31 March 2006
Silicon Glen company Bloxx wins champions of business excellence award
Why ID Cards are pointless
So the point of the ID card isn't identity as this can be done via other means, including driving licence or passport. It seems the point of the ID card is to facilitate data sharing between government departments. But many government departments already do this. We also have a central national ID number - the national insurance number. Why can't they share data already. Is it incompetence?
It seems about the only people who can't are the police who 10+ years after Dunblane are still struggling to set up a central firearms register where they can all share information.
"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities"
These are the words of Tony Blair, in a passionate speech against Identity Cards to the 1995 Labour party conference in Brighton. Ten years later and he not only wants an ID card himself, but wants us all scanned, fingerprinted and registered on the largest biometric database in the world.
The Identity Card Bill allows for the introduction of compulsory Identity Cards for all. Though it will be compulsory, we will have to pay for the card, and pay every time our details change, such as a change in address. If we dont keep the authorities informed of such changes, we will be fined.
ID Cards wont tackle identity fraud, crime or any of the high-profile problems the Government has claimed they will address. Charles Clarke has said that he doubted that ID cards would have protected London from the terrorist attack of July 7th.
They will be a huge waste of money (both in terms of public tax and straight from our pockets). They will change our society and the way we live, forever.
30 March 2006
1. Car lanes for the exclusive use of cars that don't guzzle gas (e.g. £100 car tax a year or less)
2. Preference car parking spaces in town centres for more environmentally friendly cars, you get into the preference section via a camera scanning your tax disc to raise a barrier.
3. Different toll rates on bridges. After all the damage to the bridge varies with the weight of the car, so smaller cars with lower tax values should pay a lower rate to use the bridge.
4. Cheaper meter rates for parking in towns for smaller cars to cut down on rush hour pollution. You register your number plate via a mobile, the computer looks up your tax code and the meter prints the ticket accordingly and includes your number plate on the parking ticket.
Any other potential uses?
Web 2.0 CV and Skills Tracker
The Great Mystery of Online Ticket Purchase
So why does noone complain about the same silly practice when you buy tickets online? You go to the SECC site, you see the ticket prices and then when you go to buy them there's a 10% mandatory admin fee. What value is this to the consumer? If the admin fee is mandatory would it not be a lot simpler all round if it was just incorporated into the ticket price to start with? Noone is denying the venue a fair living, but why make it complicated for the consumer?
I found another site (not the SECC) which indulged in this practice of last minute mandatory surcharges on tickets and informed trading standards about it. The response was
I am the officer assigned to investigate your complaint. I have viewed the site and as a result have concerns about the pricing methods used on the site.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 is quite specific concerning additional charges made once a price has been displayed. Consumers should not be given price indications, which subsequently increase when they try to pay for the goods or services. It is my intention to pass details of this issue to the Trading Standards office based near xxxx's head office. That office should then be able to raise this matter with xxxx on my behalf.
Good. Maybe a few other sites could pay attention? Simple pricing works best.
29 March 2006
Car parking spaces
Is there a European Standard for this?
While I'm at it, why are so many business parks built with such woeful public transport and inadequate parking? Maybe someone could do something imaginative like have half the car park allocated for cars with tax discs of £100 or less. That way the gas gusslers can fight it out for the few remaining spaces whilst the greener cars can enjoy being able to park near to where the driver needs to be.
Fake money alert, please take notice
ID Card sellout
Beyond the spam filter
Equal rights for male health
28 March 2006
27 March 2006
Anti spam software
Scottish National Anthem
What Tim Berners-Lee would do differently
Want to catch the next wave on the Internet?
I was wondering if there was anyone reading this who is either:
- Prepared to invest in building a prototype of a novel application/web site or
- Prepared to work for equity in building the same
This is a technology that a large search engine might find useful to greatly improve the quality of their searches in certain areas. It also empowers content publishers to achieve more with less time and significantly less expense. If successful, it will greatly improve the usability of many websites.
Particular technologies of interest are:
Some experience of building user friendly client side applications, especially C++ is also likely to be of use.
Brownie points for those of you who have submitted a digg frontpage story or know what microformats are or have had code published on userscripts.org
E-mail me if you are interested.
26 March 2006
Scotland is now smoke free by law
Read my submission to parliament on this.
read more | digg story.
25 March 2006
24 March 2006
A small victory for privacy
So I became a bit disturbed by the increasing number of websites which were making this information mandatory. The Third Principle of the Data Protection Act concerning excess data for the purpose seems to have passed by such sites. Forthcoming legislation to outlaw age discrimination seems to be the cause. Rather than recognising that age is irrelevant and not asking it, agencies seem to be going into reverse and making it mandatory to ensure that they aren't discriminating based on age. The contradiction is that if they aren't supposed to be discriminating based on ethnic origins, race or religion why is this information still optional? Clearly any such statistical gathering, to be in line with the 3rd principle of the data protection act, must be relevant and not excessive for the purpose. If it is really necessary to gather info on age, then this must be volunteered and also an approximate age range is sufficient. The main problem with submitting age, name, address and so on via a form is the great majority of sites do not use a secure page to do so. If you wouldn't submit your credit card details on an insecure page, why would you want to do so with the exact info that someone comittting identity theft would love to get their hands on?
I am pleased to say that my lobbying on this matter has caused the Department of Work and Pensions to review their guidance in this area. Whilst not perfect, you can now read the amended guidelines on their website here.
22 March 2006
For goodness sake just get rid of this nonsense and all those irritating TV adverts at the same time. Collect the tax through petrol taxation and have an MOT/insurance disc instead (like Ireland). It's far more effective and safer proving that your car is MOTsd and insured every time your take it on the road than only having to prove it once to go through the car tax beaurocracy.
A new search for Scottish Accommodation
The most comprehensive Scottish accommodation search on the Internet.
21 March 2006
Freedom of speech contradiction
Press digs in over freedom of speech re Islamic cartoons
Am I the only one who notices the apparant contradiction here or does freedom of speech only apply with regard to some faiths and not others?
A morning teaching Gaelic
One unexpected mnemonic was "Martian lad" for "mar sin leat". In any case I have put the material online here incase anyone else might find it useful:
It's more aimed at the upper ages of primary school but the songs went down well with the younger ones, especially the puirt a beul.
Something like this could form a useful model for rolling out across more English medium in schools in Scotland, to counter the widespread ignorance of the language.
20 March 2006
Courtesy title madness
Their reply back opened with "Dear Mr Cockburn..."
I guess they missed the point. :-)
For a more detailed argument read Courtesy Titles.
15 years - Scottish events in London
16 March 2006
14 March 2006
The Last Guide to Smoke Free Scotland
13 March 2006
Dunblane, 10 years, ID cards.
10 years on, two things strike me. One is that after my father died 2 years ago and who I wrote about above, he is now buried near the garden of remembrance. The tragedy of 10 years ago is a regular reminder to us when we visit his grave. In the 10 years that have passed we have got
married and had a family. Our children, now about the age that the children were that day enjoy playing in the fountain set up in the garden of remembrance. We were told that this was no Diana memorial, it was supposed to be a place where children could play. How could I have
imagined that 10 years on my own family would become connected to this tragedy in such a way.
The other is the ongoing lack of a national gun register. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-2070882,00.html. One of the earliest promises by Tony Blair in 1997 after being elected, the Scottish forces set up a central database in 1998, two years after the shootings. 2006 and 10 years on from the tragedy "IT difficulties" in England and Wales have prevented it from being implemented and were as still only talking about having pilots. I can't understand why the Scottish forces can get their act together so quickly, yet despite personal support from the Prime Minister we are still waiting for a UK
wide solution nearly 10 years later. As someone who works as an IT consultant, I know it shouldn't take this long. The UK government is famous for its IT failures and this is just another in a long line (and we still have ID cards to look forward to)
Whilst Tony Blair did good to introduce the legislation banning guns, I think serious questions need to be asked this week about why something which ought to be simple and which could help prevent crime and further loss of innocent life should be taking so long and if it is Tony Blair
that should be asked at Prime Ministers Questions then so be it.
This Government appears to have little or no ability to carry out major IT projects, as the gun register has shown. The Lords are right to keep knocking back the Identity Cards Bill. It would be a misuse of the Parliament Act to override them, and a misuse of public funds. Will this be Tony Blair's Poll Tax?