Toyota demonstrates robot personal vehicles

I found the pictures of Toyota’s robot cars/personal vehicles very interesting. (‘Those whacky Japanese do it again’ was going to be my alternative headline, but that doesn’t give a great deal away about the content.) Okay, they may only travel at less than 1mph and look like a 1960’s sci-fi view of the future, but aren’t they great anyway?

I was less pleased to see all the negativity which always seems to come from our British academics as soon as anything tries anything different:

Dr Erel Avineri, of the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England in Bristol said: “The design of the introduced mobility devices is not completely adjusted to the specific needs of the elderly and the disabled.”

And at what point did Toyota say ‘This is a finished product. isn’t it great!’ It’s just a show, for christ’s sake…

“In general, introducing a new technology requires the passenger to change behaviour patterns that have served the older passenger for decades. Elderly users might not necessarily accept such innovation.

“This may be another barrier to the commercial success of such a vehicle.”

Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that Toyota may know slightly more about the commercial realities of selling vehicles than an academic from Bristol, so perhaps they’ve got that area covered?

“The concept of personal mobility behind these sorts of innovations is great but they beg a huge number of questions”: Dr David Gillingwater, Loughborough University

Yes, and that’s the point. IT’S AN EXPO!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Robotic pods take on car design

Uninstalling and removing iTunes from Windows XP

I recently downloaded and installed QuickTime. I couldn’t do much about it, but it installed QuickTime at the same time. I have no desire for keeping iTunes on my system, and certainly no reason to have an iPodHelper.exe process running all the time (since I don’t own an iPod). There were no options to uninstall iTunes – it was just not on the uninstall radar at all.

The solution was to download iTunes again, install it, and then uninstall it. This also installed QuickTime again, but uninstalling it only removed iTunes.

The last step was to go into the registry editor (run: regedit.exe), drill down to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/
Windows/CurrentVersion/Run and remove Qttask from starting up each time windows loaded. So now my system is not owned by Apple and I can watch quicktime movies on the rare occassions taht something entertaining comes along.

Removing qttask.exe and preventing it loading in Windows XP

Quicktime installs a very annoying process when you install it on Windows XP called qttask.exe that you may often see running in your taskbar and processlist. There is no way to stop it running from within quicktime’s preferences. Instead, you must:

  • Go to ‘Start’ -> ‘Run’
  • Type ‘regedit’ and click ‘OK’
  • Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Apple Computer, Inc.\QuickTime\ActiveX
  • Find the value QTTaskRunFlags, right click on it and change the value to 0
  • Delete the value pointing to qttask.exe

That should stop it running automatically when you start windows or when you open Quicktime.

If you are also stuck with iTunes then see this post about removing it after you’ve installed Quicktime

BBC NEWS | Technology | Britons growing ‘digitally obese’

“Attention grabbing pseudo-science headline”. It’s not so dramatic as it sounds – apparently we’re all carrying loads of data round on our PDA’s. So nothing to do with obesity at all.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Britons growing ‘digitally obese’: “Britons growing ‘digitally obese'”

Div, IFrame, Form: the CSS version of Scissor, Paper, Stone

An interesting browser (mostly, it has to be said, Internet Explorer) rendering issue has produced an slightly odd workaround. The problem arises from the rendering of form elements, specifically dropdowns, by the browser. These are registered as windows components and hence are rendered somewhat outside of the other HTML elements. (This is not true in Firefox and other Mozilla based browsers which have their own rendering. It is painfully true of the old Netscape 4 where all form elements show through, but there’s no fix for that at all.) The same rendering issue is also true of frames, iframes and embedded objects (albeit Flash can now be specified with a transparent background).

This gives the situation where a layer (in a div tag) over the top of a dropdown box leaves half the select box visible through the layer. E.g.

I’d like to be on top

The code for this follows:

I'd like to be on top

The solution I’ve found is that IFrames can be rendered on top of select tags. Not much use in itself, but ever since Internet Explorer 5.5 it’s been possible to give IFrames a Z-Index and render layers on top of them. So in the rendering scheme of things:

  • select beats div
  • iframe beats select
  • div beats select

Hence the ‘Scissors, paper, stone’ reference of the title. The order does seem somewhat circular

To solve the IE rendering problem we can insert an iframe between the div and the select with the same dimensions as the div tag over the top, as follows:

I’d like to be on top

With the following HTML code

I'd like to be on top

Gambling in the UK, have they never played Sim City?

With the prospect of legalised casino’s in the UK, the parallels between the
‘real’ world and Sim City seem ever closer. Personally, I don’t know what
the moral arguments before and against are, but if the government had ever
played Sim City but the legalisation of
gambling in that game always resulted in higher crime and, longer term, ran
an area downhill so that no other businesses wanted to move in.

The BBC’s take
on the merits of legalising gambling can be read here