Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Give us a break, Steve

No wonder shares in Apple dropped today when Steve creates a hype just to announce the iPod home stereo. US $349 is a hell of lot for amp and a few speakers, when the original AAC sound is compressed like mad to start with. Onyx were trying to sell us gold-plated cables for the iPod at the Berlin Audio and Video show (IFA) back in September. We bought the iPod, but no way are we falling for Apple "Hi-fi"...because it isn't, nor has it been re-invented today. My kids like the iPod cause its cool. I don't see them falling for the hi-fi nonsense.

Some of the new phones

Part of the range of new phones launched by Sony Ericsson today. The top camera phone now has 3.2 Megapixels and they showed shots of Barcelona made with the device. Personally, I still prefer a separate camera for the quality, but the average punter won't see the difference. Sony has done a deal with Google to put both the search function and Blogger on the phone. So having taken a photo, you can put it onto your blog with one button. Apparently the deal with Google.nl isn't finalized yet, but it is coming. I'm waiting for Google Maps...now that would be useful on the phone. Posted by Picasa

Testing the Sony 3.2 Megapixel cameraphone

  Not bad if you hold it steady. This is using the Sony Ericsson Cybershot K-800i. I see there is yet another Memory Stick format we're going to have to get use to. This is Memory Stick Micro. Posted by Picasa

Cleaning Windows before the storm

  Rather him than me at the 32nd storey. Posted by Picasa

Amsterdam East

  seems Price Waterhouse has escaped from that dreary building at the roundabout... Posted by Picasa

Sony Miniprojector

Rather impressed by this new Sony mini-projector being used at the Sony press conference. It was a Japanese version judging by the back-plate. But the light output was amazing. Not part of the press conference, just me being nosey. The VPL-CX20, is an XGA liquid crystal video projector (2000 lumens and 1.9kg) that is only 52mm thick (full dimensions are 273x210x52mm). Retail price in Europe is around Euros 1600. Posted by Picasa

Looking down on Philips


It seemed strange to open the curtains after the Sony Ericsson presentation and see the Philips HQ standing next to us. They use to be in part of the Rembrandt tower, until their own tower was completed. Posted by Picasa

Looking South

  Glad I am not one of the window cleaners.  Posted by Picasa

But the view....


The view across Amsterdam (this is West) is spectacular. You can't help get inspired with a view like this. Perhaps this explains the general lack of overview in the Netherlands - they need more views like this. Posted by Picasa

Rembrandt Tower


Just like last year, it is snowing at the end of February. Sony Ericsson picked a fantastic location to launch a series of new phones in the Netherlands. Its the 32nd floor of this building, the Rembrandt tower on the South-East side of Amsterdam. Just another building from the ground..... Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 27, 2006

Indian Wiring


Saw some creative plug-less solutions in India...two matches was common. This one at the water cooler in India's Railway Museum in New Delhi makes use of fresh air to keep the wires in. Ouch. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Doing it Properly


Having gone through cables (by accident) in the past, today was the day to bury the satellite cables in proper tubes. Time to do a proper job instead of physics experiments. Great sunny weather at last - though cold. Posted by Picasa

Seeking New Wavelengths for Radio

Got a call during this past week from International Herald Tribune journalist Doreen Carvajal who was researching an article on international radio's next steps. Our pleasant chat resulted in an article in today's International Herald Tribune online which looks at how several public broadcasters in Europe are taking a lead in using new technology to reach their listeners. Nice piece of work - this lady did her homework.

Read the article

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I've mentioned these guys in Amsterdam before. Their latest project helping others to set up their own trendwatching units is really great. Check it out.

Virtual Travel

You'd be crazy to hire a car in Delhi. Taxis are plentiful, but it seems most are out for an argument about the fare. I've learned to always ask if the meter is working and ask them to show me the display (most taxis have it covered with a cloth as though it is a useful place to keep a rag for wiping the window. Those drivers who say it is a 250 rupee minimum change their tune when you simply start to get out of the car. One of the funniest journeys has been leaving the hotel and stopping along the way so the driver could pick up something. While stationary, I noticed the speedometer was bust. Can't believe there is such a thing as a speed cop in Delhi. You can never break the limit with so much traffic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Taj Banal

The Taj Mahal is indeed a once in a lifetime experience. Its a 5 and 1/2 hr busride from Dehli along a very bumpy road which is one of the most dangerous in the world. Its simply a zoo of people heading in their own directions. The final destination is an oasis of calm - and a very strange set of rules. I can understand that they screen all incoming tourists for lighters, matches, and mobile phones. Tripods are also forbidden. But they then sell you a 25 rupee licence to use the videocamera - and then restrict to filming from more that 500 metres away. A group of very aggressive women pounce on anyone who tries to take a video camera any nearer. "It will damage the building" they hissed. It's pointless arguing. Luckily I find a woman on my trip who has already been up close and will look after my HD camera until I return. Still cameras are no problem - and they can capture short videos too. The building is awesome - didn't realise it was so old. Take my advice - plan a trip to arrive there as the sun sets, stay overnight and head back to Delhi (another 5 1/2 hrs) after lunch. To do it in a day is crazy.

Satellite Scramble

At the Commonwealth Broadcasters meeting on the other side of Delhi. Great hotel, but the conference rooms are in a basement without any sunlight. People keep escaping for air. These conferences are really networking events - time to catch up with innovations in other parts of the world. Looks like Australia is doing some interesting digital experiments - but the prize of the conference goes to NDTV, the English news channel which has developed some very innovative strategies to compete with the big equipment suppliers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

AIB Regional Leaders Forum

Some last minute preparation yesterday has paid off. The Association of International Broadcasters Regional Forum in Delhi today has been a great success. It is always a challenge to know what level to pitch a presentation on the future of international broadcasting. But there was plenty of discussion during and after the session - something which is not always the case at conferences. I was most impressed by the plans NOKIA have for the Indian market as well as the explosive growth of satellite television. A visit in the afternoon to TVToday was inspiring - these guys buy the technology and squeeze every last ounce out the possibilities. Commercial TV here is in sharp contrast to the public service sector which employs 20000 people and has had a recruitment stop for the last 12 years. Great to meet so many interesting new people. I am inspired by what Times of India is up to with their new media activities.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

In Delhi

Staying at a hotel in the south of Delhi in India. Pleasant flight out via London in preparation for two conferences later this week. Went shopping in the afternoon - I can see why people get their prescription glasses made in India - half the price of Europe. Delhi's weather is all over the place. It is 33 degrees C here in the winter (it should be 10 degrees cooler) and there is a permanent smog making visibility in the morning very difficult. This is despite the fact that the buses and tuk-tuks now run on gas instead of the (two-stroke) petrol.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Radio's Important Role Post-Disaster

It is simply amazing how quickly we forget. Hours after the Asian Tsunami on December 26th 2004, the global media were full of amateur videos of the devastation caused to millions of lives across the Indian Ocean. Digital photos of those missing were plastered on noticeboards and ebsites. Sadly, too many became notice boards commemorating those who passed away. And many of the websites that covered the event are now frozen. For many, the Tsunami is tragic but over – and unlikely to happen again.

Actually, natural disasters are definitely going to happen again. A new cycle of more destructive hurricanes began in the Caribbean last year. North , Central and South America will certainly need to be better prepared. It is not if, it is simply a matter of when. Earthquakes too, are not going to go away. I have spent the last year editing a special wiki (with help from Andy Sennitt) which examined how broadcasters reacted to the Tsunami. It reveals a lot of brave efforts, but also a lot of missed opportunies for co-operation between those working for media and development.

We are also definitely not prepared for helping radio stations in the next disaster area - and that could be anywhere in the world.

So what to do? A practical suggestion is sitting on my corporate website. Thanks to help from Internews and Commercial Radio Australia, I have put together a 5 minute video explaining the steps and why they need to be taken. I'll be showing that to an invited audience next week.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Interesting Interface

I like the detail in Google Maps, but I think the user interface is awful. This idea is much better. Watch the video here Download options for two video platforms.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Something's wrong with my radio...

Not sure I like the pink on black, but sadly the message is spot on. It's no wonder people are looking for alternatives to machines-playing-radio. No passion, just repeats. US$24 if you want to join the club.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Scary Movie 4 completes the Trilogy

I liked the trailers for Scary Movie 1 & 2. In many cases the trailers for these parody films is better than the final movie itself. As I am currently examining the impact of the iPod on the radio industry, the new trailer for Scary Movie 4 is rather appropriate. I guess they will be staying clear of religious jokes (unlike the start of Naked Gun 2 1/2). Stand by for an invasion by the Tripods. Update: Just watched War of the Worlds - boy was I disappointed. It looks like they had no clue on how to end it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Nearly home...

Brussels doesn't seem that far, until you realise you've been in the train for nearly 7 hours in one day.


I can't help it. Years of editing texts means you're always scanning signs for things a little out of the ordinary. In Dutch trains the sign in English warns you not to speak "in a loudly voice". At Brussels Nord, all the signs have an unusual spelling for Saturday. I'll bet the copy was dictated to the printer over the phone.

Health Series to Continue?

Hopefully the Health series will continue in various forms after the current series of funding ends in April. Certainly the material fits all the criteria of what is truly public service broadcasting. I'm optimistic that the existing series will do well.

Musical Lunch in Brussels

I can highly recommend the restaurant at the top of the Musical Instruments Museum (Hofberg 2) in Brussels. The fish was excellent. Shame the weather was so foggy, because otherwise there is a great view over the city. After lunch, the TV producers and I went back to the RTBF to watch more of the productions.

Healthy Surprise

I must confess I have been very pleasantly surprised. Last year the European Broadcasting Union decided to work with the European Commission to create radio, TV and web material addressing the major health issues facing us across Europe. Rather than just doing a PR job, the money was given to radio and TV producers working in public broadcasting with complete artistic licence to do what they thought fit. Today, at the RTBF, the French-language HQ of Belgium's public service broadcaster, we saw the (almost) finished result. They are beautiful pieces of work, especially the film on Obesity from Bayrische Rundfunk and a French language production on mental health called "The Madman Next Door". The reason they succeed is that the money has been used to allow documentary makers to travel and compare. The results are confrontational - yet the productions are beautifully filmed and scripted. I've been helping with the radio productions - and there is potential that these will be good too.

And so for a liquid lunch

Pretty sure the journalists were drowning their complaints about EbyS in the pub across the road from the EU Commissioners HQ. It's called The Old Hack's pub

This from the pub guide

The Old Hack

Wonderful little bar opposite the monumental Berlaymont that is always busy at lunch-times due to the splendid food on offer. The Hack has been around since the dawn of time, but has been revamped by a Dutch couple (he cooks, she's front-of-house). Book your table well in advance if you want a tasty and keenly priced lunch. The bar is often lively in the evening too, but is closed weekends when most of the Schuman area simply shuts down. It's also closed throughout August for precisely the same reason.

176 Rue Joseph II, tel +32 2 230.81.18.

The Pub

The Pub is a relatively new bar to Schuman that rose from the ashes of O'Dwyers. Ultra-keen prices, a free barbecue each Wednesday evening and the relative luxury of a pool table make this small but perfectly formed bar a potential winner. Three plasma screens for sports complete the picture. Basically, it's a lot more entertaining than the somewhat unimaginative name!

12'Oclock Grumbles at EU

We arrive at a press conference at the European Commission where officials are trying to explain what they really mean by proposed changes to the European Commission's News Agency, Europe By Satellite. Some UK and Italian journalists were clearly upset that this move could lead to setting up a taxpayer-funded propaganda news agency. The head of the International Press Association representing Brussels-based journalists wrote to Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom to voice alarm at the idea included in a consultation paper on EU communications policy. At the moment, EbS supplies gavel-gavel coverage of the EU at work - giving this free of charge to accredited journalists. In an effort to improve the up-take of material, EbS wants to start adding extra footage to illustrate issues - as well as doing more highlights.

Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger (who from this distance looks remarkably like Herr Flick in the BBC series "'Allo 'Allo" -he can't help it, he just does) insisted the Commission had no such intention. "The journalistic work will continue to be yours," he said in response to a barrage of accusations that public money was being used for EU government propaganda.

The EU consultation paper proposed ways to reconnect the EU with citizens following last year's twin referendum defeats for the bloc's draft constitution in France and the Netherlands and opinion polls showing support for the EU dwindling everywhere. Among the remedies Wallstrom recommended to "give Europe a human face" and get Brussels' message across better to national, regional and local audiences were to "supply the media with high-quality news and current affairs material".

My submission will recommend that they keep Europe By Satellite as a relevant feed for journalists and those with an interest in EU affairs (rather like the BBC parliament channel) rather than trying to dumb it down in the hope of a wider audience.

Healthy these Commissioners...