Eclipse 2017 in Ireland

A tiny portion of the August 21st solar eclipse will be visible from Ireland as seen in this NASA web app that shows you the track of the Moon’s shadow across the Earth.

It’ll probably be cloudy anyway but don’t look unless you have special glasses. I doubt most people will notice anything, it might get slightly dimmer around 8pm local time for a few minutes. Wait for the photos from the US to show up on social media. 🙂

The Irish Digital Detox

Holly and Declan are a young couple addicted to 21st century technology. Writer and journalist Colm Tobin follows them to the island of Carnananánachán where they undergo a bizarre, back-to-basics digital detox.

Could you survive a week without your phone or any access to the Internet?

Howto: the Cork County Council Planning Enquiry System

The planning enquiry system of Cork County Council is a powerful system for downloading and viewing all the documents related to a planning enquiry. Unfortunately it relies on outdated software that most people won’t have access to any more (and for security reasons, that’s a good thing!). There are Android and iPhone apps too, but it’s not easy reading planning documents on small screens, and at least on Android requires the use of a third party app to view the .djvu files. You can also save the files to a dropbox folder to share with your desktop, but it’s awkward doing so. The mobile apps can’t download large files either.

When you first go into it, this is the page you see. If you’re using a modern browser (like Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari) you can’t really do much more. It requires Internet Explorer to work.

However, by looking at the source code of the page I discovered this code that sends you to MainFrames.aspx.

The next page allows you to search the planning database but until you’re running Internet Explorer you won’t get very far as it uses the Autodesk Mapguide Viewer for it to show anything.

So, if you’re not running Internet Explorer on your up-to-date copy of Windows or you use macOS, Linux or anything else you’ve only one other option. Use a virtual machine.

Go grab a copy of VirtualBox and install it, then download a free virtual machine image from this Microsoft page and import that into VirtualBox. I found the IE9 one worked perfectly. It expires after 90 days but you can download another image if you need to later.

VirtualBox allows you to set up a shared folder where you can download the planning files, and work on them at your leisure!

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!

Meteor and Three Won’t “Roam Like Home” in the EU but I’m ok with that

As reported in the Independent, it seems that Meteor and Three have found a loophole in EU legislation to get rid of mobile roaming charges. Of the Irish telecoms companies, only Vodafone “is publicly saying that it will let customers use every bit of data abroad that they’re entitled to at home”.

Concerned, I contacted @Meteor_Mobile on Twitter and received a response within minutes. If you have a Meteor bill pay plan you’ll get “up to 5GB of roaming data”. Pay as you go customers must still buy a roaming add-on. The new limits will be introduced early in the summer so the roaming page will be updated then I expect.

It’s disappointing for PAYG customers, but as a PAYG customer I’m willing to stay with Meteor because their monthly cost is relatively low. I rarely make phone calls or send SMS texts and I make heavy use of their 7.5GB data offer for €10 a month. It wouldn’t be worth my while upgrading to a bill pay plan. I’d need to spend €20/month €25/month to get that amount of data or more and the call minutes and texts would go to waste. 1GB of roaming data is €14.99 for PAYG customers, or I have the option of buying a sim locally for even better value.

Moving to Vodafone isn’t really an option either. The closest offer is still twice as expensive, as I wouldn’t use the €10 credit left in the account each month.

If I was travelling around the EU every month I’d certainly upgrade to a bill pay plan but the monthly cost of a PAYG data plan is a no-brainer. It’s better value for my usage.

Edit: a few hours after I posted this the European Commission warned Irish mobile operators that there wasn’t any loophole.
I couldn’t find any mention of PAYG customers specifically but this BT PDF makes no distinction between bill pay and PAYG customers. (One wonders what will happen there when BREXIT happens.)

This means BT One Phone customer’s will begin to see their UK allowance(s) decremented when they are Roaming inside the EU. If a customer has used up all their UK allowance they will begin to be charged their normal UK PAYG/Out of bundle or Overage rate while roaming inside the European Union.

Edit on June 12th: Meteor have updated their roaming page. PrePay (PAYG) users who pay €10 for 7.5GB of data at home will have 2.1GB of roaming data which is super!

Aerial Ireland

A tourist, Tim Viltz, travelling through Ireland shows us just how beautiful our country is in this video created from drone footage shot by a Phantom 4. I don’t recognise most of the locations though. Only one way to fix that, travel!

Via Reddit.

Finbarr Galvin SMS Spam

Finbarr Galvin Ltd Spam SMS

I guarantee I will not be buying my next car from Finbarr Galvin Ltd and you probably shouldn’t either if you want your personal data to be respected. I should have known I’d be SMS spammed by Finbarr Galvin Ltd again. They’re a car dealer in the town of Bandon, Co Cork for those who don’t know them. I bought a car off them around seven years ago, which I traded in for another car two years later.

So, I haven’t had any business dealings with them in seven years.

In the time since then I’ve received a couple of advertising text messages, the last being about two years ago when I remember a lengthy phone call with a sales assistant to get them to remove me from their sms list. They didn’t have an “opt out” method that time.

I’ve tried to remove myself from their list now by texting OPTOUT to 50123 as stated in this text message, but haven’t heard back yet. If I was to judge by my previous attempts to unsubscribe, they probably have to manually remove my number using a chisel on stone tablets or something similarly archaic. This is part of the reason I’m making this blog post, as a reminder for the next time I get spammed by them.

I’m also publishing this because Finbarr Galvin Ltd should only send advertising text messages to customers they have had dealings with and received express permission to message them, in the last twelve months. I told them this that time I talked to that sales assistant:

Marketers may send you electronic mail for direct marketing purposes where:

(i) You have given them explicit consent to do so within the last twelve months, or
(ii) they have obtained your personal contact details in the course of a sale to you of a product or service within the last twelve months, they informed you of their identity, the purpose in collecting your contact details, the persons or categories of persons to whom your personal data may be disclosed and any other information which is necessary so that processing may be fair, and the direct marketing they are sending is in respect of their similar* products and services only, and you were given a simple cost-free means of refusing the use of your contact details for direct marketing purposes at the time your details were initially collected, and where you did not initially refuse the use of those details, you are given a similar option at the time of each subsequent communication. (If you fail to unsubscribe using the cost-free means provided to you by the direct marketer, you will be deemed to have remained opted-in to the receipt of such electronic mail for a twelve month period from the date of issue to you of the most recent marketing electronic mail).

They certainly shouldn’t be using my personal details for advertising purposes after seven years. I hope that OPTOUT text to 50123 was “cost-free”.

Bah.

Where has the Stars Wars Plane been?

Photo by: Donncha O Caoimh (https://inphotos.org)

G-POWD, the Boeing 767 has been around Europe in the last few days. I’d like to think they were collecting the crew of the new Star Wars movie, like an international flying tour bus, but it’s probably just the normal flying patterns of a private company flying their Jumbo around the continent.

G-POWD

Star Wars actors arrive in Cork

Nice. They’re getting off the plane directly into cars.

I was wrong, they had to walk to the main terminal and go through passport control.

20160516_144901-PANO

And here are their drivers who kindle posed for a photo. The film crew came out a few minutes later.

20160516150336_img_1837-01_1280x720.jpeg

TIL Americans don’t have chocolate Easter eggs

So, is it true that Americans don’t, by and large, eat chocolate Easter eggs on Easter Sunday? That’s something I heard this morning and I’m wondering how that could possibly be true. Who wouldn’t want to eat lots of chocolate? This article says yes, but some of the comments say no.

Anyway, I have a yummy Aero Easter egg. Shouldn’t have finished that half though. Too much! More later!