Oh Sh!t, CSC & BAE Systems Scupper UK Nuclear Deterrent

From this morning’s edition of online news site The Register. Royal Navy’s capability neutered by stealth. What is really scarey about this is that the political parties have not made any comment. Maybe this has something to do with the millions that Microsoft spends on public affairs and bailing Labour out of the potential white elephant of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, which at the time threatened to be as big a disaster as the Millenium Dome. Orginal article here, interesting bits below

“Almost three years ago the naval systems arm of major UK defence contractor BAE Systems took the decision to standardise future development on Microsoft Windows. an immediate effect was to commit BAE’s joint venture CMS subsidiary, AMS, who specialise in naval Combat Management Systems, to implementing a Windows 2000-based CMS system for the new Type 45 Destroyer.”

“Acting as spokesman for the concerned engineers Gerald Wilson compiled a 50 page dossier detailing the unsuitability of Windows as a foundation for a naval command system, and arguing that BAE’s Unix history and expertise made open source UN*X a logical and viable way forward. The company then made him redundant. In May of this year Wilson reiterated his concerns to the board of BAE Systems at the company’s AGM, pointing out that Windows is “proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation”, has “many and continuing security flaws”, and is not even warranted by Microsoft itself for safety-related use. Why then, he asked, is AMS “shunning established engineering practice” by developing the Type 45’s CMS on Windows.”

“AMS supports this with copious documentation on the AMS approach to open systems, which can be summarised as open, so long as it uses Windows. Earlier AMS had announced the deployment of Windows on submarine HMS Torbay, together with plans to retrofit Windows to Vanguard class and other attack submarines.”

Vanguard class boats carry Trident nuclear missiles!

“BAE had undergone several structural changes. One consequence was that computer resources were owned and controlled by BAE’s outsourcing partner (Computer Sciences Corporation). CSC’s published policy was to standardise BAE’s computers to use only Microsoft’s proprietary software.”


So this decision was based on the fact that the company outsources its PC helpdesks to CSC!

“In April 2002, Bill Gates, acting as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, gave extensive testimony under oath to the US Courts. Gates’s testimony included description of the current structure of Microsoft Windows. Snubbing fifty years of progress in computer science, the current structure of Windows abandoned the accepted principles of modular design and reverted instead to the, much deprecated, entangled monolithic approach. Paragraphs 207 to 223 are particularly revealing about Microsoft’s chosen approach (paragraph 216 is difficult to believe!). Anyone with elementary knowledge of computer science can see that Microsoft Windows, as described here by Gates, is inherently insecure by design.”



“These continual problems demonstrate how, in practice, Windows proves inherently insecure by design. There are many public descriptions of this issue: but a succinct summary is found here: (Does open source software enhance security? – The Register) Although partisan, Greene’s analysis is accurate. Greene distinguishes how the structure of Windows (entangled, monolithic) necessarily compromises its security when compared with the structure of open source UNIX (modular, scaleable). It is simple to infer which structure is preferable for building a safe and secure foundation for an engineered system, such as a naval command system. A more recent example is this recommendation in a recent security advisory from the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, now part of the US Department of Homeland Security. (US-CERT Vulnerability Note VU#713878, 9th June 2004 Microsoft Internet Explorer does not properly validate source of redirected frame).”

Gives the blue screen of death a whole new meaning.

Life, Liberty and Political Protest

The Republican National Party convention has come and gone in New York. While much of the media coverage was devoted to the usual political posturing less attention was paid to the psy-ops between the party and its opponents on the street.The city of New York went into overdrive arresting protestors. A Manhattan judge ordered

the immediate release of 500 protestors some of whom had been held for three days without charge. Around 2,000 protesters had been arrested in total. Forget the 1960s, the protests were the biggest staged at a US political convention ever (almost three times as many as the famous 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago). Issues of importance to the protestors included the way in which the war on terror was been conducted, in memory of 9/11 relatives dissatified with the government, gay rights, AIDS funding as well as the treatment of the poorest members of society.In a wrap up report of the convention Chicago Tribune journalist Charlie Madigan compared the Republicans to the Nazis (see

here)Like a modern military campaign, the protest was supported by a complex ‘command and control’ communications infrastructure, the protests relied on sophisticated communications technology to direct their actions, the protests were more successful than in those done by previous generations. Protests were by text messages on their cell phones, using the service to establish meeting points to create a ‘swarm’ rather like a flash mob, warn about police presence and provide an real-time protest update.

“Need protesters at 38th and Park Ave, Bush arriving any sec!” came one message on Thursday morning from a church where the president was to attend a prayer service. Foremost amongst the mobile infrastructure was textmob.com.

Here’s their post-convention update to members:

Well, the RNC has come and gone. Many thanks to everyone who used txtmob, and special thanks to those who helped keep it up and running. In particular, props to our partners in New York: the NYC Comms Collective, the A31 collective, Times Up! NY, CounterConvention.org, Openflows, City College radicals, and the 12th Street church crew. Special shout-out to Teleflip.com for letting us piggyback on their service when T-Mobile tried to shut us down.

If you have a minute, it would be extremely helpful if you would provide some feedback on your experience with txtmob. We’d like to know how you used txtmob – for example, are you an RNC protester? a medic? a reporter? If possible, let us know which groups you subscribed to, whether you posted or only received messages, and how useful you found the service. We’d particularly love to hear any stories you might want to share about your experiences as well – for example, was there something specific that txtmob helped you do? Or a time that txtmob was especially memorable? Finally, we’d like to know about ways that txtmob can be improved.

Needless to say, your responses will be kept in the strictest confidence.

This is a continuing project. After a brief and much-needed vacation, we will begin packaging the code for public release. We’ll also start on the next revision, which will include many new features and will support international messaging. If you’re interested in helping with these efforts, please get in touch.

We’re also pleased to announce our friend Tad Hirsch has agreed to coordinate further development efforts. Tad is a Research Assistant at MIT’s Media Lab and a longtime associate of the Institute for Applied Autonomy. Effective immediately, you can reach Tad at admin at txtmob.com.

Finally, a note for T-Mobile customers: As many of you are aware, T-Mobile blocked TXTmob messages during a portion of the RNC. While we won’t speculate on the reasons for this action, it would be extremely helpful if the hundreds of customers who were unable to receive TXTMob messages called T-Mobile to complain. Be sure to explain that TXTMob is an opt-in service that you have chosen to join, and to encourage their representatives to contact admin at txtmob.com if they have any questions.

Again, thanks for all the support. This has been an exciting project and its only just begun!


John Henry / Institute for Applied Autonomy

Happy Labour Day

Happy Labour Day to our American readers.

From Smalldog.com Kibble and Bites newsletter a brief explanation of Labour Day for th rest of us:

“Labor Day differs in every essential from the other holidays of the year in any country,” said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. “All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man of strife and discord for greed and power of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man living or dead, to no sect, race or nation.”

On September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City. Twenty thousand workers marched in a parade up Broadway. They carried banners that read “LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH” and “EIGHT HOURS FOR WORK EIGHT HOURS FOR REST EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!” After the parade, there were picnics all over the city, with Irish stew, homemade bread, and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off. Within the next few years the idea spread from coast to coast and all states began to celebrate Labor Day. In 1894, Congress voted to make it a federal holiday.

Don’t Panic

Netimperative reports that the BBC having an online version of the Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy adventure game. The game originally appeared on computing dinosaurs such as the Sinclair Spectrum. The move is part of a season of Douglas Adams themed work, including a rerun of the original radio series and the dramatisation of the last part of the story based on scripts that Adams wrote in 1993. Adams work has cult following particularly amongst nerds, geeks and dweebs of a certain age.BBC radio four has a microsite for the programmes


Point of Inflection

A point of inflection is a mathematic term that describes the point on a curve where the gradient is naught (zero). Its the point at which everything changes, what sociologists and marketers call the tipping poing. Technological progress (and market adoption technology) often moves foward through paradigm shifts which can be shown as a series of bumps on an ever increasing shallow curve. For example, computer use in homes has sky rocketed in just a few years due to the internet. Just as technology moves forward through these processes so do the companies that sell it. Once there was a company full of over ambitious nerds who wrote developers tools for computers, the bought and modified some software that did really well when IBM licenced it and developed a new breed computer. But things really picked up when they developed useful applications for computer users to help the write and do math. Their business exploded to become one of the worlds biggest when they borrowed a new visual way of relating to your computer without complex commands. That company is Microsoft and the products described were BASIC, DOS, Word, Excel, Windows.

Sony has a history of market innovation and engineering. The company was so successful that some of its product names started to be used to describe generic products, however occasionally it was wrong footed and ended on the losing side in the marketplace. Sony had a video standard called Betamax which was technically second to none and became adopted in a modified form (Betacam) within the broadcast sector, its consumer cousin however withered away to nothing in the marketplace. Sony was determined not to allow this disaster to happen again and was successful in developing new formats that customers loved. The secret sauce was to have a critical mass of content. In doing so the company went from being a respected electronics company to a content bohemoth that also made electrical goods. All this growth and success in the market was not without pain. Whilst the electronics side of the business continued to develop cool products the plants that manufactured them did not move forward. The company became inefficient compared to upstarts from other Asian countries.

A new shift in peoples homes came along on in consumer homes and the company failed to develop a coherent strategy to meet the challenges and opportunities of the internet, including digital downloads. However Sony was not the only one to be wrong footed by the ‘net. In Sony’s case the problem was that of the innovators dilemma were previous success and infrastructure is a handicap when competing against disruptive technology. Where it could have made a critical error according to some reports in the news (for example here) is not accepting an offer made by Steve Jobs CEO of Apple last April.

By deciding to go their own way rather than joining up with the worlds leader in digital downloads and players Sony may have made the Betamax mistake all over again. April was the point of inflection or (tipping point in marketing terms) and Sony missed the boat. History has been made….