The Weekly Record: New jobs from Zutec, UPC announces 20MB service, and PS3 gets RTE Player

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Ken Jennings (left) pictured with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Jennings will represent humanity against IBM's Watson computer in February.We’ve news of new jobs, new ways to watch TV, and a new frontier for quiz shows.

Irish web services firm Zutec has announced seven new jobs in Ireland and Middle East. Due to recent expansion, the Irish company is looking for five engineers for its Doha office in Qatar and two software developers for its Dublin headquarters. The positions in the Middle East would suit engineers looking to expand their experience working on a world class large new airport facility in Doha, while the firm is looking for two software developers in Dublin.

Sony and RTE have agreed to make the RTE Player available on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Users registered to PlayStation Network and with a broadband connection to their console, will now be able to access RTE Player through the XrossMediaBar on the PS3 console. “This represents the development of a very exciting partnership for RTE Player with one of the world’s leading brands and will provide people with even greater access to what has proven to be a very successful and popular TV catch-up service,” said Aisling McCabe, director of Platform Development at RTE Publishing.

UPC has announced the launch of its 20MB fibre power broadband service in Ireland from 4 January. UPC says the 20MB Broadband will be available to 4 in every 10 homes in Ireland. UPCs full range of services from January include a 100MB option from €80 a month, a 30MB option from €42 a month, the aforementioned 20MB service from €34 a month, and a 10MB service from €25 a month. The firm aims to have all customers on speeds of 10MB or more by May 2011.

ICT services firm Damovo has announced the results of a survey of more than 1,000 remote and office workers on the use of video communications for work. The study found that 88 percent of office workers use video communications at home to talk to friends and family but 86 percent of remote and office workers never use video conferencing for work.  Over a third of workers are reluctant to use video communications for work because they are too worried about their appearance on camera. As someone who used to work from home while wearing a dressing gown, that last bit doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The consumerisation of IT will evolve even further in 2011 and Enterprise IT will lose control over the desktop to a greater extent, according to Citrix Systems Ireland. “Consumerisation will dominate the technology landscape in the next twelve months,” said Niall Gilmore, Citrix country manager for Ireland. ” A new wave of laptop and tablet-carrying mobile workers will emerge in Irish offices and IT departments will be forced to keep up with workers adopting and upgrading their own technology in the New Year.”

And finally…The constant battle between man and machine finds a new arena of combat this February, with a Canadian-born gameshow host as the referee. Alex Trebek will host a special edition of Jeopardy where an IBM computing system named Watson will compete against the show’s two most successful and celebrated contestants, as Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter represent the human race in this fight to the death, providing all answers in the form of a question.  Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, has been developed over the past 4 years by a team of IBM scientists who set out to build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. Jeopardy provides a particularly interesting challenge because the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. Earlier this year Watson played more than 55 ’sparring games’ against former Jeopardy Tournament of Champions contestants. Highlights of the sparring matches can be viewed and tracked over the next few weeks here.  IBM claim Watson’s ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, and rapidly process information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives. This bloody battle will rage on television over three days from 14-16 February 2011.

Red button scuppers Leinster fans with UPC

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Leinster’s Heineken Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne in the Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday afternoon will not be available to fans who get their TV service from UPC.

The game is only available on TV in Ireland on Sky Sports’ red button service as Sky are prioritising the London Irish v Toulon game. While this is no great inconvenience for Sky subscribers who can just press their red button and watch the match, UPC (formerly NTL and Chorus) subscribers, of which there are a large number in Dublin and across Leinster, do not have the option of viewing red button broadcasts.

A UPC spokesperson confirmed to villa81 that they are unable to show the game as “the game is being scheduled by Sky on their Red Button functionality and currently UPC does not offer this service, however, we did offer solutions to make the match available to UPC customers which were regretfully rejected by Sky. We apologise to any Leinster/rugby fans and will continue to work with Sky on resolving the matter going forward in the interests of our customers.” In the meantime though, UPC customers who want to watch the match live will have to brave the thawing snow and ice to get to a pub or a Sky subscribed friend’s house.

This story will also appear on our sister site, action81.com, due to its obvious sports angle.

Retro Games: California Games

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Video games can be expensive. A copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops for the XBox will set you back about €60; not a small chunk of change, especially in the current economic climate. However in real terms, video games are much less pricey now than in the early 90s. One of the most popular launch titles of the Super Nintendo (SNES), Street Fighter 2 had an astronomical price tag of IR£65 in my pre-internet price checking online era local Quinnsworth. At a weekly income of 50p a week pocket money even Anglo Irish Bank wouldn’t have helped me in my quest to possess this game. Today, while my income has not increased significantly from that 50p a week, €60 still does not seem like such a high mountain to climb.

My pocket money combined with a financially successful visit to grandparents never did get me Street Fighter 2, however the launch of the SNES did mean that titles for the trusty NES were heavily discounted and my money extended to some purchases. It was launched much later in Europe than elsewhere due to the video game crash of the 1980s which meant that despite it becoming obsolete in 1992, when its super sibling was released, there still existed a large back catalogue of NES games yet to be released here. During the summer of 1992, board game maker Milton Bradley launched four such games with a TV advertising campaign, “New for your Nintendo”. These were Marble Madness, California Games, Digger T and Timelord. On sale in my local Toymaster at a much more palatable IR£15 apiece.

The first of these I picked up was California Games as I was familiar with the DOS and C64 ports that my friends had, but mostly because it was six games in one! From Epyx who were known for their mini sports games, California Games allowed you to play six events popular in the sunshine state. Half pipe, bringing Hollywood skater boy cool to the Irish midlands, just don’t hold on too long or you’ll get hit in the head! Foot bag, where a possible resident of the Haight Ashbury district kicked a bean bag at a defenceless seagull, I still haven’t figured out how to do reverse Doda. Surfing, where a combination of up and down presses meant you either scored a 9.9 or got eaten by Jaws. That two note sound effect worked very well on an 8-bit console. Roller skating where we learned that Venice Beach in LA does not have great pavement maintenance or litter collection programmes. BMX, which provided us with all of our California slang vocabulary while we navigated a motocross circuit in the Mohave Desert. Perhaps the first time I was directly insulted by a computer came when this game called me a dork for failing to pull off a flying wheelie. Too bad hotshot! Finally of course, there was flying disk. Playing Frisbee in Yosemite national park where the highlight of the game was when you timed your throw right and could throw the Frisbee outside of the constraints of the viewport and into the black bar above. That was the highlight because actually catching the Frisbee was too damn hard. All of these games had their own 8-bit backing tracks which were quite catchy, In fact when I dusted down my copy for this review I found myself already whistling the tunes. Unfortunately those tunes are the only part of the game that has aged well, the actual game play is a very repetitive left, right, ‘A’, ‘B’ no matter what the event.

California Games was released on all the consoles of the era, my Commodore 64 friends had it years before me, but I thought it was £15 well spent back then. Now, the 500 wiipoints it costs on the virtual console are a bit much but it’s worth taking down from the attic for a one-day wallow in nostalgia. A sequel, California Games II was released for DOS machines and eventually made it to the consoles however it was nowhere near as successful as its older sibling. Perhaps the modern consoles may bring out an up to date version using dynamic controllers, the thought of half pipe skateboarding using the kinect makes me quite eager for this to happen. Until then, we’ll just have to make do with our star of the 1980s. Gnarly dude!

The Weekly Record: JCB phone launched, Blackberry beats iOS, and Gamestop announce early opening

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

World of Warcraft fans are used to queuing at night to get their fix.World of Warcraft fans will be out in force at Gamestop stores on Tuesday night, the Playstation Move has sold 4.1 million units, but first we deal with a new rugged phone available in Ireland.

We always try to start your morning with something light-hearted but today we’re employing a heavy duty approach to achieving that goal. JUST Mobile has announced the launch of a floating phone called the JCB Tradesman. The Tradesman is available in Spar, Spar Express, Eurospar, Mace and XL outlets nationwide from Monday 6 December. This handset is available for €99.99 with a JUST Mobile SIM pre-loaded with €9.00 free call credit and is also dustproof, bluetooth enabled, has a built-in torch, and FM radio. Designed to a military specification, JUST Mobile claim the phone is capable of operating in temperatures of -20C to +60C, can be submerged in water, left out in the rain, or even dropped into a pint or down the toilet and still ring. It also has a hardened outer plastic casing and the mobile operator claims it can survive drops of up to three metres. Suffice to say we’ve asked for one and plan on putting it to the test.

Sony has announced that sales of the Playstation Move motion controller for Playstation 3 (PS3) have reached over 4.1 million units worldwide. The announcement comes just over 2 months since its Irish release in September Sony has decided to fly additional stock of Playstation Move controllers into Europe to ensure Irish retailers can meet the Christmas demand. A PlaystationMove Starter Pack is available for €59.99 (RRP), comprising a Playstation Move motion controller, Playstation Eye camera and Playstation Move starter disc. The Playstation Eye camera is available separately for €29.99.

Samsung Print Ireland and its reseller partner, Office Business Equipment (OBE), have installed a network of 133 Samsung 4 in 1 printers in Xtra-vision stores across the island of Ireland in a deal valued at over €45,000. Xtra-vision’s head office will now be able to monitor the functionality of its entire printer network remotely due to the machine’s Specific Network administration software, increasing the efficiency and cost effectiveness of Xtra-vision’s IT system. The 4 in 1 machines will be used as printers, scanners, copiers and faxes to support all the administration duties in the Xtra-vision stores.

Industry analyst firm Quocirca, has classified HP as a market leader in the provision and delivery of managed print services (MPS) for enterprises in Europe. The awkwardly named Quocirca Enterprise Managed Print Services European Vendor Landscape 2010 report provides an overview of the competitive situation and growth in the MPS market.

A new study by Citrix Systems has found that 73 percent of Irish company director and IT managers plan to deploy Windows 7 as soon as possible with 42 percent intending to do so within a year. The survey also revealed that many organisations see desktop virtualisation as a key consideration when rolling out Windows 7 while 60 percent of those who have invested in Windows 7 or are planning to do so are considering desktop virtualisation infrastructure to aid the migration.

Irish owned mobile technology solutions provider Heavey RF has announced a new voice middleware application called VocalPoint VP2.0, for the logistics and retail supply chain. VocalPoint VP2.0 will allow companies to upgrade their warehouse management systems to incorporate voice directions.

BlackBerry OS overtook Apple’s iOS for the first time in the US in November in terms of mobile internet usage according to web analytics firm StatCounter. The company’s research arm, StatCounter Global Stats, found that for the first time in the US BlackBerry OS at 34.3 percent overtook Apple’s iOS, which recorded 33 percent in November. Google’s Android is rapidly gaining and has almost tripled internet market share from 8.2 percent last November to 23.8 percent this year. Apple’s iOS has fallen from 51.9 percent to 33 percent over the same period. “These figures suggest that developers should not be developing solely for the iPhone to the exclusion of BlackBerry and Android,” said Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of StatCounter. He added that, if current trends continue, BlackBerry and Android combined are on course to become twice the size of iOS as regards mobile internet usage in the next year.

IT services company Origina has announced a new partnership with Microsoft in the Irish market to offer virtualisation solutions to businesses. Through the integration of Origina’s private cloud infrastructure and Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual servers, the new service aims to be available at significantly lower cost than comparable rival offerings, with Origina claiming this could be up to 40 percent in some cases. This joint initiative will see Origina and Microsoft target all enterprises in Ireland with more than 25 physical servers. This announcement follows Origina’s recent investment of more than €1 million in a private cloud infrastructure.

GameStop has announced that it will open nine stores at 11pm on 6 December to celebrate the upcoming release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the highly anticipated third expansion for the massive multiplayer online role-playing game. GameStop stores in Henry Street in Dublin, Patrick Street in Cork, Arthur Square in Belfast, Waterford Shopping Centre, Clonmel, Ballincollig, Navan Shopping Centre, Dundalk and Wexford Town will open at that time to support gamers looking to pick up their copy of the expansion the moment it goes live. GameStop will be selling the standard edition of the expansion as well as the Collectors Edition (while stocks last) which contains the following bonus items in addition to the game disc: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm PC or MAC Game, a behind-the-scenes DVD including over an hour of developer interviews and commentaries, a Collector’s Edition soundtrack CD, The Art of Cataclysm which is a 176-page hardback book featuring never-before-seen artwork from the development process, a starter pack and exclusive cards for the World of Warcraft trading card game, an in-game pet called Lil’ Deathwing, and a special edition mousepad.

And finally…Some of you no doubt recall our recent review of the excellent NBA 2K11. Normally 2K Sports are forced to compete with EA Sports in the sports games market but the decision by EA to pull the plug on NBA Elite 11 left NBA 2K11 uncontested for the Christmas market. In a recent interview with Kotaku, EA boss John Riccitiello gave a blow by blow account of how a once promising game bit the dust just days from its global release. It’s an interesting read about a game which featured one of the  most bizarre glitches in  history but the most important news for gamers is undoubtedly Riccitello’s bullish outlook on the future. When asked if they would be back in the NBA games market he had a simple response “We’re EA Sports for Christ’s sake.”

What every nerd wants under the Christmas tree

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Sennheiser HD 800 headphones, the dream Christmas present for Gerard HealyIn what will likely be his last piece for Villa81 before Christmas, Gerard Healy looks at the top gadgets to get that special geek in your life.

Christmas is fast approaching so to get you ready, here’s a top 10 nerdy Christmas gift list. Obviously not all of these gifts will appeal to everyone. In fact, most won’t appeal too many at all but deep down, every nerd and geek wants the same thing - the newest and shiniest of toys.  Oh and if anyone wants to buy me any of these, number 6 is my personal favourite.

10. Logitech G9X Gaming Mouse

Generally acknowledged as the best gaming mouse around, what self respecting gamer wouldn’t want the G9X? At €40, it’s actually quite reasonable. Shame that I’m not much of a gamer though.

9. Eye Scope for iPhone

I think it’s pretty extablished that I dislike most things Apple, but I really do have to admit that this is pretty cool. Sure, the camera quality on iPhones is generally substandard, sure it’s actually cheaper to buy a decent SLR, but something about this reminds me of that Hitchcock classic, Rear Window (the less said about Disturbia, the better - damn you Shia LaBeouf).

8. Looxcie wearable camcorder

How many crappy (or otherwise) Sci-Fi games or films have one of these things?! The naive scientist exploring a distant planet or an abandoned research facility only to be attacked by the monster that lies within. It’s a cheep trick but you’ve always wanted one and now you can. This little beauty brings me a quiet inner joy. You know that it’s going to be crap; it’ll probably have a short battery life, dodgy sound and a crappy picture but I still want it. Oh, and what a name.

7. Darth Vader TomTom

Actually, this one is pretty self explanatory. SatNav + Darth Vader giving directions = awesome. Sure you’ll get tired of it within a week but what nerd wouldn’t want this? Let’s just hope that the directions aren’t as cryptic as “follow the force”.

6. Sennheiser HD 800

If you really love me, you’ll buy me this. Actually if you buy me this, you can have 8 heads, weigh 800lbs and be called Cletus  but I’ll still love you. Without doubt the single best set of headphones on the market at the moment, these crackers are every music geek’s dream.

5. Huawei Hotshot

This will become obsolete in a couple of years once LTE and WiMax really get going and it’s working off of a mobile network thus inherently is slower than home broadband but this is still a great little tool. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best and what could be simpler than a mobile WiFi unit that works off of a 3G network?

4. Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC HD2 vs Samsung i9000 Galaxy S

OK, so this one is a cheat, lumping in 3 mobile phones as a single entry, but these really will be the big 3 in the smartphone market this Christmas. The Sony Ericsson X10 is a great phone, but SE has never have had the same pull as an iPhone or HTC. The Galaxy will probably limp in third in this race but it will still be miles ahead of the rest.

3. Apple iPad vs Sony eReader vs Amazon Kindle

Ah the iPad, truly a great toy. Why people try to justify it as a business tool, I’ve no idea. There are cheaper and more appropriate solutions out there but Apple fanboys and girls are everywhere like a plague. The iPad will be a big seller. The eReader is a nice little piece of kit and with the Sony name behind it has helped make it a big seller. It’s getting on a bit however so expect this year to be the last big year for this iteration of the eReader. This, of course, leads us to the Kindle. I’m a massive Amazon fan. They have a great business model and excellent customer service, but I don’t ever see myself buying a Kindle because Amazon can and have deleted books off of Kindles and I don’t like anyone having that sort of control over my property.

2. xBox Kinect vs Playstation Move

Remember in all those Sci-Fi shows where the star would touch thin air and the computer would somehow know what he or she was instructing it to do? Yeah, Sci-Fi’s great for coming up with cool ideas like motion-controlled computers. As you may have guessed, I like these products a lot. I think that it’ll take a little while for good games to appear that can really utilise their potential and a couple of iterations before they truly become the be all and end all, but without doubt, these are very cool and I almost want one. Almost, just not yet.

1. 3D TV
Hollywood, I hate how lazy you’ve become. Why can’t you make cool, original films based on new imaginative story lines rather than formulaic movies by numbers? No, Hollywood down the years has resorted to Colour, IMAX and Dolby to mask their mass-produced formulaic tosh but I digress. With sports, movie and even the news (why?) now in 3D, we’re starting to see reasons to buy one. They’re hideously expense,  the 3D glasses make you look like a bit daft, and it’s not actually 3D but that won’t stop people buy these by the bucket load.

This article can also be found at Think About IT.

The Weekly Record: Bumper turnout at Science Week, Samsung launches Omnia 7, and DIT offers LMA places

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

The Samsung Omnia 7 is now available in IrelandScience Week secures record participation, DIT offers 300 places on LMA, and Other Voices sells out.

Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) has announced a record participation in Science Week 2010 as over 115,000 people attended events across the country.  Science Week Ireland 2010 was also one of the most successful Science Weeks to date with 505 events taking place throughout the week, up from 449 events in 2009.

Siemens announced on Monday that Mr Kevin Moloney has been appointed as their new business manager for renewable energy for Siemens’ Energy Sector. Mr Moloney, a WIT graduate, holds an MBA in International Business from the Centre des Etudes et Recherche et Applications Management (CERAM Sophia Antipolis, France) and has spent over 15 years working in utilities industries, leading the development of new services, products and markets in energy and telecoms.

Samsung has announced that the Samsung Omnia 7 is now available in Ireland. The smartphone, available this week, will be the first device to launch from Samsung with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. The Samsung Omnia 7 features a 4-inch Super Amoled touch screen, 1GHz application processor, a 5 megapixel camera with HD recording, all packed into a sleek, slimline design with metallic finish. The device offers an exceptional entertainment experience directly on your mobile with Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming and Zune for music and video. The Samsung Omnia 7 will be available in Ireland in November.

Tickets for the Other Voices festival in Dingle sold out within ten minutes of being offered for sale and those lucky fans who managed to bag a seat in St. James’ Church must now wait to find out who will be performing for them! Having announced a raft of top acts last week, Other Voices has revealed that Ellie Goulding, Everything Everything, Anna Calvi, James Vincent McMorrow, John Smith and Ryan Sheridan have also been confirmed to make the trip to Kerry. There are still a number of special guests to be announced and the day by day running order will be made available later this week. All is not lost for those who didn’t manage to bag a golden ticket. This year, for the first time ever, Intune Networks, will undertake a world first by providing nightly live high definition screenings of all the action from St. James’ Church to seven venues across Dingle. Music lovers will still be able to take part in the Other Voices recordings and enjoy each and every performance from the comfort of a nearby barstool, pint in hand – a ‘one-up’ on the churchgoers, who must wait ‘til post show to enjoy a refreshment or two in one of the many fine hostelries in Dingle!

As part of its Labour Market Activation (LMA) programmes DIT is to offering 300 course places for those who are unemployed with 100 percent funding provided. The LMA offers a range of upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those who are unemployed and wish to enter or continue with education this year. Courses include iPhone app programming and accessible web design.

Getting to know Portable Apps

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Gerard Healy looks at how portable applications can solve problems for users moving to an unfamiliar machine.

php8rrvvzamWorking in the IT profession presents plent of problems. There is nothing more difficult than debugging an issue that you haven’t come across before on someone else’s machine. Often by looking in the obvious places like the event logs and services lists, the list of possible causes can be fairly quickly whittled down. This, however, is not always enough. Sometimes there’s a requirement to look a little deeper. This is not always possible with the standard desktop configurations found in most corporate environments and installing the required utilities for the duration of the fix (and removing afterwards) can often take longer than the fix itself. Fortunately, a simpler solution exists - Portable Apps.

Portable Apps is a free collection of applications that install directly on a standard USB memory stick thus allowing the user to carry their preferred applications and data with them between laptops and PC.  The range of applications is not limited to IT administrative tools and in fact has a large range of productivity suites, browsers, email clients, image editors and media players with the likes of VLC, Open Office, GIMP and Mozilla Firefox all available to install. This range of applications breaks the restrictive ties to one specific PC or laptop by allowing a user to bring their required applications with them on a USB memory stick.

The list of applications on the Portable Apps platform is too large to list here, however, the below list covers off some of the most useful with the full list on the Portable Apps website.

Productivity Suites

Portable Apps has a number of productivity suites available for download. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. However, the two that I feel best meet the needs are OpenOffice and Foxit Reader. OpenOffice tackles all MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint requirements while Foxit is an excellent PDF reader. I, in fact, use the full version of Foxit on my laptop.

Browsers, download managers, and VoIP

When Portable Apps initially launched, only Mozilla Firefox was available. Subsequent releases have seen the list of web browsers grown to include Opera and Chrome. Each has their own benefits and it’s most likely that you have your own favourites. In addition to browsers, portable apps offer a wide range of download managers and IM clients. The inclusion of Skype is an excellent add-on.

Media Editing

No collection of applications is complete without a good image editing tool, (and no MS Paint isn’t a good imaging editing tool) and one of the best has to be GIMP.

Media Players

As previously alluded to, I’m somewhat of a fan of VLC and portable apps include a version of the media player with the portable version included in the apps list.

Security

The list of security applications available in the Portable Apps suite is quite complete and all are well worth consideration if not inclusion. ClamWin provides free anti-virus protection, while SpyDLLRemover helps fight spyware. The Password vault tool is incredibly handy, although I wouldn’t recommend installing it on an unencrypted USB memory stick while the secure file erase tools work equally well.

Utilities

Portable Apps really comes into its own with its list of utilities. Everything from 7Zip and InfraRecorder, for file compression and disk burning, to putty, for telnet, to JkDefrag and WinDirStat, for hard disk compression and clean-up.

The list of available apps is quite long and wide ranging. More importantly, it’s ever growing. Ultimately though, cloud computing may likely render the retention of a lot of these applications on a memory stick unnecessary. There is, however, a clear use for IT pros and power users when it comes to debugging issues.

This post can also be found at Think About IT.

Retro Games: Duck Hunt

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Duck Hunt could be as frustrating as it was addictive.In the first of a new series of pieces looking back at computer games from the past, Brian Condron remembers 1984’s Duck Hunt.

In the month where Microsoft seemingly have revolutionised video game input devices with the launch of the Kinect it is worth remembering that the 1980’s had its very own version, the light gun. Contrary to today’s devices like the aforementioned Kinect and the Wiimote which detect the user from a sensor on top of the television, the light gun worked by having the user point a sensor in the gun towards a particular part of the screen. Light guns were released for all the major consoles of the era, the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64, the Sega Master System and the Atari 2600 all released their own versions to limited success. The era of the light gun even continued as far as the early 2000s, with versions being released for the PlayStation and Xbox. It wasn’t until the dawn of flat panel TV screens that the light gun passed into the history books, a basic requirement to make a light gun work is a tube television.

The most successful and arguably most famous of the light guns has to be the Zapper for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It’s bright orange colouring so beloved of children of the era was actually added to make it seem less like a real gun due to parental concerns. The most famous cameo for the NES Zapper was in Back to the Future 2 when Marty McFly demonstrates his crack shot on “Wild Gunman” but it is immediately dismissed by some locals as being a “baby’s toy” due to having to use your hands. Microsoft can take solace that by 2015 their Kinect will have demoted all other control devices however the NES Zapper will always provide you with a more reassuring sound of a spring snapping when fired, something that waving your hands will never replicate.

Without doubt the most famous NES Zapper game was “Duck Hunt”. Packaged with the Nintendo Action Set on a cartridge with the original Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt was probably the only game that most people ever had for use with their light gun. A simple game where the aim is to shoot one duck, two ducks or two clay pigeons, ably “assisted” by the infamous Duck Hunt dog. The 8 bit sounds add to the experience and give it that authentic computer game feel, something which means a lot to those who grew up in the era but will be dismissed outright by those either a few years older or younger.

A whole generation will have mixed feelings about that Duck Hunt dog, from his triumphant holding up of any ducks successfully shot to the way he mocks you by giggling at your misses. Never has a video game character left such as lasting impression on society, to some every time a mistake is made in later life they still in their minds eye see his giggles. “Shoot the dog” became a rallying cry, however this was not possible in the game. Rumours of a cheat to allow this spread like wildfire throughout the pre-internet world of the 10 year old. Even though my friend’s brother swore that he saw his friend shoot the dog this rumour is about as accurate as the one that Paul from The Wonder Years is Marilyn Manson. The arcade version of the game “Vs. Duck Hunt” DID allow you to shoot the dog, however in the NES version such a move was impossible. A generation of computer programmers were probably influenced to pursue their career path by the chance of Kobayashi Maru’ing their way into finally shooting the dog judging by the amount of hacks where it is possible floating around the net.

The main question about Duck Hunt is of course, should you bother raiding the attic to give it another go. Well the nature of the light gun means that emulating the game won’t give you much of the feel of the original, however unless you also want to bring your old tube television down from the attic you won’t get this game to work. The game is fun for the nostalgia factor alone, it’s worth having as novelty at a house party but it gets repetitive very fast. It doesn’t even have the satisfaction of finally clearing that game you never did as a child, upon finishing round 99 the game glitches, making it impossible to shoot another duck. So no matter how skilful you become at getting those ducks it will always end up the same way, being laughed at by that stupid mutt.

The Weekly Record: Damovo wins DIT contract, Espion makes Fast 50, and Facebook takes some unwarranted blame

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

The Juicy Couture pink cover. Whatever else you may say about it, it certainly makes it easier to spot if you misplace it.Damovo strikes €100k deal with DIT, Deloitte names Espion in Fast 50, and some strking iPhone 4 covers.

Unified communications provider Damovo has landed a three year deal worth €100,000 to provide a 10GB network to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). The network will be managed by Damovo to aid research and learning for DIT’s 2,000 staff and 20,000 students.

In fun green news, IT Force has been certified as a carbon neutral firm.  The IT outsourcing provider will neutralise over 66 tonnes of CO2 in the first year of this certification. IT Force’s CarbonNeutral programme was developed in consultation with The CarbonNeutral Company. IT Force’s carbon footprint was measured by the certification firm and it has advised IT Force how to reduce emissions across the business through internal operations and investment in offsetting projects.

IT security firm Espion has been included for the fifth consecutive year in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in Ireland. Rankings are based on average percentage revenue growth over five years. “For almost a decade, Espion has focused on helping organisations secure the information that is critical to their operations,” said the company’s managing director Colman Morrissey. “The risks that threaten information integrity and availability have become an issue at both senior management and board level. Our clients value the level of expertise and experience we have and know that by working with us the information so critical to them is secured.” The Fast 50 programme, now in its 11th year in Ireland, ranks the fastest-growing technology companies in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Samsung has announced the arrival of the Android 2.2 (Froyo) upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S, giving users access to new features. The key benefits include improved browser performance, an updated menu, a voice navigation facility for Google Maps, and Adobe Flash Player 10.1.

Irish mobile phone and accessories distributor, CTC, has announced the arrival of new Juicy Couture iPhone 4 covers. Juicy Couture is famous for its high fashion handbags, shoes and jewellery and this is the first time it has entered the mobile accessories market. “This is an ideal stocking filler for the fashionista in your life,” said Graham Doyle, director, CTC Ireland. The covers, made by Contour Design, are available in two different designs, pink and brown. They are, to say the least, striking in their colour scheme. The covers are exclusive to O2 stores and are available now.

Visa Europe has entered a new partnership with the University College Dublin Centre for Cybercrime Investigation (UCD CCI) to undertake forensic investigation into high tech financial crimes and cybercrime. The partnership will see UCD CCI assist Visa Europe with criminal investigations. The centre will also work on research and development to help develop new security features and to support in the development of training courses for judges and prosecutors. “Security is fundamental to Visa Europe’s business. By keeping the payments system secure, we protect cardholders, retailers and our members,” said Valerie Dias, chief risk officer with Visa Europe. “Fraud and business risk are constantly changing, but we are winning the war against fraud by offering multiple layers of protection.”

The Irish Internet Association (IIA) has added two new members to its board. David Kerr, managing director of personal finance firm Bonkers Money, and Jermain ‘Jazz’ Williams of Dialogue Marketing have both been named as new directors on the IIA board.

And finally…You probably don’t know who Elliott Subervi is but the New Jersey native is using an excuse even less plausible than anything Tiger Woods ever said to explain away his marital problems. Mr Subervi’s wife got rather jealous when it turned out he had 2,000 female friends on Facebook. Subervi deleted his account after receiving a deluge of emails and messages from girls giving him their contact details. “I didn’t want to cheat on my wife, but these women were throwing themselves at me. They were coming on a little too strong. I could see infidelity being eventual,” he told the New York Post. Let’s get this straight; he joins Facebook, adds/accepts a load of female friends, they rather unsurprisingly send him messages, and the next step is that he just assumes infidelity is eventual and Facebook is to blame rather than his own actions. Any readers who want to find this ’smooth operator’ online will be out luck as he’s scrapped his Facebook page.

Linux, why it’s still a dirty word

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Not Gerard HealyGerard Healy looks into the image problems Linux still suffers amongst less tech-savvy users, despite being around for almost 20 years.

The rate of development in IT is astonishing quick. In any other discipline Moore’s Law would be laughed at but for IT, there isn’t a stronger greater fact. With that in mind, I often, when thinking about the evolution of IT, find my mind wandering to the opening sentences to so many a great story - both book and film, “Many years/ centuries/eons ago…”.

Today we are rapidity actualising the dreams of science fiction - motion control, touch screens, hand-held computers, etc. Uptake of technology is increasingly rapid. Smart phone sales are expected to hit 1 billion by 2015, there’s a laptop, PC or tablet in most homes. More and more of us spend an increasing amount of time in front of a computer each day. In fact, this generation has been recognised as the first generation to watch less television than its immediate predecessor. Yet funnily enough, some things never change, like the general perceptions of Linux and Unix.

A long, long time ago, all computer were command line based. Everything was done by entering commands. Often these commands appeared to be nothing more than a series of random letters (anyone care to guess what alias chkbkp=’tar -zcvpf bin.tgz bin; [ $? -eq 0 ] && echo DONE || echo FAIL’ means?). It was all very confusing. Of course necessity breeds innovation and eventually a novel idea was born - graphical user interfaces or GUIs for short. Instead of typing commands, users could point-and-click to launch programs, print documents or shut down machines. It proved the rule that the best ideas seem the simplest.

Plenty of Linux OSs were GUI-based but Microsoft’s marketing of Windows 3.0 ensured that it became the new de facto standard and the PC was born. Strangely this marketing campaign still blights the opinion of Linux after almost 20 years. Even the very mention of the word scares and confuses people. Unsurprisingly little of those fears actually represent the reality of Linux today. The likes of Ubuntu look almost identical and are just as easy to use. Sure there are slight differences but they are on a par with moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 and anyone who uses a smart phone can have no argument as it is probably running one of Android, Symbian, iOS or Windows Mobile, all of which are significantly different to the version Windows deployed on their PC.

Of course the other major misconception is that you can#t get any programs to run on Linux. This comes from the days when you had to walk into a PC shop to buy your software before the advent of broadband and software downloads. Again taking the Ubuntu example, there is an app store in the works which will simply the process of finding all the applications that you need. Even before the store launches, it’s still easy to find everything needed - they’re all a Google search away and websites like download.com have loads of free applications. I would even go so far as to say that the advent of web apps and cloud computing has all but eliminated this perceived problem anyway. Web apps and cloud computing are accessed through web browser and are in no way dependent on what OS you are running.

Finally, the greatest justification and defence of Windows is that support is readily available. Any and every IT support company will support Windows, power users are common place and most will have used some flavour or another at some point. Support for Linux was traditionally a little trickier. That’s no longer the case. Email and live chat help desks support exists for most flavours of Linux and there’s plenty of IT geeks who would be a lot quicker to say yes when asked for help with a Linux laptop.

Ultimately it comes down to this though. People are generally scared of something new and old perceptions are hard to shake, no matter how wrong they are. Hopefully, it won’t take eons for people to try Linux themselves.

This post can also be found at Think About IT.