November 26, 2011

Cockermouth Gets a New Letter

Filed under: Personal Observations — Martin Sullivan @ 12:04 pm

There is a pub in Chester called the Marlbororough Arms, a blatant misspelling of its original name and ‘Marlborough’. It received this moniker in the 1980s when, as a part of some corporate brewery inspired branding, it got a new sign. These things arrived in several bits from some central place. Once erected the fault wasn’t spotted for several days, or so it was said, and the Landlord made it stay. It had become something of a conversation piece.

And now I’ve done something similar for the Cockermouth Film Club. The Club’s web-site having gone into abeyance, I thought to enhance the web presence by other means. It meant a new Twitter account and the Facebook page would be given a slightly more meaningful name. Facebook allows you to do this and I decided ‘CockermouthFilm’ would be appropriate. I therefore waded through the menus to do this and I thought that I’d done this correctly. Fingers and typos however mean that this page is now http://facebook.com/CockeremouthFilm — the highlighting is mine. Well let’s hope that it turns into a suitable Marlbororough-like conversation piece, for Facebook will not allow you to change the name again (or delete it). The only way that this can be fixed is to create a new page and delete the old one.

If you know how to fix this, by some secret-squirrel method that I’ve missed, then please do contact me. Until then it stands as a chastisement to my cavalier typing and crap orthographic skills.

November 24, 2011

Interesting Job of the Week

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 5:20 pm

Here’s the now weekly interesting job of the week. I’m posting the result on the @JCPM_Feedback Twitter account, and it appears here too.

Martin’s interesting job of the week —Handle and pack, cough, Adult goods: http://zois.com/GRX37757


November 22, 2011

IMEI, IMSI and Mobile Phones

Filed under: Lab Book — Martin Sullivan @ 8:35 pm

My wife takes me out for walks, now and again. She calls it “Walking the Dog” and it aimed to keep me from spending all my time in front of the Computer. On this particular occasion we called in on some friends. Over tea, they lamented the loss of a Mobile Phone. Happily it was quite old and wasn’t very expensive. I tried to explain how these things were identified, so that you could put a block on it. But, in spite of doing it for a living for some time, some time-ago, I struggled to remember it. I therefore decided to write it up and send them an e-mail. And then I thought I’d post it here too.

[Picture: Movie poster, Dial M for Murder]

But dial *#06# for IMEI

In Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSM), the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) is a magic number that identifies the Mobile Phone. It’s not bomb-proof, it can be changed, but it allows a ‘phone to be blocked, should it be lost of stolen. This is good, for it renders the ‘phone expensive to re-enable, and demonstrates your good faith, should the ‘phone be subsequently used for nefarious purposes. This number can be tracked by the authorities and has been instrumental in catching number of naughty people.

Allied to this, but attached to the SIM card, is International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). This is like a glorified super-Ur-phone-number that identifies the SIM card. Changing this is simply a matter of changing the card.

So find your IMEI. This is achieved by typing a command code into the ‘phone, but it can also be found by some phone-dependent obscure menu item. The command code will always work, it’s part of the specification, and is *#06#. There are a whole bunch of command codes (called MMI) for ‘phones and the list I use is here (auf Deutsch)

That is a comma (‘,’) and they are crap at HTML.

To block the IMEI, simply call the network provider. They may require some simple authentication from you, such as the last time and number called, to ensure that nobody is playing silly-beggars. The SIM (IMSI) can be blocked at the same time too. Should the phone found again, the Customer Service Agent (CSA) should be able to re-enable it, on O2 Germany and T-Mobile UK they could. And as Orange has the same system as T-Mobile, and is the same company, these days, I’d expect the same from them.

Well, I used to do this for a living, and it’s nice to post something that isn’t about fixing a crap Government web-site.

November 21, 2011

Twittering ‘Official’ JCP Offices Noted

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: , — Martin Sullivan @ 8:40 pm

As has been written in other places, there are a number of ‘Official’ JCP Offices now using Twitter. These seem to be a more-or-less grass-roots initiative that are, inevitably, hampered by the Government IT that they are obliged to use. I help where I can.

Since there are now a number of these Twitter accounts I thought I should note them. I’ve started ‘curating’, Twitter’s term, a list of these things. A small bit of coding, found elsewhere on this Blog,  and that list found itself in a special table in the Unofficial Jobcentre Plus Mirror Database. Then, the tedious bit; I’ve slowly over the course of a couple of days been marrying-up the Twitter account names with the relevant offices. Some of the Twitter accounts are regional in nature and have several offices, some only one, and a few are not associated with any office in particular. With this work finished the web program that displays an offices details and jobs was amended to show what Twitter account it was using.

To see this in action, the Leeds Park Place office is offered as an inclusive example.

The association between Jobcentre office and Twitter account is my own. As always, if you’ve any suggestions on how I can improve this, or have amendments and corrections, please do not hesitate to send feedback. It is always welcome.

November 17, 2011

Interesting Job of the Week

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 9:59 pm

Here’s the now weekly interesting job of the week. I’ve taken to amusing myself with typing the odd speculative query on the JCP Mirror database and seeing what pops out. I’m posting the result on the @JCPM_Feedback Twitter account, and it appears here too.

Martin’s interesting job of the week — Have your feet photographed in Hereford: http://zois.com/HER23266

November 16, 2011

Dumping a List on Twitter

Filed under: Lab Book — Tags: , — Martin Sullivan @ 3:39 pm

As any robot, and passing human, that reads these scribbling will tell you, I’ve been doing one or two experiments with the micro-blogging site du Jour, Twitter. One of the surprises of these is the discovery of a grass-roots movement in individual Jobcentre Plus Offices who use Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, to try and connect with their ‘customers’.

[Picture: movie poster: The Bucket List]

No, not that kind of list

Twitter isn’t just about organising riots, and these efforts are to be commended. It amuses me that any number of social-commentators, including those on the government payroll, say the same thing, sometimes in large elaborate PDF documents and sometimes in their very own Tweets, but it has been largely left to technologically minded and publicly spirited individuals in individual Jobcentre Offices to do something about it.

Twittering Jobcentre Offices have a happy amateur quality to them. Their posts can be sporadic, the branding inconsistent and not all of them maybe ‘for real’. But I believe the majority are, and there’s now about 150 of them making a sizeable fraction of the 800 or so still active Jobcentre Offices in the country. Their efforts, needless to say are hampered by Government IT, and I help out where I can.

So now I’ve a sizeable Twitter list and I’d like to do something about it. Perhaps note the Twittering Offices’ account names, when my users examine an individual Jobcentre Office. I’ve therefore written a program that probes Twitter lists. It was easy enough to do, and although there are several examples of various levels of antiquity around on the web. I thought I’d dump mine into the Internet Hive-Mind too.

The usual source-code caveats and restrictions apply. As do the usual feedback exhortations.

    my @members;
    my $cursor = -1;

    do {
        my $r = $nt->list_members ('JCPM_Feedback',
                                   {'cursor' => $cursor});

        foreach my $user (@{$r->{'users'}}) {
            push @members, $user->{'screen_name'};
        } # foreach

        $cursor = $r->{'next_cursor'};
    } while ($cursor);

    return (@members);

This code, written in Perl, uses Marc Mimm‘s Net::Twitter modules, available through CPAN. The code produces an array of Twitter account names from the @JCPM_Feedback/jcp list. The method list_members returns an array of hash of user-data. One of the items in each is the screen_name, Twitter’s term for the account name, such as is prefaced by an ‘@’ (‘@JCPM_Feedback’, for example). This is the datum that we’re interested in, on this occasion. The trick with all of this, is that you get this stuff in page-like chunks. You therefore have to run over the entire dataset using an entity termed a ‘cursor’. This value is magically maintained by the list_members method and will be set to zero (or false) once all the data has been returned. It initially has to be set to ‘-1′.

To use this one needs to set up the $nt object. In these days of OAuth, you need to set-up authentication tokens on the Twitter development site and then use them thusly.

    my $nt = Net::Twitter->new
         traits => [qw{OAuth API::Lists API::REST WrapError}],
         consumer_key => "secret, get your own",
         consumer_secret => "secret, get your own",
         access_token => "secret, get your own",
         access_token_secret => "secret, get your own"

Naturally, one could make this code more generalised, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Returning, finally, to Jobcentres. My numbers and assessment of their quantity is purely based on those that appear on-line, in Twitter form, or through the Jobseekers Direct web-site. I’m aware that in major centres there are a number of Jobcentre Plus offices that are involved in working with ‘customers’ off-line. So the real number of Jobcentres may be considerably more.

November 14, 2011

JCPM’s Twitter Efforts Documented

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 3:44 pm

Although much of this has already been written, both in this Blog and elsewhere, I’ve started to consolidate all the Twitter documentation. There’s therefore a new page on the Home web-site specifically documenting the Twitter Pilots, the Redirection service URL shortening and support for other third-party Twitter initiatives.

It should be joined shortly by a Technical Note on the Twitter Pilot experiments, as soon as I regain my enthusiasm.

November 13, 2011

The Daily Mail and Jobcentre Minus

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Martin Sullivan @ 1:33 pm

Altered by an alert Twitter user, I’ve noted that the Daily Mail, of all people, have investigated the Jobcentre Plus web-site, and the machines one finds in Jobcentres, and rather found them wanting. I’ve naturally gone on their site and made a comment. I feel fully justified in doing the guileless self-promotion that these things demand.

Dear me, I’ve become a Daily Mail Commentard. And then again, maybe not. The comments remain unpublished several days after they were submitted.

November 11, 2011

Interesting Job of the Week

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 10:16 am

Here’s the now weekly interesting job of the week. I’ve taken to amusing myself with typing the odd speculative query on the JCP Mirror database and seeing what pops out. I’m posting the result on the @JCPM_Feedback Twitter account, and it appears here too.

Martin’s interesting job of the week — Economics Professor in Aberdeen: http://zois.com/ABD236267.

As this is Aberdeen and given that town’s reputation, I’d expect some exceptional talent. As this is Aberdeen the position has appeared in their Heavy Traffic Pilot (@JCPM_Aberdeen), and it has been re-tweeted, too. @JCPM_Aberdeen is down to 8 followers and is danger of being withdrawn.

November 8, 2011

Closure of Northern Irish Jobs Data

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 2:19 pm

We’ve been scraping the  JobCentre Online NI for some time now, more for the sake of completeness than anything else. This web-site is devolved to the Northern Irish Executive and is run independently of the rest of the UK’s Jobcentre Plus system. It didn’t do a bad job, and so we’ve only been producing an FTP feed. Lately however the web-site has introduced Capchas and a terms-and-conditions page that specifically forbids the kind of scraping that ZOIS does. The excuse seems to be:

This is to prevent the misrepresentation of information which employers have provided to DEL.

As a result the FTP data files (named DELNI-scrape-<something>) were empty.

If this causes problems, e-mail me to discuss alternatives.

I’ve therefore decided to withdraw this service. Should you require data for statistical or third-party search purposes on Northern Ireland jobs then you will have to contact them directly. I’d suggest you have a Freedom of Information request form to hand.

Some fellow third-party web-service providers (JC, in the comments) has alerted me to this, for as with other automated systems I’d blithely assumed that it was all working. I guess I’ve been paying too much attention to Twitter.

There are, of course, ways and means around this. If you’ve a non-commercial or worthy cause that would use such a feed, contact me to see what we can’t arrange in private. Northern Irish vacancies continue to appear in the Overseas Office of the Jobcentre Plus system, thus on the Jobseekers Direct web site, and ultimately in the Mirror Database. It’s probably that this is not comprehensive, though.

Feedback works. I wouldn’t have known that this was happening unless a kind user alerted me. Kudos to them.

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