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Showing posts from February, 2006

Pick-up Line

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I have a charity banner I’ve been asked to run along the seafront at Folkestone on Friday, the idea being that lots of schoolchildren line-up on the cliff top and wave as it goes past, a moment to be captured by the local press and possibly Meridian TV.

The only problem is that the long-range forecast is looking awful for that afternoon and I don’t want to disappoint everyone. It’s one of the challenges doing something as weather-dependent as hauling a banner behind an aircraft. It’s tricky at the best of times and best requested in the Spring and Summer when the odds of good weather are much better.

If you’re interested, here’s a ‘Bird-eye’ view of a pickup. Note lucky plastic sheep on top of instrument panel and G-force effect of the sudden “pull-up” on the camera.

Tea with Mussolini

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So let me see if I have the story right? Allegedly, a politician’s 'other half', just happens to be the investment lawyer for the very dodgy owner of a large Italian restaurant, AKA, ‘Mussolini’, being investigated by his friendly local public prosecutor for bribery, corruption and bent spaghetti.

Mussolini, out of gratitude for his lawyer’s excellent services, gives him a large brown envelope with £340,000 of 'readies' in it, as one does. That’s a bit of a problem over here these days, as one women discovered last week when she tried to pay £5,000 in cash into the Maidstone branch of the Halifax and was promptly arrested. So in order to smooth the investment and avoid all those troublesome money-laundering forms we have to fill in since 911, the lawyer, let’s call him “Kev”, arranges a mortgage on the home he shares with his partner, “Bev” for the coincidental amount of £340,000, allegedly.

Having signed the loan agreement with their Building Society, Kev and Bev are g…

Whistle and Flute

I just stumbled across an old BBC news interview with me on the Yahoo video site, so for anyone who might think I wear a flying suit and leather jacket all the time, close your eyes now.

You'll need RealPlayer installed though as the BBC doesn't support Microsoft's Windows Media Player, funny that.. it's exactly what I'm talking about.

Skype Out

For any of you that haven’t come around to using your PC as a telephone, with Voice over IP (VoIP) with Skype or any similar popular service, it might be time to give it a try.

This morning, as I was reading the papers, my PC “Rang” and it was a business contact from Bahrain. Saturday is a working day there. He had a webcam attached to his PC, which reminded me to turn my own on too, so we had a video conference call, which cost.. well absolutely nothing, as we are both Skype users connected over the internet with VoIP.

When I was in the Middle-east two weeks ago, I took a headset with me and used Skype to make most of my calls to work and home from the hotel lobby, with its wireless network connection. Historically, a visit to the area means that I arrive home to find a huge Vodafone bill and I reckon that simply using VoIP saves me at least £100 on each trip, with my Skype calls being either free, or tiny small if I’m calling out from the PC to a landline or a mobile phone.

The next th…

Who Pays?

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, former Conservative leader of Kent county council and chairman of the Local Government Association, has urged the Chancellor to repeat last year's payment of £200 in council tax aid per pensioner household.

He claims that since 1997, the Chancellor had deliberately used council tax and other "stealth taxes" to fund Labour's huge increase in public spending, placing a disproportionate burden on council tax payers, and especially on pensioners and those on fixed incomes.

This comes at a time when the Spectator Magazine reveals that Forty four per cent of the working population are now employed directly or indirectly by the public sector or depend on state benefits for much of their livelihood.

The state-dependency research, based on 2005 official figures -Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) & Office for National Statistics (ONS) - and broken down by parliamentary constituencies, showed that more than 60 per cent of people work for or liv…

Red Banner Fleet - Part 2.

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Looks as if the banner towing season is starting early this year. Now I've taken over the Airads business from Captain Bob, with a growing fleet of pilots, I wonder if we'll get the London Marathon this year?

We Love Linux - 100%

One good thing about Google video is all the interesting clips you can find on there and some of the more entertaining TV advertisements.

Here’s the IBM, “We discovered Linux” video. Well sort of, because they do give credit to Linus Torvald. Which is nice!"/span>

Life on Mars

Who remembers the eighties? It was the best of times for those of us working in technology and at the time, columnists like me predicted a future, driven by the march of progress, that would make doing business cheaper and more efficient and would give each of us more leisure time and less stress as a consequence.

How wrong could I be? Yesterday’s future is today’s present and technology, much like the world of the “Matrix” consumes budgets with an insatiable appetite that has quite the opposite effect to that we imagined twenty years ago.

Can you still recall what the world was like before the arrival of the call centre, the speed camera and the Blackberry, when a holiday meant that nobody could find you for two weeks and when the public sector still relied on the typewriter and the telephone?

This week we heard that Council tax bills are to increase by more than twice the level of inflation this year, marking a doubling of the property tax in just ten years. At a central government lev…

Home Office in Talks with Microsoft

The BBC reports that the UK Home Office is talking to Microsoft over fears the new version of Windows could make it harder for police to read suspects' computer files.

Windows Vista is due to be rolled out later this year. Cambridge academic Ross Anderson told MPs it would mean more computer files being encrypted.

He urged the government to look at establishing "back door" ways of getting around encryptions.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said Windows Vista was designed to be the most secure version of Windows yet.

She said: "It is our goal to give PC users the control and confidence they need so they can continue to get the most out of their PCs.

"At the same time, we are working with law enforcement to help them understand its security features and will continue to partner with governments, law enforcement and industry to help make the internet a safer place to learn and communicate."

The system, part of what is called "trusted computing".

Ask Mr Kipling

Before we send anymore British troops into an increasingly futile and highly risky conflict in Afghanistan, I rather think that our political leaders should be forced to watch the video clip below, in popular circulation both here and abroad, which illustrates rather well, the nature of the forces ranged against us in the region and their enthusiasm for the fight, in Afghanistan, Iraq and anywhere else come to that!

"Everyone here (Afghanistan) is convinced about jihad and to sacrifice his life, Once they sign in with us (Taleban), they do not need any special kind of indoctrination. They simply are to be clad with a jacket laden with dynamite sticks and to blow themselves up next to the target."

Rudyard Kipling knew all about Afghanistan and it hasn't changed that much a century later it seems.

Crisis What Crisis

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A Danish delegate very sensibly chose not to attend the conference I was chairing in Bahrain last week, even though I’m sure he would have been quite safe. His travel insurance company declined him any cover.

I see however, that in Pakistan, a cleric, Muhammad Yousef Qureshi, the leader of the hardline Jamia Ashrafia religious school in Peshawar has offered a £600,000 reward to anyone who kills the cartoonists from the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. The reward also included a Toyota car, which is very generous I’m sure but I doubt that Toyota would wish to be associated with this particular brand awareness exercise.

Remembering the tragedy of Theo Van Gogh in Holland, one wonders who might be first to drive away the Toyota in Copenhagen?

"This is a unanimous decision by all imams of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Mr Qureshi said in an interview, which I suppose is alright the…

Brave New World or Future Shock?

Identity management, says Professor Ian Angell of the LSE, is a ‘Gravy train.’

Ian is speaking at an event I’m chairing next month and he comments:

"Any companies involved in IT should stick their snout in the trough now, because it's going to be a gravy train," said Professor Ian Angell, head of the LSE's department of information systems. "Some companies are worried about the effect on their brand when the scheme fails, as it will. Don't worry — just blame the government."

"This is a huge opportunity for IT companies, as there are no downsides. Bid for everything — the system will be so huge, there won't be enough manpower in the country to deliver. And you can put in ridiculous prices, because the system won't work. It's a Mad Hatter's tea party," he adds:

“If you're a UK citizen it may be time to start thinking about a move to mainland Europe, where there are plenty of countries that aren't so intrusive about your life.…

Silence of the Imams

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“This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.”



There’s a small change in pressure as the aircraft door closes. It’s a British Airways Boeing 777 and I’m happy to settle-back in to my comfortable sleeper seat and type for a while, as I wait for the engines to spool-up at a little after 2am this morning. I’m looking forward to sleeping most of the way back to Heathrow after three days here in Bahrain.

Walking through the exhibition part of the conference today, I was struck by the truly multi-cultural nature of the environment. Arabs, Indians, Asians, Europeans all working together in a transparent ‘…

Snapped

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I was just browsing the Google Earth service and look what I stumbled across just north of White Waltham in Berkshire. It shows how powerful these satellite cameras are.

Fasten Seatbelts

As a pilot, I'm pretty alarmed by the news that the minimum number of flying hours for trainee commercial pilots is to be halved under new rules that are being rushed through despite protests that the changes will be unsafe.

The Times reports that newly qualified pilots are to be allowed to take control of airliners after only 70 hours’ flying experience. Under the present rules, pilots must accumulate at least 145 flying hours before being entrusted with carrying passengers.

The new training scheme, due to be introduced by the end of the year, places far more emphasis on flying in simulators. The time that trainees spend in simulators will almost double, from 90 to 170 hours

But the British Air Line Pilots’ Association argues that a simulator is no substitute for real flying experience and I'm inclined to agree. Seventy hours flying experience from the lad or lady at the "sharp" end of the aircraft would not give me great confidence. I used to joke that after one hund…

Snared

I was horrified to find a virus on my PC this morning. It’s called W32.Blackmal and my Norton Anti-virus programme picked it up automatically. The worry though is whether it found its way onto my hard disk before the automatic update that ran this morning.

Looking up the virus payload on the internet, I see that it attempts to delete one’s security settings in Windows and disable the resident anti-virus program, so that it can harvest one’s address book and then use it to send out more copies of itself to anyone in it. The worrying sign is that my Norton anti-virus program is ‘hanging’ when I try and scan.

Internet security is of course one of the things I do professionally and being caught-out is almost unheard of. This is probably a lesson to all of us using a home computer, in this case a ‘shared’ wireless laptop. Particularly where children are concerned, there are dummy sites out there that have been deliberately set-up to lure them into a visit, normally via an innocent search for…

Desert Skies

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On the way to Bahrain to chair the Govtec conference on Saturday morning and I’m reminded that it’s ten years since I followed the footsteps of the Exodus through the deserts of Egypt, Israel and Jordan, with stops at places like Jericho, Petra and Wadi Rum.

Doesn’t time fly!

Time Stands Still

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Too much “blogging”, so little time. The problem I have at the moment, so if the Weblog is quite over the next four or five days, it’s because I have to concentrate on a work project that demands my attention.

Normal business or “Blogging” will be resumed by next Thursday!

Behind the Veil

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It was the French philosopher Voltaire who wrote in a letter: '”Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”

Given that this month I’m off to lecture a conference of Middle-eastern government leaders on the benefits of an open society and the free flow of information, I’m not certain that my timing, in view of the events of the last week is fortuitous

It will be interesting though to witness the strength of public opinion, on the ground, so to speak and I’ll certainly report back to you. It would be wise though, not to underestimate the potential for violence against our own citizens and society, as a consequence of the ill-considered publication of the cartoons that so inflamed Islamic opinion both here and abroad.

GlobalFlyer Update

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It’s funny how rapidly the weather can change here. Just before 1’O’clock I was taking off through low cloud and rain towards Rochester airport to fill-up with fuel and a bacon sandwich and within an hour, there’s bright blue sky as far as the eye can see.

I suppose this is one of the benefits of living in this part of England, a microclimate which compensates, in part, for the disadvantages of being at the very end of the earth, almost literally.

A note just arrived from the Virgin GlobalFlyer team. The round the world record-breaking trip by Steve Fossett, from Kennedy Space Centre to Manston, now has the green light – weather and permission from the Chinese to over fly – for next Tuesday. This should see the aircraft land at Manston on the Friday afternoon and it looks as if all the proverbial ducks appear to be lined-up for the attempt and Richard Branson will be choosing a suitably bright pullover for the occasion, I’m sure.

In order to take off with the required heavy load of fuel,…

Streaming Live on eCrime

Listen to Simon Moores talk on the subject of eCrime and the eCrime Congress on the “My Technology Lawyer Show” in the United States. Available as a streamed RealPlayer file.

Tell it to The Ed..

Silicon reports that Microsoft UK's chief security advisor, Ed Gibson, has attacked the government over what he claims is a lack of effective reporting channels for internet-related crime.

Speaking at the launch of a CBI report into online security for small and medium-sized businesses, Gibson said that while creating documents was all well and good, very few companies had any real notion of who they should report an electronic attack to.

He said: "I bet if I asked anyone in this room, 'Who would you report an electronic crime to in the police?', no one would know. We are ignorant of the size of the problem. There is a real lack of meaningful statistics."

Rejecting the offer of a microphone and choosing instead to stride up and down between the panel of experts and the audience of IT and business professionals, Gibson claimed that the government was not doing enough to facilitate the timely reporting of cyber crime.

Gibson said the decision to roll the National Hi-Te…

It's All In the Mix

Have a look at this site, www.dynamite.co.uk  Local Knowledge, which displays BBC travel news, BBC London traffic cams, local weather, geotagged Flickr photos and Gatso speed cameras and then perhaps read the Guardian story attached to it here.