Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Broadband final installment : FTTP - A very thin bit of glass all the way to Aberystwyth

After some effort we have a very thin continual strand of glass going all the way from our house to the exchange in Aberystwyth with this as a result

300 mbps is quite fast, especially if you live in Wales and even more so in rural Wales. Next door (which means 550m away) and I have been told by various OpenReach engineers that to date we are the most remote property to get Fibre broadband. We did the civil engineering ourselves (i.e put 1.2km of duct in the ground) which probably brought the install date forward by at least 5 years.

FTTP has been life changing for us, thus was have many people to thank and some feedback for a part of the Welsh Government.

While this is now done and dusted for us. I have learned a lot (a hell of a lot) so if you are in a similar situation in Ceredigion (or rural Wales), get in touch and lets see if anything I have learned can be applied to your situation. In our case it helped a lot being willing to dig a trench and get in it to install the duct, but different models apply.

If you never give up, you can't loose !!!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How to check the web address I found is really what I think it is

I found I have a little money spare and wanted to pay off some of our morguage early. This is not investment advice, but on the risk spectrum it is the lowest risk investment you can make. I have enough risk elsewhere. I have moved banks since my last capital replayment and since it is Sunday
I though I would google it.

It then occured to me what if someone had spoofed the web site for the Coventry Building Society and upped it rankings on Google. What due dilgence should I do?

Step 1. Does Google know about it? In this case no. The info to the left of the web address say it is not secure, but does not give any ownership information.

Step 2. Google safe browsing here. This is more about malware, but it shows no problem.

Step 3. This is probably the most useful

Domain name:

Coventry Building Society

Registrant type:

Registrant's address:
Economic House
P O Box 9
High Street
United Kingdom

Data validation:
Nominet was able to match the registrant's name and address against a 3rd party data source on 10-Dec-2012
So that looks pretty good. But I plan to move 2,000 pounds so I want a little more clarity that the account numbers are correct.

Step 4. Check the sort code


Hsbc Bank Plc
Branch Coventry
Address 55 Corporation St

Its not in the Caymen islands which is a good start.

Step 5. Lets do it in reverse. Lets put the sort code and account number into google and see if what it finds looks valid.

Indeed it does. I find a number of other sites which validate the numbers, not just 1.

OK, the checks above are not 100% fool proof. It would be possible to spoof this, but the other side would have to work quite hard.

So my last step is to look at an old bank statement and verify the account numbers are the same. I had to work hard for that money after all.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How dangerous is it to be an M.P. ?

I did not know the answer when I started out this statistical thought experiment. Like any other walk of life a M.P. works best when free from fear and there is never an excuse for violence against a politician more or less than a shop assistant.

Sorry if this is a bit macabre, it just statistics.

The UK murder rate in 2015 is 10 in 1,000,000. Assume 650 M.P.'s, then if they were average citizens then the chance of any M.P.'s getting murdered in each year would be 0.0065 or 1 ever 154 years. Since 1970 the number has been more like 1 every 5 years (fortunately Stephen Timms survived).

Clearly a look at recent history since 1970 the risk is a lot greater than to  an average member of the population and this does not include non-fatal attacks. So finger in the air it is about 30 times more risky to be an M.P. than a member of the public in terms of risk of being murdered.

I could name some politicians (mostly starting with N.) I would like to see spend a winter together on in a small shelter on Rockall as a reality TV show, but I would not wish them any physical harm.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A tangential view on the use of consultants by Ceredigion Council.

I was in Boston and Iceland last week, but did see a few articles around the use of Consultants by Ceredigion Council. I am always surprised where these people pop up.

I have work, on and off, with companies like PWC, Deloitte, Mckinseys and Arthur Anderson (remember them) in a multi-national company setting for the last 20 years. Most of the time we are both working for the client on projects like the NHS IT systems(blah). I am not a paid for consultant, but work for a vendor and get sent in when  things go wrong or future business is at risk. I do this world wide and the same principles seem to hold worldwide.

All the consultants from such firms have no problems with a lack self
confidence and no hint of self doubt, though competence has varied
right across the full spectrum. They tend  not to believe they can be wrong
or that their might be a better way than what they alone suggest. I
have found it typical behavior that any suggestions for improvement
are treated as an attack (much like a large wedge of political types).

Such consulting firms add value if you want specific advice, for example how to buy a derivative contract to mitigate financial risk, how to reduce a tax bill, changing a pension scheme, audit or M/A type of events. The bright ones are involved in the accounting side or helping clients avoid tax. For specific well bounded tasks such consultants are invaluable. They seem OK at improving business process when set specific well defined tasks (they get the ideas from existing staff) and very poor at architecting solutions or building software.

However, in the more general consulting role they fill one or more of 4 rolls

1. Customer management do not have the political capital or just the minerals to carry out a change. The customers tells PWC et al what they want to happen and PWC et al puts it in a better formatted report to support the proposed changed. The customers then cites PWC et al as justification for pushing on with a change that the customer perceives as having reputational risk. I assume this is
why Ceredigion council have hired PWC to back up bad news that exec management and the councilors don't feel empowered to effect.

2. PWC et al recycle what they saw as good practice in the last place they visited. The report is a rehash. The need for outside consultants is usually a sign that you have weak management or the exec level don't trust them. PWC et al can't get close enough to a business(whatever it is) in a few weeks to really understand where the savings are.

3. They redistribute cost. They move cost from one column to another. There is no net saving, but on paper to those who don't think and look a little wider will accept it on face value. So if the council moves cost to an other public service, say the NHS, there is no saving. The council has a moral duty not to do this, PWC et al have no such duty in pushing a council to do it to get a fee.

I suspect the parking suggestion falls into this category. PWC et al take their cut, so there is a net loss to the system (think Ceredigion local ecosystem).

4. PWC et al are strong on management theory but less strong on implementation. What works in a MBA text book may or may not transfer to the real world. They are better at setting success criteria and writing contracts than you are, so they always win and they base their business model on it.

Council(like any other) exec-management love it as they are not responsible and councilors(or company board) typically are not as experienced at playing this game, so find it hard to give both the appointment and subsequent proposals proper scrutiny.

So my summary of just under 20 years of interacting with PWC et al suggest that buying such generalist services in an attempt to save cost will get the muppet that was on the bench (corp. speak for employee that has no work), they will write up what you tell them and steal a bit from the last job they did, taking a fee out of the Ceredigion eco-system.

Its unlikely to be a great outcome. If the savings were tangible, I suspect the FOI, from the paper that sometimes, maybe, makes things up, would have been successful.

Friday, June 3, 2016

FTTP : a good step forward with Andy and Stuart

This week 2 sub-contractors to Openreach were putting in FBT (Fibre Blown Tube) and new copper cable(if you have seen the state of the old one, new copper makes sense for the existing phone connection) into the 1.2km of duct Tony and I put in 3 or 4 months ago. They did comment that it was easier for them to get the tube and cable into the duct we did than for work done by "professional civils contractors" who put duct in for a living. Ego suitably massaged.

So if I count right 8 more steps to functional FTTP !!!
  1. Put in Cubis box next to house
  2. Blow fibre down FBT
  3. Replace pole at junction as it is dangerous
  4. Put 4 spans of fibre from Splitter to end of track (if they had through about it 2 years ago when they did the survey, this cost could have been avoided)
  5. Put Splitter on post at end of track and on Tony's post by house
  6. Do the fibre and copper joints
  7.  Do box outside house
  8. Enable inside both houses
There may be an additional step where a lack of capacity (for what I am not sure) needs to be addressed about 2 miles away and a road dug up for new duct to be put in. Not sure where this is.

Possibly more difficult than all the above will be the admin side of getting an order opened.

Coffee, milk, no sugar

Tea, milk, 2 sugers
The far end
FBT : Fibre blown tube

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Project Duct

This is a guest posting by Rowen.

Readers may be aware that we have terrible phone and broadband. We can be without a phone connection for weeks and Broadband is very slow and unreliable. For example we can't watch Youtube as the connection is too slow and I can't use it for school work. For our neighbours its even worse.

Dad has a 3G connection for work and sometime we use that.

Part of the problem is that there is a 30 plus year old cable that is cable tied to the bottom of a fence, the cable is designed to be underground and it has pershed in the sun over the years.
Existing connection to our neighbour !!!.

200 pipes we used to put in the middle of our track.
Thanks to the wonderful Ian and Andrew from OpenReach, we now have underground duct all the way from the last phone pole to our house (abut 0.5km) and then down to our neighbours (an other 0.5km). OpenReach provided the materials and sorted out permission with the next door farmer to dig up the track. Dad and Tony put the pipe in. Sponge and his digger helped Dad in the week between xmas and New Year and Tony and his digger driver finished their section last week.

Me and my brother carried duct along the road.
Road crossing outside our house
Pipe running though our field back on to the road.
Dad covering up trench.
Sponge warm and dry in his digger. Dad cold and wet in a trench laying pipe
Dad uses his digger for the final bits