* Posts by Captain Mainwaring

86 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Jul 2009


Microsoft finds critical hole in operating system that for once isn't Windows

Captain Mainwaring

News to me

Is it? I can run Opera and Firefox and Edge on my Chromebook, as well as the native Chrome browser.

Windows' cloudy future: That Chrome OS advantage is Google's to lose

Captain Mainwaring

Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

Chrome OS has an excellent factory reset facility called Powerwash and unlike Windows only takes a couple of minutes to complete. I have been using Chromebooks/Chromeboxes for six years and only had to use this facility on 3 occasions on the four different machines that I've owned. If this doesn't work, chances are there's a hardware issue with the machine itself.

Das Reboot: Uni forces 38,000 students, staff to queue, show their papers for password reset following 'cyber attack'

Captain Mainwaring

Re: ID IS Routine

If the same thing had happened at a British University, it does make you wonder what steps IT admin here would have taken to get around the problem. Can't imagine 38000 Brit students queuing up willingly in the rain to get a password reset.

Mandatory electronic prescriptions was the easy bit in NHS paperless plans

Captain Mainwaring

Just amazed

Just amazed that 2 decades into the 21st century, my GP still prints out referal letters and sends them by post to the local hospital just 3 miles away. Even more amazed that the results of any tests or consultations are similarly printed out and returned by the same method back to my GP surgery. Can anyone enlighten me as to why the above transactions can't be done by email, or some other secure messaging system? It surely can't be a technical IT issue that prevents it.

Three non-obvious reasons to Vote Leave on the 23rd

Captain Mainwaring

Re: "There are plenty other countries that would be happy to take up the slack"

" Which ones? Turkey? Egypt? Tunisia? Good luck... "

You left the rest of the world off the end of your list. I take your point about the fear of terrorism in some countries though. I certainly wouldn't like to holiday in France and Belgium at the moment.

Captain Mainwaring

Re: So where is the post to balance this out?

Millions of UK tourists make their way to Europe every year, spending billions of Euros in the local economies of member states. Does anyone seriously think a post-brexit EU would introduce an expensive visa requirement to millions of casual holiday makers just out of plain political spite? Money shouts louder than most things in the modern world, and I can't see the EC putting up barriers to much needed income to its poorer Mediterranean constituents. There are plenty of other countries around the world who would welcome the billions of British tourist dollars that are up for grabs. In a globalised world, Europe isn't the only shown in town, and I'm not just talking about the tourist trade here either.

UK Home Office is creating mega database by stitching together ALL its gov records

Captain Mainwaring

In a broader European context

I think the EU have some plan or another to issue an individual taxation number to everyone throughout Europe. Obviously this will be in preparation for a continent-wide taxation system yet to be announced. It's certainly not difficult to foresee this individual tax number becoming the basis of a citizen number that could one day be used to populate a EU citizens register. This is where the idea of a EU superstate could quite easily start it's life.

Captain Mainwaring

Right of abode

The reason Passports are the preferred option when it comes to employment, is that they give the surest indication that the bearer has the right of abode in the UK, or otherwise. A vast majority of UK passports show the holder as a British citizen, automatically implying that they have right to take up employment here. An EU passport/ID card, and in some cases a UK - issued residents permit will do the same. All other documents are regarded as supplementary rather than definitive evidence of immigration status and most employers would prefer a Passport presented to them. In everyday practical terms, a UK Passport is seen as a national Identity document and seems to be the favored document in the banking and rental sector as well. Things may change of course, if the EU finds a way of imposing ID cards on us by some future directive, assuming of course we vote to stay in on June 23rd.

Windows 10 build 14342: No more friendly Wi-Fi sharing

Captain Mainwaring

Re: Without a doubt

" Do you mean consumer apps? "

Yes of course, but also standard business apps too. Even today, I use Sage, HR management as completely online services. Fast forward the clock another ten years and I wouldn't be surprised if most business/professional apps will be available as a Cloud option too. Cost will obviously be the driving factor here of course, as well as geopolitical considerations such as Data Center location and data sovereignty. Given advantageous pricing and convenience, even SMB's will be tempted away from traditional local apps. At this point in time, will the rich, full featured OS's of today be the norm, or will lighter weight and cheaper Cloud OS's be in vogue?

Captain Mainwaring

Re: Without a doubt

Substitute the word best with the word versatile and I might be inclined to agree. Given it's innate ability to spy on it's own users and their data, I doubt if it's ever going to be the most popular.

In the longer term though, I wonder if a feature-rich OS such as Windows is going to be relevant, as most apps and their data are going to be accessed online.

Windows 10 Mobile bug fixes come thick and fast as official upgrade nears

Captain Mainwaring

First time tryer

Just recently bought a Microsoft Lumia 550, my first foray into the world of smartphones. After the initial signing in, I was taken in to the all too familiar world of the Windows ecosystem. The device spent the next hour updating umpteen pre-installed apps and then proceeded to do a major system update, which added a further hour to the waiting time. I must say the updated Windows 10 phone OS seems to work very well, with no apparent stability issues that I have come across. The same can't be said of some of the apps that I downloaded from the Windows store, which either won't install or freeze up as soon as they run. If there's one thing that is going to make or break the fledgling Windows phone market, it's the quality and availability of apps that people want to use. If Microsoft don't get this aspect of the Windows phone ecosystem absolutely right, I can't see the business and professional sector ever embracing it in the numbers required.

In 2015, your Windows PC can be owned by opening a spreadsheet

Captain Mainwaring

Just Saying

Don't seem to get any of these problems on my Chromebook. Updates happen in the background and are applied in seconds on start up. I know most apps are cloud-based, but there are hundreds available and the choice is growing all the time. I'm not saying Chrome OS is for everyone at the moment, but as more professional business apps go online, perhaps its fast, lightweight nature and low overhead maintenance will make it an attractive choice in the future?

Fingerprints, facial scans, EU border data slurp too tasty for French to resist

Captain Mainwaring

Do they now

" French authorities want fingerprint and facial scans of everyone entering or leaving the EU "

A guaranteed way of trebling the waiting time to clear immigration control at every major international airport in Europe.

Controversial: The future is data integrity, not confidentiality

Captain Mainwaring

Starting from where we are

Perhaps one of the easiest gains available for the current system, might be having a card that serves more than one function. Take the UK driving licence for example, which now follows a standard EU-wide layout. If the holder has given his UK Passport number when applying for/renewing their licence, is there any reason their UK nationality can't be recorded on the driving licence as well? In that way, in the right circumstances, a driving licence card could also act as an EU-wide ID card and Passport as well. It might have to be a slightly different layout from a standard licence, but it would transform the functionality of the card in quite a major way.

Microsoft has developed its own Linux. Repeat. Microsoft has developed its own Linux

Captain Mainwaring

So true

" They work, and people don't care what OS they use as long as it does what they want it to. "

Exactly how I feel about my new Chrome OS desktop

NHS to go paperless by 2020. No, really, it will, says gros fromage

Captain Mainwaring

Re: @Capt: Start with the basics

Well, they would have to apply quoting their national insurance number at the very minimum to be successful. At least the issuing authority would know that they were entitled to free treatment under the NHS that way, after careful checks.

Captain Mainwaring

Start with the basics

Someone once suggested that when one applies for a EHIC card, they also send you a NHS medical card with onboard chip, that could store basic information about the patient as well. This might include allergies, existing medical conditions, blood group type etc and new medical conditions could always be added when required. Obviously they will need thousands of card readers round the NHS to read them with, but the card could be the key component to a more integrated, paperless, IT based system. People with serious medical conditions could also carry these around with them in their wallets or purses, just in case they fall ill when out and about.

Or am I being just plain naive?

US to stage F-35-versus-Warthog bake-off in 2018

Captain Mainwaring

Re: F35 v A10

Er no. The F35 would win hands down in terms of it's high cost to build over the much older A10.

I was being Ironic.

Captain Mainwaring

F35 v A10

Unit cost of production is one area where the F35 would win hands down, even after inflation has been taken into account.

NHS IT failures mount as GP data system declared unfit for purpose

Captain Mainwaring

Employ their own consultants

Perhaps it's time that the NHS and the civil service in general employed their own IT consultants direct. At least this way the spec for the intended system could be carefully and expertly drawn up, before the project goes out to tender. Once the project is underway, any modifications could be fed in via the project consultant who should have the necessarily expertise to negotiate required changes in a meaningful and efficient way. They may have to pay the going rate for such expertise of course, but surely this would be cheaper than the multi million pound cock ups that seem to be commonplace in government IT.

Paper driving licence death day: DVLA website is still TITSUP

Captain Mainwaring

Re: Eggs in one basket

Next time I hire a car, I think I will go to the extra trouble if it's possible, to get a printout of my driving licence record the previous day, along with the required reference number for the hirer. At least that way, if they are unable to get online for some reason when I turn up, they at least have a printed record of any points I may or may not have. Perhaps if they are busy or just short of customers at that time, they may accept this print out at face value, without waiting until the website comes back online again before they hand the keys over.

I know this new system is a bit of a faff and a hassle, especially for people who do not have internet access, but I would imagine this is a sign of things to come as more and more government services come online under the " digital by default " program being driven on by GDS.

Captain Mainwaring

Eggs in one basket

As long as the DVLA checking system remains up and running 24/7 and can cope with any level of demand placed upon it, everything will be just fine. At times when it is not able to cope, expect long queues, frantic telephone calls and drivers giving up and going by public transport instead.

In the end, it just depends how good DVLA's IT infrastructure turns out to be.

My life under Estonia's digital government

Captain Mainwaring

Re: ID Card

" A better question would be why opening a bank account requires proof of residence at all. Proof of identity, sure. But an address is a pointless exercise now that you are no longer associated with a specific branch for your services. Not to mention the trap it puts on poor people, who often have no fixed abode, but can't get one because they can't get bank accounts, et cetera."

You try opening an account in most high street banks without providing proof of address and 9 times out of ten you'll be left standing out in the rain counting your pennies back into your trouser pocket. Right or wrong, that just how life is here in the UK and is not just limited to opening a bank account either. My central point is that ID cards commonly issued on the continent of Europe, don't show residential address and as such are not the all in one master identity document they are frequently trumped up to be. As far as I can see, an ID card does nothing that an ordinary Passport cannot do. I suppose you can easily slip an ID card into your wallet after you've finished using it, but a Passport allows you to travel the world over and is not just limited to travel in EU countries.

I do take your point about issuing a common unique identifier, perhaps a long number that could cross-reference all the other government service account numbers. Whether there is the political will, expertise or money to undertake such a project is another question though. But if that process is linked to the universal roll out of ID cards across the whole nation, I doubt if it will ever come to pass.

Captain Mainwaring

Re: ID Card

Most National ID cards that I have personally seen and I have seen most of them from the EU, don't even have the bearer's home address on it. This includes the aborted UK ID card that was scrapped by the last coalition government back in 2010. What this means in reality is that when the service that you are applying for needs proof of residential address, ie bank accounts, grants, welfare payments etcetera, a separate document such as a council tax or utilities bill is required to prove where you actually live. This hardly makes the ID card a one-stop shop document that it is mooted to be. For general use, where nationality is not a particular issue, A UK photocard driving licence is probably more useful as it also includes the bearer's home address as well. Replacing disparate numbering systems, NHS, Driving licence, National Insurance, to name but a few, would be a large and costly undertaking at a time when most government departments are having their budgets slashed. If a country is starting from scratch, then yes a unique personal identifier is probably the best way to go.

I have worked in HR for the past ten years or so and have had the task of checking the identity and immigration credentials of all job applicants from all over the world, but mainly from the EU. From a UK perspective at least, a National ID card is little more than a sawn off Passport at best. It is also an easier document to make a convincing forgery of than a modern Biometric Passport, which usually has hidden watermarks and security features spread over multiple pages.

Captain Mainwaring

Re: ID Card

" The other key requirement for this process is a unique ID for every person, here in the form of a card and a USB stick. "

Whenever I do any interactions with various government departments, both national and local, I'm often asked for my National Insurance number as part of the transaction. This is a unique reference number that most individuals are issued with to work, pay tax and other official functions too. In some cases, I've even been asked to produce my Passport or Driving Licence as well to prove I am the person standing before them. As a majority of people these days already have one or both of these official ID documents, a separate ID card and it's multi-billion pound cost all seems a little bit unnecessary to me. And that's before you factor in the privacy and civil rights issues that go with their introduction.

Captain Mainwaring

Jobsworths say no

To implement an end-to-end, integrated government IT set up here in Blighty would take a major shift in Civil Service culture and outlook, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Most online government services that I have personally used seem to be a digitization of existing system systems and practices, with no apparent sideways integration with other departments and services. To get to a true cross government IT platform will probably require a major re-organisation of how the Civil service and government departments work and relate to each other. At the end of the day, widespread computerization in central and local government is going to cost many white-collar workers their job and dismantle many an empire that has taken many decades of careful construction to build up. Given the prevalence of Sir Humphrey types that form the upper echelons, I can't see that there is going to be any great appetite for radical re-organisation that is likely to be needed.

Carry On Computing: Ten stylish laptop bags for him

Captain Mainwaring

Bag within a bag

Been carrying in a laptop to work everyday now for the past 16 years and tried just about every combination of carrybags there are available on the market. The best solution I think is to purchase a well padded laptop sleeve in the matching size and place that in the briefcase or whatever external carry bag you use for work. Although it significantly increases the weight of the bag, if it should be dropped or occasionally rain soaked, the laptop seems to get away unscathed. The padded sleeves seem to be very reasonably priced as well, certainly on Amazon a good quality item can be purchased for under 20 pounds, a far cry from some of the laptop holder bags being reviewed that are coming in at over a hundred quid!

I do drive to and from work, so I don't have to carry the bag for more than a few minutes at a time, but for people who commute on a train for hours on end, perhaps a separate laptop bag may be the best solution.

E-voting and the UK election: Pick a lizard, any lizard

Captain Mainwaring

Re: National Identity Card

I agree with the idea that people should be required to produce official photo ID to vote in an election. But spend billions on rolling out an ID card scheme, why? With about 85% of the population already having either a passport, driving licence or both, I would have thought there is already enough official ID about to do the job.

Pull up the Windows 10 duvet and pretend Win8 and Vista were BAD DREAMS

Captain Mainwaring

Non - IT bod here

Having spent the last 3 years working in HR, one thing I have particularly noticed that there is a lot of what I would call serious professional-grade apps available entirely online, without any need for locally installed components. These apps include Sage accounting suits and HR database, to name just a few. Having recently purchased a Chromebook out of my own pocket for home use, all of these apps are available directly on this new laptop as though I was sitting at work on my Windows desktop.

My point is this though, if more and more professional grade apps are going to be available directly from the cloud, is a full fat, fully featured operating system like Windows 10 going to be required to service mundane everyday office tasks as in the past? Or is a lightweight cloud-orientated OS like Chrome going to be sufficient in a majority of cases? I'm not an IT professional and my comments might seem a little naive, but from a common sense point of view, I can't see the mainstream Windows PC business model from the past continuing a long time into the future.

Scotland to get National ID system 'by the backdoor', campaigners mull challenge

Captain Mainwaring

Re: Why the fuss?

Well we already have several large nationwide registers here in the UK, covering most if not all of the population. DVLA driving licence database, Passport database, NHS patient database, HMRC taxpayer database to name but a few. I don't think we really need to spend any more money in creating yet another nationwide database with all it's associated cost and bureaucracy. Perhaps the existing NHS number could be used as a common identifier across all registers, but I can well understand people's concerns over the desirability of using this in a blanket fashion. As far as ID cards are concerned, well again not really needed, as passports and driving licences are already very widely used to carry out ID checks on individuals. With around 50 million UK passports and some 45 million driving licences in circulation, most people these days have some form of official identification.

Pitchforks at dawn! UK gov's Verify ID service fail to verify ID

Captain Mainwaring

Offline fallback required

If central government plans that everybody should be using this system to access their online services eventually, then an offline registration process is definitely going to be required for those people who have an insufficient credit trail. Perhaps the Post Office could get in on the act here, offering a document examining service in the local branch to those people who cannot, for whatever reason, be verified online. I would have thought that things like passports, driving licences, council tax bills, bank cards, etc , would be sufficient if presented by the applicant in person. My experience of the main credit reference agencies is one of incomplete or just plain incorrect information held on my record and getting them to correct/amend it is a triumph of perseverance. I would be very surprised if I was to pass an online check, even though I have lived in the UK for all of my adult life.

I hope the problems of this new ID verification service are ironed out in the near future, for if not, I can see the age old demand for National identity cards rearing it's head again.

Mosquitoes, Comets and Vampires: The de Havilland Museum

Captain Mainwaring

Re: The Mossie

" Perhaps not so good in some other theatres though; my grandfather, who was a photographer with an RAF recon unit in Burma, had a lovely story about two Mossies arriving there, only to be eaten by the local insects before they could be suitably housed... "

Perhaps they should have sprayed them with insect repellent upon first arrival!

Just a thought...

Captain Mainwaring

Re: The Mossie

My Grandfather worked at the De Havilland factory during the war, working as an armourer on the Mosquito. He often said that the Mosquito's greatest asset was it's wooden airframe that gave it lightness and subsequent speed advantage over all metal designs. Bizarrely, the wooden airframe could also take more punishment from enemy fire than stressed all metal aircraft and could still fly on with many bullet holes in it's fuselage without catastrophic break up.

As an interesting footnote, many Mosquitos became completely unserviceable after the war due to rotting of the wooden fuselage. Still, they survived just long enough to wreak havoc on Goering and Co!

Home Office boffins slip out passport-scanning Android app

Captain Mainwaring

Of limited value in the real world

This Android app as it stands is OK as a basic chip working/not working check, but of little use in the commercial admin world. Perhaps by adding an online element to this program, it could become a useful Passport authenticator, checking that the Passport that has been scanned is indeed an original, authentic document as issued by HMPO. This might well have applications in the world of HR, banking and legal services and if provided for free, would probably enjoy wide spread use.

Tracy brothers are back: Thunderbirds Are Go! again in 5... 4... 3...

Captain Mainwaring


I often wondered what the exact meaning of the expression " F-A-B " was, usually uttered after a command from one of the senior puppets on the film set. It's probably equivalent to "aye aye", " yes sir " or perhaps the word " jawohl " in the German language.

Does anyone know the exact meaning of the expression or is it a made up term designed to sound hip and trendy in the swinging sixties?

O2 outage outrage blamed on new Ericsson database

Captain Mainwaring

One way to beat the outage

Dual-Sim mobile phone. They are readily available and can work on entirely seperate phone networks if the best possible resilience is required. Having dual sim cards also has the advantage that if one network is providing poor coverage in the area you are in, the second network might possibly give a usable signal to allow for making/receiving calls.

NHS trust loses personal data of 600 maternity patients, kids

Captain Mainwaring

Everyone should have one

What about installing a standard encryption package on every PC within an organisation? Should any individual feel the need to take home any confidential information, they could create a self extracting encrypted file on their memory stick and take it home to work on. If they were to carelessly misplace the said memory stick at any point, they would be safe in the knowledge that at least it's contents would be hard to get to if it did fall into the wrong hands. Would this be too costly or impractical for an NHS trust to implement across the board? I'm sure most people who work on a PC day-in, day-out, would have the knowledge and experience to handle such an encryption package with little or no training.

Australia Post launches inbox and cloud storage for all

Captain Mainwaring

Royal Mail please note

“Australians have told us they want to be able to collect their parcels at a time and place that suits them,”

I'm sure there are millions of Brits who would wish the Royal Mail to do the same here in the UK.

A lot of people are out working during post office delivery hours and end up going to the local post office, usually the following saturday morning, to pick up their parcels anyway. Even if this service was only available to say, ten o'clock at night, for five days a week, it would make life a lot easier for the legions of internet shoppers out there who just want to get their hands on their ordered goods as soon as possible.

Perhaps under this system, the purchaser could have the facility of marking the parcel as to be picked up at the post office only, to save the postman the time in not having to deliver it to the home address. The recepient could be advised by SMS text and/or email that the parcel is available for collection at their nominated local post office.

UK Home Sec: 'I authorised biometric bypass pilot'

Captain Mainwaring

Things have moved on quite a bit

" Seeing as the vast majority of passports don't actually have biometric chips, I can't see what the problem is. "

According to the latest figures I have seen, a little over half of all current valid UK passports in circulation are indeed of the new chipped biometric type. The Passport office issue upwards of 5 million new passports a year, all of these of course are of the new biometric type. By 2016 all valid UK passports will incorporate this new technology. The equivelant figures for non UK passports may be lower, but the number of chip enabled passports in circulation around the world is increasing every day as most countries around the world now issue them as standard.

Figures aside though, the whole point of chipping passports was to make them much more difficult to forge. If immigration agencies routinely disregard this feature and just check the picture inside the cover, there seems little point in going to the bother and expense in producing tem in the first place.

UK.gov needs fresh law to protect taxpayers' ID

Captain Mainwaring

The question that nobody seems to be asking

Once this private sector operated ID assurance scheme is up and running, who is going to be paying the bill for its day-to-day usage exactly? Will it be the various government departments that hope to be using it for normal every day transactions? Or perhaps more likely, will it be the end user (ie You and I ) who is requiring access to these government services? If it is the latter, what will be the level of transaction charges payable be?

Just a thought.

ID and Passport Service uncloaks 2012 online plans

Captain Mainwaring

Slightly different direction

The National ID card may well be dead and gone and it's probably unlikely that it will ever be ressurected by this present coalition government. However don't be too surprised if forthcoming legislation doesn't promote the UK passport as a de facto National Identity document for the delivery of many public services. Nothing compulsory like, just incovenient when you don't have one at your disposal. As a majority of UK citizens already have a passport, this would prove to be a relatively non controversial option as well as providing a high level of identity assurance amongst the general population.

Cabinet Office allocates £1.6m for single government domain

Captain Mainwaring

Or even...


That's the kind of handle most people would associate with UK governments of the past 30 years.

Cabinet Office talks to Facebook & co about new ID system

Captain Mainwaring

So, right back in the beginning....

How do these various trusted personal data agencies establish the authenticity of the applicants who would wish to use their services? This part is the absolute critical element of any identity verification system, particularly one that will eventually involve all government departments, both national and local. Unless the initial enrolment system is very robust indeed, the opportunity for fraud and criminal deception could potentially be enormous. Social security and pension payments alone run into billions of pounds a year and a half-baked registration regime could provide some lucrative earnings for the criminal masterminds out there. I hope I'm wrong about this, but this does seem like a " all eggs in one basket solution" that might well become ripe for exploitation.

Google floats monthly subscriptions to Chrome OS notebooks

Captain Mainwaring

Desktop market could be key

A lot of the talk surrounding Chrome OS seems to be centred around the netbook/touchpad market, where new models seem to proliferate. There are millions of traditional desktop machines sitting around in offices, schools, homes etc, which only have basic, straightforward requirements. With more and more everyday functions being available via the web browser, there could be potentially a huge untapped market for a web only " Chromebox ."

Key to all this of course would be initial pricing point. If this type of machine was available at a significantly lower cost than a traditional desktop, corporate and home users alike with only modest requirements might see this kind of set up as viable. If the Chromebox spec also included a HDMI output and remote keyboard, perhaps there would be new untapped market in the domestic sector as well. This does of course all depend on what faith one has in Google to safely retain their data and what Google might otherwise do with that data without the owner's knowledge!

Gov will pay £2.25m compo to ID card suppliers

Captain Mainwaring

Well, look on the bright side Mr Blunkett....

At least the nation now won't have to shell out the 5 Billion quid your government said it would cost to roll out the National Identity Card scheme.

Viewed in that light, the 2.25 million pound cancellation charges seem quite a bargain.

End of the line for ID cards

Captain Mainwaring

Now Off The Agenda

With the ID card legislation now repealed and the cards themselves no longer legal tender, perhaps we can now consider this whole controversial matter as being over and consigned to the last chapter in our history books.

Unless of course, our Lords and Masters in Brussels have any different ideas.

Queen set to outlaw ID cards today

Captain Mainwaring
Thumb Up

Fits Most Pockets

Having travelled and lived abroad over many years, I can't say that I ever had a problem in transporting my passport around on my person. It seems to fit in most trouser/jacket/shirt pockets quite comfortably and is generally less obtrusive than a wallet or purse.

The new passport, although coming with enhanced security features, carries no more personal information on it than the previous model did. Speaking as a naysayer, I am quite happy that this Nu Labour Stasi card has been abolished from these Islands, even if it means our expat friends abroad have to walk around with a slightly fuller pocket than they might like.

Airport face-scan gate unilaterally imprisons traveller

Captain Mainwaring

View from Down-Under

I visited family in Australia this time last year and despite being in possesion of a recently-issued UK electronic Passport, was unable to use it through their automated border gates as they were, at the time, only set up to work with Australian/NZ e passports. Whilst standing in the rather long manned border queue, I only noticed a gaggle of confident-looking Quantas aircrew using the automated border gate facility; everybody else seemed to be studiously avoiding them.

During my stay in Oz, I read a couple of articles in the local press about the efficacy of their own home-grown borderdgate system, which according to one article, had been installed at Sydney's International airport for a few years. During the pilot trial phase, the border machines has been throwing up so many false negatives that they had to reduce the system's matching accuracy to the lowest level possible, 40% I believe, to make the system usable during busy periods. A government aviation spokesman was quoted by the paper as stating that at even 40% matching accuracy, it's performance was broadly similar to that of an experienced immigration official.

I don't know if this is typical of other such systems used in the rest of the world, but at this relatively low level of matching accuracy, I wonder if it was worth spending such large sums of money on the whole e-passport/bordergate infrastructure. Employing a few extra border personel at peak times would probably be just as effective at keeping long queues down to a minimum and come with the in built advantage of common sense and human intuition that machines cannot provide.

UK.gov fishes for ID ideas

Captain Mainwaring

Less than 5 per cent

When the DSS carried out it's own internal survey of benefit fraud a few years back, it estimated that less than 5% of benefit fraud was down to people misrepresenting their true identities. That means that a majority of the 2.5 billion pound fraud that is reckoned to be lost every year, is down to people mis-representing their personal circumstances rather than lying about who they are. On these figures, the true cost of benefit fraud deriving from uncertainty about an applicant's ID is probably in the region of a couple of hundred million pounds per year or less.