* Posts by Steven Jones

1495 posts • joined 21 May 2007

'I'm innocent!' says IT contractor on trial after Office 365 bill row spiraled out of control

Steven Jones

Re: Legal fun

Whether you are innocent of a charge is entirely irrelevant to the matter of whether it's false arrest of not. What matters is whether the arresting authorities have reasonable grounds for making an arrest in the first place. Many people are arrested, go to court and are found not guilty. Very few succeed in winning false (or unlawful) arrest cases.

However, this one does sound odd. I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to tell on this case.

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Three drops £250m on UK Broadband

Steven Jones

Re: Expensive

The stories in the financial sections this morning shed rather more light on this. The official justification appears to be that the value is in the spectrum bandwidth owned by the company. It might get become and important asset should it be included in the 5G technical standards.

However, perhaps just as important, 3 is owned by on of the richest man in Asia (Li Ka-shing), and UK Broadband was a venture by his son (Richard). It appears that the price paid will just about cover the investment and accumulated operating losses of UK Broadband...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/02/06/hong-kongs-li-dynasty-trade-uk-assets-three-buys-relish-wireless/

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Steven Jones

Expensive

Over £16k per subscriber? That's quite some premium. Of course there will be fixed assets, but that's rather a lot of money. I assume they are planning some major expansion, but it's a pretty crowded market place.

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Routes taken by UK prosecutors over supply of modified TV set-top boxes

Steven Jones

Re: Dodgy law

"I presume that the every electrical goods retailer will now be prosecuted for supplying devices that can also be used for this purpose. They're called computers."

Note this ridiculous old trope. On that basis, you'd end up prosecuting the electricity supplier, or maybe the builder of the house under which roof the modified set-top box is being used to breach copyright.

There is a very clear common sense difference in intent between selling a device that has been specifically modified to facilitate the breaching of copyright and which is knowingly sold on the basis of that facility and the case where a general purpose machine with many functions is sold even though it might conceivably be used for that purpose.

The law is not stupid in this matter. Judges (and, where relevant, juries) will consider the issues of intent and use on the basis of evidence. We do not, after all, prosecute cooks for possession of kitchen knives whilst we might very well prosecute somebody who was carrying one in the street with no good reason.

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Around 1.4 million people have sub-10Mbps speeds - Ofcom

Steven Jones

Re: I am one of the 1.4m

Packet loss has absolutely nothing to do with distance from the exchange. That just slows the sync rate. Packet loss is almost invariably due to insufficient backhaul.

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UK's Universal Service voucher scheme urged to shift monopoly away from BT

Steven Jones

Re: YES: let the customer choose

There is already price controlled access to fibre for back haul. Not from cabinets, but from fibre aggregation points (cabinets are not aggregation points - they only have the fibre required for their functioning). However, there are a large number of aggregation points as well.

There are two problems though. The first is people complain even about price controlled fibre. However, the second is it doesn't get you very far on its own. It is the costs and logistics of running fibre to properties that is the killer.

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More than half of punters reckon they can't get superfast broadband

Steven Jones

Re: exchange only lines...

If you read the note at the end of the article, you'll find it's a crap bit of mathematics by Tim Worstall. Basically he'd assumed that the total BT line length was for 10 pair cable and it's not. It's for single pairs. Secondly he'd not allowed for the weight of the insulation, which is half the weight of the cable he looked at (easily worked out from density of copper and the wire gauge).

That little bit of a kindergarten mistake by the ever egotistic Mr. Worstall overestimated the amount of copper in BT's network by a factor of about twenty. I responded at the time. Neither he or the Register ever noted that howler.

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FBI's Clinton email comedown confirms it could have killed the story in a canter

Steven Jones

Re: Like the alleged 'shooter' at the Trump rally

Technically a US president can serve almost 10 years if, as VP, they "inherit" the presidency with less than two years to go, as they can be elected in their own right twice. (If they inherited the presidency with more than two years to go, they could only then be elected to the presidency once).

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Pluck-filled platter-stuff: Bold disk drive makers fatten up

Steven Jones

Re: Heee haw

Interleaving drives is not an option. HDDs rely on a smooth airflow to fly the heads, and having two interleaved drives will cause horrible turbulence issues.

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Hapless Network Rail contractors KO broadband in Uxbridge

Steven Jones

Re: "not highlighted in the thorough surveys"

I think you can 100% guarantee those BT ducts have been there for a very long time. No latest version required. In any event, it only needs the duct to be a few metres from where the piling operator thinks it is, map or not, and chaos will ensue.

I don't know what the procedure for this "thorough" survey, but if it's just consulting maps and assuming their accurate, that will surely not be enough. I would hope that the actual surveying involves using detection equipment and positively locating what are known services. The Network Rail contractors surely must have known there were major infrastructure ducting (and other infrastructure services) and positively located them before they started the work. I know that area quite well and it is a densely populated urban area.

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DNS devastation: Top websites whacked offline as Dyn dies again

Steven Jones

Re: ENOUGH!

One big problem is it's often extremely difficult to trace the originators with a distributed DOS attack through compromised devices controlled by heavily disguised control systems which, themselves, can go through compromised devices. Often this can be triggered by anybody, anywhere using any old public network. Even when the controlling source (or the source of the compromising agent) can be identified, these are often residents of countries where the rule of western law doesn't hold, or even regimes where this sort of activity serves a purpose of the state (or even agencies in that state not under full control).

It might be that some really draconian action will be required on ISPs and network operators to manage the security on their devices. A can conceive of ISPs and network operators being compelled to police their own user base for illicit traffic on pain of having some of their service access cut off which means, by implication, they have to police their users the same way.

Perhaps also some penalties for manufacturers and suppliers of devices that can be compromised which don't fix security holes. This is one huge issue for the "Internet of Everything".

Ultimately, the whole infrastructure needs to be hardened, and especially core services, such that they are far more difficult to attack in this way.

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Steven Jones

It's not a routing issue...

The Internet does route around damage, but this isn't an attack on routing. It's an attack on a network service. That's rather a different thing.

However, it's certainly true that far too little effort has been put into fundamentally hardening network services of all sorts against these sorts of attacks. Unfortunately far too many Internet protocols and services are built around assumptions of good behaviour.

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Cheapest Apple iPhone 7's flash memory is waaaaay slower than pricier model

Steven Jones

It's a matter of parallelism...

So a device with 8 times the amount of flash memory achieves about 7.6 times the throughput on writes. That's almost linear, and it surely just implies that it's simply a factor that scales sidewise as more flash devices are added so more things happen in parallel. The memory isn't slower as such, it's just the way throughput scales.

Presumably on the read side, there are other bottlenecks which prevents the 256GB device maxing out all parallelism of multiple flash chips.

So not really "punishing", and how much does it matter in real life? Even at 42MBps, that 32GB flash storage device could be overwritten in about 13 minutes.

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Dynamic IP addresses are your personal property, CJEU rules

Steven Jones

Public visibility of IP address logs

I seem to recall cases where the IP addresses used to edit some Wikipedia entries allowed the identification of sock puppet activity causing the perpetrators some embarrassment. In those cases it was IP addresses allocated to organisations or offices and not, directly, individuals but the culprits (or close associates) were obvious.

There have been some much more complex versions of this whereby sources of deliberately misleading or derogatory information have been identified. So there are occasions where publicly visible IP addresses have some public interest.

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Telcos hit out against plans to hike their broadband rates

Steven Jones

Re: Does BT still get a discount?

That has been tested in court on several occasions and the challenges to the rates authorities have all failed. It's been challenged in UK courts and in an EU case on state aid grounds.

Here's just one example.

https://robbratby.com/2011/02/08/illegal-state-aid-challenge-to-tax-levied-on-bts-uk-fibre-network-fails-in-european-court/

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Steven Jones

Then get you BB from a no-frills provider.

Well buy your broadband from an operator that doesn't bundle sports into the broadband costs, not BT Consumer (or for that matter, Sky or VM bundled products). The wholesale costs for lines and FTTC contain precisely no element for those sports rights. Full stop. None. Not a penny. There are many other ISPs to choose from.

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Ireland looks like it's outpacing Britain in the superfast broadband rollout stakes

Steven Jones

Re: There are non so blind who cannot imagine the future.

The question is not whether there's a demand. The question is whether there's an economic level of demand. There are many, many things people and companies want, but there's a limit to what they are prepared to pay for it. A company can have pretty well whatever speed broadband it wants if its prepared to pay the price. Just because somebody wants gigabit level speeds to (say) £50 a month, it doesn't mean that there is a sufficiently big demand to make it worthwhile spending the £25bn or more required to reach (almost) 100% fibre coverage (even that expenditure will not reach everybody).

It's about time people learned there's a difference between a demand and an economic market. Many people will be happy enough with a few tens of mbps and those that are prepared to pay extra could not be enough to pay for a comprehensive network uplift. Hence the current approach of incremental upgrades in the most cost-effective manner.

The Australian NBN tied itself up in knots trying to deliver FTTP (and even then to nothing like 100%) and has had to cut back its aspiration such that it is now dominated by FTTC. That is with a budget which would equate, in UK terms, to around £45bn when adjusted for population.

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Steven Jones

Re: Cu?

Yes, and it was Tim Worstall on this very site who made the idiotic claim that the copper in BT's network was worth about £50bn at the market rate for copper ingots. He even included the calculations. Sadly for him, there were laughable errors in the estimate (and would-be copper thieves) there were some elementary mistakes. First, he assumed that BT's network of 75m miles of cable was the length of 10 pair cable (when it's single pair). Secondly, in he used the weight per unit length of 10 pair cable which included all the insulation rather than just the copper. The upshot was that he over-estimated the amount of copper in BT's network by about 2,000%. That's without even taking into account the fact that scrap copper wrapped up in plastic insulation is a lot cheaper than pure copper ingots as it needs a lot of processing.

In practice, some copper (especially that direct buried) would be a lot more expensive to recover than it was worth as scrap.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/22/bt_copper_cable_theft/

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Larry Page snuffs out ‘too expensive’ Google Fiber project

Steven Jones

Re: "Public utilities and government agencies are better at handling"

Anybody much older than 30 in the UK also lived in an era when there was a state-owned phone network, and it was pretty awful. Expensive, inefficient, unreliable, over-manned and under-invested. In 1984 the vast majority of local exchanges were still based on ancient Strowger equipment.

People forget...

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Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died

Steven Jones

Re: Where's his missus?

So he'd rather they both sat on the floor together rather than sort the position out during the journey?

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Steven Jones

Suspicious video - and the issue of unclaimed, booked seats

Anybody who has ever been on a "ram packed" (I prefer jam packed) commuter train will know that the original video was rather dubious. On such a commuter train there would simply be no empty floor space to sit upon. Indeed there's often barely enough space to stand.

The issue of unclaimed booked seats on long distance routes is always a pain though. However, it's always a good idea to look at the details. If the reservation is for a different leg of the journey then it's free until that point. If the leg it applied to started some time ago then its unlikely that it will ever be claimed (and the worst that happens is you are asked to move). Note that removing booking tags can (at least in theory) get you into trouble.

The fact is that a lot of people who book seats find that they are all crammed into two or three carriages and they fancy a bit of space and go and find some in an carriage without any bookings. As far as I'm aware there's no actual requirement to sit in the seat that was booked for you.

nb the one place where booking on long distance trains tends to get rigorously applied is on cycle spots. They really are in short supply and, in my experience, there's little flexibility.

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Steven Jones

Re: OK Jeremy--renationalization--what then?

You can have renationalize as that's a verb and by all means spell it according to local standards. However, The Labour Party is the registered name of the political party and really ought to be spelt that way.

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UK IT consultant subject to insane sex ban order mounts legal challenge

Steven Jones

Re: "He was found not guilty, therefore he is innocent"

There is, or at least was, in this country the principle of being considered innocent unless proven guilty. In England and Wales at least, there was no "grey area" such as Scotland's "not proven" verdict.

This drives a coach and horses through that principle.

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BBC detector vans are back to spy on your home Wi-Fi – if you can believe it

Steven Jones

Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

18:1? I've never heard of such a definition. A reference would be interesting. In any event, 18:1 is pretty lax. It would mean that about 5% of innocent people end up being convicted. That's a non-trivial proportion.

Most of the cases I've seen which involved misuse of stats weren't down to the actual level, but a complete misconception. For example, the famous cot death case which had two misconceptions. The first being that incidents of cot death were independent (so there was no common genetic or environmental factor), and the second that even if something was very rare (even one in several million), if the activity is frequent enough some examples will appear.

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Steven Jones

Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

It's not necessarily true that the householder has to have a licence if somebody is accessing iPlayer of live TV via the Internet. If you are a guest in a property and are using a mobile device powered off its own batteries (and not plugged into an aerial) then, if they have their own TV licence at their own home, they are covered by that. That even applies to use of a mobile device as a second home if covered at the first.

It's all on the official website.

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Steven Jones

Scare story

Just a scare story. Quite apart from the WPA-2 encryption issue and some vague stuff about pattern matching with iPlayer, there is another issue in that mobile devices (when running off of batteries, but not the mains) are covered by any TV licence at the owner's place of residence. So somebody using a tablet to watch iPlayer at a friend's house is covered by their own TV licence. That's also true for second homes too (as is confirmed by the official website) if you have a licence at your primary home. Just don't watch whilst your tablet/laptop is plugged into a mains socket or any device plugged into an aerial socket.

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Londoner jailed after refusing to unlock his mobile phones

Steven Jones

Re: Hmm

"There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. U.S. population 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016.

Do the math: 0.0000925% of the population die from gun related actions each year."

I did, and it's 0.00925%. When you turn a decimal factor into a percentage remember to factor in the 100...

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Avoiding Liverpool was the aim: All aboard the world's ONLY moving aqueduct

Steven Jones

Re: Excellent article

The Falkirk Wheel is not an aqueduct. It's a boat lift and was long pre-dated by the one at Anderton, albeit of a different design. There have been many examples of boat lifts, with incline plane lifts probaby being the most popular. Possibly the most bizarre one of all was the cassion lock on the Somerset Coal Canal which involved boats being floated into a sealed box which was raised and lowered through a water-filled cassion. It never really got beyond a demonstration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somerset_Coal_Canal

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300 million pelicans? Pah. What 6 billion plastic bags really weigh

Steven Jones

Re: I have to recheck the maths

Whilst the headline says 300 million pelicans, the text in the story says 3 million, a much more reasonable 10Kg per bird. So I've no idea why The Register has a difference of a factor of 100 between the story and the headline.

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BT sees 35% sales gain as it digests hearty EE meal

Steven Jones

OR Confiscation

So your grand plan is to confiscate a £20bn asset (Openreach) from the shareholders?

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Steven Jones

"Oh yes, and the company is not permitted to use that forced payment in any positive promotion of how they are handling their finances."

What on Earth does that mean? There is no positive promotion of a pension deficit. It's a drag on the share price.

As for the suggestion that there is a cap on the pensions paid, just how many people do you think that would affect and how much difference would it make to the total? The number of people involved in making decisions which would have impacted on any pension deficit is tiny and the BT pension scheme has well over 300,000 members.

In any event, it's a complete irrelevance as the whole thing is covered by pension regulation. BT are obliged to agree a plan to cover the deficit with the trustees of the scheme. It clearly has impact on the OR division as they will (due to historic employment patterns) have a duty to provide some cashflow to cover the deficit (at the moment it's only reported at group level). If you care to read the Ofcom proposals on OR separation you will find a large section given over to that very subject.

There is no Philip Green figure that can extra money from a privately owned company leaving it unable to service the pension deficit. BT is a PLC, whilst BHS was not.

nb. ultimately the government is on the hook for the deficit due to the Crown Guarantee at the time of privatisation. Briefly, if BT Group were to go insolvent then any deficit is guaranteed by the state (which has been established in court). Given that the government had to pick up the Royal Mail pension deficit (about £8n), I doubt they want to see that happen.

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Cats, dogs starve as web-connected chow chute PetNet plays dead

Steven Jones

Re: More dead cats :)

Many fewer than are killed by cats and, in any event, car drivers don't set out to kill birds and most will try and avoid them. Cats methodically set out to hunt them down. Note, it's not the cat's fault. It's humans for keeping them in massively larger numbers than could be supported in the wild.

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Ofcom: Legal separation will force Openreach to eat more fibre

Steven Jones

Re: Prince George - Ofcom Employee.

Ofcom is not financed by public money. It's financed by a levy against network operators and broadcasters.

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5 years, 2,300 data breaches. What'll police do with our Internet Connection Records?

Steven Jones

A "civil restrain order" (CRO) is nothing to do with criminal cases. CROs are issued when a judge considers that an application to a court for a hearing is vexatious. For example, when an individual tries to sue another on the same issue when the case is considered to have no merit.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/civil-restraint-orders--2

I've also no idea what such a subject would be doing on the Radio 4 programme "The Bottom Line". That's a business-orientated programme which doesn't normally deal with legal issues beyond those that are relevant to businesses. Nor can I see where it was discussed last week (which was about the business implications of Brexit).

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Bank tech boss: Where we're going, we don't need mainframes

Steven Jones

Re: Utter drivel

Linux can run on mainframes of course, but one problem is poor support for applications only available as binary distributions. For obvious reasons a lot of vendors only want to support a limited range of distributions, let alone processor architectures.

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Plusnet speeds up, slows down

Steven Jones

Plusnet and 40/2...

More recently, Plusnet had been selling the GEA-FTTC 40/2 mbps product, and not the 40/20 it started out with originally. That, I believe used the GEA-FTTC 80/20 product and throttled download in the network.

So for recent customers this is much better all round. It is all what Infinity 1.

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Parliament takes axe to 2nd EU referendum petition

Steven Jones

Re: Of course the original referendum is only "advisory" it is not legally backed.

There's a pretty good chance Brexit will not happen (as David Allen Green has pointed out). It is significant that Cameron didn't invoke Article 50 immediately which (short of unilaterally abrogating treaties) is about the only way that the country can leave. To invoke Article 50 there would have to be a PM elected who was willing to do it, and whilst it might be possible to do it by executive action under the Royal Prerogative (which would probably require a cabinet decision), but I suspect that any PM will really want a Parliamentary vote behind them. It's always possible that might not happen - the considerable majority of MPs are in the Remain camp.

It might be that even Boris might not press the button given the noises he's making. Of course all hell would break loose from the exit camp (or at least the convinced wing of the exit camp) if that happened, but stranger things have followed. Then there is the thought of a bit of horsetrading. .

I'd put the odds of article 50 not being invoke as high as one in four, albeit the probable outcome is that it will be and there will be a deal where a lot less changes than people might expect.

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Singapore Airlines 777 catches fire after engine alarm

Steven Jones

Re: A close call?

I can see why the plan would go to Belfast International and not City (I've flown into both) as the latter is cramped and has more limited facilities. However, in aviation terms those are virtually next door to one another. This was 2 hours flying, perhaps 1,500km.

I can only think that they didn't know the severity of this.

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Steven Jones

A close call?

First panicky thought from any of the engine manufacturers is probably "I hope it isn't one of ours"... In this case it seems to be a GE engine.

I should add that there's surely a question is to why, 2 hours into a flight from Singapore to Milan, why did it return to base rather than divert to a closer airport following an engine warning. It's not as if it was over the middle of an ocean. Was the safest option chosen, or the one which would cause the least operational difficulties?

I'm assuming that the fact the fire occurred on landing wasn't just a coincident but because the conditions were then more conducive to a fire starting. If it was the former, then they were luck indeed.

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Cats understand the laws of physics, researchers claim

Steven Jones

Feline geodisics

I'd be more impressed if it could be shown that cats understand Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which has superseded the Newtonian theory of gravity. I leave the details of how to demonstrate this experimentally to others.

I realise that cats are better employed demonstrating the collapse of wave functions in quantum mechanics than the principles of curved space, but they are flexible creatures.

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Earth's core is younger than its crust surface

Steven Jones

Re: A bit off?

The density matters because the mechanism for movement will be largely convection and the denser elements will tend to remain at the core. That's why the core is much more dense than the layers above, not because it's under a lot of pressure (which will be a relatively minor matter compared to the density difference between different elements).

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Steven Jones

Re: A bit off?

There's very little exchange of material from the core as it's overwhelmingly made of dense metals (80% or so of which is believed to be iron). That core is believed to have formed very early on when the Earth was still molten and the relatively small amount of material that has moved since is really not going to make a significant differences to the calculations.

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British cops to film you with 59k body-worn cameras by end of year

Steven Jones

Re: I hope not...

Evidence from what was said prior to an arrest could always be recorded in the policeman/woman's notebook and often used in evidence at court. It was always open to dispute of course, and is, in principle at least, treated rather differently to what is said in a formal interview under caution (which have had to be recorded since the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).

What the the body worn cameras ought to so is remove much of the "subjectivity" involved in remembering what was actually said (even where is was recorded in a notebook). It should also, in principle give rather less leeway for the police to represent things in their way.

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Blighty's Virgin Queen threatened with foreign abduction

Steven Jones

Re: One of those auctions ...

It will be liable to capital gains tax (20%), not income tax.

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Steven Jones

That's not to mention the use of an idiom common in the English language (cough up) and the use of "we're" indicating some sort of national connection. In any event, I suspect somebody whose first language was not English will have been rather better trained in these nuances.

I think this is very simple. Just a native English speaker being characteristically sloppy in the written form.

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Inside Electric Mountain: Britain's biggest rechargeable battery

Steven Jones

Re: Great article

It is absolutely nothing like a capacitor in the way it works. Neither, for that matter, is it anything like a battery either. The common term for all these storage systems, whether it's flywheel, batteries, compressed air, liquefied air etc. is grid energy storage system. Such systems are (world-wide) responsible for the vast majority of temporary storage capacity (albeit distributed storage systems in the form of electric vehicles could make a big dent in that lead).

Impressive as this facility is in engineering terms, it's positively Victorian in concept (the method dates from the 1890s). Something rather more compact and not limited by local terrain is going to be needed as we increasingly rely on intermittent power sources.

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A UK-wide fibre broadband investment plan? Don't ask awkward questions

Steven Jones

Re: it amazes me..

Most people do get over 5mbs over copper. Even if it was "a problem" as you call it, over 90% (according to ThinkBroadband) have access to over >24mbps (and over 95% to >10mbps) if they want it. The footprint of the >24mbps part should get to about 97% once the full BDUK (including clawback/gainshare money is reinvested along with the efficiency savings).

As to the estimate of 10mbps to dow 100% fibre, that's optimistic (to put it lightly). The BSG report estimate for an (almost) 100% coverage on fibre was up to £28bn (for a point-to-point, not GPON solution, the latter being rather cheaper). The York City Fibre trial is aiming at about £500 per premises passed (so excluding the final drop part). It the UK was all like that, then that would be £15bn before the final drop (which would push it to £18-20bn). Unfortunately, the UK is not all like York so the whole cost would be higher.

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7413-progress-of-superfast-broadband-roll-out-across-the-uk.html

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First successful Hyperloop test module hits 100mph in four seconds

Steven Jones

Re: Freight is toughter than you think

I'm struggling to understand just what sort of bulk shipping requires speeds like this and would be cost effective. The sort of goods transport that uses very fast air distribution (and this is primarily and alternative to air transport) doesn't use standard shipping containers.

Something like hyperloop would surely only be used for relatively high value, time-critical cargo as would normally travel by air. If the economics were right, then some goods currently carried by rail and/or road might get moved across, but surely not the sort of bulk stuff that foes by shipping container. Those will surely still be transferred by appropriate bulk systems, like water, rail and some trucks.

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Steven Jones

Re: Holy shit.

Pumping large amounts of air down a tube at high speed is incredibly inefficient. You'd lose huge amounts in friction and turbulent flow. That's why this system uses a near vacuum. You get that small pressure distance over a large area but suffer relatively little loss in friction and turbulent flow.

In addition, if imagine the consequences of trying to stop all that air flowing in an emergency. There would be a huge amount of kinetic energy in all that moving mass of air.

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Steven Jones

Perhaps a little too much

1G acceleration? That's a lot of coffees down the front of a lot of suits...

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