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Showing posts from March, 2003
Baghdad Blog Goes Silent

I've been watching the Baghdad Blog for many weeks now and it's sad to see it go off the air.

Every day, tens of thousands of people turn to the Web seeking updates from a mysterious scribe whose detailed accounts of life in besieged Baghdad have made him a cyberspace celebrity with his 'Baghdad Blog'

Little is known for sure about Salam Pax, whose nom de plume means "peace" in Arabic and Latin. But his Web journal — ostensibly written from his Baghdad home — vividly criticizes the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-British war on his nation.

One Legged Man on a Bicycle

It must have been late last summer, at an event I was chairing for customers, at the Microsoft Campus on future Operating Systems, that I asked how many people in the audience were respectively using Windows NT, Windows 2000 and of course Windows XP?

It came as no great surprise that people were still quite happily using Windows NT but it was rather more than I expected. Windows 2000 migration was still very much ‘work-in-progress’ and in between, were those organisations in both the private and the public sector who couldn’t decide whether they should jump straight to Windows XP on the desktop; missing-out Windows 2000 completely or wait and see what kind of rabbit Microsoft pulls out of the hat next, on the long and winding road that leads to ‘Longhorn’.

Fiddling with the Server names hasn’t helped much either. After all, is a Server a .Net Server or .Not anymore?

Server software accounts for about 20% of Microsoft's sales, or $3.4 billion of the $16.…
Lessons from History (2)

"Lacking the arms it which to confront well-equipped armies in the field, Mao avoided battle by surrendering territory". In so doing, Katenzenbach writes, "he traded space for time and used the time to produce will: the psychological capacity of the Chinese people to resist defeat".

E.L. Katzenbach Jr. – Time Space and Will: The Politico-Military Views of Mao Tse-tung

"The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The Blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of duration. Thus the enemy will be caught in a dilemma he has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long drawn-out war".

North Vietnamese General Giap

Casualties of War

Who will rid me of this turbulent priest”? This question spelled the end of Thomas Beckett, an Archbishop who was too free and independent with his opinions and one might imagine US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld making a similar remark about the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel or even the BBC.

While the recent and unsuccessful attempts to knock Iraqi television off the air illustrate how difficult suppressing the media can be, even with the help of cruise missiles, unfriendly or unhelpful Web sites aren’t such a heavyweight challenge and quite coincidentally, dropped off the Internet quite suddenly last week, its DNS records having mysteriously disappeared.

Before this war started, I warned that government’s digital Britain programme might become a casualty if it wasn’t over quickly. Today, we’re facing the growing prospect of a lengthy, bloody and very expensive campaign. In addition to the escalating cost of being a coalition member, our s…
Someone Shoot the BBC

BBC Breakfast News this morning and an interview with RAF Harrier pilots in Kuwait.

"We won't identify their actual names for security reasons". Instead, we will use psuedonyms and display their real names in a large red caption (aston) kept on screen during the course of the interviews describing their most recent missions against the Republican Guard.

Really intelligent work BBC. Well done!

Lessons from History (1)

"We must inform these people [The South Vietnamese] of what is happening and how important it is to them to get on our side. Then they will want to choose victory".

President Eisenhower

"Inherent contradictions between stated US war aims and actual goals, between necessary means and desired ends. Between domestic, political and economic realities and the international posture and ambitions of the United States".

Robert Taber - The War of the Flea

"The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue".

Selected military writings of Mao Tse-tung

Between the Lines

I can't help but think of the parallels with the war in Vietnam today. Instead of 'Hamlets we have Iraqi villages and the men of the 5th and 7th Cavalry, "who exchanged their horses for helicopters", still "Hairassing" around the country but in a different war with similar problems.

Anyway and to change the subject entirely, here's a short White Paper I wrote for KVS on email and legislation. It's not quite 'Custer's last stand' but if email is an administrative nightmare, here are some thoughts on the problem and the data protection legislation to add to your sleepless nights.

eMail and the Law.pdf

Running Up the Down Escalator

A report from the Meta Group confirms what we already know, IT staff are ‘Burning-out’, victims of the recession and overwork caused by staff cuts.

Meta warns employee burnout is a serious problem among the IT managers it surveyed. Over 70% of those questioned believe that the increased burden of stress is a serious organizational issue and is adversely affecting staff morale.

There is some good news hidden in the detail. IT still pays more than a job ‘Down pit’ and in general employers are more likely to encourage training and skills development for their staff. However my own experience over the last twelve months suggests that people working in IT are ‘Spinning plates’ and responsibilities like no other time in the last twenty years.

If I were to mention company names and tell you, what readers tell me, I would be likely to be spending the rest on my life defending a series of libel actions but if I’m honest, I don’t really know how some IT companies ar…
Knocking on Heaven’s Door

It was hardly unexpected, a ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ (DDoS) attack on the No10 website at the end of March, followed by the familiar argument that if Mr Blair had more faith in Open Source Apache rather than Internet Information Server, the symbolic heart of government wouldn’t be interrupted by protests of this kind.

We do however need to remember that whilst Apache claims to be the most used Web server, the vast majority of Apache installs are the free-ISP-type homepages. When the same measurement is done for real business websites, Microsoft's IIS represents a much more significant majority of the installed base. So whey then is Windows used when the 'apparent' security is so questionable? The answer is of course that even given the apparent concerns, it remains the server platform of choice for most organisations, even when the full cost of ownership is considered and takes into account the cost of ongoing patching.

I asked Microsoft’s …
Paradise Lost

Did a 10:00 AM slot on CNBC this morning, discussing what I see as the technology opportunity that may follow peace in Iraq. If you look at the other Gulf countries and in particular, the Emirates and Kuwait, you can see how technology is acting as a catalyst for social change, introducing public sector reform, through eGovernment as a by-product.

Iraq is virtually, or should I say physically a blank sheet of paper where technology is involved but the potential is enormous. Technology and education will inevitably play their part but before that, we need peace, stability and investment rather than captured soldiers paraded for photo opportunities.

On an reflective note, this war isn't so much a Crusade as a collision between cultures and beliefs. In one world it's still the 15th century, where apostasy still carries the death sentence and in the other its 2003 where Archbishops are frequently atheists. One society's beliefs are shaped by silicon and the other …
Hands Across the Water

Mentioning RAF Fairford and Webcams in the same column may have been a mistake, as my Web journal is now being ‘bombed’ by Google searches by people looking for real-time footage of B52’s coming and going between here and Baghdad. I’m sorry to disappoint them and the media, as there is, to my knowledge, no live footage being streamed from the end of the runway there.

The Gulf region must be expecting some semblance of normality and even peace to return by the end of next month because I’m invited to keynote two conferences in the region in May, one being the 9th GCC eGovernment Conference in Dubai, the other, a similar IT-focused invitation from the government of Bahrain. As a courtesy, I informed No10 on Friday and it might be fair to say that as far as they are concerned it’s a little difficult to see beyond the shock and awe at this time.

Ironically, there’s real opportunity for British companies who might wish to risk doing business in the region. The Emirate…
Light my Fire

I keep hearing the voice of Jim Morrison and the music from his band,'The Doors' playing in my head as I watch the news bulletins from Iraq. All very Vietnam and the 'seventies' but that was another war and the explosions in Baghdad remind me of the 'Arc light' bombing raids of the time. The same aircraft quite possibly.

The Web Cam war continues and one wonders at times whether the agenda is being driven by CNN or by the Pentagon. There's a feeling that things aren't happening fast enough, all the technology but very little to show the viewers at the ringside.

Let's be honest, politics and weapons of mass destruction aside, this is Gladiatorial entertainment but in a digital arena still loosely resembling life. War has become an entertainment medium rather than a simple extension of foreign policy and this is what it looks like.

I wonder how it will finish? Baghdad by Monday? I have to do the 10:00 morning show on CNBC to speculate on …
Welcome to the WebCam War

It’s bizarre, the contrast between two worlds. The one, where CNN has a Webcam streaming footage from a 7th cavalry Bradley fighting vehicle dashing through he desert towards Baghdad and the other, an Iraqi news conference, complete with Mohammed Diyab Al Ahmed, the AK47 toting Interior Minister, issuing a long monologue, claiming that the American ‘mercenaries’ are fleeing from Iraqi forces.

As predicted, this is the first true Web-war and and 'The Mother of all WebCams'. Some sites have been straining under the load. The BBC, always like watching paint dry, is slower than ever and the Home Office is finding it hard to keep-up with the interest on how one should protect oneself from the threat of terrorism and why chicken soup is a traditional remedy against anthrax.

Of course, CNN and the BBC and the army of journalists who think they may be in Iraq, may be the victims of an elaborate confidence trick. After all, we know that man never landed on the…
Tiger Tiger

Spring has arrived in earnest and with it, Bumble Bees the size of small helicopters.

Still working from my house by the coast, I took a couple of hours this morning to fly over to Headcorn to pick up some oil.

My wife caught speeding again.

Between Canterbury and Ashford it was still quite foggy, so I positioned myself over the Channel Tunnel Terminal at Ashford and then followed the railway line and my GPS for a ‘straight-in’ approach to Headcorn’s runway 29, looking out for the inevitable lycra-coloured parachutists on the way.

Headcorn is always a busy airfield. Hordes of skydivers and lots of light aircraft of all makes. It’s probably best known as the home of the ‘Tiger Club’, as in the vintage Tiger Moth aircraft they fly and its where I learned to fly ‘tail wheel’ on a Piper Cub.

If like me, you happen to be a passing pilot, you’ll have discovered that the landing fee can be waived if you buy half a lamb. I don’t eat lamb and couldn’t really imagine trying to cra…
Defence of the Realm

I had just finished duct-taping a plastic bag around my Yorkshire terrier’s head, following the instructions on ‘How to deal with the threat of gas attack’ found on the Home Office’s new anti-terrorism Web site, when I stumbled across the story on Broadband ‘revisionism’.

Now Broadband isn’t a topic that you might immediately associates with the House of Lords but it appears that on 11th March, the Earl of Northesk asked the Government if it had "arrived at a conclusive definition of broadband in respect of data transfer speeds for (a) the commercial market; and (b) the residential market".

Into the breach jumped Labour’s IT ‘spokes-peerson’, Lord Sainsbury, who replied:

“The Government views broadband as a generic term describing a range of technologies operating at various data transfer speeds."

Does anyone know what this means as it strikes me as equivalent to saying, “The definition of Broadband is Broadband”; a clever tautology that the forensi…
Say it with Flowers

“Ouch”. Just when you might have started to believe that Microsoft had ironed-out the nastier vulnerabilities in Internet Information Server on Windows 2000, a reason for so many customers choosing Apache, along comes a ‘Critical’ problem that makes you wonder if life is simply one long series of security ‘patches’ in between new product releases?

There is however a small ray of sunshine in this news and it’s linked closely with Microsoft’s much publicised ‘Trustworthy Computing Initiative’(TWC). Living-up to the promise of being proactive rather than defensive or even paranoid over vulnerabilities, This time around, Microsoft ‘bent-over-backwards’ to let customers and cynical hacks like me know that there was a serious problem and at what time the patch would be available on Monday evening. Apparently, this particular vulnerability – a flawed implementation of the World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) protocol in IIS – was discovered last We…
Foggy Bottom

An interesting day, for me at least. At 1 O’clock, I burst through the fog layer at 2,000 feet above Dover, climbed to 3,500 feet and pointed my nose towards where Calais should be.

I had decided to go for lunch at Ostende. Why Ostende you may ask and the answer is that I haven’t been there before and it’s only an hour away.

It started getting quite misty again over Calais, so I followed the coastline until Ostende approach directed me into the circuit to land.

Ostende is a big jet airport and the light aircraft, like my Cessna are parked some distance from the terminal but there was a crew car waiting for me and I wandered into the terminal to find some lunch. Maybe it was a Bank Holiday, because everything was closed - no duty free - apart from the busy restaurant where I had steak and chips before returning to the aircraft.

I had asked for the fuel bowser but it didn’t arrive and I finally went looking for it. The tanker was parked-up behind the scruffy, abandoned Nige…
Game On

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote about the appearance of Linux – at least as a developer kit – on Sony’s Playstation 2 and warned that “The Penguin on the Playstation” might be the start of the first real competition that Windows has seen in over a decade.

Now I read that gaming is becoming a serious datacentre application in a release that tells me “IBM's ultra dense blade servers will be the backbone of a Linux-based grid that will enable millions of users and developers to access Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 2 games on the Internet”.

This is all about the arrival of ‘Grid computing’, a way of creating a single supercomputer by linking multiple servers together. It’s ‘The Matrix’ in real-life and resources can be shuffled between tens or even hundred’s of computers on demand.

When Microsoft originally planned its X-Box, it imagined that Broadband would be pervasive by the time it reached the market. This is one reason it made such a strong ‘play’ …
Trust in God but Tie your Camel

No apologies for going quiet over the weekend. I'm struggling through a report I'm writing on Trustworthy Computing and have just about wrapped-it-up in thirty pages. I'm sure you'll get to read it soon, so please be patient.

I almost had a stroke when I went to buy a copy of Adobe's Acrobat 5.0 at PC World. £199.98 pence. I still can't believe that software or at least Adobe's software could be that expensive in this day and age!

Anyway, I plan to drift down to my house in Kent for next week and perhaps fly-in to Ostende or Abbeville for lunch if the weather is good. - It's only 45 minutes from the farm . Working from home has its benefits sometimes and picking-up refugees and cigarettes on the way back can be very lucrative!

It could be a whole new business but I need a bigger aircraft.

Return of The Kings

I never thought I would see the day when I agreed with Tony Benn MP. Can we have our democracy back please Mr Blair, because you stole it away from right under our noses.

While Turkey is offered $21 billion to let American troops use it as a staging post for an invasion and several African ‘Presidents’ are bribed beyond their wildest dreams to support America in the United Nations, one has to ask what Britain will receive in return for its support. The answer is of course moral superiority, because as Tony insists, we’re doing the right thing against a vicious tyrant who might or might not have weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, the US government doesn’t need our forces other than to prove the existence of a coalition. I used to be a sort of soldier a very long time ago and my own opinion is that our boys will simply get in the way as they did last time. The Americans fight at night, have sophisticated digital communications systems and with the best will in the …
Inbox Anonymous

I was going to write about the latest survey that classes us a national of hopelessly addicted email junkies but I’m torn between this and the latest revelation that more than £1.5 billion of our taxes has been frittered-away on useless or cancelled IT Projects. The urge to shout “Told you so” is remarkably strong but then I suspect the figure comes as no great surprise to any of us and it’s probably half as much again if the different ‘Pilot’ projects aren’t included in the expenses column.

I’m referring of course to a leaked report from Peter Gershon’s ‘Office of Government Commerce’ (OGC), which of late, has been busy consolidating all the government’s IT costs into a single club with which to beat the different IT vendors with and very successfully too by all reports.

Pathway, the IT equivalent of The Dome, was the biggest single mistake for the Benefits & Fraud office at £698 million but since 1999 we’ve managed to make Britain the best possible place for e-squ…
Wings Clipped @ No Extra Cost

Hard on the heels of last week’s estimate of the on-going cost to the taxpayer of maintaining the UK Online programme, comes the news that the Office of The e-Envoy is about to have its funding slashed by as much as 25% by the ever-so-prudent Gordon Brown. The cheerful Chancellor has, as we predicted, rather less money to spend on e-transformation now he has the cost of this month’s away game in Baghdad to worry about.

The Guardian has reported that The Commons public administration select committee will have grilled the cabinet secretary, Andrew Turnbull, over the relevance of the e-Envoy this week. Some opposition MPs will want to ask what became of the government’s promise of making the UK "the best place in the world for e-commerce" by December 2002 and this time the answer has absolutely nothing to do with John Prescott

The OeE has already suffered one re-shuffle, the last of these in June of 2002, when in among the victims a certain govern…
Fortune Favours the Cautious

“Seventy thousand small businesses to fold” was the banner headline in the business section of a leading Sunday newspaper. A little further on, a page devoted to the work of InterForum tells us that eBusiness is transforming our ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’, adjacent to a column which reveals that playing company paintball isn’t always the best way of building a good management team.

There are times when I wonder if the lunatics are running the asylum. Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn certainly appear to think so and perhaps one or other of them should have a technology column.

On the one hand, you see, we’re being fed the message that spending money and effort on ‘e’ is having a transformative effect on the UK economy while on the other hand, the evidence suggests that red-tape, globalisation, high costs, taxes and insurance, are crippling our smaller businesses regardless of whether they are Web-enabled or not. In fact, I rather suspect that eBusinesses …
The Ides of March

I should be writing my next CW360 column for the coming week but can’t find the inspiration quite yet.

Reading 'The Last Days of Caesar' in the Sunday Times, I’m reminded that two years ago this morning, I was sitting on a low wall outside the original Senate House in the Forum Romana, thinking on how much and how little our world has changed since the fate of nations was decided in that very small and modest building.

In fact, it was a perfect day. No email, bright sunshine Italian food and no thoughts then of weapons of mass destruction, only an afternoon nap perhaps and a stroll around the Vatican with a friend.

I recall seeing an Internet survey a few years ago which indicated the further South one looks in Europe the less the Internet was used by the general population. Connectivity and infrastructure do of course play a vitally important role in this but the other factor is that people, outside office hours have better things to do with their lives and b…
In the Wild

e-Secure have just alerted me to a new virus in the wild and spreading fast. Has anyone else seen it yet?

Apparently it was first reported by Drexel University and this new piece of mailicious code is reportedly undetected by Norton AV and is "mis-detected by McAfee", which sees it as the virus 'backdoor-jz' but is unable to remove it.

e-Secure reprorts that "The virus appears to infect Windows hosts regardless of the OS version. It appears to alter the start menu items of infected hosts and makes them look garbled".

So be extra cautious this weekend and make sure that what ever live update Anti-virus service you subscribe to is working, just in case.

A Constitutional Thought

As pointed out by my wife who used to work for The Ministry of Defence inside 10 Downing St on the last occasion we went to war.

"If the Prime Minister gets the head staggers, ignores the UN, his party and popular opinion and goes to war, breaching intenational law in the process, then it is up to the Queen, as our consitutional safeguard and the person to whom the armed forces have sworn their allegiance, to intervene and deny Mr Blair the opportunity of using those forces in her name and that of the people of this country".

There's a thought and if she did, I'm sure the popularity of the monarchy would rise considerably. I wonder if the lights are on late tonight at Buckingham Palace?

No - It's Really Me

I was interested to read today in ‘The Register’ about the security vulnerabilities on Blogger, where of course this Web page is hosted.

I commented recently that one of my Blogs, my bad poetry page, doesn’t appear to be my own anymore. No great to loss to the world you might think and I’m sure you’re right but its annoying that there’s no way of drawing the problem to the attention of the Blogger administrator or at least in a way that provokes a reply.

Of course, what really worries me is the possibility that someone might hijack this site and divert the domain elsewhere, which is apparently relatively easy. This page averages over two thousand hits a month and it would be more than a little embarrassing if an impostor substituted my journal for their own.

I wonder if Osama Bin Laden has a Blog?

Anyway, it’s the weekend – well almost – and I’ve been watching Jack Straw on CNN present his arguments to the United Nations. Poor stumbling, paper shuffling Jack is …
21st Century Opt-out

If you thought that enforcing the European ‘Opt-in’ requirement for on-line, commercial advertising was going to have any real impact on the size of your morning inbox, then you’re probably wrong.

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) came down hard on our domestic ‘advertisers’, by the requiring "explicit consent" of consumers in advance of using their email or telephone addresses for direct marketing. In other words, if you happen to be spammed, as I was today, by an estate agent in Manhattan, you can complain to the ASA, right? I think you see what I mean.

I don’t know anyone who has ever freely opted-in to anything on the Internet but then, many of us appear to be customers of ‘Roebuck Electronique’ Ltd in Glossop, who offer “Energy Efficient lighting” or German company ‘Settec’, who offer a “Training Course” on “The Egyptian Customs Law and the latest amendments”; just what you were looking for I’m sure.

Now Roebuck in Glossop are ‘ban…
From this World to the Next

Between Swindon and Bristol on the train from Paddington, crammed into my window seat like a battery hen. The train thunders along at 100 mph and occasionally lurches violently. There’s a conveniently-placed ‘Emergency Procedure’ leaflet in the Perspex holder glued to the window next to me but I choose to ignore it. After all, if this carriage comes off the rails there isn’t the room for people to escape unless they happen to be thrown through the hardened-glass window. Another violent lurch leaves me thinking that air travel is considerably safer and more comfortable option than the train.

Then of course there’s the immediate risk of germ warfare. The woman opposite me has bronchial pneumonia or at least gives a remarkably good impression of the symptoms. Across the aisle, there’s a second woman suffering from influenza and then there’s the young lady with a gorgeous sari but an unfortunate personal hygiene problem that makes breathing normally difficult fo…
All Around the Watchtower

Now for the good news from government and I don’t mean more toilet paper for our troops in Kuwait or even shorter working hours for MPs. No, it’s better, even than that, because the Home Office is reportedly scaling-back its efforts to force through the legislation that will give government greater access to our email.

I’m particularly interested in this move because it was reported last summer, that the Computer Weekly column I wrote on the revisions to Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) had been passed to Mr Blunkett by his son and that this in turn, encouraged the Home Secretary to ‘see’ his existing amendments to RIPA for unworkable Stalinist rubbish they were.

This month then and with much muttering about ‘consultation’, the Home Office reportedly plans to have another try with a more watered-down version of RIPA, a ‘re-think’, which this time, denies the right of local government ‘officials’, conceivably, even traffic wardens to trawl thr…
The Keys to the Asylum

So let me see if I have understood this correctly? London authorities, such as Camden, are losing as much as £40,000 a week in 'lost' parking fines as a consequence of Ken's congestion charge. Your first reaction to this news would, I suspect, be something along the lines of 'Tough".

But wait. Fines and the law appear to have nothing in common anymore because the London authorities will now raise their parking fines to £100 in order to make up the shortfall caused by the congestion charge. After all, Westminster and Kensington rely on fining visiting motorists rather than poll tax revenues and the Mayor has muscled-in on their very profitable enforcement business.

So in Britain today, we have a situation where local government can arbitrarily adjust what is, after all, a legal sanction, to suit a commercial interest. The Sheriff of Nottingham himself couldn't have thought of such a thing in his wildest dreams but then eight hundred years …
Read the Small Print First

I've been agonising once again about putting in a Broadband connection at home. In my case, I thought, this might save money, as after all, I have three numbers on my phone bill, my residential line, my home office line and my house on the coast. Thanks to BT, the 'Recurring Charges' on my phone bill for line rental etc, add up to more money than the usage charge and on top of this, there's an extra £56.36 a quarter tagged on for BT's 'Anytime Lite' Internet access charge.

Seeing a full page add for BT Broadband in The Sunday Times, I dialed 0800 800 060 in an attempt to work-out whether killing my business line, which I use mostly for Fax and Internet access might be a more economical step if I rolled everything into a Broadband connection. At first glance, this appeared to make sense until BT volunteered that on top of the £27.00 a month Broadband charge, there was still an £11.00 'Line Rental' charge and of course, I wo…
Communications at the Speed of Clay

One of my Web 'Blogs' has either been hacked or the domain has been hijacked. But can I tell anyone about the problem here at Blogger.Com? Of course not.

I've been comparing notes with a friend today. He's also been in IT longer than we both care to remember and we both agree that communication isn't what it used to be.

It's official then, the average speed of London traffic is under 20 mph and email is even slower at two replies per month. I'm not joking. It's increasingly harder to do business with anyone these days. Email exchanges can take weeks and decisions months in gestation. People everywhere are seemingly hiding behind their voice mail and their email and I really couldn't tell you what they're doing anymore.

You see, as my friend points out, IT used to be an industry where success was a factor under the control of market forces. It didn't matter too much if you weren't very good at your job …