Archive for Musings

Open Source Banking

Matt Mullenweg muses about starting his own bank and goes into some detail about how the open source philosophy could work in this area. While WordPress development isn’t about to stop and financial investments start, it’s certainly food for thought.

As Matt said at WordCamp UK

For everything good in your life there should be an open source alternative

Open source banking is surely just another step along this road.

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End of a Halifax era

Six years ago I wrote the Halifax College website when I sat on the college committee. Since then, I have left the University of York and gained a degree at another university but throughout that time my old website has been kept in use, different content, different webmaster, but still the same design and code.

This week sees the launch of a new site in it’s entirety, code, design the works. The site is still hosted on my server which is why you will see a link to this blog on the bottom of the site but apart from that it’s now entirely out of my hands.

In some way I’m sad to see it change but 6 years is a very good run for a site design/back-end without any changes and it was only right that full control should pass from the hands of an old alumni into fresh ownership, after all I think you’ll agree that the new look is rather pleasing to the eye.

Anyone interested in what the site used to look like when I ran it, can check it’s internet archive entry.

Halifax Online is dead, long live Halifax Online!

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Sherbet Fountains

Sherbet FountainI was in a sweet shop in York last weekend (I have a sweet tooth, I just can’t resist) and I overheard someone say that the traditional sherbet fountains are going to be removed from sale in the near future for “health and safety reasons”. This is apparently despite acknowledgements from all parties concerned that no harm has ever come to anyone through the fact the liquorice is open to the air.

Day by day I hear of more ludicrous actions being taken in the name of health and safety which merely seem to reduce our enjoyment of life. Sherbet fountains have been around my entire life and I remember buying them as a child. Not only that but my parents remember buying them as children. Bureaucrats and paranoid health officials shouldn’t be allowed to meddle.

Anyone unacquainted with my views on health and safety and it’s run-away tendency to mess with every part of our lives in ways that spoil our freedom and enjoyment should consult one of my past articles, “Health & Safety rules must die”

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Swindon Council Again

So following on from my last debacle with Swindon Borough Council concerning parking, I figured I would have more luck getting a visitors permit for my parents to park outside my house for the day. After all, I’d already gone through the agony of getting a residents permit for myself (which involved queuing for an hour and presenting 2 forms of id and the registration details of my car) so my details were already on the system with a valid permit.

How wrong I was though. When I arrived in the council offices this morning it was all very quiet and I got straight to the parking services desk. That’s about the only thing that went well. I asked them for a visitors permit and gave my current details which they pulled up on the computer. They then said that although I was entitled to a visitors permit, they wouldn’t give me one unless I gave them a bank statement. I replied that I didn’t have one with me and besides, they already knew I lived at the address and that I had my own car parked there so what was the problem. They said, and get this, “people who rent move out all the time and so we have to check the permit holder still lives there first”.

Well to debunk their reasoning. Firstly, I’ve hardly ever seen a housing contract that doesn’t last for at least 6 months. Secondly, the council won’t give you a permit that lasts more than 6 months if you rent. Deduction; I couldn’t possibly have a parking permit with 3 months left on it if I wasn’t still paying rent on the house the permit is registered to, ergo, I must still live there, or be foolishly throwing money down the drain on a property I don’t live in, but either way, still entitled to permits for guests.

To be honest I’m not surprised that people move out all the time when the council treats them like that, after all, not all councils around the country are tight fisted enough to make you pay to park outside your own house let alone prohibit your guests from doing so through a pointless bureaucratic process. Anyone would think I’d asked to park outside of Buckingham Palace, not down some random street in a railway town in Wiltshire.

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Domain Details Annoyance

The other day I received a complaint concerning one of my domain names due to “inaccurate contact details being shown on the WHOIS”. The issue, or should I say non-issue seemed to be that some clever chap had noticed that the phone number I had displayed alongside my Swindon address was a Leeds one and thus had decided that one or other of the pieces of information must be bogus.

Clearly this individual wasn’t clever enough however as if he was he would have realised that in these modern days of VOIP and SIP lines, geographic numbers are in fact available to those who subsequently relocate outside of the original area in which the number was registered. Indeed had he called the phone number he would have found it alive and well. Techies 1 – 0 n00bs

Still, to appease the burocrats at ICANN I have now changed the number to a non-geographic 0845 number. This will sadly increase the cost for anyone calling but when certain individuals insist on making spurious claims, what else can a legitimate domain owner do?

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Council Parking Confusion

So my residents parking permit is up for renewal and the council send me a letter informing me of this along with a form to renew it and a summary of the various options for payment. I fill out the form, enclose a cheque and trudge out through the snow one evening to put it in the post.

Given the simplicity of the process and the fact I had followed the instructions enclosed with the renewal notice to the letter, I was surprised to get a phone call today citing a problem. I was even more surprised to discover what the problem was.

It would appear that the occupant of the basement flat below my house has also recently decided to avail of a parking permit, except instead of giving his address as the flat he gave it as the house. For reasons unknown to me they allowed him to do this even though I already had a permit.

The result of this confusion was that I was called to say that I couldn’t renew my permit because there was already one issued for the house; I would have to pay twice as much for a second permit as I was a second occupier requiring a second permit.

I replied that I’d love to know who else was secretly living in my house and buying parking permits for it as I certainly hadn’t seen anyone. I demanded that they process my renewal and do so promptly as they had only condescended to send me the renewal forms two weeks before the expiry of the old permit. They said they would “Look into it” and before I had a chance to say anything else they hung up. I would have phoned them back but they had withheld their number.

All I can say is that I shan’t be paying any more than what I already have and that if they screw this up and I end up getting parking fines because of their failure to renew promptly and correctly I shan’t even be writing them a letter, I will be passing the issue straight to the small claims court. What with the lack of rubbish collections and running out of grit for the roads, I’m pretty damn sick of Swindon Borough Council at the moment.

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No Rubbish Collection

We’ve had a fair bit of snow in Swindon this week but I’ve been braving it all pretty well and have made it into work every day. One of the best days weather and traffic wise was Wednesday with most people making it into work.

How annoyed was I then to come home on Wednesday evening to find that neither my recycling nor my conventional waste had been collected and my street was filled with rubbish sacks on account of residents believing the better weather would result in a collection.

Combine this with the council running out of grit on Friday leaving roads slippery and just darn right dangerous, I think I have a fair claim to have a quarter of my months council tax refunded!

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Blog Statistics 2008

Seeing as we’re easing into a new year I’ve been taking a little time out to look at the 2008 statistics for my website. I’ve collated the most interesting of these and narrated them a little to put them in context.

  • I’ve received more than 120 times as much spam in the comments boxes as I have legitimate discussion over the last year
  • Twice as many comments have been made on the site as I have posted articles, making each post worth, on average, two comments from readers
  • I’ve made slightly over 1 post every two days
  • This site has consistently appeared first in Google when the search term “Kieran O’Shea” is used, second when “Kieran” is entered
  • My blog received over 500,000 hits during the year and on average over 300 unique visitors per day
  • More readers used RSS to consume my content rather than visiting the articles directly, with over 50% of traffic being comprised of requests for my feed links
  • The most popular time of day to read newly posted articles in 2008 was between 7 and 8 pm
  • In terms of refering sites, the most traffic was sent my way by Leeds RAG
  • Apart from my name or variants thereof the search term “hubble” sent the most readers my way from search engines
  • Despite my Linux leanings Windows and Internet Explorer remained the most popular operating system and browser amongst my readers

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End of year train journey

It’s the last day of 2008 and I’m heading up to Leeds to enjoy a New Years Eve party with all my friends from the School of Computing and I’m sure many others too. As the train hurtles through the foggy December countryside I can’t help but contemplate how little of our own country I’ve actually seen.

There are certain environments in which I find my mind wandering more than others and seeing the fog swirl amongst the distant trees and farm houses loom up out of the distance as the train passes really strikes a chord with me.

I knew I remembered someone else mentioning to me about the significance of watching scenery pass through a train window but couldn’t put my finger on who. Seeing as I had the rest of the journey to find out I delved into my e-mails and realised that it was Roger, who some way into my final year project, sent me a link to a wonderful website called Passing By.

The site shows a number of videos of scenes viewed though a train window and it allows you to change the direction in which you view it such that you can effectively change the side of the train you are sitting on. Its not quite as captivating as sitting on a train yourself and watching the world fly by, but it certainly is well worth a look.

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Closed Snicket

At the end of my street there is a convenient snicket, just wide enough to allow a car to pass through, that affords me easy access to the main road and when I get there, an easier right or left turn than if I had used the proper route.

Sadly road works are currently taking place at the end of my street and have blocked access to the snicket. I realised this yesterday morning when I tried to use it to get to work. I was forced to go the long way round and wait 5 minutes for a gap in both sides of the traffic so I could turn right. I hope these works are soon finished as driving out of my street is so much more painful without this lifesaver of a cut through.

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