50 posts • joined Friday 7th September 2007 21:14 GMT
Dominic Connor replies...
As programmer I agree with thsoe who say that choice of language is irrelevant, I spent last Thursday programming Powerpoint in VBA for money as it happens.
But as a headhunter I care a lot about how smart you are, and being "as good as most other people" is a bad place to be (been there, didn't like it), even in good times. Java does not provide evidence you are smart. I was one of the earliest people to write code in Java (and VB and C)., *that* was good evidence because there wasn't anyone to help me.
I half agree with those who say CS courses are not supposed to be prep for jobs. To me the best prep for a good career is understanding WTF is going on, and to be able to quickly grasp new developments because you understand the core idea that permeate your subject.
As it happens I don't only target people from "certain universities", but have my own more complex prejudices, which quickly filter to <5%
A couple of people blame recruiters, and as the person who coined the term "pimps" for agents on CIX in the 1980s, I am happy to spread the blame for many things in this direction, but I genuinely can't see why you should blame us for this particular problem.
Loading it with files
What's the current story with getting files onto the Kindle ?
In the past I've read about having to email to Amazon, so that they can charge you for the privilege.
My work generates a fearsome array of PDFs and flat text, so I'd almost never use it for novels, just work :(
Easy to explain, wrong board members
Now that I don't have a real job any more I can admit I know exactly what will have happened.
The tunnel contains warm moist air, easy to see condensation getting to electronics.
But the real chaos is caused by the choice of board members...
Reading their own list of board members, it appears that no senior executive was in a position to understand the problem. Sure they have a lawyer, marketing people, but no one who could understand what was going on, *by his own knowledge"
There was no top executive who could ask hard questions, or understand the answers.
Worse, it appears that this bunch of arts graduates *could not* really understand, even if it were explained to them.
Nearly all Reg readers have tried to explain some technical screw up to non-technical people.
We use baby language, and put our own spin on it.
If we are technical managers, passing this on, there are multiple levels of spin in what we say based upon reposrts from our PFYs and BOFHs.
Thus the board of directors were misniformed, which includes their spin doctors who emitted vast amounts of contradictory information, not because they are dishonest, but because literally no one knoew what was going on.
Of course if you don't know what's going on, you can't manage the fix either.
some junior managers will try to fix things, and of course spin their "I'm saving the day" to the charlatans who claim to be whatever passes for engineering management at Eurostar.
Since there is no one at board level in charge, there is no one to make decisions based upon any rational basis.
That explains the failure to evacuate, some political faction said they could fix it soon, and it is clear that they had more political power at that time than the safety management, who all should be fired, today.
Safety management isn't on the board either, apparently, which should not surprise us, given the decisions made. But for PR purposes there will be a lonely old guy who didn't make it in the corporate rat race who got the short straw of being top of the safety tree at eurostar.
He won't be all that bright, and clearly has no personal integrity, because he has one absolute veto on any action by his firm, he can walk out of his office and start talking to the horde of journalists, about why it is bad to leave thousands trapped in a tunnel.
But he didn't, he wen with the "commercial decision" and was lucky no one died, because the a board more experienced in playing golf than safety would have left him as the scapegoat.
Also, where *exactly* was the board ?
I've been a director, and was expected to be contactable 365*24 in case of major screwup, including a fax being sent to a hotel which put it on a boat to the little island I was staying on.
The writer writes back
I wonder if I might ask you to re-read what I said with a little more care ?
I did put in the part about their fear of litigation as a driver for behaviour.
The "point" of the article was to research how a tricky problem should be addressed, I'd welcome any constructive input you may have.
The writer yet again...
Andus, I never said I controlled your life, I said I could screw with it.
As it happens I am a Brit, in fact I don't say I am good at my job, merely that the position enables me to do bad things, if I wanted to.
That is a far from unique position of course, between you and a job, there are several people like headhunters, HR, etc. Several people seem to want us to use this power of veto to "improve" society, and since you clearly are not a fan of mine, I hope you will agree that you will agree with the idea that I shouldn't use it much.
More responses from the author
A few % of the CVs I read mention some religious activity as part of "Interests", and I usually don't care, except for few who I counsel that the "Interests" section is so large it questions your commitment to work, though this happens more often with sport than religion.
My own name is highly religious and often Irish, and I recall some trade unionists getting upset about me taking "British" jobs.
I see French as a bit like learning MS Access. Useful occasionally, but very few people get any sort of decent job by knowing it and nothing else. But in many ways French is like Java, so many people get taught it, than the career value is severely degraded. 95% of the world is not Francophone, but 95% of British kids get taught it.
I get accused of pigeon holing people
Yep, that's my job.
The race of "evil people" is not specified because I don't use identifiable names in my public career writings, except for IBM HR of course.
Yes, HR people often make sure there is nothing "bad" in a CV, but some do not.
Also, the majority of CVs we send in go directly to managers, some are copied to HR, but as you can imagine, my job is to get the CV to the right target. So HR filters are not a guarantee.
There is no excuse for incorrect spelling or grammar on a CV. None. About 1/3 of the people we deal with aren't native English speakers, and we are actually harsher on them. That's because it is better to get a note from me saying "fix the spelling" than to be seen as sloppy.
The writer responds
I did have one well known figure in banking ask me if my firm could filter out people who believed in Creationism...
I flatly refused, even though my contempt for such people is so great that I use "Creationist" in casual speech as a term of abuse when I see something as stupidly dishonest.
I serve a higher ethic in my work, I do it for the money.
The discipline here is that I have a certain power over people's lives. If I don't send your application on to the employer you don't get the job, with absolute certainty, regardless of your ability.
The effect of that can be pretty large, and for those who say I should exercise my power to some social purpose should ask themselves "Do I want Dominic to use this power against me" ?
Statistically, a reader of this piece may hold political views I dislike, or come from a country that has done something bad to mine, or belong to an ethnic or religious group that has done something bad. You may smoke, a habit I regard with utter contempt, or eat eggs, the smell of which makes me feel sick.
You may wear clothing that covers you more than I find "normal", or you may wear less, want me to act on that against you ?
I can fuck with your career.
I have a *huge* database of decision makers in banks, and can whisper in their ears.
You want me use that power against "bad" people, you had better check you're not someone I think is bad.
Everyone wants tax breaks
Gareth Edmonson doesn't want to pay tax, who does ?
Of course his bonus will be bigger if he doesn't have to pay tax, and given the pathetic hourly rates of the staff in his industry, he is not all that keen on paying people either.
That's unfair. Games programmers aren't "people" are they, being geeks, he is quite happy to pay accountants.
Government money has been used to prop up the car business and we got British Leyland, oops.
It propped up the steel industry, which now barely exists, ditto coal, ditto shipbuilding, train manufacture, and even alumnium smelting.
The film biz gets money because it can wheel out celebs to mingle with politicians, Been getting subsidies since before any of us were born, a big money pit.
Anyone really think that the money we put into banks is coming back ?
There was even the godawful mess of ICL, a propped up dysfunctional computer company, quite big. Shit but quite big.
Mr. Edmonson is the face of a failing business, tough, life is like that.
But why should businesses that do stand a chance and can live without life support have their taxes raised to support Mr. Edmonson in the style to which he has become accustomed.
Conversely, which public service does he want cut to pay for games company bosses bonuses ?
He should be aware that the job of a business is to generate wealth., yes really.
The world does not owe him a living, I can guess he will be shocked so badly by this, that when he gets back from the golf course he will need a stiff drink.
So what if the Indian staff are trained ?
It does not really matter if the Indian staff are "sufficiently trained", does it ?
Because they will leave.
Staff turnover in Indian support centres is huge, and so even if the Clot staff were up to speed, 6 months from now they won't be.
As the learned respondent earlier pointed out, these contracts are driven by price, not quality, and so the bidders will not try very hard to retain good staff, since they can replace them with cheaper ones, and not spend much on training
Also, the good ones they keep can be moved to show prospective clients the quality of their people. The incentive is to get business, not satisfied customers.
In that, there is no real difference between outsourcing to India, or to a firm in your home town.
However, the short term savings look good enough to earn bonuses executives, especially accountants, .so they do not really care all that much.
That being said, there is something quite special in the culture at Colt. Why did they not outsource years ago when if was fashionable ?
If you'd met Colt executives, then you'd know why.
They are only dimly aware that they are a telecoms company, and I disagree with the earlier poster who said they hate boffins. That is true of middle management at Colt, but the senior execs don 't really meet techies enough to hate or like them. They have the same understanding and relationship with technology that the Queen has when she opens a high energy physics lab. Like the Queen, they are polite to the greasemonkeys, feign interest, and then go to lunch to chat about golf.
I was going to use Prince Phillip as the example there, but he actually has an interest in technology, something Colt board members would regard as making the Prince their social inferior. I don't think he even plays golf, so certainly is not qualified to be an exec at Colt.
Probably an improvement
Having run a reasonable sized network over Clot, I welcome this move.
Firstly out of spite, since I personally hate the staff at Colt, and a bunch of them losing their jobs is something I'd like to see.
To quote their former CEO when I asked him why they had screwed up a minor s/w fix so badly that several banks had fallen off the network, "some teenagers are actually quite good".
I'd been angry that they had failed to carry out simple tasks yet again, and had asked why they were using teenagers to do jobs meant for grownups. Even though by this point we had someone whose fulltime job was hassling Colt to do what we paid them for, I hadn't really thought that they were using children, but I learned that in the name of cost saving there is nothing so recklessly stupid that Colt won't do it.
I'd rather talk to a Spaniard who had no English than any of the dimwits that Colt UK has in support.
I am no fan of BT, but once when they'd also screwed up, the account exec did at least say "but at least we're not Colt". When BT use your pathetically incompetent staff to prove they are not the worst comms supplier to deal with, you know you're dealing with Colt.
We also could never even get them to bill us properly either.
Amazon is lying
I have studied cataloguing systems (Dewey et al) and am pretty confident that this was not an "accident" in the sense of some junior staff pressing the wrong button.I don't believe there is any catalogue that will link books on (for instance) gays in the US military with porn. Depending upon the system used, the political book will be under military history, law, etc.
The only way for Amazon to have made this mistake is by a lot of work, since some books have been zapped which can only be recognised as gay with some effort.
This was a manual "mistake" that must have required a serious number of man hours, and that neatly explains why Amazon can't fix it.
If the mistake had been made of the form (in SQL)
select from list where tag <> "adult" then it would have taken seconds to fix (OK a few hours to test), but a tagging / coding error of this form can be undone very quickly.
Some Creationist dimwit applying their prejudices on and ad-hoc basis is harder to undo.
There is a funny side effect (for a given value of "funny"). Books that include ordinary decent sexual violence against women were not zapped, for instance those covering the career of that well known campaigner for decency Hannibal Lechter. Thus the net effect of zapping books on politics (dull, opinionated and poorly researched) has been to promote exciting books on rape and murder (as long as the victims are female).
A great shame
I got my degree the easy way. The government gave me a grant, and studying was my full time job (OK, there was other stuff), and I didn't have to do a hard day's work and then discipline myself to study.
I'm now a headhunter (all that education wasted), and respect people with the drive to get through the hard options. That's not universal. Many other HHs fixate on the "top schools", as do some employers. But I have argued with some success that OU and other part-time degree holders have many of the work qualities that an employer has bitched to me as lacking in some of their staff.
So how stupid does the OU behaviour make me look ?
As it happens I did Maths/CS myself, and some of the stuff we got to read was shit. I teach programming myself these days, and I still cite "algorithms + data structures = programs" as the worst programming book ever written. Behind "101 basic computer games" since at least the 101 stuff worked.
But all the texts had been read by the lecturers,some had been written by them, and where we disagreed they engaged in honest debate with us. I recall asking some questions of outstanding stupidity (with hindsight), and of course it is the interaction that made me wiser, not the dumb consumption of the words of the wise.
The thing that concerns me most is that phrase in the first article that the tutor was "not in a position" to criticize the article. My tutor, one Richard Bornat more than once asked people "did the really pay you to write this ?" when researchers presented papers he found substandard.
He was right sometimes, and wrong others, but again a qualified tutor should be able to argue with the source of any article in which he teaches.
Moving the Markets
Evil, For reasons of space and focus I did not explain about "Market Impact Modeling", which is the craft of trying to execute trades without driving the price up (or own) more than is necessary.
Google on Market impact if you don't believe me, it's bog standard finance.
If you'd worked on a trading desk you'd know that you don't want the market to know that you are buying a load of X, because they will put up their prices. That's not anthro-anythin,g it's human nature, supply and demand.
If the market works out that you are going to sell more, then it is going to cost you, some people have profitable trading strategies based solely on their model of the inventory of others in the market.
Again googling on inventory and market microstructure will make you better informed.
Using shorter words
As it happens I *do* have a Bronze Swimming Cert :)
"Evil Consultant" shows an understanding of risk so limited, I assume he works for the FSA ?
I was describing strategies where going short and long were mixed for more efficient risk taking.
In any case, the fact that the worst case scenario in one strategy is higher than in another, misses the point big time. The *PROBABILITY* of the nightmare scenario is important as well, as is one's ability to get out of it as it begins to go tits up.
Prices can indeed bounce up, and it Evil Consultant had actually got as far as reading the title of the piece, he would have seen "Bear Squeeze", where the horrors of a naked short position knock on your door.
Point Missed Big Time
With all due respect to my editor, he has missed the scandal in all this.
The Royal Society is a minor outfit, albeit with an illustrious past.
The RS is a lobby, albeit with a smarter membership than some other lobbies.
According to the Times he is "Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education"
Now *that* is chilling.
We already have academies funded by the state where Creationism is taught as a mainstream topic, and now learn that an obviously senior advisor believes in giving time to crackpot ideas.
Britain has a highly prescriptive national curriculum, and so this defective priest is involved in defining what kids *must* be taught.
Already we know that many teachers chicken out of teaching evolution because it might offend Christians or Moslems, and apparently such complaints by parents are treated seriously not just laughed at.
We now know why teachers feel so insecure in standing their ground. The government actively wants to give time to creationists.
It won't stop there either.
History is not exactly kind to the various religions, and their habit of murdering each other in ghastly numbers whenever they get political power. Physics is not immune either, some stars are >6,000 light years away, is this "controversial" as well, given that the universe is only 6,000 years old ? Geography teaches about old rocks and the continents moving, and the ice ages.
C++, Haskell, weird crap in general
I'm a specialised headhunter, we don't see much in the way of demand for Java. It barely shows up as noise. I know in the general market there's a lot of it around, but C++ people earn considerably more on average.
C++ is a highly portablr skill on more than one level, not only is it in a wider range of applications than Java, but people who hire the most expensive non-C++ developers say they still like to see it on a CV because it demonstrates you can cope with difficult stuff even if your job is actually writing Perl scripts to ingest data into Oracle.
Haskell is a niche skill, as it happens one we've been asked for at a couple of large banks.
In making career choices it is useful to know how many people do C++, SQL, Java, C# ,F#, REXX, Perl, Ruby etc, but not sufficient...
You need to know how supply and demand interact.
C++ demand is off it's peak, but supply has dropped pretty hard. Many CompSci courses take the soft option of teaching Java, some fools even try to teach operating system internals in it.
You have to make tough calls on what represent the best investment of your time and money.
C++ is not an easy language, I teach the blody thing to bankers, and there are videos of me staring at the screen wondering why the hell it's doing what it has just done.
But it's where the best money is to be found for the next 5 years or so.
C# isn't doing all that badly in the pay stakes.
The writer respponds (again)
I fear the anonymous Coward who seems bent on attacking me over OS choice seems to be missing the point big time.
I've worked on Tandem gear as well as Stratus and yes they did deliver good reliability, but I've had these both die on me. I will admit up front the Stratus issue was my fault, underlining the real issue that it you can't buy reliability shrink wrapped, you have to go deep. Nothing substitutes for the quality of the staff and their management.
You also failed to read my piece, please do so again. OS/2 was part of the LSE strategy for some years. Gone now of course, but you don't see a lot of VMS around these days either .Things change.
I will type the next bit slowly because you failed to get it the first two times I wrote it.
I did not list all OSes because there is a long list. If you want to have a pissing contest on who can name the largest number of OSes you may beat me, or not. I don't care. My point, which again I will tyep slowly is that no OS / HW combination will give you the necessary level of reliability unless you set them up right, program them properly, and test and retest to ensure you identify failure modes. Then test some more.
The author repsonds
Yes, I think a DR site should cope with s/w bugs. The "D" in DR stands for "Disaster", be that s/w, h/w, fire, flood or hiring Accenture.
I apologize for not including everyone's favourite O/S in my list. I would have included them all, but it would have been boring. As it happens, I myself chose HP/UX. I suppose I'll get slagged for that as well. My *point* was that nothing is 100% trustworthy, it the quality of people and their management that makes it good enough, or not.
Since there was no IT on the board, we already have a major point of failure. Perhaps the new incumbent should learn to play golf so his better might meet him occasionally ?
As more than one person has said, systems that are life-critical often use the multiple version approach to allowing them to get past show stopper bugs quickly. I even know of bank systems where the version complied with debug code left in is the "hot" standby.
There's a tough judgment call on whether you fail over to a different version or not. But it ought to be available, no matter how much an accountant from the media thinks the money could better be spent on more auditors from his previous employer.
As for conflict of interest...
I think it is safe to assume that I will not be asked to find the replacement for whoever Ms. Furse offers up as a scapegoat. Yes, I know some people who could do the job, but frankly I can get more money sending them to a firm run by grown ups.
I like the conspiracy idea, and yes it does fit the facts worryingly well. The period where only certain firms could trade is particularly interesting to me. I'm not saying that anyone behaved improperly, but the traders on the sweet side of that are probably the happiest people in the City at the moment. No, that's not hard.
The FSE *ought* to investigate the LSE, and quite properly they won't comment. But let us not kid ourselves. The FSA does not have the ability to do this, and any "investigation" will have the objective of "restoring confidence". The report will talk of "lessons learned", and "new opportunities to move forward", since they would never dream of upsetting their golfing chums at the LSE.
I know what people at the FSA earn, and you can't get good people for that, indeed a former CEO of theirs went on the record to say so. They will get in PWC who will do a Hutton style report for them instead.
Why are people afraid of data protection laws anyway ?
The Information Commision Office has the job of shielding big business from public complaints. Look at how it is covering up for BT over Phorm,
One might as well complain to a company's PR department as the ICO
The information comissioner
You may not be aware than in Siberia, there is a little girl called Svetlana. She has a baby rabbit. Sadly this baby rabbit is the runt of the litter, and may not live. It is weak, and only has one eye. It cannot even hop. It makes faint wheezing noises, and has diffuclty eating lettuce.
This rabbit is important because BT fears this nearly dead baby rabbit more than it does the information commissioner. There is no action no matter how appalling that any large outfit can do that will cause the ICO to act. Their sole objective is to collect fees to pay themselves. This will invoke prosecution, but I put more faith in Svetlana's rabbit than the ICO.
I do know some big scary lawyers who do pro bono work.
But they need to think that there is a case, and that they can win, as well as concluding that this is a good use of their time.
RIPA is a good start, but if the ISPs change their T&Cs does it apply ?
I assume the reason for BT's silence is that someone senior has just realised they are doing this logging anyway, so why split the rake off with Phorm ?
Given that ISPs keep being pushed by the government to log web access, I can't see it as very hard for them to write scripts which use this data for commerical ends.
Let's saturate Phorm with rubbish
Anyone know something I don't ?
Paris has a depressingly modern view of art.
Michaelangelo knew more about the physical properties of marble than any scientist of the time. Leonardo da Vinci more about physiology of his subjects than the doctors who might treat them for illness.
Before the 20th century, painters would be educated in the formulation of their paints, and even recently Sebastian Bell could mend and upgrade flutes.
But sadly "understanding" your materials and instruments is now seen as "geekish".
A friend of mine was recently interviewing media studies graduates to a plum job working on the next Harry Potter and James Bond films.
Not one seemed even to be aware that with paints colours are composed by subtraction, but colours on a screen are made by adding.
Her view was that there was something missing in media studies "they should teach them how to give blow jobs, as it is the only way they'll get a job in this buisiness".
I have no time for so called "developers" who think understanding stack frames or disk i/o is "beneath them". You don't always need to think about pointers, and Java may well be the right choice for a given job, but if you only know one tool, and only a few ways to use it, then there is little chance that you've chosen the right one.
The write writes yet again...
>While I still think it is incorrect to slate CS grads who have been taught mainly Java,
Agreed, my gripe was CS grads who seem *only* to have been taught Java. If there existed a course where there was only C++ or only Lisp, I'd say the same.
>It's sad that CS is becomming so undervalued in the industry.
>I'm sure we're not too far off the day when course CS101 is 'How to use MS Word'.
We passed that some time ago. I find "CS" grads who boast of having done website design in pretty looking tools.
>CS grads will never be the answer for all programming jobs in every industry
Yes, but why ?
One would not have physics grads doing dentistry, so why are CS grads so unable to demonstrate superiority on their home ground ?
. We serve a purpose, and the skill of a recruitment consultant is to know what that purpose is. Generalising about the languages we learn is missing the point.
Anyway, how did an article on free MS tools become a rant by me on degree courses? :)
The author again
>"Like most recruitment agents the author has learned a few buzzwords, and read a few opinion pieces"
The author has debugged O/S code for IBM and MS, worked on the first Intel Unix, and earned good money coding. And although I agree you can teach O/S theory in Java, you can't do the practicals.
As for C#, I did not say it was great, partly because I don't think it is. I was observing there is commercial demand for it, as there is for Java.
I don't have a problem with Cs doing UIs, and don't really care whether it is 2% or 20% of the practical work. Most coursework is about the techniques and theory, and so UIs are as valid as databases or reading files.
UI is a fine place to teach OO, since of course a lot of that emerged from GUI research.
Same applies to lots of CS study, quicksort and the blackboard pattern are as valid in Java as C++. But my problem is kids only learning one language, which often leaves them with a very restricted view of the world.
I'm not anit-Java, I'm depressed reading the CVs of students who seem unable to get beyond it.
The author writes back....
More of my thoughts are at www.wilmott.com/blogs/dcfc
I did say that MS has a minority/declining market share at Uni, not that it was extinct. About 70% of the entry level CVs I read do not mention any MS technology at all. That's not say they don't use MS, but if I were MS that would scare me.
VB.NET is extremely rare, indeed I only used the qualified "almost unknown", because I assumed that I can't know everything.
I actually quite like VC++ as a teaching environment, indeed I have gone on record saying it's the best place to learn C++, YMMV.
Some of the top employers agree about the value of engineering vs CS degrees. A stupid % of CS grads seem only to have done Java, no meaningful Lisp, Haskell, SQL, C++, Ruby, Perl, or anything that might make the poor dears think.
did you go to King's College ? Sounds that way, indeed I've helped some EEE people leave KCL, since I'm a headhunter.
We avoid even talking to KCL CS grads, it makes me sad.
Not a fan of the KCL course though, since the dimwits teach O/S internals in Java, just like the shambling morons who taught you.
RTOS is a fine component for a techie education.
You may reasonably say "who cares if an obscure journalist says my CS course is crap" ? I'm not famous as a journo, and am pathetically grateful to the Reg for letting me witter on :)
But I am *very* well known as a headhunter for banks, and that's easily the best paid destination for a smart developer. That's not just C++ of course, C# is also doing well for various reasons. Java is used for the dross end of banking work, and for the sort of work that is much the same at JP Morgan as at Tesco.
It's also exactly the kids of work that is most likely to be outsourced.
I've tried to get KCL to explain their "rationale" for teaching braind damaged shit to their kids, but my (surprisingly polite) emails were just ignored.
Could be you are right
Certainly Excel misuse is only part of the problem. Given his skillset it would have been in the mix, but you must be right that he used other tools. Indeed I think the access others PCs "helping" them with Excel may have been far more of a factor.
I hear what you say about entering the offsetting positions, but why weren't any cash flows noticed ? Certainly I stick to the point that either the reporting at SG is totally crap, or that he compromised it (or some combination of those two factors).
Although socialism was indeed a creature of academics which leaked out as toxic waste is wont to do, the vast majority of economists these days are either at the position of regarding the level of the state as roughly optimal or advocate less of it.
Modern ideas of the market economy have their heart at the university of chicago, and places like the London School of Economic which used to be the anus of the dimwitted socialist movement is now pretty hardline about the utility of markets, and produces hordes of people who are valued by banks.
To Dr, Chris Johnson
We have banks looking for good PhDs, but sadly not in S/W Engineering, several of the banks who pay the most have explicitly told us that they don't want CS PhDs for the top roles. They prefer physics & engineering, and will look at economics/finance.
We do have a job that I don't know that you can't do, though my experience of British CS PhDs makes me skeptical.
We need a fuck off good C++ developer who can write high performance code that is highly reliable. Can't state exact numbers, being first year £60-120K depending on what you can do.
What people around here need to understand is that the vast majority of international banking is run by science graduates, and finance is what pays for Britain. Manufacturing is suffering the lingering death it so richly deserves, and there are now more Jedi Knights in this country than full time farming workers.
Gweihir, a question...
Gewhir could you tell me how you teach your students to deal with senior staff telling them to break elementary security ?
I assume you teach social engineering, but what about advocacy skills ?
Not rich kids, smart kids
> but I am fed-up with the prices in the shops and my savings being effected by a >bunch of ill-educated, responsibility shy, rich kids.
Nearly all of my people have a masters on top of a degree in a real subject (physics, maths, engineering even some CS). A large % have PhDs, a small, but not trivial % have two PhDs.
Almost none inherited any wealth, certainly their current position is in no way inherited, which is rather different to politicians (Clintons, Kennedys, Bushes, even Benns)
>If they want to play, give them there own space but we need to insulate the real >world from all of this nonsense.
The allocation of resources is very real, and I trust them more. Middle class white kids like Peter Hain who committed the level of dishonesty he has demonstrated would disappear from a bank within femtoseconds of their discovery. Certainly wouldn't hang on for weeks.
And I emphasise the "white kid" part about Peter Hain, the most common name on my database is Mohammed. The current Labour cabinet has the same number of black or Moslem blokes on it as the executive council of the British National Party.
Yeah he did good stuff when he was young, but like many of his political class does not believe the law applies to him.
I find science PhDs for investment banks, typical entry level money is £60K base + 20-30 bonus. Good ?
We have had London bankers ask us for French or Russian PhDs because British ones are seen as soft. This is often British bankers making this judgement.
Easily the worst are Computer Science PhDs. Many of them have the technical content of a "business" Powerpoint by Accenture. A really quite scary % have "clouds diagrams". This is not a new wave of distributed computation, but the way that when you boil it down, they've driven some package which they didn't write and have made little effort to understand.
Actually, I can't remember the time I saw a British CS PhD these I didn't understand, so either I'm some sort of genius (which would surprise many people), or they simply aren't doing anything new.
I've worked in banks that have tried to implement "developer security", and the effects were hilarious. Well at least they were a few months later in the pub.
Outsourcing is no worse or better than other business activities, but the desire to save money means in most cases a decrease in the nominal size of the IT cost centre by imposing costs on other areas. It is insane to save £3 per hour to have a chepaer person when someone whose full up costs is 50 is left without the technology their work is dependant upon.
Also there is an inherent problem that most IT people do try to keep costs down and do a good job. But once you join an outsourcer job pay is based upon keeping the client cost up.
Also staff turnover in outsourcers is amazingly high, so the staff don't identify with their employer, much less the client.
A better class of bottom feeder
>I really don't understand why banks run multi-billion dollar businesses on Excel spreadsheets
They run multi-*billion* $ businesses on Excel :)
Excel is a good tactical development environment, can talk to financial data sources, and produces pretty graphs. As I mention there are tools like Xenomorph which help you make spreadsheet apps industrial strength, but most banks don't use them much.
>I'm always perplexed to hear fellow (non-banking) programmers wistfully >speculate about how great it would be to work in banking.
I've worked in non banking. It was shit. (computer manufacturers, circuit board maker, hotel IT, and even publishing)
IT people are the bottom of the food chain pretty much everywhere, indeed with outsourcing many have been moved out of the chain altogether. You've seen IT departments outside banking right ? Have you ever seen an IT dept. that wasn't in the worst bit of the building ? Often underground ?
In banking it's just as bad, but you get paid more, as a pimp in this area, that average a factor of two. If you're outrageously good at C++, let me know...
WordPerfect was a shit product.
Microsoft may have played dirty on WP, but let us not kid ourselves that WP was nice to it's customers. It was also very expensive, and not exactly friendly.
The Windows versions were outstandingly crap bits of s/w. Not because of MS., but because WP was a "business" not a technology firm and thus did not hire smart people or listen to the mediocrities it employed.
A firm the size that WP was could have hired people to get round these issues, back in those days I made good money myself that way. WP didn't.
It did however make sure its senior execs got really good golf.
Remember the scary DOS box arrangement ?
People these days flatly refuse to believe me when I tell them how viciously user hostile WP was. It survived because it had early market share it's crappy interface meant that large firms were reluctant to abandon their investment.
But WP eventually drove people away. No firm is going to retrain 2000 people because of browsing issues in Windows 95, they did it because users regarded WP as punishment, not productivity.
Frankly if MS had heavies break the legs of WP executives rather than a little half hearted documentation jab, I would have paid money to go and watch, not convicted them.
Win 95 was never a leader in the corporate market that WP infested, so the idea that this killed WP is just silly.
We'll never see this on the BBC
So Greenpeace are being economical with the truth. Well that's a surprise.
They rely upon arts graduates in the BBC taking everything they say at face value.
I'm no fan of Apple, but in this they seem better than the average.
The Earth is a garden
Even without CO2 and CH4 altering the weather, we know of many events like the Oxygen one which would make us extinct.
For the vast majority of Earth's history, humans would be killed stone dead by the atmosphere. But we are well enough evolved for the current conditions that many religious people genuinely believe the environment was designed for us. Greenpeace et al have a modern version of this myth that "natural" always equals good for us.
Even with the most scary and improbable events of climate change, Earth will have a viable ecosystem, the variable is whether there any any humans in it.
The long term survival of humans can only be engineered, it we let it "just happen natrually", an ordinary non-artificial event will kill us off. We are going to have to manage the Earth.
We don't have all the technology we need for that, and neither do we demonstrate the necessary wisdom either. Look at the number of major decision makers who believe in homoeopathy, or have a superstitious fear oif nuclear or genetic technologies, or even who ask God what they should do.
I assume Tim means fusion ?
Indeed, it's hard to see any motorway crash killing more than 5,000 and I've never heard of such an event. But it's quite possible, and somewhat inevitable.
Not by impact of course, but some really bad things are carried by road, and yes I know that includes nuclear material, but there are chemicals and explosives as well.
Also, we know from experience that tens of thousands of people will die in a future transport foul up. It's happened several times before.
There is essentially no public noise about road deaths, and that is around 5,000 per year. If we make the assumption that the number of nuclear caused deaths is proportional to the amount of power produced, we are looking at 50-100 deaths in the UK for 100% electricity generation by fission.
That is the average of course, and yes one day we will have thousands die in a nuclear accident, even at current levels that is inevitable.
But that illustrates the intellectual dishonest of the Greenpeace position.
My earlier point is that I don't care if my death is one of thousands or one of one, I care about the probability.
Greenpeace care about the headlines.
Look at death on global scale, what kills people ?
Lack of money.
Makes the other causes look like being obsessed with the fear of dying in a piano tuning accident.
You want clean water, health care, food and an economy capable of paying for old people and baby girls, you need a grown up source of energy.
Look at the countries that don't use much energy.
Look at the old people, although there is a lot of old looking people, they are 50, real old people ain't there. Also the male/female ratio. Girls are a luxury when you ain't got a proper economy.
Tim's response is indeed rational, and I mean that in the formal economic sense. That is not the same as wise.
As it happens, I agree about it being a power series, and the risk management used by investment banks tends to use all sorts of fat tailed distributions.
But tim, are you really telling me that you don't know anyone affected by the sort of car accident I mentioned ?
You can't predict the downside of transport accidents, I can see why you might be comfortable that way, but it is simply not true. That's why us science types get so impatient with arty Greens.
It's pretty much certain that two jumbo sized planes will collide over Oxford Street, in the middle of London. indeed the LFCDA has actually carried out exercises to deal with that. Not terrorism, just a tail of the distribution.
What risk managers call "fat tails" are a critical aspect of risk management, and it takes a very smart person such as my friend Nassim Taleb (www.fooledbyrandomness.com) to even try.
It turns out to be the case that in the future we can expect 10 or 20 times as many people to die in a year from transport accidents, No I don't know when, but that's the nature of randomness.
9/11 was not actually that improbable, indeed in the early 1990s The Economist did an article pointing out that planes hitting large buildings would increase due to this sort of effect. We are actually getting *fewer* such incidents than their theory might suggest.
All human actions, and indeed inactions have the possibility of amazingly bad outcomes.
The world can expect a (say) 50,000 death toll from a transport screwup with (I'd guess) a probability of about 2% a year. The mechanisms are much the same as a nuclear event of the same scale. Human error may be amplified by malice, and a consequence of a previously under-weighted effect turns out to be huge.
Such time series are of course patchy, in the last century the worst transport event killed around 25,000 Dutch people.
Ironically an almost synchronous event in Britain seems to have seriously improved life expectancy by stopping them choosing a truly dreadful diet.
Actually Tony Benn reflects an underlying ironic part of Labour policy for the last 60 years. They have always been into technology, OK not competently, but fans nevertheless.
Look up "white heat of technology", not a slogan for the thermal output of the next wave of Intel chips, but a Labour slogan.
If like me, you've been handed BNP or NF propaganda, you will notice just how similar the far right and Greenpeace are.
Both the BNP and Greenpeace want people to stay where they are put, and want to stop travel over any distance.
Both hate globalisation.
The BNP has hooked into the idea of stopping imports of food, and is at one with Greenpeace's view on "food miles".
Many right wingers of various parties are right up there with "protecting the countryside" from development and of course any form of energy production be it nuclear or "ugly" wind farms.
As it happens I think modern windmills look really cool, and am disappointed that they are as relevant to our energy needs as the "consciousness raising" that Greens prefer over doing anything useful about the problems we face.
As for Nickj's point, I used to be on the academic board of Queen Mary College, who did indeed have a nuclear plant in our back yard. Or more precisely under the Mile End Road. Rather than let us dispose of it properly one Ken Livingstone screwed us around and it ended up.....
Yep you guessed it right in the middle of the area where they are building the new Olympic stadiums. Since socialists of any kind simply do not care about anything that happens East of Oxford Circus, Livingstone didn't object much to it being moved to Stratford, indeed as I recall he used taxpayers money to make it so.
Of course the nuke people want money, they have to be managed. Alas that ain't gonna happen. There simply isn't anyone to do it.
If you told 100 senior MPs of any party that there had been a major leak of Nitrogen gas in Stratford you would get the following responses.
The Guardian reading ones would blame the USA
The Daily Mail reading MPs would blame Moslems
The Telegraph readers would worry until they realised it was E15 not the home of the bard, then stop caring.
Sun reading MPs would ask if any celebrities had been hurt.
I'd bet less than 10% would know that nitrogen gas isn't really that toxic.
Reckon they can make informed decisions on wastes disposal, risk and future energy prices ?
OK, let's do risk management 101 shall we ?
For a start, let's just remove the clutter of a "small nation getting wiped out by a nuclear accident".
For a start, you'd have to be a *very* small nation to be wiped out by a Chenobyl sized accident, maybe the Vatican but not a "giant" like Lesotho.
I do not see the difference between (say) 50,000 people killed in a small country and 50K in a large one.
And yes, unlike Greenpeace I am prepared to accept that my favoured option has risks. I accept that it is effectively certain that we will experience some truly bad things from nuclear energy.
Using past data points, I guess we will be dealing globally with about one or two thousand deaths per year from accidents. That will be a mix of small and big events. Sometimes we will get 10,000 dead in a year, sometimes very few.
I believe that a rational person cares about dying more than exactly what gets them. So unlike a Greenpeace member a rational person is indifferent between dying of cancer caused by breathing in fumes from carbon fuels as from radiation.
Thus I would not really care if I were the only person to die in my accident, or one of thousands.
A rational person cares about the chances of getting shafted, what we non-Greenpeace types call "probability".
We observe that in Britain, you have about a one in 12,000 chance of dying in a road accident per year. Most people die in single death crashes, but those don't make the news. Train crashes do make the news.
If you were merely to rely upon the media, you would assume that trains were vastly more dangerous than cars. Indeed, recently one might get the impression that one only died in a road accident if criminals were making a getaway or you were shot, both highly rare events.
A trick we non-artsgrad Greens use to tell if an argument is bollocks, is to change the nouns, and see if the logic still makes sense.
Swap the Green "risk" argument against nuclear and you do indeed get them arguingf that trains should be banned. Firemen have been complaining for some time that the channel tunnel trains lack proper firefighting precautions, and that one day several thousand people with die.
But to a Green trains are good, so their risks don't matter.
Of course trains are vastly safer.
If you look at carbon, we see lots of people dying because of oil and coal, but usually in small events, and often because they are coloured the media doesn't bother much, unless it's the latest mass death in Nigeria from poking holes in pipelines.
I do like the idea of Greenpeace being infected by Munchausen
Tim Wesson talks of "nuclear disasters", but fails to mention the rather larger number of deaths from carbon fuels. Google on Aberfan.
Yes of course it's risky, all useful energy sources are bad.
Unusually for a faux green he uses something one might recognise as mathematical languages, but sadly loses it by the standard green arts grad idea that if there is ever an error in any calculation, calculation is itself meaningless.
His basic premise is entirely wrong though. Of course we should average it.
In a nucelar future, your chances of dying in some nuclear accident go up quite a lot. The question is whether the risk is worth it, a question that Greenpeace are uniquely incapable of judging.
He hasn't even got his politics right.
Historically the Labour party is responsible for far more of Britain's generating capacity than the tories. Go look up the role of Tony Benn in nuclear history.
I think we can take it as read that Mr. Benn is not Blairite...
He also gets "keeping up with the Joneses" wrong.
Actually it does matter what your neighbours do.
Ask a Mexican if they think their history would be different if the USA had been poor and lacking in energy sources.
If other countries have rational energy policies and we do not, then we will be poorer than them, and history is quite clear on the point that poor countries get shat upon.
All energy sources are awful
Energy is the ability to effect change, uncontrolled change is bad, and the more energy the worse it is. Dams cause huge environmental damage, windmills chop birds out of the air in pitiful numbers, and photo voltaic cells produce truly impressive amounts of pollution for barely enough energy to run pocket calculators.
Bio-diesel is already hitting the price of food, and modern farming consumes so much energy that it's not at all clear we get more resources out than we put in.
Genetic modifcation is of course a possible solution to the failiings of fuel crops, but Greenpeace's superstitious fear of anything invented after 1800 makes that equally contentious.
There is geothermal, which is about the cleanest non-trival source of energy, but it is a fossil fuel, and although the Earth's atmosphere may warm up, it's rocks are only ever getting colder.
I'm old enough to remember when mining unions cut off the power to people's homes. I have scars gained as a child in a house with no electric power. Not nice. Richer people could afford to get past this, and we note that the average Greenpeace person one meets is clearly from a richer household than the average Tory.
They can afford high cost energy, indeed taxes on foreign travel keep the peasants away from their favourite beaches.
I've been cold, didn't like it one bit
It is fair and reasonable to criticise the government for spinning.
But let us not pretend that Greenpeace is an objective source of information. They have a superstitious fear of all things nuclear comparable to that of a medieval peasant confronted with witchcraft.
For anyone other than the middle class arts graduates who drive Greenpeace, it is entirely obvious that nuclear energy can reduce carbon emissions to whatever level we like.
Is it worth it ?
Good question, but not one that is addressed by a allowing any statement by Greenpeace to be taken as if they were the keepers of true knowledge.
It is true that nuclear energy in Britain is a money pit on an appalling scale, but those of us who did economics beyond counting our pocket money know that energy costs have risen notably in the last few years, and very few are betting on them coming down.
At some point the odds are that almost any energy source becomes viable compared to oil, gas and coal, regardless of your view on climate change since we are going to run out of them.
We should not follow the example of the BBC whose "science" coverage seems to includes giving equal time to grotesquely biased and ignorant pressure groups whose positions are simply not challenged.
Nuclear energy is dangerous of course, and expensive, but we need a higher quality of debate than that which can be obtained by a rent a quote flake from Greenpeace.
The writer responds yet again
Matt might recognise me as DCFC...
But I don't buy the "greed" thing. At various times I've worked as a chemist, journalist, programmer, barman and now pimp.
In all those industries, people wanted more money, and I've found encountered more criminality in the IT business than in banking.
The actors and artists I've met are really greedy, mostly poor, which just seems to make them more hardcore on the cash front.
The Reg has carried stories of the music and film industry using thugs to intimdate small children and old people. Never once seen that in investment banking.
EDS and Accenture, well if you're a Reg reader or simply someone who occasionally reads a newspaper you will have seen them do more damage than a barbarian horde of bankers.
Bankers are simply better at greed.
Even More Comments by the Writer
I just would like to point out *again* that there is no bail out.
The central banks are buying stuff off the banks and hedge funds cheap. My call is that they will make a serious profit.
There is a possibility of more inflation in this, but the net effect of the summer seems to have been to reduce such pressure.
As for public sector pay, that's a difficult and different issue. The government has been neither efficient nor honourable. But then again nor has any administration in my memory.
I note how the dimmer end of Labour politicians like Peter Hain complain about City pay, but somehow never manage to find the time to criticise those footballers, singers or actors who make far more.
I pimp for people who are the total opposite of morons like Dawn Primarollo, ie smart, extremely well educated and useful. The single most common name on my data is "Mohammed". Hain's cronies want such people to stay poor and grateful for handouts. I get them jobs which pay obscenely.
Yet more responses from the writer
It is a standard complaint of journalists that it's easier to write 2,000 words on a subject than 1,000 :) Glossary didn't make it to the first cut, but it's a reasonable request:
A brief summary of risk management.
Banks are required to keep a rainy day fund of money to cope with random shit. The riskier the position, the more money they need in this buffer. The regulations are a bit old ,and not very sophisticated, so much so that banks sometimes have more reserves than leghally necessary.
A simple portfolio loan requires the bank to have this buffer, to cope with bad debts, since of course the people that the bank borrowed the money from (which can be retail customers), will still want their money, regardless of the banks losses.
The capital required is expensive for bank, since they can't do anything risky with it, typically putting it into other banks or high grade/low yield bonds like those of major governments.
Thus "on the books" means the bank takes the full upside and full downside of any loan it makes.
If it sells the rights to receive the money, it can get a rake off, and let someone else take the risk. That means a high street bank is in effect a retailer of loans. Sainsburys is not the source of own-brand goods it sells, and Barclays is not the source of the money it lends. Both sell stuff.
Liquidity is the ability to buy and sell.
In many markets there are "market makers". They quote two prices, both to buy and to sell. This makes life a lot easier, and the spread between the bid price and offer price reflects the "service" a MM gives.
The property market does not have market makers, and most of us have suffered the pain that this causes. It takes a long time to sell things, and discovering prices is very hard, and imprecise.
However, you need decent amounts of capital to make a market, because you must hold a considerable amount of the stock, and have the pockets to deal with the screwups that happen. If like me you've ever been on a trading floor after hours, you will pick up phone calls of the form "hello, this is VeryBigBank, did you buy 3 million quids worth of bonds from us ?"
If the price of their stock holding drops hard, it can hurt badly. So they don't want to have too much.
Market makers, and other liquidity providers typically don't make big margins in their work. That means they are a bit cautious, since a small number of screwups can undo a year of profitable work. Getting market makers to actually make the market at all times is a standard problem, and I spent several years of my life embroiled in that situation.
Thus in a worried market, liquidity providers hide.
This means that people who want to get out of a position, can't. This means that the market sees lots of stock desparately trying to move, and a vicious circle may develop.
The actions of central banks is typically quite secretive, I did stuff for HM Treasury a while back and I was covered by the Official Secrets Act. In the words of the senior civil servant "we know where you live..."
But I pick up that they are providing liquidity, but with a very hard nose.
They are offering to buy stuff, but at a steep discount. My reading of this state of affairs is that the Fed and BoE may end up making a shed load of money out of this.
Responses from the writer
It's not "chaps from Eton" in the quanty game I have a database of their CVs, and we have more people from Egypt than Eton by a country mile.
The guy who didn't like my piece may have a point, but sure Reg readers know what a genetic algorithm is ? Most people I think know what "off the books" means.
A big criticism is that the "models aren't real", so I drew a parallel with quant and physics models, if you look I use that consistently.
I don't know what Breakfast is talking about. The quant types I know are of all political persuasions. Very few make political donations, though one is a local councillor (Labour).
Even the governments themselves have realised that most of their interventions in the market did more harm than good.