* Posts by Adrian Waterworth

77 posts • joined 26 Jul 2007


El Reg reader crafts Gordo Lolcatprat

Adrian Waterworth

Looks more like...

...fodder for failblog or punditkitchen than icanhascheezburger to me.

And what's wrong with Lol<whatevers> anyway? They're usually more entertaining (and often more intelligent) than 90-odd per cent of the stuff on telly nowadays...

IR35 tax is a huge failure

Adrian Waterworth

@John Lamb

The problem with IR35 as originally framed was that it didn't ALLOW you to cover any sick pay, down time, travel and accommodation expenses, or even employer's NI, etc. If you charged your client 1000 quid, then that was deemed to be your personal income. After the initial screams of horror from just about everyone, a 5% "allowance" was quickly introduced to cover accountant's expenses, etc. So, if you charged £1000, you would be liable for tax and employee's NI contribs on £950 and then you had to pay your employer's NI and any other expenses out of what you had left. The practical upshot of all this was that you could, at best, count on keeping about 40-odd percent of your invoice (after tax and the two NI contribs), from which you then paid any additional working expenses that you had to cover (usually travel and accommodation at the very least - unless you were lucky enough to find a contract near home). In my case, I worked out that I would probably be able to keep about 25% of my deemed income after normal expenses. Out of that, I would then need to put aside money for sick pay, holiday pay, time between contracts, etc. Meanwhile, Mr Fat-Cat director of KPMG or whoever - who, legally speaking, was in exactly the same situation as me, but was also, of course, one of the industry cronies of our wonderful government - would be taking home several hundred thousand quid of divvies and assorted other goodies every year on which he or she was paying more or less bugger all in tax or NI.

So...in spite of being one of the people who contributed money to the original formation of the PCG (back in the engineerjob.com days), I decided that I didn't want to play the government's silly political games any more and I did indeed go back to a permie job for a while. And I found that, not only was I personally financially better off by getting to keep far more of my (admittedly reduced) gross salary, but I was effectively paying less to the taxman than I did before (by the time all the NI contribs, corporation tax, etc. was taken into account). So, a win for me and a big raspberry to our insightful political leaders.

Actually, this does also illustrate that those people making comments about "How many people went back to permie jobs and are paying more tax?" could still be shooting wide of the mark. I did go back to a permie job, ended up better off in some ways and STILL paid less tax. So, whichever way you slice it, IR35 still looks like a lemon.

Another 15,000 jobs to go at BT

Adrian Waterworth

Find the poison pill...

BT Global Services was, at one time, one of the more profitable areas of BT's business - certainly when it came to consultancy and outsourcing activities (the old Syntegra division for example). In fact, I seem to recall that there was a time not so many years ago (5 or 6-ish?) when BTGS and its ilk were the only bits of the company making a profit.

Then some numpty put in all the bids for the national patient record system (NPfIT, CfH, whatever they're calling it this week). When BT proceeded to win a load of that work, monumental mismanagement and general cocked-up-ness followed on both sides of the contract, ultimately leading to the whole thing becoming an expensive albatross for BTGS. Accenture and others had the nous to see what a poison chalice that project was and walk away from it - even if it meant taking a financial hit in the short term. BT are in the position where they won't (or can't afford) to do that.

The annoying thought is that, unless BTGS does manage to bring the whole of BT down with it, the remaining divisions (including our inPhormed friends at BT Retail) will probably be tasked with trying to buoy things up with revenue/profit of any sort - even if it comes from flogging your browsing habits to you know who for a juicy backhander. So I wouldn't be surprised if the poor results make BT Webwise more likely to go live in the short term. Then, by the time that the senior management realise that they've actually shot themselves in the foot all over again, it will be too late.

Unfortunately, looking at the telephony and broadband marketplace as it stands today, I can't really see anyone being any better at it than BT - certainly not if they have to take on the business on the same scale and under the same conditions. Although, looking at it from the 'glass half-full' point of view, I'm not sure that anyone else could be any worse at it either!

Oh well, it will be interesting to watch anyway...

Under-caution spam faxer fined over £6,000

Adrian Waterworth

The asshat still hasn't stopped though...

I still get junk faxes from these jokers now and again. Got one just last week or the week before.


Battlestar Galactica eyes 'technology run amok'

Adrian Waterworth

Was this thing still on?

I assumed it would have been canned by the networks years ago? I watched the first few episodes of the first season and spent the whole time alternating between being almost terminally bored and splitting my sides at just how far up its own bottom the whole thing seemed to be trying to get. Comparisons with DS9 are appropriate - it was a right load of old tosh too, although it did at least manage a decent season or two before it also descended into hideous auto-proctology.

Even the execrable Babble-on Five managed almost an entire season before becoming as tedious as this latest Battlestar tripe. If the writers have at least tried to end the story without leaving gaping avenues open for an even more dreadful sequel, then I approve. Good riddance.

And as far as examining the human condition goes, mine's the one with the copy of Russell's History of Western Philosophy in the pocket.

Court rules 'ceaseless liability' for net libel fine for free speech

Adrian Waterworth

@John Smith

It's an interesting one this, isn't it?

As you (and others) have said, online archives are like a paper archive, but not exactly. Assuming that the article was published in the "real" paper and that copies of that edition are still held in archive libraries here and there, would The Times (or any other publisher) be obliged to track down every extant copy of the physical publication and have it redacted (or removed entirely)? And, if they did not, could they be taken to court by the injured party if that person then found a copy of the original paper in the dusty recesses of the Nether Tottington public library (or wherever)? If not, why should things be any different - from the point of view of the law - just because the archive copy is electronic and available on the 'net?

OK, so it's much easier to pull the electronic copy and I guess you can make the argument that the electronic copy is still somehow under the notional direct control of the original publisher, but laws don't tend to be made on the basis of how easy (or otherwise) it is to do something. (Although that may end up having a bearing on their enforcement and interpretation...)

Like I said before, I can see this one from both sides, but find the end result a little unsettling as I can see some potential for its abuse.

Adrian Waterworth
Paris Hilton


I can see the points on both sides of this one, but do find the end result a little worrying. Got a blog? Got a forum? Got any kind of Internet message or news archive? Then - potentially - be prepared for every Tom, Dick and Harry who takes exception to something that someone said about them to come a-knocking on your door with lawyers in tow. And to keep on doing so countless times for as long as the archive exists in an accessible form and anyone happens to take a look at it. And what about Google cache - does that count?

Yup, if the ambulance-chasers cotton on to this, I can see the potential for humongous amounts of vexatious litigation that will dwarf the legitimate cases.

(Paris, 'cos I'm sure she could make a mint out of this ruling if she wanted.)

YouTube blocks music videos in UK

Adrian Waterworth

@Simon Brown

Other people have already made a number of points regarding your earlier comment, most of which you should take on board. However, I have got one other point to raise - where did you get your £44 PRS payment from? If that's what you pay to be a member (and I can't recall 'cos it's a while since I last looked into it as a musician myself), don't confuse it with the amount that the PRS want to charge people for then playing the music. I know of several small engineering and motor trade companies that have received threatening nastygrams from the PRS lawyers in the last couple of years. In most cases, the companies are small businesses employing less than 12 people and turning over relatively modest amounts of money. And you know how much the PRS wanted to charge them for having a radio in their workshops? On average, around £1400 quid each, with the lower bound being just over £1000 and the upper one close to £4000. And don't forget that's an annual fee which I am sure will only increase over time.

If it really was just £44, I don't think anyone would have too much of a problem with it, eh?

Adrian Waterworth
Thumb Down

I'm actually with YouTube on this one...

In recent years, the PRS seems to have increasingly taken a leaf out of the RIAA and MPAA books. They have become exceedingly fond of getting firms of solicitors to write very serious-looking, threatening letters to all and sundry to try to screw as much money out of people as possible. Owners of small hotels and guest houses have been getting hit for payment demands if they provide radios, CD players or even clock-radios in their rooms (regardless of the fact that the radio stations are paying their PRS dues anyway). Similarly, garages and engineering workshops have been getting the "pay up or you're in trouble" letters if they allow their staff to listen to radios/CDs while working.

At one time, a PRS licence was for the public broadcast of musical works - pubs, clubs, theatres, concert venues, etc. But now it seems like the PRS wants to hit you for payments even if you just happen to have a bit of music playing in your offices for the staff or even if one of your staff just happens to bring their radio or CD player in for their own use and it can be overheard by someone else. The presence or otherwise of the general public - much less any paying public - now seems to be irrelevant.

I don't know who introduced this new regime at the PRS - which once appeared to be quite a calm and sensible organisation - but the whole thing now needs reformed. I can well believe that they were asking YouTube for some hugely unsustainable licence payment, given that they'll demand umpteen hundred quid per year from anyone who just happens to have a radio or music player in their garage.

Adobe expects disappointing Q1 sales

Adrian Waterworth

@AC 16:07

Exactly - it's a royal pain in the derriere.

On the one hand, it would be useful to have a couple of CS Standard licenses to run alongside our existing Premium ones. But it's not vital and - given the utterly ridiculous pricing - we can get along without them. If it was two or three (or even four?) hundred quid a license, I'd probably be able to find some budget somewhere and get a copy or two, but at a grand a seat they can just go and take a flying one for the time being.

Regardless of the piracy issues (and you're right - the people who pirate it will probably continue to do so regardless of cost), they've got to realise that they may well end up getting more revenue if they reduce the price but manage to sell a lot more legitimate copies as a result.

And others have already mentioned the ridiculous US-UK price discrepancies, so I won't even go there...

Adrian Waterworth

It's 'cos they're very, very stupid...

The reason that Adobe aren't flogging as much software as they expected is partly due to the economy, but mainly because their pricing and volume licensing arrangements SUCK!

First off, upgrading a PC or Mac from CS2 or CS3 to CS4 (Design Premium)? 600 quid a seat here in the UK. Probably around 600 dollars (I'm guessing) in the US. Nowadays, that's probably more than it will cost for a good enough PC to run the damned thing on. Meanwhile, if you're a student, you can buy the full version of CS4 DP for 250 quid.

Similarly, want a copy of CS4 Design Standard? Thousand smackers please. Or 160 quid if you're eligible for the student version. Isn't this just the equivalent of a drug dealer giving their customers the first couple of hits free or on the cheap?

But the best bit - the very, very best bit - is that I phoned Adobe the other week. Now, we're not a big outfit by any means, but I was looking at a couple of Design Premium upgrades and a couple of Design Standard licenses. OK, not a huge install base, but I would have thought it was enough to get some kind of deal (especially since it included the software upgrade option). You know what they said? Oh no, even though you've got several thousand qualifying points for our commercial volume license programme, you still wouldn't get it any cheaper. In fact, it would be cheaper just to go out and buy the retail boxed versions.

In which bizarre world does that make any kind of sense? If I do that, it will cost me more for a few Adobe upgrades and licenses than it recently cost me for half a dozen new desktops - all with a fairly passable spec, three year onsite warranties and copies of MS Office pre-installed! What the...?

Anyone know whether the Adobe stuff is the most pirated software in the world? If it is, now you know why. As for us, we're sticking with the licenses/versions we've already got and the folks who were going to get the new copies will just have to live without for now - I'm not dropping that kind of cash into Adobe's gaping maw today.

Anyone know of an alternative product that runs on Windows and can do everything that the full CS2/3/4 suites can do (including the integration and functionality like Bridge)? I've been looking for a while and haven't found anything suitable yet, but if I ever do, I'll take the greatest pleasure in telling Adobe to stick their software right up their bum. Sods.

'Ich bin ein storyteller', says UK taxman

Adrian Waterworth

@The Mole

"But think of the children who instead of getting some nice story time to send them to sleep instead get tax software!"

It's OK, this is effectively a fail-safe event. If you've ever had to run even a small payroll, not to mention a payroll year end, you will know that the tax stuff will almost certainly get them off to sleep even faster than the stories would have done. God it's tedious...

Iomega muffs hard drive DLNA testing

Adrian Waterworth
Thumb Up

@Dirk Vandenheuvel

Absolutely that man! Top marks!

MP3s are all well and good for storing on some little plastic fantastic that you stick in your ears when you want to block out the rest of the world, but they still sound lousy around the house. And while I'm sure that a Bravia TV can make acceptable noises, I'm prepared to bet it still wouldn't sound as good as a decent pair of properly-sited speakers.

Give me my trusty collection of CD players, turntables, amplifiers and other assorted "old school" gadgetry any day - you can shove your home media servers and other such "convenience foodstuff" audio devices into the same hole as all the Pop Idol contestants.

Although - on a related note - I do wish that some of the network storage manfacturers would come up with versions of their smaller, cheaper devices that would integrate fully and properly into an Active Directory domain without being a bit of a lash-up. Oh well, can't have everything I suppose...

Website changes link text to settle trade mark fight

Adrian Waterworth
Thumb Down


Sorry Steve, Google already own that one. I sold it to them for a small fortune. Just after I suggested the idea of patenting one-click to Amazon (for a hefty consultancy fee of course).


Seriously though folks, there's too much unjustifiable trademark and patent crap going on nowadays. I do actually believe in allowing someone to protect their intellectual property rights in things that they have invented/designed (and that are worth some money), but there's far too much utter crap getting through the worlds trademark/patent offices nowadays. This particular lawsuit should have been thrown out with the judge instructing these Jonesy-Daysy types to sod off and stop being such utter, utter mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding cretins.

Joker must retire, insist Heath Ledger fans

Adrian Waterworth

Who are these dweebs?

OK, so I would be one of the first to say that Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight was excellent and pretty much left the rest of the cast in the dust. However, who's to say that someone isn't going to take on the role in a couple of years' time and come up with something far better?

It's like all the stupid "Best <XYZ> Song Ever" albums or the music critics with the ludicrous "Albert Scrotemangler is going to be the artist of the year" pronouncements that they make in the first fortnight of January.

Short-sighted feeble-minded idiots.

Apple rethinks battery bondage

Adrian Waterworth


Seems like quite a few people are saying "these ideas are not patentable" and they may be right - I'm as fed up of junk and inappropriate patents as the next person. However, it occurs to me that there may indeed be patentable stuff in there, depending upon what the specific claims are in the patent submissions.

OK, IANAPL, but as I understand it, it is quite possible to reinvent and patent something that already exists, so long as you are coming up with something new in your way of doing it. It's the new bits that potentially make it patentable.

Anyone out there who has read the full submissions and happens to have a background in battery technology, power electronics and patent law who can make a more definitive statement one way or the other?

Google mistakes entire web for malware

Adrian Waterworth

Spotted here too.

It was actually fixed while I was in the middle of typing my "Hey guys, your malware checker is borked" email to Google HQ.

I mean, I know that the Googloids are hellbent on taking over the entire world for their own nefarious purposes, but I didn't know that they had already developed mind-reading to that degree. It was a bit spooky from where I was sitting I can tell you!

Funnily enough, the following message was going to be the one to El Reg saying that Google was knackered. Oh well, late to the party as usual I suppose...

Experian sends 'cheap' Lord a-leaping

Adrian Waterworth

Is it just me...

...or does anyone else find it a bit funny that two of the peers happened to be Lords Moonie and Snape? And was it J K Rowling who originally suggested their appointment to her high-up pals in New Labour?

Harry Potter and the Suspicious Envelopes stuffed with Tenners anyone?

Forrester crystal ball conjures 2009 IT spending shrinkage

Adrian Waterworth

And in other news tonight...

We report that large quantities of bear faeces have been found in woods and forests around the world and a recent survey suggests that Vatican City has a higher proportion of Roman Catholics than almost any other city or nation state.

Pictures at 11.

Sorry, sorry, but do these pillocks at Forrester actually get paid for this kind of shite? And, if they do, does anyone really believe that they should?

If only we could focus all the effects of the current economic upheavals on the pointless market researchers, joss-stick waving brand consultants, clueless advertising executives, worthless financial analysts, money-grabbing bankers, short-sighted media hypemongers and all the other assorted candidates for a Golgafrincham-style B Ark, then perhaps the rest of us who actually make things and do useful stuff could just get on with it and still have a viable economy for ourselves.

Apple prices MacBook Pro battery surgery

Adrian Waterworth


Microsoft's timebombs don't wait 3 to 5 years to reduce your computer to an unusable hunk of metal and plastic - it's usually fairly buggered from day one. Or at least until you turn off all the extraneous crap that's turned on by default and then apply the umpty-hundred patches, service packs and hotfixes that are needed to prevent your shiny new toy being immediately cracked, zombied and botnetted as soon as you connect to the outside world.

But seriously folks, while software does suffer from bitrot that requires occasional disinfection and delousing, physical products like batteries do actually wear out. Whether you like it or not, that's the way the universe works - especially when it comes to something like a battery. I'll leave it to better physicists, chemists and electrical engineers than me to explain exactly why.

I'm with the AC (02:51 GMT) on this one - the battery on my last Dell laptop didn't even last as long as the three-year warranty on the machine. And it's not as if it actually stopped working or lost charge. It was still a pretty good runner. No, the system itself came up with little messages saying "I think your battery is now no good, so I'm going to refuse to charge it any more. Once you've used up its current charge, you'll have to buy a new one unless you want to run on mains all the time". Or words to that effect. Now if that isn't a blatant bit of planned obsolescence so that you can gouge your customers for another 120 quid (or whatever it was at the time), I don't know what is. Shame 'cos I don't mind Dell kit - I've used quite a bit of it over the years and haven't really had any major problems so, for the money, it's OK. But that little trick did annoy me. (Add to that the other little trick whereby the laptop's power supply also seemed to include electronic widgetry to prevent it charging third-party batteries that weren't equipped with the official Dell magic seal of approval - and, therefore, Dell-friendly prices - and they really were taking the urine.)

BT cuts 0870 charges

Adrian Waterworth
Black Helicopters

@AC 21:23 GMT

Unless things have changed, you'll probably find that if the person you're calling has the right equipment and the phone company/network allows it, then anyone you call on any number can get your CLID - whether you withhold it or not. The obvious - and reasonable - example is the emergency services who always receive CLID. Leastways they used to.

It's been a while, but I vaguely remember that there are effectively two levels of CLID (or something like that), one of which you can withhold and one which is always there if you've got the right setup to see it.

First Windows 7 beta puts fresh face on Vista

Adrian Waterworth

@AC 17:38 GMT

I'm assuming that by "sound cards" you're referring to standard consumer/gamer sound cards. Most pro audio (studio) kit works pretty well on Macs and, indeed, a large percentage of professional studios tend to run on Macs with Logic and/or Pro Tools. Probably as many as (if not more than) use PCs.

In general, that kind of audio kit will also work well enough on PCs (running Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, et al) - so long as the PC is still running XP. Vista's processor scheduling and driver handling has had a tendency to screw things up when it comes to serious audio, so it has largely been avoided by anyone who wanted to get on with useful work without having to contend with latency and drop-out problems. Not that Vista can't be made to work (in fact, from what I hear, it's much better now that it used to be), just that XP still tends to be a much more reliable and workable option.

As for me, I've been hoping that Windows 7 would address some of those timing and performance issues 'cos it's going to get harder and harder to find new XP boxes and I'm probably going to need to replace my music PC sometime in the next year or two. I'll check it out for myself when the time does come, but unless there have been some improvements on the Vista/Win7 front, that'll probably be when I end up switching to a high-spec Mac Pro for audio work. Which I don't really mind doing, but it'll probably mean crossgrading some of my existing software so I'll have to budget for that too. Ho hum. And to think I actually used to like computers once - crazy, eh? Must have been the foolishness of youth and all that...

Adrian Waterworth


...if it's largely still Vista under all the flashing lights and whistles, it will presumably still be slightly hit and miss when it comes to certain specific applications such as audio processing (multi-track recording, mixing, mastering, etc.) Or indeed anything else that needs dedicated, high(ish) performance, real-time(ish) response from the processor, memory and disk subsystems? Or have they finally implemented a "turn off all the extraneous memory, processor and interrupt hogging crap that you don't really need" feature in this one, rather than leaving it up to you to find it all and disable it yourself. (Even XP was bad enough in that respect.)

Still, at least I suppose it means that the manufacturers of audio interfaces, etc. don't have to start chasing yet another driver spec/architecture. Given that some of them still haven't come up with decent 64-bit or Vista drivers, there'd be no chance of them releasing Win7 ones before Win8 (or whatever) came along...

Google Chocolate Factory now building routers?

Adrian Waterworth

@David Wiernicki

OK, so describing Google as an "advertising company that makes a little on the side from second-rate software" might be a bit simplistic and harsh, but it isn't totally off the mark. As far as revenue streams are concerned, Google is in the business of selling advertising and, presumably, still generates the majority of its income from that. The fact that it isn't traditional advertising (TV, press, billboards or whatever) but is attached to a useful tool (an Internet search engine) is neither here nor there - it's still an advertising company and its ultimate aim (as a company) is to make as much money as it can out of anyone who will hand it over. Anyone who doesn't recognise that at some level is at risk of having a bit of Google, touchy-feel, "do no evil" wool pulled over their eyes.

OK, Google also seem to be keen on doing some interesting things with software and I'll grant that it's a bit unfair to use the description "second-rate" for their efforts - technically some of it is very good - but I for one still wouldn't actually buy any of their software and (but for the search engine itself and the odd bit of Google-Earthing) don't even tend to use it. So from a purely bean-counting point of view, it is a bit second-rate at the moment - athough it's a punt that could pay off in the longer term. (And, notwithstanding their recent history of cocking it up to an almighty degree, I'm afraid that the bean counters - and their close associates the legal beagles - are still the folks who are running the show. "Do no evil" and other such silly corporate mission statements only tend to apply for as long as the unwritten proviso "...but still continue to make money" holds.)

Cynical? Moi? Not at all...

BT to be freed from service obligations

Adrian Waterworth

The trouble is...

...that we have a number of national infrastructure systems in place that are neither one thing nor the other. On the one hand, and for historical reasons that we all know well enough, companies like BT have ended up owning most of the physical infrastructure and being responsible for the costs of its maintenance, upkeep and upgrading, while being placed under USOs to ensure that everyone can have access. On the other hand, they are supposed to be private (free market) companies, but they can't really act like one 'cos of what we've just said. Basically, the whole "privatise everything we can" phase of the eighties and early nineties wasn't necessarily a bad idea per se, but it was generally implemented in the most cocked-up manner possible - practically guaranteeing all kinds of headaches and assorted crapness further down the line.

Taking a completely laissez-faire, free market sort of view, if our telecoms industry (and other utilities) are going to be proper privatised industries, then either everyone who wants to play in the market should have to meet specified USOs or no-one should. However, if you go down that route in the telecoms case (for example), then BT probably needs to hand back the actual communications infrastructure (exchanges, lines, etc.) into public ownership and everyone leases their lines from some quango or other at a set rate. Either that or some settlement figure has to be reached for BT to "buy" the infrastructure outright and, if someone else wants to get into the telecoms game, they've got to build their own network. Or at least lease it from someone else at a completely open commercial rate (i.e. not specified, dictated or limited by Ofcom or other forms of Government nose-poking).

It's a knotty problem though - if you go down the public ownership of the network route, all the free-marketeers will kick off that it won't be as fair, efficient or cheap as a completely commercial solution (not necessarily true, but certainly possible and that is definitely what will be said). Conversely, if BT were to have to pay something to own the network outright with no USO or other constraints, it'll probably just make everything a lot more expensive in the short to medium term. (Plus the fact that, if I were BT in that scenario, I'd try to make a bloody good argument that the costs of maintaining and upgrading the network over the last couple of decades should count as a large contribution that has already been paid!)

Of course, it's still true that BT manage to cock up lots of things in their own right (and I'm speaking here both as a customer and an ex-employee). But that's a separate issue. I'm just saying that the overall situation isn't helped by the slightly bizarre, neither here nor there, position that history has put the company in.

If I had to nail my colours to the mast, I would say that returning certain key physical infrastructures (comms, power, water, etc.) to some form of coordinated public ownership may well be the best way to go in the end, with commercial companies then leasing capacity on the physical network to provide the end service to the customer. The commercial companies then have to make sure that whatever they are charging for the service that they provide is enough to cover their costs, including network leasing charges. In other words, there has to be some real "value-add" in there too - whether that be in terms of convenience, customer service, guaranteed service levels, extra goodies or whatever. Of course, at the same time, all of us punters would also have to relearn the old adage about only getting what you pay for. (And yes, I know that this is similar to the model now in place on the railways, which hasn't exactly been a glowing success, but I believe that the current situation there isn't a fault with the general model as much as a problem with the recent history of the rail network and the glorious privatisation cockup that was Railtrack.)

Anyway, failing that, we go down the complete free market route as discussed earlier, or the complete nationalisation route (that may or may not work), or we accept the status quo. In the last case though, we must also accept that if some companies are to be placed under USOs or other regulatory constraints that do not also apply to their competitors, then those companies should be allowed a certain degree of privilege in return. And if that privilege takes the form of owning most of the infrastructure (but being forced to lease it out to the competition) then they should still be allowed to make some money out of it in return for playing nice.

Failing ALL of that, would the last person to leave the country just turn off the lights? (Assuming that the power hasn't already gone off by itself...)

2009 - Thomas the Tank's journey to IT Hell

Adrian Waterworth

And like most New Year predictions...

...in most fields of human endeavour, expect most of these to turn out to be wrong for bizarre and inexplicable reasons that no-one has yet thought of.

Apple to slash prices by up to 15% on Black Friday?

Adrian Waterworth
Jobs Horns

As expected

Discounts not all that great. In fact, pretty piddling. Still bigger than any forthcoming VAT saving though (when you look at that particular no-trick pony, you discover that it's worth the square root of bugger all unless you're buying something in the "stonkingly expensive, but still VAT-chargeable" category.)

Tories, retail ISVs decry Darling's VAT cut

Adrian Waterworth

Simple in some ways, not in others...

Well, it's good to see the usual amount of ill-informed comment, badly-thought-out spouting and general "Oh, it's easy, I can do that in ten minutes" bollocks that have come to be the standard in comments on El Reg.

OK, for all you clever gobshites out there, here's some stuff to ponder...

On the plus side, most reasonable systems should have the VAT rate (or, in fact, rates) set in a single place and then apply these to ex-VAT prices at the point of generating invoices/receipts. So that part of the change should, indeed, be fairly straight-forward in most cases.

However, if you're a retailer, you have stuff on shelves and racks and hooks and wherever. Most of that stuff has price tickets on it. Even if you have some whizzy EPOS system that just scans bar codes and does the maths, you still usually have the price on there somewhere for the punters. So... if you're going to pass on the VAT cut, you now need to calculate all your new VAT-inclusive prices and re-ticket all of your stock. In a week. And while continuing to trade normally. (Ironically, this might actually prove to be easier for the large retailers than for many small businesses - at least they've got the bodies and may have automated systems in place to help.)

Next up, suppose you're a mail order business with a real physical catalogue as well as an online one (or instead of an online one). You printed your last catalogue run of umpty-thousand copies in September (economies of scale and all that) and the next one isn't scheduled until March or something. And all your existing catalogues have your old VAT-inclusive prices in them. And, perhaps, there's a mixture of VAT rates in the products you sell as well (OK, only likely to be a mix of full VAT with zero VAT, but...) So you can't just say "Oh, whenever anyone places an order, we'll just tell 'em to cut 2.5% off the payment that they send us (well, actually something like 2.127660% given the way that VAT works)". So there's a bit of a sod. Unless you want your customers to send in their order and then wait for you to invoice them the correct amount before actually carrying out the transaction (maybe feasible on telephone or online sales, but not so easy via the post - and it still doesn't fix the minor hassle of all your customers now having catalogues with incorrect prices in 'em).

Next up, suppose you're a manufacturer or distributor of products and you've set your UK RRP for a given product at some convenient level such as £55.99. OK, so it's up to your end customers what they actually charge for the product in their own shops, but do you contact all of them and say "Oh, by the way, the RRP is now £54.80". Or, more to the point, do you go to all the hassle of producing a complete new RRP list and send a copy out to all of your trade customers. In a week. While continuing to trade normally. (Probably not - you just tell your retailers to sort it out themselves.)

And, while on the subject of trade sales, what about trade terms? On the one hand, at least it's easy from the pricing/invoicing point of view - customer orders two thousand widgets, knowing the ex-VAT price and that any additional works cost, delivery, VAT, etc. will be added. System calculates total ex-VAT price, adds any additionals and VAT and the customer gets invoiced. Easiest transaction of the lot. But, on the other hand, the customer is on thirty day terms (say) and they placed an order last week. The order was processed and shipped and the invoice raised (with 17.5% VAT) last Thursday. It doesn't fall due for over three weeks, by which time the VAT rate is 15%. Do you just process the invoice as stands or do you re-issue it at the new VAT rate? Or do you handle them on a case-by-case basis? Are you on standard VAT accounting or cash accounting (or something else altogether)? I haven't checked everywhere yet, but haven't seen any pronouncements or guidelines from the Government or HMRC as to what they are expecting people to do about this kind of thing. Neither have most of the accountants I've spoken to.

And, through all of this and assuming that you pass the VAT reduction on to your customer, the punters actually end up saving a pretty piddling amount of money! Buying a DVD for, say, £11.75? Great, you're gonna save 25p. Buying a new TV for 500 quid? You're gonna save just over a tenner. Come on guys! You can probably save far more money just by haggling with the salesman or the shopkeeper! Or waiting for something to go on sale somewhere (which will usually get you at least 5-10% off the full ticket price, if not more).

Funnily enough, when the idea of a VAT cut was first mooted, I thought "Hmmm... Not such a bad idea, relatively easy to implement, cuts prices a bit, might tempt people to spend a bit more money, etc." However, the more I've thought about it and looked at what's involved (and what good it's likely to do), the more I think it's a bloody stupid idea. Unless you're just going to do away with VAT altogether for a while.

Having said that, one of the other comments does make the very good point that it would actually be a whole lot easier if our retail pricing was done in the same way as the US - ex-VAT price labels, with tax added at the till. If nothing else, that would solve most of the practical problems of tax-rate changes, as well as making it clear to Joe Public just how much of their £9.99 total is actually earmarked for the quarterly insanity that is the VAT return.

Adrian Waterworth

@Antony King

Online pricing (or pricing/invoicing systems in general) are the easy bit. Can I see your (or your accountant's) cron job that's going to get your next VAT return right if your VAT quarter includes a rate change? Don't forget, you'll need to make sure that you hand over or claim back 17.5% on anything charged at 17.5% and only hand over or claim back 15% on anything charged at 15%.

OK, so the process isn't actually all that difficult if you want to work it out manually (so long as you only have a fairly small number of transactions, or have a lot of spare time), but you'll certainly need to check whether your accounting/VAT software will process rate changes correctly during a quarter or whether it will just apply the current rate to everything at the point when you run the VAT return itself . If it simply does the latter, your VAT return will be incorrect. And that's bad, mmm'kay?

I still think piddling about with minor changes to the VAT rate is a bloody stupid idea and is likely to be about as much use as changing deck-chairs on the Titanic in the current circumstances. It's going to cause some ill-timed hassle for those businesses and people who have to implement the relevant changes, but will do naff-all good in practical terms.

BT Global Services boss falls on sword

Adrian Waterworth

@AC 19:32

BTGS suffering is unlikely to be due to subscription losses from Phorm. GS don't have much to do with broadband service provision like that - they're the corporate networking, IT outsourcing, big Government and commercial contract arm of BT. (Yes, BT do actually have such a thing.) They do stuff like NHS Connecting for Health ('nuff said), computer systems for various UK councils and Government agencies, stock market trading platforms, etc. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the CfH project (or "the almighty NHS care records cock-up" as you might prefer to call it) was one of the significant contributory factors to BTGS' relatively lacklustre performance.

Ironically, I've heard from one or two folks that most of the people who work for BTGS - particularly the engineering staff - are about as anti-Phorm as you can get and think that it's a bloody stupid idea that is likely to do BT a lot of harm. Unfortunately, the assorted management clever buggers in BT Retail and elsewhere don't have a history of listening to their own technical staff, much less that bunch of overpaid, geeky IT swots in Global Services.

That's one of the saddest things about BT. There is actually a fair number of reasonably decent, competent engineers and techies who want to do a good job (by and large). However, they're overburdened and hamstrung by too many layers of clueless middle and senior management and a load of horrendously over-complex internal procedures (some historical, some due to regulatory requirements, many due to the aforementioned bloody awful management).

What is a Linux distro worth?

Adrian Waterworth

Dumping rubbish code.

@Fraser: "With a big corporate this sort of thing is kept to a minimum" - what?!?? You must be kidding!! There's as much garbage code produced and subsequently dumped inside big corporates as there is anywhere else - possibly more. Back in the day, I've picked some of the most horrendous crap out of everything from Unix kernel modules at one extreme to piddling Windows utilities and bits of Javascript web front-end at the other. And like anyone else, I've produced the occasional abomination myself and then either had to fix it up or turn to one of my colleagues with a sheepish "Oops! My bad!" when he or she has spotted it. And all of that in the big corporate world in which you seem to have such faith. (Unless you were being ironic, in which case forget everything I said...)

@Nathan: Not sure how much government largesse was involved in the development of Linux, but most of the other core Unix variants would probably have happened along quite nicely with or without it. Unix as a saleable, commercial proposition was fairly successful from a reasonably early stage and most of the really big IT market players have made plenty of money from it over the years. Hell, most of them still do make a bit of cash from it in one way or another. Of course, you could always turn the situation around and wonder whether DOS and Windows would ever have gone anywhere if Microsoft and the PC manufacturers hadn't, essentially, stitched up the market and foisted them on us. (Actually, there might be more truth in that than there is in the Unix/Linux thing come to think of it...)

Ofcom to create 116 bureaucracies

Adrian Waterworth

@TeeCee and @Dale

TeeCee: just what I was thinking, but you seem to have thunk it first and said it better than I was going to.

Dale, regarding the "116118" entry: what would be the correct 116xxx number for "You rotter! That was a nice cup of tea and now my keyboard's all soaked..."

Keep up the good work chaps.

BT's third Phorm trial starts tomorrow

Adrian Waterworth

@Mark H

If you have indeed read the documents mentioned, you will have seen that they highlight the fact that - regardless of anonymity issues - Phorm represents an invasion of privacy that is both unwarranted and unacceptable. Other people have already discussed some of the technical concerns about just how "anonymous" things will be in practice and, at the end of the day, you only have Phorm's word as to what they will or will not be doing with all that data. While the Webwise servers may well be within BT's network, they are still essentially controlled by Phorm - a company with which I have no contractual relationship and which I do not - and would never - trust.

Pirate icon, 'cos I reckon that's appropriate for the bunch of scurvy knaves that we're talking about here...

OpenSocial, OpenID, and Google Gears: Three technologies for history's dustbin

Adrian Waterworth

@Mr Wurst

Who cares if it's a complicated piece of crap that's awkward to use and no-one wants, my real problem with OpenID (and things like it) is that it breaks one of my major engineering rules of thumb - specifically the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" rule. As a result of this, it also falls foul of one of my business management rules of thumb - "if a particular egg is important to your business, don't put it in _someone else's_ basket".

I couldn't care less if I have to remember half a dozen passwords or use half a dozen different authentication mechanisms if it means that, in the unfortunate event of one of them being compromised, it doesn't immediately compromise all of the others. Particularly if we're talking about something important involving sensitive confidential or financial information. I don't even care if I'm spending time and money doing my own version of something that someone else has already done, so long as I have sound technical (or commercial) reasons for doing so.

None of which is rocket science, but - even as an ex-nerd myself - I find myself increasingly despairing when young software engineers and system designers get so hung up on some over-hyped bit of techno-crap that they forget simple practicalities. Sadly, a lot of Web 2.0 and Google-related stuff seems to fall foul of this problem. I'm sure that there is some real innovation going on out there somewhere, but there's also a lot of fairly pointless random API invention (and re-invention) and minor tweaking of existing ideas trying to pass itself off as something really clever.

Of course, as I've already said, I'm not against reinventing the wheel per se - so long as it's for a good enough reason. I just don't think that it's worth making a big fuss when someone does it. Unfortunately, many technology pundits, reporters and bloggers seem to have a penchant for making an immense fuss whenever anything lands on their desk. Even if it's just their morning cup of coffee, but with "Google" written on it or with the cup painted in a soft pastel design with rounded corners (to stretch an old joke).

Is IT stuck with cloud busting budget structures?

Adrian Waterworth
IT Angle


Sorry mate - been around here for years and years. I added my second comment just in case anyone reading my first comment assumed that I was solely a Kate Bush pedant who didn't know where the "orgone" reference came from.

Which does beg the question, did Kate Bush just get it wrong, or did she deliberately say "still dream of Organon" in order to avoid having trouble with Reich nutjobs if she used the word orgone?

OK, so there's no IT angle here, but I reckon such speculations are at least as useful as some of the overblown cloud computing hype that sometimes gets foisted upon the world by the overexcited nerd squad... :-)

Adrian Waterworth

Still dreaming of orgone???

If that's a reference to a fairly famous song from a certain diminutive, squeaky voiced songstress with a penchant for weird and wonderful videos that occasionally incited pubescent lust in some of the male population back in the late seventies or early eighties, shouldn't that be "still dream of Organon"?

Just checking...

Adrian Waterworth


...I suppose I failed to mention that orgone and cloudbusting do, in fact, go together as well. It just doesn't happen to be the correct line in the context of the song.

Funnily enough, orgone and pubescent lust go together too. Well sort of.

And much of the hubbub that grew up around the orgone idea was eventually debunked as a load of old cobblers. Which will hopefully be the ultimate fate of a lot of this cloud computing nonsense, which is (let's face it) really just the latest dressed-up incarnation of the whole thin client idea. In the same way that things like J2EE, .Net, Web Services and SAAS in general are just the latest incarnation of loads of old distributed systems ideas (looking back through CORBA and DCOM to DCE and its predecessors).

In fact, is anyone actually going to get around to inventing anything new in this industry? And no, rehashing old ideas or putting some inane Web 2.0 gloss on some load of "user-generated" old bollocks doesn't count.

See? Now you've gone and made me all grumpy and it's not even ten o'clock yet. Must have been the Kate Bush reference reminding me just how old I'm getting...

Adobe yanks speech exposing critical 'clickjacking' vulns

Adrian Waterworth
Gates Horns

New? Not New?

Following the links and doing a little digging, I get the feeling that this has got to be something more than straightforward Javascript link hijacking with onclick/onmouse type events.

Of course, it could all have been blown out of proportion by the guys themselves in order to make their work look more prestigious than it is, but until more details are disclosed, there's nothing to be lost by being a little extra watchful is there?

Well, except that most of the folks who read The Reg are probably more than paranoid enough - it's all the clueless email attachment readers and compulsive link-clickers out there that cause most of the problems.

P.S. Bets on any vulnerabilities being present in the shiny new, "we've dressed up WebKit to make it more secure and better for modern web applications" Chrome (JAFWB!) too?

Furse should not resign, she should be sacked

Adrian Waterworth

Anyone surprised?

Anyone who has worked on large-scale IT projects in the public or commercial sectors will have seen this time and time again. Senior management largely drawn from the ranks of marketing, sales and accountancy. If you're lucky (very lucky!) some of them might know enough and be honest enough to realise that they need advice and expertise from the technical staff, but that's not particularly common.

Of course, the IT industry itself is partly to blame. Almost all major projects are ridiculously oversold on a slippery mixture of snake oil and bullshit. That's why massive schedule and cost overruns are the norm rather than the exception. Unfortunately, as long as there's even one major supplier out there who will promise the world at half price by next Wednesday, everyone has to play the same game. So you end up with a bunch of salesmen and accountants having the wool pulled firmly over their eyes by another bunch of salesmen and accountants while the poor buggers who actually have to design and implement their badly-specified and insane pipe-dreams look on in a mixture of despair, resignation and mute fury.

Been there, seen too much of it. That's why I left "big IT" a couple of years ago - it finally reached the stage where I couldn't ignore my moral and ethical misgivings about the whole thing. Now I just wait for the day when something goes sufficiently wrong somewhere that someone big finally says they've had enough and sues one or more of their suppliers into near oblivion.

OK, so that isn't particularly likely, but it's going to need something on that scale to make the IT business grow up and get its collective act together.

(P.S. Nice to see that comments are working now. I originally tried to post this one sometime on Sunday, but in spite of all the above waffle, the comment system still insisted that I had only submitted a title and no actual comment text. Oops! On an article about IT cockups too...)

NASA's Ares V may crush Kennedy crawlerway

Adrian Waterworth

1 ton = 2000lb?

Is this some kind of merkin ton then? I always thought that an old-fashioned ton was 20 hundredweight, where a hundredweight was eight stone (or 112 lbs), making a ton something like 2240lb. Or 40lb (18 or so kg) more than a metric tonne. Well, probably not 18kg 'cos the 2.2lb to the kg thing isn't quite accurate, but you know what I mean.

Or maybe they just taught me the wrong stuff at school or something.

Or is this where long tons and short tons come in? I can't remember...

Black hats attack gaping DNS hole

Adrian Waterworth

Re: BT results

Although the standard deviation test for randomness seems to give BT a POOR rating all the time, if you look at the scatter plots, there don't seem to be any obvious patterns (leastways there weren't when I ran the tests here), so I suspect that the BT servers are probably patched for this one.

Perhaps they have some way to limit the port range that they use in requests/responses, so it's a random selection from a (relatively) small pool - hence POOR as far as a standard deviation test is concerned?

'Crazy rasberry ants' target Texan tech

Adrian Waterworth

@Tim Read

Others have presumably already said this, or you were taking the mickey or something, but...

According to the article, "Rasberry" is the way in which you spell the surname of the chap after whom the ants are actually named. As opposed to the fruit.

I can't be bothered to check whether his name really is Rasberry or Raspberry. Or something else altogether.

Flames 'cos these critters are presumably still preferable to fire ants. Or a fire.

Vatican star watcher says aliens may be out there

Adrian Waterworth

@Pete mcQuail

No, it's just the slow-news-days, Summer silly season starting early...

Mines the orangey coloured suit with the helmet, gloves and air tanks. And could you open the Pod-bay doors please?

What do you mean "you can't do that"?

Oh bugger.

Hafta Man and the threat to agile design

Adrian Waterworth

Or there's the Government IT project "hafta"...

...as in "you hafta deploy this to the live environment by next Tuesday, otherwise you'll hafta cough up umpty thousand per day in penalty charges. Before we've even paid you for the work. Oh, and by the way, some numpty of a minister or senior civil servant who knows bugger all about it says you hafta change this bit of the system specification YET AGAIN, because he once almost managed to balance his bank account using MS Excel (with help from his 9-year old daughter) and so thinks that he is now some kind of expert on these computer thingies."

Been there, had to do that, not as easy to avoid as we would all like. And yes, I know that it's down to a spectacular failure of contract/bid/project management that this kind of thing should happen in the first place, but it's always the design and engineering teams who have to pick up the poopy stick when it does inevitably happen.

Terminator Salvation is go for May 2009 release

Adrian Waterworth

Bagpuss! Pugwash!!

Now there's an idea. I'd go to see Bagpuss the Movie anyday. Well, so long as it wasn't actually made by those Hollywood buffoons.

And Pirates of the Caribbean 4 would, of course, have to be subtitled "The Curse of the Black Pig" (not "Pugwash"). Still sounds good though!

Diddle-i-dee, diddle-i-dee, ti-tum-ti-tum-ti-tum-ti-tum-ti, diddle-i-dee...etc.

I'll get me tricorn hat, peg-leg and parrot.

Suicidal moose descends on Alaska

Adrian Waterworth
Black Helicopters

Just for JimC

And I quote:

"Notice that they do not so much fly, as...plummet."

You're right. Wonderful word.

Black helicopters, just in case the moose fell out of one...

Egg scrambles to fix network outage

Adrian Waterworth

@Fatty Treats

While there's something in what you say, it's a question of scale and how many people are shouting on this one.

Furthermore, someone who really does have a deteriorating credit rating and knows it probably wouldn't say anything at all about this - they'd be more likely just to accept it and let it go. I don't think they'd want to kick up a stink over it and draw attention to themselves.

Egg might indeed be dropping some risky accounts, but they do also appear to be dropping lots of accounts that aren't risky, but which also don't make them any money in interest fees and charges. As another poster has said, if they were up front about it and said as much, fair enough. But they keep sticking to their "risky customers" line in spite of a growing number of counterexamples coming out of the woodwork.

Given that Egg is now owned by Citigroup (who took one of the largest financial hits in the sub-prime lending debacle in the US), there really does seem to be a rabbit away somewhere with this one. Including the mysterious website outage.

Pirate icon, 'cos I think Egg/Citi (and most banks) probably are...

New Bond movie is Quantum of Solace

Adrian Waterworth
Paris Hilton

@Bryce Prewitt

Blimey! The current state of the Bond franchise really has got you a bit steamed hasn't it? OK, so they're complete hokum that now bear little relationship to the original stories (or characters). But, on the other hand, if you want good acting, good plot and a modicum of thought, a Bond film hasn't really been the place to go since...er...well...pretty much ever I would have said. Big explosions, insane chase scenes and shapely ladies showing themselves off, then yes, Bond's your man without a doubt. But all that quality acting, characterisation and plot stuff? Sorry squire, move along, nothing to see here.

Clarkson's 'steal my ID' stunt backfires

Adrian Waterworth

On the one hand...

...Jezza pulled a stunt and it backfired. Tough luck matey-boy. And I would hope that, even though he might be quietly seething about it, he'll take it on the chin like a good 'un and at least recognise some of the humour in his own misfortune.

However, on the other hand (and in a perfect world), he should have been right. Even if I know your address and bank account details, I _shouldn't_ be able to draw money out of your account. On a normal direct debit form (i.e. a bit of paper), you would normally need a signature and that should be checked before any debit is allowed to be drawn. Having looked at the Diabetes UK website, it does appear to have an online DD donation page, so it raises the question of what checks should (or can) be carried out to prevent someone signing someone else up for direct debit payments.

After all, if I've ever received a cheque from you, I'll probably know your sort code and account number (for most UK banks anyway). Alternatively, if you have paid me electronically by BACS (for example), I can probably get the info somehow (might have to dig a bit and step over legal lines to get it, but hey, if I'm planning on emptying someone else's bank account for fun and profit, I'm not going to be too worried about that am I?) As for your address, there's a gazillion legal ways to find that out. And all of that is before we get to dumpster diving, mail interception and any of half a dozen illegal ways to find things out.

So, while the whole thing is worth a chuckle or two at Jezza's expense, it does seem to highlight an interesting issue in the handling of certain types of bank transaction in the online world (even if not in real life).

Man uses mobe as modem, rings up £27k phone bill

Adrian Waterworth

@Danny Thompson

You're right, I still don't see the point of mobile data - certainly not in its current form. But I never said (or intended to imply) that I felt anyone was "a lesser person" for wanting it. If I was being particularly misanthropic about it, I might think (or suggest) that anyone paying for mobile data packages at the moment either hasn't really thought about whether they really need it, whether it effectively meets a need that can't be met better (and more cheaply) in other ways or whether it is actually worth what you end up paying for it, but that's as far as I'd go.

It was someone else who suggested that, because I didn't "see the value" of mobile data then I was behind the times, had pointy hair and had never done anything that was important enough to warrant needing mobile data. So I responded to that particular comment to show that it was pretty much wrong on all counts. As far as I can see, the main "value of mobile data" at the moment is that it allows the mobile operators to gouge and rip-off their customers.

The things I then said about over-estimating self-importance, etc. were based on the many people whom I have met (and worked with) who have fallen into the "I need my mobile data/Blackberry/whatever 'cos I must be contactable 24/7 'cos there's only me can do it/I'm so important" trap. The sooner that people realise just how much of a fallacy that kind of thinking usually is, the happier (and more balanced) a life they will lead. (Ugh! Sorry. Slightly horrible sentence construction there, but I hope you see what I mean.)

As for mobile operators, I wholeheartedly agree with you. My original comment (merits of mobile data aside) was also intended to highlight the fact that O2 had once tried to rip me off for GSM (WAP) data calls that I had never even made and that it then took a fair bit of shouting before I got them to admit that their network and billing systems had screwed up. Given that the mobile operators can (and do) pull stunts like that, is it any wonder that they will overcharge for any data service that they supply? They really do need a good kicking over this kind of thing and, even if our wonderful toothless regulator doesn't manage to do it, we can hope that the mobile-phone-buying public will eventually become savvy enough to do it themselves by voting with their feet (and wallets).

And that's pretty much it from me really. I'm off to celebrate the imminent (well, in 30 hours or so) arrival of 2008. Happy New Year everybody!

(Chose the pirate icon 'cos I wholeheartedly share that view on mobile phone operators.)



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