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Feet up! Jim Hughes' weblog


4G Auction, or is it just another tax?

Disclaimer, I'm not an economist so some of this may be arrant bollocks, but, please read on...

In economics there's a term called the Laffer curve which describes the relationship between rates of taxation and the resulting level of government revenue received, for example a low tax rate may achieve a better return than a higher tax that restricts the incentive to perform an activity, equally a tax rate that is too low may not receive the maximum possible revenue.

My contention is that an auction of 4G spectrum to mobile network operators may effectively be on the wrong (high) side of this curve, the UK operators may also believe so, as the recent UK auction results suggest.

A simplistic view may be that the 4G license is effectively a license for the operators to print money - to some extent this is true (but that's where corporation tax should come into play) - but it ignores the reality of the costs of network rollout (even if in some cases this is little more than software upgrades to existing masts), and the fact that the operators are running their businesses in a competitive regulated non-monopoly environment. The operators need to recoup their auction costs, and this invariably involves higher costs to the consumer (in effect following yet another Laffer style curve). Whilst these higher costs will in themselves raise more taxation (VAT) for the government, they will restrict innovation, and in a global market this may have a far more serious impact on the economy and the eventual tax take.

In these financially interesting times, should the government be encouraging mobile innovation, or hamstringing it via higher costs? Does the UK want to take the lead in the global mobile market, or not? Just a thought...

Beyond torrents, using the cloud

If you download a file with http or ftp it's obvious that you've "downloaded" it and where you downloaded it from, with a torrent it's less clear-cut, but what if the file just turns up in you Dropbox directory? I suspect this and similar situations are likely to keep lawyers busy in the future.

Case 1 is Dropship a software project which took advantage of Dropbox's file de-duplication functionality to "copy" files between different users' Dropbox accounts requiring only file meta-data (filename, hash) information. Dropbox have made api changes such that Dropship no longer works, but future projects that take advantage of the de-duplication loophole are almost inevitable.

Case 2 is Boxupus who also download torrents "directly" to your Dropbox account. I don't know the mechanics of how they do this, but taking advantage of Dropbox's de-duplication algorithms seems to be a possibility. They also have been stopped by Dropbox, but surely they or others will be back.

One thing is certain "downloading" and file sharing are not going away any time soon, and at some point it's going to be difficult to determine "where" the bits are, and "who" is actually downloading.

Over the Bubble

Over the Bubble (@OverTheBubble) is a Twitter bot I run based on Matthew Somerville's Above Brum project. Matthew's bot sends a message approx 30 minutes before an Iridium flare or an ISS flyby over Birmingham, mine does exactly the same but for Whitstable (aka the Bubble) instead of Brum.


My bot is based on Matthew's code (with different lat/long), and both bots scrape their data from Heavens Above. Other Earth-visible satellites could easily be added to the bot's reporting, if required please ask!


Ten years of blogging?! That's come as a bit of a surprise to me, admittedly I've been hardly prolific for the last 2-3 years, but I am still going to keep this going. Much of the shorter content that I used to blog now goes to Twitter, or Delicious, and arguably gets exposed to a far smaller audience. With that thought in mind I'm aiming to bring more content back here, let's see how that works out.

I suggest you put your feet up, and watch how this evolves.

Re-enabling Ubuntu Hibernation

For some (sightly odd, imho) reason, Ubuntu decided to disable hibernation by default in the latest release - 12.04

Fortunately re-enabling hibernation (on machines that support it) is reasonably simple, with step by step instructions on and

This is one of those occasions where I believe Ubuntu made the wrong decision, it might save them bug reports from unsupported hardware, but disabling a useful - working - feature on many machines is never a great idea.

Imola revisited

Out of the archives of Fun-1, Ewan finds an old post of mine about the tragic events at Imola in 1994, which I had also revisited in 2009.

18 years on, I'm still stunned when I think of the event, although Asif Kapadia's Senna documentary has softened my viewpoint on Ayrton. Perhaps the events of the day should be required viewing for anyone desiring a motorsport license; a little reflection is never a bad thing.

Roland, Ayrton, rest in peace.

Happy New Year

Happy new decade too, if you're one of those folks who start counting from 1.

Long time, no post, but I've a new job, which somehow grabs more time than before, guess I'd better re-read the four hour work-week...

No predictions here, other than perhaps Apple and Android making some major slip-ups (Symbian's nowhere near as lame or near death as some might suppose). Rui's predictions are no doubt more exact and precise.

Happy New Year!

Twhirly, too early, whatever...


I woke before five, thought I'd get into some interesting coding before heading into the office.

Achievements so far, updated Carbide.c++, fiddled around in the emulator, charged two phones and my netbook, and caught up with dive into Mark. Code written, 0 lines.

But, I've blogged for the first time in ages, that counts, doesn't it? Does it?