Thursday, March 30, 2017

The End of the Windows Phone #DeadPhoneWalking

Almost exactly a year ago I purchased a Windows Lumia 950 phone to replace an old iPhone. At the time I had obviously considered purchasing a new iPhone, but they were very expensive and I was constantly running out of space on my old one having to delete photos, music, and apps to make room for new things. The Windows phone seemed a good alternative - it was considerably cheaper, had a good hardware reputation, had plenty of space (I have a 64 GB extra SD card), and the piece-de-resistance was the brilliant 20 MP camera. Sure I - had heard about the "App Gap", but was assured by Microsoft and on-line commentators that this gap would get smaller. In any event, the main apps like Whatsapp, Facebook and Spotify were Windows enabled - while Edge and Outlook were good alternatives to Chrome and Gmail. Overall I was impressed by it and was happy to work around some of its limitations (for example, there is no Radio App - I simply added a shortcut to the URL of the RTÉ Radio Player to the Home screen).

Image source: Swoon.
In today's Irish Independent, an uncredited article (presumably by Adrian Weckler), iPhone and Android win out as Microsoft pulls plug on Windows handset, confirms the demise of the Windows phone. It's been coming for a while as Microsoft's market share has declined, and the likes of "Snapchat and YouTube, which never launched versions of their services for Windows phones, have been utterly vindicated". Lumia Twitter accounts have not been active since last November.

So now I have a dead-phone-walking in my pocket with more than likely no new apps and very few updates to come over the next few months as support will slowly dwindle and eventually stop. While I feel I was a bit of a sucker for changing from an iPhone to a Windows phone, I actually really liked my Windows phone. While there is frustration that most Apps were iOS and Android compatible only - there are work-arounds.

I don't know how long I will keep using my Windows phone, but I am in no hurry to get rid of it. It is still a great piece of kit and I absolutely love the camera on it. I have recently been thinking of replacing my faulty iPad with a budget Windows 10 tablet, but I am re-thinking this already - what will Microsoft pull the plug on next?

Monday, March 27, 2017

When Past Students Visit

Last week, one of my past students (BD) who graduated about 4-5 years ago came back to the College and dropped by my office for a visit. This does not happen to me very often and it is a pleasure to welcome a past student back. It can be awkward bumping into a past student on the street as I usually forget their names, but as more and more students now connect with me on the likes of LinkedIn - it is easier to keep in touch. I loved hearing about the work that past students have been doing since graduation and many have travel adventures (that I never had) to re-tell.

The visit reminded me of my own past teachers and Lecturers - several who have now sadly passed on to the great classroom in the sky. I owe so much to them, but I have not been good at keeping in touch and letting them know how I have been getting on - it's 1983 since my last class. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thinking of London (and Berlin)

Just last Saturday I looked across at Westminster as I made my way to Westminster Underground station. Normally such a place is a photo opportunity, but two years ago when I last visited I had "been there, done that". Countless tourists have taken photos like mine below standing in front of Big Ben - yesterday there were people standing at almost the exact same spot, probably doing the exact same thing as me posing for a photo, who were cut down in a terror attack. Just last September I was posing in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin little knowing that just a few weeks later another terrorist would kill innocent bystanders in the same way. We know not when terror will strike, and it is chilling to feel even a minor personal connection with these two tragic events. I hope these attacks do not deter tourists going to either London or Berlin - the Londoners and Berliners are most welcoming and I have certainly enjoyed every minute in both cities.

At the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial
Church, Berlin 2016.

On Westminster Bridge,
London 2015.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Weekend in London

So far March has been a very busy month and I have reached the 23rd day of the month and am only writing my third blog post! With no self-induced pressure to write a post every day I have gone from prolific to occasional posting. A break from blogging will hopefully refresh the mind as well as stop me posting just for the sake of it.

This past weekend Roma and I visited London for a city break - we have done this a few times before and it is a great way to relax and experience a city very different from Dublin. We weren't the only tourists there, London is an all-year round attraction despite cool weather at this time of year. We did very little shopping and lots of walking. We went to the Tower of London and walked across Tower Bridge. We went to Soho and Brick Lane. We wandered through markets and small shops. We drank wine and we drank beer. We had lunch out and dinner out. We took some selfies, and learned a new word "elsies" (not a selfie - getting someone else to take your photo) from the tour guide in the Tower of London. 

The highlight of the weekend was "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". As the two of us grew up (and met each other!) in the 1970s this was a trip down memory lane like no other. Neither of us realised that Carole King had written many iconic songs before her landmark 1971 album "Tapestry" such as "The Loco-motion" (for Little Eva), "Up On The Roof" (The Drifters), and "I'm into Something Good" (Herman's Hermits). A superb performance by the cast at the Aldwych Theatre combined King's music and her life story that fully deserved the standing ovation at the end.

Here's the lady herself visiting the same show just two weeks ago!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Reading Week

It is 8.30 am on the first day of Reading Week. We have no classes in the College this week (though I am running a rescheduled class) and it is a time for students and Faculty to take a break from classes and catch up. It is not really a full week since St Patrick's Day on Friday makes it a short week. Students will use the opportunity to work on assignments and projects, as well as getting some study in. No doubt they will also take a break from study - and perhaps some will do nothing academic this week. When students refer to this week as a "break", I am quick to remind them that it is not and that it should be used wisely. For part-time students, some of whom come to evening classes three days a week, it will be a welcome respite from the pace of learning - especially for those who have full time jobs and families.

Image source: Get into that boat.
For Faculty, it is also a break from classes. Most of us will use the time to catch up on grading assessments. I have two large classes and a small mountain of assignments awaits - this was the week to clear my desk ahead of the remaining 5 weeks in the semester. However, an unexpected project has scuppered these plans and I will not be able to get everything I had planned for the week done.

It is important for people to take a break no matter what their activities are - what the late Stephen Covey called "Sharpen the Saw". A 12 week semester is a long time for both students and Faculty to keep going. This year at NCI we are introducing a second reading week in the lead up to Easter. It will incorporate Good Friday when the College will be closed. Many other Colleges have "breaks" at Easter - so now we are too.

To all students - enjoy the week. Take a break. Catch up on studies. Clear all assignments. Plan for projects later in the Semester. Bake some cookies. Take your partner out. Sleep. Come back to College next week refreshed!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Saying Thank You Online #thanks

It's nice when people take the time to say "Thank you". It is a polite thing to do and it makes the receiver feel good about something. It doesn't take long to say it, but saying thank you in the anonymous online world takes a little bit longer. Typing out a comment takes some time as does selecting options to create and publish a comment - not to mention a few seconds to check for typos and grammar.

A few of my YouTube viewers take the time to say "Thank You", while this is a small fraction of the total number of viewers every day, it is nevertheless gratifying that they take the time to do this. As of today there are 7,467 comments on my channel since the beginning of 2010 (when YouTube started to track comments) - not all are favourable and there are also many questions from viewers. But the vast majority are viewers simply saying "thank you". If each of these comments took an average of a minute to write, it adds up to just over five days worth of non-stop commenting. Here's what some recent viewers had to say in the past week:
  • life saver!!!
  • Super helpful, thanks
  • thanks! Short and to the point
  • thank you so much this was so helpful!
  • You legend! Thank youuuu so much!
  • Outstanding... worked like a charm. Thank you for this informative video.
  • Great video, everything is explained simple and steb by step. Thank you!
  • Thank you! Helped a lot.
  • thank you sir this one is very useful for me ..
It has made me more likely to do the same on other websites - I sometimes comment and "like" posts, or share them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

So - this is my opportunity to say a BIG THANK YOU to all my viewers and to those who take to time to comment.