Getting VoIPed in Ireland

I got set up for VoIP yesterday. It was surprisingly painless. I ordered a little box and a month’s subscription from Blueface, which costs me 69.99 + 9.99 per month. I plugged one side of the little box (the Linksys PAP2 into a network socket (I use eircom broadband, the low-end package), and plugged a regular phone into the other end. Everything was ready-configured and it works great. I get 5 hours of free calls a month to landlines for my money. What I really like is that this extra ‘line’ gives me an extra phone number to use for business purposes. Also, I can see the cost of the calls, as I make them.

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The Greening of Google

According to this article by Mart?n, the guys running Google are very concerned about the impact of computing on the environment. Larry Page believes the biggest constraint on Google’s growth is going to be availability of electricity.

There is an obvious short-term remedy to this issue: move Internet server hardware to temperate or cool climates. Server farms in warm climates expend a lot of energy on cooling. The same heat that computers generate could potentially heat buildings in a cold country!

Of course, this isn’t much good to reduce the consumption of client PCs, which must consume far more energy than Google’s clusters.

So Google is already building a dark fiber network. Will the company now turn its attention to building its own power grid based on renewable energy?

Analysts just don’t get it on Ebay/Skype deal

People are saying there’s no point in Ebay’s supposed interest in buying Skype. Are these people nuts? Buying Skype would bring eBay and Paypal onto the desktop. (Microsoft and Yahoo already have some presence on the desktop through instant messaging products, and Google is building presence through its popular toolbar, its new IM service and its presence on the Firefox browser.)

Ebay’s long-term game is going to be around networks of trust and databases of known users. Ebay will make money out of this mainly by heping customers carry out transactions of any type (using the platform provided by Paypal) and also by offering customers well-categorized, vetted offers likely to be of interest to them. Most of these offers will not be auctions, however.

All in all, whether the Skype/Ebay deal comes true or not, it looks like we will end up with around 4 big players in the Internet game:

– Google
– Microsoft/MSN
– Yahoo
– Ebay/Paypal

The good thing for consumers is that there won’t be a single overall dominant player in the game. That will force all players to concentrate on interoperability, which will in turn keep the door open for new players in the future.

One interesting thing is that Ebay/Paypal has been allowed gain a massive lead in the area of payments. No one else outside of the credit card companies has anything to compare with it. There is surely a massive opportunity to build out an alternative payments company with a better-secured infrastructure than Paypal? That company, when it emerges will be a natural acquisition target for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

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The McKinsey Quarterly: The battle for Europe’s low-fare flyers

An article in The article in McKinsey quarterly (free subscription required, well worth the trouble for the interesting charts, statistics and analysis) attempts to cast some light on what is happening in the low-fare airlines business, and provides some good coverage on Ryanair.

However, I think the article misses out on the essential point: air transport is being turned into a business driven by scale and cost management.

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Biofuel could meet 30% of electricity needs

According to this Irish Times Article, elephant grass could provide thirty percent of Ireland’s electricity needs with coverage of only 10 percent of arable land.

I have to say I am a fan of biomass projects, like biodiesel, running vegetable oil in a diesel engine and even burning wood for energy. It’s a much more efficient and storable way of using the sun’s energy than either solar power or wind power.

Airports are really shopping centres

Thomas Crampton writes in today’s International Herald Tribune about the design of the new Satellite Terminal at Charles De Gaulle. It’s supposed to be designed to facilitate the new A380 superjumbos.

In fact, as the headline on the story makes clear, it’s really designed to facilitate shops and shoppers.

Like I said in my comment: Airports are basically designed to make you walk as far as possible past as many shops and ads as possible between check-in and the gate.

Comfort and logistics are afterthoughts.

If the operators concentrated more on moving people through the airport quickly and shortening the walking distances, they’d provide a better service (and probably make more money, as a result of operational efficiency and reduced floorspace requirements).

I once designed a layout for a passenger-friendly airport with short walking distances that could be scaled to any size. The trick is pretty simple: don’t pack up the space between the check-ins and the gates with shops. Put the shops, cafes, massage parlours and whatever else on the level overhead if necessary and make them accessible via escalators.

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