* Posts by Flak

100 posts • joined 11 Jan 2013


SAP proves, yet again, that Excel is utterly unkillable

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Excel excels

IMHO there is no other application that comes close to Excel in terms of usability, versatility and usefulness.

Disclaimer: No other application has been harmed in the creation of this message.

Disclosure: I have no financial or other interest in Microsoft or other software vendors

Latest NHS IT revolution is failing to learn lessons from the last £10bn car crash


History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes

(Attributed to Mark Twain)

There is an experience asymmetry between the buyer (public sector) and the seller which I have seen play out countless times in a neighbouring industry:

The lead buyer often runs their first procurement of this magnitude and complexity, as each organisation only procures one of these types of projects every few years or so, often accompanied by advisors (e.g. procurement advisors on process, external domain experts, internal stakeholders). On the other side of the table you have sellers who are engaged regularly in these kinds of procurements and consequently have experience - often lots of it - on how to maximise the opportunity for them.

The outcome is varied and while there may be a postmortem after the procurement and implementation, lessons learned are forgotten (by the organisation), because the next procurement is a few years away, the lead buyer has changed through promotion or retirement and a new lead is in place, possibly with new advisors and stakeholders.

And that is why history rhymes...

International space station connects 100Mbps symmetric space laser ethernet using Sony optical disc tech


Re: Nice technology

I suspect you meant free space optics (FSO), i.e. firing laser beams for communication through the air.

It is available, used and can provide high capacity links, but it is very susceptible to weather (fog, rain, snow, even heat), particularly as the distance increases, meaning that other technologies are far more common. Today, E-band and V-band point to point radio links are relatively inexpensive and typically perform better, and with more and more fibre becoming available, fixed line connections increasingly substitute wireless technology for longer distance communications.


Re: Nice technology

Must have been generic ones, rather than vendor SFPs which would have 'cost the earth'...

Tata Consultancy Services tells staff to go to their rooms and stay there, even after the pandemic passes


Home working paradigm shift

Great to see a company experiencing and quantifying the benefits of home working. Most companies have been forced into the homeworking scenario rather than actively embracing it pre-Covid-19. If this results in an industry-wide culture shift and greater acceptance and even promotion of home working, there are employer, employee and environmental benefits to be had.

Hope the lockdown will end soon, but also that the lessons learned through the enforced home working scenario are not lost and we all don't just go back to 'business as usual'.

Now might not be the best time to visit, but AWS just turned on a new region in Milan



As long as users have current anti-virus protection, using AWS services hosted in Milan should not be a problem.

For extra protection, they may want to inject some disinfectant into their data, light the fibre with sunlight and keep the data centre warm by turning the colling off!

Netflix says subscriptions just boomed but tells investors it's no money heist and they should expect stranger things


Re: Less chatty TLS - wow

A more efficient Codec would bring far greater results - compare an hour of content on iPlayer, Netflix and Prime for example.


Less chatty TLS - wow

Given that we are talking about streams of typically a couple of hundred MB or more, the lowered overhead of TLS 1.3 fades to insignificance.

Don't get me wrong, it is the right way to go in terms of latest protocol version, security and start up times, but the overhead benefit is negligible.

House of Commons agrees to allow Zoom app in Parliament, British MPs will still have to dress smartly


Re: Costs...

Excuse me... £369,267 per month?

That is absolutely staggering. For 650 parliamentarians, meaning that would be £568.10 for every MP every month.

Someone should have checked the Zoom website and their pricing plans - the UK government has been had! https://zoom.us/pricing

I am sure they will include in the above costs: new laptops, new echo cancelling conference phones, new broadband connections, new..., new..., new...

Very prudent!

Vodafone UK links arms with Openreach to build out its full-fibre network


Vodafone keeping its options open

No surprise that Vodafone is looking to augment its choice of providers of FTTP solutions with the use of Openreach.

This will keep both CityFibre and Openreach honest.

Just wait until VirginMedia is added to the portfolio... Given the MVNO deal between Vodafone and VirginMedia, perhaps there is more to come in the fixed line market, too.

Wanted: An exit strategy from the overt surveillance of smartphone contact tracing


Leave the phone at home

... and contact who you will...

obviously after we have all stayed at home, protected the NHS and saved lives!

Microsoft attempts to up its Teams game with new features while locked-down folk flock to rival Zoom... warts and all


More than four concurrent videos

Yes, please.

I don't need a choice of backgrounds or sounds.

Teams has come a long way in the last 18 months and we use it daily, often several times, without any issues.

Atlassian issues advice on how to keep your IT service desk secure... after hundreds of portals found facing the internet amid virus lockdown


Just because you cannot see someone, does not mean they are not there.

The naive thinking displayed here is not new. When I conducted research for my dissertation in the late 1990s, I looked at the use of the Internet by SMEs, comparing UK and German companies. One common finding was that in both countries, companies recognised the new markets that the Internet was going to open up to them (e.g. outside of their current market geography), but failed to see that there would be increased competition from other companies they previously didn't contend with.

This surprised me as it was completely irrational.

So it is here. The Internet provides greater opportunity to work flexibly (completely independent of physical location), but people don't understand that it means that someone in some random country or location can access their services just as conveniently as they do.

Minister slams 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories as 'dangerous nonsense' after phone towers torched in UK


mmWave has been and is being rolled out


mmWave technology has been and is being used today - but the application is quite specific. In fact, mmWave technology is used by mobile operators, too - for backhaul from mobile masts that don't have fibre. The links use highly focused 'pencil beams' and equipment is placed where there is no physical obstruction, as this would interrupt or degrade the transmission.

For example, V-band and E-band services in particular can be used to transmit data wirelessly at Gigabit speeds. What may surprise you is that links like this using compliant equipment only need to be registered with Ofcom (so they know where it has been deployed), but the actual deployment is not regulated (i.e. you don't need to ask for permission).

Still no health issue, however...

I blame E.T. (just because I have always wanted to use that icon)!

NSO Group: Facebook tried to license our spyware to snoop on its own addicts – the same spyware it's suing us over


NSO [...] cannot be held accountable for the actions of its customers

This is an argument that has been used many times - and sometimes successfully - at least in court (e.g. US gun industry).

In some cases that statement clearly doesn't hold (e.g. tobacco industry).

If a company makes a product which has as its sole or at least main purpose the spying on end users (even if it is 'only' governments), it is easy to decide where on the spectrum this case resides.

Facebook's hypocrisy is mindblowing!

AC, because I am not responsible for what my fingers type :-)

UK judge gives Google a choice: Either let SEO expert read your ranking algos or withdraw High Court evidence


Hobson's choice

Given that the evidence will focus on historical algorithms which have been updated and changed many times since 2006, surely this cannot be as big a deal for Google as they make out.

So, Google, what is it going to be - evidence, or no evidence?

AC, because I don't want to mysteriously slip down Google's rankings...

NASA mulls restoring Saturn V to service as SLS delays and costs mount

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Fantastic news!











out of this world!

Poured your info out on a call to 118 118 Money? Bad luck. Credit provider 'fesses up that hacker nabbed customer service phone recordings


Please change your name, address and date of birth...

... and you will be fine. Honestly.


Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support




Not for me, but perhaps for a small niche market.

With its stores outside China shuttered, Apple ditches two-mobes-per-customer limit for online shoppers


One click purchasing...

Good job you didn't accidentally press the 'buy now' button

India's peak IT body tells outsourcers to check contract cancellation fine print while Coronavirus reigns


It is always bad when the contracts come out

A wise former colleague once said that contracts should be carefully written and then put in a drawer, with both parties acting in good faith based on the spirit of the agreement.

When a contract comes back out of the drawer, it is because the relationship has shifted and it needs to stand up to scrutiny.

From personal experience I have learned that at that point it will be hard, if not impossible, to change the terms to both parties' satisfaction.

After 20-year battle, Channel island Sark finally earns the right to exist on the internet with its own top-level domain


First world problems

Congratulations to Sark!

I can't help but think, however, that the argument is a bit over the top:

"it doesn't exist online"

ISO's 3166 list - "if you aren't on that list, you effectively don't exist on the internet"

"Without it, Sark faced an existential threat."

Other islands exist - even on the Internet - without their own top-level domains.

But more power to the 500 or so Sarkonians!

(I hope I am not causing an international incident by using this term which is probably wrong - happy to be corrected)

Microsoft Teams gets off to a wobbly start as the world and its cat starts working from home


First I heard of it

Two long MS Teams VC sessions and chat working fine - just saw this message and was surprised.

Must only be for some.

(based in the UK)

European electric vehicle sales surged in Q4 2019 but only accounted for wafer-thin slice of total car purchases


No net zero carbon by 2050 then (or 2045 in Scottish money)

What am I saying - those targets are still 30 years away!

Let's worry about that nearer the time then...

Secret-sharing app Whisper shared secrets like last known location and actual password tokens in exposed database


Scott Adams has done it again!

Dilbert - incredibly timely and topical:


Corporate VPN huffing and puffing while everyone works from home over COVID-19? You're not alone, admins


100% cloud

Went through the process of setting up a new business and decided from day one that the office would be a meeting place - not a place where data or applications are hosted.

This means that as long as each user takes their laptop and power cable, it makes no difference from where they work.

In fact, prior to our Internet connection being installed, we tethered our laptops to individual mobile phones while sitting in the office. Slow, but still usable.

Collaboration tools allow screen and document sharing, voice and video calls, etc.

I know that it is nowhere near as easy for companies that have to deal with on-prem legacy applications, desktop computers, etc.

The Internet of Things is a security nightmare reveals latest real-world analysis: unencrypted traffic, network crossover, vulnerable OSes


The gulf between capability and implementation

Many devices have the capability to be securely connected and communicate securely - but it is often the implementation that is found wanting:

Default passwords not being changed

Multi-purpose flat LANs or open inter-VLAN routing rather than network segmentation

Patching of OS and firmware

I get the point about some devices running on old OSes - surely equipment contracts particularly in the healthcare sector come with maintenance regimes - a current, patched and secure OS must be part of such contracts.

The same applies to networking equipment.

Enable that MF-ing MFA: 1.2 million Azure Active Directory accounts compromised every month, reckons Microsoft


enforce MFA - base level security policy

Can't agree more strongly.

At a previous company a user's corporate O365 account was compromised through the re-use of a password from the individual's private 'standard' list of passwords used for many purposes - one of these was hacked.

I asked the IT manager why MFA was not mandated - particularly as it is a free standard feature. There was no satisfactory response. It was fixed and there hasn't been a breach since.

In-depth: Deloitte and accounts expert both cleared what HPE described as 'contrived' Autonomy sales


"what was the agreement if Kraft didn't buy it?" - but they did.

What a waste of time an energy in this case - Kraft did buy it, Deloitte accepted the narrative at the time of the audit and those are the documented facts of the matter. Simple.

Does a $5bn law suit hinge on hypotheses and alleged intent - or on what actually happened: HP was too keen to buy, was sloppy in its due diligence, overpaid and now has a huge case of buyer's remorse.

I feel for the HP shareholders - they should be taking the HP team to task for what has been some spectacular value destruction!

Auf wiedersehen, pet: UK Deutsche Bank contractors plan to leave rather than take 25% pay cut for IR35 – report


The bank has paid $18.3bn in regulatory fines since 2008

The cost of doing business...

Wouldn't it be much more prudent to have some proper governance?

HPE's orders to expert accountant in Autonomy trial revealed


He who pays the piper...

...calls the tune.

No surprise in the instructions given to HPE's expert - I am sure instructions were given by Mike Lynch to his team explaining their rationale and how what they did was proper and legal.

Cannot wait for the outcome of these proceedings, but in the end this whole saga comes down to HPE's woefully inadequate due diligence.

Social media notifications of the future: Ranger tagged you in a photo with Tessadora, Wrenlow, Faelina and Graylen


Re: Ministry of names...

There is a way to get around this issue - a bit elaborate, but done with our children - one German parent, one British parent, children born and registered in the UK.

Getting the children a German passport based on official UK birth certificate - no arguments about names, spelling, etc.

AC, because too much personal information...

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


Trade deal - test for the UK government

Here is a challenge for the UK government:

Can you negotiate that in return for extraditing Mike Lynch the US agrees to extradite Anne Sacoolas.

Sounds like a fair and equitable trade to me.

The outcome of this negotiation may well set a precedent for what we can expect from a UK/US trade deal...

What if everyone just said 'Nah' to tracking?


Re: But How ?

Is that the same Google that collects a large slice of the advertising cake or a different one?

If I didn't pick up on the tongue in cheek there - my apologies...

Pack your bags! NASA's latest exoplanet hunter satellite finds its first Earth-sized world in a habitable zone – and it's only 100 light years away


Let's drop by for an afternoon visit...

I am sure Elon Musk will get there first!

InLink Limited limited: Firm that puts up UK's ad-supported phone booths enters administration


Traditional phone boxes look better!

Bring back the red phone box! Never mind those modern contraptions...

Poor, poor mobile networks. UK's comms watchdog plans to stop 'em selling locked-down handsets

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Handset and contract separation

The separation of handset and airtime contracts and is definitely a growing trend already - the locked handsets being one reason, the other being that bundled deals are no longer attractive. This is largely driven by the maturing of the handset market with intense price competition between the different manufacturers.

Many people didn't realise they were locked in until they wanted to use their handset on another network.

More power to the consumer!

Uncle Sam challenged in court for slurping social media info on 'millions' of visa applicants


If you are not on Facebook you don't exist...


UK Info Commish quietly urged court to swat away 100k Morrisons data breach sueball


Due process

The UK Information Commissioner should respect the judicial process rather than trying to preempt or influence any decision.

Gavin Patterson's gravy train keeps on rolling as former BT boss tossed two more sinecures


Try another latin term: mea culpa

a simple 'mea culpa' rather than continuing to dig that hole might be advisable :-)

Delayed, over-budget smart meters will be helpful – when Blighty enters 'Star Trek phase'

Big Brother

Smart meters will ultimately lead to time of day charging

The gap in the logic between 'smart meters save you costs' (which they don't as they only show energy usage rather than controlling it) and actually saving costs is a change in energy tariffs.

Most pay standard tariffs that apply regardless of the time of day.

Some may have Economy 7 meters for nighttime electricity usage, which may be cost effective when using electric storage heaters.

Having smart meters means being able to tell, by household, how much electricity is used at certain times of day and will lead to differential pricing for electricity during the day (e.g. pay less from 10am - 4pm, pay more from 7am - 10am and from 4pm - 10pm, pay least between 10pm and 7am).

Cost savings will only be available to those who then change their consumption profile.

Hold on to your cotton socks for a shake up in tariffs - only this will change behaviour - not looking at today's 'not so smart' meter which doesn't tell you very much.

Nominet continues milking .uk registry cash cow with 4 per cent price rise for... what exactly?


Re: 'Not for profit' means increasing revenues to offset increasing costs

Normal laws of supply and demand don't work in a monopoly...

Hence the need for regulation.

(there are a few other situations where they don't work, either, but that is for another day)


'Not for profit' means increasing revenues to offset increasing costs

A dispassionate financial response would be - the costs have gone up, so now the revenues must be increased, too.

Shame we all care about why the costs have gone up!

With an effective monopoly for UK domains, prices should be controlled.

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


Get the remaining £25k from the lawyer that signed the document

A lawyer should know to be careful with what they 'offer' or 'accept' and regardless of the outcome, if the client instructed the lawyer to achieve a £200k purchase price and the lawyer agreed to a lesser sum without agreement from the client.

Consumer campaign to keep receiving printed till receipts looks like a good move – on paper

Big Brother

Cash is king in the age of surveillance capitalism (coupled with paper receipts)

One of my children has a book about forensics with the simple phrase 'every contact leaves a trace' on its back cover.

I should be able to choose to purchase with cash and without having to give any personal details the vast majority of goods and many services.

Emailed receipts build up the same plethora of personal data that loyalty store cards collect.

Many people will say that is perfectly acceptable, but may not be fully aware of the power of that data when it comes to profiling consumers and the insights it gives those collecting the data into their (very personal) lives.

Switch about to get real: Openreach bod on the challenge of shuttering UK's copper phone lines


SIP ATAs, Redcare lines, and legacy equipment

Thing is that the presentation of ADSL/FTTC at the customer will still be ADSL/VDSL, which will need to be plugged into something that then presents Ethernet ports (e.g. a broadband router), allowing either an in-built or external SIP ATA to present an analogue port to the legacy phone if someone wants to retain that. FTTP will look differently, however. For those who are interested the Openreach FTTP tech spec is here:


Other FTTP providers will have similar specs for their services.

While an ATA port mimics an analogue telephone line, the ATA typically cannot provide other legacy services, with the device dependent exception of Fax services (T.38).

Some of the other legacy services such as non-IP BT Redcare may require hardware and service updates and changes from the service provider (and that may mean a move to IP).

The challenge is in the volume of migrations and making sure that every migration scenario is accounted for to ensure continuity of service.

This isn't Boeing to end well: Plane maker to scrap some physical cert tests, use computer simulations instead


Boeing could not recreate the crash conditions on their flight simulator

Just read yesterday that the 737 MAX flight simulator at Ethiopian Airlines (they actually have one of the few in the world!) could not faithfully recreate the crash scenario that happened.

This shows that even the flight sim was NOT a full representation of reality.

A stark reminder that any theoretical modelling may be useful, but does not replace real-world testing.

Get this: Mad King Leo wanted HP to slurp two other firms alongside ill-fated Autonomy buyout


HP only has itself to blame

It appears that HP only has itself to blame - hearing what it wants to hear, dismissing warning voices and proceeding with an overpriced acquisition despite the fact that people within the organisation knew better.

Clearly the Autonomy guys knew they had won a watch (more like a large pot of gold).

Looks like this lawsuit will not vindicate the HP leadership at that time - I feel for the HP shareholders who bore the brunt of this massive value destruction.

Own goal: $280,000 GDPR fine for soccer app that snooped on fans' phone mics to snare pub telly pirates



La Liga either didn't consider GDPR (unlikely) or didn't care. I suspect they knew exactly what they were doing. Anyone advising them and worth their salt would have told them not to do it. The fine is modest and I hope on appeal it will be increased!



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