Irish car insurance is going up because …

The large number of third party claims last year is driving up car insurance premiums in Ireland apparently. At least that’s what the friendly lady at 123.ie told me. They then charged me an extra €196 for cover over last year. Reducing the insured value of my car increased the premium!

Anyway, there may be a law enacted by the end of the year to force insurance companies to tell you why your insurance is going up. It might not tell you much as the current rise in prices might be due to Setanta Insurance going under a few years ago but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

RSA, who provide motor insurance for 123.ie beat expectations when they announced their profits for 2016. That’s the British arm of the company however.

Operating profit for the year came in at £655m, compared with a company-supplied consensus forecast of £626m.

Unfortunately, the Irish section isn’t doing so well..

Meanwhile, the former chief financial officer of RSA’s Irish business was yesterday fined £35,000 and banned for three years by Britain’s accounting watchdog.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it had fined Rory O’Connor and banned him for three years from the accounting profession for approving “materially inaccurate” financial statements.

Mr O’Connor also agreed to pay £18,000 towards the watchdog’s legal costs.

RSA said in 2014 that a review of its businesses found that the accounting irregularities were confined to its Irish business, where there had been “inappropriate collaboration” among a small number of executives in Ireland.

It was forced to inject £200m into its Irish business at the time and RSA Insurance Ireland said yesterday it has strengthened its control framework since 2013.

They’ve also had to set aside £50m “to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015” according to this Irish Times article

RSA Insurance Ireland’s operating loss widened by 62 per cent last year after the country’s once-largest provider of motor and property coverage was forced to set aside £50 million (€59.1 million) of reserves to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015.
The local subsidiary of London-listed RSA Group posted a £42 million full-year loss compared with a £26 million loss for 2015. The performance was described by the parent as “disappointing”, especially as it had returned last year to writing new business on a profitable basis, as it and the wider industry hiked rates.

We shopped around, and rates from other insurers were comparable. Roll on the electrification of cars and autonomous driving!

How to take a photo with a camera phone

(mild spoilers for Designated Survivor)
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This is how you take a photo of the US President and Press Secretary on the steps of Air Force One.

Taken from S01E19 of Designated Survivor where they have camera phones that see through fingers.

Sync and Backup Photos from your Android Phone

I’m a big fan of Android smart phones, but backing up photos or files has always been something that has worried me. Different manufacturers have different backup apps. A Samsung phone uses Samsung Kies, a HTC phone uses HTC Backup. Google offers cloud backup of app data if the app supports it. Google Photos will backup your photos, but they’re compressed even more unless you pay for the service (which is perfectly fair). It’s a mixed bag.

So, I’m going to tell you how I backup my phone photos, and you can do this with (probably) any Android phone. I use FolderSync to move photos off my phone and on to my laptop for safe keeping and permanent storage. I don’t like leaving photos on my phone. The phone fills up and I can’t take any more photos!

FolderSync comes in two flavours, a free lite version, and a paid version. The paid version has a few more features and doesn’t display adverts but you’ll be able to do most things with the free version too. I originally paid for the app so I could use filters but I don’t use them any more.

I love having all my photos available on Google Photos, so after a day of taking photos I’ll keep an eye on that app and wait for everything to be uploaded there. When it’s done, I tap on a “Sync All” icon on my phone and then my photos are copied over to my laptop using the local wifi network and deleted off my phone.
The photos end up in a directory on my laptop called “00-mobile-import” where I’ll point Lightroom at to import the photos. I have a Lightroom import profile for those photos and they get moved to dated folders and tagged appropriately. Lightroom doesn’t support GIFs but every now and again I’ll check that folder and move them to their own area for safe keeping.

Configuring FolderSync can be daunting, but you’ll go through these steps:

  1. Set up an account. This is how you access your laptop or computer. Usually you’ll use a Windows share (SMB/CIFS) but I’ve discovered that Macs use a newer version of that protocol that Android doesn’t understand so I use SFTP (Secure FTP) instead. You’ll want to share a folder or enable SFTP on your computer first of course. You can even backup to Dropbox or other cloud service.
  2. Next up is a folderpair. This is how you connect a folder on your phone with a folder on your computer. You can schedule backups, force the use of a certain wifi network, and change many other options here.
  3. Create a “Sync All” shortcut on your phone launcher.

The FolderSync Help Page is slightly out of date but has lots of screenshots and information about configuring it.

Apart from moving my photos to my laptop, I also use FolderSync to sync a folder of wallpapers from my laptop. I also use it to overcome a bug in Google Photos. I move RAW DNG files out of the default DCIM/Camera folder (to a different folder on my phone) as Google Photos now backs them up but doesn’t realise that the Jpeg files of the same names are the same photo. FolderSync has a feature to watch a folder but it doesn’t work on that particular folder so I manually tap another sync icon before I get home so only the Jpeg files are backed up by Google Photos. My “Sync All” shortcut also moves the DNG files to my laptop, where I delete the duplicate Jpeg files with a script but that’s for another blog post..

Howtogeek has an article on configuring it, and many years ago Android Police gushed about FolderSync, describing it as follows:

Alright, control freaks (otherwise known as “my people”), this one’s for you. FolderSync is a fantastic little app we’ve just discovered that lets users sync folders between local storage and a number of online storage services. The app supports one- or two-way sync and provides a host of settings to tweak the app to all your sync needs.

If you have an Android phone, if you take photos, if you want to back them up, get FolderSync.

Etch a Sketch, a Tribute

My colleague Mark found this amazing tribute to the inventor of the Etch a Sketch, André Cassagnes. It’s some sort of magic I think because I could never draw anything on one. My son recently bought “the smallest etch a sketch in the world” which is a tiny device but he’s having fun with it.

Then there’s this amazing artwork done on the little red box. How?

If you want to know more, the Wikipedia page on the subject has tons more information.

Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal – Farbor

Creeper World 3 is a sort of a tower defence game but it’s more a real time strategy (RTS) game. You move your pieces to combat the relentless Creeper as it flows over everything to consume the map. It’s a mostly easy-going game as you can pause and consider your next move and once you’ve set up your initial defences you can take as long as you want.

Usually it’s easy going and fun.

Not so In Farbor where you’re under a strict time limit as a ship is under construction and you must stop it before it launches. It’s so difficult for an early level that there’s a pinned discussion thread on the Steam Forums explaining how to skip it.. It took me many attempts to beat this level, and I had the help of the video above. If everything isn’t just right you’ll be found lacking near the end game. It was a hell of a feeling beating this level. Yes, even though I copied what someone else did. I managed to beat that level in just over 16 frantic minutes. As well as employing the strategy in that video I also used snipers to take down two of the incoming ships to slow down construction, and built a forge to make energy and ore more efficient. I think I wouldn’t have beaten the map without those two additions.

The game was in a recent Humble Bundle, and apparently I bought it a long time ago but only got around to playing it recently. It’s on Steam at a cheap price. Go get it, it’s a fabulous game!