Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for November, 2007

Football’s staying at home …

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Dear Son,

luckily your bed time is just before 8pm which meant you missed the horror show that the BBC showed live on Wednesday night. I am thinking of writing to OFCOM to complain of the sickening images broadcast before the 9pm water shed.

I have seen England play badly in my time but this must be the worst ever – even worse than England vs Scotland at Wembley for the Euro 2000 play off. A match I watched perched right on the back row at Wembley its self.

England only needed to draw to qualify for Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria next year but that is not the full story. After England lost to Russia, England’s destiny was not in their own hands. They needed Israel to beat Russia – which last Saturday they did. Israel went one-nil up, Russia equalised and then in stoppage time, right at the end of the match Israel went and scored the winner. If Russia had won that match they would have been all but out.

Not only did the England team have the life line given to them by Israel but Macedonia managed to beat Croatia 2-nil meaning that if England could win their final game against Croatia 2-nil they would top the group and increase their ranking ahead of the World Cup group stage draw and the groups for the Euro 2008 tournement.

The England teams response to this let-off was to play like a pub team. After an all night bender. It was terrible to watch and within 14 minutes England were 2-nil down. Changes were made at half time but the main underachievers – Lampard and Gerrard – stayed on the pitch. Beckham came on and did a wonderful job with his pin-point accuracy of passing. Within a few minutes a penalty was won and converted by Lampard. Not long after wards a superb Beckham pass found Peter Crouch and the bean pole smashed it into the Croatian net. 2 all and England are now safe – they just have to stop Croatia scoring again.

So what do the overpaid “professionals” do? Stand off and allow the opposition to attack. Which is what they did and the Croatian’s scored – a well taken goal and well deserved as well.

Where was the spirit, the attacking, the “never say die” spirit? I think it exists in inverse proportion to the amount the players are paid.

So next summer we can look forward to mild interest in the Euro 2008 tournament. Who knows, via your mothers friend me might even be able to get tickets for a France game and make a weekend of it.

And the garden needs doing. I hate gardening …

Written by Administrator

November 23rd, 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Family

Interconnected lives

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Dear Son,

as technology continues to march on the idea of an Internet will slowly disappear as the system its self becomes ubiquitous. There will be no marvel that you can read your email on your mobile phone and that the half written reply is synced to your main computer so you can finish it off at home. These things will become normal, everyday occurrences but the way things are going this sort of technology is fraught with danger.

Most computer systems are not designed with security in mind, the low level checks that make sure the software can’t be exploited and taken over. The idea is to make a pretty looking program with loads of whizzy features – this is what people want and this is what sells. This mind set is very entrenched in the computer hardware and software world and at the moment the cost of a computer hacking isn’t killing anyone but in the near future it will.

Take the following quote:

“As Apple grows its market share and becomes a more mainstream operating system, there’s going to be a lot more interest in it from the whitehats and the blackhats,” said Randy Abrams, director of technical education at anti-virus provider Eset. “Apple users are going to have to get used to the same things that Microsoft and Unix users have dealt with for a long time and that’s that patches are a fact of life.”

The idea being floated is that computer software and hardware is not designed and implemented properly in the first place so get used to updating it as problems come to light.

Currently cars on the streets use physical mechanisms to speed up and slow down. When a person presses the brake pedal on their car they are pressing a mechanical device that pushes brake shoes against the wheels and when they press the accelerator they are physically opening a valve that allows more petrol to flow to the engine and therefore increase speed. But in the future this will not be the case, when a car driver presses the brake the intensity will be measured by a computer and it will then control the brake shoes; the same with the accelerator.

Cars of the future will be connected to the internet using wireless technology for navigation, work and entertainment purposes. If some one can hack you cars internet connection they would soon be able to disable your brakes and increase your speed. Even without hackers doing damage so much of today’s software is so badly written that a glitch could kill you.

There is another way of software development that builds in computer security from the start instead of trying to bolt it on at the end. There are software development methodologies that regard correctness and testing over features. There is even code review where people look at code line by line to find problems before the product is released and when they find issues they start looking again for this new issue. Not that any commercial software house seems committed to this way of doing things – for them the bottom line is more important that quality and that means more features in less time. Even non-profit software developers think being at the bleeding-edge is more important than standards, correctness and security; regularly major flaws are found in various Linux distributions and other open source software.

One descenting group from this feature-add disaster is the OpenBSD project. They believe in evolving the code over time and at all stages making security and correctness are the big issue, not features. If a feature can only be created by doing something wrong and/or insecure then it is not done.

There is nothing inevitable about having to patch a computer system every month. Patches should be seen as the exception and not the rule because the goal should be to get it right first time. This is difficult with very large projects so don’t have a large project. Have a very small project that delivers only something very limited but does it very well. When it has been tested to destruction and manages to keep working you start on the next task.

In the future our interconnected lives will depend on the rejection of the sloppy and the insistence on the correct and the secure.

Written by Administrator

November 16th, 2007 at 10:20 am

Posted in Technology

Ruby Pooh

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Dear Son,

as part of Diwali celebrations they fed you curry at nursery yesterday. Not the first time you have had curry at nursery or even at home but come yesterday evening you told me you wanted a pooh. I put you on your potty and then splat – a huge loose pooh popped out.

As I took it up stairs to flush it down the toilet a got a good whiff of it and it was quite clearly a result of the earlier curry. I recognised the smell as I went for a Sri Lankaian curry on Wednesday night with my friend Helen. We ate in a place right opposite East Ham tube station, having a huge meal for just over a tenner. The curry was really spicy but very smooth and nice. Come Thursday morning it was coming out in spades.

In the coming years you’ll be having more of these; they burn on the way in and they burn on the way out as my friend Nick likes to say.

Written by Administrator

November 10th, 2007 at 9:48 am

Posted in Misc