* Posts by Commswonk

1666 posts • joined 3 Sep 2015

After staring over the precipice once before, Kent County Council considers £500m in outsourcing again

Commswonk Silver badge

Oh No, Not This One Again...

So, the desire for finding the elusive "efficiencies" through the magic of outsourcing might be tempting to some.

I would like the opportunity to ask each and every person who is hoping for "efficiency savings" from an outsourcing (or any other) proposal What is your intended method of determining efficiencies, be they relative or absolute?

Being able to have a problem solved within 10 minutes is clearly more efficient than having it take all day. Being able to solve the same problem for £1 is clearly more efficient than a solution that costs £100. What you are highly unlikely to achieve is a solution costing £1 that only takes 10 minutes to apply. And yet time after time managers convince themselves that the latter is possible, and doubtless potential bidders will whisper all sorts of assurances about how they can actually do it.

Then - via some mysterious process - any penalty clause in the draft contract will somehow not appear in the signed version.

This is the data watchdog! Surrender your Matt Hancock smoochy-kiss pics right now!

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Tell Me The Old, Old Story

Government Minister exposed; let's shoot the messenger!

How many Brits have deleted life-saving track and trace app from their phones? No idea, junior minister tells MPs

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Re: Technology to the rescue

...and any time you add the word technology in place, it must be good - right

Has anyone else noticed how television advertisements simply have to have the word "technology" in them now? Even some brand of shampoo has some sort of "technology" as part of its formulation.

It makes my bullshit - detecting technology (a soggy mass of cells located between my ears) go into overdrive, followed by the sound of grinding teeth...


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@Pseudononymous coward

Like many people, I never installed it in the first place.

It would have required at least a single quantum of faith in the Government.

In my case (and that of Mrs Commswonk) it would also have required me (us) to get a smartphone.

Treaty of Roam finally in ashes: O2 cracks, joins rivals, adds data roaming charges for heavy users in EU

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Re: Hardly a surprise

The business users won't care about this, their company pays,

I think the above ought to read

The business users won't care about this, their company's customers pay...

Doggy DNA database adopted by Gloucestershire cops to bring crims to heel

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Aren't Pet Microchips enough?

From the article: It's an alternative to microchipping...

No it isn't; microchipping is a legal requirement. Having your dog's DNA on record might well be a useful (if expensive) enhancement but it cannot be considered an alternative.

Mind the gap(ing mouth): London's Underground to get ubiquitous mobile phone coverage

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Re: Thanks I hate it

...getting any sort of radio to work in those tunnels is an engineering nightmare.

IMO that is an overstatement; leaky feeders have been used to provide underground / tunnel radio communications for years; the engineering isn't really a nightmare, but the associated costs most assuredly are, not least because the area (volume?) that an individual cell can cover is quite modest in comparison with that covered by a cell with a tower - mounted aerial.

Why did automakers stall while the PC supply chain coped with a surge? Because Big Tech got priority access

Commswonk Silver badge

My fucking car's heating controls are touch screen (2014 Insignia), I do not understand how anyone thought it was a good idea...

Mine (also an Insignia) is 2017 and the situation is no better; probably worse if the truth be told. There are simply too many things that cannot be done without diverting one's concentration away from where it's supposed to be to somewhere else completely. Even changing the fan speed via the buttons in front of the gear change requires a diversion away from where one is supposed to be looking.

An open invitation to have an accident IMHO...

And don't get me started on the cost of repairs if (when?) anything goes wrong; I became aware (painfully) of this syndrome 2 cars ago; even a diagnosis costs in excess of £70.

Mrs Commswonk has berated me several times for buying cars with this problem; it was, of course, a different story when her Toyota Aygo required a "diagnosis" at about the same price. Ditto the actual "fix".

I got a bit of malicious satisfaction from that. :)

Ah yes; schadenfreude

Google employee helped UK government switch from disastrous COVID-19 strategy, according to Dominic Cummings

Commswonk Silver badge

But No Mention of...

Cummings painted an alarming picture of how a combination of groupthink and poor data led the UK authorities to stick with a response to the spread of the virus, characterised by a flawed plan to acquire herd immunity.

From what I have heard today I cannot recall hearing the names Whitty or Vallance being mentioned.

Where were they while all this was going on? Were they providing input to government or not? Was it clear and unambiguous, and if so what was it, or was it so dressed up in Civil Service wooliness that what they were saying was wholly unclear?

It just seems odd that while various politicians have been identified from what Cummings has said the "scientific community" might well have not been in the room... ever.

Big red buttons and very bad language: A primer for life in the IT world

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Re: Red Button

What I noticed in this photograph was the big red button on the panel... and the proximity that Mr Bean was to it

Fear not; from the photo it appears as though his hands have been tied behind his back to discourage their being placed anywhere they shouldn't be.

And I mean anywhere...

Are you ready to take a stand? Flexispot E7 motorised desk should handle whatever you dump on it – but it's not cheap

Commswonk Silver badge


From the article: ...and you can mitigate against the pains in your calves by investing in a decent anti-fatigue mat.

Is that what we would normally call "a bed"?

This week in AI: Man arrested after cops say he rode in backseat of Autopilot Tesla

Commswonk Silver badge

Ah Yes...

As Albert Einstein is alleged to have said: Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; but I’m not sure about the universe

Copper load of this: Openreach outlines 77 new locations where it'll stop selling legacy phone and broadband products

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Re: Loss of power

Without a UPS in the green box there's every chance that a local power outage will kill your domestic landline now.

Phooey. With FTTC a 'phone is powered by the Exchange Battery just as it it always has been. A local power cut may well disrupt local broadband (unless the cabinet is battery - backed) but 'phone services will continue uninterrupted... up to the point the exchange battery is exhausted unless there is a reserve generator on site.

Jaguar Land Rover reaches for graph database in search of supply chain knowledge during chip shortage

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Re: "you can't just stop the factory"

This wonderful world of JIT production is going to have to get back to grips with the notion of stock (oops, a beancounter just fainted).

(My bold)

A good start, but something more permanent would be better.

Please try harder.

Jackie 'You have no authority here' Weaver calls on the UK to extend Coronavirus Act provisions for online meetings

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...moderated by self appointed Clerks.

In real terms that would be highly unusual; the vast majority of Clerks are Council employees who work to agreed standards and have their own professional body.

Commswonk Silver badge

Agree, but there should also be the ability for people to view the meeting online...

I cannot speak for any council other than my own, but in our case the (Zoom) link is available for anyone with a legitimate case for having it, i.e. local residents. AFAIK none have ever asked for it (or found it on our website on the meeting agenda) - I have no recollection of any members of the puiblic viewing an on - line meeting, much less taking the opportunity offered at every meeting for "public participation".

As an aside there are significant variations in how well individuals "perform". Those with desktops or laptops are by and large OK; those with tablets or smartphones seem to be rather less than satisfactory. Perhaps it isn't really all that surprising.

Another perpetual annoyance is those who shuffle things in the background, not realising that their microphone picks everything up and puts it in the foreground. :(

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Parish Council Chairman

As a Parish Council Chairman, I whole-heartedly support the action to retain the option for remote meetings in the short term.

Disclosure: I am a Parish Council Vice Chair... (not Handforth!)

I wholeheartedly agree with your view. The main point is that while the provision for remote meetings expires on 7th May Councils cannot meet in person for a month or two thereafter because of other parts of the Coronavirus Regulations, meaning that unless other provisions are made before 7th May Council business (and not just Parish Councils) must grind to a halt because there would be no authority for bills to be paid and so on. It is likely that Parish Clerks will be granted (by their Councillors) some considerable freedom of action so that normal day to day Council business can carry on without disruption.

Reportedly extending the current provision would require primary legislation, but while not being a lawyer I would have thought that a one line Bill would be all that was necessary, but what do I know...

The situation that we are about to find ourselves in appears to be highly unsatisfactory.

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99

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Re: forthright with outspoken opinions

Not considering of course, total inaction of the Royal Family over successive governments caused the boat to sink in the first place.

I suspect that you don't understand the concept of a Constitutional Monarchy, and I also suspect that you don't really want to either.

What, exactly, would you have had them do?

Their 'next job could be in cyber': UK Cyber Security Council launches itself by pointing world+dog to domain it doesn't own

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Re: The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists

There's some rather dispiriting background to this here.

Dispiriting is a wildly inadequate description IMHO. I read this:

The Council’s focus is set in four pillars:

Professional Development

Outreach and Diversity in Cybersecurity to Develop the Next Generation

Professional Ethics

Thought Leadership and Influence

Apart from the usual salad of buzzwords (Bingo, anyone?) I see no mention of anything about improving the nation's cyber security; silly of me to expect it really.

Never mind; it's got Outreach and Diversity so it's got to be good innit?

Commswonk Silver badge


We already have an established National Cyber Security Centre; do we really need an Cyber Security Council (answerable to a different department of government) as well?

If the answer to the above is yes then can someone please tell me (us!) what the reason is? At the moment it looks like another bunch of people just sucking on the public teat while serving no new purpose.

I just hope the answer doesn't involve "thought leadership", although the article rather suggests that it will. If it does then IMHO we're doomed.

Mullet over: Aussie boys' school tells kids 'business in the front, party in the back' hairstyle is 'not acceptable'

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Who remembers this?

I look forward to the rather old concept of Am I hurting you laddie..? I ought to be because I'm standing on your hair making a comeback.

Diary of a report writer and his big break into bad business

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A Simple Observation...

This article beautifully reveals what happens when style is forced to have precedence over substance.

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Re: Ha!

Should I delete the comma?

Yes, but only to replace it with a semi - colon. :)

MPs slam UK's £22bn Test and Trace programme for failing to provide evidence that it slows COVID pandemic

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Re: Online test registration

I went through the online registration of my test kit and after getting to the end and going through the Google captcha looking for crosswalks I got a message saying "there was a problem, try again." Tried again only this time I was looking for fire hydrants and got the same message.

Now that you have brought the matter up can anyone tell me why anyone navigating a Captcha has to interpret photographs of (for example) USian street furniture despite not living there or (as in my case) not even having visited the place? And why are the blasted pictures (a) so small (e.g. the size of a postage stamp) and (b) an exercise in minimising the number of pixels involved?

Where is the grumply old git icon when you most need one?


Like a challenge in a high profile 'face-of-IT' role? Welcome to the Home Office

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Re: Arse about face!

May I suggest that in future (starting from now), the NAO and Public Accounts Committee et al, are allowed a period sufficient for them to very closely examine all such projects as they are initially presented on paper! Through comparison and learning from past mistakes they can then determine which ones are going to fail / drag on a bit too long,

Nice idea, but I greatly doubt if it would work because neither "oversight" body would be able to tell if what was being asked for / promised was technically possible at the time. Bidders always promise that everything is "easy" (or perhaps "oven - ready" is the prefered phrase now) even when it isn't.

If this new job has the ESN as part of its brief then anyone reading this should keep well away from it. It might be a cliché but the only viable description is "poisoned chalice". A friend of mine sent me a section from Police Oracle on the latest position, and it does not make for happy reading. I would provide a link but it's behind a pay wall.

I will just quote one sentence as an example:

That means that the project will have to procure some non ruggedised devices or possibly adapt some existing Airwave handsets for use at the start of the proper roll out once the Airwave system is finally switched off.

Anyone who believes that an existing TETRA handset can be adapted to work on the ESN "just like that" clearly has no idea about operating on wildly different frequencies, never mind other technical differences.

Who will have the courage to tell Priti Patel that it is not going to work on any sensible timescale? If it was as "oven ready" as all that why isn't it working now?

We know it's hard to get your kicks at work – just do it away from a wall switch powering anything important

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: My favourite one....

I was 12 years old and it was the first funny 'risky' work story he told me.

I think you mean risqué.

Good story though. :)

Transcribe-my-thoughts app would prevent everyone knowing what I actually said during meetings

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

The usual problem isn't the minutes, it's the meeting.

A friend of ours is a now - retired architect, and he once recounted a story about a meeting he attended with a trainee in tow. While travelling to the meeting (which was about some "public sector work") he said to the trainee there will be one decision made at this meeting and on the way home I want you to tell me what it was.

Come the return journey he asked if the trainee had spotted the decision, but the trainee had to admit that he had not.

Unsurprised by this he said it was the date of the next meeting.

Tesla axes software engineer for allegedly pilfering secret Python scripts after just three days on the job

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Re: thief

Company policy says he should not copy files outside of Tesla's control. That's what he did. Security caught him. Police, handcuffs, jail.

Non sequitur. Breaching company policy may easily be an act for which dismissal is appropriate, but it does not in and of itself constitute a breach of the criminal law, and if it doesn't then police / handcuffs / jail involvement is simply... illegal.

Even proving theft might be difficult; OK he grabbed a load of Intellectual Property but IIRC it can be hard to prove that that constitutes actual theft as he did not deprive its actual owner of anything material.

Top engineer who stole trade secrets from Google's self-driving division pardoned on Trump's last day as president

Commswonk Silver badge

It's like gun control, whether you believe the word 'bear' means carry or own, the founding fathers were thinking in terms of flint lock muzzle loaders with a maximum fire rate of 3-6 rounds per minute.

Your 3 - 6 rounds overly ambitious for a muzzle loader, but the main point is that the 2nd Amendment also includes the words (IIRC) as part of a well regulated militia and that bit is consistently never mentioned, because, well, it wouldn't be would it...

Hollywood drone pilot admits he crashed gizmo into cop chopper, triggering emergency landing

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Re: Helicopter danger

You could probably check electrical usage, since gro-ops usually use a lot of power for the grow lights.

Which is why bypassing the electricity meter is high up on a would - be grower's to - do list. Cannabis farms and dangerous electrical systems go hand in hand.

Outside the occasional bit of HUMINT the best way of finding a cannabis farm is from its heat signature as seen from on high.

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Helicopter danger

@ Danny 2: Arrest any criminals without risking civilian lives.

As Alister said You really don't have a clue, do you. I think you would do well to do a little research on police powers of entry before passing comments such as that above. The circumstances that allow police to enter property without a warrant are very limited and laid down in law. "Just checking to see if you are running a cannabis farm" is most definitely not one of them. FWIW no warrant would ever be issued on that basis alone by either a Police Inspector or a Magistrate; there would have to be good grounds for suspecting that that property (house) was being used for that purpose; what the USians would call "probable cause".

An excessive heat signature (as spotted from a helicopter) would be very likely to be sufficient to trigger a warrant.

See also Muscleguy's comment; hash houses can be booby trapped (commonly by connecting things such as door handles to the electrical mains) and any occupants armed. It would not be unusual for any planned raid to involve armed officers in sufficient numbers to overcome any reluctance on the part of any occupants to behave themselves.

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Not just the US

In the UK if you're caught driving when drunk you'll get a minimum 1 year driving ban and a hefty fine. If you kill someone when driving drunk you'll face jail time.

True, but perhaps misleading. Killing someone when driving OPL is not an "aggravating factor" to driving OPL but is a separate offence.

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Helicopter danger

I don't feel we should be using helicopters above residential areas as they are too liable to crash.

And how many times has that happened in the last 10 years?

Sometimes they fly above residences to search for the heat signature of cannabis farms - knock on the doors instead.

Knock on the door and do what, exactly? Sorry, but I don't think you have much idea about how policing works, and for that matter has to work.

Ad IIRC the Clutha crash was pilot error; I'm not trying to downgrade its importance but merely trying to put it into context.

Yes, Microsoft Access was a recalcitrant beast, but the first step is to turn the computer on

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Re: I'd be shocked if ...

... Joshua didn't realise that he had constructed a Single Point of Failure and promptly done something about it.

Atlantic City auctions off chance to hit Big Red Button and make grotesque Trump Plaza casino go boom

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Point of Order

I am still pondering the physics of making a building implode.

Explode, or collapse, OK... but implode?

What is there that when a button is pushed or a mouse clicked generates an enormous vacuum inside a building so that it implodes?

Perhaps I should get out more. And perhaps the coat should be white and flapping... :)

Up yours, Europe! Our 100% prime British broadband is cheaper than yours... but also slower and a bit of a rip-off

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Value for money

If you get your 30mbps for 38 quid, that maybe the cheapest. But if you get 100mbps for 45 quid, that is "more expensive", but better value for money.

That's too close to the major food retailers' "BOGOF" technique for my liking; it may be better VFM but it can result in increased food waste which ultimately can mean the the retail customer doesn't get increased VMF at all.

I (well we actually; there's two of us) get typically 53.1 / 18.6 Mbps (tested 5 minutes ago) and that is more than sufficient for our needs. Any further increase in speed - however it was achieved - would not be "VFM" in our case (assuming that it came with a cost increase) because it would be a speed that we didn't need.

I'm not going to be so silly as to suggest that nobody needs faster speeds, but IMHO comparisons such as those made in the report are too simplistic by far.

What does my neighbour's Tesla have in common with a stairlift?

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Charging

@ AC: it will not be necessary when they have more practical ranges and the charging times can be reduced to something closer to the time it currently takes to fill a car.

Basically, cars will be able to "fill up" by going to a charging station once every now and then.

I don't know what you're smoking but can I have some?


Oh, no one knows what goes on behind locked doors... so don't leave your UPS in there

Commswonk Silver badge

The bad news is that you unplugged the server so you could power the Christmas tree lights. From the UPS".

To the above and other similar events I find myself wondering why nobody thought of fitting RED BS1363 plugs. They don't all have "Hospital Property" on the covers.

Because "accountants" I suppose...

Reading El Reg while working from home? Here's a pleasant thought: Kaspersky says 1 in 10 of you are naked right now

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Re: Naked coding? Sounds Agile...

And given that I'm in Yorkshire, it's pretty much a legal requirement to not turn the heating on unless you've woken up with icicles hanging off your nose and ears...

Having been born and brought up in Edinburgh I have to ask what is this "heating" of which you speak?

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Wally got there first...

Well perhaps; here's another one from 25 years ago...


Scotch eggs ascend to the 'substantial meal' pantheon as means to pop to pub for a pint during pernicious pandemic

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: A soft-boiled scotch egg?

What nonsense is this?

IMHO the correct response should be What kind of talk is that, then in a voice that might just sound like John Cleese.

Boeing 737 Max will return to flight after software updates, says EU's aviation regulator

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Even once Covid is "beaten" it will take years to recover, and given the new found realisations that business *CAN* be done by WFH and video calls/confs, I suspect that it will be several years before flights get back to pre-Covid levels.

Well... perhaps. A lot depends on individual "reasons for travel". A tremendous number of flights are for personal reasons rather than immediate business purposes and while I might agree that business will have found alternative (and possibly cheaper) ways of working without flying I suspect that the holiday market will bounce back fairly robustly, subject to the caveat that many may find that they don't have the money to fly because of precarious employment circumstances, including not having any employment to pay for a holiday in the first place.

Having said that the really big unknown is that of actually "beating Covid"; at the moment the probability of vaccines being imminently available is still just a probability and there is a lot of work to do between that probability and the certainty of them (the vaccines) being rolled out to a sufficiently large number of the world's population and being effective for long enough (another unknown I suspect) for Covid to more or less wither away.

A question of "woe; the end is not nigh".

China 'firmly opposes' India's new round of app bans, says it has violated trade laws

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Re: Wonder if

China really needs a good kick up the arse, but unfortunately we keep buying from them.

Perfectly true, and the longer we leave it before starting the harder it will be to achieve an equitable outcome. Eventually it will become completely impossible to contain the dragon and we - that is everyone other than the Chinese Communist Party - will have a long time to wish something had been done when the opportunity still existed.

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Hah! Pot, kettle! (etc)

Quite so; it's a variant of "be reasonable; do it my way".

Millions wiped off value of Capita outsourcing deal with English councils amid 'further contract variation agreement'

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Re: Interesting choice of words

Of course accountants use different vocabulary to us normal folk.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about a business that wanted to employ someone in a senior accountancy rôle. At interview each candidate was handed a sheet of figures and asked "what do these figures mean?"

The post was given to the applicant who responded "what would you like them to mean?"

Commswonk Silver badge

You'd have thought that they would have been added to a blacklist a long time ago as being an excessively high risk supplier.

Well, quite. However AIUI those seeking to place a contract with an external supplier of services are not allowed to take past performance into account. Now I know that most people who had discovered that a contractor they had used (builder, gardener, car servicing / repair and so on) was a complete cowboy would go out of their way to avoid that contractor like the plague* next time round but in the world of mirrors that is government it's not so much a case of "once bitten, twice shy" as "would you like to bite me again?"

* With apologies for using a cliché.

Commswonk Silver badge

Oh... Beautiful!

From the article: They aren't the only public-sector organisations struggling to recognise the immense value Capita brings to every contract.

What a truly wonderful way of putting it.

An example of Litotes, IIRC.

UK reveals new 'National Cyber Force', announces Space Command and mysterious AI agency

Commswonk Silver badge

Re: Launching Rockets

I hope the allegedly fiscally minded conservatives will make the first rocket launched from Scotland is also the first one to land in Scotland as well.

On Bute House, nose first?

Downvotes likely...

Commswonk Silver badge

Ah yes, we are recognised as the only country dumb enough to buy two new aircraft carriers and completely forget to buy any planes for them. Oh, except maybe one type that hasn't finished development yet, we won't be able to afford and relies on being a strong US ally.

I would certainly agree that the indecent haste with which the UK's VTOL / STOL capability was ditched was a huge blunder that I could not understand at the time and still don't. Having said that would be Harrier still be a viable concept 10 years on from that decision? I doubt if the actual aircraft would have been, although I would like to be wrong about that.

Trying to regain some of the capability doesn't seem to be too bad a plan, although I share your concerns about the F35 and everything that it entails.

Commswonk Silver badge

As someone who is well aware of the doublespeak the west is capable of...

Are you suggesting that doublespeak is a uniquely western phenomenon? I sincerely hope not, but at the moment - and writing as a "westerner" - I suspect that your loyalties might lie elsewhere.


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