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Showing posts from September, 2002
I Love My BBC...?

Jonathan Miller’s announcement of his refusal to pay his BBC television license fee and furthermore, challenge this annual exercise in extortion in the European courts, set me thinking about the relationship between the license fee and the government’s UK Online agenda, its grand plan for an information society.

Last year, I resigned as a Director of dkTV, the public sector Digital TV pilot, which had the BBC, as it’s programming partner. At the time, it became obvious to me that the project would run out of money very quickly unless government, in the shape of The Office of the e-Envoy, was prepared to help fund it’s second stage of project development. Without money, it sank, leaving several local authorities looking embarrassed and yet another ambitious pilot was washed down the drain, losing the people, the ideas and experience with it.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights supports Miller’s protest, which says, “Everyone has the right to freedom o…
Rack em – Stack em – Pack em!

This industry has a talent for taking a simple concept and smothering it with technical detail. I’ve keeping an eye on the blade debate, which is all about the arrival of modular Servers and have decided that it’s becoming a little fuzzy as we try and identify the dividing line between a Server on a card, ‘a Blade’ and a Server on a card’, a Brick.

First of all, we need to understand that Blades and Bricks aren’t mutually exclusive and that a Blade is only one component of a larger, high-density Server unit, rather like the half-human occupants of a Borg cube in a Star Trek movie. With IBM’s latest offering, based on Intel’s Xeon processor, we’re now up to a possible 84 Blades crammed on to a single rack but rather than clearing-out banks of older Servers at a single sweep, the arrival of this tightly stacked blade technology in the Server room represents an evolution rather than a replacement for more traditional Big Iron computing and I would expect to s…
The Commodity Problem

This industry has a problem, it’s been commoditised! The words of a Marketing Director of a well-known Enterprise software company, they reflect a prediction that was made in the early nineties.

Software vendors are increasingly telling me that they are struggling to differentiate their products in the minds of customers and potential customers, ‘Middleware’ and Applications Servers being two examples. You see, it wasn’t really that long ago when IT was exciting trailblazing stuff, with it’s own fair share of cowboys and even Indians, fighting for their share of the Enterprise. Today, it’s rather different. It is invariably expensive, makes remarkable claims about it’s ROI and comes in boxes, which business never really owns but licenses instead, for seemingly outrageous amounts of money.

Let’s be honest, my friend said, IT is getting boring, the market is in recession and advertising doesn’t seem to work anymore. I commiserated, “Of course, there aren’t many IT …
Hamster on a Wheel

Ever had one of those days? Tube strike. The hamster has escaped and an accident on the A3 is blocking any chance of getting the school-run finished before eight-thirty.

For the time in almost twenty years, I’ve decided to give-up on the everyday struggle to reach to the office and work mostly from home, surrounded by three PCs, two printers, two phones and a fax machine.

First I gave up on the car and started using a motorcycle but now, there’s nowhere for even bikes to park and parking wardens hide behind every tree. At first, I felt guilty about not commuting. “I should be in the office, the business will collapse, this is ‘skiving’, and I should be there”. But a month later, I’m wondering why I wasted over two hours each day as a desperate, angry tidal creature, one of many fighting the unpredictability of London’s traffic and weather and arriving at work earlier and earlier in an effort to beat the rush.

The irony is that being a telecommuter works or at least i…
Big Slapper Hits Town

Security, or should I say insecurity, once again rears its head. Slapper has been doing the rounds and then of course, there was the much-publicised launch of Nectar or more accurately, there wasn’t, as the Nectar.Com loyalty card site collapsed under the strain of registrations.

Unless you happen to be using Linux, then you have nothing to fear from a Slapper attack. But hold on a second, I hear you say, I thought Linux offered a more secure environment than Windows, so what’s this about is being handbagged?

In theory of course, Linux is more secure than Windows and as Eddie Bleasdale of Net Project points out, Slapper is a worm and not a virus and there’s a big difference, in that Linux is vulnerable, like any other OS, to implementation defects; in this case, not patching a known OpenSSL vulnerability, which left the door wide open to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which gobbled-up bandwidth rather than destroying data, as a virus might do.

Desig…
Safe as Houses

I don’t know about you but in the same week that the United States launched it cyber-defense plan, I’m receiving junk email from an operation calling itself the “AMERICAN BIO-THREAT

INFO LINE”, is, for the price of a premium rate telephone call, offering “Get the Facts!!! Know the Causes, Symptoms & Treatments of: Anthrax, Cholera, Smallpox, Ebola, Typhoid Fever, Salmonella Botulism and Much More!!!”

It comes as no surprise that the Americans don’t realize that we have a National Health Service and that most, if not all of the above diseases and indeed, many more, can be found, completely free of charge, in any London casualty unit.. However, this does illustrate that regardless of doom-laden warnings of the collapse of the US national infrastructure, as a consequence of a cyber-attack, people, over there at least, are far more worried about decidedly low-tech threats

At least the Americans have a cyber-defense plan. We have one of sorts, I know, because I have bee…
The World’s Favourite Spammer

I doubt that Microsoft’s announcement that it will partner BrightMail in the war against Spam could really be down to CW360 but the company’s stony silence over the last six months, might imply that it was at least listening to the torrent of criticism that was being thrown at them.

Microsoft’s own employees have been embarrassed by its stance on unsolicited email, particularly as Hotmail attracts the worst kind of pornographic content that might normally be filtered out by more responsible ISPs. The problem, you may remember, goes back to Microsoft’s decision to make subscribers email addresses available, by default, on the InfoSpace ‘White Pages’ directory, which unless you have happened to ticked the ‘opt-out’ box on when you registered, becomes fair game for the Spammers trawling the Web for new email addresses. To be honest, I’m sure I was caught this way, as I have absolutely no recollection of the tick-box in question, which is buried somewhere amon…
There's a Hole in My Bucket..!

Microsoft makes mistakes. It’s a statement that many of us would take for granted but to hear it suggested by Stuart Okin, Microsoft’s Chief Security Office (CSO) in the UK, was enough to grab my interest.

Following my column on Palladium, Microsoft’s forthcoming security architecture, Stuart had invited me over to the Reading campus for lunch and a chat. More used to being beaten about the head with marketing slogans from a company in denial, I found Stuart’s argument in support of Microsoft’s latest security initiative, more lucid than anything I have heard to date.

Microsoft, it appears, is prepared to move heaven and earth to in its efforts to create a trusted computing environment. The company accepts that it still has a long way to go before it can win the level confidence that it would like from its customers. Microsoft can’t promise perfect security – can anyone? - but I’m told that it can promise steadily improving security and Stuart Okin is…
It's Not Sex- It's Adult Entertainment

You won’t believe this but mention sex and the editor tells me that the number of page impressions against this column soars, an observation that had us wondering whether it was time to add an extra channel to the site, one focusing exclusively on a combination of sex – there, I said it twice - and IT issues; a sort of Dr Moores problem page for the industry.

But even the largest names in IT aren’t immune from the growing influence of the adult entertainment industry. I was running a Google search last week against ‘ASP’ and spotted my name against a presentation I had made last year for a large vendor. More for nostalgia more than anything else, I followed the link and found myself at an on-line gambling and dating portal, not the home page of the vendor I expected.

Now, I could tell you the company’s name but that would be unkind as I had lunch with its Managing Director only last month. Instead, I fired off a quick email pointing out th…
Personal Services

Employers and vendors of surveillance software are it seems, resistant to the idea of a Private Member's Bill to outlaw email “snooping” in the workplace.

One argument used in defence of the right to intercept private correspondence in the workplace, is that email is different to more conventional forms of communication, in that it contains a header with the company’s domain name and frequently other details in the body of the message. Ipso Facto, this is company property and the company is indirectly responsible for its content and might be held liable if that content is later shown to be offensive or illegal.

Without doubt, the question of employer liability has to be clearly resolved and the Norwich Union case illustrated the problems associated with defamation but interception is not a solution and in most respects, given the sheer volume of email traffic, is an impossibility, as after all, reading someone’s email will only tell you what has happened or simply…
Web Services - Knitting with Style

Speech for Web Services Development Summit - London.

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 month, 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 di…
A Short Thought on XP

I was reminded, when visiting the Microsoft Campus the other day that it wasn’t so long ago that I used to playfully buzz the building when I was learning aerobatics out of the airfield nearby. This week and on the anniversary of 911, there’s a painful irony to the memory, which illustrates the fragile nature of personal security, whether this be in Windows or behind a building’s Windows.

On this visit my feet were firmly on the ground and I was chairing a Microsoft Forums seminar on Windows XP. I took a hard look at the future or at least what Microsoft tell us the future will be with Longhorn and Palladium and the other speakers looked at XP’s features and asked whether it was worth having or not.

What I found really interesting, was that the audience were roughly split sixty-forty between Windows 2000 and Windows NT, with only a handful of Windows XP users, as you might expect. On a day, which saw the release of the first Service Pack for XP (SP1), it was evide…
Web Services - The New Internet Sausage Machine

Web Services are, as we know, a grander way of describing the knitting of applications and systems together with Internet (IP) standards that rely on XML as a language for tagging data. Their component-based model allows developers to reuse the building blocks of code created by others to assemble and extend them in new ways.

In theory, Web Services are all about the vendors cooperating on a common set of standards and this implies that the many proprietary evils which have locked business into one vendor or another will become a thing of the past. But don’t be so sure about this, as it’s rather like a government living up to its manifesto promises.

A decade ago, business embraced clunky, client-server technology and tomorrow, we’re promised a whole new vision of geographically dispersed mix of Applications Servers and Web clients, which will seamlessly and transparently shuttle every conceivable business process around the Internet.

The …
Use Invisible Ink

Quite unused to sensible comments on matters of technology from anywhere in the vicinity of Westminster, I was quite surprised to have seen two MPs, from opposite sides of the House, in the space of a single week, actually introduce useful arguments involving IT and its legislation.

First it was Labour MP, Derek Wyatt, who, after reading ‘Thought for the Day’ on the rising Spam plague, told me that he now plans to start a lobby group to campaign against this rapidly growing and seemingly unavoidable menace, responsible for clogging up our in-boxes with the worst kind of intrusive behavior.
Hard on the heels of Mr. Wyatt, comes Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who has reached the welcome conclusion that reading other people’s email, even if they happen to be your employees, just isn’t on.

In the wake of the RIP legislation, a new software industry has grown-up around an unrestricted license to snoop and only last month, a company released a thinly-disguised ‘Trojan’ produc…
Don’t’ Mention the Penguin

Linux and Unisys don’t sit easily together in conversation and over lunch with Brian Hadfield, the Unisys (UK) Managing Director, I was told that it would be a ‘Cold day in hell’ before Unisys, the ‘Big Iron; company with its ES7000, would consider Linux as being a suitable platform for the heaviest Enterprise applications.

Unisys is very much wedded to the concept of the Windows Mainframe and approximately 20% of its UK revenue comes from hardware sales. However, with 74% of total 2001 company revenues coming from services, its business focus as smaller rival to the likes of IBM’s Global Services is clear.

Where both Sun and IBM might agree that Linux is ready for the big time, Hadfield doesn’t buy the Linux story and doubts that IBM at least, would ever seriously consider offering Linux to its larger customers as a serious ‘Top of the Enterprise’ solution. Edge of the Enterprise, maybe, which is Sun’s side of the argument but Linux, he feels, requires “more…