Skip to main content
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 for the rest of us.

Another series of lurches and coughing stops me typing for a while and I wonder if my laptop is sufficiently robust to handle the line between London and Bristol.

Off the train and today, it’s another local government seminar examining email policy, security and all those other less exciting details that need to be resolved before joined-up government becomes viable. The film, ‘Life of Brian’ is I’m told, a metaphor for the struggle that local government is experiencing these days. Not so much “Follow the gourd” or even “Follow the sandal” but rather, “Follow the e-Envoy or indeed, “Follow the Deputy Prime Minister”. What I do find interesting is that these local government people from the South-west also share a dream of packing-up and moving somewhere else with less taxation. Forget any vision of joined-up government, revolution was mentioned several times and it doesn’t have an ‘e’ in front of it either.

I need to push-on with the security research that I’m conducting for Microsoft but I’m pre-occupied with trying to work out why my desktop system, running Windows ME, has decided that it needs to re-install its internal modem and has gone into a hanging loop at start-up.

Yesterday, I spent three hours with the machine in bits on the floor and I still can’t solve the problem other than pulling the internal modem card out of the unit. Strange thing is that my back-up modem won’t work either, so I visited to see if I could locate an appropriate driver to fix the problem.

The one I found looked right but it carried its own payload, a virus that fortunately Norton anti-virus picked-up immediately. The moral of this story? Assume that any drive found on a public site is contaminated or more importantly, assume everything is compromised and download nothing without quarantining it first.

Of course, this won’t fix my PC and the only solution appears to be a trip to PC World, which based on previous experience, may not leave me any better off after their technicians have taken a look.

Ironically I’m writing this in a Marriot, which is to install wireless access points in its hotels worldwide. Of course, I’m in the reception area in Bristol and I’m wondering, is Bristol part of this world or the next?


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…