* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Office 365 in the real world

Lee Dowling
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Re: Implementation

Honestly, say you have a 100 users. That's £400 a month. If you can't get a hosted or support-managed Exchange server cheaper than that, with Internet connectivity, then you really need to stop doing your job.

For tiny businesses, yes, but to be honest, how many of those need a remote-hosted 25Gb mailbox (something I've had for myself for the last 10+ years - it's called a dedicated server and a POP3/IMAP account). For larger businesses, no way.

Granted there are extra features beyond a mailbox but that's not what you've focused on. I guarantee you that you Office 2003 to 2007 upgrade cost you about the same "per person per month" over its lifetime than the 365 did. Except you owned the right to that forever, if you did it right, and that was REQUIRED for you to use 365 (so double the cost).

You are paying someone to run a server somewhere to handle your local network applications and email and your sharing of them with your remote employees. Your IT department should be able to do that quicker, cheaper, more securely, more compliantly (your Data Protection Officer would probably be very interested to know where your sensitive data is physically stored - i.e. which international jurisdiction) and with less reliance on third-parties.

It seems that modern IT has shifted from having a small group of local experts that are under your employ (and thus do EXACTLY what you want) to employing huge companies at enormous cost to do simple jobs badly.

This whole thread is testament to just how the concept is viewed in IT. Sure, users may have a different opinion, but it stinks of a lazy IT department if they just push everything "into the cloud" and let others take responsibility for your company's data.

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Lee Dowling
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"For any of you considering Office 365, or thinking about shifting some critical apps into the cloud..."

... the men in white coats will be here shortly. Here, bite down on this.

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BT missing from Pirate Bay High Court slap-down

Lee Dowling
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Methinks any and all statistical measure of piracy in the UK will still go UP this year. In fact, I'd bet on it if I could be bothered.

I can see where the courts are coming from - this is illegal and can't be condoned - but tail-chasing exercises while record companies are still making record profits each years seems a bit silly. Of course you have to do something with the legal framework but it's all a bit pointless and won't change the way the industry records piracy (i.e. everything we didn't sell on a title we wanted to shift 50m units must have been a pirate, no matter the quality or the available data).

I don't pirate, myself, but it's going to increase again. And why would I pirate the junk that they show? I haven't been to the cinema in 5+ years, because it's all junk, and vastly overpriced. You could let me in for free most nights and I still wouldn't bother to go. I re-buy 20+ year old series on DVD to have something decent to watch and not have to worry about the DRM, because everything else is tripe. Even the new stuff I like (e.g. Not Going Out, etc.) I wait for the DVD or just watch on iPlayer. I don't even buy music - never have - because I don't listen to it except by accident if someone else puts a radio on or something.

Yet I still could spend hundreds or even thousands a year on the right media, and the right quality material, if it were available. Still could spend hours in cinemas eating high-markup popcorn if there was anything worth watching at a sensible price (you have to compete with DVD's, games and TV that work out to significantly less than £1 / hour over their lifetimes). Still could be telling all my pals about the film I just saw, etc. I do still spend buckets on games (mostly indie now because the AAA's are thoughtless eye candy). If there was ANYTHING worth doing that for or any way to do it sensibly, I'd be doing it. But there isn't, and I'm not a pirate, do I spend an awful lot of money ELSEWHERE. They count that as "loss of earnings" and pour the rest of their profit into lawsuits rather than content and yet still next year the problem will get worse again (by their reckoning).

Until you realised this, please carry on chasing your tails, media-industries. Here's hoping after about 20-30 shutdowns like this, people just get pissed with the "big 5" ISP's (the only ones required to put this block in place) and move elsewhere instead, or the ISP's and courts get bored with piracy STILL increasing after they've supposedly put measures in place to curtail it (which means the measures are worthless and hence not worth the court's time to implement).

Circumventing this block is seriously as simple as using an ISP that doesn't have it, or any of a million and one more "technical" workarounds.

But I *GUARANTEE* you that next year piracy rates will still rise again. Because the problem is not the pirate, and not the "free" price.

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Google's latest webspam crusade 'breaks' search results

Lee Dowling
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"I know someone who almost by chance managed to game the search engines for *adult* site referrals.... He has... plenty of toys."

I bet.

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Barclaycard site falls over, web payments impossible

Lee Dowling
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Re: or even

Hahaha. That's a good one.

a) Barclaycard is not Barclays (but, granted, you can usually do most things).

b) A branch? What's that?

c) You feel like queuing for hours to do a money transfer while being harassed every ten seconds to "use this machine over here"?

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Arcam rPac

Lee Dowling
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Re: The difference is clear?

More hilarious: I looked up the chip that it makes a big fuss of on the article and got this from an AUDIOPHILE website:

"This is TIs attempt at producing an inexpensive DAC that requires an extremely small number of supporting components and only requires a single 3.3v PSU from which to work... If you're expecting class leading THD/SNR and digital filtering then you are not appreciating what this device is supposed to be used for, it isn't intended as a top line audiophile product. "

And, yes, from the datasheets it appears to be a fairly cheap (sub-£10), fairly ordinary audio DAC.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: The difference is clear?

Sigh, yes. Yet-another audiophile article that ignores quite a lot of science and just asserts something is better because they think it is (and, worse, worth that amount of money to get).

Do a proper double-blind. It literally takes two assistants, a couple of other "convertors" (e.g. laptops / desktops with sound cards that I imagine The Reg has a bucket load of lying around) over and above what you needed to review the product in the first place. It's simple to do. It's HARD to disprove if you consistently pick out one source as the "better sounding", especially if your assistant is an audio engineer with a frequency-analyser tasked with matching all the levels and making sure one's no more bassy or trebly than the other by using only the settings available on the machine producing the sound.

If he can make the sound of a cheap laptop sound "better" to you than this device, this device is worthless and you'd be better off paying him to adjust your cheap laptop instead to get a better sound. If he can't, then this device probably is "worth" having (depending on whether you think £150 for a slightly better DAC is actually worth anything at all).

Seriously, even the most Heath-Robinson of tests would have been SOMETHING. Get the guy sitting opposite you to string the cabling out of the room and then STAY OUT of the room and swap between devices at random (completely at random, roll a dice or something), while recording which ones he swapped in what order. Then have someone in the room with you (who CAN'T see the apparatus and DOESN'T know what order your assistant is plugging them in) to record whether it was device A, B, C or D (that's the only info the plug-swapper can give, ideally by some non-vocal communication like holding up a card or pressing a button) and what you think of it. Only at the end does ANYONE except the guy plugging them in tell you what A, B, C and D actually WERE, and you will NEVER have heard which letter was plugged in at any point.

Over and above average review time? Probably five-ten minutes of explanation and a couple of family members, friends, colleagues, etc. Amount of value added to the review: Some. (i.e. at the moment, there is no value. This would at least add some value, so infinitely times the amount of value currently there).

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Basic instinct: how we used to code

Lee Dowling
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I still have a complete set of "INPUT" magazine by Marshall Cavendish. I've even spoken to one of the authors of the programs in there (who was a teenager at the time) on Slashdot.

It's fabulous to go back and just read through them again, but I doubt I'd have the time to type anything in without being a teenager with no homework again.

BASIC started me programming. People can bash BASIC as much as they like, but I can program, and BASIC allowed me to be self-taught from ZERO experience. Not a lot of languages can do that. Hell, I took most of my own A-Level Computer Science classes on programming because the teacher knew I programmed better than him and could explain it easier and I could parse others programs and spot errors quicker than he could. Maybe I don't program at Knuth or Djikstra's level but I can get the job done every time, and if I expend extra effort, my code is maintainable and pottable, and I have done that as part of my career too. There are schools running on my code, years after I'd left.

All because of the little orange book that came with the Speccy. I intend, at some point, to teach my daughter to program. She'll have zero interest, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try anyway. I had zero interest until I'd spent a few lazy days with that orange book on my own and got results I never expected.

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Netgear scores 802.11ac basestation first

Lee Dowling
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Re: Why

Who cares what it looks like?

My last router I hung above the back of a cupboard door. Cupboard was central in house and had power, and tucking it all out of sight means I never have to see it or its wiring. It flooded the whole house with strong signal (and even pickupable in the garden as normal), and I put it with LED's facing down so I could see anything wrong by going in the cupboard and looking up.

Wiring it too meant I could admin it remotely but, to be honest, after initial setup I only ever had to reboot it once in 5 years. When I moved, I nearly forget it was still there, it was so out-of-sight and low-maintenance. It's currently in the house still, after a move, but is sitting behind a chest-of-drawers with the rest of the IT gumph because I can't drill holes in this house. Still perfect signal everywhere, still not had a configuration change, still works flawlessly.

Take a fiver off the price and gimme a square plastic box, by all means, but to be honest, I'd probably just go for whatever's cheapest and then stick it in a cupboard.

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Opera retires Unite, widgets in latest browser cut

Lee Dowling
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Re: support for color profiles?

Tell us why you need colour accuracy to that degree in a mass-market web browser, and then I'd support you.

Just how many people browse Facebook with a colour-calibrated display?

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Pull the plug

"Opera is a web browser and Internet suite developed by Opera Software with over 200 million users worldwide."

The Wii's Internet Channel, most phone's browsers, loads of kiosks and that's before you even get CLOSE to desktop use.

Just because YOU and your cynic-friends don't, doesn't mean nobody does. I actually know more people using Opera on their personal machines than using Firefox, and I work with people who are basically tech-ignorant. In corporations it hasn't really caught on, but there are lots of people using it without even realising.

It's like saying we should pull the plug on Linux because you can't see a Linux machine in Dixons or PC World. Ignorant.

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Lee Dowling
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Voice hasn't worked for about 4 major versions, unless you already managed to download the IBM voice libraries that disappeared off the net before then.

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UK2.NET smashed offline by '10-million-strong' botnet

Lee Dowling
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Re: Huge attack!

Would you please tell us exactly what makes a UDP address any easier to fake than a TCP one, where denial of service is concerned?

You don't know that it tried to legitimately form connections, just that it send enough data to tie up their lines, or hang up their servers. An identical TCP packet could have done that WITHOUT waiting for an ACK packet in return (which, yes, wouldn't necessarily be able to find its way back to origin).

However, more scary in either case would be that UK2 have links to the Internet through people who don't remove spoofed addresses. 10m bots isn't impossible, but it sounds like someone, somewhere wasn't filtering out spoofed addresses they were putting onto the Internet.

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Olympic champ ad blitz dents Virgin Media despite £1bn sales

Lee Dowling
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Re: I hope their marketing department gets fired. Out of a cannon.

That doesn't work if it's addressed "To The Occupier", or if it's delivered by anyone other than the Royal Mail (other companies aren't hard to find and door-to-door leafleters are pretty much unstoppable anyway).

In short, there's no way to stop that junk.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: arpu

That's not what the article says:

Annual revenue per user (ARPU)

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Lee Dowling
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Annual revenue per customer: £46.95

That means they take in only 47 squid each year TOTAL from the customer, before they do anything to provide that service?

That's £4 a month. What service do they provide that costs less than £4 a month and which over 50% of their customers ONLY have that service?

Or did someone misplace the decimal point? Because Sky's Q3 results show £500 ARPU.

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FIVE-day ZoneEdit outage freezes thousands of sites

Lee Dowling
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"cheap and cheerful"

There's your problem, right there.

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Theresa May: No emails sniffed in web super-snoop law

Lee Dowling
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Re: Real-time?

Technically, a few microseconds should be more than enough.

I.e. about the average time for a mail message to be generated, sent, received by a local mail server and collected (hell, at one-minute intervals if you like) so it can pop up on some computer in GCHQ saying "Mr F Bloggs just sent this email:"

The keyword she needs to remove is "realtime". Ideally, she needs to replace it with "at all".

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Floppy disk drives jam James Bond theme

Lee Dowling
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Just think - in 30 years when we all have been using USB flash disks and SSD's, the kids won't be able to do anything like this with our old junk hardware. Hell, they won't even be able to play with CRT's, or hard disk magnets, or RAM/ROM that you can bit-bang, or even mice you could steal the balls out of.

Maybe that's a GOOD thing. I'm not sure how many hours were wasted trying to do this (not that I haven't wasted a thousandfold as many hours myself on similarly worthless jaunts) but I'd have expected something better.

Strangely, if you'd managed to read some data back based on the sound of the floppy under normal access, I'd be more impressed (e.g. side-channel attacks like the smartphone "I know what button you pressed by what the acceleration sensor read" attack).

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Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Lee Dowling
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He claimed at least two joysticks and an Interface 2 (and our expansion port was never the same again).

Eventually, our dad banned us playing old Daley's Decathlon.

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Telegraph website falls over in outage riddle

Lee Dowling
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Maybe they use computers they bought from Dixons?

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PC World, Currys, Dixons websites all go titsup

Lee Dowling
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Re: Mad rush to buy Sinclair Spectrums

Probably not. But they would sell you a headphone cable for the EAR IN socket that costs more than the machine itself.

I was once given a £5 Dixons voucher as a present. After two years, I threw it away because I couldn't buy ANYTHING with it and didn't want to give them any of my own money on top. Literally. Nothing. Not a USB cable, not a battery, nothing.

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Megaupload case near collapse: report

Lee Dowling
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Re: DMCA - Bo Bo

Except in this case they did exactly that and basically took MegaUpload offline and forced their hosting firm to hold Petabytes of data on their servers (which AREN'T being paid for any more, since the case to seize them) indefinitely at their own expense.

Just because the law is there, doesn't mean it's followed to the letter. That's basically what's happened in this case. There's no way the US has any jurisdiction whatsoever but they still consumed millions in legal fees, millions in lost business, millions in evidence preservation, etc. not to mention all the other hassle.

Yeah, MegaUpload were a bit dodgy. But not one half of one percent as dodgy as trying to apply US law to foreign servers and companies by force.

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Online criminal records checks to save Surrey council £300k

Lee Dowling
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I've worked in a few places that use Atlantic Data. It's already out there and being used for the last, what, ten years or so? I'm not sure but I've certainly used it in more than one school and over the last 4-5 years.

Whether they do a good job of securing it or not, I'm not sure, but I've never heard of anything going wrong with them. Although, unless I'm being confused with another, they wanted people to move to a "pre-pay" system where you put thousands of pounds of credit on your account and then slowly eek it away over the years (which gives them a lot of free interest, I imagine) and I remember that being one reason why they were scrapped from one school. A PAYG / invoice account system they operated previously worked infinitely better, but apparently they didn't trust schools to pay up.

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Killers laugh in face of death penalty threat, say US experts

Lee Dowling
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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

@Kenno:

The US nearly profits from the prison system. Some ridiculous percentage of "US-made" products are made by in-mates in prisons. We're talking billions of dollars of products every single year. They are effectively used as slave-labour.

Never seen the Shawshank Redemption? The way the prison governor basically blackmails the local craftsmen because all his prisoners can actually steal his work from him any time they want? It's not entirely fiction, and still happens today.

Which is hilarious given that U.S. law has banned imports of goods made in foreign jails since 1890.

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Stray SMS leads to aborted landing

Lee Dowling
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Question: How come I can't even have a mobile phone on a plane that's switched on during the flight, but the pilot can leave one in his pocket and receive a message without interfering with a single cockpit instrument?

Or is, as everyone's known for years, the "no mobile phone" thing actually NOTHING to do with aircraft safety at all on any modern plane and wouldn't affect it one ounce (because otherwise, they would need you to HAND IN your phone to check it was off and not just rely on you to have turned it off and be honest about it)?

And, either way, how can a pilot break a rule that he expects passengers to enforce when his attention is actually MORE important than any of ours? Who cares about the fly-around (as the article states, it happens all the time for millions of reasons), why isn't he disciplined for NOT TURNING HIS PHONE OFF, like I would be if I was to vocally refuse to do so on an aircraft?

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Punters want BBC iPlayer in TVs, not 3D

Lee Dowling
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Content over gimmick.

So people want content over gimmick when they sit down after a hard day at work in front of the TV to "switch off". The content they want, when they want, how they want, not on some arbitrary schedule and without adverts and junk they're not interested in interrupting it. And to pause it so they can use the loo, or watch last month's episodes that have mysteriously "disappeared" from everywhere else.

Gosh. Who'd have thunk?

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BYOD is a ticking time bomb for B2B resellers

Lee Dowling
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Re: No.

Because, with any decent employer, that laptop is probably more powerful than anything they could afford.

I know I use my work laptop at home almost as much as I do in work. And when there is an emergency (about the only thing I would work from home for free for), I can just log in remotely and have ALL the tools I have in work just sitting there. Because of quite open and flexible policies, it means I can check my work email at home and my home email at work, too.

Also, it's a laptop. If you have one, it's because a desktop wouldn't be suitable (I know this isn't true for a lot of people, but it's true for myself) because you *do* need to move it around. This is why I have a laptop and not a desktop despite having an office to myself - because sometimes I need to lug it around and do things on it elsewhere (even once inside a crawl-space) and having remote-access to a desktop wouldn't be anywhere near the same in those circumstances.

I certainly don't think of my laptop as a status symbol. Hell, I spend most of the time it's off-site trying to hide the damn thing even though I never leave it unattended.

But since I've worked somewhere which has a policy of letting me buy things to my specification, I haven't bought myself a personal computer. It wasn't planned, only incidental, and I've asked that, should this laptop be replaced (we have a 2-year PC replacement policy) I be allowed to keep it rather than it filter down to our "second-hand use" pile. If I hadn't broken it's predecessor's screen-hinges through over-use, then I'd have kept that too. Both were the most powerful machines I'd ever used at the time.

And my employer benefits - I get decent tools that I'm much more familiar with, I do take care of the machine a lot more than I would a work desktop, they do get their money's worth of use out of it, they do get a remote IT manager with all his tools available at all times for emergencies (though they know that if they abuse that, it stops), they do get the occasional benefit such as me pulling in code from my personal projects into work projects and/or working on work projects when I think of something useful to add (and, yes, I have clarified the intellectual property situation - work done on my projects is mine, work done on their projects is theirs), and it doesn't cost them any more than a "not-off-site" policy (we already have accidental damage warranties that cost next-to-nothing and barely use them).

A lot of our staff take their laptops home. It can even be a bit of a pain to get them all back in for upgrades / replacements so we have to give notice when that happens en-masse. But it means that people come to rely on them, thus take more care of them, and they have no excuse for not having finished their work ("I couldn't get in" or whatever), and the extra associated cost is minimal. It also means that the workplace has much less value to a robber! (We've yet to have any thefts of staff laptops, but we have had only two breakages over three years, so it's hardly a chore). Everything is security marked, encrypted, and traced anyway, not to mention worked into the policies as the property of our employer, but we expected a lot worse when we started.

We get the odd rogue program installed (e.g. some game they've bought normally) but, to be honest, the staff don't have admin access and don't need it and they hardly even notice. About the only thing I do for them is the occasional Flash upgrade so they can watch BBC iPlayer. Everything else, they are happy to install / run as their normal user even at home.

And with TrueCrypt installation, and the fact that I'm the only one who can actually take any data off-site (and not just my own work which staff would be emailling / taking home via USB key anyway), and being the responsible IT guy (so it would be my head anyway), they know their data is pretty safe. But, yes, I take it home a lot, I've watched movies on it, I've taken it on holiday on the plane, etc. You might think I'm being showy, but it makes sense for everyone involved.

Value your staff, trust them and provide them with decent tools and they will take care of them. Treat them like children who can't be trusted to have anything and they'll act like that out of spite. And the laptops we buy for staff (mine's a bit of an exception) are pretty much the bog-standard cheap business laptops - but you don't see them complaining because it means that *they* don't have to fork out for them. A lot of staff enjoy the freedom of taking their laptop home, even when they have iPads and iPhones galore at home of their own.

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BT's 'unbeatable' Infinity broadband ads banned by ASA

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Did there need to be an investigation?

"BT" - "Unbeatable".

Surely, unless the words "in bad customer service" or similar were suffixed, there's a case for false advertising just on those two words alone.

I work in a private primary school. We run two ADSL2+ lines, that are frequently flaky enough that I had to fashion a load-balancer and remote-reboot equipment to make them work anywhere near reliably (and we have 3G backup). We enquired about BT Infinity and similar products. We were told they weren't available.

Just as a clue: We are 30m from the exchange (I could literally through an Ethernet across the road without struggling), a large business user (we easily fill 2 x 24Mb lines for the working day, and at night with backups if nothing else), in the centre of a large town inside the M25, and they can't sell us a product that they're pushing on TV nationwide.

You do have to wonder exactly what they consider their customers to be. I'm assuming the answer is "other ISP's that can't run their own lines", rather than the people who actually pay for their phone lines.

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Zuckerberg blew $1bn on Instagram 'without telling Facebook board'

Lee Dowling
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It's not.

And then they excuse it by saying it's to suck up someone who might have been a competitor. But, still, that's a stupidly hefty price even for "Facebook 2", to be honest.

But in this land, the zeroes are just a number, that's all. You don't have to prove their worth, so long as you have enough zeroes of your own. There's honestly no reason to buy them at all. You could build a competing feature for a few tens of thousands that would be available on MORE platform than Instagram exists on, and do a better job. It wouldn't even take that long (probably not as long as the buyout negotiations would take).

But all these companies are valued in the billions and have almost zero income streams. Seriously. This is "dot-com bubble" all over again. Hell, you have to pay half a million to (possibly) own a single TLD for yourself and still people are doing that for little reason compared to having a bog-standard dot-com or similar.

Even Facebook - they have no income stream to justify their valuation at all. They make money, sometimes, but they don't make enough for anyone involved in their initial investment or future buyouts to actually SEE anything near the amount of money they think.

It's an "SCO damages" style financial operation. Think of a number, make it bigger and more impressive, pretend that it's justifiable.

Seriously, if you put ANY of these companies on Dragon's Den, they would be laughed out of the place based on their valuations and actual income alone (not even *projected income*).

Now Google - Google MAKES money, purely from advertising, and has almost nothing to pay back. Hell, Google could make enough money off using their ads on Facebook *to* fund Facebook if that were to ever happen. They would actually profit. But even then, to pay off the investors or live up to their mysterious valuations would be impossible in any sensible timeframe.

But Facebook / Instagram? They don't make money. The money they do make would be insufficient to base a business on. They certainly would never pay back any investments or live up to valuations if necessary. And even projecting 50 years in the future with 10's of %'s of growth each year, they'd be hard-pushed to live up to the hype.

This valuations mean nothing. If you paid even a million for Instagram, you're an idiot. And people WILL get rich off the back of things like this (of course they will). But, inevitably, one day someone will find out that the company's not worth tuppence. That may not be the same person who bought it. And, especially in social networking, trends and fashions die fast (anyone remember Geocities, MySpace, FriendsReunited?)

Like FriendsReunited: Valued at £175m at one point, changed hands a couple of times, and today is worth about £5m, if that. They once made £22m a year in profit. That's less than 7th of the "valuation" of the company at the time in one year. But it's now not worth, in total, everything together, one quarter of that year's profit. Someone made £100's of millions out of it. That money never really existed, though, and now it's worth not very much (your average private primary school is probably worth a lot more than that).

The trick is to NOT be the person holding the hot potato when things start to turn into reality.

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Prince of Persia author releases 1980s source code

Lee Dowling
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Beyond historical interest, there's not really much point. It's in 6502 assembly for a dead platform. Even if you went to the effort of converting it to something vaguely cross-platform and useful, there's not much in the game to actually worry about. It's not like Doom or Quake code where they are miraculous code shortcuts and fabulous bits of computer science embedded and explained in the code.

The tech document tells you everything you would be able to guess for yourself. It's a tile-based game, with some thought given to make a pseudo-3D (really layered 2D) appearance so that the Prince appears behind certain objects and in front of others and you have "3D-like" appearance of vertical walls and gates. Literally, as the tech document shows, they just print the background, print the next layer, the next, the next, etc. until the whole image is full up. How they do that is pretty uninteresting - there's no fancy blending, caching, compression, etc. it looks just a plain blit.

There's really nothing I've seen there that's actually interesting. I imagine 95% of the value of that game was in the artist's tiles, sprites (which, admittedly, had some seriously smooth and detailed animation for the time) and the sound . Even the gameplay is easy to code just after a single run through - what could the character do? Run, jump, grab, take out sword, strike, defend (and if I remember the "parry" defence animation was atrocious and looked like the previous frames of the "take the sword out" animation looped). The AI wasn't interesting in any way - if they saw you, they chased you and tried to stab you (pretty much at random).

Sure, at the time, the graphics and gameplay sold the game but now? I can't see what use the code would be. If I'm honest, those technical documents look like hasty sketches that could have been written in the first day of coding and never referred to again. And the code seems seriously undocumented.

It's nice to have for historical reference but there's no practical use in that code any more. Anyone wanting to write a remake would probably just start from scratch - it'd be easier. And without the same kind of high-quality animations, anything you built with it would be quite dull.

I'm not sure that any "big" project had any interesting notes preserved, probably because most of the time they didn't exist or would never be released. I mean, this is Prince of Persia, a big-name game that sold well and spawned several sequels (2 was better in my opinion). And there's a scrappy tech doc that basically describes tile order and sizes and some other details and NOTHING in the code at all.

When the Doom/Quake code was released, it was interesting to read through and well-commented and professional. It even went on to spawn no end of remakes and sequels on the basis of its code quality alone. Hell, I remember parts of the original Syndicate code being published in one of the computer magazines at the time as a "simple C programming" tutorial. Again, the value was in the assets and the testing and the gameplay, not in how to blit a sprite to the screen in an isometric game.

Personally, I'd much rather see some decent commented disassemblies of old Spectrum games (48K for an entire game and all working RAM?!) or something that pushed boundaries. This seems just-another 2D scroller to me, without any interesting code.

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Google G-drive app leak sparks 5GB file vault riddle

Lee Dowling
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So we're reporting rumours that may have absolutely zero basis in fact, now, are we?

Well done, Reg.

Did you even ask Google for their input?

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Laptop computers are crap

Lee Dowling
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Re: Well if its a Novatech...

Novatech sell things other than their own laptops.

It's actually an MSI "gaming" laptop that was cheaper than most of their business laptops at the time.

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Lee Dowling
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My laptop has a 17" widescreen display, stupidly-high resolution (I'd get 60 rows of a spreadsheet on a screen no problems at all, and that's in LibreOffice with what looks like huge 20-point rows), a built-in numpad, no crammed ports, whatever storage space I want for it (originally 500Gb but that was a while ago), wonderful display angles (hell, I've had four people sitting on a sofa watching it), stupidly loud (and clear) sound for a laptop, a decent trackpad (about the only thing I've had paid extra for would have been a trackpoint, but to be honest - the wrist-area is so damn huge I can use a mouse on it! Touchscreens are a gimmick that I wouldn't pay a lot for but would only use occasionally even if they were free), and decent battery life. Not only that, it plays every game I've thrown at it (admittedly I haven't tried the very-latest titles, but it laughs at anything you tend to buy on Steam), has a really solid build (aluminium casing), and all the ports I could ever want.

Just because you buy cheap laptops that don't fulfill your need, doesn't mean they don't exist in perfectly ordinary retail channels (I actually have two of this laptop - one bought via Novatech, one from Amazon). All the things you mention cost extra to have, so you have to pay extra and not expect some cheapy £300 thing from Currys to have them all.

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New fake anti-virus shakes down frightened file-sharers

Lee Dowling
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I added that disclaimer because UK courts HAVE served notice via Facebook and Twitter when there has been no other possible way to contact the people involved.

And I knew some smartarse would point it out if I didn't. But, basically, those people were *TRYING* to hide from the courts so they were almost uncontactable by normal means.

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'Real time' PAYE pilot goes live at HMRC

Lee Dowling
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Re: I Hate PAYE

I'm a mathematician - I have a degree in it. I was self-employed for many years. Not once was I 100% sure that I'd filled in the tax return properly, when it was still using the paper returns.

Did I have masses of complicated tax law to contend with? No. I was paid X amount of money by clients and had ZERO expenses. I kept records and receipts for everything I was paid. I had no pensions, capital gains, bank interest on savings or anything else to worry about - just income. I could have claimed the occasional £2 on a bus fare or something ludicrous but the effort was just not worth it at all, so 99% of my tax return was little boxes marked "0".

The online system actually worked better, but still I couldn't say for sure that I was actually 100% confident that I'd typed in everything correctly and in the right boxes. I was confident I'd pass audit, should it ever happen, because my records were SO simple I could keep years-worth of them in one folder and not claiming any expenses meant that, actually, if anything, I forfeit some rebate for the sake of simplicity - erring on the side of caution. And all of my bank statements and the records of my client would tally perfectly.

When I did check with people who do tax all day, every day, they wanted me to make things ten times more complicated so that I could earn a pittance back in rebates. But they said that, if I didn't want that, then my returns were exactly what they'd have filed. So I didn't do anything "incorrectly", but it *NEVER* was clear that it was correct, at any stage, to a mathematician who could spend DAYS filing the simplest of returns with the simplest of incomes and records.

And one year, they made me pay several thousand pounds (that I didn't have) in tax in advance because "our projections show you'll earn that much next year". They'd refund it later, of course, because their projections were wrong and mine were right, but even so, I had to find several thousand pounds out of thin air, hand it to them for a year - interest-free - under threat of imprisonment, and then only get it back when they were proved wrong and they felt like filling out the paperwork. Their projections were out because the bottom fell out of the market, and I knew that, and had planned for that - so at the worst possible time they demanded lots of money that I didn't have. I had to take out a loan to cover it (and not go to prison), and then pay back MORE every month until my rebate came a year later.

The hassle of a tax return just isn't worth it. Even under an umbrella company, it's worth the commission just to have them sort out that junk for you.

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MPs: Border Agency's own staff don't trust airport-scanner tech

Lee Dowling
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Just came through Stansted. The "electronic passports" channel is closed to under-18's (so no travelling parent or child can use it). When I fly with just my partner, she's Italian and doesn't have an electronic passport, so we go through the same security in case there's a problem (otherwise we'd just lose each other in the crowds, especially if she's carrying some document of mine or vice versa).

Then, they are hardly ever open. When they are, and people are actively encouraged to use them, most of them don't have the right passport, aren't the right age, are travelling together, etc. Those who bypass those HUMAN checks to let them through the channel end up with "BOOP BOOP" and constantly calling for assistance and problems.

I've never used one in my life, and had no idea we even had iris recognition operational, if I'm honest. I knew there were biometrics on my (and my daughter's) passport but all I did was send off a photo that was nowhere near useful for anything past bone structure or whatever.

It just seems to me that it's a whole lot more trouble than it's worth. And you still have to employ people to push them through the correct channel and check for people evading the system and do other "normal" customs checks anyway, so what's the point? It's like the in-bank machines nowadays. You're paying someone to go down the queue and find people who can use them and then paying more people to help them use them, and then paying for the machines themselves, etc. You could have just stuck another person on the counter like you used to have, and be considered a more "friendly" bank than a bunch of robotic automatons.

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'As seen on TV' claims can't be made about unbranded props

Lee Dowling
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Re: I can beat that

Fabulous. "This product vaguely resembles something that once had an advert!"

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Lee Dowling
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I think the last (and only) thing I ever owned that even BOTHERED to put "As Seen On TV" on it was a small children's toy that I won when I was young. It was basically two handheld nets and a ball that you bounced between them, like a reverse tennis. God knows WHERE it was seen on TV, but that was the 80's in Wales, so it could have been anything from Fun House to some obscure advert that only played on Welsh TV.

Do people actually CARE about something being on TV any more? Maybe in the 50's that was some claim but today? Really? Hell, getting on QVC would probably still qualify you but even then - that's hardly a sign of a quality product that I'd feel the need to shout about on the packaging or would influence my decision as a buyer.

iPad - as seen on TV! Yeah, that'll make a big upward spike in their sales, that will.

It's almost as ridiculous as a product having on its packaging "As seen on the Internet!".

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Windows XP support ends two years from now

Lee Dowling
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Re: No Problem

Yeah, a whole YEAR before I have to start thinking about an alternative and another one after that to buy one, assuming, of course, that XP updates actually matter to me at all (a closed, firewalled system with good apps is a closed, firewalled system with good apps!). Though I suspect, work-wise, we'll move before the last moment. They held out marvellously through Vista and now 7 but it looks like 7 is at least good enough for business use if you're going to lay down money on it (and we have a lot of money saved from NOT laying it down in previous years).

Still have a Vista Business and a 7 license for my main machine just sitting in front of me, waiting for a reason to use them. Ironically, that will probably be silly things like games, Steam, etc. rather than anything vital to my IT. And, to be honest, if Wine gets caught up a little more by then, a re-run of my Linux desktop trial would be in order, I think. The last time I did that (8 years ago? Maybe 7?), it ran so well that I never threw the machine away and it's still chugging along to this day. About the only thing it couldn't really do was games but that meant that 99% of the things I actually do on a computer were fine. Since then, we have a much-improved LibreOffice, much improved Wine, a lot more indie-games supporting Linux, Android devices everywhere, and a lot more CPU oomph and VM software integrated into the platform.

The only reason I use Windows is because work uses it, and I have a work laptop that's more powerful than any computer I own personally. I honestly think my next big personal IT purchase will be a powerful laptop, and an Ubuntu install with XP / 7 virtualised on it, mostly for gaming if Wine hasn't made it extremely viable since then (previous Wine / Crossover Office experiences were good enough but not perfect).

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Aliens Blu-ray disc set

Lee Dowling
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Re: Remastering

If you have the special edition, the base commander on LV-426 was "bought" by the BBC too to be the ship's captain on Red Dwarf.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Well, I'm happy to disappint you.

Game over, man! Game over!

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Email cock-up blamed in Check Point domain expiry snafu

Lee Dowling
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Amateur hour. Use all the excuses you want:

- The domain was due to expire and you didn't notice.

- Nobody checked to see if it had been renewed.

- You relied on your host to email you BEFORE the domain expired, and didn't notice when they didn't.

- You had incorrect contact information on your main business domain, or an incompetent DNS host.

- The email obviously went to SOMEONE, but you didn't bother to check who that would be on your domains, or have a catch-all.

Now think that I'm supposed to trust vital company infrastructure components to you, and you can't even manage a simple domain renewal without messing up.

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Groupon bungles figures, slides $65m into the red

Lee Dowling
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Re: Massively dodgy.

Yep. If you're giving a 50% discount voucher yourself, that's one thing. If you're giving it to someone who intends to profit from it's "sale" to their users, that's another entirely.

They may have larger marketing to attract customers but to do so at a loss seems ridiculous. The coupon *itself* is the marketing and if you wanted exposure, you could have paid for a full-page ad in a paper to distribute it. I'm sure that would be a lot cheaper than, say, giving a 60% discount voucher (in effect) to Groupon and it's "millions" of customers.

I've mentally blacklisted any company that does business with GroupOn without thinking first - it's just a stupid way to run a business. From cupcake shops that get flooded with thousands of orders that they could never fulfill, to hairdressers who are "forced" to give thousands of haircuts at a loss, I've yet to see a good success story for anyone other than the customer - or a company that's got a head on it's shoulders touching the site with a bargepole.

But, to be honest, I don't get why companies contract out positions to other companies that then do *EXACTLY* what the original company would have had to do AND make a profit on it, and that's quite a burgeoning business area too. Maybe I'm just thick.

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UK.gov to unveil reborn, renamed net-snoop plans in Queen's Speech

Lee Dowling
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I give it only a generation or so before EVERYTHING on the Internet is encrypted and untraceable - BECAUSE of actions like this.

You get a court order, you can record what you like of my private life, for events linked to possible crimes. What more than that could you possibly want or need?

Just seems that the burden of proof (i.e. he IS doing something dodgy, at least we think so) is too high for the government to bear. If it is, and you can't even convince a judge that a court order might be a reasonable and fair response, then you have to think about exactly what you're trying to do and why.

Basically, the answer is "bypass our own law system", which is the scary part. Why would you *want* to do that when you can change all the laws and get feedback from judges?

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Freeview TV shoved aside for iPad-compatible 4G

Lee Dowling
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Re: Power

If you want some figures too:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Palace_Transmitter

Look in the "KW" columns. Add them all up. All for one tower (admittedly in a populated area, but still). Then multiply by all the transmitters. We're talking hundreds of GW of power to deliver some TV signals. That could easily be absorbed into the telecoms network and not take anywhere near as much power.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Power

For broadcast, you are literally blanketing the country in a signal strong enough to wipe out anything else in that band (maybe not locally, but generally). You're doing that 24/7 to every area of the country, no matter who uses it.

For "single-cast", you use the power necessary to cover the change in already-present Internet/mobile traffic to cover that single instance of a single show for AS LONG AS THE USER WATCHES IT and not a second longer. You can also do fabulous compression, power-saving, etc. that you can't really do on broadcast (this is where digital TV wins - the MPEG compression).

Broadcast is an inherently "leaky" technology. Broadcast stations are pumping out kilowatts of power all the time, and are dotted all over the country. And then we're pumping out kilowatts more for network infrastructure (which, per user, comes to something just-as-negligible as broadcast). When we could just be using that network infrastructure PLUS A TINY BIT MORE to cope with the single-streaming of whatever we want, whenever we need (and worst case is we have someone who watches 24/7 and doesn't take up less than a leaky broadcast to their house would).

The inverse square law. You're pumping out MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more power than you ever need to (literally, firing it out into space, into mountains, into the sea, into the floor underneath you, etc. all the time). But a little flickering optical light running down a fibre to as many people? Not quite so much and already (mostly) in place and likely to expand quicker than TV broadcasting ever has.

Plus, there are a billion-and-one extra advantages to having everyone wired for common household utilities (including "you can't turn people's Internet off" as one!), knowing EXACTLY what they watch rather than relying on polls, etc.

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Euro data roaming price cut too shallow

Lee Dowling
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Sorry, you're still accounting in Megabytes, a unit that we stopped using for storage and data transmission back in the 90's at least.

I lost interest the second I read that they were still using that unit. When you're ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE out of sync with the real world, it's time to rethink how you do things.

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Quitting your job? Here's how not to do it

Lee Dowling
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Bridge-burning is silly. You don't need to do it. Sometimes it happens and it's not your fault. And though swearing at your boss and telling them what you think feels good, it's very rarely productive. If they cared what you thought, you wouldn't be leaving. I'm by no means a suck-up (really, about as far from it as you can get) but I can bite my lip and say "No, sorry, I'm really leaving. Bye!" without having to personalise the attack or vent my feelings. That's what your partner is for when you get home!

"Comeback consultancy" isn't a bad idea, though. The best bit being: The ball is in YOUR court and they need to be nice to you to get you to come back in for that day/week/month when you'll tell them what your replacements couldn't figure out with their extensive skills/experience. And I've been on all sides for that - telling them "no way, sorry", coming back to help for free, and coming back to help for money. It all depends on how nicely you treated me and whether I left because of something beyond their control or not.

Your new employers, if they are that great, will quite understand this and allow it quite happily. I spent one day a week at my old employers for the first two months of employment, in order to make sure the rest of the handoff went well. It worked really well.

I've also refused to go back to help after completing one of the most thorough hand-offs I've ever done and then getting calls about "I just need the administrator password to install this totally-incompatible MP3 player that you wouldn't install" (yes, literally!). When I pointed them in the direction of the hand-off pack I'd made and with which I'd furnished both their boss (a headteacher) and a school governor who worked in IT with (and who both signed off on it), they didn't know anything about it but still demanded I come back and "fix" things. I didn't, and I told them exactly why - if they were SUPPOSED to be able to do that, they'd have been GIVEN the information necessary by the people I handed off to.

In one case, I even left a job, to work at another, negotiated a "one-day-per-week at my old place" policy with them for a short period and found that, when the time came that my new employer lost their sheen and backtracked on their promises, I went back to work for the old place on better money and higher responsibility. Not losing contact with them, and keeping GENUINELY friendly and helpful with them paid off with the result of an immediate, guaranteed job, from a person I trusted, at a place I loved, with better pay, in the middle of the recession when everyone else was struggling.

References - I find it odd that people think references are really that terse. I've never seen one like that. They are either glowing, or basic, and you read-between-the-lines quite well on the basic ones because they are *crafted* so that you can. Maybe it's just my industry but I'd be very suspicious of a terse one-line reference. And I've worked mostly on the basis of my references for my whole working career.

And, yes, if you stomp on me when things are going down the pan in order to hasten your exit, don't expect me to leap to your aid when times are tough. In a previous job at a large secondary school and sixth-form college, I witnessed an IT department of precisely one left with the whole summer work to do by themselves for 400+ machines. So much so that I delayed my own exit by several months in order to help them out. I consider it a HUGE favour because my one rule is "I do not work somewhere I don't enjoy working, and do not work for people I do not like working for", but there are times when sticking your finger up feels good only for a second. I'd have been awake at nights worrying about that poor left-behind. And if myself and the others were to go back there, or find ourselves potentially working alongside or even UNDER that person again, just who do you think they'd let work with them? At that point, it has nothing to do with employment and everything to do with common human decency.

I wouldn't hire someone I couldn't get on with. And people chop and change jobs all the time. Eventually, that burned bridge will catch up with you and you'll find yourself in the interview of your life, when "that" person walks in that you stung, or dumped on, or left in the lurch, or shouted at even when it was the company you were mad with.

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UK government says no to turbo e-bike

Lee Dowling
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I could buy ten cars for that.

Seriously.

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