* Posts by Skoorb

234 posts • joined 25 Jan 2011

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Good enough IT really is good enough. You don't need new hardware

Skoorb

Re: Cloud based desktops, sound amazing but...

Not to mention needing to entirely rip and replace a good chunk of your network setup, SAN etc.

We run from over 500 sites, along with a load of people "agile" working off laptops. I'm sure quoting for that kind of external connectivity would have our Virgin Media account manager drooling.

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Skoorb

Re: why is everything Javascript these days?

Elegant‽ It's got six datatypes, one of which isn't usable yet in many browsers. Seriously, "number", "string"?

Also:

'' == '0' // false

0 == '' // true

0 == '0' // true

null == false // false

!null // true

And for bonus points:

/[A-z]/.test("\\"); // true

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One million patients have opted out of Care.data

Skoorb

The HSCIC does know about you.

Well, you will certainly have some data in an HSCIC system as they run the GP registration database, so if you have ever been registered with a GP or issued an NHS Number, you will be on the NHAIS and PDS if nothing else.

The NHS Central Register was originally the old national ID system from the second world war - everyone already had a national ID card so they simply reused the old ID numbers as NHS numbers (only renumbering everyone in 1995). It's even run out of the General Register Office.

For staff who have access to this old system to trace people as part of their job (patients have an annoying tendency to move house and not tell you) - for people around when the NHS was founded in 1948 they can see their entire address history and every GP they have been registered with, along with their old second world war ID card number.

Another Big Fun Database is the Secondary Uses Service (SUS). If you have ever set foot in a hospital since 1987 details of that care "episode" (with your NHS number) will have been transferred to the SUS. Even if it's as simple as "patient booked into A&E, but refused to wait and went home". Currently, around 125 million records a year are added to this system, with returns being sent on a monthly basis. Don't worry though; most psychosexual stuff (fetishistic transvestism etc) HIV and IVF records are pseudonymised or anonymised at submission.

The best way to find out what information the HSCIC does hold about you (and the HSCIC does hold information about you, whatever opt-out method you have tried to use) is to complete a Subject Access Request form and ask them to send you a copy of all information (don't bother with the paper record request part of the form, you are only interested in the digital bits). If you GP has screwed up and transferred information without your consent you can then involve the ICO to have the data removed.

You can see a list of many of the national NHS Digital systems at http://systems.hscic.gov.uk/.

Another thing that most people don't realise is that GPs have a contractual requirement to have their entire medical record and administration system hosted by a private company. Around 50% of GPs have their records hosted with EMIS Group plc, around 2,500 practices and 40,000,000 patients are on TPP's SystmOne (the underlying database there is a MS SQL instance of about 700 terabytes) and most of the rest are on INPS Vision.

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UK web host 123-Reg goes TITSUP, customer servers evaporate

Skoorb

Re: The National Enquirer of Technology

And as anyone who has had the misfortune of being involved with undeleting deleted data knows, you are going to have some bit rot in there. Some percentage of your data will have odd corruptions in it; better hope it's not in a key part of your database or your will end up with a 'restored' service that won't actually run because some file somewhere has a 1 where it should have a 0.

So even if you do restore from your own backup, they could end up overwriting it with something broken anyway.

ಠ_ಠ

More importantly, do they have enough free unused servers to ensure that anyone restoring themselves isn't going to overwrite somebody's deleted data? Any disk that has had data deleted from it needs to be taken offline completely and mounted read-only otherwise things will only get worse.

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BOFH: If you liked it then you should've put the internet in it

Skoorb

Re: Tracking

Oh, that old chestnut.

Assuming the whole building isn't covered in security cameras, it takes less than a week for people to just start hitting the emergency door release switches and leaving all the doors unlocked again - especially when you've left your ID card behind and are now trapped in the toilet.

What also tends to happen in some middle manager decides when people should be "allowed" to pass through certain doors based on building opening times etc and comes up with some convoluted schedule of when doors can be used. I have seen:

- Someone get trapped between two sets of doors as he walked through the first set just as the clock hit 8pm and both sets locked themselves shut.

- Rooms get booked for evening use, but someone forgot to "unlock" one set of doors required to get to the room.

- A room get booked for weekend use, but the building locking itself too early (though all internal doors were fine), trapping everyone inside until they walked out a fire escape, activating the fire alarm.

- "Out by 12 hours" errors in the schedule, unlocking buildings overnight.

It's just not worth it and tends not to last long, especially when some manager gets trapped somewhere, or the only way someone can escape is by activating the fire alarm and evacuating the entire building.

Also, the "no tailgating" rule is impossible to enforce pretty much anywhere outside of a secure mental health unit or a prison.

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Admin fishes dirty office chat from mistyped-email bin and then ...?

Skoorb

Exactly.

Generally, many employers will have either:

- a policy on the use of work equipment/IT systems/communication during work time, or

- some catch-all clause in the employment contract.

Generally speaking, your response depends on the policies in question. However, internal IT processes and procedures need to be designed with these company policies in mind - if you don't want to be put in the position of reading misaddressed email, don't store or log the stuff!

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Hey, tech industry, have you noticed Amazon in the rearview?

Skoorb

Re: There is a reason for everything

To be fair, bad credit with your current vendor is an excellent reason to call another vendor.

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Skoorb

Re: Channel + Frameworks + Internal Purchasing

I see you too have worked in the public sector.

We have been trying to lease (yes thats right, lease) a new version a bit of kit we already lease for over a year now. It's been going on for so long the old contract has expired and rolled over to Silly Price With All Support Chargable Per Call™. So now finance are refusing to pay and the vendor are threatening us with reposession.

We still haven't got an order approved for a new one. And now we have rolled into a new financial year so we've lost budget approval.

ಠ_ಠ

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Bundling ZFS and Linux is impossible says Richard Stallman

Skoorb

Re: Simpler solution.

Personally I assumed that's the main reason that IBM charge so much for the damn thing - covering their support costs.

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Skoorb

Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

IIRC there are three main problems:

-Actual support. You can't just ring Canonical when you need help. This is a bit of a problem in business.

-The faff of actually installing and configuring the thing.

-You can't actually boot from it.

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Skoorb

Re: Simpler solution.

If you are running over a cluster then IBM's GPFS can knock ZFS into a cocked hat. You have to endure IBM's sale process though and pay them silly money.

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Carving up the IT contract behind £500bn of annual tax collection is a very risky move

Skoorb

Re: Who knows?

Hey!

Back in 2005ish I was the one who built that MS Access system. I'll have you know I actually had a paper copy of the MS Access 2.0 manual from 1994 as my main reference.

Last I heard I was the only one who bothered to keep a copy of the documentation, including the 1994 manual.

When I was first taught Java EE in my degree I actually hankered back for the simplicity and clarity of VBA.

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'Panama papers' came from email server hack at Mossack Fonseca

Skoorb

Re: Why is it...

Faster payment transaction limits are nowt to do with money laundering, and all to do with the banks wanting to make money out of you by making you pay the CHAPS fee.

Just change banks.

The limits per bank are at http://www.fasterpayments.org.uk/about-us/transaction-limits. Note that some allow you to pay up to the scheme limit of £250,000 per transaction with no problems.

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Skoorb

Re: Mail?

Further to the old telex systems, a number of large institutions ran their "email" systems over an X.400 and X.500 messaging system. This allows for serious audit of deliverability and message integrity compared to SMTP.

Last I saw you can even run Exchange in X.400 mode and just slap an SMTP gateway over the front of it to interface with the Internet and an interface to convert email addresses to X.400 addresses.

Even today lots of large institutions who consider their internal comms “sensitive” still run over an underlying X.400/X.500 system. It is used heavily in military/intelligence/aviation/shipping etc.

So, they may well have been using "email" (or something similar to it) for many decades now.

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Oh, sugar! Sysadmin accidently deletes production database while fixing a fault

Skoorb

Re: In a similar vein

Back early on in the Windows XP to 7 migration we needed to test the automated deployment tool, so we could see how the SCCM would actually deploy the installer image.

So, a simple, near default, Windows 7 build with no software installed was created as a test by the project team to deploy to a couple of systems in a lab.

Unfortunately, it was deployed to the early adopter test group, where all the monthly desktop updates go to be tested before being pushed out organization wide. This is the majority of IT, including the helpdesk.

To get things moving along quickly, it was pushed out as mandatory, immediate and requiring a forced immediate installation including restart.

Thus, the entire helpdesk and most systems in IT were simultaneously trashed in the middle of the working day before someone managed to kill the deployment.

:-/

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Microsoft has made SQL Server for Linux. Repeat, Microsoft has made SQL Server 2016 for Linux

Skoorb

SQL Server most certainly can scale, if you have proper support from Microsoft and the magic "customised builds".

The Pheonix Partnership (TPP) produce an NHS medical record system called SystmOne which covers 30 million patients. The underlying database is an SQL Server environment of more than 700 terabytes, with an 8-terabyte primary transactional database. TPP servers handle 640 million transactions per day, peaking at about 34,700 transactions per second.

They are currently moving to an OLTP system in SQL Server 2014.

It's terrifyingly huge.

Shame the desktop front end is Java.

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Outsourced Virgin Media techies botched this infosec bod's Poodle fix

Skoorb

Yup. I was told by someone who works for TalkTalk that over 80% of "technical support" calls are resolved by the tier 1 monkey reading from one of about 10 scripts. Mostly things like "is it plugged in", "have you yanked the microfilters out of some extension socket", "let's put your login details back in your router" etc.

And, they only put you through to tier 1 if an automated line test is clear.

I understand they now have a three tier service; tier 1 (doing the script reading) tier 2 (doing the actual technical support) and the engineers and technicians who actually investigate and fix faults at tier 3.

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Google punts freebie DDoS shield to hacks, human rights worthies

Skoorb

So, El Reg and the Grauniad are going to be signing up for this then?

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Hey cellcos: Guess who's got your backhaul still? That's right. Big daddy BT

Skoorb

Re: Rogers' 3G towers backhauled over twisted pair ?

Yup, this can especially be a problem when usage spikes due to a lot of people being in the area, a big event etc. A good chunk of the cell base stations are designed with enough backhaul capacity to just about cope with normal usage, so when anything spikes upwards it all grinds to a halt. In some cases, this can (and does) occur with calls and texts if enough people try to use their phone at the same time.

Even planned events in urban areas, like sporting fixtures, can effectively take out the cell network in a large area when everyone tries to use their phone at once.

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If you can't buy bootleg gear online in New York, this may be why

Skoorb

Re: Payment processors I've never heard of

As a consumer you don't always know who the payment processor is either:

- ever

- or at least until you get your card statement.

Quite often you will have to ring your card issuer and ask them to find out who the processor is for a transaction.

This is exactly why this researcher is trying to get company cards / prepaid credit cards. So he can actually 'buy' the fake stuff to see which payment processor actually charges his card!

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Google's head in the clouds: Cut, cut as fast as you can. You can't match us, AWS plan

Skoorb

Re: Pricing isn't everything

Whilst a bit hearsay (we don't use standard public cloud - patient confidentiality and all) a friend at a company that does says that they much prefer Google's paid support to Amazon's support. I think they pay the extra for 24/7 phone support for serious issues though.

However, I understand that even then questions from your developers are supposed to go to Stack Overflow.

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MPs slam mandarins over failed GP IT system

Skoorb

Re: Facepalm.

Bingo. The first spec was to extract READ codes, for example "C10" means diabetes, and “C10E012” means Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus with renal complications. So a simple find all the patients with C10 means tell me who all the diabetics are.

Then it turned into queries being written as "business rules" which somehow the extraction system had to turn into something that could actually search against these read codes.

Then another part of the NHS decided to migrate from READ codes to SMOMED CT codes in GP land. This is ongoing and should finish by 2016 or 2020 depending on which document you read.

So, from a simple "extract the READ codes" system that would run queries a bit like SQL against 4 different supplier "databases" we have moved to a system that is supposed to interpret "business rules", convert them into READ and SNOMED CT codes (at the same time) and run that against four different underlying "databases" then convert the results back into "business rules".

Whilst ATOS are not entirely to blame here, I don't think the HSCIC (and their forerunners Connecting for Health) can really say it's all ATOS' fault.

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FTC zaps more scammer loopholes with ban on wire transfers, cash cards

Skoorb

Re: Bankers

Well, not entirely.

Transfers between prepaid cards are logged, the issue is that in the US you can buy prepaid cards at convenience stores with no ID checks.

Even 'premium' brands like American Express sell them. They are used by parts of the US as an equivalent to the UK's Basic Bank Account for people who can't access or don't want to access 'proper' banking.

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Michigan sues HP after 'botched' $49m upgrade leaves US state in 1960s mainframe hell

Skoorb

Nooooo

As someone who has had to use a god awful terminal system sceenscraped through a Java desktop frontend as a primary system, that is a painful idea.

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Ditch crappy landlines and start reading Twitter, 999 call centres told

Skoorb

Re: all well and good

You can already send text messages to 999 and have been able to for a few years. But for some reason you are supposed to register your phone first...

http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/

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Windows 10 upgrade ADWARE forces its way on to Windows 7 and 8.1

Skoorb

Re: Thanks for spamming me Microsoft

I'm afraid there are no more service packs - updates will be 'streamed' out as and when - apparently there will be no more versions either...

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There's a BIG problem with Microsoft's VDI rules

Skoorb

Re: Or

Yeah. Actually paying for:

- Redhat or equivalent desktop license (with support)

- Crossover office (so you can run MS office with support)

- MS Office

Ain't exactly cheaper than Windows + Office. Especially for small businesses where you get the Windows licence with the PC.

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Skoorb

For very legacy apps the best solution we have come up with so far is actually to run them on Linux under Wine, then stream them out to the desktop.

You may laugh, but Wine still officially supports 16 bit Windows executables, even under a 64 bit OS install. This way you remain under full support and maintain a working solution. Take a look at this and this.

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Skoorb

Re: I've never been convinced

I have seen VDI (specifically Citrix XenApp) work for a medical patient admin system - it was very useful for things like remote access and access from PCs owned by another organisation. The problem was that all access had to be through VDI (even from locally owned PCs) and that it was hosted off site by CSC on Windown NT; the link bombed out multiple times a day kicking everyone off.

VDI for some cases can be very useful, but you should be wary of making everything VDI, and of hosting off site unless you have very fat, reliable and redundant links. Either way though it is unlikely to be a significant money saver.

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Don’t want a footie-field-size data centre? No problem (or is there?)

Skoorb

Re: Not really surprising

Yeah. Compare it to a SuperMicro offering, with equivalent features (you can normally despec controllers from SuperMicro boxes if you don't need them) and warranty. Probably not quite as much of a cost saving.

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Hyper-convergence? I believe – just not like this

Skoorb

Hyper Converged newness vs Big Iron oldness

El Reg regulaly fetures articles on snazzy new things like hyper convergence (incluuding from the big boys like EMC) and articles on mainframe releases, but never really mixes the two. Any chance of an article giving a comparison between the 'old' way of buying converged infrasctucture and the 'new' way? You have mentioned startups buying the 'old' way as a preference in articles in the past (like this), so there must be something in it.

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Unisys looks to ‘streamline’ as losses increase, sales fall

Skoorb

Re: Bah!

Do their mainframes natively support TCP/IP and new fangled languages like C++ yet?

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Tesco broadband goes TITSUP, world keeps turning on wobbly-wheeled trolley

Skoorb

Re: Dont Worry Tesco users

Aldi spent a while selling holidays in Eastern Europe on the cheap for some reason, before they realised that was bizarre and stopped.

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Skoorb

Ye olde Tesco Broadband (tesco.net) used to be NTL over BTw Datastream rebranded. They then moved supplier after Openreach came into being and Datastream started to be replaced by WBC (also NTL subcontracted its ADSL contracts out to Fujitsu).

Tesco then changed wholesale supplier, and are now kicking the whole shebang off to TalkTalk.

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Is hyper-convergence a good thing? Ask a mini computer veteran

Skoorb

Re: In my day sonny,

It's a fair point. IBM's Mainframe deep discount pricing if you run Linux only is rather attractive - and can do more (with arguably better support) than most of EMC's new offerings.

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Sick of Chrome vs Firefox? Check out these 3 NEW browsers

Skoorb

Re: New browsers pop up all the time.

One of the good things about the new Firefox Dev edition is that you can (finally) get a version compiled for 64 bit Windows like Pale Moon is, with the addons working. Give it a shot.

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Virgin Media to splurge BEELLIONS on UK network infrastructure expansion

Skoorb

Re: Innovating...

IPv6 is in the works and rollout should commence this year - see Virgin Media's talk at an IET conference last year at http://tv.theiet.org/channels/news/40805.cfm or the slides only at http://www.ipv6.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/VM-IPv6-council-presentation.pdf.

Details from other major providers, like BT, Sky and Janet are at http://www.ipv6.org.uk/2014/11/20/ipv6-council-meeting-oct2014/.

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Care.data refuseniks will be DENIED CANCER SCREENING invites

Skoorb

Re: Nothing wrong here

If you have already been referred to a screening programme that moved to using the new automated extract your data will stay there, but just as it was before migration, so you will still be invited, but if you move or die you will continue to be invited at your old address, and any new people will not appear on the automated extract so may be missed unless a manual audit is completed by the local team.

At the moment this only affects bowel screening, but the Diabetic Eye Screening programme is next on the list to move to a GPES extract through a system called GP2DRS.

This has been known about for ages by some people(I in fact posted this warning on this very forum way back) but unfortunately it has taken until now for the HSCIC to finally realise.

:-/

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BAN email footers – they WASTE my INK, wails Ctrl+P MP

Skoorb

Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

I personally love the ones that say that the sender cannot enter into a contact or make any representation on behalf of the company they work for. Stuck on the bottom of a purchase order email from their procurement department...

Great stuff there.

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Healthcare: Look anywhere you like for answers, just not the US

Skoorb

Re: Thoughts

That's not the clerical staff, but the (relatively) new idea of "Referral Management". File on 4 have an interesting episode on it. Broadly speaking, if you have a dodgy knee your referral will be "managed" to see if the cheaper physiotherapy will do enough to make you happy and only if that fails will you be passed up to an expensive Orthopedic surgeon. It is possible to get around this by the referral meeting criteria to not go to physiotherapy, but GPs tend not to push for that in most cases.

A good example is when a provider gets a set amount (say £400 million) to provide all Musculoskeletal services, so they have an incentive to not let people to to surgery, as they lose money. Saves the NHS money (improves efficiency), but may annoy some patients. Have a listen to the File on 4 episode, it's really interesting.

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Skoorb

Re: Good question

Well, sort of. You might be subsidising people in Newcastle, but the NHS is now a devolved matter, so the NHS in Scotland, Wales, NI and England are totally separate. They don't even have NHS numbers in Scotland and in NI it's all run by Social Services!

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UK.gov STILL won't pop a cap on stolen mobile bills

Skoorb

Re: SIM code lock

There is one rather annoying problem with SIM card pins; that you only have three attempts to enter it before the SIM card locks itself down and you need a PUK code from your network.

If you have an annoying 'friend' who decides it would be fun to mis-enter your PIN three times then you cannot use your phone again without your network giving you a PUK code or posting you a new SIM. Getting a PUK code out of your network can be harder than you think as well; not all of them let you view it online, you have to go through telephone customer service and get them to send it out.

Bah!

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UK's non-emergency police and NHS Vodafone systems go titsup NATIONWIDE

Skoorb

Well, it's a bit more complicated for 111 and 101. Depending where you are in the country (which can be down to which London Borough you are currently in, only a few square miles) the 111 call needs to be routed to a different provider (111 is technically commissioned locally by CCGs for some reason, it's only 'national' in Scotland).

In this case, they activated a (version of) the backup plan, slammed all 111 calls through to the Scottish service, where a recorded message told you (in a scottish accent) to call the national backup number operated by the HSCIC at 0300 020 0155.

Luckily, the 999 system is much more resilient, and (as of this year) Vodafone (the ex Cable and Wireless bit) are no longer providing the Operator Assistance Centres that handle and route the calls.

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Pharmacist caught spying on friends' med records fined £1,000

Skoorb

Re: We can breathe easy then

Believe it or not digitization of records has actually helped auditability. When I worked in a hospital, I could go to the records library and pull any record at any time; all I needed to do was trace it out somewhere. With digital records every time someone looks at a record, an audit trail is recorded. Not just "where the paper record should physically be".

It can be quite hard sometimes to avoid seeing records for someone you know. Chances are you know someone who is diabetic, so if you work in the local diabetes service at some point you are going to be looking at a letter and think "hang about, I recognise this guy". Likewise, if you work in a hospital and are referred in, if you know anyone in the appointments team they are going to be handling your referral. There is not much you can do about this type of "correct" access; locking records down is only done exceptionally (the fact that someone is diabetic is relevant if they see an eye surgeon about a cataract for example). So, everyone from the clerk upwards gets training to act in a professional manner, and you make a silent audit trail of every access and change so that if someone does act incorrectly, you can discipline them for it after the fact; as well as a fine you are almost certainly going to lose your job in cases like this, and if you are a professional, possibly your licence to practice.

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Right, suits off: Windows 10 preview Internet Explorer is here

Skoorb

Re: biiig problem...

Most of the NHS can't move off IE8 because of the required smartcard support provided by a modified client and load of dodgy Java applets.

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IBM goes gunning for Intel with Nvidia GPU-charged Power8 servers

Skoorb

But when will someone (especially not IBM) actually let you buy an OpenPOWER system?

One of the points was to make it cheaper to get POWER systems actually into your datacentre, especially on a large scale. There is still no announcement about actually getting some lower cost POWER boxes from anyone.

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Xen sticks pin in bug behind Rackspace GLOBAL CLOUD REBOOT

Skoorb

I can see why you would simply patch the VM

When the alternative (switching to PV) involves reinstalling and reconfiguring the guest OSs, loses you access to the CPUs virtualisation acceleration circuitry and stops you being able to use Windows.

But I thought Xen had live migration (like vMotion)? If so why is everyone terminating their guest OSs?

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Ellison: Sparc M7 is Oracle's most important silicon EVER

Skoorb

Re: Nice

Yeah. It's gonna be pricy.

If you were going to spec a brand new database system tomorrow it's quite hard to justify Oracle (or IBM for that matter) with their pricing.

Not impossible mind, but if they keep it up it may well be unless you are in the Fortune 100.

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