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Showing posts from April, 2002
Love in the Time of Blackberries
With Apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’m in love but not with an Angel this time but with a Blackberry.

Before you decide that I have developed an unhealthy obsession with soft fruit, I should point out that a Blackberry is a Palm-style organiser, with one rather interesting extra feature. It’s a wireless GPRS device, which delivers my Outlook email to me, wherever I happen to be. In bed, on my motorcycle or even in the bath, there’s no escape from the presence of the 24*7 world anymore unless you press the “off” key.

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I was struggling with my IPAQ Pocket PC and my Ericsson mobile phone, trying to source my email, at high speed, in much the same way. Of course, the principal difference with the Blackberry, is that it’s already configured and it works much like a mobile phone, which it is, if you plug-in the earpiece as well. The one I have has BTCellnet engraved on the front – now O2 - and the company (Resea…
No Taxation Without Representation

Historically, periods of economic growth and low taxation go hand in hand. So while I welcome what the Chancellor has given to small business, in terms of tax cuts and funding incentives for going online, I don't believe that higher taxes for individual or corporates will fend off the threat of a downturn in the global economy.

Also, having once worked on a voluntary basis, one day a week, in a large London hospital A&E unit, I'm not convinced more money holds the solution to a crumbling health service.

Increasing the tax burden at a time of economic uncertainty has never struck me as a particularly good idea, even when a shamefully Goebbels-like attempt was made to sweeten the message by surrounding a clearly uncomfortable Chancellor with a group of small children with red lunchboxes and equally bright red sweatshirts offering astute economic advice.

Ironically, there was a time when I wrote speeches for politicians, so I'm hardly gui…
Do What I Say - Not as I Do

Once upon a time, a catastrophe claimed the reputations of several, very large companies, that, in their arrogance, jettisoned all reasonable standards of common sense and corporate governance simultaneously. These were global brands which failed to realise, as have most other companies, that the critical elements of the business process in the 21st century demands a fresh perspective, a paradigm shift of kinds, involving matters of reputation and risk.

Time for a new acronym perhaps, as if we didn’t have enough already. On this occasion, though, it reflects a new business science, one that can take a number of different but related areas, such as information security and ethics and brand management and subject them to what I call ‘Corporate Integrity Analysis & Management’ (CIAM).

Enron, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Computer Associates, Bank of Ireland, The Department of Transport, Norwich Union, Ford. The real list is even longer but each name reflects a sto…
A Boy’s Own GPRS Adventure

Time, I thought, for a new gadget and having upgraded my mobile phone to the tiny, GPRS capable Ericsson T39, I decided to see how well GPRS works. Could I really collect my email on the run or even use my phone as a high speed Infra-red modem for my Compaq IPAQ?

The best laid plans of mice and men, being about the same, I should have expected that making the technology work in practise, wouldn’t be as easy as asking Project Telecom, my Vodafone provider, to connect me to their GPRS network; obligingly bumping my existing call package up to the more expensive data tariff at the same time.

While WAP may be crap or at best, a complete waste of time, collecting email over the GSM network is of course OK. As a data transfer medium, it may be marginally better than stretching a piece of string between two tin cans but it works without a hitch on both my Palm and my IPAQ in some of the strangest places across the world. ‘Valley of The Kings’, no problem, deepest K…
No Hiding Place

According to this week's forthcoming report by the DTI, computer crime and bad software is costing the country as much as £10 billion each year. That's almost as much as the unofficial figure given by The Sunday Times for benefit fraud.

Incidences of compuer-based attacks against companies are rising steadily and the DTI have found that four out of five companies have become victims of viruses, hackers, fraud or all three in the last twelve months. This is hardly a surprise. We know it's getting worse and indeed, only a year ago, the government's antidote to the threat of cybercrime, The National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) was launched in a blaze of publicity, surrounded by a special ‘Hacking exhibit’, at the Science Museum in London.

At the time, I was asked to offer comment on the launch and the role of the NHTCU for both the BBC and Sky News and speculated whether such a relatively small team would have any measurable impact on one of the world’s …
An Uneasy Revolution

There’s a danger that the National Audit Office report on our progress towards eGovernment, will be seen as a big finger being waved at everyone involved in the development of the ‘UK-Online’ agenda.

The UK is no different to any of the other countries I have visited over the last two years in trying to meet the cultural challenges associated with an ambitious and constantly evolving eGovernment programme, Accepting the vision, as one Greek Minister told me, is the easy part, reforming the civil service takes a little longer!

My own experience appears to support the view that there’s a resource gap between vision and execution in this country. Some would call it a gulf. When, last year, I chaired a roundtable at the eGovernment conference in London, some thirty local authorities, offered me one-line messages to deliver to The Office of The e-Envoy. These varied considerably between:

“Tell the e-Envoy that it’s all fur coat and no knickers” to “Most of here have day…
One Degree of Separation

‘One Degree of Separation’ is the Microsoft advertisement showing on the television in my living room. “What does that mean Daddy”, asks my daughter and I try and explain, with the help of my Compaq IPAQ.

“Once upon a time there was a man called Bill and he had a magic .Net….”

But her question led me to think of something else. An important subject, close to my heart, which readers tell me is important to them too.
I know that the good people at Microsoft pay attention to this column and so I’m going to ask you to pay particular attention to this request on the part of concerned Hotmail users everywhere.

Hotmail and MSN Messenger are an important part of my life, both inside and outside of work. With it, I can, sitting in my room at the Kuwait Sheraton, easily chat, to the people in my office or a friend in Vancouver. Web-based mail is a great tool as is Instant Messaging, whether it be Microsoft’s or anyone else’s but most of the people I know use Hotmail, so…
The Great European Wotsit!?

Just ducked a call from another journalist, asking for comment on the European Union’s eCommerce directive, something that I was up to speed on last year but since then, have conveniently ignored, much like the rest of the population, including our own Government, as the 17th January deadline for compliance passed.

So do you know what it is? Are you following the rules or will you be getting a visit from EuroPol in the distant future?

The answer is ‘Probably not’ but in reality, the directive is all about creating an agreed-upon structure for the conduct of eCommerce within the European Union, which embraces both business and consumer rights, which of course vary greatly between the member states. In reality and not much of a surprise, we missed the implementation deadline in this country but The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has published a draft of the regulations for businesses to consult if they aren’t sure of what it all means, which in most c…
Better Out Than In.

The catastrophic events of September 11th left the world wondering about security. And if you read the annual Computer Crime and Security Survey from the States, it appears that Eighty-five percent of respondents, detected computer security breaches in 2001, which in most cases cost them money to fix or resolve. Of course, attacks aren’t always isolated incidents, they can be deliberate and prolonged and from the strangest places. In my recent visit to the Middle east, I noticed that both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait appear to be attracting hackers from China.

So far, there’s been a great deal of talk within the IT industry about ‘terrorist’ threats but little or no evidence that the bad guys will use anything more lethal than email against our national infrastructure. In the States, my good friend, Howard Schmidt, moved from his role of Chief Security Officer at Microsoft, to the Whitehouse, where he’s now ‘Vice Chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Pr…
Peace in our Time - Not!

For Microsoft to suggest that AOL is a monopoly may appear absurd or indeed, the worst kind of hypocrisy but the argument as to whether AOL is as bad as Microsoft has been going on for some time.

Professor Lawrence Lessig, in his book, “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace”, worried that the Internet might collapse into a handful of ‘walled gardens’, Portals dominated by the likes of Microsoft or AOL and to an extent, this is happening around us. Of course, no single interest can dominate the Internet but the content management and the middleware upon which it relies, is open to a kind of 21st century land grab.

For the end user, middleware is invisible, even irrelevant and content is everything. Witness the battle between the two companies over the future of Instant Messaging, the virtual presence of the future. Today, like me, you may use Hotmail’s Instant Messenger or AOL or ICQ to maintain an on-line relationship with a range of different people, something I h…
"Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well!"

One of the more entertaining members of the UK's IT security community is Symantec's 'Security Theoretician' in the UK, Dr Jeremy Ward. Jeremy used to be with the Cabinet Office before he exchanged his service issue Walther PPK for a much larger Mercedes. These days he's still just as busy saving the world, but mostly from the constant threat posed by computer viruses and hacking.

Next week will see InfoSecurity Europe taking place at London's Olympia and I asked Jeremy, who will be presenting, what he viewed as this year's "Big Threat" - if there is such a thing.

"It's the 'pool of tears'," he said, quoting from Lewis Carroll: "'the pool was getting quite crowded with the birds and animals that had fallen into it'".
"You've lost me," I said. "Alice in Wonderland"…
In the Cause of True Love

Following ‘The Night of the Long Knives” at the end of last year, which saw Unisys decimated in the UK and the sad loss of a number of my friends there, it looks very much as if the company has tightened its belt and is bouncing back with a multimillion-dollar global marketing campaign to convince the owners of those expensive, Sun IBM and Hewlett Packard boxes that the ES7000, ‘Windows Mainframe’ is the way to go for any intelligent corporation that should decide that Unix has passed its sell by date.
Of course, this comes with a little friendly help from Microsoft, which badly needs support at the high-end of the Enterprise for Windows Datacenter– one of the reasons why the HP – Compaq Merger would be a good thing from the Seattle perspective – .

Interestingly enough the company has launched a website www and something called an eCommunity, a technical forum, crammed with supporting bet time reading such as “Data Center Simplification and…
The Hidden Costs of Broadband
When I read Barry Collins comparative analysis of broadband pricing, in The Sunday Times, over the Easter weekend, I felt something close to despair.

A month ago, the day prices fell, I was chairing The LondonOne Conference at the TUC Conference centre - an event devoted to the ideal of broadband Britain- and the news that the cost of ADSL was at last within the reach of the ordinary home, was welcomed with a sense of universal relief from those involved in a struggling cable broadband sector.

Of course, once the dust settles after the first big PR ‘Puff’, reality is always a little disappointing. I’ve been trying to find a spare moment to try and find out from BT – never a simple experience – what might be involved in bringing broadband to my home but the Sunday Times appears to have done much of the work for me.

First of all, it should be said that competition and the big drop in costs immediately drove-up the demand for domestic broadband, with BT appar…