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Showing posts from 2003
Countdown to 2004
Almost Spanish sunshine and banks of British fog. That's the view from the Kent coast today. I had hoped for a New Year's Eve flight to somewhere interesting but I can't actually find my aircraft in the fog. A mile away one needs dark glasses it's so bright.

The last evening of indulgence looms and then it's all over for another year. Having downsized to the coast, I must admit there are certain benefits in living outside the city although I do miss Starbucks and have had to make do with a Krup coffee machine in the kitchen. The only problem is that the dog keeps asking me to walk her on the beach and the temptation to interrupt my work and go and admire the view is a strong one.
Anyway, a Happy & Prosperous New Year to everyone and perhaps 2004 will be the year that the British public finally stands-up to its government and declares it's had enough of Gordon Brown and Tony's imaginary WMDs. I doubt it though, as each year passed our indi…
Safe as The Bank of England
An email scam is responsible for messages apparently originating from the Bank of England which invites the recipient to download an attachment as an antidote against keylogging software.
In the past few months, a rash of emails posing as correspondence from some of the world's biggest banks have flowed into various email inboxes. The scams have been reported in Britain, the US and Australia, to name a few. British banks have been particularly hard hit this fall with more than a half-dozen, including Barclays, Lloyds, The Halifax, TSB and NatWest, posting warnings to customers that they have been the target of fraudsters.

With the Bank of England name behind it, it's certainly one of the stories of the day and I've just recorded a Radio 4 interview attempting to explain what it means to the man in the street and why it's important.
Apparently the Bank of England domain has had over 100,000 returns which suggests that in many cases, Internet se…
The Fantasy & Reality of 2004
A Wired News feature which collects the 2004 'wish-lists' of well-known experts is a 'must read'. Here are three excerpts.
Simon Davies, director of Privacy International:
"I wish everyone would become more aggressive about protecting their civil liberties in 2004.

"What probably will happen is that government will continue to lie and manipulate in a determined effort to confuse imagery and reality. Government has become a master of deception. It has set out to compromise the fragile freedoms that remain, while at the same time providing agencies with a constantly expanding spectrum of powers. Public officials proclaim their support for individual rights and privacy while silently engineering their demise. I do hope people can learn to become angry about this trend."
George Smith, virus researcher and senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.Org a defense affairs think tank:
"I wish people would treat regular virus frenzies li…
My God - It's Alive
It works.... RSS that is.
Today, I downloaded Newz Crawler and started experimenting with RSS feeds, the first of which was Alan Mather's 'eGovernment@Large'. Not really understanding how RSS works, it was a matter of luck rather than judgement, which allowed me to add his Weblog to the list of newsfeeds being delivered to my PC. Actually, the Newz Crawler interface makes it quite easy.

So now, I can make up my own newspaper of sorts. the BBC, The Register, CNN, Reuters, ZDNet and hundreds if not thousands more if I want them, delivering the headlines to folders that look like the Outlook sidebar. I'm starting to wonder how I lived without Broadband and a wireless network at home and could be in danger of becoming a nerd, which for me, would be a fate worse than death.
The next step is to see whether 'BlogThis' from inside Newz Crawler automatically posts to my Zentelligence Weblog. Fingers crossed... here goes!
The Past, Present & Future of eCrime

Trying to predict the future of eCrime for February's eCrime Congress magazine, I was thinking back to the Science Fiction novel that may have started it all, William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' published in 1984.

"Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills"

Gibson has his own Weblog and it's worth a visit by those in search of profound comment on the shape of technology and its impact on humanity.

"We live in, have lived through, a strange time" says Gibson. "I know this because when I was a child, the flow of forgetting was relatively unimpeded. I know this because the dead were less of a constant presence, then. Because there was once no rewind button. Because the soldiers dying in the Somme were black and whit…
BBC Television License - No Place in a Modern Society

Let me make sure I have this right. In our so-called civilized society, each year, an average of forty women the majority single parents on income support - are jailed for non-payment of their BBC television license.

I'm appalled, even sickened that all of the countries in the world, only Britain demands a license to watch television and subsidizes the bloated existence of a single broadcaster, the BBC, the company responsible for a constant diet of sub-standard programming thinly disguised as entertainment and a channel I rarely watch in the interests of good taste.

Of course, if a diet of politically correct, left-wing propaganda and Australian soap operas, Kilroy, East Enders and Holby City is what you understand as television, then the BBC is for you. Then there's gardening and cooking or gardeners in helicopters or gardening chefs at antique auctions and maybe I forgot Nigella, or Jamie Oliver or Ainsley or the Antiques…
I Spy

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘S’” says my daughter.

“I give up”, I reply. “What is it”?

“Easy Daddy, a chandelier”

My thanks to friends Barrie and Marie Therese for sharing a bottle of good champagne with me before lunch today. I’ve spent most of the afternoon asleep, recovering, which rather explains the short entry in today's Blog and my lack of skill at I spy.

A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…
Internet Security, It's Catch 22

A summons from the BBC World Service no less. They just alerted me to the fact that one of my comments, "Catch-22", on the risks of Internet security over the Christmas period is in The Independent newspaper today. Unable to join the 'beeb' for a shopping expedition in the Tottenham Court Road, the next best thing I can offer them is a 5'O'Clock radio interview from their Radio Kent studio, hidden behind the reception at Margate hospital

So it's Christmas Eve and I have a mini webcam installed on the desk in front of me. In theory, I want to test whether I can stream voice and video through Microsoft’s Instant Messenger but in practise, nobody I know, appears to be online and I cannot seem to get it running between the two laptops on my house wireless network.

The Webcam hosting service being offered with the camera by Logitek appears to have gone out of business. Instead, there’s an offer from a company based in the N…
A Fishy Story

No snow yet but the bitterly cold North wind made it impossible to reach the seafront in front of my house today. More accurately with the tide in this morning and waves pounding over the promenade, there was nowhere to go and the sea was as rough as I’ve ever seen it here, with giant waves breaking on the submerged sands several miles offshore.

Everyone appears to have given-up early for Christmas. A few more virtual cards and a lot more ‘out-of-office agents’ appearing in my inbox. Me, I’m faced with the prospect of having to drive up to the London house tomorrow to feed my daughter’s fish. A two hundred mile round trip to keep three small Goldfish going must seem crazy and it is but I feel a responsibility to them and it wouldn’t be right to neglect them or any other creature one takes into one’s home. Dogs, Hamsters, Goldfish, you name them.

Next up is a rabbit says my daughter but I’m trying to avoid that as long as possible!

Bonfire of the Vanities

Call it a retrospective if you like, I am wondering where the ‘e’ in government has worked for me in 2003 and I’m casting my mind back on the old year for evidence of a smooth and painless experience. But I can’t find one.

Together with my Christmas cards – am I allowed to call them that anymore? – is a reprimand from the VAT office. My quarterly payment was six days late and my knuckles are being firmly rapped.

If you look back to an earlier column, you will find me telling you I’m receiving red warning letters from the VAT man because the system can’t yet cope with my habit of paying electronically and on time. In December, I took the advice of my local VAT inspector and instructed Barclays Bank to issue a transfer on the 3rd December, three days before the VAT payment deadline. This proved to have been a bad idea. Barclays might have debited my account immediately but it took another six days to credit the funds to Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, because a …

The Hampton Court ghost. Certainly the video looks interesting as the alleged phantasm throws open the palace fire doors but I do find it utterly farcical that so called ‘experts’ in 'newspapers' like the Sun, speculate that it might be the wandering ghost of Henry VIII.

Take a good look at the photo. Even the most historically challenged expert should be able to spot that it looks nothing like big bad King Henry and the costume said ghost is wearing is more Jacobean than Tudor in style. My own uneducated guess, looking at the ghostly collar, is around the time of James I to Charles I but who am I to say.

Is it real in the figurative sense? It would be fascinating if it was something inexplicable and not simply a prank but today, it’s impossible to say what might be real and what isn’t.

Last night I watched a BBC documentary programme on the science and theory of time travel. One of its conclusions was that given the advance of Moore’s Law, the infinitely powerful compute…
Air Mobile

The last Friday before Christmas and my small daughter, in celebratory mood, has sprayed perfume over our equally small Yorkshire terrier, who is far from amused.

Yesterday, the two of us, my daughter, not the terrier, made a quick mercy flight to Toys R Us at Rochester. I packed her silver ‘Super Scooter’ in the back of the aircraft, with the result that she quickly discovered that the smoothly polished floors of both PC World and Toys R Us are perfect for the serious business of high-speed scooting between the aisles.

I hadn’t bargained on the weight of booty that was picked-out with her grandparent's Christmas money and I did rather wonder if the runway was going to be long enough for the aircraft to leave the ground with all the extra luggage. In the end however, with ten degrees of flap, we managed to wallow off the wet grass at the end of Rochester’s runway 16, which drops away vertically to the M2 motorway at the bottom of the Medway valley as a reminder to anyon…
A Matter of Choice

It was a chance comment that set me thinking. A well-placed friend of mine in the information security business remarked that once Microsoft started to rollout its own anti-virus solutions, the line of new anti-trust litigants would bring Washington traffic to a standstill.

You’ll remember that Microsoft bought the Romanian anti-virus vendor, GeCAD in the summer as part of its continued Trustworthy Computing drive. At the time, there were quiet murmurs of concern from some voices but the industry mostly pulled together and supported the move. The principal anti-virus shops appeared unruffled and talked bravely about value-add services and how no single vendor, including Microsoft had a universal solution to the information security problem that faces us today.

So the big picture, rather like the presence of a modest firewall in Windows XP, seems to be one where Microsoft delivers software which is, as the mantra goes, is ‘Secure by design, secure by default and secu…
Wright Flyer - 100 Years On

I guess that about this time, one hundred years ago, history was made at Kittyhawk which a short hop off the ground which took man to the moon in three generations.

With the weather so brilliant today, I celebrated the event with a short flight around the Kent coast, taking for granted almost, how easy it is to fly in a world where aviation is up there with trains and buses.

"It's a hundred years since man first flew", I told my daughter. "Why don't you come with me"?
"I'd rather watch the cartoon channel", she replied.

There's a very old photograph taken almost a hundred years ago, 1913 actually, with my grandmother outside in the garden beyond my windows, standing next to an original pre First World War 'Stringbag' biplane.

At the time, she was almost the same age as my daughter. How times have changed. The garden outside was rather larger and big enough to accomodate an aircraft and it would be another…

Bitterly cold on the coast today. The north wind is blowing uninterrupted from the arctic and bouncing off my double glazing.

A new washing machine was installed this afternoon but it appears that the fitters failed to tighten the connection to the mains water supply properly, with the result that water has now flooded the kitchen and the new wooden floor laid only last week. Unfortunately Barretts in Canterbury can't find their two men, who have switched off their mobile phones and gone home after this last job of the day, leaving us in a mess that can't be rectified until tomorrow, the day that the Sky installers, you know, the one's who aren't allowed to climb ladders, are due to return, after disappearing off the job suddenly last week.

It could be worse I suppose. One of our friends also had a new kitchen fitted this month and the same thing happened, except they didn't notice until the morning, when they found the ground floor of their house under six in…
Wireless & Wonderful

It’s a miracle. Well almost. I’ve got the Broadband connection out of the house working but with one small problem. I can’t for the life of me work out how to turn on wireless encryption without dropping the wireless connection.

It should be simple, select WEP and pop-in the key and in theory, it should work seamlessly but it doesn’t, leaving me, as someone who lectures everyone else on the importance of good wireless network security, looking a little silly and of course open to any drive-by hacker, which is a little unlikely, unless he’s walking his dog on the beach or sitting on board the small ship which has anchored offshore for the evening.

It does illustrate the problem though. Security should be seamless, transparent and above all simple and it’s not. Simply installing the wireless router properly has taken me four hours and three different telephone calls, the first one pointing out that I have to write the name of the router before the SSID code and …
I Told You I was Ill
Spike Milligan

Acutely hacked-off, that’s me. I have the flu or whatever it’s called and have spent a week going steadily downhill until I found my way into the doctor’s surgery along with all the other consumptives this afternoon.

This particular strain is one of the nastiest I have had in a couple of years and what’s more frustrating, is that with Christmas just around the corner, I’ve done zero shopping and have fallen behind with work and the office / house move as a consequence of being ill. Moving home and Christmas are incompatible and trying to get the new wireless ADSL, connection working is even worse.

BT are supposed to have switched me on from the exchange, at least in theory, according to my ISP but my router is showing ‘idle’, which leaves me wondering whether I’ve completely cocked-up the IP configuration or the simpler and more plausible explanation, BT haven’t thrown the switch yet.

We were supposed to have had Sky Digital reinstalled at the house o…
A Gathering of Eagles

With a little over two months remaining before the big names in information security and digital law-enforcement descend on London for the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit’s (NHTCU) 2004 eCrime Congress, there comes a warning that organised crime is increasing its efforts to find new and interesting ways of leveraging Europe’s increasingly Broadband society.

According to Sophos, the increasing use of broadband Internet connections and a general lack of security awareness have resulted in around one in three spam emails being redirected through the computers of unsuspecting users. One third of all spam circulating the Web is now relayed through PCs that have been compromised by Remote Access Trojans and last week, Eugene Kapersky, co-founder of Kapersky Lab and head of its antivirus research, warned that organised crime is gravitating online into spam and virus writing and pointed at the latest MiMail worms as the first in a new type of exploit aimed at deriving financi…
Le Fog - C'est Magnifique

With the weather so perfect, I decided that I would take advantage of the clear spell and make that shopping trip to France this morning.

I checked the weather on the Met Office aviation website, printed out my flight plan and then headed off down the road to find my aircraft.

There was still frost on the ground when I arrived at the farm twenty minutes later and I fussed around with the pre-flight checks, faxed my flight plan to Le Touquet to Heathrow and the customs form to the excise men.

Before taking-off, I could see that the hills towards Dover were looking milky but that isn’t unusual, so once off the grass, I started my climb to three thousand feet and a panoramic view of the English Channel beyond.

Le Touquet’s ATIS (automated information frequency) was giving five miles visibility, 2,500 feet and an overcast, a complete contrast with the English side of the Channel in fierce winter sunshine but as I coasted out over Dover, I couldn’t see the Fre…
Vive La France

Champagne, it seems, is now cheaper in Somerfield supermarkets than it is in France.

My friend Barrie and his wife Marie Therese dropped in yesterday on their way home from a day trip to Calais to stock-up for Christmas and recommended a quick visit while stocks last, Somerfield that is and not Calais, Mind you, the latter is reportedly clogged with white vans from the rest of the UK buying up anything faintly alcoholic or smokable.

One advantage of living on the Kent coast is that France is so very close and accessible at £10 per person and car for a day trip on the ferry. Today was ideal for a visit, perfect anything weather and instead of hopping over the channel, which I need to do soon, I flew over to Headcorn to pick-up fuel as the Avgas pump at Maypole, where I am parked, is temporarily out of service and I had very little left in my wing tanks.

Headcorn, possibly the only airfield in the country where your landing fee buys you a frozen lamb, is starting to show…
Moores and the Mac

I’ve been neglecting this journal over the last two weeks. Moving house and office simultaneously is my excuse; living a life surrounded by overflowing cardboard boxes.

The other problem with moving is I keep losing things. I know they’re somewhere but in which box and in which room? At least the IT is working and in a week or so, I’ll have Broadband turned on and the fun of seeing if the new wireless router that’s been delivered works.

Apple Computer have very kindly offered to lend me an iMac, so I can describe the experience and whether I find using an Apple Computer an improvement on using a PC with Windows XP on board. I Still have an older Apple Powerbook 3400 which keeps on going so I’ll be interested to see if the new machines with the UNIX based Operating system are more reliable, they’re certainly sexier and that really sums-up Apple in the minds of many, an aspirational lifestyle or designer device, like Harley Davidson motorcycles or Breitling watches.…
The March of Penguins

As the New Year approaches, columnists and analysts invariably dust-off their crystal balls and indulge in the industry’s long tradition of fortune telling. I’m no different, although making predictions becomes easier as a sense of certainty creeps back into IT after a long absence.

Last year, I warned you that Linux would become a hot technology, which is normally a safe bet, as the temperature of the Open Source market has been increasing quarter on quarter since 2000 and server revenues have grown by over 50% year-on-year.

2003 was however, the first year that Microsoft started to feel real pain from the growth of Open Source computing and although in relative terms, Linux shipments remain modest in contrast with Windows, Microsoft is starting to resemble the old Soviet Union in the face of the rise of a penguin-powered ‘Perestroika’.

The coming year will see an acceleration in the migration process from Windows NT and the remaining Netware base of around four …

One problem from operating from a wet grass field in winter is that the propeller sprays the mud splatter kicked-up by the aircraft wheels all over the tail plane. Great, what a mess!

Though I would escape for a quick thirty minutes over the coast this afternoon, and spotted grey seals lying on the huge kidney-shaped 'Tongue Sands' off Margate; you don’t see these very often.

Still much too warm for December, butterflies and bees still around. God only knows how hot the summer of 2004 will be if the temperature continues to climb as it has done over the last two years.

I finally ordered Broadband into the new house today from Nildram Internet, plus a wireless router for security as much as connectivity. I’ll be interested to see how seamlessly the new online experience will be when BT switch me on next week.

What’s My Line

In a clever twist to the concept of online advertising, O2 have arranged for a banner to be towed behind an aircraft over London for three hours to welcome the England rugby team home. One of my lesser-known activities, it’s surprising how many companies are looking for new and different ways of reaching a mass audience outside of the regular and more expensive web, television and traditional print media, where the target audience is becoming increasingly resistant to ‘messages’ from advertisers.

Most of us, consider pop-up advertising on web sites to be the work of the devil, spam by another name and the evidence shows that when people can download the software that turns intrusive pop-ups off, they will and in huge numbers.

When business first started becoming excited over the Internet, it wasn’t for all the right reasons, such as information at one’s fingertips. We’ve witnessed the end result of the channel exploitation principle in the tide of spam which clogs our se…

I’m surrounded by boxes but at least the IT is up and running again, although, with a distinct lack of furniture, it’s amazing how many PC’s, monitors and printers one can cram onto a single desk without it collapsing. Yet.

To celebrate the move, The Inland Revenue have sent me a letter announcing that I am entirely responsible for the national debt and should pay this by 29th January or face cluster bombing or at the very least, occupation by the Americans.

With all one’s files in boxes between houses, this is the kind of house warming surprise I could do without, particularly after a rummage through the files, tells me that in the view of my accountant, the Treasury owes me money and not the other way around. One should be innocent until proven guilty but I am a little jaded in my views.

On the last occasion this happened, five years ago, it cost me a small fortune to prove myself the victim of what is best described as tax theft on the part of Government. In the end, they …
Special Delivery

Moving house is stressful, we all know this but I have recently arrived at a startling conclusion of my own.

Most of the companies and institutions you have to tell you are moving home share the same call centre. You know the one where your call is important to them but where they rarely if ever answer the phone because it is experiencing ‘Unusually High Levels’ of customer calls.

My wife has now been holding on for Argos, the catalogue people, for over two hours and may yet smoke herself to death if she doesn't have a heart attack first. An unknown delivery driver having left a cryptic message that he can't find our house she's trying to work out if he was the Argos driver or not because he didn't say. Ironically, it's now 8:30 and she's finally got through to an operator who has told her that customer service closed at 8 O'clock. They just left her holding and went home. How's that for customer relationship management then?

Then there’…
The Great Wall of Cardboard

The scene outside Buckingham Palace reminded me of the opening minutes of ‘Gladiator’. With the cavalry in position, all that seemed missing were the catapults and bored-looking police were positioned every thirty yards along the road into Victoria, where I was meeting the editor for lunch, while President Bush had his cooked for him by kitchen Goddess, Nigella Lawson in Downing Street.

Observing this rather extreme example of perimeter defence from a computing perspective, I couldn’t help wondering if it had its equivalent ‘single point of failure’, the kind of weakness that Symantec CEO, John Thompson alluded to in his Comdex speech, “Day zero threats”, which exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities and which can strike without warning. A new phenomenon, Warhol attacks, likely to achieve their moment of fame by spreading across the Internet in fifteen minutes or "Flash" threats that might be able to blanket the Internet in as little as thirty s…
Children in Need

I should be filled with generosity of spirit at the thought of the BBC’s ‘Children in Need’ campaign but instead, I’m feeling irked.

After all, an unaccountable BBC collects billions from the population of the United Kingdom in a television tax and squanders it with a profligacy matched only by Government. Yet tonight, it will approach those same taxpayers and ask them to ‘donate’ more money in a good cause, in return for seeing BBC 'celebrities' making fools of themselves and auctioning their pens and underwear.

Here’s an equally valid suggestion. The BBC should donate 1% of the license money it spends on its more useless activities, management cultural awareness workshops, political correction classes, the BBC web site and the like and give the proceeds to charity. This enormous sum might actually equal what the kindhearted viewers may yet give it tonight.

Give Them Hell

With twenty minutes to spare before lunch in Victoria yesterday, I ambled along to Buckingham Palace to see what was happening.

When I arrived, it all rather reminded me of the opening scene from the film, ‘Gladiator’. All along Buckingham Palace Road, the police were stationed every thirty yards and all that was missing outside the palace gates was a catapult and Roman legionaries. What, I wondered is happening to the crime figures in South London, with all the police stationed in SW1?

I notice that the government’s foundation hospitals bill ‘squeaked’ through Parliament last night, saved only by Labour’s Scottish MPs who in turn, won’t be having the same hospitals on their doorstep. Once again and reminscent of ‘Gladiator’, Labour’s band of Pictish mercenaries emerge from the forests, shaking their fists at the rest of us.

Whatever happened to a sense of real democracy I ask? After all, why, in all reason, should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on important legislat…
Go or No SCO

I’ve been deliberately silent about the legal squabble between SCO (The Santa Cruz Operation) and just about everyone else other than Microsoft over Linux and who owns the rights to the code contained therein – Allegedly.

There are two very good reasons for this. The first being that the editor will, quite probably leave many of my comments ‘On the cutting room floor’ and the second being that litigation stories of this kind are the Computer Weekly equivalent of counting sheep at bedtime.

Not content to fight its corner against IBM, Red Hat and most of the Penguin-fancying world, SCO now plans to frustrate Novell's purchase of SuSE , alleging – that word again – that this would put it in violation of a much older non-competitive agreement, signed in 1995, between Novell and SCO as part of their UNIX System V software agreement.

At the time, Novell was casting around for answers, any answers to the looming inevitability of Windows NT, parked, like the Star Wars ‘Death …
The Golden Age of Movies - Not

Pinocchio meets Aliens” my wife called it but others know it as ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, over two hours of explosions and ‘Special FX’ thinly woven together with a feeble and politically correct plot and cast.

The first Matrix film was a burst of constant activity and entertainment and one could at least forgive the weaknesses in the story line but ‘Matrix Regurgitated’ is just, well, awful or at least I think so. “Like watching paint dry”, my wife again who disappeared off to talk to one of her friends for an hour on the phone in the kitchen.

Why didn’t the critics pan this movie? Perhaps because they are now part of the great Hollywood machine and there’s too much money in merchandising and movie rights involved. So many of today’s films or movies, depending on which side of the pond you live on, are fast to market rubbish aimed at the interest of a low IQ American audience. They only serve to illustrate the huge and constantly growing gulf between Ameri…
IT Phone Home

Somewhere, on a old PC, gathering dust in my attic, is a Microsoft Windows CE presentation from over five years ago, which shows how mobile computing will revolutionise our lives. This was of course in the days before the Palm and The Pocket PC but Microsoft, in conjunction with the Ford Motor Company, imagined that today’s Focus or Mondeo would have email and Outlook in as much an integrated part of the car’s entertainment system as the stereo and perhaps the mobile phone.

An in-car monopoly that didn’t quite happen, as mobile phones and PDAs became portable gadgetry and we found we no longer needed a separate and expensive mobile telephone number for the car.

Where driving is concerned, I rarely use the car, preferring my motorcycle and all the risks that go with it. No congestion charge, reliable parking and predictable appointment times. I also use my mobile phone, hands free of course and only to take calls, which invariably cause me to pull over because of the noise…
Nil Desperandum or Something Similar

I should have written a Computer Weekly column today but found myself putting it of until the evening.

Normally these things are reasonably spontaneous but tonight I can’t find a single creative thought, which is unusual but also might imply that there’s very little happening of real interest this week, beyond the possibility that the EU might ban Windows in Europe, which I can’t take seriously.

Is the Windows Media Player a product or a feature? You tell me. One is inextricably bound into Windows, like Internet Explorer and the other can be added and detached at will. Personally, I don’t really care, I rather like the Media Player and loathe the Real Player alternative which attaches itself to your system like an unwelcome parasite if you aren’t careful.

Does anybody else really care? The regulators and Microsoft’s rivals, I’m sure but for the rest of us, if it works well under Windows, that’s just dandy and it could be naïve if you listen to the a…
Yemen? Not Today Thank you

I reluctantly declined the UN's invitation to attend their eGovernment workshop in Sana'a, in the Republic of Yemen. The Foreign Office and the Embassy there advised me that it would be unwise to go unless absolutely necessary and when I asked the UN is they could guarantee my personal security on the visit - the not being shot at part - they sent back the following reply.

'The United Nations accepts no responsibility for the death, illness or injury of any consultant or participant in an advisory meeting which is not attributable to the performance of services on behalf of the United Nations'.

I think that means 'No', don't you?

A Few Good Men

Watching the movie 'A Few Good Men' on TV this evening is making me increasingly nervous as regards accepting the United Nation's invitation to visit the Yemen at the beginning of next month.

My host is the Yemeni Prime Minister and I'm delighted and flattered to have been invited over for this conference but the Foreign Office advisory, shown below suggests that it might not be wise and with the British Embassy operating a skeleton staff I'm wondering whether I should be offering to present myself as a potential Al Qaeda target of opportunity.

What do you think?

'There is reliable evidence that international terrorists are targeting western, including British interests in Yemen. We continue to judge that terrorist attacks against British individuals or organisations there are likely'.

'We therefore advise against all but the most essential travel to Yemen. British nationals visiting or resident in Yemen should consider whether their pres…
Leveraging Linux For Infrastructure Flexibility, Dependability And Savings

A Financial Services Briefing

Reliability. Security. A lower TCO. Such benefits have made Linux the world's fastest growing operating system. As Linux has moved beyond being an IT debate to become a business and strategic decision, are you looking for a way to explore the benefits of Linux in your IT environment without jumping in blind?

On the morning of 10th December in the magnificent Drapers' Hall, a Financial Times Business Briefing (in partnership with "The Banker" magazine) will give a clear understanding of what is happening with Linux and Open Source in the UK financial services sector. The morning features FIVE insightful case studies from leading financial services organisations and suppliers (including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch) and a Panel Session chaired by Dr. Simon Moores, widely recognised as one of the UK's most respected technology columnists and broad…
Granita or Grappo

Dinner with Alan Mather – eGovernment’s answer to Karl Marx - and his friends at Giardinetto, a splendid little restaurant in Charlotte Street. I was reminded a little of Hemingway’s novel, ‘A Moveable Feast’, dinner parties in the Paris of the twenties and the setting of the world to rights with the literary icons of the time, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby – Ezra Pound and others enjoying the wine and conversation.

In our case, it was a little different and it was not great literature or even icons but the challenge of eGovernment and the process of public sector reform that took the conversation late into the evening over some very good Italian wine.

Did we reach any stunning conclusions? I’m not sure I can remember clearly after sharing a bottle of what may have been 100% proof pear liqueur. If there are any new, bold and great ideas, short of starting a revolution, the compulsory wiring of pensioners for Broadband or shooting the occasional Minis…
Trust is the strongest weapon of all

Microsoft is leaving no stone unturned in its Trustworthy Computing initiative as it searches for ways to fight viruses and hackers. But its biggest battle is to win over cash-strapped organisations this side of the pond.

The RSA Security Conference in Amsterdam this year saw Microsoft making a powerful effort to display its European credentials around privacy, PKI and information security strategy in general.

Microsoft has been working very hard to ensure that its software meets the approval of the regulators in Brussels, and PKI in Windows 2003 is just one example of how it is attempting to provide the standards framework, in this case, digital signatures, that support the EU’s plans for a more joined-up and e-capable Europe.

Detlef Eckert, Microsoft’s director of Trustworthy Computing for EMEA, conceded that much greater trust, in the computing sense, was needed to bring ICT to the next level.

Tomorrow’s joined-up government," says Eckert, …
Power Cut

South London or at least my small part of it was plunged into darkness this evening as I sat in front of my PC. You forget what complete darkness is like in the age of the electric light bulb.

I had to grope my way downstairs to the bedroom and feel around under the bed for the emergency torch. Without it, there would have been absolutely nothing I could do in the house until the power returned.

Only 'Fluffy' the Hamster in her running wheel, was seemingly unaffected by the crisis, as thankfully were both my laptops, which carried on quite happily under battery power.

What's this got to do with technology? Very little other than a comment on our dependance on electricity and if all else fails perhaps, create a small dynamo to power my PC from Fluffy and her wheel.

Confessions of a Post Industrial Luddite

I should have been working but this afternoon I managed to escape briefly into the air on the way to my new home in Kent this afternoon.

It’s difficult to recall an autumn with colours as rich as this one. Today was quite remarkable and reminded me of the fall in Maine, the same vivid red and yellow hues and the harsh, November sunlight ,that I found so attractive in North America a quarter of a century ago.

Climbing out over the Kent coast at Herne Bay, there was a fine mist clinging to the hills to the west towards Ashford and a noticeable inversion layer, like rich cream on the top of an Irish coffee, which forced me up higher, to three thousand feet in order to maintain horizontal visibility as I turned towards Canterbury.

Below me, the gilding on the cathedral was reflecting the low afternoon sunlight and a little further on, the ferries were busy coming and going out of Dover but of France, there was no sign, lost in an impenetrable bank o…
Marbles - As in Losing Them

I can't find my Cisco wireless network card, which means I can't use my wireless network. I last saw it on Sunday evening as I was packing for the RSA conference but haven't seen it since. As I happen to have the door card for the Amsterdam Hilton, I rather did wonder if I handed my wireless card back to reception instead but it's not likely and I don't think I'm quite that senile yet.

I sat down with Tony Neate from the NHTCU at the conference and showed him what I discovered over the weekend. This site has been 'hijacked' by a UK sex site. I won't give you the name but it seems that this 'Blog' is popular enough now for others to try and leverage-off its Google rating, which you might think of as a compliment until you see where it leads sometimes.

So a search doesn't always bring you here and instead, it might lead you somewhere else, where the pictures are far more interesting than anything I can offer. Ver…
Remember Remember the 5th November

I'm in danger of losing Wednesday, which is blurring rapidly as I run out of daylight.

Last night, I managed to catch the 17:30 flight to Heathrow from Amsterdam and was at the Unisys press party by 18:20, thanks to the time difference, the M4 bus lane and my motorcycle, which was parked outside Terminal One.

I may be approaching my ‘sell-by-date’, as two of the young analysts from Ovum didn’t know who I was, which surprised not so much from the perspective of a damaged ego but rather from that of wondering what on earth they read, if at all, in the IT press, as I’m quite prolific or maybe, I’m just imagining I am.

A long discussion with my Unisys friends over roast chestnuts, baked potatoes and a fireworks display, persuaded me, for the moment at least, that being the smallest player services and hardware in a playground of giants, such as Hewlett Packard and IBM, might not be such a bad thing in the industry’s present circumstances. Under Larry …
Blowing Smoke

How a Microsoft security briefing and belly-dancing fit together is a struggle, even for my imagination but following the Microsoft analyst and press security briefing at RSA in Amsterdam, yesterday even, we were all ‘bussed’, to a middle-eastern restaurant in the heart of the city, complete with waiters dressed as Bedouin and of course, the obligatory belly dancer, a large girl by any standards of the imagination.

Ultimately, I had to be dragged away from a shisha pipe, the only person on my table prepared to indulge and perhaps disappointingly for some of the other journalists around me, it had no local and legal additives, just plain tobacco.

One question I tried to ask yesterday was “Is Microsoft in the business of security or in the security business” but Mike Nash cleverly wriggled out from making any other answer than “Both of these”. Personally, I don’t believe that Microsoft can sit on the fence like this as, in my mind; it is increasingly becoming a security pr…