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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 Friday, October 05, 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, October 05, 2007 6:43:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, October 03, 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


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, October 03, 2007 10:04:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, September 16, 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, September 16, 2007 11:53:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, September 13, 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, September 13, 2007 5:33:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [1] General | Web Design | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I was interested to read Martin Atherton's article 'Boots, House of Fraser not renewing IT director posts poses some interesting questions' on his blog at, which ponders the somewhat odd move by Boots and the House of Fraser not to re-appoint new IT directors when their current incumbents leave.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 8:50:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] Competitiveness | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Thursday, September 06, 2007
I'm constantly surprised by web sites that still have some form of doorway page. I've always felt that such designs probably allude to the designer's origins in print media, where one might argue that the book cover has to sell the book. The cover has to attract the casual browser in the bookshop to engage in the sales process.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007 5:55:15 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I was interested in Hans-Eric Grönlund's post on the decline of Delphi and (implicitly) its predecessor Turbo Pascal. I used Turbo Pascal extensively in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly versions 4.0 and 5.5, and then later Turbo Pascal for Windows 1.0 and 1.5.

Version 5.5 introduced me to objected-oriented programming (OOP) in practical terms and I fondly remember the OOP guide that was part of the documentation for version 5.5.

I stopped using Turbo Pascal for Windows in favour of Visual Basic and never really adopted Delphi, which I always thought would have faired better if it had been called Visual Pascal.

A considerable amount of my original code library built in Pascal survives today as part of the internal Revell Research Systems code library, having been ported to the .NET Framework. Indeed, much of my thinking around bannering emerged while writing code in Turbo Pascal and 6502 Assembly and was much influenced by Lance Leventhal's approach to documenting assembly code.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007 8:26:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [1] Coding | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Thursday, August 23, 2007

I've just read an interesting article by Jakob Nielsen (who is an expert on web site usability) on, which reports on their research into banner blindness - the well-known effect whereby web site visitors manage to completely ignore banner advertising.

I found the article interesting and was reminded of Seth Godin's views on interruption marketing and how he believes that people are becoming immune to this form of marketing.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007 9:19:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [2] Web Design | Trackback

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