Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

Happy Christmas!

Up at about 8.00am this morning - I felt like sleeping longer, but Kate came into our room, turned on the lights, and "ordered" us downstairs to open presents. We had good fun checking out each present - lots of clothes, books, DVDs, and make-up (for the girls). Vicki got a Guitar Hero and she and Claire spent a long time trying it out. I will be well dressed - a new shirt, jumper, jocks, and socks! Roma gave me some sailing lessons, and I also got Barack Obama's Dreams of my Father book, which I am looking forward to reading.

In the afternoon, Bryan and Eddie (two of Roma's brothers) called with their families - again great fun with kids. I have a train on the Christmas tree that I had not used in the past two years as it was broken. I fixed it this year, and Conor and James Bourke found these very interesting. We had some Champagne to get into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas dinner was great - delicious turkey and ham. We ate a lot. Vicki and I had a Christmas tinsel "fight" - our crackers were covered in this tinsel - I still have some on myself today.

We watched a little bit of a comedy DVD (Late Late Show extracts) but started to fall asleep in front of the TV. Vicki and Kate started a jigsaw puzzle, Claire went out to see some friends - Roma and I collapsed into bed after a long day.

During the day I called Brian, Joe, Kathleen, and Mum and Dad. All were in great form - it's nice to talk to family anytime, but Christmas is a bit more special. All in all, a very nice day.

Christmas Eve 2008

Today is St. Stephen's Day (or Boxing Day) and I am having a quick session on the computer to check email and place a bet at My favourite bets are on golf and football, so I placed a "Lucky 15" bet on four matches in the Coca-Cola Championship.

On Christmas Eve - Kate, Vicki, and I went down to Ballingate to see Mum and Dad. This has been a tradition now for me and the girls since the early 1990s. Ever since we decided to have Christmas Day in our own house I have been travelling to Ballingate for Christmas Eve. I took the picture to the right just at the back of Mum and Dad's house - we had a very pleasant and mild day (12 C). This year will be Mum and Dad's first Christmas ever on their own. They are in great form - Dad broke open a bottle of Scotch that we gave him for his 50th wedding anniversary. Nice, and I had Kate to drive me home! I have to confess to having a large Scotch!

Joe and his crew weren't there this year as he had gone to Sligo instead. Kathleen, Eileen, and her son Daniel arrived in the afternoon - there's a little bit more magic in Christmas when there are small children around. I pretended to be Santa and called Eileen's mobile phone looking to find out where Daniel was staying that night - he fell for it and it was magic. (Sorry Daniel if you ever read this in the future - you were only 3 years old). Photo to the left of my sister Kathleen and I was taken by Kate in Mum and Dad's front room.

We went to Evening Mass in Foxrock church, but despite being 10 minutes early the church was full - I had to stand in the porch. The mass was 1.25 hours long, so I was glad I wasn't inside as the heat was difficult for people to bear - several left during mass. We stayed up to watch a Christmas movie whose name I forget and which was very boring.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Golf at St Annes, Clontarf

I played golf today with students and staff of NCI - it was the first time in my 6+ years there to take part in any student/staff activity (other than Graduation). I had practiced yesterday in Leopardstown Driving Range where I was "brutal" - as my brother Joe says, I "couldn't hit the ball out of my way".

Sadly the bad form was to continue at St Annes Golf Club (Google Maps above) which is a links course. I want to say that I have always hated links courses, and after today I still do! On the first tee I had to tee off in front of all 12 people who participated. A shout from a player in another group didn't help and I promptly messed up my tee shot. I was also playing with Fintan Bonner who has just turned professional - fuck!

I never settled, and had probably my worst round of golf in 20 years. I managed 10  (yes ten) Stableford points on the front nine which included my only par of the day. This was fortuitous - my tee shot went about 20 metres, my second shot left me 130 metres from the pin, but I got up and down in two for a par 4. I didn't count, but I 'm sure that I didn't make the green in at least 8 holes'- I was having a miserable time. I only "scored" 3 points in the back nine, for a total of 13 points. A most awful golf day.

Links courses are hard, but I cannot blame the course for today's "golf". Anyway, there's always a next time.

Final Meal in South

On Saturday last Roma and I went out with her four brothers (Eddie, Peter, Angus, and Bryan) and their wives and partners (Karen, Dorothy, Fiona, and Maria) to the South Restaurant in Sandyford. We had a table for 0900 which was quite late - but when we got there the restaurant was far from busy. While the food was good, there seemed to be a lot of problems with any bottle of wine we ordered - "none in stock"! Service was irregular and not great. Nevertheless we enjoyed ourselves, though a long table for 10 people doesn't make for good conversation with everybody.

Next day we learned from The Sunday Independant that the Restaurant is to close on Tuesday 23rd December. The Recession is starting to bite hard.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How To...Draw a Polar Diagram in Excel

I have added a new video to YouTube as part of my "How To..." series. This one is about drawing Polar Diagrams in Microsoft Excel. I teach about Polar Diagrams as part of the subject of Performance Measurement. They are really useful and easy to draw - they can graphically show gaps in performance without the detail of figures.

It took me a few hours to create this video - I made so many mistakes that I had to re-record it several times. I used PowerPoint to record the audio and Audacity to edit the .WAV files. I found that the files skipped a lot so that they sounded like I had deleted very short sections. In the end, I recorded the audio in one take using Audacity and exported the audio to an MP3 file. I imported this into Windows Media Maker to which I also added the slides. I used the Print Screen button to capture the slides and PaintShop Pro to turn them into .JPG files. Windows Movie Maker converted this into a movie - this is embedded above and also uploaded into YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Business Analysts Association - Graduation Photo

A new photo featuring yours truly is placed on the home page of the Business Analysts Association of Ireland web site. The photo was taken at the NCI Graduation ceremonies on October 30th last.

This group represents students from the course Diploma in Business Analysis and Consultancy - I am Course Director and a Lecturer on one of the modules for this course. The course was run twice in Dublin and twice in Cork in 2007/2008. While over 80 students attended the course, only 18 made it to the graduation. Also in the photograph is President of NCI, Dr. Paul Mooney (beside me dressed in Trinity's scarlet and gold gown), and Phil Chambers (second from right at back) who organizes the course and the Association. 

The module I teach (Business Systems Analysis) is one of my favourites, and I always enjoy the classes with these students.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fastest Broadband Connection Yet!

I have been a bit concerned about the speed of our new connection to Eircom Broadband. An earlier test (two posts below) showed download speed of only 0.757 Mbps out of a possible 3.0 Mbps. I ran several tests since and got almost exactly the same results.

Today I added more filters and a new splitter to our telephone lines. We have four phones (hall, kitchen, office, and bedroom), plus two connections to Sky satellite in our house. They now all have broadband filters. After fitting them I decided to take another test and as you can see above we have a lot faster connection of 2.2 Mbps - the fastest I have ever seen in this house. I don't know if it is a coincidence, or if the additional filters had an effect - but something has improved the connection. Back to surfing!

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Camara is a charity based in The Digital Hub in Thomas Street near Dublin city centre. They take in second hand computers and rebuild them to give to schools in Africa. It's a fantastic idea and they get donations for individuals as well as businesses.

I brought along two old computers from the Pharmacy, plus two monitors, a printer, and lots of cables and other bits and pieces. I even gave away my old Palm Tungsten PDA. They took everything and were more than happy with all I brought along. I met Jim who is a volunteer for Camara and I told them I was a Lecturer in Computing at NCI and he showed me around. They have a very efficient operation and he brought me though the process from taking in the computers to shipping them out. Everything is checked - they get a lot of faulty monitors in particular which are sent for recycling. They are currently processing a shipment of Compaq computers from an office in Belfast. The big thing is that they have to guarantee that the hard disk is wiped and they have special Garda approved software to do this. For some computers they have to destroy the hard disk - banks like AIB won't give the computers otherwise. They first use a Degausser which renders the magnetic hard disk completely unusable and actually damages the storage system. The disk is then split and crushed using a special gadget like a guillotine. They have to buy new hard disks to replace these, and also buy a lot of mice - they got a shipment of 1,000 from China yesterday.

The rebuilt computers end up in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Lesotho. Camara also send out volunteers to teach IT and to maintain the computers. Jim told me it is a very successful operation. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hotel Eugenie, Rue de Rome, París in Street View

I am fascinated with Google and the nice gadgets and features that they produce. And the best part is that everything is free! Recently I noticed a little "man" appearing on Google Maps and I decided to click on it, and hey presto it gives a street level view (if available) - this was released on November 21st 2008 for the iPhone. 

From Wikipedia: Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that provides 360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic street-level views and allows users to view parts of selected cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas at ground level.

I decided to show this off to Roma on my iPhone and looked up Hotel called Villa Eugenie on the Rue de Rome in Paris where we once stayed (we immediately re-christened these Hotel Eugene on Rue de Roma). This location is available on street view. Below is the interactive view from Google showing the Rue de Rome street sign and the Villa Eugenie hotel name:

What will Google think of next? According to Google, this will expand to many more cities and metropolitan areas - they need people to drive around with special cameras to make the recordings. There are privacy concerns and Google have started to fade out things like faces and number plates.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New Eircom Broadband Connection

We switched from Clearwire to Eircom Broadband recently. Clearwire had increased our monthly subscription from €39 to €49 per month without telling me. I was outraged by this. I called Clearwire for an explanation and they told me that my fixed contract was over and that this meant I was put on a higher rate. They "kindly" offered to renew my contract, but I thought I would check out other offerings instead. Later when I called them to terminate the connection they went as low as €29 per month in an attempt to keep me as a customer.

Eircom came out the best - for €54 per month we get free local, national, and Meteor telephone calls. We get a 3MB connection instead of the 2MB from Clearwire. We also get Setanta Sports free on-line, and they don't block any sites such as Sky Sports and Limewire. So far the new connection has been good - I still have to get some filters for some of our extra phones, but so far it has been a great success. The only thing I was worried about in switching to Eircom is that they have a high contention rate (48:1) in my area. During the day I can get up to 1.8 Mbps, as as you can see from the graphic it drops right down at peak time - this test was done at 1900 hours. I'll post a high result in the near future just to compare to today.