Dec 31 2011

The Shadow Factory

Category: eGovernment,Reviews,SecurityTeknovis @ 3:32 pm

I finished reading “The Shadow Factory” by James Bamford today. (Amazon link to book.)

"The Shadow Factory" by James Bamford

"The Shadow Factory" by James Bamford

It was an interesting read, but I felt that it lost its sense of direction somewhere in the middle :( In the beginning it read very like a novel describing the events leading to the 9/11 attacks. This was very gripping! However, the writing style then became more factual, and it seemed to randomly jump from topic to topic.

It was an interesting time to finish reading this book, because I see that part of its subject matter is in the media: Telecom Immunity Ruling Upheld by U.S. Appeals Court.


Dec 30 2011

Skype on Motorola Xoom

Category: Android,ReviewsTeknovis @ 5:18 pm

When I wrote Motorola Xoom – First Impressions I noted that I was disappointed that Skype did not support video calling. During the Christmas holidays I installed the latest version, and I am delighted to report that it works perfectly!

I am delighted with this, and I have already used it for several hours during the holidays! I now have one less reason for turning on a computer :)

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Dec 17 2011

English Person Google Bomb

Category: Humour,InternetTeknovis @ 9:46 am

This week I heard of another fun Google Bomb – a search for “what defines an English person” takes you to the Wikipedia definition of Cunt!

Unsurprisingly, this may not be suitable for viewing in work!

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Dec 15 2011

Fast Camera

Category: Digital ImagingTeknovis @ 10:05 pm

Interesting article about the world’s fastest camera in terms of the number of frames per second – MIT’s trillion frames per second light-tracking camera.


Dec 13 2011

Mobile Web Facts and Figures

Category: Internet,Mobile ComputingTeknovis @ 10:14 pm

I came across an article containing many interesting facts and figures today – The mobile web in numbers.

I am sure that I will have many occasions to reference this article in the next few months!


Dec 09 2011

Air France Flight 447

Category: AviationTeknovis @ 8:12 pm

Remember Air France Flight 447? Somebody sent me this fascinating article about it today – What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447.

It is so tragic that the accident could have been prevented at multiple occasions, and that ultimately that the accident was due to unforced human error.

I definitely blame the airline and the pilots.

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Dec 07 2011

Irish Budget – Day 2

Category: EconomyTeknovis @ 2:18 pm

Yesterday the Irish Government announced the second part of the budget – the tax increases. See Budget focuses on jobs, property or Noonan unveils measures to raise extra €1 billion in tax for details.

Overall, I am very disappointed. I think that this Government has a significant majority, so it it had wanted to, it could have proposed a really radical budget. Instead we got the usual mix of minor adjustments without any real goal or vision. I think that this is because career politicians find it difficult to see or think beyond their immediate environments.

So what would I have done differently over the last two days? I would have reduced our deficit significantly more by imposing far greater spending cuts. The obvious way to achieve these spending cuts would be to look at the civil service costs. I believe that the Croke Park Agreement was a bad deal for tax payers in this country, and I believe that it will inevitably need to be abandoned in its current form.

The other aspect of the budget that is really amazing me is how everybody in this country who is on the State’s payroll (civil service and social welfare) seems to believe that they have a divine right to their incomes! This is probably due to a combination of laziness and arrogance, perhaps due to the Celtic Tiger.

I would love these people to realise how serious our financial predicament is, and although it was not their fault (mostly), they cannot expect future generations to be subjected to more and more borrowing just so that they can remain immune from the cuts that the majority of the people in Ireland are experiencing!

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Dec 05 2011

Irish Budget – Day 1

Category: EconomyTeknovis @ 10:42 pm

The Irish Government spent today announcing the first part of the budget – the spending cuts. I must admit that I am very disappointed with it. I was hoping for some creativity, some imagination, some willingness to confront the problems. Instead it consisted of minor tinkering. Perhaps this is to be expected from a government that is being lead by a primary school teacher :|

So where does the problem lie? Enda clearly identified it in his speech to the nation the other night (see Full text of Taoiseach’s speech):

Right now, the State is spending €16 billion a year more than it is taking in.

Yes – it really is that simple! The Government is spending too much money that it does not have! Most of this money is being spent on social welfare and the civil service.

So what is the Government doing to address this? Again, let me quote Enda:

The pay and pensions of senior public servants have been cut.

Excellent!

However, the reality of what is happening is very different. Indeed, one only needs to look at today’s media! For example, consider Controversy over pay rise for Govt adviser:

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he understood how people might find it difficult to understand how a Government adviser, Ciaran Conlon, could be paid a salary of €127,000 after a €35,000 pay rise following an intervention from the Taoiseach.

Now perhaps this could be justified if Ciaran Conlon was coming from the private sector, and he had skills that were essential to the Government. Unfortunately, his previous employer was Enda’s own party – Fine Gael :(

I will not claim to know if Enda’s actions in this matter are due to simple ineptitude or intended cronyism. Either way, Ireland deserves better!

However, this level of hypocrisy is not confined to politicians within the civil service.

Another measure announced in today’s Budget was a cut to teaching funding. Again, this is designed to try and reduce the excessive amount of borrowing that is being done to sustain an expensive civil service. The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), amongst others, has publicly denounced these measures (see Live – Budget 2012 and Cut in teacher numbers a disaster for schools – TUI):

The TUI has said a cut in teacher numbers will be a disaster for schools and said they would be “catastrophic” for the life chances of the most vulnerable.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) also commented publicly on the cuts (see Live – Budget 2012 and Budget 2012 – education measures and ASTI reaction):

The ASTI says today’s Budget cuts mean the majority of second-level schools will lose one teacher and schools will see a reduction in funding for their day to day running costs.

It all reads very genuinely!

Unfortunately, neither organisation found the time today to comment on the cost to the Government of ensuring that over half their members get pay rises next year (see Pay rises on way for 50 per cent of teachers)!

Almost half of all teachers will receive pay increases next September of €1,000 to €3,615 a year, as guaranteed under the Croke Park agreement.

And:

The salary increments will cost €13.8m for 19,500 primary teachers, and a further €6.4m for 1,000 second-level teachers.

I guess the teachers are really more concerned that their salaries keep inflating at the expense of both the education system, and the private sector tax payers in Ireland. Shameful.

So yes, I am very disappointed that Enda and his colleagues have not taken any real measures to reduce the unsustainable Government spending that is occurring on both social welfare and the civil service.

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Dec 03 2011

Academic Paper Abstract

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 9:08 am

A friend told me about a very interesting academic paper during the week. The paper is titled Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?, and it is available for download from http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1110/1110.2832.pdf.

I am sure the paper is interesting to those who work in that area. However, in a more general sense the abstract is a really great! It is a perfect example of “less is more”!


Dec 01 2011

Skype Usage

Category: Infographic,Internet,SoftwareTeknovis @ 3:08 pm

A nice infographic showing how Skype is used (click image to see larger version):

Look Who's Talking (Copyright Skype)

Look Who's Talking (Copyright Skype)

I think that the image originally came from Tony Bates Weighs in on Microsoft’s Acquisition of Skype.

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