Friday, December 6, 2019

Keep Clear

I have a friend who's a parish councillor.

He was telling me recently how they had paid £10,000 (half their annual budget!) to have 'Keep Clear' painted on the road.

At a single place, not all over the parish or anything.
I said that I'd do it for him for £1000, using the right paint and font and everything, including driving half-way across England to do it. And that once I'd got the kit and learned how to do it, I'd do further work of the same nature much more cheaply.

Ah, he said: "The problem is that you're not a council-approved contractor."

How, I asked, does one become a council approved contractor?

That, he said, is where the £10,000 goes....

The other half of the parish council budget apparently goes on maintaining the buildings where the parish council meets.

My friend is a volunteer, and a very high powered and competent man in his own right, who controls a budget of millions in the private sector. He couldn't find any way to get it done cheaper.

I sense that he is already rather disillusioned, I wonder how much the next volunteer will end up paying for road markings?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Contract Programmer Seeks Job in Cambridge (£500 reward)

Anyone in Cambridge need a programmer? I'll give you £500 if you can find me a job that I take.

CV at

I make my usual promise, which I have paid out on several times:

If, within the next six months, I take a job which lasts longer than one month, and that is not obtained through an agency, then on the day the first cheque from that job cashes, I'll give £500 to the person who provided the crucial introduction.

If there are a number of people involved somehow, then I'll apportion it fairly between them. And if the timing conditions above are not quite met, or someone points me at a shorter contract which the £500 penalty makes not worth taking, then I'll do something fair and proportional anyway.

And this offer applies even to personal friends, and to old contacts whom I have not got round to calling yet, and to people who are themselves offering work, because why wouldn't it?

And obviously if I find one through my own efforts then I'll keep the money. But my word is generally thought to be good, and I have made a public promise on my own blog to this effect, so if I cheat you you can blacken my name and ruin my reputation for honesty, which is worth much more to me than £500.

And I also make the following boast:

I know all styles of programming and many languages, and can use any computer language you're likely to use as it was intended to be used.

I have a particular facility with mathematical concepts and algorithms of all kinds. I can become very interested in almost any problem which is hard enough that I can't solve it easily.

I have a deserved reputation for being able to produce heavily optimised, but nevertheless bug-free and readable code, but I also know how to hack together sloppy, bug-ridden prototypes, and I know which style is appropriate when, and how to slide along the continuum between them.

I've worked in telecoms, commercial research, banking, university research, chip design, server virtualization, university teaching, sports physics, a couple of startups, and occasionally completely alone.

I've worked on many sizes of machine. I've written programs for tiny 8-bit microcontrollers and gigantic servers, and once upon a time every IBM machine in the Maths Department in Imperial College was running my partial differential equation solvers in parallel in the background.

I'm smart and I get things done. I'm confident enough in my own abilities that if I can't do something I admit it and find someone who can.

I know what it means to understand a thing, and I know when I know something. If I understand a thing then I can usually find a way to communicate it to other people. If other people understand a thing even vaguely I can usually extract the ideas from them and work out which bits make sense.

Monday, July 29, 2019

1p Mobile PAYG Provider

I would like to recommend 1p mobile as a source of mobile phone PAYG:

They've been my principal phone provider for a while now, and they're immaculate. The website is transparently easy to use, their charges are as low as they seem (i.e. you must pay around £30/year, and for that you get 3000 minutes of calls).

There doesn't appear to be any catch, they don't send spammy text messages, it's easy to turn voicemail off, and it stays off.

Highly recommended. Without doubt the best mobile phone company I've ever used, and without doubt the cheapest as well.

They have a referral link:

If you use it you and I will both get a £5 top-up.

But I do not actually care about this, I never come close to using my 3000 minutes, I'm recommending them because they're great and that sort of thing ought to be recognised and spread.