Monday, December 7, 2015

B.C.S., the Chartered Insutite for above inflation membership fee increases

I joined the British Computer Society in about 2010 to do University Degree scheme accreditations. I had to get CITP 1st, at that time the membership fee was just about reasonable.

In 2012 I was invited on to the Accademic Accreditation Committee (lots of professors and 3 or 4 industrialists) and had a great time accreditaing University Degree schemes and meet lots of great people and added some value so I am told. I think I am right in saying that I was 1 of 2 industrialists left on the A.A.C. now.  It took between 10 and 12 days of my time a year between visits and reading the submission, but I found it rewarding and I believed it was worthwhile.  Work was very flexible, but I still had to make up the work time lost to visits out of my own time,  which is fair enough in my book.

I was more than a little suprised when the fee for renewal for this year membership was 230 pounds. Looking back the rate of increase has been at least double the rate of inflation for the last 5 years,
where wages tend to have been static in the IT industry for most of us. Being asked to pay 230 pounds to volunteer for an organisation is a bit over the top. I don't get *ANY* benefits from being a BCS member.

I pushed back a little (if you know me you will know I am quite persistant, you don't get round a Bob Graham without a little bit) and the response I got from David Evans, Director of Communication included the priceless(??) phrase

If you want to go, then please go rather than stay and be miserable.
Is it standard BCS practice to undermine the sense of self value of members who dare to question the level of fee's, but in my case it failed, it just annoyed me and persuaded me not to renew my membership. Being an Academic Assessor requires being CITP, so I also had to resign from the AAC which I would rather not have. I would probably have found the money if Mr Evans had decided not to play nasty games, but it became clear that volunteers and the process of Academic Acceditation is not held in high regard by some senior BCS staff, is there some internal political game going on in Swindon? no idea.

For a subset of senior BCS staff, volunteers don't count for anything, but I have got back at least 10 plus days a year of my life and have no intention at all to be miserable.

All a shame. The BCS should be a very worthwhile organisation, it does some great work in education, but I am far from alone in thinking it has lost sight of its membership and those who volunteer. I would hate to see it being an organisation composed of retired academics and self serving industry lightweights, but that seems to be the current direction of travel.

A suitable song for the BCS in 2015  I want money

The Beatles were less plastic in their performace, hence the 1979 choice instead.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mobile phone network is safety critical now

The uncle of the Louise Hopkins was walking down the coast path today. The weather was terrible today and we got chatting, he told me about his impending hip operation and also about the very recent death of his niece which I found documented online here and here.

Terribly sad. The uncle said that she had run out of fuel, that she tried to use her mobile phone to call for help, but the mobile network she was on was down and hence felt she had to walk. The man mentioned in the article had special needs and was unable to do more than follow instructions. There was also a child there.  A courier van had hit her with a wing mirror, but the uncle at no point suggested blame on the courier.

I don't know if the mobile network was down or up. What it does strike me is that unlike 20 years ago when you could reasonable expect to wave down a car and get a lift to the nearest petrol station, that
is not the case any more. Many drivers would run someone in distress over rather than take the risk of stopping, the culture has changed, you can't reply on other people being willing to help, though of course many will. There is no longer an implied duty of care to other motorists.

I think this means a couple of things

  • 1. Louise should have felt she could have called 112 (lots of people don't know it exists) and got help, even if it was only to call the AA/RAC or her family. Time for public information films again maybe. I  feel I could not call 112 in that situation without getting a ballocking from plod, though I may be misguided in this.
  • 2. Do what the french do, make a requirement by law that requires a hi viz vest or jacket in a car for each person
  • 3. Mobile phone networks should be seen at safety critical infrastructure that is fault resilient. If it fails, the operator is subject to fines for extended outages and must report on the failure and remidial action to OFCOM.
Would any of the above made a difference in this case? Maybe. Still very sad.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Should councils have dedicated internet access

I have posted on this before, but this Thinkbroadband posting got me thinking again that it is a bad thing to have Councils, elected officials and employee's insulated to a large extend from what the market provides. If for example they had single redundant links similar to that provided to residential customers into a building, you would be sure that Openreach would be put under a lot of pressure to provide reliable symmetric 1GB to every Council office and that would improve the general fiber infrastructure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FTTP : some progress

Things have moved forward with these babies being connected up. They are called 32 way tray fibre splittes.

32 way tray fibre splitter
 The nearest is about 400m away. We are not there yet as there is 274m of fiber to be put in under a field (thanks and the far end needs to be connected in Llanfarian, but progress is very clear, though the end result remains far less so.

However the sticking point is the last 300m. They choose not to put one of these boxes at the end of our lane, even though it serves 2 houses, ours is no further than the distance between an other box and a farm. Will they just run from the lovely green box above?

Can I get sane answers to what is for us a very important question, of course I can't.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

BT has set 2025 for the End of Life for traditional voice services

Go read this article on the switch off PSTN and ISDN in 2025 which I beleive to mean the analogue phone network of which there were over 3 million as suggested in the article, so not insigificant numbers. A very sultry indeed looking Gavin Patterson.

A better read is maybe this, the original article which states more clearly that "As BT has set 2025 for the EOL for traditional voice services"

Now this raises the question (and it is a question I can't answer) around what do they going forward for those hard to reach places that currently only have a analogue service. Maybe one of the following 5 possible answers or something else

  1. Over the next few years they will get some sort of digital service, however slow provided by improvements in technology that allows an IP technology to be used even at 128kbs which will allow voice calls on any line no matter how long and degraded.
  2. The Universal Service Obligation expires and some rural areas are left without any fixed line service.
  3. Don't worry be happy, fiber will get everywhere by then paid for by BDUK/Superfast Cymru depending on where you live
  4.  Don't worry be happy, fiber will get everywhere and it is factored into BDUK costs
  5. No one has asked or at least no one important enough, so shut up
Option 2 is a worry obviously.

Option 3 means that the tax payer has been paying for work OpenReach would have had to do over the next 10 years. Now clearly we don't want to wait 5 or more years for Openreach to solve the problem of rural connectivity, but given the speed(??) of progress in many rural reas over the last 3 years, its no unreasonable to think that in 2025 there will still be no improvement in many parts of rural wales.

I don't have a clue what the answer is, but I would like to see the question asked by a forward looking political type.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

So dear reader, you live in Ceredigion and you have a **** broadband connection and want to know what the future holds, here is how to *probably* find out.

What you need is

  • Your post code
  • A web browser
  • A bottle of vodka
So take your post code and put it on the end of

Post Code: SY23 4QG  
Locality: Aberystwyth, Dyfed
District: Sir Ceredigion - Ceredigion

Ward: Llanfarian Country: Wales
20CN IPStream: ADSL Exchange Distance: 4,312m
21CN WBC: ADSL2+ Fibre Phase: BDUK Wales 12a
BT Exchange: Aberystwyth Exchange Code: WNAE
 So this is what we get now. If you are lucky and you see something like

Post Code Road Locality Distance 20CN 21CN WBC Fibre Cabinet
SY23 3HB      Bow Street, Dyfed   6,412m   ADSL   ADSL2+   FTTC Available   P3 100%

don't drink the Vodka just yet. You need to know how far from the green cabinate you are. In the case of the above address

and you find

Telephone Number 01970828xxx on Exchange BOW STREET is served by Cabinet 3 

So now you follow the overhead lines from your house until you see a green box that looks like this

This is a fiber cab. good news depending on how far away

Unless there is one which looks like the above nearby, bad news.

 Anyway, you have found the Cab. Did you notice how far you had to drive/walk to find it? If not,
record it on the way back or use Google maps if the lines go across country.

If it is more than 1 mile, drink the Vodka in dispare. If is is less than 1000 and you have a fiber cab. you are probably OK. Between 1000m and a mile it might or might not work depending on the quality of cable. If it is 0.4 then you are out of luck, if it is 0.9 you might be in luck. This is important, if you are more than 1500m from the green cab and FTTC is scheduled, you won't see an improvement this side of 2017 at best under currents plans.

Lets go back track a bit to

If you see the below

Fiber Stree Cabinet 1 : P7 FTTP Planned  Phase BDUK Wales 12a

That means you may get fiber to the premisis, but don't drink the Vodka just yet.
Openreach have decided to delay this work until an unknown date (probably after middle of 2016) and if the work to connect you requires OpenReach to do extra work(as in any) you may have to pay a lot to get connected (as in 5-50k), but there is meant to be a discount if you dig the trench and put the duct in yourself. Great if you happen to have a excavator.

Of course OpenReach can unplan the FTTP in which case you need a 2nd bottle of Vodka.

So unless there is FTTC available now and you have it,  you may wish to drink the Vodka. If you have got this far, you have learned nothing beyond how uncertain and unclear it remains as to what Broadband provision you may get.

The guiding mantra for Superfast Cymru seems to have turned out to be
For those who have good provision, make it a lot better. For those who have poor provision, they shall have delay, uncertainly and possibly no improvement.
If you need some help working out what you might get and why, give me a shout.

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.