1611 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 14:47 GMT
A new paper size standard
> using social networks could help to cut down on the amount of paperwork
So rather than wasting a huge amount of space on an A4 sheet, how about we all adopt A10 sized sheets as the standard for twitter messages. These 37x26mm (1 by 1 and a half inches, for those living in Liberia, Myanmar and other non-metric countries) postage-stamp sized sheets are ideal for jotting down a 140 character message. Not only will they save a great deal of paper, but if a council official feels like losing a year's worth of confidential (tweets? confidential?) information, they can always be used as confetti.
Re: Flawed study?
> My mobile phone number is a different matter
But aren't these marketers just looking for *a* mobile number - one that fits the expected format: i.e. starts "07" (in the UK) and with the requisite number of digits?
Extra points if you can ascertain the marketing firm MD's mobile number and plug that in.
Yes, I know about the "funny money" accounting principles used to justify projects. God knows I've written enough cost cases myself. Some - maybe 1 in 10 do turn a profit and are extremely successful. However most IT-ers can draw no link between what they have achieved / produced in any given day, month or year and any measurable income, let alone profit.
To take someone else's example: what is the "profit" from last night's backup?
I've been quite lucky in that I've spent a lot of time automating a lot of IT processes. In that respect I can make reliable statements that a given piece of AutoIT3 code saves a specific number of person*hours per year. Or that a named shell script saves so-many IT administrator-hours per week. That shows a direct relationship with money going out the door. However I can't do the same for the time spent in a weekly team meeting or project review.
As it is, companies don't run on money; they run on budgets. So, as long as you have some (imaginary) money left in your budget at the end of the project/period, nobody seems to care how you got there - or if it could be done better, faster or cheaper. The successful teams aren't the ones that achieve their goals, they're the ones who manage to wrangle a larger budget than their needs require (and therefore gain a reputation for coming in "under budget"). Those are the ones who get the rewards and recognition, not the guy who's 100 lines of optimised code invisibly saves a £million a year.
The problem _is_ management
The fundamental issue is that no matter how brilliant an IT-er we (all) are. No matter how many problems we fix / avoid / shift the blame for, the amount we can earn is limited by how well the employer does as a whole. No matter how many hours we work, what new applications (bug-free: of course) we implement or business processes we improve if someone above our pay grade makes a monumentally stupid decision, we're still in a sinking ship.
Sure, you can leave and explain to the next manager how all the people at his/her level in your last job were all idiots. But that won't win much in the way of sympathy - and if you make a habit of it ... well, nobody want to employ a job-hopper.
Probably the best that you, as an IT person, can do is to plant some pr0n on the relevant manager's PC and get them kicked out (the good of the many outweighs the good of the one) before they do irreparable damage to your pay prospects. However, there's only a limited amount of smut available and a seemingly endless supply of duff managers.
Productivity != Profitability
IT staff don't get paid what they're worth to the company - that's almost certainly true. The sad fact is that most of us get PAID FAR MORE than the profit they bring in would support. Sure, there are other requirements: such as meeting legal/financial obligations, but for most people in IT - whether programmers, testers, designers, support people, project manglers, QA-ers, planners, or trainees there is no direct connection between what they do and their employers' income. You cannot point to a line of code and say "I wrote that, and it earns us £1,000 a year."
At best, IT people can say "without us, the business would be much less efficient and have to employ many more staff, to do things manually." However that's full of intangibles, suppositories, and guesswork. Luckily no CEO has ever challenged that theory (like no CEO ever has the cojones to go into the datacentre and press the BIG RED BUTTON to see of the D.R. plan actually works).
On the flipside, this does mean that an IT-er should be able to write a reasonably credible account of themselves. Since nothing is tangible, accountable or verifiable you can easily say "I earned the company £X,000 last year (where "X" should be greater than your salary and expenses, employers NICs and office rental). and no-one will be able to challenge it. It could fall apart if some sharp-eyed HR person spotted that the entire justifications of the IT team came to more than the company earned - but that'll never happen: they're all too busy trying to justify their own, even more tenous raison d'etre.
A lucky escape
" child comes home from school with homework to make a presentation ... logs onto the BBC library. They search for real moving pictures ... They download them and, hey presto, they are able to use the BBC material in their presentation for free."
And hey presto the child gets a FAIL for plagiarism - though I suppose that in 2003 nobody was too concerned with that.
A new start
The BBC is not exactly known for it's efficiency: cost or otherwise. It also has very little incentive to be fiscally responsible, since it effectively gets it's annual billions without having to lift a finger. Consequently, they are probably not the best choice for providing a cost-effective service to restore, convert, catalog and host what must be petabytes of "stuff" that people may wish to download.
Maybe what needs to happen is that all the BBC archives are wrested from their control, they concentrate on broadcasting programmes and let a separate body - built with a sound commercial basis (i.e. not a quasi-governmental body) deal with the online stuff. Considering the BBCs history, and charter, it's questionable whether they could justify their existing online presence - let alone serving gigabytes to millions of households on a daily basis. If there was to be a different organisation created, they could be given a more contemporary remit - and without the baggage that the BBC currently has. You never know, if the new guys started to make a profit, they could even start commissioning programmes of their own.
Death from the skies
> Well, the balsa wood truss weighed a hefty 173g,
That's fair enough, but a titanium rod could easily skewer an unwitting land-dweller (comments about "especially if you sharpened the end" will be omitted for reasons of taste, ooops!)
Icing on the cake
> Air France 447
Now that brings up the very real question of how to deal with ice forming on the launch rod, to the extent where it blocks the free running of V2. (Or weighs-down the whole kaboodle and makes it un-aerodynamic)
I guess the pragmatic answer is to launch on a clear day, so the ascent is not through cloud: no matter how high/thin it may seem to be
> The Vulture 2 will simply slide off the rod, its weight breaking the rocket ignitor wires (not shown in pic), and it can then fly back to base.
Presumably if the igniter wires are broken in the situation described, that would boot up the electronics in Vulture 2, to that it's glide could be documented and its radio beacon used to find where it ends up.
Lower disposable income - simples!
The average US disposable income (as PPP) is about $23k per person, in the UK it's about $17k [ source: wiki ]
Why would anyone expect british online spend to be as much as other, richer, peoples? Or even that "more is better" or that "lagging" is necessarily a bad thing (maybe profligacy is worse) ? Given the relative amounts of spendable dosh per head, it's amazing that brits spend as much as they do.
HAVE, not "do"
> 39 per cent of us watched TV on a handset during 2011
What the report actually said was "39% of households have watched TV on a smartphone" (and 14% _have_ watched TV on a tablet). Though the report's analysis is on very shaky ground: claiming that the first "smartphone" came out in 1993.
That does not give me the impression that over 1/3rd of househoulds have members sitting around watching all their TV on a tiny little screen - while the honkin' great flat-panel sits, ignored, in the corner. It sounds to me that people do, sometimes, squint their way through a programme when there isn't any better way of viewing it.
Putting out the best china
It's amusing to watch all the London authorities trying to lay on a "do" for the olympics, only to pull all the special features as soon just as the (para)olympic flame gets extinguished. As if, somehow, it's all good enough for the visitors they hope to attract, but too good to "waste" on the people who have to live there all the time - the ones who's taxes are actually paying for the events.
And they wonder why kids make illegal copies
The underlying story is that the people who so willingly give up their own property rights do so because they don't recognise the worth, or value, of IP. Not just of their own work, but of other peoples'.
Since they attach no value - monetary or otherwise to "stuff", can it come as any surprise that they therefore don't feel there's anything wrong with "stealing" copyrighted material?
As an exercise: did anyone ever actually _read_ the Ts & Cs for El Reg before they signed up? Are there any - I don't know, I never read any conditions, I just click "I agree" - just like everybody else.
Money and mouth: same place or not?
So Google, a company that would have nothing without the internet, wants other people to make it go faster? Amazing! You can see how this guy got to be a veep.
Since Brittin made the observation that the UK was a “world leader” in e-commerce because it spends more per-head online than any other country, maybe "Dave" should return the compliment by saying "Google is a world leader in internet searching because it gets more search queries than other websites". Then they can all stop statin' the bleedin' obvious and get back to doing some useful work.
However, if Brittin was prepared to put up some cash to help get improved fixed and mobile 'net access - rather than merely suggesting that somebody else should do it, that would be an altogether different matter.
> just look at it as hiring a DVD
And that just about sets the price level. Looking at the through-the-mail DVD rental offers, it seesm that 6 quid will get you 3 DVDs a month. Each DVD of a TV series contains 3 or 4 episodes of 1 hour each.
So, totalling it all up, it seems that of those who are willing to pay, the going rate is 3 DVDs * 3 episodes for £6, or about 70p per ep.
Obviously that includes postage both ways, handling and the other overheads - and I'm sure a VoD alternative has its overheads, too. However if that's the commercial rate that people pay, then any more is either out of touch or taking the mick.
Choice is the only option
Right now paying for the Beeb is forced on us - whether a household contains just one person who never watches any BBC content, or if the place houses half a dozen wage-earners who are glued to BBC1, in every room, all the time.
Isn't it about time there was an "opt out" or PPV - given there is so much more choice of content from so many different providers? Gone are the days when TV listings contained 2 columns: Channel 1 and Channel 9 (at least in the S.E it was Channel 9). Gone too, should be the equally archaic way of financing the state-owned channels.
It wouldn't be that easy to implement: given that we've on the verge of finishing a generational change in most people's TV technology from analog to digital and the costs would be high. But given the time the beeb and the government takes to decide anything; if they all started right away, they might be ready in 20 years when the public is willing to accept another upheaval in it's sitting-room services. Of course, if the independent channels can't survive the challenge of competing against a service that can broadcast its content for free (i.e. don't have to charge at the point of use, either monetarily a la Sky, or through inconveniencing its audience with advertisement breaks) then the whole question becomes moot,.
If you have something you don't want people to see the traditional approach has been to try and hide it. Conceal it behind a sign that says "Nothing to see here", or disguise it as something else.
Alternatively, you can conceal something by making it invisible. When something's invisible you can't see it - you see right through it. It's TRANSPARENT.
So it's not a huge jump to go from using a disguise or concealment to prevent people from seeing what you're up to, to stopping them from seeing it by making it transparent and therefore invisible to view - or scrutiny. Should we therefore be worried that the real motivation behind a government "transparency" initiative is not to reveal to the general public how government works - but to stop us from seeing those workings by making them invisible, yet still present?
Beats having to talk to your date
Now, instead of spending a romantic evening (though in an M&B theme-pub? maybe not) each party will be able to prepare themselves for their future lives together by ignoring each other and spending the evening SMS-ing their friends, surfing the dating sites for better prospects or just watching the TV that they'd have otherwise missed by dint of being in the pub.
Many couples attribute the success of their relationships to the simple technique of never talking to each other. It sounds like adding another opportunity for mutual avoidance could even help them stay together.
Re: Makes a nice change
> Let's see if our ever more conservative leaders have the gonads to regulate this then!
Regulate? Hell, Boris Johnson's even appeared on Eastenders. They're more likely to queue up for bit-parts than try to regulate it.
It's on TV - it must be true
We see this stuff on major channels. That makes it OK. After all, to get there it's been approved by the programme makers, tacitly blessed by the "powers that be (be cee)", got through the political tests for fairness, sensitivity, balance and blandness and ultimately doesn't get complained about by the viewing audience. That means that whatever is shown in a soap, cop-show, talk show, reality programme or any other "pulp" TV must be socially acceptable ... and if it's acceptable, well then, shouldn't we all be doing it?
We know that TV has a huge influence - if it didn't nobody would advertise on it. What would be the point of telling people to buy "wonder-goop: (it'll make you look younger, thinner and more attractive to all of those weirdo's whom you don't want to attract)" if none of them ever did? So it's not exactly an intuitive leap to recognise that people will also ape the behaviours they see, as well.
The worst part though, is when audiences fail to distinguish between a character they see on telly and the real-life person who plays that role. Not only can their love/hate of the character leak out of the TV, but they start to believe that (somehow, god knows why) that actors they "know" from TV somehow have valid views on things outside the narrow characters they play on the idiot box. Hence we see celebrities getting involved in causes or politics and gathering a herd of followers simply on the basis of "ooooh, we _like_ her".
Maybe it's time TVs came with a health warning printed large, across the screen,
.horse the before cart the Putting
Before Ofcom can decide whether a given individual is "fit and proper" to own and control a large chunk of british television, don't we need to have had some sort of public debate about what sort of television we want in this country?
(Preferably NOT a debate that is instigated, lead, defined and controlled by the same guy's newspaper empire)
Modern day psychometric testing
I suppose this is the equivalent of filling in "personality tests" at interviews. You know: the ones where you quickly work out what sort of person they want for the job and fill in the little boxes according to the required traits.
As it is, a lot of people (who have active FB accounts) adopt the persona of the person they'd LIKE to be - that outgoing, lively, vivacious, GSOH type that they'd describe themselves as in the lonely hearts ad - instead of the dull and uninteresting saddo who spends all his/her time glued to a screen (TV or computer) as they have no proper friends.
What an FB account, and any/all photos posted, can tell you about a person - to some extent anyway, is whether a potential interviewee harbours any of the attributes that you are not allowed to enquire about during a job interview for equality reasons. So while employers are prevented from selecting for reasons of age, gender, ethnicity it's easy for an immoral boss - or recruitment agent to preselect for interview candidates who volunteer this information in a social forum.
Re: It's not like mass producing electronics is incredibly difficult
> You can easily set up a state of the art production line
I'm guessing, but here "easily" means: 2 years to secure finance, find the right location, agree the zoning, order the equipment and outfit the building. After that, recruit and train the personnel - then wait for orders to start being diverted to this "local" line.
The problem is not so much setting up an electronics production company. The problem is maintaining it in profit, so when the occasional British manufacturer does come along, there is spare manufacturing capacity that they can just slot in to. GB is such an expensive place to make stuff that all the plants have to run at as close to 100% as possible. That means there is no spare capacity for "walk-in" customers.
Fortunately, China has so many manu's with such high capacities that they can fit a bitsy-little run of 10,000 units in between the cracks in their bread-and-butter orders.
Re: Can I please buy one made in the UK
> I'd happily pay an extra £10 for one made in the UK
You can easily achieve the same result. Buy a Pi, then walk into your nearest highstreet technology shop. Deposit £10 on the counter and walk out.
Modern vs. Traditional crime
Given the choice between having a baddie persuade a bank to give them several hundred pounds, using _my_ credentials and getting whacked over the head in a mugging - I think I'd prefer the bank to write off a small amount of its profits than for me to end up with a concussion, or worse.
It's Linux, all over again
In the red corner we have a product that is tightly controlled, restricted and expensive.
In the blue corner we have a multiplicity of suppliers, apps available from everywhere and an emphasis on "it's not from 'The Man'"
While there won't be a knockout blow, and the first round or two went to the freetreads (after they turned up, late) the fight seems to be going in favour of the packaged/glossy/easy-to-use product. That people are willing, or maybe even desperate, to choose ease of use over getting their hands dirty - and to pay for the privilege - should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen the previous O/S wars.
Those who don't learn from the mistakes of history ....
Prof. Skinner was a behavioural scientist who showed how pigeons (and rats, but let's not call advertising targets "rats": "bonkers" is probably derogatory enough) can be conditioned into performing actions for rewards. In his experiments, the pigeons would peck at a disc and be rewarded with a small amount of food. They quickly cottoned on to the action/reward idea and the Prof astounded the world with his discovery.
It now seems that advertisers have caught up with the research and are now attempting to train people to do similar things for even less tangible rewards. Who says the human race isn't progressing? Maybe we're evolving into well-trained pigeons.
Old problem - old solution
ISTR there's (at least one) a small road leading from Cheddar Gorge with a small, old sign warning potential drivers: Not Suitable for Charabancs. It's been nigh-on 30 years since I frequented the area but the problem does seem to pre-date the Satnav era and the solution seems to be simple to implement.
Why not just put up a few more signs?
A more accurate SF prediction
Sadly, the future will probably turn out more like Incompetnece [sic] by Rob Grant.
Paying off your student loan is the worst idea possible
New loan-takers get an extremely generous deal on their student loans. The interest rate is guaranteed *never* to be above the rate of inflation and currently stands at base-rate + 1%. if you have savings you can beat that easily with an ordinary savings account.
So if these guys are making money from daubs on their faces (do students still never wash?) then they should be putting the cash into a savings account - not paying off their incredibly cheap debts.
Presumably they're not economics students.
Buying beer from a disgruntled workforce
... sounds risky.
Too many opportunities for new "additives" to find their way into the mix.
"All the beer from this brewery has been passed by the workers"
Tons, metric tons and tonnes
To all intents and purposes they're all the same. Let's forgive the odd 35-and a-bit lbs (in obsolete units) and just call a ton a ton
Damned if they do ...
Councils get a kicking for not having easy to use websites. I'm sure they can live with the pain, when it would be compared with the fulminating tabloid headlines if they went out and engaged a "high priced external consultant". You know; one of those people who actually KNOWS how to design websites.
"Enough with the firmware updates, while you're at it."
Actually, some firmware updates would be lovely.
Since we got our "smart" Toshiba a year ago (simply plug in TV, HDMI and network, switch on, scan DTV, assign names to inputs, enable wired IP - and done in < 5 minutes, easily) there have been no updates, ever. Not OTA updates, not IP updates, nada.
What would be better is if the TV manufacturers opened up their specs. I can see the TV runs Linux and I doubt it's harder to hack than a Dreambox, so why not let the users create their own apps - maybe even have a TV "app store" if the control freaks insist on micromanaging things.
A watchdog with no teeth ...
... nothing sucks more
From their own website:
"The ASA is a non-statutory body so we do not have the power to fine or take advertisers to court."
You've got to wonder, just what is the point of them.
Re: @Pete 2
> you obviously have no idea
I have a very clear idea (though I don't own a RPi). While it can run Linux, that doesn't make a device a computer. My TV runs linux, but it's still only a TV. I have mini-ITX boards that sit on a bench and host Linux/Windows off a n/v RAM module - but they're not "computers" either - even though they run "just like my desktop Linux box".
The RPi is simply a component, in that it's uncased, cannot work without additional, non-bundled, hardware and is being sold to developers rather than to domestic users as an appliance in its own right.
> This is a fully functional Linux machine, not an Arduino knock off
Take a deeeeeep breath and check out the spec. of this CIRCUIT BOARD.
Essentially you're getting a 700MHz ARM processor, 256MB memory, ethernet, SD card, Wifi, HDMI and sound. This isn't a "fully functional Linux machine" it's the computing core of a cheap tablet. (Though I doubt there are many tablets with sub 1GHz CPUs being designed these days).
In fact, the product up for grabs isn't even an embedded component. It's the development hardware for a company to embed RPi developed (open source) hardware into it's own designs. Expect companies like TV makers to take a look at this and then decide that there may be a few usable ideas - or that it would have been cutting-edge 2 years ago, but their own internal developments are already way ahead of this hardware.
Never trust a publicity junkie
So what todays events boil down to? The announcement we were advised to "buy an alarm clock" for is simply to tell us that there will be 2 companies selling the "B" model, at some point in the future. And if we wish, and if we can get onto the thoroughly slashdotted websites, we can put our names on a waiting list.
The Raspberry Pi people have certainly achieved their goal of creating the maximum amount of media buzz about their (still unavailable) product, I can't help wondering if that media frenzy is all it will be remembered for.
Although the technically minded are in no doubt that this is merely an embedded component that, with a lot of work *could* be integrated into some future products, the lay press is pushing it as a "$35 computer" [ ref: cbc.ca ] and this seems to be with the consent and tacit approval of the designers / pushers, themselves. Given that the first run is a trifling 10,000 units and the amount of (misdirected) interest is sufficient to kill 2 commercial websites for some hours I can't help wondering if the sheer volume of publicity has been somewhat over the top.
In 6 months, when the hype has died down and several thousand tinkerers have bought one of these - only to wonder, when a circuit board drops through their letter boxes what the hell they're supposed to do now - what will be the end result? A few will have turned into the sort of apostles that Sinclair's early computers produced, but most will realise they have neither the time or skills to use it, nor the need for one . Then, and only then will some actual worthwhile products start appearing that are based on RPi circuitry. But they'll be deeply embedded in a domestic appliance and nobody will even be aware of it's origins.
That's the true destiny of embedded electronics. To be so good that it becomes invisible. if it does succeed, few will (therefore) know and most will simply not care - just so long as it works.
What's sauce for the goose
> the hacking attack... ended up making the company stronger and more effective.
So presumably the hackers will be able to invoice the company for the services provided. After all, if companies can claim damages for adverse effects of hacks, surely they should be made to pay for benefits, too.
Absolutely right. Sit down, put up the newspaper "barricade" and plug in the in-canal earphones. That way it's perfectly clear that you have no wish to interact with the other strangers on the plane.
Maybe the thing to do is to create a new FB profile (we all have several - or none - don't we?) with things like:
Interests: I love garlic and bean sandwiches
Hobbies: Pig farming
Which should guarantee not only that nobody would want to sit near you, but that you get the whole row of seats to yourself.
I assume the phrases "post something they regret" , "young men are the most impetuous" and "men to be the least privacy-conscious people online, and the most likely to make a gaffe" are merely roundabout ways of saying that (young) men are more likely to post something while out of their skulls on <chemical of choice>.
Failing that, maybe it's simply down to the sorts of people that social networks attract? Not "men" or "women" in general, just the fraction who actually spend their time posting stuff.
A team effort
We're fortunate that there are very few people in the world who wish to cause harm - and even fewer in positions of trust and with the ability to do so. Luckily (!) most of the attacks we've heard about have either been from external forces - limited by their ability to insert bad stuff accurately, or by lone insiders acting out a personal vendetta. Whether the situation of a concerted inside-job by a focused team will remain a fiction, or whether it will be targeted as the "soft underbelly" of the whole computer industry, remains to be seen. However, it would be incredibly easy to do given the time and inclination of those involved.
Afterthought: Given the amount of mis-management, overruns, over-costs, poor implementations and buggy products - maybe this sort of sabotage has, actually, been happening for years - or decades.
 Scenario: An HR person with a particular "outlook" preferentially recruits techies with the same outlook. As part of a slow-burning plan, they all gravitate towards working on the same vulnerable system and from that position of self-supervision are free to implement whatever bugs, backdoors, weaknesses, logic-bombs or espionage they please. How many people? A team leader, couple of coders, a tester. Maybe half a dozen: tops. How long? Maybe a year or two.
Re: It's not just retard
> nearly all words ending -ard are (or were once) derogatory tags
I'm sure the "bARD" would disagree. Surely you would rewARD his talent and have regARD for his hARD work. You wouldn't give him his cARDs. I think you've been hoist by your own petARD.
Remembering a password is no harder than remembering a phone number
It must be so difficult, living in modern times. Apart from having to remember your address - or getting lost 'cos you've forgotten where you live. Or your registration number and wandering the neighbourhood attempting to get into every vehicle you come across (at least that's what I told the nice officer). Or what channel your favourite programmes were on. Or your spouse's name (not one you want to get wrong!) or any of the other gazillions of pieces of information you need to recall just to live your daily live.
Now add on top of all that, three or four (or even 10 or more) passwords. It must be pure hell.
In fact, recalling data that you use on a daily basis is no big deal - we do it thousands of times every day. So, provided you pay attention when you set the password and use it regularly, it's as easy as remembering to get dressed before you leave the house. The big problem only comes when one of the stooopid "security" systems insists you change a perfectly good password on a regular, or frequent basis. Now that IS dumb.