* Posts by Martin an gof

2077 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

Soaring costs, inflation nurturing generation of 'quiet quitters' among under-30s

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Wrong!!

Because petrol or diesel is unchanged in price since before the pandemic?

I'm ignoring common costs - I am also having to deal with petrol and Diesel price rises, and have been for longer than most of my WfH colleagues.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "I had none of the savings that desk-based colleagues did"

Increased household bills as a result of WfH, I mean, what?

Yes, there are some increased costs particularly during winter when you might keep the heating on (though a modern thermostat has a very different concept of "off" and "on" than an older one does), but unless your commute is £2 each day on the bus I would humbly suggest that the money saved on the commute far outweighs the extra spent on electricity and gas when you WfH (a laptop plugged in and running at a constant 75W (which it probably won't be) uses 0.6kWh in an 8 hour day which even at today's inflated prices is less than 25p).

We shouldn't ignore the intangibles which can make for a much healthier lifestyle; the time savings as you say such as the ability to put the washing machine on during your lunchbreak, not wasting 45 minutes in the car at each end of the day (75 in my case), just "being there" so that when a child is off sick, it's no problem, and when the healthy kids get home from school they don't have to let themselves in to an empty house, if they need a shuttle down to Scouts or football you can "just do it" without having to leave work early and race home, and without having to catch-up next day in the office, because once you've dropped the sprog off at ballet you can go home and finish the day's work (the ultimate in flexitime), put the tea on, hang the washing out, etc.

(breathless)

As I said, I really, really don't begrudge those who can WfH. I'd hate it myself (though some of the above benefits would be nice) because I quite like the team of people I work with and I like my (partly) physical hands-on job. I just don't appreciate the moaning about returning to the office being a financial burden. So (cost of living increases aside) how did you manage before?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Wrong!!

Ok, point taken. It wasn't an actual "pay rise", it was an "increase in disposable income".

I'm not begrudging people who can WfH but it is equally as wrong to say that back to office mandates are a "pay cut" as saying that WfH is a "pay rise".

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Wrong!!

back to the office mandates (so that's another effective pay cut due to commuting costs).

While not disagreeing with the rest of your post, the above is simply not correct - long term.

Being allowed to work from home and thereby save commuting costs was an effective - and very large for some people - pay rise. Back-to-office mandates, many of which do not mandate 100% WftO anyway, is merely putting effective pay back to what it was before the WfH mandates. Working against that there is also the small - but not necessarily insignificant - increase in home bills as a result of WfH which WftO removes.

Some of us didn't get a choice. If I could have worked from home over the last two years I would probably have saved over £3,500 in Diesel, tyres, shorter time between servicing, parking, other wear-and-tear, but the nature of my job requires me to be on site, so I had none of the savings that desk-based colleagues did*.

M.

*not strictly 100% true as, because the building was essentially closed, we were on reduced shifts, so I wasn't commuting quite as often as "normal", but I was still commuting a lot more than others

Ethereum Merge signals end of GPU shortage, but not necessarily high prices

Martin an gof Silver badge

It's the whole lot though. Since AMD ditched their entire pre-Ryzen processor line, the cheapest AMD processor you can get is around the £90 mark (4-core Ryzen 3) and comes without built-in graphics so you have to buy a card, which is going to cost you a further £60 or so if you're willing to fit the cheapest. Add another £60 or so for a low-end motherboard and you're pushing £200 before you've considered RAM and any necessary peripherals. Five years or so ago I was building "good enough" machines all-in for £200, case, power supply, keyboard, mouse (not monitor) all included, based on an AMD A-series processor which worked plenty well enough for most "normal" uses...

Intel has some cheaper processors, but they're pretty weedy by all accounts and you (mostly) still need the graphics card.

M.

Draft EU AI Act regulations could have a chilling effect on open source software

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Hindsight

Victorian shysters who added 'Electric', or 'Magnetic' to their products

Or 'Radium', 'radioactive', 'X-ray' etc. slightly later.

M.

Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth II – Britain's first high-tech monarch

Martin an gof Silver badge
Coat

Re: ta ta Liz

I hoped he'd avoid Charles, but "Arthur" is probably a bit silly, "George" steals the limelight from the grandson, and "Philip" maybe a bit too... Spanish?

M.

G7 countries beat UK in worldwide broadband speed test again

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: What is "enough"?

The practical issue is that running FTTP to the truly remote locations currently abandoned at sub-5meg speeds is really expensive

While "novel 4/5G" solutions are a possible answer, another is to DIY as enterprising (and not un-wealthy) villagers near Cardiff did. B4RN has done this in other areas and I dare say other organisations are working on it too, but there is a lot of money to raise before you can think of laying any fibre.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "I would absolutely prioritise getting a 50/10Mbps"

As VDSL is eminently adjustable*, I've often wondered why no-one - not even the "boutique" ISPs such as Andrews & Arnold (yes I did ask them) offers the possibility to adjust the split. For example, you could rebalance an 80/20 product to 60/40 if that suits you better.

*ADSL is limited - much like the old 56k modems which were confusingly asymmetric to people who weren't around in the 1200/75 days - in uplink speed by the capabilities of the device and the line, but I understand that VDSL has fewer such limitations so while 20/80 might not be technically possible, 70/30 or 60/40 might be?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "Our broadband? About 6 or 7Mbps down, 1Mbps up "

You just said that ADSL lines are fine and you don't even need VDSL. And why did you need a 4G backuip if your consumption was so low?

I knew it was risky, arguing with LDS, twisting my words as usual :-)

As I've re-iterated above, my point is not that FTTP should not be done but that we should recognise that it is often difficult to do and expensive and that because of acknowledged problems with ADSL, simply repairing or upgrading existing systems - to avoid problems such as latency, dropped packets and the like - would make a huge difference much sooner to many people who are struggling. Get the basics sorted out first, deal with the upgrades as funds allow. If it's Aluminium cable, or the Copper is so rotted that it needs replacing, then definitely replace with fibre (and there's a "no new Copper" mandate coming in the UK anyway), but if it's just a few connections to renew because they're corroded, or a length of overhead cable to replace because it's sun-damaged, fix the blasted cable rather than waiting three years for a fibre roll-out that might not actually happen!

As for:

Those who have low ADSL speeds are also those at the end of long lines and will get low VDSL speeds as well

Well, that's not necessarily the case, is it? Other than people who are fed directly from the exchange - which in the UK is rare except in some cities - there is always a cabinet much closer to the premises, and this is what VDSL is designed to take advantage of. For example, while our exchange is about 3 miles away in a straight line and significantly further by telephone conduit, the cabinet - where VDSL is generated - is a couple of hundred yards away. Our ADSL2+ (generated at the exchange) tops out at about 8M/1M (it's currently showing 8,192kbps / 732kbps, throughput likely slightly lower), while at work and at a relative's house, both much closer to their respective exchanges, near identical modems reach between 18Mbit/s and 20Mbit/s down. I have been estimated by a couple of those online checkers that minimum guaranteed VDSL speeds should be 38Mbps (lower tier) and 63Mbps. 38Mbps is the maximum technically possible at the low tier, and 63Mbps is not far off the maximum possible either.

At some point I will make the switch. I might have done it during the first lockdown except that Openreach had a moratorium on new installations for a couple of months which forced me to work with the existing setup, only to find it coped remarkably well.

Why the 4G stick? Well, even before lockdown I realised that we were becoming more and more reliant on the internet and as we have had over the years cases where diggers had gone through cables, or underground DPs had been flooded or pole-mounted DPs had corroded away, it seemed like a good investment for £5 a month. The router was set up to failover at that time, but during lockdown I put it on load-balancing because I was worried about the bandwidth we would need. This did cause a few problems with my mail server (the MX record only points to the wired connection which works for incoming mail but the 4G connection doesn't allow outgoing port 25, 587 or indeed most other non-web ports) but after a few months it also proved that 7M/1M was mostly perfectly fine for normal "working at home" tasks, proved by how rarely the 4G stick was used. Compiling VM images isn't "normal" for most workers in the UK!

Yes, at some point I will upgrade. I will definitely do it when FTTP arrives (because I won't have a choice) but I might do it before if we start streaming 4k, which really wouldn't cope on an 8Mbit/s link. How likely is 4k streaming? Not very. We don't subscribe to any streaming services, and the amount of 4k content on iPlayer is rather low at the moment :-) What do I find frustrating at 7M-ish? Mostly downloading OpenSuse updates if I'm honest, but if I start it before tea, they're ready to install afterwards, or if that's not convenient I can leave the thing sipping binary digits overnight.

As always, and as I mentioned above, unless there is some kind of mandate - a legal requirement - for companies to reach near "universal coverage" (c.f. the Universal Service Obligation of the UK Royal Mail and various other similar entities), they will simply concentrate efforts on the maximum Return on Investment, which rarely - if ever - covers rural areas.

M.

P.S. No. I have never owned a network hub, only ever owned one 100Mbit switch (unless you count the ones on the backs of my first few ADSL modems) and felt really sorry for a close friend who, back in the 1990s, as his family was expanding and needed more, and more-connected computers, all he could afford to buy was a second-hand 10Mbit/s hub. IIRC I'd just spent £20 on a 100Mbit/s switch and his second-hand hub cost him £12, but in those days £8 was a couple of days' worth of food for his family. I helped him out in other ways, but even I couldn't have gifted him a £20 switch back then.

.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "I would absolutely prioritise getting a 50/10Mbps"

Obviously yours is a specialised use-case. I was making the point that blankly saying (and I'm going to reply to LDS's reply in a minute) that "50/10 is no good for four people home working" isn't any better than the averages quoted in the article that everyone's complaining about. A 10/2 connection - if it is solid and reliable - is infinitely preferable to a flaky 50/10 and would have no problem at all with your parent's video calling uses. During lockdown we regularly had video meetups with friends, family and work colleagues online and the things worked perfectly reasonably on our 7/1ish line.

I contend that it isn't the speed that's the problem in many cases, it's the reliability, dropped packets and the like.

I do believe (as I pointed out) that FTTP is the long-term answer, but it is often expensive and difficult to do and shorter-term solutions such as upgrading or repairing old Copper might be cheaper for Openreach, would certainly be quicker to implement and would make many people's experiences very much better.

As you say though, part of the problem is that hard-to-reach communities are left behind because the RoI is not favourable. So in many cases those who already have, get more, while those who don't have get nothing.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "I would absolutely prioritise getting a 50/10Mbps"

While it is not my intention at all to argue against the fastest possible roll-out country-wide of FTTH technology, I must take issue with the following:

The pandemic showed that four people working/studying from home can do very little with 50/10 Mbps.

That may be the case if you are four workers with video calling constantly on and always-up remote desktops streaming video (and I'd argue even that) but that is not the way most homeworking seemed to be done during the lockdowns. Most home workers & learners were using significantly less bandwidth than that.

My family managed lockdowns with three children remote-learning (so that's mostly video incoming from teachers via Teams or Google), online apps (O365 or Google), one adult using remote desktop with occasional video calls and two other adults who only occasionally had to be asked to pause watching something on iPlayer. Granted, two of the three adults were also 'essential' workers so were out of the house at least a couple of days a week.

Our broadband? About 6 or 7Mbps down, 1Mbps up, with 4G backup which never exceeded 1GB of use in a month.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and if upgrading existing Copper infraatructure gets VDSL or good ADSL-type speeds to those people who currently struggle even to load the front page of the BBC News website now, I'd argue that that is far more important than upgrading people who already get those speeds, and it is certainly better to do the thing quickly than wait three years before they begin digging up the roads for fibres.

So long as it doesn't make the wait for fibre ten years, rather than three.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Above average

And I'm sure I heard Boris claiming that the UK has "70% Gigabit connections" this morning. The BBC's fact-checking article doesn't seem to mention it. Aah, this is the speech in full. It starts at 3m04s.

M.

Dead people could be designated authors of Atlassian Confluence docs but that can't be changed

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: If you ignore a problem long enough

I imagine deliberate policy. After all, it's well known that Vultures roll-their-own, so I'm sure they could spend a lunchtime or two and change that - if they wanted.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: If you ignore a problem long enough

Of course, El Reg has long had a related issue. From Comments Guidelines:

Forum privileges are awarded according to your handle - not by user account. This means that if you change your handle, you will lose your forum privileges
M.

California to try tackling drought with canal-top solar panels

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Isn't this a good "shady" idea in general?

I my have to see how expensive and troublesome Brexit has made this

Assuming you are in the UK, there are some prices on that site, for example:

The standard 500x250 PV Slate unit has a peak output of 28W and an ex-works price of £59.50. Each 500x250 unit replaces four natural 500x250 slates, covering an area of 0.2sqm. That gives PV Slate an overall roof kit price of £294/sqm or £8,449.00 for a 4kW system.

which I believe to be fairly up-to-date. Brexit has affected some prices, but this company does a lot of its own manufacturing. Their biggest problem at the moment (my friend tells me) is sourcing inverters, particularly for larger systems. This isn't a brexit issue, it's the current semiconductor supply problems.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Isn't this a good "shady" idea in general?

Sadly it's not going to work on my own house as it's listed

Two solutions spring to mind. Firstly, solar panels don't have to be on the house roof. Build a verandah or gazebo or something out of them. Put 'em on the shed roof (I realise this isn't doing the "shade the house to keep it cooler" thing). Even a greenhouse - not all panels block all sunlight, and thin-film flexible PV materials are now apparently available which while not as efficient as traditional panels have the potential to be significantly cheaper and can be applied to glass instead of the sorts of security and shading films often fitted.

Secondly, if the problem is aesthetic, there are such things as solar slates which can look very much like natural slate (not cheap mind), though I realise listed buildings can have a range of roofing materials which are not slate!

Disclosure - a friend works for the company I linked.

M.

UK's largest water company investigates datacenters' use as drought hits

Martin an gof Silver badge

As already said, "grey" water is waste from sinks, baths, washing machines etc. but not from the toilet; that's "black", and because the two are usually combined, everything in the public sewers is counted as black.

Rainwater is an entirely different beast. As someone else has pointed out, one way to purify water is to evaporate it and condense it - this might not take everything out but it's an excellent first step, and of course this is exactly what has happened to rain:

My water butt has a filter to keep leaves, squirrels (f****ers) and such like out but it still looks like weak beer and smells like a swamp.

We collect rainwater in an underground tank (capacity about 7,500l) with no filtering other than a leaf filter. Apparently it's really good for washing clothes, but that was a step too far for my wife, so we only use it for flushing the loos and watering the garden, and I can say that on the rare occasions when I have to swap over to mains water, you really can't tell the difference just by looking in the loo pan. The rainwater is perfectly clear and doesn't smell at all.

Collecting rainwater for drinking purposes is fairly common, and if I remember correctly Robert & Brenda Vale's "new autonomous house" did this with the only filtering being Copper rainwater goods (Copper's quite good at killing bacteria) and a series of old orange juice containers filled with sand.

M.

NASA builds for keeps: Voyager mission still going after 45 years

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Multiples of less

Otherwise just give actual values for memory or data rates - they're more useful.

Came to this article late, and came to the comments to say exactly that. This is El Reg; you can be pretty certain that the majority of readers know the difference between a bit, a byte and a baud.

So for all those who are wondering, per Wikipedia:

The tape recorder could at launch hold about 67 megabytes of data but according to this archived page the unit in Voyager 2 was switched off in 2007 while that in Voyager 1 was due to continue operating until 2018.

The six computers have 32k words of memory between them, four of the computers use 18 bit words while two use 16 bit words. Confirmed here at NASA (or Nasa)

The downlink data rate at Jupiter was 115kbit/s but per NASA the downlink rate currently achievable with a 70m receiving antenna is 1.4kbit/s, though 160bps is more normal.

The current status page is quite informative :-)

M.

Keep your cables tidy. You never know when someone might need some wine

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: My girlfriend did it

May have been, but it were nothing to do with me. My name refers to Myghal Josep an Gof / the Smith, who was one of the leaders of the Cornish rebellion in 1497... and we all know how well that went. The DJ in question's name escapes me right now (Chris something?), he was only with us for a couple of years and headed off to Leeds (Aire) I think, or maybe not. Our greatest claim to fame was probably Bobby McVay, briefly famous for the Eurovision song "I'm never giving up" and latterly as a "spare" fourth member of Bucks Fizz. In those days we had a thriving newsroom with close ties to the Cardiff School of Journalism, and several alumni are still active in the field.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
FAIL

Re: My girlfriend did it

As I think I've recounted here before, I had exactly that happen at an ILR station in Cardiff back in the late 1990s. DJ in question was doing his last live show before moving on to pastures new and a well-wisher had sent him a bottle of cider.

Of course, it wasn't he who called it in at any point in his mid-evening (7 - 10pm?) show, nope, it was the poor sap who followed him who had to page me and listen to me moaning.

One thing which really annoyed me was that both jocks flat out refused to move to the spare studio. Granted this was in the days when they had boxes of CDs to shift, but the spare was literally five steps away and ok, yes, the "offer, accept" handover system was a bit awkward to do on your own, but not impossible.

Instead, both carried on with half a working desk, making do with the guest microphone, one CD player and the playout system if I remember correctly. Maybe the phone TBU too.

On the positive side, the desk surface was just some sealed switches, sealed pots and Penny & Giles conductive plastic faders; all the electronics were in a pod in a rack. The desk carried on without a glitch (apart from the faders covered in sticky cider), the drain holes in the bottom ensured that jock went away looking as if he'd had "an accident" and I was able to revive the faders by running them under a tap and replacing a couple of wipers that may have been close to needing replacement anyway.

But I could have done it at 8pm when the accident happened, rather than at 11pm.

M.

General Motors charges mandatory $1,500 fee for three years of optional car features

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Dealerships are doing this too

Bought a second-hand car a little while back that came without a spare wheel (it had been supplied new with a tyre inflation kit). I was perfectly happy to pay for a spare wheel and the toolkit which goes with it, but the dealer wanted me to buy the overpriced hold-all full of polish and cloths and the "paint and fabric protection pack" which was part of the deal.

In the end I paid for the snake oil, and they threw in the tyre for "free". I'm sure there's some commission or something which means the deal made sense to them, but all it meant to me was that I got the tyre for something like 50% of the list price and got a bag full of car shampoo and microfibre cloths into the bargain. I have no idea what they did to the car before I took delivery, but the seats still stain quite well and the paint dulls over time so I'm happy sticking with the description of "snake oil".

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

The last washer we had with dual inlets (about 15 years ago) didn't make best use of them. When it was filling for the "hot" part of the cycle, it opened them both at the same time, and because of the wonderful way many UK houses are plumbed, the cold was direct from the mains while the hot was from a tank in the attic, so probably about 75% of the water entering the machine was cold anyway, even if I ran the tap adjacent to the machine to make sure there was hot in the pipe.

I measured the consumption, and found there was very little difference on a standard 60C "cotton" wash between all-cold and cold-hot filling. Somewhere under a hundred Watt-hours or so on a cycle which took (IIRC) something like 1.2kWh, so less than 10%. At the time we were averaging two full wash-loads a day (young children) so I had plenty of opportunity to measure.

The other part of the argument is that "biological" washing powders apparently don't like being hit with high temperatures, and even on a 60C cycle, the machine spends a lot of time at or below 40C to allow the powders to work, before heating to 60C.

Of course nowadays many houses have mains-pressure hot water as well as cold, so the first point is moot. Our current house also has a DHW circulation system, so even without manual intervention there is nearly always hot water within a pint or two of every outlet. Our DHW is part-heated (all-heated these last few days) by solar. We don't use biological powders and do most of our washing at 60C, so a "hot fill" machine probably would save us money... but they are like hen's teeth these days.

On the other hand, the dishwasher we bought last year, while it only has one inlet, specifically says that it's happy to be hooked up to a hot supply. Apart from the 15-minute rinse-only cycle, every cycle heats the water, so a couple of quid's worth of parts (compression T, appliance connector) and 20 minutes of time could potentially save me a little bit of money.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Other car manufacturers are available.

Given that I know you are State-side, Kwik Fit is a UK-wide franchise chain specialising in drive-in changing of tyres, exhausts, brakes, batteries and some types of servicing. Many years ago I went into a branch in order to have a couple of new tyres on a fairly high-mileage car. After a few minutes taking the wheels off and faffing about, mechanic comes into the waiting room - which has a view of the "shop floor" to tell me that one of my 'shock absorbers' (dampers) is leaking and needs to be replaced. (and no mention of doing the other one at that end at the same time, by the way)

Thing is, I'd had that car serviced by a bloke I'd been using for perhaps five or six years at that point (and carried on using until he retired some 25 years later) and I knew for a fact - because I'd seen the removed parts and the clean, new ones - that both dampers at that end of the car had been changed just six weeks or so previously.

This didn't faze the Kwik Fit mechanic one bit. He just nodded and got on with re-fitting the wheels. "Oh, by the way, do you want us to fill the tyres with Nitrogen instead of air? It'll be an extra £<some amount>."

M.

Our software is perfect. If something has gone wrong, it must be YOUR fault

Martin an gof Silver badge
FAIL

Re: UX Designer?

similar dumbness in the UK when County is a mandatory postal address field

We have three main problems with dumb forms, and the county is two of them. There has been no such county as "Mid Glamorgan" since 1996 or so, which probably predates most of these databases, yet some of them insist on adding "Mid Glamorgan" once you enter the postcode.

Our own postal town also gives its name to the new Unitary Authority (the administrative areas which replaced counties in 1996) and since many forms insist on both "town" and "county" you have to fill the same thing in twice. I've mentioned this here before, but many years ago, when auto-fill address databases were just becoming a thing, one form I had to fill in didn't have our address at all, so I put the English spelling for the town and the Welsh spelling for the county (either is acceptable by the way) and to this day I occasionally come across an auto-fill form which auto fills with those two spellings.

A slightly unrelated problem we have is that our house doesn't exist, according to at least one database. We made the mistake of de-registering the address while we were rebuilding. It saved us 18 months or so of Council Tax* but within 6 months the address had disappeared from databases. We re-registered the property nearly two years ago now, yet at least one database still only knows about numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 in the street! Fortunately it still allows you to enter the address manually.

M.

*warning for anyone else considering this, well in Wales anyway. Upon re-registering the property is re-valued, in much the same way as would happen on sale (I gather this doesn't happen in the same way in England) and we were bumped up a band because we added a bedroom. If we had been able to continue paying Council Tax for the 24 months we were out of the property** it would not have been re-valued and we would still be paying the old rate. It'll take a few years, but in time we will have paid more because of the higher banding than we saved by not paying for 18 months :-(

**you can get a 6-month Council Tax "holiday" under this sort of circumstance, which is probably enough for many renovation jobs, but ours turned into a bit of a long-winded affair for reasons people are getting bored with hearing me explain by now :-)

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

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: colour me sceptical

That's like saying a USB type A connector isn't compatible with an RJ45 Ethernet socket.

Or the occasion when an exhibitor at an event here absolutely insisted that they needed a wired internet connection and couldn't rely on our (admittedly, pretty poor at the time) WiFi.

So I duly ran a cable and provided a small desktop switch and two RJ45 leads, only to be called 15 minutes later by a very cross exhibitor who insisted I'd provided "the wrong type of plug". While their Windows laptop was connected and working just fine, their Mac did not have an RJ45 socket at all, and apparently "this computer's network socket is that one there"... pointing at a standard USB-A.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
Boffin

Re: colour me sceptical

wedged a Euro-type Shuko or two-pin plug into a UK socket

Please don't do it again.

Not only could you damage the shutter mechanism by forcing it, but wrong size and shape pins into wrong size and shape holes is asking for long-term trouble, even if it works in the short-term. You risk bending the electrical contacts and making things less safe for the next user, even if they use the correct plug. Loose connections risk poor contact and possibly arcing, especially with heavy "wall warts" or with high-power appliances.

I have also seen sockets abused in this way with safety shutters broken, either leaving the socket unusable (jammed shut) or unprotected (jammed open).

On a point of detail, MK sockets often have shutters that do not use the "normal" method of lever-in-the-earth-socket. In the past it was a kind of rotating thing that didn't require an earth pin at all, more recently they have had split or narrow levers which are much more difficult to open with a screwdriver, and combine the two methods to make it as difficult as possible to open the socket without three standard pins of standard sizes, shapes and spacings.

And on a point of pedantry, it isn't "MK engineers" who designed this system - it is a British Standard. See also Fatally Flawed and PlugSafe.

M.

Google's ChromeOS Flex turned my old MacBook into new frustrations

Martin an gof Silver badge

And the first-gen Intel Mac mini could have been better. Launched 2006, in original configuration it will only run up to 10.6 which had its last proper update in 2011 (5 years), though remained in support until 2014. Increasing RAM to 2GB (the maximum supported) allows 10.7, which was last updated in 2012. It can't go further because the Core (not Core 2) processors used were 32-bit only. A few devices had socketed processors and can theoretically have a processor swap, which is a tad annoying because the next model - 2009 - can run up to 10.11 officially (last release 2018) and possibly later versions unofficially.

I suppose I am just annoyed that Apple fitted a 32-bit processor, when the big change was PPC to Intel and going 64 bit-capable at the same time surely wouldn't have caused any greater issues. Still have an Epson scanner which runs best on the Mac - the slide & negative holders aren't properly supported on Linux, nor the extra dust-removal scan function and auto colour-restoration.

Similar problem with my EeePC901, which has a 32-bit Atom. Easier to find a reasonable Linux for that, though as the keyboard is a bit borked (<tab> key stuck down somehow) the point is moot.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Modern Computing

Logged into a laptop today for the first time since a colleague had upgraded the poor beast to W10. Icon (shortcut) on desktop I didn't much care for, so right-click, "delete". Instead of just disappearing, up pops a dialogue box with something like "removing file, please wait..." Took a couple of seconds. Should have been instantaneous. Why?

M.

Specs leak of 5.7GHz AMD Ryzen 7000 chips with double the L2 cache

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: But where are the "cheap" chips?

One-off though, they're not still being manufactured I believe?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: WfW 3.11?

Oh, does it? That's interesting. Why would that be? If I had some time I'd have a play...

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

But where are the "cheap" chips?

What I'm really missing (as I've probably mentioned before) are the "good enough" desktop chips which AMD used to sell for £50 - £70 or so complete with graphics. Pushing the performance envelope is great, but when the cheapest 4000 series Ryzen 3 has a current RRP of only just under £100 as far as I can tell, and that's before you look at pricing up a separate graphics card and the fact that the 4000 series will likely be phased out as soon as these new chips are available, it's difficult these days to build a "cheap and cheerful" machine. Couldn't they have carried on producing some of the A-series? They were just fine for this kind of use.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

WfW 3.11?

Yes, mumble, mumble 16 bit, woteva but...

..."back in the day" I was able to shoehorn Windows for Workgroups onto machines with as little as 2MB RAM and 20MB of HDD while 4MB and 40MB seemed fairly comfortable. Since the L3 cache seems to be shared and amounts to 4MB per core with, of course, 1MB per core of dedicated L2, I wonder what WfW would run like, if tied to one core and running entirely from the caches? Or 16 of them at the same time, or 32 running in effectively 2.5MB...

Or (yes, I know I'm getting silly now) how about Windows 95, which I seem to remember worked pretty well in 16MB? Room for four of those in the L3 of the 16-core processor...

M.

Enough with the notifications! Focus Assist will shut them u… 'But I'm too important!'

Martin an gof Silver badge

No, they are just changing all current 30 limits in built-up areas to 20mph. I actually agree where the road has lots of pedestrian traffic, where the pavements are often crowded or around schools but the blanket imposition is problematic. I'm also convinced that driving at 20mph in 3rd is more polluting than 30mph in 4th though of course, it's exactly the opposite in an electric car.

The whole of North Cardiff has been trialling it for a few months and it's an absolute nightmare. There are 'arterial' roads with 20 limits where anyone actually doing 20 gets squeezed past by impatient delivery drivers, busses and even cyclists, who then have to be re-passed on the next hill, only to come past you again a hundred yards later.

They tried it around Caldicot too... and then had to change it back.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
Mushroom

Everyone's at it

Our milk-person seems to perform their monthly accounts on the dot of midnight once a month. Cue "new email" alert from phone, if I've not remembered to turn data and WiFi off before going to bed. FreeNAS (or whatever it's called these days informs me it's starting - and then finishing - a scrub, by email at about 2am most mornings, too.

And as for the blasted car... it has an annoying habit of doing the "warning bleep", flashing up a message on the little LCD display between the speedometer and the rev. counter, and then flashing it away again before your eyes have even had a chance to dip down, let alone refocus. On the rare occasion when I've caught it, it seems to be the collision avoidance alert, which is the very last thing that should be distracting me at a crucial moment, and often turns out to be incorrect anyway as anyone older than about three can see that there's no way I'm going to run into that hedge, and even if I did it'd hardly tickle the wing mirror.

On my own car I've managed to turn the parking sensors off. There is a real physical switch on the dash somewhere. It's impossible to do this permanently in the wife's car which means, as I reverse carefully down the drive at a relative's house, the system gives me no useful information at all as I brush past the various overgrown shrubs and grasses. On top of that, when it is dark, the LCD turns on - even when I've switched it "off" - to show me a useless graphic of the car reversing, which totally ruins the lighting environment and makes it much more difficult to see in the mirrors. Even if I push the "back" button to turn it off again, the first time a feathered grass-head brushes past one of the sensors, the blasted thing comes back on!

M.

Homes in London under threat as datacenters pull in all the power

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: It's all about cities AKA a systems problem

I specifically said that there are probably ways in which it can be improved - and now you come to mention it, the "circumferential" routes do seem to be a problem. As visitors last week we were, of course, doing mainly edge-to-centre and around-the-centre, which seems to be extremely well-served on nearly all counts. One of my main gripes though is that it seems as if some (all?) services are subsidised in London (particularly buses), whereas in the rest of the privatised country, very few are, because when privatised, the new companies generally cherry-picked profitable routes, which the councils used to use to cross-subsidise socially important but unprofitable routes.

It's not that the rest of the country has generally been slacking in the matter - these changes (much like the enforced sell-off of council houses and the ban on rebuilding) were forced on them. It's why some places are trying to take back some form of "centralised" control; why where we are, Transport for Wales was formed and has grandiose (though as yet mostly unrealised) plans for a modern, integrated transport system. Budgets, however, are still a problem.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: It's all about cities AKA a systems problem

probably by concentrating on making public transport much better

Having just returned from a few days in the capital, while I'm sure things could probably be improved (though major re-routing of underground or overground lines simply ain't gonna happen), public transport in London is already vastly better than anywhere else I know in the UK. I will never forget the first time I took my then 17 year-old on the underground. We needed to travel from Paddington to Tower Hill. Firstly he was amazed with the workings of Oyster cards (no faffing about buying paper tickets), then we saw a Circle Line train pull out, so he started looking for a bench to sit on. After all, around here you are lucky if buses or trains come along more often than every 20 minutes. Of course there were no benches, but before he had explored even half the length of the platform, another train pulled in. "Gobsmacked" is putting it lightly.

Spend even half the amount of money London gets for its transport infrastructure thinly across the whole of the rest of the UK and marvellous things could be done. Same offspring returned from work today to a station about a 3 mile drive from our home. Sensible planning in the 1970s means that there is a bus station right outside, but the bus he normally uses, which gets to within a quarter of a mile of our house, had just left and another wasn't due for at least 30 minutes. Instead he was surprised to find the "community" bus - which only runs three times a day - waiting. This bus stops within 200m of our house, but I believe it took him over 45 minutes to get there, so circuitous is its route. Oh and, even subsidised it cost him about the same to travel that distance as it costs to travel on the Underground from Zone 3 to Zone 1 off-peak, say 9 miles from Ealing to Piccadilly Circus. As for the bus, a flat rate of £1.65 off peak? As far as I'm aware there is nowhere else in the country which can match that.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: The Tory Government to the plebs

Weekending ran for a lot longer than Thatcher did, had a great theme tune in the 1980s and was edited by (among many others) Lissa Evans who is still in the business - worked on Father Ted, for example, and Have I got News for You. I've a couple of episodes on cassette tape knocking around somewhere. No idea why, must have a listen and find out if it was just my younger self recording it because I could, or if they were actually important episodes.

A successor in some ways I believe, to TW3 (That Was The Week That Was) and a forerunner of Dead Ringers among others.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I still don't understand

pretty much any home with over two bedrooms has enough roof to power that house

Speaking for the UK, our 2-bed or even 3-bed houses would often struggle to find enough suitable roof to provide enough power for the whole house, especially in an all-electric future. At between 50°N (Cornwall) and 60°N (North Scotland) and with often inclement weather (ranging from 1,100 to 1,750 hours of sunshine a year) it's harder to maximise output, and with a typical new-build 2-storey, 2-bed house in the UK having a footprint of perhaps 35m² or less*, and situated on a development higgledy-piggledy style so that most properties do not have roof oriented anywhere near South, you might need quite a lot of panel to average the 10kWh per day typically consumed in a 2-person gas-connected house, much less the 25kWh per day you'd use in an all-electric situation (same source, my assumption that 33kWh of gas is replaced with 15kWh of electricity by using a heat pump).

That isn't to say that you shouldn't consider solar PV. "Every little helps" as they say, but your sweeping statement isn't necessarily true worldwide.

As for a ground source heat pump, typical house plots in the UK are nowhere near large enough (see the Taylor Wimpey link above again - that house has a total plot of perhaps 100m² including the bit on which the house sits) for either a horizontal pipe or a vertical trench pipe**. Boreholes are prohibitively expensive and in large parts of the populated country are impractical due either to underground infrastructure (gas, water, electricity, sewers, London Underground, nuclear bunkers and the like), abandoned or still-active underground workings (coal mines, ore mines) or complex ground conditions. Our own house, for example, sits on top of several coal seams, some of which may have been worked many years ago (but no-one knows for sure), a couple of mineral seams and a geological fault line. A borehole would be a risky investment.

Oh, and in terms of new-build, no developer is willingly going to fit £10,000 of PV and £15,000 of ASHP or £30,000 of GSHP if his competitors are fitting £2,500 worth of gas boiler. Either his houses will be correspondingly more expensive off-plan (and it's that headline figure which grabs the attention, not the ongoing running costs) or his profit margin is vastly reduced.

There are some PV technologies in development which are much less expensive than existing technologies, but they are also much less efficient. There comes a point, however, where something becomes cheap enough to be almost an "impulse" purchase, and you can compensate for lower output by installing more.

M.

*because I know that link will expire at some point, it's to a 2-bed semi-detached property by Taylor Wimpey which has a gross floor area of 771ft², which is around 72m² which implies a footprint of around 36m²

**one company I found estimates that for a horizontal GSHP pipe layout, a maximum figure of 12m² per 1m² of floorplan should be used - let's be generous and say that for a modern, well-insulated house you could get away with 4m² per 1m², that's still four times as much total plot as the house in question actually has, and that's assuming you're happy to run the pipe under the house itself

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: And we also want EV's?

Can confirm your suspicions

Difficult to follow the threading, but do you mean me?

It is well known that the "last mile" has problems in many parts of the country, and if National Grid says they can cope, they probably can. The infrastructure inherited by and installed by DNOs was largely designed in the days when you could budget 2 or 3kW per house and be safe at that, and that's what the biogas operation I mentioned is dealing with. They are still - partly - a farm, but the overhead lines which feed the farm and the substation to which they are attached cannot cope with (much) more than the 1MW they currently generate.

Quite why installations made in the last 10 years or so should be underpowered, I dunno. Western Power has already carried out trials of domestic three phase connections (not the link I was looking for, but gives an idea). An overview of the system and some of its limitations can be found here (PDF) in a very readable guide to connections.

Anecdotally, whenever work needs to be carried out on the single pole-mounted transformer which powers our entire hamlet (maybe 70 or 80 houses) WPD usually bring along a 100kW generator, which works fine during the day but usually conks out around tea time. Gas came late to the village and many houses still rely on electricity for heating, hot water and (particularly) cooking. Last time they came they couldn't even get the thing started at breakfast time and had to send out for a bigger unit. My point? Current "rule of thumb" estimates of use may not be valid for much longer.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: And we also want EV's?

Don't forget that there are two entities involved here - National Grid is responsible for the "big" stuff - the 400kV, 275kV, interconnects and such. I suspect that the capacity problems here are down to the Distribution Network Operator, of which there are several across the UK with the one responsible for the Heathrow, Ealing etc. area being (I believe) UK Power Networks - it looks as if their boundary finishes at the M25 with Scottish & Southern westward of that.

DNOs are responsible for connections to businesses and homes and most of the substations and transformers you see locally, so while National Grid may well be able to shovel electrons around the country perfectly sufficiently, if the local transformer is undersized for the demand, or the underground 11kV and 415V cables need uprating, it's not really their problem.

The thing works the other way too, I recently met a very interesting local enterprise which takes the council's compostable waste, turns it into biogas and generates 2x 500kW (IIRC) from that, day and night. They are connected to their local DNO and cannot expand because the DNO's local network couldn't cope. In order to expand they would need to run a cable to the local National Grid substation, which is prohibitively expensive in their current plans. An alternative they are considering is to feed some excess gas into the gas network, which is apparently slightly closer to hand and has a bit of spare capacity.

M.

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Green energy

It was only for one day. This is the episode. Unfortunately the thing isn't on iPlayer at the moment, though I did once find a low-quality version on YT. Some clips from the episode are available, however. One at the link above. I thought there were two or three more on this page but I can't see them now.

Might also be interested in 80,000 kettles and pedal power.

M.

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything

Martin an gof Silver badge

(only became possible to do accurately when laser printers came along)

Just remember to buy the correct acetates for a laser printer. Yup, I've seen the mess a "normal" one can create...

...on an even older topic, I worked out that stencil duplicators (waxy-paper multipart stencil things which you normally put in a typewriter and would then be very carefully laid on an ink drum for *very* fast printing (and plenty of arm exercise if you didn't have a machine with a motor)) didn't need holes punching in the waxy layer - it was sufficient, indeed best, just to "bruise" them. With an old ribbon left in my 8-pin dot matrix (to guard against clogging the pins) and a copy of AMX Pagemaker (Stop Press) in the BBC Micro I produced an underground school magazine which not only looked a million times better than the official rag done by cut-and-paste-and-photocopy, but which I could sell for 10p (eight sides of A4, which was a full 400k - 80trk double sided - floppy) and actually make a profit, unlike the photocopied mess the DT teacher was flogging.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Years ago....

The paper ones aren't cheap either!

But if you buy the paper one, you get the digital one as well these days, unless I've mis-read something.

Paper's always best, except for those two-sided tablecloths they do these days. Bring back the pocket-friendly Pathfinder I say :-)

M.

My smartphone has wiped my microSD card again: Is it a conspiracy?

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Flash yes car no

I'm waiting for a manufacturer to produce an EV which has a key, a couple of pedals, a "fuel" gauge and a speedometer and nothing else. Maybe a simple radio to entertain my commute. Save a couple of thousand on dubiously-useful "car operating systems", outright dangerous controls-on-touchscreens and certainly ditch the need to pair it up with a smartphone.

A friend pointed me in the direction of companies such as Electric Classic Cars and Falcon Electric (plenty more similar companies exist) which might be an option I suppose, but I'm not sure how sensible it would be to ask them to convert my Dacia Sandero :-)

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

SD cards are so simple (they are basically just a NAND chip on a PCB)

While I know that was basically the case with xD cards, Smart Media and certain other early card formats, I'm pretty certain it's not the case with SD - all SD cards have a controller onboard which translates between the NAND and the interface, which is how larger sizes have been more easily accommodated than with the other formats:

Wikipedia: memory card formats technical details

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

I have a dozen or so first-gen Sony-built Pis at work, in constant (near 24/7) use playing videos since 2012. They were pretty awful at trashing cards in the early days, but the first batch of cards I bought (or rather, had bought for me) were what could be found at Tesco and Sainsbury's because of course putting the display together was a bit of a rush job.

It seemed mostly down to being powered-down mid-write, and often the cards could be recovered with fsck or whatever, and if not they could usually be reformatted even if that meant using the SD Card Association's official formatting tool. Powerdown during boot was almost guaranteed to trash the card and often in such circumstances the card was unrecoverable afterwards.

However, updates to the Pi's operating system have largely mitigated those problems, as has the use of genuine Sandisk, Samsung or Transcend cards, and I very rarely get a problem these days. I've subsequently bought quite a lot of Pi2, Pi3 and a couple of Pi4 and can honestly say that in the - let's call it nine years - since the first generation stopped mucking about I've had only two or three cards "just die" for no apparent reason.

As regards the problem in the smartphone, my suspicion would lie fair and square with Android I'm afraid. There is nothing intrinsic about a (good) SD card which makes it more fragile than any other removable storage medium as far as I can tell, I have SD cards in smartphones and non-smartphones, stills cameras, video recorders and mp3 players at home that have lasted years without issue.

M.

British boffins make touchless computing tech on the cheap

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I just installed it

Thanks - the hand tracking is the thing which has piqued my interest as it might replicate the function of a device we already use but which is long past its sell-by date. Ideally the camera would be above a projection screen, so something like 3m away from the user and probably 1m above their (seated) head. There might be a way to put the camera behind the screen (which is basically a bit of painted plasterboard) so that it looks through the screen and isn't above the user but that would risk dazzling the camera with the projection.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I just installed it

I already run a gazillion* Pis around this place, but from the article I don't think a Pi has the grunt to be able to run the software (leaving aside the fact that it's Windows-only at the moment) which does the image analysis required to locate a user's hand in space and determine if they are making a "click" or "zoom" or "wipe" or whatever gesture...

M.

*rough approximation

Google, Oracle clouds still affected by UK heatwave

Martin an gof Silver badge

If you don't have to put on a coat to go in the server room, your server room is too hot.

I've never really understood that. Surely the key metric is component temperature within the server and supply air flow through the server. A single server with plenty of air flow could conceivably work perfectly well in a room at 25 or 30C. Surely the job of the room climate control is to ensure the server doesn't overheat and while in the Bad Old Days the eaiest way to do that was to keep the whole room at coat-on temperatures, these days there must be better solutions? A warmer room can also save a heck of a lot of energy.

The trick then is to make sure that when heat load does increase there is enough capacity in the a/c to cope.

Disclaimer: not a server bod and never designed a data centre :-)

M.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022