Skip to main content
Dulce et Decorum Est

Now would be a good time.

I’m referring to Windows XP, Service Pack-2 (SP2). The promise of a more secure and resilient update to the Operating System has been in the proverbial post for some months now and I, for one, could do with a copy.

I now have so many Windows updates and patches on my primary HP, laptop that I’m starting to worry about its overall stability. This particular model was rebuilt once by Microsoft prior to the installation of Windows SP1 and today, I would guess that it needs rebooting at least three times each week when applications, Outlook, Word and Internet Explorer freeze for some unknown reason. Re-starting the laptop can take as long as ten minutes, by the time everything is re-loaded and work can begin again and although I can’t point the finger of blame in any single direction, I suspect that my layers of content security protection are a major factor in creating a ‘flaky’ Personal Computer.



But what can one do? Without anti-virus and anti-spyware tools surrounding your Windows installation, one might as well, to quote Captain Blackadder, “Be sitting in the middle of no-mans land at night, smoking a cigarette and wearing a luminous balaclava”.

To the rescue comes Windows XP SP2, which if you recall, is a service pack that will contain a number of features and fixes. Security, such as the Windows firewall is now a default and there is a new browser, greater e-mail protection and better memory handling. Presently, SP2 is in Beta testing but much like the handover of power in Iraq, it was widely predicted to appear by the end of this month.

Several sources are now saying that Microsoft may have discovered application compatibility problems that could delay the Service Pack and it is this question-mark over compatibility that makes people like me a little nervous. Microsoft is facing a huge challenge in ensuring that SP2 doesn’t break customer applications but there is only so much in the way of rigorous testing that the company can perform. Put another way, there has never been, to my knowledge, a perfectly robust Service Pack of anything I can remember and at TechEd, the company reportedly admitted that strengthening the security of Internet Explorer, which include a number of changes, including the addition of a pop-up blocker and more granular MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, has had an adverse impact on line-of-business application capability, which is hardly encouraging. The Firewall could present another problem, as it is now turned-on by default in SP2 and configuring applications individually to avoid being blocked is an unappealing scenario.

What we will get when SP2 eventually surfaces, is a more flexible, robust and secure version of Windows XP and this is worth a ripple of welcoming applause. However, I don’t much like hearing that “The time to test and implement SP2 is higher than a typical service pack”, even if the cost to patch code exploits one-by-one is "likely to be greater" than the cost of implementation of SP2.

For most of us this means that we’re trapped between “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and Microsoft’s next big push in its Trustworthy Computing campaign, which once again, takes us back to that lonely spot in no-man’s land, a cigarette and a free luminous balaclava.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …