Train Service Gets Connected, Wifi with Airappz

DART Station at Tara Street
Creative Commons License photo credit: Let Ideas Compete

FIRST THEY upgraded the trains. Then there was the new seats and the power points (offset possibly by the increase in food and ticket prices for the trains themselves). Now it looks like Irish Rail users on the Dublin – Cork – Dublin service will be able to available of wireless internet access, free of charge, courtesy of Irish Rail and Airappz.

Sure enough, they won’t be the first to offer wifi access on public transport with several coach operators around the country, including Kavanagh’s here in Kilkenny, offering on-board wifi but the development is something that has been long hoped for and though trialling for six months will hopefully stick around and get rolled out across the new fleet.

The trail installation will be for a complete trainset for the duration of the trail. After these 6 months Irish Rail will (together with Airappz) evaluate the usage & performance data and based on this they will decide whether or not to put the provision of a fleet-wide wifi service out to public tender.

I’ve never been one to take long journeys on the bus and up until I started driving I would almost always look to take the train, or a connection of trains to reach my destination. Though the cost of tickets has gone through the roof (I was shocked to pay €32 earlier in the week for a return to Dublin from Kilkenny, let alone the cost of a return from Cork to Dublin – €78.50 monthly return at time of writing), the train is still relied on by thousands of business commuters around the country, particularly those living outside of but working in Dublin.

Watching tweets over the last few months and years from those testing out mobile broadband dongles on the train to much joy / sorrow depending on what mobile operator you’re with and /or where on the map you’re passing through, I could only hope that the wifi service that will be rolled out on the Cork – Dublin line will be strong, consistent and ultimately be taken up by passengers and Irish Rail alike, paving the way for rollouts on other lines.

When I’m not driving, and Dublin bound (like this weekend gone), the train is still preferred. And if I could get a solid connection to work from without having to rely on mobile signal, I’d certainly be a happy traveller.

Congratulations to Evert Bopp, more good news for an Irish company.

Surprises and Familiar Faces at the Irish Blog Awards

Blogging in the lobby of the 2009 Irish Blog Awards hotel in Cork

It’s back to grindstone this morning after a great weekend in Cork at the 4th annual Irish Blog Awards. Whether you’re nominated for an award or not, it really has become one of the “must attend” nights of the year in Irish web circles. The extra perk for me was in representing The Devious Theatre Company who had been shortlisted for Best Arts & Culture Blog, the gong going to Fiona of Pursued By A Bear.

I had debated on Twitter all my transport options – train, bus or drive via Waterford or via Clonmel, turns out the best way (suggested by Bernie and Mike) to get to Cork from Kilkenny is heading out the Urlingford direction. You don’t get into Urlingford but hop on the M8 a few minutes outside the town, motorway all the way to Mitchelstown, a hop skip and a jump on the N8 before linking back up with the M8 into Cork. If going down was quick, coming back was great, leaving about 12:30pm only to be sitting in the Newpark for lunch by 2:10pm. One of the top roads the country has to offer at the moment.

I’m hoping the 5th ‘Blog Awards return to Cork. My God, that hotel is great. Quirky, funky design, great rooms, great staff, great selection of 90s music playing in the restaurant, top notch food (had dinner in the restaurant) and they were willing to let 300+ bloggers and friends have the run of the entire downstairs for the night. There aren’t many places who would do it! Then again, was there anyone staying in the hotel that wasn’t there for the awards? I’d heard at one stage that 130 of 150 bookings were for the awards, with only 2 rooms in the hotel by midnight. If it gets announced for Cork again, get the bookings in early! Plus, breakfast rocked the following morning as well and I’m looking at staying down there in May before heading away for some foreign wedding celebrations.

Across some of the categories I felt there were a few surprises, a few blogs I also didn’t know or read (yet) and one or two firm favourites coming to the front. Nialler9 made it three-in-a-row for Best Music Blog (can he make it four, or do you duck out after three as others have done?), Blacknight bagged Best Blog of a Business, Trust Tommy nicked Best Newcomer and Suzy Byrne took the gong for Best News/Current Affairs Blog before going on to scoop the Grand Prix prize for Best Blog.

There were recognition awards too for Brian Greene and Damien Mulley, without whom nights like the Blog Awards just don’t happen.

I did manage to avoid the dancefloor and resist the temptations of giant Twister (rather adamantly), spending part of the second half of the night swanning (sitting) around the lobby. The expanse of the hotel did make for a different atmostphere. Compared to memories of 2008 and 2007, things seemed a lot more spread out, creating a much relaxed atmosphere as things got later into the night. People were able to find their own corners, start their own conversations and take their own space.

It was great to catch up with the usual suspects of Darragh, Darren, Niamh, Deb, David, Liz, Anto (I DO know Anto), the Belfast connections of Phil, Andy (proper pintage next time around), Keith and more besides with Niall, Campbell, Jason, Robin, Conn, Johnny (who I didn’t get back to after, sorry!) and everyone else I managed to get to say hello to in the run of the night before sneaking off about 1am. Also, after two years of looking to say hello to the man it was high bloody time I said hello to Pat Phelan (and cheers Keith) who had his snazzy Google phone on display. I want! If you’ve heard about the intro videos, but haven’t yet seen them, they’re all available now in glorious technicolour. Surprised to see my own face in one of them… grrr.

Some great conversations, some great introductions – not as many as I would have liked to have made or had but such was the scale of this year’s event that it really was hard to get to everyone you wanted to see. That said, I’m going along to Bizcamp in Dublin on March 7th for the day where hopefully I’ll get to catch up with a few more people.

A full list of winners in each category and links out to all nominated blogs can be found here.

Update: more links to come in a bit…

Irish Blog Awards Nominations – Have You Made Yours?

Irish Blog Awards - morning tea following the 2008 IBAs in Dublin

The nominations are still open for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards, but not for much longer with 6pm Wednesday the deadline to get your nominations in.

Guilty as charged, I’ve yet to make my own but they’ll be in for this evening. The night recognises the talents and voices of the Irish blogging community across all genres. In the past I’ve been lucky enough to see nominations for some of my blogs in Best Technology, Best Music and have nominations in one or two other categories as well.

But it’s not just about technology or music, there’s the arts, business, pop culture, photography and a whole lot more.

The awards themselves are changing location this year. After three years in Dublin (having made the road trip the last two years) I’ll find myself driving to Cork and this great venue for the awards. Having experience two years at the Blog Awards and a fantastic night at the Irish Web Awards in October, the real fun of the night isn’t competely in the awards ceremony itself but in the craic before and afterwards (and all through the night).

In saying that, I’ve booked into the hotel already so there’ll be no looking for Burger King at 2am.

I’m looking forward to the night, catching up with those I’ve not seen or spoken to in a while and hopefully get the chance to match even more faces to names from the web. Hit the awards as often as you like, when there’s a few hundred people in the room it can be tricky to talk to everyone you want to!

Nip along to and get your nominations in before Wednesday.