Your shout: Kneejerk reactions, thin clients save the world, and when is a crank a genius?

Readers' views on the week's news

 YOUR SHOUT_150X150IT must be a two-way street for executives

I agree with John Higgins (Computer Weekly, 30 August) that one of the major problems in IT is a lack of understanding of business, but I think an equally challenging problem is the kneejerk reaction of a business to blame IT for a failed project.

In my experience, once business leaders have decided that a change is needed, they make themselves unavailable and too busy to get involved in helping to define what a business change means in IT terms. Often the attitude towards IT is "just do it and don't bother me".

Furthermore, the IT department is frequently seen as unnecessary or just in the way. In this case the business goes its own sweet way, developing a solution that satisfies its immediate local needs yet is in direct conflict to everything else within the organisation.

For example, in one organisation I am familiar with, the IT department is struggling to replace ageing systems. However, its main problem is not the systems but the independent departments doing whatever they want, safe in the knowledge that no one can stop them - even if that goes against every bit of common sense and best practice.

So I would say, yes we in IT do need to get more involved in business, but this will always tend to fail unless the business invites IT in at an earlier stage, and allow those people who understand how the business systems are run to get involved.

Lee Morley
Enterprise architect

Thin clients the answer to global energy savings

I read your article about the energy performance of two differing systems (Computer Weekly, 6 September) with interest. With all the concern about global warming, one has to wonder why this has not become an issue earlier. Indeed one could go back as far as the 1970s when energy prices rose steeply after the Arab-Israeli war.

Energy costs and usage increased rapidly as dumb terminals were replaced by PCs. The energy used by a PC was more than 10 times that used by a typical dumb terminal.

While dumb terminals are no longer popular, their modern equivalent - the thin client, with no hard disc and much lower power consumption - meets the average user's needs and is much easier for an administrator to manage. The savings for even a small installation are likely to be substantial.

With the intense competition in the PC market one also might wonder why the manufacturers have not come up with more systems without hard discs that plug in and go, not only for the business market but also for home use. The global energy savings would be enormous.

Brian Bennett

Visionaries win glory only after the event

Your article on innovation (Computer Weekly, 9 August) makes some interesting points but I do believe there is no point in looking for visionaries.

Visionaries appear only in retrospect as the world decides what it values the most. At the time a visionary puts forward his or her ideas it is not possible to determine the difference between a genius and a crank.

As in your example of Steve Jobs, visionaries also happen to be in the right place at the right time and are able to combine previously unconnected ideas.

For example, Frank Whittle put together the piston engine supercharger, the steam turbine and the paraffin blowlamp to make the jet engine. Even Einstein could not have invented the World Wide Web.

Should you wish to test your skills at assessing genius or lunacy, my proposals for air traffic control are on my website:

In the case of air traffic control, either Computer Weekly's Tony Collins was wrong through the 1990s or there is more to the world of IT in air traffic control than is yet apparent. I think it is ridiculous in the 21st century to steer aeroplanes around the sky using 60-year-old radio detection technology, a cathode ray tube and the human eyeball.

David Parkinson

Quarantine technology needs a wider scope

I applaud Paul Butler's suggestion (Computer Weekly, 30 August) that businesses must implement the necessary security measures to prevent contaminated PCs from connecting to their network.

Indeed, protecting the remote and mobile workforce has climbed up the IT manager's agenda as the proliferation of broadband, the increase in home working and the explosion in Wi-Fi technology have made mobile working the norm for many companies.

However, quarantine technology needs to have a much wider scope than simply anti-virus and patch updates, in order to forestall the many other possible compromises to the corporate network.

Patch and anti-virus enforcement protection needs to be incorporated into an overall organisational security policy to ensure 100% compliance at the endpoint.

A Universal Network Access Control (NAC) enforcement and intrusion prevention system allows enterprises to centrally manage and enforce personal firewall, host intrusion prevention, device control and network access control policies at the endpoint.

Adaptive policies capability allows appropriate policies to be applied dependent on the location and network connection of the endpoint in question.

This ensures only trusted devices in compliance with corporate security policies can access a company's network and means that every corner of the enterprise network is secure, even when mobile devices are taken off the corporate network.

This type of approach needs to apply to every type of network access, including VPN gateways and wireless switches, and to all endpoints, including laptops, desktops, servers, guest systems and embedded devices.

The solution should also comprise a layered approach to cover both known and unknown risks, including those from removable media devices such as USB keys, iPods and CD/DVD burners.

Ruth Bowen

On speed control in commercial vehicles

In response to the letter "Car control technology has a long way to travel" (Computer Weekly, 30 August)

Alan Wyatt comments on the safety issues of vehicle speed control as proposed for cars.

I have not heard any comment on the obvious effects of the speed controls already in place on commercial vehicles. These must be a major contributory factor to motorway congestion.

Many times on a journey we see a series of lorries regulated to, for example, 60mph +1% blocking the middle lane as they struggle to overtake another series of lorries at 60mph -1%.

A timed short-term speed boost for overtaking might be the solution both to the "rolling roadblock" effect, and to the safety issues Mr Wyatt raises.

We have "average speed" enforcement camera systems - so why not "average speed" (long time-constant) limiters?

Clive Chitty
Purchasing manager
TBS Builders Merchants

On how e-governance targets are being met

In response to the article "Online services deadline will be met, but will the public be won over?" (Computer Weekly, 30 August)

Your article rightly mentioned that the e-governance targets will be met by councils, but that the online services run the risk of not being used. Although e-governance is a commendable target, it is pointless if people are not using it.

The way to overcome this problem is to involve the audience from the very beginning. As with any web service, it is vital that it fulfils a valid need, so by using outreach groups to engage with the local community and investigate which services are useful and appropriate to local groups, councils can ensure that the projects meet the residents' personal and social requirements.

Continuous development is equally important: running training sessions, ongoing improvement and feedback services will guarantee that the service evolves and develops dynamically with the community, rather than being left behind. This approach has experienced great success in community IT projects in regions such as South Wales.

These services will also have a secondary effect - by keeping the content up-to-date, interesting and relevant to the community, councils can raise levels of IT familiarity in groups which might otherwise have rejected such technology as irrelevant.

Whereas many government spending projects are written off as investment black holes, simply involving the local population from the start can ensure that such projects develop into valuable and well-used community assets.

Mike Lucas
Regional technology manager

On the 'peer-to-peer' bicycle loan scheme

In response to the Downtime article "Resource sharing - all part of the cycle of life" (Computer Weekly, 30 August)

Your article described a new scheme in France for borrowing bicycles on a short-term loan, somehow comparing it to peer-to-peer networking.

Putting aside that straining simile for the moment, you might be interested to know that this is not a new concept.

Back in the 1960s, "white bicycles" were introduced in Amsterdam. These bicycles (which were white to distinguish them from other bikes) could be found in several locations in the city and could be used by anyone, free of charge. Not everyone was as idealistic as the inventor of the scheme and the bikes were eventually lost or stolen.

Not to be put off by this apparent lack of regard for others, in the late 1990s the inventor re-introduced the scheme in Amsterdam, but this time anyone wanting to borrow a bike had to use a smartcard to obtain it. However, I understand that this scheme ceased a few years later.

Going back to your comparison to peer-to-peer networking (although I still think it is a big leap), perhaps the lack of central control or the selfishness of some users ultimately led to the scheme's downfall.

Jeff Roberts
IT director
Norton Rose

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