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Showing posts from December, 2003
Countdown to 2004
Almost Spanish sunshine and banks of British fog. That's the view from the Kent coast today. I had hoped for a New Year's Eve flight to somewhere interesting but I can't actually find my aircraft in the fog. A mile away one needs dark glasses it's so bright.

The last evening of indulgence looms and then it's all over for another year. Having downsized to the coast, I must admit there are certain benefits in living outside the city although I do miss Starbucks and have had to make do with a Krup coffee machine in the kitchen. The only problem is that the dog keeps asking me to walk her on the beach and the temptation to interrupt my work and go and admire the view is a strong one.
Anyway, a Happy & Prosperous New Year to everyone and perhaps 2004 will be the year that the British public finally stands-up to its government and declares it's had enough of Gordon Brown and Tony's imaginary WMDs. I doubt it though, as each year passed our indi…
Safe as The Bank of England
An email scam is responsible for messages apparently originating from the Bank of England which invites the recipient to download an attachment as an antidote against keylogging software.
In the past few months, a rash of emails posing as correspondence from some of the world's biggest banks have flowed into various email inboxes. The scams have been reported in Britain, the US and Australia, to name a few. British banks have been particularly hard hit this fall with more than a half-dozen, including Barclays, Lloyds, The Halifax, TSB and NatWest, posting warnings to customers that they have been the target of fraudsters.

With the Bank of England name behind it, it's certainly one of the stories of the day and I've just recorded a Radio 4 interview attempting to explain what it means to the man in the street and why it's important.
Apparently the Bank of England domain has had over 100,000 returns which suggests that in many cases, Internet se…
The Fantasy & Reality of 2004
A Wired News feature which collects the 2004 'wish-lists' of well-known experts is a 'must read'. Here are three excerpts.
Simon Davies, director of Privacy International:
"I wish everyone would become more aggressive about protecting their civil liberties in 2004.

"What probably will happen is that government will continue to lie and manipulate in a determined effort to confuse imagery and reality. Government has become a master of deception. It has set out to compromise the fragile freedoms that remain, while at the same time providing agencies with a constantly expanding spectrum of powers. Public officials proclaim their support for individual rights and privacy while silently engineering their demise. I do hope people can learn to become angry about this trend."
George Smith, virus researcher and senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.Org a defense affairs think tank:
"I wish people would treat regular virus frenzies li…
My God - It's Alive
It works.... RSS that is.
Today, I downloaded Newz Crawler and started experimenting with RSS feeds, the first of which was Alan Mather's 'eGovernment@Large'. Not really understanding how RSS works, it was a matter of luck rather than judgement, which allowed me to add his Weblog to the list of newsfeeds being delivered to my PC. Actually, the Newz Crawler interface makes it quite easy.

So now, I can make up my own newspaper of sorts. the BBC, The Register, CNN, Reuters, ZDNet and hundreds if not thousands more if I want them, delivering the headlines to folders that look like the Outlook sidebar. I'm starting to wonder how I lived without Broadband and a wireless network at home and could be in danger of becoming a nerd, which for me, would be a fate worse than death.
The next step is to see whether 'BlogThis' from inside Newz Crawler automatically posts to my Zentelligence Weblog. Fingers crossed... here goes!
The Past, Present & Future of eCrime

Trying to predict the future of eCrime for February's eCrime Congress magazine, I was thinking back to the Science Fiction novel that may have started it all, William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' published in 1984.

"Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills"

Gibson has his own Weblog and it's worth a visit by those in search of profound comment on the shape of technology and its impact on humanity.

"We live in, have lived through, a strange time" says Gibson. "I know this because when I was a child, the flow of forgetting was relatively unimpeded. I know this because the dead were less of a constant presence, then. Because there was once no rewind button. Because the soldiers dying in the Somme were black and whit…
BBC Television License - No Place in a Modern Society

Let me make sure I have this right. In our so-called civilized society, each year, an average of forty women the majority single parents on income support - are jailed for non-payment of their BBC television license.

I'm appalled, even sickened that all of the countries in the world, only Britain demands a license to watch television and subsidizes the bloated existence of a single broadcaster, the BBC, the company responsible for a constant diet of sub-standard programming thinly disguised as entertainment and a channel I rarely watch in the interests of good taste.

Of course, if a diet of politically correct, left-wing propaganda and Australian soap operas, Kilroy, East Enders and Holby City is what you understand as television, then the BBC is for you. Then there's gardening and cooking or gardeners in helicopters or gardening chefs at antique auctions and maybe I forgot Nigella, or Jamie Oliver or Ainsley or the Antiques…
I Spy

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘S’” says my daughter.

“I give up”, I reply. “What is it”?

“Easy Daddy, a chandelier”

My thanks to friends Barrie and Marie Therese for sharing a bottle of good champagne with me before lunch today. I’ve spent most of the afternoon asleep, recovering, which rather explains the short entry in today's Blog and my lack of skill at I spy.

A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…
Internet Security, It's Catch 22

A summons from the BBC World Service no less. They just alerted me to the fact that one of my comments, "Catch-22", on the risks of Internet security over the Christmas period is in The Independent newspaper today. Unable to join the 'beeb' for a shopping expedition in the Tottenham Court Road, the next best thing I can offer them is a 5'O'Clock radio interview from their Radio Kent studio, hidden behind the reception at Margate hospital

So it's Christmas Eve and I have a mini webcam installed on the desk in front of me. In theory, I want to test whether I can stream voice and video through Microsoft’s Instant Messenger but in practise, nobody I know, appears to be online and I cannot seem to get it running between the two laptops on my house wireless network.

The Webcam hosting service being offered with the camera by Logitek appears to have gone out of business. Instead, there’s an offer from a company based in the N…
A Fishy Story

No snow yet but the bitterly cold North wind made it impossible to reach the seafront in front of my house today. More accurately with the tide in this morning and waves pounding over the promenade, there was nowhere to go and the sea was as rough as I’ve ever seen it here, with giant waves breaking on the submerged sands several miles offshore.

Everyone appears to have given-up early for Christmas. A few more virtual cards and a lot more ‘out-of-office agents’ appearing in my inbox. Me, I’m faced with the prospect of having to drive up to the London house tomorrow to feed my daughter’s fish. A two hundred mile round trip to keep three small Goldfish going must seem crazy and it is but I feel a responsibility to them and it wouldn’t be right to neglect them or any other creature one takes into one’s home. Dogs, Hamsters, Goldfish, you name them.

Next up is a rabbit says my daughter but I’m trying to avoid that as long as possible!

Bonfire of the Vanities

Call it a retrospective if you like, I am wondering where the ‘e’ in government has worked for me in 2003 and I’m casting my mind back on the old year for evidence of a smooth and painless experience. But I can’t find one.

Together with my Christmas cards – am I allowed to call them that anymore? – is a reprimand from the VAT office. My quarterly payment was six days late and my knuckles are being firmly rapped.

If you look back to an earlier column, you will find me telling you I’m receiving red warning letters from the VAT man because the system can’t yet cope with my habit of paying electronically and on time. In December, I took the advice of my local VAT inspector and instructed Barclays Bank to issue a transfer on the 3rd December, three days before the VAT payment deadline. This proved to have been a bad idea. Barclays might have debited my account immediately but it took another six days to credit the funds to Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, because a …

The Hampton Court ghost. Certainly the video looks interesting as the alleged phantasm throws open the palace fire doors but I do find it utterly farcical that so called ‘experts’ in 'newspapers' like the Sun, speculate that it might be the wandering ghost of Henry VIII.

Take a good look at the photo. Even the most historically challenged expert should be able to spot that it looks nothing like big bad King Henry and the costume said ghost is wearing is more Jacobean than Tudor in style. My own uneducated guess, looking at the ghostly collar, is around the time of James I to Charles I but who am I to say.

Is it real in the figurative sense? It would be fascinating if it was something inexplicable and not simply a prank but today, it’s impossible to say what might be real and what isn’t.

Last night I watched a BBC documentary programme on the science and theory of time travel. One of its conclusions was that given the advance of Moore’s Law, the infinitely powerful compute…
Air Mobile

The last Friday before Christmas and my small daughter, in celebratory mood, has sprayed perfume over our equally small Yorkshire terrier, who is far from amused.

Yesterday, the two of us, my daughter, not the terrier, made a quick mercy flight to Toys R Us at Rochester. I packed her silver ‘Super Scooter’ in the back of the aircraft, with the result that she quickly discovered that the smoothly polished floors of both PC World and Toys R Us are perfect for the serious business of high-speed scooting between the aisles.

I hadn’t bargained on the weight of booty that was picked-out with her grandparent's Christmas money and I did rather wonder if the runway was going to be long enough for the aircraft to leave the ground with all the extra luggage. In the end however, with ten degrees of flap, we managed to wallow off the wet grass at the end of Rochester’s runway 16, which drops away vertically to the M2 motorway at the bottom of the Medway valley as a reminder to anyon…
A Matter of Choice

It was a chance comment that set me thinking. A well-placed friend of mine in the information security business remarked that once Microsoft started to rollout its own anti-virus solutions, the line of new anti-trust litigants would bring Washington traffic to a standstill.

You’ll remember that Microsoft bought the Romanian anti-virus vendor, GeCAD in the summer as part of its continued Trustworthy Computing drive. At the time, there were quiet murmurs of concern from some voices but the industry mostly pulled together and supported the move. The principal anti-virus shops appeared unruffled and talked bravely about value-add services and how no single vendor, including Microsoft had a universal solution to the information security problem that faces us today.

So the big picture, rather like the presence of a modest firewall in Windows XP, seems to be one where Microsoft delivers software which is, as the mantra goes, is ‘Secure by design, secure by default and secu…
Wright Flyer - 100 Years On

I guess that about this time, one hundred years ago, history was made at Kittyhawk which a short hop off the ground which took man to the moon in three generations.

With the weather so brilliant today, I celebrated the event with a short flight around the Kent coast, taking for granted almost, how easy it is to fly in a world where aviation is up there with trains and buses.

"It's a hundred years since man first flew", I told my daughter. "Why don't you come with me"?
"I'd rather watch the cartoon channel", she replied.

There's a very old photograph taken almost a hundred years ago, 1913 actually, with my grandmother outside in the garden beyond my windows, standing next to an original pre First World War 'Stringbag' biplane.

At the time, she was almost the same age as my daughter. How times have changed. The garden outside was rather larger and big enough to accomodate an aircraft and it would be another…

Bitterly cold on the coast today. The north wind is blowing uninterrupted from the arctic and bouncing off my double glazing.

A new washing machine was installed this afternoon but it appears that the fitters failed to tighten the connection to the mains water supply properly, with the result that water has now flooded the kitchen and the new wooden floor laid only last week. Unfortunately Barretts in Canterbury can't find their two men, who have switched off their mobile phones and gone home after this last job of the day, leaving us in a mess that can't be rectified until tomorrow, the day that the Sky installers, you know, the one's who aren't allowed to climb ladders, are due to return, after disappearing off the job suddenly last week.

It could be worse I suppose. One of our friends also had a new kitchen fitted this month and the same thing happened, except they didn't notice until the morning, when they found the ground floor of their house under six in…
Wireless & Wonderful

It’s a miracle. Well almost. I’ve got the Broadband connection out of the house working but with one small problem. I can’t for the life of me work out how to turn on wireless encryption without dropping the wireless connection.

It should be simple, select WEP and pop-in the key and in theory, it should work seamlessly but it doesn’t, leaving me, as someone who lectures everyone else on the importance of good wireless network security, looking a little silly and of course open to any drive-by hacker, which is a little unlikely, unless he’s walking his dog on the beach or sitting on board the small ship which has anchored offshore for the evening.

It does illustrate the problem though. Security should be seamless, transparent and above all simple and it’s not. Simply installing the wireless router properly has taken me four hours and three different telephone calls, the first one pointing out that I have to write the name of the router before the SSID code and …
I Told You I was Ill
Spike Milligan

Acutely hacked-off, that’s me. I have the flu or whatever it’s called and have spent a week going steadily downhill until I found my way into the doctor’s surgery along with all the other consumptives this afternoon.

This particular strain is one of the nastiest I have had in a couple of years and what’s more frustrating, is that with Christmas just around the corner, I’ve done zero shopping and have fallen behind with work and the office / house move as a consequence of being ill. Moving home and Christmas are incompatible and trying to get the new wireless ADSL, connection working is even worse.

BT are supposed to have switched me on from the exchange, at least in theory, according to my ISP but my router is showing ‘idle’, which leaves me wondering whether I’ve completely cocked-up the IP configuration or the simpler and more plausible explanation, BT haven’t thrown the switch yet.

We were supposed to have had Sky Digital reinstalled at the house o…
A Gathering of Eagles

With a little over two months remaining before the big names in information security and digital law-enforcement descend on London for the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit’s (NHTCU) 2004 eCrime Congress, there comes a warning that organised crime is increasing its efforts to find new and interesting ways of leveraging Europe’s increasingly Broadband society.

According to Sophos, the increasing use of broadband Internet connections and a general lack of security awareness have resulted in around one in three spam emails being redirected through the computers of unsuspecting users. One third of all spam circulating the Web is now relayed through PCs that have been compromised by Remote Access Trojans and last week, Eugene Kapersky, co-founder of Kapersky Lab and head of its antivirus research, warned that organised crime is gravitating online into spam and virus writing and pointed at the latest MiMail worms as the first in a new type of exploit aimed at deriving financi…
Le Fog - C'est Magnifique

With the weather so perfect, I decided that I would take advantage of the clear spell and make that shopping trip to France this morning.

I checked the weather on the Met Office aviation website, printed out my flight plan and then headed off down the road to find my aircraft.

There was still frost on the ground when I arrived at the farm twenty minutes later and I fussed around with the pre-flight checks, faxed my flight plan to Le Touquet to Heathrow and the customs form to the excise men.

Before taking-off, I could see that the hills towards Dover were looking milky but that isn’t unusual, so once off the grass, I started my climb to three thousand feet and a panoramic view of the English Channel beyond.

Le Touquet’s ATIS (automated information frequency) was giving five miles visibility, 2,500 feet and an overcast, a complete contrast with the English side of the Channel in fierce winter sunshine but as I coasted out over Dover, I couldn’t see the Fre…
Vive La France

Champagne, it seems, is now cheaper in Somerfield supermarkets than it is in France.

My friend Barrie and his wife Marie Therese dropped in yesterday on their way home from a day trip to Calais to stock-up for Christmas and recommended a quick visit while stocks last, Somerfield that is and not Calais, Mind you, the latter is reportedly clogged with white vans from the rest of the UK buying up anything faintly alcoholic or smokable.

One advantage of living on the Kent coast is that France is so very close and accessible at £10 per person and car for a day trip on the ferry. Today was ideal for a visit, perfect anything weather and instead of hopping over the channel, which I need to do soon, I flew over to Headcorn to pick-up fuel as the Avgas pump at Maypole, where I am parked, is temporarily out of service and I had very little left in my wing tanks.

Headcorn, possibly the only airfield in the country where your landing fee buys you a frozen lamb, is starting to show…
Moores and the Mac

I’ve been neglecting this journal over the last two weeks. Moving house and office simultaneously is my excuse; living a life surrounded by overflowing cardboard boxes.

The other problem with moving is I keep losing things. I know they’re somewhere but in which box and in which room? At least the IT is working and in a week or so, I’ll have Broadband turned on and the fun of seeing if the new wireless router that’s been delivered works.

Apple Computer have very kindly offered to lend me an iMac, so I can describe the experience and whether I find using an Apple Computer an improvement on using a PC with Windows XP on board. I Still have an older Apple Powerbook 3400 which keeps on going so I’ll be interested to see if the new machines with the UNIX based Operating system are more reliable, they’re certainly sexier and that really sums-up Apple in the minds of many, an aspirational lifestyle or designer device, like Harley Davidson motorcycles or Breitling watches.…
The March of Penguins

As the New Year approaches, columnists and analysts invariably dust-off their crystal balls and indulge in the industry’s long tradition of fortune telling. I’m no different, although making predictions becomes easier as a sense of certainty creeps back into IT after a long absence.

Last year, I warned you that Linux would become a hot technology, which is normally a safe bet, as the temperature of the Open Source market has been increasing quarter on quarter since 2000 and server revenues have grown by over 50% year-on-year.

2003 was however, the first year that Microsoft started to feel real pain from the growth of Open Source computing and although in relative terms, Linux shipments remain modest in contrast with Windows, Microsoft is starting to resemble the old Soviet Union in the face of the rise of a penguin-powered ‘Perestroika’.

The coming year will see an acceleration in the migration process from Windows NT and the remaining Netware base of around four …

One problem from operating from a wet grass field in winter is that the propeller sprays the mud splatter kicked-up by the aircraft wheels all over the tail plane. Great, what a mess!

Though I would escape for a quick thirty minutes over the coast this afternoon, and spotted grey seals lying on the huge kidney-shaped 'Tongue Sands' off Margate; you don’t see these very often.

Still much too warm for December, butterflies and bees still around. God only knows how hot the summer of 2004 will be if the temperature continues to climb as it has done over the last two years.

I finally ordered Broadband into the new house today from Nildram Internet, plus a wireless router for security as much as connectivity. I’ll be interested to see how seamlessly the new online experience will be when BT switch me on next week.