Posts

Showing posts from 2005

Art With a Start

Image
The snow has gone and the Christmas sales are in full swing. I was surprised to see how busy Margate High Street was this morning but it looked as if Woolworth rather than the tattoo and piercing parlour was drawing much of the pedestrian traffic. Mind you, with a special offer on a while you wait nose piercing and tattoo combination, who wouldn’t be tempted by such an interesting way to start the New Year?

The lady in the photo looks a little undecided though.

The open air harbour exhibition of local graffiti - see photo - has now opened opposite the Turner, which has its sign for the visitor centre prominently displayed. Entitled "Art with a Start" and visible to passing ships, it hasn't quite captured my imagination yet but time will tell whether it catches on.

Damn the Spam

Excellent news of a landmark legal victory by Nigel Roberts which involved chasing down a UK spammer and winning £300 in costs.

Roberts, who runs his own Internet business as well as the Jersey and Guernsey country code domains, used his legal know-how to apply EU legislation to a UK company, Media Logistics.

It is believed to be the first time the legislation has been used in the UK, and could open the doors for thousands of other cases.

The case sets an interesting precedent. Since it was settled out of court, the damages will not be bidding in future cases, but the cost is likely to be used as a guideline. The case will also highlight the EU anti-spam law (Directive 2002/58/EC) and its practical effectiveness.

See The Register and SpamLegal Action of Roberts -v- Media Logistics (UK) Ltd

“Safeguards should be provided for subscribers against intrusion of their privacy by unsolicited communications for direct marketing purposes in particular by means of automated calling machine, telefax…

A Little Light Iaido

Thanet has a rich martial arts environment and I remember that as a bored teenager in the days when Margate High Street offered the most exciting shopping experience for miles around, it was the discipline of the local Karate dojo that kept me physically occupied.

When I came back from living in London, where I attended what is now the Kashiwa dojo in Wandsworth under the expert tuition of Sensei's Ahloi Lee and Vito Tattoli, I didn’t expect to find Iaido being practised in Thanet, as it’s a fairly esoteric art. Instead I was surprised that together with Jodo, another martial art, it thrives here, with members of the British team living and training in Thanet.

As I often get asked what Iaido is, here’s a video clip of my good friend, Dave Roe demonstrating one of the forms, of which there are many to master, called Soe-Te-Tsuki.

Fly BMED - Not if I Can Avoid It

Image
I forgot to give BMED (British Mediterranean Airways) a promised “roasting” when I returned from Heathrow the other week. It was a nice enough flight, I slept most of the way and I was enchanted by the co-pilot who was only a little older than my daughter and who had a wonderfully confident command of English.



Back at Heathrow T4 and we are taxied to a distant stand with no gate. Buses only and par for the course for BMED. It takes a good twenty minutes before the steps are down and passengers start to disembark from the Airbus into, well, THE bus and I joke with the flight attendant that we always seem to get stuck at the edge of the airport and that BMED is BA’s poor relation. “Worse than that”, she says, “We’re a distant third cousin.”

At the top of the steps, I wait with the remaining half planeload of passengers for the next bus to take us to the terminal. At the bottom of the steps, the women member of ground staff in British Airways uniform who is supposed to look after us, is b…

Sand Phishing Strikes Saudi Arabia

Image
I predicted that given the relatively poor attention to the risks posed by information security and identity theft in the broader Arab world, attacks on Arab banks were inevitable but writing “told you so” holds no joy. Arab News reports that on Sunday, the Samba Financial Group became the target of a “phishing” attack. E-mail directed users of Samba Online banking services to proceed to an “authorization page” where they would be assisted in measures to increase their level of security in regard to Samba’s Internet banking transactions. A link in the e-mail led to the site, www.sambaonlineaccess.com, which had been registered on Sunday specifically for use in the attack. At the site, a registration form requested such details as user name, password and national ID number. The intention of the fraud was to steal financial and personal information from Samba customers.

After being notified of the phishing attack, the Internet Services Unit at KACST blocked the URL. As of yesterday after…

Dr Who meets East Enders

Dr Who meets East Enders. More politically correct casting from the BBC left me cold as one who still remembers the very first episode of Dr Who, filmed outside the Sun Inn in Barnes village, SW13.

Without a doubt David Tennant is an ideal choice for the role of the Doctor but why, I ask do his companions need to be steadily “dumbed down” as the series matures? How low can they go I might ask but I already know the answer, writ large in the disappearance of most if not all vaguely intelligent content on the BBC before 10pm at night.

After a while, I gave up waiting for the characters from Albert Square, the Mitchell brothers or even "Dot Cotton" to appear in the new series and why not too? Does a new Dr Who justify raising the TV license to £180 a year? What do you think?

Boredom is a necessary feature of existence. Without it there would be no need for the BBC

A Dandelion or A Lion

Image
Manston was closed today, the controllers being allowed out of their box for the Bank Holiday, which gave me a chance to buzz around it with my camera, which promptly announced that the batteries expired within moments of my turning it on. I had forgotten that Christmas is inclined to wear heavily on digital cameras.

I managed to fire off a couple of shots but only managed some poor quality, blurry images of what remains of Thanet’s only castle, the remains of Dent De Lion in Garlinge. Historically, it was more of a 14th century medieval manor than a true castle for the Dent De Lion family; I wonder what happened to them I can see that the name was at one point changed to Dandelion in 1847. Dandelion is an adaptation of the French name, ‘dent de lion’ and was referred to as ‘dens leonis’ in Medieval Latin, meaning lion's tooth.

You can see from one of the old photos what it used to look like and you can find more old photos, I’ve restored of Thanet and Garlinge and Dent De Lion in t…

Political Weblog Awards 2005

Outstanding political Weblog awards of the year have gone to:

The Religious Policeman; a persona and frank view of the stories and many challenges facing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A second award goes to “Regime Change in Iran” and the third to “This is Zimbabwe.”

All the authors in question are risking imprisonment and possibly death by using the internet to reveal local stories and express their political views.

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

Image
Everyone gets their turn at Christmas dinner at my house, as you can see from the photograph. Even the Hamster had a special bag of mixed nuts and a small cracker.

Before I collapse in an exhausted over-indulged heap in front of the televison for the remainder of the day, can I wish a Merry Christmas to all those who have visited this website in 2005 and a happy and prosperous year ahead.

If the web page seems quieter it's only because one of my other sites, www.thanetlife.com has taken on a life of its own and splitting my attention between both is a struggle that I hope to resolve in 2006

Above the Isle of Thanet

Image
If you were out and about this morning in the Isle of Thanet in North Kent, then you may have spotted me above you taking pictures before the clouds hid the Sun at lunchtime.

I took quite a few of Westwood Cross and the traffic jam on the roundabout, took some new photos of Margate Football Club and also hovered above Margate and Cliftonville snapping many more high-resolution photos of Margate, High Street, Cecil Square, the Old Town and Northdown Road.

You can of course download or view all of these from the photo library here. Can anyone tell me what is being built in the Dreamland area behind the amusement arcade in the photo. You an see a larger view if you go and look at the aerial photos of Margate seafront and Dreamland that I took today.

Google - Sparring & Spin

An interesting piece on Google in the Guardian today. I notice that they are recruiting like crazy and fast enough, I suspect to worry the likes of even Microsoft.

It is known as the Google dance, a delicate struggle between technicians at the world's largest internet search engine and the spin doctors who manipulate the worldwide web for commercial ends. Every day one group tries to prevent the other from abusing Google's index of more than 8bn web pages.

Advent Calendar

Bit of a disaster today with the power supply on my Advent tower PC having failed. Not a good advert for the make and I'm told they have a bad reputation for this fault. Anyway, I rushed it over to M-Wise in Westbrook for emergency repairs and with luck, Mark will have it working for me again in the morning. I won't bother with the warranty, it's only four months old but you can imagine the grief involved in getting it over to PC World in Canterbury and trying to get something done about it; meanwhile, I can't work properly as a consequence and have to use my backup laptop.

Up to London this morning and guess what, the train sits at Faversham and goes nowhere for a long time while it waits for a stuck train to join it from Dover. Wrong kind of frost I assume and I'm late for a meeting in London again. Lord help us if we get a really bad winter as you may recall from this weblog that South East trains can be relied upon to break down at the first dusting of snow.

In t…

Tow Ronnies and a Pelican

Image
I bet you didn’t know you can jump start an aircraft with a car battery and a pair of jump leads. That’s what happened to me today but with the cold everyone seemed to be having low battery problems. Having finally got to Rochester and slotted into to the circuit to land, a pair of idiots on the ground then decided to start tinkering with the radio in their Pelican microlight aircraft. “What does the ‘T’ (transmit symbol) mean” says one to the other. “Dunno” says his friend and the conversation carries on like a two Ronnies sketch for a good ten minutes, locking up the approach frequency, while the control tower and other pilots queuing to land on runway 20, are losing their cool and like me are very tempted, to shout “Get off the air you stupid *****s.” But they can't hear anyway!

I had to do a go-around on the first approach as I couldn’t contact the tower and on the second, in the moments that the frequency cleared, was given permission to land at the next attempt at my own disc…

Reindeer Power

Image
It very much looks as if we are going to reach the magic fifty thousand hit mark by Christmas. I’m not sure how I should celebrate this. Any ideas?

A bright and bitterly cold day outside and I’m just about to take my local postman, Jason, for a ride, as he’s keen on aviation and I suspect wants to see what the view over Thanet is like from Santa’s perspective. I’m wondering whether my own 150HP Reindeer will start on day like this as I haven’t flown it since I went off to take photos of the oil fire last Sunday.

If I take any decent photos, I’ll put them up when I get back after lunch.

eGovernment - The Kalashnikov Theory

Image
Back from a visit to the middle-east where I’ve once again been sharing my rather unorthodox ‘Kalashnikov theory’ of eGovernment in a speech in Amman. I’ve never really written it down beyond the looser concept appearing in my PowerPoint deck but as we try to come to grips with Transactional Government, here in the UK, there’s a wider world out there that is struggling with the internet as a medium for public sector reform.

“Bureaucracy”, said Karl Marx in one of his wittier moments, “Is the ultimate purpose of the state” and eGovernment works best in societies with a relatively thin and efficient public sector. We know this, intuitively at least, from our own experience in the UK and can observe that where government is at its fattest and most Byzantine, e-delivery projects are most likely to fail because being large and being ‘joined-up’ are mutually incompatible concepts in an environment which demands agility, initiative and shared services.

I’m in danger of oversimplifying a comple…

Camera Shy

Image
Apparently Kent has pushed out £3.7 million worth of speeding fines this year, up £360,000 on 2003 – 2004, giving the Department of Transport a £750,000 windfall against the £286,000 the previous year.

Not everyone is keen to cough-up with 20% of fines unpaid. I wonder if like me, you have a sneaking feeling that road and motorway repairs are allowed to run over time because there’s so much money to be made in catching motorists while the speed camera remain in place?

Have you noticed over the years how roads like the A2 and A3 out of London, that seemed perfectly safe at 60mph suddenly had their limits dropped to 50mph, which a more difficult speed to keep to in a car on or an bike in top gear?

My other hate is bus lane cameras in London. I was caught by one last year in Farringdon, when I took a wrong turning and made a U-turn on my motorcycle which crossed the white line. Logic and common sense fly out of the window with this technology which like a digital linesman, is only intereste…

A Christmas Carol

Image
I’m sitting here in the hotel coffee lounge surrounded by at least thirty small schoolboys dressed as Father Christmas ready to sing Christmas carols in Arabic and English. This is a part of the world where education is important, school uniforms are neat, the children are polite and well-behaved and almost everyone celebrates Christmas, even though the average family wage is 300 a month and the population is mostly poor. I’ll try and upload a camera photo.

Some of these children are Christian, others are Moslem and when I told my driver this morning that in England, some religious groups are offended by the open celebration of Christmas. He couldn’t grasp the idea. “Why” he asked, “Christmas and Eid are for the Children” it shouldn’t matter what religion you are, why would anyone be offended?”

I tried to explain how in Britain that it’s very easy to be offended and that there’s a whole legal industry devoted to generously compensating those people in the minority who feel offended by t…

Labours of Hercules

Image
Hotel security, here in Amman, is visibly tight as you might expect with a security cordon outside my hotel but otherwise, it's business as usual and in general, it's as safe a place to be as London, even safer perhaps.

I rather wonder if British Airways is taking the strain off the RAF these days, given the number of fellow passengers on my flight with desert boots and short haircuts, Americans included. Outside my hotel window, another Hercules transport aircraft roars off towards Baghdad and me, well, I've got a meeting at British Embassy in an hour.

Some speculation around in the website I notice as to whether the oil refinery explosion was an accident or not. My first reaction on Sunday, was the same as another visitor, that given our Health & Safety culture and paranoia an accident of this magnitude was unlikely and that it looked like a series of charges, but I hope my suspicions are wrong!

Off goes another Hercules.

Stacking Tin

The good news is that you can make Skype VoIP telephone calls from a laptop PC here at Garfunkel’s in Heathrow’s Terminal 4, over the T-Mobile wireless network that covers the airport. The bad news is that it took me three hours to get here on a motorbike this morning!

A lorry fire on the westbound Thanet Way this morning, virtually closed it and one can, as usual, walk along the tops of the cars along the M25 from Sevenoaks to Staines. If I had taken a car, Id’ still be somewhere in Surrey!

The food is generally so poor on BMED, the middle-eastern arm of British airways that I’m filling-up with an English breakfast before catching my flight in 30 minutes. With luck, this should see me to Amman. Normal service should resume later in the week between attempts at wireless posting from Jordan.

Smoke Cloud from Luton

Image
I’ve been up at three thousand feet looking down the Thames from Canvey Island at the pall of smoke coming the other way.

I’ve attached some photos and a video but suffice to say that it starts at 2,500 feet and is rolling past towards Belgium on the Essex side of the estuary.

The really big cloud and believe me, it’s “Biblical” a scene from a nuclear winter was still out towards Thurrock when I turned back and I’m estimating it will roll past us after 18:00, hopefully out to sea.

Towards Luton you can see this huge black cloud with a red glow at its centre.

The Smoke cloud from the Luton refinery fire approaches Canvey Island at 15:00 Sunday.

Directionless Gov

The Guardian reveals that government websites are still struggling to attract visitors despite extensive spending. Information published today by Technology Guardian shows that many of the government's internet operations are underperforming, despite vast funding and investment. One website, UK World Heritage Sites (http://www.ukworldheritage.org.uk/) managed only 77 visitors last year and so in contrast, Zentelligence is doing rather well .

Meanwhile such is the criticism aimed at the Directgov website that some disillusioned “wags”, members of Democracy.org.uk have created an alternative search engine for public sector websites called http://www.directionlessgov.com/

They write: “We got so fed up with the general uselessness of the multi-million pound shambles otherwise known as the Direct.gov.uk portal that we decided to build something better in under an hour. Sadly, we ran catastrophically behind schedule, but we still finished before lunch.”

“For free. Think of it as a gift. Wh…

November - A Bad Month for Security

Computing reports that November was the worst month for malware since records began in the mid-1980s, according to antivirus firm Sophos.

The company detected 1,940 new pieces of malware in the past month, and has seen a 48 per cent increase in threats over the year.

The bulk of the new threats are not self-propagating viruses such as worms, but Trojan software that either logs the user's behaviour or allows remote control of their PC.

A report published in November 2005 by Financial Insights, an IDC company, estimated that global financial institutions lost USD400 million in 2004 due to phishing schemes. Phishing is a system whereby scammers send an email, purporting to be from their financial institution, which induces them to reveal their online banking details.

Instead of going for the large financial institutions, cyber criminals are now engaging in what has been dubbed "puddle phishing", where they target a smaller financial institution that may only have a few branche…

Intellectual Property Rights to be Reviewed in UK

OUTLAW reports that The Chancellor Gordon Brown has commissioned an independent review into intellectual property rights in the UK. I wonder if he’s read the Aedilles and Zentelligence-authored report, March of the Spiders?

The review, which will run for 12 months, will look at the way in which Government administers the awarding of intellectual property rights, and the support given to consumers and business.

It will consider how well businesses are able to negotiate the complexity and expense of the copyright and patent system, including copyright and patent licensing arrangements, litigation and enforcement. It will also look at whether the current technical and legal IP infringement framework reflects the digital environment, and whether provisions for 'fair use' by citizens are reasonable.

The Government has previously committed to examining whether the current term of copyright protection on sound recordings and performers' rights is appropriate. This will also be condu…

The Final Whistle

I won’t deny that George Best was a talented footballer who entertained millions in his time but I wonder at giving the man the equivalent of a state funeral with flags flying at half mast, a quite unprecedented step.

We appear to have reached the stage in our society where “Celebrities” and I use the term loosely are celebrated as if they are divinities and those who make a real contribution to society or mankind, can, in contrast, expect a quiet family service, a few badly sung hymns and a simple grave.

Personally and given the choice, I’d prefer the latter service but I assume that already, David if not Victoria Beckham, may be eying up a vacant space in Westminster Abbey, thinking ahead to the final whistle and that great changing room in the sky.

Fly Me to the Moon

Image
A mad Tuesday of filming with my ten year old daughter, thanks to a story about her flying skills in the Daily Express.

Seven hours in the bitter cold with film crews from Meridian TV, the BBC , whose website coverage can be seen here.

I think it was all a bit much for a ten year old and I lost count of the number of flights we made with cameras in the back and minicams taped to the dash in front. It would have been so much easier if they had pooled their footage but of course they aren’t going to do that, so we all froze, poor Charlotte worst of all.

Anyway, the BBC and Meridian stories looked very good last night and I’ll reserve judgement on Richard & Judy, yet to come!

Online Fraud Set to Soar

Image
The Sunday Times reports that Internet experts are predicting a surge in online fraud over the festive season as record numbers of shoppers are expected to turn to the internet in search of Christmas bargains.

IMRG, the internet retail monitoring group, estimates that UK shoppers will spend £5 billion on 24 million online purchases over the Christmas period. The sheer volume of online spending has prompted criminal gangs to venture on to the internet in search of rich pickings from shoppers who fail to take the necessary security precautions with their card purchases.

Online fraud now accounts for more than half the overall losses to card-not-present fraud, which rose to £90.6 million in the first half of this year, up 29 per cent on the previous year.

Linux, Evidence of Evolution or Intelligent Design

I was thinking of writing a piece on Open Source with the title, “Linux, evidence of evolution or intelligent design” and might get there yet.

Looking at the response to my last column on Silicon.com I wonder why I can write about every other subject on the face of the earth, up to and including multiculturalism and politics without receiving the kind of abuse that comes from mentioning Linux and Microsoft in the same sentence?

It only serves to confirm what I have written before and that is the semi-religious nature of the Open Source debate clouds any pretense of objectivity among many of its disciples. A sort of “Microsoft bad, Linux good” reflex which interferes with need for sensible debate on the subject.

In fact, I feel a completely new column coming on now, so I’ll stop and perhaps continue it for you a little later when I’ve thought about it so more. Until then let’s remember I’m more interested in weighing the different arguments than mud-slinging in the direction of one side o…

Santa Don't Shop

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that a record number of Britons, fed up with the crush, bustle and hassle of the high street, will do their Christmas shopping online this month, according to new figures.

Internet stores are expected to take at least £5 billion, a rise of 45 per cent on last year. The growth has been fuelled by cheaper prices, the spread of fast broadband connections and greater confidence about shopping online.

However, while the rise of "e-tailing" may be good news for shoppers, there are signs that it is ripping out the heart of the high street.

According to the online retail industry, internet shopping accounted for 8.6 per cent of all sales in October and will grow to nine per cent in December. There are now 26,000 online shops.

The growth has been led by electrical goods. Around a fifth of televisions, DVD players, computers and other electronic gadgets will be bought online this Christmas, according to the online trade industry body IMRG.

Iraq - Where's that Then?

I’m just watching the news and all the fuss over the so-called Iraq memo between presidents Bush and Blair, which, as you may know, the government does not wish to see published in this country. “Can’t people just find it on the Web”, the CNN presenter is asking the Daily Mirror journalist and he replies that they can if they have the skills to know where to look.

Now I couldn’t possibly publish such a thing and risk prosecution but I can tell you that thanks to their own Freedom of Information Act, you can find all sorts of interesting things on the subject at a US-based web site called Cryptome. Not that I have read anything on it, honest Guv!

No Win - No Fee

Image
Does God work on a 'No win no fee' basis I wonder? While the Archbishop of Canterbury is busily apologizing for the Crusades in a visit to Pakistan this week, in more immediate national news of political correctness and litigation gone crazy, a Muslim insurance salesman is sueing his employer, Direct Line because he believes he suffered religious discrimination. Why, because his team leader offered only alcohol as a performance incentive, an employment tribunal heard.

British-born Mr. Khan, who works for Direct Line Insurance, is seeking damages for "hurt feelings" under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Mr. Khan's team leader, Louise Cummings, said she introduced the incentives as a means of "improving staff morale and performance". "If I had realised that I had hurt anyone's feelings, then I would have taken steps to rectify that immediately," she added.

I’m sure my own feeling have been hurt somewhere in the la…

Dr Simon Moores to Deliver Keynote at GOVTECH 2006

GOVTEC 2006 - eGovernment in the Middle East: Vision, new initiatives and opportunities

Vice Chairman of the Conservative Technology Forum and Zentelligence Research, Managing Director, Dr Simon Moores has been invited to keynote the GOVTEC 2006 - eGovernment in the Middle East conference from 13th-15th February 2006, at the Bahrain Convention and Exhibition Centre, Kingdom of Bahrain.

A respected technology and eGovernment advisor to both the British and Arab governments, Dr Moores, commented: “I’m delighted to be asked to both speak at and assist in the chairing of this important conference on Middle-eastern electronic governance. The GCC states have made considerable advances since I last spoke at a regional conference in 2003 and in particular, I’m encouraged by the progress being made in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria towards the creation and delivery of both transactional and informational public services.”

GOVTEC is a high profile international conference designed to meet and address t…

China Syndrome

Silicon reports that security experts have revealed tantalising details about a group of Chinese hackers who are suspected of launching intelligence gathering attacks against the US government.

The hackers, who are believed to be based in the Chinese province of Guangdong, are thought to have stolen US military secrets, including aviation specifications and flight-planning software.

The team is thought to consist of 20 hackers It is claimed the Chinese government was the most likely recipient of the information they intercepted.

The US government has coined the term 'Titan Rain' to describe the hackers.

Soft Target - Cyberterrorism

CNET reports that foreign governments are the primary threat to the UK.'s critical national infrastructure because of their hunger for information, a British government agency said.

The National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre said on Tuesday that the most significant electronic threats are content-based, targeted, Trojan horse e-mail attacks from the Far East.

"Foreign states are probing the CNI for information," said Roger Cummings, the director of NISCC, speaking at SANS Institute's launch of its Top 20 Critical Internet Vulnerability Listing in London.

The agency is in charge of defending the UK's critical national infrastructure, which is made up of financial institutions; key transport, telecom and energy networks; and government organizations.

NISCC is working with its equivalents in the countries concerned to try to shut the attacks down, Cummings said. The agency cannot name the countries concerned as this may "ruin diplomatic efforts t…

Two Degrees

It’s only two degrees in Herne Bay and dropping, as you may have noticed if you have ventured outside.

I was supposed to take an aircraft over towards Shoreham for maintenance but divine providence intervened with a flat battery, which can happen to an aircraft in much the same way as a car, trying to turn a big propeller in very cold and very damp weather. Mind you, it’s so foggy out there anyway that I wasn’t too keen on disappearing into low freezing cloud and I’m enjoying a hot cup of tea at home instead.

Snow would come as a surprise if we get any, as the sea temperature is still too warm off the Thanet coast after the Indian summer. If it comes, then I would expect it to melt very quickly but leaving the usual roadside havoc behind it.

Keep warm.

The SANS "Top-20" - 2005

This year’s SANS “Top 20 Security Vulnerabilities” holds no great surprises but in 2005 there is a “marked deviation from the previous Top-20 lists.” In addition to Windows and UNIX categories, we have also included Cross-Platform Applications and Networking Products.

The change, says SANS, reflects the dynamic nature of the evolving threat landscape. Unlike the previous Top-20 lists, this list is not "cumulative" in nature. We have only listed critical vulnerabilities from the past year and a half or so. If you have not patched your systems for a length of time, it is highly recommended that you first patch the vulnerabilities listed in the Top-20 2004 list

Win the Battle - Lose the War?

Image
Some time has passed since I last re-visited the titanic struggle been the “Open Force” or is that Open Source and the Empire, loosely known as Microsoft. Since then we’ve had a new Star Wars movie and a total cost of ownership argument from Gartner has proved compelling enough for Lord Vader to decide that when it comes to provisioning something as large as a Death Star, Windows offers a pretty decisive advantage

In fact, the Star Wars saga offers a better metaphor for the struggle between Windows and the Open Source (principally Linux) movement than you might think, as this is a story which pits two conflicting ideologies against each other and which looks set to run with multiple episodes and victories for both sides, for many years to come.

“Microsoft,” report Gartner, “will remain the dominant server operating-system provider for midsize businesses through 2010. For midsize businesses,” it continues, “Linux presents many challenges, including not fully understanding the OS’s benefi…

The Man from UNCLE

Image
I was over at our National Hi-tech Crime Unit at their secret building in Docklands this week. It rather reminds me of the classic “Man from UNCLE” series but I think the comparison was lost on their receptionist, who isn’t old enough to remember the characters of Napoleon Solo and Mr Waverly at their secret building behind a Chinese laundry in Brooklyn in the sixties.

One of the discussions I had surrounded identity theft and how bad it’s getting. Even with lots of news and education about “phishing”, the stealing of identities and financial information online or through social engineering, people continue to be conned in huge numbers.

Here’s one popular way of stealing your details, now that more people are shredding their bills and letters. You get a call from your doctor’s surgery about the appointment you’ve just missed. “I haven’t got an appointment”, you say. “But you are Mr Smith”, says the voice on the other end of the phone. “Yes”, you reply but I’m not ill.”

“You are the Mr Sm…

Very Non PC

I’m off to Swansea a little later today and so the Weblog will be quiet until I find myself back into Manston after delivering a speech on the future of the Welsh information economy. If you didn’t know it had one, then it does and it hasn’t been doing too badly in contrast with the rest of the UK either.

Mind you, I have to be in by 5:30 pm at the latest, as Wales closes early on a Sunday afternoon and I suppose that Swansea, like Pembury airfield further on, is left to the attention of wandering ruminants.

Manston have agreed to stay open until I stumble upon it in the dark tomorrow evening. As long as I keep flying East, from Cardiff and Bristol, I should come across it, either that or Ostende, where the beer is cheap.

Back in Kent, I was outraged to read today that while the Inland Revenue are prepared to descend like a ton of bricks, upon families that have been mistakenly overpaid tax credits or child allowances, they’ve decided that refugee and asylum-seeking families will escape …

e-Government Use Remains Too Low

There’s a surprise, Silicon reports that the government is spending £5m to persuade the public to use the electronic services which local authorities have spent billions putting in place.

The 'Lose the Queues' campaign - to start early next year - is designed to support the efforts of local authorities by highlighting the benefits of accessing council services online, such as flexibility and convenience.

The government claims the UK is leading the EU in terms of the sophistication of public authority e-services for the citizen - but that it is currently below average in terms of take-up.

There is evidence that current usage of council e-channels still lags behind public interest in using them, with around half of the adult population of England saying they are interested in using online services.

I’m still here if you want any help or shall I just stick with the Jordanian and Syrian governments?

Top Gun and Friend

Image
Charlotte Moores, aged ten, appears to have made it to page three of the Thanet Times today, described as a “Top Gun” pilot of the future.

There’s still some way to go with her training and if you see her coming, don’t forget to duck. The small seal in the photograph is of course a vital piece of aviation safety equipment and regularly visits his cousins on flights over the Red Sands off Margate.

David Davis at University of Kent

Image
I went to hear David Davis speak at The University of Kent in Canterbury last night and must admit that I left with a much more positive impression of his potential ability, as a leader of the Conservative Party.

Davis spoke for two hours without notes, which was enough to dismiss the media suggestion that he’s a poor orator. He obviously stumbled at Blackpool but appears to have recovered his composure since then and I found him very lucid quick and ready to answer questions from his audience and at times, quite entertaining.

Over the course of the evening, I jotted-down several of his comments which I’ll share with those of you who are interested:

“Why is government so unpopular? Three words, Mandelson, Byers and Blunkett.”
“Trust in all politicians has been undermined by Tony Blair.”
“One third of the population depend on the state for half their income.”
“A £billion each year is being wasted by audit and Whitehall control of local council services.”
“A Conservative government would repea…

Card Fraud Increasingly an Internet Crime

Credit-card fraudsters are increasingly turning to the internet now that the "chip and pin" system has closed other money-making opportunities.

"Card-not-present" fraud has grown by 29% in a year, says the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs). Online banking fraud has also risen sharply. Apacs is promoting a consumer awareness campaign to inform people of safety precautions they can take when shopping online.

Overall, card fraud losses have fallen. For the six months to June 30 they totalled £219m - down 13% on the £253m of losses recorded during the same period last year.

The Guardian reports that many fraudsters now appear to have shifted their attention to the internet. Card-not-present fraud amounted to £90.6m in the first six months of this year, up from £70.2m during the same period in 2004. Internet card fraud made up the lion's share (£58m) of this.

Meanwhile, online banking fraud - involving "phishing" and other scams more than trebl…

Cost of ID cards Will be £500 Each

The Sunday Times reports that the cost of introducing a national identity card scheme could rise to almost £30 billion — almost £500 a card, the government will be warned this month.

A report by the London School of Economics (LSE), details of which have emerged this weekend, says the cost of integrating the scheme’s computers with government databases will add as much as £10 billion to the college’s previous £18 billion estimate


Big Bang

Image
Twenty-four hours before the country starts to sound like a war zone, in celebration of Guy Fawkes night, my attention is drawn to two newspaper headlines from this week. The first that an English local council has chosen to rename its “Christmas” lights this year, because of the danger of offending the Moslem community. These are now to be called “Celebrity” lights, which is nice.

The second story is in today’s Daily Express that reports the desire of Museum bosses to do away with BC (before Christ) and replace it with “Before Present.” This confuses me a little because BCE (before the Common Era) was introduced for just this purpose years ago.

What is ironic is that in my own experience travelling regularly in the middle-east and having lived in Saudi Arabia, Christmas is tolerated and frequently embraced as an excuse to exchange gifts. OK, maybe not in the orthodox Saudi Kingdom, no Christmas lights there but for over a thousand years Islam in general hasn’t been offended by Christma…

DOS is No Crime - Official

You may have read that the case against a teenager accused of mounting a denial of service attack (DoS) collapsed in a London court yesterday. The reason being that the Computer Misuse Act doesn’t recognise this as an offense.

The Judge in the case reflected that the world and technology has moved on since the Act first appeared in 1990 but this only serves to illustrate the broadly toothless nature of legislation confronted by rapidly changing methods and modes of internet crime.

The law may remain one step behind the crime to society’s cost.

Up and Down

Image
It seems that daughter Charlotte, aged 10, is going to be in next month’s Pilot Magazine, as a member of “The next generation” of flyers.

She may be ten but flying an aircraft, as co-pilot, is no more complicated to her than using her PlayStation and possibly less exciting. Backed-up with a little practise from time to time on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004, the basic principles of aviation don’t take too long to grasp at that age. i.e. more power and it goes up, less power and it goes down!

Better Late or Simply Late?

I shouldn’t say “I told you so” but Silicon reports that the rollout of the NHS' £64m electronic 'Choose and Book' appointment booking system is a year behind schedule.

The e-booking system is a key part of the £6.2bn NHS IT programme and will allow patients to choose from at least four hospitals when booking an outpatient appointment through their GP surgery.

The government had pledged to offer patients the e-booking service by 1 January 2006 but NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp told MPs at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing this week that while patients will still be able to choose which hospital they go to most appointments will have to be booked manually by GPs.

You may recall the TV comedy catch by Bremner, Bird and Fortune over the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) or even the report, “Computerising the Chinese Army” published by the Conservative Technology Forum.  Anyway, it’s late and everyone, except perhaps the politicians, realised, that like ID cards, NP…

Get Safe Online - Get Top Gear

Image
I was at the Get Safe Online launch in London today, where not only did I get to meet Top Gear’s high-speed Richard Hammond over a coffee but also recorded his little speech on internet safety for you.

Research from Get Safe Online has found that over three quarters of the UK’s population (83 per cent) don’t know enough about protecting themselves online. Nearly half (42 per cent) of the population rely on friends and family for online safety advice rather than finding expert information for themselves. This lack of education, which Get Safe Online aims to address, threatens to undermine confidence in an online retail economy is worth £10bn a year. An estimated 14m use online banking

The idea is of course that everyone goes online, checks out the website and learns to avoid all the nasty pitfalls that go hand in hand with the internet. In fact the timing couldn’t be better, as I have to go and help rescue Captain Bob’s PC tomorrow, as he tells me a virus has eaten all his email!

One goo…

Night Flight

Image
If your'e interested in what it's like to fly from Manston at night, I've put up the draft of a piece I'm writing for Pilot Magazine on this week's night training course at TG Aviation.

Why bother with a night rating? Much like the IMC rating, a night rating is a qualification which only a relatively small number of GA pilots bother to pursue, either because of the extra time and cost involved or because they can’t imagine themselves ever needing one.

But like having the benefit of IMC experience, there may come a day when the opportunity of landing after dark can make the difference between spending a night in a distant hotel or arriving home safely in time for dinner.

I’ve been flying since 1998 and although I have an IMC rating, which has rescued me from trouble more times than I can remember, I’ve never been too bothered about adding a night rating. More recently though, I’ve been using my Cessna 172 for business, as far away as, Cardiff, Leeds and Blackpool and a…