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September 27, 2012

Vila Grand Budva Possibly The Worst Place I’ve Ever Stayed In My Life

I'm just back from nearly two weeks in Budva, Montenegro.

Before I go any further let me make it very clear. I love Montenegro. I love the people. The weather's fantastic (most of the time). The food is great. Go there - you won't regret it ..

Unfortunately not everything in Montenegro is wonderful .. some things are just plain terrible.

Prime example of this is Vila Grand in Budva.

I had the misfortune to stay there for 5 nights.

According to booking.com's description of it:

With a spacious vine-covered terrace and air-conditioned rooms, Vila Grand is situated in the city centre, less than 50 metres from the beaches of Mogren, Pizana and Ricardova Glava. The villa has a swimming pool.

Equipped with high-quality furniture made of wood, all rooms at Vila Grand have a satellite LCD TV, refrigerator and compact bathroom. Most rooms have a balcony overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

Regional meals are served in Vila Grand’s restaurant. The terrace offers a romantic setting for a glass of wine.

Budva’s city centre is known for its Meditteranean-style architecture. The 24-hour reception staff can recommend numerous trips to explore the Budvanska Riviera.

Wow! Doesn't that sound lovely?

Unfortunately the reality is anything but pleasant ..

I booked online with my credit card and had to make a deposit of 20%. I don't really like having to do that, but once I'd made the booking I was then committed to the location, as I'd already made a payment.

Getting to Vila Grand wasn't easy. Yes, it is very close to the centre of the town, but the map on booking.com positioned it somewhere else, while the street address was somewhere else entirely.

When I finally arrived I should have smelt a rat..

To start with the guy at "reception" who was apparently the owner did not speak a single word of English. I don't speak Serbian. Usually, however, I can communicate using hand gestures etc., this time that was pretty much impossible.

The room turned out to be quite small and very basic. I could live with that..

The bathroom, however, turned out to not really be a proper bathroom. The "shower" was basically a hole in the middle of the floor beside the toilet in front of the sink ie. you were meant to just stand there and somehow hose yourself down. And of course the water wasn't hot. I'd hate to have been there in the colder winter months!

Of course there wasn't any soap, though the entire "hosing" process itself was pretty awful, as the plumbing seemed to be quite dodgy and the floor never actually drained properly.

As for towels etc., they were never changed. Not once.

The room wasn't cleaned once the entire time I was there.

And the keys to the room and front door of the building had to be carried at all times. Why? Because the 24 hour reception did not exist.

When I wanted to check out I had to hang around for nearly half an hour and ended up ringing the owner on his mobile, which I'd got accidentally.

They only took cash and of course did not give me a receipt!

And as for the meals and the terrace .. they're pure works of fiction. The only facilities the place had was a small coffee machine, which probably didn't even work..

As for the wifi .. I didn't know you could get 1 meg down .. well I have vague recollections of it . ..

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July 24, 2012

Olympics 2012 Restrictions

I won't be attending the Olympics in London, but I'll probably watch at least some of it from here ..

If you are attending you need to be careful about what you bring with you ..

There are several documents on the official London Olympics' site outlining what you cannot do or bring with you.

Here's a couple of the items that caught my attention (and since this post is critical of them I'm probably in breach of their stupid social media guidelines)

  • Excessive amounts of food - their wording. What exactly does that mean? Are they worried about people's health or have they got some kind of hidden list of criteria for what constitutes "excessive"?
  • Any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for ‘ambush marketing’ - basically rules out most of my t-shirts so :)
  • Flags of countries not participating in the Games (this excludes the flags of nations under the umbrella of a participating country such as England, Scotland and Wales)  - so the IOC doesn't want people to show national pride?
  • Noisemakers such as hunting horns, air horns, klaxons, drums, vuvuzelas and whistles - banning vuvuzelas = a good thing
  • Items too large to be electronically screened - not a bad idea, but how big is "too large" ?
  • "Offensive weapons" - as opposed to "polite" or "politically correct" ones? Yes, I am being facetious but "weapons" would have covered it

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July 21, 2012

Gun Death Figures

Statistics showing the number of gun related deaths in various countries

I shared an image via Facebook last night, as it caught my attention and disturbed me. Sharing the image is an action that probably means a lot more than you'd immediately think and this was reflected by the level of feedback that I got on Facebook from different people.

Here's the image, which is from the Brady Campaign site, which has some pretty damning statistics on gun related deaths.

Statistics showing the number of gun related deaths in various countries

The Brady Campaign isn't about banning guns, it's about improving the legislation in the US to stop guns being made too accessible to people with a penchant for violence. They've also got a counter on their site which is pretty scary. On average 270 people are shot in the US every single day!

Ireland has very strict gun control laws, as do many countries in Europe. That doesn't mean that people don't get shot, or get their hands on weapons illegally. And of course you don't need a gun to kill someone - you can do it with your bare hands..

Personally I enjoy shooting, though I only get to do that when I'm in the US and I have no issue with people owning guns.

 

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July 19, 2012

Irish Mobile Operator With Sane Roaming In Serbia and Montenegro?

Montenegro Coastline

Montenegro Coastline (Photo credit: blacknight)

I just got back from Montenegro last night.

I'd a great time (check out the photos!), but I was really hampered by not having data either in Serbia or Montenegro

Vodafone have a network in Serbia, but for some stupid reason I didn't have 3G roaming with them. No idea why.

Once I landed in Montenegro I ended up without any data at all.

This is really really annoying.

I'm going back to the region again in September and I *need* to have data as I will be working from there for several days.

So which Irish mobile operators have proper roaming agreements with Serbia and Montenegro and can give me data in both countries?

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July 2, 2012

Dominos Ireland Misleading Customers?

Dominos Ireland advertise Paypal payments on their homepage

I don't know what Dominos Ireland are up to with respect to their site. It's quite confusing and misleading.

If you go to the Irish site and login you get the below front page which clearly says that Paypal is available as a payment option. It's been like that for a couple of months:

Dominos Ireland advertise Paypal payments on their homepage

Dominos Ireland advertise Paypal payments on their homepage

But if you try to pay via Paypal you simply can't:

Dominos Ireland only takes cash or credit / debit cards - no Paypal

Dominos Ireland only takes cash or credit / debit cards - no Paypal

No explanation as to why they're advertising it and not actually taking it.

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June 3, 2012

Get Your Head Out Of The Cloud

I've been working online in some shape or form since the mid 1990s when I was an undergraduate at the University of Limerick. Back then the internet was novel and I used it mostly to compensate for the lack of books in the university's library (they did have lots of books - just not that many on topics I needed).

Now in 2012 a lot more people are online. Broadband speeds have improved and dialup is slowly dying out.

But we, in industry, run a huge risk. It's far too easy for us to completely overlook offline media.

It's become so easy and natural for the "digital natives" to engage each other online via blogs, social networks, email etc., that it's all too easy to overlook the power and reach of the printed word. We might scoff at print media and make dismissive comments about it, but ignoring it is shortsighted and probably risky.

I've always felt that print media should be an important component of any marketing and advertising campaign, but when it comes to pushing opinion and advocacy I firmly believe that it's not just important, but a key factor.

Buying column inches in print isn't complicated, it's just expensive. Placing display ads in glossy magazines simply requires a budget commitment.

They're both more expensive in many respects than online advertising and "pay per click". It's also harder to calculate a return.

But getting actual coverage in print media (as well as other traditional media) is not something that you can simply buy. You have to work hard to earn it.
Personally I think it's worth it.

Today, for example, an opinion piece I wrote is running in The Sunday Business Post. It's not advertising our services, either directly or indirectly. It's not pushing people to buy anything from us. It's an article where I share my opinion. My voice. My thoughts.

It'll reach a totally different audience to the one that either this post or the copy of the article on our blog will reach. Will it change anything? Who knows, but it will be read by people who would never find this site or have any reason to go near the company one.

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May 30, 2012

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Over the last couple of years it's become increasingly obvious that "government' wants to be able to control more of what we all do online. Unfortunately some of the issues they're trying to deal with won't simply "go away" but forcing service providers to treat their clients as if they were criminals will cause a lot of problems for everyone.

Go read my rant over on the company blog

 

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May 11, 2012

Annoying Ads

Every time I browse Facebook I'm pursued by this ads from Sean Gallagher

Talk about annoying!

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April 5, 2012

Daily Mail Article – Snoopers Charter

Snoopers Charter by blacknight
Snoopers Charter, a photo by blacknight on Flickr.

I was interviewed earlier this week for an article in the Irish edition of the Daily Mail on the UK's proposed "snooper's charter" . Unfortunately they don't seem to publish the articles from the Irish edition online, so I've ended up scanning it in instead.

 

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March 31, 2012

Wireless And Web Based Security Systems?

Picture of a burglar alarm detection point.

Picture of a burglar alarm detection point. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After my recent "incident" I'm going to be installing some kind of burglar alarm and possibly some cameras.

There are quite a lot of different solutions on the market, but I'm really not sure what to go for.

Ideally I'd like an alarm system that is loud ie. set it off and your ears are assaulted. It probably won't be hooked up to any monitoring system beyond a GSM modem that would alert me (and my designated contacts). The idea behind an alarm being to dissuade whoever is breaking in more than anything else. As the house is on a very busy street only a few hundred metres from the local police station I don't think much more is needed.

But the thing that I would really love to get is a few small cameras that could monitor the front and back of the house. Ideally they'd be hooked up to some kind of web based system so I could login and check what is going on remotely. Of course I've no idea what to even look for here - most of the cameras I've come across need to be hooked up to televisions etc., which really isn't what I'm looking for.

So does anyone have any suggestions?

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