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Category Archives: Edinburgh

This weekend our flat was a hive of activity given the steady stream of frugal gumtreers and mooching freecyclers. We shifted most of the stuff we chose not to take with us to London. There’s only bits of furniture left – bookshelf, 3 tables and bedside cabinet – plus other small pieces of junk. We’ve made £80 selling various bits through gumtree, which will pay for the petrol down to London plus a meal at some dodgy, expensive motorway service station.

All we have to do now is clean the place from top to bottom and pack our bags. All our stuff is in storage in London already. On Sunday, I’m selling my car to my dad. I’m dropping the car off at the airport where he’ll hand over a briefcase of notes, which will go towards something extravagant like paying the rent.

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On Friday morning I met the boys at the Edinburgh Coffee Morning at Centotre. Whilst eating my bacon roll, which I thoroughly recommend, I chatted to Andy about the role of social web tools in the education and business sectors. As well as being a researcher and a writer, Andy helps organisations understand how social web tools could work for them in a positive way. Currently, according to Andy’s about page, he is working with a health organisation to see how wikis can help staff to communicate.

Olly announced that along with his new haircut, he has a new job. Congratulations! When someone puts photos from the coffee morning on Flickr, I’ll link to the haircut. It’s radical.

Yesterday I checked out the first BarCamp held in Scotland. Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics hosted the event. I listened to some good talks and met some cool folk.

First off, I listened to an american guy with a very loud voice called Henry S. Thompson (gotta love the initial!) who spoke rather excitedly about XML Pipelines. Gotta say I didn’t understand what this was about but was impressed nonetheless. He warned people to stay away from Yahoo Pipes, a cool tool for aggregating and manipulating feeds, for some reason I didn’t get at the time and don’t remember now.

Next off Austin Tate spoke about stuff to do with AI and Second Life. He heads up AIAI and he showed us around the office that’s been set up in Second Life. I have read snippets of info around the web about Second Life but have visited the virtual world myself. Austin spoke of the future, where it’d be possible to set up an intelligent agent to act on your behalf when you’re not on the web. For instance, your agent could pay bills, answer emails and make decisions on your behalf. Setting up something in Second Life is a good way to explore such things. Scary.

Tony Farndon demonstrated Flock, inspiring me to try it out again. I’m writing this blog using Tony’s BlogPlus plug-in. It’s so easy to add links to posts, that’s why there’s so many.

I hung out with James Turnbull who, amongst other things, runs the popular Google Sightseeing blog. He was evangelising Django, a web framework running atop of Python that I really must check out one day.

I caught a few more talks and finished up listening to Morna Findlay, the School of Informatics schools’ liaison officer. Morna was trying to find out why there has been a sharp decline in students applying for university computer related courses. She divulged that, for Edinburgh University, the intake for computer related degree programmes has halved in actual numbers since 2001, even though there has been an overall rise in the number of students attending university. The general consensus in the room was that schools curriculums were to blame. Pupils tend to think that computer related degrees will involve learning how to use word processors and spreadsheets, just basic office applications, rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty of theory, programming, application design and all the good stuff. Also, I tend to agree with what James Turnbull said about experience is more important to employers than 3 years stuck at university, even though I value the deeper understanding a student will get from a degree.

Then we headed next door to Teviot for some free beers. I met the guys from groopit.com, who were very switched on, answered effortlessly any questions that were thrown at them about groopit. John Sutherland succinctly described groopit as Twitter on speed. Best of luck to them and I recommend you sign-up now, even though they’re still in beta.

Before I knew it, it was 10:30pm and beer vouchers had run out and it was time to leave. May be next time BarCamp is in town I will have something to contribute now that I have seen how things are done.

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A few days ago my Abbey debit card was declined at a local shop. A couple of days later I phoned up Abbey to find out what was happening. They told me my card had been charged £255 in UAE and during the following days, 2 more transactions were attempted, one in Japan and one in Canada. My card had been cloned three times. Thankfully, Abbey spotted this and flagged my account up, and also refunded the £255 taken by the crooks.

Yesterday’s Edinburgh Evening News reported that a BP petrol station in Bruntsfield was home to a card-cloning gang last month. I use this petrol station :-(. Not any more.

I’m grateful to Abbey for refunding my account, no questions asked. The scam goes like this:

  1. Your card is scanned by the chip’n’pin machine, which has a card skimmer device attached
  2. Someone watches you type in your PIN, either by hidden camera, over your shoulder, or by the shop assistant himself
  3. Your card is reproduced later and used in foreign countries to security put in place by UK banks

One commenter on the Edinburgh Evening News article disagrees with the last point saying:

The version of Chip and PIN that is used in the UK is inferior to that used in other parts of Europe. There is no need to watch or film the PIN being entered as there are sophisticated skimming devices that can actually reveal it to the criminal. The banks in the Uk opted for an inferior technology because it was cheaper. Also, the fact that they introduced a PIN technology gives them the ability to claim it was the customers fault that a crime against them occurred, as they must be responsible for someone else obtaining their PIN. Dishonesty isn’t exclusive to “criminals”.

I’m not sure if this is true but if it is then what hope does one have to protect one’s PIN. There’s no point in covering the chip’n’pin keypad with your hand as you type in your PIN. Cash, from the bank, is the only alternative. Or do all of your shopping online, though I have my doubts about this too now.

A quick search on Google News for “chip and pin” reveals plenty of stories about fraud, academics hacking cards and more stories about card cloning at BP petrol stations around the country.

With all this in mind, I warn you to be vigilant and non-trusting when it comes to using your card. When shopping in places you don’t usually shop, use cash if you can.

By the way, did I mention that I’d moved flat? I now live one minute’s walk away from The Meadows – see the banner at the top of this blog? That’s the Meadows.

Last week we found a decent flat in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. After wrangling with the agent over a small issue, it grew out of all proportion so we decided to pull out.  A quick search on Gumtree last night revealed a property that fit much of our criteria. We phoned, was told the advert was posted just 10 minutes before we phoned (lucky or what?), arranged a viewing for the same evening, saw it, liked what we saw, phoned the landlord back and said we wanted to move in.

This evening we met our new landlord, provided references and the deal was done. We start to move our stuff in on Friday and actually move in next Tuesday.

The place is closer to work so I now have absolutely no excuse not to walk in to work every day. We’ll only be in there 3 days before we fly to Iceland for Christmas.

I can’t believe how smoothly the process has been at finding this flat compared to the hoops the previous property agent made us jump through.

Attack of the DollsI took this photo a couple of weeks ago when Jackie, Chaz and Zoe were visiting. Chaz, even though he was suffering from a dislocated knee, wanted to go explore, by foot, what Edinburgh had to offer in the way of museums.

The first museum we stumbled upon was the Musem of Childhood. One of the floors played host to dolls, hundreds of them. Some were almost lifelike and some not. The photo here is of Diddums ( the one of the left) who was born in 1930.

If you have an hour to spare on a Saturday or Sunday, check out the museum on the Royal Mile.

Alex Cornish is playing at Baby Tiger on Thursday night. The gig is based in The Den at Cafe Royal on West Register Street.