728 stories

Aer Lingus AerClub Becomes American Express Membership Rewards Partner Both US & UK

1 Share

American Express today announced that card members in the United States can convert Membership Rewards points to Aer Lingus AerClub Avios at 1:1 ratio before the end of August.

Aer Lingus

Membership Rewards members in the UK will can start converting their points to Aer Lingus Avios later this year.

You can access Amex Membership Rewards here.

Here are things to keep in mind (from American Express):

  • Enrollment in AerClub, the loyalty program of Aer Lingus, is required.
  • American Express is not responsible for availability of flight, accommodations, or any other rewards in the Aer Lingus program.
  • Airline tickets are subject to availability. Check Award Seat availability before transferring points by visiting http://www.aerlingus.com/ or by calling 1-800-772-4642.
  • Once you have transferred Membership Rewards® points, they cannot be transferred back to your Membership Rewards account and become subject to the Terms and Conditions of the Aer Lingus program, found at https://www.aerlingus.com/aerclub/about-aerclub/how-it-works/.
  • Transfer enough points into your Aer Lingus account to redeem for your award seat.
  • Transfers should be complete in 4 to 7 days.
  • Please note that no booking can be made until the Avios are credited to your Aer Lingus account.
  • Taxes, fees, charges and surcharges, including airline surcharges, may apply on Aer Lingus redemption flights and upgrades.
  • All redemption bookings are subject to the terms and conditions of the Aer Lingus program.


It is always good to have more partners where one can convert credit card points to. You can already use British Airways Avios for these Aer Lingus flights at a pretty decent rate.

I thought that it was IAG’s, the parent of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and LEVEL, plan to have all these airlines on the same Avios platform at some point rather than running number of separate frequent flier programs between which members can transfer Avios in between if they so choose (after linking).

Read the whole story
47 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story

London Underground earns £80,000 from Gareth Southgate roundel

1 Share

Being nice can be lucrative, if you’re London Underground and you join in the World Cup fervor by renaming a tube station for a few days.

Southgate tube station was rebranded as Gareth Southgate station from a couple of weeks ago for 48 hours, after the squad finished fourth in the football World Cup.

Not obvious from the various photos issued by TfL, was that only a few of the platform signs had been rebranded, and that there was a “sponsored by Visa” sign above the roundels.

And that sponsorship earned London Underground around £80,000, according to the Evening Standard.

There was also the attendant increase in people visiting the station to pose and take selfies, which will have put some extra ticket sales into TfL’s coffers.

Money aside, it was also, just plain fun.

I am personally rather ambivalent about football, and my main awareness of the man for a while that some dude in football land was noted for his waistcoats.

However, even a football curmudgeon like myself smiled when I heard what happened at Southgate tube station. Even without the sponsorship, the cost would be been minimal to print up a few signs and splash out a press release.

And in doing so, lots of people smiled.

People read about it — the top story on the BBC News website that morning. A lot of people read about what happened and will have smiled.

Not bad for a few hundred quid in signage.

And while people may worry about the creeping commercialisation of the tube, it’s pretty decent work to grab £80,000 of sponsorship in just a few days. TfL spotted an opportunity to do something fun, and make some money, and the sponsor responded swiftly to an opportunity to latch onto something that would make people smile.

But not everyone smiled.

Angela wrote demanding to know how much it cost. Who approved the spending, what the business case was, the job title of the person responsible for approving the spending on the sign.

Angela didn’t seem happy.

But lots of people were happy. Even people who don’t care about football probably nodded in admiration of a bit of light fun.

Even without the sponsorship, spending a mere few hundreds on some signs is a minuscule amount for the number of smiles it raised.

But, there is a worry that with more Angela’s around, London Underground will look at every opportunity to do something cheap to raise a smile, and pause, worry, try to get more sponsorship first. Might decide that Angela will complain and maybe it’s just not worth the risk any more.

No more fun unless its cost effective.

No more smiles unless they’re sponsored by someone.

What a sorry world that would be.

Read the whole story
55 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story

Being Seen at Worldcon

1 Share

A Twitter thread on the recent contrempts at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate:

On the initial schedule, I was programmed for a panel and for a kaffeklatsch; I’ve written to the programming folks to let them know I was taking myself off programming to let other folks who were not previously on programming have a shot. I’ll still be around.

Update, 7:27pm: Read this Twitter thread from the head of Worldcon 76: “We will do better.”

Read the whole story
58 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story

The driverless tube train shibboleth returns

1 Share

We’re approaching the Mayoral election season (already?), and the perennial issue of driverless trains on the London Underground has reared its head once more.

Politicians of most colours and experiences will talk about their plans to improve London’s transport, and some, with more of an eye for a sound bite than real understanding of the issues, will talk about driverless trains.

After all, the DLR is driverless, so it can’t be that difficult. Can it?

Firstly, lets set one thing straight — it’s pretty much a certainty that at some point, the tube will be driverless.

After all, driverless trains have been talked about since the 1930s, and although the tube has become ever more automated as the decades pass, a bit like fusion power, driverless trains have always been “just 20 years away”.

However, no grandstanding by a politician will make it happen. Even with all the pieces in place, it’s a decades long project, and the most optimistic projections will see another six mayoral elections pass before the first driverless tube train carries passengers.

Also, as with the DLR, driverless doesn’t mean unstaffed. 

So if your political goal is to ban tube strikes, then going driverless wont prevent that happening, as anyone who has experienced a strike on the driverless DLR will confirm.

The DLR was built to be driverless, but very nearly wasn’t, and could be driverless thanks to being essentially a brand new railway, with small trains that travelled comparatively slowly. It was also able to push through the driverless aspect as a technology show-off for British industry.

The DLR has been around for 30 years, so why isn’t the tube driverless yet?

To put one issue to bed, yes, the unions would kick up an almighty fuss. A test of a Jubilee line train using Willesden Green sidings under automatic control in October 2016 didn’t go down well with the unions.

But, London Underground’s planning runs into the decades in some places, and the unions concerns about loss of drivers wouldn’t prevent the sort of very long term thinking that would be needed if driverless trains were to be introduced.

And London Underground is moving in that direction already. It doesn’t matter what Mayoral hopefuls say, TfL is already working on it.

The technical specifications for the New Tube for London, which will start to arrive on the Piccadilly line from 2023, includes an option for driverless operations — in the future.

Whoever is elected Mayor in 2020 will see the introduction of those new trains, and there will be a driver in every single one of them. It’s simply not possible for an incoming Mayor to change that.

So when someone says they’ll introduce driverless trains, they mean they’ll do no such thing whatsoever.

They might be able to nudge TfL a bit in that direction, but that’s the best that can happen.

As the new tube trains for the Piccadilly (and other lines) will have the option to go driverless, what is holding them back?

The rest of the tube infrastructure is the main issue, not the trains. The signalling will be upgraded for the new trains, and to replace worn out systems, but it would need an almighty overhaul to bring it even close to the requirements for driverless trains to work.

Back in 2014, it was suggested that if works began in 2016 to add platform edge doors to the Piccadilly line platforms, then along with everything else, it might, just be possible to have driverless trains on that one line in 2027.

As you can guess, we’re already a long way off that target, and if a new Mayor were to demand it, it’ll be their successor who cuts the ribbon, in the mid to late 2030s, at the earliest.

All this costs a vast amount of money, and unless Mayoral hopefuls are sitting on a mystery pot of cash, that’s not going to happen either.

But would it be worth spending that money?

It depends on your aim.

If it’s simply to banish tube strikes, then it’s a total waste of money. The DLR still has strikes after all, and there’s no way that the tube trains would run without onboard attendants, who can go on strike.

To spend billions just to prevent the occasional, if very annoying, tube strike would be the height of folly.

The main reason for doing it though is to increase the number of passengers the tube can carry.

Computers are, generally, more reliable than humans — even in as hostile an environment as a tube tunnel with all that grease and oil and moving parts just waiting to confuse a binary thinker — and one huge advantage of driverless is to run existing timetables more reliably, not to mention a nice feature of being able to ramp up capacity at short notice when needed

A computer system should be able to run trains closer together safely and that means more trains per hour, so they can carry more passengers.

With London’s population surging — that’s not immigration by the way, just London’s young doing what young people do — increasing the transport network capacity is vital.

Hence the imminent arrival of the Elizabeth line and in the 2030s probably Crossrail 2.

So driverless trains are possible, if very expensive, and will probably arrive, in a few decades time, but only because they’re the solution to a capacity problem, not because a politician made an expensive promise several decades earlier.

However, it’s not the trains or the tunnels or the computers that would be the biggest cause of a delay in going driverless.

The stations are.

If you have the trains running closer and dropping off more passengers onto narrow platforms ever more often, you reach a point where the station itself can’t get them off the platform fast enough before the next train arrives.

Even with drivers onboard, by the end of the 2020s an additional 21,000 customers will be able to board Piccadilly line trains every hour during peak times.

If the aim of driverless trains is to increase the number of passengers that can be carried in the rush hour, then the stations need upgrading to cope with the extra people arriving.

Even with platform edge doors, crowds remaining on the platform waiting for space to leave is unwise.

Pretty much every rationale for tube station upgrades over the past decades has been based on coping with overcrowding. The works at Victoria, Kings Cross, TCR, ongoing at Bank, soon at Holborn and Camden are all about having more tunnels to absorb the crowds so they don’t wait on platforms, and more escalators to get them out of those new tunnels.

The recent trial of standing on the escalators at Holborn didn’t get any individual person out quicker, it increased the carrying capacity of the escalators so they could soak up more people waiting at the bottom to leave. That marginally increased the station’s ability to deal with more trains.

On the Piccadilly line, you could need to look at substantial upgrade works at Hammermsith, Earl’s Court, South Kensington, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Kings Cross, Arsenal and Finsbury Park. Minor works, mostly to do with ticket hall expansion and additional staircases at the regional stations can also be expected.

There’s even very long term thinking about how to do away with ticket barriers, so that they can remove that bottleneck in getting people out of stations faster.

If planning for that started today, and the billions it will cost was available, it’s still at least a couple of decades of work to carry out.

The trains may go driverless eventually, but it’ll be the stations that determine when.

So if someone says they’ll push for driverless trains when elected Mayor of London… shake your head in despair and move further down the carriage.

Read the whole story
60 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story

Do Londoners dream of electric buses?

1 Share

Londoners might not dream of electric buses, but this ordinary looking bus garage in Waterloo features in the dreams of people from across the world who come to visit it.

It looks fairly normal, lots of buses, a washer, some offices. Behind the buses though, what look like black hoses with petrol pumps aren’t pumping liquid fuel into the buses, but electrons.

This ordinary looking garage is a world leader in the deployment of a fleet of all-electric buses, and the first all-electric bus garage in the UK.

Why here and why now?

They’re here thanks to the two routes operated by Go Ahead from his bus garage being fairly short runs between Waterloo and either Victoria or London Bridge. A typical bus based here will run half the mileage that other routes would see — on average 70 miles per day.

That made the depot an ideal site to test alternative fuels.

The why now is thanks to the arrival of the Ultra Low Emission Zone from next April (originally 2020), but that affected decisions taken several years ago.

Bus routes are offered on 5-year leases by TfL, and routes 507 and 521 from the Waterloo bus garage were up for renewal in 2016. Knowing that the 5-year lease would take the company into the time that the ULEZ would be effective, Richard Harrington, Engineering Director at Go Ahead London had long been looking for a bus that would be zero-emissions from its tailpipe.

In 2011, he found a few at a biennial bus trade show in Belgium, Busworld.

One of the buses that stood out came from a Chinese supplier, BYD (Build Your Dreams) which was already operating a fleet of electric buses in Shenzhen.

These looked viable, so, off to China for a look around, and in December 2013, the arrival of two prototype buses to test. Later two more buses were bought from a European supplier, as well for comparison.

These were tested using two electric charging points installed in a corner of Waterloo bus garage. The tests shows that the buses could consistently run a 16-hour shift without a recharge being necessary.

So, the approval was given to go for a switch to electric buses.

Converting a bus garage to electric

What could be difficult about swapping out the old diesel pumps for electric chargers? A lot as it happens. An awful lot.

Firstly, you need a lot of electricity. That proved to be a steep learning curve for a lot of people involved, and many of the lessons transfered to other bus garages later.

A key difference is that diesel can “recharge” a bus in a matter of minutes, so buses simply queue up at a pump and then drive off. With electric, it takes a few hours overnight, so they had to install a long line of charging points right down the middle of the garage.

That then caused a major problem that took some testing, to decide how to fit all the buses in to the space overnight, and also have them within reach of a power cable.

Fortunately, around half the buses doesn’t run in the middle of the day, when passenger demand is lower, which gave the managers time to play with a number of different layouts and make sure that buses could get in, and out without hitting each other.

That lead to a slightly unusual layout for a bus garage – where buses usually line up in rows, and behind each other, here they are lined up in a chevron layout.

New run-in bus layout – courtesy Go Ahead

They also needed 2.5 megawatts of electricity to recharge the buses overnight — although the use of smart monitoring means they never reach that full load.

In comes 11,000 volts to two new substations on the site, which is then dropped down to 400 volts and sent via two routes to the various charging points around the depot. Four fast chargers at 800 volts are also available if needed.

As each bus knows what the state of its batteries are, the smart chargers level the load across the entire fleet when they’re plugged in to even out the power demand from the mains electricity supply.

The experience with how the smart chargers work mean that future bus garage conversions should be able to operate with much lower levels of demand than was predicted for the the Waterloo bus garage, hence reducing costs.

They also had to shift the bus washer, not because of the water/electricity problem, but simply because it was now in the way of how buses had to move around to get to their charging points.

A series of metal buffers in the floor were added to help the bus drivers park in just the right spot for recharging.

Over a year, there was roughly four months of construction works carried out for the conversion, all while the bus garage was still in use.

The charging points themselves look remarkably like conventional diesel pumps, and one modification puts a small led light inside the “petrol cap” on the bus to help the drivers plug in correctly in the dark.

The new fleet of buses

In the end, while the tests proved the viability of an electric bus service, there were concerns about the bus design, particularly the battery placement, and a hybrid was developed. BYD supplies the batteries, motor and chassis, while Alexander Denis fitted the coach on top at their factory in Falkirk.

The buses were also designed to take into account how batteries degrade over time. At the moment, they generally return to the garage at the end of a shift with around a quarter of their battery life unused. That will diminish over time, but will be well within tolerances.

The two prototypes were nicknamed “electric Ferraris” for their speedy acceleration, but the battery placement did tend to cause wobbling along the route.

The management worked quite closely with the drivers on the spec for the main fleet, although one reluctant voice was heard to ask on a visit why they couldn’t have that nice bus over there instead of these electric things they were being taken to see.

He was pointing at the electric bus.

There had been hopes to launch the entire fleet in one go, but that was impractical — it’s just not possible to move 51 battery powered buses from Scotland to London in one go. So a phased launch started in September 2016, with 10 buses on day one, and five more added each week thereafter.

The inside of the buses is notable for two things. A lot of standing room, but that’s due to the nature of the route and the passenger demand, not the fuel supply. The other is the lack of back window, which is due to the batteries on the back of the buses, although newer buses have managed to restore the window.

They feature a regenerative braking system which feeds power from kinetic energy recovered during braking and deceleration back into the battery.

A number of improvements were made following driver feedback, such as adjustable dashboards and seating that can be adjusted before the driver get into the cab.

For those who get a seat, there’s one extra treat — a USB slot for charging your phone. The power drain is minimal so doesn’t affect the bus performance, and being of considerable utility, they are remarkably undamaged. It seems that sticking chewing gum in things only applies when the vandal feels they wont personally lose out.

It’s also a reminder of the difficulties of battery power. Smartphones need charging regularly, as do electric buses.

For the past 18 months, the entire fleet based at Waterloo has been electric, and they’ve clocked up over a million miles between them.

Most rewardingly, the fleet of buses ran without a hitch earlier this year when the Beast for the East drove temperatures to minus levels. Electric buses coped without a problem in the low temperatures while diesel engines sometimes struggled.

The financials

While operating the electric buses has been proven to be as reliable as a diesel bus service, is it cost effective to switch from diesel to electric?

One issue is that while the operating costs are lower, the upfront capital costs are much higher, and that can prove a financial strain when the leases for the routes last just 5 years (with an optional 2-year extension).

Prices are falling all the time as battery technology improves. At the moment, a bus similar to the fleet in use at Waterloo is about twice as expensive to buy as a diesel equivalent.

The upside is that the fuel costs are better, with electricity around half the cost of diesel per passenger mile carried. The fuel is only around a third of the total cost of a bus operating costs — with 60% in wages — so the saving is good, but takes a long time to repay the cost of the more expensive bus.

A cost issue can be that more buses are needed. Some buses can be on the road for as much as 23 hours in a day, leaving insufficient time for recharging. In such situations, spare buses need to be bought to maintain the service. That increases the upfront costs of fleet conversion.

A 5-year lease is not really long enough to recover the investment.

To make the switch to electric more appealing, either TfL needs to stump up some of the cost, or the leases extended so that the bus operator can reasonably recover their investment.

Another factor involved in converting a garage to electric is that the planning permission can take too long. When a tender is put out for electricity supply, so that they can work out the costs involved, the provisional agreement for electricity from location X to bus garage Y may last for less time that it takes to get planning permission. In the meantime, someone else comes along, takes all the available current for their building, and the costs of getting electricity from a point much further away jumps sharply.

These are the sorts of issues that are now being ironed out for future garage conversions. The first garage was always going to throw up a lot of problems, but there are now electric buses running from other garages that have partially converted, and each time, the problems are reduced as experience increases.

The future

There are already other routes in London using electric buses, but at the moment, no other garage is entirely electric.

The BYD-Alexander Dennis collaboration, initiated by Go Ahead for its fleet, has since gone from strength to strength, and has just won its first order for electric double-decker buses, which will come into use next year on Route 43.

One of the issues holding back the rollout of electric buses is the battery problem. Quite simply, hydrocarbon fuels deliver a lot more energy for their weight than batteries, which is why electric buses have been humps on the roof for all the extra juice storage.

Richard Harrington was coy about what’s being planned at this early stage, but it’s no secret that newer batteries under development are smaller, so either the hump can be removed, or the distance travelled between charges extended.

There are also plans that could see a return, in a way, of the old trollybus. Rather than an unsightly electric wire running the entire length of the route, as say on a tram network, here there would be recharging points at bus stops.

As the bus pulls in, a pantograph on top of the bus would connect to an overhead power unit and suck down a large surge of power to top up the batteries. That enables the buses to run much further, or for longer between charges.

One huge advantage of the electric buses is noise, or more accurately, the lack of it. Many bus garages have to try and be placed reasonably away from residential areas due to the noise, and smell of the diesel engines, or have constraints imposed on them.

For example, the newish West Ham bus garage was designed to put the buses away from an expected residential development on the other side. Electric buses while not totally silent, are very quiet and don’t smell, so here at Waterloo, it’s less of an issue to be surrounded by residential flats.

Londoners might not dream of electric buses, but at least they wont be woken up by them.

Thanks to the staff at Go Ahead London for the site visit.

Read the whole story
88 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story

Confessions of a Disk Cracker: the secrets of 4am.

1 Share

Confessions of a Disk Cracker: the secrets of 4am.

Why did you choose to start aggressively de-protecting, archiving and re-distributing Apple II software? It’s tempting to rewrite history and give myself some noble purpose for starting this hobby, but in this case the truth makes for a better story.


via Pocket <a href="https://paleotronic.com/2018/06/15/confessions-of-a-disk-cracker-the-secrets-of-4am/" rel="nofollow">https://paleotronic.com/2018/06/15/confessions-of-a-disk-cracker-the-secrets-of-4am/</a>

June 17, 2018 at 09:38AM

Read the whole story
96 days ago
Dublin, Ireland
Share this story
Next Page of Stories