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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 Tuesday, September 23, 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, September 23, 2008 10:29:01 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] General | Security | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I think one of the long term problems that faces the IT profession is how we train new entrants to our profession. Established professions, such as law and surveying, have long had well-defined routes that graduates can take to become qualified.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008 5:46:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] IT Profession | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Monday, June 30, 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, June 30, 2008 7:29:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Saturday, May 31, 2008

I can’t believe just how many web designers claim that their web sites are compliant with the standards when they are demonstrably not!

I’m talking in particular about the World Wide Web (W3C) consortium’s standards for HTML and XHTML. You’ve probably seen their compliance logos proudly displayed on web sites that claim to comply. The standards are exacting and very unforgiving on slips in the code. A particular page either complies or it does not, but this is nothing particularly challenging for a professional discipline that is used to such binary situations.

The standards are important for all sorts of reasons, not least because there is a greater chance that more browsers will render the sites as intended, that search engines are more likely to index them properly and that people using less popular browsers because of their disabilities are more likely to be able to access them.

There are standards in many different professions and one thing you expect of professionals working in those fields is that they will work to them. Indeed, they would be unprofessional if they did not.

I find it contemptible that an increasing number of web designers will proudly place the W3C’s compliance logo with a link to test the page in question against the W3C’s validator, which when clicked shows not just one or two errors, but hundreds. The fact that they link to the validator when the page is riddled with serious errors clearly indicates that they have little regard for their clients.

Do not get me wrong. I know how hard it is to keep a web page compliant, particularly since many editing tools seem to delight in surreptitiously inserting non-compliant elements in to them. However, there is a clear difference between a casual slip and complete disregard for the standards. It is those that are just sticking the badge on and misleading their clients that anger me.

What makes me so angry about this particular issue, though, is that it goes to the very heart of professionalism within our field. It must surely be a tenet in any profession that those in it do not misrepresent the truth to their clients or to the general public.
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Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:56:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [2] Web Design | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Tuesday, March 18, 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 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 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, March 18, 2008 3:40:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, March 07, 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, March 07, 2008 2:32:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, February 11, 2008

The lack of understanding of IT-related security issues in many small-to-medium sized businesses that I encounter as a management and technology consultant often worries me.

There seems to be a mindset amongst senior managers (often at partner and director level) that security breaches are only perpetrated by external human hackers and that their firms are not sufficiently important enough to attract attention.

These senior managers miss the fact that almost all initial external attacks are automated and that although many of these attacks may be unsuccessful in compromising their organisation’s data security, they may nonetheless seriously damage their internal infrastructure, resulting in significant costs in order to rectify the damage.

It would be a lucky organisation indeed that did not have its Internet defences probed at least once every couple of minutes. The most recent log I inspected for a small organisation was receiving an attack per minute in what appeared to be an attempt to swamp instant messaging clients with spam. The log also revealed port scans and other nefarious activity once every 10 minutes. These more serious attacks are often scanning for weaknesses through which to inject malware.

We have conducted occasional exercises in assessing just how bad this type of wanton vandalism is by simply connecting an unprotected set of newly built PCs to the Internet. Our somewhat primitive research shows that it takes around 15 minutes before machines in this condition are crippled with malware. Much of the malware also seems to be aimed at stealing credit card details and the like; and could cause enormous damage to an organisation’s reputation.

I’m often confronted by SME senior managers that argue that they have nothing of value on their networks, but my immediate retort is that neither did the machines mentioned above, but the cost of putting them back together again was expensive. It is clear from the subsequent discussions with these managers just how valuable having an operating computer system actually is to their organisations.

The irony is, of course, that the sort of dubious activity I see time and time again in firewall logs is the equivalent of a criminal gang casually walking down the road trying the doors and windows of each building they encounter for weaknesses, with a view to coming back later to investigate the weaker buildings further. I have little doubt if our streets were full of such marauding gangs then there would be huge public concern. The problem for IT is that this kind of behaviour is literally “out of sight, out of mind”.

I believe, like many other observers in the profession, that there is a discernible shift away from writing viruses for the sheer devilment of it to one of seriously making money out of it.

Indeed, Joe Telafici, vice president of operations for McAfee’s Avert Labs, recently said in a BBC interview that he felt 2007 had effectively seen the extinction of young hackers who wrote viruses and other malicious programs for fun and that writing Windows malware was now all about money.

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Monday, February 11, 2008 9:35:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] Security | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Tuesday, November 20, 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, November 20, 2007 9:28:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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