Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A day to remember - for 2 reasons

Today we all know there is one thing to remember.  It is 11/11.  At 11am we shall (or should) all have pauses for 2 minutes to remember the fallen of the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Those 2 minutes have just finished.

But it is also a happy day for me, for on 11th November 2004 I did my first day's work consulting as Corylus Business Systems.  At the time I was still in the notice period for potential redundancy from my then employer.  My expectation had been to find another IT Management position and was talking to my suppliers to see if they knew of any going, but instead a couple said "weeeeelllll, if you're going to be free, we could find you useful for a couple of things...".  Those couple of things expanded, many more contacts were made, more clients came about and 10 years on I am still going strong.

It's been an interesting 10 years with good and bad highlights (what else would you expect?!) but some that come to mind:
  • Somehow making enough profit so that within 12 months of starting I was in New Hampshire taking my MCSE certification at a 9 day boot camp
  • Managing to keep finding work without (yet) really engaging in marketing or selling activities - the power of the informal network.  Referrals and personal contacts are king.
  • Making the decision to fund myself every year for Microsoft Tech*Ed (now sadly extinct it seems) despite the double whammy of not being able to work, whilst still shelling out for the training
  • VMware going mainstream and getting my VCP training and certification more than once.
  • Annus Horribilis after 5 years - 2 good friends, both our Fathers, and my wife's brother dying.
  • The magic of working from home.
  • The magic of working for clients who value your work so much they actually pay you for it (sometimes it still seems like a miracle).
  • The day the exchange server died because of a bug I found and the horrendous 3 or 4am finishes for a week getting it all sorted without affecting client data.
  • The client that nearly didn't happen but a brief, well crafted, email led to months of work - including work many miles away in Edinburgh, and Kentucky.
  • Finding the space and time to go on the 2008 North American King Crimson tour (no employer would have let that happen!)
  • And many many more

But today is more importantly about remembering the fallen.  In the last few years I have turned my regard for the armed forces into something far more meaningful, and fund raised for Help For Heroes (they only started 7 years ago!).  Next year I will be embarking on my 5th major bike ride for them; and will be posting details before the end of the year on how you can help me do that; but to date, and thanks to many friends and family, I have raised over £10,000 for the blokes.  Being with the blokes on the ride and seeing their forbearance against what seem to us overwhelming problems is salutary and quietening. Chapeau!

And finally, my own remembrance act, taking place at 11am every day from August 2014 to November 2018 - my blog giving the daily casualty lists for the First World War:


Good morning

Friday, September 19, 2014

Just one thing... it wasn't 45%; it was 36.73%. Let me explain...

The referendum vote is being reported as 45% for, 55% against.  But that misses a point.  Although that is the result bearing in mind the number who submitted a valid vote, it does *not* accurately reflect the proportion of people who wanted independence.

The question asked was "Should Scotland be an independent country?" this was not a choice between 2 people.  It solicited support for the proposal to become independent.  The only response that can demonstrate support for this was a Yes vote.

So, it can be correctly inferred that anyone who failed to vote yes did not support the proposition enough to vote for it.  Apathy, contempt for politics, whatever the reason, it doesn't matter.  If you did not vote Yes, then you did not express a desire for Independence.

So, if one takes into account those who were registered rather than those who voted, then we get a different set of numbers, with considerable significance.

Below is a table showing what the result would be given those assumptions.  Interestingly not one area voted by a majority of eligible voters for yes, and the overall percentage in favour of Independence is only 37.81% - barely more than 1 third, rather than the nearly half being touted.

Factor in the voter registration of 97% (or so I read earlier this week, but haven't been able to confirm yet), the actually support for Independence was, in fact, 36.73%.

I think this is important to bear in mind in the coming weeks and months...

Numbers have taken from Wikipedia, and some rounding errors (given turnout was only shown to 2dp rather than absolute numbers.  Click on the table to expand.

NB, if it get more accurate numbers I will update the table, but it  won't change that much.

I reckon this devolution problem is pretty easy to fix...

First off - a basic premise: any powers devolved to any UK member nation's parliament or assembly is automatically devolved to the others.

  • the Westminster parliament splits its time into UK, England, England + Wales, and England+Wales+Northern Ireland matters.
  • only MP's elected for constituencies within the appropriate country can vote in those matters.
  • as matters devolve the UK-only debates will become shorter and fewer; as a consequence the number of MP's needed to discuss is reduced by increasing (and balancing) constituency sizes.
  • Once UK legislation only needs a small amount of time each week at Westminster then a major exercise of reconsidering the number of MP's elected to the Commons can be started, potentially replacing the English "subset parliament" with a fully elected English Parliament; and the House Of Commons with a different structure.
So, no need to increase the layers of government or staffing.

No need for expenses to increase (in fact they should start diminishing as overall Westminster time decreases).

No democratic deficit.

No West Lothian problem.

Of course, it doesn't address the issues of trustworthiness et al...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Towards the end of the ceremony...

Two Bryants are named (at about 2:32 in)
The Act of Remembrance
The Last Post

At the start of the ceremony

Two men march to the mound at dusk, and the ceremony starts...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Credit card fraud detection. It's about the money...

Another day another credit card problem. Sadly you probably know the score, so the details of what happened next can be limited to: card cancelled; transaction killed; other transactions in question waiting for our confirmation; new cards in the post.

But in this instance more information came to light that troubles me.  The credit card company have the IP address from which the online transaction was performed, and Sony (the online target who've sold £840's worth of something) have a delivery address.

What troubles me is that given the article (big TV?) hasn't yet been delivered, no one is going to take the proactive action of tracking (or even making) the delivery and nicking those involved.

Now, the fraudsters might be a bit more clever than to be in for the delivery, but at some stage they have to break cover to take possession (or benefit from possession).

So why is there is no interest in doing anything? The credit card company have a glacially slow approach to anything proactive now they've stopped the transaction (interesting question - who now loses - c/c company or Sony?).

But I am irritated that no one has any interest in doing anything about it. There's a clear chance to do something, and no one will take it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I think Apple have been shopping for minutes at the

Same time store as Microsoft. That was 9 minutes, 5 minutes ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The curious case of the Radio Interview (and the things that can happen from an innocent tweet!) (unpublished draft from August 2010)

Some time ago (mid June) someone (I think @ruskin147 or Rory Cellan-Jones of Auntie Beeb) re-tweeted a request from @ChrisMason (now @ChrisMasonBBC) for help in getting input to some work on the experiences of the rural broadband user.  Ever keen to get my message across (that the rural community needs ADSL as much as the city dweller, and that the rural communities are seriously disadvantaged and uncared for by the telecoms industry) I tweeted Chris and we set up a dialogue.  Over the course of the next few hours we exchange emails, and then phone calls discussing the issues at stake, particularly in the context of the government’s impending announcement on the “2Mb for all” policy.

After listening to my rant (!) Chris decided that I’d be a useful sound bite in the forthcoming article on Radio 5Live.

Within a few days the government made the announcement and Chris and I were in touch to fix up an appointment to record a few words.  In the end as I was attending a business breakfast in Cambridge, we agreed to meet there – Chris was coming from London, and then moving onto rural Suffolk to spend some time with a BT engineer to see the practical issues in rural ADSL.
Setting the interview up was an interesting process!  We sat down in 3 or 4 places only to find that peripheral noises were likely to be a problem both in recording and in editing – I’d not given too much thought to the latter but Chris explained that some noises (especially music) would distract the listener and potentially lead them to listen to the background (and hear the cuts in the edit), rather than listen closely to my dulcet (not!) tones.  We eventually relocated one last time to a balcony which had some quiet motor noise in the background, but this was better that the crisp clear notes of the wineglasses being set out in the restaurant!

I’ve done interviews a number of times – but all on video.  Each of these experiences had me (mostly irrationally) edgy and nervous, and was not what I would call pleasant and easy.  They’ve mostly been done for Microsoft Tech*Ed conferences, and are therefore to a closed community (but highly expert) so my testimony could be harshly judged.  But the sheer fact of a camera (or more than one) quite literally in your face is something I just don’t feel comfortable with.
With Chris it was so much simpler – no director, cameraman, soundman etc.  Just Chris, and his state of the art microphone with built in digital sound recorder.  Immediately it’s a more natural situation and more comfortable to deal with – just a conversation (which draws on the previous discussions).

Before starting Chris ran a couple of recordings to check that a) his microphone was really recording OK and b) to ensure that the background noises were sufficiently in the background to avoid the editing traps, then we were off.

Chris was impressive in his questioning – at no time was I led in any direction, but open questions were asked which allowed me to get across my frustrations, and make points that I wanted.  A couple of times I found myself just go down a cul-de-sac without any idea how to reverse out, so we just stopped and then started again.  Inevitably there were things that I forgot, and Chris helpfully reminded me of my previous comments, and we got the statements down.  But the most interesting points for me in the experience (as opposed to the subject under discussion), were the “when we discussed that before…” observations from Chris when I completely forgot a really good point, and even more so – Chris has a great ability to keep thinking further ahead in the conversation to keep it going smoothly rather than stop, check a list, and then kick off.  There’s a lot more to pre-recorded interviews than I thought!
During the day Chris had to go to Suffolk to see Mr BT, and then edit his footage (?) and then transfer to the studio for transmission.  Very kindly Chris also kept me in the loop to tell me when the interview would air, and late in the afternoon I got the confirmation that I would be used to cut into the Minister’s (Jeremy Hunt) interview at 5 to put certain points to him.  Earlier in the show would be the BT engineer segment, and then later a BT spokesman would be on. Fame (of a sort) at last!

My wife and I were organising a car rally that evening, so whilst en route we listened to it live and I found myself substantially unembarrassed by the sound of my own voice (register your surprise in the comments!), I could hear where the editing was done, but it was surprising to hear three separate parts of the conversation edited together to give one much more focussed and pointed observation to which the minister had to respond.
Completing the service, Chris then emailed me the segments (mine, and both BT people) so that I can embarrass myself in perpetuity.

Even better, Chris has released the segments as audio boos, and you can listen here:
BT Engineer:
Minister & me:
BT spokesman:

As for (some of!) my views, well:
  • The rural broadband gap is really bad and getting worse.  In the old days of modems there was a gap between city centre (say 56.6Kbps) and rural lines (say 28.8).  But overall the difference was a factor of 2.  With the basic broadband of 512Kb and some providers delivering 50-100Mb, the factor is now 100+.  Content cannot be delivered assuming one or the other.  I would like to see some sort of rule of thumb that requires providers to ensure that the divide is no more than (say) a factor of 10.  This would mean they would HAVE to improve the rural experience before delivering insane speeds in city centres.
  • Working from home is normal, and the government wants us to do more.  One of the biggest unnecessary environment impacts is out of town people driving into the cities and towns for work.  We generally have no choice because the public transport options in rural areas are generally so rubbish.
  • Information technology businesses are, by their very nature, more able to work in distant locations – yet the Broadband structures specifically work against that
  • Consumption of high data amounts is now the norm – yet provision is not up to the demand.  Training and education courses require webinars or video downloads – who’d do that when the download will take many hours?
  • Patching (and waiting) – everyone needs to update and patch their computers.  Yet if a full patch is measured in GB rather than MB, then a) they are discouraged, and b) they will be exposed to the vulnerability for longer.
  • Remote working and support for customers – another ideal ‘work from home’ setup – again frustrated.
  • Opportunity for villages to do information businesses in place
  • SLA’s – there are no proper SLA’s in place for broadband provision.  You lose your phone line and ADSL, and who knows when it will come back.  This needs to improve so that any business can assure themselves of their connectivity.
  • Finland – has made ADSL 2MB a standard service.  Alongside water, electricity, gas etc.  A mature response.
  • And when sewage or gas is installed into rural locations – why is nothing done to piggy back the infrastructure and deliver a better broadband or mobile phone experience?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Exploring behind King's Cross

Twenty years ago, that'd be something both dodgy, and frankly not for public consumption.
But post regeneration it's a pleasure.  Good coffee to hand, good food (by the look if it).

If these projects keeps up, is there going to be a seamier side of London left?

This was the old Great North Railway goods yard a long time ago.  Now they are setting up for Strawberries and Screen - the Wimbledon large screen experience. Blimey!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Monday, June 09, 2014

#BBBR14 and finally, the statistics:

Monday - Brussels to Mons
Distance: 55.13 miles
Elevation: 1,940 feet
Calories burned: 3,712
Tuesday - Mons to Arras
Distance: 74.07 miles
Elevation: 1,317 feet
Calories burned: 4,323
Wednesday - Arras to Amiens
Distance: 49.50 miles
Elevation: 1,443 feet
Calories burned: 2,892
Thursday Amiens to Compiegne
Distance: 62.83 miles
Elevation: 2,147 feet
Calories burned: 3,920
Friday - Compiegne to Paris
Distance: 55.41miles
Elevation: 1,517 feet
Calories burned: 3,633
Sunday - Ride into Blackheath
Distance: 11.19 miles
Elevation: 303 feet
Calories burned: 716
Sunday - Hero Ride to Horseguards
Distance: 9.58 miles
Elevation: 116  feet
Calories burned: 612
Grand Totals
Distance: 317.71 miles
Elevation: 8,783 feet
Calories burned: 19,808

#BBBR14 Finished!!!

Ready to go home and struggle with London Underground and First Capital Connect (and yes, it was a struggle!)

Saturday, June 07, 2014

After the ride... #BBBR14

After a security delay we're flashing through northern France at 180mph.

After a long week (and perhaps the odd late night!), people all around me are snoozing!

Day 6 - Hurry up and wait #BBBR14

Entirely predictably today is a lot of nothing. Get up late, breakfast, watch the England NZ game, wait for the coach (current situation!), wait for passport control, wait for train, wait for coach, wait at hotel, wait for coach to dinner, wait for dinner, wait for coach back. Bed.

Tomorrow will be much better, up early, breakfast, ride, wait, lunch, Hero Ride. Go home!

#BBBR14 the bit that hurt...

Some distance into the final day and we're storming along.  Despite the strong sun, some heavy dappled shade hides the road surface.

At about 18mph I hit the pavé (cobbles). Some were missing, the gaps were huge and the opportunity to back off or brake is 0.

All you can really do is tough it out, or at least back off reducing contact points from 5 to 4 and let the bike oscillate under you. 

An interesting experience (about 150 yards of it), and not one I'd have wittingly done (!), but worth having done once.

As i write (Saturday morning) we are holding for coaches to the train for London, and have just seen England lose at the death in the first test match in NZ.

Muscles all sore, skin all burned.  I may have overdone the forcing up the hill in front of others bit, and underdone the protect your skin bit!!

Celebratory dinner tonight. Hero Ride in the morning, and then home, away from the H4H family and bubble after the best of the three BBBR rides I have done.

Thanks to everyone who donated to support such a great cause!

Day 5 - an assortment #BBBR14

Rolling guide stop for water. One of the early actions "The affair at Nemy" sounds a bit Poirot!

A rather fine final lunch stop.

The final scenes in Paris, and a fire at the brasserie!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Day 5 - spot the... #BBBR14

Day when it was finally very sunny, and someone forgot his sun lotion...

And so it begins. #BBBR14

The ride into Paris, ending with an escorted peloton through the Champs Elysee. A rare privilege.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Day 4 - the rest... #BBBR14

We moved on to lunch and water stops over what seemed (to my quads!) ceaseless challenging rises (along with concomitant descents).

The sun was getting stronger and stronger and by mid-afternoon it was sleeves off and full tanning opportunity!

Before the water stop in the afternoon a road side medical incident (not really an emergency) took its toll of the schedule and at the water stop my bike was appropriated for the organisers to chase down a rider who went the wrong way (that's a first!)

Thereafter the hills pretty much ended and a rolling road to Compiègne ended at the hotel for dinner, a briefing on tomorrows plans (pretty exciting ones) and a beer or so.

Legs weary, brain tired, and a few square inches of skin tanned, it was time for bed...

Day 4 - Sun!!! Eventually. #BBBR14

A decent start, perhaps a tad too frsh (fussy!) and we head off out of Amiens by an inverted V route to Villiers-Bretenneux, a town with deserved links to Australia.

The service focussed on Mates4Mates the Oz equivalent of H4H who are just starting and Mark spoke movingly of his Rwandan tour of duty and the effects on him and his family. Along with the help he has received.

Crosses laid at Thiepval #BBBR14

Suddenly it's Thursday morning #BBBR14

Our next wake up call is going to be for the last day of the ride. Strewth.
Legs are a bit sore today, but some quad stretches should help.
Oh, damn, shoes are still wet from yesterday's rain... Today's sun should sort that (it is still forecast)


And finally... #BBBR14

One of the reasons to do a ride like this, and raise monies for Help For Heroes.

The privilege of a guided tour of Thiepval wood #BBBR14

The spoon was found in the excavations and with initials and serial number was tied to a lad who was shot through the leg, just below the right knee.

It seems the spoon was tucked into his puttees and fell out when first attended.  Now the challenge is to trace family!