Saturday, March 27, 2010

TTC's "helpful" instructions to disabled for a broken elevator.

To anyone not familiar with the Toronto subway line, this is probably going to make no sense. But if you are... well... this is going to sound just completely bonkers.

So last night, I was on my way home, and just missed my connection to my bus @ St. George station. I was bored and looking around, checking up on social networks on my phone, and two things came together at once:

First, a friend on Facebook with MS was lamenting the not-uncommon case of "accessible" entrances often being extremely out of the way of the main entrance/exits to buildings.

And with that fresh in mind, I happened to glance upon a sign on the bus platform, indicating to those unable to use the stairs, what their alternatives might be should the elevator be broken. Picture is included at the end of the post.

And the more I read it, the more crazy it begins to sound... so I start thinking of the worst case, but possibly very real scenario, of someone who might:

- live in my general neighbourhood at Lansdowne and Dupont
- have a disability where using stairs was simply not an option, but otherwise mobile
- wants to go to Downsview station to do whatever might take them out there.

What would happen if they came upon the broken elevator, the contingency for which this sign is specifically designed to help?

Not knowing in advance of a situation here, the trip planning would likely be to take the 26 Dupont east to St. George, elevator down to the University line, and north. Easy!

So they set upon their way, get to the bus platform at St. George, and find the elevator to be broken, and read the sign, and come to realize their next steps are to:

1) Get back on the bus you just got off (hope it hasn't left yet...) and go back the way you came.

2) Go nearly 1/3 of the way back the way you came to Bathurst and Dupont St.

3) Wait for the southbound Bathurst bus, and take it to the Bathurst subway station on the Bloor line.

4) Take the subway east, past your intended transfer point (because the elevator to transfer subway lines is the same, broken one, causing this detour), to Yonge/Bloor station.

5) Take the elevator there (what are the chances both could be broken?) to the  Yonge line and go south.

6) Loop all the way past the 12 stops of the down-town loop then wave at the now very familiar St. George station, which you are now passing through for the third time, and continue to your destination.

So two extra buses, 14 extra subway stops, and probably close to 2 extra hours later, you have now reached your destination, thanks to the incredibly helpful instructions provided by this sign.

Now, are you ready to make the return trip home after?

So here it is... proof I am not making this up... the helpful sign by the elevator at the bus platform at St. George station (my apologies for the blurry picture, took it on a phone camera in the dark...):

So, I mean, most times this elevator is going to work, and this insanity will never need to be heeded, but seriously... this is the best option we can present people?

I sure hope not.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Lady Ada Lovelace day

Just a quick note to remind anyone who's missed it that today is Lady Ada Lovelace day, celebrating the life of a pioneer in computing, and women in technology fields. I don't think most people generally appreciate the role women played in the early days of computing... for more about Ada, and some current women in the field see the great stuff being blogged @ the Adafruit blog.

Back to who'd I'd like to feature... first up is Grace Hopper who was known as the "Mother of COBOL" (it was largely derived from her prior work on another language), and popularized the word "debugging". She for all intents and purposes invented the "high level language", which is to say we program with english-like expressions. Check the link to the Wikipedia page on her for more.

Lastly, I will point out that the ENIAC was programmed almost entirely by a team of six women!

So... happy Lady Ada Lovelace day. Spread the word!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NoSQL, getting back to basics?

I was reading an interesting article on O'Reilly Radar, about geo-spatial, location-aware application development, but I found the discussion towards the end about the application of NoSQL the more interesting part.

I've always grimaced at some of the SQL queries that come up... you know the ones, they are nearly a page long (or are multi-page affairs), and nearly impossible to infer the original intent. To centralize such complexity on the server side has always seemed like a bad idea to me. Keep the queries simple and quick to run, so as to not tax a critical central resource. That sort of application complexity should go in the application layer you can grow out easily vs. the database layer which is rather more hard to grow.

But I wasn't a "database guy", and deferred to those who were, and had these odd sense I was somehow missing something, and would let the "experts" deal with such issues. But it always felt wrong...

So to see stuff like this is being citied as the state-of-the-art thinking in data scalability is... satisfying:

" Digg, for instance, joins were verboten, no foreign key constraints, primary key look-ups. If you had to do ranges, keep them highly optimized and basically do the joins in memory. And it was really amazing. For instance, we rewrote comments about a year-and-a-half ago, and we switched from doing the sorting on a MySQL front to doing it in PHP. We saw a 4,000 percent increase in performance on that operation."

It really does feel like there is a renaissance happening in data storage, and this sort of getting back to basics is a key part of it I think.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Micro LED Matrix

So I was looking for a distraction when I was stuck on a project last week, and decided to throw together a variant of the "64 pixels are enough" project by Alex at Tinkerlog...

I really did nothing with his code besides change up some of the sayings. Differences hardware-wise are a smaller LED matrix I had from Seeedstudio's store and the use of a CR2032 coin cell for power. It seems to run for about 2 days on that vs. the 2 weeks Alex gets from 2xAA cells, but it's more compact. Some of the folks interested in wearable items may find it of interest.

I'm happy with how it turned out, and have a video below. Apologies for the poor quality, done with a phone camera, and it seems an interaction between the refresh rate of the camera and that of the the device caused double frames to show in much of the video.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My name is Joe, and I will be your blogger for this visit. I am a geek-by-trade, and well... decided it's rather time I start blogging about my various interests, personal, professional, and well, whatever I feel like blogging about. It's bound to get eclectic at times, and I hope practical, insightful at other times.

It's late, and I am messing around with a little mini pixelboard project and wanted to put the URL to where I plan to blog in, so I created this just now, and don't have much time to settle in and make it hope or write much tonight. But... I do plan to commit to some regular postings on here going forward.

Off to finish that up... but welcome to my blog. :)