20 October 2016

Trump and women

One could get confused over the word 'liberal' these days.  In my youth, a liberal was one of two things.

The first Liberal had a capital 'L' and was a member or supporter of the Liberal Party.  The Liberals were the latter-day Whigs.  Starting as a party of the aristocracy - as did their rivals, the Tories - the Whigs became the party of the middle-class owners of industry, of the non-conforming Protestant churches, and of 'liberal' issues, including the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown and Church, the abolition of slavery, and the extension of suffrage.  They introduced the Reform Act of 1832.  The Whigs merged with other interests to form the Liberal Party.  The Liberals in Government in the early twentieth century started the welfare state system.  Gradually the Labour Party supplanted the Liberal Party, and it declined during the rest of the twentieth century, adopting policies such as membership of the Common Market and the introduction of proportional representation, and eventually merging with a number of disaffected - and largely ineffectual - Labour Party members to form the Liberal-Democrats.

The second liberal was the kind of person who would have been at home in the early Liberal Party, advocating rights and freedoms.  They would have been less happy with the later Liberals, keen on destroying British sovereignty and democratic elections. True liberals wanted liberty and equality.

So we come to the 'liberals' of today.  Far from embracing ideals of liberty and equality, the 'liberal' media seems to want rule by those whom they regard as best fitted to rule and equality on a limited stratum of society.  The people best fitted to rule are writers (especially in the media), actors and scientists.  They exclude people who own practically anything - businesses, land, even houses - and include those whom they regard as 'disenfranchised' - non-Whites and non-Christians.

I hope that the true 'liberals' of today persist in their aspirations for freedom and opportunity.  Sadly, the adjective 'liberal' is now used to describe people whose views are far from liberal.

In the United States, some politicians called themselves 'liberal' and the label was adopted by newspapers and television stations whose agenda was really ruthless exploitation.  Thus, while the loathsome Kennedys rose to and achieved power, the New York Times and the Washington Post twisted towards the rhetoric and ideology of the 'liberal' Democrats.

Unfortunately, rhetoric and ideology are the sole pillars of modern 'liberalism'.
By 'rhetoric', I mean 'language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content'.
By 'ideology', I mean 'a set of political beliefs or ideas'.
They are the sole pillars because modern 'liberalism' lacks any clear policies, plans or initiatives to bring its ideology into reality.  Such policies as it does embrace are often ineffectual.

Take Mrs Clinton's stated policy on Syria.  She is proposing a full review of the United States' strategy in Syria. That sounds like inaction.  But it isn't. While Mrs Clinton has said that she would not commit more troops to Syria, her campaign advisors have said that both ISIS and Assad must be removed.  How is that going to accomplished without ground forces?  The only way to achieve military success is by capturing territory, and you don't do that with drones and missiles.  Because the ideology cannot be made to fit the realities, the rhetoric becomes illogical and cloudy.  So she promises a review.

The ideology is so flawed that it cannot recognize the reality of Syria.  There is a civil war within Syria.  While the West may be alarmed at the presence of ISIS - or, more accurately, 'ISIL', if we take the full meaning of 'as-shaam' as referring to The Levant rather than Syria specifically -  we should be alarmed at its presence in other countries, including the US.  Whatever we may dislike about the situation in Syria, we would be hard pressed to explain how it affects us.  We should also remember that much of the unrest in the Middle East is caused by a previous intervention, when a more pragmatic, and indeed liberal, view would have been to have left it alone.

Who in the liberal media is jumping up and down about the sheer idiocy of Mrs Clinton's Syria policy?  Or taxation? Or trade?

What does vex the American and some international media are remarks by Mr Trump about women.

What should trouble them is that Mr Trump's statements were typical of the way that many 'celebrities' and media people treat women.  Not only women, of course.  Some male child actors have reported abuse recently, too.  It seems as if the practice of sexual abuse among senior men within the movie industry is commonplace.  If it is, then we can also imagine that boasting about their abuse is also commonplace.  And that boasting would probably take the form of the statements made by Mr Trump in 2005.

As a presidential candidate, those remarks now haunt his campaign.  But it looks as if  many men in Hollywood have yet to be brought to account for their actions.

While there is some justification for ranting about Mr Trump's remarks, we should realize that they are symptoms of a larger, and continuing, problem.

12 October 2016

Samsung Galaxy Note7

Before I begin my review of the flawed thinking that has caused such problems at Samsung, a brief criticism of the media.  Almost universally, the phone has been referred to as the 'Galaxy Note 7'.  On Samsung's website, there is no space between the 'Note' and the '7'.  Whatever anyone may think about Samsung's products, it is just simple good manners to call the model by the actual name given to it by its manufacturer. Journalists should check on the correct spelling of people's names - with some media having style guides that include 'difficult' names - but that seems to be a declining skill, too.

For many years, companies, their management, and their management consultants worked on perfecting their product development life-cycles.  One of the criteria was quality, and quality was assured through testing.  In the time that I was working, first in manufacturing companies and later as a consultant to manufacturers, we continued to improve testing techniques.  At some stage, as business continuity planning grew out the earlier disaster recovery planning, we linked product testing with business continuity assurance.  In short, we developed a rule that no product would ever reach the market if it had a fixable, identifiable fault.  There was a recognition by manufacturers that a problem with any product could lead to the withdrawal of that product and could invoke the business continuity plan to keep the maker in business.

I have noticed before that a good deal of the 'knowledge base' that we built between the 1970s and the 1990s seems to have either been lost or to have been appropriated by fads.  Sometimes, when a fad - such as ISO 9000 - dies and is thrown out, the knowledge that it was based on gets thrown out with it.

While I have observed this happening in many manufacturing and service companies, it is a trend that has not been repeated in the mainstream software development industry.  Indeed, I am impressed that new techniques of rapid testing have been developed.  I can speculate that this happens in the following ways.
  1. Software development gets handed over.  It is rare that someone comes on to a software development team without being mentored or at least having all the documentation available to them.  So there is a continuity of product knowledge.
  2. Software development has become increasingly controlled by methods and methodologies.  The software industry has developed its own tools - usually themselves software - to control and management the development and testing cycles.
  3. Software development is modular.  From its earliest days, software was always modular: large programs were broken into modules that called each other.  Today, the use of techniques such as 'containers' means that individual functions can be developed and tested on their own, before they are incorporated into the main software product.  It goes further than that: these individual functions can be modified and enhanced and tested on their own, with a minimal need for their integration with the whole product to be re-tested comprehensively.
  4. Software development has 'version control' imposed on it.  Each new version is only released to the market - or each new function is only included in its container - when it has undergone testing.  The days of coders being able to say 'I've only changed a couple of lines' have gone.  Change leads to testing.
I do know that manufacturers have methods and processes and version control.  I also observe that adherence to these can be ignored when senior management sees a pressing need to get a product to market.  In terms of technology, there are two kinds of organization.  The first kind are the hardware manufacturers who also develop (or buy in) software, and the second are the software developers who also make hardware.   Samsung is the first kind: it makes phones and runs someone else's software on them.  Apple is the first kind.  Microsoft is the second.

We could expect that getting the Note7 to market was largely dependent on the hardware rather than the software.  So Samsung should have employed the techniques of manufacturing that were established decades ago.  If Samsung had still retained the processes and methodologies, it could have made a success of the Note7.  Unfortunately, there were two factors that seem to have made it forget how to put a decent product in the marketplace.

First, and actually of less importance, despite what has been written recently by some commentators, there was Apple's iPhone 7 - and there is a space between the 'iPhone' and the '7'.  Samsung became desperate to launch the Note7 before the iPhone 7.

Second, and much more relevant to the failure of the Note7, the board of Samsung Electronics has technologists, a banker, a professor of economics and a professor of business administration.  Where are the marketing people?  Call me biased but I do not regard economists and business administration professors as practical hands-on marketing experts.  So Samsung had no one, apparently, who could have told it that going head-to-head at the launch of the iPhone 7 would not work.  Did Samsung really imagine that it could tear devoted fans - who had purchased the iPhone 6, or at least the iPhone 5 - from their intention of buying the iPhone 7?  Did it believe that consumers would buy the Note7 rather than wait for the iPhone 7, especially given that Apple does not reveal much about its products before they are available for purchase (or pre-purchase)?

As it turned out, the iPhone 7 was not a major leap forward.  It remains underpowered, with technology issues of its own, and with a camera that has only just been brought up to the specs of its competitors.  There are many things wrong with iOS 10 (with a space), not least its inability to integrate apps and to communicate widely.  But Samsung could have waited.  Once the consumers who were undecided about their next phone had seen the iPhone 7 and read the reviews, Samsung could have launched the Note7, and its timing would have made it more of a 'killer' in a market where it could gain ground.

And while they waited, they could have tested it.

08 October 2016

Auckland's mayor

Voting closes today in the election of the mayor of Auckland.  As usual, the candidate who is ahead in the polls is a second-rate politician with no discernible achievements on his CV.

The outgoing mayor, Leonard Brown, despite being a member of the Labour Party, stood as an Independent, but his policies have not disguised the Socialist ideology with which he has approached the job.  Similarly, his bluster has not disguised his lack of accountability over expenses, his psychotic behaviour in 'the Chamber', and at least one sexual affair.  Lacking in any real vision for a major conurbation, he has embraced the outmoded notion that railways can solve road traffic problems.  This also demonstrates how little this Manukau-based ex-lawyer understands the people of Auckland: you can't just expect that people will give up their cars and move to public transport:  Auckland is not London.

It is a feature of Socialists that they abbreviate their names as well as declaring themselves as 'independent'.  So Philip Goff, who failed to achieve anything in at least five ministerial portfolios, is the favourite in the polls.

So here we are again: probably about to elect another nondescript mayor with no discernible ability to manage a city of almost 2 million people.