Freesteel Blog » 2011 » October

Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 12:29 pm - - Whipping

Following my discovery of two entirely distinct property government databases with their own systems of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs), due to a “Licensing impasse between Ordnance Survey and National Land & Property Gazatteer”, I was delighted to find out about a new outfit known as Geoplace.

GeoPlace (OC359627) is a public sector limited liability partnership between the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey. Our vision is to be the recognised centre of excellence for spatial address and street information management in Great Britain.

The hell it does.

Just look at this set of emails between me and the unhelpful help desk on 26 October 2011:

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Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 1:46 pm - - Cave

I was robbed of another weekend of perfect weather — the last one for the year — when we should have gone out to sea, but instead we were going underground.

Wasn’t so bad in retrospect. But I was wistful with skies like this:


[Putting up the scaffolding for the winch into Pool Park Hole]

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Sunday, October 9th, 2011 at 8:41 am - - FOI 3 Comments »

As part of the deal with the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) to maintain the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) database, Landmark Information Group Ltd was supposed to invent a brand new database of UPRNs (Unique Property Reference Numbers) for every distinct saleable property in the country. An Energy Assessors would need to look up a property on it when filing a certificate. [Click on the image to read the text in place]

This always seemed ridiculous to me. It was 2006 when these contracts were negotiated. How many government institutions in the country were already depending on an exactly equivalent database? There’s the Post office, the Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry, every local authority who is administering the property taxes, the water company, the electric company, the phone company, the BBC license fee collectors, and all parcel couriers and junk mail distributors in the land.

Why build another one?

The explanation is given in footnote 7 of page 29 of the Home Condition Report Register & Associated Services – Services Requirements Specification:

What’s remarkable is that this EPC database procurement was going on at the height of David Blunkett’s Identity Cards rampage. For years his fevered imagination was gripped by the technocratic merits of issuing unique computer processable identity number for every man, woman and child in the country to the extent that he continued to push it against rising unpopularity, mounting impracticality and rapidly inflating costs.

Did it not occur to anyone to notice that there was this related, far easier problem to tackle in the form of the government databases of places where people live? You’d think that one ministerial phone call and the threat of an order based on the PSI Directive would have sorted it out immediately. By now we could now have a totally available system for linking all house data together that would be as efficient as car license plate numbering. But we don’t.

The rest of this Services Requirements Specification document contains much else that is extraordinary. I will mine it for more blog posts in the future.

Update: I can’t keep up. Look at this Cabinet Office page on the BS7666 format.

Then there’s this document explaining to people doing data entry work in Bedforshire how to handle this new-fangled address format in their schools database.

Or you can pay £350 to get someone to teach you about it.

Friday, October 7th, 2011 at 11:10 am - - Vero 1 Comment »

Corporations are people, my friend - Mitt Romney

In January 2006 the ownership of Edgecam and its 3-axis kernel passed to Planit with its acquisition of Pathtrace Limited (02485210). (Pathtrace is now a “dormant company”, according to its listings at Companies House [the accounts]).

Here is its extraordinary chain of ownership, worthy of Enron or Tony Blair, pieced together from around 20 documents purchased from Companies House.

Planit Software Limited (02093062)
Directors: Bryan Pryce and Jonathan Lee, Employees: 130
Planit Holdings Limited (01731539)
Directors: Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce, Employees: 30
Velocity Acquisitions Limited (05943914)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce
Velocity Investco Limited (05943898)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce
Velocity Holdings Limited (05943865)
Directors: Ian Grant, Richard Green, Richard Moon, Jonathan Lee and Bryan Pryce

It also says that August Equity Partners 1 GP Limited holds 1,825,000 ‘A’ Ordinary shares which leaves 400,000 shares unaccounted for after subtracting the 250,000 directly held by 3 of the directors — until correct this by doing the calculations in the Annual Return
August Equity Partners 1 GP Limited (04141155)
Directors: T J Clarke and R J Green

But there’s more:

That is to say this company is simultaneously a member of the following two partnerships:
August Equity Partners 1 (LP007896)
Type: Limited Partnership, Previous name: August Equity Partners IV
No other membership information disclosed
August Equity Co-Investment Fund 1 (LP012301)
Type: Limited Partnership, Registered: July 2007
No other membership information disclosed
August Equity LLP (OC313101)
Members: R J Green, T J Clarke, I D Grant, P M Rattle, A Hassan, August Equity Management Limited

One of those partners isn’t a human being…
August Equity Management Limited (4261261)
Directors: T J Clarke and August Equity LLP

So, August Equity Management Limited is owned by, is directed by and is a partner in August Equity LLP.

Is this normal?

No wonder these financial management types don’t have any time to get to know anything about the stuff which they actually own!

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at 11:11 am - - Cave, Kayak Dive

I like taking my camera everywhere to record scenes, such as the CUCC club stand at the Hidden Earth cavers conference. (We don’t win the prize for presentation.) Usually there’s just a couple of posters of the latest Austria survey, if that. It’s a handy place to hang around while missing the talks.

This was two weekends ago.

Last weekend I tried to take the Saturday off and go to Wales for a dive in the Menai Straits. But 50 miles out the car’s front brakes were squealing. The tires were very hot and somewhat deflated. I think the brakes were slightly stuck on. We limped home late in the night. Anyway, I had to be in Liverpool for an impromptu scraperwiki hack day. Such is work.

On Monday I got an invite for a quickie kayak paddle on the Mersey. My camera was in a drybag wedged to the top of the bike pannier with my wetsuit. The whole bag fell off somewhere as I was cycling from Rock Ferry train station to the actual Rock Ferry (in the Wirral) and I never noticed.

Pretty dumb.

Now I’ve got yet another stupid underwater box for a camera I don’t have.

Still. It could have been worse. I could have drowned. And the car still works, assuming the garage can fix it today.

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 1:15 pm - - Vero 2 Comments »

As it says:

Vero Software and Planit Holdings Merge, form Third-Largest CADCAM Vendor

The Planit Group offers its software products globally under the Edgecam, Alphacam, Cabinet Vision, CabnetWare, Javelin and Radan brands.

Vero focuses on plastic injection moulds, sheet metal stamping dies, multi-axis milling, laser cutting and wire EDM, offering its software products globally under the VISI, PEPS, Machining Strategist and SMIRT brands.

The combination of Vero and Planit creates the third largest CADCAM vendor — only behind Dassault Systèmes and Siemens PLM, according to the companies. The merger of the two organisations will provide the platform to build stronger products through significantly enhanced development capabilities and further extend a growing influence on the global market, according to the company.

The merger has been funded by Battery Ventures (Boston, USA) who have been investing for more than 25 years in technology-driven companies and work hard with management to build their presence into global market leaders.

Never mind the branding, what will become of the software? I believe that Edgecam still has its own home-grown 3-axis kernal, as does Vero (from the NCGraphics Machining Strategist kernel).

Will one of them be discontinued and replaced by the other, or will there be an effort to merge the code (impossible) or at least salvage something by linking one on to the other as a library?

Like everyone else, Edgecam buys its 5-axis kernel from moduleworks, so no change there.

All that’s left is the user interface and other gubbins (eg post-processors). Very difficult to discontinue them and force users onto the other one.

It’s expensive and pointless (except in the very long term) to merge software products that have never been together. The expense was lost in duplicating the effort in the first place.

So, although what you can do with the software is all that should matter, this is going to be ruled by the finance guys, who work to a completely different model where one programmer is interchangeable with another.

Hopefully lots of financial statements will be disclosed in the process which may illustrate the curious extent of disconnect between the software development and the management that is usually present in these sort of businesses.

Planit Holdings Company No. 01731539
Previous Names:
Date of change Previous Name
01/12/2006 PLANIT HOLDINGS PLC
08/03/1989 MEMCOM INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS PLC
04/03/1991 TELFORD GROUP PLC
30/10/1998 BRITISH THORNTON HOLDINGS PLC