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Showing posts from July, 2003
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eCrime News



I've been appointed programme director for next year's eCrime Congress in London. One of the areas I have to oversee is the development of eCrime scenarios that illustrate the different aspects of eCrime, so ideas around the subject are welcome.

Is eCrime a growing problem? Let me know what you think in confidence.




Laptop Horror

Total disaster. Well almost. My Hewlett Packard Omnibook 500's screen has died and I've been running around local hardware repairers trying to establish if this is a train smash.

"Oooh HP screen..It's non standard mate. Cost at least a grand to fix It's a lot better since they became Compaq"

As far as I can understand, it's a loose connection but there seems little or no chance of fixing it without appealing to Hewlett Packard, who haven't called me back yet. The previous record is two days.

There's always hope. Well maybe!

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After School

So here’s the picture. Charlotte, aged eight returns home from a hard day at school. When she’s finished her homework and eaten her dinner, she and her mother settle down to a family evening, testing government websites for usability and political correctness.



If you think I’m joking then read on. According to the e-Envoy’s 'Quality Framework for UK Government Website Design', Government web managers needing users to make their websites citizen-friendly should consider recruiting public sector staff or their families as a "cheap alternative" to usability consultancies.

Government has two concerns, leaving aside the Hutton Inquiry and the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not enough people are using government websites and if like me, last weekend, you were trying to work out how to pay your National Insurance and PAYE over the Web, then it’s not exactly the most user-friendly and intuitive experience available on the Internet today.

The good news i…
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Brave New World

IBM, the world’s largest provider of computer services, has warned that millions of jobs will be lost in America’s high technology sector over the next decade as companies shift jobs to low-cost markets such as India.

It’s not alone. Oracle plans to increase the number of software development and customer service staff it has in India from 3,000 to more than 6,000, according to company chairman Larry Ellison and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is outsourcing most of its IT infrastructure management - including maintenance and support of global IT applications to Delhi.



Meanwhile, closer to home, Investment bank Goldman Sachs has become the latest blue-chip company to move part of its IT operations to India to reduce costs and even my supermarket, Tesco, has announced plans to establish an IT centre in India, in a move will involve the transfer of 350 IT roles from the UK

I know I ‘bang-on’ about the dangers of outsourcing from a domestic industry perspective but in the sea…
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Utterley Crazy

I decided to cycle over to Maypole this afternoon and arrived just in time to see the Utterley Butterley wingwalkers land in their Stearmans to use the field as a staging point for their next airshow of the day.



They were taking on fuel and sandwiches before displaying at the Whitstable air show a few miles away and both girls decided it was easier, given the distance to take off again standing on the wings or more correctly, one stood and the other did a handstand.

Would I do it? No thanks. The thought of stepping out of a perfectly good aircraft without a parachute makes my blood run cold. I'll leave it to the braver blondes with the figure-hugging jumpsuits.



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Do As You Would be Done By

I spoke to an old friend today who still hasn't managed to find regular work back in the IT industry since the company he worked for collapsed last year. Seeing that I know just about everyone in this business, directly or indirectly, this surprises me because he's one of the most dogged and conscientious, Director-level, consultants any company might ask for and he's in his thirties and not dabbling at the edge of senility like me at forty-seven.



In the last six month's several people I know have found work and some have lost it again. One has gone on to greater things as Director of a leading software company and others are just getting by. What concerns me though is how people tell me that their so-called friends disappear when the chips are down. By this I mean they don't respond to email, even as a courtesy when someone asks if they happen to know of any opportunities.

This business relies on networking and yet some of us seem to bel…
Perfect Taste

Eric has been replaced with a new Hamster, 'Fluffy' and the dog is understandably confused, as it made an unsuccessful attempt to eat the late Eric before his funeral yesterday.

In a shock for the literary world, my father-in-law, who normally prefers books in the genre of Andy Mc'Nabb and Tom Clancy, has spent the afternoon reading my eight year old daughter's 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'. What can I say, other than: "Harry heard the staccato rattle of machine-gun fire from outside the Wizard's cave. He spat out his half-finished cigar and reached for his broomstick with one hand and a grenade with the other........."

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That Great Wheel in the Sky

Eric, the philosopher Hamster has passed away.

The source of inspiration for many of my columns on the IT industry he will be greatly missed for his sense of humour and unusual typing skills. His knowledge of the Open Source market was unrivalled among rodents and will be a heavy blow to the future of Linux on the desktop.



We'll miss him.

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It’s All in the Numbers

Fifty metres. You make a mobile phone call in the city and your position I’m told can be reliably fixed within a remarkably small area through triangulation of the cell-phone nodes.



I was visiting 192.Com and was having a demonstration of the technology they plan to add to their Directory Services (DQ) offering in what will become a highly competitive market from next month.

Only about 30% of the population realise that in August, thanks to de-regulation, the old directory enquiries services 192, will be switched off and we’ll have to choose from among ten new ‘DQ’ services with variations on the number 118, such as BT with 118500, the Gay & Lesbian Directory (118453) and the tightly business-focused 192.Com with 118119.

Most businesses, it appears haven’t given much or any thought at all to the costs of using the new directory service and which offers the best value. Some are in for a nasty shock when their first phone bills arrive because new ‘added value’…
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Rubik’s Cube

When Computer Associates’ Chairman, Sanjay Kumar warns that there is too much complexity in the IT industry, I have to agree.



Much of my time is spent writing special reports and case studies and trying to make the information they contain both relevant and interesting to a business audience. This can be much harder than writing a more spontaneous ‘Thought for the Day’. This is because, attempting to describe how one system connects, replaces or adds value to a second, without burying the explanation under a mountain of acronyms is a constant challenge.

Kumar, believing that integration remains a problem for the industry, is calling for technology companies to reduce complexity and help make IT infrastructures "more simple and more transparent". Flexibility is perceived as the key differentiator between solutions, because the future will always remain unpredictable and given the speed of consolidation, which is reducing IT to a handful of global players, no sensi…
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Casualties of War

In future, everything I write should carry a Government health warning.

Last week, the e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, accused me of being an alarmist at a time when he believes, entirely correctly, that the information security debate would benefit from a rational assessment of the problems. There is a difference, of course, between being apocalyptic and alarmist and if one is simply drawing attention to a problem, for example, the correlation visible in data from Symantec and the NCC Group, between Broadband penetration and Internet-based attacks, then asking awkward questions should be in the public interest.



It’s clear that we hold opposing views of the problem but I would argue that actions speak louder than words and I’ve seen very little of the former to encourage greater confidence in ‘Government knows best’. Broadband promotion, I am told has nothing to do with Government, it’s an industry initiative and as a consequence, it’s up to the latter to tackle the securit…
A Post-modern Luther Required

If the Internet is the modern equivalent of the reformation, which, through the introduction of printing, marked the end of medieval society, I'm wondering if we'll witness a counter-reformation, as people wonder if the benefits of a wired society are is worth the cultural, moral and social upheaval that accompanies it?

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Expletive Deleted

Just sitting here waiting for my wounds to dry.

An unusual but interesting day. I decided this morning to see how fit I was and pulled out my racing cycle to pedal the twelve miles to Maypole farm, to deliver a document to the engineer who is working on my aircraft. It’s having its annual and looks rather sad in a hundred different pieces all over one of the barns that serves as a hangar.



When I arrived, my friend Bob was about to take his aircraft banner-towing up to Birmingham, so still in my lycra, I volunteered as co-pilot, for what was quite possibly one of the slowest trips ever to Wellesbourne Mountford, two hours dragging a banner at 55 knots and just high enough to clear the power cables dotted across the countryside. Rather like driving a rather tall truck I thought but with a much better view.

At Wellesbourne, we dropped one banner and exchanged it for another, which we displayed around Solihull, before returning to land at Wellesbourne again, stow both ban…
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Hidden in Plain Sight

It came as a blinding flash of inspiration at a round table on security I was attending a stone’s throw from Tony’s place. All the right people were there. Police, Government, Banks and ISPs, all worrying our way through the problems of being an Internet society.



The suggestion when it came appeared from a source one would least expect. “Shouldn’t encryption be automatic”? After all, it would be more difficult to commit an electronic crime if this were the case.

In a society where both Police and Government are more than a little paranoid about strong encryption, the idea that data should be automatically encrypted in order to protect it comes as a surprise. Encryption is more frequently used to transmit data rather than store data and the problem we have with most sensitive financial and personal information is that it is readily available to anyone who is prepared to hack into the system that holds it. Take health records in our new and expensively wired NHS as …
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Women and Children First

I attended a very distinguished round-table today. Can't reveal names but I can comment that we all pretty much agree that solving the many problems of the Internet appear to be temporarily out of the reach of government and industry.



I was accused of being an alarmist by government or at least of using emotional language to describe a problem that needed to be addressed through rational argument. OK then, the boat is leaking like a sieve, so what are government and industry going to do to make it a safer place, in an entirely rational way? If I find out, I'll tell you.

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Happy Days are Here Again

It’s not official but it’s as close as it gets. The recession in the IT industry appears to be ending, in some areas at least.



You may remember that a month or so ago, I expressed a touch of cautious optimism after eighteen months of gloom and now the evidence of spending is clearly there to see and this isn’t restricted to government IT procurement either, the life raft that has kept much of the UK’s IT industry afloat for the last two years.

Where are businesses spending money on their IT? I think we are witnessing a new cycle of hardware ‘churn’, the last big one being in time for 2000 and the millennium bug. Certainly, Ovum, in its annual survey of the global software industry reports that the market declined by 5% in 2002, when it was worth $152 billion and is predicting that it will shrink by a further 2.5% this year, with small only starting to appear in 2005.

My network of contacts in smaller companies, consultants and specialist software suppliers, ar…
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In Memoriam

I have been reading a White Paper on cost of ownership and Server memory from Kingston Technology and the results are interesting enough to share.



Most businesses are trying to find ways of saving money on IT spend and drive down cost of ownership. Invariably, an expense that can’t be ignored is that of the Server upgrade. Many companies buy Servers with a dual processor capability but only a relatively small percentage of owners actually choose to add a second CPU or more memory, rather than buy a completely new Server when circumstances demand greater performance. Therefore, when a new Operating System, such as Windows 2003 comes along, there’s a tendency among many business, encouraged by the leading hardware vendors, to replace an existing Server with a shiny new one.

One objective of Kingston’s research, conducted by Mindcraft Labs, was to establish a ‘test-point’, which could aid customers in determining the best and most cost-effective configuration for their Server…
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Building Hub Economies - Does Size Matter?

Arriving in Dubai for the first time presents a culture shock for the unprepared. This is after all, one of the most successful examples of the world’s growing family of 21st century ‘hub-economies’, regional magnets for investment and the rapid growth of new Internet and service businesses.

Each Arab country along the Gulf coast, between Kuwait and Oman wishes to rival Dubai and each will tell you why its own geographical position and economy offer a unique advantage over those of its neighbours. Bahrain, the region’s banking ‘hub’ is already ranked as the fifteenth most liberalized economy on global scale and Dubai is on equal terms with leading European Union countries in the delivery of basic online services . In common, all the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states now understand that a relatively small window of opportunity exists for them to lay the foundations of more advanced and business-friendly service economies before natural re…
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Out of Texas and Into Africa

I have just been listening to a speech of quite nauseating hypocrisy from George W. Bush at the start of his visit to Senegal. This was from the President of a country, which not so long ago saw 10% of the black population of a small Texan town jailed on the word of a single corrupt police officer, a case that was drawn to the attention of one Governor George Bush, who did, absolutely nothing and allowed the innocent languish in jail, until, I’m pleased to say that they were all released this year when all the convictions were overturned thanks to the efforts of civil rights activists.



Two things really irk me about the Bush speech. Firstly, the staged apologism at the site of one of Africa’s ancient slave markets and secondly, the hypocrisy, as many of Africa’s poverty problems stem directly from American and European protectionism.

Let’s not forget that like it or not, Africa was a willing partner in the Slave trade and in some parts of the continent it c…
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Honest, It’s Me Gov

'Many men feel that they should act according to the time or the moment they are facing, and thus are in confusion when something goes beyond this and some difficulty arises'. - Shiba Yoshimasa (1350-1410)

It’s been a long time coming but a leaked government document suggests that the arrival of national identity card is just around the corner.

I have been in two minds about the value of such a card for a long time now. There is of course that natural suspicion of government motives, after all, as a society we trust our own government less than any of our European neighbours and mostly for good reason. Can we trust them to use a comprehensive citizens database in a way that protects our dwindling civil rights or will such information, as the privacy lobby fears, be used as one more tool in an inevitable march towards a more tightly controlled and even Stalinist society?

- David Blunkett

That’s one argument and it’s not one that appears to worry the majori…
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The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

I'm seriously thinking of a future in politics. It's twenty years since my last involvement and I've expressed my interest with the right people so we'll see, as these things happen slowly and it's too late, I'm told, to consider next year's European parliamentary elections. Maybe 2008.



The subject reminds me of the words of Sir Thomas More, one great English Chancellor to remember as we wave goodbye to the role under this government. More wrote in 'Utopia'. "The Duty of Intellectuals is to make a difference to put their learnings in the service of the state and to strive to make a difference".

But then I wonder if having principles has a place in politics these days. I suggest reading 'Cicero on Politics' for anyone who needs reminding that while centuries pass, human behaviour changes very little.

On a final note, I recommend Samuel Huntingdon's 'Clash of Civilizations' as my book of th…
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Predators & Principles

You might have thought that in principle Europe might offer a defence against the predatory side of big and invariably American business but in practise, I don’t see a great deal of evidence that European innovation can survive and thrive under the new American Empire.



Take the rules on patenting as an example. In September, the European Parliament will vote on whether it should adopt a recommendation by its Legal Affairs and Internal Market Committee on whether the continent should harmonise its software patent rules in line with American and Japanese legislation.

And why not, you might ask, after all, if everyone sings to the same hymn sheet aren’t we all then competing on an equal basis with a solid framework of international law to protect companies from unlawful borrowing of their code?

In theory, you might be right but the reality may be somewhat different because the results of such legislation would shift the balance of power towards the really big gl…
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Got to Rush

Maybe I should write a book with the title, ‘Zen and The Art of Writing Case Studies”?

I find writing these much harder than writing my usual columns, perhaps because it involves the packaging a mixture of facts and hyperbole, rather than reaching inside the imagination for spontaneous prose, much like a first brush-stroke on an empty canvass.



Anyway, no time to write this evening. I have been invited to meet the Iranian President's 'Special Envoy, His Excellency, N. Jahangard, the telecoms Minister, at his hotel in London and I have sixty minutes to get there. Ironically, nobody from the British government seems keen to acknowledge this unofficial visit, which is strange, as you might think that relations with Iran were on a polite if not friendlier footing since Jack Straw’s visit. But I know too much, which I can’t possibly reveal and I assume I’m being bugged anyway, if not by GCHQ then by Uncle Sam, who must wonder why I’m getting calls from Tehran. Let me assu…
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Opting for a Sensible Option.

This month’s ‘Spam Summit’ held by the All Party Internet Group at Westminster, didn’t leave its audience too much in the way of optimism for the future.

We all know spam is a menace but even with better filtering from the Internet Service Providers and stronger legislation from Europe and the United States, it’s unlikely that the efforts at remediation are going to make a great difference before the Internet starts grinding to a halt under the weight of unsolicited email.



As Steve Linford of Spamhaus tells us, 90% of the unsolicited email we receive, Spam, comes from 140 ‘Spammers’ and to qualify as a member of Spamhaus’ hall of fame, its ‘ROXO’ list, then a spammer has to have been thrown off three consecutive ISPs. The Spamhaus Block List (SBL) has 140 million users but although it’s proactive and pre-emptive by blocking known IP addresses, it’s useless against open relays and proxies and the worst offenders on ROXO are sending out as many as 50 millio…
Trust Me - I'm a God

I'm a little worried that someone may yet stand-up and declare David Beckham a living God. After all, if it was good enough for the Romans it's good enough Beckham's fans. With Diana now long gone, another blonde icon is needed to fill the spiritual vacuum of millions with a sense of fashion and Dave is androgynous enough for the role of popular messiah.

But best measure a man not by how he manages success but how he deals with failure and that which the media builds up, it soon strips down, for no other reason other than to sell newspapers.