In renewing my car's tax disc, I see that they are promoting the Government Gateway. Scroll down to "And then there's this..." for the Executive Overview of why this is barking mad (at best).
I hadn't come across this scheme; it seems to be an ID card scheme in largely voluntary (unwitting?) form. Apparently, "Sometimes you may not even know you are using it - departments often use their own branding."
So there's already a central database which doesn't even admit its own nature to citizens who register with it. Nice. Isn't this the sort of thing we should see highlighted on Newsnight etc, instead of a few CDs and laptops going missing (serious as that is, it's not as endemic a failure of the subject/state relationship as the deliberate and conscious creation of a nationwide, cross-departmental database.
"The Government Gateway has access to an extract database from each government department that handles online services."
It also says:
"When you register with the Government Gateway, you enter your name and email address. Note that as part of registration you do not enter your address, or any other personal details.....The Government Gateway uses the postal address to send you your Activation PIN. If you use a User ID and password to log in, we will also send you confirmation of your User ID through the post. After we have sent this information, your address is deleted from the Government Gateway."
That's not self-consistent; the postal address is taken, and stored. Assuming that a sensible backup regime is in place, that address is stored permanently.
"Since this information does not include your name or address it cannot be used by anyone except the government departments."
... err, what?! Since apples are not oranges, you are safe. Or; Since pips are not apples, you are safe. Or something.
And then there's this...
"The Government Gateway does not send your email address to any government departments. If a department needs to communicate with you by email, they will email you via the Government Gateway. The government department and the Government Gateway will use your known facts to identify you."
If the Government Gateway only stores my name and email address, and not my "known facts", how on earth do they use those (unknown) "known facts" to identify me to other government departments? In my last job, there were 5 employees called "Steve Parker", two of whom were UK citizens. How am I and my known UK namesake differentiated?! These "known facts" are mentioned as being things such as Tax Reference and National Insurance number.
I didn't know you could check time zones in Google; it tells you the name of their timezone, and the current time.
Updated to add:
... or - to fix the spelling:
Of course, other, less charitable lines could be quoted from Don't Stop Me Now, like "Freddie Mercury: If you want to have a good time, just give him a call", but we won't delve there...
Random plug: Screenlets. From the website:
"The goal of the Screenlets base-classes is to simplify the creation of fully themeable mini-apps that each solve basic desktop-work-related needs and generally improve the usability and eye-candy of the modern composited Linux-desktop."
What it means to me, is that I can have a pretty "Station" clock like Windows Vista has - so far, the most compelling reason for Vista. But it can be sized and customised as you like, so I can (for example) justify that extra monitor, because it acts as a wall-clock! (sorry about the mess, I would have tidied up if I knew you were coming around...)
I got a new laptop a few months ago, which came with Vista Business Edition. It's crap, but apparently that's no real difference from the other Vista options. Crucial business features, like VPN, simply don't work, but hey- this is the Business edition, what do you want? SP2 already? We've only had 5 years to work on this.
So - with the assistance of the rescue partition, which could reinstall Windows on demand, I managed to repartition the disk, get Linux and Solaris on there, and reinstall Vista onto the remaining space (believe me, this took a good two weeks to get a sane config; I've still got a 15Mb gap in the partition table, which I think is due to Solaris rounding errors, but doesn't cause me any harm).
/dev/sda1 ended up with a (non-bootable) Rescue partition - cylinders 1-606. /dev/sda2 was a bootable Vista partition, from 606-3946. Yes, they overlapped. sda2 (the one you'd think wouldn't work) booted; sda1 (the one which should be okay) didn't - ironically, as it was the rescue partition, it asked to boot from the CD/DVD. When it had been operational, it had not offered the option of creating actual, physical boot CD/DVDs (yes, I looked; there was no such option), and now it couldn't boot at all. So the software which I never wanted, but had no choice but to pay for, and for which I received no media, is now unbootable. M-O-N-O-P-O-L-O-Y. Oh yeah, that's how we spell it.
apt-get source util-linux ; vi fdisk/fdisk.c gave me a version of fdisk which would allow me to recreate the fdisk partitions as they were, with cylinder 906 belonging to both, but apparently that was not enough. Now neither partition is bootable. So I don't have a bootable Windows, nor a bootable Rescue partition. In fact, the Rescue partition suggests that I boot from CD/DVD. I do that, and it asks for drivers. I provide the drivers which exist in C:\DRIVERS\ of the Vista partition (I can get and burn those via Linux), but there's no sign of SATA drivers there, nor on the Lenovo website.
I'd got Solaris and Linux on the rest of the PC, and it was just a bit annoying that there was 7Gb of wasted space for a Rescue partition which for some reason doesn't boot. Also, I believe that I'm entitled to some installation disks, which I have not been able to find on that partition, when it was bootable.
It was just one of those lingering issues - it'd be nice for the rescue partition to boot.
Now, the option has since been added, at unspecified cost, to trash my entire triple-boot installation, put Windows XP on there, and start again with finding Windows drivers for the various bits of hardware.
I am fast approaching the point at which I state that I have made every possible legitimate effort to use the version of software for which the machine was licensed, and have been defeated by the inadequacies of that very software. I am sorely tempted to install Windows XP acquired off-channel, simply to have something akin to the functionality for which I paid. Fortunately for me, there was nothing useful in Vista which I would be lacking if I replace it with XP, other than the assurance that my copy is fully legitimate.
I do not want to use unlicensed software; I do not use unlicensed software. It is not in my nature. To be quite honest, I would prefer not to boot Windows at all; so far, I have found exactly one business requirement to be able to do so (a customer whose intranet requires ActiveX, of all things).
What choice do I have, when no media is provided, the Vista media I download claims that the partitions available (partition 1, primary, active) do not match Windows' criteria, no ability to create reinstallation media is provided?