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Showing posts from December, 2004
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Digital Globe Satellite Images of Tsunami Devastation

Digital Image is providing a photographic resource of the effects of the Tsunami in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka. These are detailed "before and after" satellite photographs that clearly illustrate the terrible devastation caused by the waves and particulary in Indonesia at Banda Aceh.


Total devastation after the wave
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A Sign of the Times

Stunned by the scale of the disaster in the Indian Ocean, like many thousands of others, I visited the Disaster Emergency Committee Web (DEC) site, www.dec.org.uk with a credit card at the ready. When my browser returned the error, “The page cannot be displayed”, I was briefly surprised but Google helpfully suggested that the address was correct and offered a link, which I declined, retyping the URL a second time, which successfully displayed the charity’s home page.


"Don't give him you name Pike"

The reason for the page not appearing first time is that it’s been overwhelmed by donations and enquiries; in fact, as I write this, it’s unavailable. This however wasn’t the immediate reason that sprang to mind on my first unsuccessful attempt. I was suspicious. Why?

Given the unprecedented size of the aid effort, with so many people prepared to give generously over the telephone and increasingly, over the Internet, it’s only a matter of time, I believe befor…
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A Change of View

For want of anything more exciting, other than completing my tax return, I’ve just flown over to Lydd for a coffee and to load up on fuel. Pretty grey and miserable over there but the landing fee is now only £8.00 and the new runway 21 /30 is smooth enough to play billiards on.


Small and rather bossy co-pilot aged nine.

On the way back, the weather opened-up into one of those spectacular North Kent winter days; dark glasses required. This small area where I live on the Isle of Thanet enjoys different weather to the rest of Britain at times, perhaps something to do with it being a peninsula, with sea on both sides?

I’ve just filled-up my first logbook, which in General Aviation terms, gives me a relatively respectable five hundred hours of experience on over a dozen aircraft types. Mind you, there’s always something new to learn and flying, while appearing mundane, always has its little surprises if you err on the side of complacency.

My first piece for Pilot Magazine ap…
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Don't Dare Call it Broadband AOL

How companies such as AOL have the cheek to describe a 256Kb connection as “Broadband” without any intervention from a standards watchdog eludes me.

Many of the advertisements running over the Christmas period show families enjoying the kind of high-speed connections that you’re only likely to find in countries like Korea or those homes lucky enough to have a 5Mb connection or faster to the Internet.


Mrs Smith of Rochester waiting for her AOL music download to finish.

In my opinion, it’s a scandal. I have a 1Mb connection, which is Ok but not up to the standard you might find elsewhere in the world. As always, the UK is falling behind and rather than Government defining what Broadband is, it’s left to the “market” and BT to decide what it can get away with.

The analogy that springs to mind is being offered telephone calls with a word limit or a ten second delay between sentences. There is no good reason why we can’t at least have 1Mb as a minimum st…
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Internet Crimes on the Rise

According to a report in the Al-Madinah newspaper , Internet abuse has become a major problem in Saudi government departments. In a study of the workforce, 60 percent of employees waste three hours every day surfing the Net and often visiting obscene websites.

A recent study showed that 92 percent of Saudi Internet users are visiting indecent sites. The survey also found that Internet has become a source to commit crimes and fraud.



Faisal Al-Salem, a victim of Internet abuse, said, “I lost over SR1 million through a business deal on the Internet. I realized later that I was a victim of a perfect embezzlement case from both inside and outside the country.”
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Ring of Fire


"The sea went out for miles, which was unusual and then this giant wave came."
Tsunami Survivor interviewed at Heathrow airport.

The weekend’s deadly Tsunami reminds us that many of the planet’s most popular and exotic holiday locations are within range of the volcanic “Ring of fire.”



I wonder, if Krakatoa had erupted a hundred years later, a single heartbeat in geological time, what the devastation might have been. Closer to home, a million people now live in the shadow of Vesuvius, which will, one day, repeat the events of AD 79, one hundred or one thousand years from now.

Catastrophes of the kind we’ve witnessed this week are regular events in our history but it’s only in the last twenty to thirty years that satellite television and global tourism have given brought them closer to home and in that time, other than the terrible earthquakes in Iran or Turkey, we haven’t seen an event that really impacted us in Europe. In the United States, Mount St Helens was far…
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The Road Ahead

It wasn’t the gifts, the weather or even the declining standard of BBC programming that made Christmas memorable this year, it was the number of virus attacks that were aimed at my email address over the holiday weekend.



We’ve all come to expect these as an unfortunate fact of life that like Spam, are either deleted by the Outlook or ISP filters or find their way, like virtual suicide bombers, through gaps in one’s defences and then try and wreak havoc, as part of some corrupted version of the message of goodwill to all men.

To be honest though, there are now so many viruses in circulation and so many tens of thousands of personal computers connected to “bot nets” around the world that attacks aren’t personal, they are indifferent and automated, with millions or email addresses harvested from websites and address books being hammered by what resembles a Chinese menu of virus and worm types, 24*7*365 and with no sympathy for Christmas or EID or any other calendar celebrat…
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Merry Christmas

To mark this special day, I have an inbox full of special junk mail offers that crept past my spam filter dressed as reindeer.

Most interesting perhaps is the offer to subscribe to a directory of unfaithful wives, of which there are apparently thousands, just waiting for me on the Internet!

However, if these women are unfaithful, enough to be listed on the Web, how can I know they might be waiting, they could be unfaithful?


A Merry Christmas one and all

This rather reminds me of the classic logical conundrum: "Epimanides says 'All Cretans are liars', Epimanides is a Cretan" and the same is true of the Internet

This is an ideal day to go flying, it's "Open FIR" (Flight Information Region) or read "Free-for-all", as most airports are closed for Xmas. So this is the day to go and have a look at Heathrow or Gatwick or fly closer to the city than one ever can on any other day of the year, which sees large sections of the UK airspace c…
Botnets, Phishing and Spyware - 2004 in Review

The year 2004 in internet security will probably be best remembered as the year the profit motive became a primary driver for the creation of computer viruses. 2004 also saw several high-profile arrests, making it one of the most successful years in the fight against cybercrime with a number of high profile arrests.

Home PCs became the front line in the fight between cybercriminals and defenders as the growing use of networks of compromised machines (botnets) to send out spam or in DDoS attacks became a major security headache. Windows XP SP2, touted as Microsoft's most important advance in computer security, made its debut - the jury is still out on SP2's efficacy in defending agains botnets.

The Register
Banner Pickup

If you want to see a pilot's eye view of a banner recovery, I've posted the AVI file here for download. You'll see that the G-forces pull the camera down into the cockpit on the pull-up.

Airads Banner Recovery
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Christmas Spirit

With a clear, bright blue sky outside, I had been toying with the idea of hopping over to France this morning to buy some cheap Christmas spirit but the forecast from Manston has put me off. This reads as "EGMH 230910Z 231019 25015G25KT 9999 BKN030 TEMPO 1019 25025G35KT" or roughly translated; between 10:00 and 19:00 the wind at Manston is expected to produce gusts of 35 knots, roughly forty mph, which is a little too lively a crosswind for me trying to get back into a narrow grass runway at Maypole!


Santa last seen doing wheelies on the Thanet Way

Weather permitting, we may go up in the big Cessna 172 and tow a "Merry Christmas" banner around Canterbury tomorrow afternoon - Just for fun, wearing the kind of costume you can see in the photo above.
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Coming Soon - Watching You on the Web

Late last month, an Internet privacy watchdog group revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had contributed money for a counterterrorism project that promised, among other things, an automated surveillance system to monitor conversations on Internet chat rooms.

Developed by two computer scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York as part of a National Science Foundation program called Approaches to Combat Terrorism, the chat room project takes aim at the possibility that terrorists could communicate through crowded public chat channels, where the flurry of disconnected, scrolling messages makes it difficult to know who is talking to whom. The automated software would monitor both the content and timing of messages to help isolate and identify conversations.



Putting privacy concerns aside, some Internet specialists wonder whether such projects, even if successful, fail to acknowledge the myriad other ways terrorists can plot…
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Under Attack

I seem to be under attack. The source appears to be the domain of the hotel chain Dorint International and I've already spoken with the IT Manager at Dorint.Com, who appears to believe his domain may have been spoofed. Either this or he has an open SMTP relay, because I'm now receiving a constant stream of virus attacks over several of my email addresses.



I may be paranoid thinking its only me because of my connection with eCrime but either way, it's the worst business interruption I've seen since the MyDoom virus at the beginning of 2004.

I have noticed that there's a regular daily visitor from Germany reading this Weblog - I can see your IP address - Would you like to introduce yourself? I would love to know what interests you most in this rather eclectic and often rambling diary of mine!
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A Bad Case of Worms

I’m annoyed. Over the past weeks, I’ve been receiving a constant flow W32-sober virus attacks, ostensibly from the Server of an international hotel chain based in Germany. Being a “distributed” business, their website doesn’t actually provide a head-office number and the best I’ve been able to do is complain to an international reservations number and ask them to pass the message on. Until then, the emails keep arriving.


Charlotte Moores Showing the size of the computer worm problem

Now this could be a spam-attack, “spoofing” the hotel chain’s domain name. It’s very hard to say once Norton has quarantined the emails and it’s really quite academic. If indeed, the hotel’s address book has been compromised, then there must now be a great many angry customers and even if it hasn’t, the damage to brand and reputation still remains.

This month, I chaired the first eCrime Solutions seminar in London. It’s a spin-off series from the annual eCrime Congress and is supported by…
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Coldest Day of the Year

It's icy out there this morning. I've just been out to Brighton with Airads to take photographs of a new building in the town centre. The good weather stopped at a line west of Brighton marina and so it was like stepping from a world of harsh bright sunlight and blue sky into a dull winter's day over a clearly defined cloud shadow line.



From Brighton, it was back to Kent via Lydd to refuel, where the photo above was taken and then over to Whitstable and out to sea. to photograph the progress of the windmill farm which you can see in the photo below. Back to work now and time to write my first column for Silicon.Com. There's a revolt brewing over the national identity card and perhaps I should throw my own thoughts in that direction.


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Median Saleh

I mentioned in the last post, the 1981 expedition that took in Median Saleh, the ruined Nabatean city in Saudi Arabia


A temple carved from the rock from Petra's sister city.

By coincidence, one of the most important train stations on the Hejaz railway sat next to the ruins and when Lawrence of Arabia blew the line in 1917, the trains were trapped there and are still there today, gathering dust and with "Krupp" on the engine casings.


One of the trains, sitting where T.E. Lawrence left themwith Dr Paul Garnett as the passenger

Below, you can see one of the fortified train stations that Lawrence attacked along the Hejaz railway between Damascus and Medina.



More photos Medain Saleh can be found on THIS Site - Apparently you can catch a tourist bus these days, rather different from risking life and limb to cross an unfriendly Saudi Arabia twenty years ago!
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I Flu from Oman

Does anyone recognise the unknown Arab below? It was taken on an expedition a very long time ago into the heart of Saudi Arabia, following in the path of T.E Lawrence, along the Hejaz railway from Medina to the northern border with Jordan. Why the disguise? In those days, even with Interior Ministry permission and a travel warrant, one could be arrested and disappear because the local police couldn't read. In fact, we made multiple copies of the pass, because they would stop you and take the travel pass, unable to grasp that without it, one would be immediately arrested and incarcerated as an Israeli spy at the next desert checkpoint without one.

Looking the part



It was best to blend in as far as possible and that way one was normally ignored.The flu or heavy cold I collected in Oman has left me facing a flight of stairs as if it was a climb to the peak of Mount Everest. Arriving home with some kind of ailment after a long international flight appears almost inevita…
Can't Say I Didn't Warn You!

Gartner has warned that companies shouldn't use the new Google Desktop Search tool because of security concerns and a lack of features. I commented on the search feature a month ago and this prompted some discussion on a number of different news sites.

The Register
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The First eCrime Congress Solutions Seminar

A cast of thousands.. almost and an impressive line-up of suspects predicting overall misery and despair in the year ahead unless we all take the dangers of online crime more seriously than we do at present.



The police, in the shape of the NHTCU are working hard to educate business and the public over the dangers presented by phishing, identity theft and the West African Santa Claus fraud. And so if you receive a letter from a Mr Santa Kolows from Lagos, in capital letters, begging for money to help him upgrade to a larger Mercedes-built sleigh, give generously!
Blue Rinse Constituency Politics

Overheard at a Conservative part constituency meeting this week attended by a member of the Westminster front-bench team.

A leading businessman, a member of an ethnic minority and party supporter is asked by an elderly lady:

“How long have you been in this country?”

“Forty years.”

“Are you allowed to vote yet?”


He thinks it's funny but points out that some work is required if the party is going to win a future election.


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Sons and Lovers

“Then shall one speak of one who loved not wisely but too well.”

David Blunkett’s fall from grace has a Shakespearean familiarity. A plot with all the right ingredients of passion, power, betrayal and arrogance, for the television dramatisation that must inevitably follow, once the dust has had time to settle.



It is one of the greatest fallibilities of the human race, an intense love affair that is. To quote Shakespeare once again, “Tis a sickness and its cure together” and perhaps society should be a little more forgiving and less judgemental, treating such incidents as if the person involved was the victim of some sudden mental illness, which is what it is, simply ask Mark Anthony or Othello, Profumo or Blunkett.

Not so long ago, I watched a television documentary that tried very hard to understand the chemistry of romance from a scientific perspective. Most interesting was the evidence of brain changes when the subjects were scanned, with areas of the cortex visibly …
iPod and More

Watch George Masters clever homemade ad for Apple Computer's iPod that is rapidly "going viral."

Wired News
Workplace porn in the UK is rife

But is anyone surprised?

More than 70 per cent of firms have disciplined staff in the last two years as a result of workers viewing pornographic images on company PCs, a survey reveals.

The Register
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Lawler of Arabia

Under the harsh glare of the South Arabian Sun, we climbed into the shade of ancient fortress at Nizwa, once the capital of Oman and now a tourist attraction, a hundred miles from the coast.

The City of Nizwa

My companions, the athletic, chisel-jawed Neate of the Yard and New York computer science Professor, Jim Lawler, eyed the smiling native children who followed us warily. They had never seen a professor or a hi-tech crime policeman before and although they welcomed us with traditional cries of “Hello Mr” they were heavily armed with ancient canon!


A heavily armed tribesman

Lawler, an accomplished Arabist and Special Forces veteran, entertained the children with his sleight of hand, causing small lizards to appear, as if by magic from beneath his Stetson. A legend among the nomads, Lawler was a natural successor to the desert explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, having crossed the barren ‘Empty Quarter’, in both directions, on a mountain bike in the middle of summer, armed onl…
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Back to the Beach

Oman at Christmas has certain attractions that we can't quite equal, here on the North Kent coast in winter.


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The View from My Cell

The Sheikh's fortress in Nizwa



Who Stole The Chairs - A traditional living room?


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At the Palace

I keep getting lost and I’m not alone. I’m here in Oman at the Al Bustan Palace hotel in an area of outstanding natural beauty between the mountains and the sea. The hotel is so large and so fabulously opulent, a palace in fact, that it took me ten minutes to find my way through the marble corridors to breakfast this morning and another ten minutes to find the conference centre, one of the largest auditoriums, I have spoken in. Since then, I’ve lost the former two more times, bumping into other speakers, equally baffled by the maze that is our temporary home until Monday.


Final tweaks to my presentation

Today started with the familiar and traditional handshaking and official welcome This involves being led into a room with large armchairs arranged along three walls. Dignitaries, speakers, royalty and the British Ambassador, are led in and settled into their chairs, drinking juice and then rising to their feet as another person joins for a series of official handshakes.

Fi…
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Early Start

There will be a short interruption to regular service unless I can find a way of Blogging from my hotel room in Oman this weekend.

I'm off at the crack of dawn on Friday morning with British Airways, to speak at an international banking conference being held in the Sultanate. My topic is computer crime, phishing and fraud and I'll have the company of my good friend, Tony Neate from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, so we'll make up a double act, both at the conference and on the flight, no doubt doing some damage to the in-flight bar on the way.



With Xmas around the corner and a wife and a daughter to consider, I may have to raid the gold souk for gifts. Without a doubt, Oman is one of the nicest countries to visit and one might be forgiven for thinking one had arrived in a sandier version of Switzerland during a heat wave. It's the only place I know of where the police will fine you if you don't keep your car clean; very unusual for the middle-east.

I…