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ATPM 12.06
June 2006





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by Mark Tennent,

Bombed Out

Back in 2000 I stood facing a man holding a loaded and cocked Heckler and Koch submachine gun. His finger was on the trigger and the barrel was pointed directly at me. This was a definite brown trouser moment.

For us Brits, guns are still something the A-Team shoots the baddies with. Lots of bangs from weapons that hold an unlimited supply of bullets, and then the baddies hold up their hands and give in. Nobody gets hurt, naturally, except Mr T, who has to be drugged to get him into the helicopter. In general, we don’t see or hear guns in real life in the UK other than perhaps the occasional distant sound of a shotgun, or after 9 PM in some of our city centers such as Manchester. From what we see on TV, it seems the reverse is true in the US. Policemen carry guns by default, and it seems every kid in middle America is given an automatic weapon as soon as she is able to walk.

Luckily for me, the gun-toting man was a special policeman on duty at the venue I was trying to enter. It was the Grand Hotel in Brighton where 16 years earlier the Provisional IRA tried to blow up Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, at her political party conference. In those days, my home was less that a mile away. The explosion woke me up, and later I saw its dreadful consequences. In fact, I actually did quite well from the bombing, because I salvaged for my antiques shop many of the fine fixtures and fittings thrown away as builders rebuilt the hotel.

The policeman confronting me was checking my entry pass for the Grand Hotel where our present government was holding its Millennium Labour Party conference. My colleague and I had been contracted to supply and install a large network of over 20 computers. As the Labour Party’s color is red, we naturally got a lorry load of strawberry iMacs, plus a couple of G4 desktop computers, both of which came home with me after the event.

Once the policeman let me through and the bomb detectors decided there was no Semtex in my underpants, we got down to the installation. All the Macs were brand new. Installing them meant opening their boxes, fixing up the keyboards and mice, adding extra RAM to each Mac, and installing Mac OS 9 and software before getting them physically networked together via a heavyweight Buffalo switching hub that also came home afterwards. By lunchtime we completed the job, tested each computer, set up ISDN, and tidied all the boxes away.

In the room next door were a couple of PC engineers who had three or four computers to install. They had arrived before us and were hard at it even as the gun had been thrust in my face. When we returned to check the Macs the next day, the two PC experts were still completing the job. They had got the computers networked but hadn’t managed to get them all talking to the printer, let alone connected to the outside world.

It is no wonder then, that CNET runs so many free online courses for computer users. Nearly all are geared to the needs of Windows users, but there are some concerning cross-platform applications such as Photoshop or digital photography. Looking at the list, one wonders why anyone would ever use Windows if they need a course to tell them how to make a home network or set up video conferencing—let alone how to update their iPod or build a photo library.

We Mac users have life easy because all of the above are very simple point-and-click affairs. Networking at most involves plugging the wires into the right sockets and turning on file sharing for each Mac. Updating iPods is usually done automatically by Software Update when the iPod is connected for charging or reloading with tunes. Photo libraries are almost too simple to build and share with iPhoto. There are times when specific images on a digital camera are not intended for long term storage, yet iPhoto will happily download them if one isn’t careful. Apple’s latest computers come with a camera built in, so video conferencing is poised to take over from standard voice-only telephones, and iChat makes it easy to accomplish.

Moreover, Apple has progressively made things even easier. Bonjour was first included as Rendezvous in Mac OS X 10.2. It supplies an automatic, zero configuration network without special servers and was devised by Englishman Stuart Cheshire. He had earlier written, amongst other things, an addictive computer game called Bolo, a multiplayer networked tank game. There are still versions around for Mac OS X including XBolo and nuBolo. Stuart is now “Wizard Without Portfolio” at Apple. This is a video of Stuart describing his zero configuration networks to engineers at Google.

Zero configuration was pioneered by Apple and adopted in its move from AppleTalk to IP (Internet Protocol) networking. It automatically identifies each networked device (computer, printer, etc.), gives each its own numeric address and name, and works out where to get services such as printing. Apple has made Bonjour open source. The purpose of zero configuration isn’t just to make it easy to network computers together, which it does already. It has a much longer term goal to create new kinds of networked products that are not available today because they would cost too much or would be too difficult or inconvenient to set up.

What these will actually be is unknown, but intriguing to think about. We’ve already got networked scanners, telephones, fax machines, printers, cameras, music and video devices. So what’s next? Distributed, Bluetooth washing machines perhaps, all sharing the washload?

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Reader Comments (6)

Poster · June 2, 2006 - 11:34 EST #1
Well, that goes to show you what you learn when you take television fiction as some kind of perspective on reality.

Just a little information for the record:
1) The crime rate in the UK has been increasing astronomically since the ban on individual ownership of firearms. Why? Gee, I wonder.
2) Automatic weapons in the U.S. have been heavily restricted since 1964. You basically need a federal license to own one.
3) The American media is the province of leftist elites who despise the southern, western, and rural sections of the country. The people who live in America don't trust the media to tell them the straight truth, and haven't for years. Seriously. In polls describing trustworthy professions, the press polls near the bottom every time.
4) Talk to folks in London about not seeing guns. They see plenty of them -- pointed in their faces when they're getting mugged or raped by Islamic thugs.
mike row · June 2, 2006 - 12:30 EST #2
let me guess....
This is a long shoot now...
Your a republican right?
mark Tennent (ATPM Staff) · June 2, 2006 - 13:33 EST #3
The crime rate in the UK in general and London in particular is on the way down. We have never had the right to carry guns in the UK and the vast majority of British people want guns eradicated altogether. See:
Crime Reduction
London Crime Rate

It is very hard to obtain a gun licence in the UK. Applications must have two references, supply a medical history and the Police will inspect the premises and intended safety cage the gun will be kept in. All hand guns have been banned under the 1997 Firearms Act, including sporting handguns and antique weapons. When the Olympics are held here, foreign competitors will be able to take part in small bore shooting but British athletes are banned from taking part.

What Islamic thugs in London? People who follow the Islamic faith are more likely to suffer prejudice and aggression from our own home grown thugs. The criminal element in London is also more likely to be the same Yardie gangs, East European gangs and similar who populate all the major cities of the world.

People in Britain do not in general see any guns other than on TV in (usually) US imports. We did see Bowling for Colombine High where it showed guns and ammunition on sale in US supermarkets. Two kids who had been shot at Colombine High went into a K-Mart (? spelling) and purchased hand gun ammunition. In the UK, gun shops are virtually unknown and restricted to sporting shotguns.
Ravi Khalsa · June 2, 2006 - 13:44 EST #4
Quoting an earlier comment, "The American media is the province of leftist elites..." Assuming the writer meant media in the US, not everyone here feels that way. I think it's the province of rightest elites ;)
Jacques Daviault · June 2, 2006 - 14:07 EST #5
I agree with whatever Mark says, or thinks, or does. Period.

His good friend,


NB: I'm NOT from France but from Canada, that wonderful country often mentioned in glowing terms in "Bowling for Columbine". And guns kill people here too... two weeks ago a city of 500,000 (Hamilton) recorded the first ever death of a policeman by shooting while on duty. Argue your guns now... gun nuts! After all, guns don't kill people, a government's inability to properly and strictly restrict their ownership does.
Ed Cooper · June 13, 2006 - 21:16 EST #6
Poster, you don't know anything about London, 1) is just plane wrong, crime increase is in areas like muggings due to the fact people carry such expensive kit, a gun isn't going to be much use there.
2) why is that relevant?
3) trust whatever gossip comes your way my friend, its got to be scrutinising the media though.
4) What about all the other thugs!?, their weapon of choice is knives or just the fist, at least people don't die form these confromtations often, introduce a gun and someone ends up dead, most likely you since they've got good target practice.

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