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Showing posts from November, 2003
What’s My Line

In a clever twist to the concept of online advertising, O2 have arranged for a banner to be towed behind an aircraft over London for three hours to welcome the England rugby team home. One of my lesser-known activities, it’s surprising how many companies are looking for new and different ways of reaching a mass audience outside of the regular and more expensive web, television and traditional print media, where the target audience is becoming increasingly resistant to ‘messages’ from advertisers.

Most of us, consider pop-up advertising on web sites to be the work of the devil, spam by another name and the evidence shows that when people can download the software that turns intrusive pop-ups off, they will and in huge numbers.

When business first started becoming excited over the Internet, it wasn’t for all the right reasons, such as information at one’s fingertips. We’ve witnessed the end result of the channel exploitation principle in the tide of spam which clogs our se…

I’m surrounded by boxes but at least the IT is up and running again, although, with a distinct lack of furniture, it’s amazing how many PC’s, monitors and printers one can cram onto a single desk without it collapsing. Yet.

To celebrate the move, The Inland Revenue have sent me a letter announcing that I am entirely responsible for the national debt and should pay this by 29th January or face cluster bombing or at the very least, occupation by the Americans.

With all one’s files in boxes between houses, this is the kind of house warming surprise I could do without, particularly after a rummage through the files, tells me that in the view of my accountant, the Treasury owes me money and not the other way around. One should be innocent until proven guilty but I am a little jaded in my views.

On the last occasion this happened, five years ago, it cost me a small fortune to prove myself the victim of what is best described as tax theft on the part of Government. In the end, they …
Special Delivery

Moving house is stressful, we all know this but I have recently arrived at a startling conclusion of my own.

Most of the companies and institutions you have to tell you are moving home share the same call centre. You know the one where your call is important to them but where they rarely if ever answer the phone because it is experiencing ‘Unusually High Levels’ of customer calls.

My wife has now been holding on for Argos, the catalogue people, for over two hours and may yet smoke herself to death if she doesn't have a heart attack first. An unknown delivery driver having left a cryptic message that he can't find our house she's trying to work out if he was the Argos driver or not because he didn't say. Ironically, it's now 8:30 and she's finally got through to an operator who has told her that customer service closed at 8 O'clock. They just left her holding and went home. How's that for customer relationship management then?

Then there’…
The Great Wall of Cardboard

The scene outside Buckingham Palace reminded me of the opening minutes of ‘Gladiator’. With the cavalry in position, all that seemed missing were the catapults and bored-looking police were positioned every thirty yards along the road into Victoria, where I was meeting the editor for lunch, while President Bush had his cooked for him by kitchen Goddess, Nigella Lawson in Downing Street.

Observing this rather extreme example of perimeter defence from a computing perspective, I couldn’t help wondering if it had its equivalent ‘single point of failure’, the kind of weakness that Symantec CEO, John Thompson alluded to in his Comdex speech, “Day zero threats”, which exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities and which can strike without warning. A new phenomenon, Warhol attacks, likely to achieve their moment of fame by spreading across the Internet in fifteen minutes or "Flash" threats that might be able to blanket the Internet in as little as thirty s…
Children in Need

I should be filled with generosity of spirit at the thought of the BBC’s ‘Children in Need’ campaign but instead, I’m feeling irked.

After all, an unaccountable BBC collects billions from the population of the United Kingdom in a television tax and squanders it with a profligacy matched only by Government. Yet tonight, it will approach those same taxpayers and ask them to ‘donate’ more money in a good cause, in return for seeing BBC 'celebrities' making fools of themselves and auctioning their pens and underwear.

Here’s an equally valid suggestion. The BBC should donate 1% of the license money it spends on its more useless activities, management cultural awareness workshops, political correction classes, the BBC web site and the like and give the proceeds to charity. This enormous sum might actually equal what the kindhearted viewers may yet give it tonight.

Give Them Hell

With twenty minutes to spare before lunch in Victoria yesterday, I ambled along to Buckingham Palace to see what was happening.

When I arrived, it all rather reminded me of the opening scene from the film, ‘Gladiator’. All along Buckingham Palace Road, the police were stationed every thirty yards and all that was missing outside the palace gates was a catapult and Roman legionaries. What, I wondered is happening to the crime figures in South London, with all the police stationed in SW1?

I notice that the government’s foundation hospitals bill ‘squeaked’ through Parliament last night, saved only by Labour’s Scottish MPs who in turn, won’t be having the same hospitals on their doorstep. Once again and reminscent of ‘Gladiator’, Labour’s band of Pictish mercenaries emerge from the forests, shaking their fists at the rest of us.

Whatever happened to a sense of real democracy I ask? After all, why, in all reason, should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on important legislat…
Go or No SCO

I’ve been deliberately silent about the legal squabble between SCO (The Santa Cruz Operation) and just about everyone else other than Microsoft over Linux and who owns the rights to the code contained therein – Allegedly.

There are two very good reasons for this. The first being that the editor will, quite probably leave many of my comments ‘On the cutting room floor’ and the second being that litigation stories of this kind are the Computer Weekly equivalent of counting sheep at bedtime.

Not content to fight its corner against IBM, Red Hat and most of the Penguin-fancying world, SCO now plans to frustrate Novell's purchase of SuSE , alleging – that word again – that this would put it in violation of a much older non-competitive agreement, signed in 1995, between Novell and SCO as part of their UNIX System V software agreement.

At the time, Novell was casting around for answers, any answers to the looming inevitability of Windows NT, parked, like the Star Wars ‘Death …
The Golden Age of Movies - Not

Pinocchio meets Aliens” my wife called it but others know it as ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, over two hours of explosions and ‘Special FX’ thinly woven together with a feeble and politically correct plot and cast.

The first Matrix film was a burst of constant activity and entertainment and one could at least forgive the weaknesses in the story line but ‘Matrix Regurgitated’ is just, well, awful or at least I think so. “Like watching paint dry”, my wife again who disappeared off to talk to one of her friends for an hour on the phone in the kitchen.

Why didn’t the critics pan this movie? Perhaps because they are now part of the great Hollywood machine and there’s too much money in merchandising and movie rights involved. So many of today’s films or movies, depending on which side of the pond you live on, are fast to market rubbish aimed at the interest of a low IQ American audience. They only serve to illustrate the huge and constantly growing gulf between Ameri…
IT Phone Home

Somewhere, on a old PC, gathering dust in my attic, is a Microsoft Windows CE presentation from over five years ago, which shows how mobile computing will revolutionise our lives. This was of course in the days before the Palm and The Pocket PC but Microsoft, in conjunction with the Ford Motor Company, imagined that today’s Focus or Mondeo would have email and Outlook in as much an integrated part of the car’s entertainment system as the stereo and perhaps the mobile phone.

An in-car monopoly that didn’t quite happen, as mobile phones and PDAs became portable gadgetry and we found we no longer needed a separate and expensive mobile telephone number for the car.

Where driving is concerned, I rarely use the car, preferring my motorcycle and all the risks that go with it. No congestion charge, reliable parking and predictable appointment times. I also use my mobile phone, hands free of course and only to take calls, which invariably cause me to pull over because of the noise…
Nil Desperandum or Something Similar

I should have written a Computer Weekly column today but found myself putting it of until the evening.

Normally these things are reasonably spontaneous but tonight I can’t find a single creative thought, which is unusual but also might imply that there’s very little happening of real interest this week, beyond the possibility that the EU might ban Windows in Europe, which I can’t take seriously.

Is the Windows Media Player a product or a feature? You tell me. One is inextricably bound into Windows, like Internet Explorer and the other can be added and detached at will. Personally, I don’t really care, I rather like the Media Player and loathe the Real Player alternative which attaches itself to your system like an unwelcome parasite if you aren’t careful.

Does anybody else really care? The regulators and Microsoft’s rivals, I’m sure but for the rest of us, if it works well under Windows, that’s just dandy and it could be naïve if you listen to the a…
Yemen? Not Today Thank you

I reluctantly declined the UN's invitation to attend their eGovernment workshop in Sana'a, in the Republic of Yemen. The Foreign Office and the Embassy there advised me that it would be unwise to go unless absolutely necessary and when I asked the UN is they could guarantee my personal security on the visit - the not being shot at part - they sent back the following reply.

'The United Nations accepts no responsibility for the death, illness or injury of any consultant or participant in an advisory meeting which is not attributable to the performance of services on behalf of the United Nations'.

I think that means 'No', don't you?

A Few Good Men

Watching the movie 'A Few Good Men' on TV this evening is making me increasingly nervous as regards accepting the United Nation's invitation to visit the Yemen at the beginning of next month.

My host is the Yemeni Prime Minister and I'm delighted and flattered to have been invited over for this conference but the Foreign Office advisory, shown below suggests that it might not be wise and with the British Embassy operating a skeleton staff I'm wondering whether I should be offering to present myself as a potential Al Qaeda target of opportunity.

What do you think?

'There is reliable evidence that international terrorists are targeting western, including British interests in Yemen. We continue to judge that terrorist attacks against British individuals or organisations there are likely'.

'We therefore advise against all but the most essential travel to Yemen. British nationals visiting or resident in Yemen should consider whether their pres…
Leveraging Linux For Infrastructure Flexibility, Dependability And Savings

A Financial Services Briefing

Reliability. Security. A lower TCO. Such benefits have made Linux the world's fastest growing operating system. As Linux has moved beyond being an IT debate to become a business and strategic decision, are you looking for a way to explore the benefits of Linux in your IT environment without jumping in blind?

On the morning of 10th December in the magnificent Drapers' Hall, a Financial Times Business Briefing (in partnership with "The Banker" magazine) will give a clear understanding of what is happening with Linux and Open Source in the UK financial services sector. The morning features FIVE insightful case studies from leading financial services organisations and suppliers (including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch) and a Panel Session chaired by Dr. Simon Moores, widely recognised as one of the UK's most respected technology columnists and broad…
Granita or Grappo

Dinner with Alan Mather – eGovernment’s answer to Karl Marx - and his friends at Giardinetto, a splendid little restaurant in Charlotte Street. I was reminded a little of Hemingway’s novel, ‘A Moveable Feast’, dinner parties in the Paris of the twenties and the setting of the world to rights with the literary icons of the time, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby – Ezra Pound and others enjoying the wine and conversation.

In our case, it was a little different and it was not great literature or even icons but the challenge of eGovernment and the process of public sector reform that took the conversation late into the evening over some very good Italian wine.

Did we reach any stunning conclusions? I’m not sure I can remember clearly after sharing a bottle of what may have been 100% proof pear liqueur. If there are any new, bold and great ideas, short of starting a revolution, the compulsory wiring of pensioners for Broadband or shooting the occasional Minis…
Trust is the strongest weapon of all

Microsoft is leaving no stone unturned in its Trustworthy Computing initiative as it searches for ways to fight viruses and hackers. But its biggest battle is to win over cash-strapped organisations this side of the pond.

The RSA Security Conference in Amsterdam this year saw Microsoft making a powerful effort to display its European credentials around privacy, PKI and information security strategy in general.

Microsoft has been working very hard to ensure that its software meets the approval of the regulators in Brussels, and PKI in Windows 2003 is just one example of how it is attempting to provide the standards framework, in this case, digital signatures, that support the EU’s plans for a more joined-up and e-capable Europe.

Detlef Eckert, Microsoft’s director of Trustworthy Computing for EMEA, conceded that much greater trust, in the computing sense, was needed to bring ICT to the next level.

Tomorrow’s joined-up government," says Eckert, …
Power Cut

South London or at least my small part of it was plunged into darkness this evening as I sat in front of my PC. You forget what complete darkness is like in the age of the electric light bulb.

I had to grope my way downstairs to the bedroom and feel around under the bed for the emergency torch. Without it, there would have been absolutely nothing I could do in the house until the power returned.

Only 'Fluffy' the Hamster in her running wheel, was seemingly unaffected by the crisis, as thankfully were both my laptops, which carried on quite happily under battery power.

What's this got to do with technology? Very little other than a comment on our dependance on electricity and if all else fails perhaps, create a small dynamo to power my PC from Fluffy and her wheel.

Confessions of a Post Industrial Luddite

I should have been working but this afternoon I managed to escape briefly into the air on the way to my new home in Kent this afternoon.

It’s difficult to recall an autumn with colours as rich as this one. Today was quite remarkable and reminded me of the fall in Maine, the same vivid red and yellow hues and the harsh, November sunlight ,that I found so attractive in North America a quarter of a century ago.

Climbing out over the Kent coast at Herne Bay, there was a fine mist clinging to the hills to the west towards Ashford and a noticeable inversion layer, like rich cream on the top of an Irish coffee, which forced me up higher, to three thousand feet in order to maintain horizontal visibility as I turned towards Canterbury.

Below me, the gilding on the cathedral was reflecting the low afternoon sunlight and a little further on, the ferries were busy coming and going out of Dover but of France, there was no sign, lost in an impenetrable bank o…
Marbles - As in Losing Them

I can't find my Cisco wireless network card, which means I can't use my wireless network. I last saw it on Sunday evening as I was packing for the RSA conference but haven't seen it since. As I happen to have the door card for the Amsterdam Hilton, I rather did wonder if I handed my wireless card back to reception instead but it's not likely and I don't think I'm quite that senile yet.

I sat down with Tony Neate from the NHTCU at the conference and showed him what I discovered over the weekend. This site has been 'hijacked' by a UK sex site. I won't give you the name but it seems that this 'Blog' is popular enough now for others to try and leverage-off its Google rating, which you might think of as a compliment until you see where it leads sometimes.

So a search doesn't always bring you here and instead, it might lead you somewhere else, where the pictures are far more interesting than anything I can offer. Ver…
Remember Remember the 5th November

I'm in danger of losing Wednesday, which is blurring rapidly as I run out of daylight.

Last night, I managed to catch the 17:30 flight to Heathrow from Amsterdam and was at the Unisys press party by 18:20, thanks to the time difference, the M4 bus lane and my motorcycle, which was parked outside Terminal One.

I may be approaching my ‘sell-by-date’, as two of the young analysts from Ovum didn’t know who I was, which surprised not so much from the perspective of a damaged ego but rather from that of wondering what on earth they read, if at all, in the IT press, as I’m quite prolific or maybe, I’m just imagining I am.

A long discussion with my Unisys friends over roast chestnuts, baked potatoes and a fireworks display, persuaded me, for the moment at least, that being the smallest player services and hardware in a playground of giants, such as Hewlett Packard and IBM, might not be such a bad thing in the industry’s present circumstances. Under Larry …
Blowing Smoke

How a Microsoft security briefing and belly-dancing fit together is a struggle, even for my imagination but following the Microsoft analyst and press security briefing at RSA in Amsterdam, yesterday even, we were all ‘bussed’, to a middle-eastern restaurant in the heart of the city, complete with waiters dressed as Bedouin and of course, the obligatory belly dancer, a large girl by any standards of the imagination.

Ultimately, I had to be dragged away from a shisha pipe, the only person on my table prepared to indulge and perhaps disappointingly for some of the other journalists around me, it had no local and legal additives, just plain tobacco.

One question I tried to ask yesterday was “Is Microsoft in the business of security or in the security business” but Mike Nash cleverly wriggled out from making any other answer than “Both of these”. Personally, I don’t believe that Microsoft can sit on the fence like this as, in my mind; it is increasingly becoming a security pr…
Hard Rain Falls

I’m not normally a nervous flyer but arriving in Amsterdam in the same gale and lashing rain which almost blew me off my motorcycle, had me suffering an anxiety attack as the British Midlands pilot struggled against the elements on a roller-coaster ride, instrument approach into Schipol airport.

The flight attendants were having a noisy Tupperware party in the rear of the aircraft and I could clearly hear them swapping boyfriend jokes and advice on buying kneepads, as the aircraft descended into the huge cauliflower-shaped nimbus clouds. I guessed from experience what was coming next as the clouds reached out to touch the descending jet, and sure enough, the aircraft shuddered violently as it came within reach of the weather.

On the final approach, watching the wings swaying up and down and listening to the changes in engine noise as the pilot applied power as he attempted to remain lined-up with the runway, the girls in the back were oblivious to the battle between te…
A Bad Case of Wind

The most diabolical driving conditions that I have experienced in a very long time.

The chap at the petrol pump leaned over and commenting on my motorcycle, said “I’ve got an ordinary 1150 and it’s frightening in the wind

"The aerodynamic of a brick", I said, knowing exactly what he meant.

In my case, it’s an 1150 GS 'Adventurer', a huge BMW ''Enduro', with a larger tank and big side aluminium side-panniers. The GS1150 is one of those machines that you on if you want to pop-out to Timbuktu for a swift pint. Nothing gets in its way, deserts, mountains or even the congestion charge but it doesn't like wet roads much, if like me, you haven't got ABS fitted.

So while the rain gave the world a bleak washed-out look, the rising wind was also looking as if it was going to present me with a serious problem, with a hundred mile ride ahead, back in to London.

I was right. Within, ten miles, I was seriously thinking of turning around as th…
The Republic of Thanet

I’m attempting to smoke the huge Churchill cigar the Director General of the Interior Ministry gave me in Kuwait two weeks ago. For a while now I’ve been gazing at it wistfully, much like a dog looking at a rather handsome bone but best smoke it now before it loses it’s texture, although I feel guilty over setting light to the equivalent of a $20 bill, which would keep the family of the Cuban who rolled it comfortably in groceries for a week.

The late afternoon has turned-out clear and bright, ideal flying weather, except for the fact that the wind is gusting across the runway. It’s dropping now as the first November sunset approaches but too late for a later afternoon run along the coast to Broadstairs.

Yesterday, on an impulse, I dropped into the offices of the local paper, The Thanet Gazette, in Margate. I introduced myself, realising that they didn’t know me from Adam and offered to write the occasional column for them for nothing. I might call it ‘The Thanet…