Monday, November 28, 2005

Vienna and all

So its a lovely day in Vienna, I've had a great talk with Brian Gygi on PhD stuff and even seen some parts of the lab Gin might go and work for. Vienna's been great cold but great and the sunny even came out today but its a fairly colder climate in general maybe not this week from what I've heard. The christmas markets are good but they're all a bit similar in one sense with very many stocking the same types of things. The best market so far is the Spittalberg but Freyung and Karlsplatz came closest from the others. We got to see the Natural History museum and the House of Musik yesterday which were really great and definitely worth the visit. Not sure what the plan is for the rest as Gin is meeting some of the lads at the lab here but I think some shopping and maybe the Schonbrunn followed by dinner and packing.

Heard about the convention with O'Donnell 277 Noonan 255 Scully 160 Harty 108 and a quota of 260. Seems the cold kept the numbers down a bit. Not sure what that means for a third candidate but we'll see I'm sure.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Politics and Geek novels

On the side of politics and e-advocacy we have a great little report from Reporters sans frontiers called "The 15 enemies of the Internet and other countries to watch". For NGOs and volunteer organisations in troubled times, here is a really useful link to NGO in a Box (Security Edition) which is a repository for organizations and NGOs.

For those who really want security you can try Tor on a USB stick, which allows any internet terminal whether it is at home, school, or a Internet cafe to create a Tor circuit connection. This connection creates an encrypted tunnel from your computer directly to a Tor exit computer, giving the appearance of having the Tor exit computer's IP. Tor is a distributed network of serversand provides Internet users with protection against "traffic analysis" which is a form of network surveillance.

From the makers of TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem amongst others. They've gone a step further again with HearFromYourMP whose gist is get 20 of your mates and then club together to mail your MP and tell your MP will be sent a email with “20 of your constituents would like to hear what you're up to – hit reply to let them know”. Classic stuff!

On the geek novel side we have the last installment of "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth", a story by Cory Doctorow about an apocalypse that arrives on the heels of a catastrophic Internet worm. After apocalypse, the world's systems administrators are all in their sealed data-centers, and so they survive the carnage. Over at the Guardian we have the results of the poll on the top 20 geek novels.

And something that might be coming down the line (its only a prototype at the moment), we have the Airwash which uses uses compressed air, negative ions and deodorizing agents to wash clothes so no water and no drying, well laundry won't be the same.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Roundup

As a user of LinkedIn, I'd never realised there was an etiquette that needed to be followed but really its all common sense.

For a real visual treat and if you're into historical maps, visit David Rumsey's Historical Map Collection (here's some O'Reilly coverage on it).

Move over titanium here comes Liquidmetal twice the strength and three times the elasticity of titanium. Liquidmetal has a significantly lower melting point than its constituent metals its an alloy of zirconium, titanium, nickel, copper, and beryllium which means it can be cast into permanent molds for manufacturing, as opposed to steel or titanium, which must be cast using a single use mold. This means it does not have to be forged as casting will allow it to get full strength but that it processing efficiency of a plastic material. Read more on WorldChanging.

Also from WorldChanging we have the DIY Cellphone. Some members of the same group are now concentrating on building a Wifi phone.

Via the EFF - we've got the full list of CDs distributed by Sony which contained their rootkit.

We also have a podcast on using "Ring tones as political statements". There's also a nice article on Class Action who are an US based group who create visual messages to advocate social change (eg from amongst many see their posters on gun control).

From the BBC and via Zoney we have "Nordic states probe 'CIA flights'", I wonder if the IAA or the Irish Government are ready to tackle this one yet .......

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Journalistic abilities in Ireland

Some of the comments on my previous post about Barry McSweeney have struck an old chord, that of the abilities of journalists in Ireland. I'll have to admit that good journalists are a very rare species in this country but unfortunately its not just Irish problem. The merging of many media companys in Ireland (look to the local radios and provisional papers) and in the wider world (Aol - Time/Warner) has lead to a narrowing of editorial policies which has resulted in the rather limited selection of stories covered by the media. In Ireland, one only has to take a IT section of a major broadsheet to see it syndicating stories rather than producing local content.

Fortunately the Internet and alternative mass media opportunites exist with web pages, weblogs (blogs), podcasts (audio clips with metadata) amongst the latest of there platforms of media. It will only be when the established media begins to explore and invite participation using this new medium will we see the spread of coverage that should allow important but often neglected stories to receive the media spotlight. I'd like to note that the Guardian and the BBC are already following down this path and there are several talks on that discuss this topic. Ireland has a growing community of bloggers which are beginning to feed into the mainstream media but unfortunately it is a rather predatory cycle as it is normally a one way process by the mainstream media. We can discuss the matters as bloggers/citizen journalists but until the media stops merely consuming this produce and that from standard press releases and from Internet sources it'll be a long winter before we see actual journalism in this country again.

I'd like to say there are honest decent journalists who do research and investigate stories but they are by far the exception to the rule rather than the norm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Can the Government ever fire someone?

First we had Michael Kelly in the Department of Health and the Travers report and the issue of the illegal charges on nursing home residents who was one of many senior administrators in the Dept of Health whilst the whole long-term systematic failure to deal with the issue occured. He got 'demoted' (READ Promoted) to the position of Chairman of the High Education Authority.

Now we have 'Doctor' Barry McSweeney Chief Science Advisor in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment whose qualification was bogus and bought via the Internet. He has now been 'transferred' (READ Promoted) to the position of Research Co-ordinator within the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

I could list all the failures and mismanagement of both governmental IT and Capital projects and wonder about the people responsible and why haven't they been sacked but seeing as it is only Tax Payer's money (READ Fianna Fail money) that is being wasted. Why bother to fix the system where I'll can get my cousin, his neighbour and the donkey down the road a job and sure don't worry as they'll never have to do any real work and if they ever get in trouble sure we'll just promote them. This whole attitude from the Government drives me mad!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

UL gets Café Scientifique

UL will host its first Café Scientifique tonight at 20:00 in the Millstream Common room, beside the new Engineering Research building. Its topic is Combating Climate Change and it will be chaired by broadcaster Ciana Campbell with speakers Dr Tido Semmler (Met Eireann) and Dr Austin Darragh.

The idea behind a Café Scientifique event is to provide a forum for the discussion of both topical and provoking scientific issues in an informal environment rather than in a lecture hold. All who have an interest in science are welcome and will have the opportunity to discuss the matter and share their opinions on the matter at hand and the large topic of science and its implications for society.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Highlights of the policies from National Conference

After arriving back from Millstream and getting to a computer, I can now happily blog about a couple of the policies I think are really interesting from yesterday's conference.

  • Green Ireland and a new super food agency - so this means the rolling up of Food Safety Authority, Bord Bia and Teagasc with authority to direct the existing bodies avoiding the lack of knowledge and disorganisation which exists between the separate bodies. The Green Ireland brand is a new Irish Quality food authority charged with awarding a new label which is 100% traceable "farm to fork", meets EU standards and has sub-labels such as Green Ireland Organic, Green Ireland Free Range, or Green Ireland Low Fat etc. It will use a Starbucks Coffee model of distribution and marketing. The brand will replace all other Irish brands so it is simple one brand image for Irish product.

  • No increases Personal, Corporate or Capital taxation

  • End of the Budget Day and publish budget plans in September with a full and open process to examine and evaluate them.

  • Free GP services for children under 5 years of age

  • Restore the value of tax credits and tax bands to their value in 2002

  • Expand the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General to allow them to prevent failutres rather than just reporting on them

  • The removal of all excise duty on bio-fuels produced from all renewable energy crops

  • Capital Start-Up Grants for Bio-fuel Processing Plants

  • A reduced rate of VRT for eco-friendly vechicles and penalising larger gas guzzlers

  • Provide every child a childcare and early education credit of €2,500 for every child during their pre-school year, and €1,500 in each of the years

  • Amend the National Spatial Strategy to include major renewable energy infrastructure projects

  • Benchmarking Awards must be firmly rooted in this programme of public service reform

  • A stronger Competition Authority by doubling its budget but they would also be obliged to complete different stages of investigations within set time limits. The real gem is that powers would be given to theCompetition Authority so it could impose fines on individuals and businesses in breach of the Competition Act, without the necessity for a court hearing

  • A National Health Screening Programme so all adults will be offered regular health checks to screen for diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart problems, lung disease and certain cancers

  • 50 ‘Linked’ Primary Care Teams will help GPs with out of hours cover and provide them with extra primary care supports in addition to ensuring many treatments are done locally rather than in hospitals.

  • Vastly improve First Responder Schemes with the aim to have a defibrillator and other essential equipment like emergency oxygen in local areas

  • Increase paid Maternity leave to 26 weeks (+8 weeks)

  • Allow for 1 week of paid Paternity leave

  • Also have 1 week of paid Parental leave (either parent could avail of, in addition to their existing leave)

That is by no means everything, its merely the salient points I can recall (for greater detail). It was definitely not an election set of policy proposals and I think it could safely be said that these will be all included with whatever policies are produced in cojunction with Labour as part of Fine Gael's next election manifesto. Even if it wasn't the vista of policies the press were demanding, I'm quite happy with the suggestions and innovations as they would all be welcome changes to the current jalopy that seems to be the current government. The next year will bring many more joint policies as they're finalised with Labour and I'm looking forward to reading them given the energy, freshness and direction of change I found from these policies.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Competition and the Irish Consumer

The lovely deputy from Offaly introduced Phil Hogan who laid out a series of changes and common sense policys that would review and strengten the Competition Authority as well as all the Ripoff issues (cue Eddie Hobbs). The current stance on many common issues where mentioned with a lot of ancedotes from the website.

National Conference 2005

National Conference 2005
Originally uploaded by bluepelican.
Richard Bruton gave a brillant speech on the direction for FG with definite objectives and policies with regard to public spending and the civil service.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Measure Map Added

Thanks to all the great work for the people over at Adaptive Path, I've gotten a new toy to add to my blog. It is a very swish web tracking tool based on AJAX well of course you'd say isn't Jesse James Garrett,, one of the founders of Adaptive Path as well as the gentleman who coined AJAX as a term! Not to mind that but they're also a design house with actual serious ID and HCI people.

The tracking tool is interesting, I like the interface and it has a nice link into various blogging systems such as Blogger, MovableType, Typepad and WordPress amongst others. It offers a partial implementation in flash of a timeline based Alphaslider (see HCIL or Leonardo's Laptop for more on this), my comment on this would be that it should offer panning or sliding in addition to just range selection but as they said the whole system is only in Alpha testing so I really can't wait to see the Beta not to mind the actually production version. So enough of the talk and to the picture!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Mercy Seat

Thanks to Mike I got wind of this little gem which had its last night in the Swift tonight. So the Mercy Seat ... well wow I really liked it, it is set on the morning after 9th of September 2001 in an apartment, a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center with two characters. Ben Harcourt and Amy Prescott, a sofa, some interesting soundscapes and some decent lighting. Ben was visiting his boss and mistress Amy on that faithful morning and engaging in some extra curricula activities, he's now left in the position where he can leave it all - his job, his wife, his children and run away with his mistress Amy. If it was all just that simple .... I'm not going to spoil the plot (for that you can look here) but I'm glad that the UL Drama Soc are alive and kicking Impact Theatre Company were visiting UL and if this is anything to go by, well able to take on whatever is throw at them so congratulations to all and thanks again Mike that was one great idea!

** UPDATE **
Thanks to Mike for the correction to Impact Theatre Company as they never introduced themselves or had any posters up so I just figured it was the Drama Soc.

The Keys to Your Heart

Taking a cue from Drusilla's post

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.

In love, you feel the most alive when things are straight-forward, and you're told that you're loved.

You'd like to your lover to think you are flexible and ready for anything!

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.

Your ideal relationship is traditional. Without saying anything, both of you communicate with your hearts.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage something you've always wanted... though you haven't really thought about it.

In this moment, you think of love as commitment. Love only works when both people are totally devoted.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tuesday's ramblings

Seems 7 out of 10 people in the UK don't know what a blog is. From the same survey we see that 9 out of 10 don't know what podcasting or flash mobbing are.

A lecture on the design of systems which proactively direct and mediate human action.

Dealing with Election Accessibility Issues, from North Carolina in the USA.

So you want to become a Republican - is another of those classic cynical Flash based politically theme games and a good exemplar of online campaigning.

How about built-in WiFi, voice communication and Internet links and via a satellite link and powered by a car battery. It has to be a communications hub in a box or the ideal communication solution for NGO's in disaster areas. Available from NetHope and you can find more details about it on WorldChanging.

Seems Robin Grant has decided to take a bit of a slow down from his fanatastic blogging efforts, which I for one would like to thank him for as he provided a great insight into the last UK Election for me.

On more bad news it seems whilst Jamie got lucky, the lads next door had a fire and are in a bit of a situation.

Transport plan and will it work

The current 2000 transport plan originally costed for 6 million now costs 19 million and will have a 30% figure of incompletion. Today's new transport plan looks like you could divide it into thirds, take one of the thirds and throw those projects covered by it away as without proper oversight and corporate governance it'll be Eddie Hobbs time again in a couple years and really that just isn't on! Big figures and aspirations are only useful if they're implemented on time and within budget so without hand in hand reform of the civil service and the oversight structures, we should just let them burn all that tax money in front of the Dail!