* Posts by Willy Ekerslike

31 publicly visible posts • joined 11 Nov 2019

Microsoft's Recall should be celebrated as the savior of SMEs and scourge of CEOs

Willy Ekerslike

Ignorance Management

The description of SME staff and value reminds me of presentations I used to give on "knowledge management" - the focus being on corporate knowledge and minimising the disruption when key staff move on. I used the title "Ignorance Management" because it's ignorance that actually causes the problems.

I centred a large part of my talk on a modified Johari window:

Top left: What you know you know - explicit knowledge, the stuff you could write down in a handover note without prompts

Top right: What you don't know you know - implicit knowledge, what you wouldn't put in a handover note but could describe if specifically asked.

Bottom left: What you know you don't know - explicit ignorance, where you know your limits, and when to refer to others or look up in a book or online.

Bottom right: What you don't know you don't know - implicit ignorance, where you don't know your limits and where you generate material for Monday's "Who Me".

Training adds to the first category, although much of it moves into the second with familiarity and routine.

Education shifts a lot out of the fourth category but, contrary to what many assume, the real value doesn't come from populating the first one. Education (especially formally structured academic education) converts implicit ignorance into explicit ignorance and teaches limits. An expert is someone who knows their limits.

That doesn't add anything to this thread other than supporting the view that Microsoft's development won't really help anyone except Microsoft...

Help! My mouse climbed a wall and now it doesn't work right

Willy Ekerslike

Re: Mouse balls

Everyone has a screw loose somewhere...

Taxing times: UK missed out on £1.75B because of digitization delays

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Re: Digital tax?

There's the saying: If you can, do; if you can't, teach! That's harsh on the majority of teachers, who are dedicated to their job, but allows a follow-on epithet: If you can't even teach, become a politician.

I know politicians (and, especially government ministers) can't be expected to be experts in everything they need to address, but they need to have a basic understanding about what their advisors (who should be expert in what they're advising) are telling them. Unfortunately, those who rise to positions of authority in government (and, dare I say, the Civil Service) get to those positions through skills that bear no relation to what is needed once there. In my view, the greater the ability to rise above the competition, often the less the ability to be of use once there.

I see politics as little difference from commerce/business, where I've regularly seen the Peter Principle in effect. If somebody is good at their job, rather than get recognised (and rewarded) doing that, they get promoted; if they're good at that job, they get promoted again; and so on until they are in a job in which they're not good - and there they stay (until retirement or gardening leave). That path isn't inevitable as there are some good, competent people in senior roles, but they are rarely in a majority.

Suits ignored IT's warnings, so the tech team went for the neck

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Not just IT. If you want to get a problem solved there are two options:

1) Persuade manglement the solution you need is their idea, or

2) Make the problem theirs.

Either way, they’ll end up pushing for the solution to be implemented and, unless you manage to really screw up, you’ll earn Brownie points.

World leaders ink AI safety pacts while Musk and Sunak engage in awkward bromance

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Re: Timescales?

One day, perhaps. Looking at office work, and administration tasks in general, most will quite possibly become fully automated within a generation or three. Looking at manufacturing, robots can already do a lot of the repetitive or predictable work, I think it might take a bit longer to get all tasks under AI and robotic control (though we'll probably get a long way down that road fairly quickly in the more developed economies). Agriculture/farming is already fairly mechanised and automation is quickly gaining ground (again, in the more developed economies).

There are significant caveats, though.

Who will make decisions? How will it all be governed? Where will any human oversight fit in? Those are all work to some people, so the "nobody needing to work" criterion has to address even that.

Once there is limited work, how will the economy be managed? If people aren't needed for work, what will they be needed for? Even leisure activities (including entertainment) will need to become autonomous? If nobody earns a wage, the state will need to support.

Who will invest in the poorer economies to support those who fully depend on being able to work for a wage? For example, automating clothing "sweat shops" whilst concurrently giving the workforce wages without them having to do anything for them.

And a lot else I've not even considered...

The ultimate goal may be achievable but the current economy and (global and national) government is unlikely to be able to manage the transition.

Musk's statement is, to me, akin to predicting that the Sun will eventually die - and the timescale needn't be all that different!

Chinese balloon that US shot down was 'crammed' with American hardware

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Re: Notice how....

ISIRTA - that's a blast from the past - and a very welcome one, too. Have a virtual pint on me, sir.

Man wins court case against employer that fired him for not liking boozy, forced 'fun' culture

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Re: "Fun & pro, that's our motto!"

“I remember the time a US corporation tried introducing its corporate song book to the UK subsidiary I worked at.”

That brings back a memory for me - joining a large US company’s UK operation and being introduced to the company song. The UK management included it in the induction and training programme because that was the corporate line, but never any intention to actually sing it on this side of the pond. Any exposure to the song was limited to the US produced videos.

We got our own back when some of the subsequent training videos (one memorable one on interviewing, for all company supervisors) starred John Cleese!

It's official: UK telcos legally obligated to remove Huawei kit

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Re: It's official

"obligate" (to put under legal obligation) is also listed in the Oxford Dictionary, so it could be argued that "obligated" follows the rules; it isn't a word I'd focus on to highlight American corruptions of English.

However, I'd like to put forward the theory that many American spellings were introduced as a result of an ink shortage caused by their war of independence. The impact was lessened by leaving letters out of words (e.g. "color" instead of "colour", "aluminum" instead of aluminium" or "program" instead of "programme") or changing to letters requiring less ink (e.g. "tire" instead of "tyre").

Can reflections in eyeglasses actually leak info from Zoom calls? Here's a study into it

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Re: No video...

Many years ago (around 25) I was working with one of the oil companies with platforms in the North Sea. Communications had improved greatly since the days when tropospheric scatter was the channel of choice; on one of their relatively new rigs the daily call (a call each morning between onshore engineers and offshore supervision, to discuss the previous days work and plan from the upcoming stuff) - the call was via a satellite video link. On one of their onshore fields, the call was made over the standard phone line with a speaker phone at each end. The contrast in the quality and depth of communications was stark. The only reason the standard phone worked was because any real issues resulted in the engineering team being able to get in a car and take the hall hour drive to the site.

Communication is two way and being able to see each other adds a lot more than we often realise. When details really matter, the standard of communication matters - of course, not relevant when discussing cat videos (nor indeed for what may be >90% of meetings).

Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop

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Yes, my understanding is that the /bin refers to binaries - ain't English wonderful when we use the same word to mean stuff that's vital and rubbish. Maybe bin is an IT Shibboleth.

Willy Ekerslike

Yes, rubbish bin, that holds stuff we intend to throw away; unless it's rubbish collection day, we can still have a rootle to retrieve something we now need :)

Bin is a useful generic term but we often forget that and assume the "rubbish" (or, for left-pondians, "trash") prefix.

When it comes to renting tech kit, things can get personal, very quickly

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Re: Why wasn't THE major problem mentioned here?

You beat me to point 3.

Inserting a negative into a proposal is almost guaranteed to poison the vote as it requires invoking a double negative to vote against. The proposal is in two parts, starting with "Renting Hardware on a Subscription Basis" followed by "is Bad for Customers". If you're in favour of the first part, you have to vote "No"; a "Yes" vote means you're in favour of the second part (i.e. the full question).

People need to read the full question before answering (as we repeatedly tell students before exams) but human nature is for the first part of a two-part statement to be dominant, especially where a negative is introduced. Politicians (the successful ones) know this as it's a way to improve the chance of winning a close argument. Enough people will misread, or misunderstand, the question and mis-vote the way needed to provide the desired outcome. With the question put as it was, a 48:52 split is certainly not conclusive.

Gone in 60 electrons: Digital art swaggers down the cul-de-sac of obsolescence

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Not quite as bad

This has reminded me that my attic contains a trunk holding all the printed English copies of Elektor magazine from issue #1 (issued in 1975, if my memory is right) until they went digital in 2013. My wife has threatened to use them for my funeral pyre if they're still there when my foot strikes the pail.

The sooner AI stops trying to mimic human intelligence, the better – as there isn't any

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AI vs NS

As somebody much smarter than me once remarked "Artificial Intelligence will never beat Natural Stupidity!"

Raven geniuses: Four-month-old corvids have similar cognitive abilities to great apes at same age, study finds

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Spatial Memory

I wonder if the less developed spatial memory is a consequence of their different optical system - we and the great apes have binocular vision whereas ravens (and most birds) do not. Not so much a function of eye placement; rather a function of the different processing needed. Just a thought!

Did I or did I not ask you to double-check that the socket was on? Now I've driven 15 miles, what have we found?

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Yes, double isolate and still check

Had to replace the main oven element in our cooker last week. First, turn off power at wall switch, then off at main breaker, and finally test with field tester. Reach inside oven to remove four screws (to take out back panel), one screw to loosen element and gain access to power leads. Test again with multi before touching leads. Total job takes about 15 minutes from switching off to back on.

SWMBO is brilliant cook and baker, so our cooker gets well used. 15 years old and only second time I’ve had to do a repair (and it was the same element about 5 years ago). Previous one was just £8 off *bay - maybe why it only lasted 5 years. Replacement only £12 this time (and labelled as OEM - might even be true) so not really a hardship.

He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

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VAX Sucks

How times change. My first thought when seeing the heading was another tale of the office cleaner unplugging something.

Just waiting for Dyson to make the reverse journey and build computers...

Brit unis hit in Blackbaud hack inform students that their data was nicked, which has gone as well as you might expect

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Just received the email

Just received the email from one of my alma maters. Assurance that no payment information was taken but warning to be aware of phishing as personal details taken. Not sure if I'll be able to spot any fallout of this from all the other phishing emails that turn up... Basically, we're all vulnerable and sufficient information about most of us is out there if anyone wants it; a database like this probably gets a premium so I, too, doubt it hasn't been deleted (after all, what do the crime have to lose)...

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

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Re: I take your Rats and raise you ant poison

Reminds me of the wizards' computer on Discworld - with the "Anthill Inside" logo!

All-electric plane makes first flight – while lugging 2 tons of batteries aloft

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Re: Could someone check the numbers?

"I think it would be neat to experience flying in an e-plane that has no (or very little) engine noise."

Along with thousands of others, I've already experienced that - when I flew a glider. Wind noise takes over. My car (a hybrid) has no engine noise when pooling around town, either, though you then appreciate how much noise comes from types on tarmac...

Dumpster diving to revive a crashing NetWare server? It was acceptable in the '90s

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Re: A long time ago

As MacGyver proved, you can recover from almost any disaster with duct tape. I say "almost" as some fixes work better if you also have some cable ties...

OK, a hot-melt glue gun is also useful (especially my battery powered Bosch one, that charges over a micro USB). I used to add Araldite to the list, but hot-melt has replaced that for most repairs. Even cyanoacrylate glue goes to the back of the cupboard.

And a Leatherman (replacing my previous Swiss Army knife) - Gibbs' rule 9.

After all, what have the Romans ever done for us?

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Re: Genius ...

My trick to avoid losing the plot is not to start reading the book!

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Not a Who Me?

That hardly qualifies as a Who Me? No blame or shame to hide there. It's a story worthy of On Call (and a medal for novelty) - Heath Robinson would have been proud!

PS I'm not up this early normally during lockdown - it's just that I drove a friend to hospital for a deferred op early this morning. Now trying to keep awake. Strange, getting up early didn't use to be any problem: 4am to catch the 6am flight to Schiphol was a regular occurrence. Nowadays, lockdown and retired, my coffee m/c (bean to cup espresso) doesn't always have time to rest between breakfast and elevenses!!

Beer icon - not every pub across the globe will be shut...

BOFH: Will the last one out switch off the printer?

Willy Ekerslike

Boss's hairy throat

It's amazing that so few people actually notice their own picture on video calls, even those who wander around with narcisticks for their selfies every few minutes. The most common arrangement seems to be with the camera low down, pointed up (so a good chance of backlighting darkening their face, which sits half off the lower part of the screen).

And that's no counting those who actually forget their camera is on and everyone on the call can see them...

Lost in translation and adrift in cloud storage

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Re: The problem is not beheerder

In the DIY business, it's "measure twice and cut once." An aphorism many, across many disciplines, could do well to acknowledge...

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2

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Wordperfect 5.1

Many years ago, when consulting and helping a company more formally structure and document their management system, I shared an office with the CEO's secretary (this in the days when the boss' secretary was gatekeeper to the CEO). One morning she was in a panic - she'd used the previous month's board minutes as a template for the latest one and saved without making a copy. Wordperfect automatically created a backup of the previous file version before the current save operation. However, it was a function you could tun off and save the drive space taken up by always having the previous version of every document - and she'd done that. I asked if she'd let me onto her PC to try something - Wordperfect programmers were smart enough to know that users don't always think their actions through and, despite turning off the automatic backup option, it still kept the file - but hidden and available to be overwritten by DOS. It took just a minute to find the hidden file, restore it to view and rename it. Disaster averted and, from then on, I had immediate access to the CEO whenever I needed it.

Come kneel with us at UK's Cathedral, er, Oil Rig of the Canal: Engineering masterpiece Anderton Boat Lift

Willy Ekerslike


This article brought back memories from the 1970's, when I was a student at Bath University. A friend and I spent many a weekend locating the Combe Hay locks, caisson and inclined plane of the Somersetshire Coal Canal. It wasn't part of any formal project - just curiosity. We found the majority of the locks; we think we found the site of the caisson and its pump-house; we also reckon we could trace the inclined plane. I read that now much of this has been formally mapped and is listed. We took a lot of photos on our trips - unfortunately, all my negatives and prints were lost in one of several house moves since. I'd like to go back and retrace my steps there one day...

The Wristwatch of the Long Now: When your MTBF is two centuries

Willy Ekerslike

Re: Beware survival bias

That reminds me of the case from WWII where the boffins were wondering where to put better armour plating on bombers. They started by considering those places with the most bullet holes on returning aircraft - on the basis that these were the places that were being hit the most. No so, suggested Abraham Wald (a Hungarian statistician) - those parts survived the holes; better to consider the areas with the fewest holes as these were probably less survivable.

On the matter of watches - I certainly prefer a good mechanical one. There's something nice about mechanics, where you can actually see its workings.

US court rules: Just because you can extract teeth while riding a hoverboard doesn't mean you should

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Re: Sedation for tooth extraction?

Reading this as my mouth is just unfreezing after a tooth (lower molar) extraction. Took three syringes of anaesthetic to fully freeze it and the dentist around an hour of drilling, prodding and pulling to get it out. Now a dull ache after paracetamol and ibuprofen. At one stage she was considering stopping and referring me to the dental hospital as the roots wouldn't budge - but she persisted and succeeded - full marks.

I'd asked, before starting, if I could keep the tooth, once out, as it was crowned. Not possible as it had to go in medical waste - besides, it had to come out in several pieces. But, she let me keep the crown (palladium alloy, I thing - not one of my gold ones) - for the tooth fairy!!

Teachers: Make your pupils' parents buy them an iPad to use at school. Oh and did you pack sunglasses for the Apple-funded jolly?

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My grandkids are issued with Chromebooks when starting secondary school - all homework is issued and submitted on them. I was working with some pupils on a STEM assignment, which required them to run a presentation at a local university. When they got there they found the presentation couldn't be accessed via the university network. Fortunately, I'd asked one of them to let me see a copy of their presentation on a USB stick - which I happened to have with me and they could run it from that using a local laptop.

I suppose Chromebooks are the cheapest way to get all their kids online, without asking parents to fork out for better but I worry about tying kids into Google. I have a personal gmail account - but only because one of the charities I work with used Google Drive for sharing documents.

Similarly, I find it strange that many people who complain about data harvesting by Microsoft and Apple happily run Chrome or gmail...