Christmas Conversations - how real or reliable is the on-line world?

Having been struck down by heavy colds we did not have a last minute Christmas shop or our usual walk over the Downs on Boxing Day. However, I was also struck by how little time (or money) anyone, including me, spent on-line instead. In fact it was rather less than last year. Apart from my wife’s hunt for survival bags (one for each stocking for all those old/young enough to do serious hiking), we had been able to find almost everything we wanted off-line. The exception was the new HD TV. But we decided to put that off to the New Year,

partly because we lacked confidence that it would be delivered in time, partly because we hope for better value from the next generation of technology and partly because there was so little to look forward to on TV.     

That led me into thinking how much, or little, we rely on the on-line world – and whether that reliance is healthy or necessary. The only flow of e-mails that continued unabated over the Christmas period was that from the on-line security fanatics: those who cannot conceive that a possible solution to SCADA vulnerabilities might be to simply disconnect critical control systems from the Internet except for planned maintenance periods. 

If they are correct – we have sleep-walked into a world where the infrastructure is seriously unfit for purpose and instead of buying a new TV, I should buy a cheap standby generator for when, not if, the lights go out.

Then I remembered that the Police still do not have access to the additional spectrum for Airwave that was identified by the Radio Communications Agency before the formation of Ofcom. Once again they will have to borrow from the Army and from Arqiva on New Year’s Eve – let alone duyring the Olympics. I noted that the plans for training volunteers to help with physical and electronic security have yet to be fleshed out, let alone implemented, even though the need was identified almost immeediately after we had won the bid.  There was an announcement recently that the plans for 10,000 additional special constables for london alone had been scaled down to 6,667 – but it supposedly takes 2 years to train one, whether of the not they are “recurring”.   

That led me into even more heretical thoughts and a few more apocalyptic New Year’s Resolutions:

1) Increase our domestic stock of bottled water and food from a fortnight to a month

2) Update my skills as a radio operator so that I can keep in touch when (not if) our local land-line and mobile broadband services (all routed through the same single points of failure) go down 

3) Be nice to our local shopkeepers, especially those who match what we can get on-line for both price and quality.

Have a sober New Year