Stephen Milton's Blog

Issues that I find interesting

Stephen Milton's Blog

The question of the EU

The debate is now on and in 100 days we have to make a decision that will have repercussions for at least the next 30 years.


Lots of people are arguing over the issues of sovereignty. But I should declare my point of view – In an increasingly global world, it not a question of whether we should pool our sovereignty, it is only a question of with whom we should be collaborating?

Great Britain has just 1.3% of the world’s people but we still run the 5th largest economy (by gdp). We are disproportionately well represented in the institutions of the world which is a legacy of our days as an imperial power. None of these benefits are seen by the rest of the world as ‘the natural order of things’, and they are unlikely to help us to sustain them beyond the very near future.

Democratic Deficit

Some claim that there is a democratic deficit at the heart of Europe and that is grounds for leaving. It is True there is a democratic deficit which I deplore!

But that democratic deficit is not unique to Europe. There is a democratic deficit in our 2nd chamber the Lords, or in our eviscerated local government. The house of commons is the most centralised and powerful of all the governments of Europe and whenever we try to deliver democratic accountability, central government closes rank to prevent it on the grounds that it diminishes their power. There is no real political will to give democratic legitimacy to any European institutions. That is why the political establishment is unified in its hatred of ‘ever closer union’. How will it help if we are outside of the EU especially if Scotland and Northern Island end up seceding from the UK.

The Economy

One of the advantages of living longer is that you remember the past. I particularly remember the time when each new Labour election victory was met by a ‘run on the £’. The expectation of poor economic performance meant that the ‘hot money’ of the world’s financiers fled the UK, which in turn devalued the currency and caused the economic problems that they predicted. A vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophesy that impoverished people in the real world. Today that same hot money has been pumping up the UK property bubble to the extent that many people in the South East are now making more from the appreciation of their houses, than they are capable of earning in a full time job.

Once you see lunacy of that magnitude, it is clear that there are troubled times ahead. How should we manage these difficult time? Now is the time when we should be trying hard to make friends not enemies.

Stop the world I want to get off

There are some people who think that the troubles of the EU are the cause of instability rather than the effect. They argue that the EU is on a terminal trajectory towards self-destruction and we should get off the boat before it sinks.

The EU might well be in deep difficulties and I am of the opinion that the global economy is in a worse state than we think because the repercussions of the 2008 banking crisis are yet to work their way through the global economy. Economic dangers abound in all countries and the only bright spot is likely to be the economic stimulus we will derive form the collapse in Oil prices

But even if the EU is especially vulnerable, there are 2 questions we need to consider. If we are at a tipping point of economic Armageddon

1. Could the UK choosing to leave the EU be exactly the push needed to tip the collapse of the EU that we are scared of? There is a sever risk of contagion throughout the continent if we choose to leave.

2. Whether we are inside or outside the EU we will be very adversely affected by a wholesale collapse of the largest economic block in the world. How would being outside the EU protect us from the consequences?

There is some strength in numbers and despite being separated by different languages, our European shared history means that we still have more in common with the people of the EU than we do with the dictatorships of Russia and China or even the type of America being advocated by Donald Trump.

I prefer to face whatever this uncertain future may bring, on the inside of the EU contributing to changes that will help us to collectively navigate a dangerous world, than facing it on our own.

I am sure that if the tectonic plates of the world economy are about to be convulsed by one of its periodic earthquakes, we will be better off as a part of Europe than as the pariah trigger that set it off. An easy target for economic or military forces that may wish to pick us off.

Sometime science developments are so amazing that all you can do is laugh

It has been suggested that at the heart of humour and what makes us laugh, is the dissonance that sometimes arises between how we think the world works, and the actual practice.

Today I was walking along the sea front enjoying the unseasonably lovely weather and listening to a Pod Caste celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

The programme was explaining how we can now make atomic clocks of unprecedented accuracy by using lasers to cool the essential components to just a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. First you have to take on board the whole concept of using a laser to cool things down (one Nobel prize), then you have to think that a billionth of a degree above absolute zero makes it the coldest thing in the universe – even in deepest space the residual temperature from the big bang is 2 or 3 degrees above absolute zero. The assault on my expectations started to make me smile.

They then went on to explain that this was not some theoretical idea, it had actually been made and the clock can now record time to (I think) 10–15 seconds (that is 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 of a sec or an accuracy of 1 second in 31 million years).  Which you might think is amazing but of limited use!

But there is a strange effect predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of relativity. He predicted that a clock in orbit round earth  would tick at a different rate of an identical clock on the surface of the earth.  A hundred years ago this was impossible to measure which is why so many people doubted Einstein’s theories which were so contrary to ‘common sense’.

Now we have Satellite Navigation that depend on  satellites in just such an orbit and if they did not compensate for this Relativistic effect accurately, we might very well find ourselves driving the wrong way up a one-way street.  The function  of these SatNav satellites is dependant on the accuracy of their clocks which now get updated by these new super accurate clocks on Earth to increase their accuracy even further.

Just to add icing on the cake; these clocks are now so accurate that if you lift them just 5 meters you can ‘see’ the Relativistic  change in the rate of time passing, predicted by Einstein, reducing this scientific controversy of a very few years ago, to the level of established fact.

I know this isn’t a joke, but I find myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of such a miraculous achievement.

It is also a tribute to the stunning productivity of the scientific method described by Richard Feynman as:

make a guess devise an experiment to test an implication of the guess if the evidence of the experiment shows the guess to be wrong. Make another guess.

UK Health care in the run up to the 2015 election

1. Our expenditure on Health is 9.2% of GDP.
The USA spends 17.9% of its GDP for a health outcome that is not appreciably better (though substantially less equal).

2. In the future we will be able to do more to intervene against the depredations of ill health and old age, so we will inevitably want to spend a greater proportion of our GDP on staying healthy. After all, can you think of a better way of spending money than on being healthy?

3. Politicians need to recognise that the focus should be on good Operational Management of this massive enterprise. Unfortunately both labour and Conservatives have listened too well to their city advisors whose solution to all problems is a top down meddling. Mergers of companies, break up of companies are always being recommended, despite all the evidence that they both inevitably erode shareholder value. We only have to look at the introduction of competition to other natural monopolies like energy or transport; the consumer has not gained – in fact we now have to dedicated lots of time every year to making sure that we are not disadvantaged by their completely legal, but totally immoral business practices.
The fact that these advisors and bankers make large fees from their role in these games of musical chairs, obviously taints their advice.

Hoping that the introduction of a ‘competitive market’ within the Health service, will somehow magically solve the problems that are all too evident, is nonsense. It cannot deliver us from the necessity of doing the hard work to improve efficient Operations Management.
Also, the idea that GPs with years of training in medicine could suddenly be transformed into a managerial elite for the health service, or that it is even a sensible use of their valuable time, seems utterly cock eyed.

4. The concept that we take ‘health’ out of politics has a superficial appeal. But if politics is not about how we spend £1 out of every £10 and an issue that will affect every citizen in the country, it would be a tragic loss of democratic relevance.

Global warming and the power of change

In 1898, delegates from across the globe gathered in New York City for the world’s first international urban planning conference. One topic dominated the discussion. It was not housing, land use, economic development, or infrastructure. The delegates were driven to desperation by horse manure.

The situation seemed dire. In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. One New York prognosticator of the 1890s concluded that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan’s third-story windows. A public health and sanitation crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions loomed.
And no possible solution could be devised

The solution turned out to be the Automobile. This was much more than just a technological fix,  it also transformed the way we worked and lived, it arguably assisted in the democratisation of the word and played its part in a new era of prosperity in the Western world.

Today we are faced with a similar dilemma with Climate change.  We know that it is a pending disaster and it is on such a colossal scale that our individually puny efforts seem completely inadequate to form even a part of the solution.

Given the speed of technologic development that we are seeing today, it is very likely that the next 50 years will see more technology driven change than has occurred in the last 250 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It only takes a few moments of imagination to see how society has been transformed in that time, and the potential capacity to use that change to both solve the global warming problem in the long term and mitigate its effect in the short term.

Just imagine for a moment what the world might look like if we had an internet running at 1Tbps speeds instead of the current 24Mbps that is the norm.  We would immediately stop worrying about new airport runways, high speed trains, extra bypasses and focus on the requirements of the 21century’s infrastructure.  It would significantly reduce the amount of travelling that we do, and at the same time transform the way we work, educate, manage our health and socialise. And that is just one strand of the transformations we are likely to see. New materials that transform the thermal efficiency of our buildings, generate power, light our environments and enable us to grow foods, all have transformative power.

Just as the rise of the car eventually resolved the horse manure problem, so new developments can resolve the climate change problem.  But it will not happen automatically, it will be the result of a concerted effort by all of us to ensure that the political and economic environment is conducive to those changes that will help. Nor will it be an unalloyed benefit – dangers and disadvantages abound. The question of how and who makes the right choices at all levels should worry us all.

It is here that I am most concerned.  A recent survey discovered that the level of scientific literacy both here in the UK and in America is below 24% (and the bar to qualify as scientifically literate was already worryingly low!!). In America no politician who want to win an election can admit to believing the Darwinian explanation for our very existence.  The forces of conservatism both traditional and modern, are building in strength and risk choking off the best chances we have of evolving society into something more sustainable. There is a long tradition of vested interests strangling scientific progress in order to preserve their self serving status quo.

Our job as citizens is to give change a chance and be engaged in the battle.

Migrate your Small Business Server to the cloud

Looking at the Microsoft offerings for replacing the Small Business Server now that they are stopping support. If you haven’t done it already, the following summary of how to migrate to their new on cloud service may be helpful.

Compare the various options at

Microsoft Mid Sized Business Plan 365

Let’s make some basic assumptions:

  • You are using old versions of the Microsoft Office suite of software, and therefore need to include the cost of an upgrade in the overall package.
  • You are used to having a corporate email service such as Exchange server and all staff use Outlook email clients.
  • You have a reasonable access to the Internet (24Mbps or above) and while it is pretty reliable, you will still want everybody to be able to work even if it goes down.
  • Keeping a local copy of everything is of great importance to you.
  • You haven’t used Sharepoint, but it looks like it could be a really usefully collaboration tool.

Cost of Microsoft Licenses

Then probably the service you need to get from Microsoft will be their Office 365 Midsized Business account which costs £9.80 / user / year , totalling £117.60 /user / year

What is included

It is an annual contract for

  • The latest version of the full Microsoft Office suite of products which run on the user’s PC or laptop
    • Word
    • Excell
    • PowerPoint
    • Notes
    • Publisher
    • Access
    • Outlook
    • Lyncs (for desk top sharing and VOIP calls)
    • InfoPath
  • Exchange server on the cloud
  • SharePoint on the cloud for up to 300 users and 10,000 external users.
  • Anti virus procedures as standard (though you still need it on your local machines)
  • Sky Drive Pro

Migration Issues and Admin support

It is no small matter to migrate your entire system without interruption of service, and it will require careful planning.

Local file server

Because you would need to be able to operate off line if the Internet goes down (and because you do not want to become permanently dependent on Microsoft), you would maintain a local file server that is synched with the cloud copies of your documents.  This can be done with ‘Sky Drive Pro’ as long as the file server meets certain requirements.

Exchange server

You will want to migrate all your existing settings from you existing exchange server, to the new cloud version. This will include all your contacts, calendar settings, archiving, mobile devices etc.


Sharepoint is a very powerful new tool and can really change the way an organization operates (especially if you have a lot of off-site members of the team). It makes it very easy to collaborate on shared documents, chat over Lycos (like Skype), run an intranet to capture data and experience and many other opportunities that will only become apparent once you get started.

Ask us for more information

When you set up an Office 365 account somebody has to be an administrator and you can set them up as a delegated admin – in other words you do not need to buy a license for the admin as a user.

If you need any additional information I suggest you have a word with Geoff on 0775 1239292 or email and we will be happy to talk to you.

Amazon hits its merchant account customers

The hidden costs of taking shortcuts to eCommerce success

If you have a good idea for an eCommerce business but limited technical expertise, operating on somebody else’s platform seems like a great shortcut to making it happen. Many have followed that route and built up multi million £ businesses.  But now they are finding that the hard work is built on quick sand.

In March 2013 Amazon decided to make a grab for its Merchant customers’ money. With just a couple of months notice they increased their fees from 7% of sales to 12% of sales (for some classes of products). For many of the traders who had set up their businesses on the Amazon platform, it now means that Amazon has just wiped out most of their profits. Just to make matters worse, these traders are hamstrung by Amazon’s terms and conditions that restrict their ability to take independent action elsewhere, such as offering lower prices on cheaper eCommerce platforms…..There is very little that they can do now and nothing to stop Amazon imposing another price hike in the future!

By comparison a Denaploy ecommerce customers with £1m of sales per year will probably pay under 4% pa for maintaining a dedicated site built around the specific customised requirements of their products, and the customer ends up owning the asset that they are building and which is the core of their business. You sacrifice a slower build up for the business but create a more valuable asset in the long run.

I also like this article on Amazon buying out English™  – View

Who should suffer the most from this crisis?

In April 2013 the Conservatives intensified their campaign of vilification of the poorest in our society as part of their justification for making some welfare recipients pay the greatest cost for the economic problems caused by the banking crash of 2008. The gap between the public perception as pushed by these Politians and their newspaper friends, has never been starker. So here are some facts:-

Common misconceptions Actual Facts
Large benefit claiming families are an increasing problem in the UK In 2012 only 2,000 families had 8 or more children.
Families with 3+ children account for just 14% of families.
Both groups are in decline.
Support for the unemployed is about 41% of the welfare budget (opinion poll) Actually it is just 3%
Fraud is a massive problem occurring in 27% of cases (opinion poll) Actually it is just 0.7% of the benefit bill

Isn’t it time to start using more temperate language and discuss these issues without trying to vilify a largely defenceless minority.

By far the largest part of the Welfare budget goes on pensions (about 60%) and with the pensionable population set to rise form 17% to 21% in 2035, this can only get harder to manage.

Hastings business developments

The Hastings and Bexhill area is set to continue the last decade of development with another major step forward. Within the next few years over 42 acres of land able to support 500,000 sq ft of new business premises will make this one of the largest concentrations of employment space available anywhere in the region.

Note the Proposed Development Areas marked out in grey.  If you are a business with growth plans, this is a great opportunity. For more details go to

Green Deal website launch

Denaploy is pleased to launch the new website that we have created for SustainaBuild, offering free support training for construction companies in the South East  that want to become accredited as part of the government’s Green Deal initiative to encourage energy efficient construction practices.

SustainaBuild is part of the Climate Energy group of companies.

The website includes a Content Management System (CMS) that enables staff at SustainaBuild to to maintain all the content on their website, including updating events and tracking of all attendees.