Archive for the ‘Legal and Political’ Category


/ˈtəːmɔɪl/ – A state of confusion, disturbance or uncertainty. A very apt word, not for the word games I was playing over the holidays, but for everything else that’s going on around us. Facing in one direction I find my British cousins, friends, co-workers, or at least neighbours, convulsed in the throes of Brexit. The consequences of this poorly formulated plan to extract the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union project are vague at best and potentially disastrous at worst, and it seems that no matter what happens, roughly half of the UK citizens who express opinions on the matter will be disappointed. It’s an unhappy state of affairs, and not likely to get [click title to read more…]

Looking back

Everyone is busy predicting what’s going to happen in 2017. So, while the eternally optimistic are having their annual conflab with the doom-and-gloom tribe, I’ve just had a peek over my shoulder to remind myself of what’s just gone.

January saw both Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan shrug off their mortal coils, while scientists finally completed row 7 of the periodic table of elements (and thus one of my favourite temporary names, ununpentium, is no more). The departure of Irish stars continued in February with Frank Kelly (feck!) and we had another General Election, which was inconclusive and resulted in weeks of negotiations before a government was formed. We also had LIGO’s announcement of the first observation of gravitation waves! [click title to read more…]


As a computer scientist, I believe myself to be somewhat competent in the ability to understand complexity, but today I was totally stumped by a communication from my bank. At first it appeared to be offering some clarity regarding a certain ordinary banking process, but quickly descended into total gibberish. I reproduce it here as a perfect example of non-communication:

Important SEPA notice for Direct Debit payers If you make regular payments to your credit card account by Direct Debit but make an additional payment before the scheduled payment date, please note: we will reduce your next Direct Debit payment by an amount equal to that additional payment IF we receive it by the [click title to read more…]


Anyone familiar with the work of Claude Shannon, his contemporaries and successors will have a good sense of the difference between data and information, but in today’s hectic world of real-time system telemetry, Web statistics and service metrics there is a palpable blurring of the two. I marvel at how some people believe that increasing the volume of measurements or the frequency of sampling is going to provide them with the information they crave. In reality, they are getting more and more data, but not a whole lot of information. We say “here are the figures you requested” and they ask “but what do they tell us?” And there is the essence of the problem: we get more data but [click title to read more…]

25 years later

December already? Seems I’ve been collecting a lot of stuff in the background but haven’t dropped anything into the public domain in a long time. When Steven Pemberton told me many years ago that everyone should have a Web site, I completely agreed. Of course, he neglected to emphasise the responsibility involved. It’s no wonder that most people are Web readers rather than Web writers.

Well, not exactly “most” people, because it turns out that in fact most people don’t use the Web at all. In recent days, Tim Berners-Lee mentioned this fact (saying 60% are non-users, though not citing his source) while recalling that the memo that started the Web juggernaut was written by him 25 years ago (in [click title to read more…]