* Posts by jfollows

43 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Jun 2018

Lenovo scores deal to build supercomputer at UK's Hartree Center


Well done to all involved

Well done - I ran a procurement at the Hartree Centre more than ten years ago and I know the amount of work involved, and how hard it is to balance all the requirements thrown at you in this sort of process. Of course it's an environment in which "management interference" exists, but most people involved are aware of the ultimate goal and my experience was that it's possible to steer round these things and get a good result.

Alaska Airlines' door-dropping flight was missing bolts


There wasn’t enough force on any of the 154 flights which took place without the bolts, so something extra on the failure flight of some sort, perhaps something completely acceptable normally.

IBM talks up cost savings, including 'workforce rebalancing'


Re: What does IBM do these days?

I worked for IBM from 1984 to 2008 and - apart from the last year - it was a good company to work for. You were recognised as an IBM employee, and valued as such, and able to make a career through different interesting jobs. The balance was good between requirements of the company and remuneration and you weren't expected to do silly things which disrupted your personal life except in very unusual circumstances.

After Sam Palmisano took over, it stopped being a good company to work for, the company took more from you and gave less, and wanted to pigeonhole you in a place where you might make money for IBM. So I found another job and left, best job-related decision of my life, I took a pay cut for a more interesting job.

After I left - in the UK - IBM killed the pension scheme for those still employed, in a show of huge bad faith and going back on previous "committments" which turned out not to be.

After a spell working on internal IT projects, I always worked in areas in which IBM sold things, and I was able to come up with solutions which met customers' needs in various areas. I made sure my customers were happy and would always want to come back to us. I simply don't see that sort of job satisfaction any more, and it's definitely not a "job for life" as it once was.

For a moment there, Lotus Notes appeared to do everything a company needed


I liked it, too

I liked it when IBM introduced it to replace its mainframe internal email system, first running on OS/2 of course but later on I was able to run it on Linux on my laptop.

I found its handling of folders and the way I could file emails intuitive and simple.

I liked its ability to let me write something which automatically downgraded emails from one particular person to "not very important at all", someone who insisted on flagging all his emails as "important". 30 minutes of my time I guess.

I moved to the Microsoft world when I changed jobs in 2008 and found it much less pleasant. Admittedly some lack of familiarity will have caused some of that.

But as a user it appeared to work well and do what it said it would do, plus it could easily be persuaded to do what I wanted it to do.

How governments become addicted to suppliers like Fujitsu


Some good points here

I worked for one of the named suppliers - IBM - for more than 20 years, then worked for the UK public sector and ran a "small" £37.5m procurement as part of my job. I and my team were highly technically skilled and we had excellent support from the people used to running procurements who advised us on the process but left us to make the decisions. Without both of these aspects, procurements are often doomed, as the article says. On the other hand, if it's done properly with the right people and without too much senior management interference, it makes sense. We completed on time and on budget. As I expected we would.

Former Post Office boss returns CBE to sender over computer system scandal


Re: A scandal of epic proportions

Radio 4 has also had extensive coverage, part of which was repeated last night. For those of us who think TV news is just ‘entertainment’ dressed up with a few facts.

40 years of Turbo Pascal, the coding dinosaur that revolutionized IDEs


Pascal as a teaching language

My 1981-1984 degree was primarily based around Pascal, at Imperial College, London, but it was too early for Turbo Pascal of course, we used an IBM 4331 running VM and it suffered when too many people used it at the same time. Of course we used other languages as well, but primarily Pascal for teaching.

1 in 5 VMware customers plan to jump off its stack next year


No context

Firstly, 80% of existing customers won't leave next year.

Secondly, what's the normal percentage of customers who leave each year?

Without this information, this is fluff and not useful information.

IBM to scrap 401(k) matching, offer something else instead



I worked for IBM from 1984 to 2008, and enjoyed most of my work most of the time, like many good jobs.

In particular, I prided myself on representing IBM and designing and implementing good solutions which met our customers' needs.

In 2007 I realised the worm had turned, and I got out. Palmisano, as others have said, started the process or amplified the rot already there.

I am collecting my deferred defined-benefit pension next year, which was part of a scheme which was sold to me as a benefit when I joined in 1984 and - naturally - subsequently scrapped to save IBM money.

However IBM is not unique, it's the way a lot of companies have gone. Employees have moved from valuable assets to expenses. I was lucky that I could afford to make the decisions I made.

Good news for UK tech contractors as govt repeals IR35 tax rules


Good news and a triumph for common sense

I worked for myself for a little while, my primary motivation being to get away from working "for" an organisation run by incompetents and having to defend them in public. At the time I determined by IR35 status, but I was clearly working outside IR35 and should clearly be seen as such under the recent rules.

I stopped work before the new rules, but could well have been caught up in them, especially when working for the risk-unaware public sector. In my case I'd have declined to work under a contract inside IR35, but I didn't need the money, and lots of people got sucked in with no choice.

There will always be a problem here, and I worked with people who worked as "contractors" who were clearly working as if they were employees. But the last rounds of changes to IR35 rules for the public and then private sectors have not been the solution.

The solution is probably to double the number of people working for HMRC and increasing the penalties on individuals who deliberately say they're not inside IR35 when they should be. But most of that's probably not going to happen. However, even acknowledging that, the way it used to work was better than the way it's changed recently, knowing that some people lie and get away with it is better than the bureaucratic clap-trap that's been attempted since 2017.

Tech world may face huge fines if it doesn't scrub CSAM from encrypted chats


Re: Will it happen?

Not any more, it’s been shunted to next session now.


Plans dropped to pass the online safety bill next week

The final stages of the bill were due to take place in the House of Commons on Wednesday July 21st. but will now be shunted to later in the year, meaning that a new prime minister, home secretary and culture secretary may kill it because they don't agree with the bill in its current form.

Apparently it's Labour's "fault" for trying to get a no-confidence motion debated, resulting in the Conservatives calling their own debate on Monday 18th. July. This, in turn, caused the Northern Ireland protocol bill to be moved from Mon/Tue to Tue/Wed, and parliament goes into recess after that.

IBM ends funding for employee retirement clubs


Re: Warning: Old-Git Post

Towards the end of my period of employment at IBM (1984-2008) I was increasingly asked for my "serial number" rather than my "personnel number". I generally answered along the lines of "I don't have one because I'm not a washing machine" but this usually just confused the nice lady in Bratislava asking the question. But it was another manifestation of the same hideous "HR" thing, and another reason why I decided it was time to part company with the company.

Intel plans immersion lab to chill its power-hungry chips


Definitely not a new idea

I went to see a company, Iceotope, in a garage in Sheffield who were doing this with Intel processors ten years ago. They're still in existence.

So Intel appears to be happy to let small companies take the risk, develop the technology, prove the concept, then leap in with huge feet once the issues have been solved and claim it for themselves?

That's what it looks like to me, anyway.

IBM deliberately misclassified mainframe sales to enrich execs, lawsuit claims


It's human nature, though, isn't it?

I spent the last years of my IBM career (I left in 2008) trying to get off "bonus schemes" because they meant that I spent the last month of each financial year working towards their targets rather than what was good for IBM, its customers and for me. You could argue that better bonus schemes would not cause this behaviour.

But all bonus schemes are going to incent people to meet the letter of the requirements rather than the spirit of the scheme. Think hospital waiting list reduction; some bright spark simply came up with a new waiting list for the waiting list so the end result was that the total waiting list got longer but anyone paid on reduction of the original waiting list was quids in.

Not that I'm excusing the behaviour of course, it's simply that it's unsurprising. Companies like IBM are run by people who love bonus schemes, and they incorrectly think that people who aren't "incented" by such schemes don't have "skin in the game" and won't "go the extra mile" etc. Complete rubbish.

Many people simply want a fair wage for a good job and the motivation is the knowledge that they're able to do their best job in the circumstances. People in senior positions in companies like IBM are blind to this.

My conclusion is that the mentality behind companies like IBM, and the people who run them, is wrong, and it's not restricted to IBM. The priorities are all wrong, the customers don't come first and the employees come last.

Axed data scientist sues IBM claiming he was discriminated against as a man


Re: I'd agree that there's plenty of competition out there for bad employers

Yes, IBM was a good employer; when it took me on (in 1984) it actively compared itself with the market surveys and wanted to be at the top.

Its line management, however, wasn't generally much good but survived in good times. Line management got promoted to middle management. It was interesting that Lou Gerstner bypassed management to sort out IBM in the 1990s.

By 2007 IBM was no longer a good employer, so I left. But I don't think it's any worse than many others, it's just that it's nowhere near the best and doesn't even try to be any more. At the end of the day it's a benefit/cost analysis and I no longer felt that the benefits I got from IBM (salary, yes, but recognition and good treatment more generally) matched the personal cost in time and effort and a feeling of compromising and no longer being able to do the best job I could any more.

When I worked there I was proud to do a good job and meet the customers' requirements, and fix my mistakes properly. So me and my colleagues were respected and relied upon by our customers.

Sealed, confidential IBM files in age-discrimination case now public to all


Re: I joined IBM as an experienced hire in 2000 and left in 2013

I think that Project Waltz saw this off in the end; the pension burden exists of course but I think it's immaterial whether or not you work for IBM any more. I left IBM in 2008 and I'm a deferred member of the defined benefit pension scheme and I stand to collect on this shortly, and it's a good deal, which was sold to me when I joined IBM in 1984. But once the defined benefit scheme was shut down, after I left, anyone still working for IBM is in the same boat as I'm in - older workers might get paid more but they aren't building up any more pension "burden" for IBM.

Chromium-adjacent Otter browser targets OS/2


The Single Input Queue - thank you for giving it a name. Absolutely the worst thing about OS/2 as I alluded to earlier - yes, the operating system hadn't "crashed" but so what, I could no longer interact with my computer and had to power it off to get it working again. I don't think there was a way around it and I never found one if there was. Now I use Linux and MacOS and hardly ever have to reboot to circumvent any sort of problem.

It was a shame because I'd had a few years experience of MVS, and hoped that the 386SX+OS/2 combination might be a "real" operating system for the first time on a machine I could afford to buy. Maybe it was a valiant effort, but it wasn't good enough.


OS/2 was interesting

I worked for IBM ... back in the day ... and I installed OS/2 on my own 386SX bought in about 1990. It was better than running Windows at the time, but this was before Windows 3.x.

I then got a company laptop which ran OS/2. It over-promised and under-delivered, perhaps a mantra for IBM in recent years? The idea was that it was a "proper" operating system, but rogue applications (Netscape was especially bad) could still take over control and require a power-on reset.

Later on I ran Linux on my IBM laptop and that was all that OS/2 should have been.

IBM sold products with "embedded" OS/2. I remember the 3172, which was a microchannel PS/2 which probably ran OS/2 and was a good product; it was a mainframe-LAN gateway which supported TCP/IP and was relatively cost-efficient for companies to connect their mainframes to the new TCP/IP. I remember going to a customer in Cardiff to set one up .... and discovering that the control workstation required OS/2, which of course the customer didn't have. I think I returned the next day with 30 diskettes and installed OS/2 on to the machine that the customer provided and all was good.

Later I sold a different customer a 2216 solution, which ran OS/2, and which ran "AnyNet" software which allowed IP transport over SNA networks. It was perfect for the customer, but it was a dreadful product and just didn't work properly. I spent a lot of effort replacing the 2216s with 2210s which were re-badged IP routers which worked perfectly.

Good experiences, but OS/2 never matched its hype.

IBM tells POWER8 owners: The end is nigh for upgrades


Re: Thanks

The process of generating an MES or upgrade order was one interesting part of one of the jobs I had during my 20 years.

The starting point was a representation of the current system, in some kind of electronic form. If I had myself configured and ordered the original system, I probably had this information. Otherwise it required an attempt to reverse-engineer this, and there were pitfalls for the unwary. How many power supply units does the system have? How many memory modules and of what type? And so on.

Then I used a "configurator", initially on HONE (mainframe system running VM) and later on a PC. This was something created by the real product specialists describing all the possible features and the restrictions or co-requirements for them. In the configurator I specified the desired final system, eg one with more memory or whatever.

Then the configurator was set to work and it spat out a list of things required to upgrade the system - the MES if you will. This could include additional power supplies to support the additional components, for example. WIth all my specialist knowledge, this was too detailed to remember, so having the configurator work out the rules and generate the list of required upgrades was pretty vital. It would also list any components to be removed.

Then I'd pass this to a sales person, who would do something with the pricing to ensure that it was appropriate, and feed it into the order processing systems.

The configurator didn't stop all mistakes, but prevented a lot of them. The main problem was that it wouldn't let you order what you thought you wanted, until you worked out why, and it was normally my misunderstanding which was at fault.

Presumably something similar still exists today, but I left IBM in 2008.


“Miscellaneous Equipment Specification” is what “MES” stands for, although just about as meaningless as the abbreviation …. for those unlike me who didn’t have the benefit of working for IBM for > 20 years.

'Large-scale computing' needs a government team driving it, says UK.gov


I haven't read the report yet, but I'd be surprised if there's anything new in it. Dominic Tildesley wrote a report in 2011 (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32499/12-517-strategic-vision-for-uk-e-infrastructure.pdf) and I expect a lot of the same messages. But it called for a coordinated and consistent approach to e-Infrastructure, rather than a "government team" and the latter sounds dreadful at first thought.

Brits open doors for tech-enabled fraudsters because they 'don't want to seem rude'


The banks bear a lot of responsibility

The banks started this - I'm sure others remember being called by them out of the blue, for a genuine problem with a card transaction, say.

After exchanging "hellos" they'd then say "we now have to ask you some security questions".

To which I replied, something along the lines of "no chance, you called me, remember?"

"ah yes, but we have to ...."

"No you don't, get lost and I'll call you back later".

So I was a bit more awake than some, perhaps, back then - but they set expectations that banks will call you about problems with your account. So people believe the scammers who call today. They just didn't think about what they were doing when they started calling people about things like this.

So I blame the banks' stupidity a lot - and I understand why people get taken in now. Oh well.

British teachers' pensions set to be released from Capita's grasp after nearly 30 years


Many reports of poor administration

The Guardian (no surprise there) has reported recently how badly the scheme appears to be administered, and points to Trustpilot which is especially bad in its reviews.

Ex-health secretary said 'vast majority' were 'onside' with GP data grab. Consumer champion Which? reckons 20 million don't even know what it is


If you only do the on-line opt-out and don't do the paper form to your GP then your GP data will be hoovered up under the current plans.

This is all part of the confusion surrounding this.

Yes, in due course the on-line opt-out MAY also apply to GP data, but it doesn't today. Currently it only applies to "non-GP data" such as from hospital or clinic treatments. It's likely that anyone wanting to opt out wants to, and needs to, do both.

"The National Data Opt-out will not stop your GP data being extracted by the new GP data collection" as the excellent medconfidential site states.

Big Blue's big email blues signal terminal decline – unless it learns to migrate itself


Re: What is financial engineering?

Some interesting stuff you have written, thank you.

I walked in 2008 because I worked out that IBM's motivation was no longer aligned with my motivation.

I blame Palmisano for a toxic culture which filtered down. But you make it clear that some of it already started with Gerstner.

I also went because the "work at home" policy in the UK was toxic - I hadn't thought about it that way much until now. Clearly based on short-term expense management. I got fed up of sitting on my own and not having anyone else to check what I was doing - for sanity if nothing else.

I don't regret my departure for a second, and the vast majority of people with whom I worked, only a couple still work for IBM, agree that I did the right thing at the right time.

IBM email fiasco complicates sales deals, is worse than biz is letting on – sources


Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

Yes, but in 1994 when I had a very early laptop, I had to convert my email inbox on PROFS into a single flat file and download it to my laptop (with EBCDIC to ASCII translation of course) to my laptop. I could then read my email and write replies as I travelled, then upload the replies back to PROFS when I got home to send them off ...... it could be done but it was hardly a pleasant process!

IBM's 18-month company-wide email system migration has been a disaster, sources say


Re: Bring back PROFS!

I joined IBM in 1984 and one of the radical things it did then was that everyone had email, very simple and only between people who worked in IBM but, hey, that was radical to me. And I interacted daily with colleagues in the USA and mainland Europe to do my job. This was before NOSS/PROFS but they built on the infrastructure over time. So for me, email was one of the first "wow" things about working for IBM when I started.


Re: An impossible task

I used Notes when I worked at IBM from its introduction to my departure in 2008. In my new job I had to use Outlook and I found it significantly worse. I suffered a little from the reverse of what you describe - I liked what I was used to - but I did find that Outlook wasted my time more even when I became accustomed to it.

And Notes was probably a big step up in many ways over the previous mainframe-based email, although I didn't hate that either, it was just a tool of its time.

IBM pulls up the ladder behind some supercomputer customers


Ladders and toolkits

I had to put together the orders for supercomputer systems, and things like ladders and toolkits were always a bit of a challenge. Most of the order was made up of building blocks repeated over and over again, for example 20 racks each containing 8 identical servers, or whatever. The challenge was always to remember that you generally only needed ONE ladder or ONE toolkit, it was quite easy to accidentally order 20 of the things, or none at all. I usually got it right, probably thanks to colleagues double-checking my orders before they were submitted into the jaws of the ordering system and getting me to revise the orders in the light of errors like these.

I probably only reached a point of genuine expertise in constructing these orders by the time I resigned from IBM in 2008.

The classic hits keep coming from IBM: z/OS set for big update in September



Well, I find it interesting anyway, my experience with MVS (which was renamed z/OS ages ago) dates back to summer 1983 as an operator at Philips in Croydon. Many other readers will go back further than this.

I knew that JES3 was going to get the chop, but it's still interesting to see that it's taken until now. I never encountered it, I always used JES2 and only came across customers (when I worked for IBM 1984-2008) who had JES2. I've run JES2 myself for fun on a PC and on a POWER4 p690 even (on an emulator on top of Linux in both cases).

Just interesting because of the long life of the software which is supported by the operating system.

Expect €5m cloud, says European Centre for Midrange Weather Forecasts


Get the name right, please

European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

IBM still not offering future revenue guidance, suffers yet another quarter of falling sales


Re: 2020 is the year of PC and laptop sales.... yet IBM still loses money

IBM gross profit for the twelve months ending June 30, 2020 was $36.057B, a 1.34% decline year-over-year.

How do you reconcile this with your statement that "IBM still loses money"?

The truth is that IBM makes a lot of money, it's just not as much as it planned for itself to make, but a gross profit of tens of billions of dollars a year is still far from losing money.

IBM manager had to make one person redundant from choice of two, still bungled it and got firm done for unfair dismissal


Re: but ... but ..

IBM Hursley was brilliant before it became "just another IBM location", I went there for courses, I stayed at the Hotel du Vin in Winchester and drove to work in my imported Ford Mustang GT .... none of which required me to be an IBM employee I guess but it was a good place and time to work for IBM in the mid-1990s I guess.


Maybe so, but in 1993 any layoffs in IBM were managed well, and came about in part from a bottom-up culture which recognised that we were all part of the solution. We were encouraged to think the previously-unthinkable, and then act on those thoughts. The end result, although not of course for the 60,000 laid off, was that we felt part of the solution.

Of course, it was only a job. But at least we were motivated to preserve the values we felt were important and felt a part of that.

Clearly, also, ten year later something had changed, at least for me, but in reality I observed the same in the people with whom I worked. I ended up working for the personal satisfaction of doing my job well despite IBM, so I left.


IBM was a very good company to work for, but it's probably not a coincidence that during most of the time I worked for them (1984 to 2008) there was little need to lay off staff. Its managers weren't trained in making these sorts of difficult decisions. I think that Sam Palmisano's appointment in 2002/3 led to a trickle-down approach to what IBM was and how it would operate, and the people it had employed to manage weren't up to the new requirements placed on them. As a non-manager I noted the absence of a "give and take" approach in which I gave IBM something and took something in return, and this worked to our mutual benefit. After about 2006 I spotted the change, I made active plans to leave starting in 2007 and I left in 2008. Sadly I couldn't engineer a poor performance rating followed by paid redundancy, but my self-worth and job satisfaction remained. Today I agree with the sentiment and wouldn't advise anyone to work for IBM unless they really know why they are doing so.

0ops. 1,OOO-plus parking fine refunds ordered after drivers typed 'O' instead of '0'


Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

My last car’s number started OE60, nothing unusual in that. The O and the 0 looked identical too.

In the past, companies enforcing parking on private land in the UK would invoice people for payment when they entered the wrong registration, confusing O with 0. More recently, the British Parking Association has been embarrassed into updating its "code of practice" to tell its members to "let off" people who make this mistake.

IBM ordered to pay £22k to whistleblower and told by judges: Teach your managers what discrimination means


Agreed - when I worked for IBM UK 1984-2008 I would attend meetings and so on outside normal working hours when required, if warranted.

However I then got an invite to a weekly conference call with some "US big cheese" at something like 7pm every Tuesday evening. I felt able to decline and said something like "my commitment to IBM does not extend to a weekly meeting at 7pm", but others in different circumstances may have not felt able to do so.

I don't think this was anything special to do with IBM, it's just bad practice and I can report that my stance was supported by my managers and colleagues at the time.

Still, it's interesting to read about this particular case now that I no longer work for IBM. Definitely not the company I joined in 1984.

New IBM CEO Arvind Krishna says hybrid cloud will be bigger than mainframes, services, middleware


Re: @AC Few companies HAD the trust, ....

Whenever anyone else in IBM asked me for my "serial number" I told them that I hadn't knowingly become a washing machine.

But, sadly, that's what they had started to call it when I left in 2008, having decided in 2007 that my career objectives and IBM's plans for my career were no longer the same. I had a mainly good experience since 1984 until then.

I blame Sam Palmisano, and just didn't see Ginny Rometti doing anything different when she took over. A good career decision of mine at the time, with the wisdom of hindsight. Now I'm retired and will take my IBM pension when I'm 63 in a few years.

We regret to inform you there are severe delays on the token ring due to IT nerds blasting each other to bloody chunks


Re: Token Ring in the early '90s?

Early Token Release, I think, is what you're referring to (more than one frame circulating on the ring at the same time).

I appear to have written something on Token Ring at http://ibmfiles.com/ibmfiles/networking/token_ring_solutions.pdf more than 20 years ago (I think I wrote it in 1999 although it appears to have been published in 2000), but it might provide something interesting to reminisce over.


Re: Token Ring in the early '90s?

I worked for IBM as a networking specialist 1994-2000 in a variety of roles, including in UK branch offices where we had a good number of token ring customers. Using mainframes, of course, with duplicate MAC addresses for resilience in access, and better performance over shared media than Ethernet could deliver - despite the misleading impression in the article about waiting for tube trains meaning that token ring was slow, in fact it performed very well up to close to its theoretical bandwidth whereas shared Ethernet performance deteriorates significantly under heavy load because of all the collisions when two stations attempt to transmit simultaneously.

LAN switching removed the Ethernet performance problem (when done properly) and came in at a lower price. Mainframe access moved to IP protocols, even for 3270 users, and the duplicate MAC address benefit went away. Also the market for very profitable (to IBM) token ring gateways such as the 3746-900 went away too. The world moved on.

IBM fired me because I'm not a millennial, says axed cloud sales star in age discrim court row


Re: 60 year old boomer

Please don't confuse the issue with inaccuracy; IBM is immensely profitable with a gross profit margin of 45.8% on revenue of $79.1 billion in 2017. Maybe you mean that profits haven't risen for a number of years and parts of the business are static and other parts are in decline? That's a very different tale, however.

US regains supercomputer crown from Chinese, for now


Re: Recycling

In my past experience, which I have little reason to think is outdated but I can happily be corrected, after three years the machines are no longer state-of-the-art and need upgrading or replacing to remain on the curve, but retain some useful life in a secondary role for about two more years if not.

After five years, the performance compared with the running costs (electricity and cooling even if not staff) mean that money is saved by scrapping the hardware and replacing with new equipment. However many organisations have ring-fenced capital and recurrent budgets and continue to run old equipment because they have no replacement money. This is vastly wasteful of money if the bigger picture is considered, and can lead to a perception that there is value in extremely old equipment which is not justified really.

Recycling to donate to another institution generally does not make much sense, but sometimes can, for example to enable an institution to extend the life of its old equipment in the knowledge of a replacement capital funding in the near future.