@yellow_office: @meals_balham @kentishtowner #GoodMorning and thanks for following - if we can help let us know!

@balhamsw12com: Balham Jobs: Nursery Room Leader at Pertemps (Balham, England): You will have to be a experienced Nursery Room... http://t.co/h5m6g023y8

@robbies_photo: Have we spoken to you about Bespoke Framing? Find out more... http://t.co/16Pj6oleOK

@H0NESTCABBIE: RT @stormcab: Think I've discovered where @BoringStormcab has vanished to - stuck in a video rental shop in Balham 😂😂😂 http://t.co/6rqeoQZO…

@stormcab: Think I've discovered where @BoringStormcab has vanished to - stuck in a video rental shop in Balham 😂😂😂 http://t.co/6rqeoQZOK3

The Lodge pop-up to bring Alps to Balham - Event Magazine


The Lodge pop-up to bring Alps to Balham
Event Magazine
The Lodge will open six days a week from 25 October, located near to Balham Underground and Overground station, and will serve Londoners fondues, hot cocktails and wild game. Garcia has enlisted the help of set designer Firecracker Works to transform ...

Council ignores school’s concerns and rejects crossing

Despite concerns raised by Fircroft Primary School, governors, parents, elected councillors and Sadiq Khan MP, Wandsworth Council has ignored a petition calling for a zebra crossing outside the Tooting school.

Sadiq celebrates First Touch garden opening

Sadiq joined St Matthews Primary School, Wandsworth Mayor, BBC presenter Sophie Raworth, and St George's CEO Miles Scott to celebrate the opening of the First Touch garden, along with five First Touch graduates, outside St George's Hospital. 

Sadiq supports Macmillan Coffee Morning

Sadiq joined hospital staff and patients, as well as local residents to support Macmillan Cancer Support at the St George's Hospital Macmillan Coffee Morning.

 

20th Century Relic

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20th Century Relic

Balham, South London

BBC

tezzer57 posted a photo:

BBC

Balham Bowls Club, Balham, South London

Five Reasons to be Careful with Facebook

facebook-logo-thumbs-upHere are five reasons I need to be careful with Facebook. The idea for all of them came from Tim Chester’s brilliant little book ‘Will You Be My Facebook Friend?

I don’t always fall into the trap that these potential dangers set. But it’s difficult not to. And so I do need to navigate my online life with a fair degree of caution.

1. Facebook allows me to portray a distorted image of myself

The harsh facts of the matter are that most of us are quite dull. And we live very ordinary lives. And that’s true of me. But Facebook offers me the chance to change all that. It allows us to present an edited version of who I am and the type of life that I lead. On Facebook I am my own spin doctor. I get to decide what version of myself I portray. I select what I post. Tim Chester says we are all ‘presenting upbeat propaganda versions of our own lives’. And that’s true, isn’t it? We don’t post all the photos we’ve got of ourselves, do we? Just the ones we want to be seen. We don’t write down everything that we think or say, do we? Just the stuff we want to be read. And when we find ourselves somewhere exciting one of the first things we want to do is not enjoy what’s going on but take a picture of what’s going on so that everyone else knows what we’re doing! My life looks much more exciting online than it does in reality.

2. Facebook allows me to exercise dominion in my own world

Social media is a place where I’m in control of my social environment. Facebook allows me to gather in one place, a virtual world, all the people that I want. Facebook calls them friends. But essentially it’s my audience. And even assuming that they are all close personal acquaintances, it would be nearly impossible to gather all of them in one place in the real world. The closest I’ve come to that is my wedding and my thirtieth birthday. And in this virtual gathering of all my nearest and dearest, I’m centre stage. It’s my world. And each one of us inhabits our own world where we’re very much at the centre of what’s going on. And when we post, we’re encouraged to think that everything in the world is in fact revolving around us. I’m in control of what happens. For example, Facebook is usually not a place in which a conversation takes place with very different people. It’s a place where my friends have been gathered to look at me and admire me for who I am and what I have to say. But how very different is real life in a church family. As Tim Challies has pointed out,

‘God has placed you together with the people in your congregation. You did not choose them: God chose them. And that diversity of personalities, backgrounds, social class and ethnicities is used by God to make you grow in Christ and to display the unifying power of the cross. But in cyberspace you are God. You choose who will be in community with you. You create your own communities of convenience that mean you are never challenged. Or, if you are challenged or relationships become costly, you can just scuttle off to a new relationship. As a result we never grow up. We are permanently immature’.

3. Facebook allows me to seek approval from other people

Facebook is biased. There’s no ‘dislike’ button. It’s all so affirming and positive. And being who I am, I get a perverse sense of satisfaction from saying something negative or inappropriate on Facebook simply because it’s not allowed. I usually get admonished for it. Invariably by the wife of a former colleague. But most of us thrive on the positivity we receive from posting the latest picture of ourselves or our kids. We feel good about ourselves because others have rated us and indicated that they have with a ‘thumbs up’. That sort of approach to life encourages us to make assessments of who we are by what others make of us. For example, if my personal blog receives thousands of hits, I can feel very influential. It doesn’t. And I don’t. And if my picture receives hundreds of ‘likes’ then I can approach the day with a spring in my step. I rank myself through the lens of others’ approval. When I get it, I’m fine. When I don’t, I’m not. It can encourage horizontal comparison. I know people who refuse to use Facebook because of FOMO; the fear of missing out. They’re worried that they’ll spend the time wondering why they’ve not been invited to a party, or why they weren’t at the event where all the happy, smiley people are pictured drinking cocktails. Tim Chester puts it this way,

I am defined by other people’s gaze, what they make of my face. The Bible calls that the fear of man. Our overriding concern should be what God thinks of me. But instead my concern is what other users of social media think of me. It is their approval that matters.

4. Facebook allows me to be satisfied with shallow relationships

At the last count, I think I have 761 friends. That’s nonsense.  Inevitably with most of those people I have nothing more than a superficial acquaintance. They’re not my friends, though we’re almost always friendly. But by not having to live with the limitations of a body which places me in one place at one time, social media allows me to have access to all of my friends all of the time. But those friendships are usually superficial, unlike the real face to face ones. And the danger is that if I spend all my time online interacting with my online friends, I won’t form the deep kinds of friendships that we need as human beings. Chester speaking timely wisdom once again,

Your idolatries, your selfishness, your struggles are never seen. Instead a lot of people get the sanitized version of you. Moreover most of us praise in public and rebuke in private. So, because Facebook is a public medium, people are generally going to make positive comments. Challenges to our behaviour are left unsaid. Facebook is a place to hide from real relationships.

5. Facebook allows me to escape to a less demanding world

In the real world, people make demands on me, my time, my resources and so on. But not online. My disembodied life online is a far less demanding place to inhabit than the real world. And so it’s tempting to run away and escape to an easier life for a few hours a day. But all I’m doing is temporarily suspending reality. Soooner or later I’ll need to come back to the real world. Tim Chester issued this challenge,

‘Men should be taking responsibility in their homes, workplaces, churches or neighbourhoods. But many young men today are spending hours on their Xbox and never really growing up. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with computer games. But many of us are playing with toys when we could be taking risks for Christ’s kingdom or leading the way in new gospel initiatives. Our culture encourages men not to grow up. It says: ‘Think of yourself as ten years younger than you are and you will be happy’. So men are spending evenings playing Halo when they could be serving in their youth group or moving into a needy area to serve Christ. They are opting for the pseudo-machismo of the virtual warrior rather than risk becoming warriors in the real spiritual battle’

I could spend ages preeening my Facebook profile so that I look good to my online friends. Or I could spend some time in the company of my friends doing good. But the better option of the two requires more effort. And self sacrifice hurts.

There you go. Five reasons to be careful about what and why you post on your Facbook account. And before you say it, I am aware of the irony of promoting this blog on Facebook!


Missing

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Missing

Balham, South London

Balham's Got It

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Balham's Got It

Balham, South London

Friday

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Friday

Balham, South London

Sadiq joins Tooting Gymnastics Club's 25th Anniversary Celebrations

Tooting Gymnastics Club celebrated its’ 25th Anniversary with special guests Sadiq Khan MP and Olympic Gymnast Beth Tweddle MBE.

 

Seven Dangers of Social Media

weapons-of-mass-distractionLet’s be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with technology. In His creation mandate, God commanded humanity to subdue the earth and rule over it (Genesis 1). Technology enables us to do that. Wonderfully. When it works. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with technology. Though currently there’s something very wrong with my internet provider. But there is something wrong with us. And so technology in the wrong hands, namely ours, is potentially damaging. And so we need to be aware of the dangers of social media. I could think of seven.

1. It consumes our time

I can waste hours browsing. It starts on the BBC Sport website. This very morning my coffee break was accompanied by highlights of the Pro12 game between the Cardiff Blues and Ulster. I have no real interest in Welsh or Irish rugby. It was a time filler. But it led on to the Edinburgh game in which they were soundly thrashed at the hands of another team whose identity passed me by! Surfing the web, checking your e-mails and updating Facebook can be a real time-waster. It doesn’t have to be. But it often is, isn’t it? And just think of all the other much more useful and beneficial things that I could have been doing!

2. It dominates our life

Technology can take over. It drives us and rules us. It becomes our master and not our slave. Apparently half of twenty somethings check their Facebook account within minutes of waking up. Many of them whilst still in bed. I’ve been known to do that with the phone. But now it’s banned from the bedroom and the kitchen table! We may not be that attached to our technology but how would you feel if someone suggested removing your smart phone for a week? The strength of your response to that suggestion will be revealing.

3. It disrupts our activities

I tend to have a ‘rule’ that I won’t interrupt a real-time conversation if the landline goes. I figure if it’s important they’ll ring back or they’ll leave a message. I wouldn’t normally let someone else barge into a real life conversation out of politeness to the person I’m speaking to. So why should it be any different when someone who’s not in the room tries to initiate a conversation? But mobile phones have changed all that. A quick look at the screen is usually followed by ‘can I just get this?’ Especially if it’s Rosslyn. And I’ve found it very hard not to allow the beep of my phone to disrupt whatever else I may be doing.

4. It changes our communication

I’m not simply talking about the shameful way in which the English language has been massacred by text speak. I’m talking about how we need to capture something in 140 characters. And I’m talking about the inability to mount a sustained argument because anything more than 400 words simply won’t be read in a blog post. I tend to ignore those rules. This blog post is 850 words. But, if I play by the rules of this online communicative game then I can’t afford to include the all-important nuance and qualifying statements that gives anything we say credibility, subtlety and persuasion. We just assert. We don’t justify. And that’s a great pity. It’s changing the way we say things.

5. It eliminates our learning

In a bygone era I used to think that learning to do multiplication and division and all that stuff was unnecessary because I had a calculator. After all, what’s the point of learning mental maths when a machine will do it for you? I now have to resist the temptation to do the same with information. I used to read stuff, try to understand it and learn it. Now I just store it. I know where to get stuff. I don’t know stuff. It’s not quite as useful.

6. It distracts our concentration

One of our staff habitually checks his e-mails, updates Facebook and engages in all kinds of online activities whilst we have staff meetings. And it drives me up the wall. He’s doing it to save time. His time. But it interrupts the social dynamic of what ought to be a very relational time. But it’s not just him. It’s me. On my own. When I need to write a sermon, browsing the internet can become very attractive. I repeatedly check my e-mails. I browse the Wiggle webpage. And if there’s a sporting event being streamed then I’m done for.

7. It feeds our addictions

We all have addictive temperaments. We’re attracted by certain things. And so we find some things very hard to live without. We’re not all the same. We desire different things for different reasons. But we’re fundamentally desire driven people. And we all have habitual ways of fulfilling those desires. Lots of those desires can now be fulfilled quickly and readily online. And so some of us aren’t happy until we’re up to speed on the social gossip, checked what our friends are doing or checked the footy scores. For lots of us, social media feeds our obsession and we find it hugely problematic to put the brakes on.


Sadiq welcomes car wash campaign success

 

 

After joining local residents, councillors and Tooting History Society in objecting to plans to build an 8-bay car wash on Tooting High Street and the corner of Woodbury Street, Sadiq Khan MP welcomes the news that the planning application has been withdrawn.

Four Benefits of Social Media

2014-07-06 16.05.45Most of our church family were born into a digital world. They’ve never known anything else. The internet already existed when they were born. Many of them struggle to remember life without Facebook. And so one of the subjects for our Autumn Bible School was ‘The Christian use of Social Media’.

I can still remember getting my first ever e-mail account. And the noise the dial up internet connection made. If I go back further than that, I can picture my first exposure to a prototype of e-mail. In my first year at university I habitually took the short cut to the Students’ Union bar by travelling through the Engineering Department. I passed a room in which Computer Science geeks sent single sentence messages to their friends on the other side of the room. It was the earliest days of digital communication. How I scorned and mocked them for the sad way that they’d replaced real life relationships in the bar with something so nerdy. And yet, twenty years later I am enslaved to the same kind of equipment that they found so appealing.

But it’s not all bad. Sure, there are negative impacts of this new technology. And we’ll get to those in subsequent posts. But this is one in which we rejoice in what our God given creativity has enabled us to do. So, to begin with, let’s celebrate the creativity what lies behind this new technology and identify the benefits that the invention of the World Wide Web has afforded us.

1. It accelerates communication

I can now talk to friends face to face in Australia through Skype. Distance is no longer an issue. Time zones are though!

I can send an instant message or a text to someone rather than waiting for them to be in the same room or to be able to get to a landline. My kids no longer need to go to a telephone, they can simply get out their Nokia Brick (non internet compliant) and send me a text telling me when they’ll get back.

I can e-mail a friend rather than sending a letter which could take weeks to get there.

If we can get internet access, we could interview some of our mission partners live in our church prayer meeting.

2. It disseminates information

I can send e-mails with huge attachments rather than having to send something in post.

I can post pictures for any of my friends to browse.

I can post on my blog and thousands can access it at a moments’ notice. Most of the world chooses to ignore it. But they could if they wanted to.

I can research anything I want to and get instant answers. It took only a moment on Google to find out what triangular numbers were. And momentarily I became the world’s best Dad as I helped my daughter with her homework.

3. It facilitates organisation

I can use a web page to co-ordinate who can make it to what meeting.

We can post an online directory for church that’s up to date and always accessible. It’s got faces on it as well so we can easily put a name to a face.

Someone can invite whomever they want to a party and give them all the details they need as well as give them an option to show whether they’re intending to attend.

4. It enables collaboration

I can elicit the support of others to a cause very straightforwardly.

We can publish a rota that sits in cyberspace allowing those that need the information to access it whenever they need to so that they can help serve others

There’s much to celebrate in the development of this technology. It’s not all bad. We’ll get to the stuff that we need to be careful about. But, to begin with, let’s marvel at what a blessing God has given us through those computer science geeks I once mocked. Invariably the stuff online helps me bring order out of choas. It helps me fulfil God’s creation mandate to subdue the created order.


Latest Antioch Press

In their September edition, Evangelicals Now have kindly printed an article I wrote to bring the readership of that newspaper up to speed with exciting developments with the Antioch Plan.

You can find it here.


Taylor Wimpey gets set to launch new apartments in Balham - Easier (press release)


Taylor Wimpey gets set to launch new apartments in Balham
Easier (press release)
Home-hunters will soon be able to take their pick from the first release of apartments at Taylor Wimpey's hotly-anticipated Balham Walk development in Balham, south London. This exciting new collection of 91 one, two and three-bedroom apartments will ...

Dangerous Camping

030Could there possibly be anything more dangerous than asking a bunch of Dads to look after their pre-teenage children on a weekend of camping? Dangerous? Reckless, more like.

Dangerous Club is our pre-teenage youth work at Christ Church Balham. It’s full of kids in years 4, 5 and 6. It’s a great age. And this year, for the first time ever, we went camping. It was absolutely terrific. I’m already an enthusiastic camper. And I’m unqualified in my praise of this weekend. It was great. God was very kind with the weather. It didn’t really rain. It spat. For about thirty minutes. At about bed time, which was actually quite helpful! We had no great ambitions for the weekend other than that we’d hang around in the countryside with our kids. The relational impact on the group was evident when we got back to church on Sunday morning and they went into their Sunday School Classes.

058We stayed in the walled garden at Otford Manor, Kent. And we made full use of their facilities. We explored the woods. We swam in the pool (we’d have swum in a river if that was available). We swung on the rope swing. Repeatedly. We played a wide game. We got badly stung by nettles. And learnt what dock leaves are for. We built wooden shelters and tried to destroy the opposing teams. We burnt a shed load of wood. We cooked on an open grill. We shunned salad. And we ate marshmallows for breakfast. But we also washed and did our teeth. So it wasn’t all bad.

099It was an absolute winner. Though we packed away dew sodden tents at 0800 in order to get back for church, they were dry by mid-afternoon after being hung up in the garden. I’d happily do it again. And I’d happily do it with Ignite, our teenage youth work. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it.


Balham's Oak Lodge School reopens after electrical fault delay - Your Local Guardian


Your Local Guardian

Balham's Oak Lodge School reopens after electrical fault delay
Your Local Guardian
A school for deaf children has reopened today after an electrical fault forced it to delay the start of term. A major electrical problem forced Oak Lodge School, in Balham, to close yesterday on the first day of term. Rumours were circulating that a ...

and more »

Simon Astridge opts for a variety of raw materials in Balham House extension - Dezeen


Dezeen

Simon Astridge opts for a variety of raw materials in Balham House extension
Dezeen
Architect Simon Astridge employed a varied material palette of plywood, concrete, brick and stone to create this extension to a Victorian terraced house in London (+ movie). Balham House interior by Simon Astridge. The client asked London-based Simon ...

Emergency works at Balham school force first day delay - Your Local Guardian


Emergency works at Balham school force first day delay
Your Local Guardian
A major electrical problem delayed the start of the school term in Balham, but rumours a sinkhole could be to blame have been quickly scotched. Teachers at Oak Lodge School for deaf children, in Nightingale Lane, Balham, were thought to have been ...

and more »

Home from the Holidays

Home from Malaysia, after an epic 36 hour flight back on Emirates. KL to Dubai leg was fine. Then we boarded the A380 at Dubai at about 3.00 for the 3.45 leg back to London. At 5.45 they took us all off the plane, having been delayed (1) by customer who had checked in, then never boarded, so they had to find their luggage and take it off the plane (2) then there was a problem with the plane's computer, which they tried in vain to fix, but no joy, so got a new computer, but also didn't work. So eventually they disembarked all of us and we sat around in the airport until about 9pm, after which they said we would be leaving at 7am in the morning and would be taken to hotels. Then we queued 4 times in total for the hotel vouchers, with each counter performing one small task on the hotel voucher. Each queue took about 30  minutes. In the end, I gave up on the last queue (which for the 10 minute bus ride to the hotel), where they were using just 1 10-seater minibus to transport about 200 people, and got some dirham from the airport ATM and took me and the kids to the hotel in a taxi. One good thing about DBX - they have a special woman taxi driver queue for women travellers, which I did feel much reassured about using, compared with having to drive off into the night with a male taxi driver in a strange place that you'd never intended to be in, in the first place. Another queue at the hotel to check in, where I had to throw a wobbly because after queuing for 15 minutes to get to the head of the queue, the guy at checkin promptly went wandering off without a word of explanation. Got to the rooms, the door cards wouldn't work, so had to go back down and get them both reset. Got to bed at midnight, fell on the bed and slept till 4am, then got the kids up and were on the 4.10 bus back to the airport. Entire flight fuelled by Burger King and McDonalds. Moderate throwing up by Sam and me. Very very glad to get back to UK. There were people on that flight coming from NZ, who had already been travelling for 33 hours BEFORE the delay in Dubai. With young children. The horror.

Now busy digitising the whole of my father-in-law's CD collection, which C is gradually transferring over to our house from Wolverhampton. He is in Wolvo today, helping MIL to clear out the house, prior to her putting it up for sale and moving back to Nottingham, after FIL's funeral.

Reading Talleyrand's Memoirs and Little Dorrit. Watching Series 1 of Merlin. Listening to Moby. Planning trip to Galways to see Smiggle and fulfil girls' fantasies of riding ponies along deserted Irish strands.

First Direct Update

Earlier in the week I talked about my concerns with First Direct’s new password policy. I got an email from them about this, but it really wasn’t very reassuring.

But I kept digging. And on Thursday I got a bit more information from “^GD” on the @firstdirecthelp twitter account. It still doesn’t answer all of my questions, but I think we’re a lot closer to the truth. Here’s what I was told.

The obvious question that this raises is why, then, do they limit the length of the passwords. I asked and got this (three-tweet) reply.

To which, I replied

And got the response

I thought that “as a business we are satisfied” rather missed the point. And told them so.

I got no response to that. And @brunns got no response when he tried to push them for more details about how the passwords are stored.

So, to summarise what we know.

  • First Direct say they store the passwords “encrypted”, but it’s unclear exactly what that means
  • It was a business decision to limit the length of the passwords, but we don’t know why that was considered a good idea
  • It still appears that First Direct believe that security by obscurity is an important part of their security policy

I haven ‘t really been reassured by this interaction with First Direct. I felt that the first customer support agent I talked to tried to fob me off with glib truisms, but “^GD” tried to actually get answers to my questions – although his obvious lack of knowledge in this area meant that I didn’t really get the detailed answers that I wanted.

I’m not sure that there’s anything to be achieved by pushing this any further.

The post First Direct Update appeared first on Davblog.

First Direct Passwords

I’ve been a happy customer of First Direct since a month or so after they opened, almost twenty-five years ago.

One of the things I really liked about them was that they hadn’t followed other banks down the route of insisting that you carried a new code-generating dongle around so that you can log into their online banking. But, of course, it was only a matter of time before that changed.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from them telling me that Secure Key was on its way. And yesterday when I logged on to my account I was prompted to choose the flavour of secure key that I wanted to use. To be fair to them they have chosen a particularly non-intrusive implementation. Each customer gets three options:

  1. The traditional small dongle to carry around with you
  2. An extension to their smartphone app
  3. No secure key at all

If you choose the final option then you only get restricted (basically read-only) access to your account through their web site. And if you choose one of the first two options, you can always log on without  the secure key and get the same restricted access.

I chose the smartphone option. I already use their Android app and I pretty much always have my phone with me.

Usually when you log on to First Direct’s online banking you’re asked for three random characters from your password. Under the new system, that changes. I now need to log on to my smartphone app and that will give me a code to input into the web site. But to get into the smartphone app, I don’t use the old three character login. No, I needed to set up a new Digital Secure Password – which I can use for all of my interactions in this brave new world.

And that’s where I think First Direct have slipped up a bit.

When they asked my for my new password, they told me that it needed to be between 6 and 10 characters long.

Those of you with any knowledge of computer security will understand why that worries me. For those who don’t, here’s a brief explanation.

Somewhere in First Direct’s systems is a database that stores details of their customers. There will be a table containing users which has a row of data for each person who logs in to the service. That row will contain information like the users name, login name, email address and (crucially) password. So when someone tries to log in the system find the right row of data (based on the login name) and compares the password in that row with the password that has been entered on the login screen. If the two match then the person is let into the system.

Whenever you have a database table, you have to worry about what would happen if someone managed to get hold of the contents of that table. Clearly it would be a disaster if someone got hold of this table of user data – as they would then have access to the usernames and passwords of all of the bank’s users.

So, to prevent this being a problem, most rational database administrators will encrypt any passwords stored in database tables. And they will encrypt them in such a way that it is impossible (ok, that’s overstating the case a bit – but certainly really really difficult) to decrypt the data to get the passwords back. They will probably use something called a “one-way hash” to do this (if you’re wondering how you check a password when it’s encrypted like this then I explain that here).

And these one-way hashes have an interesting property. No matter how long the input string is, the hashed value you get out at the other end is the same length. For example, if you’re using a hashing algorithm called MD5, every hash you get out will be thirty-two characters long.

Therefore, if you’re using a hashing algorithm to protect your users’ passwords, it doesn’t matter how long the password is. Because the hashed version will always be the same length. You should therefore encourage your users to make their passwords as long as they want. You shouldn’t be imposing artificial length restrictions on them.

And that’s why people who know about computer security will have all shared my concerns when I said that First Direct imposed a length restriction on these new passwords. The most common reason for a maximum length on a password is that the company is storing passwords as plain text in the database. With all the attendant problems that will cause if someone gets hold of the data.

I’m not saying for sure that First Direct are doing that. I’m just saying that it’s a possibility and one that is very worrying. If that’s not the case I’d like to know what other reason they have for limiting the password’s length like this.

I’ve send them a message asking for clarification. I’ll update this post with any response that I get.

Update (17 July): I got a reply from First Direct. This is what they said.

Thank you for your message dated 16-Jul-2014 regarding the security of your password for your Digital Secure Key.

Ensuring the security of our systems is, and will continue to be, our number one priority.

All the details that are sent to and from the system are encrypted using high encryption levels. As long as you keep your password secret, we can assure you that the system is secure. As you will appreciate, we cannot provide further details about the security measures used by Internet Banking, as we must protect the integrity of the system.

Our customers also have a responsibility to ensure that they protect their computers by following our common-sense recommendations.  Further information can be found by selecting ‘security’ from the bottom menu on our website, www.firstdirect.com

Please let us know if you have any further questions, and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Which isn’t very helpful and doesn’t address my question. I’ve tried explaining it to them again.

The post First Direct Passwords appeared first on Davblog.

Sky Broadband Update

It’s probably time for an update on my Sky Broadband situation.

I last wrote about Sky on 16th April. That was the date of their second failed attempt to connect me to their broadband. It was the date that I decided to cancel my order and go elsewhere.

First the good news. I was considering alternative providers. I called Virgin Media and they told me that I could have a 50 Mb fibre connection for an extra £2 a month over what I already paid them for my TV and phone package. And, as a bonus, they could do it within a week – still five days earlier than Sky had scheduled their third attempt at connecting me. I ordered it, they came round on the promised day and everything works fine. Very happy with them.

This then left me trying to cancel my Sky order. This was slightly complicated by the fact that Sky had successfully connected my phone line[1] and also the fact that this phone line is used for monitoring my ADT burglar alarm. I didn’t want to cancel the phone line until ADT had moved the alarm monitoring to the Virgin Media line. I explained all this to Sky and  they seemed to understand.

A chap called Andy in Sky’s customer service took it upon himself to take on the project. He took to phoning me weekly to ask me what was going on with ADT. To be honest, I got a bit lazy and it took me a while to get in touch with them.

Then my hand was forced. In the middle of May, some error lights on the burglar alarm started flashing. I called ADT to see what the problem was and they told me that it looked like the phone line was dead. I plugged a phone into the line and was able to confirm this. The phone line had been disconnected – despite my explicit instructions about not doing that until I asked for it.

I was a bit stuck. Calling Sky’s customer support from a non-Sky phone line is very expensive. And the only Sky line I had was dead. I tried their online chat facility, but the people you get on that are absolutely useless. Luckily Andy was due to call me for a progress update the following day, so I decided to wait for that.

When Andy called, I asked why they have disconnected the phone. He said that they hadn’t. He ran a few line checks and discovered a fault on the line. He offered to send an engineer to fix it. I told him not to bother and to go ahead with the cancellation. He told me that there was some problem with their systems that prevented him cancelling the contract right away but that he had reported the bug and would let me know when it was fixed.

Time passed.

Earlier this week, I wondered idly what was going on so I sent them an email asking for a progress report. A woman called and told me that my records said that someone (Andy, I assume) had been checking into my account daily and leaving notes explaining why he still couldn’t close the account.

The following day, I got a call from Andy (I’m sure it was pure coincidence that this was the day after I had chased them). He told me that the bug had been fixed and asked me to confirm that I still wanted to cancel the account. I told him that I did and he started the process. He warned me that I wold receive a few automated emails.

Within half an hour I got the first email, telling me that my services would be cancelled on Thursday 6th June. Hooray. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The following day, I got another (presumably automatic email) offering me twelve months of free line rental if I changed my mind. Then I got the same message by text. And today I’ve got a missed call from a number which Google tells me is Sky’s customer retention department. They certainly seem keen to keep me. It’s a shame they didn’t put so much effort in back in April when they might have been able to salvage something from the disaster.

Oh, and I’ve received a bill. They want to charge me a month’s line rental for the phone line. A phone line that only ever really existed to serve a broadband connection that they weren’t able to provide. A phone line that I’ve used to make one call – the call to Sky customer services on 16th April when I first told them to cancel my order.

I’ve cancelled the old Be Broadband direct debit that they were planning to use to take the money. I’m amazed that they wouldn’t just waive those charges.

So, two months on I’m still (to some extent) a Sky customer. But the end is (hopefully) in sight.

Oh, and throughout all of this, the  @SkyHelpTeam Twitter account has been a source of much amusement. They reply to every mention, but haven’t got a clue what is going on. They use a social media customer tracker called Lithium. But they must have it configured wrong because each conversation starts with them knowing no history of this problem at all. And, having watched the product video, that’s exactly what Lithium is for.

Throughout this hold affair all of Sky customer service people (with about two exceptions) have shown themselves to be rubbish at their job.

[1] You’ll have noticed, no doubt, that we had to phone lines. The home phone (along with our TV) has been provided by Virgin Media for years. I also had another phone line for the broadband. I had this on a separate contract because it had been paid for through the limited company that I use for contracting.

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Ritherdon Road street party promises a fun-filled day for all the family, Sunday 8th June!

RR street party 2014The Trader’s Association of Ritherdon Road invite you to join them on Sunday, 8th June for the annual street party and fun day on the pavements along the parade.  This popular event will welcome back all the favourites from previous years, including a wonderful selection of stalls selling a variety of items such as handmade silver jewellry, children’s toys, cheese deli items, knitted cushions and much more.  They look forward to welcoming back Simmons Creperie who will be dishing out freshly made authentic French pancakes, and this year there will be a traditional hog roast to delight your taste buds.

Take part in the colouring-in competition for a chance to win a signed print by Johny Midnight. Bring your best effort to Gallery Midnight on the day of the street party by 4pm, where the entries will be judged and the winners will be announced! Pick up your copy of the picture at Gallery Midnight.

Head to The French Cafe and win a bottle of wine with their ‘C’est Moi’ competition, or ‘Name that Puppy’ at Quirky Dovetail to win shopping vouchers. If you win Jacksons estate agent’s ‘Pick a street’ competition you could be the lucky winner of Johny Midnight’s limited edition ‘Tooting Lido’ print. Robbie’s Photographics want you to get creative by snapping up photos of the street party and entering them into their competition to win a bespoke canvas of your photo.

This year will see the return of the Balham Ukulele Society and The Hayward Sisters. We’ll also be welcoming The Balham Pram Chorus and the mighty talented Del Mandel. Make sure you make your way to the photo booth to get some snaps or enter the lucky dip! The team from Party Faces will be painting the faces of fairies, butterflies, princesses and mermaids too!

Join us at the street party to show support and raise funds for this year’s chosen charity partner First Touch who support sick and premature babies at St George’sHospital.

Please join us in thanking our sponsors: Jacksons estate agent, The Balham Partnership, Gallery Midnight, Quirky Dovetail, Dee Light Bakery, The French Cafe, Bodean’s, Robbie’s Photographics, Ecole de Danse of Balham, Nappy Valley Net, Movers & Shapers, Essential Local, Feel Good Balham, T M Ryan & Sons, Balham Electrical Services, Health reCentre, Mucky Paws, The Hayward Sisters. The Ritherdon Road street party is kindly supported by the Balham Town Centre Partnership.

The post Ritherdon Road street party promises a fun-filled day for all the family, Sunday 8th June! appeared first on Balham.com.