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A random Christmas-season-sucks song

Dance moves inspired by the way people in Egypt was supposed to have danced based purely on two-dimensional scribbles was a 'thing' in the eighties. Hey, don't laugh, you millennials have Gangnam Style, right? Anyway, those of you who were around in the eighties might want to close your eyes, it's a bit cringe-making.


The death of POTS (and did I mention I hate Linky?)

POTS, for those who haven't heard of that acronym, is Plain Old Telephone Service. In other words, a microphone and speaker arranged in a current loop with a line floating around -48V when not in use, and sort of +5-9Vish when in use, an AC signal of around 90V to activate a 'ringer' system (pattern depends upon traditions of the country, France has long rings, the UK has two shorter rings and a pause), and finally making and breaking the current loop in order to signal the desired number.
While technology has enhanced telephony - improved sound, noise cancellation, DTMF (beep-beep) dialling, DECT "wireless" handsets, and replacing most of the mechanical exchange with computers, the basic "phone" has changed little.
Phone schematic


This is coming to an end. Orange France is getting rid of the analogue "téléphone fixe" (planning on starting to shut down the analogue service as of 2021). The obvious excuses are dragged out and exercised - that the analogue equipment is big and expensive, everybody has a mobile, and, of course, what the hell does it matter, most phone calls these days are passed via VoIP so why not just do it VoIP all the way?

This does make some sense. My "landline" plugs into the Livebox. The Livebox provides a POTS analogue interface, into which a bog standard DECT phone is connected, along with a traditional wired phone. I have also used the old bell-ringer phone with the Livebox. Loop disconnect dialling doesn't work, but there are ways around that!

Where this argument starts to fall apart is that the telephone network is a piece of critical infrastructure. That isn't to say that everybody has a right to a telephone, however it can be utilised in situations when all other technology has failed. I'll give a simple example. Me. Sitting here, in my room, my mobile is in airplane mode. Why? Because I don't like blasting RF into me? Well, there is that, but the much bigger issue is that the phone doesn't receive anything. Those times when I order off my bank card, I have actually had to prepare the order, then run outside with my phone waving it like a crazy person in the hope of picking up enough of a signal to deliver the SMS with the authorisation code from the bank.
Turn off the power, the Livebox obviously dies. With it goes the landline.

So, tell me:

There's a fire in your house. One of those new-fangled Linky smartmeters self-combusts because... whatever. Bloody things are being rolled out, no doubt at great national cost, and their anticipated lifespan is "about ten years" - are you kidding me? WTactualF? Out current meter has never failed and predates me by half a decade. It was shiny new tech in the Summer Of Love. Anyway, back to our story. Stupid modern rubbish catches fire because they used Chinese capacitors made of ground up gerbil bones or something.
There's no mobile signal. Or maybe you're one of those who doesn't want to be sucked into the empty gratification of staring at Facebook all day long and being contactable everywhere so you just don't have a mobile. No problem, right? Just pick up the phone and call the sapeurs-pompiers (dial "18"). But wait, the hell's this? The phone is completely silent. Oh, right. No power, no ADSL router. No router, you're screwed. You do have a fire extinguisher, right? One of those dinky 5kg things you can buy in the supermarket? You'd better be epic at firefighting because those little things are going to give you somewhere between four and six seconds. Yeah, that's it. Oh, and for some reason the pulverised water type is not available to normal people, only dry powder. The dry powder is blue, pretty unpleasant, and nastily corrosive to electrical devices so be careful where it goes. If you actually manage to put the fire out and have powder left, which is unlikely, squirt the damned Linky again. Take that ya bastard. Then throw some salt at it, just to be sure. An exorcism wouldn't go amiss if you can find a priest that will actually take you seriously and not say rude things about Dan Brown. Failing that, put on a white dressing gown, pull up the hood, and speak some rubbish in fake Latin. The Gods will understand what you mean, they blessed us with the Linky in the first place...

Yes, I think the Linky is stupid. We get direct lightning strikes. What's the betting this gizmo will be toast in a year? Over here, electricity provision is by a certain number of kilowatts. We can draw, I believe, up to 9kW (I don't think we're on the 12kW tariff...). Well, the Linky seems to not understand transients, like the millisecond kick that things like motors need in order to get themselves going. They are rigid in that if you go over your allocation, click, it'll trip out. Of course, it isn't to ErDF's benefit to make the Linky understand transients because the "fix" is to be bumped up to a higher (read: more expensive) tariff. Mighty convenient, that. About as convenient as a meter capable of recording energy consumption down to individual watts and individual seconds. Oh, but they won't do that, they promise. I can see that promise being kept. Mark my words, once we're all on Linky, it'll be a doddle to introduce spot pricing. Want to fire up that espresso machine during the advert break? Ooooh, that'll cost you...

And since the Gods know I'm talking about them impolitely, they chose this moment right now for ErDF to send an email saying that we will receive a letter soon talking about what needs to be done for the preparation of receiving our Linky. Yup. Our three phase is going to be demoted to single phase (no big deal, three phase sockets in the bedrooms is just plain weird) and our trusty meter is going to be replaced with a so-called "smart" meter. Seriously, according to their rated lifespan, since purchasing this property, we'd be on our third. Tell me this isn't a completely insane idea?

It communicates with the mothership by the "blast a signal down the power lines" method (like CPL taken up to eleven). Which, because the Linky is clearly built by the cheapest bidder (no doubt why they have a reputation of flammability), the signal is apparently blasted on all of the mains wiring including within the house where there is not only no need for it, but the thing really ought to be much better isolated than that. But, hey, it's only tin foil hat wearers that worry about weird emissions in the 75kHz range from mains wiring (which typically covers the entire property in fairly close proximity to the occupants). And, anyway, in order to roll out a billion of these things (plus account for replacements), they had to cut a few corners, right?

Aside 1: They tell us the Linky's lifespan is twenty years. This being a device with a CR2032 battery soldered to the board. Riiight. Some geeky info if you can read French (JPEG, and it's basically running on ARM processors).
Aside 2: ErDF assure everybody that the Linky does not catch fire, it's an installation error. That puts my mind at ease. Who is demanding the Linky be installed? Who is employing (directly or sub-contract) people to install it? Who has happily got the law on their side so customers cannot refuse installation of the Linky? Why, that would be you ErDF! Faulty meter or faulty installation, the difference isn't going to count for much in the aftermath, is it?

Anyway, I'm sure I'll get to talk about the Linky some more in the future (read what Que Choisir has to say about it (in French), the final paragraph says it all really).
Anyway, enough about Linky. Right now I'm supposed to be ranting about the death of POTS, the traditional analogue telephones.

There's only one way the demise of the analogue telephone can be satisfactorily solved. But it will never happen.

How? Simple. A handset that is capable of directly interfacing with an ADSL line (in the absence of a router), doesn't take an eternity to start up (near-instant, not like the Livebox's several minutes boot time), is powered directly from the phone line, is capable of at least placing a call to the emergency services in the absence of valid subscriber information, and can only have its firmware upgraded by a specific action such as a serial connection from a computer (absolutely not self-upgradeable).

Why do I ask this? Because POTS is reliable. All this modern fluff? Not so much...



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Rob, 9th January 2018, 22:14
All our house phones are DECT, run from a pair of "Gigaset N300A IP"s .. That "IP" means, yes, Internet Protocol. So our main "landline" number is now VoIP, the number having been ported across to A&A. The connectivity is VDSL, and that comes in over a standard telephone line, so I've got a single cheap analogue handset screwed to the wall by the front door as a Power-fail line. No call plan. Dialing will cost money. But it's always going to be working! We rarely get power-cuts here, but I have had the RCD trip and knock out everything. And one needs to be able to summon help (particularly if I'm out and nobody else knows what to do to turn it back on!)
Rick, 9th January 2018, 23:21
Looks like you need to train your daughter to be a geekette so somebody other than you can bring everything up gracefully. 
My method is to hardwire the IP addresses, fix the same in the router's DHCP, then have a carefully scripted startup to get everything going. So to power up, all mom needs to do is turn stuff back on. 
Powering down, on the other hand, requires a proper shutdown. I have added some code to trap Ctrl-Shift-F12 and gracefully go to shutdown state, complete with message on the OLED. 
It's important, because a recent brownout (that the efficient Pi didn't even notice) utterly trashed my Pcs harddisc. Needed Hirren's Boot CD to recover the filesystem. Stuff doesn't like being turned off.
Rob, 10th January 2018, 11:07
lol. She's not bad. Not quite up to restarting the various servers, though. Yet. Most of the "infrastructure" is hung off the back of a UPS, though, or dual-fed from a separate circuit that doesn't go through the RCD, so, short of an actual power cut, it's fairly reliable. Only major issue is when the machine running the local DNS server overheats and dies!

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