Saturday, August 31, 2002

Well I'm stunned. A few days ago I got an email from BT telling me that my broadband connection would be enabled "on or before the 3rd September 2002 at 6pm" ... and here I am not even in September (just) and it's working already. I've missed it ... the web at 56k is just too frustrating. So, what did I do first? Simple ... just caught up on the operating system updates that I had missed: 5 critical updates including a big cumulative patch for IE6. Nothing like being up to date when you need to be. Well done BT, bonus points.

Monday, August 26, 2002

The other thing that happens with a bit of press coverage, whether it's good or bad ... is a bit more press coverage. Sometimes it's pretty neutral, like this follow-up to the above pieces from the BBC. By the way folks at the beeb - that latter piece was the hardest to find. I think there is more than one search engine on bbc.co.uk - but the one I was using couldn't find the article, even if I typed in its title. Might have been me I suppose, but still seemed way too hard. The other kind of followup, is like this one from vnunet, the "soup to nuts" story or, more accurately in my case the "carpaccio to creme brulee" story. This piece is well worth a read. I think it's by the same guy that writes the "mole" column, which is must-read stuff. The essence of the article is that the job we've taken on is too hard (as evidenced by the myriad of flawed IT projects in government) and maybe even impossible, because you can't build a single "anything" that will satisfy the many constituencies in government. This latter point is the interesting one. He may be right. Or, nearly right. Our work so far shows that if you can have a level conversation with different departments - i.e. without vested interests on display - then most needs align. At least to the 80% level. The remainder, good old Pareto's 20% (originally theorised to map the wealth distribution in a population, but just as valid here) is the hard bit. If we can avoid spending 80% of the budget on the 20%, then I think we have a good chance. This will require diligence and focus on what's different, why and whether it's cheaper to change the process rather than the IT. My guess is more the latter than the former. Still, "food for thought" so to speak.
There was a good round of stories on what we're up to a few weeks ago. Computing/Vnunet did a front page version, with a followup on page 4 outlining some of the plans for delivering government services via mobile phones. This is a follow-up to the stuff from a couple of months ago, but this time in more detail. We have most of what we talked about in the interview in R&D today and want to move to pilot soon. There are always two effects of an article in the press: (1) lots of people in government who didn't know that we were doing "x", email and ask if they can work with us (this is great!) and (2) lots of suppliers send me email, or send other people in the office email to tell us that they have exactly the thing that we need to do "x", no questions asked, just buy it and you'll see (this is not so great, except in the rare case where the supplier really does have something that will help). The articles I'm talking about came in 3 parts: one, two and three. And, in the Hitchhiker's tradition of trilogies, I've just found a 4th part.
This narrow band connectivty is a real pain. It's such a long time that I had to rely on dial up that I'd forgotten how sloooowww it is. It makes working from home impractical - I don't have plans to receive (let alone send!) any 3mb files for a while. I'm getting 42.6kb/s at best right now, sometimes as low as 37.2kb/s. Not good. Not even a bit good. But there is something to look forward to. My new Intel modem, courtesy of BT, arrived over the weekend. I plugged it in, installed the drivers ... everything looks ok. Except, I guess, the exchange doesn't know I'm ready to use broadband yet. Roll on 3rd September.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Nearly a month of silence. That's rare for me. Sorry about that. Still don't have broadband at the new home (coming real soon now, maybe as soon as the 3rd September! This time I've opted for plug and go from BT, though I was disappointed to see that I have to shell out £10/month extra for a fixed IP address), but I do have a 'phone line at least. I'll look to post a lengthier update over the weekend, but for now ... here's a bit of good news on ukonline, from e-govmonitor. You have to look hard, but you'll see a reference to ukonline being a contender for a "universal design classic". Now that's praise!