Mistakes in Identity: The Register

I've written a lot about developments in identity systems this year; this time I've been writing not about new features but about old problems and whether the new approaches will make a difference. It turns out that some of the old systems provide good principles. If someone changes the address on your credit card but not the address you've set with an online identity provider, the credit card company can cross-check with your preferred address - or they can just choose to trust you. The less information a company keeps, the fewer liability issues. Small pieces, widely distributed; stealing all of my identity would be like a treasure hunt. Plus, why Dale Olds from Novell thinks identity might be the wrong word to use for all of this: read on at Developer Register...
A roundup of some recent writing, not counting pieces for print that will take it a while to make it online (PC Plus) or may not be available online (Windows XP).

Another identity piece for the Developer Register, this time on an interesting project that combines Novell's directory experience with open source and the identity metasystem that Kim Cameron has been championing. I had some fun with the name too (Bandit).
Unmasking Novell's identity plans

Last week's Digital Business section of the FT had three of my pieces, all on the same page:
Finding room for photos and songs
Digital photos, MP3 and iTunes music, video clips, e-mail, downloaded bank statements. You might already have a terabyte (1,024 gigabytes) of data at home, scattered across different hard drives, DVD backups and memory cards – and you’ll have more soon.
Read more about 1TB NAS
A little (robotic) help from your friend
Ageing populations, rising healthcare costs, an increasing number of people who refuse to retire – and the robot vacuum cleaner that might help.
Read more about iRobot
Audio files: no longer too big to store nor too hard to search
We talk far more than we type. Podcasts, online video, internet radio, recordings of meetings and phone conversations – so much information today is contained in audio files. But how to index it, search it and access it?
Read more about audio searching

I expected my first piece for Tom's Hardware to be for the new UK site, where I'll be writing about home entertainment, MP3 players, media centres and other fun topics. As it happened, it was a review of the Nokia 770 Internet tablet with the new version of the OS that I collaborated on with sbisson, commissioned by the US parent site, though it's appearing on both so I'm boosting the local traffic in my link!
PDAs and smartphones can browse the Web, but small screens and poor support for JavaScript and plug-ins can make browsing a cramped and unsatisfying experience. UMPCs give you a standard browser but they're still too big (and expensive) to carry all the time. Nokia's 770 Internet tablet fits - not necessarily neatly - in the middle, in terms of size, price and features.
Read the rest.


Rather sadly, PC Advisor will not be having an Office Advisor column for me to write any more, due to some changes in the title. I shall miss writing these pieces as I've found such a lot of useful tips and tools myself, but I count Office (both Microsoft and more generally office software) as one of my key areas so I'm sure I'll carry on covering similar topics elsewher, including possibly some more specific tutorials in PC Advisor's workshop section.

Web 2.0 is metadata

Why Web 2.0 will end your privacy
Are they investing in Web 2.0 sites because they're cool? Nope - because they can do contextual advertising. Which will be the next big thing; Microsoft's adCenter will allegedly detect your gender from your surfing habits and allow advertisers to deliver 'relevant' ads on the next page you visit.

But that's not quite all the answer. The VCs are investing because they all want whatever turns out to be the next Google: Google's VC had another 199 projects you've probably never heard of, and that was just in that 12 months. There's the me-too element and the 'new and shiny' bubble element. There's the fact that if you're under 21, 60+% of the content you look at online is generated by someone you know (news as entertainment rather than information again). Tim O'Reilly has been saying for a long time that the future of Web applications is metadata (Amazon ratings, flickr tags, digg 'dugs' and the rest), and that the smart companies get us to make the metadata for them.

And the other side of the coin is Identity 2.0, as it seems to be called. Add together the US laws on ID theft that mean companies have to disclose how many personal details they lose in laptop thefts, stolen backup tapes and good old-fashioned hacker break-ins, the post-SarbOx emphasis on compliance and regulation and the fact that the head of compliance is more likely to be on the board than the head of IT. Not many companies want the responsibility of keeping a lot of customer data unless it's sanitised and anonymised. Technology and privacy advocates are finally going in the same direction: put the user back in control of what data they disclose to a site and tell them where what they say is going (at least in the first instance). Over the next year or so we'll start seeing more ways to log in with tools like InfoCards that give you at the very least more of an idea about who is tracking what about you.

Implementing InfoCard

My first piece for the Developer Register is online now, covering Implementing InfoCard. There have been plenty of pieces on the philosophy and the politics of InfoCard and the identity metasystem, but I wanted to concentrate on the technical and implementation details - all four will have to work for anything to succeed. MIX 06 was excellent timing because I was able to get the latest details from the InfoCard team and talk with Kim Cameron and Pault Trevithick together, explaining why InfoCard and Higgins actually complement rather than compete.

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