Jul 12

Surely nobody thought “Fiscal Union” was really a good idea?

Far from being an Orwellian nightmare, I love the idea of greater fiscal and political union with our neighbours. Maybe it could even work… in 100-500 years?

But right now, as long as different countries within Europe teach different versions of history, value different types of trade, have different climates that affect their vastly diverse national identities – and not to mention different politics – I believe a single currency is a terrible idea.

Why? A given generation’s workforce in a given country (or ‘economic zone’) depends on the social values of its predecessor generation(s).

Example: let’s talk dinner parties. Your average dinner party of middle-aged professionals in Germany would hold an ‘engineer type’ in the same esteem we Brits hold ‘artist types’ (i.e. high esteem). The UK is largely numerically illiterate and, with the possible exception of medical professionals, we pretty much like to make fun of scientists.*

* I attend dinner parties (not with the middle-aged) with people who do like scientists. I am basing this on media representation, proportion of elected MPs who are actual scientists, the take-up of science subjects at ‘A’ Level or degree, school results in science and maths, and other soft statistics / observations.

If, within the global economy, money is to be made from science rather than art, then Germany is going to whip our asses, whichever metric you use to define economic success (GDP, GPI, etc.)

Now let’s say Germany and the UK were in some kind of hypothetical fiscal union. Given the above, the UK would need to become more competitive on a global scale, otherwise it would run out of money and not be able to buy drugs for the NHS or pay teachers to maintain a decent education system. It would have to ask Germany for a loan. Of course, it could go elsewhere looking for a loan, but I’m pretty sure Germany might have something to say about that.

Sure – in the short term, the ailing UK would benefit from being in the fiscal union, as it would mean it could pay for those drugs, teachers, police, prisons – and maintain some kind of status quo. But it really will need to buck-up its ideas. The problem is: how can it become more competitive? The UK can’t simply change its interest rates – they no longer exclusively control the bank! Businesses can’t magically pay their employees more to attract more talent.

British people won’t magically decide they suddenly like scientists over artists. Worse still, the position of Germany would ironically make Brits dislike scientists even more.

(Aren’t we already seeing the above phenomenon, where although a country is benefiting from being in union with stronger country, they are ironically resenting them at the same time?)

Eventually Germany would have to say to Britain, “right. You need to become more numerically literate if this is going to work”. Germany would invest in education programmes in the UK for decades, but this wouldn’t address the core issue.

This scenario can only end in one of two ways:

1) an amicable break-up of the fiscal union
2) full-scale … wait, don’t mention the war …

The above is of course a hypothetical, over-simplified version of the truth.

But tell me dear readers, do you agree with the basic analysis?

Jul 12

How to configure your NTL 250 to work with wireless

If you are merely browsing this blog, don’t read the below. It’s dull as dogs. This is for incoming google searches.

(Hint. If you actually want to configure wireless for your NTL 250 cable modem, skip to the far quicker and superior “Option B”.)

This blog is for the benefit of anyone who might be going through the same problem as I did…

Option A

  1. Call Virgin Media and request a new wireless cable modem router, because yours is faulty. Argue with them over 3x 25 minute phone calls because they say they didn’t provide the original, and your only option is to upgrade your internet connection and take-on another 12 month contract because the NTL 250 cable modem is out of date and they no longer provide separate wireless routers.
  2. Choose “a bit of classical” as your hold music. Hey, I can choose hold music! Oh wait, they are playing “Jurassic Park”. #fail
  3. In a cavalier fashion, purchase a wireless access point on Amazon
  4. Review the “order dispatched” email and immediately KICK YOURSELF when you read the words “wireless access point”. You need a “wireless router”. Who the hell buys those things? The NTL 250 is a cable modem, and is not a router.
  5. Await shipment. Maybe the Wireless AP you purchased can handle routing as well. It seems to do everything else under the sun, it’s one of those TP-Link devices that seem to have taken over the low-end market. They have awesome chipsets and a web interface that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out, which more than makes up for the unbelievably cheap plastic they are made from. Take THAT Netgear…
  6. Stop kidding yourself. Really, a router is a router. A Wireless AP is a Wireless AP.
  7. Out of desperation head to Maplin. Make sure you get a Wireless *Cable Modem* Router this time. Uh oh. The only wireless cable modem router in stock is a Netgear.
  8. Scream and struggle and tear your hair out because your Netgear web interface randomly hangs, you never know if it actually ‘applied’ the settings you painstakingly entered, and you can’t get the thing to play ball.
  9. Attempt to use the Netgear “auto detect modem settings”. Yeh, that was never going to work.
  10. Attempt to manually set the router’s IP address and DNS servers (even though they should be dynamically assigned) as if this will somehow help.
  11. Hit Google, pore over various VirginMedia broadband forum posts, none of which assist in configuring your NTL 250, all of which conclude with “Virgin will send you their new Superhub”. Call Virgin once again to say your wireless router is faulty, can they send you a “Superhub”, no they can’t, not unless you upgrade, take-on another 12 month contract, etc.
  12. Ask to speak to Virgin’s tech support team, you need assistance configuring a wireless router for your NTL 250 cable modem. “What is the make and model?” Netgear. “We are unable to support Netgear wireless routers”.
  13. Phone up again and lie, tell them you are setting up a Linksys. They tell you “set your router’s settings to ‘dynamic’. No need to enter any logon information. No connection username and password. DHCP will provide your router with the correct IP address, DNS, gateway”. ARGUE. Say you’ve done that but it is simply not getting an IP address. Angrily explain you have no way of getting online because they won’t upgrade your router and won’t replace your existing one, then eventually hang up because they can’t help you.
  14. Curse, Google some more, etc.
  15. … notice a setting on the Netgear. A strange setting, one that allows you to hard-code the MAC address of the router’s cable modem interface. Think to yourself “surely they don’t filter MAC addresses at the exchange, given they haven’t even bothered to set up any kind of connection encryption in the first place”. (Or perhaps it’s their way of helping NAT to actually work. Either way, it’s dumb.)
  16. Get online within a few minutes of the above.

Option B

Here’s how to set up your wireless cable modem router with your NTL 250 or 255 (thanks to Virgin Media for all their wonderful help):

  1. Make sure you buy a Wireless Cable Modem Router
  2. Find the MAC address of your cable modem. If you are lucky, it will be written on the underside of your NTL 250 or 255 cable modem
  3. Input this MAC address into your wireless cable modem router
  4. Most modern wireless cable modem routers should magically work once you have done the above
Easy, huh?