dbTwang Is (Was) On Your TV

KILKENNY BASED startup dbTwang, which I’ve had the pleasure of working on in the past and am keeping a keen eye on, made the TV earlier today. An interview recorded with co-founder Fintan Blake Kelly (co-founder alongside Keith Bohanna) a few weeks back got it’s airing on Ireland AM today with Fintan filmed in Gerry Crowe’s store (Perfect Pitch) on Exchequer Street in Dublin speaking about the ins and outs of dbTwang.

Dubbed by Fintan as a “facebook for guitarists”, the site opened to full public usage late last year and if the RSS feed is anything to go by, there’s been a great uptake in registrations and submissions of guitars of late. For my own sins I’ve now got five guitars from my own collection listed up there (you might need to be logged in to see that link). While the site is gearing itself around the guitarist community with functionality now and in the pipeline to encourage conversation around the guitars, I’ve shied away from the community element but have used the site in its early stages to encourage me to learn more about my own instruments and document them for future reference / insurance purposes.

In a family full of musicians and growing up surrounded by all kinds of instruments, I’ve found myself wanting to learn more about the guitars themselves, the technologies behind them, the woods, the factories used, the whole nine yards – a learning process I’m using dbTwang and it’s records to navigate through.

There’s great things planned for dbTwang and if you’re a guitarist of any calibre it’s worth your while signing up for free and exploring not only the features of the site itself but the impressive and growing collection of guitars from users on board to date.

Check out the video above or here on YouTube.

Open Coffee, Not Just About Wifi

Latte Art
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lucy James Photography

OPEN COFFEE. It’s not just about wifi. In fact, it’s not about wifi at all. It’s not a gathering of people around laptops, programming in the corner of a coffee shop. It’s not over elaborate demos of bandwidth-heavy project developments. At least those points are valid for Kilkenny anyway.

Open Coffee is about the people.

The people who are working for themselves. The people who are working online or in an online-connected environment. The people who want to learn or share internet experiences whether personal or professional.

Yes, the wifi helps and if it’s available it will likely get used to pull email during the morning, allow people check in to the office, push photos out to twitter etc. But at the end of the day, it’s the conversation that counts.

Barring the odd slip of an iPhone onto the table when the conversation turned to Foursquare yesterday at Kilkenny Open Coffee, there wasn’t a hint of a laptop or netbook to be seen. Mobile phone reception in our current venue is dour at the best of times, but it’s the conversation that counts. Further insights into dbTwang, technical writing for the US markets, outsourcing to South Africa, travel in Prague, location-based services, iPhone app development and more were up for discussion yesterday. All over a few pots of tea before everyone went back to their homes and offices for another month.

For me personally, I take it as a great chance to get out of the office, if just to meet up with familiar and new faces – once in a month – for a tea and a chat. Spending as long as I do in the office or working from the house (both by myself), it does good to get out and about when the opportunity presents itself.

If you’re thinking on coming along next month, we’ll likely be getting together on Wednesday February 3rd, same OCC time, same OCC channel. Details here and map here. Actually, rumour has we’ll be bringing it forward to 11am instead of 11:30am to suit those who take the train and give out free pens.

If it’s your first time going along, don’t worry about a laptop. Bring a pen and paper, or a business card, or just yourself.

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.

Even The Sheikhs Are Tweeting

Sheiks on Twitter

How do you, as ruler of Dubai, send your congratulations on the launch of an e-library? By tweeting, of course.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (very long title) is keeping people updated on government issues, business issues, a recently taken photo of Dubai from NASA, videos of the Dubai metro launch (was under construction the last time I was here but has opened as of last month), which are also available on his Facebook account.

I’m impressed.

“The Istanbul-based Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), which is affiliated with the Organistaion of Islamic Conference (OIC), has one of the most valuable references on the Islamic civilisation. This includes 65,000 rare reference books and 200,000 historic documents and images on the Islamic civilisation dating back to many centuries.

The project which was launched in 2008, aims to digitise all of the library’s contents, making its valuable resources available to the public through a multi-lingual portal.”

The turning of the library into a full e-library is being made possible with a grant from the Sheikh. (via Gulf News)

Roaming Cap In Play Today

All of a sudden it seems that I’ve come from a family who like to travel a lot. I’ve managed to get away twice this year, most recently to Portugal at the end of the May. My brother has just returned from there. My grandparents are just back from Poland. One cousin has just left for France for the summer while my parents are currently driving around Italy until the middle of the month.

I’ve a sneaking feeling they’ll not have brought my MAXroam sim but if they do get to catch up with the blog today, they’ll be happy to read (as will a lot of people) that the new cap on roaming charges comes into play from today including

  • Receiving a call capped at 19c p/m
  • Making a call capped at 43c p/m
  • Sending a text capped at 11c p/m

Whatever about the call charges, I’d certainly be happy with the reduction of the text charges as (at least in Europe) I would tend to rely a lot on them for the usual light communication chit-chat (“there in a minute” etc.). That said, unless anything changes at the last minute or I take a notion, the next stint away within the EU will be Paris next May.

You can read more on The Guardian’s site, with details of pricing in UK sterling.

Another Step Forward For MAXroam with SeaRoam

SeaRoamReading in the Examiner today that MAXroam have taken another huge step forward in announcing their next partnership deal, this time with international charity, the Mission to Seafarers. The partnership sees MAXroam sim cards branded up as SeaRoam sim cards, along with the introduction of a scratch-card type pre-paid setup, with cards available in every port the mission operates from. Congrats to Pat Phelan and all the Cubic team on that one.

Check out SeaRoam.com.

5th Kilkenny Open Coffee This Morning

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Creative Commons License photo credit: reality-check

The fifth Kilkenny Open Coffee gathering takes place later this morning. Myself, John Keyes, Keith Bohanna, Frank Bradley and Katherine Nolan have become the regulars there and hopefully will all be there again this morning. Each meeting to date has thrown up a few new faces, people using it as a chance to get out of the house or the office and meet people in a likeminded space, see what others are up to. If you’re in Kilkenny, working from home, working in a web / tech / business background and want to get out of the house or the office and introduce yourself to people in a similar space, do drop down, either today or at any of the Open Coffee mornings down the line.

We haven’t set a structure on the gathering i.e. no specific themes or guest speakers or anything like that but each morning has thrown up some great topics of conversation and thoughts to get your own moving.

This morning’s Open Coffee takes place in the Kilkenny Café at Market Cross Shopping Centre (map here) on High Street. For those driving, MCSC has a large multistorey car park, with parking also available in the nearby Dunnes Stores car park. The meet is on at the back of the café where you’ll also find free wifi.

To keep up to date, check the IGOpeople group here.

Compare Healthcare Options With WhatClinic.com


Pic via

It’s Tuesday Push time again, this week seeing WhatClinic.com get a nudge – and well worth it too. I first heard of WhatClinic when it was announced they had secured a €1.25m round of funding through Mianach Venture Captial, supported by Enterprise Ireland as a HPSU. That was back in January, when at the time the site currently had information on over 60,000 clincs in the UK, Ireland and 50 other countries worldwide.

The site helps people take control of their healthcare choices and find the moist suitable clinic and treatment for their needs.

At BizCamp Dublin back in March I sat in on the talk shared by Johnny Beirne and Caelen King where those of us in attendance were treated to an insight of the development of WhatClinic.com, the ups and downs of changing the design and function of your company’s website, where the site aims to generate revenue and what it can do for those seeking healthcare options. Caelen also recently presented at BarCamp Belfast (where I still haven’t managed to shift my thoughts from the notepad to the screen) on monitising your web applications, which you can see below.

If you’re looking for a dentist in dublin, a cosmetic clinic in Galway, or plastic surgery clinics in Ireland, you’ll find them on WhatClinic.com.

Clinics and providers can also sign up for free and setup a WhatClinic brochure. For additional services to boost your profile online there is also a premium-level €50p/m option to help you get even more patients, access a patient management system and brand your brochure in your own style (removing third-party branding).

You can also follow WhatClinic on Twitter here.

Go Mobile, Not Broke with Cubic Telecom and Qik

QikGo Mobile, Not Broke. You’ve got to love the tagline. And you’ve got to love the fact that an Irish company keeps getting bigger and broader. The mail this morning brings news that Cubic Telecom in Cork have followed their already existing partnerships with Dopplr, GetCover Insurance, Big Red Book and others to partner up with Qik.com. It was the likes of Pat Phelan (Cubic) and Bernie Goldbach that got me into using Qik to stream videos from my N95, a practice I’ll admit I don’t get to do all that often but when I do, they seem to make a good impression, traffic-wise.

The blurb…

The partnership with Cubic Telecom will see Qik give its users the opportunity to purchase Qik-branded SIM cards enabling them to stream video live from all corners of the planet – without coming home to an astronomical phone bill. The Qik SIM also provides massive savings on voice calls, email, web browsing and texting while they travel. Under the tagline “Go mobile, not broke,” Qik is offering its users a simple, inexpensive way to share live video no matter where they are. The Qik pre-paid SIM cards with full voice and data can be purchased from http://qik.com/roam. This is also where customers can manage their accounts.

“Travelers can now share their world journeys with videos, photos, text, and calls from their mobile device without it costing the earth.” said Pat Phelan, Cubic Telecom CEO “We’ve heard of the horror stories of travelers returning from a trip abroad to cell phone bills in the thousands of euros. The Qik SIM eliminates this worry for our customers.”

“We are excited to partner with Cubic Telecom to offer Qik SIM cards to our users,” said Ramu Sunkara, Qik CEO. “With the Qik pre-paid SIM cards, Qikkers across the world can now share their moments when they are traveling without having to worry about voice or data roaming costs. It’s like sending a live video postcard to your friends and family from wherever you are.”

Post-blurb…

I gave an outline of the Qik service to a potential client last week as a means of using live video streaming and interacting with an audience during a presentation, which got me to thinking why am I not Qikking the gigs that I’m involved in running in Kilkenny and elsewhere. For those not on any kind of stellar data plan or those operating outside of a wifi area, the partnership with Qik and Cubic Telecom, particularly when roaming out and about, could well breed a whole new line of Qik.com users.

I’ve got plenty of trips lined up this year where I would like the opportunity to stream from my handset without blowing an incredible hole in my wallet – Amsterdam, Belfast, Portugal, Dubai… where do I sign up?

Tis The Season For BarCamps

Tis the season for BarCamps, surely. Tomorrow I’m off to BizCamp in Dublin where I’ll join in the region of 200 other entrepreneurs, freelancers and free thinkers in the first business-focused BarCamp to be held here (nice to see another “themed” BarCamp running). Registration starts from 9am tomorrow and with the early train leaving Kilkenny pre-7am I’ll be hoping to make breakfast in Dublin. Talks are scheduled for between 10am and 5:30pm ish and there’s a draft schedule here.

BizCamp Limerick follows on March 21st for those who can’t make Dublin tomorrow (it being “sold out”) or are looking for another helping of talks from more business people. The Limerick session is being held in UL and at time of writing there are currently 71 attendees and 19 speakers registered.

Two events that I’m going to miss (will be out of the country) are the ACE (Awakening Creative Entrepreneurship) in Derry running March 25th – 27th and OSS BarCamp in Dublin on March 28th which runs in DIT’s Kevin Street Campus. While all the speaker slots have been filled, if you’re interested in going to OSS BarCamp, leave a comment on the attendees list.

Finally, in April we’ve got BarCamp Belfast coming up. I haven’t been to Belfast since August 2006, catching Steel Pulse in the Andersontowns Leisure Centre (what a gig!) and it will be good to get across the border and meet some more web heads for the weekend. It’s going to be held in The Black Box on Saturday April 25th and already there’s over 110 signups, the makings of another great day.

The best thing about all of these events is that they are free.

If you’re looking to get out and meet some likeminded people – business types, designers, web heads, geeks, startups, entrepreneurs and more – then get yourself to one of these events because that’s where you’ll find them hanging out.