Traffic Simulation Intersection Controllers Video

Another week, time for another video.

This one shows changes that have been made to the intersection controllers within the Traffic Simulator.

The give-way controller makes all the cars give way to all the other roads connected into the intersection with a minimum of 2.5 seconds between vehicles.

The traffic lights controller makes all the cars on the green road go at 2 second intervals and makes the others queue with a minimum wait time of 16 seconds.

The round-a-bout controller makes each car give way to the right and then go with a minimum of 3.9 seconds between each car on a road, but multiple cars from multiple roads can cross the intersection at the same time… hence the chaos on the video.

AC/DC fans need to learn how use the internet.

The NZ Herald is reporting that some fans are annoyed because they managed to buy 3 times the tickets they needed for the AC/DC Concert.

AC/DC fan Tamar McKewen was not impressed to discover her credit card had been maxed out with three times as many tickets bought than she was after, after a blip in Ticketek’s online booking system for the band’s Wellington concert.

A number of ticket buyers have complained about the overloaded system that either had buyers unwittingly purchasing too many tickets – or not able to buy any at all.

Tickets for the ageing Aussie rockers’ January concert went on sale at 9am yesterday, but the massive volume of customers left many frustrated with faults on Ticketek’s website.

However, Ticketek general manager Brendan Bainbridge said the day was a “success” and although he did not know the figures, only a small number of people were probably affected.

Ms McKewen said she logged successfully onto the website before 9am.

However, after she entered her credit card details and was waiting for confirmation from the site, the webpage timed out.

Ms McKewen was trying to buy three $160 tickets to the show.

She repeated the process two or three more times before a note appeared advising her to call Ticketek before attempting to buy any more tickets.

So at the start it appears that Ticketek had a problem. But they didn’t. It just appears that the customer does not know the basic rule of online shopping. Once you have pressed purchase only ever press it once, do not press it again because it is going sow, or reload it. This is clearly the customers fault not the fault of Ticketek. So why the media beat up?

The company would refund the cost of the extra six tickets.

That’s nice of them, again so why the beat up?

“As much as I’ll never use the Ticketek website again because of the hassle, I know it was all worth it to see AC/DC.”

May I suggest you learn to use a computer before going and having a cry.

I guess it is a slow news day.

The Android Invasion Has Begun

The Herald has reprinted a story run in The Independent (UK) about Android:

Forget the iPhone – Google is on a mission to take over the mobile world.

Hehe, and I hope it succeeds.

With four billion handsets in the world – more than twice the number of internet users, and two and half a billion more than the number of televisions – it’s safe to describe the mobile phone as the most successful technology of our generation.

I didn’t actually realise that cellphones were that popular but those are some impressive stats.

Android, in case the news has passed you by, is billed as the mobile phone operating system that will change the way we use mobiles. Where traditionally, phones have all worked differently, with usability ranging from the passable to the infuriating, Android’s mission is to simplify, partially by devising a more intuitive interface, and also by making it so widely available that it becomes a standard.

What really differentiates it from its competitors is that it is built on the Linux operating system beloved of geeks worldwide, and almost entirely distributed “open source”, meaning anyone with the relevant technological know-how can contribute to its development by suggesting and creating improvements.

I am even doing a paper on it at uni.

“Given how complicated phones are getting and how hard and expensive software is to write, there seems little reason to persevere on a customised solution when you can just use one customers already know and like,” says Stephen Charman, an Android developer.

With any discussion of mobile phones, the elephant in the room is always going to be Apple’s iPhone, which has been a huge critical and commercial success.

Android phones and the iPhone might appear to be in direct competition; they are both high-spec, and similarly priced. But Al Sutton, a UK-based Android developer, thinks the situation may develop along similar lines to the home computing market: “I can see the iPhone and Android co-existing in the future in a similar way that Macs and Windows PCs do at the moment”, he says. “Apple is focused on being a premium brand, whereas Android’s focus is ubiquity.”

In other words Android will rule the world and the iPhone will be the cool little cousin in the corner that is cool but doesn’t do much other than acts cool.

Although Android phones are only rarely to be spotted in the wild in Britain right now, the groundswell of support for the system from manufacturers may well see a number of devices launched at once in the coming year.

I have one in the wild… And I love it.

Even though they have much in common, the philosophy of the iPhone and the Android phones about to hit the market could hardly differ more. The iPhone is, in a sense, a dictatorship – the applications which make it what it is are all vetted by Apple’s often draconian censors, and those that are made live must pay a hefty price for their inclusion in the App Store.

In contrast, phones running on Android have access to a market for applications which are posted directly by their developers, the majority of which are free, and, of those you do have pay for, the profits go straight to the developers. While some developers are unhappy about shortcomings like the lack of an adequate online interface, Google insists problems will be ironed out in time.

And Android programs in Java, while Apple is trying to make Objective C cool again.

It isn’t just Silicon Valley that is the centre of innovation – people are building cool things all over the world, and then some people are just building things for a local market.”

This global focus is part of what makes Android in tune with the technological zeitgeist. It is open-source, non-proprietary, cross-platform, and, focussing on mutual success over the exclusive technologies of the iPhone, and with the mighty Google in its corner, few would bet against this robot army taking over the world.

Let the phone wars begin.

New Zealand Immigration Blocks Access To Education

I was disgusted to read in the Herald earlier this week the actions of the New Zealand Immigration service in blocking the access of some international students to attend school.

Neha, 16, from Kelston Girls’ College, and Nelisha, 13, of Bruce McLaren Intermediate School in Henderson, have been barred from school since June 10, when their mother’s work permit ran out.

Rehana Nazrin Singh, 38, a residential care worker, is appealing against the Immigration New Zealand decision not to renew it.

While the appeal is pending, she has been granted a visitor’s permit.

But her daughters have not been issued with student permits, so cannot go to school.

So lets get the facts clear right at the start, the students were attending school legally and circumstances beyond their control have prevented them from being able to.

Immigration NZ was yesterday unable to say how many children were in the same position.

This is not an isolate incident?

But Kelston Girls’ College said it had two other cases, involving students from the Philippines and Fiji.

An Auckland immigration adviser, Tika Ram, said he had three clients who were appealing against work permit decisions that also affected school-age children.

One school has in total three cases, and an adviser also have three clients, given that in NZ there are thousands of advisers and at around 1,000 schools that must mean a lot of students are being denied their right to education.

Kelston Girls’ principal Linda Fox said immigration law prevented schools from enrolling foreigners who did not have students’ permits.

My first reaction is fair enough, their parents have not paid taxes in NZ so why should they be able to access NZ schools. However, at the same time it costs no more to have an extra kid in a classroom so while the immigration status is being debated in the courts at least let them learn.

“Schools are being put in an awkward situation by the immigration department and the Government. While our first desire is to teach students, the school faces big fines – which we cannot afford – if immigration officials find there are students being enrolled illegally,” Ms Fox said.

The situation is absurd and sad.

“It is totally unfair that the future of these students is being destroyed, and educational opportunities stopped, by some of our immigration rules.”

Bang on.

Ms Fox said she had appealed to Immigration to let students continue their studies “on humanitarian grounds”, but had not yet been advised of its decision.

There should be no need for appeal, while any immigration status is in dispute the children should be able to go to school.

She said Neha is doing NCEA Level 1 this year, without which she could not progress to Year 12 (form 6) if she returned to Fiji and would have to repeat a whole academic year.

So in other words the New Zealand Immigration service is putting someones entire future at risk?

Mr Ram, who is Mrs Singh’s immigration adviser, predicted Immigration NZ would decline many more work permit applications in the recession as more New Zealanders became available to fill job vacancies.

He warned that even more children could be kept from school because of current policy.

Time for a change in policy then?

From Monday, changes to immigration policy will allow children of migrant workers who lose their jobs within a 90-day trial period to qualify as domestic students while their parents remain legally in New Zealand.

But this does not apply to those who have been working longer than the three months.

This sounds great, however the situation here does not apply because the circumstances are different.

Acting Human Rights Chief Commissioner Judy McGregor said it was “entirely unacceptable” that children in New Zealand were being denied education.

“The right to education for children is a core human right here and internationally.”

Last month, TV One reported that an estimated 1100 Pacific Island children could not attend school because their parents were overstayers.

1,100 students is  a lot, more than a lot, and this needs to change. Maybe NZ needs to read the UN Rights of a child:

Article 28

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

That is right. Free and Available to all. Not based on some silly immigration policy.

(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;

Available and Accessible to EVERY child.

(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.

Encourage attendance. Not to block it.

Poor form Immigration NZ, poor form.

Microsoft in court for the right reasons

It is good to read that for once Microsoft is going to court for the right reasons:

Microsoft alleges that a Hong Kong-based company has been obtaining the usernames and passwords of Windows Live Messenger users, using those to hack into Microsoft’s system and users’ accounts, scraping their contact information, and using those contacts to continue the bulk spamming.

The company, Funmobile Ltd., allegedly sends an instant message that appears to be from the e-mail address of a person’s Windows Live contact, Microsoft says. The message contains a link to a Web site that requires users to enter their Windows Live log-in information. Then it redirects to an adult Web site or bogus social network for Windows Live users.

The suit alleges the defendants breached the Windows Live contract, tortuously interfered with Microsoft’s business relationships, violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, violated the Federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, violated the Washington state Anti-Phishing Statute, trespassed on Microsoft property (its servers), and hence were unjustly enriched.

“Above all, we hope the lawsuit will send a clear message to all potential perpetrators that this kind of activity is not tolerated on our networks,” Cranton wrote.

Make sure you read the full article on the link above. At least now I can tell my friends when they spam me through MSN that they no longer have a virus but have rather been hacked, or more likely unknowingly given away their login details through visiting a fake MSN site. Good on Microsoft for taking the spammers to task on this one too.

Ski Helmet use rising

Twitter is indeed a powerful tool for getting interesting news articles that are otherwise not reported in NZ.

Got this tweet through a few minute ago:

snowreportsnzRT @SkiingExaminer: The ski helmet saga continues. Jackson Hole vs OSHA // 48% of skiers now use them. Well done.

Naturally being interested in snow sports I clicked though on the link to find out more. The 48% figure seems to be based on the US not on NZ. However the number of people now with helmets is something I did notice when I was up on the slopes a few weeks ago.

This article here highlights some more of the stats:

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) released its 2008-09 National Demographic Study that showed helmet usage at 48 percent of all skiers and snowboarders. The figure represented a 12 percent increase over last season’s percentage of 43 percent. The annual Demographic Study is compiled from more than 130,000 interviews of skiers and riders nationwide.

That is a big jump for just one year, and on the back of a sample size of 130,000 that is some decent stats too.

Percentage of ski helmet wearers by demographic group

* 48 percent: All skiers and riders
* 77 percent: 9 years old or younger
* 66 percent: 10-14 years old
* 32 percent: 18-24 years old

Interesting enough young adults seem to think that helmets are not cool.

I got my helmet earlier this year and have used it on two days, one pea soup and the other a bluebird. And it is really good, lightweight but at the same time having that protection on your head and around your upper neck does give you confidence to try things that otherwise you may be a little to scared to with risk of hurting yourself.

Update, here are some cropped photos from the other week

9 from 11 wearing helmets
9 from 11 wearing helmets
6 from 11 wearing helmets
6 from 11 wearing helmets
7 from 11 wearing helmets
7 from 11 wearing helmets

And yet one wonders why so many leave

Last night TV3 reported on Don Brash leading a new taskforce to decrease the income gap between New Zealand and Australia.

Now I knew the gap was large, but not this large:

Last year the average Kiwi wage after tax was $32,000 a year, while in Australia, the average wage was NZ$49,000 – around 38 percent higher.

$17k per year in NZ Dollars difference, or $326.92 per week more, or $46.70 per day more. That is not a gap that is a gulf. How did it ever get that far apart in the first place?

Last year, over 48,000 Kiwis left New Zealand for Australia to experience its brighter beaches and bigger pay packets.

And I can’t blame them, the cost of living may be more (I may do a post investigating this if I can find the data) but increase in pay surely justifies it.

Poneke: NZ’s political leaders want to destroy us…

This must be one of the best political posts I have read in a while, read the full version here:

NZ’s political leaders want to destroy us with despair. Where is their confidence in our country? No wonder Australia beckons for so many

In Australia, where I have had the opportunity to have travelled about these past few weeks, everyone except the media (which anywhere, always, promotes doom and gloom) is constantly upbeat about the state of the economy and the country’s outlook. The Polyannas include not just Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government but also Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Opposition. Yes, of course, the Opposition in Australia constantly attacks and carps on about the Government, but it does not attack and carp on about Australia.

Numbingly, in New Zealand, it is our Government that is constantly attacking New Zealand and running down its fortunes and prospects at every opportunity. Chief among the Jonahs is the dour Finance Minister, Bill English, who constantly claims we face a “decade of deficits.” Even worse, at the New Zealand Herald’s annual platform for corporate greed, he said all we can look forward to is a “demoralising trudge”.

And then people were surprised that New Zealand’s still very strong economy was immediately put on credit watch. If your finance minister so publicly and continually rubbishes your country and takes as much delight in company closures and layoffs as this one does, then the ratings agencies will sit up, take notice and act.

I would not try to argue that the grass is always greener elsewhere, especially the grass in Australia, which is almost non-existent in some places I have been, thanks to the usual droughts which that huge desert continent experiences.

But, my god, there is no constant running down of Australia’s prospects by its political leaders, who are united in their determination to keep unemployment low and the economy ticking along very nicely thank you. You do not hear Australian cabinet ministers boasting how many public servants they are sacking.

New Zealand went into this world recession – caused by the corporate greed which some people in New Zealand think is admirable – with among the lowest unemployment and public debt in the developed world. The latter was thanks to former finance minister Michael Cullen’s determination to use his budget surpluses to repay debt rather than splurge on the tax cuts loudly demanded by National through all of Labour’s term. Cullen’s Scroogeness meant New Zealand can afford the modest deficits that would be expected in such an international downturn. Instead we are back to the slash and burn of 1991, when unemployment hit 11 per cent amid similar applause from the same cheerleaders.

Australia entered the world downturn similarly low in public debt – though with slightly higher unemployment – and there is little talk there of a decade of deficits. In fact, Australia is yet even to experience technical recession, as there has been just one quarter of negative growth, not repeated, since the Greed is Good parasites destroyed the world’s financial system.

I fear for a country being as constantly bad-mouthed by its government as New Zealand is, for the constant denigration is likely to bear the fruit that could be expected, as demonstrated by the negative credit watch, which the cheerleaders applaud from their tax havens in Geneva and elsewhere.

I fear for this country not for myself but for my children. All three of them constantly talk of moving to Australia for work and education. Even from a distance, the allure of a country whose leaders do not constantly denigrate it is apparent to them. Having had a good look around a lot of Australia in recent times, I can understand that allure.

New Zealanders are not a bunch of losers, but many of our political leaders give more than the impression that losers are how they see us and a failed state is what they want us to become. Maybe they should piss off to North Korea and invite a few people with confidence to take us boldly and confidently into the future that so scares them.

And one wonders why so many of us go off to Aussie. Can someone remind me why I should stay when I finish my post-grad studies at the end of this year?