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Sirius Open Source Sinking in Debt

2018 and 2019:

Sirius 2018 and 2019

2019 and 2020:

Sirius 2019 and 2020

2020 and 2021:

Sirius 2020 and 2021

Growing debt, no money left in the bank.

Meme of koala says Sirius-ly; Looks like money has run out (logo added)

Summary: When the founder of Sirius ‘Open Source’ divorced his wife a new company was formed, almost cashless; there was a lot of debt, but workers could not ask about it

TRUTH be told, the state of Sirius has not been good for years, but treatment of staff worsened a lot after management had changed. Then, there was a tendency to blame staff for failures, even if and when the failures were attributed to actions at the very top. Below we present part 2 of the relevant section of the report. As shown above, as the years went by the company was running out of money and out of time (way too much debt). These figures are all in the public domain. The lesson of the story is, desperate companies may resort to bullying, and the bullying would then be directed at anyone but the management.

The company had not shared with us financial information or contract details (amounts of money) in about half a decade. Financial statements are publicly available, however, in the public domain.

Apparently there was something in the wiki when the CEO’s ex-wife was around, but it’s all gone now. Is the company heavily indebted to a bank? According to the latest statement, the company is very, very deep in debt. Notice witness in the financial documents of the bank: the office manager. Even at that point the company understated the severity of the situation as debt grew every year despite a significant cut in the number of salaried staff. Some names/signatures are rubbed off, but maybe those aren’t relevant. The CEO’s ex-wife is not listed in some of the recent documents. One is left guessing aimlessly. Transparency would be much appreciated.

The office manager refused to tell Roy why the CEO had relocated or was based in the US and was repeatedly evasive when Roy asked. Workers were not told why the company changed registration (like a new company minted; new contracts needed to be signed), so some speculated that post-divorce ownership may have been a motivation. Those were dark times for the company with many questions hanging and an absent CEO, at one point showing up in a rib shirt for a company meeting online. This felt rather inappropriate.

Those observations may not be pleasant to see or hear. But those are very important and they hopefully help explain a certain change in attitude. For instance, the company’s use of Slack probably violates privacy law associated with some of our clients, never mind our own. We are aware of several colleagues who may have left due to management being rude and unpleasant.

The harshest bit was, after key colleagues had left the bullying from management intensified, taking out frustration on the wrong people. For instance, Roy and Rianne were sent to be interrogated. The HR agency that interrogated Roy and Rianne (this lasted for nearly 3 hours!) totally sided with Roy and Rianne and asked important questions about the management; the HR people urged Roy and Rianne to keep record of everything and assumed this thing was likely politically-motivated (or similar). In other words, this backfired spectacularly on the accuser and moreover cost the company a lot of money, never mind the moral damage. No clarify or apology was consequently issued to Roy and Rianne. The accusers were not punished this this misuse of company budget and one remains on the payroll to this day. What are decent people supposed to expect from a company that treats veteran (long-time staff) like that? By that time, Roy had been in the company about 5 times longer than the principal accuser. Roy was encouraged by HR to keep documentation for self-defensive purposes, as per this document.

Pay Sirius Coporation, Get GAFAM Instead

Sirius Open Source pamphlet

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ has adopted shoddy practices that impede audits, undermine security, and subvert proper inspection of the network; outsourcing is not security, and “clown computing” is more like an “acceptable” security breach (giving some shady companies control over your systems and data), but that’s not something today’s Sirius ‘Open Source’ can still grasp (Intel experienced something similar when geeks left)

THE previous part spoke about a lack of real security and today we turn our attention to GAFAM-friendly policies which wrongly assume that VPN or GAFAM mean security. They don’t. VPN, like a firewall, makes false assumptions. And outsourcing assumes that some other companies are in fact security-oriented and respecting of privacy. They’re neither. Sending passwords from one’s local network (already access-restricted on several levels, namely access credentials and IP address) to something like LastPass is beyond insane. But good luck explaining that to people who worship brands instead of technology and find appeal in anything “new” (for no actual reasons other than perceived novelty).

Here is the relevant part of the report sent at the start of this month.

Band-Aid Instead of Robust Policies

Speaking of security breaches, some of the company’s Ubuntu servers are using very old — even way outdated — versions, as noted by the company itself (it’s also controlled by a host in another country, which poses another attack surface issue).

Security isn’t taken seriously enough and VPN is presented as ad hoc Band-Aid. VPN is not the solution, it’s a hallmark or a symptom of neglect at the intranet (internal) level. Firewalling and restrictions, for instance, have unusual exceptions. Since “Google is your friend”, for instance, Google IP addresses are allowed. As if Google never spies or collaborates with spy agencies (or even suffers security breaches). So Sirius VPN does not trust BBC network, but does trust (or whitelists) Google/Alphabet.

The neglect extends outwards, i.e. outside internal infrastructure of Sirius. For instance, in the past some staff transmitted in plain text messages (via E-mails) with passwords to accounts and servers of a very large client that is the target of foreign operations and aggressive spies (political espionage operations of this type are very common with clients such as these).

There are even very recent examples, so there’s no need to go far back; a colleague who is close to management dared suggest — only months ago — that an entire political Web site (including user details, passwords etc.) be migrated by dumping a lot of data into Google Drive, without any encryption either, clearly not comprehending that “Google is your friend” is a laughable fallacy (an understatement; Google is legally obligated, through US Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act or CLOUD Act 2018, to give full access to the US government and more).

It wouldn’t be controversial to state that such practices can be off-putting to clients, e.g. when decision makers in Sirius have rather poor grasp or appreciation for privacy and security, let alone critical care by introspection (staff cautioning about this is subjected to gaslighting at best or even outright threats).

If Sirius views itself as a champion of “Alexa” and “OK Google”, then the company should seriously consider a rebrand.

You Know Your Economy Spins Out of Control When…

US debt

There is nothing “normal” about this…

Workers Should Never be Forced to Work in an Office (for Jobs That Can be Done Equally Well From Home)

Think of the environment, too (commuting should be minimised)

You can't defeat me: coming to the office; you; COVID-19

TWO years ago I took a train down south and traveled to the office, probably for the first time in about a year (usually that’s the interval to be expected, owing mostly to company Xmas parties; that annual ritual of socialising with colleagues). I did not know it would be the last time. Last July we shut down the physical office, due to COVID-19, without intentions of ever reopening it. There was not much practical use for it anymore (regardless). That was almost exactly one year after I went there to sign some papers. I started working from home around 2007. Back then there wasn’t much need for me (anymore) to have physical (face-to-face) meetings, so I could get stuff done from home and occasionally travel if a meeting was strictly necessary. It took another 13 years before that sort of ‘work style’ (or ‘lifestyle’) became sort of ‘normal’.

Companies which try to compel staff to return to the office or force people to get vaccinated risk losing that staff altogether. Some companies that planned to pull staff back in (where bosses can oppress them from behind their shoulders, physically/literally) keep pushing back the dates, seeing that COVID-19 isn’t going away, with new waves and/or variants showing a resurgence. Here in the UK we’ve totally lost control of the thing — a subject I’ve written about extensively in this blog lately.

Working from home, for my kind of job, makes sense. It’s a lot better for me physically and mentally. I’m close to our pet fish, I can cook proper food (not some junk), and I can dress as it suits me (for comfort, not looks). I bathe every time I need to (no communal showers), I have privacy when I take or make voice calls, and I can run in nearby parks, far away from busy centres of towns (where there’s no safe place to run — away from pollution and traffic).

I totally understand why those who invested heavily in office estate are panicking. But they took a risk by gambling the money on a future of so-called ‘open offices’ with very steep rents; let them suffer from their poor investments/decisions. Don’t compel workers to lower their standards of work (and living) to ‘retrofit’ someone else’s bad investments.

NatWest Wants to Create Another Financial Crisis, Make More Staff Redundant, Sell Customers’ Data to NSA and Others

NatWest – where the bad things happen all at once

Prism NatWest

Back in 2000 I finally quit Barclays. It was horrible, I had suffered enough. Someone at HSBC advised me to look into the offer from NatWest, so I went there and have stayed their client since then. Everything was more or less okay, but in recent years NatWest became greedy, incompetent, outright insulting, and even corrupt. I would recommend NatWest to nobody. There are some local/small banks which may not have the same level of facilitation and accessibility, but at least they don’t treat people like merchandise (to be sold, exploited, herded like cattle).

Earlier this year I confronted NatWest over PRISM, having discussed the issue with them even before the NSA leaks (which merely helped confirm what some of us had known for years). After the leaks I took it a step further by demanding that they disclose their privacy violations. I eventually (after some nagging) got a call from a manager/PR spinner from NatWest; he prepared for his discussion with me, keeping careful not to openly admit what I already knew. He danced around the issue of privacy and could not deny that NatWest relays financial details (data) of its customers to spies in the United States. To NatWest, we are like a product. They sell dossiers about customers. Recently, through a cashback programme, NatWest also created an incentive for customers to give up anonymous purchasing, making it more expensive for people to pay with cash. It seems likely that NatWest will therefore sell data about customers to some unnamed marketing entities and somehow allow itself to do this by adding some shrewdly-worded phrase to the terms of conditions customers will sign. As NatWest is helping the NSA harvest financial information about customers, why not do this with the commercial world too? More money for NatWest, the Facebook model foisted on your bank without your knowledge.

What really broke the camel’s back was an experience I had yesterday. It was the last straw in a sense, proving that NatWest does not care about people; neither customers not employees. I stood at the line for a teller to service me, but a guard diverted me from a teller to a machine. I told him, you’d make tellers redundant. He said it was “good for customers”. That’s just spin. There’s a hidden cost there. I was tempted to tell him that his job too could be made obsolete if he did nothing to defend the tasks which are better done by human beings (faster, less error-prone, and also with a personal touch like personalised advice).

I am generally no fan of banks, to say the very least. Like my father in law, I only ever go there when there is no other choice. I would take all my cash elsewhere if I knew of a safer alternative, but we live in a banks-dominated world and the bank (or central bank) uses inflation to push people into reliance on banks.

Here is one last item of interest. Yesterday NatWest advertised and even GLOATED about accepting 9 out of 10 requests for a mortgage! Imagine a university advertising itself like this. It’s like a new advertising campaign and they use cookies (plus coffee) to lure people into so-called mortgage ‘advisors’. Yes, not to worry! They just accept 90% of requests. And they brag about it. Another crisis coming, eh? Where they lend out 10 times the money they have — my money, your money, every saver’s money. If you or I did this, we’d be in prison for creating a Ponzi scheme, but big banks enjoy protection from the government, which is just too happy to throw our money (or growing national, i.e. collective, debt) at them. They lend out to almost everyone, never mind credit ratings, history, capability/inability to pay back. They seem to rely too much on bailouts and just count on bulk interest payments in order to increase profit as well as risk. See Cyprus to witness what this means to savers. Their money can get literally confiscated, robbed. And NatWest is clearly part of the problem. It’s not selective at all, it just gives savers’ money to any Joe and Jane that walks in.

Avoid NatWest. It’s a scam and it doesn’t give a damn about people. It’s everything that’s wrong about banking. Not to mention downtime of their on-line banking service (which seems to require many reboots because it Windows-based)…

BT’s Culture of Outsourcing

Emergency phone

MY BT Internet connection has been faulty since the beginning of this year. I have spent no less than about 10 hours speaking to support representatives in an offshore call centre, all of whom go through the script and a list of steps that “test” the connection, never mind if a dozen people before them ran the same tests. I have been polite but assertive, especially after these issues persisted for months. But never ever did they send out an engineer (meaning, a UK-based person paid at UK rates) to address the issue. At one stage they sent out a replacement router, but unsurprisingly this did not resolve the problem.

Imagine having a flaky connection when you work from home (in the employment sense). Calls are dropping, SSH sessions are dropping, IRC logging and conversations are choppy, and even Web browsing is very erratic. Imagine this going on for about 4 months. Imagine having your ISP refusing to just fix the issue by sending an actual person to the site for investigation.

My issue have been escalated internally numerous times and I have just spoke to their manager about it. No compensation can ever recover or make up for the time and work lost due to BT’s systemic incompetence. But wait, it gets worse. Not only is BT too ‘cheap’ (must increase shareholders value!) to send out an engineer; it is unable to even follow up with calls that it promises to make. The automated phone reminder which says they would call works correctly, even phoning me to wake me up at 7 AM on a Sunday. But the actual representative ‘forgets’ to call. Oops. I guess the customer does not matter enough to inform. If the customer stays home for a 2-hour time slot allocated for a call, they can just be left out in the cold, right? Well, that’s BT.

My issues with BT were serious back in 2011 when they were unable to simply set up my connection, incurring weeks in delay. I should have taken the hint and taken my money elsewhere, but BT has a monopoly on the lines. So I stayed with BT, only after their cancellations department was very insistent and successfully persuaded me to give them another chance. They also compensated me which was an admission of guilt more than it was a compensation for all the time lost and the agonising experience lasing weeks.

BT’s issues are not technical. BT’s issues are systemic. The company assumes its customers are dumb. It insists on running simple tests rather than addressing low-level issues that have been ongoing for months. It would rather have you suffer for days and talking to poorly-paid employees than send out a person who — through direct physical contact with the infrastructure — can probably remediate the issue immediately.

BT is not a company that cares about people. It cares only about money to the extent where it forgets what customers actually mean and why bad service will give them bad reputation and discourage new customers from joining,

Today, after months of bad service, BT said they would send an engineer (at long last!) to my house, but only in two days from now (I stood firm on quick action), meaning that I would suffer from faulty connection for a couple more days until I go on vacation (Monday). I also need to wait at home for a five-hour time slot on Saturday. Great, eh? See how much bad service from BT impacts one’s life on a daily basis.

If you never relied on BT for anything, do yourself a favour and never do. BT doesn’t care about people, it will take your money and run up a tree, then tell you that you must be dumb and the fault must not be theirs. You are just a fool with his/her money

British Workers Call for End of Tax Breaks to the Wealthy

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