* Posts by johnB

123 publicly visible posts • joined 7 Dec 2007


Capita scores £239M contract to manage mega public sector pension scheme



What possible purpose - other than making their bid for the work sound "sexy" - is there in using AI for pension payments, for deities sake?

Pensions are about as simple as it gets: "Pay X the sum of £Y until he / she / it dies".

It's worked for many years without AI.

And it's Crapita. What possibly could go wrong?

Down and out: Barclays Bank takes unplanned digital detox, customers not invited


They don't want to listen

In Newcastle, Barclays closed three city centre branches & opened a new branch in the middle of the main (Nothumberland Street) shopping street.

The Market St branch, now a restaurant, had a couple of sandstone plaques about 60 X 60 cm that must have been there for many years, engraved with "Barclays & Co, Bankers" & the like.

I suggested to them that they might fit in well if they were installed in the lobby of the new branch - would show continuity, etc, etc.

They referred my comments to their complaints section, who never made the promised response.

Aerial cable tangles are still being strung up, but carriers are slowly burying the problem


Trolley Buses

Seeing the overhead cables reminded me of when, many years ago, Newcastle upon Tyne scrapped their trolley bus fleet for diesels.

The downside was smelly diesel.

The upside was that there was noticeably more light at ground level.

MIT boffins build battery alternative out of cement, carbon black, water


Usual misleading PR

It's not the amount (at least here in the UK) of energy a house uses in a day, it's the amount of electricity it uses. The quote ignores space heating, which is more than that by a factor of about 4.

It's bad enough when media types, bless their innumerate selves, get confused, but in a technical setting this simply shouldn't happen.

Fujitsu admits it fluffed the fix for Japan’s flaky ID card scheme



Haven’t I heard that name recently IRO a certain UK calamity (Yes, Post Office, I’m thinking of you).

This upstart is selling tickets for a SpaceX trip to the world's first private space station


Nothing to worry about

"Crypto currency billionaire"

NASA tweaks Voyager 2's power supply to avoid another sensor shutdown


Great Stuff

Just brilliant.

Hats off to the guys at NASA.

UK govt Matrix has unenviable task of consolidating several different ERP systems


Shared services - not an encouraging track record

Shared services have an appalling track record - does anyone remember the financial bloodbath in SW England ?

This seems to be a whole order (or two)

more complex.

I predict delays, cost overruns, only partial at best implementation.

It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system


It's not all bad

I've spent years ranting about non-metric measurements.

But I've got to admit the American usage of cups in certain recipes is by far easier than using spoons, weigh scales & measurers.

Some recipes are actually more dependent on ratios, not volumes / weights.

e.g. my morning porridge (for two) is one cup of porridge (oatmeal) & two cups of semi-skimmed milk. No scales, etc & washing up simpler.

Otherwise, yup, systems other than metric are simply bonkers. (And far too error-prone).

China outlines plan for National Integrated Government Affairs Big Data System


What could possibly go wrong?

Enormous government project / combine different databases devised for different purposes / very ambitious time scale / unclear objectives.

The Chinese are learning from the West - on how not to do things!

Binance robbed of $600 million in crypto-tokens


Cryptocurrency...Cayman Islands...blockchain......What could possibly go wrong ?

DoJ charges pair over China-linked attempt to build semi-autonomous crypto haven on nuked Pacific atoll



Best for a some time. In the best El Reg tradition.

WhatsApp boss says no to AI filters policing encrypted chat



Why is it "EE2E"?

Surely "End to End Encryption" should be "E2EE"?

My Big Coin founder is – you guessed it – a $6m crypto-fraudster


Crypto currency - Eh?

Every time I read about crypto currency I get more baffled.

Why would I (or anyone else) want to part with real money for an IOU, whether paper or "digital", from someone I don't know, can't find, and have no means of trusting? All I can do with the crypto is swap it for other crypto or hope it's still got some value when I want to change it back to usable currency.

The only use I can see is for nefarious purposes - and even then I'm not so sure. I'd hazard a guess that all the cryptos are under quite close inspection by law enforcement authorities & tax agencies. Surely as soon a swap of real money is made some red flags are set? Especially if our friend blockchain is involved.

Being declared dead is automated, so why is resurrection such a nightmare?


In the UK we have the DVLA

Which makes any Frog bureaucracy look easy-peasy to deal with.

Just try to SORN / tax a car after death & before probate.

Vital UK customs system outage contributes to travel chaos at its borders


Re: @Spaceman9Blue Passports

Nope - my new passport is black

IBM looked to reinvigorate its 'dated maternal workforce'


Compare with Accenture?

Accenture - not an outfit I'd choose for any comparative purposes.

(I've worked with them).

Canon: Chip supplies are so bad that our ink cartridges will look as though they're fakes


It's' MY printer

If I want to put in cheap cartridges that don't give as good output as the mfr's, well that's my business.

But in fact I put in cheap cartridges that give better output than Epson's at about 10% of the cost.

Sun sets on superjumbo: Last Airbus A380 rolls off the production line


Floats into the sky

Great plane for passengers - it just seems to float into the sky from takeoff. Amazing given it’s huge bulk. I seem to recall the wingtips rise by something like 2 (or is it 4 ?) metres by the time it takes off.

I look forwards to reflying it once this pandemic is past. (Emirates to Dubai means I don’t have to use Heathrow - a holiday bonus in itself).

Facebook locks out 1,500 fake accounts used by cyber-spy firms to snoop on people, alerts 50k potential targets



Just. Say. No.

Fired credit union employee admits: I wiped 21GB of files from company's shared drive in retaliation


Swiss cheese

Seems to me to be a typical swiss cheese error:

* IT didn't delete her access at the right time - unclear why

* Aggrieved (ex-)employee

* Ex-employee decides to abuse IT's error / oversight

What's interesting to me is why she was able to delete stuff. As has been said, the data IS effectively the credit union & should be more or less impossible to delete, if for no other reason than compliance with corporate reporting, taxes, etc. Surely deleting critical data shouldn't be an option for someone apparently fairly low down on the food chain?

Alternatively, $10K is peanuts to most companies, esp in the financial sector, so maybe it was deemed an acceptable risk of doing business?

Android banking malware sharply increased in the first chunk of 2021, reckons ESET


How many Android devices are secure in any case?

As updates for Android only run for a couple pf years I'd guess most Androids are insecure by virtue of running an out-of-date OS.

So running a banking app on Android seems a dubious practice at best. Even if the OS is currently up to date, it'll probably be no longer so by the time the device is disposed of.

Accenture dares to enter site of US Air Force mega ERP-project disaster


Have I worked on a system developed by Accenture? Yes.

Would I ever give them a penny of my money? No.

Rocket Lab deploys Photon, er, in-house built satellite on Flight 14


3.6 million pounds of thrust

I thought NASA were supposedly metric now?

Careful now, UK court ruling says email signature blocks can sign binding contracts


Power of Attorney

I sold a property as executor & the solicitor was content to sign on my behalf. However, she did know the family both professionally & personally, so maybe that made a difference.

In the case here, the email shown doesn't seem to carry any of the regular caveats, e.g. "E&OE", "this is an offer","final terms to be agreed",etc, etc, so possibly that influenced the judges thinking.

Whatever, I think this needs to be considered on appeal by a higher court so some clarity based on precedence can be established.

You know what the NHS really needs? Influencers, right guys? #blessed


£6,400,000 !

They were robbed.

This is one of the worst public IT sites I've ever come across.

Heathrow Airport drops £50m on CT scanners to help smooth passage through security checks


Lipstick on a pig

It's still Heathrow. It's a dump. I've vowed never to use it again.

UK libraries dumped 11% of computers since 2010-11... everybody has one anyway, right?


What support?

"While 98 per cent of Universal Credit claimants make their claim online there is support for people who need extra help. Staff are on hand to help people to claim and we can give support over the phone or through a home visit where needed." ®

Not up here in the NE of England it isn't. Every week we get new UC claimants without IT skills referred to us by the JobCentre. The dialog seems to be:

"Fill in this 28 screen UC application & we'll consider your claim";

"But I don't have a computer & have never used one";

"Go to the library, they'll sort you out. In the meantime until the claim is completed & approved there's a food bank you might want to visit".

UK Ministry of Justice: Surprise! We tested out biometric tech in prisons and 'visitors' with drugs up their bums ran away


Re: Wales

Make that 11 !

Facebook names former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg head of global affairs


Snout, meet trough...

Google can't innovate anymore, exiting programmer laments


My problem with Google

Is that I just can't rely on them to support their offerings.

For example, I used to find both My Tracks & Picasa simple, easy to use & useful. Google's dropped both. Finding suitable replacements has been a bit of a pain (and so far unsuccessful as far as Picasa's concerned).

They have the appearance of being a company long past it's innovative / growth stage & one now simply concentrating on protecting their market & profits. The story about their massive lobbying endeavours supports this. As is the way with most big US corporations, profits (i.e. bonuses) first, the long-term to be looked after by the next wonderkid brought in to save the sinking ship - Kodak anyone?

White House plan to nuke social security numbers is backed by Equifax's ex-top boss


NINO checksummed ?

Not to my knowledge.

Staff at NI HQ always denied to me when I worked there that there was any such checksum. Not surprising for a system devised in the 1940's, long before computers. The first two (alpha) characters can give some indication of age, but that's more or less it, as far as I'm aware.

(VAT numbers are, however).

Yahoo! says! hackers! stole! ONE! BEELLION! user! accounts!


Could be worse

Could have a Yahoo account & Talk Talk as your ISP.

Microsoft joins battery-saving browser bandwagon with Edge claims


It would take more than a marginal claimed increase in battery life to get me to use Edge.

A UK digital driving licence: What could possibly go wrong?


Trust DVLA?

When my step mother died, I had the choice of re-taxing the car or "SORN-ing" it. Neither of which I could do as I wasn't the owner.

After long calls with DVLA I was told to just forge a signature.

And then of course there's the scam where they make you pay an extra month's tax when you trade in your car.

DVLA - wouldn't trust them to get the time of day right.

'Legacy' Wordpress blog site of The Independent serving malware


Flash ? Security problem ?

Move along, nothing to see here...

Brazil reverting to paper votes amid budget crisis



Electronic may be easier to count, but for me doesn't meet the bill of being easily understandable, nor do I trust it.

Paper - a big pile of easily-examined votes for candidate "A" can be compared against the pile of votes for candidate "B", by any ordinary person.

Electronic needs intermediaries to examine the data & compile the results, with the non-expert being unlikely to be able to detect. And, given the pass of a few years, both the hardware & software are likely to be obsolete (think punched cards), effectively meaning analysis by later generations is difficult if not impossible.

Engaged to be worried – Verify borks married tax allowance applications


HMRC Telephone

I can only hope the poor sods that have to use the telephone won't have to wait the 50 mins it took HMRC to answer my call last week.

Adobe lifts sheet on Dropbox-style doc sharing cloud


Why would anyone

After vowing never to let anything from Adobe onto any machine I was going to use ever again I switched from Adobe to Foxit some years ago. Life just got better.

Then my local public library forced me to use an Adobe product to read their on-line offerings. They haven't got any better.

No way I'd voluntarily sign up for anything from this outfit.

The voters hate Google. Heeeeyyyy... how about a 'Google Tax'?


Who benefits?

One point which tends to get overlooked in these discussions is just what is the overall effect of a Corporation Tax (at least as it works in the UK).

If megacorp makes a profit of (say) £/$/€1M, then it pays tax on those profits (not it's turnover, as some politicians would seek to imply. We use VAT to tax turnover.) at whatever rate it's home country charges.

If Corporation Tax didn't exist, then the same profits would still be taxed, only as dividend income in the hands of shareholders

So the net effect of a Corporation Tax is to bring more tax into the coffers of the "home" country, at the expense of shareholders - both domestic & foreign - who have less profits distributed to them. Nothing to do with "fairness", just a pre-emptive tax grab by the local government.

Orion: To Mars, the Moon and beyond... but first, a test flight through Van Allen belt


Re: Why a heat shield?

Thanks folks - all a bit clearer now.


Why a heat shield?

As one who watched Neil Armstrong make his "one small step...", what I've never figured out or had explained to me is just why we need the heat shield at all. Surely the craft could just spend longer gliding to earth?

Any commentards able to indicate just why or where I can find the answer appreciated.

USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked


Hidden partitions

I used a thumb drive for years and then when I plugged it into a Linux box I found a hidden partition with executables (and couldn't access the Windows partition).

So even after formatting a new drive, I reckon it's not possible to be secure knowing a drive is "clean". And this was from a known brand name, supplying UK gov't.

All a bit scary.

UK.gov set to burn £500m on one-dole-to-rule-em-all IT, claims PAC chair


Mission creep - big government

The middle / senior realms of the civil service are not where I'd look to find people with the skills to oversee such a project (I speak as one who was given a performance bonus for being the only member of the team able to apply a filter to an Excel spreadsheet).

In my experience of a (different) large civil service project, the aims & objectives were under constant review / adjustment, and consultants were able to utilise this lack of precision to pad the project out, giving every input from senior management an answer in the form of "yes, we can do that". Without, of course spelling out the costs & delays inherent. Needless to say, the deadline dates were wildly overshot.

Systems guru John Seddon of the Vanguard Method predicted this likely outcome when the project got underway in 2010, and, sadly but apparently inevitably, he seems to have been proven correct. (In brief, Seddon suggested the system be decentralised to local government and added to the Housing Benefit scheme they run, as they already held all the relevant data. It would have been up & running within a year, but not under the direct control of Whitehall).

Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET



Maybe the sheer unpleasantness of iTunes on the PC might be a contributory factor ?

Are there sounds on Mars? NASA launches audio athenaeum


Re: grrr...

A truly horrible website

Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012


Don't lump them all in the same basket

One point that tends to get overlooked is that AFAIK Starbucks and other outfits are predominately franchise operations.

So mostly they are local businesses who can't escape paying the panoply of PAYE, NIC, VAT, Business rates, and Corporation Tax. They also pay royalties to the multinational for the use of the name and to receive marketing support, and it's those royalties we're talking about when we excoriate the megacorp for not paying taxes here. The local guy is just a businessman trying to earn a crust, so don't boycott him / her (and no, I've no connection to any franchise operators).

Smart meters in UK homes will only save folks a lousy £26 a year



Don't want one, don't need one, won't use one.

World's only flyable WWII Lancaster bombers meet in Lincs


Not only on planes

According to my Dad, he served in WW2 on a Motor Torpedo Boat which was Merlin-powered.

So the Merlin was more than "just" an aeroplane engine.

HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs


Re: Jobs?

A few years ago I was involved in analysing employment figures & concluded that the average company in the UK has about 12 employees. (The actual average was 15, but that included leavers, so 12 seemed about right).