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Letters Microsoft's recent big win in the NHS caused something of a stir, particularly as it emerged that Steve Ballmer himself had been involved in the sales negotiation.

Interesting. What is Ballmer doing negotiating new contracts? Surely he has minions for such things.

Is it that the loss of such a big contract would be a PR nightmare? (unfortunate choice of phrase, given the medical context :) It's curiously apt though, since ballmer knows as much about the NHS as Richard Granger knows about operating systems. I used to be a nurse, before deciding to get more money elsewhere,.

The ward level consensus was that the computing equipment we were supplied with was poorly thought out, and caused as many problems as it solved. Basically it was bought by managers with no understanding of ward level needs. How can an OS designed for an office environment be expected to work in a trauma ward? (A notable exception being m$ solitaire, which came in handy during long nightshifts.)

I don't know if FOSS would be a better solution, though its advocates would say otherwise, FOSS is not a panacea, and a directly accountable provider of software is useful in an environment such as the nhs. This being said, M$ don't really have a record of being adaptable.

Name Witheld


Is it too obvious to state that £500 million buys a lot of *nix support without any licensing problems, instead we can look forward to 9 more glorious years of worms, viruses, botnets, data corruption and all the other problems associated with the microsoft monoculture. Also i don't see anywhere about whether this entitles the NHS to be ugraded when XP is replaced with 'longcoming'.

We know that Bill won't be supporting XP for 9 years and we also know that the NHS has a habit of not migrating to newer versions of windows, mainly because of compatibility problems with POS windows-version-specific proprietry apps, more of which will no doubt be generated for the NHS specific interface that is going to cost £40 million (which seems a bit steep for some xml)

but also has provision for the increasingly large number of mobile users within the NHS. Mobile devices allow health workers to access and record patients details at the point of care. In addition to improving efficiency and reducing administration, having patient records easily to hand means that more informed decisions can be made

Yeah 'coz we want our medical records being held on mobile devices with little or no security whilst we doctors leave them lying around in public places. If you can't trust the secret services not to leave mobile devices lying around...

Does Mr Granger actually have any technical knowledge or indeed any clue about any of the recent-ish news surrounding Bill and Steve's fear of the OSS, or of bill giving china the windows source code. Did he enter into discussions with any of the big open source friendly vendors or did steve's baseball bat convince him not to.

This does not convince me that Mr Granger is showing due diligence with regard to increasing stakeholder (taxpayer) value nor does it convince me that he is worth the incredible amount of money that we are paying him. Can we see the actual minutes of the meetings leading up to this "decision" or does transparency in public service not extend to the NHS

[This week we also covered the British Medical Association's warning that IT systems are at risk of failure if doctors are not properly consulted on their implementation. It is this subject to which our writer now turns.]

To be fair, a large proportion of the doctors that i had the good or bad fortune to work with during my time in the NHS are technological luddites who have no idea about what is actually achievable with technology and don't comprehend issues of security or reliability and resent the growing intrusion of IT issues into their lives.

The main problem is that the IT people within the NHS are technological luddites who have no idea about what is actually achievable with technology and don't comprehend issues of security or reliability and resent the growing intrusion of IT issues into their lives. There's a synergy there. Mike Simpson


Next, we have a letter from Dave, an American, about a recent crackdown on online trading in firearms, something that, along with owning most kinds of firearm, is illegal in the UK:

Hello Editors;

I see in fine British fashion even a world wide tech publication can get into wild rants about guns.

There may be a few in Britain that see this raid in a positive light but I'm not sure the rest of the world does. Well atleast not US in the US of A, which is the real world as we constantly try to point out to the Europeans.

What is rather sad about the whole operation is the raid of "700" locations to gather up at most 100 weapons. Here in America we wonder if there is anything like due process and a requirement for reasonable evidence. In a nut shell it looks more like an abuse of power more than anything.

It is interesting the differences in cultures, I'm reasonably sure a random raid on 700 homes here would turn up a hell of a lot more weapons than 700, probally close to 7000 ;) That is including the liberal commies (the ones being sent to Canada) that can't stand to have weapons in their home.

So while I wonder how the article managed to show up in a tech publication, do understand that many of us got a very good laugh over it. The laughter though was followed up with a bit of sadness for the people of Britain.

Thanks dave

And we appreciate it...really...


This week also saw the launch of the jet pod, an actual flying car, of sorts. Well, not an actual flying car, as such, more a flying taxi service, but it's closer than most attempts.

Re: flying taxis

Given the massive concrete blocks that they've added to stop cars crashing in to the House Of Commons, I can't see our terrified politicians allowing low-flying planes in central London.

Steve

Especially if they were capable of being armed with purple powder paint-bombs, eh?


Surprisingly rousing support for managers unwilling to pay for training for their security :

Your premise that security professionals need to embrace employer changes as a certainty is right on the money. It’s also exactly why companies shouldn’t pay to train security professionals.

Given that they will only be at the company for a limited time, it is foolish for a company to pay a high salary (as compared to other IT staff) for a security professional and absurdly high training costs as well. Everything in the realm of security is based on the value of the avoided costs of a security breach. This value has been inflated, historically, by fear, uncertainty, and doubt originating from within the security industry so that it could survive.

Because there are lulls between "security events", it is hard to maintain a focus on security, and without adequate FUD, funding levels for security drop dramatically. Until FUD based costs and a realistic valuation for security practices is realized, corporations aren’t going to embrace much more than reactive security paradigms. And those that adopt proactive paradigms for security often fund the practices at a too-low but steady level. This is the way it will always be; otherwise the business is often wasting money. Every security breach isn't a multi-billion dollar catastrophe, in fact most are easily recoverable.

However, it makes perfect sense for security professionals to take courses themselves, so that they retain proficiency. The expenses are tax deductions in most cases. If more professionals did this than having their companies foot the bill, not only would the security professionals higher salary be justified (regardless of FUD), but training costs would have to come down - as the training industry is competitive, and there would no longer be as many large cash cows from which to suckle funding.

In addition, this would create one more level of independence for security professionals. Instead of being beholden to their employer to pay for, and hence select/approve of the courses necessary to maintain their skills, security professionals could select the best course for their needs and budget.

Security professionals are often at odds with corporate, for good reason - the path of highest profitability is often not the most secure. Therefore, security professionals need to maintain a certain independence and objectivity in order to do their jobs. If they rely on companies for their training, they can then expect to receive only the training which is in the best interest of the company.

Security professionals should invest in themselves, and be willing to carry their expertise with them to better companies which appreciate and are ready to use those skills.

Keith


We had more than a few replies to our last Flame of the Week. Many pointed out that we dealt perhaps too harshly with the correspondents, others suggested that the article was indeed misleading, and that the shortening of Osama bin Laden to "Ozzie" could easily be mistaken for a reference to Australians:

Well, to be fair, there is an "auditive resemblance" between Aussie and Ozzie -- enough to confuse some people. Heck, apparently that's enough to do in Lind..-- err, I mean Linspire.

And there's a certain amount of over-sensitivity in NZ about being called "Australian" (which I know you weren't, but that's evidently what some people thought) -- Americans in particular commonly seem to refer to NZ as if it were part of Australia. I guess it'd be the equivalent of someone believing that England is a part of France -- sometimes you just want to whup them upside the head :-)

Gavin


Plenty of people were confused or bothered by the story that Mensa's offically "cleverest" woman was having trouble getting a job. Theories abound as to why:

Of course, it does seem paradoxical that a woman with an IQ of 200 can't figure out how to find a good job.

But it isn't really as strange as it seems.

Back in the bad old days, say during Ancient and Mediaeval History, (no, not during class, but when that history was actually happening) the economy was like a pyramid, with a small point at the top. What was needed were a *lot* of people with strong backs and muscles to grow enough food for everyone to eat, and a small number of clever people to serve as scribes (or clerks or accountants) and as overseers (or managers).

Even today, the number of openings for scientists and engineers, or for tenure-track academic positions is strictly limited.

The human race has been smarter than it really needs to be to survive for a long time. Since our giant brains evolved before we could effectively applying them to designing better atomic bombs to use on saber-toothed tigers, one popular theory (which I agree with) is that the human brain developed for the same reason as the antlers on the Irish elk: a bigger brain made a caveman better able to sweet-talk a cavewoman.

Given the reputation of nerds for romantic success, I might recommend the study of the genetics of sickle-cell anemia.

In any case, my point is this: it's our politicians and businessmen who haven't figured out how to make use of all the intelligent people there are out there. And that may not because they're stupid, or because the so-called smart people looking for work haven't taken the time to figure out a way to do this, and make a convincing case for it.

Maybe it's just that the economic necessities of the real world mean that it can't use an army of labor with more generals than privates.

John


IMHO, she doesn't need "a job", she needs investors. Surely with that much knowledge and education she must have turned up something in the way of new technology worth developing.

A. Lizard


Dear Lucy,

Regarding the World's cleverest woman, I kid you not, we at O'WONDER would be interested in talking to her. We're planning a range of wireless hardware devices and she may be able to help us when it comes to manufacturing. She can contact me via e-mail, we can get a conversation going. We have a Lithuanian here so if she speaks the language we may be able to find out if we can help each other.

Sincerely,

Alex Blok Founder http://www.owonder.com

So, Daniela, if you are reading this - drop Alex a line.


We also discussed women in IT more generally. As is usual when we cover this subject, the letters in response ranged from mildly interested to overtly mysoginistic. Fortunately, some were amusing, too:

"The main problem here is lack of role models," George says. "If you ask a room full of 11-year olds how many of them know a female programmer, chances are no one will put their hand up. Doctors, lawyers, teachers on the other hand, there are now plenty of role models."

Seems clear enough to me.

Eastenders has (surely) had some storylines about domestic violence, cancer; Coro has had ... domestic violence ... cancer ...

All they need is a lady IT professional to move into the square/street, drink in the Rovers, do their washing in that place Dot works, and write applications for Mike Baldwin's SAP setup, while having an affair with someone or other, and being someone else's daughter given up for adoption.

Oh, and fixing a broken computer in the taxi office.

Regards, Mike

So, problem solved. Good. Let's get on with the rest of the week.

We'll be back on Friday with an US Election Letters special, including our own, ahem, statistical analysis of the opinions contained in the responses, and what that says about the average Register reader. ®

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