* Posts by Skoorb

255 posts • joined 25 Jan 2011

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UK.gov's hated Care.data project binned

Skoorb

Re: Haven't seen a doctor in years.

I'm guessing you haven't had to sit next to a loved one as they died of cancer.

There are different ways to die, and I issue you the pain that can come from some cancers is intractable and excruciating. I wouldn't wish it on anyone and would do a hell of a lot to make sure I didn't die that way.

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Skoorb

Re: Haven't seen a doctor in years.

Congratulations! If you are not registered with a GP then you will not be called for any of the national screening programmes (they call based off the NHS Central Register).

Here's hoping you havent missed any important cancer or AAA screening invitations!

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Are you an Olympian of software, a titan of tech? Prove it in our coding competition

Skoorb

Mobile App

Why not say that the winner gets a contract to rewrite El Reg's Android app? The current one is particulaly crap, and I'm sure that a great many of your readers have the ability to make a better job of it, and for a decent price to boot.

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Skoorb

Re: One-file rule

A .jar file is a .zip file with a different extention.

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Google medical search

Skoorb

Re: Self-diagnosis via Google

Yeah. In the UK it should really at least advise people to call 111 rather than making them think it's an emergency and thus sending them to A&E.

At least then people with a spot in their early or an aching knee can be redirected to a pharmacy or out of hours GP.

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Third OnePlus flagship: £309

Skoorb

Re: OS upgrades

Well, the Nexus 5X both costs more, and isn't really an equivalent phone in terms of features, the 6P is broadly equivalent, but has a list price of £500 for the 64gb like this phone.

This OnePlus ships with a customised android based on Marshmallow.

So, it depends on what you want. The hardware specs or stock Android with security updates.

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Judge slams BT for blaming engineer after 7 metre ceiling plunge

Skoorb

@AC

Yeah. This sounds a bit similar to the medical field here. If you didn't write it down in the patient notes it is very difficult to prove that:

- it happened, or

- you considered it as a possibility.

So, unless the employer can produce some documentary proof that the employee underwent the appropriate training and was issued with the appropriate instructions and equipment, all it takes is the employee to say that it didn't happen and it didn't happen.

Generally speaking, this is A Good Thing and The Right Answer, but occasionally it can go a bit too far. There is a really interesting Radio 4 programme presented by ex MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller called The Blame Game. Give it a listen if you have half an hour to spare, it's really good, and also rather applicable to IT service management.

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You deleted the customer. What now? Human error - deal with it

Skoorb

Re: I concur with the procedure guides.

Procedure guides. They are nice when they are up to date.

I once had to be rotated temporarily into a different unit to cover for staff being on maternity leave/quitting/being seconded elsewhere.

"But it's OK", I was told, "just follow these signed off Standard Operating Procedures"!

So I do. Until it turns out one is now out of date due to some system change and actually following it leads to silent data quality errors in a (random natch) small percentage of records.

Which of course was my fault, as I was the one who pressed the button, and obviously I should have known better than to follow that particular SOP.

ಠ_ಠ

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G4S call centre staff made 'test' 999 calls to hit performance targets

Skoorb

Re: Targets Vs Cost

@Rol; "they had a "waiting list" for patients to go on THE waiting list, thus ensuring no one on THE waiting list, waited so long that the hospital incurred penalties."

Yeah. In England that doesn't happen any more, and hasn't for some time now. The 18 week Referral to Treatment (RTT) target, and the Two Week Rule (2WR) for suspected cancer are measured from referral to the start of treatment.

- There is no provision to pause or suspend an RTT waiting time clock under any circumstances.

- The percentage of incomplete pathways seen within 18 weeks (92%) has become the sole measure of performance

- The financial penalty for incomplete pathways breaching 18 weeks above the threshold of 8% is now £300 per breach (£5000 if any single patient waits more than 52 weeks), and the regulator, NHS Improvement, coming and breathing down your neck.

Finally, if you cannot be seen within the maximum waiting time the organisation that commissions and funds your treatment (CCGs or NHS England) must investigate and offer you a range of suitable alternative hospitals or community clinics that would be able to see or treat you more quickly. However, you will need to contact the original hospital, clinic or commissioner first before alternatives can be investigated for you.

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Skoorb

Re: Metrics?

I have actually had the pleasure of reading the unreacted "Public Emergency Call Service Code of Practice" a few years ago.

The Emergency Operator (EO) who answers the 999 call asking for which service you require had a target of answering 95% of 999/112 calls within 5 seconds. "Under the Policing Pledge, the Police Service aims to answer 999/112 calls within 10 seconds; the recommended response time for the Ambulance Service is to answer 95% within 5 seconds; and the Fire and Rescue Service and Coastguard aim to answer 95% within 10 seconds."

If the EO cannot connect the call (including if no one answers) there is a fall back process:

"In circumstances where the CHA emergency operator receives no reply on the primary number after 60 seconds, the operator will connect the call to a secondary number provided by the EA, except where call queuing is used". If a queueing system does exist, the operator will only sit in a queue on the primary number for a maximum of 2 minutes before falling back.

And, if no one answers on the second number after 30 seconds, they fall back to an alternate number, normally a different service.

Although it may not sound like much, in an emergency waiting 10 seconds for someone to pick up the call, then another 10 seconds to be transferred to the right service can seem like an eternity. Sitting in a queue for 2 minutes must be terrible.

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Skoorb

Re: Targets Vs Cost

Yeah, the rail performance targets are written in a really odd way.

Did you know that if a train doesn't stop at any one of it's scheduled stops it is as if the train never ran at all? So, if a station is evaculated and closed, every train that passes through the station is now a total failure. This gives the perverse incentive to actually not bother running some trains if everything falls apart so badly that a station has to close.

Also, the late running targets are only measured at the terminating station, not any intermediate station, so you can be as late as you want everywhere except the last stop without any problem.

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Adobe...sigh...issues critical patch...sigh...for Flash Player zero day

Skoorb

Re: BBC HTML5

@Ken Hagan

BBC R&D published a blog post explaining the technologies the player uses and why they can't support some environments. It's linked from the main HTML5 page.

In summary:

- Safari on Mac OS X doesn’t support AVC3 via its Media Source Extensions implementation. The HLS implementation is also incomplete.

- In Firefox, the H.264 and AAC decoders are provided by the operating system. Currently, Firefox will only use decoders from Windows and OS X by default. On POSIX, you have to manually plug your own in.

- Old browser versions do not have support for HTML5 or MPEG-DASH (the MPEG-DASH standard was only published in 2012).

If you have any suggestions or other problems, drop the team an email at mediaplayer@bbc.co.uk.

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Skoorb

BBC HTML5

@John Riddoch

Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/html5 and switch to the HTML5 BBC player. Ther's also an Android HTML5 player avaliable.

They have been in beta since September last year, but still have not been pushed out as default. The new HTML5 player also uses MPEG-DASH and the avc3 codec, which is pretty cool.

BBC Research & Development have a load of really interesting blog posts on the work they have been putting into it.

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SS7 spookery on the cheap allows hackers to impersonate mobile chat subscribers

Skoorb

Here's how it works:

In WhatsApp, your handle/username is your phone number in E.164 format (so +441242221491 for example).

To verify you control that number, when you register, WhatsApp sends the number you enter a verification SMS, which if you receive it authenticates you to access the account associated with that number.

There's something I don't get though. I thought that the SMS contained a random 6 digit number, which had to be entered into the app and transmitted to the server for validation. Only if that number matches what was sent in the SMS does the server authenticate the request. How the heck does SS7 signalling allow you to intercept incoming SMS messages directed to someone else's number?

Anyone care to explain this?

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IT glitch causes 'nationwide' Post Office outage

Skoorb

Re: kind of vague

wat.

So, how bad exactly is the USPS?

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Skoorb

Not anymore!

Amazon now runs its own delivery arm: Amazon Logistics

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UK's Universal Credit IT may go downhill soon, warns think tank report

Skoorb

Rewriting all the rules isn't helping

From what I understand from someone “with knowledge” of the thing, there are two main problems:

- The IT

- The Rules

Ignoring the IT for a moment, the whole point of UC involves a complete rewrite of the DWPs rulebook, developed over many years from the end of the Second World War. Currently, the DWP's Decision Makers' Guide (yes, you can read it online) runs to 14 volumes and covers everything. For example, labour market questions for Job Seekers Allowance are 228 pages long and the definition of “membership of the family” is 28 pages. So, if you have a member of a polygamous marriage trying to claim Income Support, where the other members of the marriage are all in prison, except for one “technical lifer” who has been transferred to an NHS hospital, you can process the claim (page 24217 for those wondering).

UC rips all this up and writes its own, entirely separate Advice for decision making document. This struggles to cover someone with a mortgage, never mind a truly complex case. It's also constantly in flux, with modification memos being chucked out monthly. At the moment there are 41 memos that decision makers have to know that modify the official procedure, that have yet to be included in the “Advice for decision making” document, never mind be included in the software!

tl;dr: Never underestimate the complexity of people's circumstances.

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Restaurant booked, flowers ordered ... Microsoft has a hot date for SQL Server 2016

Skoorb

Re: Who'd want SQL server

Yeah. If your use case supports what PostGres can do, then the quality and price of support from EnterpriseDB is hard to beat. Unfortunately, PostGres is most similar to Oracle, so in a lot of cases isn't what people currently using SQL Server are after.

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Skoorb

Re: I just keep wondering...

Not to mention the Jet Red database engine that is traditionally used in Access is totally and completely different from SQL Server.

Why they haven't moved Access and the like over to SQL Server express LocalDB (the tiny version that links as a library and runs with about a 2MB RAM footprint) or SQL Server Compact yet I'm not entirely sure.

Nobody should really be using Jet Red these days, it's just not that good at what it does.

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Old, complex code could cause another UK banking TITSUP – study

Skoorb

With most banking systems that would be an IBM Mainframe or two running z/OS and z/TPF etc OSs, with something like Computer Associates' (remember them? ) CA-7 actually triggering all the batch jobs.

Mainframes and their OSs are a little bit different from pretty much any other system you will ever touch.

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Skoorb

Re: "Even if something has been written in Java in 90s that is still 20 years ago."

Yes, Things Change.

A brilliant example of this is RBS/NatWest Telephone, Online and Mobile banking.

A telephone banking system was developed to hook into the main banking system. This telephone banking system is separate to the main branch system, logging all transactions against a four digit call number, before passing them over to the main banking system.

Becauase parts of the main branch banking system dates back to the 60s, it was not possible to actually integrate the telephone banking system fully; it has to sit separately and just pass transaction messages back and forth as if it were a special type of branch terminal.

The online banking system was developed to hang off the end of the telephone banking system, so all transactions are passed to the telephone banking system and treated as coming from a telephone "call", before being transferred to the main branch system with a call number.

The mobile banking system hangs off the end of both the online and telephone banking systems, but cannot generate proper call numbers, so simply logs everything against telephone call 0, then leaves the telephone banking system to pass the transaction over to the branch system.

So, a right mess there then, with lots of potential to go wrong. No decent software engineer would even consider designing a system that way if implemented today - the potential for failures and security flaws is just too high.

You will also notice how everything is predicated on having a telephone banking login, and how your telephone banking details also double as your online banking log in details, with no easy way to separate the two.

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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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