Technology

OrangeChat video

It's been days since we criticized the local media, so let's make sure they know we're still paying attention. :-) The Chapel Hill News has added a weekly video clip to it's web site. The current show features Leah Friedman reading the paper's recent headlines and Meiling Arounnarath talking about the Carrboro mural with Jenny Chan.

I like how the video personalizes the reporters and some of the people in their stories. My only suggestion is to create a feed so that people can subscribe to video updates without visiting the site to see whether they've updated.

NCDOT and Chapel Hill Fund Traffic Signal Fiber

According to the Chapel Hill eNews, the NC Department of Transportation and the Town of Chapel Hill will share the cost of "rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro." Part of this project includes the replacement of old copper wire with fiber optic communication cable. This means hopefully sometime in 2011 we'll have a fiber network to deliver broadband Internet connections to people via wireless. Now we need to stop legislation built to prevent municipalities from building networks.

From the Town of Chapel Hill eNews: (subscribe here)

- Rehabilitation and Expansion of Traffic Signal System: The Council approved a plan for the rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The $5 million project with the NC Department of Transportation requires a local cost-share of $450,000.

Downtown Internet Gets a Little Hotter?

Ran into Bob Avery, the Town's IT Director, on Franklin St. today. Turns out he's surveying Downtown with an eye towards deploying a small pilot program of free Internet hot spots in the near future. The pilot would use Clearwire as the high-speed wireless backhaul. The only resources needed are power and location.

I cautioned Bob not to limit his planning to publicly owned infrastructure like the old Townhall. Over the last four years I've spoken with more than a few Downtown business and building owners willing to provide a small chunk of space and the minimal juice for access point deployments. BrianR and I have explored using solar-powered, weather-hardened rigs, strategically meshed to cover a wide area. If the Town used this environmentally sound and quite economical approach, the only remaining requirement is a decent position to throw signal.

Seeking "public" information

Kudos to the Daily Tar Heel for their recent investigative piece about obtaining public records. In addition to asking for copies of correspondence of local elected officials (which I summarize below) they include tips for making public record requests and highlight how this kind of information is used in their reporting.

Having served on several town advisory boards in the past 15 years, I can't even count how many times our volunteer work has been stymied by the inability to collaborate online between meetings. The Town has prohibited discussion through e-mail because of a valid concern that it would violate the open meetings law. However, the Town has also consistently turned a blind eye to the obvious solution of a publicly-archived listserve that could both facilitate intra-board communication and improve public access to our conversations.

TTA giving 20 pennies for your thoughts

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, March 3rd:

Do you use public transportation very often? If not, what would you encourage you to use it more? Wireless Internet? More comfortable buses?

The Triangle Transit Authority is asking those questions in a creative web survey currently available on its site at ridetta.org. Folks are given twenty “pennies” to spend on a variety of possible upgrades to buses as the agency makes replacements in its fleet.

Some of the items are pretty cheap. One-penny upgrades include things like expanding the front-of-bus rack to accommodate three bikes rather than the current two or to install 10 bike lockers per year at various stops around the Triangle.

Others are so expensive they will use up almost your entire “budget.”

For instance, putting a rear window on the back of the bus would cost 16 pennies and implementing Sunday service would require all of your money.

I take the bus every day to work in Raleigh at the Sierra Club so I devoted my greatest expenditure of six pennies to fuel the buses using B20 biodiesel.

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