Suunto….You Muppets!

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

I may be an old hardrock miner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to keep up with a bit of technology.

suunto

It’s not like we wander around with candles on our heads pulling donkeys and carts in mines these days, our tunnels are filled with wireless networks, enough optic fibre to run a small city, and everything is run by computer. Even your average exploration driller is running around with a toughbook and can diagnose a network connection (most of them will walk off the job if they can’t access their portfolio to do a bit of day trading while the rods are spinning).

I recently had the opportunity to visit Finland to see a bloke about some mine trucks (don’t get me started on Finnair!). I’m a bit of an outdoorsy kind of person and was very excited to see the full range of Suunto GPS watches….they’re made in Finland..and bought one of their top models.

I read the instructions and was able to connect, calibrate, go for a paddle around a lake in Tampere and upload the excersise to my laptop.

Anyway, I went out to dinner that night to a charming restaurant which served a quaint little South American Pinot Noir and a wonderful Atlantic Samon with a cheeky pesto sauce. I returned to my hotel room at around 11:00pm set the alarm on my watch, plugged it into my computer to charge and went to bed.

I was a little groggy when the alarm went off and was a little suprised to find that I had slept until 1:00pm in the afternoon. I had planned to do some work and had now lost most of the day. Putting it all down to Jetlag, I thought a run would do me the world of good and clear my head. So, off I went jogging around said lake in Tampere.

Perhaps I should have realised that there was something wrong when I noticed that there was no one about. I did think that it was a little strange that the streets were deserted at 2pm in the afternoon.

I was now desperate for a coffee, but all of the coffee shops were closed. The day was overcast, but the sun up high and it wasn’t that cold, so there should have been hundreds of people in the streets and the cafes should have been busy.

I got back to my hotel room, showered and started some work. A short time later I realised it was 4:30pm. I was due to meet for dinner drinks at 4pm. When I rang my collegue and appologised for being late, he thought I must have been on drugs. The conversation went something like this;

Ring, Ring. ring, Ring.

Him: Mate, what’s up?

Me: Sorry mate, I’m running late for dinner. I’ll be down soon.

Silence

Him: Are you OK?

Me: Yeah, just running late, drinks were at 4, weren’t they.

Him: Are you on drugs?

Me: What do you mean?

Him: It’s 5:30 in the morning you idiot?

WHAT MUPPET THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO SYNC THE WATCH’S TIME TO THAT OF THE COMPUTER BY DEFAULT???

The watch HAS A GPS BUILT INTO IT. It already knows what timezone it is in.

Tell me it didn’t occur to the 20 year old boffin that wrote the software that changing the time on a watch without telling anyone might carry an element of risk. Think about it….the only way you know the time is by the position of the sun and by your watch. Finland….. Summer.

If someone has set an alarm on a watch and you decide to change the time automatically and by default, you might flash up a big red screen that says;

“Warning – your day is about to be ruined. Press OK to continue”

It’s a GPS watch you goat herders! If you must have a default sync, it should ask you whether you want to sync to your PC or to GPS.

No one has ever crossed a timezone with one of your watches?

The worst thing is that even after changing the setting, it still occasionally syncs to my PC.

No, this is not the case where the user is technically challenged, I have a PhD in Computer Science FFS, so don’t even think of going down that path. This is a classic example of ill-conceived, poorly contrived, ludicrously delivered functionality that someone thought was a good idea at the time.

Well, IT WASN’T A GOOD IDEA. IT WAS STUPID IDEA!

I would appreciate it if someone could track down the boffin who decided this would be a good idea and read him this email. Then, wake him up at 3am in the morning with no coffee and slap him around the head with a large pickled herring.

Gen Z. Bloody Hell

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VW…..Whoops!

September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Remember the days when you took your car to a “Mechanic” instead of an “Automotive Technician” ?

Those were the days when you could just go to the garage, buy a 20 cent light bulb and replace the blown one in your internal light. These days…..you have to take your vehicle to the dealership where some bloke with a bit of factory training plugs it into the “diagnostic unit” and tells you that the Pulse Width Modulation module that allows your internal light to dim (instead of just turn off) has blown. It will take a week to get a new module from Melbourne and half a day to fit and will cost $585. “Would you like to book a detail for when you bring your car in?”

They call this progress.

So…how the hell did Volkswagen end up in this mess? How did it all go so horribly wrong?

Quite easily.

Having had a bit of software and technology development experience (yes, we even have computers underground), I can tell you how it happens. See…when you start introducing computers and software to stuff, you have an enormous amount of flexibility. Things aren’t so black and white anymore. I would doubt that anyone actually set out to defraud the public.

The reliability and power of microprocessors has increased exponentially over the last couple of decades. As we all know, the little buggers have found their way into our cars and are used for everything from saving your life to dimming the internal light. Microprocessors greatly reduce the amount of wiring in cars as you can have little ones distributed everywhere through the vehicle rather than having all of the wires going back to one point.

The very second that you put software into anything is the point in time that you can change things quickly, easily and cheaply. And… because you can…..you do.

So why do the VWs have a “Dyno Mode” ? Because on a dyno, you may only have your front or back wheels driving. The others are completely stationary and often strapped down. This is a completely alien situation for a stability control computer that is sitting there trying to detect abnormalities in the driving dynamics of the vehicles. This is a real pain when you are doing something a little different.

Honda Hairpin at Phillip Island is the classic example….when you are cruising in there at a couple of hundred K and there is a car braking in front of you, the computer in my Merc assumes that I am about to have a massive prang and wrenches the crap out of the seatbelt to try to save my life. It hurts!. The car doesn’t know you are racing and that it is perfectly normal to have another car just in front of you at that speed. I’d love to have that function turned off in “Race Mode”, but the boys at AMG won’t let that happen.

Given that you have to have a “Dyno Mode”, you suddenly know when the vehicle is on the test stand. There is nothing wrong, unethical or illegal about this. It’s just a fact of life for modern cars. So, because you are already changing a few settings for “Dyno Mode” , it doesn’t take much to change a few other settings……like the engine mapping.

This idea could have started with just a programmer or two and gradually ballooned thinking they weren’t doing anything wrong. Change a parameter from .57 to .58 here, .78 to .79 there….not much.  What they had discovered was an ability to meet the emissions standards while also increasing economy and power a bit. At some stage (and this is pure speculation) someone higher up found out about this ability and went completely overboard. At that stage, they had crossed the line between a “tweak” and fraud….a  system that is so far from the original mapping that it produces vastly different emissions between the “Dyno Modes” and normal modes…..and you know it’s happening.  It is entirely possible that only a group of three or four people ever knew about this. The fact that there were so many vehicles out there with this software mod would indicate that it was almost impossible to pick up without sensitive instruments and a stringent test regime.

Here’s where things get interesting…..

An organisation know as “The international Council on Clean Transportation” funded some Uni students to measure the highway emissions of a BMW and a couple of VWs and gave them the sensitive instrumentation required to catch VW out. Why did they choose these cars??? Who knows. They had some pretty hi-tech gear to do the testing…

VW

They found that the VWs were emitting higher than stated emissions…..and the world fell apart for VW.

Who is The international Council on Clean Transportation ? They are group principally funded by Climate Works who are a climate change mob who themselves are funded by a bunch of foundations including those of Mr Hewlett and Mr Packard.

Did they know what they were going to find? I don’t know, but I have a feeling they did. No doubt, there are a bunch of European car manufacturers checking their software tonight.

Whoops.

A Brief Stopover on the way to Greece

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jeff Kennett could not have summed it up better;

“This has nothing to do with the governing of Australia. This is the promotion of Malcolm Turnbull. He couldn’t work with the team.”

It was only a few weeks ago that I blogged this;

Political Sabotage – The National Sport of Australia

The biggest loser in this whole debacle is Australia. The media have another assassination that they can write about for the next few months, ruminating over why Tony had to go and the disintegration of the Liberal Party. Malcolm has his chance of being the first President of the Australian republic. But worse, much, much, much worse…Bill Shorten has his reprieve, he can step down from the gallows…reinvigorated, reborn…no one will ever raise in parliament again the fact that he was involved in the political assassination of an elected prime minister as both sides now have blood on their hands.

There is no honour. There is no loyalty.

This type of politics puts the individual first and the country last. Behind every great strategy from every great nation, there was the political will to act as a team. Be this driven by the fact that a country was at war, or be it driven by great leaders who could pull a team together and motivate alignment to achieve the common good.

Jeff Kennett again;

“I took on government in Victoria under difficult circumstances, my popularity was down to nine per cent and we won the next election,”

With the selfishness we have seen in Australian politics and the media always ready to drive a wedge into the slightest crack caused by recalcitrant back-benchers, Australia will not have the determination, the willpower, the dedication of purpose required to avoid the train wreck that is coming.

Malcolm: “We need to have in this country — and we will have now — an economic vision, a leadership, that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face,” 

Malcolm, how do you explain to the 80% of families in Australia who pay less tax than they receive in welfare payments that they are going to receive less? This is not a matter of complexity. Every family know that if you spend more than you are earning, you’re going out the back door.

Malcolm will not win that battle. The only place he can go is;

  1. Superannuation – Which invests in Australian industry. Changing Super will cut the guts out of this investment.
  2. Negative Gearing – Watch the building industry fall off a cliff when you stuff with this
  3. Income Tax – We are already one of the highest taxed nations in the world

We’ve lost our income. We’re still spending like there was no tomorrow and no one is prepared to make a sacrifice.

Greece, here we come.

Productivity In Australia – Part1

August 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Can I tell you why Productivity in Australia Sucks?

So….me an a few mates have a little business in the city of churches. We design and build tools for the mining industry. It’s a good little earner, but Jesus wept we struggle with the bureaucracy from time to time.

So we order a 3D printer from the US of A  (you know…we have a free trade agreement with them). So we pay for Express mail to Australia as we need to get this baby fired up to make some parts for our world leading technology.

Sure enough, the parcel takes four days to hit this wonderful shore of ours. Then…..nothing…The tracking says; “Held in Customs”. It sits there for a week before I ring Australia Post…

.”Nah, you gotta ring customs”. So I ring Customs (Sorry..”Immigration and Boarder Protection”).

“Yeah, mate, we’re sending you a letter”.

“Why don’t you just email me?”

“Yeah, mate, we don’t do email”.

So a week later, the letter arrives. I have to work out what the class of Tariff  is, scan all of the invoices (which are attached to the parcel anyway), fill out a bunch of paperwork and email it all back to them (they do do email).

A week later, I get the invoice.  $216 of GST and $48.50 for me to fill out the forms. I pay online instantly.

That was a week ago. Where’s the parcel??? You guessed it…”Held by Customs”.

My point is that Australian Business suffers as our bureaucracy are just a bunch of speedhumps that charge you a fee every time you bounce over one. They add no value whatsoever. Three bloody weeks just to get a parcel into the country. I’m just one business. Imagine how often this is going on every week. There’s a bunch of start up businesses out there who are just being bogged down by these mongrels that charge you a fee for doing absolutely nothing.

So why isn’t this an efficient process? They certainly generate enough revenue to invest in world best technology. The reason is simple…….the money goes to consolidated revenue. The government has turned every aspect of regulation we have into a revenue stream. Prices go up to increase revenue, but there is no added value being delivered. So the cost per unit output rises continuously. Productivity goes down the toilet.

Mongrels.

The Difference Between Sustainable and Variable Revenue

August 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

What do you do when you get your tax return, or when uncle Harold falls of his perch and leaves you a few grand? Maybe you do that extension, or maybe you put a bit away in the bank, or maybe you have a holiday. What you don’t do is go and employ a gardener, manservant, chauffer, cook, nanny and handyman. Why, because that added wealth is not sustainable income. We know that it won’t last and that we can’t rely on Uncle Harold to repeatedly fall of his perch whenever we need some extra cash.

On the other hand, when your family loses an income, you don’t rush out an borrow a crapload of cash and buy the extended family new TV sets (like Rudd did in the first GFC….I say first because it looks like it’s all happening again).

It would appear that federal Treasurers have a lot to learn from basic home economics.

Whether federal or state governments or local councils, there has been a failure in economic strategy in Australia in regards to the variable nature of revenue. At the top, the Federal government became addicted to the golden revenues generated by the long and sustained mining boom. How much of this did we bank for a rainy day? Nada.

A 2013 IMF Report (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp1305.pdf) would suggest that the Howard years were a lost opportunity to be financially responsible and to bank some of that mining boom bonus.

IMF

That said, the modelling also suggests that Greece were more financially responsible than Howard and look where they are at the moment!  Howard treated the big Variable bonus as sustainable revenue and gave it out as tax cuts to those who probably deserved it most as they were contributing more in tax. What Howard did manage to do was pay down government debt as can be seen below (http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2013/June/Australias_current_debt_position__update_June_2013)

Bar graph showing Australian government gross debt, 1971-2017 and Australian government net debt, 1971-2017

Using excess cash to pay down debt is as good as banking it. None of the lefties have ever acknowledged the amount of debt Howard paid down and it should be noted that he actually left money in the bank when he left office….not nearly as much as there should have been.

Along come Labor….Holy Crap!!! Talk about spending. They went nuts. Not only did they spend everything that Howard left, they borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars and kept spending. Check the graph to the left. All of the work done by Howard was reversed by Rudd/Gillard.

They just kept spending, even though the mining boom was over. The farce was the “MRT” – Mining Resource Tax. What a joke. The boom was over, but Labor and the Greenies thought they could rape the miners one more time to get some easy cash. As it turned out, the mines were already on their way down and they didn’t make a brass Razoo out of it.

So here ends the lesson…..until we have the stability in politics where successive governments are allowed to exhibit long-term economic prudence….we’ll be in the poo. The media should be hounding our politicians to show economic responsibility. The problem is that prudence is boring. The front page is not going to run a story highlighting that we just paid off $100M of debt.

The same scenario holds for state governments. Queensland – $88B in debt after the best mining boom they every had. The size of the public service grew and grew and grew. When the money ran out, the were left with a bloated government that they couldn’t downsize as the unions had a strangle hold. Along comes poor old Campbell Newman and sacks 15,000 of them and he gets thrown out of government. he tried to do the prudent thing. Now Labor are back in power in Queensland, with massive debt, but on a platform that won’t let them cut the spending….and not a peep form the ABC!

Doomed.

Fairer and More Equitable

August 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

‘The rich should pay their fair share”. What a screaming load of horsecrap! The overwhelming majority of the “rich” pay the tax they are legally required to pay. The problem for the Socialists is that this amount of tax does not fund the unsustainable amount of welfare that is required for the Proletariat to live in their government-funded rapture.

The founding premise of our economic system is that if you work hard and make money, you get to enjoy the benefit of one’s labour AND you also get to pass that benefit onto your prodigy. Capitalism is like pregnancy, you either are, or you are not. You can’t have a half capitalist system. It’s been said many times, but I’ll say it again; you can’t make a country rich by penalising those that go the extra mile to generate wealth.

Take a young miner working away in Northern Western Australia. He spends three weeks at work and one week at home. He travels in his time, not the mine’s time. His young wife and a couple of young children are at home somewhere in Australia. Either his parents or his wife’s parents or both are helping with the kids while he is at work. (Yes, it’s usually a “he” when we are talking about workers aged between 25 and 35).

This is the classic capitalist strategy for young couples trying to accumulate wealth by doing the hard yards. It’s hard for her at home and it’s hard for him at work. He works a minimum of 12 hours a day in hot, humid conditions. It’s manually tough work. The reason they are doing this is so that they can get ahead in a capitalist economy and get the deposit together to buy a house.

Please explain to me why taxing the crap out of these workers, and giving the money to someone who doesn’t work, makes Australia richer or stronger? Yep, I don’t get it. I have no doubt that there are a plethora of commentators out there, more intelligent than I, who can tell me where the problem with my logic lies.

“We live in a benevolent society, unlike America where people are happy to see beggars on the street”, will be the first answer. Welfare. OK. Let’s talk about welfare….I have no problem with welfare. Welfare is good. I don’t want to see Aussies starve. But it has to be “Welfare”, not “Entitlements”.

When did welfare become entitlements? Bloody social engineers ACOS, NCOS, socialists within the public service deemed it appropriate to rename “welfare” “entitlements” and so committed generations of Australians to believe that they were simply a product of their environment and were entitled to be clothed, fed, provided with smokes, petrol and vehicles by the taxpayer…..for life.

There is a clause in the unwritten contract between the taxpayer and the government that says it’s OK to tax the life out of me and give it to those who deserve it, but the government (as taker and re-distributer) has to make damn sure that only those who truly deserve welfare get the benefit of someone else’s labour.

Yeah…..right.

Put Up or Shutup

August 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Gazing out the window this morning, sipping a hot cup of “half-Macchiato” at 30,000 feet, on my way to work for a week or two, I have the time to sit back and contemplate life before the “tons, tons, tons, go, go, go, safety, safety, safety…” starts. reading the morning papers, I note that the stockmarket is heading down the toilet, the government is after my superannuation, I’m about to be taxed more and the Greenies are trying to shutdown mining in Australia and not an intelligent or informed debate to be found.

All of the economists who came out of the woodwork after the GFC were able to explain exactly why it happened, but none of them predicted it. Yet, there they were, confident, knowledgeable and authoritative; giving the cameras the benefit of their wisdom….in hindsight. Yeah, we can all do that.

With newspapers losing a fortune and TV journalism turning into nothing but dressed up social media (Do you have a story ? Send us your photos or tips !!) playing a continuous stream of freak-shows from youtube (and inserting ads for our benefit), it would appear that any talking head they can drag out from anywhere is worthy of “Expert” status.

Given this endless stream of irrelevant wankers bombarding us all with their expertise, I thought it high time that someone with real intelligence, real expertise and real experience went into bat for the average Aussie thinking battler. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone suitably qualified who had the time, so I’m going to give it a shot myself. I’m just another poor bastard who works for a living and provides the funds for all of the Illuminati to contemplate the pressing social issues of the Great Southern Land on my behalf, because we are clearly not smart enough to know what’s good for us.

Every man and his dog has a blog these days so I make no apologies for these musings of a cranky old hard-rock miner. Read ‘em if you want to, go somewhere else if you don’t. Opinions shall be strong, research shall be weak and grammar and punctuation will be non exisitent.

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