Sunday, December 22, 2013

Are you entitled to win ?

One of the best TED talks I have seen for a while. The idea that even though one player knew he had been given a better "hand" in a game of Monopoly, they still attribute the outcome to their skills and eat more Pretzels. Fascinating indeed and the sense of entitlement for the better off is, now it is pointed out to me, bloody obvious in just about all the spheres of life I move in.

Which lead to the thought that maybe tonight is a good night for a family game of Monopoly. I have an unfair advantage in having played before, but then Mum is a Scott, so acquiring money is a genetic trait.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Broadband in Ceredigion : are we in good hands ?

If the reporting is representative of the standard of debate and understanding of the underlying issues by our elected representatives at County level, then Ceredigion is stuffed.

Cllr Towyn Evans pointed out that service from BT left a lot to be desired in rural areas.
"I have a customer in my area who has been waiting three months for a telephone line," he said.
"You're told to phone BT and you end up in places like India. It's very unsatisfactory."

I don't know Cllr Evans, but he is clearly a man of the world !!!

B.T. will eat the council officers, that these elected representatives are meant to oversee, for lunch.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Scottish and Urdd

Based on a sample size of 3, it appears to be biologically impossible for the Scotts to pronouce Urdd. It come out as "earth" or "the welsh club", no matter houw much coaching they get.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Broadband : what is the cause of the cause ?

Why does rural UK get such poor fixed Broadband service? The answers are may fold and I can't really speak for the rest of the UK and my picture is obviously incomplete, but here goes
  1. We have a single incumbent supplier of last step infrastructure[the cable from exchange to your house]  who is in effectively unregulated by the regulator and in complete control of the market, this is OpenReach which is of course a subsidiary of B.T.
  2. Councils and government don't understand the technology and business issues, so rely on information provided by the key players (B.T.) to set their direction. This results in a type of Stockholm syndrome where ministers and public servants become infatuated and absolutely trusting of their capture. Councilors for example don't understand the business or technology to be effective in providing oversight, so they don't. An other example of willful blindness by well intentioned people, but still not an excuse.
  3. Because of 1 and 2, mobile operators have been ignored and left to their own devices. The fact that I now get 14MB over 3G is testment to the eficacy of competition and advancing technology.
  4. Compared to countries like the US we pay too little for fixed line. 
  5. The government subsidy (from Wales or Westimister) is going a fair way to making BT a Sky competitor and not actually providing decent coverage and speeds.

Much like the Railways or Water or Electricity, the last step is highly problematic to implement proper competition, so we have a veneer of competition. Companies like TalkTalk who compete on the bits that don't really matter like the contract and add on services.

So is a solution to phase out fixed line all together over the next 10 years? No public money be put into fixed line at all anywhere in the UK as there is no possible way that fair and effective competition which acts for the benefit of UK PLC can come into play. Let the mobile operators have a shot, they have a better change of providing a decent solution as it is clear BT won't be.

I have certainly come round to the way of thinking that the current alleged superfast roll out should be halted as it is 1) not superfast 2) it lacks coverage 3) we the tax payer are being overcharged 4) BT is able to veto other solutions/innovation and it is aggressively taking that option.

Like so many other sub-optimal (I am being kind) services, I can't see this situation changing while as a population continue to tolerate it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Out of Broadband poverty : the importance of backhaul networks

Last week our Broadband on a pole solution gave us at best about 2Mb and usually about 1MB and sometimes less.

In the last few days 3 have upgraded their backhaul network (I assume since the signal strength on the router remains the same) and now we get

2 important lessons that I take away

  1. The speed of the backhaul network needs government and regulator attention. I suspect the mobile companies want to do the right thing, i.e. give more bandwidth as that is how they make money, they just need freedom to do it.
  2. Don't wait for B.T. and the Welsh Governent to maybe or maybe not improve your Broadband lot as it will be at least 2 years away and may not do anything at all for you in the next 10.
With some luck the next year should see a kick towards 30MB with 4G without having to make any changes to the solution.

If you read this, live in the south Aberystwyth area and think that is the solution for me, I suggest not using Three. Try EE or Vodafone instead. We don't want to contend, do we.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Belfast 28 years on

Just a northern post-industrial town

I last visited Belfast in 1985 for my grand fathers funeral which was probably the most bizzare funeral you can attend on account of packing 9 adult males plus coffin into the hurse for security reasons I still don't understand to this day. A lot has changed since then and it is all for the better.

On Thursday I was part of the British Computer Society Acreditation Panel for Queens University Computer Science. For obvious reasons I can't talk about the visit as the outcome needs to be ratified, but I was very impressed by the overall student experience and in particular by the library complex which is the best student working environment I have seen. If you are visiting Queens, it is well worth a visit.

There is clearly a lot Wales could learn about how to develop a computing sector, but the Welsh Government is unlikely to embrase any of the lessons and to be fair the situation is different.

I was chatting with the taxi driver on the way back to the airport about how different it was since my last visit and he mentioned that people from the north of Ireland, especially youngsters, work harder than their counter parts across the water. I suspect he is spot on.

The only landmark I remember of my previous visit is the Black Mountain and wish I had time for a run up there this week. I shall be taking any opportunity I get to visit again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Post Office privatisation : should we care ?

The post from counciler Williams here and Alex running a seamless PR machine (again) makes me wonder should we care about the future of the Post Office ?

We are very fortunate our posties (Seems to be a scottish term) are the other end of the spectrum from Postman Plod in quality of Service, though Benny did leave the job to become an undertaker.

I don't hold a view either way as I have no grasp as to the shape of the future ecosystem in which the Post Office (private or otherwise) will operate in when the Universal Service Obligation expires in 2019.
  • To what extent will letters become irrelvant and replaced by email ?
  • What proportion of the bussiness will be parcel delivery?
  • Will there be universal lookup for email addresses for individuals or addresses
  • How far will decent reliable broadband roll out get in rural areas to allow reliable email access
The one thing we can be probably be reasonably confident of  is that any adverse consequences will have a disprporionate adverse effect  on rural areas.

How many peoiple are going to send me a xmas card if it costs double what it costs me to send them one?

Will bills still be sent out by post if I only get delivery once a week? Will pay within 7 days or face a fine still be legally enforcable?

I don't have a good picture of the world of communications in 2019, but I know it will be very different from today. Articulating a view of the shape of communications in 7 years time should be
central to any campaign..... this is why the Post Office is important today and what it will be important in the future. As an investor I would struggle to articulate a business case for the Post Office going forward, but that is the whole point of state ownership to make sure those services which have economic and social benefit, but can't be run for a profit, are provided.

The one principle that propably will hold is that the changes will only improve the lot of those who embrace them and this who don't (or can't) will be adversly effected.

One the plus side it may reduce the amount of junk mail those of us in rural areas get sent.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My name is Clive and I am not a Map Addict

Front Cover

I meet Mike Parker a few months ago, the book seemed interesting, so it join the "to read" shelf.

As a fell runner, rock climber and long time mountain wanderer, maps are an essential  tool of the trade. There, see, I used the word "tool", so I  can't be  a map addict. I may have various other compulsive behaviors, but none of them involve maps in any capacity other than working out where to go.

My 1st post university job was at the Ordnance Survey in Southamptom. I was not cut out to be a civil servant and I woke up one morning 6 months into my life long tenure in a cold sweat having had a nightmare that I went into work thinking I was still 23, was shocked I had missed the majority of my life and was now being presented with a clock for my retirement at 65 and told to take the rest of the day off. I resigned that morning (I never tried to explain why, don't think they would have understood) and went to work on a farm back home in Wales before getting a most wonderful job in the computer science department at Aberystwyth 3 month later. 22 years on I don't regret in any way taking the dream seriously as an indicator of what my unconscious mind was worried about.

I read this book over about 2 months which is quite quick for me. Mostly a page or 3 at  bed time, some on a train from Boston to NYC and some on a canal boat in north wales.

 What made this book very worthwhile for me was the random, general knowledge that Mike come out with. not about maps, but places maps took him. I don't share his hatred of GPS/satnav, though I don't often use one for driving in the UK. I do use them as a last resort on the hills and on roads in the U.S, but I love both my android phone and Dakota 20.

 Towards the end of the book, it gets more philosophical. I need to get from North to South train stations in Boston, it did  prompt me to  undertake the mile walk Google maps directed, rather than use the metro. I encountered the Freedom Trail and in particular the New England Holocaust Monument, which at the time had profound effect on me at the time, one of those rich, random experiences which an unplanned walks across a city brings.

I am quite sure we see Cader Idris in quite the same way here, or here, though I know what he means about the sense of calm being on the top at night brings. During my Bob Graham addiction, Cader was one of my primary training grounds. Dog and I did 4 reps one day of the route described in the book and it was a different experience , almost felt like a different mountain, on each rep over 8 hours. I certainly have not become a poet as the myth cited in the book suggests and enjoyed just about every moment on Cader.

UK map are the best in the world, but my favorite map is not from my past employer which I say with some regret. Instead it is the Harvey's Bob Graham Round map.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Go do it yourself : 3G Broadband solution

Attempting to make a living from doing this computer stuff in rural Ceredigion is only made harder by decisions of previous governments on the way they structured B.T. and of the current governments in both Westminster and Cardiff on their decisions to subidise B.T. to become a Sky Competitor at the expense of business and those who live in rural areas, or just those who B.T. can't make a profit from.
As a family we can't wait until the end of 2015 for a faster service that may not even arrive, no matter how nice the sunset (and you can go for a swim if you think it is OK to suffer bad/no broadband coverage in rural areas. Dont' read on, I forbit it in the same way Johnny Marr forbid David Cameron to like the Smiths).

So, as a backup to our rather slow and increasingly unreliable B.T. line (as the exchange gets busier, service further from the exchange gets worse), we now have a 3G service. It is not super fast for reasons I will explain later, but it is good enough to work on, download low-res video and play ClubPenguin. Biggest performance limiation is the backhaul network.

Under the track

Cable tie quality is important

If it is waterproof here, it is waterproof anywhere!
Getting a 3G service where we live is not has simple as going into a Three shop and buying a MyFi device. We don't have line of sight to the mast, so only get 2G reception (sometimes it is even Vodafone I.E., I joke not), we need to be a bit more creative.  The components of the solution are
  • 83 meter of Armoured Cable
  • 2 x 83 Meters of external Cat-5 cable
  • Adaptable Box
  • Proroute H820 Commercial Grade Router
  • 10DB high gain attenna
  • 3G SIM card 
  • Lots and lots of cable ties 
  • 20m of plastic water pipe (duct for going under track)
  • A pole
  • Odds and ends like Armoured glands, 2 gang socket, cables glands
  • A most excellent farmer as a neighbour who is happy for me to run a set of cables under the road and up his fence
Inside the box

Cheap? No, not really in capital terms, but cheaper than finding an other house with the same qualities and it is cheaper that Sat. without the 1 second latency. It is also in one of the most exposed places in Wales, so the mast does need some more work in terms of strengthening over the next few weeks before the October storms appear.

At the top

We are using Three as a 3G provider on the basis that their transmitter is the highest up the Blanplwyf mast (Where my late Dad worked from 1960 something till about 1985).

We have got 4MB at best, but more usually it is 2Mb or a bit less and we do suffer from a busy backhaul network. The router will cope with 4G if it ever comes this way. Router was easy to set up, has the  largest range of temperates it will work in and gives much better performance than a Telonika 500 I tried. Latency is between 70ms and 100ms, so runs a SunRay fine.

One quite minor issue with the Proroute H820 router is that it gets itself in a twist and needs to be rebooted maybe every 2 weeks. Probably be addressed in a future firmware update at some point.

If we could get the attenna 1m higher, there should be a improvement (we gained 1 bar of reception by going from 2.5m off the ground to 4m  off the ground), but wondering round the fields with a laptop and a dongle suggests there is only about a 25% opportunity for improvement to getting better line of sight.

I also want to try a SIM for different providers as I am not convinced that the Three transmitter is pointing in our direction.

Still better than B.T. and it is here today, required no major technology on our part and I expect 3G speeds to improve over the next year in this area.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Serious error of judgement Mr Rees-Mogg ?

Other than a quiet poor appearance on "Have I Got New For You",  the little I know about him suggests we have little in common. This BBC article I found interesting, but not for the central line of the article.

Towards the bottom of the article we find

But Labour MP Sheila Gilmore said it was a "serious error of judgement" by Mr Rees-Mogg and said he should make it clear that he did not support the views expressed on the group's Facebook page.

The use of the term "serious error of judgement" has permiated our culture having the effect of scaring us off from having a go incase we make a mistake and are accused of a  "serious error of judgement". A rather more serious chap than either of this pair of clown's^D^D^D^D^D M.P's. would be appauled and its part of why we are in the economic state we are in.

Better Mr Rees-Mogg has at least brought this particular bunch of right of centre clowns into the light.

Given her background I would have expected better from Sheila Gilmore. Jacob Ress Mogg on the other hand it baffles me how someone like this gets elected.

Anyway, watch Sir Ken's TED talk and can you see the link ?

Monday, July 8, 2013

slippage or semantics ?

Don't for a split second think I am cynical of the ability of BT and the Welsh government to deliver on their Broadband commitment.

It is just me or has the date slipped from by the end of 2015 to by 2016  ?

Judge for yourself here

Friday, June 28, 2013

recycle : wales@home pension article

With the sad demise maybe 18 months ago of Wales@home comment web site with some terrific articles about Wales stuff, its time to publish some of the articles I wrote here.

This was my 1st article I wrote and still I think has much worth saying which is still true 2 or 3 years later.  Reproduced here without the nice picture of the piggy bank !

I used it as a template for a presentation to a Professional Pensions conference in Manchester, it really did not go down well which I think was a valid result.

Choose a pension
Choose absolute return, multi-asset, a fund of hedge funds and 5% bid offer spread.
Choose from 1500 funds, none of which you have a clue as to how they work.
Choose lifestyle, drawdown or inflation linked annuities with matching whole of life cover.
Choose procrastination induced by choices you don't understand.
Choose an ill informed I.F.A. for 120 quid an hour and wonder who the pensions industry is set up to serve.
Choose mind numbing, all inclusive disclaimers to read and sign.
Choose your capital being slowly eaten away by commission, administration, dealing and management fees.
Choose a history of scandals, mis-selling and an industry hiding behind a raft of
opaque jargon and poorly understood legislation.
Choose a pension.

A work colleague chose something else. At 39, he does not expect to
draw a pension and makes no contributions. A conscious judgment based
on his current state of health and age of death of his male
relatives. A rational choice?  Maybe, but he is not alone. For their
own reasons, half of UK 35 year old workers make no pension provision.

Good reasons abound to be cynical of the UK pension eco-system, but
there is also much to commend. Millions in retirement are benefiting
as pension funds and insurance companies pay out and the state still
provides a modest pension.  Backed by a Pensions Regulator with sharp
teeth, governance standards in UK company pension schemes are now very
high and robust against fraud, with lessons learned from past scandals
such as Maxwell and Equitable Life. Giving and marketing of financial
advice to consumers is well regulated. The better off can access a
huge range of investment choice. The well informed can access
efficient low cost savings vehicles. Tax treatment on pension
contributions is very favorable. Company schemes funding against
liabilities is well understood and the Regulator takes action on
excessive deficit levels. Some fund managers are becoming more active
as shareholders on issues including executive pay. Blackrock, for
example, holds regular meetings with Amnesty International to
understand risks around working conditions for companies and countries
they invest in. The UK pension industry may be a few actuaries short
of fully funded, but the case to use a pension as the core of
retirement saving is still compelling.

The Royal Society of the Arts published a damming report in December 2010 
which makes my Trainspotting parody
sound positively glowing by comparison. The executive summary
commences with

        "The system of occupational and private pensions in the
      UK is not fit for purpose. It is not the low cost,
      trustworthy system which savers justly demand." 

Pension funds in the Netherlands pay out around 40% more on retirement
than their UK counterpart, courtesy of lower commission and management
charges on contributions. The difference funds a well rewarded army of
advisers, consultants, actuaries and fund managers. Complex and
outdated legislation stifles innovation and transparency. The tax
treatment of pension contributions is regressive, with the better off
gaining proportionally more.

The media reported pension crisis is today centered on scheme funding
levels and the balance of contribution between employer and
employee. Expect a gradual worsening of the pensioner crisis as some
outside final salary schemes must work to the grave, or have an
unexpected retirement in poverty, as their pension provision falls far
short of expectations.

Final salary pensions, the mainstay of large company and public sector
schemes, are undergoing well publicized changes. These include
shutting schemes to new members, moving to career average final
benefits, increasing member contributions or and offering a hybrid
of defined benefit and defined contribution.  UK company schemes are
collectively in deficit by 189 billion (85% funded) as of November
2010. The figure hides a huge variation in both deficit and company
support.  For example, the B.T. pension scheme has a deficit of around 9
billion. Part of a plan to plug the gap involves an agreement with
B.T. to pay over 500 million a year for the next three years.  Money,
in theory, which could have improved the UK's telecoms infrastructure
if no deficit existed.

In 2012 ten million workers currently with no pension will be
auto-enrolled and have contributions taken from salary unless they opt
out. A second development, positive for those currently
disenfranchised by the cost and complexity, is the National Employment
Savings Trust (N.E.S.T.). A not-for-profit investment organization,
set up to provide a low cost investment option for the lower paid,
self employed or employed by an S.M.E. N.E.S.T. has inherited a number
of handicaps courtesy of industry pressure, including a ban on
transferring in other pension fund pots and a payment limit of 3600
pounds a year.

In excess of 23 trillion dollars is invested in global pension funds,
with the UK pension funds holding around 2 trillion dollars. Where they
invest has a significant effect on the overall economy, from the price
of government borrowing to the availability of private equity
funding. Providing capital for green energy or infrastructure could
realistically play a larger part than it does today, benefiting both
pension savers and society.

Will increased tuition fees cause more indebted graduates to delay
making significant pension contributions until their forties thus reducing
the impact of the universes most powerful force according to Einstein,
compound interest.

One underlying cause of the ongoing western financial crisis is
deficit driven from consumption funded by Eastern savers. Reducing our
expectations and consumption, instead saving a higher proportion of
income is a tough sell. For this reason alone, good value, attractive
pensions schemes for all are critical and urgent.

If I were the 2011 new year pension fairy, the one change I would gift
to all elected politicians who take pension contributions from the tax
payer is a restriction that at least 50% will be invested in N.E.S.T, or
Group Pension Plans. My inner optimist wants to believe that by
having real skin in the game, the pensions industry would
be bludgeon to move beyond the myth that ever greater consumer choice
is sufficient.  Successful pension saving requires government,
employers, the pensions industry and the individual in equal measure
to take responsibility.


Dr. Clive King was born and brought up near Aberystwyth. Returning
after study and work in various parts of the UK, he lives with his
family in a small rural village. He has worked for global computer
systems companies for the last 15 years solving technical problems
worldwide. He is a Fellow of the Department of Computer Science at
Aberystwyth University, a Member Nominated Trustee of a large company
pension scheme and a past acting Chair of a Citizens Advice Bureau
branch. He is currently engaged in a mid-life crisis of completing the
Bob Graham Round. He writes in a personal capacity.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Metor Crater Arizona : reseting my assessment of the probability of the improbable

I spent the last 2 weeks on a customer site in Phoenix, Arizona and had a free weekend. Saturday did a rim to river to rim in a day in the Grand Canyon (see ambitionexceedsability blog) and on Sunday went to Metor Crator in northern Arizona. I was the 1st in through the gates on the sunday morning, had quick look at the crater, took some pictures and was sitting in the film theater waiting for the film about how the earth might get destroyed by a metor impact, happy stuff. I was in a little world of my own thinking about the technical issues that I had been working on at the customer site about 150 miles south.

2 chaps walk into a film theater with a capacity of about 200 people and pick the seats right in front of me. One who looks very much like someone I know called Jon who is with someone who looks very much like Ed I know, looks at me, does a double take and then says "sorry, you look just like someone we know".

So lets do a rough guess at the probability of meeting this pair in the middle of the desert. I had no idea they were even in the US
The components I can think of are

  • Chances of Clive being in Arizona during a weekend : 1 in 500 (take the last 5 years as a guide, I have only been to Arizona once)
  • Chances of Jon and Ed being in Arizona at a weekend as part of a road trip from San Fransicso : assume the same
  • Chances of being there at the same time over a weekend : 1 in 100 (16 hours open over weekend = 256 hours, but should be skewed higher as we are likly to visit at start or end of day)
  • Chance of sitting in front of me in the theater (it was big enough to miss each other): 1 in 4
  • Chances of Clive visiting Metor Crater during a weekend in Arizona : 1 in 4 (I only decide to visit it about 1 hours before I meet them, I saw it on the map and thought that looks interesting. I could very easily have gone the other direction to see something else. My original plan was to go into the Grand Canyon on both days of the weekend.
  • Chance of Jon and Ed visiting Metor Creater during a weekend in south west US : guess at the same 1 in 4.
so that give a simple probability of around 1 in 1,600,000,000. I suspect  some curious bayesian influence are at play where the probability of meeting is in reality much higher.

We can assume a higher liklyhood as Jon and Clive share a subset of interests in things astronomy, so are likely to visit the same sort of areas. I guess I might know 100 or so people as well as I know Ed and Jon, so maybe the probably should be meeting someone I know well (whatever that is defined as).

Either way it would be a struggle to fudge the simple probability down to less than 1 : 1,000,000.

If anyone would like to comment with a pointer on how to calculate a more realistic probability, please do.

This does show that the probably of being found out is you are doing things you are not meant to is far higher than you think !

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Boris, startups and twitter

Boris says ....

Happy 2nd birthday to - 75% of all start-ups last year were registered in London making us the enterprise capital

London doing well or the rest of the UK doing badly ?

With only about 10% of the UK population, I suspect the later.

What could be happening. I suspect a  combination of

  • Brain migration from outside the rest of the UK
  • Entrepenurial immigrants set up in London rather than going elsewhere
  • The rest of the UK is less fertile for start-ups - it is just harder to hire,get funding, etc
It should be a serious wake up call to Council leaders, Boris is making fun of you on twitter. How many County or City councilers would never have used Twitter or even know what it is[ I know at least 2 in Ceredigion]. I suggest it is probably a good proxy measure for the amount of support a startup in a region would get.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Billion 7800n router -> 25% ADSL speed improvement

In the outer spiral arm of the BT ADSL network, a 25% improvement in performance is a big deal.

After reading some good reviews, I bought a Billion BiPAC 7800N router. In part so I could play with adjusting the signal to noise ratio.

We were on about 400k on the BT proivided router on the worse of the 2 lines I have. Now with the new Billion router we are up to 575k after about a week. It is stable and I have not yet started playing with SNR so there may be some performance still left to  force out of the setup, but will this impact reliability.

I am only running it wired at the moment. Will start using the wireless at some point, though even the BT hubs seems to be pretty good at spreading a signal through thick walls now.

So far an excellent router and well worth the money. I shall update with the impact of playing with SNR and it has had a period of stability of at least 2 weeks.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Warren and the Cloud

I was sent this by BT this week.

Keep your files safe with new BT Cloud.


What's BT Cloud?
It's a personal online storage space for your files, photos and videos. Which means you get secure access to your stuff online – wherever and whenever you want, on whatever you want so long as you have an internet connection. And with BT Cloud, sharing your digital life is much easier, too.

Your BT Total Broadband Option 1 package comes with 2GB of storage – giving you space to stash 1,000 documents, some films or around 2,000 photos.

✔    You won't lose your files
When you've set up BT Cloud on your computer, smartphone or tablet, it automatically saves a copy of all the files you have selected for backup. So the latest versions are always protected.

✔    Get your digital life anywhere
You can see your files wherever you are, as long as you're online. Get onto your BT Cloud on a computer, or with the BT Cloud app on your tablet or smartphone.

✔    And sharing is easy
With BT Cloud you can share files by email. And post pictures and videos on Facebook and Twitter.

✔    Free up space on your devices
Upload a few files to your BT Cloud and you can free up space on your tablet or smartphone.

How to get BT Cloud
To find out more about BT Cloud, click here. To get onto BT Cloud, all you need to do is log in to My BT.

Thanks for choosing BT.

Warren Buckley
Managing Director, Customer Service

Dear Warren,

Thank you for your insightful email. What wondeful opportunities it will open up for us. I would love to sign up to your service and use the BT Cloud right away.

I am downloading a Java update for the Mac as I type and it will take 3 hours for 66MB to download, though it is currently the slowest time of day. However, our upload speed is 1/2 the download speed, so that is around 10MB an hour.

I have calculated to use all of the 2GB of storage you have offered me would take roughly  200 hours of continual upload, that is 8 of your earth days ! I have a couple of 2gb plus USB sticks I got as free gifts as various events. If I put the various files on the USB stick and pop them in the post to you, could you download the contents onto the BT Cloud for us and then keep the USB stick somewhere safe incase we need the files back. I will enclose some stamps as I would not wish you to be out of pocket.

Your loyal customer


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Useful Web site for Welsh Fibre Broadband Rollout

Mascot for Super Fast Fibre Broadband roll out in Mid-Wales

This site is required reading to set your expectations in line with B.T. and the encumbant power in Cardiff.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ceredigion left holding Broadband door open : again

This article on the Broadband roll out from the BBC, though there are many others which report the same, suggests that a set of people who should be representing  the people of Ceredigion are not shouting loud enough.

While not every county can be in the 1st phase, it is no surprise that Ceredigion is not in the list of 12.

Anyone want to add a comment which justifies the apparent lack of amount of effort made on Broadband roll out at a national or county level in Ceredigion? Except not.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Able to fight : 1/3 of poorest pupils don't have Internet access at home

The BBC article A third of poorest pupils 'without internet at home' does not discuss why this is the case. These are the reasons I can think of in no particular order

  1. There is no money to pay the extra cost of the line rental for ADSL
  2. There is no money to pay for a computer
  3. The property has no scope for Broadband to be installed
  4. The parents don't think it is important, so don't get it installed
  5. Some are mis-counted, they have 3/4G instead.
  6. Something I have not thought of
There is one other :- parents are unable or unwilling fight the various service providers
and the obstacles they put in the way to get a working service. Maybe they don't have the skills and persitance to overcome waves of hassle that B.T. et al put in their way.

I guess that I might be in the top few % of consumers equipped to deal with the sling shots and arrows that Broadband providers put in the way of getting a viable working service. Even so I sometimes feel it is beyond me to make progress to getting a descent connection, but we still persevere. I can go and research options, I have a good feel when the person on the other end of the line is telling me rubbish [ A mother of a friend of one of the kids mentioned that B.T. had told here that the reason they have poor service was that they were a long way from the exchange - they live less than 2 miles from it and were getting the same speed as us 3 miles further out. At my suggestion they persisted and a fault was found at the exchange and a 10x speed improvement ].

I don't know what the distribution of reasons are, but would be very interested to find out.

I would like to see some of the parties who represent us in Cardiff put forward the policy of fining the encumbant fixed line suppliers if they don't provide at least 2MB to a property in an area [ say by county, if you want to provide services, then you need to provide them to all ]. Lets say the fine is the same as the current line rental, so about 14 pounds per property where 2MB or less is provided [sliding scale open to discussion].

Doubt this will happen with X and Y in place.

Albert Hirschman, Ceredigion Politics and Surrey

The Schumpeter column in The Economist has a very relevant article about Albert Hirshman. Not being an economist myself, I had not heard of the now late Mr. Hirshman before, but reading the article coincided with what I call a Surrey Day.

When Clive has a Surrey Day, he wonders why the **** do I live in Ceredigion, suffer the long and unreliable journeys to get anywhere, sleeping in a car so I can both make a 9am meeting in London and read to the kids when they go to bed the night before. Broadband coverage that is worse than most of the less developed developing world countries, police who are institutionally lazy and arrogant [moving to Surrey would not fix that, I accept], roads which are not gritted and the majority of local politicians who regard anyone who tries to get something fixed or questions a policy as a dangerous irritant who should shut up. All [ yes, I do mean all ] then people I went to school with who went on to University, not one has come back to Aberystwyth and area to live as far as I am aware. Time to stop being the odd one out and making live hard for yourself. Sell up, move to Camberly, live on a nice estate, wash your car on a Saturday morning, play golf and join The Masons.

I do quite quickly remember that I would be miserable as sin living in Surrey. Ceredigion is my home and a place I really care about. I have lots of friends, I like the coast and hills, Myra's job is here, kids go to a good school and its a great place for them to grow up. I can serve the area by being someone who points out issues and possible solutions, if politicians listen and enguage or explain what part of the picture I have missed, they desirve respect. Those [Treferiug Community Council are masters at it] who dismiss and degrade so you go away and don't interfere their their self importance.

and here is where Albert Hirshman comes in.

Mr Hirschman’s most famous book, “Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations and States”, remains as suggestive today as it was when it first appeared in 1970, for managers and policymakers as well as intellectuals. Mr Hirschman argued that people have two different ways of responding to disappointment. They can vote with their feet (exit) or stay put and complain (voice).

Voting with you feet in a political sense may mean disengaging from the political process, not voting, not raising issues with an community council, Local Councilor,  M.P. or A.M., and not being persistent in following up when the desired outcome does not occur 1st time. Its a failure of politics, not the individual.

The Economist claims to engage in a “severe contest” with “an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. Mr Hirschman was an eloquent ally. In “The Rhetoric of Reaction” he wrote that purveyors of “timid ignorance” rely on three types of argument: jeopardy (reforms will cost a lot and endanger previous gains); perversity (reforms will harm the people they are intended to help); and futility (problems are so huge that nothing can be done about them). That certainly describes the current debates about global warming, illegal drugs and countless other topics. With luck, Mr Hirschman’s exit will not silence his voice.
In memory of Albert Hirschman I vow to continue to be a constructivly critical pain in the arse where appropriate.

There are many elements in the overall antidote to the disease of timid ignorance(sometimes not so timid) by our politicians and one small, but significant part of the larger picture to improve in this area are blogs like this from the Ceredigion Counciler Alun Williams.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Could this have been the real Mrs Walther ?

For those who have trained in some form of Rational Problem solving with Kepner Tregoe [if not, then never mind, but please don't solve problems, make decisions, evalute risks on my behalf as probability suggests are not very good at it. Unconcious incompetance and all that], was this inspriation for the real Mrs Walther of the Donut machine?

Taken from the Warren Buffet Berkshire Hathaway shareholders letter 1983 [ A worthwhile read I am finding. Working my way from 1977 to the present day].

Nebraska Furniture Mart

     Last year, in discussing how managers with bright, but 
adrenalin-soaked minds scramble after foolish acquisitions, I 
quoted Pascal: “It has struck me that all the misfortunes of men 
spring from the single cause that they are unable to stay quietly 
in one room.”

     Even Pascal would have left the room for Mrs. Blumkin.

     About 67 years ago Mrs. Blumkin, then 23, talked her way 
past a border guard to leave Russia for America.  She had no 
formal education, not even at the grammar school level, and knew 
no English.  After some years in this country, she learned the 
language when her older daughter taught her, every evening, the 
words she had learned in school during the day.

     In 1937, after many years of selling used clothing, Mrs.  
Blumkin had saved $500 with which to realize her dream of opening 
a furniture store.  Upon seeing the American Furniture Mart in 
Chicago - then the center of the nation’s wholesale furniture 
activity - she decided to christen her dream Nebraska Furniture 

     She met every obstacle you would expect (and a few you 
wouldn’t) when a business endowed with only $500 and no 
locational or product advantage goes up against rich, long-
entrenched competition.  At one early point, when her tiny 
resources ran out, “Mrs.  B” (a personal trademark now as well 
recognized in Greater Omaha as Coca-Cola or Sanka) coped in a way 
not taught at business schools: she simply sold the furniture and 
appliances from her home in order to pay creditors precisely as 

     Omaha retailers began to recognize that Mrs. B would offer 
customers far better deals than they had been giving, and they 
pressured furniture and carpet manufacturers not to sell to her.  
But by various strategies she obtained merchandise and cut prices 
sharply.  Mrs. B was then hauled into court for violation of Fair 
Trade laws.  She not only won all the cases, but received 
invaluable publicity.  At the end of one case, after 
demonstrating to the court that she could profitably sell carpet 
at a huge discount from the prevailing price, she sold the judge 
$1400 worth of carpet.

     Today Nebraska Furniture Mart generates over $100 million of 
sales annually out of one 200,000 square-foot store.  No other 
home furnishings store in the country comes close to that volume.  
That single store also sells more furniture, carpets, and 
appliances than do all Omaha competitors combined.

     One question I always ask myself in appraising a business is 
how I would like, assuming I had ample capital and skilled 
personnel, to compete with it.  I’d rather wrestle grizzlies than 
compete with Mrs. B and her progeny.  They buy brilliantly, they 
operate at expense ratios competitors don’t even dream about, and 
they then pass on to their customers much of the savings.  It’s 
the ideal business - one built upon exceptional value to the 
customer that in turn translates into exceptional economics for 
its owners.

     Mrs. B is wise as well as smart and, for far-sighted family 
reasons, was willing to sell the business last year.  I had 
admired both the family and the business for decades, and a deal 
was quickly made.  But Mrs. B, now 90, is not one to go home and 
risk, as she puts it, “losing her marbles”.  She remains Chairman 
and is on the sales floor seven days a week.  Carpet sales are 
her specialty.  She personally sells quantities that would be a 
good departmental total for other carpet retailers.

     We purchased 90% of the business - leaving 10% with members 
of the family who are involved in management - and have optioned 
10% to certain key young family managers.

     And what managers they are.  Geneticists should do 
handsprings over the Blumkin family.  Louie Blumkin, Mrs.  B’s 
son, has been President of Nebraska Furniture Mart for many years 
and is widely regarded as the shrewdest buyer of furniture and 
appliances in the country.  Louie says he had the best teacher, 
and Mrs. B says she had the best student.  They’re both right.  
Louie and his three sons all have the Blumkin business ability, 
work ethic, and, most important, character.  On top of that, they 
are really nice people.  We are delighted to be in partnership 
with them.