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Showing posts from October, 2004
Europe, twenty-five secular states trapped between Islamic fundamentalism to the south and Christian fundamentalism to the west. 
New World Maybe – Brave Certainly Not

In a matter of days, we’ll know who the next President of the United States will be in an election that may be decided, once again, by the same electoral technology that awarded the post to the present incumbent.

Like me, I’m sure you can remember what you were doing when the two aircraft slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. In the relatively short period of time between then and now, we’ve seen the world change and not for the better. At the forefront we have witnessed the introductions of technologies of control, permissions-based architectures which have supposed to have made our lives more secure and which in fact have bought us closer, inch by inch to the kind of world that George Orwell imagined in his book 1984.

Biometrics, digital rights management, spyware, speed cameras and even concrete barriers, are all contributing to a world where our activities are increasingly restricted or monitored, in an attempt to protect the …
The Great British Fog

Perhaps one has to be a pilot to really appreciate the beauty of the English countryside, on a day like today, bathed in bright winter sunshine and patches of dense fog.

I had been on my way to Newcastle this morning but turned around when it became clear that the North East coast was fogged-in. Meanwhile, over Norfolk, the electricity pylons were peeping through the layers of ground fog that wrapped around them. Very pretty and I wish I had had my camera to hand.

Trains, don't you love them? The 8:29 to Victoria, was a good fifteen minutes late and at various times of the day, fiendishly planned to coincide with my movements, the Bakerloo, Central and Northern lines were experiencing difficulties. Covent Garden was so packed with people that unable to reach the lifts, I found myself climbing all 361 steps to street level, passing the bodies of several expired American tourists on the way. Finally, gasping for breath I reached daylight, realising that I'm not as fit as I like to think I am.
I'll pass on the Himalayas trip I think! 
Are Citrix's Linux Strategy and Microsoft's Bear Paw Strategy Related?

My Citrix strategy story kicked off a number of threads on the Web and one pointed to this very interesting piece by Brian Madden. He writes:

"In this editorial I’m going to suggest the possibility that Citrix’s Linux strategy and Microsoft’s Bear Paw strategy are related. Specifically, I wonder if this is a “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” scenario. I wonder if Microsoft’s decision to delay Bear Paw until the next platform release of Windows (probably 2007) is a “gift” to Citrix in return for Citrix choosing not to release a version of MetaFrame Presentation Server for Linux."
The Bill

The full impact of technology in the fight against crime only came to me recently, when I found myself making a 999 call from a windswept seafront in Kent.

A good kilometre from the centre of town, I was starting to despair over how long it was taking for the police operator to record my home address and position when she suddenly interjected, “I can see them now on the CCTV.” With my phone still pressed to my ear, I scanned around. Where on earth was the camera, I wondered, that could see this far? Two minutes later a police car arrived on the exact spot and seven youths with hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps were arrested but the incident left me thinking that the grip of the surveillance society extends further than I had imagined.

With a general election perhaps only six months away, all the political parties are expressing increasingly tougher messages on crime and its causes but none of them appear to have any real answers to crime on the streets and crime on the Inte…
Try Yelling for a Pizza

It's over a year since we saw the start of a series of bizarre 118 advertisements featuring two David Bedford look-alikes. This was a part of a campaign to capture a market valued at £300 million and the memories of a population that had spent much of their lives knowing, that 192 was the only number for directory enquiries. However, in August last year, thanks to the telecoms regulator, 192 ceased to exist and mass confusion reigned among subscribers, leading me to warn at the time, "The deregulation of any industry is invariably expressed in terms of opportunity but in this case, it is more likely to be defined by its failures than its successes."

With business calls to directory enquiry services (DQ) accounting for over 50% of the UK market, I had been carrying out research for Unisys among the new 118 DQ providers, attempting to identify the type of "Value-add"proposition they planned to introduce for business and which ranged from ab…
Winter Draws On

It's beginning to look as if the winter is settling in. I'm tempted to jump on my motorcycle and join the swallows going south for the winter. The only problem is that even if one could, that's having time-off from one's family for good behaviour, there's no running away from the taxman and the VAT man and any other statutory requirements that hang around one's neck running a business these days.

Even if every bill one has was on a Direct Debit, there's still the quarterly payments to the Scots Mafia gang that run the Treasury. Miss one and by God you'll know about it as I found out last year when Barclays took twelve days and not five to pay my VAT electronically, eGovernment you know, the only winners appear to be the clearing banks!

Anyway, Steve McQueen, in the film, The Great Escape, had more chance of getting away than I have. Perhaps I should dig a tunnel but it's been tried and it's blocked with Albanians coming under the …
Social Phishing Buddies Remember the 63 different social networks you signed up for, and then spammed all your friends about to make sure they signed up also? Well, now, people are realizing that with all this talk about phishing, the next line of phishing attacks may come via those social networks. Sure, you may have learned to be a bit skeptical concerning any email claiming to be from Citibank (the main target of phishing emails), but what if it appears to come from a friend, and even incorporates some information they've said about you or other accurate information about them? Maybe it isn't always such a good thing for everyone to know who all your friends are. [via Techdirt]
Back to Oman then!

I just stumbled across the news story below in The Times of fact it's one of the nicest countries to visit and many of the locals don't mind socialising over a couple of pints in the interest of building good international relations! I don't think Tony Neate realises that he's now head of the NHTCU though!

Conference to moot security benchmark for e-banking

Future Event, in association with Omantel and Scanit Middle East, is organising a two-day conference on banking, financial technology and security awareness in December this year, a press release said.

The conference (December 11-12) being held under the patronage of Hamood Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), will be an open forum for discussing the future banking and financial technology trends in the region, especially e-banking.

The meet is expected to moot the possibilities of establishing a regional security benchmark to which banks can subscri…
It’s Good to Talk

Ben Verwaayen, the Chief Executive of BT spoke at a Conservative Technology Forum event at London’s St Stephen’s Club last week. Addressing an audience of MPs, Shadow Technology Minister, Michael Fabricant and the leading IT vendors, he mixed words of encouragement for the UK, as Europe’s strongest economy, with a clear warning that we have to “Wake up” or risk falling behind countries such as India, which are successfully leveraging their cheap labour force and education system to create a knowledge economy to challenge our own.

“Two weeks ago”, said Verwaayen, “I was in India, visiting a couple of Bill Gates equivalents, both serious developers. India doesn’t have one Bill Gates”, said Verwaayen it has five. While India is a paradox with so many millions of people living without any contact with modern technology, it has double the amount of people, living at UK standards or above “In Bangalore, I visited a fantastic campus with 15,000 young people, with an average …

Heard in a schoolboy conversation on the train to Victoria this morning.

"We've been told we have to do numeracy, what's that?"
"Maths I think!"

The schoolchildren were pretty dire in my day but those between Westgate on Sea and Whitstable any morning would frighten the Iraqi insurgents rather more than the threat of sending in The Black Watch.

"Give me a child to the age of seven and I will give you the man" - A Jesuit maxim

In the meantime, Margate, has I'm told won its funding to open the new, muli-million Turner Centre on the harbour, the one with no Turner paintings at all. My hairdresser commented that the money would be better spent opening a "Chav" centre, a celebration of all things Chav, decorated in Burberry and which may attract far more visitors to the town than any attempt to celebrate fine art at the reluctant taxpayers' expense. You know what? She's quite right.
Thanks Ben

I would like to thank Ben Verwaayen, the Chief Executive of BT for an excellent and thought-provoking speech at the Conservative Technology Forum event that his company sponsored at St Steven's Club in London last night. I did actually record the whole thing and I need to find a moment to transcribe it into an article. You can vaguely see Ben having a conversation with Shadow Technology Minister, Michael Fabricant (MP) and Malcolm Harbour (MEP) in the digital camera photo below.

Ben Verwaayen, Michael Fabricant (MP) & Malcolm Harbour (MEP)

I've now been given the "Policy" role as Vice Chairman of The Conservative Technology Forum, which is, to say the least, an interesting challenge. So far, I'm buried, writing a report on intellectual property (IP) copyright legislation and I'm hoping to be able to write three or four more detailed reports of this type in the next twelve months. Certainly Ben Verwaayan gave me some ideas.

My long association wi…
You’ve been Googled

I like Google. It’s a really useful service that I’ve come to rely on almost as much as my Web browser, where it’s conveniently attached to the menu bar. I use it for my Weblog and my email and I use it a hundred times a day to find out useful facts and research news stories but I really don’t like the idea of Google spidering my had disk so the world can share my MP3 files, family photos album or letters to my bank manager.

Best not shared with the rest of the world

Privacy is increasingly a commodity under the threat of extinction, illustrated only too well by a news story from Korea, that employees from a mobile phone company sold the personal details of six million people – yes that six million – their names, mobile phone numbers, email addresses and so on, to so-called marketing companies. In this country, we haven’t yet seen an example of the AOL case, with an ISP or a mobile telephone company losing a gigabyte of customer data to a clever criminal armed with …
Tilting at Windmills

One mans view of the huge ship engaged in building a windmill farm about four miles North of Herne Bay in Kent. It's surrounded by stumps that you can't see in the picture, the bases for the windmills when they go up. This is going to be the largest feature in the Thames Estuary and I'm not sure that I like it spoiling an uninterrupted view of the horizon.

US Air Traffic Control Open to Attack

Is the UK any better I wonder? Mind you, this has been known for at least three years now!

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has agreed to examine computer security at air traffic control centers around the country, following a government audit that found the systems insufficiently secured against cyber attacks.

The Register
Four Charged in Landmark UK Phishing Case

Four eastern Europeans appeared in a London court yesterday charged with defrauding online banks of hundreds of thousands through an elaborate 'phishing' scam.

The Register
I Told You I was Sick!

I’ve been asked to speak at an event on NHS procurement in Dublin next month and the first thing that springs to mind, is why anyone should be surprised at Computer Weekly’s prediction that the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) could cost the taxpayer more than the Channel Tunnel?

Just to remind you briefly The National Health Service is the second or third largest employer in the world (somewhere between the Chinese People’s Army and the Indian State Railway). Both of these have arguably shorter waiting lists.

The NPfIT is the largest computer project in the world in a country where large computer projects have an abysmal delivery record. It was launched to reform a progressively failing health service by using IT as a key theme or a magic wand – take your choice - in joining up relevant health and social care operations. Unlike the Indian State Railway, the NPfIT will become a time limited Executive Agency for three to five years and will incorporate the IT inf…
Nip and Tuck

Computer Weekly reports that the final cost of NHS IT programme could rise to more than £18.6bn, at least three times more than the announced figure - with a large part of the bill falling locally, on NHS trusts.
Only £500+VAT from the NHS catalogue

What amazes me is that the media sound surprised. Did anyone really believe that an IT project of this kind would come in under budget and on time. Name one that has?

Exactly. I rest my case!
Phishing websites breed like rabbits Population explosion chases your bank account details [via The Register]

Boy, 16, in £46,000 eBay Fraud

High-living in Welsh council estate but nobody notices fleet of cadillacs.

Victims taunted as youngster's lifestyle grew ever more opulent - From experience use eBay with extreme caution and never, never pay cash or cheque. Guardian Unlimited
ID Thieves Target Enterprises

ID thieves are going corporate. Assuming the identity of consumers to obtain loans and credit cards under assumed names has become the US's fastest growing crime. Now fraudsters are applying similar tricks against potential enterprise victims. The Register
The Chinese Way

My in-laws have just returned from one of their regular visits to Egypt and a Nile cruise to Aswan.

Apparently, the Chinese have invaded, a prediction made a few years ago that is now coming to pass. A quarter of the world's population are now able to obtain travel visas for the first time in two thousand years and as a consequence, have reportedly taken the first available junk to Egypt to see what's changed.

Chinese Tourist Guides Marching to Work

Egypt, I'm told, is experiencing a tourist boom like no other that my in-laws have seen before. "Everything was full", they remarked and the temple of Edfu was horrendous, "You couldn't get in".

Unlike the tightly disciplined Japanese, who also travel in groups of no less than thirty, the Chinese are less restrained, I'm told and "Unbelievably noisy". So combine the worst of so-called British culture, sunburns, tattoos and lager - and that's the women - with the noveau ric…
Some Rights Reserved

"Mix Lucas and Hitchcock and it's piracy but mix the works of Milton and Shakespeare and it's called creative writing."

I'm carrying out research into Copyright legislation and whether it can work effectively in a digital context and I was listening to Professor Lawrence Lessig , a Professor at Stanford University Law School and the founder of its Centre for Internet and Society. I first wrote about Lessig in Computer Weekly in 1999, when he published his first book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which warned of an impending clash between the neutrality of the Internet and the interests of large corporations and the law.

Since then, Lessig has written two more books, The Future of Ideas and Free Culture and much of what he has warned of has come to pass, particularly the assault on intellectual property rights by corporations seeking to protect their revenue models in the new rip and mix culture.

A hundred years ago, another author, Mark T…
All Fall Down

I'm beginning to suspect that all is not well with Windows. Two different systems and both behaving erratically. Microsoft have very kindly offered to collect and 'Repair' damaged laptop number one, having drawn a blank after an hour long telephone call with their support desk. PC number two does at least have Internet access but where I ask has the menu bar disappeared to on the Windows Task Manager? Damned if I know!

I have confirmed however that Iomega's CD writing software appears to have a lethal effect on both my PCs, even with the latest Iomega patches installed.

Is this a consequence of installing Windows Service Pack (2)? I don't know but I'm worried that if I'm having problems with my machines, what's the rest of the world experiencing? Perhaps if the PCs are older tha twelve months they fall over? As for my Webcam, I've given up. You no longer know if there's someone else looking through the lens of your webcam, thanks to…
There comes a point when you start to wonder if computers are worth the effort. Twelve hours I've been trying to tackle my own little problem and one hour of that was spent on the phone with Symantec support.

Having finally removed all the anti-virus utility files sprayed around the system, we thought we had solved the problem but were stymied by the loss of the Internet connection. "OK", I said, "I'll deal with that part with Microsoft, so let's try and get the anti-virus reinstalled", which we did and now the bloody thing is back where it started at eight O'clock this morning. So near but so far and I give up, I'm out of ideas. It seems that any attempt to re-install anti-virus kills my system dead.

I went for a run along the seafront to try and de-stress, I've lost an entire day's productivity and tomorrow, I need to try and find the time to take the aircraft over to Deanland to have the propeller checked over. There's far too much…
Legion of the Damned

I've been two hours now trying to recover my main PC from a constant series of 'Hang-ups'. I had thought that Microsoft's Windows Service Pack(2) would solve all my problems but obviously not and it's been a wasted and frustrating morning so far.

Norton keeps flashing a security alert and then locks my system-up, which is rather less than encouraging, as it won't actually tell me what the problem is and re-starting my machine can take ten minutes. As it stands at present, I'm dead in the water, Norton's Security Centre won't respond and I'm forced to hard re-set my system again into Windows 'Safe Mode', while I try and run an anti-virus sweep.

I need reliable, safe computing power for my work and like many others, I'm not getting it, only constant grief.
Party Pieces

I had a brief exchange of pleasantries last night with Oliver Letwin in the men's room of the Marsham Court Hotel. One can't really cram a great deal of profound economic dialogue into such a small space, so it wasn't really worth trying. I had to remind myself that this was Bournemouth and not Thanet and change my delivery to suit the surroundings and the rare sight of me wearing a suit and tie and not a leather jacket and jeans.

This morning's conference breakfast on local eGovernment, sponsored by BT had all the right ingredients. Eggs and bacon, strong coffee and even stronger statements that electronic government should be more focused on agility and delivery and less focused on turning unwieldy paper-based systems into their online equivalent. This is a subject that I could go on about for hours but at least the Conservative Party now has a firm and I think sensible policy on eGovernment that it can follow-through in the run-up to the next election an…
A Squadron of Silks

"Give me a squadron of Spitfires", said Luftwaffe ace, Adolph Galland to Hermann Goering, as the mighty German airforce wilted against the anti-European ferocity of the "Few", the seven hundred or so battle of Britain pilots on the last occasion Europe attempted to become a single market.

Adolph Galland

Today's equivalent might be the Conservative Party Conference asking, "Give us a Robert Kilroy Silk, if we are to have any chance of defeating Labour at the next election."

Robert Kilroy Silk
Free Culture

I listened to an excellent presentation from Lawrence Lessig at University College in London, yesterday. I'll write more on this in my next column for Computer Weekly but meanwhile, Sandy Star of Spiked Magazine has an interesting interview with this champion of digital freedom at sp!ked-IT - Culture warrior

How Low Can You Get?

Just back from picking Bob up from Deanland on the South coast. Awful conditions with rain, wind and a cloud base down to 900 feet which had me picking my way through the valleys towards Hastings. A nicer shot of the aircraft over Canterbury on another flight during the summer, which seems a very long time ago now.

Conservative Conference News

The Conservative Technology Forum, will be presenting a Breakfast Briefing on Local Government, kindly sponsored by British Telecom, on Wednesday 6th October. Guest speakers will include, Michael Fabricant MP, Philip Hammond MP, Cllr Paul Bettison and Mike Blackburn (BT). Please find details in the attached file: CTF Breakfast Briefing
Spoofed & Spoofing

Alright, we all know that there’s a strong possibility of becoming a victim of conventional credit card fraud but as a booming Internet economy, with over four million broadband users, we’re increasingly worried that Mafia gangsters are going to steal our bank and credit card details from right under our noses; victims of a cunning, well-crafted phishing scam.

"Don't tell him your name Pike, that's an order"!

Today, I went to the cash point in my local village. The first thing I did was look to see if it was actually working. It runs, like many others on Windows NT and stuffed into the wall of a local estate agent, it crashes with monotonous regularity. My second action was to run my fingers around the edges of the till and check the card slot. I get funny looks from the people behind me but they aren’t as friendly with the Police as I am and its become almost second nature for me to take a long hard look at any cash point to make sure that it …
Plane Jane

I've just taken Thanet Gazette columnist, Jane Wenham Jones for an overhead tour of Canterbury and the island in advance of the heavy weather warning for this afternoon.

She's back in one piece, shaken and not stirred and had a go at flying the aircraft herself as we went looking for her home in Broadstairs. You should be able to read about her death-defying experience at my hands in a forthcoming issue of the Thanet Gazette, that's if you live close enough to the edge of the known world where Thanet is.

In fact and until quite recently, Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia still had Thanet listed as a proper island, the pizza-fed cartographers in Redmond not knowing that the Wantsum Channel in Kent had silted-up in the 15th century. Mind you, Microsoft are infamous for their geographical errors, such as which country owns the disputed region of Kashmir and the thorny question of Taiwan, which the politicians in Beijing are a little sensitive about.

Thanet Gazet…