March, 2006

  • Steve Clayton

    Time for IT to help me: on the road


    I've decided it's time to start writing more on my thoughts about IT and where it can (and should) help me have an easier life. I've been in the IT industry for over 10 years and I think it's time IT starting helping me more :)

    Example 1: my car has a 3" LCD screen and a phone - that's all you need to give me better service. Not commonplace (yet) but when my car had a recall request last month why did I get a peice of paper from the dealer? Why didn't they send me an SMS to the car. Save some trees and ideally offer me some times that work for the dealership. With a little more thought, the dealer could ask for access to my calendar's free/busy time and suggest some times. In reality, this can be done right now and when someone does they'll hook their customers with revolutionary service.

    Example 2: when I put a CD in to the car why can't it behave like Windows Media or iTunes and connect to the cloud and get the track details and download them to my in car hifi? With a phone in the car that's simple. What I'd really like though is Napster to Go in my car. I get an email from them every monday with the latest tracks available which I can download to my PC for the £15 a month I pay. My car is parked outside my house so with a cheap WiFi chip in the car I could sync and go to my motor from my home PC or schedule a download direct to the car. Taking the Gervais podcast on the road would be nice :) 

  • Steve Clayton

    Blogging: publishing on it's head?


    Blogging is old news now - well, to those who blog and those who download podcasts and anyone trying to keep up with the explosion of information on the web. Over the last 6 months, blogging (and RSS) is one of the most common topics I've discussed with Microsoft partners, press and just about anyone that will listen. The thing that amazes me about blogging is how quickly it has changed the way I source my "news. For about 4 years was my homepage as I followed the tech industry. Over the last 2 years, has been my homepage as I can quickly keep up with UK, world, weather and most importantly sports news. That's changed again though and is now my homepage - not because I want to push Live but simply because I can bring so much of what I want to read on to one page - and much of what I read and where I source my news is no longer from big publishers. I get my news fix from blogs almost entirely. Why?

    • They're often faster
    • My perception (not always reality) is they offer a less biased view
    • They have humour and characters behind them - e.g. Matthew Stibbe's blog and Office Rocker Darren
    • They allow me to aggregate my news easily
    • For areas I am interested in, they're often more authoritative

    That's not to say the big media companies haven't recognised the trend - in fact the BBC has one of the best guides to blogging/RSS  I have seen. What I think it really interesting though is the way that over a very short space of time, blogs are changing the dynamic of publishing and where people go for their information. Engadget is a great example - pre Engadget, I used to go to a whole host of sites to get my gadget fix. Now, I just go to that one place as they do an amazing job of scouring stories, gathering submissions and providing a brilliant commentary on technology. Even Bill goes there now - good enough for him.... :) There is also a very good article (and ironically now a blog) on this from Trevor Butterworth at

    I guess what I'm saying is that the publishing world is changing amazingly quickly. If you're reading this you probably knew that already though...Bad Language has a good piece of Blogging for Business with some great ground rules.

    My concern...of the 50 blogs I now have in my reader, how do I prioritise? Hmmm

  • Steve Clayton

    Security: how do you help your neighbours?


    Security is a hot topic in the IT world these days - both with the spate of viruses such as nimda and Blaster that have affected Microsoft systems and in a post 9/11 era it's no surprise. Still it surprises me how many organisations pay it lip service. "war driving" got a lot of publicity a few years back - basically the practice of driving around looking for open access wireless networks and riding on the back of them to get free Internet access. Not such a bad practice you may think but as businesses allow their employees more freedom to work from home what may look like simple neighbourly freeloading may be something much more sinister. It didn't really hit me until a few weeks ago but here's how:

    My neighbour has recently bought a PSP and is quite pleased with it. He bumped in to me a few weeks ago and said "yep it's great - I've been happily surfing the net on it and think I may have been using your WiFi". Either my neighbour has a supercomputer in his basement to crack my WPA protection or he's riding on someone else network. Sure enough a week later he said "I assume your network is the one call X....the one that has proper security on it". I was pleased to confirm to him it was. However, even from my property and his there are at least 2 other open wireless access points that he could use any time night or day. Quite who owns those networks or what is being transmitted on them is anyone's guess but even for a basic IT sleuth it wouldn't take too much work to find out. Nor to find out what other devices are connected to them I imagine. I for one would be devastated if someone could get on to my home network and do any damage my precious backup of family photos etc. Makes you wonder eh? I suppose I should burn all the really vital stuff off to DVD or other media but who does?

    Anyway, the PC World supplement I mentioned last week that came with The Sunday Times (sadly not on their supplements site) got me thinking about this. They had some pretty good advice about not broadcasting your SSID, using WPA2, using professionals to help you secure your network etc. All good advice that if you're investing in IT to help drive your business it's worthwhile thinking about. My only advice - your business IT no longer stops at the bricks and mortar that make up your office.

    Here is what I'd really like though - a polite, non intrusive way to tell my local residents that their network is open and for the price of a good cup of coffee I'd be happy to help them secure it. Anyone seen some software that does something like that? The hardware approach (i.e. going door knocking just doesn't appeal!)

  • Steve Clayton

    Wow: Joe gets it!



    I just read Joe Wilcox’s Microsoft Monitor: People Ready entry and I was blown away. I had to read it twice because it was so spot on. I think he hits the right chord when saying it’s something we can all relate to – at least I hope so. Software can have a positive role to play in how people can get stuff done better. Two examples I like as they’re companies I can relate to 



    Even my mum gets these when I try to explain the power of software to her. They’re companies we both know who are providing better customer experiences and enabling their people through software.


    When Joe comments that businesses treat IT as a cost centre rather than a profit centre I nearly fell off my chair. That’s it – in a nutshell. Software really can help businesses do more through enabling their employees.


    Finally, Joe comments that the TV ad he saw didn’t mention products – hallelujah. The products are there to back this up but right now we really just need to show people that software can make a significant impact for good in business. Then I can tell you about the products…

    Off to finish the last of St Paddy’s Guinness.

  • Steve Clayton

    When did the web become ubiquitous?


    I had a day of wandering around London today and started trying to notice companies who don’t have a web address – it’s pretty hard to do! I first used the web at university where I wrote a dissertation on how the web would impact education. Things have come a long way – I even tracked down my new favourite coffee shop by simply searching for it on my smartphone. This also gave me another opportunity to test Windows Live (mobile) search - first result got me what I needed.


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