* Posts by Mike Allum

10 posts • joined 22 May 2009

Nokia crawls towards comeback with new phones announcement

Mike Allum

Re: Nokia - E71/E72 was brilliant, but very very slow...zzzZZZzzz

That brings back memories. I was given an E72 as part of the Nokia "Ambassador" programme, the idea was that you had a nice 'phone that your friends and relatives would see and envy and that they would then rush out and buy one. It was the usual rock solid build quality, a really good size, good battery life, a nice keyboard. But...

Bluetooth was a disaster area; the headset would lose synchronisation with the handset so that you'd terminate a call and the buttons or the audio would randomly not work again until you power cycled both devices. Or rather you'd allegedly terminate a call. That rendered it useless for handsfree operation in the car as the only compatible wired headset I could find at the time was a "bud" rather than "buds".

Synchronising contacts? Probably the most snoozeworthy of its features. I once worked out the effective data rate at around 7 bytes per second.

Setting up WiFi was easy if you knew that you had to power cycle the 'phone to make some of the changes take hold - and that critical fact wasn't mentioned anywhere in the documentation.

So yes, I was an ambassador - but for the sort of second-rate country that has its embassy in a single room above a grubby chip shop in a cheap area of town.

Invasion of the Brandsnatchers: How Nokia and BlackBerry inhabit the afterlife

Mike Allum

No surprise there then!

To be fair to Mr. Elop Nokia's problems started about 10 years before a little village in Canada posted up a "Wanted: one idiot" sign; the headline act of Kallasvuo and Olilla need to step forward and take the lion's share of rotten fruit.

We'll never know if it was pride, dodgy deals, extreme risk aversion, laziness, complacency, or just plain incompetence but the Nokia we knew and loved has gone. No amount of wheeling and dealing (buying other companies, ruining them, and selling the remains at a loss) can disguise the fact that the family silver is Missing Presumed Frittered Away. All they've got left to sell is the brand.

When we hear the "Gran Vals" as a doorbell we know where to send flowers.

Microsoft's Windows Phone folly costs it another billion dollars

Mike Allum

Re: The very high price of loyalty

The Lumia hardware is the usual Nokia standard of robust fabulousness but the software has the sickly smell of Series 60 about it.

Sure there were really good features such as flexible combination of the different sources of cloud-based address books and the voice recognition - but the GUI was as slow as a dog at times and there were a whole load of "drop dead" problems as well.

From day 1 mine would, after certain alerts, fail to respond to the touch screen and oblige me to whip out the battery. I had 2 replacement units that did exactly the same before I just gave up and accepted it as it was. This last weekend it took to doing it on a daily basis so I did a factory reset.

The lockup has returned to its previous frequency but it has now taken to restarting itself after certain stimuli (receiving text messages and acquiring a list of wireless networks).

I will subject myself to another couple of 20 minute sessions of watching the cogwheels as it zarks off into some hyper-realm during the factory reset (3 was the magic number that restored the previously-working-but-stuffed-up-by-the-"upgrade"-to-the-Denim-release wireless networking) but if that fails to bring back an acceptable level of functionality then, like you, I will have to go with what I least dislike. At the moment the top of that list is Lumia.

Mike Allum

Re: The very high price of loyalty

Oh goodness! Poor old Bell Labs.

UK needs comp sci grads, so why isn't it hiring them?

Mike Allum

Re: Science?

Software engineering is to writing code as civil engineering is to bricklaying.

Describing someone as a software engineer is saying that alongside their dev. or coding skills they will have in their skillset things like requirements capture, design, test, metrics generation, fault analysis, procedure creation, etc.

Mike Allum

Very true. In the last 10 years or so we've seen the "tick box" mentality come to the fore with some companies requiring candidates to have *every* skill that the job needs. You see certain jobs circulating for months around the job agencies.

When the right candidate turns up then some of these places don't want to pay for all of that valuable hard-won experience. At one employer I was told (as a contractor) on day one "We are paying you a lot of money so we have high expectations for your performance." - yet I was on less than I'd been earning 10 years previously and it certainly wasn't me driving the Maserati in the car park.

It's ironic that there is much moaning about skills shortages but there is very little commitment to ongoing training. Excuses like lack of budget, market unpredictability, and the like may find willing ears in the boardroom but they ring rather hollow in the wider context.

BBC's Clangers returns in £5m 'New Age' remake

Mike Allum

Re: So, the BBC CAN still sink lower

It was "Oh Sod it! The bloody thing's stuck again!". It was broadcast, it is in the DVDs, and is the whistle produced by the voicebox of every cuddly Clanger sold.

In the episode where the Iron Chicken rampades her way through the Small Blue Planet there are, to the careful listener, at least a few "F"s and I'm fairly certain I heard a "C" in another episode.

10/10 for Postgate and Firmin for that wonderful bit of subversion; yes.

(P.S. Mr. Firmin's artwork is just as beautiful and as quirky as ever: http://www.peterfirmin.co.uk/)

Tickle my balls, stroke my button and blow the fluff from my crack

Mike Allum

It's not HTT at all, it's just practicality. I liken doing code editing with a mouse to playing the end of a piano concerto - the hand is going "keyboard - mouse - keyboard -mouse". All you need is the frilly shirt and the tails.

I far prefer something like the CRiSP text editor where I can mark a column and move it without leaving the keyboard - and I (nearly) never paste the wrong side of a character.

If you want REAL frustration try cutting and pasting on a vanilla Google Nexus 7 - it rapidly descends into Most Frustrating Video Game territory. Even hitting backspace on that thing is an adventure. Since owning it I've learned to type very carefully indeed. 8-)

What Compsci textbooks don't tell you: Real world code sucks

Mike Allum
Happy

She's right, he's right, everybody's right.

There are many good observations here and a fair bit of very justified axe grinding too...

The problem always comes back to one of intangibility. A lack of definitive and simple metrics forces us to abstraction which is something that makes many managers uncomfortable. Lack of visibility of architecture and the perceived mutability of software leads to expectations that 'just a software change' will make up for incorrect or quirky hardware and interfaces. Lack of requirement for quality standards means that rubbish code gets shipped. Lack of understanding of maintenance issues means that documentation is not done.

The solution? I don't think we have a magic bullet at the moment but there are a few things that might help us for now. Communication is the foremost of those and something that I think will help tremendously is the concept of "technical debt" (mentioned earlier) which puts our technobabble into a soundbite of the type beloved by PHBs.

IR35 tax is a huge failure

Mike Allum

Oh the ironies!

1) The biter bit

The contractors were abiding by the laws - some stuck to the spirit and some stuck to the letter. How apt that the Government is now embroiled in a furore deriving from the spirit/letter question about their expenses.

2) Set a thief to catch a thief

To hunt down contractors who were not paying enough tax (in their opinion anyway) the Government unleashed bloodhound Dawn Primarolo - a noted Poll-tax evader.

3) The best defence is a good offence (Under section 21 of the taxation act)

The Government tried to spin the situation and make contractors into filthy freebooters by substituting "tax evasion" for "tax avoidance" (One is a crime, the other a sport for the rich.) but the spin was deftly turned 'round and ended up making them look ignorant.

4) Robbing Peter to pay Paul

This shortfall on the predicted profit (Sorry - revenue...) is priceless.

I gave up contracting because I was one of the "spirit" contractors.

I was damned if I was going to work 60 hour weeks, pay extra tax and NI, and not be able to save money for a corporate rainy day when some fat cat could pay minimal tax and NI on the huge wedge that he got for merely lending his name as director of a company.

I was double-damned if I was going to exercise my newly-granted right to sue my "employer" for the holiday and sick pay that I was never offered. I'd've never worked in the industry again.

I was triple-damned if I was going to write back to the Tax Office more than twice to point out that their non-legally-binding "opinion" (Which they referred to as a "judgement" to me at least once.) was factually incorrect in light of a court case that had terminated 6 months previously. I paid my taxes to be given facts, not fairy tales.

The whole thing was one of those attempts to screw money out of people by putting them into a position where it seemed that they would expend time, money, and effort fruitlessly. I am gleeful in the extreme to see that it has misfired so spectacularly and I offer my grateful thanks to Shout 99 and the PCG for their efforts over the years.

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