Archive for February, 2008

The web hosting wars in Ireland – Popcorn time!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

(This post was written during the weekend, well before Digiweb’s CEO sent me a very long email rebuking me for the way I commented about the attitude of one of his employees and telling me how I should report about Digiweb in future. I hope this is not misconstrued as retribution for that bully-like email.)

This really needs someone sadder than me to chronicle all of this because it would make a great damned story. You could even make a TV movie of it with Fair City actors. The hosting providers in Ireland are an interesting bunch. They’re so catty and childish with each other and the bitchfights and electronic slaps make it almost better than some Sky One drama. Hosters wives or something.

Popcorn Guy
Photo owned by m1jp

So the latest bitchathon once again surrounded Hosting365, the undisputed heavyweight of hosting in Ireland and of course the company that gets most attention because of their size. Their chillers went offline the other day and they went all Scottie like, when the data centre couldnae take it anymore and they had to eject the warp core or something. It’s all chronicled here. Update: The 200+ comments on that post have now been deleted.

Digiweb, a mounting competitor with a great track record in broadband has now registereda few perhaps just one domain name which take a few digs at Hosting365. They’ve registered EDIT: 12.25pm While former Hosting365 employees have registered goes to an online excuse generator (In need of copy writer) while goes to a Swedish chef parody thingymabob. I’m sure Hosting365Refugee will soon turn into the Alumni Association type thing that such a domain suggests. Right? 🙂

Hosting365 themselves snapped up Best to be safe I suppose. This is an interesting move by Digiweb though. To me it says to Hosting365 and others who are watching that they will resort to any means necessary to take some of their business but doing something like this also means you are asking for yourself to be open to scrutiny. This too is good. It almost forces transparency for themselves. Transparency is good. Hosting in Ireland is cut-throat and they are firecly competing with each other while looking overseas other providers are offering much better value services than here in Ireland. The cost of power and broadband here is hurting them a good bit. Shame they can’t pool together and lobby the government on these issues instead of stabbing each other with broken bottles of Buckfast.

Still, get the popcorn and watch them have at each other. Midly entertaining.

Big Brother shortchanges small business

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I wrote this piece for the Tribune but the Yahoo! Microsoft hooha happened and so my piece on that went through instead. It might as well get an airing here instead:

Information and data have long been seen as commodities, on a par with oil and gold, yet these days while we have to dig down further for gold and oil will apparently dry up, data is becoming more and more abundant. Lots of this data contains intimate data about us. It is this data that makes Google and Facebook so valuable but now the EU as well as local data protection agencies are starting to question whether they have too much data. Are the EU the good guys though when they themselves want telecoms companies and Internet service providers to track what we do online for their own motives?

Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes
Photo owned by ToastyKen

Everytime we go online we leave crumbs that can be used to figure out what we’re doing. With the increasing level of interaction with websites and with broadband usage going up we’re spending more time online and those crumbs are turning into whole loaves of information on what we’re doing. This data we leave is very valuable to companies such as Google who use the data they log on our searches to make the search experience better for us as well as using this data to display better ads to us which in turn means they can earn more money when we click on the ads. Facebook use the same idea but instead of search data they use the profile data we volunteer to them. Via Facebook advertisers can send very targeted ads to the 68 Million people on it. Many more websites and web services are basing their business models on the same idea of creating massmarket free services which in turn are paid for by gathering vast amounts of data on users which in turn are used to bother consumers with ads. Ad supported webservices when they have enough signed up users are worth billions, at least on paper.

The EU though is not very happy with the amount and type of information these services store. The EU say they worry for our privacy. Google are currently being investigated by the EU to see have they violated EU privacy laws because of the data they are logging and storing on European citizens. Google have tried to placate the EU by cutting down on the amount of time they store this information about people but so far that’s not enough and the investigation goes on. In the UK the Information Commissioner’s Office are investigating the way Facebook stores information on people and the length of time they retain it and whether they are violating privacy laws. All good. Nothing like healthy scepticism to keep commercial entities from abusing our rights and our privacy but there’s always a but. It appears that the European Commission themselves want as much data as they can about what we do online as well as who we communicate with on the phone. There seems to be a massive disconnect between what the EU allow commercial companies do with our data and what Europe is forcing commercial companies to log about us.

In 2006 the European Data Retention Directive was passed which mandates each EU country to introduce local laws for the storage of telephone data, email and web usage data. This was done for our own security apparently but it will be up to the telecoms companies and Internet service providers to monitor, secure and store the data and pay for it. So while the EU and local data commissioners are investigating commercial companies for storing usage data, the EU themselves are forcing other commercial companies to store usage data on consumers that they can use to monitor us. This Directive will be implemented in the next few weeks in Ireland and our phone and Internet providers will foot the bill, which more than likely will transfer to our own bills.

Sovjet Surveillance
Photo owned by Wrote

It doesn’t just affect the bills of businesses and consumers though. For smaller telcos and service providers, this will make a bigger impact to their bottom line. Data storage equipment and securing this data does not come cheap and for the likes of the smaller wireless Internet service providers that work in rural areas or areas where no other provider will go, they now have even more costs to worry about. While this directive is good business for data storage manufacturers, it is hard to see this as anything but a hindrance to smaller companies that supply Internet connectivity and could dissuade investment in the much needed local Internet service providers who are the only hope for many rural locations. We volunteer our data to Google and Facebook et al in return for free quality services that we can opt-out from at anytime. With Data Retention we can never opt-out and it will cost us all money. Big brother is not good for business.

Blog Awards 2008 Shortlists – They’re out sometime after midday

Monday, February 11th, 2008

They’ll be on the Awards website.

Lying Ryan – Eamon Ryan flat out lies on Morning Ireland about broadband

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Energy, Natural Resources, fabulous hair, good skin and barefaced lies was on Morning Ireland talking about Internet safety but the topic will always get into broadband at some stage and it did. And he lied. A lot. Audio here.

In a conversation about Internet safety he says of Ireland:
At 1.19 in that we are Leading online shoppers in the world.

Then it turned to broadband at 3.30
On the National Broadband Scheme 4.20 Rolling out from June. National Broadband Scheme.
On the International Broadband Advisoy Forum, he says local users contribute too?: 5.00 You want to hear from International experts but secondly you want to hear from the main users
On broadband in general: 5.18 “We are actually leading the world in terms of wireless and mobile connections in broadband”
On Northern Ireland and broadband: 5.39 “In many instances I think we’re actually ahead”

Anyways, back to Internet Safety. The Minister bullshitted on that too and about secure websites. Er, mate, this is your own website from February 6th, when it was you know, hacked: Eamon Ryan website hacked

Irish Blogger? Want to hear from PR companies?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

As mentioned previously, I met with a PR company last week and presented to them about blogs and blogging. This particular company are very interested in contacting bloggers and working with them by either sending press releases or getting their feedback on products and services. I told them press releases as such don’t really work but direct contacts would and could benefit both sides. Trouble is that bloggers are grumpy. But that’s only me and a few others, right? Not all of us terrorise PR companies. (Yes they gave me a little shit for that)

Press Releases Must be Euthanized
Photo owned by b_d_solis

So I got thinking that there is no badge (yet) on blogs to spot the ones willing to opt-in to solicitations from PR companies and no real way of doing Google searches for such bloggers. So, with the help of Google Forms (a new Google Spreadsheets feature) I now have a form where Irish bloggers can opt in to receive press releases and products and services to review. Please note to both the PR companies and the bloggers, this is not some kind of pay per post or pay per review agreement.

So if you want to interact with PR firms, fill out the form. It looks like a few PR companies want to come along to the Blog Awards too to meet bloggers which to me is a good thing.

Also don’t forget you can also sign-up if you are interested in doing advertising on your blog.

● Fluffy Links – Monday February 11th 2008

Monday, February 11th, 2008


Fluffy eyes, cats and now dogs.

Very very very cool Firefox plugin. It tells you the previous prices of property on and

Joe Lennon’s guide to getting TV and TV programmes online.

Check out this thread where a Digiweb employee goes to great lengths to spread FUD instead of a) either staying out of the thread on speed increases or b) giving an honest answer. The original poster asked if Digiweb would increase speeds now that eircom did and the Digiweb employee started laying it on heavy on why people should be grateful to what Digiweb give them. Of course this isn’t rare with this particular Digiweb employee who is over-aggressive with anyone that doesn’t kiss Digiweb’s ass.

Only read on a full stomach! Another great foodie blog. Eater’s Regret.

Richard Delevan now lives over on his own dotcom. Say hello or something.

This is great. To celebrate the birthday of his blog/website, Neil Gaiman is asking his readers to choose one of his books and he’ll release it for free online.

I like this idea. The page 99 test. Open any book on page 99, if it reads well, then it is worth buying.

Low flying helicopters. Very low.

The Pogues – Rainy Night in Soho

The special one is now on Setanta Sports. They started off a bit meh and have been hit and miss since but I like this one:

Dept of Communications’ dodgy hiring policy for the National Broadband Scheme hurts us all

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

As pointed out on by the user clohamon, union officials did a Freedom of Information request about the rehiring of what basically was a college work experience student to become a “consultant” on the National Broadband Scheme. It seems her and one person from ComReg are looking after this multi-million euro scheme. The job was never advertised. The two issues here with this are her relative inexperience while working on what is apparently the most important project in that section in the next two years but to me even more seriously the way that she was just handed the job and no outsiders or even insiders were told of this job. This National Broadband Scheme is meant to get 10s or maybe 100s of 1000s of people broadband and once again the way it’s been put together has been very mickey mouse in professionalism.

The FOI document (PDF) is here.

(The documents were scanned into a PDF so I can’t copy and paste so retyped them instead. There will be typos)

We really need to start here on August 20th 2007 when the PSEU (Public Service Executive Union) wrote to Eamonn Molloy, head of procurement in the Department. Here’s the transcript of the letter (It’s page 21 in the PDF):

Dear Eamonn,

The PSEU Branch Committee would like to enquire as to the process for the appointment of XX, previously employed as a Stagiaire in COmmunications (Development) Division.

We understand that XX’s contract expired in May 2007. She is now however working once again in Communications (Development) Division, we believe as a consultant.

In accordance with the Public Procurement Guidelines 2004;-

* Supplies and services less than €5000 may be secured on the basis of verbal quotes from one or more competitive suppliers
* Supplies or service contracts between €5000 to €50,000 may be awarded on the basis of responses to specifications sent to at least 3 service providers;
* Contracts above €50,000 and up to the value of EU thresholds should be advertised as part of a formal rendering process

The Branch Committee requests details of which of the above procurement processes were undertaken leading to XX’s appoitment, including the number of tenders sought, the experience and expertise set out in the specification, the duration of the contract in question and the remunersation attaching to the position.

It is the understanding of the PSEU Branch Committee that the main purpose of establishing the Stagiaire Scheme throughout the Civil Service was to recruit third level students and recent graduates to recognised administrative grades in the Civil Service through short-term work experience. Re-employment of Stagiaires either as consultants or in any other atypical capacity totally undermines this fundamental intention of the Stagiaire Scheme.

We would also reiterate the PSEU Head Office query concering the employment of a former Stagiaire immediately subsequent to the expiry of a a Stagiaire contract. Could you clarify please, on what basis can this Department award a constlancy contract to someone who has just completed work experience programme in the Department?

The PSEU Branch Committee would appreciate an early response in this matter please.

Yours sincerely,
Lorraine O’Donoghue
PSEU Branch Secretary

Then they respond to this on October 10th (Page 31 of PDF):

To: Ms. Ciara Bates

Cc: Mr. Peter O’Neill, Mr. Eamonn Molloy, Mr. Dave Hanley

From: Ken Spratt

Date: 10 October 2007

Re: National Broadband Scheme Resources – XX

1. The PSEU recently wrote to Mr. Molloy enquiring about the employment of XX on the national Broadband Scheme (NBS). The following facts may be useful on considering an appropriate reply to the PSEU.

2. In October 2006, Minister Dempsey directed that a NBS be out in train, Given the complexities involved, Minister Dempsey felt that ComReg’s telecommunications expertise should facilitate the implementation of the NBS. The Minister decided that the NBS was the main priority for the Communications area for 2007/2008 and agreed that the Department would meet the cost of any outiside consultants required by either ComReg or the Department to deliver the NBS.

3. On 16 October 2007 [<< wrong date here] I met with Mr. Hanley and Mr. O'Neill to discuss (i) the lack of resources in may area to handle existing priorities and (ii) the need for additional resources for the NBS (1 AP 1 AO/HEO). It was explained to me that the general shortage of resources meant that all divisions in the Department were under resources and that no further resources would be made available to me. I explained that this was disappointing, unacceptable and un-sustainable and that I would have to explore other avenues for securing the resources required to meet the demands of the section. 4. Later in October 2006, in order to address the lack of resources I re-assigned YY (Analyst on secondment from ComReg) and XX to the new NBS. Their previous briefs were, with difficulty, re-assigned to other members of my Division. 5. Both XX and YY have built up considerable expertise that is critical to the smooth running ot the NBS procurement project. In Decemnber 2006, I was faced with the prospect of YY returning to ComReg. Thankfully, we were able to extende her secondment to the end of 2007. This date now looming and will need to be addressed. I will contact you separately in this regard.) 6. In April 2006, I advised Mr. O'Neill that Xx was due to finish on 23 May 2006. It was not possible to extend her Stagiaire contract. I advised Mr. O'Neill that, given the lack of a replacement resource, I would like to find some way of retaining XX. I highlighted that I intended to hire her as a consultant and that, in accordance with section 5.1 of the Public Procurement Guidelines, I wished to record that a competitive process would not be appropriate. Going to procurement would not have resulted in securing a resource with the required knowledge of the NBS. In any event, the rate negotiated with XX was excellent value for money. 7. In summary: * The NBS is the key priority (multi-million € project( in my Division during 2007/2008 * Minister Dempsey directed that the required budget for consultants required to deliver the project should be secured and that such consuultants should be engaged * The required resources were not available within the Department * A competitive process was not deemed to be appropriate * The Public Procurement Guidelines recognise that competitive processes are not always appropriate 8 I would be happy to meet with you to discuss Regards, Ken Spratt

The email above highlights a Department that is falling apart. There are many stories coming out about the Dept of Comms where they are hugely under-resourced and only new hires or replacement of leavers can be hired in Cavan. The Dublin office is allegedly in bits. Our broadband future is now apparently being managed by someone on loan from ComReg and someone just finished their masters in Galway. I’m sure that makes the public and industry really happy. Maybe that’s why the maps for the national broadband scheme are a heap of shit? It also shows a fantastic level of arrogance too in regards to ignoring guidelines.

If you look at page 26 of the PDF you’ll see what the Department of Finance guidelines on such things say. They suggest that three people should be asked to tender but this is not mandatory. They also suggest that even if the tender is below €50,000 it be put on the eTenders website. This job appears not to have been sent to anyone but this girl and it was not on the eTenders website. No rules however were broken. Because the rules are really loose aren’t they?

You can read the winning bid (no other were looked at) and the CV of this girl on page 9 of the PDF. She states there are no conflicts of interest but I would think having been previously working in the Dept on this project and being asked to apply for this job, this in effect is a conflict. But then there is no conflict if there are no others going to be impacted negatively. I’m guessing the equivalent wage when she worked as staff was about 30k a year so as a consultant it would be worth a little more than that. Nice work especially when you are just handed it.

Edit: Someone reminded me I applied for a ComReg job that was to do with this. They turned me down as others were better qualified. A work experience student?

A rake damnit, a rake!

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Video of Bertie Ahern not knowing where Cavan is

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Leader of a Ireland not knowing that Cavan is in the Republic of Ireland, the country he “leads”. It’s only like one of 26 counties in the Republic Bertie.

The Ting Tings – Great DJ

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Pure pop.