Friday, October 28, 2011

git - recreation / clone and wordiness - dvcs

You deleted your git repository or are given a brand new machine - what to do?

But why am i not on 'origin' - seem to remember that from github last time?

Think of 'origin' as your first breadcrumb in your source work - where did you start from. More eloquently put...
Origin indicates the original repository from which you started. As we started from scratch this name is still available.
Here in my case we cloned, and unless we tell git differently, we are going to be tracking the remote repository pointed to by origin/HEAD (which in my case means origin/master or simply master on my local reporting)

git push

What do you think that will do given the images shown above?

First thing to bear in mind is that unless you tell it differently a push will go to where you started.

In my case, I started from a remote .git file which I gave as part of my clone command.

The diff command is your way of testing things before your push
( Note: The diff did not need your credentials as git keeps track
locally of how you have differed from your start point.* )

The push here knew where to send your changes.

You can be explicit about things by giving arguments to push if you wish.

git checkout - some musings:

Two things are bothering me here so let's clear this up

  • checkout sounds like a hangover from previous version control
  • master sounds like it does not belong as a branch name
If you were creating your own branch then you can pick a better name than master I am sure.

Branching - do it locally or do it remotely:

This seems to be an attitude / workflow thing.

'I am little' versus 'I am big' - workflow

You have a meeting with all the devs, you agree that a significant feature named 'serialization' is going to be added to your project.

"Okay I'll create a 'serialization' branch" you say before leaving the meeting.

This is an example of 'I am big' - you are making an 'ahead of time' branch on the remote repository to which you will later commit.

git push origin origin:refs/heads/serialization

Now you do all your serialization work and commit and push.

The 'I am little' workflow is a little less formal. You might have just joined the project by cloning. Probably you have a local branch master that is tracking the remote origin/master.

Create your branch locally, make your changes, push your changes to the remote as a new branch

Here you have not made a central decision on behalf of the entire project, until after all your code changes where complete which I say as 'I am little' workflow.

Note: If other folks have committed or branched the remote repository, then you will have to find a way to merge or latch onto the current running position.

git rebase might help you in that case.

Reasons to use ssh instead of https when cloning:


If you have ssh keys locally that enable you easy authentication with the remote repository, then cloning via ssh has everything set up so that pushing goes ssh also.

If you have ssh keys but do your original clone via https, then your pushes will default to https also. You can adjust things in between but why make life difficult.

Here are two portions of a url - which git clone method were they?

The first is https and the second is ssh.

Note: when cloning using ssh there is no need to put ssh:// for git, however you will be in the habit of doing that for mercurial.

Note: is not something you would see appearing in a mercurial clone command.

Notes and Further reading:

Git is tracking by default. What I mean by this is that cloning usually creates a local branch that tracks a remote branch.

Seeing --track in commands is reassuring, but these days is often the default anyway.

The only time you will be operating locally in a non tracking mode is usually when you have simply created a local directory and ran git init

You have to do something then to hook up git with a remote url, and give it enough information to do tracking.

Creating your own branches locally will usually have you operating in non-tracking mode, unless you tell git differently. See 'I am little' workflow described above.

git push origin somebranch

...assuming somebranch was created locally and is non-tracking, the above command would create a remote branch somebranch using what you have locally.

What if you see git branch returning the following:

* (no branch)

...means that you should either switch to master using git checkout master or else create a branch that you want to work in.

If you like the --track in checkout commands then try this:

git checkout --track origin/somebranch

which avoids the need to expressly say what the local branch will be and git will just create one named 'somebranch' that tracks the remote you supplied.

When is the following command legal?

git remote add origin 

Answer: When you have started out locally rather than cloning. When you use bitbucket or another remote that does not make an assumption in how you should start.

Github does the origin/master thing right from the outset - some will prefer this and some not.

git checkout superprogram.c is valid ... in this case checkout is not being used to switch branches.

The very last note - git pull is really a git fetch;git merge

There are probably several mistakes in my notes in this article - feel free to constructively comment and/or correct.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why is social media on my one year old smartphone slow?

The short answer is the the developers have a trade off to make - browser bottleneck / network bottleneck.

Client side / Server side - Turning back the clock 10 years:

I write this to create context. Trying to be brief.

10 years ago there were no smartphones really, and very little in the way of mobile internet.

The database lived on a server in the computer room, your desktop intranet web pages interacted with the database via server side code (JSP, PHP, ASP, whatever)

The desktop machine itself did not have to be very powerful as JSP, PHP, ASP did all the hard work in the computer room.

The phrase "Server Side round trip" was born, to give a catchy phrase to what some folks described as a network bottleneck.

Mobile net & Smartphones - ½ of Server Side now replaced by Javascript:

Sun/Oracle and Intel sell less servers because of this. Cue displeasure.

Client side development using Ajax and jQuery is popular in some startups.

The downside for the mobile user, is that the network bottleneck has now been replaced by a browser bottleneck - javascript processing.

In 2011, the biggest browser announcements, were all about the speed of the javascript processing engine.

In 2012 the push for dual core smartphones is mostly going to be driven by single core, becoming sluggish under the weight of client side javascript.

Phrases like "Sluggish page loading" and "smartphone lockup" are just two of the new phrases emerging from this shift.

Is a browser bottleneck better than a network bottleneck?

For desktops in the workplace, a network bottleneck is unlikely to be an issue, so server side processing makes perfect sense.

For tablets, smartphones, access via 3G/4G dongles, it all depends on the country in which you live, and the amount of time you spend on the move.

I use a tablet and 90% of my browsing is done via home / work fast WiFi - no network bottleneck. Heavy Ajax and jQuery is probably using up battery life unnecessarily.

I live outside of the metropolitan areas in India, and my smartphone connection regularly varies between 2 bars and the maximum 5 bars.
Heavy Ajax and jQuery client side processing is the answer.
Your battery takes the hit, but you are able to work very effectively with less reliance on the network.

Giving just two examples does not really cover it, but I hope that is enough to stimulate your own research.

Big social media - where is my bottleneck?

Twitter and Google+ place least reliance on the network, and prefer to put a good portion of the database access and scroller code on the client side.

Seem strange to me to be naming Google there, as Google does have pretty unlimited server side resources.

Identica and Facebook place more reliance on the network, but are less taxing on your smartphone processor.

Server side scripting such as Php takes a lot of the strain in Identica and Facebook, meaning you are borrowing less of your phone out, when browsing their social media.

In short the Facebook datacentre is humming when you browse, rather than your smartphone processor being fully taxed.

Just to clarify, I am by no means a Facebook fan, however this an article about choice of technologies, which does not require me to like Facebook or Google+ or both.

Big Social Media is very expensive, and if the company can borrow half of your smartphone processor, rather than compute on the server side, then there is a financial incentive there, to use your electricity rather than their own wherever possible.

How can I see this for myself? I want to experiment:

Browse around on Twitter and Identica and notice the speed and strain on your browser. Are they different? Does one seem more responsive than the other?

By Twitter and Identica, I mean searching or logging in to the or urls, rather than using a dedicated smartphone app.

The dedicated smartphone app for Twitter avoids Ajax and jQuery and suchlike, and is optimised for the best native device language, and API access available.

Friday, October 21, 2011

IT skills - market recovery - back to 2007 levels

The collapse of the financial services sector in UK, Europe, and US in late 2007 had a knock on effect on IT recruiting. It has taken 4 years to recover.

The above is a graph of Linux advertisements for one particular job site.

The big question now, is, whether it will last.

Financial regulation, certainly in the UK, is on the increase. Ringfencing of retail banking from investment banking risk in particular.

The UK banks are saying it will take 5 years to implement.

Linux is particularly strong in the financial sector, so I hope to be able to look back on that graph again in a year or so, and see the levels staying broadly the same / slight rise.

Birmingham - city visit

Having never visited Birmingham except for business, i took the opportunity for a short two day hotel stay as a leisure visitor.

First impressions of this Pedestrian visitor to Birmingham, UK:

There is a lot to it. Do have satnav enabled on your phone if you plan to go walkabout.

If you are planning a shopping trip, then your activities are already laid out in the several great shopping areas in the city centre. No satnav required.
(If you are going purely for a shopping day, then you can probably ignore the rest of this section)

One of the things that attracts medium sized and large businesses to Birmingham is the excellent road network.

Unlike Leeds though, Birmingham have yet to reconfigure the inner ring roads and connecting arteries to suit current needs of traffic / pedestrian mix.

The car is king in Birmingham, and being on foot feels a bit like visiting London used to feel, before the congestion charging move.

There are expanses of paved area where shoppers are somewhat shielded from king car, however these are not well connected enough to complete the impression.

Having lived in Leeds for a decade, and witnessed the gradual change in the inner ring road & one way systems, I now understand why those changes were required.

Proactive traffic planning and a decade of staggered disruption is what Birmingham will have to endure to create the pedestrian / traffic complimentary mix which Leeds have succeeded in providing.

Alternatively the London model (congestion charging) and moving the arteries away from the centre, through charges, might be another alternative.

Now the 'Big City Plan' is Birmingham's answer to my comment above.
It also sets out visionary proposals in which each of the seven 'quarters' will be able to evolve.
The developments of New Street Station, the Library and Museum & Art Gallery (most of which complete in 2014 / 2015) will be a big step forward.

However the connectivity of those seven areas and, more importantly, creating one way systems or other ways of pushing the high speed traffic out, from the very centre, need to be addressed (my humble opinion).

Art and Birmingham - Wow!

Pleasantly surprised to find the central Art locations so well stocked.

The Museum and Art Gallery has some fantastic works, however the layout of the listed building in which it is housed, does the visitor few favours.

I challenge any couple to spend a few hours in the main Museum & Art Gallery and rely on just signage for directions.

When the renovation work is complete in 2015, I do intend to visit again. Part of me hopes that the signs will have improved, and that the lack of renovation work makes the difference in visitor experience.

Do visit. The range and total number of items on display is fantastic.

Culture and Birmingham - just dipping a toe:

It is impossible to understand the culture of a city in a couple of days, so I will not try. Do treat my comments lightly - they are not thoroughly researched and are really just some minor observations.

If you like a Cultural mix (I do) then you will feel right at home in Birmingham, it is a melting pot of cultures and friendly with it.

Whilst I am sure reading the local press I might find some examples of when this mix does not work, it certainly wasn't my impression, during my short visit, that this was the case.

Travel on a bus. Yes there are some groups of folks in two or threes chatting about aspects of their shared culture. But that never seemed to create a feeling of division. My impression was that it was just 60 people from Birmingham on a bus, with more in common, than otherwise.

If you live in an area that is uni-culture, then do visit Birmingham and see for yourself. But do so with the intention of being open and receptive. Otherwise why bother wasting your own time, and the time of the good folks of Birmingham.

Real Ale and Ska - now there is a potent combination:

I cannot think of a better activity than having a few pints in friendly company, whilst listening to some good jukebox music.

In Selly Oak, I followed my visit to the Barber Art Institute, with a few pints of Banks and some relaxed Reggae and Ska on the jukebox.

Notes and Further Reading:

Did I enjoy my 2 night city break in Birmingham? Yes.
Would I visit again? I will.

If you are visiting and the weather is good, then do explore the tourist trail near the canal - sun bouncing off the water will give you a good dose of Vit D.

You need the sun's ultraviolet B rays to manufacture vitamin D.

I try not to get too hung up on musical categories, but here are two links, if your interest takes you further:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fredrickson International - Scam debt collection?

Ways to tell disreputable companies - some ideas:
  1. PO Box Address only
  2. Signature is not a signature - no named individual

Writing letters with no named individual, is not something that a reputable company would do.

Address: PO Box 260,
 KT13 0YH

Why would a reputable financial services company hide behind a PO Box?

But they must be a reputable company - they have a website and a data protection 'notification' entry.

So it seems De Havilland Drive, Brooklands Business Park, Weybridge, Surrey is the real address behind the PO Box.

An even fuller address might be Persimmon House, De Havilland Drive, if you are planning on calling in person.
  • Telephone:  0870 774 4111
  • Fax: 0870 777 6609
Google map search - here.

Seems this company used to collect Debts for Plant Hire / Leasing, but might want to now expand it's area of business.
Now back to the website - and here is the London address to tie it all together:

Fredrickson Int Ltd
7-10 Chandos Street

Google map search - here.

Now a bit more about the company - who are the key people?

MR JAN MICHAEL LACEY 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
ROY FREDERICK JONES 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
PAUL WILLIAM BUTLER 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
PAUL FAITHFULL 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
DARREN SEAN WRIGHT 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
DR DEREK LOUIS JONES 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
FRANK HANAFIN 12 Jan 10 director - Particulars Changed
JAN LACEY 11 Dec 08 director - Particulars Changed
MR JAN MICHAEL LACEY 11 Sep 08 director - Appointed

Now I don't know - but the thing that stands out here is the name Lacey - Mr Jan Micheal Lacey - appointed September 2008, then particulars changed 3 months later and again in 2010 - what sort of reorganisation is going on there exactly?

Promotion apparently - since 2008 Jan Michael Lacey has been promoted to "Director – Head of Group Marketing"

Quite a fancy title for a company that has less than £10,000 capital on file?

Financial Services and name changes - dodgy? You decide:

Apparently Mr S R Jones also a director of ...


Why all these different Fredrickson companies? All requiring company registration and Directorship filing.

Paying back the banks - who has Fredrickson owed money to?

RBS Invoice Finance Limited - Fixed And Floating Charge - Outstanding 1 Jun 07

National Westminster Bank Plc - Debenture - Outstanding on 02 Jun 04

Ideal Homes Limited - Rent Deposit Deed - Outstanding on 14 Sep 02

National Westminster Bank Plc - Legal Mortgage - Outstanding on 09 May 1996

Is this a service for debt reduction swap that Fredrickson are involved in?

Perhaps if S R Jones and J M Lacey were not so busy setting up so many different companies and Directorships, they might have a clearer business and make their own payments always on time.

Phone Harassment? - multiple outgoing phone numbers maybe:

0207 998 1074,
0208 127 0829
0208 616 0016
0208 759  9577

Mostly 0208 London, but also Manchester 0161 425 7458 and some other assorted numbers also.

Seems like that Manchester number has seen regular complaints.

Any phone less than two years old should have a call barring feature as standard.
Read the online manual for your phone or download the pdf user manual.

On some android phones there is whitelisting via menu entry for 'auto reject'
settings -> call settings -> all calls -> auto reject
Then you need to go into the 'auto reject' list and add that list of numbers above.

There are various smartphone apps for call reject, and most mobile antivirus has an sms/call block feature.
If you cannot find 'auto reject' or similar built in, then maybe webroot mobile antivirus or a similar shield is the way to go.

If you have a Virgin phone, then it may be worth thinking about a different network. Virgin seem to make it extraordinarily difficult on their website to access nuisance calls handling guidance.

Is this because robocalls are a healthy revenue stream which Virgin is keen to encourage?

Being locked into a Virgin contract, I had no choice but to install Webroot and add 88288 to the sms block to stop some nuisance texts.

The landline still gets robocalls, and I am keen to hear from anyone who has tried to contact Virgin to give an indication of how their complaint was handled.
( please leave your comment at the end )

Speaking of phones - what an innovative way of asset stripping:

We don't just take cash - we take your phone too!

But Fredrickson International Limited have just written to me?

It was probably for an old debt which you have already paid off years ago.

It is likely speculative.

Is this no more than an 0870 scam - where the whole point is to get people to waste their own time whilst the company collect 'per minute' call charges?

Well if Fredrickson are knowingly holding incorrect / uncorroborated data, and are not taking the time to 'prove the debt', it is certainly one argument.

Go here and ask some questions if you feel you might benefit from peer support.

Here is what Bill had to say about dealing with calls from this company:
Do not discuss anything, just leave them hanging on the phone. Do not even give them your name. They will also let it ring twice, as though you have a missed call and let you phone back......

Naming and shaming companies who deal with Fredrickson:

  • O2
  • Vodafone
  • Tiscali
  • BT
  • Virgin

Boycott those companies. It should be part of how you choose your services to consider who a company associates with.

Note: Just because Fredrickson International write in a letter that their client is "Such and Such Bank", does not make it so. One such example showed "Client: Bank of Scotland", however I am pretty sure that this is misleading.

Compiling a 'filtered list' of the most vulnerable - the 'mark' list:

Do not under any circumstances contact Fredrickson International without first checking your own credit record.

Courts should appreciate the argument:

I believed it to be a scam, so I promptly ordered a copy of my credit reference file. And this arrived within 7-10 days.
So work to your own timetable, diligently, and do not be rushed by scare tactics and barmy court cost figures in a letter.

Solicitors and part qualified legal executives who get involved in compiling 'mark' lists, based on response to scare tactics are bringing the law into disrepute.

The law was never about allowing exploitation of societies most vulnerable, by somebody with a two year City & Guilds equivalent in basic law.

The first time you respond to a bogus debt claim, you have just been promoted to the class B list.

Class A - the original list
Class B - those who have responded in any way
Class C - those who seem most unable to 'hold their own' in telephone conversation, and might pay twice for something already cleared.

That Class C 'mark list' is very valuable to all companies operating in grey areas of law.

If you make it onto the Class C list, then even if you get rid of the company that is currently bothering you, by sharing that valued list, another bogus claim from a different company is likely in the future.

Trading in lists of societies most vulnerable individuals? How on earth did we end up here?
UK Prime Minister - what are you going to do to address this awful situation?

But my Sister who has Learning Disabilities has already visited

If you have verified that this is a bogus claim (Statute Barred / Already settled), then your Sister (with your help) will have to write to Fredrickson International, and ask them to remove all records they hold on her. Do it soon.

If they have not responded within 14 days confirming receipt of your letter, then they are in violation of Data Protection regulations, and seek help at

If it were me doing the writing, then I would address the letter to the Data Controller at the Surrey address listed above, and do not bother with recorded delivery - too easy to ignore (I was not in the office)

If the company are genuinely ignoring data removal requests, then the Information Commissioner (see Helpline number) will respond to your complaint.

Notes and Further reading:

Official UK Helpline for Data Protection issues: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745
Next time you are being pitched a Broadband contract - ask the sales operator.
  • Does your network allow connections from automated dialers?
  • How easy is it for the network to bar a number from being able to call my landline?
  • How easy is it for the network to bar a number from being able to call my mobile?
  • Can you point me to the area of your website regarding nuisance calls?
  • Does your company have any business dealings with Fredrickson International?

If enough people ask these, then you are helping reshape demand to better meet the needs of the end user, and helping solve the problem.

Antivirus and call blocking:

I have no affiliation to Webroot or any other antivirus software, however Webroot kindly provide screenshots at which indicate an sms/call block feature.

Most antivirus is probably as good as the next, however if you are buying it in order to get sms/call blocking, then do ensure it has this feature before hitting 'Buy'

Your personal grievance with Fredrickson:

Please seek some peer support from consumer action groups, or citizens advice if you have a current problem or personal grievance with Fredrickson.
( I wrote this blog post 3 years ago, and have no further dealing personally with this disreputable company. I leave the article content active, as it may help some of the people who are still being targeted by this company. )

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    career/life goals from retrospective points.

    Here are 4 phrases, that I hope will never appear on my fictional obituary

    • If it didn't involve 100% markup, then he wasn't interested
    • He sought to divide the globe into the 10% who could afford his product, and the other 90%, and, to make that division very tangible.
    • He made some very uninteresting people proud to wear a turtleneck
    • He learned from previous examples of 'patent aggression', then took it to the max.
    I can be pretty sure about the third entry, and the other three make good personal targets of 'how not to' for my future.

    Here are some experimental entries:
    • He wrote an anti-EULA that made app store software installation really difficult
    • He refused to dress up, and was rarely the best dressed gentleman at the convention.
    • He missed the opportunity to branch out into high street 'churches'.
    • He told a lie once about a guy with a different ideology.
    ...and some more...
    • He chopped and changed endeavours so frequently, and failed to see out some projects to true proof or disproof.
    • He often placed too little value on business partners, and failed to move forward quickly enough, by 'in-housing' too much.
    • He did not take the time to ensure that his own moral code was part of the company make up. When it went public, it turned into the very thing which he had been fighting against most of his career.
    Experimenting this way, and, for a short time trying to play the external critic, can be useful in firming up your own objectives.

    Organised religion makes a big thing about some central figure. Whilst it is okay to borrow some features and achievements from somebody else, achieving your own potential fully, will probably not come from imitation.

    If you want to explore the 'central figure' / worship theme a little, then the argument and counter arguments here are a good entry point.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Minimum Wage levels are Symptom not Cause

    Institute of Economic Affairs quote about National Minimum Wage:
    This is basically pricing people out of the labour market and onto welfare
    Source: Panorama article on BBC

    I was never a fan of the minimum wage 'idea', however it is now in place in the UK.

    As it happens I think that statement from Mark Littlewood, sidesteps the wider issue of Housing.

    The minimum wage being 'too high' is purely a reflection of rising living costs.

    Think of it as nothing more than a number/statistic helps.

    The true problem, in my opinion, is the daft idea of turning 'housing' (an essential item) into a 'free market' driven by folks looking for 20% or 10% annual return.

    Whilst that situation exists, living costs will continue to be driven by, that underlying market force, and that living cost reflection (minimum wage) will also continue to rise.

    There have been many headlines in the past 5 years from Company Directors*, complaining about the minimum wage.

    Directors and recruiters bleating about a minimum wage being too high, seems to me to be a lazy sidestepping of the wider issue.

    Do these same Directors* and recruiters own second homes?

    Because if they did, you could understand why they may be reluctant, to give up on a market system (housing) in which, they have major capital invested.

    *Directors here means Company Directors in general, and does not refer to any one individual.

    Better off on welfare - how the 'Housing market' creates this situation:

    As a Mathematician and follower of logic, this seems all too easy to describe, and illustrate with numbers.

    You are a blue collar worker named Bob and you work full time at a biscuit factory.

    Your weekly earnings have increased steadily from £200 in 1990, to £300 in 2000, and £400 in 2010.

    1994 was a good year, you got Married to Janet and bought a semi-detached for £30,000 with a Mortgage arrangement. You are 24 years old and things are rosy.

    2002 was not a good year, you got divorced, agreed to sell the house and split the proceeds.

    The 'Housing Market' now in full effect had increased the value of your property to £80,000.

    You pay the divorce lawyer, and sale fees and You and Janet end up with roughly £30,000 each.

    You choose to rent a flat at £100 per week.

    The 'buy to let' effect on the Housing Market has increased average rents, now between 2003 and 2009, your rent has increased on the flat from £100 to £180 per week.

    Luckily for you your wages in 2010 are now £400, but of the £220 remaining after your rent is paid, you must contribute to the living costs of the children from your marriage.

    You struggle financially, but have got past the divorce,  and enjoy spending a couple of days with the kids midweek and weekends.

    The £30,000 you had from the sale of the house has been pretty much spent on treating the kids - organised school holidays skiing for little Pete, and a pony for Lucy. You now have £5,000 in a saver account.

    In 2011 the Biscuit Factory closes and you lose your job.

    Now let's pretend for a second that there is no minimum wage.

    Bob has a flat for £180 per week. He has to contribute to the upkeep of his children with Janet also.

    He liked the job at the Biscuit Factory, and it gave him stability for many years, however he has few transferable skills.

    Bob's cost of living has very little to do with whether he lives in a country that has a minimum wage.

    If there was a minimum wage and it was scrapped overnight, it does not alter Bob's situation.

    Adding some detail - Bob lives in the UK and there is (currently) a National Minimum Wage of £6.08

    ( For International Readers - I give some context ... £6.08 will buy between 4 and 6 loaves of sliced bread depending on where you shop )

    Bob goes down to the job centre. Most of the jobs for which he would have any hope of showing 'previous experience' are priced at the Minimum Wage rate of £6.08 per hour.

    £212.80 per week is what you will get on Minimum Wage for working a 35 hour week.

    Assuming Bob takes the job at Roundhouse Cake Factory at £212.80 per week, and does not claim any housing assistance, he cannot stay in the flat and support his kids.

    Instead Bob takes the job at Roundhouse Cake Factory at £212.80 per week, and does claim housing assistance - he can stay in the flat and support his kids.
    Welfare won. Bob works hard but finds life is worth living and adores his children.

    Should Welfare win? - the different opinions:

    The welfare staff are chatting over lunch. The discussion is about Bob. He should really have moved out of the flat, and into a shared house with cheaper rent says Charlie. Jenny points out that a 40 plus single man with children staying over Wednesdays and Saturdays, might not work with a house of young students.

    Have your own discussion folks. Is Bob right? Is Charlie talking sense? Does Jenny have a valid opinion?

    What did not matter at all in that scenario was Minimum Wage.

    What did matter looking back at the history was ...
    • 1994 -> 2002 the cost of a semi-detached rose from £30,000 to £80,000
    • 2003 -> 2009 the rental for a flat rose from £100 to £180

    Now let's consider a clone of Bob (Bob2), who has let himself go a bit. He makes an effort with the children, but feels a little downtrodden and is not very happy except on Dad days.

    Bob2 fails to get the job at Roundhouse Cake Factory - the employer had a more enthusiastic applicant and gave the job to Ted.


    Bob2 fails to get the job at Roundhouse Cake Factory - the employer had 50 applicants for 2 jobs. Ted and Sally got the jobs.

    Bob2 claims job seekers allowance, and claims help with his living costs.
    Welfare won.

    Charlie and Jenny and the rest of the lunchtime crowd from welfare are commenting on Bob2's situation. Somebody suggests that it is not right that Bob2 should have his Flat paid for. Another person disagrees. What do you think?

    Idle Chatter, the Housing Market, the Housing Market:

    My Opinion: All that talk is just idle chatter - the bigger problem - affordable housing is the real issue.

    Until the government take measures regarding second ownership (tax it out of existence?), the housing costs of Bob and Bob2 will be driven by those seeking 10% to 20% annual returns on residential housing.

    This generation (and the previous generation) have been raised to maximise the income to their family unit. Whilst a situation exists where 10% to 20% annual profit can be obtained through owning a second home, the welfare system is taking up the slack.

    Everyone meets the cost of welfare, but only the second home owners get to keep the 10% to 20% profit.

    Schooled in profit - would I ever own a second home:

    The easy answer here would be to say NO NEVER, however I think it is naïve of me to reach right away for that answer.

    Let me put it to you another way...

    If I had £100,000 today and could earn 4% in a bank, or 20% in a second home, would you consider me an idiot for taking the 4%? Probably.

    If I take the 4% I am considered a fool for giving up 16% earnings.

    Regulation is required to prevent bank and building society investments, being the poor choice for most 'well off' couples and their investment.

    Residential Housing is not a 'free market' and should not be treated like one.
    Yes have a market, but have it regulated to moderate profits, through capital gains tax and other taxation measures.

    If it is 'too profitable' then speculation and greed take over, and affordable housing becomes a myth.

    Until this happens, those 20% annual returns are going to be too tempting for anyone to resist.

    But nobody makes 10% or 20% per annum on a second house now?

    If this is the case, then regulation is still required, just not as urgently.

    It does not alter the situation that all those 10% and 20% yearly increases, between 1994 and 2009 have been taken out of the system.

    Only when house prices fall so that those 10% or 20% rises are undone will the affordable housing problem go away.

    But that is impossible? Only if housing is really not a free market or there is a fundamental change in our social makeup.

    With the lack of regulation, a lack of buyers could well undo those past rises.

    However second home owners would not allow that to happen. Lobbying for removal of rent caps on social housing, and other roundabout methods of propping up the residential property market, would likely come into effect.

    The 'well off' do not like to lose money, and expect MPs, and other representatives to take action if that looks likely. Cynical? Maybe.

    I mentioned a 'fundamental change in our social makeup' - see next.

    Alternative housing - a threat to second home owners:

    Bob loses the Flat and decides to take off and become a 'traveller'. The £5,000 buys him a motor home.

    Wherever Bob goes around the UK, he is pestered by councils to 'move on'

    Bob2 loses the Flat. He meets Victoria and in order to save up a deposit, they move into a large shed in the back garden of Victoria's folks house.

    However an Anonymous complaint is received at the council, and the shed living arrangement cannot continue.

    The couple will have to scrimp and save for a decade, before having any hope of affording to buy a house.

    Note: I have misrepresented Victoria and Bob2 as a couple here. Victoria is a real person (see link), however I felt it a useful addition to this article. Bob2 bears no relation to the boyfriend of Victoria in the linked article. My words are fictional. 

    So it seems that there are perhaps too many vested interests in the 'free market' of residential property, to allow any change.

    Alternative housing will be vilified, as if it is not, then those 10% or 20% annual profits might never return!

    Notes and Further Reading:

    It is not my intention to suggest that welfare staff discuss individual cases over lunch. I just found it a useful way of introducing ideas and opinions, which the reader can mull over.

    If this article comes across as being negative towards second home owners, it is not so deliberate. I only point out the negatives to get to the root cause - Having residential housing as a truly 'free market' is in my opinion a big mistake. This article is my attempt to illustrate that, rather than targeting those individuals outright.

    An extract from a report by Shelter about Affordable Housing in UK:
    Shelter's research found rents had risen at one-and-a-half times the rate of incomes in the 10 years up to 2007.

    Shelter defines 'Affordable' as 35% of median average local take-home pay.

    Do you think 35% of take home pay is a reasonable level?