The tone around here has been rather glum lately. As a sop to the incessantly cheerful, or as an act of sheerest desperation — take your pick — today we have a small list of Things I Like.

  • Toll assessment via scanning device. The prototype for this is the Northeast's E-ZPass, though similar systems exist in other areas; Oklahoma has a system called PikePass. In the best of all possible worlds, all the toll systems in the US would be able to communicate with one another and bill drivers appropriately. This hasn't happened yet, but I think eventually it will. I don't use the toll roads around here enough to justify getting a PikePass, but if I knew I could use it in New Jersey and New York, or on the fifteen-buck west-to-east Pennsylvania Turnpike, it's an easy choice.
     
  • NOAA Weather Radio. The National Weather Service operates hundreds of VHF radio facilities throughout the country with continuously-updated weather reports. In Oklahoma City, the service is available at 162.40 MHz; other areas are served by transmitters on similar frequencies. In some states. the NOAA reports are rebroadcast over conventional AM or FM facilities for the benefit of motorists. The cost of a dedicated VHF receiver is nominal, and it beats the heck out of having to watch Guys With Hair point to stuff in front of a blue screen.
     
  • Oscillating air vents in automobiles. These have shown up in a Lexus or two, but the concept as we know it appeared way back in 1983, in Mazda's 626 sedan; I don't know how good a selling point it is, but it's been in every 626 ever since.
     
  • Relatively foolproof 35mm cameras. Anything I can use to make a decent photograph without having to jump through a whole series of technical hoops is a positive boon. No, they don't compare with large-format cameras; no, they don't cost a set of body parts, either.
     
  • Upcoming 42-volt automotive electrical systems. This will require a whole new class of batteries and whatnot, but the more stuff we cram into our vehicles, the more we bump up against the limitations of the 12-volt standard. I don't expect to see 42-volt Jacuzzis or anything, but audio and navigation systems should be early beneficiaries, and climate control might be a little bit less hit-or-miss out here on the Frosted and/or Flaming Plain.
     
  • Blogger. Well, no, I don't use it myself, and I'd rather not if at all possible, but then Blogger really isn't about tools and technology; it's about letting you and me have more of a voice in a world in which Big Media make most of the noise. Products like Greymatter and Movable Type are more elegant in their operation and offer more bells and whistles, but Blogger blazed the trail, and "blogger" with a lowercase B is almost certainly on its way to the O.E.D.
     
  • A couple of benefits to the single life. I hear snoring, and I know whose it is; and there's no dress code.

The Vent

#302
26 July 2002

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