Today I’ve been mostly listening to . . .

Optimal Finance Daily “The Most Common Multiple Income Streams by Robert Farrington of the College Investor” – what did I learn? That I should have had this advice in my early twenties.


Market Foolery “The Golden Equation” – What did I learn? A bunch of US company results, pet food suppliers have been resilient in previous depressions, strangely I don’t recall the ‘Golden Equation’ though.

Smashing Security “Google Maps, Fed phishing, and Grinch bots” – What did I learn? – have archive a bunch of old games running in jsmame at MAME was the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator, ‘js’ is java script, so it looks like much fun can be had in the browser.

SFBRP podcast

SFBRP (Science Fiction Book Review Podcast) “#385 – Mary Robinette Kowal – The Calculating Stars – Lady Astronaut #1 ” – What did I learn? Luke Burrage is not the reader that Mary Robinette Kowal wrote this book for. Also apparently there are too many rocket metaphors in the sex scenes. Juliane does her best to moderate the discussion, but Luke will not be placated, and remains stubbornly disappointed. I suspect that most people would not be so disappointed, Mary Robinette Kowal is an accomplished author with many previous well acclaimed novels.

Zero fee investing 2

Well I was wrong yesterday, it appears that Freetrade is not the only UK contender for Zero Fee investment. There is also Trading212, who have been at this since 2016 or earlier. They appear to have a more mature capability than Freetrade offering shares (which they call equities), CFDs and foreign exchange on their platform. They have both Apple IOS and Android apps available.

Online reviews make interesting reading though. There is a recurring theme about difficulties with withdrawals in comments on reviews. But these comments are featured along side reviews praising the trading platform and the educational materials.

My impression is that since Trading212 are offering CFDs (Contracts for Difference), currency and commodity trading, they are a very different kind of organisation than Freetrade.  They appear to be set up for short term trading rather than investing, the nature of that game is very different. If you were to trade on the platform, from the reviews I’ve read, it appears likely that you would be running into fees that are not highlighted in their Zero Commission headlines in their up front marketing.

From just the two organisations web sites and online reviews I’m more inclined to prefer Freetrade over Trading212. The Freetrade service is designed for long term investing, whereas Trading212 appears to major on short term trading. Trading212 appears very slick and corporate, whereas Freetrade’s site has an open vibe with a comprehensive blog and customer forum.

For the moment I’m going to be sticking with my current trading platform as I need the SIPP account, which neither of these platforms currently offer. I will be watching Freetrade though as it could become a viable option when its more mature.

Zero fee investing

One of the biggest barriers to starting investing is the cost of the trading platforms. Most of the online trading platforms have an annual or quarterly fee amounting to around £100 p.a. Then on top of that they charge a fee of around £10 for each trade. Additionally there may be other fees if you wish to move off the platform or take money out.

The hard maths around platform charges mean that it is not cost effective to invest small amounts, as any gains on the investments are likely to be eaten up by the platform fees.

IFreetrade IOS appn the US in recent years they have had a service called Robinhood which offers free trading via your mobile phone. Now there is a similar service called Freetrade launching in the UK. It is early days for the service and you have to request an invite from their web site. Currently only an iPhone app is available.However they are also developing an Android app to follow.

So how can Freetrade offer share trading for free? Their business model funds itself by taking a small margin on each trade. Their trading costs appear to be minimised by making pooling free ‘basic’ trades from multiple investors to execute at the end of the trading day. They also offer instant trades at a cost of £1. It is also possible to invest in a limited range of US stocks on the platform.

There has been talk of Revolut or N26 addiing Robinhood style trading services to their smartphone baking offer, but there is nothing apparent on their websites that can be signed up to. So for now it looks like for now Freetrade is the only option for truly low cost small scale share investment in the UK.

Writing can be hard

Some days a blog post can just flow and take shape without effort (apart from the follow up edit for grammar and readability). Other times it will twist and turn out of my grasp. Today for instance this is the 3rd attempt. I started out trying to make a statement about my views on tracking ETFs and Funds and how, although Warren Buffet (the sage of Omaha, an investing legend) recommends them as the best way to invest for most people, they may be riding for a fall. I think that if the bull market becomes a bear market the whole tracking model may become challenged. However that post became a post about Shares versus Funds.  Then I had to fight the urge to describe the difference between Funds and ETFs, but ended up writing about the variety of investment styles funds can use and the what and why of that.

That blog post turned into a mess. It challenged my confidence in my understanding of the subject. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) crystallises the gaps in your knowledge and makes you confront them. I could write that post, but not today as I would need to research my facts better, and do several drafts to ensure that the ideas/facts are in a coherent order to be readable, understandable and make the intended point (rather than drifting off). That was not going to be possible in the 45 minute slot I had on my train journey today.

The attempt at writing that post has been positive though. Through my failure to write on the topic, I now know more about the gaps in my knowledge on the subject, I can see where my mind has covered over the gaps in my knowledge with unsubstantiated assumptions and I’ve got a draft post sitting there which one day may become a decent blog post if I put the work in.

Toasted Cake – Flash Fiction Podcast

toasted cake logoI’ve been listening to Toasted Cake for a some years now. Toasted Cake is an idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast. Flash fiction stories are generally from around 500 to 1200 words long. One short story read every week by Tina Connolly. She started the podcast as a 1 year project back in 2012, but (fortunately) it has become a more long term thing. Tina is a novelist and a co-host on the Escape Pod podcast.

The stories are usually fantasy and science fiction of some sort, often quirky, often fun and always high quality. There’s a wide range of authors features, including some prominent names; for instance last week’s story was ‘Ticket’ by Ken Liu.

The stories are usually followed by a short commentary or other musings from Tina.

If short fiction is your thing this podcast is for you. In addition to the podcast feed there’s a back catalogue of every story available as an MP3 from the Toasted Cake website.

I’m Missing Maplin – the Courtesy Light

On our T5 Camper van conversion I had to replace the side door step which was quite badly worn during it’s previous life as Kombi van. The original step had a courtesy light in the rear end of the step, the after market replacement does not, and its not a simple task to fit one as they are designed to fit into a slight recess, so it’s not just a case of cutting a hole. I considered making a custom foot light unit with white LEDs that would fit there. On consideration I decided not to though. There is already an LED light fitting above the rear sliding door so it would be nice if that were to come on when the door was opened.

The rear lighting in the camper consists of 5 LED units supplied by the leisure battery and switched through its own circuit. One of the LED fittings is directly above the door opening. I need just this one LED fitting to illuminate as a courtesy light. The courtesy light circuit is supplied from the main vehicle battery and that power source should not be mixed with the power from the leisure battery. The answer to this problem is to connect the over door LED to both circuits via a diode from each circuit. Diodes are the electrical equivalent of a 1 way valve, so using a diode between each circuit and the LED will allow it to be powered by either circuit without the power flowing back to the other circuit, keeping the leisure battery light circuit separate from the courtesy light circuit and sharing the one fitting.

A potential problem with the silicon diodes is that there is a forward voltage drop across them of 0.6 volts or more. This would make the over door LED slightly less bright than the others. The solution is to use a Shottkey Diode which has only 0.2V forward voltage drop.

I few months ago I would have been able to pop down to Maplin and buy a couple of diodes, but now I’m having to wait for them to arrive via Internet Mail order and pay almost £5 post and packing (they weigh about 5 grams or less).

The Bugcast

The Bugcast is a weekly music podcast presented by Dave and Caroline from South Yorkshire. Each episode features 8 tracks that are usually available with a Creative Commons license. This means you will hear music that is not generally heard on Radio or the regular streaming services, but the artist is giving you for free.

TheBugCast Episode 540Every week on Friday Evening at around 9:30pm the live recording of The Bugcast podcast takes place. It’s possible to listen in live to the show via their livestream and interact with the hosts and other listeners on their IRC channel. If you haven’t an IRC client you can still join in via the web using where there is web based client. I’ve often listened live, but recently I’ve caught up using the podcast feed.

You may well be surprised by the quality of music presented on the show. Over the 10 years of presenting the show Dave and Caroline have always managed to select from the best of free music. Very rarely is a track repeated although some favourite artist do recur from time to time. I’ve been introduced to some amazing artists through the podcast and many of the albums in my music collection have been downloaded after hearing a track on The Bugcast.

Dave is currently doing NaPodPoMo (National Podcast Posting Month) for November, which means you can hear a short podcast from him every day during the remainder of the month.

The Betting Analogy Delusion

There is a common view that “Investing in shares is like betting on the horses”.

This is wrong. When you buy shares to invest you are buying a part ownership in the horse, not betting on just one race.

To push this analogy to the limit: If you choose to buy part ownership of a good horse it will win more than the average horse and therefor be worth more. So the value of your share appreciates.

Trading rather than investing in shares is closer to gambling than investing, as you will be betting on the short term performance of the share. That is the equivalent of betting on a horse in just one race. Like with betting on horses if you study the form of the share and pick your race (the point in time) you can improve the odds. But to do this you need the time to become an expert on studying form and develop a deep insight into the particular horses (shares) you follow. And even after all this you will be subject to the whims of market volatility.

The outcome on a short term trade on a share is subject to the volatility of the market, understanding and predicting ‘that’ is not possible for most of the people most of the time. The odds of wining on a long term investment however are significantly better, because over the longer term the market price for shares has always increased and a rising tide ,on average, raises all boats.

To win at investment you need to get part ownership in more than one horse as you don’t want to end up with all your money invested in a bad horse. You need to put your money on many (15 or more seems to be the general recommendation). If you were to pick shares randomly such that some would do well and some badly, if the overall market rises over 5 to 10 years, so will your investment. If you manage through studying the form (financial performance) of your potential picks to avoid the bad bets, you should be able to do somewhat better. You can win at investing (beat the market) if 55% of your picks do well.

So investing is not like gambling because if you invest for the long term you will more likely than not profit. Whereas if you gamble in the longer term the house always wins and you alway loose.

(Photo from

Trimming the silence from Smashing Security

77 hours trimmed

Pocket Casts saved me 3 days of my life. The podcast app has trimmed out 77 hours and 46 minutes of silence from the podcasts I’ve listened to. I don’t have this set for audio drama’s or music shows, just the talk podcasts.

OK it hasn’t really saved three days because mostly I listen to podcasts whilst doing other things, but it does mean that I have managed to fit in an additional 3 days of entertainment and education.

Smashing Security Podcast

This morning Pocket Casts has been cutting the silence out of the Smashing Security podcast. Graham Cluley and Carole Theriault take a more light hearted look at IT security than other security podcasts. This week’s episode for instance features the guy who was trying to find Nicole, a girl who gave him her phone number but got the number wrong, the ensuing story and the IT security questions the story raises.There were also stories about Tesla’s owner forum and Facebook.