Progress and new products

For most of my life so far I have been used to the great advances that have come from better technology and from the competitive choices free enterprise has offered us. I was an early adopter of an office computer, the mobile phone, home computer, better cars and a range of new home products to make the chores easier and to improve the look and efficiency of the household.

Today we are witnessing a number of new products pushed upon us by government. Some of these top down products do not offer the same improved performance that we are used to in each new generation of device. I have recently looked at the way the electric car does not offer anything like the same flexibility and performance as a modern diesel or petrol car when it comes to range and to refuelling. As a result manufacturers are finding it difficult to sell large numbers.

There is then the curious case of the digital radio. My FM radios were good. They gave good reception. They were easy to operate, with an on off switch and a tuning knob with display that meant you could get quickly and easily to your chosen station. The BBC and the government then told us we had to move over to digital radio. To make us do so the quality of the FM gradually deteriorated, forcing us to buy a product we otherwise did not want. I have two digital radios, I dislike them both. Their reception quality is not as good as my FM used to be before they started the changes. I frequently have to redirect the wire aerial to try to get a better signal.When a plane goes over there is interference. It does not work in my study at all. When I unplug the radio it loses all its tuning. It takes for ever to re set the tuning which has to be done digitally by constant pressing down on a button whilst it moves slowly through the ranges.

I am the constant recipient of calls telling me I need to have a smart meter fitted. No-one ever tells me why this is a good thing for me. I am well aware of my electric bills, and have a way of managing my use of power. If I want to see how much I am using I can see that from the current meter, but it is commonsense based on knowing how many appliances you are running at any given time. The best way to persuade people to take on something new is to explain why it will improve their lives, not by badgering them.

Some of the freely chosen new private sector products also fail to impress. At home I have a conventional electric cooker. I switch it on and turn a knob to the desired heat level, and get instant results. The oven has a temperature control and a knob to choose how hot you want it to be. It is easy and clear. In my flat someone before I bought it had fitted a glass hob with digital control. When you switch on the power you get a flashing set of displays. You then have to hold your thumb on the right part of the hob and hope it will then switch itself on. Often it does not want to and it can take time to catch it in the right way before it bothers to switch on. Then you have to grapple with the same defective system to try to get the individual hot plate to go on, with frequent attention to the right spot on the hob to try to get the plate up to a hot enough setting. If you are tired and hungry and want to heat something up it is frustrating and often fails to work promptly.

I was recently told I had to accept a new phone in my Parliamentary office. I said I did not want one and thought it a waste of money, but they switched phones when I was out of the office anyway. The new one blots out part of my computer screen when I am working if the phone rings which is annoying.It requires pressing buttons to hear a call as well as picking the hand set up. Why?

Those who innovate need to test out how people will use their products, and ask if their innovation does really make something better. To sell us electric cars governments and manufacturers need to get them closer to the specifications we enjoy in our current vehicles. To make us happy with many ordinary domestic products rediscovering the simplicity of the physical switch and knob would make life better. Digital is great for word processing, communications and electronic transactions, but that does not mean everything has to be done by touch screen and digi numbers.

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186 Comments

  1. Ian Wragg
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    And Galileo is broken down. Must be the Russians.

    • Ian Wragg
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:32 am | Permalink

      I’ve just upgraded my laptop. Windows 10 not half as user friendly as 7. Worst of all new car has no CD player.

      • Gary C
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        I recently hired a new car it drove well though it’s mpg was disappointing at only 28 max despite only being a 1600cc engine, being top of the range it was loaded with many of the latest gizmo’s some people may want but I found them irritating so ended up switching off everything I could.

        This kind of tech is increasingly being forced upon us yet one thing that would have benefited both driver and the environment would have been the ability to use the electric windows, radio and set the sat nav without having to have the engine running.

        Who honestly is demanding this kind of useless spec?

      • Nicholas Murphy
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        You are not alone, Ian – on both points. Windows 10 has given me the worst computing experience of my IT life. Amazingly, through Windows Something or Other, Vista, Windows 7 and 10, the ability of the OS to update itself has declined. And now? My new laptop struggles with updates like an asthmatic attempting the Three Peaks Challenge. Microsoft appears to be in an arms race against itself, concentrating more on adding features than in improving reliability. My next laptop will have a different OS. And my otherwise admirable new XE was laden with tech but had no CD player!

      • Paul Margetts
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        Windows XP – oh happy days!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        One of mine still has a cassette player. I nearly bought one with an eight track a while back. Now it seems the government is trying to force daft & premature technology down people’s throats using tax payer funded grants tax breaks and subsidies (in the form of electric cars that do not even save C02 all things considered).

        The order should be:- Do research and development and produce a product that the market actually wants, when something works and is cost effective people will buy it with out the need for such subsidies and tax breaks. Currently electric cars make very little sense other than perhaps as a second city car for people who have somewhere to park and charge them. Usually richer virtue signallers.

        Just leasing the battery (to cover its depreciation) can be over £100 per month! And that is only the equivalent of the £100 plastic tank on a petrol car!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          This £100 PM battery depreciation is also on top of the rapid car depreciation of circa £300PM typically for an electric car. I will stick with my ancient Golf Cab. and Volvo V70 (with almost zero depreciation) for a while yet. The latter can do about 800 miles on a full tank and then fills up in three minutes.

          • Anonymous
            Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            Battery cars leak energy when unused. That’s like filling a leaky diesel tank and leaving it over night.

      • Fed up with the bull
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Ian, I hate windows 10 and I don’t know anyone who likes it. My car has no CD player either which is a pain. John, smart meters will let the energy companies turn your power off when they need to. When the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining!! This is what I have been told anyway. I refuse to have one until I am made to legally.

        I find televisions complicated too. Where are the days when you could just switch on and off? Everything is complicated. My tumble drier has loads of programmes on it and is a heat pump dryer. It’s rubbish. I paid a lot of money for it and yet my old dryer which only had two choices on it – hot and warm was so much better. I wish I had kept it. Same as my washing machine. It’s made by the same manufacturer and has loads of programmes. I use two. It is supposed to have a more powerful spinner on it compared with my old one and yet the washing comes out wetter. We are being ripped off. Don’t even get me started on electric cars.

        • Dave Ward
          Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          ” This is what I have been told anyway”
          A remote switch-off facility is part of the Smets specification for both gas & electricity meters.

          “My old dryer which only had two choices on it – hot and warm was so much better”

          That’s why I’ve kept mine – now coming up to it’s 41st birthday!

          “Has loads of programmes. I use two”

          Likewise, and the spin programme takes 15 minutes, of which over 10 are nothing more than slowly turning the drum. The old “clockwork” timers allowed you to go straight to the start of the spin cycle, and your clothes were ready in 3-4 minutes…

        • Pete Randall
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          “My old dryer which only had two choices on it – hot and warm was so much better”

          Ah… Happy days! I had an Indesit Moon which had four buttons on it:
          Hot wash – Warm wash – delicates wash – quick wash.

          My current machine, a Hoover, has 14 settings and 16 options, giving 224 possible combinations. I use two…

          And, yes, Windows 10 is dreadful!

      • Ian!
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Windows 7 was the last OS that left you in charge. Windows 10 is about Microsoft having control.

        It is not unheard of for MS to delete competitor programs they rather you did not use. It is said the intention is that the next version will be on an annual fee paying basis similar to Office 365.

        You may have paid for the PC, but you don’t get to choose how you use it. A bit like paying the BBC but never using their services.

      • Peter
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Many older folk are not ‘early adopters’.

        In fact many reach a stage where they have enough ‘stuff’.

        If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There is more to life than constantly shopping.

        • APL
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          peter: “Many older folk are not ‘early adopters’.”

          Older folk have more experience, less inclination to want the latest fashion ( there being less competition for creatures who worship fashion )

          And recognise that paying a premium to be ‘first with the latest gadget’ is while gratifying to own, that thing, that gratification soon pales when you realise that someone else has just bought an improved model for a fraction of the cost.

          Then there is VAT on new bit ticket items too.

        • Fred H
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          mostly ‘cos older folk have learned to let others do the bug-fixing. Wait for the product to be hopefully sorted out before you consider ‘upgrading’. Too often the appeal of the new product is found to be of little value, and the problems in use, and other downsides almost eliminate the supposed advantages. All marketing with little substance.
          Sounds rather like the EU?

      • John Hatfield
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        I found that Ian. Windows 7 has as much gadgetry I require. Windows 10, far too fiddly with too many unnecessary add-on facilities.

      • Richard Mortimer
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Think government confuses complexity for advance. Not true. We want less complexity. Government driven marketing has never worked. This must be market driven.

        I think the Tesla is pushing the envelope with a market led product. It came to my attention when I learnt the model S had lifetime free charging at Tesla points. That is the kind of revolution new products need.

        EVs are a trade-off, though. Not a good fit for everyone. Great you can re-charge at home. But, for one thing, you can’t pull a caravan with one. Government is interfering in the market which will go wrong!

        A hybrid is often better. I would like to see cars that can run on either or both, giving a range of applications. Also, Volvo had natural gas powered as a bi-fuel option. It would not take a genius to develop a home refueling pump. Thereby giving electric / gas hybrid option that can be totally charged and re-fueled at home!

        • tim
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          keep quite about that one, there is duty to pay on Car Fuel

      • margaret howard
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Ian Wragg

        “And Galileo is broken down. Must be the Russians”

        I wonder:

        “In November, Britain gave up on efforts to gain access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system for defence and critical national infrastructure purposes, after being frozen out by Brussels because of Brexit.”

        Independent newspaper today

        Coincidence?

        • Fred H
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          Maybe we removed vital input/interface/software to demonstrate how it will be without us?

    • APL
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Ian Wragg: “And Galileo is broken down. ”

      Wasn’t Galileo one of the jewels in the crown of the EU, one of those things that we must pay to use after we’ve paid to build it?

      Perhaps it ought to be working before we hand over any dosh.

      • Know-Dice
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        Dosh already handed over, but maybe not the “back door key” 🙂

    • Mitchel
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Recently RT produced a clever and amusing advert/promo-ostensibly for their merchandise shop but,it struck me at the time,conveying a far deeper message;it featured a Bond Q-type boffin ordering a package of RT goodies and subjecting them to destructive testing,finding nothing;he then walks into another room with his RT branded square mug and all the monitors suddenly go off-and come back on re-tuned to RT news.The tagline comes up:

      WE DON’T NEED BUGS
      WE ARE ALREADY EVERYWHERE

      Bombast….or,perhaps,they are.Most amusing eitherway!

    • hefner
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Interesting to see that the original information reported on phys.org on 03/07 has taken 10 days to percolate to the Express and Guido and one more to get here. It is clear who reads what.

  2. Pominoz
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Sir John,

    Just wait until you find that your compulsory driverless electric car relies on Galileo to get you to your destination!

    All your other concerns are just an age thing. Join the club.

    • J Bush
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Oops, my comment below shows I am in the same club. 🙂

    • Pominoz
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Sir John,

      My above comment was rather instantaneous and flippant. I apologise.

      On further reflection, you make the most valid points which are justified by a recent experience when my TV set failed. I spent weeks trying to find one which replicated the treasured properties of my old one. No-one seemed to be able to provide a set with that delightful mahogany cabinet and those double doors to the front. My nine inch screen, which was the source of so many intimate family groupings as we clamoured to watch the subtly moving grey shapes, seemed, for one reason or another, no longer available.

      In the end I had to settle for something they said was ultra-something with lots of funny letters after it. There are so many channels, but none where I can find Lady Isabel Barnett or Muffin the Mule. The family conversations as we were waiting for the old set to warm up are a thing of the past, as is the rather satisfying sight of the TV picture gradually contracting to that small dot in the middle. And totally gone is that little girl’s face with the strange lines all around it.

      Those were the days, and progress, as you accurately describe, may not really be considered progress at all.

    • hefner
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      PiO, Do I have to commiserate if you have become unable to read a paper map?

      • Pominoz
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        hef,

        Still good with the old map stuff. My collection of Ordnance Surveys must be worth quite a bit now. Shame the roads are not quite where they were when I bought them.

        • Fred H
          Posted July 17, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          You’ll have a laugh and get lost using OS maps in England, especially in the South. Looking for nice rolling fields, and streams? Good luck following the tarmac, weaving round housing estates wondering where that lovely old windmill, barn, church is! Even the railway lines, unless main route between large towns, will have gone. When you do find fields still being farmed, look out for the Rights of Way, they might be there, but unused or flooded or have rusty gates to deter the hiker having access.

  3. oldtimer
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    There is no substitute for the market place where people vote with their wallets. Government diktat is the road to waste and inefficiency.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Exactly. Government are as usual the problem. Particularly with their misguided climate alarmist and the idiotic belief that electric cars are “zero emmission” when they are nothing of the sort.

      The idiotic Libdims (Ed Davey on Marr) what to stop all domestic flights (where alternative are available which they always are boats, buses, trains, cars). But what makes these fools think the alternatives are actually any better (or greener or safer) they often use more fuel per person and not less – plus they need roads, rail track and the likes and are inflexible and usually rather slower and less convenient too. Freedom of choice please, and the right horses for courses.

      Digial radios now have little use since you can listen to what you want at any time using data on your phone and pause it or skip back or download it in advance.

      The other problem with digital radios (other than poor reception) is they eat batteries like mad so you have to keep them plugged in or use rechargeable.

      As to electric cars I see that some (even small cheaper ones) make you lease the batteries for five years at circa £100 PM. The depreciation on the battery is therefore about double what I currently spend on fuel per month with my ancient golf convertible. Also there does not seem to be an electric convertible even available.

      The problem with newer phones, laptops etc. is they are more interested in trying to sell you more things (like protection or other software, on line storage and back up than actually doing the job you want them to). Or worse still to “steal” data about you are every turn. Then they keep “upgrading” the software so you have to keep learning new systems and this in the end means you need new hardware. As they new software renders it redundant or too slow for the job.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        The BBC simplistic view that walking, cycling, buses, trains, electric cars are good and viruous but conventional cars, trucks, planes are bad is complete and utter nonsense. HS2 is absurdly non green needing some massive contruction. Taking five people from London to Manchester by car is hugely more efficient in energy use than having them walk or cycle. Plus you do not need hotels to stop at on route! BBC types just cannot do the sums it seems. They just stick to their rule of thumb green crap religions.

        It seem that Committee on Climate Change (In Emma Thompson/Prince Charles mode) also use expensive first class flights round the world. So clearly they do not care about circa doubling their Co2 output for the sake of more leg room and better food & drink. Why on earth should we take these people seriously? This committee should be abolished as soon as Boris get it. If thy really believed the idiotic guff they come out with they would surely want to ban flight other than cattle class ones and certainly private jets. This as the others use so much more fuel per passanger. Thus needing far more air flights per person. Total and utter hypocracy.

  4. APL
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    A day or so ago, you put up a post about Ambassador Darroch. At the time, my attitude was that an Ambassador should expect to be able to say anything in a diplomatic communication.

    In yesterdays Telegraph we learn that “Sir Kim is said to have vouched for the credibility of Christopher Steele, ”

    Perhaps it’s time for a comprehensive clear-out of the Blairite era civil servants.

    I’d say this degeneracy in our administrative functions is a result of them having nothing to do during the last 43 years.

    The devil makes work for idle hands, and all.

    But either way, they’ve got to go.

    • Handbags
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Kim Darroch was simply telling his bosses back home what they wanted to hear.

      He’s a yes man sucking up to his superiors.

      You’re right – a clear out of all the Blairite era civil servants is long overdue.

  5. Dominic
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Creeping political control over the actions of private sector activity has been an ongoing theme now for many decades. Political control assert a degree of influence over the behaviour and perceptions of those who purchase private sector products. You can see this process taking place across the entire entertainment spectrum.

    Western governments have rejected the idea of non-intervention in the life of the individual and are now actively trying to control their feelings, their perceptions and their emotional responses. The aim is triggering rather than an appeal to the intellect.

    Control and organisation is everything. We have a powerful, well organised political centre that is determined to promote a culture in which we accept a diminution of our freedoms, our values and our control. Even the idea of autonomous driving is designed to free us of our ability to control

    Well, I’m sorry but when I sense an attack on my freedom and my desire not to allow the State-private sector combo to dictate then I reject it and I withdraw from it. I won’t go and watch a film that’s become a vehicle for a certain form of social politics. I won’t buy an electric vehicle because a politician told me I must. I won’t buy products from a company that promotes a hatred of Trump ie Investors Chronicle.

    Consumer freedom is important. The consumer today is now viewed through a political prism as governments and the private sector work together to pump out their liberal left tosh. I refuse to accept it and I’ll boycott products that patronise me with a certain form of advertising. This process has accelerated under May. Her diversity idolatry is now an assault on the senses is highly manipulative and deceitful

    Stop interfering in the private sector, passing new laws against it. It’s becoming troubling and your party is to blame. We expect politicisation from Marxists as they believe in such a process of control but to witness a Tory government enacting such massive state control is OFFENSIVE AN DISTURBING. We have every right to feel concern

  6. Brit
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    It reminds of the old story whether it be a true or not. NASA saw a problem with astronauts writing with a pen in zero gravity. The ink did no flow. So they invented a pump-action biro which was later advertised as “It can write upside down” and showed a man writing on an office notice board at upward angle. The Russians had a bright idea too. Their cosmonauts were equipped with a spanking new lead pencil.

    • Zorro
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Indeed, some people like to make things more complicated creating Heath Robinson type contraptions to ‘assist’ with completing tasks when something far simpler ansd efficient would be more useful.

      A modern day example of this is the appalling WA contrived by T May and her crew to ‘leave’ the UK. Totally, inefficient, unpopular and not fit for purpose..

      Zorro

    • Dominic Johnson
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      “Their cosmonauts were equipped with a spanking new lead pencil.”
      And shards of conductive graphite are a constant maintenance headache in Russian equipment, from those pencils.

      • libertarian
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        Americans and Soviets actually did use pencils in space, before the Space Pen came around. Americans favored mechanical pencils, which produced a fine line but presented hazards when the pencil lead tips broke (and if you’ve ever used a mechanical pencil, you know that this happens a lot). That bit of graphite floating around the space capsule could get into someone’s eye, or even find its way into machinery or electronics, causing an electrical short or other problems. And if there’s one thing Houston didn’t need, it was more astronauts calling up with problems.

        The Soviet space program used grease pencils, which don’t have breakage problems—to access more of the writing wax, cosmonauts simply peeled away another layer of paper. The problem with a grease pencil is that it’s imprecise and smudgy—it’s a lot like writing with a crayon. The peeled-away paper also created waste, and bits of paper floating around a Soyuz capsule were nearly as annoying as bits of graphite floating around an Apollo capsule.

        Both converted to the space pen as soon as it became available and neither programme spent money developing it

    • Brit
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      My wit is lost on Commentors to this blog. I shall take up knitting, I’m out of my depth here.
      I try making a funny and darn it they dissect it.

  7. agricola
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Whenever there is a monopoly supplier, as is the case in most you complain of, you will get poor service and performance. It is Isaac Newtons fourth law or Sods Law of the sea. When government is that supplier expect even less. Politicians would earn brownie points were they to concentrate on keeping government out of our lives. Tip, ovens apart, gas is a much better medium for cooking than electricity. You won’t find many professional kitchens using electric hobs of any sort.

    • John Hatfield
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Gas produces water when it burns. Electric oven, gas top works best.

  8. Javelin
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    If your phone blots out your laptop screen that doesn’t sound like microwave radiation talking to the tower or wifi, but radio waves. Why is your Parliamentry phone broadcasting at that frequency? Do you have Chinese phones?

    Reply The two devices are linked so the screen tells you what you already know that you are on the phone.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s a pop up window

  9. Brit
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    My two serviceable radios were trashed due to updated modern technology. Then, I could listen to radio stations throughout the world. I do not have a working radio now.

    The first television I saw was monochrome ( black and white ) 425 lines then later 625 lines. It took a few minutes to ‘warm-up, with bulbs at the back.Then was ‘ON’.
    Later, a TV which switched on immediately, then a coloured TV with Remote Control which switched on immediately. Alas, it only had four channels. But it worked.

    Now, I have a great big TV, and it is hit and miss when it switches on and takes sometimes as long as a 1950s monochrome TV to get even a single channel ‘ON’. In the early mornings I get a sign on it ‘Please do not switch off, the programmes wills tsart in a few minutes. A hi-tech blue light on an external box of boxes tells me it is ‘downloading’

    I often wish I had the coloured remote control TV of the early 1970s. Like then I only wish to watch the weather forecast which spends five minutes cleverly telling me what the weather was yesterday, followed by a sketchy guess at what the weather is now, and a shot in the dark of what the weather is tomorrow which is always right in its total wrongness.

    • woodsy42
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      On our recently replaced oh-so-smart TV if you don’t change channel or volume for an hour it tries to switch off – really annoying! I assume it was mandated by the same people who have ruined my 2nd cup of morning coffee with a coffee machine that switches off before I have drunk the first cup.
      Carwise I am getting my old Morris 1000 up to top condition before getting rid of the irritating and annoying newer one. There is a great pleasure in simple controls and switches that each have just one clear and uncomplicated function.

  10. J Bush
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Aye, technology has moved on quite rapidly in the last 50 years or so. On reading your article I was instantly transported back to helping my Mum mangle clothes in the ‘patio’ part of our back garden, and her usual warning of ‘watch your fingers’, which I did invariably manage to ‘mamgle’ more often than not. 🙂

    Fast forward, I recently mentioned to my daughter I needed to replace my freezer. She responded, well its about time, you’ve had it over 20 years. And yes, thinking about it, I have.

    This brings me onto the bones of your article. The one thing I have noticed about contemporary technology is that it is not designed to last. With the exception of cars, most other goods appear to have a reduced the shelf life, or continual slight upgrades, so replacements are constantly required. Perhaps that is part of the reason why May & Co think electric cars are a good idea, aside from the eco spin we hear. Often changes do not help, here I am thinking of microsoft. I found XP brilliant for my work, windows 7 was probably the best for domestic use. Windows 10 is awful in comparison and has a substantial annual subscription.

    If I recall correctly rampant consumerism began in the late 90’s, firstly with ‘labelled’ clothing (yuk) and then into domestic technology. Change your car every year, constant upgrades to mobile phones, make them smaller, add additional uses to a phone and make it a minicomputer. Today, so many appear to walk around with a piece of plastic stuck to their ear. Technological advances undoubtedly have made some things a lot less time-consuming, but there also appears to be a somewhat disconcerting result that it also rules the way you live your life.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      J Bush

      The laser reader on my CD player, a very High end UK manufactured product, failed a couple of years ago.
      On contacting the manufacturer direct i was informed yes they do tend to degrade over time and 10 years was a good result.
      I complained bitterly about not fit for purpose or cost if that is the case, until they replaced it with a new even more expensive up to date model at a very, very, very substantial discount.

      Sometimes it pays to complain !

    • Chris S
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Windows 10 is the most stable of any Windows OS and does not have an annual subscripion. It is MS Office 365 that has a monthly subscription but I find old copies of Office 2013 still works perfectly well on our Windows 10 machines.

      The best route planning software was MS Autoroute but try as I might, while it runs on a desktop, nobody seems to know how to get it to run on my Lenovo W10 laptop.

      Nothing newer even comes close…..

      • J Bush
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 6:08 am | Permalink

        I stand corrected, it is of course MS Office that has the subscription. That said, this subscription is a relatively new thing.

  11. Roy Grainger
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    You are right we are bombarded with adverts advising us to fit Smart Meters. Although the claim is they will save us money there is never any explanation of how this magic will happen – why should I use less electricity just because the reading of how much I have used is in a different place ?

    Anyway, it would be convenient for me to have one because my existing meter is inaccessible and hard to read. So almost two years ago I started trying to get one – my supplier at the time gave me a far distant date to fit one which they then missed and replaced it with a further distant date they also missed. Then when changing suppliers I phoned several who said they could not fit them at all “until the new second generation meters are ready”. I found one supplier who promised a date months away. They missed this, and the subsequent date. So, today, years later, I still have no smart meter – despite wanting one – and no company will commit to any date at all in the future when they might be able to fit one. So why are they being advertised at all ?

    • Sharon Jagger
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Smart meters are an EU directive. Was meant to be rolled out and compulsory by 2020. And the idea, so I believe, is to control electrical consumption. From the EU website.

      “Smart grids are energy networks that can automatically monitor energy flows and adjust to changes in energy supply and demand accordingly. When coupled with smart metering systems, smart grids reach consumers and suppliers by providing information on real-time consumption. With smart meters, consumers can adapt – in time and volume – their energy usage to different energy prices throughout the day, saving money on their energy bills by consuming more energy in lower price periods.”

  12. sm
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    In the mid-1980s, my husband (an electrical engineer by training) was a marketing consultant to a world-wide white goods manufacturer. He visited their factory in Europe, and asked why there were so many programmes on their washing machines, knowing that I as the person in charge of laundry at home never used the majority of them. He was told that the manufacturers were well aware that, at most, 5 options were used, but having at least twice that number on the machines made them appear – allegedly – more sophisticated and modern, and hence were more appealing to buyers!

    I now run a washing machine and a separate dryer whose control panels appear more suited to the starship Enterprise, and are pretty much as incomprehensible to me, while the instruction booklets were obviously (and poorly) translated from the original Klingon.

  13. J Bush
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    correction: rampant consumerism began in the 90’s – not the late 90’s

  14. Mark B
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Good morning – again

    The deciding factor in all this, is choice. If you had the choice of what vehicle to drive, what type of radio to use, and what phone to use them what ever you chose would suit you and your needs. Choice is a fundamental Conservative principle and, to have a political party going by that name yet practicing top down government makes people wonder if this a Conservative party in name only and when it comes to choosing a party to vote for, would we be best served voting for someone else ?

  15. Bryan Harris
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    This is what happens as the attitude of government changes from servant to master, as the EU has done, and the UK has emulated.
    We have moved beyond the nanny state, and where big brother knows best – now they impose because they can do so without having to provide justification because by doing so it suits their purpose. What we want has become secondary, like democracy.
    I have never believed that someone else is better suited to define what is best for me without a very convincing display or argument – But this is all linked to responsibility, and how it seems that the establishment want to take it away, and make us compliant to their wishes …and no they don’t want us to be responsible for anything because they know best and we make a mess of things anyway.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Got it in a nutshell. What sort of arrogant idiot would think they could micromanage other peoples lives anyway? Not the sort we want to return to Parliament! Associations must recover their power to propose and select candidates freely without the interference of Central Office. It’s our only hope of upgrading MPs.

  16. /IKH
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Hi Sir John,

    Re so called Smart Meters:

    They re not designed to help you. They give you eye candy to help persuade you to buy one. Their primary function is to control Smart Appliances. Because of renewable electricity generation, they can not supply electricity on demand, so they need to control demand. The purpose of a Smart Meter is to control Smart Appliances. These are Fridges, Freezers, Washing Machines, etc that can be turned off by the Power companies when the demand is too high. In place of the generators having spare capacity.

    Please, don’t trust me , but make your own inquires of DECC.

    There is another problem with so called Smart Meters. The security standards they were supposed to conform to have been so watered down as to make them easily Hackable making them a great tool for thieves. They can hack your Smart Meter to see when you are not home and break in.

    I know this because I am a computer scientist and software engineer who has taken an interest in this area.

    /ikh

    • J Bush
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Fully agree. I always advise people considering having a smart meter of the actual pitfalls of this supposed marvellous invention for the reasons you mention.

      It would appear now I have finally retired, I am considered by some, as a geriatric waste of space and money ignoramus. Yet prior to retirement, I also worked in the field of cutting edge high technology for about 25 years and the ‘softies’ I worked with, were a hive of information.

    • old salt
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      /IKH
      I rather suspect there will be different charging periods to suit the generators as I have heard readings are sent every 30 minutes in an attempt to balance demand also depending on whether the sun is shining and or the wind is blowing.

      All adding to the need to make lifestyle changes of usage to accommodate price availability as we go all electric.

      Just as I am getting the hang of W7 now BT are digging up the road to install fibre promised operational for around christmas just in time to change to a SSD W10 PC following W7 MS support finishing Jan 2020.

      Meanwhile I am still waiting for my energy transfer to be completed since mid April initiation and many time consuming emails later.

      • woodsy42
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Old Salt, W7 will continue to work for years, many commercial places around the world are still using XP let alone w7, and I expect Microsoft will still issue security updates. End of support means that you may find some future add-ons or software won’t be designed to work with it, but w7 and everything you have now will keep working, don’t be fooled into large expense by their deliberate obsolescence scaremongering.

  17. Zorro
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    JR, you are making an assumption that smart meters are for the consumer’s benefit – dangerous assumption!

    Zorro

  18. Alan Jutson
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Modern cars with their touch screen info systems make you take your eyes off of the road to use, and are simply far more dangerous than simple switches.

    Why is this safe and the use of a mobile phone in a cradle is not !
    (I do agree phones should not be used when driving)

    Info systems require you to scroll through menus for ages, a simple switch when you know where it is located, takes milli seconds to operate.

    My DAB radio has simply just failed and does not work any more.
    So gone back to FM as I fortunately did not throw it away.

    Agree with comment on Smart meters what a waste of money.

    Would be far better if you were charged by the unit for gas, rather than having to do an extensive calculation from therms every time you look at the meter, no need for a smart meter then.

    Yes life has become all rather more complicated, try being an executor of a Will nowadays, compared to years past.
    Far too many complicated rules put in place by Government, Banks, Businesses and institutions, and Inheritance tax needs to be paid before anyone inherits if the estate is large enough, and Probate fees have risen very, very, very many times over.
    Now government gets paid first, beneficiaries last.

  19. George Brooks
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It is very hard to understand why the hybrid car has not come to the fore. It more than halves pollution and is quick to refuel and has the same range as existing cars. This would then give time for the Dysons of this world to improve battery technology and the powers that be to install charging points across the land.

    If you want a ”shopping car” and have off road parking electric is fine, if not you are stuffed. Who ever proposed this huge jump in mass travel must have thought that the aero industry went from the Tiger Moth to Concord in one easy step. Idiot. Make the change gradual and don’t wreck the car industry

  20. Jen Home
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    What is the progression, the trajectory, of health care, in terms of numbers and types
    of survivor human beings and costs as a percentage of any national economy on whatever ideology and belief system it is based?
    I know, we don’t wish to think about it do we.
    Heads back in the sand!

  21. Pete S
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Sir John,

    I was disappointed that you did not mention that the ‘smart meter’ project is costing the taxpayer £14 -20B. Also that the first trance (a large number) of meters are having to be replaced as they do not work with the final system design.

  22. simon
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I understand the frustration completely. I hope that the electric car is a development along the road to a hydrogen powered electric vehicle. The infrastructure that will be required to fully convert to electric vehicles will be impossible to provide. Hydrogen infrastructure can be rolled out in parallel to petrol/diesel/LPG. Production can be centralise, it probably just needs political vision and a tax break. Yes, it is cool to drive a Tesla but how much cooler would it be to drive a hydrogen vehicle.
    In a similar vein, the replacement of the incandescent light bulb by the low wattage bulb (containing high concentrations of mercury) was a step in the road to the adoption of LED light bulb technology.
    As much as anything, the challenge is allowing technical people and engineers to become involved in the decision making of projects and not leaving it all to lobbyists and headline driven politicians.

  23. David Price
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    You could have the hob replaced, you have the freedom to do so and a choice of alternatives … for now, although g do-gooders, the EU, monopolies and global brands are always keen to impose their choice on you.

    Dealing with things imposed by your employer and government is an entirely different proposition and a cross we all have to bear to a greater or less extent.

    From a technology perspective things are getting interesting. Open source software and hardware, 3D printers and laser cutters plus the availability of components at low cost via the internet mean that those who have the inclination can chose to spend a bit of time learning new skills to increasingly adapt and create their own solutions.

    You don’t have to be solely a consumer, you can choose to create your own goods and solutions, take back more control.

  24. Shieldsman
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    The smart meter is a Government Con, its real purpose is to use it as a WHITE meter. As a white meter the tariffs can vary during different periods of the day.
    Customers can therefore be priced into using electricity at periods of low demand and availability from renewable sources.
    This was revealed to Margaret Hodge chair of the Public Accounts Committee, by DECC and Ofgem in the smart meter inquiry.

  25. Pete S
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Sir John,

    The DAB system has other drawbacks that the ‘DAB people’ keep quiet about. After they launched DAB, it was quietly enhanced to DAB+. If you have an older model, people maybe unaware they are not receiving all the stations as they do not show up on their radio why would they be aware.

    Also there is a another problem with some sets having limited station storage. A number that is rarely published. I can receive 150+ stations, but one of more radio can only store 99 stations. So 60+ stations are missing. To get the most important stations I have to reduce the aerial to being very small so that the weaker signals are ignored.

    The fact that reduce fidelity was thrown away to get more stations, is a lost battle. Us the public were never asked if no stereo station (R3 some of the time the exception) was to be transmitted,

  26. Caterpillar
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Modern devices the metaphor for the modern politician.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Also ageism needs to stop e.g. Mr Fox in talking about new trade negotiator positions needs to be open to all not “those youngsters who have aptitude…” . This continual devaluing of those who are not young is a disgrace, it is devisive, and ignores the destruction of the savings ratio and pensions.

  27. Ian Wilson
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I agree entirely with your sentiments. Smart meters for one are a total waste of taxpayers’ money which could be far better spent.

    I have complained to the ASA about the advertising for smart meters, in particular the claim that a smart mater supposedly ‘saves polar bears’, which don’t need saving as they are thriving. This is yet another instance of Claire Perry’s ineptitude.

    Why have the last two prime ministers appointed the most incompetent MPs imaginable to the Energy Ministry? The last four have been unbelievably inept, one jailed, one knighted and wholly discrediting the honours system.

    • Fed up with the bull
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Ian, yes, same as the advert that says they only use renewable energy as your supplier.. What tosh! They might buy renewable energy but what comes into your home is a mixture of supplies. People think they are using renewable energy on a personal level but they are not.

  28. Al
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    “Digital is great for word processing, communications and electronic transactions, but that does not mean everything has to be done by touch screen and digi numbers.”

    As I learned from working with disabled charities, digital screens are a severe accessibility problem for the visually impaired and people with limited motor control. Knobs, especially clicking ones, can be turned. Pressing small buttons is harder, and cycling through menus very difficult to stop in the right place. Also the digital screens themselves can be unreadable, simply showing as black to certain eye conditions.

  29. Alex
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    There is a rule of thumb. If a product is endorsed by government, large corporations and so called “green” lobbies then it will be expensive, won’t work properly and may well be very harmful to your health. Smart meters are great for the operating company because they collect huge amounts of personal information about your household which can be sold. 5G will be similar but worse. Both pose extremely serious health problems that are well documented but under reseached.
    Most regulation is not designed to help consumers but to restrict competition to large established corporations that can afford all the bureaucratic BS and don’t mind giving us inferior products because their monoply means we have no choice except to buy it.
    Government does not act in the interests of citizens (as proven by Brexit). It acts for banks and big business whilst saying it cares for us and we are daft and brain washed enough to fall for it.

  30. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan

  31. Shieldsman
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I found it in HC 103-i
    Q52 Justin Tomlinson: In your factoring—we know technology advances very
    quickly—how easy will it be to upgrade things further down the line?
    Daron Walker: That is one of the things this Committee challenged the programme
    about when we came in in 2011. We have done several things. First, we have worked with a
    range of experts on what kind of functionality you want built into the meter. There are several
    things built in—smarter grid-type things—such as the ability to have time-of-use tariffs, so
    you can encourage people to switch use by giving them different prices at different times of
    the day, and voltage alerts and voltage quality information that can go back to the network to
    allow it to understand where reinforcement is needed. There are several future-proofing
    elements that we have built into the meter.
    In addition, we are going to allow people to bridge securely between the metering
    system and the data to allow it to start talking to other devices in the home. Our basic system
    will allow you to send pricing signals to smart appliances in the home, so those appliances
    can turn on when prices are low and turn off when prices are high. That is all built in.

  32. Beecee
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Solutions looking for problems

  33. Nicholas Murphy
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Sir John, today’s blog will have struck a chord with everyone over forty. Smart Meters, in particular, represent one of the worst mis-application of resources I can remember. Perhaps you could throw this point at the MP responsible for the idea when you next get a chance in the Commons – and then ask the new PM to review if the policy makes economic sense. In the meantime, I’ll be resolutely refusing to have one installed in my property. I’ll be a luddite, take a meter reading and then submit online. Assuming, of course, that Windows 10 9see above) let’s me!

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      I loved Windows XP, found Windows 7 bearable and think Windows 10 is at last a reasonable substitute for my beloved XP.

      Now Office is another matter. 98 and 2003 were great, 2007 a blunder, fixed by 2010 but everything since 2010 has just been subscription bait. Don’t get me started on Office 365.

      • Fred H
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        you actually ‘loved’ a MS product? Sounds like you have become Winston, and MS is Big Brother. They all seem to be bloatware — the basic feature you want is expanded to the point where it is reduced by the number of add-on bits and bobs, almost nobody wants, need a course to be able to use, and requires fixes for years to come, with their own new bug fixes required. Rather like the latest mobile or even car – so feature rich ( like that expression I picked up?) to almost ignore the purpose in buying it in the first place.

  34. William Long
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Much the same is true of the new trains we have on the GWR line to Penzance. They come in five coach units which means that they couple two together to get the length of train they need, with the result that you cannot walk from one end to the other, quite important if your seat is at the bck, and you need to get as near the froont as possible to save time when you arrive late at Paddington, as is the norm. The other result is that there is now no proper catering, only an ill stocked trolley in each half, quite inadequate for a long journey. But it is held out as great progress!

  35. SecretPeople
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    In our household we have had two DAB radios; neither was able to receive Jazz FM – one of only two stations I wanted to listen to.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Have you tried looking for Jazz-DAB instead?

    • Know-Dice
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Jazz FM is on MUX 12A (London 2) at a bit rate of 80kbs MONO !!!
      And
      Jazz FM Stereo is on MUX 11A (National) DAB+ 30kbs Stereo
      T
      hat’s certainly not HiFi… It’s all down to money…

  36. Everhopeful
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Agree 100% with all of JR’s observations.
    Actually I reckon that the manufacturers know they are selling utter cr*p but are happy to do so because the rubbish needs replacing so often.
    Nothing works any more.
    Nothing is worth buying..can be so disappointing.
    IMO the way things are going …in the future many will not be able to afford even the most rubbishy rubbish.
    However, nil desperandum…what’s wrong with a wash house, copper and mangle and such like?
    The Industrial Revolution was the greatest disaster ever to hit mankind.
    Irrespective of stupid lefty “Oh you’d miss paracetamol” arguments.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Interesting that the environmentalists rarely campaign about us buying too much stuff that ends up in landfill instead of lasting or being repaired.

      That is a campaign I might be prepared to sit in a boat on a zebra crossing for.

  37. Martyn G
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Smart Meters are perhaps the most obvious example of government trying to force us t o comply with what they think is a good idea. It is sold as free, which it most certainly is not, since we are all paying for them on our energy bills. Anyone with the slightest interest in managing their consumption can easily do so without a smart meter. Sinisterly, smart meters enable energy suppliers to adjust consumer costs e.g. they could decide to increase unit cost by 0.5p across the board for, say, one week without telling consumers. Who would notice that and how much more money would they make out of it?
    The heart of every smart meter is a 100Amp switch, enabling providers to load shed by cutting off consumers if the need arises, so in reality they appear to be more about consumer control and profit than anything else….

  38. James
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I have a parasol over my garden table and should be able to hoist it by a handle turning a ratchet mechanism, all of which are internally located in the central pole. Problem is the hoisting line also located internally frayed on the spindle and parted. There is no easy access to any of this to fix it- presumably some bright spark somewhere engineered this

    Now I have attached a heavier line to the parasol and running on the outside of the pole through a shackle attached to the to the pole top which I use to manually hoist and lower the parasol as required- all I need then is to secure it with a running hitch- problem solved

    • steve
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      James

      You’re supposed to throw it away and buy another one.

  39. BOF
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Our old electricity provider was applying pressure to switch to a smart meter (the only advantageous deal came with a smart meter) so we switched. The new provider did want to replace the meter but only due to its age so we are happy with that.

    Digital radio does not work in our area, but what about the vast waste of money fitting them in cars. My Volvo has both and the digital is unusable. As you drive it regularly loses reception so it is FM all the way. Perhaps soon, Sir John, you could write on who lobbied for this and who has investments in digital radio. It could be revealing.

  40. Ian!
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I too am amused with government inspired product promotions. Digital radio was never about better more convenient radio, it was about freeing up spectrum for the government to sell.

    I have yet to understand the smart meter benefit. Benefit to whom? I know my weekly usage of both electricity and gas, so nothing to add there. Then like most our energy is paid by contract over a period and the providers get to adjust the final outcome. The smart meter like a lot of computer software is tied to one source and isn’t compatible for the most part with the alternatives, so it ties you to one supplier. The Energy companies have already stated the aim is to charge you more for the energy used at peak times. In the final analysis the smart meter only benefits the provider as it saves them time and money. Logic is if they offered a discount as with paperless billing there might be a point. Although even then I have an aversion that permits the State to Spy on its citizens as does the smart meter. Governments afraid of its People! What sort of Government is that!

    You can also get so-called smart thermostats, good in theory until you realise they have to collect data to work that data is then collected and collated off sight to be promoted elsewhere. The Nest learning thermostat turns your home heating down when you are out, how, because back at their base they have seen the phone with the controlling app on showing you have left the house. Just like smart camera doorbell and so on – Transmit to the world no ones at home seems a good idea to government.

    It is the same with Amazon Alexa etc. As admitted in the US Senate last week, Amazon goes as far as having a human listening to the conversations. Now the Government thinks that is a good idea for the NHS and your medical history!

    So many of these tools are on the one hand offering a little helper or benefit when their purpose is to collect and collate data for others. All Android phones are offered first and foremost for the benefit of Google data collection for their own and associates use. The phone facility and connectivity is incidental. It tells you in the t&c’s

    First Microsoft say they will never read your emails, then once they have the user base, they admit they read all emails to understand their users better.

    I would suspect that your newly issued phone permits your overlords to check if you are the source of leaks.

    Go to a website with a FaceBook link, all seemingly harmless but that one link is the permission to FB to interrogate your device, even if you don’t go to the FB site or have an account. In practice everyone has a FB account created for them even if you are not interested your data was gathered via another’s contact list. The FB t&c all harmless until you get to how the information is shared, then you get to the bit where anyone with access to the api has control over your life. Everyone thinks the 5billion fine is a joke for what is termed the Cambridge Analytica affair. CA didn’t have access to the data they were given it by a third party that had access to the FB api. Yet CA being a none US company gets the blame.

    Never forgetting data processed in the US which it all is, is subject to the ‘Patriot Act’
    As you say none of this is necessary, nothing is offered than data collection by the back door.

    Governments afraid of its People! What sort of Government is that!

    Sir John I have an age jump on you I am older, yet I know everything so far dreamed up as home automation can be done in a straight forward way with an open source program like Domoticz and a Raspberry Pi. The only person then responsible for your data and your life is you

    Apologies more than intended.

  41. Fred H
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Sir John…..no mention of vacuum cleaners, ever more expensive to perform a very basic function. The EU restricts motor power. Light bulbs, no more ….I’m incandescent! The new halogen ones seem to fail in months, no recycling? LED …very expensive.

    • Treacle
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      When the EU banned proper light bulbs, I bought enough to last me for the rest of my life. I still have hundreds of 100W, 60W, candle bulbs etc. I’ll never need to buy a bulb again.

      • J Bush
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        I did a similar thing, but I also bought a good stock of ‘soft’ glow bulbs. Not at all like the stark white clinical operating theatre type light that LED’s give off.

    • steve
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Fred H

      “LED …very expensive.”

      You say that Fred, but in my experience they’re worth every penny.

      I’ve got some that have been on for nearly four years 24 / 7.

      They also use tiny fraction of the power.

    • Brit
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      Be good to get some full strength chemicals for my roses too. The greenfly, blackfly and blackspot think its a kindly shower.

  42. Paul Margetts
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    A recent dicktat from HMRC – Making Tax Digital. This obliges small VAT registered traders to report their VAT returns through an online accounts company such as Sage or Intuit Quick Books.
    I have recorded my accounts on a PC for 25 years, the purchasing and learning of new software is time-consuming, stressful and expensive.
    We need less government intrusion into our affairs – not more.

    • GilesB
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      The government flagrantly ignores the requirement to consider the cost of new legislation.

      At best they’ll consider the case of a large corporation with thousands or millions of transactions a year and full-time staff dedicated to filling out some new form and calculate the time needed per firm completed. Which may be ok for the impact on large firms.

      But it totally ignores the fixed cost for small firms of reading all new legislation and guidelines, searching for contacts to get advice, perhaps paying for advice on whether it applies to their situation and then all the effort to understand how to complete one form. And then lying awake at night worrying about whether they’ve done it correctly. Then do it all again next year because the firm has changed and as a small business owner who has done a million and one other things you cannot remember whether your business is a Class A or Class B(type f). The cost is thousands for every small business. You never see the impact on small business.

      Massive time and resource wasted that could be better spent on innovation, growth and job upskilling.

      No wonder our productivity is so low.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      TaxCalc has a very easy way of dealing with this via a spreadsheet that you can construct manually.

      All for less than £20

      Your original point stands but this is an incredibly simple solution

      • Al
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 1:19 am | Permalink

        From looking at them, their minimum fee is £20 for an individual user account, and that service is still “coming soon”. The fee for businesses is higher, for example their VAT filer, required to link the VAT spreadsheet to HMRC and comply with Making Tax Digital is £75.

        They are another one that is not disabled accessible and would require certain of my clients to hire someone to input data, adding a significant cost to it.

        • Narrow Shoulders
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

          I am using this in a company environment for £20 and submitted electronically yesterday.

          The licencing use has been confirmed by a reseller.

          As far as I am aware the product works with Jaws for accessibility.

      • Know-Dice
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Or the free solution from Avalara, do a Google search for “avalara mtd filer”.

        It’s spreadsheet solution and connects directly to HMRC, no third party gateways required.

    • J Bush
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      Parish Councils are required to pay for a clerk and some of these Councils manage on precepts as small as £2 – 3,000pa, but are expected to pay for a clerk and also the technology to access the HMRC, to submit returns, even if the clerk doesn’t pay IT.

  43. Gareth Warren
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I too notice the rise of useless features, cars seem to be festooned with them such as

    Rain sensitive wipers that guarantee either too fast or too slow operation.
    Locks that require all the doors to be operated at once wearing them out.
    Automatic lights that go on at pointless times

    But it is the self driving car that is the biggest R&D expenditure, in theory it sounds useful but it will always require a driver – imagine when you want to drive around a campsite.

    I work in electronics and are familiar with software bugs, so wary of entrusting my life to it, the case of a self driving car passenger killed when a white lorry pulled across the road is a perfect one – the sky was the same colour as the truck…

    The motorcar seems to be in a poor position today, whatever happens I expect we will need a lot less of them produced in future.

    • Jiminyjim
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Gareth, you haven’t mentioned the electronic handbrake – possibly the most idiotic and potentially dangerous car ‘innovation’ of them all.
      Above all, many ‘innovations’ are simply not tested in the real world, with normal people

  44. Iain Gill
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    yes but we have the Trabant of healthcare systems

    no choice, no say, rationed and allocated, masses of complaints brushed under the carpets

    and yet its the state religion the NHS

    not a single politician prepared to be honest and say we need to copy from the best of the rest of the world

    and a state broadcaster which constantly pumps out propaganda lying about how good our healthcare is

    • L Jones
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      It’ll be even worse soon. The rate that new housing estates are being built (on greenfield sites too) with no added capacity in the local hospital to cope with the influx of new residents – well. Madness, or what?

      (I speak of the Worcestershire area, but I’m sure we’re not the only place in the UK with these problems. I hope I’m on holiday elsewhere in the world if I become ill! Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of ”health tourism”! Just keep travelling!)

      • Pominoz
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        LJ,

        Try Oz for your holiday. Healthcare works extremely well – and, as a visitor, you get reciprocal free access.

      • Fed up with the bull
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        L Jones. Sussex is the same. Thousands of new homes and beds in hospitals actually closing!! No extra schools or doctors. What the hell is going on? Governments have known for years about extra population and yet have done nothing. It’s all a big cock up. I live in Shropshire and that is getting just as bad. New homes all going up on green land and farmland disappearing by the day. Madness.

  45. IwasGnarth
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve long regarded the not-so-‘umble CD as the last convergence of technological achievement, convenient & interesting packaging, elegance & simplicity for the user and no market impelled corruption (talking to you, DVD ‘regions’ and DAB radio). Sadly, the peak of CD sales is far, far in the past and that technology is on the way to join Edison’s wax cylinders.

  46. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, somebody who took a leading role in weaponising the Irish land border now says that checks at the border can be avoided in a no-deal scenario.

    https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/brexit/checks-at-border-avoidable-even-if-nodeal-brexit-claims-irelands-man-in-brussels-38312036.html

    “A way can be found to avoid animal and food checks on the border – even in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the Republic’s EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

    Mr Hogan moved to allay a growing view that checks, especially for live animals, cannot be avoided at the Irish border if the UK quits the EU without a deal on October 31.”

    Compare that to this from November 26th 2017:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ireland-border-brexit-latest-theresa-may-customs-union-phil-hogan-northern-a8076271.html

    “Brexit: Remain in customs union and single market to solve border issue, Ireland’s European commissioner tells May”

    “Theresa May is facing fresh pressure to change course over plans for the Northern Irish border after Brexit as Ireland’s EU commissioner stepped up threats to veto trade talks.”

    “Mr Hogan, the EU’s agriculture commissioner, said Ireland would “play tough to the end” over the border issue, and said it was a “very simple fact” that “if the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union, or better still the single market, there would be no border issue”.”

    • Know-Dice
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      And Amber Rudd seems to have jumped ship, so No Deal was not such a Big Deal all along…

  47. Dave Ward
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    “Those who innovate need to test out how people will use their products”

    Ah, but that would take time, and allow a competitor to get in ahead! It struck me years ago that the designers behind over complicated products – that our host so rightly complains about – NEVER speak to those who buy their work. It also seems that when given the latest high-performance processor (or whatever), they spend all their time working on things that it can be MADE to do, rather than things that people actually WANT. And don’t get me started on “Menu” driven products….

  48. JimS
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The reason that THEY need YOU to have a ‘smart’ meter is so that they can turn off your electricity should demand get ‘too high’.

    Of course not everyone will get turned off in times of shortage, I am sure there will be a priority list.

  49. Edwardm
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Yes – absolutely agree. Digital interfaces are often tedious to use.

    And we don’t need a “smart” meter for deciding whether to use an appliance for its benefits, or go without to save electricity and live like a hundred years ago.
    The government needs to invest in adequate reliable affordable base load electricity generation – not in wind farms or smart meters.

    I dislike digital controls and touch screens in a car – they take too much attention away from driving. E.g. for control of air flow, all I want is some quick to turn knobs, less irritating and far safer.

  50. Peter Parsons
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I have a number of DAB radios and I experience none of the issues outlined in this article. I find that they give me easy (station name indexed alphabetically rather than having to remember whether I need to go to 88.4 or 95.6 or 102.9) access to a wider range of stations than FM did. None of them have ever lost their list of stations. The one in my car also retunes automatically so no more need to touch the dial as I go along the motorway and move between different transmission areas. All in all, an improvement in my experience.

    When it comes to decisions on things like smart meters, these things need to thought about properly and yes, politicians (who, in the most case are not experts) need to listen to experts. I avoiding getting a smart meter installed until such time as the technology had been updated to a situation where your smart meter was not locked to a single supplier. That should never have been allowed. I now have a 2nd generation smart meter and I’m perfectly happy with it. It reports my usage back to my supplier and no input is required either from myself or a meter reader to get accurate bills.

    • libertarian
      Posted July 17, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Peter Parsons

      Do you pick up many local community stations on your DAB radio?

  51. Lifelogic
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Nicky Morgan on the radio this morning with the BBC attacking her over the “tax breaks” for private school.

    Why on earth do so called “Conservative” MPs never point out that people who use private schools pay three times over. Once as in tax for other people’s children, then the tax on the extra money they have to earn to pay the private school fees then the private school fees themselves. If they put VAT on them (as the dope Gove wants to) it would be four times over.

    What would be far better is if everyone went to a private school. One they could choose using an education voucher given to them by government that they could then top up. Freedom and choice please for everyone. Make the schools compete for children and provide a good service that meets the parent’s needs.

    Anyway we need private schools and these selective schools for people like Diane Abbott, Angela Rayner, Blair, Chakrabati, Thornberry, that Labour Head of Education chap in Brighton and the rest of the labour hypocrites.

    • L Jones
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      And bring back grammar schools. I only wish my children had that option.

      • Brit
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t pass the Eleven Plus to get into grammar school. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it there either or learned anything. I would probably be speaking ever so nicely now if I’d passed. I’d know a bit of Latin too, always useful.

        • Fed up with the bull
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

          Brit What a silly post. Its obvious you didn’t pass the Eleven Plus.

  52. Mark
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Nothing is worse than combining touch screen and voice with operating functions in a car. You soon learn where to reach for physical switches without taking your eyes off the road, and you do not need to look to see which menu a screen is offering and confirm it has taken your input. Voice control can be no better. I found the system in my car had difficulty in distinguishing between “on” and “off”, tending to pick up the short o vowel sound and deciding it meant “on”. To get round this I had to resort to issuing the command “demisting fffff*** off” which it did seem to understand better.

  53. rick hamilton
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    It is much cheaper to make digital touch controls than the much more intuitive knobs and switches. In cars you also have safety issues. In the latest Tesla everything is controlled by a touch screen so you have to take your eyes off the road to find the wipers, radio, etc instead of just reaching for that familiar knob or stalk.

    The worst is the new computer that has no manual and you have to get on line to find out how to get on line ! I just received a security device from my bank that could only be activated using data from the old one, which of course was no longer working, which was why I needed a new one.

    Let’s hope there will be an analogue backlash, just as we wish for a backlash against political correctness and general lefty tosh.

  54. NigelE
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    My smart meter is useful for there things:

    1. It tells the time.

    2. It tells me the room temperature.

    3. My tumble dryer is in the garage, so I can use the smart meter to tell me when my drying has finished.

    But as a ‘smart’ meter that saves me money? A waste of space.

    • Andy
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes, useful for all those things! I actually like mine and it easily tells me when someone has left the heater on in the bathroom.

      And I hadn’t realised how much power the shower uses, so everyone is using it for minutes less each time. So there is a saving for me.

      Not suggesting they are worth the cost to the taxpayer but they work really well for me.

      • Fed up with the bull
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        We have recently moved into a house which is all electric. The previous owners were getting a bill for £120 a month. We have reduced this by changing the electric shower to a mains pressure shower, getting rid of the fish pond and pump, getting rid of the greenhouse heater, putting in a better central heating system and not having to have a water heater to the kitchen sink for hot water and most of all not using the dish washer. My electric bill is now £60 a month and I expect it to drop further by using my oil boiler for hot water instead of the immersion. True, the oil bill will go up but now that we have a newer boiler and more efficient radiators I think it won’t be too bad.

  55. libertarian
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Agree entirely and I’m a tech geek

    Too many products are over engineered for no apparent reason other than the designer was trying to show how clever they are

    Smart metres are a rip off. My old mum was coerced into having one fitted by British Gas, when she changed suppliers they said the smart metre was not the right type for them .

    I recently had a new electricity metre installed as my old “victorian ” one was well out of date. 7 months later I switched suppliers, they came and installed a brand new meter that was EXACTLY the same make and model as the one I already had. The fitter had no reason why it need changing, but you know it was more than his jobsworth to not change it

    DAB was a frequency grab of the FM spectrum and the BBC and their pet OFCOM department cooked up that little fiasco . OFCOM has done more damage to local community radio than any other single issue

    • Dave Ward
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      “DAB was a frequency grab of the FM spectrum”

      Not true – “FM” (as it is generally known) broadcasts between 87.5 & 108Mhz. DAB (in the UK) uses the old “Band 3” TV spectrum (174 to 230Mhz):
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_radio_in_the_United_Kingdom#DAB_frequency_plan

      • woodsy42
        Posted July 16, 2019 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        Of course it’s a ‘grab’, the plan is for the FM frequency transmitters to be closed down once DAB has a majority listener base, DAB uses less bandwidth per station (and has an incidental bonus – pirate stations can’t get onto DAB so there is added government control over broadcasts)

      • libertarian
        Posted July 17, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        David Ward

        Yes it is true.

        FM was supposed to be phased out completely in Europe by 2012

        Key objectives of the EU, as defined in its Terms of Reference, are, among others, to develop European common positions and proposals for use in the framework of international and regional bodies, to harmonise within Europe the efficient use of the radio spectrum and satellite orbits so as to satisfy the requirements of users and industry and to maintain the ECC multi-annual Strategic Plan.
        In order to achieve these objectives CEPT endorsed in 2002 the principle of adopting a harmonised European Table of Frequency Allocations and Applications to establish a strategic framework for the utilisation of the radio spectrum in Europe. After a detailed review in 2010 of the key principles defining the ECA Table, WG FM concluded at its meeting in February 2011 that the Table should essentially deliver information on the current situation, although some future oriented information could still be maintained for some specific frequency bands (e.g. if a cut-off date needs to be defined)

        The task of developing and maintaining this Table is the responsibility of the Working Group Frequency Management (WG FM). Much of this work is carried out by the European Communications Office (ECO) on behalf of WG FM

        Youre welcome

        • libertarian
          Posted July 17, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          David Ward

          ps the old FM frequencies aren’t for the use of DAB , they wanted to move us to DAB to utilise the old FM frequencies for other activities , including selling off large bandwidth licences .

          As usual with Ofcom it was all a complete cock up

  56. frank salmon
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    A lovely post. John. I wonder how long it will be before we go back to the ‘canal age’. Quite apart from modern gizmos that irritate – please include LED light bulbs in your observations – we are certainly moving backwards to windmills and railways. We seem to be making everything we do more onerous and less progressive.

    • L Jones
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes, let’s go back to the JIT canal age. And bring back freight on the railways. Going backwards isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if the previous stuff worked, and some could be made to work again even in our ‘modern age’.

      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  57. bigneil
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Has anyone worked out how much power will be needed for recharging millions of all electric cars at a similar time ( presumably overnight ) – and will it ever be windy enough to recharge them all? Will the current cable infrastructure be able to cope – or will brand new very large and expensive cable be put everywhere for the East European cable thieves to keep walking into the UK for some extra money?

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Why not have battery changing stations along the road where you drive in and change the battery by robot of course?

    • Chris S
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Five ADDITIONAL Hinkley Points.

      That’s just for the cars. Vans, buses an trucks will requre several more Nuclear Stations on top.

      It ‘ain’t ever going to happen.

  58. James1
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Government bureaucrats the world over are invariably bad at running virtually anything. You only have to ponder how far the telephone would have progressed if it had been left to the old GPO, or what types of cheese or biscuits would be available if civil servants were involved in their distribution instead of supermarket operators and other retailers. Pretty much the same applies to our so-called “world beating NHS” which in reality is anything but. This is not to blame the people concerned, much the majority of whom do their best, but rather it’s the system that is at fault. The public sector and government fiats simply can’t hold a candle to the free market.

  59. Andy
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Talking of progress – I thought we’d got past the point where it was ever acceptable to tell people with a slightly different skin shade and a strange sounding surname to ‘go home.’

    But the President of the United States – who many of you seem to like – has just done that.

    Some would call Mr Trump racist. I won’t. His words speak for themselves. etc ed

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      POTUS appears to respond to incivility with incivility. It has already been noted that Democrat incivility could back fire on them at the next election, it is not obvious who is goading whom more…

      … similarly there is a contributor on here who is so ageist, one sometimes wonders whether he is just looking for a response.

    • Treacle
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      It is a purely internal matter, and none of our business.

    • L Jones
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      I won’t repeat what a bigot you make yourself sound, Andy. Because I recognise that I am lowering myself to your level, as was pointed out yesterday as I replied to a particularly insulting comment by you.
      But on behalf of those of us from mixed race families, I take great exception to your implication that all of us here are ”racist”.

    • libertarian
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      Sadly there are still some people in positions of power that think and speak this way, and not just Trump either

      “Germany’s EU commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has apologised after a storm of criticism over a speech in which he called Chinese people “slit eyes”, mocked gay marriage and denounced a Belgian region”

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      It’s not about race, it’s about attitude. You seem to like the EU more than the UK, whether you’re white, brown or yellow makes no difference,
      If you don’t like our democratic decisions and our country, why not leave?

    • steve
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      Don’t know why you bother with Mr Trump’s latest stunt, no mileage in it and no one is really concerned, other than remainers who would like to spoil relations with the US.

      Besides, we have no right to negatively judge Mr Trump, since he’s the US President and not the British Prime Minister.

    • Edward2
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Having just got back from 6 weeks in California I found a large number feel President Trump’s administration is doing a good job.
      Odds are he will be re-elected.
      America seems buoyant, growing, with good employment opportunities.
      There is in the USA as in the UK a big debate happening regarding illegal immigration and the ability of others to claim asylum.
      Some feel all should be allowed in.
      Others want a controlled system.
      Mexican cartels are behind much of the industry cynically using children to force entry.
      Many I spoke to resented what they described as queue jumpers.
      America welcomes hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year.
      More than any nation in the world.

    • Brit
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

      Like our media and Mrs May, the full context of these tweets has not been acknowledged. I know why.
      But it would help if people like Mrs May who obviously do know, said so. You can’t keep pushing unpleasant truths under the carpet or a Brexit Party will be in government shortly and start broadcasting the politically convenient cover-ups of yore.

    • Jiminyjim
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      The key point here is that our beloved national broadcaster considered the principal news item last night to be a ‘tweet’ by POTUS, worthy of several minutes of comment. The more hysterical they become, Andy, the more popular the President seems to become. Many of us are not Trump supporters, but we’re enjoying how he deals with the ‘fake news’ MSM.

  60. Sue Doughty
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Don’t get us started talking about problems with tech and gadgets. The washing machine I bought last September when the previous one went Bang and emotted lots of smoke is electrically unstable, is awaiting new parts, nobody knows where from, could be on a ship coming from China. Already been OS for more than aweek. With a lot of phone calls from me they are now considering giving up on replacing all its parts and replacing the whole thing – as I asked to start with.

    Like you I was pressured to have a smart meter. I caved, they said it would cost me nought. The man got it wrong, declared there was a big gas leak and disconnected my gas supply in mid winter. I paid to get a gas man to tell them there was no leak, I paid to get the gas reconnected and then I paid for replacement gas devices that failed immediately after the smart meter arrived. It cost me just short of £2000. I advise you to keep refusing to have a smart meter, you don’t need one, the old one is better anyway and smart meter fitters are not up to the job.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I thought Smart Meters were for electricity. If you can get them for gas, surely you would need two – one for gas, one for electricity.

      I read somewhere that the big advantage of smart meters – to the utility supplier and, possibly, the government – is that your supply can be disconnected remotely by them. So, when, as seems inevitable, electricity is rationed, they will be able to turn you off for as many hours a day as they like.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Not so smart meter fitter then?

  61. Halfway
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    If there was ever any need for clarity on the troubled mind of Donald Trump even the most ardent supporter of Trumpism must know by now that something is very seriously wrong with this man

  62. Andy
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    My mum has one of those stupid glass hobs…so frustrating, if it was mine it would have been smashed.

  63. Cromwell
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    The government rakes in 8.9p in fuel duty for every mile I drive in my car. If it was electric they would lose this income so the plan is to have everyone on a smart meter. People charging car batteries can then be taxed ( I understand they will recognise a 7amp demand as battery charging) and the power companies will collect the money for the government.

  64. glen cullen
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Some other things the government promote and procure with tax payers money which don’t improve the people’s life’s

    Off shore / Land Wind farms – electric prices haven’t reduced
    Solar Panels – electric prices haven’t reduced
    HS2 – train prices haven’t reduced
    BBC – £154.50 more expensive than freeview

  65. kzb
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The days of the customer being king are long finished. JR of course was a keen advocate of market forces being the answer to our problems.
    Look where it has got us -nothing works anymore.
    Except, for some reason, ways of abstracting money from us are remorselessly efficient.
    Funny that.

  66. Ian
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    What we need is far less Government.
    What we need is for MPS to show that they all have some Common Sence .
    It seems to most of us that they are in the main rubbish, and could not survive out Side of Westmonster.
    As Ronny said, Politians are not the answer, they are the problem !

    Vote for The Brexit Party, there are a larger % of people with Common Sence, and business experience.

  67. LukeM
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Yèars ago I bought a very expensive wrist watch, a well known brand a Seamaster with chronograph features and guaranteed to work to so many meters depth, but I never liked it. It was too heavy with stainless steel strap which I had to take off each night before going to bed. So by luck I was able to sell it into the used market, after twelve years, and got 1500 pounds. I straight away walked down the road into a shop and bought a replacement with a plastic digital face giving me date and time which I can see without my glasses and which I don’t have to take off at night, cost 10 pounds- i couldn’t’ be happier.

  68. Bob
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Many cars are now fitted with electronic parking brakes which operate at the touch of a switch. Apparently, some drivers had a bit of trouble with the mechanical levers which needed a bit of muscle power.

    They often had difficulty with parking too, so the cars are now fitted with parking assist.

    Staying between the lane markings on motorways was also a problem so manufacturers developed lane departure warnings and lane keeping assist, with blind spot detection, and automatic braking.

    Some drivers were able to change a wheel if they had a flat tyre, so the manufacturers don’t supply spare wheels any more.

    The next step, I understand will enable the driver to apply eye shadow and lipstick or use Facebook while the car drives itself.

    PS, if you have a car with stop start functionality, don’t try to charge a flat battery with a traditional battery charger it could damage the battery. If you need to change the battery, you’ll find it is a “deep cycle” type known as AGM or EFB, which are more expensive than lead acid batteries and require re-calibration of the ECU when installing.

  69. Trumpeteer
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    It is an ironic and a UK self-inflicted wound, that Sky News alleges: “racist” to recent tweets of Trump and quotes them verbatim without breaking any rules or laws here, but is prevented by UK broadcasting rules and UK laws from broadcasting one or two of the utterances of the ladies to which he refers.
    We need a new Education Minister here and new laws allowing English to be spoken and written and broadcast throughout our realm.

    • Trumpeteer
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      They have long history on YouTube…much more than any current blasts.
      I’m not offended. I’ve never considered myself an ordinary non-political white American and if I did I still wouldn’t be offended. Free Speech! We can see where they’re coming from.

  70. margaret
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    ditto….. I don’t even understand how to use the microwave properly .. far too complicated sets of pathways to get to desired heat and time. I cannot get my no hands phone to work on the car ,, too complicated as with all other programmes. My digital radio come CD player is an expensive one but wanders all over the place. My glass electric hob is on / off ,simple and good.
    Long live simplicity and directness.

  71. mancunius
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    There is another reason for the enthusiasm with which the electricity industry pushes digital devices, and that is the total concealed cost to the end user. Tv set top consoles/boxes (merely on standby) as well as iphones, DAB radios and general internet usage. Wireless technologies consume far more energy than do wired technologies, with faster broadband speeds being particularly consumptive.
    IoT (Internet of Things) devices use immense amounts of electricity, and their energy footprint will continue to mushroom. The digital cloud also takes increasing amounts of the electricity that is in finite supply.
    So these are not merely net additional energy costs to the household, but vast increases in total usage of the electricity networks, that will cause inevitable shut-downs of the grid, unless massive additional raw energy supplies can be mined.
    I doubt the occasional ray of sunshine or puff of wind will help contribute much! 🙂 Fracking is the very least we need.

  72. Classic car
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear, I feel like a Luddite now; a ten year old payg dumbphone, a thirty year old Fiat ( gloriously free of all the crap new cars are saddled with) and a woodstove for heating.
    The only smart thing in our house is my wife.

  73. The Mariner
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Good article. I was happy to see smart meters being mentioned. They are a massive great big con that may have some benefits for the power generators and supply companies but offer very little for the consumer.
    The truth is that these meters aren’t smart at all. They read overall usage every 30 minutes so there is no way they can tell you what proportion of power is being used by an individual piece of equipment. They give you a reading just like any dumb meter would. So who’s benefitting here, not the consumer anyway.
    They also could be a home security risk. Imagine if the info they transmit to the supplier is hacked into then the hacker would easily know when you were away on holiday by the change in your energy usage. Dodgy.
    I’m told that Ed Miliband and labour were responsible for getting these things off the ground but the Conservative governments since have just carried it on…..since 2010…..All that wasted money could have gone into far more worthy causes. The lid needs lifting on this almighty big con !!!

  74. forthurst
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine invited me to set up his new Windows 10 laptop. I installed some non-MS programs which he preferred. I pointed out that some of the default settings might not be his choice; I subsequently executed a script called NoNotSpy10 so that he could select his preference for such issues as whether the camera and microphone should be activated by default.

    I would hate to have to use Windows. There are Linux versions for PCs which are really good and user friendly and free. Every time I have upgraded, the newer version was better than previous one.

  75. Edward Paxton
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    John
    In your review of cars you never mentioned the hybrid version, which to me is the simple bridge to the potential of a “promised land” of electric vehicles. Hybrids resolve the charging problem of all battery cars, so seemples!

    On the other matter of Big Brother imposing “improvements” on to the public, I tend to be a resistor until the last possible moment. My FM radio works fine, although my 30 year old tuner has stopped working completely! The Treasury has also decided that I need to buy special software to submit my VAT Return, which I’ve successfully done for a decade – Why? I fear chaos beckons…

  76. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    My Sky control used to have a button to take you to the TV Guide. It is, after all, the thing you want to see most – a list of what’s on so you can choose something to watch. In the house I am temporarily staying in you need to click the word ‘Sky’, click the left arrow, click up to ‘TV Guide’ and click to select it. FOUR bloody clicks to get to the TV guide when it used to be ONE! Which bloody half-with came up with that?

    There are two controls in the house in question. One is newer than the other. It has a bloody touchpad in the centre. Trying to use that is a real exercise in dexterity and patience.

    I like the convenience that having a dish and Sky brings, but when we move into our new home, if that is the only interface on offer, we’ll be getting our TV by some other means.

  77. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Does having a DAB radio in your car mean that you can, for example, listen to LBC when in, say, the West Country? At the moment, listening to my car radio, as I head off down the M3, by the time I get 30 miles out of London, the signal has gone.

    Ooh, just the four ‘goes’ needed that time to get past the useless ‘reCAPTCHA’

    • Bob
      Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      @Mike Wilson

      “by the time I get 30 miles out of London, the signal has gone.”

      You can switch over to the BBC if you want to listen to fake news.

      • Fred H
        Posted July 17, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        I don’t recommend listening to BBC whilst driving. Temper will rise and road rage risk increase in proportion to the nonsense pumped out over the radio waves.

  78. Treacle
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The government wants to charge more for electricity consumed at peak hours. This is the reason for smart meters. If you don’t want to be charged extra for electricity at peak hours, don’t accept a smart meter.

  79. steve
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting article, JR.

    Starting with meters. When I bought this house the first thing I did was get ‘key meters’ fitted. That way the energy supplier doesn’t have access to my bank account, and therefore cannot nudge the cost. That has saved a lot of money. But I don’t need a smart meter, they have a terrible reputation.

    Electric cars – well I don’t like them, and I believe the concept is doomed to fail.

  80. Qubus
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    And what about the modern “handbrakes” on modern cars. I recently had to replace my ancient Audi with something newer. However, my wife preferred the old style handbrake to the modern push button device, and I have to say that I totally agree with her. So I had to buy a smaller car in order to get the old style handbrake.
    It seems to me that the new push button electromechanical device is a solution to a problem that did not exist.
    I am also very dissatisfied with my new central heating controller. My old one was semi mechanical and I could just set it for ON or OFF for different times of the day. now my new, digital all-singing-and-dancing one will set itself off and on differently for different days of the week, switch off and on when I am on holiday, take account of the change in the hour, switch the hot water on and off independently…. But, Oh what a headache it is to program.

  81. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    The work round the radio problem is to buy a different radio for every room and every station you want to listen to. Seems to work here until we go away and power down.

  82. BillM
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Whatever happened to “Freedom of Choice”?
    What has happened to the Conservatives over the past 20 years? Nothing their Government does seems to be in keeping with the aspirations of the British people.
    The present Government and its predecessors have moved too far left to be called “Conservatives” any-more and that has been proven by their recent failings in recent elections. Past supporters have dumped them in favour of the new party that closely resembles the true blue Conservatives of yesteryear.
    Time to to go back to regain the future!

  83. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Honest and sensible approach from Trump – if you don’t like America, then leave.
    It’s not about race at all, it’s about attitude.
    It’s also a valid approach, which we need to support in and for the UK.

  84. Helen Smith
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Lol, you are not wrong Sir John, I have no idea what smart meters bring to the party, apart from making it more difficult to swop suppliers. And DAB kept dipping out on Sunday making the cricket impossible to follow whilst driving home.

    Also hubby has a car with electronic climate control, takes him so long to put the heating on he sometimes gives up, me I just turn a knob up or down in my old Nissan Micra (I always buy British) and job done.

  85. Chris S
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Let us hope our new PM ignores the BBC and refuses to turn off FM radio broadcasts.

    We have 12 FM radios in two houses and five cars, four of which have expensive FM-only tuners. One already has a defunked Analogue TV receiver.

    Are the BBC and the treasury going to pay to replace or modify all our equipment ? I don’t think so.

    My experience with DAB radio is much the same as yours.
    It is useless in our main house and marginal at the second. Only the digital radio in my 2019 Audi seems to work flawlessly so there is perhaps some hope, although I suspect it switches to FM seamlessly when digital reception fails so may be no better than any of the others.

    I hope MPs deny the BBC and the Treasury the right to turn off FM radio.

  86. Original Richard
    Posted July 16, 2019 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I do have a DAB radio which works very well.

    But as I did point out to the manufacturer it is unusable by a blind person because of its fancy “modern” operation.OO

    I was also surprised that DAB did not use initially the MW frequency spectrum as this frequency spectrum would have needed fewer transmitters to cover the country and was the spectrum most affected by weather and ionospheric conditions. Instead they chose to use the FM band.

  87. Bob
    Posted July 16, 2019 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    “by the time I get 30 miles out of London, the signal has gone.”

    No problem, you can switch over to the BBC if you want to listen to fake news.

  88. Julian
    Posted July 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    2 points:
    1. Don’t bother with dab -stream radio using an app. Much more choice of stations anywhere in the world and the reception is usually fine. I put my phone in the aux slot in the car and no problems!

    2. Digital TV. Great choice of stations but so slow to start up compared to analogue.

  89. Qubus
    Posted July 16, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic,
    but what is the big advantage of the BBC app “Sounds” as opposed to the older app “iPlayer Radio”? The former seems to me much user-friendlier, but I may be wrong.

  90. McBryde
    Posted July 21, 2019 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    “No-one ever tells me why this is a good thing for me.”
    I haven’t read other comments here, so sorry if it’s repeated:

    My understanding is that, with renewable energy, when there is enough of it to be introduced to the grid at any time during the day, there are systemic outages. Apparently this cannot be avoided.

    A proportion of people with smart meters will have their power remotely turned off at these times, if it’s neccessary.

    Also, I read that there’s planned to be a high peak usage band [I think in the middle of the day…??]. Those without smart meters will have to be charged by estimation, whereas smartmeter users can save money by not using power during those times.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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