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Showing posts from December, 2005

Art With a Start

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.