James Miller


Sunday, October 31, 2004


Beautiful Broadband

I live on the end of a long lane with lots of trees and overhead telephone lines. Consequently, about every six months or so, one of my lines goes very noisy.

The phone line on which broadband is piggy-backed has just gone that way.

Voice quality is atrocious, so much so that BT have switched the line to my mobile at no charge. But broadband still keeps marching along! Well most of the time, as occasionally it drops out.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

I can remember when it was difficult and dodgy to get 10 characters a second down a phone line. I bet they’re actually not much better these days!


God Is Not American

There's isn't one anyway, but if there was he didn't turn up at the Breeders Cup!

Well done to Ouija Board and Wilko!

Saturday, October 30, 2004


Osama's Latest Video

The fact that he is alive and well (and of course completely paranoid and absolutely bonkers!) shows how ineffective the methods used to fight terrorism are.

On the one hand we need to be increasingly vigilant, just as we all were against the IRA. They admittedly were a rather different kettle of fish in that they did give haphazard warnings.

But what we really need to do is stop the problems that cause people to be terrorists. Where is the progress on sorting out Israel and the Palestinians, economies such as Saudi Arabia, which are restrictive dictatorships as well and general poverty in many places in the world?

Remember too, that if you add up all the deaths due to terrorism in the last few years, they pall into insignificance against death from cancer, road accidents and heart disease. But to those left behind, each death is personal, it's just that some are more public.

Compare the deaths too, to the estimated 100,000 deaths caused in Iraq by the invading forces.

There must be a better way!

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Humour is Not Right or Left

Why is it that both P. J. O’Rourke and Michael Moore can say things that if a politician did we’d get very upset?

Agree with them or not, it doesn’t matter!

Because they’re both funny!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


The New European Commission

Do we really want Rocco Buttiglione?

His views are out of step with those of most of us. Especially, as they are also outdated for an Institution that has to modernise and think out of the box to solve the major problems we now face.

But also as someone who is generally supportive of Europe, especially with respect to trade, the Euro, border controls, metric measures and time zones, I feel he is just the sort of person to make the British even more Euro-sceptic!

Europe and ourselves need him like a hole in the head.


John Peel

One of the last half of the twentieth century's characters died yesterday at just 65!

So sad!

I shall always remember him for the ticking off he gave our son about his smoking!


Digital Radio Switch-Off

Would this actually happen?

Just as I’ve listened to Test Match Special on 198 well down into France and 5-live in Holland, surely we can pick up French and Dutch stations just like we used to with Radio Luxembourg.

So it would have to be on a Europe wide basis! They wouldn’t agree!



As a confirmed atheist, Bush’s religion and his evangelical supporters frighten the life out of me. (Bliar's religion isn't much better!)

What right do they have to foist their ridiculous views and disastrous policies on the rest of the world?

John Major had religion right! Be respectful to it, but ignore it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Phil the Greek!

I know he gets the best medical attention etc., but I wish I could be as active as he as at 83!

Perhaps, one day the Dule will give us all a lecture on the secret! It might just improve the nation’s health!

Monday, October 25, 2004


Disclosing Convictions in Court

My wife is a barrister and I have only seen her in Court once.

Many years ago, she was prosecuting and the jury returned and asked the Judge if they could know the defendant’s previous convictions. The Judge went ballistic in a very judicial way and left everyone in his Court with the view, that disclosing the convictions would prejudice the defence.

These days, where there is a lot of trial by media, it is all the more important that they are not disclosed. Except of course where the method of crime is so unusual as to be evidence in it’s own right. But then in these circumstances, it can be disclosed now!

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Premiership Attendances

I was at Newmarket for both the Cambridgeshire and Champions Day meetings in the last few weeks. I’m also a season ticket holder at Portman Road.

Just as in the Premiership, attendances on Saturdays are now down.

Could this be the ridiculous scheduling of a second Premiership match at 5:15, which has truncated and ruined Sports Report on 5-Live as well?


Formula One

I used to like it, but with all the politics and the boring races, I never watch any more!

Sad! Money has ruined a good sport!


Football Hooligans

As a travelling Ipswich supporter, you really do see some crass policing.

Some clubs like West Ham and Leicester know that we don’t cause trouble, so all fans just mingle and mix outside the game.

But other clubs are nowhere near as laid back. Full riot gear at Sheffield United for a start! I questioned an officer about this and he said they were never allowed any flexibility. He thought it a joke!

Interestingly, there was a guy on the BBC's six-o-six, who when he visited Ipswich for the Crewe match was surprised to be met by the Police and given maps with all the pubs that had been reserved for their enjoyment.

Perhaps this sort of attitude is one of the reasons, why I haven’t seen any trouble at Portman Road for many years, with the possible exception of the odd Norwich match. But even those have quietened lately.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Market Towns

We live near Newmarket which is very much a thriving market town.

Shops are much more independent and there is a new Waitrose, but there is no cinema and restaurants and pubs are reasonable but not necessarily the best.

But it does have masses of free (Yes! Free!) parking! That is the key to why it thrives!

But how long will it last, as the council has decided to charge for parking?

Friday, October 22, 2004


Disposable Nappies

When our children were born thirty years ago we hardly ever used them.

Living in a large town we were able to use a nappy service, which meant they were taken away and returned pristine. The cost was actually less than disposables, if you took into account the cost of the washing machine, which we didn’t have!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Daisy Telecom

My company’s name is Daisy Analysis and we analyse all sorts of things, from telecom traffic to money laundering. We have been in business for over ten years.

There is also a newer unrelated company called Daisy Telecom, which sells telecom services. I can’t find any reference to the company on either a web site, by using Google or through directory enquiries.

Because they are unknown I get lots of calls for this company. Some are dissatisfied customers and one this morning got quite abusive. Luckily I was able to calm him down!

With all of the fraud going on in the telecoms business, I’m worried that someone is using my company’s name to perpetrate some sort of scam. Or at least they are hiding behind it. Or it could be that they are totally legitimate. I don't know!

But if it was a legitimate business, then why can't I find them on the Internet.

As an aside, we have just released a piece of software called Daisy MI, which searches the Internet to check individuals, companies, organisations and properties. It only uses published information and often gives surprising results!


Not So Welcome Break

I came down the M1 last night from Derby to Leicester to watch Ipswich.

Feeling peckish, I went into the Welcome Break at Leicester Forest, to look for something like bacon and eggs. The reason I went there was about six months ago, I had done this and the manager cooked them for me personally.

No such luck this time, as the irritable cow said they were off. Everything else was not gluten free. Except possibly faggots, but I don't know about them, let along fancy them!

Finally when I got to the Walkers Stadium, there was only pies to eat. Not even chips, either inside or outside. The only thing with any nourishment was a normal Pepsi.

I shall be complaining!


Climate Change

Today’s report is a lot of meaningless hot air.

Unless the United States signs up it’s pointless!

Remember that the US has little land that would be affected by a rise in sea levels. Perhaps things would be different if the US geography was like that of Bangladesh!


Blocking Premium Rate Numbers

There have been a lot of people who suffered lately because of premium rate number fraud.

Technically, there is no reason that premium numbers can be blocked selectively.

Especially as the sensible ones, such as computer support are in different groups to those which you generally would not want to ring. Even legitimate very high rate numbers which top up special Internet services such as micro payments and text messaging are in a different group to sex lines.

It would actually be a selling point for a telephone service to allow this selective blocking to be performed. But for it to be economic and comprehensive, it would probably need to be performed using an automated system over the Internet or through a touch tone phone menu.

But many would pay a small fee each year for peace of mind.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


High Hopes for Fridge-Free Jabs

That says it all!

If this technology from Cambridge Biostability works, then it could be one of the breakthroughs we need to improve health everywhere.


Read more at the BBC.


Lost Days in Test Matches

The recent India-Australia Test was heading for an interesting result and then was ruined because the last day was lost to rain.

Thirty or so years ago, Tests were always held with a rest day. Can't we have a reserve day, so that when a whole day is lost, then this can be used to get a result?


What Happens If You Reply to a Scam


This is one of the funniest things I’ve seen for some time. Be prepared as it’s long. Don’t drink at the same time as you might spill it!


Troops to Baghdad

No! No! No!

Bush got himself into this mess, by using air power instead of putting troops on the ground. So he should get himself out of it!

As Churchill said. "The Americans get in right in the end, after first trying out all the alternatives!"


Real Printing

We take laser printers, inkjet printers and all the other modern ways of copying for granted. But is it always the best way?

Yesterday, I needed some postcards to be printed for Daisy MI to be printed. So I went down to the printers in Newmarket.

Nothing unusual except that Studlands Printing still uses letterpress for three quarters of the work it does. My post cards will probably be printed on an Original Heidelberg, that was made sometime in the 1950's. They were an old design then!

Pride and joy though is an 1860 poster press. Manual of course! And extremely busy producing the door cards for the sales at Tattersalls.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


The Last Mosquito Aircrew Reunion

This was held last night in London at the Royal Aircraft Museum.

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, we still don't realise just how good de Havilland's wooden wonder was.

For instance, it carried a similar bomb load to the B17 or Flying Fortress, an American bomber that was responsible for the deaths of many aircrew. On the other hand the Mosquito carried a crew of just two and was so fast that not only could it outrun any defending fighters, but it could do two trips to Germany every night!

If we had used Mosquitos instead of Fortresses, Lancasters and Liberators, we would not have lost the tens of thousands of Allied airman we did.

We would also have been able to bomb strategically from low-level and thus would not have had to create the firestorms in places like Hamburg and Dresden. Perhaps, the war might have ended earlier, as the Germans often relied on single factories for vital goods.

As it was the Mosquito just did all the difficult jobs that no other aircraft ever did. Even the Americans bought Mosquitos for high altitude weather research.

But one thing I remember is when I was in Amsterdam in the seventies, I met a guy, whose father had been in Holland during WW2. They were desperate, but one thing that gave them cheer, was to see Mosquitos flying through the buildings of Dutch cities as they returned from Germany. The Germans tried to hit them but never did.

The Dutch just threw their hats in the air!

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Computer Costs

Mike Gray in The Times makes a lot of interesting observations on the cost of computing.

As a reasonably successful computer programmer, whose software has been used for the last thirty years to manage a fair proportion of major projects all over the world from North Sea Oil to the Space Shuttle and truck and car plants to the Jubilee line, let me enlighten him.

In the sixties it was said by a senior man in ICL, that if it takes one man, one year to write a computer program, then it will take two men two years and two hundred and fifty six men, two hundred and fifty six years. It may be a bit of an exaggeration but if you look at all the successful software, then you will often find that in many cases, the team that actually did the programming is very small and often a single person of perhaps strange habits.

And where the system was successful, they were generally rewarded with large amounts of money.

This is anathema to most that commission computer systems and especially to civil servants, who would never allow someone to earn more than they do.

So they persist in using the failed policy of appointing large consultancies, rather than small innovative companies to produce the systems they need. They never apply the common sense rule of perhaps asking three or four people to design and build competing critical modules, that any production engineer at Ford, BMW or BP would think second nature.

Hence they get locked into spiralling costs and late delivery that are in the suppliers’ rather than the taxpayers’ interest.

Friday, October 15, 2004


Moving the Clocks Forward

A very good idea!

This will help industries like racing to have many more evening race meetings, which are popular, profitable and fun.


Concreting the Countryside

The government wants 500,000 new homes in the east and south-east of England. There is a lot of opposition and I suspect that like most of the things this government does, they will only half do it.

We do need more homes and from where I live here in rural Suffolk, I can see plenty of space for tasteful development. But I doubt we'll get it, as all you ever get are lots of little boxes with handkerchief-sized gardens.

What we do need are a lot of slightly larger houses, where people can work from home most or some of the time in a much better environment.

I've done that for over thirty years and it works!


New Casinos

I can see the government's point about these. All those jobs and the tax from fleecing idiots of their hard-earned money. It's probably only slightly less risky to bet on a fruit machine, than save for a pension.

But, I can't see the point!

Now I like the odd flutter on a horse and actually make a little bit of money every year. But that is by betting on horses that I reckon will win at a longish price. It requires a little bit of skill and quite a bit of knowledge.

Where is that in pulling a handle?

Perhaps, we should have two gambling tax rates. One for anything with skill in it and another much higher one for fruit machines and stupid lotteries.


On-Line Banking Fraud

The main reason that on line banking is not as secure as it might be is totally down to the Banks and their system designers.

I have designed systems and programmed computers for forty years and have been involved with the Internet and writing web sites for the last ten. I believe that a few simple checks, when banks communicate with their customers would go a long way to eliminate the problem of on-line fraud and particularly of ‘phishing’.

1. When you sign up for an on-line bank account, it would be a simple matter for the bank to request a phrase in your profile, just as they request a check question for lost passwords. This phrase would then be used in all communications with the customer. No phrase and the customer just ignores the message.

2. All communications from the bank to the customer should be numbered. If there is no number or it’s not in sequence, then either a message has gone missing or the current one is not what it seems.

My on-line bank doesn’t seem give too much guidance about the methods used to extract your passwords. Perhaps they should do this and also give examples of the sort of illegal messages you get sent.

It surprises me that no bank has taken such simple steps like this to cut down the on-line fraud.

But then their reluctance to introduce chip and pin for credit cards, showed a similar ‘head in the sand’ attitude.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


The North is Irrelevant

Why is it that certain radio commentators are always going on about the north of England?

They are always moaning.

They’re always going on about shutting the filthy, polluting, carbon-dioxide producing coal mines.

They get all the subsidy.

They’re always appearing on the radio.

They’ve stuffed the House of Commons with idiots!

Let’s have more support for the powerhouses of the UK; London, the south and south east and East Anglia.

Friday, October 08, 2004


Project Pooch

An interesting project where dogs are given to deliquents has had surprising results.

About twenty years ago, whilst in the States, I saw a program about how they were giving hard core prisoners, broken down racehorses to care for somewhere in New York state. Like Pooch the project was successful in rehabilitating the prisoners.

We are in the racing business and wonder why such a project has never been tried using Highpoint prison, which is very close to Newmarket. The racing industry would give it a chance. But would Blunkett?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


New Stadia

I went in on the train from Cambridge to London today for the first time in a year or so.

Just south of Finsbury Park there is now a new monument reaching for the sky. It is Ashburton Grove, the new stadium for Arsenal. In that year an awful lot has been done.

Why is it that Arsenal can get things right and Ascot can build a new grandstand in twenty months, whereas it has taken years to build Wembley? Perhaps, the first two are strictly commercial ventures funded by their owners, whereas the latter has all sorts of hangers on, lottery funders and Government ministers to be buttered up?


Money and Football

It might just have tipped over the abyss.

This season gates are down in the Premiership. At Ipswich in the Championship they have been down this season compared to last, despite their position in the League. Even at Newmarket racecourse, the gate for the big Cambridgeshire meeting was not what it normally is.


Could it be that the greed that decreed an extra Sky match at 5:15 every Saturday means that people are no longer prepared to go out to watch sport? Or is it just that people are being careful now that interest rates are rising?


Anti-Virus and Anti-Spam

I use what would be considered a “belt and braces” approach in the UK.

I actually get a lot of spam, as years ago I had lots of e-mail addresses in my web site. All are now encoded with JAVA, but it doesn’t stop people using old lists. Typically, I’ll get about 3-400 unwanted messages a day.

I use a standard virus processor like McAfee, which I find works well and quarantines the messages correctly. Or at least I haven’t had a virus get through for some years.

But in my case, I pre-filter everything with a free program called POPFILE. This uses a sophisticated Bayesian filter to categorise all of my messages. For instance this post is the same as an E-Mail I sent to LED-Digest. Replies from this list automatically get tagged as led_digest and put into the right folder in Outlook. POPFILE uses every word in the message to do the tagging and thus as these messages always come with the same dependable headers, led_digest scores very highly.

But the main beauty of POPFILE is that nearly all spam and viruses get identified before going to McAfee. They get quarantined and then I arrange for them to go straight to the Deleted Items folder. A quick scan of this where I order everything by subject, followed by a bulk delete, and that is usually all I do with spam and viruses.

As my business is data analysis of all sorts, I have analysed this approach in detail and find it only gives the occasional false negative and very few false positives.



Lettuce is at the center of a food scare and people wonder how something so innocent can be so dangerous.

Actually it is one of the most carcinogenic of foods being rated just behind coffee.

This isn’t actually so serious as it is well behind alcohol and that is again a lot less than a cigarette! But lettuce is actually worse than some pesticides!

All of this is from a paper by a Professor Bruce Ames at the University of California. It makes you think and depending on whether you worry or not, it could make things worse or better!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Africa's Problems

We’ve been to Africa on holiday three times and enjoyed every minute of it. Not just in the tourist traps.

One of the keys to solving Africa’s problems is sustainable tourism, based on the magnificent people, scenery and wildlife. South Africa and Morocco are leading the way in this, but it is interesting to see that others such as Gambia and Ghana following in their foot steps.

On the other side, I also have a friend in a poor African country trying to sort out the health program. His views on the local greedy politicians are not good.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


A Memory of Robert Kilroy Silk

Celia was one of his students at Liverpool in the sixties. In fact he was her personal tutor.

She had several problems with accommodation at the time, and he was no help at all. He just didn’t care about his students, just carrying on selfishly smoking his Capstan Full Strength through tutorials.

He seems to me that he still very selfish, even if he doesn't smoke anymore.

I certainly don't want his little Englanders running (ruining) the country I love.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Dyson and Jaguar

Two stories on Friday, illustrate both sides of the real problem with innovation and manufacturing.

Government is totally out of touch with innovators, because it listens far too much to trade unions, employer’s bodies and large companies. Only when someone iconic like James Dyson starts protesting, do they actually pay lip-service to their problems. Most innovators, myself included, just spend our time trying to do the best for our companies and getting round the anti-competitive practices and rules of all governments.

But when Jaguar threatens to close a factory, Governments jump!

It has always been so, with very few exceptions.

In the seventies, I programmed a system called Artemis, which is used in the planning of major projects. A well-known consultancy saw what we were doing, went to the Government and received a large sum of tax-payers money to create a competitor to our fledgling system. They sold just one to themselves. On the other hand Artemis went on to dominate the project management market.

A level playing field must be created, where everyone has equal access to assistance.

Help should go in at the grass roots level :-

1. Universities should be given subsidies to help anyone who needs it in design and innovation. They should also provide skill centres where specialist research and one-off manufacturing can be performed.

2. Fees for job-creating degrees should be reduced. (I benefited from a superb free education in engineering at Liverpool University. Would I do that now for £30,000 of debt?)

3. Patent fees should be heavily subsidised. (One successful company I backed spent two-thirds of turnover on intellectual property!)

4. The risk taken by individuals in backing projects should be allowable against tax.

Only by being innovative in how we promote innovation will we encourage more ideas that will truly benefit everybody on this planet.

I don’t think that one car factory in the Midlands that makes out-dated cars with poor fuel consumption, deserves any help at all!

Friday, October 01, 2004


Has Politics Changed?

This question was asked on a BBC phone-in today. I sent them the following E-Mail and had an interesting discussion, which I think is now used as a trail!


As a lifelong left wing Tory, who is pro-Europe and anti-Capital Punishment, the rise of UKIP means that the Tory party will go further to the right.

I shall be thinking strongly about voting Liberal Democrat next time."

Sad, but I'm getting more disenfranchised!