Archive for the 'Grumble' Category

The Broadband Tax – another Great British failure in the making…

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Seems that once again, one of the most highly taxed nations on Earth, is about to suffer yet another tax. This time everyone who has a landline will pay £6.00 a year extra tax. And they will pay VAT on top of that. All landline subscribers will have to pay, regardless of whether they use the internet or not.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology…igital-britain

Granted, the so called Broadband Tax is small compared to many of the others that UK citizens have to endure and the scheme is correspondingly shabby and cut-price when you actually look at the figures. The aim is for 2Mbit/s line to 90 % of households by 2017 – which will seem decidedly third-world by then.

http://www.itproportal.com/portal/ne…broadband-tax/

If one studies the scheme in more detail then it becomes clear just how shabby it really is…

  1. 10% of households will still not have broadband by 2017 even if the scheme is a success – which is doubtful.
  2. The 2 MBit/s is notional. The lines are likely to have 50:1 contention meaning that real speeds could be considerably slower.
  3. 90% broadband by 2017 seems very third-rate compared with France’s “Haut Debit Pour Tous” or “Broadband for All” which it plans to have in place by 2012. http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/f…ans/2009-12-09
  4. The tax raised, approximately £170 million, is chicken feed. To put this in perspective, it is just over a tenth of the £1.5 billion that the taxpayer is paying in bonuses to the senior execs of the failed City of London banks this year.
  5. Meantime, our national telecoms provider, British Telecom PLC (AKA BT) reckons it actually needs £5 billion to do the job properly.

Much of the blame for our hopeless telecoms system actually rests with BT in the first place. This is a highly privileged profit-making company, born out of Margaret Thatchers privatisation programme in the 1980s. Since then, it has become both a laughing stock and a national disgrace. BT is just as arrogant as it was when it was the GPO but with none of the public service ethic. It was clear in the mid 1990′s that our communications infrastructure was woefully inadequate. Yet BT once again put its short term profits before the long term needs of its customers and did as little as possible to rectify the situation.

What BT's logo should look like

Meantime the Government & its toothless watchdogs watched it all go pear-shaped but did nothing to stop it. Now, if we had a Government that actually stood up to useless greedy corporations such as BT, then it would legally compel BT to sort the mess out at its own expense. If BT failed to do so in a timely manner, then the Government could deploy a number of fairly major sanctions against it, for example:-

  1. Sackings, heavy fines or even prison terms for BT’s senior board members who failed to meet their legal obligations.
  2. Renationalise BT perhaps by confiscating the stock holdings of its major shareholders.
  3. Break up BT and allow its competitors to operate key areas of its business. Of course, competitors who took over BT’s businesses would face similar sanctions if they failed to deliver. This is to avoid another recurrence of Virgin Media Syndrome, i.e. “So what if we’re rubbish? We’re not as bad as BT, so there’s nothing you can do about it!

Now that would get my vote!

Real problem though is the Government has run out of money. It won’t actually say what it squandered on Iraq and Afghanistan, but it runs into billions. Added to which, Brown’s chronic mismanagement of the economy and particularly the banking sector has meant that cash that should be used for improving our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is being wasted propping up failed banking corporations (and paying their senior execs yet another £1.5 billion in bonuses). The financial services fiasco is currently costing an average of £5,500.00 to every family in the country and could rise to a staggering £40,000.00 in the near future.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
finance/newsbysector/
banksandfinance/6722123/
Bailing-out-the-banks-cost-5500-per-family.html

Yet Brown and his hapless buddies at Fiascos R Us er, I mean the British Government continue to squander vast sums of our money. For example, MP’s of all parties still have their greedy, slobbering snouts very heavily embedded in the proverbial trough as they continue to submit their highly dubious expenses claims. Who can blame them? Brown’s much publicised clean-up, like so many of his policies, was as useless and ineffective as he is.

This means there are no water-tight guarantees that the money will actually go where it should anyway! Still, I guess an additional £170,000,000 would clean a heck of a lot of moats and buy an awful lot of new duck houses, flat-screen TV’s, flats for your relatives, porn videos, second homes, scatter cushions etc. etc. etc. A fact that many “Honourable” Members of the House have convincingly proven already!

Worse, it’s only 10% of what’s being donated by the taxpayer this year in order to pay the bonuses of those poor old failed-bank executives in the City of London. Now I foolishly thought it would be nice if we could use some of that money to update our Broadband provision rather than introducing yet another tax. But then I realised that we can’t have the poor little lambkins in the City going without their brand-new Porsches now, can we?

Of course, if we have a change of Government next year, then the Broadband Tax will probably be dropped anyway.

Honk! Honk!

Grim times ahead

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I was browsing my way through a UK technology forum the other day when I noticed a couple of posts from some very bright young people who were complaining about their difficulty finding work. I did rather feel for them. Trouble is that it’s a hard time all round at the moment. Moreover, despite what our politicians tell us, I think it’s not likely to get any better any time soon. Therefore, rather than beating themselves up over this, I think we need all to stand back a little and take stock of what has happened to our once-great nation over the last few years:-

Main trouble is that we have squandered vast sums of money on two pointless Middle-Eastern wars – one of which was actually illegal, both of which lasted longer than World War II, and neither of which we stand the remotest chance of winning. Moreover, to hide his mismanagement of the economy, the one-eyed Scottish idiot in charge of this country, Gordon Brown, secretly flogged of huge chunks of the country’s gold reserves at a fraction of their value, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Meantime, he also allowed the banking system to fail to such an extent that he is now spending vast sums of money the Government does not actually have, in order to prop it up again. It is an unprecedented mess of near-biblical proportions. Don’t believe me, my little goslings? Take a gander at this:-

https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat…/2187rank.html

Compare the UK’s position with that of say Germany or Japan – countries that wisely avoided the Iraq fiasco. Even more scary, the nation at the top, China, has actually lent the nation at the bottom, the United States, 40% of what Bush was blowing on Iraq at the rate of $2000 per second! Basically the planet’s supposedly richest nation is now in serious hock to China with no means of ever paying back the debt.

Worse, the USA’s new president, despite his election promises, seems determined to continue with the economic and political suicide that is Afghanistan. Right now, he is busy preparing another 50,000 young Americans to be pointlessly slaughtered, injured or seriously traumatised there – all at the US taxpayers expense, and no-doubt underwritten by financiers in Beijing.

Our long-term problems here in Blighty are even worse than those of the USA. For a start, our economy is linked far too closely to that of the USA – much more than any of our rivals for bottom place on the CIA chart. Then you need to turn the clock back to when Thacher and her cronies destroyed most of our industrial base, back in the 1980′s and 1990′s. Meantime they flogged off all our national utilities to the highest bidder under the great lie of the time, “Privatisation would improve quality of service.

So today, key parts of our nation’s vital infrastructure is mismanaged by shabby privatised outfits such as British Telecom PLC – just as arrogant and untouchable as the GPO it replaced but with none of the public service ethic. And as a result, we have to put up with an inadequate telecommunications infrastructure that would not look out of place in sub-Saharan Africa. We have falling oil and gas reserves, mismanaged by gaggle of competing, often foreign-owned corporations, semi-regulated by incoherent and incomprehensible energy policies; road and rail systems that are a national disgrace… I could go on, but I won’t…

As a consequence, the bulk of our national wealth generation relies far too heavily on an American-led financial services sector, that is as incompetent as it is dishonest. And too many of its corporations and their senior executives now seem above the law as they go unpunished for fraud, deception and negligence on a mammoth scale. This alone has seriously damaged confidence within the business community. And despite taking billions of pounds of taxpayers money, and continuing to pay massive bonuses to their useless executives, the big banks are still not lending to the businesses that so desperately need it!

Of course, the true masters of dishonesty and incompetence are the self-seeking buffoons that make up our ailing New Labour Government. Its leaders, Blair and Brown have overseen levels of control-freakery, corruption, greed, sleaze, stupidity and total contempt for the electorate, to which the last Tory Government could only aspire!

So I’m afraid you young folks are in for a very hard time indeed – through absolutely no fault of your own. Moreover your children and possibly even their children will continue to pay for the legacy of the Bush-Blair-Brown-Obama era for many, many years to come.

Don’t have nightmares. Honk! Honk!

Another very good reason not to trust large American corporations

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

The other day, I exported a pile of OpenOffice.org documents to Portable Document Format via its built in PDF exporter.  When I sent them to a friend – who is sadly still saddled with Microsoft Windoze. She soon started moaning that the PDF’s I sent her had returned an “invalid colorspace” error in her Acrobat reader. I never noticed the problem. On my lappy, I have several open source PDF readers that all work fine. Besides, it seems that Adobe can’t be bothered to produce a 64-bit version of its reader for Linux anyway!

Nevertheless, I did a bit of reading around the subject:-

Turns out that the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader no longer reads PDF/a-1a, long-term-archive files as produced by OpenOffice.org. Now I wonder why that could be? Let’s see…

  1. Early versions of Acrobat reader worked perfectly and could read all PDF files produced by free, open source PDF creators.
  2. All the open source readers, Evince, kPDF et al also worked perfectly – and still do!
  3. Adobe has largest market share for PDF readers but is concerned by the increase in popularity of free, open source PDF creators because Acrobat, its own PDF creator costs an arm and a leg and is highly profitable.
  4. Suddenly Adobe brings out a version of its PDF reader that no longer reads PDF/a-1a, long-term-archive files, produced by free, open source PDF creators.
  5. PDF files produced by free, open source PDF creators are now effectively rendered useless, especially for long-term archiving purposes.
  6. Moreover the problem remains unfixed and ignored for many months.

I wonder if anyone can spot a pattern emerging here?

The moral of the story, my little goslings, is never, ever trust your data to the proprietary format belonging to a large American corporation!

Honk! Honk!

All the hard times of old England

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Some people have written in, mainly from the other side of the pond, saying that the economic downturn isn’t too bad. Well, I’m sorry to report that the recession is very real indeed in this part of the world.

Here in the UK, successive governments both Labour and Conservative have:-
1. Squandered the profits from our rapidly depleting North Sea oil & gas
2. Destroyed our mining and manufacturing sectors
3. Promoted financial services as the nation’s main income generator whilst failing to regulate it and prevent fraud and theft on a massive scale by its top  executives
4. Entered into or supported two utterly pointless and very costly Middle Eastern wars. In addition to the senseless waste of human life, these foreign adventures have lasted much longer than the idiots who started them ever imagined, have made the world more dangerous rather than safer and the costs of which have pretty much bled our economy dry.

According to a recent OECD report, the UK is likely to remain in recession for much longer than our EU partners. See for yourself:-

To make matters worse, our prime Minister and former Chancellor of the Exchequer (a poncey name for a finance minister) flogged-off half the nation’s gold reserves at a fraction of their real worth. He followed this up by saddling several future generatons with mind-boggling debt just to bail out the big banks – the same banks that he failed to regulate properly while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

So [i]make hay while the sun shines[/i] my friends. Hopefully your politicians will resolve the aftermath of the Bush-Blair legacy better than ours have. And at least you guys do have some oil left.

Meantime I’m going to make a few calls and see if there are any tropical islands that could benefit from the services of a jaded web-footed waterfowl.

Honk! Honk!

Lies, damned lies and Windows Genuine Advantage

Friday, January 30th, 2009

If you’re looking for deceit and misrepresentation, then those good ole boys at Redmond take a lot of beating. Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) has been pushed on customers as a really splendid thing, and I quote:-

Genuine People, Genuine Stories. Each year, millions of consumers worldwide are victimized by software piracy. In July of 2005, we launched Windows Genuine Advantage to help consumers quickly and easily identify whether their copy of Windows is genuine or not. Since then, WGA has assisted thousands of customers who have discovered that their copy of Windows is not genuine.”

Oh yes! All very genuine I’m sure! Of course anyone with any sense would ask, “Genuine advantage to whom?” If you are foolish enough to believe the hype and actually install the blasted thing then this is the information that Microsoft admits it routinely collects about you and your PC:-

  • Computer make and model
  • BIOS checksum.
  • MAC address. (unique number of your network card)
  • A unique number assigned to your computer by the WGA (Globally Unique Identifier or GUID)
  • Hard drive serial number.
  • Region and language settings of the operating system.
  • Operating system version.
  • PC BIOS information (make, version, date).
  • PC manufacturer.
  • User locale setting.
  • Validation and installation results.
  • Windows or Office product key.
  • Windows XP product ID.

Now personally I bitterly resent anyone routinely pilfering data from my machine. But the notion that one is tricked into allowing a foreign corporation in a foreign jurisdiction to do this renders me speechless! Which is one of the many reasons I don’t use Windows any more. But it’s actually far worse than that because WGA can be used to collect all sorts of other data. Moreover it can even be used to disable your machine remotely – so that if Microsoft thinks you are usiing pirate software – or something else it that disapproves of, then it can shut you down – though it claims it has disabled that particular “feature” now! In fact its spyware-like qualities has forced one US citizen to sue Microsoft for invasion of privacy. The suit is ongoing:-

Meantime I just done its new advertising slogan. What to you think?

  • Windows Genuine Advantage, genuinely one of the great lies of our time!

Honk! Honk!

Jealous of Microsoft’s Success?

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Couple of folks have sent messages to my pond suggesting that all the nasty things that people say about Microsoft are purely motivated by jealousy. “…so many people just hate a successful company!” said one such response on a forum that I honk on from time to time.

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else but my views have nothing to do with hatred of Microsoft’s success. But I do dislike the dubious methods that were deployed to achieve this success. But that pales into insignificance when one considers Microsoft’s paradigm of total indifference to its customer’s security c/w it’s pathetic mantra of security through obscurity:-

Example: COFEE (sic – just one “F”). This is a USB stick Microsoft has flogged to over 2,000 “law enforcement” officers in 15 countries around the planet which basically makes any Windows PC completely defenceless to those using the tools. Microsoft won’t say who else has access to COFEE. But you can bet your bottom dollar it will only be a short while before all the relevant code is in the hands of hackers and cybercriminals – if it isn’t already:-

The only folks who won’t be informed regarding how it works or told how to defend against it are… yes you guessed it… Microsoft’s customers!

Also has anyone noticed how Microsoft’s “Malicious Software Removal Tool” has become a “Malicious Software Reporting Tool“. With an estimated 450 Million users, this must make it the biggest backdoor trojan of all times! Check this out:-

Still if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear! Or so we are led to believe.


Don’t have nightmares! Honk! Honk!

Where do you want to collect your dole today?

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

This will certainly be the year of bad news for the corporate sector. After the massive bailout of the banks at the taxpayers’ expense on both sides of “The Pond”, the US Government is attempting a bailout of its ailing car industry, with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler being given a share of a $17.4 billion hand out – again from the taxpayers’ already depleted pockets.

Now it seems even the mighty Microsoft is falling on hard times. OK, I have no great love for Microsoft. IMHO to me it typifies all that is wrong with corporate America. It’s big, greedy, uses unethical business practices to kill its competition, whilst locking its punters into a succession of overpriced, poor quality products. But one has to feel sympathy for the estimated 15,000 employees that are rumoured to be scheduled for the boot later this month. After all, I thought that frequent booting was purely for Microsoft’s hapless customers, not its staff, surely?

Up till now, Microsoft staff have been led to believe everything was all rosy and that Microsoft was really a hip, fab, groovy, going-places sort of company. Seems many really bought into the Microsoft American dream. Now 17% of its staff could be sold down the river. Because, as we in the open source community have known for some time, Micro$haft is in fact a hideous, greedy dinosaur that is just as happy to crap on its own staff as it has done for many years on its customers.

First we crap on our customers. Now we crap on our staff. Micro$haft! Where do you want to collect your dole today?

References:-

Interesting to see if there are any plans to bail out Micro$haft at the taxpayers’ expense, eh? Best wishes, G.

Honk! Honk!

UK Government’s dubious DNA collection plan twarted by European Court

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Seems likely that UK police forces will have to delete the DNA records of hundreds of thousands of innocent people – all of whom have no criminal convictions. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled today that retaining this data breaches human rights law. The Court said that keeping innocent people’s DNA records on a criminal database breaches Article Eight of the Human Rights Convention, covering the right to of privacy and family life. Apparently the British Government has until 2009 March to decide what it is going to do. Currently, UK Police forces keep a staggering 4 million people’s DNA patterns on computer.

Of course some sceptical observers believe that police will keep the data anyway and threaten any whistle-blowers with prosecution under data-protection / secrecy / privacy laws. And if the coppers cock it up, get caught-out and the 5hit really hits the fan, then the Government will deny all knowledge and the whole thing will be blamed on (yet another) computer error.

Obviously no one wants rapists and criminals wandering the streets. However, I doubt that collecting lots of innocent people’s DNA would ever significantly reduce their numbers. Moreover, it seems to me that our biggest threat is not the criminal, or the terrorist. It is in fact our own Government.

Our Government has conned us into accepting curtailment of our civil liberties as part of its war on terror, involved us in an illegal and hugely expensive war in Iraq, based almost entirely on falsified evidence and it has repeatedly proved itself incapable of handling our sensitive personal data in a safe and responsible manner.

Now this Government is trying to force us to carry electronic ID cards, supported by the same incompetent private companies behind so many of its other expensive IT failures. Worse, these cards will not merely carry biometric and other sensitive data that we will not be able to access ourselves (unless we hack them), the cards will also be enable the authorities to identify us remotely as we walk through public places.

Of course, there are some that argue that if the Government mismanages ID cards in the same way it has mismanaged so many other publicly-funded IT projects, then these ID cards would actually be quite a boon for criminals and terrorists. If these cards are hacked, cracked or cloned then your personal information and even your personal identity could be available on the black market to the highest bidder, in a highly credible format.

Seriously scary stuff IMHO.

Honk! Honk!

Storm in a teacup or worst financial crisis since 1929?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
Failed financial institutions. Click for more info.

Anyone who follows the news can’t have missed the current economic gloom:-

The US Senate just agreed George Bush’s $700 BILLION bailout for failed Wall Street financial institutions – though Congress actually rejected the plan on Monday. Similar rescue plans are afoot all over the planet. But should the taxpayer be bailing out the fat cats – giving them a so-called golden parachute made out of our hard earned cash? Or is that the price we have to pay? Will it work anyway? Trouble is it seems the banks no longer trust each other, so why should we trust them?

I think we should be talking less about bail and more about jail for those responsible for this monumental cock-up. But who is to blame? George Bush? Gordon Brown? Greedy bastards in Wall Street & London’s “Square Mile”? Or perhaps our “leaders” are correct and we should blame the “great unwashed”, for borrowing more than they can afford to pay back? Fortunately, I can’t borrow any money even if I wanted to because UK banks don’t lend to geese.

Anyway, what are good quiet little geese like me supposed to do next? Sit tight, with our heads in the sand and our wings up our big, white, feathery bottoms, hoping for the best? Or perhaps should we pawn everything we own, spend our last few quid on a handful of gold Krugerrands and head for the hills?

And if all this isn’t depressing enough then check this out:-

Honk! Honk!

Recession depression

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Interesting that folks this side of the pond are starting to talk in terms of recession. The situation really is very worrying indeed. Home repossessions have doubled, paid work is becoming harder to find and I think there is much worse to come. There are number of very serious contributing factors in my view:-

  • The sub-prime lending fiasco – people lent far more money than they could afford to pay back.
  • Big banks no longer trusting each other and unwilling to lend money to one another. This inter-bank lending is what lubricates the wheels of free-market capitalism. If it dries up then basically we are buggered.
  • A totally decimated industrial base. What do we actually make here in the UK? Bugger all.
  • UK and the United States having economies that are tied together too closely. If Washington sneezes we catch the flu.
  • UK (& US) wasting billions of dollars on a long, drawn-out and utterly pointless foreign war. I still don’t understand how Blair got away with this. The guy should be standing trial for war crimes, not swanning about as Middle East Envoy.
  • The Iraq war has also resulted in oil-price-instability and hence a massive hike in raw energy costs.

What seems to be forgotten is that wars cost money. This money and this has to come from somewhere. It has already cost the US three trillion dollars. Our Government won’t actually tell us what it’s cost. I suspect it doesn’t know how much it has cost!

Finally, I think these national current account figures make particularly depressing reading. Note the three countries way down at the bottom – i.e. those with the biggest national debt – are the United Kingdom, Spain & United States. Remember, these are also the three major players in the Iraq fiasco:-

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2187rank.html

And remember these are the CIA’s own figures!

We are really in the poo methinks…