Social Design Notes points us to an article at Local Government Commission entitled "Computer Simulation as a Public Participation Tool," which celebrates the virtues of using digital tools as a way of envisioning urban development projects. Interestingly, the article focuses on the visual presentation elements of simulation, such as photoshopping in a new retail complex or street design over a photograph of a city location, rather than on dynamic simulations of urban development (it's well-known that Sim City is a favorite tool of many a mayor and urban planner). I have to admit, though, that the photo simulations are pretty impressively done.
New Scientist reports about a WiFi-based positioning system used to augment GPS. Satellite-based positioning systems (like GPS and the EU's new Galileo network) tend to fail deep in urban environments, such as when surrounded by skyscrapers or within the bowels of a shopping mall. Researchers at the University of Washington and at Intel's labs have developed a system (called Place Lab) which can figure out a WiFi device's location by triangulating the signal strength of known base stations. Currently, 26,000 base stations in the US and UK are in the research group's database. Place Lab is currently accurate to about 20 meters, compared to 8-10 meters for GPS. The Place Lab researchers claim that the system is "privacy observant," and does not keep track of the identities of those who use it. The software is available for free at the Place Lab site, and there are versions for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Pocket PC, and as a generic java application.
John Stahl mentions that Tim O'Reilly has written a lengthy -- but fascinating -- essay entitled "The Open Source Paradigm Shift," in which he lays out not just why Free/Open Source Software is important, but why the methodology of open source is revolutionary. This is definitely a big-picture, print it out and read it a couple of times, spend several hours thinking about its implications, etc., kind of essay. If you don't have the time for the whole thing, I strongly suggest reading the section entitled "Network-Enabled Collaboration." O'Reilly is careful not to extend the argument very much past the world of computing, but as long-time WorldChanging readers know, the open source model is verymuchapplicable outside the software realm.
The article Black Star: Ghana was a detailed and fascinating account of the spread of the Internet in the African nation of Ghana. Ethan Zuckerman updates us on Ghana's net situation with a report about the attempt to organize GIX, Ghana Internet Exchange. This would allow the various Ghanaian ISPs, which up to now have been using expensive satellite links to connect to the Internet, to share traffic, reduce their bandwidth bills, and link to each other inexpensively. Because Ghana's phone system is so poor, GIX will actually use multipoint radio to link the various regional and local ISPs -- a definite "leapfrog" scenario.
Mobile phone companies are stocking up on "COWs" -- Cells On Wheels -- for rapid disaster response, according to the Denver Post. In the case of an emergency, trucks with antennas, power generators, and routing systems can be deployed to maintain or extend the cellular network. COWs are also useful in situations where a large group of people are concentrated and will be using their phones (the article cites sporting events as an example, but expect to see COWs all over the place during this summer's presidential nominating conventions). Such quick-and-dirty networks are likely to be available far faster than landlines in a serious disaster; all the more reason to give in and just go ahead and get one (and I'm talking to one person in particular, here...). (Via Slashdot)
I didn't know Sim City is a favorite tool of many a mayor and urban planner. How do they use it? Where can I get more information on how it is used as such a tool?