1928 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 14:47 GMT
Business card envy
Next time I get some business cards printed (which could be tomorrow if I can find a deal), *I* want to be a Chief of Information Dominance, too,
The question is, what's that in chinese, to print on the other side?
I can just imagine the process
Given that it's a _government_ system and due process is far more important than cost, efficiency or time taken - and that they must audit each step, I can see it would work out something like this:
step 1. print out all the records
step 2. delete the next record on the list
step 3. verify each record has in fact been deleted
step 4. tick that entry off the printed list.
step 5. when all entries have been deleted, start deleting the ones off the printed copy. goto step 1
Any half-decent government administrator could turn this simple task into a job for life.
translated into english
> UK short 100K tech recruits this year
We need a lot of people who will work for the minimum wage, doing dull, administrative, menial tasks in unsociable hours that involve using a keyboard and (often) wearing a headset.
Oh, you thought we meant programmers and sys-admins? Hell, no - we don't need any of those. What isn't off-shored, we ship in from other countries - much cheaper and we can sack 'em when the project gets cancelled.
Most disaster recovery processes are NEVER tested
Lots of companies have DR, or business continuity strategies - some are required to have them, by law. The problem is that what happens according to the theoretical, ideal, document - written in the cool, considered environment of an office usually bears little or no resemblance to the reality of trying to implement a recovery programme after an actual disaster. Of whom none will have ever experienced a real-world IT disaster.
So while your planners might have considered how to recover to the "B" site in the case that your production environment is subject to a fire, or has suffered a crippling power outage, or was flooded or ,... It probably hasn't considered what to do if all your sys-admins go down with food poisoning after a dodgy meal in the staff canteen - or even the 'flu.
Even with the common-or-garden disasters, it's inevitable that things won't go according to the book. There will be some changes that didn't get incorporated, or some incompatibilities that were missed out. However, the cost of testing a full-blown DR and the risk that you can't get the B site up (or revert back to A, afterwards - the forgotten final phase) and the sheer upheaval that it all causes means that most MDs are quite happy to remain ignorant of the true state of their emergency procedures. After all, if the worst does happen they can always get another job.
A fairer test of electric cars?
The last time I was in a Mini was many years ago - 20? 30?
From memory, they have 4 seats and a quick squint at the photos in the article seem to confirm that the "E" has 4 seats, too. On that basis, the makers are tacitly saying that this puppy could carry 4 people. So it seems to me that if you wanted to test the capabilities of this vehicle, then it should be with a driver and 3 pax - not just some luvvie who wanted to keep his name in the media.
Although I can't see any possibility that the extra payload would improve the performance of this car, it would given a more informed view about it's real-world capabilities. You never know, with the extra people available you might even be able to extend it's somewhat pathetic range - by pushing it to the next charging point.
Judgement of Solomon
Maybe the DWP should brush off its bible to learn how to resolve parental disputes regarding children?
As it is, surely the fees they wring out of stubborn parents will just be added to the list for the divorce settlement. So no matter who initially pays the fees, the ultimate cost will be borne by the partner who "loses" the financial part of the divorce - with a huge multiplier added by each sides lawyers.
Costing kit in the real world
This piece tells up that the decision was primarily driven by cost (and also by the ability to lower risk, due to improved media reliability).
The problem with a simplistic, accountant-driven approach to data centres is that they spread the cost of stuff in a rather impractical way. So if your datacentre costs £1M to build and houses 500 servers, then the cost per server is £2000. However this conceals far more than it tells us about the true costs of expansion - or consolidation. Given that regime, you could be forgiven for using that number in a cost case and saying to your boss "Therefore if we can consolidate 20 servers, we'll save $40k in datacentre costs.". When in fact the actual saving (measured in money spent) is zero.
It also masks the real cost of adding new servers - presuming that if you need to add another one, the walls of the datacentre can somehow be pushed out a little, to make room for it. In real life, most new servers will add exactly nothing to the actual datacentre costs - until all the floorspace is used up. After that, the very next server will cost you another £1 million, as you would (theoretically) need to build a new datacentre to house it, since the old one would be full.
Re: faking it
Yeah, their fakery has got to the point now where they're faking stuff that we in the west haven't even invented yet.
Fighting the wrong war
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Likewise when you have the biggest collection of military hardware in the world, everyone else looks like an enemy. They're not. Mostly they simply aren't interested in what you think.
The Economist recently [4 Dec 2010] had an article about the ascension of China and the decline of the USA. It's conclusion was that China is perfectly capable of expressing its economic dominance without the need or desire to go nose-to-nose with anyone else. It knows it has time on its side and if the worst did happen it could just unload its trillions of dollars of american debt and screw them into the ground economically rather than militarily. Though there's no need for that when nature is taking its course.
So, on that basis, I'd be prepared to view the possibility of a chinese stealth jet more as a chain-yanking effort (possibly showing the chinese sense of humour: "woooohooooo - we're coming to geeeeet you - nah, we're just messin'") that will allow them to laugh at the overreaction it will cause from their insecure and terrified neighbours on the other side of the pacific.
Ofcom: the ideal watchdog
It just watches.
Occasionally it may wander up to a mobile operator, but all it does is sniffs their crotch. After that it just returns to its nice warm basket and goes back to sleep.
Sums up the shuttle era
Discovery's final flight has some features that were common to its first flight back in 1984. That launch was delayed a couple of months, too. Due to technical difficulties. In fact it's hard to find a single shuttle mission that has gone off according to the ideal of the project for a fast-turnaround, reusable, reliable and versatile vehicle. Even now, the programme is still finding new problems that require novel solutions
While the goal of having spacecraft that can do the equivalent of Ryanair: land, turnaround quickly and be off again with the minimum of fuss, is laudable - the shuttle was a failure. After a quarter of a century of use, it never really got out of beta.
User to help desk person: "When I run the XYZ programme with these options, it deletes all my data"
Hell desk person (after a few seconds pause) "Oh yeah, it does ....."
Fewer glasses then TVs sold
That would explain why the stats for Western Europe show fewer pairs of glasses then 3D TVs have been sold [source: hdtvtest.co.uk]
ISTM the indifference shown to 3D TV is simply a failure of marketing. People just haven't been told in sufficiently convincingly terms that they NEED one of these new tellies. Even if they have only recently upgraded to a super-stonkin-massive HD set. I'm sure that when the campaigns are fully ramped up, we'll all do what we're told and buy them - even if all that's showing is Dad's Army (again)
A cheap lesson
There's a saying that if you lend a "friend" £10 and they don't pay you back that tenner was an investment, not a loss.
So be it with ID cards, maybe now people will be less enthusiastic about splashing money on silly, government sponsored, ideas. Maybe the present government should offer all these gullible ID card holder a frame to put them in and hang somewhere prominent. It could be tastefully inscribed with something like:
The cost of trusting your government
It just needs more media coverage
> the cost and logistics of snuffing convicts also a factor
Just sell the franchise to the TV companies. With standards of taste falling all over the place, surely there's a huge market for The Friday Night Execution. I'm sure it would attract the same sort of people who are happy to fill their lives with all the other sorts of public humiliation reality shows that are saturating the airwaves these days.
If that isn't enough, they could even add a You've Been Framed element to the shows, and entrap some villains - maybe even with first-person-shooter footage of the crime, sorry: SLAYING, that led to them arriving on death row in the first place. After all, we know that no-one ever went bust by underestimating the viewing audience. [deliberate misquote, btw]
Welcome back to the Mainframe
> more than half of all installed application instances will run inside a virtual machine. This has profound implications ...
All it really means is that applications will run under a 21st century version of MVS (or z/OS as it's evolved into). Nothing much changes - at least not for those of us familiar with BIG computers (physically, that is). All we can hope for is that the disciplines required, training and processes needed to keep these virtual environments running with 6*9's uptime can be relearned by the next generation of operators.
> on a political level it [an opt-out censor] would be likely to disturb many Lib Dems
Hardly, likely. We've discovered recently that the L/Ds are just as much power-tarts as all the other parties. When given the choice between sitting to the right of the Speaker or sitting to the left, they are willing to sacrifice any principles they might have persuaded us they had.
Rather lucky, really
Fortunately for the americans there is no possibility that anyone is ever likely to fire a nuclear missile at them - although the complete lack of any credible threat has never been known to stop them spending money on defences (or should that be: on their buddies' defence companies) in the past.
In the thermodynamically [i.e. snowflakes chance in hell] minute chance that a small pacific island does develop WMDs, and decides to lob one at the yanks, I won't mind if they say "I told you so".
Instant speed boost
It's amazing just how fast a PC can be with all the crud removed. At home I have a little 150MHz laptop (192MB ram - max'd out) running W98SE. It's not connected to the internet and is simply rock-solid. It runs some software that supports my weather station and just works - year in, year out.
The best thing about it is that it boots up from cold to running and accepting weather station data in under 15 seconds. The next best thing is its miniscule power consumption. With the screen blanked, it's too low to register reliably on my Mains Power memter.
Bank or warehouse?
As individuals or companies, we're happy to keep our money in a bank. That has a lot of the same attributes as a cloud computing environment: we don't know, exactly where our money is (if it's anywhere at all), we trust the bank not to give it away to baddies - yet to let authorised people have access to it.
The question is: are cloud computing outfits as good at looking after data as the banks are at looking after money? Do they have tried and tested security regimes? Have they been accredited by a standards-setting authority? Do we have any redress when (as they are certain to at some point) things go wrong? Who has a big enough stick to give them a smack on our behalf, occasionally, when they deserve it - or are cloud providers too big or nebulous to hurt?
ISTM, these questions have not really been answered satisfactorily. It could well be argued that "clouding" our data is no worse than tossing it over the wall to an outsourcer - although they may not exactly be people the cloud providers would want to be associated with.
At least keeping our data in house, the equivalent of a hiding our cash under the bed, means we are in control of it and know how it's being looked after (even if it's not that well). I think the cloud-computing industry needs to have successfully survived a few crises before we can categorically say that they're safe enough to entrust with our companies most precious assets.
You can't get there from here
The basic problem the americans have with getting stuff to the International Space Station is that they start from the wrong place. The ISS orbit is at a 55° inclination - not unusual for a russian launched payload, and quite convenient for their more northern launch sites. The yanks launched their scuttle from Florida, a long way further south. That means they have to expend a lot of energy to change the orbit of their rockets from their natural 29° orbital inclination. That's fuel which could be better used for putting more stuff up there, or in using smaller/cheaper launch vehicles.
If you wanted to efficiently launch things to get to the ISS, you'd probably want to launch them from Canada, or Newcastle or somewhere in Alaska if you really had to keep it within the USA. Basically almost anywhere in america would be a better choice than Florida.
Bring anything you like
... so long as you realise it is not insured - either for loss/damage or for any damage it does to the company or its employees. Also bear in mind that under no circumstances whatsoever can you connect it to the company network.
Whether we require it to be PAT tested (at your expense, 'natch) will depend on how much we like you.
This sounds like it's one small step .... towards the real thing.
Why this is a bad thing
> Vodafone will be supplying 50,000 mobile phones, ... to make [Unilever] ... more communicative.
And the First Law of Communication tells us:
"The inevitable result of improved and enlarged communications between different levels in a hierarchy is a vastly increased area of misunderstanding."
Personally, I have a feeling that all these 50,000 extra mobiles will achieve is to increase the company's mobile phone bill.
Someone's gotta say it
> so we don't know how it got in.
Kermit protocol? (multi-hop, of course)
Why quote the word "workers"
What would you prefer? "tea drinkers" "sick-leave takers" "excuse creators" "facebook updaters" (stop me when I'm getting close).
My personal experience of the government machine (having consulted at both houses of parliament as well as a few departments) is that nothing must be done without long consideration. No action can be performed without reference to superiors and approval from above. Every possible outcome must be researched (except of course, the blindingly obvious ones - which is usually what happens most often and is expected least), weighed, considered and prevaricated upon. It's better to do nothing than to make a mistake - even when the biggest mistake is to do nothing. All decisions are shared so blame cannot be attributed, or those responsible found out. Everyone must be given a say - whether or not they are qualified to contribute, in case they feel excluded - and those views taken into account and cannot be rejected out-of-hand.
However the worst part of government is the complete lack of any sense of urgency: either in ensuring that the correct choice is made, or that a response is timely. In fact the opposite appears to be true - the longer something takes to produce, the more valuable and important it ias perceived to be.. While government workers have deadlines, just like the rest of us, they appear to be masters of the loophole. Being able to deliver something that means nothing, where the true meaning only comes out weeks or months later and bears little relation to the questions asked or the practicality of a request.
When Microsoft released Vista, I recall someone being shown the product and they were told it had taken so many years and so many $Bn's to develop. Their response was "and this is all we get?". I feel the same way about government processes. I can't, for the life of me work out how a 5 page position paper - that a subject matter expert <ahem> can knock out in an uninterrupted morning can take 10,000 civil servants 4 months, only to be so full of fundamental misconceptions as to be useless. So for all the spending on government: is that all we get? Hence "workers" - does that answer your question?
The sound of desperation
> We will expect you to be transparent in all your dealings with us ...
You can almost hear the pleading in the tone of this quote. What he really meant was "Pleeeeeeeeeze stop running rings around our purchasing people. They're only indolent, untalented jobsworths. It's not their fault they neither know nor care about the projects they are responsible for. You should start to treat us nicely, or we'll cry and tell your dad."
The basic problem with politicians today is that they come out of university (having studied politics and/or history or somesuch). get a job working for a political party. Progress to becoming a parliamentary researcher for a politician, eventually graduate to becoming a candidate themselves and finally getting elected. They generally have zero experience of a proper job and even less knowledge of how the real world operates. As for "business": worse than clueless. The same applies for the "workers" in the civil service. Lifelong pen-pushers who wouldn't recognise a piece of source code if it crawled up their trouser leg and nibbled their knee.
Having people with no background making decisions that require technical information and a qualified background is just asking for trouble - they shouldn't be surprised when they get it.
So now we have a SPAM gap
Not content with missile gaps, bomber gaps and mine shaft gaps [tip o' the hat to Dr Strangelove], america is now falling behind the rest of the world in spam, too. Well they'll just have to do better. Maybe it'll become "unamerican" not to generate hundreds or thousands of worthless posts every day <ahem> and flood the world with enhancements, elongations, bank transfers and virus checks.
Although, I'd have to say; it's been so long since I've seen any spam, I'm rather out of touch with what they are offering, these days.
The biggest lesson
is that there's no such thing as failure - only a lack of success.
The thing about these types of big projects is that they don't suddenly become failures: one day they're a screaming success and over a weekend they somehow go mouldy and turn into the software equivalent of a pot of three-month old yoghurt you forgot about in the back of the fridge. Although that analogy (now I come to think about it) bears a lot of resemblance to projects heading south. They start to go bad as soon as people sit back and assume it'll just look after itself - without them having to do anything.
One of the big projects I was involved with had all the hallmarks of a crashing failure. If you'd asked anyone of "team leader" level experience who was working on it, they'd have told you within 6 months of it starting that it was doomed - couldn't possibly succeed. My introduction to it was a seminar where the lead designer drew the systems architecture - it took about half an hour and covered two whiteboards. If that, itself, is not a red flag then it ought to be. Other things that screamed FAIL were the number of new technologies (basically: everything - nothing about the new system was stuff the current developers / sysadmins had ever done before), the new software products (ditto) and the startling revelation that once it went live there was no way back.
Now I realise that everybody in IT is genetically programmed for optimism ("this time it'll *definitely work ..... oh crap. ... OK *now* it's absolutely ready .... ooops ...") but there's a place where optimism rapidly turns into a wanton dereliction of care and an abandonment of rational appraisal. It seems to me that this point occurs when projects are pitched above about £30M. At that point they become too big to fail, yet stand almost no chance of ever doing what they said they would - so whatever they eventually end up delivering is retroactively called the goal (and those who go around reminding people what the plan _originally_ proposed are summarily dismissed). Generally the only thing that can save a project, once it gets to this size is to replace the IT director and hope the new one is a "cancel everything my predecessor started" kinda guy. That will probably be the only time that he/she truly earns their pay.
The second biggest lesson is that we never learn from past failures. Everyone who's read The Mythical Man Month can tick off almost all the cockups that Fred Brooks wrote about over 40 years ago in almost every project that involves more than a year of lead-time and more than £1M. The only reall success most projects ever have is in concealing the true extent of their failure: either from the press, or from the rest of the company. But isn't that what keeps most of us in jobs?
"Or are you sugesting the publishers sell direct? "
We're talking about ebooks, not *all* books. What I'm suggesting is that once WRITERS have a process that allows them to produce (or have their agents manage outsourced services on the writers behalf) their own ebooks, which can short-circuit all the overheads and bloat of a traditional, paper-based publisher then the price to the customer goes down dramatically. The time to market goes from 12 months to a few months and more writers get to have their works published. Whether they then make any money rather depends on how good their writing turns out to be.
Paypal is merely an example of how they could use existing means to get paid for their sales.
Very little commonality with paper books
> Of the 17 steps to creating a book that he outlines, the majority apply regardless of whether the result is an e-book or a printed one.
No, actually there aren't.
Step #5: Scheduling is a requirement from the limited publishing capacity of the process. Removing the _print_ limitations makes this step simply go away
#8, Advance reading copies. Again, paper driven. Just send 'em an email
#10 Typesetting. Yeeees, Ok. There is some need for typesetting. However, just as everyone these days does their own worm processing, rather than employing a secretary I feel this stage is something that an author could outsource, or do themselves. Maybe not for paper, but deffo for ebooks
#11 Marketing copy. Yeah, right. Who are we kidding here
#12 Review page proofs. Basically take out the errors introduced by the (almost) redundant step #10
#13 Collate advance orders & order the print run. Nope, gone.
#14 The print run. ditto
#15 The printing process. and again
#17 Invoicing and accounting. Paypal
So thats 10 of the 17 steps either removed or radically streamlined (and we haven't even talked about the management and marketing stages. ISTM that with the right infrastructure (who can say, it probably already exists) there is not much to stop an author engaging freelance editing/proofing, cover art and distribution. Or for a third party such as the author's agent, to organise this on their behalf.
What we end up with is a nicely disintermediated (guess who learned a new word) industry. Where authors and their agents sell their books directly to the consumers via an electronic marketplace. They charge (maybe) $2 for a DRM'd copy - with half going to cover the outsourced costs. The number they sell depends on how well they tweet or virally market their wares. Rather than on the whim of a faceless publishing house who decides that there is no market for their style, or genre - or that they've already published the one SF/Vampire/Historical romance in their schedule this year. We end up with many more books, from a wider range of authors and a lot of the big names get lost in the noise. Good or bad? who knows.
Myths and truths
The main concern "non technical" people have appears to be to do with the launch process. Having seen plenty of footage of exploding rockets - some even from the last half-century - their thought process goes something like: Rocket goes <bang>, reactor explodes, nuclear fallout everywhere, planet glows in the dark and everybody dies. I'll leave it as an exercise to list the number of fallacies in this train of thought (I make it 4).
The main concern that technical people have is to do with orbits. Basically, in space everything is in orbit - and it'll come back to where it started from at some time or other. Now, uranium is pretty dam' close to inert in its pure form. It has a half-life of 100's of millions of years, so _provided any neutrons from the occasional decay_ doesn't hit another uranium nucleus and start a chain reaction, it's close to failsafe UNTIL THE REACTOR IS INITIATED. After that all the decay products start to accumulate in the core and they are friggin nasty little isotopes. If the nuclear rocket misfires, when it does come back it'll be one glowing ball of nastiness (TM Microsoft: 1981). And orbits being closed, at some point it'll arrive back where it came from ..... The trick is to make the start-point of the mission a long way from Earth, which means you have to haul the whole mess out to L1 or somesuch, using a chemical rocket. As with nuclear power, the big problem with nuclear rockets is safe disposal of the (expended) core after the mission. It's not practical to capture them and reprocess the fuel - though at some point it will be, but for now: nah. So each mission puts another glowing ball of nastiness up there, going somewhere, that has to be tracked in case it comes back to bite us in the arse.
Back to the 60's
All the basic research for nuclear powered engines was done from the late 50's to the beginning of the 70's when atmospheric nuclear tests were banned. Although they were never tested in space, projects like XE-Prime did in-vacuo test firings on earth, so we know the 40 year old technology works. If it wasn't for public concern over transporting inert reactor cores on conventional rockets (so they could be fired a long way from earth) we'd have had 2-way expeditions to Mars decades ago.
Looking around, I can see he's wrong
<via smartphone from a very boring meeting>
None of the software engineers I can see at the moment appear to have any trouble sleeping.
Here's an idea ...
Why doesn't David Haye fight Vitali Klitschko ? Since it's my idea, I should get 10% (gross) of the takings. Obviously the months of training, preparation, pain, suffering, possible death or injury should not go unrewarded so the winner can have the rest (less expenses).
The thing about ideas is that they are ten a penny - it's the actual implementation that takes the skill, perseverance, effort and carries the risk. As opposition parties who are happy to sit on the sidelines and snipe find, when they unexpectedly win an election and have to try to implement all the fine words that sounded so great when they didn't have to do them.
MLF (that is how you spell it, isn't it?) is in the same position. Of course it makes sense for the government to do lots of things to save money. And they all sound very fine when people talk about them. However the view from 10,000 feet is very different from that on the ground so the only response to her suggestions for saving £1.5Bn can be: "OK then, off you go. Come back when it's finished and we'lll give you your 10%" Or maybe she'd find 10 rounds with the Haye Maker easier?
 for the uninitiated, two rather large gentlemen who make a living by hitting people until they lose consciousness - or some judges decide one has hit the other better.
Ah yes, guarantees.
Guarantee: [in english] A formal promise or assurance that an obligation will be fulfilled or that something is of a specified quality.
Guarantee: [in computing] A marketing term used to indicate an aspired to or theoretical level of service that a provider hopes, one day, to achieve. (See also: "up to", "unlimited", service level agreement, "bug-free", maximum talk time.)
The nice thing about [IT] guarantees is that they are almost never testable before committing to them, have many, many exceptions, get-outs and preconditions, hardly ever come with any penalties for their breach and can frequently be modified, nullified or have additional conditions attached at the whim of the supplier - even if you can understand the language used to define them and have agreed that understanding before signing on the electronic dotted line.
Cloud computing is no different from any other major infrastructure change. You can believe all that the salespeople tell you and dive in headfirst, or you can take a more considered approach and take the time to build a relationship of trust with your new best friend. Whichever approach you decide (or have it decided for you) to take, always have a Plan B, frequently ask yourself: How can we disentangle from this operation? and always, always keep your CV handy.
And when he suggests playing ...
... frisbee, politely decline
What else could they do?
> money into storylines than gimmicks
You're right. This gimmick de jour is a poor substitute for decent programmes. However, it's the only substitute they've got so we'd better all get used to it.
I just hoping that someone, somewhere is thinking about the next gimmick, which has got to be due in 3 or 4 years, as this one doesn't look like it's setting the retail world alight.
After the tax on talking, a tax on watching
Let's have a quick recap on the 3G auctions. Bascially, the phone companies hocked everything they owned to pay the government over £20Bn for the right to spend even more money building the 3G networks. This changed the mobile phone companies from being communications providers into financial institutions - whose only goal was to get the lowest finance terms for their huge loans, while making us pay it all back through high call charges. Essentially the money we pay to talk to people is used to pay the 3G tax the phone companies incurred.
Now the same successful (from the government's side) ploy will be used to sell more frequencies, which the government has decided that it now owns, back to us so we can pay them even more to watch videos.
You can't plan what you don't know
By definition, projects deal in doing new things. Things that haven't been done before. Things the company don't have experience of.
Consequently, if there was ever a true and frank project plan, it would read something like this:
What is the project going to do? Well, we're not quite sure. We think it'll be something along these lines .... but there could be lots of things that go wrong so we'll probably have to make lots of changes, to fix unforeseen problems, in unknown ways. We may even need several attempts before we find a solution to some of the trickier problems.
How long will it take? Can't say. If everything goes exactly right first time, and there are no disruptions, delays, complications, faulty components or changes - then somewhere between 6 months and 2 years is a good guess.
How much will it cost? No idea. We'll start off with a team of designers who will produce a pie-in-the-sky design which is utterly impractical - and then they'll leave. After that we'll get tenders from suppliers who will lie about the cost and capabilities of their products. Once we get the development team up and running, their people will be continually churned so we'll have to spend half our time (at full commercial rates) re-training new people who will that make all the same mistakes their predecessors made. Once we get to integration, none of the documentation will be ready as the management will have focussed efforts on delivering modules - as that's what their bonuses depend on. That means the first two attempts won't work, so we'll have to re-do most of the coding from scratch. Once the product is implemented, it'll turn out that none of the interfacing, legacy, systems will be able to talk to it - so there'll be massive re-writes of those needed. And by the time it's all finished, there will be a COTS version available from all those programmers we trained up, which will cost 1/10th the price and work right out of the shrinkwrap.
However. No-one in their right mind would ever come clean on the true costs, time, change and problems that a project will inevitably entail. If they did no-one but a madman would ever sign off on anything. So in order to get a project off the ground, everyone lies in the project proposal. Since both sides know they're lying, the signer-offers assume it'll cost twice as much and take twice as long as anyone says. Both sides also know that by the time IT hits the fan, they will have all moved on and it'll be some other poor schmuck's problem to explain the overruns and problems. This is the long standing tradition in IT, construction, defence, space exploration, and pretty much everything that involves doing stuff for the first time. So long as all parties play along, everyone's happy - including the barrel-scraping shock-hack tabloids who later get to dish the dirt on all the port, corruption, profiteering and incompetence in government and industry projects.
If you ask nicely
> I'd miss all the normal things, like rain, green grass, trees, chirping birds, my neigbours nice arse....
...he might sign up too.
But it's more than missing the comforts of home. What do you do when you get a toothache, or have a heart attack. Basically any sort of injury and you're effectively a goner. There's no major hospitals this side of Phobos and even that one doesn't deal with human cases. Until we know a lot more about Mars, there's not even the prospect of having the right equipment to do decent research with and without something like a fusion reactor, not enough power to keep people warm during the loooonger Martian winters (nice arses notwithstanding).
Basically, it'll be 200+ years before we have enough knowledge, resources and abilities to get people to Mars - and support them there. Until then, it's robots all the way.
The "Gobi Desert" question
Q: Why don't people colonise the Gobi Desert?
A: Because there's nothing there to live on, or work on, or export, or shelter in
Yet it's a thousand times more hospitable than Mars and a million times cheaper to get to (plus, there's a good chance you could get back, too). So the tipping point of where people choose to live is set well and truly on the "land of milk and honey" side of the equation and a long, long way away from earthbound deserts and even further from Martian ones. What would the "colonists" do all day? Huddle inside their little shelters, wondering when or if the next supply rocket would arrive (or if they'd just see it go past as a flaming ball, crashing or missing them completely - as 50% of Mars-bound spacecraft do)? Press their noses up against the windows and count the number of rocks outside? Without a highly developed support structure, there's little possibility that they'd be in a position to mount expeditions to other parts of the planet, or go searching for signs of life, or even try to find one of the crashed or failed previous spacecraft.
So far as the cost thing goes. Surely the cost of getting enough fuel for a return trip out to Mars is only higher than the cost of continual resupply if the people there are not expected to live very long. If they need (say) 1 ton of supplies sent every year then after a certain number of years, that amount of stuff will have exceeded the amount of stuff needed to bring them back. It sounds like a particularly cold calculation to make: "Well we reckon you'll only survive a few years, so it's not worth spending the money to send rescue. We'll drop you some more water and oxygen when we have the time"
Even the convicts transported to the antipodes got a better deal than that.
This tech may well work *against* ordinary people who are either not aware, or don't care about it. However, just as people didn't used to lock their doors until the threat of unwelcome visitors became widespread (or at least became widely reported) - we can expect that once these activities become too intrusive the population will push back. Whether that entails us starting to wear large, floppy hats, dark glasses and/or false beards (until they all become criminal offenses), or something else.
Presumably at some point an escalation will start with ever more sophisticated probing into our lives, followed by greater reluctance to show our true selves in public. Maybe it'll become a new selling point for pubs, clubs and other meeting places: No Cameras!
As a non-player ...
> With a decent mathmatical model you could do well out of it, but would it be cheating?
I can't see that it's cheating any more than memorising the odds of various combinations is cheating - doesn't that give an "unfair" advantage to people with good memories?
However, I also can't see any problem with insider trading - not that I'm into gambling on stock markets, either. Why on earth would you buy (or sell) a stock unless you had information about its prospects?
Sounds like a good interview question
> they spend 46.9 per cent of their time thinking about something other than what they're doing
Thank you for coming in, before the interview starts properly, one little question: have you got an iPhone?
"Why yes I have" says the interviewee, proudly. "Would you like to see it?"
No thanks comes the curt reply <ding> "Next please".
(of course we don't know what percentage their time of non iPhone owners spend dreaming and gazing into space - it could be even more than this, especially if they were wishing they had an iPhone, too.)
Re: nuclear free zone
Yes, our lot (bloody art students) made the same pronouncement. Then someone pointed out all the isotopes being used in the physics and chemistry departments. They didn't even blink but carried on in their pompous naivety as if nothing had happened.
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