back to article Behind the candelabra: Power cut sends Britain’s boxes back to the '70s

“Would you like to watch a film with me tonight?” Although the timing seems good – it has just gone 8pm – the offer is extraordinary. You see, in the busy Dabbs household, each member of the family works to his or her own barely compatible calendar and so it is mandatory to book in advance before any interaction can take place …


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  1. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Most UIs are crap

    Well put Mr Dabbs, the time settings on all these devices is much harder than it needs to be. Two simple HH and MM buttons for instance. And a decent capacitor that can hold the clock chips power for an hour might cost all of 50 cents and save so much blasphemy. And why is only a monophonic beep all that these monstrosities produce.? How about different tones for each control button ?

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Most UIs are crap

      I have an oven that has three different tones for the timer alarm. Two of them are inaudible when you're more than a metre from the oven, and the other one's not much chop either.

      The button that cycles through the tones is also used to set the timer, so you never know whether you're going to hear your dinner burning. I've resorted to using the microwave timer's monophonic beep because I recognise it.

    2. plrndl

      Re: Most UIs are crap

      I find the quickest way to set these things up is to google the model number and get the pdf of the manual.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most UIs are crap

      And why is only a monophonic beep all that these monstrosities produce.? How about different tones for each control button ?

      NOOOOO. "No flaming beep at all" is the one and only setting I would like on electric and electronic devices. The benefit of machines vs people is that they don't get impatient - until some UI designer tw*t gets it in his otherwise empty head that it must beep because of safety or feedback or whatever else excuse is dreamt up to break out the most piercing piezo they can find and. make. it. beep. every. &%ç*. minute. after. it. has. done. what. I bought. it. for as if it is an attention craving teenager with a presentation problem.

      Personally I would convict these people to a week in a room with enough beeping devices tuned to harmonic resonance with each other and the teeth of the designer to be re-educated, ending by sticking at least 20 of these preferably sharp edged infernal piezo buzzers where they will be remembered most before release.

      It has gotten so bad that checking access to the wires of any built-in beepers is now a standard part of my procurement process. The only thing that should beep is a fire alarm. Full stop. May the designers of all other f(bleep)ng devices be struck with diarrhoea and a heavy cough at the same time.

      Yes, I feel better now, thank you.

      1. Nuke

        @AC, 17:16 - Re: Most UIs are crap

        Wrote :- "The benefit of machines vs people is that they don't get impatient"

        Some do. Some devices (and websites) will send you back to Square 1 or log you out if you pause long enough to RTFM, or if you go to look something up that it has asked for.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: @AC, 17:16 - Most UIs are crap

          I've got a phone that locks the screen as soon as you press the "unlock" button when in call mode to prevent accidental ear touch button presses. Only problem is, it makes dialing a machine impossible.


          *presses option 1 for customer service*

          "please enter your customer number"

          *phone locks it's self*

          *press unlock again*

          *presses numbers to enter customer number*

          "You have not entered your number in time, please try again"

          *phone locks it's self again*

          *I throw phone out of the window*

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            Re: @AC, 17:16 - Most UIs are crap

            @TechnicalBen. Spot on sir!

            This exact situation was the only time in my life when I lost all patience with a piece of electronic equipment and threw it at a wall.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Most UIs are crap

      Yes. Yes they bloody well are and there is no damn excuse for it, either.

    5. Jim 59


      I'm shocked, I say shocked, to discover a person who sets the time on their microwave oven. Good article, but save a penguin why don't you.

  2. Real Ale is Best

    Have you got your wood burner yet?

    Of course, this is something we will have to get used to thanks to successive governments' failure to tackle the problem.

    Fire icon, cos that's how we are going to keep warm in the future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have you got your wood burner yet?

      You can't the government interfering with the Free Hand of The Market (TM). The Perfect Solution will be along any moment now.

  3. The Man Himself Silver badge

    Power Cuts

    I live in the sticks, and power cuts here are common-ish.

    One time I was sitting on the sofa and at the *exact* same time I pressed the button on the remote control to turn the TV off, a power cut happened and plunged the entire house into darkness.

    For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

    1. a cynic writes...

      Re: Power Cuts

      They're not uncommon here either.

      I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering. We don't use it as a clock so I don't see the point. In fact the only clock I bother with is my wife's alarm clock which is easy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Power Cuts

        "I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering. We don't use it as a clock so I don't see the point. "

        Two reasons: On present and last ovens, the beggars won't work without the time being set after a power interruption. And second, even if it will work unset, yu've got either a malignantly flashing display, or the wrong time forever telling you that you weren't clever enough to set a clock.

        A pity that device makers don't build in MSF signal receivers (if Casio can do this on a thirty quid watch, no reason that a £100-£600 appliance shouldn't have it).

        1. PassingStrange

          Re: Power Cuts

          "Even if it will work unset, you've got either a malignantly flashing display, or the wrong time forever telling you that you weren't clever enough to set a clock."

          Microwaves are great for heating (some) things, but rubbish for anything close to proper cooking. So on a manically busy microwave week, we'll use ours for all of 15 minutes (cooking frozen veg, warming tortillas and similar). On a slow week it's lucky if it sees 15 seconds of use to defrost a little butter. So (like lots of other gear in our kitchen that doesn't get much use), it only gets turned on at the socket when it's needed. No blinking; no wrong time. And no guilt.

          I have to admit, though, that I still have an indecent number of candles and holders readily accessible. And will do for the foreseeable future. Torches. phones and so forth are great for finding your way around the dark areas of the house, but you want light in whatever room(s) you settle in - and half a dozen well placed candles can make for a very pleasant environment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Power Cuts

        I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering.

        I'm borderline OCD (was full on OCD for a brief period). Used to be hell having to reset all the electronic gadgets with clocks after a power outage. Then I got a mains power monitor, and became obsessive about switching stuff off at the wall when not in use. As a result, my microwave is only flashing "00:00" on the rare occasions it's being used.

        Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. One of these days a neighbour's going to call the police about the shadowy figure with a flashlight rooting about in my garden at 11pm every night ...

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: Power Cuts

          Lay a trail of glue, then sprinkle salt over it. Snails won't cross it. Obviously no good in areas exposed to water or weather, but a handy way to keep them from crawling into the water-butt hole or up the air vents.

        2. Wize

          Re: Power Cuts

          I am planning on designing a launching device for them. It won't take too heavy a spring to get them a few streets away. They have hard shells, they will be fine. Plenty of grass to land on.

          Only two problems. What to use as bait and what to coat the launching platform with to make it easy to unstick them at launch time.

          I'm sure I could easily sleep through the odd twang during the night knowing the little buggers aren't climbing the kitchen window again.

          1. Dodel

            Re: Power Cuts

            Bait - A can of Stella (it has to have be of use somewhere in society, and use grease proof paper for the launch pad.

            Think I'll do an Apple now and go patent this..

        3. Ed_UK

          Re: Power Cuts

          "Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. One of these days a neighbour's going to call the police about the shadowy figure with a flashlight rooting about in my garden at 11pm every night ..."

          Nah - just another gardener and mollusc hater. You are in good company. Snails are usually treated to the Dropkick of Destiny, while slugs get the Heel of Justice.

          1. Rick Giles

            Re: Power Cuts

            For just a moment, I thought you were referring to the devices that needed the time set on them...

            I'll get me coat...

        4. Duffy Moon

          Re: Power Cuts

          I'm guessing you don't have too many frogs/toads or hedgehogs in your garden.

        5. Captain DaFt

          Re: Power Cuts

          " Current obessession is waging war on the molluscs in our garden by collecting the slimy sods and drowing them in bleachy water. "

          Have you tried leaving a shallow pan with stale beer in it in the garden?

          It attracts them by the smell, then they drown in the beer.

      3. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: Power Cuts

        Same here. Lucky my Panasonic Microwave seems to have been designed for that, if the power is cut it comes back as 88:88 but after it's first use it's blank. No blinking or wrong time display.

        My Alarm clock keeps time for hours in a power failure, it just will not go off or display the time without power (also a Panasonic now that I think about it).

        I think the worst clock UI I have to deal with is my car radio and daylight saving time.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Power Cuts

          "I think the worst clock UI I have to deal with is my car radio and daylight saving time."

          So that's one hugely over-priced piece of radio receiving equipment that can't pick up the time automatically. Check!

          Another bug-bear is surely the clock on a distressingly larger number of low-end mobile phones. Hey guys! You're plugged into the world's largest network, almost certainly with a primitive TCP/IP software stack already written and loaded (for your overpriced data options). How hard can it be?

      4. Nuke

        @a cynic writes... Re: Power Cuts

        Wrote :- "I resolve the microwave issue by not bothering."

        Let me know what model you have, it sounds handy. My microwave and cooker refuse to work at all unless you got through the entire ritual of setting time, date, and what colour socks you wear.

        I live in a rural area which has many brief power cuts, like 2-3 seconds, twice a week. I have raised it with the suppliers and they say that the breakers, after a short circuit such as overhead wires touching in wind, reset automatically. Although this happens at any time in all weather.

        After each such cut I have to spend about 15 minutes resetting central heating, computers, router, cooker, and microwave. I read the suppliers "customer charter" and it is all about length of power cut, as if the only things that matter are the lights and making tea. They do not see a 2 second drop-out as a problem.

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: @a cynic writes... Power Cuts

          My microwave is a Panasonic,the only thing on the front is "Inverter system". Can't be bothered to pull it out to look on the back, but it's 8-10 years old so it's not like you could buy the same model.

          If the power drops for a 10th of a second you get 88:88, but if you just go ahead and use it the clock feature is turned off. No wrong time, no flashing.

        2. Toastan Buttar
          Paris Hilton

          Re: @a cynic writes... Power Cuts

          Asda Smart Price value microwave. Two knobs: One is a pot for power (i.e. Mark:Space ratio) and one is a mechanical timer.

          No LEDs, no clock, no microprocessor, no PIC, no MIPS SoC, no embedded software.


      5. jabuzz

        Re: Power Cuts

        The other option is to very carefully select your microwave oven not to have a clock. I am resigned to having to set the time on the oven but every other clock in my house either knows how to get the time from a radio signal or is now in the bin.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Power Cuts

      For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

      Some years ago in Belfast one of my colleagues had just plugged in a new PC, and as he clicked the switch on the 13A socket a hefty and unexpected carbomb went off just down the road. He came out of the office as white as a sheet...

    3. Ed_UK
      Thumb Up

      Re: Power Cuts

      "For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand."

      A few weeks back, I was having an unpleasant motorway drive, though driving rain. I was relieved to reach my junction but the traffic lights at the end of the slip road turned red to spite me. I called to the great god Bollocks, who obliged with a lightning bolt which took out all the traffic lights. I smiled in thanks.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Power Cuts

      As a teenager I repaired our old TV - and my mother was very nervous about anything electrical. As I plugged it back into the mains there was a loud rumble - and a cloud of smoke went heavenwards from the large 11KV distribution centre in the next street. My mother took some convincing that it wasn't my fault until she read in the newspaper about the errant bird in the switchgear.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Power Cuts

        In the middle of an electrical engineering lecture, the prof (Roger Jennison*, at UKC circa October 1988 for anyone else who remembers) was demonstrating nodes and antinodes in AC circuits - and at the exact moment he did so, the power went out over the whole city for several hours.

        I'm still convinced he had something to do with it...

        *Quite a character, even has his own Wikipedia page:

    5. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Power Cuts

      For a brief moment, I felt like I held the world's most powerful remote control in my hand.

      I had almost exactly the same experience. Had not read in the local rag that the council were going to switch off the streetlights. Went out to walk the dog at 10 seconds to midnight and tripped on my extension lead on the path - and all the lights in the town went out!

  4. Zzx Tty

    1. Alistair Dabbs


      Blimey! What were the chances?

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Not so much

    > a freelance technology tart

    Any self-respecting technology tart would have UPSs to handle all this (though admittedly not on the cooker or uWave).

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Not so much

      UPSs? That's why we've got laptops!

      Yes, that one. The one with the spare batteries in the pocket.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Not so much

        > UPSs? That's why we've got laptops!

        But UPSs are for so much more than computers!

        They also run LCD/LED TVs, Sky boxes, lights, WiFi+routers and most other things that don't have switch-on surges or excessive power requirements. Plus, they generally have spike/surge protection, so they keep your precious gear safe from the nasties that can happen when the power does come back, or only fails for a second or two.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Not so much

          Every time the power goes here (not too often, but often enough), I have to explain to Mrs Dan 55 why I've just flipped the circuit breaker switch to 'off' and am waiting to see the neighbours lights going on before flipping the circuit breaker switch to 'on' again. Perhaps I should just buy a UPS and be done with it.

          Yes, it's a first world problem, I know.

          1. The First Dave

            Re: Not so much

            You should just flip the breaker for your ring-mains, then you will see your own lights come back on.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Not so much

              Unfortunately I'm obsessive enough to worry about these things but not organised enough to be able to get my shit together to flip the right circuit breaker in the dark.

        2. Alien8n Silver badge

          Re: Not so much

          I used to have a lovely surround sound system with enough inputs on the back for 2 consoles, Sky box and DVD player. Until a power cut surged the main board on it and resulted in full surround sound white noise ever after :(

          To make it worse they no longer make those models and I've never found another manufacturer that does...

        3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Not so much

          UPSs are mostly great, I have them on my IT cupboard, and the TV/Sat setup.

          The last power cut (lightning strike) was when I discovered that the UPS batteries had died. OK, they were 5 years old, but a little warning would have been nice. Even a beep...

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: Not so much

            The UPS daemon on my Debian box does a monthly battery test for 5 seconds. I had enough power to get to the power company's website and report the outage. It was an amazingly simple one-click affair, as they used my service address to figure out where it was.

    2. Euripides Pants Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Not so much

      Are you mad?! During power outages the damn things beep every few seconds!

    3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Not so much

      UPS in a domestic environment? There is a reason for RCCBs.

  6. ufoman

    Same here with the over and the microwave - well, at least microwave is pretty friendly about setting time, the oven - not so much, the combination is easy but I can't remember it...

    1. Tom Wood

      Our oven clock is a PITA to set, but for some reason the oven won't work at all (i.e. won't get hot) unless the clock is set.

      So the procedure after a power loss is to mash all the buttons for long enough until it shows some sort of time (what exactly doesn't matter, we don't ever look at the clock) and then the thing will actually start cooking food.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        To make maters worse, the oven & microwave in our kitchen don't keep time at the same rate, so the occasional power cut is actually a help, it reminds me to get them back into sync, at least for a few weeks.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Smug feeling (briefly) at Page towers ...

    I acquired an old UPS from an office move, and spent many happy hours setting it up with NUT on my linux "media server". Thoroughly tested the power-off procedure. In my case, on power cut, I send an SMS[1] via an old PAYG phone (although the next project is to set it up with a broadband dongle I recently acquired). I then wait 10 minutes (because we have had a number of <30 second power cuts of late[2]). If there is still no power a further SMS is sent, and I shut down gracefully. I leave power-up as a manual process, as sometimes power can be restored for a few minutes and go down again.

    [1]I wasn't quite so smug first time, when I rigged the system to send an email instead. Tested perfectly, but when a real power cut came, the lack of power to the router (in another room) was a bit of a handicap.

    [2]Power cuts are pretty commonplace now. Never used to be. Either metal theft, or the lights are starting to go out.

  8. wowfood

    He clearly doesn't realize

    He doesn't know that the machine word for "Please kill me" is "beep".

  9. bed


    Indeed, laptop (and the weather station, both ends of which is battery powered, – yes I am of that age) can keep going but the router, Ethernet switch, wireless access point, network printer, PCs, oven and microwave all reboot with lots if beeping, whirring, and some clunking, some taking time to get going after an outage which, living somewhat on the edge, will happen in stormy conditions. I have thought of putting some of the LED lighting on a 12V battery which would save hunting for a candle. The weather station manual says it has a radio controlled clock - but doesn’t say whether it is in the transmitter or receiver and, anyway, I suspect it is rather aspirational as opposed to being substantive. Said weather station is just an excuse for a Raspberry Pi, which can quite happily run of batteries.

    1. JLH

      Re: Indeed...

      Scaryiest tech thing that happened to me from a powercut was when I had an old Epson inkjet printer.

      Powercut at 2am, in the wee silent hours. Power comes on and printer runs a self test, which creates a hell of a racket. Had to peel myself off the ceiling I jumped so high in fright.

      1. JLH

        Re: Indeed...

        I say scariest - by that I mean scariest at home.

        A real scary incident when I brought an Oracle RAC cluster online at UMIST and blew a 100 Amp fuse,

        The sparky said the fuse had actually caught fire.

        cue entire machine room filled with bleeping alarms and scurrying techies.

        Yes, their infrastructure had real (very big) fuses and not circuit breakers.

        1. Matthew 3

          Re: Indeed...

          A, er, friend of mine once wanted to print a document while working at a US army base in Germany.

          Ignoring the odd-looking mysterious black box next to the printer he found a spare IEC lead and plugged in the (US-voltage) Laserjet. It did actually start a self-test before the smoke started and the lights went out for the whole building.

          Several scary-looking men with guns weren't impressed with me. Er, I mean him.

        2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Indeed...


          Fuse caught fire? Wow, that's interesting. Where I've started (only as a runaround/fetcher, no qualifications) I've seen fuses shatter, explode and vaporize so far. Oh, and those that have been replaced with saw off steel bar by whoever was there before we turned up. :O

          1. Fatman Silver badge

            Re: Indeed...

            Fuse caught fire? Wow, that's interesting.

            NO, what is interesting is the sound a 1200 amp circuit breaker makes when it is accidentally DEAD SHORTED!!!!!

    2. kevjs

      Re: Indeed...

      My weather station has the sensor in the outside temperature gauge - rather handy as it means I get the time (alas it needs to be set to the German time signal as the UK one is too unreliable for it (i.e. 1 bar vs 4 on the German one)).

      Now I've just got to get the Pi reading it :)

  10. Jack Project

    I'm calling shenanigans, there's no way any self respecting under 20 year old would have not noticed the lack of internet. Indeed the high pitched shrieks should have rivalled those on Night of the Living Dead.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Indeed, the laptop may stay up, but of course the wifi router it's connected to won't. Hence suddenly all the stuff that was reassuringly put in the cloud (who needs local storage these days?) and the whole world of TwitterBook suddenly vanishes and the laptop becomes a disconnected dumb terminal.

      But then again I suppose those of an under 20 age would just spark-up the torch app on their smartphones/tablets/phablets rather than hunting for either candles or torches.

      And of course such power cuts are also opportunities for a couple of hours of doing more interesting stuff than watching a movie together.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "And of course such power cuts are also opportunities for a couple of hours of doing more interesting stuff than watching a movie together."

        But the pleasure will be spoiled when part way through the interesting stuff, every flaming light flashes on, and the whole house starts bleeping, groaning and wheezing.

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          bleeping, groaning and wheezing

          Enough about my love life...

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Main breaker

          That is why you pull the main breaker (or Ground Fault Interruptor) before starting said fun activities

        3. Marcelo Rodrigues

          "But the pleasure will be spoiled when part way through the interesting stuff, every flaming light flashes on, and the whole house starts bleeping, groaning and wheezing."

          I could give a fuck for beeps and... Oh, wait.

      2. thondwe


        Sad man that I am, I have a UPS for the router and for the DECT phone base station which is great, except last time the power failed, the new FTTC gubbins failed - so UPS useless!

        But I feel your pain w.r.t. Microwave + Cooker, etc.

        BTW, Bed side alarm has a battery backup and a BUTTON to change to BST - wow!

        1. Daniel B.

          Re: UPS

          Heh, I used to have my DSL modem, switch and AP hooked up to a UPS. Unfortunately, the UPS is dead so I have reverted to the "internet dies during blackouts". Then again, I can always tether using my smartphone these days...

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Too right.

      When the Virgin "Superhub" was having all its firmware issues, not too long ago, I often had to reboot it to get it to remember what was connected.

      Cue wails and screams from teenage daughter, because she had to be offline/couldn't get online for five whole minutes.

  11. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    I want to know why these devices need to know the time in the first place??? Okay, I am aware that my oven can be set to come on at a particular time but I've never used that function and don't know anyone that does. My slow cooker has a better idea- you can tell it to come on x number of hours and minutes from now- no need for it to know the time AND be changed twice a year then the clocks go back/forwards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I want to know why these devices need to know the time in the first place"

      They don't, I do. Because it is often relevant to know that "the pie needs to come out at twenty past, but the roasties won't be done until half past, so the yorkies can go in a twenty five past".

      Its just a pity that the makers haven't managed to make time setting obvious and easy, nor have they worked out ways for the clock to set itself.

      1. Sureo

        It would cost them about 50 cents to put in a proper timer chip and a coin-cell battery backup that lasts 5 years. Then the clock would keep running regardless and come up with the correct time when power is restored.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They don't, I do.

        The microwave works by counting down anyway, and I have a four-way Salter timer which covers all my other cooking needs without any need to refer to actual clock time.

        If I do need clock time ...there's a clock on the wall.

  12. ukgnome Silver badge

    The sky box

    five minutes of clicking and buzzing followed by another five minutes of pretending not to work.

    Glad it's not just mine

  13. Luke McCarthy

    What's the point of a microwave clock?

    Pretty pointless feature if you ask me.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: What's the point of a microwave clock?

      It's to run a little fast (as it's on the microwave) and so disagree with both the clock on the wall and the one on the oven. Hence no matter which way you look in the kitchen, you'll always know roughly what time it is, but will never be quite sure of the exact time.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: What's the point of a microwave clock?

        To quote from an old 'Cabin Pressure' episode I was just listening to, "In theory we have two altimeters in case one goes wrong. But as Chinese proverb say, man with one altimeter always know height. Man with two, is never sure..."

  14. lee harvey osmond

    Did you check the system clocks on the computers etc?

    "boxes back to the '70s" ... or Aug 10 1945, or Jan 1 2001, depending on what you're looking at. Computers have realtime clocks on the motherboard being fed by a tiny dribble from mains current even switched off, or from a tiny battery. Now if the power goes down, and the UPS exhausts itself, and the computers are old and any motherboard batteries are dead ... well that doesn't matter does it, when the power comes back, the computers will set their clocks from NTP or Windows Time Sync, won't they?

    No they won't; not if they are months out. Definitely not if they're centuries out. Which Apple bod was it who was born on Aug 10 1945 then?

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

      Re: Did you check the system clocks on the computers etc?

      If the motherboard battery goes out I'd be surprised if it would boot up without having to fumble with the BIOS settings.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aug 10 1945

      perhaps this cut/paste from a google search result:

      The B-29 Raid That Ended WWII - -

      News of the end of the war spread on August 10, 1945. ... The briefing officer explained that the word "Apple" would be sent in Morse code as soon as the United ...

    3. Daniel B.

      Re: Did you check the system clocks on the computers etc?

      Heh. Sure, NTP won't work if the boxes are months out ... but ntpdate will always work. Thus, on our PowerBook that gets its date reset every now and then, this will do the job:

      $ sudo ntpdate

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: NTP won't work if the boxes are months out

        I never knew that.

        Weird way to do things. It's like, if I ask someone in the street what time it is, they ask me what time I think it is, and they only tell me the real time if my guess is close enough.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Dr_N Silver badge

    Torch: saved!

    You should have suggested to go shopping in a blacked-out supermarket with it....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again I've clicked on an interesting sounding Reg article served up by the RRS feed to my soon to be deceased iGoogle home page to find I've been fooled into reading yet another article featuring Dabbs whinging. They're just badly written comment-fodder produced by someone with an underlying desire to be the Dave Barry of IT. The kind of thing that pads out the BBC website under the guise of Magazine and designed to provoke input to give the readers something to do. Time and effort could be saved by just writing the article as "<Basic description of this week's whinge.> Discuss.". It would have the same impact and effect.

    Every week I get around 3 lines in before I realise what's happened, check the writer and close the browser page and it's the frustration that I feel every time that this happens that has borne this.

    And no, the irony of whinging in the comments section about an article being just someone whinging is not lost on me. Feel free to flame me.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      >> another article featuring Dabbs whinging. They're just badly written

      Voted up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: >> another article featuring Dabbs whinging. They're just badly written

        I wonder if the people voting this comment down realise that they're voting down the article author's decision to vote down the original comment, or they're voting down his attempt at self-deprecation.

    2. Amonynous

      Yes and that's the attraction

      There comes a time in the life of most males where youth is a fading memory and the prospect of being able to afford to retire is receding even faster than the old hairline. If one can't afford a motorbike / Ferrari / extra curricular activities plus resultant divorce settlement, all that is left is the weather station and winging.

      The only crumb of comfort left is confirmation that you are not the only poor sod in the same situation, and I for one look forward to the next instalment.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Okay then. You're a twat.

  18. Talic

    When I was younger, I once stayed up til midnight to plug in my alarm clock, just so it would flash the time. It was one that the time would change so it was accurate and constantly flashing...

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      I too have to admit to having done this.... Not sure why I thought it would be cool, but then I also own a binary clock too.... (with blue LED's so bright that it's near enough impossible to tell just how many dots are actually lit up from 10 metres across the room)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I keep my broadband router plugged into one of the UPS's, that way I can still use my laptop with net access for up to a couple of hours should I need to. The UPS batteries can last a long time with only the router plugged into it.

    I'll fire up the generator way before the laptop runs out of battery, mainly due to the heat as it's so damn hot here and I need the A/C or at the very least a fan.

  20. Wize

    New keyboard please.

    It only just survived the "...get neighbours knocking on your door to ask if you need any help stamping on it."

    but went on " it can experience the weather for itself."

    Being from the 70's too, I am currently trying to remember where I put the candles at home, but do know where the matches are hiding.

    The microwave clock sits at 0:00. Only because it doesn't flash. We have 2 sockets at that bit of the kitchen and 4 devices that we never use at the same time, so it regularly gets pulled.

    The cooker on the other hand is a bastard. It flashes. I can't put tape over it, as its the display for setting the temperature. Not can I use the oven without setting the time (doesn't have to be the right time, just a time). It has 8 buttons in a cluster and a twisty knob. To set, you hold down three buttons and twist away. The problem being which three. Last time there was a power outage, I started by pressing random combinations. Then I tried sequentially pressing three at a time in every combination. I can open just about any combination lock in under a minute, but this swine was proving stubborn. I had to eventually get the dammed manual out and do it.

    The weather station I have is battery powered, but it too has a beep that could be used as a house alarm. Hmmm, there is an idea for a future project after I stamp on the thing for being too loud when the clocks change.

  21. Lee D Silver badge

    I don't bother with anything that I won't refer to in order to get the time.

    Microwave? No. Cooker? No. Dishwasher? No. Washing machine? No. If your cooker is shit and flashes at you or refuses to cook until you set the time, then buy a better one next time. My laptop has NTP-synced time to a private NTP server with low-stratum peers, because I *DO* look in the corner of my laptop for the time. But if I stick something in the microwave or cooker, I want it in there for X minutes and that's *it*. I don't require any more UI. Hell, I can't even see the point of those microwaves that you can heat for 2 minutes, stand for 1, heat for another 2, etc.. Zap the damn thing for 5 and you're done. My microwave has (deliberately) precisely two controls - one for power (which could have "defrost" and "incinerate" and I'd be happy) and one for time. What else could you possibly want?

    The more annoying thing is that I use mechanical timers for my fish tank and they get out of sync in power cuts. I'm just too lazy to buy a digital one, though, so that's my own fault. My fish must just think that that day was particularly short, that's all. And to be honest, I'm more worried about their pumps/heaters than the timing of the lights.

    Everything else in the house is self-setting. I have a UPS and used to have all this stuff on UPS but it's just not worth the effort any more. The only thing on UPS now is the CCTV box (which powers the cameras too) but even that I feel it pretty worthless, and its biggest asset is the "beep beep beep" it does in a daytime power cut so you know what the hell is happening.

    My alarm clock is battery powered, MSF-regulated, has twin alarms for me & my girl (amazing how many clocks don't support this), and I change the batteries about once every three years (it has a low battery warning for about a month before it dies - again, amazing how many devices don't have that). My laptop just runs. If the wifi goes off, that's what smartphones and dongles were built for. Chances are that you'll have 3G for hours even if the whole street goes off. If it really comes to it, then I can battery power anything that absolutely needs it.

    Everything else in the entire house just goes on and off as necessary and "just works" when plugged back in again. Even the kitchen clock is MSF. The boiler is on a programmable thermostat which has a battery timer inside that. Even the little light in the driveway is timer/light controlled and uses a button cell to handle the actual timing. VCR's don't exist any more, and I don't have a DVR.

    I absolutely do not understand why gadgets with clocks on aren't battery backed by at least a 50p button cell. If it dies in a power cut because it's been there ten years, so what, but working in schools I see computers every day that are older than some of the users using them, and their CR2032 is doing just fine remembering the time.

    The only annoyance I had on this kind of thing was a previous mains-powered alarm clock that had a space for a 9v battery to backup the time in the event of a power outage. It never bloody worked, not even once, not even with tests with a fresh battery. Took it apart one day and found out that it didn't actually connect to anything at all, so that was probably why. But I got rid of that the second I saw my current Oregon Scientific MSF clock. And then immediately bought two of those instead.

    The biggest problem I have now is actually in my car. If I do need to remove the battery (which I've done more often than I've had power cuts), then I have to reset the clock. But it has one button "H" and one "M", so it takes literally 20 seconds at worst case, and somehow keeps better time than any of my NTP-synched gadgets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Lee D

      " My microwave has (deliberately) precisely two controls - one for power (which could have "defrost" and "incinerate" and I'd be happy) and one for time. What else could you possibly want?"

      Big mechanical levers for those two controls, rather than piddly buttons? Something between a railway points lever, or a ships telegraph, depending on what suits your home decor.

      And separately, treat that Oregon Scientific clock with kid gloves if its an RM113 or RM116. They don't last forever, Oregon don't make anything equivalent now and it's a bu99er to get a decent quality MSF alarm that's as easy to use. No problem getting an MSF alarm, but of the four or five different ones I've had, they suffer from UI's every bit as pants as your average cooker, or miss out on nice little touches that matter, like crescendo alarm, proper backlighting, two alarms, proper display.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: @Lee D

        I'm currently staying at my Mum's house, looking after her doggies while she lives it up in the sunshine on holiday. Most unfair.

        She has got the most user-unfriendly alarm clock that I've ever had the misfortune to try and use. The clock-radio has got 4 rows of 3 or 4 buttons, yet the same buttons that set the alarm time (eventually) are also used for the radio station pre-sets. And when you set an alarm, the light comes on at the front to tell you you've done it, and stays on for a perfectly brilliant 10 seconds, to fool you into thinking you've done it right. Then goes off. All it was doing was to tell you the time was set. Then you have to press and hold another of the radio pre-set buttons, while holding down the first one to get it to actually make a noise. And in turning on alarm one, it always turns off alarm 2, or vice-versa, unless you turn them both on within ten seconds of each other. It's one of the worst designed bits of electronics I've ever had the misfortune to use.

        I've never seen a central heating system timer manage to survive a power cut either. And those buggers also have some of the worst UIs in Christendom.

        One of these days, I'm going to equip myself with a baseball bat with a nail in the end (nice simple UI there) and fly around the various consumer electronics companies, and I'm going to run a compulsory re-education course for their designers, called UI design for dummies.

    2. relpy

      Nope, zap the thing for 5 and you're overdone...


  22. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    The Internet Of Things!

    I haven't read all of the comments so I'm sorry if someone else has already mentioned it. But isn't this what's driving the internet of things? The need to have our domestic appliances linked to time servers for post power cut resetting?

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: The Internet Of Things!

      Well, I was going to mention the Internet of Things last week in relation to my inability to locate WiFi hotspots, but it would have made the article too long and complicated. And it wasn't funny.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is my favourtie article [of] Mr Dabbs.

  24. RikG

    Dr Woo

    You sod - I've just wasted 2 hours watching Dan vids on youtube.

  25. The Envoy

    Dr Wu!

    Thanks for that scene from I've-been-there-land, Alistair Dabbs. And and extra pint for the Steely Dan link!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re. Re: Indeed...

    Heh, I had something similar happen.

    I "found" a lost CO alarm down the back of a drawer, having been awoken at 2am by beeps about once a minute because the batteries were low.

    Also have been woken up at 2am because a Windows b0xen decided now was the time to do "essential maintenance". Cue Windows startup sound at 80dB because the speakers were still on from watching a film.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RE. Re. Indeed...

      When the power comes back in the middle of the night the otherwise silent CO detector gives a loud scream to make sure I wake up. The bedside radio retains its station settings. Switching it on to help go back to sleep - and the volume and treble/bass have gone back to factory defaults. Those levels appears to be designed for iPod deafened teenagers - much too loud in the middle of the night. The tone settings can only be adjusted by finding the remote control - max treble boost - min bass - and it still sounds "boomy".

      The central heating timer is backed up by a 9v battery - but its always flat when a power cut happens. No "low" indicator - and very difficult to prise the slide out of the unit to change it after the event.

      The lounge and kitchen radios lose all their station settings.

      The laptop says "100% charged" - which in reality means "dead".

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: RE. Re. Indeed...

        Oh bugger! On moving into my new flat, I didn't realise my smoke alarms were wired into the mains until after cooking bacon sandwiches for many. Removing the batteries failed to stop the infernal beeping. Aargh! I've not had a power cut yet, so now I've got the smoke alarm waking me up to look forward to on power restoration. Oh joy! It's already beeped once every 10 minutes for a day until I was able to source a 9v battery (even though it's got mains power). The 2 are linked as well, so even closing the kitchen door and removing batteries from the kitchen one doesn't save you from bacon smoke.

        At least my microwave was bought without a clock. Also true for the dishwasher and washing machine. I've forgotten how I set the oven one up, but all the separate panel heaters in each room have their own clocks - and the timer on the one in my bedroom is actually different to all the others - to add to the fun.

  27. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    More organised in the 70's

    I remember going to the Seeboard shop to pick up a timetable saying when the power cuts were going to be. It was a lot better when you could organise everything around them.

    I'm not sure if civilisation really has failed, or I've just reached the point where I should buy a weather station.

  28. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    My talking microwave

    I inherited my mother's talking microwave, it's for the visually impaired.

    It has a cheery man's voice that when it boots up tells me the firmware version and "Clock not set".

    It really is quite good. If you're feeling depressed just press some buttons and get "High power, five minutes!" or "Defrost fish!".

    I think it's funny but my friends are worried about me. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My talking microwave

      Many years ago, I was doing an installation at a customer site. There was a guy working on a spreadsheet, and every time he moved to a new cell the machine told him the cell address and contents. I commented that it would drive me mad. He commented that he was blind, and would not be able to work if it didn't.

      Once I got over the embarrassment, I was awestruck.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maplin occasionally have a clearance of a large radio controlled digital clock at about £10 - then they restock at the original price of over £30 a couple of weeks later. Every room in the house, and also the garden, now has one. A single AA battery lasts a couple of years. They are about 200mm x 200mm with 24hr hh:mm:ss time in 50mm high LCD characters. It also shows the date and week day with 25mm characters.

    If I put something in the oven it is easy to reference the clock in the kitchen for the next "attention" time. Wherever I am in the house has the same time indication - and they all adjust automatically for DST.

  30. SirDigalot

    my projection quasi-weatherstation alarm clock is mains powered, with battery backup and MSF works a treat. the other one is 100% battery though they only last maybe 6 months.

    the cablebox/dvr gets it's time from the cable company the microwave is easy to set clock>entertime ( I use 24hour format to annoy her indoors) start

    the stove about the same, though once set at the same time they drift, as in some temporal rift despite being a few feet apart, I assume because they use the mains frequency as some sort of dumb time base code...

    I wear a watch for the rest of it

    surprisingly powercuts are very infrequent, since stepping foot on the shores of this great land I can only remember 4 in a decade, one of which was because a local store was burning down and the fire service shut power down to the whole block so they could spray liberal amounts of water on the building ( that was right next to the neighbourhood distribution lines) we actually met our neighbours was a fun time... the owner of the building even bought us dinner at the restaurant across the street (which was on a different feed)

    the other times are generally due to the American penchant for A/C set at 0k so the transformer on the pole gives up in a spectacular bang and smoke display... (or if the whole neighbourhood is doing ok the man sub station transformer giving up the will to live... a small mushroom cloud generally happens then very impressive!)

    or most recently some twit driving into a pole.

    Luckily her indoors is verging on hippy so we have more candles then a bloody church which means there is always some to hand, I on the other hand have torches strategically placed around the house, mainly because I think I am going blind and use the torch as some sort of "x-ray" beam for finding lost keys, remotes, just about anything ( it is quite surprising even in broad daylight how using a torch can help you find things even if they are out in the open!) - oh and to counter her attempt to make us all live in a candle lit hobbit hole :)

    must get a generator though the flaccid man-tool of America where I live is well known for its windy storms, and I do not want the fridge to plunck out for any length of time.

    I did consider using the old 220V rack mounted UPS we are getting rid of at work, but then I realized it is probably overkill for a EMTA and a couple of cordless phones.

    and no the "public" wifi in my house is not ups'd in the vague hopes that when the power goes out, the kid will pick up an analogue entertainment device.. though the private emta wifi stays on as long as I have a ups ( it has it's own ups battery too but it only lasts about an hour)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got the same clock/weather station...

    ....but its battery powered so the fucking thing drives me batshit every time I have to change the batteries.

    Its so bad I routinely leave the thing until the batteries die, which is probably 2 weeks past when the LCD display stopped displaying anything visible.

    I suppose I ought to change it but as always apathy rules supreme :)

  32. david willis

    What goes around..

    1. Serves your right for buying a cheap weather station

    2. Thank you for declairing me "middle aged" for owning a weather station (tho one immune to power cuts :-P )

    3. So YOU have noticed the sky+ box 5 minutes pretending not to do anything too... It worries me.. The warrenty ran out a number of years ago (terminated by me pulling out and replacing the HDD) - but that LOOOOONG pause before power up.. very disconcerting.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: What goes around..

      My friend's older Sky box needs a good 2 minutes to warm up, before it will speak to him. My Mum's starts instantly, and works perfectly. Mine starts instantly but refuses to give me program details for about 10% of channels until it's got its breath back. For some bizarre reason it won't allow viewing of Dave ja vu for 10 minutes from boot, which affects no other channel. Not even Dave. Mostly it does BBC and sport, so no matter.

  33. Andrew Jones 2

    We bought a masterclock off eBay - it's info plate says it started running on the 1st December 1946, clever little marvel of engineering. It sends a pulse of electrickery around the house and theatre every 30 seconds which drives all the slave clocks forward by 30 seconds, where does it get it's electrickery from? The fire alarm battery which as it is only sounding 1 horn, will quite happily sound the horn for a good 12 - 16 hours (and probably more but that's the longest we have run it without feeling an intense need to pull it off the wall and jump on it) In a power failure - all the clocks keep perfect time! YAY

    Also - when emergency lighting is as cheap as it is now-a-days - there is no excuse for people not to start putting it in their houses (like at the top of staircases) - approx £15-20 from TLC Direct

  34. earl grey Silver badge


    take that old beer out of the back of your shed and pour some in a shallow tray and set in the garden. you will collect a surprising array of shelled and non-shelled slimy misbegots and can dispense with them right away.

  35. cortland

    The writer

    Though a child of the 70's the writer seems not to have grokked the Tao of Tech.

    Feel the Force, grasshopper (or something like that); there are things one can do only if he does not think bout them. The first kata. waltzes, tying shoes -- and setting a digital watch with four buttons and no instruction book.

    Assembly of Japanese bicycle take great peace of mind -- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (page 164 in my copy)

    FWIW, if you have what he calls "the mechanic's feel" you will astound your co-workers and disturb your managers, who will have NO idea how you fix things, or how to handle you.. But that is another thread.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: The writer

      Oh come on, *nobody* knew how to set their digital watches in the 70s. They kept going off in the middle of morning assembly or in chapel, and during lessons about half a dozen chimes would sound out around the classroom on the hour, every hour, with no way of stopping them. Some of the kids in class would fold their arms promptly on the hour in order to stifle their watch chimes in their armpits.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: The writer

        My digital/analogue wristwatch insisted on bleeping at 2am after the last battery change. Couldn't remember the necessary sequence on the two buttons and a three position winder spindle.

        Last week the watch stopped - at last the alarm would get reset. Time to try out the economy of changing the battery myself with a tool from Maplins. Surprisingly easy - but the watch didn't restart even after trying two new batteries. The new batteries' voltage checked out at 1.67v - and suspiciously so did the old one. Looks like the watch has died after 25 years. Looked for a replacement in the shops today today. All I could see were armoured chronometer designs that used to be advertised for U-boat captains - or trendy? day-glo plastic..

  36. Fihart

    Dai Woo

    The famous Welsh Korean (though his cars now seem to be Chevrolets ?) actually makes rather good microwaves.

    Friend has had his fancypants one in stainless steel for about ten years. My more modest model was rescued from behind a bankrupt Kosovan cafe in N. London bearing the scars of heat from the industrial toaster previously parked below it in the caff. Still going strong some years later in daily use.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Nifty

    Just looking

    The stories of power cuts & explosions on flipping a switch reminded me...

    As a young student I was gazing at the back & white TV (valve based) and commented to my landlady, it's owner, 'that's been a reliable TV, hasn't it'. At that very second fine smoke rose from the rear and it stopped working. She gave me a rather hard look. This only happened once in my lifetime, fortunately.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rebel! Don't bother to set the clocks!

    I live in an area of frequent power cuts, but the devices sold here are the same as in the rest of the world and do not have power backup for the clocks. After the twentieth time around the kitchen, resetting the various devices, I asked myself why I bothered. There is a kitchen clock, my heirloom, a Tetley Tea-pot clock, probably available on e-bay for £1.50, but that one wouldn't have belonged to my mum, so why do I need every other device to tell me what time it is? I don't.

    Fed up with the flashing? Me too. The things are turned off at the wall switch when not in use. Probably saves electricity too.

    Die, flashing digits, die!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Rebel! Don't bother to set the clocks!

      After all, come start/end of BST* and you'll only have to change all the b****y things again, anyway.

      *Other time zones are available

  40. Herby Silver badge

    Power drop outs and Goofy clocks.

    One always gets power cuts, and most of the time they are at the worst time. Once after doing some re-wiring of the main breakers at my house, I had them trip off. I thought it was a general neighborhood dropout, but alas it was due to the fact that the main breakers had overheated up. Why did they overheat? Well, it was because the contact screws weren't torqued down enough, and the aluminum wire got loose. Bad karma solved by obtaining a nice screwdriver and muscling the screw down to more tightness.

    As for goofy clocks. Most digital clocks are in the category. They flash and flash sticking at 12:00 because that is what they are told to do. A more intelligent design would be to blank the display and turn on the colon (no flash). Then when someone really decides to set the clock, it would be functional.

    Yes, all silly digital clocks should have a battery backup if they don't set themselves, but the cheapness of the suits in charge usually dictate that it be left out. Thankfully most computers have two methods: The internal battery backed up clock which takes 10 years to kill off a battery, and good old NTP. Clocks on the other hand can find solace in the nice radio signal from WWVB that they latch onto here in the USA (there are others in different areas).

    Tick-tock tick-tock. Now what is my longitude?

  41. Terry 6 Silver badge

    re: I'm calling shenanigans

    Too right.

    When the Virgin "Superhub" was having all its firmware issues, not too long ago, I often had to reboot it to get it to remember what was connected.

    Cue wails and screams from teenage daughter, because she had to be offline/couldn't get online for five whole minutes.

  42. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    I fear for the future...

    Some brain-dead design committee is going to take up the "check radio signal for time" idea, but also insist on an option for manually setting the time... Resulting in the oven* that won't work until you set it to the correct time.

    * Or other appliance

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

  44. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Been without power before three times in several years now; I ready.

    What fool uses candles still; get some big D cell powered, discount store, power LED torches, they P on candles for brightness, and last days.

    1st time had to use a blow lamp to heat food in pans, inadequate torches, and wretched candles. 2nd time I had power LED torches, canned gas stoves, canned food, steamer pans (dedicated steamers always break anyway, and steamer pans can be used on any heat source), and enough books and Li-on battery powered gadgets to last days.

    You must get P''d off twice a year for the GMT/BST switch; I don't.

    Never, ever, buy cooking appliances with digital displays, unless they are obviously easy to set, and Microwaves are stupid because they destroy food fast; better a steamer pan set and a halogen bowl oven instead.

    I looked at a new digital display version of a halogen bowl oven, and instantly saw that it was unusable, the design was the usual dated, brain dead design; so I bought the clockwork version instead.

    Why The F*** are most designers of computer controlled home appliances, still doing carp design, and not added Radio clocks and external automation facilities; they must be either cheapskates or retarded; even optically isolated RS232 would do!

    My watch is solar powered and radio set too, because I want something which just works and stays water proof.

    As for your Weather Station, you must have a cheap model; pay a bit more for a wireless USB touch screen one; I have one because I cycle, and want to have a clue how much or little clothing and rain wear I need, before I go out, because I don't trust weather forecasts.

  45. Gollum_HKT

    Try it here

    Where I live in the 2 and a bit world if the power goes while you're in the supermarket - you're screwed the doors are electric. For some reason the tills are on UPS but the doors aren't - shop till you drop.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try it here

    Where I live in the 2 and a bit world if the power goes while you're in the supermarket - you're screwed the doors are electric. For some reason the tills are on UPS but the doors aren't - shop till you drop.

  47. J. Cook Silver badge

    Ah, power cuts...

    It's massive, massive overkill, but a whole house UPS rated to run the entire place for the ten-fifteen minutes that it'll take the generator to fire up and the automatic transfer switch to cut over? (I've seen the one in work's datacentre in operation- quite impressive.)

    Also, there was the time I was doing setup/tear down for a local convention with an assistant pushing a trolly load of gear into a darkened room at the hotel we had booked. I got five steps in, yelled "AZIZ! LIGHT!"*. The instant I shouted it, the lights came on in the room from the presence sensor, and I swear my assistant jumped three feet straight up. I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes afterwards.

    * From the excellent movie "The Fifth Element", of course.

  48. dajames Silver badge

    That's nothing ...

    I have an in-car GPS navigation thingie (I won't name and shame the manufacturer, except to say that the name has two syllables and both sound like "Tom") that demands that I set the time by hand.

    This is particularly ironic and -- once the joy of the extreme irony has paled -- bloody irritating because of the way GPS works. GPS satellites broadcast the time with sufficient accuracy that a GPS device can calculate its position by comparing the times received from several satellites and calculating the time-of-flight and so the distances from each one. The time accuracy is sufficent that traders use GPS time signals to synchronize trades made in different parts of the world. The idea that a GPS device might need to be told the time is preposterous.

    The GPS device exists to tell you its position, so any notion that it might be unaware of the local time zone is equally ludicrous ... I suppose there might be some uncertainty as to the start and end of daylight savings in different places, but my device receives map updates online fairly regularly and could easily pick up DST data at the same time.

    Setting the time isn't exactly rocket science, but the option is buried several screenfuls deep in the preferences settings, so it's not as quick as one might like. Oh, and when the main rechargeable battery of the device runs flat (which it does quite often) the time needs setting afresh.

    (It also needs to be told to switch from giving distances and speeds in miles and to giving them in kilometers when on the continent -- to match the figures given on road signs -- even though it does seem to know which country it's in ... but that's another issue)

    The whole thing just beggars belief.

  49. BarryW

    What a fantastic summary

    I can completely relate to all of this as I sit chuckling at my desk.

    The bedside alarm clock is always a killer for me as I try to set the time, alarm times and then have to retune all the digital radio stations.

    My Microwave and cooker remain on some factory default time zone and the candles are carefully hidden under the sink but as you said, I have a torch available to locate them with the additional security of a torch app on my smartphone.

  50. Richard Lloyd

    UPS and radio control for the rest :-)

    Two possible solutions here - one is to use a UPS (mine has four battery-backed sockets and cost under 70 quid) where possible and try and get radio-controlled devices for the rest (unlikely for an oven/microwave/central heating timer, even though they *should* really be readily available).

    Wall clocks are certainly available radio controlled - my analogue one actually moves the hands many rotations to get the time right and it's amusing to watch and also listen to the chuck-chuck-chuck noise as it desperately tries to get the time right :-)

    BTW, if your microwave doesn't do timer-based cooking (and very few do, yet it's an obvious feature to have), then a clock on the front is a total waste of electricity (it should go into standby and turn off the display after 2 mins of non-use in that case).

    Things I have to change the time on because of daylight savings time twice a year: my central heating timer and my ancient Pansaonic alarm clock (hooked to a UPS). I ignore the clock on an old Toshiba microwave I have since it's pointless. Oh and yes, all my watches are radio-controlled too.

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