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Sunday, 31 March 2013

cross town traffic, so hard to get through to you

Westbourne Grove
The yellow lines and parking bays were switched off and most of the shops were closed for the long weekend.

We were on our way to a Spanish pirate restaurant for a late lunch tapas before heading south across the river for a family occasion.

el pirata de tapasEl Pirata de Tapas has that casual London thing with close tables and a buzz. We enjoyed the selection and the time whizzed by. Then to the south. One of those situations where a few wrong road choices could add a penalty half hour to the journey.

We did okay though, not taxi driver precision, but still a good route south, including through some of those areas which I'd place slightly off of my own beaten track.

As always, there's little cross town routes that work better with instinct over knowledge.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

car software stacks

Car operating system update via USB stick
I'll move away from talking about cars soon, but there's a few extra things I've noticed recently because of the sudden and unexpected range of vehicles that I've been driving.

It's the increasing complexity of the software required to make them work. A case in point is that a couple of the cars I've been using have that little extra 'Windows' button on the steering wheel. It helps with phones and media control.

It mainly works, but there are also some incompatibilities.

A case in point has been the upgrade required for one of the systems so that it could recognise the various phones being used.

It's a Microsoft devised solution for end users (drivers) and involves downloading a software system description from within the car onto a USB stick plugged into the car. Then plugging the USB into an internet attached computer.

The USB stick's content is then used by a web site to determine which files to download. After that completes, take the USB stick back to the car, plug it in, switch on the car ignition without starting the engine and wait for the car to update.

An 'updating' message displays on the dashboard. It is supposed to take about 10 minutes. The radio switched on and off a couple of times and then the update finished.

It worked but was hardly intuitive.
Telemetry OS schematic for car
As shown in the simplified diagram, there's quite a lot of subsystems to make it all work, and even then, some of the parts like navigation are shown 'outside' of the solution.

I got the phones working, but there were a couple of loose ends, so I had a quick peek at the full manual. I know, manuals are usually a last resort. On this occasion I was also struck by how old some of the documentation is, for items that are in 2013 edition cars. I suppose it's the lag between invention and distribution.

It's making me even more impressed by space travel.
rocket

Friday, 29 March 2013

the best apps to download to the car's dashboard?

offset speedometer?
I've returned the little red and black American car now and we have back the fully functioning Italian one. I'm still waiting for my own car to be fixed.

When I returned the Ypsilon, the chap in the dealership asked me what I thought of it. I politely answered that it had an interesting personality.

I could kind of tell that he wasn't that keen on it himself.

I mentioned that the speedometer was on the wrong side. He explained that more smaller cars were being designed with the console in the middle instead of on the driver side. I could understand this if they were really trying to drive down manufacturing costs - no need to change that part of a Euro car for the UK market.

I was less sure about the safety aspect although I assume that this quirky design has passed the necessary tests. I suppose it was also handy for my passenger to be able to easily keep an eye on my driving speed.

Apparently the current generation of cars are adding even more telemetry systems beyond sat-nav and active safety. This little one had a spot to add a further plug-in sat-nav, which amusingly also featured an additional speedometer. It was connected to the inside of the driver's mirror mount.

Naturally it also had speech recognition for hands free operation.

But the next set of options appear to be to do with social interaction and that somehow feels wrong to me. There's already a facebook option on some cars and now there's the ability to add new apps to the display console.

I still see people driving whilst holding cell-phones most days. It will seem even crazier if they could be on facebook or downloading apps.
driving style

Thursday, 28 March 2013

centre weighted dashboard analytics

Okay, so I've checked out the trend for putting the dials in the middle on cars. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but it is allowed so long as the dial is within direct field of view of the driver (UN/ECE R39 /2439)
citroen picasso speedo on passenger side
Citroen have gone central and even programmed a set of computer readouts which display the speed only on the passenger side in a UK car.
citroen changed to have dials again
I see they have reverted to including some normal dials on more recent models.
ion board with speedo in middle
I can't understand why the Saturn Ion does it, because I thought that car was only available in US markets, where the steering wheel is always on the wrong side in any case? And they've slanted the dials towards the left hand driver.
scion_xb_suv dials offset
Toyota seem to have had doubts on their Scion where they have added an offset pod still outside of the normal area. Like they forgot and had to tap it on afterwards.
toyota with dashboard in middle
Another more deserving example is the Toyota Yaris, where the dial has been in the middle of what is actually quite a small car, so I guess it's like sharing it with the passenger anyway.
yaris after they changed it back\
Although on the new one they seem to have changed back to a set of dials by the steering wheel.

So I'm not still sure about this Chrysler trend.
chrysler red and black dash

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

ogooglebar may become a good pub quiz question

google swedish national day
I see there's a bloggbävning* developing now that Google has taken issue with the Swedish adding 'ungoogleable' to Swedish words and is threatening some kind of trade mark infraction.

I can't help thinking it's drifting across the informal mantra of Google which runs along the lines of "Don't be evil"

I get it that Google may attain more press coverage and sliddersladder from simply making a fuss about the trade mark question, but it seems to be somewhat kuf, as the Swedes might say.

Of course, ungoogleable has been used for a long time in the UK with reference to the 'ungoogleable' round in pub quizzes, designed to stop the nomofobs from winning. And the people who bring their paddas. Some things should remain in the köttrymd.

Along the lines of these easy examples:

72 p in a b?
DSOTM by PF?
What have these three items got in common? brush, wrap and fur
Which is the odd one out? roundabout, helter-skelter, revolution, taxman

And for a bonus, What's the one word answer to the hidden missing question in the last one above?

You get the idea.

Even if Google doesn't.

* Bloggbävning = blogquake
* Nomofob = (Swed-lish for no mobile phone phobic)
* Padda = generic name for iTablets and other eTrinkets.
* Köttrymd = non digital world. Literally meat space(!)
* sliddersladder = gossip
* kuf = oddball

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

two loan cars and a broken washing machine makes three

washing machine
"I wonder what the third thing will be?" said the washing machine repair man.

"Don't say that" I replied.

He'd looked at the machine for about ten seconds, wobbled the drum and said it was dead. It was apparently repairable, but would need new bearings, a new drum, a gasket and some other parts.

"Around how much?" I asked, secretly knowing it would probably be nearly as much as a new machine.

And it was.

At least as much as some of the new machines. This machine was eight years old and it hadn't ever gone wrong before. In the scheme of things, it's probably had a pretty good innings.

"It doesn't make a lot of difference nowadays" he explained, "whether you go for a cheap machine or a 1200 quid super machine. They are both about as likely to go wrong."

I didn't think more about the Third Thing, although by Monday it had happened.

My car is still off the road awaiting complicated parts. I still have the white loan vehicle. The blue car has been sold and the brand new red car has replaced it.

Except the brand new red car has a fault.

It doesn't go along the road very well. It's not my car, but I drove it on Monday evening to check. Sure enough, an ominous yellow light has come on. Sometimes it flashes. I had the task to phone to get the car back to the dealer.

So the red Italian car has been replaced with the temporary red and black American car. It's another type car I've never seen before. The logo on the side is squiggle. I think its called an ypsilon. Presumably the Y stops it being confused with something After Ford.

It's a curious vehicle. I'm confused that it has American branding, but it somehow seems almost too small to be Chrysler and maybe even too quirky. Kind of Euro-styling with an American grill that looks even bigger in real life than in the picture. A most un-American lack of air-con. It's engine is just two cylinders. It has secret rear doors. And unbelievably, the speedo is on the passenger side. It somehow reminds me of a stretched Ford Ka designed after too much coffee.

So two loan cars and a broken washing machine. Yes. That's the three.
black and red v2

Saturday, 23 March 2013

saving for a snowy day

augmented reality
A few things I might blog about...Almost a Thursday Thirteen, on a Saturday.

  • Pantone 185 vs Pantone 15-1157TPX: Short version, its a good season for we lovers of orange.
  • How much beer I'd need to drink to save £1. And how long it would take.
  • Cyprus and MOKAS - its anti money laundering unit, and Magnitsky.
  • On using 'This is my jam.'
  • Why my temporary Spanish car lets snow in: when I wind down the windows to clear the snow, it falls inwards instead of onto the ground
  • тройка being used to ironically describe the EU, IMF, ECB.
i expect one of these for buying your insurance
  • That groundhog legal action (I know that the picture is of meerkats)
  • Those augmented reality ad clicky things where you beam the phone at the picture or the product
fiat 500 coffee machine
  • Early april fools, or not? e.g the Fiat expresso machine in the car
  • Yet another City coffee bar where I randomly met a friend. That's three co-incidences in less than two weeks.
  • The bearing gods have decided to terminate our washing machine: time to check spin speeds on new ones, although I suspect they are the same components on most models with a different link cut on the circuit board.
  • The good bank and bad bank model - how much do we all pay?
  • See, it couldn't be a Thursday Thirteen: there were only twelve. Without this one, that is.

As for whether I blog about any of the listed items?

Maybe.

It depends how long it snows.

spring awakening and then a-slumber

spring awakening
Wednesday saw a technological sign of spring, as the solar powered garden lights came on in the evening.

Today, they are covered in snow.

In the distance a white roof edge blends with snow-filled sky. I wonder whether the repair-man in van will brave the conditions to visit today.

The washing is beginning to pile up.

Monday, 18 March 2013

making the powerboat picture scroll out of view

Hohenbrunn
In the interests of anyone else reading this blog - and from yesterday's feedback - I thought I'd better write a slightly longer post today.

The main reason is so that yesterday's post scrolls out of view. It's all very well seeing the animated powerboat in yesterday's entry swing around for a few seconds, but it does seem to go on for an awfully long time.

So my objective is to write enough to be sure that Sunday's post has scrolled out of view.

So let's start with an update on my car. It's still broken.

I still have the white replacement car whilst they are waiting for something to be shipped from Stuttgart. Actually, I ordered some replacement ink toner last Thursday, from Hohenbrunn, Germany. That's near to Munich. It arrived on Friday via Deutsche Post, so I don't think it's the logistics of getting the parts to England.

My car is also only two years old, so I'm ruling out that the parts are hard to come by. The chap in the dealership said they don't get much call for whatever it was, hence the lengthiness of the ordering process. They've also regaled me with a story about someone's Very Posh Car that took 12 weeks to get the part. I don't want to be in that sort of competition, thank you very much.

I'm still thinking about the revenue model for all these car manufacturers as they add ever more complicated parts to the vehicles. Not being able to fix a windscreen is a case in point.
Peugeot-206_CC_2003
Meanwhile, in other automotive related news, we have had the little blue French car MOT-tested and it's now at the point where it's ready to sell. The shiny stylish red Italian replacement arrived on Saturday although I doubt if I'll ever get a chance to drive it. Maybe I can hum the theme tune from the Graduate when I'm a passenger in it.

Of course, the old car was a convertible with one of those fancy folding metal roofs. The new one has reverted to a panoramic sun roof, which makes it light inside without the full force of the elements. Strangely enough, now I'm cycling more, I feel I get enough of the 'open-top' experience on two wheels.

Actually, I think I got almost too much of it yesterday afternoon, until the sun eventually returned. I could gently steam on the last part of my inward trip.
focus cayo
Which will bring me to my recent cycling mileage. I've just clicked over 1,600 miles for 2013, which was my original full year target for 2012. Admittedly I exceeded the 2012 target significantly, but it's still interesting to look at the difference in my own expectations a year along.

Now, I've just been typing for ten minutes. If I add a couple of pictures to this, then the powerboat image should have scrolled out of view.

Just
don't scroll
down
too far
.
.
.
.
.
V

Sunday, 17 March 2013

German philosopher or sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

that boat gif
Sometimes, when I'm busy, or preoccupied with steering the boat, I have to use up a 'spare post'.

It's usually the drifting raft (d-raft) of something that I abandoned. So not very time-bounded but it will keep the blog afloat, if I manage to duck around the flying sunglasses.

Although these partially completed drafts persist, I should really delete most of them.

I even found a couple of posts featuring cats in the back archive. One was playing with dominoes.

My 'blog for ten minutes plus add one picture per day' principle still applies most of the time, and I do try to keep a few London stories and an occasional red bus or black cab in the mix as a way to keep some sense of place.

As illustrated above, I'm back in control although still unable to pass Buzzfeed's 'Was it Nietzsche or Spongebob Squarepants?' test.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

why i won't miss google reader

feedly example
I did configure google reader, but in truth I never used it.

There's a couple of other little utilities that I've used, which are very fast and browse many feeds with just the arrow keys.

My favourite desktop one has been netnewswire (which I think was called netgator previously). Easy and really fast to use, in my case it keeps an embarrassing 45,000 entries routinely buffered up for browsing. My biggest problem is remembering to delete dead and duplicate feeds. Just a mouse click admittedly.
netnewswire
Then along came reeder, which has a similar style of interface, slightly glossier but less direct arrow-key based although even the paid version insists on dropping adverts into the stream. It seems to top out at 20,000 buffered items. I still mainly use netnewswire over reader.
reeder
And to move to gloss over speed, there's feedly, which is probably the one most people will migrate to. It looks very sleek on most platforms, and serves up nice graphics, but becomes more browsy rather than fast to read.

The 'In my feedly' column can get a bit confused when you have a lot of feeds. You'll see on my example that it has randomly selected rashbre central twice as well as 'Metroblogging Orange County' which is hardly one of my most common reads. I suppose if I used it more I'd clean up these aspects.

I do already have my RSS feeds in groups with folder numbers (like 40 for Technology)
Feeder 40 Technology
So I suppose google reader's demise creates a catalyst for me to rethink my RSS browsing.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

calm before a snow flurry

Royal Exchange at Bank
Anyone used to this part of London will notice the Sunday-like absence of people and traffic. It was the calm before the storm because within a couple of minutes the icy wind had given way to a bitter (although short-lived) snow fall.

I had to make a quick decision about whether to go early to my meeting or dive into a coffee shop.

My absence of later pictures indicates that I headed for the meeting room's shelter.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The 32 Stops - Danny Dorling on the Central Line

The 32 Stops - Danny Dorling
I commented a couple of days ago about being in a coffee shop in the City and running into an acquaintance.

The same thing happened again during Saturday, when we were shadows in a cafe yet through the window I could see someone waving their arms. Another friend, and another improbable co-incidence.

London may be large, but there are certainly areas with the right concentration of intersections, supported by the extensive weave of the transportation systems which help place people on the same lines.

I've just bought the one of the Penguin paperbacks celebrating the London Tube line's 150th anniversary, and have been reading some of the stories.

As a series, it's a good idea. There's one book per train line (e.g. District Line, Victoria Line and so on). The authors and stories have a relevance to the subject matter, but the writers have each completed a score card containing information about their Tube-geekiness and length of time lived in London.

The book store where I first saw the series had all of them on display. I had to pause a few minutes to decide where to start. I was tempted by the Waterloo and City Line (which is my current squeeze) but even its clever reversible format couldn't dissuade me from starting with my true loyalty.

The Central Line.

I've easily clocked more miles on that line than any other, spread over many years from living east to nowadays living west.

The narrative starts at West Ruislip and so far I've only reached Hanger Lane. It's an interesting approach with social observations about the demographics of the people at each stop. So far, the journey inwards is showing monotonic declining social conditions, lower educational expectations and reduced life expectancy with every stop.

The approach so far appears statistically driven, although doesn't read like a Professorial text book, instead projecting voices and situations onto the examples. It's clearly been researched because the last 30 or so pages are full of foot note references.

I like the idea of the book and can tell from my quick peek at the others in the series that there will be a variety of styles and themes. Maybe one a month to complete the set? Hmm, at that rate, 12 tube lines would take a year.

Meanwhile, today, I'm sure I'll get as far as Notting Hill Gate.

the temporary white car arrives

white seat leon
My temporary white replacement car has now arrived.

It's Spanish and the delivery person was very helpful. I don't think I've seen this type of car before but I'm sure I will see them everywhere now I'm in one, even if their advertising appears to be from another part of Europe and possibly a different decade.

It's already over two weeks since the stone pinged the windscreen of my own car and I think I've done well to use foot, bike and public transport in the intervening period.

The glass repair company did say they could provide a car sooner, but I thought I'd hold out in case my own vehicle could be fixed.

The latest head shaking indicates at least another week of substitute transport which is why I finally agreed to take a loaner until my own is ready. It's reached the stage where it is better to have the paperwork done and possession rather than need wheels suddenly and then have to wait.

Each stage of this process is getting more complicated. From the stone ping 1 cm dink, to the 15 cm crack, to the replacement glass fitting that cut some wires. Then most of the error diagnostics on my car coming on when I started it - Why the windscreen affects the Electronic Stability system is a kind of mystery? Then to the dealer who has had to order the parts from Germany. And now I have a substitute vehicle from a hire company.

In the back of my mind I'm wondering about all the money being spent on this. I'm covered, but as more cars get clever glass, this is going to get expensive for lots of people.

But then, I suppose even my bicycle has sat-nav.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

a higher probability than one might expect

weird curve at Royal Exchange
I'm working around the Square Mile at the moment, so every day I go past a dragon's wing on the way to work.

It's also an area* densely packed with bars and restaurants, quite a few of which have subterranean elements. It's probably possible to go to a different place every day without walking very far at all.

The trick, like in the early morning, is to know the places with shorter queues and maybe places where it is easy enough to get a table.

And that was my process today, when I arrived too early for my first session, having emerged from the orderly queues of the Waterloo and City line tube.

They say that the City is a pretty small world. Sure enough, I was sitting sipping my coffee quietly when I noticed someone arrive at another table. One of those moments of double take as we recognised one another. Then a hurried few minutes chatting before disappearing to our completely different corners of this dense area of London.

* I know, this post is an excuse to show another London bus and taxi (and yes, those shoes are orange)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

buzzard acrobatics herald spring

the buzzard that was showing off
It looks as if I'll be car-less for the whole week. The people fixing it have had to order a front facing camera(?) from Germany and it may take a few days to arrive. Don't ask.

Bizarrely, I've become quite an expert on noticing cars with simple windscreens and others with complicated electronics. My test is whether the rear-view mirror is just stuck on with a little square sticky pad. They are the simple ones.

The last few days I've been getting around on foot and bicycle and fortunately the weather has been quite sunny. Whilst cycling a couple of days ago I spotted what I initially thought was a red kite bird swooping over the neighbourhood.

I've mentioned them before because they have come back from near extinction to gradually spread back around the area. In urban surroundings with mainly smaller birds, the still relatively rare red kites have a significant presence with an almost 2 metre wing-span. I have sometimes seen one of the kites being chased by smaller birds.

When I noticed what I assumed to be the same bird again today it was doing some kind of aerial stunts, diving, spinning and making a sound like a cat. I was close enough to notice the tail didn't look right and realised it was actually a buzzard showing off to its mate. Spring acrobatics.

No decent camera to hand but I managed to snap the bird and its partner. I boosted the shadowy colour and can just make out the distinctive necklace of white.

And after I'd taken just two shots they slid away on some kind of laminar air current. In the car I'd have missed them completely. Even with the mysterious front facing camera.
the buzzard that was showing off

Sunday, 3 March 2013

raw fingers and incompatible dry cleaning

Training Peaks
Yesterday's cycling expedition included raw fingers, simply because I thought I'd use my bright yellow fingerless gloves.

My cycling jacket with the full gloves in the pockets is in the boot of my car, which is still at the dealer awaiting the system refit.

Other parts of me that started out cold soon warmed on the bike, but my forward facing fingers needed some soothing balms after my return home.
gloves
I've been keeping an eye on my 'year to date' cycling statistics too, and making the bike more of a habit is helping me hit my various targets.

I haven't properly checked February yet, but I think it will be somewhere between 600-700 miles. With that in mind, I should be able to hit my bigger targets for 2013.

My recent hanging around in a car dealership meant I noticed that many finance deals for cars are proposed on the basis of annual mileages of 5000-6000 miles, which isn't so different from my projected cycle target for the year.

Although I did realise that today's mission to collect the dry cleaning wasn't really bicycle compatible.

Friday, 1 March 2013

space cruiser grounded after particle collision

car in the garage
Well, I took the car to the dealership to get it fixed. There was shaking of heads as I handed over the key. The stone hitting the windscreen has created ripple of challenges.

I'd also discovered a couple more faults on the way to the dealer. When it started to rain, the wipers would only do their very intermittent setting. The automatic lights were not coming on. The list of faults continues to grow.

Perhaps a man with a van and a hammer is insufficient to fix modern windscreen technology with its embedded computers, sensors and aerials.

I sipped a super-hot car dealer coffee and idly watched the news loop on the television. My car appeared behind the big glass wall in the spotless repair zone and studious looking technicians examined it.

I decided that space travel was going to remain out of reach for everyman. If a car is now as sophisticated as a small space cruiser, then adding flight and low gravity doesn't bode well for family use.

They told me that the repair to the windscreen had severed some wires and damaged the head lining of the car. There was also a small camera which might have been affected.

My car is only 2 years old; they said it should be put back to factory condition. They'd have to order the parts including a wiring loom which may need to come from Germany. They predicted it would be next Wednesday before it would be ready.

I shall be adding more bicycle mileage over the next few days and fortunately I'm working in Central London at the moment.

Meantime, I'll have to make do with cowboy bebop manga space cruisers.