* Posts by timblackwell

11 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Feb 2015

What's losing steam at Apple? Pretty much everything


Re: The problem with smartphones

From my limited experience, perhaps because iPhones are more likely to survive a broken screen than their android counterparts.

Samsung starts cranking out 256GB mobile memory modules


About 2TB on my phone: that would be my optimal cloud. I can do backups. I am excellent at backups....

NASA boffin wants FRIKKIN LASERS to propel lightsails


30% light speed? Better make sure your space is well vaccuumed.

You want the poor to have more money? Well, doh! Splash the cash


Re: UBI - not a silver bullet, not a golden ticket

Fully agree about the Byzantine complexity. Administration is expensive, but a lot of that is to do with housing and disablement benefits, which would have to continue if the people in greatest need are not to be clobbered by UBI). Scrapping income tax allowances would bring huge numbers of people into the tax system, also resulting in administrative expense.

How is the situation different between losing job now and under UBI? A lot

depends on whether you have a housing element in your UBI, and, if so, whether that element is means tested and how it relates to my actual housing costs. But apart from the very affluent, people's expenditure in UBI land is likely to settle nearer UBI + other income rather than just other income, unless there is a strong incentive for them to save against a rainy day.

I actually think a UBI is something we should be working towards in the long term (in large part because I don't like the abusive sanctions regimes currently applying), but it's not a panacea.

There's quite a good discussion of how a UBI might work in practice at https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/could-citizens-income-work


UBI - not a silver bullet, not a golden ticket

For all its myriad faults, the benefits system in the UK has historically attempted to focus expenditure on those most in need. UBI schemes deliberately blurr this focus - because entitlements are unconditional. This means that schemes either reduce support for the worst off, or are extremely expensive.

When designing social security benefits, people like to talk about the effective marginal tax rate (EMTR) resulting from the combined effects of income tax, national insurance and withdrawal of benefits. This rate is occasionally over 100% in the current system and can be as high as 80-90% for some claimants under universal credit. High EMTRs are an obvious deterrent to taking up work. UBI is touted as getting round this - UBI is only (in effect) means-tested via the tax system, rather than being withdrawn explicitly as income increases. You earn more, you keep more.

But consider what happens under UBI when earnings are lost. UBI recipients are likely to have costs and contractual obligations based on their employed income + UBI, but now there is no safety net to support them - the UBI doesn't rise as their other income falls. Of course we could demand that people take out some sort of insurance scheme against this eventuality - but recent experience in the UK is not encouraging.

UBI schemes also tend to founder when it comes to housing costs. Some UK enthusiasts suggest that we keep the existing housing benefit scheme alongside UBI. They generally don't recognise that this destroys the work incentives - unless housing benefit too becomes a (really rather expensive) non-means tested scheme.

I'm not actually against some elements of UBI, but the whole field is suffused with wishful thinking.

Pint-sized PCIe powerhouse: Intel NUC5i5RYK


I bought one of these for my children to use in the kitchen in place of a laptop - precisely because I wanted something unobtrusive yet non-nomadic. Very very easy to set up, though the BIOS only showed up on DisplayPort, not over HDMI.

New Windows 10 Build 10122 aims to fix file association hijacking


An awkward moment

If, like me, you happen to have a folder called C:\DATA, then build 10122 will move it to

\Windows old\data, and put its own, nearly empty c:\data in its place. As I keep all my work in a folder called C:\data, which gets synchronised between work, laptop and home, this was disconcerting.

Obviously, since this is MS, the installer doesn't ask if it's OK to do this. Nor does it tell you that it's done it. Nor is it mentioned in the release note. At first glance it just looks like all the c:\data content is gone.

The Revenue achieved RECORD numbers of e-tax returns ... by NOT shifting to GOV.UK


Re: Gov UK +1

If you think that this was designed and thought out, try going to


Tell it you claim DLA and were born in, say 1960.

Make sense of the resulting text.

Inside GOV.UK: 'Chaos' and 'nightmare' as trendy Cabinet Office wrecked govt websites


Re: Pretty harsh!

Re: Pretty harsh!

The criticism *is* harsh - and frankly a little overblown. I'm not a fan of the actually existing .GOV.UK, but I do think the idea of bringing IT expertise back into government is a good one.

I'm perfectly prepared to believe that some services have been improved - GDS has some very bright people, like Richard Pope and, er, others. Leisa Reichelt has a smart and thoughtful blog - the tweet quoted by Andrew, though absolutely bloody infuriating read in isolation, does kind of make sense in the context she's working in (experts find it hard to uninhabit their own expertise).

But when I get client calls like this:

C: "Why are these figures in your application wrong?"

Me: "I hope they're not. Which ones? Let me take a look."

C: "The A,B,Cs - they should be X, Y and Z."

Me: "Ah you're getting those from .GOV.UK - they have the wrong figures."

C:"But that's the government saying those are the figures."

Me: "I *know*. I'm sorry. They should have updated the figures in April, but instead they updated half the figures, mis-described some of the others and left out some altogether. You can find the correct figures on the parliament website or on legislation.gov.uk."

C: "Oh."

- and I talk to the relevant government department

Me: "The A,B,C figures on .GOV.UK haven't been updated properly this year."

GD: "We *know*. But since GDS took over our publishing, they decide how and when the site gets updated. They've been given editorial control."

Me: "Oh."

- it's all pretty dispiriting. And when you're repeatedly told how simply *marvellous* the whole thing is, it grates - fast.


It's from an earlier version of the site. The icons, peculiar and utterly opaque, were quickly abandoned



Re: Sympathy for the devil

I partly agree with you - I think the article goes a bit too far, but...

there are two basic problems with .GOV.UK:

- from my own experience of it the content aimed at the general public has been absolutely riddled with errors (and it's become clear that GDS content designers have been at least in large part responsible - if the truth doesn't match the stylebook, so much the worse for the truth)

- departmental content for specialist users (by which I mean anyone whose engagement with government amounts to more than simple one off transactions), has been dumped without thought to structure or context. Things which had an organized and recognisable structure have been re-published as linear lists of .PDFs.

A long, long time ago, the GDS talked about services so good that people would prefer to use them. They could have tried to do just that - make their own versions of one or two Departmental sites whilst keeping the originals going. GDS could then have iterated to their hearts content. If the time came when the public had overwhelmlingly voted with their feet to use the GDS offering (and not as a result of SEO shenanigans), the old sites could have been turned off.

It's hard to be persuaded that something is eventually going to be good when what you're given is so markedly inferior to what came before *and* the people involved appear to have little interest in making it better, or even understanding that there is a problem.