Friday, 27 April 2007

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A day's work versus A day on the beach

I can't in all honesty say that the French elections would usually hold much interest for me but this year is different. It is all rather reminiscent of the 1980's and Margaret Thatcher. Are the French prepared to vote for a day's work or would they rather have a day at the beach? It looks like they are going to vote for a day's work. Which brings me back to the 1980's. Many people in the UK have either forgotten the way things used to be here or are too young to remember. When I was a child growing up in the 1970's barely a week seemed to go by without some part of the state going on strike and in those days the state owned rather a lot of the economy - electricity, gas, phones, water, British Airways, British Rail, London Transport etc. And strikes caused real inconvenience and in some cases outright hardship. I can recall many evenings spent doing homework by candlelight and some days at school with no heating in midwinter - now, of course, the teachers would refuse to work and everyone would go home. We clearly were all made of sterner stuff. And Maggie tapped into that. When faced with over mighty unions and restrictions on their earning powers, most people find they actually want to work and think it should be left to them to decide how much.

When listening to French people talk about the choices facing them, the language they use is very similar to the language of the 80's and a million miles from the language of David Cameron. But that's as it should be. The French are facing the decline that we faced thirty years ago while we face a completely different set of problems - many of them the result of the successes of the Thatcherite revolution and Britain's historic unwillingness (at least since the Victorians) to invest in infrastructure.

I personally would vote for Sarkozy but then I'm one of Thatcher's children.

Friday, 20 April 2007

An American takeover of football?

What has been going on in the Arsenal boardroom?

There seems to be much talk that a takeover is now inevitable but i would think that if the board remain opposed to Kronke taking over the club then it will be next to impossible for him to succeed. I'm not sure what the rules are on the Exchange which Arsenal Holdings trade on but usually the board is quite within its powers to reject takeover attempts. Given that the board members own 45% of the company they aren't going to be easily bullied into submission.

I'd like to know what's happened between Kronke and the board for all this to come about. Did he think he could just turn up and they'd gratefully hand the club over to him as seems to have happened at Liverpool?

On the wider issue, I think it is a concern that so many Americans, who have no history in football, are buying up Premier League clubs. I also wonder if they are even aware that we run a relegation system and that their valuable assets could become next to worthless after one bad season. I can see a time when they decide that they haven't spent the best part of a billion dollars on a football team to see it relegated and try to get the system scrapped. These people haven't come into football to blow their fortunes like Abramovich. I'm also very suspicious that the people circling our football clubs are all part of the closed shop that is American sporting franchises and I don't think they are doing it for our benefit or the good of the game.

I'd also like to say that I don't think having people like Abramovich blowing their fortunes on football is good for the game either. It completely distorts it, raises players wages at the expense of fans across the country - and increasingly across the globe - and reduces the competitiveness of the league. The Arsenal/Man U duopoly for a decade had become stale, although they both played great football, and Chelsea were initially a breath of fresh air. Now, it has got somewhat stale with their dull, forceful game a complete turn off and their hundreds of millions used to block other clubs making key purchases by forcing up player prices.

For the long term good of the game, clubs need to be run on a sound financial footing and this has always been one of Arsenal's great strengths. Moving to the Emirates stadium was supposed to take us to the next level enabling us to compete with the likes of Man U, Real Madrid and Barcelona on a sound footing. This, to my mind, is the basis for long term success. There will always be periods when we are slightly off the pace, like much of the 80's, but it only takes a good manager to get us to the point of winning things again. The same is true of Man U and Liverpool. The danger of the drive for short term success is that you mortgage your future and if it goes wrong, as happened at Leeds Utd, you face extinction. If Abramovich left Chelsea, what would happen? I doubt the club's finances can support the wage structure, so there would be a fire sale of players and a paying off of contracts that might well bankrupt the club. I don't want that at Arsenal. I want a sound financial footing which will see us being successful throughout the 21st Century. Keep the Sugerdaddies out.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

The End of the Road & Start of the Season

Pathetic! Our national sporting teams seem to be in a low spot at the moment and I think the cricketers must be looking forward to getting home after a very long winter away. Even six weeks in the Caribbean must be wearing thin for them now. Back to County cricket and home life.

I have to admit, I love county cricket and that probably makes me a member of a very small and select group. I lived in St johns Wood and was able to drop in to Lords in the evening on the way home from work and also enjoyed a few long, summer afternoons there over the last couple of summers. And it has to be said, it is a lovely way to spend a sunny day. The pace of life slows and all is well with the world. Even last summer's dreadful performances by Middlesex, who play their home games at Lord's (for the uninitiated), couldn't dampen my joy at spending time in the ground. Occasionally, I venture into the Pavillion and it is a fantastic place to watch sport from. It gives a surprisingly intimate feeling of being very close to the play. Unlike the media center end which feels quite removed. And people who watch cricket are by and large, friendly, polite and interesting to talk to.

So, my Middlesex membership has been renewed, despite the baby, moving house and tube lines, and the likelihood that I won't see much cricket, because it will encourage me to take every opportunity to get out in the sun and watch some live sport. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Back Again

Well back to work and 5000 + emails which brings me to today's topic - monitoring. Why does my company's monitoring system send me, on average, 500 emails on a good day (it runs to the thousands on a bad day). I fail to see the point, or the problem, when inundated with messages.

In a completely unscientific survey, I estimate that each server incident generates 17 initial messages! What's the point of that? Consequently, most go straight in the bin and none of them touch my Inbox. If I got one notification of a problem and one for when it was fixed, my 500 emails would become around 20 which would be useful and manageable. I assume the problem is that the monitoring team haven't set up the software correctly and can't be bothered as we're about to change it all anyway.

To get round this rediculous system, most operations teams quietly run their own monitoring tools which provide what they want. From a management perspective, it's horribly fragmented, undocumented etc - all the usual IT crimes - but it keeps us going. We are at least getting involved with specifying how we want the new system set up - and vetoed the "let's turn everything on and see how many messages get sent out" approach. We're still expecting three months of drowning in email alerts.

Will the new system settle down and work? I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

What a week!

The problem with going on holiday is that you have to sort out a lot of work stuff before you go and then come back to a mountain of email, voice messages and work that no one else has picked up. My wife has a theory that you shouldn't take holidays of less than three weeks as someone absolutely has to cover your work if you're out for that long - but then she works in the public sector. Enough said.

So, it's off to the in laws for Easter and then a week of Ikea, John Lewis... and the hell of flat pack furniture.

But back to work, for a minute. It has been decided, by God knows who, that the data on our laptops needs protecting. To achieve this we're using some hideous beast called Data Armour. It took about 10+ goes at installing it before I even got to step 1 because apparently my disk was too fragmented and the Microsoft XP defragger wasn't up to the job of defragging it. Ten goes with it did the trick (and I'm not exagerating). Once the software had installed the fun really began. It rebooted the laptop and then brought up the Data Armour login prompt. I typed in the password which it refused to accept - again and again and again... Apparently you have to wait for an unspecified period of time before it lets you log in, though this wasn't mentioned in the documentation that we were sent by the desktop build deprtment. A cup of coffee later and I was able to log in... to the message that there were corrupt files in my Program Files directory. Data Armour hadn't even started it's encryption at this point which was not a good sign. I tried to fire up Outlook to find that wasn't working and was corrupted.

I could go on but it's Thursday evening and I'm now on holiday, so I won't. But it's at times like this that I understand why corporate IT has such a poor reputation within businesses. How could the manager in charge of rolling this out not take into account the cost of half a day of my working time to get a lousy piece of software working that provides me, personally, with no benefit? I appreciate that there is a benefit to the company but this gets nullified or worse if significant productivity is lost in implementing it. Still, I got off fairly lightly. One of my co-workers lost his entire drive, had to have the laptop rebuilt and all his data restored which only took a day or so. God help us when this gets rolled out to the staff at large. I'll definitely be taking that as holiday!