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Comment Re:Something's fishy (Score 1) 153

I don't really understand that sort of generalisation, though I've certainly seen it a lot lately. About 16 million people voted to remain and about 17 million to leave. That's a lot of people, the majority of the adult population of the UK, so no doubt there were some delusional extremists and some just plain nasty people in there, but I imagine most of those millions of people probably weren't like that, on either side. Certainly I've talked to plenty of people from both camps who have been reasonable and quite well informed, even if they came down on opposite sides of the debate in the end. I guess I must be living in a different country to the one I keep reading about.

Comment Re:Something's fishy (Score 1) 153

I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say there. Did you reply to the wrong comment?

My previous comment was agreeing with someone else's view that Brexit will almost certainly reduce GDP in the short and possibly medium term, and then noting that there are various ways it might work out better in the longer term but no-one really knows what will happen that far ahead. I didn't say anything about subsidies, nor express any other opinion on Brexit.

Comment Re:Hardware is so much better? (Score 2) 62

I'm afraid we might just have to agree to disagree on some of this.

Certainly you're right that modern cars are more reliable, and the better built-in diagnostics are a part of that. But the flip side is that you used to be able to buy a repair manual for any major model of car and take care of it yourself, and if you did then many popular models could last almost forever. Today it's barely possible to change a light bulb or diagnose the cause of a simple warning light in many new models without going to see your dealer, a term for the official representatives of the car manufacturers with other connotations that also seem all too appropriate these days.

As for the modern electronics you speak of, I fear you're suffering from much the same perception bias you think I have. A lot of devices made the best part of a decade ago were pretty reliable, but standards have dropped sharply even as recently as the past 5 years. My previous washing machine also lasted about a decade with a couple of minor repairs along the way. Talking to a surprisingly honest salesman when buying the new one, he said only certain prestige brands would expect that sort of longevity today, and with most of the mid-range models you'd be doing well if it was still economic to maintain them beyond 5 years. I never had a PC fail on me before being retired after many years of use until about 2010. I haven't had a single PC, at home or work, of any spec, last beyond about 3-4 years without at least one serious hardware failure since then. My previous DVD player lasted many years. My current Blu-Ray player, a relatively expensive model at purchase, is already starting to fail after maybe three years. Printers. Phones and tablets. TVs. PVRs. Headphones. Networking gear. Almost no technology is built to last these days, except perhaps for some of the high-end prestige brands, and many of the electronic devices in my home and office come with some element of built-in obsolescence that is entirely artificial, often due to legal controls on replacement parts and interoperability, or to dependencies on software or online services that aren't supported for very long.

I'm certainly not saying that everything we made yesterday was better made in every way than what we produce today, but junk that fails after what used to be considered a very short lifetime, often for entirely deliberate and artificial reasons, and with limited or no prospect of servicing or repair to restore it to use, is mostly a very modern and very unwelcome trend.

Comment Re:Something's fishy (Score 1) 153

Those predictions are certainly consistent with what the more informed people I know have been saying. In the short term, it seems almost certain that the UK economy will drop significantly in GDP terms. It's possible that this effect will continue for several years, depending on what if any post-Brexit deal with the EU gets worked out. But the worst of the doom-and-gloom predictions probably aren't realistic, because there are also areas such as those we were discussing before where the EU has been a negative influence even if it's a net benefit overall, and there are some effects like the devaluation of Sterling that may provide some cushioning effect for the economy.

In the longer term, it seems the jury's out. The UK already trades more with non-EU partners than EU ones, and trade with non-EU partners is growing faster so the gap has been widening. It will surely widen even faster in future if the remaining EU leaders follow through on their scorched earth rhetoric, though at some point it's likely that the adults will step in and prevent that. Meanwhile, the EU has serious economic problems of its own still bubbling under the surface, particularly within the Eurozone. As we've been seeing with TTIP and CETA, claims that the EU is somehow better placed to negotiate new trade deals with foreign partners than an independent UK may be exaggerated. And if the coming elections in places like France and Germany go in favour of eurosceptic/nationalist parties, which is certainly a possibility at the moment, the EU may not exist in its current form within a few years anyway.

For any of these factors to mean Brexit leaves the UK economically better off, it seems we're talking about 5-10 years at a minimum, though, unless something catastrophic happens within the EU sooner than that. And even a decade from now, if events turn the other way with the EU stabilising but wider global trade suffering for some reason, maybe Brexit will prove to be unhelpful economically even in the longer term. In reality, I doubt anyone has enough information and foresight to make useful predictions that far out.

Comment Re:Something's fishy (Score 1) 153

I run a small business, but I'm already way worse off because everything I import costs a fuck-ton more and I can't afford to just bump prices up accordingly when my larger competitors already have huge warehouses of stock and have the power of scale to have negotiated pricing agreements. All the OMG RED TAPE that supposedly comes from Brussels is a myth, and what few anti-small-business legislation exists is hardly likely to be removed by the prevent government, whose ear is deaf to all but the largest enterprises.

Just as a counterpoint, as someone who also runs small businesses, but in my case tech-based ones that import very little but export information products and services, I have almost exactly the opposite experience.

The pound had been propped up for a long time and a lot of economists were saying it was overvalued long before Brexit was on the radar. Dropping it back to a more realistic level has already caused a big boost for our sales to customers over in continental Europe and beyond. It's dropped further than the necessary correction because of Brexit, but pinning the entire drop on that is unrealistic.

As for that EU red tape, it has been a significant burden on several occasions over the past few years, from consumer "protection" rules that don't really protect anyone but have substantial compliance costs through to the whole VAT mess where the EU seems to have done exactly the opposite of what it's supposed to do by making us suddenly have to deal with 28 different systems instead of one.

EU membership has its pros and cons, but in this specific area, it's very clearly not an advantage.

Comment Hardware is so much better? (Score 2) 62

When I was a kid and turned on a BBC Micro, it was ready to use instantly. Same with the old TV I had. And I could watch anything I wanted to watch on that TV, whether it was from the aerial or the computer or the VCR. And on that VCR, I could just fast forward through any initial stuff on the tape I wanted to skip. And some of those devices worked for a decade.

Today's world of hardware that costs hundreds or thousands but fails within a few years, if it even gets that far, is not an improvement. Today's world where hardware can't be serviced or repaired is not an improvement. Today's world where it takes a minute for my PVR to show me a picture, and seconds to switch to the next TV channel, is not an improvement. Today's world where I can't watch content I've paid for on a device I've paid for, or can't run software I've paid for on a computer I've paid for, or can't listen to music from my iPhone because the headphones don't fit any more, because of artificial barriers to connectivity, is not an improvement.

Hardware got faster and bigger, but thinking that makes it better when all this other stuff is getting needlessly broken is spectacularly missing the point. And the user who buys these devices doesn't much care whether it's the hardware or the protocol on the wire between two devices or the firmware that is causing the problem. They just want the stuff they bought to do what they bought it for, and in many respects today's equipment is very much worse at that than the equipment we made a decade or two ago.

Comment Re:Sigh (Score 1) 285

Anyone can develop hardware for Windows (and until recently publish drivers with no interference from MS, that has changed and going forward Windows as a platform has and will become less open)

I think that's the kind of issue that some developers are concerned about.

Windows 10, with its automatic updates and push towards everything-as-a-service, gives Microsoft as much control of the distribution chain as it choses to claim, including retrospectively. Developing for Windows 10 is therefore no more future-proof than playing the Apple App Store approval lottery.

The development tools for Windows are increasingly falling behind other platforms as well now. You can't even run the free version of Visual Studio without logging in (seriously, WTF?) and accepting creepy phone-home possibilities in the terms of use any more.

Comment Re:"IT" is on its way out (Score 1) 272

I don't think "the cloud" really has it right yet for very small companies with just a couple of servers and "the guy who also does IT", but in time it will.

One of my businesses is not a million miles past that point today, and I think perhaps you're understating how poor cloud offerings are today for that kind of business.

Every now and then someone suggests we go cloud-hosted instead, and I read around again, trying to work out why so many people seem to love the whole cloud idea. Usually the conclusion is that it would literally add an extra zero to our infrastructure costs and dramatically increase the complexity and number of potential failure points. This is all relative to our current modest set-up, using tried-and-tested servers and networking, with a similarly modest support contract with a local IT firm who know what they're doing and, in particular, provide 24/7 monitoring and support for the key systems in case of urgent problems.

There are numerous hosting or support options today for IT functions that are big enough to need real infrastructure and technical skills but not to have dedicated in-house IT staff. I see little reason any business in that sort of position would benefit from going with heavy cloud infrastructure like AWS, unless perhaps they really do need dramatically varying resource levels at different times.

Comment Re:Lenovo and apple only? (Score 1) 310

I want to but a new PC laptop too, but it has to run Win7, because just like W8, I won't own another with shitware on it.

IIRC, Microsoft's policy on selling new PCs with Windows 7 preloaded is changing some time around now to prohibit it. Some manufacturers will supply with Windows 10 preinstalled and support downgrade rights, but it looks like that's as good as we're going to get until MS get the message.

Comment Re:Russia Playing Catch Up To Corporations (Score 1) 106

While you may be correct according to the way our system is set up, the objection a lot of people have been raising is more about whether that system is in any meaningful sense democratic at this point.

May was elected by the Conservative MPs who in turn were elected by the people.

May wasn't elected by Conservative MPs, she was appointed after everyone else dropped out of the race due to the political infighting within her party. No-one actually voted for her to be PM at any point.

Those Conservative MPs were indeed elected by the people, but only by the people who voted Conservative in the constituencies where a Conservative MP won. That is actually a rather small proportion of the overall population.

When you're several degrees of separation from the general population actually voting directly to show support for you, I think it's a stretch to claim you have a democratic mandate, even if there's no suggestion that anyone broke any law or that the result isn't what our current system properly determined.

You might as well call the President of the US a dictator because they are elected by the Electoral College rather than by the people directly.

And on the rare occasions when the person who becomes POTUS did not win a majority of the popular vote, people do criticise the Electoral College for much the same reasons. But that is relatively rare and the vote is directly for who should become President, which makes it a very different situation on at least two counts to how the British Prime Minister is selected.

It's not true that May is forcing through policies without a mandate, parliament will have to vote on any new legislation.

True, but there is a great deal of power available to the executive officers of a government even without new primary legislation to support them, and in practice our "executive branch" is controlled by the PM.

May is here to stay whether you have an election or not, get over it.

That is almost certainly true, but at the same time it is a damning indictment both of the incompetence of our current official opposition and of our system of government itself.

Comment Re:Russia Playing Catch Up To Corporations (Score 1) 106

This is an issue that I think we're going to have to address in the UK now. If you favour stronger political accountability and more democratic power then leaving the EU does remove one large layer of indirectly appointed authority that has probably been more influential in practice than the directed elected authority that came with it. I imagine that was part of the motivation for a lot of the Leave voters, even if the media do love to talk about immigration and racism a lot more. But leaving the EU is surely only a first step if that's your goal, and it will inevitably put greater emphasis on the accountability and transparency of our own national government.

Now that it's all going to be down to us, it could reignite the campaigns to reform our own national system of government as well. I wonder whether there will be renewed pressure on how our MPs are elected, because the last general election was even more disproportionate than usual in its popular-vote-to-MPs conversion. There's certainly a solid democratic argument for revisiting how the government is then formed: the coronation of a new PM and with them effectively a new government has happened twice in three Parliaments, and the middle one was a coalition whose policies were hammered out behind closed doors, so long gone are the days when the Prime Minister was merely a "first among equals" acknowledged by MPs by mutual consent and when voters were primarily choosing a constituency MP at general elections. Then we have the House of Lords, which has long been controversial.

On the one hand, I'm optimistic that whatever the pros and cons of Brexit itself, the current interest in how we are governed might lead to reviewing some of the more debatable aspects of our national system. On the other hand, the extremely controversial nature of Brexit may push some people the other way, favouring the devil they know rather than risking an uncertain future controlled by someone else. Apparently we have invoked the old saying about living in interesting times...

Comment Re:A poor craftsman blames his tools. (Score 1) 531

It seems your fundamental point about a pervasive void* in a language is that programmers should be disciplined enough to use language features correctly. I suppose it does always come down to that eventually. I just think a language could offer more than C does to help programmers achieve that. Idiomatic C code tends to use void* for other purposes as well, as a proxy for generics for example, and that shouldn't be necessary IMHO even in a systems programming language.

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