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December 2010

Hasta La Vista, UK National Biometric ID (Dec. 22, 2010)
Just in time for the holidays: Britain is scrapping its controversial national identification card, as my story from yesterday's InformationWeek details. At least, for British nationals. Us foreigners still get to cart it around, together with our passport.

Interestingly, I last covered the national ID card story for Wired News in 2004, when living in France. Back then, various groups were surveying the citizenry to gauge their impressions of having a national ID card. The verdict: "Fine, as long as we don't have to pay for it." Of course, as with any government program, you pay for it. The London School of Economics estimated that the total cost would come to £10 billion to £20 billion ($16 million to $31 million).

The current government estimates that eliminating the cards -- a cornerstone of their 2010 campaigning platform -- will save at least £1 billion over the next 10 years. But why not eliminate the ID cards for everyone? "Do the principles that led to the scrapping of ID cards for EU citizens not apply to those other legal residents?" Phil Booth, national coordinator of campaign group NO2ID, told Kable.

November 2010

Goodbye Berries, Hello Christmas (November 10, 2010)
The UK only has two seasons: Berries & Christmas. At least that's the theory advanced by my friend Meredith, an American expat with 4 years under her belt in England, and who's no slouch in the analytical department.

Current evidence says she's right: the local strawberries and especially raspberries in the grocery shops are out (or in from South America). Instead, cue Christmas candy displays, especially from Cadburys, reaching the aisles in full force. Plus Christmas play advertisements for children. Kids in the coffee shops planning their Christmas pageant (St. Andrews has a divinity school). Plus of course, that chill in the air.

Unlike the States, the UK benefits from no Thanksgiving firewall between summertime and Christmastime -- not even that glorious ode to pyrotechnics, Guy Fawkes Night (aka "let's celebrate never having had a revolution!") slows down the countdown to Father Christmas arriving. Halloween is a slight buffer, but again in the UK lacks its Stateside forcefulness. (Don't tell that to the neighbor kids who shook me down for candy.) Thus, we're now in the lead-iup to Christmastime.

St Andrews Priory at nightSt Andrews at Night (November 8, 2010)
Specifically, St Andrews Cathedral Priory, the night of a full moon. The inaugural image for my St Andrews gallery. (And well worth lugging the Bogen tripod on a cold night.)

Score +2 For Security (November 6, 2010)
Not keeping score, but it's always pleasant to open my daily emailed Google search for "computer security" and find one of my stories at the top, for the second day in a row. Hello.

Unless Google -- knowing who I am -- is serving me myself as some kind of crazy search-engine-self-fulfillment paradigm?

Aerial Fife (November 1, 2010)
Life in the sky: Not only got to take pictures from a single-engine airplane flying over Perth, Leuchars, St Andrews, the Old Course, Lundin Links, but also to take the stick -- and rudders -- and drive. First time, never mind being at 2,000 feet under my own control. File under "thrilling." Photos soon.

October 2010

Schwartz on Security: New Column (October 21, 2010)
It's official, I'm now a "brand" (and what a brand, at that), for US technology publication InformationWeek, starting with today's column on whether the Apple App Store model might make a good way to keep computers more secure. It's an open question. In the meantime, review my thinking: Can Apple Minimalism Stop Botnets?

September 2010

Yorkshire DalesLive From Scotland, via York (September 30, 2010)
Crazy couple of months. Moved to Scotland. Getting settled. Still filing 2 information security stories per day for InformationWeek and keeping up the other work. Updates, obviously, have been scarce.

In the meantime, I've added new pictures to my photo gallery from my recent visit to Yorkshire, including the Yorkshire Dales (seen at right), using the famous "shooting from the open window of a moving car" technique. If the scenery makes you think "James Herriot" and settings for the television series "All Creatures Great and Small," then you've got your locales correct.

The city of York, a former major hub of commerce and learning, is itself impressive, in no small part for the amazing York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Also "must see" is the nearby Rievaulx Abbey, a former Cistercian abbey. Quite posh in its day, it was "dissolved" (read: roof removed and monks "evicted") under the orders of Henry VIII of England. Some to-do over religion.

Jogging Manchester (September 23, 2010)
Brief dash to Manchester for a few days. Putting my new vacation routine into practice: jogging while away. I'm 8 weeks into the "couch to 5k" interval training program, courtesy of free podcasts on my iPod Shuffle from Robert Ullrey. Highly recommended. And a great way to clear the head while away, especially around the lovely Chorlton Water Park, with a one-mile loop and within shouting distance of the fantastic Jackson's Boat pub.

August 2010

Loro Parque dolphin show audience participationTravel in Tenerife for Fox (August 12, 2010)
My new travel story on Tenerife, including photos, runs this week, rounding up:

  • Loro Parque parrot and dolphin park (pictured)
  • How do dine like a Spaniard
  • Details on papas arrugadas and other addictive Canarian cuisine
  • Tenerife's pyramids in the town of Güímar
  • The best beaches

Or, for more Tenerife photos, see my travel photo gallery.

Wait a second, Fox News? Yes, Fox News, which in the UK typically provokes the reaction of, "Those blinder-wearing nutters? The ones who think tea involves guns?"

My response is that in the U.S. there's the Fox News cable channel (just a little rabid). Then there's Fox News, which runs on the Fox affiliates -- producers of The Simpsons, Glee, Fringe, and so on -- in major cities, which compete with ABC, CBS and NBC, among others. Regular old Fox News is more like an ITV (for British readers). The cable channel? Different beast.

July 2010

Wikileaks tests feasibility of government data security (July 28, 2010)
Bureaucracy, by its nature, generates records, and in the information age, arguably more records than ever before, together with the ability to disseminate many more at one time.

Put that all together, and with WikiLeaks, will government data ever be secret again? That's the question posed by my story in today's InformationWeek.

Beach on ZdrilcaSome like it hot and pebbly (July 13, 2010)
Craving some affordable sand and sun? Think Croatia. Never mind that the beaches are mostly made of pebbles and rocks. Croatia’s islands, off the coast of Dalmatia, make for a singular beach getaway that won’t wreck your budget. No matter what you need as a traveler -- non-stop windsurfing, family-friendly outings, or topless sunbathing -- your biggest problem likely will be picking which beach you ought to visit first. (Story features my photography as well.)

For more Croatia photography, see my photo gallery.

May 2010

Blvd Republique, ParisLive like a Parisian (May 25, 2010)
What's the best part about living in Paris? Having lived in France for two years, I get that question a lot. So here's an answer: Try living like a Parisian, whether for 2 weeks or 2 years. In words and photos.

For more Paris photographs, see my photo gallery.

Back from vacation (May 24, 2010)
Just returned from holiday/vacation—two weeks State-side, visiting family in Pennsylvania. As well as the excellent Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA in New York. Heading straight into a photography lighting seminar in Birmingham, then will be back at work. Ah, the wonders of jet lag.

On the security beat (May 4, 2010)
New freelance gig: Reporting information security news daily for InformationWeek. First story ran yesterday: China Missing From Top Spammers List.

March 2010

Via Arco Della PaceRoman Holiday: 10 Highlights (March 18, 2010)
Just back from a needed getaway—and it happened to be Rome. Highlights:

  • Gelato: Or as one consumer put it, "This ice cream is magic."
  • Cult of espresso: Why is it just so much better in Italy than anywhere else?
  • Rental apartments: Why go hotel when you can get 2 bed/2 bath for about the same cost from Romecityapartments.com?
  • Madonna: Hearing "Papa Don't Preach" on the radio in Arlú, a restaurant on Borgo Pia, a five-minute walk from the Vatican.
  • #16 bus: Minibus able to navigate even the tiniest of car-ready ancient Roman streets, which ferried us away from the zoo during a downpour.
  • Grano Ristorante: Wonderful, funky restaurant find.
  • Kid-friendly Romans: From every waiter and shop attendant encountered to even the largest, burliest, most imposing Italian airport security agent ("cootchy-coo!").
  • Vino della casa: How to drink decent wine without spending a fortune on dinner. Or lunch.
  • Hag: Decaf espresso brand with potential English-speaking-market crossover issues.
  • Colline Emiliane: Airy, semi-opaque pumpkin ravioli the consistency of a poached egg. "Mom's" tiramisu, similarly light, with blueberries and raspberries in the cream (custard), over cake with just a suggestion of Frangelico. Also winner of the "Best Parmesan Pot" award.
  • Rough Guide Rome: Nailed it. (See "Colline Emilliane.")

Check out my Rome photo gallery for more.

Now on my travel wish list? The rest of Italy.

New content? Just in time for St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2010)
Finally getting up and running with links to new—that is, linkable—content. (Good times for consulting gigs. But slow times for journalism gigs.)

Next up: The Rise of Self-Encrypting Drives, a story about the new generation of hard drives for PCs and laptops that encrypt themselves when deactivated. Soon, we'll all have one. Just not yet.

January 2010

Slight "snow event" (January 6, 2010)
Happy 2010. English weather is celebrating, if you will, by dumping lots and lots of hard, packing snow on the southeast (after already sweeping Scotland). Picturesque, it is.

In fact, reminds me of my childhood in Chicago. Or the record 37.9 inches of snow that fell on Buffalo in just 24 hours in early December 1995, when I lived there. With one crucial difference: both of those cities had snowplows.

More: 2009 Updates


Mathew Schwartz
Mat@PenandCamera.com