Monday, December 31, 2007

NHS start work on moutain of gold

Today I read that the NHS (UK National Health Service) have started to build their national database of personal health records. What a tempting target!

Today I also read that data theft is "soaring to an all time high".

Put these two together and you have a happy future for identity thieves and a miserable time for the general public.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Microsoft demonstrate total control over MOO-XML

Microsoft are pushing their latest document format as a "standard" in the form of MOO-XML (Microsoft Office Open - XML).

One of the key things about real standards is that they are formed through a consensus. The mechanism for reaching consensus is defined by a standards body and allows the involvement of any interested party.

Microsoft does not want to play that way:

Slashdot | Microsoft Deprecating Some OOXML Functionality

In this Slashdot article we see Microsoft squirming to quell to the many concerns raised about MOO-XML as it is rammed through the ISO process, and in so doing Microsoft demonstrate that they alone say what this format will look like.

MOO-XML is not a standard (it's not even a specification!) and the format is not being defined in anything like an open fashion. Instead it is a very cynical attempt by Microsoft to derail an existing open standard - ODF (the Open Document Format). In the process of pursuing it's monopolistic goals Microsoft has not only muddied the standards waters, but has harmed the standardisation process itself.

The EU recently compelled Microsoft to behave itself in one sphere of it's operations. Perhaps the EU could step in and help preserve the world of open standards against the anti-competitive onslaught of Microsoft.

One can hope.

Monday, December 24, 2007

NHS dive down the ID card rabbit hole

The NHS have joined in the data loss fun with the rest of the UK government, and this morning the head of the NHS, David Nicholson, was on the BBC Today programme. The presenter asked the head of the NHS: "Can we trust you with our personal medical data?"

Head of the NHS: "Yes, absolutely"

Given the, just admitted, loss of over 160,000 records this response demonstrates astonishing naivety. This same naivety which is holding open the door for the national ID card system is leading the NHS to create a centralised (physically distributed but logically whole) repository of medical records for everyone in the UK.

Mr. Nicholson went on and on about the technical protection measures that would be put in place, but failed to address the greatest current and future problem - people. Almost all of the recent data losses were down to either mistakes, manipulation or malice on the part of individuals.

Of course, blindly trusting in technology is pretty daft too, but I bet the IT companies that stand to make billions from the NHS can give David a nice warm fuzzy feeling about that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Samba Team Gets Microsoft Protocol Docs

Microsoft preach interoperability but seem to fairly consistently practice just the opposite. It took the might of the EU and many years of effort on the part of many people to force Microsoft to grant (all be it limited) access to the specifications of their resource sharing protocols, but it finally did happen:

Groklaw - Samba Team Receives Microsoft Protocol Documentation

Have a look at the "Settlements" section in the above. Microsoft paid out over 3.5 billion USD to companies that were working with the EU on the case, and those companies duly walked away, seriously weakening the EU position. Thanks to the continued efforts the EU, and with help from the Samba team, the good guys won in the end, but Microsoft very nearly ended up being able to continue abusing the market.

Look again at the amount of money Microsoft paid out: over 3.5 billion USD. This is a huge sum of money. Enough to even sway governments, perhaps?

Now look at the shenanigans within ISO related to the Microsoft Office Open XML (MOO-XML) document format. Do we see another example of an international body being manipulated by the might Microsoft wallet. I think perhaps we do.

Monday, December 17, 2007

ANSI Smalltalk - brief video intro

Here is a video I put together for presentation at the Smalltalks 07 conference which happened in Buenos Aires last week:

YouTube - ANSI Smalltalk Introduction

... I think it covers the essentials of what we are trying to do with the ANSI Smalltalk work.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BBC's iPlayer - disgusting

The BBC have ignored and are ignoring their responsibility as spelled out in their charter.

BBC's iPlayer launches Christmas Day | The Register

This is one of those cases where a thing is worse than useless. It would be better if iPlayer did not exist at all than in this current form. The iPlayer as proposed will entrench a closed proprietary media format owned and controlled by a single company. The iPlayer project should be halted because to do otherwise is throwing good money after bad.

Microsoft owe the BBC and the British licence paying public a billion pound thank you for this mess. Ka-ching.