Your shout: Videoconferencing, biometrics and floppy nostalgia

Readers' views on the week's news



It's time to explore the joy of videoconferencing

John McGhee

It was satisfying to see your article "Videoconferencing is technology to watch" (Computer Weekly, 20 February), but surprising that it has taken so long to catch on.

I have been an avid exponent of videoconferencing since working at Xerox as an IT manager in the 1990s where it was most cost effective, often replacing trips to the US, with resultant savings on air fares, hotels, meals and the man-hours involved in travelling.

Having sat through countless monthly telephone conferences with faceless colleagues across the globe, it was a delight on those occasions when we could use videoconferencing and actually see the other attendees. The ability to view each others' facial expressions and individual mannerisms definitely made the meetings friendlier and more productive.

Some teleconferences, however, were held at break-of-day in China and required me to sign in from the UK at midnight - sometimes dishevelled and with a strong nightcap in my hand - so it might have been fortunate that these were never video-enabled.

As with internet trading, the multinationals showed the way, followed by home users and small businesses, while the rest of the business world reluctantly joined in mainly to avoid being left behind.

Industries should look at the technology attracting home users and see how it can work for them.

Should you give the finger to biometric security?

Andrew Meredith

Your article "Know the legalities of Biometrics" (Computer Weekly, 20 February) said biometric systems "promise a high degree of reliability because it is impossible (short of amputation or mutilation) to lose or forget biometric traits, and very difficult to copy, distribute or misuse them".

This is a dangerously flawed assumption. It has even been shown on several popular science TV programmes that fingerprints and iris scans are in many cases quite simple to forge. The US programme Mythbusters used gel caps and even a photocopy to defeat supposedly foolproof machines.

The fact this can be done reverses the logic. You only get one set of fingerprints and eyes and they cannot be revoked, although they could be removed with a knife.

Imagine if you were issued with your bank ATM code at birth and had to tell it to every person to identify yourself and that you leave it printed on every wine glass and door knob you touch. Would this make you feel comfortable?

Even the unnerving concept of sub-dermal ID chip implants is safer than biometrics. Were the chip to be cloned, it could at least be dug out and replaced.

The reverse of this assumption is equally dangerous. How can you, as the victim of identity theft, claim that you did not buy this product, authorise that access or enter the building and plant the bomb if people believe in the absolute authority of biometric evidence?

What businesses need to know to get on the grid

Ian Osborne, project director, Intellect

I read with interest your article on grid computing (Computer Weekly, 20 February). I would like to applaud the fact that grid computing is finally being recognised as a viable application for business.

Grids provide tangible benefits for businesses. I imagine many companies have decided they want to put themselves on the grid, but are not sure where to start. My advice is to view the key building blocks as consolidation, virtualisation and appropriate middleware.

This approach can be taken in small steps within the department, and then grow organically to bring other departments and eventually the whole organisation under one management regime.

No nostalgia for hard times with floppy discs...

Dave Peter, senior software engineer, Unix Clients Citrix Systems

With regard to the outpourings of floppy nostalgia (Downtime, 20 February), I cannot imagine that the floppy disc would be "fondly remembered" by anyone. Not if you have ever tried to install an operating system or application from a stack of a dozen or more as I have had to do in the past.

...but don't give your old floppies the boot too soon

Paul D Smith

While USB flash drives have completely replaced floppies for most things, Bios upgrades are one place where floppies are still required. Many older PCs will not boot from a USB flash drive or a CD-ROM, and Bios upgrade programs are designed to create bootable floppies. Do not throw out those old floppies just yet.

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