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Would You Risk the Wrath of the Information Commissioner?
US Diplomatic ‘WikiLeaks’ Inevitable
NHS: Can we trust them with the Patient Summary Care Record Data?
Thoughts on The Queen's Speech
Data Protection Act 1998
IT Professionals must be Assertive!
National Museum of Computing to Reboot the Harwell Machine
Selling and Marketing in a Recession: Forget EMail?
Bletchley Park: Important to the IT Profession
Spam: What a Relief!
There Be Dragons!
Bletchley Park
Microsoft: What does the future hold?
A Contentious Lunchtime Thought?
EMail: The Beginning of the End?
Personal Details of 25M People Compromised by UK Government
Sweeping Spam under the Carpet
Plymouth University's Best Computing Graduate Receives Recognition
Northern Rock Not So Sturdy for Online Customers
Do Bloggers Prefer FireFox or Internet Explorer?
Comparison of UK and French Wifi Charges
Further Details about the 2007 RRS Prize
2007 Revell Research Systems Prize Recipient
Government Web Sites
South West Mediation Web Site
Queen Honours Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Table Computing!
Web 2.0: Recipe for Future Embarrassment?
WiFi Theft
Hackers Target Small Firms
University of Plymouth Prize Web Site
Wireless Hacking
No Microsoft Patches for March 2007
Flash Content
Beware: HM Revenue and Customs Phishing Scam
Gordon Moore Continues to be Right
Time to Upgrade?
Sara Sheridan Awarded Revell Research Systems Prize
Winner of 2006 Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth
Reading to Close Physics Department in 2010
Laptop and PDA Security
Incoming BCS President Predicts IT Skills Shortage
Technical Documentation
On Being Upgraded
Home PC Users
IT A-Level becoming Less Popular
Happy 25th Birthday!
The End of the Pentium Processor
Backup Disaster
Bill Gates Stepping Back at Microsoft
Are Menus Passe?
Microsoft Office 2007
Police and Justice Bill
PC Viruses - 20th Anniversary
Transport
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About Alastair Revell
Alastair Revell is the Managing Consultant of Revell Research Systems, a Management and Technology Consulting Practice based at Exeter in the United Kingdom.
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Information Commissioner's fining of solicitor Andrew Jonathan Crossley is interesting in several respects and contains an important message for many small businesses.

The £1,000 fine was announced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) today in a press release.

Mr Crossley was the owner of the law firm ACS Law, which has recently ceased trading. The firm gained widespread exposure for its aggressive pursuit of those alleged to have infringed copyright through peer-to-peer file sharing activities in recent years. It seems that many of those pursued by the firm were probably innocent and I understand that the only successful prosecutions in this matter were won by default when the defendants failed to appear in court.

In September 2010, ACS Law's web site was seriously attacked, causing it to crash. In the subsequent aftermath, a backup file containing emails between ACS Law's employees and other parties appeared on the web site, which allowed anyone to access around 6,000 people’s sensitive personal information. These emails included credit card details as well as references to people’s sex life, health and financial circumstances.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has made it very clear that had ACS Law still been trading then the fine could have been as much as £200,000: "Were it not for the fact that ACS Law has ceased trading so that Mr Crossley now has limited means, a monetary penalty of £200,000 would have been imposed, given the severity of the breach".

I feel this fine is important because it shows that the ICO is prepared to fine SME organisations large amounts and is also prepared to pursue their owners in cases of serious breach where the owner is a sole trader.

The Information Commissioner stated that: "The security measures ACS Law had in place were barely fit for purpose in a person's home environment, let alone a business handling such sensitive details". I am often shocked about how poor security is at SME organisations. Many SME business leaders do not listen to advice about security matters. I am also afraid to say that many IT suppliers also do not care about security, preferring to close a sale at any cost. They often fail to make their customers aware of the risks they face, taking a view that it is the customer’s problem if they don't recognise or understand the issues at stake.

Worse still, many SME firms run their IT systems on a shoestring, avoiding professional advice wherever possible, and only bring in competent support when things really become dire.

It is clear that Mr Graham takes a rather dim view of this approach to managing a company's IT infrastructure. He makes it clear that "Mr Crossley did not seek professional advice when setting up and developing the IT system which did not include basic elements such as a firewall and access control. In addition ACS Law's web-hosting package was only intended for domestic use. Mr Crossley had received no assurances from the web-host that information would be kept secure." The Information Commissioner clearly believes that if you are going to use IT systems then you should do it properly and not on a shoestring.

If anything, this fine also highlights the importance of taking proper advice and may presage a greater use of Chartered IT Professionals.

The message must be that if you use IT in your business (whatever your firm's size), you must take proper advice, you must not try to cut corners and you must not treat IT security in a cavalier fashion.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011 16:00:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 03 December 2010

I was interested in what Sir Christopher Meyer (HM Ambassador to the United States between 1997 and 2003) had to say about WikiLeaks on BBC Question Time last night.

I understand from what he was saying that the United States created a massive ‘intranet’ to share intelligence from around the world between their agencies as part of their response to 11th September 2001 attacks. They wanted a clearer picture of the emerging threats to the United States.

He suggests that over two and half million people have access to this ‘intranet’ and implies that leaks were inevitable.

I feel that there is an important lesson here for any government or commercial enterprise that tries to build massive databases. The more people who have access, the more likely there is to be a leak.

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Friday, 03 December 2010 10:42:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 02 June 2010

I find it worrying that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reports that the NHS is the United Kingdom’s worst offender in terms of keeping personal data, especially in light of the Patient Summary Care Record scheme, which will eventually hold details from most people’s medical records.

The question for me is simple: Can they be trusted to look after computerised medical records?

According to a spreadsheet accompanying the ICO’s press release of 28th May 2010, the NHS has reported more breaches than any other body to date. The data shows that these losses have largely been through either lost or stolen data/hardware rather than insecure disposal or accidental disclosure.

I agree absolutely with David Smith, the Deputy Commissioner, who said: “The ICO maintains it is essential that the protection of people’s personal information is part of organisations’ culture and DNA.”

However, the issue of data protection is clearly wider in scope than our trust in the NHS’ ability to keep our data secure.

The press release actually marks the 1,000th breach reported to the ICO, with the actual number now standing at 1,007. A rough calculation suggests that between one-in-two and one-in-three people in the United Kingdom have had their personal data compromised.

The ICO have said that although more personal data has been lost by the NHS, the largest ever breach reported was the loss of 25M people’s personal data by HMRC on two CDs in November 2007.

However, the data shows that the second largest offender collectively is the private sector, which doesn’t surprise me. Worse still, I suspect that most private sector breaches probably go unreported, so this figure might be the tip of the iceberg.

The ICO is keen to remind organisations that it can now levy fines of up to £500,000 per breach.

If you would like to know more about the new powers the Information Commissioner acquired in April 2010 and what the outcome might be should you be reckless with personal data then you might like to read my recent blog on data protection!

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Wednesday, 02 June 2010 15:56:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 28 May 2010
I welcome the two IT related bills in the Queen’s Speech. The Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill will limit the amount of time that the DNA profiles of innocent people in England and Wales can be held on the national database and will adopt the Scottish model. This seems to be much more proportionate than holding a blanket database of everyone’s DNA, which was where we seemed to be heading at one point. I believe that this would have led to all sorts of problems in the future. I think that this bill now strikes the right balance between bring criminals to justice and ensuring the privacy and freedom of innocent people.
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Friday, 28 May 2010 20:46:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 27 January 2010

I suspect many businesses and probably most members of the general public are unaware that the fees for notification under the Data Protection Act 1998 were changed with effect from 1st October 2009. The change was made through The Data Protection (Notification and Notification Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 Statutory Instrument 2009/1677 laid before Parliament by Michael Willis, Minister of State in the Ministry of Justice, on 6th July 2009.

The annual notification fee has been £35 for all data controllers, regardless of their size, since 2000. However, from 1st October 2009, two-tiers of fees have been in force.
 
Essentially, small and medium sized-organisations with fewer than 250 employees or less than £25.9M turnover continue to pay £35 annually and are now defined as “Tier 1” organisations. All other bodies (including any public authorities defined in the 1998 act) will now fall into “Tier 2” and must pay £500 annually.
 
I think the general public have come to realise over the last couple of years just how important their data is and how easily it can be lost by cavalier organisations (including government departments!)
 
I welcome the change in the fee structure provided the extra funds taken are used to increase the Information Commissioner’s capability to ensure all of our private data is kept more securely by those with whom it is entrusted and that those who flagrantly breach the rules are brought to task.
 
Many businesses see the current fee as a stealth tax and I suspect a good number of the general public too. However, I hope with the increased funding that the Information Commissioner will be seen to be doing more to actively protect the public from cavalier data controllers by everybody.
 
These fee increases have been introduced ahead of new powers that will come into effect in April 2010 that will allow the Information Commissioner to fine people and organisations that recklessly breach any of the eight principles that underpin the act.
 
These new powers were introduced as part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, but will only come into force in April 2010.  The Information Commissioner will only be able to fine data controllers when one or more of the eight principles have been seriously breached in cases where the breach was deliberate, or where the controller knew (or ought to have known) that the risk of such a breach was likely to cause substantial damage or distress; and the controller failed to take action to stop it.
 
Hopefully, these new teeth will work in tandem with the new funding to ensure all of our personal data is kept much more safely.
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:21:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 02 December 2009

I’ve been mulling over Michael Cross’ article of 23rd September 2009 for the Guardian web site for a while now, which was written in response to The British Computer Society rebranding itself as BCS The Chartered Institute for IT and announcing that it was revising its process for Chartered IT Professional (CITP) registration.

The article sported the contentious title: “IT can have its professionals, if they don’t get stroppy” with a subtitle of “Government and employers will not recognise IT ‘professionals’ if they are demanding as doctors and lawyers.” 

Mr Cross’ article highlights the tight rope that the Chartered Institute for IT walks as it tries to raise the level of professionalism in IT. The government is currently very supportive of the Institute’s moves to raise the bar in the IT profession, but Mr Cross rightly points out that “the trend could swiftly go into reverse if a new government finds IT professionals to be as stroppy and independent-minded as they find doctors and lawyers today.”
 
He continues: “Governments like taking expert advice – but only if it’s ‘Yes, minister’”, which certainly seems to be true with the recent resignations from various expert advisory panels because they apparently didn’t say what the current government wanted to hear.
 
The problem, of course, is that so called “stroppiness” is an important aspect of professionalism. A professional has a duty to their client to advise them when their actions are contrary to their professional advice and to point out the probable consequences.
 
It is precisely this lack of professional ethics that causes much of the damage to the public purse and, no doubt, many private purses too. As Cross chides in his article, “the IT industry isn’t shy about talking up its abilities” and he rams the point home with the anecdote that he has a corporate t-shirt that boasts a company slogan of “Mission impossible achieved”.
 
A major problem with the IT industry is that it is too heavily driven by sales hype that plays on the naivety of easily persuaded customers. Professionalism, on the other hand, is about telling the truth, whether the client likes the message, or not.
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Wednesday, 02 December 2009 17:46:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 03 September 2009

I was pleased to just read a few moments ago on the BBC Web Site that the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park is to acquire the Harwell machine. It is the oldest computer in existence (depending on whether you classify the Collusus machine as a computer or not) and will definitely strengthen their growing collection.

I understand that the machine is to be dusted down and restarted as part of a renovation project. The machine was originally built and used by staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire. It was designed in 1949, commissioned in 1951 and ran in regular service until 1973.

I think it is important that the IT profession looks after its heritage. We like to boast that a year in computing or Internet time is equivalent to just a few months. We need to realise that, if this is the case, that we are producing history at around four times the normal rate!

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Thursday, 03 September 2009 17:43:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 28 May 2009

I’ve recently had occasion to contact a number of professional service firms “out of the blue” about the services that they offer.

As an IT professional, I’ve naturally used email as my preferred means of communication. What concerns me is that in all cases, I’ve had to chase these emails because I’ve had no reply – no doubt because my original email has been eaten by my recipient’s anti-spam system.
 
This raises serious questions about the effectiveness of email for “first contact” communication and begs the question just how many leads are being lost by organisations in this recession!
 
Clearly, telephone contact or a written letter is probably both more efficient and more effective. In fact, as traditional (ie: paper-based) junk mail seems to be in decline, any written communication is more likely to stand out when marketing services to other firms, rather than being automatically hidden as frequently now happens with emarketing.
 
Where does this leave email?
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Thursday, 28 May 2009 10:26:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I attended the BCS South West AGM Talk “The Second World War Code Breaking Centre at Bletchley Park” at the University of Plymouth on Wednesday, 13th May 2009, given by John Gallehawk of The Bletchley Park Trust, who came complete with an Enigma machine – the code machine used by the German’s during the war to send encrypted messages between various fighting units and their commanders.

It was the first time that I had heard anyone from Bletchley Park talk and the speaker was very engaging. The history of the house, its role during the war and its more recent history were all fascinating.

The Enigma machine was clearly the star attraction of the talk and sparked a lot of discussion amongst the various IT professionals drawn from across the region and from a variety of computing disciplines.

 john gallehawk with an enigma machine 

John Gallehawk, from The Blethcley Park Trust,
demonstrating the use of an Enigma Machine.

The talk accidentally followed Stephen Fry’s visit to Bletchley in the same week, which had managed to draw a lot of attention to the plight of the centre. News of his informal visit seems to have escaped because he uses Twitter to keep his fans informed of his movements. He’d announced that he was as “excited as a kitten” about his visit.

I certainly believe that Bletchley Park needs as much publicity and money as it can get. It is very much the cradle of British computing and is arguably the birth place of the first modern computer, the so-called Collossus. It would be a terrible disgrace if our generation of IT professionals allowed this important piece of our history to decay and disappear, which it most certainly is in danger of doing.

I blogged last September about Dr Sue Black of the University of Westminster’s letter to The Times, which she had been spurred to write after the feedback she received from other heads of computing departments across the British higher education establishment. She’s right - the centre really does need saving.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2009 15:14:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 24 November 2008

The closure of the San Jose hosting company McColo Corp has had an amazing effect on the level of spam world-wide. A number of sources suggest that spam has dropped by around 66% in the last week or so.

McColo Corp is alleged to have been the home to a number of command and control systems for a variety of botnets, some with more than 600,000 zombie computers under their control. Many reports also suggest that the company was hosting a variety of other nefarious web sites. 

I understand two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) decided to act by effectively cutting McColo off from the Internet.

I have certainly noticed the dramatic drop off in daily spam. The amount of time spent world-wide dealing with junk email is huge and is an unwelcome drain on resources, especially as many businesses try and weather the current economic downturn.

I am quite surprised just how effective the action taken by these two ISPs has proved to be, although I doubt it will last for long. The spammers will find alternative ways to continue.

However, it does raise an interesting point about how effective this sort of action can be. Perhaps, we should look to legislate to make this kind of response much easier to take. I suspect that the amount of money saved globally by this action over the last week alone was quite staggering.

Long may the lull continue …

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Monday, 24 November 2008 08:46:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 31 October 2008
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a couple of fun days at the University of Plymouth being a dragon! I probably need to explain …
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Friday, 31 October 2008 18:17:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 23 September 2008
I was pleased to hear recently that both IBM and PGP have between them made a grant of £57,000 towards the upkeep of Bletchley Park. The BBC has reported that the “donation will help curate and restore exhibits at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, Bucks”. However, I suspect a good deal more is needed to keep the museum going.
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Tuesday, 23 September 2008 10:29:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 30 June 2008

I suspect that at some point in the future, today may well be seen to be very significant! Why? Simply because today was the first day that Microsoft moved forward without its founder at the helm. (Bill Gates retired from Microsoft as an executive last Friday, although he still remains its non-executive chairman).

Changes in strategic leader nearly always are accompanied by big changes in direction, not necessarily immediately, but often relatively soon afterwards. This is even more evident when the strategic leader has been the organisation’s founder. Microsoft is clearly very keen to play down any hint of a change and I doubt there are any plans to be different at this stage, but I suspect when we look back at some point in the future, the big changes will seem to have sprung from this period.

Obviously, the direction and stance that Microsoft takes will have a profound influence on the computing industry and business at large. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft moves forward and what those changes will be.

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Monday, 30 June 2008 19:29:39 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I came across an interesting article by Bruce Lawson on The Web Standards Project web site about the UK Government Accessibility Consultation that was held by the Cabinet Office last November.

The consultation clearly aimed at looking at ways of making .gov.uk web sites more accessible to people with disabilities. It proposed making it mandatory for government web sites to achieve World Wide Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA-level compliance (presumably to meet European objectives for inclusive e-government).

The bit that caught my eye was the proposal that government web sites should face withdrawal from the .gov.uk domain if they failed to comply.

It occurred to me that a similar approach could be very effective at ensuring commercial .uk web sites comply with existing UK legislation (such as the Companies Act 2006 and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005). What if the Internet domains publishing web sites that failed to comply with UK legislation simply couldn't be renewed?

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Tuesday, 18 March 2008 15:40:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 07 March 2008
I was interested to read Ben Limberg's article on the BBC News web site this morning about how stressful email is becoming. It highlighted for me that spam continues to grow and it reminded me of my earlier article on this blog about the need to start tackling the phenomenon rather than hiding it. The BBC article suggests that around two million emails are sent every minute in the United Kingdom. The majority of reports I read suggest that spam currently accounts for around 95% of all email in circulation, so the BBC statement implies that an amazing 1,900,000 junk emails are sent every minute in Britain!
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Friday, 07 March 2008 14:32:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 20 November 2007
I suspect the loss of 25 million child benefit records by HM Government in the United Kingdom will have considerable, long-term ramifications. I understand that the data represents the details of all the recipients of Child Benefit in the United Kingdom and includes names, addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and, in many cases, the banking details of the parents or guardians involved.
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Tuesday, 20 November 2007 21:28:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 05 October 2007

Unless I am greatly mistaken, there has been yet another surge in spam in the last few weeks. Like many firms, Revell Research Systems uses a fairly sophisticated anti-spam system, which generally performs pretty well. It occasionally needs tweaking to improve its detection rate, but on the whole, it does its job well.

However, I am acutely aware just how much spam is actually chucked into our email system on a daily basis. It is literally huge. There is the spam that is sent to our active email accounts and then there is the massive amount sent to random addresses in the hope that something might strike lucky!

Worse still, spam is increasingly being sent with large attachments, which eats away at our bandwidth.

I believe that the majority of Internet users are blissfully unaware of just how much spam is actually in circulation (although they know that they receive an unreasonable amount). The problem is that much of it is sent to non-existent people and is handled in the background by email servers, whose time is now mostly devoted to handling spam email, which means the sheer scale of it is well off most people's radars.

This is, of course, the nirvana that corporate IT departments are asked to achieve – no spam reaching their users.

However, I really can’t help but think that this is little more than sweeping spam under the carpet. Sooner or later, we are going to have to bite the bullet and work out how we are going to stop spam altogether rather than simply hiding it.

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Friday, 05 October 2007 18:43:11 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 03 October 2007

I'm pleased to announce that Darren Rees, from Llantwit Major in South Wales, formally received the 2007 Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth at a small ceremony in Exeter this afternoon.

It was the first time I've actually met Darren, who is interested in pursuing a career in the highly competitive games industry. He is obviously a very able programmer and Dr Nigel Barlow, his tutor while at Plymouth, was clearly impressed with his final year project.

The prize (which we established last year to mark our 21st year in business) is awarded annually to the best final year student on the university's BSc(Hons) Computing programme. Essentially, Darren is the best computing graduate from the university this year.

Although he intends to take some time out to discover New Zealand, he would be a catch for any company looking for a young and talented C++/Java programmer with an interest in gaming.

More details about the prize are available at http://prize.rrs.co.uk.

 

darren rees (centre), with alastair revell (left) and dr nigel barlow (right)

Darren Rees (centre), receiving a certificate to mark his award of the 2007 Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth, from myself (left), with his tutor while at Plymouth, Dr Nigel Barlow looking on (right).

 

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Wednesday, 03 October 2007 22:04:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, 16 September 2007

I’ve just read the BBC News report about the problems Northern Rock’s online savers are having in accessing their funds. Like many online accounts, it appears that Northern Rock’s online account holders can only access their funds online in accordance with their terms and conditions.

This is clearly both frustrating and alarming to the bank’s online customers, who like many of their offline counter-parts, are trying to withdraw their money quickly, since they all perceive their investments as being far from safe.

I can’t help but wonder whether this will have an impact on the public’s perception of online banking as a whole. I think people may conclude that online-only accounts are inherently less secure than traditional accounts.

It seems to be certainly true that the bank’s traditional customers have received better service when they’ve eventually managed to get inside their branch than their online counter-parts. The traditional customer has obviously had to queue for ages, but at least they could see their position advancing in the queue, which at least offered some comfort for their patience and perseverance.

The problem for online customers is that they have no way of knowing where they are in the queue. In fact, technically, there is no queue. Each time they try to gain access to the bank’s web site, it is something of a lottery as to whether a web server will be available to service the request.

I suspect that even if a customer has one web request satisfied then there is absolutely no guarantee that subsequent requests will be answered – something akin to being told in the branch to go to the back of the queue once you’ve been greeted by the cashier, which would probably result in considerably less calmness than we are currently seeing on the high street outside the bank's branches!

The message is clearly that Internet-customers are second-class citizens as far as the bank is concerned, especially if one accepts that actions speak louder than words.

I think that when the dust settles, many online bank customers will re-evaluate how much money they should keep in their online-only accounts. It may also have some impact on how safe people consider Internet transactions to be in general…

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Sunday, 16 September 2007 11:53:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 13 September 2007
Hans-Eric Grönlund has an interesting article on the popularity of FireFox (FF) on his blog, entitled "The Firefox Domination" which you should read. Frank Carr has also remarked on Hans-Eric's blog that he has also noticed a high ratio of FireFox users compared with those using Internet Explorer (IE), which he finds particularly interesting because his site is about all things .NET, which he supposes would attract a more pro-Microsoft audience.
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Thursday, 13 September 2007 17:33:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 20 August 2007
I've recently been working from France and have often had to rely on wifi hotspots operated by Orange. I consider the charges made by this firm to be very reasonable and one that encourages casual wifi use.
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Monday, 20 August 2007 18:33:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 08 August 2007

Plymouth University has just published details about the award of the 2007 Revell Research Systems Prize to Darren Rees at http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/pages/view.asp?page=19863.

More details about the prize are available at http://prize.rrs.co.uk.

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Wednesday, 08 August 2007 22:04:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I am pleased to announce that Darren Rees has been awarded the 2007 Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth for being the top final year student in BSc(Hons) Computing.

Darren, who is from South Wales, is obviously a very talented graduate. I was at the Plymouth Awards Ceremony this afternoon and his tutor, Dr Nigel Barlow, spoke of his ability in glowing terms.

The Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth was established to mark the consultancy's twenty-first year in business, which actually finishes at the end of this month. So, by a quirk of the timing of Plymouth award ceremonies, we have actually awarded the prize twice during our twenty-first year!

Anyone interested in more details about the prize can visit its web site at http://prize.rrs.co.uk.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2007 17:09:30 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 13 July 2007
I read with interest the article "Government Web Sites Too Complex", which was published on the BBC News web site yesterday and covers the publication of a National Audit Office (NAO) report that states that some government web sites are too complex.
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Friday, 13 July 2007 17:57:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 03 July 2007

 

I'm pleased to announce that we've just launched the new South West Mediation web site.

South West Mediation is a regional family mediation practice, with offices in Exeter, Plymouth, Torquay and Taunton. Family mediation helps couples (whether married or not) to discuss and resolve any issues connected with the separation or divorce in a thoughtful and co-operative way. Mediation aims to improve communication and reduce bitterness - and consequently benefit any children involved. Most of the mediators working for South West Mediation are not only highly experienced as mediators, but also have practiced for many years as solicitors in family law.

The web site has all the characteristics of a Revell Research Systems web site. Its design is crisp and the site is extremely easy to navigate. It has also been optimised so that search engines rank the site higher than many of the firm's competitors.

John Loram, a director and founder of South West Mediation remarked at the site's launch: "I am really pleased with its design and quality. It is both eye-catching and informative."

The photography for the site was done by Revell Research Systems in-house, which allowed us to present exactly the right "feel" for the site. Some of the images are very poignant and help to convey the important aspects of mediation in a non-verbal way.

Revell Research Systems is committed to designing and producing high quality sites, which comply with the relevant web standards. The South West Mediation web site is compliant with the XHTML 1.0 (Transitional) and CSS 2.0 standards. It has also been designed with people with disabilities in mind and passes the majority of automatable tests for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0). (We believe that in some circumstances, some elements of the guidelines that were published in 1999 are no longer appropriate.)

Perhaps equally important, the web site also complies with the United Kingdom's Companies Act 2006, which so many web sites simply do not comply with.

The picture below shows myself with John Loram, a director of South West Mediation.

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Tuesday, 03 July 2007 17:23:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 14 June 2007

I understand that HM The Queen has awarded Sir Tim Berners-Lee the Order of Merit, which is restricted to 24 living members and is in her personal gift, being awarded without ministerial advice. It is indeed a most prestigious honour.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invention of the World Wide Web is, without doubt, one of the greatest contributions to modern society made in recent years and I believe he heartily deserves his place in this elite and select group.

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Thursday, 14 June 2007 06:19:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Microsoft has just unveiled their new table computing device: "Surface".

I suspect that it may well become one of the must have corporate gadgets for many firms and I doubt it will be too long before they start appearing in receptions up and down the country!!

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Wednesday, 30 May 2007 20:24:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 17 May 2007
I've been mulling over Web 2.0 technologies for some time now and, in particular, the rise of the so called social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook.
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Thursday, 17 May 2007 12:22:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 18 April 2007
The recent caution of a man in Redditch by West Mercia Police for "dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment" raises some interesting questions.
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Wednesday, 18 April 2007 13:29:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 11 April 2007
MessageLabs have recently published research into IT security that highlights that small firms are being increasingly targeted by hackers. Their research was based on the insights of close on 1,000 US and UK IT decision makers. I find this worrying since many of our clients fall into the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) sector and my own experience as a consultant shows that the managers of such firms often believe they are unlikely to be targeted.
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Wednesday, 11 April 2007 10:19:39 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 05 April 2007

Just a quick announcement that Revell Research Systems has just launched a new web site to promote the undergraduate prize that it established at the University of Plymouth last year.

The prize is awarded annually to the best final-year student on the BSc(Hons) Computing programme, which is delivered by the university's School of Computing, Communications and Electronics.

The new web site is at http://prize.rrs.co.uk.

 

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Thursday, 05 April 2007 11:27:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 28 March 2007
I read recently that laptops are becoming more popular than ever and, based on sales, are likely to overtake the humble desktop in the nearing future in terms of units shipped. Other than the fact the laptops tend to be much more expensive to run, I am increasingly concerned about how they really are often the "security backdoor" into the corporate network.
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Wednesday, 28 March 2007 18:56:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 13 March 2007

I was surprised that for the first time in ages Microsoft won't be issuing any critical security patches as part of their monthly "Second Tuesday" patching cycle (although I understand some non-security upgrades may be offered through Microsoft Update, etc).

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007 21:14:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 26 February 2007

I've just read Daniel Robinson's article "Flash needs a content kill switch" in today's issue (26th February 2007) of IT Week in which he expresses his opinion that many web designers over use Flash content. He is particularly upset by its use by advertisers and notes that it presents serious usability issues.

I fully support his opinion. I strongly believe that web sites should be mainly constructed using HTML rather than Adobe Flash content. I generally only consider Flash content to be acceptable where it is being used to enhance existing content. This might be by providing a product demonstration, fly-through or some other interactive presentation in addition to HTML accessible content about the same topic.

I would also concede that sometimes a small amount of Flash content can enhance the visual aspect of a page, but the page should certainly be capable of display without the Flash plug-in being loaded (ie: the content is optional) and should not be an essential part of the message.

I very rarely wait for Flash-only sites to load. However, if a generally non-Flash web site sufficiently fires my enthusiasm about something I am interested in, I will wait to see its interactive Flash demonstration - but I like to be given the option so that I know what I am letting myself in for.

My lack of enthusiasm does not appear to be unique. I have come across many people who have cursed Flash content - most recently Daniel Robinson.

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Monday, 26 February 2007 16:31:28 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 20 February 2007

I would just like to warn business people in the United Kingdom who might have recently completed a Self-Assessment Tax Return of a particularly ingenious (if not nasty) phishing scam.

Technically, it is not much as far as phishing scams go, but its timing and content might just lull some people into acting on it.

The email advises the recipient that HM Revenue and Customs have just completed their calculation of the recipient's tax return and notifies them that they have actually overpaid some tax.

The deadline for the submission of self-assessment tax returns is the 31st January, so such an email is at least plausible in February - and who would not be pleased to receive a tax rebate?

The email lures the victim to a repayment page, which asks for their account details, and I suspect that this is where their nightmares would really start if they did provide their details...

The actual email contains absolutely no information relating to the recipient, which should ring the alarm bells of those receiving them.

My comments on another (technically much nastier) phishing scam earlier this month about looking out for and including "shared interactions" in your emails apply here, so if you think you might have been lured, then you should read that blog entry too.

You have been warned!!

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Tuesday, 20 February 2007 16:53:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, 27 January 2007

It never quite ceases to amaze me that Moore's Law continues to hold.

Moore's Law (which was first articulated in 1965 by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore) is based on an empirical observation that the number of transistors on a chip can be doubled every 24 months.

It has not been broken since 1965 and seems set to continue because Intel has just announced that it will start production this year of 45nm transistor technology, which means that Moore's Law will continue to hold for the foreseeable future.

There has been a lot of speculation in recent years that we are reaching the limits of how densely transistors can be placed on a chip due to their ever shrinking size, which is now close to the size of an individual atom, although Moore himself doesn't think this will be an issue for another decade or two.

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Saturday, 27 January 2007 12:17:30 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 08 January 2007

It seems that Microsoft has no intention of being caught with an entrenched user base of Windows 2000 users who refuse to upgrade in 2010, when the operating system is officially considered obsolete by them.

I recollect that Microsoft had problems weaning organisations off of Windows NT when they considered that to be obsolete. It’s also worth remembering that Microsoft's revenue is largely dependent on persuading people to buy their latest software.

I note with interest that the latest version of the .NET Framework won't run on Windows 2000 Professional, that Internet Explorer 7.0 won't be available for Windows 2000 and that Defender (their anti-spyware product) won't be available for the platform either.

It seems increasingly prudent for organisations to consider upgrading to Windows XP (if they haven't done so already) over the next couple of years to avoid issues in the nearing future...

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Monday, 08 January 2007 11:33:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Sara Sheridan was awarded the inaugural 2006 Revell Research Systems Prize at the University of Plymouth yesterday, during an Award Ceremony held at Plymouth Guildhall.

Sara, who already has a BA(Hons) in Fine Art was present at the ceremony to receive her FdSc in Internet Technology in Business degree along with 140 other graduates.

Sara was formally awarded the prize by the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter John, after a citation was read that outlined her achievements at the end of the ceremony. Sara was presented with a framed certificate marking the award of the 2006 prize by Dr Colin Williams, the Deputy Dean of the UPC Faculty.

Sara is pictured above being congratulated by Dr Colin Williams, while I look on in the background.

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006 16:26:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 22 November 2006
I am very pleased to announce that Revell Research Systems instituted an Undergraduate Prize at the University of Plymouth this summer as part of the celebrations of our 21st year in business as a consulting practice.
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Wednesday, 22 November 2006 02:19:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 21 November 2006
It is worrying that the University of Reading intends to close its Physics Department in 2010 (as reported by BBC News).
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Tuesday, 21 November 2006 12:36:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, 18 November 2006
This morning's article on BBC News that 11 million customers of the Nationwide Building Society in the UK have had their identities put at risk is a reminder to businesses that laptop and PDA security should be high on their agendas.
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Saturday, 18 November 2006 11:59:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 17 November 2006
I think that the incoming president of The British Computer Society (BCS), Professor Nigel Shadbolt, is right to highlight the fact that demand for IT graduates is rising at a time that supply is falling.
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Friday, 17 November 2006 13:56:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, 21 October 2006
I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of technical documentation produced by software producers, particularly concerning the use of the file system and registry.
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Saturday, 21 October 2006 11:53:25 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 05 October 2006

I'm very used to upgrading software and hardware, but much less experienced about personally being upgraded!

I am very honoured and definitely surprised that The Institution of Analysts and Programmers have elected me a fellow.

The Institution of Analysts and Programmers is Britain's leading professional organisation for those working in the development, installation and testing of business systems and computer software.

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Thursday, 05 October 2006 16:35:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 04 October 2006
I feel sorry for home (private) users of PCs. They buy a machine that probably doesn't cost much more than any other commodity "white goods" item that they might purchase, but it often later proves to be a complete nightmare to run.
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Wednesday, 04 October 2006 17:24:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 22 August 2006
I understand from IT Week (21st August 2006) that there has been an 8% drop from last year in the number of FE students taking IT or Computing A-levels. Apparently only 20,000 students took IT-related A-levels this year in comparison to some 28,000 in 2003.
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Tuesday, 22 August 2006 17:43:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, 12 August 2006
I couldn't really let 12th August 2006 pass without noting it to be 25th Birthday of the original IBM PC, which arguably kicked off the PC revolution in business.
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Saturday, 12 August 2006 17:55:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, 25 July 2006

The announcement this week by Intel of their new multi-core processor technology is clearly the beginning of the end for the venerable Pentium processor, which was introduced as far back as 1993.

Multi-core processors offer a considerable leap in power and it will be interesting to see how software developers take advantage of this new power in the future.

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Tuesday, 25 July 2006 14:55:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 05 July 2006

The Register recently reported that Bexley Care Trust had lost a considerable amount of Microsoft Exchange Data. One of the Register's sources asserts that this was due to "primitive backup procedures". Another anonymous source interviewed by them suggested the server was six years old and that the tape heads were badly worn. They also suggested that the trust had been warned over six months ago that the UPS battery needed replacing.

I doubt Bexley Care Trust will be the only organisation to suffer such problems.

I think many organisations have come to assume that their systems will run and run. They have done so for years, so why assume they won't continue to do so? The reality is that sooner or later disaster will strike. Many organisations are loathed to properly fund their information technology (IT) infrastructure, simply increasing the risk of a disaster occurring. Indeed, some organisations seem to feel so immune from disaster that they fail in the most basic areas of disaster recovery, namely in backing up properly.

If reported accurately, it is clear that the warning signs were there at Bexley Care Trust: UPS battery on the blink and an old server.

Sloppy backup procedures are far too common. Very few organisations test and in many SME firms the attitude towards this important procedure is completely blasé. Did no one check the backup logs on a regular basis at Bexley Care Trust? I fear not otherwise someone would have noticed that backups were failing (assuming they were being done!)

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Wednesday, 05 July 2006 22:16:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, 15 June 2006

I understand that Bill Gates is to step down from his day-to-day work at Microsoft, while retaining the chairmanship and providing input on major developments.

I wonder what effect this might have on Microsoft's future direction...

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Thursday, 15 June 2006 21:38:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, 12 June 2006
Are Menus Passe as far as Microsoft is concerned?
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Sunday, 11 June 2006 23:09:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 31 March 2006
I've had a quick look at some of the available material on the forthcoming Microsoft Office 2007. What concerns me is the lack of menus. Although I confess to not having spent enough time with the actual betas to make what might be considered an informed opinion, I am still concerned!
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Friday, 31 March 2006 17:24:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, 01 February 2006
As far as computing-related crime, the Police and Justice Bill, which was published last week, is at least a step in the right direction.
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Wednesday, 01 February 2006 02:48:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 20 January 2006
Thoughts on the 20th Anniversary of PC Viruses
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Friday, 20 January 2006 15:33:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, 13 January 2006
My thoughts on the United Kingdom's travel problems.
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Friday, 13 January 2006 22:12:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Well, we managed to produce our annual calendar on time and to distribute it to many of our clients and other worthy recipients.

It is, as always, a huge undertaking and is always accompanied with the almost mandatory raft of problems. This year we were plagued by problems with the Adobe PDF Distiller package, meaning we ended up being left with little time to get the PDF proofs back to our printers so they could print them.

What was so damned annoying was that we actually started the design process much earlier than usual, but it was still just as much a rush as normal!

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Friday, 13 January 2006 21:33:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, 01 January 2006

I have decided to join the growing number of people who 'blog' - that is, who keep a 'web log'.

I'm not sure how successful I am going to be! My intention is to try and blog a couple of times a month on subjects that interest me within information technology and hopefully are of interest to a slightly larger audience than just myself!

Blogging is certainly a growing phenomenon and one which I suspect will soon reach the mainstream.

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Sunday, 01 January 2006 03:03:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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