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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Fri 2nd Oct 2009

The UK Suffer 

To some it won’t be a surprise to learn that according to a recent report the UK lag far behind other nations in terms of broadband performance. Cisco, who manufacture the Linksys brand of routers, recently completed a study which compares internet performance across the world

The study ranks the UK at number 25 or 31 depending on how the figures are interpreted leaving us way behind countries such as South Korea, Iceland and Greece. The broadband quality table in the study uses data collected from speedtest.net in 66 countries, and measures download and upload speeds, and latency. By those measures, the UK, with an average download speed of 4.6Mbps and uploads at 0.5Mbps, is down in 31st place.

But the researchers then add in a measure of broadband penetration to come up with their broadband leadership league. The fact that uptake and availability in the UK are both high pushes us up to 25th place in that table.

Why? 

Poor investment in fibre-optic infrastructure is the main reason. Initially in the first Broadband wave the UK’s investment in copper networks ensured that connection availability throughout the country was high. But other countries have moved forward more rapidly to build next generation networks using cable and fibre-optics which provides much higher bandwidth.

Dont Panic

The report's authors were keen to cheer us up. They congratulated Britain for a 40% improvement in broadband quality in the last year - and pointed to Virgin Media's investment in high speed broadband via cable as evidence that the nation was not standing still. They also said our broadband speeds were suitable for today's applications, though we'd need to invest for tomorrow's needs.

Ready for tomorrow Comfortable for today Meeting needs for today Below needs for today
Korea Switzerland Iceland Malta
Japan Czech Republic Estonia Luxembourg
Sweden Norway Greece Chile
Lithuania United States Singapore China
Bulgaria Slovakia Canada Qatar
Latvia Portugal UK Brazil
Netherlands Finland Australia Argentina
Romania France Spain Saudi Arabia
Denmark Germany Poland Cyprus
  Hungary New Zealand Costa Rica
  Russia Ukraine Bahrain
  Belgium Turkey Thailand
  Slovenia Ireland Tunisia
  Taiwan Italy Mexico
  Austria   Philippines
  Hong Kong   UAE
      Malaysia
      Pakistan
      Colombia
      Morocco
      Vietnam
      South Africa
      Indonesia

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Thu 1st Oct 2009

Windows 7 - The latest Windows release will be available  very soon, and unlike the previous release (Vista) of Windows, the latest instalment has now become a serious contender to replace those ag­ing Windows XP machines.  There are a lot of exciting new features with Windows 7; here are some to wet your appetite

Windows 7 Hardware & application compatibility - Basically.. It works! - unlike Windows Vista, Windows 7 works out of the box!  I recently upgraded my main ma­chine to find that I didn’t encounter any problems with the new version.  In fact , I’d go as far as to say, I was pleasantly surprised how quick, easy and pain free the in­stallation was.  Microsoft have definitely moved in the right direction.

Windows 7 Data Encryption - There hasn’t been many stories of late regarding any government pen sticks going missing or data being found but it has by no means ended.  The new version of Windows 7 should help as it includes Bit Locker technology provid­ing full encryption to all boot volumes along with introducing Bit Locker To Go which  offers protection on portable storage like your Pen drive. So, if you do leave data somewhere no one can read it!

Windows 7 Libraries - Microsoft have developed another little useful feature which is libraries.  Just think how many pictures you have all over your computer.  Your Camera software puts them in one place, Internet explorer saves another, then you saved some on your desktop! - Microsoft searches the entire computer in real time and generates a folder with all your images in one place even if they’re all over the computer.  It does the same with Documents, Videos, Music, and other file types. This is an excellent feature for a home and businesses users alike.

If you are interested or need more information please contact Damien on 0800 880 3360

VMware vSphere - VMware the leader in virtualization technologies is launching a new product- vSphere.  The future of your IT infrastruc­ture will largely depend upon Virtualization.  Therefore, anything new from VMware is going to be something we should all take note of.

Typically companies today have a server for each task, one for their emails, one for their file system, and one for remote access or Terminal Services.  The problem with this is that the servers will use very little of its resources the majority of the time. If you can imagine adding these three computers together, splitting the tasks evenly over the machines, you would make best use of the resources on those machines.  This is where Vsphere virtualizes the 3 servers over 1 computer

vSphere is the industry's first cloud operating system which is specifically designed to holistically manage large collections of infrastructure—CPU’s, storage and networking as a seamless, flexible and dynamic operating environment.

On top of making the servers more efficient , you will have more control & choice over your IT infrastructure. vSphere dramatically lowers the total cost of application,

operation and maintenance by automating management and dynamically allocating re­sources to applications across internal and external cloud infrastructures. 

Discus are embracing the new product from VMware and are looking to deploy the product in the near future.

For more information contact Chris on 0800 880 3360

Search Engine Optimisation

Discus’s website is moving on in leaps and bounds, as most of you are aware considering how many people have visited since its launch in July.

Discus offers a Search Engine Optimi­sation audit of your website free of charge with no obligation or cost to you, there is nothing to lose to ensure that your website is giving you the busi­ness that is expected from the web.
Getting to know us..

Name:           Lynne Thomas
Married:         18 years
Children:        2 boys aged 14 & 12

Lynne Thomas joined Discus Sys­tems in November 2008 as Financial Controller

Lynne is keen on tennis, but doesn’t have as much time now to play. How­ever, she does enjoy watching her sons play and the occasional bit of Sudoku.

If you wish to contact Lynne then you can call her any time on 01675 461318 or email her at  lynne@discus.co.uk

Great North Run 

Contact Graham on 0800 880 3360 for more details.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 29th Sep 2009

Google's latest product to hit the market is GoogleWave, they will send out 100,000 invitations to basically take a look at their new product tomorrow.

Google first unveiled GoogleWave in May and since then has been testing and developing the product for public use.

What is Google Wave?

Without seeing it first h and it is quite difficult to explain exactly what Wave does, Google are basically reinventing the "email". Rather than using your typical email session where you send an email, back and forth and wait for the replies.. Wave uses Instant Messaging technology to send the message which means you'll have instant replies to your messages.

All this is logged for people to be shared into later on and essentially view the conversation between the two, three, four.. or however many people wish to join the Wave.

On top of this, you can share documents, photos, and files.. creating libraries of events that have gone on, you of course are notified of all the updates and can see them as a time line of events.

I could explain further but i think seeing is believing so if you head over to the BBC website which will give you a video explaining exactly what you can achieve with this amazing product.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Sat 19th Sep 2009

Damien Biddulph, age 25, and Andrew Guy aged 26 both took part in the famous race on Sunday.

Damien completed the half marathon distance in two hours forty five, and Andy completed the run in three hours and fifteen minutes.

Andy said: “The support was overwhelming from the local people. We simply couldn't believe the amount of locals who turned out for the event offering anything from biscuits to ice lols to get us around the 13.1 mile course"

Damien said “We would like to thank everyone who has sponsored us so far, its not too late for people to still sponsor us.”

The pair, both from Birmingham, travelled along with Andy's partner Lisa Hawkins who helped drive them to Newcastle for the race. You can sponsor them at www.justgiving.com/andyanddamien

Damien Biddulph & Andrew Guy before the run

A record number of 54,000 people including many celebrities took to the streets of Newcastle yesterday when they took part in the world's biggest half-marathon, the Great North Run.r
Two celebrities Sting & England cricketer Steve Harmison started the race by the pistol pistol into the blazing sunshine with the musician stating it was the first time he had held a gun in his life!

'It is so exciting to be here and the atmosphere is incredible,' he said

The half-marathon runners were cheered on their way by an estimated 30,000 spectators.

Celebrity entrants include EastEnders stars Kara Tointon and Joe Swash, Gordon Ramsay and his wife Tana, Nell McAndrew, Ben Fogle and James Cracknell. Olympic rower Cracknell was the first of the celebrities to cross the line.

The race was won by former world half-marathon champion Martin Lel who was forced to pull out of chasing a fourth title at the London Marathon in April due to a hip injury. The womens race was won by Jessica Augusto who was a surprise winner of the women's race in 1.09.08

The 30-year-old Kenyan completed the race in 59 minutes 32 seconds to regain the title he won in 2007.

Britain's David Weir broke the men's wheelchair course record by over a minute, while American Amanda McGrory won the women's wheelchair title.

The first Great North Run took place in June 1981 with 12,770 runners

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Fri 11th Sep 2009

Turing Bombe machines cracked 3,000 messages a day and are said to have shortened the war by two years thanks to the military secrets they uncovered

However, he was not rewarded with honours by the state, or public adulation. Instead he was persecuted because of his homosexuality, opting for chemical castration rather than imprisonment after conviction for gross indecency.

Two years later, in 1954, he took his own life. 

 Now, after thousands signed a petition calling for the government to apologise, Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown has done so.

  He said he was deeply sorry that Mr Turing had been treated inhumanely under the homophobic laws of the time.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Thu 3rd Sep 2009

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Fri 31st Jul 2009

You can’t even switch on your computer without it asking for some sort of password, that is before you’ve even entered the wonderful world of the passwords on the internet. So I suggest you all take a look at the “500 worst passwords of all time.” As I can probably guarantee you unless you’re pretty strict with your passwords yours will not be difficult to guess and could even be on the list!

A good password should have two ground rules, firstly it is difficult to guess by a someone who doesn’t know it and also easily recalled by its owner.

Not surprisingly the most popular passwords are “123456 & “password” however some of the list are quite intriguing the number of obscene words, cars, and even Batman just misses out of on the top 30.

The list comes from the rather outdated book which was published in 2005 “Perfect Password: Selecttion, Protection, Authentication” however its quiet unique so is stil a valid area of resource.

One out of nine passwords used is on the list and about 50% of passwords are “based on names of a family member, spouse, partner, or a pet,” according to the book’s teaser on Amazon. Just ask Sarah Palin Whose Email was hacked last September by someone who reset her password using her zipcode, birthdate and where she met her spouse. When asked where she went to high school, the hacker entered  “Wasilla High” and was right. Such is the price of celebrity and people knowing a lot about you.

Passwords are a challenge. Like you, I often want quick access to a site and view the password as an obstacle deserving little attention. However, I  am shamed to admit.. even I have been caught napping with part of one of my passwords on the list.  

In a recent discussion with fellow bloggers, one said he keeps passwords only in his head. He never writes them down ANYWHERE. I have far too many for that and lack the photographic mind he must have. He also avoids passwords hints such as a boyhood dog or mother’s maiden name given what happened to Palin.

A colleague of mine swears by password manager Roboform which can be downloaded for about $35. I personally prefer a different method.. which obviously I cannot reveal! But I feel my system is as secure as the best so therefore no need to change.

There’s plenty of advice on how to create a good password such as Microsoft’s six-steps to creating "a strong, memorable password" Some of the advice is obvious, but worth repeating.

– Use a mix of symbols, characters and numbers. Use spaces if allowed.
– If you can’t use symbols, double the number of characters.
– Think of a memorable sentence and take the first letter of each word and combine into a password.
– Use a password checker to test its strength.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jul 2009

Last week, while working at home my electricity went off for almost 3 hours. This meant that I had no phone, internet, and no computer. I had little battery left in my mobile but this didn’t last long as I was scheduled to have a Web Chat meeting with a couple of our customers regarding developing their websites and improving SEO(Search Engine Optimization).

I still managed to have the meeting by phone so all was not lost but it was during that meeting I realized something which we should all consider. I was completely focused on the task at hand, the meeting, I didn’t have the opportunity to answer any emails, respond to any instant messages or even tweet about Discus. It was probably my most present and productive meeting I’ve had for some time.

I’ve had meetings in the past where often you’ll sit in on a meeting and for one reason or another an “important” message comes through on his or her BlackBerry which they must respond to.. you see the attendee’s slowly sneak their phone from off their desk and start tapping away, not only is that just plain rude it is just plain counterproductive!! – but as it pains me to say it.. it is all too common. Come on, admit it. Deny it. You can’t.

So my question to you all – when was the last time you were focused, completely focused on one thing?

I have been asking a few of our customers, friends and colleagues and it would appear that as we’re grooming a society full of people who have attention-deficit disorder, to me  it seems’ we are making it a requirement when you leave school to become successful in today’s corporate world.

So, I have a challenge for all those who wish for a smarter planet, a smarter business. Ban all mobile phones and mobile gadgets from your organizations most important meetings and conversations?

Of course, it is not lost on me that i wouldn’t be writing this news letter at all if it weren’t for my mobile, which allowed me to participate in a meeting by conference call.. probably linking 5 different locations when I had no other means of conducting the meeting. However part of being smart about technology is knowing when to set side in favor of good old human to human interaction, discourse that is interrupted by mutual consent not be some annoying beep or flashing light.

Damien Biddulph
Discus Systems plc

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Fri 24th Jul 2009

FremantleMedia Australia, Australia’s leading TV production, licensing and distribution company, has slashed its data backup window from 15 hours to 2-3 hours, and down to 90 minutes in some instances, by using ShadowProtect from StorageCraft.

Previously the company used ARCserve Backup.

FremantleMedia has production operations in 25 countries and programs are produced for more than 40 territories. Titles include Neighbours, So You Think You Can Dance, Australian Idol, and The Biggest Loser. The company’s Sydney office runs file and print servers under Windows 2003 across three locations. Most of the data comprises scripts and production details for shows, though there are also four Lotus Notes/Domino mail servers and a BlackBerry enterprise server.

IT Manager Alan Fear’s quest for a more comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) solution, plus reliable backup, ended when he evaluated ShadowProtect, which he describes as a simple and comprehensive solution for backup, recovery and disaster recovery.

The various databases are backed up Hewlett-Packard DL380 network-attached storage (NAS) devices running under Windows 2003 64-bit Storage Server. Each Image Repository stores up to 500GB of data.

“Using ShadowProtect Server we are able to achieve on-the-fly images for incremental backups, allowing us to restore files very quickly and efficiently,” said Alan Fear. “Previously we were backing up servers to tape using ARCserve Backup. It would take about 15 hours. Now we are doing disk-to-disk using ShadowProtect, our backup window has shrunk to between two and three hours. Some servers take only 90 minutes to back up.”

Optimum speeds hit 50-70 Mbit/second. StorageCraft’s support people helped to achieve these speeds by advising Alan to split images into smaller chunks, using ShadowProtect’s split-image file feature. This solved the problems Windows has in transferring large files over a LAN.

Alan said: “With help from StorageCraft we obtained maximum throughout to the NAS. They came up with a solution and we implemented it. We find their support people very helpful.”

FremantleMedia uses NetVault to push each backup to tape overnight for off-site archival of the backup images. The final phase of the company’s disaster recovery plan entails using ShadowProtect to restore images into a parallel environment for fast recovery. Tests show that this can be achieved in 15-20 minutes, sufficient speed to bring servers back online very quickly.

About StorageCraft

StorageCraft Technology Corporation provides innovative disk-based backup, disaster recovery, system migration, data protection and security solutions for servers, desktops and laptops. StorageCraft delivers software products that reduce downtime, improve security and stability for systems and data and lower the total cost of ownership for servers, desktops and laptops. www.storagecraft.com

Please call Discus if you're interested in StorageCraft on 0800 880 3360 

Source: Backup review

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Sun 19th Jul 2009

It is hard to appreciate the technical challenges involved in putting a man on the moon, but 1960s computer technology played a fundamental role.

By today's standards, the IT Nasa used in the Apollo manned lunar programme is pretty basic. But while they were no more powerful than a pocket calculator, these ingenious computer systems were able to guide astronauts across 356,000 km of space from the Earth to the Moon and return them safely.

The lunar programme led to the development of safety-critical systems and the practice of software engineering to program those systems. Much of this knowledge gleaned from the Apollo programme forms the basis of modern computing.

Apollo Guidance Computer

The lunar mission used a command module computer designed at MIT and built by Raytheon, which paved the way to "fly by wire" aircraft.

The so-called Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) used a real time operating system, which enabled astronauts to enter simple commands by typing in pairs of nouns and verbs, to control the spacecraft. It was more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons. It had approximately 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.

The instruction manual for the AGC shows the computer had a small set of machine code instructions, which were used to program the hardware to run various tasks the astronauts needed.

The AGC program, called Luminary, was coded in a language called Mac, (MIT Algebraic Compiler), which was then converted by hand into assembler language that the computer could understand. The assembler code was fed into the AGC using punch cards.

Amazingly, the code listing for the AGC program can be downloaded as a PDF file. There is also an equivalent program for the lunar lander.

The AGC was designed to be fault-tolerant and was able to run several sub programs in priority order. Each of these sub programs was given a time slot to use the computer's sparse resources. During the mission the AGC became overloaded and issued a "1202" alarm code.

Neil Armstrong asked Mission Control for clarification on the 1202 error. Jack Garman, a computer engineer at Nasa (pictured below, left), who worked on the Apollo Guidance Program Section, told mission control that the error could be ignored in this instance, which meant the mission could continue. Apollo 11 landed a few seconds later.

Experts cite the AGC as fundamental to the evolution of the integrated circuit. It is regarded as the first embedded computer.

The importance of this computer was highlighted in a lecture by astronaut David Scott who said: "If you have a basket ball and a baseball 14 feet apart, where the baseball represents the moon and the basketball represents the Earth, and you take a piece of paper sideways, the thinness of the paper would be the corridor you have to hit when you come back."

While the astronauts would probably have preferred to fly the spacecraft manually, only the AGC could provide the accuracy in navigation and control required to send them to the Moon and return them safely home again, independent of any Earth-based navigation system.

IBM computers on Apollo 11

Along with the APG, mainframes were also heavily used in the Apollo programme. Over 3,500 IBM employees were involved, (pictured below). The Goddard Space Flight Center used IBM System/360 Model 75s for communications across Nasa and the spacecraft. IBM Huntsville designed and programmed the Saturn rocket instrument unit, while the Saturn launch computer at the Kennedy Space Center was operated by IBM.

An IBM System/360 Model 75 was also used at Nasa's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. This computer was used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to calculate lift-off data required to launch the Lunar Module off the Moon's surface and enable it to rendezvous with Command Module pilot Michael Collins for the flight back to Earth.

At the time, IBM described the 6Mbyte programs it developed, to monitor the spacecrafts' environmental and astronauts' biomedical data, as the most complex software ever written.

Even the simplest software today would far exceed the technical constraints the Apollo team worked under. The Apollo programme was pre-Moores's Law: in 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore wrote his vision of how the performance of computer hardware would double every 18 months for the same price.

That a USB memory stick today is more powerful than the computers that put man on the moon is testimony to the relentless pace of technological development encompassed in Moore's Law. However, the Apollo programme proved that computers could be entrusted with human lives. Man and machine worked in unison to achieve something that 40 years on, has yet to be surpassed.

Source: Computerweekly
All Images courtesy of NASA

 
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