Saturday, October 17, 2009

Legal action against free postcode lookup

I only discovered the Ernest Maples website today. Ernest Maples was the man who introduced the UK postcode system. The website was providing a useful service that took a UK postcode and returned the latitude and longitude of that postcode, which seems kind of familiar… But they’ve recently received a threatening legal letter from the Royal Mail’s lawyers telling them to remove this service from their site.

This raises so many questions. When will I get my threatening letter? When will Google get their threatening letter, since they provide this exact same feature but through a JavaScript API rather than via a URL? Why is the publically owned Royal Mail charging for this data anyway, since it was taxpayer money that paid for its creation in the first place?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Google Maps tools

This is an interesting tool to see what is possible with the Google Maps API. Something I feel missing is real-time update of the shapes being drawn as the user moves the mouse around, something our mapping tool will provide when we ship the next version very soon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Micro Men

BBC3 and BBC4 often have some interesting programmes that are easily missed. I remembered to record Micro Men, a dramatisation of the work of Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry who produced the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro respectively. It was good fun, although Sinclair didn’t come across as a particularly likeable character, which I found disappointing since he was always something of a hero for me as a child. Acorn lives on with its ARM processor powering most of the world’s mobile phones and Sinclair continues to invent things, although with somewhat less success than the ZX Spectrum. Anyway, Micro Men is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for a while.

Zopa – 18 months on

About 18 months ago, I started to siphon some of my savings into Zopa in an attempt to get a slightly better return on my money. So I thought now would be a good time to look back on how well it has gone. First up, it certainly provides better returns than having your money in a bank account, with interest rates as low as they are. On the downside, this increased return does mean increased risk, the old risk premium again. Those loans can sometimes turn bad and when they do, all the outstanding debt is written off. Well I guess some of it may be returned, but I’ve not had any bad debt returned yet.

But the main downside is that the money is tied up for a long time, and by my calculations the return from part paying off my mortgage is still better than the returns on Zopa. And although doing that means that the money is gone forever, in the future I’ll probably be more likely to do that than put more money into Zopa.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Checking a latitude/longitude is in the UK

I found quite a lot of duff data appearing in my incomplete database of UK postcodes, so thought I’d better filter out some of the rubbish. So the obvious thing to do was figure out which latitude and longitudes weren’t in the UK and stop them being put into in the database in the first place and also delete the ones already in there. There are definitely better ways of achieving this but my simple solution seems to have done the trick. First check the latitude is greater than 49 and less than 61, then check the longitude is greater than –12 and less than 3. It’s not perfect but I think it’s probably good enough for many applications.