* Posts by SImon Hobson

2537 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

Japan taps industry to build safer, more secure nuclear energy future

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: The horse has bolted...

Solar, wind and geothermal are mature technologies already undercutting nuclear, and they're becoming more economical by the day.

OK, get back to me when you have costings for solar and wind which include catering for when the wind doesn't blow and the sun isn't shining. The reason they are cheap, while other sources have become more expensive, is because they have externalised the costs of intermittency to "someone else".

To put it in perspective. Realistically, you will need storage for more or less maximum demand for a couple of weeks - Europe wide.

Near me, they built a battery storage facility. I haven't seen a figure as the many millions included other things - but "£ millions" bought a storage system that has the capacity of a rounding error compared to typical grid loads, for just 1/2 hour.

Before you call male bovine manure, just cast your mind back to the end of 2010. In Dec 2010 we had a prolonged static high pressure system that meant cold days and even colder nights - people like British Gas offering boiler maintenance contracts couldn't cope with the problems caused by frozen condensate drains. While we had bright days, it was low sun so not really a good angle for a lot of production, and days were short anyway. But we also had no wind.

OK, we don't have such widespread calm spells all that often, but we do get them. Unless you plan for them, then the plan is fairly simple - when the wind and solar aren't working, the lights go out and people freeze to death. If you thought "smart" meters were to improve management of the network, you are only half right - the primary function is to control demand, firstly by pricing the poor offline, and if that's not enough, by implementing rolling blackouts like we had in the 70s. Of course, back in the 70s we still (mostly) had a clue how to carry on without lecky - these days there's so much that doesn't work without lecky that I think most people would struggle.

Arm founder says the UK has no chance of tech sovereignty

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Re: Not just tech

German reliance on Russian fuel wasn't too clever with hindsight.

As well as the comments already made, that by lowering costs it allowed their industry to be competitive, it caused another effect that is compounding the problems they now face. Because they had seemingly secure supplies of cheap energy, it meant that the anti-nuclear lobby didn't need to push hard to get Germany to ditch nuclear. Had they had the foresight to realise that diverse energy supplies are a good thing, they'd have kept their nukes and wouldn't be in such a bad situation now.

It's a country scale version of tidying up at home. I've found that if I tidy up and actually throw anything away - I'll find out shortly afterwards that I have a use for that recently disposed of thing !

UN's ITU election may spell the end of our open internet

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Re: Who's paying the piper?

Indeed. But whenever it's come up in the past, I've observed the same fundamental problem.

Suppose I advertise a route - it's possible for the immediate neighbours to (for example) check in a registry database to see that I am indeed the "owner" of that IP block. Sounds reasonably simple - and what every ISP should be doing with customers taking part in global BGP.

But what about the neighbours to those neighbours ? My immediate neighbours also need to advertise my route(s) to their neighbours, having added on the path cost they have to reach me. And those neighbours of neighbours have to advertise it to their neighbours, and so on. For completeness for those who don't know how it works, at each node it may well receive multiple route advertisements to me - it will pick the one with the lowest total path cost and ignore the rest. Over time, each node will learn "the best" route to me - which may change if (e.g.) a link or router goes down or comes up somewhere. See also Dijkstra's Algorithm.

For my route to work, it has to reach all the other internet routers - so a large number of routers, an arbitrary distance (in network cost terms) away. I can't see any security system that could scale to internet scale which can tell any router if its immediate neighbour is simply passing on my route - or is some nefarious actor trying to intercept my traffic.

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Re: Who's paying the piper?

Actually, there isn't really such a master database.

AIUI, there are five registries which tie blocks of IP addresses to organisations via AS numbers. An AS is an Autonomous System - put simply, consider it a bubble within which the owner can do their own thing routing wise, and with one or more points where it connects to "other systems". And there are a lot of these ASs. Now you could argue that these five registries could be your central points of control, but in practice I suspect that if one of them were subverted in such a way, there could be moves to replace it with something not subverted - though there are technical issues there in terms of keeping everything in sync so you don't get two organisations claiming the same IP block. But they do not have the power to prevent a route being advertised anyway.

Each AS advertises the IPs within it using a routing protocol called BGP4 (Border Gateway Protocol) - so each of its neighbours knows about those IPs. All the routers running the internet exchange information via BGP, so those IPs in an AS will eventually find their way into each router - even if it's 10 or 20 hops away. Yes, it is a MASSIVE table.

But, there is a problem here in that BGP relies on honesty - each router is expected to be honest about what routes it knows. This does break down from time to time - sometimes accidentally, sometimes maliciously.

There was a case some years ago where some small ISP somewhere accidentally published a route that sent all internet traffic through it. Needless to say, they couldn't handle the traffic so it ended up going in the bit bucket and the internet started to disappear (a bit like Wesley Crusher's accidental warp bubble making the universe disappear for those within it). And as mentioned above, when a change is made, it doesn't replicate to the entire internet instantly, so when they fixed it, it was still a few hours before everything got back to normal.

And there have been cases where "unusual" routes appeared - sending certain traffic via countries with questionable motives.

A third misuse I've read about involves criminals finding unused blocks of addresses, temporarily claiming them via BGP - and then using their "clean" reputation to make it easier to send spam.

I've not been following development, but I believe there have been efforts to add some security to BGP - but I think that's difficult given that for every AS to know about every other AS, it has no choice but to accept routing information from it's direct neighbours which will include information about routes many hops away.

Consolidation looms for UK broadband providers

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Re: Yeah but...

Are you sure it's half duplex ?

There are full duplex systems that use one fibre - using different frequencies (light colour) for the down and upstream link. In reality, it's just an extension of using frequency division multiplexing to run multiple subscribers on one fibre which is how the OpenRetch FTTP (not FTTPoD) works.

California to phase out gas furnaces, water heaters by 2030

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Re: Nukin' it J-Style

Structures built of cement, stone, or masonry typically fare extremely-poorly during earthquakes

Let me correct that for you, "Structures not designed to cope with earthquakes typically fare extremely-poorly during earthquakes". it's actually fairly easy to design and build a structure that will cope with an earthquake - it's actually done all the time but you don't tend to hear about them as "nothing happened" isn't generally newsworthy.

Dealing with it might involve, for example, laying a bed of gravel, and then building your strong structure on top of it. In a seismic event, the gravel can fluidise, the structure will float about a bit, and apart from possibly ending up "not as level as it was built" it will still be standing and fully intact. I recall, from watching a documentary about it, that a bridge somewhere in Europe had it's piers supported in just that way because it's in a seismic zone.

Mozilla drags Microsoft, Google, Apple for obliterating any form of browser choice

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Re: The real problem is that there are only 2 mobile OSes.

The difference is that MS spent many years (illegally*) engineering a situation where running a corporate network comes down to a choice between :

Windows desktops hooked to Windows servers, via proprietary protocols/interfaces designed to prevent any components being replaced with third parties.


A world of pain and hard work.

As a result, the corporate world is more more less an MS closed shop, and it's still effectively impossible to use third party components - leading to a self perpetuating situation. Yes, there's things like SAMBA, but by the time MS were forced to providego away and document their protocols and provide them to the SAMBA team, the damage was done.

But in the mobile space that's very different. MS tried, but spectacularly failed, to get a stronghold in that.

* Yes, they were found guilty of various practices

Boeing to pay SEC $200m to settle charges it misled investors over 737 MAX safety

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Re: Normal misleading

They aren't making it go away - this piddling little amount is just one tiny little case which is ONLY about misleading investors.

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Re: Infesters

The clue is in the name - "investor".

In general, businesses need investors to lend them money so they can grow the business. The other side of that deal is that (if it all works out), the business then makes a profit and is able to return some of that to the investors through dividends (or the share price going up if the investors decides to sell).

Naturally, if investors can see that the business is being driven into the ground (perhaps poor choice of phrase given the company involved), then they may well decide that they don't want to leave their money there until it disappears in insolvency. So the natural thing to do is to sell your shareholding for whatever someone else (with perhaps different priorities and outlook) will give you for them.

Another thing to consider ... Have you ever put savings away in a savings account looking for a bit of interest ? Got a (non-state) pension ? If either of those is yes then YOU are an investor too ! In both of those cases, the financial institution(s) will be investing the money elsewhere in order to make a return to pay you interest or grow your pension.

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Re: "Reimbursing investors"

The SEC case is ONLY about statements made to investors and is not related to other cases. The SEC's remit is simply to ensure that where businesses make statements to investors & potential investors, that they are truthful and don't tell lies or cherry pick only the information that misleads investors into giving them money they might not otherwise have done.

Separately to that, there have been, and still are, other cases - which will probably include investigations as to whether any laws were actually broken by anyone (for example, whether false statements were made to the FAA in order to have the aircraft certified), who is liable to what compensation to whom, and so on.

Document Foundation starts charging €8.99 for 'free' LibreOffice

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Re: Does that mean there's will be a version with proper accent entry?

And don't forget that from the keyboard menu (Turn on "Show Input menu in menubar" ) from keyboard settings if it isn't there) you can select "Show Keyboard Viewer" to SEE in real-time what is available.

If I hold down Option/Alt/that character I'm not going to try and reproduce - then the accents are highlighted in red. So it's easy to see that if I type Option-n, that'll give me the "~", then then it'll show me the characters it can be placed over (ã, ñ, and õ).

Been a standard feature on Macs for ... must be decades now.

For more control, or if you need some of those not easily had direct from the keyboard, you can also choose Show Emoji & Symbols to search for any character by name.

NHS data platform procurement delayed for a second time

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Re: Standard large scale cod and chips procurement

Palantir should also be fined or barred from the process for taking key staff from the NHS which as a result creates gaps in the teams they are trying to replace.

I've upvoted you, but that bit they can't be fined or otherwise penalised for. It would be illegal to restrain who someone chooses to work for - and the best we can do is the current rule (mentioned in the article) that senior civil servants cannot whizz through the revolving door without at least a 6 month break. I vaguely recall it's a bit more nuanced, in that it's OK to go and do something unrelated to your CS role - but absolutely not, as appears to have happened here if we look past the 6 months spent with an "independent" third party, to go from the CS side of a project to the industry side.

Amazon allegedly punishes sellers who dare offer lower prices on other marketplaces

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Re: Amazon doing something useful?

Well I have one, and it has a number of advantages.

OK, it's a problem if you don't have mains within reach of your extension lead(s). But it's lighter than a petrol saw, easier to start (no pulling and pulling wondering if you've under or over done the priming), stops instantly (the one I have has a chain brake that more or less instantly stops the chain when the trigger is released, and I don't have to worry about the petrol going stale when I don't use it for long times. And it's a LOT quieter.

Software fees to make up 10% of John Deere's revenues by 2030

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Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

Was that in one of the B4RN areas ? I know they posted on their website about how it was happening - and in some places scuppered their plans as people did sign up with BT. Of course, once the threat of competition was gone, BT "forgot" about the promises the sales people had made about the "imminent" upgrades to FTTC.

IMO, BT manglement should have been hauled over the coals for that. Just shows how toothless our regulators (both Ofcon and CMA) are.

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Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

Ah, now you bring back memories

I used to be really "into" tractors - fanatical you might say. Till one ran over and killed my dog - that put me right off them.

Some years later, I was in a pub with the then girlfriend and (this'll date it) it was getting a bit smoky. So I pursed my lips and started sucking, and sucking, and sucking, until the smoke was gone. She was amazed and asked how I could do that. I said "it's quite easy when you're an ex tractor fan".

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Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

From what I've read, JD are following in the footsteps of Standard Oil, IBM, and a few others. If any other competitor looks like getting a foothold in an area, they'll use their size (and hence marketing budget) to target that area with special deals - thus making it a hard choice to pick another manufacturer. Additionally, a big issue is the support network - if a new comer comes along, they have quite a task to build the support network the farmers need before they'll buy that manufacturer's equipment.

Thus, once someone like JD had a dominant position, it's really hard for anyone else to break that dominance unless they have really deep pockets.

Added to that, it is a niche market. Manufacturers will sell millions of cars, vs thousands of tractors, and fewer combines. So there are few manufacturers in the market to start with.

Twilio more than decimates staff, CEO says it grew too fast

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Nice to see ...

Nice to see, for a change, someone who still remembers what "decimate" actually means. English teachers up and down the land can rejoice !

Written after another day of a technical course for ${day_job}, with a lecturer with a passion for correctness in technical/scientific communication.

Salesperson's tech dream delivered by ill-equipped consultant who charged for the inevitable fix

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Ah, the joys of email tennis - note, not quite autoresponder tennis.

Maaany years ago, I got my employer into email - back when this meant dial up (and POP and SMTP between clients and server), but we did have the heady speeds of 64kbps over ISDN. Initially we used a piece of software running on an old Mac, but after a while we started to outgrow it. So we setup a different server, and started migrating users - as this meant changing user settings, we did it one user at a time (there weren't many), setting an auto-forward from the old server to the new one for each user just before we changed their settings.

Then one day, email "slowed down somewhat". Both systems had the same email size limit - and someone had sent an email, to a migrated user, that was just under the limit. So when it got forwarded, it had grown to just over the limit and got bounced - but not before almost all of it had been transferred. IIRC, the bounce message included the original message - and this was also over the limit.

So the two servers were happily bouncing these large messages - and IIRC filling up the disk on the original server. Oh those heady days when 80M was huge !

Japan reverses course on post-Fukushima nuclear ban

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Re: Excellent news

And note that it's largely thanks to the fear mongers that we have a "waste" problem. Most of the "waste" from current plants would actually be considered fuel if the fear mongers hadn't scuppered the idea of building reactors to use it.

Apparently we have enough "waste" in storage in the UK to supply all our lecky needs for a century IF we put it through a fast breeder. So instead of using it to make power, and ending up with much less to deal with afterwards - we have created a much bigger problem which those same fear mongers use to show that nuclear is much worse than it actually is.

Google shuts off IoT Core services shortly after announcing API stability commitments

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Re: Once again, ahead of the curve

Which is an important point - it's not the "intelligent" devices that are the problem, it's the systems designed to require the use of a benevolent (or otherwise) vendor's systems to stay functioning, and the marketing driven fad for adding "with internet" to everything regardless fo whether it actually adds anything of value.

Meta iOS apps accused of injecting code into third-party websites

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Re: All part of the Fecalbook war against Apple

Perhaps an alternative would be to put a wrapper around the app (Apple does have to do certain steps to get it into the store) which puts up a huge full screen warning about potential privacy issues. So every time the user opens the App, they get informed that there's a privacy problem.

Meta can't afford to lose all Apple customers so wouldn't be able to pull the apps, and Apple wouldn't be losing users to Android (not many at least), as those that don't care can carry on.

Security needs to learn from the aviation biz to avoid crashing

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Re: Sadly, in the UK, no one is held responsible for software errors


Now the cat is out of the bag, there is a lot of information coming to light about who knew what and who ordered what. As I said, at the moment things seem to be working on dealing with the sub-postmasters who were wronged - but with all this evidence that's coming to light, my feeling is that things will change.

Perhaps TPTB might try and wriggle out of prosecutions, but I suspect there's a big enough group of wronged sub-postmasters, and people willing to take on the challenge, that private prosecutions could be in order.

But right now, it makes sense to sit back and let some of the detail emerge - and hence evidence of wrongdoing be shown - before starting that process off.

And when it does, I expect some people to be falling over themselves to testify - in order to save their own skins. A key things will be the techies involved who will certainly not want to be the scape goats for manglement - some have already testified that they told manglement about the problems and were forced to hush it up (as in, "speak up and never work in the industry again", sort of encouragement to keep quiet). Senior Fujitsu people will be keen to push as much blame as they can onto the Post Office, senior Post Office (of the day) people will be keen to push the blame onto Fujitsu - we've already seen Post Office people claim that they didn't know, while Fujitsu people have come up with evidence that they did. Similarly, senior people will be keen to say that juniors kept the facts from them, while those juniors have been happy to prove otherwise.

Given what's at stake, such proceedings can take a long time to grind their way through the system.

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Re: "The same needs to happen in security"

And secondly, software packages would become prohibitively expensive to cover the costs of all of the extra testing. And possibly a surcharge stuck on top for when they do get sued.


It IS possible to buy "safe" software, that's been developed according to rigorous methods and with oodles of formal testing. But I don't think many of us would be able to afford to buy it.

And that's the trade off - we get a lot of "good" software for, generally speaking, not a lot of money. But perhaps things are a bit too one sided as things stand - far cheaper to let the users find the bugs, and it shouldn't be.

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Re: "The same needs to happen in security"

Most EULA are invalid in law. Certainly, if tested in the UK by a consumer (rather than a business) then a lot of clauses would be automatically invalid and unenforceable - c.f. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations (UTCCR). That is why no case has ever made it to court - the vendor has always settled out of court as they do not want a precedent setting, much better for the proles to not know their rights.

Also, technically, any EULA that is not printed in full on the outside of the packaging is completely unenforceable - simply because for a contract to be formed, each side must know the terms of the contract before they enter into it. Therefore, if you buy some shrink-wrapped software, and don't like the EULA when it's presented during installation, you are entitled to take it back to the retailer for a full refund (contrary to their claims "but you've broken the seal").

With business to business transactions things are a bit murkier. There is a concept in contract law that a contract must be formed by a "meeting of minds". If there's a situation where you have the choice of accepting a contract or not being able to run a business, then the contract is open to challenge if it's very one-sided. With software that would be a grey area, because I don't think it would be possible to say that it's "impossible" to run a business without (say) Office 365.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Sadly, in the UK, no one is held responsible for software errors

But thankfully (though far too late), that is starting to unravel.

At the moment things are concentrated on compensation by way to overturning the conviction and paying compensation. I would be very very surprised if quietly in the background, all the evidence that's now coming to light won't be used against those who committed outright fraud and perjury. There's more popcorn quaffing scope in this story yet.

'I wonder what this cable does': How to tell thicknet from a thickhead

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Sort of similar story from somewhere I used to work.

I got a call from one of the managers that her computer had stopped working - more specifically, the terminal session to the main business system had "just stopped" responding. I took a wander down to her office, to find a visitor sat at her meeting desk - with a network cable plugged into the laptop.

The manager didn't need much comment on the lack of network cable in the back of her desktop to realise what the problem was.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Can't make my mind up if you've missed the joke icon or don't know what the terminator does.

In case it's the latter, whenever you send a signal down a cable - at any change in impedance there will be a reflection of some sort. An open ended cable is such a change in impedance, and will result in the signal bouncing off the end of the cable and flowing back up the cable. Thus every transmission ends up interfering with itself after a delay (twice the propagation time from the signal source to the end of the cable).

The terminator (in this case) is a simple resistor that matches the impedance of the cable and effectively just "swallows" the signal that would otherwise reflect.

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Re: Fun with RJ-45!

And you sit there wondering what possible technical reason could lead people to actually choose token ring

Perhaps the simple fact that it was faster than 10M ethernet (which was a common speed of the day) AND it would hold that speed when heavily loaded.

TR was 16Mbps IIRC, and because it was deterministic it would do 16Mbps regardless of how hard you tried to load it - all that happened if you tried to do too much was that everything had to queue a bit.

Back in those days, switched ethernet was a rarity - 10 and 100baseT were effectively just a twisted pair conversion of 10base2 (or 10base5) with all the same contention issues. If you search, you'll find that these max out (depending on the traffic mix) at about 40% of theoretical speed due to collisions, and if you try to push past that then throughput actually goes down. So with 10baseT your max throughput is around 4Mbps, with 100baseT it's around 40Mbps and if you push it then it goes down - with TR it's 16Mbps all the way regardless.

Also, planning was simpler with TR. In effect (IIRC), as long as you didn't create a cable loop then you just plug everything together and it'll work - in practical terms no limit on ring length, just on branch length as many of the hubs were active repeaters. With ethernet you had to follow the 5-4-3 rule - max 5 segments in total between any two nodes, max 4 repeaters, max of 3 segments populated (meaning that in a 10base2 or 10base5 network, some of your inter-repeater segments had to be point-point links and could not have any other nodes on them). And each segment had a max length (185m for 10base2, 500m for 10base5, 100m including patch leads for 10/100baseT) which could make large networks "interesting" to design unless you had an endless budget to allow fibre optics.

TR was, if you used the correct connectors, fairly idiot proof as well. Pull a plug out, and either the wall socket provides a loopback, or the hub at the other end detects the disconnected device and automatically bypasses that port.

There were two things that killed TR. Firstly, being a predominantly IBM system it was "reassuringly expensive" - basically nothing was cheap with TR. That alone was probably enough to kill it outside of certain markets. But also, the cable was quite bulky - less so that the '1/2" hosepipe' of 10base5 cable, but more so than the thinner 10base2, and even more so than the UTP starting to roll out for ethernet. Of course, with 10base2 or 5, you only needed one cable for multiple devices - but you had the potential for a simple fault to take out the entire network as described. And the cable was itself "reassuringly expensive".

I strongly suspect that had IBM (I assume it was IBM with the patents and licensing costs) been more astute, then TR could have won out. Until switches started replacing hubs in ethernet networks, there was really no technical reason for choosing ethernet (particularly 10/100baseT) other than cost.

And roll forward a few decades (now that make me feel old), and you can throw an ethernet network together with a pile of switches and short of having loops "it'll just work". No problems with the size of collision domains (which was the reason for the 5-4-3 rules). Kids today just don't know they're born ...

DoE digs up molten salt nuclear reactor tech, taps Los Alamos to lead the way back

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Re: Timing

Are we going to war with China (or China with us) or is China's combination of energy thirst, available funding and manpower in R&D and manufaturing big enough to pull it off without the requisite underlying military conflict?

My interpretation is the latter.

As I interpret how things have gone/are going, the ruling classes there see technology as the path to dominance. They've made a shedload of money off us from undercutting everyone else at mass production - effectively with slave labour pay and conditions. Lately they've been splashing the cash about - but they have a policy of technology transfer as a key part of big projects. Along the lines of "yeah, we'll help you out funding ${big_project}, but in return you need to transfer know-how to us". So that gets them the know how fairly quickly without having to start from scratch.

Then they have a "planning system" that's very different to ours. Over here, someone wants to build a nuclear power plant - masses of objections, protests, public enquiries, and years of delays. Over there, the ruling classes decide where and when it's going to be built, the locals accept that or ... disappear.

A few years ago I was at a talk, and it was described how they were in the process of throwing up a number of Westinghouse design plants - to a timeframe unthinkable over here. And it was expected that they'd achieve both the timescale and budget planned.

So largely I think it's a recognition of the benefits, plus the ability to make things happen.

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Re: REstart?

Not quite the same thing, but I've seen videos of a bit of plant being dismantled because something went wrong and the "stuff" set in the pipes. As the "stuff" was nuclear waste going through the vitrification process to render it immobile prior to storage, dismantling wasn't done by a couple of blokes in boiler suits.

It was interesting watching the plant, which wasn't designed for dismantling by remote manipulator, being taken apart by a remotely controlled vehicle with manipulator arm on it - taking things apart (with a power hacksaw at times), then dropping the bits in bins, and finally vacuuming up all the "dirt".

South Korean regulator worried Apple, Google, may be working around app store payment choice law

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Re: Never Used an App Store Yet

The issue of clutter is the unwanted junk installed by the manufacturer and not removable. As for installing other apps, I don't have many, but I have some that I use because they meet a need. That's the thing, if you have a need and there's an app to meet that need - why not use it ?

People just going nuts and filling the phone with all sorts of crap is a completely different issue and nothing to do with whether you are forced to use just the one store.

Pull jet fuel from thin air? We can do that, say scientists

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Ah, the "it works for me so there's no problem" response ?

Good for you if your local busses are wheelchair accessible - not all are, as you've mentioned, trains can be a problem, and most coaches that I've seen (heck, some coaches are a bit difficult for anyone who doesn't like steep stairs).

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Re: David MacKay..a book that showed how "easy" that is "Sustainable energy without the hot air"

It is not exactly science fiction to imagine a world where you can charge your car for little more than the price of the electricity

True, it's not science fiction - just economic fantasy for the foreseeable future.

Adding a charge socket to each parking space is a totally different proposition to putting power sockets in an office. In the office, you put multiple sockets, on multiple circuits, all from a fairly modest supply. True, it would fall over if everyone plugged in a fan heater at the same time - but that doesn't generally happen.

Charging points for cars are a different matter. Unless you really restrict the capacity, then you don't get many off a typical commercial office site supply. So you could find things restricted to maybe just 5A/car if everyone was doing the "charge at work, sell back overnight" trick - and for many that wouldn't even get them to the office and back, let alone leave them with excess to sell.

So now you're into massive site supplies - which come with "reassuringly expensive" costs, which would naturally get passed onto the car users. By the time you've paid the standing charges for the supply, the install and maintenance charges for the charging points, then the costs of the lecky, and then added the intermediary's markup for managing everything - it's not going to be cheap, to the point where a) it's not going to work to charge at the office during the day, and b) it'll put off adoption of EVs some more.

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Re: David MacKay..a book that showed how "easy" that is "Sustainable energy without the hot air"

If we all have EV cars, then we can use their batteries for the night, ie, Vehicle to Grid

Err, 'ang on a moment.

My usage, and that of many others is that we use our car in the morning to go to work - and park where we can't charge it (either at all, or economically). At the end of the day, we drive home again and plug in (well I don't as I don't have an EV, but I would be if I did). I am far from alone in that.

So a typical usage pattern is to need lecky overnight to charge the car.

For the idea of "we don't need to bother about grids storage, all the EV owners will do it" ignores the inconvenient issue that a significant proportion (probably majority) could not do this without "buying high, selling low" by charging away from home at stupid rates (to sell cheaply later) instead of charging at home which (other than free chargers which means someone else is paying) is the cheapest place to charge.

And it also ignores the effect on battery life of additional charge/discharge cycles - hence an additional cost in battery wear and tear, and sooner replacement costs or lower resale value*.

* A friend went to look at a car, plugged in his diagnostics, and it said the battery was on it's last legs. The cost of a replacement battery was about what the dealer was asking for the car. When he pointed this out, my friend was "asked to leave".

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What's the catch?

Unless I've missed something, there's also a requirement for hydrogen. [sarcasm]As we know, that's really cheap and easy to obtain in a zero carbon way[/sarcasm]

So until we have so much zero carbon lecky that we don't know what to do with it - and hence can use the surplus to make hydrogen - then the output of the process isn't actually zero (or even low) carbon.

There is a similar process available to make Methanol which with a few minor software tweaks (negligible cost if incorporated during design) and seal material changes (again zero cost if incorporated at the design stage) can be used in just about all existing petrol engine designs. Again, it's only viable if you have an abundant source of zero carbon hydrogen.

Incidentally, these processes can actually be made carbon negative. If the resulting hydrocarbons are used to make plastics, and at the end of the day these are then landfilled, you have locked up (for a very long time for many plastic) the embedded carbon.

But you still need the zero carbon hydrogen - more nukes anyone ?

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Because, in general disabled people are still able to drive - there are some quite ingenious aids for that. In the context of wheelchair users, that includes a roof-top storage "bin" that will deploy, winch your folded chair up when you've got into the driver's seat, and stow it - dispensing it back again at the other end.

Contrast that with (some) busses which might as well not exist as far as a wheelchair use is concerned as there's no way for then to get on and off.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

the roads offered a cheaper and/or more convenient means of transport.

The big problem with a train, and more so with flying, is that it will take you from where you don't want to start (station/airport) to somewhere you don't want to end up at (another station or airport).

Whereas my car will take me from outside my house (yes, I have off-street parking) to somewhere fairly close to where I want to go to. Obviously that will vary depending on where I want to go - fortunately, round here parking isn't the big problem it is in cities.

Busses are less of a problem in that - it's only a short walk to the end of our street where I could catch one, and I could be in town or at work fairly easily. But by the time it's been all around the houses, with all those stops, I could have driven and arrived in the time it takes me to get peed off with some antisocial lout I'd probably have to share the bus with.

One way Bitcoin miners can make money: Selling electricity back to Texas

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Nice power grid you got 'ere, Guv

We have something similar in the UK, except it works a little differently.

Here, a large consumer can opt for an interruptible tariff. They will pay less based on a requirement to turn down demand by a significant amount when asked to - such as if a large power station craps out and leaves an imbalance between supply and demand. When they are asked to reduce demand, a) they don't pay for what they don't use, and b) they get paid whatever was in their contract as compensation for the inconvenience caused.

There is also a mechanism for turning off generators if not needed - which because of the crazy subsidy "not a subsidy, no siree" rules means that we actually pay the windmill operators not to generate. That's happened in the past on particularly windy days when there's been more lekcy coming south from Scotland that the grid connections are rated for.

Sage accused of misselling perpetual licenses it knew would soon be obsolete

SImon Hobson Silver badge

I take it then you've never dealt with auditors. You stand a better chance of negotiating with terrorists.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Purely commercial, not technical decision

In the past I've done IT in businesses that use accounting software - and yes, every year (or sometimes more often) there's an update to reflect tax changes etc.

There is zero technical reason for doing this. It's clearly the Adobe model, where Sage have seen how well Adobe have done by supporting screwing over their customers - and decided (somewhat belatedly) to join in. Not just Adobe, but IIRC they were effectively the first - others have followed suit (I no longer run any MS software on my personal systems).

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Green energy

I'm not sure, but I think it was the university bods behind the Bang Goes the Theory" series did something along those lines to demonstrate how much energy we use - and waste - in a house. They set up a set house and moved a family of volunteers into it - without telling them exactly what the experiment was.

Meanwhile, in the warehouse next door, there were something like 100 bikes sat on generator rollers. The generators charged the batteries, and the inverter flattened the batteries to power the house. When they saw on the big screen that someone was going in the shower - "quick, more people, pedal faster". A few times the human power station lost and the house blacked out for a bit !

A character catastrophe for a joker working his last day

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Yes, the lockout system is well established and well known across all industry sectors - although not all older kit actually has facilities for lockout.

For the TL;DR version - basically you disable/turn off something, put a lock on it, and take the key with you while you are working. In theory, that physically prevents anyone from powering something up/starting it while you are inside not that it stops someone just taking a bolt cutter to the lock (which has happened).

I've had a few tales over the years.

The oldest goes back to when communicating with north sea rigs meant using tropospheric scatter - put a microwave transmitter on top of the east coast cliffs and put out lots of power so that some of it will scatter off the particles in the air and reach the rig over the horizon. Narrow peaks, but peak power measured in megawatts. One of these was being commissioned, and someone had to do some work inside the waveguide - and being before lockouts were a thing, all he could do was remove the fuses, hang up a sign, and take the fuses with him. While he's busy working, someone else comes along, ignores the signs, assumed some **** has stolen the fuses, and finds some spares in the back of his van. The guy in the waveguide realises what's happening and manages to get out, but not before the microwave energy has done to the vitreous humour in the eye what boiling an egg does to the white.

In another case, a friend of mine had a job to do fixing a machine in a Lancashire mill. The electrics were old and had no lockoff facility - so again he switched off and hung up a sign. Gets to the machine to find the power is on - goes back to the switchroom to find the sign on the floor and the switch on. After a few rounds of this, he switches off and hangs the sign, then stands behind the door - and very quickly another machine operator comes in, throws the sign on the floor, switches on the power, then finds himself on the floor after a well aimed punch. Turns out one supply fed several machines, and they were all on piece rate - so keeping going trumps anyone else's safety. The operator was escorted off the site and told not to come back, my mate was escorted off the site for his own safety !

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: hit the right button

Which is why, in any sensibly designed and implemented system, the "emergency stop" or "fill the room with extinguisher gas" buttons should be behind break glass of lift up covers.

Reminds me of a time when I was with a mate back when he did some rallying. Another competitor was just going through scrutineering as we arrived - and the scrutineer asked him to demonstrate the external emergency power off (battery disconnector) which is commonly a T-handle that when pulled will knock off the battery isolator inside. There's also often a similar T-handle that triggers the plumbed in fire extinguisher. At which point I suspect many are ahead of me here.

The labels were on the bonnet which was up, and he'd pulled the wrong handle. When we arrived, there was white foam running out the doors and dribbling on the floor - and the scrutineers wryly saying something along the lines fo "I don't think you meant to do that".

UK immigration systems delayed by extra Ukraine visa work

SImon Hobson Silver badge

OK, would the downvoter be kind enough to say what they think is wrong in the above ?

It's OK, you're entitled to your opinion, but I am interested to know what it is.

Microsoft Teams outage widens to take out M365 services, admin center

SImon Hobson Silver badge

I'd be looking at it more from the PoV that while I might not get anything out of it, I'd done my bit in terms of making it a problem for Sky when their engineerstechnicians screw up other people's systems. IN this case, by being just plain f'ing ignorant, the tech has caused problems for many people - and will suffer exactly zero comeback for being an ignorant sh*t.

But for that to change means that everyone with an issue like this needs to make it an issue for Sky - only then with Sky bother making it an issue for their technicians who pull this sort of stunt.

But then, I'm working towards a masters in the Grumpy Old Gits university.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

At which point, the action should be to send a large bill to Sky to cover both the cost of the call out and compensation for all the affected users.

I expect the management company won't have the gumption to do that, or the balls to follow up on it - and if they did, Sky would spend more effort finding excuses why "not my problem guv" than it would cost them to say "oops, sorry - hears a little something by way of an apology". Meanwhile, the clueless f'wit who thinks that's an OK thing to do will carry on with no comeback.

Smart thermostat swarms are straining the US grid

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: fully manual

Hmm, I'm trying to think of the mechanism for that being an explanation.

My experience when systems have lost some gas is that they reduce in cooling ability - but don't freeze up (seen it several times). In normal operation, hot compressed gas enters the condenser, is cooled, and at some point it starts condensing (at which point, it doesn't change temperature any more unless part of the condenser contains only liquid, where it can cool some more).

As refrigerant is lost, the quantity of liquid will reduce - and initially little will change WRT performance unless the system is already up against its limit of condensing gas due to the outdoor temperature. There would be a slight reduction in the part of the condenser which only contains liquid, and that would only make a small difference to the temperature of the liquid line back to the indoor unit. As long as there is still some liquid phase, then the system pressures would be barely affected.

At some point, there will no longer be enough refrigerant, and the liquid line will start to contain a mix of liquid and vapour. Here's the clever bit (one of the few bits I recall from doing this at university [cough] decades ago), while the volume flow rate through an orifice is higher for vapour than for liquid, the mass flow rate is lower. Thus a simple orifice or capillary tube can be self regulating - if there's vapour in the line, the mass flow rate reduces, so allowing the compressor to "catch up" (if it has the gas to do so).

So the mass flow rate has reduced, therefore so will the heat input needed to evaporate the liquid also reduce - hence the system will suck less heat out of the air, and the coil should run warmer.

[lightbulb moment]And now I see a mechanism for what you've observed. If the system is an old style on-off constant speed compressor, it may (depends on compressor design) draw down a lower pressure on the vapour side of the system. At a lower pressure, the liquid will boil off at a lower temperature, and part of the evaporator coil will therefore be at a lower temperature.

How that manifests will depend heavily on the design of the coil. In some designs it will allow that part to freeze up with the result that the refrigerant will need to move a little further along to boil off - and so the coil will slowly freeze up from one end. In other designs, while a little bit may freeze up, the already boiled off (and warmed up elsewhere in the coil) vapour will come back along a different loop and control the freezing.

A modern inverter design shouldn't have this problem at all as the compressor should run slower to maintain the same low pressure as the mass flow rate reduces - hence no change in the boiling point of the refrigerant.

Doesn't change the fact that fi the compressor fails to run, there's no way the system is going to freeze up because of that - it's far more likely that the compressor not running is a result of whatever else has caused the system to ice up.


I might add that A/C service engineers are (like service engineers in any other field) not averse to providing "interesting" ideas for why something isn't working. I once had a call from a client at a previous employer where the A/C in their server room wasn't working properly - it had all the symptoms of a lack of gas (turned on, didn't really cool much, then tripped). Bear in mind that it had been working fine for 2-3 years before the service engineer told the customer that "it can't possibly work in that room because it's not insulated and the heat input through the ceiling is over-powering the unit". There was actually insulation in the ceiling (I'd had to go through it when running network cables), and they'd been out to e builder's merchant and bought a roll of glass fibre to add to it. After a few days of this "it's not working, it used to work", "it can't possibly work because ..." to and fro I called the company and spoke to their service manager. I described the setup, the fact that it had been working for a couple of years, and the symptoms - and he instantly agreed that the diagnosis "didn't sound right". An hour later he called back to say they'd found the problem (a stuck reversing valve) and fixed it.

Disentangling the Debian derivatives: Which should you use?

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Devuan

Having looked at many of these shell scripts, one thing I would never describe them as is "simple".

A fair bit of that is not actually to do with init, but with other (related stuff). An init script can be just a couple of lines (I've done that occasionally). but some package maintainers do seem to enjoy making them somewhat more complicated than seems to be needed.

A systemd unit file, OTOH, is something I worked out how to do simply by looking at one at changing 2 lines.

As already pointed out, this is where systemd really screws you over. In effect, it's moved a chunk of those "complicated" scripts into a black box of compiled code that you can't fiddle with. I'd go further than suggesting it's like trying to diagnose a modern engine just by the warning light - more like trying to diagnose a modern engine when it craps out but doesn't even put any warning light on.

With a script you can put some judicious echo (and other) statements into the script and (for example) dump to state of the environment into a file together with some "I got here" messages which can allow you to peek inside the system at the time the problem is occurring. OK, that's not "shell scripting lesson one" standard, but it is doable for someone with fairly basic shell skills - and 100% better than a black box that "just doesn't work right".

But this whole unit files vs "complex" shell scripts debate is a bit bogus anyway. There are alternatives to SysVInit, and several are supported (to a greater or lesser degree so far) in Devuan - and from what I recall reading, at least one of those has a config setup similar to systemd unit files. One of the things Devuan offers is not just the ability to stick with SysVInit - but to use your init of choice (apart from SystemD - you have the choice to go back to Debian for that).

Browsers could face two regimes in Europe as UK law set to diverge from EU

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Quo Bono?

But on the other hand, I think it's fairly safe to assume that there will be some elements of the EU machinery who would be more than happy to find reasons to punish us for daring to leave their brave new world. Also, cutting off the USA would cause massive damage to the EU, while cutting off the UK - I suspect they would consider that a positive thing as it would probably persuade some to move their operations to the EU for an easy life.

So USA is big enough for them to work hard to find a plausible reason to allow data transfers to carry on for another few years until the courts declare that method invalid. The UK, "who cares".

CityFibre loses appeal against Openreach discounts for ISPs

SImon Hobson Silver badge

So CityFibre don't want to compete by offering their own discounts

Apart from the issues already mentioned (OpenRetch have the ability to cross subsidise from other revenue streams and are massive by comparison) it is much more subtle.

From my reading of the article, OR made a conditional discount based on the proportion of orders for fibre and copper lines. In other words, sell x% as fibre and you get a discount - though it's not clear exactly what that discount would be on or how widespread it might be.

So lets say that an ISP sells 1.5x% of its lines as fibre, but half of those are in a CityFibre area and they use CF for them. It's now only buying 0.75x% of its OR lines as fibre - so fails to get the discount from OR. Unless the cost from CF is sufficiently below that from OR, the ISP is now worse off than if they'd just bought all the fibre lines from OR.

So on the face of it, it does sound like OR designed the discount scheme so as to disadvantage altnets which by their nature have less coverage than OR has. That wider coverage isn't in itself an issue (after all, they've had a long time to build that up), but it is if you then abuse your position of a very dominant participant to distort the market in your favour.


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