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Showing posts from November, 2004
Captain Cupid Strikes Again

Alright, who saw Meridian News tonight? It was a nice romantic feature capturing "Captain Cupid", AKA Bob Shilling, towing a banner with "Wendy Will You Marry Me", writ large across the sky.

We had to go over to Rochester to film this with presenter Lucy and cameraman, Mike, from Meridian News this morning. The weather was glorious and having just watched the evening news, the story of how the gallant Bob has indirectly proposed to over fifty women, with a little help from the aircraft, came over with just the right romantic touch.

From Rochester then it was over to Brighton to take photographs of a new building on the sea front opposite the pier and then home, via Deanland and a very nice pub lunch outside the airstrip.

In real terms however, today was a minor catastrophe, which is why I went flying. My main laptop crashed, once again, with the identical ISASS.Exe error that had it couriered over to Microsoft for repair at the beginning …

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell - 1984

George Orwell

“Over four million cameras” said the American presenter, with visible emphasis. “Britain”, he said, “has become the world’s leading surveillance society and thanks to plans from our own Department of Homeland Security (DoHS) for the wider introduction of closed-circuit television in our cities, we’ll be catching up quickly.”

In fact, the Americans, with an invisible menace to fight, are taking surveillance technology to their hearts. The head of the Washington project states”I don’t think there’s really a limit on the feeds [the system] can take”. Further, he wants ‘to build…. the capability to tap into not only video but databases and systems across the region’, and eventually moving into any number of schools, businesses and neighbourhoods.”

A friend of mine, who used to wear a trench coat and carry a copy of t…

It's far too warm for the end of November and I've picked-up a headcold, courtesy of the hospital I assume. If you weren't sick before you visited hospital, you can be damn sure that you will be before you leave one these days, given the most recent and appaling statistics from the National Health Service.

Hi-speed shopping run to PC World through Sturry woods.

About eight O'clock last night, my mobile phone told me I had a voicemail. It was from the BBC News at 6:29 AM that morning, Wanting me, I suspect, to come in and comment on the DWP computer fiasco. A fat lot of good that is if I have to wait fourteen hours for Vodafone's service to relay the message. Anyway, what could one say? As I understand it, the DWP tried putting on Windows XP Service Pack 2 onto a small number of systems but somehow, it spread out of control and the whole Government agency collapsed.

On a similar not, I've just been out to Canterbury on a kamikaze mission to buy some new …
Joe Cool

It’s a stunning evening on the beach tonight; the sea is flat calm and trickling in towards the high tide mark. I was walking the dog and listening to my new Creative Zen media player at the same time. Perhaps I should have bought an iPod as a fashion statement but the Zen holds sixty gigabytes – that’s an awful lot of music – some of which I’ve been downloading from MSN or strangely enough, Tesco at about sixty pence a track instead of stealing it from elsewhere, which I easily could.

The 'Super cool' and expensive U2 iPod

On the same subject, I finally managed to finish my briefing document on copyright and intellectual property legislation in time for the All Party Internet Group meeting at Westminster on Monday. I won’t be there myself as I’ve been volunteered to chair a policy meeting at the European Parliament building but I hope the conclusions I have arrived at after a series of interviews, rattle a few cages.

At least someone is reading my Weblog. I was pleasa…
Stand and Deliver – Your Money or Your Life

It may have been simple coincidence, my letter from the Inland Revenue arriving within two days of my column, this month, where I wrote I wouldn’t trust them enough to file anything electronically, given the number of attempts that my accountant and I had made to send P11Ds to Edinburgh this year.

The letter was one of the standard communications I have come to expect from this department of government these days. Simply stating that I had failed to supply them with my P11D returns for the tax year and that I was now to be fined £400 and deported.

Panic and a series of phone calls were predictable. Between us, my accountant and I estimated that we had posted or faxed at least six copies of the document to the Inspector and when I tried calling the Revenue, I was simply told they didn’t have them, so tough luck. My accountant had a somewhat better result. Yes they has found the P11Ds in question but they had so many copies they didn’t know wh…

Morphine is a wonderful thing!

Seven O'clock I was at the hospital this morning for the surgery on my shoulder and at nine, I walked down to theatre - they make you walk these days - . Several minutes later I was lying on the trolley talking to the anaesthetist, who was opening the line into my arm, when my lights went out and normal service was only resumed somewhere between the theatre and my room at around 10:00

God it hurt. I'm not great with pain and when the codeine failed to make any impact, the doctor relented and gave me a shot of morphine, which left me in a contented, painless daze until mid-afternoon.

Four O'clock and I was thrown out for malingering, so here I am back at home catching up with my email and my weblog after a nap to shake a feeling of nausea.

Of course, other people have days off work after a visit to hospital.Not me I'm afraid. Much too busy! - A tragic sign of the times - Send flowers or chocolate if you like!
Psychotic Homocidal Fish Unite

Let's face it, most Weblogs, including my own, are pretty awful and I rarely trawl through them, having decided that the majority are written by people with names like "Minnie" who live in Singapore.

I did however stumble across a weblog today that really made me laugh. Called "Psychotic Homocidal Fish Unite" it's written by a lady with the psuedonym, "Sarah the Duck", whose location is given as "Middle of Nowhere Air Force Base, Hell, United States." - I've borrowed one of her pictures - above - but go have a look at her Weblog which is sharp and funny and perhaps cheer her up a little.

Maybe Miss Duck should watch the movie the "Great Escape" and like Steve McQueen, dig her own tunnel out of hell and steal a motorcycle in a desperate bid to reach Switzerland?

Personally, I see a budding writing talent struggling to be recognised, something that generally avoids the US military, or so I'm …
e-Crime Solutions Seminar: Protecting the Online Environment
16th December 2004, Inmarsat, London

The e-Crime Congress Solutions Seminars afford unique opportunities for operational and technology actors and stakeholders to: collaborate; discuss the most topical issues; and hear from a select group of experts about cutting edge solutions available today and in the future. The seminars feature keynote presentations, expert panel discussion and delegate debate. A select group of organisations - leaders in their fields -are invited to offer their views.

Chaired by Dr Simon Moores, it's free to attend. To find out more and to register please visit the ecrime congress solutions website
We Know Where You Live

I noticed for the first time this week that the emergence of Hi-tech crime appeared as an issue, when the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO, complained that the Police Service did not have sufficient funding available to address the many demands being made upon it, one of which was Hi-tech crime, which will ultimately fall under the remit of SOCA, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency; Britain’s version of the ‘Feds’ when it appears.

Last Saturday, NatWest Bank announced that it had suspended Internet services over fears connected with a new identity theft or phishing scam. This month’s ‘Internet Security Intelligence Briefing’ from VeriSign, which examines security exploits between July and September, shows an increase of 150 per cent the same period in 2003. The report concludes that the Internet is becoming a more dangerous environment thanks to the sophistication of the attacks and the potential risk / reward model employed by the organised crime g…
Source Of Ballmer's Patent FUD Disagrees With His Assessment Following yesterday's highly publicized claim from Steve Ballmer that Linux violates over 200 patents, Microsoft admitted that claim was based on a study by OSRM. Now, the author of that study has spoken up and said that (surprise, surprise) Ballmer's conclusion is totally wrong, and, if anything, the study shows that Microsoft is just as, if not more, open to patent infringement claims. Any chance of Ballmer admitting his mistake? Either way, all this is showing is that these battles about software patents are focusing the competitive battle in exactly the wrong place. No one should be battling over who patented what part of which operating system, but on who has the better offering for the market. [via Techdirt]

I'm in trouble today. I took my daughter out to the beach with her new radio-controlled model aircraft at lunchtime. Up it went, flying perfectly, as I wrestled the controls with both thumbs working the radio control. Higher and higher it climbed, describing a sweeping, high-speed circle towards the sea, which was almost at its low-tide mark.

I hadn't reckoned on an offshore wind blowing more strongly above the cliffs than below. Stupid of me. I couldn't get the damned aircraft to come back my way and I was having to sprint toward the sea to keep it in radio range. Anyway the inevitable happened, I took the power off, hoping that it would glide down on to the beach and it didn't, neatly landing about thirty yards out to sea and promptly disappearing beneath the waves. It must be neutrally buoyant because it didn't come back in with the tide but that didn't save me from the disadain of my nine year old. I might be able to fly big aircraft but in her eyes, …
Jumping Mad

It's minus 26 degrees at ten thousand feet they told me but this didn't stop the parachutists today in Norfolk. Quite crazy and no door to protect you from the cold. I gave up doing this almost thirty years ago and I can remember how terribly cold it was in the aircraft as it climbed to the jump height. You might find me risking it on a warm day but not when it's as cold as it is today, however much fun it might be!

Brass Monkeys

Bitterley cold in Norfolk today. Here I am shivering during refuelling at Old Buckenham airfield, as we wait to tow an Airads banner for Crimestoppers across East Anglia.

I never seem to lose the thrill of finding myself several thousand feet in the air with the nose of the aircraft pointed across the Thames Estuary to our runway on the Kent coast. Listening to the voice of the radar controller, with dusk falling and the glowing instrument panel and colour GPS, telling me exactly where the airfield is; how many minutes, how many miles?

I gently trim the big Cessna into a slow descent from Clacton to a point on the grass near Herne Bay, hidden in the distance, that the aircraft will touch in the coming fifteen minutes. Watching the shipping pass beneath me, it's all great fun.
Remote control rifle range debuts Soon you will be able to hunt and shoot wild pigs and sheep via the net. It's what they call progress. Place a webcam on a high powered rifle, add a telecopic sight and then simply point and click.. or rather "Bang"...  This may be the next step for the Home Office after CCTV cameras in the inner city. Dream on Home Secretary! [via BBC News | Technology | UK Edition]
Ladies in Lavender

Paranoia caught up with me last week. I had been reading about the next wave of phishing scams, when I received an email to my Hotmail account, confirming that my seat had been reserved to see ‘Ladies in Lavender’ at a cinema in Finchley and that my credit card had been debited by £15.00 for two tickets by the Vue Cinemas online Box Office

Finchley is about one hundred miles from where I live, I had no desire to see Ladies in Lavender and who, I wondered, had used my credit card. Alarm bells started sounding loudly in my head and I was tempted to call the 08712 customer service number on the email, which stated “If any of the details shown are incorrect please call customer services.” At this point, I decided that it had to be a clever fraud. The first thing anyone is going to do is call the number and if this happens to be a Premium Rate line, then someone, somewhere, is likely to be making a great deal of money if he’s spammed a few hundred thousand email accounts …
Thursday should see us towing the London Erotica Show banner around the edge of West London. It's a change from the world of IT, so if you see the Airads aircraft banner towing near you, give us a wave and we'll try and waggle the wings back!

I can imagine that lots of observant school children will be asking "Please Miss, what's Erotica?" 
No More Ideas – Just Patents

I don’t want to be a lawyer. I never had the slightest wish to read law but I’m finding that my exploration of technology and its consequences bring me increasingly into collision with the law.

Take copyright. I’ve been working on this recently and in my naivety, I hadn’t realised how polarised the publishing industry is when the question of reform or change is mentioned. On the one hand, there are new businesses, Internet publishers, who hold a progressive view of copyright and the law, suggesting that perhaps it could be a little more flexible, practical and fair; recognising the problems faced by the owners of intellectual property, when content appears on the Internet. On the other hand, there’s a group, I’ll call the Old Guard, who, I’ve discovered, will treat such radical or progressive ideas – take your pick - as nothing short of heresy and will apply their considerable economic weight to stifle debate.

From copyright to software patents is only a ve…
Flying the Easy Way

Breakfast in Dublin then. No delays on EUjet which was a smooth a piece of travel as anyone could ask for. I arrived at Manston airport sixty minutes before the flight, was checked in within another five minutes and the aircraft left right on time, arriving in Dublin at 08:25. It then took another hour to reach the hotel, longer, as I pointed out to my taxi driver than the flight from Kent. He commiserated, "It's all the cheap money", he told me, "everyone is buying cars and now they can't get anywhere with them."

"I know what you mean", I replied. "You'll have a congestion charge before you know it."

Dublin has changed in five years, a European success story but I can't quite work out where Ireland makes the money to support all these new signs of prosperity. Guiness exports maybe?
Rip - Mix - Burn

Good news is that the Wired Magazine CD with its compilation tracks is now available for download.

Wired 12.11: Sample the Future

The Wired CD, is a collection of 16 songs produced under the Creative Commons License. Please pick up a newsstand copy of the magazine to obtain the CD featuring the tracks and artists below:

:01 Beastie Boys/ Now Get Busy
:02 David Byrne/ My Fair Lady
:03 Zap Mama/ Wadidyusay?
:04 My Morning Jacket/ One Big Holiday
:05 Spoon/ Revenge!
:06 Gilberto Gil/ Oslodum
:07 Dan the Automator/ Relaxation Spa Treatment
:08 Thievery Corporation/ DC 3000
:09 Le Tigre/ Fake French
:10 Paul Westerberg/ Looking Up in Heaven
:11 Chuck D with Fine Arts Militia/ No Meaning No
:12 The Rapture/ Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)
:13 Cornelius/ Wataridori 2
:14 Danger Mouse & Jemini/ What U Sittin' On? (starring Cee Lo and Tha Alkaholiks)
:15 DJ Dolores/ Oslodum 2004
:16 Matmos/ Action at a Distance

Sunset at Whistable

A trawler making it's way back into Whitstable at sunset this afternoon. Having towed a banner for the London Erotica show for four hours around all the South-east's major shopping centres and towns, all the way up the Thames to Canary Wharf, we worked our way home via Ashford, Dover, Ramsgate, Margate and then Herne Bay and Whistable,landing just as the Sun went down.

Off to Dublin tomorrow at 7AM to chair an NHS conference but on EU Jet this time.

In Sickness and in Health

The consultant at the BUPA hospital laughed when I told him that I was making a delivering a presentation on the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) at a conference this week. “It will never work”, he said, “believe me, I should know”.

Before the NPfIT of course, you could, like me, spend months waiting to hear if a consultant specialist was available but thanks to the miracle of technology and £6.5 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money, your GP will be able to tell you the same thing instantly and this is progress. That said, it’s taken me three months and I’ll be under the knife next Tuesday, privately of course, which is the only available solution if I plan to use my left arm properly again before mid-2005.

In fact, my own GP is worried by the costs and the time involved in integrating a system that barely works under the strains of today with one that will be mandated from above. That’s not to say that the NPfIT should be dismissed or derided, it’s just that t…
Captain Cupid

To Bracklesham Bay then, overlooking the Isle of Wight on a stunning day with fantastic visibility all along the South coast of England. Banner towing in the UK has its challenges and among them is finding a small strip like Bracklesham between two ploughed fields in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed for the air.

I wonder if the young lady said "Yes" to our proposal of marriage from above. We couldn't see anybody that we could identify as out "target" but love works in mysterious ways and we were on position at exactly noon. another marriage proposal to do next Saturday - one more enchanted Lemming off the cliff!
Conservative Technology Forum Meeting 6th December

Unisys has sponsored a meeting of The Conservative Technology Forum, (CTF) a policy development group supporting the Westminster Front-bench team, on the evening of December 6th (18:00) at Portcullis House.

The meeting, at the heart of Westminster, will present an up to the minute view and discussion of the current issues impacting on computer crime, Internet security and the pressing subject of compliance, which will impact all businesses in 2005.

Chaired by Shadow Technology Minister, Michael Fabricant MP, the speakers will be:

• Terrence Peters - Head of Security Practise Unisys (UK)

• Philip Virgo - Secretary General of EURIM

• Simon Moores - Vice Chairman of Aediles and The Conservative Technology Forum

The short fifteen minute presentations will be followed by wine and food sponsored by Unisys.

Other members of Parliament and Peers may be present (contingent on Westminster activity in the House of Commons) and places are limited …
Cupid's Arrow - Proposing with Impact

Saturday's mission, if you choose to accept it, is to appear over Littlehampton at exactly 12:00 noon, towing the message: "Fi I love You - Please Marry Me - Joss X".

Not sure if we'll pick the banner up from Goodwood or Bracklesham Bay but obviously the message is getting out, if you want to propose to your girlfriend with impact, then call in an airstrike from Airads!

Sunday should be interesting. First tow for the London Erotica Show and rumour has it that I may have to wear stockings and suspenders under my flying suit!
Age of Reason

We used to talk of ‘The Age of Reason’ as if we lived in it but in the age of the Internet I’m not so sure.

Common sense, law and life in cyberspace don’t appear to sit easily together. Take the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). You may not be over-familiar with them but if you own or think you own a domain name, then perhaps you should be following what they have done this week.

From this week, the rules on domain ownership have changed and it may catch your company out. Under new rules, domain transfer requests will be automatically approved in five days unless they are explicitly denied by the account owner. This is a change from the existing procedure, where a domain's ownership and name servers remain unchanged if there is no response to a transfer request. In effect, failing to respond to a request, within five days, to re-route your domain and proud national brand to the loving care of a new owner in Nigeria, will now become the defa…
Scoobie Fiend

What a fantastic car the Subaru Impreza is. I've just returned from a trip to Hythe in pitch blackness along the 'B' road from Canterbury. The city is gridlocked as usual and the only way to make my appointment was to use the twisting, narrow country road that runs towards Ashford and the M20. I've never really been a car enthusiast but nothing can touch the Impreza, with its constant four wheel drive, for road-handling and awesome third-gear acceleration. (Except perhaps a rather nervously-driven Mitsubishi Evo VI that I passed on the way)

The BBC Top Gear programme comment, "Eats country roads and climbs trees", is an accurate description of the car. In the past, I once owned a Porsche and an RS Escort too but neither one can touch the Subaru in the Kent countryside. Too dark for speed cameras too I hope

Mappa Mundi

The Web mail filtering service Postini has an interesting set of maps (once you've opened the page, click on the 'Maps' tab'), showing the origins of spam (here's a very big version), viruses (ditto), and directory harvest attacks (ditto)."

This is a really excellent way of seeing where the problem spots on the planet are.. have a look!

Future Now: Cool maps of the dark side (and the future?) of the Internet
Project Endurance

Big guns back UK IT security drive MS and eBay sponsor Project Endurance [via The Register]Funny, I was in at the beginning of this, attended the meeting at Westminster and still didn't know it was happening this week. Official secret I guess!

Project Endurance is major UK campaign to raise public awareness of internet security was launched at the CBI Conference in Birmingham by Mike O'Brien MP, ecommerce Minister, and Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI.The scheme - supported by business, law enforcement and government agencies - is geared towards helping small businesses and consumers protect themselves from internet security threats. The consumer awareness initiative will draw on the resources of various organisations, which have formed the Project Endurance Steering Group. These include the DTI, Home Office, National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NIS…
In rather less than serious mood, It's just occurred to me that my many banner towing adventures with Airads more closely resemble an episode of Red Dwarf than Top Gun. Let's not ask who the characters might resemble in real life. That said, it's the London Erotica Show job (flying that is) next.. what fun! 
In Which We Serve

News from the CBI that 97% of UK companies regard terrorism as a matter of great or significant concern comes as a surprise to me. The atmosphere of concern in the physical world now appears to have merged with the fears experienced in the virtual world of the Internet and where over-hyped predictions of a cyber-jihad have come to nothing, business continues to be startled by shadows.

In the coming months, I'm in Jordan, Oman and possibly Saudi Arabia on projects that either involve eGovernment or information security. I like to think I'm as concerned about safety and security as the next man but I also believe that fear of terrorism and crime, virtual or otherwise can be profitable and frequently useful to those who might wish to exploit popular worries and company budgets. As an example of this, we saw last week on television and read in the media the sense of outrage expressed by journalists, at the ease at which a person could carry a metal thermos flask, …
Look No Hands

"I've given up doing sixty a day", said Captain Bob, "forty is normally my limit these days."

Before you jump to any conclusions, he was talking about the number of letters streaming behind the aircraft.

I had commented, towing a banner for a union march over Birmingham this lunchtime, that the powerful, fuel injected Rheims Cessna was handling like the proverbial brick and this down to us towing a longer message than usual. I can see why Bob chose to cut down on characters, cigarettes he doesn't bother with, just donuts and sausage rolls, which both of are guilty of in between sips of coffee on the longer flights. In fact, today, I was caught on the hop, when Luton Approach called us and I had a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, which made pressing the transmit button on the column a little difficult. I'm not sure my old flying instructor would approve.

"Sorry Clive"
"Please tell me that the train won't break down again today", said the passenger next to me to the conductor on the 09:37 to Victoria from Ramsgate yesterday morning.

"It's a different driver today said the conductor cheerfully, we should be OK but keep your fingers crossed."

At Bromley South, the train stopped, permanently, with apologies from the same driver."This train has broken down", he said. What a surprise!

Fifteen minutes later another train arrived on the platform with only four carriages and four thousand people squeezed into every space in an effort to reach Victoria before Saturday. 
Double Indemnity

To have one laptop expire is unfortunate but to have two collapse and die smacks of carelessness. I’m writing today’s column on a very old Macintosh Powerbook, which I should add, works, regardless of age and abuse.

You my remember that last month, Microsoft were very kindly rebuilding one of my two Hewlett Packard Laptops, post Service Pack (2) installation. It’s been a slow process because I wanted to know what the problem was in detail. Last week however, my second, more powerful machine suddenly dies with a system error; a corruption of the password file, which left it in a constant re-boot cycle until I pressed the reset button. Microsoft sent a courier for that one too and for a while, I was back in a world without the Internet, until I worked out how to connect my old Macintosh to my ADSL router.

To have two machines die on me in such a small period of time begs a number of important questions, least of all why? The second event seems quite straightforward, a co…
The Fat Lady hasn't started singing quite yet but when she does, it will probably be in Ohio. The parallels between politics in ancient Rome and the modern equivalent in the United States, are there for all to see but as very few people read history these days, it passes unnoticed. Perhaps we should consider calling Mr Bush 'Caesar' if he wins.  
A better view of the instrument panel. Sadly you can't see the clouds that we are touching with the wheels.

Laying out the banner.