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, 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 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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Merlins over Thanet

Marooned, temporarily at Manston this afternoon are the Merlins over Malta team on the way to the Mediterranean for a display to mark the historic Second World War defence of the island.


Charlie Brown

Unfortunately, the weather over Thanet is appalling this afternoon and the Spitfire and Hurricane can’t get airborne again until it clears, so the celebrity Battle of Britain aircraft pilots, Charlie Brown, Clive Denny and their team-mates are contemplating an evening among the fleshpots of Margate.


Clive Denny (Hurricane) & Charlie Brown (Spitfire) Pilots

I’m rather hoping the weather it will clear through though as they have to get to Jersey before dusk if possible and I have to take some photos of the Spitfire and Hurricane for Pilot Magazine and I’ve always wanted a chance to get in either aircraft!

An Interview with Charlie Brown

They just got off, squadron scramble or what? They were ready and gone in ten minutes towards the nearest patch of blue sky!

An interview with the legendary S…
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!