Reg readers save the planet from offshored asteroids

Knickers to the lot of you

Letters Is this the end for IT peeps in the UK? Analyst Bob McDowell certainly seems to think so. Not a cheerful subject for readers of El Reg, and understandably once you'd read his article, you had a few things you wanted to get off your chests:

Probably due to the imported Septic "skills are replaceable" mantra. i.e. "By reducing IT to a set of defined and reproducible processes with defined roles and responsibilities we (as management) can source practicioners of those processes wherever the labour market for same is cheapest." Bit of a management reshuffle to rebadge your Project Managers as Program (sic) Managers (laying off the truly fossilised wood in the process) and Robert's yer mother's brother.

I know it's proven cack, you know it's proven cack. But Yank-focussed "management consultants" still spount it as Gospel (and it goes down well with the board shedding highly paid technical staff in favour of offshored char-wallahs for the sake of a bit of documentation). While this idiocy persists, anyone thinking about spending their studying time to qualify for career in IT should have their bumps felt.


I've bitten my tongue for some time but this Register article on the imminent death of the "UK IT industry" really should be last on the subject.

Judging by the City - that "Wimbledon effect" cliche and a voracious consumer of IT to boot - the industry is healthily supplied with Antipodean transients in the IT grunt jobs and British graduates with engineering degrees or similar stripes of applied numeracy in the thoughtful, strategic jobs (i.e. which are closer to the business than mere IT, which is plumbing).

Frankly, whether these people are trained in Britain or not is irrelevant and if students in Britain prefer to work in fields with better images, we'll hire some non-British ones. Indeed, if their role disappeared through efficiency savings - come on, this is IT, they should be replaced with machines - profits would increase, which would be more beneficial still.

Their jobs are unlikely to be off-shored, sadly. Plumbing, in lead or silicon, is essentially a non-tradable service. Geography matters. Globalisation is only useful in driving down the cost of coding and some back-office functions of consulting. An Indian sysadmin is no more able to provide 24h cover than a UK one. Cheap IT workers in China cannot come round and fix my office network easily, and to the extent they cannot be replicated in cheap Chinese-made machines, I cannot enjoy their price advantage except embedded in Chinese products (and the price advantage contributed by cheaper local IT is small compared with assembly, tax and material advantages)

Moreover, although IT has been responsible for the death of distance, infrastucture (especially proximity to major comm's hubs) is perversely important in bandwidth hungry industries, so developed countries start with an historical advantage. Similarly, knowledge workers have a nasty habit of clustering as well (e.g. the City again).

More fundmentally, though, training is for animals - humans should be educated. If there is a concern, it is the decline of numbers studying hard Computer Science courses i.e. ones that make only a passing nod to the tedious programming language du jour and demand abstract thought and mastery of concepts instead. Without CS and its like, the real innovations in IT, rather than plumbing networks by the yard, will not happen.

Finally, as an IT VC, technical ability is a commodity. You can buy it like bandwidth. Innovation is not much scarcer - there's a lot of it about these days, as they say. Commercial acumen and management skills are in much scarcer supply, MBA courses don't provide them and they are not covered in IT training either.

French IT protection has brought them what benefits exactly? Groupe Bull and Minitel. I dance the lid shut on the coffin of IT training with my off-shored chorus-girls - or I would if only Gordon Brown's tiresome interest in training generally had not inadvertently but helpfully placed his corporatist size nines there before me.

best wishes, Richard

We also learned this week about the damp squib that is film on the net. Yes, this is the shocking news that people are not that keen on watching a full length move on their computer screen. Any ideas why?

I think it's more to do with not wanting to sign away our birthright, vital internal organs and first-born children to the MPAA, just for the privilege of watching a movie. I don't mind paying for a movie, if the price is reasonable and I can see it again as many times as I like. Buying a device that assumes by default I'm going to be stealing is something other people do. I'm not giving someone money so they can later prosecute me because I appear in a list acquired after a blanket database sweep. I'm willing to admit I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer but there are limits, you know.

The RIAA and MPAA would do well for themselves to remember that the content they provide is basically a luxury that customers can easily do without and that the best way to assure that it doesn't get sold is to make the purchasing experience too much of a hassle and the small-print contract too onerous for people to simply accept. They -need- our money, we don't have to buy their product. When did consumers forget that it's a buyers' market?

I don't see a real problem with the 'lean forward' argument. When I pop a movie into the DVD-player, I sit back, relax and enjoy the movie. I have never seen the movie-going experience as a chance to shovel popcorn into my mouth and give a point-by-point review of the movie as it is playing on the screen. I actually love movies and I have the attention span required to sit through them.

It's the movie industry with their galling message-you-can't-fast-forward on DVDs and the unbelievable warnings, over 6 screens if you please, in the movie theatre that tell me stealing movies is a crime and I should sit down and shut the f*ck up and not take any pictures, that drive me away from enjoying movies. I paid for the DVD/ticket, if I want the MPAA's opinion on movie theft I'll give it to them. I'm not a criminal and I do not accept being treated as one. If the MPAA doesn't want my money, I'm sure somebody will.


Maybe this has more to do with broadband being more readily available at the work place where users close the video when co-workers or bosses come trolling about?


We're all doomed, maybe. So here's a $50k prize for the best way to track a big lump of space rock called Apophis. You made a few suggestions which we have included below, but oddly, no one thought of issuing it with an ASBO:

I suppose sticking a Stargate on it is out of the question?


The answer to the asteroid problem is simple - get the UK Government to issue it with an RFID enabled National Identity card/passport and not only will we know when it's near by due to the RFID signal - it will be prevented from colliding with earth as the master database will simply have the "No Entry" flag set. It must be that simple; after all the ID card will solve all crime, terrorism, antisocial behaviour, illegal immigration - asteroid collision is simply "feature creep". Or am I falling for the government's propaganda!

Yours cynically, Jon

Ah, what a delightful bit of deception. If they'd ask a cluthc of consultants they'd blown that budget in week 1. Now they get world + dog to work for a crack at a price. $50k for saving the world? Cheap at twice that cost... (yes, I'm a cynic).


Maybe we shouldn't divert the asteroid. If it collides with earth will THAT stop global warming? The dust in the air might do that. So, an Al Gore's silly power point presentation (aka movie) says it all, we NEED the asteroid to collide with earth!! Headline next: Asteroid saving earth. Must collide to help us all. Then again, I could use the $50k


Tagging it with some polonium-210 should make it pretty easy to track


Very current. Well done.

Microsoft has put its PR mouthpiece to work promoting CardSpace - a part of Vista it reckons could virtually eliminate online credi card fraud:

When I mention this it gets laughed out of the house, when Microsoft mentions the same thing [all the major components at least] it gets accepted.

What is it, you didn't like the colour of my tie? I wasn't cool enough, I didn't use the right font in my presentation? Prejudice is what I call it.

Oh, and my system was a teensy bit more sophisticated: in my system the right amount of money is freed from my account and put into a nice, virtual box that only contains that amount. The vendor's authenticator can verify that there will be enough money in the account to pay the bill in full.

Also, and this is a bigger revenue stream for the system: the transaction generates an insurance contract for the amount of money paid [a small % of the transaction price] so that when the vendor does not deliver, the money is returned to the customer. This bit requiring solid proof that the item or service was delivered, obviously.

And people shrugged at it when I proposed it. Really, what was it? The wrong kind of shoes, bad shave, what?


Staying with the beast of Redmond, we also brought news that Vista will be "creating wealth". Cue a telling off for us:

I strongly object to the title of your piece 'Vista creates wealth'

If I went up and down Wimbledon High Street throwing bricks through shop windows I would create employment for the window repair companies but would not generate any wealth. Employment and wealth creation are not synonymous.

The cost of administering Vista is admitted in the Trusted Computing Groups papers to be beyond the skills of the public and SMEs. The TCG then goes on to say that a thriving consultancy business in administering trusted PCs will result.

The TCG, which includes Microsoft as a member, is seriously suggesting that little old ladies have to employ their own IT security consultant.

I have come to expect more incisive reporting from contributors to the Register.


You have plenty of suggestions for how The Cloud could deal with running guest access to corporate Wiffy:

The cloud solution sounds overly complicated and expensive.

In a previous job at a small office one of my many duties was to act as BOFH for the place. Anyway, this issue came up, my solution was to spend £100 on an ADSL modem router with WiFi for the main conference room that visiting collaborators used, and £25/month for a residential ADSL subscription to the analogue phone point in that conference room. These days it would be £20/month and the WiFi modem would be free.

Job done, minimal outlay, risk and liability for us, and the visiting collaborators could check their email and VPN into their company networks as much as they liked. If the site had been bigger I could have created a separate ‘red’ network with the ADSL connection, and an entirely separate switch in the server room.


Contractor WiFi by TheCloud ... why not just do what Barclays do at their head office in Canary wharf ... have a load of analogue lines dotted around the monster of a building, get vanilla BT broadband on each of them and pop a netgear WiFi router on the end of each one. Voila. Completely secured against the main Barclays network and damn cheap to run too.

SLA? Who cares. It's for contractors only, so it's a luxury and if one fails, just go down a couple of floors to one what works.

David F

Three gee, or not three gee is no longer the question for Motorola:

For the first time ever I have to say I agree with Motorola's actions in this competition. Most people who have 3G capable phones don't use most of the features that 3G itself provides, at least most of the time they use their phones. That's my experience anyway.

Why people in the third world would need the features unless they were managers in a multinational sweatshop operation is beyond me, and these would probably be bought by the company as perks for dealing out the most misery.

While 3G is underutilised at the moment, I can see the possibility, if the 3G networks permit cheap data transfer for 3rd world countries to open up more communications possibilities with the rest of the world, but until the price drops significantly, and there are features that people really want to use, I don't see the advantage of a 3G for All project.


Staying with the mobile theme, we also had news this week that... Oh, who are we kidding? We had a picture of a lady in bra, so we ran the story that went with it:

Can I say that I am truly disgusted by the picture taken at one of your recent events. Whatever were you thinking about showing truly disgusting pictures of a man wearing a KNITTED TIE - in public? Have you no shame at all?


None whatsoever, at all. None.

Regarding Virgin and the 'Knick Pics' - "The firm has issued a press release in which it claims that its "national network of retail trend spotters" has spotted a number of women using their camera phones to photograph themselves wearing the saucy lingerie they want to be given for Christmas. Said pics are then emailed to boyfriends"...

I have to ask how are they getting this data? Firstly there is the fact of it's quite specific in that it says women are 'wearing what they want for Christmas' then sending that to their boyfriend to buy it for them. Few problems here, firstly with Christmas coming up this data must have been compiled within the last few weeks or it's been going on for past years. We must assume that women are doing this in shops as if they are doing it at home, then they likely already own said items in which case why are they asking for them to be bought for them. So - trying on lingerie in shops? Is this done? I thought shops had issues with underwear being tried on due to hygiene? One imagines bras are probably ok, so 'knocker pics' rather than 'knick pics' then.

Now... lets assume that women are doing this in shops, I really can't see them stepping out of the changing room to take these intimate photos, so this leads us to exactly how do Virgin know about this intimate use their services are being put to? Obviously the photos will be sent over their network and could easily be duplicated for later examination at this stage and indeed due to RIPA, this is a government requirement that copies be taken and no doubt will be used an an excuse by the BOFHs when they 'check the system integrity' but what about the marketing department? Is this the best excuse they could come up with?


Pedant of the year award, for whatever that may be worth goes to the spotter of a typo in a URL. Could you lot be much pickier?

A web site for singing chairs!!! That's just brilliant news ... ... once upon a time we helped run/build/manage a web site selling stools and chairs (now long gone) ... ... but there must be hundreds of chairs still lying around in a warehouse somewhere (maybe they were hidden behind all those FarePak hampers the administrator found the other day) ... ... It's just lovely that someone has found a use for them! I'n't the internet brilliant?!


That's all. We're off to spell ceck, er check, the typing on the receipts handed out by the local bar. Have a good weekend. ®

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