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— urbantick

February, 2009 Monthly archive

A visualization of the cab traffic in the San Franciso bay area combined with information of the shuttle rada topography mission.

Cabspotting vs SRTM from kns von Rhein on Vimeo.

See lso some stills on Fickr here. Thanx to Kons for the link.

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The devices are here, and I can start recording peoples movement. I have a bunch of Garmin Foretrex 201 devices and will give them out to volunteers to track them around the city. The intention is to collect information about the spatial extend of everyday routines.


This preliminary study will show how useful the data is and what measures I have to take to improve them in the following sets of tracking. Of course I am expecting some problems, especially with signal strength (as it takes place in central London), but I’ll see what the returned data is.

Here is a quick introduction on how to use the Foretrex 201:
The GPS needs a sky view to establish a satellite connection. This can take a few minutes from a cold start. To establish the exact location, signals from four different satellites are required, hence the symbol on page one (see bellow). The accuracy of the positioning depends on several factors. This includes weather, location, landscape and built environment. It is not easy to receive a proper signal in central London. The main difficulty is to establish a signal, once it is established, the Foretrex is quite good in maintaining it.
On Public Transport a window seat is required to receive a signal. Tube will obviously not receive a signal and after leaving the tube station, the device will need to establish a new connection. It will do so automatically.
The device does record the track by default. There is no need to save something.

01 -Use the POWER button (red) to turn the device on. The welcome screen will show up with UT-00 and urbanTick. After a second or so it does automatically switch to the satellite page.
There are five main pages on the device. Use the PAGE button to switch between these pages.


02- Second after the Satellite page is the Map page. This shows the recorded tracks so far. The little symbol in the middle indicates direction and movement. The ARROW buttons to the far right can be used to zoom in and out of the map.


03 – The Navigation page follows. It provides a compass (only if a satellite connection was established).


04 – Fourth page is displaying the Time by default. With the ARROW buttons some more information like speed and altitude can be accessed.


05 – The fifth and last page is the menu for setup and storage. It is used to access the device settings and organize stored waypoints, tracks or routes.


The five pages wrap round. So after page five comes page one again.

The PAGE button is also used to go out of menus. Whereas the ENTER button is the complementary to this, for selecting or entering a menu. The AERROW buttons are used to navigate.

In case the device freezes, the PAGE and POWER button have to be pressed continuously for about five seconds to turn off the device.

If you stay indoors for some time, the device might recognize and ask you. If you enter yes, the device will turn off the GPS signal receiver in order to save power. To turn the GPS signal receiver back on as you leave the building, just use the POWER button to turn the device off and back on.


In case the device cannot locate a satellite outdoors, it might ask you the same question. As you are not indoors, you enter no. The device will he come up with a second dialogue to ask you whether you have moved for a great distance. Here you can say yes and the device will do a more intense satellite check and you should get a signal.


Charging will need about six hours. It can be left over night. For charging the device needs to be connected via the Cradle. If the Foretrex is turned off whilst charging it will show a charging symbol on the scree. As it is fully charged it should then display charging complete. According to the manufacture, the battery lasts for about 15 hours. This means charging i required about every two days.

For further and more detailed information please refer to the official Garmin QuickGuide or the full Handbook.

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Google officially started a new Location based service today called Google Latitude. It is kind of a location based social network and capable of showing the location of friends and family members. “See where your friends are in real time!” is the phrase Google uses to introduce it.

Users need to download software to their mobile device. From the mobile browser, one has to visit google.com/latitude and follow the instructions.
There is a list of devices that work with the new service, but basically it is the Android powered T-Mobile G1, Blackberry, Windows 5.0 and Symbian S60 devices. IPhone and iPod touch will be coming soon and so will Java-enabled phones.
The network can also be accessed through the Google page. In case you are not on the go you can still follow your friends location updates from the computer after login in to your Google account. It is also possible to share the computers (presumably laptop) location trough the Wi-Fi access point.
The service is said to work in 27 Countries and will be free but most likely involve some cost from your mobile phone provider.

Picking up from the online discussion going on about these kinds of services, there are privacy concerns regarding this type of service/information. An other similar project called Loopt has introduced an “override“ feature that allows users to put in their location manually and basically ”lie“ about the location they are at. A similar option should be in Google Latitude. (from www.ft.com, by Richard Waters in San Francisco, Published: February 4 2009 06:19)

Other companies that offer location bas social networking services are Brightkite, Loopt or Pocket Life by Vodafone. They all seem to be in their beta stage, but are fairly busy as it looks like. The devices they work with vary a lot. So if your device is not supported by one service just try an other one. Particularly Brightkite seems to accept basically any mobile phone.

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Suddenly after our everyday activities are interrupted, one naturally is reminded of how smooth it “normally” works out. Yesterday’s weather condition has brought London to a stand still and even today there is plenty of reasons to stay home. In the news the routines are the big topic. The articles cover the whole range from complaints to positive remarks about the capitals happiness, but mainly revolve around the normal routine.
I put together a collection of how the terms cycles, rhythms and routines suddenly are used a lot as something disruptive happens.
London under the snow, 10 cm do change the way the city beats.
Following up from yesterdays disruption of the city’s everyday activities there is much talk today about the daily cycles.
One of the phrase used in the news yesterday and today is: “… this snowfall is a once in a life time experience…”
“LONDON struggled back to work through snow and ice today.” (Dick Murray, Transport Editor, Evening Standard, 03.02.09)
An article in the online Evening Standard, titled “This transport collapse is inexcusable”, is questioning the transport collapse also uses the terms. “THIS has been the worst weather-related transport chaos in living memory.“ and ”…no point spending tens of millions on snow ploughs and other equipment that will be used once in a generation…“ (Christian Wolmar, Evening Standard 03.02.09)
Boris Johnson, the Major or London was of course also talking about the events and is quoted with this: “This is the kind of snow we haven’t seen in London in decades…” on www.streathamguardian.co.uk The former Major of London immediately used this opportunity to attack his procedure and told the BBC “There has never been a day where the bus service has been cancelled for bad weather. Not in 100 years,” (on the guardian)
In an other article by the same news paper the focus lies on the routines of the evening venues in London. ”London’s streets empty as snow shuts theatres and bars.“ The street life was described as ”…frozen trade: the normally bustling streets of Soho, including Old Compton Street, were virtually deserted as the icy weather forced restaurants and bars to close…“ (Rashid Razaq, Evening Standard 03.02.09)

soho-street-415x275.WmSFVEUh8qYU.jpg​Image from BBC London

Regarding the conditions the weather was compared to the past as ”…The biggest snowfall to hit London in 18 years idled the city’s trademark red buses and Underground trains…“ by The Associated Press on msnbc
”A brief history of snow“ is a collection of important snow related events in the UK in the past, going as far back as 1600. Collected by Charlie English, Tuesday 3 February 2009.
Again the weather compared to the past by the Guardian titles ”Certainly not a blizzard, but it was the heaviest snowfall since 1991“ and it concludes ”This is the heaviest fall since 1991, and so there’s a whole generation of children who haven’t seen snow like this. If I were a teenager I would love to be out tobogganing.“ (Michael Fish, The Guardian, Tuesday 3 February 2009)
Twitter was employed to spread information of course. Everything from closed school updates in Camden, numbers of snowmen and of course amount of snow was integrated.

Image from benmarsh

Anyway updates on conditions, weather, traveling and more can be found on the Guardian New Blog.

An other timelapse to show the snow conditions in London, by, MosReel, February 02, 2009

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There is a lot of snow today in London. It has been snowing since yesterday evening and it still is. The city is not really used to it or prepared for it, so it means the daily routine is disrupted or hasn’t even started.
The BBC writes, “Heavy snowfall has left roads closed, and public transport running a skeletal service or nothing at all.”

Image from BBC London

This means not many options to travel around. Probably a lot of people cannot even get to work if they tried and Schools are closed all day.
London has seen the heaviest snowfall in 18 years, weather experts said, according to BBC. It is around 10 cm of snow until now, but could be more towards the evening. Last time, something like this happened, in January 2003, there was what was called the heaviest snowfall in 10 years with about one inch (2cm) of snow.

Image by urbanTick – a lot of snow in London!

The normal everyday rhythm has been completely changed by the weather. There is no 09h-00 to 17h00 working hours today, no scheduled transport, even the airports have closed their busy runways. The city beats differently under the snow.

Businesses have already calculated loss of £1bn because of the disrupted routines. The market reacts quickly to changing conditions. According to BBC Shares in British Airways, which has cancelled all flights from Heathrow, were down 4.25% at 115 pence, while Go-Ahead, which runs Southeastern rail services, was down 2% at 963.5p. These only because it is a day not going according to plan, but when does it go according to plan?

Finally, at around 15h00 UCL has decided to send out an email to all staff and student with instructions on how to deal with these exceptional circumstances. Trying to introduce some sort of rhythm they wrote the following line “All attempts are being made to keep UCL running but it is necessary for reasons of safety and security and on account of unavoidable short staffing to switch to the Friday shut-down routine for all buildings. Procedures in place for week-end working therefore apply…”
If it is not the Monday rhythm there will be an other one to apply.
A not quite accurate but idealistic impression of today in London

tlSnowStreet from urbanTick on Vimeo.

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