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Power, cash, drugs and gold

14 March 2017

Every now and then I write a column in which I discuss a range of topics rather than focus on a single issue. This is one of those columns.

First-up today, are the "Smart Meters" which are increasingly used to measure our domestic power consumption actually accurate?

Recent reports show that some of these meters (overseas) are inordinately inaccurate and have resulted in people being massively overcharged for their electricity use. Why is this and do the meters installed by our power companies pass independent certification?

To be honest, I have no idea -- perhaps a reader can enlighten us.

With the proliferation of appliances using switched-mode power supplies (SMPS), the power factor of these devices can often be far removed from a perfect score of 1.0 and if simplistic power-measurement circuitry is used this alone can account for significant errors in reporting.

For those who don't know about power-factor, it's the difference between the number of watts you get when multiplying the current times the voltage and the actual number of watts a device consumes.

How can current multiplied by voltage not be an accurate measure of power?

Well if the device connected causes a phase difference between the voltage and current measurements in an AC supply then this can occur. Highly capacitive or inductive loads can cause this disparity and unless the power meter actually calculates the power factor and uses it when calculating the true power consumption, your bill could be miles out.

In other news, I see that Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer is about to get a huge golden handshake.

Despite the fact that Yahoo has lurched from crisis to crisis under her seemingly inept management, she'll score a very healthy US$23m payout when ownership of Yahoo changes, probably later this year.

Wow... that's great work if you can get it!

I know more than a few people who are far better at their jobs than she was and they'll be lucky to get a "see ya later" when they leave their current position.

Closer to home, it seems that illegal drug use in Auckland is much higher than many had thought.

Tests on waste-water show some alarming levels of meth-amphetamine (P) and other recreational drugs. No numbers were available for cannabis use, apparently because the tests are more complex and expensive but P and a range of other recreational drugs seem to be regularly found in the waste-water. Interestingly enough, very few metabolites of cocaine were found but definite indicators were present to suggest that the raw drug had been "flushed" at some stage (did mum find Johnny's stash perhaps?)

Across the Tasman it seems as if a lot of Aussies in Sydney are about to get incredibly rich -- if they survive.

What am I talking about?

Well the NZ Herald reports this morning that the area is about to be smashed by "giant gold ball sized hailstones".


And that's another day from the newswires.

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