Wednesday Nov 05, 2008

Tuesday on the night of Obama's election

Last night was very quiet, I went to Kapps in Mountain View. I had left the office where a number of people were, oddly, watching the BBC web site report via a wall screen display. I had also enabled the facebook and multi-protocol chat applications on the ipod and discussed the elections with my son at home in the UK. This was pretty good as I had to stop using my laptop. The media seem to declare states as won very early, with the BBC and Guardian being earlier and more certian than the US sites. Also the polls also shut early in my british view, the west coast polling stations shut at 8:00 p.m.

McCain conceded at 20:15, I wasn't expecting it so early; in British elections, the polls don't close 'till 22:00 and the counts don't start untill the counting stations are open, which is usually at 23:00. The first results come through at just after midnight and the results aren't ususally clear 'till the early hours. I rember going to bed at 4:00 am on 1st May 1997, knowing it was good, and that Mellor and Portillo were looking for work, but the final results weren't known 'till later in the morning.

The CNN site was awesome and I used it to follow the results during the earlly evening, and I have followed the elections via realpolitics.com, the BBC page had a great feature to show the states in proportion to their electoral college votes. It looks something like this, which is much more accurate and powerfully descriptive than a geographic map.

The political map from the BBC

In 1997, I had a page torn from the Guardian and ticked off results on the paper's 'Must Win' list. A pencil and paper, but nomadic solution, to go with the UK's pencil and paper voting system.

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Sunday Nov 02, 2008

Back in the USA, part II

I shall be in the USA for the election, which could be fun, but certainly interesting.

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Wednesday May 21, 2008

Discussing security and privacy in Italy

 CSI Piemonte, an italian public sector co-operative visited Sun yesterday to talk about today and tomorrow's Security with Alec Muffet and Dave Walker, and I had the honour of hosting and MC'ing the meeting.

While discussing data centre networks i.e the network inside the firewall and how to build the firewalls, a number of products and companies were discussed, these include CSE Piemonte themselves, Tripwire for intrusion detection, Zeus, traffic management, ActivIdentity, part of an SSO solution, Tier-3, leveraging Behavioural Intelligence, Sun's Access Manager, "Privacy on the Line" a book by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, Endevours Technologies, Sun's Security Community's publications, Shibboleth, for single sign-on, and juniper.net/, looking at their virtual firewalls. Alec also spoke about some of the ideas he developed in his blog article Hankering For A World Without “Identity” or “Federation”. This latter conversation was very wide ranging and reviewed the significant differences between the UK and Italian data privacy laws, particularly in the field of medical data and records. The italian laws seem very citizen-centric, which is what we'd hope for in a democratic Republic. The CSI Piemonte people told us that

"The Italian Government is prohibited from asking for citizen's information twice"

which is really cool but it still has problems sharing it around the government between departments and bodies. In the UK, this is causing me problems with the Student Finance company at the moment. I'd like the Passport Agency and the Inland Revenue to pass my details on to them, so I don't have to collect all the stuff they ask for. I suppose that they can't ask the Inland Revenue because they want to know more than they do. Go figure.

I recorded these URL's as we discussed them on my del.icio.us feed in real time, i.e. as of this article's publication date, well, yesterday actually. (I suppose I should create a tag for the meeting, to ensure that all the URLs have a common and exclusive tag, but I havn't, and del.icio.us doesn't enable you to query a date range, which is why I repeat the list above, and I can't be bothered to write a script that displays how many days ago the meeting took place.)

I also think, or hope at least, that  this is an article, where the snap shots add value to the article. If you hover most of the links above, you get a preview of the web page. 

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Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

Saving the Planet

Richard Barrington, who doesn't blog as often as he should, Sun's Green Lantern, introduced the day's keynote speaker, Craig Bennett, from Cambridge University's Programme for Industry. He spoke about the science of climate change. He used a combination of his own slides,and Al Gore's which reminds me I still haven't seen "an inconvenient truth".

Greenhouse gases are at an all time historical high. Unless we stop producing them, this will continue. Some natural (and a few human) processes consume carbon. The amount of green house gases in the atmosphere determine the temperature of the earth. The Stern Report talks about the potential effects of changes in the average temperature and argues it is possible to restrict the growth in green house gases, but the world needs to act in concert.

Craig's web site states that he led CPI’s work on the Bali Commuiniqué which brought together 170 global companies in support of a comprehensive, legally-binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change and generated global media attention, Sun was a signatory and is an active participant in the CPI's activities.

He also repeated Gore's slides about how science and journalists treat the issues, by comparing the weight of scientific peer reviewed papers versus the balance of media coverage. There were no scientists arguing that the level of green house gases are not dangerous. Science has agreed that green house gases cause climate change, and that human activity contributes to the danagerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The majority of press coverage was oppossed to this view. (2006).

When asked his opinion about what might be done, he firstly suggested that the politicians havn't really got to grips with the importance and inexorability of climate change and that another major western city will need a New Orleans style disaster before they take it seriously, but his other, possibly more low key suggestions were

  • there is no silver bullet, we need silver buckshot
  • tax bad things not good things i.e. can we discriminate between clean & dirty energy, its a bit tricky with a 17½% VAT on everything
  • government procurement should prioritise low carbon goods

This is what the Guardian said about the Stern Report, when it was first published.

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Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

EU 10, Microsoft 0

An exciting day in many ways yesterday! The European Court have confimred the European Commissions fine on Microsoft for ant-competitive activities. The Guardian have reported it with the head line "European appeal court opens Windows to the world and shakes the superdominant". A headline only imagined in the Guardian business section.

Most interestingly they indirectly quote the competition commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes,  as saying that this ruling strengthens the commissions determinatio to put consumer benefit above innovation. This would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that only "Author/Publishers" need copyright/patent protection to inhibit competition. There are many other business models that drive innovation in the economy.

 This article at vnunet.com, called "Copyright harms the economy" is further evidence that bit by bit, people recognise that ideas cannot be exclusivly owned and that exclusive ownership is not in the public interest.

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Monday Mar 12, 2007

Is this a technology vendor?

Richard Barrington kicked us off and introduced firstly a video of Jonathon Porritt, talking about climate change and the need to act. Richard is very articulate on this himself arguing that the key policy for both the public polity and the private is to consume less power. If we can do that, we still have a chance of avoiding disaster. It was interesting to me that this was one of the central themes of the opening session. Today's Guardian reported on the Government's announcement that the carbon reduction commitment of the UK ( 60% reduction by 2050) is going to become law, Brown & Cameron are having a duel by press release to prove their green credentials and George Monbiot nails the Channel 4 documentary based on the countervailing view from last week. I missed the news that Curry's are going to stop selling incandescent bulbs.

The opening key note speaker, Steve Nunn from Accenture also picked up on the climate change commitments that governments are making and importantly added the system utilisation dimension. The easiest way to reduce the demand for power by data centres is to drive up utilisation using the co-hosting, consolidation and virtualisation policies, and retire and reduce the number of systems required to perform the work. The final part of the jigsaw is that the acquisition costs of computer systems continue to fall, but the cost of power will increase. Today, there are many systems which will cost more to power during their working life then they cost to buy, and data centre managers need to adopt policies to manage this expanding part of their (or their employer's) budget.

As an aside, he stated that he didn't believe that windows systems could achieve more than 55% utilisation, even with virtualisation. I wonder if we could build a more performant solution with Solaris as the OS and using windows as a guest in some way.

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Monday May 22, 2006

www 2006

At www.2006, Sir David Browne, (Chairman of Motorola) gave the opening keynote speech after the obligatory bagpipes & highland dancing. Actually the conference was opened by Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister (the politician, not the vicar) who welcomed the conference to Scotland. Interesting speech, listing and aligning Scotland historic intellectual endeavours to the future of the world without getting up the nose of this non-Scottish Brit. I suppose its one of the reasons he's No 1. He mentioned the use of today's internet technology by the University of the Highlands & Islands Millenium Institute to create a virtual university. It'd be worth checking out what they did.

I wonder! I was disappointed with Sir David's speech, maybe I'm begining to get it. Speed of change, personalisation, global scale all are creating massive opportunity. I quite liked his progression of technology that enables audio mobility, from a radio with valves being moved between rooms to car radios to hand held walkie talkies via mobile bricks to todays hand sets. (Arguably the story of mobility is actually the story of battery technology). Some key bullets are, "the device formerly known as the mobile phone" will become the 4th screen, after the TV, the computer and the car. There is a need to learn how to understand value and not service nor time. Perhaps one of the best tag lines was,

"Only long term competitive advantage is the rate at which we learn!"

But two thirds of the world don't have a phone. Conquering the digital divide means addressing some serious geo-political problems. City Business School have published research showing the correlation and cause between {mobile} phone adoption and economic growth, imagine the contribution of the 4bn non-connected people to the global economy. I know that at the moment, they're often more concerned with food and freedom and giving them a phone and a stake in global capitalism isn't exactly priority number one for these disenfranchised people.

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Monday Feb 13, 2006

Political Games

Republic, the Revolution I went shopping over the weekend and bought a couple of games. Now we have a new computer we can begin to catchup on what we've been missing out on for the last two years.

One game that caught our eye was “Republic, the Revolution”. I had had this pointed out to me before and it reminded me of Junta (see Answer.com & Wikipedia), which I have never got to play. It would seem that the computer game is set in a post Soviet eastern European state, and has a potentially a stronger story line and more strategies for success.

Junta seems based on some of the, or similar games first introduced to me by Michael Laver in “Playing Politics” which I read when it first came out. A second edition, called “Playing Politics: the Nightmare continues” was published in 1993 and a science around them and other similar games seems to have developed. Several of these games were referenced in “Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki, recently recommended by Jonathan Scwartz in his blog. (I've given you enough to find them on your favourite online bookstore).

But to return to Republic, I tried it last night but found it quite hard to pick up. The UI's are quite old fashioned, although how I expected a city's political composition to be displayed I'm not so sure, and I really rather enjoy the “Leninist/Soviet” look of the clothes, architecture and iconography. Anyway I checked it out on the internet and failed to find very much. The two crucial resources are the vendor site here... (you'll need to enable popups), with downloads such as wallpaper or buddy icons and “Game Faqs”, here..., although the forum referenced never took off. (I'll have to see if I need to do something about that).

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