Talking of technology, given the level of aggression and subliminal violence that now passes for social discourse in contemporary Ireland perhaps I could do with one of these cameras? The country of a “Hundred Thousand Welcomes” is well and truly dead. Instead we have a country where verbal abuse is so casual on the streets as to be the norm and violent confrontations can be witnessed on the thoroughfares of our major cities on a regular basis.
Andrew Leonard has a fascinating article on Salon examining the hidden “edit wars” taking place behind the seemingly placid façade of Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopaedia. It is an extraordinary account of how personal vendettas pursued through Wikipedia can be taken to the most extreme of degrees, involving the use of fake online personae, sock-puppets and other means of hiding true identities. I’d strongly recommend a read for anyone who has ever used Wikipedia – and that would be the majority of web users. All is not as it seems…
- Anonymous revenge editing on Wikipedia – the case of Robert Clark Young aka Qworty (wikipediocracy.com)
- Who really runs Wikipedia? (economist.com)
- Week 12, Question 2: Why is Wikipedia not regarded as a credible source? (rmoorthiblog.wordpress.com)
- Revenge editing is a big blemish on Wikipedia (laobserved.com)
While many consumers have bought into the commercial push for so-called Smart TVs the majority of the products on the Irish market are far from smart (yet). Very few have true internet browsers at the level of Chrome or Internet Explorer and most are limited to dedicated applications for specific services such as YouTube and Facebook which curtails their usability. Additionally some of the better known apps on Smart TVs supplied by manufactures for sale in Ireland can’t even be accessed from this country (the most prominent being the BBC’s iPlayer).
Anyone who has used a so-called Connected TV will know how lacklustre the performances can be and how many websites can confuse or crash the onboard browser (that’s when you can persuade the television to communicate with your wireless router in the first place). Even the addition via the TV’s USB port – if supplied – of one of a growing number of cheap Android dongles for “Google TV” (not actual but known off-handedly as such) adds little of value. In fact such an “upgrade” can cause a whole new set of problems of its own. In a similar vein connecting external devices, such as a portable hard drive, can be an onerous task whether by USB or HDMI cables. It is hardly surprising then that consumer research has proven that the majority of Smart TV purchasers do not have their televisions actually connected to the internet (which somewhat defeats the purpose of buying the sets in the first place).
A long-standing market solution to these issues (which actually pre-dates the development of Smart TV technology) is a Home Theatre Personal Computer or HTPC. Basically imagine a small computer connected to your TV with all the functionality of its bigger cousins but largely used for the purposes of multi-media entertainment. This is certainly the route I took when I decided to purchase a good off-the-shelf HTPC that combined a decent sized HDD (hard disc drive), an optical drive for playing DVDs/Blu-rays, a HDMI output to hook up to a Hi-Definition TV and a wireless internet connection for browsing. I say “off-the-shelf” since there is a considerable home market in people building their own from sourced parts though this can carry some pitfalls of its own. After much research I settled on the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190, choosing the 1TB HDD version with the rather low-powered Intel Core i3 processor, a DVD/Blu-ray combo drive and a wireless multimedia remote.
Stripped of all the jargon the Q190 is basically a mini-PC, roughly the size of fat hardback novel, that can sit horizontally on a shelf or vertically in a supplied stand (it also comes with a small metal bracket that can be fitted to the back of a TV or a wall, complete with screws, to hide it completely). The 1TB drive gives lots of space for video and image files though some of that space is taken up by the rather hoggish operating system, the infamous Windows 8. Otherwise extraneous software is kept to a minimum with not even the usual Microsoft sample pictures or videos to take up valuable memory (which of course is a good thing). A bundled trial version of Microsoft Office and a few other bits and pieces are added for those who intend to use the Q190 as a replacement desktop though these can can be easily deleted.
Techies might prefer to replace the Win8 OS with a somewhat more frugal version of Linux, XBMC or some other operating system to free up even more space. As it is Win8 takes some getting used to and I’m not sure it suits the intended purpose of the Q190 (but that is a general criticism of Win8 on all non-touch screen machines). That said the handheld remote is quite good once you get used to it. It combines a battery-operated, backlit, mini-mouse/keyboard and makes navigation around the machine fairly easy (AA batteries are supplied and the blue-coloured wireless dongle for the remote is safely housed in the battery-compartment – remove it and place in a free USB slot on the machine before switching on). However for long-term or detailed use a dedicated full-size wireless keyboard and mouse might be preferred by some. I should note that you will need some sort of keyboard and mouse to set up and use the machine. In all other respects it is still simply a PC. So purchasing the wireless remote with the Q190 is probably the best option for most users.
I was pleased to discover that the remote can be set up under the Windows’ Irish keyboard option meaning the síneadh fada can be employed whether you are using the English or Irish versions of Win8.
The actual set-up itself of the Q190 was rather easy: a standard HDMI cable from the PC to the TV followed by some 20 minutes of entering the usual location details, user profiles, passwords, updates and restarts (most of the Windows’ updates needed to be done manually). No big surprises so far though there was an issue with the Date/Time but that was an easy fix. Connecting to the internet was painless too though I’d recommend downloading Chrome to replace Internet Explorer if you purchase the machine. As some might have guessed with a Core i3 processor this is not the fastest device in the world. There is a slight delay in some tasks such as opening or starting programmes that might frustrate power-users.
As for usability the image and sound quality from video files on the machine is fine (including playing 1080 HD video files – I’ve downloaded MPC-HC x64, a good video/audio players). DVD/Blu-ray playback is good too. I might well be investing in a surround sound system to complement both. Attaching additional drives was hassle-free, with no problems reading from a 64GB flash drive and a 1TB external hard drive connected via the back and front USB ports (the latter hidden behind a door), and a 1GB memory card. Streaming from the internet was good too with no issues watching webplayers from TG4 or RTÉ. I haven’t installed TOR or similar yet but I doubt there will be any problems watching foreign web services like the BBC’s iPlayer.
My only criticism, Win8 aside (which might be a matter of personal preference for some), is the slightly noisy fan. I had hoped for quieter but it’s not too bad and in most conditions, watching a video file or Blu-ray, it’s ok. There are various 3rd-party programmes to alleviate the issue that I will probably check out.
All in all this is an excellent machine, a true space-saving mini-PC that works very well indeed as a means of providing an internet connection to my HDTV or providing video and audio playback from local files on its large hard drive or disc-player. The wireless remote is actually quite clever, once you get used to it, and is certainly adequate for casual use. I purchased my Q190 from Amazon where it is slightly cheaper than from Lenovo’s own webstore, though as always with Amazon the euro-conversion is far too high.
If you’re in the market for a HPTC or thinking of upgrading your old HD television to a Smart TV I’d certainly recommend the Q190.
As a keen observer of both politics and technology I have spent the last decade and more watching the rise of the internet proxy wars that have flared up across the world wide web and in particular on sites like Wikipedia. The collective online encyclopaedia has become something of a new “high ground” in the information wars for numerous national- and non-national players around the globe. So it is no surprise that representatives of both Irish and British Nationalism (and sympathetic allies or observers on both sides) have made the migration to this new battleground. However what makes the internet all the more interesting is the manner in which one person can actually make a difference (just Google the term “Anglophone supremacist” to see why). Information is power and to control the main sources of information is to wield that power. And Wikipedia is certainly an exemplar of that.
So I’d thought I’d feature the “Talk” page of the English language Wikipedia entry for the Irish village of An Mhagh or Muff/Eglinton in County Derry. It represents a fascinating online microcosm of the greater struggle for Irish freedom, even in the most seemingly innocuous of things. And the determination of individuals to compete for the control of the online sources of information.
Here’s an interesting snippet from the ever-vigilant NAMA Wine Lake. Guess which TV station was the only television broadcaster in Ireland to make a profit in 2011? Not the country’s official “national” broadcaster RTÉ, which ran up losses totalling some €70 million, despite broadcasting little beyond a diet of cheap overseas programming (with €351 million in revenue for 2011 one wonders where all that money went…? Actually one doesn’t since one know’s perfectly well where a large chunk of it went). And certainly not the British-owned tabloid channel TV3 whose dubious strategy for success has centred on becoming an über-trash “ITV Ireland“. It lost nearly €7 million euros in 2011, no doubt irritating quite a few hedge-fund managers back in London. In fact the only TV company to produce anything resembling a gain was none other than “minority” TV station, TG4, which generated €109,000 from an operating budget of €32 million.
Not much you say? Paltry, even? Perhaps. But it wasn’t a €70 million euro loss. A loss equal to one-third of a full year’s TV licence fee payments (or more than double TG4′s total annual budget).
One might argue that if it wasn’t for the vested interests in RTÉ and elsewhere the Irish state would have turned over English language broadcasting in the country to the private sector decades ago. And the politicians might even have done things right and established real regulations guaranteeing responsible ownership and quality of output for non-public broadcasters. We might then have allowed the “national” broadcaster to be what it should always have been – an Irish language broadcaster. This would have created the space for private broadcasters and overseas media providers to fulfil the market need for English language television and radio in Ireland while the public sector provided what the market wouldn’t – TV and radio programming in Irish.
An RTÉ network with two television channels and three radio stations and a state-funded (but independently administrated) budget of €300 million would not only be value for money but actually serve the purpose and spirit of public service broadcasting. Instead what we have now is a mess: a dog’s dinner of a mess that stinks to high heaven. A bloated whale of incestuous back-rubbing represented by RTÉ (which is increasingly indistinguishable from either the BBC or ITV in terms of actual shows broadcast), two foreign-owned, entirely-for-profit trash TV channels, TV3 and 3e, that pump out visual excrement with impunity, and TG4 which almost single-handedly is propping up indigenous television-production in Ireland, particularly in the independent sector, and actually attempting to fulfil its public service mandate.
Or is all this common sense way too radical for the conservative elites that lord it up in Television Centre and Leinster House?
- TG4 Scoops It Rivals (ansionnachfionn.com)
Dreadfully sad news today about the Scottish author Iain Banks whose mainstream and genre books I’ve been reading – and loving – for the last twenty years. In a personal message on his website he announced that he has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and is unlikely to live beyond the next year or so:
“I am officially Very Poorly.
After a couple of surgical procedures, I am gradually recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, but that – it turns out – is the least of my problems.
I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.
The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.
A website is being set up where friends, family and fans can leave messages for me and check on my progress. It should be up and running during this week and a link to it will be here on my official website as soon as it’s ready.
A sad, sad day and one that makes me ashamed for being so hesitant in following my own literary ambitions. The world is loosing a truly great Mind.
Scottish writer Val McDermid has a nice tribute in the Guardian.
- Sad News from Iain M. Banks (tor.com)
Thought I’d highlight an audio podcast of an interview between Michael Greenwell, Scottish Nationalist blogger, and the Reverend Stu Campbell, owner-author of the increasingly popular Wings Over Scotland website. Lots of interesting stuff on the referendum debate in Scotland and well worth a listen to.
I’ve been thinking about the use of audio and video podcasts for some while now and how they could benefit Republican bloggers here in Ireland. Regular text blogging is all well and good (and some of it is very good indeed) but we need to add a multi-media dimension to our blogging. Hard to find the time to arrange these things. And of course there is also the natural reluctance or reticence of some bloggers to emerge from behind their keyboards (for reasons both personal and professional).
However some people are doing great stuff out there in terms of mixed media on their sites (The Irish Story and Irish History Podcast immediately spring to mind; not to mention the lads at the excellent Comic Cast!) and it’s something I hope to examine at some stage in the near future.
There is a sickeningly offensive pseudo-factual claim being passed around by closet Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Far Right racists on various social media at the moment, with Facebook in particular serving as the main medium of exchange. The posting alleges that the world-famous historical diary of Anne Frank, which recounts two years of her life and that of her family in the German Occupied Netherlands during World War II, is a fake. A work of fiction, in fact, dating from the 1950s. This, of course, is utterly untrue and flies in the face of decades of historical studies of the Frank family and the terrible times they lived in.
Let me be quite clear in my view on this. Those who promote this Nazi propaganda are themselves Nazi-sympathisers. They are ignorant, uneducated, hate-filled bigots hiding behind supposed concerns about historical accuracy or truth. I’m asking anyone who encounters this counter-factual nonsense to report it – and those who post, Share, Tweet or Like it.
You’re not paranoid. They really are out to get you!
“Cloud computing has exploded in recent years as a flexible, cheap way for individuals, companies and government bodies to remotely store documents and data. According to some estimates, 35 per cent of UK firms use some sort of cloud system – with Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive the major players.
But it has now emerged that all documents uploaded onto cloud systems based in the US or falling under Washington’s jurisdiction can be accessed and analysed without a warrant by American security agencies.
Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, allow US government agencies open access to any electronic information stored by non-American citizens by US-based companies. Quietly introduced during the dying days of President George W Bush’s administration in 2008, the amendments were renewed over Christmas 2012.
Significantly, bodies such as the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA can gain access to any information that potentially concerns US foreign policy for purely political reasons – with no need for any suspicion that national security is at stake – meaning that religious groups, campaigning organisations and journalists could be targeted.
The information can be intercepted and stored in bulk as it enters the US via undersea cables crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “US surveillance ambitions know no bounds. The chilling US Foreign Intelligence Service Act treats all non-US citizens as enemy suspects.”
Last night a Google spokesperson said: “It is possible for the US government (and European governments) to access certain types of data via their law enforcement agencies. We think this kind of access to data merits serious discussion and more transparency.”
Amazon and Apple were yet to comment last night.”
Of course in Ireland we’re well used to this sort of thing. From an article in the Observer newspaper, July 1999:
“The Irish government yesterday demanded an explanation from Britain over GCHQ’s secret operation to eavesdrop on communications to and from the Republic using a 150ft tower in Cheshire.
David Andrews, the Irish foreign minister, acted following reports that over the past 10 years, the tower had intercepted Irish international communications as they passed across Britain.
The tower, built at a cost of pounds 20m, is on British Nuclear Fuels land at Capenhurst, between two BT microwave towers carrying international telephone traffic.
The intercepts were passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, for further processing.
Telephone communications were carried through a cable under the Irish Sea between Dublin and Anglesey and then through a BT microwave radio link where they were picked up by the Capenhurst tower.
The MoD is now selling the tower – a new Irish telecommunications system has replaced the radio traffic which the tower used to pick up. But GCHQ is likely to find new ways to receive communications, from land lines and satellites.”
You better believe it! You can read some more about this period of British communication intercepts in Ireland over on Cryptome with some up-to-date stuff from the former British Security Service or MI5 officer Annie Machon here. Of course Irish Republicans are quite good at this stuff too (as the northern prison service and Gardaí recently discovered) albeit with off-the-shelf technology. Though the prize for ingenuity must surely go to An Garda Síochána who in the 1990s purchased their secure communications and counter-surveillance equipment from… the British. Well done, a bhuachaillí!
For the rest of us you could start by using Pretty Good Privacy. But that is just the start.
- The US Can Legally Spy On The Any Foreign Data Stored In American ‘Clouds’ (businessinsider.com)
- US authorities can spy on the iCloud without a warrant (telegraph.co.uk)
- U.S. Authorities Can Access Non-Citizen iCloud Data Without A Warrant (cultofmac.com)
- Articles & Publications – Indie: British internet users’ personal information on major (forum.no2id.net)
After a long wait the first phase of the new online English-Irish dictionary, Foclóir, is now up and running. The current platform contains 30% of the planned content but this matches 80% of expected general English usage (though a number of my searches did draw a blank). As someone who works in the IT industry I have to say that I am seriously impressed so far, despite the limited number of search-terms. Not only does the Foclóir give a full list of free translations for the words searched (with all the usual grammatical forms and variations) it also provides formal and colloquial uses of the words in context as well as related proverbs or sayings. To this is added actual audio examples of the words in the three main regional accents (Connacht, Munster and Ulster). Just try playing the three variations of the pronunciation of the word madra “dog” to see where your Irish accent comes from (thanks to my mother mine seems to be largely Munster which explains again some of the comments I’ve had down through the years on my Irish!).
The web-based platform comes with a suite of widgets and plugins that will be of great use to many of us and there is a full FAQ for all your queries. The site will run alongside and be integrated with the existing Focal.ie, the official Irish-English National Terminology Database, which is used by the state to codify new and existing words in relation to the law, economics, military matters, etc. Unfortunately the final version of the Foclóir will not be finished until the end of of 2014 at least, due to restricted funding, with a print edition to follow. There is also the matter of a probable review in 2015 of Official Standard Irish which may necessitate a significant number of changes to the online dictionary.
Finally, it is nice to be reporting some good news about the Irish language and the Irish state for once.
- Ipsos MRBI 50th Anniversary Survey – The Irish Language (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Two Tech Stories For Gaeilgeoirí (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Angloban Ignorance Posing As Informed Commentary (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Sláintegate – The Irish Independent Newspaper And A Mysterious Report (ansionnachfionn.com)
- 9 Great Free Linux Foreign Language Tools (thelinuxsite.wordpress.com)
Well another year has all but passed for An Sionnach Fionn, which has now seen some 20 months of existence. My very first post went up on the 15th of May, 2011, and there have been 644 posts and articles since then, not to mention 121 permanent pages of reviews, studies and other resources. I have had 1239 Comments from readers, the vast majority of them from a community of regular contributors for which I am extremely grateful.
There were 2018 “shares” of posts and pages via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon and other social network services in the first six months of the blog before I switched over to the so-called “official” share buttons in October 2011 (e.g. the Facebook “Like/Share” icon). Unfortunately reposts to social media are now no longer recorded but they have certainly surpassed the 5000 mark. Traffic, or the number of people visiting the website, has substantially jumped in the last six months thanks to the publication of regular posts and articles (not to mention all those shares). Not easy when one works under a round-the-clock schedule for a major IT corporation
In twenty months there have been nearly 190,000 views of An Sionnach Fionn, an amazing statistic for a one-man blog, with 2115 on the busiest day. The majority of visitors have come from Ireland, of course, though closely followed by the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France and Germany. Again, let me express my deep gratitude to all those who visit and those of you who so kindly share my articles around the internet. You are the ones who are making this website such a success. As of today An Sionnach Fionn has 517 followers who subscribe to regular updates via email and other notifications.
When I first started blogging, over a year and a half ago now, there were very few independent Irish Republican or Nationalist bloggers out there. The internet, like all media, has its trends, and blogging had faded into obscurity after a long period of popularity amongst Republicans and their supporters across the globe. Back in the mid-1990s and early 2000s there was a plethora of Irish Republican websites, so many in fact that most formed themselves into webrings (ask your granddad). With the Peace Process and Belfast Agreement many sites stagnated or disappeared. Some were victims of a concerted effort by the British government, and sympathetic authorities, to censor the widescale dissemination of Republican views via the world wide web. Others were simply left to lapse as their owners focused on other goals or areas of their life.
Most contemporary online Republican activity now takes place inside open or secure message-boards, such as Republican.ie, the Republican Socialist Forum or the Irish Republican Bulletin Board. A handful of blogs and websites offer individual viewpoints like The Singing Flame, 1169 And Counting, Ardoyne Republican, Fiannaíochta, Peter Daly, The 1916 Societies or Independent Republican News but many are party-affiliated. The majority of Irish Republican political parties or organisations also favour their official, and tightly controlled, websites (like Sinn Féin, IRSP or éirigí) supplemented by local party sites.
However over the last two years blogging has seen something of a resurgence amongst those with an independent or unaffiliated Irish Republican view. There are now several bloggers from an Irish Nationalist background publishing on a regular basis. Since May 2012 there has been Bangordub with his analytical statistics-based site We In Coming Days May Be, while from September 2012 Footballcliches has contributed several lengthy pieces on politics and society in the North of Ireland. These have joined five regular Republican bloggers, the independent Hoboroad’s Political Highway (a prodigious poster on his site since 2011), Keeping An Eye On The Czar Of Russia (a veteran if independently-minded former member of the SDLP, whose blog has been active since 2011), irregular blogger Endgame In Ulster (publishing since 2010) and author and journalist Jude Collins (who has been publishing his forthright views online since 2009).
I could also mention overseas bloggers like the Irish-Scottish 107 Cowgate, the New Zealand based Irish Revolution, the Italian Five Demands and Les Enfats Terribles or the Spanish El Norte de Irlanda and Innisfree. The Irish Republican cybersphere is more active now than it has been for many years with a host of different views being offered. Long may this continue.
From An Sionnach Fionn a very happy New Year to all.
Two tech stories for the Irish-speaking community via the Silicon Republic. The first highlights the addition of the TG4 player to the line-up of on-demand television services provided by the major Irish cable and broadband company UPC.
“On-demand TV now comes as Gaeilge, as TG4’s line-up is added to UPC On Demand, which has now seen more than 10m views six months on from its launch.
TG4 Player now joins on-demand content from the RTÉ Player, TV3’s 3Player and 1,400 hours of series box sets available on UPC On Demand.
… the TG4 Player now brings up to 40 Irish-language documentaries, entertainment, music and lifestyle series to the mix, including flagship drama Ros na Rún, Nuacht TG4, and current affairs programme 7Lá.”
“Move over MTV and Vevo… a new Irish-language video app called TG Lurgan has launched to present music videos as Gaeilge. The app has been developed by the makers of the Irish-language social network Abair Leat! which launched earlier this year.
The free app TG Lurgan is now available to download for Android and iOS users from Google Play and the Apple App Store. The app has been developed by the Irish language school Coláiste Lurgan, which is headed up by Michéal Ó Foighil and created Abair Leat!
The new TG Lurgan app features contemporary Irish-language music videos, as well as tutorial videos on learning Irish. It also allows users to create their own playlists.
TG Lurgan is also on the Vimeo platform and recently passed the 1m plays milestone after launching on Vimeo more than two years ago.”
I’ve talked before on An Sionnach Fionn about the need for a dedicated Irish language internet address for Ireland, what is known as a country-code top-level domain name (or ccTLD). At the moment Ireland’s ccTLD is .ie (which stands for dot.ireland not dot.ireland/éire as some mealy-mouthed individuals have claimed). This gives Irish-based websites the option of using a country-specific ending for their internet address, a .ie instead of the more generic .com or .org. In Wales they have been campaigning for several years for a dedicated Welsh language domain ending, .cym. In Scotland the SNP government in Edinburgh is backing the campaign there for a .scot address with a related movement calling for a .alba for Scottish language sites. The suggestion in Scotland is for government websites using the English language to be hosted with the .scot address while the Scottish (Gaelic) language versions would be hosted with a dedicated .alba one. This would then be reflected in wider usage by private and commercial concerns.
The same solution for official bilingualism has been put forward for Ireland with a suggested Irish language ccTLD of .éire (or .eire). This would better match the state’s legal obligations in relation to the equal status of the Irish language with dedicated English and Irish language websites for state services under separate web addresses. Of course, it has been pointed out that the .éire ending should be the default address for all Irish state services since the Irish language is the national and first official language of the state (whereas English is only a second official language, emphasising the inferior legal position of the English language under the Constitution, something which the state resolutely ignores). The effect of this would be to create two addresses for websites run by the Irish state. For instance alongside gov.ie (government.dot.ireland) there would be a rialtas.éire. At the moment the Irish language version of government websites are insultingly – and arguably unconstitutionally – placed as a tacked-on language ending, such as gov.ie/ga (government.dot.ireland.slash.gaeilge). If you needed to know the true place of the Irish language and the position of Irish-speaking citizens in modern Ireland this tells you all you need to know. We are the slash-Irish despite the fact that we form over 40% of the population of the state.
In other nation-states and countries where separate language communities exist or where the state is dedicated to promoting its national identity (or simply obeying the law) the use of dedicated top level domain names indicating language use or “nationality” is commonplace. One such address ending is .cat, a special sponsored top-level domain name (or sTLD) on behalf of the Catalan language which is now widely used by organisations and institutions in Catalonia, including the government or Generalitat de Catalunya. As Catalan demands for greater autonomy or complete independence grow the redefinition of .cat as a country-code top-level domain name is only a matter of time.
Technically speaking setting up dual language sites on .ie and .éire addresses is no more difficult for the state than creating .ie and then .ie/ga addresses (arguably it is less difficult and more efficient), and the extra costs are insignificant (beyond the state registering .éire as ccTLD name).
Update: Several readers have been kind enough to contact me with some points and queries of their own.
In relation to the proposed country-code top-level domain name (or ccTLD) of .éire a few believe that the use of the síniú fada or accent over the “e” in the name would be incompatible with present internet standards. Traditionally internet addresses have been restricted to the standard Roman alphabet which has meant that non-Roman letters or characters could not be used. This of course has been a source of considerable complaints in those nations that use other alphabets (Russia, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and many, many others) or special Roman characters (which includes Irish, French, German, Spanish and a host of other languages).
However since 2009, after several years of development, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which governs much of the internet’s standards has authorized the use of non-Roman scripts for web addresses through specially encoded domain names. In May 2010 Arabic was the first non-Roman alphabet to be implemented. Since then it has been joined by Cyrillic and Chinese characters. So in theory “.éire” is no longer technological impossible. That said, even “.eire” minus the accent might be acceptable. A matter for further discussion?
In relation to .cym it has been pointed out to me by regular reader Siôn that the preferred Welsh national domain name is now .cymru (literally dot.wales). Indeed there has been a massive surge in registrations for .cymru following the “opening” of the internet by ICANN which has proved itself to be far more popular than the alternative .wales domain address.
Two PC games for you, one old and one new – and both as Gaeilge.
The first is the multilingual platformer Dead Hungry Diner from the Derry-based Irish startup company Black Market Games, which is now available in Irish as An Caife Craosach. A report from TechCentral:
“Irish-speaking gamers will have something fun to look forward to for Halloween with the release of the first computer game as Gaeilge. Foras na Gaeilge, the North/South Irish Language Promotional Body, and Black Market Games have released An Caife Craosach (Dead Hungry Diner), funded through the Scéim Nuálachais.
The game is a fast-paced action-puzzler where the player chooses the character of Gabe or Gabby, orphan twins from Ravenwood Village, to serve the restaurant’s unique customers. The aim of the game is to seat, serve and satisfy a variety of monsters but you need be quick before they get impatient and leave without paying.
Lee Fallon from Derry-based Black Market Games said: “Given that we are an Irish gaming company we thought that a game in Irish would appeal to Irish speaking gamers. We were surprised to hear that it hadn’t been done before and were delighted when Foras na Gaeilge came on board.”
An Caife Craosach is available in DVD or through Digital Download. It can be purchased or downloaded from www.deadhungrydiner.com…”
“TALL, BROAD, bald and bearded, Owen Harris, lead game designer for BitSmith Games, could be one of the characters from Kú. The company’s new videogame takes inspiration from Celtic folklore, with a dash of steampunk, and is currently in the final stages of development, in Dublin’s Digit Games incubator. Here, Harris discusses the game’s Irish roots
Why the Táin and why the Cú Chulainn myth?
I’ve always been interested in Ireland’s ancient history. There’s so much there that hasn’t been exposed. People like Tolkien dipped heavily into our past for inspiration. Greek mythology is everywhere – I don’t know how many harpies I’ve killed in videogames. But I’ve never killed a púca, or fought a Fomorian. And these are interesting archetypes, so the chance to show that people in a game is exciting. When we showed it overseas, people had inklings of these cool stories and given the chance to be exposed to it, they jump at it.
Do you think audiences are more open to something they’re only vaguely familiar with?
The biggest surprise with international audiences was with the Irish language. You can play it completely in Irish. Very few people in this country seem interested in that, but Americans, Germans and Scandinavians are as interested in seeing the language… as much as our mythology …we’re talking about going back to these old, primal stories that are part of what built our people’s psyche. And I think if Irish people were exposed to it in a modern way, they would be much more interested than they currently are.
Is that why you’ve introduced that steampunk element?
We started building it over a year ago at the height of all the stories about economic doom, so I guess we pulled in what was going on at that moment. I think it fits quite well – the idea of Ireland returning to this tribal time.
Is there a fear of alienating Táin purists?
Some people will be upset that we didn’t do a more direct translation. My response to that would be that these stories grow out of an oral tradition where it was constantly changing. …We’re inspired by the Táin; we’re not trying to re-tell it.
How was Foras na Gaeilge involved?
They’ve been a tremendous support. They looked over what we were doing and they’re helping us make sure the Irish translation is to the highest standard. There’s a huge amount of people learning Irish in the US. We want to make sure that if it’s being used as a tool, that it is correct.
What about the game’s look?
Our artist Basil [Lim] spent a lot of time in pre-production going to museums, looking at the Book of Kells, our native plants, trying to bring all of that influence and create this style that looks somewhere between Mad Max and Cú Chulainn. It’s probably the thing we’re proudest of in the whole game – blending Celtic and futuristic style.
Kú will be available for iPad in November, with versions for PC and Mac to follow.”
Website World Irish has an audio interview with Owen Harris, bitSmith’s game designer, that is well worth a listen. As someone who works in Ireland’s IT industry, albeit exclusively with the big international brands, it’s great to see indigenous Irish companies like this establishing themselves. For assistance with the introduction of the Irish language into your business Foras na Gaeilge operates the comprehensive support service GNÓ Mean Business. Gaeltacht-based companies can also seek Irish language support and investment from Údarás na Gaeltachta.
For more on Irish and Celtic mythology see my articles here.
The Scotsman newspaper has an in-depth profile of Maggie Cunningham, the new head of BBC Alba, the Scottish language television service. Like Ireland’s TG4, Scotland’s BBC Alba has experienced a marked increase in audience figures over the last year despite its (extremely) limited funding and coverage. As with the Irish language many new Scottish speakers are urban dwellers and in the future the station’s programming will need to better reflect this demographic change.
“Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach is unlikely to trouble Downton Abbey in terms of ratings or audience share, but BBC Alba’s coverage of furry bullets rounding up their bleating foes has succeeded in corralling me as a fan. I came upon the Sheepdog Trials, in its English translation, while randomly stabbing the remote one Sunday evening. And there they were. Man and beast in perfect lock-step, separated by hundreds of yards, but in constant communication through the iPhone of the canine world: a symphony of whistles and the occasional cry of “come by”. Those Cheviots didn’t stand a chance. On screen were collies with the dribbling powers of Ronaldo, and so smart that after snaring the sheep in the pen I half expected them to settle down with the FT and prepare their owners’ tax returns. The programme had a contented, soporific feel with Donald MacSween and Catriona Macphee introducing us to the owners of these four-legged wonders. Yet there was one thing missing from the television coverage: head cams. In these days of miniature cameras why weren’t they fitted to the dog’s head so that the viewer could follow the action eye-to-eye? Surely it would revolutionise the sport and farmers would soon be driving Porsches and wearing Red Bull logos on their smocks.
So when Maggie Cunningham, the new chairwoman of BBC Alba, agreed to an interview it is among the first questions I put to her. Sitting in a booth in the bar of the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow, the former joint head of programmes at BBC Scotland thinks for a second then replies: “That is a very good idea. I will be sure to tell them about it.” So if Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach looks a little different next season viewers can direct their e-mails of praise this way.
Having contentedly put a big red tick next to “dog cam” on my list of questions, I could then move on to one every journalist is required by law to ask whenever the subject of Gaelic is raised: “Maggie, why, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, are we spending £20 million a year promoting a language spoken by just 55,000 people?”
The idea of yanking the life-support of public cash from Scotland’s Gaelic television channel would clearly not be considered a “very good idea” by Maggie, who says of the question: “It’s boring, that is the first thing I would say, and secondly it’s not for 55,000 people, it is for 500,000 people (BBC Alba’s average weekly viewers) as you can see. We are talking about austerity but we are also talking about identity in lots of different ways and Gaelic is core to Scotland.
“If you look back at our history, it is the only place in the world where Gaelic is an indigenous language. I am very pro language-learning and very pro supporting people coming to live in Scotland and bringing their own indigenous culture, but basically Gaelic is the indigenous culture of Scotland. It is so fundamental to everything we are trying to preserve that nobody would challenge that we preserve Edinburgh Castle or the Wallace Monument or some of our great paintings, so why challenge the importance of keeping a language alive?”
It is four years since BBC Alba was launched and now that it is available on Freeview it is attracting a healthy audience of 500,000 per week, with nine out of ten viewers unable to speak Gaelic but drawn to the channel’s mix of documentaries, the occasional drama and, most popular of all, sport. Yet Cunningham is concerned that viewers will begin to switch off unless the channel can offer more than just 90 minutes of original programming each night. “Why will it be hard to hold on to that audience? Well, unless we can get additional funding we cannot sustain a channel on an hour and a half (of original programmes) every night. I don’t think an hour and a half a day is enough to hold an audience over time. The last four years, it has started well, it has exceeded expectation but once you start exceeding expectations, the expectation gets greater so the audience will keep wanting more. They have been happy to have what they have, but people will want more. I do think that at an hour and a half over a long period, the channel is unsustainable, basically.
“What we require is more origination (original programming) and maybe different ways of looking at the schedules and more content. How that plays out over the next four years, God knows, but we do need more original content. Ideally by 2017, if the BBC charter gets renewed, I would like to see us having three hours of original content per night, double where we are just now. On the same budget or finding clever ways to enhance the budget. There is no getting away from the fact that people want to watch the telly, and the big challenge is ‘How do we get people to stay watching us?’ They do watch us: 500,000 is good. The challenge is ‘How do we continue to deliver?’”
My other brilliant idea is that BBC Alba develop a new detective series, since the chattering classes are happy to watch murder if it comes with subtitles. We agree that subtitles are no longer the barrier they were in the past. “If you look at the success of The Killing or Montalbano. I’m just back from Sicily and part of the reason I went was Montalbano. If we could do something maybe like Montalbano, it would be universal.”
The channel is already in discussions with Chris Young, the producer of The Inbetweeners, the comedy series which became a monster hit when released on the big screen. “I am not responsible for commissioning, but I know that our guys are talking to Chris Young. He is based in Skye and video-conferences with LA, who are now doing an American version of The Inbetweeners. He doesn’t see the point of flying over all the time. He is very keen on Gaelic. His wife is pretty fluent and he himself is learning. The key is to use talent and also to allow the creativity to come through and not say ‘we need to have a drama and this is what it needs to be’. We want to see what we can do if we put a few creatives together.”
BBC Alba is unique in that it is a partnership between the BBC and another company, MG Alba, and could, in an independent Scotland, be the core around which any new post BBC channel is formed.”
Let us hope that any independent Scottish public broadcasting service makes a better job of serving its nation, and the two linguistic communities that form it, than RTÉ has made of serving the two language communities of Ireland. A job RTÉ did so poorly (and with such obvious anti-Irish bias) that in the end it had to be given to an entirely new broadcaster - TG4!
- A Scottish Map Of Scotland – But Where Is The Irish Map Of Ireland? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- BBC Alba Leading The Way For A Scottish Broadcasting Service (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Dùisg! (ansionnachfionn.com)
Even the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia is not free of the extremes of British nationalism and their constant attacks on Ireland and Irishness. When is an Irish author not an Irish author? When the Britnats decide he is not.
From the Wikipedia Talk:Pages a selection of “conversations” from British contributors demanding that the Irish-born, Irish-raised, Irish passport-holding Irishman C.S. Lewis should be categorized as “British”, a campaign which has led to a prolonged period of “edit wars” on the encyclopaedic site.
As for the puerile refusal of British Wiki-Editors to allow the sovereign nation-sate of Ireland to be categorized on Wikipedia by that name and their constant censorship of the Ireland entries…
Paul T. Kavanagh and Newsnet Scotland, the Scottish nationalist news and current affairs site, have done their nation and the Gaelic-speaking world in general a great service by producing a new Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) map of Scotland. Largely based upon the work of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, the Scottish Place-Names of Scotland project (the equivalent of Ireland’s Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann) and some of their own original research, this is one of several self-confident statements to come from Scottish-speakers in the last five years as their community sees signs of new growth.
“Newsnet Scotland has a commitment to Scottish language and culture. But we have limited time and limited resources, so instead we decided to focus our energies on a single project to promote the Gaelic language, one which would speak equally to Gael and non-Gael alike.
For the first time in Scottish history, Newsnet Scotland is proud to make available a detailed map of Scotland, entirely in Gaelic.
All maps are statements of possession and ownership. They are pictures of a country, but they are portraits which show how the map-maker wants to present his or her subject. The choice of language on a map speaks volumes about the perspective of the map-maker. Most maps of Scotland tell Scots that we can only present ourselves to the world in English, and even that it’s only through English that we can present ourselves to each other.
This is a map with a different perspective, one which shows that irrespective of whether we become independent or remain under Westminster, Scotland is already a separate country, and it always has been. That’s what makes this a map for all Scots, not just Gaelic speakers.
I started to learn Gaelic when I was a child. My family were not Gaelic speakers, but from an early age I was obsessed with the language. What sparked off my interest was the discovery that all the places around me had names that made sense in Gaelic.
As a wean what I wanted more than anything else was a map of Scotland in Gaelic, that would show me what these places really were. But all the maps of Scotland were in English, showing only the graveyard of Gaelic in the form of place names seemingly made up of collections of nonsense syllables. Gaelic was okay as long as it was dead, was the message of these maps.
But Gaelic is not dead, and it is still a national language of all of Scotland, even if most of us no longer speak it. In order to survive and thrive in the 21st century, Gaelic requires all the resources needed by any modern language if it is to merit the title “national”. And that includes a map of the country to which the language is proper. This is a modern Gaelic map for a modern living national language.”
The map is available from the Newsnet online shop for 30 pounds (around 37 euros) part of which helps fund a very worthy and necessary news site. As far as I know (and I’d be very happy to be corrected on this) the only Irish language map currently available for purchase is the popular “Gaelic Map of Ireland and World Atlas” from Gaelic ABC, which uses a traditional late Irish script (Gaelic School Type true font). No modern map or atlas using Roman font is widely available in Irish. I’ve checked the official Irish government body in the area of mapping, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (OSI), and amongst their large range of national and local maps I couldn’t find a single map or atlas in Irish. Bizarre. This is despite their mandate which quite clearly states that the OSI’s task is:
“To depict placenames and ancient features in the national mapping and related databases in the Irish language or in the English and Irish languages.”
English publications are plentiful but where are the Irish ones? Maybe I just can’t find them so if anyone can point me in the right direction for national and regional maps in Irish issued by the OSI please do so in the Comments section or via email.
UPDATE (25/09/2012): Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, has added a Comment below with some important news:
“Séamas a chara,
6 months ago after I became aware of the lack of an Irish langauge map I contacted the Coimisinéir Teanga who as a result investigated this. I’m glad to report that he has told the OSI that they must produce a fully Irish language map or a fully bilingual one as per the law. They were given a year to do this. We should see one in the next while. We dont use the Coimisinéir Teanga enough in this country.
Le gach deá ghuí,
I quite agree with Peadar. The law and the constitution are the most important instruments to bring about equality that the Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland have. We need to use them. We need to suffocate anglophone intolerance or discrimination with litigation, whether in the public or private spheres.
We need a “skirmishing fund” for Irish and an organisation to fight the battle through the courts – and everywhere else.
- From Ireland To Scotland – The Colonial Infection (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Dùisg! (ansionnachfionn.com)
- BBC Alba Leading The Way For A Scottish Broadcasting Service (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Wuid ye twa quit yer fechten? (sluggerotoole.com)
Some good news (for some of you!). An Sionnach Fionn is now available on “Google Currents“, the hassle-free Android and iOS application for tablet computers and smartphones that features magazine-style editions of websites like the Guardian, New York Times, Slate, Mashable and a host of others. This app version of An Sionnach Fionn will feature up-to-date posts from the blog and YouTube channel in a swipeable, easy-to-read magazine format.
Installing Currents is simplicity itself. Open the Play Store on your smartphone or tablet, search for “Google Currents” and install the app. You can also install Google Currents via Google Play, or scan this code with your Android phone or tablet:
You can find the blog on Google Currents under the name “An Sionnach Fionn” or using the catalogue tags “Éire Ghaelach” and “Éire Shaor”. Or use “Add more” in the app itself and find via the “Search” option in the top bar.
Its early days, so the content will be limited to the last week and onwards but watch this space (or that space). An Sionnach Fionn is also available on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and YouTube for you completists (or masochists!). There is also the RSS Feed if you rock it old school.
Some potentially significant news for Scottish broadcasting reported by the Stage:
“Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, has called for the country to have its own public service broadcaster, claiming the current situation is “failing Scottish TV viewers and producers”.
Addressing the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Salmond said that Scottish TV viewers and producers are being “failed by out-dated Westminster attitudes”.
He argued that Scotland should have its own public broadcaster outside of the BBC, which would be controlled by the country’s government.
“Scotland’s contribution to broadcasting is unparalleled. Television was invented by John Logie Baird and the very concept of public service broadcasting was shaped by Lord Reith. But Scottish viewers and TV production talent are today being short-changed,” he said.
He added that BBC Alba – the national Gaelic language station – had been a “huge success, with an audience size last month nine times the number of people who speak Gaelic”.
“So viewers are clearly voting with their remote controls for more Scottish content. Yet we do not have an English-language public service broadcasting channel of our own,” he said.”
At the moment Scotland contributes in excess of 320 million pounds (over 400 million euros) a year to the overall BBC budget via the television licence fee. However the money reinvested in Scottish broadcasting by the BBC will soon stand at some 80 million pounds (100 million euros) – around a quarter of what it taxes from Scottish television viewers. Using either a TV licence fee or direct public funding through general taxation, with limited commercial advertising, it would not be unreasonable to expect a Scottish public television service to be able to operate with a budget of between 400 and 500 million pounds (roughly over 500 to 600 million euros).
The total budget from all sources for Ireland’s award-winning Irish language television channel TG4 stands at less than 39 million pounds per annum (around 49 million euros), yet it is widely respected and admired internationally for the range of programming it produces and broadcasts. A future SBC would have a budget twelve times that of TG4.
Can anyone seriously question Scotland’s ability to produce and sustain quality television broadcasting?
- Bravetongue (ansionnachfionn.com)
Some more Native American (and a bit of native Irish) news, from The Atlantic:
“Loris Taylor, the CEO and president of Native Public Media, still has the scars on her hands from when she was caught speaking Hopi in school and got the sharp end of the ruler as a result. “They hit so hard, the flesh was taken off,” she remembers. “Deep down inside, it builds some resistance in you.”
Now, she’s at the forefront of a movement to revive dead and dying languages using an old medium: radio. As CEO and president of Native Public Media, she’s lobbied the FCC and overseen projects to get increasingly rare tongues like Hopi onto airwaves so that Native Americans can keep their ancestors’ ways of speaking alive—and pass those ways of speaking to new generations.
“At a certain time, people thought ‘We live in a white man’s world and have to change our language to make it.’ But now we see how wrong that was.”
Similar efforts are taking place worldwide. In Ireland, Dublin’s youthful Top-40 Raidió Rí-Rá and Belfast’s eclectic indie Raidió Fáilte have been broadcasting entirely in Irish for several years. In Washington, D.C. earlier this month, indigenous radio producers from Peru, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, and a handful of other countries gathered for the “Our Voices on the Air” conference, organized by the 40-year-old non-profit Cultural Survival and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices program.
Following centuries of oppression that have marginalized minority languages, radio represents a modest but surprisingly promising way to reinvigorate the traditions keeping those languages alive. In the Maori community of New Zealand, for example, the combination of 21 radio stations and rigorous early childhood immersion programs have brought Maori-languages speakers from an all-time low of 24,000 in the 1980s to 131,000 in 2006, according to Mark Camp, deputy executive director at Cultural Survival.
The swift and sure loss of indigenous language in the U.S. was hardly an accident. From the latter part of the 19th century to the latter part of the 20th, the Bureau of Indian Affairs systematically sent generations of Native American kids into boarding schools that were more focused on punishment and assimilation than on education. In a piece for NPR in 2008, Charla Bear reported on the terrible conditions that persisted at these schools for a century—how kids were given Anglo names, bathed in kerosene, and forced to shave their heads.
In recent years, the government has taken steps to reverse some of the damage. In 1990, the Native American Languages Act was passed, recognizing the right of indigenous populations to speak their own language.
Still, the effects of centuries of forced assimilation run deep. Richard Alun Davis, station manager for Arizona Hopi station KUYI 88.1 FM, says that the disappearing vocabulary creates a “complex tapestry of shame” in the approximately 9,000-person population his station reaches.
“Even if they can speak, they usually do not do it outside of the home for fear of being corrected,” he says. Because the Hopi religious tradition is firmly rooted in the language, “It’s not only a moment of discomfort with the literacy. It’s also showing that you’re unable to participate in all the culture.”
Let’s Bring Back ‘Gal’ Davis, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Brit who fell in love with Native American literature in college and speaks Hopi (“people joke that I’ve created my own dialect”), believes that radio is the easiest way to counteract these bleak statistics. His station, KUYI, covers three counties, from the border of the Grand Canyon National Park, up to the Utah border, and down toward Winslow. Its programs include a junior and senior high school class that broadcasts in Hopi, a morning Sunday show aimed at small children, and cultural discussions for adults that are held according to the lunar calendar, in keeping with Hopi tradition.
Congress’s passage of the Community Radio Act in 2011 means that community radio stations could soon—in Camp’s words—”mushroom,” which offers a lot of potential for Native American media on reservations, where there is usually little infrastructure and in many cases no electricity (certainly no wifi). In these areas, a low-power FM station that’s plugged into the grid in the center of town allows people with battery-powered, handheld radios to listen in to what’s happening all around them.”
Just a reminder that Ireland’s Irish-language television station TG4 is a founding member of the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBN), something we should all be proud of.