Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Rich Man's Highway?

The Sunday Times Metro section has an article on the proposed PWV9 highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg. According to the somewhat breathless piece, the route has been revised to run further west than originally planned, between Sandton and Hartebeespoort, rather than parallel to the Ben Schoeman Highway.

I don't have enough information about the route to make a definite comment, but I do hope that this new highway doesn't become a road for the elites to zip between their golf estates and workplaces, leaving the poorer western parts of Pretoria and Centurion without a good transport link to the province's economic hub.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More powerful searching

Imagine if a search engine could infer meaning from the text it crawls. So a search for "negative review of MOVIE XYZ" would come up with negative reviews, even if the reviews themselves didn't contain the actual words "negative review". It's probably not a new idea.

Update 8 November 2005:
Google seems to have launched a movie review site. [Via Scripting News]. See this example.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Trucks on the R21 and minimum speed enforcement

The R21 is an important highway between Pretoria and the East Rand. It provides the only practical link between Johannesburg International Airport and the the Tshwane Metropolitan Area (Pretoria and Centurion), and is one of the only highways in Gauteng that remains relatively uncongested, even at rush hour.

There are minimum speed limit signs on many stretches that indicate that vehicles must travel faster than 60 km/h. There are also lane-use restriction signs that prohibit the use of the right-hand lane during rush hours by trucks (although when these signs are demolished in accidents, they don't seem to be replaced by the authorities).

However the minimum speed limits seem to be seldom enforced. Many trucks crawl along, sometimes at under the minimum speed limit. Today, a couple of Zimbabwe registered trucks (lots of trucks from that country use the highway for some reason) caused an enormous backup (and lots of hard braking) because they were traveling extremely slowly in the left-lane. There wasn't a traffic officer in sight.

The problems caused by trucks on the R21 need to be addressed by the authorities.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Greasemonkey - Change web pages to make them more user friendly

After reading about it over the last few months, I took the plunge and started using a clever extension for Mozilla Firefox called Greasemonkey, that can be downloaded from

After installing it on Firefox, one can download or write user scripts to add features to web pages, making them more usable.

I am using scripts I downloaded that make Gmail more user-friendly by adding "delete" and "mark read" buttons (instead of having to use a dropdown).

I also have a script that allows a form submit by pressing CTRL+ENTER in a textbox, and one that shows Amazon prices in Rand, in addition to Dollars. Another script converts URL text into hyperlinks automatically .

There are apparently also similar similar options for other browsers, but for now, I will stick to Greasemonkey. I have switched between IE and Mozilla/Firefox for the past few years as my default browser, but I finally have a reason to stick with Firefox.

Web developers are going to complain about users being able to mess with their site designs - with good reason - you could make some sites stop working if you install the wrong script - but uninstalling is easy. I would recommend Greasemonkey to experienced web surfers, who are looking for a way to improve their online experience.