• I've decided - I'm decidedly middle class

    I had a trip in to the faire capital city of Ireland today: Dublin. Okay I’ll get this out of the way: I had a Frappacino in Starbucks and I’m a student; so not too poor of a student ;)

    But I saw the inside of Brown Thomas for the first time. I don’t shop for fashion at all: but what I found was the kind of vulgarity and fake-ness I’d expect of London or New York; not Dublin. To paraphrase Bono: “In America if you have your mansion on a hill people look up to you and think ‘I want to be like him and afford a house like that one day’; if you have the same mansion in Ireland people say ‘look at the fucken eejit on the hill with that house; thinks he’s god or sumthen’” and that to me was always an endearing part of Irish culture; people around you being the great leveller if you thought you were the bomb. Inside BT (Brown Thomas) was all the names you’d expect; all the major names more at home in Paris, London or New York. I confronted my friend who was showing me round about my opinions (in my usual polite manner: just say it). To my surprise he agreed 110%. Yes he said: for the people who buy this stuff can tell who else is wearing it; and I think he meant that by this logic movers and shakers also wore all the brands to look the part. Soon after he told me he was also learning Golf because he knew it would be a great benefit for his future career: “All important people also play golf” he assured me.

    I see this divide in society and I admit it bothers me. Where I go to College, there is an estate across the road which is by any standards not had the full benefit of the Celtic Tiger (the Irish Boom Economy). I get the bus from this place and everytime it bothers me that I see some social problems: everything from unruly kids trying to ruin the place to alcholics. But I also have people in my class from that estate: some of the nicest you’d ever care to meet. I’ve been asked by them my opinion on where they live and what do I think other people think.

    Then comes my home town. It is on the border of Dublin (city) and Kildare (farmers and horsebreeders) and we’ve got a mix of both. But Leixlip is decidedly middle class; low enough crime; not much social tension to be heard of; certainly nowhere near the likes of South Dublin (seen as upper class) or North Dublin (seen as lower class). Which is why I don’t feel comfortable in either: maybe middle class is the real stigmata?

  • Will Google Buy Skype?

    It’s been all over the tech news world lately; apparently Google is muling over taking Skype off of Ebay’s hands. Ebay has already written down the value of Skype as a large loss on their purchase price of $2.6 billion in stock and cash. But wimageould Skype’s G-branded future be any better?

    I think it would be. Skype is a strong international brand for voice calls, instant messaging and video calls; but of course it competes directly with Google Talk. Skype as a company has made a lot of mistakes; but they actually produces some of the best technology for p2p VOIP out there in the marketplace. Skype is particularly strong in redundancy, cost of network operation (since it’s p2p every user carries’ each others traffic; most people have no idea of this fact) and routing around the most draconian network admins out their through their routers.

    All of this is a strict propreitary network and is centrally controlled at the moment for Ebay. All voice is encrypted accross Skype; but it is well-speculated that Skype has a back door to snoop on anyone it so wishes (although it would never publicly admit to this). Legislation hasn’t caught up to protect voice calls like they are on “traditional” PSTN [Pretty Simple Telephone Network].

    I think Google could open up Skype’s network; to what extent is anyone’s guess. I hope they integrate XMPP like Gmail Chat capability (which is an open standard); and do the same for voice/video (could take a while based on patents) . I predict the client will most likely stay propreitary and closed-source; as opening it up could reveal back-doors; patent and copyright issues and more. But overall I think the transaction could go quite well for both parties…

  • Letter to EU Commissioner on 95 Year Copyright Extension [Updated]

    I recently read a Slashdot article “EU Commissioner proposes 95 year copyright”. I am a staunch supporter of the European project; or at least the ideals it is based on to create a peaceful, demcratic union of countries with a common background and share similiar goals. Intrigued by the article I read it only to find out that a local man who used to represent my area was responsible. I had to write to him to ask how he lost his mind….

    Dear Mr. McCreevy;

    I am writing to you from Kildare. You have served our county over the years; and I even thought you would become Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland) one day (being the Minister for Finance is a front-runner position- let’s be honest) but then you went to Europe.

    But that’s not the subject of this correspondence. I am writing to you to voice my disgust for your proposed levies and taxes in conjunction with an even longer copyright extension. What are you thinking Mr. McCreevy? The average musician does not live for 95 years. I am responding to points made by you in the International Herald Tribune (Original article: AP Newswire; Published 14/02/2008) and the legislation proposed at your level in the commission (through which you will have direct influence).

    1. Your Misguided view of copyright:

      “If nothing is done, thousands of European performers who recorded in the late 1950s and 1960s will lose all of their airplay royalties over the next ten years,” said EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, the union’s internal market chief. “These royalties are often their sole pension.”

    I don’t know about you Mr. McCreevy; but I will have to set aside money from my earnings for my pension;. why shouldn’t artists? Copyright is supposed to encourage innovation; not reward old creations. Copyright on these works should have rightfully expired on these a long time ago; forcing these musicians to create more music we all love and enjoy, instead of idly collecting money for work done sometimes as much as fifty years ago. These Musicians were already paid for their works a long time ago; and they signed it over to a [record] company. You are only enriching a company that contributes zero cultural value back by extending a copyright term. This has been proven time and time again if you would do your research.

    1. Extra Copies / Levies

      The EU executive also wants to look again at reforming copyright levies charged on blank discs, data storage and music and video players to compensate artists and copyright holders for legal copying when listeners burn an extra version of an album to play one at home and one in the car.

    Why should as a consumer I have to pay twice for a music recording? You know this will only have the effect of driving up the cost of a CD and increasing piracy? “You can’t charge me twice if I choose to pirate it!”; and this is how a lot of consumers will see it; like double tax evasion only easier with less risk! You must recognise also that the music collection agencies are run by cartels that is the music industry (Big Four: SonyBMG, Warner, EMI, Universal ) which is almost never fair to artists? (Look at SoundExchange in the United States for this). What about when I use disks for backup of my data (which is the only reason I use them for) why should I pay royalties for music I never pirated? How also can you tell which artists deserves more royalties than the next? You can’t; and that is why this idea is so stupid you should put it to bed now!

    1. Who it benefits?

    The extension would not benefit only stars such as French crooner Charles Aznavour or British pop star Cliff Richard, McCreevy said. Session musicians who played on a recording would also be able to draw on a new fund.

    Ah-ha-ha-ha You see Mr. Mc.Creevy case in point! These men actually own; or have very liberal licensing terms with their record companies; allowing them in the first place to be spokespeople for longer copyright terms. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of artists; who don’t have that luxury. Please remind me what exactly these men have contributed to society musically in the last few years? Oh riiiiiight; thats nothing; zero; zilch! What about others of that era? Elvis? dead and buried! Beatles? no longer around! and I could go on and on and on about how they are literally getting money for nothing….. The only beneficiary will be the record companies who own the recordings to 70’s and 80’s material which is lucrative (for this see Michael Jackson owning some of the Beatles catalogue).

    My plea to you is to stop this insanity and work towards less copyright restriction not more. Copyright was originally designed to safeguard an original author to make back the time and the effort he/she put into the creation which benefitted society (ie. compensation usually in the form of monetary gain). With this understanding it’s plain to see these people have long since got back many times the creative energy they put in and societies debt to them has long since passed.

    Your former constituent;
    N Grogan


    P.S. I am eagerly awaiting you reply and any comments you have on what I have said…

  • Why I think Amarok rocks....

    I just purchased an Amarok hoodie andt-shirt; and I couldn’t be happier supporting one of my favourite open source projects! What makes it so good? Have you ever heard of Amarok? Chances are if your an OS X or Windows user; you haven’t. All this is about to change! The amarok team are busy porting it from it’s UNIX underpinnings to Windows and OS X.

    Whats to like about Amarok then?
    also is cool phonetically: am a rock!

    • Album covers in full glory (see picture right)
    • Full lyrics support; even for the most obscure songs you have laying around!
    • Wikipedia integration: truly a gem; you can do what Amarok says “Rediscover your Music” in looking up artist, song or album in the free encyclopedia.
    • Playlists form the backone of the player; great for people like me who like to compile sub-sections of songs for car journeys and the like!
    • Smart playlists: you get playlists which can update based on how your rate them; which artist or what genre; sorting conditions ar infinite! Example is a 5 Star playlisat with all my top rated tunes!
    • Dynamic playlists: built from your static and smart playlists; it can show the last X songs you played and Y upcoming. So I could select my 5 star faves and my Strokes favourites; set it to show 5 last played songs and 15 upcoming. I never need to edit the playlist again as it will auto choose and update the list!
    • Statistics: Show all your stats on your collection! From favourite artists to most played albums: it’s all there waiting!
    • & Tags: Tag and compiles your music listening tastes with integration in the most popular social music site online!
    • IPod integration is second to none (as well as many 0ther popular players!)! Amarok will convert it to mp3; sync podcasts and playlists; transfer ratings and even submit listened tracks to!
    • All the added extras: Equaliser with presets; Random and Repeat capability; Visualisations! You can even sort you collection by mood with Moodbar installed!
    • Scripts!?! One of the coolest thing is scripts: think Firefox extensions only slightly more powerful!
    • Built-in editing of song names; album names and all info! Don’t bother telling Amarok to add the music you just ripped; as long as it’s in your music folder its automatically picked up and added!
    • An intuitive interface: built for function and power: Amarok is almost perfect in its balance between feature and function. The OSD )On-Screen Display) with show you any details your playlist does; like Artist Name; Album name; Rating and how long a track is!

  • A few days with A Nokia N810


    I last discussed the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet in October; when details were only starting to filter out. It wasn’t expected for Nokia to introduce an upgrade to the N800 Internet Tablet (which I also reviewed here) so soon. I certainly don’t envy the position of a small team getting the hardware and software for a mini-computer right in such a short space of time. But needless to say the N810 feels right; in fact it feels more right than the N770 which I thought had the best design of all (be it functionality not so much style). The N810 has bags of style; in a flashy brand-new-car sort of way; it looks expensive and I believe Nokia plays to this in their pricing.

    Well the best new feature has to be the operating system: OS 2008. It is clean; stable enough and illustrates beautifully in a Apple Mac sort of way when hardware and software are matched beautifully you get an unrivaled product. But that runs on N800 also; so why bother with the N810? GPS is inbuilt for one; but the mapping software is pretty horrible. Luckily the Open Source MaemoMapper is the original (and still the best) GPS program for any maemo platform (OS 2007, OS 2006). No offence to WayFinder but their software isn’t ideal and feels like a shabby port to the Internet Tablets; like it was ripped off another device and thrown at Nokia’s devices. Nokia also dropped the ball in other areas; such as keylocking and the home applets: home applets are little bubbles of information you immeadiatly see on the N810’s home screen. The problem you ask? The move (by design; older OS ones were fixed) and the keylock made to keep them stable is not functional as I believe it could be. Why can’t I set an auto screen lock when I flip the keyboard back in? That kind of commission is what I’d call a ‘schoolboy error’.


    Apps make any device and the N810 has a few good ones; but nothing totally wow or killer just yet. Skype as many people are aware is semi-included in the device (after a download) and as of yet unlike its desktop Linux counterpart; it lacks full video support (on a device with a decent vga webcam camera

    • no sense here!). There is also full GoogleTalk integration; with SIP support coming up (perhaps with full video on SIP; maybe as of yet with GoogleTalk if they adopt SIP?). Other than that great apps include FBreader a great Windows/Linux ebook reader; and some fun pass the time games like TuxPuck, IceBreaker and LXDoom can be downloaded. What about the apps included I hear you ask? Well the Web Browser is quality from Mozilla and far outshines the Opera browser which graced both the N770 and N800. Updates are not really noticeable in the core non-essential apps like Email (an awful excuse for an email client), RSS reader (decent enough) and Filemanager. To the core I suspect they made a bevy of changes; but I’m not that hardcore so I’ll skip technical details like that; needless to say its startup time was reduced; battery life seems longer; and it feels more responsive on OS 2008.

    So should I buy it? If you don’t have a N800 I would say definitely go for it; as long as you thinkimage the price is right. As with any tech device; shop around for a bargain on the price over Nokia’s retail listed price. Who is it aimed at? People in college like me who like to keep in touch with friends; read their pdfs docs; and cringe to be away from some sort of connectivity. This also applies to business users who would have similar uses with clients; but unfortunately the necessity of a second device in non-wifi connected areas kills this devices true potential until Nokia decides to inbuild 3G or Wimax.

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