Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 3/3/2003Blip! Blip! Blip! That's the sound...
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor
Monday 3/3/2003
Blip! Blip! Blip! That's the sound... the sound of freedom. To be more precise, it's the sound of a military radar. We've got lots of those in the UK whirring away. Some of them, says the Ministry of Defence, are on the same frequency as the new 802.11a wireless network. That's bad, and thus we should be denied a slice of the band -- at the least, be forced to tell them where we are before we're allowed to use it. How daft can you get? Any military radar that can be jammed by a laptop network card costing a few quid is not a military radar I'd trust. On that basis, all Saddam has to do is put a bulk order into PC World's Web site for a handful of Wireless Lan Adaptors Of Mass Destruction, and that'll be an end to it all. As for us telling the MoD where our networks are -- for heaven's sake, Colonel Blip! This is a laptop: it's designed to move around the place. Should I call you before or after I get on the bus? And can't they tell where the transmitters are? Even in World War II, you couldn't shove an aerial out of the bedroom window and send "Black Fox calling Pink Vixen" for more than two seconds before the chaps with Lugers were at the door demanding to see your licence. We shouldn't expect any more of the MoD. They're blithering idiots with a track record of enormous incompetence in matters technical. It's taken them 20 years and tens of millions of pounds to fail to provide the army with working Bowman radios -- walkie-talkies, in other words. Some of the RAF's planes lack so many basic safety and navigation aids that they have to get special dispensation to fly in European airspace. As for frequency management -- when the Home Office asked them what, exactly, they were using all their allocated gigahertz of bandwidth for, the MoD had to admit that it didn't actually know. At least that's better than "You can't do that, and we won't say why," which is what you normally get. Daft, I call it. In any case, once 802.11a cards become common in this country people will use them how they like and no brass-bound edict from an over-promoted Wingco will stop it. They must shut up and go away until they've proved their ability to do simple things, like ordering guns that won't jam, boots that won't melt and toilet paper that arrives. The UK troops in the Gulf aren't just known as the Borrowers because of their shortage of kit, but as the Flintstones because what they have got is so outdated. The whole mess is a grotesque scandal, and we should march on Whitehall with pitchforks and burning brands to evict the purple-arsed baboons who dwell therein. Only when they've fled naked to the hills and we've installed some perfectly competent secretaries from Temps 'R' Us to run the place can we hope to make progress. Gah!
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