Posted By on September 12, 2016

This is the first time I’ve been able to really get back to PC work, using a lot of assistive technology – a posh way for saying screenreader and Viavoice.

The eye? It’s not good. I have a plastic cornea bandage in the worst eye, and over the last couple of weeks things have finally stabilised enough for me to get sleep. By the time I wrote my last post I was on under an hour a night’s sleep, so not feeling happy with the world or me.

I’ve had to go private, as the NHS sat on things since June, I was warned it would be months at the same time I was told the dressing had to be changed by medical staff every three weeks… and I finally got my NHS referral after I’d already had the private consultation which was on the last day the dressing could be changed. It costs but seriously: running up credit bills against losing my sight? I think any one would make the same choice.

My computing time is limited and will be for the next four months. If I am lucky, treatment will not need surgery and they can fix the other eye the same way. If not, then really I don’t want to think about it.

The prototype is completely stalled. I did look for Venture Capital to fund a coder to finish the job. Oh boy. I got little response when I submitted it myself, having a chat that seemed promising only to be asked if they could talk to “the real coder” and didn’t believe me when I’d told them I had built it. I did have one ask to view the algorhythm for the AI component, and then back out when I asked them to sign an NDA first (guess what they would have done if they’d seen it – and you get no points for “hire their own coder and cut me out of my own project”). Having heard some of them had women issues I even submitted it under another name: “Les”. Good ol’ Les. Well ‘Les’ certainly got a lot more callbacks, apparently from people who didn’t realise Leslie was also a woman’s name. On the other hand, at least it makes it easy to spot the people I never want to work with.  So, anyone interested in a full flexible, scalable, ad system that can take sites of any size and doesn’t require intrusive person details, let me know. 

And finally David Cameron just quit. As an MP.

Life and everything

Posted By on July 22, 2016

Well, I have SQLite working and the prototype is now running entirely off it. Billing and credit allocation is built and ready to be wired in. There’s zero validation of course, but then its still in alpha for the database and I want to be able to update things quickly.

My computing time is strictly limited due to an eye injury. There’s an extremely good hospital looking into it, but it is going to take the next three months before they know if surgery is needed. Meanwhile I get very little sleep.

And Suicide Squd is out. The problem is that I don’t want to take time away from the Labour leadership election to see it. With British politics in its current state, I suspect the Joker’s bodycount will have nothing on the bloodbath May just inflicted on the Cabinet.

PM without mandate?

Posted By on July 11, 2016

So Leadsom has apparently left the leadership race. It is somewhat unexpected after she fought so hard for Brexit and then to be the alternate candidate to May. However the person who should be really worried is Theresa May, as Leadsom quitting takes away May’ mandate to govern.

This was why May originally rejected the idea of a coronation. Now, no matter what she does, there will be doubts over her position and the party’s suitability to govern since it couldn’t even run a leadership election.

A Prime Minister gains their mandate in two ways:
1) From their party by victory in a leadership contest
2) From the people by victory in a General Election

May has said she will not call the second, and now has no chance of the first as she is running unopposed.

There has already been one PM in living memory in this position: his name was Gordon Brown. He didn’t see out a full term.

It is not enough for democracy to be done, it must be seen to be done. A vote with only one candidate is no vote at all, and we’ve already seen that it causes voter revolts at the ballot box. On my own behalf, if we end up with a second coronated PM, whichever party I vote for in 2020 it will not be the one responsible.

And finally, I’m not the only person to think a coronated PM has no mandate:
“…whenever Gordon Brown chooses to call a general election, we will be ready for him. He has no democratic mandate.”
Teresa May, Conservative Home, August 2007

You know, I agree with her.

Chilcot – oh boy…

Posted By on July 6, 2016

Chilcot is damning, not for the report itself, but for what the sources it contains reveals. The emails in particular stand out. Cameron seems to be trying to whitewash it, saying MPs must take responsibility and that Chilcot is not accusing Blair of misleading the house. I suspect that despite the contents of Chilcot’s report on Blair, Westminster may try to close ranks to protect him from consequences. That would be a mistake, with faith in government currently so shaken.

First because it is not enough for justice to be done, it must be seen to be done.

And second because the only way to make Chilcot’s request that “Care must be taken” impact on future government is to make the consequences of being the person that breaches it severe enough that no future government would ever consider it.

The mood of the country is for change. Trying to revert to coverups and whitewashes will produce a backlash. What is imperative now is that there is a fair and equitable response, whether by impeachment (Galloway) or the House (Corbyn) or the Hague (the families of the victims), and that what happens after that is justice and not vengeance.

Vengeance eventually makes people regret and think “I’ll never do that again”
Justice should always remain, now and always, “He will never do that again.”

I find myself curious though: of the 244 labour supporters who voted in favour of the war, how many still sit in the house. Could it be 172? Details here.

The Mirror has a check your MP vote here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/how-mp-vote-iraq-war-8355179

Reading between the Lines

Posted By on July 5, 2016

It begins to seem as though “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” needs to add a fourth category: the mass media.

The one thing that has really come out of this current political mess (apart from popcorn entertainment) is just how carefully you have to read articles in the mainstream media. It is not just reading between the lines, it is having to track down multiple sources and read between the lines on all of them to get something approaching the truth.

The labour issues were obvious and rather unsubtle. First it was with “Trade Unions not supporting Corbin” – oh wait, they are (Union News). “500 labour councillors sign letter opposing Corbyn” – followed by several of them demanding to know why their names were on it (Buzzfeed). “The membership not supporting him” – oh wait, 60,000 new members signed up this week to support him (Independant). “Corbyn is unelectable” – except for every by-election and the mayor of London…(Guardian)

The level of bias is fascinating. The Conservative reporting isn’t much better, but at least it is a little less obvious. Regarding Leadsom:

“…She alienated officials by continually complaining about poor drafting.” The National
Note, the sentence says the problem was her complaining about poor drafting. It doesn’t say that there wasn’t poor drafting. Now, I don’t know about you but, as a Project Manager, I complain about poor drafting. It slows the entire thing down and you have to start the project again or do it yourself.

Also, note this comes from a Treasury Official and if you know how well Leadsom didn’t get on with Osborne (Independent), that may imply bias. Likewise when the Senior Cabinet was virtually all Remain, it is not a surprise to find one slating a Leave candidate for PM – particularly when it is the leading Leave candidate and main threat to their choice.

Then there’s the issue of whether you can read the article at all. Four days ago an article critical of Teresa May appeared in the Telegraph online, and then vanished. It was still linked to from Google, but 404’s. It then vanished from the wayback machine but fortunately it is still in the googlecache. For the curious, Google “Theresa May self-promoter” and hit the cached version by using the green downward pointing triangle – or just visit one of the many sites mentioning this. What we don’t know is who pulled it: claims of pressure from May’s team are unproven and yet they are appearing everywhere with no hard evidence. The Press Gazette has details.(pressgazette.co.uk)

What I’d give for an honest unbiased news site. Instead I am left trawling five or six sources to get as much truth as possible instead of the narrative they want to sell me. It is a total waste of time, but completely necessary to remain informed.

Unexpected coding delays…

Posted By on July 4, 2016

Because that is what happens when you get an unexpected corneal abrasion.

I’m typing one-eyed because the other one is seeing rainbows and blurs at the moment, and by the time my vision clears, every half an hour, it is time to dump something else into my eye.  Hurts like hell.

On the other hand, yellow eye dye is good for accidentally terrifying small children on the way back from hospital.


(And for those who like gore, this is all to stop the eyelid ripping the top off the abrasion on the eyeball every time I blink. Sleeping is fun… )

Out of Alpha…

Posted By on June 29, 2016

Well, it seems the prototype went down well. As in, “where’s the beta?” well. Come on guys, I’ve been building for a week. Even I can’t do an entire ad network from back-of-envelop to beta in that time. Be glad you have a working alpha – especially since building the beta means I’m about to break it completely…

I’ve pushed the flatfile to its limits, as the new cron needs to update it every fifteen minutes for the next set of upgrades. It’s great for storing and retreiving data, but a heavy server load for frequent, sizeable, updates.

So I now have access to SQLite on the server, and I’ll be updating into beta.

Is it bad that my coding music right now is Glados?

“Now these points of data make a beautiful line,
and we’re out of beta, we’re releasing on time…”
(I wish)

The Referendum and Educated Voters

Posted By on June 24, 2016

Since I was asked, what I was doing during the Referendum? I believe in an educated electorate, and I was upholding my principles.

This meant running a site that actually called both sides out on their rubbish and scaremongering.

For Leave – focusing on Immigration when there are a whole host of other issues, and getting surprised you were called racist? Really? And for Remain, when people have raised reasonable issues like the tampon tax, VAT Place of Supply, Animal welfare, overdevelopment, no affordable housing being built… ignoring all these and insisting they could only object because of racism? Insulting people and refusing to debate issues never gets them round to your point of view.

As for young voters, most of them seemed to be speaking from the same playbook taught in schools or colleges. Once it got beyond immigration and the claim of preserving peace (and a few didn’t know there had been a Cold War for heaven’s sake) they were lost. Raise the issues I mentioned above that Remain was ignoring and, well, they didn’t only not know about them, but most were horrified.

No one on Twitter seemed to realise that no one had a problem with EFTA – the European Free Trade Association – or that the EC and EFTA were not the same things as the EU, and that Leave was objecting when integration went beyond trade.

So I answered a few of those questions, with links and neutral cites. £15 turned into three solid days of Q/A.
  • 78,730 confirmed unique visitors  
  • 643 direct click outs    
  • 590 sign-ups to ask more questions    
And if it meant a few electors were persuaded one way or another, or simply persuaded to vote, then it was worth it. Now I need sleep.

And as for Twitter now, Leave seems to be asleep or celebrating, and Remain is not putting their best foot forward:

Saying that because they lost the referendum, “it was never a good idea to hold one.”
Is it better to keep over half the country run by overseas officials they can’t change and do not want to represent them?

“This is what you reap for putting a complex, nuanced, economically critical decision in the hands of cretins with a yes/no vote.” or perhaps the inevitable result of months of intelligent people being ignored over every concern raised, by the same EU officials who think someone’s email address tells you what country they live in.

“I’m saddened to live in a country that favours bigotry and isolationism to co-operation and prosperity” And not ashamed, for many years that you lived in a country that favoured European majority-white immigrants over Indian, African, and others?

“Just heard this referendum is NOT legally binding and parliament don’t have to act on it!” And would you be celebrating that if your side had won?

I am assuming that this is the first shock of the result (it certainly had me reeling), but I am sincerely hoping that common sense and manners will eventually prevail. Right now we need pressure on Cameron to act and act sensibly – just remember one of the more cheerful comments I’ve read from Lexit.

“In 2016 we just got rid of one set of conservative politicians. In 2020 we can get rid of the rest.”

and on a parting note from a B5 fan:

“Until now I felt like Londo Mollari: ‘My shoes are too tight and I have forgotten how to dance’. This morning I kicked them off.'”

The Referendum

Posted By on June 23, 2016

I voted today, first thing, in the rain. It was worth it, and possibly the only thing I can do that would affect history.

Almost one hundred years ago today my great-grandfather took part in an event that made history and in the process inhaled the mustard gas that would eventually kill him. All I have to do is put a tick in a box.

There’s really no excuse not to.

And with that in mind, both campaigns have really annoyed me. Things like the Tampon Tax and VAT Place of Supply appear to have been forgotten by Leave, Brand Protection and Unique Supply likewise not mentioned by Remain. The Remain Tolerant/Leave Racist row is just tiring and insulting, since it can so easily be flipped: who’s racist, the people who want to trade with and travel to the whole world(Leave) or those who want to give preference to a predominantly white proportion of it (Remain)? The Cold War, with all its puppet conflicts, and Bosnia seem to have been forgotten by both.

Please could we have a little more focus on facts and figures in campaigns in future and much less showboating? And I do include flotillas on the Thames in that.

Update on EU VAT – Oh boy

Posted By on June 1, 2016

EU VAT – Oh boy. Free trade? Yeah, that’s rather scuppered.

I work with a lot of small businesses and microbusinesses. The EU VAT laws that say an online firm must know the location of its customers, produce two pieces of evidence, store the data for ten years, and charge and remit VAT to that customer’s country and location at time of purchase by that countries laws with no threshold (a 1 euro donation would be subject to VAT) have been a nightmare. Many of the smaller nonprofits I work with have removed websites or Paypal because they can’t afford to comply.

The EU discussed it last week, and …their solution is not to change VAT to allow smaller firms to trade across the EU by introducing a threshold. It was to suggest that smaller firms should geoblock (See Here), and simply block trade with EU customers to avoid the extra costs.1

It is now official: the EU discourages small firms from trading cross-border.

To give you an idea of one site’s situation:
New Zealand has a 60,000 threshold, which is higher than one site’s entire turnover (by a factor of around one hundred). The site can accept customers and donations from New Zealand, and sell ads to them, without any problems.

The USA hasn’t got the customer location rule in, so they can freely trade with them, which is as well because many of their sponsors are from there.

Canada? Like the USA, no problem.

France? The site can’t accept a single customer or donation without falling under VAT-Moss and having to do a UK Vat return to the VAT Moss office every three months.

Germany? They’d need to get a German tax number, register with a German tax office (Germany opposes the VATMoss system – details here) and do full VAT accounting four times a year when they might receive a total of $5 every couple of years from German citizens.

This is the situation while we are in the EU. For micro-businesses, whether the UK stays in or leave will actually make no difference to who they can trade with.

…but Leaving might reduce admin costs.

Removing customs charges is not the only part of a free trade area. If those customs fees are going to be replaced by VAT and admin costs, costing nearly £4,000 a year so already unattainable for small businesses, this is hardly free trade.

And if we don’t have free trade, why vote to stay?

(1 They seem to be forgetting the costs and technical skill required to geoblock. Good luck if you are a small cat sanctuary with an online Paypal button and two retired owners…)

Meanwhile I will spend the rest of the week implementing geo-blocking for about 15 small nonprofits. No, I don’t get paid for it.