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28 September 2006

Recommended job search site

As someone currently looking for a job, (anyone hiring for Technical Lead / IT Manager or CTO at the moment?) I have been using a wide variety of job search sites with mixed results. Incase anyone else is in the same situation, the site I have found that consistently returns the most relevant results and has the most flexible search (especially for Scotland) is ScotRecruit, the Scottish branded version of Jobsite who brand themselves as "The original, award-winning UK job search and jobs by email service". I guess my computerised job matching service I thought up in 1989 and got an award for in the Shell Livewire competition and my picture in the local paper doesn't count then? :-)

Seriously folks, there are loads of sites out there. Try this one first.

They have even lead the field and created a very useful page on the age discrimination legislation which is about to come into force in the UK.

25 September 2006

Worst contact centre award

Having been on hold to the Orange contact centre (I guess that's what you would call it, I might call it a non-contact centre) for approx 2 hours and still not been able to speak to anyone, I would like to nominate Orange for the worst contact centre of the year award. I've already been transferred 5 times on the call I'm on and I've comfortably managed to log into blogger, enter this article and post it in between the last two transfers.

Congratulations Orange, by the time you connect me you'll be able to read this article I'm just about to point you to.

So will everyone else on the Internet, including your prospective customers.

My site gets tens of thousands of visitors a month and through this blog is syndicated on many RSS feeds. Enjoy the publicity.

18 September 2006

Religious Miracle

In new developments in the Pope Vs Islam story, this breaking news just in.

Muslim leaders, many of whom accepted the Pope's apology, are now concerned that the violence of recent days is now getting out of hand. Certainly the murdering of a nun and the firebombing of churches are against the core message of Islam which is a peaceful religion.

Noone wants to see the good name of Muslims tarnished by a tiny percentage of followers which use their religion as an excuse for violence and illegal acts.

The leaders go on to say that they understand how the West can often find it difficult to understand Muslims when the press pick on events like this and give the impression that Muslims will take to violence and illegal acts despite all that is said in the holy books regarding respect and understanding.

In order that the violence of recent days is put in its proper context, the religious leaders of Muslim groups and nations are today calling for an end to the illegal violence and are organising peaceful marches and protests, filled with the peaceful believers who comprise the majority of the Muslim faith and whose peaceful values and respect for other human beings are being misrepresented by the media focus on a few violent and isolated protests. This mass statement, which will emphasise the peaceful nature of Islam will be a silent protest against the Muslim minority who seek to misrepresent the faith as a whole.

Praise Be This Miracle.

16 September 2006

Religious clarification

I was going to write a longish blog about the Vatican braces for Muslim anger reports.

However, I found this quote from the Dilbert Blog sums it up:

My favorite story of the week is about Pope Benedict inadvertently insulting Islam in a speech. He quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman” but made it clear that it wasn’t his own opinion.

In response to being labeled evil and inhuman by a dead Byzantine emperor, a group of Muslims did what anyone would do in that situation: They firebombed two churches in the West Bank.

This is funny on so many levels that I hardly know where to start.

Maybe we need to breed more atheists?.

Seriously, isn't it great how the Pope can issue a religious text to clarify what he said so that we can understand it better. Just think of the fun that would ensue if we could treat the bible the same way.

How about this for a starter

"Dear faithful. I thought up this religion to impose some order and fairness on early civilisation. Now that you have learnt these rules and adapted your own, you need not be bound by what was written in a dated book 2000 years ago, especially as society has moved on since then. Kindly disregard the stuff about the universe being created in 6 days and women and gays being inferior. Yes, you can have equal rights, that's what I meant really.

I hope you don't meet up with sentient beings from other planets in the future, because I completely ommited that in the bible, sorry everyone makes mistakes even those with complete power over time and space."

08 September 2006

We won blog of the day

The author of Blog of the Day came across this site in a search and picked us for the award! If anyone knows of any other blog awards then please feel free to submit the site :-)

View the award

Subsequent to winning that award, we also won this blog of the day award.


07 September 2006

American dates and 11th September

Why do Americans write dates backwards?

This is article the first about writing dates backwards. The one after this will be article the second. If I write eleven, the eleventh one will be article the eleventh.

No, wait a minute. Won't it be "the first article","the second article" and "the eleventh article"? If it's days of advent, it's the first day of advent not advent the first. In a few days it will be the eleventh day this month. The _eleventh_day_of_the_month. It makes sense, so much more so than reversing it to say day the eleventh. So why will everyone in the US write it backwards as September the 11th rather than something that is consistent with other American English usage, and say the 11th of September?

Let me remind you of an American film. "Born on the fourth of July". Not "Born on July 4th".

Let me remind you of an American song.

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, A Yankee Doodle do or die.
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam's Born on the Fourth of July.
George M. Cohan

Despite the fact that July 4th wouldn't rhyme, it seems that Americans can write the day the other way round, when it suits them.

Take a look at numbers

12345. Twelve thousand, three hundred and forty five. The digits go left to right in order of decreasing significance.

Or a UK date

7th September 2006. The elements go left to right in order of increasing significance.

Now a US date

07/09/2006. 7th of September or 9th of July? If the latter, it's the only number I know of that has the least significant element in the middle rather than the end.

It's worrying that this practice is spreading to the UK. After all, if people get mixed up with dates written "best before 08/07/06" on medicine and they think this means August the 7th, they might get a surprise if it really meant the 8th of July.

Especially in the run up to the 11th of September, the UK media is now uniformly calling it "9/11" rather than "11/9". We don't need this confusion in the UK as well, it's bad enough as a programmer trying to deal with US jumbled dates without people in the UK using two date systems at the same time.

That's my grumble anyway. What will I be doing on 11th September? Preparing for my 2nd daughter's 5th birthday the next day. That's daughter the 2nd, birthday the 5th in American format :-)

06 September 2006

Gordon Brown: Last prime minister of the UK?

It seems almost a foregone conclusion that Gordon Brown will succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister. Without a vote from the public, without him seeing even lead his own party, the most powerful person in the land will be replaced next year with a process approaching a coronation rather than a meaningful contest. Such is the nature of UK democracy.

I have nothing against Gordon Brown as an individual, and under normal circumstances after the Iraq war I think many would be grateful for some change at the top to draw a line under that episode. I also think that he's done a decent if uninspired job as chancellor and although his Chancellorship has seen the longest period of sustained economic growth in UK history, 4 years of this was under the Tories and there has been general growth worldwide, not just in the UK.

However, there is a big difference between being a capable number cruncher, largely keeping quiet, and an inspired leader.

Recently, the Labour defeat in the Dunfermline and West Fife 2006 by-election, after a campaign largely led by Gordon Brown in a constituency in which he lives, cast doubt on his ability to win elections on his own. As a Westminster politician, he has no authority over issues such as transport which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Yet, he became involved in devolved issues by stating these, would be reconsidered and he would build a new bridge. Seven months later, the tolls are still £1 and cause traffic jams as cars build up to queue at the tolls. Tolls which are decades behind other countries, that have long since implemented automatic toll collection schemes.

Since Fife is the only place in Scotland with bridge tolls, why not just remove them?

Here's some more examples of things that need simplified:

Class 2 national insurance contributions. £2.10 a week. Why bother? It probably costs as much to collect it and chase the non payers as any benefit derived from it.

National Insurance. It’s an income tax by any other name. Get rid of it by merging it with Income Tax.

Child Tax rebates. An excuse to spend millions of pounds on an IT system that doesn’t work. An excuse to miscalculate payments and overpay people who can’t afford to pay it back. An idea that was singularly unoriginal and was copied from the US, complete with all the bureaucracy that goes with it. It wastes £1.3 billion per year. The lack of joined up IT means that you have to fill in the figures for your earnings rather than just looking it up on the tax return computer.

Car Tax. What a bureaucratic nightmare that is and how much money is wasted on chasing payment, filling in forms, advertising on TV and paper shuffling. I couldn’t buy my current car because of the car tax nightmare. The previous owner was registered disabled and had registered the car as owned by a disabled person. They don’t pay car tax and so the vehicle was exempt. I go to buy the car, pay for the tax at the post office and can’t because the system won’t accept my full payment as the vehicle is recorded as being exempt. I can’t pay nothing either because I don’t have disabled exemption. So a 100 mile round trip was necessary in another car (remember, mine isn’t taxed) to the regional licensing centre and someone has to stand in a queue and sort it all out. Is this helping Britain to keep moving? Unnecessary journeys and paper shuffling? For goodness sake if you want disabled people to be exempt from paying them to register themselves on the vehicle licensing computer and then they get the exemption, after all it’s the person who is claiming the exemption, not the car.

Inheritance tax. See this article in the Scotsman calling the government's tax changes “grossly unfair”. This is in a country where many middle earners pay 40% income tax + 9% national insurance whilst at the same time the super rich like the Rolling Stones pay a derisory 1.9% tax on income. Surely we should have a fairer tax system than this?

Pensions. We have a pensions crisis but is the £160,000,000,000 hole in pension funds due to taxation helping to fix the problem or making it bigger?

Lets be prudent he says. Not when it comes to splashing out on Iraq. Or the millennium Dome. Or IT fiascos costing hundred of millions of pounds. How many hospitals would that misplaced prudence buy the nation?

The risk here is that unless Labour is inspirational, it will only feed into the hands of their main opposition - namely the Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland. If Labour does not want to lose the Scottish elections in 2007 then now is the time to act.

It could be that Gordon Brown is the one who indirectly delivers independence for Scotland. We live in interesting times.

Government demonstrates IT incompetence yet again

BBC NEWS | Politics | £141m benefits computer shelved: "It is the latest in a long series of computer problems for the government."

Too right. I put this onto Reddit with some rather choice language and it made the front page.

The government even has a Project Management method called PRINCE2 and a site all about it. So was the method at fault for the £140m problem or the people in charge? Why in the light of these overruns is there no accountability? After all, the 2nd First Minister of Scotland was forced to resign over a sum which is a tiny fraction of the above.

Lets not forget the £6.8Bn NHS upgrade overruns, the ID card running into delays and overruns, 1 month after I said it would and of course the gun register unfit for purpose 10 years on.

Clearly the taxpayer should be expecting better value for money in these projects so that instead of funding overruns the money can be spent on schools, hospitals, etc.

05 September 2006

Rip off Britain

There are so many examples I could give to illustrate Rip Off Britain. Ever since I first went to the US in the 1970s, many consumer goods are so much cheaper there.

Clearly over priced goods have an effect on the economy as people will buy less of them. I am interested in other examples of rip off Britain and the government's stance on this.

Here's my example from something I was looking to buy:

WN311B PCI card for NetGear router: Typical UK price £113 plus postage

Now compare it with the US: Typical US Price $96

The US price in dollars is cheaper than the UK price in pounds.

Now for a more direct comparison. Convert the US price to pounds £50.67. Add the rip off tax known as VAT (no sales tax applicable on US internet sales remember). This would make the US price with VAT £59.53. Lets call this £60.00

So the UK Rip Off margin is (113-60)/60 * 100 = 88%. 88% markup!!

Alleged cost of importing and postage $53

And of course where there is no importing or postage, the differential is even less excusable. In this BBC article on iTunes pricing, the UK price is 55% higher than the US price and 93% higher than the Canadian price.

Welcome to Rip Off Britain

Early History:
The UK Internet list, 1992, founded to keep UK Internet prices low.
Rip off prices in 1992
Rip off prices in 1993
More rip off prices in 1993
Rip off prices in 1995

Since Labour came to power, we have
Rip off insurance APR, 1999 and
High training prices 2006, because we're worth it?

Who is responsible for ensuring Britain stays competitive?

02 September 2006

The VisitScotland connection and jobhunting

Trying a bit of reverse marketing here to see whether posting to Google Groups: and also to in an unconventional attempt to get me ahead of the crowd and in front of the right people. After all, with so many agencies not even bothering to acknowledge receipt of a CV or follow up, it's one way to get remembered. Many just ignore you. Some respond. One major agency however has contacted me through some third parties and commented "I would like to congratulate you on such a fantastic CV", which is certainly a lot more feedback and effort than others put in. So I'm reciprocating the effort and rather than just emailing the agency to say thanks I'm taking a few hours out of my day to meet them in person.

Maybe if other agencies were as attentive, they might get further. Back to the VisitScotland connection or where I currently work - if only job searches were as flexible as the accommodation searches we've designed for that site then job hunting would be so much easier.


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