Jul 212009

Just received this great offer from Pixmania, and thought it was well worth sharing here… €159 for 2TB of Iomega storage is not to be sniffed at.

My 500GB WD MyBook hard drive (also bought from Pixmania) is filling up fast since I got my Nikon D90 in May… so it won’t be long before I need to invest in a bigger drive myself.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the market for a bigger hard disk to store all your photos, videos and those all important system back-ups then check out the range of hard drives on offer at pixmania. The prices are the best around, and I’ve been very happy with the service when I’ve bought from them in the past.

Feb 102009

A very talented software developer I used to work with way back when — Walter Higgins (@walter on twitter) over at Cork based Sxoop Technologies — has developed a cool little application that builds a clickable photo-montage of all your twitter followers’ avatars.

People are already putting the resulting Twitter Mosaics on their blog posts, desktop wallpaper, mugs, T-shirts, bags, business cards… you name it. The application has evolved somewhat since I first looked at it — and now lets you selctively delete avatars from the resulting mosaic and even order printed products. It also presents you with the HTML code to embed the mosaic on your own website or blog post.

So if you’re on Twitter, why not check out your own Twitter Mosaic.

Great work by Walter and the crew at Sxoop, and proof, yet again, that when it comes to Twitter application ingenuity Ireland in general, and perhaps Cork in particular, is leading the charge.

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Jan 212009
Skype Limited

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve noticed lots of people around the web having trouble installing Skype on their Linux based Acer Aspire One netbook computers.

Advice on the net varies, but tends to involve going to the terminal and typing on the command line to install the Skype distribution for Linux, then manually editing XML files to add the Skype icon to the Apire One’s uber-simple desktop.

This is do-able, but daunting for Linux newbies, myself included :-).

So, I thought, surely there has to be an easier way… and there is!

1. Go to www.acer.com/aspireone/updates on your Acer Aspire One


2. Click on the “Skype” link and then click on “download Skype” to download the file Skype.sh.zip to your machine’s hard drive.

3. Navigate to your downloads folder (or wherever you saved the file) and double click on it to open up the ZIP file in Xarchiver.

4. Click on “Extract” and select “Extract All” to copy the contents of the ZIP file to a new folder in your Downloads directory.

5. Navigate to the resulting folder and double click on the file skype.sh

6. Click OK to confirm you want to install the update patch.

That’s it – the next time you reboot you’ll find a Skype icon sitting in your connect menu. Just launch it, log in and use Skype as usual. Simple

You’ll find a selection of other popular open source software titles like the Gimp image editor, FileZilla FTP client and lots more under the Connect, Work, Fun and Files categories.

I found this totally by accident while browsing the Aspire One site. Why Acer don’t do more to publicise this for Aspire One owners I’ll never know (and why they don’t have Skype installed on the Aspire One by default is another mystery).

The Acer Aspire One is a superb little machine… and with the addition of some of these extra software titles it will help you to be even more productive on the go.


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Jan 102009
Internet Addict
Image by husin.sani via Flickr

Always on internet should come with a Government Health Warning.

No, seriously, it should!

I’m sitting here at daft o’ clock in the morning writing this blog post wondering where the time went to.

My wife is away for a couple of nights, the kids went to bed almost eight hours ago and are sound asleep, and I should be too… but I’m not.

Why? Because we have always on internet, that’s why. I’m not going to call it broadband… because to do so would give it delusions of grandeur, but it is, demonstrably, always on.

And that means I’m always on. On the laptop, on the netbook, on the WiFi enabled mobile.

…must sleep. Kids will wake up early regardless and I won’t be able to cope if I don’t get four or five hours in. Will finish up tomorrow :-)

Rightmorning all!

Woken up at 7:30 by the little one. Don’t even want to reflect on how little sleep I’ve actually had. Looks like I’m running on caffeine today folks!

Now… where was I… oh yes, always on internet.

It’s like heroin… only worse, because while getting your fix online might make you look a bit geeky, it doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it as hard narcotics. At least not yet. But it is addictive, and if it’s suddenly taken away you do go into a kind of withdrawal.

But wait, you cry, while it might be an insidious habit, unlike a drug addiction it won’t lead you down a spiral of deceit and criminal activity to get your next virtual-hit, will it? I’m not so sure. Hands up how many people out there have casually hooked up to a conveniently unsecured wireless network “just to check e-mail”, or a profile page, or twitter or whatever?

It’s a slippery slope.

So, I’m thinking of starting a new group — perhaps on facebook (lol) — welcome to Internet Addicts Anonymous (IAA). To kick things off, I’ll go first:

My name is Calvin Jones and I’m a always-on-internet-oholic.

Admitting it is the hardest part — go on, try it for yourself in the comments below, it’s cathartic. I feel better already :-).

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Nov 242008
Three 45 Mbit/s wireless dishes on top of 307 W.

Image via Wikipedia

I sat watching the depressingly slow advance of the little blue progress bar on my laptop screen. Downloading the 150 odd e-mails that had accrued in my mailboxes over the last 24 hours was taking an age… and as for checking the various websites that help keep me connected and up-to-date… forget it.

On Friday evening we unexpectedly lost our fixed wireless broadband connection. One minute it was there, the next it was gone. Like most broadband connections in Ireland it was an overpriced and under-performing beast – but it also put a wonderful world of information and connectivity at our fingertips. Now it was gone, and we were back to the excruciating crawl of a dial-up connection.

You don’t realise how much you’ve come to rely on something until it’s taken away. I can’t count how many times a day I’d look up a website, do a quick Google search to double check a fact, go online to communicate with friends, family and business contacts and to generally stay connected with the world around me. Going back to dial-up was like stepping back into the dark ages… I had to remind myself that this was, in fact, still the reality for a rediculously high number of households in rural Ireland.

No broadband… it took a while for the implications to sink in. My first instinct was to go online, do some research and explore other options, but of course I couldn’t. That’s when it hit me – how could we run our home-based businesses without internet access? The answer: not very well at all!

Everything about the businesses depends on the internet: the websites, e-mail, payments, banking, accounts. Even the business phone line is delivered online. Dial-up simply isn’t an option for us any more.

Unfortunately we live in what can only be described as Europe’s digital backwater. While Ireland has made great strides to improve broadband availability over recent years, we typically pay through the nose for much slower connections than our European peers, and an unacceptable proportion of Irish households still can’t get a broadband connection at all.

It’s curious that we find ourselves in this position as Europe’s digital poor-relations. To listen to our government you’d swear we were ahead of the curve in the technology stakes. They talk about Ireland leading the charge towards a knowledge based global economy, but while they pimp Ireland as the technology hub of Europe on the global stage, small businesses at home are struggling to compete because they don’t have access to the bandwidth they need. It’s a shambles!

And it’s not just small businesses that are suffering in this impoverished digital environment. The internet, and the suite of communication and information technologies it enables, is a vital educational resource for our children. They’re growing up in a technology centric world; to thrive and succeed tomorrow they need to engage with that technology today. Without a decent internet connection at home and at school they simply can’t do that.

The next day I rang our telephone provider, praying that our local exchange had finally been “broadband enabled”. Luckily it had! I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and signed up straight away. It’s going to take three long weeks for us to get connected, and because we’re a long way from the exchange, there is no guarantee we’ll get the connection speeds we need.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It’s going to be a long three weeks.

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Aug 132008

Thanks to Walter at Sxoop for highlighting this priceless flow chart of chit chat with a web designer via Twitter.

small_talk.gif (GIF Image, 742×914 pixels) - Scaled (69%)


Sums it up nicely really. I’m a writer, not a designer, but as soon as anyone finds out I do some website stuff… or I’m in any way involved in internet related work, this is almost invariably the way the conversation pans out!

Does this resonate with anyone else out there?

Jul 032008

Published in the Wow! supplement of The Evening Echo

image Technology does a lot of things to make our lives easier. Every day we use our mobile phones, our computers, ATMs, credit card machines, POS systems (or computerised “tills” to you and me) digital television systems that automatically record the programmes we like… without tapes. The list goes on and on and on, and everything is talking to everything else over myriad global communications networks.

(image by Homer Township Public Library)

If you think about it for too long your brain starts to sizzle gently in your cranium… but that’s okay, because you tend not to. Most of us aren’t that interested in how it all works… we’re just happy that it does, because all of this digital wizardry makes our our lives just a little bit easier, allowing us to squeeze more into our busy lives. There are times though, when technology makes life harder, and that can be especially true for parents.

Why? Because technology is everywhere and our children are often better at using it, and embrace it more readily than we do. Mobile phones and the internet are obvious examples… while many parents struggle to understand them, to the children of today they’ve become practically second nature. That’s worrying on lots of levels – but mostly because it means we’re incapable of keeping up with them… let alone keeping track of them.

Continue reading »

May 292008

Published in the Evening Echo, 28/05/08

We have a computer in the corner of the living room. It sits there innocuously, switched off for most of its life. This is the family PC – which really means the kids PC, as both of us grown ups have our own laptops these days. It sees only occasional use – but as the kids get older they’re using it more and more.

Computers are an essential part of children’s lives today. Acquiring mouse and keyboard skills are as crucial to them as learning to wield a pencil, perhaps more so. When I was born computers were about the size of the local library and cost as much as a house. By the time I was 11 they’d made it into the home – but although I was a zealous advocate at the time, the truth is they were pretty useless; the ZX Spectrum, Commadore 64 and BBC Micro with their 64K of RAM and games and programmes saved on audio tape. They were less powerful and of much less utility than the average mobile phone today.

Things have developed so quickly over the last couple of decades that, if you had time to stop and think about it, it would make your head spin. Computers have become so ingrained into our lives that our perception of them is fundamentally shifting: they are no longer “technology”, they’re as much part of the furniture as the living room sofa.

What amazes me is how readily children take to computers. Skills that can take adults years to master are absorbed in a matter of minutes. They find things intuitively – click, double click, windows, files – they just “get it” on a level that adults rarely grasp. We learn this stuff… they just seem to feel it. It’s astonishing to watch.

Continue reading »

Mar 172008

“Working it” column published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on 17/03/2008

I’ve started using LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) a sort of grown-up social network for business contacts. It’s kind of like the business world’s equivalent to Facebook and MySpace, but it’s serious stuff – no Vampires, no throwing sheep, no movie quizzes and no posting embarrassing photos of your friends for all the world to see. LinkedIn may be an online social network, but it’s all strictly above board.

The reason I mention it is that, though I’ve had the account for quite a while, I only started to use it last week. I uploaded by e-mail address book into it and hey presto, it found loads of people in my contact list who were also on LinkedIn. Great… I invited the ones I actually knew to connect to my network. Some of them even accepted. Wonderful. I looked at my profile. There was nothing in it.

I needed to dig out what I’d been doing over the years, and when… now, where was I going to find that sort of information? Certainly not in the sieve like contraption that serves as my memory. Oh yes… it would be on my CV: that long neglected document languishing somewhere in the bowels of my hard drive.

Continue reading »

Mar 122008

I’ve just posted a piece about “Reality Mining” on my digital marketing blog. From a marketing perspective it opens up all sorts of options. From a consumer and privacy point of view, I don’t know….

I’m not really comfortable with the concept that my phone will be better than my friends and family at diagnosing depression.

How about the fact that using data from your mobile analysts will be able to predict exactly who you’re going to meet, and even on which day of the week you’re going to meet them.