* Posts by Ledswinger

5841 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012

Smart meters: 'Dog's breakfast' that'll only save you 'a tenner' – report

Ledswinger
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Re: Well beyond my end of life before I save the planet then

I was under the impression that SMETS1 meters did count towards the target,

As with anything to do with smart meters, its needlessly complicated. SMETS1 count until a cutoff date which I think is October of this year. After that date they can be installed, but don't count unless they can be made SMETS2 compliant before 2020. That could be by OTA upgrade, on-site firmware upgrade, or hardware replacement. The fate of the earlier, non-upgradeable SMETS1 meters is unclear. In theory they can stay put, but the supplier I worked for believed that its SMETS1 meters couldn't be made SMETS2 compliant and would need replacing - particularly when a customer switched supplier, because SMETS1 meters don't work very well in that situations. It is possible that DCC will manage to make all the different SMETS1 meters work inter-operably, but that'd be a big challenge for anybody. And with Capita running DCC, what do you reckon?

especially as some manufacturers were not going to be implementing SMETS2

Manufacturers might choose not to, all suppliers have to install SMETS2 (or upgradeable) meters after the cut off date (or face fines of millions of pounds, and still have to install them). If a meter manufacturer chooses not to do SMETS2, it will exclude itself from the UK meter market.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Smart Meters would be cool...

That's something I would pay that money for.

In the UK you can elect not to share the smart meter data with your supplier, and for them to only get the minimum for billing. From memory I think that's quarterly totals, although OFGEM's micro-managing obsession with "half-hourly settlement" complicates that. In future you'll still be able to stop suppliers USING your data, but you may not be able to stop them SEEING those half hourly readings.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @ ledswinger

"an article from you could enlighten us. You really seem to know your stuff."

I've industry experience across a lot of this field, although I'd be the first to admit that it is hugely complex and I don't know it all by a long way.

What puts me off writing such an article is that I'm not sure that it hasn't been covered (bit by bit) in other Reg articles and comment forums, and potentially its a lot of work for something that the Reg might then say "we're not publishing that". And, if I'm honest, why put in the work to write a publication grade article if I'm not being paid?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Smart meters and electricity storage

There's also the small matter of your cool e-car's batteries not taking too kindly to being drawn on too often whenever the wind drops

As my posts will atest, I'm not tree hugger, but this is one area where you're wrong. The traction demands on EV batteries are brutal, so that's a baseline of battery upon battery. The much more carefully managed static draw/recharge loads actually improve battery life. There's some recent academic research that looked at this, and the starting point was "By how much do we shag the battery using for grid support?", and all involved were surprised to find out that it actually improved the service life of the battery.

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Ledswinger
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Worked for the Economy 7 tariff... was cheaper to use the washer/drier in the evenings.

E7 was always a solution for the (state owned) energy industry's problems, not yours. The very nature of any time of use tariff means that if you get cheaper than standard off peak power, you have to have more expensive peak power (otherwise somebody's taking a big loss, or you've invented some form of perpetual motion machine).

The consequence of higher peak and lower off-peak rates is that there is a magic proportion of power you have to use off peak to be better off. And depending on the tariffs, that's somewhere around 35-45% of your total demand, which is quite a lot to use between 12:00 and 07:00.

When I worked for an energy supplier, we reckoned that at least one third (possibly more) E7 customers were paying more than they would be on a flat rate tariff. As a rough guide, you have to have time controlled electric storage heaters set around the E7 period as a minimum. North of Leeds that might be enough on its own, south of Leeds you probably need to run all your dishwashers, tumble dryers and washing machines in the E7 period as well. Obviously, if you'rte on night shifts, or have some non-standard use pattern, things will be different.

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Ledswinger
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Do you have a source for that?

I've worked in the industry, and that 250 MW estimate was my extrapolation of DECC figures that were published, but I'm sorry ICBA to dig out the specific report they came from. There's stuff in the public SMETS2 specifications if you want to look, but that's long, technical and dull, and you still need to make assumptions. The actual meter is only about 4 watts (and it is widely assumed that's taken before the meter, though I can't find evidence either way). The home hub and in home display from memory are in the range 10-20W together, and there's some other technical losses on things like the auxiliary load switch. And there's all the energy used by the "Data Communications Company" and their data centre, that'll be a few MW of entirely incremental wasted energy.

The gas meters are battery powered. Which means that every ten years or so they have to be taken out. In theory the battery could be replaced, the meter recalibrated to standard, and refitted. Realistically most will be thrown away.

You're paying for all the energy use, and all the meters, it really doesn't matter whether that's directly in your bill or not.

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Ledswinger
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Re: @ ledswinger

Agreed its a POS, but its my POS now.

But it's not. It belongs to the energy supplier (or more likely a contracted "Meter Asset Provider"). And that's why I think you'll be seeing at least one more meter replacement in the next three years.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Smart meters and electricity storage

I had a small thought on this over the weekend. It's an idea that's been floated a few times

More than a few times, a subject of much talk in the electricity sector. Without explaining the full system and commercial complexities (I could, but it would take around 1,200 words, and answering the follow on questions at least the same again), the chances are that "export power response" services will need to become a mandatory condition of charging an EV from the grid in future, and you'll have to suffer a fairly paltry export rate.

The idea of being paid a profitable rate for your re-export may sound nice, it doesn't work when you consider things like your charge/discharge losses, your limitations on availability, your need to set a maximum rate and amount of export. The reason you SHOULD always get a paltry re-export rate is that you car cannot offer what the commercial battery storage operators can: a much better, cheaper, more reliable service to the grid services market. So the price for battery storage should be set by a yard full of stacked shipping containers, stacked with cheap generic battery modules, and clever control systems. Compared to the say 70 kWh of your EV battery, a battery storage system operating in the grid services market, say for EFR, will be a minimum of 400 GWh, and up to five times that.

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Ledswinger
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Re: I want a smart water meter

I want a smart water meter

Why do you want a smart water meter? A straightforward mechanical (or even dumb ultrasonic) water meter will do the job, without all the Internet of Twattery problems of any smart meter.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Well beyond my end of life before I save the planet then

changed to another supplier and they needed to fit a new one

Chances are that the meter currently fitted is a SMETS1 specification. Only SMETS2 counts towards the government targets, so unless you're one of the 1% with SMETS2 meters, or they can do a OTA upgrade, there's a very good chance you'll need these meters ripping out and replacing.

<Pitifully, with sympathy and sadnesss>Why did you agree to have them fitted? The Commentariat have had near universal agreement that smart meters are a POS, so it isn't as though we didn't warn you.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Common sense is free!

and I use a traditional non-bio powder

Seems to be at odds with the rest of your mission for clean clothes? "Biological" washing powders/liquids were one of the biggest advances in cleaning technology since synthetic detergents.

Of course, if there's a health reason, then fair-dos.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Most of us said years ago

The side effect was to give two fingers to having a smart meter fitted to my home.

Smart meters were never mandated for people, they were an obligation on energy companies. You could and still can say no. But bear in mind that the SMETS2 smart meters that will shortly be introduced can cope with electricity exports, so there's no technical reason why your can't have one.

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Ledswinger
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Just how much do you think it ought to cost to have someone read a meter a couple of times a year?

How many meters can a meter reader do in an hour? Working very slowly, and with a lot of "no answers" I'd reckon they should still do an average of five an hour. There's no skill involved, so this can be "living wage" work, at say £7.50. Add half as much again for the overheads (NI, pension, van, fuel, hand held device), and we're up to £11.25. Divide by five, and it costs around £2.25 per meter reading. As you note, better planning will get the number of reads up per hour, but in the grand scheme of things the cost of manual meter reading is peanuts (and it gives somebody a job, somebody who will spend most of their income and thus a good benefit to the economy).

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Ledswinger
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Almost as if it was designed to waste enough power to pay for itself a few times over

Smart meters use far more power than the mechanical versions. A full national roll out will consume around 250 MW of additional power. So I wouldn't worry about the LEDs on the display - they're perhaps 5% of the extra energy your smart meters are using.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Benefits

With the UK slated to leave the EU by 2020, it is unlikely that any financial penalties will result if the target is missed.

No penalties are likely on the government, but the prospective fines on energy suppliers are enshrined in UK law through the regulator OFGEM's standard licence conditions, and not imposed directly under the EU directive. So the UK government and/or regulator would need to repeal those conditions. However, because the UK government are fervent worshippers at the alter of climate change, they actually believe that smart meters are an essential part of forcing down your energy use. If simple visibility of the bills and rising prices driven by government policy isn't enough, then they hope that complicated time of use tariffs will compel you.

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Argentina eyes up laser death cannon testbed warship

Ledswinger
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.Sarcasm, I take it?

"Doubtless the same fate would befall the Ponce if Argentina tried the same trick again"

I doubt the RN has the reliable operating capability now to defend the Falklands, I'd be surprised if the Typhoon detachment were both physically present, operational and armed, and I doubt even more that our current shower of politicians could provide the leadership for a "pocket war".

The only good news for Falkland islanders is that the Argentinians don't have a functional air force, and probably can't afford the fuel even if they do buy the USS Ponce.

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Retail serfs to vanish, all thanks to automation

Ledswinger
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Re: Not all bad

However, that will be more than made up for by the rise in demand for call centre operators.

You jest. I've worked for a big call centre business, and the forward plan is entirely about "moving customers to a digital relationship". In practice this is about making more money by cutting costs, and specifically that the majority of call centres will be closed. You'll be expected to interact by computer, tablet or smartphone, and even if you ring them up, it will all be IVR ("press 6 to continue circling our confusing and unhelpful menus"), recorded and synthesized speech responses.

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We experienced Windows Mixed Reality. Results: Well, mixed

Ledswinger
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Re: A Serious Question

So what, exactly, is the use case for me, and for the 95% of the population that is like me?

There isn't one. But Microsoft is a big investor owned bureaucracy, and it needs to persuade itself (and to a lesser extent) investors that it is "moving forward". Absent anything innovative, or even fixing some of the inadequacies in existing products, they focus on chasing fads of their own choosing. This latest one is going to be the usual case of spewing out a vast volume of code that contains unwanted, unrequested Windows 10 updates, that the world then ignores, save for a few fashion victims, the shills, and a minority of gamers.

You'll notice the paragraph above doesn't contain words like "customer", "market", or "demand". These have meaning but non significance in Microsoft's bubble. As a customer, Microsoft hold you and I in the same esteem that I (as a not-very-good gardener) hold slugs.

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Don’t buy that Surface, plead Surface cloners

Ledswinger
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Re: Open up!

There's a teardown of the Miix 510 that you'll find posted on the web, which is probably a good guide. Looks tolerably maintainable, except the RAM is soldered.

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Nest cracks out cheaper spin of its thermostat

Ledswinger
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Re: Savings?

In such a house it would make no sense to have the heat go off when you leave for the day.

Your energy loss is related to the delta T between your outer wall and the atmosphere. Ignoring hypothetically super-insulated houses, even buildings built to any modern building regs will have a clear and measurable heat loss. The thermal inertia of a property is a red herring because that only affects the warm up/cool down times, and has very little bearing on the the rate of heat loss. So you need to minimise the temperature difference OVER TIME. That means insulating to the most economical level, and not leaving the house heated when nobody needs it. Sorry if this doesn't fit your view, but unless you can change the laws of physics, that's how it is.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Colour me surprised

That puzzled me too. I can buy that it's more efficient or has more features, but I don't see how it can be easier to use...

They don't mean compared to a simple dumb dial thermostat, they mean something with a credible degree of programmability to it, and to a considerable extent they include the (usually separate) heating timer in this comparison, because with a properly programmeable 'stat it functions as a timer.

I've had a programmeable stat on my wall for two decades now. It works very well, but Nest and the commentators are correct - it looks dull as ditchwater, its user interface is a crime against useability, and it doesn't have any learning, smart or remote management capability. OTOH it has a simple two or three wire connection and can very easily replace a dumb stat without needing extra power or data connections, and therefore cannot be hacked or spew my usage back to some data-hog.

And you can get a non-smart programmeable stat for half or even a quarter the price of the new "cheap" Nest,

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China: Cute Hyperloop Elon, now watch how it's really done

Ledswinger
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Re: The thing that most disappointed me at the last election..

Why? The wastrels of Parliament are already promising to throw hundreds of billions of quid at HS2, HS3, Crossrail 2, Hinkley Point (and a range of other hoped for nuclear power plants), supporting £16bn a year on housebuilding, not to mention about £15bn on smart meters, several tens of billions on roads, a billion on the Northern Line extension etc etc.

In the period 2016-2021, there's about £300bn of UK infrastructure investment planned, see the House of Commons Library briefing paper 6594, dated 2 March 2017 - the punchline table is bottom of page 15. Even if you wanted to do more, the country doesn't have the capacity to do any more, and there's a question mark over the capability to deliver that £300bn.

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Chinese smartphone cable-maker chucks sueball at Apple

Ledswinger
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Re: Beijing Intellectual Property Court

how can the Beijing Intellectual Property Court even be a thing?

I think you're being a little unfair there. All developing and fast growing economies (since forever) have played fast and loose with other countries' IP (including the land formerly known as the land of the free). Over time these emergent economies start to amass their own stash of home grown IP, and progressively they move towards a system of respect for other people's IP.

In China there isn't a level playing field for IP, and won't be for years to come - on the other hand things are changing slowly, and we might want to be grateful for that.

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LG teases us with svelte V30 but refuses to say if it's coming to Blighty

Ledswinger
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I've sometimes checked the bands and frequencies these cheap devices work on and it covers seemingly all bases in the UK - or am I missing something?

If you're buying a grey import, then you're taking a small risk. My new grey import phablet works fine including 4G, although apparently if you buy the wrong version you might find your device doesn't supprt UK 4G/LTE bands (good article by Techadvisor on how to tell if your phone will work with UK 4G), so I'd say do your research, make sure you can find a credible review of the device, buy carefully. Be aware that for these items headphones are not often supplied, and the supplied charger may not be a UK spec item - you might get the "luxury" of a cheapo UK adaptor. I think I'm making it sound riskier and more complicated than it is, BTW.

You mention £89 - if you make sure the purchase is for over £100, pay with credit card, and then you could claim the money back from the card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (in the event of problems and the vendor won't help).

With many Gearbest items, some are UK warehoused, most aren't, but there's also some small time bulk importers who resell the same items within the UK often via Ebay. That means you pay a slightly higher price, but the phone is despatched to you from the UK (so quicker), the transaction is covered by UK consumer law, the Ebay guarantees may be easier to enforce, and also you won't have to factor in the probable import duties when buying from a non-EU vendor. Some of the Ebay traders will also do the UK setup of the device, which is a small but pleasant convenience.

All in, go for it. If you haven't dabbled in this market and buy wisely, there's some interesting, good value and decent quality kit that makes you wonder why the Western markets are so obsessed by Apple, Samsung (and the Sonys, HTCs, LGs of this world).

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Ledswinger
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Re: Shape of things to come

I'm sure you can purchase add-on somewhere online for the first couple!

Not for the V30. It was last year's LG G5 that allowed for modular add ons. My attempt to crowdfund a mobile sucker-off was successful, but I absconded with the money, so you won't be seeing one of those anytime soon.

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Ledswinger
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Re: So £x100 for a phone. Battery fails, you're f**ked.

when their precious iPhone needs a battery change

Real Apple fans won't keep the phone long enough to need to change the battery.

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Ledswinger
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I'm gonna have to pick up an armful of older v20s and eek them out for years to come :/

I've finally come to terms with my "non-removeable battery rage", and accepted that they've gone, and they aren't coming back. However, when you start HAVING to think that a phone is a two-or-three year life product, it raises the question of why anybody would pay £450-£700 for upper mid range and flagship products. With few makers supporting devices older than two years anyway, thinking of keeping a phone longer than that starts to add extra risks, and you've got all the wear and tear that a well used phone is subject to. I hate to admit it, but maybe the makers were right to abandon user-replaceable batteries.

Because of this, I've just traded out of a decade of Samsung loyalty, and like the commentard above, bought a Xiaomi. Mine's a Redmi Note 4X, and for £150 I'm absolutely delighted. Sure, its not an S8 or iPhone 7 in every detail, but it's looks and feels impressive, an easy match in my book for last year's flagships in terms of the user experience, but YMMV. It's running Android 7, but if there's no updates ever, well, it was £150. If stolen or lost, well, it was £150. And in many ways, its nice having a "minority interest" phone, although that's only true in Europe, since Xiaomi are one of the top four phone brands in China.

Returning to the V30, its interesting to note that LG are trying to differentiate themselves on audio quality and optics. Exactly like the new Nokia brand devices. Sony are likely to do something similar if they haven't already - and suddenly those USPs lose their uniqueness. And with an estimated list price tag of €900, the V30 is just another high spec, short lived device with a (UK street) price likely to be around £700. I want good value, and spending the price of a useable second hand car on a phone....well, I can't do it.

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Police deny Notting Hill Carnival face recog tech led to wrongful arrest

Ledswinger
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Targeting a festival of black culture ...

Whilst I'm no fan of snake-oil technologies like facial recognition, I think you'll find that the police weren't "targeting the festival", but were in fact trying to maintain law and order at an event with a very long and very poor history for criminals trying to take advantage of the event, including selling and using drugs, theft, various assault and disorder offences, criminal damage, possession of weapons, and what looks like a strongly rising trend of sex offences.

Maybe you'd rather Plod weren't their at all?

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How does Apple chief Tim Cook's package look now? Like $89m

Ledswinger
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Okay, I need to pick you up on this. You're rating innovators over good managers, regardless of the dollar value they bring.

No, you're making that assumption. And you're ignoring the concept of leadership that is very different to managing. Cook probably is a good manager - ticks all the boxes, doesn't scream at the employees, sets realistic targets, all corporate, corporate, corporate. I know that, I work in that world, and I'm PART OF THAT WORLD. I don't innovate, I don't lead, I'm part of a corporate team that manage, and "managers" are effectively the follow up crew who are the stewards of the assets created by innovators, and the organisations fashioned by leaders. I have known and worked with many UK large company directors, and there's barely a single leader amongst them. Some good managers, some bad managers, many mediocre, but few leaders, no innovators. The leaders don't last in the corporate world because the profile of leadership doesn't tick the boxes of the corporate world, and the innovators don't stay because they are actively held back by corporate management.

Structuring a supply chain is corporate. It doesn't need leaders, it needs little real innovation - all about contracts, KPIs, and good organisation. Apple's market success is all about brand, and about product. All the rest, everything that Cook is good at is simply a hygiene factor (there's other markets where supply chain is a critical success factor, but not for Apple - Apple customers will wait, if they have to) . Arguably the current strength of Apple's bottom line is down to the lack of clear, credible product challenge in the high-margin premium segments (for which nobody in Apple can take any credit), and the bit of Apple that can take some credit is the marketing department, who have very capably supported some good yet lacklustre products since SJ shuffled off his mortal coil. Spending more on R&D is hardly a good thing, when there's so little to show for it. I think Cook feels pressured on the innovation side, and has been throwing more at R&D, hoping that something will turn up. That won't work unless Apple can back the mavericks, which I doubt. Remember how Motorola only came out with the V3 because the people doing it kept it secret from the rest of the company? But Motorola wouldn't learn, and thus have been sold on twice (Lenovo appear to be doing a good job, so far). Likewise Nokia, who a decade ago were fighting it out with Apple is THE phone company - where did their R&D investment get them?

So, perhaps you should have some courtesy for commentards who have considerable experience in managing large complex organisations in multiple sectors, and can make a fair and reasoned judgement on the performance of other companies?

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Ledswinger
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Surely they outperformed the bottom two-thirds?

The great thing about numbers is that they are so remarkably flexible. I suppose the unfortunate thing is that Cook is trousering almost $100m for being very ordinary. I'm not a Steve Jobs enthusiast, but he did stuff that kept Apple out in front within its niches, whereas Cook has presided over, not quite mediocrity, but a lack of genuine innovation. Maybe Jobs himself would have had writer's block, and wouldn't have done any different, but the company under Cook appears to be coasting. You can buy a decent phone of broadly similar spec to the latest iPhone 7 for about £150 - and Apple are still charging about £600. Sales are holding up, so why does Cook need to worry? In the short term he's good, Apple customers are mostly habitual, they upgrade religiously to each new model, they pay the Apple tax without complaint. But as the technology commoditises, the alternatives are getting better much faster than the top end offerings from Apple and Samsung. So what's happening here is that Cook is betting his entire company on the inertia of his customers, and upon iTunes.

Is placing that bet really something he should be paid for at all?

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NYPD head of IT doubles down on Windows smartphone idiocy

Ledswinger
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Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Was Microsoft really so desperate they made an offer to not only provide free Windows Phones, but buy 36K competitor phones in two years? Something about that sounds fishy.

I'm not so sure. Go back three years or so, and Slurp were indeed desperate to get traction in the enterprise market with their phones. At that point they still believed they'd be able to carve out a lucrative share of the phone market as the mythical "third ecosystem", but actual sales figures were poor. I suspect they'd have been sufficiently keen to win the NYPD contract that giving the phones away for free was seen as a good deal for Microsoft - and likewise the "buy the next one for you" promise. The $15-25m cost is chump change for MS, and they'd have hoped other police forces and public bodies would follow the NYPD lead, using the logic "if it's good enough for NYPD..."

Of course, what's actually happened is that it's all blown up in Microsoft's face, and all they've got to show for giving away the phones is some very potent brand damage for Windows Phone.

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US Navy develops underwater wireless battery-charging tech

Ledswinger
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Re: "From the headline..going to use chemistry based on sea water to charge itself."

Unfortunately they are single shot and can't be recharged.

In context that wouldn't matter. If the undersea drones that USN are thinking of could be powered by an ultra long-life seawater battery, then it doesn't matter that it periodically has to have the battery switched out - if the frequency of that is much lower than recharging a rechargeable battery.

The use in torpedoes implies relatively short operating life, and high power output if driving the motor, but whether that is endemic to seawater batteries I don't know.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Even in a sea of chemicals...

So you would need something to react with the seawater, then to replenish this.

The USN (and I'm sure others) did research a long time ago on batteries that used seawater as the electrolyte, in which case I'd assume the anode was sacrificed (and the cathode, eventually). Whilst you might assume that people have considered these, I suspect that the equipment suppliers use industrially available solutions based on lithium simply because that's what they can easily buy, and thus the USN have to recharge the things.

Perhaps a chemist could give us a view on the energy density and implied endurance of a seawater battery? If the endurance is a few hours, then there's no benefit over rechargeable sealed batteries, if you could get weeks out of it, then it becomes more interesting.

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We're not the 'world leader' in electric cars, Nissan insists

Ledswinger
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Re: Grammatical pedantry aside...

How are the Government going to claw back the BILLIONS that they will lose on fuel duty?

Road pricing. Search on that term, adding "Department for Transport" and you'll pull up all the made-up feasibility studies they've paid to have done. The great thing for government is that this will require detailed recording of everybody's movements, so loads and loads of data, fantastic snooping opportunities. The "ecall" chip in all cars from next year will mean all new cars have both GPS and mobile data capabilities whether you want them or not, and then despite the assurances that ecall wouldn't have any scope creep, suddenly it will be used to keep tabs on everybody. Any doubts over GPS accuracy will be ignored, and as is usual with public sector data-harvesting, it'll be possible for any numpty to interrogate regardless of real need, the data will be retained forever, and there will be sod all data protection.

Central to the "benefits" of road pricing is the opportunity to charge more at times of congestion, and thus pretend that traffic will magically self-optimise. The reality is that congestion occurs because at those times and locations, most of us have fuck-all choice. It will however, be effective at pricing the poor off the roads - a bit like the "congestion charge" in London.

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Chrome wants to remember which Websites to silence

Ledswinger
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Re: No text

Increasingly I find the BBC carries features that have no accompanying text. So much for accessibility

For the BBC, accessibility falls into the same category as diversity, equality, political bias, paying excessive salaries etc. All areas where the Beeb wring their hands endlessly, and accuse other institutions of failings, but believing these rules don't apply to them.

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Trump-hating Iranian is the new Uber CEO

Ledswinger
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Re: $95m @anothercynic

chances are that the options won't vest, and he won't be any the richer

I'm sure that's correct, but why is he walking away from $95m that if he simply keeps his arse in the big chair at Expedia, is all but banked? The curse of Uber shows that he's taking a very high risk job, in a company that doesn't appear to want to change, and has a huge list of really big problems to address. So even if they promise him $200m, that's just a promise without certainty.

I think I'm out-cynicing you today, because I think the man leapt before he could be pushed. Expedia's stock performance has been very good, but not sector leading, but I'm wondering if he knew something that outsiders don't, or if there's a boardroom coup in the offing (which rarely have much to do with corporate performance).

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SAP point-of-sale systems were totally hackable with $25 kit

Ledswinger
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most of these code issues could be avoided from the start with better planning, code review and paying programmers

The bigger code houses work in two ways - offshore new or maintenance coding to anywhere willing to write code for peanuts, or more commonly they buy other companies, and Borg the code into their ERP suite. Not sure which applied to SAP's POS, although I note SAP bought Canadian POS house Triversity back in 2005.

The problem with the purchased companies is that these were (at the time) mostly smaller, slow growing companies. The code was built to work at a basic level of functionality, often by a cash starved gang of five or six developers operating in a small shed, and shovelled out the door. By the time the big ERP house buys the company, it is a package of customer accounts with high switching cost (ready to be milked) and this sticky tarball of code. The ERP houses (not just SAP, Oracle, Infor, Epicor and others) get rid of all the acquired company staff. Usually quickly, sometimes slowly, but it always happens, and so there's this blob of code, for which some designs and documentation exist, but which soon nobody in the big ERP house understands. They don't know the design logic, the botches and bodges, the workarounds, they don't understand any commenting unless it is written in the English of a ten year old, they don't know WHY the code is the way it is. Factor in that doing proper error and pen-testing is expensive, and that proactively maintaining code is also expensive, and the big ERP house has no incentive to find all the holes and fix all this legacy code, other than the initial makeover to bolt it into the Frankenstein core ERP suite.

Obviously if something nasty crops up in the public domain, big ERP leap into action like a greased mammoth to avoid commercial or legal problems, But that's when they hand it all over to cheap code monkeys in developing countries, and hope for the best. Within months they've solved the original problem, and probably added a whole host more latent problems through low quality code.

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China to identify commentards with real‑name policy

Ledswinger
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Re: Scanning Utility bills.

Anywhere that has requested ID from me have been quite happy to take my printed bills as proof of address.

Home printed or mailed-out, it's quite bizarre that a decade or two after high quality cameras, scanners and printers became cheaply available, flunkies all over the globe take a sheet of paper purporting to be a utility bill as proof of anything.

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'Driverless' lorry platoons will soon be on a motorway near you

Ledswinger
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Re: Positive externality

Iff it reduces congestion, it will benefit other road users, as well as reducing spending on building and widening roads.

If you watch trucks, you'll find they already moving in pods, because the better truck drivers know there's no time saving in overtaking, but lots more stress, and by slipstreaming they reduce their fuel use. You'll see a few tightwad car drivers doing the same - tucking in behind a briskly moving high HGV, and you'll get about 33% better fuel economy, at the risk of more stone chips.

So formalising the existing slipstreaming of trucks adds a lot of complexity, for bugger all real world advantage. Typical of the ideas of climate-saving politicians.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Who pays?

There's no advantage to truck makers - the additional sales price will be offset by additional complexity and warranty costs, possibly plus higher liability insurance. The claimed fuel savings could benefit customers, but would again be offset by the costs of the additional kit, so for the small savings that are likely, neither truck makers nor customers really want the technology enough to pay for it. Note as well that the first truck in the convoy males zero savings. How will that work with multiple operators - the savings will all disappear if you keep rotating the vehicles?

As usual, a stupid idea, picked as a winner by government bureaucrats and idiot politicians.

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Biometrics watchdog breaks cover, slams UK cops over facial recog

Ledswinger
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Business As Usual

Prof Miles might as well save his breath, the police will do what they want, because there is no oversight.

As always, ACPO continue to do their own unaccountable thing, like they have done with the ever-expanding ANPR system. I assume most commentards have seen how the ANPR units have been spreading like a fungus of late, with low profile units mounted on streetlights. Expect facial recognition software upgrades on those as soon as the makers can price it up.

It's to protect the children, you understand?

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Fancy talking to SAP about your indirect licensing concerns? Straw poll says no

Ledswinger
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"and it's clear to me that SAP really want to deal with this in a fair and reasonable way,"

Then don't post AC. Put your name to that bilge, and we can judge you by your previous posting credibility.

IM very HO, SAP may well be a bunch of rapacious bastards, ruthlessly exploiting the stranglehold they have on their customers' business, as the Diageo case might imply. But perhaps I'm wrong.

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IT worker used access privs to steal £1m from Scottish city council

Ledswinger
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"Even if it's only for the last payment, and you immediately dissolve it, that will stop most accountants from looking too closely at the previous payments"

I'm getting a bit worried about you, EveryTime. Is there anything you need to 'fess up?

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Ledswinger
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Seizing his pension?

How does that help the world? On the basis that he's 52 and got five years, he won't work again for the next few years, and because he's got more than four years, the conviction will never become "spent" in disclosure terms.

Realistically, he's never going to work again in anything other than a very junior position with a very forgiving employer. Or more likely, he's never going to work again. Ignoring whether he deserves it, my point is simply that one way or another the tax payer pays for his retirement, so seizing his pension merely means the welfare pot pays for his retirement.

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So what's in the new Windows Insider build? Bug fixes, an AR goof-around, and a font

Ledswinger
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Re: And when ?

Which is why you have to accept that after every update you're going to have to use ShutUp10 from those fine fellows at O&O.

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Fewer than half GCSE computing students got a B or higher this year

Ledswinger
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Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

Isn't C supposed to be average?

Depends what you're trying to measure. In my view exam scores shouldn't be set to deliver a normal distribution across each year's cohort. In my opinion, that's very poor thinking, from academics who put their own "let's select the top 5%" interests above the practical needs of employers.

The most important thing for employers is that the grades should represent the same thing year on year, that individual "X" has achieved a level of competence "N". If improved teaching (or merely state schools aping any "unfair" practices of independent schools) results in rising average grades or changing distribution, that should be a good thing, not a reason for Daily Fail teeth gnashing. Look at the damage that Smeagol Gove has caused in trying to being back the days of Tom Brown, and everything resting on final exams. Obviously the man's been scarred by being a Scottish Tory, and the intellectual inferiority of having a degree in English.

Now, many will posit that exams ARE easier, and that a B in CompSci isn't worth the paper its written on, but both are separate questions to the distribution of results, and to the fact that improvements SHOULD occur from greater transparency, adoption of best practices, and culling of the weakest teachers.

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Cybersecurity world faces 'chronic shortage' of qualified staff

Ledswinger
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Re: So what is the solution?

PAY THEM WITH MONEY.

Actually, that doesn't solve the problem of a current and worsening skills shortage, all it does is raise your payroll costs. How quickly can we train ITSec specialists, and give them the necessary experience? I'm guessing we're talking years for good people, because the context, underlying technology and business needs have to be understood, and then IT security is a skill set built onto that, and you need experience, not just training.

Employers can stick their heads in the sand, or they can put in place long term training, development and retention programmes, which will inevitably require some tie in. Employees don't like the tie-ins, but otherwise it'll just be musical chairs, with the most disloyal employees paid most, and the higher pay encouraging people to jump ship. In the UK, I'd offer a fully funded degree apprenticeship (perhaps extending to an MSc) so that the employees are heavily incentivised to stay with the company.

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Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

Ledswinger
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Re: Where?

No they didn't, spying is not 'innocent',

I think you're missing my meaning here. What the law or international agreements say has no meaning unless people abide by it regardless, or you can enforce it.

The point I was making was that nobody intended to comply with the rules on either side, and if you can get away with it, you do it. Even after the Powers incident, the US continued in the US case with the SR-71. In the era of electronic warfare, all sides aim for false flags and plausible deniability, so this continues unabated.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Why not just plant schrapnel in Satellite orbits?

Now - would the world sanction nuclear retaliation for such a nerdy but essentially non-nuclear attack..? Interesting dilemma.

China and Russia have space programmes and their own satellites. They wouldn't tolerate such a behaviour, and (unlike the US) they have the will to use special forces capability to go in and neutralise Fat Boy Kim and his weapons programme if needed. FBK knows that without Chinese protection, he'll be hanging from a lamp post, so he won't do anything to annoy the Chinese. Chinese sanctions to date are merely for show to the wider international community, and being China there's no way of knowing if they actually enforce the sanctions, so I don't read anything into those for the Norks, other than a message that FBK can annoy the Yanks, but will be clobbered if he threatens or embarrasses Beijing. And rather than nuke the Norks, China would merely want regime change if FBK gets out of hand - that's why FBK assassinated his own brother, and many family members have been executed - FBK thinks that he's less likley to be replaced if he kills all the obvious candidates.

I think that ultimately that's how this pans out, unless FBK quickly backs down. If he doesn't thing escalate, FBK becomes too dangerous to Beijing. So Chinese special forces and ethnic Korean divisions go in and kill all the current senior Nork leaders, at the same time as neutralising the nuclear weapons sites. Then China either introduces a puppet government, or declare Nork territory as a Chinese region. I think on balance I'd expect the absorbtion of Norkea into China, since in international law, possession is 10/10ths of the law if you're hard enough to hold what you've stolen, as Israel or Russia have shown (and many other countries before them). And that would frighten Vietnam into conceding the South China Sea to Beijing.

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Paris nightclub red-faced after booze-for-boobs offer exposed

Ledswinger
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Sounds more like a one-for-two offer to me.

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