Downtime: Nasa, Tim Berners-Lee, botnets

A lighter take on Nasa's IT difficulties, Tim Berners-Lee's Order of Merit, and the FBI's advice regarding botnets

Nasa relying on space’s plentiful oxygen resources

The ongoing saga of IT failing to understand the needs of users spilled into space this week, after it was announced that the computers controlling the International Space Station’s supply of oxygen and water had failed.


To Downtime, the notion of spending any significant amount of time floating in space without the means to breathe or drink sounds like more than a minor problem, but Nasa officials remained unfazed.


Nasa’s space station chief told BBC reporters. “We have plenty of resources, so we have plenty of time to sort this out.”


Downtime suspects that the space station chief had his feet firmly on the ground, where he was no doubt enjoying our conveniently oxygenated atmosphere. Otherwise he may not have been so nonchalant about the whole affair.


Still, we guess this episode serves as a timely reminder of the need to stay on the boss’ good side – an especially important totem when your boss controls your oxygen supply.
A big breath now…


Berners-Lee stuck in web of republican intrigue

Downtime does not often lapse into magnanimity, but even we cannot fail to recognise the contribution that Tim Berners-Lee has made to the fine institution of bone-idle web surfing.
The aforementioned Greatest Briton of 2004 has bagged his latest gong, the Order of Merit, from the queen, who is no doubt currently in a frenzy of excitement over the burgeoning phenomenon of Web 2.0.


We can just imagine Her Majesty paying homage to Berners-Lee while networking with her other web-savvy German relatives on Facebook or MySpace.


Unfortunately, despite the queen’s good graces towards him, Berners-Lee was quoted recently warning of the dangers of “undemocratic forces”.


While he was speaking of the various nefarious forces threatening the freedom of the internet, taken out of context, these words could have given maam quite a shock.


Perhaps Berners-Lee could extend the hand of friendship to the good lady by giving her majesty a “poke” on Facebook.


If you are snickering at that, then you are obviously not the kind of person that Downtime likes to network with.


FBI raids thesaurus to put fear of god into PC users

America’s unquenching zeal for the dramatic has extended to the high-octane world of IT security.


Where the British police may have described hijacked PCs as “compromised” or showing “jolly poor form” the FBI has taken to warning users of the dangers of “zombiefied” computers.
 The detective agency, most famous on the these shores for crack pots Mulder and Scully, is getting in touch with users whose PCs have been hijacked, in an attempt to stop the spread of bots.


The FBI said that users’ computers had entered this frighteningly adjectivised state when containing a virus or when their users had visited a booby-trapped webpage.


While Downtime can certainly relate to falling prey to booby-trapped websites, or “hell-fire crazy holes” as the Americans might say, even we know that opening up unsolicited e-mail attachments without scanning for viruses first is a no-no.


What is more likely is that these victims were responding to offers of “medical enhancements”. Little did they know they would end up as zombies.

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E-mail cwdowntime@rbi.co.uk

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