* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

Sun? In Blighty? Nah, just build that rooftop data centre, it’ll be fine

Nick Kew Silver badge


Sorry, didn't you hear? The Sun has gone politically correct. So instead of scantily-clad young ladies, it's taken to showing inappropriately-clad old duffers.

Perhaps if we had a heatwave it might switch from peers to piers?

Don't want pranksters 'bricking' your Android? Just stop using the internet, duh – Google

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Re: Sod it..

No keyboard? Yuk. Maybe worth 195 pence, but not pounds.

(Same goes for a whole lot of apple and android devices, of course).

Git a load of this: GitHub now valued at $2 billion

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Investors in Github are supporting open source.

Perhaps they intentionally give it a generous valuation, as an act of sponsorship?

Slippery, slimy find: LEGGY, WRIGGLY fossil shows SNAKES weren't legless. Or ARMLESS

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Eny fule kno

... the serpent got legless on the juice of that apple ...

Of man's first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought ... perhaps the most overrated poet in the English language.

Security tool bod's hell: People think I wrote code for Hacking Team!

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Free is Free

Whoa! Just two weeks after posting this anecdote to El Reg[1], it seems I need to re-post the story of how I got associated with something unattractive, that I believe cost me dearly in terms of failing to get my business off the ground when Yahoo (the dominant gateway to the web by mindshare at the time) refused to list me.

If you release something open source, you accept that anyone can use it. Including people you don't like. Is there an Islamic State website? If so then it surely uses someone's software, probably perfectly legally.

I first released Open Source web software in the mid-90s. Keeping an eye on Infoseek and Altavista (this being before Google existed), I found my first user to mention the name (and hence show up in results) was the British National Party's website. Not something I'd have wished, but they had every right to use it: that's what being open source is all about. And indeed free speech, though I didn't check up on what contents might have been accessed through the software, nor indeed whether they moderated or otherwise censored public comment.

[1] http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2015/07/08/evil_nsa_runs_on_saintly_red_hat_enterprise_linux_apache/

Greece? Zzzz. EU bank says TWEETING can move the stock market

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Isn't that the kind of information that's been feeding algorithmic trading for years? Fed (a certain class of) hedge fund profits in the Good Times, and then the biggest losses in 2008/9.

Are you a Tory-voting IT contractor? Congrats! Osborne is hiking your taxes

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29% is nonsense

However, this often works out cheaper than basic rate income tax and national insurance contributions for the self-employed, totalling 29 per cent,

You forgot the larger component of NI, the Jobs Tax. If you're a one-man band, you're responsible for that, too. As I was when my main income was contracting (and may become again since I just lost my last job).

You're still better-off paying the dividend tax, thinking in terms of expenses, and paying the maximum through your payroll towards pension and charitable contributions.

Here's why Whittingdale kicked a subscription BBC into the future

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Re: How much for

Careful! Subscribe to that, and you'll suddenly see a lot more crap and correspondingly less good stuff on Radio 3.

I'd go for Radios 3 and 4. And I'd pay double to be spared some of the others, like Radio 2 inflicted on us by builders.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Subscription version of iPlayer for non-UK customers

Sadly, as of this month, this app is no longer supported, and the BBC has stopped taking my money.

They were probably concerned that TPTB might notice they had other income streams. Not to mention technology that might be relevant to the license review itself.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Being on every possible delivery platform - Sky, Freesat, cable & internet has a distinct stink of ensuring everyone requires a licence.

Any Internet platform comes with a log of traffic to your address. If anyone accuses me of watching telly on a PC (to the point of having to defend myself), I shall suggest they requisition logs from my ISP, and waive whatever notional right to privacy I might have in that regard.

Ashley Madison hack: Site for people who can't be trusted can't be trusted

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Putting the boot in

Is this an occasion to invoke the Duke of Wellington's immortal words when faced with a bit of blackmail over his sex life?

Being common is tragic, but the tragedy of the commons is still true

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Re: Big Society

Exactly. There are places where the Community (a more sensible name for the Big Society) works well, but they're limited.

People used to believe that the Community, under the guidance of wise and benevolent leaders, could be extended to a national and global scale. They called it Communism, and in practice it proved to have far worse problems that the Capitalism it competed against.

Did Cameron resurrect the communist dream? He was thinking of something good: the way the voluntary/charity sector works, and even more so the way it could work if not crippled by red tape. It's a valuable resource, and has more potential than ever, not least from an army of fit&healthy pensioners with time on their hands. Logically speaking, he should have slashed lots of red tape. But the things he should have done are far too sensitive. For example, he should have made it less of a bureaucratic nightmare to work with children, and given them back a lot more of our streets. But as soon as he does that, the handful who suffer become screaming headlines, while the million who benefit go unnoticed.

I guess it's the modern tragedy of the commons: trial by media. Which joins the old Malthusian trouble that's gone global since some idealistic nutters in the 1980s thought they could end famine without doing anything to slow the birthrate.

Ad slingers beware! Google raises Red Screen of malware Dearth

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Black Helicopters

Re: Google blocks malware

It's worse than that. Firefox recently started blocking flash, too. Must be the evil borg pulling its strings.

Linux Foundation serves up a tasty dish of BUGS

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Some of this goes deep

We know some of what you say, like bind's long, troubled and troubling security history. If it has little developer interest, that's all the more troubling.

But you also mention (in passing) image libraries. You'd be surprised how far their implications go. Some of the standard libs everyone uses are upwards of 20 years old, and not written for anything more demanding than a little commandline utility (for example, completely non-thread-safe). That propagates straight into applications that use them without thinking - such as PHP.

Oh, and at least some of that code is cross-platform, and problems arising will bite exactly the same on Windows as on Linux or any *X.

On yer bike: Hammerhead satnav for cyclists – just don't look down

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Re: Ok Seriously you all seem to think its ok ??!?!

I must've missed the bit in the article about how it impedes anyone's hearing. Not like a sealed cage, or even a silly hat.

But in a past life I use to ride with a club, where one of our members was completely deaf. Helps readjust expectations about another road user hearing what's going on. You shouldn't assume it of a random road user, either.

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Interesting ...

I'm thinking of the situation where one is traditionally faced with a choice between getting lost and getting choked on a nasty main road - for example navigating central London from one mainline station to another. Put these on a Boris Bike and it could be Just the Ticket. Or anywhere in the country (or world) there's a potentially-decent cyclepath but absolutely no signposts to anywhere you've ever heard of.

Talking of tickets and Boris-bikes, why does a train ticket valid via London include a tube fare but not give me the option of a Boris-bike instead of that tube?

Tech bubble? Pah. IPOs just return cash to early-stage investors

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Sounds like they're becoming like us!

Your description of the US market sounds like one that's moving closer to the UK model, where the stockmarket won't generally support an IPO until you're a fair bit more mature than two years, and on the other side, early-stage investors benefit from tax breaks that require them to hold longer-term. And where mature companies have traditionally paid out more in dividends than US ones.

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Re: Private markets are private

On the contrary, private markets are getting ever wider open. The new medium of crowdfunding means you can invest as little as a tenner without it being gobbled up in dealing charges. Or shares in many private equity funds can be bought for under a quid.

Evil NSA runs on saintly Linux, Apache, MySQL

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Open Source is Open

If you release something open source, you accept that anyone can use it. Including people you don't like. Is there an Islamic State website? If so then it surely uses someone's software, probably perfectly legally.

I first released Open Source web software in the mid-90s. Keeping an eye on Infoseek and Altavista (this being before Google existed), I found my first user to mention the name (and hence show up in results) was the British National Party's website. Not something I'd have wished, but they had every right to use it: that's what being open source is all about. And indeed free speech, though I didn't check up on what contents might have been accessed through the software, nor indeed whether they moderated or otherwise censored public comment.

Why OH WHY did Blighty privatise EVERYTHING?

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Methinks Worstall's point is rather that a government running businesses under its own jurisdiction is a huge and damaging conflict of interest. A foreign government is merely a shareholder, subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of us.

Why is that idiot Osbo continuing with austerity when we know it doesn't work?

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Re: Article idea

Don't forget the studies that show pay strongly correlated to height (so an average woman is paid more than an average man of her height). Not a particularly exciting result, but might just put a crack in the pedestal we tend to put under other equally-meaningless results.

Oh, and the I always put to those who count bums-on-seats (or pay gaps) and infer discrimination. What would you propose to do about the biggest inequality of all - namely the prison population? Shouldn't those who have a problem with inequality be making strenuous efforts to imprison more women?

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Re: Worstall? Lefty?

You've (perhaps inadvertently) given us a bit of a social experiment here. How many commentards read beyond the title and first paragraph or two before posting?

Well, OK, not a social experiment or result. Even if you'd designed it that way, posting it here on a Sunday and under your name means many (though evidently not all) of us have preconceptions. Just an illustrative example.

Anyway, now that Osborne proposes to outlaw running a deficit through a boom, maybe we'll finally see some real cuts in reckless government profligacy. Hmmm, dream on ....

Well YES, Silicon Valley VCs do think you're a CRETIN

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Re: Well,

There are datacentres whose waste heat is indeed harnessed to provide heating and hot water. And watercooled server kit that lends itself to having waste heat harnessed. Alas, no standardisation that would help make it the norm for plumbers/etc to incorporate it into everyone's infrastructure.

So why the hell do we bail banks out?

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Re: Wrong question

How do Freddie and Fannie differ from today's government mortgage support schemes in the UK?

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'twas another nail in the coffin of money as a store of value.

Though to be fair, that's nothing new. Debasement of the coin was an important factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, to take just one example.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Lehmans

On liquidation, the "value" was based on lots of assets that should have been written down to (or near) zero but for QE. Same applies to other bank balance sheets.

Tim, an idea for another article. Debunk the orthodoxy about Lehmans being the cause of the big crash. It was of course not the cause of anything (except perhaps Barclays picking up some assets on the cheap): rather it was an effect of the credit bubble.

And more widely, how bailouts starting with Northern Rock led to precisely the outcome they were supposed to prevent.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Longer Term Impact

Money printing has driven inflation. Lots of it.

But not - directly at least - QE. QE was in fact driving inflation that had already happened (but was masked in silly, irrelevant price indexes by the rise of cheap Chinese goods). The real inflation was seen in house prices in the big bubble of about 2000-2005, which did the real damage, robbing the future to enrich the already-rich (house owners). The banks lending money that will never be repaid created a gaping hole, which QE then plugged.

The late, great, Terry Pratchett explained the whole system beautifully, though only in passing. He called it the Pork Futures Warehouse. And that was long before the crash!

Some of us who saw the bust coming actually took the trouble to find out about saver protection. I even forewent Icesave's market-beating interest in 2005/6 in favour of something on lower interest but protected, for which of course I was duly penalised.

As for bailouts, THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. Depositor protection (including emergency measures to feed cash machines) would've cost a whole lot less. More than half a decade on, we should've seen the rise of new alternatives to traditional banks, yet they're limited to small niches by bloated zombies standing in the way of innovation. Bailouts are a negation of all that's good about capitalism! And of course they have knock-on effects:

- a long-term massive deficit placing a deadweight on the future

- interest rates detached from reality

- the rise of a zombie economy

- underwriting leverage on and income from land and housing, financially privileging rentierism over productive investment. Even (by some reports) prostituting Prime London to the global super-rich as an asset class like gold that never leaves the bank vault.

- trashing of pensions for anyone not already retired but within maybe 25 years (from the bailouts) of it. And its corollory: the zombification of of many companies with the misfortune to have been running final-salary schemes.

So what would the economic effect of leaving the EU be?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Race to the bottom

To be sure, the EU has a lot wrong with it. Historically it's a huge shame that the UK (under both parties) has consistently blocked serious attempts to fix its shortcomings, notably in fields like democratic accountability. But then, if we fixed it, we'd be short of one big scapegoat.

The EU also has a lot that's good about it. I value my freedom not merely to travel, but to live and work in so many different countries, without excessive hassle and red tape. Twice in my life, that's saved me from destitution in Blighty. But someone already said that in an earlier comment.

But one more point that hasn't been made above. We're an overcrowded island, heavily reliant on trade to sustain our population. That's not just about housing and infrastructure, it's the food to feed us (including not least the petrochemicals that support current levels of production here and in much of the world). Take away the EU, and nothing will stand between our politicians and a more ruthless race straight to the bottom. Our politicians understand the importance of trade and kind-of worry about social cohesion, but what about the environment that sustains us? You can (foolishly) bail out failing industries when they go bust, but you can't just quantitatively ease more food when that bust happens!

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

Nick Kew Silver badge

Sitting Ducks

Sorry, can't resist a shot at each of them:

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

In isolation, yes. Falls down in a system where housing benefit dominates much of the market. Falls down even worse when building land is the limiting factor and taxpayer subsidies feed through to higher land prices.

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

In isolation, yes. But may have perverse effects on movements of people.

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

Yes, with various flaws including race-to-the-bottom and debasement. Haven't you put the case here for freer competition (c.f. Bitcoin)?

* 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)

Dangerous. As exercised in the West, it's gone from sugar-rush to heroin-rush. The politician's dream: short-term gain, for long-term pain. Keynes must be spinning in his grave!

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

You source work to people, not countries. Where those people are physically located matters in some jobs but not others.

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

As should other countries. And agriculture should be weaned off unsustainable practices such as heavy use of petrochemical fertilisers. In other words, post-1945 policy (whence came the subsidies) should have been an emergency measure to tide us over a period of unsustainable overpopulation.

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

Bugger. Can't bring myself to quibble with that at all. Put a levy on overfed "sports" (like professional football) to fund sporting facilities for kids.

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

Horribly dangerous. That's what Brown was saying around 2004/5 when the big Ballsian stimulus was supposed to get us through a percieved downturn to the sunny uplands of never-never-land. Turns a regular recession into a generational crash and a zombie economy. And it's happening again now as another chancellor runs a huge deficit right through the illusory Good Times.

* 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)

Interesting use of the future tense. Politicians like to compare to post-war reconstruction, but it's kind-of a 90/10 rule: you can rebuild the 90% very easily from a bombed-out 1945, but you won't get that kind of growth when you're already at 90% and up.

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

What recipients? Not those who spend it on fags-and-booze, nor their children. And that's precisely where the worst social problems lie.

EU says dominant Google ILLEGALLY FIDDLES search results

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Re: Philosophy Majors - start your engines!

Methinks that's essentially what Google do. And what makes Google so much better than its lesser rivals.

They collect user behaviour data, which tells them which pages amongst the results the real-life users like, and which ones they find useless. That enables the algorithms to adjust results in favour of the former and against the latter. And helps combat SEO abuse - which is what really upsets the spammers.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Could this be objectively tested?

An independent statistical analysis could test objectively whether the Goog was doing anything wrong. First, test cases would have to be devised, ideally by independent teams, to test the hypothesis "Google search favour its own services over others that would be equally useful or better for its users". Once those cases exist, they can be tested by anyone with an understanding of A-level statistics.

Devising the test cases is the hard part, because it needs someone to decide what results "should" be shown. You can be sure the spammers who have done battle with Google for years will be very keen to sponsor the exercise and ensure the test cases amount to something like "Google favours its own services over our pages". Indeed, I'd say it's almost certainly some such tests that have convinced the commissioner.

This requires another set of tests closer to the real world, presenting real users with "unfairly suppressed" results alongside the "favoured" ones and watching which ones the users themselves prefer. That's a "big data" exercise, and one which Google is ideally placed to do. If Google had user-behaviour data that demonstrates users persistently shunning $spammer then I'd say Google (or rather its algorithms) are entirely justified in not presenting $spammer's URLs. Or perhaps I should say $wannabe rather than $spammer (anyone remember google results pages full of annoying, useless kelkoo junk)?

My own $0.02: if Google did cook their results as accused, they'd lose their value to the non-paying users, and thus rapidly lose their dominance of the search market and all that goes with it. Like Yahoo (who never claimed google's level of objectivity or sophistication, nor came under such concerted attack) before them.

Instead of public sector non-jobbery, Martha, how about creating real entrepreneurs?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Martha Lane-Fox

She became part of the Zeitgeist for Blair Feelgood. The ethos of dotcom, the swaying bridge, the vanity dome, etc. And - unlike the politicians - she's never called on to take unpopular decisions, or to explain herself. A bit like royalty. She'd probably have to be caught on camera eating babies before she could ever be dislodged from secular sainthood.

Nick Kew Silver badge

"The OpenBSD Foundation is a Canadian not-for-profit corporation ..."

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Get everyone digitalling? Whatever that may mean????

Actually we're pretty good at that, aren't we? From the BBC micro to the raspberry pi, get them hacking. From Prestel to virgin and sky, get them online.

Oh, er, right, you mean all the most interesting non-commercial efforts - the open source foundations, the campaigners for rights and freedoms - are based elsewhere? Well, fortunately, they're pretty inclusive and welcome Brits as genuine equals with anyone else.

To defend offshore finance bods looting developing countries of their tax cash

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Applies here too ...

The Laffer curve tells us (qualitatively) that too much tax destroys economic activity (Britain went bust in the '70s when it taxed both capital and labour at eyewateringly punitive levels). It's not an all-or-nothing, but tax and red tape certainly shift the balance: I'm more likely to invest where I take more and the state less of my profits if the enterprise is successful in generating them. And where the state isn't going to make it impossible to generate profits in the first place.

I think Worstall omits some vital points. But that's no doubt deliberate: the article is long enough already without addressing difficult externalities.

Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Deep-fried cheesy Hungarian

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I think I had that ...

Fits the description of what I had in Budapest last year, as the only non-meat option on the menu when out with a bunch of folks at ApacheCon. My first reaction on seeing fried cheese on the menu was hold-my-nose-and-..., but it was surprisingly delicious.

Virgin Media goes TITSUP, RUINS Tuesday evening

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Must've been me ...

I returned on Tuesday evening after a weekend's enforced absence from the 'net. Virgin cable worked fine for me - from southwest England - but I had lots and lots to catch up on.

A Quid A Day for NOSH? Luxury!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: True poverty still exists in the UK

Sure, there's child poverty (and adult poverty).

But that's a dangerous observation, because it so easily leads to a bogus conclusion that it would go away if benefits levels for their families were higher.

People may be poor here for two reasons:

(1) Where theory and practice differ. People may be poor in absolute terms if they are denied the money the law says they are entitled to, and have to live on much less. Benefits levels are of little relevance to those who don't get them.

(2) Where they cannot cope. A child whose parents have an ample income but spend it all on fags and booze is indeed poor, and through no fault of their own. This is a particularly troublesome case, because the "give them more money in benefits" solution may be more likely to make things worse than better.

A non-financial safety net - like hostels and soup kitchens, and indeed free school meals - have the huge advantage that they can't be diverted into booze/etc.

FWIW (1) has happened to me, most recently in 2003 when I did the basic arithmetic and saw that the cost of travel to London to march against invading Iraq would've been six months food budget. And that's at the special "unwaged" rate the organisers were advertising for the buses they'd laid on!

TOP500 Supers make boffins more prolific

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Cause, meet Effect

Move along. Nothing to see.

Universities with strong research activities in relevant areas can justify and afford supercomputers - what a surprise.

In other startling news, our own Met office has more computing power than the corner shop.

Imagination touts cheap Firefox OS MIPS slab to Chinese kitmakers

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Re: MeToo

I have to say, I'm surprised and gratified by the number of good replies to my post - thanks folks! Despite having much enjoyed working on them (as an application developer) back in the '90s I'm mostly ignorant.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Imagination joins Intel in crying MeToo. Not so much a three-horse race as one impressive beastie and two clapped out old nags in the smartphone and tablet space, but that's not to rule them out of new and different markets.

Alas, this article is short on interesting detail. Intel won the desktop market through the "IBM-compatible" Wintel ecosystem, and stormed the server market when it attained "good enough" to compete with the various incumbents. ARM conquered the mobile through low power consumption and an ecosystem as powerful as 1990-ish Wintel.

Tell us what distinguishes MIPS and where is its ecosystem coming from?

‘Digital by default’ agricultural payments halted: Farmers start smirking

Nick Kew Silver badge


The BBC were telling this story long before you.

Are you clever enough, and brave enough, to give a Register lecture

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Re: I've nothing to say

Is the length correlated to the beer intake?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: water regulations

Put that one on early, so folks know the water regulations before they have to pass it.

Would YOU touch-type on this chunk-tastic keyboard?

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Sounds like a solution to a problem we shouldn't have in the first place. I want my Nokia E71 back, and the bigger blackberries from the same era had some great keyboards too!

Britain needs more tech immigrants, quango tells UK.gov

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Re: Zigackly

Mark 65: I get work, including my current main job and its predecessor, by building a reputation. In my case, my Apache work is what mostly matters, though one or two other things (like having served as Invited Expert with the W3C and built some good tools) doesn't hurt.

I expect you could take your pick of major opensource organisations with whom to build a track record. Expect it to take a while!

Nick Kew Silver badge


I first escaped abroad as a young graduate because I was priced out of living in London when I got a job there.

I expect quite a few of today's young grads can identify with that.

Came back to Blighty a few years later, and found myself too old to be employed in a techie role. That is to say, companies looked down on a techie who approaches 30 without having 'progressed' to a Suit role like management or marketing. So I b*****ed off abroad again.

I expect quite a few of today's senior developers, like you, can identify with that.

Back in Blighty, but only 'cos I can telework intercontinentally now. Haven't worked for a UK employer (except myself) since sometime last century.

Bloody TECH GIANTS... all they do is WASTE investors' MONEY

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Up

Tech business engages in speculative R&D in the hope that some lines of exploration will bear fruit. The richer they are, the bluer the skies they can explore. It's seen in other sectors too: think big pharma or oil exploration, for instance.

At least those of us who invest in VC benefit from some juicy tax breaks. I'd far rather lose my money in innovation than see it misused by our government.

Why does the NSA's boss care so much about backdoors when he can just steal all our encryption keys?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Why is this guy allowed into a cyberSECURITY conference at all??

Surely for the same reason as one might take an interest in a blackhat like Mitnick. Know your enemy!

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