Friday, November 28, 2014

How I'm voting tomorrow

Tomorrow we go to the polls here in Victoria Australia.

There are two parties in the running: Labor and the Liberal/National alliance. There is a distant third in the race, the Green party.

I'm not going to be voting for the Liberal/National alliance. There are many reasons, but there is a prime driver for me. They lie.

In the last Victorian election, they promised to improve public transport: and I distinctly understood them to say that they would get going on building a rail line Doncaster. My local candidate for the Liberal Party has told me that I was misinformed on this last point. Go figure.

Regardless, once in power, as a regular public transport user, all I have seen is ongoing maintenance. The timetables have been changed in such a way that it now takes me longer to get to my place of work, and the crowding, breakdowns and failures continue unabated.

However, the Liberal/National alliance did change the way in which the running of the trains was assessed. They also allowed the operators to now skip stations if they are behind schedule. The Liberals then used these dodgy tactics to triumphantly crow that they had 'fixed' public transport.

People who use public transport on a regular basis will agree that this is a lie based on dodgy figures. When you have to drive 10 kilometres late in the evening to pick up your teenage daughter because the train she was on suddenly turned into an express and dropped her in the middle of nowhere you'll understand the anger. As an aside, I do wish that the people who govern us would deign to use public transport regularly, just to understand the pain of using it.

What the Liberal party did do, once in power, was to commit to building a dirty great big freeway. One that they hadn't mentioned in the election. And that has its business case shrouded in secrecy. A freeway so expensive that I believe it's going to suck cash out of the public purse for decades, meaning that there is going to be very little money left to spend on other needed services.

It would appear to me that the freeway was chosen, not because the Liberals genuinely believed it was needed, but rather either because it made moving freight by truck easier, or because it threatened to wedge the Labour party and drive support to the Liberals. Pandering to special interest groups, or playing politics. Neither of these seem like a very good reason to hock the future of the state.

But in the last desperate weeks before they had to go to election, the Liberal party committed us taxpayers to this freeway, seemingly aborting due process and rushing to sign contracts with builders that have some sort of large cancellation clause added. But again, we the public have no idea as to what's in them, as they've been kept secret. The secrecy, the unwillingness to take it to an election: the whole thing just reeks. And its not a good reek either.

Along the way the Liberal/National party also won the federal election. And guess what: we soon learned that they had lied there as well. It's the same party, and the same people.

So I now have the Liberal party pegged as a bunch of pathological liars. I don't trust them one little bit. On this basis alone, I don't know how anyone can support them, and I don't understand why anyone would admit to being a member.

As I said, there are many other reasons to not vote for them IMHO, but this is my primary driver.

Which leaves either the Labor Party or the Greens.

The Labor party seem to be poll driven. By this I mean that I feel that they avoid making public pronouncements that might affect them in the polls. For example, their commitment to cancelling the freeway project was not expressed as a clear commitment until fairly late in the game. I guess if you're ahead in the polls its a fair strategy, but not one that endears them to me.

And they appear to be the other half of a rather cosy duopoly with the Liberal/National alliance. So whilst I would prefer Labor to be in government, rather than the Liberals, I would also like to see the duopoly ended. We do need change, otherwise it's going to be same old, same old.

So I'm going to be putting the Greens at the top of my list, followed by Labor. And I'm writing in all my choices below the line. This effectively means that in my seat I'm probably going to be voting for Labor. But if the Greens get enough votes, they might win the seat. It also means that I've registered my disgust at the Liberal lies, and indicated to Labor the direction in which I'd like them to move.

As you can gather: we have a fiendishly complex electoral system. If you've read this far, educate yourself about voting below the line, and the parties you'll be voting for in the election here:

And then create your own how to vote card: and take it with you to the polling booth.

And don't complain about the status quo if you vote for it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cloud and I

A true story

Why my enthusiasm about the cloud?

I used to be such a doubter. I thought it was all just was just marketing hype. 

Then a few years ago the company I then worked for placed me as a consultant in the roll of technical team lead on a project developing a new website for a University. 

The team and I had a hard deadline of two months to deliver the new site, on a new CMS, with new content and a new look, on new hardware. 

The first thing I did was calculate the number of servers that the team and I would need for the project. 

I picked up the phone to the university's IT services department.
“Could I have 7 servers to go please?” 

The voice on the other side cackled: “You're new here, aren't you? Go to our website, download the application form, fill it in in triplicate, mail the copies to the acquisitions committee, who will then either approve or decline your request. If approved, the request goes out to tender, the successful bidder is selected and an order placed. Eventually you will get your servers.” 

“How long does this take” I asked, feeling faint. 

“The committee sits once a month, and they've just sat, so you'll have to wait a month, and then ordinarily it takes at least 4 weeks for the hardware if the purchase is approved. So for you, at least 8 weeks” 

I hung up and buried my head in my hands. We were totally screwed. There was no way that we could make our deadline! 

Then the Universities development lead said “I know a site that will host our source code and defect tracking system for a few dollars a month. Someone lend me a credit card”. 

Inspired by his example I thought “Amazon!” 

I phoned my companies hardware and network guru to talk it through. 

“Don't worry about Amazon - I've got a big server lying spare” he said. “I'll set up some virtual servers for your team on it. How many do you want?” 

30 minutes and $10 later we had all the hardware and software we needed and by the end of the day we were already committing code and accepting defect reports. 

In a blink of an eye the politics, processes and policies of the University had been totally upended. 

When physical servers eventually arrived their cost was in the order of about $20 000. And they arrived well before the end of the project, because we threatened to go live on our virtual servers, thus demonstrating that the IT services department wasn't really needed... 

That project showed me that despite my doubts, cloud computing is a game changer. Everybody in IT, no matter what their role needs to understand this.