bookmark_borderInternationally Speaking

Just visited the McAfee website and on one of the forms encountered a, shall we say, anomaly presented itself.

I am a patriotic kind of guy, and I’m not in any way anti-American (I’m well aware that the percentage of idiots over there matches the numbers we have here), and when you actually consider what I’m about to tell you isn’t really about patriotism, jingoism or somesuch.

Rather it’s a wonderful piece of bad programming that I’ve seen before, centred around the fact that (at least for the purposes of this discussion) the country I am identified with is known as both the United Kingdom (UK) and Great Britain (GB).

I’m Scottish, and my country is part of Great Britain (which is the main island mass which also includes Wales and England). Add in Northern Ireland and you have the United Kingdom. It confuses me but that isn’t really the issue here.

When selecting my nationality in an online form, invariably I have one option: United Kingdom. On some forms I am delighted to be able to select Scotland, and on others I have to hunt for Great Britain.

However, the McAfee form in question proved a little troubling.

On highlighting the Nationality list, and tapping the U key, I was taken down to Uganda. A few more taps of the DOWN arrow key is usually all that is required to get me to “United Kingdom”. Not this time though, so I clicked the list top expand it, just to make sure I hadn’t keyed too fast but no, there was no United Kingdom.

No problem, I think, I’ll just tap the G key to get me back up the list towards Great Britain. This time I expanded the list first and scrolled down to… hang on… no Great Britain either? Great! Must be an option for Scotland!


Somewhat puzzled now I double-checked that there was no entry for Scotland. There wasn’t. United Kingdom? Not listed amongst the rest of the nations of the world that begin with U. Must be Great Britain then?

And there it was, nestled away amongst the Gs. “United Kingdom”.

Now technically I can figure out what has happened, the label which is displayed to the user is “United Kingdom” but the value, on which the list being sorted, is set as “Great Britain”.

I have to wonder if this was tested at all and if so they have missed a fairly obvious set of test cases. If you are a global company then you need to consider these things.

OK, admittedly it is a tiny mistake amongst a large and complex website but it does serve to remind me to take the unhappy path through our own software now and then. I have a tendency to check through screens and processes presuming a lot of knowledge and taking the happy path.

Footnote: I worked for Dr. Solomons for a year before they were purchased by McAfee. One of the projects (ditched by McAfee) concerned a global company update system, during which many long design meetings centred around just this kind of “international” issue. But hey, I’m not bitter that they made me and 250-odd other people redundant almost immediately after they bought us, honest…


What a lovely start to the day. Stepped out of the station onto a pavement strewn with litter, foodstuffs, bottles, wrappers, newpapers all trampled and matted underfoot. Very much like the aftermath of a big concert which, as it happens, was apt because the rubbish had been generated by a large queue of people all of whom I presume are desperate to get their hands on tickets for this years T in the Park. They could’ve used the bins though. Young people today. *tut tut*

Apparently some of them had been queueing since 8pm last night. I didn’t realise The Who were that popular (you’d better you bet!).

Back at work today, having spent the last couple of days at home shovelling antibiotics down my throat. Nice big 500mg ones too, not the namby-pamby 200mg ones we get prescribed here, brought back from Spain where you can buy them over the counter. It’s nice to visit a country where you are treated like an adult capable of making responsible decisions. A couple of days (and only a couple of tablets) of those and my scratchy throat and ‘lively’ tonsils were back to normal. Unfortunately I seem to have swapped those symptoms for a runny nose. Win some, lose some.

Silver and gold are all the rage at the moment and little Britain have managed to secure one of the former in an event named “Skeleton” (no I have no idea why either). Apparently throwing yourself, on little more than a baking tray, headfirst down a curved ice track, will be the next big thing. After all, tennis gains popularity during Wimbledon, so why not… um… Skeletoning.

I just wish I could stop my brain conjuring up images of Peter Skellern.

The Metro (the internet, printed) offered a handy little medals table this morning, showing the lofty position the United Kingdom now holds. What I still don’t quite get is how Australia have managed a Gold medal. What in?

Postcards and Bankers appear to be the new spam. I no longer get requests from Nigeria, promises of a longer, more erect, schlong, or even a good piece of complete nonsense. No my email spam is no largely of the “You have a postcard!” or “[Insert Name of Bank] Security Update”. It’s both depressing and downright insulting.

I live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (of which Scotland forms a part). This is also known as the United Kingdom, or the UK. *

Yet I was under the impression that the ‘United Kingdom’ was not a country. I’m not sure why, possibly I picked up something erroneous at school, or I’ve just formed that view in my own head. So let’s just clarify things:

United (verb): to put together to form a single unit, to link by a legal or moral bond.
Kingdom (noun): a politically organized community or major territorial unit having a monarchical form of government headed by a king or queen.

“The United Kingdom includes: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland & The territorial sea extending 12 miles out from the shore-line are also part of the United Kingdom for tax purposes.” **

Well if that taxman said it, it must be true!

* Source: CIA World Factbook
** Source: Inland Revenue

(OK so this is all a thinly disguised attempt to offer a link to the fascinating, if a year out of date, CIA World Factbook)

bookmark_borderThe Monarchy

With the Queen’s Golden Jubilee imminent, the press has been focusing on all things royal. As usual this includes discussions and commentary about the role the monarchy play as part of British society. One particular piece on this morning’s BBC Breakfast News suggested that the only thing that needs to change is moving the monarchy from a constitutional basis to a figurative one. Retaining the monarchy as a symbol and recognised figure of the United Kingdom, performing ceremonial duties, and moving any authority and legislative duties to parliament.

This seems to be an ‘ideal’ solution. I see no reason, and no way of just abandoning the monarchy, whether you agree with the principles they are part of our history, and in today’s ‘instant’ society, we might well do ourselves a favour to ensure they survive.

Having read an article at hydragenic, I too have also repraised my thoughts about Prince Charles, particularly in light of his recent initiative. Maybe it’s time to support our monarchy instead of constantly barraging them.

Long live the Queen!


The Chinese president is visiting the United Kingdom (well England anyway). The government is hailing it as an excellent opportunity to bolster trade links with China, and with figures of £2.2 billion being bandied about, it certainly seems to be important.

Money is the big issue. Hidden behind ‘trade links’, ‘increased profitability through working ventures’ and various other spin phrases, money is the driving force behind the wooing of Jiang Zemin. So far Tony Blair and his assortment of cronies have managed to appease the general public, and haven’t really screwed up too badly – until now.

I watched scenes on the television of policemen tearing down banners, physically restraining, and arresting those people who chose to demonstrate against Zemin’s oppressive regime. The official word from the government is that the police were under no special instructions.

Lies. I have never seen such scenes take place in the U.K., and it spanks of Zemin’s own regime. I saw no protestors try to harm the Chinese president, they were not hurling eggs, or threatening violence. So why tear down their banners? We have the right to voice our opinions, no matter who they are against.

The actions of the police were no doubt sending a message to Mr. Zemin, and that message was sent from the government. Were they trying to show the strength of this country? Trying to show that we too do not tolerate ‘radical elements’?

The censoring of the protestors showed the world one thing – that the U.K. will abandon any integrity it had, and side with Jiang Zemin.

The events in Tianamen Square, over 10 years ago, left a scarring impression on those who saw them. The Labour government has sided with that regime.