My longstanding mate, Brad, over at the Crossed Pond has posted about how well his predictions on the US Presidential have been, and even though he is lowing his own trumpet he does deserve a pat on the back for what he got right.
In December last year he not only predicted the nominees correctly, but he also predicted what order they would finish perfectly. In June he said that he considered Sarah Palin the best running mate for McCain, and in July he declared Biden should be the running mate of Obama.
I wonder how much he could have won on that on Political Betting.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
My longstanding mate, Brad, over at the Crossed Pond has posted about how well his predictions on the US Presidential have been, and even though he is lowing his own trumpet he does deserve a pat on the back for what he got right.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Having picked up more than one newspaper this morning I notice there all contain a similar story about how satellite navigation systems have made thickos of people. No longer, so the report goes, can we read a map, and as a result we lose crucial information about the places we are in. An examples the Times gave was that a satnav would not tell you you were pacing Stonehenge like a map would (although you would hope as someone drove along the 303 they'd recognise it.
The reason I'm mentioning it is that it just so happens that I heard a very funny satnav tale the other day. I shan't name names but someone I know was travelling from the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire area to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. They punched the details into the satnav and off they went. Unfortunately he did not actually put the route in properly and had actually just reprogrammed a previous destination that was in the depths of Surrey.
What did this person do? He listened to the satnav, took every turning it told him to take and was completely obliviously to the fact that he was heading into Surrey and completely the wrong direction. It was only when he telephoned the person he was meeting and said "I'm here, where are you" and they said "I'm here too, where are you?" that he discovered he was hundreds of miles away.
When I was told this story I cannot deny that I laughed so hard I nearly pee'd my pants. How someone could be directed, as I presume he was, along the M25 and then onto the M3 where there are signs for Bournemouth, Brighton etc etc and not realise they were a long way from Kent was beyond my comprehension. THe point though is that the newspaper reports today are 100% spot on. Satnav makes you stupid, although it's possible that you might already be stupid too.
Incidentally, if you're wondering if I have a satnav, the simple answer is no. I have considered it a few times because I wanted a new toy, but then realised that if I got one I would have to go somewhere that I didn't know to justify buying it, and anyway, I have a road atlas in the back of the car (albeit it a little old).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Well they do say it's lonely at the top I guess, so it is quite amusing that on the Laour Party website page that lists all their MPs it appears the only one that has a website worth linking to is our oddball Prime Minister himself.
Click here for the full page screenshot in all its 'Cult of One' glory.
Have been working all night and am shattered. No blogging today. Bed, sleep then off to do some salsa.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
When 'Liberal Conspiracy' was set up as a collective lefty blog, its founder Sunny Hundal went on the Radio and explained that the name of the site was chosen in order to gently mock the right wing conspiracy theorists that claim there is a left-liberal conspiracy in the UK media's style of news and reporting.
Yesterday, the very same Sunny Hundal posted on Liberal Conspiracy arguing that those on the political right who question whether Gordon Brown is a bit of a weirdo are engaged in some sort of deliberate strategy to create a "malicious narrative"... a conspiracy basically.
There is something quaintly amusing about someone setting up a site with a name designed to mock the notion of left wing conspiracy theories, who then posts something arguing that there is some sort of right wing conspiracy going on.
The sad fact of course on the matter of Brown is that quite a lot of people, political and apolitical, do think he comes across as a bit of an oddball. Then you read some of the quotes attributed to him and not denied by Downing Street and you can't help but wonder if he's a bit chicken oriental.
Expressing such a view is not about trying to create a meme, it's about being honest enough to say "you know what, I think he's a bit of a weirdo". Of course, the comment thread on Sunny's post is amusing as well. It appears that a lot of the leftie contributers seem to think Brown's a bit of a freak too.
Hat Tip: Guido
Labels: blogging about blogging
Have to love this little gem. Apparently the Government wants to hear our views and consult about it's Big Brother plans for a national database of all our communications. There is even a link to the consultation on DirectGov.
And where does it take you? Why to a redirect that leads to a "404 Page Not Found" of course!
There are too many ironies in a consultation on communications failing to get the communications right. Maybe they're just afraid of people's view?
*** WARNING GEEK POST ****
I may be wrong on this because it's so early and no one is available on the phone to check, but I think the Department of Transport has fallen off the Internet due to a slight legacy oversight that has amused me this morning.
Currently the domain transport.gov.uk and dft.gov.uk do not appear to exist as resolvable addresses. My initial thought was that it was crappy cable connection to blame so I did some checking against a number of other ISPs (BT, Plusnet, Tiscali and the Joint Academic Network (which manages the gov.uk zone)) and got nothing.
It seems that as far as the Interweb is concerned, the server that tells you where the Department of Transport is for web, email etc are the following, dns0.odpm-dft.gov.uk, dns1.odpm-dft.gov.uk. Spot the oddity there? They are in a domain called "odpm-dft.gov.uk". That's going to be legacy back to when John Prescott was in charge of Transport (environment and the regions too).
The thing is, a quick query against JaNet say that there is no domain registered called odpm-dft.gov.uk. This means that no one on the Internet can find the servers which are supposed to hold the records for the DfT because they sit in a domain that doesn't exist. Could it be that someone thought "oh we don't need that legacy domain anymore, lets just let it expire" not realising that it was managing the current live DfT records?
One this is for sure, as far as the name resolution of the world is concerned, all the records for the DfT are looked after by two servers which have addresses in a domain that is no longer registered. It will be interesting to see if odpm-dft.gov.uk miraculously becomes registered again. Of course they might be in the process of moving the site to new nameservers which might also explain the outage.
*** GEEK POST ENDS ****
UPDATE 20:15: Just checked the domain record and it appears they updated the record today and changed the nameservers over to fix the problem.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Now that my few days break is over I just wanted to comment on the latest data security cock-up by the Home Office. Now, before some anonymous commenter tries to defend it saying that it was actually a third party that lost the data so you cannot blame the Home Office really you need to take a step back and see where the actual root cause of the loss lies.
It's true that a third party was given the data in an allegedly encrypted format and that they then copied it into an insecure format and promptly lost it, but the real issue here is the content of the original data. According to the news reports I heard, the data was originally shipped for the purposes of research, the question that needs to be asked therefore is what research is there that requires identoifiable information to be present?
By that I mean, why was the data not cleansed at source before being handed out? Certainly in the private sector, if you need to provide "production-like" data for development or research purposes, you make the necessary changes to that data to remove that identifiable information before giving it away. In this case for example, there would be no value in having the full names of prisoners or convicted offenders in the data. Those record could have easily been replaced by sequential numeric values.
I've often made the point here that data security leaks from Government appear to be systemic. The system itself certainly appears seriously flawed. Every department in Government has lost significant amounts of data, they've all lost laptops, memory sticks and the like as well. a quick perusal over Hansard for the last year shows almost weekly admissions by the Government of where it is going wrong. The question is, how do you fix it?
As anyone working in the private sector will know, they have to become registered with the Data Protection Registrar if they are going to hold personal information, they will also know that if they are found in breach then they can face sever penalties. It seems that the current set-up though is geared towards the private sector failing whilst the Government can get away with anything but having a "review" and promising that it will not happen again.
In some respect much of this comes down to a failure to follow process and procedure, and a lack of buy-in for those processes and procedure at the top. Corners get easily cut when the penalties for doing so and next to non-existent. I'm not the biggest fan of regulations for businesses, but every now and again whilst they make business life hell for some they can actually produce what you need in that process buy-in area.
Take for example, Sarbannes-Oxley regulations for American listed companies and business that came about in the wake of the Enron financial scandals.Those regulations were and are anal and I have had to work within them but they really did make corner cutting a lot less common. The reason was that Sarbox basically said that of the company didn't comply then directors could go to jail. It's amazing how the threat of prison stretch sharpens the mind of the white-collar arena.
Perhaps therefore it is time for a Sarbox style approach to information security in Government? Legislatory mandated rules rather than guidelines, which put down in statute how Government is to handle data and crucially makes the penalties for Governmental failure severe. That is to say that the buck ultimately stops at the top of department with the threat of jail on the head of the politiciain in charge (as well as senior civil servants).
No one should be above the law, but when it comes to our data it appears that the Government and politicians see themselves as being so. The first principle of Government is the protection of its citizens. If Government cannot itself protect the data of its citizens within its own rules then it has failed and its politicians should be able to use rhetoric and the justification of the ballot box some years down the line to avoid censure
Of course, the likelihood of politicians voting and pushing through laws that could see them sent to prison is unlikely. However until some sort of legislator y framework in put in place that actually deals with these issues harshly, it will continue to be the case that successive Governments, of whichever political party, will fail and then tell us how the line has been drawn in the sand and honestly it won't happen again.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I want one of those touch screens!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The following picture for the Police Bravery Awards was published in the Sun. Note the blacked-out officer.
The next picture is from the Downing Street Flickr album. I have pixelated his face but the linked image on their own Flickr page, along with the one I have saved locally makes him plain to see.
Something tells me that the Sun was requested to black-out this person's face for a reason. Clearly Downing Street 's "uber web team" could not be arsed.
Note: Screenshots of original Flickr image taken before it gets pulled down.
Update: The picture has been pulled by Downing Street from Flickr. Wonder who is going to get fired.
New Media Maze have issued a number of rebuttals to the contentious question on the use of someone else's code on the Downing Street website theme. Read them in full:
Update: They even left the How To Post Images In This Theme document on the server. All a bit sloppy really.
More insanity joy for you from the flashy new Number 10 website that New Media Maze say was ever so very complex and difficult to do. Take the page listing the Cabinet. Scroll down and what do you see?
Hmmm whatever are those link? What could BWP Home be about? Oh look, it's about Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Blair former man in Number 10. Is it slagging him off or being nice about him? Who knows, is he a prat? Did the person that created this page that was presumably hidden in the old website have an issue with Benji, or "the prat" a reference to Brown? I wonder how Time Warner feel about Downing Street claiming Crown Copyright on an image of Harry Potter?
Who is Adam and why was he testing, and what's with the question mark after the bit that says "the new PM?"? Such a professional website don't you think?
Still we always have the test page which says "tent". Perhaps this was an aspiration about the whole "big tent" strategy? I still wonder why it is an enabled page though. What other gems that were once hidden on Downing Street have now been made visible for the world?
Perhaps there will be more evidence of the Blair/Brown love-in with pages like BWP that slag off former ministers. Oh how we all love good Easter Eggs and the surprises they reveal!
Update: more broken stuff found by Mike Rouse here.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Guido beat me too it because I had to leave the office and catch a train, but this latest video on the Downing Street YouTube channel is a brilliant example of how crazy the bunker has become.
Update: Apparently, according to those bastions of hilarity and outrageous humour at the Guardian, I am joyless. To this I say bollocks. That video is now juxtaposed with a video that wishes the families of French soldiers well after their deaths in Afghanistan. It's hardly befitting of the highest office in the land, satire and jokes should be left to the satirists, not Downing Street.
Just a little follow-up on the copyright issue with the new Number 10 website. According to the original theme creator, Anthony Baggatt, he spoke to New Media Maze before answering requests from the Her Majesty's Press. They told him that they tested the Networker theme but rebuilt it from scratch.
However, Alan Lord, over at OpenSourcerer has done some diff'ing between the original theme and the files and it looks very much like they have not rebuilt from scratch but simple built on top of the originals.
According to the the Ministry of Justice's 2007-08 resource accounts they lost discs containing 27,000 supplier records, including supplier name, address and in some cases bank details. The MoJ then took no steps to notify those who's data had been lost. Reported by Kablrnet, apparently the DWP has been cocking up aswell.
In its resource accounts, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed three data losses, all of names, addresses and national insurance numbers, affecting in total more than 16,800 people.The words endemic, systematic, and failure spring to mind.
The incident affecting most people took place in December 2007. It involved the unauthorised disclosure of data on 9,000 people and saw the department notify law enforcement agencies.
According to information published under the Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Transport has had a total of 7 laptop stolen or lost in the last 12 months (4 stolen, 3 lost). What is interesting in the DfT's response though is that it says,
Since January 2008, all laptops have been encrypted to HMG standard.The implication being that prior to January 2008 no laptops were encrypted to HMG standard even though the standard was in place. A rare admission that they broke the rules surely?
Amusingly they also responded to requests about the use of iPods and removable media devices on DfT equipment. Apparently users are free to plugin their iPods because installing iTunes is blocked making it all rather pointless. However, when also asked if staff were banned from using USB removable media the response was,
No. Staff can use USB storage devices (such as memory sticks) connected to a workplace computer but only in circumstances where no protected personal data, as defined in the Cabinet Office Data Handling review is involved.So it's only when "protected personal data" is involved that they can't. If it's circusmtances where classified material exists it's OK to use a USB drive is it?
Monday, August 18, 2008
The story about the copyright on the Downing Street website seems to rumbling along, but something else has potentially now come to light. Not only does it look like they breached the Creative Commons License by failing to attribute the theme code of the site to the original designer, I'm now starting to wonder if they may have breached the GNU General Public License under which Wordpress is released aswell.
The basic principle of the GPL is that the code is free to use but if you modify it or customise it in anyway [and redistribute it*], you have to release those modifcations back under the GPL. I raise this because word reaches me that the company behind the Number 10 site, New Media Maze, have essentially said "its not just Wordpress" (which is not what was being said before) and there allegedly now claims that Wordpress has been modified for security reasons.
Under the GPL those changes [if you consider New Media redistributed them to Downing Street*] ought to have been released back into the community for review, and/or possible inclusion in version braches for the Wordpress source as it continues to be developed. The question is, has it? I guess that only New Media Maze will be able to confirm this, but given that they've used Open Source code then their changes are Open Source too.
It's also been brought to my attention that Downing Street are trying to claim that their copyright is for the content only and that the design and code (which is what, in essence, lays out the content) is not. Seems like they're trying to brush the issue of the original theme designer under the carpet, it is quite embarassing after all.
Open Sourcerer has noted ome other interesting stuff over here.
Update: * Insertions to keep the GPL pedants at bay.
The other day it was noted that the new Number 10 website had used a Wordpress theme and failed to acknowledge the original theme author and also claimed Crown Copyright on the whole site. The author of the theme Anthony Baggett has left a comment saying:
"Hi guys, I'm the theme author and can't find any record of them paying for the theme. I'm not sure at this point what my options are, but I'm looking into it."What exactly this means for the New Media Maze MD, Dave who commented on Mike Rouse's blog I do not know. Apparently he is "looking into it". Let's see what antbag.com has to say about this.
Taking attack politics to another level? The GOP has released "BarackBook". Some good videos up there that show Obama extolling free tarde as good for America on the one hand and then saying that NAFTA is bad for America on the other.
A new blog/website has launched as on off-shoot of ConservativeHome called America in the World which attempts to eliminate many of the popular myths about the nation.
I'm sure my mates over at The Crossed Pond will appreciate it.
According to this morning's Times there is significant discusion going on in Dowing Street about when it will be best to hold the Glenrothes by-election. According to the report,
A senior party source in Scotland said that there were grounds for holding the by-election early rather than late. “It would get the bad news out of the way quickly and Gordon could use his conference speech to rally support. What's the point of a relaunch in September if the impact is completely snuffed out in October?”It all has echoes of a day being good to "bury bad news" doesn't it? This is particularly ironic because the date being touted just happens to be September 11th. Spin is dead. Long live spin!
I guess if they do go for that date and lose to the SNP as many seem to expect, the commentariat will have a nice easy analogy ready made for indicating how significant the day is for the Brown Premiership.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
This is the Olympic logo for the Diving at the current Olympics.
Subtle.... very subtle (and not at all phallic)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Before you groan, I realise this is very poor but I am a man of little taste and my humour can be, too say the least, low at times. Thus as I walked through Belxeyheath this morning I saw an advert with a a picture of a British Olympic gymnast doing the paralell rings (is that what they're called?). Either way it was the quote when juxtaposed by his surname that made me giggle and get the cameraphone out.
Not content with grabbing a freebie theme for the Number 10 Wordpress site and then seemingly leaving references to the original designer without making a nod to his copyright, it turns out the company behind it, New Maze Media are quite proud of "their" handiwork.
The "handiwork" according to Jimmy Leach of The Independent in a Sky News interview, cost "just under 100 grand", which is pretty incredible considering its still only in "beta". In fact it should not have even gone live in such a state frankly, it sends a message that the highest office in the land is a quick bodge job.
What I found more amusing was the comment over on Puffbox by Jon Worth (builder of Harriet Harman's site which got totally owned) saying
Good work! Pity about the glitches today, but that’s normal… All the usual whingers are having a go at it (Dizzy, Guido) but it’s ace that the Number 10 site has been built with open source software.No Jon. Glitches like the ones that occurred are not "normal" in professional live operational project, that's why you have QA, so that you're only bugs are functional ones that are not considered stopper to a project.
This is particularly the case for a site that will receive traffic on the scale of the Downing Street website. Ever heard of performance testing? That's not a "whinge" its a professional opinion of an Ops sysadmin that maintains full scale enterprise scale web servers and J2EE application servers.
Your attitude Jon is actually the typical "dev" attitude. That's the "ooooh look isn't it pretty, let's not worry about whether it can handle the pressure, or if it's full of holes and really silly coding mistakes". Let's take for example the "feeds" on the site, go adn have a look at them, all the links point to RFC1918 addresses, specifically 10.10.0.215.
Besides the fact that it means it won't work for anyone other than someone on that restricted network. It also, potentially, leaks out information about the set-up of the Government Secure Intranet (GSI), assuming that the address is an internally bound interface on the box. It could of course just be the IP of the development host, either way it's a universally stupid mistake should not have got past QA.
Given the fact that the site has been problematic, and has pretty basic coding mistakes pointing Internet users to non-routable addresses, it seems pretty clear that operational QA has been non-existent. That is not how a professional £100,000 project should work. It's pretty obvious it's launch was driven by politics, and the so-called "fightback" rather than sensible release management processes.
As I said above, the "glitches" are not "normal" when you're spending that sort of money. Frankly, if I was one of the admins behind this I would be thoroughly embarrassed of being associated with it. Of course, I'm assuming that there actual admins behind it and not just devs hacking their way through and making stupid mistakes (more likely).
Hat Tip: Mike Rouse for the cost.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I know the last post was about Policy Exchange, but it seems that the plan of Sunny Hundal over at Pickled Politics to do a "number" on it's director Anthony Browne and presumably the think tank as a whole is gaining some traction in the press.
The other day, as already mentioned, we had a report written by Liberal Democrats about northern cities which was then condemned by Labour MPs and comment writers in the centre-left press as evidence of nasty Thatcherism at the heart of Cameron's agenda.
Today we have news again that the "Tories favourite think tank" (interchange "Tories" with "David Cameron's" as and when) is being sued by the Al-Manaar Centre over the allegation (and it remains an allegation unless one has an ideological bent about Policy Exchange and evil Tories) that receipts for extremist literature were faked.
What's worth noting on that point is the very carefully guarded language the Independent uses in relation to the allegation. However, the wider point seems to be that a narrative about Policy Exchange being a vanguard of borderline fascism is emerging.
Never let the evidence and history of its current members get in the way of course. Or the political leanings and experience of some of its author. It's all a big giant Tory front even if the Charity Commission says that there is no evidence to support the accusation. Unlike the Smith Institute of course which did engage in overt party political material.
At the same time I guess we should ignore the fact that Demos, once a "Labour think-tank" are now courting the Tories and having Osborne speak at their events, and the Institute for Public Policy Research is hitting the fringe of Tory conference in a way unseen before.
I believe Bob Dylan used the phrase that the "times they are a changin'" and in wonk world that certainly seems to be the case, so it's hardly surpising that one of the more centre-right think tanks should come under attack by the side of the political spectrum that is slowly losing its authority of the social, political and cultural consciousness of the public.
Labels: Policy Exchange
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I see the newspapers are still banging on about "The Tories favourite think tank" Policy Exchange and a report they published which said certain northern cities were beyond repair and that everyone should leave for the South.
Cameron condemned the report as "nonsense" whilst the Labour MP Vera Baird said it was "exactly the sort of vindictive, anti-northern thinking that led to the widespread industrial decline of swathes of the north under Thatche.. Cameron can distance himself from this all he wants but he needs to explain why his friends have no faith in the North."
What's interesting is the complete silence of the Liberal Democrats on the report. It couldn't possibly be because the lead author of the report, Tim Leiung is a registered contributer on Lib Dem Voice.
He also served on the Academic Advisory Panel for Gordon Brown's Barker Review of Land Use Planning, whilst his co-author, Policy Exchanges Chirf Economist, Oliver Hartwich worked for the Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakshott before going to Policy Exchange.
So, in short we have a couple of academics who wrote a report who are well and truly linked to political parties other the Conservative Party, but yet the reporting and the blogging leads one to think otherwise.
I really enjoyed this piece in the Guardian though. It comes complete with quotes from Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside such as
This is a counsel of despair and ignorance, harking back to the Tory days of Margaret Thatcher when Norman Lamont told people in the north to pack their bags and leave.You'd think, given she lives and represents the place, she'd be attacking the local Council wouldn't you? After all, it was two Lib Dems that wrote the report, and Liverpool council is controlled by the Lib Dems.
Hey ho though. What can you do?
Update: Oliver Hartwich has said he has never been a Lib Dem member but has worked for Lord Oakshott.
Interesting stuff in the depths of the new Dowing Street website. The theme for the site has a CSS file that references its source as antbag.com which calls the theme Networker.
However there is no reference to it and the Copyright of antbag.com has been removed on the Number 10 site. What's more, the Downing Street site is also claiming Crown Copyright on the site which is clearly not the case.
Put's the whole "Knock-off Nigel" stuff into perspective huh? Perhaps it should be renamed "Knock-off Gordon"?
Just wanted to throw this little gem out for the morning, slightly controversial to some I imagine, but it goes like this. There have been some, not just in the comments on this blog, who have mentioned that, in relation to Georgia and the US reaction to it, that it's all about oil pipelines and that if certain parts of Africa had oil we would care more.
This is absolutely right. Of course the strategic interest of an oil pipeline makes foreign policy stances different, and quite right too. Wars and countries with strategic interest but who are not directly involved in the conflict, will always be guided by those interests. People may not like it, they may say it is unethical, but it is the way things are.
Take Iraq and the oil angle. Here we had a dictator sitting on massive reserves who was hostile to the West, who also, quite crucially, and in the unanimous opinion of the United Nations, had a concealed weapons programme (forget whether that judgement was correct or not because it is irrelevant).
At the same time a judgment had to therefore be made upon what the potential threat to the bordering countries of Iraq were in respect of what was considered to be a reality. That judgment will, whether one likes it or not, quite rightly be made in line with the strategic interests of each state individually.
The strategic interests in this respect were obviously oil, and there is nothing wrong with that. It's a natural resource that people need and the possibly of supply disruption will have been a primary consideration by a nation the size and scale of the USA. There is nothing wrong with that all.
So take a look at Georgia. A nation with a dirty great oil pipeline running through being attacked by Russia, a dirty great big country who's economy is based largely on its stranglehold of energy supply, and one which has shown it is happy to use that control to get what it wants by switching off the taps (see Ukraine). What exactly does one expect to happen when that is the reality of the geopolitical and energy situation?
Energy - and its continuing supply unhindered by nations willing to hold it to ransom - is far more important to the world than anything else (unless you're a crazy envirofascist that wishes to live back in the Stone Age). No energy resource would bring economic turmoil, greater impact on food supply; massive slowdown in growth, and would also increase the likelihood of large-scale conflict rather than isolated small scale ones.
A “war for oil” therefore, or supporting the side that has oil you wouldn’t mind buying, is an inherently realistic thing. You may not like it; you may think it is immoral and unethical, but here's the clincher, when you're in a situation and position of power where you have to consider worst case scenarios and the consequence of them, ethics and morality are not by necessity equal to that which is the correct action.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
This morning's Times again reports on the plans to start recording and monitoring us even more when we use the Internet, send email, make a phone call, and that local Councils will now have the power to see these records, no doubt for things unrelated to terrorism. I sense some slight problems here and very good technical reasons why it won't catch criminals but will snare ordinary people.
- How will this give any meaningful information if someone uses a Internet cafe?
- What if someone uses an unregistered 3G dongle? (pictured) You will be able to triangulate a position roughly from it when it is online, but any sensible terrorist is going to make use of multiple unregistered sims.
- Who becomes the target when a wifi network is used that does not belong to the person you actually want to snoop on? A terrorist or criminal could quite happily use someone elses connection. How can you know that the "who" is who you think it is?
- The assumption behind monitoring email is that people use an email client and use standard TCP ports, any would be criminal is going to make sure they don't do that, use a secure tunnel and proxy, and send mail via a website hosted in a country like, say Russia?
- The throughput on store and forward of all traffic information, whether you have content or not, will be immense.
- How are you going to search such data in a timely fashion? Raw text files on scale being touted will not be very easily searchable.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Clearly the disabled, especially those who might be blind and using braille readers (how ironic) are not expected to look at the new Number 10 website. After all, it fails on numerous occasions to conform to accessibility compliancy which are apparently Government policy.
And before anyone points out that this site doesn't meet compliancy guidelines, I don't make a claim too, and I;m certainly not a Government body, so let's put that argument to bed right now.
The bottom line is this, the new Downing Street website may very well be "open source" (Wordpress) but it was clearly hacked up with the same attitude in mind. This is OK for a personal blog, but when you have policies on accessibility that you end up breaking you look stupid.
Not to mention, doing it in Wordpress is just silly. I'm willing to bet that as soon as an exploit is found for the latest code base someone hacks it and has great fun with it, because you can guarantee that checking for updates and patching immediately will not be the number one priority,
Oh my, is that a blue screen at the opening ceremony?
Interesting report here that shows that the Home office lost two cds with 3000 seasonal workers information on them, including their name, date of birth, and passport numbers. Even more of a cocnern though the report says,
"A parent was able to discover the existence of a child’s passport application by using the online application progress checking service, possibly without entitlement.Incredible really that the online application process for a passport allowed someone to view another person's application. Has echoes of the MTAS doctors website scandal.
Monday, August 11, 2008
This one did make me chuckle.
Labels: Total Politics
Labels: Health and Safety Executive
Why? Why would you want this
The world's gone mad and barmy.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Refuse/Resist by Sepultura.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
My how the Internet moves fast. Dowing Street confirms a "Number 10 TV" website will be set-up, and then forgets that it should probably regsiter the commerical domains too, like Number10TV.com.
The "quickest U'Turn in history" is a much thrown about charge, I know I've done it, but I think the screenshot below from the BBC's RSS feed actually shows that Gordon Brown has smashed the record, no?
Hat Tip: An eagle-eyed reader
I haven't seen "The Dark Knight" and I probably won't for some time, but just to dip my toe into the discussion about it's rating after Iain Duncan-Smith wrote to the Times deploring the rating compared to the violence in the film.
It's worth noting the story was followed up ConservativeHome and the shadow Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, gave them a statement about it. The comment thread there is full of significant moral authorianian hand wringing about the need to protect children.
However, in amongst the usual stuff is one comment by "Bob" which has largely gone ignored who simply said,
A 15 rating imposes the state's view of what's appropriate.I don't think it can be expressed any better than that really. As a parent it is my responsibility to decide what I allow my son to watch, not the states through it's rating system. The 12A rating gives me that freedom.
A 12A rating empowers parents to make the decision.
Aren't we supposed to be in favour of that?
Interestingly, in the US, the "R" rating, which is synonomous to our "15/18" certificate works, if I recall correctly, like 12A does here. That being that anybody can watch it but that you have to be accompanied by an adult if you're under 18. I don't recall the socially conservative types in America ever calling for that to be changed, although I could be wrong.
There is a quality blog post over at the Coffee House by Henrietta Bredin noting that the phrase "international condemnation" is pathetically ineffectual.
"Oooh, how awful, listen up everyone. Our violent and bloody military coup is attracting international condemnation. We must desist immediately, apologize profusely to all concerned and give ourselves over to international justice."On the flip side I can't help but be reminded of Scene 21 in Monty Python's Life of Brian when I think of the United Nations hand wringing over things like Dafir, Rwanda etc.
IN the scene, Judith informs the People's Fornt of Judea that Brian has been arrested just after Reg has been saying that action, not motions is what important in their fight against the Romans. Reg's immediate response to Judith is to say,
Completely new motion, eh, that, ah-- that there be, ah, immediate action--Sums up the absurdity of the way the "international community" works quite well I think.
Labels: ineffective phrases
I had to go into hospital yesterday for small minor procedure so I dind;t really do much blogging and I also didn't see the Daily Telegraph exclusive that suggested David Miliband was already choosing his potential Cabinet and had "done a deal" with Alan Milburn to be his Chancellor.
Today's Telegraph is running a follow-up on the story saying it has backfired because Milburn is disliked, and also noting that both his and Miliband's offices have issued denial. According to the Irish Times those denials came in the form of "absolute bollocks" from Milburn and "work of fiction" from Milband.
Now far be it from me to wish to support the M&Ms' line, but the whole thing smells funny to me. It sounds to me more like a story planted to cause Brown's opponents damage whilst keeping Brown's fingerprints off it. Coming just days after the Blair memo was leaked after all, Team GB (the one not in China) must have been seething.
The battles may be individually won in the Labour Party but clearly the war goes on.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Following on from the previous post about the Times investigation into how easy it is to clone ePassports, I have written a column for tomorrow's Times about how we need to change our attitude towards security and computers.
We should not only be angry with government departments or businesses that fail to protect our data from fraudsters and criminals, but also at ourselves for the blind confidence we have put in technology's ability to provide that mythical thing called “total security”. It is a cliché to say that we as a society have sleepwalked into something, but when it comes to the security of our data we have not just walked, we've rushed headlong into an online world where we instinctively trust everything.Read the full article here.
The Times is running an exclusive this morning saying that it has had a security expert clone an e-passport in less than an hour and inject an image of Osama Bin Laden onto it which then passed the scanner check as the genuine article.
I'm not quite sure how exclusive such a story is as the ePassport technology was hacked sometime ago, and the methods that would have been used for this latest cloning would have been an extension of the original code injection flaws that were found I imagine.
Still, it does put into focus, quite sharply in fact, that when Government ministers and officials claim that things are uncrackable they're asking for trouble.
Sticking with the theme of the environment and following on from the last post, there is yet another game website that has just appeared all about the subject. FloodSim "puts you in control of all flood policy decisions and spending in the UK for 3 years". What's more, it's apparently been endorsed by Phil Woolas, the Environment minister responsible for such policy.
This is probably because he appears in the game telling you you're crap when everything floods. I found this particularly ironic given that he was minister in charge when the last lot of floods happened, and they were exasperated by exactly the same thing he chastises people for in the game.
The game has been produced by Norwich Union and apparently, so the site says,
[it's] a serious game with the aims to raise awareness of the vast number of issues surrounding flood policy and Government expenditure and to increase citizen engagement through an accessible simulation.An alternative analysis is that it's a game that has been designed because Norwich Union don't want to have to pay out on lots of insurance claims in the future because of incompetent Government, but then that analysis would be awfully cynical of me right?
Given that I don't generally buy the Sunday newspapers I managed to miss the advert to Climate Cops, a website where kids are encourages to repor on their family about climate crimes. There is not much I can really add to the debate that EU Referendum has not raised already.
It is most definitely a disturbing development where forgetting to turn the light off, or deciding that your chilly so you turn the heating up is "crime". In 1984 the Thought Police have their own kids wing that are told to keep tabs on their parents or unorthodox activity, and we already know that there are some who have called for "climate change denial" to be outlawed.
Clearly authoritarianism is alive and well.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
If you can you have synesthesia or you're probably tripping.
Many people will be aware of the glorious NHS Connecting for Health "spine". The superduper fancy computer system that will means everyone in the country has a "Summary Care Record" in the system.
Recently it was suggested to me that in the early adopter areas for these records, the ability to "opt-out" was very restrictive. Whilst everyone had the right to do so, they were often pressurised into doing it, or, as my source suggested, requests for opt-out were not quickly actions and in some cases were just ignored.
I decided to ask the Department of Health about this, and in response discoevred something much more amusing/concerning. To start with, the DoH told me they didn't hold opt-out rates centrally but then assured me it was less than 1%, however, it was the input rate for the Summary Care Records onto the "spine" that caught my eye.
Currently, there are five early adopter Primary Care Trusts involved in the projects. They are Bolton PCT, Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT, Bury PCT, Dorset PCT and South Birmingham PCT, and they started to upload records in 2007. According to the DoH,
As at the beginning of July 2008, medical information in respect of some 163,000 summary care records had been uploaded to the spine at the small number of early adopter sites where this phase of the NHS CRS has already gone live.That's 163,000 records in areas that have population far in excess of the uploaded figure. In fact, let us to some rather quick and dirty maths.
If we assume that the population of the country minus the 1% opt-out is approximately 60 million people, then so far, in about a year, they have managed to upload 0.2% of the final total of records to the system. So it's going to take them approximately 5 years to upload 1%, meaning that at current rate they will have uploaded everyone (currently alive) in 500 years times.
I wonder if Microsoft Project can generate a Gant Chart with that sort of delivery timescale on it? Government IT projects huh? Don't you just love'em? Data entry jobs are clearly the future for Brtiain's unemployed!
Monday, August 04, 2008
When you look at the LibDem Voice blog it says that,
"Liberal Democrat Voice is an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists,where any individual inside or outside the party can express their views. Views expressed on this website are those of the individuals who express them and may not reflect those of the party."It's interesting then that they've posted about"The Blog of the Year Awards, run in conjunction with Liberal Democrat Voice, are back for their third year" where nominations are to be submitted to email@example.com .
How very "independent" of it that it should be using official Lib Dem email addresses? Can't ever recall or imagine ConservativeHome or LabourHome competitions where you sent your entries to the party HQ, can you?
From the Kevin Bishop Show
There is a great arse about face initiative by Hertfordshire County Council at the moment. They've produced an mp3/cd for drivers that is basically hypnotherapy with ambient music to help driver take effective breaks.
The CD is called "Drive and Survive", but the arse about face part of it is that you cannot, for obvious reasons, listen to it whilst driving, otherwise you'll drive and errrr... crash (probably).
Here's the thing though, when you listen to it it tells you how important it is to take breaks. So you have to listen to it to know I guess, which makes sense huh? It also tells you not to drink fizy drinks which makes me wonder if there are some other subliminal messages in it "Remember to recycle" or "pay you Council Tax on time".
You can download the mp3 here although they wa\nt your email address and don't say why.
There appears to be some possibly interesting developments in the Labour blogosphere on the questions surrounding the leadership of the Labour Party. One of the founders of LabourHome, Jag Singh (considered to be a campaign guru for online politics) appears to have been busy last week registering the domains labourchange.com and .org, along with labourfuture.org.
The other week LabourHome was bought by the co-owner of the New Statesman and Jag Singh told the Guardian in response that
"We're elated at the prospect of having the necessary resources to use our collective experience and drive forward our original goal of developing tools and spending time to demonstrate how simple and transparent communicating can work for motivating party members, voters, and supporters.....
We can now hope to make progress by the next election and tool up local campaigns and affiliated Labour groups. Our future on the Labour blogosphere is to push forward the principles of new media campaigning, whether that be to the party leaders or by empowering the grassroots."
Is this the future he was referring too? Is the New Statesman dipping its foot into the need for change in the Labour Party as well? When I asked Jag for details he refused to comment, so I guess it's a case of "watch this space"?
Update: Jag Singh has been in contact saying that "the domains were bought by me privately for personal usage only, and the New Statesman is not involved".
Sunday, August 03, 2008
So the problems facing Brown are always interesting and will fill reams of column inches, however, the Sunday Telegraph has a story of more significant substance and concern to the whole country. Essentially it has been revealed that the Government has been secretly funding documentaries on commercial television which just so happens to show their own policies in a distinctly positive light.
Apparently the Home Office has spent close to a million pounds of taxpayers money funding an ITV documentary called "Beat: Life on the Street" which was all about
fake policemen Community Support Officers and how marvelous they are for Britain. The Home Office has even agreed to fund a third series apparently.
Now some might say that PSCOs are good, and that the documentaries were of value. However, there is a world of difference between a documentary made by a commercial outfit, and one that is essentially made by the Government to promote their policies and simultaneously fails to declare that they are involved. There is only one name for that, propaganda.
This represents a massive breach of broadcasting regulations. The report goes on to say that the Government even had a level of secondary editorial control so that they could change the terminology and language used in the films. At a time when trust in politics as well as the media is so low, this sort of news will just feed further into that cynicism.
In effect what we're actually talking about is the Labour Party using taxpayers money to produce it's own propaganda to promote it's own policies and work itself around the regulations that exist to ensure that it is clear what is and what is not political output.
Well the Mail on Sunday has a bit of a scoop this morning. They have a copy of a secret memo allegedly written by Tony Blair after last years conference season that slates Brown for suffering from "lamentable confusion of tactics and strategy", failing to learn lessons, and doing everything to ensure that a fourth Labour term would not be won.
Assuming the memo is genuine, it is a devastating blast from Blair at Brown and will keep up the pressure and the reinforce the general view that he is a complete failure. It seems quiyte clear that, in the wake of the positioning by Miliband this week that the Blairites are now flexing their muscles and trying to force significant change in the direction Labour is going.
They says that chickens have a tendency to come home to roost, and this latest intervention, which is clearly a deliberate leak looks very much like the return fire from the coup attempt of September 2006 that forced Blair to set a date for departure. It seems highly unlikely that a memo like this would have been leaked without Blair's knowledge. The memo, where Blair writes about himself in the third person said,
'I am passing this message on to GB – not in these terms – and will try to help; but at present, there is every indication that the lessons will not be learnt.As I said earlier this week, I don't think this current crisis in Labour is going to actually force Brown to stand down because Brown's character is the sort to dig his heels in. However, it does signal that open civil warfare will define the Labour Party in the coming months.
'There has been a lamentable confusion of tactics and strategy. Tactically, it was thought clever to define by reference to TB i.e. this was not the era of spin, we are going to be honest, the style would change etc.
'Strategically the consequence was twofold: a) we dissed our own record – instead of saying we are building on the achievements, confronting new challenges, we joined in the attack on our own ten years – a fatal mistake if we do not correct it and b) because we were disowning ourselves as a government, we junked the TB policy agenda but had nothing to put in its place.
'So tactically we took the benefit of the anti-TB feeling, but strategically, we ended up accepting our opponents’ propaganda and appearing incapable of articulating a forward policy agenda.
'The real problem was not the brilliance of the Tory conference, but the hubris and vacuity of our own. This meant the Tories, by having something to say on policy, appeared substantial and to represent the future.
'The truth is that DC was in trouble long before TB left, but that was because he was being forced to choose on NL policy and found as a result that he couldn’t differentiate properly. The Tory policy is still not up to much but they are able to get traction on inheritance tax – unbelievably boosted by our own briefing – because otherwise the policy field is left wide open. DC is confused by proper strategy but immensely empowered by short-term tactics.
'The choice is and was always between GB running as the change candidate or as continuity NL. He never needed to worry about distancing on Iraq – it was never going to be seen as his issue; but he really needed to be seen as continuing NL not ditching it. By trying to be change, he played exactly the same game the media wanted but never the game that gives us the only chance of a 4th term.'
Brown will continue to limp along whilst his authority ebbs away further until Labour faces electoral wipe out and then the Blairites will move. The real question is whether the Labour Party can actually survive such open sectarianism and who will win such a battle this time.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
How bizarre. A businessman and entrepreneur comes out for Brown in the Sun. Perhaps he's angling for a job like the one Digby Jones has or something? Who knows. Very odd though, Sugar says people don't know why they think Brown is rubbish.
Let's see for a second shall we. Creating a complex systems of
benefits tax credits which means those on low income see increases in wage tax at a rate above 70%? Taking a Mussolini type economic attitude towards funding Government building programmes such that the debt is hidden off the countries balance books?
Selling gold when it was rock bottom? Ignoring the advice of the Treasury over his pensions raid and then finding himself up against pensioners? Presiding over a Government domestically that cannot handle data? Constantly rolling out statistics that are usually complete baloney, also known as Brownies? The list is endless really.
How amusing, at a time when lots of people are banging on about online piracy and file sharing up pops a story that highlights how difficult the problem is to resolve. The hard rock band, BuckCherry, discovered the other week that their new album had leaked out online. They put out a statement saying "Honestly, we hate it when this shit happens, because we want our FANS to have any new songs first."
Sounds reasonable until you discover that the album leaked on BitTorrent networks was traced and it turns out the bands manager, Joss Klemme was the person that leaked it. So, how would this sort of thing work in the new world order that is being proposed for Britain I wonder. Is it illegal to share music that the band itself has covertly put out online?
The talk this morning appears to be of reshuffle and an "autumn fightback" by Brown after a week from hell hat has seen his approval ratings collapse and parts of his Cabinet in open warfare. The problem though for Brown is that it won't help, whilst people have been saying that Miliband crossed the rubicon this week they seem to be forgetting that Brown went over first.
Brown's dilemma and position is that he is damned either way if he reshuffles. If he demotes or sacks Miliband for treachery then he may stamp his authority down but he frees the way for Miliband to take him on outside of Government. As I said the other day, he will create his own Geoffrey Howe type figure.
One alternative is to promote Miliband to the next office up the chain of Chancellor to keep him close and on a tight leash. The problem then is that he sends a signal to the rest of his Cabinet and the country that all you have to do is threaten him and he will be nice to you and give you a good job. Disloyalty gets rewards.
He could of course keep him in place at the Foreign Office, but if he does that then his authority at dealing with open criticism from his Cabinet will be further weakened. He'll most definitely at that point be in office but not in power - to use a political cliche.
Having said this though he may be gambling that Miliband lacks the support in the wider party to take him on, and whilst this may be true, it seems strange that few have considered that Miliband could just be a stalking horse to kick off a fight where more treachery may come down the line.
The bottom line to me seems to be this, Brown's days as leader of the Labour Party are numbered in the sense that he will continue to limp on to electoral defeat and then resignation. On the way there are going to be a few more challenges to his authority and I would be very surprised if we don't see one of his supposed 'close' allies turn on him too.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Well it is silly season now, so I guess that is why Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP for Lewes has come out with quite possibly the dumbest idea of the day. Apparently he wants airlines to be fined if 95% of passengers cannot check-in within 15 minutes.
Presumably next he will be calling for fines for passengers. After all, what happens when all the passengers turn up at the same time and late? Stupid idea, totally impratical and totally unworkable because it's the passengers that cause the check-in queues most of the time.
Perhaps he could start fining the Highways Agency for traffic jams on the way to the airport too?
Should you be a teenager and want to know about sex then it appears that NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Ayrshire and Arran have come up with a solution.
Just ask Jill, or Willy (yes really) and they'll answer questions such as, "How can I tell if my penis is big enough?, or "Does it hurt when a boy puts his penis in you?". Absolute pure gold. A legend website is born!
Via b3ta newsletter
From the Manilla Times.
Agreement with MILF may result in a ‘Kosovo’ in MindanaoIf you're confused then please see the definition of MILF at Urban Dictionary.
"The government will give the MILF territory, large share of resources in resource-sharing scheme and allow it to maintain its own military force," Piñol added. "These things are enough for the MILF to secede and declare independence."
Hat Tip: Croydonian who was too scared to post it because his mother reads his blog.
Labels: Headline of the Day
In six days God made the heaven, earth and planets, and us. On the seventh day he had a rest. Reasonable really because doing all the Creation must be quite tiring I'd imagine. The question is, what did he do on the eighth day after a good night's sleep (handy he invented night before he had a rest huh?).
Whether you're a creationist believing type, or an atheist believing scientist, or a fence sitting agnostic like me, it is difficult to avoid the question of what place a Creator has in society as we get ever closer to finding life outside of the atmosphere.
For some I imagine, the thougth of extra-terrestrial life is pure fantasy, but when you think of the possibilty in terms of the classic Drake Equation it starts to become blindly obvious that the probability of intelligent life out there somewhere s far greater than it not being there.
For those unfamilar with the Drake Equation, it asks certain questions about the universe and the answers lead to probability answers on extra-terrestrial civilisations. Questions such as:
- How many stars are there in the Universe?
- At what rate to those stars form?
- What fraction of those stars have planets orbiting them?
- What fractions of those planets may be in a suitable posiiton to hold a climate suitable for life as we understand it?
- What fraction of those planets have the necessary lifetime required, in order for intelligent life to evolve?
- How much of that intelligent life will be technological?
- How long would it take that civilisation to send detectable signals into space?
Having said all this, even if there was life out there the chances of the technology existing that would enable contact between world is unlikely. As Lawrence Kruass, the author of the Physics of Star Trek said, "we can all feel safe that aliens are not abducting psychiatric patients and subjecting them to interesting examinations."
Still, back to the original reasonfro me posting. This latest discovery by NASA is very cool indeed, and I think it's probably only a matter of time before evidence of some form of life beyond this planet is discoevred, at which point might all bets be off for God?
Whilst MP's might be complaining that the "dark side of the Internet" needs to be policed to stop children viewing offensive and disturbing material, the idea that a site like YouTube should actively filter it's content with intervention review is utterly absurd and completely impractical.
YouTube has literally millions of users. The userbase uploaded over ten hours of video every minute of everyday. In order to have a reviewal system of that content you'd have to employ literally thousands upon thousands of staff in order to be able to watch it and make the site remain viable.
Given the way revenue is generated across YouTube, and for that matter it's parent company Google, the notion that you can have an active system rather than the system currently in place where people report inappropriate content and then it is removed is just silly.
The report from MPs has cited a video of gang rape to make it's point. Apparently this video was viewed by 600 people before it was remeoved from the site. That's 600 people from a 20 million unique users per month. That's a staggering 0.003% of the monthly userbase of YouTube that saw the video.
Think about this for a second, someone who wants to watch a video of gang rape is going to find that video if they want too. It's also worth noting that the MPs are not calling for Usenet to be policed in this way and the amount of content there that is truly disgusting is immense.
On a global network like the Internet the only way to police these sort of things is to find them then delete them. The content addition rate would grind to a halt if everything had to be reviewed first. No doubt though the calls for such things will continue.
No one is denying that there is much out there that is twisted, dark, bizarre and sickening. The problem though is not something that can be solved by destorying companies by making them employ numbers of staff that would economic suicide. User generated content is policed by users.
Ed Miliband must be in a horrible position right now. A close Brown ally, but the brother of the lone assassin that is shouting from the rooftops in political code about how he is ready to lead. So it comes to pass that he's got a puff piece in the Times written by Alice Miles who says in the first paragraph "(I ought probably to admit at this point that [Ed] is a friend of mine)".
The article is billed as being about the "brothers Miliband" but when you read it it becomes clear it is about Ed and is a "Gordon, this is nothing to do with me Guv honest" piece. This is clear as at the end we have a line that says "Ed did not know about the article David wrote for The Guardian this week".
Anyone believe that? Seriously? The article makes much of the Miliband bothers' closeness, and then proceeds to claim that on such a thing they were not talking together?
Call me cynical if you must, but the piece smacks of arse-covering by Ed Miliband in advance of a possible reshuffle that Brown, being Brown, might take to extremes with retribution and punishment which will of course backfire like everything he touches.
I'm sure that many people will disagree with me about what my current most annoying advert on TV is. We all get annoyed for many reasons after all, but you see, as a customer of Virgin Media (BT wanted to charge me £180 to install a line so I told them to sod off), it is their adverts that with Samuel L Jackson that get me raging.
According to their adverts they use fibre-optic to deliver you your Internet connection. This is, a half-truth though, and the ASA even reported on it. It's a tad misleading you see because Virgin do not use fibre to deliver thaqt super-fast snazzy porn to your screen.
No, it might very well be fibre (although not necessarily) to the green box at the end of your street. But the final loop is good old-fashioned coax, the exact thing that the adverts say is rubbish and all the other ISPs use. It's a bit like when BT released their "digital phone" handsets. The handsets might have been digital, but your phone was still analogue.
So yes, Virgin Media adverts, annoying because they mislead people into thinking they have fibre into their homes when they patently do not, and frankly, never will for some time yet, because it costs too much to light all the dark fibre that is out there.
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