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February 2009

EBU Streaming Solution

Camera 1 at Limerick OpenCoffeeIN 1999, MID-CAREER professionals from the European Broadcasting Union attended week-long workshops in the Arthouse Multimedia Center for the Arts. Back then, we produced video for playback on the Real Media Player. In 2006 the EBU decided to do an in-deep investigation of the available peer-to-peer (P2P) video playback solutions. In its final report, the technical department of the EBU endorses Octoshape’s P2P solution as “scalable, reliable, [and] easy to manage.” The report comes on the heels of the EBU's technical department investigating a number of member experiences, then unpacking those experiences during technical conferences. As the largest broadcaster organization in the world with more than 100 members, including BBC and RTE, and reaching an audience of 650 million people weekly, the EBU's final solution solves scalability and cost factors by serving video clips in a high-quality way without buffering. Video clips that I have watched with Richard Azia on camera play instantly. It appears that the system uses using multiple point fail over systems alongside source signal stabilization technology. It worked extremely well during the streaming of the Olympics in HD (a 2.5 Mbs stream).

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Mule Skinners Need TSA Clearance

Safe MuleSINCE OUR SUMMER travel plans could include a visit to an American theme park, we are happy to learn that mule drivers have to have background checks. CNN reports a "federal anti-terror law that requires longshoremen, truckers and others to submit to criminal background checks has ensnared another class of transportation worker -- mule drivers." These mule skinners, seasonal workers who dress in colonial garb at Hugh Moore Historical Park in Easton, Pennsylvania, near the family home, must apply for biometric Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC), according to the Transportation Security Administration, which says it is bound by federal law. The Hugh Moore Historical Park has one boat, pulled by two mules capable of speeds of up to two miles per hour. According to Google Maps, the park's two-mile canal does not pass any military bases, nuclear power plants or other sensitive facilities.

Mike Ahlers -- "TSA: Mule skinners need background checks, too"


Running on Empty

Turkish CrashDURING THE FIRST 10 years of my paid employment, I logged more than 3500 accident-free flying hours and sometimes arrived on fumes. After filling out the paperwork associated with a low fuel or emergency fuel condition, I realised several senior pilots were occasionally shutting down in the chocks with much less in the tanks than their fuel gauges showed. In fact, a 10 per cent error was expected with the fuel sensing systems, so it would be easy to combine a relaxed attitude about your fuel burn with a dodgy instrument cluster. The end result could result in a short landing (like the shot I saw via Twitter at left) or a flame-out on the way back to the parking stand. Although I always returned to the hardstand, I had to shut down several engines on the four-engined C-141 after landing when their low fuel pressure lights illuminated just before fuel starvation. This was not an approved operating procedure but when forced to hold overhead a saturated airport with time-sensitive cargo aboard (i.e., hospital patients, high explosives or hazardous waste), diversions weren't an option. You never want to get into a position where you're taking liberties with your flight planning factors. However, you also didn't want to flinch in the face of getting the mission done, so sometimes you pushed the edge of the envelope. I can't help but think that the crew aboard Flkight TK1951 from Istanbul might have cut the numbers too closely as they were approaching Schipol Airport on their 18 Feb landing. The Boeing 737-800 crashed 1.5 km short of the runway in a nose-up attitude. Most of the 135 passengers walked away from the aircraft. Some mentioned they were happy there was no fire. A lack of a fuel spill at the crash site contributed to that fortunate outcome. By now, investigators know the amount of fuel purchased by Turkish Airlines for the jet before it left Istanbul. Standard radar tracking will show the fuel burned en route. Adding required minimum fuel requirements for commercial passenger carriage produces a number that will tell investigators whether the captain was in the arrival sequence over the Netherlands with enough fuel reserves to divert to an alternate. If those numbers don't add up, a major interim accident finding will quickly percolate out to the professional pilot discussion boards.

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Five Years Waiting

Broadband RingFIVE YEARS AGO, I stepped over several ruts cut into the streets of Kilkenny on the day that Noel Dempsey, the Minister for Education and Science, announced plans for €18 million worth of fibre connectivity. The money was spent in Kilkenny and in other cities around Ireland, laying community broadband rings. These fibre optic cable systems can serve up high-speed Internet access to those connected to the fibre but it costs more than most schools will pay. Back in 2004, Minister Dempsey announced how the broadband rings would help to connect every primary and secondary school to broadband Internet services. That has not happened. For a two-year period, nearly all 4,100 primary and secondary schools in Ireland were connected to always-on broadband. Those funds have dwindled away now and some schools reported that their satellite broadband experience was inadequate for the kind of immersive virtual learning they had planned.

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When the Papers End

Sunday Tech in Irish PapersEVERY SUNDAY, I make Qik clips after flicking through the newspapers like the one at left. Every Monday, nearly every primetime radio presenter sources stories from the newspapers. A free society needs quality journalism. How will we keep Irish politicians honest without the mainstream press? In my neighbourhood, several local papers may not survive in the years ahead without the easy advertising revenue from property developers, estate agents and car dealerships. Back in my American neighbourhoods, things look very challenging. The Rocky Mountain News won't survive. The first paper that I read while in full-time paid employment, the San Francisco Chronicle, may not make year's end. Everywhere I turn on the internet, people are saying the New York Times has to shed its page count. I'm looking at helping the local press survive through an economic downturn by extending their reach into an area of user-generated content and Google-powered advertising revenue. Time will tell whether my efforts bear fruit. I think it's a very important undertaking because I want to get my local news from a paid journalist who has editorial license to report and explain. It's something that mere bloggers won't be able to do well.


Irish Blog Awards Hotel Thoughts

Dipped BottlesAS A DAD with stroller patrol duties, I am the earliest riser in the Irish Blog Awards Hotel (the airline deco Cork Airport Hotel), so I walked past the rack of bottles at left before breakfast was served several times during the weekend. A few thoughts occurred to me in that quiet hotel lobby that I'm sharing with readers. I'm glad to have recommended the Irish Blog Awards to several new Irish bloggers, several who sit on a third level social media course alongside me in Tipperary Institute. They enjoyed the inclusivity of the well-run event, while also seeing how difficult it can be to find people whose work you've read throughout the year. With more than 300 people mingling in the hotel, the only person who met everyone would have been working on the reception desk, and then perhaps only half of the people passed by each receptionist. At these kinds of events, I try hard to meet new faces but with my readership of Irish blogs stretching beyond 180 at the moment, there's no way I'm going to shake all those hands on a Saturday evening. I went to Cork for iba09 because I wanted to combine a family weekend with a blogger meet-up. In previous years, I learned more throughout the afternoon prior to the big event. This year, things ran smoothly and my priorities were more family-first. Since no one in my Irish family blogs, it meant keeping a lower profile. I enjoyed meeting ciaranr and marcusmacinnes for the first time in person. I nodded and waved at more people than conversing with them and hope those bloggers know I wasn't being rude--you just cannot break away from one full-on conversation and start another without letting people who bought your drink feeling ripped off. (Sorry, Keith Shirley, I know the next shout is mine.) I hope there's another Irish Blog Award programme held in the southeast before long. From the feedback I've heard, the Cork Airport Hotel is a superb venue. Moreover, if iba10 or iba11 happen in the Cork Airport Hotel, I'd work at arranging a free Photofly session to complement the Photowalk session.

Hats off to Damien Mulley and crew.
Now read the Media Virgins' Report.
Bonus Link: The most-debauched photo of iba09.


Qik Sunday News

Sunday Business NewsA FEW HOURS AFTER the last bloggers left the Mulley Conference Room in the Cork Airport Hotel, I used a side table to record a Qik video clip while paging through the Sunday papers. When back home, I can get four or five Sunday papers but the options close to the Cork Airport Hotel are more limited. As expected, mainstream journalists continue covering the meltdown of the Irish banking sector, something that affects the Irish government since it has nationalised one bank and offered to recapitalise several others. The toxic debts accrued on the heels of an inflated property market complicated by developers unable to pay current or long-term debt. It's a point made by David McWilliams during the past two years and he returns to that message today [9] and it forms part of today's Qik clip. The global recession offers oportunities, explains the SBP. The evidence lies in Subway and McDonald's expansions [5] along growth in media monitoring [3] and Facebook. In other news, telecoms disruptor Pat Phelan explains how Maxroam can cut telephone expenses while roaming and Adrian Weckler explains how Ryanair's on-board mobile phone service will take more money over mobile phones than a well-oiled sex chat service.[7]

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Shane Hegarty's Shortlist

IN ONE OF THE news features, Irish Times journalist Shane Hegarty fingers 20 Irish blogs that could claim a place on the shortlist of the 2009 Irish Blog Awards. In fact, most of the 20 are shortlisted for the Irish Blog Awards top honours. "They entertain, educate and often infuriate. They are popular and influential. And now they are an integral part of the Irish landscape. Here are 20 of Ireland's most essential blogs:"

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Crashed my car's radio

Inside Batmobile v2BY ACCIDENT, I discovered yet another reason not to use a mobile phone while driving. With my phonee connected by Bluetooth to the car's radio, I was sending a text message when a call came onto the car's speaker system. When I tried to pick up the call by toggling the steering wheel, the outgoing text blocked the operation. When I tried to cancel the outbound text by pressing the appropriate key on the phone's messaging centre, the radio displayed the word "phone" and no keys responded on the phone. Everything returned to normal when I pulled the phone's battery out. Try that when you're driving.

Sent mail2blog using O2 EDGE Typepad service on the M8 in County Limerick.


Skype N97

N97 Running SkypeI CARRY AN ULTRAPORTABLE computer in my Binh bag. In fact, because of the Lehman Brothers meltdown, I carry two ultraportable computers nowadays, both Nokia E90s. When Lehman closed, I got an inexpensive E90 that was sitting unnoticed in a New York desk. By the end of 2009, I'll probably upgrade my ultraportable to the Nokia N97. One of the reasons is for its on-board Skype. In my line of work, Skype chat helps connect the dots faster. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the major carriers object to Skype being burned onto N97 handsets. The same kind of resentment extends to Truphone, Rebtel and Maxroam. I don't use O2 operator services for the default services offered on branded mobile phone desktops. I like dependability in voice and SMS services. But I use my phone's data connectivity over wifi more than over the mobile phone's network and I think that's a fair use of the technology. I appreciate Nokia creating viable services for me. It would be nice to have Skype on my N97. I have lots of people in my Skype phone book and when I toggle it on, I have meaningful conversations with Skype. I also like Skype for being able to hide myself from view. I want to start the second decade of the 21st century with a solid ultracomputer that I can hand over to a five-year-old when she starts school. The Nokia N97 would be a very nice first computer for a school kid.