22 November 2008

New Google Public Transport Info Sucks!

Got my iPhone 2.2 software loaded and thought I'd check out some of the new features.

I haven't been able to get Google Street View to work yet for London, but I did come to try the new travel directions feature. Unfortunately the results are embarrassing - for Google, and I think this needs a lot more work on it.

Here's what I got for a simple route from Piccadilly in London to Battersea SW11. It's a route of about 4.5km or just under 3 miles, walkable in about 55 minutes. A single London bus (19) will do the journey in (hopefully) about half that time.

Google's instructions were as follows:
1. Walk 1.1km to Hyde Park corner (fair enough).
2. Take the 702 bus towards Ascot but getting off at Victoria station - 1 stop on. (For my American friends this journey is like getting on a greyhound bus in Manhattan and going 5 blocks down 5th Avenue).
3. Get the the 025 bus towards Eastbourne (a town on the south coast), but getting off at Gatwick airport.. Note, no suggestion about the much faster train service from exactly the same place also to Eastbourne and also stopping at Gatwick airport. Gatwick airport is about 25-30 miles from central London.
4. Now take the airport bus from South terminal to north terminal!.
5. Get a bus EB4 from Gatwick to Fulham Broadway back in Central London.
6. Finally walk 2.4km to SW11 (total walk of 3.5km).

This public transport version which saves just 1km of walking, takes 3 hours and 15 minutes and appears to travel at least 60 miles! There is no cost given, but I suspect it is substantial.

Google claims (on it's website) to use the travelinesoutheast.org.uk data. However, using this service throws up several London bus routes (though not the best ones). It would seem that Google has ignored 98% of the available alternatives (including all London buses, and all trains).

A year ago, we used a government service to find the best route to drive to Hastings on the south coast, and it threw up a route going via Ashford and over 90 miles in distance. The direct route (which google itself gave) was around 55 miles. The government site then added further futility by suggesting speed should be no more than 55mph to limit CO2 emissions! Sure, your CO2 emissions might be 10% less than they would have been, but their stupid route would have increased it by 50% over what it should have been anyway!

It seems we've still got a way to go in making these services useful. I'd hate to see what a tourist would have done with Google's information, and I'm glad I use my bike to get around London.

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17 November 2008

New Forest Donkeys waiting for bus

Just got back from a brief trip to the New Forest which despite being grey and rainy was still spectacular. I can certainly recommend the New Park Manor Hotel and Spa which - on a Sunday night deal - is great value. But my favourite moment is captured here (trying a new camera incidentally as well) while cycling round the area.

I'll definitely be heading back for a spring visit with hopefully better light.

Funny thing is nobody had told the donkeys that the bus doesn't run on Sundays!

30 October 2008

New Apple store in London White City

I queued up to get into the new Westfield Centre in White City this morning, then queued up to get into the new Apple Store (not helped by none of the centre staff knowing where it was - it's on the 3rd floor).

Anyhow, here's a photo of it. It's certainly not London Regent Street-size but bigger than some I've seen.

The Westfield Centre is quite an amazing experience - not exactly my cup of tea - but as the 3rd largest of its kind in UK (and largest inside a city), it is worth a visit.

I wonder now if London has more Apple stores than any other city? With Regent Street, Brent Cross and now Westfield/White City, that's as many/more than Manhattan I believe. Then Kingston, Lakeside and Bluewater would all count as Greater London by virtue of being in or around the M25. Can any large city beat 6 as of Nov 2008?

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17 October 2008

Firewire dead? You could have read it here 3 years ago!

By a quirk of fate, the firewire -missing-from-MacBook-furore (one of many, many stories on this) got me looking back on my posts and finding one that I made on exactly this day 3 years ago! Sure, I perhaps expected it faster, and I don't take credit for predicting it's demise - I'd give the credit to the CEO of Wiebetech whose article I had read.

But the signs have been getting more ominous over the last few years - no firewire syncing of iPods, iSights built-in using USB, all new camcorders (effectively) using USB, most external disks supporting USB as the basics, and of course the fact that just about all PC's (laptop or desktop) don't offer it either, and most recently lack of firewire charging of iPods and iPhones.

It seems amazing to me that people are astonished by this after this time has elapsed and when it was quite clear so long ago that this was inevitable. I give good reasons in the article, and it is not that firewire was a technical failure - just a commercial also-ran. It's also fairly clear that perhaps excepting journalists in the field with small laptops and high end camcorders, the loss is not really anything other than an imagined problem by now.

In some ways, the Apple faithful should perhaps be chastising Apple for not including an e-sata interface on the MacBook Pros! Because, surely, Firewire is clearly not going to be around forever? Otherwise, these announcements seem great to me - very very solid improvements, and a real 13" MacBookPro at MacBook prices (well, minus firewire!).

Anyway, if you didn't read it here first, then perhaps you could have done! And, perhaps I should be digging through some old posts about Apple marketshare predictions and the Guardian/Observer getting it so wrong on calling the end of iPod!

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08 October 2008

Wot? No Wi-fi on BlackBerry Storm?

According to here the BlackBerry Storm does not list wi-fi among it's specifications. I have seen no announcements in the mainstream press about this - mostly praising the device as an iPhone competitor. Did they just miss this, or do they consider it unimportant?

Surely, without Wi-Fi, data usage costs will be much higher for most users, and the utility of the device will be worse (not much good in non-3G areas for instance, and certainly something you won't want to use too much around the home and office).

Is anyone going to call this out?

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25 July 2008

Virgin Balloon Near-Miss

Just captured this tonight. Amazing. Not sure quite how the basket managed to get over the phone/electricity wires and between two houses. But it landed in a field at the bottom of the ridge without incident!

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22 March 2008

The Cure at Wembley - Amazing Concert

Just a quick note to mention what a great concert The Cure put on at Wembley Arena on Thursday night (20th March 2008).

Their set was an astonishing 3hours and 25 minutes including 3 encores totalling over an hour. Thirty years of material still couldn't be crammed into that time, but they made a great selection, and in the encore the emphasis was clearly on the older stuff - somewhat re-invented. It was also a good reminder of how consistently good and inventive they have been across their career (cf: U2).

The photos - taken for proof I was there, certainly not for quality - were taken with my iPhone (the "close-up" through one side of a pair of binoculars!). I think it highlights a key weakness of Wembley! (I also didn't realise they let you take in proper cameras into such places).

I hate Wembley Arena as a venue, and perhaps it was to make up for that (and that this night was their ONLY UK gig) that made them go out of their way to provide a memorable night. The stamina required for such a gig is incredible and puts younger bands to shame - well done, Robert (and rest of band).

If The Cure are stopping through your city in the next few months, do check them out for a memorable evening.

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24 January 2008

Free Speech In Danger

Just a small post in support of the very valuable site The Quackometer.

This is a great site debunking all the ridiculous snake oil, wu-wu claims of the increasing numbers of people/companies who are putting down good science for their own personal gains, spreading fear, uncertainty, doubt, illness and even death. There are many other sites giving more information about this situation, here's a few links:


But, irrespective of the arguments involved, we should be most concerned at the failure of important companies to guard the net and ensure freedom of speech. Unfortunately, even Google have succumbed to this, which is very scary indeed (check the first item in the search results). As for the Quackometer's hosting company - Netcetera - they should be truly ashamed at their behaviour in this episode. I have written to them. Why not do the same?

Well, "Dr"/"Prof" Joseph Chikelue Obi, you can just fuck yourself. As a disgraced professional and fraudster, you should be ashamed of yourself. What you have done to your patients, what you're claiming to do for them, how you're trying to recruit more snake oil salesmen to your clan, AND what you have done in an attempt to shut down people who merely bring attention to your failings is truly despicable.

I think it is important that those of us who value free speech make efforts to bring attention to this outrage. So, please post a link to the Quackometer on your site to support this or write a comment of support.

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19 January 2008

GIGO - Garbage In Garbage Out Example

Happy New Year reader(s)!

I was most impressed yesterday to see how IT has revolutionised marketing. In my postbox was a fully-personalised full-colour brochure from Thomson Holidays with every page trying to be personal (eg. The Surname Holiday Brochure 2008 - A range of personally selected holidays for my name).

Page 2 showed photos of the Roman Epic Cruise I went on last year including a nice photo of the Thomson Destiny cruise ship. It reminded me when I had departed Gatwick airport (May 2007 in case I'd forgotten). It suggested I might want to cruise the Eastern Mediterranean this year based on last year's selection. Great fuzzy logic, guys!

However, as the character Kryten would say from the Red Dwarf TV Series, "There's just one small problem with that, sir".

Despite having my address entirely correct, the brochure was addressed to a Mr Johnson. Hobson/Johnson, understandable, perhaps? But more notable is the fact that I certainly did not depart Gatwick in May 2007 to join the Thomson Destiny. Indeed, I have never, ever been on a Thomson holiday in my life (what do you take me for, dear reader?).

And in case you thought perhaps they just got the address slightly wrong, there are only 2 flats at this number, and the other flat does not have a Mr Johnson either. There are no other flats at nearby numbers, and certainly none at this postcode (a postcode it took me 10 years to get the Royal Mail to accept - another story, however).

Nice idea, Thomson, but if you really can't get the data right, a complete waste of money. It made me wonder about the quality of their whole database and the thought crossed my mind that they might have sent an incorrect brochure to everyone on the list. It also made me think of the bank (urban myth perhaps but funny nonetheless) who sent a mailing to every one of their customers addressed "Dear Rich Bastard" after the programmer had left some of his testing code in and used his test database customer - a Mr Richard Bastard - against the production address file.

At least the brochure suggests recycling, which it will quickly succumb to.