Household gas prices increased by 1 per cent on average in the same countries, between the second half of 2012 and 2013. This is after a rise of 8.2 per cent between the second half of 2011 and 2012.In Ireland, the average price of 100kWh of electricity in the second half of 2013 was €24.1, making it one of the countries with the highest electricity costs, behind Denmark (€29.2), Germany (€29.2) and Cyprus (€24.8).The cost of electricity rose by 5.1 per cent between the second half of 2012 and 2013.The average price across the EU28 was €20.10.When it came to gas, the average price in Europe was €7.1 per 100kWh, with Ireland’s average household gas price for this amount of gas standing at €7.20.The gas price saw an increase of 7.4 per cent in Ireland between the second half of 2012 and 2013.Read: First Bord Gáis, now Electric Ireland: Gas prices to rise by 35 cent per week> NEW DATA SHOWS that the number of domestic disconnections of both gas and electricity fell in 2013.The Commission for Energy Regulation has just published a document which shows that there were 5,895 gas disconnections and 10,122 electricity disconnections.Domestic disconnections have declined in both gas and in electricity in 2013compared to 2012, by 15.86 per cent and 30.86 per cent, respectively.Reducing disconnectionsThe CER has been examining how more could be done to reduce disconnections – and imposed a temporary moratorium on disconnections while doing so earlier this year. The moratorium was lifted on 20 February.It is believed that a significant number of disconnected properties are actually vacant, said the CER.The CER said that it is likely that the decline in disconnections, particularly in electricity, “can be attributed to some extent to the increase in the installation of PAYG meters for financial hardship”.On average in 2013, it is estimated that approximately 40 per cent of disconnected electricity sites were vacant sites, while in gas, it is estimated that approximately 36 per cent of sites were vacant.Highest rates of disconnection Electricity disconnections by supplier, Q1 2012 – Q4 2013The data shows that all suppliers now have relatively similar rates of disconnection.Electric Ireland had the highest disconnection rate in Q4 of 2013, but the disconnection rate of all suppliers reduced compared to Q4 in 2012.Bord Gáis Energy has attributed the decline in its disconnections in Q4 to the mild weather which resulted in a lack of arrears accumulating for customers.Electric Ireland – which has seen a drop of 20 per cent in electricity disconnections in2013 – said that its continued efforts to reduce the level of disconnections has seen a drop of 30 per cent in Q4 when compared with the corresponding quarter in 2012.It also said that over 200,000 payment plans have been agreed with its customers in arrears. Meanwhile, SSE Airtricity said that the reduction in disconnections is due to PAYG meters, which it considers beneficial in avoiding disconnection.In February 2014, there were 130 electricity disconnections by Electric Ireland, 54 by SSE Airtricity, 23 by Bord Gáis Energy, with a total of 207 domestic disconnections.Gas disconnectionsDomestic gas disconnections made up over 93 per cent of total gas disconnectionsin 2013, and declined by up 15.8 per cent compared to 2012.Increases were experienced by SSE Airtricity and Electric Ireland, while Bord Gáis Energy and Flogas had a lower level of domestic disconnections in 2013 compared to2012.Again, it is considered that the increase in the use of PAYG meters has contributed to the decline in disconnections. There were 55 domestic gas disconnections in February of this year.PricesMeanwhile, new data out today on the EU28 shows that household electricity prices rose by 2.8 per cent on average between the second half of 2012 and the second half of 2013.This is after an increase of 6 per cent between the second half of 2011 and 2012.
LAST WEEK THE Irish people had their say on how they are represented and how the important issues in their locality are addressed by their Local Authority. A dominant issue of national and local discussion has been employment, how to support existing jobs and how to provide new ones. Given the renewed focus on a local approach, where does your Local Authority fit into this equation?Traditionally, local authorities are seen as service providers in their communities covering everything from street lighting and planning to motor tax and roads. In terms of engagement with business, local authorities are often seen as being reliant on local economies as opposed to being a central driver of economic activity.At the most basic level however, local authorities are major employers in their community, supporting direct and indirect employment. In many cases, this local spend has equivalent impact to a major Foreign Direct Investment employer, acting as a boon for local business.At a broader level, local authorities facilitate growth by working with other State agencies in supporting investment decisions. This practical support underpins many major jobs announcements such as Eli Lily in Cork, Pay Pal in Dundalk and Kerry Group in Naas.What more can be done locally?While major jobs announcements are needed and very welcome – our capacity to create jobs through growing existing businesses and supporting new ones will form the backbone of our economic recovery.All too often businesses fail for lack of advice or appropriate mentoring at their early stages. For the person taking the leap and starting their own business, accessing enterprise supports needs to be as simple, positive and coherent as possible.Responding to this need, the roll out of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) is bringing together the local knowledge and existing business supports of county councils with the skills of Enterprise Ireland to provide 31 experienced teams across the country.For those trying to start or grow a business the new structures present a much more effective way to access vital supports including capital grants, training programmes and business mentoring – the idea is as simple as it is potent, all information and direction in one building. These activities can be daunting for some clients, but the new system will cut down on the time it takes to identify the appropriate supports and how to get them – be it market research, legal obligations, risk identification or sales planning advice.For the entrepreneur with the idea and the potential, there will always be issues that they haven’t considered. The aim of the LEOs is to provide streamlined access to the right information and support so they can get on with the job of developing their business.Importantly, the establishment of the LEOs will mean that all categories of business – including sole traders, micro businesses and small and medium sized companies – will have access to Government supports and advice. Previously some businesses – for example, companies who were too large to access County Enterprise Board supports, but were not exporting and therefore did not qualify for Enterprise Ireland supports – fell through the cracks between different agencies. Thankfully this will no longer be the case.Commercial ratesThe development of the LEOs is one key element of local authorities’ role in actively supporting enterprise and investment in their localities. This is an important positive change but any discussion of the relationship between local authorities and business in their localities inevitably contains a discussion on commercial rates. This is an important issue and has been the subject of considerable commentary recently as rates are seen to account for an increasing proportion of local authority budgets. This is, however, not due to increasing rate charges but instead a decline in other local authority income.In response to the cost pressures on businesses, the vast majority of rating authorities have frozen or reduced commercial rates – including 87 out of the 88 rating authorities either reducing their annual rate on valuation or freezing it in 2013.Between 2006 and 2012 average collection rates for Commercial Rates fell by a fifth, down from 93.3% in 2006 to 74.2 % in 2012. Taken together, both the fall in collection of rates and the cost of bad debts serves to exert further pressure on local authority finances.Like business, local authorities been responding to these changed circumstances and in recent years, have seen a 23% fall in staffing levels and also delivered efficiency savings of €839m nationally.With the launch of the LEOs, local authorities are again responding to changed circumstances and needs – and in doing so are striving to develop and grow their relationships with local business and enterprise.The futureIt is extremely clear from our recent history that we cannot afford to take a single job for granted. The impact of each existing job supported or new job created means more money, more confidence and more people circulating in our towns and villages.Building on the recovery underway in our economy requires local authorities to leverage their local knowledge and provide support services that deliver real value and benefit to local enterprise.On their side business should make full use of these services as they seek to create sustainable local jobs.Through collaboration and new ways of working together, business and local authorities can harness their respective strengths to improve towns and villages around the country. Now, more than ever, local authorities are open for business.Peter Hynes, Mayo County Manager and County and City Managers Assoc. Committee on Community, Social and Economic Development.Noonan: online tool will unlock €2 billion in funding for small business
Read: The Little Harvard letter to parents regarding the RTÉ ‘A Breach of Trust’ programme A parent who provided the letter to this website, but did not wish to be identified, said he was unhappy with his two-year-old son’s care at one of the Little Harvard branches and said that the letter “is exceptionally poor”.“The letter was so appallingly written and more defensive than anything else, there is no acknowledgement of any of the issues,” he told TheJournal.ie saying the letter was the “final nail in the coffin” and he will be taking his son out of the creche which he had been attending two days a week.The letterIn the letter, Little Harvard says it does not “believe there to be any particular reason that our creche in Rathnew was chosen save for the fact that it is part of a group and these seem to be the target of the program (sic) that RTE has put together.”Little Harvard says it only got a chance to see the footage on the Friday before the programme aired “despite numerous requests to do so prior to this” and continues:“We would like to point out at the outset that we don’t believe the approximately 8 minutes of footage, roughly 3 of which involve people employed by RTE to give ‘expert opinion’ of what they have seen, taken over a one month period, to in any way be a true reflection of the care, love and attention given by the staff in Rathnew to the children in their care.”The letter goes on to acknowledge the actions of two staff “which we find unacceptable”, but adds:“We do not accept the general thrust of the footage which in essence implies that sometimes there was a lack of loving care and attention, which RTÉ have refused to back up, despite numerous requests from us and parents alike.”It does commit to undertaking a “full review of our policies and procedures” but says the incidents were “isolated in nature”.It also apologises for “any distress and concern” caused and thanks the “numerous parents” who have told Little Harvard that media coverage is “at odds with their own experiences of the care and live their children receive”.In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the company said: “Little Harvard stands by the view expressed in the letter to the parents. The footage shown does not reflect the commitment, love and care our staff provide the children every day of the week.“Notwithstanding this the company is committed to making sure that the isolated incidents raised in the RTE programme are never repeated.”It added that a full investigation is being carried out into the incidents that were broadcast.“The management and staff at Little Harvard apologise to the parents and children at the crèche for the distress caused by these incidents,” a spokesperson added.Read: Did you miss the Prime Time creche expose? Here’s what happenedRead: Links Childcare plans CCTV streaming as it tries to ‘repair loss of trust’More: Garda investigation into alleged child abuse following RTÉ documentary ONE OF THE childcare companies at the centre of RTÉ’s ‘A Breach of Trust’ programme on the mistreatment of children in Irish creches has strongly defended itself in a letter to parents.The letter, seen by TheJournal.ie, was sent home with children who attend the five branches of Little Harvard whose Rathnew branch was the subject of a number of allegations in the Prime Time programme.The company said yesterday that it stands by the letter but admitted that “a few” parents have been upset by both the programme itself and the letter with “one or two” indicating they are considering taking their children out of the creche.The programme showed footage of staff at the Rathnew branch in Co Wicklow using their mobile phones while minding children, children being left in highchairs for long periods and children locked in rooms without supervision.The letter, dated 27 May, was sent home with children who attend Little Harvard facilities on Tuesday – the day the programme was aired – and broadly defends the creche while acknowledging the unacceptable nature of some “isolated” incidents.
POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland have released a 76-year-old woman after arresting her in connection with a murder 25 years ago.Detectives from the PSNI Serious Crime Branch investigating the murder of Caroline Graham in Portadown in 1989 arrested the woman in the area this morning. She has since been released unconditionally.Caroline was 19 years old and was living with her boyfriend in Hanover Street in the town at the time of her disappearance in April 1989. It’s understood she had been living in the Portadown area for around two years before her disappearance.Nobody was ever charged in connection with her disappearance but the case was reopened last year after new information emerged.Detectives investigating the case have previously asked members of the public with information to contact them on a special mobile number + 44 (0) 7585 228 283.Read: Police seek person who sent them a map in Caroline Graham murder probe
We don’t have clock radios anymore, we have audio systems. Witness the Yamaha TXS-140 Desktop Audio System, which wakes you gradually. Coming in a range of earth-inspired colors, the TSX-140 works with an iPod Touch and the iPhone. It can also play MP3 and WMA files stores on a USB flash drive. Oh, and it has an AM/FM radio.What makes it special is the InteliAlarm, which wakes you with the audio source of your choice. It starts by filtering out uncomfortable high frequencies, then gradually restores the full audio spectrum. Finally, it beeps, to tell you to get the heck out of bed. It’s all gentle and stress-free. Until the beeping. You can pick one up for a list price of $399.95. Is it too late for a Black Friday deal?
Whether the iPhone 5 has an NFC chip embedded or not isn’t really a concern if you live in South Korea. That’s because regardless of Apple’s decision to include one, existing iPhone 4 owners can purchase a case that adds the necessary hardware.South Korean network operator KT Corp. is the company behind the new case which includes the necessary electronics to allow the iPhone 4 to use NFC. It is also supporting such functionality with the launch of a new payment service that takes advantage of the tap-to-pay method and turns the iPhone 4 into a wallet.We’re assuming an equivalent iPhone 5 case will follow too, as soon as KT Corp. know the smartphone’s final dimensions and get Apple’s approval. That’s as long as the iPhone 5 doesn’t have an NFC chip inside as standard, which isn’t thought to be the case. In fact, the iPhone 5 might use Bluetooth 4.0 as an alternative.The iPhone 4 case was created by Wireless Dynamics Inc. and has apparently already received approval from Apple. When the case becomes available, KT should already have subway payment systems in place and a number of credit cards that support the service.Read more at The Korea Herald, via 9to5MacMatthew’s OpinionWhat’s interesting about this is it requires Apple’s approval because software will be required to allow the payments system to work. KT could sell the case without approval, but that’s not enough, so this is an officially approved service.Apple has said in the past that NFC hardware isn’t at a point where it makes sense for inclusion in the iPhone. In other words, the necessary components aren’t small enough to fit in the space allowed by the iPhone design. So is this the alternative? Apple is happy to support NFC for the customers that want it, but you’re going to have to slide your iPhone into a compatible case to get it.With NFC still in its infancy that tactic could work for one more generation of iPhone. By this time next year the components will have shrunk and iPhone 6 will have to include it unless over the next 12 months NFC bombs as a piece of tech or a service.
If you find yourself puffing your chest out because you finally got a dual-core phone, then you might want to pull that solar plexus back a little bit. A leak is pointing to HTC releasing a quad-core phone, known as the Edge, sometime in the first half of 2012.The device looks to be the spiritual successor to the HTC Rezound, featuring the same ridiculously high 1280×720 resolution, 1GB of RAM, and 8MP rear camera. It would naturally carry Beats Audio as well. The quad-core chip would easily be the most significant addition.It’s been nearly a year since NVIDIA first demoed their Kal-El Tegra 3 chip, and no compatible devices have been released. The chip delivers four cores of ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore, which can be clocked up to 1.5GHz. The processor actually has a total of five cores, the fifth being a companion core to help manage power consumption.Dimensions weren’t included in the leak, but the image suggests that the upcoming phone may be moderately thinner than the Rezound. That would be most welcome, as the latter is a beefy phone, at 13.65mm:The leak suggests that we could see the Edge in either Q1 or early Q2 of 2012. That could mean January, but it could also be as late as June. Heck, it could even go Droid Bionic on us and not show its face until September.Whether this will be the first quad-core phone on the market will also depend on what other manufacturers have in store, but it should at least be among the earliest. It looks like the Asus Transformer Prime will be the first quad-core tablet, but this is the first solid info on a phone with Tegra 3 inside.Of course Edge is likely just the internal codename for the phone, and we will probably see it branded as something else entirely. If the Rezound is successful enough, perhaps HTC will call it the Rezound 2?via Pocketnow
For two years now, Samsung has been hard at work trying to release a unifying device on every network in the US. The Samsung Galaxy S and the Samsung Galaxy S2 line of phones both accomplished that goal, but at the cost of every device looking and feeling different. Not only different from one another, but also different from the International variant of the device. In fact, most users were completely unaware that the Galaxy S branding stretched across the networks, connecting these devices. Another year has passed, and Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S3. At CTIA this year it was made clear that the US would be getting a separate launch party for the Samsung’s next Galaxy, but there’s been little other information officially released about the US variants of the device.Verizon Wireless – SCH-i535The downside of being “designed for humans” is that the device is prone to let a few secrets out before the official launch. The Verizon Wireless variant of the device was accidentally discovered on the Bluetooth SIG website recently, announcing that the phone will be Bluetooth 4.0 ready. The photo used on their website is a press shot offered up be Samsung at the UK launch of the Galaxy S3, so there’s no real confirmation that the phone will look exactly like that. Since it is a Verizon phone, the Galaxy S3 will be packing LTE. The use of an LTE radio more than likely means we’ll be seeing a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. This falls in line nicely with the user agent profile leak that was discovered the day before the International release of the device.I’m not entirely sure how the US audience would handle the return of the physical button on a Samsung phone, and it seems unlikely at this point that Samsung would take advantage of the software buttons that are available in ICS. The button layout on the International version of the device makes sure to include a soft menu button, so the OS isn’t marred by any legacy artifacts from apps that haven’t updated to support Android 4.0 yet. While the Verizon leak certainly leaves more questions unanswered than it answers, Verizon was smart to pick up what will most likely be the biggest Android phone released this year.AT&T SGH-I1747With many recent releases, AT&T devices have often been found to be very similar to sister devices released in Canada, since these carriers use the same or compatible bands. Based on the FCC report that was found on the AT&T variant of the Galaxy S3, the SGH i1747, it would appear as though this phone fill follow suit. The HSPA+ and LTE ready device will undoubtedly be the AT&T flagship device for some time, but since the bands are compatible with several Canadian carrier we may also be looking at the Galaxy S3 of the great white north as well.The FCC filing shows off the familiar shape of the Samsung Galaxy S3, with the top corners coming in a bit sharper than the bottom corners. While we still don’t know about the button layout, it is nice no know that we’re not looking at a completely different hardware profile for the AT&T variant, like we saw with the Galaxy S Captivate. The FCC filing doesn’t mention whether or not there’s NFC onboard with this version of the device, an issue that has marred several AT&T releases this year. We won’t hear anything official on this device until Samsung has their US unveil, but it stands a good chance we are looking at a Quad Core Snapdragon S4 for this phone as well.Sprint – SPH-L300, SPH-L710, or ?There’s no shortage of leaks and rumors about the Galaxy S3, it’s been that way since long before the International version of the device was announced. Since most manufacturers have many devices in their pipeline at any given time, sometimes it is hard to nail the right rumor or leak to the right device. This is the problem Sprint hopefuls are having right this very moment. Several model numbers, paired with several different descriptions an even a photo or two of a Samsung device have shown up. Historically, Sprint’s version of the Samsung Galaxy devices has been the most different, usually paired with the title of “Epic”. If Samsung tries to make the Galaxy S3 any more epic, especially in screen size, it might as well be called the Note 2.We know that Sprint is pushing their not-yet-live LTE network, and as such it is unlikely that we will see another device on Sprint without LTE snuck in their somewhere. There’s pretty much zero chance we’ll be seeing the return of WiMAX on the Galaxy S3. Sprint has been the most NFC friendly of the carriers to date, so it seems likely we’ll see Google Wallet pre-installed and NFC ready to go. There’s a few rumors that point to a dual core Snapdragon S4 for this version of the phone, but since we’ve already seen a dual core S4 on Sprint from HTC, it’s probably not in Samsung’s best interest to offer less than a dual core to compete with HTC. Sadly, there’s not much on the Sprint version we can confirm, but the sheer noise surrounding the device makes it more than likely we’ll see the Galaxy S3 on Sprint with all of the others.T-MobileThe little non-LTE network that could seems to also be getting the Galaxy S3. Since T-Mobile was the first to release a Galaxy S phone with the Fascinate, the Galaxy S3 will be right at home on the HSPA+ only network. The benefit here, however, is that the T-Mobile variant of the device is the closest to the International version of the device. This could mean that the T-Mobile version of the phone will hit the US packing Samsung’s Exynos processor. We’ve waited a long time now for Samsung’s fables processor to hit these shores, and this might be the device that does it.A T-Mobile internal document was passed to the guys at TMoNews recently that outed the Samsung Galaxy S3 as possibly having a June 20 release. If Samsung is keeping to that schedule, it would mean that invitations to the US reveal of the device would be showing up any day now. It’s unfortunately unlikely that the Galaxy S3 would drop on all of the carriers on the same day, meaning we’re probably looking at T-mobile just being the first to release the phone.Final ThoughtsThere’s no shortage of buzz about this phone, even after the International launch. The Samsung Galaxy S3 will more than likely be the biggest Android phone for this year. In our hands on with the phone, the Galaxy S3 certainly looked and felt like Samsung was putting their best foot forward and releasing a true Android flagship phone. With any luck, this time next month all four major US carriers and maybe even a handful of the regional carriers will be offering this phone up for mass adoption.
Unless you bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, you’re either just now enjoying Android 4.0 or waiting for the update to come through on your device. If you’ve purchased a device within the last year, the chances are good you won’t be waiting too much longer.In many cases, the Android 4.0 update will happen “Over The Air”. This means you will get a notification that there is an update available on your phone, and when you tell it to, the phone will download and apply it. Some of us, particularly the owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note or Galaxy S2, aren’t offered this convenience. Samsung is forcing their users to return to their computers in order to gain access to the update.The news came out earlier today from AT&T that several devices on their network were ready for an update. The Samsung Galaxy Note was among them, but it was clear that this update was not going to be delivered automatically. Like the Galaxy S2, in order to get the Android 4.0 update you needed to connect your phone to your computer and use a piece of software downloaded from Samsung. Kies (pronounced “keys”) is a legacy piece of software Samsung has been using for years to allow devices to sync data back and forth with a computer. The bottom line, no matter how Samsung tried to enhance the software, is that this is no longer something users want or need. Nevertheless, if you want the update being offered by Samsung, you have to use Kies.Samsung has been promoting the link (www.samsung.com/us/attgalaxynote/update) as the place to visit for the update. When you go to that link, you are re-directed to a FAQ page covering Android 4.0 update for the Note. The website gives you a page and a half of information about the update, such as features and benefits, before giving you a big blue button that says “Download Samsung Kies”. This button is a link to yet another site, specifically for Kies. At the bottom of this page there is a link in a small blue font that says “Download Kies” for Windows and for Mac. Apparently you are out of luck if you run Linux.At this point you finally start downloading the Kies software. It’s not a terribly large file, but it will take a couple of minutes to download. When finished, you need to complete the install process. This consumes a few more minutes, but ends in a box that allows you to launch the software. When you open Kies for the first time, a notification pops up that warns you there is an update available for Kies. Yeah, an update for that software you just got from Samsung 5 minutes ago. You should always run the latest version of Kies, so you accept the update and wait a few more minutes for the app to restart.Once Kies is actually installed and running the latest version, all you need to do is connect your phone to the computer. Kies should automatically detect the phone and search for an update, at which point you are alerted that Kies would like to download and install Android 4.0 on your phone. When you select OK, the file will download before Kies checks to make sure your phone is ready to be upgraded before proceeding. If your phone currently has less than 50% battery life, the upgrade will stop, and you will be asked to charge your phone. Otherwise, you’ll be ready to install.The installation process for an update via Kies looks pretty strange. The phone will reboot, you’ll see a few screens you have likely never seen before, and the phone will eventually reboot again. When it reboots for the final time you will see a message in a cyan blue color informing you that the apps on your phone are currently being upgraded. Depending on how many apps you have, this will take around five minutes. Once this is complete, you are ready to disconnect your phone and go on with your life.Why did all of this need to happen? There’s no confirmation, but it seems to me that the culprit here is AT&T. If the update were to come Over The Air, there’s a high risk that AT&T’s mobile bandwidth would be used to grab the update. If that’s the case, I don’t know of a single consumer that would be alright with having to pay potential data overages for an update to their phone, so AT&T would have to offer this update out of pocket. By using Kies, users have to download the file using their home Internet connection, and not AT&T’s mobile network. Because of this, I think it is incredibly unlikely that most of Samsung’s AT&T customers will even bother updating their devices.
Creating fire was one of the most important discoveries in human history, but in the long run putting it out has proven the more critical skill. As any SimCity or Minecraft player can tell you, fire is an incredibly destructive force that can quickly get out of hand.The U.S. military has a special interest in fire suppression, since they deal with a number of enclosed areas — like ship holds, cockpits, and ground vehicles — where fire is a serious threat. Not content with the time honored approaches to extinguishing flames, which aim to disrupt the chemical process of combustion, DARPA ‘s Instant Fire Suppression program has been researching physics-based alternatives and recently released two videos of their results.The first video shows fire being extinguished with two speakers blasting out sounds at a specific frequency. The sound creates an acoustic field that increases air velocity and fuel vaporization, disrupting the flame by spreading its heat over a larger area.The second video demonstrates an electric approach to the problem. Using a handheld electrode, researchers are able to blow out flames with an ionic wind.For now, both demonstrations are only at the proof-of-concept stage, and DARPA isn’t sure whether either can be scaled up to work inside a military vehicle. However, these new techniques for coping with one of civilization’s oldest problems are impressive on their own, and may have applications outside of fire suppression.DARPA’s information page on the videos suggests that acoustic and electric manipulation might work in the other direction as well, creating more efficient forms of controlled combustion.Read more at darpa.mil