Internet Silence For The Weekend

Kayaking TrioJaiku off? Check. Twitter off? Check. Internet profile on phone? Still deleted. Last.fm Radio? Nowhere to be found. Paddle? Check. ProTools? Check. Boots? Check. Bike? Check.

I’ve been waiting for March to hit for ages, this stretch of ten days or so to be more precise. It’s close on two months since I’ve had the chance to get up to Sligo but come lunchtime today I’ll be counting down the miles to the lake, all in the hope that I’m getting a head start on the bank holiday traffic.

I’m imposing internet silence for the weekend. Twitter and Jaiku mobile updates are off. There’s no broadband connection in the house above – which surprisingly suits me this weekend – no dial-up connection and mobile coverage is sketchy at the best of times.

The lack of any decent speed internet connection doesn’t sway me at all at the lake. I know if I drive 7 miles up the road that I can get a wireless broadband connection. I know if I make the trip into Ballina (Mayo, we’re pretty close to the border) and could bring my laptop with me, enjoy internet access and coffee in the town, but I choose not to. There are enough natural distractions in the area to enjoy as opposed to spending even MORE time logged on.

Barring one appointment I’ve got on Saturday I plan on getting back out on the lake, tackling some more of the waves at Iniscrone (I’m guessing we’ll have the weather for it though I must look up the surf reports), cycling the mountain roads until my legs fall off and if I’ve enough energy left, flesh out an idea on paper that’s been bubbling away in my head the last two weeks (good bubbles) and I’m NOT leaving until I’ve got one new track recorded for delivery on MySpace next week.

If you’re emailing me, DMing me or looking for me in general, don’t expect to find me until Tuesday – or maybe Monday night, depending on what happens on the 17th.

Yes, some of us still believe that St. Patrick’s Day and it’s traditional Irish activities should take place on the 17th and not a bloody Saturday.

Then we’ll do it all again next weekend for Easter.

The Gamechanger: AOL Acquire Bebo In $850m Cash Deal

BeboOne of my former employers have announced that they’ve acquired Bebo
, currently ranked as the third largest social network in the US, behind MySpace and Facebook, and likely the widest used social network within Ireland. The deal sees AOL purchase Bebo in a US$850m cash deal, a price significantly higher than that paid for Intermix Media (MySpace) back at the end of 2005.

Of course, add two years worth of growth throughout the US and Europe, an opening up of the Bebo platform to accept third party applications and the price is likely to go up.

If AOL were looking for an “in” to the social networking arena, they’ve certainly got it now. The deal is expected to close some time in April, opening up a potential 40 million users to further AOL services (providing of course they’re not existing users).

I think it’s a great purchase for AOL and costs considered, it looks they’ve got themselves a decent price as well. Estimates on the sale of Bebo in the past 12 months have exceeded the US$1bn mark, TechCrunch reporting in February that Bebo may go for anywhere between US$1bn and US$1.5bn to Google while Yahoo was also rumoured to be looking into acquiring Bebo last summer.

From the announcement today, AOL chairman Randy Falco says

this deal is a “gamechanger” and will help power our strategic priorities across the board. Bebo is the best social media asset out there and has the most engaged audience and has seen great growth since its launch 3 years ago. We will be a social media powerhouse. 80 million unduplicated visitors when you count AIM and Bebo. Bebo will be connected to the largest distributed web audience and will circulate traffic from our sites to Bebo and the reverse and have the scale to grow Bebo worldwide. Joanna has impressed me with her vision for the new Web and better ways to connect and develop long-term relationship

Of course, the future of Yahoo itself has to be yet confirmed. There’s rumour today that Microsoft are set to announce their purchase of Yahoo at a 3pm press conference.

When all is said and done, congratulations to AOL on the deal, but does this mean I go back to using my ICQ account?

Update: Centernetworks has a live call with AOL (notes) here.

USB Compilation Album For DownloadMusic.ie

In the aftermath of the Blog Awards and having a brief word (and subsequent emails) with DownloadMusic.ie’s Johnny Beirne, I’ve been asked to join a panel of well respected musicians and promotors (including the likes of 2FM’s Rick O’Shea, former Choice Music Prize winner Julie Feeney, WLR’s Roddy Cleere, Today FM’s Alison Curtis and more – full list here).

The purpose of the panel is to select 10 tracks from the DownloadMusic.ie catalog to go forth onto a USB released compilation album which will be sold online as well as being distributed to key media personnel around the country.

As panelists we’re given the task of listening through and rating a short list of 50 tracks from acts registered on DownloadMusic.ie, producing a final selection of 10 to make their way to the album.

I think it’s a great idea from the DM team who continue to help promote (and chart) music from independent Irish and unsigned acts. I’ve worked with a few acts in helping them get their music onto the service (it’s actually a rather easy process) and have seen bands reap the benefits of having their tracks available for download (both for promotional and commercial gain), particularly when the downloads are being tracked for places in the Irish music charts.

The compilation album too will be monitored by ChartTrack so with enough sales we might see a USB released album enter the Irish charts. If anything I’m looking forward to discovering more new music in the knowledge that the contributions made by the panel are further exposing some of the gems of the Irish music scene to a greater audience.

A Lot To Be Said For Working From Home

There’s a lot to be said for working from home. For almost every working day since 2005 I’ve been making my way to the office, settling into my desk, my chair, the kettle nearby and not once can I remember taking a full day to work at home. Sure, often there’s times where I’ll start a job at home if I’m up early (early being in the 7am range, the “usual” being the 7:30am range) and bring it with me to the office for 8:30am. Or maybe I’ll go the other way, start a job late in the office and bring it home to finish off, just for a “change of scenery” at the end of the day.

Yesterday, however, I woke to heavy snowfall in Kilkenny, a headache and a general feeling of being unwell. No problem I thought, I’ll hang on an hour, down a cup of green tea, settle myself into the morning gradually and make way to the office for mid morning. No point in giving up on work though!

Having been out of the office Friday, the mobile was beside me and turned on by 8:30am. We switched our office mail over to Google Apps around last summer so the office mail went on for 8:30am, along with Google chat to keep tied into the office. Connection to the server in the office for projects and job folders? No problem. Couple the recent installation of OpenOffice, add some graphic packages, editors, XAMPP to back the webserver at home, bundle in my Skype Pro account (and recently installed desktop phone) and I’ve everything I need really to work a full day from the house.

Next thing you know it’s 11:30am and I’m finally getting around to that cup of green tea. At this stage I’ve three jobs cleared off my virtual desk, two training sessions arranged for next week and Friday through Monday’s email cleared.

When I realised the headache was subsiding and I could manage lunch I figured there was no point in going to the office as I was in full swing at home. I had recently reorganising my home workspace (effectively splitting it in two to handle audio recording and production on one side of the room and office work on the other) which was certainly a help. Plus, my actual physical office is located in an industrial estate between a control panel-building company and metal fabrication company. Every hour of the day there’s machines going off, delivery trucks pulling up outside, people dropping in and out of the office for one reason or another. Now, that’s not to say that I’m working in a completely noisy environment but there are certain stages of the day when it gets noisy outside the window!

Come the afternoon, the snow subsided outside, making way for rain but still there were no trucks, no machines and a full working day complete. I stopped for lunch for 20 minutes, grabbed a tea in the afternoon and that was it. Meetings arranged for the week, phone support jobs handled, all the time keeping touch with Aidan in the office, exchanging files over chat / email / phone.

I used to do that kind of thing in college, the odd time anyway. Get up early in the morning, abandon the walk to college in favour of working in a very quiet house to get some valuable project time in.

In speaking with Keith yesterday in relation to CreativeCamp it was suggested that your mind works in a different way when working from home, or your line of thinking is different. You’re getting on with the tasks at hand but you can approach them differently, cover some things you wouldn’t normally get done in the office environment.

Perk for me is the only other person there would be my brother, the rest of the family (and the dog) firmly installed in Sligo and at that he wouldn’t be back until 5pm anyway.

While I can’t say that I’ll make it a regular occurrence and it certainly wouldn’t be practical when it comes to client meetings, I was pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of work accomplished yesterday between 8am and 5:30pm.

A bit of peace, plenty of focus and barely stirring from the chair made for a fairly healthy work day, and certainly provided food for thought for taking other odd days to work at home.

Unmountable Boot Volume (Dell, Fix)

Recovery Console

So you’re using your Dell laptop (in this case a Dell Inspiron 1501 running Windows XP Professional) with no problems, turn it on one day and you get that gorgeous blue screen of death telling you that you’ve an unmountable boot volume. You call Dell support and they take you through diagnostic tests, get you to boot in safe mode (which won’t work by the way) and then they tell you to launch the recovery console or reinstall Windows.

Reinstall? No sirree!

Getting around this problem today (see previous post) here’s what I did (not my laptop as the MacBook Pro doesn’t throw up those kind of errors)…

  • With the laptop on the blue screen, grab your Windows XP CD (might be branded as a Dell Reinstallation CD), pop it into the CD drive and reboot the laptop.
  • When prompted, press any key to boot from CD, allowing a minute or so for drivers to load in the background.
  • From the first menu you see, press ‘R’ to launch the recovery console. This will launch a dos-prompt driven recovery console allowing some basic disk commands.
  • Enter your first command: “chkdsk /r” (give about 20-30 minutes to run).
  • When completed, follow up with “chkdsk /p” (give about 2 minutes to run).
  • Finally, follow up with “fixboot c:”. This will quickly test the boot sector and prompt you to write a new one. It is likely that the boot sector on your drive has become corrupt, once you agree to write a new bootsector, allow a half minute or so for the task to run until prompted with a success message.
  • Type ‘EXIT’ to quit the recovery console and restart the laptop.

That… should be that. It helps to have the original Dell XP disc though. A standalone version wouldn’t display the recovery console menu on launch but the Dell OEM version does (purple coloured CD including Service Pack 1a – it’s been a while). Of course, if the disc doesn’t boot when you restart the computer it may be possible that you’re BIOS is looking to the hard drive before the CD. In that case you’ll need to enter the Dell BIOS (pressing F2 for setup on immediate restart). See here (Dell support) for specific details.