On year three

I was up to my eyes at the time so couldn’t mark the event properly but on the 25th July this website turned three.

As is tradition at this stage I tend to mark this anniversary with a bit of navel gazing about what has happened in the last year, both in terms of the site and in terms of my career.

In pure statistical terms, July 2007 – July 2008 has been a good period for AdamMaguire.com. Of the 40k+ visitors that SiteMeter tells me have visited the site during its existence, over 50% have done so in the past year alone. Every month in the last twelve has seen over 1k visits and only one month (September 2007) has seen less than 2k page views. These are hardly awe-inspiring statistics but given my low profile, the very limited appeal of what I do here and the fact that I don’t blog nearly as much as I should I’m more than happy with them.

Of course as any blogger knows improving statistics do not correlate to an improving career – even when your blog is based around it – but things have thankfully been on an equally upward trajectory in that regard too.

It must have been around this time last year that I realised I had gotten myself into a rut, owing to a mixture of complacency and poor organisation. I was getting published regularly (as the portfolio shows it’s almost entirely in The Sunday Business Post‘s Media & Marketing section) but had not moved much beyond one or two mid-sized pieces a month, even though I had plenty of spare time to fit more work into.

To remedy this I made the decision to expand the base of publications I pitched to and widen the topics I looked to cover – since then I’ve been published in Business & Finance Magazine, The Dublin Informer, Technology Ireland (a trade mag. run by Enterprise Ireland), The Press Gazette, Computers In Business (supplement of the SBP), Village magazine and The Irish Times. I’ve also been on Today FM‘s The Last Word a fair few times in the last year to talk about technology and media, which has been an extremely enjoyable opportunity I hope to continue to have in the months and years to come.

Oddly enough, while I’ve expanded the things I write about in general the bulk of my work in the last year has shifted significantly from media to technology, although It’s my firm belief that the line between these two is narrow and has been blurring for some time, in fact I think it is just a short step away from disappearing altogether. (Mark my words, it won’t be too long until it makes more sense for newspapers and magazines to couple media with technology as opposed to marketing.)

There are one or two things that have not gone quite so well during the year too but I’ve learned as much from the processes that ended in failure as I did from those that ended in success – which is crucial to improving your approach in the future.

For example I did have somewhat of an opportunity to get a job in Village earlier in the year but things just did not work out and it never came about. I took a lot from the experience, however, and frankly while not getting the job gave me some regret at the time I now see that the outcome was actually a good thing for my career (most of my reasons for that conclusion are explained further down this post).

If I have any other regrets I’m thankful to say that the biggest is probably that I’ve not blogged consistently enough. This website has proven to be a crucial tool for me even just in being on people’s radar, and it deserves more than neglect. I do solemnly commit, for the 463rd time, to doing more here over the next year. Another regret is sure to be the lack of progress with Dail30.ie but there’s still plenty of time to put that right.

But as generally positive as the last year has been, it’s the past month that has given me the best news – and likely plenty to talk about in the lead up to the site’s fourth birthday.

Having lived off scraps for the last two years as a freelancer I’m finally (and only very recently) in a position where I’ll have some regular, dependable work in the form of writing the tech spot in Business & Finance magazine. Perhaps even more interestingly, at least in the sense of me not seeing it coming about two months ago, I’ll be taking up a teaching/lecturing post in my old college in September. Needless to say my nerves are wracked at the prospect of teaching but I’m equally excited by the whole thing.

I fully expect both of these new roles to be major factors in this blog in the coming months – hopefully with plenty of other content.

So thanks to everyone who’s read and subbed to the site over the last three years, particularly in the past twelve months. Hope to see you around again for the next few years and more.

On The Last Word at half 6 to talk about smartphones

I’ll be on The Last Word on Today FM this evening to talk about smartphones and iPhone rivals – something I recently had an article in Business & Finance magazine about (but ashamedly neglected to mention here).

You can tune in online, on your radio (100-102 FM in Ireland or on DAB) or via your digital TV. If you miss it there’ll be a podcast available later on tonight too.

As far as I know the Sunday Business Post‘s man o’ tech, Adrian Weckler, will be on there too.

Review: LG U990 / Viewty

The LG Viewty was probably one of the first off the block in response to the original iPhone and there’s no doubt that it was designed as a competitor to Apple’s device.

When comparing the spec-sheet of the Viewty against the iPhone you see a number of trade-offs – The Viewty has a microSD expansion slot but the iPhone is miles ahead in terms of built-in storage. The iPhone has a considerably larger screen but the Viewty has a far better camera/camcorder with built-in flash. The Viewty uses a proprietary headphone socket but it has an FM radio built-in.

But the real test of the Viewty isn’t in its hardware but its software – and it sadly fails many respects here. Visually speaking the operating system on the phone is quite nice and also quite logical in the way it is laid out. However it has some very illogical quirks – such as its refusal to let you listen to music/the radio while you use other programmes like the camera or its reliance on the phone’s physical buttons for basic actions like deleting some text from a message.

Unsurprisingly it fails in the areas the iPhone is most attractive for – its web-browser and music player – but it must be said it’s not an abject failure. The web-browser is OK if a little hindered by the smaller screen and the software’s inability to allow easy zooming. The music player is quite usable too, however it did take over an hour to upload around 440mb of music (just over 70 tracks) and it is very easy to accidentally turn the player off while trying to simply minimise it.

(As a quick aside – and arguably the worst physical default of what is a relatively attractive phone – LG decided to put the microSD slot inside the device forcing the user to remove the battery in order to access it. This kind of design stupidity is not unique to this phone but it is a mortal sin for a phone with minimal built-in memory and a high reliance on its media functionality.)

The factory-set preference for text message input is a standard numerical pad, although there is an easy way to change this to ‘Keyboard’ mode (which is in landscape), ‘Handwriting-Screen’ or ‘Handwriting Box’. The ‘Keyboard’ option is much like the iPhone’s in that the letters enlarge when your finger encounters them, making it quite easy to type at speed without error. Unlike the iPhone, however, the software doesn’t auto-correct mistakes or guess the word you are trying to type.

The two handwriting options are completely useless, on the other hand, and must surely have been put in there as a practical joke.

There are a few ideas within the device which are admirable, though. For example, the screen vibrates very slightly when you press a ‘button’ on it, giving you a tactile sensation that other touch-screen devices lack. It’s not a true haptic response, however, as the vibration is not localised to the point of touch – that’s something Blackberry’s upcoming Thunder is rumoured to offer (amongst other things), however. Also the physical button used to lock the device is quite a bit more approachable than the iPhone’s touch-based solution and during use it never once unlocked accidentally either, so perhaps this approach is worth considering in future.

It just wasn’t nearly enough, though.


A (slightly shrunken) picture taken on the Viewty – this was one of the better quality pictures taken.

So overall it must be said that the Viewty is best left alone – it is an imitation of another, better rounded if not technically superior phone and it really shows. Its biggest selling point is arguably its powerful camera, which is nothing to write hope about at all as the above picture shows, but that alone fails to save it from its other errors.

Superb video on those dangerous Dublin adverts

Jazz Biscuit has linked to a Youtube video on those aforementioned dangerous Dublin ad-shells which puts my previous effort on the Dorset St. advert to utter shame.

This video details the dangers posed by the new JCDecaux adverts which were agreed to by Dublin City Council and tells you what you can do to get them removed.

It’s eight minutes long but it’s well worth your time:

As the video points out at the end, pressure from citizens (which largely came from this thread on boards.ie) has forced the removal of the Dorset St. advert and there’s no reason why it can’t do the same for the others.

As JCDecaux has shown that it cannot be trusted to erect these ad-shells safely – as is required within the terms of the contract they signed – I personally think this is the perfect opportunity for Dublin City Council to scrap what has been a bad deal from day one.

On Newstalk this evening

I’ll be on Newstalk‘s Culture Shock this evening to preview Sunday’s newspapers.

The show itself starts at 7pm and I should be on air at around 8:45pm (as always it’s the show’s closing segment).

So if you’re around a radio, digital TV or computer then tune in. I guarantee it will be worth it*.

* Not a guarantee.

Dangerous Dublin advert, courtesy of Dublin City Council and JCDecaux

On my way home from town today I spotted one of the new advert “panels” that are being erected as part of a deal between Dublin City Council and advertiser JCDecaux.

But it wasn’t the advert housed within the new panel that caught my eye – it was the placement of it. I quickly pulled out my camera-phone and started recording and you can see the somewhat blurry results here:

Ideally I’d have liked to have filmed it from street-level rather than the top of a double-decker bus – as that way you’d get a fairer impression of just how dangerous this advert panel is for drivers and pedestrians alike – but this was the best I could do in such a rush. Unfortunately the quality isn’t up to much – that’s owing more to the compression on Youtube’s end than the quality of the original recording, not that that was all that superb anyway.

When I came home I noticed that Cian’s blog had mentioned it and that there was a superb in-depth analysis of the same panel and the conditions it’s supposed to follow over on Boards.ie.

Go check it out and bask in the glory of Dublin planning.

(The video above was filmed on an LG U990 “Viewty” which I will be posting a review of here in the next few days.)

A positive Dell experience

Having read Cian Ginty’s negative interaction with Dell tech support and having had my own trouble with their courier of choice, UPS, I braced myself for the worst when the power adaptor on my [10 month old] Vostro 1000 kicked the bucket last week.

So on Thursday I rang Dell up, expecting to be without any kind of power supply for a few days at least. The phone call took just thirteen minutes in total and the majority of that time was spent actually talking to someone – I was on hold for no more than 2-3 minutes. The guy I ended up talking to was extremely helpful and thorough – I never got the feeling he was trying to avoid actually replacing the part for me and he repeatedly ensured there were no other problems I wanted fixed at the same time.

He even apologised once or twice for taking up my “precious time” while he input the information I was giving him – I know this kind of courtesy likely came as a result of a prompt on his screen but it was a nice touch all the same.

Once he had all my details he told me the replacement would be with me between 9am and 5pm the next day (Friday). Again he asked if there was anything else he could help me with. I asked him if I’d need to give them the faulty adaptor as a trade for the new one and he just said that there was no need and I could dispose of it myself.

Friday came around and UPS were at my door around 1pm with the adaptor. Job done.

Just before 5pm (although I was out at the time) I get an automated email from Dell to say that they hope everything was satisfactory; if it wasn’t the email detailed the steps I could take to let them know. Bang on 5pm I got a call on my mobile from the same guy I had dealt with the day before – he asked me if everything was OK and if the adaptor had arrived, then he asked if there was anything else he could help me with. I thanked him and said no.

Comparing this to Cian’s experience you would think I was dealing with a totally different company (although his problems seem to be based more around UPS messing up than Dell, just like my previous experience was as a result of UPS being incompetent rather than Apple).

If there was one remotely negative thing I could say about the experience, it’s that the time-frame for delivery may have been a bit too vague for some – but that’s not the case from me as I work from home and I’m sure I could have gotten a more specific time had I asked; or failing that had it delivered to whatever place I was going to be at all day.

So did I just get lucky or was Cian unlucky? Or has Dell made an about-turn in terms of its tech support in the last few months? My guess is that it’s none of the above – I’d venture that Dell are far more eager to please small and medium businesses, which the Vostro is aimed at, than they are to please the regular consumer who would purchase something like an Inspiron.

Whatever the reason, all I can say is well done Dell. I really couldn’t have asked for better customer service.