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Showing posts from May, 2003
An American (Company) in Paris

Simon Moores interviews Microsoft European CEO, Jean Philippe Courtois, for The Observer on Sunday.

Being an American in Paris, and indeed in the rest of Europe, these days isn't what it used to be for US companies.

One consequence of the friction with Europe over the war with Iraq is that wrapping yourself in the stars and stripes no longer affords a competitive advantage. And the expansion of the European Union means it's increasingly important to brandish European credentials.

For big, brash Microsoft, the 'apple pie' of the American software industry, one would think the problem would be particularly acute.

The company's chief executive officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, is a Frenchman, Jean-Philippe Courtois. Of Microsoft's 50,000 workforce, only 12,000 (22 per cent) work for Courtois in Europe. In contrast with other leading technology companies, such as Hewlett Packard, Unisys and IBM, Microsoft's development w…
The New Reformation Starts in Munich

Microsoft has lost Munich. In a major public-sector reverse for the company in Germany, the government of the city will be replacing the Windows Operating System on fourteen thousand of its civil-servants computers with ‘Open Source’ Linux supplied by IBM.

Munich is the first German large city to reject Windows in favour of Linux. In December, the smaller southern German city of Schwäbisch Hall became the first to deploy Linux as an alternative business platform. So concerned were Microsoft by the signs of this modern reformation, that Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ballmer, met with the city’s Mayor Christian Ude,to argue that a cheaper Microsoft bid, estimated at $32 million, offered a more cost effective solution than could be achieved through rejecting Windows in favour of a new partnership with IBM and German Linux-developer SuSe.

In Germany, federal, state and local governments as well as other public agencies have been studying the benefits o…
All Roads Lead to Rome

My attention was captured by a recent headline, ‘Microsoft scrambles to keep Munich on Windows’, which described how the company as in danger of losing the city of Munich city to an offer made by IBM and SuSE Linux to migrate the city's 14,000 computers to the open-source Linux operating system from Microsoft Windows.

Such a decision, if it were to be made, would of course be bad new for Microsoft, as it might set a precedent for other German government decisions, in a country which is increasingly prepared to consider Open Source alternatives to Windows.

In a conversation with Jean Philippe Cortois, the Microsoft CEO for Europe, I asked if Open Software and the interests of European government in Open Software and open standards represent more of a commercial threat to Microsoft in Europe than elsewhere?

The UNIX culture is very strong in the European public sector,” says Courtois "And Microsoft faces a global challenge in proving the greater value, fl…
Day Off

Writing a Sunday newpaper article in between cleaning my aircraft and cutting the grass or is it the other way around?

Normal sarcasm service to be resumed tomorrow.

Spam Another Day

It’s getting worse. Spam that is. The number of junk mail messages I’m receiving on a daily basis has almost doubled since I last wrote about the problem. In fact, Brightmail estimate that the problem has increased by as much as 400% in the last year at a global cost to business of £5.5 billion or marginally more than the cost to the taxpayer of a successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

I recently discovered to my cost, that having one’s email address on a company website is a very bad idea. There’s a whole industry devoted to ‘harvesting’ addresses from the Web and one piece of research has demonstrated that six decoy email addresses attracted 8,500 pieces of spam in six months alone; much of which, appears to come from Africans asking if they can borrow one’s bank account.

The Americans, now ratcheting-up their own legislation are at last even considering an anti-spam treaty, although I rather wonder how effective this might be. Both AOL and Microsoft are pushing f…
A Million Different People from One Day to the Next

Cos it’s a bitter sweet symphony that’s life. Trying make ends meet you’re a slave to money until you die”

I may be asked to write a feature for The Observer this week, so while others use their public holiday to cut the grass, I’m blowing smoke rings and fighting the usual battle with the inspiration fairy, while my wife cuts the grass.

This is of course Monday but it’s not a real Monday. It’s the kind of Monday that most of us would quite happily accept for the rest of our lives but which we only get three times a year, which does seem a little unfair.

When I left school, just as the Vietnam War was finishing my teachers told me that I should find a job in the recreation and leisure industry, because everyone was anticipating a future where we only worked three days a week, if that.

Computers you see, they were going to lead us towards a life of leisure in a world not too far distant from Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis.

It didn’t qui…
Class Struggle - It's Not Cricket

Between reading the Sunday papers and watching a documentary on Mao Tse Tung, I was struck by small parallels between Mao’s own Cultural Revolution and New Labours own efforts to eliminate the middle classes and their values in Britain.

In China, Mao had the Red Guard to denounce his opponents as ‘Cow Devils’ and ‘Bourgeois Running Dogs’ but we live in gentler times, we have the BBC and unlimited apathy to depend upon. At least however, nobody has taken to eating their landlords, although such measures might spur the worst of the left-wing inner city councils to even greater achievements.

And what are these middle class values that so threaten the progress of this one party state? I suppose they involve making sacrifices, so that your child can have a decent education, of putting money aside for your pension and their future and worst of all paying huge sums (plus insurance tax) for medical insurance, because you worry that your family won’t receiv…
It’s John Wayne’s World

I want to test an argument on you. I have been watching a series of IT industry briefing videos, all very expensive, very lucid and above all, very American in flavour.

Last week, I returned from a flying visit to the Middle East, where I gave a keynote speech on eGovernment at a regional IT conference. All sorts of interesting people were in town, the Iranian President, the sixth Fleet and lots of what I took to be Texan oil workers in large hats.

What I found interesting was how popular the British still appeared to be in contrast with our American coalition allies and how the young American service people all looked and dressed very much like members of the IT industry. Of course, people could have simply been being nice to me but on the other hand, the British were not perceived as a willing participant in the invasion of Iraq; the special relationship that goes back to Lawrence of Arabia appears to be partly intact. Behind the diplomatic smiles and the lavi…
A Duty of Care

Before we have joined-up Government let’s start with joined-up responsibility.

This morning, I received a very red demand notice from those nice people at Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, asking for a not inconsiderable sum of money to be paid ‘immediately’ or face having my chattels distrained and my children seized by an authorised person.

Naturally, I did what anyone else would do in such circumstances, as a Government customer, I called the number of the ‘Debt Management Unit’ and gave them my VAT number while explaining that in fact I owe Her Majesty nothing and certainly not the kind of money that was scribbled in biro next to ‘Amount Now Due’ on the letter.

I will admit, that I was pleasantly surprised at how good the customer service was, so full marks for CRM to the VAT office. All my payments, I told the lady I spoke to, are automated over the Internet – I’m a fan of eGovernment you see – and in fact, my returns and payments normally arrive early, just to ensu…
A Little Window Shopping

A well-known and highly respected journalist friend called me yesterday for a quick ‘sanity check’. “It’s this collaboration suite for small and medium-sized businesses that Oracle and Sun have announced, do you think that Microsoft’s customers are going to defect en masse or are they kidding themselves”?

This is, of course a solution that has Oracle’s software running on lower-cost Sun hardware and which has been certified on both Sun’s Solaris and supports Linux too, giving Sun customers a choice of platforms, UltraSparc or x86 processors.

What my friend was referring to directly was not so much Star Office, which Sun is promoting as the most sensible and cost effective alternative to Microsoft’s Office in the known-universe but Oracle’s own collaboration suite, which I understand consolidates multiple into a single integrated system. One feature in particular is a Microsoft-Exchange-like email server features, which can be accessed by Microsoft's Outlook…
Pots and Black Kettles

You may recall how Computer Weekly reported how, Government had warned the IT industry that "lies" and "exorbitant and unsubstantiated claims" by suppliers are jeopardising the future of public-private partnerships,

It was Peter Gershon, Chief Executive of the Office of Government Commerce, who told vendors to "get their act together" and recognise the need to deliver success and value for money, adding "There is little evidence that the IT industry has an understanding of what is needed to make these partnerships work,"

“Every day”, complained Mr Gershon, "I'm faced by suppliers who make exorbitant and unsubstantiated claims” and he was joined by the e-Envoy Andrew Pinder, who argued , "some projects have failed because suppliers have lied about their capability and promised things they cannot deliver”.

Andrew Pinder

Government appears then, to be suggesting that the IT industry is selling ‘snake oil’ and …
The Joy of Travel

Never put your email address on a Web page. I made this simple mistake and I’ve had my address ‘Harvested’ by the Nigerian 401 scammers.

A day doesn’t pass without an important message arriving in “De utmost importance and top secrecy” from someone on the dark continent, with a business ‘Proposition’ involving millions of dollars of government funds that my correspondent would like to launder through my bank account.

What’s worse, of course, is that for all the millions of these emails they send out, they catch thousands of gullible people, who make the entire exercise worthwhile for the fraudsters.

Coming through the Green Channel in Heathrow Terminal 3 on Sunday, I spotted a brightly dressed West African woman being marched off to a cubicle by two burly female customs officers. Their male colleague was busy unpacking two giant suitcases, which contained hundreds of boxes of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. The haul was so enormous in fact that those of us walking pas…
Rules of Engagement

After watching ‘The Killing Zone’ a documentary on the violence in Gaza, last night on Channel 4 television, my wife and I were left sitting at the end with a sense of outrage at the behaviour of an Israeli army, which video footage illustrates, is clearly targeting civilians, journalists, peace protestors and even children.

The terrible suicide bombings in Israel, condemned by all civilized people, are a symptom of a greater crime being perpetrated on the Palestinian people and we see very little of this in the West, where in the Arab world, the cost in lives and bulldozed homes is regularly presented in every grim and distressing detail.

It seems clear that the Israeli army has nothing which we would recognise as ‘Rules of Engagement’ in a civilian area and the constant stories of innocents being murdered by military action in Gaza and elsewhere echoes the agony we witnessed in the Balkans.

I have travelled through Israel extensively in the past and once even met …
The Quiet American

Thirty five thousand feet above Tehran and I am attempting to wirelessly edit my journal from my seat as I watch The Quiet American.

I realised over dinner last night why the American military is so different to anyone else's army.

Listening to one of the pilots telling his companions how he had lost his best friend when the F18 he was flying skidded off the side of the carrier, it occurred to me that the young men and women enjoying their Chinese meal were not service people, they were part of a corporation, all the way down to their slacks and polo shirts.

They could have been from Microsoft or Oracle or any other hi-tech company but they were not. Instead, they were members of the greatest military power the world has ever seen but had exchanged laptops for much larger and more deadly toys.

Behind me lies Bahrain and the newspapers have picked up my comments on the future direction of Middle eastern government.

Saudi Arabia was only a stone's throw across…
Ex Cathedra

Above me, a dust storm has virtually closed the airport and the hotel reception is crammed with suitcases and tough-looking men with baseball hats. Either the Vogon Heavy Constructor Fleet has landed or these are Texan oil men or rig crews perhaps, either going to or from Iraq.

I'm writing this from the 'Internet cafe' at the conference centre in Bahrain this morning. I have to deliver a keynote speech on Middle Eastern eGovernment in an hour and rumour has it that Iran's President Khatemi, who is visiting Bahrain, may step in to listen.I rather doubt it, as I'm sure he has better things to do, Middle Eastern peace being a good place to start.

Bahrain is, as, I expected, full of American service people. Hard to miss at the country's best traditional Japanese restaurant last night but then I discovered that America's legacy to the region isn't peace but the 'Doggy Bag' instead. With no exceptions, as I ate my Sashimi, I watched each of…

I just managed to have the last word on the 'Littlejohn' programme on Sky News, which came as a surprise. The programme was investigating whether Saudi Arabia is a friend or an enemy of the West, through it's alleged support of Al Qaeda and the evangelical spread of its orthodox Wahabi Islam.

We need to point out, I said, that there are many thousands of moderate Saudis but entrenched fundamentalism is a problem that has no immediate solution.

It is rather like judging the entire population of Britain against the religious extremism found in parts of Northern Ireland.

The next step for the Saudi Government should be the release of British citizens being held in Saudi prisons on what are clearly fabricated charges which have involved allegations of torture.

Now would be a good time for the Saudi Government to make a truly Islamic gesture to the British people, given that the Littlejohn programme's poll, shows that 84% of Britons believe that Saudi Arabia is an…
Bread & Circuses

"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth" - John F. Kennedy

I study eGovernment, not education (anymore) or even economics (thankfully) but can anyone explain to me why, when we have the lowest unemployment and highest (indirect) taxation in our history, we can't afford to maintain our schools, pay our teachers or even manage to have the trains running on time?

Instead, our President has decided that the country should spend a cool 17 million or so in an attempt to encourage (even bribe - allegedly) the IOC to park the 2012 Olympics in London rather than anywhere warmer, friendlier and with no congestion charge.

The small change from even a failed Olympic bid would achieve rather more in our schools than a few short weeks of athleticism in East London.

Living proof perhaps that the lunatics are now running the asylum which is perhaps why even the lunatic fringe has chosen to resign and sit on the back bench…
Target of Opportunity

A nice compliment from David Fletcher on his Weblog today, pointing at my 'Special Report on Trustworthy Computing', which you can download from the sidebar as a PDF file. I have just updated this to version 6.5 to reflect some recent security issues and stories.

Just as places in the Middle East start going 'Bang' again, I'm off to Bahrain on Friday to deliver a speech on eGovernment in the region. "I might as well be wearing a luminous balaclava in no-man's land", to quote from 'Blackadder Goes Forth' and my visit represents Al Qaeda's big chance to do Downing St a service, in a kind of "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest" way.

I have an old German World War One steel helmet with a spike on top, which I plan to wear during the presentation as a safety precaution against low-flying suicide bombers.

London's the Place to Make New Friends

I think Google News made a small error with this one.

Intelligent Viewing

News that as many as 20,000 people have had their brains removed without consent, only reinforces my theory that the BBC have been conducting an experiment with their programming to determine whether the presence or absence of a cerebrum made any difference to a viewers appreciation of East Enders or its News programmes.

It appears not and in fact, the study supports the view that watching such programmes, especially those involving any form of political content, is preferable without a brain as this appears to interfere with the BBC's messages; the BNP is a protest vote and has nothing do do with racism, Clare Short is part of a "tiny minority" (Sky News says "growing force"), people like devolved government and local assemblies (no they don't) and the Conservatives did badly in this month's local elections (the worst Labour defeat since 1983)

Oh and Tony is not 'Presidential' at all, he leads by consensus. - Sure he does!

A Politically Incorrect View of Outsourcing

I am beginning to wonder when the BNP will add IT outsourcing to its list of manifesto promises.

New Labour has never been a real friend to the domestic IT industry, preferring to seek the company of the handful of American giants than support the efforts of the thousands of small companies and contractors that take the lumps of tin and the expensive code and turn them into the systems that UK business relies upon.

First of course, there was IR45 and then last month, the Inland Revenue decided to interpret an unknown piece of eighties legislation to the disadvantage of husband and wife companies in both the entertainment and the IT industries. Roughly speaking it says that if the husband does the IT work and the wife does the accounts and all the important other stuff, then she is not an equal partner in the company and should be taxed differently. This is of course quite contrary to the divorce legislation and quite possibly sexist too.

I …
Gazebo Days

It's Saturday but I'm drowning in work. Two thousand words through a feature on 'Trust' and eGovernment and I'm losing the thread of my own argument. I stopped to write this quick entry in the hope that inspiration will follow as a consequence of doing something else for a few minutes.

It was a wonderful start to the day and I drove my motorcycle over to Box Hill in Surrey for some fresh air. Normally, its a rendezvous point for hordes of motorcyclists but at eight-thirty in the morning I guess I was a little early.

I have a party at the house tomorrow and I have my first ever Gazebo erected in the garden. This probably means that rain is inevitable - I hope not

The dog and I are banished to my study in case we make the house untidy. Wonder if we both have to sleep up here too?

Sage Advice

When Microsoft bought Great Plains Software in the US, and Denmark’s Navision, last year, I predicted that Sage, one of the UK’s few software success stories was about to join a growing list of endangered species, leaving me to speculate whether the company would outlive my daughter’s hamster, Eric.

Both Sage and of course Eric are still alive and well and my most recent meeting with Microsoft’s Simon Edwards in the Wimbledon Village Starbucks, convinced me that Sage may survive Eric by a couple of years at least.

There’s no doubt, that Microsoft is serious about its plans for a Web Services business platform on which a host of third-party ‘Biz Apps’ can “Add value”. The best analogy that came into my mind was the Lotus 1-2-3 ‘add-in’ manager in the eighties. Lotus 1-2-3 was of course the de-facto industry standard before Microsoft started experimenting with its own applications and having edited the Lotus buyers guide at the time, I vaguely recall some two hundred or more…
Daylight Robbery

I see that the Conservative Party have pledged to end the BBC's license monopoly if and when they are voted back into power. Not this century then.

The first time, parliamentarians have broken ranks and have decided that the BBC is a monopoly of kinds, exercising a license fee on the general population which seems very close to extortion in the eyes of some.

Why, in God's name, should I have to pay to watch television I ask? The BBC, after all, rolls-out a constant diet of mindless and politically-oriented rubbish and game shows for the underclass audience and counts 'Holby City' and 'Eastenders' among its programming triumphs.

I rarely if ever watch the BBC which appears to hold an idealised vision of Britain as a multi-cultural playground and has thrown any responsible sense of morality and responsibility out of the window in exchange for 'on message' trendiness.

Ah but I'm told that it does wonderful documentaries and has a world-…
Love in the Time of Bicycles

I solved my Hewlett Packard printer problem, without the help of their support line, - who had not called me back - , regardless of the efforts made on my behalf by their press centre.

It seems that if you own an OfficeJet V45 printer and it refuses to recognise it’s ink cartridge with the error message ‘Incorrect Cartridge’, don’t despair, go and buy another and it should work. If that one doesn’t work, don’t give up. Buy another one still and with luck, that will work fine. I should add, you won’t find this important information on the Hewlett Packard Web site or in the Printer manual.

There are of course more interesting things in life than solving printer problems, really there are. Unfortunately, most of us become so bogged-down by IT that we lose touch with the real world, which has existed quite happily without printers and PCs for around a billion years or so, without looking at my watch.

I can suddenly remember the 'Summer of 76', when the …
One of Those Days

I'm having 'One of Those Days'.

It wasn't going too badly, lunch with the people over at Unisys, until I arrived home with a new printer cartridge.

My HP OfficeJet V45 then decided it would rather not recognise its black ink cartridge and finding help from HP, after having gone through the pages of the manual and the Hewlett Packard support Website, has now become one of the 'Labours of Hercules'. Twenty minutes hanging on the phone to their technical support line and I have given up. Even Sky Television is better than that.

I've used my journalistic privilege and called their Press Centre to complain. After all, think how impossible this must be for the average customer, who can't call up and threaten a PR broadside such as this. Hewlett Packard have promised to see what's up with their support line and call me back. We'll see! - (It's now 20:55 told you so!)

Meanwhile, I had the idea that perhaps we should copy the deck of…
Edge of Darkness

It is a little known fact that BBC Television Centre lies in a suburb of Lagos and not London. The corporation’s grip on the news media has allowed this small detail to pass unnoticed by most of London’s population and rather like the post-war ‘Classic’ comedy, ‘A Passport to Pimlico’, Wood Lane may have a UK postcode but it’s another country, a state within a state, much like the Vatican City.

Outside of news-gathering and production duties, the domain of the Director General, (DG), I’m told, employment concessions are controlled by ‘Da Bibisi’ tribe, also known to BBC employees as the ‘Nigerian Mafia’. These extend to security, drivers, cleaners and a large proportion of the ancillary personnel.

For a lucky few, a career in television started at the airport with the magic word, ‘Asylum’ and a rolled-up copy of The Guardian media page and with a little help from ‘Da Bibisi’, anything is possible in the land of news.

Anyway, having been woken up late last night by the…
Do Not Disturb

I’m exhausted and more than ready to collapse into unconsciousness.

It has been a long day. I was up early to fly to the Abingdon Air Show in time for my 10 O’clock landing slot. I had been worried about the weather but the arrival of blue skies and bright sunshine surprised me. The wind was rather more than I would have liked and at Abingdon it was blowing a gusty 20 - 25 knots, so much in fact, that simply sitting in my parked aircraft was enough to make one feel seasick.

My old friend, Denny Dobson, ‘wowed’ the crowds with his Extra 300. Without a doubt, he’s one of the best professional aerobatic pilots in Europe and what he can do in the sky with an aircraft strapped to his body defies the imagination sometimes.

It was while I was at Abingdon that the BBC called me and asked if I was available for an interview on ‘Breakfast’ at eight O’clock tomorrow morning. The subject is ‘Spam’ and how much of a social curse it has become.

Happy to oblige, as the 8:00 news has on…
Don't Look Down

I flew in a Microlight for the first time today. Having decided it was too windy to take my larger aircraft up I recklessly decided to accept the offer of a circuit from a passing Microlight pilot who had dropped-in for a coffee on the way to the national microlight 'fly-in' at Popham.

A Microlight is of course a hybrid, somewhere between a bumble bee and a hang glider or a motorcycle with a sail. I sat in the back seat although it was rather more of a pillion passenger with a seatbelt, as this machine buzzed along the grass for a few feet before leaping into the air at an astonishing rate of climb, swept up and away by the strong crosswind over the runway.

There was a strong temptation to grip the the sides of the aircraft as if I was on a roller-coaster ride but I decided this was quiet pointless so tried hard to enjoy the very bumpy experience which reminded me a little of my first parachute jump.

I think I prefer my aircraft to be a little more substanti…
Where There's a Will

A Bank holiday Friday and a wet one. A Trustworthy Computing lunch at 1, Aldwych with Microsoft and an afternoon meeting at the RSA. I was planning to run for the coast this evening but I might wait to see if the weather changes. It can only get better.

Sunday is airshow day at RAF Abingdon near Oxford and I’m lucky enough to have a landing slot at 10:00. Looking at the long term forecast, any attempt to fly there may prove a little optimistic but there’s always hope.

Sitting on the train reading my book, ‘Southern Mail/Night Flight’ by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, I noticed that an attractive woman opposite was reading ‘How to Avoid being Dumped’, a title I have never heard of before and one that expresses more about its owner than she might wish others to see

Given that my own novel, rather like the English Patient, tells the story of a doomed relationship, it struck me as sad to think that for this woman, the secret of a long and happy love affair, might on…
Dulce et Decorum Est

Just a reflection of today's news and the suicide bombing in Israel and another attempt to wreck any hope of a middle eastern peace process.

In my own mind, anybody can have a passport which says 'British Citizen' on it but we appear to be the only nation on God's earth that allows our nationality to be used and abused as a flag of convenience for those who despise our culture, our traditions and our freedom of expression and religion.

"I'll have a bag of crisps, and a British passport please and oh yes, a couple of sticks of dynamite, some wire and one of those digital clocks please".

"Certainly sir I take it that you are a bona fide asylum seeker, refugee, immigrant or other party and are entitled to a free passport and indefinite residency until such a time as you might choose to explode"?

Silly isn't it but I would prefer to be proud of my country, like the French or the Americans or the Australians or anyone else, rath…