* Posts by Mark

39 posts • joined 4 Mar 2008

UK launches major road signage review

Mark

Get the clutter off the pavements

I have to say the most annoying thing about the stuff for cars is it being scattered all over the pavement. Theres some very busy bits of pavement in Liverpool where you can have 3 or 4 road signs, a traffic light, a lamp post, a parking ticket machine, a sign telling you where the parking ticket machine is, etc all within the space of 20 feet.

Just legislate that everything must be attached to the damn lamp post or available buildings.

Segway shock army to invade Department of Transport

Mark

Why?

Just don't understand the why? We have legs, we can walk.

And yes - cyclists should get off the pavement. Yes roads are dangerous until you learn how to cycle properly and control your road space. See what I'm getting at . . .

And the last thing I need is damn weird Segway machines in my cycle lanes in addition to all the other hazards others have listed.

Bet against the bubble - how to head off a subprime crisis

Mark

....US or UK? Correction

Quick correction - its approximately 5% of housing stock is vacant. . ..

---------------

There really should be a legislative mechanism for forcing this housing stock into the market. Make it revert to the state if left unoccupied for more than 24 months out of 36 or something. Then assign it to social housing use. Something like that would reduce the impact of speculative property investors as they risk losing all their cash if they can't resell or let the property.

Mark

@AC: US or UK?

Demand does not exceed supply. 15-20% of UK housing stock is empty. Price rises were inflated by banks lending money to people that would never be able to finance the debt. If they hadn't done that then the prices would have had to come down to levels were the debt was supportable by the buyers.

It wasn't the homeowners speculating it was the mortgage lenders. They bet that what ever happened they would be able to retrieve their bet by repossession and resale. They got it very very wrong.

It would be very interesting to see what would have happened if the facility to bet against them had been there. My instinct is that there would have been an extreme and short lived bubble - similar to what happened in the oil market earlier this year - followed by a quick return to sanity.

Sony Ericsson delays Windows phone to Jan 09

Mark

I was possibly waiting for this . . .

But Samsung beat them to it with the Omnia - get one they're great. Couple of minor niggles but nothing deal breaking.

Joss-sticks increase cancer risk: Official

Mark

On a side note . .

. . new research finds that car exhaust fumes increase risk of cancer and all breathing disorders. But never mind that lets pick on smokers and hippies . . .

Arctic ice refuses to melt as ordered

Mark

Proper reporting?

Surely a proper journalist would be publishing a report where the people who posted the data in question have a chance to respond? You keep doing this with this climate stuff - do some proper work please and present a full report instead of some shoddy speculation.

Windfall taxing big oil: how to make the gas crisis worse

Mark

Re: "Economics GCSE"

The first poster is correct to criticise Tim for his analysis. You can't base an argument around a flawed economic analysis.

To AC - its not just a case of being a capital investor wanting to invest in oil/gas production/supply. The barriers to entry are huge and include:

- capital investment requirement

- extraction technologies

- exploration skills/tech

- licensing - governments are very unlikely to license their fields to an unproven extractor - too risky.

- access to distribution networks

All of this is pretty much sewn up by 4/5 huge extraction/supply companies with a number of small exploration companies prospecting. Its not an industry you can just go out and buy an oil field with no experience or track record. Its an oligopoly and we're stuck with it.

The whole issue of windfall taxing was forced (in the UK anyway) by Britsh Gas announcing devastatingly high price rises the day before Centrica announce record profits. The windfall tax isn't supposed to be an economic intervention in a market its supposed to be a disciplinary measure on a powerful player abusing its power in an oligopolistic market.

Please Tim - stop posting such lightweight analysis. How long have you been on the payroll of the energy utilities exactly? Some of you what you say is insightful but its so one sided and limited an analysis as to be almost worthless.

Hard 'core'? Birmingham City Council's net filtering

Mark

Why this story?

Such a none story its untrue. About the only interesting thing is that they contemplated discriminating against atheists.

Every public organisation I've ever worked for has employed fairly draconian web controls. Why pick on Birmingham for a story?

Why flying cars are better than electric ones

Mark

Not the solution

Flying cars aren't actually a high technology solution to this problem.

Now a teleportation system - thats what I call a solution. Likely to be fairly energy intensive but would present far fewer problems than flying cars.

Of course the other more sensible solution is to use the phone / video conferencing to talk to people. Too many people travelling hundreds of miles to go to a meeting when we've already invented the technology to make that trip redundant.

'Hacktivism' threatens world of nations

Mark

Some effort is definitely needed on this

As the two posters above have said there are ways of dealing with this stuff. Problem is at the moment most of them are software based and therefore incur a significant overhead at the gateways. And this overhead will be at exactly at the place you don't want it - your major international pipes. They also require some human input to prevent errors making them expensive.

My gut feeling is that this is something that needs to be addressed by the high end router manufacturers building the technology to filter and/or reroute these kind of attacks into their architectures/protocols. Not easy but probably not impossible.

And as Dave said there needs to be much more effort by ISPs to cut off zombie machines. Its not that difficult for an ISP to identify dodgy traffic and where its coming from and cut off those customers.

It wouldn't be that difficult for the internet governing bodies to scan all internet traffic for zombie machines and start blacklisting ISPs whose networks are riddled with zombie machines.

Comcast plays New York anti-porn game

Mark

Its not that hard

As a former Telewest employee in UK we had very little problem keeping or news servers free of this stuff. Theres a list issued by someone (can't remember where) of dodgy groups which we didn't carry and our user base was very good at letting us know if a group was becoming infested with paedo stuff. We'd just drop the group.

Not difficult and certainly theres no justification for dropping all binaries.

Doctors: Third babies are the same as patio heaters

Mark

Re: heh

"if this had been the case my brother wouldn't have been born, infact I wouldn't have becouse my second eldest brother died of meninjitis when he was 4, and I'm quite sure a large number of other friends, siblings and role models too.

It's quite frankly a discusting notion and those supporting it should take a long hard look at themselves and those around them."

At least if you hadn't been born the average spelling skill of the population would have increased markedly.

You're missing the point though - you have already been born (if not been taught to spell very well). Encouraging your parents not to have any more kids isn't going to affect you.

Mark

Re: Benefits

"It is rather simple and painless to implement a population control strategy. Simply pay child benefit to the first child only and you could even go as far as to only pay it to mothers who conceived over the age of 18.

It would certainly make parents of teenagers think long and hard about what their daughters are doing if they knew the state wouldn't support any drunken accidents."

Agree completely - in fact maybe that benefit for the first child could get bumped in value every few years as long as no further kids have appeared.

In addition I think we need some kind of legislation around parental responsibility where parents are punished for the crimes of 12-17 year olds. We'd soon see the little brats behaviour improve if the parents were going to get punished for their crimes.

----------------------------------------

The only downside to using financial levers to control population is it is biased towards the wealthy and I really don't like the way it discriminates against the poor. We need to discourage the poor (and everyone) from having kids til they are old enough and educated enough to handle it - not discriminate against them alone.

Maybe have a tax escalator to improve the fairness - so people on 40% tax rate get bumped another 10% for every child.

Mark

Whats wrong with you people - part 2

Oh

And a few policy suggestions to discourage people from breeding - mostly a little controversial:

- No more free IVF on the NHS. I don't see why I should have to pay tax so people can have kids unnaturally, so that I then have to pay more tax so they can be educated, immunized, locked up, etc

- Contraceptive implants made available free to all when they hit puberty. I seriously feel sorry for these kids that get locked into a cycle of benefit dependency from the age of 12/3. Lets give them a chance for gods sake.

- All our international aid money to be directed into family planning projects. Seriously. Current policy just allows populations to increase beyond the environments ability to sustain them. Lets change the focus to development of long term sustainable populations rather than keeping people alive (and usually in immense poverty and suffering despite the aid) in an environment that cannot provide them with enough to live on. Some parts of our planet just aren't designed to be populated.

Seriously we need to start thinking about it or some of the nightmare scenarios in sci-fi will come true. My favourite was a Robert Heinlein one where the world government declared everyone over the age of 70 legally dead.

Mark

Whats wrong with you people?

Firstly - have to say that carbon emissions is not the biggest reason for proposing population reduction. I think the two docs are band wagon jumping here. Best reason for having less children is to improve our lives - the place is getting crowded and would be more pleasant if it wasn't. Resources are getting scarcer and we are all (well most of us anyway) having to work harder and longer to maintain what is classed as a decent standard of living in our capitalist society. Certainly we need to stop rating our standard of living in terms of wealth and start looking at quality of life instead.

Secondly - to all the people saying population reduction is a bad idea - which planet do you live on? If you can't see that this congested, noisy, overcrowded, overworked, polluted, chaotic, unjust world ain't that pleasant to live in then you are clearly insane. I'm assuming that as you are against population reduction you are in favour of population increase. Which is a clearly a route to some very major conflicts over resources and/or mass starvation. Population will reduce anyway in the end just having less kids is a lot more pleasant route than war and famine.

Thirdly - the argument that children are needed to pay for old people is for the most part nonsense. If all the money that parents spent on children was saved for retirement instead then people could probably retire sooner and wealthier.

Just my £0.02. And loved the Bill Hicks quote - he always did cut through the balls in a truly unique way.

The return of Killer Chlorine

Mark

Cycle Helmets - links

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/860259.stm

- Cycle Helmets only protect in collisions up to 12 miles an hour

- Plus some vague stuff about helmet wearing increasing at the same time as number of head injurys increasing

As far as I can see from the other the links Google throws up theres a raging debate with safety campaigners saying its silly not to wear one even if theres only a small chance it will save you from serious injury and then counter argument from cycling organisations and some science types saying theres no evidence it helps and some statistics actually showing theres a negative effect.

No sign of any serious science though.

-------------------------------

Personally for street riding I don't wear one and for serious offroading I do. Basically because in a high speed collision on road theres not much chance of it helping and offroad its more likely to be a low speed fall where it will help alot.

Mark

Cycle Helmets

<<Different Mark

As far as I remember a cycle helmet is unlikely to save your life if you hit your head at the sort of speed that will kill you. A car drives into your head at 30 miles an hour plus then it will offer very little protection. It is not a motorcycle helmet. It will however limit the damage at collision speeds up to about 20 miles an hour - but collisions at speeds below that are unlikely going to kill you anyway. Not pleasant but probably won't kill you.

Theres also an argument that helmets provide a false sense of security to the cyclist making them more likely to be involved in accidents.

Gonna have a quick Google for the research now.

AMD Radeon HD 4850 and 4870

Mark

Linux Driver?

Was going to put an Nvida 8800GT in my new system but these look kind of nice. Anyone know when theres likeely to be a Linux driver around for them?

New York threatens Comcast with anti-porn suit

Mark

Just political grandstanding

This is just political grandstanding - just because a few ISPs servers won't be carrying these groups doesn't mean the groups and their content don't still exist and aren't freely (well $0.50 a gig or whatever it is) available to all from a pay news service.

Better to have this stuff out in the open where you can trace and lock up the culprits than force it underground.

Spaniards show off touchscreen moto-computer tech

Mark

Sounds like a good environmental idea to me

Put these in all cars and we should see a sharp reduction in the population of car drivers in this country :)

The Guardian's excellent Web 2.0 blog-up

Mark

Good article - but . . .

Good points made about the web 2.0 stuff.

However as a regular Guardian reader (who didn't sign up to this) the heightended awareness of the issues that the campaign raised has changed some of my behaviours with regard to wasting energy. Presumably the same applies to many other Guardian readers.

So trying to assess the success of the campaign purely based on the number of people that signed up is more than a little limited.

British drivers face jail for causing death by dangerous driving

Mark

back @ David

You missed my point entirely mate. My response aimed to highlight how frivolous your issues were when compared to the death & disability, noise, congestion and pollution caused by cars and their drivers. You getting all worked up and defending your petty little gripes just shows what a selfish ignorant mindset the average car driver has.

Get a grip - having to slow down a bit to make life easier for cyclists, or tolerate them squeezing past you at traffic lights so they aren't stuck behind you breathing your fumes ain't worth getting worked up about. The thousands of people maimed and injured each year by drivers not watching where they were going and the damage to the planet caused by societys over reliance on private cars is.

Mark

@ David

I think anyone who wants to cycle should be made to drive for a month, so they can see just how selfish and inconsiderate cyclists are.

- Slaloming in and out of traffic waiting at lights, [thats down to the lack of a cycle lane on the inside at every traffic light - and tbh even when there is one theres normally a car parked/encroached in it giving the cyclist no choice. Your altenative is to be stuck behind the cyclist while he goes through the traffic lights unless of course you force him into the gutter like most drivers. Giving the cyclists room to get to the front at lights actually improves traffic flow for cars - hence the areas reserved for cyclists at the front of the queue at many junctions]

- scraping within inches of my paintwork when I give them several feet [awww poor paintwork /sob]

- pulling in front of cars at that bit where the cycle lane stratches over the whole lane at traffic lights [thats why its there stupid. Cyclists actually accelerate faster than cars for the first few feet given the space to do so. Moving off from stationery is when a bicycle is least stable and the more space a cyclist has the quicker they can move off. They didn't put those spaces there just to look pretty its to reduce the impact on traffic flow caused by cyclists getting moving]

- ignoring traffic lights [no cyclist ignores traffic lights, that would be fatal for the cyclist noone else. Cyclists take note of traffic lights (and the fact that if it wasn't for cars they wouldn't exist) and proceed when its safe to do so. On the other hand the many car drivers that ignore speed limits, fail to indicate, go the wrong way down one way streets, don't watch where they are going, etc kill/maim other people and very rarely themselves]

- riding side by side so no cars can get past them [you're making them up now - yes cyclists ride side by side occasionally, and why not? Give them a few seconds and they'll let you past. Its not like we congest the streets of the entire country, spewing out toxic fumes at the same time is it?]

I could go on. [So go on then - carry on with your list of fatally dangerous infractions caused by cyclists bringing murder and and mayhem to the roads of Britain. The current list has been a riveting read]

Mark

@Martin

"How can you 'nearly be taken off your bike by someone speeding'??? If you were -nearly- hit, then it was the driver's direction/position that was at fault, surely? And how in hell did you KNOW they were speeding? Do you carry a radar gun attached to your head?"

I knew they were speeding by the fact that roared past me at around 60 in a 30 limit then switched to the opposite side of the road and went past 3 cars that had just passed me (considerately doing around 30). Its not difficult to tell when someone is doing 1.5 to 2x the speed limit. In addition my speedometer said I was doing 25 so its not that hard to make comparisons.

Mark

Simple solution

Simple solution to all this:

All driving offences (speeding, failing to indicate, insurance, using a mobile, whatever . . ) attract a 3 month ban and you are required to retake your test before getting your license back.

Currently the penalties completely fail to address the level of danger to others most drivers cause by what seem like minor infractions - minor until they kill someone ofc. The number of times I've nearly been taken off my bike by drivers speeding, failing to indicate, just pulling out in front of me, forcing there way past me so they can make 20 yards progress down the road to the next traffic jam, etc is uncountable. I've seen two cyclists lying in the road covered in blood waiting for ambulance pickup in the last month.

As someone else said earlier driving needs to stop being seen as a right and start being seen as a responsibility.

Trousers Brown: Blighty faces 'food security' threat

Mark
Dead Vulture

Population is the real issue

"By 2050 we will need food for a world population that is wealthier and several billion larger... "

Until people stop accepting this statement as an inevitable fact we're screwed. We need to start persuading people to stop breeding so much and until that happens the planet and the human race are destined for disaster.

In the absence of a multi-billion killing world war or epidemic of course.

Gas crunch: Jatropha, kudzu, algae and magic to rescue

Mark
Dead Vulture

I think the point was . . .

. . . that the only real solution at the moment is to use less fuel and what we do use to be more efficent about it. All the other proposed schemes are going to make a tiny impression.

Dissolving the plastic bag problem

Mark
Paris Hilton

Plastic eating bacteria - fantastic potential

This reminds me of a Judge Dredd comic from my childhood. A plastic eating bacteria was destroying civilisation (mostly by eating buxom wenches plastic clothing). Fantastic stuff - where can I get some?

Paris for obvious reasons.

New Microgeneration report - what it actually says

Mark
Happy

Nice analysis but . . . and . . .

As far as I know the economics of microgeneration were discredited some time ago for the UK. This report did make some sensible findings with this regard though. For example the economics of purchasing the kit become much more realistic when applied to a whole apartment block or estate for example - i.e. a decent sized CHP plant providing all the hot water and much of the electricity for 200 apartments makes economic sense. Much more sense than the cost of 200 combi boilers anyway.

You also fail to address (and I'm not sure the report did) the cost of energy leakage from the grid which is substantial. Microgeneration loses alot of this overhead.

In addition - unless we invest in these technoilogies they will fail to develop, and/or gain the economies of scale from mass production that old technologies enjoy.

Personally though I feel any grant/looan invesatment from cewntral government would be much better targeted at improving the efficiency and insulation of old buildings than a major investment in microgeneration.

Heaviest Virgin Media downloaders face new daytime go-slow

Mark

Its fine - stop whining

Seriously - I'd rather they cap people than I have to pay twice as much to double the infrastructure capacity. I don't download heavily these days as, well, theres only so much media I have time to watch/listen to. Anyone who wants to download 24 hours a day needs to get a life or pay a few hundred a month for a leased line - just set your downloads to run overnight and accept the fact that its a consumer service where the priority will always be maintaining peoples browsing speeds during peak hours.

Thank you Virgin for protecting my internet speeds from the Bittorrent abusers.

Is Voda's Colao the new Gordon Brown?

Mark

Gordon Brown is not entirely responsible for the state of the UK economy

Correct me if I'm wrong but Gordon Brown should actually be proud of the state of the British economy - pretty much the longest period of growth, lowest inflation, lowest unemployment, etc, etc in my life time. The fact that the house price bubble is bursting (and rightly so) due to incompetent investment bankers is hardly down to Gordon Brown.

Pork and politics energise the biofuel delusion

Mark

On politics

"determined political action is necessary to save us from the perils of climate change"

It is in fact the case. And would not be an issue except that we live in a democracy which is about popularity more than doing the right thing. It always baffles me that the US is on a global mission to bring democracy to the world when all it means is transferring the power from the muscle to the money. Neither of which is a welcome proposition.

Until we have a political ruling class that is freed from the corrupting infuences of money (i.e. in a western democracy the pressure from the business community and the markets on policy making) and power (i.e. the need to gain/retain power through populist policies which are in turn influenced by the money through the media) we will never have a government that implements the most sensible and astute policies. As Tim rightly points out, democratic politics is about appeasing noisy interest groups rather than making logical policy decisions. Which is why the liberals and their portfolio of eminently sensible policies never get elected.

Anyway - biofuels probably bad at the moment - would need severe regulation for them to be a viable green alternative. The focus really needs to focus on infrastructure, efficency, behaviour and alternate technologies rather than which is the best way of burning stuff.

Virgin Media in premium rate U-turn

Mark

Just a response to slipping customer satisfaction

I used to work in the old Telewest callcenter and we did spenmd around 75% of the time dealing with customers issues with malware, viruses, operating systems issues that had absolutely nothing to do with the broadband service. And yeah we did have messages on the phones asking people to reboot everything before phoning through - but they never listened.

Anyway - all the latest broadband service ratings that have been coming out have shown Virgin slipping down the ratings so they clearly need to do something. They are also currently advertising for ITIL Problem/Incident/change managers to replace the Telewest ones that got made redundant 18 months ago when NTL took over. So it goes.

The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Mark

CO2 is not the Problem

Reducing congestion would reduce carbon emissions. But we can't just keep concreting over everything to make space for more cars - after all the world is supposed to be a good place for people, not the cars and the two do not go hand in hand.

The only solution is a viable public transport infrastructure for longer journeys and people having to get off their backsides and walk or cycle the shorter trips.

Mark

More taxes please

I would agree that indiscriminate taxation is not the fairest way of dealing with this. Ideal solution would be to ration annual mileage for the whole population i.e. Total mileage for the nation / number of people with a driving license = personal mileage allowance. Unfortunately there would be no way of enforcing it - would have interesting economic effects though as a market would develop in trading of mileage allowances.

As it is the only thing at present that is technologically and electorally viable is to discourage car use and encourage fuel efficiency by graduating road tax based ont he vehicle and taxing fuel so those that burn the most get hit with the bigger tax bill. Not very socialist as it will never curb the selfishness for the rich.

Mark

Hmmm

On the subject of motorbikes - the poster moaning about the weekend joyriders has a point - those guys are the same ones that sit in their 4x4s in traffic jams the rest of the week. The guys who use them for commuting are far more efficent than car drivers unless the car is full and has clear roads.

On the subject of taxing cars in general the discussion has barely touched on the true costs incurred on society of the over reliance on cars for personal transport and the resultant congestion and pollution. I have absolutely no chance of citing them all off the top of my head but here are a few ideas:

- impact on business caused by congestion - the cost of congestion to business is far higher than the duty on fuel

- health costs from respiratory and cancer related illness - asthma levels amongst children are higher than ever before - cancer levels aren't going away just because smoking levels are reducing - exactly the same carciogens are present in exhaust fumes as in cigarettes yet fuel is taxed far less.

- impact on health and well being of noise pollution - noise pollution has a social impact - who pays me for the impact on my health of constant and unabating traffic noise?

- health costs from obesity resulting from sedentary lifestyles of many car users

- policing costs

- accident servicing costs

- impact on biodiversity - see the disappearance of front gardens in favour of car parking spaces.

etc etc etc - I could go on.

I'll agree with the poster who said I was missing the point - the chancellor should have been less inclined to link the tax rise solely to carbon reduction measures and be more open about the need to reduce car use in general and the need to raise more money to balance public finances. I believe the government has failed in many ways to produce a coherent transport policy. Personally I'd like to see far more puntive taxation on the most polluting cars with the money used to pay for heavy subsidies and improved infrastructure for public transport, rail freight, etc.

Mark
Thumb Down

Flawed analysis

Tim - your analysis is completely flawed. You make the assumption that the only reason to have fuel tax is to try to prevent climate change. Its not - there was already fuel tax before anyone had ever heard of climate change for issues to do with attempting to ration road use to prevent detrimaental effects on the real environment due to car use - i.e. making car drivers pay something towards the real time external costs of car use.

In order to calculate the correct level of taxation under your analysis you would need to add the further taxation needed to pay for climate change objectives to the existing taxation.

Now stop posting complete garbage.

El Reg decimates English language

Mark

Learn basic maths as well

"Good show, although we suspect the inclusion here of "nearly" might not satisfy purists. If the total of job losses is in fact less than anticipated, might we suggest the use of inkhorn neologisms "nonimate" or "octomate"?"

"Nonimate" suggests 1 in 9 and "Octimate" suggests 1 in 8 - which suggests more employees that the 1 in 10 that would be specified by decimate, not less. Elevimate or twelvimate might be more appropriate.

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