Friday, 14 November 2014

What is the value of integrity?

The latest round of fines on banks for manipulating the Forex fix rates are starting to be announced. A Daily Telegraph article suggests the total bill of penalties for this misconduct is $300bn. Who bears this cost? It is the shareholders and customers of the banks. For shareholders read pension funds in many cases. It is time for the Directors of the banks to earn their massive remuneration and to either bring their traders under control or go penniless from their god-like positions. 

It should have come as no surprise to bankers managers that traders will tend to misbehave and cut corners. If there had been a true desire to prevent this type of activity it could have been avoided. Ethical behaviour and integrity of actions has a very low cost. Dishonest actions seem to have a much higher end cost.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Low latency trading - an interesting reaction.

I occasionally comment on a LinkedIn forum which has automated wholesale financial trading as its primary focus. My background comes from this arena of developing and supporting real-time trading systems and market data distribution systems.

One discussion topic raised was whether low latency trading has a long term future. Essentially this technique works by recognising market conditions, such as arbitrage opportunities, and creating almost instantaneous trades before your competition spots the opportunity. If the principal sums involved are sufficiently large it is possible to make a healthy profit.

I added a comment to the effect: "Low latency is irrelevant in investment, but important in trading." I'm firmly of the opinion that true investment needs careful research and consideration before any investment decisions are made. Trading can be very different, often just speculation.

I noticed that shortly after posting that comment my LinkedIn profile had been visited by forum moderator. I wonder if I touched a nerve somewhere in the Trading community?!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Corruption of a Brand Name

My son bought me a pair of "mountain boots" from the UK store called Millets. The brand name of the boots is "The North Face" and they were made in China. These boots were not cheap; costing around 150 GBP, yet have been poorly constructed. The rubber rand at the position of the ball of the foot has developed a long vertical crack at both sides of each boot. This not fair wear and tear, I've had several pairs of good boots which have lasted  several times as long. When I check inside the boot I find no leather underneath that part of the rand. "The North Face" used to be a respected brand, but retailers trying to maximise their profits have ruined it. 

I'd go as far as saying that I regard the boots as fundamentally unsafe for use on the mountains.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Is Google Docs feeling the strain?

We've used Google Docs in conjunction with Chromebooks to provide a low cost office environment. Google seem to keep changing the name at one point they called it Business Apps. There is a free version which has good functionality, but we've elected for the paid version to gain access to the Google Management facilities. At approx. £3 per person per month it is not exactly a massive spend.

However we have been noticing that loading documents from the system has become somewhat erratic and unreliable of late. We often see the spinning circle on the browser tab, then after about one minute's delay we're told there was a browser error and we should "refresh". Then the cycle repeats and eventually the document will load.  It is not the reliable service we'd come to expect from Google.

Their performance page does not appear to reflect these problems.

At quiet times of the day (6 am London time) there are no problems with these delays and we do have a fast Internet connection.  I'd expect these types of problems from Microsoft, but not Google. Currently I'm taking Google Docs off the recommended list. Given it is an underlying foundation of the Chromebook concept I'm not a happy bunny.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Electrifying against terrorists

We're awaiting delivery of the components for a 150 metres electric fence. After a lot of research we've decided to go for a six strand fence running at 9000 volts. The energiser will deliver a 3 Joule shock. It needs to to be that powerful because some of the potential intruders resort to insulation to protect themselves. If we were protecting against a herd of elephants  it would only be 4000 volts. 

Government legislation requires we identify the electric fence by warning signs, but we don't necessarily have to use a notices in the first language of the intruders. It will need new permanent fence posts installed, stringing galvanised braided steel wire, wire tensioning, myriad insulators carefully placed and trimming back of stray vegetation to prevent shorting of the current. We'll also install a comprehensive electrical grounding scheme both through the earth and also on selected wires to ensure the electric shock load is delivered to an unwary invader.

We had a break-in last winter through an insecure fence at our remote site. After a ram raid the intruders did a lot of damage, but once we were alerted we were able to drive them away from our property. We restored the fences and it kept the intruders at bay.  The local police were not interested. The electric fence will present an additional layer of security and deterrence to keep these cunning intruders at bay. The intruders are of course sheep from a neighbouring field trying to raid our orchard when our winter grass looks more attractive than their field. 

The fence will protect our investment in recently planted fruit trees and also a hedge recently relayed in a the traditional manner (expensive). Protecting the hedge for a couple of years will allow it to regrow the natural defence of sharp thorns and intertwined branches.

The set-up cost, excluding labour, is only £5/metre or approx $3/foot of fence. Extending the fence costs less than £1 a metre. Planning the installation was quite a useful refresher course on planning for security situations where deterrence is required for human intruders. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Taking a break

I'm taking a break at the moment up in Derbyshire. Beautiful countryside and loads of beautiful driving and walking. In the evenings I've been helping a couple of friends with the websites for their businesses. Using Google Sites can be a really cost effective method of providing a reliably hosted web site, while allowing a simple interface for the business to maintain their own information. Here's one example from a local driving instructor. Pass with Paula is the site for Paula Duddles who is based in Belper Derbyshire. The site is all her own work developed from scratch, though I've helped her over some of the tricky technical bits and grasping how to use the Google webmaster tools.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Unrepentant bankers

Here's a quote from the Economist (on-line 21 June 2014)  from an article entitled "The shrinking of British banks is bad for their employees, the City and Britain"

Before the credit crunch, finance was Britain’s most successful industry, its biggest exporter, taxpayer and provider of well-paid jobs. 

The article is about senior bankers moaning about the reduction of the importance of banking in Britain. It is clear they haven't got the message! Their actions were responsible for almost destroying the British economy. They think they should be allowed to carry on as they did in the good old days. The public debt arising from their lack of integrity will take decades to pay off. The banking system invented a gigantic fraud for which many more people should have received long prison sentences, but now they think their overpaid life style should continue as by right.

Pensioners and savers continue to be penalised by low interest rates as a consequence of the bankers' dishonesty yet the bankers' remuneration continues to spiral upwards.