Tag Archives: technology

An Information Science Solution to Pittsburgh Public Transit Woes

Bob Firth, Informing Design
“The Long Squiggly Line That’s Killing Our Transit System and an Information Science Solution”
February 21, 2007, 3:30 pm
Room 501, 135 N. Bellefield Ave
School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

The recent proposed cuts to funding of the Pittsburgh Authority
Transit system
have led Bob Firth and his company, Informing Design,
to consider a radical redesign of bus routes based on efficient
transportation systems that are being used in Washington, DC, Los
Angeles, Cleveland and even Curitiba, Brazil. In this talk, Bob Firth
will present his ideas for developing a cost-effective and efficient
bus system, based on years of experience in studying transportation
flows in Pittsburgh and applying basic information science principles
to solving problems of navigation and wayfinding.

Bob Firth is founder and president of Informing Design, which is an
innovative company that has designed a number of novel wayfinding
tools including the colorful Pittsburgh Wayfinder signs and the
www.bigburg.com collection of print-on-demand maps. The talk is
sponsored by the Spatial Information Science Research Interest Group
of the School of Information Sciences and will be followed by a
reception in Room 522.

The Need for Speed

My training has been going really well lately. On Wednesday, I did twelve 400 meter repeats. I did the first eleven in 2:00 each and the last in 1:20(!). Yesterday, I ran a very hilly course in Frick Park about 10.5K long in 51:00, a ~7:51 pace, which is faster than the 54:00 (8:43 pace) I ran in the Great Race 10K!

I think a really big help I had in both training runs was the 2006 Camelbak Catalyst 28 Oz Hydration Pack I just bought. I think I’ve been dehydrated in a lot of previous runs. There’s no way I’ve gotten that much faster in two weeks.

I’m really glad I bought a hydration pak and heartily recommend it to any aspiring distance runners. Just don’t make the mistake I made by ordering from BikeSomewhere.com. I don’t want to trash the company here, but if you want to know the crap I went through, just drop me a line. [muttering]!@#$ing morons…[/muttering]

How Do I Loathe AOL? Let Me Count the Ways

I doubt I could have expressed my loathing of AOL any better than Dan Tynan of PC World did.

"How do we loathe AOL? Let us count the ways. Since America Online emerged from the belly of a BBS called Quantum ‘PC-Link’ in 1989, users have suffered through awful software, inaccessible dial-up numbers, rapacious marketing, in-your-face advertising, questionable billing practices, inexcusably poor customer service, and enough spam to last a lifetime. And all the while, AOL remained more expensive than its major competitors. This lethal combination earned the world’s biggest ISP the top spot on our list of bottom feeders."

"AOL succeeded initially by targeting newbies, using brute-force marketing techniques. In the 90s you couldn’t open a magazine (PC World included) or your mailbox without an AOL disk falling out of it. This carpet-bombing technique yielded big numbers: At its peak, AOL claimed 34 million subscribers worldwide, though it never revealed how many were just using up their free hours."

"Once AOL had you in its clutches, escaping was notoriously difficult. Several states sued the service, claiming that it continued to bill customers after they had requested cancellation of their subscriptions. In August 2005, AOL paid a $1.25 million fine to the state of New York and agreed to change its cancellation policies–but the agreement covered only people in New York."

"Ultimately the Net itself–which AOL subscribers were finally able to access in 1995– made the service’s shortcomings painfully obvious. Prior to that, though AOL offered plenty of its own online content, it walled off the greater Internet. Once people realized what content was available elsewhere on the Net, they started wondering why they were paying AOL. And as America moved to broadband, many left their sluggish AOL accounts behind. AOL is now busy rebranding itself as a content provider, not an access service."

"Though America Online has shown some improvement lately–with better browsers and e-mail tools, fewer obnoxious ads, scads of broadband content, and innovative features such as parental controls–it has never overcome the stigma of being the online service for people who don’t know any better."

The rest of "The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time" is worth reading as well.

Internet Exploder

I really hate Internet Explorer. It’s a web designer’s nightmare due to its lack of CSS standards compliance. If anyone has had or is having problems viewing my blog with IE, I’m sorry. I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to tweak my layout until IE doesn’t choke on it. If any of my readers wants to try their hand at fixing things, they have my blessing. Drop me a line via the contact form if you get things to look right (or fix the annoying stac overflow problem I’m having). I can’t give anything in return except a public thank you. Perhaps you’ll shave off some purgatory time for your efforts. 😉

Gas Lawn Mowers

Lawn mowers have been getting attention off and on for being serious smog culprits.

What I wish some people would discuss in these is the possibility of using a manual, non-powered mower, especially for smaller yards. Alternatives to conventional grasses, like Pennsylvania sedge (or another sedge species) or buffalo grass, also need less mowing yet still provide a nice traditional yard. Depending on considerations like local codes and how picky your neighbors are, more radical solutions could also involve turning part of your yard into a naturalized woodland or meadow area. It provides more visual interest from both flowers and also various birds and butterflies that you may attract. Once established, mowing, watering and pesticides are minimized.