What goes around comes around

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11 July 2005 | 0

The process that generated last month’s attempt to peer into the future for IT professionals (Inside Track June, 2005)  had a flip side. As you look ahead for things that you expect (or hope) might change, you are struck by the stuff that looks like it never will.

 

 

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Views of the future are a hazard in my field of operations. Given the time that an idea takes to move from a viewgraph slide to the inside of IT buyer’s skulls, vapourware will always be with us. The sunny marketers that draw those upward sloping graphs and reel off long feature lists of software that’s hardly at alpha stage are immortal. The amount of discount you apply to such puffery is variable according to your past experience, the wit and guile of the promiser and the ROI consequences of believing another yard of tall IT tales.

 

Not again

As you sit there, shaking your head, hardened IT manager that you are, ruing that once caught is twice shy, reflect on this: You’d think that Bill Gates would be the hardest lad on the street. Yet he has been stung by his own technology in public, repeatedly. Most recently at the CES show in Vegas a few months back.  Old Murphy was at it again when Bill stepped up to demo Windows Media Center. HE never learns… how the hell do you think you will? As Conor O’Brien said as Gates squirmed ‘Who runs this company anyway? Whoops…’

 

Yet despite the presentational bloopers, you can always count on Microsoft to discover an innovation that has been lovingly lofted by a number of small companies. They then incorporate it into one of their omnibus bundles of software joy thereby putting the real sources of innovation into the shade if not out of business.

 

Microsoft might have escaped the long arm of the US anti-trust law by virtue of business-friendly regime change in Washington but here in Europe there’s some hope that the brakes can be applied to Microsoft’s Borg-like assimilation of independently developed technology and subsequent flattening the competition with their Windozer.

 

You have mail… hit Del

Spam isn’t going to go away.  Spam’s progressed from the Green Card scandal of a decade ago where the perpetrators were actually interviewed and the merits were widely debated to today where it accounts for at least three quarters (or 90 per cent by some measures) of all e-mail traffic. Legal remedies have been attempted, a couple of big cheeses have gotten nabbed but the ceaseless drizzle of cheap loans offers, promises of instant studhood, and full frontal peeks at nubile flesh still pitter patters on your desktop.

 

The proposal of Sender IDs as an adjunct to current spam-filtering technology may recapitulate another wearisome past practice by Microsoft. Hopefully, the noises they are making about standards-making are genuine this time and don’t have some proprietary gotcha in store.

 

Like spam, the hacker scum… and the holes they exploit in mis-crafted software… and the vulnerabilities left in fire walls and anti-viral defences due to user inattention… are here for keeps, too.  This is pretty grim stuff unless you are working for a company that figures that bad news is good news for their revenue stream.

 

Round and round

I am not levelling the oft heard charge that the anti-virus brigade are in cahoots with the virus spawning brigands but I know there is a circuit of troublesome virtue here.  And like all circles, they go around and around and around. 

 

I don’t want to be seen as more of a Microsoft basher than I actually am so I hesitate to point out that our current desktop and PC server monoculture is more than a juicy target to any plague of virus/worms/phishers/infojacker/et al. that comes along.  I was told by a MS senior VP (since retired to comfortable surroundings) that Windows/Office wasn’t worse than any other OS and application combo then extant.

 

Of course, given the brilliant marketing of their wares, there isn’t really any other OS/app combo around for a commanding majority of the world’s desktop and small server users. I say this as a user of Linux myself and a long time supporter of open systems and open source.

 

As a distraction, we have the unfolding saga of the SCO Group vs The World (and IBM) to further dim the attraction of a move towards open source. Internecine OS wars will always be with us. All choices are hard.

 

No secrets

Thanks to the Googlisation of the world, privacy is all but gone and is never likely to return unless we all unplug.  Fat chance, that! I suspect that there are individuals that will try to absent themselves from the headlong rush towards a know-all online culture.  Bon chance! A few decades ago Samuel Delaney wrote a story about ‘outlaws’ that tried to remain unconnected to the global network… they didn’t survive. Delaney, it must be noted, created the notion of an all pervading informational web while Tim Berners Lee was still drinking beer in undergraduate beer parties and some years distant from his appointment with history at CERN.

 

The current developments in EU thought (the matter of the French ‘Non!’

notwithstanding) are depressing. How long before we are compelled to have a bar code tattooed on our forearms to prevent terrorism, manage immigration, stem tax evasion, assist the maintenance of public health or any other thinly disguised Orwellian motivation?

 

The heist or careless mis-delivery of tens of millions of credit card records in the US recently gives great pause to any feelings of trust toward the efficacy of the corporate sector as acting guardians of precious personal or financial data. Given the performance of the UK and Irish governments in their IT acquisitions and operations, would you want to trust them with safeguarding your identity?  There’s nowhere to turn. 

Globe spanning

 

We make the future one decision at a time. The inconsequentiality of last year’s or the decade before’s choices are coming home to roost as major issues in IT governance today. The globe-spanning nature of the net makes it unlikely that any one individual or company will ever get a controlling influence over its evolutionary direction – not even Microsoft.

 

But that’s no excuse for lack of effort today.  There is a clarion call for every IT user from home workers to global conglomerates to get involved in whatever way they can to clean up the nest. We’re going to be living with the consequences of today’s decisions for a long time.

 

 

 

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