Saturday, September 29, 2007

Geekdinner 4 - Dangerous drumstick

So, I dragged my brother Mark along to this GeekDinner. Since he's down here on holiday, it's seemed a good option. he seemed to enjoy the experience, and I had a pretty god time to, and got very mellow on the rather pleasant wine Getwine provided and I have now ordered some more from them, so I'm sorted on the wine stakes for a while.

(Geekdinner 24 is going to be difficult to name, I suspect)

The Venue

Overall, quite pleasant. Terrible acoustics, but that's true of so may restaurants it's hard to fault them on that. The major complaints I had were parking (it's in Camp's Bay, so that would always e an issue), and actually finding the venue (the name on the awning canopy set back from the road is not visible at night). But the food was good (and excellent value for money), the portions were large and the service was fine.

The Talks

The first talk, on social media, was a bit 'rah rah, the internet is here' for my tastes.

The WikiMania bid sounds interesting. It has the optimistic feel of people organising their first conference about it, which is probably necessary to pull something like that off.

Stefano Rivera's talk on CaCert was brief, but did remind me about it, and I really do need to get myself properly linked into the whole web of trust and replace the self-signed certificates with something at least a little less hassle to keep in sync.

Joe's talk about wireless openings and his visions where it's going to go in this country was interesting, and, if even half of what he discussed comes of, they'll be some cool results out there.

nbm's talk on his planned *Camp was a bit light on the details, but things do seem to be moving in some sort of vaguely forward direction on that, and, overall, the event has the possibility of being quite cool.

So, a pretty good evening, and it rescued the day from being a total disaster due to Futurex,


I'm sorely tempted to write a really lengthy rant about just how bad Futurex was this year, but, considering that such a rant would take me longer to develop to the desired finely honed level of virulence than I actually spent at Futures, I'll restrain myself to a brief, less well thought out rant.

If you had' got the message from the above, Futurex was bad. It was dire. As Mark rather aptly summed it up "It was a good squib short of a damp squib". It would be much easier to list the things they got right rather than the things they got wrong, expect there isn't anything to list as being noticeably right. It felt half-baked, unprepared and poorly thought out. No map, no logic to the positioning of the stalls, only a couple of interesting things on display, amid a lot of just meh. Even the securex side of it didn't have anything interesting.

Basically, unless I am assured by several trustworthy people that the next one is a massive improvement, I'll probably not be attending Futurex again, which is a pity, because, at one time, it used to actually be a useful event.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Upgrading debian

I don't think I've mentioned recently just how much I adore debian's easy upgrades.

Considering that I upgraded our file server yesterday, with the only major hiccup being due to carelessness on my part (a stupid error on the kernel command line), and everything seems to be working fine now, with almost no additional tweaking required, I think it's time a corrected that lack.

I am truly a fan of the work and effort that goes into knocking the rough edges off the entire process.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing with panoramas

As anyone looking at my photos might notice, I'm rather keen on playing with my digital camera.

It's probably inevitable that, at some point, I'd be tempted by the idea of creating panorama shots. And, as people who attended my CTPUG talk on PIL can testify, I've sued very simple techniques (simple correlation matching, and PIL's blend stitching, without camera corrections) to demonstarate ideas in on a few occasions before, but never got around to actually doing all the heavy lifting needed to create proper panoramas. Fortunately, the beauty of open source software means I don't need to.

I've been aware of panorama tools for a few years, without ever getting around to playing with them. This changed when I recently discovered hugin, a nice GUI frontend for all the various panorama tools stages. The frontend is pretty intuitive, although it took me a while to grasp adding horizontal and vertical guidelines to help prevent unnecessary curvature of the horizon, and the result, when combined with enblend's stitching, is pretty impressive, I think. See this for example.

So, in short, expect more panorama's from me.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Speed Traps

I really, really dislike camera speed traps.This is especially the case when I have recently received a fine from a camera trap, but, even those usually quite long intervals between such fines, I maintain I high level of general dislike for them. Of course, it is the righteous indignation for the fine I received on Friday, for which I have no real extenuating circumstances, and am completely at fault, tat prompts this post.

A large part of my dislike is the total separation of the South African camera traps form any form of law enforcement. They are run purely as a money making scheme. The fact the most cities out-source the
whole process should surely ring alarm bells at several levels of government, but apparently is viewed as good business.

The objections to running camera traps as a business should be reasonably self evident. There is o incentive for the company placing the cameras to place them in points where speed reduction is an actively good thing, since, many people being semi-sensible, the number of people speeding will be comparatively low. Likewise, at points where exceeding the speed limit is less of an issue, it's in the company's interest to place cameras to maximise revenue. That this is completely the reverse of the desired behaviour, is the problem.

Similarly, to increase revenue, cameras are disguised. This allows several bites at the cherry before people learn that the camera's there, and allows maximum exploitation of out of town people, who have the added advantage of not being well placed to contest the fine.

this also creates the aspect that annoys me most - the long delay between offense and punishment. Receiving the fine some weeks later means that a) one cannot argue against the fine based on traffic conditions or whatever, and b) the actual events are vague, and thus any defense is difficult. This is also in the interests of the company, as revenue suffers when people can successfully contest fines. Likewise, there is no incentive for applying the law flexibly, since a narrow, legalistic interpretation, is better for the bottom line.

My last objection is not against the cameras system specifically, but the way in which it is used to completely replace all other forms of traffic policing. The number of moving offenses that don't involve speeding on our roads is quite staggering, yet only the one is targeted. And since this is targeted, people adopt tactics to defeat it, such as using false plates, or mounting the plates in positions that are difficult for the camera to observe. Since no other policing is done, these tactics are completely safe. That the system fails to address such obvious gaming of the system is a sad inditement of the system's effectiveness.

So, to summarise: Camera Traps BAD, especially when they nab me.