• Severity One (cs)

    The simplest solution, though, and you can see at the same time how much traffic there is and what the weather is like. It also neatly deals with any security problems that might arise of providing access to a system that does not need to be connected to the public internet.

    Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best.

  • Melnorme (cs)

    What, no wooden table?

  • KattMan (cs)

    OMG down with oppression, let's hack the gibs... oh wait.. Jimmy Carter? OK, nothing to see here, moving on.

    All we need is some guy freaked out on drugs on flashing these cameras next.

  • Recursive Reclusive (unregistered) in reply to Severity One
    Severity One:
    The simplest solution, though, and you can see at the same time how much traffic there is and what the weather is like. It also neatly deals with any security problems that might arise of providing access to a system that does not need to be connected to the public internet.

    Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best.

    Streaming live video to communicate 2 numbers is NOT the simplest solution.

  • Jim (unregistered)
    Vickrey’s subway proposal didn’t gain a whole steam
    How do you cut a steam in half? Its kinda squishy.

    I swear the article editors leave a lot of mistakes on purpose to give us something to comment about.

  • Recursive Reclusive (unregistered)

    Btw, what do users with smartphones do?

  • Ana (unregistered) in reply to Severity One
    Severity One:
    It also neatly deals with any security problems that might arise of providing access to a system that does not need to be connected to the public internet.
    A little Photoshop and I'm paying NEGATIVE fares! How's that for security, huh?
  • TheSasquatch (unregistered)

    I assume the real WTF is the fact that people are driving around in Georgia?

  • RussJudge (cs)

    Wow. I just checked the actual website (http://peachpass.com), and the web cams are a live video stream, updating at about 15 frames a second or so.

    Maybe the intent was to double as a traffic cam? Of course, with the toll sign taking most of the image, you can't see much as far as the traffic's concerned.

    Boy, I'd love to see the decision-making process that came up with this.

  • Michael (unregistered)

    My former employer was an earthquake enthusiast -- professionally. So he naturally thought everyone worldwide would want to see real-time updates from his (digital) seismometer. The solution?

    Put a webcam looking at the pen that draws squiggly lines on the paper, of course.

    Should win an award for the world's dullest webcam, except nobody ever noticed it.

  • Meep (unregistered) in reply to Michael
    Michael:
    My former employer was an earthquake enthusiast -- professionally.

    No.

  • Jimmy Carter (unregistered) in reply to RussJudge
    RussJudge:
    Boy, I'd love to see the decision-making process that came up with this.

    Probably started with a bunch of web services and EJBs and real-time data processing, which resulted in cost overruns and technology failures and fired contractors. Millions of tax dollars later, new management decided they wanted the fastest, cheapest solution, so they decided to just stream a picture of the board.

  • Anon (unregistered)
    cynicaldev:
    I find it sad that people are whining that they get extra historical context to go with the picture that forms the meat of the free content they consume.

    I'm starting to think the real waste of time is looking at all these exceedingly negative and childish comments.

    ^this.

    I thought this was actually a classic WTF. It works, but boy is it stupid.

  • Mike (unregistered) in reply to Recursive Reclusive
    Recursive Reclusive:
    Streaming live video to communicate 2 numbers is NOT the simplest solution.
    It would seem not. But consider this: Georgia DOT has had a system in place for years to provide live video of highway traffic to the public. All they needed to do to implement this system was throw a couple more video cameras into the existing network and make a web page to select and display a given camera.

    Compare that with the complexity of making a web page to display two numbers, and it's obvious they chose the simplest solution.

  • EDN (unregistered)

    Funny thing is, this solution works.

  • Michael (unregistered)

    That sign is within a few miles of me. Funny thing is...most people here don't think the toll lanes help much at all, and it wasn't worth however many millions of dollars it took to build and maintain all that technology. Atlanta is desperate to solve its bad traffic problems.

  • RussJudge (cs) in reply to Jimmy Carter
    Jimmy Carter:
    RussJudge:
    Boy, I'd love to see the decision-making process that came up with this.

    Probably started with a bunch of web services and EJBs and real-time data processing, which resulted in cost overruns and technology failures and fired contractors. Millions of tax dollars later, new management decided they wanted the fastest, cheapest solution, so they decided to just stream a picture of the board.

    Yeah, sounds about right. I guess when you have to deal with committees, slapping a webcam in front of a sign and streaming the video back to the web server is the quickest and cheapest solution.

    I'd probably tell them that for $1000 I'll write an FTP script to download the the rates file from their Toll system mainframe to their ASP.NET web server. Write the script in 30 seconds, set a schedule to run every 15 seconds (which would need to download less than 100 bytes of data--there's more data transmission in the login request than in the actual data needed), add an automatic refresh on the web page, and be done with it. Of course, with all the committees it'd have to go through, it'd probably be 6 years before I could start on the project. Then I'd have to explain why I finished 6 months ahead of schedule.

  • Not Nagesh (unregistered)

    First to say frist! This is spam.

  • fa2k (unregistered)

    This has excellent security. There's no way to hack the website and change the prices or get payment info. They could keep the signs and backends on a separate network.

  • moogal (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Alargule (unregistered)

    Ah. Wooden Table 0.2

  • Hieronymus Howard (unregistered)

    Forgive my naivete, but wouldn't it still be a relatively simple job to add in a server-side script to trim down the images to just the rectangle containing the actual pricing information and label it on the website with text, saving about 95% of the image bandwidth?

  • rbt (unregistered)

    So now you can get the price while simultaneously seeing just how non-congested and free flowing the highway is.

    This is great from a marketing standpoint.

    40 cents per mile might be considered a high price without any additional information.

    40 cents per mile and you can see there would be little traffic in your way makes for a much better sales pitch.

    Hopefully this came out of showing the two methods and asking visitors if they would use the highway after seeing the price.

  • Unanimous Coward (unregistered) in reply to Hieronymus Howard
    Hieronymus Howard:
    Forgive my naivete, but wouldn't it still be a relatively simple job to add in a server-side script to trim down the images to just the rectangle containing the actual pricing information and label it on the website with text, saving about 95% of the image bandwidth?

    With all the tax-payer dollars they have to waste, you think they care about bandwidth costs?

  • Captcha:feugiat (unregistered)

    Maybe it's actually a very clever system disguised as stupidity.

    You see, they didn't want smartass home-intellectuals studying their variable tax systems and figuring out loopholes that would allow them to travel for cheap. That's why they only give you the toll rates in real-time, not a historical graph or simple previsions like "the toll rate is usually higher around 5-7 PM". Using a simple format like JSON or XML to send the rates would have made it too easy for people to automatically pull the data from their web every minute and make all them graphs and stuff. So instead they show the data through a LED display, film it and send it to a Flash stream player. It's just an obfuscation method. They should twist the numbers a bit and move them close together to make OCR more difficult, though.

  • Caffeine (unregistered) in reply to Michael
    Michael:
    My former employer was an earthquake enthusiast -- professionally. So he naturally thought everyone worldwide would want to see real-time updates from his (digital) seismometer. The solution?

    Put a webcam looking at the pen that draws squiggly lines on the paper, of course.

    Should win an award for the world's dullest webcam, except nobody ever noticed it.

    So if there is a significant earthquake does the camera shake?

    If it want midnight here i would complete the obvious circle and put up a community service page that pulls images from that stream and uses OCR to display the two numbers...

  • Troslan (unregistered) in reply to Hieronymus Howard
    Hieronymus Howard:
    Forgive my naivete, but wouldn't it still be a relatively simple job to add in a server-side script to trim down the images to just the rectangle containing the actual pricing information and label it on the website with text, saving about 95% of the image bandwidth?
    No it wouldn't.

    The whole point of the camera is that they only had to plug the feed into the page and done (I highly doubt they did it for the security, as some people say). Trimming the images would require decoding the video, trimming each frame, and encoding it again. That would mean doing some programming work. And if they were willing to do that, they would simply show the fares as a number on the page, as any non-WTF system would.

  • PiisAWheeL (cs)

    Looking at peachpass.com, I agree that it does give you a general idea of what the traffic looks like.

    fa2k:
    This has excellent security. There's no way to hack the website and change the prices or get payment info. They could keep the signs and backends on a separate network.
    You could just hack the sign. Or if you are really motivated and old skool, get up there with a rattlecan.
  • operagost (cs) in reply to TheSasquatch
    TheSasquatch:
    I assume the real WTF is the fact that people are driving around in Georgia?
    Yeah, they finally decided to upgrade from mules.

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU

  • Gary (unregistered)

    I love the $.03 and $.16 tolls, which work out to a cent per mile.

  • Malachite (unregistered) in reply to Jimmy Carter

    Probably was that.

    However it could have beem cleverly designed to convey some information that isn't so obvious: a sense of confidence that what you see on the website matches that on the road signs. Otherwise, it would be very easy to not be confident that the website is up-to-date with respect to the actual fee paid. There are many websites around that do not carry accurate up-to-date information.

    We can probably find out whether they are deliberately being this clever by finding out whether they've provided the original data as an alternative text for the image. I'm not holding my breath.

    Anyway, my point is that it's not just the information that counts; how it's presented matters too.

  • none (unregistered) in reply to Captcha:feugiat

    The whole point of the system is (supposed to be) to get people to travel at less-congested (i.e. cheaper) times.

  • operagost (cs) in reply to Captcha:feugiat
    Captcha:feugiat:
    Maybe it's actually a very clever system disguised as stupidity.

    You see, they didn't want smartass home-intellectuals studying their variable tax systems and figuring out loopholes that would allow them to travel for cheap. That's why they only give you the toll rates in real-time, not a historical graph or simple previsions like "the toll rate is usually higher around 5-7 PM". Using a simple format like JSON or XML to send the rates would have made it too easy for people to automatically pull the data from their web every minute and make all them graphs and stuff. So instead they show the data through a LED display, film it and send it to a Flash stream player. It's just an obfuscation method. They should twist the numbers a bit and move them close together to make OCR more difficult, though.

    You could be right.

    They already got the public to buy into this system under the false pretense of alleviating congestion. What they really achieved was graft for the contractors and unions. If they actually wanted to improve the traffic situation, they would provide the data as you suggest. Even better, they would have a system that could SMS the current rates to you or even a smartphone app. These aren't free services, but neither is a stupid webcam.

    This is similar to how the Idiot in Chief raised tobacco taxes to pay for CHIP. You can either fund a program or nudge the public; you can't do both. So a few years down the road, as smoking continues its decline, we'll hear lamentations from our oppressors about how "unanticipated funding shortages" are keeping kids from getting their immunizations.

  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to rbt
    rbt:
    This is great from a marketing standpoint.

    40 cents per mile might be considered a high price without any additional information.

    40 cents per mile and you can see there would be little traffic in your way makes for a much better sales pitch.

    Except that it's the opposite. The price will be higher when traffic is congested and lower when there is little traffic.

    It's supply and demand. The price goes up when there's less capacity (i.e. congestion) and more demand (i.e. rush hour). So really, you'll pay more for a shitty service and less for smooth driving.

  • SI (unregistered)

    Gives another meaning to the term "air gap"

  • BrianJPugh (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • OldCoder (unregistered) in reply to EDN
    EDN:
    Funny thing is, this solution works.
    Not for me, it doesn't. All I get is a grey rectangle with an animated flashy thing that says "Loading EarthCam Flash Viewer".

    At no time do I actually see a picture of anything relevant.

  • PiisAWheeL (cs) in reply to BrianJPugh
    BrianJPugh:
    Sounds like they are taking a page from the Trojan Room coffee pot: http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Trojan_Room_coffee_pot

    For the spam filter, the idea was to put a camera pointing at a coffee pot in another room and stream photos to your desktop so you can check if your coffee run will result in coffee in your cup.

    Ahh necessity... The mother of invention. In this case, youporn!

  • rm5248 (unregistered) in reply to Michael
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Anketam (cs)

    I wonder if they have app for viewing the signs :P

  • Geoff (unregistered) in reply to Recursive Reclusive

    Not its not the simplest in terms of the over all technology required but it might well be in terms of "what can you put together entirely from off the shelf parts".

    If some contractors installed the system and left, with not documentation of the interfaces or anything this might have been the simplest thing to do that did not require any domain knowledge.

  • Robert Hanson (unregistered)

    Here in Minneapolis, the minimum express lane rate is $0.25, even at 9:30 at night when the roads are wide open. How does Georgia possibly make money charging people $0.03 to use the express lane? It's got to cost more than that to execute a transaction, when you factor in the cost of the infrastructure needed to provide the system (including the cost of the camera pointed at the sign!)

  • the beholder (unregistered) in reply to BrianJPugh
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Vroooom (unregistered) in reply to the beholder
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Justin (unregistered) in reply to Hieronymus Howard

    How about we do some OCR processing on the feed and serve up the numbers as JSON!

  • Chelloveck (unregistered) in reply to SI
    SI:
    Gives another meaning to the term "air gap"

    No, I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same meaning of "air gap". Unless you think it means something different than everyone else does.

  • ConnerLabs (unregistered) in reply to Captcha:feugiat

    Erm, that's the whole point of the system, they want people to travel at the cheap times.

    Captcha: odio: Video killed the odio star.

  • Joe (unregistered) in reply to none
    none:
    The *whole* point of the system is (supposed to be) to get people to travel at less-congested (i.e. cheaper) times.

    How does telling them "it costs $X to travel right now" convince them "Hmm, I should hang out here for a while longer so I don't catch the congestion tax"

    A better system would be to post how long until the next price increase/decrease.

    And, of course, to lie to some fraction of them so that there isn't a traffic jam right when the rates change.

  • douglas (unregistered) in reply to Anon
    Anon:
    rbt:
    This is great from a marketing standpoint.

    40 cents per mile might be considered a high price without any additional information.

    40 cents per mile and you can see there would be little traffic in your way makes for a much better sales pitch.

    Except that it's the opposite. The price will be higher when traffic is congested and lower when there is little traffic.

    It's supply and demand. The price goes up when there's less capacity (i.e. congestion) and more demand (i.e. rush hour). So really, you'll pay more for a shitty service and less for smooth driving.

    Ah, but when there's little traffic you can get smooth driving by staying out of the express lane and not paying anything. The proper measure for what you're paying for is the difference between traffic in the express lane and traffic on the rest of the highway, so if the highway is packed but the express lane is clear you're getting a huge increase in speed by using the express lane.

    A high rush hour price both ensures that the express lane remains fast despite congestion because most people aren't willing to pay it and is justified by the higher difference in speed between the express lane and the other lanes. In theory, anyway; I don't know how well it's working out in practice.

  • ¯\(°_o)/¯ I DUNNO LOL (unregistered) in reply to Robert Hanson
    Robert Hanson:
    Here in Minneapolis, the minimum express lane rate is $0.25, even at 9:30 at night when the roads are wide open. How does Georgia possibly make money charging people $0.03 to use the express lane? It's got to cost more than that to execute a transaction, when you factor in the cost of the infrastructure needed to provide the system (including the cost of the camera pointed at the sign!)
    Because these are toll tag only. Toll tag = we already have your money and don't have to go through a third party to charge you ten cents. Once you reach a minimum amount (like $10), you get automatically charged for a refill amount (like $20). I hardly use the toll roads here in the Austin area, but once I went down below the $10 level, cha-ching, now instead of my starter $20, I have like $27 in there that they're (hopefully) making money on from the float.

    At least that sign is probably made of wood.

    They've also got a real hard-on for adding those "managed lanes" here in Austin. (They haven't yet, but they really want to.) Because they listened to a bunch of idiots back in the 50s, 60s and 70s who kept turning down highway expansion plans, we have a bunch of undersized highways in areas that are now way too expensive to condemn (one runs through what has gentrified into a high-rent district), and so overloaded that it'll be a nightmare to rebuild them even with modern construction techniques that don't waste 50% of the width in slopes. (And then there are the cemeteries along two of the most overloaded roads.)

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