* Posts by David 135

19 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Feb 2010

Amazing peer-reviewed AI bots that predict premature births were too good to be true: Flawed testing bumped accuracy from 50% to 90%+

David 135

The sample was not necessarily too small to train some systems, but many would be liable to over-fit the training data and not generalise. The big problem was ensuring the testing was right. Unfortunately this isn't even uncommon. When I was doing my Masters degree I was reviewing the available literature on predicting foreign currency movements and an outright majority of the published papers I found using Machine Learning to predict foreign currency movements made elementary mistakes in their testing procedure not dissimilar to this, leading to unbelievably high prediction scores. I really hoped to find one had a suitable process to reliably predict next-day currency movements, but unsurprisingly that virtual unlimited pot of gold was not real and my final paper primarily served to debunk a dozen or so other papers by showing that their results were not reproducible and to explain the identifiable flaws in their processes.

The simple lesson is that too many people don't understand the necessary processes for doing machine learning properly - including many academics writing papers about it.

BBC presenter loses appeal, must pay £420k in IR35 crackdown

David 135

Re: Really!!

One of the key tests is substitutability - whether you can reasonably provide an alternative. For a programmer that's theoretically quite viable, but for a public face of a show where the value and appeal is their face then there's no direct substitute which is equivalent, so it's not surprising that a presenter would find themselves failing a case like that, really.

HMRC opens consultation to crack down on off-payroll working in private sector

David 135


ChrisB - sure. I keep hoping that at some point the government will realise that a measured, balanced approach to taxation that recognises economic realities is the way to go. Until then, call out where the thinking is wrong as best you can.

David 135

Contractors aren't hit hard enough, let's add a dividend tax. Contractors aren't hit hard enough, lets hit them harder with dividend tax. Contractors aren't hit hard enough, let's largely eliminate their ability to use a National Insurance rebate. Contractors aren't hit hard enough, let's largely eliminate the ability to use Flat-Rate VAT. Contractors aren't hit hard enough, let's try to push more of them inside IR35 and leave them without the protections of employment but with at least as high taxation (if not higher as they'll have ended up paying the employer's NI as well).

At some point you'd hope the government will realise that it's been bashing the same group year in year out and it might actually be fairer to target a different group for a change. Or that it costs businesses who end up paying higher contract rates. Or it blurs the lines between permanent and temporary staff until companies will hire people as 'permanent employees' instead but just the role after 6-18 months and leave employees with less job security than ever before.

Instead, it looks like contractors are the pantomime villains in the government's eyes and any increase in tax on them will be painted as a Robin Hood-style redistribution from the rich to the poor while simultaneously reducing wealth (rather than income) taxes.

Boss sent overpaid IT know-nothings home – until an ON switch proved elusive

David 135

Sounds familiar

I know someone who confidently assures everyone that they can do something well having never tried to do it before. They do, however, have the excuse of being a 5 year old slightly spoiled only child. To reach adulthood and have that same lack of understanding that learning things takes time is why many managers are so reviled...

IT contractors raise alarm over HMRC mulling 'one-month' nudge onto payrolls

David 135

It fails to recognise why the current arrangements exist

There are reasons to force someone to be an employee - splitting income with a partner, for example. Businesses have legal, IT and other requirements which do not require a full-time member of staff. They need to be able to get skilled staff to complete those tasks.

Also, large companies often have projects which have a budget for 3 months, 6 months or a year. The managers of these projects simply don't have the authority to hire someone permanent with the limited timescale. If they can't hire a temporary worker, then yes, some will hire someone 'permanent'. However, some projects will be scrapped, and those 'permanent' workers will find they do not actually have job security as they get made redundant when the project funding gets pulled. Only they didn't charge a premium for the uncertainty, so they're then desperately trying to find another job before their rent payment bounces.

It creates a dishonesty by making roles which are definitely temporary look permanent. It hurts businesses, but it particularly hurts employees, who find they don't know if the role they're taking is genuinely permanent or not. My thoughts are that those who are hurt most by the change aren't necessarily even the people it's aiming to crack down on, it's those wanting to be able to progress their career through safe, stable jobs finding that their job security is eroded by this.

Throttled customers rage over Virgin Mobile UK's tight cap

David 135

They temporarily remove the cap, and things are OK for a bit...

According to a post by one of their reps on the forums, this morning they've got EE to temporarily remove some network controls, including the speed cap, to see if that helps with the data problem. Having run a speed test afterwards, I'll say it does - I'm getting results at least 3x what I was getting previously, and more importantly getting reasonable response times for page loads, etc, at least right now.

Virgin, if you reintroduce the speed cap in something remotely resembling it's previous form, I'll be switching to another provider, you can be sure of that. I'm paying for an unlimited data contract that allows tethering and has no Fair Use Policy. That is the ONLY reason I switched to you recently. If you can't or won't provide that, then you won't have my custom.

Virgin Media keeps mum as punters fume at crippled web access

David 135

Me Too

I've just switched to Virgin Media - fortunately just on a monthly contract, specifically to get their unlimited, tethering-friendly data deals... and it's significantly worse than the underlying T-Mobile, which I was switching from. I've seen DNS errors some of the time (so that's definitely part of the problem), but while sometimes the data speed is pretty good, the rest of the time it's non-existent. It's a complete joke

Data scientists: Do they even exist?

David 135
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The alternatives don't sound good

While you can train a reasonably competent person to perform some basic analysis, and perhaps use a few key techniques, if you look at a proper course on Data Analysis (such as the one running on Coursera at the moment), you'll see that there are a wide range of techniques, complex statistical underpinnings, and many things that you can do wrong.

If you have someone who knows the business, but only has some training on how to use a few tools, they won't know about the rights and wrongs of data cleaning, various issues that can introduce bias, how to correctly estimate confidence levels, etc. Since you can often make statistics seem to back up a range of conflicting viewpoints just by biasing the selection of data, there's a lot that can go wrong from that viewpoint that assumes that what a proper data analyst has studied is something easily learned from a couple of short training courses.

I say this as a programmer with an interest in data analysis, seeing just how much there is to cover in big data technologies, statistical methods, underlying mathematics, statistical programming languages, reporting standards and more. It's a big subject, and I don't think data scientists can be adequately replaced by an existing employee receiving a little training in Hadoop.

Don't bother with that degree, say IT pros

David 135

It still has value, but you realise it more after some real-world experience

Firstly, I think more people should look at doing the BCS Professional Graduate Diploma instead of a full-time honours degree course - it has the same academic standing (and qualifies you for doing a Master's afterwards), but you have the option of self-study as well as doing it through course providers. This allows you to pick up a stack of books, learn for yourself and sit the exams, spending £1k instead of £27k.

I left a (well-respected) uni Computing degree course because I wasn't happy with the quality of the teaching (e.g. near 300 students in one of the courses lectures so no one-on-one time realistically possible). I then worked my way up from tech support into programming, and I'm pretty certain that I've been passed over for a lot of the jobs I've applied for because I didn't tick that degree checkbox - perhaps half my applications, or something like that. Yes, I'm in a well-paid job, and I'm only just finishing up that above-mentioned PGD in IT over 10 years on, but at the same time it has sometimes made things harder.

People should bear in mind that during in-demand periods you can get a job with less experience - almost none during the dotcom boom, even - but when there's a crunch and more redundancies, then that missing degree may be a much bigger problem. Also, having come back later, some of what seemed irrelevant at the time made more sense, and I knew where i had gaps that were filled in. So yes, a degree prepares you for work (to some extent), but there are areas which you may not cover if you're just learning on the job.

You can write both good and awful code without any formal training. The formal training aims to give you a better understanding so you're less likely to (not that this always works as my recent interviewing of candidates for my employer showed). That said, I'd certainly take a bright enthusiast over a less bright and interested degree-holder, as the field moves fast enough that an interest in ongoing skill development is essential. What we could probably do with are more apprenticeships, where people study towards exams like the BCS's while working for a company, and get a balance between real-world experience and academic knowledge, while also earning a modest wage. Bring on the IT Apprenticeship!

Orange Monte Carlo budget Android smartphone

David 135

Stick with the San Fran

The screen is no higher resolution, it doesn't run apps any better, and it doesn't have more memory, so for a significantly higher price than the San Fran I'd suggest that over this. At £100 you can get away with the limitations more reasonably than at £150.

HP Pre 3 webOS smartphone

David 135

When Skype works...

Yes Skype is integrated, but if you're like me you'll find that the network connection isn't as reliable as it could be, resulting in problems as it leaves you logged out of Skype and not making this clear.

When it's working it makes Skype an integral part of contacts and so on. When it's not, your Skype contacts just disappear and it's hard to get at the Skype details to try to get it to reconnect.

HP Pre 3 punters peeved as expected price cut is a no show

David 135

It has arrived

What I heard was that Carphone Warehouse snapped up all of the stock as a job lot, and decided not to sell cheap PAYG/Sim Free phones, but instead to do cheap contract offers.

You can now snap up a Pre3 on a £10.50/month contract from them (with the potential for cashback from Quidco or Topcashback), which makes it a cheap contract smartphone deal, although admittedly not nearly as cheap as the rumoured standalone pricing.

HP obviously decided that rather than take out various other e-commerce sites, struggle to keep their own store up, etc, they'd just get rid of the lot in one go and be done with it. I'm surprised that people haven't picked up on CPW having them quicker though... (the sister site e2save also has them but no better deals).

Union talks up offshoring dangers to UK economy

David 135

Some of the savings are fictional anyway

If the government causes work to be off-shored, then UK employees will as a result lose their jobs, and the jobs market in the UK will contract. This will create a drain to the economy in terms of lower GDP from smaller tax revenues and higher benefits payments.

A high proportion of the total cost of the UK employee would therefore need to be eliminated in order for the off-shoring to benefit the UK government.

Private sector employers can do this sensibly, because they aren't directly affected by the loss of tax revenues or increased benefits costs.

Taken carelessly, this would appear to be an argument in favour of protectionism, and it's not, not exactly. It's just the overall cost to the UK economy should be evaluated when deciding about renewing contracts. It can be harder to control how jobs are outsourced when the work is contracted to external companies like HP, but the principle about evaluating the value to the government of any creation (or loss) of UK jobs should be applied to any government contracting, IT, Defence or any other sector.

Gamer claims complete console collection

David 135

Some missing

Master System is in there, CD32 is missing. Quite a few of the recent emulator-based handheld consoles are misssing, including the Pandora.

And how about the Nintendo 3DS? Or the PSP Go? Or the iPod Touch?

Major omissions.

Private equity saves SeeSaw

David 135
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Some of the streaming services on Boxee (like Five) didn't work last I checked, but some of those were also available on SeeSaw, so I was sorry to hear about it being canned. Maybe with a purchase arranged it can look at getting greater awareness of its availability via Boxee and other media player setups.

Ten... budget Android smartphones

David 135

Strange pick

While the editors choice is a capacitive touchscreen device, it has a terrible resolution - and one that will really limit making the most of the Android operating system.

Their 'second choice' - the Orange San Francisco has much better screen and a bargain price point, so it's hard to argue that any of the other devices come close, even if the camera on the device is very poor (which it is).

Saying that the Wildfire features many of the Desires pluses including an excellent screen ignores the major difference in resolution. When it's well over twice as much as the San Francisco, it's hard to recommend getting the Wildfire over spending that little bit more and getting one of the high-end Android devices or spending less on the San Fran.

Ofcom opens debate on Freeview HD DRM to punters

David 135

There's now a petition on the Number 10 petitions site to request that this be blocked