Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Computers and the ATO

The Australian Taxation Office appear to have little idea of what they are doing when it comes to computers and the internet. There are constantly new issues arising as they don’t think out things properly before implementing.

One of the latest issues is their lack of capacity planning with regard to the new version of their MyTax online software for people to lodge their own individual tax returns this year. Now obviously with millions of people wanting to lodge their returns in the first couple of weeks so as to claim their refund the system would need to be able to handle several tens of thousands of people trying to use it at the same time (at least) however as it turns out, some parts of the system have a maximum capacity of about two thousand people – only a small fraction of the number of people would reasonably be expected to want to use it at the same time during July. It looks like no capacity planning was done at all and the ATO is surprised that so many people would actually like to lodge their tax return.

Another issue with the ATO is security. They claim that their system is secure and yet a part of their security sysytem requires that Java be installed on the computer trying to access their business and tax agent portals. Not only is Java itself considered by many to be a security risk that they would prefer to not have installed on their computer but the way the ATO implements their security is using other features that at least some browsers consider to be a security risk and no longer allow to run. The ATO’s response is to tell people to switch to less secure browsers that are yet to implement the security that will block the ATO’s insecure security module.

Yet another issue with the ATO is their reliance on restricted access to people’s tax file numbers. Now if documents containing tax file numbers are emailed then fragments of those documents may be held on mail servers all over the place making it theoretically possible that someone could obtain copies of tax file numbers from these mail servers without the sender or recipient of the email ever knowing. To prevent tiis happening the ATO hace advised that no documents containing tax file numbers are to be emailed. This means that when all of the payment summaries for employees are done that companies will need to remove the tax file numbers before emailing them to their staff. Of course this isn’t going to happen particularly since the email button in most software for producing these payment summaries almost certainly doesn’t remove the tax file numbers and so eventually the taf file numbers will be compromised. The ATO apparently has no plans for how they will handle when this happens.

Basically the ATO online security system is a joke and someone breaking into their system and publishing everyone’s tax info for the world to see is just a matter of time. Unfortunately there appears to be no way to opt out of dealing with such a backward organisation as there is no competitor to switch to who actually has proper security installed.

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Y2K

I have just been reading yet another article that mentions Y2K as an example of a wrong assumption. In fact those who advised of the potential disaster that was called Y2K were 100% right in their assumption that it could be an absolute disaster. Because it would have been such a disaster those companies with computers hired hundreds or thousands of extra staff for a couple of years leading up to 2000 to go through all of their code and fix all of the Y2K issues with that code. Had these many tens of thousands of extra staff not been employed on fixing Y2K it would have been the disaster that was predicted. The assumption was correct but action was subsequently taken to fix it.

How do I know this? Well I spent about three years leading up to 2000 working on nothing but Y2K fixes. The team I worked on had about 100 people on it and all we were responsible for was identifying the programs that had problems and testing them once the many other teams had fixed them. Also in the first month of 2000 I saw three programs crash due to Y2K problems that had not been fixed. These delayed some financial processing by a week or two while these programs were fixed. By this time I was working with a small team on a relatively small system. Had the effort not been put into fixing 99.999% of the Y2K problems before 2000 then that original assumption as to how big a disaster Y2K would be would have been wrong in that the disaster would have been many times greater than had been predicted..

Y2K is perhaps one of the best examples of people underestimating a potential disaster but managing to almost fix it in time so that only those directly involved noticed.

Friday, July 10th, 2015

No Stopping

Judging from the number of cars I see parked near these signs, a lot of people don’t appear to know what the different parking signs actually mean.

No Stopping means that you are not allowed to stop even to let someone out of the car or pick someone up.

No Standing means you can stop long enough to drop someone off or pick someone up but you can’t stop and wait for someone.

No Parking means that you can stop and wait for someone but the driver must stay with the vehicle. Once the vehicle is left unattended it is considered to be parked.

One area where I regularly see cars parked near no stopping signs is in front of a new unit block in Nuwarra Road Moorebank. Some of the cars are definitely parked in a no stopping area. There are five no stopping signs on that particular section of road and four of them clearly have arrows pointing in both directions. The confusion is that the middle sign has an arrow only pointing in one direction and some cars park on the other side of that sign where the arrow on that sign indicates that the sign doesn’t apply. The next sign behind those parked cars does indicate that it applies in the direction of those cars and so from behind those cars are in a no stopping zone but from ahead they are not. Of course there is also the three metre rule about how close to double centre lines you are allowed to park and I suspect that all of these vehicles are within three metres of because all of the trucks have to cross the centre line in order to have sufficient space to pass.

I guess these cars are just fortunate that no parking inspectors ever check that particular area.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

More than one Octopus

An item in today’s paper made reference to ‘octopi’ being incorrect (presumably if you add an ‘e’ to the end you get an eight sided pie). It then went on to incorrectly suggest that octopusses was correct (presumably a short way of saying ‘eight cats’). When one octopus gets together with another octopus you of course have two octopodes.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Bad Advice

I saw two web pages giving bad financial advice today.

The first was to a couple wanting to move into one of their rental properties. The advise was to see if the loans could be refinanced across the other properties leaving the one to be used as their residence with no mortgage. Since the tax deductibility of loans is based on what they were originally for and not what property they are on such a refinance would make no difference to the deductibility of the loans other than to make it harder to work out the deductible portion and probably increase the cost of the accounting required to work out the portion of the loans applicable to their residence.

The other was relating to a property in a super fund purchased before 1985 where the advice was that there would be no capital gains tax on the sale. In fact only by going fully into pension mode would there be no capital gains tax as all super fund assets regardless of their purchase date have been subject to capital gains tax since 1st July 1988.So most likely the gain would be taxable.

Just goes to show that you shouldn’t believe anything a financial adviser tells you without first checking it with your accountant (assuming you have a good accountant that knows the tax laws properly).

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Dancing With Dragons

Just finished re-reading this book and noticed that GRRM has built a “spoiler” into the back of the book. There is a substantial list of all of the characters mentioned in the book (and the preceding ones) at the back that shows the relationships between everyone. The other thing that the list indicates clearly is who is alive and who is dead. Those people who are dead at the end of the book have their names enclosed in {} in the list to make it easy to tell who is still living and who is dead.

Note that this doesn’t necessarily match to where things are at in the TV show as there are some people who have apparently already been killed in the show but who are still alive at the end of the book – for example Stannis and Myrcella Baratheon are both still alive at the end of the book and yet to face anything like what apparently has happened to them in the show.

Two interesting entries for characters marked as still alive are Benjen Stark (the text states presumed dead but his name isn’t surrounded with the {} to indicate that he actually is dead) and Jon Snow who was stabbed and left for dead just before the end of the book but where the list indicates that he is still alive (perhaps he lasts long enough for the book to end and will have died some time during the six or seven years between the end of this book and the start of the next).

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Nuisance Emails

It is still only June but my inbox is already full of junk emails reminding me that Father’s Day is fast approaching. Surely reminding me in late August that Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September would be more appropriate. I suppose by then these same people will be sending emails reminding me that Christmas is only days away.

Monday, June 8th, 2015

King George III

It is Monday 8th June, the nearest Monday to George III’ birthday which was 4th June. Those of us living on the east coast of Australia therefore get a day off work to celebrate his 277th birthday (moved a few days so we get a long weekend). Here’s to you George, may they still be celebrating your birthday in another 277 years time.

ps. Queen Elizabeth’s birthday is 21th April and we usually get a day off for that a few days later as well – but it’s called Anzac day.

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Terrorism and Murder – the difference between them

Terrorists are the very definition of insanity. They live in their own fantasy world and care nothing about anyone else. By the time that they actually commit a terrorist act such as planting a bomb or taking the lives of innocent hostages they are beyond redemption. The chances of their ever recovering from their insanity is so remote and the risk of them continuing to kill so great that the only reasonable action to take when they are caught is to execute them. In this situation their execution can not be considered to be murder as it is basically done in self defense to prevent them from committing more atrocities in which more people will be killed.

Any lesser crime than terrorism does not deserve the death penalty. Even mass murderers are capable of recovering their sanity and doing good works to at least partly atone for the harm they did while insane. They may be sentenced to live in prison with no possibility of ever being released (unless evidence is discovered to prove they didn’t do it) but executing them for what they have done means that someone else has now murdered them and so for justice to be served they too should be imprisoned for their crime.

If murderers do not deserve to die for their crime (and they don’t) then anyone committing a lesser crime doesn’t deserve that penalty either. They might deserve imprisonment until they have redeemed themselves by undoing the damage that they have done and clearly demonstrating that they have changed to the point where they will never consider repeating their prior mistake but no greater penalty than that should be imposed (most modern societies are far more lenient).

The recent actions of Joko Widodo and H.M Prastyo in Indonesia are a very close match to the actions performed by many terrorists. The only question though is whether these were deliberate terrorist acts or whether these are simply immature people who were unaware that they were committing terrorist acts. If we accept that they are like teenagers who think they know best and don’t listen to adults who know better then perhaps they should be given the benefit of the doubt. They do not deserve execution as the penalty for their crimes against humanity.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

GeoBlocking

When will TV and Movie companies realise that this type of technology is obsolete? The internet means that the world is ONE region and everyone is neighbours to everyone else. The only thing that their attempts at geoblocking achieve (other than making money for the VPN companies) is to promote piracy as pirated copies are never goeblocked.

If governments want to take action against the increasing level of piracy of TV shows and movies then the simplest action they can take is to make geoblocking illegal. If the owners are serious about taking action against piracy then the law against geoblocking can be easily enforced on overseas based companies. If they want to take action against pirates then the show they want to take action about must not have been geoblocked allowing everyone the opportunity to see the show legitimately at a reasonable price.

This solution would be using the law and technology together. Any other solution would be setting the law against technology and as in every prior conflict between the law and technology, technology eventually wins and the entire concept of the law is weakened somewhat in the process. Unenforcable laws that attempt to keep people from using the technology they legally own to do anything that others can legally do with that same technology simply due to decisions made be those still living in the dark ages simply weakens all laws. The internet makes the entire world into one region. The first step the show owners need to take against piracy is to recognise this and allow everyone access to whichever of their distributers that they wish to use.