Tuesday, August 04, 2009

OS Wars.... Microsoft have just shot themselves in the foot.

If I was the IT Director of a large company with a large user base running Microsoft Windows, I would be very concerned at the moment.

I would have looked at the cost of upgrading to Vista a couple of years back, considered what benefits it would bring and made a decision about whether to invest in upgrading all my users to Vista. Most large companies decided that Vista is far more resource hungry than XP meaning a large proportion of their existing computers would struggle to run Vista. The specialist applications a company uses would be thoroughly tried and tested, and the users are happy with them. These applications in all probability would need upgrading or replacing to run on Vista. And the benefits to upgrading are ...... transparent windows!

So to make my first sentence more specific, I would have a large user base running Microsoft Windows XP. I had no compelling reason to rollout Vista.

Don't get me wrong here - I know Vista and have been running Vista on my home PC for about 18 months. My advice to my next door neighbour would be if they had enough power and memory to run it, and if all the programs and hardware you use work I would recommend switching to Vista. But I would not buy a new PC just so I could have Vista.

So most large corporations with thousands of PCs decided that Vista would be a waste of money that they did not need. So they didn't. This is no secret and Microsoft are well aware of this. I have lost count of the number of times XP's support life has been extended.

For some reason, Microsoft has now actually switched off support for XP. It officially went end-of-life on April 14th 2009. What this means is Microsoft are no longer helping people with problems, or writing patches to resolve issues that are still to be discovered.

This is not a situation a large corporation should find itself in. The IT director and board made the correct decision not to upgrade. What does Microsoft expect all these companies to do now? Upgrade to Vista for a few months until Windows 7 is launched? Run unsupported until Windows 7 is released *and* has had chance to be tested?

If it were me, I would be saying that we are seriously exposed, and must take steps to avoid being in this situation again. How? Well now we have to upgrade everything in the next 12 months, I would be evaluating the other options beside Windows. In fact I would be very seriously looking for an option other than windows so Microsoft cannot do this to us again.

Linux is now much easier to use - it is much more plug-and-play. Mac OS is growing in the size of its installed user base, and all Macs now have Intel processors, which makes it much easier to run Mac OS on a standard PC (I have it running in VMWare and it runs a treat! VMWare Fusion on the Mac lets users run Mac OS as a virtual machine. And the PC can run with a couple of little tweaks!) Google are working on a new operating system. I think in the next 12 months we will see cheaper alternatives to windows that are actually viable! I forgot to mention the unreliability of Windows. People just think it is normal to wait when a PC freezes, normal to restart apps, or to reboot to fix odd problems.

If I were Microsoft I would not have switched off XP support until Windows 7 was starting to be taken up on a large scale. Because they have I would have a very good argument to try and move away from Microsoft desktops!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I wasn't racist, but I am now....

I consider myself to be a fair person, and am against discrimination of all sorts. My dictionary defines this as 'to single out for special favour or disfavour; to distinguish between'.

Our government has made great strides into promoting equal opportunities for all.

The problem is that some people or groups will take advantage of what they can gain from a situation. It is next to impossible to make a case that this is happening, and to change policy to stop it.

For example, if I receive poor service from a black employee of a company I feel reluctant to complain or make a fuss about this person for fear it will construed racist. I am not. I just expect to be able to contact a company providing services in the UK, be able to talk them in my normal language, and be understood and provided with a good standard of service. When a customer service employee is trying to sell me something I don't need, and is unable to speak good enough english to explain the difference to me of two products I, like most people, may get annoyed.

Consider the very public case in the London Metropolitan Police Service where a senior commander Mr Ghaffur made allegations against Sir Ian Blair that he was passed over for promotion because of his ethnicity. It was obvious why he was not promoted from the way he conducted himself in public. Another example, I went into my local Spar and asked the muslim cashier if they had bacon because I could not find it. He took offence!

This sets a precedent. Foreign people with poor english, or that are not suitable for a job are promoted for two reasons. One so the interviewer is not accused of racism, and two so a company can brag about being an equal opportunity employer.

Why am I not able to ask a company to speak to an english representative? Our public services go to great expense translating all their information packs to every language. Why are foreigners allowed to request that they are seen by helpers of a similar religion or origin, but I am racist for asking to speak to someone who properly speaks the language of my home country at home?

You try doing this - and you will be the one on the end of the discrimination! This is so ridiculous and is enough to turn anyone racist and make you feel like discriminating against foreigners in the future! It is intolerable to be forced to accept substandard service in my own country in the name of racial equality!

These people have chosen to live in our country, there should be an implicit expectation on them to work to fit in, and to make an extra effort to get on with the 'locals'. To be honest I believe most do. The ones that make no effort and expect us to accommodate them DO need someone to complain about them. Not for their skin colour but for being unable to do their job.

BTW: I have some good friends from various ethnic backgrounds, and am more than happy to accept services from anyone that can do their job to the standard I expect.


Monday, March 02, 2009

There is a reason pubs serve alcohol...

I have been considering a post about this subject for some time, and have been prompted to write it today as Scotland have now announced plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol to outlaw 2-4-1 drinks promotions.

Over the last year or so I have seen politicians, scientists and doctors voicing various opinions about the extent of alcohol related crime and health problems. The majority of comments have singled out supermarkets and pubs that sell alcohol on promotion. Recently a club in Newport was criticised for selling unlimited drinks to customers - even though the event was run responsibly and there was no trouble on the night.

I have attended events similar to this in Manchester before. The detail is that you are given a wristband and a ticket when you go in. Swap the ticket for your first drink. Once empty return to the bar to swap it for a full one. Each time your wristband is ticked. The barmen know how much you have drunk from your band, and are able to refuse to replace your empty once you are too drunk or if you are consuming too many.

To start, it is my opinion that pricing of drink has no bearing on the amount of consumption. To refer to the principle of elasticity of demand, people will always want nights out with friends socialising and drinking. They will do this regardless the cost. Most people who drink would just pay the extra if the price went up. Note the treasury presently levy a high tax on alcohol - whenever they raise this tax, customers continue to buy the same quantity of alcohol and just stump up the extra few pounds. Historically raising the price of alcohol via taxation to reduce drinking has had minimal effect.

If on the other hand, someone is struggling financially, they may look to cut the amount they spend on alcohol. I deliberately worded that sentence to say that they do not cut the amount of alcohol they consume! When times are stressful an evening drunk becomes more important to someone. Occasionally being drunk has many positive benefits - such as helping you escape your worries, relax, socialise and enjoy yourself!

Remember the old christmas booze cruise to France? This is no longer necessary because supermarkets have cut their prices. Were laws brought in to raise the price it would only inconvenience people as they would just buy it from somewhere cheaper. I have had some reports that beer should be priced around £10 a pint. This would definitely effect demand!

So, similar to my last post, lets look at the bigger picture. The real question is do we want:

  1. everyone to have fun a few times a month out with friends in the pub? or
  2. people to be stressed financially from going out once a month, and importing large amounts of alcohol and staying at home drinking? or
  3. Let's even assume the politicians are successful and no-one ever drinks anymore?

Could you imagine how much fun a pub would be if everyone was sober? We have all been the sober one in a group of friends who are drinking! People would spend less time in face to face contact with friends and communicate using other means such as the internet or telephone.

Taking this question one step further .... do we want a nation of hermits with no social skills? I refer you to recent statements that lack of face to face social contact with other humans is bad for someone's health, and impedes proper development. See Online networking 'harms health' and 'Mental risk' of Facebook teens .

My argument is that there is a very good reason why pubs serve alcohol! Pubs were invented as a place people could go to socialise. The benefit of alcohol is that it is a social lubricant. Once people are drunk they have reduced inhibitions and are less worried about approaching new people, or saying something that may make them look stupid. Without alcohol in everyone's life people would most likely have less casual friends, and share less experiences with other humans. I argue that a world without alcohol would be a worse place to be!

On the subject of anti social behaviour there are always going to be some idiots who cause issues (when they are drunk or sober) - lets deal with this minority and not let them spoil things for the properly behaved majority. People do need to be allowed to take responsibility for their alcohol consumption and behaviour, such as was allowed when later bar licensing was introduced.

Finally I think Tony Blair has done a lot to prepare pubs for the future. Introducing flexible later licensing and making pubs a smoke free environment were bold policies and I personally enjoy the benefits of both. Things are changing rapidly in the industry anyway. Due to the global recession, like everyone these businesses are facing a hard time. For the consumer price competition is good. Don't go stopping this at such a difficult time.

I will be off out for a drink because these proposals are not for England where I live !!


Update: Will be quicker getting that celebratory drink next time.  Not had it yet and now another headline Governments top medical advisor has drawn up some daft plans -Cries-

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More 'World is flat' moments.

Anyone who has read any of my previous posts will be aware that I do not believe in all the hype about human emissions causing global warning, or that there is anything we can do to prevent a 'climate' from changing, as it will by definition.

I have also had a rant in the past about bio fuels - the government's hot potato for a couple of months.  What no-one considered was that forests would be destroyed in order to farm crop for bio fuel as they earned the land owner more money.  People are starving becuase the price of food has soared - farmers are selling grain for fuel and making more money than selling it to feed people.  The net result is that bio fuel farming is causing more damage to the environment when the bigger picture is considered.  

This is the purpose of this post - people are making conclusions within their own scientific fields, politicians are believing them and throwing money at the causes these scientists have created - the net result being these scientists are kept in work.

Some 'experts' have decided they can predict the world's weather in a timescale of 100-500 years.  Should we believe them when they cannot predict the weather over the next 24 hours with any reliability?  I don't.

Where I am heading with this is that current knowledge cannot predict or understand today's weather patterns.  This is why extra hypothesis are being tabled blaming things like carbon dioxide (hypothesis = unproved).  When making the bio-fuel argument, no-one thought of the bigger picture about the possible consequences.

So how would I explain our inability to understand the earth's weather systems?

Please think back 100 years.  There was no electricity.  There was no television.  No telephones.  No microwave cookers.  Our world is an order of magnitude different because of scientific inventions and discoveries that they did not have.

So why does no scientist, politician or journalist ever think that in another 100 years man will be looking back on today in disbelief about what the world was like without all the then current technology?  Hence the title of my post - I will guarantee we are gonna have more 'World is flat' moments.  Things we look back on and laugh about once we have more understanding.

My final point is about attempts to understand the working of an animal's brain.  Nothing we know about chemistry or electronics can explain or come close to emulating the processing and storage power of our brains.  Things we remember are stored somehow in our brains.  It must therefore be possible to remove the brain from a dead person and read some of this information.  But if someone asked you to do it where would you start?

As I have shown about predicting weather, and our knowledge of the workings of an animals brain there are plenty more forces at play in our universe that we have yet to discover.  Maybe someone should suggest these as an explaination to some of the political hot potatos!!