News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

Our Future: Autonomous Cars and Transit

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/04/our-future-autonomous-cars-and-transit/

My opinion, one of many, as left in a comment:

The current Google Car can operate on city streets autonomously, but it needs someone doing the backend work of getting all the streets mapped out perfectly, figuring out exactly where the lanes are. Then in order to do a truly autonomous taxi service, you’ll want a two-way video linkup for the dispatcher to pilot the car if it gets stuck in some situation like the fire department blocking the street, or to monitor security.

For that reason, the current livery model works really well: a small, local company will service its fleet and its IT needs. The biggest expense, the driver, will be eliminated. This will serve an evolutionary role of a taxi service within a limited service area. This will be mostly shopping trips for car-less people, and “last mile” services to transit connection points, like Taxis serve now. The evolution comes with lower cost: short-haul, off-peak commuter needs, more “last mile” transit service where an autotaxi will be faster and more convenient than the local bus service, but also cheap.

What happens next? “Roaming” agreements among carriers sharing a common technology platform. The service areas of the autotaxi companies grow larger: your local autotaxi can drop you off on a shopping trip to a regional big-box store two towns over and the local autotaxi there can bring you back cheap. Expanded mobility, less reliance on transit.

This doesn’t mean the end of transit. Individual automobiles still require more energy and infrastructure to operate. The autotaxi will dominate short trips, but especially at peak demand, we will need to rely on higher-capacity transit backbones.

The biggest driver of the need for peak-period transit handoff is the capacity limitations of the autotaxi carriers. You simply can not carry everyone, but you want to be a part of the picture. So, yeah, the service gets you from your house to the transit hub, maybe work out relationships with local transit agencies so thaty “last mile” can be served by auto-taxi as a part of the transit fare itself.

The other limitation is for longer-range travel, even a fully autonomous rubber-on-pavement highway system will not be able to match the speed of rail-based or air travel. The autotaxi might drive you fifty miles to the high-speed train station, but then you’ll board the bullet train for LA which will be faster and charge a lower fare.

Anyway, the roaming evolution will mean that we go from local taxi service to regional airport shuttle service, and this will be great for those who live some distance from a long-haul transportation hub who want to make it to/from the airport, &c.

I think autonomous cars are a very reasonable evolution on human-piloted cars, which were a very reasonable evolution on horse-drawn carriages. In the twentieth century we evolved from horses to humans, and in the twenty-first we will evolve even more seamlessly from human to computer.

Our streets didn’t change much from the carriage to the automobile era. They’re wider and too dangerous for people to walk in. I doubt the streets will change much in the autonomous era, except they’ll narrow again and it will be safe to walk, bike, and play in them again.

My other prediction is that the autotaxi will make getting around so convenient, that car ownership will continue to decline. You will see a winners-and-losers scenario in the auto industry: the losers will realize too late just how badly they are in trouble. They will try to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt as to the safety and wisdom of reliance on autonomous vehicles, just as they try to sell some. The winners will have identified the coming trend and geared their business to serving the needs of autonomous fleet operators, and to those niche consumers for whom autonomous vehicles are not appropriate, or who just love driving their own car. Other winners will include pedestrians, cyclists, the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, suburbanites, night life, and very likely the environment.

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Technical, Technology

Amazon Hack: Reverse Showrooming

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/11/12/amazon-hack-reverse-showrooming/

Modern retailers have a challenge we have come to call “showrooming” where a consumer visits the local store to try out a product, then they go and order the product off Amazon.com or another retailer for less money. Some retailers will do online price matching, which is reasonable because even though that lowers their margin, they still get the sale, and can upsell you a few accessories. I saved a few dollars this way while buying a TV from Fry’s.

However, I was just browsing Amazon.com for a resin adirondack chair, where I saw:

Twenty six bucks!? Sounds good . . . not eligible for Prime, so let’s check the shipping . . .

Whiskey . . . Tango . . . Foxtrot . . . $192 shipping you say?!! Something is fishy here . . .

So, I surf on over to True Value’s web site, where the chairs are $20, and they’ll ship to the local store.

Which makes me wonder if this is a case of “reverse showrooming” . . . I go to Amazon.com because I can probably find what I am looking for, then I am led to a local retailer to save money. Very clever . . .

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Letters to The Man, Technology, Testimonials

Advice to Hotels

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/10/30/free-internet-duh/

From a survey I just filled out regarding a business trip to London:

Internet access … kept dropping packets, and I had to keep logging in to it via iPass. Don’t gouge customers, just let them on. This is seriously trivial, low-hanging fruit, which can make all the difference in the world esp for an international business traveler avoiding mobile roaming charges.

I would without hesitation stay at a more mediocre hotel that could deliver hassle-free, reliable Internet service, and the hassle-free starts with avoiding the damn tariff screen and just letting your guests on … guests who will appreciate this no-nonsense convenience far more than whether the staff have been properly trained to smile, &c.

I gotta say … we seem to “get this” in America … I’ve stayed at plenty of budget motels which offered complimentary, hassle-free, reliable Internet access. Though, I don’t recall having the same pleasure at a hotel in New York, where you could get free Internet in the lobby, but had to pay for it upstairs in your room.

For many of us, network access is kind of like tap water: we take it for granted that it should just flow, and not require one to jump through hoops to pay an additional $20/day. If there’s a business hotel chain that has figured this out, let me know, because my loyalty would be easily won.

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Linux, Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

Smoothing Out Fonts on kubuntu-desktop

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/09/13/make-kubuntu-kde-fonts-pretty/

So, I really like Ubuntu. Its Linux and it just mostly works. Except when they try to force everyone into some experimental new desktop environment. That is pretty awful, but I’m happy again now that I switched to kubuntu-desktop. (apt-get install kubuntu-desktop)

Kubuntu is Ubuntu with a nicely set-up KDE environment. They try to get you to use their own home-grown web browser, and the file manager takes some getting used to, but you can pretty quickly get under the hood, set up all your little window manager preferences, and get back to jamming. (Focus Follows Mouse in my house!)

The only thing that was missing is the fonts were rendering . . . not as pretty as regular Ubuntu. Kubuntu is set up to use the Ubuntu font, but in KDE things render kind of pixelly looking, like I was still in the 90s. A bit of searching and they seem to look nicer:

System Settings > Application Appearance > Fonts
Use anti-aliasing: Enabled
Use sub-pixel rendering: RGB
Hinting style: Slight

Now things feel a little more 21st century.

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Technology, Testimonials

Review: Stratford Diner by Dan B.

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/07/27/dramatic-yelp-review/

I hope to see more of these . . .

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About Me, News and Reaction, Technology

Facebook Hijacked the Internet’s Email

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/26/facebook-hijack-mail/

NPR has a nice piece on the whole Facebook-hijacking-your-mail brouhaha:

We asked Facebook to explain, and got a statement reminding us that the company announced back in April that it would update addresses “to make them consistent across our site.”

Of course, the Internet follows up with comments like “I don’t see what the big deal is, I’m glad they changed my email address for me because I use Facebook all the time anyway.” So, I post my own explanation:

The problem is that Facebook has effectively hijacked email for some people.

The problem is that many people have turned off notifications, and they do not check their Facebook every day. A further problem is Facebook quietly files messages in its spam folder, where you’ll never find them.

That’s not a problem if you do not use Facebook to exchange private messages with your friends … until your friends’ smartphones sync with Facebook and your email address comes up as something@facebook.com and instead of sending email to your primary email address, your friends start to send messages into a spam-filtered black hole which removes file attachments and you never know to even check on Facebook did they try to send you a message.

Quietly changing everyone’s email to forward to Facebook is a dirtbag move. It may suit your needs but it disrupts the needs of many others.


Please do this: IF you use Facebook, AND you use email, UPDATE your profile so that when we look up your email on Facebook, the correct address is displayed.

Furthermore: if you want to send me email, my address, as it has been for the past decade, is dannyman@toldme.com. If you want to sign me up for a bunch of nasty spam that I will never read, go ahead and put in dannymantm@facebook.com.

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Recruiters: What is in a Name?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/22/cybercoders-really-wtf/

An e-mail recently sent regarding a job opportunity:

Good luck filling the position. If you don’t mind some unsolicited recruiting advice … I ignore job spam and and otherwise deride messages from CyberCoders for the following reasons:
1) They spam me with regularity.
2) CyberCoders is a horrible horrible name some fifth grader cooked up in 1995. Seriously? Cyber? Orange on purple web design with tiny fonts? Coders? Even if I were a FT programmer I still don’t think I could take “Cyber Coders” with a straight face.

When I see a job posting come from CyberCoders I assume the company in question is at best a few clues short and more likely doesn’t understand tech employees or what they want, and it is likely not a place I would ever want to work.

For your sake, hopefully my own view is just an abnormally harsh minority opinion not widely held by your target audience.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Religion, Technology

The End IS Near!!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/10/daves-galaxy-reset/

Folks clamoring for the Mayan Apocalypse this year can take some solace in a note I received this morning:


I’ve been making some changes to the game that
pretty much require a reset, I apologize for the
inconvenience, I don’t like to disrupt the game
in such an extreme way, but it will make things
much better, I think.

The 2 biggest changes are that I’m adding Nebulae
to the galaxy, and changing the combat system to
work better statistically.

If you have a question or a concern, or wish to
tell me off, send an email to xxxxxx@gmail.com,
I’m always willing to listen to concerns.

The last turn will run the morning of June 23rd,
and the new galaxy will be built on the 24th.

Have Fun!

Depending on how you look at this: everybody wins!

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About Me, Technology, Testimonials

Dear Companies: Knock it Off, Please!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/02/dont-force-tv-commercials-on-captive-audience/

E-mail feedback to esurance:

I flew Delta airlines yesterday. When the planes take off, after the safety video, the captive audience of passengers is subjected to a handful of television commercials. Personally, I take offense at being subjected to television commercials: I avoid gas stations and airlines that subject me to commercials. I don’t subscribe to cable TV, but pay to stream shows commercial-free online.

Yesterday one of the television commercials that was forced upon me was from esurance. Hey! I PAID for this insult! My desire to use esurance as my auto insurance provider was greatly diminished upon being forced to watch a television commercial.

As people continue to leave the commercial television system, cultural tolerance for commercial interruptions will decrease. This complaint is the tip of an iceberg that is growing before you. Please reconsider this practice of forcing your television commercials upon captive audiences before you alienate even more customers.


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Linux, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

Dear Ubuntu: Stop Asking me for my Password!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/05/24/ubuntu-password-prompt/

I like Ubuntu. Or at least I liked it a few years back when you got a very nice functional desktop out of the box … but that is a different gripe.

I really like an OS that updates the software for me. Really, downloading and installing updates is for chumps! Way to go, Ubuntu!

But here’s a feature that has been bugging me for years: the system pops up a window saying “hey, I’m going to update the system software for you.”

And I’m like “sure, go ahead, be my guest!”

Then it’s like “okay, please give me the administrator password.”

And I’m like “well, okay . . . but . . .”

Each time the computer pops up a window unbidden offering to do me a favor in exchange for my password, I am wondering when some bastard will get around to writing a bit of malware that offers to do something nice for me in exchange for my password. Maybe a web site can launch a convincing-looking software-update window and prompt me for a password. It is going to be epic just how many users can be convinced to type their system passwords into a malware site.

If you are a part of the system that has access to do heavy lifting, please do not approach the user asking for a password. It teaches the user that “hey, its normal for your computer to pop up some window and ask for a password and when that happens you should totally humor the computer and give it your password.” You want to update my software? Great! You want to check with the person using the computer to make sure its a good time? Great, ask away, tell them your plans. But when they say yes, just fricking do it, and don’t ask them for their password.

1 Comment

Sundry, Technology, Testimonials

Way to go, Facebook!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/05/22/fb-got-it-right/

I am skeptical of Facebook’s long-term prospects, but as a guy who has worked at his share of Silicon Valley startups, and as a guy who has taken a modest loss on FB by betting on an opening-day bounce, I have got to give them credit: their IPO “flop” means they got it right, and hopefully made the stock market a slightly better place:

1) By setting their price at, or in this case, above what the market will pay, the company’s investors make the most money off their stock. If there’s an opening-day bump, that means they left money on the table for the underwriting bankers to profit from.

2) By being such a “dud” hopefully they dampen future expectations that a hot IPO should “pop” on the opening day. The true value of the stock market is as a mediator of investment. Speculative trading is just white collar gambling.

And unless the company totally implodes before their lock out period, I am not worried about the rank-and-file employees either. In pre-IPO companies employees are typically awarded options at a very modest fraction of the stock’s future public price. Most Facebook employees are probably looking forward to some windfall in the near future; Some will become rich, many others will be able to afford a house on the peninsula, and more still will be able to zero out credit card debt, student or car loans.

Valley companies that want to succeed look out for their employees. Even at an old public company like Cisco, we get to purchase our public stock at a 15% discount, which means the employees get some nice equity action even in a down market. I won’t be crying a river for Facebook employees any time soon.

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News and Reaction, Technology

Tech Bubble Spotted

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/04/09/bubbledar-pinging-loudly/

Remember pets.com? Back in the Dot Com Bubble, they had this awesome business plan to sell pet food … using the Internet! They had a Superbowl commercial, than they died like so many other startups when the Dot Com Bubble imploded on itself.

So, my Bubbledar pinged when I saw this headline this morning:


Yes! Peer-to-peer vacation homes! For pets!

And then, this thing dropped, and my Bubbledar is pinging louder:


Yes! A billion dollars for an iPhone app that takes pictures that look like Polaroids. But you don’t just get the app, you get the iPhone users who have been uploading their photos to social networking sites, because that is a key demographic that Facebook has yet to crack!

A few years ago, Zuckerberg thought $500 million would be a lot of money to acquire Twitter. Fun story here:


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About Me, Excerpts, Free Style, Good Reads, Religion, Sundry, Technology

The More Things Change . . .

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/03/27/party-like-its-1885/

Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.

— W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885

Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:

“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”

In contrast with the “today” of 1940:

“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”

I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.

And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .

But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940’s “today.”

But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .

These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.

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Photo-a-Day, Sundry, Technology

Cross-Continent Collaboration

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/03/15/danny-paul-seb/

Our Frenchman flew over to San Jose from London, and wanted a picture with our American colleague in Tokyo.

Rockin’ the Cisco TelePresence!

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About Me, Technical, Technology

Usability Example: Unsubscribe FAIL

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/03/07/linkedin-unsubscribe-not/

Last week I dug through several menus to try and unsubscribe from all the spam LinkedIn sends me. Today I got another email and at the bottom was an “unsubscribe” link that I clicked on. Here’s what I got:

Unsubscribe screen doesn't actually unsubscribe . . .

Not only is this not an unsubscribe feature, LinkedIn gets bonus points for trying to sign you up for MORE e-mail.

Instead of screwing around with the half-dozen sub-menus again, I dropped them a feedback saying that this burns up good will, damages the brand, discourages me from engaging, and may in time lead me to delete my profile. There’s more than one way to search for resumes online.


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