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Monday, December 22, 2003

Christmas Chaos

Well the traffic in town is as bad as I can remember it, the shops are just mad and everybody is rushing around like headless turkeys. I, however, have finished my Christmas shopping and plan to blog right up to when I go away on Boxing Day.

We all had an e-mail this morning from the IT Protection Unit at the National Assembly. They told us that 'The National Grid' has expressed concerns that there is a possibility of intermittent electricity blackouts across the UK over the Christmas period. In an effort to reduce the potential risk of damage to Assembly servers, it has been agreed that BISD will instruct SBS to power down all OSIRIS servers across the whole of the Assembly estate. The power down will start on Christmas Eve and the servers will be started up again on Sunday 28 December in time for our return to the office the following day. All services will be affected.

I suspect that this caused quite a bit of consternation, not least for those staff working on Christmas Eve who would not be able to access their computers. I was a bit upset at being deprived of the opportunity of sending out a press release on Christmas Day but the biggest puzzle was the prediction of "intermittent electricity blackouts across the UK" - why? Has the bug that hit the USA earlier this year now infiltrated Britain? Surely, if we were going to have demand-led blackouts we would have had them by now just from the huge amount of electricity being consumed by the Christmas lights currently adorning every street in Britain (I blame the Coca Cola advert of a few years back for this trend of excessive lighting). Maybe the authorities are expecting terrorist attacks on our power supply. The whole thing is just too bizarre.

Anyway, precisely five hours and thirty minutes later a second e-mail wings it way around the Assembly. It now seems that we will have networked computers over Christmas after all. The servers are being allowed to run on because "after advice from the Chief Technology Officer it has been decided that the threat of the National Grid shutting down does not affect Wales." What?! Where does it affect then and why is Wales immune? Is an exercise planned over Christmas in countering a terrorist threat that is leading to these selective blackouts? Or am I just getting carried away with conspiracy theories and the whole thing one big cock-up? The more I think about it, the less sense it makes. Coming soon to you, an intermittent blackout, unless you live in Wales. It will be like 1972-3 and the three day week all over again. Ideas anybody?

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