Good Enough!

A blog about "good enough" things - for those who don't need, can't afford, or don't care about the "very best".

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"good enough" disaster response?

Yes, I'm in Florida but no, I wasn't in the area affected by Hurricane Charley. You can find plenty of other reports of damage, suffering, and the like. What I want to mention is the disaster response. Since Hurricane Andrew hit south of Miami, the various responding agencies from federal down to local, have done a lot more planning and learning, and it is evident in how they have responded to this disaster. They were there quickly, and were very prepared. They can't, of course, foresee everything, nor can they be everywhere to handle every issue, or to be on top of every dumb yahoo that wants to drive into a disaster zone and get in the way.

To so many, who are hurting, the response will never seem "good enough", but in fact it has been really good in an objective sense.

Monday, August 09, 2004

"Good Enough" transportation?

Can electric vehicles ever be "good enough" for daily transportation? I ask myself this whenever I'm considering how often I am driving to work, a solo driver in a car with an internal combustion engine. I know there are electric cars which can cover the distance to and from work, with some lunchtime errands thrown in - but is that only in flat terrain, not up and down hill like my trip to work? Can they keep up with the local traffic which averages 35 MPH the entire way (the speed limit is 35 MPH, but in my town at least most of the traffic is going 5-10 MPH over that)?

If I could find a car that would meet those criteria, then I'd still have to deal with the cost - most electric cars are somewhat expensive (I am not referring to the hybrids, which are priced close to the price of their gas-powered counterparts). I don't know why that is, whether it's low demand or something else. The problem is that with current technology you'd have to have two cars - one (the electric) for daily commuting, and another (gasoline, diesel, or hybrid) for distance travelling.For that to be "good enough" the electric has to be fairly inexpensive.

When I was learning to drive, and gasoline was 25 cents a gallon, Volkswagen Bugs sold inexpensively ($2995 I believe, it could have been slightly more). They got good gas mileage for the times ($2.00 drove me to work for at least a week, sometimes more). They were easy to work on, too (low maintenance cost). Those factors all combined to make the VW Bug one of the most popular vehicles for young people.

What we need now is an electric version of the VW Bug, accessible to first-time car buyers, with the same ease of maintenance. That would be "good enough" to start a change in commuter habits, I think. But - is it possible? That, I don't know.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

NOT good enough!

What's not good enough for me, lately, are the various calendaring things around me. Various pieces of software have various features, but of the few that I own, not one has all of the features I want to use. This, despite an IETF RFC describing calendar objects - RFC 2445, also known as iCalendar - which has been out for a number of years. Here are some of the currently frustrating examples of calendar "failures":

  • Palm Desktop- my wife and I use this at home to coordinate schedule information for ourselves. She's more of a planner than I, but I still participate. This product will NOT open, import nor export iCalendar information, instead continuing to support the earlier standard, vCalendar. If I find iCalendar files (usually an .ics extension) somewhere that I want to add to my personal calendar, I'm out of luck. Why a company so focused on personal information management hasn't done this is beyond me... and it's worse than that, because iCalendar is a superset of vCalendar, so managing to implement just the backward-compatible part of it would only mean that they have to check for "VERSION: 2.0" in their code instead of "VERSION: 1.0" to "get by".
  • Lotus Notes - can import .ics files from attachments but not open them directly. This is the choice for mail and calendaring where I work, and the same limitations as mentioned above apply - I'd like to be able to click on the .ics files and add schedule information. I believe Outlook can do it, but I don't have Outlook to try it out - Outlook Express doesn't do calendaring that I know of.
  • Event listings on the Web- far too many do not provide iCalendar versions of the event calendar, though this is improving, probably due to the support in Apple's iCal (and Microsoft's Outlook?) for the iCalendar standard.
  • Band touring schedules! Not only do many of them not supply iCalendar files, I've noticed that an awful lot of them don't include the time of the engagement. If I'm driving to a concert, say from West Palm Beach to Miami, not an unusual occurrence when I was living down there, I need to know when to arrive, wouldn't you say?

These things are bound to improve. There's work going on to improve iCalendar and related standards, and software publishers (except maybe for Palm!) look like they're improving their support for the standard. It would be nice if more of the Web publishing tools like FrontPage, ColdFusion, and the like, provided easy ways for people publishing event listings to provide the support too.