Sunday, 14 November 2010

Too much fuel for trading floor

There's a sequel to the earlier blog entry where the generator failed due a poorly wired fuel supply.

Clearly some engineering works were necessary to ensure the fuel pump supplying the generator still had power during a mains outage. Some additional power cabling had to be run down to the basement to feed the fuel tank pump. At the same time the engineering company undertook some routine maintenance on the roof mounted generator. It was decided to run some tests to ensure the generator would start properly and that fuel would be properly supplied from the basement even if grid mains power was removed. Unfortunately it was decided to run the generator test during the trading day, presumably to save costs on engineering cover rather than paying overtime rates.

The traders were warned they might hear some slight noise from the generator, but there would be no interruption in power to the trading floor or other services. The generator test was scheduled for a quiet period in the trading day. The generator started flawlessly and ran well for at least 20 minutes. Stop and restart was tested. All appeared to be going well. I hadn't mentioned earlier, but the trading floor was on the top floor of the building and the generator was mounted on the roof above the trading floor.

People first started to notice problems when diesel fuel started to drip then pour through the ceiling of the trading floor on to the trading desks and traders below. Some urgent investigations discovered that diesel fuel was pooling in the containment bund/wall surrounding the roof mounted generator. During the maintenance work someone had left the end cap of the fuel pipe for the generator, unfortunately enough fuel was reaching the generator for it to continue to run. Small cracks in the roof below the generator was allowing fuel to leak through on to the trading floor below. The fire brigade were called. They had great difficulty in evacuating the traders who did not see why they should worry about a "little bit" of diesel. We had to close that part of the trading floor, but some urgent support staff intervention we were back in business within two hours.

The moral of this event? Don't run tests in a live environment unless it is really unavoidable. Potential saving on man hour costs can soon get wiped out by the consequences of an outage.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Millbank House - Student Riots

From watching the television news reports of the Student Fees protest it was painfully obvious that the Millbank building had woefully poor security design. A small group of extremists and misguided broke away from the main body of the peaceful protest to attack the building containing the Conservative Party head quarters. I'll not comment on the Police preparedness, there are other people doing that already.
What particularly drew my attention was the cheap quality of glass walls at the ground floor reception area. Some of the glass had been treated with blast protection film, but the large windows, accessible at street level, were not made from laminated glass. It looks as though standard float plate glass had been used on the static windows and tempered glass on the doors.
Considering the risk created by the occupants (Tory Party) of the building the glass should have been replaced by glass strengthened by lamination to provide better security protection.
I also note the windows higher in the building appear to be plain sheet glass judging by the breakage patterns, not even any anti-blast film.
The layout of the reception area needs to be redesigned to prevent rush through attacks.

Fuel starved resilience

One of the measures I recommend to clients is to ensure they undertake regular power tests of their standby power systems for their trading floors and data centres. It should be a complete power test (say once every 6 months) where grid mains power is cut totally from the test building. The test should force the UPS system (if any) and the standby generator to take the load of supplying the business for at least an hour. Usually of course this test will have to be performed at a weekend so that main trading activities are not disrupted. The first time the test is run you’ll be pretty much able to find some important system that has not been fully connected to protected power. At the same time technicians should tour the building looking for any non-essential items connected to the critical protect power supply.

Part of the test should observe that the generator and UPS will successfully back off when the main grid power supply is restored and stable. During such tests the technicians should inspect air conditioning services to ensure that critical systems are thermally protected. It is no good having a room full of servers that will melt down in 20 minutes on standby power if there is no air conditioning to the room.

In one total power down test I witnessed the standby power source was a large generator mounted on the roof of a building. The first total power down test established that the generator would start and run for a few minutes before chugging to a halt. Subsequent investigation discovered the main fuel pump that delivers from the basement fuel tank to the fuel header tank on the roof was in fact connected to unprotected mains power. When the mains power failed there was no power to the essential pump that pumped fuel to the generator.

There's a sequel to this event here and another event, where we discovered some unpleasant neighbours, highlighting the need to test here.

Tullett Prebon & BGC

I see Tullett Prebon are in a spat with BGC about proprietary pricing data on Treasury Swaps. I used to be involved in the Tullett IT before the period mentioned in the case. Typically these pricing tools draw their data from many sources. Tullett were particularly careful in those days about not infringing IP of data feeds, I doubt very much if they lost any of those skills.
As to the damage being worth hundreds of millions of dollars? - I think the lawyers are having a laugh.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ahh! The confidence of East Coast USA techs

There are times when the confidence of IT Support technicians hailing from the East Coast of USA can raise a smile. (I mean Noo Joisey of course).
We had regional IT teams supporting a global trading activity. The New York team had invented the PC based application (real time price calculation) that would double business [yawn]. Of course it needed special processor and graphics card. The time had arrived when this application would be [imposed] supplied to their Brit colleagues.
"Do you want us to supply the servers for this?"
"No, we can get them more cheaply in the US and we know how to configure them. You can help by unpacking the boxes when we send them over."
"Sure thing Bob."
After several false starts eventually our USA colleagues succeed in delivering the PC/Servers to the London offices. We duly unpack them and store in a secure room. Soon the american geniuses fly over [Club Class] to London to demonstrate their wonder product. They find their treasured servers and plug the first and then the second into the mains power with suitable network connection.
You'd think the loud click and puff of smoke from the first server box when first switched on might just give a hint that there is a slight technical problem here?! Nope, they boldly switch on the second box. Click, and a puff of foul smell smoke from the second box.
"Ah Bob, you did remember that the mains voltage here is 240V Ac and not 120V didn't you...? You probably need to make sure you changed the voltage setting on the Server PSU."

Friday, 5 November 2010

How do you calculate the PUE for that...?

PUE is a ratio of power used effectively against power delivered to an organisation such as a data centre. In concept it is simple, but the process of calculating a real figure is fraught with complexities, assumptions and varying interpretations.

Calculating a PUE for a trading floor is not always easy. Not a lot of the equipment has individually metred power, so any figure calculated tends to be quite approximate. It does however bring back memories of a company where I used to work. One branch of the company was located in two floors of a multi-tenanted building. Our company had grown by a process of acquisition of other trading firms. A consequence of that was the the IT infrastructure and the supporting building services infrastructure was quite fragmented.

The business decided it could improve the level of trading by building and implementing a new trading floor within the existing building. Plans were duly made and agreed with the landlord. It was not until later in the project that it was realised the building electric power supply would need to be upgraded to meet the power demands of the new trading floor and its associated equipment. The directors of the business were not best pleased with the additional expense on the project but agreed the (new) premises manager could contact the utility company (via the landlord) to ask for additional power cables to be installed.

The shocking news (unintentional pun) came back from the power company. "Sorry guys but we cannot deliver that level of power to your building unless we build a high voltage sub-station." The price quoted would have shocked NASA. Eventually after much discussion it was decided our company would install its own high voltage sub-station in the building. Our company took on the role of supplying power to the other tenants from our sub-station. We had to recruit an additional facilities manager who was trained and certified in the operation of high voltage equipment. Needless to say the project went over budget! I was not the project manager - phew!

Calculating PUE on the basis of power supplied to our company would be interesting to say the least.

Creating a trading floor

I've just returned from Hong Kong where I was speaking at a conference. My topic was entitled "Creating a Trading Floor" which is conveniently the same as my book about trading floor construction. I was speaking for only 40 minutes and found great difficulty in levering enough detail into the session. The book is a 500 page reference book and that only really skims over the sdurface of some of the complex technology and challenges facing people working on such a project. The session was very well attended, which shows that either the other parallel sessions were of low interest or there is a degree of interest in trading floors in Asia.
I was a bit constrained in not knowing the skill levels of the audience. I'd have loved to have gone deeper into some of the more complex issues and also some of the current issues such as sustainability.
All in all an interesting visit, but the 10 hour flight is a bit of a killer.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Standby power testing

I visited the bank's branch office on the edge of Istanbul. As part of my brief I inspected the building and IT infrastructure supporting the local trading floor. I was being shown around by the local IT Director. It came to the point where I was investigating the standby power facilities.
"Show me the standby power facilities please?"
"Oh you mean the generator? It is out the back in the shed on its own."
Three minutes later...
"This looks to be in good order. How frequently do you test the generator? Once a month?"
"Oh no Sir, we don't ever do test runs."
"Why not? How are you confident the generator will start if there is an outage?"
"It is not a problem. The mains power here fails at least once a month. So we know the generator works just fine."
Stunned silence on my part ...

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Russian Mafia are hooked into our power...

A few months after a visit to inspect the office in Moscow, I received a call from their IT Director.
Me: "Hey how are things going out in Moscow? Have you managed to run those power tests for the Data Centre yet?"
Grigory: "Hi Boss, not yet we ran into a snag. The tests are going to be delayed for a week."
Me: "Why is that Grigory? It will mean you are 3 weeks late on the target date." [name changed to protect the innocent]
Grigory: "Hell Boss, we had planned the tests ok, but when we got the power company in to check the main fuses before the total power outage we discovered our neighbours had tapped into our building power. We had to postpone the test."
Me: "You mean those neighbours?"
Grigory: "Yes Boss, the local Russian Mafia. Remember I showed you all their Porsches and Ferraris."
Me: "I guess you couldn't just cut their power suddenly could you?"
Grigory: "No Boss, they might send men around to fix it. Armed men."
Me: "So what have you got planned then Grigory?"
...

If you want to hear the rest of this true life management opportunity, drop me a line?

oaksystech@gmail.com


Theses another power related problem here.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The best laid project plans of mice and men...

The business directors had recognised the project was beginning to run wild. The time scales were slipping and costs were escalating. At this point I'd been appointed to revitalise the project to build a new trading floor in the heart of London.
My first meeting was with the incumbent project manager. It was clear he was an excellent technical project manager. He clearly knew all of the correct terms and procedures to be employed when planning a project. He was clear well qualified in the terminology and techniques of Prince 2. He kindly spent a good part of our meeting explaining the plans to me in some detail and what reports I was expected to provide to allow him to monitor the project and hold the required progress meetings so he could report progress to senior management in the approved method.
Unfortunately he was a project manager inexperienced in the complexities of creating a trading floor and the associated data centre. He believed, without checking, the plans that had been provided to him by the architects and other technical managers.
My first question was: "How much protected (UPS) power will you need and what is the required power endurance of the UPS batteries?" He didn't know. I made a few phone calls to key players on the project team and returned to him a couple of hours later.
"You have a magnificent project plan, but the floor of the building cannot support the weight of your proposed data centre. It will collapse when loaded with equipment if it hasn't already melted down owing to insufficient cooling."
The Project Manager flew home to Belgium two days later, no longer controlling the project.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

London - wake up!

Last Sunday I returned to the UK from a speaking trip in Asia. I'd had a 10 hour flight from Hong Kong. It arrived in London Heathrow just after 5 am. After the usual immigration/baggage hall delays I was on the the Heathrow Express train at 6:05 which raced me into Paddington station in just 15 minutes.
Sadly there the experience ground to a halt. The London Transport underground system was not open until 7:00 am. which would have been a 40 minute delay. The only alternative for a poor soul like me with travel baggage was to catch a black cab and pay a searingly expensive £12.70 fare for a short ride to Charing Cross station.
Why does the city of London close down to early visitors on a Sunday morning? It is not as though we are a religious country. It just reflects poorly when compared with other international cities in Asia. The UK is getting left behind.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Flash crash

A report on the BBC website identifies a single trader in a single company triggering the 700 point flash crash of the US stock market in May 2010. He ran an algorithm which rapidly sold a stock to the value of £2.6 billion. Automated trading is only as good as the person who designed the original algorithm. It is not investing and it can cause a lot of damage to unconnected people.
If experienced human traders are involved in the loop of placing trades there is the chance they can act as common sense circuit breakers in the trading process. Algorithmic trading is not investment it is merely gambling based on probabilities/historic events. It should be banned.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Government frankness

I do love the blunt speaking of the Local Government minister - Eric Pickles. I reproduce a section from a parliamentary committee minutes. It shows a typical scene from a major contractor trying to to give less than value for a government department. The only question I have is how the contractor gets repeat business!
...

Q109 Chair: Secretary of State, thank you very much to you and your colleagues for the time that you spent with us. I understand that you would like to say something briefly on fire control just in finish.

Eric Pickles: I just thought I would quickly bring the Committee up to date with the contract. As you know, this Committee has expressed some concerns and worries about the contract. Indeed the Fire Minister met with Mr Gallois who is EADSs European board member with the responsibility for fire control. He apologised for the delays and stressed the organisation’s commitment to fire control. He promised to commit resources as necessary. He confirmed that EADS cannot meet the June delivery milestone which we activated and offered a further alternative suggestion as to how EADS might deliver the schedule if the fire service were willing to accept a system of reduced functionality.

I am really telling the Committee that I am very concerned about this. I do not think that EADS are treating this at all with the degree of seriousness that I would expect. As you will recall our team went to locate at Newport with EADS and they include expert secondees from the fire and rescue service. That team now, including some 15 uniform secondees, is currently located in portakabins on EADS car park, having been moved out of the main building and denied direct access to their counterparts in EADS.

We are worried that they seemed to be forming a pattern that they are employing lobbyists to try and get us to change our mind to accept a different and a smaller contract than the initial contract, for something that we did not want. Mr Betts, I really wanted to put on to the public record that this Government has no intention of rolling over and having our tummy tickled on this. We expect them to deliver their contract.

If I could just crave you indulgence I have to tell you this, there are two things. When they came before this committee they promised that they would pay compensation damages for any delay. They have now withdrawn that offer but have kindly agreed that the extra time that they are spending in order to rectify the mistakes on the contract that they have made they will not actually bill us. This is a rare thing because the last time they appeared before you they sent the Department a bill for £12,000 to cover their costs. I have to say, my predecessor and the previous Government refused to pay that and we will not be paying that £12,000.

If I could just go a little further and say, one of the things that that we are worried about is that they have produced a tool kit for the fire service to record their assets. There is a problem with it in that it does not recognise fire engines. By and large I think it is a good idea for assets to be able to recognise fire engines. This is a practical problem in so far that we need to be able to route fire engines, fire units, where there are low bridges we do not want them to go through it and find that they are missing their ladders. There is a particular problem; it has to be said, for you Mr Betts and me if I had been living in Keighley, because the only town that the system recognises within the whole of Yorkshire is Wakefield. That in itself is slightly worrying, but when you consider that the only place that the system currently recognises in London in Southwark. But kind of understand the problems that we are up against.

There is good news that the mobilising kit that they delivered to local fire stations which randomly turned itself off has now been fixed. Unfortunately the latest version has a tendency to overheat and is a fire hazard. The on board computers of fire engines currently have out of date maps and are not able to change the route easily. You and I could wonder down Victoria Street and go into a large retailer and get ourselves something for £180 that would do precisely that. I have given you these examples, admittedly slightly light-hearted but are a mess. The substantive message I think I need to give this Committee, and we have shared with the Chairman the detailed documentation, we are doing to have to come to a decision pretty soon. Our message is that a big European company like EADS should not mess us around anymore. We expect them to come to the negotiating table and fix what they have so far not fixed.

Q110 Chair: Is there actually a contract in place now? A firmly agreed contract with them.

Eric Pickles: Yes. We issued a point in June to say, "Can you deliver this?" and they cannot. They cannot meet the deadlines. They are looking for a lesser function than we currently are. They are employing lobbyists to do that. Frankly I think they should be employing people to fix the problem with the contact. If it suits members of the Committee I intend to keep Mr Betts completely in control. I think we are coming to a point where we need to know whether they are serious. Obviously we will keep the Committee fully informed on this

Monday, 20 September 2010

Senior Public Service employee pay is out of control

In a recent BBC web site article it is reported that 38,045 public service sector workers have annual remuneration greater than £100,000. It is a ridiculous.
The extent of the rot is reflected in a statement by the BBC who have 331 employees earning more than £100K.
"... Lucy Adams, the head of BBC People, said the corporation needs to compete with the private sector for top talent in the media and entertainment industries ..." One wonders whether the public purse gets genuine value for money from the leaders of the personnel department. There are thousands of competent people out there willing to do the job for a lot less money.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Shock Horror - 40,000 police cuts

Isn't it just amazing how the establishment fights back with leaks when the Government reduces the funding. The Police Federation announcing 40,000 front line police could be be lost as a consequence of the Coalition Government cuts (stop borrowing money to pay for operational services).

The police are so poorly managed that they waste their time doing loads of non-essential work and now use three people where one would have done the job before. They also waste money on assets - seen any old looking police cars recently?

Now we have a police force that hides in large hives [headquarter buildings] and we sometimes see angry armoured police buzzing out when they are irritated. They also claim massive amounts of overtime that any commercial manager would quickly reject. The Police Federation has played it's part in this bloated inefficiency.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Tories closing NHS Walk-In Centres

Your easy access NHS Walk-In Centres and out of hours Primary Care Centres are actively being dismantled by the UK Coalition Government. They will be history in a year or so.

Back in the 1990’s the Dept of Health renegotiated the funding contracts with the General Practitioners. These independent contractors, who do not have contracts of employment with the NHS, were suddenly earning a lot more money for less hours and no longer provided out of hours coverage.

The responsibility for out of hours coverage fell on the Primary Care Trusts, who had to suddenly contract Doctors to provide out of hours coverage, where the GP’s had previously covered. Another increase in the health funding bills. In many cases the newly recruited out-of-hours doctors also for a GP Practice – Ho Hum more money for the new Volvo SUV.

The public were finding that the GP Surgeries were only available during the working day and even then it could be many days before they could get an appointment to see a GP. Sickness and injury does not wait for the limited GP availability hours, so the public took the only course open to them and went to the local accident and emergency department of the local hospital. Many of these attendances could easily have been dealt with by a skilled general practice nurse of a GP. As a consequence waiting times extended at the A&E and the price tab for handling these minor ailments skyrocketed.

The Government of the day reacted by setting up Walk-In Centres (and NHS Direct) in clinics around the country. There the patient could walk through the door with no prior appointment 364 days a year from 7 am to 10 pm and be seen by a skilled medical practitioner reasonably promptly. Often the medical practitioner would be a skilled and highly trained Nurse Practitioner with many years’ experience and medical post graduate degrees. Any serious case would be referred to medical specialists or A&E departments. Many of the people who attend the Walk-In Centres went because they could not get an appointment with their GP or had indeed been sent there by the GP Surgery staff. The consultation cost at a Walk-In Centre worked out at approximately £25 per session. A similar consultation at a GP surgery would cost the public purse around £40. Someone attending the A&E department would be a minimum of £110 per consultation even for a simple sore throat.

The Walk-In Centres are normally nurse-led. That means a senior nurse usually with 20 years or more experience would manage the service, even employing Doctors to act in a GP mode where necessary. The independent GP’s contractors around the country hate this loss of power, status, (and potential income) to the nurse led services. The senior nurses are required to follow formal medical protocols in respect of treatment, to keep detailed computer records of the reasons for their diagnosis of any patient. They have long training before they are allowed to prescribe medicines. The quality of treatment is at least as good as you would find at the GP Surgery. Many of the independent GP contractors hold positions of power in the governing committees in the local NHS Primary Care Trusts and use this power to thwart to central Dept of Health push for Walk-In and Urgent Primary Care centres.

With the proposed dismantling of Primary Care Trusts by the Conservatives/Lid-Dem Coalition we will see the closure of nurse led Walk-In Centres. They will be hived off to be run by GP Practices or attached to Hospital Trust A & E Departments. Neither the GP’s nor the A&E Departments have a sparkling record when it comes to cost efficient services. The well trained nurses will be frittered away and replaced by GP’s who are paid at least three times the cost of the nurses they replace. It is GP’s who have the ear of the Health Minister and are making sure that the “aberration” of nurse led Walk-In Centres are wiped from the services available to the public.

If you think this doesn’t happen, take a look at the case of the SE London Walk-In Centre based in New Cross. A building was fitted out as a Walk-In Centre Clinic with consultation rooms and an admin area. Almost £1,000,000 was spent on the development and set up. There used to be team of about 12 nurses providing coverage 364 days a year from 07:00 to 22:00. Now the clinic building has been handed over to an independent GP contract practice. The Walk-In centre nurses have been moved out and have a room or two working for another GP Practice. Only three nurses remain.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A couple of useful power links

I found a couple of useful links in my morning mail.

The latest APC rack power systems - intelligent of course.

and

Modular UPS ideas.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Rateable Value - FTTC and FTTH

The Valuation Office Agency is creating complex rules for assessing the Rateable Value of datacom links to the home and businesses. The discussion at present is in relation to the Next Generation Network. Their proposals are a witches brew involving lit & unlit fibres, homes passed and homes connected, who owns the fibres and who leases them. It is a mess, but could mean £20 a year taxation on the connection.

Let me suggest a Alexandrian solution to this bureaucratic gordian knot. As a nation we are trying to encourage network suppliers to connect as many homes/businesses as possible to high speed fibre networks. Forget all of these complex rules and tax on the basis of bandwidth delivered to the home, say 20 pence a gigabyte (note the term byte). It is very fair in that is based on usage rather than potential or advertised capacity. With the current scheme a person living further away from the exchange (lower bandwidth delivered) pays the same as someone living next door to the exchange. A bandwidth usage tax would be administratively easy to calculate and to explain to consumers. It also provides an opportunity to help the less well off by exempting the first couple of gigabytes per month.

In turn the Telecommunication companies can then clearly list the tax element on their bills rather than have it buried as an overhead cost. At present the taxation rules seem to be based on potential usage/revenue. The government has to raise tax somewhere, but let's make it simple and fair.

Oaksys

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bad Accounts Dept = Annoyed customers

Just what does it take for the directors of a company to realise that an aggressive accounts department does real damage to the public relations of their company? I have one supplier with whom I've been a customer (not continuously) for the past 14 years. Generally their service is quite good, though it is unfortunate their customer service is offshored, so the support aspect when things go wrong is patchy. Their fees are not the lowest, but not excessive so I continue to do business with them.

For resilience, I have alternative suppliers of the service so I could switch at a moment's notice and see no reduction in the service available to my company. Finding further suppliers is not a problem, I must get at least 3 calls a month from other suppliers offering me a cheaper service.

The accounts department of my incumbent supplier are something else. They seem to take delight in trying to annoy me. Their procedures are also wasteful of their company's money. They despatch invoices by second class post. If the invoice is not paid within 6 working days they then send a fairly rude printed reminder saying we are "in arrears". The reminder is sent by second class post. A final demand with threats of recovery action is sent a week after the reminder. Of course the final demand is second class post too. They have my email address; why can't they send a polite email reminder that arrives 7 days after the date of when the invoice arrives at my office?

The invoice, posted 2nd class, takes 5 to 6 days to reach my office. So it is quite difficult to arrange payment before the Accounts drones have produced a reminder. Sending reminders at such short notice is a stupid waste of money by the supplier's accounts department. If they were truly interested in quicker payment they would send the invoice by first class post. It normally arrives the day following despatch. They are wasting their company's money on postage & printing by sending the reminder too soon.

They suggest I use Direct Debit where they extract money direct from my Bank. No thanks - I've experienced their automated systems in the past and it was not a pleasant experience. It took several rounds of correspondence to sort out the problems they caused.

I intensely dislike their accounts department rudeness over an issue they are causing themselves. They are unapologetic and refuse to change their systems when I've written and complained. They seem to think there is no price to pay for their bad procedures. Well, they are wrong! I advise companies on telephony and (international) data communications as part of my service. Guess what? My supplier and their parent company are never recommended as a telecomms supplier by me to my clients, for fear of their Accountants annoying my clients. If my supplier are already in place at a client's offices I have no qualms in providing information to my clients ICT Manager about alternative telecoms services. I can generally reduce their telecom bill and provide suppliers who are more realistic about their billing process.

Do their accountants not understand the cost of customer churn and lost business opportunities?

Demon Internet, take note.

Oaksys

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Forgemasters

I see a lot of political fuss about the cancellation, by the Government, of an £80 Million loan to a company called Forgemasters. The logic behind the loan, in the lead up to the last General Election, was that Forgemasters would use the money to invest in machinery and plant to forge parts for the nuclear power industry.

One thing has puzzled me about this whole affair. If the investment in machinery was such a good commercial idea, why can't Forgemasters obtain a commercial loan or issue bonds to obtain the necessary funds? If it was not a commercially sound idea, what was the motive of the previous Labour Government in proposing the loan facility? The unelected Business Secretary of the previous government seems to be quite vocal in protesting the cancellation of the loan he granted.

Why should the current government borrow money to give Forgemasters a loan?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

London Forex $1.7 Trillion/day

A report in the Independent newspaper highlights the London based Forex market is running at the level of $1.7 Trillion per day. That is a massive amount of money. It is roughly equivalent to $250 per day for every single living person on this planet!

Once again it is unproductive speculation rather than physical trade/services activity. How pays for this wasteful churn of money? It is Joe Soap on the High Street who pays through the nose in high bills for food, goods, energy and services.

In my old moneybroking days the daily commission on that amount of turnover would have been around $6 Million a day allowing for fee discounts.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Demon Internet Usage Cap

Demon Internet have decided to impose a usage cap on their unlimited business ADSL service. Our usage is only 1/20th of their cap, so it won't be any kind of problem to us. However it does raise a question in my mind about how serious Demon are in providing a real business service. Their price is already at a premium above an equivalent consumer service. Their customer service is outsourced to the the inevitable India and is quite ineffective. I work on the basis of 24 hours to fix problems in their service and have an alternative business ADSL route. One begins to wonder just what is their unique selling point?

A bad move Demon.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

High Frequency Trading

I've just been reading a blog comment on High Frequency Trading and the need for circuit breakers. The underlying problem is that HFT is not investment, it is at best gambling. There is no way that the underlying value of a company can change by a few percent in a few milliseconds.
Such speculative gambling extracts money from the investment value of companies. It serves no useful social purpose other than enrich a few people with access to the machinery of HFT. It is in effect a parasite living from the lifeblood of industry.
There is a simple solution, it is called a Return to Investment, where buying decisions are based on longer term business prospects. Governments should agree internationally that no stock/equity or derivative instrument can be re-traded within 32 days of its previous trading. This will return equality to the trading market and give people the opportunity to make considered decisions before deciding to buy/sell. It will also force them to take greater interest in the longer term development of the organisation represented by the financial instruments.
Charles

Monday, 19 July 2010

More BT crookery

I just received a letter from BT Customer Services (!) proudly telling me they are increasing their call charges by 10%. The minimum price for a call will now be 17.3 pence. Last year they imposed a similar 9% increase. Also press announcements.

Ah but wait, as always with BT the demon is in the detail: we have a BT line that we use only for incoming calls. Out going calls go over a mixture of BT lines and other Internet providers. BT will now fine us an additional £18 a year on that incoming line unless we make at least two outgoing calls a month on that line.

Guess what BT you can stuff the line rental on that incoming line, it is only there as a standby anyway. Take it away and we won't trouble you with our business any more! If you are mistakenly trying to impose your own private version of the Broadband tax let me assure you that you have got it wrong - we use an LLU service from another provider - not a BT line. It is just yet another example of unfair BT pricing trying to lock out other vendors. Time to complain to the regulator.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Xara Problems

We use Xara Xtreme Pro 5 to assist in graphic design for things such as web sites and brochures. It is useful product and moderately priced. Like most graphics tools it doesn't do everything, but it is the one that we turn to the most.

Xara have recently produced an upgrade version called Xara Designer Pro 6. We downloaded this and licensed the product. It was pretty annoying to find that it repeated a problem that was in Xtreme Pro 5 in that you cannot use the website export or preview facility. On Xtreme Pro 5 the problem was fixed with a zip file to apply a patch to windows registry. On Vista that is not as simple as it seems, but we got it working in Version 5. We are currently awaiting a response from their tech support team. Other people are having problems too.

We've just discovered another fault. Templates available under Xtreme Pro 5 are not available in Designer Pro 6. Yet another problem report to the Xara team. To be fair they are usually quick to resolve the problem, but I thought we'd bought production quality software. We didn't intend to sign up to their Beta Test programme.

Friday, 25 June 2010

BT 21CN in London

Our local phone exchange in Deptford is one of the early candidates for upgrade to the local fibre connectivity. Yippee! It arrives in Sept 2010. I "registered interest" on the BT site about three months ago.

Yesterday I had a brief almost curt automated email from BT informing me that our house in SE4 would be connected to neither Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) nor Fibre To The House (FTTH). I don't see what is the problem with the FTTC, as our local street cabinet is less than 100 metres away. As a consolation they offered BT Broadband over the existing copper exchange line! Whoopy-do.

BT gave no reason for this sudden unavailability, but it is a bit of a coincidence that the new Government budget just snatched the funding honey pot away from BT a few days ago. Are BT sulking and refusing to invest in any more street cabinet upgrades? The "distance from the exchange" should not be limiting factor with FTTC.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Hotmail

It looks like you get what you pay for when you use one of Microsoft's free hotmail.com addresses. I'm currently having an ongoing saga because I cannot send email from any of my verio.net hosted domains to the hotmail.com addresses. The mail is either blocked at the microsoft servers or marked as SPAM and buried in the junk folder of the addressee. I don't use my domains for SPAM.

Verio blames Microsoft and vice versa. Apparently these two giants are unable to communicate and do not respond to either's emails.

My query has been running for weeks, but it sounds like the problem is broader and affects other domains too. According to Verio, their senior technicians are working hard on this, but do not have any estimate about when it might be resolved. It doesn't help things when I get a different person dealing with each email that I send to them. The whole thing must be incredibly wasteful of their resources.

My take on the situation? Don't expect any email you send to Hotmail.com will reliably arrive! It is not just Verio/Hotmail. I've seen the same thing with other email service providers and Hotmail.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

BT & British Technology

Remember when BT chose not to go with a british supplier for the massive IP enabling of their infrastructure? Instead they chose a chinese supplier - Huawei, to the detriment of UK based technology providers. Now the Indian government is concerned that that the equipment may contain spyware. Imagine the chaos if the Chinese government was able to issue a single network command that would ripple through the UK backbone phone system? Scary stuff, huh?