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Showing posts from April, 2003
Fluffi Bunni goes Jihad

The mainstream media always manages to miss the really important news stories of the day. Forget Beckham’s imaginary transfer to AC Milan or even the stumbling Northern Ireland peace process. No the big news of the day was of course the arrest of ‘Fluffi Bunni’ at the Infosec Show in London and the ongoing attempt of ‘Comical Ali’, Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Sahaf, to surrender to a US Army that doesn’t want him.

While super-hacker, Lynn Htun, AKA the leader of the group known as 'Fluffi Bunni' can look forward to a spell at her Her Majesty's pleasure, Mohammed Sahaf, who apparently hasn't shot himself, must be disappointed that his face doesn't appear on that best selling pack of playing cards,sales of which look set to fund much of the Pentagon's Iraqi war effort.

The US Military borrowed the idea of merchandising from Disney you know. First have a war, preferably involving weapons of mass destruction and then follow it quick…
I’m Spartacus

The annual tribute to information insecurity was in full swing when I finally arrived at Infosec, the Information Security Show at London’s Olympia. Security or its absence is visibly big business, because the aisles between the different stands were only slightly less crowded than the platform at Earls Court Station and thanks to Olympia’s glass roof, as comfortable as one might expect from a giant greenhouse, packed with PCs and power cables.

The worst place of all to hide in is the press room because the different security vendors arrive in relays to fill-up the information packs on the display racks along the wall of the room. Every now and then, an enthusiastic PR person will spot one of the weary looking journalists taking a coffee break from the chaos downstairs and will attempt eye contact.

You’re Simon Moores aren’t you, I read your column?”

Damn, I’ve been rumbled but I can’t deny it and my eyes flick desperately towards the only exit but there’s no hope of esc…
Security or Obscurity?

Monday morning and I'm annoyed to say the least. Qualys, the Enterprise Security company that on Friday, I told you had agreed to sponsor my 'Trustworthy Computing' report for the European InfoSecurity Show, have decided that they would now prefer to pass on the opportunity. With a verbal confirmation only and nothing in writing, this leaves me thinking of a twist on that classic 'Sir Humphrey Appleby' expression from the 'Yes Minister' series on TV, "I know them but I can't recommend them."

So while the Web spider and the its search engines might associate Qualys with my report, I can assure you that they have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Every cloud however has a silver lining, even if this one doesn't and you should be able to download the entire report, entitled, 'A Matter of Trust' from here.

NB. Since the report went-up on the FTP site there have been 500 downloads in the last hour so if you are havi…
eGovernment, The New Marxism?

It’s an unusual title for a column but if you think about it, eGovernment is taking on the appearance of an ideological struggle and perhaps more so in this country than anywhere else I can think of.

"The bureaucracy”, said Marx, “Takes itself to be the ultimate purpose of the state" and elsewhere in the world, other countries have been a little less revolutionary in mixing new technology with a political vision of public sector reform. In Britain, with 30% of the workforce now employed by the public sector, we’ve imported the discarded icon of Lenin, ‘hailing a taxi’ and today, instead of pointing to a future which promises an ideal of total communism, he might be encouraging our own public sector towards something even more radical and unlikely, 100% joined-up government.

In fact, the e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, has come clean and admitted Government will miss its target for putting all its services online by 2005. We all knew this in 2002. What ma…

Saturday on the coast proved a great deal sunnier in the end than Saturday in London.

It’s been a day of close shaves. Three separate women drivers attempted to knock me off my motorcycle in the Westwood shopping centre’s car park nothing unusual; wrong side of the road and looking in the opposite direction. Car parks are always dangerous places at the best of times, people can’t cope with the twin pressures of driving and searching for parking spaces at the same time.

Having risked the weather to take a ride down to the coast, I attempted a quick sortie from the airfield at lunchtime for a better impression of the cloud-base. Within about thirty seconds of leaving the ground, it became obvious that the best place to be was back on the grass again and so a couple of tight descending spirals avoided the low cloud and put my aircraft back on the deck.

By five O’clock, the spring sunshine had returned and with it, the perfect flying weather I was hoping for. I ran up the engine at…
Flight to Arras

"This mixture of humanity and scrap metal makes me think of the Libyan desert, when Prevot and I inhabited an uninhabitable landscape covered in black pebbles that gleamed in the sunlight, a landscape clad in a stretched skin of iron" - Antoine de Saint- Exupéry

It’s the eleventh hour and I’m sitting here feeling relieved to have found a suitable sponsor, Qualys, for my thirty-eight page report on ‘Trustworthy Computing’, which will be launched by Computer Weekly to coincide with the InfoSecurity Europe Show (Infosec) in London next week.

I’ve put a great deal of work into the project over the last six months and attempted to balance the principal arguments in favour of Open Source or Microsoft-centric security as fairly as possible. In any event, you can judge for yourself if information security happens to be an interest, as the report, ‘A Matter of Trust’, should be available from the front page of ComputerWeekly.Com from Tuesday and after that, I’ll probab…
The Thomas Crown Affair

I've been watching the Thomas Crown Affair, the best version with Steve McQueen in the lead role. It set me thinking back to Boston a very long time ago.

The strangest thing this week is that an old friend from university in Maine appears to have stumbled across this Web Journal and left me a message. If it's the same person I remember, then it's more evidence of a pattern of coincidence, a synchronicity that appears to follow me through life and which I can't explain without thinking in terms of 'The Twilight Zone'.

I wonder how many other people experience strange coincidences that appear to defy the odds? One of the most notable, involved taking the wrong direction on a London Street and being stopped and asked for directions by a lost Japanese tourist, Yukito Hashimoto, who also happened to have lived with my family for a while when we were both boys.

Both of us temporarily lost in the same narrow space on the planet and Yukito visi…
Arabian Nights

It’s the land of opportunity, where Oil flows like water and water flows occasionally. Of course you guessed, it’s post ‘conflict’ Iraq and I’m sitting here moderating the website which monitors the progress of new technology in the middle-east.

If you believe the newswires, Iraq promises a telecommunications ‘leapfrog’ into the future, having very little in the way of advanced communications infrastructure that isn’t Russian or hasn’t been buried under sixty feet of concrete rubble, observers are predicting that Iraq could prove to be the biggest opportunity for wireless yet.

Knowing something about the middle-east – I’m speaking at a regional futures conference in Bahrain in May, I thought I would do the patriotic thing and draw the DTI’s attention to the reconstruction opportunity that the new Iraq might offer to UK technology companies. A little research took me to the Iraq desk and it appears that they are building a register of interested companies…
Trust Me, I’m a Prophet

“I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is much better policy to prophecy after the event has already taken place” – Sir Winston Churchill

Every cloud, I’m told, has a silver lining but over the last two years, optimism has been in short supply for any of us working inside the IT industry.

As a fully paid-up ‘Prophet of Doom’, I’ve been warning readers that the recession in the technology sector is still far from over and have found very little to make me even mildly optimistic about the future, until now that is.

Perhaps it’s something to do with Spring and the clocks moving forward but quite suddenly and unexpectedly, several of the ‘Bellwether’ technology companies have issued results that suggest the industry is slowly crawling its way out of the dark pit into which it fell when the Internet bubble burst almost exactly three years ago.

At the time, I was playing an imaginary stock portfolio on a TV investment show and had seen my £100,000 virtual…
A Bad Case of Wind

Easter Monday and the previous day’s gale has settled into a strong westerly wind. This wasn’t enough to keep me on the ground this morning, as it’s blowing right down the grass runway at Maypole Farm.

The scattered lumps of thick wet cloud were a little ‘iffy’ and there’s no horizon today. Conditions weren’t too bad over the North Kent Coast, so I climbed above it and went to have a look at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey at low tide, before following the offshore sandbars back along past Reculvers – where the ‘Dambusters first tested Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb concept - towards Margate before turning back into the circuit at Maypole. After a bumpy approach, the wind was strong enough to bring the aircraft to a stop in a few feet of touching down.

This week’s weather is so markedly different from that of last week, one might think it was a different country and latitude altogether. A typical British Bank Holiday weekend.

The Question of Me

This could be me, writing this column but then again, it could be someone else and I, that’s if it’s really me at all, could be a victim of identity theft; although why anyone in their right minds might want to be me is another question altogether.

We were once preoccupied by the threat of being mugged for our mobile phones but now we worry over the risk of identity theft. In the United States alone, people are reporting the theft of their ‘identities’ to the FBI at a rate of one thousand calls a week and Britain is never far behind the example of America.

On this side of the pond, identity, digital or otherwise, remains a thorny issue. As a nation, we are culturally averse to carrying any formal means of identification, partly because as a society, one survey reveals, we trust our Government rather less than our European neighbours do.

In the decidedly low-tech world of paper, we have relied very much on National Insurance numbers as one of the most reliable means o…
Fancy a Cheap Pen?

How much does good information security cost? Rather less than a cheap pen by all accounts.

I’m putting the finishing touches to a thirty-page report on ‘Trustworthy Computing’ in time for next week’s InfoSecurity Europe Show in London and I see that the event organisers have been conducting research of their own, outside Waterloo Station, a short walk away from all manner of interesting buildings which line the South bank of the Thames.

The second annual InfoSecurity Europe survey reveals nine in ten (90%) of office workers questioned outside the station, are prepared to exchange their computer password for a cheap pen, compared with 65% in 2002. This rather begs the question of what these people would be prepared to reveal in exchange for a bottle of Scotch or a pair of cup final tickets? The latter because men, it appears, are rather more likely to volunteer their password with a 95% success rate, in contrast with the ladies who need a little more convincing and a…
Vive La Difference

Back to the day-job soon enough but until then, I’ll make the most of the good weather we’ve had so far during the Easter weekend break.

Today, my wife and I hopped over to Le Touquet for lunch. The original idea was to fly up to Little Snoring outside Walsingham in Norfolk but it seems that the local airfield is now closed to visitors, which came as a shock.

France is rather nearer, forty-four minutes, although you wouldn’t think so, as the horizontal visibility was very poor today from 3,500 feet over the channel.

A stiff cross-wind at Le Touquet made landing the aircraft rather interesting and I’m grateful for the hundred or so hours of tail-wheel experience which taught me a great deal about the defensive handling of small aircraft when they want to skid sideways.

Le Touquet had a micro-climate of its own today, almost 25 Celsius in bright sunshine and the ‘café society’ was in full swing over lunch along the side streets. I never cease to wonder why in the UK, w…

I have just spent the afternoon towing an aircraft banner around Canterbury advertising 20% off pine furniture. It was a new experience and when banner-man, Bob Shilling of 'Airads' poked his head around the door of my aircraft and asked if I wanted to come along for the ride. Having admired his low-level 'Kamikaze' towing routine in the past I could hardly refuse a minor supporting role in the right-hand seat of his Cessna 172.

Picking up a one hundred foot banner with an aircraft isn't easy and involves a dive-bomber-like approach to the field to try and hook the banner rope which is perched between two six foot poles. The approach and the departure flight path resembles a large 'U' in the air and you keep on trying until the sudden violent tug and drop in airspeed, tells you that the banner is streaming behind the aircraft.

Bob tells me he used to tow banners over Daytona beach and so Canterbury, Dover and the Kent coast must seem a little tame b…

Today I fell, not among thieves but into the hands of the aircraft engineers. As an experience, it was similar to a feeling of being shipwrecked with the cast of 'Treasure Island' with me in the leading role of Parrot.

Around noon, I received a call that my aircraft would be ready for collection later in the afternoon, so I persuaded another friendly pilot to ferry me across to a well-known but isolated airport, in the middle of nowhere, where the engineers were holding my Cessna.

He dropped me off , waved farewell and turned straight around for home, leaving me alone to wander over to the engineering hangar to find my aircraft. When I did, it was to find it still in pieces, which came as a bit of a shock.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent pleading with the different groups of engineers responsible for the insides of my aeroplane – avionics and mechanics – to put it back together again so that I could at least fly home, as I was rather a long way from a hotel o…
They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha

IBM, says the report I am reading, is about to ‘bundle server-side, Java-based office suite in with in its WebSphere portal’.

I almost fell off my chair, because in front of me, I happen to have a copy of the Lotus eBusiness Magazine from December of 1997. In the introduction, the editor, whose name happens to be the same as my own, predicts “Lotus Development’s launch of its eSuite, cross platform, apps could be the event that takes Java components from being a promise to a more tangible reality”. The deranged editor, having fallen for one of the daftest ideas of the decade, then goes on to devote most of his magazine to a review of Lotus (IBM) eSuite components and how they might possibly change the future of desktop computing, demonstrating how completely wrong he was about the technology and its potential.

Six years further into the future and IBM is trying again to build a productivity suite to challenge Microsoft’s Office and Sun’s Star Offic…
Deja Vu

Nothing profound today. I've just stumbled home in the darkness from the tennis courts across the road from my home on the coast. With Easter only days a way, I drove down from London this afternoon and my eight year old daughter dragged me out for a tennis lesson in the twilight.

There was a time when I almost lived on those tennis courts, in fact, I set-up my first business there as the local coach for the hordes of foreign language students that used to descend on this quiet seaside town during the summer months. I used to wear out a pair of tennis shoes a month on average and can vaguely remember the sore feet and exhaustion of six hours a day on a concrete tennis court.

Later at university, I was almost thrown-out for not attending lectures, because I found a job as coach at London's prestigious Vanderbilt Club, training and playing with rich and famous, Farrah Fawcett Majors, the Monkees.. well almost anyway. It paid my way through school and £17.00 ($30) an hour…
One Born Every Minute

For evidence of the theory of natural selection at work in a digital world, you need look no further than the most recent study from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI reports that the number of fraud complaints, requiring law-enforcement agency action, has tripled since 2001, estimating the loss to victims of reported Internet fraud as being $54 million in 2002, a significant leap from the $17 million in the previous year.

Other than rocketing levels of identity theft, which a television documentary, this week, will also expose as a growing problem in the UK, one crime that continues to attract the legions of the credulous is the Nigerian ‘401’ advance fee fraud’. In the States, 16,164 people seriously believed that a relative of one or other of an honour role of dead African dictators, was prepared to deposit several hundred million dollars of non-existent government money in their bank account in return for a 20% commission and as a consequence, l…
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf - A Weapon of Mass Instruction?

You can’t hide talent in the 24*7 news society and the man of the month wasn’t George Bush or Tony Blair but Iraq’s information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.

I find it ironic, that thanks to the presence of a global information network, al Sahaf has had a greater impact than Joseph Goebbels ever could and in the first week of the conflict, he was arguably more of a threat to the progress of the coalition's war effort than a division of the Republican Guard.

In the second week of the war, Sahaf, with his outrageous statements, arguably became the most popular single source of optimistic prediction in history, eclipsing a very dry-humoured Donald Rumsfeld in the process. Unlike Rumsfeld however, al Sahaf had a limited grasp of the true power of the mult-faceted news technology confronting him and I very much doubt that he was aware of the influence that the Internet was exerting over the direction of this first of the ‘Web…
The Alice in Wonderland World of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf

"I now inform you that you are too far from reality"

Iraq's Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, and the man who has made cognitive dissonance into art form. has found celebrity status on the Internet owing to his boundless optimism and outlandish denials. He now has his own website.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has had the site dedicated to him by five US Internet and media entrepreneurs.

Featuring his most outrageous quotes, The website even suggests actor Sydney Pollack should play him in a Hollywood movie.

Listing his "all time greats", the website includes: "God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis" and "Our initial assessment is that they will all die".

Other memorable 'Sahafisms' include:

- "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

"- My feelings - as usual - we will slaughter them all"

- "I blame Al-Jazeera - they…
Happy Days

Like the rest of us, I'm waiting for Saddam Hussein to put in a final appearance. I did however manage to find an old and previously unpublished photograph of the Iraqi dictator and president of the Baghdad Josef Stalin fan club in happier times, when, as a secular Arab leader and, 'Friend 'of the West during the Iran - Iraq war, he and his cousin, 'Chemical Ali' made a weekend visit to Florida to attend an introductory weapons of maths instruction seminar at Disneyland.

This photo was taken at the bar of the Swan Hotel but I can't identify Saddam's unknown friend.

Box Clever or Boxed In

When, at the end of January I predicted the appearance of a new Unisys ES7000 Server, I nicknamed ‘Fatbird’, I didn’t quite expect the company to plan a raid on the mid-range Server market to coincide with the arrival of Windows 2003.

I’m reminded that it’s almost exactly two years since I attended an analyst briefing at the Unisys ‘ASP 2000’ centre of excellence in Paris. It strikes me that at the time, the world was a rather different place, as the ES7000 was very much pitched towards what many of us believed might be the next ‘big thing’, the expanding ASP sector, which Unisys viewed as a natural home for its ‘Big Iron’ Windows Mainframe Servers.

The Uxbridge Patient

I’m sure that Unisys would rather forget about those days in Paris and at the time, the Meta Group’s cynicism over the company’s datacentre strategy. Today, the ASP 2000 Centre no longer exists and neither do most of the first-to-market ASPs, who saw there future disappear down a very expensive …
The Future Writ Large

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is King – Proverb

I almost saw it coming but even I was surprised at the size of the expensive truck that has slammed into the government’s website plans.

According to a report in the eGov monitor, “More than three quarters of central government websites may need to be redesigned to avoid discriminating against disabled people”. Furthermore and “According to official estimates, around 800 public sector websites may need rebuilding to comply with accessibility laws requiring government services to cater for disabled citizens”.

This isn’t good news for any of us. Not only will the mandatory refit of so many websites cost the taxpayer only a little less than that of the military’s recent excursion to Iraq but it illustrates what a total mess the entire web accessibility programme has been as standards and compliance issues were ignored by the webmasters. There was nobody waving a big stick or even a white stick at website…
All Warfare is Based on Deception

I think I have just witnessed one of the great moments of recorded history.

On the one hand hand, television audiences around the world could see the Iraqi information minister, Mohammad Said Al-Sahaf, attempting a 'Jedi mind trick' and claiming that his loyal forces had crushed an attempt by the 7th Mechanised Infantry to push into the centre of Baghdad, "slaughtering them" and sending them fleeing; assuring us that the Americans were not in his city and that history would show they were liars.

Meanwhile, the split screen on Sky News introduced a Fox News reporter in the Baghdad parade ground, opposite the famous 'crossed swords' and less than a mile from the ministry building, accompanied by his friends, the 7th Mech, who had stopped for a cigarette and to take souvenir photos and collect pieces of the giant statue of that father of battles, Saddam Hussein, that they had just run-over with an Abrams tank. - I hope they are i…
Only Fools & Horses?

It’s that time again, ‘Smash and Grab’ week and while government makes optimistic noises over the reconstruction of Iraq’s economy, our own economy and in particular, the IT sector, continues to suffer.

I ran a quick straw poll of friends in advance of this week’s budget, asking if they thought there had been any improvement in the fragility of the business climate over the last twelve month. Sadly, I have not many friends left to ask. Four are out of business completely – administration or boot sale - , one is thinking of giving-up, two are struggling to stay afloat and one is not drawing a salary until matters improve.

These people aren’t all from big companies, they are typical SMEs with a turnover of anywhere between one and three million and with two of the failures hovering around the five million mark. Like me however, with my own business to worry about, they might reflect the words of CBI boss, Digby Jones, at last November’s eSummit in London, when he…
The Thoughts of Charlotte Moores - Aged 8

"Charlotte, do you know how to build a robot"?

"No, I'm not allowed to use chemicals!"

One Small Step to Baghdad

Getting out of Iraq may be a little more difficult than getting in. I'm not convinced that a small group of people waving at US tanks qualifies as popular support. After all if you look at any televised invasion, even in Seoul, when the North Koreans came, the people are out waving at the occupying troops in an ancient ritual which means I'm friendly so don't shoot.

Maybe I'm just cynical and anyway, I have to travel to the the region in a few weeks as I see from a news release this morning, that a certain"Dr. Simon Moores will deliver a keynote speech on the evolution of eGovernment initiatives of many Middle Eastern and Gulf governments".

Best work on my speech then and avoid any reference to 'Weapons of Maths Instruction'.

Tips TV Interview Success

War does of course bring experts out of every conceivable closet. Oil experts, defense experts, expert experts and many more of every known variety and nationality. The ideal candidate for a television interview, should look like George Clooney, have the dress-sense of Pierce Brosnan and the voice and delivery of Anthony Hopkins. Regrettably, this mixture of talents is rather thin on the ground, so loosely based on my own experience of television and particularly Sky News, here are my own tips for the TV expert:

- Never forget that Television is an entertainment medium rather than an information medium
- The eighties were a lot of fun but fashion moves on
- Strictly no beards
- Conservatism can be reassuring. It suggests competence and control to the audience.
- Sensible Suit – Sensible Shirt – Sensible Haircut – Sensible Tie
- People notice little things, Bill Clinton wears a plastic watch and Tony Blair wears blue contact lenses.
- The dividing line betwe…
On Technology

"Everything that I've learned about computers at MIT I have boiled down into three principles: Unix: You think it won't work, but if you find the right wizard, he can make it work. Macintosh: You think it will work, but it won't. PC/Windows: You think it won't work, and it won't". - Philip Greenspun.

By Biplane to Baghdad

When the fighting is over and peace finally returns to Iraq, I wonder if anyone might like to join me or sponsor a personal peace mission to the region? More accurately, I'm thinking of calling it 'By Biplane to Baghdad' and need a generous sponsor/passenger to fund the purchase of a brightly coloured two seater biplane (an old Boeing Stearman perhaps) that I could fly in a circuitous route around the Middle-east to Iraq, perhaps attracting some media coverage and interest on the way. My little Cessna that I have instead of a bright yellow sponsored Pitts Special - hard times in the IT industry - is far too boring for the job and probably wouldn't arrive in one piece.

The Wisdom of the Sands

“As for the future, your task is not to forsee but to enable it” - Saint-Exupéry – The Wisdom of the Sands

On the last occasion that I dared question Oracle CEO and chief clairvoyant, Larry Ellison’s predictive talent, I received a call from the company’s headquarters in California to set the record straight. Ellison is rather more flamboyant character than Gates or McNeally and when he tells us that a technology, such as the NC, is about to take over the world or indeed, collapse under its own weight of code. As for me, I’m inclined to try and separate the potential from the wishful thinking.

On this occasion, Ellison, is predicting that Linux will very soon wipe Microsoft out of the data centre and I simply can't see Microsoft surrendering without a huge struggle over the future of Enterprise computing. Preferring not to exchange predictions with Ellison, Stuart Okin, Microsoft's Chief Security Officer argues, "This fight to maintain the datacentr…
Between the Forest & The Trees

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts--for support rather than for illumination". Andre Lang

Even Tony Blair would find it hard to argue against a 75% disapproval rating and a Forrester report, ‘Can Microsoft Be Secure’ reveals that 77% of IT managers in companies with a $1billion turnover, list security as their principal concern and remain to be convinced by Microsoft’s ‘Trustworthy Computing’ security message.

In fact, the overall view of Microsoft’s progress isn’t as negative as one might suspect from the banner headlines. I’m presently putting the finishing touches to a thirty-five page investigation of my own on the topic of ‘Trustworthy Computing’ and many of Forrester’s conclusions mirror what I have found elsewhere in taking a critical look at what Microsoft is attempting to achieve. Forrester, like Aberdeen Research and Symantec’s most recent ‘Internet Threat Report’, broadly support the argument that Microsoft has be…
Weapons of Maths Instruction

I’ve just discovered why Broadband will become ultimately become pervasive. My eight year old daughter, a fan of ‘Mucha Lucha’ on the Cartoon Channel wants to play the games on the official Warner Brothers Website.

She already has two Sony Playstations (1&2) and can’t quite grasp my excuse that attempting to play an online game over the internet without Broadband access will be like watching paint dry.

But why can’t I play” she asks with her bottom lip trembling ominously and I can’t really explain that dial-up on BT from our multiple residential locations is cheaper and less complicated to arrange than Broadband, the speed I rarely need anyway.

In the end, the psychological pressure will become relentless and she’ll have her way, with Broadband fed straight to her Macintosh. I never really learned to how to say no to women and might as well surrender to the inevitable now to avoid a long drawn-out struggle that I can’t win.

Speaking of women and long…