Gadgets For Christmas with KCLR

KCLR 96 FMTwo or three years ago I was doing a regular stint in the afternoon on KCLR 96FM talking gadgets and technology. That time has long since gone but this morning I was asked back into studio (handy, given it’s only across the road) for some thoughts on gadgets for Christmas, tech suggestions for kids and adults alike.

For those asking for the list in full of everything that was mentioned on air this morning, along with links for where you can buy them, here you go. Check out the video too, I’d mentioned TikTok in relation to the iPod Nano (thanks to Paul Watson for the tip) but there’s straps already on the market as well from Griffin. (links after the video)

Consoles & Games

  • Kinect for Xbox 360 (available in most gaming retails, some high street shops and supermarkets). Expect to pay in the region of €140-€150 to get you started.
  • Playstation Move – Starter packs including motion controller and camera run from €70, again, gaming shops and high street stores (like Argos) will stock.
  • Game suggestions for Christmas: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fifa 11, Just Dance 2, Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Gran Turismo (links to Play.com)

Tablets, Cameras, Video

  • Apple iPad (available from 499)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tablet (available from €650)
  • Dell Streak (available from €499)
  • Apple TV (available from €119)
  • iPods – new iPod Nano available from €159. When talking about the watch straps, look for the Griffin Slap as a starting point)
  • Digital Cameras – Nikon Coolpix 1100pj (digital camera with built in projector)
  • Video Cameras – Flip Mino (available from Argos, prices start around the €90 mark)
  • DVDs – DVDs mentioned on the show this morning included Inception, the Toy Story Box set (movies 1-3), The Wire (big seller last Christmas), complete 24 and Lost box sets and The Pacific. All have been seen recently in HMV, Xtravision and are sure to be available in most good DVD retail outlets.

Also Mentioned…

Also mentioned this morning were

  • Digital Photo Frames – depending on where you buy, expect to pay from €20 upwards, have come down in cost something fierce in the last year or two
  • Limited Edition Streets of Rage Megadrive Handheld Console – 18 games for the retro gamer including Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets Of Rage, Golden Axe 2 and more. Clocks in around the €32 mark via Play.com.
  • Polyscience Food Smoker aka “The Smoking Gun” – Tipped from @avillagepantry this morning, this kitchen gadget lets you smoke your own food – chicken, spinach, drinks, anything goes. Handheld food smoker for those who don’t cook over flame or have wanted to try woodchip flavours like hickory, maple, apple wood, cherry etc in your cooking. Retails online from US$99.

The links above go out to Argos, Play.com, Pixmania and CuisineTechnology.com though you may find items mentioned above cheaper at other local / national stores. No affiliate links are included.

Science Week Off And Running

Science WeekNovember 7th (yesterday) marked the start of Science Week for 2010, running November 7th – November 14th. With over 400 events taking place across the country in the next few days, Science Week is the biggest annual promotion of science to the general public with the aim of the week to promote

  • the relevance of science, engineering and technology in our everyday lives and
  • to demonstrate the importance of science in the future development of Irish society and the economy.

Locally (in Kilkenny) there are three events listed on ScienceWeek.ie.

A practical examination of farm animal digestive systems

Details: 2pm, November 10th, free admission. Takes place at Kildalton Agricultural College, Piltown.
An opportunity to examine the ruminant and monogastric digestive systems. Ideal for students undertaking the Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science course. This is not for the faint hearted so be warned!!!

Mobile Planetarium incorporating a science and astronomy show.

Details: Nov 10, During school hours at Presentation Secondary, Loughboy. Invitation only.
The planetarium has a detailed night sky with 3,000 star points. There will be a live interactive presentation using images and video to illustrate our universe and solar system.

Schools Science Display

Details: Runs Monday 8th – Friday 12th, 10am to 5pm at Castlecomer Discover Park. Free to general public.
A display of Science project work from local schools in the foyer of the visitor centre at Castlecomer Discovery Park

You can submit events you’re organising or involved in and find more events in your area at ScienceWeek.ie

So much Science and Technology in Cycling

Gravity Works
Creative Commons License photo credit: Let Ideas Compete

THERE IS so much technology in cycling. I don’t think I realised it at first. But over a month on from picking up a bike and telling myself I’m cycling to Sligo (which is this Friday), I’m finding out that there is an insane amount of technology behind cyling. Between power output monitors, wireless this and ANT that, GPS tracking, speed and cadence monitors, heart rate monitors, ultra light-weight this and paper thin that, percentages here there and everywhere, there’s an incredible amount to take in.

All of this has got me thinking that cycling must be a techie’s dream when it comes to sports.

Admittedly, I’m not the most sporty of people. Yes, I love my sports, but I’m very much the armchair supporter. But spending the last five weeks out on the bike has gotten me wired into the sport (literally) on a completely different level.

I’m logging my routes with a Garmin Edge 500 (and running with a Garmin Forerunner 405). I have fitted wireless sensors to the back of bike and pedal shaft to track my speed and pedal rate over the course of a cycle. I’m wearing a heart rate monitor (quite comfortably) under my jersey which, when monitoring heart rate zones, is driving me on or reeling me in, depening on how things are going. These both talk wirelessly to the Edge unit which sits on the cross bar. Once I get home, I sync the Edge up with Garmin Connect which has been mapping my route under GPS with access to stats on length, time, speed, heart rate (max / min / average / zones), temperature, altitude, grades of hills and a whole lot more. Connect it up with Google Maps or Google Earth and I can play back the entire journey and get a solid overview of where things need to be picked up or where things were going quite well.

These small gadgets are teaching me a lot about my own body and level of fitness, what energy is being used and much more besides.

But I’m only scratching the surface.

Everything about the bike is driven by science and technology. Races are won and lost on the time difference created between bikes that are carrying one kind of bottle holder over another, or the position of a saddle, handlebars, the compounds used in the chains, gears, tyres – it’s like looking at a Formula One car for all the world (without the insane budget, and the fact that it’s a car), but you can see where I’m coming from.

Stepping away from the bike and I’ve spent the past month analysing food – what foods work well in what situations, ways to replenish energies, recover after long rides. Combine the two (the food and the bike) and I’ve got a very different outlook on things food and fitness-wise to where I was a month ago. All of this is building up of course to me cycling to Sligo on Friday. We start Friday, do 80 miles and continue Saturday with another 70 or so. If you had asked me to cycle 150 miles at the start of the summer I would have told you where to go in no uncertain terms.

But the techie in me is being driven towards it as I’m mad for the stats that come out the other side, stats that in a large part have come down to your own physical input. When all is said and done and I get back to the office on Monday morning I’ll get them uploaded here. Even before we get the cycle done we’re already talking about the next trip, and the one after that. God only knows what I’m after letting myself in for…

BarCamp Belfast May 22nd

BarCamp Belfast

REGISTRATION is open and underway for BarCamp Belfast, taking place at the University of Ulster on Saturday May 22nd. Already in the pipeline for talks are Freedom of Information … for coders and bloggers, Hyperlocal Belfast (would hyperlocal blogging work in Belfast), Location, Location, Location (looking at smarter phones and the mobile web in 2010), Making money out of fresh air (bootstrapping your startup), Project Management With a Client Focus (keeping your clients involved in the web development process).

There’s a list of attendees there as long as your arm already and it won’t cost you anything to attend.

After many promises to go north over the last few years, I made the trip to BarCamp Belfast last April (would be this weekend coming). If you can, it’s worth trying to make a weekend of it. As it was I’d made all the morning sessions before disappearing for lunch and finding myself caught up wandering around the streets of Belfast. Plenty to see and do, a ridiculous amount of places to eat and drink (or shop if you’re so inclined, including an Apple store).

Last year’s ship was run very well, great talks, great people, great buzz about those in attendance and I still managed to run into a few familiar places. I’d booked myself into the Premier Inn last year, which is grand in terms of accommodation and food but the parking is a no-no and wifi costs (I think) £10 for a 24-hour pass, the most of which you’d be sleeping or out and about. Andy might have suggestions on somewhere close by that has parking and free wifi access (can’t for the life of me remember the name of the hotel you’d suggested!).

Signups are here and follow the herd on Twitter.

Let The Tech Investments Roll

Just Some of the Social Networks SocialGrow Loves
Creative Commons License photo credit: SocialGrow

PayPal. eBay. Facebook. LinkedIn and, now, IBM. Between them in recent months they’ve announced hundreds of new jobs.

PayPal had announced recently that they were adding 200 to their Dublin base, Brian Cowen had a smile on his face when he let the news out that eBay would be creating up to 150 jobs, Facebook had announced they would double their Irish-based workforce from 70 to 140 after only one year here while LinkedIn announced yesterday that they were setting up their European HQ in Dublin to link up with new offices in London and the Netherlands. This morning saw The Irish Times carry a story on IBM creating up to 200 new jobs in Dublin.

When I started in college in 2001 we were told we’d be lucky to get any kind of a job in the technology sector. Particularly anything to do with the internet.

If I was sitting back in the canteen in WIT reading the business section of this morning’s national papers I reckon I’d be doing so with a smile on my face. If the big hitters keep investing and reinvesting, something has to be going right somewhere, yes? That said, those hoping to apply for new positions created by the companies would do well to register for their services and brush up on how everything works.

I would be interested to see the figures on LinkedIn’s plans for job creation or its expansion into Ireland but if the big companies keep on coming, how many more from the picture above will we see open doors here? Anyone taking odds on a Dublin-based European HQ for Twitter?

Don’t Call Amazon, They’ll Call You

Amazon Customer Service

FORGOTTEN PASSWORDS can be a pain in the ass. Especially when the security guard to get a new password issued via email includes a zip code field, which you didn’t have to enter to begin with and subsequently the form validation won’t allow the zip code to be empty. Long and short of it, my brother’s password was forgotten for Amazon but they wouldn’t send him a new one using their password reminder feature.

In this situation I’d usually email customer support, wait the few hours and hope that something positive would come out of the correspondence. However, when the delivery is late and you’re a bit anxious about the staus of the shipment from mainland Europe, I’d pick up the phone to try find out what’s going on.

Little did I know that when you go to phone Amazon, they’ll save you the bother and will ring you directly.

Presented with the screen above, you click on “phone”, enter a landline number, choose whether you would like the call now or in five minutes and away you go. It works for UK and Ireland and within seconds of pressing “call me”, the phone on reception here was ringing – a few minutes later and the password issue was resolved, package tracked and all well in the world.

To iPad or Not to iPad

Apple iPadTHE IPAD. Everyone’s talking about it, the preorders are already rolling in and as far as gadgets go, it’s one of the most anticipated releases of 2010. I feel I should be drawn to it straight away, but somehow that’s not the case.

I’m a gadget fan, no doubting that. From carrying multiple smartphones to iPods, iPhones, recording equipment, 3G this, WiFi that, GPS watches and more, I find myself yearning for the latest gadgets and toys. But for some reason, I can’t seem to find a want in me for the iPad.

As it stands, I carry an iPod touch with me on the road, a 3G iPhone in my pocket, a MacBook Pro in my bag and there’s a 24″ iMac sitting on my desk. All taken into consideration, I’ve a feeling that the iPad may well not be targeted at me and if I was pushing it in a shop, I’d be hitting the new home broadband users, the “silver surfers” or even the school kid generation.

It’s not going to do anything for me that I can’t already do. Sure enough, it will carry the apps I use daily, it will allow me to check mail and surf away to my hearts content, but that’s all achievable with the iPhone. I like the flexibility to use 3G access as opposed to WiFi when I’m out and about, something which I would have to fork out a lot more for on release of the European models of the iPad. It won’t make phone calls and won’t pack a video camera for the first generation, so video conferencing is out – though discoveries in the latest iPhone SDK may suggest different.

Yes, it bridges the gap size-wize. In the hands of an very young or elderly user, it’s not so small that you can’t read the names of apps on the screen or have difficulties in viewing the on-screen text when flicking through the New York Times or your latest eBook addition. The interface, as with that of the iPod / iPhone is quite simple to navigate and apps have made web access all the more easier for folk. Want weather? Tap here. Want news? Tap here. View photos? Tap here. Read email? Tap here.

With family connections coming and going from the US over the next few weeks, the question has come up again and again… “can I bring you anything home?”, quickly followed by “what about those ipad yokes?”.

While it would be very easy to say yes, it’s something I genuinely cannot (at least with what we know about the first generation model) justify in buying. It’s not so much the price (I was happy to go and shell out for a pre-paid iPhone 10 months ago rather than take one on contract), just the use, and potential lack of. I can’t carry it in my pocket and at the very most I reckon it could be used for some bedside browsing but then again, the iPhone and laptop take care of that.

I can’t even find a good reason to buy one for the office outside of demoing developments on-site but even that would be scraping the bottom of the reasoning barrel.

To iPad or not to iPad? I think not.

Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! (With Added WiFi)

Can't Pay? Won't Pay!

CAN’T PAY? WON’T PAY! opened last night at Set Theatre in Kilkenny, the latest offering from The Devious Theatre Company. While I can be seen on stage for the 95 minutes or so of performance, I’ve been working as a producer on the show as well for the past few months so there’s a bit of a bonus feeling of excitement there when you see the fruits of your labour (and those around you of course) take to a stage in full technicolour detail.

(By the way, you can win tickets to Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! here)

As a group this year (and over the last four years) we’ve really tried to grow our online presence, exploring all avenues social. Delighted we are in that people who come to the shows then return their feedback via Twitter, or Facebook. Hell, some people will even email in their thoughts post-show. However the feedback arrives, it’s made all the more possible, accessible, and real time thanks to the embracing of said social tools, tools that have not so much changed how we operate as a theatre company but have certainly shaped how we operate.

On the back of WordCamp, the wifi setup that was created for last weekend’s conference (part of which was held in Set Theatre) is still in place, thus you can access WiFi during the show. No, we wouldn’t want you checking your email or getting lost browsing the web, but with Twitter, Facebook and more at your fingertips (or in your pocket), we’d love to hear the feedback on the night, good or bad, public or private. If you’re sitting in the audience tweeting about the show, why not use the hashtag #cpwp? Feel free to take photos of the performers in action on the stage (just switch the flash off if you don’t mind) and tag them accordingly. Adopting a more open approach last year, we wound up with some fantastic audience photos that were shared via email, Picasa, Facebook and more.

John Morton has been talking about the ingredients of Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! over on the DeviousTheatre.com blog, and now it has added WiFi, so if you’re coming along, don’t be shy, let us know what you think.

Order tickets online for Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!

March Open Coffee in Kilkenny

House Blend Coffee - Weak Skinny Flat White - Auction Rooms Cafe AUD3.30
Creative Commons License photo credit: avlxyz

OPEN COFFEE in Kilkenny for the month of March takes place this Wednesday morning at 11am in the Kilkenny Cafe. If you’re living local and you’ve not had the opportunity to drop in to Open Coffee then why not join us on Wednesday morning. The crowd that usually gather are a blend of web workers, home workers, IT workers who take the time once a month to grab a cup of coffee, chat about projects people are currently working on, maybe offer up a demonstration, chat about web-related events and news.

There’s free wifi, power points for laptops and you’ll find the group in the back of the Kilkenny Cafe (up the steps to the meeting area) in Market Cross Shopping Centre. There’s no charge, no obligation to talk, just come along and pull up a seat. The meeting time was changed recently to cater for those visiting from Waterford via train with Market Cross a ten minute walk from the train station. If you’re driving or cycling, you’ll find ample parking in the Market Cross Car Park on James’ Street (entrance via James’ Street or Parliament Street) and if you’re walking through Kilkenny you’ll find the main entrance to Market Cross on High Street with Kilkenny Cafe in the corner of the ground floor.

See KilkennyOpenCoffee.com, follow Kilkenny Open Coffee on Twitter or check the map here.

IFTA Wins For Secret Of Kells

The Secret Of Kells

THE SECRET of Kells bagged itself two more awards in advance of the Oscars next month, this time picking up the Best Animation award and Rising Star award (for director Tomm Moore). The feature-length animated movie was also in the running for Best Irish Film, the award won by The Eclipse.

Win or lose at the Oscars, The Secret Of Kells has firmly installed Cartoon Saloon on the global animation map and is proving wonders for the Kilkenny company. It’s Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature has seen some of the Kilkenny crew travel to the US for a few intensive weeks of promo and pitching and has also seen then the movie gain a limited US cinema release.

The lads (Tomm and Paul) are blogging their Oscar journey, keep up to speed on Tomm’s blog.

Onwards and upwards (and good luck on the 7th!).

Check out the full list of winners at the IFTAs here.