Saturday, November 17, 2007

Of Police States and Greed

There is a significant number of stories I can comment on this week. I will tackle two of them. The first one concerns the UK's RIPA act. The story details how the UK has used this law for the first time to try to force the encryption code from one of its citizens. The law has been in the books for several years but this is the first time it has been used (that we know of). The article implies that this law is a clear example of a growing tendency for countries to become police states. It is shameful that nations have to force its citizens to reveal private information simply because there is some sort of suspicion of criminal activity. To me that is equivalent to the tactics used by the Nazis and other cruel governments to subjugate any free-thinking citizens. Please read the article and see what you think about this. And the UK is not alone in this; many other countries (including the USA) have similar (or greater) powers to invade private lives.

My other comment concerns J.K. Rowling's lawsuit concerning the "Harry Potter Lexicon." It appears Ms. Rowling was happy when the contributors to the Lexicon were helping her make money by adding value to her stories. But when they saw a way to make money themselves based on their labor, then Rowling objected and took them to court. I love the Harry Potter books and I think Ms. Rowling should benefit from her work -- but being too greedy is not a good trait to have. Her attitude is seriously disappointing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The End of the Oil Age

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the International Energy Agency has declared the imminent end of the "Oil Age." "The agency states in no uncertain terms in its annual World Energy Outlook that "alarming" growth in worldwide energy needs will within a generation threaten energy security, accelerate global climate change and possibly bring worldwide shortages and conflicts." This is a great article for all of us to read and I suggest that everyone do so. There are no easy solutions to the global energy problem. But sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the issues is not going to help either. In my opinion, the first step should be conservation. Let us start by replacing all fluorescent light bulbs with energy efficient units; the savings would be huge! I think it may also be time to reduce speed limits to minimize gasoline consumption. These are minor inconveniences in light of what will be coming (perhaps not for us but certainly for future generations) unless we all start acting responsibly and proactively.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Backups and Restores in a Microsoft World

I spent this week learning about Windows 2003 Active Directory. The technology is not new, but there have been major improvements since its introduction several years ago. The course was great as was the instructor. Everything was going great until the very last Practice exercise. The purpose of such was to create an item in Active Directory, backup the system, delete the item we just created (for which there is no undelete), and then restore Active Directory to retrieve the item we deleted. To make a long story short, the backup on my server got corrupted. The restore on my server failed without errors -- and then the corrupted Active Directory was propagated to other servers. Within minutes the whole lab was toast -- none of the servers would allow us to create new objects in the database. The moral of the story is that your system is only as good as its weakest links. Backups and restores continue to be a weak link in computer technology. Disaster recovery, which backups and restores are part of, has received much attention over the years, yet we still have serious weaknesses in the built-in tools of advanced operating systems like Windows 2003 Server. My theory is that Microsoft does this by design to allow its partners to create and sell add-on products to fill in the gaps that Microsoft left open on purpose. Everyone wins except the end-user. If that is the case, is Microsoft guilty of misrepresentation and deceit?