Freesteel Blog » Whipping
Monday, March 23rd, 2015 at 6:08 pm - Whipping
I’m doing a lot of politics stuff running up to the general election, but I don’t feel like blogging about it much.
Actually, I’m not doing that much. What’s happening is that all the work I did ten years ago is finally being put into use today by other people, resulting in an event such as this fine rant from the LibDem MP in Bristol West:
To claim, as the website Public Whip does, that I ‘voted very strongly for selling England’s state owned forests’ is misleading in the extreme. I have never voted in favour of selling forest land – I voted against two poorly worded and hyperbolic motions submitted by the Labour Party.
I never believed I’d see the day where MPs would have to answer for the things they voted for in Parliament. Anyway, there’s that and electionleaflets.org and Francis’s Candidate CVs project gathering steam. What a difference five years of internet technology advancement and greater generational awareness can make.
Meanwhile, I was in Bristol for a few days helping a friend with some DIY, because I want to put this kind of laminate floor down in our kitchen on top of some real insulation:
Then I did some painting before getting relieved of my duties for spreading paint all up the paint brush handle.
I spent the night on the Blorenge, then flew at lunch time completely alone for two hours until I suddenly got dumped down in the bottom landing field in Abergaveny. Nobody took any notice of my death spiral down to the ground; just kept walking their dogs. I am still working hard to process the data into something meaningful — if this is possible.
An invite went out for a surf on the Dee Bore on Saturday morning. I thought it might be special, being the day after a partial solar eclipse, but it was a damp squib and most of us lost the wave within a few hundred metres.
Monday, November 10th, 2014 at 10:39 am - Whipping
It was an expensive London and Cambridge weekend for me and Becka (£99.20 return train ticket each), but the chance to get home on Sunday night directly from the middle of London to the middle of Liverpool in under three hours without needing to be awake beat the plan of car shuttling onto a local train via some backstreet parking spot in St Albans to avoid driving to the centre of London.
You win some, you lose some.
I got a motion for electionleaflets.org to be done properly accepted by the members at the UnlockDemocracy AGM on Saturday. This has the potential to get some professionalism on the situation in time for the next election.
The purpose of the project was to learn how to use PDF.js, which Francis told me about the day before.
I thought I had a good chance with it (being as it is completely practical and could be implemented by the Public Accounts Committee right away), but it did not even get an honourable mention. That honour went to Richard whose Parliamentary Bill analyser disclosed how many goats would need to be skinned to print out the Act, among other things. For more details, see my blogpost from six years ago: The vellum has got to go.
We met Rob for dinner who had a brain machine on the bookshelf, which Becka was very taken with. I can tell you that someone will be learning how to solder in the next couple of weeks, because that is the only way they are going to get one of their own.
International governance is a serious issue with major consequences. It doesn’t help that the British public enjoy electing clowns from UKIP and the BNP to these positions where they don’t even pretend to do any work. Politics is not a sports show, like the football league. This stuff matters. And it is logical.
This morning there were two politicians debating on the radio news program: LibDem MP Martin Horwood and UKIP Leader Nigel Farage squabbling about immigration, and tripping over themselves to praise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty being secretly negotiated between the EU and the US. Horwood asserted, without any evidence, that this deal would “eventually help to create millions of British jobs”, while Farage said that if we were out of Europe we could sign this deal much faster than allowing Europe to do it.
Farage argues for Britain to get out of Europe on the basis that it gives us greater national sovereignty and control over our own laws — something which is flatly undermined by these trade deals whose sole purpose is to establish the supremacy of corporate rights over people’s rights, and where there will be no Parliament to over-see its operation.
Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Whipping
It was getting rather full of electronic accretions that kept me awake at night. The server disks had been moved four years ago with everything left intact. It would have been easier to have renewed it another year, but I decided that it’s best to do this sort of spring cleaning when things were quiet.
Back when you had to buy computing resources by the barrel, you had to throw a big on-going party to use up all the resources. But nowadays you can buy it by the glass, which means each project can go into a separate container, which makes each one cleaner and easier to retire. It’s a nightmare when they are all in the same box and start depending on each other in unpredictable ways. The apache httpconfig file in there was a disaster area.
So many projects get started. And so many lie around half finished.
Here’s the Eulogy.
@symroe: @frabcus you’re killing seagrass??
@frabcus: Eulogy #1: Ah http://seagrass.goatchurch.org.uk/ it was nice sysadmining you all these last 8 years.
@frabcus: Eulogy #2: You did so much – in the early days running codeabode (a version control hosting thing with @rufuspollock) and
@frabcus: Eulogy #3: and parlparse (powers @theyworkforyou, @publicwhip) while it looked like @dodspeople might support it, and so many years since
@symroe: @frabcus just logged in to seagrass (for the last time), and found a copy of ‘MP fight!’ in my home directory!
@frabcus: Eulogy #4: For a while you were popular: with caving software and blogs and SaveParliament and Think Twice conference
@philipjohn: @frabcus Yay Save Parliament #memories
@frabcus: Eulogy #5: Changing the world around you with the move of ethereal bits in the electric dark of a new information age
@frabcus: Eulogy #6: Later you were the first place to have direct links to United Nations documents (UNDemocracy) and crowd-sourced election leaflets
@frabcus: Eulogy #7: All the while, tirelessly helping millions find out how their MPs voted, with PublicWhip and its @theyworkforyou feeding API
@symroe: @frabcus you missed out the first scraperwiki on seagrass!
@frabcus: Eulogy #8: Your hardware changed, you moved to Manchester. Yet stil your heart was the same, your systems Debian stable, your RAID monitored
@frabcus: Eulogy #9: In your twilight years all gradually left. Abstraction, commodification, the cloud in the real sense of IaaS. And your services
@kindofwater: @frabcus Thought about how we now just delete servers in the cloud. They have no personality. Total immateriality.
@kindofwater: @frabcus When I used to work at the University of Kent we turned off an ancient Sun server with similar ceremony.
@frabcus: Eulogy #10: Gradually left early adopter – either dieing, or entering mainstream to grown up servers.
@frabcus: Eulogy #11: And now finally, your paymaster sees no point in your bills. The energy of controlling you dispersed. You must go.
@frabcus: Eulogy #12: Put down like an old cat, when really you are at the prime of life. Your vhosts gradually erased, email directed from you.
@frabcus: Eulogy #13: The clock ticking on the last DNS entry pointing to your port.
@londonlime: @frabcus this one made me well up!
@frabcus: Eulogy #14: Ah seagrass, times were good. To the server afterlife – reformatted and reincarnated, like an @Mythic_Beasts you will rise again
@Floppy: @frabcus I’m humbled to be part of that story. It was truly a hero among servers. #seagrass
Monday, December 16th, 2013 at 11:53 am - Whipping
More important than charity work (aka filling in for the failures of political governance), there’s volunteer work for the electoral system. For some reason society believes that the business of placing options on the ballot sheet and publicizing what they mean is not something that needs to be done systematically and professionally, like, say, collecting the garbage.
So here we are at 6am on the morning of Thursday 5 December collecting our batches of get out the vote leaflets from the Green Party candidate who has been working this city council Riverside Ward for years.
Here’s the leaflet:
A lot’s been going on in the world. It’s out of my hands. I don’t know anything or have any influence over it, so what I say shouldn’t matter. Very sensitive. Yadda yadda. Got to watch out because it’s publicly listed companies and there’s shares and high-stakes gambling and all that money stuff.
Funnily enough, private non-listed companies that do not have any jittery share-holders or regulations to worry about are even more extremely secretive about their businesses. I wonder if they bother to invent positive and vaguely plausible excuses for their secrecy when there is apparently no commercial reason for it.
Secrecy is actually about power in all frames. This is the week that the TPP trade agreement got leaked. The text outlines a vast expansion of no-strings-attached corporate monopolies (aka “Intellectual Property”) in all sectors of the economy — policies that have been soundly and democratically rejected in the past. There’s no reason to keep that stuff secret, except in order to facilitate a plan to ram it through into law in an instant as a shock to the system in an opportune moment.
Not sure why I’m talking about that. I wanted to talk about food.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 6:02 pm - Whipping
We hit the culture night last Friday on our approximately annual working visit to Copenhagen. With only a program in Danish to guide us, it was a bit hit and miss. Mostly miss. One thing that was a hit was an exhibit in a back room of the design museum where we said hello to lots of different materials.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Whipping
The project for bringing forward the final date of human extinction remains on track.
We seem to be doing pretty well with our global engineering project to move as much as we can of the deeply buried fossil carbon into the atmosphere as quickly as possible.
But how are we doing with that other threat to the species: nuclear annihilation? Last night there was a Parliamentary debate. I am happy to report that Great Britain intends to maintain its responsibility for ensuring that this continues to be a potential outcome.
Thursday, May 9th, 2013 at 1:57 pm - FOI
In their new executive-summary-style webpages, the UK Government sets out its case that it is fulfilling its side of the deal that allows them to remain a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty wherein they promised to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
I remember the old days of awesomely crap government IT projects procured for billions of pounds that always failed after going three times over budget, then got covered up along with their contractually obligated fail-safe profits for the corrupt IT consultants — who then repeated the process having successfully claimed that anyone who said it could be done any other way was beardy hippy whom you should take no notice of. Funny how the stereotype of a computer expert was usually a beardy hippy.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: The Government set up a project called True North… Does anybody know what it did? The Cabinet Office gave the okay to £83 million to set up a project called True North, which was to paper sleeve a deal with Government. It has gone somewhat wrong. The only reason we came across it was because the company sued the Government for £24 million, saying that they were plonkers and they did not know what they were doing… Do you think it is farcical that we have got to the stage where you cannot get papers, we cannot get papers? The Government are covering up projects that have gone wrong to the tune of £83 million —- and that has been a snip compared to some of the things they have messed up. Are we just getting to the stage where this whole thing is becoming a farce?
…It does not seem to work. You have portals everywhere; you have websites; you can go in one way, another way. How on earth we are going to have an ID card system that is going to work, if the Government itself at the highest level cannot even get a project right?
…Who should be in charge of this? Do you know what the total assets of the Cabinet Office’s computer resources are? £122 million. That is more than the asset value of all the buildings they have in Whitehall, believe it or not. We cannot find out what they are. Do you have any bright ideas? Why has the Cabinet Office got £122 million worth of computer assets? They wrote off £52 million last year in depreciation. Either there is an awful lot going on that you do not know about and I do not know about and we do not know about, or one heck of a mess has happened and we are not sure whether it has or has not.
Mr Collins: Again, it is hard to get information. There is usually quite prolific documentation in the early stages of the project about its benefits but they do not publish result implementations. There are some examples. The DWP is probably one of the biggest. They announced to Parliament that their modernisation/computerisation of benefits would cost, I think, £713 million and would save 20,000 jobs, but at the last count it was £2.6 billion and the number of staff involved had increased. There is a magistrates’ court system called Libra, which was announced as being a £140 million project. At the last count that was £390 million. But it is hard to get information on costs, because they revise contracts.
So, what’s going on now in this same Cabinet Office?
Well, the money finally ran out, and the expensive do-nothing consultants could no longer be afforded, leaving no option but to hire the programmers directly and take on board their profit-reducing rationalizations related to actually getting stuff done.
And now there is code, visible, being produced, that you can see does something.
The URLs are all pretty cool. That’s the front doormat of any website. Go check out their blog and be amazed.
Here’s my favourite bit:
What we learned
…We also learnt about the benefits of agile software development – starting small, getting user feedback early and iterating fast based on evidence of real need.
To give a small example of a possible many: before the beta several of us thought a WYSIWYG text editing interface would be essential for departments to format their content. But by building working software and unleashing it early we discovered that editors quickly came to like the simplicity of markdown and, a year on, more than a hundred people around Whitehall are happily using it. Developing something more complex would have been a waste of time.
I’ve often had arguments with dogmatists who think that programmers and users are separate classes of people whom it is desirable to prevent comingling. However, this last statement cannot be true. Nobody develops complex WYSIWYG editors any more when there are enough of them out there that you can install for free. Someone must have been far-sighted enough to keep that type of rot out.
The real reason to shun WYSIWYG editors in favour of markdown technology (like the kind you find in Wikipedia) is that (a) they obstruct touch typing and other performance improvements that come with practice, and (b) they are fundamentally incompatible with end user computing, which is where the real enhancements are going to take place.
is twofold: (a) Their human performance is slow