red Flag Linux 2 this time and force nationwide adoption (to be followed by all non-Western powers copying the approach but not the software). In that case the world's "security" agencies can sit back knowing that there's far less chance of easily snooping foreign powers, and they can concentrate on inspecting the underpants of their domestic populations. Many might conclude that was the real objective in the first place, because the political elite in all countries aren't really interested in real democracy, merely the sort that gets the right one person elected (eg Syria, Russia, China), or the supposedly "free world" version in which two sets of indistinguishable and incompetent clowns play buggins turn, not really minding who wins so long as they get their turn in due course (eh UK, US, France, etc).
Re: Double duty
"these days employers rarely provide employees a phone since everyone has their own"
Why do employees countenance using their personal device for work stuff? Done properly you've got all the corporate security and policy restrictions, and there's no way I'm letting my employers decide what I load on my phone. Alternatively you've got the problem that employees phones are not restricted by corporate IT policy, and the business is allowing all email traffic to be exposed to whatever malware the most cretinous user has loaded on their phone.
For SMEs, one man bands and business owners I see few problems, in the corporate world or data security paranoia I can't see why either side would want BYOD?
Re: PCCW is the NOW! Broadband (aka Netvigator) outfit?
"Maybe this is why they originally wanted the licences (though it seems unlikely) ?"
The rationale for companies buying things in markets a zillion miles from your home territory is usually a choice between the following:
1) The buyer doesn't understand what they are buying, but think they do, and will then be disappointed. This is 70% of most corporate company/asset/licence acquisitions.
2) The buyer doesn't understand what they are buying, know they don't, but are just doing it for ulterior motives (eg justify trips to exciting foreign location; engage bored and stupid executives in M&A to divert from the real chore of running a business; need to persuade investors that there's long term growth in new markets to cover a couple of bad quarters in the home market; churn up some tax losses; launder cash into a safer market away from dodgy home government etc etc). This is 20% of acquisitions, and where I put the PCCW licence purchases.
3) Once in a while companies do buy businesses they understand. This is rare (10% or less of all corporate deals), and even then only a fraction of these deals make money, because buying and profitably integrating a business requires commercial and operational talent, which is very different to understanding it, which is largely a technical consideration.
Re: not convinvced
"In fact, this seems a great thing for Mythbusters to look into..."
And you're volunteering to be the guinea pig? Good man!
Re: Mixed Views on this
It's more than home helps who will be on the scrap heap, given that the money is "for research into industries like manufacturing, agriculture, health, transport, civil security and household robotics".
Personally I don't think this has anything to do with household robotics, agriculture or health. The term "civil security" is a rather sinister one, and I think that's what the money's going to be spent on. The only hope is that this is after all the EU, so the chances of them being successful in building a Eurobocop is about the same as the chances of them getting their accounts successfully audited.
Re: TRAITORS@ I ain't Spartacus
"We also know that Iran has a nuclear program. But I've no idea what intel we have on why they've got it, and whether they intend to bargain it away, build it for safety, or even use it."
Do we know that? We know that they have civilian nuclear ambitions because they commissioned a power generating reactor to be built by the Russians. But if you read more widely than the mainstream Western press, it's interesting to see the extent to which the claims of WMD programs seem to come more from geopolitical antagonisms and deliberate management of the press by Western governments than to any real evidence that Iran has ever had much intention of building a bomb. If you recall, Saddam supposedly had WMD, and it all turned out to be a load of old c**k. Then Libya was supposedly buying nuclear weapons tech, which likewise appears to have been bluster and misinformation by both sides. In Syria there's quite a lot of evidence that the use of chemical weapons has been false flag activities intended to support intervention which was only hours away when British public opinion stopped Parliament from repeating the mistakes of Iraq all over again (and were matched by similar attitudes in the US), all this despite the BBC's propaganda machine breathlessly declaring that the Assad regime was using chemical weapons.
The interesting thing is that despite the lack of public support for all of these actual or potential interventions, there is clearly an influential constituency who are keen on war and foreign intervention. In the light of all that, are US claims of Iranian WMD any more credible than either Iranian denials, or the Iraqi dossier? Do we think that GCHQ-on-Sea is able to actually scoop Iranian intelligence because they send plain text emails via AOL about their plans?
And this is my problem with your proposition. Electronic spying, keeping things under wraps, depending on the "intelligence" gathered remotely keeping us safe, defending our economic interests, sounds all so pacifist and 21st century "peacekeeper". In reality this approach is why there's about 188,000 dead Iraqis (a number still increasing at around 50 per day, every day), and why the US is $2 trillion poorer, and the UK around $10bn. And the subsequent attempts to involve the West in further wars for no good reason show that nothing has changed, other than the fact that the peasants have had enough of losing costly wars started on the pretext of "intelligence".
"Now we wait for some idiot in a place like Blighty to say: "hey we can this here...""
You are behind the times!
DECC data issued a couple of days back shows that thanks to over-generous subsidies there is now around 3.2 GW of solar PV installed in the UK, and growing at around 15% per annum. That's two typical thermal power stations (sounds good if you love renewables, gaia, hippies and pandas) but of course the thermal plant will be available all year round, whereas the solar PV struggle to achieve 9% load factors in the UK. This capacity is actually about the same as the installed solar PV capacity in Australia. There's a subtle difference, because in Oz solar PV achieves a 14% load factor, which means that an antipodean solar PV array will produce 55% more power than a similar installation in the UK.
And just to make sure that the UK solar PV was as expensive as possible, the clowns of Westminster ensured the subsidies were directed to individual household level installations, ensuring no scale economies. That 3.2 GW is from 551,000 individual installed PV arrays. So that's at least 551,000 individual surveys, scaffoldings, connections, sale & warranties, 551,000 inefficient short lived consumer grade inverters, 551,000 arrays mostly with no cleaning or maintenance regime, 551,000 export meters installed, and 551,000 electricity customers getting fat subsidies off of the rest of the electricity consumers.
Re: How well does it ramp?@ Tom 7
"A large underground facility in the desert of Oz is going to be cheap "
I doubt it. Even if you built it in the centre of Sydney, London, or New York, the land would be a tiny part of the finished costs of high volume high temperature storage (although the ease of building in the middle of nowhere would make it a preferable choice to a currently populated location). In the middle of nowhere you also need to transport all equipment, personnel and materials.
The fundamental problem with energy storage is that the actual energy density is low, leading to high capex costs per useable unit of energy stored. And that's stored, not produced. There's plenty of storage technologies under development (CAES, molten salt, steam, power-to-gas) but few plants operating at scale, and few development paths to take successful pilots into low cost commercial designs. Molten salt heat storage (itself a formative technology) operates at lower temperatures than supercritical turbine-friendly conditions that the Aussies have shown can be produced from insolation, so to store that you would need something new, perhaps molten metal storage. And as the storage temperature goes up, the insulation requirements and conversion technologies become more challenging and the heat losses rise, and you're into very advanced materials science for all that high temperature, high pressure kit. To go much beyond the current molten salt heat storage technologies requires both new science, and science and manufacturing of a complexity directly comparable to nuclear power plants (in which case why not build nukes in the first place).
My personal view is that renewables are useless without storage, and we haven't yet cracked storage, ergo renewables are expensive toys. Having said that, I suspect that power to gas is the long term technology to beat, because chemical storage is an easier, cheaper, known technology, and the stored medium (either hydrogen or methane) has alternative uses in addition to power generation, such as transport fuel or feedstock gas.
Re: Perhaps it's time Amazon delivered a solution.
"I believe Wally world had the same unhappy ending when they came across the concept of trying to apply American staff relations to European employment laws."
Whilst I'm sure there's more than an element of that, I can't help thinking that if they didn't want to do the whole Roman thing, Amazon were berks for then establishing fulfilment centres in Germany, rather than at cross-border locations in Poland and Czech R, (and perhaps Holland to serve the Ruhr/Rhine cities).
Re: An honest question...
"From what I've heard, German copies had Nazis replaced by The Regime and all swastikas were replaced by another logo."
Re: Delusions and Dreams. An Economic Know-Nothings in the FT
"If the USA with its large economy can withstand the last popped bubble, surely China can too ! After all the economy is big (or already bigger now) and Manufacturing being so strong, can withstand the buffeting. They have no external debts like the US, either."
The US hasn't withstood the last bubble bursting. The vast bad debt pile hasn't been fully purged, neither trade nor budget are in balance. They've simply put off the reckoning by printing more money and increasing debt levels. That keeps things going for a while, but as any fule noes, the successful answer to a problem of too much debt is very unlikely to involve more debt. The US, UK, Europeans and Japanese are all trying to solve the problems they have by borrowing more, but over time the numbers are clear, that the marginal productivity of debt declines, meaning that when they started, each £1 of borrowing gave them (say) £2 of GDP. That was good, but the more you borrow the fewer good opportunities there are, meaning that now borrowing £1 buys you a few pence of GDP.
Japan is now exploring how bad things can possibly be made, with limited external debt. They have a declining population, and vast and increasing public debt owed to their own population. If China had learned one useful thing from the West, it should have been about the debt-related life cycles of empires, and the need for balance in all things - investment and consumption, budgets, and international trade. In a desperate bid to make themselves the world's largest economy they've sacrificed all those required balances, and pushed themselves into the same mess as the rest of us.
The ability of an economy to withstand this depends on having sufficient levels of accumulated wealth to absorb the losses (when they are recognised) from prior mis-investment. The US haven't fully done this because they tried to paper over the cracks with debt, but being a wealthy country they are better placed to take the hit, and have better capital reserves and saver protection. In China, when depositors find that the bank has folded on the back of dodgy property loans to local party officials, and taken their life savings, and the factory has closed leaving them with no job or income, how will that pan out?
Re: Three Reasons Why..... plus the fourth real reason
Unfortunately those are but a small part of the reason for China's GDP growth.
There's another more fundamental reason, and that's that they've printed and imported trillions to fund an unsustainable capital and infrastructure boom. All of the spending contributes directly to GDP, with a further multiplier effect as wages are spent, and materials and services paid for.
China is drowning in over-capacity of capital asset manufacturing plant, is building properties that there are no occupiers for, has a vast property price bubble (these usually don't deflate politely) and is busy building highways, railways, bridges, airports and ports for which there is no traffic.
In the first fourteen years of this century China's outstanding credit market debt went from $1 trillion to $25 trillion. China has 1.5 billion (alright, BEEEEELLLIONN) tonnes of steel capacity, with demand about half of that. China has built more apartments standing empty than the entire housing stock of the UK and Germany combined. For me there's one number that sums up how distorted the Chinese economy is: In the two years 2011-12, China consumed more cement than the United States consumed in the entire twentieth century. You can talk about urbanisation, large population, workshop of the world as much as you like, but that doesn't explain either how China has made economic use of this volume of cement (and all related materials), nor how it will get off the treadmill of capital consumption without the sort of bust that will make 2008 look like a stroll in the park.
The much vaunted success of "red capitalism" is actually anything but. For China this is a toxic combination of traditional state central planning, leading to excess investment, combined with the use of excess debt common in capitalist bubbles. Sooner, maybe later it will end the same painful way as any other debt fuelled mis-allocation of capital.
Re: good news if
" Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve. Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve."
Bwahahahahahahahahahahaaa! You think for one moment that the luddites of government are going to let cars go faster?
" I've done a bit of this in the past. We only asked for the numbers, which could be passed back to the party to check if any of their expected supporters hadn't turned up and might be offered a lift or whatever"
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the major political parties that if they want people to vote, then trying to chivvy prospects to the polls may not be the best solution.
A better approach might be to run the country for the benefit of the electorate, not MP's and their mates? To stop spending vast sums that the country doesn't have? To offer a simple level of basic competence when in office, and constructive criticism (rather than pompous grandstanding) when in opposition? To stop electing leaders and selecting ministers who are TOTALLY unrepresentative of the electorate, often have no credible work or life experience? To stop talking complete 5hit about "hard working families" whilst allowing global mega corps to pay no tax, and whilst running the printing presses to transfer wealth from savers? To stop lying all the time about everything? To be open and honest about problems facing the country?
On second thoughts Julian, I think they'd better stick to placing a few wrinklies outside the polling station and having car on call for anybody who's forgotten that democracy needs them.
Re: Poor network
"Vodafone must be relying quite heavily on massive corporate contracts including within the public sector."
Maybe, but I doubt it. Most mass subscriber industries (insurance, energy, telecoms) operate on continuing churn, mostly driven by dissatisfied customers. You may leave Voda, but somebody else is joining them because they're pissed off with O2, and so on.
In financial terms it never pays to reward loyalty, because if you keep the best deals for your "oldest" customers, you can't offer the best deals to acquire new customers, so your business shrinks.
Plus ca change
Hold a mo, isn't this the same Vodafone that squeezed out a circa £6bn writedown same time last year? And the same Vodafone that cropped off a £2bn writedown iin 2010? And the same Vodafone that puffed on a £6bn writedown in 2009. And the same Vodafone that laid a perfectly formed £12bn writedown in 2008? And the same Vodafone that rolled out a stonking £28bn writedown in 2006?
Has nobody noticed a trend here?
And the curious thing is that the write offs listed are slightly above current market capitalisation, suggesting that over the medium term the board have managed to waste more than they've made.
Far from "offering optimism for improvement", the simple fact that this is Vodafone, with its useless, overpaid, city grandee board means it is poised for further writedowns. Clara Furse will fit right in.
Competition from Virgin Media?
OFCOM asleep on the job again, happily swallowing all of BT's bilge. Virgin Media have been actively trying to price themselves out of the market over recent months, and are only a threat to BT for those seeking a 100 Mb/s connection. I have seen little real world benefit in the change from about 10 Mb to 20, and then through to 60 Mb (soon to be 100), which leads me to conclude that Virgin Media are not COMPETING with BT, they are DIFFERENTIATING themselves from BT, by emphasising the one (largely irrelevant) metric they know BT's technology will struggle to match.
It's unfortunate that OFCOM are so clueless, and haven't spotted what most other regulators have long realised, that in weakly competitive markets you need to dismantle dominant players. The answer for BT's long suffering customers is to split BT up into separately accounted regional franchises (been done with gas, broadly speaking how water was privatised in the first place), and forcing Virgin Media to offer network access to third parties.
Re: Monopoly & regulatory capture vs. Competition
"I think that the system in the UK where the incumbent was required to provide wholesale access to its last mile infrastructure, within a regulated price structure, while not being perfect has proved much more workable."
Ahhh yes. BT buying media rights, and still planning on net neutrality? I somehow think not. And the shambles of national broadband, that's hardly an advert for the UK regulatory model.
Re: When in doubt about regulations and origins of same,
"Net neutrality is doomed unless Congress and the FCC show some backbone"
Why would they do that? Who own these two bodies? The sad reality is that western "democracy" is anything but, and your elected representatives work for their mates, not their electors. And it's not just the US: In the UK parliament and OFCOM are equally committed to working for the benefit of lobbyists.
"there's noise complaints from the neighbours to deal with."
Assuming your neighbours aren't Russian you can dispense with the armour piercing options, and carry more of the useful stuff against civilians and lightly armed bandits. So, stock up on flechettes, particularly if they've got any small dogs. Ask nicely and the suppliers might offer you mini-flechettes designed purely for small dogs and civies.
Re: Regulation is needed
"The GP in Todmorden encouraging people to dig up "wasteland" and plant fruit and veg sounds admirable, until someone "doesn't ask" and digs up a bit of wasteland which is in fact a protected area containing rare plants or animals. Or digs up an area that was wasteland because it was contaminated."
Of course, of course. Where would we be without government to tell us both what we can do, and what we can't do. I feel so much safer knowing that some public sector numpty has left contaminated ground as wasteland, or that it secretly harbours endangered wildlife.
Re: OTOH, you could regulate to encourage new business
"I'm thinking nothing so abstract. I'm talking about rewarding the people who get off their arses and make stuff happen. Investing in funds doesn't cut it."
But it's there already, for example "entrepreneur's relief" for capital gains, that is a huge reward for people who qualify and have made up to £10m.
But we don't need more incentives to dodge tax, because few people go "Oh, I've got this brill idea, but what with 40% tax it's not worth making myself a millionaire". The problem of insufficient innovation and entrepreneurship is two fold - the zillions of pages of bureaucratic regulation you need to cope with, the high costs of establishing and growing a business (business rates and employers' NI in particular), and a wider culture of risk averse investing. These days you can't get small company funding from an equity market, because they are now all about secondary trading of established companies. VC's will rip you off and steal your company, banks are reluctant to lend, and still steal your company (a big hello to RBS GRG at this juncture).
You know the biggest innovation in funding innovation, and encouraging a culture of entrpreneurship? Kickstarter. And why? Because it encourages people to take risk investment. What's the reaction of government? To try and restrict it, regulate and strangle it. The best thing government can do for innovation is to keep well out of the way, shred a few more million pages of possibly well meant legislation, and scrap employer's NI and business rates as they currently exist. Load it all on corporation tax so it comes out of profits, and levy a punitive withholding tax on (mostly US) corporate tax dodgers.
Re: This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.
"You need to re-check your history. "
He does (and so would I have had to in his place). But the wider point is valid - the US went through the usual build an empire, fight wars, debase the currency......and you (judging by your moniker) are now in the terminal glide phase, hanging on to your "send a gunboat" approach to diplomacy, your tenuous status as the global reserve currency, and so forth.
I don't say that critically - Russia, Britain, Spain, Netherlands, assorted Middle Eastern countries, we've all done this. I'll credit the US of A with one thing, and that's that (in addition to being the kings of make-work and bullshit) they get things done more quickly than everybody else. In this case, completing the "empire life cycle" more quickly may not be seen as quite such a good thing.
Re: 2020 @ I ain't Spartacus
"Threatening to do this again in a few days is likely to mean Europe has to move to other gas suppliers, "
What other suppliers? The US shale boom is not exportable in large volumes, not withstanding the conversion of some east coast import terminals to run as export. The global LNG market wants a huge price premium to supply Europe in preference to the shorter runs to Asia & Japan, and if you want certainty you need to contract months if not years ahead. Add in the fact that Europe doesn't have the LNG facilities to import much more than a fraction of its demand, and you start seeing problems with these alternative suppliers. There's only one country with the gas reserves to change things, and that's Iran. The west having demonised and threatened Iran (and vice versa) for thirty plus years, I can't see either side working to get Iran access to world markets anytime soon, nor being willing to cosy up with Europe.
The EU has only three energy security options:
1) Keep doing what you're doing, which means dreaming of renewables, whilst actually being beholden to a range of energy-rich despots round the world.
2) Tear up their climate change religion, reinstate coal as a major component of the energy mix, and start fracking in continental Europe.
3) Adopt a French-style solution of building nuclear power plant to cover 90% of demand, and accept that it will have crap load factors. This sound superficially attractive, but the wheels come off when you consider that the builders of nuclear power plants simply have no idea how to do it cheaply.
Re: Wow, 800 extra staff ......
"....... which means 2 techies and 798 project managers."
Well, they must be outsourced or contractors then, because in the RWE first quarter results announced today, the npower supply business is shown with 530 fewer employees than the same time last year.
I imagine that Npower devised their own perfect storm:
1) You're a UK board member of a German owned company with a history of fines for customer service failings - surely if you decide to change things, they can only get better?
2) In an environment of steeply rising bills, you decide to fuck with the main billing system. The business case promises better performance and lower costs, and you believe it.
3) You opt for SAP because it's German, and that's reason enough in any German owned company
4) You select IBM Global Buggerups as the lead consultant, because you once heard that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, and because you believe the snake oil salesmen they sent, who took you out to reference sites in exotic parts of the world, and bought you lush dinners
5) At the same time you decide to outsource many of the actual customer operations staff to Crapita, because that'll "improve" customer service AND save money on top of the business case promises of sunlit pastures and newborn lambs. They promised us, they promised!
6) Just to help, your German uberlords insist that you sack all your UK back office staff and roll everything up into a German based shared service operation seven hundred miles away, so that the UK business gets worse internal services and has to pay more for them, meaning nobody can get bills paid, contracts let, nobody can get meaningful management information, or even anything done.
7) When the pilot SAP roll out showed problems you opt to "go large" and extend the roll out to all your customers, because IBM insisted it was all the fault of the legacy systems.
8) And according to the latest results, you've had to triple your UK capex budget, presumably to pay for all the contract variations with SAP, IBM, Siebel etc, because their contract writers ran rings round your procurement team.
Maybe it wasn't like that. Perhaps somebody from npower can enlighten us?
Re: "we're talking multi-million pound fines "
"Corporate fines aren't the answer here. They have no significant effect in discouraging the responsible individuals from doing stupid things, and the costs are just passed on to the customers (and the workforce)."
That is for another day. There's people with problems now, and they have to work within the existing frameworks. I can also assure you that companies don't like getting fined, and do try and avoid it. Moreover, the size of regulatory fine is always adjusted up or down for aggravating or mitigating circumstance, one of the most important of which is actions taken as soon as it became apparent that there was a compliance failure.
One of npower's festering sores is of course that it decided last year to outsource big chunks of customer service, at the same time as the botched SAP roll out was continuing. Another triumph for the management consultants!
"Personal bonuses => personal fines."
A fine is a statutory or regulatory outcome, and that option already exists where criminal behaviour can be proved. Where there's simply incompetence or commercial misjudgement, as is most likely in this case, it's stupid to suggest that the courts should act against individuals. No, bonuses simply need to be able to have a negative component for personal incompetence, so that berks like npower's senior managers can see their base salaries eroded (and clawback of prior years' bonuses). But even that would require primary legislation, which won't be happening anytime soon.
Re: Can't get a bill, can't swap supplier
"1) I don't believe this means you are entitled to a refund on direct debits paid (I may be wrong but I thought it only applied to pay on bill customers)"
I can't say with certainty, but I suspect you can get the direct debits refunded. That's your money until the supplier has billed you, even if it has been physically transferred to their bank account. If they were able to back-bill past twelve months by relying on DD payments, there'd be different treatment of DD customers to credit customers, and that sort of customer discrimination is prohibited.
But, as with my advice to the other people with problems, you can write to Paul Massara in Swindon, explaining the situation and demanding immediate resolution or a deadlock letter. Once you have the deadlock letter you raise the complaint with the energy ombudsman who has the power to force a solution on the supplier, OR if the complaint hasn't been resolved within eight weeks of first being raised with the energy supplier, then you can approach the energy ombudsman without a deadlock letter.
For your own scenario with the double meter system, not sure why that's a problem, largely because I don't follow what you mean - is that two meters and a single MPAN? Even that shouldn't stop you switching supplier, as it's unusual but not unheard of. I'd phone up your choice of alternative supplier, try and change, and then persist in identifying why they can't do it, and then seek to overcome that. Note that separate to your complaint about npower, the energy ombudsman can deal with complaints about switching, so if a supplier says they can't take you on, tell them that you'll take THEM to ombudsman, and if (as is likley) they don't budge, then report them as well.
Don't expect a quick solution from the ombudsman - with the volume of complaints npower in particular are generating they are probably swamped.
Re: Pull their fingers out@ Shaun Sheppard
"Damn Led, are you paid by the ton of mail landing on their doorsteps ?"
If only. Npower are so staggering useless I'd be a very rich man indeed if I got a share of the postage on their complaints inbox.
I work in this industry, I've worked in other regulated sectors, and I know how bad it can be when complaints aren't resolved quickly. You have to give them a couple of chances to fix things normally, after that the only hope for quick resolution is rapid escalation to the very top.
If you want to make a complaint to the big wigs, far better to send it to the CEO on paper. Not only will he have a very efficient PA who will send out a polite reply in his name, but they will ensure it goes to the right (reasonably high level) person for resolution, and that person who has to resolve it sees that it has come from the office of the CEO. Moreover, all incoming mail to the CEO is usually formally logged, which discourages "the dog ate your homework" excuses lower down the organisation.
Because Massara has been running a shambolic business for so long, he may be immune to customer complaints. But RWE's top man won't be accustomed to getting letters of complaint about npower, and when Massara gets a call from the group CEO's office saying "voss is diss?" he'll want to look as though he's in control.
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