Help, I have three languages on my Ubuntu Linux desktop!

My fresh Ubuntu Linux installation in a Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine displays a surprising three languages... English, I can understand, Hungarian I chose but the day of the week in Afrikaans, next to the time, is really baffling. The Debian host system has Afrikaans as preferred language but I really do no think that it should propagate to guest operating systems. During installation, I did choose Johannesburg as my location (mainly for the time zone) but I have no recollection of being able to select a language, specifically for the time. The LC_ system variables in Linux are not one of my strong points but I more or less understand what they are about. On balance, I think this might be an error in the Ubuntu installation script, which still leaves me wondering why Afrikaans and not one of the 10 other official languages in Johannesburg.

Why Ubuntu on Debian? I would like to run some software which is not easy to install on Debian, specifically the UltraNote wallet.


Data – not so much at the bank

My parents use a large and once venerated South Africa bank where the CEO (conveniently, her husband was once minister of finance, and also competent, which must simplify some things) gets paid over R35 million per year, a lot of it surely in bonus. Nevertheless, my parents' Internet banking profile shows 3 credit cards on the website and 5 distinct ones in the app (all, apparently expired but showing the same balance) while the card that they actually use is nowhere to be seen or added. The call centre has just told me that the only way to change any of this is to visit a branch.

Now, my proposal to Ms Ramos is that for the nominal fee of R2 million, I can make her bank a much better business by clearing out some of this mess. Yes, I know that there are layers and layers of ancient systems and procedures but how about building a screen between these and the consumer? It's easy enough to find me. Alternatively, I am prepared to implement a system (if requested by the board and possibly for a more modest fee) to let customers vote on executive bonuses. ;-) :-) :-)


Vodacom data balances have almost stopped confusing

Dear Reader, if you are like me (and perhaps this is simply my right brain not sufficiently inhibiting the left) you'd take a minute or two to comprehend what is going on on the right. Well, there is perhaps just one may to make sense of it: the recurring monthly data somehow is available for two months at a time, I suppose. Nevertheless, the Vodacom website's Logout button has stopped working... nginx error. #syfersigtig


Die lastige en verbasende umlaut in Maori

Nieu-Seeland het, soos ek dit verstaan, twee ampstale (synde Maori, sedert 1987, en 'n gebaretaal) en 'n dominante taal (Engels) waaroor dit nie eers nodig is om iets te sê nie. Hoewel nie regtig baie mense dié taal goed beheers nie, word dit betreklik algemeen (soos regs) gebruik vir opskrifte, byskrifte en kennisgewings.

Die ortografie gebruik die makron – 'n strepie bo-op klinkers wat aandui dat hulle lank is, byvoorbeeld in "Māori" wat dus in Afrikaans eerder as "Maaori" geskryf sou moes word.

Ongelukkig is daar min tale wat die makron gebruik en hoewel Unicode natuurlik al die nodige makron-karakters het, is daar 'n historiese gewoonte om die deelteken of umlaut te gebruik en dan verkieslik 'n lettertipe wat die umlaut soos 'n makron laat lyk, soos soms in Duitse handskrif. 'n Mens tref dan die deurmekaarspul aan wat ons links sien, met Whakatāne wat as Whakatäne uitkom in die Google-soektog wat die lettertipe van die dokument ignoreer.

Dit laat my alles ietwat bekommerd oor die digitalisering van dié land se bevolkingsregister, mits hulle een het...


Easy fixes for a lot of traffic problems (San Diego and Johannesburg)

Given how much time many of us spend in traffic, it is surprising top me that we do not discuss it more. Although slightly off-topic for this blog, I would like to suggest some important characteristics of freeway traffic to keep in mind. How traffic actually works by Jason Liszka ("A Gentleman and a Scala") provided some of the inspirations and images are used here without permission but under the presumption that it constitutes fair use under South African copyright law.

Google Map's traffic layer shows, on the right, the area around the Corlett Drive exit on Johannesburg's M1 which might really still be called the Sir De Villiers Graaff Motorway as here on Google, at around 16:45 this afternoon. Traffic coming in from Sandton and Pretoria (from the top) flows nicely (we drive on the left, remember) until about a kilometre or so before the ext and then again after it. I know this area and although it is possible there was an accident, I think this is usually simply traffic caused by the exit itself even though the map does not yet appear to show exit traffic backing up onto the freeway a bit, which often happens here and even more so at Grayston Drive, just off the picture at the top.

Obviously, an easy solution is to widen the road area of the exit so as to simply provide more parking space at the robot so that cars do not need to quasi-park on the freeway. Closing the exit during peak hours might also help if nearby exits are able to handle the additional traffic. Experimenting might not be all that difficult! To see that this might not really be harmful, consider the following graphs from a recent study Freeway Speed-Flow-Concentration Relationships: More Evidence and Interpretations (with Discussion and Closure) by James H Banks in San Diego.

The areas outlined (by me) in pink in Figure 3, show observations having the same flow per hour of vehicles for a section of the freeway but demonstrate that this low flow can be achieved in two different ways – by cars moving quite fast (and at lower density) and by cars moving at an absolute crawl (but higher density on the road). The outcomes of the two situations are exactly the same in terms of the number of cars and people able to travel from A to B in an hour. This is the catastrophic transition from free-flow to congested traffic which everyone should be very eager to avoid.

Figure 4 in the article (on the left) is a slightly different view of the same phenomenon. In the area outlined (by me) in blue, we have near maximal flow with modest occupancy (the amount of road space occupied by cars). Observer how quickly the free-flow situation deteriorates after reaching its peak at around 20% which simply means that everyone has room for 4 cars between themselves and the next driver. Any higher occupancy than that reduces the flow, i.e. the aggregate outcome for everyone.

What is the solution or take-away conclusion? Basically, a freeway is of greatest utility when the following distance is four cars. Would some people pay to move closer to this optimal usage? Surely. Do we know quite how to make it happen? Possibly, not yet.