Backup, Backup, Backup!

Hello there! How’ve you all been?

I’ve not been round here much recently, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve not been doing lots of Scouting! I think one of the best things we’ve done recently was our 3rd Family Camp we had back in May. We had a great time and my girls enjoyed themselves so much that by the time we went home on the Sunday afternoon, they were fast asleep!

You can see all the Group has been up to in our photo gallery here.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been unexpectedly offer a role in the County. I am now the County Web Manager, along with, District Web Manager and Group Scout Leader. I hope they don’t want me to take over the national site (ha – fat chance!!!!).

One of the first things I said to the County Chairman while discussing the role, was to make sure this site was adequately back up (it wasn’t previously) in case of accidents, hardware failure or hacking.  So that was one of the first thing I did.

Move forward to this morning. I’m having a little play with the settings of this site, when I click the wrong button and delete my whole site!

Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh!

Luckily I have backup for this site, so after a bit of uploading and tweaking of  settings, here we are!

It does prove that it is essential to have backups in place, so if you have your own site, please ensure you back it all up regularly. And if anyone is interested, I use this one for my WordPress sites (free version 😉 ). Oh and never forget to backup your PC. I had a colleague come to me at work recently saying he’d spilled wine all over his laptop and it had stopped working. He was rather concerned as it had all the pictures of his children since they were born on it! My first question “is it backed up” – reply “no”! Luckily it wasn’t too badly damaged and the photos were saved, but hopefully he’s learned a lesson!

Backup, Backup, Backup!

Interlectual Property

Back in 2008 I wrote about the importance of taking care of any Scouting related internet domains. This has been brought home to me recently as I have been trying to get a website closed!

The three Districts in my area come together to run a Gang Show called ‘Screamline’. This was the first Scout Gang Show to be produced outside of London in 1934. Although it was last produced in 2007 for the Scouting Centenary, it is hoped to be staged again in 2014 for its 80th birthday. When it was announced that it was going to be staged, I thought I’d have a quick look at the website that was set up for it in 2007. It was still running, but on closer inspection, it didn’t look right.

Digging a lot deeper it turned out that the domain expired early last year and wasn’t renewed by the person who had originally registered it as he had, by this time, left Scouting. A few months later, someone else bought the domain, copied the content from the original site, presumably from the Internet Achive, and set it up again but to be used for advertising and spamming on Twitter!

The domain was up for renewal last month and I’d hoped that I would be able to buy it. Sadly, about an hour before it expired, it was renewed.

Basically, the good name of the Gang Show was being potentially damaged by some unknown spammer! I tried to find out who they were, but they’d hidden their identity via an anonymity company in London. However after a phone call to them, they put me in touch with the domain registrar in Canada. I also found out who the hosting company was in America and emailed them both to ask them to take the site down because of the damage to the Show’s reputation and (this is the bit that they take notice of!) the copyright infringement (they’d nicked the old site effectively).

The hosting company totally ignored me, but the company that registered the domain did take the site offline (after about 4 weeks of nagging). Unhappily, a few days later the site came back online with the same advertising stuff, but without any reference to Screamline or any of the actual Gang Show site.

At least the connection between the site and the Gang Show is now broken and the Show’s reputation won’t be associated with spam. It was just a shame I wasn’t able to get the domain back!

This does show that letting domain registrations slip can result in unscrupulous people getting hold of them and using them for dodgy ends and potentially damaging the good name of Scouting.So the message is clear, make sure you keep hold of any domains you register, if you don’t you may not know what they may end up showing!

I haven’t put a link to the site as I don’t think they should get any more traffic to their site. But if you do a search it isn’t hard to find it!

Pi and Scouts

Yesterday, I managed to place my order for a Raspberry Pi. For those of you who don’t know what that it is, it’s –

… a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

– from their website.

They want kids to get back into using computers to make their own programmes like many of today’s software engineers did when they were kids on the Spectrum or the BBC B. In fact it can be seen as a kind of successor to the Beeb, as the company that produced them, Acorn, were responsible for the ARM architecture the chip on the Pi uses!

When I was looking on their site the other day, I came across this article about Boreatton Scouts who had managed to get hold of one early on and were using it for a robotics competition. They seem to be a very techy Troop and have had a fun time using it.

I’m very impressed with what the Troop are doing with the Pi, not to mention the more ‘normal’ Scouting activities. I think it will be worth keeping an eye on how they get on and maybe this could be something we can do as well.

I wonder if any other Troops are looking at using a Pi in their programmes?

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Internet Safety

I was at an internet safety conference this week and a couple of things caught my eye with regard to Scouting and thought it would be worth sharing.

Firstly is the Professionals Online Safety Helpdesk. This is for anyone who works with young people, whether voluntary or paid. If adults are worried about how their online presence can affect their career (or role in Scouting), are asking ‘is it ok to friend young people on social networking sites?’ or feel they are being bullied online, they can contact the helpline for advice. Contact them by ringing 0844 381 4772 or email Oh yes and it’s free!

Next is the OnlineCompass tool. It is a simple tool that shows you what you need to do to make the use of technology safer for your group. Once you rate where you are, it gives you advice on how to improve and the means to get you there. It is designed for any organisation that works with young people. See the other flyer. This would be used by Groups who have internet access at their HQs. This is free as well

I Do Wonder Sometimes…..

Last April, the Scout Association launched the My Badges App for the iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad. This app has all the requirements for all badges, from the Beaver’s right through to the Queen’s Scout Award. And very useful it is too.

At the time, I was not too impressed that it was just for the iDevices and not for the Android platform. The Scout Association said an Android version would be coming soon, er later in the year, no early in the new year, when pigs fly etc.

So today, you can imagine that I’m not overly impressed to read that the SA are releasing a game app for both iDevices and Android called Secret Island Adventure. Now why are they releasing a game for both platforms when they have yet to release the badges app on android? I’m guessing the game app won’t be free.

The badges app, I would buy for my phone (when it eventually comes out), but a game? An app that will be very useful seems to be being ignored for the sake of a game. I do wonder sometimes……

On a happier note, after last September’s discussion between me and Kiff, we were both keen to do another, but we both got a bit distracted by additions to our respective families! However, after Kiff has done a little housekeeping on his site this weekend, he will be publishing our next discussion. Watch this space!


Back in 1986, the BBC set out to make a modern version of the Domesday Book. They got the public to submit articles and photos and they used, for the time, the cutting edge BBC Master computers and analogue laser discs to allow people to store and access the information.

However, unlike the original Domesday Book, which was hand written on paper and is therefore still readable, the then cutting edge technology has become very quickly obsolete. So much so that in just the 25 years after the project was launched, there was a distinct possibility that the data would become unreadable!

To stop this happening, the BBC has managed to extract the data and turn it into the Domesday Reloaded website. By turning it into a website, there is the hope that the information will be available for many years to come and by as many people who want to view it.

I thought I’d take a look at the site and search for Scouts in my area. I was a bit disappointed that the only things I could find (so far) was an article about my local camp site, Kibblestone, and an article about a now closed Group, 1st Wetley Rocks.

Still, there are over 1700 articles that mention Scouting, so this will be worth having a good look through. It will be interesting to see if those Groups who are mentioned on the site, and are still going, update their entries (see here and here as an example).

My Badges App

The Scout Association has launched the My Badges app which contains all the information and requirements for each badge and award from Beavers through to Network. This is an excellent idea which means we can have all the badge requirements available in our pockets on our mobile devices. I think the BSA have had some of their information available electronically for a while now (The Boy Scouts Handbook?), so we are now catching up with them!

This app costs £1.19, which isn’t too bad when you consider that to print out all the info or to buy the relevant books would cost a lot more.

However, the SA have goofed by only releasing it as an iPhone / iPod touch app. Now, I don’t have an iProduct, I have an Android phone. OK, that’s not strictly true, Carol has an iPod touch and has bought the app for me, but its not  MINE!
Quite why they decided to release it just on the iOS platform is beyond me. There are far more Android users and Blackberry users aren’t far behind the iOS users – see here for a rough idea.

The slightly worrying thing is that Chris James, the Creative & Brand Advisor for the SA has said –

we will gauge interest before looking at developing on other platforms.

Hmm. I’m not too impressed about that. I think they’ve missed a great opportunity to release the app across multiple platforms to ensure that it can get to the widest possible audience.

What do you think readers?

Responsible Internet Providers

A couple of weeks ago I went to do the CEOP Ambassador training as a follow on to the Think U Know internet safety training I did in January. Over lunch, we had the usual time to ‘network’ and I got chatting to a lady from the mobile phone and broadband company O2 (quite what mobile phones have to do with an oxygen molecule is beyond me). She was doing the training as she goes out to schools and helps to inform kids about safety on the internet, either on mobile phones or on PCs. She told me that it wasn’t just an O2 thing, but they were partners with Microsoft (funny how I can’t find much about Apple being proactive about child internet safety) and a couple of other companies whose names escape me. One of the things she told me was that they didn’t go into a school and say ‘we’re O2 / Microsoft, we do this, aren’t we great?’, but they educated the kids about online safety without blowing their own trumpets. Very commendable.

Then last week I got an email telling me about a conference O2 is holding about online safety, especially with regard to mobile phones. This is quite timely as O2 have taken a bit of flack recently as they’ve decided to stop mobile phone users accessing certain website unless the user is proven over 18. I mentioned this to my dinner companion and she told me that this was being applied to all their customers both new and existing. We discussed the merits of the idea and I have to say I agree that it’s a good idea. It may be slightly inconvenient that I cannot access something ‘adult’ on my phone when using the mobile broadband (the block isn’t in place if you use Wi-Fi of course), but it means that I have a choice. And to be honest I’ll choose to keep it in place.

The conference O2 are running is on the morning of the 22nd March at their head office in Slough. I must admit I’d like to go, but I have to be at work. However, I will be able to watch some of it as it is being streamed. From the agenda, it looks like some big cheeses from the worlds of both content (Facebook, the BBC, O2) and childcare / safety (CEOP, NSPCC, Ofcom) are attending. O2 are taking the subject of internet safety for young people and they can only be congratulated for raising awareness of this important area. They even have a website aimed at parents to help them keep their kids safe.

Online safety for young people is an important area these days and whether we are parents or Scout Leaders (or both) we ought to make ourselves aware of the potential dangers out there on this wonderful resource the internet. Companies like O2 and Microsoft should be applauded for the work they do, trying to educate their customers.

Web Sites

Over the past 15 years or so, a lot of Scout Groups / Districts etc. will have set up their own websites. Some will still be going and some will have long since vanished.

These websites provide useful information about what is going on in that Group / District but also what has gone on. However, updates take place, web addresses change or the person running the site changes and some of the information gets lost.

Since 1996, the Internet Archive has been crawling the web and keeping snapshots of various websites. To quote the site –

The archive of pages goes back to 1996.  The original Wayback Machine interface was released in 2001 with about 10 billion pages.

It’s a US based site, but they do record sites from all over the world. So for example, my Group’s site has been archived on it’s various addresses since 2000. See here and here (the first incarnation hasn’t been saved, but a slight reconstruction can be seen here).

Last year I read that the British Library are also in the process of archiving websites, but only from the UK, and were looking for nominations for sites to be archived. I put ours forward and I was rather surprised to learn that it had been accepted – and here is our archive page. Only one snapshot at the moment, but it should grow over time.

The thing with these archive sites is that it allows us to see what websites looked like in the past, see how they’ve changed (look at the BBC in 1996 for a chuckle) and they provide an interesting history of the Group etc. Maybe in 2108, someone researching the 200th anniversary of my Group will find it interesting to look back at our website of 2011 and see what we got up to!

Keeping Safe on the Internet

On Wednesday, I had a nice day out from work to go to a Think U Know training course in Cardiff. Think U Know is a website run by  The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) which has information for children aged 5 – 7, 8 – 10 & 11 – 16 on how to stay safe on the internet etc. It also has information for parents and resources for ‘educators’ (not just teachers, but youth workers etc.) to train to young people.

The course I went on means I can now use their resources to train young people on internet safety and I will be doing so soon at work. There is a further course which I am going to take, that will enable me to train other adults to be able to do the training as well.

One of the things CEOP does is to provide a button that can be put onto a website, so that if a young person has a problem, they can click it and report the problem. This button is on the Scout Association’s site and now my Group’s site. Many schools have it on their websites and it’s even available as an add on to various browsers, in MSN Messenger and Facebook. The button is below.


For those of you in not in the UK, there is the Virtual Global Taskforce, of which CEOP is a part, which has a similar reporting mechanism and resources available.

With the resources available, whether you’ve received the training or not, it means that young people, parents, teachers, Scout Leaders etc. can be aware of the dangers on the internet and how to avoid them. I’d advise anyone who is a parent or is an ‘educator’ of any kind to take a look. The stuff on Think U Know would be useful to people in other countries as well.

I am looking at putting something together for the Scouts in our Troop at some point in the near future, so when I have, I’ll post about it.

Scouting App for Android

I recently came across this app for Android phones. It’s a very simple (and free) one which shows the UK Scout Laws and Promises for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. Useful, for example, for when a passing Group Scout Leader is randomly asked what the Cub Scout Law is!


It’s been created by one of the Leaders of the 4th Falmouth Scout Group, so please pop by their site and say hello!

Update 21/05/12: It appears this app is no longer available and the Group’s website has disappeared as well 🙁

Is Your Site Up To Date?

I asked which idiot is responsible for updating the website & found out it was you!

So ran an email I got from a work colleague the other day (it was meant jokingly – I hope!) with regard to a work website. I must point out here that I’m only responsible for putting stuff on the website and not actually creating the content!

But this led me to think about the various websites of Packs / Troops / Groups / Districts etc. that are out there and ensuring that they kept up to date and relevant (the work one is far from up to date, but my colleague is looking into that!).

I look at a lot of Scouting websites from the UK and from across the world and I find that a site doesn’t have to be flashy or have lots of special features on it to be a good website with relevant information. So as an example of a good site (picked at random from the ones I know), visit Pack 4363 from Wisconsin USA and for a (deliberately) bad site see this one!

The other thing to bear in mind is keeping a site current. It’s no use having the last bit of news or next forthcoming event being in 2007. If you know that your site isn’t going to be updated very often, put relevant information on there, but don’t put anything on that can date it. Then, just keep an eye on the site and make subtle changes when necessary.

Of course, the worst thing to see on a website is this –

If you’re going to make a site, don’t take it live or tell anyone about it until its complete.

The thing about having a website for your Group (etc.) is that you are advertising yourself, not only to potential new Scouts to your Group, but to the world in general! Most people will look up their local Scout Group, football club, dancing school etc. on the web first to see all about them, and first impressions count. A poor website can mean that people are put off you and will go elsewhere. /

About 18 months or so ago (or was it longer?), I came across the website which gathers together news stories from all sorts of Scouting related websites and personal blogs. I thought it was a good idea and after picking up a lot more reading from it, I thought I’d submit this blog to go on the list. Now as it’s a US based site, Gregg the owner of the site, did wonder if people would be interested in what I wrote as I’m a UK Scout. However, he did put me on and a lot of people do pop by to read my stuff from HalfEagle.

Since then Chris at Jabbering has asked to go on and now Gregg has set up for UK based blogs. So please go over and see all the interesting stuff written about Scouting both here in the UK and in the USA as well. And thank Gregg for setting it all up! You can sign up for the Facebook page and Twitter feed as well.


Bill Gates to Receive Silver Buffalo

st-as-it1 The Microsoft founder is going to be presented with the BSA’s highest honour of the Silver Buffalo Award soon according to this article.

No no matter what you may think of Microsoft and its products (and they do have their pros and cons!), Bill Gates has ploughed an awful amount of the money he’s made from MS into his and his wife’s foundation which helps, amongst other things, to improve the health of the less fortunate around the world.

I must admit I hadn’t realised he was a Scout!

The BSA ought to be congratulated in giving this award. Perhaps the Scout Association could give him an Information Technology Staged Activity Badge (see left)!

Internet Safety – The Course

Last week I ‘attended’ an online course on internet safety for parents (previously mentioned here), which was set up by the Scout Association, but run by Microsoft.

Ok, so I’ll get my grumbles out of the way first. It was held at either 13.30 or 17.00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which is not really the best time to have these sort of things because of people being at work – I was 5 minutes late! The other thing was that when it came to view the videos, for me, they didn’t work (this was quite common apparently). However, the videos, along with the presentation, were available to download afterwards. And that’s it, nothing else to grumble about!

Now I like to think that I’m quite savvy about all thing internet and computer related (I have to be, it’s my job!), but going through the information on this course contained a couple of interesting surprises for me.

First of all while talking about chat rooms, a site called Habbo was motioned. When looking at the site at a glance it looks like a game where you move your character around and interact with the other characters. However it is actually a social networking site and chat room. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing and there are moderators and word filters on the site, but a child could be on the site without their parent actually realising what it is.

Another point was that while it is suggested the family PC is located in a communal area (e.g. the lounge) so usage can be ‘monitored’ (I don’t like to use that word as it implies that the parent is always looking over the child’s shoulder, but you get the idea), there are now so many devices that can access the internet, from the mobile phone (not even using your own home internet connection), to the Xboxes, Wiis, PSPs etc. that they all cannot be monitored.

Finally the acronyms. So LOL, I got (laugh out loud), and some of the other more common ones, but ASL and POMS (or POS)? To my non teenage brain, ASL is Assistant Scout Leader and POS is a term used in the retail industry for Point of Sale (the labels and barkers that tell you of special offers)!

WRONG! ASL = Age Sex Location and POMS = Parents Over My Shoulder.

So there is some interesting stuff there. There are a couple of videos on the presentation that show examples of cyber bullying and the dangers of meeting people who you’ve met on the internet (the 16 year old girl turning out to be a 55 year old man type thing). Having done the course I can now show the same presentation and videos to parents, but I can’t put any of the stuff on here – sorry!

If you are a UK Scout Leader, there will be more of these courses run in the future (see the link on my previous post about this) and I’m sure that similar information is available in other countries, but irrespective of whether you are in the UK or not, it is worth looking into internet safety for the benefit of your Scouts and your own children.

Finally a link to CEOP – The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. This is where you can get advice, help and report inappropriate behaviour and content (in the UK). They also have a version of Internet Explorer 8 available to download with a CEOP button built in or if you already have IE8 you can add the button to your existing IE8.

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered that Microsoft have a page about keeping children safe online and have a parents guide to the available parental controls on MS products. Again a few bits are UK specific, but the majority is relevant irrespective of which country you are in. View the page here.