Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

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?

Bertie on broadband – Bertie does not know where Cavan is

Friday, February 8th, 2008


The Taoiseach: As for broadband, while I do not know who incorrectly informed Deputy Kenny, technology companies such as Google, Apple and Dell all continue to expand and invest—–

Deputy Enda Kenny: I will provide the Taoiseach with the figure. Ireland is placed 33rd of 35 countries.

The Taoiseach: —–and are moving to higher rate of advancement in Ireland with huge investment. Moreover, none is even thinking of pulling away from us because of broadband. They continue to develop their capacity within Ireland, of which we should be proud, as well as of our young qualified engineers who go through our excellent education system. In addition, they all use this country as their research and development base.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Not in County Cavan.

The Taoiseach: I am talking about the Republic of Ireland.

Deputy James Bannon: It is patchy throughout Ireland.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Fine Gael is patchy throughout Ireland

The Taoiseach: While the House can discuss County Cavan another day, I am discussing the Republic of Ireland and Members should keep to that.

A Member: County Cavan is not in the North.

The Taoiseach: These companies are increasing their investments and operate their European plants using the high quality people who work here. This is happening everywhere. Deputy Kenny may take a certain satisfaction from the international economic downturn.

Mary Hanafin launching Internet safety classes for parents and teachers

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

From a press release. Mary Hanafin launched a new Internet safety programme for kids, parents and teachers today. It seems to have a heavy slant towards social networking sites:

This new initiative focuses on promoting safer and more effective use of social networking websites by children in Ireland

What will be done:

· Nationwide Internet Safety seminars for parents
· Nationwide in-service training for SPHE teachers
· Classroom resources for use in teaching the SPHE curriculum to first, second, and third years in post-primary schools
· Nationwide Social Networking workshops for primary and post-primary teachers

More of the blurb:

This new programme has been developed by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) in partnership with the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) Curriculum Support Service and the National Parents Council – Primary (NPC)

This is good:

One of their key recommendations is that parents and professionals need to acquire a better understanding that children and young people live in a world of ever increasing sophistication of technological means. The findings recommended that measures be taken to close the widening gap between parents, teachers and children in relation to the use of these new technologies and to Internet safety awareness and safe practice.

That’s the best bit: “measures be taken to close the widening gap between parents, teachers and children”, they should do that for everything, not just Internet usage. If they do this right I’d be delighted. It might make parents and teachers less technophobic too.

Getting Creative er maybe

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008


So CreativeCamp is on March 8th in a castle in Kilkenny. You should go. You should also participate.

So how many folks from Paddy’s Valley are presenting at Creative Camp? Oh, so far one. That’s Joe who is always good with sharing and contributing at every BarCamp/CreativeCamp. Alexia though is on a panel about how sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. (Men are allowed attend this talk but must realise they’re bastards.) 🙂 I would have thought those that went to the Valley learned about the community over there of sharing experiences and knowledge and would have jumped at the chance of presenting. Still time folks. And it doesn’t have to be about tech. I’d love to hear a talk from Jessi on healthy living. Maybe expanding on this article she wrote on getting kids to eat veg. (Not once in it did she mention violence or the threat of it, I can’t see it working :))

Maybe (Blog Award nominated!) Niall Larkin could give a presentation on online communities and how people interact, without giving away the recipe for the Relevant M secret sauce eh? Niall has massive insight to how humans work with tech. We could all benefit from his thoughts on that.

TechLudd was huge with a massive attendance by tech people in January. Maybe Anton could nudge some of those folks to go along too and give some talks?

There are tonnes of people who could give great talks and maybe they need a little encouragement? CreativeCamp is the place for shy people and will be very welcome. It would be a shame to see the old faces once again giving presentations, though while always good it would be good to see new presenters.

Nice to see BarCamp regulars Walter and Bernie do a panel discussion called “How Friends Communicate” too.

Lucky number 777,777

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

The number of unique visitors since June 11th 2005 that came here. Yay. And still no ads here.

Well Google is pissed – All-out attack on Microsoft Yahoo! Acquisition

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Via Pat Phelan is a link to Google’s comment on the Microsoft Acquisition of Yahoo! by David Drummond, one of their main legal guys. It isn’t nice or subtle. Hostile acquisition is mentioned twice. Open standards blah blah blah.

Google is pulling no punches saying this is a very bad thing for openness. Google of course has APIs for everything. Oh, except for their search engine. They do have a fakey plasticy API that throws AJAX gunk search results on your site but not a real API. Google is open when it suits, of course. Google wants open standards in areas they want to disrupt and take over. Fair enough. Will they open their search API now to save the Internet?

The digs come hard and fast:

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC?

Google hasn’t been done on anti-trust, just yet but after this Microsoft I’m sure is going to be spending a lot of money lobbying for it.

Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft — despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses — to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet?

Google is worried about their ad revenue more than anything else. The digs are fun though. Why have they not complained about Microsoft and extending unfair practices to the net? Google will still own a bigger chunk of search even if this acquisition goes through. What’s the issue? They still own the ad business, the not very open ad business, what’s the issue there?

It makes me wonder whether Google was waiting to kill Yahoo! a little bit more before they assumed they could swallow them up? The last comment in the statement kind of says they can always jump into the arms of Google or let Google help them.

We believe that the interests of Internet users come first — and should come first — as the merits of this proposed acquisition are examined and alternatives explored.

Get the popcorn folks!

Update: Microsoft reply with cold hard figures about Google’s control of search and advertising. They also mention privacy.

Microsoft offer to buy Yahoo! – Rapid reaction

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Twitter breaking the news as usual and the reactions

crap… I loved flickr and

A friend on IM:bugger i like yahoo

If Microsoft buys Yahoo, I’m rolling my own and probably switching off of Flickr.

@marcusmacinnes Must be grinning from ear to ear

true, but yahoo really needs this, it’s really struggling to attract young users, e.g. search and mail, I never see yahoo at work

Mega mergers rarely succeed with the final entity being less than the sum of the parts

great buy and great timing for MSFT but i am going to buy more GOOG when it opens down big this am

eircom announce speed iterations

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Worst kept secret in broadband but speed increases are always welcome.

Customers currently availing of a 3Mb, 4Mb or a 6Mb product will see significant increases in downloads speeds which will at least double. They will be upgraded to 7.6Mb, 10Mb and 12Mb product respectively. Customers currently using a 2Mb product will be upgraded to a 3Mb product.

More than 240,000 wholesale and retail customers will now see their broadband download speeds increase

How many do they have on DSL, inc the resellers? That’s a lot of people that are on 1Mb broadband so.

New Speed : : : Old Speed : : : When increases will happen
12Mb/1Mb : : : 6Mb/512k : : : March – May 2008
10Mb/832k : : : 4Mb/484k : : : March – May 2008
7.6Mb/672k : : : 3Mb/384k : : : June 2008
3Mb/384k : : : 2Mb/256k : : : June 2008
1Mb/128k : : : 1Mb/128k : : : N/A

I know some people that got the “upgrade” and their speeds were far from doubled. All depends on your line. But even when you are near an exchange, this might not be a guarantee.

Edit: Yes, the upgrades are free. I doubt contention ratios will change.

Latest Fine Gael Broadband Manifesto: Blinkered, backwards, boring

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Well I guess they do need to keep going when it comes to being clueless.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, launching a new FG policy on broadband said the plan will tackle high prices, poor customer services and improve broadband availability and take-up levels that currently place us at the bottom of the international rankings.

No it won’t. The document doesn’t explain how that will happen at all.

So Simon Coveney now has brought out another FG manifesto. That Durkan is gone is a good thing, that Coveney is back, not so much. This new manifesto is all about fibre and all about ducting. Ducting is a big issue but they seem to forget that the issue of carrier neutral ducting has been smothered by the Department of Environment for about a decade now. Their Environmental person should be in on this too. Here’s the top 10 from FG:

  • 1. Mandate the Department of Communications to undertake a comprehensive audit of all ducting under both public and private ownership throughout the country. Based on this audit, a detailed plan of where ducting, especially between the exchange and the cabinet but also at backhaul level, is most needed.
  • Can they just ask eircom and others?

  • 2. Enter negotiations with all private owners of ducting for the purposes of securing open access to infrastructure, in an effort to try to create a web of open-access ducting throughout the country.
  • Haha. Hah. That’s like entering negotiations with M50 Toll Bridge owners. Who’ll negotiate?

  • 3. Tender for private sector interest in managing all State-owned ducting and coordinate with the regulator on the opening of access to privately-owned ducting. The contract will also provide for the management of roll-out of new ducting where appropriate. Funding for this will be provided from the ICT budget within the NDP.
  • The regulator. Oh god. You live and die in telecoms by the regulator. Lots have died.

  • 4. The State should support high-speed wireless connectivity to areas too remote to justify ducting and fibre connections.
  • ComReg are in charge of spectrum. Look how they screwed that up. You want to subsidise ComReg mistakes? Look who got the only National Wireless Broadband licence and what they did with it.

  • 5. Revise the terms of the contracts for provision of broadband to extremely remote areas under the National Broadband Scheme, to require that this connectivity be of a high-bandwidth.
  • Morons. How about scrap the most screwed up scheme ever. Did you read the Sunday Times this weekend, did you look at the NBS map which is a pack of lies about coverage? How about creating an honest map.

  • 6. Pass legislation to require ducting to be installed to the home in all new housing and apartment developments under new building standards regulations.
  • That’s been in Dept of Environment hell for years. Good luck with that. It is needed though.

  • 7. Pass legislation to require ducting to be laid as part of all new road developments and maintenance.
  • See above.

  • 8. Ensure that all infrastructure relating to roll-out of next generation access – at all parts of the network – be subject to fast-track planning rules
  • Not going to happen. Join the slow queue of things that need to be fast-tracked. It’s not about time it’s about the insane costs and the differents rules and costs in each locality.

  • 9. Invite tenders for provision of wholesale high-bandwidth access to state bodies throughout the country, such as schools, third-level institutions, hospitals and departmental buildings.
  • 10. The connection of Next Generation Access to all schools and educational in particular institutions needs immediate priority in government planning.

Think of the children! Why not connect every school to the MANs outside their doors and stop providing satellite to them?

It does seem FG forgot to read that last ComReg report that said Dublin and therefore Ireland is screwed but hell, bandy about terms like NGN and Fibre and you’ll sound smart.

Fine Gael show how clueless they are by saying the National Broadband Scheme will get Ireland 100% broadband. It will not. Had they looked at the scheme even quickly they could have seen this. The NBS will give maybe 10% of the country broadband, that still leaves 10-15% of people that were told go screw themselves.

More bits:

The Government’s National Broadband Scheme, which will start to come on stream in mid-2008, aims to provide basic broadband access for the 10-15% of the population living in remote areas. As a result, first-generation broadband availability should be at 100% within a few years at most.

Fine Gael needs to realise that people in the middleclass neighbourhoods that they prowl might be getting broadband, but a hell of a lot of people in poorer and more remote areas still won’t get ANY broadband. Why not consider them?

Even worse, users enjoy an average speed of only 3.011Mbps, third lowest of 35 OECD countries, with only Mexico and Turkey worse than us.


Fine Gael proposes prioritising the achievement of a “fibre to the cabinet” (FTTC) or “fibre to the kerb” (FTTK) network in as much of the country as possible as soon as possible. The connection from the kerb to the home will still be copper wire, but the fact that the entire network from the kerb back will be fibre will mean that speeds of up to 25Mbps can be achieved. Putting in place such a network will achieve the desired effect of a massive step-up in Ireland’s broadband speeds in a realistic time-frame and without imposing an unacceptable burden on the public purse.

Read the ComReg report.

Skype Slapped

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Nice dig at Skype by outgoing eBay CEO Meg Whitman

Skype is doing more business as a four-year-old than eBay, Yahoo, or even Google did. We saw potential synergies between Skype and eBay. The next year or so will prove out if we were right. We’ve only had our management team in there for three months. Prior to that we had the founders, who are brave individuals, but were motivated by the earn-out.

Ah sure, there’s always Joost.