28 March 2003

Perle resigns: "Richard N. Perle resigned today as chairman of an influential Pentagon advisory board in the wake of disclosures that his business dealings included a recent meeting with a Saudi arms dealer and a contract to advise a communications company that is seeking permission from the Defense Department to be sold to Chinese investors." [NY Times]

While from The Guardian: "Last week, the Guardian disclosed Mr Perle's links to an intelligence-related computer firm that stands to profit from war with Iraq (Pentagon hawk linked to UK intelligence company, March 21 2003). Mr Perle has denied separate allegations published earlier this month in the New Yorker, and threatened to sue the magazine in Britain, where libel cases are much harder to defend than in the US.

According to a report to be published today by the US watchdog Center for Public Integrity, at least 10 out of 30 members of the Pentagon committee are executives or lobbyists with companies that have tens of billions of dollars' worth of contracts with the US defence department and other government agencies.

Britain's chief military officer in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, yesterday attacked American moves to hand over the running of Iraq's largest port to a company which has a history of bad industrial relations and has faced accusations of union-busting.

The firm, Stevedoring Services of American, has been awarded a £3m contract to manage Umm Qasr by the Bush administration. Britain argues that the port should be run by Iraqis once it has been made secure."

2:02:17 PM  #   your two cents []
I've got a set of articles on the challenges for Open Source software advocates going after big government and public sector contracts, which includes an interview with the EMEA chairman of IBM on IBM's Linux strategy. If you have an Ireland.com subscription, they're in the Finance section, or pick up a paper if you're interested and are in Ireland. I'd hoped for more space for these pieces (and thus, they could go into more depth...) but those are the limitations of print!
11:47:13 AM  #   your two cents []

State's data retention website a model of confusion. From my Times column today [free access here]:

For some bizarre reason, someone in the Department of Justice decided to use a security feature that is not only uncalled for, but that creates annoying delays in getting into the site. The warning messages thrown up by the feature will cause many visitors concern and put them off using the site.

The site uses a digital certificate to verify that it is a trusted source of information - but this is a rather complicated, and in this case, silly and pointless method of added security. To use a digital certificate, a computer user needs to have the more recent versions of Web browsers and must go through the process of accepting and installing the certificate. Have you EVER installed a digital certificate? I didn't think so. Neither have I. I don't want to have to figure out how to do so just to visit this website, either.

Yet the first thing that happens when you go to the website is that a warning window pops up to let you know that you are viewing a certificate "from a company you have chosen not to trust" (go on, chortle a bit; I did).

Most computer users will probably be flummoxed at this point - what do you do? Install it? Or click "yes" to override the certificate and say you'll trust the Department anyway?

The Department's workaround on this, bizarrely, is to state in big red letters on its homepage that you should just click "yes" and override the security certificate. Well, that's an excellent approach to security - put in place something that alienates people and that isn't needed, yet looks suspicious. And then, when they get confused about what it is and why it's there, tell them not to worry; just accept that the Department knows best and can be trusted, at the same time that it clearly shows that it doesn't really know what it is doing.

That's pretty much what's asked of you in the case of the proposed Data Retention Act. You are being asked to accept that retention is good for you. Just ignore that all the people charged with looking after your rights to privacy under existing EU law and under the European Convention on Human Rights have come out strongly against the concept and practice of data retention - the data protection commissioners in every single EU state, including ours.

11:42:24 AM  #   your two cents []

One of the more astonishing admissions from the US military in today's Irish Times. "War-gamed"?! Welcome back to the real world in which real people fight and die, General:

The most ominous US assessment of progress in the week-old war came from a senior American general in the field, where the US-led advance has been slowed by bad weather and unexpectedly ferocious guerrilla attacks on long and insecure supply lines stretching over 300 miles.

"We didn't know that they would fight like this, the enemy is different to the one we 'war-gamed'," said Lieut Gen William Walker, commander of the US 5th Corps. Asked by an American reporter with his troops if the war would take longer than planned he replied, "It's beginning to look that way."

Remember the US military's admission a year or so back of conducting rigged "war games" that allowed the side "playing" the US to win? ...Then, it gets more embarrassing:

"This isn't a matter of timetable, it's a matter of victory, and the Iraqi people have got to know that, see," said Mr Bush.

Jabbing his finger on the lectern to emphasise every word, he said: "They got to know that they will be liberated and Saddam Hussein will be removed, no matter how long it takes."

In the meantime, a bidding war is going among American companies close to the administration to 'reconstruct' Iraq. "Liberated"? Just as we did in Haiti, no doubt. And note the careful evoking of WWII language to give the sense of a noble struggle. Sigh. At least Blair is grammatically correct, passionate and doesn't come across as a cartoon.

11:22:57 AM  #   your two cents []
Is this the real George Bush?. The authentic Dubya, a trained stand-in or an animatronic lookalike? Tim Dowling investigates. [Guardian Unlimited]
11:18:47 AM  #   your two cents []
The Doc Searls Weblog: Compare and contrast. Last night's seconds-long NBC news feature on Weblogs verged on the meaningless. Meanwhile this piece in the Baltimore Sun is a real story.
11:14:06 AM  #   your two cents []
The Bush and Blair show. The president has the reputation for straight talk, but it's his British ally who actually delivers it. [Salon.com]
11:02:07 AM  #   your two cents []
Darrin Weinberg. "It matters not whether you win or lose; what matters is whether I win or lose." [Quotes of the Day]
11:00:45 AM  #   your two cents []
James Meek in The Guardian: "Near the Iraqi positions was a little line of their gas masks, abandoned in the dirt. Only a day had passed since their owners had been killed, run away or surrendered, and already the desert was sucking the masks back into itself, with the wind piling the sand up on them and the rain turning the sand into ridges of mud over the rubber."
1:15:49 AM  #   your two cents []
"It all started because I wanted to be 'root'." My Thursday Guardian piece, on putting Linux onto my desktop.
1:03:02 AM  #   your two cents []
Mandrake moves faster with new Linux. MandrakeSoft releases a new version of its Linux software that embraces some technology that rival Red Hat still keeps at arm's length. [CNET News.com]
12:57:44 AM  #   your two cents []
One for the RISKS digest: Software bug may cause Patriot missile errors. Recent war mishaps still under investigation [InfoWorld: Top News]
12:55:25 AM  #   your two cents []

Man, it doesn't get much better out on the web than William Gibson blogging. Thank god he does nearly a daily entry. Excellent stuff Thursday:


A studio executive explains the need to make sure Chris Rock utters no anti-Bush statements when his new movie is released:

"We are confident Chris knows this is not the appropriate time to make jokes about war and the president," said one top studio source. "We don't want to get Dixie-Chicked, or anything like that, out of the gate."


"Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton", UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr", said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."

Hee hee!!

12:54:18 AM  #   your two cents []

Well. Wireless conversion not going smoothly. Too many cables, don't know the DSL settings for modem, out all day Thursday so no time to check up on all this. However did get the ethernet card in without a hitch. So I remain wired rather than wireless for at least another day or two or three. What really annoys me is that all these darn devices need their own little power supply. I don't have enough outlets for them all -- modems, base stations, speakers, cradles, USB outlet, and all the plugs actually attached to the computer proper. I'm afraid the house will catch on fire.

On the upside, I spent the day in an excellent class on hacking. While I learned all about vulnerabilities and hacker tools, I must admit to being a C+ (OK, maybe a C-) at actually cracking a website. I did some nice little SQL insertions (boy, are those fun! I love how you can get all the tables in a database and then get the values in the tables...) and even managed a cross-site scripting hack but forgot to try the old 'substitution in an .asp url' to get admin privileges or to check the website source code for forgotten comments etc etc. All thanks to Ernst & Young Dublin who tolerated my presence among the real geeks. Lots of material to absorb, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. But you can all sleep easy tonight, knowing I will never, ever have the skills to actually hack anything properly...

12:48:32 AM  #   your two cents []