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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 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 Wednesday, 07 February 2007
There is a particularly nasty phishing scam in circulation, which has been reported on by Tom Young of Computing (6th February 2007). Apparently, the scam involves an email with a (fraudulent) link to an "as yet" un-named British bank. Most such links in this sort of scam email actually point to an address that is different to that of the bank's real web site. It may be very similar to the real thing, but nonetheless, it is different.
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Wednesday, 07 February 2007 15:34:53 (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 Thursday, 18 January 2007

I have been porting our code library to the .NET Framework 2.0 and have been using the new generics feature in many places to improve the code.

I've generally been impressed by the functionality offered by generics, but was a little disillusioned when I realised that they would be of little or no use in refactoring our matrix and vector maths libraries.

Perhaps, as a graduate mathematician, I had been more excited than most by the prospect of being able to write generic matrix and vector classes that could be instantiated just as easily on a built-in Double type as a custom Complex number type.

However, the gradual realisation dawned that the built-in types in the .NET Framework don't share any common numeric ancestor type and don't implement a common interface such as IArithmetic that might be used to constrain the generic matrix and vector classes to being instantiated ONLY over numeric types.

Rüdiger Klaehn, a German freelance programmer, has proposed that Microsoft should augment the basic numeric types in the .NET Framework with an IArithmetic interface that would define the basic arithmetic operators on these types. This would allow generic types to be defined over types that guarantee this interface, allowing such classes as a matrix or vector to be built that can be constrained to types that support basic arithmetic.

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Thursday, 18 January 2007 13:05:42 (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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