Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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19 March 2010

Realtime UK train timetables have been around for a while but I have long wished the same were available for buses. Turns out that it has been for a while – Traveline NextBuses either gives you the next scheduled time or the next estimated time of arrival for buses near you across much of the UK. Excellent!

23 November 2009

Since I go 2-3 times weekly London to Leicester these days I have to book lots of tickets in advance but all registering with the East Midlands trains site lets me do is auto-fill “london” and “leicester” in the search box and fills in address and credit card details at the end. It doesn’t remember favourite train times or seat locations. Nor does it send booked train time information back in email in a form that can be easily imported into Outlook or iCal. It takes 13 clicks to add each single journey to my basket! Alas Trainline and Raileasy both cost £1 more per ticket and £1 per transaction to book (more if using credit cards). Megatrain‘s tickets are cheaper but trains arriving at 11:00 and leaving at 15:00 wouldn’t give me much time to work.

Any other ideas?

24 September 2008

I was intrigued when I heard about Offbeat Guides – a service that lets you “build your own travel guide”. A fresh, tech-enabled stab at tourist information. My vision was getting the best info from a variety of existing travel guides mashed up with info pulled from the net, having it available on my iPod Touch or any other PDA or phone. Turns out
a) The service is paper or PDF only (at least to begin with).
b) None of the existing commercial guidebooks’ text is available. Instead , “we pull our information from dozens of locations and we’re continuing to add more. Sources include Wikitravel, Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, AccuWeather, Google Maps, and Eventful”. And the results are predictably rather weak and dull (at least when I made myself a guide to London). I suppose there may be a market willing to pay $10 for a PDF that brings together web information that would take an hour or so of of copying and pasting to compile, but I was hoping for something a little more attractive. If it were free and ad supported I might consider it…

PS The service is in closed beta at the moment – you can request a code to try it though and once you are in they’re giving people two free guides to try out – so don’t take my word for it!

18 December 2006
Filed under:Travel,Useful web resources at1:49 pm

As you will note from the little rubik’s cube-like display of recent pictures at the right I am a long-time and very satisfied Flickr user but there were always three things that put me off.

  • If you wanted to share pictures with selected people they had to get a Flickr account as well
  • The free account limited you to uploading just 20Mb a month and
  • The free account only let you make three “sets” of photos and only displayed the most recent 200 photos.Well in the last few weeks two of those three problems have been fixed. Flickr has instituted a “guest pass” so you can invite people to see your private pictures via a simple email, and more recently they upped the upload limit for free members from 20Mb to 100Mb. If they would just deal with problem 3 there would be no reason not to get a free account. As it is if you have $25 a year to spare Flickr does seem to me to be the best web photo sharing application around.
19 June 2006
Filed under:Personal,Travel at9:53 pm

At the conference centre outside Oslo…

P.S. I never even dared to ask the price of alcohol while I was there – I had heard it was the priciest thing about Norway – but just before I left I asked the price of .5 L of beer in the airport bar – £6!

17 June 2006
Filed under:Personal,Travel at8:52 am

I visited Oslo to attend the first meeting of the Mediatized Stories network (which was a very interesting gathering of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines with a common interest in youth and digital storytelling), and have stuck around afterwards for a few days to see the sights. The weather has been lovely (the summer solstice is coming up) and the city is startlingly clean and prosperous. Nowhere I have seen so far could be described as run down – it’s like a whole city made up of the nicer bits of North American cities like San Francisco or Seattle. The people are also really friendly – I lost my Oslo Pass (free entry to museums and public transport etc) and all the people I explained this to were happy to let me enter their museum/bus/whatever without any fuss. And of course everyone speaks fluent English. I forgot my USB cable so my own pictures will be on Flickr early next week when I return. Meanwhile you can satisfy yourselves with other people’s Flickr photos tagged with Oslo.

On the other hand… first there is the weather. Actually it doesn’t get all that cold on average (if you are a Canadian). But there are 148 days under 0C/32F every year on average – and those cold days would be dark as well. And the real kicker is the cost of living. I am staying at a private “B & B” which is little better than a moderately well-decorated hostel (only Special K available for breakfast cereal, you have to wash your hair and body with hand soap as that’s all there is, there are only showers not baths and all of them are shared – you can imagine). It costs £50 a night. Just a main course (no dessert, starter or coffee – I quickly stopped dreaming of them) cost £20-30 at every restaurant I found. (At cafes you could get meals slightly cheaper). A half litre of Pepsi cost £2 everywhere I looked. My two day museum and transport pass cost £30. I could go on…

One of the small ironic pleasures of being a Londoner is going abroad and finding everything less expensive but Oslo was the exception to the rule. It feels even more expensive than Tokyo (mind you I didn’t try buying melons while I was there!)

Nonetheless, I have always been of the opinion that when you go on holiday you shouldn’t
count the cost as it ruins the fun. And I am trying not to! I wouldn’t want to put you off coming either. It is a great, relaxing place to visit as long as you don’t look up the exchange rate before you go…

28 March 2006

Me on Brussels’ main square

Originally uploaded by David and Delphine.

My wife and I returned yesterday from our last short break as a twosome (for visitors who didn’t know, we have a boy due on or after April 22nd). There’s a small photo album here – warning – it may not be safe for the sensitive to view at work as it contains a picture of ‘comedy’ breasts made of chocolate. Gotta love that Belgian sense of humour!

P.S. I have edited my R hand navigation bar (which has, I like to think, something for everyone – do check it out periodically). The latest thing I’ve added is a feature I think is really handy – Send me an Odeo which is just a quick and easy way for you to record and send me a voice message if you have a microphone on your machine – even easier than typing a comment! I think this or something like this is likely to replace many of the normal ‘social’ comments – where friends just want to say “that’s funny” or “congratulations on your upcoming child” but don’t need to send a link or contribute anything lengthy or deep. It’s free to use and to add to your own site (no I have no relationship to the company!).

I have also provided a link to make it easy to bookmark this site using any of the dozens of ‘social bookmarking’ services out there (including del.icio.us and my personal favourite, Netvouz).

12 October 2005
Filed under:Travel at3:43 pm

I had never been there and I was pleasantly surprised at the rich cultural life of the city (I knew it would be good but didn’t realise how good). I took plenty of pictures (you might have noticed them in the new Flickr picture box at R) – “Toastwife” (!) who was also at the conference took some good ones too

Also see this short video clip uploaded via Vimeo of a flick of Segway users who rolled past me near the Aquarium…

3 October 2005
Filed under:Academia,Personal,Travel at7:51 pm

I’m taking a couple of days ahead of time to look around. If you are coming to the conference as well, drop me a line – probably text messaging to +44 793 171 1988 is easiest if you can do it, or leave a message/call me at the Congress Plaza 312 427 3800 – and maybe we can meet and chat before I start running around like a maniac seeing all the interesting sessions (there are more papers that sound interesting than I can possibly catch in person, alas!)

P.S. Do check out and contribute to the AoIR Chicago wiki I started up.

P.P.S. You might want to use the Technorati tag to tag any postings relating to the conference once you get here.

1 September 2005
Filed under:Arts Reviews,Personal,Travel at9:04 pm
A show we didn't see

A show we didn’t see
originally uploaded by David.

We had a great time – we managed to cram 12 shows into three days plus a day of sight-seeing and only one of the shows was a write off. I thought about blogging to recommend some but realised 1) we wouldn’t have time to and 2) since we were there the last few days of the fringe festival it would be too late for anyone to book anything anyway.
For what it’s worth my wife liked Omid Djalili and I think Tim Minchin would be worth seeking out if you get the chance – as much for his musical talent as for his comedic gifts. Turns out he won an award so my judgement was vindicated!
We stayed at an absolutely delightful B & B we found through Festival Beds but since our hosts only let during the festival and may not be doing it in future years I can’t really recommend them either.
We both agreed that we will try to get to the festival more often in future – I always enjoy my visits.
P.S. There are several more Edinburgh (and other) pictures up on Flickr.

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