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Can we power electric cars?

There were 240.0 billion car miles driven in the UK in 2013. That’s 386.2 billion car kilometres. [source]

If electric motoring costs 0.34 kWh per kilometre (from your 4 year old link), then that requires (386.2 × 0.34 =) 131.3 TWh of extra electrical energy.

Total electricity generation was 359 TWh in 2013. [source]

So switching to all electric cars would required the UK to increase electricity generation by 37%, according to the article you linked. If we all drove Teslas, which achieve 0.24 kWh/km, then generation would only need to increase by 26%.

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What are the chances of rolling “snake eyes”?

We were play testing my friend Sam’s board game this weekend. It features “annihilator towers” – you build up N levels of tower, and then roll N 6-sided dice to determine the damage dealt. Here’s the wrinkle though: If you roll two or more ones, then the tower explodes and the damage is dealt to the home team. What are the chances of rolling two ones, for a given tower level? Read the rest of this entry »

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Narcissist of the Week?

Apparently Twitter has been a-tweet over David Ramsey’s list of “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day”. Ben Irwin has posted a pointed ripose, but the original post is a hoot.

The controversial list isn’t all that bad. There are a handful of good points (“81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor”) surrounded by a sea of ignorance. He seems to think that if only the poor had more time, and above all money, then they wouldn’t be so poor. E.g. “76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this”.

No, don’t read it for the list. Read it for the amazing screed that he’s added to “defend” himself from all the criticism. Here are some choice nuggets:

“I am amazed at how many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have attacked us because of a simple list posted on our website.”

A “simple list”.

“When you actually bother to look into what we teach, you find generosity and grace taught throughout.”

Saying it doesn’t make it so.

“There is a direct correlation between your habits, choices and character in Christ and your propensity to build wealth […]. To dispute that or attribute hate to that statement is immature and ignorant.”

He’s clearly been listening to his critics.

“My wife and I started our lives with almost nothing […] driving two cars […]”

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

“God has blessed our efforts and we have done well, and for that I am incredibly grateful and humbled.”

The idea that this man thinks he is “humble” is preposterous. I hereby award him my “narcissist of the week” prize.

I’ve never heard of David Ramsey before today, because I don’t watch TV so I’ve had no chance to watch his TV show, and I certainly don’t read self-help books, his or anyone else’s. I’m confused though: Since “67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor”, but “86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor” – does that mean that poor people watch his TV shows, but then switch to reading his books once they’ve achieved wealth?… But, why would they be reading his books if they’re already rich?… Perhaps the books are about how to keep hold of your money, rather than actually making it?

Maybe I’m over-analysing.


ICICI bank

Me (calling ICICI bank): Hello, I’m trying to open a savings account, but when I click next on your form, it says “Address information cannot have special characters” – but I can’t see any special characters in any of the fields I’ve entered.

ICICI bank: Hello sir. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. What browser are you using?

Me: Erm let me see. It’s Firefox 21.0.

ICICI: I’m sorry sir, you are using Safari. Please try to use Internet Explorer.

Me: I’m not using Safari. I’m using Firefox, version 21.0.

ICICI: Please try to use Internet Explorer.

Me: I don’t have Internet Explorer.

ICICI: You don’t have Internet Explorer???

Me: I think I’ll find someone else to look after my money, thanks.

Microsoft has been selling Windows without Internet Explorer for years! Even if they assumed I was using Windows, it’s by no means safe to assume that everyone will have IE. I should have told him I was using my phone – that would have freaked him out even more!


The Washington Post’s NSA survey is biassed

The Washington Post recently published the results of a survey that purports to show that:

the public backs giving the federal government broad authority to investigate terrorist threats, even extending to the NSA program that monitors phone records

Their first question shows a 2:1 split in favour of the authoritarian position:

What do you think is more important right now for the federal government: to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy OR not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats?

a. Don’t invade privacy (34%) OR
b. Investigate threats (62%)

Those were terrible yes/no options that absolutely do not allow people to express a nuanced view. This is not an either/or issue. A moderate would say that authorities should usually respect privacy, but they should also investigate serious threats.

The wording of the options guides moderate respondents towards the authoritarian position. Option a. “don’t invade privacy” is an extreme, equivalent to “never invade privacy”. But option b. “investigate threats” allows for the moderate position “investigate only serious threats”. A moderate respondent will want a little of both, so they can only choose b.

Let’s rephrase the options to be biassed in the other direction, so that moderates must favour a.:

a. Respect privacy OR
b. Treat everyone as a potential threat

Finally, here’s a balanced version, where a moderate can safely choose either answer:

a. Respect privacy OR
b. Investigate threats


Configuring a Gigaset IP phone with a Technicolor router.

I’ve switched away from BT to using a VoIP number provided by my ISP. AAISP strongly encourage their customers to avoid NAT for VoIP, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. Here’s how I got it working.

Update 2013/4/10: Although this NAT set-up does work, it only seems to work for a day or two. After a while, the audio connection stops working, so the phone will ring, but there is no audio in or out or both. After playing around with it a bit, I abandoned NAT, and gave my base station a real IP address. So, you can follow these instructions, but you will probably have the same problems… Read the rest of this entry »

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My wife Hilde and I are just embarking on our house renovation project. It’s a huge change of direction for me, I find it exhilarating and a little bit scary.

I’ve created a new category on this blog for the project. I’ll be using it to discuss various technical aspects of the project, and progress. All the content is syndicated across to the Project Site, and from there it goes out to Twitter & Facebook. (Hilde’s been reading up on marketing!)

Have a look at things to come with the Teaser Trailer.


Firefox developers hate me.

Ubuntu has an irritating habit of turning off Firefox’s middlemouse.contentLoadURL setting. Recently, it’s got even worse – whenever I turned it back on, Ubuntu would immediately turn it back off for me. So, today I finally worked out that the problem was Ubuntu’s “firefox extensions” – turned that off, and finally my contentLoadURL setting sticks…

Except, now I realise that the Firefox devs have crippled the behaviour anyway. The clipboard now has to contain a full URL, complete with the http://, or the middle click is ignored. Humph. What use it THAT??

OK, so I then found these instructions for hacking FF’s internals, to recreate the old behaviour. Amazingly it works, but I’m starting to feel that they’ve got it in for me.

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Interactive Timeline of Ancient Egypt

I did this ages ago. I don’t know why I never posted it. Anyway, here’s an interactive timeline of Ancient Egyptian history.

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Republic of Rome: Cheat Sheet

Republic of Rome is a great boardgame. Or at least I think it is — I’ve never really been able to play a proper game. The rules are so complicated, and so badly written, that I’ve never really felt I understood them. So, I decided to write a cheat sheet. One that would be useful for someone who is trying to learn the rules while playing their first game.

Republic of Rome: Cheat Sheet (PDF)
Republic of Rome: Cheat Sheet (Open Office)

Read the rest of this entry »

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