Sunday, 30 November 2014

E-cigs safety information probed

An investigation into safety information surrounding electronic cigarettes has been ordered by the Government after a spate of incidents linked to the devices.

Figures obtained by the Press Association earlier this month revealed that e-cigarettes or related equipment, including chargers, were involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years.

Ministers outlined measures to boost awareness of the safest practices when using the technology.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a number of trading standards departments to investigate whether current safety information is sufficient and widely available enough to consumers.

Trading Standards are to look at what information is currently available to consumers and to explore whether we need to do more to make sure there is enough guidance to help them stay safe.

It comes after the Local Government Association, which represents all 46 fire authorities in England and Wales, called for safety messages to be displayed on e-cigarette kits.

The Government also published advice to help the estimated 2.1 million Britons using e-cigarettes to do so safely.

The tips include:
  1. :: Ensure that e-cigarettes are not left charging for long periods of time.
  2. :: Do not leave e-cigarettes plugged in overnight or when you are out of the house.
  3. :: Look for the CE mark that indicates chargers comply with European safety standards.
Many incidents are suspected to have been sparked by users connecting e-cigarettes to incompatible chargers.

Data from 43 fire services provided following a freedom of information request showed earlier this month that since 2012 they had attended 113 calls to fires related to e-cigarette equipment.

The figures indicated that brigades were attending incidents involving the technology at a rate of around one a week.

From the services that provided data, e-cigarettes were cited as being involved in eight fires in 2012, rising to 43 last year, while there have been at least 62 so far this year.

In August, David Thomson, 62, was killed when an e-cigarette on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using.

It was thought to be the first fatality from a fire involving an e-cigarette in Britain. Other incidents have resulted in people being hurt or their homes being badly damaged.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Electric shock - we'd rather hurt ourselves than others

If you had the choice between hurting yourself or someone else in exchange for money, how altruistic do you think you’d be? In one infamous experiment, people were quite willing to deliver painful shocks to anonymous victims when asked by a scientist. But a new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people’s well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.

Human behavior toward others is hard to predict. On the one hand, we stand out in the animal world for our altruism, often making significant sacrifices to help out a stranger in need. And all but the most antisocial people experience psychological distress at witnessing, let alone causing, pain in others. Yet study after study in the field of behavioral economics has demonstrated that we tend to value our own needs and desires above those of others. For example, researchers have found that just thinking about money makes people behave more selfishly.

To try to reconcile the angels and devils of our nature, a team led by Molly Crockett, a psychologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, combined the classic psychological and economics tools for probing altruism: pain and money. Everyone has their own pain threshold, so the first task was a pain calibration. Researchers administered electric shocks with electrodes attached to the wrists of 160 subjects, starting at an almost imperceptible level and amping up until the subject described the pain as intolerable. (For most people, that threshold for pain is similar to holding your wrist under a stream of 50°C water.)

found at

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday Fact

Airports that are at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Curry house owner sentenced over fire safety

hotelier have been sentenced for fire safety offences that endangered residents’ and staff lives.

A worker at the takeaway could have died when a deep fat fryer burst into flames while he was sleeping, Recorder James Baird told York Crown Court.

The man was upstairs at Bilash Tandoori, in Bromley Street, off Leeman Road, when the fire began at 4am on November 10 last year, the court heard.

Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, told the court a loud smash awoke the employee, but his escape route was blocked by DIY material and a door that wouldn’t open. He managed to get out by a different route.

Former boss Mohamin Ahmed, 26, of Evelyn Crescent, Clifton, pleaded guilty to two breaches of fire safety regulations and was ordered to do 240 hours’ unpaid work and pay £1,500 prosecution costs.

For him, Kevin Blount said he had had no training in fire safety and now works as a taxi driver.

Earlier, Mr Mehta told the court how Yoko Banks, 66, put money above safety for years by repeatedly allowing dangerous situations at four of her hotels and a house in multiple occupation in Harrogate and by failing to do fire risk assessments, despite repeated warnings from fire officers.

At one point, officers closed a hotel until she made it safer.

Banks, of Franklin Road, Harrogate, pleaded guilty to ten breaches of fire safety regulations and five of failure to comply with enforcement notices. She was fined £50,000 with £12,000 prosecution costs.

Her barrister, Craig Hassell, said her businesses were losing money. The hotels were being sold by receivers, and she had difficulty understanding the technical aspects of fire safety. She now realised she needed outside help.

Speaking after the cases, fire station manager David Watson said: “Fire officers believe that the breaches of the general fire precautions were such as to result in the risk of death or serious injury.”

found at -

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A shot in the arm for Wee recycling

Samsung, Sainsbury’s, Sky & others back ‘revolutionary’ electrical goods trade-in scheme

The ever quickening cycle of technology has prompted a group of 50 retailers and manufacturers to club together in support of a recycling initiative designed to both reduce waste and encourage consumers to upgrade gadgets and appliances.

This will see retailers including Argos, B&Q, Homebase and Sainsbury’s establish drop off points where unwanted but still operational products can be deposited in return for in store discounts and vouchers.

Household names including LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sky will also get in on the act by establishing pick-up services for goods in exchange for a discount on replacement with a newer model.

A sustainability campaign group championing the deal, believes that British households are sitting on a £1bn treasure chest of idle electronics and mothballed white goods which could be sold on to protect both the wallet and the planet.

It cites a typical two-year old mid-range laptop computer as having a resale value of around £240 whilst an unwanted 55in television could fetch as much as £475.

By making better use of resources, businesses can better safeguard their future through creating new opportunities for economic and environmental benefits, whilst saving consumers money.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Smart Tech

The digital technology boom is being fuelled by lots of NEW stuff. An industry estimate is that over 10% of UK homes will own at least one smart system by the end of the year. Amazingly that’s over 3 million UK households will be going ‘smart’

These technologies can help not only measure their energy consumption but also how they can control consumption. Recently we have been talking about the Dimplex Quantum heaters and I have just fitted a Nest Stat in my home. Why? Because heating makes up over 60 per cent of my household’s energy bill.

Energy prices have continued to soar in our uncompetitive market so I’m investing now to help my
back pocket for the future. Hence the opportunity to invest in new products and solutions to help reduce the energy bill is becoming increasingly appealing to all of us.

To be honest little had changed in the way we controlled our heating systems since forever so the arrival of smart technology was well overdue.

Our new Nest stat tells me how much energy has being used and can be controlled via both my phone and tablet. I can check the status of the heating system and turn it on if I’m going to be home earlier (which never happens) or off if I’m not there.

Its easy to see when its calling for heat

The clever (and slightly spooky) this is this new stat learns about our family life. It even knows when I am at home. It learns from our heating preferences, how long it takes a home to heat up, and even when it’s empty to create a personalised and optimised heating schedule. It quite literally ground breaking technology that is not just about the thermostat but about its ability to learn, and being able to create a ‘conscious’ home.

It learns when my family needs more heat or wants less, it can even predict how weather conditions will alter the household’s behaviour and adjust accordingly, and will turn the system off when it senses no-one is home.

If you look at the above you can see when the heating is on, when the family were out and it even says when we have turned the stat up or the stat decides it need to come on earlier because 'its cold outside'

I didn’t get the nest protect as I have the Aico Multi-Sensor Fire Alarm but if I hadn’t done that two years ago, it would have been an option I considered as the within this ‘conscious’ home, different devices can talk to each other and create a safe environment as the Nest Protect, communicates with the learning thermostat, so in the event of a carbon monoxide alarm the heating system, is turned off and sends information to the user’s mobile phone alerting them when an alarm goes off.

According to Gartner, there will be 26 billion devices on the ‘Internet of Things’ by 2020.

The UK government, along with others around the world, has committed to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. This means a cut to energy waste with the government setting a target for all UK homes to have a smart meter by 2020. Again, smart technology has a role to play in this, providing an effective means to control usage and, in turn, maximise energy savings.

Monday, 24 November 2014

UK average 4G speed over 15Mbps

UK 4G speeds are more than twice as fast as 3G, according to a new report from watchdog Ofcom.

They clocked up an average of 15.1Mbps (megabits per second) while 3G averaged 6.1Mbps, it suggested.

The report looked at the speed and coverage of mobile networks in five major UK cities - London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

It indicated that London had the fastest 4G web browsing speeds but the slowest 3G browsing speeds.
While it took just 0.72 seconds to load a standard web page on the 4G network in London, it took 1.2 seconds via 3G.

Getting a web page to load on the 4G network took the longest in Glasgow (0.82 seconds) while Manchester had the best 3G browsing speeds (1.01 seconds), according to the report.

Edinburgh recorded the highest download speeds for both 4G and 3G with London having the lowest for both.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Is shale gas a load of 'hype'

Ministers have "completely oversold" the potential of shale gas, energy experts say.

Researchers from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) told the BBC promises of lower prices and greater energy security from UK shale gas were “hype” and "lacking in evidence".

UKERC, an academic consortium covering 30 institutions, has produced a report on the future of gas in the UK.

The Treasury said the potential of shale gas was "too big to ignore".

The report authors said shale gas - a natural gas that can be drawn from rock through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - was so early in its infancy it was impossible to know how much could be extracted and at what cost.

But they said it was most unlikely to make a substantial difference to prices or to the security of energy supplies in the UK.

Supporters say the fracking of shale gas could significantly contribute to the UK's future energy needs, but critics say the process could lead to environmental problems.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

£7m per pylon to bury grid cables in beauty spots

Electricity pylons are to be removed from beauty spots for the first time, with the power lines buried underground at a cost of £7 million for each structure. Ouch!

A £500 million National Grid scheme will result in only 65 pylons being dismantled across Britain. That equates to less than 1 in 20 of the 1,500 pylons in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty

This information comes from draft policy published in August

National Grid published a draft policy covering what they will do to spend the recently granted £500 million allowance that can be used to underground existing lines in nationally designated landscapes between now and 2020. National Grid will consult on the draft over 8 weeks. The fund could be spent on:
    * Placing lines underground;
     * Screening and landscaping;
     * Replacing existing and outdated pylons with those of an alternative design (e.g. the recently launched ‘T Pylon’ design); and/or
     * Re-routeing and rationalising existing lines

The Campaign for National Parks (CNP), The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), and the Campaign to Protect Rural Wales (CRRW) will work with a new national stakeholder group organised by National Grid. It is hoped that the group will begin meeting before the end of this year.
Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner for CPRE said: ‘We welcome National Grid’s continued progress in making sure that this exciting opportunity to reinstate and enhance our finest landscapes is turned into real action on the ground. For too long, pylons have blighted a number of our finest landscapes. This allowance can help us make a start to address and make good this damage’.

Peter Ogden, Director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, agreed by saying:
‘National Grid’s initiative marks an important step forward in recognising the true value, pleasure and the enormous range of public benefits our finest landscapes provide to the nation. We hope this prompt captures the imagination of others to follow and help declutter these iconic and invaluable areas of Wales and England’.

Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Research Manager for the Campaign for National Parks, added: ‘We’re really pleased that the opportunity for more pylon free views in National Parks has moved a step closer as a result of National Grid publishing their draft policy. Its great timing too as this is National Parks Week and we look forward to working closely with National Grid and other stakeholders to ensure the allowance is implemented successfully’.

£7 million though!!!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday fact

Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, but he declined.

Parliament repair bill 'could top £3bn'

Taxpayers may have to spend more than £3bn to stop Parliament turning into an unusable "ruin", Newsnight understands.

The Palace of Westminster has seen fire and floods, some stonework is badly damaged and much of the infrastructure has not been updated since the 1950s.

Restoring it will be "embarrassing, expensive and difficult", a senior insider said.

No final decisions have been taken, but an option under consideration is moving MPs and peers out for five years.

The basements underneath the historic building are full of asbestos, leaking pipes and miles and miles of outdated wiring and cables.

The annual DIY bill is about £30m.

There is a "working assumption" of the cost of restoration is £3bn.

That's considerably more than other estimates previously released.

Cloister Court, part of the building dating back to the 14th Century, is "sinking and crumbling", according to Adam Watrobski, Parliament's principal architect.

Gargoyles and stone facades have been disfigured by decades of pollution.

Crumbling stonework Stonework is badly disfigured in many areas

The options are :
  1. Moving MPs and peers out completely for five years, closing the entire Palace of Westminster. This would be expected to encounter significant political opposition
  2. A "partial decant" - the House of Lords and the House of Commons would move out in turn, so one half of the palace could be restored at a time, which would take considerably longer
  3. Politicians refuse to move and construction takes place around them. That could take decades and cost even more
They are reluctant to make the cost of the building an issue in the run-up to the general election and are expected to commission more research instead.
There will inevitably be controversy about the costs.
But historian and architectural expert Dan Cruickshank believes the Palace of Westminster "it's one of the great buildings of the world".

He added: "It represents in many ways the national identity of Britain... it has to be done properly.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Is Thorium the Future?

Nuclear scientists are being urged by the former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to develop thorium as a new fuel.

Mr Blix says that the radioactive element may prove much safer in reactors than uranium.

It is also more difficult to use thorium for the production of nuclear weapons.

His comments will add to growing levels of interest in thorium, but critics warn that developing new reactors could waste public funds.

Thorium should be safer in reactors - and it is almost impossible to make a bomb out of thorium.

These are very major factors as the world looks for future energy supplies and terrorism

Hans Blix Hans Blix says the world should try its best to develop thorium

His enthusiasm is shared by some in the British nuclear establishment. Scientists at the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) have been encouraged by the government to help research on an Indian thorium-based reactor, and on a test programme in Norway.

The Norway tests at the OECD’s nuclear trials facility in Halden are conducted in a Bond-style underground bunker.

The thorium tests are being carried out by a private firm, Thor Energy (the element itself was discovered in Norway in 1828 and named after the Norse god of thunder).

Do you have an unsecured IP address baby cam or CCTV?

A website containing thousands of live feeds from baby monitors, webcams and CCTV systems is broadcasting these cams.

Data watchdogs across the world have drawn attention to the Russian-based site, which broadcasts footage from systems using either default passwords or no log-in codes at all.

The site lists streams from more than 250 countries.

It currently provides 500 feeds from the UK alone.

They include what appear to be images from:
  1. an office in Warwickshire
  2. a child's bedroom in Birmingham
  3. a home's driveway in Nottinghamshire
  4. a gym in Manchester, a pub in Salford
  5. a shop interior in London
Some of the feeds showed a static image but did not otherwise appear to be working.
Camera owners are being urged to check their equipment and set hard-to-guess passwords containing a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numbers and other characters.

The privacy watchdogs have provided the name of the site to the media, however the BBC has opted not to publish it.

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office acknowledged that other members of the press might reveal the details, guiding people to the feeds.

The underlying problems with this don't just relate to this one webcam site, but potentially to anyone who uses a default password on any device.

Password problems
The site in question lists the feeds both by country and by device manufacturer.

China-based Foscam was the most commonly listed brand, followed by Linksys and then Panasonic.

Foscam camera Owners of old Foscam baby monitors and webcams may be unaware of the risks

Password tips:
The University of Surrey's Prof Alan Woodward is among security experts who have suggested internet users should now update their login details.

He suggests the following rules should be observed when picking a new password.
Don't choose one obviously associated with you

Hackers can find out a lot about you from social media so if they are targeting you specifically and you choose, say, your pet's name you're in trouble.

  1. Choose words that don't appear in a dictionary
  2. Hackers can precalculate the encrypted forms of whole dictionaries and easily reverse engineer your password.
  3. Use a mixture of unusual characters
  4. You can use a word or phrase that you can easily remember but where characters are substituted, eg Myd0gha2B1g3ars!
  5. Have different passwords for different sites and systems
  6. If hackers compromise one system you do not want them having the key to unlock all your other accounts.
Keep them safely
With multiple passwords it is tempting to write them down and carry them around with you. Better to use some form of secure password vault on your phone.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Candle Fire Safety

Candle Fire Safety Week (November 17-23).

Candle fires result in around 350 casualties each year, and with nearly 40 per cent of fires started by candles resulting in death or injury

It’s important to remember that a candle is not just a decorative feature. Left unattended, an open flame could leave a trail of devastation.

It’s so important to think about where you are placing your lit candles; they should always be away from curtains and out of the reach of pets and children.

Extinguish your candles if you leave the room, even if it’s only for a moment - it only takes a moment for a fire to start.

Even with these precautions it’s important to be prepared should the worst. make sure you have a working smoke alarm. it can give you the vital time you need to get out

press the test button NOW!!!

Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by testing your alarm regularly

The key to a smarter power grid

Is energy storage.

Energy grids across the world are struggling to cope with a surge in demand for electricity and increasingly volatile supply from renewable power sources.

In the UK, where the government is committed to stringent carbon dioxide reduction targets. These can only be met by massively increasing electricity use - which currently accounts for about a third of all energy consumption - from renewables at the expense of oil and gas.

Peak demand on the UK grid is currently 60GW, but by 2050, the government estimates this will increase six-fold as demand for electric cars and household heating soars.

To meet this demand, more pylons and cabling will be needed, adding up to £1,000 a year to consumer bills, according to power services company S&C Electric.

And it's not just about higher demand and cost, as renewable power sources such as wind and solar are, by their very nature, variable - when the wind doesn't blow and sun doesn't shine, little or no power is generated.

Countries the world over, and particularly those investing heavily in renewable energy, are facing the same problem, and solutions are few and far between.

Increasing fast-acting generation in order to fill energy gaps is one answer, but as most generators of this type, such as diesel turbines, emit CO2, they are somewhat counterproductive.

Another way is to increase connectivity with other countries, but in a world in which national energy security is high on political agendas, this is far from ideal. And besides, as many weather patterns are regional, this is hardly a winning solution.

But there are two ways to help solve this critical problem that should work, both of which are attracting huge sums of money from governments and companies.

The first is energy storage - simply storing energy generated during periods of low demand to use during periods of high demand. Sounds simple enough and, as Anthony Price at the UK's Electricity Storage Network says, it's something that was commonplace 100 years ago.

Not only does storage help overcome the problem of variable supply from renewable energy sources, but it allows electricity grids to operate more efficiently and cost effectively, says Mr Price. This is simply because storage allows "the system to be run at average load rather than peak load", he says.
It would also end the absurdity of paying for wind turbines to be shut down when demand is being satisfied.

And the cost savings could be huge - Imperial College London's Energy Futures Lab has estimated that energy storage technologies could generate savings of £10bn a year by 2050 in the UK.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The evolution of Fire Risk Management

Some organisations are beginning to wonder if the current Fire Risk practice is sustainable.

It’s been nearly nine years since the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 prompted many organisations to undertake fire risk assessments within the premises under their control and many organisations have spent significant resources on consultant fire risk assessors (a person who carries out and documents the significant findings of a fire risk assessment) only to discover that the advice they received may have been offered with the best of intentions but was not wholly appropriate and may have differed from the advice of a ‘competent’ fire risk assessor. 

At the same time, the fire industry has spent a considerable amount of time in the last few years deciding how to define a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment and deciding how to tackle the ‘cowboy’ market.  It would appear that, at long last, there is now at least a ‘defined’ competency criterion for fire risk assessors and guidance for those charged with delivering fire risk assessment programmes on how to seek out the services of a competent fire risk assessor.  

Following a recent review of Enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, undertaken by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, the Chief Fire Officers Association ( CFOA ) is now committed to promoting the use, and acceptance, of recognised professional certification and accreditation for commercial fire risk assessors. 

Fire risk assessments are the cornerstone of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, yet the value of a fire risk assessment, even when undertaken by a competent fire risk assessor, is largely dependent on the organisation’s ability to manage the outcomes.

A fire risk assessment is a means to an end but not the end in itself.  When reviewing the high profile prosecutions that have hit the headlines over the past few years, one quickly realises that failure to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment (under Article 9) is not the only compliance obligation imposed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005; there are numerous other duties by which the responsible person is bound.

The concept of ‘fire risk management’. With very few fire fatalities arising in commercial premises, fire risk management is not just about life safety or the risk of injury or death in the event of fire occurrence. It encapsulates life safety, property protection, business continuity and sustainability in the face of fire. 

In today’s global and interconnected market place, issues, such as corporate social responsibility and reputational risk, are very prominent and news headlines travel fast via both traditional and new media forms. The cost of fire is at an all-time high and, in these tough economic times, organisations need to be frugal with finite financial resources. They need to build resilience and ensure that fire risk assessment programmes deliver the intended outcomes.

Fire risk management is a discipline in its own right with its own set of competencies. The discipline does not always sit neatly in the Health & Safety department due to the need for interaction with property, estates or facilities management functions and the old adage about ‘Jack of all trades’ most certainly applies.

We are heading for fire risk management system certification via a certification body. Those organisations that already hold certification of their Health and Safety Management System to OHSAS 18001, or Business Continuity Management System to ISO 22301

Monday, 17 November 2014

Update to its Wiring Regulations

The amended IET Wiring Regulations, which sets out the national standard for which all new and amended electrical installations are to comply, will feature a number of important changes and will be available from the IET from 5 January 2015.

This latest amendment, the third following Amendment  No.1 which was published back in 2011 and Amendment No.2 in 2013, will be  published as a new consolidated book. The amended regulations will include changes to the electrical condition report section, new requirements for mobile and transportable electrical units and changes for the installation of luminaires and light fittings – bringing them in line with the latest international and European standards.

The amended IET Wiring Regulations will also include the new Regulation 421.1.200. This regulation requires that within domestic (household) premises, consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies shall comply with BS EN 61439-3 and shall have their enclosure manufactured from non-combustible material, or enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12. This has been developed to safeguard against the risk of fire that can be produced from the overheating of connections in consumer units. 

Geoff Cronshaw, chief electrical engineer at the IET said: “The amended IET Wiring Regulations BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment No. 3:2015 will set the electrical standards for those professionals working in the electrical, construction and built environment industries. It is paramount that, as an organisation, the IET continues to ensure that electrical standards are up-to-date and relevant to the ever evolving requirements of the UK’s electrical industry.

“What’s more, it is essential that all electrical industry professionals familiarise themselves with the amended IET Wiring Regulations when they are published in January 2015, to ensure that the work they do is compliant and, most importantly, is carried out in a safe and appropriate manner.”

Planes collecting phone data.

Devices that gather data from millions of mobile phones are being flown over the US by the government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The "dirtbox" devices mimic mobile phone tower transmissions, and handsets transmit back their location and unique identity data, the report claims.

While they are used to track specific suspects, all mobile devices in the area will respond to the signal.

The US Justice Department refused to confirm or deny the report.

The Wall Street Journal said it had spoken to "sources familiar with the programme" who said Cessna aircraft fitted with dirtboxes were flying from at least five US airports.

The department said that it operated within federal law.

A dirtbox mimics the signals transmitted by mobile phone providers which handsets look to latch on to. When they do, they send their individual registration information and location.

While they are intended to be used to track an individual or small group, all phones within the area where they are operating will also be swept up in the surveillance.

They operate in the same way as Stingray, a more commonly known mobile phone surveillance too.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Germany - not as green as it makes out to be...

Germany is an enlightened leader in the global battle to reduce CO2 emissions, a pioneer in renewable energy and community power projects and a champion of energy efficiency.

Or so they say...

Ask the 250 other residents of Atterwasch, a quiet village near the Polish border, face eviction from their home of 30 years to make way for the Janschwalde-Nord coal mine.

And not just any old coal, but lignite, the dirtiest form of this ancient fossil fuel that is mined in vast opencast pits.

If the plans go ahead, the village, parts of which date back more than 700 years, will be demolished.
"Since the plans for the mine were unveiled in 2007, we have lived with this constant threat, which has taken over the lives of every individual and the community as a whole," says Mrs Schulz-Hopfner.

In the eastern German region of Lausitz, nine villages are under threat, where up to 3,000 people could lose their homes to make way for five new lignite mines that are fuelling the country's renewed thirst for coal. Two further mines are under consideration.
Immediate impact

The mines are needed to power a new generation of coal power plants.

Two new lignite plants were opened in 2012, with a further two in the pipeline. Another two hard coal plants also opened last year, with a further five opening this year or next, with two more awaiting licences.

The effects are already being felt. Lignite production in 2012 hit its highest level for almost 20 years, while initial estimates suggest this brown coal was used to generate 162bn kWh of electricity last year, more than in any year since 1990. The use of hard coal also increased, meaning the two energy sources accounted for 46% of Germany's overall energy production.

found at -

Saturday, 15 November 2014

National Grid warns of lower winter power capacity

National Grid has warned that its capacity to supply electricity this winter will be at a seven-year low due to generator closures and breakdowns.

Spare electricity capacity, which ran at about 5% over the winter months last year, would be nearer 4% this year, National Grid said.

Three years ago the margin was 17%.

But National Grid said it has contingency plans in place to manage supply, including paying big firms to switch off on cold winter evenings.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Electric Car Breaks 200 MPH, Sets New World Land Speed Record

An electric car built by students at Brigham Young University has set a new land speed record for cars in its class. "Electric Blue" averaged a mind-blowing 204.9 mph over two runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats this month, beating its own previous record from 2011 by nearly 50 mph.

Electric Blue competes in the "E1" racing class, since it's electrically powered and weighs less than 1,100 pounds. The sleek blue-and-white streamliner is made of lightweight carbon fiber and powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. Its spaceship-like design has been modified by dozens of students over the course of 10 years.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Do you live in a NotSpot???

The government plans to oblige mobile operators to improve their coverage, possibly by sharing rivals' networks.

Partial 'notspots', where there is coverage from some but not all of the mobile networks, affected a fifth of the UK, leaving people unable to make calls or send texts, it said.

One possible solution would see people transferred to rival networks when they lose signal.
But experts are not convinced this would work.

The proposals to end the frustration - currently only aimed at improving 2G services - are as follows:
National roaming - phones would use another network when theirs was unavailable, similar to how roaming works when abroad

Infrastructure sharing - mobile networks would be able to put transmitters on each other's masts
Reforming virtual networks - agreements that companies such as Tesco and Virgin currently have with single operators would be extended to all four networks

Coverage obligation - obliging the networks to cover a certain percentage of the UK - and leaving them to decide how to do it

The government has given the industry, businesses and the public until 26 November to respond to the proposals.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Swiss electric car sets world acceleration record

The “grimsel” car sped from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in just 1.785 seconds, at a military airport in Dübendorf in the canton of Zurich, smashing the the previous record.

The previous record of 2.13 seconds was set by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Operated by a student team from the Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ), The grimsel car, reached a speed of 100 km/h in less than 30 metres, ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said in a news release.

Thirty students from the two swiss universities developed and built the racing car in less than a year.
Weighing just 168 kilograms, the carbon-fibre vehicle generates 200 horsepower through four-wheel drive, ETH said.

Four specially designed wheel hub motors create a total torque of 1,630 Newton metres (Nm), with torque distribution controlled individually for each wheel to maximize acceleration, the university said.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Managing agent fined £10,000 after breaking fire safety laws

Bridgeford & Co. Limited were fined £10,000 and had costs of over £16,500 awarded against them for flouting fire safety laws.

They pleaded guilty to four offences relating to fire safety management at Canterbury Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

KFRS were called to a fire in a four-storey property at Ethelbert Terrace, on Cliftonville seafront in Margate just before 5am on April 22 2012.

Firefighters had to lead a man to safety from a top floor flat.

KFRS fire safety officers carried out an investigation and looked at the fire safety management of the property.

The investigation found that in addition to failure of the fire alarm, the building did not have a fire risk assessment until almost three years after Bridgeford & Co. Ltd took over management of the building.

Their arrangements for inspecting and maintaining the fire safety measures in the building were also found to be inadequate.

In sentencing, the magistrates fined the company £10,000 and ordered them to pay the KFRS’s costs of just over £16,500.

There you have it - get a risk assessment and make sure that the fire safety measures in their buildings are kept in good working order

its as simple as that.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

E-cigarettes leading to fires

E-cigarettes haven't been around so long and while some stats suggest they are a healthier choice for those who smoke, other stats show them to still be a fire hazard. In the U.K., they would seem to be causing about a fire each and every week now.

The Telegraph reported on Freedom of Information stats recently released and those stats suggest fires related to e-cigarettes are becoming common. In the U.K., as of 2013, some 2.1 million Brits were smoking e-cigarettes.

Forty-three fire services from around the country reported data and compiling it shows that since 2012 e-cigarettes have become a fire danger. Since that year 113 fires have been started in one way or other by e-cigarette usage and U.K. fire chiefs are issuing warnings.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Speed boost for 4G in some UK cities

We wont see it in Maulden. in fact it would be nice just to have a signal in Haynes but things will be getting faster...

Browsing speeds on some 4G handsets in some UK cities are set to accelerate as two UK operators switch on an improved version of the mobile technology.

Called 4G+ by EE and 4.5G by Vodafone, the technology can offer data rates of 150 megabits per second (Mbps).

In practice, those signing up to use the service should see speeds of up to 90 Mbps - much faster than standard 4G.

However, the technology is only usable on two handsets currently available in the UK.

EE announced that its 4G+ service should now be available in 150 sites across central London. It has been testing the technology in the Tech City area of the capital since late 2013.

The whole of EE's 4G London network should be upgraded for 4G+ by June 2015, it said. By then upgrades to its network in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester will also be under way.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The UK has one wi-fi hotspot for every 11 people

New research from wi-fi provider iPass suggests there will be 47.7 million public hotspots worldwide by the end of 2014.

France currently has the most hotspots, followed by the US and UK.

Hotspots are designed to fill the gaps in coverage left by mobile networks and are often offered free of charge.

The study is one of the first comprehensive looks at the distribution of global wi-fi. A clickable map of hotspots around the world shows the numbers in each region and where they are located - in homes, on trains, planes, airports and retail outlets.

Over the next four years, global hotspot numbers will grow to more than 340 million, the equivalent of one wi-fi hotspot for every 20 people on earth, the research finds.

But this growth will not be evenly distributed. While in North America there will be one hotspot for every four people by 2018, in Africa it will be one for every 408.

While Europe currently has the most dense wi-fi coverage, Asia will overtake it by 2018, according to the report.

The research suggests that the vast majority of hotspots - nearly 34 million - are in homes. These hotspots are part of a growing trend to extend home wi-fi to the local community.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Keyless cars 'increasingly targeted by thieves using computers'

Organised criminal gangs are increasingly targeting high-end cars with keyless security systems, a UK motoring industry group has warned.

The thieves are able to bypass security using equipment intended only for mechanics, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Manufacturers are trying to stay ahead of the thieves by updating software.

It has been reported that some London-based owners of Range Rovers have been denied insurance over the issue.

The warnings echoed those made by the US National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which earlier this year said it had seen a "spike" in car thefts involving equipment to spoof keyless entry.

Keyless entry and ignition typically works by the driver keeping a fob on their person which automatically opens the car and activates it so it can be driven.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tarantula venom illuminates electrical activity in live cells

Researchers have created a cellular probe that combines a tarantula toxin with a fluorescent compound to help scientists observe electrical activity in neurons and other cells. The probe binds to a voltage-activated potassium ion channel subtype, lighting up when the channel is turned off and dimming when it is activated.

This is the first time researchers have been able to visually observe these electrical signalling proteins turn on without genetic modification. These visualization tools are prototypes of probes that could some day help researchers better understand the ion channel dysfunctions that lead to epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias and other conditions.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on October 20.

Voltage-gated channels are proteins that allow specific ions, such as potassium or calcium, to flow in and out of cells. They perform a critical function, generating an electrical current in neurons, muscles and other cells. There are many different types, including more than 40 potassium channels. Though other methods can very precisely measure electrical activity in a cell, it has been difficult to differentiate which specific channels are turning on.

The tarantula toxin, guangxitoxin-1E, was an ideal choice because it naturally binds to the Kv2 channels. These channels are expressed in most, if not all, neurons, yet their regulation and activity are complex and actively debated. Sack and his laboratory worked closely with Bruce Cohen, a scientist in the Lawrence Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, who has been studying how fluorescent molecules and nanoparticles can be used to image live cells.

To study the channels, the team engineered variants of tarantula toxin that could be fluorescently labelled and retain function.

These probes were designed to bind to the potassium channels when they were at rest and let go when they became active. The researchers then tested them on living cells. To their surprise, the probes worked right away.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Digital hearing aids 'Useless for music'

Wearers of digital hearing aids struggle to listen to recorded music because of the way the devices process sound, research from the US suggests.

The researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder found that the more sophisticated hearing aids boost softer sounds to aid speech recognition.

This process is called wide dynamic range compression.

However, it distorts recorded music, which tends to be compressed already during production.
The effect of both the recording compression and further compression by the hearing aid causes distortion.

Additionally, music - both recorded and live - is made up of many sounds at different volumes and changing these volumes changes the way the music sounds.

that's not good!!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Geak Android smartwatches 'last a week or more' between charges

That would be nice, now how about my phone???

One of China's leading tech firms has unveiled two Android-powered smartwatches that it says can last about a week between charges.

That represents a substantial gain on alternatives that can struggle to run longer than a day.

The Geak Watch 2 models achieve the feat by using a hybrid screen that switches between a "high definition" LCD colour display and a "standby mode" battery-saving e-ink one.

Mmmm - very clever.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

London's electric car infrastructure falling into ruin

London’s network of electric vehicle charging points – the largest in the UK – is in danger of falling apart thanks to the piecemeal manner in which it has been assembled and is managed.

Many charging points in parts of the 1,400+ network are currently out of service with little prospect of them being repaired in the near future, despite the network being sold off last month with ambitious expansion plans for its future.

An official Source London online map of the network is the clearest indication of which points are in service at any one time, and in some localities the number of broken points outnumber those working.

don't go to Southwark - 10 of 12 chargers were out of action, while around the Barbican all eight chargers were shown as unserviceable.

Official numbers for those out of service are not collected by the two main bodies involved – Transport for London and Source London – but the London Borough of Camden admits that it’s struggling to keep more than 70 per cent of its charging points operational at any one time, leaving significant holes in the network.