Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the wild - IX

Ran into a few examples of QR codes being used on advertisements in airports. This seems like a pretty good place to use QR codes... More than likely quite a few folks have some time on their hands and so using QR codes might be a good opportunity to capture "eyeballs", entertain them and also provide information!

The first example, see below, is from Reagan National Airport (DCA).

So, by the baggage carousels was a series of large advertisements featuring a series of "Wonks" - Global, Political, Social, etc., each of which featured a QR code in the bottom right. OK, fairly intriguing, and conducive to using the included QR codes to find out what the "Wonkery" was all about!

The first problem involved scanning the QR code - it required climbing onto the baggage conveyor belt to get within 'snapshot distance' of the QR codes.... A first attempt failed though a second was successful. It turned out to be advertisements by American University in Washington, D.C., though the experience could have been improved by having the QR code resolve to a more mobile-friendly site...

The second example is from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia (ATL). Big Green Egg, a company selling "the Original American Designed Ceramic Cooker", had and advertisement with a QR code. It resolved to a MP4 video file that unfortunately could not be displayed on a Blackberry 9800 Torch. OK, so a clear fail, it clearly would have been better to use a format that would run on a wider range of smartphones...

Back to a print example. The 2011-2012 Criteria for Performance Excellence booklets put out by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program now have a QR code on the back. This takes you to their publication page, which doesn't look bad but is not a particularly mobile-friendly page...

And finally, some miscellaneous QR-related articles and news: has developed and put on the web its "QR Code Quality Standards Test v1.02", that can be used to test QR scanners: "... Displayed below are several QR test codes. These test codes will help you verify that your QR code scanner is able to properly interpret the data after it has been scanned in order to provide the end user with the desired experience or information using your QR reader. Not all tests are passable on every QR code scanning platform, so a perfect score should not be expected. Each platform has certain limitations and each test code attempts to deliberately showcase flaws so you can deal with them directly. This test should be helpful for application developers with their own quality assurance testing as they develop their QR reader application and release new updates. It will also assist critics (those writing app reviews or testing apps for approval in various online stores) by giving them a reliable evaluation tool for testing QR reader quality and reliability..." The company intends to put together a list of recommended QR readers.

A company is now selling Hortycodes to garden centers and nurseries... These are QR codes that have further information on the plants being sold, including "... the common name of the plant, the latin name and pronunciation, zone information, size dimensions, bloom time, sun and soil preferences and direct links to Wikipedia articles and Flickr images of the plant..."

Who’s Really Scanning All Those QR Codes? [Infographic]
Tribeca Film Festival engages attendees via QR code initiative

Blog entries referencing QR codes:
QR codes in the wild (9 links)
BB QR readers (20 links)
QR- and Tag-related entries (19 links)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Random picture

Source: NASA: Earth Day 2011

Nile River Delta at Night: One of the fascinating aspects of viewing Earth at night is how well the lights show the distribution of people. In this view of Egypt, the population is shown to be almost completely concentrated along the Nile Valley, just a small percentage of the country’s land area.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Great quotes

"We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law."

- President Obama, see Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law.” So Much for that Trial? Hmm, quite apart from the propriety of making this comment before a trial, the first part, "we don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate', is quite rich coming from a President who seems to believe he is exempt from this...

President Obama speaks on Manning and the rule of law says it much better...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Open Society?

Ah yes, Bahrain, an open society... and "a flourishing democracy" which has "demonstrated remarkable strides in political governance, including an impressive movement towards the inclusion of women in politics"... even if they do say so themselves... If there is a snake in this Garden of Eden, it surely must have slithered in from Iran!

Openness, freedom, democracy, the love of a people towards their rulers.... in a nutshell paradise, Bahrain. The proof? Why, the King very generously appointed some non family members to be cabinet ministers! And also allows the populace to vote for the 40-member Chamber of Deputies (note: the King appoints the 40-member Consultative Council, which can block any legislation that passes the Chamber of Deputies). What more could the hoi polloi want?

Hamad ibn Isa Al-Khalifah - King
Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa - Crown Prince, Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defense Forces.

Shaikh Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, Prime Minister.
Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa - Deputy Premier Minister.
Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa - Deputy Premier Minister.
Jawad Salem Al-Urayyedh - Deputy Premier Minister.
Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa - Deputy Prime Minister.
Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa - Minister of Defense Affairs.
Fahmi Al Jowder - Minister of Electricity & Water.
Abdulaziz Al-Fadhel - Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.
Shaikh Rashed bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa - Minister of Interior of Bahrain.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa - Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Hassan Abdulla Fakhro - Minister of Commerce & Industry.
Essam bin Abdullah Khalaf - Minister of Works.
Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa - Minister of Finance.
Majed Ali Al No'aimi - Minister of Education.
Majeed Mohsen Al Alawi - Minister of Labor.
Abdulhussain Mirza - Minister of Oil & Gas.
Faisal Al Hamar - Minister of Health.
Fatima Mohammed Al-Balooshi - Minister of Social Development.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa - Minister of Justice & Islamic Affairs.
Juma Ahmed Al Kaabi - Minister of Municipalities Affairs & Urban Planning
Nizar Sadeq Al-Baharna - Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Shaikh Ahmed bin Attiyatallah Al-Khalifa - Minister of Cabinet Affairs.
Sheikha May Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa - Minister of Culture and Information.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmad bin Salman Al Khalifa - Minister of the Royal Court
Shaikh Ali bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa - Minister of Royal Court Affairs.
Shaikh Ahmad bin Atiyatallah Al Khalifa - Minister of the Royal Court for Follow-Up Affairs

Bahrain (CIA World Factbook)
Bahrain (Fullbright Scholar Program)
Bahrain links (University of Oklahoma)
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain (Washington, D.C.)

Ed.Note: No guarantee that I got this 100% correct, it's hard to keep this lot straight! However, even if there's an error or two, it doesn't invalidate the point being made...

Random chart

Source: Saudi Arabia did not make up for Libyan oil

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Reading 'Donilon Op-Ed Courts Support for Nuclear Weapons Reduction' this blogger wondered re his sanity. The report stated that "... Donilon calls for further reduction of the role and number of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons (done along with Russia), the use of an international fuel bank to prevent the proliferation of nuclear energy, and bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force..." Eh? What is he talking about?

"Further" reductions in tactical nuclear weapons "along with Russia"? How exactly is this possible when there have been no agreements between the two countries that have included tactical nuclear weapons? For example, the New START only included strategic weapons... Doesn't "further" imply that there already have been efforts in this area?

And an "international fuel bank to prevent the proliferation of nuclear energy"? This doesn't make any sense whatsoever! The purpose of an international fuel bank would be the exact opposite i.e. a mechanism whereby other countries could (proliferate) reap the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy without learning to master the nuclear fuel cycle, and with the necessary nuclear fuel supplied and controlled by the international fuel bank (e.g. to prevent the diversion of fissile material to potential weapons programs).

Having a hard time believing that Donilon could be so far off the mark, this blogger went ahead and registered so as to read Donilon's Financial Times oped... Phew! What a relief! This is emphatically NOT what Donilon said (see a brief excerpt below for his actual words, register and go to the FT for the full piece). It turns out that this is just a case of Rebecca Kaplan of the National Journal mis-reporting what was actually said...

OK, so as a "White House staff reporter" she may not be an expert in nuclear issues, but how do you turn "... use a new international fuel bank to ensure that the use of nuclear energy does not lead to proliferation..." into "... use of an international fuel bank to prevent the proliferation of nuclear energy"?

Iran will not hinder plans for a nuclear-free world:

"Two years ago this month in Prague, President Barack Obama proposed steps to advance the goal of “a world without nuclear weapons”. In the 24 months since, we have laid the foundation for these next steps in arms control. But now new action is needed.... we will work to secure the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, and use a new international fuel bank to ensure that the use of nuclear energy does not lead to proliferation. We will also seek to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty into force, while pursuing a further treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons... Past agree­ments have only dealt with some categories of nuclear weapons, but we believe the next round must be as wide as possible, including both non-deployed and tactical nuclear weapons. We must address the issue of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, which have never been subject to numerical limits. To do this we seek to reduce the role and number of US tactical nuclear weapons, as Russia takes reciprocal measures to reduce its own tactical forces, and also to relocate these away from NATO’s borders..."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random charts

Source: Six Degrees of Separation, Twitter Style. Sysomos, the 'Business Intelligence for Social Media' company "... sliced and diced more than 5.2 billion Twitter friendships (the number of friend and follower relationships) to investigate the connectivity of the Twitter network. We discovered that Twitter is, in many, ways a network with only five degrees of separation..."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Technology hype

An article, 'Brazilian Police Debut 'RoboCop' Glasses Ahead of World Cup', reports that the Brazilian police are testing "RoboCop" glasses...

It is claimed that "... the glasses are fitted with a tiny camera that scans up to 400 faces per second. It cross-checks those images against a database of criminals and terrorists, and flashes a small red light inside the glasses if a match comes up. Then the officer knows whom to home in on and whom to leave alone... On its optimal settings, the camera can scan 400 faces a second at a distance of up to 50 yards away. But the settings can be changed to recognize faces at a slower pace, at up to 12 miles away. Agostini said the camera and database compare 46,000 biometric points on a person's face, so the chances of mistaken identity are slim. "To the naked eye, two people may appear identical, but with 46,000 points compared, the data will not be beaten," he said..."

A YouTube video report also shows the system.

Ah, the eternal search for the science/technology silver bullet!

So, no doubt some cool technology that will work under certain, limited conditions. However, it seems grotesquely hyped. Let's think through some of this... Scanning faces at the rate of 400 per second the glasses will flash a red light to let the wearer know that a match has been made. Tough for the wearer to react and recognize the "perp." OK, so perhaps it stops when it finds a match... good idea? What if there are 20 matches? And of course it's only as good as the database against which the matches are being made...

The above assumed that the details provided were correct, which itself seems like a stretch. A camera that size that can distinguish (at 150 feet) between two people that appear identical to 'the naked eye'? Bah! That can also recognize people (albeit at a slower rate) at a range of 12 miles? Yeah, right! Look at the video feed in the YouTube link (two pictures abstracted below), does it seem likely that the faces of the people in the distance can be reliably scanned (and they are not all that far away)?

OK, so the YouTube demo/report appears somewhat more realistic than the article would appear to be. Note that the policeman with the scanner is standing fairly still, and also appears to be scanning people who are not all that far away, and who are also being funneled using metal barriers... And that there's a lot of equipment in addition to the on-glasses component!

Certainly, this technology probably does work under these optimal conditions, but the article and reporting seem terribly hyped! Finally, given all the other cameras shown (fixed on the building, movable on the police van and police helicopter), why wouldn't you hook up the technology to those and identify and intercept any 'problems' further away from the venue, versus as they walk up to the check point?

No doubt once the "RoboCop" glasses flag an individual, they can be interrogated, using PCASS to definitively (ahem!) determine their truthfulness (cough!).

A last item, any report that ignores any mention of accuracy measures (e.g. the False Rejection Rate, or Type 1 Error, in which a valid test subject is incorrectly rejected, and the False Acceptance Rate or Type 2 Error in which the test subject is incorrectly accepted) is automatically suspect as far as this blogger is concerned....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Great quotes

"Let's say that she's 90 percent [recovered]... Well, we've had congressmen in Arizona who didn't even have a brain. So, it's not like you have to be as talented as she is to be good at it."

- Mike McNulty, Gabrielle Giffords' last campaign chairman, speculating on a Giffords run for Arizona's Senate seat.

"Not just political sense, but decency, dictates that if Gabby enters the Senate race, any Democrat should exit"

- Democrat Rodney Glassman, who is considering running for the seat "... as a placeholder for Giffords, vowing to turn over his contribution list and infrastructure to her the moment she entered the race..."

Presumably one can wish her the very best and hope for an eventual full recovery, while still being appalled by this: "... Although she was completely unaware of it, the wounded Gabby Giffords had become the most potent political force in the state..." Apparently many, from her staff to some of the state's Democratic political establishment, see this as a good opportunity to "leverage" the populace's good will and to use her as their "ticket" to the Senate seat... "Decency" indeed...

Random chart

Source: Democrats, Republicans Differ Widely on Taxing the Rich

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Random QR stuff

On his blog Dave Delaney observes that "... advertisers are increasingly using QR codes in bathroom advertising..." (example here) and suggests a humorous response - a QR code of his own design, which when scanned resolves as per the below:

Some recent articles on QR code uses:
Classic Salads QR Code Labels
Dubai to Give Every Building a QR Code
QR Codes in the Classroom & the Library, too!
High-Tech Wristbands Connect you to the Internet
Radisson Edwardian hotel group introduces QR codes in its restaurants (UK)

Some recent Microsoft Tag uses in advertising:
Tag Makes Car Shopping Easier
Covergirl Sweepstakes Gets Pretty with Tag

QR Planet, a media company "... focused on web projects and in particular the design and implementation of strategies for integrating physical and virtual worlds. ...", is running their '3rd International Contest Of QR-Tales', a little weird and not particularly QR-centric...

Scanbuy releases 3rd Mobile Barcode Trend Report showing continuing strong global adoption rates "... report will provide a comprehensive look at how actual users are engaged in mobile barcode scanning today, with data collected globally from January 1st, 2011 to March 31st, 2011..." Go here to register and download the PDF report...

QR Codes: 26 MUST-HAVE Facts [Data & Charts] observes that "... While QR codes are popping up with greater frequency on marketing materials, ads and other surfaces, much of the population still doesn’t know what they are or how to use them..." and then goes on to provide "... 26 QR code data points complete with charts and analysis..." to help understand where things stand (example chart below):

Blog entries referencing QR codes:
QR codes in the wild (8 links)
BB QR readers (20 links)
QR- and Tag-related entries (19 links)

In the wild - VIII

QR codes continue to be fairly rare, even though there is a lot more "buzz" about them on-line and in the news. Ninety-nine percent of the (few) examples that I come across are in print publications, and not all of them are particularly well executed.

One example of a failure is shown below, a Google print ad. The QR code was very 'dense' and also very small... and unreadable (I tried five different QR readers)...

The program at the theater had an advertisement with a QR code. This resolved to their on-line store... Certainly mobile-friendly, so reasonably well executed. However, one wonders how many people would be likely to actually use the occasion (e.g. at the intermission) to go on-line and do some shopping (versus, say, logging on using their desktop or tablet when they got back home - a choice between squinting at a small screen and trying to enter your credit card number vs. the greater real-estate of a desktop/tablet screen).

I guess it doesn't cost any more to include a small QR code in a print advertisement (i.e. to what is already a sunk cost) to catch the incremental one or two people who might use it, but it doesn't seem like a very value-added implementation!

Blog entries referencing QR codes:
QR codes in the wild
BB QR readers (20 links)
QR- and Tag-related entries (18 links)

Random charts

Source: Bond God Jeff Gundlach Presents His Latest Look At The Dismal State Of The US Economy Must see presentation, with over seventy charts...