Thursday, March 30, 2006

Channel 6 Launches tonight

The new Irish TV station Channel 6 launches tonight at 8pm. Should be worth watching the start just to see what happens. The good thing about the station is that they seem to be starting alot of shows from their pilot episodes so if you are a fan of one of the following it might be worth your while watching.
US Office
Dawson's Creek
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Everybody Loves Raymond
Law & Order
Star Trek - The Next Generation
7th Heaven
Dharma & Greg
That 70's Show
The Closer
Northern ExposureJ.A.G. (Season 3)
Law & Order (Season 5)

I'm not, so other than a couple of movies and maybe House there's not much there to catch my attention.

However if you are a fan of The 70's Show follow this link [via Johnny K] to see what, or should I say who, Wilmar Valderrama (better known as Fez from That 70Â’s Show) rated in bed while talking to Howard Stern. Lucky Bas***d.

Update: I did watch the "opening" of the Channel 6. It was just a continuity announcer standing in front of a picture of a city skyline (not Dublin). She explained that the station would have no news and that "the forecast for the weather" wasn’t good either. Then it was straight into normal programming. Yawn, you would think they could have done something like introduce all Irish presenters and give a longer explanation of the station. I guess a reported budget of 14 million doesn’t get you much in the way of sets. Anyway I watched the pilot of House and that did seem mildly interesting, though I won’t rush home to watch it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hotel Thief Jailed

You know some shops just bloody deserve to get ripped off. Ok, I take that back, some shop staff are really dumb and attract con-artists. Case in point is Juan Carlos Guzman Beatencoft a 29 year old Columbian/Spanish man who robbed credit cards from a hotel and then used them to go shopping, for a €16,000 Rolex.

The defendant, known to Interpol as Juan Carlos Guzman Beatencoft (aged 29) from Columbia but claiming to be Alejandro Cuenca (aged 25) from Spain, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to entering a suite in the Merrion Hotel as a trespasser, and stealing a ruby ring, a passport, a wallet containing credit cards, US$3,500 cash and €250 cash on June 16, 2005.

He also pleaded guilty to using a stolen credit card in the name of Ms Robin Westbrook, to buy a Rolex watch, a nine-carat gold chain and 18-carat wedding ring at jewellers on Grafton Street and O'Connell Street on the same date.

The photograph on the American passport had been "professionally altered" but come on. "Ms Robin Westbrook" doesn't exactly sound like the typical name of a Spanish man. You would think someone would have been a little suspicious, or were they just blinded by the value of the sale?

However this guy was no Raffles. When he was arrested on immigration offences the following week he was wearing the Rolex and had many of the stolen items with him. He was jailed for 2 years today and could face extradition to the UK where he is wanted after escaping from jail 10 days before committing the crimes in Dublin.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gaybo at the Road Safety Authority

Martin Cullen has once again managed to amaze me with his disconnect from reality. As Minister for Transportation he has presided over an increasing death toll on our roads, currently around 400 a year, and has been widely condemned for his lack of action.

His record on road safety to date has been condemned by opposition politicians, the Irish Insurance Federation and the National Safety Council.

The former head of the NSC, Eddie Shaw, in his letter of resignation accused the Minister of lacking the political will to address road safety.

Now Martin has responded by appointing a man with years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, the respect of the whole nation and a proven track record of success. Unfortunately none of his previous experience is actually in the field of safety. Gay Byrne, the nations most successful and talented broadcaster, has at 72 come out of retirement from the worlds longest running chat show, The Late Late Show to now chair the Road Safety Authority.

I'm sure he'll do his best, but the only qualification I can see he has is that by reaching the age of 72 the government hasn't managed to kill Gay on the roads, on a trolley in A&E, with any number of possible hospital infections, or by just allowing him to be gunned down on the street. Gay is obviously a talented man at staying safe and so he may have a thing or two to teach the general population.

At worse Martin will get to hang out with a celebrity, which may distract him from his Ministerial duties and save us all.

The Irish Times and Easter 1916

Todays Irish Times has a nice supplement on Easter 1916. Written in association with the Department of Education it is something that most Irish people could find useful not just school kids.

It discusses the background of the Rising, information about each of the men who signed the Proclamation of Independence, a day by day guide to the events, the aftermath, and a section on how the current political parties claim the 1916 legacy. There is also a glossy map of the battle sites. It's well worth purchasing, especially as the media will be full of discussion about 1916 and its impact over the next few weeks.

Monday, March 27, 2006


By the way, as you can tell from my earlier post I like Sydney and Australia. I was there in 2001 for a short 2 week holiday and got to see just a little bit of New South Wales. I swore I'd go back and see the rest of the country but I kept putting it off.

Well a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to stop just thinking about it and do something about it. I asked my employer for an extended holiday later in the year and they gave it to me, thank you John. I've been a little distracted over the last couple of weeks planning this so I wasn't blogging as much as I should. Finally on Saturday I booked my trip. I'm off to Australia for 3 months - October, November and December. I'll also visit Singapore and New Zealand. I decided to keep it simple and just booked the main flights to Australia here and will book any other flights and trips when I'm there.

So Dec's Rambling will change a little bit starting in October. I will literally be rambling. I'll post here about my travels, where I went, who I met and what I did. You know, all the normal stuff people back hope hate to hear about. Normal service will then resume at the beginning of January.

Dirty Old Town

Breaking news: Dublin is Dirty. Ok maybe I'm being a little harsh here but DUH, everyone knows Dublin is a dirty old town. An Taisce should stop paying for stupid surveys, get off their arses and try to clean up the city.

Dublin is reported as being 12% less clean than the rest of the country. Personally I think a rating of 67% cleanliness for Dublin and 79% for the rest of the country is complete bollocks. Ireland is a dirty country. Walking around Dublin it seems most Irish people have never learned to pick up after themselves. People move around leaving a trail of paper, food, plastic, cigarette butts and chewing gum behind them like a leaking oil tanker sailing into an Alaskan harbor. 67% is a very generous rating to give this city.

I was in Sydney a few years ago on a short holiday and all the Australians were telling me that Sydney was a dirty city and not to judge the rest of the country by Sydney. I thought you could eat off the streets of Sydney and I was too embarrassed to tell people about Dublin. Sydney gleams in the sunlight, yet I would only say it was 70-80% clean. Dublin in comparison is at best 30% clean, probably less if you took out areas like Howth.

By the way, it is a popular belief that the song Dirty Old Town is about Dublin, but apparently it was actually written for Salford in England. Still I think it's adopted home is more than apt.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The State is the taxpayer

A woman, Louise O'Keeffe, who was abused by her teacher in the 1970s has lost a landmark case against the State and now faces costs of €500,000. She attempted to sue the state for damages but the High Court found against her.
The High Court found the State was not to blame for the indecent assaults inflicted on Ms O'Keeffe by a primary school principal when she was eight years old.
Now it is very easy to feel that Ms O'Keeffe has been treated harshly and that the State should pay her costs. Unfortunately it's not that clear cut. Remember, the money spent by the State comes from the taxpayers. If the State pays her costs then they send a message to other less deserving cases, sue the State it's free and you have nothing to loose. I really hate the way the media reports that people sue the State, but then report that cost over runs hit the taxpayer.

But lets not forget who the real villain is here, a legal system that generates half a million euros in fees for one case!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

NTL Digital and Channel 6

The new Irish channel Channel 6 now has a place holder on NTL Digital. Tonight when I turned on the TV I noticed some of the channels had been rearranged, Sky One used to be 111 and now that is Channel 4.

The reason for this change was 3 channels that have been inserted at the top of the channel list. 105 is now Setanta Sports, 106 is Channel 6 and 107 is City Channel. I guess we now know why Channel 6 is Channel 6, Setanta was channel 5.

Setanta seems good but I don't watch it a lot, maybe its new position will help. City Channel however is a Dublin TV channel and to be honest its shite. ITV 3 is now gone off NTL Digital, but I don't know if I ever watched it.

Remote control guns just like video games?

The US Army is reported to be using a new remote control gun on their Humvees in Iraq. Now anyone who has seen the movie Black Hawk Down will know that you REALLY don't want to be the man in the turret of one of those things. Called the XM101 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) the new remote control gun packs an impressive amount of firepower and is operated via a 15 inch color monitor in the safety of the humvee. They want 9000 of the weapons but they can only get 15 a month, cause building a remote control gun that actually works isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world.

Some commentators are pointing out that one of the reasons for the success of this weapon is the fact that it's operators grew up playing computer games. Valid point. However I would actually think the risks in getting experienced gamers to operate real remote control guns would be obvious. In games you can just shoot everything that moves. Think there might be an enemy soldier in that building? Fire a rocket. Think someone on your right shot at you? Just fire back and kill everything. Run out of ammo? Just run down your enemies with your Humvee. Killed too many civilians or been killed yourself? Just reload and start again. Unfortunately you cant reload real life, even if it is displayed on a 15 inch color monitor.

[Via Engadget]

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Brendan Gleeson on the Late Late, clip available

As I mentioned yesterday the Brendan Gleeson was on the Late Late Show and attacked the Governments performance on the health system. As hoped, RTE have posted the clip on their website for streaming download. You can download it here. Click on the "BRENDAN GLEESON, PAUL MERCIER, EMER O'KELLY, PHILIP KING" clip. It is well worth watching but it may be replaced next week so download it now.

Update: Not often I get to update a post 5 years after I wrote it. Thanks to an Anonymous commenter below you can find the video at

Monday, March 20, 2006

Late Late Show and Brendan Gleeson Repeated tonight

Fridays Late Late show will be repeated tonight on RTE One and 11:40pm. It is worth watching just to see Brendan Gleeson discussing the state of hospitals in Ireland. I came into the discussion late on Friday night and missed the start but I saw Brendan talking about the time his mother spent in hospital. He expressed the feelings of 99% of the population and his attack on the current government will have done more to damage their election chances than the whole opposition have managed in the last 10 years.

If you miss it tonight it may be worth checking The Late Late Show site on RTE where they provide highlights from the previous weeks show. If they don't post Gleesons rant then someone in the Government will have censored them.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dublin St Patrick's Parade Photos

I've uploaded some photos from the St Patrick's Day parade onto flickr (I love my broadband). They are not very good but they will give you some idea of what was in the parade.

First Blog post with Broadband

Tried to log on to broadband again this afternoon and bingo I'm in :-)

Man, its so fast. 2MB download. I can now browse multiple pages at the same time without having time to make coffee. It's amazing how simple technology available for years in other countries can, in today's Ireland, be such an improvement.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dial-up, why am I still using bloody Dial-up

4 days after receiving my broadband modem from BT I am still using dial-up (with Eircom). After waiting 3 days for a username and password I rang BT sales this morning and it turns out they had not issued me a username or password at all. Duh. Anyway the girl was very helpful and created the username and password while I was on the phone. Perfect, or so I thought. I had to rush out so I couldn't test it straight away, and anyway she said something about it being active in an hour or so. Some 7 hours later I still cant login and their staff seem to have gone home. DAMN.

So close and yet so far, now I have to wait until Monday for their support staff to come back online. Frustrating, though at the moment I am being generous and blaming St Patricks weekend and the fact that no work will actually be done in Ireland for the 3 days. Fingers crossed for Monday.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St Patricks Day Parade

I went into Dublin City Center to see the St Patricks Day parade. I got there late and all the road was lined with spectators. Since I did not feel like standing behind 3 rows of people I decided to take a friends advice and headed up to Parnell Square where the parade was starting from. There were still lots of spaces up there. I was positioned on a bend so as the groups tried to maintain step and turn the corner they came right up against the barrier where I was standing taking photos.

The parade itself seemed smaller than on previous years. Fewer floats and fewer big marching bands. I don't know why this would be the case and the parade still took well over an hour to go past at which stage I was perfectly happy to head to a warm coffee shop. There were several bands, some from Ireland, some American and other smaller groups from Europe. There were just a few floats, and street performers, the floats and performers finding the gusting wind a little hard to deal with as they headed downhill towards O'Connell Street.

RTE news tonight reported that 400,000 people braved the cold to attend, and I can tell you it was bloody cold standing on the side of the road. Met Eireann reports that at 4C it was colder in Dublin today than in Iceland or Moscow. However cold I was there were some hardy Brazilian samba dancers who braved the cold, wind and hail to bring a little sunshine and warmth to the spectators. Though the local inner-city ladies had a few amusing comments to make about the poor bikini clad girls. Most of the participants looked frozen but they were still happy and waved at the crowds while performing their dances, waving their flags and playing their instruments.

The atmosphere in the city center was pretty festive. I saw none of the trouble and aggressive drunks the media had forecast would descend on the city to bring chaos and rioting. There were 1000 Gardai on the streets to make sure no trouble could take hold but they were not agressive, one Garda kicking football with the samba football kids. In the end I think it was a small but successful parade.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Snow and Tom Crean

Snowing again today. This morning was actually the first morning I got snowed on all the way into work. I like the snow but I have to say it's a little late in the year for it.

However I cant complain about a little cold weather. I went to see the Tom Crean Antarctic Explorer last night in Andrews Lane Theatre. Aidan Dooley is the actor/writer and he gives an excellent solo performance. The story of Tom Crean is an amazing tale of heroism and survival on three Antarctic expeditions, two with Scott and 1 with Shackleton. He was one of the 3 explorers sent back by Scott before the final 5 made their ill fated attempt to reach the South Pole. He completed the last 36 miles of the journey alone, sending help back for his two companions. When the Antarctic winter ended he then joined the search team for Scott and found the bodies of Scott and his companions. Later he returned with Shackleton during the Endurance expedition and journeyed with Shackleton all the way to Elephant Island, on to South Georgia and back once again to rescue his companions.

In recent years the story of Tom Crean has become more famous within Ireland and this show has Aidan Dooley playing the part of Tom telling the story of his journeys. His dramatic explanation of the gear worn by the explorers and the efforts involved in day to day survival in the Antarctic even before anything goes wrong clearly showed how tough these men were and his tales of Scott and Shackleton had us enthralled as if we were listening to the voice of Tom himself from across the decades. As a work of fiction it would make for a fabulous adventure story, the fact that it is actually a true story makes it a truly amazing tale.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Broadband. Delivery 1

I finally decided to join the digital age and sign up for broadband. My router was delivered this morning. Unfortunately I'm not able to use it yet since I need a BT username and password which I am told will arrive in the next day or two.

I have to say so far I've been quite impressed with BT Ireland's customer service. On email, phone and online chat they have been very quick and efficient. My cynicism made me ring them after I got an automated "we'll get back to you" response to an emailed query. Their phone system then allowed me to register for a call back instead of waiting on the line and a customer agent did call me back, in less than 10 minutes. By the time I hung up I had gotten the a reply to my original email in my inbox. Then this morning when I wanted to ask about the username and password I used their online chat service which connected me with a customer service agent who answered my questions in a few seconds.

I had originally gone with BT because everyone I asked about broadband had some bad story about their provider apart from the BT customers who generally said yeah its fine, it just works. So far the only problem I have is getting the router before the username/password, but if the rest of the service is as smooth as their customer service then I suspect I'll never have to blog about them again. :-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guinness Surger

If this was the 1st of April I would assume this was a joke, but Gizmodo has a story about the new Guinness Surger. It seems genuine, it's on the Guinness site.

The idea is you can take a pint of "Guinness Draught Surger Beer" place it on an electronic plate and ultrasonic pulses create the "perfect" head to your pint. How well this actually works is still an open question but there is a video you can look at (I cant watch it on dial-up, though broadband arrives tomorrow). Also I wonder if this only works for a special version of Guinness beer, cause that's always proven so successful for Guinness in the past.

[via Gizmodo]

King Tuts empty neighbour

Last month I posted about the discovery of a new tomb in Egypt's Valley of the the Kings right beside the tomb of King Tutankhamun. I did express a hope that the tomb may contain the remains of Tutankhamuns father Akhenaten and Akhenatens main wife Nefertiti. The odds were very slim but given the fact that Akhenaten was hated by some in ancient Egypt it could have been a good place to place the bodies to keep them safe.

However it now turns out that the tomb contained.... no one. It wasn't a tomb at all but a mummification room.

Egypt's acrchaeology chief Zahi Hawass admitted: "This is not a tomb for nobles or relatives of a king, as had been thought upon its discovery, but rather it is a room for mummification."

That's a shame, I guess there really may be little of major importance left to be found in the Valley.

[Via The Register]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Irish House Buyers Screwed, Again

Headline news today, people buying houses in Ireland are being screwed. No surprise there. This time it's by the local authorities and developers. Irish house buyers have to pay the levy that local authorities imposed on builders to help fund infrastructure. The local authorities said the levy should be paid by the developer and not passed on to the house buyers. However no one actually enforces the rules in this country and so the developers are allowed to do what they want.

The levies were introduced in 2003, by our old friend Martin Cullen. Of course Minister Cullen has never been one to let public opinion, obvious flaws or a massive overspend stand in the way of one of his little projects. Sure what are the taxpayers for if not to pay tax and fund spending?

Now I'm not a Fine Gael supporter, I am (maybe I should change that to "was") actually a Fianna Fail voter. In years gone by I was an active Fianna Fail supporter but in recent years I have grown more and more disillusioned with Fianna Fail and the incompetence of some ministers. In this case I find myself 100% in agreement with Enda Kenny when in 2003 he was quoted in the Irish Examiner
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny told the Dail that new homebuyers could end up footing a 600m stealth tax bill that will make it impossible for many young people to get on the property ladder.

"If the average charge for a new house was 10,000 for a small three-bed semi-detached home, then new homebuyers will pay a stealth tax worth 600m next year if there are 60,000 new homes built," Mr Kenny said.

Martin Cullens response to the obvious flaw was typical of the current government. He stuck his head in the sand and said there was no problem while his department effectively gave the green light to developers to pass on the charges by saying there was no law to stop them.
However, while Environment Minister Martin Cullen insisted yesterday that new homeowners would not be faced with a bill from local authorities, his department confirmed there is no law to stop developers passing the levies onto homebuyers.

Now the levies are headline news in today’s newspapers. The Irish Independent is leading the charge and has a particularly good article outlining the exact figures and explaining how much house buyers are paying. Unfortunately the website requires registration, but it is free. Alternatively just go buy a copy of the paper itself :-).
The levies, meant to be paid by developers, are being passed on directly to homebuyers, adding up to 6pc to the price of the average new home.

A typical €350,000 home would include a €20,000 levy, according to the Irish Home Builders' Association (IHBA), representing the majority of builders.

Of course everyone is pretending to be surprised and shocked at the behavior of the developers but lets be honest here it is the current government who, with a nod and a wink to the developers, passed this bill and they are not likely to climb down now.

You should not fail to notice it is the Builders Association that is highlighting the issue. I dont believe they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. Should the government scrap the levies the developers could just pocket the 6% increase themselves rather than reduce house prices. Either way people looking to get onto the property ladder in this country are being milked by every vested interest and have been abandoned by the very government which should be trying to protect them.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Irish Blogger Awards

I went to the Irish Blog Awards last night. The big, if somewhat shy and secretive, winner of the night was Twenty Major. Twenties "representative on Earth” was a man of few words but did insist that he was not the man himself, though speculation continued. The complete list can be found at this site. Sarah Carey was there both as a nominee and representing the Sunday Times with a photographer in tow so I have to grab a copy of it and see if she managed to strong arm the editor for some extra coverage. There was also a photographer from the Irish Times taking pictures of the nominees and winners.

The awards themselves were refreshingly casual. Like blogging itself there seemed to be a variety of people in attendance. The first group were dressed to the nines, all spit and polish, dressed in their best suits and dresses. The kind of people you could expect to find at any awards ceremony. Next came the chinos and trouser people who had read the smart casual dress code and decided to dress appropriately. Finally came the old shirt and jeans brigade, including myself. Personally I hadn't even planned on going to the awards and had originally just shown up for the technical session before hand, so I didn't stick around for the drinks afterwards, but they sound like they were fun.

The one problem I had was the technical session. It was almost entirely focused on podcasting with a brief mention of OPML at the end. One speaker estimated there was just 38 podcasts in Ireland of which 12 were active and regular. I recognize that these sessions were organized by podcasters, but hopefully next year there will be some sessions for bloggers who, like myself, would like to learn from other more experienced Irish bloggers.

That aside I think the Awards are a good event. They have helped to highlight Irish blogging and it is nice to have the efforts of all Irish bloggers recognized, even those who did not win an award or even get nominated. Congratulations to Damien and all those involved in organising such a successful event.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Six Shooter

Following my photography post, this is my second arty post, one more to come later. This one was far more entertaining.

I saw the Oscar winning Six Shooter on Channel 4 late on Wednesday night. I have to say I was quite impressed. I had assumed it was an "Irish" movie, i.e. made by Irish people, made in Ireland, but could have been anyplace in the English speaking world. Instead this really is a totally Irish movie, with Iarnród Éireann, the Gardai, Irish landscape and mentions of Ireland featuring prominently.

It's is a dark comedy and very good making me laugh, even when I expected the jokes. To be honest I'm actually surprised it won the Oscar as I would have thought it was too Irish to be understood by an American audience. Rúaidhrí Conroys character swears constantly in that way some Irish people mange to use swearing as standard language. Brendan Gleeson is also quite good as a man quietly bottling up grief. The one quibble I had was the cops were portrayed in typical Kit-Kat advert caricatures.

I'm glad Hollywood awarded it the Oscar instead of some typical Hollywoodd fluff. Hopefully we will see more movies from Martin McDonagh.

Photo Exhibit: Disputed Territory

This was a bit of an arty week for me, well at least Wednesday and Thursday were. So over the day I'll probably do a couple of posts about the things I saw this week.

On Wednesday evening I went to the opening of a photographic exhibition in the Gallery of Photography. Anthony Haughey’s Disputed Territory is a long-term project that examines conflicts over territory and identity in contemporary Europe. It will be on show at the Gallery of Photography from Wednesday 8th March. The Gallery web site appears to be having problems so I got a description from here
Featuring images from Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, Disputed Territory is a quiet investigation of the aftermath of conflict. As well as large-scale color photographs, Disputed Territory also includes Resolution, a sound/video installation that focuses on the massacre at Srebrenica. Produced in the aftermath of conflict in the Balkans, it serves as a forceful metaphor of the difficult task of addressing the history of conflict. Disputed Territory is the first in a season of exhibitions and events at the gallery which will examine art and the legacy of war. (

To be honest while the subject is interesting the photographs themselves don’t really grab me. They fall more into the artistic bracket where how they are displayed is more important that the individual photographs.

The collection of photographs of the personal debris of war and massacre is interesting in a history of war context but as regards photography I preferred the PPAI awards from a couple of weeks ago.

This exhibit reminded me of a Holocaust exhibit I saw in the British Imperial War Museum a few years ago. Part of the exhibit was personal artifacts recovered from the camps, including a strangely moving display of shoes. When you see small personal items linked directly to a historical event it gives you a clearer emotional connection to the people involved that you cannot get from dusty books or even photographs and videos. In this case we were looking at photographs and videos of the items instead of the items themselves. Evidence tags have had to be included in each photos and a man in a white forensics suit in the video to give context. While I liked these photos I still felt that I was just looking at photographs of a museum. It left me wanting to see the museum not thinking about the items.

Also included in the exhibit are photographs that the artist appears to have found, such as passport photos and an old school photograph. To me these are more historical artifacts than strictly the artists own photography. If he took the photographs himself and then labeled them as having been "found" to enhance the artistic and emotional value of the work then that is fair enough, but perhaps more photos could have been included. The space in the Gallery is limited, but it could have been better used to display more prints.

Overall it's probably worth a look (well I've seen worse exhibits there recently) but if you see just one photographic exhibit this year, then this is probably not the one you want to see.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

UMPC early info.

Last week I posted about Microsofts Origami project which is rumoured to be a Windows XP driven handheld tablet which will use Ultra Mobile PC technology from Intel. The exact details of what Microsoft has on offer will be released tomorrow but today Intel released the details of their UMPC platform as well as prototypes. Then Samsung released details of their UMPC device and let journalists play with a prototype for early reviews.

The guys on Engadget played with Samsungs unit and took some photos of it but they don't seem overly impressed
From the five minutes we spent with it we can tell you, well, it’s an XP Tablet PC with a 7-inch display. Sorry, that’s about it, nothing earth-shattering here folks. In fact, for all the hype, it’s hard to find anything revolutionary or even evolutionary in the hardware specs or loaded software (perhaps that will come when the price is announced).
Looking at the pictures and reading the details I have to say I'm not as keen on it as I was last week. Sure the UMPC is still basically a good idea, but it seems to be shaping up to be a little too big and a little too expensive. The Samsung device doesn't exactly look pocket sized, or even jacket pocket sized. It looks to be about the size of a (thin) hard back novel. Price wise Gizmodo reported it at "Under a $1,000", so I'd guess somewhere in the $800 to $900 price bracket.

Of course we can't really judge until the final details are released tomorrow and even then until the commercial versions of the units are released but based on what we know so far I have to say that despite their extra features I think I still prefer the smaller, simpler, Linux powered Nokia 770 for $359. It may not have the same power or memory of the UMPC but it seems more suited for on-the-road usage. Remember all the processing power and hardisk space in the world will not turn a tablet into a workstation. Email and web browsing will be the main applications on them, I don't need to run MS Word when I'm typing on a virtual keyboard with a stylus. The 770 and a Video IPod will cover most peoples needs for less money.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Channel 6

Ireland is getting a fifth national television station, Channel 6 :-), from March 30th.

It's got a small €14 Million budget so it wont exactly challenge RTE for top Irish broadcaster, Pat Kenny probably spends that on hair spray and suits for the Late Late Show :-). Still it's good to see some more Irish made programming.

Ah, God be with the days when all we had were two stations and they didn't come on air til the afternoon, showed a couple of programs, the news and maybe a movie before going off the air for the night at a respectable bed time.

Taxi fares going up, again.

Taxi fares around the country are going up again this September. The new fare structure will apply to the whole country, not just Dublin. While the basic charges have gone up, the fare system itself seems to have been made much more complicated with the charges increasing based on the distance travelled. This increased complication naturally does not work in favor of the passenger.

They have also doubled the cost of an additional passenger and added a third on to the price of a booking. But in a really underhanded move they have moved the premium time rate from 10pm to 8pm, thereby catching more people going out for the night.

Public transport in Ireland is such a joke and a complete rip-off. It is no wonder the roads are clogged with private cars. This increase will also do little to lessen the scourge of drink driving in this country as people will avoid taking a taxi home.

Here is what the taxi rates in Dublin currently are:

Initial Charge
  • Day time 8am to 10pm €3.40
  • Night time 10pm to 8am €3.70

Distance charge
  • Day time 8am to 10pm €0.90 per Km
  • Night time 10pm to 8am €1.20 per Km

Extra charges
  • Booking fee of €1.50
  • Additional passengers €0.50
  • Soiling charge €75.

Here is what the fares will be from September 25th. I've highlighted what I see as the increases. If I'm wrong I'm sure some taxi driver will be able to correct me.

Initial Charge
  • Day time 8am to 8pm €3.80 +40c
  • Night time 8pm to 8am +2Hr €4.10 +40c

Distance charge
  • Day time 8am to 8pm
    • €0.95 per Km +5c
    • €1.25 after 14 Km +35c
    • €1.63 after 30 Km +73c
  • Night time 8pm to 8am +2Hr
    • €1.25 per Km +5c
    • €1.45 after 14 Km +25c
    • €1.63 after 30 Km +43c

Extra charges
  • Booking fee of €2 +50c
  • Additional passenger €1 +50c
  • Soiling charge €125 +€50

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bewleys and Fairtrade

A few months ago I posted a few times about the Starbucks Challenge and did the challenge in a few shops in Dublin and London. The basic idea behind the Challenge is to make sure Starbucks hold to their promise to provide Fairtrade coffee in their shops. So far the three stores in Dublin have Fairtrade coffee with the main store on College Green and the new one on Harcourt Street both advertising Fairtrade Estima coffee. (I saw the signs when I called into the new Starbucks on the way home last night to get a latte and read the paper, though I didn't ask the baristas about Fair Trade)

Anyway, while Starbucks in Dublin have Fairtrade coffee on brew they haven't had it in their espresso machines anytime I've called in. The vast majority of coffee served in their Dublin stores is likely to be from the espresso machine and so it will not be proper Fair Trade.

Now another coffee shop deserves a mention for their progressive stance on Fairtrade coffee. Bewley's on Grafton Street has announced that they are going to switch to serving only Fairtrade-certified coffee from tomorrow. This is a lot better than what Starbucks are currently doing since everyone will get Fairtrade coffee, not just those who ask for it.

Bewley's Grafton St cafe is to switch to serving only Fairtrade-certified coffee from tomorrow.

Marking the occasion, which is timed to coincide with Fairtrade Fortnight, passers-by will be presented tomorrow with free Fairtrade coffee by Bewley's.

Hopefully the other coffee shops in Dublin will follow their example. I haven't been into Bewley's in years but I walk past it most weekends. The Grafton Street store has gone through a tough time lately and actually closed down for a while but has now reopened. Next time I'm in town and looking for a cup of coffee I will call into them and try out their Fairtrade coffee. It's the least I can do.


Friday, March 03, 2006

First beer session of Lent

The first Friday night of Lent has passed and I have managed to stick to my no-alcohol pledge. It's actually more difficult than it should be. Not drinking alcohol in an Irish pub is a pretty awkward thing.

For starters there is the age old complaint that soft drinks are ridiculously expensive in Irish pubs. It costs more for a pint of cola than for a pint of beer! Where is the incentive to drink less alcohol there? The profit margin in the average Dublin pub on a dash of cola must be astronomical. Of course this has been the case for years and nothing ever changes.

Secondly non-alcoholic beers taste like crap, so it was back to the soft drinks for the night. Erdinger Non-Alcoholic is the best of a bad lot, but that's still not to my taste. Too strong a taste of hops or barley or something normally masked by the production of alcohol. Really most beer does taste bad, but it's masked by the alcohol.

At least the good thing is you can only consume a pint or two of cola before your body has had enough of caffeine and sugar. I'll probably be bouncing off the walls for the rest of the night.

Brrr Its cold out

As snow flakes drift past my office window and people pull their jackets tighter around them for warmth I think its a good time to mention, its bloody SPRING. When does Global Warming kick in?

Last night was the coldest night for a decade in Ireland with air temperatures hitting -8C and road temperatures hitting -15C. That said I cant remember the last time we had a decent fall of snow, I was very young at the time. I'd like to see a decent fall with snow drifts, snow men, and snow way to get to work ;-)

(Damn it's stopped snowing again and it didn't lodge)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dublins Roller Coaster

I've been reading the proposals for the new Metro line which will go from Dublin city center to the airport. It is a fairly ambitious plan with a line going from St Stephens Green through the city, out to the Airport and ending in Lisenhall. The line will be made up of a section 20 to 50 meters underground in the city center, ground level sections outside that and other sections 6 meters above ground level on stilts. This sounds like a project of Cullenisque proportions, oh wait, it IS a Martin Cullen project.

Why does it have to be so complex? I cant help but think Minister Cullen would throw in a mono-rail, a loop-the-loop and maybe a corkscrew or two if he could get away with them. Basically he's building the worlds longest and most expensive roller coaster.

I recognize that we need to improve access to the airport but I've still got a few questions. Why cant we just build a simple line from O'Connell Street to the airport? Why do we have to dig up St Stephens Green and put a tunnel under the river? How much will it cost to create the line from O'Connell Street to St Stephens Green and from the Airport to Lisenhall? Soon we will have a LUAS line, a Metro Line and several busses to allow us to travel from St Stephens Green to O'Connell Street, undoubtedly costing tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of euros and saving us a staggering 10 minute stroll through historic Dublin.

Finally why are we building a metro rail system at all? Could we not build another LUAS line or a DART spur-line allowing us to reuse existing equipment and carriages? If we didn't have half a dozen different transport systems in the city we might be able to plan, fund and schedule them correctly.

No TB outbreak in Dublin

The Health Service Executive has announced that there is no TB outbreak in Dublin inner city and that the reported 300 cases in the last year were actually in the last five years.

That's good but we still have 60 cases of TB in the city in a year? Christ I thought TB was a thing of the past and the inoculations we all got as kids would have stamped it out by now. Is this the drug-resistant TB touted a couple of years ago as the next big disease (you know the one before SARS and Bird Flu)?

Origami Project

Don't you just hate thoughtful developers? You know the ones who follow the rules and document their code. They must drive marketing people nuts. Especially when those marketing people work for Microsoft and they are trying to build up a lot of hype around a secret new project.

The Origami project will be revealed next week and had lots of people speculating about it. To be honest most commentators had already guessed what it would be but the speculation still continues.

Now someone noticed that there was a comment on top of the Origami web site html

Origami Project: the Mobile PC running Windows XP

Duh! Hate that. :-)

Still the UMPC sounds interesting. I'd certainly consider buying one, if the price was right.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Lenten Diet

Today as most of you probably know is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. As usual I'm giving up alcohol, sweets and chocolate. Some people think I'm crazy but I think it's a good thing. I'm not overly religious, I don't go to mass much or observe other religious holidays. I don't for example have ash on my forehead today. Still people think it's a little strange to give up things, especially alcohol. Though apparently a third of Irish people will give up something this Lent, most will give up the traditional sweets and chocolate and 12% will give up alcohol.

Lent, along with many things religious, isn't fashionable anymore. Yet in a strange way it is perfectly placed to be a popular event in modern society. It would be perfect as a new fad diet. I mean on any other occasion if you gave up alcohol and sweets for 40 days you would just say you were on a diet. With Lent you get a sense of well being and moral achievement as well as a clearly defined start and end for the whole thing. Maybe the Vatican should bring out the Lenten Diet handbook? Look how much money the Atkins diet made. I know previously I've lost between ½ a stone and a full stone. Seems pretty effective to me. Today I am exactly 14 stone (yup, I've put onway too much weight in the last 6 months). Lets see what weight I am in 40 days.