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* Posts by Pete 2

2345 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

London Mayor shows off GIANT BLUE COCK in busy square

Pete 2
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A long way to go

> poking fun at the fact that a woman had created a male image.

Because men *never* create female images. Oh, wait ...

(maybe this means that all straight male porn, most advertising and pretty much every nude portrait has been completely misunderstood and is really just an ironic commentary?)

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Back up all you like - but can you resuscitate your data after a flood?

Pete 2
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Never forget the personnel angle

> two sayings are worth keeping in mind:

There's a third. Restores are useless unless you have the staff available to apply them

All the talk about backups, restores, DR, high-availability focuses on the technical aspect and never seems to address the issue regarding people. There's little point having a full tested recovery plan, or backups that you *know* you [ well: someone ] will restore if needed, if that someone is either unavailable, indisposed, sacked or chooses not to do it (Yeah, go ahead: fire me. How will that get your system back up and running?)

Whether it's something as mundane as the staff canteen serving up a dodgy lunch that lays the whole IT staff low, a particularly good party that does the same but more pleasantly, a scheduling "hundred year wave" where all the players are simultaneously on holiday, off sick, on strike, on maternity leave and freshly redundant or any other unforeseen circumstance that means nobody answers the phone when the call goes out.

Possibly the worst of all is when no-one can remember the key to all the encrypted personal data that was backed up and can be successfully restored, but for one tiny detail.

So yes: make sure your tech is all fired up and ready to rock. But don't take for granted the person who has to make it all happen.

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For pity's sake: DON'T MOVE to the COUNTRY if you want to live

Pete 2
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Emergency services?

And how many of those deaths (from whatever cause) would have been survivable in the city, where medical assistance would be on the spot very quickly?

In a lot of country areas (less-so in the UK due to the much higher population density) it would take an age for an ambulance to attend any of these accidents. That's if there was a way of alerting them of the incident in the first place. While it's unusual in the UK, a lot of the boonies in america have no mobile phone coverage and no passers-by to call it in.

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PHWOAR! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, Prime Minister

Pete 2
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Saving face

> People who are going to commit sex crimes, will do so

I don't think the reason parents want to prevent their chldren seeing naked bodies (and these seems to be where 99% of the pressure is coming from) has nothing to do with crime, exploitation, self-image (probably the most bogus "argument" of them all) or any of the other frequently cited reasons. ISTM the real reason is simply that they feel uncomfortable discussing such "adult" topics with their kids and will go to extreme lengths: including denial, demonising sex and making the inquisitive youngster feel like they are "bad" or "dirty" for asking, simply to avoid the embarrassment they would feel if they had to talk about it, themselves. (Or possibly because they are so ignorant of the subject, they don't wish to be questioned and have their own lack of knowledge revealed.)

If so, then this is exactly the wrong approach as it's just human nature for people to want something more if they are denied it. Or to make them more convinced it's worth finding out about if their parents keep avoiding the subject.

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Pete 2
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Be careful what you wish for

> stop children getting easy access to hard-core pornography

So if you were a smut-propelled website, making your living from mucky ads on dodgy pages and suddenly you found that a goodly proportion of your income had gone, due to the UK's new filters - what would you do?

As a provider you could start advertising: but if the filters are still in place your customers are blocked just as surely as before. You could give up and get a proper job - though I don't know what, errrr, openings there are for ex-sex workers trying to go "respectable".

Or you could make your website look like an ordinary one, so that the sirens¹ don't go off any time someone clicks on your URL. Of all the alternatives, that last one seems like the most successful ploy for continuing to lead your life in the style to which you've become accustomed.

But: there's a downside. Not to you, or your pervy punters. The problem is for everyone else: who hasn't opted out of naked viewing (on the screen, not in front of the screen). Since you've tweaked your website to avoid the filters of poverty, it's now far more likely that people who aren't searching out pleasures of the flesh will stumble across your website without any warning, so successful is your filter-busting camoflage. You never know, your mother might even discover your real occupation!

So while porn-filters sound like a good idea, ultimately they might have the opposite effect: by requiring the less salubrious websites to appear mainstream, it would be more likely that visitors wouldn't just be people actively looking for stimulation, but ordinary folk who found them by accident.

[1] the audible kind, not the ones that lure unwary travellers to their doom - though maybe that's what porno websites will do.

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WAR ON PORN: UK flicks switch on 'I am a pervert' web filters

Pete 2
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For a moment I thought they were serious

until I got to the bit:

> new powers given to industry watchdog Ofcom, which will oversee the ISPs

I realise this is just the Daily Mail deciding that it knows better than a democratically elected government. And that it's easier for (call me) Dave to make some sort of announcement during the summer holidays to stop them wailing on about whatever they wail on about - and presumably to court their support in the next election (less than 22 short months to go - yippee!). But they must realise that any internet rules have the same effect as dropping a rock into a stream. The water will just go around. Drop in too many rocks and you don't stem the flow, you just flood the surroundings as the pressure of water, or adolescent males' urges shows no upper limit.

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Verity's summer songs for programmers: Sing your pals to sleep()

Pete 2
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Summertime

BST

and the coding is sweaty

The boss is jumpin'

and the stress level's high

Your client's impatient

and the code is spaghetti

So please little process

don't you die

One of these mornings

You're gonna stop dumping

Then you'll spawn your sub-processes

and be ready to fly

But 'til that morning

I'll just keep on hacking

and maybe the deadline won't pass me by

[ with sincerest apologies to George Gershwin ]

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Former CIA and NSA head says Huawei spies for China

Pete 2
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Defn: Defence

The ability to do unto others what they are doing to you - just do it first.

This is no different from what American companies have been doing for their governments for decades. Reporting back on the work they are undertaking, the technology they are using (subject to tight restrictions for reasons of "National Security"), quantities, locations and which other countries have suppliers in the area.

Just standard american "Reds under the bed" paranoia. - and yes: just because you're paranoid ...

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Microsoft admits it's '18 months behind' with Windows 8 slabs

Pete 2
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What took them so long?

> people want to be "productive at work, to be able to print and have a keyboard".

Sounds like they've just reinvented the laptop. If you want a keyboard, the absolute worst place to put it is on the screen - the small, expensive and in entirely the wrong place for typing - screen.

The whole tablet format is focussed on media consumption, not creating stuff. How I laugh when I see otherwise credible employees trying to type one-fingered on the screens of their trendy tablets, when the new kid with a PC (who is at the bottom of the pecking order, so doesn't warrant interesting work toys) can run rings round them in speed and accuracy.

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PRISM scandal: Brit spooks operated within the law, say politicos

Pete 2
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Redacted

"It has been alleged that GCHQ circumvented UK law by using the NSA’s PRISM programme to access the content of private communications. From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded."

And who provided the evidence that was seen? And what did the three monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil & wait for the New Year's Honours politicians do to ensure that what they were given (by GCHQ: the same lot who were accused) was a full, complete and accurate account of the goings on?

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IBM, Accenture play blame game over $1bn project blowout

Pete 2
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Fixed price == fixed spec.

> That's how IBM (and others) make their money

To be fair, that's how everyone makes their money when tendering for fixed-price work. The basic problem is two-fold. First, the customer never really knows what they want - nor have worked out the conflicts between what they are asking for and what they want to do (that would take far too long). Second is that no project exists in isolation: so as (development) time moves on, the requirements: regulatory, business and technical and systems that the proposed project is meant to interface with will change, and therefore the fixed-price spec. will have to be changed to accommodate these.

The basic issue is that F.P. tendering is a flawed process. It was originally meant to put a limit on the huge, open-ended overruns of government projects based on cost-plus (where the company who won the contract passed on their costs and an agreed "profit" margin) principles.

It is possible, if unlikely, that any contractor could deliver what the spec asked for, for the agreed fixed price. However, it's almost certain that this wouldn't perform the required tasks for the reasons above. The result would then be a system, delivered to specificaton, that had to be either tossed and re-done or battered into shape with a secondary project - that would have all the organisational drawbacks that the original one had. And since only one tenderer would have sufficient knowledge, skills and background to complete the work, the tendering process would fail as there would only be a single viable applicant.

So until clients can work out what the hell they are actually trying to do (a rare breed, indeed), keep all the interfaces to the proposed system frozen until it's final delivery AND making sure there are no omissions, errors, inconsistencies or ambiguity in the design documents it looks like we're stuck with the present system - or something like it. Still: at least it keeps the lawyers happy.

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Dear Linus, STOP SHOUTING and play nice - says Linux kernel dev

Pete 2
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Re: @Peter - don't rub it too hard

> where the shine wears off and the abuse doesn't

I agree completely (there, I'm sure that made you feel better than if someone had criticised your post). And in my experience, when a project starts to lose its shine, that's when the pressure gets racked up and the blame starts flying around.

Given that the number of stories about Linus and his lack of (temper) control have been on the increase in recent years, AND that Linux hasn't really innovated much since 64 bitness and multi-processors arrived - apart from bug fixes, support for new hardware and a bunch o' stuff under the hood that users neither see nor care about. So you have to wonder how long there is until Linus' shine does get rubbed through, and whether there's just the proverbially unpolishable underneath?

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Pete 2
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Nice guys come second

> “You may need to learn to shout at people,”

Personally, I've been shouted at by experts: people who do it professionally and can verbally abuse you for 5 minutes, fluently, without hesitation, repetition or deviation (although some of the deviations you get accused of would make your hair curl and IIRC, that was one of them!). So some guy shouting at me, either in person, over the phone (ineffective: you just quietly lay the receiver down 'till they've fininshed - it's hard to argue with someone who won't answer back) or by email (even more ineffective and with the added disadvantage that it leaves evidence to be used against the shouter) might make them feel better but it will have zero effect on me.

At best you suffer from raised blood pressure and fear. Although fear is a great motivator in the short term, it's effect needs to be continually escalated to continue achieving results. At worst you get someone like me who ignores it all and just thinks of the shouty git as a complete 'hole and ends up with an even lower opinion of them.

If you want to motivate someone, someone who you have no real control over as FOSS developers can stop FOSS-ing and just walk away, you need to adopt an air of professionalism, gain respect and lead by example.

Sounds like Linus has pretty much lost it.

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Planet-busting British space bullet ready to bomb ice moon Europa

Pete 2
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We had to destroy the asteroid in order to explore it

> a “space penetrator” project, offered as a lower-cost alternative to sending rovers to our planetary neighbours

To mangle the already mis-quoted report from the Vietnam War. Firing a devastating projectile into an exploration target doesn't really work if the thing you wanted to learn about is either blown into little pieces, or so disrupted that what survives the "attack" is unrecognisable. Imagine the yay! behind: "We discovered new forms of life on Comet ZZ9 Plural Z-Alpha, but unfortunately we destroyed it in the process."

Though on reflection, I suppose this is exactly how nuclear research is done (with "colliders" 'n' all), so maybe there is a future in it after all.

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Gadgets are NOT the perfect gift for REAL men

Pete 2
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Geronimoooooooooooooo ............. <splat>

> I'll need a new reserve chute

Might I suggest it's unwise to accept a parachute from a person who stands to benefit from your life insurance.

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Pete 2
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Simple enough

I was told many decades ago never to buy a woman a present that had a plug on it (if only for the eminently practical reason that it might replace you). So far as buying for men: a bottle of single malt is universally acceptable.

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Sysadmins: Everything they told you about backup WAS A LIE

Pete 2
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But who gets it in the neck?

> What is backed up is the reponsability of the data owner not the IT Department.

That's all very well. The problem is that the universal impression of pretty much everyone in business is that if it runs on a computer, it's the IT dept's fault when it fails. No matter how much you'd like to argue about charters, SLAs, job descriptions or anything else; these will all be perceived as excuses trying to weasel out of an IT failure and blame the problem on someone else.

In fact if you are successful in getting this point across you could easily find you've just talked yourself out of a job. [ MD thought process: Well, if IT aren't responsible for this, what are they doing ... maybe it's time to "do more with less" ]

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BAN UK tax breaks on patented tech, fumes German finance minister

Pete 2
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Nice idea, shame about the rules

You can see the motivation for this: get companies patenting stuff in the UK or "Yurp" and rewarding them with a little less tax in recognition of the R&D they've done.

It's just a shame that the pen pushers who come up with these rules and incentives just don't have the brain power to see where these seemingly good ideas will end up. I expect it all sounds pleasant and altruistic over a nice cup of tea in the planning meeting, but HMRC (and others) need to get out a bit more and see that in the real world the attack-accountants (!) in major multinationals will just rip these efforts to shreds in an effort to squeeze the last conceivable milli-penny from the tax liabillity.

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Ciseco Pi-Lite: Make a Raspberry Pi trip light fantastic with 126 LEDs

Pete 2
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Send P&P packing

> I often wonder how people have come to the conclusion that all shipping should be free nowadays.

We all realise that nobody is suggesting Royal Mail should deliver stuff for free. However there is a valid point behind this comment - someone's making a nice little earner from P&P - and VAT on P&P.

Take for example an Arduino prototype shield, purchased from a UK supplier. The delivery costs alone are listed at £4.15 - with VAT payable on top.

Now consider (very possibly) the same board, bought from a supplier in China - both suppliers were chosen at random, so no intentional cherry-picking - The board including P&P comes to a grand total of $4.50. So the cost of sending a board half-way round the world to my letterbox is somewhat less than what the UK vendor charges just to send the same sized packet at most a few hundred miles within the UK.

Given that when the board arrives in the UK from China, it's RM who handles both deliveries you have to wonder why it's more expensive for the same carrier to deliver the same package, just because it was posted in the UK, not China? Who's making the money - is it the UK vendor (who's delivered cost for the same board is roughly 6 times what the Chinese website is charging) or is it RM stiffing the UK company who merely pass on their costs?

Answers on a postcard please ... if you can afford it.

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Health minister asks elderly patients what they think of data-sharing

Pete 2
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Short and sweet

It is now seeking views from elderly patients

> What do you think are the main barriers to data sharing between services to support patient care?

The main barrier is the NHS's inability to and indifference towards keeping that data confidential.

> Can you highlight any examples of where data sharing to support patient care is happening effectively?

I'm a patient. How the hell could I possibly know. My doctor can't even explain what's wrong with me.

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US: We spied on you Europeans but we can still be chums. Right?

Pete 2
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The "special" relationship

is beginning to sound more like Stockholm syndrome

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Germans brew up a right Sh*tstorm

Pete 2
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If it's good enough for the Germans

you'd hope it would be good enough for the british press. Sadly, they all seem to have reported it as variants of "s___storm" or "sh*tstorm" - as if their readers are too stupid to discover what was "beeped" out.

I now wait for its first occurence on Countdown. No doubt it'll cause a shitstorm when it appears on TV screens.

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Dubya: I introduced PRISM and I think it's pretty swell

Pete 2
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Precognition

> Bush said: "I put that program in place

Of course, the powers knew he would say that to CNN as they had already intercepted the emails and calls that set the interview up.

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What's the most secure desktop operating system?

Pete 2
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Re: Stupid Question

> The only 'secure' computer is the one that is not switched on.

Can still get stolen though.

For real security it needs to be encased in a room full of concrete inside a Faraday shield - but then: what's the point?

In real life all that "security" does is either slow down attackers who are intent on targeting one particular computer (or bank, or person) or deter the attackers from wasting their time on the secure machine and instead targeting some easier pickings elsewhere.

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'The Apprentice' is a load of old codswallop, says biz prof

Pete 2
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If it was done properly

Confession time: I only watched the first series. Before it started the concept seemed fresh and original. After the first series ended it was apparent it was simply a pantomime to be watched by people who thought Dallas was true to life how oil magnates lived.

If someone wanted to make T.A. real, what tasks would the performers have to participate in?

- Most original way to avoid attending a Health and Safety presentation. Performers have to come up with an excuse and then follow it through without getting caught, or found lying

- The "bladder" challenge. Performers are made to drink 6 cups of coffee (proper stuff, not decaff) and then attend a meeting. Last one to run for the loo is the winner (and no relieving yourself "in-situ").

- The screen-blank. Performers have to conceal their computer screens from the boss - whether they were just watching pr0n, updating FB or looking for a new job. The boss will sneak up on them from various directions and employing diversionary tactics. The performers must prevent the boss seeing what they are really up to.

- The day off. Similar to avoiding H&S. The performers have to come up with excuses for skyving off for a day. As in real life, anyone coming back from a sickie and sporting a suntan gets fired on the spot.

- Do unto others. The performers have to plant incriminating evidence of disloyalty or illegal activities on their bosses' PC. After all if you can't get your boss fired, how will you ever get promoted.

If you think these are all pretty boring, desk based activities when you want people running round like 6-year olds on espressos trying to sell tat to idiots, then welcome to the real world of office work.

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PRISM leaks: WTF, you don't spy on your friends, splutters EU

Pete 2
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Sauce for the goose

> bugging friends is unacceptable

Isn't that exactly what citizens keep telling their governments whenever a new, more intrusive, form of surveillance is announced.

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The five constants of IT asset management

Pete 2
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Keeping it under control

> imagine how good I could be with something that does the job better

And when you find a way of measuring the "betterness" objectively, then you can start to have a conversation.

The problem with all these functions: Asset management, Disaster Recovery, Capacity Planning, Change control, Security .. pretty much everything that's covered by ITIL and all the other management methodologies is that it's impossible to say whether they are value for money.

The amount of process that is appropriate depends massively on the size of the organisation,the legal & regulatory requirements and the skills of the people involved (the lower the quality of people, the greater the amount of process needed). However, since process is inflexible and expensive: both in the number of people it takes to do it and the amount of time it adds to a project or a change, there is a good argument to keep it to the absolute minimum - however you determine what that is.

One thing she said is right: automate as much as possible.

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UK sitting on top of at least 50 years of shale gas – report

Pete 2
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Re: Good article in The Independent on this

I think the energy boom is what a lot of the people who live on top those gas deposits are afraid of.

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Pete 2
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Down the tubes we go (again)

> comparable to the heyday of North Sea Oil

And what was done with the massive windfall that came with the revenue from NSO tax revenues?

It was spent on lowering personal taxation to win elections, Pursuing political goals and buying new toys for the military. Compare that with Norway who used their "win" to finance long-term projects for the benefit of the country as a whole.

So, if there does turn out to be another chance at doing it right, courtesy of enormous Shale Gas reserves, would anyone like to guess how future UK governments will manage to waste the opportunity this time?

As an exquisite irony, given the geography of the supposed fields, I wonder if the north of England will actually see any of the benefits (maybe they should declare independence before it's too late?)

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Labels to get, count them, 0.13 cents per play on Apple iRadio

Pete 2
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Pull out the calculator

> just 0.13 cents per play

Sounds like a good way to make money.

When you work out the number of minutes in a year and reckon that the average tune lasts 3 minutes, you can squeeze over 175,000 plays into a year (more in a leap year). At $0.0013 per play that earns you $227/yr

And you can always start releasing shorter tunes to get more plays per year, when times get tight. I can foresee the equivalent of server rooms full of iToys continually piping music out into the void, while metering up small but significant royalties for each play.

Sure beats bitcoin mining.

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Trick-cyclist's claim: I have FOUND how to get GIRLS INTO TECH

Pete 2
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Re: The bigger picture

> women were equally capable and intelligent and should have equal opportunities

Very true. But that sentence is incomplete. people should have equal opportunities to do the things they want to.

The point that seems to be continuously overlooked is that pay is not the only reason a given person takes a given job. Sure, it's one of the few quantifiable reasons - and is therefore amenable to analysis by individuals for whom analytical processes are important. And it seems to me too much emphasis is placed on pay, simply because so few other factors can be measured (a case of valuing what you can measure, rather than measuring what you value). However there are a lot of reasons to take a job that are not quantifiable. Some examples would be:

- because you enjoy the work

- because it's close to where you live

- because it provides thrills and adventure

- because it reinforces your self-image

- because your friends work there

- because the hours suit your lifestyle

- because you don't get wet when it rains

- because it does (or doesn't) require you to extend your abilities

Each individual will take some, all or none of these other attributes into account. None of them can have a financial value attached (although being close to where you live could equate to travel costs) so it's not realistic to simply look at pay as being the only measure of a job's worth. It also means that roles within a company cannot be equally staffed by individuals who attach different priorities to all these different attributes, as they simply wouldn't be attracted to those jobs, if the jobs didn't match their wants or needs.

So long as people have the opportunity to qualify for and enter the sort of work that they feel best suited for, that;s the best you can hope for. It's not necessary to go round counting heads and ticking boxes for each particular job title, just because that provides numerical answers for the analytical types to report on - and imbalances aren't important provided they are there due to choice, not barriers

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Pete 2
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Re: What happens when lies meet real world?

You call it "marketing" ?

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Pete 2
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The bigger picture

Why is it not possible to just accept that some jobs (I'd hardly call IT a profession, any more) are more attractive to men and others are more attractive to women? We don't hear much talk about getting more women working on building sites, plumbing or lorry driving (though obviously there are some who do these jobs) and we hear even less about getting more men into nursing and teaching. Maybe there's a gender-bias in all these gender-bias studies?

The best that the world can do is make sure there is no gender-based discrimination (explicit or subtle) that bars entry into any of these careers and then let people make up their own minds. If they prefer to get their rewards by caring for others - or by producing some bug-ridden code, 3 months late - then so be it. So long as the choice is there and available to everyone who has the qualifications, there's little more to do.

When was the last time you heard anyone say there was a "problem" because not enough men got secretarial jobs?

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Finance CIOs sweat as regulators prepare to probe aging mainframes

Pete 2
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Re: It's the redundancy, stoopid!

> Outages are inevitable

Actually good systems design does allow for hardware faults. It will mandate hot-swappable kit. Have a fault in a router panel and you can switch it for a replacement without any downtime (though possibly with reduced performance, depending on your load balancing or the amount of redundant capacity you built in).

Likewise with servers. These days virtualisation means that a (again: load balanced) server can be bounced in a very short time and it's not outside the realms of possibility to migrate live environments to different hardware if you need to physically get your hands dirty. What no design can account for is human error. Making the right change to the wrong system, restoring the backup onto the wrong instance or having holes in the testing strategy (or changing inherently untestable systems, such as payments to third parties).

Also, a properly designed system won't have any single points of failure - either physical SPOFs or in the software / services.

So far as DR goes. Invoking it is terribly disruptive. Even if the DR site can be brought online all you've done is delay the problem. Few organisations actually have everything on "hot" standby and if they do, then it's likely that software config faults have already been propagated through to it - making the whole concept worthless. However the biggest issue with invoking DR is when the emergency is over and you try to reconcile all the work that's taken place on the DR system during the primary outage, with the "primary" production systems. While some companies simply have an A - B toggle, with neither system being inherently a primary, testing the fallback procedures always involves risk and disruption and is therefore rarely tested in full.

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Pete 2
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It's the redundancy, stoopid!

> there will be “no tolerance” for service outages

The key to not having service outages is good system design and a proper DR plan. Some companies have one, but few have both.

Almost every outage of significance is caused by someone changing something. It may not be the central server, itself that causes the inversion of tits. Yo could have the world's most reliable hardware running your central servers (and a lot of companies do). However if the peripheral systems: the firewalls, networking infrastructure, web servers and directory services are either flaky, too complicated to ever understand, or managed by idiots then the reliability of the core systems is irrelevant. They could still be up while your business is off the air for days when someone missed a "." off a network configuration or didn't properly test a config change.

In those circumstances, the "plan" calls for switching over to the backup system. Great in theory, hardly ever works in practice. Either the same change has been applied to the DR systems, or they were really just ornamental - to satisfy regulatory requirement s and were never intended to be used, or the switch over process is so involved that it's never been tried - either in a controlled fashion or in anger.

For most companies, the simplest way they could improve the reliability of their IT systems is to stop anyone from touching them. Sure, there is a need for provision of "consumables" such as adding terabytes, but apart from that any additional activities adds risk. The quandry is whether the risk of your own people screwing the system is greater than the risk of an external agent hacking their way through an unpatched security hole. While companies get vilified for security breaches, none get criticised for low-quality staff futzing about in software that is well beyond their competency.

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The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype

Pete 2
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It's not what you see that counts

> ever higher pixel counts, an approach that disregards how we actually see moving images

... it's what you can sell.

Let's face it, while some people sit close enough to their screens to make high definition worthwhile, most don't. Just like most people don't watch TV or media players in a perfectly darkened room, so specifications for contrast ratios are irrelevant. Likewise for pretty much any other specification-led consumer product: cars, hi fi, computers, cameras, phone and the list goes on.

The problem is that you can't say or show yer average consumer a "better" product and just have them see/hear/smell/taste/feel that it's better. If you're lucky they might just recognise that it's different, though since change is often unwelcome or even plain bad <cough>3D</cough>, that's a double edged sword.

No, it's far better to bamboozle them with figures - occasionally even relevant figures - of real or imagined origin to "prove" that your product is better than the other guy's/ Luckily scienec and technology education is so mind-numbingly bad that only a tiny fraction of the population has any chance of knowing what a specification means and almost nobody, anywhere, ever (though I did work for an electronics company a long time ago -one of the engineers took his stereo amp back to the shop after running bench tests with our mil-spec test gear) has any chance of validating those specifications.

Although tech-specs aren't the only way of persuading the public. While some credulous techies might be taken in by the babble that accompanies them - and is often promoted by magazines and articles in their reviews - most people just get hostile when confronted by pages of meaningless numbers. For them the solution is just to wrap up the goodies in an attractive enclosure - or failing that, a shiny cardboard box will do.

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German Kim Jong-un lookalike spaffed official Nork pics over Instagram

Pete 2
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His own best customer

> I started the account, maybe because I wanted to fool people

Sounds like he was the one most fooled. Though if I thought I bore even the slightest resemblance to one of the world's most famous nutters leaders (KJU or this guy), I'd take whatever measures necessary to remedy the situation.

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That enough, folks? Starbucks tosses £5m into UK taxman's coffers

Pete 2
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Re: So: basically it's a protection racket

> Personally I like the idea of a government capable of paying for hospitals, roads, schools, police, and so on. I'm also coming round to the idea of adding the guillotine to that list

Yes. The problem is that this method of wringing money out of companies is political and it's corrupt. Who says which companies should be hauled through the pit of public opinion? There may be some tax-minimising companies that a particular government "likes" (whether due to patronage, political donations, employing in marginal constituencies or the old-boys network) and therefore chooses not to lambast. It also means that decisions about the amount of slagging-off that a particular company gets, to "persuade" it back to the path of righteousness is arbitrary and non-transparent: bad properties for a tax regime.

Finally, it may persuade the companies in question to play dirty, too. What happens if Starbucks starts printing political slogans on its coffee cups? Or if banks start giving preferential treatment to customers living in post-codes that have proven sympathetic to the goals of big-business?

While this sounds like a good idea - and probably will work as a one-off (or warning), it could come back to bite the politicians in the bum if used as a blunt instrument (though how a blunt instrument could bite your arse, I don't know)

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Pete 2
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So: basically it's a protection racket

> to become profitable before we started paying UK corporation tax

Well, err ... actually - yes. Isn't that what corporation tax is supposed to be? <FX: scratches head, looks mystified>

However it does appear that the tax climate has changed for multinationals in the UK. In recognition that the accountants who work for companies will always be better (i.e. higher pay attracts talent, civil service pay grades not so much) than those who work for HMRC and the government - and therefore will always find ways of keeping their employers' taxes in the low single figures, the tax position has shifted to a public-opinion based assessment rather than a financial one.

So now, instead of reporting profits, costs & turnover, each company will just bung a wad of it's own discretion at the treasury. In return they won't get the PM making snarky comments about them to the press.

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Using encryption? That means the US spooks have you on file

Pete 2
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An email a day keeps the NSA away

The other thing you have to do is send the same number of (100MB) emails to the same people each day. That way the baddies who are listening in can't infer anything from the emailing frequency.

If you only sent an email when something important was happening, or about to happen that in itself tells the baddies something is going on.

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3D printers now emitting merged manufacturers

Pete 2
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The new wok?

> Inability to find a personal use for 3d printing even in its current nascent form is a failure of imagination rather than a failure of technology.

I suppose that depends on your approach. That philosophy is fine for a toy - imagine all the fun that kids have with a cardboard box, lots of imagination being put to good use there.

However if you're talking about giving a 3d printer the same status as a domestic appliance, then (apart from all the stuff that's bought, never used and consigned to the cupboard under the sink) it needs to earn its keep. It's clearly ludicrous to pay a kilobuck for a device that is only going to be used to print a $3 phone shell or ten.

The third possibility is the geek alternative. If that thousand smackeroos confers on you (either within your peer group, or just within your own mind) an elite status and the value of that position is worth the money then: fair enough. Go ahead, buy one - safe in the knowledge that it's an immature technology and that next year's model will be better, faster, cheaper, sexier (!) and more useful. But by then it'll be on sale in Personal Computer World and any possibility that it's a geek status symbol will have vanished.

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Pete 2
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Self replicating?

Right now I can't see any reason to buy a machine that can only squirt out a few, small, pieces of plastic. When they can deal with a decent rangeof materials, say from aluminium and glass through to cotton-wool THEN they might start to have some day-to-day domestic uses. However, once they get that accomplished there won't be any need to *buy* one as you could just borrow a friend's and knock out a copy for yourself.

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FIVE DAY tech job interviews on trial at Oz telco Telstra

Pete 2
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I've been watching that plumber for half an hour ...

... and he hasn't done a stroke of work.

The irony being, of course, that neither has the watcher.

You've got to wonder with a 5-day interview how many assessors it takes to keep an eye on the candidates and whether the amount of time these people spend on selecting just a single "winner" would be better spent on something else: like going on a course to identify high quality staff in a 5 minute chat.

> to assess candidates in more detail than is possible during a conventional interview

You also have to wonder what sort of critical position these people are being employed for. Surely with that amount of investment in the recruitment process and the costs involved they must be highly paid, highly visible staff who could make or break the company in the years to come? You wouldn't take that much time to just employ a support person, would you?

However, since the candidates are also assessing the company during this time, I would expect that all of those who had any level of experience would quickly see through the charade and correctly conclude that Telstra was over-bureaucratised, slow and lacking the ability to make decisions. They would therefore run screaming from the interviews and consider how lucky they were to have dodged that particular bullet.

It does sound more like a test of endurance (or desperation) than skill.

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Home Office boffins slip out passport-scanning Android app

Pete 2
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Re: Pointless

> Any other usage (as an ID document etc) is very dodgy

Especially in foreign parts where a passport number is often used in lieu of a citizen's ID card number - even on official documents. Buy a house abroad and you could well find your PP number is written into the official documents of ownership. A bit of a bummer as every time you change your passport you get a different number ...

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Pete 2
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Because we can

> and the first to publicly ask: Why bother?

Steady on. If every piece of software: paid or free, was to question whether there was any need for it, there would be hardly any of the stuff around and the likes of Github would be an empty wilderness containing the rare few projects that had a life of their own - or corporate sponsorship.

Most amateur written software is produced to demonstrate the prowess of the writer (just like comments in forums are ... ) rather than to make a meaningful contribution to the sum of human happiness. If these guys enjoyed writing their app, and it doesn't harm anyone (and there aren't any security downsides) then what the hell - let 'em do it if it makes them happy.

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PC makers REALLY need Windows 8.1 to walk on water - but guess what?

Pete 2
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New sales tactic needed

Relying on selling PCs based solely on the idea "It's got a NEW version of windows, that's better because it's ..... new" just doesn't work. It turns out that all the functionality that customers want can be got from Windows 2000 or XP. Since then the "features" that have been added are generally just bug fixes, security fixes, support for new hardware and 64-bit architectures. Sure, each version has been given a nice new shiny GUI, but from a "what will it do?" perspective, it's still just Windows.

If the only strategy PC makers have for selling there wares is based on the Windows version number and consequent increments in application version numbers, then they've got nothing.

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Nuke plants to rely on PDP-11 code UNTIL 2050!

Pete 2
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2038 and all that

While not a PDP11 issue, the longevity of computers is a concern - and not just for people who want to flog us replacements. At this rate (maybe even exacerbated by the financial crisis) there could well be numbers of old, 32-bit Unix system running stuff when the 32-bit clock counter rolls over and we find ourselves back in the 1970's. With the popularity of small, cheap Linux embedded systems, some of these could be quite difficult to find - literally.

I just hope none of *them* are running nuclear plants

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Fifty, fired and fretful: Three chaps stare down CAREER MORTALITY

Pete 2
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Re: Too crap to keep, too expensive to sack

> Wally from Dilbert

Good point. Though Wally appears to want to be kept on. He lies, cheats and deceives his incompetent boss. Whereas some TCTK-ers would quite like to be let-go (and apply for VR, but get turned down). They neither feel the need, nor have the motivation to give their bosses reasons to keep them on. Another way to look at it is that both sides (the employers and the employees) are trapped in a situation neither one wants: the company would like to get rid of the expensive but unproductive employees, the TCTK-ers would like to take early retirement or VR, but can't, or don't qualify, or get turned down - for whatever reason. Although some of the TCTK-ers realise that they are on the gravy train and quite like the prospect of doing almost nothing each day (just as if they were at home, retired) but still getting paid for it AND building up their pension pots, too.

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Pete 2
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Too crap to keep, too expensive to sack

There's a certain "type" of individual - most often seen in ex-nationalised industries. They've been there since the year dot. Often it was their first, and only job. They started out as an apprentoid: 2 'O' levels and a budgerigar, and in the following decades rose up through the ranks to their current position: team member.

However, in their forty years of wearing a hole in the same chair, they have amassed one single, solitary, asset: their severance package. Based on years of employment and seniority for time served, even at the statutory minimum, they are hellishly expensive to get rid of. Given how much it would cost to axe one of these old-timers, you could reduce your headcount by four or five fresh-faced newbies.

And so they stay on. Not because they are actually any use, have any skills, or do any work. But because they are cheaper to continue paying than to fire - and salaries come from a different budget, too. They only occupy one desk (and can often be persuaded to "work" from home, so even that desk can be hot-desked to someone useful), keep their mouths shut during meetings and sometimes take the occasional phone message when you're unavailable.

So when companies make the calculation of how to achieve the maximum headcount reduction (i.e. ruin the greatest number of peoples' lives) for the minimum amount of money, these guys are untouchable. The moral of the story: being old isn't always the path to redundancy. If you can somehow survive and stay off HR's radar, you may, just, be able to live our your twilight years doing next to nothing, being paid for it and keeping your job security.

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Julian Assange: Google's just an arm of US government

Pete 2
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Right idea, wrong way round

It's not that Google or any other multi-national superpower is in thrall with the american government. Rather that the USA-ian government is there primarily to enable the mega-corps and provide them with a nice, safe, profitable, legally friendly environment.

Although companies don't get to vote for which individual gets to sit in the big chair, that's the smallest part of "democracy" so far as they are concerned. Their influence is much more under-the-table and since money speaks all languages, their influence is omnipresent and non-partisan.

Just because you only see the puppet, that doesn't mean there isn't someone with their hand up it's bum.

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