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La La Land: a thoroughly enjoyable Tuesday night movie

1 min read

Guardian review:

La La Land is such a happy, sweet-natured movie – something to give you a vitamin-D boost of sunshine.

Watch the trailer:

Official Google Blog: Say hello to Google Allo: a smarter messaging app

So Google have release Allo:

Today, we’re releasing Google Allo, a new smart messaging app for Android and iOS that helps you say more and do more right in your chats. Google Allo can help you make plans, find information, and express yourself more easily in chat. And the more you use it, the more it improves over time.

 But why would you install it?

Here are just a few ways your Google Assistant can help in Google Allo:

Make plans with friends. You can easily move from discussing dinner with friends to making plans for the night, right in your chat. Just add the Assistant to your group chat and ask for movie times, local restaurants and more. You can also research travel destinations, flights and hotels together with friends.

Get answers. Get the latest info on everything from news, weather, traffic, sports, or your upcoming flights status. Ask the Assistant to send you daily updates on the information you care about.

Have some fun. Ask your Assistant to share that funny YouTube video or play games with friends right in your group chat — for instance you can compete to guess a movie title based on a series of emojis.

Are you getting superfast broadband? If not why not?

6 min read

This article was first published on EamonnMallie.com

Availability of superfast broadband within Northern Ireland97% of Northern Ireland residents have access to superfast broadband1, the highest proportion of any region within the UK. So why are only 60% of Northern Ireland households taking up this service?

Ofcom have published “The first Communications Infrastructure Report” which details lots of interesting facts that no local news outlet seems to be paying much attention to.
Access to the Internet is pretty much a human right these days and you can access the Internet for free at your local library. What student would prepare for an assignment without conducting some form of Internet research? I’d guess that nearly every single office job requires the Internet whether for email or browsing.
The Internet, therefore, is as much a utility as our water supply and is an essential every day service that we need.

So why then has there not been a media frenzy about these figures? Naturally the report does not cater for the need of our tabloid media but it definitely does need reported on.

The BBC reported “Northern Ireland broadband service criticised” which is a misleading headline in my opinion. Yes the report suggests that more could (and should) be done to improve access to broadband, but 97% of us here in NI already have access to superfast broadband. I have it and I’m about to get upgraded to a 30Mbit/s connection. What have you got? 1 in 4 have less than 2Mbit/s which means that you will really struggle to stream video online and most likely your skype call will be pixelated. In my view this is unacceptable and easily rectified with a simple call to your ISP.

National broadband measures

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s

 

 

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the percentage of broadband connections that have modem sync speeds of less than 2.2Mbit/s.

1= less than 5%
2= 5% - less than 10%
3= 10% - less than 15%
4= 15% - less than 20%
5= 20% or more

Of course there will be those who argue that you simply don’t need superfast broadband. This is shortsighted and fails to recognise the benefits that come with a fast connection to the Internet. Superfast broadband is now more affordable and the consumer is in a strong position to take advantage of this without having to stretch their budget. Ofcom also reveal that on average we download 17 Gigabytes of data every month. That’s equivalent to about 11 or 12 hours viewing of iPlayer per month. As each year passes we consume more and more content online (up sevenfold in five years) thus making superfast broadband all the more important if you want to watch video online.
Hands up if you have an Internet connected TV? I know it’s not just me. If you have a games console, a Blu-Ray player, an Apple TV or have recently bought your TV then you can probably watch YouTube and other online video content from the comfort of your sofa.

Lots of us have laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers and we use them while we are watching television. I would wager that the majority of the time we are using the Internet on those devices either browsing facebook, playing words with friends, updating all of those apps you downloaded from the App store or even sending an email. OK so nobody sends email anymore, but you get the point, we need the Internet just to go about our normal everyday tasks. If you are a typical household with a mummy and daddy and 2.1 teenagers you’re going to need superfast broadband just to keep everyone happy.

The family I’ve just mentioned will all have mobile phones and statistically speaking more than 2 will have a smartphone and in a couple of years (maybe even just one) everyone will have a smartphone. This will not only apply pressure to the home wifi network but will see massive demand for 3G (and soon 4G) services. In other words, we just can’t get enough Internet!

But, we in Northern Ireland are a bit screwed when it comes to mobile Internet.
If you want 3G on the road you better not actually need it outside Belfast and the main roads.

[caption id="attachment_1360" align="aligncenter" width="517"]3G coverage in Northern Ireland 3G coverage by geographic area[/caption]

 

 

 

3G coverage by geographic area
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the level of mobile coverage.

1= 90% or more
2= 70% - less than 90%
3= 50% - less than 70%
4= 25% - less than 50%
5= less than 25%

Mobile coverage based on predicted coverage

So how does this actually affect us? Generally speaking when we are at home we can make the best use of the Internet, whether that be watching a High Definition movie or making a video call to a friend who lives on the other side of the world. However, this report should be highlighted not because of how I can get access to the Internet on a personal level, but for the stark reality that many businesses and those who travel for their work are not able to make use of superfast broadband connections whether in the office or from their car. This impacts the local economy. This means we are not as competitive and this means jobs are on the line. You only need to have a quick look at a recruitment agency to see that IT plays an important role within our local economy. The wider view is of course that the Internet provides access to a global market. We can now sell services overseas with literally the click of a mouse. The Internet provides opportunity and superfast broadband will enable our local businesses to compete on the global stage which ultimately will boost the local economy. Simple. Well not quite, but I hope you understand how crucial it is that we not only have access to superfast broadband but that we also avail of its service.
Feel free to leave a comment on the issue of broadband access and whether you think it really matters to the local economy or not.
Ofcom have published the press release The state of the communications nation and their report The first Communications Infrastructure Report but I'd highly recommend you visit
http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/ and see for yourself what level of access you currently have.
1BDUK defines Superfast Broadband as having a potential headline access speed of at least 24Mbps, with no upper limit.

Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston

2 min read

This was the first Charlie Huston novel I read and I have since read seven more which should indicate how compelling (to me) his books are. Not for the faint hearted, Huston has a brash style that resembles a (good) Tarantino movie. Profanity and violence are frequent players in all of Huston's work and 'Caught Stealing' drops the reader straight into the action and immediately leaves you wanting more.

The book is centred around the character Hank Thompson, who was a promising high school baseball player with a big future in the game, that was until he broke his leg. After that things took a turn for the worse, more from bad judgement and luck than anything else, all of which makes for better reading. Let's face it, no one wants to read about the guy who almost made it, only to end up working the 9-5 and conforming to societies preset values.

So after Hank agrees to look after his neighbour's cat, his life spirals into a series of extreme drama and the inevitable twists lead you to like a character that you will initially label as a loser. Without giving too much away, the story revolves around the cat, his ability to escape bad situations and how he ends up making it across the Mexican border with the cat and a bag load of money.

Caught Stealing is available to read (below) and download free on Scribd.com
Visit Charlie Huston's website or follow him on twitter.
Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston

The newspaper is dead. Long live the newspaper.

4 min read

Being someone who has embraced digital content I fail to understand the love affair people have with paper.  I'm not just talking about news papers, I mean books, print outs anything that involves physical copy.  I just don't get it.  Take books for example, they're heavy, awkward to hold and are prone to damage.
Why put yourself through that experience?

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in a long time: I purchased The Sunday Times.  I don't normally read newspapers, especially Sunday papers which for some reason are huge unwieldy things.  None the less, of to the shop I trundled and struggled back with the times.  After some time sorting through the various sections, I actually started to read.  At this point I should state that I enjoy reading and have always been an avid reader, from fiction to non-fiction, to news and sport I read them all!

Which leads me on to the story which appeared in yesterdays Sunday Times: The plastic fantastic future of newspapers.  In his article, Alex Pell discusses the future of newspapers.
What intrigued me was not the e-reader or the new digital ink being discussed, but that publishers and presumably writers / journalists still do not understand digital content, the internet and where their future lies.

The article tells us how companies are competing with each other to develop a mobile newspaper of the future.  This will be kindle like, will always display the latest edition of your newspaper and will have a colour screen and great battery life.  BUT, it wont be available for a couple of years.  Let me ask you this, if you have a computer at work with access to the internet, if you a have a mobile phone with access to the internet, if you have a computer at home, then what need will you have for (what promises to be an expensive) device that will display your favourite newspaper?

Take the iphone, it is already the biggest ebook reader beating the kindle and Sony's ereader.  It is not hard to realise why, give consumers a decent screen, the ability to load their own content and a device that they will always have with them and you have a success story.

So what are publishers failing to understand?  Consumers will always demand "content" whether that be the latest news or the latest thriller from a leading novelist, but as can be seen, consumers continue to read the classics.  A quick trip over to Project Gutenberg proves this.  (What is Project Gutenberg?  An ebook site that allows users to download out of copyright books in a digital format.)
Therefore whether it be new content or existing content, consumers want it.  Surely this is a market that is just waiting to be exploited.  

Is there money to be made?  Yes is the simple answer.  Just as the music business has found out and now the movie business, consumers will purchase digital content.  The newspaper industry has for a long time failed to embrace the internet.  In the early days, their websites were not uptodate, with them preferring to maintain the newspaper position of breaking news.  Thankfully today, the internet is full of newspapers delivering their content online, but some sites require users to register, or do not provide rss feeds which make it unneccessarily difficult for users to get the content they demand.

What cannot be allowed to happen is a situation where a leading newspaper tries to get its audience to pay for online content.  That business model is dead.  There are plenty of reputable news sites that exist already that are free, therefore a digital newspaper will have to rely on advertising revenue.

The quicker publishers get their content digitised and availble to the consumer the faster they will cash in, whether it be in advertising revenue or by selling ebooks.  As more and more devices come to market that are "connected" the market for digital content will explode and therefore the future in publishing is in digital.

Time will tell which newspapers will successfully migrate their entire business onto the net, but failure to do so will ultimately ensure their demise.

Blu ray a winner?

2 min read

So Toshiba has withdrawn from the HD DVD format battle. I'm not surprised. Blu ray is a superior product and comes in a PS3, two very compelling arguments to any movie studio looking to get their product out to a mass audience.

But how long will blu ray last?
I only ask as HD on demand services are growing all the time and these compete directly with HD DVD and blu ray discs. While blu ray may be superior to anything currently on the market, this does not in itself lead to market demand. Currently consumers are provided with the majority of their TV viewing in standard definition and so only dip in and out of the HD listings. The majority of homes do not have access to an HD TV which makes the market relatively small.
Netflix and itunes have announced plans to offer HD through a broadband connection, cable and satellite companies already over HD services, so my point is that, as hardware, blu ray may only appeal to a few hardcore home theatre enthusiasts. As broadband speeds increase, net tv is going to become more reliable and more convenient, and thus will we really need another box under the tv?

The wonderful world of 3g

2 min read

I have been using 3g for over three years and this year has been the year that mobile data has become customer focused.

3g is mobile phone technology that enables data streams to be sent to mobile phones in a relatively fast way. Essentially, 3g enables users to browse the net, make video calls, stream radio stations and check email while still being able to receive phone calls.

So what's changed this year? Quite simply, data plans have become affordable. I pay three £5 a month for a 1GB download allowance. That's plenty, considering I have a home broadband package as well. The tariff gives me the freedom to do things that previously I would not have considered, as the cost was prohibitive.

There are several choices for consumers now, but if you are considering a new mobile on a contract think about getting a 3g phone. Generally these will ship with high specifications including, expandable memory, good camera, mp3 player, movie player, calendar, email etc. I personally use Nokia's N95, but have an E65 which is an excellent phone. If you fancy an iphone, wait until apple release a 3g version which is expected later this year.

A useful source of 3g info is Talk3G, a forum dedicated to 3g talk.