Category Archives for "Miscellaneous"

December 5, 2016

How to stop iCloud Calendar Spam

Do you wonder what goes through the minds of spammers?  No, me neither. All I was interested in earlier this week was how to stop iCloud Calendar spam.

The latest hooks to arrive unwanted on my mobile devices are multiple invites in my calendar for fake RayBan sunglasses.   They contain a mixture of Chinese and English characters and the purpose is obvious – click on these links and buy something.

These arrived a few weeks after my mobile phone had received over 80 spam text messages from China in the space of about 15 minutes one Sunday morning.  A couple of days later I was surprised to receive a call from my mobile provider to assure me that any charges incurred would be refunded.

However, I had to check my next bill and remind them of that fact as the refund didn’t occur automatically, but they didn’t quibble and the refund was immediate.

Anyway, back to the iCloud calendar spam.  Whatever you do, don’t respond to the invite in your calendar in any way.  This is the equivalent of clicking on the links in spam emails and simply acknowledges to the spammer that your account is active.  It will only encourage more spam.

How to delete any spam already in your calendar

  • Tap Calendars in the bottom menu bar
  • In the pop-up that appears, tap Edit, top left
  • Now tap Add Calendar
  • Give your new Calendar a name e.g. Spam
  • Tap Done x 3 to back out of the settings area
  • Now select the spam event in your calendar and move it to the new calendar
  • The events will probably be linked so you won’t have to move each one individually.
  • Move all sequences to the new calendar
  • Now go back into the settings and delete that new calendar

Shut off In-app Notifications in iCloud Calendar

  • Log in to your iCloud.com account
  • Click on the Calendar icon
  • Click on the gear icon in the bottom left corner
  • Click on Preferences in the pop-up
  • Click on the Advance tab
  • By default, in the Invitations section, you should see the In-app Notifications selected
  • Select the email option instead
  • Save and close

Now, any event notifications should arrive by email. Your email spam filter should be able to remove these before they even reach you.

Got any additional tips or comments on the above?  Please share them below.

October 26, 2016

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books And Turn Your Clutter into Cash

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books And Turn Your Clutter into Cash

During one of the recent fits of de-cluttering I found a new way to sell CDs, DVDs, books, and other items that would otherwise sit in the car boot or eBay pile.

Sometimes it seems like the world is just too full of stuff.  Our garages and our lofts are filled to overflowing with unused items that we hang on to ‘just in case’.

The surplus has spawned a new storage industry.  Every town now has a selection of storage facilities and many of those lock ups are for the accumulated belongings of people how have run out of space at home.

We are obese with belongings.  It’s time to shed some of the fat and turn it into cash.

I’ve tried car booting.  It’s a very early start, usually on a Sunday, and a drive to a field or a school.  You stand there for hours while people sniff at your £1 price tag and walk on seemingly unwilling or unable to haggle.

I’ve had an eBay account since 2003 (!) and sold plenty on there but it’s becoming harder to do so. The fees are high and the buyers can be pain with endless questions and frequent returns.

I don’t think eBay likes the small buyers and sellers any more.  They seem to be more accommodating to the shops and other businesses.

What is needed is somewhere I can ship in bulk for a quick cash return.  A sort of send and forget model.

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books etc For Cash

One option is Ziffit.com.  They provide a free app with which you can scan the barcode on your CDs, DVDs, and books.  The app then gives you an instant valuation and adds the item to a virtual basket.

Once you’ve completed your scanning you’ll have a total valuation and you’re ready to pack and ship the goods.  You can drop the box off at the nearest Collect+ point (usually a nearby newsagent).

At first you might be disappointed by the amount paid for each item but consider the alternatives:

  1. Drive to a car boot sale and sell some of your CDs at a higher price. You pay for the pitch and you may not sell all the CDs.  Add to that all the hassle of packing and travel.
  2. List them on eBay and pay the fees: listing, transaction and any optional extras.  There’s no guarantee you’ll sell all or any of them.
  3. Sell them in bulk using Ziffit.com.  One parcel, one shipment, one payment for all of them.  The price per items is less but the net result is cash in your bank without the time and the hassle of the first two options.

Of course Ziffit isn’t the only company that offer this service but I tried others first with the same collection of CDs.  Ziffit came out on top because they offered 20% more for the goods and the app worked better than others I tried.

It might be hard to part with a copy of Led Zeppelin II bought at HMV in 2008 for £9.99 but with iTunes and Amazon Prime it’s become a backup copy only.  Besides, with the cash from the sale of old CDs I might just complete the circle and buy some vinyl.

October 25, 2016

How To Prevent Identity Theft And What To Do If It Occurs

How To Prevent Identity Theft and what to do if it occurs

Identity theft is a relatively recent phenomenon but it’s on the increase.  Here are a few tips on how to prevent identity theft and what to do if it occurs.

Last winter I was the victim of identity theft.  Someone used my name and address to take out contracts with several mobile phone companies.

I started to receive letters in the post from these companies.  I have only ever had dealings with one mobile phone company so it was obvious that something had gone wrong.

One by one I contacted them and had the contracts cancelled. I spent a lot of time on the phone and it was a pain in the neck but at least I didn’t lose any money.

However, it did affect my credit rating for several months but I have now had that restored to its former healthy status.  Below I explain how to do it if it happens to you.

How To Prevent Identity Theft

  1. Be aware.  It may seem obvious but are you familiar with the risks of having your identity stolen?  Read up on the facts using this guide on the Action Fraud website.
  2. Use a shredder.  Don’t throw away anything that has your name and address printed on it.  Use a household shredder when disposing of old utility bills etc.  Be particularly careful with bank statements, credit card statements, receipt, and invoices. Once you get into the habit it becomes reassuring that nothing is going into the bin that could reveal details about your identity.
  3. Be vigilant online.  It seems every website you visit wants you to register your details.  This is only to be expected if you intend to buy a physical product that needs to be delivered. Over time your name and address will be stored in more and more databases.  How secure are they? It’s only when the larger companies experience a security breach that headlines are made.  Don’t provide more information than is needed.  Just because the form is there it doesn’t mean you have to fill it in.  Just provide the minimum await of information for each site at which you register and close accounts you no longer use.  Remember to request that all your details are removed and ask for confirmation that this has been done.
  4. Use a password manager.  It’s all too tempting to use simple and easy to guess passwords.  Identity theft is never going to happen to you is it?  So why bother with cryptic passwords?  If you want to run the risk that’s up to you but if you’ve got any sense you’ll use cryptic passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.  I started using Roboform Password Manager years ago and it’s now an indispensable tool that I use every day.
    Use a password manager
  5. Monitor your credit rating.  For a small monthly fee you can keep a check on your credit rating.  Companies like Experian compile the details of all the mortgages, loans, credit cards, and other financial agreements that you’ve taken out.  If you apply for any new agreements then the companies to which your submit your application will check your score to measure the risk of accepting you as a client.  It may seem like an unnecessary expense but like all good insurance it’s a relief to know you have it when something does happen.  It’s also very useful for keeping abreast of all your financial commitments.  In fact, there are all kinds of benefits of maintaining an account and monitoring your credit rating.

What To Do If Identity Theft Occurs

  1. Don’t panic.  A calm and methodical approach will sort things out but it’s going to take a little effort.  It happens to all sorts of people and help is at hand. There are processes and procedures already in place to deal with it.
  2. Keep all the evidence.  Put all the letters, statements etc together in one place were you can find them easily.  You might want to use a folder as you’ll have to store the paperwork for several months.
  3. Inform the companies.  Contact the companies in question and ask to speak to their Fraud or Security department.  Explain what has happened and ask them to cease the fradulent accounts.  Keep a record of the dates and times you called, who you spoke to, and any reference numbers they provide.  Ask for written confirmation that the account taken out in your name has been closed.
  4. Wait.  Some companies will close the account while you’re on the phone.  For others there may be some delay.  It will take several days if not weeks for confirmation to come through that all is well and that you do not owe them anything. As each confirmation arrives add it to your folder and one by one you’ll see that all the fraudulent accounts are closed.
  5. Report it to Action Fraud.  By reporting identity theft and other types of fraud you’ll be helping in the fight against it.  Your information may also help to bring offenders to justice.
  6. Check your credit rating.  If you’ve got an account with Experian or a similar company (as I suggested above) you’ll be able to keep a check for any adverse effects on your credit rating.  If all the companies have done their job properly then there should be no outstanding amounts on your account.  However, I found one company had not removed the details of a debt in my name and a follow up letter to their head office was required.  Eventually it was removed but I would not have been aware of it had I not kept a check on my credit rating.

Conclusion

As with everything in life there is a risk involved.  We can mitigate those risks by taken sensible precautions.  Those actions become habits once repeated a few times.

No one wants to answer the door to a bailiff demanding payment for a debt you know nothing about due to another incident of identity theft. Keep your personal information private and monitor your credit rating.

You’ll feel more in control and better prepared if anything does occur.

More Information – UK

More Information – USA

September 14, 2016

Essential Tips For Enjoying the Goodwood Revival

tips for enjoying the Goodwood Revival

Richmond Trophy, Madgwick Corner

The Goodwood Revival never disappoints and there are always lots of reasons why I return each year but to make the most of it takes some planning. Whether your main interest is motor sport, classic cars or bikes, vintage fashion, or historic aircraft then there’s plenty to see.  Here are my essential tips for enjoying the Goodwood Revival and taking away happy memories that will linger right through winter until the following year.

What is the Goodwood Revival?

It’s a revival of the motor racing that used to take place on the circuit around the airfield but it’s so much more than that too. It’s a celebration of many of the best in motor cars, aircraft, motor bikes, fashion, design, music, and dance of the 1940s, 1950s, and the 1960s.

Spitfire at Goodwood Airfield

Who can resist waving & cheering a Spitfire?

The airfield was called RAF Westhampnett during World War II and it was the home of several squadrons. From here Douglas Bader took off and made his last flight before being shot down and going into captivity. Near the Goodwood Aero Club you will see a bronze statue of Sir Douglas Bader in a likeness contemporary with the months he spent there.

After the War the perimeter track was converted into a motor racing circuit and racing continued there until 1966 when the track was closed. Racing returned in 1998 when the first Goodwood Revival was held and it’s been repeated every year since.

When and where is the Goodwood Revival?

The Revival is held on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the first or second weekend in September every year.  It takes place at the Goodwood motor racing circuit and aerodrome just north of Chichester, West Sussex, England.  You can arrive by road (A27) or rail (Chichester Station), or you can simply fly into the airfield (with prior permission from the organisers).

Essential Tips For Enjoying the Goodwood Revival

Due to wide range of things to see and do at the event there will inevitably be some suggestions that are of no relevance to some.  These tips are offered for the newcomers, the first-timers who may be a little bewildered by the spectacle.

As Fred Pontin used to say, “Book Early!”

Vintage Fashion at Goodwood Revival

Well dressed ladies queuing at Betty’s Salon

The Revival is very popular and tends to sell out each year.  You’ll need at least an entrance ticket and are all kinds of supplements; grandstand seats, weekend tickets, camping, hospitality packages etc, so plan ahead.

Decide whether you’re going to be staying anywhere nearby or going home at the end of the day and make arrangements accordingly months in advance.

Watch the weather and keep watching

You’re about to to an outdoor event on an airfield near the south coast of England in September.  When the sun shines and winds are light it can be glorious but if a weather front passes through you can get drenched and cold.

The 2016 Revival was a reminder of how different things can be.  On the Saturday the rain blew in from the west and it drizzled for most of the day.  The cloud base was so low that all flying (displays and pleasure flights) had to be cancelled.  That meant that the afternoon motor races were brought forward and the main events finished early.

The next day, on the Sunday, the weather could not have been better.  Warm sun, light winds and very little cloud.  A dry track and picnics aplenty.  I expect the people who bought Saturday only tickets were cursing their luck.

Knock-on effects of wet weather

1960s listening booths

1960s listening booths

Most people will have to park in a grass field a good walk away from the site.  If there’s been a lot of rain the combined of effects of long grass and vehicles will have the inevitable effects.  Suddenly those 1950s high-heels you bought on eBay don’t seem like such a good idea as you gingerly make your way through the mud.

The airfield itself is an exposed place but the grandstands are even more so because they are elevated and you feel the full force of any wind and rain. If you bought your seat months previously and you’re only there for the day then it can be a big disappointment to find yourself getting wet and cold in your grandstand seat.

So put some umbrellas, macs, and wellies in the boot of your vehicle, just in case.

Arrive early and reduce queuing time

The car parks usually open at 7am and the gates open at 7.30am. If you can get there early you’ll avoid the worst of the traffic queues later in the morning.

However, unless you live or you’re staying near by then obviously that may not be practical, but if you can arrange it you’ll have the added benefit of your vehicle being nearer the entrance.  This makes popping back to it for a change of clothes or recharging batteries (phone, camera, or just your own) an easier option.

Leave late and see more

Racing usually goes on until about 6pm.  The area known as ‘Over The Rroad’ continues to be a mini retro festival with a small fun fair, market, live music and dancing until about 10pm.

If the weather’s bad then people tend to leave earlier but whatever the weather the car parks empty gradually throughout the afternoon.  Most people leave after the last race so stay a while longer and enjoy the other attractions – it beats waiting in a traffic queue.

Get to know the site

Glam Cabs Carry on Cabby

Glam Cabs are Revival regulars

With so much to see and do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There’ll be things on your ‘must see’ list and others will be on the ‘if there’s time’ section.  You might want to plan it accordingly or just leave things to chance.

The main area just inside the entrances and along the length of the startline is the busiest and can get quite crowded.   There’s more space as you cross the track (using the underpass) and continue into areas inside the airfield.

Similarly, start walking clockwise or anti-clockwise on the perimeter path and things start to open out.  If you’re early enough you might find a space by the trackside fence but there’s good viewing from the embankments behind too.

Use Google Maps or Earth to examine the airfield and you’ll see that the perimeter path is about 2.5 miles in total.  There are several grandstands around the track each with food, bars, and toilets.  There’s even a viewing screen on the furthest grandstand at Lavant Corner on the opposite side of the airfield to the terminal buildings.

Find some peace and rest your feet

The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Exhibtion

The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Exhibtion

For a little respite from the noise of the track and the crowds near the startline you will find a gentler pace in the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation where all the vintage aircraft are on display.  These tend to be widely dispersed and there are some quiet spots to be found here.

Alternatively you could hop onto the tractor towed trailers that travel around the perimeter and find somewhere to sit in the sun on one of the embankments.  Noisy while the races are on perhaps but in between you can lie back and bask in the sun with picnic to hand.

I tend to go to the event on my own and do a lot of walking.  During the course of the Saturday and Sunday in 2016 I walked a total of 14 miles but then I like to keep moving from one event on the timetable to another.

For more information and tickets…

Visit the official Goodwood Revival website.  There are hours of clips to be seen there and on social media.

Share your tips

Entire books have been written about the Revival and this post is just a few basic tips.  What are yours?  Share them in the comments section below.

June 14, 2016

Is the New Age Old Hat? Maybe metaphysics is mainstream now

keep calm and meditateIs the New Age Old Hat?  Maybe metaphysics is mainstream now.  So many subjects that used to be considered quirky or downright weird are now given open tolerance and promotion.

Four decades ago, before Amazon or Waterstones, the only way to buy any books on esoteric subjects was to visit an independent bookstore, a wholefood store, or use mail order.  As a curious teenager searching for answers outside mainstream religion I did just that.  I would send stamp addressed envelope to a bookshop in Leeds (it’s still there, 40 years later) and they would send a catalogue by return.

By the recommendation of friends, or referring to reviews I’d read in an obscure journal, or by pure guesswork I would select a few titles and send off a cheque.  A week or so later my books would arrive and I’d set about trying to absorb and understand the contents.

Inevitably, without the benefit of experience nor any guidance, I read some rubbish, but a few gems as well.  Gradually, I got to know the more respected authors  that fall into the category of the Western Mystery Tradition, like Gareth Knight, Dion Fortune, Colin Wilson, David Conway etc.

Among the growing number of New Age writers were Carlos Castaneda, and the author and aviator Richard Bach who were perhaps the pathfinders for the now popular Law of Attraction ideas.

Among the less talented authors were ones like Tuesday Lobsang Rampa.  He claimed to be a Tibetan monk, but turned out to be Cyril Henry Hoskins, a plumber from Plympton in Devon.  However, whatever his motives were for this disguise he did touch on some interesting subjects and his books were stepping stone for others.

Dion Fortune once wrote that it too far less work and effort to be a blacksmith than a Mage, and being a bit on the lazy side I took a job in a forge instead.

1980s – New Age Bookshops & Workshops

New Age Crystals

During the 1980s we saw the growth of Mind, Body, and Spirit sections in the bookstores, as well as New Age bookshops selling an ever increasing number of titles designed to answer the call more information on all the associated subjects.

The format was and remains the same; the books were complimented by an assortment of accessories including incense, crystals, CDs of whale and meditation music, and the ubiquitous dream-catchers (more often than not, made in China, not by Native Americans).

The 1980s was also a decade in which we saw the growth of workshops and seminars.  You could spend a couple of nights somewhere in Dorset where you would attend classes lead by an author or coach who lead the group into a series of exercises designed to find oneself, live magically, create one’s own reality etc.

If you wanted to go a bit deeper you might find yourself camping out in a field in Somerset attending the Glastonbury Earth Mysteries Camp or one of the Dragon Camps.   These consisted of daily workshops on a variety of subjects; sweat lodges, dowsing, wild herbs, sacred dance and so on.

1990s – Dawn of the Internet Age

With the arrival of the World Wide Web in the second half of the 1990s information (of variable standards and quality) began to be shared and published online.  In the years that followed a flood of information was made available.

The vast amount of data now accessible to anyone online is hard to comprehend. There are entire repositories like the Sacred Texts archive.  There is enough information in this one website alone to keep you busy for more than a lifetime.

The democratic nature the internet is such that there is no quality check of anything that is published online.  An open mind is healthy, but so is discernment.

21st Century Authors

Despite all this information available to us at a click or a swipe there is no substitute for  a hard copy. A book is still my preferred method for reading anything, whatever the subject.

There are plenty of excellent authors producing work that is both an inspiration and pleasure to read.  Authors like Gordon Strong (UK) and Gregg Braden (USA) to name just two.

Both not only write, but they also give talks and hold workshops. They are open to contact and dialogue online, which makes it a lot easier to obtain answers to questions raised by their output.  Gordon Strong is particularly active on Facebook.

Conclusion

Guided Mindfulness MeditationSo is the New Age old hat now?  In some ways things have changed beyond all recognition from the ‘Dawning of the Age of Aquarius’ of the 1960s, but on the other hand we’ve only just begun.

‘New Age’ certainly not a term you hear as much these days.  Perhaps it’s because so much that was fringe forty years ago is mainstream now; feng shui is incorporated into interior design, you can get complimentary medicine on the NHS, guided mindfulness meditation, and yoga are encouraged in the workplace, and respected sciences like cosmology and quantum mechanics are proving as weird as anything that has come before.

In addition, we’ve become much more aware of the effects of human activity on the planet, we recognise the importance of sustainable and renewable technology, and we see the world as a whole, responsive system.

Maybe those hippies and mystics were on to a thing or two.