Sunday, July 26, 2009

Data Way to Go - Why Data Theft is a Continuing Problem

“Stealing, you'll go far in life. Actually, there is something funny about getting away with it.” American TV and film producer Mike Judge might have had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he said the above quote but the phenomena of having private information stolen is certainly no laughing matter. Whether it is internet fraudsters or negligent banks and hospitals, having your personal information tampered with is a common occurrence nowadays.

More and more cases of data theft are appearing in the Irish news. It is not as if this happens every single day but the upward trend in incidents is worrying.

The recent theft of a laptop containing files on more than a thousand patients from the house of a senior medical officer in the Health Service Executive, just highlights how easy personal information can be taken without our consent.

AIB bank officials were left red-faced when confidential bank documents were found when diggers excavated them at a former dump in Cork. This was the same site that hospital patients’ medical records from Cork Regional Hospital were found at an earlier date. Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen was being sensible when he suggested these matters be handled by the police and not the institutions involved.

In another calamity, a laptop containing the records and personal data of more than 170,000 Irish blood donors was snatched in New York of all places. A blood bank worker in the Big Apple who was contracted to upgrade software for the files had the laptop robbed from him outside his home. With examples like this it’s no wonder that people are wary about handing out personal details so easily.

The internet is fast becoming the easiest way for criminals to gain access and take advantage of a person’s private information. Credit card fraud has become a really lucrative business for criminal hackers, luring innocent victims to visit bogus websites and give their card details thus enabling the fraudsters to spend on the card.

Even if you are not that easily roped in, internet crooks can send out Trojan horse viruses that once downloaded onto your desktop will gather vital information such as your Visa or Mastercard number. The only good news in this kind of criminal activity is that most credit card companies will cover you for the majority of the illegal spending done on your card. Usually a fee of around €50 or €60 will be the most a person will pay and the rest will be insured.

So what to do if you feel your precious data is not secure? For computer use the general answer is to just use your common sense and don’t follow links to advertisements. Many of these can be phishing scams which basically are false links to websites that will do their best to get you to part with your hard earned euros. Be careful when using your plastic on the net by only using well-established websites like E-Bay or Amazon. These sites pay a lot more money for security than any of the smaller companies in cyberspace. Use a good anti-virus that will deter Trojans or spam from infiltrating your computer.

We certainly have a responsibility to ourselves to be less reckless when it comes to our own personal information. As well as our PC’s and laptops, people need to be careful with other gadgets that hold private info. Cellular phones are the prime example. It is easy to be careless with your mobile when out on the town having a few jars but it must be remembered that yours as well as your friends' and family’s personal data are on there too. With technology advancing at a rapid rate people are storing larger amounts of information on their phones so the loss can be quite painful.

With regard to medical or financial files, you’ll still have to put your trust in the hospitals and banks that have them and hope that they treat your vital statistics with the care and attention they obviously deserve.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Spend Low, Sweet Charity

Why do I feel slightly cagey when I enter the Oxfam on George’s Street in Dun Laoghaire? Am I experiencing a twinge of shame at being seen going into a charity shop? Am I surreptitiously checking that nobody I know has witnessed me going in?

Although I hate to admit it, maybe the well-hidden snob in me has risen to the surface. The same paranoid feelings overpower me when ever I enter the bookies. A rarity of course but strangely I started this article by handwriting it using a Ladbrokes mini-pen. I proceed gingerly. A guilty, cold sweat is forming on my back. It feels like somebody is watching my every move.

As I step over the threshold into used items land my eyes dart all over the shop. Literally. Jackets, dresses, shoes, books, magazines, random bric-a-brac are all vying for my attention. So many pieces of other people’s lives ready for strangers to usurp.

Things for sale in second hand stores always get me asking the same questions. Who used to own this item? Where are they from? What exactly made them give this away? Am I reading too much Kafka? Inside the shop several elderly ladies are trawling through multi-coloured clothing and really enjoying themselves by the look of it. The woman at the till scans me suspiciously as I wonder where in the shop to go first. I am on the receiving end of a thousand yard stare. To her I must look like a map-entranced tourist with that lost, blank, vacant visage.

As I make my way past her, I spot a young chap in a tracksuit trying on a sweatshirt near the back of the shop. He has that same look of guilt I must surely have, smeared across his face. I’m sure he’s just come from the bookies. I decide to bury my head in the book section and attempt to uncover a literary bargain. Stephen King, Maeve Binchy, Harlen Coben and friends are all crying out to be snatched from their shelf and placed in my college bag. After paying for them of course, just in case you were wondering. Nothing leaps out at me however and I choose to exit the building. Now, where the hell is that Mrs. Quinn’s charity shop?

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Suceava city, capital of Suceava County, is one of the main regions of the province of Bucovina in north-eastern Romania. The original Hungarian translation of Suceava means ‘city of furriers’. The city does indeed have a long and fascinating history. From 1388 to 1564, Suceava became the capital of Moldavia. During this period, Iasi became the Romanian capital, later to be changed to Bucharest. Suceava actually began its existence on a terrace on the right-sided bank of the Suceava River in the 14th century. The city features the groves of Zamca and Sipote, Zamca Hill being the highest point in the city.

During Stephen the Great’s reign in the 15th century, Suceava developed as one of Romania’s biggest trading centres and also a main customs point. Countless warehouses were to be found scattered around the city and a strong citadel was built up. In the 16th century the Turks invaded and destroyed much of the city but in 1775 they conceded the region to Austria. It wasn’t until 1918 that Suceava again became populated by Romanians. During its communist period, Suceava became very heavily industrialized and factory employment was very easy to come by.

The city is chock full of historical buildings and Suceava is a good starting point if you want to visit the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Every time Stephen the Great defeated an invading army he built a new church in the area, so there is certainly no shortage of those. The St. George’s Church is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and the remains of the Princely Court and the Bucovina Ethnographic Museum are also extremely popular for visiting tourists.

Other well-known attractions are the 14th century Mirauti Church (where Stephen the Great was crowned king of Moldavia in 1457), Zamca Monastery and the Bucovina Village Museum. The Bucovina History Museum includes displays of ancient documents, medieval armour and coins among other historical artefacts, and is well worth a visit.

Suceava became an established area of Jewish settlement in the 16th century, but sadly most of the synagogues and Hasidic prayer rooms were destroyed during the 1950’s ‘communist renewal’ period. Only one synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries still stand to this day.

The city is accessed by Stefan cel Mare international airport and a main train station. From Bucharest to Suceava, flights are approximately one hour and train journeys the best part of seven hours. The people are very friendly and food and drink are cheaper than many parts of Europe. It is hot and humid in the summer and cold and snowy in the winter time, so suitable clothing will be necessary. Suceava has a lot to offer and is a worthy place to plan a holiday to.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Whales in Comparison

Whales are aquatic mammals that live their entire lives in water and along with the seacow are the only other mammals to do so. Unlike fish, who breathe using their gills, whales suck in air through blowholes that push air down into their lungs. They are in fact very similar in most ways to mammals that live on land. Lungs, hair, warm blood, mammary glands and four-chambered hearts. Whales have all of these mammal traits. Strangely, the closest land animal to the whale is the hippopotamus, of which it is a very distant relation.

Being the biggest animals on the earth, whales of course are mostly thought of as gigantic creatures, but there are quite small varieties too. The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest whale, measuring around 2.5 metres in length, while the blue whale is the largest, sometimes measuring a monstrous 30 metres in length.

Whales are placed in the cetacean group of mammals alongside dolphins and porpoises. There are more than 75 types of cetacean in all. They are further placed into two different groups, toothed whales and baleen whales. Most are of the toothed variety, sea predators that use their teeth to chomp down on fish and squid. Baleen whales use filters to sieve their food from the sea. These whales are less common but much larger than their toothed counterparts. Whales have eyes on the sides of their heads which means they can’t see straight ahead of themselves properly but their side view is second to none.

The fastest species are killer whales (usually called ‘Orcas’), which can get up to speeds of around 50kph. You wouldn’t want to race one of those for sure! Orcas are actually dolphins even though they go under the title of killer whale. In contrast to fish, who move their tails left to right in the water, whales move their tales up and down. Even though whales can get up to some incredible speeds, they have not been always able to outrun the many whaling ships that have seen several species of whale on the brink of extinction. Whales are hunted for their meat, oil and ambergris (a perfume ingredient) among other things. Countries like Norway, Iceland and Japan still allow whale-hunting, while most countries of the world have banned it.

Whales are usually portrayed as quite violent creatures that can attack ships and boats but this is mostly not the case. Although they are not to be messed with, the whale will not attack unless it or its young are threatened. Moby Dick, the whale in Herman Melville’s classic novel of the same name, is perhaps the most famous whale in history. Much of people’s views of whales have probably come from Melville’s book, which features a revengeful, ferocious whale that attacks ships at a whim and the story of Jonah trapped inside the body of a whale in the bible.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pictures from County Wicklow

The weather has been absolutely smashing in Ireland this week,with not a drop of rain in sight.Here's some photos taken around Co. Wicklow during this surely short-lived sunny period.

Monday, May 4, 2009


eBay is the world’s largest online marketplace. Founded in 1995, eBay created a powerful platform for the sale of goods and services by a passionate community of individuals and businesses. There are literally millions of items across thousands of categories for sale on eBay at any given moment. eBay enables trade on a local, national and international basis with customized sites in markets around the world.

In the words of eBay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, eBay was created to be a "force for good". eBay’s core businesses do indeed have a very positive impact around the globe. From breaking down geographic barriers to generating economic opportunity, eBay is used in over 190 countries worldwide. It is also fundamentally green, with eBay having facilitated the re-use of an estimated €50 billion in used goods since 1998. People can purchase goods without driving to a shopping centre and no paper receipts are involved in each transaction.

eBay helps members to trade safely and builds trust between members through the development and enforcement of rules and policies and the creation of reputation-building programs.

eBay also works behind-the-scenes to prevent fraud and proactively works with law enforcement and government agencies throughout the world to make online shopping an all together better experience. eBay's policies are aimed at encouraging open, honest, and accountable transactions, and creating economic opportunities for everyone using the website.

eBay provides an open trading platform where the market determines the value of items that are sold. Over the years, the site has become a cultural barometer of sorts, providing a view into what objects consumers want most at any time.
The eBay Community is made up of more than 100 million people around the world who buy and sell in the eBay marketplace. eBay users include individual buyers and sellers, small businesses, and even enterprises. From the buyer who shops on eBay for practical needs or for fun, to the seller who relies on eBay as a primary source of income, eBay has become a trading phenomenon.

eBay members have helped one another to be successful on the site and through the eBay Community Hub, members meet and form meaningful relationships with one another via discussion boards, chat rooms, online workshops and eBay groups. Every day, members use these forums to get help from other experienced users, share their best practices with others who are just starting out, or just socialize.

eBay has changed the face of trading for the better and the site is still going from strength to strength. With more users and more products sold than ever, eBay is certainly not a short-lasting fad but an online trading service that has lasted the test of time.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fusion Power Stealth

Move aside Mach 3, Gillette’s newest product is now the very best a man can get.

The new Fusion Power Stealth razor is just what every guy has been waiting for. With its five Power Glide blades for smoother comfort, this razor is certainly the best a man’s skin can get. Each one of the Fusion’s quality five blades has a patented coating for amazing glide and comfort. There is also an extra trimmer blade at the back of the razor for those hard to shave spots like under the nose and on the sideburns. The added bonus of the brand new Flexible Comfort Guard (using 45 microfins), gently sets up stubble for an extremely comfortable and incredibly close shave.

Another addition to this fine product is the Enhanced Indicator Lubrastrip. This feature has not only Vitamin E and Aloe on the strip but natural oils as well, making for most probably the best shave on the planet. The Lubrastrip itself changes colour from green to white as optimal shaving conditions become reduced. The new sleek design has superb handle grips to assist the shaver in erasing all that unwanted stubble.

Even with the extra blades, the Fusion Power Stealth remains remarkably easy to clean out after usage. If that still doesn’t seem good enough, well there’s more. The Fusion Power Stealth comes in two different types: The standard version and a battery powered edition that vibrates each individual razorblade for an even smoother shave. What more could a man possibly want from his razor? Well a decent price for a start and the Fusion Power Stealth doesn’t disappoint for pure value. The standard version retails at €12.99 and the battery powered version is only €14.99. And that includes two free blades with each purchase.

So guys, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself the smoothest shaver in the land and say goodbye to itchy stubble and irritating shaving cuts!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Marine Hotel Graduation Night Goes Swimmingly

The sumptuous Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire hosted a graduation night for students of Dun Laoghaire College Of Further Education on the 6th of November. Hundreds of students were there to receive educational certificates for all their hard work in the 2007/2008 college year. Certificate recipients were given FETAC and Fás awards during the evening’s proceedings.

The speeches at the graduation night reflected Ireland’s current educational climate. While they all praised the students’ achievements, Chairperson of the VEC, Donal Marren, took time out to criticise the Government’s cut-backs on education. Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, reacted to Mr. Marren’s comments by comparing them to the dimming of pub lights at closing time and the fact that people usually ignore them and carry on as normal.

After the speeches, it was the students’ turn to take centre stage. Classes lined up on the flanks and the graduation-cloaked students were called on alphabetically. Each student of the year was given a Newbridge clock in appreciation of their outstanding contribution to the academic year. Cameras were frantically clicked by audience members to capture all the action and there was plenty of handclapping.

Post-ceremony there was a rush to the Marine Hotel’s many bars for a swift drink. Sandwiches were handed out to help soak up the celebratory booze. The place was jammed with beaming students, proud teachers and even prouder family members. All in all a great evening out for everyone in attendance.

Capital D Puts Shanganagh House In Limelight

Shankill’s Shanganagh Park House was the subject matter for one of the segments of RTE’s Capital D programme earlier this month.

The house, which is run as a community centre, has seen an upsurge in interested course applicants since the episode was broadcast.

Course co-ordinator Anne Farrell believes the Capital D episode will only enhance the centre’s already growing reputation.

“The publicity really has helped us here”, she says. “A lot of local people didn’t know we were here at all until now and there have been a lot more enquiries about the courses we run here since the programme”.

Although course applicants are on the increase, Anne still thinks that older members of the Shankill community are not being helped enough. “A lot more could be done for the elderly here”, she says. “There are not really any other courses for them in the area, apart from the ones we have here”.

Children’s play groups, adult education classes and senior citizen’s courses are all run in the house every weekday. Situated in the middle of the Rathsallagh estate, the house is ideally located for people in the community to get together on a regular basis.

The massive Georgian house has certainly seen many ups and downs over the years. In 1984 a basement fire destroyed much of the building and it was not opened again until 1987. Another fire in 1992 caused it to close its doors once more. It wasn’t re-opened again until 1993 when president Mary Robinson was on hand to snip the re-opening ribbons.

More than one million euro was spent on refurbishing the house in 2005. Funding was obtained by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the Department of Environment and Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prague: Czech It Out

When my sister rang and asked me if I wanted to go to Prague around Christmas time, I was instantly interested. She had spotted a deal for flights and three nights in a four-star hotel there for 225 euro a pop. How could I let that bargain slip from my X-mas wish list? Telling her to book it on the spot, I pretty much put it to the back of my mind until it was nearly time to grab my passport and suitcase. Well, sportsbag to tell the truth.

The flight to the Czech Republic capital took just over two hours. Burying myself nose deep in a book (Arthur & George by Julian Barnes), the time flew in. Spotted with touristy looking luggage at the airport, a taxi driver was quick to ask us where the six of us were heading. The Majestic Hotel was our destination and we were there about 25 minutes cab-driving later. The hotel was in fact majestic, with ornate sofas and immaculate golden tiling in the lobby area.

The rooms were extremely nice too, what you would expect from a four-star I suppose.
Prague is the next most visited city in Europe after Paris, so don’t bargain on cheap thrills and inexpensive gift hunting. The Czech Republic aren’t in the euro zone as of yet either, so make sure you bring some local currency with you. 50 Koruna is roughly two euro and expect to pay between 500 and 700 Koruna for a decent restaurant meal.

Prague is filled with incredible Baroque and Gothic architecture and some of the castles near the town square are like something out of an old Disney movie. It’s advisable to bring a digital camera as you will want to snap your way around town.
The Christmas markets themselves really are a sight to behold.

Everything is either glinting like stars in the night sky or giving off the scent of delicious delicacies. Roast chestnuts, creamy crepes and scrumptious sausages are all sold from wooden shacks covered with tinsel and sparkling lights. Langosc is a crispy, deep fat fried roll of dough that is more than likely not good for your cholesterol level, but it certainly is tasty. Wash that down with some luscious mulled wine, readily available every twenty feet or so.

Endless trinkets are sold from jam-packed stalls, but the prices aren’t exactly cheap. The stall-owners won’t take cheques by the way. If you really do feel like crunching up some credit however, there are plenty of designer shops around the city centre. Rolex, Gucci, Armani and Cartier all have outlets near the markets.

If you are tired of all the eating and shopping take a scenic boat or bus tour around the city. Prague is full of amazing and spectacular scenery to feast your mince pies on. There are also plenty of museums, theatres and opera houses if you are feeling cultural. If I had to find something to moan about (ok, if you insist!) it would be some of the locals themselves. Shop assistants can be a bit abrupt and restaurant staff sometimes downright rude. They’re probably just tired of all the tourists though. Prague gets several million visitors every year which might explain some of the cold shoulders.

That’s just a small gripe though, and don’t let that put you off visiting one of Europe’s most wonderful and vibrant cities. So, check into a hotel and check out Prague.