Category Archives: Blog

Twelfth morning #ShortPoems

The master raises the drum to his chest on Folly Lane.
Resplendent with Lily, Sweet William too.
The band called to order, his domain.
He calls the tune. Killaloe, after two – one, two.

Its Twelfth morning and in this poem I reflect on years gone by.

Twenty years or more ago I used to line up with the drum corps of Lisnadill Flute Band each Twelfth of July morning on Folly Lane in the south of Armagh prior to setting off to join the rest of the lodges from that district. My two brothers and I formed half of the corp in front and to the side of the bass drum of the Band Master. My fourth brother played out high notes on piccolo at the back.

As the youngest and smallest my uniform was a mishmash of hand-me-downs and ill fitting items. Country bands didn’t have the money for new uniforms so ours was a second hand lot from God knows where. My cap had crowned perhaps a dozen heads in its lifetime. It stayed on my head through the grace of soggy rolled up newspaper inside the head band soaked with sweat. My white Andante snare drum hung round my neck like a millstone.

The band took its name from a small rural townland three miles further south from Armagh. It was what is known as a melody flute band. Its numbers would be swollen to over twenty on the twelfth, still a small unit compared to the blood and thunder bands. Hymns and tunes such as Our Director, Killaloe, Liberty Bell and Dolly’s Brae made up its repertoire.

We would have paraded Armagh in the morning, making our way through the town to the Co-Op at Alexander where buses would collect us and take us to the host town to join the main demonstration in places like Newtownhamilton, Tandragee and Killylea.

For us it was a grand day out. We’d march to the field, head off to meet friends and grab a burger before returning to where the drums and lodge banner had been stashed beside the lodge car. There we’d join older band members and sit on the grass with rolled up shirt sleaves in the sun drinking a can or two of warm Bass or Tennents, smoking Embassy Red, and chatting about women and cars and the price of cattle like men. We didn’t get drunk though. A full bladder and a sore head aren’t conducive to keeping time and the long walk home.

Those were great times before educational then economic migration scattered us to the four winds exposing some of us to different cultures and traditions.

Thoughts on the Apple #WWDC14 announcements, media crib sheet

I was asked last week by BBC Good Morning Ulster to come in to the show and talk about the announcements made at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 2014. You can listen to it again here. Go to 55:50.

As with every media engagement I do I had done my homework the night before and prepared a crib sheet covering all potential areas for discussion which is shared with the show producer in advance so they can brief the presenter and prepare questions for them.

Tech bling
Little bit of tech bling. Always dress for the occasion – even if its only radio.

Having done a few of these now the key, in my opinion, is to get to the heart of the “so what” question. What does this mean to the person sitting in their car on their way to work or doing the school run? The trick is to avoid being over technical and to retain a level of company independence or favouritism – especially when contributing to the BBC.

I’m neither pro or anti Apple. While I use an MacBook for personal computing and an Apple iPad for work I also use a Google Nexus 5 phone and a Microsoft Window’s laptop for work purposes. It’s nice to have this broad level of experience when talking about new product announcements in this space.

The whole experience is definitely a positive one. If you are approached to contribute to programmes such as this I would highly recommend it as it allows you to hone writing and speaking skills for the day job.

In the end time only permitted us to discuss the Family Sharing feature. The full crib sheet is replicated below for those who haven’t OD’ed on WWDC commentary yet.

Intro

Apple announces new features that enable family sharing, home automation and our vital signs to be monitored all from our mobile phones.

Family sharing

Apple have announced a new family sharing feature in iOS version 8 for iPhones and iPads. This will allow whole families share and synchronise their photos, calendars and locations with each other.

  • Great for the busy family to keep track of each other and give parents piece of mind that their kids are where they say they are
  • Not so great for parents whose phones will be filled to the brim with selfies of their kids
  • Even worse for kids whose phones will be full of their parents selfies – take note Máirtín Ó Muilleoir’s kids
  • Definitely not good for kids bunking off school

There have been numerous examples of children running up hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of credit card bills due to innocently buying costly add-ons for games through the Apple App Store.

  • Last year a five year old ran up a bill of £1700 buying costly add-ons for a game called Zombie v Ninja in one ten minute period
  • Earlier this year Apple was forced to refund at least £20 million to disgruntled parents over in-app purchases made by their kids
  • Family sharing allows parents to implement tighter controls on App Store spending.
  • Kids can send App purchase requests to their parents phones when they wish to buy new games or make in app purchases.
  • Great for parents looking to reign in their kids spending on the Apple App Store
  • Not so great for some app developers who were making stacks of money from unsuspecting kids

Home automation

The smart home is now a key battle ground for companies like Apple and Google. Google recently bought Nest, a company that makes smart devices such as learning thermostats and intelligent smoke and carbon dioxide detectors for the home which can be controlled from mobile devices for a cool $3.2 billion.

Apples new Home app (HomeKit) allows an iPhone or iPad to control smart appliances, lights and locks around the home.

  • Partners include Philips, Honeywell and Osram that make a variety of smart widgets and lights
  • Great if you want to live in the home of the future and command all your home appliances by voice
  • Not so great when the power goes out.

Health app

HealthKit is a feature and package of tools that will allow developers to build bespoke apps around health and well being, from sleep monitoring and stress reduction to exercise and blood testing.

  • Great for helping to take pressure off a stretched NHS
  • Great for early alerting of serious health problems
  • Great for changing behaviour in unhealthy people
  • Not so great for couch potatoes
  • Question marks over patient privacy