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Showing posts from August, 2002
A Visit to the Palladium

With the first anniversary of 911 almost upon, I’ve been thinking about security, wondering if very much has really changed, at least in IT over the last year. Airlines have of course tightened-up their security and if you’re foolish enough to produce a pair of nail clippers on a transatlantic flight, and then you’re looking at a possible life sentence and quite right too. But quietly hack into a bank or wreak havoc with a new virus for Windows and chances are that you’ll get away with it.

Microsoft might have discovered ‘’Trustworthy Computing’ but we are unlikely to have it until 2004 when Longhorn, the next version of Windows XP and Palladium, Microsoft’s new technology of trust, collide in a single unit.
Palladium is fundamentally a secure and encrypted run-time environment for Windows and ‘other’ operating systems that allows the next generation of software applications and services to protect the user from every conceivable nasty that can be thrown at a P…
Web Services - Knitting Internet Style

If you happen to follow what I write, then you’ll know that I’m a confirmed techno-cynic. After almost twenty years of following and researching almost every roller-coaster-like innovation in software since the good old days of DOS and CPM, experience tells me that if a new product or a new standard sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and business will have to pick-up the bill until such a time as the problems are ironed out. Only last week, one well-known industry figure told me, that in his opinion, UK business is wasting approximately £20 billion each year on IT project that fail or that are simply not fit for purpose.

Today, it’s time to take a hard look at the claims being made for Web Services. They are of course the next ‘Big Thing’ following on the heels of Linux and ASP (Applications Service Provision) and the potential market for this next wave in technology which will allow different websites to integrate their business pro…
The Mother of All Parliaments

I see that that concerns about growing plague of pornographic spam are finally reaching Westminster. I very much doubt that Parliament will show more than a passing interest in what is very clearly a growing problem, reflected in the many emails from CW360 readers on the subject.

Labour MP, Derek Wyatt MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Internet Committee, believes that very few MPs understand the Internet industry and is seeking an amendment to the Communications Bill making ISPs responsible to OFCOM for content in much the same way as television companies are regulated.

Apparently, Mr Wyatt sent the Speaker of the House: “At least four pages of truly disgusting colour photos that had found their way into my in-box and have asked four times for an adjournment debate in the House of Commons but it still hasn't been discussed”.

Of course, In May the European Parliament voted to ban spam but as the great majority starts life outside the EU, it’s almost im…
The Big Issue

He was visibly shocked, my friend, a long-standing Director of a well-known IT company. The previous day, we had been discussing the expected wave of redundancies that was about to wash over the UK and he had thought his own job was safe. Instead, he and several other members of senior management had been given their marching orders, leading me to comment that it was all rather looking like an episode of ‘Band of Brothers; it’s quite hard to find anyone I know over the age of 48 who is left in this business over the last twelve months.

Another person, a ‘Knowledge Worker’ in the IS department of a name we all know, told me:

“It’s all getting rather silly. All the plants have been removed and there’s no coffee for meetings either. There are very few Indians left to do the real and a disproportionate number of chiefs with grand titles hanging on by their fingernails, it’s all rather sad and is actually creating more inefficiency rather than achieving the streamlining that …
Paradise Lost

“To you by lot this course is given, charge and strict watch over this happy place that no evil thing approach or enter in”.
John Milton – Pardise Lost

With good reason and a gathering sense of public outrage, there’s a call from many different quarters to tighten-up the Internet. More accurately, there’s a clamour from across a political spectrum which includes both the Sun and the BBC for greater controls on the Internet and to re-engineer the inadequate legislation which is quite incapable of protecting children from the perversity that has made a comfortable home in the anonymity of the World Wide Web.

Reading through the editorials of the last week, it is clear, that those responsible for framing or voting for any changes in legislation possess a dangerously limited understanding of both the Internet and the threat that it can represent.

Proposals for new legislation and suggestions for new safeguards have an almost ‘Dunblane’ like feeling to them. After Thomas Hamil…
Observer Comment

The start of the new century may be remembered for the outrageous cost of The Millennium Dome and the political embarrassment that accompanied it. The project demonstrated just how easily this government could be dazzled by a large and expensive white elephant.

If the Dome was a momentary lapse of reason, then even as it was being built, a single Information and Communications Technology (ICT) project for the Post Office and Benefits Agency, named ‘Pathway’, was well on its way to wasting almost twice the £700 million of public money that was squandered on a large tent in Docklands. But Pathway, which was supposed to tackle the annual £1.3 billion cost of identity fraud, was only one drop in an ocean of failure and leads me to ask whether the first casualty of a so-called, “Knowledge Economy’ is judgment?

Recalling the last year’s Passport Agency fiasco and this summer’s problems with the Air Traffic Control System, there are rather more high-profile examples of the t…
Lose the Beard – Buy the Operating System

Linux again. And once more it’s time has come.

For me, Linux has always had a certain “Life of Brian” type of appeal and sitting around the dinner table with Sun Microsystems the other evening, I wondered how much longer it will take before we stop talking about ‘Distributions’, ours or theirs or Red Hat’s or IBM’s and start talking about solutions, allowing the subject of the Operating System to fade into a state of transparency.

For Sun, Linux is small and fast and ideal “for the edge of the Enterprise”, whatever that means to you. Asked whether Linux could ever evolve to a point to compete with Solaris, Sun’s Mike Avis thinks not and imagines a cosy type of co-existence into the foreseeable future.

Now in many ways, this makes sense. Big boxes and equally big Enterprise applications require a pumped-up version of Unix and Sun have this already in the shape of Solaris, so why expand Linux any further? Do a deal with Red Hat, which they have d…
What Lies Beneath

It was called Lotus ‘Agenda” and I doubt many of you can remember it.

One of their more interesting products of the eighties, it wasn’t a popular product and in many way, it anticipated Lotus Notes as a free text database in the days when dBase and Paradox was really all you had to choose from.

What was good about Agenda was that you could take pieces of information such as “Bob drives a green car” and place it in a database. You could the create ‘Views’ for almost anything; “Green Cars’ perhaps or ‘Green Cars& Cambridge’ and Agenda would retrieve any and all information that matched such criteria. On reflection, it’s the kind of feature we take for granted on the Internet today, with Search Engines such as Google, “Simon Moores+Harley Davidson” perhaps but it was years ahead of its time in 1989 and a tragedy when Lotus Development killed it off after version 2.0, because it really was one of the first good examples of a real Knowledge Management product.

Watchin…
Boys from the Black Stuff

I counted six men standing by the Police car on the hard shoulder. Whether there were anymore unexpected passengers inside the French truck I couldn’t tell, as my Harley Davidson, with noisy indifference, thundered past the little group on the way down to my home in North Kent.

Four hundred yards from my window overlooking the sea there’s a long patch of rough grass under the cliff. At the moment, living in three cheap ‘bell’ tents, surrounded by cardboard boxes, there’s a family with two children. Whether they know about the £3 billion that the Chancellor is making available for Government IT projects is irrelevant because, I would guess that as a group, they lie as far as its possible to go on the wrong side of the ‘Digital Divide’ without actually falling into the sea in front of their pathetic home.

On Friday last, one of our readers telephoned me to ask if I might be hiring IT people. “Sorry” I said, “I can’t think of anyone who is at the moment, quite t…
More Damned than Indicted

They might call it a new chapter in the ‘Trusted Computing’ story but it appears that Microsoft has been rather more than economical with the truth, the US Federal Trade Commission revealed on Friday.

Of course, I don’t know anyone over the age of seven, who really believed – hand on heart – that the company were being 100% truthful when they made security promises around Passport but it took a complaint from complaint from a consortium of consumer groups led Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to reveal the true extent of the ‘porkies’ that the company was prepared to feed its customers.

According to the Commission's complaint, Microsoft “falsely represented” that:

- It employs reasonable and appropriate measures under the circumstances to maintain and protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers' personal information collected through its Passport and Passport Wallet services, including credit card numbers and billing information sto…
The Aggregated Man

We are, it appears, leading an increasingly aggregated existence. It wasn’t so long ago that searching for an item of interest, a mortgage offer, insurance, a book, a holiday, involved a visit to one Website after another in an effort to compare prices and options. Today aggregation is the name of the game and if your consumer-facing business isn’t listed on one of the better known portal sites, then your opportunity for business is limited and your claim to commercial existence is dubious.

Two months ago, my own fixed-rate mortgage expired and promptly ballooned into a higher percentage figure. This week, I finally came around to doing something about it. I visited the JohnCharcol website, spotted a chart-topping offer from a leading Scottish bank and having filled in the application on-line, I paused briefly to call my own mortgage lender.

“I would of course love to stay with you”, I told the representative on the other end of the phone “But if I press the ‘Accept’…
Hotmail – Not Quite The Big Bang

Corporate Responsibility today, means rather more than promising not to ‘cook the books’ or the President standing in front of a large sign that promises corporate America’s future good behaviour. There’s a new ethical dimension to consider which may be just as important as Teflon accounting.

One hundred and sixty four. That was the total number of junk emails waiting for me in my Hotmail inbox on my return from sunny Spain. Roughly ten pieces of junk a day for each day I was away on holiday and it doesn’t include the thirty or so items of Spam which found a temporary home in my conventional office inbox.

Nothing remarkable of course. Only the normal bag of rubbish, ‘Come Visit the Bang Bus’ or “Best Buy Epson Ink Cartridges for Office or Home”. Mind you, the challenge of deleting twelve consecutive “Sex Pics of the Day” with the preview pane open, is rather more than I expected or even deserve at my age.

Perhaps the only solution is to block all email…
El Gismo Fantastico

Writ large on the white sign ahead was the word 'Espanha" and thinking that it might offer a more direct route out of Portugal, back across the Spanish border, I ignored the directions on the motocycle tank-bag in front of me and left the main road.

Fifty miles of winding country road later, we found ourselves on the Spanish side of the border in an oven-like expanse of plain. No cars, no people and a shaky idea of where we were on the map. I guessed that my big BMW 'Adventurer' had around fifty miles of fuel left in its tank and my wife was dreaming happily of a divorce.

"Don't worry", I said, "Although we seem to have fallen off the GPS map", there's a town 30kms ahead of us and if we get there, we can rejoin the main road at Ciduad Rodriguo".

I had resolved to leave all my gadgets behind on this trip, with my only luxury being my phone but when the time came, I failed the character test and smuggled my …
The Global Village

I had to visit my nearest Post Office the other day. Invariably, this is an experience I try to avoid; as I’m sure do other people. The dull monotony of waiting for the person in front to finish buying a book of stamps before one’s hope is dashed, as she reveals a large brown paper parcel and asks: “How many stamps do I need to send a ten kilo package to my aunt in Abyssinia”?

The Post Office is of course, a wonderful example of how much time wasting is involved with simple beaurocracy and how great swathes of paperwork and rubber-stamping could be replaced by kiosks and eGovernment, such as the form that entitles us, as UK citizens, to medical treatment in other EEC states. Why on earth isn’t this available on-line I wonder or does the Post Office cashier’s little rubber stamp on top of my National Insurance number represent the equivalent of the digital signatures that we still don’t have?

What was really interesting in my local Post Office on this occasion was th…