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On the likely rise in cost of the ID card project
In response to the news that the Home Affairs Select Committee expects the national ID card project to cost more than £3bn (Computer Weekly, 3 August)
It seems that the Home Affairs Select Committee is expecting the project to develop and implement ID cards to break the previously touted £3bn budget. If this occurs, the government could face renewed opposition from the public.
Research undertaken by Mori on behalf of Detica shows that, although 80% of the UK population is in favour of ID cards, almost half are not prepared to pay anything towards them. The government has talked about a £35 charge per card. With gentle persuasion and full communication about the benefits of ID cards, this might be achievable. But if the costs of the project begin to soar, it seems unlikely the public will be prepared to foot a higher bill.
If the government is not careful, price could become a bigger stumbling block to ID cards than "Big Brother" fears.
Andrew Peck, director, Detica
On low-cost data-safe ways to reduce crime
In response to the report on a crime and disorder reduction project (Computer Weekly, 10 August)
I was pleased to see the work of Kent County Council's community safety unit reported so positively in Smart Projects.
Being able to create a holistic view of sensitive crime and disorder information from several agencies - and operate within the Data Protection Act - is a common issue faced by crime and disorder reduction partnerships around the UK.
For the sake of clarification however, it is worth noting that Kent Caddie lets authorities achieve this in a most cost-effective way. It is a system originally designed by Sussex County Council's crime and disorder partnership as an open and flexible model to be easily transferable to any UK local authority.
Kent is the second Caddie to be implemented after Sussex and this was achieved for a significantly lower cost than the £140,000 stated in your article. It is hoped that other authorities will soon start using Caddie too.
Nick Moon, project manager for Kent Caddie, Community Safety Unit of Kent Social Services Department
On users feeling safer with Windows
In response to a letter about the Linux/Windows debate (Computer Weekly, 7 September)
On the matter of Linux vs Windows and the total cost of ownership, this debate is akin to football politics in that it will not take us anywhere sensible.
Human psychology leads us to favour that which is familiar, so whatever we use day-to-day tends to become our "preference".
The fact of the matter is that Windows is what has made computers available to the general public. Linux has adopted the Windows-style interface to make itself more appealing.
As a program developer I prefer .net and tools such as Visual Studio. I can use archaic command line commands to perform compilations and so on, but there really is no point doing something the old way when a more convenient way is available. However, I need to have the options available to me and Microsoft makes all of the command line tools available as well as having a nice graphical user interface.
Linux is gradually achieving this same duality, with programming tools becoming more slick and productive. It is maturing into a viable desktop operating system but it will never "replace" Windows. It will and can only ever give end-users a choice.
Likewise, Microsoft will never push Linux out of the picture and I doubt if it would want to. Microsoft has a massive headstart in getting people familiar with its operating system, so Linux will be on its back foot for a long time.
David Lambert, software developer
Don't throw away tried and tested systems
With regard to the debate about the national programme for IT in the NHS (Computer Weekly, 31 August), Manpreet Pujara, chairman of the Emis User Group, brings proven technology, 55% of English GPs and huge local expertise and support to NHS IT.
As new techniques allow the swapping and synchronising of accurate data records across IT systems without reworking or linking systems, why scrap proven systems and alienate end-users? Tried and tested systems lower risks to patients. Crime and disorder partnerships prove that data sharing is a waste of time without local support.
The case for keeping proven IT strengthens further if the experience of NHS local service providers (LSPs) with new technology is considered.
Take electronic patient records and staff and patient security, for example. A 98% accurate biometric authenticates who I am, but linking it to data about me held by the NHS across lots of databases generates errors. There are two million more NHS numbers than patients, or a one in 25 chance of linking a patient record to the wrong number - a problem known by the government and LSPs for 25 years.
If LSPs knew why these errors occurred they would have fixed them. Auditing the NHS IT programme is not an IT issue, it is a data issue. Bad data brings technology down.
Stick with existing IT such as Emis and maintain local support. Fix the data issues and link data across these systems, as opposed to linking the systems themselves. When locals are happy that the intelligence coming out is correct, then make the big IT changes to deliver it.
Adrian McKeon, managing director, Infoshare
NHSIT won't work without user support
With regard to the upcoming National Audit Office investigation into the £2.3bn national programme for IT in the NHS (Computer Weekly, 31 August), IT projects, particularly very large ones, tend to focus on whether the systems are technically fit-for-purpose, secure, usable and so on.
The National Audit Office study will assess these requirements, but we all know that new technology, however good it is, needs the users to buy in to the inevitable changes involved in using the systems. By buy-in we mean users must be motivated to help make it succeed.
In this case, GPs are concerned about patient record confidentiality during the transfer. This is not just about training and support, but about engaging them and reassuring them about the system. To most techies, this smacks of marketing, and in many ways that's what it is.
Convincing GPs of the value of the new technology is what separates success from failure - not just whether the screen is the right shade of NHS purple.
The National Audit Office should be investigating exactly what has been done to help technologists convince their customers, the GPs, practice managers, nurses, hospital administrators and so on, to commit to adoption.
Jake Holloway, afiniti.co.uk
How ready are you for something to go wrong?
I agree with Bart Vansevenant views on zero-day attacks (Computer Weekly, 17 August) but think he misses a major point. Hackers are always going to be targeting sites and, in most cases, it will be impossible to beat them all the time.
They typically break sites or programs through the most obscure way and spend huge amounts of time doing this. That is why the most important question to ask is not how good your firewall is, but rather how prepared are you in case something goes wrong.
Simple things such as monitoring your site for unusual activity, increased traffic or looking out for alarms will prove extremely beneficial. And make sure you test your back-up - it is amazing how few people do.
Neil Stephenson, sales and marketing director, Onyx Internet
There's no such thing as a risk-free service pack
In reply to Paul Butler's comments on Windows XP Service Pack 2 (Letters, 31 August), there are several valid reasons why organisations are reluctant to upgrade operating systems and install service pack patches as soon as they appear.
The ideals that Microsoft promotes regarding quick fixes and overnight migrations are no more than that - ideals. How many times has a service pack broken something else or been superseded because something else needs patching as a result of its installation?
With 40 million source lines of code in Windows XP it is hardly surprising problems arise. It is with this "acceptance" that organisations often leave service packs until the dust has settled. Of course there will be bleeding-edge users that will take the risk, but that is exactly what it is - a risk. For example, we all know that XP SP2 breaks certain websites, and if these are business-critical sites they need to be tested thoroughly, which may take weeks or months.
Regarding migration, again, an overnight upgrade? In principle perhaps, but certain legacy system operations might prove incompatible or even inaccessible. Users have a funny way of accessing things in a whole range of ways you could never imagine, and systems have funny little quirks of their own which can mean that a minor migration becomes a further six months of patching and fixing and learning and changing.
Remember, in the tortoise and hare race it was the tortoise that won.
Andy Pyne, technical support consultant
Experience creates XP SP2 scepticism
I read Paul Butler's letter "Delaying Windows SP2 will only bring problems" (Letters, 31 August) with total disbelief. I, and many others, had serious problems with our PCs when applying Microsoft's SP4 to Windows 2000. The only solution was to re-install everything from scratch. The list of hardware problems with XP and SP2 is growing by the day, including "trivial" things such as screen drivers ceasing to work.