My Pledge Sends Mapper to Antigua

When Google launched their Map Maker community mapping tool last year, they included loads of Caribbean islands. This led Ed Parsons (chief Google Maps guy) to make a comment at State of the Map (the OSM conference) in Limerick that he was sad there wasn’t any fieldwork involved.

This off-the-cuff suggestion, and a spirit of friendly competition, caused me to set up a pledge on the PledgeBank website. People pledged to improve OpenStreetMap’s coverage in the Caribbean themselves by tracing over available aerial imagery, and to donate £10 each towards sending one lucky mapper on just such a field trip.

74 people, including Ed Parsons himself, signed the pledge, raising £740 to fund the expedition. One name from the pledgelist was chosen by a verifiable random process – Steve Chilton from Middlesex University, UK, who happens to be a professional cartographer. So he gets to go to Antigua and add road names and points of interest to the map :-)

As a great man once said, “I love it when a plan comes together” :-)

Information, Free To Good Home

Via an old post on BoingBoing, I just came across the AirPower wiki, which lists the locations of power outlets in airports. Very handy. However, the wiki software used doesn’t require logins, so it has been vandalised hundreds of times over the past few years.

I’ve restored one of the last known good versions, but I don’t expect it to last. Does anyone know anywhere appropriate that this information could live where it would be protected, loved, cherished and maintained?

I Speak English

facebook.pngNo, Facebook, I do not speak “English (UK)”. I speak English, the language of England (the clue is in the name). Please add the awkward qualifying verbal appendages to the description of your own, derivative dialect. :-P

Twitter Problems

I may be the last to notice this, but: Twitter – the web command line?

However, I can’t try these things out because I’ve forgotten my twitter password. I ask for a password reset email but one never arrives. I’ve been trying for the past six weeks, so it’s not just Twitter flakiness. My help ticket has gone unanswered.

I know I definitely have an account and I know I’m using the right email address.

Anyone any ideas? What do I do?

Male Interests

Imagine for a moment what a Martian student would think if he took a trip to earth to research an essay on ‘Men – what are they and what makes them tick?‘ What do we look like from the outside? What conclusions might be reach about us as a whole?

He might drop in to a local newsagent before doing some observational field research to look at some of the things men are interested in reading about. A quick trawl through the shelves for men reveals a complex variety of subjects. Men, it would seem, are interested in sex, cars, sex, computers, sex, body building, more sex and clothes… and did I mention sex?

But dig a little deeper, and the magazines would tell him that the only reason that men are interested in cars, body building and clothes is so that they can have more… you guessed it… sex!

I’m not quite sure where computers fit in.

— Tim Thornborough, in chapter 2 of Man to Man… about God.

Amazon Marketplace Margins

I recently bought an item from Amazon Marketplace. The seller sent me a hand-written confirmation dispatch email, which happened also to forward me the email Amazon sent them. From it, it was clear that Amazon’s cut for Marketplace sales, at least of books, is 15% of the total price, or 20% of the price before shipping. (With only one data point, I can’t tell which.)

Just thinking about the sort of volumes they must do, and the tiny amount of actual computing resources it takes to make such a sale once the system is set up, I suspect they are making what is technically known as a boatload of money.

What Is It With…

[Number 1 in an occasional series]

…people who create pledges on Pledgebank for things that they are clearly going to do anyway even if no-one else signs up?

“I will only buy food Produced in the uk to help our Economy and jobs but only if 100 other people will do the same.”

“I will buy a Dignity. Period! wristband to support the campaign for access to sanitary products for women in Zimbabwe but only if 50 other people will do the same.”

“I will donate $100 [to Dennis Kucinich’s campaign for President] but only if 100 other people will do the same.”

Facebook Image-to-Email

Does it annoy anyone else that on Facebook profiles, the email address is an image? This can’t be an anti-spam measure; only your friends can see it. It has to be to put a barrier up to stop you from using real email rather than Facebook’s poor excuse for it.

However, I think it would be a Simple Matter of Programming to write a Firefox extension which fixed the problem. The font they use is standard, and the images are PNG. The extension would:

  • Find each email address image
  • Use canvas.drawImage() to draw it to a <canvas>
  • Use canvas.getImageData() to read vertical strips of pixels
  • Compare the pixel values to an internal table of the possible characters
  • Remove the image from the DOM and replace it with a clickable mailto: link

It’s a proportional font, so you’d need a loop to keep reading single pixel strips until it was clear what letter it was, and then advancing the correct remaining number of strips to move to the next letter. But that’s a trivial detail.

Anyone up for writing this?

Free Software Hacker Name Chains

OK, this is entirely random. At FOSDEM this year, I was sitting in front of Jeremy Allison and Allison Randal. I mentally placed Randal Schwartz on the end to make a 3-person free software hacker name chain. How many more are there, I wondered?

Here’s what I have so far, thanks to a little help from Wikipedia. The first one is a perfect 10, as all the names match exactly and they are all free software people. In order of decreasing quality, then:

  • Jeremy Allison (Samba) -> Allison Randal (Perl) -> Randal Schwartz (Perl)
  • Rusty Russell (ipchains/netfilter) -> Russ(ell) Nelson (OSI) -> Nelson Bolyard (NSS)
  • Kristoffer Ericson (jlime Linux) -> Eric Raymond (fetchmail) -> Raymond Chen (Er… Microsoft; never mind)
  • Brian Paul (Mesa) -> Paul Vixie (cron)
  • George Williams (FontForge) -> William Jolitz (386BSD)

Also, a guy called Rick Adams founded UUNet, and I’m sure there are plenty of free software programmers beginning with “Adam”.

Can anyone improve on my chains, or produce ones of their own?

What’s Missing?

Following on from guess the scary extension

An object recently went missing from our flat. None of the three of us (I have two flatmates) took it anywhere or have any knowledge of its whereabouts. It normally never leaves the room in which it is used. We agree it is about the most unlikely object in the entire flat for anyone to steal. Can you guess what it is?


Technology is now being developed to catch speeding motorists without emitting tell-tale radar signals by listening to the doppler shift of the engine sound as it passes.

I don’t know how it copes if the car is accelerating or decelerating at the time but if it works, that’ll put a stop to people avoiding being caught speeding by using radar detectors.

I have absolutely no sympathy for those who complain about speeding fines and cameras. If you don’t want to pay the fines, don’t break the law. It’s not as if the speed limit is a secret.

Light Of Other Days

Reading science fiction is one of those things I’ve always thought I’d enjoy, but have never really had time for or got into. However, as a result of a tip-off at EuroFoo, I did come across Light Of Other Days, an excellent short story by Bob Shaw. Well worth a read, if you have ten minutes.

Does anyone know of other good sci-fi shorts available on-line?