The Hans Monderman traffic plan
This video makes my motorcycle riding brain a bit jumpy. That is a major intersection in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and it has no traffic signs. Cars, bikes, vans, buses, and pedestrians just make their way. It’s fascinating to look at, and there is some method to this madness.
Hans Monderman was a Dutch traffic engineer, perhaps best known for his ‘shared space’ concept. The idea is that when you remove all of the signs, markings, and regulations, safety is improved as all those involved must negotiate their travels with their fellow travelers. It’s an interesting idea, and it certainly moves faster than 520 on a weekday evening, but I think I’ll still opt for a Red-Yellow-Green light.
The cell phone with a 10x zoom
Samsung continues to try to push the boundaries of cell phone photography by integrating an optical zoom lens. The Galaxy S4 Zoom was not well received, likely due to its 28mm thickness. Try, try, trying again, they have announced the Galaxy Zoom K. Notably, it is just 18mm thick. That is, admittedly still a bit thick by cell phone standards. The Galaxy S5 is 8.1mm. But that extra 9.9mm does get you a 24-240 equivalent lens, which is impressive.
Ranging from F3.1 to 6.3, the lens is a bit on the slow side, but that will be somewhat mitigated in non-action situations with the optical image stabilization. The rest of the hardware is solid, if not groundbreaking. You have a 4.8 inch screen, six core CPU, 2GB RAM, and the usual radios. It will be interesting to see if the idea can catch on, bringing some of the other manufacturers into the expanded camera capabilities game. You can find more info and pictures at DPReview.
Satellite Aided Transmission
That headline conjures images of an advanced spaceship project. Some sort of pie-in-the-sky mission to Mars type of thing. The reality is much less sci-fi, and involves a car. The car in question is the Rolls Royce Wraith, and the satellite aided transmission is the latest fascinating example of just how advanced our technology is getting. In a nutshell, the system combines the GPS signal and the onboard nav computer to track what is coming up and choose the proper gear from the eight speed transmission. Of course, this is a $300K car, but these technologies do have a way of trickling down. You can read more about it at the Rolls Royce Wraith website.
One last XP flashback
Windows XP began its long journey into the history books last week, as Microsoft dropped support of the operating system. In virtually all measures, XP has to be called a success. As the historic run comes to an end though, here’s one last fun bit of trivia. Microsoft tracked down former National Geographic photographer Chuck O’Rear. You might not know Chuck, but you have undoubtedly seen his most famous photograph, the Bliss desktop from XP. Here is a video with the story of that image.
National Palindrome Week
Did you notice on the calendar that every day this week is the same forward and backward?
Will QR Codes ever really take off?
At this point, the smart phone has become ubiquitous. I do still see people with the old flip phones on occasion, but it seems that most people now have smart phones. With that in mind, I would think that QR Codes would be more of a thing. They are certainly out there, but the problem seems to be one of adoption by the public. Many people just haven’t gotten into the habit of using them.
That’s unfortunate, because in many instances it is just a much more efficient way to transfer information. Sure, here on the web, the clickable link rules. But if you are doing any sort of paper marketing – posters for shows, magazine advertisements, business cards, as example – it’s much quicker to scan a QR code and be taken right to the page than open the browser and type an address into a location bar. Perhaps it’s still coming.
If you have been dragging your heels getting a set-top box for streaming content to your TV, the waters have just gotten a little murkier. Amazon has entered the fray with the new fireTV, and it sounds pretty fantastic. The one caveat seems to be that the fireTV is at its best if you are already a player in the Amazon part of the game. There is a good review up at The Verge, and here are some of the highlights.
- It’s tiny and unobtrusive. Look at that piece of popcorn in the photo.
- It has voice search that actually works.
- Integration with the Amazon tablet. If you already have a tablet, it becomes an extension of the fireTV, allowing you to control it, and serving as a second screen for things like x-ray.
- Games, for real. The device plays games, complete with an (optional) actual controller.
- Other services. You’ll find support for Hulu, Netflix, and a host of other service built in from the get go.
- Your existing Amazon stuff. The fireTV arrives preloaded with all of your Amazon purchases, so once you fire it up, they are waiting for you.
- Freaky AI wizardry. The fireTV senses what it is that you are going to watch next and begins pre-loading it, virtually eliminating buffering. That’s awesome, although the better it works the creepier it becomes.
The Geography Of Racing
If you watch racing of any sort, there are certain names that spring to mind. Those tracks that you know, and just hearing their name conjures a mental picture of their various features. The corkscrew at Laguna Seca, Eau Rouge at Spa Francorchamps, or Adenauer Forst at Nürburgring. But how good a picture do we really have of all of that geography. Not very, would be my estimation, thanks to this handy map.
That is the Isle of Man TT course. And, inside of it, completely to scale, are the vast majority of the greatest tracks in the world. Click the picture to get the large scale version where you can see what each of them are. For reference, I’ve color coded the Nürburgring in red, Daytona in blue, and Indianapolis in yellow. Crazy, right? The poster is available for purchase at this link.