“Absolute silence for 30 minutes on school buses as all girls are using mobile phones…”

The headline is a quote from Bloomfield Collegiate School principal Gary Greer in a letter to parents. Pupils were informed this morning in registration that a mobile phone ban would be put in place for the remainder of the term. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we have real concerns about mental health and the lack of ability to socialise due to too much screen time during lock down. It has been reported to me that there is absolute silence …

Read more…

Tales from the Crypto: The world of digital money is exciting, strange, and full of risk…

I’m sitting on the toilet at 3am every night, doom scrolling on my phone. I am constantly refreshing and gorging on graphs. I must have the latest numbers… do I buy more, or sell? Am I a diamond-handed alpha, or a paper-handed cuck? Dogecoin – a novelty cryptocurrency – is surging, and the wider world of digital money has seen a remarkable boom in amateur investors recently, driven by online forums such as Reddit. These people are on a hiding …

Read more…

Brexit may be working in favour of the UK just now, but a better future needs a radically different plan…

I’m not a big fan of counterfactuals, not because I don’t think they are useful, but it’s more that some politicians seemsnot to understand that they are in fact abstract thought experiments rather than a rendering of some class of reality. I’m thinking here about Jim Allister and Sammy Wilson or even Ed Poots who told us not to worry about the potential downsides of Brexit and are now railing against a reality they helped bring to pass (and now …

Read more…

Going internet cold turkey at Christmas…

It would be for a week, said Virgin Media – a week before my new modem would be available and meanwhile, long (technical) story, I could not use the old one in the interim period. No bother, I thought. I’m a practising artist. I might even get a lot more work done when I’m not making comments on other peoples’ latest creations; getting sucked into plucking images from Instagram postings onto my Pinterest boards or, reacting to the various Whatsapp …

Read more…

The scam that resulted in a £57.32 phonecall…

Once again, my mundane routine of daily atrocities (housework) was interrupted by the landline telephone. A pleasant female voice began to speak. “BT here, Mrs Graham. I am phoning you to say we have noticed you made two telephone calls last Wednesday to HMRC.” (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) “Yes, I was trying to complete my self-assessment tax form and couldn’t get the answer from their web site.” “Did you realise you were calling an ‘09’ number?” “What is wrong …

Read more…

Taking back control of our personal data in a post-Brexit world…

Much has been written and debated about the impact of Brexit on the movement of people and goods. But relatively has been written about the flow of data post-Brexit. “Take back control” was a slogan used by the Leave campaign. But this apparently didn’t include taking back control of one’s own data. Remember the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal – and in a separate case – Leave.EU receiving a £45,000 fine in 2019 from the Information Commissioner for unsolicited marketing? And the …

Read more…

“Build Back Better” – how do we turn soundbites into a successful reset and recovery?

Sinead McLaughlin is the SDLP’s economy spokesperson, deputy chair of the Assembly’s economy committee and a Foyle MLA. Covid-19 will continue to damage our collective health and our economy for a long time to come. Many businesses will fail and, even more sadly, many more people will die from coronavirus.  Yet it should not be too early to consider recovery. The SDLP has put together four principles for that recovery – a new deal for young people; a new localism; new connectivity; …

Read more…

Mallon’s decision on the interconnector ought to be the thin edge of a positive #Reset wedge

Interesting development earlier this week as Nichola Mallon approved the new North-South interconnector from Tyrone to Meath, not least because of the cacophony of noise arising not just from rivals but even from within her own party. The BBC reports… The approval is for the building of a single circuit 400kV electricity line consisting of 102 towers over 34.1kms in length from Moy in County Tyrone to Crossreagh in County Armagh. The first application was lodged on 15th December 2009. …

Read more…

If we are serious about better economic outcomes, Ministers and political parties have to take on the NIMBYs…

Newton Emerson has a nice piece in the Irish Times in which he demonstrates the tight hold NIMBY lobbies have on either side of the border, even on parties who’s main policy plank are in favour as something as seemingly important as the all island electricity market… He starts with the question: Would Electric Ireland be putting prices in the Republic up by 3.4 per cent if the new cross-Border interconnector was in place? The answer, he says, is that… …

Read more…

We need to stop producing any new books, films and TV shows until we all have had a chance to catch up…

One of the stresses of modern life is the tsunami of content out there. Aside from the bottomless pit of social media and online news there has never been such a volume of everything. On my TV I have the BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV, Britbox and NowTV. The issue is I only watch about 1 hour of TV a day so it is impossible to even touch the surface of all the new shows out there. …

Read more…

Technology and me…

I know that what I’m about to confess may shock a lot of you. I know because I’ve seen the look of horror on people’s faces for quite some time now, so here goes – I don’t use a mobile phone. The retorts of disbelief when I utter those magic words range from, you’re joking and I don’t believe you, to the more often accusatory, what’s wrong with you? as if I’m some sort of aberration. That’s okay – each …

Read more…

Sewage monitoring could be one of the most effective weapons in the battle against the coronavirus

A recent paper from Yale University has raised hopes that monitoring of sewage could provide a key early warning indicator of a community outbreak of the coronavirus. Researchers compared the amount of virus RNA found per mL in primary sludge collected from a wastewater treatment facility in New Haven, Connecticut in the United States, with the number of positive new cases in the community from mid-March until the end of April. The chart below shows the amount of virus RNA …

Read more…

What’s your lockdown luxury?

Is it having a lie in, eating a packet of biscuits with your cuppa or finally watching that box set you’ve been promising yourself? Maybe you’re doing a spot of online shopping. Who hasn’t ordered something online only for it to turn up not quite as expected, or indeed how it was described. I recently ordered a Slanket for my daughter. (A Slanket-a blanket with sleeves!) I got it on eBay so I shouldn’t have been surprised to open it …

Read more…

Invite your friends or family to dinner by video. And other Covid-19 tech tips…

As you may know, TV Dinners is what Americans call ready meals. But how about a video dinner? I was chatting to a friend the other day to see how he was getting on during the big pause. He lives with his family in Belfast but his mother lives alone in Armagh. To make his mum feel less isolated he came up with a novel solution. Every night at dinner time he video calls his mum on his tablet, then …

Read more…

In the wake of Covid 19 the Orange Order releases plans for a virtual Twelfth…

The Orange Order has been given a £300k grant from the Ulster-Scots Agency for their ambitious plan to create a virtual Twelfth. Due to the Covid-19, all Orange parades have been cancelled. But the Order is hoping to use the latest Virtual Reality technology to give at-home members the experience of parading. The project is the brainchild of Banford Abernathy, founder of PurePet, a company that creates VR systems for training vets. Banford said: Three generations of my family have …

Read more…

New Virtual Festival Launched in Northern Ireland as a Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Imagine! Belfast Festival, forced to abandon over 90 public events because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is going virtual layer this week with much of its programme going online to ensure that audiences don’t miss out. In an imaginative response to the crisis, the popular event has been re-organised as a digital offering with over 25 events streamed during 25-27 March. The virtual festival, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, will be free to view on the Imagine! …

Read more…

Free advice on how to work effectively online…

My day job is web projects, I have been working in the internet industry for 25 years. For most of that time I have worked from home, so working online from home is the norm for me. I know a lot of people and organisations are trying remote work for the first time and I imagine it is a big learning curve for you all. I am offering free advice and assistance to help you out where I can. You …

Read more…