Shopping Cheaper with the Inglorious Fruit and Vegetable

July 24, 2014

orrangeDid you know that 300 Million tons of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables are pulped and destroyed by producers before they reach market? This is not because it has gone off, it is simply that it is not the ‘right’ shape for most supermarkets to sell. We have been brainwashed to expecting the perfectly shaped carrot, lemon, apple and so on. These are the ‘class 1’ produce that adorn our isles.

See in this video how French supermarket Intermarché reached 23 million visitors by offering these less-than-class-1 produce at a 30% discount. Exactly the same taste and goodness. Only cheaper.

I wonder what it would be like to adopt this in the UK. Tesco, Sainsburys, M&S – any takers?

© Peter Watts


Google Maps Does London in 3D

July 23, 2014
Screen capture of London 3D on Google Maps

Screen capture of London 3D on Google Maps

Google Maps has given London a 3D makeover, allowing us to fly around the city like never before. Click on the Earth view of the map and, voilà, you are now flying through the virtual city as if in a computer game. All the buildings, bridges and landmarks within London are rendered and their perspectives change as you scroll around.

London is the latest UK city to receive the new makeover, others include Birmingham, Leeds, Reading and Stoke-on-Trent. So now you do not need to go to the top of the Shard to see what London looks like, simply pull it up on Google Maps and move around. What is more, weather will never get in your way. It is am impressive achievement, yet Google plans for more with the release of Project Tango and the desire to create a 3D map of the entire world, inside and out.

These 3D maps are an addition to the Street View panoramas (or photospheres as Google likes to call them). The later still provide the best images from street level, producing interactive virtual tours of cities, like this virtual tour of London.

© Peter Watts, originally written for Panoramic Earth.

Gary Lineker Supports Street Kids in Brazil

July 10, 2014


Gary Lineker Supports ABC Trust

Gary Lineker Supports ABC Trust

Soon the FIFA 2014 World Cup will draw to a close. Over the past weeks many different aspects of Brazil have been explored. Among them are the thousands of children at threat of drugs and violence in many Brazilian cities. The media spotlight will move on, but ABC Trust (Action For Brazils Children) will not. They are committed to funding organisations helping provide these forgotten children find a better future, often using football as a means to engage with the children.

Gary Lineker is behind the actions of ABC Trust, and will be doing an appeal on Radio 4 on Sunday 13 July seeking to raise funds for their work. Tune in to listen to him talk about violence in Brazil and what ABC Trust is doing to create a Safer Future for children through football. In a recent Financial Times article, Tiffany Garside, chief executive of the ABC Trust says, “A lack of social and public support within communities contributes to a sense of invisibility which leads these young teenagers into the world of crime.”

You can help by raising awareness, send this tweet:

Click here to listen to @garylineker #R4Appeal for @abctrustuk on Sunday 13 July #worldcup

Or, better yet, donate. Text GOAL to 70660 and donate just £4

The World Cup will move on, but the work of ABC Trust is here to stay.

Follow ABC Trust on Twitter | Follow ABC Trust On Facebook | ABC Trust Films

Who Will You Support in Fifa 2014 World Cup?

June 13, 2014
ABC Trust projects

ABC Trust

The Fifa 2014 World Cup started today. Yet behind the World Cup is another story, that of the nearly 10 million children at risk of being caught up in gangs, drug use and crack cocaine. Yet as the video below shows, for every 90-minute game of the tournament a child will be murdered. In fact, a child is killed every 90 minutes all throughout the day. Every day.

So, how about, this year, along with your team you choose to SUPPORT THE CHILDREN OF BRAZIL? In the UK a charity called ABC Trust (Action for Brazil’s Children) raises money to support and run projects among the poorest communities, often in the slums and favelas.

If you are in the UK you can donate £4 – by texting  “GOAL” to 70660

£4 is enough to provide 32 children with a safe place for a day in a project. Crack is endemic in most favelas, and for less than the price of a pint (in London) you can make a difference.

Tiffany Garside, the Chief Executive of ABC Trust says: “Our main concern is the invisibility of abuse suffered by children and young people in Brazil. The 2012 Map of Violence ( Brazilian Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences -FLACSO) show that, on average, every hour in Brazil a child or teenager is murdered. This is an alarming statistic, mostly relating to children in the poorest communities. We would like to see more support of services within these communities, that identify at risk children and protect and empower them. Brazil is suffering from a crack epidemic, as recognised by the Brazilian government. Drugs are an international problem with local children suffering the repercussions. So, we would call on the international community to support Brazil in addressing this issue.With violence and drugs on the increase, we can’t stop now. So when the ball leaves town, we will stay.”

*** ABC Trust on ***

Facebook: @ABCTrust
Twitter: @abctrustuk
Instagram: @abc_trust

Britains Reject Fracking but Government Persists

June 4, 2014
Anti-fracking protest

Anti-fracking protest

June 4 2014 and at the opening the Conservative Government demonstrate their determination to go against the wishes of most of the electorate by declaring that they intend to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes without permission.

If you are opposed to this then you can sign the Greenpeace anti-fracking petition.

While 74% of voters oppose fracking, the Government is determined to push ahead, thereby abandoning support for renewable energies in favour of fossil fuels. Obviously, the move is strongly supported by fossil fuel companies as “timely”. However, as has been pointed out by No Dash For Gas, there are serious concerns about the pursuit of fracking for the environment and public health.

As No Dash for Gas and Propublica point out, “in the US, where fracking has been underway for several years, the practice has been linked to water contamination, air pollution, and risks to local water supplies, with over 1000 leaks and spills reported in one year in North Dakota alone.” And it is acknowledged that the UK geology is much more complicated than that of the US shale beds. In addition, even the fracking companies acknowledge that fracking is not likely to reduce energy prices.

TalkTalk HomeSafe Proves Popular with Users

August 30, 2011

TalkTalk’s HomeSafe service has proved a hit with users since being launched in May 2011, with over 100,000 customers opting to turn on the system. The Kids Safe and Homework Time filters have blocked over 500,000 browser sessions, helping parents provide a safer environment for their children online.

HomeSafe’s Kids Safe network filter gives parents the option to block different categories of content (as described in this HomeSafe article). According to TalkTalk, the most popular categories of sites parents choose to block are, in descending order:

  1. Suicide and self harm
  2. Pornography
  3. Weapons and violence
  4. Drugs, tobacco and alcohol
  5. Dating
  6. Gambling
  7. File Sharing
  8. Gaming
  9. Social networking

Some people may be concerned about how the system works, what data is stored and what is inspected. We asked Matt Bird, the Head of Product Management for HomeSafe some questions about this. As shown by his responses below, HomeSafe stores no user data and only inspects and compares sites to a list for potential blocking if the customer has opted in:

  •     Q: How automated is HomeSafe and what human input does the system have?
  •     A: The solution is automated but we keep checking categorisation of new sites and modify category classification based on customer feedback (the block page has a report button that logs the website and current category, we check all reported sites and re-classify the website if necessary. This has been 700 websites to date).
  •     Q: Does HomeSafe only inspect traffic from customers who have turned the system on or does the system also inspect (but not act on) traffic from customers not opted in to HomeSafe?
  •     A: HomeSafe checks websites for viruses/malware based on an anonymous list from websites visited by our customers.  For the parental control features we only inspect and compare to a customer policy if they have opted in.  Clearly the customer has to opt-in to get any block pages.
  •     Q: Do all internet service providers inspect traffic anyway?
  •     A: As an Internet Service Provider, we need to look at packet headers, to know there to send them on the Internet.  HomeSafe looks a little deeper at the Website address, to know where they are trying to connect.  We don’t look any deeper, for example customer data.  HomeSafe is a closed system, in that there are no records of which customer goes where.  I can’t tell which websites any customer visits or who received a block page.

Hopefully this will encourage people to take up the HomeSafe solution, which helps protect children from inappropriate web content in an anonymous way without tracking or storing any user data.

MPs launch Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection

August 26, 2011

On 23 August 2011, Claire Perry, MP for the Devizes Constituency and a cross-party group of more than sixty Members of the Houses of Parliament announced the formation of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection.   The inquiry will take evidence over the next few months from parents, child protection experts, Internet experts and Chief Executives or senior managers of many of Britain’s largest Internet Service Providers.  The group will report to Ministers in November.

 Commenting, Claire Perry MP for the Devizes Constituency said:
Parents are understandably worried about the ease with which their children can view pornographic content on the Internet and this Inquiry will provide the ideal platform for all interested parties to discuss how best we can protect our children online.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said:
The Internet is a powerful tool for education and entertainment but there is material online that is not suitable for children.  Parents need to have the right tools to be able to protect their children from inappropriate content. I look forward to receiving the Inquiry’s report and seeing their conclusions.

Over the course of two evidence sessions, this inquiry will seek to:

  1.  To understand better the extent to which children access on-line pornography and the potential for harm that this may cause
  2.  To determine what British Internet Service Providers have done to date to protect children online and the extent and possible impact of their future plans in this area
  3.  To determine what additional tools parents require to protect children from inappropriate content
  4.  To establish the arguments for and against network level filtering of content that would require an 18 rating in other forms of media
  5.  To recommend to Government the possible form of regulation required if ISPs fail to meet Recommendation no.5 from the Bailey Review.
It is good to see that the government is taking the issue of the impact of pornography on children increasingly seriously and that at last there seems to be a gaining political momentum to address this pressing issue.

Network Level Filters Campaign Updates

July 20, 2011

The call for voluntary network level filters capable of blocking pornography continues to grow. In the UK now over 70 MP’s have added their support to the idea, backing the campaign headed by Claire Perry. The adverse impact of pornography on children is becoming increasingly apparent. Also apparent is the increased demand on services offering help to children and young adults who struggle with pornography addictions.

If you want to get involved in this campaign then see SaferMedia for more information and follow Family Safe ISP on FaceBook.

Does Porn Affect Children?

Those who doubt the impact of porn on the brain and body would do well to read Mark B Kastleman‘s book on the subject.  The ProtectKids website provides a further sobering read of the impact of pornography on children. In a review paper Victor C. Straburger et al (Pediatrics March 10, 2010), state that nearly 50% of a sample of 1500 children 10-17 years old had been exposed to pornography, and porn exposure can be linked to earlier engagement in sex. It is also recognized that frequent pornography use among young men and adolescents, “intensifies attitudes supportive of sexual coercion and increases their likelihood of perpetrating assault” (Michael Flood, Child Abuse Review 2009). Yet more information on the impact of pornography on children and adults is found in this Mental Health Library review by Victor B Cline.

Network Filtering – A Tool in the Battle

Trying to limit childhood exposure to, and harm cause by, pornography, inevitably requires a multi-pronged approach. Parental involvement with their children is vital, as is the need to inform both parents and their children of the risks.

Various technological tools also exist, the most well know being computer based filters which have been around for years. A new tool in the bag are network filters, which provide a layer of protection for a whole network, or household, in one go. Often the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) resist the idea of network filters. BT talks of Parental Controls, but seems to want to keep network filtering out of the package.

One ISP, TalkTalk, now provides a network level filter as a free, opt-in, service to it’s customers. Called HomeSafe this allow the account holder to set filtering individually for several different categories, as previously described. In the first 6 weeks, over 50,000 TalkTalk customers opted to turn the filters on, showing the demand in the public for this kind of help.

We would like this kind of package to become a standard service provided throughout the ISP industry in the UK. Ideally, these filters should be set to ‘on’ as standard with the user able to turn them off at will. This will probably encourage the most people to engage with the issues of pornography use and it’s potential subsequent effects.

Obviously, no technological system is going to be fail safe. They all let some sites through and they all incorrectly block some innocent ones. They can all be worked around by the determined. But, by supporting the Network Filter Campaign, you can make a difference and see another parental control tool made routinely available for the increased protection of our children.

Bailey Report Recommends Network Filters

June 14, 2011

The recent Bailey Review highlights many different aspects of the sexualisation of children in society today. Entitled Letting Children be Children – Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, the review also lays done some suggestions and action points that should be taken up by various industry sectors and government.

Among the areas looked at was internet pornography, so ubiquitous in our society that it is often considered to be part of the ‘Wallpaper’ of children’s lives. Various scientific disciplines are providing a growing body of evidence showing that exposure to pornography is not a harmless pastime. Especially for children.

The Bailey Review had the following to say to the Internet Service Providers, effectively the major distributor of pornography around the UK:

5. Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet: To provide a consistent level of protection across all media, as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should ensure that customers make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access. To facilitate this, the internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale. In addition, those providing content which is age-restricted, whether by law or company policy, should seek robust means of age verification as well as making it easy for parents to block underage access. ACTION: Internet industry and providers of age restricted content, through UKCCIS.”

Elsewhere in the review a “reasonable timeframe” is defined as 18 months.

As Jane Turner recently noted in the Times newspaper: “..that computers and mobile phones might, as Bailey proposes, come with their porn filter switched to an “on” default is commendable not only because it will stop offensive imagery popping up unbidden, but more importantly because it is a statement of intent: a declaration that the internet is not an anarchic Wild West empire beyond governmental purview.”

The ISPs recognize the need to offer some protection, indeed many offer, or sell, PC based filters as parental control tools. While this is laudable, we would suggest that network level filters, turned on as standard, would provide another very powerful tool at the disposal of parents, as well as encouraging people to engage with the issue should they choose to turn the filter off.

Talk Talk has lead the way, recently launching their Home Safe service. However, it seems not many TalkTalk customers know about it yet, and it is not “on” by default. Perhaps this initiative, along with the Bailey Review recommendations, will encourage the other ISPs to follow suit.

No filter system will be perfect, but this would be another powerful tool within the Parental Control arsenal.

TalkTalk Launches Home Safe – Includes Pornography Filter

May 10, 2011

TalkTalk is the first major UK Internet Service Provider (ISP) to launch ISP side content filtering. Free to TalkTalk users, for the first time, this gives parents and account holders the ability to block some specific content before it enters the home in the first place. M0st people favour ISP level filters, a recent poll suggests, and this is a very welcome development.

Branded Home Safe, the free TalkTalk service provides three specific tools that helps parents manage internet access for the whole home at one source:

  1. Kids Safe:Currently switched off by default, when switched on there are several categories that can be individually blocked including:
    1. Dating
    2. Drugs Alcohol Tobacco
    3. File Sharing Sites
    4. Gambling
    5. Games
    6. Pornography
    7. Social Networking
    8. Suicide and Self-harm
    9. Weapons and Violence

    In addition, the user can enter the domains of up to 8 other specific websites they want blocked (not a lot, but a start).

  2. Homework Time: Currently switched off by default, this panel controls the time that Gaming and Social Networking sites can be accessed by the household. When turned on, the account holder can change the specified times to suit their needs, with an additional option to have these settings only applied on weekdays.
  3. Virus Alerts: Currently switched off by default, when switched on this setting blocks access to websites infected with viruses.

On the whole, this is an encouraging and welcome development, and makes TalkTalk the first major UK ISP to recognize the need for house-wide protection. Especially as traditional device-level (computer based) filters can not provide protection for the growing plethora of web-enabled devices.

We have not been able, as yet, to find out how the filtering system works, and neither can we obviously see options to report either sites that are being incorrectly blocked or suggest those that the filter is missing. These tools would also be very welcome.

As with any such technology, no doubt this one will be imperfect and have it’s problems. However, for the first time an account holder has an easy way to add a layer of protection to the whole house in one go. It therefore makes a very useful addition to other tools such as OpenDNS and computer filter / web-blocking programmes. And it is free to TalkTalk users.

As noted by TalkTalk in this  BBC report, these filters are not intended intended as a cure-all.  As a spokesman for the compnay said, “This is the most robust system that’s available but what it’s not is a substitute for good parenting.”

If you have any comments / experience or problems using the TalkTalk filters, then please post them. You never know, TalkTalk may be following.