Teicneolaíocht (Technology)

Atmo-Craft, Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson (Íomhá: © 2002 Rebellion A/S)

During a quick discussion over on CLR in relation to Joss Whedon’s short-lived Sci-Fi series “Firefly” I was reminded of the New Zealand comics’ artist Colin Wilson and the incredibly realistic hardware illustrations he produced in the early 1980s for “Rogue Trooper”, 2000AD’s future war series. Some of the best – and most convincing – designs in futuristic weapons and machines I’ve ever seen came from Wilson’s accomplished hands, hardly surprising given that many were clearly based on contemporary military products. From the Mil Mi-24 Hind, the famous Soviet-era attack helicopter, to the lesser-known Centurion main battle tank Wilson took real world inspirations and extrapolated their future equivalents in technically exquisite detail. One was left thinking that if such machines did not exist in the present they most certainly would do so at some stage in the future. After my first exposure to Wilson’s carefully engineered designs I spent much of my teenage years copying his style and still do so whenever I turn to Science-Fiction themed art. In a long and extremely varied career the New Zealander went on to contribute to the Star Wars franchise beginning in 2007 with artwork for the comic book series “Star Wars: Legacy”. However his influence is in evidence well before that through the likes of the “Low Altitude Assault Transport/infantry (LAAT/i)”, a CGI military aircraft that features in the 2002 movie “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hardware designs produced by Wilson for the Rogue Trooper story “Marauders” way back in 1982.

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

 

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Irish TV And Cinema? Some Hope

TG4 - Súil Eile

TG4 – Súil Eile

I was going through my collection of Blu-ray and DVD movies and box-sets over the weekend, not to mention several hundred hours of digital content on my main HTPC, and it suddenly struck me that less than 1% of the total was actually Irish-made. I have a huge catalogue of films and TV shows from (in descending order) the United States, Britain, Japan, China, Canada, Korea, Australia, France, Denmark, Germany and Russia but the number of productions from Ireland is infinitesimal. Six documentaries or drama-docs from TG4 (including “1916 Seachtar na Casca” and “Bóthar na Saoirse”), two comedy-dramas from TG4 (“Rásaí na Gaillimhe 1” and “2”, plus “An Crisis”) and one comedy from RTÉ (the early 2000s’ “Paths to Freedom”). And that is pretty much it. Out of some three thousand hours of cinematic and television entertainment less than twenty hours are actually Irish-made productions for Irish audiences.

In part this is attributable to the availability of domestic productions for the home entertainment market in Ireland which is astonishingly low. Only a handful of the more popular shows are released on DVD and the vast majority of those are from RTÉ which gobbles up most of the licence fee to feed itself. Unsurprisingly they are usually at the lower end of the market, reflecting the culture of Irish television in general. TG4 releases hardly any of its far superior and more Irish-orientated shows on DVD no doubt due to costs. Though why it has not entered the digital market via downloads or streaming on the lines of Amazon or Netflicks is beyond me. It simply makes no sense – but then very little about public service broadcasting in Ireland does.

All of which leads me to the observation most commonly made by Continental visitors to our island nation: in terms of language and cultural references the Irish are indistinguishable from the Americans or British. In fact they seem little more than the mongrel off-spring of both. Given that Irish television and cinema has historically provided almost no output to balance that of the United States and Britain this is hardly surprising. If I were French, German or Spanish one would expect French, German or Spanish entertainment productions to dominate my home library. Even if one were to accept arguments about economies of scale there seems little doubt that the same would hold true if I were Danish, Swedish or Finnish, nations not dissimilar in size to Ireland.

The facts are this: public service broadcasting in Ireland as embodied by RTÉ has failed and failed miserably. It is simply a bad Irish joke. This is widely acknowledged throughout the country where, ironically, most people now recognise that the best TV output stems from TG4, the Irish language TV channel. Even militant hardcore Anglophones critics have agreed that it outperforms every one of its rivals, public or private, and is about the nearest Ireland has to an “Irish BBC”. Yet it receives less than 5% of the television licence fee and a nominal government grant (95% of the TV licence goes to RTÉ which is begrudgingly obligated to produces a handful of shows for TG4).

Funnily enough it seems that I am not the only one who was thinking along these lines. From the Irish Times newspaper:

“Could Irish language movies and songs ever compete in the global entertainment market? Some 70 per cent of Hollywood’s box office revenue now comes from dubbed and subtitled versions of its movies sold in international markets, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. In pop music, Psy’s Gangnam Style represents the first wave of non-English international mega-hits that will sweep in as the commercial pop culture of countries such as Korea, India, China, Russia and Brazil continues to develop.

Currently, most Irish language films and pop songs are not making a major domestic, let alone international impact. So how about establishing a €2 million annual competition to select and film the best Irish language movie script, and to record the best Irish language pop song?

Imagine the film got €1.8 million, with the remaining €200,000 spent on recording and making a video for the song, and on the administration of the competition.

The competition could be open to international screenwriters and song-writers, with the proviso that all production money be spent in Ireland – meaning an annual investment of at least €1.8 million into the Irish media industry.

The Irish Film Board (IFB) used to maintain that it was unrealistic to try competing in Irish against major Hollywood films, but in an increasingly globalised world, things are changing. Ned Dowd, a Hollywood producer responsible for films such as The Wonder Boys and Last of the Mohicans , points to the success of his film Apocalypto , directed by Mel Gibson, which despite being in Mayan earned $121 million dollars (admittedly on a budget of $40 million). Gibson’s earlier film The Passion of the Christ was in Aramaic and earned $611 million. “It’s all about story, universal themes,” Dowd has said. “The language is secondary.”

This whole notion is speculative and aspirational, but if it were to succeed even partially it could prove a key element in keeping the language vibrant for the next generation. Young people are now accustomed to cartoons and soap operas in Irish, but films and pop music are almost exclusively in English. Demand for Irish songs exists, witnessed by the viral success of the Coláiste Lurgan cover versions that emerge each summer.

It seems there’s also an appetite from abroad to help the language. Seven years after broadcasting the No Béarla TV programme, in which I travelled around the country speaking only Irish, I am still regularly approached by Irish-American cultural groups and impassioned individuals, keen to know how they can help the language.

…the benefits of targeted funding can be seen in the Danish media market. “In Denmark the public service broadcaster puts €1 million a year into feature-film production on top of the Danish Film Institute’s €60 million – and that’s a country the size of Ireland.””

The doling out of severely limited funds between RTÉ, TG4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann (the Irish Film Board) and the idiosyncratic Sound and Vision Fund (controlled by that quango par excellence, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) is beyond a scandal. Whether the monies are raised through the licence fee or general taxation millions upon millions of euros are being wasted on projects that are almost guaranteed to have little commercial or popular impact. Most simply appear and disappear without the general public being even aware of their existence. Millions more is going on duplicated staffing and administration expenses. Offices filled with paper-shufflers and seat-warmers. It is this scatter-gun approach to Irish television and film production that has made our nation a cultural vacuum.

If we intend to be serious about our language and our culture, if we intend to be serious about establishing a viable TV and cinema production industry for our domestic market, then it is time to close down the vanity projects and political patronage system of yesteryear. A start should be made by leaving English language broadcasting in Ireland to the private market with all the necessary (and presently missing!) statutory safeguards on quality, standards and ownership in place. Let TV3 and 3e, or the new “ITV Ireland” promised by UTV, provide English language television services along with the dozens of American, British and Canadian channels already available to Irish viewers via cable and satellite. RTÉ should become an entirely Irish language public service broadcaster (and restricted to Irish language advertising in order to level the playing field with its private rivals who survive on English language advertising and sponsorship). After all what is public service television and radio supposed to do but provide what private enterprise will not? TG4 should be rolled back into RTÉ which should be restricted to two TV and three radio channels, as well as internet services. Bord Scannán na hÉireann should be replaced by a cinema production arm of RTÉ, the equivalent of BBC Films or Film4 in Britain, with an obligation to produce a minimum of four Irish language cinematic release a year. Legislation should be introduced to facilitate the showing of these movies in cinemas across Ireland upon release, similar to regulations in force elsewhere in Europe. RTÉ should also take up the old role of Gael Linn, producing and fostering Irish language music for cultural or commercial purposes.

As for the TV licence fee or its replacement, scrap both and instead implement direct government funding via an independent oversight body appointed by the Oireachtas. Given the size of Ireland’s national economy, comparing overseas’ public service broadcasters and the country’s needs a new RTÉ budget of 400 million euros per annum is more than adequate (with 45 million earmarked for Scannáin RTÉ). And if you are wondering where that money is going to come from how much do you think the government already spends on direct funding for RTÉ, TG4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann and the Sound and Vision Fund under the BAI, not to mention the millions that goes to the likes of Gael Linn Records and other Irish language organisations? Believe me there is a mass of money dispersed throughout a dozen state-funded organisations and quangos that could be easily pooled to contribute towards the core budget of a new RTÉ.

More bang for your buck, the elimination of waste and duplication, removing corruption and patronage, introducing public oversight and accountability, levelling the playing field between public and private broadcasters, servicing Ireland’s indigenous language and culture and presenting it to the world, establishing a thriving domestic television and movie industry, employing tens of thousands of Irish people in Irish jobs, generating tax revenue through targeted government investment…? Ok, admittedly all of this is far too sensible. Which is why it will never happen.

Even A Fanboy Has His Limits

Speak no fanspeak, see no fanspeak, hear no fanspeak

Is it just me or is there now a dearth of thoughtful and well-informed websites and blogs on the genre worlds of Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature? Oh yes, the banner-heavy, paragraph-light sites that focus on the latest Marvel or DC movie franchises are in plentiful supply. However most of these flash-happy affairs have as much substance as a stick of candy floss; and are just as forgettable. When it comes to in-depth reviews, essays and analyses by people who know what they are talking about – and who aren’t afraid to break the taboos of fannish devotion – one is left clicking through page after page in search of something with a bit of intelligence and insight (who knew that Monster & Critics was still in existence? And by god is it awful). One longs for the likes of the Cimmerian, the now defunct US-based website devoted to Robert E. Howard, where people of real talent wrote with eloquence and wit on the works of Howard, J.R.R Tolkien and others. Ironically in some cases where good online venues did exist to examine or debate such matters their supposed “improvements” have actually managed to ruin them. Britain’s SF Crow’s Nest springs to mind (that is if you can actually find the current website via a Google search. Talk about SEO unfriendly. Not to mention the dubious honour of creating an internet site that actually looks worse than its pleasingly old school predecessor). Websites specifically focusing on the old reliables, books, comics and graphic novels, have now succumbed to the cult of infotainment-style soundbite-reporting on the latest rumour about the latest superhero flick. It is all so mind-numbingly inconsequential.

Is this the dreaded future of the internet that the critics warned us about? The sinking into the mire of collective mediocrity? How has fandom come to this?

Learn A Language In Six Months?

Since this is generating some internet buzz I thought I’d post it: How to learn any language in six months, Chris Lonsdale at TEDxLingnanUniversity. I’m always suspicious about “fast-track” learning. Most are gimmicks and as I know from experience learning a new language when in adulthood is as much about a person’s intuitive abilities as anything else. Some can, some can’t, and most just fall somewhere in the middle. I’m very much in the “can’t” camp.

An Irish Equivalent For Geek Or Otaku?

Gaeilge (Atari)

Gaeilge (Atari)

I was recently asked if there is an Irish word that is the equivalent of the Anglo-American term Geek or its Japanese near-equivalent Otaku (おたく/オタクおたく/オタク). I couldn’t think of anything unless one went for something like a crude Gaelicisation of the originals in the form of Geic (?) or Odacú (?). Then I remembered the Irish and Scottish literary genre of aislingí (“dreams, visions”),  stories and narrative poems that began in the Medieval period with mythological or ecclesiastical tales and which later developed a more political edge in the turbulent 17th and 18th centuries. Though principally focused on interactions with or expressions of the Otherworldly it often bore a commentary on current events. In this context the Irish word aislingeach, which means “dreamer, day-dreamer; visionary”, seemed a suitable equivalent for geek. A bit clunky though, given the subject matter.

Could others come up with a better or more organic term?

[Update]: Thanks to Méabh in Nua Eabhrac who claims that Aislingeach is too long and established as a word. It needs to be something (and I quote) “…with vocal punch” and a neologism to boot. I agree.

[Update]: Pól offers up on Facebook the word teicnóg for geek or geek culture. You could gloss that as “young-tech” which I kinda like. A lot! Though should it be teicóg?

[Update]: Well it seems that “officially” the Irish language does have an equivalent for the word Geek. It is Geocach which is “geoc-” (geek) with the “-ach” ending to make it a thing (in this case a person). To my ears it sounds rather unappealing and judging by the reaction it seems I’m not the only one.

So far on Facebook the suggested term Teicóg (loosely “young-tech”) is gathering some favour. So that would give us:

Teicóg = geek culture
Teicógach = a geek
Teicógaigh = geeks

Flannbhuí

Flannbhuí

Flannbhuí, literally “red-yellow” (that is, orange-coloured), on the streets of Droichead Átha, Éire, 2014

On the streets of Droichead Átha, the very definition of flannbhuí. And a beautiful example it is.

Glenn Greenwald On War By Other Means

GCHQ - the spiders web

GCHQ – the spiders web

From Glenn Greenwald a must-read for Republican and progressive activists in Ireland and elsewhere examining how the internet is used and abused to manipulate individuals and groups in the interests of major nation-states. To defeat one’s enemy one must understand (or become?) one’s enemy.

“One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.”

Republican Think-Tanks

Saor Éire

Saor Éire

There is a considerable debate going on amongst Irish Republicans and interested observers in Ireland over the future direction of revolutionary republicanism. With a renewed focus on the ideological aspects and political traditions of Republicanism as it pertains in the 21st century some new ideas are emerging as well as much self-analyses (and quite a bit of recrimination, fair and otherwise). The independent Republican website the Pensive Quill has been one platform for airing these debates but there are others. Two recent articles are of interest, this Q&A on contemporary matters with former senior PIRA Volunteer Gerard Hodgins on the PQ and this lengthier examination of recent history from Diarmuid Breatnach over on Rebel Breeze. A lot to agree with in both (some of Hodgins’ points match those I made two years ago and repeated several times since then) and a lot to disagree with in both (I believe that some of Breatnach’s interpretations are open to question). As I have pointed out before the internet has become the primary anti-establishment platform in Ireland, a medium for debating and disseminating progressive republican values and politics to the wider citizenry and beyond. That looks set to only grow.

It’s All About The Metadata

I’ve written before about the importance of “raw data” in any revolutionary or military struggle and while that may seem obvious the means of collecting and sorting through such information is far from so. While the Snowden revelations have shocked many (although few have altered their online behaviour despite what they learned) they are only the storefront of a far deeper development. The Irish journalist Ed Moloney has reminded me via his blog of a video from the TED convention last September that I meant to post but which slipped my mind. It highlights the importance of “metadata” and how building a web of interactions is frequently the first step in mapping any organisation or movement. Given the frequently amateurish nature of the current generation of would-be Irish revolutionaries versus some of their contemporaries elsewhere in the world it makes you wonder why exactly the authorities in Ireland and Britain are having such a hard time closing down what is still an embryonic insurgency on the edges of mainstream Republicanism (though they are not exactly failing either).

Removal Of The RSS Feeds – Apologies

RSS feed diagram

RSS feeds – they look simple but…

Yes, I know, the RSS feeds to like-minded websites in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere have been removed from An Sionnach Fionn. I’m afraid the reasons are technical, mostly to do with slower load times on my own webpages and poor SEO ranking due to the presence of multiple RSS links on ASF. So what to do? Many (many, many) readers have queried their disappearance and requested their return. I understand that they represent a convenient go-to list of news and views from the Celtic nations. So I will be providing an alternative to the RSS feeds through direct links categorised by language and country. While that carries it own issues it will keep load-times to a minimum while pleasing the web crawlers of Google and Bing. Hopefully. Your views and opinions are welcome (not to mention alternative solutions).

Drool Cars

A beautiful example of southern California's car culture

A beautiful example of southern California’s car culture (Íomhá: http://www.digitaldtour.com)

As I face up to the troubling fact that wanting a certain type of car is not the same as being able to afford a certain type of car, along comes Digital D-Tour with these Californian specimens of automotive beauty. Sigh…

Another example of southern California's car culture

Another example of southern California’s car culture (Íomhá: http://www.digitaldtour.com)

Ogham – Ireland’s Indigenous Alphabet

In the field with the Ogham in 3D project (Íomhá: PDDNET)

In the field with the Ogham in 3D project (Íomhá: PDDNET)

Here’s a fascinating article on the Product Design and Development website examining an archaeological project in Ireland to preserve in electronic form the earliest written examples of the Irish language, the inscribed Ogham alphabet from the early centuries CE.

“Dotted around the rugged landscape of Western Ireland and the Irish Sea are individual stones standing three or more feet out of the ground marked with symbols, mini-memorials that tell the stories of prominent people and tribes in the first language of the Irish more than 1,500 years ago.

Ogham stones are among Ireland’s most remarkable national treasures. These perpendicular-cut stones bear inscriptions in the unique Irish Ogham alphabet, use a system of notches and horizontal or diagonal lines/scores to represent the sounds of an early form of the Irish language. The stones are inscribed with the names of prominent people and sometimes tribal affiliation or geographical areas. These inscriptions constitute the earliest recorded form of the Irish language and, as the earliest written records dating back at least as far as the 5th century AD, are a significant resource for historians, as well as linguists and archaeologists.

Recently, many of the stones, in the ground in their many locations, were individually scanned for the sake of research and language preservation using an Artec, Eva hand-held scanner. Climbing mountains and walking through valleys, researchers carried their scanning equipment to advance the study of the Irish language; a heritage project supported by The Discovery Programme and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Over the centuries the stones continue to weather, slowly losing their inscriptions as the elements erode the carved language and symbols.  Preserving these remnants of an ancient language – and capturing the physical depth of the writing and the shape of each stone – was a perfect application for advanced, portable, hand-held 3D scanning.

The stones vary in size, with an average height of approximately 1.5m. They are often located in remote and exposed parts of Ireland which adds to the challenge of getting to them and recording their inscriptions and physical shapes in a high resolution. A small forensics tent enclosed each stone, creating a mini, controlled lighting environment and to ensure measurements could proceed whatever the weather. To ensure sufficient power for the scanner and a laptop, a portable generator was often used.  Most sites are rugged and remote and a long way from a source of electricity.”

There is more information about this invaluable project at the website Ogham In 3D with some excellent background detail to Ogham, a body of ritualistic symbols made by hand or carved in wood and later adapted to the Roman alphabet for use with the Irish language (and named after the Tuatha Dé Danann figure Oghma).

In the field with the Ogham in 3D project, and a gallán or standing stone inscribed with Ogham and early Christian symbols (Íomhá: PDDNET)

In the field with the Ogham in 3D project, and a gallán or standing stone inscribed with Ogham and early Christian symbols (Íomhá: PDDNET)

An example of written or manuscript Ogham, a later Medieval development of the alphabet (Íomhá: DIAS)

An example of written or manuscript Ogham, a later Medieval development of the alphabet (Íomhá: DIAS)

 

British War Hysteria – The Hibernoban!

British military helicopter brought down by ground-fire from an Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1990s

British military helicopter brought down by ground-fire from an Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1990s

So to another round of Fantasy Troubles as the news media in Britain, with a nod and a wink from domestic “security sources”, launch a febrile attempt to whip up some old fashioned anti-Irish hysteria in the lead up to Christmas. And how are they doing that, you ask? Why, by claiming that Irish insurgent groups in the north-east of Ireland have allied themselves to the Taliban of course. From the London Independent newspaper:

Republicans in Northern Ireland look to Taliban for weapons

Taliban-inspired technology is boosting the capacity of dissident republicans to wage war against the security services, with the discovery of advanced weaponry never seen before in Northern Ireland, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.”

Oh, so it’s “Taliban-inspired” rather than Taliban-supplied as the headline implies.

“The degree of technical sophistication is “unprecedented”, and experts are warning that it is part of a worsening picture that could include a sustained bombing campaign.

Police managed to foil an attack which had been planned in South Armagh using what the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) described as two “mortar type” devices. Dissident republicans had planned to bring down a helicopter using the rocket launchers, which took army bomb disposal experts three days to examine.”

Er, would that be the same make of mortar that the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army deployed in the Occupied North of Ireland in the 1990s to bring down British military aircraft including a helicopter landing at a military outpost in Crois Mhic Lionnáin in 1994?

“In the wake of the discovery, security sources approached Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon with their concerns. The weaponry, found in August, was unlike anything seen in Northern Ireland before. It is understood that it could be detonated remotely using an infrared laser – a tactic used by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Ordnance triggered by infrared lasers? As in a 1992 (P)IRA ambush of a vehicle patrol by paramilitary police from the later disbanded RUC, an event that occurred twenty-one years ago in the Irish town of An Iúraigh?

“He said the “deeply worrying” discovery confirmed that there are links between people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and those that made the bomb and mortar attack weapon in Cullyhanna.”

French TV crew are shown a mortar being prepared for an attack by a Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, early 1990s

French TV crew are shown a mortar being prepared for an attack by a Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, early 1990s

Oh yes, Commandant Mahamad Ó Néill, spokesperson for the GHQ Staff and Army Council of Óglaigh na hÉireann! But wait, maybe it is actually those ungrateful Irish peasants in British military khaki who are the real culprits.

“Independent MP Patrick Mercer, a former army officer who has served in Northern Ireland, speculated last night that another possibility was that military personnel who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq may be responsible for passing on details about the technology. “I have heard about this. This is all to do with light-sensitive devices,” he said. “But of course it’s no more or less than the fact that they’ve got people coming back from Afghanistan who have served over there who are able to pass on this expertise. There are many Irishmen serving in all branches of the services. It’s not unknown for loyalties to be split.”

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a senior military figure who commanded troops in Northern Ireland, admitted: “It is almost inevitable that ‘leakage’ of military skills from ‘us’ to ‘them’ happens over time and is disturbing and definitely of concern to the hierarchy.””

So the British admit that during the thirty years of the Long War the Irish Republican Army successfully infiltrated or cultivated agents in the British Armed Forces? And that this is happening again with contemporary Irish Republican insurgents who have less than a tenth of the strength or resources of the (P)IRA?

“But it is possible that “information exchange” between dissidents and the Taliban is taking place, according to Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. “We did see in the past co-operation between Islamist extremists in the Middle East and the Provisional IRA.”

Earlier this year The IoS revealed how dissidents are using armour-piercing horizontal mortars similar to those used by the Taliban.”

The same horizontal mortars that the Irish Republican Army employed throughout the late 1980s and ’90s? The same weapons which successfully drove British Army vehicle and foot patrols off many rural roads in the north-east of the country and onto helicopter gunships?

So where is this fantastical (and farcical) British warmongering coming from? And why now?

Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4″ Smartphone – Oh How I Love Thee

Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4" Smartphone

Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4″ Smartphone (Íomhá: PC Advisor)

A few weeks ago I was discussing my need for a new mobile phone to replace my existing three year old HTC Desire and after much research I finally settled on the Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4″. Online retailer amazon.co.uk had a SIM-free version with a Sony SmartWatch 2 SW2 and shipment to Ireland for only €727.66 which was just too tempting to resist (considering that the device is not available on any of the Irish networks and the phone alone is selling for €779.00 direct from sony.ie followed by €746.24 from Dabs, €704.99 from Expansys and €681.90 from Pixmania it was a deal and a half). I also received £1 credit to download any music from Amazon MP3. Unfortunately that is for British residents only which is typical of the fairly shabby treatment Irish consumers of Amazon UK and Ireland have come to expect. Anyway it arrived on Friday and I’ve been setting it up (or playing with it) ever since. There were absolutely no issues installing a Vodafone Ireland SIM card in the phone beyond swapping my old one for a micro-SIM (less than a minute in the Vodafone shop, no costs involved).

As for the device itself it is truly beautiful, a fantastic balance between a smartphone and tablet. Yes, it does look fragile due to its oblong length and extreme thinness so I will be investing in a case or cover but worries about it being too big or awkward for use have proved foundless. It is simply a technological device that cries out to be used and to be honest it is all too easy to fall into the category of social misanthrope as you become absorbed in its many features. Next on the shopping list a nice fat 64GB micro-card for the memory slot.

Sony Smartwatch, designed to work with the Xperia Z Ultra

Sony Smartwatch, designed to work with the Xperia Z Ultra

 

Win 8.1, WiFi And Lenovo’s Q190

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 (Íomhá: BBC / Microsoft)

So Win 8.1, the service pack that is not a service pack, has been disgorged into Win 8 machines all over the world and as is the wont with Microsoft software updates it comes with its fair share of issues. In the case of my Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190, a HTPC or multi-media computer connected to a HDTV, the problem is the disappearance of my device’s WiFi connection. No WiFi, no internet, no multi-media entertainment. Sigh. It seems that the Windows’ updated 8.1 WLAN driver is incompatible with the Realtek hardware in the machine and apparently I am not the only one having trouble (in fact its been a known issue since the Win 8.1 pre-release beta versions).

So what is the solution you ask? Well there are several.

If you have updated your computer and now find that you have no internet connection try the following:

Settings (bottom right corner of screen) > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers > Device Manager > Network adapters > Realtek (left click the one that has the yellow problem triangle) > Update Driver Software > Browse my computer for software > Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer > Choose Realtek diver not Microsoft one > Next.

And that should be it. Hopefully your computer’s WiFi hardware will switch itself back on though you’ll probably need to re-enter the password details for your router to gain internet access. If you find that it is the Realtek driver that is causing the issues then try choosing the Microsoft one through the same process, though that solution will probably only apply in a small number of cases. If you are given the option of an Atheros driver you can substitute this for the Microsoft one in the same manner.

If the above route to salvation doesn’t work and you have a second machine you can try using that to go to the support website of the manufacturer of the problem PC and download the last updated Win 8 WLAN (WiFi) driver from there (not a Win 8.1 driver). In the case of the Q190 you would be downloading from Lenovo’s support page and the latest Win 8 driver for Realtek. The driver installation program can be downloaded or copied over onto a memory stick or card and then installed on the PC that has the WiFi issue. This will revert the driver there back to the functioning Win 8 version which should work (I’ve tested it and there were no issues). Alternatively if your internet deprived PC is near a router you can use a direct cable connection to connect to the web and complete the support updates that way.

Finally if you have yet to update your computer to Win 8.1 I would strongly urge you to download the latest Win 8 WLAN installation software to your machine. That way if your WiFi stops working you can simply install the pre-downloaded Win 8 version of the driver.

All in all a less than auspices start to the “fixing” of an operating system that remains deeply flawed in both form and purpose.