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Showing posts from January, 2004
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Prophet of Doom

Forget Bagle. The first month of 2004 is hardly over and already; we have seen the first ‘Big One’ of what is likely to be many more to come. MyDoom, allegedly originated from “The Dark Side” of the Linux community with a grudge to settle against SCO but a second variant is going after Microsoft as part of a distributed denial of service DDoS attack from a PC near you.



MyDoom is nastier than most, following a trend, which becomes increasingly more malevolent as months pass. Infected computers become potential ‘zombies’ which can allows malicious hackers to secretly install a Trojan horse program, key logging software or simply explore files. Attackers just have to connect to the open port and upload spyware or any other program they might wish to.

Last year’s curse, Blaster “Is believed to have spread to hundreds of thousands of systems and while most businesses have cleaned up the worm, Microsoft has found that a large number of home users are still unknowingly infec…
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I'm Doomed

It's a blizzard. Both inside and outside.

The MyDoom virus is the worst yet and has made work impossible. I'm receiving hundreds of copies of the virus and have been forced to unplug from DSL connection to make any PC work possible. Otherwise, the Norton Anti-virus warning keeps appearing.

On the other side of the windows, I made it home just as the snow blizzard was starting. A bad night outside and not so great if you happen to be trying to catch up with your email, which is hidden among all the virus copies.

How much worse can the Internet experience become in 2004 I wonder? Good luck to the rest of you, I'm giving up and going to find confort in the Scotch bottle!

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Je Souviens

Columnists like elephants, never forget, even when the passing years dull the memories.

“Then”, said Shakespeare,” Must you speak of one who loved not wisely but too well”

Happy Birthday..!


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Rejoice

Perhaps we should perhaps be celebrating the news that Bill Gates is to be awarded a Knighthood. Once upon a time this involved showing some talent with a sword but today it's the software that counts most.

BBC Radio 5 has called and asked if I might be interested in acting as counsel for the prosecution in a radio show to discuss Bill’s contributions to the life, the universe and everything else but my having moved to the very edge of the known world, here on the outskirts of Margate, may present a problem.

Honestly Gordon
Such rubbish and from the Iron Chancellor too.

"In his speech, Mr Brown said more "low value" jobs will be "Moved offshore" in the years ahead, to countries like China and India, and Britain's future lay in "high value added, high tech" products and services. "The price of failure is not a long period of slow decline but sectors going under altogether," he warned".

This rather begs the question, "What high-value jobs did you have in mind Gordon"? Before this Government arrived you certainly never had one and I doubt that you have any idea where they are going to appear from in future either"?
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The Devil & The Big Blue Sea

In case you didn’t know, the true reason behind Bill Gates visit to London wasn’t the meeting with Chancellor Gordon Brown or even a Microsoft developers conference but an allegedly important briefing on personal development from Golden Globe winning comedian Ricky Gervais – otherwise known as David Brent - star of the popular Sitcom, ‘The Office’ and its forthcoming sequel, The Office 2004.



In search of further comic relief Mr Gates, soon to be Microsoft's 'First Knight', was scheduled to attend, the Chancellor’s ‘Entrepreneurs Summit’ and meet with the OGC’s Sir Peter Gershon and the NHS’s Richard Grainger.

At this point, the smiles may fade a little because both the OGC and the NHS are pursuing a vigorous form of collective bargaining that might defeat even David Brent. Many in government perceive Microsoft’s products as over-sexed, over-priced and over here and at the end of last year, I received a call from one well-connected individual…
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Experience Over Optimism
The lemon balm tea must be working. I managed to read the Sunday Times and its public-sector appointments section this morning without a noticeable rise in blood pressure.Richard Littlejohn has been making acid remarks over public sector salaries for some time on his television programme but reading through the pages, I find it hard to balance six figure salaries against the role described. In fact, I've decided to approach my local county council and offer to do the job involved for half the advertised salary on a consultancy basis and no, it's not 'Smoking Cessation Officer' or 'Political Correctness Supervisor' either.



Outside, it's a stunning day and I decided to have another attempt at flying this morning. Ian, the pilot of the other Cessna 150 on the field, thought that the ground might have drained sufficiently so he had a go and managed to leave the ground, only just but radioed back that it was still very 'boggy'. I w…
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The Slough of Despond

The winter sunshine is bright enough to force a permanent squint, even with my sunglasses on. A perfect day to go flying I thought but at the same time, I wondered how the grass runway at Maypole had stood up to a week's rain.

The answer is that it hasn't, as I discovered as I sank up to the tops of my boots in muddy water. One other optimistic pilot had taken off this morning but the marsh-like conditions leave very little room for error and the last thing I want is to find myself diving into a swamp when I should be climbing into the air.



I'm going to have to wait until it dries out, which could be weeks at this time of year. Meanwhile, several small helicopters from Manston are flitting around in the sunshine overhead;like large dragonflies, rubbing-in the fact that I'm grounded until the end of the rainy season here in Kent.

I hate helicopters.
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In the Small Print

Heard yesterday.

"You know, if you play a Windows XP installation CDROM backwards, you hear a message from Satan. Even worse... if you play it forwards, it installs Windows XP."





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Meet Fluffy

Here, on the very edge of the known world, The Isle of Thanet, it’s a particularly wet Thursday and I’ve decided that my WebCam was a complete waste of money. Nobody I know appears to be using a recent enough version of MSN Messenger to see the picture it transmits and prove to me that its working properly.

I'm not entirely sure why I need a WebCam anyway, other than that they were on sale at PC World when I was last there. I’m tempted to point it a my daughter’s Hamster cage and create the world’s first ‘HamsterCam’ as a healthier alternative to a world crammed with ‘pay-per-view’, ‘Teencam’ strippers allegedly working their way through college but then I remembered the Pet Shop Boys.

Meet Fluffy

I’m not convinced that anyone is quite ready to pay to view a 24*7 HamsterCam. What do you think?


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The Dunkirk Spirit

The last twelve months may have revealed some uncomfortable gaps in our critical national infrastructure (CNI) that is if you accept that the Internet is part of the package.

Sobig, you may remember played havoc with the BT network and few Internet Service Providers remained working at full capacity as they fended-off one attack after another in the late summer. “We were a little more prepared than BT”, says my own ISP, “But it certainly slowed down our network”.


They hadn't patched....!

These were however, nuisance incidents and business tottered-on, even though many, my own included, had to resort to using a dial-up account when broadband access disappeared for hours at a time.

This year, it may happen again and I doubt many Computer Weekly readers are prepared to bet that 2004 will be a more incident-free year than 2003. As each month passes, the Internet becomes more mission critical to the interests of the nation and I wonder if government are really giving…
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Moleskinerie

Amazing, there's even a Weblog devoted to the Moleskine notebook, Moleskinerie





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Civius Altius Forteus

Having spent the day in London there’s not a moment of regret over giving up the big city and moving to the coast.

What I find amusing is the suggestion that we could possibly host the Olympics in our refugee-packed, grid-locked untidy city. There’s a bold suggestion that the area in front of my old home, adjacent to the Wimbledon Tennis stadium could be developed for the games but hold on a moment. Wimbledon tennis is bad enough for local residents, two weeks of inconvenience and adding more on top of this would be crazy and to what purpose?

The Winning Throw - 2003 Swedish Elk Throwing Championships.

Let’s face it, London simply isn’t up to Olympic city status these days. Red Ken, our beloved Mayor has done little but create traffic chaos by adding a congestion charge and ‘traffic calming’ measures, speed bumps and traffic lights. The Underground is best not mentioned in the summer and the cost of living is horrendous.

We’ve had the Millennium Dome so do we rea…
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Keep on Truckin

There’s a fierce January gale lashing the rain against my window. The Sun set an hour ago and it wasn’t much before then that I was flying back from Lydd, having wandered over from the North Kent coast to pick up fuel and a bacon sandwich and practise landing on a hard runway, a luxury in the muddy grass farm strip season.



In fact, it took almost half an hour to hose the layer of mud from the aircraft, as the propeller had ‘air brushed’ the splashes under the wings and tail plane. That’s the problem with this time of year, when you can go flying, the weather is unpredictable and simply ungluing oneself before the end of the runway can be an interesting challenge like today, when with a crosswind extending the takeoff run, I rotated just as I reached the abort point.

I’ve recently discovered the benefits of Lemon Balm, making a tea from it is best. I had seen the BBC raving about its benefits, better memory and lower stress and thought I’d give it a shot. The proof of i…
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Beam Me Up.

Like ‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Personal Firewall Day’, passed most of us by unnoticed. The campaign, an internet equivalent of a safe sex message, came from Microsoft and several leading security vendors as an initiative promoting the importance of firewall technology to computer users but it seemingly failed to capture the public’s imagination or interest.

On the same day, a meeting on tackling eCrime was being held in the shadow of Big Ben and I was hearing that the goal of a shared national e-crime strategy was still in the distance.

If I were to offer a jaded but independent view, I would say that it is all a very British mess. The notes I have in front of me say, “There is already significant debate on the relative priorities for law enforcement, given that their priorities are limited. Current priorities are focused on visible social issues, such as street crime on the one hand and major international criminal activity, such as drugs trafficking, on the other. White collar cr…
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Congratulations, it’s ‘Personal Firewall Day’

But outside a few magazines, nobody appears to have noticed.



Personal Firewall Day is the Internet equivalent of a public health initiative from Microsoft and others to promotes firewall technology to computer users, rather like safe sex in the constant battle against from online threats

It sounded like a good idea but unlike ‘Groundhog Day’, or even safe sex, apparently failed to capture the public’s imagination or interest.

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2004 eCrime Congress

Here's the latest eCrime Congress information flyer in PDF format - eCrime Congress Summary


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You Can Bank on It

If you’re a little worried about eating Scottish Salmon, then you’ve probably more reason to be concerned by another other type of ‘Phishing’ story which is on the increase, that of trying to hook bank account details from the unwary.



Last year saw a dramatic rise in the number of phishing attacks against banks and it’s increasingly hard to find a financial institution which hasn’t been targeted at least once. Phishing is of course an attempt to steal a user’s account information and this normally involves a redirection to a bogus website and frequently, an attempt to install some kind of spyware or key logger on the victim’s personal computer

My own bank, Barclays, has even taken the sensible step of changing its security to incorporate ‘drop down’ dialogue boxes, so rather than typing in my favourite password, I have to select the letters, one by one, to defeat the risk of someone in Riga or Romania capturing my keystrokes.

Most of us reading Computer Weekly ar…
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24 Carat Martyr

According to the Daily Telegraph, "The head of the Commission for Racial Equality has accused Robert Kilroy-Silk of posing as a "24-carat martyr" and called for him to issue an apology for his article in which he called Arabs "suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors".



I don't know about your opinions but I certainly believe the tide of political correctness in this country has reached disturbing proportions. Kilroy Silk may have been guilty of a gross exaggeration but I would draw people’s attention to the latest UNDP report on the Arab world, not as mitigation but to support the facts.

Furthermore, Kilroy Silk would have been more accurate if had described the issues in terms of Islamic fundamentalism, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan et al than simply making a sweeping generalism about the Arab world, which includes secular states such as Morocco, Egypt and Dubai.

None the less, people should be allowed to express opinions. After …
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Hop For the Day

One day, I’ll finally give up reading the Sunday papers. I start the morning demoralised by the constant diet of political correctness, sex, corruption, waste and war and that’s just the politics and policy of our Labour government without the world news, which is little different.

I turned my ankle running along the sea wall yesterday evening. For a moment, the pain was so great I wondered if I had broken it and how I would get home but managed to limp my way back towards the streetlights on the seafront. Tonight, I have to go to London but putting on my left motor cycle boot is going to be a challenge.



I’ve noticed that both my PC’s are becoming ‘flaky’ again. The one I’m writing this on had to check it’s file allocation table – FAT – on start-up, not a good sign with Windows XP as this can be a precursor to a catastrophic system crash, so I had better back up my vital files before I forget.

I’ve been using Norton’s SystemWorks to carry-out housekeeping on my computer…
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Overcast

A very grey start to the day here on the coast, so flying is out of the question, the real thing, although I plan to experiment and flight test the highly accurate B25 Mitchell simulation for Microsoft’s Flight Simulator from the Mid Atlantic Air Museum that arrived yesterday.



With just about everything on the simulated wartime bomber working in terms of flight control systems, one quite literally has to read the pilot’s handbook to fly it. I recall the very first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator when I started in this industry twenty years ago and each new version is closer to the real thing, at least in terms of the flight model. Your’e unlikely to bang your head against a strut in the real world, which is one reason, pilots wear caps. That extra six inches of peak acts as a collision warning.

I have an email in front of me from Professor Kozlovski of Yale University inviting me to submit a paper and attend an eCrime conference , 'Digital Cops' at the law schoo…
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Technocredulous – Not Me

It’s called technocredulity and it’s the new curse of the 21st century. Defined as ‘The mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, strength or validity of one technology over another’, it describes what happens when subjectivity becomes mixed-up with or confused with technology and produces the worst kind of kind of digital fundamentalism.



In reality, human nature remains the same as it has always been. Football replaced chariot racing and bear-baiting and where Windows quickly replaced IBM’s OS/2, Linux looks set to make 2004 its watershed year with both Microsoft and UNIX suffering as a consequence.

The challenge, if you happen to live in the decision-making world of IT is cutting through the expensive marketing fog that surrounds any platform in 2004, from the simple X-Box into the largest Datacenter. The computing world is neatly dividing itself into two camps where spin and propaganda have become as important as White Papers and column in…
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Strictly No Penguins Please

How was your Christmas people ask me. I can't remember, it seems so long ago now.

In fact, all I wanted was an Itheon Availability Manager but had to manage with a Linux-powered Cappuccino machine. There must be a Java pun hidden in there somewhere as well.



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Technocredulity - A New Expression in the World of Open Source Computing



The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in a technology: e.g. "My belief in Linux and Open Source over Microsoft's Windows is as strong as ever".

Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, strength or validity of one technology over another.

Something believed or accepted as true in a technological sense, especially a particular ideology tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

Technocredulity, an expression first used by Simon Moores in 2003 to describe the Ideological conflict between the Open Source community and Microsoft over Linux.


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The Penguin Goes 'Quack'
Today's recommendation is that you read John Naughton's retrospective for 2003 in The Observer Newspaper. I have been lucky enough to have stood in for John's column once of twice in the past but could never hope to match his talent as one of the industry's great storytellers. He writes:
" The most intriguing thing about 2003 was the glimpses it provided of how the transition from vendor-to-consumer-dominance will come about. The catalyst looks like being Open Source (ie, free) software - particularly the Linux operating system. The most significant event of the year in this context was the decision of the City of Munich to persist in switching its 14,000 PCs to Open Source software despite increasingly desperate discount offers from Microsoft. In the end, the Munich officials explained, the move to Open Source made sense even if it cost more than the Microsoft option, because it avoided the lock-in implicit in standardising on a pro…
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No Exit

I found myself using my Internet banking facility to pay my 'Tax on Account'. first thing this morning. Perhaps I was spurred by the threat of a £60 a day fine if my tax return doesn't arrive in time, even though my own was sent off month's ago.



Sitting down in front of my PC, I've been running an end of 2003 finances comparison with 2002. Believe me, you can see the tax creeping-up noticeably between the years, mostly due to the hike in National Insurance contributions. Then of course, there's the 'indirect taxation', speed cameras, Poll Tax and parking wardens but these aren't supposed to count but each one made its own dent in my bank account.

It struck me just now, that each one of us is really a prisoner of the state in the 21st century. What I mean is that I can no longer disappear off on some trip across a distant desert and then come back and settle with Government sensibly. No. If my car tax runs out and my car is off the road behind…
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Perhaps Even Snow?
Bitterly cold here by the sea in Kent. I braved it long enough to run along the sea wall for a couple of miles with a wooly hat and gloves. Remembering back to digging snow holes in the Royal Marines in what seems a lifetime ago, I think I've become fonder of my creature comforts. For some reason the water hadn't warmed-up in the shower when I arrived home, so I had to brave a blast of cold water which also reminded me of Commando training, the water obstacles at CTC Lympstone in the Winter.
- Winter Funtime
You crawl through gravel-filled, half submerged pipes on your hands and knees and then have to dive, wearing full battle-dress, under a culvert. One PT instructor pushes you in and another grabs you underwater from the other side and pulls you out again. If it's really cold, you have to break the ice first.
There was one day, I recall, when we saw a video of a place called the Falklands. "Anyone want to volunteer? If you like fishing it's a go…
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A New Year's Resolution
Don't fiddle. That's it.
I'm talking about downloading software or experimenting with one's PC configuration during the holiday. Six hours later, I have one of my laptops back to normal after foolishly downloading some files from a Flight Simulator website. I should have known better but something, not a virus, corrupted my WIndows registry and I've spent the better part of New Year's Day putting it right.

Another thing I discovered today, trying to finish a client report, is that Adobe's Acrobat 5 'Distiller' has problems with Office 2003. For some strange reason it won't carry embedded Weblinks across to the final PDF file and I've spent ages proving this on two separate PC in between trying out the solutions on the Microsoft and Adobe Web sites.
The answer if your'e interest is an expensive one. Buy a copy of Adobe 6.0, which seems an outrageously expensive way of getting it to work. The expression, 'Over a…
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Computer Security Predictions for 2004

Computerworld makes a series of predictions that are worth sharing.

In 2004, information security professionals will experience more of the darker side of human behavior, but organizations will also take more control over their network and computing infrastructures, particularly end-user systems.



R.a..n,d,ô.,m p,u,,ñ,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n

Spam operators are getting more creative in their efforts to get around spam filters. R.a..n,d,o.,m p,u,,n,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n makes it nearly impossible to block spam messages by filtering keywords. Operators are changing to graphics interchange format images with no searchable text. Some spammers send in encoded formats, like Base64, to circumvent keyword filters altogether, and relay through IP addresses that have no Domain Name System domains associated with them. These recent developments are challenging spam-filter vendors and frustrating users.

More organizations will quantify the productivity losses and pro…