Research is time consuming

Eugh. I finished my masters last year. Kind of. I submitted, and it was accepted on condition of a few changes. It was a research and design project, concluded with a dissertation.

I like knowing things. I enjoy reading up and learning new things. I enjoy imparting this knowledge. I don’t enjoy referencing. There are a lot of tools designed to make referencing easy. I write in latex, and made use of a combination of JabRef and Mendeley to aid my referencing. And it helped.

My biggest problem is writing a couple paragraphs, going over it, realising one of my statements may need a reference, and then not finding a nice academic reference for what I wrote. I know what I wrote is correct (well think at least), but to try find a reference for what I said, is difficult. And time consuming. I’ll do searches in Mendeley for keywords, else I start poring through Google Scholar search results. And usually I’ll find something I can use. But my word is it time consuming.

IMG_0845But I guess this is what makes peer-reviewed journals (and referencing) so important. Cause it prevents someone just saying something, and ensures accountability. As much as a pain as it is.

Which I think is a bit why I enjoy writing. Non-scientific articles that is. Opinion pieces, reviews etc. I can just write whatever I want. I can make statements and am not required to reference. I can link for more info if I want, but I’m not required to.

In conclusion: blogs are great.

Chromecast – first thoughts

A friend got his hands on a Chromecast recently, but due to some technical restrictions was unable to use it, as such he lent it to me to give it a twirl. A Chromecast has been on my wishlist for quite a while. I really like the idea of the product, but the I haven’t been able to warrant the price of buying one when I have a PS3 plugged into my TV which will accomplish most of the things I want a Chromecast for.

chroneSetup was a cinch. Plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port and a USB port on your TV and it’s set up its own wi-fi hotspot. I installed the Chromecast app on my Android phone and connected directly to the Chromecast. Then used that connection to get my Chromecast onto my home wi-fi, after that I was good to go, or so I thought.

First thing I wanted to do was play music from my phone onto the TV. Open my default music app (Samsung Music) and continually press the ‘cast’ button, but am unable to find any devices. Realise this isn’t a Chrome’cast’ icon but  a Samsung feature. Decide to try Google Music instead. Surely. First I had to re-enable it. Can’t find a ‘cast’ icon. Update Google Music, still can’t find a ‘cast’ icon.

Samsung Music App

Samsung Music App

After much Googling, still can’t find out why my ‘cast’ icon isn’t showing, but find out that it will anyway only allow you to play music in your Google Music cloud, of which mine is empty. Give up. Open Youtube app, works perfectly. Youtube takes a bit longer to open on the Chromecast itself than what I’d like, but after its loaded it works fairly well.

After a while I found the LocalCast app. Install that and am finally able to play music from my phone onto the Chromecast. However the free version has horrendous advert implementation. After a few songs a video ad would start playing on my phone, and at the end of the advert the music would stop casting to the TV, this happened on several occasions.

Give up and try Soundcloud app. This worked fairly well, however after listening for a while, when the next song would come on, it would first play on my phone speaker for 10s before jumping over to the Chromecast, slightly annoying. I eventually gave-up on the phone and started playing with Chrome on my PC.

chromeI installed the browser’s Chromecast extension and connected to my Chromecast. Amongst other things this lets you cast your browser tab to the TV. This worked very well. I ended up playing individual podcasts and Soundcloud from my browser to the TV.

I then installed the recommended Videostream extension. From this I managed to watch videos on my TV. This worked relatively well, although depending on the file format, I could watch flawless 720p video, or get buffering issues on a 360p clip. A bit annoying; maybe my wi-fi is partially to blame.

chromeOverall I love the product, the apps however need some work. A lot of work. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, maybe I should have tried out one of the paid for apps, but I really expected it to be better supported by Google application and extensions. I still don’t have a nice way to play music from my phone or computer in a nice library format.

In any case, I gave the Chromecast back. It’s still on my wishlist, and if there’s a massive sale I might buy one, but not at the R650 Takealot is asking.

Collision Prevention Assist Plus Inoperative

My first experience with Collision Prevention Assist was in my boss’ E-Class. It was a small red light on the dashboard which I figured out came on when I got too close to cars in front of me while driving.

Then I got an A-Class and learnt a bit more about it. It wasn’t so basic. If it thought you might not be paying attention it would beep loudly (shout in my terminology) at you to warn you that you might be about to crash.

Then I heard stories from a colleague who says he was driving on the highway, came up behind a car and all of a sudden his car automatically slammed on brakes. And this was also the fault of Collision Prevention Assistance Plus.

Now I’ve had it beep at me many times, and with my CLA it has also actually lightly engaged the brakes, but not once has it been in an instance of real danger. In my opinion. It happens most often when you’re driving behind a car and they turn off the road you’re on, slowing down considerably. I however maintain my speed because I’m driving straight. The car doesn’t know they’re turning and so warns you of your impending demise.

It is however an important safety feature, and the one time it saves you from an accident will be worth all the false-positives.

Not too unhappy am I then when I turn on my car a few weeks ago to be greeted by a yellow message saying “Collision Prevention Assist Plus Inoperative”. I check the manual and it says I must drive slowly and take the car to a dealer. This is 16h00 the day before I’m supposed to go on a 3,000km road trip. So what do I do? I find a dirt road, check the ABS and traction control are still functioning and decide to take my chances. As far as I can tell the car functioned exactly as normal besides the lack of this one function. And it was actually quite nice, because with it inoperative, it was unable to beep at me.

2015-09-09 08.16.50Eventually though, several weeks after it started warning me I took it in to the dealership. They kept it for the morning and told me they did a software update, now the message is gone, hopefully for good.

From what I’ve read on forums and discussed with other drivers, it’s not an altogether uncommon occurrence amongst CLA and GLA drivers. And in most cases a software update fixes the problem for good.

Discalimer: When I took the car in the service agent told me if they couldn’t fix it they would have to keep it overnight, as they can’t let me drive with one of the safety functions malfunctioning. Fair enough. What it does mean is that I (and you) should definitely not drive an additional 3,000 km before taking the car to be checked out.

SA Driver’s Licence Tests

This post gives a summary of the different Driver’s Licence Tests one can take in South Africa. What one is required to perform when taking the test. To do your driver’s licence you need to have a valid Learner’s Licence and appropriate vehicle for the test.

If you need more information on any of the below topics, all the instructions and guidelines are set out in excruciating detail on the eNATIS website, the documents will answer any question you can possibly have about the actual tests. See them all here.

All tests require a pre-trip inspection. These details vary per vehicle, but include such things as ensuring roadworthiness of vehicle, checking for obstructions and leaks as well as testing lights and other required electronics in the vehicle. A full list for the inspections is available for each vehicle in the earlier mentioned documents.

Motorbikes (A / A1)
There is no difference between the tests for an A or A1 licence. The entire test takes place in the yard and consists of a pre-trip inspection, a starting procedure and a skill test. You are required to supply a roadworthy motorcycle to do the test on; trikes, quads and sidecars are not permitted. Note: The bike you use will dictate what licence you get. If you use a 100cc motorbike you will only get an A1 licence, if you use an automatic (eg. scooters), that restriction will be on your licence.

The skills test comprises of the following.

  • Speed management (accelerating to 25kmph and then stopping at a fixed point)
  • Moving off/turn (drive in a straight line and turn left at marked area. Come to a stop before taking off again and turning a left corner again)
  • Lane change (accelerate in a straight line, do a lane change)
  • Incline start (from a stationary position, take off without rolling backwards)
  • Turning speed judgement (turn a corner riding through marked lines within a certain time)
  • Emergency stops/swerves (drive in a straight line, when a light comes on either stop or swerve depending on which light).

Light Motor Vehicles (B / EB)
For both B or EB the test consist of a pre-trip inspection, a yard and a road test. For the B test your vehicle must be a single vehicle with GVM less than 3.5 tons and be longer than 3m. For the EB you must either have an articulated motor vehicle with GCM less than 3.5 tons, or a combination of vehicles where the drawing vehicle has GVM less than 3.5 tons and the trailer is more than 750kg.

For the yard test, both tests consist of:

  • A turn (driving forward and round a corner)
  • An alley dock (reversing into a parking bay that is perpendicular to starting direction)
  • A parallel park (for EB the trailer is uncoupled)
  • An incline start (taking off from a stop on an incline)
  • Additionally an EB test requires a reverse in a straight line (reverse the vehicle while staying within the demarcated area)

The road test requires you to drive through a section of the town along preset routes. Their are certain minimum requirements for the route, but the driving is to test your ability to adhere to the K53 driving guidelines. Driving schools know these routes and the K53 guidelines and allow you to practise the routes before hand.

Heavy Motor Vehicles (C / C1 / EC / EC1)
For all codes the test consists of a pre-trip inspection, a yard and a road test. The test is for vehicles with GVM more than 3.5 tons, vehicles longer than 6m, vehicle combinations where the trailer GVM exceeds 350kg or an articulated vehicle GCM is more than 3.5 tons. Note: the licence you receive will be based on the vehicle you provide to test out on.

The yard test consists of:

  • A turn (driving forward and round a corner)
  • An alley dock (reversing into a parking bay that is perpendicular to starting direction)
  • An incline start (taking off from a stop on an incline)
  • A straight reverse (reverse the vehicle while staying within the demarcated area)

The road test is as for a Light Motor Vehicle (see above).

Getting a driver’s licence in South Africa is often said to be difficult. If you are a capable driver though and are able to follow instructions for half an hour you should have no problems passing the test.

Although expensive, it is often of great advantage to take lessons with an accredited driving school. They will teach you how to pass the test, allow you to practice the yard manoeuvres as well as drive you along the route the road test will take and critique you on your conformance to the K53 guidelines.