SWEEPING POWERS HAVE BEEN given to the National Asset Management Agency in Ireland, allowing the agency to pay up to EUR 90 bn for badly-impaired property loans. This means the government of Ireland will become the biggest landlord in Europe and the cost for this questionable move will be passed along to young children and the unborn grandchildren living in Ireland. On a personal note, if assets of the property developer Liam Campion are sucked into NAMA, our housing estate will become one of the largest NAMA vacant shells in South Tipperary. More than half of the 104 homes in our estate sit vacant. All around Cashel where I live, bits of pasture like those at left sit idle, owned by developers who have over-stated their commercial value. Ten years ago, pesky problems like planning permission would have dissolved in a quick pub conversation accompanied by a brown envelope containing EUR 15,000 of a political donation. Those corrupt days are behind Ireland now, meaning real deceleration in the conversion of agricultural land to zoning for residences. Respecting Ireland for its litigious nature, I believe a new raft of court cases will emerge as developers, consortia, and partnerships petition for unsubordinated debt payments related to property deals. There is no way that NAMA can pre-empt the property or commercial rights of Irish citizens. Here's hoping the Minister for Finance has a multi-billion kitty set aside for legal costs because those Commercial and High Court cases will arise throughoug 2010 when NAMA tries to take the keys for sites, buildings and other assets.
I RUN A LIGHTWEIGHT email client on my Nokia E90 (at left, shot last year with no email burden evident) and occasionally test other messaging applications that involve email. After an abortive attempt to push my mail to my phone via Nokia Messaging early this year, I removed the application but a troublesome artefact remained. I had at least 20 MB of mail headers that remained on my mail server and instead of purging any of the old stuff, Squirrel Mail kept the old headers intact and sometimes duplicated them. The 20 MB in February became 85 MB in July. This meant my phone had to flick through hundreds of mail headers before updating my local phone's email system. All that time equated to data on O2-Ireland and more critically, those mailbox updates really killed me while roaming in the States a few months ago. The Helpdesk staff at Well.com asked me to purge my headers. When I told them to kill all remnants on the mail server, my mailbox suddenly went to zero, taking with it a dozen unopened emails. I don't remember where most of them originated. But I trust that anyone who really wants to contact me urgently knows that I have more than one way of answering a question. There's Twitter, for example. Or Facebook for fun, LinkedIn for business. Or a comment to this blog. All of those channels have proven more effective than email in my current life.
SINCE I AM falling behind in my listening preferences, I decided to restore my five year-old iPod (at left, in the white sleeve) to daily operations after an 18-month hiatus. Moreoever, I started letting iTunes sync the old fellow and I'm delighted with the results because I'm getting a friendly convergence that works well in my life. I can let my laptop run while I'm reading and it will grab podcasts that interest me. When I cable the iPod to the laptop, those podcasts drop onto the iPod just like Steve Jobs promised. And any podcasts I've heard will drop off the iPod, freeing space without me working at the problem. I also like the way I can direct iTunes to tailor its operations to specific things. So I've changed the default music library to my removeable terabyte. I've also discovered the iPod will handle recorded voice mails and MP3 tracks recorded on my Nokia E90 so I pull them onto the iPod and easily find them under the "Recently Added" menu. All these things scrobble over through Last.fm, giving me a record of my listening patterns. At this point, the iPod is the longest-serving technology in myh Bihn bag, beating several audio cables in the competition for the most durable gear in my gadget bag.
DURING A MEDIA BRIEFING in Dublin, the Minister for Communications announced wide-reaching strategies for digital technology in Ireland. I paused at several points during a chat with colleagues (evidence at left), wondering how realistic some of the enthusiasm is in its claim to create 30,000 jobs in Ireland. It would seem that some of those jobs are broadband-dependent--real broadband and not the weak imitation subsidised under the National Broadband Plan. Minister Eamon Ryan mooted the idea for an International Content Services Centre (ICSC is to be a throbbing hub of creativity, not the UN agency tracking things like daily subsistence levels) to be located in Ireland, something like the IFSC for digital content. He cites specialists in digital creative arts, legal, and accountancy as being the beneficiaries of this new centre. "The ICSC will provide content generation, distribution and management expertise. The facility will support the development of the 1,000 digital content companies currently located in Ireland." I didn't know there were 1,000 digital content companies in the Republic. If the Minister counts digital plumbers (i.e., network service providers) and the traditional publishers, he might be able to claim more than 500 companies involved in the coding, gaming, writing, recording, filming, mapping, syndicating, crawling, servicing and storing digital content. I'm flipping through my Irish media directories, trying to see how 1000 companies figure in this projection. One thing I know from first-hand involvement: there are clever ways to make an online casino function as a truly interactive experience.
UPDATED 23 Jul 09 with hyperlink to Fintan O'Toole's opinion column.
SITTING INSIDE AN educational establishment that has been targeted for closure by the Public Expenditure Review Committee (aka An Bord Snip Nua), I'm interested in the experts who formed the recommendation to close Tipperary Institute. Fintan O'Toole names five of the fine people who formed the committee charged with reducing Ireland's deficit. The committee members "exemplify the nexus of high-flying civil servants, corporate tax advisers, light-touch regulation and financial juggling that has helped" to expand the Irish economy to the teetering edge of bankruptcy. O'Toole unpacks the backgrounds of each of these key committee members to make the point that "they come from an extraordinary narrow range of backgrounds and embody a set of instincts and orthpdoxies that are, to put it midly, problematic." They would not have attended a classroom and done hands-on creative media work like the two students at left.
ON TUESDAY, JULY 20, 1999, I was wandering around with dozens of friends in the Lobo Club of the Morrison Hotel. You had to wear black to get into the place. Barry O'Neill was there, wearing something pink on his black top. It was a meet-u of the trendiest cross-section of Dublin's cultural and corporate glitterati and only a few people knew what was on. But who cared? With free champagne, excellent finger food and good laughs, a lot of us thought it was going to be something related to DJ Paul Webb who was playing that evening. It turned out toe be the launch party for Rondomondo, Eircom's ill-fated online publishing venture. I will always remember is as the high-water mark of Ireland's dotcom excess. Two years later, Rondomondo was written off as a EUR 50m loss by Eircom. And right behind that company came dozens of others, some employing 100 people, as the dotcom industry flopped, tossing Oniva, Nua, and Ebeon into the scrapheap of history. In the meantime, a few of my friends started coding for a hostel booking engine and that evolved into Web Reservations International, now worth more than EUR 200m. And quietly along the side, Kevin Greene rolled his Cold Fusion code into eastern Europe, spawning AnotherFriend in languages not normally heard in his hometown of Limerick.
EVERY DAY, my Inside View blog sends email directly to my phone from people asking questions arising from a handful of the 5000 blogs posts that I've created on it since July 2003. I treat some of those emails as evidence that I've earned the trust of readers, even though many of the requests come from people who have visited for fewer than two page views. The most common questions concern software updates. Some questions ask me for feedback about Nokia Maps (at left), the one expense that my phones seem to make automatically when I travel.The most unusual questions delve deep into some keys I still have from underground structures in the UK and Germany. I try to write most of my things in a common voice but I know many of my blog posts deviate into the arcane. So I try to blend Twitterspeak into some of my thoughts. When I'm successful, the blog post will drop onto Facebook where it picks up more interest and often sparks a virtual relationship. I'd like to think I could convert some of this online trust into solid results for my employer, a third level college that offers a well-vetted BSc in creative multimedia. After a summer of thinking about this challenge, I believe I'm at the point of joining a group blogging effort that tries to pique the interest of parents and teachers, recognised influencers of the next generation of digital creatives.
SEVERAL IRISH broadsheets are warning on their front pages of restrictions to travel and closed academic classrooms. Check-ins for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow have been instructed to turn away those thought to be infected. Some countries, including Thailand, Egypt and China, have installed thermal body scanners to identify contagious passengers.  But what if those passengers were rejected by British arrivals staff and then told to return home? If they look ill, they won't get a seat on BA or Virgin. In Ireland, several third level institutions expect outbreaks once students return from overseas destinations and return to classrooms.  I would feel more confident about these planning steps if I knew those universities had already a system like Online Meeting Rooms tested and ready to roll. In Tipperary Institute, we are test driving such infrastucture, attempting to validate a way to connect 80 students at a time to an online two-way channel.
1. Steven Swinford -- "Air travellers face swine flu ban" on the front pages of the Sunday Times, 17 July 2009. 2. John Downes -- "Colleges poised to deal with mass swine flu deaths when term starts" on the front page of the Sunday Tribune, 17 July 2009.
THE OLYMPUS MJU TOUGH-8000 lives up to its name and at €244 it will probably become the two-year-old's first camera just before she turns three. That's because it will be on the used tech gadget circuit for less than €100 next year. The Tough-8000 is shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof. Its tough-fiting seals and internal optical 3.6x zoom make it waterproof in our bathtub because the water is less than 33' deep. This 12 Mp camera works well above water but its colours look washed out under the waves unless its LED illuminator is depressed. The 28mm wide angle lens is well-suited to capturing good close-ups. "Also useful is the option of adjustuing the settings by tapping the top of the camera or the screen," says the Test Bench reviewer in the Sunday Times before awarding the camera is top five star rating. "Tech & Net" inside InGear, The Sunday Times, 19 July 2009.
I HAD A DREAM about Twitter and my blog. The dream lasted 15 seconds. "Free-flowing microblogging can't replace a communications platform that you control," is what the voice in my dream said. Then another voice prodded me to comb through my six years of Typepad posts and restitch the images that have fallen off. Until I realised that I had misconfigured part of my Typepad templates, I had blamed Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Jaiku, YouTube, Flickr, and a host of video-preening sites for distracting my regular visitors. I get a boatload of distraction from the time I spend at Qik.com/topgold. I spent 10 minutes hooking Statcounter back up to my blog and discovered I still had 1000 page views a day. And although that's not much growth from six years ago, it reflects a resilience in the face of fickle and easily-distracted visitors.
I'm reading Scott Rosenberg's Say Everything at the moment and believe he's got the right take when he puts blogging into the mix of online conversation by pointing out how there needs to be a core of bloggers writing down things that can trickle into a meaningful lifestream. In my realm as a third level lecturer, blogging connects people in relationships that lead to jobs, often by motivating students to stay with the programme as they develop higher levels of proficiency in both design and programming.