Archive for the “England” Category

Today’s events… written by someone else but also my view

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Recent experiments carried out by the BBC demonstrate how power-line networking can interfere with FM radio and knock out DAB entirely, but only for those who get a decent data rate.

The new study was commissioned by the BBC and authored by one current and one former BBC engineer. The study examines transmissions coming off PLT kit, but while they were measuring the signal strengths and monitoring the frequencies, the engineers turned on a portable radio to discover if it still worked. They found that it did not. That is a critical issue as the only technical requirement for PLT kit states that it must not prevent other devices “operating as intended”. PLT kit is required to conform to the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2006, which state that such interference can’t be allowed.

Power-line telecommunication (PLT) involves sending radio signals over mains electrical wiring. Generally the kit consists of two or more oversized plugs with an Ethernet socket in the back. PLT is incredibly easy to use and penetrates walls in a way that Wi-Fi can’t, but those radio signals also leak out of the wiring to fill the house, and neighbourhood, with unwanted interference.
The first PLT systems used frequencies between 2 and 30MHz (confusingly known as High Frequency, HF, despite being way down the dial by today’s standards), and thus only interfered with the kit of radio hams and the like. But the need for speed has pushed some devices into the 50-305MHz band (Very High Frequency, VHF) where FM and DAB like to play, which is when the BBC got interested.

In their tests (33-page PDF/1.9 MB, easier to read than it looks) the two engineers started in a screened room, but then tried the same thing in two typical houses to see if using a pair of PLT devices would interfere with FM and/or DAB reception, and discovered that it did.

The study states: “A distinctive popping or ticking could be heard when the PLT was idling. Once it was busy, there was a continuous ‘tearing’ sound which was at best annoying and at worst made comprehension impossible.” This clearly shows that when PLT was in use portable radio equipment “cannot operate as intended”.

The BBC engineers did find that when the PLT equipment had trouble making a connection – if it were, for example, on a separate ring main or used in the presence of a compact fluorescent lamp – it would fall back to the HF band and thus only bother the hams and their ilk. But the engineers noted that when the kit was running at top speed it was able to knock out the DAB reception entirely at one of the houses tested.

DAB is particularly vulnerable to interference as it either works or it doesn’t, with just a small change in signal strength flipping it between the two. FM radio can scale back from stereo to mono when necessary, and can cope with quite a bit of interference before becoming unintelligible – though listeners may decide to tune out before that happens.

Ofcom still maintains that all the complaints about PLT come from one lobby group, and the problem is only preventing “one man” from pursuing his “hobby”. But if your FM radio dropped back to mono, or acquired a background hiss, would you really think to complain to Ofcom? The engineers discovered both things happening when PLT was in operation, even when an external aerial was being used.

We asked Ofcom if the BBC’s research constituted proof that normal operation was being prevented, but the regulator needs a great deal of confidence before it can take on a criminal case against the manufacturers (as it would be required to do). So, perhaps wisely, Ofcom is still digesting the research and will let us know when it has done so. ®

Thanks to Brian Morrison for pointing us at the research, which was posted by the BBC late last month

(By Bill Ray • Posted in Wireless, 13th April 2011 12:25 GMT)

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A man has been arrested after a 14-year-old girl was struck by two cars at a zebra crossing in Eastbourne.

Sussex Police said the incident happened at the crossing near the junction of Southbourne Road at 1540 GMT on Tuesday.

The crash involved a Peugeot and a Mercedes. The driver of the Mercedes, an 18-year-old man, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving.

The girl was taken by ambulance to hospital in a critical condition.

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A man has been arrested on suspicion of careless driving following a six-car collision in East Sussex in which one driver was seriously hurt.

Sussex Police said the crash happened in Lottbridge Drive, Eastbourne, at midday on Easter Monday.

Six cars, all travelling south, were involved in the collision.

One motorist, a 63-year-old man from Caterham in Surrey, was taken to hospital in a serious condition. The other drivers had minor injuries.

Police said a 31-year-old man from Greenford in west London, who was driving a Honda Accord, was arrested.

A force spokesman said he had been bailed until 18 June while inquiries continued.

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Went to Brighton today… it’s about 25-30 miles West of Eastbourne. WX was dull and overcast but managed to get some good photos!!!

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So, I’m at work and the chip and pin machine decides to stop working… after phoning the tech guys we thought it was sorted but no sooner had I called them to say it was working it stopped working! So, I did what I normally do when things stop working… unplugged it and counted to 10… plugged it back in and hey presto it works; for a while at least, I do the same thing about 4 times during the afternoon and then it just will not work at all. So, I make a pretty little sign that says “chip and pin not working, sorry for any inconvenience”.

Now, I actually expect people to realise that you can still pay by card… I mean had you not been able to pay by card I would have put up a sign saying “sorry no cards” or “cash only”.

I get a few customers who say “oh, can I pay in the other booth by card”… er yes but you can also pay me with your card, I just swipe it!!!

The best one of the afternoon was a man – late 20s possibly early 30s – he hands me his card, I swipe it and the piece of paper comes out of the printer for him to sign, I attach it to the little clipboard’s we have and pass him the clipboard/pen… he looks at me with a blank look on his face and says “but my cards chip and pin”, so I say “yes but my chip and pin machine isn’t working” (silently screaming “read the damned sign in the window infront of your face!!!!!”) and he says “but… but I don’t know what to do”. Oh my God, are you serious? I’ve just handed you a piece of paper and a pen with a line for signing… have you never paid by card and signed? I of course didn’t say this, I said “erm you need to sign”… he spends about another minute looking blankly at me and the paper and the pen… and, eventually realises neither will bite him and hey presto he signs the piece of paper!

I worry… a lot… it’s pretty much incomprehensible that anyone paying by card has never signed instead of chip and pin – I mean chip and pin hasn’t been around for that long in the UK anyway! What makes some of these situations worse is that these people are behind the wheel of a vehicle… am I just being daft?

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