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* Posts by Ledswinger

2136 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012

BlackBerry inks deal to go private for $4.7bn

Ledswinger
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Re: Sad end for a once great company...

"It will interesting to see who will be next."

No, it won't be, because it'll be HTC.

Turnover cratered to a third of its 2011 high, operating margin down from 9% to 1.5%, NT$20bn of cash used in operations last quarter, executives fighting to get out of the door, executive fraud.....

All of two weeks ago I wondered in a posting who of Nokia, Blackberry and HTC would be first to enter the mobile makers graveyard, and we've since seen two of them roll over on their back. Unless things look up at HTC (which seems unlikely to me) then HTC will soon crash and burn, and be bought probably by somebody like Lenovo, or one of the less well known Chinese makers who want access to brand and know how that is better than their own.

Curiously that might mean that whilst the Nokia name will disappear as the brand fascists of Microsoft borg the business, and the Blackberry name is buried in a shallow grave north of the artic circle, the HTC name might survive as a front for somebody like Sagetel, Haier, Meizu or the like, along with possibly the HTC manufacturing and design.

OTOH, maybe HTC will spring back from the edge of the precipice. But mobile phone makers don't seem very good at that, when you think about mobile phone tombstones with names on the like Ericsson, Siemens, Nokia, Blackberry, Panasonic, NEC. Motorola and LG have been looking a bit troubled as well.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Worth it for patent trolls?

" So, could the consortium make all their $4.7b back by selling smallish IP chunks to the PT maggots descending on the carcass that was BB?"

Not from that alone. But there's plenty of value in a dead dinsosaur.

Bear in mind that even in decline and making accounting losses, Blackberry have turned about $2bn a year of cash from operations last year. So there's the sum of the IP sold to the maggots, but there's also the cash from operations during a controlled run down.

Admittedly they made zip from cash in the last quarter, but if you look at where the money went you can see diamonds in the dirt. For example, they spent $358m on R&D last quarter. If the business is no longer one with a long term future, then close or sell that, and pocket the savings. Likewise, the losses of the last quarter include $180m of amortisation, which is not a cash item (money spent long ago, being moved round the accounts). Again, as a dying business you can (they have perhaps already) taken out at least $150m of cash spend from sales and marketing, which together with the end of R&D would yield up perhaps $500m of cash from operations a quarter. On an annualised basis Fairfax should be able to ring out about $2bn a year of cash from Blackberry in the next twelve months, maybe $1bn the following year.

Then there's the assets on the balance sheet. In very rough terms, add in half of the $2.2 bn of property plant and equipment, the circa $3bn of investments and cash, assume they only get $0.5bn from the patent trolls, and Fairfax have found $4.6bn down the back of the sofa.

Pulling the declining cash from operations together with the asset sales, you can see that Fairfax will make $7.6bn for an outlay of $4.7, assuming they simply let the customers evaporate, rather than sell BBM or the enterprise customers en bloc. And as Blackberry have already announced the firing of 40% of the workforce, potentially much of the costs of dismemberment have already been incurred. If you could sell any of the customer bases to Microsoft or others, then potentially there's another billion or so.

Alive, Blackberry is a difficult business to make money and keep as a long term business. Dying or dead it is a goldmine so long as you don't have to pay too much for it.

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Shopping list for Tesco: Eggs, milk, bread, tablets (the £60 7in Android kind)

Ledswinger
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Re: Hudl

"I would have a lot more respect for Tesco today if they had called this thing the Tesco Value Tablet."

Don't forget that far too many Tesco Value products have a defining quality of having been "value engineered" to the point that all utility is lost.

Cynics might argue that we're both right, given that this is reportedly made by Archos.

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Ledswinger
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Re: A bit late to the party arent they?

"Even more pedantic note: 60 notes = £300. Unless they phase out the £5 note half way through..."

Notwithstanding the much rumoured, but as yet undelivered icon makeover, there is no icon for "hangs head in shame due to inability to do simple mental arithmetic", so I shall just brazen it out by declaring that I wondered who'd spot that first

Or I could mumble about inflation meaning that modern currency isn't worth what it used to be.

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Ledswinger
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Re: A bit late to the party arent they?

"For sixty notes and a spec like that they can probably come to the party any time they like."

It's only sixty quid if you trade in Clubcard vouchers for the difference. Admittedly there's a multiplier on clubcard voucers, but that's true for most other uses (days out, meals, holidays etc) so the true price in cash and benefits foregone remains the equivalent of £120 unless you just happen to be sitting on a pile of vouchers that you couldn't find anything to spend on.

The interesting thing will be the actual quality of the device. If they can do a decent quality screen, and the device is acceptably reliable, then it will be a very good offer.

Pedant note: Sixty notes will of course be £400, if you're talking about legal tender on the UK mainland.

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Launchpads, catapults... what a load of - WAIT, there's £15m for grabs?

Ledswinger
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Re: Practical Innovation

"The Tramp: guess what my chances of getting funding would be..."

Certainly right. But you'll be pleased to know that the Technology Strategy Board is spending millions on a mission to help China improve its manufacturing and "meet its sustainability challenges". The idea of helping China's efforts to deindustrialise Europe can only be described as criminally stupid.

As with everything David Cameron touches, the bonfire of the quangoes was a miserable failure, so we'll have to hope that despite decades of previous government failure to find and back winners has now been fixed. As the TSB spend around £40m a year in costs to hand out about £400m, they aren't looking very efficient, but maybe all that administration is picking the winners.

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Java updates too much of a bother? Maybe online banking's just not for you

Ledswinger
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Re: Do most people need Java any more?

Bl00dy Minecraft. A horribly, blocky, ****y pile of total and utter ****. And they add injury to insult by doing it in f***ing Java.

Writing minecraft in Java was a bit like making car from twigs. Technically it is impressive feat of endurance and determination, but the resultant product is still a misbegotten load of old rubbish.

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Want FREE BEER for the rest of your life?

Ledswinger
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Re: “auto-brewery” syndrome

"I'll take one. Make it two. And a packet of pork scratchings."

Rub your hand in salt, then stick it in the deep fryer for "auto-pork scratchings syndrome".

Which brings to mind the work of English literary genius that was "Horace".

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Brits are world's most wired drivers, says fleet tracker CEO

Ledswinger
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Re: Not a shock--- so report it...

"I believe that once a pot hole ( or other serious road defect) is reported to the appropriate authority then any damage suffered as a result of it could be claimed from the appropriate authority. Once reported it is their responsibility."

That's correct, but some councils like the vermin of Warwickshire County Council expect you to prove that the pothole has been reported in order to make a claim. Unless you happen to know that, they tell you to sod off. Or rather WCC pay some scumbag law firm to tell you to sod off.

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Ledswinger
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"100lb is a bit weedy for a gorilla, surely?"

Alright, they could have been the 100lb chimp of telematics. Or maybe if they weren't too active, the 100lb sloth.

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Ledswinger
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Headmaster

Re: Friday Afternoon Reminder

"The word and has a letter D on the end of it."

No, it has a letter d on the end of it. Or did you mean "The word anD has a letter D on the end of it." ?

Footnote: I think the combination of ." ? at the end of that last sentence may be a high risk gamble on my part when posting as a pedantic grammar nazi. The exciting life I lead.

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BlackBerry BLOODBATH! Company warns of nearly $1bn quarterly loss

Ledswinger
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Re: Agree

"If only BB could release low-end BB10 handsets, they might get back some of the smartphone market. Not all of us are app hoarders."

Too late for that. Just as Nokia wasn't sufficiently nimble against the emerging Apple & Android competition, so BB weren't. For the six years or so that took us from the original iPhone and Galaxy through to the iPhone 5 and the S4, regardless of apps, BB simply wasn't in that hardware market, with (until far too recently) no good hardware other than for hardware keyboard fetishists, and no credible OS for the smartphone world. Had the latest products been launched three years earlier, they might have had a chance,but when you lay off 40% of your workforce, and you're not selling your new product, developed as a "bet the ship" gamble, there's nowhere to go (other than Redmond).

All but the most ignorant phone buyers can smell smoke and hear the crackle of flames, so nobody in their right mind (other than hardware rooters) is going to buy anything labelled Blackberry now, sadly.

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Axe falls: Virgin Media plans to kill 600 management jobs

Ledswinger
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Re: I expect to be greeting them soon - DITTO!

That just ruined it all for me! Do you really think he's going to do anything to harm the business after he just bought it for £15 Bn?! He isn't going to be a billionaire for very long if he buys up businesses for that much then ruins them over a measly £30 Mill. Isn't it just possible he knows how to improve VM? Give the guy a chance. He's been in the industry for a long time.

Well actually I've seen this happen. I worked for Torex Retail when the then directors blew it apart in an attempt to defraud the shareholders. The company went bust, and was bought by venture capitalists backed by Cerberus. The big knobs of the deal were already multi-millionaires -one of them lived in tax exile in Switzerland, for example, and all had ERP/software backgrounds. They splurged a load of their own money, Cerberus' money, and debt on buying the company (itself a suspect transaction, but that's another long story that may yet make the headlines), and promptly fired all of the middle and senior management. After about four years of losses and no growth they had to sell the business on to Micros (the US based EPOS specialist) and take a big hit. If you're reading this Greenough, Cooksley, three words for you: Ha ha ha.

An example you'll have seen is when Debenhams was taken private, and the new owners pillaged the business, made the service worse, tried to rip off the balance sheet through property sale and leasebacks, and then they tried to refloat it, hoping to offload the cash strapped hulk on dopey investors. They did float it, but not at the price they hoped for.

Having said all that, I didn't say he'd ruin the the company, I said he'd ruin the customer service. Given the crappy competition there is from BT broadband, he won't harm the financial value of his asset for some years. In fact, I fully expect to see some form of "price restructuring" that will put my VM bills up. I've dealt with a couple of billionaires, and they don't do fripperies like customer service, or value for money.

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Ledswinger
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Re: I expect to be greeting them soon - DITTO!

the burgeoning managment culture (at the expense of those who actually have to deliver) is a big problem in sectors with semi-monopolies and some parts of the public sector. It has certainly had a signicant role in the recent debacles at places like the BBC, the Mid Staffs NHS Trust and the generally poor performance of our privatised utilities.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but on the subject of utilities and their "burgeoning management culture", I can speak from some experience, having both worked in a number, and for companies in the shareholder and privately held sectors. And, what's more I've run third party programmes to benchmark the performance of the utilities, with the finding that they are CONSIDERABLY leaner in management than most public held firms. Privately held firms are leaner still, but that's both because the owner-managers do more and take more out, and because IME they will take the choice to be riskier (for example on audit or compliance) and pocket the savings.

We can argue the toss about the other cases you claim - personally I'd argue that the problem in both cases was poor quality of management, not too much of it, and that also fed into a poor organisational culture.

This won't help VM, because it's been US managed for some years now, and its unlikely that there's many hundreds of superfluous middle managers doing nothing. What this is about is an obscenely rich Yank billionaire taking it private and reasoning that yes, it will fuck customer service, but what the hell, he needs the £30m quid these people are collectively paid more than they do.

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One of last few iPhone 5Ss STOLEN from within MASSIVE POLICE CORDON at Apple Store

Ledswinger
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Wanted: Thieves with good eyesight

" thieves are on the lookout for the distinctive new mobes"

They'll need good eyesight, as these look like any other smartphone of the day.

I suppose the most worried will be Lumia owners, whose garish plastic babies were previously theft proof, but may now be swiped in a tragic case of mistaken identity that all concerned will rue.

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Nokia Lumia 1020: It's an imaging BEAST... and it makes calls too

Ledswinger
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Re: Seriously...@Jemma

"To be blunt the 1020 does not & will not appeal to the cognoscenti"

In an otherwise excellent and entertaining post, you're wrong on this assertion. There's lots to not like about the 1020 and you make a good case on those elements, but unlike most phones of the past few years it has a unique sales proposition. There is nothing else with a camera like this. Every other 1020 feature is very much par for the course on an expensive smartphone (excepting Nokia Maps which continues to best all other bundled or free offers).

Now consider what's the difference between a Iphone 5, a Sammy S4, and whatever today's top of the line HTC is? Not much, really - polished operating systems, adequate cameras, big screens, some form of mapping, access to app stores bursting at the seams with useless crapware. But Nokia now have something on offer that differentiates them (or rather they have just differentiated themselves but sold this competitive advantage to Microsoft).

If I were either of the big two in smartphones, I'd be worried. Neither have really added any killer technology or application to their hardware for three years or more, neither have really delivered polished navigation and mapping that you'd want to rely on.

I'm not in the target market, and I don't like Microsoft, but even I can see that this offers something distinctive. Expect plenty of celebrity and movie product placements, and I'm sure MS will be bribing app developers to offer their wares into the Winpho app store, so there's billions going to be pushing this.

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Fanbois shun 'crappy plastic' iPhone 5C

Ledswinger
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"It has been aimed at the Girlie market"

I'm sure you're right, and that it will sell, and that first day sales aren't the real deal.

But I did wonder how many in the queue were shamed by the "show of hands" request, and having arrived hoping to buy a 5C actually ended up walking home with a 5S. After all, Apple, it's all about peer pressure.

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I, for one, welcome our robotic communist jobless future

Ledswinger
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Re: It's lucky we have infinite energy and natural resources to build and power all of these robots

"Compare and contrast with http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-06-16/energy-payback-roof-mounted-photovoltaic-cells"

If my scan read was accurate, they didn't take into account the not inconsiderable resources of an expensive inverter that only lasts ten years, nor do they take account of the fact that the solar PV output must be offset by marginal energy cost of continuous grid support (unless you're prepared to live without a grid connection).

So although people trousering a big fat feed in subsidy might delude themselves that they are saving the planet, the reality is that somewhere there's a big fat gas turbine spinning continuously on hot standby, burning gas, and after ten years they'll have a thousand quid bill to replace the inverter.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Deja vu @Brewster's Angle Grinder

We can argue about the detail, but the advance of the machines is undeniable, and I wasn't suggesting a labour free world, merely a low labour world (and probably continuing to move lower).

For the forseeable future I agree that the low volume and low standardisation of property maintenance, nursing et al make them weak candidates for automation, but ultimately all are rule and process based activites. We glamourise the "judgement" that we add to our daily grind, but if you can explain to an apprentice how to diagnose, repair and remediate an electrical fault, then you could program a machine to do the same, but with better quality.

The tasks you mention will probably remain human tasks until machines have the versatility of a human. Not sure how soon we'll see cybermen knocking on the door to do home repairs, but the functional basics of these tasks are very simple. And I'll bet my electrician doesn't know the Regs inside out, a robot would have them programmed in by default.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Bleak

"Can you oppress people forever if you control a huge army of expendable robots?"

Why would you? If you were that way inclined, then you just get the robots to do some cleansing on whatever ethnic, religious or other guidelines you have in mind.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Oh,ffs...@Ketlan

"who calls them a berk (and we all know what THAT means) simply for having a different view"

Your righteous indignation and weak attempt to claim the high moral ground is rather undermined by the fact that you started off by using the expression "exploitative scum".

There's many hundreds of thousands of people working across the sectors you mention who will object to twerps like you using deliberately offensive & emotive language to parrot Daily Mirror presumptions that all these big companies operate cartels to manipulate markets and fleece consumers. Go look at the accounts of these companies, see how much they actually make. And ignoring the employees working to keep your lights on, your home warm, and your taps running, if I were a regulator I'd be saddened to see that you really don't understand what the regulators do for you, and how well the system generally works (excepting OFCOM, I'd admit).

So I wasn't calling you a berk for having a different view, I was calling you a berk for not being able to recognise that prices converge when the markets work, and diverge when they work less well, and for your rabid, poorly expressed and inaccurate accusations.

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Ledswinger
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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

"Many kinds of crops have such natural randomness to them that even our cleverest minds can't build robots that can handle them: especially when a soft touch is needed"

I disagree. We can build these machines, but currently they would be far more expensive than manual labour. There is no part of (say) fruit picking that I can see could not be automated, from recognising ripe fruit, manipulating it without damaging it through to packing it - we don't employ rocket scientists to pick the fruit, just minimum wage labourers who follow certain rules. We have the capabilities for optical recognition of ripe fruit, for the positioning of a manipulator arm with sub-millimetre accuracy, the sensors to detect the pressure applied by arms, the material for soft manipulators etc etc.

Your comment about Murphy's law and unplanned eventualties is more pertinent, but that doesn't require the machine to sort the problem out, merely the ability to recognise a problem and call for meatsack intervention (like modern aircraft do).

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Ledswinger
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Re: Just close the loop entirely

"This crap is dreamed up by people who really have no clue as to how primitive robots really are. Today's robots can't out think birds, let alone mammals. It's going to be a long time before they get to anywhere near humans"

You'd have a point if the jobs most people do actually used their intelligence and involved creativity. However, most manual, and even semi skilled jobs are repetitive, and are easily automated, but hitherto not at a cost that people can pay.

Watch a car welding robot, doing what started out as a skilled task, became a semi-skilled task, then gravitated to essentiall manual status, and was finally automated. Could a machine that dexterous lay bricks? Could it clean a toilet? Could it make burgers? Could it change a hospital bed? Could it put up a streetlight? Of course ***ing it could, its just too expensive and a little bit specialised to do that at the moment.

White collar jobs are at similar risk, albeit without the physical robotic needs. If you set up your processes and systems right, then you don't need the armies of accountants that most big companies employ. If you make good use of digital assets then you can get rid of (most) of your call centres because you have fewer billing or payment errors, account set up and closure can be automated. Administrative roles vanish if the systems work properly. And when I undertake (as I currently am) a process analysis of a white collar function, I find people doing the same things year after year - repetitive tasks, duplicate tasks, checking other people's work, correcting the same old errors.

Even for a highly skilled role like an air transport pilot, the reality is that computers fly the aircraft most of the time - they can take off, route and land. The pilot sits there as a fall back for the systems (in the case of AF447, not a very good one, and flying on some basic fallback rules would have been better).

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Ledswinger
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Re: If you live in a lake, it takes longer to walk to the well

"Interesting concept overall. Are we really getting that close to a post-scarcity society?"

I'm not sure this is a post scarcity world, more of a post labour world .

Automation costs have been dropping steadily, and there's likely an inflexion point where suddenly the costs of automation drop much faster relative to labour costs as volumes rise, capabilities and techniques improve. In a sufficiently constrained environment we already use robots - for example fully automated warehouses, or welding car bodies. 3D printing is revolutionising high end manufacturing, enabling people to make things quicker, cheaper, or to make things that simply weren't feasible to make before, and that could well be an important part of this change, as it becomes cheaper, better understood and more widely applied. The step change comes when it becomes practical to have semi autonomous robots doing jobs that currently we have to use people for - cleaning toilets, making burgers, assembling motorbikes. Tim mentions the idea of robots making robots, which is essentially this point.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Oh,ffs...@Ketlan

"What we have is the "appearance" of a free market, nothing more. Shop around a bit (particularly in utilities) and the monopolies become obvious. "

You are Mad Ed Davey, and I claim my five pounds. Or you are a berk (or both).

Where there are monopoly assets (because the economics will not support duplicate infrastructures) you have government regulation of the monopoly. So that's the case of water, of electricity distribution networks, gas pipes, rail networks. These companies are very highly controlled by regulators like OFGEM, OFWAT and ORR. And that control isn't just price control, it's actually control of the investment levels, investment objectives, service levels, even the financing of the companies. I have spent many years working for regulated companies, and there's no free hand for managers or investors, no excess profits, not vast inefficiency, and no cartels. And the recent price increase in energy are not wholesale electricity market price rises (these have been stagnant, and nobody wants to invest in new plant), but because of global primary energy prices (the inputs), weakening exchange rates, and government impositions to pay for their stupid, useless renewable toys, and to create a duplicate welfare state through mandated company handouts to the officially poor.

Where there is the potential for competing assets, as in most telecoms, electricity generation & supply, or gas supply, then they have to pay the same for using the regulated monopoly assets, and there other costs will converge because being more expensive in a commodity market is not a sustainable position. They also use broadly similar technologies and suppliers, operate within the same environment and legal constraints, source money from the same capital markets, and offer the market similar levels of commodiity service. Everybody complains that they want better service from utilities, but when push comes to shove people won't pay for what they say they want, so there's little to choose between them.

This is actually a market that works. Now take mobile handsets, and there's a market that doesn't work. The costs of assembling a iPhone are near the same as those of a Nexus 4 or a Lumia 925. So why is the sim free price range from les than £200 to well over £400? Is that a market that works well for consumers? Lots of choice and a range of prices? Actually that's a market that doesn't work as well, because the use of brand and low tangibility differentiators keeps the market from operating as well, enabling Apple to make huge margins selling essentially the same phone as the other two mentioned.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Bleak

"I only see a dystopian future ...."

What you describe is largely where we are now. What the article refers to is the upside of where we might go as even more blue collar and white collar jobs are automated, and presumes that society manages the transition from a world where most people have to work, to a world where few people work, and then out of choice.

You could posit that we won't manage the transition, and we arrive in an automated version of the mediaeval world, of many poor serfs, and few obscenely rich overlords, but as the turmoil in the Arab world shows (and the demise of the USSR before it), you might not get a clean and quick solution, but even with a police state you can't oppress people for ever.

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Ledswinger
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Re: diet@deadlockvictim

"I'm not so sure that our diet is better, let alone considerably better."

But the choice is there. The fat proletariat may choose to live on salty, fatty burgers made with mechanically recovered meat, in fibre-free white bread rolls, swilling down litres of sugary drinks, but that's a choice they've made. As a society we have better knowledge of what we should eat than at anytime in human history, better information on what is in our food and how sustainably it is produced, and that food (both good and bad) is more affordable than ever before.

Healthy, sustainable food is not more expensive than pre-prepared meals or fast food restaurants, except for those daft enough to define healthy and sustainable solely as premium cuts of locally sourced organic meat, and matching organic veg.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Deja vu

"And no, it did not increase the leisure time in Europe, unless you count being on the dole as such."

That's just an inequitable distribution of leisure, isn't it? But this is exactly what Tim is talking about - how do you sort out distribution of "stuff" in a low labour society? Even is we dismiss (as I do) the Malthusian doomists, we aren't all going to be able to live in a huge mansion on Malibu beach, so there does need to be some way that we control consumption of goods and work, and in this future we may be less concerned about the inequitable distribution of leisure than the inequitable distribution of work.

And although we could relatively quickly move to a low labour society, it isn't going to be a labour free society for quite a few decades. I could be wrong, but I don't expect computers to be doing "creative" stuff, which means that there's a few jobs for artists, designers, musicians, and a very small number of engineers (maybe even a few programmers). Will those jobs be paid, or will people pay to do them? How will humans cope moving rapidly from having to work to get what they want to a world of largely idle leisure? Many pensioners cope, and hardened career doleys, but will that suit the rest of us?

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Nokia Lumia 625: Quality budget 4G phone ... but where's UK's budget 4G?

Ledswinger
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Removeable back, but fixed battery

What's wrong with these people?

I don't give a 5hit about swappable Chad Valley coloured backs, but if you've got a removeable back, at least that's the chance to replace the battery when it's ****ed, after about eighteen months. Well, it used to be.

I suppose it's like the motor industry - the people who design and build the things never have to live with them for more than a few months, so serviceability and durability are completely alien concepts. Either that, or a cynical and concerted approach by the whole industry to try and ramp up the replacement cycle by making the whole phone only as durable as a ten quid battery.

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Life … moves … in … slow … motion … for … little … critters … like … flies

Ledswinger
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Re: There is a problem with that idea

"I have white socks on. I always have white socks on"

That earned you a downvote. And I'll be they're polyester towelling as well.

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Ledswinger
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"This also included talking about elephants having a slower metabolic rate and their perception of time."

So if its down to metabolic rate, does Mo Farrah see the world around him in slow motion, whilst the FBs in McDonalds see the world as a speeded up video?

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Ledswinger
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Re: Which explains why it's so darned hard to swat a fly

"Why swat when you can poison them and watch them die slowly?"

Because it's now very difficult to poison the beggars. When I were a lad, fly spray worked, and worked well. Nowdays you can only buy rubbish based on permethrin, which only works if you get a direct hit, hose it out of the sky, and then drown the victim in it. Personally I blame all the tree huggers.

Which leads me on to an interesting thought about bees, though: We've got all this doom and gloom about bees apparently due to residual pesticides, which we didn't have when farmers (supposedly) sprayed organophosphates all round with gay abandon. Could it be the permitted "less damaging" pesticides are worse than the things they replaced? I accept that organophosphates caused careless users to grow three buttocks and two heads, but that's a risk I'm willing to take if I can have fly spray that actually does what it says on the tin.

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Anti-drone bods haul MoD to court over SECRET KILLER ROBOTS

Ledswinger
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""For fast jets there's no good reason why the aircrew would have either any vision of the target, and certainly no requirement for unaided vision."

Yeah there is: Verification. If you're tossing live munitions in civilian areas, that's a DAMN good reason to put a Mk 1 eyeball on the target."

Ah, how romantic, the "Mk1 eyeball" . How do you think that a fast jet gets its target and hits it? Does Biggles look over the side of the Camel's cockpit, and work out if the people on the ground are civvies? Or those slo-mo replays of attack videos is how it actually looks for real? Of course not. A fast jet won't even be low enough to see people on the ground unless he's just doing a noisy fly past to impress the natives. The attack coordinates will come from ground controllers using intelligence and satellite data, or laser designators by ground forces, the pilot (or weapons controller) sets the weaponry up, and the weapons can be loosed without the pilot having to examine in detail what he's attacking. That's how modern warfare is, and that's why it doesn't matter whether the weapons platform is flown by a meatsack aboard it, or one wearing short sleeves in an office in Wyoming.

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Ledswinger
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" but that costs a lot more and risks the life of the pilot"

Only from accidents. One of the defining aspects of the wars we've been involved in has been that our fast jets have been largely out of reach of the opposition's long range surface to air weaponry either because they never had any, or because preliminary missile strikes eliminated them.

Things are a different for the helicopters, but they are largely doing close support for ground forces, which isn't yet a role that drones have been proven in.

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Ledswinger
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"The answer is simple, we should know how many people our Government is killing in our name. "

If you look, you will see that the military of both UK and US and other allies are careful not to release collated information on insurgent casualties. Partly because that's not good public relations, and partly because in the rather unreliable world of counter insurgency, the total to date of enemy combatant casualties is not reliably known. Even if it was it means little, but the raw numbers could easily be used to reach the wrong sort of conclusion.

For example: if there were an estimated 800 active Taliban fighters in a given district, and you think you killed 300 in a couple of years, how many are left? The answer is no idea, because jihadist reinforcements may have come or gone, local militia may have combined or splintered with the insurgents, non-combatants may have become radicalised and armed in response to Western or local government attacks, corruption or injustice. And the original estimate was probably wrong, as would be the guess of casualties.

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Ledswinger
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Re: but why not?

"Good point, let's have a complete inventory. It's being done in our name, with our money, why shouldn't we know that it's money well spent?"

As you well know, the essential problem in the UK has been that defence money hasn't been well spent, because it got frittered on crap that either didn't work or never reached the front line, or arrived so late that the requirement had gone. And achievable measures, like properly armoured transport, or adequate helicopters have not been provided because there wasn't the money after spending billions buying hundreds of not very useful Typhoons, paying to build and then cut up Nimrods, paying to store Chinook Mk3s because we couldn't decide if our own spec was safe or not, etc etc.

Drones are cheap, they don't expose our servicemen to undue harm, and they are no more or less at risk of harming the innocent than conventional approaches to raining death on foreigners. So if we're going to start with an audit, we should first of all examine WHY we are involved, then examine why our people didn't have the right kit. Of course, we did have an enquiry into Iraq, but have you noticed that government have sat upon it?

I think we can at least all agree that the decision not to get involved in Syria was the right one.

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Ledswinger
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Or alternatively, definitely not in the public interest.

On current technology drones are not autonomous, and so any drone attacks are no more or less of a matter of public interest than the actions (for example) of regular or special forces. Nobody is making a big demands to know what the SAS and their mates get up to in Afghan, so why fuss about drones?

For fast jets there's no good reason why the aircrew would have either any vision of the target, and certainly no requirement for unaided vision. There's no difference between a toss-bomb attack where a fast jet pilot neither sees nor is seen by the target, and a drone attack, where the weapons are controlled by a bloke in an air conditioned shed somewhere?

Is the argument that it is better to be killed by a missile fired from an aircraft piloted by a bloke in a sweaty flight suit, than by a white collar approach? In either case the target is only observed by the jet or drone jockey on a flat panel display.

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Mid East undersea fibre telco hacked: US, UK spooks in spotlight

Ledswinger
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Re: A bit of a rum do.

" If the attackee really kicks up a stink (and given that the EU has ambitions to subvert and replace NATO) this could prove really quite awkward."

I doubt it. These things are notoriously difficult to trace and prove, with much use of routing through middle of nowhere countries, and obfuscation of the code to include "pointers" to anybody you like. If you're a Russian programmer looking to write some APT code, then you could put some Chinese commenting in it, or fragments of known Chinese spyware, hoping that if detected people will blame China. Or you could add in known Russian spyware fragments in the hope that they'd assume that was too obvious, and therefore it had to be the Chinese. Or you could set it up to send some traffic to server with a domain known to be under the control of some other security service, even if the IP address has never been used... A million and one ways to avoid being caught, and to blame other people.

The EU does around $150bn of trade with the US, and has a $70bn a year trade surplus on the relationship - they can't afford to give that up. The EU is dependent upon Russian gas in winter, so they won't kick up a stink there. And the EU export €150bn to China, and import double that. Which leads me to the view that with limited proof I can't see the indecisive dullards of the EU taking decisive and exciting action on incomplete evidence, against a major trading partner.

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Ledswinger
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Re: All too easy......

" All too easy........... to say "foreign spooks"."

As Belgium is home to NATO's HQ, one has to assume that the country's security services would be receptive to US "security" requests. But the links NSA/GCHQ and to Belgacom's Middle East assets seems speculative - the hacking doesn't (on the article's coverage) necessarily mean that the attackers were after access to that particular data flow.

Equally possible that it could be US commercial or political spying on the EU, and it could be Russian or Chinese spying on either or both of NATO or the EU. And yes, I know NATO won't or shouldn't be using the PSTN, but I'll wager that there's still plenty of useful intel that does go over public networks.

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Pizza drones, mad cyclists and Bitcoin-for-arms traders: A vision of LNDN 2023

Ledswinger
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Re: Invariably wrong technical predictions

"Wearable computing will evolve into mainstream clothing which is even self-aware that it's been shoplifted, and can fill the evenings discussing life in its sweatshop roots with your smart underwear."

And the smart underwear will have powered louvres, that can detect an approaching hot, sulphurous fart, open the louvres and release the effluvium, thus dramatically prolonging underpant service life. A further benefit will be the reduced time-to-target of an effusion, and reduced attenuation of the aromatics.

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Ledswinger
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Re: makes Judge Dred look almost desirable

" A good pub night is very relaxing."

You think on current trends public sale or consumption of alcohol will be permitted by 2023? When fags are finally banned, and a broad brush law enables any legal highs to be banned before they've even been invented (including electronic fags), the public health establishment will move onto alcohol. You've already seen the "minimum sale price" proposals, already in place in Scotland, and variably enforced bans on public consumption of alcohol. Then they start raising the price; that doesn't work either, so they establish a state monopoly to sell it; then they make home brewing illegal (so far we're only up to where Sweden was ten years ago or more).

Remember, they're only trying to protect your health.

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Dev delays push ship date of Metro-ized Firefox to January 2014

Ledswinger
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Re: Why It Matters

" Windows 8 only allows *one* default browser for both environments. If you don't have a Metro version then users will eschew you in lieu of an alternate browser."

Only for those willing to be told to use Metro. Classic Shell stops me having to even see the Metro interface, and I really couldn't give a tinkers cuss whether there is a Metro version of Firefox. I know the arrogant tossers at Microsoft can keep trying to make it more and more difficult to avoid their shitheaded design, but ultimately I think that the future MS are crafting is one where home users decide that they don't need to use Microsoft products. But for running games, I'd be using Mint already.

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ISPs set to install network-level smut filters despite Lib Dem opposition

Ledswinger
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Re: Global Insularism In a Global Market?@ Fluffy Bunny

"You're missing the main point, that as soon as people start opting-out, the filters soon become mandatory."

Well, IWF watchlists are already in effect a mandatory baseline filter for most ISPs in the UK.

I think the fuss will go away once the filters are in place, because the people who think this is a good idea will go back to promoting other illiberal ideas, of which there are many. For example, having all but banned smoking, expect The People Who Know Better Than You (tm) to move to outlaw smoking in public open spaces, and then they'll be on to clamping down on alcohol.

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Ledswinger
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Re: Global Insularism In a Global Market?@ Don Jefe

"You can't have keep it both ways."

Well, you're from the country in which topless sunbathing is largely frowned upon and even illegal, yet which is home to the world's porn industry, and the same country that defends the values of democracy through the National (domestic) Spying Agency.

Worth noting that what is proposed is "only" an opt in system. I shall be opting out (a) to look at the sort of material the internet was invented for, and (b) as a matter of principle, because I don't want lightweights like our political leaders censoring what I read. But in some ways I think a default filter is probably a good thing for those not clever enough to either install K9 or other filters for themselves, or alternatively monitor what their kids do. The common challenge of "you can work round it" is no more valid than suggesting you shouldn't lock a door because locks can be picked.

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Australia ponders 160,000-seat ERP possibilities

Ledswinger
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Re: the irony

The irony is perhaps that the fools want to adopt an ERP approach, choosing to overlook how the Queensland Health payroll system reach a total bill of AUD 1.2 billion, despite (or because) of the involvement of global "experts" in the shape of IBM.

If that's what it costs for a regional health service payroll system, imagine how much the contractors will be able to ream out the national government for on this one. My guess is that the bill for a single public sector ERP will be greater than Australia's GDP.

Contractors! Start your billing engines!

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'British Bill Gates' Lynch laments HP's Autonomy 'botch-up'

Ledswinger
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Re: >Lynch reckons there’s much that his Autonomy expats can offer young British startups

"Like how to flog a $1B company for $10B? A most useful talent to be sure. "

I think you credit Mr Lynch with far too much. From where I sit, it's boo ***ing hoo for the retards at HP; Poor little darlings, exercised the full extent of their corporate brains, spent millions on "due diligence" on "advice" from law firms and investment banks, and then still got caught out by suspect accounts? Did they really know nothing about the accounting that goes on in ANY enterprise software company? Currently the shallow, lightweight losers that make up HP's board are trying to sue Autonomy and the advisers, but that seems to ignore the point about why HP's directors were prepared to bid so recklessly, because even if the accounts were correct, then they still didn't support the price that HP were so keen to pay.

No, matey, if HP paid over the odds, then EVEN IF THERE WERE FRAUD, then it's all still the fault of HP's useless, value destroying board, rather than any sales talent on the part of Lynch. If HP's board aren't clever enough to undertake effective M&A, then they shouldn't be pulling down their exceptionally fat salaries. I might say the same about Microsoft, of course.......

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London Underground cleaners to refuse fingerprint clock-on

Ledswinger
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Re: punch card?

"I wonder how much it cost to put in this entirely pointlessly hi-tech clock in system, "

Not much I'd guess, given that the hardware is so common. If they do any audit or payroll of the time recording system, then chances are that the system will save money.

"the money saved on using something other than a bio-metric reader could have been spent on better work conditions for the staff, "

Why? Wages aren't defined by the employer's other costs nor on what's left over (that's what profit or loss are), it is defined by how much you have to pay in that locale given the other options available to the workforce. As an unskilled, grotty job, the underground cleaners wage will be as low as ISS can pay and sometimes have the workforce actually turn up.

Based on the observations of a family member who has worked on TFL contracts, I'd be unsurprised if many of the staff were not doing this as a second job on (in their eyes) essentially casual labour terms. And that's why the idea of some biometric proof would be most unwelcome, because of fears that this proof of identity will mean data being passed back to HMRC, affecting tax credits (or possibly even benefits being claimed). I think that assumes far more organisation on the part of the public sector than actually exists, but if I'm right, in the second job cleaner's shoes, I'd not want this. But tough - if they don't like it, there's plenty of other jobs in London they are at liberty to go and do.

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In MASSIVE surprise, world+dog discovers Nokia checked out Android

Ledswinger
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Re: Nokia becoming more like M$oft@ Ian 7

"Windows Phone does actually run pretty well on low-spec hardware; that was one of its design goals from the outset."

Which surely was a pointless goal. All the money is made on premium handsets so that's where user experience counts, and buyers at the bottom end are unduly influenced by whatever is topping the charts.

Samsung tried selling cheap phones with a non-Android OS (I think LG did, too) and the market still turned to Android. We'll see how the cheap phones with Firefox sell - my suspicion is that neither Firefox nor Ubuntu will endure.

If MS are banking on the capability of WP8 to run well on landfill handsets, then they're saying that phone purchasing decisions are logical. If that's the case, then why have so many of the expensive Lumias come in Chad Valley colours, why don't they have replaceable batteries, and why constrain their phone UI with an opinion polarising tile interface, with each one of these choices further sub-setting your potential market? Indeed, why produce the technically impressive, yet comically coloured, zero-battery life, camel humped 1020 if you think that the buyers of cheap handsets simply want a fluid user experience?

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Nokia's 41Mp Lumia 1020 'launches' in UK - but hoi polloi must wait

Ledswinger
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"surely it would make more sense to try and get these handsets in the hands of as many people as possible, rather than erect artificial and unnecessary barriers to owning one of these?"

As a premium tech product they are banking on the fact that the market for these will regard swapping network operator as no problem in return for the latest gadget. WIthin the limits of reception I don't care who my network operator is - which for me at home means O2 or Toada, but for the sort of geeky urban professionals this is undoubtedly targeted at, they probably have fairly respectable coverage from all networks. Obviously there's some behind the scenes wrestling over subsidies, bundles and promotion commitments by the exclusive network, plus the appeal to the network of an exclusive, but for the makers look at history: Exclusive deals certainly didn't do Apple any harm, so the question may simply be how attractive WinPho is, how "killer" the camera is for users, and whether the price is right.

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So WHY does Huawei's enigmatic boss shun the West's spotlight?

Ledswinger
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Re: Shunning Attention

"You know what elite group is comprised almost exclusively of ultra-wealthy industrialists who employ hundreds of thousands of faceless workers, have access to nearly unlimited technology and weaponry and also shuns public attention?"

Wall Street.

I would suggest that the political, financial and industrial leaders of the US are far more effective super villains than anybody in China.

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