Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

A flock of evening IT seminars

Not so long ago, the only IT seminars put on locally were those by the BCS and usually only about once a month over the winter months with very much the same faces seen at every one.

Roll that on a decade or so and there seem to be seminars coming out of the woodwork everywhere. This week there were two quite different but equally good ones.

First off was a very interesting perspective of how agile methods are used in CME. Although broadly aimed at the development community, it had enough background for others in the IT community to pick up on it. This was one of those from the BCS series and oddly, despite there being hundreds if not thousands more IT jobs locally now, the number attending was much the same as it has always been for BCS events. That unchanging number is a bit sad really as some other non-BCS events can have hundreds of people at them these days, so why not the BCS ones?

The next day was something of a marathon ISACA one on COBIT that ran on for around two hours. That’s something of a specialist field so it wasn’t surprising to see just a handful of attendees for what turned out to be a surprisingly comprehensive overview of the COBIT methodology. The ISACA events are quite frequently attended by a hundred or more people but it does vary from topic to topic and speaker to speaker.

Over the course of a year there are quite a number of such talks. By far the best attended are generally the ISACA and BASH ones representing the IT security and IT development communities with a continual stream of niche ones at Farset Labs.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Publishing on Amazon

I’ve a few things that I’ve been toying with pulling together into book shape so last week I thought I’d see what was involved in putting them on Amazon. As I’d James’ school project sitting on the computer in good shape, that turned out to be the easiest thing as our first attempt in publishing.

So, step 1, get the book into an appropriate format. They accept a whole range of formats including the normal wordprocessing (e.g. DOC) ones, ebook formats and PDF. I list PDF separately as it’s probably the worst format to use if you’re publishing to Kindle since they have to run their OCR software on it to pick out the words which is asking for trouble as they don’t need to do that for any of the other formats. In theory, your best bet is an ebook format as that’ll let you add the appropriate chapter and section headings to be included in the table of contents but I think you can do that via the DOC format too. For our first attempt, I took the lazy approach and used DOC and didn’t bother with a clickable table of contents, though I will add one later.

Step 2, is to register with the Amazon publishing platform for which you can use your existing Amazon account. A related stage to that is to register for tax which you may as well do upfront though you could wait until the payments start rolling in.

Once you’ve registered, you’re set to upload your first book. The first step asks you to create a cover for it and they’ve a rudimentary cover creation application to do that online which was certainly good enough for our first attempt but you’d want to put more effort into it if you were publishing a more serious book. Next, you upload your book and finally you set the price and format. Everything’s priced in dollars by default but you can set prices for individual countries. If the price is above £2.99 you can set a 70% commission rate but otherwise you get 35%. You can even add an optional print on demand option which will let you produce a paperback version when someone orders it but they charge $2.50 for that so obviously your price needs to be more than that; in practice I just ran with the Kindle version as it’s just a trial.

Finally, you click on “save and publish”, wait a few seconds and you’re away. Well, it puts your book in the system but it takes about 12 hours before it appears on the site.

So, if you want to buy James’ book, just click on Une Année en France.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Open Farm Day in Northern Ireland

Actually, it’s Open Farm Weekend here and it’s on a different day. That’s kind of confusing as it means that when you look up the open farm day website, you find that Northern Ireland doesn’t have any farms open which I’m sure must drop the numbers attending somewhat.

Seeing as it was a lovely sunny day, we set off for Gordonall Farm near Greyabbey. which was open to schools on the 13th of June and to everybody on the 14th. It’s quite a mixed farm with some livestock (sheep and cows), some biomass plantations, cereals and even a guy demonstrating some country crafts. You don’t really appreciate the size of the farm ’til you go on their tractor ride which seems to go on forever and certainly much further than any we’ve paid for.

Sunday was another lovely day so it was off to Armagh Apple Farm which was quite a different experience. The farm itself seemed somewhat smaller though it’s hard to judge the scale of a farm as you don’t know where one ends and another begins. In their shed they’d a whole range of apple based products. This time of year, the apples themselves are tiny and there are apple festivals on later in the year around the time of the apple harvest.

Worth going to for sure but I’m not so sure we’d have enjoyed the days if the weather had been poor as most things are obviously outside.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Isn’t is it annoying the way thieves trash your place as well as stealing stuff?

Sadly, we’ve just heard the news that some ******** have broken into our house in France and trashed the place.

What seems pretty much a cert is that the things that they took (seemingly less than a dozen things in total although we need to do a full check) will be appearing in one of the vide greniers (car boot sales) over this weekend. Some of their customers will be less than pleased with their purchases as they include, among other things, a TV that can’t receive French TV programmes and a number of region 1 DVDs that won’t play on French DVD players.

It isn’t so much the things that they’ve taken which is annoying though: it’s that they simply trashed most rooms in the house looking for stuff that just wasn’t there. Thanks to the high prevalence of the black economy in France, most French households are likely to have quite a pile of cash stashed away but us foreigners just don’t work like that so their cash take amounted to a few euros at best.

In other countries there’d be an insurance claim, of course, but in France the insurance only pays out when you have the original receipts and, for the most part, people don’t have them so you end up paying a whole lot for insurance that realistically you will never be able to claim on.

Anyway, it looks like our notional holiday will be taken up with cleaning up the mess that they’ve left behind and wasting time with the insurance company.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Cutting yourself off from the world by promoting local languages

In the days of Franco, the various local languages in Spain were, by and large, suppressed. The overall effect of that was that they were on the way to dying out.

However, since the early 1980s single language schools in the local language have sprung up in all areas of Spain where there is a local language. That’s particularly important in the Basque region as their language is so different from all others that it’s said to be virtually impossible to learn unless you learn it as a child.

But there’s a downside to all this promotion of local languages and that’s that it’s beginning to cut those taught in them from the rest of the world. This morning we had one of an increasing number of Spanish guests who couldn’t really speak any language other than Catalan. We could barely communicate with them at all because they couldn’t speak more than a few words of English, French or Spanish.

Now, I can understand that in some areas they would prefer not to be taught in Spanish but they really need to learn one world language or many people will find themselves virtually cut off from the world. Remember that these are local languages: if you only speak a local language you’re going to have trouble outside that region.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.