Re: New Irish language revival campaign is ludicrous

January 8th, 2011

My letter of 8th January 2011 to the editor of the Sunday Tribune, in response to Mr Maurice Fitzgerald’s letter of 2nd January 2011.

A eagarthóir, a chara,

It was with a mixture of anger, sadness, and also pity, that I read Mr Maurice Fitzgerald’s ill-informed, anti-Irish tirade of 2nd January 2011. Anger, as such a scathing attack on the Irish-speaking and -supporting people of Ireland is entirely unwarranted. Sadness, as in my experience, Mr Fitzgerald is unfortunately not alone in his campaign towards abolition of Irish. And pity, that such people, despite 14 years of “coercion” at school, do not manage to learn a few words of the first language of the country in which they live, and feel the need to justify their own ignorance by lashing out against those who have.

Would Mr Fitzgerald write with such vitriol against capitalism, accountancy and the decimal system, had he not bothered to grasp the basics of mathematics at school? Probably not, as that would be ludicrous. So why do we give him an audience? Here’s the upside: multitudes of people have responded in writing and on the letters page of tribune.ie, proving that the language is not dead, nor are they prepared to allow that to happen.

I for one am fed up with the stigma and prejudice attached to speaking Irish, and with the disdain shown by the ignorant few when on visits home I attempt to use my own language. I am not going to sit around and be bullied. If anyone should be ashamed, it is those who campaign against Irish. But I don’t believe in shaming or coercion - live and let live, Mr Fitzgerald, but have some respect for your fellow Irishmen/-women, and for our common heritage. I am kind enough to write this letter in English, so that the likes of you can understand.

I have often holidayed in Gaeltacht areas of Gaillimh and Dún na nGall, with German friends in tow, who want to see the “real Ireland”. They do not want to see English-only signs or wannabe-English culture - they will travel to England for the real thing. Surely such forms of German-sourced capital injection into an authentic and proud Irish tourism industry is more sustainable to the country’s future than bank bailouts, part-funded by cancelling heritage projects.

Is mise le meas,

Rónán Ó Braonáin
Múnchen, An Ghearmáin

Webradio by BMW and MINI Connected

December 25th, 2010

I’ve posted before on MINI Connected in general. The app does a lot of fun things in-car if you have a new MINI with the correct extras attached. However, what if you don’t have such a car or the right extras in your MINI?

BMW Connected - webradio mainscreenAs the app is designed to complement the setup in the car with further web- and location-based services, the iPhone-only interface is by design not as comprehensive as the functionality when connected in the car. However, my favourite update in this latest version 1.3.3 is that the webradio function now receives an iPhone UI (it used to work only on the display in the MINI), so that you can use the app to listen to webradio anywhere - jogging in the park, at the gym, or driving your car - regardless of which manufacturer.

I use webradio all the time when driving. I simply plug a normal 3.5mm audio cable from the iPhone’s earphone port into the Aux-In in my BMW. I don’t need any other extras in the car to support the app.

You can do this too! Anyone can download the apps, for free - you don’t need to be a BMW or MINI owner. And webradio now works in any car with audio in, or even without a car! Obviously, when running the app in a non-supporting car, you need to operate it via the iPhone UI - nothing comes up on the display in the car. So only use it when safe to do so.

But in-car support is coming to BMW too in March 2011. You can even download the BMW version of the app already. It has a similar interface to that of MINI Connected, with a BMW skin. And you can start listening to webradio today regardless of the manufacturer of your car.

Webradio - BMW ConnectedPersonally, I am a big fan of this webradio app versus others available in the AppStore today. It’s not just because I worked on the development team =) The advantages are obvious:

  • Variety built in: one app for all stations, instead of downloading various apps per station. Take advantage of radiotime.com’s massive webradio database from within one app
  • Quality: in my experience, the mass of webradio apps I have collected from various stations has had widely varying levels of quality. Some apps crash all the time, or keep losing connection, some others have bad interfaces. Many stations get an app developed by an external company, and over time it develops bugs which don’t get fixed. MINI Connected and BMW Connected have a development team concentrated on the stability of one single app
  • Price: you can pay over €5 for other webradio apps. MINI Connected and BMW Connected are free
  • Design: the UI is clean and slick, and very intuitive to use
Get your free download today:

My XKCD All-Time Personal Faves

April 19th, 2010

Will be extended over time

What I’ve been up to at work: MINI Connected

February 24th, 2010

For the past twelve months or so at BMW I have been working on MINI Connected, a first-of-its-kind solution which, harnessing the power of the Apple iPhone and its internet connection, will bring informative as well as fun applications alongside multimedia and webradio to the car. MINI Connected will be launched simultaneously to the new MINI Countryman, both of which will be on display at the upcoming International Geneva Motor Show from March 4th.

After connecting his iPhone to the car via USB cable, the driver can operate the range of applications comfortably and with minimal distraction using the car’s built-in joystick control, which operates similarly to the familiar iDrive system in BMW-branded cars. Applications provide feedback to the user via the on-board computer screen located in the central speedometer and via sound output to the car’s speakers.

Making use of the iPhone’s internet connection, MINI Connected offers seamlessly integrated webradio. Furthermore by accessing car data while on the move, the Mission Control application interacts with the driver in fun and informative ways. There’s lots more to come, which I will blog about as we release further information.

View the full press release at BMW PressClub Global:
https://www.press.bmwgroup.com/pressclub/p/pcgl/pressDetail.html?outputChannelId=6&id=T0077845EN&left_menu_item=node__2320

BMW Recruiting video on JobTV24.de

February 24th, 2010

I was invited by Human Resources towards the end of last year to take part in the making of a film for recruiting purposes at BMW. My boss at the Softwarehaus had suggested me for the shortlist. We did a short casting session and the final three partakers, yours truly included, were selected. A team from jobtv24.de travelled down from Berlin to film us over a period of two days. Filming took place at the Project House atrium building, in BMW’s FIZ (Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum, or Research and Innovation Centre) and BMW Car IT.

The other two stars of the show, André Schwald and Kirsten Matheus, are fellow colleagues of mine in the EI branch of the business, specifically Electric/Electronic Development, car Interior functions. Elmar Frickenstein, head of EI (I guess his title would translate into English as Vice President of Electric/Electronic-Interior), said a final word about the company and our activities here in Munich.

I’m happy to say the short film has now been released online at the link below (dialog in German). The team at jobtv24.de did a really professional job, resulting in a slick production that shows the cool side of working at BMW. I had lots of fun taking part, and congratulate the film team as well as BMW HR for a job well done.

You can find the video (4:45) here:
http://www.jobtv24.de/de/stellenangebote/automotive?ct=325&vid=29157

An Post

March 7th, 2009

I’ve been working on consolidating my finances recently. I already had a number of bank accounts, and now with investments and pensions and so on, it’s getting ridiculous. Just doing a quick count, I now have money in at least 15 financial institutions in 3 countries, and that figure doesn’t include credit cards, shares or fund-trading accounts.

I set myself about filling out the forms to close and claim the contents of a long dormant savings account my mother opened for me at An Post when I was born. I had my mother post me over the forms, one of which was double-sided: one side in English and the other in what, on first glance, would appear to be Irish. On closer examination, however, it resembled more the level of Irish of the average 8-year-old.

  • Fadas? Ah sure one or two, here and there.
  • Tuiseal ginideach? What’s that? Surely “cuntas uimhir” is perfectly acceptable Irish grammar.
  • Spelling? Not my job.
  • And as regards content of the form, they even managed to leave out the two most important data fields present on the English side: Name and Address.

What a bunch of shams. I am tempted to complain, really tempted this time, but then I have to give myself a good slap of reality in the face, and I put to myself the same questions I ask every time something is substandard in Ireland:

  1. Will you manage to get in contact with a competent complaints department?
  2. Will you be instilled with confidence that the person on the other end is actually taking your complaint seriously?
  3. Will you be convinced that anything at all will change after lodging your complaint, regardless of how simple the solution might be to implement?
  4. Will you feel more content after having aired your distress, knowing that the problem will be rectified?

Before attempting to come up with any answers at all, one needs to remember that the people running the company involved are Irish. This suggests a high likelihood that the answers will be: No, No, No and No. Best-case scenario: (answers: Yes, Yes, No, No) you get someone on the phone who actually also agrees with your complaint, it will be forwarded up the ranks to someone else who couldn’t give a shit.

Therefore I am skipping questions 1, 2 and 3 and, in a very typical Irish way, grumbling about it amongst my friends (via a blog entry). I have furthermore pedantically and childishly gone about correcting the mistakes on the form (let me know if I’ve missed any) and left a little note on the side. But I’ve gone one step further. An Post have a complaints area on their website, where there is an email address and phone number to make a complaint about the mail service. And Postbank have an email address for general contacts. I am mailing them this blog entry to both but not holding my breath. Being a state-run body, and under my understanding of the Official Languages Act 2003, An Post would be expected to provide services as well as communication in Irish. However the act does not, from what I can find within it, contain any provision demanding correct spelling or grammar.

To make things easier for staff, maybe the company should change its name to its English equivalent “The Post”, in case someone misspells it.

Comments welcome. Seachtain na Gaeilge shona daoibh.

Howto: freeing a maliciously snared car

March 3rd, 2009

Found this in my Gmail archive. I put this little tutorial together on 19/01/2007. Please bookmark and forward this page - the more people armed with this information, the less money the clampers can sucker out of people.

Based on my newly learned experience last night, I’m sending around this short tutorial on removing car wheel clamps, should any of you be subjected to such ill-fate.

FYI, as far as I can gather from various sources, the removal of clamps attached by a private clamping company is indeed perfectly legal - as long as you return the clamp to them without any damage. Beware that they will threaten you with a fine of up to 3000 Euro for tampering with it, and may prosecute you for theft for being in possession of an object that was inconveniently left attached to your car, but this is, for the most part, all huff and no puff. Be warned however, that you more than likely will be successfully prosecuted by removing a clamp attached by a public body, like Dublin City Council.

Removal:

  1. Firstly you will need to jack up the car (verify that you have a jack, wrench or some implement for removing the wheel bolts, and an inflated spare wheel).
  2. There is normally a bit of play on the clamp - just enough to be able to get the wrench in to access at least some of the bolts
  3. For the ones you can not access you may need to release the handbrake and rotate the wheel. Remember to re-apply the handbrake before going back at the bolts ;-)
  4. Once all bolts are removed, you should be able to, simply enough, lift off the entire wheel with clamp attached.
  5. Re-attach the spare wheel and let the car off the jack and you are ready to drive straight away
  6. Removal of the wheel from the clamp looks daunting enough, but is surprisingly easy. You will need to entirely deflate the tyre to create more play on the wheel. The clamp is composed of various bars which make things awkward, but there is usually enough freedom of movement in these bars to wiggle them around and eventually using 2 hands and a food, to wedge the wheel free.
  7. To be legally in the right, you should notify the clamping company straight away that they may have their clamp back. They will normally threaten a fine and suggest you leave it where you were parked. Be warned that dropping it to the Gardaí could result in them suing you for theft, and you may also have to leave your name at the Garda Station. I called them from my mobile with private number switched on but a recorded message requested a contact number, so I had to use a payphone. Well, one needs to be as elusive as possible when threatened with €3000 fines ;-)

Overall it took 1 hour to remove, and would have been quicker, only I hadn’t had much practise changing a wheel on my car before. 1 hour’s tough effort at night and under rain, getting filthy. Despite this, it turned out to be well worth the effort in the amazingly satisfying feeling of saving myself from paying €120 to a company who had interfered with my car without my permission and left me reliant on Dublin Bus and the overpriced Luas.

Good luck in your respective struggles and feel free to forward this on.

Teacher wrong on decline of Irish

February 21st, 2009

The following letter written by me was published in the Irish Independent on the 4th February 2009

 

Teacher wrong on decline of Irish

I refer to the letter from an unnamed former Irish teacher (’Irish language aid must stop’, Letters, January 31).

Teachers and the education system are often blamed — appropriately or otherwise — for our general inability as a nation to speak our own language. Given that the first language is currently enjoying what some term as a revival, the writer’s timing in admitting the ‘death of the Irish language is . . . the sad reality’ is somewhat unfortunate.

Perhaps this person, while maintaining a practice of ‘never imposing [their] ideals on others’ has missed the key point of effective teaching which begins with inspiring a passion in students for their subject.

Indeed, my French teacher at school always encouraged us to watch TV5, a fantastic resource, and would have never dreamed of dismissing it as a ‘grandiose white elephant’.

If all Irish teachers carry the same disdain for efforts to support our heritage, as exhibited by this person who would prefer to remain anonymous, the outlook for current and future students of the first language is certainly grim.

Rónán Ó Braonáin
München, Germany

 

Also listed on gaelport.com

Home from Home

October 19th, 2008

I just arrived back to Munich from a trip to another old haunt, Frankfurt am Main. I went down Friday evening on the train and stayed with 2 of my favourite people in the world, Alexander and Peter. I know Alexander since 2004 after we used to drink in his bar in Alt Sachsenhausen after work in the Irish pub. He’s tall, thin, black, British, in his forties, exceedingly camp and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met, and he’s also a good friend. Summer 2005, after I’d made my switch to the pink side, Alexander took me under his wing and showed me the scene in Frankfurt, and we had some great times. Peter’s his boyfriend and they’ve been together over 4 years. I only really got to know Peter better later on in 2005 but since then I’ve been back in Frankfurt at least twice a year and we’ve got on like a house on fire. We both have quite similar tastes, opinions, and he’s always up for a night out and a good laugh. I’ve really grown fond of him the more I’ve got to know him. I brought the guys out to dinner for being so great and for putting me up so often, including that hilarious long weekend where Julian, Gerard and I lived it up with them on the Bierbike at the CSD 2008, and I had that crucial interview at BMW the following Monday, and, well, we know how that worked out =]

Friday night Peter went with me to Pulse, a bit like The George of Frankfurt, full of pretty German boys, with 4 different rooms, each playing different music. Saturday then Peter brought me to a slightly less-than-legal party in the old East Station (Ostbahnhof). The place rocked my socks. When I talk about an underground party, I’m not talking about a knacker-infested, ecstasy-fuelled rave in the Wicklow mountains, nor a seedy lapdance club full of mafia and people sniffing cocaine off the tits of passed-out sluts. Quite the opposite, which was nice. The old waiting room of the station and a couple of smaller rooms made up a bar area and a small dance floor. The place hasn’t been changed since the old days, it has a dodgy looking mosaic of running animals on one wall, above the mirrors surrounding the bar was concrete with peeling paint, and all around the place were old lamps and black-and-white TVs. And it looked fantastic. Because you only hear of this type of unadvertised party through a friend, everyone seemed to know someone and the mood was happy, chatty, friendly – I had a great time. The music was old house and Latin beats (I think – Peter can correct me on this) and the beer was €2.50 =D

On the Saturday afternoon I had a wander around the high-rise city, financial capital of Europe (by “Europe” I mean the EU countries who took the Euro, and not just the Euros) and I shot some photos. The Commerzbank Tower, at 259 metres Europe’s tallest, dominates the high-rise Frankfurt skyline and glows yellow at night. Alexander’s and Peter’s apartment, with its 3 metre tall, floor-to-ceiling windows all around the living room, looks straight out onto this tower and the view is spectacular, especially after dark. Frankfurt’s 4th tallest, the Maintower, has a public viewing gallery on the top, and I’ve been up numerous times before. All of Europe’s (and Germany’s) biggest-known banks have either their headquarters or a significant operation in Frankfurt. It’s like a mini-New York. The river Main (pronounced like “mine”) flows through the city, and the locals sometimes refer to Frankfurt as “Mainhattan”.

My mode of transport was the Intercity Express (ICE). It’s a long, sleek, spearheaded machine which not only is the slickest looking piece of modern engineering, it also goes up to 300km/h and the ride is smoother and quieter than that inside a car at one tenth of that speed. Unfortunately there was a derailing at Köln/Cologne recently which has sparked a frenzy of safety measures to have been demanded of the Deutsche Bahn (DB, German federal rail company). As a result ICEs, which normally have to be checked every 300,000km, are being brought into the workshop every 30,000km and so the supply of running stock is not meeting demand. I had to sit on my suitcase most of the journey on the way down, but I managed to get a comfortable first-class seat on the way back. The return train had to be replaced with a standard Intercity (IC) without an on-board restaurant, but most of the carriages were 1st-class with comfy seats, just to keep the passengers happy. We were 15 minutes delayed leaving Frankfurt, after having to wait for other passengers to arrive on a late arriving ICE originally bound for Munich. We ended up in Munich a mere 25 minutes later than scheduled, despite the IC not being able to go at the speeds of its faster big brother. On this rare occasion where something goes wrong and off plan in Germany, needless to remark the DB staff had everything under control and, although there were a lot of frustrated faces wandering around the stations, it certainly came nowhere near chaos or even looking disorganized and, in fairness, there was a valid reason for the disruption. The staff furthermore went through the train and gave out free bottles of water to everyone so that anyone who had been planning to eat at the on-board restaurant (I included) at least wasn’t left dehydrated. I even got into a chat with a man about sailing, and he took down the ISBN number book on sail trim that I was reading. I gave him my email address and offered my services as crew, albeit there’s very little sailing going on now that it’s getting so cold. But I plan to have a boat and regular sailing sessions lined up in time for the season kicking off again next year. I miss it a lot, but in the meantime I have the snowboarding season to look forward to.

Back home in Munich now really does feel like home. On my past trips to Frankfurt I was always sad leaving my friends and the city which always seems to be partying non-stop, but this time happy in the knowledge that I was just a 3-hour (plus minor delays) train journey to the city I now call home. I can go back anytime and I definitely will.

Still a gadget geek

October 13th, 2008

One of the things that was on my mind from early on was “oh my God, I need a phone contract.” Sounds ridiculous, but I’ve been on bill-pay since I was 16 and have no intentions of going back to that top-up messing. In fact one statement that I hear all too often and makes me no longer want to be friends with the culprit is “I have no credit.” What’s even more annoying is when they’re on Meteor and despite having no credit can still bombard me with texts – now anyone who knows me knows I hate texting. So one of the great things about networks in Germany is they charge a fairly high 19 cent per text (imho I think the “tax” should be higher) whereas calls cost a pittance, so our thrifty friends here in the Bundesrepublik tend rely instead on that more human approach to communication: speech! =D

After looking around the various networks, o2 were by far the winning team (much as I’d expected in advance). The competition are Vodafone (no surprise that they were more expensive), T-Mobile (also unsurprising) and E-Plus, although I think it’s called Base now, but they’re quite Meteor-esque so I didn’t even look in their shop.

I dropped a modest €9.99 on a fantastic, shiny XDA Diamond. I was most impressed by the fun of opening the diamond-shape packaging (further photos on Flickr). The monthly charges start from €10 and offer you cheaper calls from your “Homezone”. You get a landline number on which people can reach you within a 1km radius of your home address, and at any time you’re reachable on your mobile number. Calls from the homezone range from free to modestly priced, depending on your tariff, while calling within the o2 network is always the cheapest. But I went with the flat-rate of 250 minutes to all networks, as I don’t yet know what networks my prospective friends will be on ;o) This costs €25 a month normally, but I’m paying €35 a month, which allowed me to get a premium phone for a lower price. I added onto that Internet-Pack-L – unlimited data downloads over HSDPA (3.6Mbps) on the move and I can plug my laptop into the phone and surf away. This was an extra €25 per month, but completely eliminates the need for me to buy DSL or one of those Surf Sticks for the laptop – this is key right now that I’m going to be moving soon. Other calls outside of my 250 minutes are 19c/min, and texts (shudder) are also 19c. Oh, and because I work for a bastion of Bavarian industry, my whole bill is discounted by 15% every month =D

The phone itself rocks my socks. I hate to admit it, but Apple have really lit a fire under the asses of the other providers in the market. I chose not to go for an iPhone as that meant I was stuck with T-Mobile’s pricing structures, albeit they have a very strong and reliable signal. But the Diamond has all the iPhone stuff and more. It has a music/video player with 40GB internal storage. It has TouchFlow 3D, trademarked by the manufacturer, HTC, which supports finger gestures for scrolling. The whole interface is flashy with animations, slide and fade effects, all that jazz that the iPhone popularized, and it’s as smooth as OpenGL effects on a good desktop. It also has Google Maps. And, as I mentioned, I can plug in my laptop and surf away. It came as standard with Opera browser (not the Mini version); of course Internet Explorer’s in there somewhere too. My favourite little toy is the weather applet, accessible with a single slide of the finger from the homescreen. I added Dublin and, you bet, it was raining, which showed a fun little animation. The screen is covered in drops, making it hard to read the text, then a windscreen wiper comes in and clears it all in a slick, smooth movement, and leaves a film of condensation on the screen which then evaporates. It looks great! The homescreen itself has one of those leaf-display clocks as the standard display, with missed call status and calendar entries below. Needless to remark, full synchronization with Outlook is included as standard.

One of the nicest extras I got was TomTom Navigator and one free city map of choice – Munich of course. The phone has built-in GPS and a light app you can run to download the satellite information over HSDPA (Assisted GPS) so it gets its intial fix a lot quicker. This was designed to work for Pocket PC so it’s pretty painless to use and a LOT nicer than the GPS I used to have in the car. Altogether it was the best tenner I ever spent!

I’ve one more month outstanding on my 3 Ireland contract, but I’m going to transfer it over to 3Pay so I’ll still have the same number when visiting the folks back home. Yes, I’m afraid I’ll be using pre-pay in at least one country!

Still on the shopping list was a plan to get either a MacBook or a MacBook Pro, although I won’t be doing this if it doesn’t synch with my phone. Also on my list was an Airport Express, wireless router as well as remote media streaming with a stereo out to plug into the hifi. I still like this idea but I still hate iTunes. I’m also reconsidering this. I’ve no DSL anyway until I move out, so I’ll worry about wireless routers then. The latest item is: speakers! I’m dying without music and it’s been over a week of tinny laptop speakers, so I have get something. I do love those Harman/Kardon Sound Sticks, and I’m told they sound great, so that could be a plan. Longer term I want to kit out the new place with a Bose system or something worthy. In the meantime I’ll be saving.