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Design of the ideal digital AV system and the Broadcast Flag

For some time I have been musing over the design of an ideal home A/V system using digital technology. Sadly it's not coming, in part because it's illegal under the new Broadcast Flag rules.

To read my design of this system, and the musings of the legality of it and why that presents a problem, see a draft on an Ideal A/V digital system

Airport Check-in on the way there

Transit idea #2. Air travel is getting to be like hell, with searches and the need to get there so far in advance of the flight to be sure you will get through security that it cancels much of the benefit, turning 40 minute flights into 3 hour ordeals. High Speed train advocates point out the downtown-to-downtime time of the train on routes of 300-500km beats or is competitive with the plane, and it's true.

But this would not be true if they could check you in and through security while on the train, bus or ferry to the airport, and then said bonded carrier took the cleared passengers directly to their gates in the cleared section.

Imagine you board the special airport train downtown. Security personel and airline agents move through the car on the trip with wireless terminals, metal detector wands and an X-ray machine. Their machine moves down the aisle (a bit easier in a ferry than a bus I will admit, but it could be designed) and everybody behind them is cleared, everybody ahead of them waiting, until they get to the end, and the whole train/bus/ferry is cleared. Then, if not on a bus, you are dropped where you can transfer to special busses which drive around the inside of the terminals on that little road, dropping you at stops near your gate in the cleared area. Your checked bags were stuffed at the back of your train and are put on the right conveyers.

This was easier to work out before 9/11 but I still think it could be done. And many passengers would happily pay a fair bit extra for this, because the result -- by making use of the otherwise dead time heading to the airport -- would be to have a zero-time trip through check-in and security.

You could even insist on web pre-checkin to smooth the process. Even people who lived closer to the airport than downtown might find it worth the time to get this train.

The handicapped would need a way to get from ground level to the jetway
entry level. Probably require airport staff to escort them to elevators in such airports. Or they would (if the ADA allows this) be forced to use the existing system. Does the ADA forbid improvements for those who can climb stairs and keeping the status quo for those who can't?

It would also reduce congestion at the airport and the existing security stations and free up parking and reduce private car exhaust. A win all round, worthy of the cost of any extra security staff or machines.

Those without checked luggage could schedule to arrive at the gate 15 minutes before take-off the way we used to be able to do on short flights, if using a ferry or train with dedicated right of way. With checked luggage you would need to go earlier to give them time to rape that.

This kills the argument in California that a high speed train from SF to LA would be worthwhile compared to the current downtown to downtown time. You would get the best downtown to downtown time by putting in such rail just from the downtowns (and other places) to the airport, and using the time on the train to advantage.

Update: I have expanded on the idea on this page on transit checkin

Virtual Right-of-way

I'm going to write more in the future about how transportation is not making using technology. Let me start with streetcars and the bus.

People use transit a lot more if it is able to beat the car, or at least keep pace with it. Thus we spend a lot of money on dedicated right-of-way for subways, trains and streetcars.

But this is really inefficient. The dedicated right-of-way sits empty 95% of the time. It does nothing so that a train can pass over it every 10 minutes (or more.)

Imagine a system where street cars and electric bus lines run on regular city streets. But it's illegal to drive in front of the car or bus in its special lane. It's OK to drive behind it, but if the car or bus ever has to hit the brakes because you're in front of it, it snaps a picture of the plate, and your car is sent a ticket for $200 for blocking the lane.

The main downside I see to this is the risk of people pulling dangerous stunts to get out of the lane, trying to merge into heavy traffic in the next lane to avoid the fact ticket when they see a bus coming up behind them. The system would have to be tweaked and tested to avoid that, with bigger tickets for making an unsafe lane change etc.

Large carpools (4 or more) might also be allowed in the lane, private busses, shared taxis and so on. Of course, once the streetcar went past, people would zoom behind it to follow its speedy course. But that's good. It's far more efficient than dedicated right-of-way, but gets near the speed.

Traffic signals would of course have to be coordinated with this, stops somewhat limited and there would probably remain some dedicated right-of-way in certain areas. We won't tear out our subways to make this happen.

The real location aware service

There is much talk of Location Based Services and geographical annotation these days. We either see scary LBS (network tracks you all the time, sends you Latte coupon when you walk near Starbucks) or query based services -- "based on where I am, where's the nearest good place to eat?" That's something Vindigo does without nearing a GPS, and does it fairly well.

I've been wondering about proactive location based services and annotations that work for you and protect your privacy.

One I envision works like this. Imagine your cell phone or other portable location-aware device has a big yellow button. The button, if you press it, means "The service here sucks." Not the cellular service, but the service (or quality, or prices) in the store you're currently in. Pushing the button sends your opinion to a reputation database associated with the location.

Stores will fear the button. If you hold it up and threaten to push it, they will probably snap to attention. Why? Because you and many others will also download the database into your location aware device. If you walk into a store with a high rate of complaints, your phone will ring and warn you about where you're going.

It would probably try to electrocute you if you walked into Fry's electronics.

There are many valuable servcies when you know you're looking for geographical information, but many others that can warn you of things you didn't know to ask for. That you're walking into a bad part of town or driving into bad traffic. That you're near a historical site that's of interest to you, or a store that sells something you've been looking for.

As noted, all this can happen by pre-downling the data into a device that has the GPS-WAAS or other position information. Your device looks out for your interests based on your location, which it doesn't have to transmit to anybody. Even your vote with the yellow button can be transmitted up later, so you're not tracked in real time.

USA/Microsoft Metaphor

Many in the USA have trouble grasping how the country is viewed by those of us from outside it. I recently realized one analogy which explains this for those who are techies, especially Linux/Mac techies.

The rest of the world views the USA the way we techies view Microsoft. Except with tanks.

We fear Microsoft's power, but most of us still give them money. The power of both is largely economic. Neither MS nor the USA is on the whole evil, both are a mix of evil and good. Both are arrogant and don't grasp their own arrogance. Both have a smug leader. The list goes on for quite a ways.

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