Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ubuntu Tip: Write Your Own Software

Anybody who uses a PC frequently will eventually come across a problem task they would rather automate or just don't have the software tools to do. Ubuntu has a number of programming languages and tools already pre-installed or ready to install for free from the Software Centre.

For languages like Python which is pre-installed, all you need to get started is a text editor like gedit. Which is also pre-installed. And there are loads of free tutorials and advice on-line to help total beginners and experts alike.

Bad Python Programmer: Functions: #!/usr/bin/env python # Functions allow us to include code in our programs that will only run when # explicitly called and can be reused....

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Angela Epstein Bitching About Cyclists

An article appeared in The Telegraph the other week about cyclists and how we all jump red lights, weave in between cars and buses and do all manner of crazy illegal shit on the road. As though we don't for example have anti-drink-drive campaigns every Christmas with horrifically realistic adverts depicting school children being crushed to death by drunk motorists. Lets not complicate things though with trivialities like the truth and reality.
The other week I spent a long, sluggish car journey travelling from London to Manchester. When the motorway exit finally loomed above, I suddenly realised what Dorothy must have felt like when she made it back to Kansas.
Unfortunately, what should have then been a 20-minute journey to my front door took twice as long, thanks to several scheming sets of traffic lights.
Not that such conspiratorial signalling troubled some of my fellow road users. Blithely ignoring the signs to stop, they raced through one red light after another with unabashed aplomb. Highway Code? Nah, that's just for slackers (especially those of us stuck in a stuffy Volvo)
The first three paragraphs I believe are the real reasons people are getting pissed at cyclists. It's not so much that there is a perceived injustice. It's that a minority of motorists are too lazy, selfish of feeble minded to actually think through the problem they're being confronted with.

Take this commute from London to Manchester. Presumably the bulk of this journey was spent on the motorway. Where there really shouldn't be any cyclists. So why are cyclists being mentioned at all here? Because some cyclists jump red lights? Well some motorists jump red lights. There was a crash in Glasgow city centre the other day when a taxi jumped a set of lights and tipped a van on it's side. In fact motorised vehicles it seems crash with alarming regularity.

But the actual problem for motorists isn't that cyclists can get away with jumping red lights. It's that these demon traffic signals halt their progress. Many motorists feel entitled to make fast and easy progress on their journey from A to B. And traffic lights get in the way. In fact pretty much anything that gets in the way and slows motorists down seems to be fair game for abuse. Including other motorists and of course cyclists.

Will getting mad at cyclists change the situation with traffic lights? No. Will actually realising the traffic lights are the problem and contacting the relevant authority help resolve that problem? More than likely.

So just why then is Angela Epstein bitching about cyclists? Well the next quote I think really says it all. Angela doesn't consider cycling to be a valid form of transport. It's a leisure activity to be restricted to country parks and coastal paths.
There's no doubt that cycling – when done safely is good for the nation. Indeed, a new report this week revealed that using the UK's network of cyclist-and bike-friendly paths helps save the nation £1m every day.
Yet the enduring and rising appeal of the bike as a form of transport - more than a million people have taken to cycling in the past five years – has also given way to an appalling sense of entitlement, resulting in some pretty terrifying road manoeuvres.
Well yes the rising use of the bicycle as a form of transport has revealed an appalling sense of entitlement. That of motorists! Even in the article there is an attempt to connect the right to use the nations roads with who has paid for what and which bits of paper do you have. Even though Angela clearly understands how weak such an argument is. Bureaucracy will never save anybody from being killed on the roads. But that is Angela's answer to the problem. Legislate cyclists off the road. As though someone who has been cycling their entire life is suddenly going to stop because they don't have a bit of paper.

And lets not forget. Cars crash with alarming regularity.

So why don't cyclists need a license and why don't they need compulsory insurance like car drivers. Well simply put it's all about the risks. Cars crash with alarming regularity. Cyclists in stark contrast don't. When cyclists do crash. Normally it's a non-event. At worst we can expect some bruises, bumps and scrapes. Scratched paint work. Deaths caused by cyclists, while they do happen, are rare.

Of course those calling for cyclists to be licensed and insured always ignore the elephant in the room. Cars crash with alarming regularity. And the majority of these crashes were caused by drivers who were fully licensed and insured. Drivers who have been through the training, passed the tests and paid out good money for insurance. And still cars crash with alarming regularity. Neither the tuition, test nor insurance seem to make any difference. The problem is in fact so acute, car manufacturers are increasingly taking the human out of the driving equation.

It is a simple fact that the reduction of road accident deaths correlated more closely with the introduction of in-vehicle safety features like seatbelts, crumple zones and air bags than anything else. Automatic braking and parking are amongst the latest safety innovations. And in the not too distant future, the car will do all the driving.

So the next time your stuck in traffic, stuck at red lights. That's not the cyclists fault. Few cyclists ride so fast we would need traffic lights to regulate priority on the road. But we must endure these evil things because cars crash with alarming regularity.

The Door Zone Is Bad