I was waking down Camden Street in Dublin today when I came across this colourful and rather unique form of promotion for 4fm’s Gareth O’Callaghan.
This is not a billboard or a poster, but a branded tarpaulin, attached to the front of a derelict building, seemingly with the permission of the property owner, to hide the very ugly vandalised shell of a ground floor shop. The tarp has a notation on the bottom explaining that it is a temporary fixture.
Great way to get your message across, and perform a community service by masking a ruined structure at the same time . .
I wonder if we’ll see more of these?
20 years on from the most terrifying morning of my life . . aground on the Goodwin Sands with hopes of rescue seemingly dashed as the crew of the Ross Revenge shook hands and prepared for the ship to roll over . . .
Seven Towers Agency, East Wall for All and The Sean O’Casey Community Centre present:
Radio Caroline, former Phantom FM DJ and Best Selling Author
Reading from his book
Shiprocked, Life on the Waves With Radio Caroline
Sean O’Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin.
7pm Monday 21 November
free parking, admission free
20 Years ago this November, Dubliner and East Wall resident Steve Conway survived the shipwreck of the Ross Revenge, the last of the Radio Caroline off-shore Radio Ships. Reading from his book, Shiprocked he tells of this event and of his life on the famous Pirate Station, Radio Caroline.
Steve will also read a preview excerpt from his new book, due out next year, that covers his career beyond Caroline, including the 10 years spent working for Dublin’s alternative station Phantom FM / Phantom 105.2
This event is free, but an opportunity will be available to give donations and to RNLI and Sean O’Casey Community Centre.
The iPhone 4s has arrived in Ireland from October 28th, bringing the upgraded specs and the new “Intelligent Assistant” Siri to the Republic’s smartphone soaked market.
The improved camera and processor will be welcomed by those trading up, but how does Siri cope with Irish placenames, and an Irish accent? Is it just a gimmick, or a useful interface for the phone? I put it though its paces with some surprising results, including new weapons technology and a gift for diplomacy.
The iPhone 4 has been reviewed in a million places by people much better than I at judging the smartphone market, so this piece is really focussed on:
- How it feels for me upgrading from a 3GS
- Playing with Siri (for fun)
- Working with Siri (will it do practical stuff for me?)
- Siri and the local market (Irish accent/placenames)
If you’re used to the iPhone anyway (and especially if you have already used iOS5 on your older phone) the 4S will be very easy to adapt to – everything is pretty much in the same place, just with extra bells and whistles.
I was moving from a 3GS and found the experience absolutely painless – it takes a while to go through the activation process, but when it is finished, everything has been copied across from your old phone (if that’s what you choose to do) including all your photos, music, apps, favourites etc. The only thing you will need to do is a once-off re-entry of passwords for things such as your Apple ID, email, Google+ etc. (this is a positive – you wouldn’t want someone to be able to access these simply by hooking up to your computer and migrating your data).
In my hands the phone feels much the same, perhaps a little lighter, and certainly more square. I’m not sure I like the new style of volume buttons, they seem easy to mishandle when simply holding the phone.
Reception seems to me to be identical to my 3GS in difficult places such as my front room, which is in a communications death-zone and only ever gets 1 bar (even right back to my Nokia N95 days).
I have seen today reports of 4S users experiencing battery-life issues, however I’m not in a position to say if this affects my 4S, as I’ve had it on and off the laptop several times during the day doing various tests and copying stuff. I think it is possible that the battery on standby is dropping a little faster than I might expect, but I’ll need another couple of days to confirm that. If some sort of an OS bug is responsible, it should be easily addressed by a patch in any case.
UPDATE: Don’t seem to have the battery issue myself – tested today, 6 hours on standby with 3G, Wifi, Siri and Location Services enabled, dropped 8% in the 6 hours.
The new camera, by the way, is excellent, and the jump in quality from my older 3GS is especially evident. I’ve not had time to try out the video yet.
AND SO TO SIRI
Siri is the new voice-activated “intelligent assistant” on the iPhone, and the bar that it has to jump for me is not speech recognition itself (such systems have been around for decades, albeit clunky in some cases) but accuracy and more vitally, practical usefullness. By which I mean, yes, it’s fine to have fun playing with the system by having offball conversations, but does it actually do useful stuff that I would need on an everyday basis?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. (I say surprisingly because I’ve used voice recognition systems in the past, particularly on the Mac 12 or 13 years ago, and while they were fun, they took a lot of effort for very little useful return).
But Siri is on the way to greatness. Not brilliant, yet, because it has a few minor glitches, but there is without doubt a set of useful functions already, and this is just the beta version.
So what can it do?
Well let me start with one tiny, tiny thing, that just on its own makes it worthwhile for me.
It’s 7.30am, it’s a bitterly cold morning, and I am trudging up the hill to work, with my iPhone buried deep in an inner pocket to protect it from the rain. I have 12,000 tracks currently in my collection, and am buying new albums at the rate of three or four a week, plus receiving many as promos, and there are simply many tracks on my system that I do not know yet. Even if I know I am listening to the new Florence album, it’s my first time hearing it, and I want to know what the current track is called.
No more stopping and fishing out the phone in the rain to see what’s playing – a simple squeeze of my earphone button and Siri asks me what i want, and gives me the info, then goes back to playing the song. Simple as that. (whatever you ask Siri, and its spoken response to you is echoed on the screen too, as above).
Likewise, if I suddenly get a gra for some Nine Inch Nails while walking up that hill, a quick squeeze to summon Siry, a simple command “Play Nine Inch Nails” or, if I want an actual track “Play Metallica, Nothing Else Matters” and it is straight on.
This works with other content like podcasts too – I tried it with “Play Podcast Feedback” and it had the latest unlistened episode of the Radio 4 show playing instantly.
Likewise texting, or sending emails.
Simply say “Text” and it will ask you for the receipient, then the content, and then read it back to you, and ask if you want it sent, changed or cancelled. (You can also speed it up, for example, by specifying “Text Steve Conway” and it will then only need the content. This works well for texts, but for emails it tends to only grab what you are saying until the first pause, and then make it the content of the email, which you can only change in its entirity, not add to.
For emails the way round this is to go into email editing mode, and a microphone symbol appears, you can press this and create your email in chunks. An ability to add to existing content on an email when in fully automatic mode would be good.
The system can read incoming texts out to you, and ask if you want to reply, but this feature is not available for emails – yet.
Likewise, it is easy to set reminders or schedule meetings.
SIRI IN IRELAND
So how accurate is the speech recognition? How does it cope in Ireland?
The answer is “pretty well” – it seems to have little trouble accepting my commands and emails, and it even copes with Dublin placenames well enough. The few times it flaked out on me were usually in situations where it understood my words, but not what I actually wanted (it will search for such things on the web if you want).
Below is a test I set the phone for an email with a mixture of Irish placenames and surnames.
First is what I dictated:
Hi Steve here’s the plan.
We meet in the city centre at 8pm and then travel out via Stillorgan to Dun laoghaire on the 46A, after that we can try O’Shaugnesseys, take a walk along the pier, and then go back into town for dinner.
If you can’t make it please send me text, regards Steve
Below is what Siri typed – incorrect parts highlighted red.
Hi Steve here’s the plan
We meet in the city centre at 8 PM and then travel out via Stillorgan to Dun Laoghaire under 40 succes after that recanted electroshock missiles take a walk along the pier and then go back to town for dinner
If you can make it please send me text regards Steve
Recanted elctroshock missiles? . .
Having said that, Irish surnames are probably a trial for any AI software!
So in review, a very useful tool, will certainly be used by me day to day, and will hopefully get better with upgrades.
Now we’ve done the work, let’s have a little fun:
1> Let’s talk about nature . .
2> – One of Siri’s rare failures, I was trying to educate it on how to find the best alternative music in Dublin, but it had Christmas on its mind . .
3> – Now lets ask it the big question.
OK, how about coming down on one or other side of a current politica; / social divide?
So there you have it. It can copy with the irish voice, knows our placenames, but can’t quite get the hang of our pub names yet . .
All in all, a great upgrade from the 3GS, and a genuinely useful voice interface.
Phantom 105.2 – increased reach in latest figures
RTE steady nationally
Good first year for Nova
4fm struggles in Dublin but gains 2% in Cork
The latest JNLR figures reporting Irish radio audiences have been published today, covering the period October 2010 to September 2011.
As always, for the full result tables your should visit the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland website.
Figures produced & published by JNLR/Ipsos MRBI 2011/3
All changes are compared to 1 year ago.
*** THIS PART OF THE REPORT LOOKS AT “LISTENED YESTERDAY” REACH ***
National stations steady on “Listened Yesterday”
All RTE and Commercial stations held their % reach of “All Adults 15+” in the results, with overall reach down slightly by 1% spread across the total for these stations.
Listened at all 84% (down 1%)
No change on individual national stations:
Any RTE Radio was listened to by 35%
RTE Radio 1 by 25%
RTE 2FM 11%
RTE Lyric 3%
Today FM 13%
Any Local/Regional/Multi City 58%
DUBLIN – First results give Nova 5% and see Phantom overtake 4fm (in “listened yesterday” reach, though it’s the other way round in % share)
Listened at all 85% (-1%)
Any RTE 37% (no change)
RTE Radio 1 31% (no change)
RTE 2FM 8% (-1%)
RTE Lyric FM 6% (+1%)
Today FM 10% (+1%)
Newstalk 12% (no change)
Any non-national 53% (no change)
4fm 2% (no change)
Radio Nova 5% (first result)
98FM 13% (no change)
FM104 20% (-1%)
Q102 13% (no change)
Sunshine 106.8 3% (-1%)
Spin1038 14% (-1%)
Phantom 105.2 3% (+1%)
MULTI-CITY: 4fm score 3% overall, with an impressive 7% in Cork (up 2%) but is stuck on 2% in the Dublin market.
*** THIS PART OF THE REPORT LOOKS AT SHARE OF TOTAL LISTENING ***
Share of audience listening (% share of all the time listened) shows more movement that the simple reach (how many people listened to you).
Any national 46% (+0.6%)
Any RTE 33% (no change)
RTE Radio 1 23.3% (-0.2%)
RTE 2FM 7.4% (+0.1%)
RTE Lyric 1.8% (+0.2%)
Today FM 9.1% (+0.2%)
Newstalk 4.4% (+0.3%)
Any Non National 53.3% (-0.6%)
Any National 54.8 % (no change)
Any Non-National 45.2% (no change)
Any RTE 40.8% (-1.1%)
RTE Radio 1 31.4% (-1.2%)
RTE 2FM 5.8% (no change)
RTE Lyric 3.4% (+0.2%)
Today FM 6.8% (+0.6%)
Newstalk 7.1% (+0.3%)
4fm 1.1% (+0.3%)
Radio Nova 3.3% (first result)
98FM 9.5% (+0.5%)
FM104 11.4% (-1.0%)
Q102 10.3% (-0.4%)
Sunshine 106.8 2.3% (-0.1%)
Spin 1038 5.9% (no change)
Phantom 105.2 0.8% (no change)
As always, for the full result tables your should visit the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland website.
Figures produced & published by JNLR/Ipsos MRBI 2011/3
Steve digs out his photos of the construction of South Dublin’s fashionable (and flooded) mall, and remembers what it was they built on top of . .
The dramatic scenes of water bursting into the upmarket Dundrum Town Centre mall were some of the defining images of the Dublin floods of October 2011, and the front page picture from todays Irish Times shows how badly the centre has been affected. Since its opening six years ago it has been my favourite of the Dublin suburban shopping centres, but its devastation by floods does not surprise me as a local with intimate knowledge of the grography that it replaced.
It could be, in fact, a perfect example of of the boom years building frenzy taken to its logical consequences, as the building of hundreds of apartments close by in the following years helped seal its fate.
The village of Dundrum has always perched on a slope at the bottom end of a narrow valley, with a good-sized stream (or small river) running through it. Various complexes lined the high ground on one side of the valley – the old PYE Television factory, later industrial estate, the 1970s original Dundrum Shopping Centre, and the old H Williams store at the southern end (which became Super Crazy Prices, and then Tesco). But the bottom of the valley and the river was always left pretty much wild, and I used to roam along its length in my childhood years, fancying myself as a fearless explorer as I waded upstream and forced my way through undergrowth.
In more recent years, as I made my way to work on a sluggish 48A in 2000 and 2001, the glimpse of the stream surrounded by green land as we crossed over the valley on the Ballinteer Road bridge just before the crossroads always gave a little glimpse of forgotten rural idyll. Until the day the bulldozers moved in, and they started building.
Here is a shot I took sometime during 2001 or 2002 which shows both Dundrum Town Centre and the Dundrum Bypass under construction. The picture is taken from a temporary pedestrian bridge over the valley errected during the period when Ballinteer Road was closed to traffic as a new, wider road bridge was built complete with car-park ramp downwards into the centre.
On the left is where Dundrum Town Centre now stands, and you can see the spot where the underground car-parks and delivery section join the bypass.
The valley floor has been leveled, and the stream boxed in, ready to be buried underneath the new development in a culvert.
When this photo was taken, it had been dry for a good period, and the stream was low, however it often ran much higher in wet periods. Nevertheless, the culvert once roofed would seem more than proof against even a four or fivefold increase in flow during very rainy periods.
However, in the years following the completion of the centre, hundreds if not thousands of apartments in dozens of new developments were built upstream, with much of the run-off from all these acres of new concrete flowing into the stream or the local drainage system. The huge flow of water from the Ticknock Hill development alone can be seen during wet periods cascading down a series of steps beside the M50 junction, and into the watercourse of this stream. Plus, all of the green land that lay undisturbed in this little valley is now built over, no longer able to absorb rainfall and run-off.
In the exceptional rainfall of the last 24 hours, when a months rain fell in a day, once the culvert was at full capacity, where else could the water go?
I’m not saying the planners failed here, this is an exceptional event, but perhaps, when we have building booms in future, we should be looking at things like runoff in the context of what else will be built in the area later, and planning for “once in 80 year” events.
Yes it will cost. But as much as the damage that now needs to be made good?
I had an hour to spare on Saturday, unexpectedly, and I used it to wander out the North Bull Wall past Dollymount Strand and into the bay. The view from there is urban, across the port to the longer South Wall, and then beyond it to the south city and the Dublin Mountains, but it’s lovely all the same. I’ve biked and walked and climbed over every inch of that city and those hills in my childhood, and they are as much a part of me as my DNA.
It was a typical “Dublin Day” on Saturday – overcast but not wet, a fresh breeze from the southwest scudding the multitude of low-hanging clouds across the landscape, just scraping the hilltops. It was cool without being cold, and the day held enough promise of rain to deter the noisy crowds who normally throng the beach without actually releasing any rain.
The sea, that sky, those hills . . I can remember a thousand Dublin days just like it while growing up.
I found a little rock to sit on and just drank all this in for a long time, relishing a moment of passive enjoyment of place which I indulge in far to rarely these days. It was good for recharging the soul.
I drive myself too fast to do too many things these days, and forget sometimes to stop and enjoy the smell or the roses, the kiss of the rain on my cheek. A fulltime and senior job in the IT world with much pressure, a book to be written, another half done, short stories and poems bubbling up as well, two radio shows to be planned and recorded each week, and several other projects on the boil. I’m never bored, and I love it, but all the same . . I musn’t forget to feed my soul as well as my career(s).
All those years ago, as a schoolboy, I remember enjoying the poetry of Robert Frost. Two poems in particular stuck in my mind through adulthood.
“The Road Not Taken” was my favourite, and was both a guide to my choices and a description of my life for many years, and I hope, still now.
“But I, I took the road less travelled by
And that has made all the difference”
But it is another poem of Frosts that comes into my mind much more frequently these days: “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening“
As a boy I loved it for its description of dark snowy woods, ripe for exploration, and wondered why the adult, who so obviously found them allureing, yet chose not to tarry.
But now, in a busy life, I find myself thinking of that last verse much more often, in the full understanding of the adult’s responsibilities that force him to cut short his simple pleasure and drive on.
As I sit there looking across the bay at those could-capped hills and the domains of my childhood, I resolve to try to take more “time out” for myself and try to make just a bit of space in a busy world for watching snowy woods.
But not now. There is a man I have to meet at 1pm in East Wall, and then its off to Loughlinstown where I have several hours work awaiting me.
I get up to walk back to the car, happy that I have just gifted myself a lovely September moment of pleasure.
I’d like to stay longer, but I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
Today saw the debut of Classic Hits 4FM‘s new lineup, and the move of Gareth O’Callaghan to a new afternoon/drive slot, running from 3-7pm.
I’m not normally near a radio mid-afternoon, but I made a special effort to tune in today, as I really wanted to hear how Gareth sounded on the new show. He did a superb job on breakfast for the last two years, but freed from some of the more serious morning gloom (the last two years has seen Ireland waking up to ever more depressing morning news bulletins) he is really free to shine, and that he does.
Afternoons is Gareth’s old home from his RTE 2FM days, and he certainly sounded comfortable as well as hugely energised on the new show. And I’m pleased to see that his fellow ex-Sunshine newsreader Cathy Creegan has moved with him – they blend well together.
I’m not usually a music listener at drivetime – the news programmes on RTE Radio 1 or BBC Radio 4 usually have a hold on me – but listening to Gareth coming stomping out of the 5pm bulletin with Prince’s Raspberry Beret reminded me just how good a good drivetime show can be, and made me think that I might be tempted away from the speech stations more often in future.
Gareth O’Callaghan can be heard on Classic Hits 4fm each weekday from 3-7pm in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and via www.4fm.ie