Skip to main content
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, 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 before someone attempts to “spoof” the charity effort.

In December, we heard how a West African gang had successfully duped a string of charities, using National Lottery applications for aid and for criminals like this, the Tsunami appeal sounds too good to be true. Call me a cynic but I’m prepared to bet that before the week is out, the first Spam emails will start arriving in people’s inboxes, inviting them to visit DEC or some other well-established charity, to give generously of their credit card or bank details.

It’s an unwelcome sign of the times but paranoia increasingly plays a part on the Internet. Hidden behind a battery of anti-virus and anti-spyware software, I regard any new Web-link or Website with an element of suspicion, unless I have directly typed the address into my browser, which happens to be Internet Explorer, if only because other browsers now available on the Windows platform, don’t appear to offer any greater guarantees of safety than Microsoft’s own Swiss-cheese-like answer to Web safety.

When we first started using the Internet, there was a sense of revolutionary freedom about it, once one had managed to master the intricacies of Gopher, FTP, Mosaic and Winsocks. It was a Harry Potter world for grown-ups and cynicism and paranoia, now very much a part of the post 911 experience, hadn’t made an appearance. Today, it’s a very different place, rich in features, experience and information and with more opportunity to be virtually mugged or offended than any time in human history.

It worries me that in my increasingly online existence, I can’t visit a bank, an auction site or even a charity without looking over my shoulder. My emails have to be scanned for hidden payloads and advertisements, even on reputable news sites, might be concealing spyware or Trojans that have been placed there without the Website owner’s knowledge.

If this experience of lawlessness was common to the real world, then it might be enough to force a change in government, as the population expressed their dissatisfaction but this is the Internet and nobody owns it, nobody controls it and nobody has any idea of how we can recapture the trust and confidence which it clearly can’t offer us in its present form.


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…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…