Sunday, March 29, 2015

SXSW : Austin knows how to do a music festival

I was lucky enough to have  free weekend in Austin (that would be Texas) last weekend and as luck would have it SXSW music festival was on. Well it would be rude not to.

A more diverse subset of the music following fraternity than I am used to. SXSW has a large R & B and hip hop following, in addition to the Indie/Punk/Rock contingent I expected.

It rained a lot on the Friday and Saturday so some of the bigger outdoor events were canned.

I did not go to any of the ticketed events, I just wondered around downtown Austin on the Friday and Saturday evenings and wondered into anywhere which had loud guitar based music and as an  approach that worked well. I saw some great bands, all US based, none I had heard of or ever expect to hear of again, but all very tight and the quality of music was top notch. From 3 way punk bands from North Chicargo to more tempered girl fronted Indie bands from Milwalkie, I only saw on band which I walked away from and they seemed to be a British Ultra Pop band, not my thing.

It was good to meet up with Brian and his son. I have worked with Brian who lives in San Antonio
for a couple of years, but not meet before, so it was good to have a semi-local to mingle and eat chilli with.

Going to SXSW was one of those items at the  bottom of my bucket list. I never thought I would be able to get to Austin during that week. Maybe if you went to ticketed events the experience would be different, but I did not fancy the length of the queues into the venues.

Pleased I went, but I don't feel the need to make an effort to return to SXSW, but if the chance arose again, it would be rude not to.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Aberystywth..... A town of 2 virtual parts

About half of Aberystwyth has been enabled for Superfast Broadband over the last 6 months. The other half are going to have to wait till at least the end of the year as the contactors are not coming back till the end of September.

Bad news for Ceredigion and even worse news for those of us who have to wait and worse still because we won't know what we will get if anything until at least 2016.

Why did Openreach put up Fiber on poles at the end of November, some of which is now hanging across the road and being driven over, if it is not going to be connected up for a year?

See my Twitter feed @clivemking for the source of this information.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ceredigion Strategies, Plans and Performance

I came across this document while looking for any insight into Ceredigion councils plans to improve Broadband. The word Broadband is mentioned once in the context of it being a problem.

Access to Services
Difficulty of access to services is one of the most obvious features of the County
(accompanied by an element of inequality); applies not only to rural areas but also for some high level services which are only provided at some distance and aredifficult to access from any area of the county; does not just refer to geographical access since Ceredigion is also disadvantaged in digital access, i.e. high speed broadband; new models of service provision may improve geographical access and, as importantly, the means of access.

Could this contribute to  the two very valid observation that

Vulnerable employment structure with a very high proport
ion of employment inpublicly funded
sectors and a high proportion of
very small businesses; a relatively static business environment with low reate of business creation.
A relatively large number of Ceredigion’s young people (late
teens to early 20s) leaving the area;
often because of the lack of good local opportunities
for employment and career development
I wonder if improving broadband services was not seen as important enough to make it into this document (I read the ommision as its a problem but not our problem) contributes in some way to the observations above. I have searched the wider internet and I can't find anything useful that Ceredigion Council have done to promote broadband connectivity, its been left to WAG and BT.  Substantated comments with suggest otherwise welcome.

Nice document, wonder how much it cost to produce?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

FTTRN or FTTP : OpenReach don't make it easy to find out what is going on

Blurred but who cares .....
The rather poor pic. above is of 2 loops of fiber optic cable put up just over 3 weeks ago 400m from our house. This is great, but the next steps are proving more awkward to determine and these are the questions I can't answer at this time. FTTC will not fly where we are

  • Has cabinet 7 in Llanfarian been enabled. Rumour control says it has.
  • Will we get anything?
  • Will we get Fiber To The Remote Node or FTTP?
  • When?
  • How do we get a survey done by OpenReach ?
  • What thickness is the duct for the fiber optic cable? 
The contractors I spoke to who put these cables up did say it would be at least January before the joints were done, thats not a problem.

Give I have paid attention to this subject for the last few years and can't find these things out would give me some concerns about how effective the communication policy is beyond "here is a web site".

If we (ourself and the neighbour down the track) get FTTRN, then things may be good. If it has to be FTTP, then there is a non-trivial process of getting permission to cross 2 farmers land, digging or mole ploughing in suitable ducts which could take a few months to do. We have the hardware, just need to know what needs to be done.

Still more in limbo than I feel comfortable with, but great progess by Openreach all the same.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Dark Skys of Ceredigion

In the 2 and a bit years we have lived in the middle of nowhere, a very non-scientic assessment is that the amount of light pollution has reduced (think 3 miles south of Aberystwyth 300m back from the sea, so not many houses). I suspect in the main due to the repalcement of street lamps with more efficient units which don't through light upwards as much.

From Newport Railway Station
Maybe this is something that could be promoted a little further north and west in Wales.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Real Poetry - The Druid Thursday 23rd Of October : Tedious whining poets - up your bum!

A bit of proper poetry for a Thursday night at The Druid in Goginan. Attila the Stockbroker returns for a 3rd time (even years only) on the 23rd of October. The last 2 nights were fantastic nights, so don't miss out.

No tedious whining or your money back !!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A slightly different view on Shellsocked BASH bug

Before I joined Sun, I was a BASH user (think mid 90's). Moving to the commercial enviornment I found myself on systems without BASH so it was just easier to train my mind to use ksh.

Now in my book if a bug can lie undescovered for 25 years (we could look at the mercurial log I guess to see the change history to this bug, but its been there a long time) then that is a good advert for the quality of the code in question. Its a super edge case, though clearly if it gets 10 out of 10 on the scale of vulnerabilities its an important one, but thats more down to the ubiquity of the use of BASH as a medium to spawn processes in CGI and DHCP server for example, rather than the seriousness of the bug itself.

What is reported of what Mr Dyhouse said is disappointing

That such key parts of everyday technology are maintained in this way is a cause for concern, said Tony Dyhouse from the UK's Trustworthy Software Initiative.
"To achieve a more stable and secure technology environment in which businesses and individuals can feel truly safe, we have to peel back the layers, start at the bottom and work up," he said.
"This is utterly symptomatic of the historic neglect we have seen for the development of a dependable and trustworthy baseline upon which to develop a software infrastructure for the UK.
"Ultimately, this is a lifecycle problem. It's here because people are making mistakes whilst writing code and making further mistakes when patching the original problems."

If we all did what Mr Dyhouse suggests the process of rewriting seriously complex systems(and BASH is) from scratch would introduce orders of magnitude more security, functionality and reliability issues for code that would never ship.  Time for a look at the bigger picture.

Maybe this was mis-reported or maybe Mr Dyhouse has not worked on large complex software systems, either could be true. When did you write some code that someone else relies on Tony?

There are 2 important aspects to this

  1. Finding bugs and then fixing them is part of the engineering lifecycle of software systems, it is symtomatic of it being hard and complex
  2. If a bug in shell pattern matching has such widespread consequences, then there is an architectural problem.
There is also no doubt a promotion aspect to this, lots of people stepping up to present themselves as todays informed pundit.

The real questions and the only ones that matters, unless we are going to stop using computers until a major rearchitecture effort is completeted, is  ....

where is the next security bug, and the next, and the next ........

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why no bikes on Ceredigion buses.

With no intentioned or otherwise critisisum, I fear Alun Williams has a few more questions to ask in his very good blog on the lack of Bike rack facilities on Ceredigion busses.

He may well of asked them inside his head, but any conclusions are probably not blog material for Cabinate level local politicians, so I can't fault him at all.

So why are the places Alun has visited like Toronto and L.A. more Bike transport on bus friendly. I have seen the same in S.F., Boston and New York which it is

  • Easy to hire bikes
  • Easy to move them around on public transport (not sure about NYC).
  • Safer to cycle
As my good friend and keen cyclist Mr Gerhard points out that some members of the population of London think it sport to dismount cyclists, but the major US cities I have visited in the last few years are really getting with the plot in this respect, abit from a very low starting point and far from Universal. Cycling in somewhere like Stockton would be a nightmare and probably very short lived.

So lets get back to the why? I suspect the following are at play to greater or lesser extents

  • Competition. I don't mean competion between rival bus providers.  In rural Wales you are greatful that there is a bus at all. But compeition at the level of management. Firms is either family owned and run or like Arriva in decline from the business so what bright spark is going to choose running a bus company as a careeer, unless it is one of those very well run local firms (me thinks of Mid Wales Travel for example which is expanded exponetially in the last few years) and its in the family already ?
  • Competition. People live in mid-Wales because they either want to or because they don't know anything else and this results in inertia, you have what you have got and there is little culture of pressing for better services. Cities like Boston can mandate the form of the service and companies or there own departments have to comply.
  • Inovation happens elsewhere (which I think was a Bill Joy-ism). It is probably a bit much to expect quite small rural bus companies, in an area which is greatful to have any bus service, to be UK leaders in their cycle transport provision.
  • Ceredigion is rural. Bus speeds are probably higher and distance between stops is greater than in the cities cited.
  • The insurance and H & S situation may contain a non-zero  amount of FUD which is hard to hack and costly through.
  • There maybe a serious cost implication for the company. The racks my require bus modiciation which may be a factory job (it not like strapping a bike onto your car) and so may need to be ordered with such facilities. I would suspect the US example has the racks factory fitted, but that is conjecture.
some of the above may be wrong and there may be addtaional factors at play, but we need to starting thinking deeply about the positive and negative consequences short and long term for the companies to "do the right thing" if we want the behaviours(such has having bike racks on buses) to change.

Maybe the bus companies are acting very rationally to the environment in which they operate. We want change, we need to think about the above and more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nun's in Combat Boots are common place

Year 12 for me and the festival, very good. No rain apart from a little drizzle on Sunday. A cracking good time, some great bands. Only complaint is that a few very good bands played on the Bandstand, loads of people turned up and few could hear or see them (Mad Dog Macrea and Seize the Day for example, both should have been main stage).  Missed Sea Sick Steve as M. went to see Belowhead and I stayed behind to look after sleeping kids (no complaint). Steve Earle was OK, Jimmy Cliff was excellent and Levellers as good as always. Next year again then maybe ....

The world would be a better place with more nun's like this
Public Service Broadcasting : excellent

Bless you sister's

Drumming with scrap - very good

His and her's

Rev. and the Makers

The Ruts DC

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Depopulation of rural Ceredigion - unconconcious social engineering

Imagine you were a local council member for a rural area, like say Powys or Ceredigion. Your budget has seen a substantial cut, you are having to make unpopular cuts to important services like health, refuse collection, social services, schools, etc. If someone came up with a novel solution that impacted few people, would you not consider it ?

Well I have it. A plan with no downsides. Here is an approach to a bit of social engineering inspired by the Highland Clearances but without boats or brutality. Reduce the number of people in the most rural parts of the county, I said it was simple.

All the council has to do for its part is put more and more services online and not pay any attention to getting the last few % decent internet connectivity and the rest will work itself out.

Younger people will move out of these areas as their friends are online and they are not, they are unconnected in a connected world. Anyone with kids will need to move as school work is increasingly online. Those wanting to work from home will have to move. Only older people are left and they will either die or won't be able to cope in the unbalanced communities composed only of the elderly and also have to move leaving the properties empty - result.

The blame can be placed at the door of a 3rd party, the incumbent telco provider who says it is uneconomic and they are not being funded to provide universal service. They can be vague about future plans, promising that technology will reach more and more remote areas which just need to wait, and wait until there are such a small subset they don't matter and their voice is dispersed that they carry no weight that when nothing is provided it does not matter.

Now the downside of all this is it would take years for the social movement to happen and houses to be devalued to the extent there would be abandoned, but social engineering always has been the long game, the highland clearance took over 100 years.

This satire shows how easy it is to sleep walk into this type of social engineering by accident by inaction and a lack of forward vision in just depending on the market to deliver.

I don't think it could happen, could it?