Nov 222010
 
Swarovski SLC 10x42 HD

The SLC 10x42 HD by Swarovski Optik -- optically superb, unbeatable build quality.

WOW!

That would have been the reaction when I first looked through my  new Swarovski SLC 10×42 HD binoculars. Except that I was unable to utter a word: I was rendered speechless by the experience.

These binoculars are quite simply sublime.

I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a really good pair of binoculars for… well, all my life really and have been comparing high end models from Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski and Nikon, on and off, for quite a while.

On my mental bins wish list I’d pretty much whittled it down to either Leica Ultravid 10×42 or Swarovski EL 10×42 Swarovision, and I was leaning towards the Leicas mainly because I’ve never really liked the Swarovski EL’s elongated twin-hinge form factor.

I was absolutely amazed when I woke up on the morning of my 40th birthday, just over a week ago, to a pair of Swarovski SLC 10×42 HD binoculars. Continue reading »

Mar 022010
 
Image representing The Book Depository as depi...

Image via CrunchBase

I discovered The Book Depository just before Christmas, and what a boon it proved to be.

Like most writers I love to read… in fact reading widely is an essential part of my job. I love shopping for books online, but I always begrudged paying inflated international shipping costs to get books delivered to Ireland from leading UK book retailers.

Enter The Book Depository… which offers great books at fantastic prices with FREE worldwide shipping. Fantastic… now I could order my books and have them sent direct to my door in Ireland without  paying inflated shipping costs.

I ordered a number of books for Christmas, at really great prices compared to standard booksellers rates, and they all arrived promptly in the post – no fuss, no bother and best of all… no additional cost!

From now on I’ll be buying most of my books from The Book Depository – if you’re a book lover I’d recommend that you check it out.

Dec 092009
 

Uncle Frank "enjoying" Cork on Ice It’s official… I still have all of my extremities. I know this because I’ve counted them. Two arms, two legs, eight fingers, two thumbs, and ten toes.

Three weeks ago it had seemed like such a good idea. My wife was browsing the Cork on Ice website and asked if I’d be up for going ice skating with the gang. Sitting at home in a warm living room saying yes had been easy. Now the day had arrived though I was feeling a bit less assertive.

Me, blades and a large expanse of cold, wet slippery stuff… not a good combination.

I’ve been ice skating maybe three times in my life. The first was as a child, when we were taken to a huge Ice rink in North Wales on a school trip. As with most unpleasant experiences, my mind has obscured most of the details. All I remember is clinging, white-knuckled, to the edge of the rink, making my way inch by painful inch around the perimeter. In my mind’s eye all I could see was images of bloody skate-blades and severed fingers. From the moment I stepped onto the ice I remember praying for the experience to end.

The next time was a friend’s birthday party. When I found out we were going ice-skating it was all that my parents could do to convince me to go. This time I was a little braver, and actually let go of the side. Big mistake… I spent more time spread-eagled on the ice than I did actually skating. Cold, wet and miserable I vowed never to set foot on an ice rink again.

Continue reading »

Dec 032009
 

The Late Late Toy Show is an Irish institution.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing… just that it’s an inescapable one. As inevitable as death, taxes, corruption, tribunals and election posters, the Late Late Toy Show is one in a long list of things that parents all over the country have to suffer, but would generally prefer to avoid.

Having skilfully managed to sidestep the live airing on Friday night (the girls had friends staying over, and were so engrossed in play that they forgot about it), I thought that we might get away with it this year, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology there was no chance of that. The next day we had a family viewing of the show over the Internet. With the computer hooked up to the flat-screen telly and RTE Player streaming full-screen it was almost as "good" as viewing the live show. Lucky me!

Continue reading »

Jul 072009
 
Overhead view of a Fin Whale feeding

Image via Wikipedia

Last night on Channel 4 “Inside Nature’s Giants” showed the in-situ autopsy of a fin whale that stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay, West Cork back in January.

We all watched last week’s show, in which the team dismembered an elephant, in rapt fascination. Even the five-year-old was allowed to stay up, and was full of questions that, thankfully, the programme answered.

It was amazing – if a little on the grizzly side.

This week it was the turn of the whale.

As we’d all been up to see the unfortunate whale the day it died, the girls were incredibly excited to see the programme.

But I have to say that despite being very interesting, and revealing some astonishing facts, conducting the autopsy in the field while battling the tides and the worst of the Irish winter took the edge off the operation.

The elephant, in the controlled environment of London’s Royal Veterinary College, had been an exercise in clinical precision. The whale, in contrast, was a race against the elements – a race that meant things we could have seen, we didn’t get to see, or at least didn’t get to see as clearly as we might have.

The girls were thrilled to watch the dissection of the whale that they’d seen lying on the beach – but for me the programme itself wasn’t as engaging and informative as the elephant one the week before.

Next week it’s back to the Royal Veterinary College, where the subject going under the knife is a crocodile. Should be revealing!

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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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Feb 092009
 
Charles Darwin.
Image via Wikipedia

It’s refreshing when you see some genuinely good television.

Refreshing, but depressingly rare. Our screens are flooded with vacuous celebrity talent shows and patently unreal reality programmes. Television schedules crossed the  boundary into the banal a long, long time ago, and with the exception of a few pinpoints of light among the shadows of mediocrity, show no sign of returning to a more cerebrally stimulating norm any time soon. Little wonder that the youth of today are eschewing TV and are spending increasing amounts of their leisure time online, interacting with their peers in all sorts of ways.

As I write this, as if to reinforce the point, a mid-morning re-cap of dancing on ice is flickering across the TV screen in the other room. The off switch really is the only escape.

But despite the tidal wave of mediocrity television still has the power to enthrall and inform.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching David Attenborough present an exploration of Charles Darwin‘s tree of life — a look at the celebrated naturalist’s extraordinary journey as he struggled first to unravel the mysteries of natural selection and evolution, and then to prove his controversial theories to a sceptical world.

Attenborough, naturally, was at his seasoned and consummate best: an inimitable presenter who engages and informs with just the right amount of gravitas, but without overshadowing programme content. Who, you wonder, will take up the mantle of television’s most celebrated wildlife presenter when he inevitably hangs up his microphone? Please television gods, let it not be Bill Oddie! Continue reading »

Dec 302008
 
The Acer Aspire One: a seriously impressive little computer for connectivity on the go

The netbook space is getting a bit crowded these days.

What began with ASUS and its iconic EeePC now includes offerings from a host of major and not-so-major manufacturers like Acer, Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, HP, Medion and others eager to tap into the burgeoning popularity of the tiny, lightweight laptop.

Latest figures show that the netbook market overall grew by more than 160% in the third quarter of this year, bucking an overall dismal trend in the general PC market. With it’s Aspire One, Acer has leapfrogged ASUS to take the market leader’s position in this lucrative space, with a third quarter market share of 38.3%. So how does this most diminutive of laptops shape up? Lets take a closer look. Continue reading »

Nov 202008
 

Flip Video Mino

I recently reviewed the Flip Video Mino over on the Gadget Republic website.

While I’m much more of a still photographer kind of guy, the small size, ease of use and sheer convenience of the Flip was great. And shooting at 640×480 @ 30 frames per second, the video quality was surprisingly good from such a tiny device.

I gave the Flip Video 4 out of 5 stars. Here’s a very brief summary of the review:

Rating: 4/5

We liked: Compact size, competitive price, ease of use
We didn’t like: Touch sensitive controls occasionally stick, software glitch on review model, USB attachment can be awkward, no image stabilising
Summary: The “must-have” gadget for social networking videophiles….

Don’t forget to check out the full review over on Gadget Republic.

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Nov 192008
 

image

I Like: Sleek design, intuitive interface, ease of use, WiFi, third party applications, price.

I Don’t Like: Slightly ropey video, mediocre camera (but hey, this is telephone), doesn’t charge through the USB connector.

Verdict: A very capable business phone ideal for busy people who still believe cameras are the best tools for taking photographs.

I finally did it: I upgraded my phone….

After bricking my HP iPAQ by putting it through the washing machine (my fault… allegedly… for not emptying my pockets :-(), I decided to use a back-up phone (… trust me, you don’t want to know) until my contract with O2 ran out.

My plan: to switch to Meteor and avail of the great offer they had on the Nokia N95 8GB.

In the end the switch from O2 to Meteor was a painless, even pleasant experience… which I guess is something of of a novelty when you’re dealing with a mobile phone operator. If the service so far from Meteor is anything to go by it’s a switch I should have made a long time ago.

But enough about networks… this is a phone review.

Anyway – after uhmming and ahing about the Nokia N95 8GB for what seemed an eternity, I finally decided that I didn’t really need to pay a premium for all that memory and a fancy camera, when all I really wanted was something with WiFi that would run third party business applications, could access the internet and e-mail. I also wanted something that’s often overlooked when examining the whiz-bang feature sets of contemporary phones: a unit that would work well as an ordinary telephone.

So I opted for the N51 – a smartphone running the same Symbian operating system as the N95, but just… wait for it… €49 on Meteor’s cheapest €20/month contract.

It’s a sleek, slim phone with a metal chassis that feels solid and business like in your hands. It seems to do pretty much everything an N95 can do, just without the huge memory (soon remedied by slipping the MicroSD card from the dead HP iPaq into my new phone), and the 5 Megapixal camera (but, hey, I have a camera for taking photographs).

To date the phone has been superb, performing everything I’ve asked of it admirably. For me the killer feature has to be the ability to take Skype calls over WiFi using Fring (I use a SkypeIn number for business calls, and can now pick them up even when I’m not on my computer).

I also love the fact I can monitor and update my Twitter account from the phone either on the web, or, much more user friendly, via an assortment of mobile apps… my current favourite being Twibble.

All in all the E51 is a streamlined business phone that still offers plenty of bells and whistles in a really sleek and compact package. Crucially, it performs the fundamentals extremely well, and the Symbian operating system seems a lot more stable than Windows Mobile 6, which was running on the HP iPaq.

Would I recommend this phone… you bet I would!

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