Will the Department of Education Ever Respond?

I recently needed to contact the Department of Education in relation to a cycle to work scheme query regarding two issues: 1. the VAT number that they say must be sent to the supplier of the bike when they are situated outside the country, and 2. information on how you pay the extra money when you go over the €1000 covered by the scheme (which they again insist must be paid before they will sanction the purchase).

I knew it could take a bit of time to get a response as I had already tried to contact them before regarding a number of issues that were conflicting on their own submission form (6 days and a few emails). Finally someone did respond to me, so at least it gave me a little hope of getting a response this time also.

On the 03/02/2014 I decided to contact them with the following email, asking for information on the two issues above:


4 days passed and I hadn’t received any sign of acknowledgment that my email had been received so I decided to send the same email again on the 07/02/2014:


I followed this process for another week, sending an email on the 10/02/2014 and the 12/02/2014:

email3 email4

It has now been 29 days without a single response, either of acknowledgement of the emails, or answering the questions asked. What’s extremely annoying about this, is the fact this is information they say must be provided in order for them to sanction the purchase of the bike. So rather than being able to send all the right information at the start, I must instead send the incorrect information to them, have them read through it, and send me back what must be changed – a frustrating process and a waste of everybody’s time!!!

Over the last few days I’ve also tweeted them twice to see if I can get a response but alas nothing:



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How To Get Football Manager 2014 for €6.50 – EXPIRED

Here are the steps to go through to get Football Manager for €6.50:

Accounts Required:




1. Go to FlyVPN.

2. Click “Free Trial”.

3. Choose an option to install FlyVPN based on your OS (Windows, Mac, etc.), and follow the steps they provide. For this example I chose to manually setup VPN on a Mac.

4. Connect to the Brazil server.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.26.58

5. Go to Nuuvem – you will need to create an account here to be able to purchase the game, and this is done at the top right under “Acesse sua conta”, and fill in the required details.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.37.29

6. When the account is created, search for “Football Manager 2014” and click the basket next to it.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.38.42

7. Then click the shopping cart.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.16.40

8. Make sure PayPal is selected and click “Finalizar Pedido”.

9. Once the PayPal login page comes up, disconnect from FlyVPN and enter your password as usual.

10. Thats the game purchased and you should see a screen like this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.24.40

11. Click the game and copy the activation code provided.

12. Connect to FlyVPN again.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.26.58

13. Sign into your Steam account.

14. Click “Add Game” at the bottom left and choose “Activate A Product on Steam”.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.44.37

15. Enter the product key that you got from Nuuvem and Steam will activate the game.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 17.45.43

16. You can now disconnect from FlyVPN and the game should download.

17. Enjoy!!!

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Social Media Policies Impact on Social Media

After a discussion recently with a colleague about social media policies in organisations, it got me thinking about what impact such policies may have on social media. My understanding of social media, and the platforms it has created, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit, is that the content comes from a bottom up. In theory, this is meant to change the role of how information is disseminated, where anybody can freely share information with anybody else (and they don’t necessarily have to be in the same network). This differs to old media, where information is generally broadcast from organisations in a top down approach, where it is carefully selected, edited and delivered.


Research is currently looking to understand how organisations are introducing social media policies, and the impacts they have on employees. Here we can see Coca Cola’s social media policy,  and the section I’m interested in is the one titled “Personal Use of Social Media: Our Expectations”. They, as an organisation, outline how they expect employees to behave when using social media for their own personal use. Things such as employees being responsible for their own actions, promoting the organisation so long as they say they are affiliated with them, and being conscientious when mixing business and personal lives. All standard stuff, but it raises the question: do social media policies impede the the true nature of what social media is meant to be?

Bewerbungsbilder, bewerber, arbeiter, mitarbeiter,

When employees are using social media, must they be constantly worried about what they post, retweet, or share? If these policies impact the way an employee behaves, i.e. “I should not share this video of Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards because my name is associated with Coca Cola, and therefore I may be harming the organisation in some way as its getting negative reviews, are we going back to the days of carefully selected, edited, and delivered information? Except in this case, the organisations are not doing it directly, but by having policies affecting employee’s actions, they are merely doing it indirectly. This has the danger of taking away the underlying premise of social media, and potentially reverting back to carefully selected and edited information.


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Pothole Haven, Cork City, Ireland

I’ve been driving in Cork for the past 7/8 years, and I honestly can’t remember a time when the roads have been laden with so many potholes. This post is going to put the saying “a picture paints a thousand words” into use, where I’ll just add pictures of potholes I see around Cork, and the address of them – if you have any and want them added just send them on to me.

Gaol Walk, Cork City

Pothole One

College Road, UCC Car Entrance, Cork City

Pot hole 2

College Road, Near College Nook, Cork City


Donovan’s Road, Cork City





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America – Bigger, Longer, Louder, but Better?

Why do Americans prefer things to be bigger, longer, and louder? They have the Big Mac, big cars, and big buildings. They also happen to have rather large people but perhaps that is down to their insistence on super size me fast food experiences. But something that has always bugged me a little bit is their overindulgence to try and zap every single cent they can from TV shows and movies – something I will refer to as chasing the cheque.

Big Car

I first realised this when watching the TV show Lost. Rumours quickly started swirling around that because the show had been such a hit with the first series, they were going to extend it from an originally planned three series to six series. Then as it grew ever more popular they decided they would have to complete it with a movie. And while all this was happening you could see the plot was getting thinner and thinner, to the point where people stopped caring about it – I didn’t even see the final series after watching all the others. They decided chasing the cheque was more important than the shows reputation!

But something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is bigger, longer and louder doesn’t necessarily mean better. Lets look at one of my favourite TV shows The Office – ran from 2001-2003, had a total of 12 episodes and 2 Christmas specials. Arguably one of the greatest TV shows ever, and ended perfectly. Ricky Gervais wanted to emulate Fawlty Towers (which also had 12 episodes), where rather then trying to squeeze every penny out of its fans and lose some of the magic about the characters, he moved on to other projects.

The Office

Something not so easily done with the American Office – ran from 2005-2013, and had a total of 201 episodes. They even managed to squeeze out two series without the main character holding it all together: Michael Scott (Steve Carell). While Ricky Gervais was making plenty of money from this, it was the show that continued to chase the cheque, and it must be said damaged its reputation by doing so.

Now while I know I’ve only given two concrete examples here, something I’m trying to build from it is an idea that has been storming in my head for awhile – building one’s reputation is more important and more rewarding, then going after money all the time. For example, Ricky Gervais has managed to build a great reputation by making shows with great characters, and walking away from them at the right time when he could take the easy pay cheque to continue churning out more episodes of The Office. But this reputation has led to him being able to command money for new ventures much easier in the longer term.


For me it is more important to work towards something that is enjoyable, and reputation building, then just going after the big cheque all the time. Examples of this include helping any students that ask for help towards projects – adding this kind of work to LinkedIn enhances a reputation, or going doing a charity cycle and raising money is again reputation building. Obviously this is an idea still swirling, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more posts towards it, but it might get some people thinking.

So while America is bigger, longer, and louder, at the moment I would definitely say not better – chasing the cheque is not as good as raising your reputation.

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Simple Case of Overindulgence at the HSE

My brother has been in the hospital with leukaemia for over two years, and I have seen my fair share of excellent work that the Health Service Executive (HSE) is capable of, including providing the necessary treatments, to some excellent and very friendly nurses, through to his assigned doctor. But my mind is stuck on a story he told me about 12 months ago, that really opens your eyes to some of the reasons why Dr. James Reilly may be struggling to overhaul the system.

Medical Card

Sometime during his treatment my brother got a throat infection – the hospital were treating this with a medicine (not too sure of the name) that was a very high cost to them. They decided that while my brother had a medical card, it would be better to provide him with a prescription for the medicine so he could treat himself with it while he was at home.


My brother went in with his prescription to purchase the medicine, only to find out it cost €1500 a bottle – and his prescription was for four bottles, coming to a total of €6000. Now while this wouldn’t have any effect on him (medical card covers it all), he asked the pharmacist if he could only take one bottle, and come back for the next bottle when and if he needed it. The pharmacist couldn’t do this, and insisted they had to fulfil the prescription.

Within a few days, and after using about a quarter of the first bottle, the decision was made to take him back off the medication. This left him with three full bottles coming to a total cost of €4500. He then tried to get rid of these by offering them back to the pharmacist (who couldn’t take them), and to the hospital so they could perhaps treat another patient with them (and they also said they couldn’t take them).


This has left him with €4500 worth of medication sitting in his bathroom that he probably won’t ever use, the HSE has lost out on €6000 to foot the original bill, as well as costs to purchase the same medication for other patients on the ward. The winner is obviously the pharmacist who will get paid in total. While this is a very simple case, it makes you wonder how often these kind of incidents happen, and how can they be improved upon?


On a side note, my brother and I will be attempting to do the Ring of Kerry cycle in aid of Friends of Leukaemia Patients Cork, and would greatly appreciate any donations on our mycharity.ie page.

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Where Will The Xbox One Be In Ten Years Time?

Having been a fan of computer games for many years (work has unfortunately taken it away from me in recent times), I have watched with utter amazement at how one company can throw away its reputation so quickly. I am of course talking about Microsoft, who for many (myself included) had become the major player in the industry – back in 2005 they managed to convert me from an avid PS2 fan by being early to the market, having some good exclusive titles, and a great service in Xbox Live. This is confounded by the fact that even though I went through 2 Xbox’s due to the red ring of death, I was still willing to go back and get another one. Then this happened:

All that goodwill, vanishing right before them. Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to require you to have an internet connection at least once every 24 hours or else your machine no longer plays games? Who thought it would be a good idea to try and prevent the ability of sharing ones games? Hence making the purchase of a game no longer a purchase, but a rental instead. Who thought having to have an always connected Kinect camera was a good idea? Especially with the latest news on the NSA in America.

But back to the first point of the online verification every 24 hours – as we have seen many times before, when games have an ability to play online, after a number of years the servers supporting these are taken offline. This is understandable when the number of players playing them are reduced, and the cost might be outweighing the benefit – but you can still play them offline. But one thing I love to do is take out one of my old consoles and play around with it for awhile – be it my SNES, Nintendo 64, or PS2. What happens in 10-15 years time when we see the next generation of consoles emerging, will Microsoft start to turn off their servers for the Xbox One, and therefore prevent me from being able to show my kids my old console and make my game “rentals” obsolete? This is a very frightening thought – shelving out hundreds (even thousands) of euros for something that could be shut down anytime in the future, with very little notice.

And then came Sony, with what I have to describe as one of the easiest E3 presentations imaginable – the following clip is 2 minutes and 39 seconds of how to make your biggest competitor look like a fool:

Obviously Microsoft is trying to get a share of the profitable second hand market of games, but as one commenter put it “if car companies tried to control the used car market by introducing finger print sign-ins to their cars, how long does the company think they could survive?”. It certainly does appear that Microsoft, possibly due to greed, really have bitten off more then they can chew, and I imagine this morning there are a number of heads rolling with the feedback they are gettting. And what is worse is I’m not sure there is a way back – it would be very difficult to just turn around and say “oh we made a mistake and will change everything back to normal” – they have their whole next generation console built on this architecture, as well as some contracts with other players, so it isn’t as easy as just changing their minds. And to end, here is another clip that will make you wonder just what are Microsoft thinking?:

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Amazon Price Comparison

After my first blog, I thought it would be interesting to select a number of products from Amazon’s vast catalogue and compare the prices across three of their European stores: UK, Germany, and Spain. The reason behind this is just to see if we in Ireland are getting a better deal then our euro priced Amazon counterparts, or if we are getting charged a higher price.

First of all I will explain the method: five random products were chosen when browsing the UK website. When purchasing an item, Amazon allow you to convert the British pound price to Euros with the Amazon Currency Converter at the very last step of purchasing. Their conversion rate (£1 = €1.215434960) was higher then two other sites checked: Google’s own currency converter (£1 = €1.17), and XE (£1 = €1.16). Their price was noted (excluding delivery), and then the German and Spanish Amazon websites were searched for the same product, and again their prices were noted (excluding delivery). The comparison is presented in the table below.

Product Amazon UK Amazon DE Amazon ES
Programming the Raspberry Pi €10.28 €11.20 €11.41
Django Unchained (Bluray) €18.23 €16.90 €15.98
Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360) €38.89 €34.99 €49.95
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch Tablet €397.98 €416.00 €431.91
Sony Bravia KDL-46HX755BAE2 €1489.43 €999.00 €1531.69

So are we getting ripped off, or fairing better when being forced to shop at Amazon UK? Well Germany is the cheaper of the three stores for most of the products, and the Spanish appear to be getting the harshest treatment. As an Irish customer, I know I would obviously prefer to be getting the Euro prices of the German site. I would also like if the UK site used one of the more live (and therefore accurate) exchange rates of XE. This would provide us with a better price again. From the figures “Ripped Off” would not be the right wording, but we could get a better price.

And finally something I find particularly interesting here is that seeing these prices in Euro would encourage me (and others too) to purchase from Amazon rather then there counterparts. The reason behind this is you often feel like you may be getting ripped off by sites when they are dealing with a different currency.

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I’m Irish, Amazon

As a regular shopper online, I find it extremely infuriating when I visit sites that can’t offer me their prices in euros. In Ireland (and most other European countries)  the euro is our currency, and when I visit websites such as EbayPlay, and The Book Depository, they are obliging enough to offer their prices in euro. It is therefore understandable that I might expect one of the biggest e-commerce websites on the internet to offer a similar service – Amazon.

Rather disappointingly though, they do not deliver this service to us at all. In fact typing in www.amazon.ie rebounds you to the .co.uk site where all the prices are in the British pound – and while often sites provide an option to convert prices to whichever currency you use, Amazon fail to provide one such option. Even more annoyingly, if we look at other countries within the EU, we see that they have both dedicated domain names, and the currency in euros – Amazon Germany, Amazon Spain, and Amazon Italy.

The need to have a currency converter next to you just to shop on Amazon is poor to say the least, especially when we see they provide other European countries with euro prices. This kind of need leads me to shop elsewhere first. And while Ireland may be considered a small market for Amazon, its competitors see us as important enough to off the service, so what I would like to say to them is “I’m Irish, I deal in euros, can you please make this happen?”.

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