Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Google map images rationalised

After moving the server, I thought it might be time to revisit the Google map API group. Re-organising the server structure had messed with the code, necessitating some minor re-writes, and I reckoned they might be something new to be had. I did fiddle with about 6 months ago when some new features were introduced, but everything fell apart and I didn’t have time to play with it then. Working and plain is still better than fancy and broken.

One of the downsides is that there’s a layer of coding that interfaces the Google map to our pages, and while it may be hard to believe that I had a tiny, hand in its birth, when the chap that created it improved it with a rewrite, he also made it almost unintelligible, as the language used is not one I’m deeply literate in, and there are a lot of optimisations in it now. While they make the code slicker, they also make it like gobbledegook if you haven’t come across all the coding fiddles used. Maybe a project for the long winter nights if it’s to get anywhere. Unfortunately, he seems to have evaporated now, so there’s no oracle to consult.

I don’t know if there are any significant or relevant toys in the latest version of the map, I ahven’t been keeping track in the past months, the main thing we need here is the ability to get lat/lon/NGR for a desired point of interest, and the current page still does that reasonably well for now.

The most interesting thing I noted was the coincidental announcement today, the day I happened to look for anything interesting, that the views and imagery displayed on maps created using the Google map API (in other words, the maps seen on any SeSco page) will now show exactly the same presentation as a Google map pulled up from maps.google.com – previously different data sets were used, leading to various gripes and moans apparently.

There will be some losers and some winners where there is a change of view, as some areas were better served than others in each set.

All I’ll say is that there are some damned cloudy views over Scotland – maybe one day they’ll go away.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Maps, Site News | , | Leave a comment

Doorstep sellers must offer cancellation rights

Who's at the door?

Knock knock...

Consumers will be allowed to cancel contracts signed with door-to-door salesmen even when they have requested the visit to their home or office, under new Regulations that come into force in October. Consumers were previously only given the right to cancel door-to-door salesmen’s contracts in a seven day ‘cooling off’ period if the salesman visits were unsolicited. The new Regulations will extend those protections to recipients of all visits, even if they are solicited.

The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regs 2008 will come into force on 1st October.

Read more on The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regs 2008.

There might have been a place for door-to-door sales in the past, when there was some honesty and trust to be had, and drugs didn’t mean that smackheads are likely to do anything to get a few pounds to fund their next hit, but societal changes – and possibly event the internet – have really rendered them obsolete, and you’re more likely to find some sort of low-life at your door if there’s an unexpected knock, than anyone bringing something that may be to your advantage.

I know someone who is down on their luck an unable to look after their house etc. The outward signs now mean they are subject to a constant barrage of property developers want to “help” them by taking their house of their hands, and scrap dealers wanting to “help” them by clearing their driveway of cars.

Wee Eck may not be too firm in the bodily sense, but he’s as sharp as they come upstairs, and while he can’t afford motorised gates to keep them out physically he’s added security cameras to record all unwanted visitors, catch details of their vehicles, and informs them that under Scot’s law, he can have them arrested for Breach of the Peace if they cause him to feel personal fear or alarm. Having been at his house when some of car scrappers have turned up, I don’t think the wee fella would have a problem if he called the police, as the ones I’ve seen call always seem to look like 15 stone skinheads – I’m worried and I’m sitting indoors out of sight!

Only the other day I woke up one morning to find the neighbours chasing someone of Asian appearance away from my door – he could hardly understand them, and was dragging a wheeled case behind him and had a some sort of backpack on. Worryingly, he wandered along the street (half a mile) and disappeared without bothering with another house.

Previously, I’ve opened the door to “Medallion Man” who hammered endlessly and wasn’t going away. I was under the weather that day, trying to shake of a migraine headache, and was confronted by a forest of gray chest hair and gold, and found myself arguing with some nut who was threatening me because I’d upset his 14 year old son. I had no idea what he was raving about until he became coherent and told me that I’d shouted at his “wee boy” earlier that day and reduced him to tears. At this stage I was still dopey from the migraine, but it turns out the truth of the matter was that I’d been woken up earlier by someone marching around my house, and having been unable to get an answer from the front door, had proceeded to the rear of the house and hammered on the back door, and having failed to get an answer there, carried on to hammer on all the windows as well. When he made his second trip to hammer on the back door I caught him there, and when he offered me a leaflet about driveway paving I gave this door-to-door salesman a verbal tongue lashing and ran him off my property.

Quite what would have happened if I had followed my instinct and phoned the local police to record the incident I don’t know, but I decided that was overkill, and probably driven by the pain in my head, which was making an unwelcome return after the disturbance.

“Medallion Man” threatened to call the police because I had upset his 14 year old – I just wanted to go and lie down again – so suggested he might want to have a word with the boy and his over-enthusiastic sales methods. I’m guessing he didn’t tell “Medallion Man” how he attracted attention as this seemed to calm things down a bit, and he left – after cheekily handing me one of this driveway paving leaflets.

If it hadn’t, I was closer to the phone than him, and would have been having a word with the police about his use of a 14 year old to carry out his business during school hours on a week day. I haven’t seen them since, or the leaflets they used to leave – but I still have the photograph of the Vo… er.. the car they drove away in, compete with registration.

There are more, but the best example might be the builder I used a few years ago, who might just be rejoining society about now. Although I had no problems with him, and discovered we had similar tastes in cars – only he bought his new while I had to wait for them to be about 10 years old before I could afford them – it seems he was none too nice, especially with little old ladies and their saving once he’d got a deposit and started some work, then vanished, and ended with his face all over the local papers when he was put away for at least 4 years, if not more.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ever wondered about wind power dollars?

Looking slightly further than Scotland’s wind farms for a change, and the nation’s successful efforts in ensuring it doesn’t cash in on the industry by seeing off the Vestas wind turbine plant at Machrihanish near Campbeltown, after only five years or so after handing it a few million in grants to have it open there, and letting some sort of argument over ownership at Nigg near Aberdeen see off any likelihood of a turbine factory being established on the old platform production facility site. I don’t even know the details of the latter, having just spotted some online pics of the area, with no real detail as to why some sort of dispute means there is little chance of a turbine plant even being started there in the next few years.

You might laugh if you were reading it in a comic, and not the real news.

Reading some overseas news, the CEO of General Electric dropped some numbers while discussing his company’s deal with Google which will see the pair promote the more efficient use of energy through the development of a smart distribution network.

Mr Immelt spoke of his decision to buy Enron’s wind business out of bankruptcy in 2003 for $300m and revealed that it now makes between $7-$8bn in revenues.

“I have done some bad business deals in my day, but this isn’t one of them,” joked Mr Immelt.

He also said that GE is now one of the biggest players in the wind power industry and is involved in developing hybrid locomotives, water reuse solutions and photovoltaic cells. The move into this business has paid off as sales of products and services in sector have grown from $4-$5bn (£2.2-2.7bn) at its launch to $18bn a year.

It’s an interesting combination, and I’ve no doubt there will be some nuts lurking in the background, ready to launch into Google conspiracy stories about this. Maybe Google will use our power lines and home wiring to log all our power use, work out what we really need, and engineer shortages to push the price up – no dafter than some stories you can read on the web.

There are already smart networks and control systems in the distribution network, but in general terms they’re relatively coarse, not precise, and possibly just not able to cope with the amount of data that improving the detail and number of each parameter that could be reported from sensors and analysers that could be located along the line. It could be that by dividing power distribution networks and control systems, where each smaller cell could be more accurately monitored and controlled to suit local demand, this could be managed more effectively and with greater efficiency than at present, where only large areas can be managed.

While I suspect there are new and as yet uncosidered advantages to be gained here, I also suspect that there may be some delay before these are seen, and again, that’s nothing to do with conspiracy (as I’m sure some will claim), but simply the sheer volume of work involved in incorporating these new developments. It’s a bit like the water supply network – it may be ancient and leaking, but it works, but it could work even better of only it could be updated overnight. Unfortunately, the overnight fix insn’t possible or practical in either case, and both will forever be “works in progress” (but getting better as time goes on).

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Paddy’s Market traders swept aside – maybe

Being fairly uninterested in anything political, I’ve never really bothered about the local stories that suggest you better not try and get in the way of Glasgow Council if it’s set its mind on something, especially if it’s a pie it might happen to have its finger in, and just dismissed them as the grumblings of a few malcontents.

I may be wrong.

Currently, the council is intent on leasing part of Pollok Park, an area gifted to the city (ie not to the council for it to lease for gain), to a private venture and allowing ‘High Wire Forest Adventure’ operator Go Ape to create one of its aerial assault courses and walkway in a secluded area of the country park’s woodland. The council has a clear financial interest, and surprisingly has voted in favour of the development, despite much local opposition and little support.

The council is also intent on sweeping away Paddy’s Market from its home on a site leased from Network Rail, too close to the city’s High Court, and described by the council as a “crime hot spot”. An executive committee has approved a report on the future of Paddy’s Market, by 13 votes to 4 – the report recommended that the council take over the lease of Shipbank Lane with a rent of £100,000 per year, and stated that the council could “positively raise the profile of the area over the next five years” and possibly operate a new market and arts-related development. It means the authority can now go-ahead with plans to regenerate the area around the lane, which the council has described as a “crime hot spot”.

The local SNP councillor voted against the plan, saying “Traders must be given the opportunity to negotiate new sub-lets with the council before their leases with Network Rail are terminated.”

The traders don’t want to be thrown out, those that work there don’t want to be thrown out, those that buy and sell there don’t want to lose the place (and just because the council call it a “crime hot spot” doesn’t mean it is), but some sort of trendy arts-related development near the re-vamped Glasgow Green would bring in bigger wallets, and make it easier to have a swipe at The Barras in a few years, and take that area more up-market too, to take advantage of the tidy-up there, and the re-siting of the Doulton Fountain.

Update

The above was being rattled together in spare moments while I was fighting with our recent server move.

Having had a quick scout around for any new information, I discovered a web site devoted to the whole affair, which I hadn’t seen appear during earlier searches, and which reports that the there may be a U-turn in the plans, and that they may be prepared to incorporate the current and legitimate traders – maybe.

There’s on online petition on the Save Paddy’s Market web site.

And an article and video news item on stv.tv

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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