Vinyl comeback seen on Dublin streets

Dublin’s city centre has found itself inundated with the oddest of entrepreneurial ventures over the past few months. Apparently, Dubliners just can’t get enough craft beer, poké, expensive coffee and €3 doughnuts that are packed with enough sugar to induce Type 2 diabetes. However, while these have quickly flooded our shelves and (somehow) emptied our bank accounts, something which has been on the rise within our city, and globally, has been the purchasing of lovely slabs of analogue music. By that, I mean vinyl records.

Vinyl has made a bold comeback, to such a point that it even nearly put itself out of business. However, that hasn’t stopped the fine people of Dublin from partaking in the age old tradition, an expensive one at that, of vinyl collecting. Although the pros tend to shop online for the best deals, there are still some digging die-hards who still opt to take a trip to their local record store. However, depending on your location that might be difficult.

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Image: Conor Shields

Blackwax Records is a new venture by seasoned Dublin DJ and collector, Willo, in the form of a single unit record store, buried within the heart of Windsor Arcade on Meath Street in Dublin. After being open for only three weeks, Willo has seen a rake of customers come and go, looking to peruse and purchase what he has to offer. Speaking to, Willo explained how he got started with his store and why Meath Street?

“It was the cheapest place! I was meant to open in Temple Bar but that fell through and this was the cheapest place going. I’ve been collecting records for years and I’ve always wanted to open a record shop. I used to tell people back at sessions that I would and one night, I just decided to go forward with it,” said Willo.

After looking over his wares, it was interesting to see what kind of records he had for sale, considering the current size of his business. When it comes to selling vinyls, you really have to deliver to your customers. You have to know what they want, before they even enter the shop. I was curious to know what Willo’s selection process was.

“I’m only learning but I’m quickly learning what’s selling now. At the minute it’s just hit and miss. I have nothing direct at the moment. I’m still trying to figure out the market. Some of them are my own records but I’ve also been buying other people’s collections. It’s all about finding the right collections,” continued Willo.

He touched on his future plans before I left, commenting that he hopes to rent out a larger space in order to sell more goods than he can at the moment. I then left with my Kelis single in hand.

Image: Conor Shields

At the moment, there are only a handful of record shops open for business in Dublin, with most following their own process of selection when it comes to picking which records to sell. It’s unlike your traditional business in which you can buy in bulk and hopefully sell enough to make profit. All records are hand-picked in the hope of being sold. It’s a delicate business, but one which I’m sure will be sticking around for future generations to have a nose at.

Image: Conor Shields

Reporting and images by Conor Shields

404 Dublin: Tech Geeks, Coders & Information Over-Loaders

It was a clear day at the Kilmainham Royal Hospital as hundreds of attendees, young and old, descended upon the doors of what was to be one of the biggest networking events in Dublin this year. The clear skies and sun’s shining rays reflect the tone of optimism throughout the day’s events as neither a bored nor sullen face were anywhere to be found.

All attendees are here for a purpose, be it to have their talents noticed as serious budding developers, or to attract those freshly out of college and looking for work to be noticed

The tech-meetup “404 Dublin”, named after the infamous computing error ‘404: file not found’, is an annual tech meetup for representatives of companies all over Dublin, who work to show off their best to prospective employees looking for long-term working positions.

Companies such as the Irish branch of IBM software, networking and website builders Accenture, LifeRay and of course Irish-born gaming developers ‘Demonware’ were all in attendance here to attract the best and brightest possible and shine among their competitors.

One of the flagship attractions of the tech-meetup was IBM’s presentation of the ‘Hackable City’, a remote-control 3D-printed landscape modelled after the Lunar base of the 1986 film ‘Aliens’ by Ridley Scott. The hackable city’s main purpose is to train in new employees to IBM headquarters to understand how to practice defending a series of network coding from potential hackers who will regularly change their patterns of attack.

The small landscape sports several buildings, a tower, small satellite dish, missile launch-pad and active train with two available parallel tracks.

Each of the buildings possesses a series of lights which can be hacked into to change their colour scheme through coding; the launch pad can be sent into a rotating frenzy as can the satellite dish and the model train can be derailed onto the adjacent track.

Essentially, hackers with the right knowledge of coding can affect a feature of the landscape and test the alertness of the defending hackers by forcing them to find the code which changed everything and fix it. If they so desired, the attacking party may even change a few of the model’s features at once and throw the defending team into a chaotic situation very quickly.

Maria Hyland, the presenter of the model explains that trainees are taught how to both defend and hack into the system. The Hackable City initially began as a concept with which to demonstrate the monitoring capabilities of another IBM product Qradar.

With malware built into it, the system is already filled with bugs; this, however, emulates a real-life threat that hackers would indeed use in real-life.

Maria explained: “The reason we built this was because we wanted a better way to demo to our customers and talk to them about security in a way that they could understand. This is a physical kinetic city that they can interact with and it’s a network; we have a product, called IBM Q-radar that monitors the network and so it allows us to demo the product and ultimately sell the product hopefully! But we also use it for training a lot, training in skills for defending the network.

“We would use it on these simulated training exercises called ‘Red/Blue’; they’re the attack and defence games. We divide them into two teams, the red team being the attacking team and the blue team the defence. They are immersed in a realistic simulated scenario and it would have a lot of the latest threats and malware built-in.

“They swap over, and the idea being, that if you learn more about a hacker and how they operate, the types of tools they use and how they think, well then that puts you in a better place then to defend your network. As the blue team monitor the network, they’re trying to see can they spot what’s happening, maybe they won’t? There’s a lot of noise that goes on in a network but a lot of good stuff as well, so you have to work your way thought the noise to defend the system.

“We only came up with the idea for the Hackable City in 2016. At IBM we have a summer intern program called ‘Straight Blue’ and part of that program would mean taking groups of students and dividing them into groups of four to work on a project over the summer.

“It’s something we would consider an innovative project, and this was one of the projects last year. There’s a real mix of skills, there’s electronics, there’s software development, security, design; so right across the [board] … there’s pretty good experience.”

In the world of artificial design is the Virtual Reality simulation known as ‘DEEP’. ‘DEEP’ is a simulation resembling an underwater environment with fantastical sea-life and plant-life awaiting the player. The sole purpose of the game is to explore, and this is achieved by taking in deep breaths which are monitored by a motion sensor strapped to the player’s waist.

Being virtual reality, the player is required to wear a headset over their eyes, allowing them to completely immerse themselves in the alien environment. The developer of the project, Owen Harris, has been working on the project since 2013 and developed it to help those struggling with their mental health.

“’DEEP’ is a meditative virtual reality experience that you control by breathing. You move through a psychedelic underwater world and as you breathe in you move upwards and when you breathe in you move downwards.

“It’s being used in a number of different ways; some people are using it as a hypnotic trippy experience and some people are using it for an intervention for their anxiety and anger issues. I took inspiration from scuba diving, yoga, and just wanting to create a nice space to hang out in myself,” says DEEP co-developer Owen Harris.

“Stuff responds to you in the game as you explore; the fish will get curious and swim over to look or they’ll swim away from you, also the plant’s bio-luminescence is linked to your breathing. It really is an exploration experience rather than a ‘shoot fish’ one. I myself have anxiety and bouts of depression and … ‘DEEP’ is extremely effective; on a scale of one to ten, if my anxiety is at a seven, then ‘DEEP’ will bring it down to a five.

“It’s going into a special needs school and a mental health clinic next year in the Netherlands. Hopefully one day it’ll be available for people’s homes, but we’ll have a few technical and financial challenges to make that happen such as making it run on mid-range computers and possibly the PlayStation VR.

“There’s a team of behavioural scientists over in the Netherlands who study its effects on teenagers with anxiety, depression and anger. Two papers have been published so far and it’s been researched extensively. We even have a young lady who is doing her PhD on ‘DEEP’, so we’ll learn more as time goes on.”

Aside from these featured attractions, there were, of course, the panels which played host to developers and publishers who gave their advice to the hopeful tech-heads in the audiences looking for the best way to start up their independent small-time companies.

The evening events of 404’s closing ceremony took place in the church of the Royal Hospital, its stained-glass walls radiating the perfect scene of accomplishment for the organisers of the meetup as the setting sun filtered through.

404 was kicked-off by show-stealer ‘Cello Fortress’ an interactive simulation in which four members of the audience were given video game controllers to play the role of four small colour-coded tanks. Their objective in this game was to navigate their way through a labyrinth based on the inner woodwork of a Cello as they were bombarded by the obstacles and enemy units in the game.

What truly made this game a spectacle for all, however, was that the game’s creator, Joost Van Dongen, himself controlled the enemies encountered in the game via the specific melodies he played into his cello, hooked up to a laptop. If he played a soft rhythm, then the crossbow units would fire at the player’s tanks, if Van Dongen played a strong rhythm, then the environment of the level itself could also become a hazard, shaking violently and paralysing the player’s tanks if caught in the targeted vicinity, thus leaving them open to fire from the enemy units.

Four rounds of awestruck players emerged to play this spectacle and explored far into Van Dongen’s constructed levels. His years of professional cello playing and the ability to predict his opponent’s movements proved too much for each of the players who were unable to finish this level.

Speaking to Mr Van Dongen afterwards, he revealed that Cello Fortress has never been released for commercial use as of yet, but has instead been used as his party-trick on worldwide technology and gaming tours. The reaction from the crowds witnessing the game suggested that this is indeed a wonder among even seasoned developers and programmers and had even been nominated for ‘Best Entertainment Game Design’ at Dutch game awards.

The idea of an individual hooking up a classical instrument to a computer to act as a human-controlled level is indeed a novel one. However, it is also one that will likely remain something of a niche to admirers due to the necessity of the player to be able to play the instrument particularly well.

With Van Dongen’s demonstration of this little-known wonder for the audience it was going to be difficult to live up to such a spectacle. However, on par with his performance were techno DJs ‘Live:JS’ who compose their musical stylings with specifically pixelated sounds akin to those found on the early Nintendo Entertainment Consoles.

Both hailing from England, the pair have been composing since 2010 and rather than turn-tables, utilise differing digital equipment to play and remix their music. Sam Wray, for instance, uses Gameboy Advance consoles hooked up to transformer sound systems to produce -bit psychedelic beats. With a projector above displaying clips from children’s cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s to touch their audience with a heavy dose of nostalgia, what better way to accompany a childhood gaming console’s sound effects than a stream of clips to send memories flooding back to the audience?

Since the events of 404, DCU’s Helix played host to the world-renowned Cyber Threat Summit on October 24, which featured a projector interview with none other than Edward Snowden. Further technology events are now on their way to Dublin such as the TAtech Europe gathering in March next year and the Tech Expo Dublin taking place in the RDS in 2019.

Though it was only a single day event, Dublin’s 404 Tech Meetup has indeed left its mark in the Irish technology community, attracting more international IT firms to set up in Ireland with the knowledge that a proposal to start business in Ireland will be met with passion and enthusiasm.

By Henry Phipps

Cyclist safety uncertain as Luas Cross City prepares to launch

With the Luas Cross City project almost launched, Lee Shields explores the dangers to the city’s cyclists as Luas tracks have been extended across the city.

The new Luas Cross City line is due for it’s official start of service on Saturday at 2pm.  The service is an extension of the Green Line through the City Centre to Broombridge.

The project was started back in June 2013 and has produced an additional 5.9km of track through countless hours of costly construction to deliver a more efficient travel for cross city commuters.

This new line, although a welcomed change to a somewhat primitive city in public transport as compared to our European counterparts, has come with some backlash.  That being the safety of cyclists, where problems arose even during the construction of the tracks.

Areas which have proved problematic are those which are heavily congested with traffic, with luas tracks on the road and it’s difficult to manoeuvre with cars tailgating.  The affected areas include Dawson Street, Nassau Street, Lower Grafton Street and College Street on the south side and Parnell Square, Dominick Street and Marlborough Street on the north side.

These areas were included in a report by the National Transport Association (NTA).  The report called ‘Assessment of cycling feasibility on the Luas Cross City route’, was published in mid-October. However, Colm Ryder, the chairperson from the Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC), stated that although the report issued a variety of warnings on safety for cyclists at these locations, “There has been a deal of confusion over this report and its recommendations.”

Mr. Ryder informed me that over the past year DCC had been engaging with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the agency responsible for cyclists’ safety.  However, although discussions were progressing they have ceased, and he said, “no developments have taken place since early this year, which, to say the least, is very disappointing and we could even say negligent on the part of TII.”

One safety precautioned that had been discussed was a rubber infill along the tracks that would be mostly dangerous towards cyclists.  These rubber infills deemed to be quite expensive, ranging to €800,000 per kilometre.  However, the engineering consultants, Jacobs, deemed that it would only be necessary in high risk areas.  But, the trams would end up tearing the rubber, and would need replacing regularly.

Image: Lee Shields


Colm Ryder stated, “Rubberised track inserts have been discussed, and initially recommended in the 2012 Jacobs Report.  But, TII state that the replacement cost of these is too prohibitive.  Dublin Cycling Campaign say that not enough investigation has been done in terms of their efficacy, but also how many locations would they be required in? We have been told that they would have to be replaced regularly, but that should not be the issue. If they have to be replaced so be it, if they improve safety.”

I got in contact with TII and the LuasPR returned somewhat contradictory statements.  They said, “Regarding the rubber infill, it is deemed better practice to not have infill in the track areas once trams are running to schedule which has been the case now for 3 months.”

As regards to their concern about cyclist safety, they said that a final review has been carried out on the design of traffic arrangements at busy junctions such as College Green.  They state that signage will be erected in these areas advising cyclists to dismount before entering the area and remount when it is safe to do so.  However, Colm Ryder added to this point saying, “to be clear cyclists are not banned from using any part of the on-street LUAS lines on the new route.”

In addition to the signage, LuasPR said, “In parallel with the erection of the new signage NTA are also working with Dublin City Council to provide a two-way cycle lane through College Green (on the Bank of Ireland side) which will link College Street to Dame Street (for westbound cyclists) and link Dame Street to Westmoreland Street (for northbound cyclists). This cycle-way does not form part of the Luas Cross City project.”  Obviously new specific cycle lanes would increase safety, but how long this will take remains unclear.

As regards to complaints put forward on this matter they said, “There have been a relatively small number of complaints during the project which have been dealt with on an individual basis by our team.”  Colm Ryder contradicts this claim however saying that, “In relation to cyclists’ complaints, we in Dublin Cycling Campaign have received numerous stories and reports of cycling accidents/incidents over the past months, some of them quite serious.”

“We recommend that cyclists proceed with the greatest caution when riding parallel to the tracks, and ideally keep their speed at a safe level, to ensure that they can make any required manoeuvres easily and safely.  But in the case of the Dublin track layout, an awful lot is being asked of the cyclist, in terms of trying to stay safe!”

Fingal outspend neighbouring county councils in public art

Fingal County Council has spent more on commissioned works of art under the Per Cent for Art scheme than any other suburban county council in Dublin in the past five years.

From 2012 to 2017, Fingal County Council spent exactly €327,474 on funding for commissioned works of art under the Per Cent for Art scheme, according to recently released figures.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council, in comparison, spent €154,384 while South Dublin County Council spent only €34,260 during the same period.

Under the Per Cent for Art scheme, 1% of the cost of any publicly funded capital, infrastructure and building development can be allocated to the commissioning of a work of art.

According to recently released information, the most expensive installation, which was funded by Fingal County Council, was a permanent sculpture located at Balleally Landfill in Lusk as part of The Hide Project. The installation as a whole cost €174,640.

The sculpture (pictured above) functions as both public art and as a fully functional bird-viewing tower.

Records released by Fingal County Council also showed that a total of €85,000 was allocated to the commissioning of various 1916 Remembrance installations. This included a statue of Thomas Ashe, a founding member of the Irish Volunteers.

The most expensive piece of art commissioned by Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council cost €55,500. The same records also showed that a further €12,864 was spent in additional costs including selection processes, events, curation and management costs.

Records released by South Dublin County Council failed to show individual allocation amounts. However, they did note that no works of art were commissioned between 2013 and 2015.

By Conor Shields

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More than 1,600 cyclists fined since 2015

A total of 1,660 on the spot fines have been handed out to cyclists in the past two years.
The fixed charge fines were introduced on the 31st of July 2015 by Paschal Donohue who was the transport minister at the time.

Cyclists breaking red lights is by far the most frequent infraction with 843 of the 1,660 fines being accounted for by this offence.

There are seven offences for which cyclists can be fined including: cycling recklessly, failure to have lights, cycling in a pedestrianised area, breaking a red light, failing to stop for a school warden and failing to stop at a railway barrier or bridge crossing.

So far this year there has been 439 fines issued with 172 of them being for breaking a red light, 106 for not having front and rear lights, 88 for cycling in a pedestrianised area, and 73 for cycling without adequate consideration,

Cyclists can be ordered to pay a €40 fine which can rise to €2,000 if the fine remains unpaid for more than 56 days.

By Eoghan McGrane