Monthly Archives: December 2005

Merry Christmas

I won’t be at work now until 3 Jan 2006, and as this blog is about what happens at work, and given that I will be doing my best to ignore what is happening in the world of technology whilst on holiday I expect this blog to be silent until January. Have a Merry Christmas.

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Beware of DRM

Inspired by this excellent writeup of the dangers of DRM I blogged this internally.

Digial Rights Management (DRM) is a security measure designed to prevent unauthorised use of digital content (usually music or video, but it can be applied to anything including a common old text file). The technology works by locking the file through some method of encryption. This means that only a player, e.g. Microsoft’s Media Player or Apple’s iTunes, that understands the locking mechanism will be able to open the file and play it. The player software or hardware, e.g. iPod, has been designed to only allow the unlocked file to be played, it will not make a copy of the file in the unlocked state – in this way the content remains protected.

At first glance this seems entirely sensible. Lock the file and only unlock to play it and don’t allow anything else to be done with the file whilst it is unlocked. However, the problem is that the only way this model can work is if only the maker of the player software knows how the locking mechanism works. Otherwise, anyone could create a player that unlocks the file, but then allows saving of unlocked copies. This is why, if you purchase a song on iTunes, you can’t play it on Windows Media Player and visa versa. There is also no way that you can disinvest in iTunes/iPod and keep your songs, you loose them all!

In other words, DRM means vendor lock-in. If you choose a DRM technology you will be locked in to that vendor and all the protected content that you purchase will be unusable should you try to change vendor.

I didn’t complicate matters by talking about how Open Source doesn’t offer a solution, nor get into the suggestion that as consumers we ought to be rejecting this technology. (The audience for my internal blog is senior management, and the blog should be giving them information that will effect decisions they have to make over the next 6 months.) 

Meeting the Director 1.5

I blogged that I would be meeting the IT Director here, however, I’ve had a clash of meetings and this one lost so it won’t happen until Jan now.

VoIP? Not outside my enterprise

We use VoIP internally for our telephone system and I think the technology is great. However, all the hype that has built up around the technology in the public domain is, from the point of view of the corporate, irrelevant.

Guy Kewney writes well on the lack of interoperability of the various players and suggests that their interest is in generating advertising revenue. The same issue has long plagued the instant messaging clients, although this has begun to change. I wonder if eBay’s purchase of Skype will put any momentum behind VoIP interoperability.

Chance for a Wiki

In all my work thus far to promote blogs and RSS technology the wiki has been the poor relation – nice, but really missing an application. Actually the only application I could find for it was as a knowledge repository for our IT Service Desk, and said as much in one of my internal newsletters.

Out of the blue, on Friday I get an email from the head of the IT Support asking about setting up a wiki as the knowledge base for IT Support staff. I wrote him an email giving all the reasons why I thought a wiki was the right solution, primarily the removal of the moderator based model of submitting content. Having had several databases in the past that have fallen into disuse it is time to try a new model.

When searching for blog software I picked sotware built soley on MS technology – Community Server. I have not, however, found a wiki built on MS technology that I feel comfortable using. I have therefore suggested MediaWiki – not just because it is clearly fantastic, but I really like what the discussion element gives to the sharing of knowledge in this group.

This decision has a number of implications. Firstly, it will be the first application that demands MySQL. I have been saying for a while that the IT department ought to build service offerings around MySQL and Apache. Doing so enables a huge amount of software that would otherwise be unsupportable in our environment. This wiki could open that door a bit.

I wonder what applications others have found for wikis inside organisations like mine, and what they use to host it.

Another bus goes the way of Microchannel

Today marks the last day of the London Route Master (hop-on-hop-off) buses. For those of you who have never experienced the thrill of chasing down a bus, leaping on the platform, hand firmly gripping the rail and realising your feet are not dragging along the street, there is unfortunately no time left. (BBC article)

Perhaps not quite as devastating as the destruction of the Three Gorges on the Yangtze – boy I wish I’d had the chance …

Marketing meeting

I’ve been picking away at getting people in my organisation to look at blogs/RSS for some time and journaling this under the Blog intro category.

So I met today with a guy in marketing. We talked a lot about the IT department and our relative perspectives (i.e. me from within, he from without). I rate our IT department about average in terms of its maturity, but we are actively working to move from being reactionary to proactive. Sometimes the pace of change is slow and there is a lot of cultural lag in the IT department that frustrates this change. Clearly it frustrates our customers as well.

So what did we say about RSS? Well, we talked about the cycle of communication with our clients, the publications produced by the business and the opportunities RSS presents in this field and hooking this into CRM.

We discussed the idea of blogging and I was surprised that there may be application for this too. Quite reasonably there is concern over starting something and not having the time/commitment to see it through – since here we are talking about generating content that is not currently being produced in another form. Payback on a blog may be a long time in coming, but unless you sit it out you’ll never get anywhere.

Heck, look at this blog. I’ve only been going for 3 weeks, I’ve had just 3 visitors (although two have posted comments – thanks, by the way), and I find myself wondering about the benefit? The journaling of this journey to introduce RSS will keep me going – so for me the visitors are a bonus, and their comments doubly so. However, if the success of my blogging was entirely based on number of visitors I would quickly begin to question what I was getting for my time.

On the other hand Tech blogs are a dime a dozen these days, but blogs in other sectors are much more thinly spread. Therefore, the opportunity to shine is there, and perhaps getting in early is essential. If the influence of the tech blog elite is anything to go by (see Scoble, Lee Gomes from the Wall Street Journal and Michael Arrington) the payback potential could serve to justify investing the time over the long haul.

So where did this meeting get me on my quest? I’m now going to be doing an information presentation on blogs, newsfeeds and wikis to a group from marketing and then a group from external communications.
I still have my meeting with the IT Director next week and I need to tackle internal comms.