* Posts by juice

512 posts • joined 16 Nov 2010

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UN warns of global e-waste wave as amount of gadgets dumped jumps 21% in 5 years

juice Silver badge

Re: Blame...

> Making their phones and other kit as unrepairable as possible. And also fighting right to repair.

It'd be nice if things were as simple as Apple being an evil corporation intent on maximising profits at all costs. And I have no doubt that at least part of the problem stems from Apple wanting to protect their revenue streams.

But at the same time, things aren't that simple.

First, there's the point that if something breaks under warranty, the manufacturer is under an obligation to repair or replace. So it's in their interest to juggle the bill of materials until they end up with something which means that $high_percentage of the devices will last until the warranty expires.

Admittedly, there's various other aspects to that calculation, as there's always natural wastage (broken/lost/resold) along the way, and some people will just shrug and buy a new device if the old one fails, rather than going through the hassle of getting it returned/replaced.

But we're a long way from when (not-yet-sir) Clive Sinclair used to punt electronic devices with components pushed to - or beyond - their tolerances, and factored a high return rate into his business plan. These days, we expect things to Just Work when we buy them, and it's a lot easier to kick up a fuss if they don't.

Then too, technology keeps getting smaller and more integrated. E.g. compare the ifixit teardowns of the iPhone 3G versus the iPhone 11.

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+3G+Teardown/600

https://www.ifixit.com/News/33016/iphone-11-teardown

And part of the reason for that is because the people want their devices to be lighter. But also faster. But also with better battery life. But that also don't overheat. But which are also waterproof. But are also rugged. But but but...

It's increasingly impossible to produce devices which are user-serviceable, on top of all the other demands as per above. And even then, you'd need specialist tools for many things, given how physically small so much technology is these days, especially when it comes to soldering/unsoldering.

So yeah. It's easy to point a finger at Apple. But mostly, the decline in user-serviceability is being driven by the increased complexity and integration of the components within all the devices we use - you can also flag things like cars and TVs in much the same way.

When one open-source package riddled with vulns pulls in dozens of others, what's a dev to do?

juice Silver badge

True, but...

> Validating inputs isn't defensive coding. It should be standard practice. If you, as a software developer, are not rigorously validating 100% of your user inputs, your computer access rights should be revoked.

I'd agree with this, but the problem here isn't *your* code.

It's the code in library A which you're pulling in. Which is then pulling in libraries B and C. Which are then pulling in libraries D, E, F, G, H. And so on.

No matter how rigorously you're validating your own code, there's no way to verify that the pyramid of "external" code you've pulled in is safe, unless you're going to manually review it all.

To use a recent personal example: I needed to compile some javascript using gulp. And after much failed faffing with nvm/npm, I gave up and grabbed a tarball of the required libraries from somewhere else.

My code: a few hundred bytes, atop a few hundred kilobytes of existing in-house code.

The code needed to get gulp working: 174 megabytes.

To be fair, there's probably a lot of legacy cruft in the compilation system. And I'd guess less than 1% of that code actually gets fired up when compiling my code. But even so, it would take weeks or months to verify the pyramid of code which is being used, and I'd then have to repeat this exercise whenever a library is updated and/or a new dependency added.

And therein lies the issue.

In theory, that's the beauty of open-source software, in that you have access to the source and do have the ability to review it. And since everyone else can do the same, all code should be perfect and bug-free!

In practice, many open-source packages only have a small number of contributers (assuming they haven't been abandoned/forked/etc), and the amount of oversight is limited.

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

juice Silver badge

Re: There's a rat in mi kitchen...

> Various mouse-catching suggestions

The wee blighter ended up hiding behind a wardrobe sat in a chimney alcove; it was fascinating watching it explore ways to get out of this area which didn't involve confronting the big and increasingly cranky ape standing guard in front of said wardrobe.

E.g trying to do a chimney climb up the gap between the wall and the wardrobe.

I then got an old motherboard box, cut a "doorway" into one corner and set it in front of the wardrobe, and the beastie did venture into it. But every time I moved to seal the doorway, it heard me and bombed straight back out to behind the wardrobe again!

Eventually, more by luck than judgement, I managed to capture it inside a canvas bag, and took it outside. Only to discover after the event that mice have a very strong homing instinct - and shortly after, one appeared on the attic stairs, though thankfully it froze in horror and I was able to trap it under a towel. After which it was driven to the hills and released far, far, far away from my house!

juice Silver badge

Re: chewed wires

> Some friends of mine had Guinea pigs and some tropical fish. They explained how whenever they went away for the weekend a neighbour would stop by and check on their pets

I own[*] a corn snake, who's incredibly placid and well behaved, and has given very little trouble over the last decade or so.

Except for the time when I was working down south and got a call from my partner, as said snake was no longer in their vivarium. Cue a long and slightly panic'd drive home, during which I tried to rehearse what to say to the neighbours. Fortunately, she'd only gone a short distance before deciding to curl up under a wash basket!

Then there was the second time a few years later. Which just happened to be the same weekend that I was looking after a friend's gerbil - the first and only[**] time I've ever looked after someone else's pet. Cue another stressful trip home, with visions dancing in my head of a happy looking snake with a gerbil-sized bulge in their belly...

Thankfully that time, she'd just curled up in the shoe cupboard, but I doubt the gerbil was impressed!

[*] passed over from a relative, when their partner started dropping strong hints about not wanting exotic pets in the house...

[**] Certainly, that friend never asked me to look after their gerbil again ;)

juice Silver badge

There's a rat in mi kitchen...

Never had anything particularly bad happen to my kit, though I once spent a fruitless evening chasing a mouse around the spare bedroom. Those wee beasties can move surprisingly quickly and can do some impressive acrobatics. Just wish it hadn't been at 3am, and in my house ;)

Saying that, a friend was once overjoyed to discover that a local tomcat has gotten into his house and sprayed his PC (which had the lid off to help keep it cool) with musk...

Another time, I bought my dad a hammock for his birthday - big wooden frame, nice canvas hammock. As his birthday's in October, this was duly admired and then stashed in the garage.

Come summer, Dad went into the garage to bring the hammock out, only to spy a mouse running out of the box. Turned out they were rather partial to the canvas, which now looked like a ragged old fishing net. Cue lots of cursing and a trip to BnQ to buy some traps...

Eventually, I bought him a new hammock, and the frame was duly assembled, the hammock put into place, and my dad leapt onto it with a big grin. Only for one of the wooden beams to snap, sending him spilling to the ground.

He's never touched a hammock since...

Big Tech on the hook for billions in back taxes after US Supreme Court rejects Altera stock options case hearing

juice Silver badge

> It'd raise nothing. You're assuming we won't just avoid it, when it should be obvious by now that we would

I think you missed the point. The USA had an income tax rate of over 50% for top-earners for over fifty years - and it was over 70% for twenty of those years.

And that period just so happened to be one of the best periods of economic and social growth for the USA. And I've not heard of any enclaves of American ex-pats, who sit around bemoaning about how they had to move out of the country because of the high taxes.

Nor have I heard of any significant numbers of rich people fleeing other countries which have a higher income tax rate than the UK.

In fact, many of the countries with higher income tax rates (e.g. Ireland, Germany, Slovenia, Israel, France, Sweden, etc) are generally considered to be highly prosperous and to have an overall better quality of life than countries with lower income tax rates.

It's almost as if paying taxes helps to maintain and build the country's infrastructure, and therefore create more opportunities for wealth generation...

> Let me give you a very simple example of why cutting taxes works. Do away with the tax free earnings withdrawal, and instead of getting 67% of nothing, you'd be getting 40% of another £25k.

So... cutting taxes by introducing a new tax? Either way, I don't know enough about taxes to know whether that would be a viable approach, or whether that'd just push people into using a different mechanism to avoid the tax. I'm generally inclined towards the latter, but that could just be because I'm cynical ;)

Sad to say, the empirical evidence to date indicates that if you cut taxes for rich people or corporations, that money just gets salted away and doesn't come back into the economy.

E.g.

The tax holiday for US companies bringing cash back into the country - https://taxfoundation.org/repatriation-tax-holiday-hangover/

"Trickle down" tax cuts - https://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-tax-havens

Reducing costly regulations to "enable" job growth, only to find the jobs were cut anyway, and the "saved" money ploughed into stock buybacks - https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/att-slashed-billions-from-network-spending-cut-tens-of-thousands-of-jobs/

And so on. I could try and dig out some British samples, but the USA does tend to provide bigger examples!

Money handed to the rich stays with the rich. Money distributed further down the chain goes back into the economy and helps to spur growth.

> my current tax rate is around the low 30's and my projected tax rate with professional advice would be around 7% with another 20% lost in fees ... the state will lose over £30k in taxes annually

That suggests that £30k is around 5% of your annual income, which in turn implies that you're earning around £600k per year and paying around £200k per year in taxes while having around £400k - or over £1000 per day - to spend on your lifestyle.

And without wanting to sound like I'm trying to be negative or score points, I genuinely do have a question: does your lifestyle actually needs that extra £30k in annual income, or is this all purely a matter of principle?

juice Silver badge

> The top 1% of income tax payers pay almost 30% of income taxes. You need only 300,000 people to move abroad or decide the stress and hours aren't worth it, and you have a funding black hole you can't fill. That's about 8% of the total UK tax take from just 300,000 people, plus whatever other taxes they pay. They don't even need to retire or move, they could just incorporate and disco, the tax disappears. The burden of taxation is dangerously overbalanced on far too few people and far too few companies - it's a massive operation risk with no possible plan B.

On the other hand, a very small delta change (e.g. a 1% income tax rise) would have very little direct impact on those earners, and result in significant extra revenue for the country.

As part of the process to deal with the Great Depression, and then the cost of WW2, the USA raised income tax for top-earners [*], and kept them high for over 50 years.

E.g

1932: 63%

1944: 94%

1964: 77%

1965: 70%

1982: 50%

Admittedly, it sounds like accountants were able to chop this down to an effective top-bracket tax rate of 70%, but this doesn't really seem to have affected the USA's economic growth - the 50s and 60s are generally viewed to be the "golden years" for the USA - or led to rich people fleeing the country.

Further musings about how much more money could potentially flow around the economy - and thereby come back to the government as taxes - if it wasn't all tied up in "top earner" offshore bank accounts is left as an exercise for the reader...

[*] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_taxation_in_the_United_States#:~:text=In%201932%20the%20top%20marginal,withholding%20and%20quarterly%20tax%20payments.

Apple to keep Intel at Arm's length: macOS shifts from x86 to homegrown common CPU arch, will run iOS apps

juice Silver badge

> Plenty have tried this whole mainstream ARM thing before, and all of them have failed, or at least not succeeded in the way they thought

It's pretty hard to find a mobile phone which isn't running an ARM variant, and these days, the functional gap between a computer and a smartphone is rapidly narrowing.

Hell, the odds are good that your smartphone has a significantly higher-resolution display than your laptop or PC!

Beyond that, it's worth bearing in mind that Apple isn't using standard ARM chips. They're using their own heavily tweaked and tuned chips which are based on ARM. And since everything - including the GPU - is in-house, they're able to tweak and tune their software for their specific hardware, rather than having to cover all the bases in the way that Android/Microsoft/Linux has to.

Then too, they've already got a tried, tested and proven hardware architecture, in the shape of the iPhone and iPad. The only real difference is that they're sticking a new OS atop - though even then, it's one that (at least originally) was based on FreeBSD and designed to be platform-agnostic...

PC printer problems and enraged execs: When the answer to 'Hand over that floppy disk' is 'No'

juice Silver badge

Re: "I'm the IT director for ..."

> Printers are the Devil's work, but the General F*cking Public is far, far worse.

I've told the tale before of the Cheap "Wireless" Printer With Just Two Buttons, on which you were meant to tap out some complicated pattern to put it into the right mode for WPS configuration. I ended up having to drive into town to buy a USB cable, boot up an ancient Windows laptop and then wait for Windows update to chew through a year or two of "upgrades" before I could install the printer drivers, hook up the USB cable, perform a firmware upgrade on the printer, and squirt the wireless config over from the laptop.

Fun times. Not.

But the general public can definitely be worse. Back when I used to work at an ISP, the call centre used to get absolutely hammered by irate customers, especially at Christmas when people have a tendancy to buy cheap fairy lights and other similar gadgets which then spew garbage across the EM spectrum...

The girl with the dragnet tattoo: How a TV news clip, Insta snaps, a glimpse of a tat and a T-shirt sold on Etsy led FBI to alleged cop car arsonist

juice Silver badge

Re: Parallel Construction

> Anyone who knows anything about USA investigations knows that they located their suspect by less-than-legal means and then assembled a parallel construction out of all the trivia they collected about their target.

So what you're saying is that they received a tip-off, and then did the legwork necessary to gather evidence which would satisfy a court of law?

Or to put it another way: it sounds like you're angling for a catch-22 setup where the police can't gather evidence to convict someone unless they've already been convicted!

Ah well. At the very least, your approach would lead to significantly fewer American police-procedural dramas being produced. Though it'd be a moot point, since I suspect there'd be a rise in the crime rate and my TV would probably end up being stolen ;)

EU aviation wonks give all-electric training aeroplane the green light – but noob pilots only have 50 mins before they have to land it

juice Silver badge

Re: Reserve power?

> Comparing eCar range is obviously very interesting but is it strictly comparable with keeping a plane in the air?

This thread is probably at the point where it should be buried with at least some shreds of it's dignity left ;)

But this is a fair point, and the answer is: I don't know :)

These days, car manufacturers give three figures for MPG - city, highway and combined. They're still generally on the "optimistic" side; I usually guesstimate real-world MPG to be about 10% below the official figures.

Though speed and driving style come into it, too. I had a tyre explode a while ago, and had to gingerly drive back home from Birmingham on the spare (spacesaver) tyre at 50mph. Average MPG for the journey was about 70mpg, rather than the ~50mpg I get when I stick the cruise control on and sit at the speed limit.

Back to planes, and their energy usage probably reflects "motorway" MPG the closest. After all, planes would tend to fall from the sky if they encountered a traffic light and had to stop ;)

OTOH, there's three stages to any journey. There's getting into motion, keeping in motion and stopping the motion. And for a plane, getting into motion and stopping both require significantly more energy than for a car, since it has to both get up to speed and altitude. Then too, I'm guessing a plane will have to throw away more energy than a car when "stopping", since it still has to actively fight against gravity until it's landed.

So, yeah. Personally, I'd be inclined to compare airplane journeys to motorway driving; an initial rampup of speed, followed by long periods of cruising, then a short rampdown.

juice Silver badge

Re: Reserve power?

> That's why curb weight is a vastly better number to go by.

Oh noes. If only I'd taken curb weight into account when comparing these two cars. Oh, wait, I did.

| These two cars weigh roughly the same (1.6 tonnes) and are roughly comparable in terms of size, price, market demographics, etc.

Still, I can make things a bit clearer...

Tesla 3 (Standard): weight 1610kg. Range: 258 miles

BWM 330i (Petrol): weight 1405kg. Range: 430 miles

BMW 330d (Diesel): weight 1515kg. Range: 593 miles

The Telsa 3 is 13% heavier than the petrol car, and has just 60% of the range. It would need to weigh at least 320kg more to match the petrol car's range.

Then there's the diesel. The Tesla is just 6% heavier, but sadly has just 43% of the range. It would need to weigh at least 650kg more to match the diesel car's range.

Fundamentally, eCar ranges are in no way comparable to ICE engine ranges. At the current rate of battery technology development (~6% extra capacity per year), it's going to take about a decade for them to be on even terms with petrol engines, and another 4-5 years past there to match diesel.

To be fair, eCars have a lot of other advantages. But range very much is not one of them.

juice Silver badge

Re: Reserve power?

> Your argument sounded less foolish years ago, before electric vehicles like the Teslas came along and proved it's possible to get the same range with batteries as with gasoline for only modestly more weight. Battery technology is not static, manufacturers continue to increase energy densities. In time, they absolutely will become competitive, it's just a gradual process.

Wha?

I'll grant that curb weight is broadly comparable, but range?

https://www.motor1.com/reviews/378302/bmw-3-series-tesla-model-3-comparison/

These two cars weigh roughly the same (1.6 tonnes) and are roughly comparable in terms of size, price, market demographics, etc.

But the BMW is carrying approx. 45kg of fuel and gets roughly 370 miles to a tank, while the Model 3 is carrying approx. 480kg of batteries and gets roughly 250 miles per charge.

So that's about ten times the "fuel" weight, for two-thirds of the range; you'd need roughly 15 times the fuel weight to get the same range [*].

I'm not sure I'd count 240kg - or about 15% of the car's weight - as a "modestly more weight"[*] ;)

Cars are in something of a sweet spot where the trade offs between range, weight and recharge times are generally "good enough" for non-commercial use. But those trade offs don't really scale down (e.g. motorbikes) or up (HGVs) unless you're willing to make significant concessions.

OTOH, as you said, battery life is improving, though at current trends, it's going to be a couple of decades before the power density is really comparable.

And it'll be interesting to see how well Tesla's Semi does. At a glance, it looks feasible on paper for these to displace diesel HGVs (13 hours driving a day = approx. 600 miles per day, so you'd need two charging stops a day), but managing the logistics for charging could be a challenge...

[*] Plus all the extra weight from uprating brakes etc to handle the extra weight. And from scaling up the car's frame to accommodate the extra batteries without sacrificing carrying capacity, etc. And the extra weight from the batteries you'd then have to add to deal with the extra weight. And so on...

[*] And with the high end diesel engine in the 330d, you'd get around 600 miles to the tank. Good luck cramming an extra 600kg of batteries into the boot of the Tesla ;)

juice Silver badge

Re: Here we go again...

> In fact minimum charge time is pretty much the same for any particular battery technology regardless of the battery capacity.

Woah there, Nellie. I was scribbling on the back of a beer mat, not building a charger network ;)

I'm well aware that there's two stages to charging:

1) A "fast" stage, where you pump electrons in as fast as you can, which gets you up to about 60% of capacity

2) A "rampdown" stage, where you keep reducing the amperage as you get closer to a 100% charge.

The key point is that while the time needed for 1) can theoretically be reduced to zero, you're still stuck with 2)

And there's lots of clever people doing their best to work out how to improve both stages, through things like hardware improvements, better monitoring software, active cooling systems, accepting trade-offs on longevity, etc.

Then too, some companies are claiming to have mobile phone chargers which can deliver a full charge in around 30 minutes - or even 13!

https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/20/18692589/vivo-super-flashcharge-120w-fast-charging-time

Personally, I think I'd stand well back and keep a (powder) fire extinguisher handy...

juice Silver badge

Here we go again...

> Conspicuously absent from the publicity material is mention of the charging time for the Velis Electro

At 25kw, the plane's battery has roughly quarter the capacity of the battery from a Tesla Model S.

Charge times for those range from 1 to 10 hours.

https://www.energysage.com/electric-vehicles/charging-your-ev/charging-a-tesla/

So in theory, you could be back up in the air in 15 minutes /if/ you can hook it into a Tesla supercharger or equivalent thereof.

Which is good, because with a 50-minute charge, you've presumably only actually get around 20 minutes of actual flight before you have to drop back down to earth again...

Snarking aside, it does feel like it's maybe a bit early to be pushing something like this out. I appreciate there's some advantage to being an early mover, but it's still taking me back to the days of 16mb MP3 players which used battery-backed RAM to store their music ;)

'One rule for me, another for them' is all well and good until it sinks the entire company's ability to receive emails

juice Silver badge

Re: Good riddance

> We had a developer who spent all of his time talking and doing not much work. Customer's loved him because he could talk the talk

I once went for an job interview, but came second because the company felt that the "winner" had better technical skills.

C'est la vie. Until I got a phone call a few weeks later; turned out the guy had completely blagged the interview and had the technical skills of an untrained monkey, so they'd sacked him off and had to start the entire recruitment process again...

25 years of PHP: The personal web tools that ended up everywhere

juice Silver badge

Re: Thanks Rasmus!

> Too many engineers worry about elegance in their solutions. Real Life isn't about "elegance", it is about getting things done

And that's how we end up with monstrous lumps of unmaintainable spaghetti code.

To be fair, there normally has to be some compromise between elegance, maintainability, performance, scalability and development time.

But in general, an "elegant" solution is more likely to be maintainable, performant and scalable.

I'm sure all developers have got horror tales of walking into a new project and finding that the last person "just got things done" in a way which left an unspeakable mess for the next person to clean up.

I know I've walked into that a a few times :)

> Perl most likely is seen as the 'better' alternative

There isn't really that much between Perl and PHP at the most basic level - they're both procedural, they both use variable prefixes and they're both little more than shims over standard shell and C library functions (e.g. fopen, echo).

Then too, Perl helps to highlight how "elegant" solutions can actually be a nightmare. Because in traditional use cases, it leans heavily on regexes, and these can be combined with implicit variables.

E.g. (and with the caveat that I haven't written Perl for a few years, so the syntax may not be 100% correct!)

foreach (<>) /(.+)(.+)/ && print $2;

From one perspective, that's a beautifully elegant solution, as it's hooking into PHP's implicit variables and involving a bare minimum of code

But from another perspective, that's just a bunch of random characters tapped out by an infinite number of monkeys, and which some poor sod is going to have to untangle a few years down the line.

And sadly, "just get it done" often tends towards stuff like the above.

All-electric plane makes first flight – while lugging 2 tons of batteries aloft

juice Silver badge

Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

> Nobody claimed that it was a closed system or that you could recover 100% of the energy.

My elderly relative did, and that's who I was discussing ;)

Though also, the term "run in reverse" at least somewhat implies that you can recover 100% of the energy. And that's definitely untrue, not least because we don't just run an electric motor "in reverse", but instead use another system which is specifically designed to convert kinetic energy into electricity.

Aka regenerative braking.

> The simple fact remains that an electric motor being spun from an external force generates electricity, so a plane descending can recover some charge (maybe 10%, but that's still 10% that doesn't need topping up on the ground)

The problem is that this still isn't "free" energy. Because the plane had to use energy to rise up to the level it was at before it started descending. All it's doing is reclaiming /some/ of the energy it used when rising.

(It looks like a Tesla can theoretically recover up to 64% of it's energy via regenerative braking, but I genuinely don't know how that would translate for a plane, as a quick glance just turned up a few theoretical papers and discussions of things like applying regenerative braking to the wheels when landing, which is interesting, but presumably a relatively small percentage of the energy used for the trip)

> An ICE cannot generate more fuel under any circumstances (oil seeping through into the fuel doesn't count!)

But it can use /less/ fuel by using engine braking or by taking advantage of gravity. And as such, while the process differs slightly, the outcome is the same for both types of engine:

ICE engine: burns fuel during climb, reduces fuel burn during descent. Result: less fuel used

e-Engine: uses electricity during climb, reclaims some electricity during descent. Result: less electricity used

To be fair, it's difficult to say how the efficiencies of the two processes compare. But it's also worth noting that the ICE engine also has a secondary advantage of sorts (over and above the current 20:1 weight ratio between batteries and petroleum fuel): because it's consuming the fuel, the plane's weight will reduce as it travels.

This doesn't make a significant difference when it comes to cars - after all, they generally only lug around up to 70l (60kg) of fuel, which is a tiny fraction of their weight.

(A full take would be about 3% of my old Mondeo's curb weight, apparently!)

But for a commercial plane, the fuel is a significant percentage of the weight. And the lighter the plane gets, the less fuel it has to use.

E.g. https://modernairliners.com/boeing-747-8/boeing-747-8i-and-8f-specs/

This 747 model weighs 220 tonnes, and can weigh up to 448 tonnes when fully fueled and loaded. Which gives it a carrying capacity of approx. 230 tonnes, which can be split between fuel (max 200 tonnes) and passengers/cargo (max. 76 tonnes).

Interestingly, it also has a maximum landing weight of 312 tonnes.

So potentially, a 747 can be anywhere up to around 50% lighter when it lands, depending on how far it's flown and how much cargo it's carrying.

E.g. for the London -> NY trip, it'd burn around 70 tonnes of fuel and be up to 25% lighter.

And that's going to make a difference to the overall fuel economy...

juice Silver badge

Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

> Which hints at the big advantage of electric propulsion... when you don't need to push, you can run the system in reverse and generate electricity to (partially) recharge the batteries

This reminds me of a conversation I occasionally have with an older relative, usually when sipping some whisky. For some reason, they're convinced that electric motors are an example of closed-system/perpetual motion engine, and that they should never need recharging as the electrons can just be endlessly recycled.

Sadly, in the real world, it's not a closed system. Some of that energy is converted into movement. And some energy is lost as part of the conversion, usually in the shape of heat (which generally serves no real purpose, other than to help demist the windscreen in winter). Either way, that energy is gone from the system.

You can't just "run the system in reverse". In an electric vehicle, you can use things like regenerative braking to convert some of your kinetic energy back into electricity, but that's yet another lossy conversion process.

And you can do something similar in modern ICE vehicles too - if you're travelling downhill, the vehicle can take advantage of the acceleration effects of gravity and reduce the amount of fuel being injected into the cylinders.

So no, there's no free lunches here. I suppose you could potentially get some "free" energy by plastering the roof of your car in solar panels, but the energy efficiency of these isn't particularly great, and they wouldn't work too well during the winter or a British summer ;)

juice Silver badge

Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

> So electric is heavier and has less range, but difference isn't quite as much as most people think

There's a bit of apples and pears going on here.

Generally, cars are privately owned, carry fairly small payloads and are used for a couple of times a day for fairly short hops (~1.5 passengers per trip, and about 7600 miles per year in the UK, or an average of about 30 miles a day , assuming 20 working days per month)

Generally, planes are commercially owned, carry heavy payloads (passengers/freight) and are kept as active as possible - a Telegraph article[*] indicates that a Ryanair "euro hop" plane can do seven flights and travel around 4000 miles per day.

So while you could compare a car to a light plane such as a Cesna, a much more representative comparison would be to use a commercial rig or coach.

Oddly enough, electric engines haven't really made much inroads in these areas yet[**]; it remains to be seen how well the upcoming wave of electrified vehicles (e.g. Tesla's Semi) will actually perform on both a commercial and functional level.

Back to the cars, and there's another key difference. The Tesla is carrying around 600kg of batteries. The Camra is carrying around 60kg of fuel.

As such, it's fairly easy to scale up the range of the Camra; an extra 60kg of fuel would make little difference to the overall weight and double the range.

To do the same for the Tesla, you'd need an extra 600kg of batteries. Then another lump of batteries atop to account for the extra weight of all those batteries.

And then there's the fact that jet engines are more efficient than petrol engines (40% vs 20-35%, though I'd guess the Camra is towards the top of the petrol scale). Which again makes it still yet harder for batteries to match their power/weight ratio...

[*] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-truths/a-week-in-the-life-of-a-plane/

[**] They have made some inroads when it comes to buses, but these tend to have relatively small circuits and can therefore be recharged multiple times a day. Even then, the wikipedia page indicates that an entire industry has sprung up around the logistics of keeping these buses charged up and moving!

juice Silver badge

Re: Nice stunt...

> But all it proves is that battery tech ain't there yet, which anyone with half a brain knew already.

Yeah. A standard Cesna carries around 40 gallons of fuel, which looks to weigh around 110kg (he says, wildly rounding figures).

This little experiment involved two tons of batteries and the plane flew for just 30 minutes; an ICE-powered Cesna can stay aloft for 6 or more hours, depending on speed, height etc.

So it still comes down to the fact that battery energy capacity needs to increase at least tenfold (if you believe their claim that they've already halved the battery weight) for this electric system to be commercially viable.

At least they'll already have their engine proven and ready!

juice Silver badge

Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

> A Lithium-Ion battery has 0.25 MJ/Kg. kerosene has 44 MJ/Kg.

It's not quite that simple; converting electricity to motion is more efficient than converting fuel to movement - about 80% vs 40% for a jet engine, from yet more poking around the interwebs.

The rule of thumb I saw in a few places indicates a weight ratio of 20:1 is reasonable for batteries vs fuel, so I took that and ran with it ;)

juice Silver badge

Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

> 4. The batteries are too heavy and the plane will never fly

Ooo. *rubs hands*

At a glance on t'interwebs, it looks like the rule of thumb is about 20:1 for battery weight vs airplane fuel weight. And a 747 uses about 70[*] tons when flying from London to New York. Which means it'd need 1400 tons of batteries to be able to do the same journey.

Or a mere 700 tons, if we believe the claim in the article that they're going to halve size and weight for their batteries while still (presumably) maintaining the same capacity.

Either way, take-off is going to be fun ;)

I'm sure there's some very clever people beavering away to address issues like this, but at the current rate of battery improvements (5-8% per year), it's going to take a long time to reach even just a tenfold improvement.

(about 40 years, assuming an average of 6% annual compound growth...)

And that brings us nicely to...

> 3. It will take too long to recharge

Working on the basis that Tesla's supercharger can charge 600kg of batteries in about an hour, that 700 tons of batteries would take about 1100 hours. Or about 45 days.

Admittedly, Tesla is working on a Megacharger[**] for their trucks, which looks like it'll push about six times the charge out. But that'd still take about nine days, and it'll be pushing about a megawatt of power out for nine days solid, which brings it's own engineering and safety challenges.

Still, I'm again sure there's some bright people looking into this, too!

But overall, I think I'm going to hold out for Doc Brown's Mr Fusion. After all, cold fusion is still only twenty years away ;)

[*] Dunno how much of a difference it makes moving to shorter hops; it's not clear from t'interwebs if the 70 tons includes the fuel cost of getting airborne and landing

[**] Does make me wonder what the next iteration will be called, seeing as how Uber is already taken...)

Nice wallpaper you've got there. It would be a shame if it bricked your phone

juice Silver badge

Re: Almost...

> The correct terminology is: "It's 2020 and you can still pwn Android with a JPG"

Meanwhile, over in Apple land...

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/06/apple-fixes-bug-that-could-have-given-hackers-unauthorized-to-user-accounts/

Software is growing ever more complex, and a lot of this stuff is buried under countless layers of abstraction.

Sadly, since no-one has an army of infinite flying monkeys to thrash their way through every possible permutation of data and actions, some things are always going to be found reactively.

And so we fix them, check to see if anything else has a similar issue, update our processes to catch any future examples, and move on.

Or at least, that's the theory. Over in the real world, time and resource constraints can lead to some or all of the post-fix actions being skipped.

And that's when we need to take note, or at least point and laugh.

Because as the old saying goes, "fool me once..."

80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds

juice Silver badge

Personally...

While we do have coding standards where I work, there isn't a hard limit for line lengths. And with my dev environment, I could potentially go up to about 180 characters a line.

But that'd be silly.

Generally I tend to stick to around 100 characters as a rough "maximum line length", with occasional stretches to 120 if it aids readability.

E.g. when writing comments, the former of these arbitrary examples looks better to me

// I generally only tend to go past 100 characters when it's a comment which would look silly when broken into multiple lines

OR

// I generally only tend to go past 100 characters when it's a comment which would look silly

// when broken into multiple lines

In general though, all my code formatting is driven by a single key question: does it help to make the code easy to read and understand?

I spent a chunk of my formative years at the Perl coal-face, carving out large chunks of "clever" code which could do a zillion things in a single line, which generally looked like "checksummed line noise" (to quote an old description of Perl).

These days, I've come to the conclusion that life is far too short to spend time reverse engineering overly complex lumps of old code to figure out how it works...

Das reboot: That's the only thing to do when the screenshot, er, freezes

juice Silver badge

Re: Funny that

> Ah, those innocent days, long before the features facilitating such japes became _recognized as_ security risks...

Bit of both, TBH. After all, these were the days when memory addressing was contiguous, CPUs could safely do branch prediction, and viruses either displayed a rude message or corrupted your hard drive, rather than locking the entire thing up and demanding that you send a bitcoin to a random Eastern European address. And this was at the dawn of the first browser war, so Microsoft hadn't yet managed to push the wondrously insecure Internet Explorer into a position of market dominance.

Or to put it another way: many of the threats we deal with today simply hadn't been invented yet.

Alas, things evolved, and as new attack vectors were discovered or invented, the hardware and software they target has adapted in turn. It's an ever escalating Mexican stand-off, and it's frankly shameful (if equally inevitable) how much of our computing resources have to be used to safeguard our data and activities, rather than doing something functionally useful.

juice Silver badge

Re: Funny that

> That's a hoary old one, points deducted for lack of originality. Up there with plugging their mouse into a different machine, but still on their desk

Back in late nineties, we were working on personal workstations which anyone in the group could connect to and switch to root access.

And we were all running Netscape Navigator on these machines, as we were building a (fairly advanced, for the time) self-care system for an ISP.

And it turned out that Netscape allowed you to send instructions on the command line to the currently active browser process.

And a co-worker discovered this.

And so, one day, my machine started to throw up new browser windows, mostly pointed at playboy.com and the like, while I scratched my head and various team members joked about how I'd clearly been doing some dodgy surfing...

Ah, those innocent days, long before the features facilitating such japes became security risks...

Hooray! It's IT Day! Let's hear it for the lukewarm mugs of dirty water that everyone seems to like so much

juice Silver badge

> That's one of the things he got wrong. The officers liked their tea, but it was too expensive for the common men to afford at the time. A common thing was servants selling the used tea leaves which could be dried and dyed and then resold to people who couldn't afford the expense of full on tea.

Fair point - I assumed he'd researched that!

At a glance, looks like tea usage really started to grow in the mid-18th century, thanks in part to the British empire taking bushes from China and developing tea plantations in India.

I might do some more digging into all this later... once I've brewed another cuppa ;)

juice Silver badge

Re: I'm with you

> Tea is for people who can't handle the intensity of coffee and/or who have a moral objection to things which are enjoyable.

Ooo. Someone needs to settle down with a nice cuppa!

juice Silver badge

> Properly speaking the love affair with tea has a lot to do with the Victorians temperance movement

There's also the British Army's love of tea, which dates back a few centuries - Bernard Cornwall's Sharpe was set during the Napoleonic wars, and the soldiers in that are constantly brewing up.

It'd be interesting to find out the history behind this. After all, it makes sense for the army to push tea as a drink; you have to boil water to make it (sterilising the water and the utensils used to make the brew), and it's a mild stimulant. It's also light and compact, doesn't require any special equipment or tools (unlike coffee) and isn't alcoholic, so something of a win all round if you're trying to keep a large group of men in fighting shape.

Not that it always worked, as happened in Gallipoli during WW1.

Either way, I guess this would have helped to spread it across the country, as the men would come home from t'war with their new habit/addition, and introduce it to their families.

And it's a bit odd that other countries didn't pick up on it to the same degree, though I guess this might have been at least partly due to the fact that the British Empire was consuming as much as could be produced. After all, we literally bought all the tea in the world during WW2...

https://blog.teabox.com/year-britain-bought-tea-world

Capture the horrors of war in razor-sharp quality with this ruggedised Samsung phone – or just lob it at enemy forces

juice Silver badge

Ars took a look

... and came to the conclusion that it's a standard S20 with a different boot-screen image and a "military grade" case. Which naturally comes with a hefty markup, and lots of accessories which also carry an equally hefty markup.

E.g. the case costs $290, and a "hardened" USB-C cable for it also costs $290.

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/05/the-galaxy-s20-tactical-edition-is-a-shock-and-awe-campaign-against-reality/

To be fair, it does have that funky military design ethos to it; it strongly reminds me of the Fallout Pipboy.

But TBH, I'd probably just pick up a CAT S60. Which may not be cutting edge technology, but they are ridiculously tough. And they have a FLIR camera built in, which means you can do Predator-Vision (tm). Even if the latter feature is probably why they're still relatively expensive, given that people are keen on having the ability to scan people who are running a high temperature atm...

Internet of Tardiness: Microsoft puts on a brave face as IoT boat prepares to set sail

juice Silver badge

Re: Missing the boat

> Okay, there's Azure that's not doing bad now either, granted. But frankly, everything else Borkzilla has ever attempted ended in failure. Might be time to draw some conclusions, don't you think ?

To be fair, the Xbox 360 did pretty well. If they hadn't screwed up with the hardware's heat-dissipation capabilities (aka: the RROD and the billion-dollar charge they took as a result), that would have been a nice feather in their cap.

Admittedly, they then completely screwed things up with the Xbox One by both trying to pivot it into being a living room multimedia center *and* force-bundling it with Kinect, at a point when it was clear that the fad for "movement" controls had long since peaked.

At least it's still ticking along, even if the PS4 has handily claimed the console crown for this generation!

A real loch mess: Navy larks sunk by a truculent torpedo

juice Silver badge

Re: Of course it was going to hit the boat!

> Inevitably the plane hit this fence post dead on, not even a glancing blow.

Back *mumble* years ago at secondary school, we used to play football on some tennis courts, near the back of the school where more truculent pupils would try and sneak off for a ciggy or similar.

One day, someone[*] absolutely hoofed the ball, sending it soaring into the air in a beautifully described arc. And time seemed to almost stop as we all watched it zoom into the air, practically reaching near earth orbit before then unerringly steering itself towards the dinner lady who'd chose that moment to patrol the verges for miscreants.

And then, thanks to one of those million-to-one chances which happen nine times out of ten, the ball came down directly onto the top of her head.

I've never seen anyone topple over like a felled tree before...

Another time at the same school, we had a relatively young and enthusiastic science teacher, who decided that the best way to teach us about something[**] was a practical demonstration with a model rocket powered by a solid-fuel cartridge.

So we all duly trooped outside and stood in the school fields to watch this thing shoot up into the air and then float back down to earth under a little parachute.

But then he decided to go one step further. And so we all stood outside the chain-fence of the tennis courts, as he strapped one of these solid fuel cartridges onto a toy car, which then richochetted across the rough surface of the concrete tennis courts like an amphetamine fueled insect.

Health and Safety officials would have a heart attack at the mere idea these days; I'm not even sure how he got away with it back then!

[*] Not me. I was tall, not particularly sporty and bespectacled, so usually ended up in goal!

[**] Smeg knows; this was a while ago. Might have been rocket science, or it might have just been a sunny day and he wanted to play with a new toy...

NHS contact tracing app isn't really anonymous, is riddled with bugs, and is open to abuse. Good thing we're not in the middle of a pandemic, eh?

juice Silver badge

Re: One would have throught...

> You are suffering from 'one-bit mind'. This is where people assume that quantities which need to be represented by real numbers (or collections of real numbers) can be represented by a single bit, which is either true or false. It's a common problem among computing people: I suffer from it too.

I think it's more around the question: how useful is this information, and how many false positives will it trigger?

Class 2.0 Bluetooth theoretically has a range of 10m. Which obviously varies depending on location and device, but hey.

And it apparently takes a minimum of 1.28 seconds to get a response from a bluetooth device in low power mode, and an average of around 2 seconds.

(http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1015.2811&rep=rep1&type=pdf)

And average walking speed is about 1.4m/s.

So. You have a bluetooth "bubble" around each person, with a 20m diameter. So if two people walk past each other, they'll be in each other's range for around 7 seconds, and the system will record that they were in "kissing" range for about 5 of those seconds.

Ping.

Or if one of the people is stationary, they'll be in range for around 14 seconds, and the system will record 12 seconds.

Ping.

Or if I'm sat upstairs at the back of a double-decker bus, and someone else sits at the back of the bottom of the double-decker bus, we'll be in range until one of us gets off the bus, despite having always had a solid metal barrier between us.

And that doesn't count the people we'll pass while sitting on the bus, especially if it's an inner-city environment where buses often travel at little more than walking pace.

Or if I'm at work, where many of the offices have full-height glass windows and thin partition walls. Yet more people I would have zero physical contact with, but could spend hours in range of their BT devices.

And so on.

I'm guessing there's ways to filter the results from these checks and reduce false positives. But it's a non-trivial exercise, and if the boy cries wolf too often, the usefulness of this application will rapidly dwindle.

Eclipse boss claims Visual Studio Code is an open-source poseur – though he would say that, wouldn't he?

juice Silver badge

Re: Nicely balanced article

> No insult intended, but vim isn't really a development environment that is comparable with IntelliJ (both on 25.4%)

Hey, don't knock vim! ;)

My main dev environment is Ubuntu, running one or more tabbed terminal windows. Generally, most of the tabs have Vim open on a file, alongside a couple which I use to commit/upload changes and tail log files.

And thanks to the power of keyboard shortcuts, I can easily move between tabs and windows without having to use the mouse. And Vim has colour syntax highlighting, and can run commands, so I can easily trigger local builds and syntax validation.

With that said, I'll be the first to admit that a dedicated IDE can offer a lot more - and other people in the company do use their IDE of choice - but for what I do, it works well enough. And almost as importantly, it's a setup which I can use on virtually any *nix environment without having to install or tinker with anything. And it works just as well when I have to log into a production environment to investigate or fix issues.

Perhaps most importantly of all... it's not Emacs :D

Square peg of modem won't fit into round hole of PC? I saw to it, bloke tells horrified mate

juice Silver badge

Re: Fun with power tools...

Not sure what I was running on that wee beast - I've got a feeling it was a stripped down version of Win98 or somesuch. As you might have guessed from the NES case, it was mostly intended to be used as an emulator station.

On a vaguely similar note, I can recall a friend using one of the early media streamer boxes as a house server - some Western Digital thing about the size of a laptop power supply, which ran some ARM chip at around 400mhz and could be easily flashed to boot linux.

Said friend was teaching in China at the time, so this box ended up at his mum's house, sat in a corner and acting as a proxy whenever they wanted to access something the Great Firewall of China wouldn't have approved of...

juice Silver badge

Re: Fun with power tools...

> Did you not know about solvent weld?

I can't comment on what my past self knew (or didn't) - this was about 15 years ago, and there's been a lot of solvents since. Usually in the form of ethanol and served in a pint glass on an evening ;)

What I can say is that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you have a soldering iron and a bunch of mangled thermoplastic scraps, everything can be fixed by melting the smaller bits down to the consistency of chewing gum and using them to bodge larger bits into place, with help from the tip of the soldering iron!

juice Silver badge

Fun with power tools...

Way back before the Raspberry Pi was even a bud on the vine[*], I picked up one of the early nano-ATX all-in-one boards. One of the VIA EPIA variants; I think it had a 1ghz processor descended from the Cyrix architecture and an S3 Chrome GPU, or somesuch.

Naturally, i wanted to do something interesting with this new and incredibly small bit of technology. And I had a couple of dead NES machines in a cupboard.

So, one was fetched out of deep storage, stripped down and attacked with a dremel to make room for the board and improve airflow.

Alas, the result was a bit fragile. Fortunately, I discovered that the plastic Nintendo had used was thermoplastic - and I had a knackered old soldering iron to hand.

The smell during the welding process was pretty nasty, and it was far from the neatest set of welds in the world, but hey. What's inside the NES, stays inside the NES!

It did all actually work out pretty well in the end - I managed wire up the power/reset buttons to the m/b, got the OS booting off a CF card, and even found a laptop CD drive which fitted pretty much perfectly behind the cartridge-slot door. Once I'd welded a few more bits of plastic into place to keep it in place, anyhow :)

[*] What I know about horticulture can be transcribed onto a very small pea pod...

Lars Ulrich makes veiled threats of another Metallica album during web chat with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

juice Silver badge

Re: Harsh...

> It's not just "reinventing their sound". As the article, and many comments here shows, many listeners of a band's music never seem to move on but the artists *do*. Artists are human and they age, and during that aging their viewpoints and attitudes change. They can't stay angry young men (and women) forever, and both what they want to say on their art, and how they want to say it, grows different with time.

Agreed - everyone and everything changes over time, and it's manifestly unfair to expect artists of any ilk to keep churning out stuff in the exact same style, decade after decade.

But it does feel like there was an inflection point in the early 90s, where a number of acts decided to make a conscious change in style, rather than it being a natural/gradual progression.

The main question is whether it was a case of a genuine desire to experiment, or just "following-the-leader" in an attempt to cash in on a trend - or even just a response to the various changes in the industry (driven at least in part by advances in technology, and the associated drop in production costs).

Personally, I'd tend to lean towards the latter two; big-name established musicians have to pay the bills, the same as everyone else!

juice Silver badge

Re: Pioneers of thrash?

> And no, they didn't sell out after the black album. It was during the writing of the black album. "Thrash metal" does not allow a bloody ballad to show up in the track listing--see Slayer for details.

Metallica had been dabbling in power ballads for years before the Black album - e.g. One, Sanitarium, Fade to Black.

They thought they could handle it. After all, it's just a ballad.

Remember kids, the first one is always free. Just say no!

juice Silver badge

Harsh...

> They unleashed a salvo of landmark albums during that time – Kill 'em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All – up until 1991, when they realised they could make even more money if they wrote pop-rock songs and power ballads. That was the eponymous "black album".

Admittedly, the black album was a fairly significant step change from their previous efforts, but it was still loud and nasty. And while The Unforgiven is a power ballad, it followed in the footsteps of One and Sanitarium, from their previous albums!

The less said about St Anger, the better, though.

Actually, with my metal-geek studded-leather jacket on, there was definitely something in the water around 1990, as a number of established elder rock gods took a successful punt at reinventing their sound, mostly by bringing in a new producer to shake things up. E.g. Judas Priest/Painkiller, Metallica/Black and Alice Cooper/Trash, Ozzy/No More Tears, etc...

Alas, this then encouraged people to experiment further, which is how we ended up with increasingly corporate efforts to mangle more things together in the hopes of producing a new golden-egg laying goose. Yep, nu metal, I'm looking at you; people like Kid Rock and Fred Durst have a lot to answer for...

Nine million logs of Brits' road journeys spill onto the internet from password-less number-plate camera dashboard

juice Silver badge

Re: Ah, Sheffield

> After circling the streets for around 25 or 30 mins - literally in view of said building - I could find no streets that I could legally drive down to get any closer. I ended up parking in a pay and display.

Admittedly, the area around the cathedral is a royal PITA to navigate around unless you have the local "knowledge". F'instance, it's a 1.3 mile walk from where I live to the cathedral, but if I wanted to drive there, the quickest route would be 2.8 miles...

Perhaps the best bit is by the bus station, which is sat at the bottom of one of Sheffield's many hills; there's a large concrete lump built into this hill, atop of which is an ex-nightclub which is now an O2 Academy venue.

And there's a side road by the bus station called Pond Street, which has a vast swathe of parking which is free at evenings and weekends. And so I directed a friend there one night when they drove over for a gig.

Except... they couldn't find the free parking area, and instead had to park up in the overly expensive NCP car park which is buried in said concrete lump.

Turns out that there's actually two Pond Streets; these were once a single road, but when the bus station was put in place, this was cut into two and a pedestrian zone inserted between the two new (and heavily reshaped) halves.

But no-one thought to rename either of these new roads, and modern GPS systems insist on taking you to the "bus-station" Pond Street rather than the "free parking" Pond Street...

juice Silver badge

Re: No shock

> Can't say as this surprises me about anything run by Sheffield Council. I've lived there most of my life and never seen anything except a string of useless individuals ruin a once great city. This you recall the council that built an airport, but didn't make it quite long enough to be commercially viable, safe in the knowledge that the original deal included the clause that sold the site back to the developers for £1 if it wasn't viable.

There was also Don Valley Stadium; when the council ran out of money in 2013, that was sold off and demolished indecently quickly (announced in January, sale completed and site demolished by November of the same year).

And then there was Park Hill Flats (as seen a few times in recent Dr Who episodes)- a decaying, brutalist lump of social housing which had been hanging around the council's neck for years, partly thanks to the fact that it's grade 2 listed.

Sold to a dodgy company - one of the ones which funds construction work by pre-selling the apartments-to-be. Sadly, this all happened just as a recession kicked in; combined with the fact that repairing grade 2 buildings is expensive, this led to the plans being massively scaled back. This was all kicked off back in 2009; over a decade later, half the flats are still pending refurbishment.

Or the amazing "billion pound" deal with a Chinese construction company in 2016, which completely failed to materialise. Which is perhaps a blessing in disguise, as the same company wanted to purchase Sheffield's central library and convert it into a hotel.

Or the move of Sheffield Market from Castlegate (conveniently next to the bus station and train station, as well as being on the tramline and just off the M1 access motorway) to the Moor (not near to any of the above). Oddly, footfall plummeted after the move!

Mind you, we now have their latest brainwave - a 20-year, £1.5 billion investment for the area around the train station. At the minute, the tram-tracks go behind the station, while the inner ring road goes in front of it; from the renders, the main thrust of this plan is to swap these around.

What the renders don't show is quite how this is going to work, seeing as there's probably a good 4 meters difference in elevation between the front and back of the station, and there's a tramline "hub" sat at the top of this elevation, just a few hundred meters from the station.

Oh, and then there's a lumpen concrete tramline bridge at the far side, which takes trams an extra meter or so higher as they pass by Norfolk Park.

So in this brave new world, trams will somehow have to drop 4 meters so that they can rumble alongside the front of the station. And then once they're past the station, they'll have rise back up 5 meters.

And they'll have to cross the train tracks, at the same time.

Still, with the council's track record, I'm sure it'll all be a blinding success!

juice Silver badge

Ah, Sheffield

Sheffield is a funny old place. At peak, it's the usual nightmare, especially when it comes to the roundabouts over by Sheffield Uni on the inner ring road.

But off peak, it's relatively nice and easy to drive around, partly because the city centre is physically smaller and lower-density than places like Leeds or Manchester.

On the other hand, the council has done it's best to make things increasing convoluted, with a few "carefully" placed one-way systems and bus-only lanes.

West Street is perhaps the best example of this; the top end has had a peak-time bus gate rule in place since 2010. And in 2018, they switched on some ANPR cameras to enforce this rule.

And to be fair, this is next to the aforementioned hot-spot on the inner ring road, so it makes sense to limit traffic at peak.

But... the signage is highly confusing; the first sign appears about 300m before the junction, then there's a second "reminder" sign at 200m and a final "bus gate ahead" sign at 100m.

So at a glance, you'd expect the rule to apply at the 200m - or possibly even the 100m - mark. But no, it starts at the 300m mark; the ANPR camera is actually mounted on the same set of traffic lights which the first warning sign is mounted on.

Better yet, there's a car park just after the 300m mark, down a side road on the left. So to access this car park during peak, you have to turn *right* just before the 300m, then turn left to drive over a *pedestrianised* area just in front of the main entrance to a university building (which as a result is usually rammed with scurrying students) and then turn left again to cross back over West Street to get access to it.

This has also had a not-so-nice economic impact as well; there used to be a number of shops at the top of West Street, as well as a traditional Turkish Spa. And ever since the ANPR cameras were activated, they've taken a huge financial hit and some have had to close.

https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-spa-closes-over-bus-gate-fines-cash-scam-row-494323

Equally/ironically, there's a covenant which means the council is responsible for keeping the Turkish Spa open. So between the loss of business rates and the need to subsidize the Spa, it's entirely possible that the council is losing more money than it's gaining from having the ANPR cameras switched on...

(Disclaimer: I was caught out by the above ANPR cameras a while ago, when picking my car up after an MOT. Not that I'm bitter or anything!)

Guess who's back, back again. SE's back, tell a friend: 2020 reboot looks like an iPhone 8 and even shares components

juice Silver badge

Re: It's still the fastest Apple iPhone at the lowest Apple price

Looks like in 2016, the SE accounted for about 15% of Apple's US sales and 30% of their UK sales.

https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/10/the-iphone-se-is-selling-just-as-apple-planned-in-the-u-s-and-europe/

So it was certainly pretty popular, at least for a while. Saying that, it'd be interesting to find out how much of that was driven by the lower price point - a second article linked from the above notes that the SE cost $399 versus $549 for the 6S.

Then too, four years later, access to visual media is arguably a lot more important than it was back in 2016.

Anecdotally, I do actually own a SE and use it on a daily basis - I bought one used, since I needed a new music player and it was cheaper than picking up an iPod Touch ;)

For all that it's perfectly functional and fast enough, when compared to the behemoth of my Samsung S10+, it's an ergonomic PITA, especially when it comes to typing.

To be fair, I remember being perfectly happy when tapping away with a stylus on my old Palm 3c. But we've come a long way since then, and I've no desire to go back to smaller or more fiddly user interfaces!

juice Silver badge

Re: It's still the fastest Apple iPhone at the lowest Apple price

> I did a search on a phone database for devices released in the last two years smaller than those dimensions, and 73 results came up. Then I adjusted the list to remove watches and feature phones. Only seven results came up.

I just did a quick search on Amazon for "4 - 4.4 inch" phones, and a few more options came up.

E.g. the dreadfully named Cubot Kingkong phone, which is 119x58mm, 3GB RAM and Android 9 Pie. And released in November 2019, judging by the Amazon timestamp and review dates.

To be fair, it's a cheap and cheerful little number which looks like it was designed by a teenager who'd just watched Bladerunner for the first time, but at the same time, it's new, looks to have reviewed surprisingly well for it's price point and fits your size criteria.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/CUBOT-Kingkong-Mini-Smartphone-Waterproof/dp/B08212KXNH/

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Cubot-KingKong-Mini-Smartphone-Review-Handy-Mobile-Phone-from-China.454083.0.html

Then there's the Alcatel 4034x, released in October 2018, though at £37 new, it's barely a third the price of the Kingkong and the (curiously omitted) hardware specs will probably be trimmed down to match.

Beyond that, the well does seem to run dry on Amazon (barring some older Android and even Windows phones some overly optimistic people are still listing).

But there's a reason for this: the market has moved on from small handsets. Because the vast majority of people now use their handsets to interact with visual media - social media and videos being the two main ones.

They're even increasingly using them to produce media rather than just consume it - my housemate has been producing some impressively professional looking music videos on her iPhone during the lockdown.

And a small handset just doesn't cut it, either for consuming visual media, interacting with it or creating it.

Which isn't to say that there isn't use-cases for smaller handsets - after all, some people really do just want a phone, not a miniaturised networked computer.

But there simply isn't - and arguably never will be - a market large enough to interest the likes of Apple.

Realme's X50m is a decently specced 5G phone – for the price of a 1995 Nissan Micra

juice Silver badge

Re: Not sure how much a bargain this would be...

Yeah - we've come a long way from the days of Lik Sang and their ilk :)

Still, with Moore's law having dropped off a cliff, these days it's usually easier to just pick up something from a generation or two ago, at a fraction of the current-gen prices.

E.g. I used to use an iPod classic for music - great battery life, a headphone socket and the only thing worse for managing large music collections than iTunes is everything else on the market.

(Plus, Android phones generally don't support song rating, which is something I use to purge songs which have outstayed their welcome)

Alas, the hard drive is starting to sound like a metronome, and buying a straight replacement is surprisingly expensive, as they're old enough to have become favored by hipsters.

So instead, I picked up a 128gb iPhone SE for £115, from CEX.

Not only did it come with a 1-year hardware warranty, but it's less than half the price of a new 128gb iPod Touch and more double the battery capacity (probably - Apple don't like quoting battery capacities, but ebay suggests the iPod has a 650mah battery vs the ~1600mah battery of the SE).

(and a better camera and a slightly faster CPU. Not particularly fussed about either, since I've just stuck it into airplane mode and use it just for music!)

Win all round :) And similar will probably apply as and when my Galaxy S10 bites the dust...

juice Silver badge

Re: The thing about a 1995 Nissan Micra is...

Yeah - a quick glance at autotrader shows the 1.4 model goes for similar prices. E.g.

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/202004178979873

Not bad for a twenty-year old car :) It's rare to own a car that actually increases in value over time :)

juice Silver badge

Re: Not sure how much a bargain this would be...

> Banggood will charge you £230 + around a tenner for shipping. You take a gamble on the import tariffs; HMRC stop about 1 in 5 of my packages and I have to pay duty on them; but it's still way cheaper than buying anything here.

True, but there's a big difference between taking a gamble on the grey market and buying something that's going to come with a proper warranty, EU/UK certification and regional customer support/localisation.

Not that that's stopped me in the past :)

Elevating cost-cutting to a whole new level with million-dollar bar bills

juice Silver badge

Re: It didn't affect us

Back in t'day, I lived in a victorian house which was in the heart of a large town - less than half a mile from the shopping high street, and on one of the main commuting routes into said town.

(Which handily meant that there was around half a dozen pubs in the immediate vicinity, of which at least one would have live music or a jam session going on a given night. Which was nice, especially when I ended up being paid to not work for a few months. But that's another story...)

And as this was an Victorian townhouse, the front garden was basically a small gravel pit, stuck behind a short and chunky brick wall surmounted by cast-iron railings that had somehow managed to survive the great WW2 melt-all-the-things purge.

Plus a bus-stop pole sat directly in front of said brick wall. Which was nice (for a very small value of nice), as the bus engine vibrations tended to hit the resonance frequency of the house's windows. Still, it played a part in what was to come...

In the early hours one morning, I was awoken by some strange screeching noises, followed by some rather crunchy noises.

Staggering out of bed, I went to the window, opened the curtains and blearily peered out.

And then I turned and yelled to my housemate "Oi! We've got a car parked in our front garden!"

Some muppet in a sporty little number (A Toyota MR2 or somesuch) had come barrelling down the slight incline of the road, lost control and put his car into a spin, which only ended when they hit the aforementioned chunky wall.

It was actually quite a neat - if accidental - bit of maneouvering - the townhouses were the standard narrow "single room" design, but he somehow managed to completely avoid the houses to either side of mine, and plant his car squarely in our gravel pit. Atop the remnants of said wall and railings, facing backwards, and with the rear bumper of his car barely a foot from the front room's bay window.

This is where the aforementioned bus stop came in handy, as when the car hit it's steel pole, it helped to spin it into the brick wall!

Still, I can think of nicer ways to wake up...

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