What will your good deed be today?

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is the statutory body of the Irish State that is charged with all aspects of the collection, processing and distribution of blood supplies and related products. Unlike some other countries, all blood donated in Ireland is purely voluntary with the only reward being a sense of altruism.

Last Friday they made a special request as the national blood stock was low and all elective surgeries throughout the country had to be cancelled. The response from the public was immense and stocks are quickly returning to normal.

They still need more – this week and every week. If you are looking to tick off your good deed for today then consider dropping into a local donation clinic.

I gave my eleventh donation in just under four years yesterday. And I won’t lie to you. It’s not fun. But it’s also not torture. The best description would be “not pleasent”. And the feeling of having done something good for nothing cannot be bought. If you hate needles as much as I do then you’d be allowed tick off a full week’s worth of good deeds!

In the words of the IBTS’s Thank You card:

A blood donation costs nothing but gives much,
it enriches those who receive
without making poor those who give.

It happens in a flash
but the memory of that gift will last forever.

None is so rich and mighty that it can get along without it
and none is so poor
that it cannot be made rich by it.

It cannot be bought, begged borrowed or stolen
for a blood donation is of no earthly good to anyone
until it is given away.

1 out of every 4 of us reading this will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives. It could be you.

Reactions to my Meteor Post

There were a couple of blog posts following up on my question regarding the apathy of Irish mobile users. In particular, there were pro-Meteor comments from David O’Neill who switched himself recently and, almost as a proof of my assertions, some mis-conceptions from Niall Sheridan (or this guy as he referred to me).

Niall made two points:

Cheap is relative. As with all mobile services it depends on who you’re calling. If you primarily ring Vodafone subscribers I guarantee that it won’t be that cheap.

Well let’s look at the facts. Taking the comparison of changes I made in my post for the similar evening time pre-pay plans, it is cheaper to ring all three networks from Meteor; i.e. it is more expensive to call from O2 to O2 or to call from Vodafone to Vodafone than it is to call from Meteor to O2 or Vodafone. In all cases at all times. Mind you, this is just one billing package but, from what I have seen, it is the trend.

Meteor’s current network is only as good as it is because portions of it aren’t Meteors’ at all – they’re O2’s and Vodafone’s. I’d love to know what level of coverage they would have if Both O2 and Vodafone stopped the service.

Another mis-conception. Firstly, Meteor does not use any part of Vodafone’s network. And, to my knowledge, never has. In September 2004 it did sign a coverage deal with O2 in parts of counties Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Roscommon, Longford & Clare. That’s in parts of twelve of the twenty-six counties. And it’s a temporary arrangement while Meteor continue to expand their coverage.

So what? All this does is ensure that Meteor’s own customers get full coverage around Ireland. What do I care if it means I use O2’s network in some remote parts of Ireland? I don’t care – especially as it means Meteor’s customers get to use O2’s network at prices that are cheaper than O2’s own customers.

Niall also went on to share a story of woe he had with Meteor regarding service withdrawl for non-payment and how long it took them to re-activate his account after he paid them. Well we all have tales of woe. I have a few of my own for O2. But as we all know, these are usually the exception and not the rule. I have rang Meteor customer care (for free – O2 and Vodafone charge you to do that) a few times and have found them comparable or better than my better conversations with O2.

Niall finishes with “[s]ure Meteor have some nice offers, like free voicemail and line rental…”. I would ask the average Irish mobile user whether they believe that this should be the norm or the exception?

Just How Apathetic Are Irish Mobile Users?

Meteor, one of Ireland’s three mobile operators, started a new promotion some months ago: 5c per minute Meteor to Meteor calls – 24 hours a day 7 days a week until 2006. It is available to all existing and new customers on a pre-pay plan.

It piqued my interest. I was paying O2 an average of €110 per month on a post-pay account with the biggest outlay being the evening calls to my significant other. I figured if we both switched to Meteor we could save a fortune. I played around with the idea for a while and I mentioned it in conversation to a few friends and colleagues. They mostly scoffed with such pre-conceptions as “Meteor’s only good for teenage girls”, “their network is crap – you’ll never get coverage at home in Galway”, “they have crap phones” and so forth. And I have to admit – I held most of these opinions myself.

Instead of jumping straight in we decided to try Meteor out. We got Meteor’s free SIM with €100 credit (over ten months) offer. After trying it out for a couple of weeks I found that the network is fine and that the coverage is fine.

One other thing I needed to check before we made the switch – their prices for other calls and services. I didn’t want to find myself in the position of having jumped to Meteor, taking my number with me, only to discover that although the 5c Meteor to Meteor calls sounds great, they make it up by fleecing you on the other charges.

I was surprised. In fact, I was shocked. Not only do Meteor have better rates and promotions than the “big two”, O2 and Vodafone, but in fact they have extraordinarily better rates than O2 and Vodafone. At least in comparison between the three.

I put together just such a comparison below for what seems like a comparable pre-pay package: Night Owl from O2, Social Life from Vodafone and Leisure Time Plus from Meteor. As with all such comparisons in the mobile industry, it is difficult to do it in an exact and fair manner as some operators will charge a “call connection cost”, have minimum call charges, cheaper second and subsequent minutes on directory enquiries, etc. Also errors and omissions are to be expected.

O2 Vodafone Meteor
Night Owl Social Life Leisure Time Plus
  Peak   Off Peak   Peak   Off Peak   Peak   Off Peak
Own network 55c 15c 50c 15c 40c 13c
Other network 63c 19c 65c 30c 40c 13c
Landline 55c 15c 50c 15c 40c 13c
Voicemail 15c 15c Free Free Free Free
SMS to own network 11c 11c 13c 13c 9c 9c
SMS to other network 13c 13c 13c 13c 9c 9c
International SMS 25c 25c 25c 25c 15c 15c
GPRS (per KB) 3c 3c 2c 2c 2c 2c
Customer Care 14c 14c 15c 15c Free Free
1850 30c 30c 31c 31c 30c 30c
1890 30c 23c 50c 15c 15c 15c
1891 23c 23c 50c 15c 12.5c 12.5c
UK 95c 95c €1.02 €1.02 50c 50c
USA €1.90 €1.90 €1.02 €1.02 50c 50c
Australia €1.90 €1.90 €1.92 €1.92 50c 50c

So in trying to ensure that I wouldn’t be fleeced by Meteor, I ended up discovering that O2 was already taking me to the cleaners. These kinds of price differences can be found across all comparable packages – both post-pay and pre-pay.

When it comes to our opinion of Meteor, it’s time we all grew up and wised up. O2 and Vodafone are making more money per customer in Ireland than they are in most other European countries. They are ripping us off. In fact they are ripping about 90% of us off – that’s their market share.

Go and get a free SIM only pack for Meteor and try it out. Their network is fine. Their phone offerings are as good as the others. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start saving at least 50% of your current bill per month.

VoIP Client Twinkles Brightly on Linux

A question came up today on ILUG regarding Skype on Linux which then spill-ed over onto a conversation about VoIP clients. KPhone was mentioned which is what I have been using to date with my Blueface VoIP account. Unfortunately I can’t give KPhone a good review as I have always found it buggy, unintuitive and it crashes regularly.

The conversation reminded me of a news bite I read on KDE.news about new Linux VoIP clients that are gaining momentum. One in particular looked very promising: Twinkle. The first version of Twinkle, 0.1, was only released last month but it’s already a formidable application when compared with KPhone.

Although Twinkleuses the cross platform application development framework known as Qt (which is also the foundation of KDE), it is only compatible with Linux’s audio system. Some of the features already completed include two lines, three-way conference calls, call redirection, DTMF sopport and the G.771 and GSM audio codecs.

Some obvious features that are currently missing but that the author plans to add include an address book, a history function to log incoming and outgoing calls, instant messaging and video support. So far I’m very impressed and I have already replaced KPhone with Twinkle.

The only negative comment I have to make, and it’s not really a reflection on Twinkle, is that although the author decided to use Qt it is really a shame he didn’t go the extra step and use the KDE application framework so that it would better integrate with that desktop environment and the other KDE PIM and networking applications. No doubt Michel de Boer, the author, has his reasons – perhaps he plans to extend Twinkle‘s compatibility to other operating systems.

Timing Work Periods with KDialog, DCOP and KAlarm

Mikolaj Machowski posted an nice example of using KDialog with DCOP to the KDE Developers mailing list a while back:


PROGRESS=$(kdialog --icon kalarm --title "Short rest" \
    --progressbar "Take a break..." 30)

if [ $PROGRESS ]; then
  for (( i=0; i<30; i++ )); do     dcop $PROGRESS setProgress $i     sleep 1   done   dcop $PROGRESS close fi

The purpose of Mikolaj's post was to suggest a method of regimenting work periods - e.g. 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off - using the above script and KAlarm, a personal alarm message, command and email scheduler. But, more than that, it shows off one of the many hiddens treasures of KDE: KDialog, which allows shell scripts to take advantage of some of the KDE widget set, and DCOP, KDE's Desktop COmmunications Protocol.

More information and a tutorial can be found at:

Easy Listening – KRadio

I often listen to the radio in the background while working/coding and in particular I’m a bit of a news talk junky. Generally I use my TV/radio tuner card with KRadio so I can control the channel and volumes with a few simple keystrokes. Of course there’s no explaining why someone always rings during a good Matt Cooper interview or while Vincent Browne is berating yet another politician for giving an answer that’s at a right-angle to the simple question asked – but now there’s a solution on the horizon:

Ernst Martin Witte has just released KRadio 1.0 beta with a new feature that looks very promising – the ability to pause radio playback and continue it later. This is still a beta version which may explain why I’m having some difficulty getting it to work properly. While I eagerly await the final release, the good news is that the normal recording function works perfectly so I won’t miss those interviews; and it supports both Ogg/Vorbis and MP3.

KDE frontend for o2sms

o2sms is an excellent Perl script for sending SMS’s (or text messages) via the UNIX command line without the bother of logging in through the provider’s webpages (which are often slow, clumsy and non-standards compliant). Despite its name, it supports Vodafone (Ireland) and Meteor as well as o2 (Ireland) users.

I have been using this script for years and have installed it for many others. Despite its ease of use and obvious advantages, I still see those around me reaching for their phones to send a text which they will then have to pay for! ko2smsapplet is a simple front-end to this script for KDE users. It sits on the taskbar and you simply click on it to send an SMS.

[Snapshot of KO2smsApplet in Kicker]

This applet was born out of the need to take a break from research/thesis writing one evening during the week. It is simple but functional. It can be downloaded with installation instructions from: