Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Ian Huntley

I read today that Ian Huntley is suing the prison service for £100,000 damages as a result of the attack on him whilst in prison. He is also claiming from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The prison service said today it was ‘vigorously defending’ the claim. Nevertheless the whole exercise, whatever the result, could cost in the order of £1,000,000 plus in terms of lawyers and court costs.

It is time prisoners were charged for their board and lodging, and in his case protection,  This would be paid out of any earning or other income they get whilst in prison. For those for whom "Life means Life", all their assets should be confiscated as they clearly will never have a need for them.

This would put a stop to such madness!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wikileaks and Garry McKinnon.

Each time Garry McKinnon is mentioned in the press, I wonder how it was that he was able to hack into the US Defence Computers, and why so much fuss is being made over something which, whilst illegal, scarcely did any significant harm. I have always felt that there was more to this "than meets the eye".
Today, we have the news that someone has leaked some 90,000 US military documents to Wikileaks covering events in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2009.

Now, if I'd had responsibility for computer security at the time of the Garry McKinnon incident, my main priority would not have been chasing the criminal but asking "Why on earth are our security systems so bad that someone with an ordinary home computer could conduct a sustained hacking exercise which took place over fourteen months and involving 96 computers in five US government departments, and which we only knew about because he left messages behind?". My next question would have been "If someone like this can hack into our computers, who else, with far superior resources, has also hacked into our computers but kept quiet about it?".

Today's news proves that nothing has changed. US government computer security seems as lax a ever and it would seem that nothing on their computers is secure from a determined hacker. Most developed countries have their own equivalents of our GCHQ with resources which are far superior to those used by Garry McKinnon, and there is no doubt in my mind that some of these countries will also have been accessing US government computers - why shouldn't they, Russia, China, Israel and many others would consider this to be a normal intelligence activity.

Which brings me back to my original thoughts - The fuss over Garry McKinnon and his extradition wasn't so much to punish him, but more of the nature of a smoke-screen to distract the media from asking questions as to how it happened, and protecting the individuals responsible for security.

If David Cameron wants to get one up on Obama over the recent treatment of the UK, he should issue a warning (albeit tongue in cheek) to all our government departments that they should be wary about sharing secrets with the US until GCHQ is satisfied with the security of the American government computer systems!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

New Identity for Jon Venables

According to today's Daily Telegraph,  The Ministry of Justice now accepts that Jon Venables will have to be given another new identity when he comes out of prison. This will apparently cost £250,000, with close supervision from Probation Officers costing another £1 million per year.

Why. Why, should the taxpayers have to fork out this sum which is far more than it would cost to keep him in prison?

Now, I am not one of those people who believe that children under a certain age don't know what they are doing. My 18 month old grandson certainly knows right from wrong within his environment, and personally, I cannot understand how any 10 year old brought up in the UK with exposure to television and the media, doesn't know that killing is wrong.

Nevertheless, I was prepared to accept the prevailing view that he perhaps wasn't aware of the seriousness of his crime, that rehabilitation was an appropriate course of action and that in due course he would have to be released and given a new identity.
However, he is now an adult, for whom the claim was presumably made that he had been rehabilitated, but notwithstanding this, he has committed further serious crimes. It is surely impossible to claim this time that he was not aware of what he was doing, and this being so, he should be forced to accept the consequences of his actions..

On this basis, why on earth should he be provided with another new identity at such enormous cost? I'm all for giving someone a second chance, but he's had his and I don't think there is any way we should pay for a third chance. If he feels that he will be unsafe out of prison, he should be given the option of staying in, which will cost considerably less than the probation costs of £1 million a year. It is his fault, and no-one else's that he is in his present predicament, so why should we pay?

And if you want to know why I don't believe in rehabilitation in this country, you should read some of Winston Smith's blogs. The most recent shows, to me, that if you are unable to apply any sanctions or punishment, it impossible to bring any discipline or order into the lives of those in care.  If Venables was "rehabilitated" in a similar manner, I'm not surprised at what happened.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Highly Paid Women

According to today's news, a third of women are earning more than  their men and are the main breadwinners.
Bearing in mind that a large number of women don't work (or only have part time jobs) because they prefer to stay at home and look after their family, it would seem that there are probably now equal numbers of men and women who are earning more than the partners.

Harriet, you are superfluous, we have equality !

Shock, Horror - Police Hours

The Headlines today "Shock, Horror, 'Just one in ten police out on patrol' ".

Frankly, I'm not surprised. As an engineer, I worked for ten years in an environment which required 24 hour a day cover, 7 days a week, every week.
Now, it is a straightforward fact that there are 168 hours in a week, something that seems to escape the notice of those who work normal office hours. My contract (which was designed for office workers) required me to attend for 40 hours each week, but I was allowed an hour each day as a lunch break, resulting in a net 35 hours work.

I don't know how many hours police officers are required to work, but I would assume that it would be somewhat similar. Thus to provide full cover in order to have one policeman available at any time, you will need five officers rostered throughout the week providing 175 hours of cover. This gives a slack of just seven hours to provide for overlap on shift changes. Nor does this figure allow for the absence of any officer on leave, sick-leave, training courses or attending court which probably increases the cover required by the equivalent of another person. So effectively six out of the ten policeman are required just to provide one on patrol at any one time.

"Police often work 12 hour shifts and have to be given rest days to make up for it". This of course is a form of jealousy which all shift workers experience, but if the full number of hours are being worked, what's the problem? For years, I worked nominal 12 hour shifts (often longer), with the result that I did an average of only three shifts a week over a five wek cycle. Allowing for nights and weekends, one frequently heard the comment from a day worker, "I haven't seen you for weeks, been on holiday?" Then some Admin type would decide to hold a meeting on one of your rest days and wondered why you complained. When I tried to arrange a training meeting for a Sunday, the cries of horror from the office workers were well worth hearing!

Yes, I have many complaints about the police, mainly with regards to their priorities, but only getting such an apparently low number on patrol is not one of them.

Tree Rats and the RSPCA

The Daily Mail reports that a man has just been fined £1500 for drowning a squirrel. HERE.
The ludicrous thing is that a fine of this magnitude is rarely handed out by magistrates courts for what most of us would consider serious crimes, clearly hurting a squirrel is far more serious than hurting one of your fellow beings. 
The prosecution was brought by the RSPCA who warned that "that many common methods of killing grey squirrels and other pests could now fall foul of the law, and said the only humane way to dispatch them would be to take them to a vet for a lethal injection - at a cost of up to £70."
Clearly, the RSPCA has now become an Animal Right Organisation, rather than  an animal protection organisation, and it is apparently is more interested in publicity than genuinely protecting animals. Grey squirrels are a pest, but it seems that we are not now permitted to kill pests unless it is done in such a manner that the animal might suffer in the course of its death.
What about rats? I've used a standard bait feeder with warfarin laced corn on and off for a number of years now; does this cause suffering to rats and are the RSPCA going to start prosecuting people who do this?
I wonder if this is what the people who put money in their collecting boxes really expect? Certainly they won't be getting a penny more out of me.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Australian General Election

I read that the new Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has decided to call a general election, having taken over from Kevin Rudd following a coup within the Australian Labour Party.
At least the Australians are getting a say, unlike this country under Brown.
I think there is a lot to be learnt from some of our ex-colonies as far a democracy is concerned, Australia, New Zealand and of course the United States!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Computers (and Microsoft) are driving me mad!

A few years ago, soon after Vista was released, there were suggestions in various blogs, etc, that one of the monthly updates to Windows XP was deliberately designed to cause it to slow down in order to make Vista appear to be faster. I never saw any evidence to support these suggestions, and put them down as yet another conspiracy theory involving Microsoft.

Now this house has three computers, two desktops and a lap top. They are all of different ages and all use Windows XP. Over the past few weeks, all three have all have developed problems. In the case of Mrs EP's desktop this resulted in me having to start from scratch and then re-loading Windows and all the other software.
Now my desktop looks as if it will require the same treatment!

As Windows 7 is now being pushed and XP is no longer being supported it is easy to see how these conspiracy theories can develop, particularly if, like me, you don't tend to believe in co-incidences. Why should all three computers develop software problems at about the same time?

I need a new and faster computer as lately I have got into video editing and my present machine takes all night to process the video to produce a DVD. However, whilst there are quite a few computers to choose from at acceptable prices, it seems that much of my software will need upgrading, the cost of which could be several times that of the computer. My video editing software is stated by Roxio to be a "legacy version" and needs to be upgraded, whilst my Microsoft Office 2000 apparently won't run with Windows 7. Now I am perfectly happy with both items of software, certainly Office 2000 does everything that I need, so why should I pay out for extras that I don't want? In addition, as I have previously blogged, I will need to replace my iPAQ PDA as Active Sync and Outlook apparently are incompatible with Windows 7.

If I do buy a new computer, it looks as if I will be moving to Open Office, after all it's free and certainly seems to do everything that I need, except that it does not have an equivalent of Publisher. Hopefully there will be something free out there!

One thing that I have learnt. When I get a new computer, the first thing that I will do once I have set it up and loaded my software, is to get a spare hard drive and make a clone or an image of the one in the computer. At least then, if something goes wrong I won't have to re-load all the software and settings from scratch.

"In your own words, please"

A friend of mine was a witness to a serious road accident recently in which a couple of pedestrians were hurt. In due course he went to make a formal statement “In your own words please”.
All went well until he got around to the matter of one of the drivers, when he said words to the effect that “the driver was wearing a loose fitting black cloth face mask in which was a small letter-box shaped slot, and which in my view severely restricted the driver’s peripheral vision”.
The response was “You mean a Niqab”.
My friend being very precise (annoyingly precise at times) responded, “No, I mean exactly what I said, and the word Niqab is not one of my own words”.
The difficult statement continued with him insisting on referring to “the driver” not “she” on the grounds that he was unaware of the person’s sex.
He continued by saying that the driver locked the doors of the car and refused to come out whilst conducting a long conversation on a mobile phone, even after the police arrived. In due course, a bearded man arrived which my friend described as “wearing a long white garment which resembled my grandfather’s nightgown and conducted a conversation with the driver in a foreign language”.
You can take it that the politically correct police were far from happy!

My friend has now received a witness summons for the magistrates’ court. It could be quite interesting.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Police Numbers

I like to read on-line newspapers from around the world, as the UK coverage of foreign news in my view is abysmal.
Today, reading the Melbourne Age, I noticed that Victoria, a state of around 5 million people, is recruiting an additional 1700 police officers over the next few years. Here
A somewhat different approach compared with that of our government!
I wonder how many of our UK police officers are likely to apply

Kenneth Clarke and P.R.

Kenneth Clarke seems to be changing my views on Proportional Representation! Not that he's said a word about it as far as I know, but because of what he is saying on crime.
Now, I have always been concerned about the fact that you can get a number of small, one issue groups as a result of PR and in order to form a government, some of these invariably end up being part of the eventual coalition and can have a disproportionate influence on policy.

However, virtually every opinion poll on the subject has suggested that a majority of people in this country would like to see the return of Capital Punishment.  Those of us who were around at the time that Capital Punishment was abolished will remember that we were assured that those convicted of murder, and who would have been executed, would go to prison for life - which is why they get this fictitious "life" sentence which now means, in practice, just a few years (and less if Kenneth Clarke has his way).

Thus there would seem to me to be quite a high probability of a single issue party with the aim of restoring Capital Punishment, not only standing for election, but getting some seats under PR, particularly as the present parties are not only opposed to Capital Punishment, but it would seem opposed to any punishment whatsoever.

And bringing it back would "Kill Two Birds with one Stone" - The EU have said they would throw out any member who re-introduced Capital Punishment; another very good reason for doing so!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Raoul Moat - The Cost

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the cost of finding Raoul Moat was in the region of £4 million. One has to expect that such operations are, from time to time, totally necessary and that it is necessary for the taxpayer to bear the cost.
However, what seems totally unnecessary is all the consequential enquiries and their cost. Before the chase had hardly started, the Northumbria Police had referred themselves to the IPCC in case it was considered that they had not acted correctly in respect of the information received from Durham prison.
Then during the chase, they apparently received a 69 page rant from Moat about how he had been treated by the police and how they had ruined his life, presumably by trying to stop him from breaking the law and beating up people. As a result, it seems there will be a further enquiry to ascertain if there is any truth in this rant from a nut case.
It seems that there will also be a further enquiry as to why the police tasered  him just before he shot himself (or why they didn't, as the case may be).
These days the media and various activists seem to want enquiries into virtually everything that happens - why, what is the point? Can anyone name one recent enquiry which was worth the effort? The Hutton enquiry perhaps; the consensus seems to believe it was a cover up. What about Baby P? Well "Lessons will be learnt"!
I don't know what these enquiries cost, but they don't come cheap. If you take into account all the police time involved, the cost of lawyers, the cost of "experts" being wise after the event, as well as the disruption and inconvenience to police officers whom one can reasonably assume were doing their best, for absolutely no benefit except "Lessons to be learnt" there would seem to be far better things which could be done with the money.

A standard Coroner's Inquest should be more than enough.

If the powers that be want something to enquire into they should consider
  1. Enquiring into how Moat got two guns so quickly after coming out of prison.
  2. Enquiring into whether T/Chief Constable Sue Sim has a hairdresser, and if so how he/she remains in business.
It should cost very little to find the answer to the last question, and the answer will probably be as relevant as any the other questions likely to be asked by the enquiries

Personally, I was just wondering why on earth was an RAF Tornado involved, and where was all the fancy heat-seeking equipment we regularly see used by the police in "real" chases on TV?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Advertising Standards

I recently purchased a TomTom GPS unit from John Lewis,
I did so after searching the Web for and comparing the various makes and models which were available, and of course the prices.
 The TomTom appeared to have a good reputation, and I chose the latest model "XXL IQ Routes" after deciding that I didn't want live updates to warn me of traffic jams and re-route me if necessary, as I don't do a big enough mileage these days to justify the subscription. This was the top of the range model without this facility.
One of the features that I liked as shown on their web site was the latest map guarantee
I tried out the unit on a couple of short trips, and a few days later decided to connect it to my computer and update the maps. This was the message that came up:

(click image for larger version)

In other words, although I had complied with the requirement of downloading the updates well within 30 days of purchase, they wanted £15.90 for the update, as there had been two quarterly updates since this model came out. Not quite what their web page said! 

I complained to John Lewis (as the retailer), and without any hesitation they refunded the cost of the update, which is the reason that I usually to shop there as I have found their customer service is second to none.

I also lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, but it would appear that they can't take any action against this type of statement on a company's web site, as one has chosen to access it much in the same way as when one walks into a store an asks the salesman for information, which they also don't control..

In that most technical information about most products is now generally only available on the web, it seems that the only way of ensuring one gets what one wants is to specifically ask the salesman about every feature in which one might be interested and not to be fobbed off with "have a look at the manufacturer's web site".

Full marks for John Lewis; Zero for the ASA.

And the moral?

Don't believe a word that you read on a manufacturer's web site!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

I need a new PDA!

For quite a few years now I have relied upon my HP iPAQ to store my appointments, addresses, phone numbers, etc, along with the occasional photograph which I might want to show friends.

However, I'm thinking of a new computer, and Windows 7 doesn't come with Outlook and apparently cannot be synchronised with the iPAQ for lack of drivers. The iPAQ is also getting old, needs a new battery and probably won't last much longer, so I need to think of something new.

My daughter suggests that I should get a mobile phone which will have these facilities, but apart from anything else, they have rather small screens for tired old eyes. She argues that I should have a mobile phone, that at my age I could have a mishap at any time and might need to call for help. I'm still not sure whether she is worried about my tripping over when I go for a stroll through the local woods or whether she's casting aspersions on my driving! Having a camera phone could possibly be useful on occasions, carrying an SLR is not quite the thing for my daily stroll.

So, like all good engineers, I have come up with an operational requirement for the new device.

1. PAYG phone (preferably on O2) and ability to send texts (no e-mail or internet required!)
2. Facility to record appointments for myself and Mrs EP for the next year.
3. Facility to store list of names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays etc.
4. Facility to store a few photos.
5. Simple camera.
6. Largish Colour screen.

How does one make a choice, there seem to be so many devices available, most of which have too many facilities that I don't need!

I'd welcome any sensible ideas