* Posts by Mike Timbers

67 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Mar 2008


Grab a towel and pour yourself a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42

Mike Timbers

Re: A code

I would argue that Monty Python and the works of Pterry have a similar code.

Review of IR35 is in: Quelle surprise, UK.gov will forge ahead with controversial tax reforms in the private sector

Mike Timbers

Re: Gramatical Error

There is an unspoken rule that any post correcting spelling or grammar must include at least one tpyo.

Researchers trick Tesla into massively breaking the speed limit by sticking a 2-inch piece of electrical tape on a sign

Mike Timbers

Re: Sigh.

these sorts of roads are also responsible for (badly-designed) satnavs taking you along such a road instead of a cosy 40mph dual carriageway.

UK contractors planning 'mass exodus' ahead of IR35 tax clampdown – survey

Mike Timbers

Re: Expenses?

You however arguably have the least to worry about. You work on clear projects that can easily be converted from a day rate to a Statement of Work with fixed deliverables and a fee for completion. You write assumptions and conditions into the contract that allow you to adjust the vale of the contract if the client causes any delay to the project outside your control. You build into the SoW interim payment dates so that you're still getting money in the meantime. You also charge separately for expenses.

This is exactly what a "consultancy" would do. You could too.

The issue of course is that clients are wary of issuing contracts like this to small businesses. They'd rather just go to a "real consultancy" with all the additional costs therein.

You want a Y2K crash? FINE! Here's a poorly computer

Mike Timbers

What a waste of money

Well, no it wasn't, was it? I was the tech director of a software firm at the time and therefore had multiple clients using software "designed" by my employer. Because many of them dated back ten years or more, it pains me to admit they'd used short dates in many tables and so date calculations around payment dates, lease lengths, etc. would have failed to work correctly had the dev team done a huge amount of work to change the databases and code.

Come the new year and all was working well although a few former clients who were using the software past their licence expiry dates tried to make a fuss.

Y2K wasn't a disaster because a lot of money was spent ensuring it wouldn't be. Yet these days it's used as an example of unnecessary concern. "Look at what happened with Y2K! Nothing! It'll be just like that with <insert impending disaster of your choice>"

Former Autonomy boss Mike Lynch 'submits himself' for arrest in central London

Mike Timbers

Re: Trade deal - test for the UK government

Amazing! I referred to the exact same company and story of bricks on these very forums just a few days ago :) Small world!

Ah, night shift in the 1970s. Ciggies, hipflasks, ADVENT... and fault-prone disk drives the size of washing machines

Mike Timbers

Re: How to treat removable pack drives

CDC made decent kit when they actually bothered to make it. They were famously pushed into administration when an over-eager auditor checked that the vast stock of disk drives boxes actually contained drives only to discover they were full of bricks.

How does UK.gov fsck up IT projects? Let us count the ways

Mike Timbers

Re: CoD

Given the government has no idea how to write a statement of work let alone actually deciding up front what it actually wants, the SI will happily sign any contract knowing that it will then run rings around the government project manager, forcing Change Request after Change Request including early payments etc.

There's a good reason why these big SI like to work with public sector.

Judge slaps down Meg Whitman for accusing Autonomy boss of being a 'fraudster who committed fraud'

Mike Timbers

Wow, that certified software has really had to prove itself.

Good to know that while certification of software for HP's systems requires "a certain due diligence", in reality it's apparently a couple of hours of filling out a questionnaire.

"Unimpressed, Whitman replied: “With all due respect, this is a tiny issue,” continuing: “When you sell a customer a product, there needs to be a certain certification around that product, a certain due diligence, and this was one of the requirements of a big company. I think this took, maybe, a few hours to fill out this questionnaire. This is a minuscule issue… OK, you get someone to fill out the questionnaire, it takes two hours and you’re good to go.”"

There's a scarily good 'deepfakes' YouTube channel that's quietly growing – and it's freaking everyone out

Mike Timbers

Re: The sky is not falling

On the contrary. Everyone who was already inclined to believe <insert apparent fact> will believe it. All those who were not inclined, won't.

We live in a world of "alternate facts" where societies are so divided that provenance is assumed so long as it reinforces the watcher's world view. Any that contradict their worldview will be written off as deep fakes.

"Proof" will no longer exist or matter.

Mike Timbers

Re: Now that's not SciFi...

But how do you know who a person is? Because you research on the web? 1984's Ministry of Truth proves that if you can amend the supposedly trusted data (including the wayback machine), then you will only ever know who they want you to think the person "is".

Let's check in with our friends in England and, oh good, bloke fined after hiding face from police mug-recog cam

Mike Timbers

Re: Is there a law for that?

I knew a guy who was approached by a policeman because his T-shirt showed the 7-up character with a message "Spliff up or fuck off". The policeman told him to cover it up. He replied "Oh you can read!" and was promptly arrested for being an arse.

Oracle? On my server? I must have been hacked! *Penny drops* Oh sh-

Mike Timbers

Re: 128K of ISDN


Early experiment in mass email ends with mad dash across office to unplug mail gateway

Mike Timbers

Re: Reminds me of ...

An online grocery customer complained at not receiving their order confirmation email; investigations showed that the receiving school email system was rejecting the mail for "profanity". Much scratching of heads finally twigged that the customer had ordered "two chicken breasts".

Indictment bombshell: 'Kremlin intel agents' hacked, leaked Hillary's emails same day Trump asked Russia for help

Mike Timbers

Re: Society Seems To Be Fragmeting or Declining in Standards

"I agree - for Brexit here in the UK, the £350million per week not going to the EU, everyone knew it was metaphorical."

Really? Everyone knew?

I think there were huge numbers of people who believed WHAT WAS WRITTEN ON THE FECKING BUS!

I meet large numbers of people who believe only the politicians on "the other side" lie, that everything in their preferred paper is gospel, that life is unfair to them but not to those other bastards who get everything on a plate.

Anyone who thinks the masses are anything other than misinformed bigots is either a misinformed bigot or smoking better drugs than me.

'No, we are not rewriting Office in JavaScript' and other Microsoft tales

Mike Timbers

Many years ago (some time in the 90s) WordPerfect produced an alpha version of their suite written in Java. It was componentised so that you got Java functions as you used them downloaded from a server which was Internet connected and auto-updated by WordPerfect as they bug-fixed the alpha software. It was designed for use over a network (remember "The Network Is The Computer"?), to avoid having to download a monolithic .exe file as per Office95 apps at the time.

It actually worked - not brilliantly but then it was only an alpha and would certainly have improved as it moved into beta and release.

Then M$ announced it was going to do the same thing.

So WordPerfect killed the project.

A year later, M$ quietly announced they weren't going to do it after all.

I fscking hate M$. And particularly Office.

In defence of online ads: The 'net ain't free and you ain't paying

Mike Timbers

Re: In Defence if online ads???

You forgot the obligatory ten-minute section at the end about how amazing the program makers are and the clever ways they made the program.

Modern life is rubbish – so why not take a trip down memory lane with Windows File Manager?

Mike Timbers

Re: Bring back DOSEDIT

Do you mean Bash and fi?

Sysadmin held a rack of servers off the ground for 15 mins, crashed ISP when he put them down

Mike Timbers

had an intermittent problem with a client's coax ethernet network that was eventually traced to one of the segments had a terminator that was for Arcnet* so was 75ohm instead of 50ohm.

*anyone else remember that?

Here is how Google handles Right To Be Forgotten requests

Mike Timbers

Why does RTBF for a search engine even exist?

What I don't understand is why this even is something Google has to do. Google doesn't create the web pages that list the factual misdemeanours. If the RTBF requestor has a problem with the pages, shouldn't the requestor take it up with the web pages? Once the page is down, Google no longer finds it and the results disappear from the index (although not the Wayback machine).

If the "offending" web page is factually correct and still there, why should Google cease to provide it as a result?

Or does the RTBF also apply to physical court records etc.?

Most IT contractors want employment benefits if clobbered with IR35

Mike Timbers

Re: Man...

There are plenty of contracts that are via an agency that pays you on time irrespective of whether they have been paid by the client. Get a contract like that, do it for a while, taking the minimum you need out, and you can quickly build up a buffer.

Adrift on a sea of data: Architecting for GDPR

Mike Timbers

Re: Encrypt your SAN?

In the days of Novell, I once had a client call me first thing to say his PC was saying "Server not found". "So I went to check on it, and I couldn't find it either", he said.

Microsoft offloads networking to FPGA-powered NICs

Mike Timbers

Microsoft re-inventing that round disc thing again!

Worked on this with Excelan cards in the mid-late 80s which had an onboard 80186.

Amazon: Intel Meltdown patch will slow down your AWS EC2 server

Mike Timbers

Re: where do database queries sit in the %CPU loss continuum?

So more money for Larry then?

Hey, you know why it's called the iPhone X? When you see Apple's repair bill, your response will be X-rated

Mike Timbers

Re: The obvious thing to do then...

3 active with each one capable of handling the entire load, then when one is down for maintenance a failure still leaves one working.

I worked in a refinery once where there were three pumps for the main cat cracker. When I asked for the rationale (as a naive IT bod) I was told that if all three went off in an uncontrolled manner, the resulting explosion would destroy my server room even though it was 3 km away!

The developers vs enterprise architects showdown: You shall know us by our trail of diagrams

Mike Timbers

DevOps should not be an excuse to be cowboys. Agile has the concept of the architectural runway where the architecture is rolled out just in time for the solution to work. I have always found it ironic that something "just in time" would try to use an analogy where there is so much health and safety that "just in time" is years in advance!

Anyways, this promises to be an interesting discussion given the readership of El Reg.

The problem I have with allowing Devs to decide all aspects of how something should be done is that they ignore the cost of technical debt. Six months in, when performance in the real world is poor, and the architects are finally allowed to look at the crap that was released, the Devs just claim ignorance and say that it passed the sprint demo.

The Devs then get all the credit for delivering the widget on time, and "legacy IT" gets all the blame for the last-minute costs of making it secure, performant and operationally reliable.

You can't DevOps everything, kids. Off the shelf kit especially

Mike Timbers

Re: Agile doesn't cut it.

>>Total BS, try using agile on a very large fixed price, fixed function, fixed delivery date project and you are toast.

No, sorry but that's simply wrong. Large projects can be delivered with an agile method. Done it on multiple ecommerce projects (£10m big enough for you?) where launch dates are fixed because TV advertising's been bought, budgets are fixed because I was an SI and functionality was written up in epics and wireframes. Fortnightly sprints, automated builds and testing, CI/CD. All the things you say can't work at scale. They can and they do.

Soldiers bust massive click-farm that used 500k SIM cards, 100s of mobes to big up web tat

Mike Timbers

Ok, weird scary personal link here! I own two houses in that very village! It's not even a backwater. Many of the houses are still made of corrugated iron. And this was going on there?

Agile consultant behind UK's disastrous Common Platform Programme steps down

Mike Timbers

Re: Agile doesn't work

@edlakka, sorry but it's not agile that's at fault in your situation.

your agile teams didn't work with you at the beginning to agree the server build.


your agile teams could have developed their software, their table layouts etc. then worked with your teams to implement the service once the solution was functionally complete


your agile teams could have built their software to not have dependencies on your builds


your agile teams could have deployed onto cloud platforms and supported them themselves

Agile isn't at fault here because agile doesn't specify any method beyond iteration and constant checking with the stakeholder as the iterations progress.

You're describing a failure of process agreement, maturity and delivery.

Mike Timbers

Re: Agile doesn't work

That first delivery *is* useful because although it can't be used it can be tested and accepted. A sprint - especially at the beginning - doesn't have to be shippable, it just has to be testable. It may take multiple sprints to get to the minimum viable product but each sprint along the way should deliver incremental benefits - an interface, a database table, a screen layout with accepted UX.

And as for the DBA, just buy him a pint and he'll shut up!

Mike Timbers

Re: Agile doesn't work

Agile does work and saying it doesn't is ignoring vast numbers of successful agile projects. It's like saying that waterfall doesn't work because of all the failed waterfall projects (and let's be honest, there are some fantastic examples of government waterfall project disasters).

This scheme seems like it was doomed no matter how it was delivered because the whole point of agile is that it delivers iteratively and continuously. If there isn't a step forward for more than a couple of sprints, a good agile project would be asking why and doing something about it. It sounds like this project simply didn't follow any governance. That's not a methodology failure; it's a governance failure.

Data trashed? When RPO 0 isn't enough

Mike Timbers

Much of what's being discussed here is for dealing with physical failure but it's good to see virtual failure scenarios also being discussed. I once was involved with an Oracle database that got a logical block corruption. Not only would it not re-start, we couldn't do a restore because we'd done bit-level backups so they contained the same logically-corrupted block. The block had been written four days earlier so to go back before that point would have meant losing four days worth of data.

It's not therefore a question of instantaneous data replication across n+1 sites at zero latency. True RPO-0 means being able to write the same raw data to two totally different storage (software AND hardware) solutions across multiple locations. No-one is going to pay for that.

Who really gives a toss if it's agile or not?

Mike Timbers

Re: 25% Agile:

So he says "working software" and you assume it's undocumented and thrown over a fence? You must have some scars (don't we all?).

Agile doesn't mean no documentation. Agile doesn't mean no implementation planning/testing.

I've never seen such antipathy on these forums for something that - just because it's often done badly - is proven to work. And work well.

No, we don't start without some scope. We get a vision. We work on what that might look like from a solution perspective. Some basic NFR. From those we write some epics. We organise those into sprints and start to break them up into user stories. Hopefully we have enough of a business case to get some idea of budget. We fit the solution to the budget and set some expectations of when an MVP will be ready and how much of the scope will be covered by it. The MVP has *appropriate* levels of documentation/training/infrastructure/etc. but since this MVP might just crash and burn we haven't spent a fortune on an end-state architecture.

If the MVP is successful, we start on the backlog and look at what might be necessary to meet the new NFR.

I really don't understand why so many of the comments on here are so negative.

Apple stuns world with Donald Trump iPhone

Mike Timbers

IOS 9.3 delivers lots of benefits IF you have a 5S or better otherwise you get pretty much nothing at all. No Nightshift, no secure Notes, nothing.

Office website hacked: Passwords, addresses, phone numbers slurped

Mike Timbers

Re: Hospital

As opposed to Office who appear to give records away for free

(I'll get my coat)

Apple patents Wi-Fi access point location lookup

Mike Timbers

Re: Other patent trolls are available

In which case they wouldn't be patent trolls! Apple get reported because this is neither interesting nor innovative and therefore not worthy of a patent.

There are existing apps available for internal wayfaring in shopping malls (see Westfield) which work on Android phones and can tell where you are vertically and horizontally done through monitoring signal strenth to the wi-fi. It was (I don't know if it still is) impossible to do this on Apple devices as Apple wouldn't allow developers to access the signal strength.

Ironic therefore that Apple should now try to patent something that has been possible on Android for at least three years

WHEEE... CRUNCH! iPad Mini tops list of most breakable slabs, mobes

Mike Timbers

Re: Read all about it

In other new's

Apos'trophe's s'till abu's'ed, demand equality with comma's.

Altcoins will DESTROY the IT industry and spawn an infosec NIGHTMARE

Mike Timbers

Re: This one will run and run....

I always think of them when I see adverts for ING Direct. I just wish ING would put the missing word back into their company name. It would be a great name actually. Look at us! We're -ing Direct!

FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS: Microsoft faces prising XP from Big Biz

Mike Timbers

Re: Upgrade, don't upgrade, meh

I have a fully functional XP build running on a motherboard with a UEFI layer. Not aware of there being any problem with compatibility.

(Oh and Trevor Potts, your rants have been wonderful. Great stuff!)

Thai kids find free tablets hard to swallow as govt scheme hits trouble

Mike Timbers

Re: some background from someone who lives there and followed this from the day it was announced

Yes, it's technically correct. Yes, there was corruption, of course, This Is Thailand!

But come on! This has happened before under every Thai government for decades. So, for once, the government is rewarding the poor (as well of course themselves, that is a given) instead of just rewarding Bangkok.

And let's not pretend that TS is ruling secretively. It was on their election posters! And please point me to the alternative honest politicians who have only the country's best interests at heart that you would propose take over. Please remember Thailand is nominally a democracy so your proposed alternatives will need to be believable to the Thai electorate who rather like the "family of leeches".

Ellison aims his first Oracle 'mainframe' at Big Blue

Mike Timbers

Re: Fastest?

Then you need to negotiate harder with Oracle. Their position on hardware cores and VM's that are not based on Oracle VM is untenable when challenged. And in my experience they will back down every time to avoid providing ammunition to the likes of VMWare who will call restraint of trade if they could only get the evidence.

I moved large amounts of databases to bigger hardware using VMs and paid Oracle no extra money.

Want your social media to swing? First, get the staff onboard

Mike Timbers

Social enterprise is not Facebook/Twitter

The Social Enterprise is not about using a Facebook site or Twitter for communicating internally. This is about using products like Yammer or Chatter to have a private internal social networking capability to allow an easy "stream of consciousness" update on what people are working on, what they have seen elsewhere that's relevant to work, what they need to know but don't know where or who to ask. It solves one of the problems that most companies have of carp intranet sites that are still Web 1.0 with no investment or interaction. Social Enterprises relocate communication from email (which is or should be to a closed group and therefore non-inclusive) to a noticeboard-type approach where anyone can ask a question or publish something interesting to anyone who wants to answer it or know about it.

It's not about publishing the pictures of who you did last night! And it's not spying.

Virgin Media nukes downloads after SuperHub 'upgrade'

Mike Timbers

Re: I kid you not

The vast unwashed majority of the minority who have been getting problems will just write them off as "Innernet stuff".

Of the minority who bother to check the forums, the majority will see something is being done and do nothing believing it will eventually get fixed and hence, stop worrying about it.

Of the minority of the minority who want to do something about it, a further minority not scared by technology will install Wireshark.

What's the problem with that?

Look back in Ascii: Computing in the 1980s

Mike Timbers

Olivetti M21

Anyone remember these?


Basically an M24 with a tiny CRT built in with the keyboard forming the front of the case when being transported. 15KG "laptop"!

g=c800:5 anyone?

So, what IS the worst film ever made?

Mike Timbers

Grease 2

Not even Michelle Pfeiffer could save it. Does it save the film that at one point (Michelle singing to her presumed dead ero who is visualised all in white standing atop a pile of (white) smashed-up motorbikes surrounded by (white) clouds) I fell out of my chair laughing?

No, I don't think so.

Online Christmas orders from retailers go titsup

Mike Timbers

A bit late to expect a delviery then, to be blunt!

Expecting to get a near-Christmas delivery slot with five days notice shows an unrealistic expectation in my opinion. Christmas slots open on the 1st December and are usually gone by the end of that day. Regular shoppers are aware of this and ensure their order is placed by lunchtime on the 1st.

As for the rest, re-opening an order and failing to re-checkout releases the slot to be grabbed by some other lucky punter.

The supermarkets online operations are all over-subscribed at Christmas. This is not a failure in the IT but in the fulfilment that simply cannot flex vans for one or two days in the way IT can flex some servers.

Separately, mixing the two stories into a single one is disingenuous. The comments about Fortnums might lead on to believe that Sainsburys suffered from load issues which it did not. This year's Christmas rush was nothing on last year's that coincided with the snow.

Do we really want 100Gig Ethernet?

Mike Timbers

That happened to me too!

Yes, I remember early Ethernet, when TCP/IP was an add-on to Xenix and Excelan cards cost £800. Arcnet was great but yes, the terminators being different was a royal PITA.

IPX was easy until I got a batch of cheap NICs where two had the same MAC address.

And Thick-net was fine once drop-cables became cheap enough that my boss didn't force me to make them by hand with soldering iron in hand!

Bloke ordered to remove offensive numberplate

Mike Timbers



You owe me a new laptop. My lunch is now all over it!

FWIW, the DVLA clearly knew what it said when they sold the plate for £399 but they are entitled to change their minds I suppose. Words do change their meanings over time. It's now OK to sell clothes labelled FCUK but consider how rude it is to call someone a lawyer or worse, a banker!

HP dubs Oracle 'bitter antagonist' in Itanic spat

Mike Timbers

HP did it to their customers with neoview

HP conveniently forget how they left customers high and dry when they dropped Neoview.

It's the oldest working Seagate drive in the UK

Mike Timbers




God I feel old!