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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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
 

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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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Nov 112008
 

GadgetRepublic.com, a new tech-review site, and sister-site to the excellent technology news site SiliconRepublic.com, launched yesterday and I have to say that it looks very promising.

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Gadget Republic is edited by award winning technology journalist Marie Boran of Siliconrepublic.com, so the standard of the reviews on the site, as you would expect, is very high. They’re well written, insightful and hit that elusive balance between personal opinion and technical expertise perfectly.

This is a great resource for anyone looking to keep abreast of what’s hot and what’s not on the tech-gadget front; if you’re anything like me you’ll be adding Gadget Republic to your feed reader pronto.

Congratulations to Marie and the team at SiliconRepublic.com on a job well done… I look forward to reading many a great review on the site.

Oct 072008
 

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Louder Voice knocks the socks off other peer review sites in terms of usability, design and its community-centric features. Another example of an Irish tech-company delivering a product / service that’s truly world class.

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And the newly launched Louder Voice for Business offers similar reviews functionality for your business website… which is excellent news for businesses who “get” the shift towards conversational marketing and online consumer engagement.

What is the Tuesday Push

I figured it was finally time for me to engage with this Tuesday Push malarkey (… I, know, I know… better late than never is probably going to be carved on my tombstone).

According to Damien Mulley, orchestrator of the “push”:

The Tuesday Push is a way for the small but growing tech community in Ireland to make some noise about ourselves by picking a good example of an Irish Tech Company and highlighting their product(s) every second Tuesday.

Louder Voice – reviews the way they were meant to be

The worthy recipient of this week’s “push” is LouderVoice (LV) – a great peer review site that makes reviewing products, services and anything else you can think of intuitive, easy and convenient.

You can post reviews via a variety of media: directly on the LouderVoice website, via SMS (so you don’t even need an internet connection – delighted or otherwise with that restaurant? Post a review while it’s fresh in your mind), through micro-blogging services like Twitter, you can even post reviews to your own blog and LV will pick them up from your RSS feed.

Cross-posting of reviews can work the other way around too (I think, although I haven’t done this yet): you post to LV via the web, SMS, Twitter or wherever, and LV will publish the review to your blog… which is a great way to keep things fresh and varied.

One of the best things about LV is the vibrant community of reviewers who contribute, which means that there’s plenty of conversation on everything from the best value wine to the latest tech gadgets to the most popular TV show and everything in between. It’s a community that’s growing all the time as word spreads and LV gains momentum, and as a consumer the benefits of exchanging information, ideas and opinions is obvious and compelling.

Reviews and your business….

But there’s another aspect to this conversation and interaction that’s often overlooked (and the reason I featured LV, complete with screenshot, as a great example of a review site in the Social Media chapter of “Understanding Digital Marketing”). This is a conversation you can participate in, yes, but as a business it’s also a conversation you can learn from.

Listen to people, find out what they’re talking about, what they like and don’t like. Even if they’re not talking about your product or services directly there’s a wealth of information and intelligence there that can help you to serve your customers better.

Of course, one of the best ways a business can use reviews in order to gauge consumer sentiment is to integrate review functionality into their own website – and if you want to explore the possibilities the all-new LV for business offers a suite of review services that are ideally suited to the purpose.

Anyway – the best way to find out more about LV is to start using it – so off you go and start reviewing – I’m looking forward to reading what you think.

NB. If you want your company to be considered for the Tuesday push you can submit your details online.

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Sep 292008
 

B&Q Performance Power Chipper/ShredderWho knew gardening could be this much fun?

While up in Cork last week I went to BQ Mahon Point to pick up a much-needed loppers. The trees and shrubs around our little patch of West Cork have been much neglected of late… it was time for some serious pruning.

On impulse I decided to pick up the Performance Power Chipper Shredder as well – it was only €121 and I figured composting the pruned branches and recycling the nutrients in the garden made far more sense than carting them by the trailer-load to Clonakilty for disposal.

Shredded branches ready for compostingFor €121 I wasn’t expecting much… but I have to say I’ve been gobsmacked by this compact little machine. It eagerly chomps up branches up to 3.5 cm thick, making short work of all but the thickest branches. Anything too thick to shred and put on the compost goes on the woodpile for firewood… so it’s a real “Win Win”. Zero waste… you’ve  got to love it.

The blades did get a little dull from the heavy-duty stuff I was throwing at it – but a quick rub with a sharpening stone had them operating perfectly again in no time.

What’s amazed me most of all is how it’s got me into the garden. I’m loving it – pruning and shredding away for hours, I don’t even notice the time passing. My wife reckons it’s because it has a plug… that means it’s a gadget… and fundamentally I’m a geek at heart. You know what… I think she’s right!