* Posts by Richard Fletcher

49 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Oct 2007

Will UK.gov crack down on itself for missing Cookie Law deadline?

Richard Fletcher

Re: Session Cookies?

No they are not exempt. The ICO used to claim it's session cookie was essential as they had a form on the site that needed it, and so everyone got it. Now they only use it for the form in question, so they are now actually doing it right. Which wasn't the case a couple of months ago.

Richard Fletcher

So Google Analytics now ok?

From the bottom of the article "However, it has also admitted that it is not likely to take action against website operators that use data analytics cookies, which measure the number of users of websites and how those individuals use them, if those operators have failed to meet the standards for consent for those cookies."

So Google Analytics is now fine. Hang on, wasn't the whole point of this legislation originally meant to be to stop companies like Google knowing everything you do online. Could this be a case where legislation intended to stop practice A only has ended up stopping a bunch of practices other than A?

Why does this not surprise me.

BYOD sync 'n share

Richard Fletcher

Left Dropbox last week

I stopped using dropbox last week, for syncing files between my machines. Though I'll still use it for sharing files there was one thing that I experienced last year that happened again this week.

I needed to add a new computer, and it was downloading the 1.5GB in my dropbox at 7kbytes per second. Meaning it's two days to get back up and running like normal. I know I could get specific files from the web interface while waiting, but it's just not good enough.

Mutant heroes to rescue Ultrabooks from price trap

Richard Fletcher

good stuff

I'm surprised these aren't more well known to be honest. I've put one in a laptop and another in a desktop, and the performance is great. I've also got a desktop with a dedicated ssd and some magnetic storage, and to be honest, it's only really database performance on the SSD that makes a noticeable difference.

The El Reg book library - now on ePub

Richard Fletcher


Could do with a bit more of a blurb on that page, perhaps a page count? A table of contents for each book? I can imagine Reg books being good, but I can also imagine that they contain stuff that's already on the website. So I could do with knowing how much I'm likely to have read already.

UK sight-loss charity sues BMI

Richard Fletcher
Thumb Up


I hope this case goes to court. The WCAGv1 is hopelessly outdated, and WCAGv2 requires changes from the browsers, and ATAG is a pie in the sky fantasy.

Actually it all is, when you start considering disabilities that are tricky, like dyslexia, or Down's syndrome. I'm assuming the legislation doesn't only cover specific disabilites, I may be wrong.

In case you are wondering how you are supposed to deal with Down's, you try and replace as many words with images as you can, and keep all the concepts as simple as possible.

There was one argument that a website just needed to provide another way to access it's services, which is what the BMI phone number seems to do, so again, I'd like to see what the court thinks of that defence.

EU: Time running out for web companies on 'do not track' system

Richard Fletcher

ICO still not compliant

The ICO guidance says cookies may only be used without permission where essential to the functioning of the site, and they dump a session cookie immediately upon visiting the site. They say of the cookie (on their privacy page) "This cookie is essential for the online notification form – the form that data controllers can use to notify with the ICO – to operate and is set upon your arrival to the ICO site. This cookie is deleted when you close your browser."

Well, that's not essential for the site is it? It may be essential for part of the site, but the site does a lot more than that.

Thus demonstrating that even the body responsible for enforcing the law can't conform itself!

UK.gov to build child army of software coders

Richard Fletcher


Teacher pay scales (non London) 2011, £21,588 - £31,552: I doubt the quality of teaching will be up to much in general.

I suppose there's the holidays, and short days, and grading code should be easy, but where are the mix of sociable programmers who see teaching as a valid career choice with pay like that?

Cabinet Secretary: Freedom of Info law stifles policy confabs

Richard Fletcher

Freedom of information law should change

Sorry, but he has a point. If people in government want to ask stupid questions and pose stupid ideas in the interest of becoming better educated about a topic, or if they just want to blow off some steam, they should be able to do that without it becoming a subject of an FIO request.

The truth is that discussions have moved away from the appropriate channels, in front of advisors, and minute takers, to sofas, weekend retreats or breakfast tables because of FOI. The post-it note government of the US and UK is not an efficient way of running a country.

Having cabinet meetings where ministers fear speaking their mind does no-one any good. And like I say above, those views will still get expressed in more private settings, so we don't lose anything by relaxing the laws.

The assumption of the the pro-FOI lobby is that we will be able to learn things that the powers that be don't want us to know, and that is just plain wrong, and while it may be true for somethings, there is a class of data that under FOI just will not be written in the first place.

So long as we have controls to discover and deal with corruption we will all vote based on the big three issues come each election anyway, the Economy, Education and the NHS.

Not so fast: Italian boffins say neutrinos not faster than light

Richard Fletcher


Here's an idea, maybe spacetime itself is bent in italy, in order to accomodate the crookedness of Berlusconi.

Eurozone crisis: We're all dooomed! Here's why

Richard Fletcher

Barnsley and Chelsea and the banning of money.

Barnsley and Chelsea can share the same currency because of tax and spend. Tax in Chelsea and spend in Barnsley. And of course if Jemma had her way and killed money, then along with it goes taxes, and with that, policing, education, health, infrastructure and rather quickly civilisation.... Not that you could ban it for long mind. It's not like you can un-invent it after all and everyone will soon get tired of stockpiling goods at home for the purposes of a trade.

Brit micro-biz needs tax breaks, promotion, cuddles

Richard Fletcher

Helping small web developers

Government could help by

1) Provide a web page where you can upload a csv with your income and outgoings based on your business bank account and receive back a single amount to pay that covers Income tax, Self Assessment (if applicable), Corporation tax, VAT, and NI.

2) Web-developers have a problem with patents. See here: http://webshop.ffii.org/ Many software patents were simply not original enough when submitted, the bar needs to be raised.

3) Plough any enterprise investment into turning old buildings into workable offices. In many parts of the country you can not get an office at a decent price. In my home town of Sheffield the government ploughed millions into setting up the "Digital Campus" including the "Electric Works". I looked at getting an office there, the cheapest option that included a desk was a shared office for £170+VAT per month + Coms per desk. I have found somewhere that I pay £150 including coms per month for a 2/3 man office, I was lucky to have found it, but it proves it can be done. My new office is in the centre of Sheffield and no compromise has been required, it's perfectly good for customers to meet me here.

Startups need cheap rents. Not buildings with helter skelters (http://www.electric-works.net)

4) Provide support for growth. To grow I need to take time to train the new staff. I don't have the time to do that and to earn the money to pay them, and myself (and my mortgage etc) Hence no growth in staff numbers.

Going from one person to two is much harder than going from two to three, even more so when the people you employ are going to be well paid rather than minimum wage staff.

90% of visitors declined ICO website's opt-out cookie

Richard Fletcher

ICO complies?

I don't think ICO complies as they use a session cookie, to use the session cookie without permission one needs to say that the cookie is "essential to the site function". They say "This cookie is essential for the online notification form to operate and is set upon your arrival to the ICO site. This cookie is deleted when you close your browser."

I don't think an "Online notification form" is essential.

But hey, since they decided it is for them, perhaps it is for me too, though it's hard to tell as I can't find the "online notification form" that is so essential for the site to function...

Boffins brew up formula for consummate cuppa

Richard Fletcher

El reg mug

1 for me too please

Biodegradable products are often worse for the planet

Richard Fletcher

Spray it with plastic

The easy way to stop biodegradable stuff producing the methane is to spray it with plastic. This then prevents oxygen from getting into the mix. This happens in the UK, or at least it used to when my wife did some work at a few landfills.

Seems backward to me though.

UK.gov 'falls short' of legal obligation to enforce EC cookies Directive

Richard Fletcher

ICO still not complying

ICO still set a session Cookie without permission, which I thought was against their rules. http://http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Slack bank practice creates opportunity for phone phishing scams

Richard Fletcher

Data Protection

I worked for a bank, and it was my job, in part, to ring customers to tell them that their equity release loans, or remortgages, had completed. Meaning they may have thousands of pounds in the bank, to buy an extension or a nice holiday, for example.

One thing I was told, was that I was not allowed to make it clear that there was even a relationship between the bank and the person I was talking to until I could confirm their identity, as this would fall foul of data protection laws.

I couldn't say "I'm calling from the HSBC Mortgage centre", which would have tipped them off, and I couldn't say "I have your postcode" or "Can you tell me details of a recent transaction".

HSBC do use the last question when they ring me as a customer. I don't think the Data Protection laws have changed, but perhaps this demonstrates some of the complexities involved.

iPhones secretly track 'scary amount' of your movements

Richard Fletcher

Not quite true

On my iphone 3g I extracted the raw data and found there were only data points collected once every 5 days or so. Which is rare enough for it to be caused by user interaction....

More here for those interested.


Nissan Leaf electric car

Richard Fletcher

Peak Disctict.

I can walk there in 2 hours, so it's not "too far away" for me. And I live in central sheffield, and with Manchester on the other side of the peaks, there's probably a couple of million for whom the range would do that.

Anyway, aren't we running out of Lithium yet?

Lady Gaga puts the squeeze on breast milk ice cream

Richard Fletcher
IT Angle

Wrong arguments.

@SImon Hobson - the problem with arguments that go "we've done this for thousands of years without destroying the race" is that the average life span of a human for the last thousand years or so is a lot lower than it is now.

@AC 10th March 2011 13:16 GMT - A single baby drinking it's mothers breast milk is not a good argument here either. A more appropriate comparison is having hundreds of babies drinking the milk from hundreds of mothers. I'm not sure we would think that is as safe.

The questions about the safety should be "how effective is pasteurisation?" for example, does it kill protein based illnesses, (CJD?) and does it matter if it doesn't? Also, is there testing made of cows milk that isn't done here that should be.

I'm ignoring the Lady Gaga stuff because I don't really care about Lady Gaga.

Ford CEO talks up the future of electric cars

Richard Fletcher


Quote "A wholly battery-powered Ford Focus will hit European showrooms early in 2010 and will be joined the following year by hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the C-Max mini MP"

Sure about that?

Government defends need for census

Richard Fletcher
Thumb Down

Random Sampling the way to go.

Did you know that you can get fairly accurate predictions about any given population by looking at a randomly sampled subset of that population? You would imagine the ONS would have that one sorted by now.

Interesting how the ONS guy on Radio4 chose the statistic that the Census costs 95pence per person per year. Which is an odd way of looking at something that's only done once every 10 years.

Seriously, other than a head count to correct any compounding errors, I can't see the use.

Ofcom: T-Mobile probe? Er, not really

Richard Fletcher

Different usage

Of course, the simplest way of allowing light users to pay less than heavy users is to have hard caps that cost different amounts. Something along the lins of this: Light user 100MB per month, for £2. Medium 500MB per month for £5. Heavy? 5GB for £10 per month. I mean, it's not hard is it?

Mozilla man accuses Jobs of 'bypass the web' scheme

Richard Fletcher

No shit sherlock

Of course that's what he wants to do. I said so in a comment right here on el reg months ago. I don't think he'll be successful as I think people will want to keep the web for more reasons than you can shake a stick at. Or whatever it is that you shake when your on the web..

Jobs' Lion to marry Mac OS X and iOS

Richard Fletcher
Thumb Up

App store

The best thing about an app store is what it brings in terms of updates, and if they have such things, dependency control. It will be like synaptic and apt rolled together, but prettier, and with the ability to charge.

Google Android chief smacks Steve Jobs with Linux speak

Richard Fletcher


With apple in charge, at least the trains run on time!

Flaming work laptop toasts cottage

Richard Fletcher


Now, why didn't her insurance pay up in full. Either she was insured, or she wasn't. What's the deal with only paying for some of the damage? Didn't the policy cover her enough?

Still an interesting case.

Apple TV: Third time unlucky, Mr Jobs

Richard Fletcher


Until we get a set top box with BBC approved iPlayer functionality it's going to be a hard sell in the UK. iPlayer is used by millions of brits, and netflix is nothing over here. Not sure how the iPhone, iPod, iPad maker will feel about advertising AppleTV with iPlayer though.

UK set for eBook pricing showdown

Richard Fletcher

Book prices

Measuring book prices is hard. If there is a crunch coming, then I would expect prices to be high now, so when the sale comes the retailers can say "20% off" and the like. RRP's mean nothing any more with books.

Still, it wont affect me, I've got a pile of reading that will take me years to get through. By the time I'm done with them, I expect we'll have something with the advantages of both ePaper and LCD screens.

And then, there's the library... I wonder what will happen to them in 10 years time...

Ballmer's 'lost generation' note finds resonance

Richard Fletcher


They lost me when I couldn't find a free programming language to learn on windows back in 96. I've been told that had I looked harder I would have found something, but I didn't. I had to install linux to learn to code.

With IT, where the geeks go, the rest follow. Eventually.

UK.gov sticks to IE 6 cos it's more 'cost effective', innit

Richard Fletcher

What about the new computers

So, when they buy a new computer, how do they get IE6 on it? I mean, I'm fairly sure I would have a hard time getting IE6 from a legitimate source. Perhaps there is a simple answer to this, but for how long?

Say Cameron sets up a new quango (can you say "Office of Budget Responsibility") and they want some computers, just where do they get IE6 from?

How can UK.gov spend £35m on a website?

Richard Fletcher

Here's why it's so expensive.

Why does a website cost £35m? Here's the answers

1) The website is possibly the main public face of the organisation. Therefore it's important.

2) Because it is important one needs to consult

3) Because it is a consultation there are many meetings, involving many high-level civil servants, costing tens of thousands of pounds in man hours

4) Because the initial planning alone cost tens of thousands of pounds there is absolutely no way the website can come to less. People paid as well as this can't be wasting there time with projects whose budget is smaller than the incidental costs.

5) The bigger the cost, the more planning, the more planning the more blame when things go wrong is diluted into a myriad of individuals. Big is safe.

And also

6) Because the people who want the website probably don't know what it should do or how, but they do know that they should know. As a result all the expensive planning is poor.

The outcome of this process is that people like me who have traded successfully in the private sector for years have no chance in the public sector which simply refuses to believe that a website can be built by a small team, or often, an individual.

Vauxhall Ampera extended range e-car

Richard Fletcher


When the revolution comes should I expect to see mains extensions coming out of all the windows on my terraced street leading to the cars for overnight charging?

Wouldn't that be a safety hazard? Should we expect charging stations to be built on every residential road.

I mean, if you have a drive, or a garage, then you're probably OK. But there are literally millions of car owners who don't have a drive or a garage.

LibCons bin £2bn of late Labour projects

Richard Fletcher

Sheffield hit hard

I live in Sheffield, and my first response was "We've been hit hard". But on the other hand, loans should be commercially available, and the retail quarter doesn't need building while no one has any money. It's not like we have no shops. There's plenty of choice...

I would argue though that we should do more than reduce the deficit, we should build a surplus. I don't know if it could be agreed politically, (i.e. party A saves and party B spends so party A always look like tight wads and party B look caring and generous).

But if we had a surplus we could be earning interest rather than paying it. And when the shit hits the fan it's much easier to cope with.

Apple debuts Safari 5 for Mac and Windows

Richard Fletcher
Jobs Horns


On the one hand Safari Reader makes the web a worse place to make money, and on the other the iPad provides an easier place to make money. That's some strategical thinking there.

Tories ask: Why BBC3, BBC4?

Richard Fletcher

Bad TV is good for you

Surely bad tv is good for you. i.e. the worse the tv, the less likely you are to watch it, the more likely you are to have meaningful interactions with those you love. Perhaps we should be pushing to get rid of BBC1&2 and radio1-4.

UK government rebuffs cries for free postcode database

Richard Fletcher

Daft decisions all round

So the council designates the land, the OS map the reality and royal mail provide a piddling 6 or 7 letter code and then use the OS data and sell it to us. How does this equate to "Royal Mail invests significantly in collating and maintaining the Postcode Address File"? Do they use golden keyboards to type in the addresses?

Surely OS are the ones actually sending people out, and street names and house numbers are supplied to the Royal Mail by the council, so they do the hard work, but even then, we own Royal Mail.

Any which way you look at it, it's public data. It should be on data.gov.uk.

Average Brit shags 2.8m people

Richard Fletcher

I don't see how you can get to an answer though

It seems to me that there is no way of knowing overlap. If person A slept with B and C, who both slept with D, Then from A's perspective D gets counted twice. So the estimate ends up high.

But then, D could have slept with E, who slept with F as well, and so on and so on. And on and on. And on. So the esitmate ends up low, because it doesn't come up with the complete population of adults who have ever slept with anyone.

Since the estimate is both too high and too low, it is wrong.

It even gets it wrong if you say you've had no sexual partners:

"You have had 0 indirect and direct sexual partners.

Based on information entered into this calculator, people in your age group have had -944,723 indirect sexual partners"

Google Maps glitch tags shops with rival phone numbers

Richard Fletcher

Charities affected too

Sheffield Conservation Volunteers are coming up as wildsheffield.com instead of www.sheffieldconservation.org, so we aren't getting the new volunteers we depend upon to keep the charity going. Some must get confused by being sent to the wrong site. And since the wrong site is in the same kind of area, it's not so obvious that they are in the wrong place.

The Charity has been going 30 years, and we need this sorting in the next few months or we are going to start suffering.

In my view, if it's getting things wrong, it should be turned off.

UK.gov revives net cut-off threat for illegal downloaders

Richard Fletcher

Mandleson's not even elected

This hugely influential plonker has been thrown out of government twice and could never get elected again. And yet, he gets to make huge decisions about what kind of country we live in because the elected officials are too busy crying to their bank managers about their sudden loss of income.

If you wanted to come up with a system of government that made it easy to buy influence you wouldn't be far from what we have here.

Apple admits iPhone apps not suitable for business

Richard Fletcher

Apple get to decide?

I don't see how Apple get to choose. Either they are selling as UK sellers and have to register for VAT if turnover exceeds £60K or they are selling from abroad and app purchase counts as import, in which case the sales tax should be declared to the tax man on import (if outside EU).

Whether a purchase is a legitimate one for business use is decided by the tax man at the end of the day. Not apple.

Am I missing something?

UK.gov opens up delayed child protection database

Richard Fletcher
Thumb Down


There is a government site all about contact point here:


It contains "ContactPoint Security: Deloitte's independent review

This link contains documents about the scope, findings and Government response to the Deloitte review."

The link itself says "The contents of this page have been removed and the latest information is available from the ContactPoint page."

So we have a ciruclar reference, and no independent security report. Google cache to the rescue:

or for short


And what do these documents that seem to have been hidden from public view say?

Well the last paragraph of the executive summary says:

"While the ContactPoint team can design strong controls into the system and provide good advice to connecting organisations, there is a limit to their ability to enforce good practice or to monitor incidents and control breakdowns. We recommend that the DCSF participate in government-wide security initiatives to maintain and enhance roles, responsibilities and accountability for the security of systems such as ContactPoint that extend across multiple Departments and other organisations. These initiatives could help to define methods for effective sanctions for non-compliance or incidents."

Or to paraphrase: "We could loose bucketloads of data and never know".

Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over 'child porn' album cover

Richard Fletcher

Another ISP

I'm using Eclipse internet ( http://www.eclipse.net.uk/ ). They too are blocking the page so you can add them to the list of participating ISPs.

Brits decline to 'think outside the box'

Richard Fletcher

I heard this a lot when I worked at HSBC.

"Tasked" as opposed to "Asked" or "Told". As far as I am aware, "Task" is a noun, not a verb. Using Task as a verb is doubleungood.

Home Office preps fudgetastic ISP data rules

Richard Fletcher

What if I run my own email server

Do I count as an ISP if I have my own email server? What if I let other people use it? Who is responsible then? Please help.

Slashdot website down

Richard Fletcher

But does it run linux?

Mod 5+ (Funny)

Healthy? You're a burden on the state

Richard Fletcher

Re: Flawed Logic

An Anonymous Coward said "Dead people don't contribute anything in tax". I hereby direct said coward to contemplate inheritance tax, aka, the death tax.

Nokia plays strong Linux hand withTrolltech buy

Richard Fletcher

Just so as you know

This article implies Trolltech=linux guys. This is not strictly true.

Trolltech's QT is not a linux product only. It works cross-platform. While I have no argument that Nokia would be more likely to build a QT on linux (or QTopia) based OS for their phones they could conceivably still stick QT on top of Windows. Perhaps Nokia see their phones as needing to communicate more effectively across all platforms, due to the miserable failure that is Vista, and see that with QT they can write the application once and provide binaries for Linux, Windows and if I remember correctly Mac as well.

New web accessibility guidelines will be ignored, says critic

Richard Fletcher

Agree completely.

I spent a couple of days the other week going through WCAGv1 and WCAGv2 and was struck by the number of problems there are.

For one the standards choose not to use terms that are in common usage, they create their own terms, although not all are defined in the glossary. So you have to guess of course.

There is little reference to the tools that the disabled have available. For example, in practice how bad is it really to use a <table> tag for layout? Some would say very, but I've had some work reviewed by some blind people for a project for the UK Govt and I threw some tables in the design to see what they said. They said it was fine.

Similarly we are encouraged to use high-contrast colours, or provide an option, yet the browsers can do this, and they can resize the text.

Also, as far as I am aware no disabled people themselves have not had any input on the guidelines, which seems odd.

It seems to me that the web client should be responsible for making a website accessible and the website should only need to provide enough detail to make it possible for the client to achieve that. If this was so then alt tags would still be required, but tables would be fine, AJAX would be fine.