Sunday, October 31, 2010

100 Best Signs

If the Irish ever get around to protesting at the way our government is mismanaging the ecomony I hope that most of the people involved have a sense of humour like the people at the Rally to Restore Sanity. Here are the "100 best signs". I hate recent Irish protests, it's always the same groups who protest, I doubt they even know what the protest is about half the time, most of them are there because it's a protest and they always protest.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Apple TV Failure

I bought one of the new Apple TVs yesterday. I'm an Apple fan and as a Mac, iPhone and iTunes user it just seemed to make sense. I do have a cable to connect my MacBook Pro to the TV but it's a nuisance dragging it out every time I want to watch something from iTunes on the TV and it meant my laptop had to stay beside the TV. I thought the Apple TV would be the perfect device to link my home entertainment together.

Indeed it does work quite well. It connected without any problems to my Airport Extreme and from there out to iTunes for movie rentals and onto my computer to access my local iTunes library. Everything was perfect, for about an hour or two.

Suddenly the screen went green/magenta. All the blacks were gone. Ok I thought maybe it's just gotten a little overloaded with my playing with all the different features and streaming too much different content to it. I unplugged for a minute and everything returned to normal. Unfortunately a short while later the same problem occurred again. I switched HDMI ports on the TV, things returned to normal, for a few minutes. This time the picture changed to green, but then changed back after a few seconds, then 5 minutes later it changed again and this time stayed green. As the day went on the problem got worse and finally I restored the device back to factory settings. Things were ok for an hour or so and then another green screen. It's basically unusable for movies or anything longer than a YouTube video.

A search on the Apple discussion forums reveals mine is not an isolated incident. It appears that Apple have a bit of a problem with the HDMI handshaking on some TVs. The brands affected are Philips and Sony. Mixed messages seem to be coming out of Apple support, some staff say it's a known issue and a future firmware update might fix it, others say it's a problem with the TVs and refer the customer to Philips. Going out on a limb here I'd guess Philips and Sony might have a better idea of the HDMI spec than Apple and if either of those manufacturers were pumping out HD TVs that didnt work properly with HDMI it would likely have been noticed before Apple released a HDMI device. It seems to me that this is certainly an Apple problem to fix.

Until they do I would advise anyone with a Philips or Sony TV to avoid the Apple TV. It might work or it might not but unless you can get one to test for several hours it wont be worth the trouble if you have a similar problem to mine. I'm in contact with the store I bought mine from and I'll see what they say but at the moment unless I hear there is a firmware update on the way soon I think I'll be returning it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Friday

It's dark, cold and damp in Dublin this morning but the good news is on Sunday the clocks go back an hour so not only do we get an hour extra in bed but the commute to work wont be as dark next week. Unfortunately the commute home in the evenings will be darker but I prefer that to leaving the apartment in the dark for the trip to work. On the other hand I wont be able to get another photograph of the Spire as it is getting bright.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

History of Photography

Twice this morning in my Google Reader feeds I came across stories about the first photograph of a human. The photograph was taken by Louis Daguerre in Paris in 1838. Back then photography was in it's infancy so taking a photograph involved exposures of several minutes. No one could sit still that long so it was by accident that the human subject became visible in this photograph since it appears he had stopped to have his boots cleaned and so stood still while all around him moved.

This isn't really news or a recent discovery so why it's making the news today is a bit strange, but I suppose it is an interesting fact that most people don't know. I've seen this photo before and learned lots about the history of photography since it became my hobby/obsession but most of my knowledge comes from listening to Jeff Curtos excellent podcast on the history of photography. Jeff is a lecturer in the College of DuPage in the US and he records and podcasts his lectures. The podcasts include his lecture slides and have to be essential listening/viewing for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of photography.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dublin City Marathon

The route of the Dublin City Marathon takes it close to where I live so on Monday I was able to get out and find a good spot to take photos of the runners as they went by. I'd love to be able to run a marathon but I dont think I'd ever be fit enough to even consider 26 miles of pain.

Congratulations to Moses Kibet who won the mens race in 2.08.58 and Tatiana Aryasova who won the womens race in 2.26.12 both of which were course record times. Paul Hannon was the wheelchair winner in a time of 2:20:38 and of course congratulations to all those who took part in this years race. The results list can be found on the Dublin Marathon site.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


While out taking photos of the Dublin City Marathon yesterday I was listening to my backlog of podcasts and the always informative MacBreak Weekly. One of the episodes discussed the latest problem to hit the iPhone 4, "glassgate". Silly name but the idea is that the glass back of the iPhone 4 is more prone to cracking if you use a slip on case. Dirt and grit gets trapped behind the cover and can scratch the glass. The phone then cracks alone those scratches.

As the presenters pointed out they haven't seen any actual proof of this problem and most of the posts confirming this problem involved the user dropping the phone. I wont disagree with them, but I will say there might be a slight problem with slip on cases since today I took off my case and found two scratches on the back. Inspecting the case I found a bit of grit at the spot where the scratches are. The new iPhone is a thing of beauty but perhaps it is just going to be one of those devices that scratch. Everything scratches so there is no point complaining about it and that is not the intention of this post but if those scratches get deep enough to cause a crack in the glass then there would be a problem.

Now I dont know if I'll keep the case on or not. I want something to protect the phone from drops so perhaps the easiest solution is to take the cover off every so often and clean behind it? A drop is more likely to break the glass than a piece of dirt so some protection is required. Maybe Apple are the smart ones and their bumper cases really are the best ones on the market?

Friday, October 22, 2010

So what'll it take to get the Greens to quit?

What will it take to get the Greens to quit the government?

Ecomomic collapse? - No
Mass Unemployment? - No
Bank Bailout? - No
NAMA? - No
Lisbon 2? - No
Political Scandals? - No
By-elections? - No
International derision? - No
Collapse in polls? - No

Dont build Metro North - Unacceptable.

Foreign direct tax avoidance?

While trying to nap on the bus this morning I was listening to talk of Google's tax arrangements and how they used Ireland and Bermuda to reduce their tax bill. I didnt think much about it, just another Irish centric story about how foreign companies use our tax laws to reduce their tax bill elsewhere. The US complains about us taking Google, we complain about U2 moving to Holland and the Dutch probably complain about tulip companies moving to Eastern Europe or somewhere else. It's been going on for years and stopping it was a campaign issue for Obama but nothing ever happens. I always assume that it's just the Irish media hyping up a story that mentions Ireland and major international companies. No one outside of Ireland will even hear about it, right?

Woops, looks like news sites like Bloomberg are reporting the story, which you could kind of ignore because, lets face it, Ireland has been a popular whipping boy for Bloomberg lately. But then I found the story on Gizmodo the gadget and technology blog. Now I wouldnt exactly say Gizmodo is a world financial policy setter but if they are reporting on the story then it's spreading beyond the confines of the business pages. If it becomes a popular topic in the US media it could be an easy win for the Obama administration in advance of the November primaries. They could revive the pledge to stop American companies using foreign countries to avoid tax in the US and this time do something about it. Things would look much worse in the run up to the December budget if US companies suddenly started making plans to move back home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who's laughing? Everyone!

I dont know what is sadder, the fact that Alan Johnson mocked Ireland over it's economy, or the fact that EVERYONE in the House of Commons laughed at the mention of Ireland. Is everyone in on the joke?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Last Autumn



On Saturday I walked through St Stephens Green and it struck me that this is the last Autumn for this part of the Green.

By October next year these trees will have been removed to make room for the new Metro station. Personally in post Celtic Tiger Ireland I don’t see the need for the Metro or how we can afford it both financially and spiritually, The Green is the heart of the city center and no cost benefit analysis can measure that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who could be described as a "tree hugger" or "anti-progress" but I do believe that sometimes you cannot justify destroying something as beautiful as St Stephens Green in the name of progress.

The developers promise to restore the Green to its former condition after the building has finished. I was part of a group that met with the RPA lately and the plans for St Stephens Green were discussed. In fairness to them I believe they do mean well and do intend to preserve as much of the Green as possible. A lot of effort is going into documenting the current layout and structure of the Green so that everything can be put back to the exact spot where it was prior to the construction work but the trees will have to go and there is nothing that can be done about that. New trees will be planted and even semi mature ones could be moved into the Green but no matter how much effort they put into replacing stones and railings it still takes 200 years to fully restore a 200 year old park.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Todays word of the day on is smithereens meaning small pieces; bits. A very Irish word I had always assumed it was just a made up piece of Irish slang. Now that I know it is a real work I will now try to get it into a technical document to puzzle my foreign colleagues.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Windows Phone 7

Over lunch I've watched the keynote for Windows Phone 7 and some other review videos. I have to say it looks nice but I dont think it's for me. Now my opinion is flawed because it is formed without actually using a phone so I could be wrong but I have to say the videos make it look a bit busy and I'm not 100% fond of the tiles design.

The tiles are an interesting idea but watching the demos there were animated icons with pictures changing as the presenter discussed the screen. Too many things moving and catching the eye. Also the screen is big yet there seemed to be lots of empty space, why not use smaller tiles and fit more on the screen? Part of the UI design is to cut off headers, so on one screen"games" has half its 's' cut off and as you scroll across the 'g' goes off the screen to the left. Why? Also is the font meant to be that big? It uses up a chunk of screen that could be used for other information. It is highly possible those are default settings that could be changed by the user. I'll have to look at more reviews tonight and see what other people say.

I do like the design of Outlook and other built in apps which look clear, easy to use and nicely integrated but I'm not really keen on the idea that that thirdparty apps use the standard look and feel. I like the fact that on my iPhone my facebook app looks like facebook and my twitter app looks like twitter. If all the apps looked the same it'd get boring. I wonder if that is also something that can be changed? If I install an app would I be allowed to select the theme to use?

Funnily enough they didnt implement copy & paste yet, same as Apple when they first launched the iPhone and Apple got lots of grief for that. I guess that is a difficult enough problem to solve properly.

All that aside it's a great addition to the market. Succeed or fail it's good to see Microsoft at least trying to do something in the market and it's not just another clone of the Apple interface. Choice is good and some people will love it. If nothing else it might push Apple to innovate a bit more on their interface.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Augmented Reality (is just as bad as standard reality)

From Damien Mulleys Fluffy Links post this morning I came across NAMAland, the augmented reality application which let us see the properties around Dublin that are now owned by NAMA (i.e. us the taxpayers).

I remember when you could escape into your computer and the first person perspective it displayed was only populated by creatures such as zombies and nazis or even zombie nazis if you got the right version of the game. Now it has been infiltrated by the horrors of Irish politicians and bankers.

Banksy Simpsons

Banksy, the British graffiti artist, has story boarded and directed an opening credits sequence for the Simpsons and it's the best thing I've seen the Simpsons do since before the movie.

Considering how much money the Simpsons must make from merchandising it's a pretty interesting thing for a studio executive to approve. Though who knows, maybe by the time the episode is shown internationally the sequence may have mysteriously vanished or be censored like the EyePhone clip from Futurama.

Update: Well it appears that the new opening has taken off and is now being reported on lots of media outlets so it's not likely that the intro will just be dropped. It is causing a bit of a storm and funnily enough it is the animators that are reported by the BBC to have been most annoyed:
According to the street artist, his storyboard led to delays, disputes over broadcast standards and a threatened walk out by the animation department.

It appears to have touched a nerve and the sequence was inspired by a report that the shows animation was being outsourced to South Korea. What it doesnt mention is any other inspiration. I watched it a couple of times to see if there was any reference to Apple and the Foxconn stories I couldnt spot any but maybe someone with lots of time and a large screen will go through the clip in detail looking for a hidden logo or piece of graffiti.

The Irish Times also discussed the intro, claiming that
It ends with the familiar logo of the show's parent company, 20th Century Fox, imprisoned behind a fence with barbed wired and prison spotlights.

To me it looked more like the logo was the prison as opposed to being imprisoned, but maybe the Irish Times is in a "the glass is half full" kinda mood. The idea of the network as a prison is a strange thing for the company to approve. The show might get away with poking fun at Murdoch or FoxNews because everyone does but poking fun at the network itself seems a little Family Guyish. That show has been cancelled and revived on Fox a few times as has Futurama and they have tended to push the networks limits far more than the Simpsons. In fact if the clip hadnt contained Bart Simpson dolls and Lisa Simpshon t-shirts it could be dropped straight into a Futurama episode with Slurm or some other show product being parodied.

Another interesting point is the fact that the BBC and The Guardian both mention a scene in the intro where Bart wears a mask while writing on the blackboard. They both have screen captures showing Bart with the mask yet the mask doesnt appear in the intro on YouTube that is linked to in the Guardian story or here. It would appear that the version online is different from the version the BBC and the Guardian have seen. I cannot play the BBC story here in Ireland so they might mention the change there?

Perhaps someone in the Simpsons is tired of hearing "The Simpsons was a great show but have you seen the new episode of..." and has decided to spice things up? Just a little?

Update 2: As pointed out by Sylvin the video has been taken down. It violated 20th Century Foxes copyright. It must have been getting the Simpsons too much free publicity.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Bertie's New Job

Does Bertie know he still has a job as a TD? If I was living in Dublin Central I'd be a bit pissed off. If he wants to pursue his career as a sports journalist then let him quit and next year we can have 4 by-elections instead of 3.