Out of time?

Reading this morning’s Irish Times, I spotted something that doesn’t seem to add up.

Karlin Lillington has a mid-sized article on the imminent US iPhone launch (subs required), and says that it will go on sale at 6pm, Californian time. However, the article adds that this is 10am Irish time, but it’s not.

California is behind Ireland by 7-8 hours, meaning the 6pm launch will be 2am on Saturday 30th June by Irish watches. Even if the 6pm launch were on the East-coast, which is around 5 hours behind GMT, it would be 11pm on Friday night here.

Yeah, I know. Who cares? It’s certainly not a big deal… Just an odd gaffe to make, I guess.

Revolting American journalists

Mika Brzezinski, an anchor on MSNBC’s morning show (actually called ‘Morning Joe’), recently had enough of Paris Hilton and decided let everyone know about it.

Her producers figured Hilton’s release from prison was top-story material, to which Brzezinski disagreed.

It’s really too-little, too-late, however it’s still good to see someone in US news be so clearly agitated and opposed to coverage of this torturous Hilton saga. Maybe if all the other anchors and reporters were told they were “not a journalist anymore” for covering the story, they might take similar action.

The reaction of the presenter to her right is pretty embarrassing, though, as he seems keen to tow the editorial line and keep in the favour of the show’s producers.

When Brzezinski is faced with the story for a third time she takes it to the shredder.

iPhone fever

Stateside tech-heads are gearing up for the launch of Apple’s long awaited iPhone and with a lack of hands-on reviews so far, their European equivalents are sure to be watching the event with great interest.

Since it was first unveiled to the world at the start of the year the iPhone has become a major object of desire for many, many people. Plenty of people (including this one) publicised their fawning reactions to the first screenshots of it and hardcore fans have already started to queue up and down the US in anticipation for the release on Friday.

On the other hand some have attempted to pour cold water on what has admittedly become a sometimes slavish public reaction and there are many valid arguments to be made against the iPhone. It’s current lack of 3G technology, for example, or its reliance on a touch-screen, which has been more miss than hit in the past.

As I point out on Adrian Weckler’s post, however, these technical omissions should not be taken as proof of the device’s impending failure.

Those with cravings for the iPhone, much like fans of the iPod, aren’t necessarily looking for the best technology, they’re looking for their standard technology to be presented in a more intuitive and stylish way. It’s the same with the iPod and in many ways with OSX.

Let’s face it, Apple know how to make a slick looking and clever operating system (even Microsoft conceeded that one with Vista) and know how to make an intuitive user interface (the iPod’s scroll-wheel). Speaking as someone without any kind of Mac, even the most limited use of OSX shows that while many of the features aren’t that different from XP/Vista, the way they’re presented makes them so much more logical and user friendly.

From what I can see, going mainly by the recently published guide to iPhone (because all information on this device has been carefully managed so far), Apple looks like it’s offering some extremely smart, logical and intuitive interface features on its iPhone that really do set it apart from the others, even if the core service is the same-old stuff.

As for the premium price, the mobile phone has become a fashion accessory, and fashion is all about style at a premium.

To use a fashion metaphor – the point of a pair of trousers is to cover your arse, genitals and legs from the cold/public, but despite this people seek out specific brands of trousers and pay extra to wear them. Likewise, the point of a mobile phone is to keep you in contact while on the move, but people are increasingly seeking out particular models and are paying extra to have them. Look at the Motorola RZR (and its colourful special editions) or the LG Chocolate – phones like these weren’t made for those seeking the cutting edge, but they weren’t cheap at launch either.

The only difference here is that Apple are aiming for business-people as well as the rest.

It’s expected that Apple with add 3G functionality to the device before it comes to Europe, so the only thing that I can see ruining Apple’s parade is the touch screen. If that doesn’t come off as planned everything will fall down – we won’t know the truth about that until the American bloggers get their hands on it.

How not to deal with unhappy customers

I’m probably the last blogger in all of blog-land to mention this, but it’s worth reading up on if you haven’t already.

Long story, short:
Damien Mulley (formerly of Ireland Offline) returns from the Reboot conference in Copenhagen and arrives in Dublin Airport to find that his bag is lost. He contacts the company in charge of baggage handling, Sky Handling Partners, and is eventually told that it’s in Cork Airport. Probably.

Days tick by and Sky Handling Partners continue to claim that the bag is in Cork Airport – Cork Airport say different. It materialises that the bag was in Dublin when Sky Handling Partners said it was in London, and then they decided to send it to Birmingham in order to get it to Cork. Damien is passed onto Aer Lingus (despite them having nothing to do with the whole thing) and finally someone is willing/able to help (despite it not being their problem). Piaras of Aer Lingus in Cork Airport thinks it’s still in Dublin and Sky Handling Partners just can’t find it. Damien calls Sky Handling Partners cunts.

Eventually the bag arrives in Cork Airport, with thanks to Aer Lingus. It ended up on a BMI flight from Birmingham, somehow.

Skip forward a few weeks and Damien gets a visitor who arrived there searching for “sky handling partners” (Damien’s “cunts” post is the second link in a google search for that term). The visitor wanders around the site for a bit. Next thing is, Damien starts getting confirmation emails for various dating sites only one email contains the IP of the person who applied in the first place… a reverse DNS shows the IP belongs to City Jet Handling Dublin, the former name of Sky Handling Partners. Cue more phone calls to Sky Handling Partners and more passing the buck on their part.

As Damien points out, the IP may now be used by someone else, but it’s not looking too likely. Either way the blog world is alight and the post has well over 2,000 Diggs at the time of publishing.

If this was the act of a Sky Handling Partners employee, they really need to be fired – all the re-training in the world couldn’t save them now.

Dealing with innovation, the Paddy’s way

As people up and down the country begin to quake at the thought of Ireland being left behind because of a lack of innovation, the people over at Paddy’s Valley seem to be doing something constructive about the problem.

While the aim of the project isn’t a purely economic one, it certainly has huge potential in that regard.

I mean, It makes complete sense for people in the Irish tech scene to head Stateside and get personally acquainted with the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley – what better way is there to get big ideas from planning to production than to see how it’s done first hand and expose it to the people that matter? It’s just like the Government-led trade missions to China and India, except on a far more one-to-one basis than that.

Head over there and help out if you can, or maybe even put your name down if it’s something you’d like to take part in.

Best of luck to those involved too.

Eoghan Harris calls himself and his ‘paper childish

In today’s Sunday Independent Eoghan Harris comments on the need for idealistic compromise and the childishness, rather than superiority, of those who refuse to move on their core beliefs.

The point is one worthy of debate, but Harris seems to be distinguishing himself and his newspaper as ‘moral innocents’ and children in light of his definition of such:

Aristotle argues that moral agents, particularly politicians, must avoid adopting extreme positions, and must always subordinate their personal principles to the common good. People who are moral innocents see no need for such compromises. Accordingly, Aristotle has no high regard for moral innocents in politics (emphasis is mine).

A child is the perfect example of a moral innocent. It will innocently insists on implementing his own agenda at all costs. But a moral adult, who is not a moral innocent like a child, cannot insist that everybody else give him exactly what he wants.

If you take what Harris previously said about The Sunday Independent’s stance on Fianna Fáil during his now infamous freak-out on Today FM, he and his newspaper seem to fit this perfectly:

…Far from being true as [Vincent] Browne said that the Sunday Independent changed it’s line [after Brian Cowen met Tony O'Reilly], we changed our line when we got what we wanted on stamp duty. We were mad as hell with Fianna Fáil about stamp duty…

I suppose being a moral innocent is preferable to being the mouthpiece of your manager but Harris can hardly criticise others for doing the same as he and his ‘paper have done.

(hat tip to Cedar Lounge for bringing Harris’ piece to my attention)

The N Word

Today sees the beginning of a fresh racism row stemming from Channel 4′s Big Brother, and the media coverage has so far been very interesting to watch.

The story goes that a Big Brother contestant has been evicted for directing the term ‘nigger’ at a housemate – the exact context of the use isn’t clear (although the BBC News article shines some light on it) but will be when Channel 4 broadcast the scene later tonight. It’s fair enough to assume from the broadcaster’s reaction, however, that it was taken quite seriously.

BBC News 24 was naturally giving some coverage to the story and putting it in the context of a similar racism row which came from this year’s Celebrity Big Brother.

A segment shown on BBC News 24 earlier today was introduced with a warning that “some may find some of the language used in this report offensive” (paraphrased) and the reporter narrating the piece used the term ‘nigger’ on two occasions; first to explain what was said and then to briefly discuss the use of the word in general.

About an hour later the story was covered again and the same warning was given by the news presenter. This time, however, the package was being narrated by a different person, and its contents were slightly updated. What was bizarre, however, was that the new narrator said the evicted contestant used “the N word” and at no point was the term ‘nigger’ used in the package.

It was, however, used afterwards by an ex-Big Brother contestant who was discussing the fresh controversy with the two news presenters. This wasn’t pre-packaged or part of the “potentially offensive” report so the warning didn’t really make much sense despite this.

It seems odd that a news channel would dance around a word, or change its mind on its use, when it is trying to give readers the full facts. Didn’t the BBC, amongst many others, relish at the opportunity to repeat George W. Bush’s ‘shit’ almost a year ago? And why be so precious about any word when it is being used to inform the story rather than actually offend?

It would be odd for a news organisation to think that by using a term with the potential to offend, they themselves are causing or encouraging offense. Surely, if this were actually the case a news organisation that featured details of a war would be causing or encouraging violence also?

Perhaps this is a total coincidence too, but the only people who used the word ‘nigger’ on BBC News 24 (that I saw) were black or asian. The first package was presented by an asian reporter (the name of whom I cannot recall or find), the “on the scene” report after the first package (which didn’t contain the word ‘nigger’) was presented by a black reporter, while the subsequent version of the package, which replaced the word ‘nigger’ with ‘the n-word’, was presented by Andrew Burrows, who is white.

Using a black Big Brother constant is understandable as he knows the competition quite well and could discuss what his own reaction would be to being called a nigger. But did the BBC go out of their way to ensure the woman reporting in the earlier package was asian, and the “on the scene” reporter was black?

I hope not. Surely the media isn’t so careful of itself that it avoids having a white person (or, for that matter, any person) utter the dreaded ‘n-word’, even when they’re using it to inform and not offend.

RTÉ.ie starting to do features

While RTÉ.ie’s election coverage was a little bit lacking in comparison to what it had on Radio and TV at the time, it was a step forward for the broadcaster’s online offerings.

The constituency map and voting breakdown isn’t anything we shouldn’t expect from them (and they’ve had it before), but things like the “punter’s guide” series (here, here and here) was a nice, albeit simple use of the online medium.

From this link that turned up in my RSS feed last night it seems as though they’re expanding on the idea too, with “A Punter’s Guide to… Open Skies”, written by the RTÉ.ie Business Editor Andrew Fanning.

This is exactly the kind of thing the website needs and it will prove extremely useful when stories relating to the flights agreement appear in the future, as they’re bound to do.

Hopefully from now on, when a story about Open Skies is published, there’ll be a link to this piece in the sidebar for readers who need a short run-through of the ins and outs of the agreement and its cause and effect on Ireland. Here’s hoping it won’t just be lumped in with the “related stories” panel too, and will get its own clear space to attract readers who need some background information.

The BBC News website does this kind of thing extremely well and I hope it’s an idea RTÉ expand on – perhaps getting some of their TV and Radio correspondents to write short features of their own to serve a similar purpose.

Charlie Bird could write a backgrounder on the Bertie Ahern finance issue to accompany the many Moriarty Tribunal stories we’re going to hear in the coming months, for example, or Tommie Gorman could to a point-by-point timeline on what got us to a DUP/SF-lead assembly to accent the Northern Ireland stories that pop up on a very regular basis.

There are plenty of other examples – crime, economy, environment etc. etc.

Surely a 500 word backgrounder wouldn’t be too much to ask of someone who specialises in a specific area, would it?

Oh, and it’s great to see articles on RTÉ.ie get a by-line for once – more of that please.

Rant: UPS are useless

I’m going to take a page out of Damien’s book and rant about some terrible service I’ve been enduring lately.

A week or so ago my iPod shuffle kicked the bucket having worked perfectly up until then. I did the usual troubleshooting recommended by the Apple site and got nowhere so decided to get it replaced (as it’s still in warranty).

Apple’s return/repair service was extremely easy to use and I have no complaints there. I ordered the repair in minutes and was impressed to find that they actually send you a replacement iPod first and ask you to send back the faulty one afterwards – rather than the other way around. The package arrived a day after putting the order through and enclosed was a pre-paid envelope for a UPS collection so I could send my faulty iPod back in the box the new one came in.

So far, so good. I rang UPS straight away and booked in a collection for my faulty iPod. I was told it would be collected between 2:30 and 5:30pm on Friday 1st June and to ensure I was at home – they took my home phone number too.

Friday came and went with no collection and when I rang UPS after 6pm their offices were closed. I rang again on Saturday morning and was asked if I was there at 3pm on Friday, to which I answered in the positive.

Apparently the driver had said they called to the house at that time and there was no answer. I was in the house all day (didn’t even go out the back), had the house phone with me at all times (it’s cordless!), the doorbell is working fine and there was no “we missed you” note left in my letterbox. So if the driver did knock they didn’t use the doorbell, they knocked very gently on the door once and they didn’t even try to ring the house or leave notice of their attempt to reach me. Frankly, I knew they didn’t come and put it down to the fact that the driver was an incompetent person working on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend.

Back to Saturday’s phone call. I told the polite woman all of the above and she put a complaint through and re-scheduled collection for Tuesday 5th, again between 2:30 and 5:30pm.

This has come and is now gone with no sign of a UPS van, but today I took the precaution of ringing UPS slightly earlier to check the progress of the collection.

So I ring just after 5pm and am told, coincidently, that the collection van was here at 3pm and there was no answer.

Bullshit.

Again, I was here all day (and so was someone else). Again, I was by the phone all day. Again, there was no phone call. Again, there was no note.

Again the polite lady (I think it was the same one) offered to put a complaint through on my behalf and while I wasn’t going to have a go at her because some lazy moron of a driver can’t do their job I let her know just how pissed off I was at the whole situation. I also pointed out that the claim of the driver today was exactly the same as the one on Friday and yet again no-one tried to contact me, they just left it up to me to chase them for information.

I also told her that as far as I was concerned no-one from UPS had knocked at my door on either Friday or today. I can’t see it any other way as they have the right address and had no trouble finding it to deliver the package in the first place.

I’m pissed off enough that I had to wait at home all day on two separate occassions for these bastards, but that’s not what’s really concerning me. You see, while Apple are nice enough to send me a new iPod first rather than have me wait for a week or so without one while they check my faulty model, they’re also not stupid.

As part of the repair agreement, as some of you may know, you give credit card details and agree to be charged for the cost of the product plus delivery (over €90 in this case) if you fail to return the faulty item within 10 days of receiving the replacement… basically after that point they’ll assume there is no faulty item and you’ve just bought a second one – and that’s fair enough.

What that means for me now is that despite doing what I needed to do and getting collection organised in a timely fashion I may now have to try and convince Apple that I’m not trying to rip them off – and all because UPS is staffed by lazy and incompetent drivers. I’m not sure exactly how I can do this but something tells me that UPS aren’t going to be very helpful in proving that the fault lays at their door – I’ll do my best to make them though.

Oh, and if I do get charged €90+ for a replacement iPod I’ll be billing UPS for it. I sincerely hope that my phone calls to them so far have been recorded because I made it clear today that I stand to lose money because of their idiocy and I’ll continue to make it clear that I’ll be looking for it back from them should worst come to worst.

I don’t use companies like these that often, but this is unacceptable. I did use DHL once when I was moving to Wolverhampton for a year and they did a great job. If only Apple allowed me to chose what company carried my replacement iPod – that’s about the only bad thing I can say about their service overall.