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Comment: Re:Go Linux! (Score 1) 137

If you have the source, you have the option of hiring a team to update it. The NHS is large enough that they can afford to hire their own. Indeed, many hospital trusts do already have their own in-house teams of developers maintaining home-grown applications.

OTOH I've seen in-use hospital systems where the source code has actually been lost and the last person who worked on it died some time ago. That should be illegal. On products I've worked on in the past, there have been source escrow agreements. These days I'd go one further and insist on escrow of a working development machine, in OVF format, complete with a full Git repository of the source code, refreshed on each release of the software. Don't mind if it's encrypted as long as the encryption key is lodged in escrow and released on the demise of the company concerned.

Comment: Re:Go Linux! (Score 1) 137

Firstly, the thing about NHS funding increasing every year is a lie, and our politicians have been told to stop lying about it repeatedly (that link is to the Telegraph which is usually considered to be a Tory paper, so extra truthiness points).

Secondly, we have a rate of about 4% inflation for healthcare costs. Even if they are increasing funding, are they doing it 4% year on year? No.

Thirdly, a lot of the money is going on the stupid PFI contracts which bleed money away from clinical services and go to debt repayment instead. They were transparently a massive con trick from the out - the NHS is the largest employer in Europe. They have a budget larger than small countries. They should be able to borrow money like a small country (ie - by issuing low interest bonds), not have to be sent cap-in-hand to a private company and directed to sign a sweetheart deal with 300% returns for the private company. The citizens of this country are justifiably proud of the NHS and would probably be more than happy to buy those bonds.

Are UKIP right about waste in middle management? Probably. But that's because the middle management are being directed by targets, which are a blunt instrument. If the middle management were tasked with enabling the clinicians to do the most healthcare possible, instead of directing them to waste their time and effort meeting their numbers, it would be a different story. But the targets are there specifically to cut budgets, because they get paid based on the results of those numbers.

Comment: Re:How this could be awesome. (Score 1) 72

by Dr_Barnowl (#49592105) Attached to: How an Open Standard API Could Revolutionize Banking

Currently most non-routine transfers in the UK for personal accounts are authorised by 2FA - you get a PIN terminal, you stick your debit card in the slot, and it interfaces with a challenge-response app on the smartcard in your plastic.

I hope they keep that air gap in there. There's potential to use the NFC loop in your phone to cut the separate device out of the loop, but that would mean your phone might be running malware that takes the opportunity to run some other transactions. Better to have a simple separate device with no opportunities for malware "upgrades".

Comment: Re:Wait... (Score 1) 210

What we really need is a career track that goes


Level 1 Engineer -> Level 2 Engineer -> Level 1 Manager -----> Level 2 Manager
                                                                                                                                                                          \------> Level 3 Engineer

With the lower track being taken when promoting the engineer to a manager is noted to reduce productivity.

Comment: Re:So far so good. (Score 1) 210

> Any fucking idiot can program.

Any fucking idiot can program badly. When you work for a bad manager, programming badly is all you need because they will only let you do exactly what they think you should be doing. As we've established, they are not competent to make that decision, so it all turns out the same in the long run.

Not every person can program well, or at all. There are scientific papers devoted to this topic.

Comment: Re:So far so good. (Score 2) 210

Indeed.

The main thing that moved me into management (which I suck at) was the lack of a promotional track for engineers.

We actually had it written into our pay grading that we couldn't ascend above a particular grade unless we managed at least 2 people. I was way more productive as an engineer than a manager. By the time I got to that point, I was paying for more than my annual salary just by dint of having written software replacing stuff with expensive annual license fees. If I'd had a clause in my contract that said for every piece of commercial software I removed the need to pay for, I get a 10% cut of the licenses that would have been paid out, I'd have been laughing.

Instead, whoever was managing me on that project probably got the credit.

Comment: Re: The good news is... (Score 3, Interesting) 210

> The problem isn't the managers, it's the cats.

If you're a manager that thinks like that, you're a shitty manager (which according to the above, is the norm).

The process of software development isn't a factory process, despite all the attempts to turn it into one. The qualities that make someone a good software developer does mean that they are more like cats - they've had engage in self-directed learning about their chosen field for most of their career, because it's continually refreshed. It's literally so new, that the gap between those writing the book, forging new tech, and those reading it, learning the new tech, is usually measured in months. This leads to an independent mindset. They are not pack animals. If you want good work, you need to learn to manage this kind of people.

The alternative is what we see in Indian outsourcing outfits. The reason Indian shops are so prized for outsourcing isn't their exemplary skill, it's the Indian culture of deference and respect - which means they are obedient, and toe the line, and work hard on what you told them to work on. They're not cats, they're dogs.

Managers love this because it seems like they are getting exactly what they wanted.

Alas, it means they are getting exactly what they wanted - and the Peter Principle reminds us that this is the wrong thing, because they are not competent to decide this, which means they are spending a lot of money on developing the wrong solution.

Comment: Re:Any wage? (Score 1) 630

by Dr_Barnowl (#49584645) Attached to: Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers

not a fair market rate

The market has nothing to do with fair! It's supply and demand! Applying moral considerations to pricing would be communism!

More seriously, what makes 60 hours a week of labour from a nurse less valuable than 40 hours from a CEO? Nothing. To the people they care for, their labour is far more valuable. They'd rather have the nurse, than the CEO, who probably won't change a bedpan and has no sympathy for someone who can't get out of bed on their own. The only thing that differs is the CEO has the ability to control what he is paid.

We're all part of a vast enterprise that uses the resources of the Earth to sustain the human race. A fair rate would be for us all to get enough to live on comfortably.

Comment: Re:Go Linux! (Score 1) 137

Running things without support agreements brings managers out in hives, particularly an arena as risk-averse as a health service.

Something you paid for fucks up? It's the supplier's fault.

Something you didn't pay for fucks up? It's YOUR fault.

Therefore there's no real advantage, from the POV of licensing costs.

The real reason they've not migrated from WinXP has to be considered. The NHS is a mire of vast depth full of crufty software. They have so many pieces of old software it's not true. It's really diverse environment, with a high "institutional knowledge" factor where many systems just aren't adequately documented outside the heads of those who implement them.

Ironically, some of the oldest stuff is the easiest to migrate - because it's got a VT-100 terminal interface and runs on an AS/400 in a broom cupboard. You could even say that Linux would be it's natural environment, because any standard terminal will work.

But the next level...

You have :-

* 16-bit applications

I know of at least one hospital pharmacy management system still in use in the UK that's a 16-bit application. You can run it on 32-bit Windows, but not 64-bit, because it doesn't come with the 32-to-16-bit thunking layer.

* Old device drivers

There are plenty of devices with no drivers for Windows 7 and up.

* Badly written applications

Lots of programs on Windows got away with really bad habits like writing files in their own install folder for a long time. Windows 7 is somewhat stricter about this. Of course, on Linux, applications have mostly been grown up about this for some time.

And of course

* What if it breaks?

It's actually a very real risk. A lot of the software used in the NHS is of distinctly amateur quality and do things in eccentric and old-fashioned ways. I've seen software broken just because someone upgraded it's file server from NT to 2000 - it didn't play nice with some of the new optimizations on SMB (SMB optimizes single-user access to files by pre-emptively write-locking the file on the server. Which is not what you want when it's actually a multi-user data store.)

It's gone this way for as long as it has because like everything else in the NHS, the budget has been cut to the bone. There just isn't enough slack to institute change - but change is essential for improvement to occur.

It should be the poster-child for the advantages of FOSS though. Linux software tends to be more portable, and if you have the source, you've got more chance of porting it.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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