Richard Bloomfield's Blog

Technology, Cycling and Singing in Dublin

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Why I won’t by buying the Nexus 6

I’ve been a fan of the Google Nexus phones for a couple of years, and have written in the past about getting my hands on a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 5 before they were available in Ireland. And like of lot of other fans, I was quite excited to learn what was coming next.

The major attraction of the Nexus mobiles is that you were able to get a top-performing phone at a discount price, but with the new Nexus 6 announced yesterday, you’re still getting a top-performing phone but it’s now got a premium price tag attached. And, let’s face it, the screen is way too big!

With the Nexus 6, they have deviated from a winning formula, and potentially upset a lot of fans.  The whole point of getting a Nexus 4 or Nexus 5 was that you could ditch those expensive mobile contracts, buy a reasonably-priced smartphone SIM-free for about €350, and save a fortune over the life of a phone.  The Nexus 6 price is more likely to be cost €650 SIM-free in Ireland – almost double.

It’s interesting that Google still intends to keep selling the Nexus 5, which is still a strongly performing phone, even if it is a year old now. It understands that a lot of people are not interested in the ‘phablet’ sized Nexus 6, and so have kept the Nexus 5 available for sale.

But here’s the thing… I’m an early adopter of technology, and I like to feel that I have the ‘latest and greatest’ technology, and have got used to replacing my mobile every year. But at the moment, I have no upgrade path. I have no motivation to put my hand in my pocket and hand over some money.

So for now, it seems I’ll be keeping hold of my Nexus 5 – which will probably come as bad news to my wife, who had plans to take it off me once I upgraded.

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Irish Budget 2015

It’s budget day here in Ireland, and the official news of any changes to taxation or public spending will start to come in from about 2.30pm onwards. And so it’s a perfect opportunity to try out the Live Blogging plugin:


 

14.34

Increased spending:

  • Capital Expenditure increased by €3.5 billion next year
  • Social Housing investment of €2.2 billion over 3 years

Also selling off Bord Gais for about €400 million.

14.29

So, the Universal Social Charge (USC) rates are changing:

  • 2% rate is being reduced to 1.5%
  • 4% rate is being reduced to 3.5%
  • New 8% rate for people on incomes over €70,000
  • New 11% rate for people on incomes over €100,000

Sadly I don’t earn enough to pay either the 8% or 11% rates!

14.20

€10 for a packet of fags!

14.19

Reduction to the Universal Social Charge as well!  Hurrah!  And increases in the Income Tax threshold (though not by much), and a 1% drop in the upper rate of Income Tax from 41% to 40%.

With all these giveaways, I’m probably now about €2 a month better off!

14.17

We’re also getting tax relief on Water Charges, which is, in effect, a tax.  Tax relief on a tax?  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if it means paying less money to the government then I’ll take it.  So basically, I won’t have to pay income tax on the Water Charges – so that will, for those who pay upper rate tax, cost about 40% less than expected.

14.12

Oh look, we’re finally getting rid of the Pension Levy.  The 0.6% tax on your supposed tax-free pension pot. Hopefully now, when I retire, my pension will be worth more than I paid into it!

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Irish Water Charges

As of today, 1st October 2014, the Irish people will be liable for domestic water charges.

For the first 9 months, households will be liable for an ‘assessed’ charge that is based upon the number of adults in the property. The first adult is charged €176 a year, and each additional adult is charged an extra €102.  Children will not be charged.

Then, as of July 2015, those properties with water meters installed will be charged based on the volume of water consumed – at a cost of €2.44 per 1,000 litres of water.

However, I live in an apartment, and as such I’m very unlikely to have a water meter installed. So I’ll continue to be liable for the ‘assessed’ charge going forward.

The thing is, now that I’m suddenly paying what is in effect a subscription charge for my water, my first instinct is to try and maximise my usage.  It’s like having a gym membership or a subscription to Netflix.  You want to feel that you’re getting the maximum value for your money.

With that in mind, I’m considering now having two, or even three, showers a day from now on.  I’m going to wash each item of clothing in a separate wash.  And to ensure that I always have cold water available for when I want a drink, I’m going to leave a tap running in the kitchen.

After all, I’m going to be paying 76 cents a day for this water, so I want to make the most of it.

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UPC Ireland – Horizon Software Update

I wrote back in January about some of the interface problems with the Horizon box, and thankfully some of them seems to have been solved with a recent software update.

  • The general navigation speed seems to have increased
  • The dreaded “Delete Everything” option has been relocated to the depths of a Preference screen, where it can’t cause any damage
  • The much-anticipated “Delete Series” has finally appeared, and works pretty quickly.

I haven’t checked the other problems to see if they’re fixed, but just these few things make the service a bit easier to live with.

Has anyone else seen improvements?

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A suitable punishment for drivers that use their mobile phone

If you take a look at the passing traffic in Dublin, it generally only takes a minute or two until you spot a driver using their mobile phone.

Clearly some drivers are not worried about the prospect of 3 points on their driver’s licence, or a mandatory court appearance and fine of up to €1,000 if they’re caught texting.  Or the fact that they’re 4 times more likely to crash when distracted on the phone.

So I got thinking about a more suitable punishment, that would be reasonably easy to implement, and would be an added deterrent to people. The Garda and courts, in addition to the other penalties, would be able to enforce a 6-month outgoing call/text ban on an offender’s mobile.

The ban on outgoing calls/texts would remove the temptation from drivers to pick up their phones when driving, and it would be an enormous inconvenience to offenders generally. Incoming calls/text would still be allowed for safety purposes, as would outgoing calls to the emergency services.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping people switching to a new phone number, but that’s a massive inconvenience in itself, and would be embarrassing to explain to friends and family.

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