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Showing posts from September, 2003
Escape to Vence

St Paul de Vence is even more of an impressionist art gallery than it was two years ago. This is obviously the best time to visit. The narrow winding medieval streets of the town aren't so hot and there aren't so many tourists.

This evening the art comes to us with an exhibition of local work in the hotel reception before dinner. Regarded as a cultural Philistine who can't afford 1,500 euros on an oil painting, I can tell you that one of the shops in town does a nice line in printed t-shirts too. Matisse, Picasso, Michael Schumacher, Manchester United, take your pick for only 15 euros.

An example to the rest of us - Unisys' Ray Stanton

Very little to write on technology today. The big news, which I appear to have missed, is the tie-up between Unisys and Dell over the ES7000 'Windows Mainframe'. Dell will now resell this high end SMP Box and as a consequence will be able to offer servers across the entire processing spectrum, right the way up int…
It's Nice in Nice

I've been enjoying a meditative moment with a Partagas #4 cigar here in the garden of the Unisys conference centre here in Nice. The Agapanthus may look a little sad but my sense of Deja Vu is alive and well and so is the debate over what constitutes good security practice.

We've heard from Interpol and the NHTCU but the subject of eCrime seems rather a long way away in the present setting of a Mediterranean evening.

Tomorrow, I have to challenge Microsoft's contention that patching is improving. It may be and over the last twelve months, it's certainly improved in leaps and bounds where quality and reliability are concerned. The problem however may not be reliability but regularity if we look back over the last three months. How much does it cost a company to patch its production environment and can the process be improved beyond the 'patch Wednesday' approach that we are now experiencing?

Is there a neat solution to the problem of consta…
The Living Hell Called Heathrow

Seven o'clock in the morning and I'm in the British Airways lounge at Heathrow. At this time of the morning it reminds me more of Oxford Circus underground than a quiet area with refreshments and if you have to queue for coffee, then at least the internet kiosks are a little more available.

Simply getting into Heathrow at 6 AM was a struggle, even with a motorcycle. It's like a huge digestive system, an alimentary canal with aircraft at one end and the M4 motorway at the other. With all the European business flights leaving at around the same time, one could walk on top of the three-deep line of BMW's and Mercedes between Terminal One and the motorway junction.

Off to Nice then with a sense of Deja Vu. I haven't been to the Unisys conference centre hotel at St Paul de Vence for over two years and I'm wondering if the Agapanthus is still loose in ther garden. Customers and security experts from all over Europe are descending on the…
Breakfast @ Beanos

Sunday morning and it's threatening rain. There's a huge black nimbus cloud towering above the tip of North Kent and it's telling me not to bother flying my aircraft this morning. Not if 'm sensible anyway.

Walk into the village and buy my Sunday paper with a stop at Beano's cafe on the way home for a 'Beano's Breakfast', £3.40, the full Dr Atkins diet with fried bread and a mug of tea included.

Beano's appears to be run by an army of young Turks who are busy trying to satisfy David Blunkett's test of contemporary Englishness. It's actually a rather comfortable environment in a strange kind of way. It's where you find all Thanet's Police on any given morning, having their breakfast or the refuse collectors and jobbing builders, reading their copies of the Daily Star.

Smoking is compulsory once you have finished your meal and if you don't smoke, then you had better learn. I don't normally smoke my favourite s…
Crisis - What Crisis?

I'm reduced to writing this column on Wordpad and if it wasn't for the help of Andy at M-wise Computers in Margate, you wouldn't be reading this column at all.

Windows XP is supposed to be invulnerable, well almost but experience shows that while it's more robust than any of its predecessors, when it does crash it does so catastrophically and invariably demands a system rebuild.

In January, Microsoft very kindly sent an ambulance around to collect my first HP laptop and completely re-built my system when it crashed for the first time. This time, it was a new laptop, a Saturday afternoon and a week ahead that starts with an early morning flight to Nice to speak at the Unisys, 'Zero Gap' security conference.

Although I'm backed-up to a CD, having learned my lesson in the past, XP's stubborn refusal to move past it's splash screen took me by surprise. The PC is only weeks old and most of that time was spent installing Microsoft Off…
Addicted to Love

So, Robert Palmer has gone to that great jazz club in the sky. A tragic loss of an eighties icon of great style.

Palmer defined a ‘Musical Moment’ of the mid-eighties with ‘Addicted to Love’ and ‘I Never Meant to Turn You On’ and it’s a tribute to his impact that many people can remember where they where the first time they saw the video with Palmer, accompanied by some rather stylish ladies in black.

We seem to have arrived at that period where artists of the eighties reach their early fifties and either shuffle-off to perform forever in another and better place or carry-on until their faces can be lifted no more. It’s the worst possible form of mid-life crisis, dying that is and is best avoided until at least one’s sixty-fifth birthday, the government’s preferred option for the rest of us.

An unusual day that started with a talk I gave at The Savoy over breakfast on trust in the software industry. It’s hard to sparkle at 7:30 in the morning but I did take away with m…
An Evening of Sensual Art

I’m confused” said the man from Microsoft, as a young woman in the audience pressed an invitation to an evening of ‘sensual art’ into his hands.

This was an evening event to mark the launch of eCademy’s Microsoft.Net club and guest of honour was Microsoft’s Scott Charney, the company’s Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist.

The eCademy network strikes me as an unusual place to launch a Microsoft club of any kind but Jonathan Greensted, whose idea it is, constantly reminded the audience that he runs a company called Sentient which has been doing “clever stuff with Microsoft enterprise software for the past ten years”,

Greensted , I suspect, is a bit of a Microsoft fan and there were hidden clues in his speech. “I love Microsoft software, I love Microsoft, and Microsoft has been very good to me. The Microsoft and .NET club is a place for me to share the love around, adding thoughtfully, “Where Windows NT 3.1 truly sucked, ten years on we now have Windows Ser…
New Statesman: Confidence in Internet Security - A Roundtable Discussion

As part of this year's New Statesman New Media Awards, a round-table discussion was held in July to discuss the issues surrounding concerns over internet security and how these impacts on business and government. Participants included the e-Envoy Andrew Pinder, Len Hynds, Head of the National High Tech Crime Unit and senior security analyst Dr Simon Moores, representing eGov monitor. This is an edited transcript of the discussions.

Hemingway Adventure

Monday and I’m showing my age, other than a well documented weakness for Italian women and Cuban cigars, both of which are out of reach for one reason or the other.

I bought a copy of Michael Palin’s book, Hemingway Adventure on the spur of the moment. It was either that or Tom Clancy’s submarine strategy game for the PC, both reduced to under £10.00 and the closet intellectual in me won over the boy adventurer.

Ironically, I din't have the time to concentrate on either, like everyone else I know, I am quite buried under the September workload. Day begins at 07:30 with email and finishes anywhere between eight or 10 ‘O’clock at night. At least I get out to play occasionally at the weekends, attending to my third weakness, flying.

Le Touquet on Saturday could have been the deep south of France in July. The temperature was unseasonable to say the least and the contrast with the opposite side of the channel, also basking in sunshine, was remarkable. Just enough roo…
Caveat Emptor

For anyone who might be looking for news on the of my Cessna G-AXGG, the news is that after a quick trip to Le Touquet for lunch on Saturday, another pilot has put a deposit down, to keep it here at Maypole as a partnership. So for now, it s back off the market.

Thanks for looking.

The Satanic Verses

I was a little shocked by the aggressive response to my column 'Open Source - Open Season' in Computer Weekly last week. I had believed I was taking a balanced view of the Open Source debate but others, in newsgroups, mostly in the States, see it rather differently.

The strength of opinion appears to support my view that the Open Source argument is assuming far more of an ideological position than is healthy for the industry and in some cases, it approaches the margins of obsession.

I showed some of the more savage newsgroup postings to a friend in a leading IT company, who is equally agnostic about the future of Open Source computing. She remarked, “It is the same lack of logic that was common in the dot com boom that I see being repeated in the newsgroups on Linux. I think only time will tell, as it did with the dot com bust - for logic and reality will win eventually - keeping in line with 'there is no free lunch', regardless of whether you love or…
Birth – Marriage – Dishwasher – Death

“Make sure you pose before it’s all over”.

I rather liked the FCUK advertisement I saw on the way home this evening, it rather describes the feeling of the times, particularly as I had my first sight of one of the new Porsche Cayenne 4X4s parked in Lots Road, Chelsea as I took my regular short cut past the Harbour Club.

Not so much farther on, I saw two scruffy-looking black teenagers on mountain bikes perched at the corner of Wandsworth Bridge Road. They may have been saving for a Porsche too, because the older looking of the two and I’m guessing eighteen, was clutching the largest roll of banknotes that I have ever seen. He started counting it while his young ‘accomplice’ watched his back. I’m sure you don’t make that kind of money washing cars or even stealing them, so it’s more likely that he was a lawyer or an accountant.

The usual suspects in committee room seven at Westminster, a two-hour discussion on digital identity and authentication. It’…
Demand A Bigger Windows Box for All

Another day, another case study and this time, it’s a large German financial institution and how it tackled the challenge of securely managing client and partner access to its applications over a large IP network.

A useful aspect of writing so many case studies involving some very large and high profile businesses, is that under non-disclosure, one sees what is really happening, where the application of technology can make a difference and even where it can’t.

Take the Skipton Building society as an example. A Unisys and Microsoft customer, it reduced its annual IT costs by £3 million through replacing a mainframe and seventy line of business servers with eight of Unisys’ big ES7000 servers, a mix of 8-way and 32-way SMP units with 208 Intel processors between them and making this the largest ES7000 implementation of its kind in the UK.

Stories like this are not just about consolidation and cost saving, although this represents a strong factor in th…
Cessna 150 For Sale

I see I'm getting traffic interest from The Hangar website for my pretty little Cessna 'Golf Golf', which I have put up for sale.

I've just spent a small fortune on the engine, a 'Star' annual and other bits and pieces, so it's a great catch for any discerning pilot.

I've decided that I want to go back to a biplane again but not something as lively as the Pitts Special, which almost bit me twice. Something a little more sedate like a Currie Wot perhaps?

Anyway, Golf Golf is on the line at Maypole Farm (EGHB) - Possibly one of the finest and friendliest small airfields in Britain with coffee, Avgas, sandwiches and biscuits for all. (PPR please) and a great alternate for trips across the Channel. Le Touquet and its restaurants being 44 minutes away in my little Cessna 150.

Send in the Marines

Trust, if there’s no room for it in politics, is there a place for it in computing?

Trust has, like cornflakes, has become a commodity. In the dictionary, it is defined as ‘Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing’ and if something is ‘Trustworthy’, then it ‘Warrants trust is reliable’.

Place computing and trust together in the same sentence and tell me if it feels right? Is there such a thing as ‘Trustworthy Computing’ or has Microsoft made a mistake by placing so much emphasis and indeed, its credibility, on the ‘T’ word?

I happened to turn the television on this evening and discovered that Channel 4 was showing the John Wayne film of the Vietnam War, ‘The Green Berets’. It struck me watching the film out of the corner of my eye and writing this column at the same time, that there was an analogy for me to draw upon from the story. One side, led by the heroic Wayne, ‘Colonel Kirby’ relies on a heady mix of optimism and overwhelming…
Above & Beyond

The Barclays Bank email scam passed me by this morning. BBC Breakfast News called and offered to send a car the ninety miles to my house on the coast but I mumbled excuses about distance and flying; enough for me to duck out gracefully. Next time maybe.

After three months I’m a pilot again. My aircraft that was in pieces spread over a converted barn now proudly reflects the sunlight and even managed to pass its flight test without the wings falling off over Margate.

The CAA has some interesting tests that need to be conducted before they grant the renewal of an airworthiness certificate. One has the aircraft dived to what is called VNE – Velocity Never Exceed – and the other is a spin and recovery. In both cases we are talking about an old aircraft and so the logic of bureaucracy, rather than insisting on gentle handling, says instead, “Treat the aircraft as if it were a Stuka dive-bomber first and then if that works, throw it out of control in a spin. If in both cas…
Once More Unto the Breach Dear Friends - Once More

What a mess. The news web is alive with reports on another critical Microsoft patch and as one might expect, the world doesn't appear to thrilled at the prospect of Blaster #2 appearing because the vulnerability that triggered Blaster #1 wasn't addressed properly.

Trawling through the web, a couple of comments catch my eye. The first:

"I was just wondering what has happened with MS03-034, because Windows 98 was not listed as platform anymore (in the section"Platforms not affected"), only Windows Me. This usually means, that this platform is not supported any longer and no further patches will be provided anymore. I contacted Microsoft and they told me, that this is the case with Windows 98/98 SE:"

The other is:

"Firewalls often provide a mere illusion of protection. They don’t make business systems significantly more secure. And by focusing attention on defending the perimeter, rather than on defending …
Health Warning

I’ve spent the best part of the afternoon trying to recover my Office XP installation and in particular, Outlook.

Very foolishly, I decided to experiment with the Plaxo contact manager, which is circulating on the Internet and is in all seriousness, a great way of managing and keeping contacts up-to-date, if you ignore the more obvious security implications of allowing Active-X controls to run. Unfortunately, Plaxo decided to completely ‘Stuff’ Outlook and more besides, even after I installed it with due care – I’m using Windows XP by the way – so be warned, it’s a good idea but can seriously damage your system’s health in the right circumstances.

Settling down to watch Michael Wood’s ‘Life of William Shakespeare’ on DVD, I have to ask, does anyone have any DVDs that work properly? Even the video shop manager described DVDs as ‘rubbish’ and so far, half of those I have bought with ‘Crash’ at some point.

Technology is not, I suspect improving our lives as much as it shou…
The Future of Stuff

It’s true I tell you, the future of stuff has been revealed. It springs from a new theory, which predicts the arrival of the ‘On-demand Enterprise’, and Citrix have discovered it and they told me all about it over lunch today.

I had rather lost track of Citrix over the last two years and had consigned them to a kind of thin-client ‘Metaframe’ pigeonhole of kinds. However, while I have been ignoring them, the company has quietly reinvented itself and if your enterprise server access infrastructure is in danger of becoming unglued, then Citrix may have the answers, whether the problem involves load balancing or security or much more besides.

Is this a good thing? Yes. Can I explain the future of stuff in a sentence? No. It’s a little more complex than that, but Citrix appears to have worked out how to fill some of the more interesting technology gaps that have been worrying me lately.

Anyway, now I understand what an on-demand enterprise is, I can settle back for the …
Open Source – Open Season

August may be a month that Microsoft would rather forget and September is shaping-up for a set of different problems.

Microsoft remains uncomfortably trapped between a rock and a hard place as it seeks to deliver credible arguments that support both the investment it has made in ‘Trustworthy Computing’ and its position in respect to the rapid spread of care in the ‘Community Software’, which is becoming an increasingly persistent nuisance to the Seattle giant. This week, the company released the results of a study by Forrester Research commissioned by Microsoft that claims Windows and the .Net platform is substantially cheaper than J2EE/Linux when it comes to application development, deployment and maintenance

Since Japan's trade minister, Takeo Hirunama, raised security concerns over Microsoft's software at the ASEAN economics ministers meeting, there is talk of Asia going its own way with a rival Open Source Operating System to Windows. Referring to…
Delete Them All and Let God Decide

It came as a surprise, reducing my Spam burden by 70% that is. For me at least, the war is over, almost. Unsolicited email in my inbox has, this summer, overtaken legitimate email and now everything is shunted into my deleted folder until I choose to move it elsewhere.

Actually, this is not intentional but having turned Outlook’s Spam filter on, I can’t turn it off, even with help from Microsoft, who concede that it’s filters might be a little temperamental and so I’m stuck with everything going straight into the trash can as it arrives, which works quite well in a strange sort of way.

Back briefly then to the miracle of cutting down on junk mail. My wife has a BTconnect email address that I set-up for her and which has never been used. Any mail it might receive is forwarded to my inbox but this address is also my single largest source of junk mail. Why is this I wonder? I can see that her address on the distribution list for the multiple Viagra and…
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth

I took Charlotte to visit Margate Caves this afternoon. I haven’t been there in years and it’s showing signs of neglect and graffiti. Nobody really knows how old the place is, a thousand years or more but certainly, some of the carvings show a strong medieval influence and the caves themselves weren’t rediscovered until 1789.

They are huge and most of the passages under Cliftonville to the sea are closed off. There is of course the famous ‘Shell Grotto’ a few hundred yards away and that is an enigma in its own right, a kind of underground pagan cathedral covered in shells and dating back quite possibly to Roman times or even the 19th century.

There is a mystery here. Who built these things and what was there purpose in what was a relatively wild and unpopulated area of Britain until recent times. In fact, until the last century, locals in The Isle of Thanet reportedly spoke a dialect of Dutch, harking back to Saxon times. However, with the caves in …
Suddenly Summer - Again!

Off to the dreaded Dreamland amusement park in Margate. I promised my daughter one more visit to the roller-coaster before school starts next week and can't say I'm looking forward to rides such as 'Wild Mouse'; bone jarring and instant death if anything goes wrong.

I'm working on the portal site for the town of Birchington as a hobby of sorts. I guess that not too many people are online and Broadband has yet to put in an appearance but meanwhile, if it's big in Birchington, it's there on Birchington.Com

Finally my belief in coincidence or at least synchronicity was reinforced once again on Tuesday when I spotted my old friend Prof: Jim Norton, stopping outside my house as I was starting my motorbike. There was no other reason one can think of in the history of the universe that our two paths should cross at just that moment, he lives North of London but just happened to be visiting the seaside that day.

Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging (IM) is something that most of us associate with Hotmail or AOL and for business, it’s mostly something that they would prefer not to encourage, for security purposes if nothing else.

Lotus Development, now part of IBM, have been trying to get corporate IM off the ground for years in the shape of Lotus Sametime and I can remember it being offered to the then e-Envoy at a meeting at the Cabinet Office, three years ago. It didn’t really take off, although government bought into Lotus Notes big-time and when I was asked to comment on email and its importance to the Hutton enquiry last month, I did have one thought, which I kept to myself.

Imagine for a moment if all the thousands of emails produced as evidence at the enquiry missed-out something rather more innocuous? After all, if I didn’t wish to have something kept ‘on the record’ then I would quite possibly IM rather than email. This is of course why large businesses are not all that keen on facilit…
The New Maginot Line

I sat at home watching the progress of the London power-cut last week and rather wondered if it was really as simple as the cleaner pulling the big red plug at the control centre. Strangely enough, the day before, I had just finished writing a scenario for next year’s eCrime Congress, which was uncannily similar in its results but involved a software problem instead. Like many others, I also wondered when the lights went out all over New York, just as W32.Blaster was making the rounds. You see, two years ago, I started writing a book, after a friend in the security services told me how worried the Americans were about their rather flaky power system and that they had run a potential terrorist scenario which involved a conventional or virtual attack on the North-eastern power grid in the middle of the very cold New York winter.

- Blaster's Author

My cybercrime novel never went beyond thirty action-packed pages, as the hero, based loosely on myself, was not surp…