Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Category: General (page 1 of 6)

Stop it with the WiFi bashing


There is a bit of schadenfreude going on over the problems with WiFi at the WebSummit in Portugal. I am amused at this. It is a total red herring. I have been to a lot of big tech events in the last year or two. Huge ones like Mobile World Congress (MWC), and CES which have about 100,000 attendees. These are serious tech events, that have been running for years. And the wifi doesn’t work there either.

I am heavily involved in the planning for our presence at MWC 2017. A few weeks ago I had a discussion with the guy responsible for our floor demos. In jest I said I wanted him to allocate me space for something 50m long, 10m high, which would need 4MW of power. His only reaction was:

“Will it need WiFi? As long as it doesn’t need WiFi anything is possible”

The reality is WiFi is not designed to handle massive numbers of concurrent users as you get at huge trade shows. When you put thousands of people on the same limited amount of shared spectrum it will go down.

Perhaps Paddy Cosgrove actually believes WiFi is an issue. I think it is far more likely that the reason he took his circus on the road was it had outgrown Dublin. There is no conference venue in the city that can take 80,000 people. The RDS was a cobbled together option that had reached it’s capacity and was barely suitable. I have seen proper conference setups in Las Vegas, Barcelona, Austin, London, San Francisco. They are purpose built for these things. And they look nothing like repurosed 19th century show grounds.

It Dublin wants to attract the big tech events (and I think it can) then a real conference venue (start with something capable of handling 50,000 attendees, served by rail links) is needed. And not gloating over an ongoing tech problem that can’t be solved anyway.



I am really enjoying Adam Zamoyski’s “Rites of Peace – The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna” (which reshaped Europe, cementing the position of the old guard, and gutted the aspirations for a new liberal  order). It has loads of wonderful sketches of life back them. This one really amused me:

An 1813 ball

I am sure the lady was embarrassed at the time. But imagine if she knew that people would still be reading about it 200 years later!



Children’s classics – may not work as well today

I finished reading JM Barrie’s original Peter Pan book this evening. My girls asked me to read it to them. But I quickly discovered the classic text wasn’t really suitable for a modern 4 and 6 year old. You do find it is not the book you think it is, especially if you have grown up with the Disney version. Peter Pan is a selfish shit. Tinker Bell is a scheming shrew who actively tries to murder one of the children. And the whole thing is laced with a rampant sexism that is hard to overlook even with the most generous eye (women/girls are just there to cook, clean and generally act as skivvies for the boys).

On balance I would have to say that it is not suitable for children today. You need to find some other sanitised version.

As an adult though, you can draw a smile from some of the slightly dated language. This passage amused me on the plane this evening:

“The little house looked so cosy and safe in the darkness, with a bright light showing through its blinds, and the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing on guard. After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter’s nose and passed on.”

I know the word meant something else a century ago. But if I read that to my 4 and 6 year old’s I just know that at some stage they would state in public (mortifying their father) that they wanted to take part in “a fairy orgy”!


Still the best (brief comment on Brexit)


Camping in Scandinavia – what’s it like?

We got back from a family camping trip in Sweden and Norway a little over a week ago. I thought it would be useful to let people know what the experience was like in case you are considering bringing the tent and a car to Scandiavia.

We had a 2-week camping holiday in the south of France last year. That was a pretty good experience, and we were hoping for something similar this time around. It wasn’t. For a load of reasons.

On our trip we headed west from Stockholm to Karlstad where we spent a night. And from there we continued on to Oslo. The plan had been to go all the way to Bergen. But although we had not seen rain at that stage the forecast was dire for the coming week on the west coast of Norway – 8-10mm of rain each day. And having now seen what the local camping experience was like we decided that it we were to see the Fjords in the rain, it would be with the comfort of a hotel to greet us each evening.

The setup for campers

There are no shortage of campsites around. What we quickly discovered is that they are primarily intended for people with caravans and camper wagons. Our first inkling of this was when we rang up to book plots and were told that if we had a tent we could just turn up.

When you do turn up, the camping spots are pretty unsophisticated – usually some green spot at the edge of the campsite. There are no designated plots. You don’t get power, shade can be hit and miss, and you usually are stuck in a spot that is on the edge of the campsite, leaving you far from the shower and toilet facilities.

Those facilities were in excellent condition, clean, modern, with loads of hot water. But there was a definite impression that servicing people in tents is something of an afterthought.

Even when you pay there is none of the careful calculation you would see in France for text size, car, number of people, etc. It tended to be a flat rate each time. No one asked how many people, what size tent. We would just be told this is the rate, go down here, and pick any spot you want. Just stay 3m away from anyone else.

Who were we pitched alongside?

When you camp in France, or Italy, or even Austria (no experience of Germany) there isn’t the impression that it is something just for penny pinching students. Families do it, couples do it, and the people in the pitch next to you could be driving an Audi S6.

But in Norway and Sweden I don’t think we saw any natives with children camping. Most of those in tents were from outside the region. There were ubiquitous French and Dutch, and others from as far away as Slovenia and Spain. But family camping seemed to be the exception. And those that did it had older children than our 4 and 6 year old.


Would we do it again?

Nope. Not on your nelly. We were lucky with the weather. But we were eaten by mosquitoes in one place, and nowhere did we appreciate the trek to the showers and loos each day. Generally we had more privacy as we were 5-10m from anyone else. But it just felt like a rougher standard of camping that we had before. And it was not comfortable for a family holiday. Maybe when the children are older. But you won’t see us under canvas as a family in Scandinavia again anytime soon.



Homemade granola

Homemade granola

I finally found a way to enjoy oats in the morning – turn it into home made granola. Then eat with some yoghurt. Yummy.

To make it take:

  • Two cups oats
  • Half cup seeds (I used pumpkin)
  • Half cup raisins
  • Three tablespoons maple syrup
  • Half tea spoon vanilla extract
  • Two tablespoons coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt

Mix it all up, and give it about 10-15 minutes on the oven on a baking tray at 150C.

The smell alone in the kitchen afterwards makes it worth it.


What’s the difference?

I’m a Sex Worker, and This is What I’ll tell my Child.

I worked in the service industry as a consultant. I kept long hours. I traveled at the whim of others. They rented my body out to clients for what they felt like. I sacrificed hobbies, friendships, and family relationships for this. I put my health at risk.

I have yet to hear a decent argument against prostitution that could not be applied to some of the work that I have done.



Missed opportunities

Grrr, I have a wailing and gnashing of teeth underway as I am missing the opportunity to meet and work with this amazing Engineer in a few weeks in San Francisco. I am not part of our team travelling to be there.

My elder daughter and I have started watching all sort of cool geeky stuff on YouTube at night. It was Chris Hadfield* this evening. Tomorrow I think it needs to be Simone.

* She was fascinated by the whole life on the space station thing. And I have been asked three times to explain why everything floats in space. Its great when you can stimulate curiosity like that**

** The one complaint – she was amazed when she saw a female astronaut. I need to beat that submissive attitude out of her.


Better to be pure, or to compromise?

From Quartz – Ethicists say voting with your heart, without a care about the consequences, is actually immoral

“The purpose of voting is not to express your fidelity to a worldview. It’s not to wave a flag or paint your face in team colors; it’s to produce outcomes”


Lessons of #Brexit

For over thirty years politicians in the UK were happy to blame the EU for every unpopular decision whether it had anything to do with Europe or not (a common problem in the rest of Europe, the UK ones just tended to do if more often and louder) . The result is that when Cameron made the mistake of offering a referendum the voters voted out – why wouldn’t they. They had been told for 30 years the EU was the problem.

When they are outside they will discover that things are not that simple – Farage has even started rolling back on one of his biggest lies (the £350m extra for the NHS one) within hours.

There are two big learnings.

1) Politicians need to actually be honest with voters. Offering easy, simplistic answers leads to people getting cynical about everything that comes from their mouths. The result is the rise of damaging populism across the democratic west.

2) Complex political problems can not and should not be reduced to simple yes-no questions. I am all for direct democracy, where it is right. But for big difficult questions, voters have shown repeatedly they struggle to take in all the information needed to make informed decisions. And instead, they decide based on unrelated issues (the Irish farmers voting down referendums because grant cheques are late), or with their gut. It is Politicians who are supposed to be the ones that bring in the experts, debate the issues and then make the decisions. That is why we have parliaments in the first place and don’t put every piece of legislation to the vote.

If only where an easy answer to this. I like to demand realism and honest of my politicians. But the ones that give it are few and far between. Because in the short term, the easy  “we didn’t want to do that, but the EU made us” gets them votes, and allows them to deflect blame.

Note on the image: I am living in my 3rd European country. I have an Irish passport, Austrian drivers licence, and Swedish ID card. I consider myself a proud European. I would be devastated if my country had made the decision that the UK has. Fortunately it looks like everyone in Ireland, including the “ourselves alone” brigade are 100% clear that staying in the EU is a vital national interest.

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