Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Worst of Times. The Best of Times

I got the phone call I was dreading at 6.25am this morning.
My father left this world peacefully around 6.00am. He felt no pain and was still compos mentis. From what the staff at the Norwich & Norfolk Hospital have told me, it was more that he ran out of energy trying to fight the cancer, rather than the cancer causing anything to fail.
If there can be anything to take solace in it is the fact that he has died now before the cancers started to cause any pain, and before he suffered the discomfort and frustrations of the chemo-therapy that they were planning to start.
Via this blog, I offer my heartfelt thanks to the staff at the hospital that looked after him in these past final days, and to all the wonderful, generous and helpful people in both Stalham and Hickling who have offered their help and support to both Dad and myself over the past six months or so.
May God go with you all and may his Peace be with you for ever.
In memoriam:
Donald Daniel Simmonds
Dad & Fred
May 1931 – December 2009

Monday, 7 December 2009

Got Bored

Thought it was about time I changed the layout. I was getting bored with the old one. I think this is reasonably gentle on the eye.

Dad went Ouch!

As you may have gathered, Dad is suffering from "The Big C". Between it and the treatment, it's left things like his legs very weak.

He had two falls last week on the same day. The first just ended up with a short visit to the A&E (ER) to be checked out, the second led to him actually being admitted because of the large gash and bruise he sustained to his left eyebrow. Although it doesn't show physically his ego also sustained a fairly major bruise and he's feeling a little silly to say the least.

A good friend and neighbour has also taught him how true it is that the human race is excellent at stating the obvious, to whit:

"Oh, you've fallen over and cut your head. Are you alright?"

In his estimation he held nothing back and the reply was Anglo Saxon/expletive-rich/profane (take your choice!) to say the least.

He's also now realised he has to swallow his pride and let people help him where he needs it. There are a lot of people who will gladly do this for him because of what he and Mum did for them when she was alive.

Thankfully because of this it's now apparent to him that people like the physiotherapist, District Nurse, Doctors, GP, and Social Services Visitors are not actually having a go at him, but are also actually trying to help him.

We went down at the weekend to clear the debris for him and install a few bits and pieces to make life a little easier when they finally release him. I think between ourselves and his GP we can get him organised.

The Joy of Stillness.

There are times where my body will not stop jerking about - literally. If the inflamation in the nerve tissue in my neck gets really bad, then muscles all over my body begin to twitch. They don't do this violently, and if my arms or my legs begin to do this and I concentrate hard, I can stop it in the limb in question. That said, I can't concentrate on more than one area of my body at any one time, so the rest of the body is still twitching away. It makes writing, typing or any job that requires manual dexterity very difficult.

The joy comes at that point some seconds after the last spasm, twitch or jerk has actually finished and my body is finally at rest. It is almost a divine pleasure to not be moving any more.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Random Thoughts 2

Health, wealth and happiness.
I haven't felt up to communicating in any form lately. I'm trying to fight off depression again, but it's not easy especially when Dad got diagnosed with cancer the week before last. From what the medical profession are saying it's been there some time - possibly two years - slowly eating it's way out from the centre of his chest. Part of the reason it's taken so long to find is that he only started feeling ill at around Easter time this year - the point they reckon it may have spread to the lymph system. What hasn't helped in his diagnosis has been the number of different consultants and doctors who have seen him in the past nine months. I can personally testify that this story in the Times is no exaggeration. It's now affecting the top of his lungs, his adrenal glands, and it looks like it might be attacking the pancreas now. My father being the character he is, takes it all in his stride and is determined to go down fighting.

Jane suffers from a problem some you other ladies out there may know about - fibroids. However, our GP finally got her an appointment with a specialist and in the new year they'll actually do something about them

My own health problems pale into insignificance beside this, I'm still walking around as if I'm drunk and occasionally scaring colleagues and by-standers by falling over for no apparent reason. I make the excuse that I'm tripping over my own big feet and leave it at that. I sometimes get that look from them that they'd like to know more, but I can normally avoid going into all the details. I'm also still a sweet person - clinially

The insanity of Life.
The news last night (UK time) about a shooting on a US army base was saddening to say the least.
Despite the knee-jerk reaction from the majority "red-neck" populace of the USA the man wasn't a terrorist. I will say to anyone like them:-

If there isn't anything to read between the lines, don't invent it!

Maj. Hasan was just someone who eventually snapped after incessantly hearing about all the horrors that the troops from all over the world face on a daily basis in that troubled part of our planet. It seems even those who have to heal the head are just as prone to losing theirs.

This is the legacy that extremism forces upon us. At the moment Islam is in the spotlight: the Taliban being the current major force in this. But there is no major religion on this planet that at sometime in the history of Man has not been guilty of the same thing. It seems that the saying: "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it" is a truism.

and on that tack....
Carbon Trading or Confidence Trick?
Well, there's a question. The initial idea behind Carbon Trading was for companies to build new, greener industry that had a smaller carbon footprint as a trade-off for having to upgrade existing installations/factories/power plants/etc. What actually seems to be happening though is that it's being treated like another commodity like mortgages and small trade-offs are being bundles into corporate packages and sold off in the same way. I think we've got another "sub-prime" situation building here.

But for the Grace of God.......
I've been there! I know this is true!
A study by NICE has said that the loss to industry in the UK because of stress-related illness is approaching £28bn (GBP)and bad management is mostly to blame.

Monday, 12 October 2009

How to arrange your pseudopodia!

This Is Daniel

These are Daniel's new rugby boots.

This is the box they came in.

This is how many you get in a box!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Freeview Tuning problems

"It's not our fault!" That's what Freeview are screaming. Well, I'm sorry but you are not entirely blameless in this fiasco, neither are the manufacturers. I am ready to accept that a small amount of the problems can be laid fairly and squarely at the consumers door, but only a small amount. The UK Govenrment must also take a very minor part of the blame here too, and I don't mean Westminster, I mean Whitehall - were the power really resides.

Tee biggest problem? No-one really thought seriously about one thing that bugs a lot of the and independent industry experts and support operations: backwards compatibility. Over the past few years it's become a "dirty word" for the decision makers, it's messy, it means they can't force people to buy our new shiny box with more bells-n-whistles (which no-one will really ever use!).

Yes, I know, I'm old and cynical, but I've been around the media industry too long not to be.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Many Hard Scars

In the UK, and I suspect other parts of the world, there has been a debate on legalising, or at least giving people immunity from prosecution if they help someone to commit suicide. Pressure to actually come out and say something definitive has been increasing because of this debate and legal actions from a sufferer of MS from Bradford in the UK.

Debbie Purdy won a ruling by the Law Lords that she had a right to know what action her husband would face if he helped her to end her life. This has finally forced the Director of Public Prosecutions to say something, and the current incumbent of that role: Keir Starmer QC, has finally published a guidance paper. BBC News has a story on this.

As with anything like this there are the "PRO" and "ANTI" camps, and I think I have at least one foot in the "PRO" one for the simple reason that I think that the attitude of prolonging the life of someone with a terminal illness who has no quality of life for what ever reason is somewhat selfish.

God Forbid that I should ever end up in this situation. I doubt seriously whether I could cope with living in a state of complete immobility and pain. That said I wonder whether I could actually have the courage to take that enormous transition between worlds.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Random Thoughts 1

NHS Trusts trying to save money
Ah, the mind set of the accountant. So, to save money in the NHS, CFO's from the various trusts are going to again cut the staff they most need, i.e. nurses, in favour of those they don't, i.e. themselves! Have they never heard the saying "Better safe than sued" ? How long will it be after these job cuts that the family of someone who dies in a UK hospital sues the Trust responsible for negligence? And you can bet it won't be the people who caused the situation that will end up in jail, just the poor over-worked nursing staff again.

Biting the bullet.
Powerpoint is 25 years old apparently. From the number of PPT presentations I've had to sit through, it feels longer. Originally written for the MAC, Microsoft bought the company who wrote it in 1987. I think the person who created the slideshow on the BBC News site may be taking the **** with some of the slides.

I remember when........
Now I think I've heard everything - Glitch-hop. Seriously, being an engineer the word "glitch" means a problem. Maybe I'm getting old. :-(

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Mechanical Trees yet!

I know I've said this before elsewhere, but either Douglas Adams was a visionary or he could see into the future. In the second radio series of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is a character called The Wise Old Bird who mentions that all the imprisoned robots from Brontitall's first plague are working to build "continent toupees" for planets that have used up all their forests.
Now today, we get an article hitting the news stands about more ideas to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere using mechanical trees!

I must admit, the idea of artificially reducing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere has its merit, but it has to be practical with no long-term side effects of it's own. The two main contenders are to reduce it by filtering it out and storing it in empty oil wells or by converting it with algae using photo-synthesis.

Not too keen on the first idea. this could just be saving up more trouble for future generations, who have enough to worry about already with global warming and another nasty man-made product of excessive energy consumption.... nuclear waste.

Big Brother gone? I doubt it.

Initially, anyone of the same opinion as myself would say "At last! Some relief!" as today's London Times announces: "Channel 4 finally evicts Big Brother". This sentiment would be echoed by fellow residents of Borehamwood in Hertfordshire where the programme originates in the UK who have to endure the fireworks at 11pm every time there's a major eviction. (The Google maps image is the front of Elstree Studios.) However, I can't see that Endemol - the producers - would let a good thing go and I can quite see the programme itself dragging on hosted on a different channel for a good few years yet.

There's no doubt that it's still popular with certain audiences: the queues for the Friday night evictions at the studios testify to this, but after ten years, the format is a little tired and the production team are deliberately looking for more outlandish contestants to keep the ratings up in the UK. How the other 41 places around the globe are faring is anyone's guess!

Endemol's site states:
Big Brother is all-seeing, all powerful and getting even bigger across the globe. There is no limit to the Big Brother phenomenon.

Well, maybe there is a limit, we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Don't tell me you've got it bad!

I'm a regular reader of and they've posted an item called "8 of the World's Most inspirational People" today. Each of the people who are featured on this page are truly inspiring. Ben Underwood who could "see" with his ears, Patrick Henry Hughes who is a virtuoso musician who cannot see, Sean Swarner who has repeatedly beaten the odds to survive several bouts of cancer and Jessica Cox who was born without limbs,but gained her pilot's licence, Nando Parrado who along with 16 others survived 72 days in freezing conditions in the high Andes and Randy Pausch who suffering from pancreatic cancer made an impact on so many people with his talk on how he accomplished the thing in life he wanted to do.

One however stands out for me and that is Australian Nic Vujicic. He to my mind deserves pride of place at the top of the page because of his attitude to life. With all the so-called problems I have, they pale into insignificance against any of these people and Nic in particular. He was born without limbs and had to learn to live without them. I will eventually lose the use of mine and have to do the same.

Please watch this video and then visit his website at

Friday, 17 July 2009

We don't care! We're Google! We're the Web!

Actually, no you're not.
What you are is a company that seem to want to emulate Microsoft's sales division.

To what am I referring?


Someone somewhere within the corporate nightmare that the company has become has decided "Hey we can give everyone Google Chat - whether they want it or not!" And before anyone responds, "but you can disable it!" yes, you can... but you can't hide it!

I suppose what's worse than this is that person - in their infinite wisdom/stupidy (delete as appropriate) has decided to move the tabs from the top to the side of the page, thus making the layout awkward - to say the least.

A point here people! Not everyone out here in Webbyland has super splondicious 16 x 9 widescreen monitors yet and have to put up with old-fashioned fuddy-duddy 4 x 3 instead!

PLEASE! - give people a choice or you are going to find a lot of people no longer using iGoogle!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

How I hate the night.

Have you any idea what's it like to walk around as if you're drunk all the time?

I am now suffering from yet another auto-immune problem (those of you who have seen my diabetes blog may be up to date with this) which means that my spinal cord is losing it's insulation - known as myelin. This is turn results in some inflamation around where the problem exists.

So how does this relate to the title of this post? .... Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Marvin constantly complains of having a terrible pain in all the diodes down his left side. I now constantly have what I can only describe as an "un-pain" down my right side.

The title of the post comes from a song that Marvin composes at one point where his life is particularly sour:

"Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won't engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night."

"Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Marvin the Paranoid Android's "dolorous ditty", composed after being attached to the Krikkit War Computer.

Whether his pain is similar to mine, I cannot say.

I describe it as an "un-pain" because it isn't really like any other feeling I've experienced. It is essentially an absence of sensation, but it has all the mental overtones that pain would normally give - there is discomfort, there is the inability to find anywhere comfortable to alleviate the feeling. What is worse is that pain killers do not relieve it.

Because the inflammation results in anything from minor numbness to having my foot stop working at any one time. It is startling to say the least to be walking along perfectly normally then suddenly lurch sideways as your right leg either doesn't go where you were expecting it to go, or just not support your weight correctly.

I've taken to carrying a walking stick at the moment. How much of it's aide is physical and how much is psychological is debatable, but it does seem to help.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Your targeting is Off!

"The farce is strong in this one."

So Phorm could be getting the push - businesswise - with British Telecom's decision to ditch their part in Phorm's Webwise product. I would suggest that since they were the major partner in the entire project - if not holding Phorm's purse strings, at least holding their wrists - pulling out at this stage means it's unlikely that either Virgin or TalkTalk will take up the baton in the UK.

As being the type of person who considers web advertising as a necessary evil, actually having my browser awash with badly targeted ads as it is (Google ads anyone?) is enough already!

The "personal privacy" brigade have got it slightly wrong - these people are interested in your browsing habits, not you in particular. What they're really interested in is the big advertiser's budgets and how much they can screw out of these people.

Think on this, how can these companies prove that it's Phorm's software actually boosting their sales as against any other fluctuations in the market? They can't. All that can be proved is that a certain group of people visit these particular sites at anyone time. However, having something sitting in the back-office part of your ISP's system, trying to second-guess what you are looking for is not a good idea, for several good reasons.

One, if your are as mercenary a browser as I am, I'm not interested in the same old thing, day after day. I want my browsing experience to be fresh every time: all that Webwise will do is make my experience stale and uninteresting.

Two, how are the ISPs and Phorm going to ensure that the data they collect/intercept is secure? Let's be honest, there's a lot of hackers out there that would find it very easy to put hooks in this software to harvest the personal details of the ISP's customers, especially when these people are making on-line transactions of any sort, encrypted or otherwise. When you register with a site of anything, it's your browser that holds the passwords. Unless the site uses Secure Server authentication, that password is sent in plain text.

Phorm? No thank you. It'll just turn into a phisher's paradise.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Washington: it could have been worse.

My condolences to the families of the seven people who have lost their lives in the metro crash, and my sympathies to the injured and their families. I have been reading the reports of what happened and know from the major Tube accidents in London at King's Cross and Moorgate that it can have far reaching consequences on all those involved.

Now the NTSB have to work out why it happened and one thing that I have noticed in various reports is the mention of the state in which a lot of the infrastructure of the system is in, it seems to vary from "clean and reliable" to "crumbling" and "in a state of dis-repair". I suspect that - as in most cases - this point of view is coloured by which part of the system the persons making these comments actually use.

My biggest worry is not that this happened by why it happened. Not knowing how the metro system in DC is run, I can only speculate that the problem behind this accident could be one of lack of investment and I'm hoping that we are not looking at yet another case of "Damn the customers, we need to keep the share-holders happy".

Maybe some of the financial people of the world should realise they are not exempt from life and that one day they may very well have to face the same change in life that the families of those seven people are now having to come to terms with themselves.

A plea to all the governments of the world: make sure that your health and safety laws make it prohibitively expensive so that it is always cheaper for companies and their directors to carry out safety work, rather than take the hit with the fines and law suits.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Some good news for once.

At long last the British educational system is actually investing some money in respect of specialist support for dyslexic children(BBC News 22/06/09). Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary has announced 10m(GBP) to help train teachers in coping with dyslexic children and how to spot the signs. One of the biggest dyslexia charities in the UK, Dyslexia Action, has welcomed it.

Classic Dyslexia - word blindness as it used to be called - is only one manifestation of the condition: being married to one and having both son's suffer from it, I can vouch for this. It is evident throughout my wife's family, stemming from my father-in-law who, along with my sister-in-law are "classic" sufferers.

My wife and eldest son suffer from a curious form in that they cannot tell which way round any writing they are viewing is actually written or printed: my eldest son has also been described as having "eccentric spelling".

The condition is no barrier thanks to the dedication of carers, enlightened teachers and parents and I suspect a lot of people wouldn't realise just how many house-hold names are sufferers. Look here for just a sample.

My youngest son has what has been described by one specialist as "dyslexia in extremis". It manifested itself at the age of two, when most children are starting to communicate: he didn't. One of the unusual symptoms was that he seemed to find it strange that the group of sounds that made up words never changed, the concept was totally alien to him. Slowly but surely, with the expert tuition and help from our local primary school, he is coming to terms with it.

One point that rarely seems to get mentioned in any article, conversation or discussion on the condition is that of the frustration that comes with it. Not just for the parents and carers of the sufferer but of the sufferer themselves. My son has been tested for ADHD more than once because of his extreme frustration at not being understood, and I can understand why being the subject of his rage more than once.

It is nice to know that in these cases, the best medicine is not some form of oral medication but just being there to hug and cuddle this poor, confused, frustrated child until his anger and rage passes.

And to answer those of you out there who would pose the question, would you have it any different?.... yes and no I would love for him not to have to suffer this extreme version of the condition, but would he be the same loving, forthright, outgoing person that it has made him into?

Most importantly, he is my son, and I love him dearly.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Oh No! Not again!

I think the Universe has actually been replaced!
In Douglas Adam's masterpiece the Cirius Cybernetics Corporation purely made robots and automation.... Have they branched out into the food industry????

Seen on the back of a 230g bag of Maltesers:

"Share" and "Enjoy"

Monday, 8 June 2009

Design over Function

There have been, what can only be called, "glitches" in the statistics relating to road traffic accidents here in the UK and in Europe for some time now. There seems to be a tenuous connection to weather conditions but not in the way most people would expect. These mainly occur when the conditions are bright and dry and most frequently at roundabouts (insert American term here!), especially where the "priority" and first joining junctions are at 90° or sharper angles to each other. What seems to happen is that two vehicles " T-bone" with the vehicle entering from the priority junction invariably being the size of your average family and rarely anything larger than an MPV.

I think I've come up with a possible reason why it happens. It may very well be the placement of the indicators on the front of the vehicle. Some manufacturers currently have models where they are well back down the side of the vehicle.

Let's face it, I am paranoid so I immediately assume the other driver is not concentrating as they approach. So if I don't see a near-side indicator, I brake and give way. OK, this behavior normally leads to me pissing off those behind me as the other car has then turned into the road I've been joining from, but the number of times a car has joined and I have seen the rear indicators actually on is at least equal to those where they aren't.

There can only be two conclusions: one, the front lamp is broken: two, the design of the lighting cluster means that the indicator isn't visible unless the angle between the two vehicles is less than a certain amount.

Number one does happen, but you can tell this from the rate of the flash: practically all the electronics to operate them are designed to run at a far faster rate if a lamp blows or falls out(!).

Conclusions. There is no substitute for concentrating on what you are doing, especially if you are behind the wheel. But the automotive designers need to examine where the line between style and safely comes and do a little re-designing.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I spoke too soon......

Actually it's not the boss this time... it's the trolls from the Finance Department. It seems that for the third year running someone has forgotten to budget for a set of software licences that the customer is paying us to renew...

Now I wonder whose office got re-decorated this year with that money!

Or is it a case of.... "Due to budgetary restraints, the light at the end of the tunnel has had to be turned off."
[deep sigh, wanders off to the coffee machine for a refill.]

Relax! It's a new week!

It's been a few weeks since I posted: the wonderful Dual D's of diabetes and depression kept me off the web for a week, and then a week of enforced leave with no internet connection for another.

Enforced? - Yes. My GP said that if I didn't take some time off I'd end up a gibbering wreck huddled in a corner somewhere.

Last week was "half-term" week in the UK so I took advantage of this and took the family out to Norfolk to see my Father: the boys thoroughly enjoy visiting him. As usual there were the odd one-or-two jobs that needed assistance, this time clearing my father's attic out so that some new insulation could be put in. It was hot and dirty work, but it's incredible how a week of doing something completely different like this can be so relaxing, even if it's even a mundane task.

So re-vitalised I return to work. Even aggravation from our own pointy-haired boss doesn't get through to me to start with. Now, that has to be some kind of success!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Turtle Moves!

Oh dear, Life is doing it to me again!

They always say similar events come in three's don't they? Well I think it's true, especially as I have three "Pratchett-related" events over the past 24 hours.

First was last night's CSI on channel 5 (we're only just starting with Laurence Fishbourne in the UK) where a monk dies when a tortoise gets dropped on his head by an eagle,

Second was my wife finding various pictures of people getting their own back on Death - the best being him slipping over a banana skin,

And finally, this morning we have "Duckman"

Well, the wizards do say million to one shots happen 99% of the time!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Language - a changeable constant.

You could quite easily sub-title this "Evolution or Perversion".

As my knowledge of others is quite limited I don't know if this happens outside the English speaking world much, but with my native tongue words acquire other or alternate meanings. For example, I am working in a group that is charged with maintaining and supervising those parts of our customer's IT installations that aren't the actual server, network or communications hardware, the power and cooling, the cabling, the security, etc.: classically, the environment of the rooms and the infrastructure that connects and supports it.

However over the past few years someone, somewhere in the IT industry decided that the term "infrastructure" should include everything that doesn't sit on someone's desk or in their office.

This has made my life a little difficult as I'm the only one in the team who has any inkling into how the active part (servers, switches etc..) of the system actually works, so guess who ends up fielding the questions our technicians can't answer and re-directing them to our NOC or SOC!

I'm sure we in the IT world cannot be the only group to suffer this.

Change for the better or just meaningless change?

As Ford Prefect noted, "Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so." I'm actually wondering when I can get to eat at the moment.... you can crunch only so many glucose tabs before your tongue revolts!

This morning we had one of those occasional tortures that they inflict on you: the "Management Meeting" This morning's effort was all about "Lean Management" and "eliminating waste in the procedures". This all stems from the experiment Toyota tried back in the 70's which they employed the principles that became "Kaizen". IT seems to work well in the manufacturing industry, but seems to fall short in most other sectors.

Kaizen is a Japanese term formed from the words Kai meaning change and zen which means good. In Korea, this translates as ge sun and in Chinese gai shan both meaning improvement change for the better. However, modern management has perverted it to stand for one of it's supposed foundations: continual inmprovement. From what I can see this is just another case of "smoke and mirrors"

While I agree waste, in terms of time and effort should be got rid of with all possible speed, I'm not sure how we in particular can do this as most of the waste is generated by the procedures thrust upon us by the management itself.

As a team, once our own pointy-haired boss had left (20 minutes into a scheduled 90!) we sat down and worked out some ways we could use to measure how much time we are actually spending on fulfilling the reporting tasks he demands from us as against how much time we are spending actually servicing our customers; we intrinsically know we are spending less on the latter, we just can't prove it yet.

This afternoon I'm going over to see the union rep. with one of the team (I'm acting supervisor as he's resigned!) as the guy has issues with the pointy-haired one

Friday, 8 May 2009

Ah, the irony!

One for the motorists, especially Jeremy Clarkson.

The boss of the company in the UK responsible for installing Gatso cameras everywhere has just had his licence revoked having been caught by one doing 103mph(166kph) in a 70mph(112kph) zone!

There is a God!

Big is not beautiful.

Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko, in the movie "Wall Street" famously said to his audience of stakeholders: "Greed is - for lack of a better word - good". I've never agreed with that philosophy as most, if not all the people who subscribe to it, end up in a worse state than when they bought into it. Unfortunately, there's a lot of innocents that unwittingly subscribe to it as well and get burned even worse. The movie reflected the time at which it was made, where banking and stock markets were the place to be. and the premise that "big is beautiful" seems to have persisted to a large degree even through the current economic crisis: some may even say that it in fact started it, but this is not my point here.

My point is that sadly one area of industry where this philosophy does still persist is IT. This is understandable considering that the financial world was one of it's biggest founders, and even after 20+ years of non-financial use some companies IT is still run by the Finance Department.

So, what's the problem? In a word, inertia.

Talk to any physicist or engineer with any mechanical background and they will tell you that the larger an object is, the more force you need to get it to start. However, once it is moving it will keep moving without much force at all - that roughly is inertia.

You can apply this analogy very well to corporate bodies - you can say they're like a super tanker: once they're moving it's easy to keep them moving, but they take a long time to do anything once they are unless you use a lot of energy.

What's worse is if it loses all power, no matter what the command crew does, it will just keep going on the same course until it hits something hard, and the results will not be pretty - as the real Wall St. found out with Lehmann Bros.

In the IT world the alarm bells should start ringing sooner but, as above, it's a case of whether the right people hear them. I've now heard two with my current employer: a global IT support company. The first was when we started to have to jump through hoops to get even the smallest travel claims approved, the second made me and others where I'm based do an enormous mental double-take. It is that the upper management are considering the option of off-shoring our own IT.

Scott Addams once drew a Dilbert cartoon about this - I thought he was joking!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Best job in the world

Congratulations to Ben Southall from Hampshire for finally winning through against the other 35,000 or so people to get every one's dream job - only having to work 12 hours a week as caretaker of a semi tropical island.

If I was younger I think I'd have applied for it!

UK ID card scheme.

The pig-headedness of politicians never ceases to amaze me.

10 Downing St. and the Home Office are still pushing to get this running even after having all the problems the chosen implementation will suffer from made pellucidly clear.

I personally have no objection to a national ID card system that would make my daily life easier - I'd welcome it in a minute if it would combine all the goverment/tax/health/social services data that currently exists about yours truly.


Unfortunately these are still science fiction due to the stupidity inherent in the human race.

So what are my objections to the current scheme? Well, it has nothing to do with human rights or anything to do with the so-called "surveillance society". They can be summed up simply as:

  • Fraud: No matter what the underlying card system is, Chip'n'Pin or contact-less, it is still open to abuse. Note how quickly the criminal fraternity caught up with the technology after it was introduced.
  • Physical reliability: The physical environment and cleanliness of the card can and does cause significant problems. With Chip'n'Pin it's the build up of crud on the contacts that causes the problem. It then builds up in the reader and it's not going to be long before
    the reader needs servicing, if not disinfecting!
  • Cost: the current government estimate is about £5bn ($7.4bn). In the past, an overspend of not less than 50% of the original estimate is a good bet for HM Gov. projects, so the independent experts saying £10bn to £20bn is quite feasible.
    Oh, and you the holder of the card are going to have to pay £50 just for the privilege of having the card produced.
  • Logistics: yes.... well the way the UK's vehicle licensing system works seems to be OK, but it's only dealing with one un-related item of data at a time, this system is eventually going to have so many hooks and tie-ins it's bound to collapse eventually.
Give it up for now Jacqui, wait until the technology is a little more reliable and can cope with these problems.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Queen's Day Attack

I feel a deep sadness at the news that came from Appledoorn yesterday. That someone should feel so depressed as to take their own life and the lives of innocent people around them is as horrific as the scene he created.

In what must have been an attempt - in his mind - to embarrass his former employers for dismissing him, he ended the lives of six people (himself included) and irrevocably altered the lives of their families and the lives of the dozen or so survivors and their families. I do not believe any situation like this can warrant the actions this man took and it should be condemned for the heartless act it was.

That said, we must not forget his family and how they must be feeling. They are most likely as shocked and stunned as those of the others directly affected by this horrible event.

My thoughts, prayers and sympathies go out to all those directly affected by this: the victims and their families, and those indirectly affected: the Dutch Royal family, the other spectators and most especially the emergency services and the police who have the unenviable task of clearing up afterwards.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

I too, am Dilbert!

As Arthur Dent was noted to say:-
"This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays"
On his particular Thursday, his planet gets blown up, On my planet, I'm just suffering from a procedure-driven manager.

I have just spent three days researching and writing a report on something that needs doing on a corporate scale - three days that could have otherwise been more productively used solving the problem itself.

It runs to 9 sides of A4 in 10pt type, I mailed it off to him and got a reply within minutes flinging back in my lap saying "run with it" So what exactly was the point of me writing the report in the first place if he's not going to read it properly and just give me the job straight back???

BTW, three days at my charge-out rate is about 1,200 quid (about $1,700) This isn't a large sum in the corporate scheme of things, but someone still has to pay for that, and knowing him, he'll charge the customer for it!

There's no point in discussing anything with him - he doesn't listen properly. Up until recently we (as in my team) all thought it was just us he did this to. Over the past few days we've been in meetings with some of our colleagues from the Projects side of the company - and worse, some of our older colleagues still working for our main customer - who have said exactly the same thing.

Oh Scott, why, oh why didn't I listen! The pointy haired bosses are taking over!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Do you want apple sauce with this panic?

Swine 'flu! Get your pandemic and pigs ear!(sic)

I am of the opinion that certain people thrive on this sort situation. I've just hit Google News for the UK, and it's reporting something like 32,000 stories just on this subject. The Daily Telegraph, one of the UK's national broadsheets, along with some others around the globe have introduced RSS feeds just for the Swine 'flu outbreak.

Yes, we should be worried about the spread of it, yes we should take precautions against catching it, but these are so simple and logical, I cannot see why people should panic. If we just stick to the top two simple day-to-day hygiene tips there shouldn't be a problem:
  • Use tissues when you cough or sneeze, or at least cover your nose and mouth with your hand and then clean your hand with a tissue. And don't stick it in your pocket for later - get rid of it in the nearest bin.
  • Basic hygiene - washing your hands with soap and water - will prevent spread of virii in general between your face and hands and therefore other people.
  • Keep your household work surfaces clean, and in these situations how about door handles as well (couldn't hurt at least!)
These are difficult concepts?

My cynical side has the final say. Two things will be certain at this point,
  1. There's going to be a lot of mis-informed people going everso slightly crazy about catching this "dread disease"
  2. There's going to be a lot of manufacturer's and retailers rubbing their hands with glee as the sales of disposable face masks goes beyond the dreams of accountants and the Revenue services of most of the planet!
Be lucky and stay safe out there people.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Almost a prayer meeting

I was riding home on a bus last night when something happened in front of me that just made me smile. It really did give me a good feeling.

When I got on the bus, an elderly African Gent got on with me and sat in front of me. A young woman sat next to him. He began talking to her and although I couldn't hear much of what was being said, there were broad smiles on both faces, especially when the gent produced a copy of "Awake", one of the pamphlets that the Jehovah's Witnesses hand out over here in the UK. The broad smile on the woman's face was something to be hold, and I saw her say the words "Thank you, but I'm Jewish".

She got off a stop or two later and an elderly African woman got on and sat next to him. I saw the copy of Awake re-appear as he began to start the conversation again. However, this time he was presented by this woman with titles I knew where normally published by one of the Baptist churches in the UK.

The interaction between these two people was a joy to behold, even if I couldn't hear everything that was said. When the woman got off just before I did, the smiles on these two people's faces said it all. They may have had slightly differing faiths, but their shared belief was indomitable!

"Fat Taxes" raise their head again!

So, RyanAir are trying to introduce another one of these so-called "taxes". It's really just a surcharge, but hey, why quibble?

From what I hear they are going to try and charge either by the kilo, by the inch or by BMI points.

Now, if they're going to do this, when are they going to start in on other people who are naturally outside the "norm" in terms of shape or size. As someone who has longer than average legs, I get a bit fed up with having to request seats near the exits - these being the only ones where my legs actually fit! Are they going to charge me extra for this? My wife is not a small person, although her waist size is below the quoted 40 inches, her hips aren't. Will this count?

What I'd like to know is if they'd also considering discounts for passengers who are smaller than average - like a certain Mr. Michael O'Leary.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

How green is Silicon Valley?

Well, what do we think?

Being closely involved in the world that encompasses these almighty cathedrals to technology that we call "data centres", I wonder seriously how green we can actually get them. It may be unfair to single out this particular part of the world as there's nowhere that's any less guilty at wasting energy.

The prime problem is how inefficient the actual equipment is at using the power that we put into it. There are very few "conventional" server/network chassis that can boast better than a 20% efficiency rating, and as you've most likely guessed the rest simply comes out of the box as heat.

Thus we have a situation where the problem has to be solved in the long term by the manufacturers. Moves are being made in this direction: more efficient ways of distributing the power to the servers, more use of blade servers, far more intelligent power and performace management software in the servers themselves, and so on.

Meanwhile in the short term, we just have to make the environment that it lives in far more efficient at dealing with the problem the equipment is causing us. Here are some ideas from my addled brain.

How much heat in the data centre is coming from outside the building? In certain climates, I suspect quite a lot at certain times of the year, yet I have visited places where the insulation in the area of the DC's suites has been non-existent. Conversely, how much cooling can we achieve from the outside of the building by just allowing the outside atmosphere to get in? Some method of controlled heat transfer when the outside air is cool enough cannot be beyond the whit of Man.

Can the excess heat be converted back to useable electrical power, or indeed be condensed enough to help in powering the air conditioning systems - a Combined heat/power system maybe.

How do we cool the equipment itself? The current method in an awful lot of DC's - even brand new ones - is to cool the suite itself rather than the equipment itself. This is a hangover from mainframe days when this was really the only viable way of doing it. I come from a broadcast engineering background where it has always been the norm to use contained cooling within an area, so this way has never made sense to me.

This has got to change.

CFO's have got to realise that saving money in the capital stage of a project and just throw air handling units around a large open area is only going to increase the costs to the company when it reaches the stage of going into operation, especially when a large number of governments are introducing carbon taxes in some form or another.

Bite the bullet guys and consider doing this now: there are options out there already, some of which can be easily (and relatively cheaply) retro-fitted to your existing installation.

Finally, an idea for the manufacturers out there: the Dell's HP's Cisco's of this world. Broadcasting, especially national broadcasting uses a fair number of high-power transmitters to reach it's audience. To keep these enormous beasts going they are cooled directly. The coolant pipes are plumbed directly into the output stage and the liquid pumped through these rather than having an intermediate "air stage" in the process.

It's already being done on larger scale computers... think Kray and the like. Is it really so mad an idea to do this to even small machines like say a C7000?

Be lucky and stay safe out there people!

Why blog?

A rhetorical question really.
In my case, it's really just an exercise in trying to put my feelings down in words, and if it provokes comment or discussion so be it.

A lot of the time I suspect this will be some form of reaction to a news item or somethingthat's caused me to think about something that would normally be trivial in my daily life.

There's been many people giving reasons not to blog, some citing that there's no point in subjecting the rest of the world to your own drivel. Drivel or not, being able to have your say is something some people do not have the opportunity to do even in this day-and-age.

So I will re-iterate something that Arthur Wellesley (once the Duke of Wellington) is attributed with... "Publish and be damned!"

The obligatory introduction

Well, Here I am, hair and all!

I've been meaning to start a non-"D" blog for sometime, and here it is.

What is it I refer to as "D"? ........................... Read on.

So what have I got to say.....

I tend to be classed as a bit of "Mr. Angry" sometimes as I can be a bit small-minded, but only about small-minded people (huh?)

I work in the IT industry - one of the "back-room boys", the geeks, the experts (ugh! hate that phrase!) - that look after the telecommunications and security for the IT operation in a fairly large media operation.

I am diabetic - classified as Type 2 (ooh, is that the bad one?) Err, all diabetes is bad, it's just that some is more insidious than others.

Type 1, is what used to be referred to as "juvenile diabetes", but it can happen at any age. If you're over 30 then it's normally called LADA (Latent Auto-immune Diabetes in Adults) or Type 1.5 Whatever the case, it's when the pancreas just stops producing insulin period and is caused by the body's own immune system mistaking the part of the pancreas that produces insulin as invading cells.

Why it does this is still being researched, but from this point on, insulin has to come from external sources.

Type 2 classically is when your pancreas starts having trouble producing insulin anymore due to age - that's me as far as they can tell at the moment.... my symptoms weren't exactly classical.

The definition covers a lot more than this, but a better reference for that would be somewhere like Diabetes Daily, where a fellow contributor, Lloyd, has posted an explanation in layman's terms as to the differences between types of diabetes.

Now the sad bit.

Type 2 is getting to mean anyone whose body can't produce enough insulin to cope with what they're eating. Unfortunately this type of diabetes is becoming more and more common with our slow descent into a sedentary lifestyle. My personal belief is it's not just down to that or the quantities of food involved, but what's actually in the food. I'll not enter into a deep discussion on the whys and wherefores involved with this because there are so many contributory factors, not least profit, that I'll exceed my storage quota on Blogger in a single post.

At this point I think I'd better add this...
WARNING! What ever you do, never say to a diabetic, "But you're not fat enough to be diabetic!" As being diabetic forces you to have a far healthier lifestyle than anyone else, you may find that person has far greater "stopping power" than you have and they will quite happily stop your nose permanently!

It's done!
My first personal blog post!

Be lucky and stay safe out there people!