Captain’s log

February 2019

I realize that I make systematically a couple of typos on each article. If that is the case, don’t worry. As soon as I re-read the blog entry, I will correct the error when I see it. At the moment I won’t use any proof reader, so the word might go unnoticed. But, better late than never, as the saying goes.

I have started a new series about bus tickets around the world. Each time I find a ticket from my past voyages, I will post an article about it. I wish I find those beautiful tickets from Naples, where stamping was done by cutting off one of the four corners of the ticket. Great idea at that time (just before 2000).

One word about posting. As you have already noticed, most of the posts are published at exactly 0500 UTC. Thanks to wordpress, it is possible to schedule an article to become public at a specific date and time. For the last several months, the articles have been published this way, with a very few exceptions. In many cases, an article written today would get published the next day at 5am. This has some advantages, like reviewing the article for spell errors. I don’t use grammarly or any proofreading software. Some errors may go unnoticed. Don’t worry, even for an article published one year ago, the moment I see the misspelled word I make the change.

Since September 2nd, 2018, the Wessex Bus company has no service in the Bristol region. I’ve put a notice at the beginning of this article. Arghh!, the risk of internet websites. If a site breaks links, there is no way to be notified.  Maybe there should be an API that informs 3rd parties that the links become broken. Mr. Berners-Lee, what do you think about this ?

As you have already seen, I am interested in debating over the new trend of installing platform doors in the subway and in the application of this new technology to traditional railway stations. I have confidence that by eliminating the possibility of errors one can increase the reliability of a system. That is what platform doors are.

By the way, one week ago I visited what is considered to be the #1 animation & graphics school in the world.  I was very disappointed to find out that it could be easily be called The Adobe School of Graphics. I was expecting to find drawing tools invented by them. Far from that.

Time and again I tested Photoshop and there is one thing I can say: it is hard to use, not intuitive and of course overpriced. The problem is that the alternatives are as not better at all. So I’ll stick a bit longer with Open Office, until I will built my own tools. As Alan Kay said:

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

I believe one can replace the word hardware with tools. I will always remember when the lady at the desk asked me:

“Which software program did you use ?”

and I answered:

“I’ve built my own”

Yes, the best tools are the ones you need, not the ones that exist. Sorry to say that, but the world really lost a lot when Steve Jobs stepped down for the second time. He should have stayed CEO till the end. How I miss the skeumorphics!

As for now, it will take a bit longer, but I will build that graphic tool easy to use, even by a 90 old person.

January 2019

Wow! The year has changed the suffix and eight becomes nine.  December has been a rollercoaster with more than 30 articles posted. I can tell that it is not that easy to write one entry every day. The whole idea behind writing on a regular basis is to get consistent. Still, everyday is a long shot. I will keep posting articles via the scheduler.

Later this month I will write more about Mr. Gulliver and the public transit system of Utopia. It is a great way to estimate what can become public transportation by 2050, based on the availability of what is called today the Internet of Things.


Still planning for the articles about Utopia. The failure of the breakes on scooters in Switzerland will get an article of their own. Winter is coming. In fact, winter is already in place. Climate change or not, the weather is harsh.

New Year’s Eve

Just a few hours until 2019. As customary, the Happy New Year 2019 article will remain the last one of 2018. There will be no other articles at least until January 2nd.  In 2019, I will continue to use the schedule feature and make public the new articles at 6am in the morning. Fresh from the press.


December 2018

This month I will honor some of the stadiums where Champions League finals took place. The image above comes from Wikipedia and depicts the iconic Stade de France. I took the liberty to pass the original picture through an OpenCV filter.  It reminds me of the booklet offered by an air company in the 70’s. In that booklet, each town had a pencil sketch of its most famous building. Yes, I intend to create an XSTS file from the booklet.

Someone asked for the technology behind this blog. I have added a menu entry under Captain’s Log. Both the text and the graphics of this blog are custom made. There is no Photoshop,  I tried it some 20+ years ago, during the Netscape era and I was very dissatisfied with a product held in high estime by many graphic designers. And other products from Adobe proved to be hard to use (aka not intuitive) too. Even Acrobat Reader had worsen over years. How did this happen ? User eXperience is one of the most important features of a product or service. Lose it and you lose your customers.

Like a well known space opera series, I made a small break before continuing with a new trilogy.

Besides that, the first week of December is fully booked, or, so to say, there will be an article for each day of it. The buses are interesting vehicles.

New members will be joining the  family of Continents, Countries, and Cities. Speaking of which, I’ve covered so far a good number of the biggest cities of Australia. I believe Melbourne is the only large metropolitan area whose public transit agency is not in the list. Not for long, maybe in January next year.

So far, the first 3 weeks of December proved to be  a maraton, with one article every day. See for yourself. Anyway, I am eager to find out more about the Kyocera experiment.

At the moment of writing, 2019 is less than a fortnight away.  I will prepare the concluding article of the year: public transport during New Year’s Eve.

October 2018

I scheduled several articles to be published one each Saturday and Sunday of the month till the end of October. Half of them will be about the gap. Also, I’ve started a new series about the two wheels (bikes included). It is loosely based on the Star Wars scenario. The first episode will be available on The Spline by mid-October.

wheel-wars-titleThere are many topics to be explored. The only problem is time. Ideally, I would like to publish two articles every week-end: one for Saturday and one for Sunday. The publish schedule is a nice feature of WordPress. Many articles have been made public exactly at 10 am on one of those days.

September 2018

There has been a long time since my last articles about Utopia. That city is a good place to introduce new technology and present what I consider an interesting user experience. After all, the best way to go beyond the current limits is to consider they don’t exist and think in terms of what if. The story of Mr. Gulliver is the story of everyone, a matter of vye or stay complacent, question of egress or regress.

I prepare also  more  pages about mobile apps. The menu might change a bit.

Time flies. I am browsing my drafts. So far I have about 100 articles at draft stage. What takes most time is not to find the idea, but to write a curated article. The entries about the transportation offer of cities around the world take 2-3 hours, including sourse check and data filtering. And, no, it is not a simple copy paste. If there are grammar mistakes, it is more because I use no proofing tool. I intend do publish a big number of the drafts, in order to make place for new ideas.

Started to write the product brief for a mobile app. I will continue to use github as the main repository for all XSTS related stuff, including source code and specifications.

There will be a new series about the gap between the subway and the platform. Unfortunately, the small gap can and does lead to accidents.  I do hope there will be new regulation about this.

August 2018

I realized that many of the articles do not have a featured image. This triggers undefined behavior like presenting a random image taken from the article. Not the ideal case. The good news is that the problem can be fixed. It takes a bit of time to create the images, but hopefully, by the end of the summer I will have a featured image for every article.

I have noticed how easy is to write a relatively long article.  Long by blog standards. Sometimes, the articles I publish seem to miss someting, like a more information. Don’t worry, if that is the case, it is just that the original long article has been split in several parts. The main idea behind is to keep the entries short enough for them to be read entirely  between two stops (bus, subway, tram).

July 2018

I have reached 150 published articles. I have much stuff to publish for at least a dozen more articles. However, I am rethinking the delivery process. Until now, the articles have followed a random pattern. This is not sustainable. Not any more. From now on, All the articles will be published on a weeky basis, on Sundays.

Another aspect I dislike is the grammar/spelling. For reasons I don’t know, the browser has disabled the spelling check. This is bad as English is not my primary language.  so far, all the articles have been edited manually. Maybe I need to use a better solution. I will think about it.

June 2018

I am surprised by the selection of the thumbnail for related articles. Instead of the featured image (i.e. the image visible on the  main page) a randomly selected image from the article is shown. This would be OK , unless the image is unrelated to the article. For example, the First, Prev and Next images thzt ease the navigation in a series of articles.

So far, I managed to write about the ground transport in Milan: bus, tram, bike. There is more than it meets the eye. I plan to write about the subway and the trains of this big city. After all, the subxay network is the biggest in Italy. In fact it is the biggest network subway in the region. It deserves a nice article.

May 2018

I prepare a series of articles about the public transportation network of Milan. It will follow the steps of the Montreal series, only with more real pictures. The analysis of such networks will allow a better preparation of XSTS.

The Velib sharing system has stalled. I will add one more article about it. After the Milan series, I will start to prepare the Paris series. This will be much larger as I have significantly more material at hand.

The self-driving shuttle has extended the trip and covers now a couple of kilometers. I intend to have one more article about it.

March 2018

I plan to introduce a new article format: the article of the month. In other words, a longer article about a specific topic. After a few months and as many special articles, I could even add a menu entry for this series of articles.

So far, the pinnacle of the month has been a long article about the EZ10 self-driving shuttle demo at the Vincennes Castle. I was really impressed by that bus. It has great potential. And the short trip aboard has been ….. quite interesting, to put it. I even plan to build a small model of the shuttle the way I believe it works now,  by using IoT components. Of course, I cannot put lidars, but Sharp makes wonderful miniature sensors for measuring distances and after all, what is a lidar but a range detector mounted on the rotor of a fast spinning step motor. As for the GPS, I plan to use infrared detectors, instead. I will keep you informed of the evolution of this pet-project.

I am surprized that while the codebase of the infotranspub project on github has been frozen one year ago for lack of both manpower and time, sites like  ProgramCreek are presenting snippets of the same codebase as top referals for the use of the OneBusAway Java API. To be more accurate, the referral is about the classes from the org.onebusaway.gtfs package. Indeed, this API deserves more visibility.

2018, here I am

2017 has been full of events. Writing takes its toll and I needed a break before going on. January, as its name suggests, it is the gate of the year. But, it is the end of January and  here I am, back on track. Be ready for more articles about public transport. Why do I keep mixing transport with transportation ? Both words are valid, but in different countries:

  • transport in the UK
  • transportation in the USA

So, if i change them so often it is not by mistake, but by mood.

Last entry of 2017

The New Year is close. Very close. I can’t believe how this blog grew into something I am very proud of. The main objective for 2018 is to bring the XSTS project into existence. One thing is sure: GTFS  has not been embraced by everyone. Why ? who knows. This is not important. What is important is to launch something much bigger, something that every transit agency in the world would like to be a part of. How it will go, only the future will tell. Until then, May the odds be in your favor  and a Happy New Year!

December 2017

The year will soon be over. It has been a long way, but I am glad that I’ve been consistent with this blog. Sometimes the information is just missing and finding the lost knowledge becomes a game of cat and mouse. But public transportation is part of our everyday experience and it deserves the best. If I can help, even just a little, so be it.

Two new countries entered the club: Mexico and U.K.

After one year of blogging, I have a backlog of 80 drafted articles. Some are outdated and require a through review. Others need to be filled up with more information. A good number of them are about public transportation in cities around the world.  And I am preparing a series of articles about public transportation in Paris and its region (Ile-de-France). Time is the only enemy here. But time can be a powerful ally, too.

WordPress offers a schedule system for the posts. In other words, I can write the articles today and publish them at a later date. Great feature from the guys at Automattic! I have already used the feature  a dozen times and it rocks!

The city of Zurich has now a series of articles about its public transport system.

November 2017

I have tried to avoid using third party images as much as possible and so far I think Open Office is a good tool when it comes to draw simple images. There might come a moment when the images require a better quality. I am considering Blender. Again, the main decider will be the time required to produce specific images. So far, OODraw didn’t disappoint me. 2-3 times it crashed, but it has not been designed as a graphic tool with hundreds  if not thousands of nodes.

Another tool I am looking for is something that can make cartoons out of images. I can take pictures with a camera or a smartphone, but the size of the graphic files is quite big and until I will set up a dedicated server, the free disk space at WordPress is limited. Better keep an eye on it.

This month, there are several conferences about IoT, with hundreds of participants (companies). I will try to select those related to public transportation. sometimes, when the stuff is too technical, there will be links to my other blog (IoT is M2M).

Anyway, the articles are time eaters, so the publishing continue on an infrequent basis. I like the possibility of scheduling articles. This way I can group the publishing, e.g. schedule 6-8 articles per week to be published in a single day, like Sunday.  As I am nearing 100 articles on the blog, I will think about a way to make navigation easier, like the hierarchy of articles about public transport around the world.

Another thing I would like to make more consistent is the EXISTS (XSTS) standard. My past experience with GTFS has been, to put it, disappointing.  There are some good parts, but overall, the world is still ignoring it. And I will push XSTS, including docs and code to GitHub.

You will soon see a new type of images on the site: cartoon-like pictures (see above). I like to push the graphic formats to their limits.  It might be the next step towards finding that unique visual identity of the site.  So far, I will keep the extruded images, but new types of images are likely to appear, so don’t be surprized by them.

28 Sep 2017

The Montreal series is getting bigger and bigger. Just right now, it is bigger than the Oslo  series and I didn’t even start talking of alternate transport like BIXI or the Longueil network.

So far I have used either public domain images, or pictures I have taken with my camera. Also, I’ve created some extruded images. The mid-term goal (end of 2017) is to have no more than   75% of the public domain pictures as of 28 Sep 2017 and replace the 25% with either my own images or with extruded images like in the last posts.

27 Sep 2017

I have started to write about public transport in Montreal. given the quantity and quality of information I have, I hope to write something similar to the series of articles about Oslo.

14 Sep 2017

With two cities covered in both Australia and New Zealand, I have started to create the world index of transit networks. You can find it here. So far, it is about Oceania. I prefer to start with something manageable. Australia has 7-8 big cities. New Zealand has 3. This way, the completion date seems far more closer than for, let’s say Germany, US or Netherlands. One continent at a time.

Another issue bothering me is the picture on the tile. So far, I cannot enforce a given picture, unless I get an ugly page of the respective article.

30 Aug 2017

The speed of the article publishing has become slower. I have had less time on my hand and writing the same article in three languages is taking some time. I could use Google Translate, butI think the human translation is somehow better.

You can compare the translation of the English pages into French against the French version of the blog. For me, Google translates  into Canadian French.It is a relatively good translation, but sometimes it gets funny. Still, I find Google’s translation much better than one year ago. In case you didn’t know, you can change the language of the blog froim the top right menu (three horizontal bars).

26 Aug 2017

I will try to publish  all the articles in three languagers.  It is a harder than usual, but the result is better, I think. Newest article in the blog:

The limits of a hierarchical transport network

23 Aug 2017

I have started a tri-language version of the blog. This means I need to write the same article three times. The idea is to have relatively good translations instead of automatic ones.

18 Aug 2017

The old blog site had too many entries. I will try to think at a better format.

17 Aug 2017

I have added several widgets.

The Google Translate widget is quite useful. Now the blog can be read by people whose native language is not English.

There is a category widget. I don’t know of how much help it can be, but after all, this blog is about exploring and innovating.