Thursday, 27 April 2017

Smartphone Smarter Than You?

Is Your Smartphone Smarter Than You?

The chances are that you have in you handbag or pocket a smartphone. The problems is - that sometimes the smartphones turn out to be more sophisticated and smarter than us.  Things you do online and offline can put you at risk of identity theft and other types of fraud.

A few years ago in a past life, I wrote a handout for students for securing internet 'Access Points and Routers'. At that time - the buzz was 'Out-of-the-Box' or 'Plug-and-Play' The idea being that anybody could take a device, plug it in to the phone line and the mains then without any knowledge whatsoever be able to use it.

People at the time were often left wondering why their internet charges from their internet service providers were so high. They did not know it, but they were a fraud victim.  They had experienced what was known at the time as a 'Drive-By-Attack'. Except that the bill payer had no idea that their Internet connection was compromised.

The problem was to make the system 'foolproof' the manufacturer of routers and access points provided the device with a set of default security settings. The Administrators account was usually called 'Admin' and often the account password was 'Password'. They were all the same and if you did not change the default settings. Anyone within range of your router, with a little bit of knowledge could login using the admin account and the default password.
They could then use the victims internet for free  then when they were leaving, delete information from the device connection record. Including their MAC Address and other information. Things today are much better and the first time set-up configuration application, as a bare minimum prompts for a user defined admin password to be set.
Smartphones by comparison are much better protected than the old routers and access points ever were. However, smartphones are much more complex. (including GPS, still camera, video camera, games console as well as being a telephone) Whilst most modern smartphones do have good security settings. Some security features have to be turned on and in some cases configured.

The consumer magazine 'Which' has published a PDF document that can be downloaded. Targeted at the two most popular types of Smartphone.  It has a great deal of information on protecting you, your personal information and your smartphone from being compromised.

The most popular Smartphone is based on the Android system. Click Here to download

The other one is based upon the less popular Apple smartphone system. Click Here to download

There is also another 'Which' document on protecting yourself from financial scammers. Click Here to download

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Red Diesel Conundrum

In the Spring Budget, the government announced that it would be issuing a call for evidence on the use of red diesel. This is so that the government understand how, where and why red diesel is used throughout the country. Red diesel (rebated diesel) sales account for about 14 percent of all forms of diesel sold. The vast majority of sales is commercial farming and forestry. However diesel sold for domestic and propulsion on boats is also significant.

There is a popular Brexit myth in boating circles that leaving the EU would mean the duty would automatically be removed and duty free red diesel would extend to propulsion once more. Governments are notorious for collecting tax and duty. Because diesel is now seen as a 'Dirty Fuel' and the need to improve 'clean alternatives' the government will be minded to increase duty to reduce use.

While the original sales of red diesel were duty free. Then as a result of changes at HMRC a derogation was granted for domestic use for heating. This brought about the ubiquitous 60/40 duty split. There is no call for keeping the 60/40 split and there is a good chance that HMRC will bring red and white under the same duty charge. Therefore the boaters as individuals and collectively as associations and trusts. Need to ensure some input into the collation of the evidence.

More information can be downloaded. Click Here

You can have your say by email:

You can also have your say by snail mail: Red Diesel, Energy and Transport Tax Team, Business and International Tax Group, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ

Friday, 2 September 2016

Murdoch Media - click bait.

Finding, checking and telling the real news - from Murdoch Media - click bait.

Like an increasing number of British people. I gather much of my news sources from Facebook and Twitter. I am sure that these aren't the best sources, but because of the untrustworthiness of the media in the UK, that is today's reality. Especially if you believe that truth, transparency, balance and accuracy are important factors. The ability to separate real information from lets say satire or propaganda is a critical core skill. Especially as we are seeing now - every year is a Labour Party leadership election year.

Thongs evolve and change over time. Now that the media is increasingly being forced away from print and output is moving over to the web. Print copies numbers are being replaced by click count. Now known on the web - coequally as click-bait. We all from time to time create a link to an on-line article or news report. Especially when this item is supportive to our interests or cause. However, its important that we, the readership, discourage propaganda and disinformation from being spread. The media lies and half truths that's simply designed to outrage in the desire to propagate propaganda and to acquire website 'clicks' for the media.

Today, truth in the 'news' is an elusive item - even on social networks, where anything goes and 'facts' are almost never fact checked. So, rather than provide a link, for even more - click bait numbers – why not cut and paste the pertinent bits into a posting of your own. You can also provide your personal viewpoint - backed up with your own fact checking endeavours.

Now that the media is split across newsprint and web content. Its essential to understand what is happening and how you can avoid the click-bait trap. For years the print media has had to report the number of copies sold. (Advertising charges are often calculated from circulation figures) 
In 2010 the Sun's daily circulation figures were 3,006,565 by 2016 this had fallen dramatically to 1,787,096. The Sun was deserted by 1,200,000 readers. I imagine that the intrusive, phone hacking. Plus the unrelenting media pillorying of the McCann and Dowler families - went some way towards accelerating this trend. Hated by a whole area of the nation (Merseyside) for its horrendous coverage of the disaster at Hillsborough.

The Daily Mail in 2010, the circulation figures were 2,120,347 however by 2016 the figures had fallen to 1,589,471. That is a fall of over 600,000 copies. This in no small way being prompted by the public renaming as the Daily Fail or even the Daily Wail. 
In the same time period, even the Daily Mirror, has fallen from 1,218,425 to a low of 809,147.

The availability of multimedia news platforms around the world, has also accelerated this decline in the 21st century. By the close of 2014, not a single UK newspaper had a daily circulation exceeding two million. The general overall circulation of newspapers has declined by 6.6% in 2014–15 alone. Now, the media is increasingly promoting a web presence and trying to sell a tainted product in a very competitive market – one where the reader is also an on-line editor, operating unfettered by the newsprint owners propaganda machine. News is and can be - fact checked - as fast as it is published. Complete websites have been created just for source checking.

It is the same on television. Thirty years ago if Reginald Bosanquet said it on the BBC, it was most likely true. Today the BBC has lost its reputation for impartiality and reporting facts. Now the BBC is just another organ of media propaganda. Peddling bias for whichever political colour is in government. Once there were few TV channels available – but now there are thousands available – either via digital or satellite television. Once upon a time I would watch the BBC as a matter of course – now I tend to watch the news in English from foreign broadcasting services.

One curious outcome is that now, if you read it in Private Eye Magazine, it is presented in a satirical format - but with a large spoonful of the truth. Today, if it is something you read in a UK newspaper whether in print or on the web - well, who knows, but there is one thing upon which you can be certain – its biased and designed to spread propaganda or in the media's eternal search for click-bait.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Another Shiny Boater is back on the cut!

Well - its been a while (almost 3 months) and I have enjoyed these few months away from blogging. I needed a break,  I also needed to concentrate on some other pressing matters. 

However, now I have returned.

One reason was a complete refurbishment of 'Rosie'.  Our boat's paintwork was tired to say the least. After 12 years and 3,500 hours of cruising the inland waterways, 'Rosie' was in serious need of a repaint. We had patched and partially repainted bits of the boat in the past. But it was time for a complete cosmetic makeover. We looked at many boats out on the cut, comparing them for quality. Time and again when we checked boats that we thought had been well repainted. You would see the name of Granthams Bridge Boatyard and the name of the painter, G Moore.

Rosie (semi-trad) had always had a problem with drainage in the foot well. She had a second problem in heavy rain, with water cascading from the roof and into the foot well area. So new roof scuppers were made and the back deck was given two additional drain points. The end result has already been tested by a very heavy torrential downpour - everything worked as we hoped.

We left behind 'Rosie' and went off for a couple of months to tour France in our motorhome. You can imagine our joy when we returned to find that 'Rosie' had been repainted and we had to make time to discuss the signage with the signwriter.
We are pleased with the quality of the repainting and structural changes. So much so - we also decided to have some of the boat internals remodelled. Now sporting a new Dinette and some boxing in of kitchen equipment. Not only does the outside look good - but the inside is much better and meeting all of our requirements.

The old pram cover had done sterling service, but like the old paintwork, was also tired and ready for replacement. So we also had the pram cover replaced and once again we are pleased with the quality of materials used and the fit.

The boatyard is a friendly place to visit. Its a very relaxed atmosphere and you can also talk to any of the team and get advice and opinions about their specialities. 
Would we recommend Granthams bridge boatyard for painting, structural alterations and internal joinery, yes we certainly would. We will be back at Granthams bridge in the spring 2017 to have a diesel heater fitted as a replacement for our existing but tired LPG system.

Friday, 10 June 2016

We don't know how lucky we are.....

Well we are continuing on our European adventure. 
I can't help but think that if we vote for brexit. I wonder how long it will be before the French - give us the usual 'Non' and a shrug. When we go back cap-in-hand to see if we can rejoin.

How bad is it in the EU?

Well this was our 'overnight mooring' just a few days ago. 
I can't help but think that CaRT could teach the French a great deal about organising, maintaining and running an inland waterway infrastructure. 

The state of the lock at Graz Neuville on the River Mayenne is a typical example.

The lack of maintenance must be a serious concern on the French inland waterways. 

The lock cottage is another typical example of buildings that could be sold off to make a profit.

The locks also have a Keb available. It must cost a fortune in replacement Keb's and be a thieves paradise.

The rubbish disposal points are overly provided with recycling bins. To segregate plastic, glass, cans - which could easily be disposed of into the river or canal. Why segregate from the general household rubbish, when one monthly emptied Biffa bin would suffice.

The waterpoint are also provided with hose pipes. It must be a thieves paradise and cost a fortune in replacement pipes.

The removal of overhanging trees and bushes from the canal and riverside must be costing a fortune. The French must be missing out on the joys of fallen trees blocking the canals as well as the lack of seasonal maintenance stoppages.

The locks as you can see are maintained at too high a level and could save a fortune if they are allowed to embrace the CaRT fix on fail mantra.

We don't know how lucky we are.....