* Posts by Ossi

208 publicly visible posts • joined 23 Jan 2010


Customer comment and contributions no more as Microsoft pulls the plug on Office 365 UserVoice forum


Buzzword Bingo Time!

OK everyone, get your buzzword bingo cards out. Here's Microsoft's explanation of why Cortana on Harmon Cardon Evoke speakers has come to a crashing halt.

"As we shift Cortana to a more productivity focused transformational AI-powered assistant experience in Microsoft 365, we need to shift our areas of innovation and development to provide our customers the best possible experiences."

At this point, not only have they taken away the smarts in your smart speaker, but they've also taken away the will to go on.

As UK Parliament heads back to in-person voting, select committees are told they can continue working via Zoom


Explain New Zealand.

‘Very fine people’ rename New York as ‘Jewtropolis’ on Snapchat, Zillow


Re: Hate speech

It really is OK to be antisemitic these days isn't it? Equating this with "calling everything with the slightest Jewish reference anti-Semitic" is ridiculous. This wasn't being used in the same sense as 'Jewish holiday' or 'Jewish food'. You say the hate isn't proven - well does it have to be? This is a particularly high test isn't it? How are you supposed to prove that? Think about what you're saying. The balance of probability here is that this wasn't intended to be a friendly or neutral gesture.

I'm appalled that this easy dismissal of casual racism as being 'a bit tasteless' was so upvoted, and I would downvote it a thousand times if I could.

Alphabay shutdown: Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do? Not use your Hotmail...


Given the choice between conspiracy and cock up, cock up is always the most likely explanation. This was just some dumb idiot who got caught.

Putin's Russia outlaws ECHR judgments after mass surveillance case


Re: If Russia's surveillance is incompatible,

Erm, you don't need to know the specifics of a case - you could just challenge the law itself at the ECHR as, in fact, happened in this case in Russia.


"Because no other government ignores international courts when it feels like, naturally..."

So it's OK for Russia to do it? What's your point?

Smartwatches: I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But I told you so.


Pebble Get It

The problem with most smartwatches is that they're not actually very good at being watches, which is still their main function. I'm a fan of Pebble for that reason. It functions perfectly as a watch, but gives you more options and flexibility for only the minor inconvenience of a (short) weekly charge. It's not even expensive.

It comes down to this - if it's good as a watch (and as cheap as one), it doesn't need much justification for the minor inconvenience of an *occasional* charge. This seems common sense. Seems to elude Google and Apple though.

UK lawmakers warn Blighty to invest more in science, or else


Re: And dont forget

Maths test for MPs consisting of a single question:


Just over 3/4 of Labour MPs and just under 1/2 of Tory MPs got a simple probability question wrong.

They'd be lambasted if their literacy was at the same level as their numeracy. But in the UK innumeracy is, it seems, acceptable - even in a job where it would seem to be, at the very least, something of an asset.

Malware 'clearly' behind Ukraine power outage, SANS utility expert says


Re: If you do not want to fight with missiles...

In the words of Ben Goldacre, I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that. You talk about the sides as if they're monoliths ("Ukraine" used dynamite). Both the Russian hackers and the Crimean activists might have been acting under government orders, but equally might have been acting independently or under the direction of one arm of the state without the knowledge of the rest of the government. If you don't know which it is, best to just leave it at 'I don't know'.

Sweeping statements are used by one side to blame the other side and justify their actions. But if you actually hope to understand what's going on, best to be more nuanced.

Google ponders purified Pakistani YouTube


The British 'blasphemy' laws were much as they were in Britain at the time, although in the UK they'd arisen from Common Law rather than legislation. It was an attempt to reduce inter-communal strife and were really hate-speech laws with some sensible measures about disturbing religious assemblies, trespassing on burial grounds etc. tacked on. Indeed, a 'blasphemy' law as such wouldn't have made much sense in the Raj since Hinduism has no such concept (although a 1927 amendment to include insulting the founder of a religion was an illiberal move made under Muslim pressure). We have hate speech laws in the UK now, just to remind you.

In the 80s the laws were 'Islamised', hugely expanded, and the maximum penalty increased from 10 years to death. The blasphemy laws are a legacy of the 80s dictatorship of Zia Al-Haq, not the British.


ProtonMail pays ransom to end web tsunami – still gets washed offline


Re: GCHQ, j'accuse!

The UK government is criticised on a constant basis, including by this website, but The Guardian still seems to be up after every critical article, and so do all the others.

We don't know who carried out the second attack or why. That doesn't mean you should just make things up. That's not really a good way to understand the world. There are endless possibilities, and we have evidence for precisely none of them.

Hackers hit NATO, White House – then aimed at MH17 air disaster probe


Re: Eh. what?

A nice summary. This bit's interesting:

"Then again, the pro-side defends this by saying the evidence was rigged, and the objects in the picture were planted by the Dutch investigators."

I suggest thinking people apply Occam's Razor. If you find yourself adding in implausible assumptions with no evidence to make your story add up, then consider whether you've simply started from the conclusion and worked backwards. That's really not a good way to find the truth.

What's the more plausible explanation?

Which side would be wanting to fire at aircraft? The rebels. Why would the Ukrainians since the rebels don't have aircraft?

Is cock up or conspiracy more likely? Cock up every time.

By far the most plausible explanation is that the rebels screwed up and shot down an aircraft they didn't intend to shoot down with a Russian-supplied system. Of course, their only possible course of action after doing so was deny, deny, deny.


Re: That's not nice, but...

Erm, no. Russia, in fact denies that is was a 9M314M1 warhead (not '9M38M1 as you state - that's the missile type, and that's not the source of the dispute) that was used:


You know, starting from your conclusion and working backwards - the favoured method of all conspiracy theorists - is not a good way to find the truth.

R&D money for science – from your taxes?


"Nope. Economics is a subset of sociology."

Yep. Quite right. In exactly the same way that sculpture is a subset of music.

GCHQ to pore over blueprints of Chinese built Brit nuke plants


Re: cold war crap

Well, he might have been speaking a bit hastily by saying 'hostile to the west', but it doesn't make it an unreasonable point. Think about where China has points of conflict: Taiwan, the South China Sea, Japan. In each case, the other side is a US ally. China knows full well that in any conflict that pulled in the US, or even just a US ally, the UK and the West in general is highly unlikely to take the Chinese side. Do you think France, for example, is an equivalent position?

"The US probably would make war on Airstrip One if Airstrip One ever tried to get rid of all those US military bases and assert its independence from the US."

Yes, I'm sure you're right. I'm just struggling to think of any examples to support this rather strong conclusion, at least since the end of the Cold War. Could you help my memory a little?

It's the white heat of the tech revolution, again!


Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

I think no one would argue that there aren't poorly run private businesses, and BT would be exhibit A, but at least now you can simply leave BT. Arguably, though, the way that BT was privatised as a regulated vertically integrated monopoly was the wrong approach, but somehow it still manages to hang on to Openreach. Is that a failure of private industry, or a failure of government?


Re: Socialists think they do know

Not quite the same thing, is it? This is research funding, not industrial policy.

Chill, luvvies. The ‘unsustainable’ BBC Telly Tax stays – for now


Actually, it's perfectly legal to watch iPlayer without a licence, as long as you're not watching the current broadcast. iPlayer never asks if you have a Licence.


Re: there is no means-tested element whatsoever


Surely you mean 'I think the BBC's a great thing. I get a decent salary and I watch it a lot. It's only fair that I chip in a bit more.'?

Some things for you to think about while you're telling the poor that they can't have a TV:

The cheapest TV in Argos is £90. A single year of Licence Fee is £145.50

Wonga offers loans as low as £50. The default loan on its website tool is £111.

You can't drive a car without using the road. You can watch TV without watching the BBC.

...or perhaps I'm just missing the joke.


Re: Am I the only person...

It's terrible value if you don't use it.

Instead of public sector non-jobbery, Martha, how about creating real entrepreneurs?


Re: The reason is fairly simple

@Boris the Cockroach

I challenge you to find a single example that's actually followed that route - especially the 'moving the factory to China' and 'suing' bits.

If the company was ever to be a success the wine glass would have been made in China in the first place. You're going to sell your business for a lot more if it has solid patents and non-compete clauses to protect it from competition. It's in your interests not to go and set up a competitor (or, more to the point, not be able to do that) the minute you leave.

The "problem" (if there is one) is one that you do mention - investors want to cash out, not build something permanent. Sometimes the founders want to bale out as. All of this is neatly illustrated by one Lastminute.com.

But is this really a problem? That happens everywhere. All the big American internet businesses are constantly acquiring start ups, so someone must be selling them. The UK tech sector is doing fine. There are few to no equivalents to Google and Facebook anywhere else in the world without a Great Firewall. I sense collective 'wisdom' and confirmation bias at work here.


Re: @hplasm: Just remember, in the 1980s

The number of mines and mining employment (with the odd blip) had been falling in the UK since 1938.



To defend offshore finance bods looting developing countries of their tax cash


Re: The Commanding Hieghts


I've not seen the series nor read the book. However, I understand the book was pro-market and pro-globalisation, and their concern is not that these trends *should* end but that they *might* end because of their flaws, taking away all the benefits they've brought. It's a call to address the flaws, not sweep away the system.


Re: nice one tim....


Well whether the ultimate burden of business taxes falls on workers, businesses or customers is rather complex and depends on the type of tax. Suffice to say that all or a combination of those groups could end up ultimately paying the tax.

So you won't be surprised to hear that the same logic applies to taxes on wages. In fact, employers would end up with a proportion of the burden, possibly the majority of it. To understand why, think about what happens when an income tax is applied. Workers suddenly get less pay. That means that fewer will be willing or able to work for you for any given salary. Thus, you have to raise wages to compensate at least partially.

But, I hear you say, if they get paid less, they'll get paid less everywhere. There's no more reason to change jobs now than before the income tax. One answer is that lower effective wages make employment a less enticing option. Some people will simply leave the workforce - think about those who are near retirement, for example. At the other end, some will stay in education. Others will leave the country. They'll be a shuffling effect as people move around. How much they can and want to shuffle out of your business determines how much of the income tax burden you'll have to stump up yourself.

But ultimately all the burden falls on humans, because humans ultmately own all the businesses.


Re: nice one tim....


"The mechanism of capitalism fails when there is essentially nothing to stop it destroying the system of one part of the planet to benefit another as they cross boundaries and distort the system. And I don't even mean oil, to pick an obvious example. I mean business can cross borders where *MANY* people cannot."

I'd like to respond, but I'm not sure what you mean. This is a very broad statement. Could you be more specific? What do you mean by 'destroying the system'? What 'system' are you referring to? How does it destroy it?

As for your tax point, there's a difference between costs and consumption. If you buy some flour for 80p, and sell your bread for £1, your income is 20p. You don't expect to get taxed on the cost of the flour (which the seller would have already paid tax on), but it seems reasonable to tax the income. If you then spend 10p of that income on a bus fare to the cinema, that's consumption - it's how you've chosen to spend your income. Now you might be able to persuade Mrs taxperson that it's a cost of business if the bus fare was to work and back, and she might go for it, but the distinction between costs and consumption seems a reasonable one to me.


Re: To put it simply....

@Red Bren

Well the simple evidence of centuries of increasing productivity and simultaneously increasing wages and employment should be enough to answer your point. But just to explain a bit more, yes I am assuming that demand is not fixed - but I'm talking about aggregate demand in the economy.

You saw the logical impossibility of the cycle that you described, so you'll be pleased to know that it doesn't work like that. Even if we assume the (unlikely but possible) scenario where the quantity demanded of a product is completely unresponsive to price, then increased productivity will force down the price of that good (initially decreased cost of production would mean more profits - which is why you'd invest - but eventually competitors would be tempted by those profits and would invest and prices would be forced down until profits are at a level that doesn't tempt in new competitors but doesn't drive current competitors out - think what's happened to telecom prices, for example). That makes consumers richer, and they go and spend their money elsewhere. The laid off workers would then go off to the resulting new jobs.


Re: nice one tim....

@Phil Dude

"Corporations live to maximise profit at any cost."

You say that likes it's a bad thing; like with that statement you've ended the argument. That's the starting assumption of the argument (although 'at any cost' is hyperbole - do you really think Tim Cook would order the murder of Satya Nadella?). Their desire for profit leads to investment, employment, competition, rising productivity and rising wages, given free markets. If you really want to make the world a better place, take the time to understand how and why.

Given the millennia-old inevitably of people (why stop at 'corporations'?) trying to make profits, that seems like a jolly sensible place to start from. If you find that immoral, then feel free to invest your pension fund in profit-free enterprises. But, come to think about it, what's actually immoral about profit?


Re: To put it simply....

@Aitor 1

"Wages don't go up with increased productivity: they go down, as you need less workers, and there is more offer of workers than need."

Only if you assume that output is fixed and, well, it isn't. What actually happens is each worker produces more and output increases. As I say, the simple point is that if you want to have more stuff (i.e. increase wages across an economy) you have to make more stuff.

"You have to increase the company productivity in order to be able to pay more, and that is different from paying more. Completely different."

I'm not quite sure what you mean here, but if one company doesn't keep up with the productivity increases of its competitors then it will go bust. The economy will discard it and march on.

"You just pay as little as possible, and sell for as much as you can, that is the basics of a good deal.. there is no reason to pay more if you can pay less. Not only you have no reason, but it is bad management to do so."

Yep. Absolutely right. It's competition in the labour market that drives up wages. The more investment you have, the greater the ability (through increased productivity) to pay higher salaries and the greater the competition for labour forcing you to pay higher salaries. That's the transmission mechanism.


And where would the nationalised monopoly get the funds to invest?


To put it simply....

Wages only go up with productivity - a simple point that you ultimately can't have more without producing more. To increase productivity you need investment. To get investment you need profits. So tax dodging => profits => investment => rising incomes.

The profits => investment bit is the subtlety in the argument. Where capital is very mobile (like developing countries, because it comes from abroad) then the amount of investment is very sensitive to profits, much more than in the developed world. That's why Tim's careful to apply the argument to the developing world.

A Quid A Day for NOSH? Luxury!


Re: True poverty still exists in the UK

"Indeedy. And every day. Certain people in politics, often on the left but not exclusively, like to try to lay claim to the moral high ground. It is very annoying. I choose to challenge it. It's often used as a device to close down debate on topics they don't like. Or to try and win the debate by painting the opposition as 'nasty'. I think they should grow up, and try to win the debate by showing their ideas will work better than the oppositions'."

Hear, hear!


Re: True poverty still exists in the UK

"All economists have 20-20 vision with hindsight. They are fuck all use at fixing problems."

Ironic, then, that your judgement that economists are useless depends on you having no hindsight whatsoever.

Economists can never reach the stage of perfection that would seem to be good enough for you because they're dealing with a dynamic and ever-changing system. But so used to rising prosperity do you appear to have become that a relative blip (our level of prosperity went back to what it had been a few years before) appears to you to be good enough reason to damn the whole field of economics. It's interesting that the rising prosperity is not credited to the economists (or simply ignored because it's just seen as normal now) whilst they're blamed for the blips.

Would you really prefer to live in a world without an understanding of economics? Do you really think economics has contributed nothing? I invite you to develop hindsight.

Guardian: 'Oil reserves will soon be worth NOTHING!' (A bit like their stock tips, really)


Re: Oh look...

"You have pointed out that they have incorrectly re-arranged the deckchairs on the Titanic!"

No, I think he's pointing out that the Guardian is claiming that rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic will help stop it sinking.


Re: noise and mathematics...

@Phil Dude

"The problem is $Y is a complex function as it depends a great deal on the technology to extract as well as the location of the resources. Especially d$X/dT"

You've mixed up your 2 functions. "Y" does not depend on dX/dT. You've already clearly defined them as independent of each other. In fact, your Y function, the cost of production, can be known with some accuracy, especially after you start pumping...

"The reality of global energy, is that it is just that - global demand for a non-linear resource. But very few people get to choose the price they pay at the pump."

What is a "non-linear resource"? Do you mean a product whose price changes? That seems to more or less cover everything.

"Economics is as close to voodoo as you can get with a straight face and without a billowing cape."

Even ignoring my comments above, you've said nothing to justify this conclusion.

"The necessary descriptive differential equations rarely make it onto the Grauniad pages...."

The equations to describe what exactly? You talk as if something's being kept secret. Tim's argument only depends on the discount rate being applied. Feel free to Google the equation for 'Net Present Value'.


Re: Oh look...

Companies are valued according to expected returns. It's important to note that buying a company's stock does not change the balance sheet of that company nor it's profit and loss, so they'll still make the same profits. Therefore, if a large enough group of investors decide not to invest in a business so that its stock value falls, that raises the rate of return (since you would have to invest less to get the same dividend). Should there be enough 'ethical' investors around to actually affect the market, they'll face lower returns than the rest of the market. The bottom limit to those returns would only be what the ethical investors' would/could tolerate.

Now that level of toleration might turn out to be not very low at all, thus placing a limit on the amount of ethical investment that could be done - in all probability the limit would be one that would put no pressure on any of these companies at all, and even causing those small changes would require enormous financial firepower. You're basically talking about trying to 'outvote' all the invested assets in the world.

Of course, these are the technical economic aspects. The ethical investors might also find themselves pretty uncomfortable when they realise that they're increasing returns for people they possible aren't too keen on.

Invest ethically by all means - there are, well, ethical reasons to do so. But do it in the knowledge that it won't be able to change the world, and even if it was it might be simply reinforcing the position of those who you might not consider ethical.

Out of time: Huawei, LG unveil watches nobody wants to buy


A Smartwatch makes some kind of sense, but...

If you're happy to wear something in your wrist that's of very limited functionality - it can tell you the time and date only - then it's not illogical to wear something that can do more. From a purely functional point of view, wearing a smartwatch makes sense even if it can't do much more than a normal wristwatch; the point is that it can do more.

But I own a smartwatch (an LG G-Watch) and I don't often wear it. It has all the usual limitations - short battery life (not something that bothers me), bulky size (I'm pretty small - have smartphone manufacturers heard of "women"?) and crap UI.

But none of these are the reason I don't wear it. The reason is that it feels so conspicuous. Looking at your wrist all the time is just as noticeable as looking at your phone all the time, and as for talking to the damned thing, forget it. You also - and I didn't think about this - either have to keep tapping it to see the time or get a glow-in-the-dark wrist. E-ink is such an obvious choice for a smartwatch, but only one company's gone with it. I don't get that.

So, here's my advice to smartwatch manufacturers - make your devices more subtle, smaller, and cheaper - basically start to use E-ink - and then the fact that they don't do much will matter less because the alternative that everyone happily wears does very little at all. Pebble are the only guys who get this.

Delving into Office 2016: Microsoft goes public with new preview


My prediction as a non-techie user of Office:

Have they fixed all the faults that have been around since year dot like problems with handling numbered lists in Word? No, thought not.

Have they added in fairly basic features that users have wanted for years like mail merge that can send an email with an attachment and a message, or an ability to easily animate individual cells in PowerPoint tables? Nope, thought not.

Have they added in a load of features that have little to do with user need but a lot to do with Microsoft's 'strategy'? Yep, thought so.

Galileo! Galileo! Galileo good to go after six-week recovery effort


Re: Inservice dates anyone?

OT I know, but I'm not surprised this was railway renewal. Who'd think that a privatised railway with huge bureaucratic intervention is perhaps not the best way to do things? Not our political classes, apparently.

Improved Apple Watches won't get more expensive? Hmmm


Re: Tell your stories to the millions of workers...

@well fuck you

Plucking the only thing that can be called an argument out of your comment, Craigness is not saying that he supports any such thing. He's simply a realist.

Idealism is both lovely and dangerous. It's lovely as it's obviously well meaning - and people like to think they're fighting for something. It's dangerous as it tends to (rather uncritically) assume that the ideal is possible and - as you comment demonstrates - has a possibly violent intolerance of the thought that it can't be done.

No one supports inequality per se. The more intelligent argument is the one that Craigness is trying to have - which is 'how do we do the best?' and 'what is the best that's possible?'.


Re: Define vast majority

I read that as meaning 'the vast majority of people with health insurance' rather than 'the vast majority of the population', so in my reading it's a true statement. It's ambiguous though, I'll grant you.


Re: Just a thought

@AC: What makes you think that the indices are 'clearly massaged'? Do you have any basis for saying this?

And why is Tim being downvoted for stating a fact? Condemning people for simply telling the truth is not a healthy precedent to be setting. If you have any evidence that he's wrong then please post it: we'll all benefit.


Why is that rigging, unless you define the inclusion of any items that fall in price as 'rigging'? The TVs or whatever are there because we, you know, sometimes buy TVs. Their weighting in the index is appropriate to how much of our income we spend on TVs.

Google gives Microsoft office an awkward hug with new plugin


Re: Not Free

Do Microsoft claim 'free' storage? The article called it that, but I'm not sure that Microsoft do. Certainly the Microsoft store doesn't use the term.

Regardless, 'free' is often understood to mean 'included in the price' as in 'free delivery' or 'free support'.

$17,000 Apple Watch: Pointless bling, right? HA! You're WRONG


Re: Perceived value

"So your basic argument is, I should buy one to make shallow, vapid (albeit probably quite pretty) idiots shag me?"

I don't think he's arguing that you "should" do that. I think he's arguing that people "do" do that.

The secret of Warren Buffett's success at Berkshire Hathaway


Re: Money, it's a crime...

I feel that we're going round in circles. What you've explained is their reserve - the 10% in my example. This is the proportion of their deposits kept aside, but it doesn't represent all their deposits. They would match their lending.

Please read Tim's explanation of the difference between leverage and FRB.


Re: Money, it's a crime...

"A bank issuing a mortgage loan does not borrow the amount it lends out from someplace else. It lends this money as a multiple of an existing capital base. Hence the term "bank capitalization". A bank's capitalization determines how much - in Fractional Reserve Lending - a bank can lend."

Sorry, but you've misunderstood. As I explained above, banks can only lend what they borrow - they're balance sheets have to - you won't be surprised to hear - balance. If they take a deposit of £100, and keep a reserve of 10%, then they can lend £90, and that's all:

asset (the loan and reserve) = liability (the deposit) = £100.

The creation of money, as I tried to explain above, comes about as a result of the interaction of the bank and the wider economy.