The Anonymous Widower

Monarch Goes Bust

It is not a good time for airlines with Ryanair in a mess and now Monarch has gone bust.

The CAA has announced a web site at www.monarch.caa.co.uk, where passengers should look for information.

I checked the site out of curiosity and it seems to do what the chair of the CAA said it does on the BBC!

The internet would seem to help in these situations.

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , | Leave a comment

O’Leary Gets His Planning Wrong

This article on the BBC talks about the mess Ryanair has got itself into.

I have not flown Ryanair since June 2009, when I flew to Lamezia in Southern Italy.

In Why I Avoid Flying Ryanair, written in February 2014, I said this.

It’s not the fact that I want to avoid eleven hour delays, as these can happen to any airline, but it does seem that Ryanair don’t have a reasonable Plan-B to look after passengers in such circumstances.

In the current mess they haven’t even got a Plan-A!

Even now at seventy, I could probably write a program in Visual Basic 6, that took an airline’s schedules and gave them details of their needs for aircraft, pilots, cabin staff and lucky shamrocks for a required number of years.

Obviously, their planning doesn’t include such a system.

But I bet Norwegian have such a system!

The key to any successful business is getting your planning right!

“It Won’t Happen To Me!”

Do passengers think this when they fly somewhere.

Let’s face it, most of the journeys we do by car, bus and train in the UK, have an outcome as expected or perhaps we might get compensation for a late train.

And if the latter happens, we usually get a prompt refund.

Unlike in my adventures described in From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train, where I suffered at the hands of Deutsche Bahn in Germany, where I had to pay for my hotel and had to buy a new ticket.

Conclusion

My rule is to use Ryanair as an airline of last resort, when they are the only airline flying to where I want to go. So if they mess up on the outward leg, I get an extra night in my own bed.

But then I can afford some extra expense and often, I’m travelling alone.

 

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Even Vauxhall Corsas Have 4G Wi-Fi

This is the case according to adverts at the side of the pitch in the England Slovakia game at Wembley tonight.

I don’t drive, so I don’t care, but it appears that this increasingly features on cars.

Bombardier have fitted this feature to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, so will we see it increasingly fitted to all trains, taxis and buses?

It’ll certainly be something that passengers on public transport will expect.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Internet Age Just Starting, Says Tech Guru

The title of this post is the same as the title of a short article in the Business section of the Sunday Times.

It is a summary of an interview with Marc Andreesen onside the Business section.

Some points raised.

  • The next wave of technological disruption will affect law, medicine and construction.
  • The basic cost of starting an Internet company has fallen dramatically
  • There’s something really special happening at the intersection of medincine and computer science.

I certainly agree with the title of the article.

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Health, World | | Leave a comment

No One Is Born Hating Another Person Because Of The Colour Of His Skin Or His Background Or His Religion

The quote is from Nelson Mandela and according to this report on the BBC, after being tweeted by Barack Obama, it has become the most liked tweet.

This is said.

It may be President Trump’s communication tool of choice – but it’s a tweet by former President Barack Obama that has become the most liked in Twitter’s history.

When someone writes a book on the most important tweets of this decade, I do wonder how many of Trump’s tweets will have been much liked, by those who don’t have a dead-end agenda!

As to myself, I was certainly brought up by my parents in the spirit of the title of this post, but with perhaps two exceptions.

  • My father wasn’t keen on Pope Pius XII, as he believed he’d not done enough to help the Jews and others during World War II.
  • My mother was from a Huguenot family and wasn’t that keen on Roman Catholics.

I don’t think either would have been pleased if I’d married a practising Catholic. But as a confirmed atheist and humanist for as long as I can remember, I don’t think there was ever much chance of my marrying anybody with a serious religious conviction.

 

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Labour Party’s Fantasy Economics

Today, the Labour Party has added a rail fare cap to their list of give-aways to all and sundry.

In the 1970s, I was asked to do a programming job for the Chief Management Accountant of a major clearing bank, who are still trading successfully, so my work didn’t toss them down the toilet.

I programmed a system, so that the Bank could work out how much every one of their management functions would cost. The program could be run so that the Bank could see how much say a pay rise for staff would add to the cost of clearing a cheque, in all of their branches. As you can imagine costs were very variable and the reasons for some of the high costs in some branches appeared in the tabloid newspapers.

It was fascinating and three things happened.

  • I learned a tremendous amount about the way bankers and accountants look at figures, which I put to good use in Artemis
  • I learned a lot about the way bankers think.
  • But above all, I gained a good friend, which was sadly cut short by the Chief Management Accountant’s early death from cancer, We regularly celebrated our fruendship  in Mother Bunches Wine Bar.

I also decided to move my Bank Account to the Bank and by luck, I was introduced to a Bank Manager, who played a large part in my life.

  • He became Metier’s Bank Manager and helped us to be the success we were.
  • He went on to be Business Banking Director of the Bank.
  • He loaned me the money to buy my first Porsche and then introduced me to the joys of owning a Lotus.
  • But as with the Chief Management Accountant, we became firm friends and put the world to rights in many convivial lunches.

Sadly, he died a few days before C.

These two friends taught me a lot about banking.

But I remember one conversation with the Bank Manager in particular.

We were talking about lending millions of pounds to companies, with strong Chilean, Israeli and South African ownership links. He said they were always difficult and risky because of the politics and determined individuals involved, but you satisfied this risk by adding a percentage or two to the deal.

Since then I have been involved in both a small finance company and Zopa; the peer-to-peer lender, as an investor, and the same principles apply.

Just as they do when the banks are lending to countries with dodgy finances.

So what makes the Labour Party think that they any sane Banker will fund their socialist fantasies, by loaning them billions at zero or low rates?

 

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Finance, World | | 2 Comments

Protecting Your Company, Organisation Or Workgroup From Viruses, Ransomware And Other Malware

I am not a computer malware expert and since 1970, I have generally worked alone, with one or more computers , not connected by a network.

But after all the problems of the last few weeks with ransomware, I feel that one of my experiences of a few years ago, should be put into this blog.

A Daisy Demonstration

The Research Department of a major corporation were interested in using my software; Daisy to analyse data being collected in their local offices.

So I was summoned to their offices to the South West of London, so that they could have a proper demonstration.

I found something extremely sensible that I’d not seen before.

The Department had the usual corporate network, as you would expect, with logins, malware protection, but for my demonstration I used another computer.

The Lonely PC

We moved to a lonely PC sitting on a desk in the corner. It had the following characteristics.

  • Adequate power.
  • A recent version of Windows.
  • Direct connection to the Internet through a landline.
  • No connection to the main network.
  • A directly connected printer.
  • A selection of browsers.
  • Microsoft Office, but no e-mail program.

The only thing, that the computer lacked was a large screen.

Uses Of The Isolated Computer

The isolated computer was used for the following.

  • Demonstrations
  • Checking out ideas and web sites in suspect locations.
  • Testing software.

I think that after the recent ransomware attacks, emergency Internet access could probably be added to the list of uses.

Rules For Using The Computer

The Department had setup a series of rules for the use of the computer.

  • The computer could be booked by anybody in the Department.
  • Comprehensive data transfer rules using physical devices had been setup.
  • No software could be installed on computers on the main network, without full testing on the isolated computer.
  • The computer was regularly checked for any viruses or malware.
  • If any nasties were found on this computer, it was immediately restored to a pristine state.

Incidentally, whether it was for my benefit or not, it was one of the cleanest corporate computers, I’ve used for a demonstration.

Benefits

I was told that since the computer had been installed, malware problems on the network had decreased.

But how much was this down to a constantly improving and rigorously updated malware-protection system for the Department’s main network?

An Ideal System

A lot would depend on the type of company and their needs.

The system I used needed a big screen, as often a demonstration needs to be seen by several people.

I also think, that with a large screen, it could be a valuable tool in Corporate Communications.

Some might think, that this type of computer, which bypasses the corporate network, could be used by those with access for nefarious purposes.

Years ago, my software; Artemis was used to do the Project Management on Chevaline. The Ministry of Defence was worried that the Russians might use some unknown technology to read the electromagnetic radiation from the cathode-ray tube of the VDU. So I suggested they put the desk-sized computer in a shielded internal room. But what about the door, they said! I suggested that they get Chubb to put one of their best locks on the door.

A few weeks later, when a software problem struck, I went home with a complete copy of the project on a disc.

I had encoded the data using a personally-designed method that I still believe is unbreakable. But that is another story! Especially, as I’ve never signed the Official Secrets Act!

As this tale illustrates, there are ways to enforce security and holes will always appear.

 

 

 

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Computing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Wi-Fi Becoming A Curse?

I usually only switch wi-fi on when I need it, on my Samsung phone. And when I don’t, I switch it off immediately.

Yesterday, I forgot to switch it off and this morning as the bus went through the Angel, the phone had switched itself to an O2 advert and it was trying to get me to install fourteen copies of updated apps.

I immediately, switched wi-fi off and didn’t install any updated apps, as in fact, I only use one app and that never seems to update itself.

How many people just update all the apps, they’re asked to do and inadvertently load a piece of malware, that empties their bank account?

Remember, it is in your phone service provider’s interest that you keep updating, as this generally increases your bill.

I also have no financial details on my mobile phone. Anybody who does, deserves to lose all their money!

 

 

 

November 23, 2016 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | 6 Comments

Don’t Get A Mask To Rob A Bank – Just Buy The App

This is the title of an article in The Sunday Times.

It talks about an App called Blackshades, that can be bought for three hundred pounds, that enables a thief to seize control of a victim’s computer and steal their passwords.

Hopefully, I’m protected but it’s a frightening concept. My passwords aren’t stored on the computer, but in my Mark 1, 1947-vintage core store, which is the safest place for them.

It also says that infiltrating a smart-phone or tablet can be easier than targetting desktops, saying that many criminals set up malicious hotspots in public places.

For that reason, I only use wi-fi in trusted locations and usually have it switched off on my smart phone. I never use wi-fi that wants my e-mail address as giving it usually ensures, I’ll get marketing e-mails, which I class as spam.

I also check my bank account and credit cards every day or so, so that if I’m robbed, I know it first.

From what I can ascertain, I think that contactless payments are pretty safe, especially in London, where there are billions of transactions because of public transport.

So I use contctless wherever I can locally!

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Evil Devices In Our Midst

I recommend that my readers, if there are any out there, read this article on the BBC, which is entitled ‘Smart’ home devices used as weapons in website attack.

It would appear that last Friday, that a company called Dyn suffered a denial of service attack. The attack and its effects is described in on Wikipedia.

The reasons behind the attack are still not clear and it could be in support for Wikileaks or in my mind just to prove it can be done.

But I doubt it will have any repercussions for the average John and Jenny, unless they want to buy something on eBay say!

To me, as someone who believes that in his day, he was a world-class programmer, I think that we haven’t seen anything like the end of evil minds working their wicked spells on the Internet.

Suppose you use an App to access your bank account or pay for your taxi on your phone.

How long before you’re sitting in a coffee shop, library or railway station, happily surfing the Internet and a message comes up on your phone, asking you to download the latest Taxi App say? Except that it won’t be!

You innocently download it and within minutes your bank account has been emptied or your credit card has been maxed out.

For that reason, I and other programmers I’ve spoken to, will never load an App that needs any financial information to my phone.

Any web site with your financial information, should only be accessed from a totally private connection.

We cannot be too careful.

When I started to use my American Express card for contactless payments, I noticed some strange payments without any recognisable name on my statement.

So I challenged them with Amex and they refunded them.

But they kept coming, until I realised that they were for a branch of a well-known store that had setup its tills wrongly.

In all this, Amex had been puzzled too and one of their security experts had talked to me. He told me that the level of fraud on contactless cards was less than they had expected, something which seems to have been confirmed by the lack of hard stories of fraud on contactless cards.

A policeman told me, that the limit of thirty pounds is not enough for the average card criminal, who like to deal in thirty thousand pounds a hit.

He also felt that as many contactless transactions are on CCTV, that intelligent criminals think they could be a Get Into Jail Quickly card.

As other more reliable payment methods like face recognition become more common, I feel that in the future, there will be no need to store any financial details on your phone, that can be hacked.

But until that happens, there will be no obvious financial details on my phone.

Certain details like passport number are hidden in the phone, in case of loss abroard.

 

 

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , | 1 Comment