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Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2012 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ] - 0 Likes [ Likes ]
Category: Internet

 Readers share their views on affordable housing, the Penguin / Random House merger, and help crowdsource 4G network speeds


An ash tree showing signs of ash dieback
The leaves of this ash tree show signs of ash dieback. Photograph: The Food and Environment Research Agency

4G mobile speeds - our users' verdict

We asked Guardian readers to help create a mobile internet speed map of the UK, with results for each network.

NorthMonkey says: 

I'd just like decent 3G/4G coverage. It's pointless having a fast network if it's only available patchily (after they have rolled it out across the country).
EE 4G uses the 1800Mhz frequency so I assume the range isn't that great even when they do roll it out to the rest of the country. Hopefully if the likes of Vodafone and O2 use their 800/900Mhz bands then we'll get decent fast coverage. At the moment unless EE4G offers better coverage going forward than any 3G service - don't see the point.

Paulpeace writes: 

3.12mbps first time then 4.76mpbs a minute later. On Vodafone on a Samsung S3 (3g only).
The problem is that according to my phone this isn't 3g but HSDPA or whatever it is.
I rarely get 3g, and in fact Vodafone's network is often so poor I am wondering if there is now any provider who has decent coverage. Since the move to 3g the whole things gone to pot.
Our mobile networks are just so poor. They should focus on getting it right first.

thead thinks:

4G is one of those things that will be jumped upon by people that like to have something first. I imagine the majority of 'non tech' people are progressing onto their second or third smart phone and are 'maturing' with the eco system. I mulled over waiting before getting the Note 2 (reviewed by the Guardian here........... ?) but concluded the coverage would be cheaper, if not better, in 18 months.
I accept there are areas that I will not get a decent signal and as such I do not get that wound up about it, give that another couple of years and I expect to be getting very frustrated if I don't get an equivalent of what I receive over my home WiFi.

Gordinho writes:

Not sure I see the point of paying 36 a month for a high speed data connection with a 500 Meg month quota (and charges for above and beyond)...surely if you start streaming iPlayer, Lovefilm etc you're gonna cane through 500 megs in no time :/ I ditched my O2 contract and went onto a 15 a month TMob/Orange sim with 250 Meg inclusive and I hardly ever use the iPhone for much more than occasionally working out where I am or supposed to be...well I did when I could use a decent mapping app before that god awful ios6 update came around...and that 250 goes by the end of each 30 days

iammobilebob thinks:

So not to depress you, but I ran this test from the States on my iPhone 5 over the Verizon 4G network in Atlanta, GA. Downlink speed was 5.2 Mbps. Pinging a local server instead gives me ridiculous numbers that I just don't even want to publish. But I will anyway. 15.51 Mbps in the downlink and 15.62 Mbps in the uplink. Generally, for what it's worth, Verizon has been terrific about delivering 8-12 Mbps on its 4G network Stateside - the bad part is that great speeds = lots of usage = quickly hit your data cap.

Thomas Crabtree writes:

I'm on a niche network called GiffGaff (small O2 subsidiary), all over the UK full coverage. Infinite data (no limits!!), infinite calling minets, infinite texts, all for £25 per month. I just did the Guardian speed test and get 25Mbps download in rural Sussex, 18Mbps upload. I don't think I even need 4G, I can stream HD movies easily.

BlankReg says:

I live in the Scottish Highlands, the telecommunications companies have all agreed to pretend that this region is uninhabited, so we don't even have 3G yet.
The Scottish government's latest estimate is that we should have 3G by about 2020 and 4G by about the time that the rest of the country upgrades to 6G.
I'm sure the mobile phone companies have a very good reason for providing northern users with a patchy third-rate service, I wonder what it is?
It's a good job we don't live in a remote inhospitable area where reliable telecommunications means the difference between life and death in the winter....doh!

PoweredbyPies writes:

I'm watching this quite closely, probably as I work in the comms industry and am a bit of a closet nerd. The marketing around EEs offering is all focused on the, "It'll make your smartphone faster": Whoopy flippin' do...There's only so much you can do on a smart phone and an existing T-mobile customer, 3G usually cuts the mustard.
However, where this really could make a difference is when this enters the home via dongles, MiFis and 4G capable routers: My folks live in a rural area of Suffolk that gets appalling broadband but where the local farmer had the good sense to allow Orange and T-Mobile to stick a mast. The 3G coverage is actually better than the fixed line broadband coverage in their village (believe me, I've tried) unless you live on the road adjacent to the exchange.
If 4G becomes effectively priced and deployed and if internet telephony can be delivered to the home via 4G, could we see the end of comms as we've known and 'loved' for so many years?
I'm on board.

Penguin and random house merger

The two publishing houses announced a much-anticipated merger this week.

kimdriver writes: 

Why is everyone worried about the accountants moving in and the resultant job losses ?
Pearson is a listed company, and seeks profit, just the same as Bertelsmann. Are we being a little anti-German here ? Pearson is the company that charges £2.50 for a daily newspaper (and because it's the best newspaper in the world, gets away with it). It's not fluffy. It's mean !
There may be job losses, since the combined group will have duplicate functions (such as the accountants !).
But given the problems print media faces, that's probably inevitable. In a business with declining revenues, job losses will happen. But maybe a larger group, with access to more capital, and a larger catalogue, can fight back, or at least better manage the decline. I'd like that since, while I have a Kindle, I like physical books. A Penguin Classic is a thing of joy.

bushwhacked argues:

It's not a merger.
Bertlesman will have control and will need to be recompensed for the cost of its 53% ownership.
That will, in all probability, come from 'efficiencies' -- empty desks and buildings, all on the Penguin side.

Self says:

Whatever, you can p-p-p-p pick up all the Penguins and other books you need for next to nothing at charity shops etc. I even found a bunch of very good books, in very good condition, on the street recently. (Waugh, Kafka, Theroux and others, some of which I had never read).

PaulBowes01 suggests:

This looks like yet more backward-looking and defensive thinking from the major corporate publishers in the face of the Amazon challenge. Mergers and growth by acquisition have been commonplace in publishing since the '70s, but nothing suggests that they are the answer to the problems facing the traditional industry since the demise of the Net Book Agreement and the rise of online bookselling. In practical terms, I suspect that the average book buyer will scarcely notice the change in ownership.

jackheron adds:

If it resembles anything like the near-monopoly of ruthless multinational music companies such as Universal, writers and readers will be crying into theirs beers along with the laid-off editorial staff...

kushti writes:

Makes me rather glad that I left Penguin to go with a smaller publisher where decisions are made by editors rather than accountants.

Affordable homes shortfall

Changes in welfare payments have let to a greater strain on the affordable housing stock, with low-income families faced with choice of cutting spending on essentials such as food or moving out, according to the government spending watchdog.

Woodword writes:

I've worked out that from the age of 18 to 33 today, I've spent approximately £45,000 on rent to private landlords (well the government has assisted for approx 6 months) unfortunately due to various circumstances I've never been able to get on any property ladder....On the plus side I've made some already wealthy individuals who have numerous homes very happy indeed.
Why did the Conservatives or Labour never invest in council housing? I'll tell you why they were too busy renting out their second homes to unfortunate idiots like me

tish adds:

This is only the start, some schools in London face losing more than half of their pupils once famies on benefits are forced to move away, especially as those who are forced to move are likely to be replaced not by other families (who can't afford the rents) but by single people renting individual rooms, or in some cases just beds, with two or three beds stuffed in each room. What we're looking at here is a London with hardly any children, populated by high earning couples living side by side with doss houses (or houses of multiple occupation, as I believe the polite description is) stuffed full of transient workers, while towns like Hastings and Margate face a massive influx of children without sufficient school places to fit them all in. And of course one of the inevitable outcomes of this huge influx of people will be an increase in the average rent in these places, especially as the government have set maximum rents which will soon become the standard rent once landlords realise they can achieve them by renting to claimants.

synthesizer writes:

Soon, no more poor in London. Well, fair enough the saying goes, they can't afford to live there. And, shortly after the, no more nearly-poor. Then no more reasonably well-off, then no more lower middle class, soon you have a London that is not habitable by teachers, policemen, firemen, and so on. And how those who are left will rejoice, as finally they are able to live in the sort of city that will only accommodate those on an appropriate wage. Childcare costs will, of course, spiral upwards precipitously along with council taxes and some local services will simply no longer be available because there is no one to do them. Who will be delivering your post, when the area is too expensive for anyone as plebian as a postman to want to live anywhere near it? And forget about bin men! Priced out! Far too vulgar, they are all in Hastings. No workers in the area, no workers even near the area, no workers interested in commuting for half their day. I suppose the lucky remaining few will just have to sort all of those things out for themselves.

clouty thinks:

Homeless families, housed in miserable bed and breakfasts, cost many times more that that same family if left in their own homes. Children, removed from their friends and extended family, have their education disrupted, building problems for the future.

Disabled people, stripped of the resources to support their independence, cost many times more in hospital or care homes.

Many of the so called 'savings' are creating higher costs in other departments. The vast majority of benefit claimants have paid many many thousands in to the 'National Insurance' (not) system. Politics is more nuanced than our 'Daily Fail' contributors would have us believe. Greece is in severe trouble because of enforced austerity, insisted on by neo-liberal politicians. We in the UK are going the same way.

Ash tree crisis

Our environment regulars reacted to the ongoing crisis due to ash dieback disease.


here in Ontario our version of the ash tree is being killed by a Chinese invasive species called the Emerald Ash Borer; and our elms died off in the 1960s, recovered, and are now being killed off by a second-wave of Dutch Elm Disease; this is all down to globalisation and insufficient regulation and inspection of imports and related material, such as shipping pallets; government has its priorities wrong, as usual

adilady1 writes:

It probably is too late. I also worry about statements that elms are making a comeback. Dutch elm disease attacks mature trees, over 30 years old. They need to be that size so the beetle host can bore under the bark. I believe that most of the elms that are around now are not that old yet. I think the trouble is that, 1: we think that everything in the natural world works in the same way the we do; 2: that we can ignore things until the last minute because if it doesn't happen we don't need to spend any money on it; 3: that we can dick about with nature without there being any consequences; and 4: that we know everything about how nature works simply because we are human and can operate bunsen burners thanks to our opposable thumbs and vastly superior intellect. All of which is, of course, bollocks. What is more likely to be true is that until everyone working in horticulture and land management (including conservation as well as commercial) understands all the interactions within and between ecosystems we can't say we understand what we are really doing and should apply the precautionary princpile to everything we do. And we should indeed look at applying rules around imports such as those in New Zealand and Australia. Shame its all too late for our Fraxinus excelsior.

vitawonk adds:

I have a 120 year old ash tree in my back garden (in Scotland) and am already resigned to it being gone in a few years. Sad but seems inevitable. I had to cut down an elm in the front garden 5 years ago when it got Dutch Elm disease.

This summer I lay on the ground underneath my ash and took photos of the leaves silhouetted against the blue sky which was beautiful The ash is a great tree allowing lots of sunlight through. Less keen on the pigeons though - sitting up there scoffing the new shoots for several hours with the expected fallout.

The response to the disease seems too little too late, although in the governments defence, the disease would have got here at some point, the gap to the continent is too small to ensure biosecurity for an aerial fungal disease.

So now I need to know what to plant for the next 120 years when I am long gone - I want to ensure that I am doing something positive. I may plant a few trees and thin them in the future just to be on the safe side. Suggestions welcome

northsylvania says:

I am struck by the general feeling of helplessness, not only among the general population, but reportedly among professionals in the field and DEFRA regulators. I volunteer at a National Trust site, and their head gardeners and foresters are supposedly being informed in a few weeks about symptoms. This is information readily available on the web, yet our Cambridge trained head gardener hadn't a clue. I have seen quotes from other NT officials bemoaning loss of specific heritage ashes, something that possibly could be prevented through the development of vaccines that would induce systemic acquired resistance in ashes, an approach that has proved effective in elms. This would be too expensive for the majority of woodland ashes but would be a practical approach to saving specimen trees.

Shiteaway Frank adds:

I'm a woodland manager/forester, and the first official communication on this I received from the Forestry Commission was to underline their position that anyone currently planting ash with FC grant-aid will be obliged to replace any future ash losses as a result of this disease, 100% out of their own pockets.

Which is an interesting contrast to farmers who, if having lost cattle to foot-and-mouth, TB, white-tailed eagles, falling down a hole or UFO abduction, are fully compensated - by us the taxpayer.
Yet again, forestry and the environment beyond agri-business and farming feels like the poor relation, reflected by DEFRA's utter contempt of the entire issue - until it's too late...

Thanks for all your comments and contributions this week.

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