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Comment Friends (Score 1) 467

which suggests that Microsoft's new-found eagerness to 'engage' with open source has nothing to do with a real desire to reach a pacific accommodation with free software, but is simply a way for Microsoft to fight against it from close up, and armed with inside knowledge

Who was it who said "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" ?

Comment Re:Sounds Hard (Score 1) 796

Actually, they do tend to have an online EFTPOS - we have a network of 24 *very small* (most one man) retail establishments, and all the chip&pin machines have to go online to work. They do not store any transactions themselves (the system is Barclays PDQ)

Comment Re:Is the Siemens train still using (Score 1) 491

One interesting thing I found out about the TGV is the rolling stock technology is actually Spanish (a Talgo design - i.e. the one axle shared between two lightweight cars). The latest Talgo rolling stock also automatically tilts in corners without the need for gyros or hydraulics - an ingeniously simple system. Renfe has been running Talgo stock since the 1950s (the railway museum in Madrid has an example of one of the original Talgo-II sets)

Comment Re:Pearl River Delta?? (Score 1) 491

Well, if you travel from Madrid to Bilbao in Spain, you have to put your bags through an X-ray (but there's no metal detector check like an airport, and the X-ray is rather faster than the airport version). However, ETA (the Basque separatists) have been fairly active of late so it's probably deter them from bombing trains.

Comment Re:"Trusted Computing" rears its already cracked h (Score 1) 302

The iPlayer streams. It takes about 0.5 seconds for your TV programme to start playing. That's certainly a lot faster than waiting many hours for something to download over BitTorrent. The iPlayer has been enormously successful, so much so many ISPs are complaining and want the BBC to pay them for all the extra bandwidth.

Comment Re:Central point of failure.. (Score 3, Insightful) 284

IMAP email (actually, IMAPS) works perfectly on my iPhone. I also have authenticated SMTP over SSL for sending - I've not had a problem with either. (I also prefer my email to be pull only - email should be something I can poll when I have time, not something that goes ping every time something arrives, so push email is a "meh" feature for me).

Comment Re:Once the cheques and bank notes are gone ... (Score 1) 796

I lived in the US from about 1995 to 2002. The first thing I did was get a bank account with a debit card, paying by debit card was how I was used to doing things. And all the supermarkets and typical retail places you went to, even then, supported at least a Visa debit card. I was surprised to see so many people my age (at the time I was 23) still using checks in a supermarket. Two of the things that surprised me the most when I arrived was the widespread use of checks in supermarkets, and that there were still quite a lot of people my age who believed in god (I don't know anyone my age over here who is even slightly religious).

Comment Re:I'm 40 years old, never used checks (Score 1) 796

Oh they know about it. But until recently, the computers also took weekends and bank holidays off. I paid my credit card bill using online banking, and it took 5 days for the payment to transfer meaning the payment was late. When I called to complain, "oh, Saturday and Sunday are non processing days, so is the Bank Holiday Monday, and it requires another couple of working days". No explanation of why a completely electronic transfer couldn't move on a weekend or within the same working day. I didn't get an answer when I asked "Do the computers get the weekends off, too?"

Now, at long last, electronic payments in most cases are actually instant here, but they unveiled this a year ago as if it were a huge advance, when in reality we should have had it 15 years ago. I suspect what they were doing for "electronic transfers" until a year ago was someone was reading a report off one screen, and typing it into another rather than the systems actually being linked.

Comment Re:Checks and transfers (Score 1) 796

Cheques don't clear immediately - usually it takes 2 or 3 days before you really have the money (or in some countries, like the United States, owing to the large distances they must travel, much longer). Right now bank transfers are already a lot faster. Virtually all of my bank transfers in the UK now complete in seconds. I have my online banking wherever I am thanks to a smart phone.

Comment Re:Sounds Hard (Score 1) 796

When I was renting in the UK over 15 years ago, I paid the landlord with a "standing order", a monthly, regular payment done direct from bank to bank. Cheques haven't actually been necessary for things like this for decades in advanced countries like the UK.

I tried to do the same when I was renting in the US. It's not possible - well, it is, sort of - what the bank does is mails a check monthly to your landlord instead of making a direct transfer. Sometimes this check gets lost and you get home to a nasty letter telling you "pay up or get evicted". If you look at the statement you already find the money has gone from the bank, then it takes a month of wrangling to get it sorted out.

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