Monday, 27 October 2008

Spot the obvious mistake here

I really love working in IT, I really do.... however every now and again you get to hear about something which simply boggles your mind...mainly because of the utter stupidity of it....

The company I work for (for now) which shall remain nameless, but suffice to say they have 80,000 staff worldwide, so that narrows things down a bit..... anyway needless to say they decided due to security concerns about laptops going missing and being stolen that they would roll out volume encryption on EVERY laptop over their software update service "Radia"....

The plan was to email the users who's laptops would be encrypted with their passwords in order that they could get back into their trusty laptops ..... (before they rebooted their laptop) ..... however the fatal part of this plan is that you are relying on somebody to read an MIS announcement via email, most of which are usually along the lines of....

"such and such a service/server will be offline between the hours of blah blah"

apparently nobody read the email .....

you know what's coming here don't you ?

Yup..... you guessed it in one fair swoop the MIS team have knocked out the entire stock of laptops for the entire company, oh how I laughed at that one... still am in fact.... :)

someone's head will roll for this gem, of that I'm sure

it's tantamount to sawing off the branch you are sitting on in a very Homer Simpson kind of way....

Thursday, 23 October 2008

it's Freya's 1st Birthday today :)

She had a load of cards sent to her, and we bought her a pink blow up jeep ball pool and a few other things that she is going to open this evening when everybody turns up to wish her a happy birthday, I thought that she wouldn't pay the blow up jeep much attention, but no I was wrong, she squealed with delight and couldn't wait to get into it.... I can see it now .....balls everywhere ;¬)

Andrea made the cake and iced it, we thought of doing the time honoured figure 1 but we decided to be different for once :¬) I think she did rather a good job of it (and it's triple deckered !!! ) unfortunately Andrea has never really mastered my Nikon camera, it does have an idiot mode but even she manages to mess that up, so my apologies for the slightly blurred picture.

We are having a little celebration tonight nothing special just friends and family around, although my parents can't make it because my mother has recently come out of hospital and my dad had his cataract operation on Monday so driving is out of the question, and to be honest there wouldn't be much point in picking them up considering they have both been in the wars recently, we'll leave it till next weekend and take Freya down to see them, they really enjoy seeing her..... but there you go that's what grandparents are for to enjoy their grandchildren to the max.....

Anyway I must get on, I've got a bit of tidying to do in between trawling for jobs....

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The CSA is to become CMEC

Some will say "at last!" but I have a sneaking suspicion that we are heading for another government induced monumental cock up in the making .... yet again

The independent (pah) report condemns the CSA and it's practice of targeting "soft targets" or basically NRP's (non resident parents) that it knows will pay up and leaving the more difficult NRP's who still to this day evade paying child maintenance...

I've got to say I have mixed feelings about this latest overhaul to the child maintenance fiasco, they say CMEC (Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission) will be fairer to NRP's and take into consideration their financial circumstances, which the current CSA do not, they just see a net salary and apply a very simplistic formulae to it and come up with a monthly amount to pay, which seems a bit bizarre really, because if you earn say £100,000 a year (net) and have two children, under the current CSA rules, you can kiss goodbye to £20,000 of that towards bringing up your children in maintenance payments, which seems a little steep to me... and this is the madness of the current child support laws, some families live on £20,000 a year salary, so if I suddenly get a job which pays £100,000 (I wish...although it's not impossible because some contract work pays above that......) my ex WOULD be entitled to 20 grand a year gratis !!! .... how mad is that ? (she has never earned that much in her lifetime, let alone a year!!) they did cap the maximum amount of child maintenance so theoretically the ceiling is £24,000 a year, (fabulous) now if the NRP and PWC were still together that would be taxable income, but it's not taken into consideration !!!

but things are going to get a whole lot worse for NRP's the newly established CMEC will calculate child maintenance not on your net pay but your gross pay, they have decreased the percentage for each child, (gee thanks) percentage rates will be set at 12% for one child 16% for two children and 19% for three or more children. On paper that sound marvelous.... but no... do the maths

very simplistically, an NRP earning £100,000 under the old system would be paying 40% tax which would leave him with £60,000 net (approx) of that net salary, 20% would be deducted by the CSA for child maintenance landing him with an annual bill of £12,000

but under the new CMEC system the NRP will be assessed on his gross salary of £100,000 before tax, so his annual bill will rise to £16,000, a rise of £4000 so much for the apparent percentage drop in maintenance, I don't know about you, but do you get the impression NRP's are seen as purely cash dispensers here ? and what is more any maintenance that is paid to the PWC (parent with care) they will no longer have the equivalent deducted from any government benefits they may be on. The injustice this causes is unbelievable and it causes a lot of animosity especially when the NRP's second family is made to suffer financially propping up the welfare state like this.

so the key elements of the shiny new CMEC are :-

• Remove the compulsory element for parents with care claiming a prescribed benefit to use CSA services for child support arrangements. Parents with care will be free to make private arrangements with the non resident parent and will no longer suffer a reduction in benefit.
• Oversee an administration process in which parents can register their own private arrangements for child support.
• Provide extensive information, guidance and support to parents to fully inform them of the options available to them.
• Increase the maintenance disregard. Currently parents with care (on the new rules system) receive the first £10 of any maintenance paid. Legislation will extend these rules to encompass old rules PWCs to benefit from the £10 disregard. By 2011 this disregard is proposed to be substantially increased.
• CMEC will operate on the percentage based scheme as seen in CS2 rules but income of the NRP will be taken from the latest available tax information.

• Child maintenance will be calculated on the gross income of the NRP.
(lets squeeze some more cash out of the NRP's they aren't paying enough !!)

• Percentage rates will be set at 12% for one child 16% for two children and 19% for three or more children.
• Increase the capping of income from £2000 pw to £3000 pw
• One year fixed term payment schedules will be imposed, with variations to maintenance payable allowed only if a minimum 25% change of income is reported.
• Increase current flat rate amounts from £5 pw to £7 pw
• Using Deduction from Earnings Orders as a first method of collecting maintenance payments. This will allow CMEC to take the maintenance directly from the wages of the non resident parent.

• Remove the need to take non resident parents to court before pursuing a debt. Currently a liability order has to be granted by the courts before recovery action can be taken. CMEC will introduce an administrative process to replace the court based liability order process.

(So now NRP's have had the ability to defend themselves in court taken away from them, and are guilty until proven innocent, because the CSA NEVER made ANY mistakes .... did they ?)

• Extend avenues available to secure information on non resident parents.
(in other words, they can look at anything, held by any organisation about you, whatever happened to the data protection act ?)

• Outsource debt collection to Debt Collection Agencies who will have extended powers of entry.
(Bailiffs who can break into your house, ignoring the normal guidelines governing entry by bailiffs, in other words, AND costing the tax payer more in the long run)

Other proposals under consideration are:
• Introduce powers to confiscate passports, driving licences, introduce curfews, and tagging of non paying non resident parents.
• Introduce a “name and shame” program, making public the details of non resident parents who have failed to pay maintenance. Further consultation is in place for this particular proposal.
• Introduce a charging regime for the use of CMEC services.
• Shared care arrangements to remain as that in CS2, but with the provision to allow an interim decision on presumed shared care arrangements until the matter has been confirmed.
• Consideration and further consultation is being given to make joint birth registration compulsory.

I suppose the only real light about this new CMEC is that they are deciding whether there should be a connection between maintenance payments and contact, I wonder how many current CSA cases would be dropped like a hot brick if the PWC was forced to provide contact with the NRP ? it would certainly weed out the PWC's who were simply being vindictive and using the CSA/CMEC as a method of punishing the NRP simply because they can under the current law.

I have to say my experience of the CSA is a mindless juggernaut, where nobody there knows what is going on for months, and in some cases years, then suddenly they land you with a massive bill with very little explanation, and it doesn't instil much confidence when they have admitted using scare tactics on NRP's saying they owe thousands of pounds when they actually don't, but when it comes to a judgement they stick to their original figure and it goes undisputed, because nobody is ever accountable at the CSA, they don't even use their real names just pseudonyms....

No.... I have a feeling "CSA3 The final insult" will be a sequel too far ... millions more will be poured into the CSA money toilet, more new IT systems that don't work, more ill trained staff....... and millions more NRP's will buckle under the financial strain.... I think we are in for a rough ride.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

You've got to laugh...... or you'll cry.....

About three months ago our broadband connection decided to drop from 2.8Mbs to a pedestrian 1.2Mbs, so after leaving it for a month or so in the hope that it would improve, actually that's not true....I was dreading the idea of ringing up Gupta (BT) broadband helpdesk in India and being made to do things with my BT Home hub that even a chimpanzee would get bored doing over and over again, it is pretty frustrating really considering I could run rings around their help desk technically and I've forgotten more about computers and ADSL and DSLAM units than they've ever been taught, but that's another story....

In total I complained FIVE times before they admitted that they would need to send around an engineer but they did warn me that if the fault was in our house I would be charged accordingly....blah....blah....blah....I categorically told them that the fault wasn't in our house, laughingly at first they wanted to send around an "Accelerator" Engineer at £95 an hour, who would "tweak" our computers for maximum smoke regarding the broadband.... I said "first off I'm not paying £95 for some monkey sorry "accelerator" engineer, to come around with a CD or USB stick to run a few programs which optimise the TCP/IP stack on my computers.... it's already been done, they are tuned for maximum smoke already".... I think at this point Mrs Gupta was detecting a rather sarcastic tone in my voice and promptly hung up...."nice" I thought followed by "RIGHT!!!".... you have to understand that I had been in contact with them FIVE times previously and they had done NADA, ZILCH... ZIP... my blood was already boiling ....

I composed a withering catalogue of their ineptitude, and fired it off, it must have worked because less then two minutes after sending it the phone rang with a very apologetic Mr Gupta who immediately arranged for an engineer to come around, well I say immediately it was the next day... but good enough for me :)

next day the engineer arrived he wasn't from this area he usually covered Swansea, so had no history of the area, I took him through the fault, "hmmmmmmm to be honest at 5.2km from the exchange 1Mbit seems pretty reasonable"

to which I replied "reasonable it might be, but we used to get 2.8Mbs !!" I detected that he thought I might be trying to pull the wool over his eyes, but fortunately I had some screen caps I had taken of the connection page of the BTHomehub some time ago and showed them to him...."Hmmmmm yes you did didn't you, this is very strange, we usually make it go faster not slower"

so off he went pulling at wires and exchanges by the end of his allotted two hours to sort the problem, he had obviously sorted it out....erm no he didn't

we were now 300Kbs slower then when he started, "Fan-bloody-tastic!" I thought,.....I was just about to ring up Mr Gupta when the phone rang with a jubilant Mr Gupta thanking me for my patience on this matter and that he hoped that now the speed was back up to normal everything would be OK in my world...

I stopped him dead in his tracks so as not to waste his gushing apologies, should he need to use them on some other BT Broadband customer, I had to stifle a laugh when I explained that the speed had actually dropped by 300Kbs since the engineer had done his thing..... which was followed by a long pause then....... "oh deary me" in full "it ain't half hot mum" style (for those of you that remember that far back) ;¬)

so he arranged for another shinier engineer to turn up and that happened today at 10am, he was very polite said he would look into the problem then after about an hour and a half he rang back saying he had done a "swap and lift" whatever the hell that is, but apparently he said the DSLAM unit was faulty so he replaced it and that everything should be ok now.....

Wronggggggggg.... the BTHomehub was now connecting at an even lower speed than the previous pedestrian speed it had dropped down to a blistering 700 KBs.....

"Oh" he said "I'll have to arrange for another engineer to come out"..... "What a shock!" I thought...

So all I'm waiting for now is the triumphant call from Mr Gupta stating how wonderful BT Broadband is..... again

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A short post ..... Freya claps :)

Just thought I would share this.... ignore the high pitched gimp in the background that was me attempting to get Freya to clap... it seemed to work ;¬)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

And my special power is ........

Man Flu

I'm not sure where I picked it up from, but we've all had it so I suspect one of the kids dragged it back from school, seeing as they haven't long gone back to school, I progressively felt worse over the days until I couldn't bare the thought of going to work one morning and sitting in front of my desk suffering, it's not fair on the other members of the team either, last thing they want is to be struck down with it.

I've had my provisional redundancy notice from the HR department, which basically means the axe is above my head and they are just lining up the blade on the back of my neck, most of the responsibilities of LAN support have now gone across to India, so there is very little to be done at work, so I don't feel so bad taking time off sick. I'm still looking on a daily basis for new employment but thus far nothing has turned up.

That's the problem with living in such a rural area the jobs are few and far between, if push comes to shove then I'll just have to find "something" to pay the rent and keep food in our mouths, either way it's a pretty worrying time but there isn't a lot I can do about it, except what I'm doing already, I suppose the only good thing is that the CSA won't be able to take one third of my my wages any more, which has hit us very hard I have to admit and looking at the pay for more local jobs when I do get a new job they won't be able to take anything from me then either because I'll fall under their radar.... life could be a lot worse, but despite all the doom and gloom, we are still very happy..... :)

One thing for certain, if I had a nemesis, which I don't, I wouldn't wish the CSA on them one little bit.....because once they have their hooks in you and there are many, you can't get them out..... they are a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger as the "Terminator" , they never stop, they never rest and they NEVER leave you alone until they have successfully turned you upside down and emptied all of your pockets of all of your hard earned cash..... and once they have you in their sights there is no escape, you could hide at the very the top of Snowdon or Ben Nevis or the darkest deepest cave or even hide in some croft in a remote Scottish glen, they will find you and once they do....... the meter starts ticking and you know that because they also take great delight in sending you many, many letters saying "Kerchinnnnng" "Kerchinnnng" on an almost daily basis......In fact the ONLY way to escape them is to die.... hmmm maybe Arnie would be the better option ;¬) mind you I joke but there have been quite a few suicides relating to the CSA and that is no laughing matter ......

Anyway enough of this depressing talk :) ....... Freya has started on the slippery slope towards walking, she stood the other day unaided for quite some time then took her first faltering step, it's a joy to see and she is such a happy little girl, full of smiles and giggles, she never fails to brighten up my day no matter how unpleasant a It might have been. We are so lucky with her, she sleeps through, is no bother at all, all you could want in a baby really :)

Anyway I'm off now to watch "Heroes" with the rest of the tribe :)