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Showing posts from June, 2002
The Takeaway Economy

Don’t even mention WorldCom, but the overwhelming sense of gloom and doom in the technology sector is pervasive. In a week where all my friends seemed to be saying much the same thing, regardless of the size of company in which they work. If there’s any light at the end of the tunnel, none of them can see it yet, as they see their marketing budgets slashed and the treat of redundancy or more redundancies hanging over their businesses.

What saddens me most, is that we have some really shining examples of technology left in this country which aren’t yet owned by the Americans and yet the investment climate is now so poor that I know of one or two which are on the verge of closing-up or selling the business for a song because they simply cannot raise any investment capital. It strikes me that if Bill Gates were to write a personal reference for a small UK technology company today, the City would still reject the idea. “Gates, he’s American, what does he know”?

You can’…
Spin it to Me Steve

When I read the news, I had a dizzy spell and had to sit down!

This was of course that Microsoft plans to create a "Secure" PC environment
with a technology called "Palladium", that you can read more about on CW360.

Now, the idea of Microsoft building a secure PC is, well, like the idea of
hospitals without waiting lists, because for all the platitudes about
'Trusted Computing', I have yet to find anyone who really believes that the
company can pull it off and that Trusted Computing is anything more than the
company 'Spinning' what it should have done to its lamentably insecure
products ten years ago.

In reality though, Microsoft has very little choice to do anything else but
strengthen its software. Quite frankly, computer crime of one kind or
another is costing business billions and Governments are starting to become
quite twitchy about the grip the company has on the public sector. Microsoft
either starts making really secure s…
Hands Free

Even the most advanced technology available today still seems to be at the mercy of the telephone.

I was flitting around the Kent countryside over the weekend, listening to other pilots complaining that the French air traffic controllers weren’t responding to their calls. “Calais and Le Touquet aren’t answering the phone either” replied the controller. This can be a little awkward, as the channel airspace becomes rather crowded on a Saturday afternoon and after all, the strike was supposed to have finished the day before but perhaps nobody told the French, who were quite possibly on a long lunch?

When I landed back on the little farm strip, coincidentally owned by a friend from Unisys, I found a Police officer, a single Constable tasked with defending Kent from the airborne threats of terrorism and drugs, waiting for me.

“Expecting any flights from Ireland today”, he asked? “Not that I know of”, I said.

“Been anywhere interesting?”

“Just Sangatte to smuggle-in more refugee…
No Trojan Horse – It’s a Plastic Giraffe.

Trend Micro are, I see, giving away plastic safari animals to their re-seller channel. Hardly a day passes without another plastic giraffe appearing in the post as part of a wacky sales incentive scheme.

I’m told, that once you have collected enough plastic animals and palm trees in a jungle scheme, you have to take a digital photo of the collection and then send it in to see if you have won the safari holiday at the end of the exercise.

Quite what the connection is between anti-virus and plastic animals, I don’t quite know but to be honest, I did rather prefer the bright yellow Mont Blanc pens that Symantec were once handing out. You can’t beat style. Plastic giraffe or Mont Blanc pen, it’s a tough choice for some!

Staying with security vendors, IDC has released its latest report on the shape of the industry. Symantec, Trend Micro and Network Associates are respectively first, second and third in turnover and the research company has identifi…
Bridging the Digital Divide

Welcome to the aftermath of the old economy. In the race between Europe's new 'just-in-time, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week' super-states, we are in danger of losing our ability to manage the expectations of an increasingly wired society. Technology can help fulfil our ambitions, but it doesn't do much for people who can't afford ambition.

A warning comes from the heart of the internet revolution, the US. A Gartner Group report has found that a whole generation of up to 50 million Americans could become 'functionally illiterate' in the future due to a lack of knowledge of, or access to, the internet.

Gartner found that just 35 per cent of adults in the lower-socio-economic-status bracket had internet access, compared with 53 per cent in the lower-middle, 79 per cent in the upper-middle, and 83 per cent in the top bracket.

The report identified three digital divides: access to the internet; a skills gap between those who kno…
Last Knight

Having gone nowhere with my application for The House of Lords last year, my attempt to gain a place in the Queen’s birthday honours list failed miserably. I had thought the photo of Nelson Mandela and me, together with the inclusion of a fifty-pound postal order and my own special Jubilee curry recipe would have done the trick but not this year, as more deserving souls were ahead of me in the queue.

I had thought, in an earlier column, that taking a scene from ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ ,The Home Secretary wouldn’t dare volunteer poor Bob Ainsworth for television duty again, following his performance against Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. I even suggested as much in a private conversation in an office not far from Whitehall but hoping for ‘Second time lucky”, the Minister was once again placed in goal for Radio 4’s World at One with predictable results.

And then, the penny dropped and Mr Blunkett decided that his guide dog had greater television appeal than his deputy – a BBC Pr…
My Left Foot

“Why” said Jeremy Paxman, “should we be bothered by this RIP Act? After all, unless you’ve something to hide, you’re not going to be worried by the prospect of government reading your email”.

It was a Wednesday night, ‘Newsnight’ in fact and the BBC had invited me to take part in the programme’s lead story, The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. All of a sudden and prompted by the Guardian’s front page revelation, the media had woken-up to the news that the infamous RIPA was to be extended, perhaps even to traffic wardens, a tongue in cheek comment, that Newsnight picked-up.

Mr. Paxman needed some convincing and at first, he didn’t recognize the legislation as a gross invasion of privacy and violation of our civil rights. My own role that evening, other than offering him a brief, was to take part in a three way discussion with a Home Office Minister but time and the Minister’s reluctance to participate in such a very public and live debate, left me spectating from the…
Wave Goodbye to Privacy
Two years have passed since I gave a speech at “The Internet & Power” conference at Cambridge, where I warned that the threat of a new Act of Parliament, “The Regulation of Investigatory Powers”, would drive the final nail into any illusion of freedom left to us.

In a grand rhetorical gesture, I said “What began with Magna Carta, ends with RIP” and the Act was highly controversial when it was first presented to Parliament, resulting in defeats for the Government in the Lords and significant changes being made to prevent its complete rejection.

Now, I don’t care much for political rants and the opinions of left or even right wing loonies. I much prefer common sense and in most cases, believe that mixing government and technology is a recipe for the worst kinds of embarrassment and disaster. But RIP is a special case, because what many of us feared most seems to be about to happen, as the Act is amended to increase the number of official bodies that can acce…
In My Wildest Dreams
It was more of a whisper than a bang. The news that Novell the company that does that nice Director Service and is fast becoming in many people’s minds, the ‘Consignia’ of the IT industry, has bought Silverstream Software – one of the Dot Com era’s bigger bangs – at a generous $9.00 a share.

At this point I need to declare my interests. I still hold Silverstream stock. In fact, the clever, Java-centric middleware company was once one of my TV stock picks, alongside QXL and Redhat at a time when my virtual portfolio soared from a stake of £100,000 to £478,000, making me the number three tipster in a six month ‘Money Programme’ style competition.

Rather sensibly I think, with hindsight, I chose to put all my winnings into a large virtual yacht, weeks before the Internet bubble burst and today, the value of my carefully chosen portfolio of technology ‘winners’ would probably stretch to buying a new Mini and that’s about all.

Silverstream, for a while there soared fro…
Not Out But In

If it happens to be Monday and you’re not reading this, then perhaps it’s because the Internet has collapsed.

Of course this has nothing to do with hackers or a sinister attack on our national infrastructure and everything to do with KPNQwest, which handles nearly half of Europe's Internet traffic, sliding into bankruptcy last week. The company is threatening to pull the plug unless it’s creditors settle their debts, by close of play today, Friday, I suppose, a remote possibility, given that I’m the only person left at my desk and everyone else is watching England playing Argentina, surrounded by empty cans of Lager.

Now, if you happen to be an AOL or a Freeserve subscriber, then it’s quite possible that you’re looking at a blank screen now and if you’re not, then you should be surprised and relieved simultaneously.

And on another European note, and as expected, The European Parliament has voted to make the sending of unsolicited email ‘Spam’ illegal. This won’t act…
Dead Poets Society

I was just talking to a friend of mine in marketing. It’s not something I hold against him and he’s remarkably good at it, quite possibly one of the whirlwinds of the IT industry. You name the available technology and he’ll find a way of getting his message out to you, like it or not. In fact, he’s so close to spamming that only our data protection laws keep him marginally respectable. If you’re connected then of course you’re fair game and mailing lists are one of his principal sources of information.

This is of course, the problem we face if we register for a magazine or a newswire or visit a show or even own a credit card, Complete the most innocuous looking survey or customer questionnaire and your life then becomes the property of someone else, to be sold and bartered much like bubble gum cards.

My friend recently managed to acquire a ‘Hot’ list of UK Chief Executives and promptly mailed the lot. This revealed an interesting statistic, namely that CEOs appear to…
Eyes Wide Shut

I’ve been sitting here for ages trying to come up with an appropriate football theme but all I can think of is a list of ‘Own Goals’, the very best fumble of the last month going to The Inland Revenue, which obligingly allowed people filing their tax returns on-line, to view details of other peoples’ returns. Given the Revenue’s unenviable record for losing information and blaming the subsequent disappearance on the citizen, this new ‘Twinning’ feature isn’t such a bad idea, as you will at least know that you have a totally random and independent witness in another tax district, who has read your personal financial details and can support your claim that your information is on the system. What the Revenue do after this is anyone’s guess but last year, over a period of months, I received several bloodcurdling demands for my PIID, which after faxing copies personally and through my accountants three times, with covering letters, they finally conceded that they weren’t …