* Posts by MonkeyCee

911 posts • joined 16 Apr 2013

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BOFH: Don't go changing on Friday evenings, I don't wanna work that hard

MonkeyCee
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Re: Rule #1

Rule #1 is don't let your suspects talk to each other, and don't screw over your partner.

Best applied to parenting, works in most other places.

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MonkeyCee
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Simple is not easy

A task is never simple when it's delegated. You'll be told it is, but if it was, it would already be done.

Many things in life are simple. They are also not easy. Win the game by getting more points.

I'm happy fixing messes, and crazy stuff. Just don't sell me on it as simple :)

The only changes I'd accept on a Friday is a live test of new premises. Before Monday first day in new digs, you stick 10% of the bodies in Friday at the new place, so you've got the weekend to fix stuff so people don't lose their biscuits.

The issue with any other changes is getting hold of any random person is exponentially harder than on midweek nights. So when it goes bad it goes worse, and your weekend with it. Or someone will miscongfigure your settings and turn their phone off so you learn to not do stupid fucking things like request changes for Fridays.

I never minded working weekends. 4 days for 50 hours, and have a "weekend" of Monday to Wednesday. Plus all the booze you can drink. Being a chef is great, apart from the RSI.

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The wonderful madness of metrics: Different things to different folk

MonkeyCee
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Targets

Give me a stupid target, and I'll find a stupid way to meet it.

Best advice I've been given in IT.

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Post-pub nosh neckfillers: Reader suggestions invited

MonkeyCee
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Hmmm

Presumably after you've been necking a few bottles of proscecco? :)

Sounds more like something from the guardian.

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Are ALIENS hiding on Jupiter's Europa? Let's find out, cry NASA bods

MonkeyCee
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FAIL

$20,000 hammers

The military don't actually spend $20,000 on a hammer, it's just an accounting fudge.

You have a delivery of parts and tools, with a total cost. Accounting wants a cost per item, so just divide total cost by number of items and assign it.

So you get an order that has a $500 hammer, and a $500 jet engine.

Unsurprisingly, the hammer costs less, and the jet engine costs more. But you only ever hear about the expensive hammer, because it fits into the pre-existing conclusion of "government be crazy wasteful"

Same way as McDonalds PR has managed to make the "Hot Coffee" lady story out to be about frivolous lawsuits instead of corporate negligence.

Repeating simple stories to confirm an existing bias just makes people look stupid.

Or if it's about "Negros lustily raping white women" then you get nutty white guys shooting elderly lady preachers.

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Apple store staffers probed like 'criminals', lawsuit claims

MonkeyCee
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Re: Trust

"Bottom line is that low paid front line staff (be it factory, distribution or retail) are the most likely to steal physical product or 20 quid out of the till. "

My experience is that this is utter bollocks. If you're prepared to work for minimum/low wage, then you're usually desperate enough to not want to lose your job over a spot of petty theft.

Not saying it doesn't happen, but you get a lot more theft by those with entitlement, managers, executives and the like.

I worked in kitchens for about 3 years, of a dozen cases of theft two where by non-staff (customer and a supplier) and all the others where by people who where in some position of authority. Well, several of those where never proven, but after being accused with some evidence the executive chef/floor manager left for the day never to return.

Worked in a bar, there was ongoing theft from the tills (free drinks where considered acceptable shrinkage), eventually tracked down to an assistant manager who took the cash when transporting the tills from bar to safe, in a spot where the cameras didn't cover. Tills almost always have a camera or two on them, and if you're regularly short or seen putting cash in without a linked sale then you get busted pretty quick.

Same for missing computers/smart phones in companies. Higher ups think it's an acceptable perk and are more certain they can get away with it if caught. At worst they'll be asked to resign, never fired.

The concept that frontline staff are less honest than executives is laughable. Next you'll be telling me that the executives are less likely to be sociopaths :)

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Elon Musk's $4.9bn taxpayer windfall revealed

MonkeyCee
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Not sure what the point is of the article

Are there ANY industries that are legal, and function according to proper red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism? I thought that most experienced some level of cronyism, subsidy, tax break, barrier to entry or outright corruption. It's pretty much the nature of the beast.

It's the same way that "free market" is an oxymoron. A market, by definition, has to have some rules, and some method of enforcing them. Thus any market has some limit to it's freedom, even if it is as simple as unequal distribution of information, or unequal access. I do understand that generally "free markets" mean "fair and free as possible" but then it quickly gets bogged down in the argument over what should be regulated and how. Much like "small government" sounds good, but often means "apart from the bits I like".

While 5 billion over 9 years can sound like a lot in subsidies, there are plenty of posters pointing out how much actually is thrown around by various countries/states, so it can be seen as pretty small potatoes considering Musk has actually delivered many of his products, and in a somewhat timely manner. Contrast this with say defense procurement (even during a prolonged war/imperialist conquest), the nuclear power industry, the airlines, and the whole electric grid deal.

Whilst solar power is not a generation tech (well, PV ain't) it is a very effective reduction in consumption when your big power use is cooling. So you get more power at the times you need it most. Not so good for the UK, but chunks of USA it's just grand. Same way heat pumps and geothermal aren't going to stop your power needs, they do make things more efficient. I like nuclear and hydro power generation, but neither of those would be at all feasible without government funding/support/control. Since when they do fuck up they kill an awful lot of people. Well, hydro does, jury is still out on nukes. Hydro is at least profitable when you count all the externalities, we can't cost the externalities of nukes until we've got the ability to consume high grade waste, which is _hopefully_ going to be possible in thorium salt reactors. But those are a few years away from being scaled up, and will again probably need some sort of government pork to be able to become suitable for grid level production.

Education, emergency services, transport infrastructure and armed forces are generally accepted as being important, and usually best run by the state, with various sub sections handled by private interests.

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Spoiling staff with toys could turn against your business

MonkeyCee
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Management issue

Some good points, of course the usual issue with any of these suggestions. Management has to be onside, and enforcing these policies, since they almost always "get in the way" of the actual work people are trying to do.

My personal favorite is determining what level access the service/help desk bods have. If you want issues fixed by first level techs, then they need very high security access. Take that away and make them call loggers will result in better security, but shittier users, since you can't just get a file restored over the phone. Or when the sysadmin team who usually deal with 10-30 jobs per day are now required to do (for securitah!) various tasks the helldesk used to do, suddenly can't cope with 200+ calls logges per day.

For most organisations, you can call up, tell them you've come back from holiday, and can't recall your username ("It's usually already entered, but Bob's been using my computer") and could they reset your password too, and they'll just do it without batting an eyelid.

Very important is to check that how the system was designed is actually how it works. A number of times I've been told "but Bob doesn't have remote access" or "Bob isn't in the AD group for remote access" but since Bob is quite happily working away remotely (and has been for months) then there clearly is some difference between what is documented for remote working and the practise.

As for the HR forms for new staff.... Christ almighty. HR manage to fuck up more details than I can recall. Mainly spelling of names, mixing up surnames and first names, incorrect starting finishing dates, failing to record extensions of contracts, incorrect assignments of responsibilities, lack of signoff for security access. Most seem unable to deal with their actual jobs, managing to be ignorant of contract and employment law, and unable to revise contracts to resemble reality. Funniest was when my contract specified working hours (between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday) for a role where I only worked 6pm to 12am plus weekends. I asked them to revise it five times, getting a "new" contract each time that was _exactly_ the same as the previous one. No matter how I spelled it out, I was classified as a service desk bod, and thus must only have the SD contract, even if the contract was flat out wrong.

If management and HR are competent, then a lot of policies will be sensible and enforced well. If they are numpties then no matter how good a techie you are, you'll get fucked by dumb decisions or dumb enforcement.

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Lies, damn lies and election polls: Why GE2015 pundits fluffed the numbers so badly

MonkeyCee
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SNP destroying Labour

My opinion of the Scottish independence vote was it was the best piece of political engineering achieved by the Conservatives for many years.

If Scotland went independent, their electorates would no longer be in the UK parliament. mainly causing losses to non-Con parties, ensuring a Con majority for years. Or a major shift in other parties to mirror main Con party lines.

If Scotland stayed in the union, then it would lead to Labour losing some seats, assuming Lab campaigned for the union.

So win-win either way.

UKIP leaching Lab votes helped too.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: "Shy Tories"

The belief that the UK has ever been offered a PR option is very strong. There was no vote on PR. There was no option for PR. The Lib Dems fluffed that, along with pretty much every other thing they could in their desperate bid to actually matter for once.

Alternate Vote (which there was a referendum on, and rejected) is a majoritive voting system, just designed to more accurately reflect people's choices from a multiple options. It is pretty much the same as straight majority votes if you only have 2 options, but if you have 4+ then they are relevant. It means that even if your first choice candidate is not going to win, your vote can still influence who does. So your vote for your local Lib Dem, who isn't going to get in, but you would prefer say Labour over Conservative over UKIP.

None of the major parties wants to give PR, in any form, a chance. Since it will almost always result in coalition governments, and those are bad for those versed in the party political system. It also almost always leads to fracturing of the larger parties, which again is not something that those who have spent years playing the party system are keen on.

The fact that a referendum on AV got passed off as one on PR, and is widely accepted as such, is a great trick pulled off by those who prefer the party system (and FPTP) over getting anything slightly more representative.

In NZ there is MMP (half PR, half FPTP) for electing the 99-105 MPs, and STV for local council. You can witness the incredible bitching from the ex-councillors who lose their seats from STV who would have won under FPTP, becasue of the number of people who effectivle voted "anyone but them".

Check out: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems to see some reasonable explanations of different systems, and the flaws and advantages in each.

For my UK vote, during my lifetime it has never mattered. My constituency has returned 50%+ for the Cons every election :)

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Tough admin forces hacker to STRIP to PANTS, LEAP to his DEATH

MonkeyCee
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virtual items

It requires that the law recognises virtual items as real goods. Then you can get a civil suit working.

It's also something that whining on the forums or posting online will not always address, but send them your missive on a piece of dead tree will almost always get a result.

I've gotten my account banned from WoW because I was too influential on the in game economy, and that offended someone enough that they wrote to acti-blizz. They then crowed about it, and how they now get to make thousands more gold a day from overcharging, I mean fairly competing, in the market. Person who made the complaint got banned after another few months for gold selling.

I only got the actual reason for the ban by also writing a letter of complaint, since I'd not (as far as I could tell) violated the T+C, no using hacks or bots. I'd gotten suspension before for transferring large amounts of gold around, but that got reversed.

I got a refund on the time left on my account, but no characters back. A bunch of the cool stuff is BoA now anyway, so I still have titles, 'chevos, hierlooms and a zillion mounts and pets.

Blessing in disguise really. Made me re-consider how much effort I was putting into a game that wasn't paying me any money. Yeah, I could have made bank by gold selling, but then that would be a perfectly good reason to ban.

Online poker is far better way to spend my $15 a month :D

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Why OH WHY is economics so bleedin' awful, then?

MonkeyCee
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Re: Plenty of outsiders predicted the crash

There are some fairly big differences between the two. Here's my sophomoric take on them,:

Insurance consists of the risk of an event happening in a time frame, the cost of the event, and whatever margin is needed for safe operating and profit. So say there is a 1% chance of a fire destroying your property in a year, which will cost $100,000 to repair, and 20% is a "safe" margin. The premium will be $1200 a year, so that after 100 years the $100k cost is covered, $20k in admin and profit taken.

This can _only_ work with enough people paying in, if you only had say 100 people in the pool, the chance of 2 claims in a year might bankrupt the insurer. So you need a big pool, enough that it is an accurate sample of the population you base the risk calculation from. Hence why there is almost always state backing of certain types of insurance, otherwise most insurers business plans consist of "good times profit, bad times fold company". There are a variety of other ways the insurers make their dime, more accurate risk calculation, selection of clients, higher margins and spreading the risk to a third party.

Making an asset backed loan consists of the value of the asset, the interest rate, and what the creditor can do to get their money back. A normal ("prime") loan would be on something that the creditor is pretty sure will hold or gain value, to a debtor who is very likely to be capable of making the payments on the principal and the interest. Thus the risk is relatively low, thus the interest is relatively low. Typical mortgage would be that the debtor pays the creditor roughly twice the properties value over the course of 25 years, and the creditor owns the property until the final payments is made, and can sell it if the payment schedule is not met. No pooling required, works fine with small numbers as well as large numbers, just easier to predict the average risk with large numbers.

A sub-prime loan is when either the asset is less likely to hold value, or more often that the creditor is less likely to be able to make the payments, Thus the interest rate is higher, and the creditor has a higher exception of taking possession of the asset. A typical example would be a rent-to-own appliance store selling someone a $100 item (a washing machine for this example) for $2 per week for 2 years. The creditor expects to either collect the $200, or that the washing machine will be returned and re-sold for $100 plus money made from the rent. Again, no pooling required, you can do it as effectively with one client as you can a hundred.

Now, to make a prime loan from sub-prime loans, that's where the pooling comes in (the collective part of a CDO) put enough sub-prime loans together, and repay in tranches, the top tranche or two will function like a prime loan.

As for why would anyone make sub-prime loans, that's easy. They are very profitable in the short term, and if they are asset backed then also in the long term. Why anyone would take them is a classic poverty trap. You don't have any other way to get the loan, so either you do without or you pay more for the same service.

If property "always" goes up in price, and the expected price increase is close enough to the sub prime interest rate, then everyone is fine. If the asset is education then it may be a perfectly good investment to pay 10% above the base rate, since once you're qualified and have a job, you then move into the "prime" category, and can re-finance at a less punitive rate.

I still do not see how sub-prime requires pooling. It's the mildest form of loan sharking, and works on any scale. Insurance requires pooling.

I do see how for the specific case of US mortgages to dis-advantaged people being backed by Fannie and Freddie (and thus by the taxpayer) is a pooling of sorts. It's just a terrible idea, if we want taxpayer funded mortgages, then have them. Don't pretend it's something else.

But that's my view on insurance anyway, I've worked for a few insurance companies, and the issue is that they are just administrators of government policy. They make guaranteed profits (and get money to invest) until a payout is required, then they either stall, deny cover, or if enough claims are correct, declare they are going bankrupt without a bailout.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Rent Controls...

The rent controls thing is about America, and the American housing system, and is based of a survey of selected American economists.

According to many people (the Gruan comment section) Germany does have rent controls, and a wonderful rental sector, and if only the same rules where applied in blighty then Everything Would Be Awesome.

The reality, as you correctly note, is not quite like that. My experiences with renting in various countries is that landlords get away with what they can, and if demand exceeds supply for their property then they can get away with an awful lot. Doesn't really matter what the law is, or how it's applied.

I still think rent caps are a bad to terrible idea, if government is going to stick it's oar in I think they should provide rentals, which would put an effective floor on rents. But this is politically unpalatable, or gets tied up with who is eligible, thus creating classes of renters.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: mathematics is needed...

There are a few engineers who are politicians who probably could.

There should be a fair few economists who should be able to. I'm studying econometrics, which means roughly the same math load as engineering or physics. Calculus through second year, more probability, less applied math. However, the main branches of econ (international business, fiscal economics) don't do nearly as much, and thus don't even have to learn differentiation/integration. Because you can always reduce a curve to a straight line, thus you just assume everything is a straight line :D what could possibly go wrong?

Politicians don't get to head up a party by being good at math. They get it by being good at power politics, and by being "electable".

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Greg Mankiw

Here's the list of the all the people who contributed to the survey that we're debating:

Daron Acemoglu - MIT

Alberto Alesina - Harvard

Joseph Altonji - Yale

Alan Auerbach - Berkeley

David Autor - MIT

Katherine Baicker - Harvard

Abhijit Banerjee - MIT

Marianne Bertrand - Chicago

Markus Brunnermeier - Princeton

Raj Chetty - Harvard

Judith Chevalier - Yale

Janet Currie - Princeton

David Cutler - Harvard

Angus Deaton - Princeton

Darrell Duffie - Stanford

Aaron Edlin - Berkeley

Barry Eichengreen - Berkeley

Liran Einav - Stanford

Ray Fair - Yale

Amy Finkelstein - MIT

Pinelopi Goldberg - Yale

Claudia Goldin - Harvard

Austan Goolsbee - Chicago

Michael Greenstone - Chicago

Robert Hall - Stanford

Oliver Hart - Harvard

Bengt Holmström - MIT

Caroline Hoxby - Stanford

Hilary Hoynes - Berkeley

Kenneth Judd - Stanford

Steven Kaplan - Chicago

Anil Kashyap - Chicago

Pete Klenow - Stanford

Edward Lazear - Stanford

Jonathan Levin - Stanford

Eric Maskin - Harvard

William Nordhaus - Yale

Maurice Obstfeld - Berkeley

Cecilia Rouse - Princeton

Emmanuel Saez - Berkeley

Larry Samuelson - Yale

José Scheinkman - Princeton

Richard Schmalensee - MIT

Carl Shapiro - Berkeley

Robert Shimer - Chicago

Hyun Song Shin - Princeton

James Stock - Harvard

Nancy Stokey - Chicago

Richard Thaler - Chicago

Christopher Udry - Yale

Luigi Zingales - Chicago

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Plenty of outsiders predicted the crash

"I wish I'd held longer, but that's life."

Selling early is how one makes their fortunes :)

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Sitting Ducks

Random drawing from the population. With some groups excluded, much like jury duty.

It would at least mean that the corruption would have to take new forms :)

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MonkeyCee
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Re: The HOW now seems more important than the WHY

"The root cause of the crash was because the banks were cutting their opiates (low default probability mortgages) with some junk (high default probability mortgages) which was sold on the open market "

Well, there are more moving parts than that.

The ratings agencies, who should have been correctly identifying the actual risk used incorrect or criminally incompetent or corrupted methods the value them.

The buyers shouldn't have so trusted the clearly BS figures given. Some people are not really culturally open to the idea that other bankers/governments might actually be outright liars (see Greek government figures and trusting Germans).

Then you've got straight up political interference in the market, in the form of Fannie and Freddie in the US. So everyone should get a home loan, even if you cannot pay that home loan, which is as doomed to failure as setting the price of toilet paper. You can't just legislate something that is fundamentally a market good.

Then the incentives system whereby selling something, even if it later turns out to be pure crap, earns you more than honest work. Be that the people making NINJA loans (or guiding their clients to fraud), the ratings agencies paid by the rating they give, the people selling clearly bunk derivatives, and the politicians who are happy to be paid to remove regulatory barriers that prevent some of these abuses.

It's a cycle of problems, not just one part. Blaming the banks alone is fun, but to truly fuck something up you need to have government, business and the plebs all working together :)

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MonkeyCee
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Headmaster

Well indeed

As a student of microeconomics, I can't agree more :) in fact a number of times in tutorials my erstwhile professors have been known to opine about what a load of bollocks certain macro theories are, since using a "average" or "collated" value makes everything following it meaningless. Median values, standard deviation etc make more sense for expressing wages (or disposable income) than an average over a population.

The interesting thing about the big list of Stuff We Agree On is that pretty much each and every one comes with a host of caveats. Plus it's from polls of USAian economists, not from the profession as a whole.

"A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93 per cent)"

Main caveat: the sentence needs "in the USA" on the end of it.

While a simple rent cap obviously doesn't work, since everything below is unaffected (or rises to it) and everything above it ends up being nonviable as return on capital, it's a "bad" idea. But housing is never a simple situation, the local and countrywide laws (and how they are implemented) are much more relevant. The Dutch system is interesting, for a start you can't rent if you don't own outright, your mortgage lender forbids you to (by law I think, or habit), you can be forced to sell a rental property (well, not allowed to rent it out) if the social policy of the area dictates it, and there is a rental cap based on a points system for rentals under a certain value (650ish a month) and pretty much no rules above that.

You've also got very good courts, good quality social housing (long waiting lists, can't get kicked out even if you're now a millionaire), and some of the most evil scammy landlords on the planet. The former may be a result of the latter.

So while I do agree that rent caps ALONE are a bad idea, it's always part of a more complex equation.

"Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93 per cent)"

Fair enough, but that's tied in with subsidies which are functionally reverse tariffs, and runs into issues with anti-dumping "fair" competition legislation.

"Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90 per cent)"

Caveat: As long as monetary policy is sensible. It's also a very bland statement, a gold standard is also effective, if it was "the most effective" then I'm not sure how much agreement you'd get.

"Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90 per cent)"

Surely it depends on who gets the tax cut, or receives the benefit of the spending. Effective spending has a positive multiplier, ineffective doesn't. Or it would result in it simply not mattering how or what the government spent up large on.

"The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90 per cent)"

Pointless statement really. Some work cannot be outsourced, since it needs to be done locally. Then it needs to be specified as to what sort of labor is being outsourced. Does it apply to the armed forces? Skilled vs unskilled, where do the payroll taxes end up etc.

"The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85 per cent)"

Sure, subsidies and tariffs distort the market. Getting rid of them would make things more competitive. But no-one wants to be the first to do it, as it will *probably* result in the collapse of that sector of the economy and dependence on imports. Apart from New Zealand (which has significant legislative support for the agribusiness sector) are there ANY first world countries that non-subsidised agribusiness sectors?

Would be interesting to see if you added "assuming no other countries do" to the statement how many would change their mind.

Also, what if ALL business subsidies and guarantees where eliminated, not just agriculture?

"Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85 per cent)"

Sure, sounds good. Again, why not eliminate all subsidies to all business? If it's a loss making public good, then run it as a government department.

"If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85 per cent)"

Sounds good, because both "balancing the budget" and "business cycle" are suitably undefined.

"The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85 per cent)"

Pointless statement. Extrapolating 50 years into the future without a host of caveats is batshit crazy. If we're doing that, then Apple will own the entire solar system within 30 years anyway :D

"Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84 per cent)"

Can't argue with that really. Central control of individual decision making is almost always going to fail.

Overall I think there in general the only things that can be agreed on are almost always the things that we know will not happen short of a tectonic shift in politics. It's like saying we can solve all the pollution issues, we just need to dispose of about 85% of the population. Ideally at random :) but that's never going to get you elected.

As to the general fail of macro vs micro, there seem to be many issues with how you aggregate macro data, and lots of macro theory is some combination of self fulfilling prophecy and just-so stories. Oh, and a willingness to completely disregard observation of human behavior when it doesn't suit.

If you've got a single explanation for a macro phenomena, then you're clearly not an economist :) you're a politician, and you should already have your "solution" to hand.

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Hey! Want a FREE TOASTER that makes BITCOIN? What? You DO?

MonkeyCee
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Re: Free Leccy

Or you could just sell the 'leccy back to the grid, in general for a higher return than mining crypto.

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Plod wants your PC? Brick it with a USB stick BEFORE they probe it

MonkeyCee
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Re: Why not??

If you're accused of something, then probably true. Depending on your force etc

I've given the cops kit when they where investigating some nasty stuff* done at my workplace that was easier to put on a portable hard drive. I covered in (and the powersupply) with "property of x" stickers, and they joked that I was worried I wouldn't get it back. They returned it within a week, when the forensics lot came back to finger- and palm-print us, and sample our DNA.

*food and drink being poisoned.

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Tesla reveals Powerwall battery packs for homes, Powerpacks for cities

MonkeyCee
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Re: Do you have an ISA or savings account?

It's a comparison with a cash ISA.

Share ISA has no guaranteed return. That's why you get those "your capital is at risk" and "value of investment may go up or down" advice on them.

But you knew that already.

In general things giving you 12% ROI with very low risk like these are pretty good investments. Depending on how dickish your local regulations are about generating your own power and requirements to sell and rebuy it from the grid will often determine if say solar PV/micro hydro etc are any good for you.

I like solar myself, because I get a 10-20 year guarantee (varies on which bit of the installation) that pays itself back (assuming current power usage) at between 5 and 6.5 years. Plus I get an energy rating bump that results in my house increasing in value by the value of the installation.

It's not going to solve the energy issue, it's certainly not alternate generation, but it is a reduction in cost. Much like improving insulation, or a more efficient boiler. I wouldn't mind getting a micro gas generator, but that's not permitted in my 'hood :)

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UK exam board wants kids to be able to Google answers

MonkeyCee
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Hmmmm

I thought the whole point of open book exams was to force you to buy the textbook.

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Free markets aren't rubbish – in fact, they solve our rubbish woes

MonkeyCee
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Re: We could have dedicated networks of rag-and-bone men

"someone being prosecute for removing stuff from the skips"

It depends who owns the skip.

There is an issue where a properly organised building materials recycler who has separate skips for wood, metal, concrete and glass etc has agreed a rate with the builders, based on how much they expect to get from the site, and who does the sorting (builders or recyclers). Then you get the scrotes nipping along emptying the metals skip of all the shiny alu. Which is theft and makes being a legit recycler harder.

This can also apply to being at the dump, as again once it's been sorted into a skip, it belongs to the company who is planning on selling it. Some may let you take stuff, but it depends on how your local council has outsourced the contract. If I've paid for the right to have the waste, then it's because I think it's worth it. It could be seen as the equivalent of helping yourself to ore that's been mined (after the company has paid all due resource rents) and saying that's OK because it's all out of the ground.

Different rules apply to stuff that is in a bin for collection, a skip, if it's on public or private land, and if there's a company name on it. It's never as simple as "help yourself without asking", same as with all property really.

Worst case that I've seen was several pallets of CRT monitors. Had sorted the pain in the arse permits, arranged transport, sorted a proper disposal unit and was even going to make a tiny profit (about half minimum wage for me, yay being a SMB owner), and then some shithead had ripped all the copper out of them, leaving me with a skip load of plastic and smashed leaded glass and phosphor dust everywhere. Which my permits did not cover, the transport company would refuse to move, the disposal company wouldn't take.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: supermarket pricing

"In the UK there's usually a price per 100g/ml/item in the small print on the shelf sticker in most of the supermarkets for easy comparison."

But not one explaining that for the special offer.

The UK does at least stick to using the same method throughout the store. Dutch supermarkets are fond of pricing in 500g/1kg/100g units to suit themselves, often on items right next to each other.

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MonkeyCee
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returning empties

The system works fine as long as the returned items are within the limits set by the machine. So relatively clean, standard sized containers with intact barcodes are good.

However if your beer bottle is non-standard shape then you'll pay the "deposit" but not get it back. Or if your plastic bottle is the wrong shape from being squished. Or the can is deformed. Or it's the wrong weight due to it's use as an ashtray. I could go on, but you get the general idea. Things put in the rubbish are often dirty or damaged, and then they don't get recycled. Or the producers lobby for exemptions, so milk and wine containers don't count etc.

It also differs between countries, and I'm 20km away from two, god forbid I try to put Belgium or German bottles through the machines in the Netherlands.

What it means in practical terms is that I tend to buy items that don't have a return on them (500ml soft drink, cans), so I can just toss them when I'm done. They end up being used as fuel in incinerators, but that's due to how the rubbish companies are regulated. Hence why if they levied a tariff on each container and then that got paid to the rubbish companies to cover disposal I'm fine with that. Since currently most of my deposits end up going to pay for the running of the machines, and then subsidised with some tax money. So I get to pay twice, three times if it's my own bin :)

I am biased by the fact my local supermarket is a Lidl, which has the machine set to super bastard levels of being unhelpful. You can even make a few euros by emptying the bin next to it from all the discarded "unacceptable" containers and taking them to Albert Heijn or Jumbo, who tend to be more helpful. But often still, no barcode = no deposit.

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MonkeyCee
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20c

See my point above.

Supermarket will _always_ charge you 20c deposit. They will pay it back somewhere between 0% and 100% of the time. Thus supermarket likes it.

It still isn't an effective system unless it is applied to all containers. It almost always isn't. The exception being Denmark (and others? I don't travel enough). The main manufacturer of these reverse vending machines (Tonka) is Danish.

It almost always works out to be cheaper to collect those deposit payments, and pay waste collection companies to do the collection and sorting rather than relying on the punters. It certainly does in the Netherlands, and that's a small, highly urban country with a very regulated waste collection industry.

It's a feelgood measure. Like certain of my family members who feel they are "green" because they wash their tins and sort their rubbish, but take 2+ international holidays a year.

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MonkeyCee
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supermarket pricing

Supermarket pricing is it's own special brand of scamming. That's why they do their level best to avoid per kg prices if possible.

My local (Lidl) has things in per kg, per 100g, per 500g and per "packet size".

Even my normally savvy wife will buy something that's "on special" because it has a oragne sticker on it. Even it is 2 cents off a 2 euro item. That we don't really want :)

They do very nice tiramisu at either 500g for 3 euro, or 90g in a small glass for 2 euro. The glasses are a)too small for much use and b) more expensive (effectively) than buying proper sized ones from Ikea. But they still tricked my wife into getting them because the glass is "free".

She did realise this after I pointed out that we should decide to get tiramisu or glasses on their own merits, rather than a dubious combined package.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: We could have dedicated networks of rag-and-bone men

The problem with gypsy recylers and those with less ethics is that you can strip 80-90% of the value from an item with not a lot of effort, and dump the rest for someone else to sort out. Since what is being dumped is usually the plastic case (you can get money for ABS etc but you need half a tonne+) and lead filled glass with phospher coating it's not very good for anyone around.

You can use a chisel or a blowtorch to strip most of the value from a PCB, and send that off to be refined while leaving the PCB to be someone else problem. But that's not really very ethical. Hence why even though I don't make any money (and neither does the refiner) I tend to ship my boards whole to the refiners. Plus they can be real shits if they decide you've "stripped" the board even if it's taking off something low value like a USB socket. Which is why I usually get them assayed, but again takes a larger amount to make it work.

I'd also lose my business licence too, but I don't think that would bother the gypsies :)

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MonkeyCee
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Re: When I was a kid

Ah, those reverse vending machines. The big issue with them is that in order to work effectively, the deposit needs to be on pretty much every container type. This is the case in Denmark. It also needs some solid rules requiring all machines to accept all the container types. Again this is the case in Denmark.

However I live in the Netherlands, and much like Germany, the charge exists on 1.5+ liter plastic bottles and glass beer bottles. But each store gets to set it's own policies on the machines, so a number of supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl, Plus) will charge you the 25c/10c per container when you buy it, but make it very difficult to get the money back. You can only return bottles in a crate of 24, and no other option, and you cannot return bottles from other stores.

The net result is that the supermarkets make more money, and somewhere between 25-40% don't actually get returned. The fees are also pretty high relative to the item cost, a crate of cheap beer about half the cost is deposit, cheap soft drink 30% is deposit. The cost of running the scheme is higher than subsidising plastic or glass recyclers but an order of magnitude.

It's the same way we don't sort metals in our standard household waste. It's cheaper to recover it later in the collection process, since you don't ever get it cleaned enough in the separated waste you've got to have a shredding and washing proicess anyway, so just do it all as one.

I live in poor neighborhood, with a fair few rag and bone types. They know how much they can get for a bit of sorted scrap, and they do in fact drive around yelling for it. I buy bits from them, since I'll pay scrap value +50%, and a repairable bit of scrap is worth 400-10000% more than it's scrap value. Mainly it's computers and bikes, but even something as basic as a desktop (3-5 euros scrap value) I can get 20 euros from if I spend 30 minutes stripping and testing it. If I'm lucky I get 80+, but it's a gamble on what's still working. Laptops are pretty much worthless unless you find someone who wants the parts (hinges mainly).

I'm even lazier with the bikes, I pay the scrappy a tenner, a mobile bike repair guy 20, and sell it for 50. Bish bash bosh. Or 20 for a decent bike that's been mangled, and the parts go for 50.

The main problem Joe Public has with trying to sell their scrap is that you will get ripped off at every possible point by the scrapyards. Since my local little guys are my neighbors, and goodwill is priceless, I have explained to them that selling motherboards with RAM and CPU on for 50c a kilo when you can get 2-8 a kilo for the boards, and 30-100 a kilo for the RAM and CPU is leaving money on the table.

It's a classic example that the free market works, and of the value of information. You don't even need that much bulk, 1kg of RAM or 10kg of high grade boards will get you sensible prices from a refiner, as compared to the 100kg+ you need to get half decent prices on alu etc.

In general all IT goods (even laptops) are at the high end of e-waste, and are almost always worth the time. It's the white goods that get iffy, strip the wiring and motors and they aren't worth the time. CRTs are bad for your health, and if you're doing them properly are loss making. Which is why they are most often stripped of their valuable bits and dumped.

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E-voting and the UK election: Pick a lizard, any lizard

MonkeyCee
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lol

Yes, there was an option to change from a bad but understood system, for a PR system that no-one could explain in under 5 minutes. Not that it was deliberately sabotaged, or a choice between MMP, FPTP and direct PR.

I like MMP when I was in NZ. You got a good mix of both systems, and it's easy to understand, even if you are Maori*, who get to choose if their party vote is part of the general elective or towards their reserved seats.

Neither of the two big parties wants it. Much the same way as any referendum on Europe (or Scottish independence) will be manipulated to maintain the status quo, those who've fought their way to power aren't handing it away.

* Not intended as an insult to them. Only took a couple of election before they realised they actually had the most power to tactical vote.

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Money-for-mods-gate: Valve gives masterclass in how to lose gamers and alienate people

MonkeyCee
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Mods are awesome

While Skyrim wasn't something that I bothered with, the Total War series pretty much only had any replay value with mods. In fact I think I spent a tiny fraction of my time playing the official versions, and almost always a modded version.

While the mods where free, I donated money to the writers because hosting and producing it aren't free, and updating it for the various patches rather than leaving it to die is something I appreciate. Considering some of the base games I got in Steam sales, I spent more on the mod than on the base engine.

Considering the improvements pretty much made them new games, to the extent of new maps, units, AI, economy and game balance, I was happy with it.

Of course the makers realised this, and made each edition harder to mod. To the extent that my favorite mod team no longer works on the new content.

I thought it was short sighted that they pretty much went the "DLC them to bits" route, and banned/restricted modding to prevent people just adding the new units rather than forking over for them.

But game companies failing to understand their core market is nothing new. Blizzard make gambling games, then are shocked (SHOCKED I tell you!) that people will pay real money for the rewards for them.

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Secret Service on alert after drone CRASHES into White House

MonkeyCee
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Re: How much C4

Isn't that the general idea of terrorism* that the actual action is insignificant, but the reaction produced is what counts?

As pointed out elsewhere, a chemical, biological or nuclear payload would get more press scare stories. Since it's all about insane extrapolation rather than actual danger.

Maybe you could land a drone with influenza or TB on it? Since those kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, they must be dangerous. As compared to avian/swine flu. Or Ebola. Or *insert dumb medical scare story*.

*The type wot we is supposed to be scared off, rather than a nation state using military resources.

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So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

MonkeyCee
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Re: Evasion opportunities?

It depends on which company you are looking at. It's pretty clear that Apple, MS, Google and various other tech outfits are making non-US profits disappear through various interactions using Irish, Dutch and Luxembourg based subsidiaries.

But then you've got Amazon, who pretty much don't make a profit by design, just keep pouring it back into itself until, um, our robot overlords arrive?

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Tax assets instead of profits

Savings at 2% or less are losing you money however you cut it. Buying something that will probably hold it's value is pretty much the only way to actually "save" in the old fashioned term. My bank even changed their T+C so they can in fact charge us negative interest if needed.

Nothing to do with massive QE, oh no. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain pressing ctrl-p on a spreadsheet ;)

Shares, bonds, land, precious metals*, and anything that you have good market knowledge about are better bets. Property and collectibles will pay off a lot more if you make the right bets, but buyer beware and all that.

*I prefer the industrial ones like silver, platinum and palladium. But gold is traditional.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Fair Tax?

Looking forward to it. I thought you'd be down with LVT and other resource rent taxes based on your comments on, uh, resource rents :)

Capital/wealth taxes would only work (IMHO) if they where substituted for income taxes, and some consumption tax continued to exist. Otherwise you stick an even greater incentive to avoid them, and it's easier to hide wealth than it is income.

In practical terms for how countries can raise more revenue right now, without having to dick around with the tax code, surely it's as simple as hiring more tax collectors. Well, until some point of diminishing returns, but it's still something like a couple of million in extra tax receipts per 50k employee last I looked.

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MonkeyCee
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Re: Fair Tax?

Isn't there a similar issue with VAT and carousel fraud? In the end it's all about that if the tax is higher than a reasonable profit margin, then if you can avoid tax you make super profits.

I'm a bit of a cynic too, and the number of systems that rely on people being basically honest (which in general they are) are wide open to abuse if the law covers only specific abuse, rather than a principle.

The example for this is in New Zealand that a couple of surgeons who ran their own practise where paying themselves minimum wage and taking most of their "income" as dividends. Since this is pretty common for most one man and his dog outfits, it came as a little bit of a shock that the IRD decided this was tax evasion (due to under pricing of the skilled labour) and successfully prosecuted them, because the law is more about the intent rather than the specifics. Next tax year, NZ had a sudden new crop of millionaires since all the various high paid professionals (lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects etc) changed from declaring their income as dividends and instead as salary.

As much as I dislike VAT, it's mainly effective because it pushes the cost of tax collection onto everyone in the supply chain, rather than have the tax collectors chasing whatever point in the transaction system we have agreed on to be the collection point.

Any thoughts on wealth tax Tim? Both the inheritance/death taxes, and things like land/asset value tax.

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Lost WHITE CITY of the MONKEY GOD found after 500 years

MonkeyCee
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Re: Primeval rain forest?

There are three types of fauna in Australia: Weird, deadly and sheep.

The seasons in Australia are: Flood, pestilence, fire and boredom.

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VAMPIRE SQUID romps stun scientists: Unique sex lives revealed

MonkeyCee
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Re: I had to look twice...

I thought reality TV was the modern equivalent of taking a tour of Bedlam Asylum.

Although my missus does love a good episode of "Farmer looking for wife" :)

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High on bath salts, alleged Norse god attempts tree love

MonkeyCee
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The junkie who thought that "bath salts" where all bath salts, and injected himself with actual bath salts.

Maybe the cleanest his veins have been for a while...

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Default admin password, weak Wi-Fi, open USB ports ... no wonder these electronic voting boxes are now BANNED

MonkeyCee
Silver badge

Re: The position of the constitutional court of Germany is worthy of note

"Uhm.... Germany has roughly as many voters as the US."

Really?

Awesome. I'll give you a dollar for each German vote at the last election, and then you can give me a dollar for each American vote at the last election.

Last I checked Germany had a total population of about 86 million. Let's call it 90 million, and pretend everyone is of voting age :)

USA has a voting age population of roughly 230 million, of which about 129 million voted in the 2012 election.

Germany (and the Netherlands where I live) also has a much more detailed record of who lives where, and thus their voting eligibility, and everyone has an ID card. These things might make it a tad easier to run things like fair elections.

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LA schools want multi-million Apple refund after kids hack iPads

MonkeyCee
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Re: Good for them

Sounds about right. My usual assessment for if a particular university course is going to be utter bullshit (management, 1st year macro economics) is that the textbook is required for the exam, that there is an electronic token for some online course "extras" that serve as our practise exams without giving us access to the old papers, and that a new edition is released every 3 years or less, but there are still a page or so of corrections per chapter. They run to 60 euro+ for first year texts.

We even had a tutorial on competition and artificial market controls that was looking at the US university (sorry, college) textbook market that had the subject changed at the last minute. Not because we might be smart enough to think "hey wait, that's us too!" but because, um, stuff....

Was a shame, since it's a great example of market failure, as the person who makes the purchasing decision of which text to buy doesn't have to pay for it. Thus the usual pressures such as lower price or higher quality do not apply, but how much kickback the lecturer gets does.

Compare this to the math heavy courses where we can get the latest book (40 euro), pdf of latest book (15 euro officially), old copies (10-20 euro) and even a free online one. Course is taught and assessed in english, professor is dutch, and saw no issue with people using a text based in their own language. There's also greater demand for textbooks on things like calculus or probability theory compared to management.

Since I'm either cycling 35 km a day, or cycling 15km and walking 3km I can either hump 3 texts or put them on a tablet/phone it's a no brainer for me. I also found the free electronic textbooks (they will sell you a physical copy and exam guides) to be of better quality teaching material. The economic ones by a large margin, but that seems to be because a lot of the indoctrination crap has been dropped so you just get to see the theory.

As for the story, I hate to break it to our lovely school admins, but if you can touch it, you can own it is still true. While I'm still not sold on touch as an interface, it's great for those under 8 years old or so, but I struggle to see anyone producing much on them without using peripherals.

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In some ways, dating apps are the anti-internet

MonkeyCee
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Re: Well,

Fair enough, that certainly is a sensible policy. I heard it being attributed to a different party, but I'm very willing to accept that it originated at UKIP, since we all know how much certain politicians can be trusted :)

Oddly enough this is a Green policy in the countries in which I vote. I can vote in the UK, but utterly pointless since it's safer than a safe thing (Henley) for my entire life.

I shouldn't be too mean to you, since I usually enjoy your columns, even the various parts that I straight out disagree with. But I'm used to having certain economics experts (I'm studying econometrics at Maastricht) make inaccurate claims, be unable to find actual examples that back up the theory, then chose to ignore my questions. Often means I'm either teacher's pet or just told to STFU during class. My explanations of various parts of the financial system from the perspective of a mobster have helped more than a few of my tutorial groups grasp the concepts. And what can go horribly wrong if you let actual mobsters loose in them.

I am curious about your political leanings stem from being Nigel's mate, or something else. The UK political system seems to me to be an example of pretty much total regulatory capture by an exceedingly narrow class of PPE types (who seem to skip far too much of the E for my liking) with a distinct lack of civics class or equivalent in school. So some degree of wanting MPs (and Lords) who have been _anything_ other than politicians for their career. Even if it means getting in lawyers and city spivs :D

As this is going off topic by a large margin, would you be up for some email discussion?

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MonkeyCee
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UKIP and foreign aid

C'mon Tim, your party makes it's first significant economic policy declaration, and you're not here defending or explaining it?

Unless *gasp* the kippers are a vanity party designed to make a bunch of well heeled city boys some extra cash by milking the Eu parliamentary system, and that there policies have even less chance of making to reality than the Lib Dems.

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MonkeyCee
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Ah, logic

"> Im puzzled by this logic. Every time a man has sex with a woman, a woman has sex with a man. So women shag around just as much. QED.

You're confusing the total number of acts with the total number of participants. Elementary logical failure."

In good old New Zealand the women have had, on average, more partners than the men. Based on the reviews of a number of kiwi blokes, it appears this is because they can talk a good game, but tend to disappoint :)

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MonkeyCee
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By country

Ah, but now we're also into the fun stuff of data collection, and what people count as "having sex"

For most chaps (in my experience) who are recounting who they've had as lovers, they count pretty much anything (handjob, blowjob, frottage etc) as a "notch on the belt", whereas a lot of the ladies only count vaginal penetration. Throw in various cultural norms, and the stats again change. These being things like someone who has engaged in anal and oral sex, but is still a "virgin", and thus "pure" for marriage. Or men who have sex with men, but do not consider themselves to be gay.

I do like Tim's guesstimate of 1% lesbians, since over the whole population, that's about right for those who are self identifying as such. For the under 30's it's about 2.5%, which I thought these sorts of apps where more aimed at. Plus some amount of the 3-7% of the people who decline to answer are probably engaging in said behaviors, but do not wish to share this on a survey.

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Wi-Fi hotspots can put iPhones into ETERNAL super slow-mo

MonkeyCee
Silver badge

Re: I don't really have much sympathy for people who fall for such tricks

I thought overclocking was more to do with processors being binned at one clock speed, then sold at that clock speed or below. So if you get lucky, you get a chip that can do 1.15Ghz that was sold as a 1Ghz chip.

It's a result of the slightly random results from silicon doping, and that the manufacturing process aims for the best results. So if you get 30% of your batch doing 1Ghz, 40% doing 1.05Ghz, 20% doing 1.1Ghz and 10% doing 1.15Ghz, but the market is for 80% 1Ghz, 15% 1.1Ghz and 5% 1.15Ghz then rather than throwing away perfectly good silicon you just mark some of your faster chips as slower ones.

I've had a number of video cards that you can get 20-30% more performance out of, equivalent to the ones costing 50% more, for a 1-2 degree increase in operating temperature. But it only works on some cards.

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The Walton kids are ABSURDLY wealthy – and you're benefitting

MonkeyCee
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Re: Wealth redistribution

"that scenario was used to describe why most drug dealers are poor."

For those that haven't read it, its not _quite_ as cut and dried as that.

An economist got friendly with, and got to study how a "drug gang" operated. This consisted of the "boss" and his "workers". The operation ran quite a lot like a franchise, where the workers got (effectively) minimum wage plus worker benefits. These benefits where legal and medical help for those in the gangs area of control, and functioned much like civic taxes (from an economical standpoint). The boss did actually make quite good money, and once he'd been running the group for a few years making good returns for the parent organisation, he got promoted.

So not too dissimilar to standard corporate practice, worker bees and taxes get paid at about the same rates, owner-managers get a few years at slightly better wages, then get a promotion to middle management.

I went a read some of the study that the book used, and it didn't seem so much that McDonalds paid better, the main difference was in fact the benefits (especially the medical) and that some people got the benefit before joining the gang.

Like with all work, doing it yourself is a mugs game, organising others too do it and getting some points on each productive hour/sale is the way to go.

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You’ll be the coolest guy in IT if you ain't got your ID

MonkeyCee
Silver badge

Learn from the BOFH

Not on my first site management role, but pretty early in my lucky days doing such, I learnt that some of the best security practices consist of the following (thanks Simon):

1. Identify the people who have the fullest access to the facility whilst being paid the lowest. Usually security and the cleaners.

2. Find out their names, birthdays, and booze preference*

3. Ensure they get a card and a gift from your security budget 2-3 times a year. Birthday, Christmas, and something in between.

This means they know who you are, appreciate you value them as people as well as their function, and when you need the rules bending they will fall over themselves to help you.

Had to explain to the boss why I had a box of mixed spirits in the IT supplies cupboard, next to the clicky bat. Best site security policy ever :D

* Or for the non drinkers, something equivalent. A book of cinema tickets for the nice Muslim chap in this case

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Ex-cop: Holborn fireball comms outage cover for £200m bling heist gang

MonkeyCee
Silver badge

C'mon Reg

So there's a quote from an ex-flying squad cop (they do still exist, I think the US equivalent is Robbery & Homicide division) which sounds all nice and plays well with the Ocean's 11 theme for this robbery.

Or the London fire brigade said its initial assessment showed the fire was caused by an electrical fault damaging an 8 inch gas main which ruptured and fuelled the flames.

It's a gas fire, not electrical. Could still be deliberate.

As for the actual crime... the noise could possibly been explained by work on Crossrail. But what mystifies me is that CCTV and various sensors weren't checked or triggered, and that there wasn't any physical inspection of the premises over the long weekend.

Most of the other thefts I'm aware of from the area are more of the confidence trick type, the theft in 2003 from the same safety deposit boxes seemed to involve duplicating keys or lockpicking (or bumping or some other non destructive manipulation), and a long list of people selling fake goods or switching items.

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