Friday 23 November 2007

Dodgy procedures

The government are saying that the Child Benefit data went missing because procedures weren't followed. It seems to me that means the procedures weren't adequate.

But, here's a much, much, much more scary example of insanely lax procedures. Thank your lucky stars it wasn't one of these nukes that got "lost in the post".

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Who do you trust?

The Inland Revenue have lost two disks with financial information about 7.5 million families - 25 million people. That's 40% of the UK's population.

They contain the "name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details" of every family in the UK that claims child benefit.

Lost in the post, on the way to the National Audit Office, who "audit the accounts of all central government departments and agencies…, and report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which they have used public money."

They were using what they call the "internal post" - a function that they've outsourced to private couriers TNT. Were they the lowest bidder for the contract? That's great value, eh?

I digress. My real point is that this is the same government that want to put all your key data onto a central database to back the national ID card scheme. All these organisations might want to verify your ID. Every time they do, their request will be logged against your name. Some day, a criminal organisation, or a dishonest person in an trusted organisation, will get access to this database.

Wednesday 14 November 2007


A post from my iPhone. It's a marvellous thing, with a real web browser, and a great mail client.

Monday 12 November 2007

Cancelling phone books

We never use the phone book, or yellow pages. And, they're hard to recycle. So, I thought I'd have a go at cancelling them.

It turns out to be very easy. Each has a phone number for ordering extra copies printed in the front. It turns out that the people at the other end are happy to cancel deliveries, too.

The numbers are 0800-833-400 for the phone book, and 0800-671-400 for yellow pages. It only takes a minute.

Online services are available at the Yellow Pages web site and BT's web site for personal and business numbers

Encouraged by this (apparent) success, I thought I'd try to opt out of Royal Mail's junk mail delivery service. They call it "unaddressed mail". It turns out you have to email They'll post you a form to fill out. There's no phone service, for "security" reasons.

For addressed junk mail, you can register with the mail preference service. Funnily enough, these people (who pay to send you junk mail) don't regard this as a security problem! Here, you can register your own name, that of a previous occupier, your own previous address, or the name of someone who has died. They also run the Telephone Preference Service, and the Fax Preference Service. We've been registered with these three services for years, and get little junk mail, and hardly any marketing calls.

Thursday 8 November 2007

End of oil

Two publications are reporting on energy security concerns today. Both Wired - The End of Oil is Upon Us. We Must Move On - Quickly. and the Financial Times - Act now to avoid an energy crunch cover the latest World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency.

Essentially, they say that unchecked growth in China and India will increase global oil consumption and CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, forcing oil prices up and increasing climate change.

They conclude "The emergence of China and India as major players in global energy markets makes it all the more important that allcountries take decisive and urgent action to curb runaway energy demand...Many of the policies available to alleviate energy insecurity can also help to mitigate local pollution and climate change, and many cases, those policies bring economic benefits too, by lowering energy costs – a 'triple-win' outcome."

Monday 5 November 2007

Heating timer

Since we moved in here, we've laboured under the impression that it wouldn't be easy to replace our central heating timer. It's one of those old mechanical dial devices - a Danfoss Randall 102 to be precise. It turns out that Danfoss still make these things, and they also make two electronic timers can can be direct plugin replacements. You just unscrew the old one, and slot the new one in place. There's a 5+2 day timer (102e5) and a 7 day timer (102e7).

So, I've ordered a Danfoss Randall 102e7, which will allow us much better control over our heating. For example, there's one day a week that we're both out. We'll no longer have to remember to switch the heating off on that day. It'll save us time and gas, and C02 emissions for very little outlay.   

Energy prices

I notice that petrol has topped £1 per litre at a couple of filling stations locally. I wonder whether they'll start to shoot up now that that barrier has been broken. Crude oil prices have gone up by 50% in the past year (from $60 to $90 a barrel), and the petrol retail industry has seen margins cut heavily...