Sunday, May 26, 2013

Speedo Musings: 2

The more I think about using the GPS as a speedo, the better it sounds.

So I mocked-up how I think it should look, based on the TomTom Via 130 I am using.

You could keep the bottom band displaying next navigation action & distance.
But replace the map, most of the time, by a large display of the current speed limit, looking like a speed limit sign, of course.
Then, nearer the driver, an even larger display of the current speed.
This display should change format immediately above the speed limit & again significantly above the limit.

I would suggest white on green up to the limit.

Grey on yellow just above the limit.

Black on bright red (maybe pulsing?) above, say the speed-fine border (+5km/h or +5% above 100km/h?).

Maybe yellow on violet if the GPS doesn't know the limit??
Daltonians should be able to choose their own effects.

Other options could define when the speeds were & were not displayed.
I would suggest they should be shown except in the short zone (150-300 meters) before a navigation action, when spoken instructions are usually given.
With vocal commands, you could call up "Map" or "Speedo" as required too.

All that should be do-able for nothing with current GPS's - just the cost of a few lines of program...

Parting thot: "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road." - Stephen Hawking

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Which Wine should One Serve with Baked Beans?

One evening a week, DS goes to gym classes, leaving me to fend for myself.

Fending tends to gravitate to putting half a frozen pizza in the oven, but has none the less required some reflection.
Firstly - how do you get half a frozen pizza?
Normally, you start with a complete frozen pizza, of course (though at this level of cuisine, "of course" is a presumptuous phrase).

Early attempts tended to end with numerous fragments of frozen pizza, which taste the same, but look even less professional.
The secret is to find a very strong, very convex kitchen knife, which you then press down very firmly across one diameter whilst rocking to move the pressure-point across the pizza.
A mezzaluna would be ideal, but we don't have one.
When sufficiently weakened (& all the culinary art is there) place the pizza so the edge of the work-surface is just under your new groove and press down (Seasoned glass & tile cutters will understand) when it should break cleanly into 2 perfect halves.

If so - don't forget to kick the bits of cheese out of the way before DS gets back.
If not - more rocking with the curved knife next time.

Then there is the cooking time & temperature.
In the end, I settled for what is certainly not the optimal-pizza method, but must be the quickest & cheapest.
Put the cold pizza on a low grid in the cold oven.
Put a non-stick tray underneath to catch the cheese.
Turn the oven to 220°C.
Return to TV or PC.
Wait for oven to ping or smoke alarm to warble.
Turn oven off & eat pizza.

Today though, I fancied something more "special".
So - 205gm of Branston Baked Beans (so much tastier than the well-known brand leader).
2min at 50% in microwave.
Simultaneously (so not for absolute beginners) plate in oven at 60°C & thick slices of bread in toaster at max (what happened to real men's toasters?).
Take plate, add toast, add butter, add beans, add dash of Lea & Perrins.
What more could you want?

Ah yes, this is France, after all, so - wine?

Unable to find any recommendation for accompanying BB's, I settled for a Cabernay Sauvignon.
It came out of a Bag-in-Box, which seemed appropriate somehow.

All this leaves me wondering if I am really as French as I thought...
This kind of behaviour would be judged worse here than lying about your Swiss bank account, I suspect!

Parting thot: "Perfectionism is spelled:    p  a  r  a  l  y  s  i  s" - Winston Churchill

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Speedo Musings

For 230,000km I have been staring (well - glancing) at this speedo on my cheapo Japanese car.
I find it very clear & easy to use.
The only negative is that it marks 20-40-60 etc whereas nearly all speed limits are 30-50-70-90-110-130.

Our latest, very expensive German car doesn't do nearly as well.

The speedo is not directly in front of the driver, so suffers parallax errors.
The numbers aren't so obviously aligned with their marks.
Worst - the scale suddenly changes, between 40 & 60 (presumably at 40?) so interpolation between numbers requires careful scrutiny & mental gymnastics!
Checking speed requires concentration & takes your eyes off the road for over a second.
Somebody should get the boot for this...

Directly in front of the driver is a screen with all sorts of useful but incidental stuff, like time & temperature, which would be better in the dash where everybody could see it.
That screen can also display driver-interest items like fuel consumption & range.
Or, it can display speed, digitally.
I found that surprising - until I tried it.
Then I found that checking my speed took the merest fraction of a second, without even needing to refocus or look directly at the number.
Now, I often have it set to digital speed and compare the 2 methods.
The difference in time & ease is so flagrant that there is absolutely no contest.
On safety grounds, legislation should encourage or impose (ouch! - see below) digital readouts.

Of course, the readout should be bigger & nearer the line of sight.
Then it would not be necessary to look away from the road at all.

Another novelty with the new car (late adopter...) is a GPS.

Apart from its obvious function of navigation, the GPS provides 2 arguably-more-useful functions:
1. It indicates actual speed with (presumably) better accuracy than the vehicle speedo.
Certainly the difference is around 8%.
2. It indicates local speed limits, and does it very well.
Obviously it can't handle temporary limits & obviously it depends how frequently you update the data, but it seems to offer better reliability that any, even careful, human driver.

Which leads me to the conclusion that what I want, and what everybody needs, is a good, big, head-up display of GPS-accurate speed & of up-to-date local speed limit.
With a warning light...

That has to be achievable today & would save a lot of people a lot of time, money & maybe injury.

I am aware of alternative systems which actually read speed limit signs, but have my doubts about their reliabilty in real traffic conditions.

Parting thot: "What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long." - Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Photographing Albert

I inherited a hundred-year-old unfinished oil painting of my Grandfather Albert, who died at age 36.

I never knew him, but you probably guessed that...

His painting has been lurking in our basement, mainly to frighten burglars.

But we brought him out recently, when a family member enquired about him.
And realized we did not have a photograph.
Cleaned the frame & glass, then took a photograph.

Except no - too many reflections in the glass, of course!
Even if you manage not to get reflections of the surroundings, you always get reflections of the photographer.
Or at least of the camera, hand, arm...

The only way (so far) of avoiding a camera reflection is to stand off-axis, just enough that the camera does not see itself in the mirror.

But you still see windows, wallpaper, clouds or whatever.

So we invented this method:

- Veranda with translucent roof for diffused lighting
- Albert with long side on ground, inclining towards camera
- Small trusty assistant, very huddled, controlling inclination
- Long black cloth on ground
- Black backdrop
- Camera off-axis
The anxious photographer instructs the huddled assistant to adjust Albert's inclination until he only sees the (invisible) reflection of the black cloth on the screen.

Yes - but the result is trapezoidal, obviously.
Perspective, innit?

Enter PhotoShop.
Or, in my case, the Linux free equivalent - Gimp.
I loath Gimp as having the most user-unfriendly interface I ever saw, but it does the job.
You can distort trapezoids to near-enough rectangles with only mind-blowing difficulty & frustration.

So there we are.

Ah - why an unfinished portrait?
Would you believe the artist was run over by a tram?

Parting thot: "A picture is worth a thousand words." - Napoleon Bonaparte