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Showing posts from March, 2002
Knowing Me – Knowing You

Should we carry a personal identity card? It’s a question that provokes strong feelings in our own society, particularly among those concerned over what they view as the growth of the ‘Big Brother’ govrnment and the decline of personal freedom. In reality, the issue is all about trust. Trusting our government or any government not to abuse a personal identity card scheme, through the uncontrolled and unrestricted joining-up of personal information between different agencies.

Authentication, is of course a pillar of government and has been since the beginning of history Today authentication is also the foundation principle of a wired society. Without strong authentication, knowing that you are, who you say you are, the development of a successful eGovernment programme becomes far more difficult.
I’m writing this somewhere over the Saudi Arabian desert, having just completed an eGovernment fact-finding visit to Kuwait. To be perfectly honest, you might not norm…
A Marriage but No Honeymoon

Last year, I very unkindly suggested that Hewlett Packard’s CEO, Carly Fiorina, be forced to watch endless repeats of the classic Monty Python ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch until she grasped that a merger with Compaq wasn’t the great idea she thought it was.

At first glance, the idea of an arranged marriage between Compaq’s Capellas and HP’s Fiorina, didn’t seem such a bad idea. After all both companies were struggling in the PC space against a highly aggressive Dell and Hewlett Packard had a hugely profitable printing and imaging business. Both companies were looking to leverage the economies of scale that would accompany a merger pooling their portfolios and simultaneously create a giant to squash Dell, rival IBM and partner with Microsoft, Oracle and Intel at the very top of the Enterprise.

As Compaq’s Capellas pointed out, a successful merger would see the industry consolidated down to five major players. The new HP/Compaq, IBM, Sun, Dell and EMC. Two of these, I…
I Told you I Was Sick
Spike Milligan

Software as a Service. Does it have a future? A question I’m trying to answer as my Virgin train lurches uncertainly on its way home from a seminar in Birmingham.

You’ve heard the sad story. Once upon a time it was ASP (Applications Service Provision) but nobody really wanted it, understood it or could afford it. Faced with its own obituary, it then became xSP or Managed Services (MSP), fractionally more attractive, as an acronym but hard-pressed to find customers who were prepared to take the risk or believe the promises being made for it.

Today, what was once ASP, is becoming increasingly mixed in with Web Services. Where one starts and another ends, remains a gray area for the analysts. ASP, you remember, started as a really clever way of delivering the popular and heavier, Office-type applications, to a thin client over an Internet or VPN connection. It was really Citrix by another name and explains why the company in conjunction with Microsof…
Pass the Cornflakes

It’s like a hanging set to music, except you just know that there’s no real chance that the condemned man, in this case it’s Microsoft, will ever take the drop.

Microsoft is of course threatening to withdraw Windows, if the States get their way, arguing as they are for a component (middleware) version of the product, which will allow for third-party development and licensing. This is nothing less than a look under Microsoft’s bonnet. Just imagine owning a car but weren’t allowed to look at the engine?

That’s the happy world of Windows and always will be if Microsoft has its way. The alternative, claims Microsoft, is nothing less than anarchy, with thousands of Windows clones washing around, all slightly different and where middleware from Microsoft would be forced to co-exist alongside midddleware from rival companies, such as Sun or even Oracle!

Of course the argument is a little more complex than this but I ask you, do we really care anymore? Does justice make a …
Broadband - Who Needs It?

Broadband, who needs it? Well I guess we all do but sensible pricing has been a long time coming. The e-Envoy Andrew Pinder, believes that the conditions are now in place for us to overtake Germany, Europe’s broadband leader very swiftly indeed; a possible 3-1 to come in eighteen months if you prefer a football analogy?

Pinder had been encouraged by the take up of Broadband services in the opening months of the year. Britain has around 400,000 broadband customers, signed up to the cable networks of NTL and Telewest and to the DSL service offered by BT. In contrast, Germany has 2,2 million DSL subscribers half of the user in Europe, so a return match against the beastly Hun is well overdue.

A year ago, I wrote in The Observer, that it if you lived inside the embrace of the M25, it was very easy to imagine that we all shared the same connectivity potential, through the availability of satellite, cable and DSL on a local basis. But travel outside the major citi…
I can't stand up from falling down..."
Elvis Costello

Thirty-seven holes! – One vulnerability in your software is bad enough but ‘thirty-seven’? It’s almost as if the company in question, was Microsoft not it’s arch-rival Oracle.

You see, once upon a time there was this fabulously opinionated? Software baron called Larry who wished to snatch control of the software industry from his complete opposite, a modest unassuming megalomaniac called Bill. Both men were in the very expensive Enterprise database business and both aimed to be the biggest and the best in a crowded applications market.

Bill was very close to achieving his own dream of world domination but struggled to release software that was anywhere close to 100% proof against the attacks of rats and weasels, This was a serious and on-going worry for many customers and enough to encourage many of them to flock to Larry’s product, which he smugly boasted was "unbreakable" and utterly and completely weasel proof.…
Time for a Quick Reality Check

I love Linux, I write about it frequently but ask me to install it and use it in anger and I would be as lost as Jeremy Clarkson on a pair of roller blades.

Last year, Linux finally became respectable and this year, flushed with ambition and support from some of the largest names in the business, it’s in real danger of becoming the universal answer to everything that isn’t Microsoft. That’s not such a bad thing, until you realize that a great many of us, thousands of small businesses throughout the land, still buy our hardware and software from PC World and the very thought of having a sensible conversation about the merits of Linux, let alone being served, makes me break out in a cold sweat.

“Dodgy Web Server, you need Linux mate”. “Know what I mean”?
“Want a cheap Server Appliance then”? “Pick up a Penguin”.

So once more, I’ll climb wearily back into my pulpit and tell anyone who wants to listen that Linux is great but probably not yet ready for you. It’…
Silence of the LANs

"Turns... If I help you, Clarice, it will be "turns" with us, too. Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though – about yourself. Yes or no"?

Ever thought of shredding your email? Try Cyberscrub.

It seems that everyone is worrying about email recently and they have a right to. You could be Ford or Allied Irish Bank or simply paranoid, like me, the Hannibal Lecter of IT, with a taste for good Chianti and raw information scandal.

Like it or not, most companies now need to think pretty seriously about having an email auditing programme (EAP) in place, increasingly squeezed as they are, between flesh-coloured concerns over personal privacy and the risk of corporate liability, a rock and a hard place.

Nobody of course wants to see his or her email auctioned-off to the highest bidder? That is, of course, what happened on eBay, when an auctioneer, using the alias of ‘Cruvdog’ offered 64 pages of personal email between…
The Communication Trap

When does truly pervasive computing become really intrusive computing? For many of us, it’s arrived already, looking at the half dozen or so pieces of assorted and explicit junk mail that have appeared in my mail box during the last thirty minutes.

Every now and then I have to stop for a quick reality check. Very soon, according to the prophets, anything with an electric current passing through it, will have an IP address of its own. This will of course include our microwave oven, the freezer and my electric toothbrush. Humanity is now facing a future which holds the promise of the intelligent frozen chicken.

Embedded or should I say stuffed with a tiny microprocessor and don’t ask me if this involves Java or Windows, this miracle of domestic engineering, will alert your deep freeze as it approaches its ‘Sell-by date’. The freezer, which of course comes complete with its own wireless Internet connection, will then inform you by SMS or by email that your chicken …
“Moores’ Law of Digital Governance”
(London School of Economics - June 2000)

One to Many Represents a Political Opportunity
Many to One Represents a Constitutional Challenge
Many to Many is Evidence of Subversive Behavior

Democracy”, said the Greek general Alcibiades, “Is acknowledged folly” and if he had lived another two thousand years, he might have had something to say about the future of eDemocracy as well.

In a progressive sense, government is on the right track this week by allowing an eDemocracy debate in The House of Commons. The idea of course is that British voters, a badly endangered species, should be able to email in their views on new legislation before it is rubber-stamped by an enormous majority and passes on to the statute book

Labour MP Graham Allen is asking parliament to consider expanding its e-democracy programme to allow the public to comment on the small print of new laws, “pre-legislative scrutiny” and the webcasting of special committees, to avoid problems i…
Ever so Politely Mugged

There’s been a great deal of fuss over the last week over the cost of software. What happened of course is that the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) stood-up, ever so politely on its hind legs and bared its teeth at “you know who”, the notorious Thames Valley Park gang, which follows close on the heels of the Treasury and the VAT, in overall ability to sweep-up funds from your business current account.

Software’s too expensive’ bleat the editorials and ‘Licensing is a minefield of ambiguity’. Well we know that and last summer’s efforts to coerce even more money out of cash-strapped end-users, encouraged a very tight-lipped British revolution. Businesses complained bitterly to the DTI and Computer Weekly that they were being mugged. Of course no policeman appeared to record the complaint – everyone knew the name of the mugger - but the Minister was suitably indignant and there was a knee-jerk attempt to sweeten the extortionate-sounding licensing exercise tha…
Winnie the Poo and the Woozles

On Thursday, I joined Sky News, a laptop and an empty Pringles can on a tour of the city's 'Square Mile'. The mission, to eavesdrop on wireless networks and identify those which had failed to put in place even the most rudimentary protection against any passer-by 'dropping-in' to the network.

This stuff isn't new. I wrote about it in The Observer, well over a year ago and just about every computer publication has warned against 'the flakiness' of the wireless world, wide open as it is to hacker-friendly products such as AirSnort.

Wireless LAN (802.11) technology is increasingly attractive to business. I even have a Cisco Aeronet at home. It's wonderful, no cables and I can browse the web and collect my mail from anywhere in the house or garden. Trouble is, you might ask, have I protected myself by enabling the security? Probably not, I am after all at home and surely, wireless stays within the boundaries of my property?…
I'm going to have a rant. It's my turn.

I have five PC's. I'm not showing off, I just do.. sorry it's six if you count my daughter's hand-me-down.

In front of me here, in the office are my Dell desktop (Windows XP), My ultra-slim Hewlett Packard laptop also Windows XP and my Apple Powerbook, four years old with MAC-OS 9.5, faster than most and playing my music.

At home, I have another Hewlett Packard, a Pavilion desktop in my study running Windows (ME) and my daughter has a Taiwanese clone, also with Windows (ME).

Finally, in my little retreat by the coast, I have an AMD box with Windows ME and a view of the sea.

Do they all work smoothly? Hell they don't.

Does any one machine work 100% perfectly? No of course not!

I have the machine in my home by the coast that won't access the Internet anymore. God knows why but I think it's something to do with Norton Internet Security and/or Outlook, as it involves "Symproxsvc" and "Msgsvr32" …
Caveat Emptor is the right expression.

Exchanges, they’re everywhere and it’s what the Internet does best. In fact, b2b and b2c appear to be popping-up and doing very well in areas that you might not have thought of a few years ago.

Take drugs and I mean this quite literally. Maybe you’re a Columbian cocaine baron and you’re expecting a large consignment of the white stuff at the end of next week. Cocaine, like coffee is after all a commodity and you can apparently forward sell your product over the Internet to a potential buyer, as easily as you can put your sister up for sale or should I say bid, on one of the many marriage agency sites that are springing up in certain, less developed parts of the world.

It’s reported that the FBI/DEA are facing a serious challenge tackling b2b drug exchanges. Even if they know where the business is happening, security is now so good that gaining entry to a secure Server outside one’s jurisdiction without the account name and the password is about a…
Open a Pandora’s Box…
And a Trojan horse jumps out.

Three of the world’s largest software suppliers, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and IBM have reached a compromise licensing arrangements with the Government “ reportedly saving to the public sector purse more £100 million over three years.

As many as two million desktop computers in the civil service could be affected by the three-year arrangement, which has been centrally negotiated by a public sector team led by Peter Gershon at the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

This aggregation of public sector software needs, involving both central and local government departments, should act as a lesson to the private sector. It’s arguable that after The Health Service and Defence spending, Microsoft licensing has represented one of the public sector’s fastest growing black holes. Before the deal was reached the OGC had forecast that Microsoft’s revised licensing charges of last summer, would cost the public sector an additional £60m a yea…
I watched the movie ‘Swordfish’ over the weekend. Fast moving, explosive, entertainment at its best, with John Travolta as the flashy TVR driving and amoral genius, ‘Gabriel’ employing super hackers, in a twisting plot involving robbery and murder in the war against terrorism.

Swordfish was of course released early last summer, well before September 11th and yet the plot very nearly suggests that it was inspired by the circumstances surrounding that tragedy. Also, there’s Gabriel himself, as in the ‘Gabriel Principle’, the name I gave to emerging hacker threat to IT security in a Sky News interview in May. An eerie coincidence I thought but then I’m notoriously superstitious.

Hollywood’s hackers may look more like Keanu Reeves rather than teenager Raphael Gray, the welsh wizard ‘Curador’, who found himself in a Swansea court last June for "borrowing" several thousand credit card numbers, including, allegedly, Bill Gates own, from the comfort of his bedroom in some remote v…
It’s like a hanging set to music, except you just know that there’s no real chance that the condemned man, in this case, Microsoft, will ever take the drop.
On Wednesday following 30,000, yes, you read it right first time, 30,000 largely critical comments made about their controversial antitrust settlement by competitors and individuals during the Tunney review process, Microsoft and the US Justice Department have filed a second revised proposed settlement with the court charged with deciding whether it is in the public interest.

The amendments, according to Client Server News the edits “consist of stuff like adding the adjective "unbiased" to the provision requiring Windows to launch other people's middleware. It's supposed to clarify beyond a shadow of a doubt that the trigger points in Windows will be impartial as to whether it's Microsoft or non-Microsoft middleware”.

Meanwhile, in a presumably fruitless attempt to head off the out- for-blood remedy hearing t…