Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

Book Review: “Reimagining Our Tomorrows”

leave a comment »

Making Sure Your Future Doesn’t Suck

by Joe Tankersley

Published by Unique Visions Inc ISBN 978 1 7326281 2 0  US$10.99 paperback

“Futurist Joe Tankersley explores a world where technology is used for good and we have the resources to build communities that care.”

fullsizeoutput_284b

I have been doing quite a few book reviews lately but they have not really been particularly relevant to the purpose of this blog. So they have been appearing on my other blog which deals with anything outside of the scope of “Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves.” This blog reaches a wider audience that includes people interested in planning and urbanism, as well as the direction in which we are moving thanks to rapid technological change and the need to change where we get our energy from.

It is also necessary for all of us to take some time out from the terrible news we see every day. Terrible isn’t just the appalling toll of deaths and injuries on our transportation system and our seeming inability – or unwillingness – to take that seriously. Or the choices we still seem to be making at the ballot box that produce very little real change. Or the bleak prospects facing Ontario, the US and the UK thanks to their short sightedness. We need a source of hope. And hopefully some direction. This book is not really intended for me. I cannot claim to be “an experienced changemaker trying to keep up with the pace of disruption”. But I do hope that some of you reading this are “doers and dreamers anxious to ensure our best days are still ahead of us”. And I would not have started writing this blog in the first place if I did not think that we need to change direction and that there are already lots of examples of places that seem to be managing better than we are.

Tankersley used to work for Disney. And he learned a lot there about the value of storytelling and of how to think positively about the future. It doesn’t matter much if he is “right”. What matters is that he offers an alternative view to the “present trends will continue” narrative that seems to dominate our main stream media and professional planners. It is not inevitable that we will remain wedded to fossil fuels, and internal combustion engine cars. It is also not necessary that we keep on doing what we always have done and expecting a better outcome.

Reading this book was not effortful. That seems to me to be a Good Start. It also doesn’t stir in me the need to argue. (Unlike what happens whenever I post something to Twitter or Facebook  and get blow back from people I neither know or indeed want to.) Just one small quibble if I may, which I hope gets picked up in the next edition.

the village wasn’t self-reliant when it came to just seafood [the rest of the paragraph is about growing vegetables]

p131 ‘Reimagining sustainability’

What he meant was that the village wasn’t just self-reliant for seafood, it was also better than that for growing food in general and (by the way) energy production.

And the quibble is simply a matter of word sequence affecting meaning. It probably made sense to him when he said it – but on the page the sense is reversed.

I think that is about the only thing I felt the need to quote.

The book also has two pages of book references, and a page of online links – followed by the “Help Me Spread Optimistic Futures” page – from which I learned that the book is self published (linked above) and there is a Facebook page.

I hope that at least some of you will find something inspiring in these pages. The idea of finding new uses for McMansions and suburban malls is indeed not just encouraging but spot on, and something our planners need to embrace wholeheartedly. There is even a paean for a future design of cargobike which I know will appeal to some of you.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 3, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Into The Blu

leave a comment »

Almost every day I get email from PR people trying to get me to blog about something. Mostly, they fail to take account of the stated purpose of the blog. Rarely do I take an interest but something about a new web page peaked my interest, even though it is not about transportation or planning or this part of the world. On the other hand it does have a direct connection to my concern for the environment, and specifically the damage we have done, and are doing, to our oceans. I doubt that anyone who lives in BC can be unaffected by the ongoing drama of the salmon. There is, of course, an inquiry – and also an offensive (in both senses of that word) from the salmon farmers who see a threat to their profits by people concerned about the damage they have done, and are doing to our ecosystem. I will not eat farmed salmon. I regard Alexandra Morton as a heroine. It does indeed concern me that port expansion at Roberts Bank seems to be able to proceed despite the obvious damage it has done and will do to habitat of fish and birds – as well as our ability to feed ourselves. The huge gyre of garbage in the Pacific does worry me – as does the absence of the oolichan. And as you are reading this, and while some of you have started growing moustaches for Movember, I am shaving mine off so that my new mask does not leak when I go snorkelling on the reef in front of the hotel on the Mayan Riviera. I rediscovered the joys of snorkelling when I swam with the stingrays last winter. When I first heard about The Blu I thought maybe that would provide me with some information I could be using there.

I was fortunate to be given a demonstration of the Beta version by their CEO Neville Spiteri – by some clever use of internet technology. While I cannot offer you quite the same experience, the web site is currently offering a limited number of guest log ins to those it invites – a bit like the way Google initially offered gmail and google+. So for twenty readers of this blog there is going to be a free guest log in. But, of course, not yet.

You can already visit the site to read about what they are doing, but to see the Beta demo you will have to use the invite code. If, when you get there, you find that twenty others have beaten you to it, then send me an email (see the about page for that) and I will ask for some more. But you will have to wait until I get back as I am not shlepping a five pound MacBook this trip. Nor do I have an underwater camera – and seeing the results that those cheap disposables produce – I don’t intend to get one.

The Blu offers an immersive experience. It is a virtual reality. The graphics that I have seen have been impressive. Many people are working on adding locations, environments and species. There are currently five entry points, that depend on your location i.e., which of the five land continents you log in from. From there you can travel to several habitats, and watch a growing number of types of fish, which each have artificial intelligence and awareness of their surroundings. You can interact with the fish – simply following one is interesting since it is nearly impossible for a humble human without flippers or scuba gear to do that in reality. And, in the case of the Great White Shark, not advisable, even if it were possible.

Some people will see the The Blu as just another electronic game. Others are already exploiting its educational value. Neville Spiteri said that he feels one of the shortcomings of the environmental activists is that they tend to hit people over the head with information, rather than letting them discover for themselves, which is what The Blu can do for the sea. He is talking to Sylvia Earl and Greenpeace already. I am hoping that activists here will also see the opportunity. The Blu is a business, and while most people will experience it for free, already enthusiasts are “collecting” species, and the money they are willing to pay can go either to the graphic artists who create the species, or to an organization that wants to fund raise on behalf of that species. Thanks to the computer magic, the Pacific Salmon may become a superhero (and not just a supper hero as autocorrect would prefer). I was also quite pleased to see the fatty tuna swimming around – just as I like to see spring lamb in season.

I think I have probably done enough to wet your appetite. You do not need to request an invitation when you click on the blu. All you need to do is sign up using the invite code theblu0064

Written by Stephen Rees

November 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Posted in computers, Environment

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

This blog is written on a MacBook Pro – the only computer purchase I have made that I have never regretted. And, as it happens, the first personal computer I used (back when everyone else I knew who had a computer of their own was playing with a BBC) was an Apple II, running a program called “Data Factory”.

Steve Jobs narrates the first Think Different commercial “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”. It never aired.

There are many tributes – the Guardian has links to the ten best but I will let Stephen Fry have the last word  – hmmm Stephen Fry, Steve Jobs, Stephen Rees – anyone see the link here?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

Posted in computers

Transport Simulator “Cities in Motion” Released Today

with 8 comments

It is not often I get inspired by Press Releases. This one is different. This is not serious planning software. This is a computer game that allows the user to “develop and operate their own public transport company building a travel network across Vienna, Berlin, Helsinki and Amsterdam using more than 30 different modes of transport including buses, trams, subway trains and water buses. As each city develops and grows the player must continue to meet the ever changing transport needs of its commuters, while at the same time ensuring it remains as profitable as possible.”

Now that is where I begin to wonder about the utility of this thing. I think the words “profitable” and “Public transport” need to be kept well apart. Britain saw extensive deregulation of its buses and trains and the results were not pretty. Services to people in rural areas who were dependent on pubic transport almost disappeared. Profitability was also an issue as instead of lots of small companies competing – as was anticipated – a few large very profitable groups emerged and now control most of the services. A lot of small companies went bust – and continue to do so. Breaking into the market is now a very expensive operation even with so called “open access” imposed by the EU.

Moreover, the game is just about pubic transport. The land use – and, presumably, other modes, are built in based on the 100 year history of the cities involved. There is a “sand box” mode but I would be very surprised indeed if the population actually responded to the provision of new services as they do in the real world in this type of time frame. Of course, as I have often complained here, real transport models as used in this region don’t do that either.

I have also got over an early fascination with this type of simulation, and I have played a few in my time. I would like there to be a video of what the Arbutus Line would look like with Brussels streetcars, for instance, if only to be able to show that it would not nearly be as disruptive as the locals think. But then they are much more concerned about change in their neighbourhood  – and people from outside it travelling through it – than they are about transit technology. And no amount of simulation will change that.

Actually, change in every neighbourhood is inevitable. The people are coming here and there is nothing we can do to stop them. They will be accommodated. The only question is how pro-active do we wish to be in shaping that growth. The current sudden fuss about the new regional plan – after many, many soporific meetings and consultation sessions where not a word of dissent was heard – is a good illustration that it is only when we feel under attack do we respond. Most people south of the Fraser actually thought widening Highway #1 and the Port Mann was a Good Idea. And that is now almost done and the consequences will follow. The SFPR and the NFPR seem a little less certain for now, but no doubt the uncertainty will be dispelled soon after the new BC Liberal Party leader is selected.

There is a video but I can’t embed it as WordPress only likes Google or You Tube.

As a parting shot I must also add that there does not appear to be anything in the game about pedestrians – and every transit trip is an interrupted walk  – or bicycles. But then we do know that these places do look after such things properly.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in computers, transit

E-Stewards commit to no more dumping in developing countries

leave a comment »

There is enough concern about what happens to old computers that even the top cop talks about it.

This is a press release from Free Geek – Activists and Free Geek Vancouver join forces to create certification program for responsible electronics recycling

If you have a computer, someday some or all of it is going to get replaced. Do you take care how you dispose of it? Of course you do – but Free Geek can actually do something to ensure that it is reused before it gets recycled. And there are some places that will actually charge you a fee, for example to take a working crt screen. Though in my own defence I pointed out to one such place that since they were almost certain to resell it – when I came through the door the crt was still in the back of my car and they tried to sell me one – at which point they graciously agreed to take it off my hands for nothing.

VANCOUVER—The Basel Action Network and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition
joined with 32 electronics recyclers including Free Geek Vancouver today to
announce the development of the e-Stewards Initiative — a new certification
program for North America’s most responsible e-waste recyclers.

The e-Steward Initiative will become the first independently audited and
accredited electronic waste recycler certification program forbidding the
dumping of toxic e-waste in developing countries, local landfills and
incinerators; the use of prison labor; and the unauthorized release of
private data.

“Unfortunately today, most of those companies calling themselves electronics
recyclers are scammers,” said Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards project
coordinator at the Basel Action Network (BAN) in Seattle. “They simply load
up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa. By
choosing an e-Steward recycler, consumers and large businesses are assured
that their old computers and TVs will be safely managed, and not simply
tossed into a local landfill, processed unsafely by prison laborers, or
exported to developing countries.”

The e-Stewards announcement follows Sunday’s exposé on CBS’ 60 Minutes;
the CBC’s recently aired Electronic Dumping Ground; and a recent episode
of the French Canadian Program Panorama, Electronic Waste: The Hidden Face
of Recycling
. These programs reveal that computers given to many
recyclers in the United States and Canada are likely to be dumped in China
or Africa, where e-waste is causing immeasurable environmental and health
problems.

“Truly responsible recyclers in the US and Canada face unfair competition
from thousands of unethical, so-called ‘waste recyclers’ in North America
that would more accurately be called ‘waste shippers,'” said Ifny Lachance,
cofounder of e-Steward Free Geek Vancouver. “We strongly support a
certified, audited program to separate legitimate recyclers from low-road
operators. Recyclers should be considered guilty until they can prove
themselves innocent.””

The e-Stewards already include 32 companies in 92 locations that have been
qualified by BAN. Today, BAN announced that by early 2010 the program will
feature an ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) certification system
with third-party auditing. The funding to create this robust certification
program was provided by 14 recycling companies designated as e-Steward
Founders.

E-Steward Free Geek Vancouver was founded in November 2006 as a community
technology centre and ethical recycler. Its volunteers help test, refurbish
and dismantle unwanted computer equipment donated by the public.

“The e-Stewards project is a response to the failure of government and
industry to act as responsible global citizens in the age of information
technology,” said Jim Puckett, BAN executive director. “It is also a
wonderful example of how industry leaders and activists can move mountains
when they work together — in this case, move mountains of e-waste to truly
responsible recyclers only.”

Written by Stephen Rees

November 14, 2008 at 7:09 am

Software Freedom Day

leave a comment »

Software Freedom Day

Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about of the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere! The non-profit company Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organize the local SFD events to impact their own communities.

The great brains at Micro$oft are trying to improve their image. Apparently they feel that they have been damaged by the “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” ads. I think the choice is actually a bit better than that. Micro$oft produces expensive, bloated software but has been widely accepted by commercial organizations. Macs produce pretty machines that run even more expensive software that seems easier to use of you are not  a geek. Or you could just get a free operating system – like Ubuntu – or a cheap PC like my Asus Eeepc notebook – and get free software that works. The little notebook came with everything I needed preloaded and preinstalled and I have not had to “look under the hood” once. And I do not intend to. And if it were not for some proprietary software/hardware issues I would probably be running Ubuntu all the time on this PC instead of 75% of the time.

And WordPress is free too, of course

Written by Stephen Rees

September 20, 2008 at 12:01 am

Posted in computers

Not all Apples are green

with one comment

Comment is free: The Guardian

Now this is something I would like to see covered in one of those “I’m a Mac” ads.

Image for Apple has always been paramount – and part of “cool” should be responsible shouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you expect every Mac user to have a blue box within easy reach of their Mac? If you live in a loft (recycled industrial building) working from home (no commuting) on ideas and concepts (no nasty industrial wastes there) on your desk (made from a recovered flush door on two old filing cabinets) with the cool compact fluorescent desk lamp, would you want the worry that your urge to keep au courant with the latest Jobs creation will actually create jobs for kids in Asia pulling chips off your old mother board?

UPDATE Indeed thanks to stumbleupon I have now found a campaign to make Apple greener.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 4, 2007 at 10:20 am

Posted in computers