* Posts by wookey

21 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Apr 2010

Patent trolls, innovation and Brexit: What the FT won't tell you


One small thing. The European Patent Office, which issues European patents, is nothing to do with the EU (beyond being in the same part of the world). It's not controlled by the EU, or set up by the EU, nor is its membership the same set of countries as the EU.

Joining or leaving the EU does not materially affect our status as members of the EPO. The new Unified Patent Court is something to do with the EU in that it has been set up for participating nations to have one place to litigate, rather than having to do it in each individual country. That's sensible enough on the face of it.

It _might_ make the troll problem worse (as a patent-specific court did in the US), or it might not. Avoiding the problem by making ourselves ineligible to use the court seems unlikely to help much. This is only useful if you don't want to sell anything outside the UK. As soon as you do you are subject to foreign patent courts. On the whole the UK patent office has been a helpful force within the EPO to keep it reasonably honest.

Software patents remain complete bollocks, and 80% of other patents are no better IMHO, but much progress has been made in the last few years to push back on the garbage and mostly things are not too bad in the EU, although we do have some egregious examples of how the system doesn't work (MS patent charges for FAT for example).

It remains to be seen how the UPC works out, but like all beureaocracies, you are better off setting the rules than just waiting to be affected by them. Indeed it was my experience campaigning against the evils of EU software patents 12 years ago, which led me to discover that the EU parliament is a lot more useful than the UK one when trying to reach reasonable conclusions over such divisive matters. I was actually quite impressed as how the place operated (and how much it was nothing like the cartoon portrayed in the UK media).

Vanished global warming may not return – UK Met Office


Re: Optimistic thread, all-in-all

You mean it used to be worse here? Wow. There is a still a great deal of foolishness/ill-informedness/idiocy on display, with much blithering about heat-islands, massaged data, corrupt scientists, and 'ah but it's not CO2'. Are we really not beyond this stuff yet?


I'm amazed at the number of supposedly intelligent people here who are still disputing the temp record itself. Do you not know about BEST where those skeptical of the data went back to the raw data and reprocessed it themselves using their own techniques and code, only to find almost the exact same results as the other 4 (surface) datasets? The adjustments are there for good reasons (changed altitudes or locations of sensors, variations between devices). They make the data _better_. Even if you go and use the raw data you get extremely similar results.

Go read the BEST report if you don't believe me. Read Tamino. Intelligent people really shouldn't be disputing the temp record at this stage - it just makes them look stupid.

And what hell is wrong with Lewis Page? Surely publishing this sort of article should be embarassing him too? There is no pause. There never was a pause. It's just noise, and this should be pretty clear by now to anyone who is genuinely interested. As ever Tamino explains it beautifully:



And looking at all 8 datasets:


Rock reboot and the Welsh windy wonder: Centre for Alternative Technology


Re: "renewable energy:" .."needs to be a well thought-out integration of different technologies"

Onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy at £80/MWh. That's cheaper than new coal plant at £105/MWh but more expensive than gas at £70/MWh. And currently we only have 13% wind penetration, and can easily go to 30% before we need to worry about grid changes, so there is loads of room for more wind. This is a very windy country and it makes sense to use it. Offshore works too, but costs significantly more at £115/MWh. Your assertion that 'offshore makes sense', but 'onshore doesn't' seems to be based entirely on anecdote.

And I visited CAT some years ago (before the fancy new centre) and found it very interesting. Much better engineering:hippy ratio than I had expected. They have lots of good stuff on low-energy building.

Virgin Media to hike broadband prices by nearly 7 per cent


I 've been using cambridge cable, NTL and now VM for about 15 years. Broadband and VOIP, no phone line. It used to be good value when it was £14/month but gets less so every year (£23 now?). 10Mb was enough for me, but there is no option to pay less for slower, up to get useful uplink speed. Just higher and higher costs for download speed I don't want to pay for.

It was still cheaper than ADSL+phone line I don't need (they've more than doubled in cost, whilst become more and more pointless since 1997 too) last time I looked but the gap is shrinking.

Data is now the most expensive utility we have by a large margin. Every price rise makes me grumpy. If they had a cheap and cheerful crap-o-vision version that let me stick with not buying a phone line, I'd be a happy punter indefinitely.

Price rises and power cuts by 2016? Thank the EU's energy policy


"If you want a kumbaya company running 0 profit you can set it up yourself. It might be a bit difficult to find investment partners, especially in the era of negative interest rates and it will probably die pretty quickly"

EBICO is a non-profit power company that has been up and running for over a decade, and in fact has the best customer satisfaction numbers of all the power companies. They charge the same rates to poor people using cash meters as they do to rich ones, and very low users (no standing charge or tiered rates) (unlike all the others). So such things do exist, and are a social good.


Re: @ TheOtherHobbes

"Current technology cannot make a working wind farm"

Nonsense. It works fine. Wind is now 12% of UK electricity supply and rising fast. It's the success of windpower that is making life difficult for gas station owners. The wind energy is cheaper (because the generators will sell it at any price as they have tiny running costs). Yes lots of non-dispatchable renewables require massive change in the grid and its operation and significant changes in the electricity market, but it's silly to claim they don't work.


Re: Biomass != fossil fuel

"So what - its still releasing CO2 and thats supposed to be evil!!! Or is it only evil when idiot greens say its evil?".

There is a difference between sending carbon round on a 40 yr cycle and digging up new carbon from inside the earth to put into the atmosphere. It's true that on a short timescale of a year or 5 there is no practical difference, but over the long term it's all the difference in the world. We've put a gigatonne of fossil carbon into the atmosphere in 250 years and are on track to put the second gigatonne there in 35 years. And that's our whole allowance - no more carbon for several hundred years - it has to stay in the ground or otherwise get seqestered. Running things on recyclable steady-state biomass carbon is a very useful contribution to that goal.


Re: A British thing?

A 20% reduction in gas usage isn't actually difficult. Just insulate a lot of houses properly. Much cheaper and easier (and more jobs) than trying to generate 20% renewable heat. People (and especially governments) always forget the negawats part of the energy system. Sadly the Green Deal which should be acheiving exactly this is a hopelessly expensive and bureacratic scheme that isn't going to do much. Cheap money for bankers to lend out: no problem. Cheap money for insulating houses: absolutely not.


"The reason that there is a risk of blackouts is because EU rules are forcing the shut down of most coal plant"

The operators have had 15 years warning, and the option of upgrading their plant so it's only horribly, not egregiously, polluting. They chose shutdown for many plants rather than improve them to a still fairly mild minimum standard. The EU are quite right to set limits on just how filthy and inefficient a coal station is allowed to be in 2015. It's actually quite clear that _all_ coal stations need to shut down sooner rather than later (or fit CCS), so this is hardly radical.

It is true that in the brave new world there needs to be a capacity market as well as a supply market, precisely so that flexible gas plant can still be used, even though it'll get used less and less as low-carbon (and cheaper per kWh) sources are used instead.

Google's Schmidt calls climate-change deniers 'liars'


Funny how 'the internet will spread the truth on climate science' yet despite heroic efforts by many people to do exactly that, this site, apparenly frequented by intelligent geeks, is heaving with people who still think climate change is a hoax/not anthropogenic/a good thing etc.

The internet is full of good-quality info (as well as heaps of garbage from the ill-informed). Use your skills - read info from people you disagree with as well as those you agree with and work out who the honest brokers are. It's easy to live in a bubble of the like-minded whilst being seriously misled - fight your confirmation bias. I reckon potholer54 on youtube is one of the best and most accessible 'honest brokers' around. Try his videos.

Cheeky Boston fires up x86-to-ARM porting cloud for server apps


Debian have been providing ARM porter boxes for many years.

Porting machines for ARM have been provided by Debian for over a decade, and a huge number of portability problems in upstream code has been fixed as a result. Get your code into Debian and cross-architecture issues should get fixed for you, although we do of course enormously appreciate people actually helping with that.

Things that catch x86-only code out are: char defaulting to unsigned, unaligned accesses wrapping, no FPU (on older hardware), different-sized enums, switchable endianness, and probably some other things I forgot. The exact set of issues has changed over the years as the ARM ABIs have devloped, and these days things look a lot more 'x86y' than they used to. as ARM comes out of the embedded work into 'binary distro' world where long-term ABI stability matters much more.

arm64 is even more standard-looking then ARM32 is these days. Hopefully some porter boxes for that will be along soon as building in models is super-slow.

'Gaia' Lovelock: Wind turbines 'may become like Easter Island statues'


I am somewhat amazed that in 135 comments no-one has pointed out just how wrong this sentence is: "The UK currently has 3,000 onshore turbines and 6,000 are planned: this is the main reason why electricity bills are soaring out of control ".

The reason electricity bills have risen a great deal is because gas prices have risen a great deal. That's about 70% of the rise. Less than 20% can be attributed to renewable energy subsidies. (The rest is various other things, inlcuding insulation scheme subsidy). I know Orlowski hates wind turbines, but we should at least hold him to get his facts right. It's not a hard thing to discover.

In fact wind turbines generally act to reduce (wholesale) prices because their power has very low marginal cost. How that affects consumer prices is up to the power companies...

Greenpeace releases 'Cool IT' rankings


Still claiming there's no such thing as climate change or peak oil?

It's pretty dumb in 2012 to still be claiming that climate change isn't serious and real. The register's persistent attitude here just makes them seem like ill-informed ranters down the pub.

It is nice to see someone sticking up for nuclear though, as far too many people think it's way scarier than overheating the planet, which is, well, wrong.

Greenpeace have their hearts in the right place, but I do find their 'stunts first' approach a bit tiresome. The anti-nuclear stance has probably done nearly as much harm to the climate as some of the lesser fossil-fuel producers, which is a pretty hefty own-goal in my book.

Globe slowly warming, insists 'Hansen's Bulldog'


The register is entertaining, but not necessarily all that honest. People who read and understand science showing that global CO2 levels and temperature are steadily increasing are not cultists.

This is a fascinating paper, and is very clearly presented for the average intelligent person in http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/the-real-global-warming-signal/

Please have a read - I found it fascinating. If you are still confused about all this and wonder who to believe I found this entry most entertaining: David Beckham causes global warming: http://theconversation.edu.au/how-david-beckham-caused-global-warming-the-man-u-climate-model-4548 you might find it helps sort the wheat fro the chaff.


The register is entertaining, but necessarily all that honest. People who read and understand science showing that global CO2 levels and temperature are steadily increasing are not cultists.

This is a fascinating paper, and is very clearly presented for the average intelligent person in http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/the-real-global-warming-signal/

Please have a read - I found it fascinating. If you are still confused about all this and wonder who to believe I found this entry most entertaining: David Beckham causes global warming: http://theconversation.edu.au/how-david-beckham-caused-global-warming-the-man-u-climate-model-4548 you might find it helps sort the wheat fro the chaff.

UK.gov threatens to 'pull plug' on smart meter rollout


A lot of meter-hate here.

Somoene said that the measuring is pointless because the power companies alreayd know how much power they send out. Actually that's not true any more. Only about half the wind generation in the UK is measured as 'grid input' - the rest is attached on the 'distibution side' of the main meters so it just gets used locally. Same for all the PV on roofs. This lot is a non-triivial fraction of generation, at least some of the time.

Smart meters may be expensive but you are all ignoring the costs of _not_ having them. That will be either blackouts or even more expensive supply. The ability to have much more flexible tariffs, some stuff which gets turned off sometimes, loaning your EV battery to the grid for balancing purposes and so on, is necessary to make a low-carbon grid work.

If you don't think you want a low-carbon grid then that won't impress you much, but again the costs of not doing that (knackered climate, food shortages, probably outright war after a while) are likely to be orders of magnitude more than 12 billion.

Yes, there are serious issues of control (who has it) and encryption (you can't actually read your own data from the meter except via the provider), but those are implementation details. The fundamental infrastructure upgrade is necessary. I just hope it's been designed right so we don't have to do it all again in 10 years time...

And these things usually send their data back over the GSM network. Some will use the power network itself, or other arrangements in very remote areas.

For anyone that cares the specs are here: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/cons_smip/

Rolling these out without the 'remote disable' feature would be one way of enormously increasing acceptance. People are right to be nervous about that aspect (as Prof Anderson points out).

Oh and on 'what use is real metering'. Well I found out that our 2 PIRs use 16W each all day on the offchance that someone walked up - that's not worth £40/yr so they got switched off. And I found a bell-transformer using 15W permenanetly despite the bell having been removed years ago, and a radio using another 11. There are probably millions of little power-wastages like this going on up and down the country. It's true that they won't help if you couldn't care less, but if you do care (even if only about the money, rather than the waste) then some data can really help you reduce your consumption. Most people who care, find that they can easily reduce consumption by 40%. Fitted to the houses of the populace at large (who mostly don't care) you get about a 4% reduction (that californian data). Our consumption dropped by about 30% and I thought I'd done as much efficiency as I could already.

Schmidt: 'Elites' not 'common men' fret over net privacy


Open Wifi needs preserving

BuckeyeB. Nothing wrong with open wifi. It's a good and socially helpful thing, sadly on the decline due to needless paranoia and poor default configs. http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/04/open-wireless-movement talks about this, and why it's worth making efforts to preserve open net access.

Patents do not protect small firms, says trade body


Copyright and patents are entirely different

Because they are entirely different legal mechanisms, confusingly lumped together (along with design rights and trademarks) under the term 'intellectual property'. One is protection against wholesale copying of actual work, the other is a monopoly on a (supposedly unique) idea. Copyright is simple to manage because it automatically exists in a piece of work. Patents are very expensive to manage because each idea must be tested against all previous ideas to see if it is new and unique. This is of course impossible, which is one reason why the system works so badly, but it's also very expensive even to try, hence the large charges.

The most iniquitous thing about patents is that even if you do independently come up with the same idea (something that happens all the time) this is no defence. I don't know about you, but the very idea that it should be wrong to solve a problem just because someone else already solved it seems wrong to me, and there should be really good evidence of a benefit to overturn that obvious concept of fairness.

It is possible that patents once had a use in mechanical engineering, and maybe even that they still have a use in drug development. But study after study has shown that their deleterious effects outweigh their benefits in most spheres, and in fact it has probably always been true everywhere (consider the example of Watt's patent stifling steam-engine development, and modern issues of access to drugs in the third world). Dyson is a rare counterexample showing the system working more or less as it should (although the experience has made Dyson a huge critic of the system too), but mostly we see the hopeless mess that prevails in the digital world of codecs and mobile phone patents - that lot is nothing but a huge net drag on real progress.

People have no bloody idea about saving energy


Insulation and airtightness is by far the best value

Heating and insulation/airtightness is what matters in the UK (domestically). Spend a few hundred or a few thousand on insulation and you will dwarf all the other possible savings. Loft, cavity wall, internal insulation, external insulation and suitable attention to airthightness (most UK houses are hopelessly leaky). By far the most cost-effective change you can make.

As others have mentioned most housholds can save 25% of their power consumption by turning thigns off, getting rid of egrigiously inefficient stuff (we found things like old bell transformers running at 15W permanently and 32W of PIR sensor wasting an impressive amount of power every year).

Commuting by car is the other thing that really gets through the carbon. Changing from a car to an electric moped for my 12.5mile commute reduced my energy consumption from 44kWh/day to 1kWh/day (or 2 at the power station, if you prefer). Cycling is even better of course.

And will people please stop trotting out a couple well-worn pointless arguments. Stop multiplying a personal saving by N million peope. That's an error of scope. Changes you make which save say 1kWh/day are just that - maybe 1-2% of your total daily energy consumption. it would still be 1-2% no matter how many people the effect is replicated over. Read 'Without hot Air' for the book-length treatise on this subject (A book I heartily recommend to anyone who is unsure about the relative energy-implicatoins of various activities and actions).

And similarly the thing about heat from light bulbs. Electric heating is the most energy- and carbon- intensive form of heating we have, so having light emitters that just give out light and heating devices which only heat is _more_ efficient overall. And yes LEDs are rapidly overtaking CFLs - it's the way forward, but do check the Lumens/Watt. Don't buy anything that is less than 60, or you might as well stick with CFLs.

Bristol Bachelor: Don't worry about the combi. The extra water runoff is annoying I know, but really it's peanuts to the losses from a conventional cyclinder/boiler combo. You can still have solar thermal by using a Grant Combisol valve - neat idea. Use the Navitron or Green Building Forums to get details.

I could go one but that'll do for today.

Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner


It works for me

I've used the cycleplanner quite often (usually in Cambridge but also in norfolk). I've found it to give very good results.

Do please report any problems you find. It is still in 'beta' and the developers really do want to know of any problems you had.

On the wider point, this is clearly representative of the major disconnect between government and grassroots ways of getting IT done. Note that hte 5-6 grand dev cost is not a complete picture. The cyclestreets developers tried hard to find a bit of funding to help them justify the huge time investment but so far have had very limited success. If they'd had 20-30 grand or so that would have been plenty. The 5-6 they have had has meant development on a shoestring. But of course 30 grand is an awful lot better than 2.3 million. Mysociety has been a useful start on getting govt money inbto this sort of work. A lot more of that would no doubt reap impressive rewards.

Full disclosure: I was cajoled into being assistant sysadmin for the cyclestreets server. About once a year I do something useful :-)