Technology: Report from the Microsoft Showcase 2013

Originally published by, Monday 7th October, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Microsoft’s Surface Pro

WHILE Microsoft’s shareholders may be lobbying for Bill Gates to step down from his position as chairman of the board, there was neither mention nor any sign of the rumoured turmoil in the upper echelons of Microsoft at Microsoft’s Showcase in Dublin, this week. Instead, the focus was very much on Microsoft’s much- needed catching up in the smartphone and tablets market. As Microsoft roll out the Surface Pro 2 and the Nokia Lumia 1020- a powerful smartphone that runs Windows 8 and boasts a 41 megapixel camera- the tech powerhouse was sparing no expense.

With a raft of celebrity names endorsing Microsoft products, the focus was very much on how busy and successful people in Irish life use Microsoft devices to keep their professional lives afloat and make their working lives that little bit easier.


Representing the sporting community, Bernard Dunne- former champion boxer, occasional sports pundit, the Dublin GAA football team’s performance and lifestyle coach and much else besides- shed a little light on how important Microsoft’s Surface Pro has been in his work life and his home life.

“I have to say, the Surface itself is great not just for me, but for my kids, too. They play a lot of the games on the Surface, but I’ve locked it with the child safety lock so that they can’t access my files and start deleting stuff!

“Between doing TV work, working with the Dubs, working as an ambassador for Microsoft and doing much else besides, I’m always on the move. I use OneNote quite a lot. I’ll speak into OneNote on my phone and, straight away, it updates my Surface. So when I log on to the Surface at home, I have notes on there that I could otherwise have easily forgotten.”

Dunne’s special praise for Microsoft’s Surface Pro gave an insight into how technology has advanced the work of any sports journalist, pundit or coach; all roles that the Dubliner has found himself in over the years.

“The Surface is also great for all work that I do with the Dubs. I could be on a bus on my way to Donegal and, straight away, I can look at videos of previous games and even look at video footage that I captured of the game that was just played and take notes for analysis.”

Though the self- described sports fanatic could talk all day about the All- Ireland winning Dubs and his return to the camp in January for next year’s campaign, Dunne reserves special attention for his first love: boxing.

“In boxing, technology has been a major game- changer. Boxing is so reliant on stats. Young boxers are now using technology- computers, tablets, smartphones- to keep diaries of what they’re eating, how hard they’re training, how they felt the next morning after a sparring session or a fight…athletes are now keeping track of their whole days with tablets, smartphones and computers.

“In fact, athletes can now keep track of what they’re eating for their dieticians on devices: they can go straight into OneNote, talk into their smartphone after having eaten a meal and log everything that they’ve eaten that day. And that’s it: it’s on your Surface when you go home and you can send it away to the dietician.”

Outside of sports, Dunne has also found use for the Surface, particularly for his love of the Irish language and top- notch telly.

“I also use it a lot for all the Irish language stuff that I’ve done: I use SkyDrive quite a lot for the Irish language stuff, so I can access my files on the move, wherever I am.

“It’s also great for watching TV in bed, too. I use the NetFlix app on the Surface quite a lot. I’m currently on season 4 of Breaking Bad. There’s just so much that you can do with it.”


The emphasis wasn’t just on sports, however. Travel was well represented by Webby award- winning video- blogger, social media marketer and travel addict Colm Hanratty. Singling out Nokia’s Lumia 1020 for special praise, the Drogheda man waxed lyrical about how the dynamics of travelling have changed beyond all recognition of the past 10 years and emphasized the power of the Windows 8- powered Lumia 1020. Gone are the days when the hapless tourist would be noticeable by their struggling to manage a large, fold- out map, a guide book nestled under their arm: smartphones, argues Hanratty, are now the ultimate all- in- one tool for travel addicts and tourists alike.

“The Internet has changed travel and the dynamics of travelling beyond all recognition. There’s still a market for your high street tour operator, like Sunway, or whomever, but I think that the Internet has empowered people to do research on destinations in a much better way that wasn’t possible 10-15 years ago. Back then, you were at the mercy of Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books; effectively the opinions of a handful of people. TripAdvisor is now taking over from Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books. TripAdvisor has got more user generated content, in terms of travel, more than anyone else, but what people can also do is can turn to their friends: a week or two before going to New York, a person can send out a tweet or a Facebook status update and appeal for recommendations for restaurants and bars…none of this was possible- on the scale that it’s now commonly done, every day- 10 – 15 years ago. Incredible changes have happened.”

Naming five essential apps that no- one now traveling or emigrating should be without, Hanratty mentioned Skype, Google Maps, Facebook, TripAdvisor and Instagram as must- haves for home birds and travel addicts alike.

Demonstrating the sheer power of the Nokia Lumia 1020, Hanratty hooked his device up to a projector and showed the files of two presentations that he was due to give in the days following the Microsoft Showcase. Like Bernard Dunne, Hanratty spoke glowingly of SkyDrive and OneNote.


The culinary community was represented by American- born, Irish- based chef, restaurateur and foodie Katie Cantwell of KC Peaches. Speaking about her favorite app to use on her Microsoft Surface Pro, the Seattle, Washington native singled- out Saveur magazine’s app: “It’s awesome. It’s really dynamic, it does everything that the website does, in terms of recipes and ideas, but it’s much more dynamic than the website. I would use the website a lot for references, use ideas for recipes, cooking techniques, etc. So the app on the Surface is a lot more dynamic than that, I really like the experience of being interactive with the machine: it stands really well and it works at a angle that makes it easy to cook and pay attention to videos and recipes at the same time.”

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how technology has empowered those in the sporting, media and culinary elite in Ireland. Sure: technology, at the best of times, makes everyone’s life that little bit easier, though the common perception that those in the media and sporting elite are served best by a raft of PA’s and handlers around them, who manage every task, was immediately dispelled at Microsoft’s Dublin Showcase. And while things may not be as rosy in the offices of Microsoft’s Seattle HQ and with the tech giant still attempting to gain ground in the smartphone and tablet markets, the feeling all- round seems to be that Microsoft is on the start of a new journey: that the Surface Pro 2 and the Windows 8- powered Nokia Lumia 1020 might just save the day; something that should give those disgruntled shareholders in Microsoft plenty to think about.

From Page to Screen / From Screen to Page: WritersWebTV Launches in Dublin, Today

WritersWebTV: A fresh, vibrant, Irish start- up that’s thinking outside the box.

LAUNCHING their website today, WritersWebTV is about to turn the creative writing industry on its head and offer a fresh challenge to those already working in the industry and, in a broader sense, those working in the arts in Ireland.

Established by Live Training Ltd., WritersWebTV is a new Irish start- up originating in Dublin, having developed what can only be described as a world- first innovation in online education and resources for writers. WritersWebTV will be live- streaming interactive creative writing workshops from a multi- camera broadcast studio in Dublin, from Saturday 28th September. The inaugural workshop will be Writing for Children and Young Adults.

With workshops led by Vanessa O’Loughlin (founder of, an in- studio panel will consider key elements of fiction writing and furnish viewers with tips, advice and actionable insights to help them improve their writing and get it on the path to publication.

Vanessa O’Loughlin: WritersWebTV workshop facilitator and founder of

Mrs O’Loughlin will lead the workshops in front of a limited in- studio audience of aspiring writers, as well as online viewers who can ask questions, participate in workshop exercises and comment online through Twitter, Facebook and email, with aspiring writers receiving on- screen feedback from in- studio writers and tutors.

Viewers can watch full, one- day workshops free of charge on WritersWebTV, when viewed live; to watch or revisit the course at a later date, viewers will be charged for a video workshop / tutorial / course, which viewers can keep and re-watch indefinitely.

Personally, I predict that the model that WritersWebTV have developed may very well set the precedent for existing MA Creative Writing programs, which already offer off- campus online programs for international students, though without the level of slick, sophisticated, broadcast quality offered by WritersWebTV.

I also believe that Moodle courses will soon be considered outmoded and obsolete if writers’ centres, universities, publishing houses and self- employed creative writing tutors follow the WritersWebTV model, which they may very well do in the years ahead.

If WritersWebTV achieves only one thing, though, it may be that it puts paid to the excuses that aspiring writers often contrive for their lack of creative output: “I have young children and they take up all my time. I can never make workshops in town.” / “I don’t have the time to write.” / “I can’t find a workshop that works for me”. Yep, I’ve heard ’em all, too.

So is WritersWebTV another gimmick from the creative writing / publishing / arts industries, or is it the model that will define the future of the creative writing / publishing / arts industries?

Would you, as an aspiring writer, use WritersWebTV?

Comment is free.

Technology: 5 Apps of the Week

Originally published by, Thursday 8th August, 2013. To read the original, please click here

More apps than you can shake an iPhone at…

It’s time for us to whet your appetite with the most trendy new apps on the block.

Below are 5 apps for you to download and play with over the weekend. Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to download these apps and let us know your thoughts on how fun and useful they are. (iOS, Android) (iOS, Android)

While has been available on iOS devices for some time, it’s just been made available on Android devices. Essentially a “de-cluttering” app, combines messaging, emailing and social networking and reigns in all of your contacts across all platforms one, multi-layered app.

BlaBlaCar (iOS, Android)

Perhaps the ultimate car-pooling app, BlaBlaCar is for everyone:, whether you’re someone who likes company when they’re driving long distances, whether you are conscious about the environment or if you just want to save a bit of dosh on fuel. What’s so great about BlaBlaCar is that you can connect instantly with people who are traveling in the same direction as you. What’s more you can choose travel companions based on whether or not they smoke, what they do for a living and even their musical tastes. It’s definitely an app for anyone traveling around Ireland or going to a music festival over the summer months.

Thunderspace (iOS)

The long-overdue heat wave that has blessed us with its presence, in recent weeks, has given us all cause to sit out in the sun and relax. An app that uses an Emmy-award winning nature soundtrack to suit a variety of different moods, Thunderspace creates an environment that is nothing other than chilled, calm and dreamlike. Perfect for anyone winding down after a hectic week at work.

Polamatic by Polaroid (iOS, Android)

Polamatic by Polaroid (iOS, Android)

True, there are more photo apps available, now, than any one person would ever find the time to use and one app is generally all you need. For many, Instagram already offers the vintage feel and nostalgia of old photos. So what use is Polaroid’s Polamatic app? Well, Polamatic has all the filters, borders and captions that defined Polaroid’s iconic product, allowing you to choose from 24 different fonts and text customization options. If you’re as nostalgic for old Polaroid as I am, this one’s for you.

Waze (iOS, Android)

Recently the subject of a bidding war between Facebook and Google, Waze was eventually snapped up by Google for $1bn (Yes, you read that correctly). Essentially a social-sat-nav app, Waze, like Wikipedia, relies on user input to update map locations – restaurants, bars, venues, etc. – to make digital maps more accurate and more integrated with other social media platforms and other users. It also allows user to provide real-time, up-to-date traffic warnings. This app could definitely be a game-changer.

Technology: Can the Lumia 1020 bring Nokia back to the top of the mobile phone market?

Originally published by, Wednesday 17th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Nokia’s Lumia 1020: The Finnish communications firm’s latest attempt to compete against Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market

If you had a mobile phone five to ten years ago – less, perhaps – chances are that the mobile phone that you owned was a Nokia. The Finnish communications giant dominated the market like no other company in its field, leaving Siemens and many other competitors trailing far behind. Ten years ago, the Nokia 3310 (remember those? I bet that you had one) was one of the biggest selling mobile phones in the world, and Nokia’s most recognisable device.

That’s why it’s so surprising that, in recent years, Nokia was so astonishingly slow to adapt to the smartphone revolution led by Apple and Samsung. Yes, it launched the Lumia 920 Windows Phone and its successors, the 925 and the 928, but not one of these products posed any real threat to Apple or Samsung; all of this, however, could be about to change.

Last week, Nokia rolled out the Lumia 1020, its most ambitious product yet, to compete directly with Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market. The Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone won’t hit our shores until September, but will retail in the US at about $299, placing it at about $100 more expensive than it’s competitors.

Here’s the spec:

– 41 Megapixel camera, which will have the potential to record video in 1080p and a Xenon flash
– 3X zoom and six-lens camera, and secondary camera with wide-angle lens
– 4.5″ AMOLED HD+ display with resolution of 1280×768
– Screen made of Gorilla Glass 3
– 1.5GHz dual-core processor supplied by Snapdragon
– 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory.
– Talk-time of 13.3 hours on 3G, extending to 16 days standby time
– Available in three different colors: black, white and yellow
– Optional camera grip and tripod attachment, and dedicated shutter button

The biggest draw for 90% of potential buyers will be the 41MP camera, which will also record video in 1080p. The Finnish tech giant clearly understands that most smartphone users take full advantage of the camera on their phones. The only drawback to all of this, however, is that Windows Phones are thin on those photo and video apps that are almost synonymous with Apple and Samsung devices – apps such as Instagram, for example.

So would you be tempted in any way to buy the Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone? Would you convert from the Apple iPhone / Samsung Android devices?

Let me know your thoughts.


Technology: Apps of the Week

Originally published by, Friday 5th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

More apps than you shake a smartphone at.

and we’re feeling very appy. Geddit? Some new apps for you to download and play with over the weekend.


On the week of its first anniversary of going live in Ireland, Hailo, the taxi app that is used by over 4,000 Joe Maxis in Dublin alone, has launched its Cork version this week, which will be used by over 200 taxis in Cork.

For this weekend only, Hailo are offering free taxi fares for Corkonians. All first time users of Hailo in Cork can get €10 off their first fare. Just download Hailo on your iPhone or Android, register an account with a credit or debit card, and add the promocode CORK01 to your account. To use your voucher, just choose ‘Pay With Card’ when hailing your cab. The voucher will be valid until midnight Sunday July 7th.

City- Socializer

This app is perfect for anyone going on weekend trips around Europe or city hopping over the summer. No matter what city you are in the world, City-Socializer is a social network that allows you to tap into any scene based on your own personal interests and hobbies. So if everyone is still hung-over from the night before and you’re itching to get to the galleries or to find a good place for the hair of the dog, City-Socializer will put you in contact with those in the know. A uniquely 21st century way of making friends and influencing people.


Pivo is the app that we’ve all been waiting for our whole lives: the app that allows you to order a beer in a staggering 59 different languages – from German and French to Zulu and Catalan – through video tutorials. You can even order a beer in Arabic; try it and let us know if you get a beer in the end.