Cambridge Potholes fixed with Google Maps

fisheye-streetviewCAMBRIDGE CANADA – June 24, 2019 (AP) – Today, Google ‘s Kitchener development campus was the scene for an unveiling of it’s most recent collaborative project with the City of Cambridge; a system designed to provide Cambridge’s Public Works department with the ability to predict the workload, and better manage the scheduling of the city’s ongoing road repair and maintenance.

Google’s CEO Parry Lage was spokesman for the new technology, developed in conjunction with Cambridge’s Public Works, Information Technology, and Sanitation departments.

“Today marks a milestone in municipal road maintenance technology with our new computer software system designed to provide the City of Cambridge with complete records of every road’s physical condition, provided on a weekly basis, which will permit our municipal partners with the ability to manage their Public Works in a matter that will provide the utmost quality of service to it’s residents. ”

weatherproof-camera

The hardware in use with this new technology is aptly named the ‘Garbage Cam,’ a magnetically-mounted, self-contained fish-eye camera with built-in GPS and gyroscope for sensing location and movement, that is placed on the front and rear of each sanitation truck in the city.

Software technology developed by Google for use in it’s Streetview portion of Google Maps, is what gives the city a complete perspective of all road repairs needed to be accomplished.

“We developed the Google ‘Garbage-Cam’ to photograph every street, every nook and cranny in the city, every time a sanitation truck stops to make a pick-up.  When the truck reaches it’s depot, all the photos are transmitted wirelessly to our Google Streetview computers.  At the end of the day we have a completely new view on every pothole, every broken curb, every new bit of damage that has occurred on every street in town.  Imaging software identifies all the new damage, and can provide a systematic list of all new repairs that are needed, provided to the city in a format that works with their existing service scheduling systems.”

The ability to systematically identify and schedule road repairs on an ongoing, automatic basis eliminates much of the manual surveying currently used by road crews in most municipalities.   This new technology will be first field tested in Cambridge, with the remaining Region of Waterloo scheduled to put the system in place within the next five years.

“It’s amazing the things you can do with garbage,”  Lage quips, “Now, it’s even helping us keep the City of Cambridge running smoother then ever.”

– AP The Apocryphal Press  (too bad it’s fiction, and Google please don’t sue me, thanks)

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The LRT Could Have Been Thought Out Better

region-of-waterloo-bullet-train1During the 2010 Municipal Election, a concerned citizens’ group invited all candidates from all municipalities the opportunity to present their opinions on the upcoming multi-billion dollar Light Rail Transit (LRT) initiative.

All candidates with few exceptions offered their opinion as to whether the LRT system would be cost-effective, practical, and gave their personal recommendations as to how the LRT should be designed.

These opinions were publicly published and presented to the regional officials of the LRT initiative at the time.

One candidate from Cambridge took the proposal one step further;  understanding that rail was a significant factor in effectively moving residents of the region from one location to another, he proposed a system whereby the LRT system, along with the Regional Airport, VIA Rail, and GO Transit system would connect at one central point, located in one location within the region.

He proposed that Breslau, since it already hosted our airport, would make an effective focal point to consolidate all avenues of mass transportation available;  providing one massive, central hub to which all residents of the region would then have access to rapid rail transit to all corners of the region, including Guelph (which would require cross-municipality cooperation, and seemingly missing in the posting), access to our airport, a key terminal to GO Transit for commuters to Metro Toronto via Milton, and long-distance VIA Rail access for travelers.

Ultra-high-speed bullet trains, elevated where needed, would run from Breslau to a Waterloo terminal to Elmira.  Another train would run from Breslau to a Kitchener terminal to New Hamburg, and another from Breslau to a Cambridge terminal to Ayr.

The bullet train lines would first be laid to the primary cities, and extended to the lesser towns as needs prevailed.  Another line would be run from Breslau to Guelph, they of course picking up the tab for costs on that line.

Without getting into details, these bullet trains would carry passengers to and fro from all corners of the region, provide opportunity to extend beyond the region as needs saw fit, and provide all commuters access to GO Transit, air travel, and local GRT bus access within each city as needed, as well as the long-distance VIA Rail services.

145981-crh380bl-high-speed-bullet-train-runs-towards-beijing-south-railway-st

Granted, the cost calculations were not made, but since this outline solved a multitude of problems plaguing the region, in terms of transportation needs now and in the future, in his words, “Let’s make it right for the long run.”

I bet you didn’t hear about this proposal, did ya?   Actually you did not, it was quashed by the same folks who steam-rolled their own idea through;  trains between shopping malls, more buses for Cambridge, and nothing for the outlying municipalities, who also are responsible for footing the entire bill for the entire thing.

Something to think about when you listen to the grand, wonderful plans LRT has in store for our Region’s “Twin Cities,” who get the trains, while everybody else gets to help foot the bill.

Government needs an upgrade, and some long-term visionaries.

All aboard.

The Quiet Little Road

It was always on the lookout, seeking new targets to shadow. Its eyes were as sharp as razors changing night into day, while whispers in the dark became symphonies of sound for it to absorb.

Like a cat; it was all hunter, no mercy.

Yet, a weather-beaten traffic camera, on probably the most boring road in town, was its favorite place to watch from. The folks downtown who maintained all of the incoming video feeds noticed that, more often then not, the road computer seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time just looking around the quiet, little road that was home to a ditch full of plants, some insects and animals, and very little else.

Granted, it was created to watch a few hundred other roads as well, but for some reason the lack of movement in the photos received, the void of mechanical noise that had been recorded, is what seemed to draw its attention to this spot in town, more so then anywhere else. Whatever was in those images being received, the road computer seemed fixated on it, and since it did its chores in a millisecond, it had a lot of time to kill before the next group of photos came in, from the many eyes and ears along the town’s roads.

John was stinking drunk since last night. He was the kind of drinker that could pour a bottle of ‘Jack’ straight back, vomit it up hours later, and be right back on the prowl for more. He’d only stop when his body gave up on him; it was amazing he was still alive. Too drunk to walk, he decided he’d have better luck driving if he could crawl long enough to get to his car. It had been another long, drawn out night of partying with The Boys that ran well into the morning. It was time to get home, make some breakfast, then get some more ‘Jack.’

He tore down the road as a drunkard does; weaving to and fro, trying too hard to keep it straight and overcompensating with every turn of the wheel, not caring about the stop signs, or the blind corners, or the traffic camera he had just been caught sight on.

It had already been aware of him coming down the road before the car crested the closest hill, the glare of his headlights giving away his approach. The sounds coming along with the road’s photo feed is what first peaked its curiosity, though. An engine, running fast and hard had alerted it that something was amiss, here. As it prepared to make some calculations of the approaching object’s speed, it kept busy working, watching the other city roads, looking for problems, spotting any speeders, red light runners, fender benders, things like that, to alert the emergency services as needed.

John was drifting towards the middle of the road when he started down the slight decline after the hill. As his license plate came into view it realized that the vehicle belonged to a man who already had a ticket for drinking and driving.

It soon realized a school crosswalk was between this vehicle and the owner’s residence. Three, actually, and they were in use at the moment, school was about to begin on that bright, spring day. The severity of the situation did not escape it, this object must be stopped, and stopped now.

Like a lion on the hunt, instinct took over; it began to stalk its prey, first assuming control over the vast network of intelligence it had in its grasp. As it identified the other cameras it would use to watch his progress, it called to arms the all the systems of the town, in an effort to put a stop to the pending tragedy before it could occur.

The area’s traffic lights begin to slam on red in all directions, to prevent anymore from coming into the path of this dangerous situation. By the time John’s car had left the sight of the first traffic camera, the crosswalk guards, whose kids were going to be in jeopardy from the incoming danger, received loud alarms on their cell phone. The volunteers knew right away it was a call for a traffic emergency in the area. All three tore into action, getting the children on both sides to stop dead in their tracks, to be on the lookout for oncoming danger.

John didn’t stand a chance; as his car blasted past the camera, every constable in the city knew exactly who he was, where he was likely heading, and how long he would be driving to get there. It followed him relentlessly, informing the squad cars of every move he made, every turn he took, and where the danger points were. In no time, John’s car came to a screeching halt, having to choose between hammering on his breaks, or plowing into a two-car cop barricade.

It reset the traffic lights to normal, gave the crosswalk guards the green light to continue, and watched as the kids made it to school, just a few moments later then usual.

After it checked the rest of the town again, it went back to it’s sightseeing, watching another new butterfly appear in its favorite spot, the quiet little road.

Suicide is Painless

When the movie M*A*S*H came out in the theatres back in 1970 it’s soundtrack included a song about the perils of suicide.  It seems one of the characters wanted a suicide ritual because he thought he was homosexual, and he couldn’t live with it.   Of course, being in the middle of the Korean War, with thousands of people giving their lives up in the battlefields all around him, it did not seem to matter that he was desperately needed.  Luckily some hot, sexy female nurse ‘screwed the gay’ out of him later in the movie.    So much for fiction; if only real life problems could be solved so easily.

My son asked about Amanda Todd;  I had no clue who she was.  I’m on computers day and night; I read dozens of news articles from around the world, and the story of a young girl who killed herself from cyber-bullying had gone past my eyes and left me completely ignorant of what really happened to her.  People fall through the cracks when they are ignored, avoided, not listened to, or not respected.   This was all over the Internet and television, and I bet a lot of people gleaned right over her story and didn’t even realize it.  Below is Ana Kasparian’s report on Amanda:

There are, however, underlying issues that until now have not really been given any attention in media, social or other.  To give the reader some perspective, I bought software from Bill Gates when he still had long hair.  I remember when the Internet hit the consumer market and the ‘information superhighway’ began to grow.  Even back twenty years ago, the Internet was, and is, a completely anarchistic world;  everything good about the world was immediately available, and everything evil as well.

As my kids grew up, they grew up without computers, except their old Nintendo.    No e-mail except our account, no chat rooms, no social media, nothing.  We kept them off the Internet for a reason, and that is a huge reason why society continues see on-line bullying after 20 years of blatant and wilful parental neglect by millions around the globe.

Kids are freely allowed to play unsupervised in a war zone, to this day.

Parents around the world give their innocent, naive, young, partially self-realizing yet mindless little automatons we call children free rein to do anything they want anywhere they want to do it, because the adults in the equation have never stopped to consider that the Internet is not a magical realm for the delight of children everywhere;  it is a dark and cruel world just like the real thing.

Many parents are just generally naive of the Internet, or just fooling themselves; either way they do a disservice to their offspring.  I don’t know what Amanda’s parents were thinking, but 12 year olds should be baking muffins with mom, not stripping for strangers. Here is Amanda’s suicide video, recorded at her parent’s home:

The tragic story of this girl began with technology itself;  technology that no twelve year old should have been using without supervision.  As soon as photos of her naked breasts were broadcast to the world, her journey towards a sinister end began.  I can’t advocate computer supervision enough to the parents I meet in my profession every day;  this is the reason why.  As a parent it’s heartbreaking; but it’s something we as a society could have helped avoid.  I hope to never hear about another Amanda Todd, again.  Wishful thinking.

Society needs an upgrade.

The Quiet Little Road

It was always on the lookout, seeking new targets to shadow. Its eyes were as sharp as razors changing night into day, while whispers in the dark became symphonies of sound for it to absorb.

Like a cat; it was all hunter, no mercy.

Yet, a weather-beaten traffic camera, on probably the most boring road in town, was its favorite place to watch from. The folks downtown who maintained all of the incoming video feeds noticed that, more often then not, the road computer seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time just looking around the quiet, little road that was home to a ditch full of plants, some insects and animals, and very little else.

Granted, it was created to watch a few hundred other roads as well, but for some reason the lack of movement in the photos received, the void of mechanical noise that had been recorded, is what seemed to draw its attention to this spot in town, more so then anywhere else. Whatever was in those images being received, the road computer seemed fixated on it, and since it did its chores in a millisecond, it had a lot of time to kill before the next group of photos came in, from the many eyes and ears along the town’s roads.

John was stinking drunk since last night. He was the kind of drinker that could pour a bottle of ‘Jack’ straight back, vomit it up hours later, and be right back on the prowl for more. He’d only stop when his body gave up on him; it was amazing he was still alive. Too drunk to walk, he decided he’d have better luck driving if he could crawl long enough to get to his car. It had been another long, drawn out night of partying with The Boys that ran well into the morning. It was time to get home, make some breakfast, then get some more ‘Jack.’

He tore down the road as a drunkard does; weaving to and fro, trying too hard to keep it straight and overcompensating with every turn of the wheel, not caring about the stop signs, or the blind corners, or the traffic camera he had just been caught sight on.

It had already been aware of him coming down the road before the car crested the closest hill, the glare of his headlights giving away his approach. The sounds coming along with the road’s photo feed is what first peaked its curiosity, though. An engine, running fast and hard had alerted it that something was amiss, here. As it prepared to make some calculations of the approaching object’s speed, it kept busy working, watching the other city roads, looking for problems, spotting any speeders, red light runners, fender benders, things like that, to alert the emergency services as needed.

John was drifting towards the middle of the road when he started down the slight decline after the hill. As his license plate came into view it realized that the vehicle belonged to a man who already had a ticket for drinking and driving.

It soon realized a school crosswalk was between this vehicle and the owner’s residence. Three, actually, and they were in use at the moment, school was about to begin on that bright, spring day. The severity of the situation did not escape it, this object must be stopped, and stopped now.

Like a lion on the hunt, instinct took over; it began to stalk its prey, first assuming control over the vast network of intelligence it had in its grasp. As it identified the other cameras it would use to watch his progress, it called to arms the all the systems of the town, in an effort to put a stop to the pending tragedy before it could occur.

The area’s traffic lights begin to slam on red in all directions, to prevent anymore from coming into the path of this dangerous situation. By the time John’s car had left the sight of the first traffic camera, the crosswalk guards, whose kids were going to be in jeopardy from the incoming danger, received loud alarms on their cell phone. The volunteers knew right away it was a call for a traffic emergency in the area. All three tore into action, getting the children on both sides to stop dead in their tracks, to be on the lookout for oncoming danger.

John didn’t stand a chance; as his car blasted past the camera, every constable in the city knew exactly who he was, where he was likely heading, and how long he would be driving to get there. It followed him relentlessly, informing the squad cars of every move he made, every turn he took, and where the danger points were. In no time, John’s car came to a screeching halt, having to choose between hammering on his breaks, or plowing into a two-car cop barricade.

It reset the traffic lights to normal, gave the crosswalk guards the green light to continue, and watched as the kids made it to school, just a few moments later then usual.

After it checked the rest of the town again, it went back to it’s sightseeing, watching another new butterfly appear in its favorite spot, the quiet little road.

Artistic Science

The first hard drive I ever bought was $1,400.00 and it was back in the early 80’s.  We’re not talking about the computer; that in itself was around $6,000.  I’m just talking about the storage drive; it did the same job a modern $10 memory stick or card does now.

Up until about a year ago it still worked; as did the computer it was installed in.  Before I ‘e-cycled’ it the last thing I did was erase the drive, it was running as good as the day it was built.

Now, this old ‘bucket of bytes’ wasn’t good for graphics of any nature; it only had text.  It was, basically, a ‘virtual’ mechanical typewriter; a mature technology in itself way better then pen and paper for communication.

It’s obvious from this way of considering how our methods of communication have evolved with the needs of our civilization.

These days, video and audio allow us to communicate using tools to enrich both sets of hemisphere thinkers, alike.  Thank Steve Wozniak and his partner Steve Jobs, the next time you watch a video on YouTube.  Apple, along with many in the industry, brought multimedia to the masses in ways our forefathers could never have dreamed of.

What many people don’t realize is that the creation of these tools themselves is never a left-brained or right-brained process, only.   The ability to conceptualize in the abstract is just as significant as the ability to quantify and process the logical procedure and methodology necessary, in the construction of computer programs.

The design of computer software is as much an art as it is a science.  Yes, even nerds can be artistic.  Now, thanks to them, artists can be nerds as well.

The modern tools we see being put to use in this and other web logs on the internet are continuing examples of how existing manual tools for communication have been evolving throughout the decades of the computer revolution.  From home-made cartoons, to basement rock band videos, to world-wide stars who broadcast their own television shows to the world, live from their parent’s basement living room, the visual arts have never had a more diverse range of stages from which to perform upon.

We live in a time where the need to communicate is more critical then ever before.  Our world depends on our ability to put these tools to work, creating more effective and realistic approaches to the way we manage the issues facing our society as a whole.

Imagine what we’ll be building, next.  I don’t have the answer, but we all, do.

Steve-Jobs-dates

Hacker

I am not an individual that steals passwords in order to gain access to other people’s computer systems; that is a criminal. I am not an individual who writes malicious computer code to destroy networks, delete important files, or commit espionage for the sake of fun or contempt of society; that is a criminal. The news media has always been wrong using this term; the news media has always misled society on what it truly means.

I am a hacker, and that is something quite different.

A hacker is not the scourge that has spawned wickedness of purpose, the plague of negative thought and dread that fills our world of Cyberspace to this day, the disease of our industry.  Those are criminals, people whose talents are used for evil, they are not Hackers.

I am among those of society who was there when the Computer Revolution began;  I was there among the huddled groups of hobbyists who scrambled for the tidbits of information available at the time;  hungry for knowledge, driven by passion, to learn new ways of doing things.

We ‘hacked’ together our bits and pieces, circuit boards and software, toggle switches and relays, turned on the power, and watched our creations come to life, the personal computers of the 20th century that modern society cannot live without, now.

We are what the word truly means; we are Hackers.

I was there when Cambridge’s other pioneers of technology were stringing scrap antenna wire around the rooftops of downtown Galt, in order to bounce HAM radio signals off the Moon, radios that their home-made computers could use to communicate with other people’s home-made computers half way around the world, at a time long before the Internet was even known or available to the masses.

I was one of those guys who soldered wires and boards together, built software code to allow a couple of computers to share a printer, before the first Local Area Networks came to the market.

I was among those who kludged together the first programs available that would allow business to make their first automated accounting spreadsheets available for their manual, pencil and paper-based bookkeepers.

I was one of those who created ways to print the first automated bills of materials for machine shops that realized the huge potential computers would bring to them.

I was one of those who programmed computers before computers even had screens and keyboards, back when a mouse was something that ate cheese.  I was one of those who purchased Microsoft’s first line of products; BASIC language interpreters for the primitive computer systems we were soldering, assembling, and bringing to life at the time.

I was one of those who spent every cent available buying every electronics magazine available, to learn and implement everything about the new technology, and the new inventions that were being discovered daily, which was why the magazines started getting printed weekly.

We proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.

I was also there when the “Copier Heads” at Xerox dropped the ball; when they blew the one opportunity to shine; the company that invented the ‘Ethernet’ that everyone takes for granted now as what plugs their computers to the Internet, or other computers, the routers and switches and modems that use a technology the people running this copier company couldn’t comprehend how to exploit, and they failed to do so.

I watched Xerox introduce the first mouse, the first graphical computer, the first laser printer, products whose markets they never exploited, never entered, and therefore resigned themselves to a second-class status in the burgeoning personal computer market springing up all around them, a market they completely missed out on.

I watched as Steve Jobs, then later Bill Gates, snatch up these unpatented concepts to help them build Apple Computer and Microsoft respectively, two pretty significant companies to this day.

They all proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.

I was there when the leaders of IBM shunned their company’s traditional business model, combined a group of free-thinkers and entrepreneurs together, and made the world’s first commercially successful Personal Computer, taking it from concept to completion in a year.  They got the ball rolling and created it ‘on the fly,’ redesigning as they went, fixing as the problems arose, and finally brought their invention to the world, a product that would change all of modern industry.

They, too, proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.

I watched Microsoft sell flight simulators and language compilers before they were handed the first $1 Billion contract from IBM.  I watched Michael Dell start assembling computers in his garage down inTexas, selling them through mail order.  He ran a 1/8 page ad in a weekly computer magazine.  Now, he runs Dell Computer.  I watched Intel Corporation go from a small company fabricating microprocessors for street light controllers and calculators, to become the dominant computer manufacturer it is today.

In my industry, the pioneers never run out of ways to discover new things, as it has been going on since the beginning.  Our industry thrives because of this ability, this way of thinking ‘outside the box,’ the ability to embrace the abstract, and apply it to the problems facing us.

We proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways, and it’s time that we as a species start applying this fundamental concept to more aspects of society, like our government, for the benefit of us all.

I am a Hacker; we are builders, not menaces, of society.