Sunday, December 14, 2008

TGS Has Moved

I can now be found at my new home:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

heads they win, tails we lose

As always when it comes to politics and big business we, that tax payers, are the ones getting screwed:

Shamelessly stolen from The Angry Economist

Boy, did we get it wrong on SMS! What chance political central planners.

From this year's Economist technology and Innovation awards*

Computing and Telecommunications: Matti Makkonen for the development of Short Message Service (SMS), or text messaging. Mr Makkonen is a Finnish engineer who is credited with inventing SMS, which allows short messages to be sent between mobile phones. He proposed the idea in the 1980s while working at Finland’s telecoms authority. Billions of text messages are now sent every day.
I spent most of the 90's designing and building GSM networks. Whenever we put business plans together we just paid lip service to SMS; it was seen as something that could be used for SIM updates and nothing else. Nobody believed that any sane person would think about going through the rigmarole of tapping out a message to send to someone else.

Unless you've been on planet Zog for the past 15 years or so you'll be well aware of how wrong we were and the massive growth of SMS but maybe not aware of how much of a golden egg it became for the mobile industry:
The same Informa report shows that SMS remains a very popular technology, however. Worldwide SMS traffic was up year-on-year by around 50 per cent to more than 620 billion messages sent during the quarter. SMS revenues were up 23 per cent over the same period.
A report from UK-based research firm Portio Research suggests that SMS will remain the most widely used messaging format for some years to come, with revenues estimated at $50bn by 2010 driven by almost 2.38 trillion messages.
To select just 2 random articles.

When we talked to the Marketing teams to get dimensioning numbers they were either oblivious to SMS or just didn't see it as a major revenue generator, so we would just add in a single SMS centre for the network and move on, it wasn't worth spending time on the detail. This didn't matter as even if they had given forecasts of high usage we would have matched spend to revenues so there wouldn't have been much of an impact on capital expenditure (Capex) until it was needed and had revenues to pay for it.

When SMS did start to take off there was a bit of a scramble but as it is a Store and Foreward technique and instant delivery was never promised it didn't realy matter. A few engineers made extra money during that period and some smaller companies grew like topsy to meet demand, but no real harm done.

It is also worth noting that in 1994 the engineering team I worked in was given a briefing by the Orange marketing team. In this briefing they predicted that UK mobile penetration in the UK would top out at around 30% by the year 2000 and Orange would have a 20% share. As it happens penetration was approaching 100% by the year 2000.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, apart from general interest there is a lesson in central planning to be learned. When I say "we" did all this planning, I mean some seriously intelligent people. I worked with a number of Management Consultancy companies at the time and they were the ones making the forecasts on mobile demand. Most of the people had MBA's from some of the top management schools, including INSEAD. Many of them also had years of telecoms experience as well. They were also working for some very hard nosed, perceptive and very rich clients.

These people were focused on one thing, making money. If they it wrong then companies would lose billions of £££'s, and they still managed to get something as fundamental as mobile forecasts wrong. Fortunately for the companies involved they undercooked how much money was to be made, but when they get it wrong its very expensive; ask Hutchison about its 3 operation here in the UK:
Canning Fok denies that the launch of a mobile broadband service is the last chance for Hutchison Whampoa's loss-making 3 mobile business. ... Today he is desperate to convince the outside world that the $25bn gamble 3 has placed on Europe's third-generation telephony market will - eventually - pay off.
They are still losing money, but not quite as fast.

If these seriously bright people with lots of experience can't always get it right, what hope is there for us of our current crop of politicians and civil servants, most of whom haven't done anything outside politics, planning and managing a whole economy or even, for that matter, regulating the seriously bright people effectively? And they have any political consideratios affecting their decision making as well.

Me? I would prefere to leave most of it to the seriously bright people and hard nosed business men and I include health deleivery in that statement as well.

*No link as its behind a subscription wall

Friday, December 12, 2008

You won't often hear this from a Yorkshireman

Well done Mancunians

BBC: More or less

As regular readers know I am always happy to bash the BBC, especially the lightweights on Radio 5. I may even call for it to be trimmed but as along as they produce programs like More or Less, its almost worth the licence fee on its own.

This week's program was excellent and exposed the nonsense behind the recent wild stories about sexual abuse of children:

A question of sexual or statistical abuse?

Between 5 and 10% of girls suffer the most serious forms of sexual abuse, according to reports based on a paper published this week in The Lancet.

These are shocking figures.

But are they true?

We investigate whether the statistics really support the claims of a hidden epidemic.

You won't be surprised to hear that it was statistical abuse. A meta study of a meta study of some very badly planned research. The one report that claimed this abuse didn't even include the UK is its research.

I recommend getting it on your MP3 players as a podcast. If you can't do get over there and catch the last program on iPlayer and then make a date in your diary to listen to future programs.

Ireland's 2nd Refererendum and Ever Closer Union

Guido is reporting that the EU has persuaded Ireland to have a new referendum in his own, inimical, style (my emphasis):

Reports from Brussels coming in suggest that Ireland's political elite are allowing their arms to be twisted by the EU into ignoring the "No!" vote in the referendum and having another one. This comes as absolutely no surprise - the undemocratic nature of the EU project has always been manifest. It has a semblance of voting but the outcome is as pre-determined as a Soviet-era party congress. On the rare occasions when the project comes off the rails, nothing, not even the will of the people will stop it.

Irish citizens were the only people in Europe allowed to express their democratic will. They said "NO!" The EU's dirty ratifiers won't accept that answer.
The BBC reports it a bit more sedately, pointing out that Ireland is seeking legally binding bribes assurances:

The mechanism for a second referendum is included in draft conclusions which are being presented by the current holders of the EU presidency, France, and which have been seen by the BBC.

According to the draft, the Irish government says "it is committed to seeking ratification" of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of October 2009.

What Guido misses and the BBC don't want to tell us that it is always inevitable that any country that rejects anything the slows down the integration of the EU will have to vote again and again until they get it right. There will be some tinkering for the sake of "face" but no Government can object and say No means No because membership of the EU obliges them to work towards "ever closer union".

The Treaty establishing the EEC calls for it as part of membership:


After the failure of the EDC, the economy, which was less subject to national resistance than other areas, became the focus of consensus in the field of supranational cooperation. The establishment of the EEC and the creation of the Common Market had two objectives. The first was to transform the conditions of trade and manufacture on the territory of the Community. The second, more political, saw the EEC as a contribution towards the functional construction of a political Europe and constituted a step towards the closer unification of Europe.

In the preamble, the signatories of the Treaty declare that:

"- determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,

This is why Maggie always ended up losing and no matter what our politicians promise us they can't stop it. They can promise referendums in order to help win elections but they are meaningless waffle.

Although I voted to join the EC in 1975 I quickly became aware that something was wrong, but just put it down to empire building politicians and bureaucrats. I voted Tory partly because I thought that they could tame the worst excesses of the EC/EEC/EU only to see them embrace the EU.

It wasn't until I heard someone mention this ever closer union following the French No in their Constitution Referendum that I realised what was going on: we have been hoodwinked, conned or whatever phrase you prefer, into a position where we can't block the "progress" towards a United States of Europe. We were promised this wouldn't happen in 1975, they lied.

It is for this reason that I have moved from being a skeptic but accepting staying in and changing from the inside to outright hostility and a belief that we need to get out, immediately. I shall be voting, but not joining, UKIP at next summer's EU elections.

Met Police Just Dont Get It on Menezes Death

I caught most of Sir Paul Stephenson's press conference following the Open Verdict on my way home and he just doesn't get it. (See it here).

There is some justification to the "fog of war" argument. No matter how much you plan and train for these things something can, and usually does, go wrong. I have have some sympathy for the policeman on the front line, none of them go to work wanting to kill anyone, let alone an innocent person, and I am sure that they will lose sleep over it for the rest of their lives.

What was unacceptable, and still is, is the way the senior ranks colluded to hide the truth. The way they tried to smear him is beneath contempt:

Lawyers for the Met questioned whether the Brazilian’s cocaine abuse and illegal immigration status could have contributed to what happened on July 22.

They said the suspect's "threatening and aggressive" behaviour was like that of a suicide bomber when confronted by police.

Asad Rehman, the family's campaign spokesman, hit back at the claims about the 27-year-old.

He said: "We have been taken aback by how the police decided to defend this case, and the line that they have taken in terms of trying to muddy Jean Charles's name and diminish him as a person and make the shooting more acceptable.

"He [the defence lawyer] was literally saying he was asking for it, which I thought was pretty sickening."

There was also a leaked rumour just after the shooting that he was an illegal immigrant and that it was therefore somehow his own fault, as idiotic blogs like this one attest.

If Sir Ian Blair had put his hands up immediately and accepted it was a complete fuck up we could have had more respect for them, paid compensation had a very quick inquiry in to what went wrong and hoped that we wont be the victims next time.

Sir Ian Blair's belated sacking resignation was too little, too late, and anyone involved at a senior level in the events should be barred from applying for the promotion of any sort, at least.

Iraq finished - job well done

Travelgall has written an excellent post about the excellent work our troops have done in Iraq at A Very British Dude, which I commend to all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Telegraph Letter(s) of the Day

Being away from home and staying in a hotel I have more time for the papers. I liked this one, it sums up the Governments our confusion about drugs and tobacco very nicely:

SIR – Last week it was reported that illegal drug use was costing the NHS £15 billion a year – 10 times the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses.

As illegal drugs have never been displayed for sale or put in fancy packaging, but always sold "under the counter", this method of marketing seems very effective, as there are more illegal drug users now than legal tobacco users.

But then, it is much easier to target the corner shop than the vast organised business of supplying illegal substances.

Stephen Leader

Chessington, Surrey

On a personal level, as a non-smoker of nearly 24 years standing I sometimes partake in this little pleasure:

SIR – I will regret the disappearance of tobacco products from display in shops and supermarkets.

I take great pleasure in checking the price of packets of 20 king-size filters. They were 37·5 pence a packet when I gave them up.

Mike Cooper

Southport, Lancashire

Just in case anyone passing through doesn't understand my position on smoking and drugs: I support the right of people to smoke, I was against the banning of smoking in pubs and I support the legalisation of drugs. I would, though, ban smoking outside.

Labour bashing welfare claimants without even a squeal from the BBC, what gives?

Another Government head talking on Radio 4 this morning:

The government's welfare reform plans - designed to get more than a million people off benefits and into work - are to be published. Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell discusses how benefit claimants "can play their part" in the economy.
Two things struck me about it:

Firstly, what a soft ride he got. If this had been the Tories the interviewer would have been all over them trying to rip their heads off. Furthermore, the studio would have had all the usual suspects from the Unions and self appointed spokes people claiming how bad they were, especially as we are having a recession.

Secondly, why now? We've had 12 years or so of growth without these initiatives, wouldn't it have been easier then? private industry is starting to shed jobs and the Government is doing its best to saddle us with ever increasing debt and is hardly in a position to go around creating even more jobs. That would pointless anyway as the non-jobs would cost more than keeping them on welfare.

Could it be that the Government have tipped off the BBC and their other friends that this is just a move to placate the Daily Mail tendency in the run up to a General Election?

The Great WiseOne's web site

I've just finished the latest version and am quite proud of it, although lots still to do. My main aim with this version was to improve the navigation and trying to keep everything tight and on one screen.

It doesn't work well on small screens of less that 1280x1040 pixels and I need to develop some sort of content management as it is a real pain making additions and changes. To that end I'm now teaching myself PHP, have set up a MySql database on the host and set up my vHosts on my home PC.

The main problem is that it doesn't work well with Internet Explorer even though the CSS and HTL code has been tested against standards web sites.

If anyone is interested you can see it here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shit jobs

Tomorrow I have one of the shittiest jobs going – I have to tell 3 people they are being made redundant. They know its coming but that doesn't make it easier given the time of year and downturn oncoming deep recession. (As it happens this is nothing to do with the current economic conditions, it a business operating decision that means we don't need as many people for a specific role.)

It's not the first time I've done it and it doesn't get any easier, despite what some may think. I have been there and know that no matter how well prepared the 3 of them will be they will still be numb and disoriented afterwards.

And just to make the task even worse one of those being made redundant has just completed a long course of chemo therapy.

BBC and Plane Stupid

Despite feeling like shit I had to drive to "oop north" yesterday, 175 miles of mainly motorway driving. Set off about 9:15 and about 10 mins in to the journey discovered my iTrip was broken which meant that I had to listen to the radio. No liking the prattle of DJ's I was flipping between Radio 4 and Radio 5.

Radio 5 seemed to dedicate itself to a vox pop on the Plane Stupid demo at Standsted airport. At first I wasn't too bothered although I didn't think they had done themselves any favours on the PR front. However as the morning went on we had ever more callers claiming that they were right and coming up with ever wilder claims of what will happen if we don't stop emitting CO2 now. One even claimed that we only had 7 years to the "tipping point".

Not one guest was brought on to bring a modicum of reality to the proceedings. The presenter, Victoria Derbyshire, seemed to be complicit in all this. Anyone listening wouldn't have believed there was any sort of debate at all.

Anyway, rather stupidly I continued driving with my blood pressure rising as I shouted at the radio every time another idiot from Plane Stupid came on with another, wilder, claim.

This is a shame because I believe they could have made a very good point. Plane fuel isn't taxed which means that they aren't paying a Pigovian tax on the fuel. Instead they relied on ignorance and fear and the unquestioning obedience of the BBC to getaway with claiming there is positive feedback in the environment.

For an explanation of this see Climate Skeptic:

Frequent readers will know that I have often criticized climate scientists for assuming, without strong evidence, that climate is dominated by positive feedback. Such an assumption about a long-term stable system implies that climate is relatively unique among natural processes, and is a real head scratcher when advocated by folks like Michael Mann, who simultaneously claim that past temerpatures are stable within very narrow ranges (Stability and positive feedback are two great tastes that do not go great together).

Well, it seems that those of use who were offended by the notion of a long-term stable natural process being dominated by positive feedback may have been right after all (via Tom Nelson):

Cirrus clouds are performing a disappearing act which is taking scientists by surprise.

In the global warming debate, it is assumed that temperature rises will lead to more rainfall, which in turn will see an increase in high-altitude cloud cover that will trap infrared heat.

But research on tropical climate systems has found the opposite is happening, with cirrus clouds thinning as the air warms, leading to rapid cooling as infrared heat escapes from the atmosphere to outer space.

I also recommend looking at Climate Skeptic's video's for an even better explanation which you'll find in the sidebar

Dignity is in providing, not working

Following on from the Karen Mathews trial, Raedwald has posted about the breakdown of society and makes this comment, with which I have little to disagree:

I'm not interested in making a moral judgement on the lifestyle of the underclass, or on bastardy, but the economic and social cost to the rest of us is already vast, will get much worse during the recession and is simply unsustainable in the long term.

There is a simple truth that Brown and his party are just too thick to understand, and it's that welfare causes poverty. The most effective measure in tackling poverty is restricting welfare. Clinton's reforms in the US have won for millions the dignity of work and the benison of belonging that the caustic effects of welfare had taken from them.

It did make me wonder about the phrase "dignity of work" and whether this really is the case? Do we really value work so highly to the point where it provides dignity? I think not, but I do believe there is/was dignity in providing for our family and when that doesn't need be done there is no reason to work, especially if you are at the bottom end of the social and education ladder.

Firstly, when The Sprog was at school he used to complain bitterly when teachers tried to bribe them in to working hard by claiming that if they didn't they would end up as street cleaners or dustbin men. His point was that these jobs are something that we need doing and we should value the work, even if it is not highly paid. He makes a very good point, if those who aren't academically bright and will end up doing these jobs don't see them as worthwhile; they won't be at the front of the queue to do them, unless they feel they have no choice. But the welfare state means they do have a choice.

Secondly, I remember the feeling when The Sprog was born and I brought him home from hospital. It was an almost immediate transformation in my approach to life. I had always worked hard but did have a laissez-faire* approach to life but the new responsibility made realise I had to take control and ensure he and The Great WiseOne would be looked after if anything happened to me. I also wanted to ensure I could provide a comfortable life for them, even if it meant personal sacrifices. I know we men aren't supposed to talk about things like this when we are together but when I have discussed it with them they admit to similar feelings.

Now, I was brought up to believe that I had to provide for myself and family to the best of my ability by my father who was born and raised in the slums of Bradford, long before the welfare state was created. I remember that this was the approach of most of his friends and all my relations. They all took great pride in looking after their family and ensuring they were provided for, but then they grew up when the had no choice. I remember that they would have been appalled at having to take "handouts" as they saw them to ensure their family fed and most of these were miners, dustbin men and street cleaners.

So why don't those like Karen Mathews and her boyfriends have the same desire to provide for their children and seem happy to rely on benefits to provide not only for themselves but also their children? I often think "do they have no pride" and I suppose the answer is no they don't, well not in the same sense that I do.

Reading Raedwald's post made me realise that the Welfare State, in its desire to ensure that the poor don't have the hardship of the past, has crushed this desire to provide their family out of them- they don't need to do it and so don't see why they should make sacrifices to provide. This, added to our desire not to be judgemental about lifestyle choices, has meant that they don't have any shame; it doesn't worry them that the rest of us are working to pay for their lifestyle because they have been told that the money they get is an entitlement and anyway, any jobs they can do, like street cleaning or emptying the bins are sneered at as for failures and that doesn't include them

Now comes the difficult part, how to change that attitude? I don't have the answers other than reduce benefits to the point where they have no choice but to go out and work, or steal or beg and sadly the latter 2 will probably be the chosen options. The other problem is that we do as a society want to genuinely look after those who have suffered life's outrages slings and arrows of misfortune.

*The true (wiki) meaning of the words: "a term used to describe a policy of allowing events to take their own course with minimal intervention."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Work, weddings, house guests and man flu

All stealing valuable blogging time (reading and writing).

Perhaps I'll get some time an impetus in a few days.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What would George or Betty have done?

I listened to the Speaker's comments on Damian Green's arrest and was appalled at his sloping shoulders. You would have thought that someone with the integrity to become speaker would not have blamed one of staff for letting in PC Plod without a search warrant.

Watching the 10pm news with the Great WiseOne she commented dryly: "This wouldn't have happened under Betty Bothroyd or George Thomas".

How true.