Sunday, 27 May 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean attack

Anti-virus vendor Sophos has reported a new downloader Trojan that is presented as a convincing email offer of free tickets and a trailer for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

via heise Security News on 25 May

Heise says: "This Trojan is exceptionally well presented and convincing, including high quality text and the official movie logo, and is clearly aimed at children."

Saturday, 26 May 2007

The New Atheists loathe religion far too much to plausibly challenge it

I've been busy of late with the development of an interface for a website. The brief is very tight. I've been trying a number of different approaches to getting the required data into the "right" place to make sense for the users (without any usability testing) and ensuring that the "clickable menu system" provides access to the underlying data in a meaningful fashion AND achieving these two things without moving outside the "no more than twelve top-level terms leading to no more than twelve discrete elements". Ouch. All this meant that I have been neglecting writing here -- and nearly missed the atheism story which I picked up from The Edge.

Madeleine Bunting says (The Guardian 7 May): "Anti-faith proselytising is a growth industry. But its increasingly hysterical flag-bearers are heading for a spectacular failure."

Not only is it worth reading this article but looking at all of Bunting's columns for her views. My personal belief in God is actually strengthened by reading comment from or about the likes of Richard Dawkins. And, while I don't go out of my way to read his books, my son-in-law has them, and ones from similar authors, and I will often skim through.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Visual statistics

OECD is currently exploring new systems for visualising statistics and allowing users to to launch substantive online discussions based on them. See the OECD Factbook on Swivel for an example of how this might work.

Being a real lover of visualisation - give me a chart any day rather than a page of figures - I had to go and look at this. Swivel is "in preview" (I'd be more likely to call it "beta") and to find the OECD Factbook you have to use the search function. That said, however, the data looks stunning!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Quality of later life: Learning in care settings revisited

Tuesday 10 July 2007
Abbey Community Centre, 34 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BU
9.30 - 15.45
Sustaining acceptable standards of quality of life for older people has been a key element of older people's policy expressed by government in Opportunity Age. The Opportunity Age Quality of Life Indicators include access to education. This is also now part of the inspection process for older people's care provision.
NIACE has long maintained that education in later life should be an integral part of those standards. Recent changes in focus of education spending and the latest LSC participation data indicate that:
  • older people are less likely to benefit from formal education unless imaginative, targeted and collaborative ways are found to deliver and fund meaningful programmes;
  • for older people in care and dependency settings where care, welfare and health issues may predominate, creating and sustaining education programmes is thus even more problematic; and
  • the inclusion of learning within inspection procedures creates the opportunity to influence those providers and encourage care providers to develop education programmes with those older people for whom they have a responsibility.

The event is designed to be of interest to a wide range of people which does not include "careers advisers" -- there may, although I doubt it, be an assumption that careers advisers are only for younger people and that learning is not for "the old". The event will certainly be of interest to those careers organisations with links to third age learning.

Email enquiries to Gurjit Kaur or telephone 0116 204 2833

Employers must take the skills pledge

In her monthly column for FE News Liz Smith, Director of unionlearn, calls for employers to provide training for their workforce. [Don't most already provide training? Perhaps not.]
She says: "Skills are sexy. At last." She goes on to spell out some of the help avaialble to employers - mostly, it seems, at the lower end of the spectrum - and concludes that:
with all this help at hand, why are there still many employers out there who refuse to engage in training their workforces? The government is investing over £400 million in Train to Gain, and unions are working together with employers so the stage is set for the UK to move towards competing with its European rivals. All employers have to do is take the pledge and work with the unions to make it happen.
Yes, well. Most small employers have little or nothing to do with unions and negotiate with individual staff in order that those staff should be capable of doing the jobs required of them. with this in mind I asked my only staff memebr, Dawn, what she wanted to be trainined in. I should have known beteter and been more specific. I should have asked her "What training is it that you need, if any, in order to do your job more effectively?" I might then have got a more appropriate answer than "beer drinking and salsa dancing". My instant answer was "go away" or words to that effect. On reflection, though, I should have said: "I don't think you need to be taught how to drink beer. learndirect provides information on a salsa dancing course in West Bridgford on a Monday evening - £5 for a one-hour session which, since it isn't job-related, you can pay for yourself!"

New website will help thousands unhappy in their jobs

OnRec, the online recruitment forum, pointed to OnRec's article is written in a somewhat more "hypey" than is usual for ADSET so I asked Dawn to go and look.
The site has a strong emphasis on motivation and self-help, so I'm not sure that "validity" is too much of an issue. Expert advice is given by "career coaches" but again seems to focus on helping people to get moving. The advice given seems pretty straightforward. It's very clearly written and is inspirational without being cloying. I like the way the site is organised. It is simple to navigate and invites browsing.

I checked it myself and found:
a) that it was VERY slow to load (using an ADSL connection before 7am when connection speeds are usually good).
b) terrestrial address information is given (based in Islington) but not the company information as required.
c) I could not find a privacy statement.

Overall judgement: "worth a look and directing your clients to - if they're into self-help but it's not for everyone".

Friday, 18 May 2007

Who says we know: an original essay for Edge by Larry Sanger

If you haven't come across Edge before allow me to introduce you to a non-academic, but never simplistic, source of philosophical debate. Edge's mission is to:
To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex
and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each
other the questions they are asking themselves.

In the most recent publication my mind stuck on "everybody knows". Sanger tells us that: "Everybody knows that Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, that 2+2=4, that most people have two eyes." I will admit, however, that the reason I got stuck on this phrase was that I regularly say to the significant other in my life (aka husband not dog) "well, I'm not everybody". He seems to assume that the knowledge that in his head is also in mine. OK, 2+2=4. The inner workings of a computer? Forget it - I don't even understand the words he uses.

What is knowledge? How do we "know" what we know? Or, as Sanger titles his essay, "Who says we know".

In the Middle Ages, we were told what we knew by the Church; after the printing press and the Reformation, by state censors and the licensers of publishers; with the rise of liberalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, by publishers themselves, and later by broadcast media—in any case, by a small, elite group of professionals.
But we are now confronting a new politics of knowledge, with the rise of the Internet and particularly of the collaborative Web—the Blogosphere, Wikipedia, Digg, YouTube, and in short every website and type of aggregation that invites all comers to offer their knowledge and their opinions, and to rate content, products, places, and people. It is particularly the aggregation of public opinion that instituted this new politics of knowledge.

12 days of nothing

I wondered whether the withdrawal symptoms I'd been suffering were to do with a lack of coffee in the house but then realised that it was twelve whole days since I had published anything here. Lots of reading of other people's postings, a fairish amount of tagging "I must come back to this so that I can decide whether to tell others about it", and NOTHING to show for it. "You should be ashamed of yourself" was a favourite saying of my mother's - and she was, as always, perfectly correct.

Business and the Environment: Policy Incentives and Corporate Responses

This book summarises the results of an OECD project which collected and analysed data from the business sector on their motivations and decision-making processes relating to the environment.
The analysis of the inner workings of the firm has been largely absent from economic assessments of environmental policy. In an effort to partly fill this vacuum, this book summarises the results of an OECD project which collected and analysed data from over 4,000 facilities in seven OECD countries. Issues addressed includethe role of 'flexible' policy instruments in encouraging clean production strategies and environmental research and development; the effectiveness of different environmental policy incentives on the introduction of environmental management systems and tools; and the relationship between environmental and commercial performance.
Available in paperback and PDF E-book from the OECD online bookshop
Print (paperback) 24 Euros, PDF 16 Euros (plus the cost of printing 114 pages)

Sunday, 6 May 2007 launches

Thursday 12 April saw the launch of a new, state-of-the-art jobs board dedicated to the library and information profession, Peter Haastrup, Business Director said, "Job-seekers’ methods of finding work are becoming more sophisticated as they become more Internet-savvy. Not all job-seekers want to go to an agency to find work but most want quick and easy access to work specific to our sector, at their convenience. Jobs boards like this give them such options."

Sounds good but my, admittedly fairly cursory, look at this newcomer leads me to say "could do better -- a lot better". I guess that "£18.10 a year" means "£18,100 a year" but I'm not sure and I couldn't find any means of searching by geography.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Stolen hospital laptop prompts ID theft concerns

A laptop stolen from a hospital in Cornwall contained the personal and financial information of 10,000 NHS staff.

Thanks to PC Pro news for this story. Whilst it's worrying for people in the area at least you know that there's a possibility of your identity being used. What about the stolen laptop that didn't get reported? Is your information on it? Is mine?

ONS National and Regional Monthly Labour Market Statistics

Latest ONS First Release of Labour Market Statistics covering employment, unemployment, activity, earnings, productivity and vacancies. All documents are PDF.

Latest is a relative term as used here -- sorry. It has been Dawn's habit to provide me with these links on a monthly basis intending that the information should be included in ADSET Members' Update. Now that we've got a means of publishing so that you can link to the data quickly we will be doing this BUT here's the statistics for MARCH first of all.

UK (39pp) Wales (34pp) Scotland (41pp) East Midlands (35pp) West Midlands (35pp)
North East (34pp) North West (37pp) London (36pp) South West (37pp) East (37pp) Yorkshire and Humber (35pp)

and for APRIL
UK (39pp) and you can link through the ONS map for regional data.

Acid test for policy advisers

John McCarthy at the ICCDPP (International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy) alerts us to this piece the The Australian.

It's interesting to observe how the fiery battles between the Left and Right in the 20th century have been replaced today by more modest debates about public policy options. The grand ideologies associated with capitalism and socialism are still active and relevant as moral and intellectual irritants, but they are decreasingly used as benchmarks in political judgment or as stories in the political contest.
That role has been taken up by social, economic, environmental and governance outcomes: growth and employment, measures of amenity and global warming, crime rates, health and education standards, and degrees of citizenship. Our new gurus have even been given a name: "policy wonks".

I've like to have given you the link direct to The Australian because, no offence meant, getting into the ICCDPP site is more often impossible than not! If it was just any old site with occasional useful information I'd probably (no, I'd definitely) give up on it -- as it is it's a major irritant!
But you'll also have to suffer the "major irritant" if you want to read the full story as it's disappeared into the archives at the original source only to re-appear on payment of money!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Review in Freepint: Research Methods in Information by Alison Jane Pickard

The Facet Publishing blog said recently:

"Just spotted, in the latest edition of FreePint, an excellent review of Alison Jane Pickard's, Research Methods in Information. This book successfully covers the key angles, themes and topics that you would expect and hope to see in a research text for people working or researching in information environments. It is an ideal size, accessible and nice to read. The author's enthusiasm for and knowledge of research is evident, not only by her credentials but by the very nature of the book itself. I am certainly pleased to have it in my collection."

What the author of the blog omitted to say was that this book is published by Facet Publishing - so s/he is not likely to point you to a bad review of the book! Not that I could find one - nor indeed a mediocre or another good one. Maybe it's simply not "hit" the reviewers yet. The blurb on the Facet website is, of course, positive whilst, in true information management style, remaining largely hype free.

It's not yet in my local public library system and at £39.95 (£31.95 for CILIP members) I'd find it difficult to justify purchase to the company directors!

Paperback; February 2007; 336pp; ISBN-10: 1-85604-545-5; ISBN-13: 978-1-85604-545-2

Bloggers' Search for Anonymity

The BBC puts the case for the untraceable voice.
The Internet has given the individual unprecedented power to reach out to millions but some governments are cautious, even hostile, to giving their citizens free access to ideas they deem too democratic and dangerous.

This very useful article explains how to remain undetected online. The information is aimed at people in countries like Tunisia where criticising the government may be akin to signing your death warrant -- it's certainly going to give you a hard time when you're caught.
I'm very much in favour of people being able to say "I think the government in my country stinks" or even to criticise the actions of individual people. Without dissidents it would be a lot harder to have democratic progress. But, and I have to admit to a big "BUT" here -- the same technique that hides a dissident from a vengeful government can be used to hide a cyber-criminal.

Anyone got any ideas about achieving the first without allowing the second?

Government spin -- Brian Keighley gets on his soap box

"Spinning used to be something the old woman did in Sleeping Beauty or, more recently, something athletically inclined people do on rather strange, static bicycles, often with the exhortations of an impossibly muscled young woman."

Well, yes, but -- like so many words in the English language today "spinning" now means something completely different. And, just to prove that ADSET's Information Weblog draws "stuff" from seemingly unlikely places, this came from the CareerFocus newsletter published by the British Medical Journal.

YouTube - Librarian

"I wonder just how many librarians have considered doing this to users?" asks Phil Bradley in his blog. It's worth watching and thank you Phil for alerting us to it. I have no doubt that we'll be seeing this link coming up again and again -- rather like the "how to do RSS" video which is also arriving in my RSS reader on a daily basis at the moment (just as Norma -- the cat playing the piano did a while back).

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

NIACE ESOL question time conference

I've just received this email from NIACE and thought I'd pass on immediately information about this important, to the guidance community, conference which is on

Monday 18 June 2007
Queens Hotel City Square Leeds LS1 1PL
Registration 9:45 -- the conference closes at 15:35

Recent announcements from the LSC and Government will exclude asylum seekers from any learning opportunities whilst they wait for a decision from the Home Office. The 25,000 annual applicants for asylum are amongst the most vulnerable and needy learners. They need survival English and the interaction with others that ESOL provides. These measures give rise to critical questions, such as:
  • How to engage employers and secure their contribution to the costs of training their employees?
  • How to provide a broader range of ESOL to satisfy wide ranging learner needs?
  • How to improve the quality of provision?
  • How to ensure that sufficient ESOL teachers are employed and that initial and teacher training and ongoing professional development meets their needs. ?
  • The NIACE ESOL Committee of Inquiry recommended that there should be free ESOL tuition up to and including Level 1. By ignoring this recommendation there is a risk that social inclusion and community cohesion, two government priorities, will be at risk. Newcomers will be increasingly isolated if they cannot speak English to ask for their bus fare or buy a pint of milk. The rise of hostility towards immigrants may be fuelled. This is also likely to have an impact on those seeking to access ESOL Language with Citizenship courses. The issue of equity with literacy and numeracy has not been addressed.

This conference aims to:

  • Consider the implications of the NIACE ESOL Inquiry recommendations in 'More than a language...' for policy and practice
  • Consider the impact of the LSC's Annual Statement of Priorities, 2007 - 2008
  • Share responses and approaches developed in response to the NIACE recommendations and LSC funding changes

This event provides an opportunity for all those connected with the field of ESOL to voice their views, propose their solutions and share their approaches to responding to learners' needs.

It will be a lively and stimulating event, based on questions and answers, argument and debate. Guests will be asked to respond to questions from an interviewer and also questions from the floor.

There will be plenty of opportunity to share views and experiences through round table discussions and as a whole conference. This will be a provocative and demanding day but one which will also provide a number of practical strategies to plan and deliver provision in September 2007.

Details at the link under the title of this posting
Enquiries to Gurjit Kaur
tel: 0116 204 2833

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Single-victim spam attacks skyrocket warns that:
"The number of cyberattacks that consist of one e-mail targeting no more than a handful of people is up sharply from last year, according to MessageLabs Ltd. "

Seems odd to me that there could be any financial benefit in targetting a selected range of people. However, it appears that the targets are large corporations or government departments and the aim is to steal information -- preferrably about people.