* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16449 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

Devonians try to drive Dartmoor whisky plan onto rocks

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Re: Whisky Galore

"I'm sure the radon adds a special something."

I''d hope it would be matured longer than that.

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Re: Whisky vs Whiskey

"Whiskey has an E as it comes from Eire."

Bushmills comes from N Ireland.

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Re: Slàinte mhath

Tobermory, where the CBBC show "Ballamory" was filmed, if anyone who was forced to watch enjoyed watching it was interested.

I'm not sure about interested but it would have been an essential adjunct.

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Beeb report with pictures of the plans here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-38755219

Looking at pictures of Scottish distilleries on Shutterstock most seem to be rendered white which would match Princetown buildings and the tower on the plans is said to be purely cosmetic. There seems to be no good reason not to have produced a design which would have respected local styles and wouldn't have been out of keeping with Scottish distilleries in either the lack of tower or the colour of render.

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"Scottish architecture is suddenly so different from English? What silliness."

Not silliness at all. British - or let's say insular to include Irish - regional architectures are distinctive. Local history and materials affect it. It would be madness, for instance, to attempt Cotswold or Pennine coursed masonry with Antrim basalt.

Tesla sues ex-manager 'for stealing 100GBs of Autopilot secrets'

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So hard to get good staff these days. Especially at senior management levels.

Microsoft's Cloud UI brings Windows full circle

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Re: For the love of God, get your bearings straight

"Success is overrated."

Is it? I so seldom see it in new UI designs so ai wouldn't know.

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"you've designed your roads wrong."

Now tell me something I didn't know!

And now you've got me started on traffic lights. A few weeks ago we had road works on a side road almost adjacent to a junction. They needed to put TTLs because for the side-road traffic but because the obstruction was so close to the junction they had to put them on the main road itself, a light either side of the junction. They positioned the generators & what not on the main road opposite the junction occupying the whole of that lane. No real problem, just a normal three-way light set up - except it wasn't. They installed 2-way lights, the side road being one way and the lights on both directions on the main road being the other. So anyone driving along the main road, expecting three-way lights, found themselves, on a green light, driving straight into oncoming traffic, also on a green light, on the same side of the road. Fun!

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"And rather than have them in the car, can we strap them to the front, please?"

No, you can't shout at them so easily.

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"Or if this is a mishearing – quite plausible – a Compostable Shell."

Combustible? Be careful of those Lion batteries.

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"And the UI designer has to sit in the room and answer all their questions, help whenever they ask, repeat how it all works all over again, and generally tolerate them trying to do the same things that everyone else has to do."

No. There's a far more evil effective version. The only questions the UI designer are allowed to answer are those of the "Where does it tell me how to...?" variety. It requires the presence of an invigilator. The nominal reason for the invigilator is to keep this Q/A on the specified lines. The real reason is to prevent violence.

A similar version should be used with town planning officials who are responsible for navigational road signs. The test driver is allowed to pose the questions as loudly and offensively as seems appropriate and to receive answers in real time. The invigilator may have the additional task of preventing the designer jumping/being pushed out of the car.

Wow, look out, hackers: Trump to order 60-day cybersecurity probe

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And what happens if the review comes back recommending strong encryption?

But I like his idea of a switch. The US could disappear from the net so we could be sure of data sovereignty and so forth.

Texas cops lose evidence going back eight years in ransomware attack

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It's 2017 and you can still be pwned by a forged email header

"a cloned email address imitating a department issued email address"

IOW, a From: line can say whatever the sender wants it to say. It's all that the recipient sees because they're not really going to dig down into the rest of the headers and a requirement for verification isn't built into our email protocols.

We don't need to have to train users. We don't need to have email clients pop-up warnings. We don't need to have to run anti-virus on attachments or prevent them being opened. We need to bounce the mail at the recipient's service provider so that the recipient never sees any mail that doesn't come from where it claims to come from.

This may, of course, close off the route whereby some bank or other business has a commercial spammer digital marketing business send you marketing emails pretending to come from themselves. Oh, what a crying shame!

Apple eats itself as iPhone fatigue spreads

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Re: I got my first ever iPhone in 2016

"These new ridiculously huge phones are a right pain in the arse"

I think he was referring to the back door.

National Audit Office: UK's military is buying more than it can afford

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"the price of an F-35A has dropped to around $100m (down from initial flyaway costs of $279m in 2007)"

Maybe it's because the planes won't be able to fly away?

Mine's the one with the catapult elastic in the pocket.

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"intoned Sir Amyas Morse"

Are you sure? Maybe he just wrote it.

Windows code-signing tweaks sure to irritate software developers

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Re: H/W vs S/W vs cloud

"Not intrinsically: a cloud service can be built to be much more secure than most people can build their own."

That may be true from a vendor's point of view. From the user's point of view the vendor has to be added to the risks to be considered. However trustworthy the vendor might be in the first place ownership, management and staffing can change and, depending on data sovereignty, the cloud could be suborned by TPTB along with a gag order.

It's somebody else's computer. You don't know what's happening there.

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Re: and what will that hardware contain ?

"For PUBLIC consumption."

And these gadgets are being offered for public consumption - or at least that portion of the public that develops S/W for Windows.

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Re: and what will that hardware contain ?

"It's supposed to be a FIPS-level HSM"

Wasn't it FIPS that was recommending an NSA-sponsored broken by design encryption algorithm?

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Re: How long before...?

"Whilst researching something else I came across this article:


Hmmm. It also seems mentions "the free upgrade to Windows 10" as if it's a good thing. I'd be suspicious of the whole article.

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Re: How long before...?

You can buy the dongles on eBay?

H0LiCOW! Hubble's constant update paves way for 'new physics'

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"Interesting that a figure that has a margin of error in absolute terms 300% that of the original figure (1.33% margin of error vs 3.76%) is regarded as more accurate."

You're confusing accuracy with precision.

I have a tape measure graduated in cms & mms. I can use it to measure with a precision of 1mm. Unfortunately it's stretched so I can only measure with an accuracy of 10%.

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"The Hubble constant has changed over time."

ITYM estimates of it have changed over time. This is normal with difficult to measure properties.

Trump signs 'no privacy for non-Americans' order – what does that mean for rest of us?

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Privacy Shield is based the assumption that the US govt will abide by on Parts of several Federal Laws.


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Re: Time to look for places other than US...

"Trump is acting as if he wishes to isolate the USA from the rest of the world."

I'm glad to see him cracking on with it so much faster than us. With any luck he'll make the US a splendid example of what can go wrong to show the Brexiters whilst we still have time.

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Re: Yet ANOTHER Trump story?

And, whilst I'm on, why have I never seen any reference to the fact that, here in the UK, "trump" is a children's euphemism for "fart"?

Maybe you weren't paying attention.

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Downvoted for repeating the same old joke too many commentards have already posted.

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Re: Trump has become more deranged

"I had the added tension of living on an RAF base that would have been a first wave target for several years of this period."

Could have been worse: High Wycombe sandwiched between the RAF & US command posts.

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Re: Trump has become more deranged

"We should all prepare for a third world war soon."

It's very unlikely. It would damage too many of his properties around the world and there's no profit in it.

Naughty sysadmins use dark magic to fix PCs for clueless users

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Re: I am not making this up...

"So I opened the lid, after removing a humungous pile of dust balls that were perched over the DIMMs (can't recall exactly what was in the PC) and those by the CPU, then funnily enough it worked absolutely fine."


Back in the days when TVs were not only rare but also magnificent pieces of floor standing furniture my aunt, one of the lucky few to own one, looked in the back of hers. She saw a lot of dust. As she liked things to be kept clean she attached it with the vacuum cleaner. Not a good idea.

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Re: No quite wizadry but.../ Percussive Maintenance

"the junior placed the manual on a desk, took the disk unit and dropped it on the manual from a few inches a number of times"

And if this completely banjaxes the disk it's the junior who gets blamed.

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Re: "Mechanical Sympathy" and magic

"So when I turn up, just the mere fact of me standing by them makes them take that little bit more care, and suddenly things work."

Another factor can be that simply explaining what they were doing to someone else makes them think about what they were doing & they spot what they were doing wrong. And I think we can all remember ourselves included in "they" at some time or other.

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Re: surprised ...

"And besides, who says it is fiction?"

After all, no survivors have ever turned up to say otherwise.

Americans fear their data isn't safe, yet do little to defend it

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Re: House without locks

"Let's blame Microsoft which failed to provide a human-engineered personal security solution into their product."

If they had would you have actually used it or gone for an independent solution? Telemetry anyone?

Oracle sues its own star sales rep after she wins back $200k in pay fight

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Re: Petty criminals

"In my mind, that is what they are, petty criminals"

$200k is petty?

Chinese bloke cycles 500km to get home... in the wrong direction

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"Silly question" yes "but don't they have road signs in China?"

If you can't read a map you don't know what signs you should expect to see.

"I mean 500km and you would expect to see a familiar sight or city."

China's big. According to the article even if he were going in the right direction he'd still have been 1500km from home so what he'd see might not be familiar.

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Re: How Many Trolls ???

"generally the chances of getting correct directions are worse than 50/50."

And in any case, you shouldn't have started from here.

President Trump tweets from insecure Android, security boffins roll eyes

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Re: What's up, El Reg?

It's always had a penchant for the comic, even the tragi-comic.

President Donald Trump taken on by unlikely foe: Badass park rangers

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Re: About time

"@ Geoffrey W"

I'm not sure if this answers your question but I spent some years working in a place where the boss was inept and a weak leader. The two more or less cancelled out so that his ineptness wasn't communicated sufficiently strongly to prevent the rest of us from doing our jobs.

An inept strong leader can be more of a problem.

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Re: Less than a week in the position...


To be honest he is scarier than Trump."

It's the Agnew ploy. It didn't work, from what I recall.

UK.gov tells freelance techies to slap 20 per cent on fees as IR35 tax hike looms

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"Also as others have pointed out.. If they class me as an employee Ill be looking for pension contributions, and will be invoking the working time directive when told I need to work more to get projects in early."

I think there's a precedent for this about 10 years or so ago. On the whole the contracting world didn't take kindly to a contractor nuking the client even if they thoroughly deserved it but the thought of having to cough up for employee benefits might concentrate the client's mind when it comes to assuring HMRC that this really is a contract for services.

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Re: Looks like another good reason...

"...to turn the tax code into something like" etc

This is more or less what I suggested but you omitted one thing. There are a set of benefits to being a permanent employee. There are slightly less benefits being on a fixed time engagement such as an MP (5 years, no guarantee of renewal) and none with being a freelancer at risk. Those benefits have value over and above earnings and should be taxed as such so the permie gets to pay that tax as well.

BTW, how do you tax someone who has no earnings but makes a living by buying and selling at a profit?

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"IR35 is a smell test: if it looks like an employee and smells like an employee then, for tax purposes, it is an employee; no matter what bit of paper it signed."

It's a good few years ago now there was a case where the contractor had one contract and the engager another. The contractor was too ill to contest the case properly, the tribunal actually had to be held in his home IIRC. The outcome was that this failed the smell test because the contractor was being bound by the agent's contract. If there had been a real dispute, of course, the agent would have been in breach of contract to one or even both parties*. But by picking a case where they weren't likely to get a proper defence HMRC got an extra test.

It should be possible to test contracts against business to business contract law as well as against employment law.

*Nothing exceptional about this in business terms. In this case the agent was buying one product (i.e. one set of terms from a supplier) and selling another (non-matching set of terms) to his customer. Unless a situation arose where the supplier wanted to invoke one of the terms that wasn't matched it wouldn't be noticed that the agent was selling something he didn't have. It was a commercial risk on his part. The same thing happens every day in other sorts of business. If you order a car from a dealer which isn't part of his stock he'll still give you a contract and take a deposit. He's going to order a car from the maker and is assuming the maker will supply it. In fact the maker could discontinue something in the spec, say the colour, or even the entire model; I've had both of those happen. The dealer is caught in the middle and has to negotiate a compromise or even risk being sued for breach of contract. There's no reason why this couldn't happen to an agent - which cross-examination should have brought out - and if it does there's not rational reason why it would make the supplier an employee of the client.

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Re: > Just the first stage

"It's a subtle but important distinction."

Nothing subtle about it. The entire legal basis of trading is different. Please don't encourage the permies to think otherwise.

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Re: What a good idea...

"Second is that my contracts are not nearly as secure as those of an MP."

On the other hand the MP's contract isn't as secure as a tax inspector's job. So here's a proposition which MPs should be able to support and which HMRC can't possibly object to as it incorporates one of their existing tools, taxation on benefit in kind.

1. We have a standard tax schedule for everyone.

2. We look at the security of each job e.g a 3 month contract with provision for early termination rate a little less secure than a fixed 3 month contract. That in turn is less secure than an MP's 5 year fixed term which in turn is a good deal less secure than a Civil Servant's appointment in HMRC.

3. We assign a value to the benefit security at the various levels.

4. We tax that security as a benefit in kind.

5. We use the tax from the benefit in kind to cut the tax levels on the standard tax levels substantially compared to their present levels.

MPs should be able to support that as it takes account of their relative insecurity. (Ministers' jobs are somewhat less secure than their jobs as MPs so this would also be allowed for). HMRC staff can't possibly object to their benefit in kind being taxed as it's something they routinely do to others.

In general people, except for MPs who benefit, should be paying about the same as now but the reasons for this are more transparent and permies who want to pay less can opt to forgo the security and the tax which goes with it.

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Re: Seems an odd message


I take it that you're a permie. Why? Don't your principles allow you to become what you perceive as a tax dodger? Or is it that you're not prepared to take the risk of acting like a business in return for being taxed as a business?

The whole sorry, long-running saga turns on the fact that businesses take risks, businesses are taxed differently to individuals, in part because of this, but that Civil Servants in the IR, and HMRC as it became, can't comprehend that an individual can work as a business.

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Re: How to remain competetive

"Being charged vat doesn't really matter to a business, we just claim it back"

It depends on the business. Exempt businesses can't charge VAT, can't register and can't claim it back. They should know this, of course and expect it.

A small business which hasn't registered because of being under the VAT limit also wouldn't be able to claim it back. I'd guess this might be the situation Andy quoted - someone setting up a small B2C business but too naive to research the ins and outs properly, otherwise someone would have told them to at least consider the trade off between being able to sell VAT-free and not being able to claim VAT on purchases.

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Re: 20% ain't gonna cut it. Working away from home

"Would they be entitled to expenses, travel etc?"

Yes, up to a period of two years (unless things have changed since I last had to look at it). The built-in assumption is that if a secondment lasts longer than that it's a permanent move and it would be up to the worker* to relocate their household. The same 2 year rule applies to contractors as well so a contract running for longer than 2 years becomes more expensive to operate as the tax allowance is lost. For a direct employee, of course, the employer would expect relocation costs to be paid, at least that's what happened to me is-it-really-25? years ago.

* This is a general rule, not just for Civil Servants.

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"It's down to the end client to collect taxes, effectively through PAYE, before paying the contractor."

This is why Ltd Co contracting came into being - to remove that liability from the client in the event of a default.

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Re: > Just the first stage

"it's a tax dodge."

I'm not too sure to whom you were replying as you didn't quote. But if it was to d3vy pointing out that Ltd Co vs self-employment was a tax dodge then you're wrong. The Ltd Co approach was forced because of IR* rules about tax defaults by self employed settling on the next link in the chain: the agency** or, in the case of direct contracts, the client. Having the contractor work via their own Ltd Co removed that liability. There seem to be areas where self employment still seems to be the norm but in general most clients are liability-averse.

There's also the point that the contractor is taking on risk. Imagine you're a manager in a large IT dept (or oil or any other area). You have a certain amount of more or less fixed workload for BAU plus a variable workload for projects or even seasonal fluctuations for BAU. How do you staff it? Even trying to budget for the fixed workload is problematic, people take sick leave, parental leave, holidays or sometimes just quit or retire. Add to that the project work & you are really exposed to risk. If you have a staff level set on the basis of hoping for the best you take the risk of being understaffed immediately someone is off or a new project arrives. If you set some higher staff level you take the risk of sometimes paying salaries to people for whom you've currently no work.

Your best solution is to add some freelancers into the mix. That means that if you have a surplus you can get rid of them quickly without redundancy payments and if you need more the recruitment process is usually much faster than recruiting permies, especially if you can keep HR out of the loop. The crux of this is you have transferred the employment risk to the freelancers.

Now the freelancer is carrying some of their clients' employment risk. This is a very different situation to the employees alongside whom they will be working whilst on contract. They are not employees, they are businesses, taking business risks like any other business and this is why, irrespective of whether they're a one-man band or a Crapita-scale giant they should be treated as such.

None of this, it seems, stops permies complaining about tax dodges. But, I ask, why do they say this whilst not jumping on the bandwagon themselves? Are they too high-principled to embark on similar "dodges" or is it possibly that they don't want to take on the risks?

* As it was then, this pre-dates HMRC

** This prompts a thought. If Uber etc are presenting themselves as an agency then maybe this puts them on the hook for defaults by their employees independently contracting drivers.

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