Archive for the ‘Websites’ Category

Google Maps adds Traffic Information

trafficmapGoogle Maps has just activated real time traffic information to its maps. Information is taken from Intelematics, which you may recognise as the company behind the SUNA live GPS system that provides real time traffic information to GPS units through a discrete FM radio signal.

The breadth of coverage around Melbourne is staggering and Google plans to further expand traffic information by transmitting anonymous speed readings from those using the mobile version of the Google Maps Application.

traffichistoryAnother smart feature of Google’s traffic information is being able to look at historical information.  Say you want directions from Clifton Hill to St. Kilda around 5PM on a Saturday. The route usually would take you down Punt Road but potentially if historical information is smart it would tell you that Saturday afternoons along Hoddle Street are a nightmare because of footy traffic. Google has perhaps seen the success of it’s Flu Trends product in predicting likely occurance of traffic.

It’s amazing to think it that only three years ago, Google added the ability to actually look up an address on its maps and now we have real time traffic data.

Google Maps via [Official Google Australia Blog]

Beware of Mullets


Club Wah caught this typo on The Age’s website last week.  Not only was it in the by-line but the error was also repeated in the article.

CTCV tags appear over Melbourne’s world-renowned graffiti

"CTCV" tags drawn over more skilled works

One of the things I love about Melbourne are the amazing graffiti pieces we get. Apparently, we’re known internationally for it, in certain circles. We have a thriving and skilled population of graffiti artists – even under draconian laws that, for example, make carrying a can of spraypaint illegal (giving the police a pre-packaged excuse to stop suspected vandals that merely “look the part”, and haven’t actually been seen doing anything traditionally illegal).

The ‘Authorities’ choose to interpret graffiti as an eyesore. This has led to ridiculous crackdowns in the past, and masses of public money blithely wasted by our state and local governments on “graffiti clean-ups”, such as during the Commonwealth Games.

In the not-so-distant past, a police graffiti/transit squad was rumoured to have engaged in “tagging” of graffiti pieces. Graffiti artists would report catching police “slashing” graffiti pieces (painting over the top of them); I found one tale on an internet forum from a guy who says he left a can of spraypaint behind while being chased by the police – and later found that his can had been used to “slash” a range of pieces.

Tags began appearing, slathered across much better pieces, reading “CTSA” – rumoured to stand for “Cops Trashing Shit Art” or “Cops That Slash Art”.

My view of graffiti is obviously more positive than the “legal” view. I think you need to put it in some kind of perspective. Consider this: We’re bombarded with advertising wherever we go. A billboard is a genuine eyesore. We put up with lists of sponsors and corporate logos on sporting, artistic, and museum events, because we want their money. But they look disgusting. Most of the time, advertisers are outright insulting us; if they’re not insulting our bodies, they’re insulting our intelligence.

Graffiti, on the other hand, entertains. It’s not something put up there to make money; in fact, graffiti artists lose money on it, and sometimes carry it out at great personal (and legal) risk. Sure, it’s about prestige and showing off, and the worst of it – the texta tagging – can almost sink to the level of a company logo… not quite, but almost ;). But it’s often genuinely impressive. If not for the skill involved, then for the “How the heck did they get up there??” factor. Sometimes, there’s even a political point to it – while companies use slick advertising to gloss over their use of overseas sweatshops and other crimes against humanity, graffiti will occasionally bring you comments like “Stop Logging Our Water Catchments!”, “No Jobs On A Dead Planet” (in massive letters on a giant smokestack), and the bitingly ironic slogan “Shut Up And Shop“. And at least it’s your fellow Melbournians trying to grab your attention, just because they think your attention is valuable – not because they want to hustle you.

In around March of this year, Melbourne commuters began noticing a new tag – “CTCV” – used to “slash” a range of pieces. Mostly along train lines, and always over much better pieces.

CTCV tags along Melbourne's train lines.

CTCV tags along Melbourne's train lines.

A friend of mine pointed out that “CTCV” isn’t too far from “CTSA”, and apparently he wasn’t the only one to draw this conclusion. Do an Australia-centred google search for the initials, and you’ll find lots of forum speculation along similar lines by those in graffiti culture.

Is it the work of “gronks” – less talented kids trying to annoy the older graff artists and make a mindless mark of their own? Or could the “C” at the start of “CTCV” stand for “Cops” – as it has been rumoured to in the past? “CTCV” – “Cops That Catch Vandals”? “Cops Trashing Crap Vandalism”?

We’ll probably never know, unless they’re caught in the act. And then, the only people catching them would be graffiti artists themselves – reliable enough eyewitnesses if you ask me, but I doubt the “authorities” would concur.

Melbourne: Flu Capital of Australia

googlefluMelbourne has been called the cultural capital, the sports capital and the coffee capital of Australia. Well, now we can add another title to Melbourne’s fame, the flu capital.  I’m unsure as to what is worse,  trying to avoid people who have the flu in order to prevent getting sick or trying to avoid people who have the flu in order to not here another lame joke about pig flu. Either way, we are winning in the amount of H1N1 flu and coming a close second for “regular” flu cases developed this year.

In an incredible sense of bad (or possibly good) timing, Google has released “Google Flu Trends” for Australia. At first glance, it seems like another April fools prank like Gball but in fact is an interactive graph mapping flu data from user’s flu related searches on Google. Google correlated the amount of people searching for flu related topics and actual flu data from the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory and found that the two were very similar as seen in the graph. historical-au-new1Unfortunately, medical data from the VIDR is not real-time but Google’s search results are, thus making for “Flu Trends” to accurate predict the frequency of flu and the state you reside in.

Looking at Victoria’s chart, it seems that we are steadily increasing and are not close to reaching the peak. By previous year’s assessments, the flu season will slowly die down by the end of September. It’s also interesting to note that while NSW has a bigger population than VIC, it’s flu rate seems to be less. I wonder if that comes down to population density or perhaps less crowded public transportation. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of small bars open until late at night. There are probably a lot of factors but it’s interesting to see the data being graphed. With better location based tracking by Google in the future, we might be able to break down search results to suburbs. Imagine looking to buy a house and being provided with a flu rank number for the suburb.

Google Flu Trends Australia [via Official Google Australia Blog]

Follow Friday: Melbourne Places

I’ve really warmed up to Twitter and one of the great events on the site is #followfriday, where users recommend interesting people to follow. Well, in the spirit of  “Follow Friday”,  how bout I recommend a great Melbourne site every Friday?  They will not necessarily be new sites but currently noteworthy to Melburnians.

This week’s cool site is Melbourne Places.


Quite literally it’s a blog about different random places in Melbourne. Most of the entries cover very unique locations that aren’t usually covered well by blogs, for example:  Fitzroy Nursery and Gelobar in Brunswick East. Each entry is accompanied by many photos depicting what you would see if you walked through the place.

Melbourne Places

Google Maps Typography

alpha-map670Rhett Dashwood sent me a very cool Google Maps mashup he made of typography around Victoria.  Rhett spent time between October 2008 and April 2009, clicking through Victoria searching for places that look like letters. I recognise J and O but it’s pretty amazing that there are that many places in Victoria shaped like a letter.

Google Maps Typography


A reminder to all, if you want to send me an email, you can send it to image or follow me on Twitter.

Bushfire Disaster, 84 and climbing

It is one thing suffering through a really hot day but another when a bushfire devastate an entire region of Victoria. At the latest report, there has been 84 accounted deaths but there could still be more as police and fire crew continue their work in the region.

The bushfire has burnt the entire township of Marysville, Kingslake and surrounding areas, destroying more than 312,000 hectares.

Many residents were trapped in the region because the bushfire surrounded the roads in and out of the area. Some residents perished while trying the escape the fire in their vehicles. Victims included Brian Naylor, a veteran news reader, and his wife Moiree.

People concerned about friends and relatives known to be in the affected region, should call 1800 727 077.

Victorian Bushfire Relief Fund is now accepting donations through either the NAB or Red Cross.

News Links
The Age “Death toll …”

The Herald Sun “Witness gallery

Herald Sun “Bushfire figures

ABC’s “Bushfire Emergency

Children of conflict zone jump aboard for Skateistan

But in war-ravaged Kabul, she found that aside from security concerns about a Westerner being out on the streets, its streets were too badly bomb-damaged to lend themselves to gliding along on a skateboard. She had to be content with riding within the security confines of the compound where she lived.

I read with amazement and awe as the magnitude of Sharna Nolan’s achievements slowly transforms the war-ravaged city of Kabul. The humble little four-wheeled mode of transportation – often ridiculed and derided by local governments worldwide for defacing public property and the so called ‘troublesome’ sub-culture that skateboarders bring along – is giving Afghan kids something to look forward to every day. With the internet at our fingertips, few things truely amaze us. Likewise, I don’t find myself easily shocked at cheap attempts to impress, but Sharna’s Skateistan project truly warmed and touched my heart.

The first thing I did was to Google Skateistan, and I found myself compelled to help in any way I could.

I found the donation page and donated $5 to the project via Paypal. It’s not much, but every little bit counts. $5 in Afghanistan’s probably the equivalent of a weekly wage.

What a brave woman. From the streets of Fitzroy to the bomb craters of Kabul. This lady and her partners deserve all the help and support she needs.

This truly is hope working its magic.

Skateistan’s website:

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The Student Housing Action Co-operative!

Because landlords, real estate agencies and governments have worked to increase rents in Melbourne and make it as hard as possible for those on low incomes (such as students) to live, and because universities (such as U of Melbourne) have worked to bleed cash from as many international students as possible, while tossing them to the mercy of predatory landlords in the surrounding area, a group of students have taken over the vacant premises at 272-8 Faraday Street in Carlton and turned it into a student-run co-operative housing project.

This is an abandoned building owned by the university, that has been sitting there – empty – since the counseling service was moved out in 2005. The occupying students have apparently brought the building up to health and safety standards and intend to turn it into a permanent student housing co-operative. They run free vegan food nights on Mondays and barbeques on Friday evenings. They’re trying to set up skills sharing workshops, so if you have some useful skills/training to impart and are willing to do some volunteer training, they’ll probably be happy to meet you.

You can find them online here:
Student Housing Action Co-operative blog
SHAC Petition to “University of Melbourne Council”

Not tomorrow, but the next Friday, the University has told them to leave the otherwise empty property. So Friday the 28th November will be a rally from 12-2pm. If you can get down there and want to show your support for this sort of initiative, i’ll probably see you there. (Video cameras might also be an excellent thing to bring along if you have one, in case the University tries to waste the police’s time by calling them in to restore the property to it’s empty, useless state.)

The Rat Race ver. Melbourne


While perusing the Docklands website for a great place to eat, I chanced upon a great urban competition that will appeal to the adventurers-at-heart. Called the Rat Race, it’s the first time the race has left Britain and competitors wil, over two days, challenge themselves both physically and mentally. As a thrill-seeker and and outdoor junkie myself, I was thrilled. From the website:

Coming to Australia for the first time, the Rat Race sees competitors running, biking, climbing, kayaking, abseiling and navigating their way around the city in a course that is only revealed hours before they begin. Previous events have taken place in London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh, and 2008 sees the inaugural Melbourne event.


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