Comments On Patterson Crossing

[Sent this morning to the planputnam mailing list.]

Aside from the oddity that Patterson will benefit while the project has the most impact on Kent, I think a mercantile development on that site has some promise. Unfortunately, I don’t think it does with the site plan as currently conceived.

Crossroads are natural places to conduct commerce. This is one such site. It is quite reasonable for Mr. Camarda to develop this as a commercial property. The problem here is that cars don’t shop; people do. The plan, like most developments since World War II, emphasizes use by cars rather than people. But, again, this is to be expected. His potential tenants don’t much care what kinds of buildings they inhabit, nor what impact they have on the local communities, only how fast they can transfer the goods from the warehouse to the shopping cart. Target, Lowe’s and CostCo, even Wal-Mart, have all adapted if asked to adapt, but why should they go out of their way if none suggest doing so?

The towns do not encourage development on a human scale. Their zoning codes are stuck trying to segregate uses, which may be fine for keeping the rendering plant from stinking up my bedroom, but is not good for life. Their traffic plans emphasize throughput, but forget that there are many ways to move between two points. Their parking requirements force us to bear the costs of “free parking” in higher costs to develop, higher rents, higher taxes, and higher property values. And while I love having more equity in my home, I’d like to at least have the option to walk to store.

The choices made by our elected officials, at all levels of government but particularly in town, dictate that this is the only shape a development at Patterson Crossing can take. We the electorate, failing to understand the effect of large lot sizes, of parking requirements, and of using single-use zoning to keep Those Uses out of our backyards, dictate that this is the only shape a development at Patterson Crossing can take.

Why would Mr. Camarda, or any other property owner, propose a mixed-use commercial and residential neighborhood between I-84 and Lake Carmel, connecting with the existing street network, and possibly improving the residents’ lot, when he knows that he’ll have to fight the residents and town hall to get it approved? It’s simpler just to follow the codes, do the things in the most cost-effective fashion, and wait.

So you don’t want Patterson Crossing? That’s great. I personally could give a rat’s ass about any of the big box retailers, but I would like to walk to a store every now and again — and sometimes do between Home Depot and Kohl’s, up a hill, pushing a stroller and wishing for a clue-by-four. I suggest that the site plan be redrawn, with thought given to multiple uses by people, not cars.

What’s an Access Provider to do?

Jim McGee points out Martin Geddes‘s pointing out a paper from 2003 by Andrew Lippman and David Reed on “Viral Communications.” Mr. Geddes says,

It means the end game is already pre-determined. Centralised telecom won’t exist in its current form. Don’t hold long-dated bonds in network operators or their equipment suppliers.

There’s plenty of time to make money between now and when the game ends. The question is how long? And what do we do afterward? At least since Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 188 U.S. 394 (1886), if not since the dawn of commerce, corporations have not wanted to wrap up shop once they no longer have a purpose.

So, what are we to do? Become AT&T?

Advertising on Children’s Sites

Stephen Dulaney points out PrimaryGames, a game site for children, and observes

They seem to be selling a range of banner ads, kind of cool to see a site that is so much fun being able to get revenue from web advertising.

I don’t approve of advertising to children. Jakob Nielsen observed that children click on advertisements more than adults, because they have not learned to distinguish them from the other things on the page. The Big Sister gets very upset when she clicks on something and it’s not part of the game at Playhouse Disney. They are clearly labeled as ads, and, to me, it’s apparent that they are, but to her they are confusing accidents. Disney is very lucky that she has not transferred her dislike from the accident to Disney products.

The advertisements on PrimaryGames are for the parents, not the children, include pop-ups, interstitials, slow the pages’ loading, and distract from the games. Are there any places on-line which are just for kids?

Memory Usage Pattern

I noticed interesting behavior while observing the effect of a memory cache tweak on Firefox.

First, the tweak. Firefox caches data on disk, but it also caches data in memory. The memory cache has a leak; it doesn’t deallocate in certain situations where it should. (This is a Gecko problem, and has been fixed, but not yet integrated into the Firefox release.) Over a period of time, Firefox will increase its memory allocation to accomodate this cache, thus starving other applications of memory. However, you can set the cache’s maximum size.

In about:config, the setting browser.cache.memory.enable is set to true. This is a good thing. You’ll want to add browser.cache.memory.capacity, an integer, with a value in kilobytes, such as 16000 (or approximately 16MB). To do this, right click, and select new, then integer. Name the new preference, click OK, then enter the value, click OK, and restart Firefox.

Now the interesting thing that I observed was that on minimizing an application, it deallocates memory in the working set that it is using for window management. This can be a lot of RAM. In one case Firefox dropped its working set size from 75MB to 800K. In another, Ouchlook dropped from 45MB to 2MB. The Java runtime for Q went from 20MB to 2MB, then increased to 9MB, and again to 15MB. Note that this does not deallocate all committed pages, so while they’ll remain in memory since they’re not in the working set they will be in the virtual memory pagefile.

Using the “show desktop” icon on the taskbar appears to not deallocate pages from the working set in the same way that the minimize feature does, which is puzzling. However, by minimizing the applications which you do not use, rather than switching between them, you can slightly improve the responsiveness of your system. I say slightly because of the page faults and disk I/O associated with McAfee’s scanning the pages as they are allocated or moved from the pagefile into the working set. You’ll need to experiment somewhat to see how it works for you. The trick is to keep the committed bytes in use as low as possible, preferably less than the amount of real RAM you have in your system. To see how you’re faring, on the performance tab in Task Manager (taskmgr.exe), there are four blocks of statistics in the lower half of the window, compare the total physical memory with the total commit charge.

Of course, there’s no substitute for spending the 150 bucks and getting another 256MB of RAM.

Town Haul

Last night I began watching the first episode of Town Haul. This should be interesting.

It’s not about doing over the living room of someone who has bad taste in color. This is about restoring historic buildings and instilling pride in a community, which can be done through designing new public spaces and social gathering spots. It makes people feel better about where they live, and that makes the people who work on this show feel amazing.

See also, Sullivan County, an interview with Genevieve Gorder, some before and after photographs, and these stories from Metropolis magazine.

The Finders

Anybody can search. I search for things all the time, but, as my wife can tell you, I do not often find them. Searching, without finding, can turn up all sorts of interesting trinkets, but is not successful if you don’t find what you were looking for. The quality of the search is determined by what is found.

Which is why I switched to Google way back when. I could search all day on AltaVista and not find a damn thing. And then, just feeling lucky, found it on Google.

So now Google wants to help me find things in video. So do others. It will be interesting to see how this develops. In searches for “suburbia,” Yahoo found images of suburbia, while Google found references to suburbia.

Meanwhile, I’d still like someone to index the comics.

Everyone Follow

Google suggests adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to links which you don’t want Google to follow. They suggest this in order to reduce the PageRank incentive for comment spam. If PageRank incentives were all there were to the problem, this might have a snowball’s chance in Hell, but they aren’t, so this won’t. The spambots, like more respectable advertisers, don’t care about PageRank, except as a means to a click. If the links remain, the clicks will come.

Public floggings are the answer, not mere technical impediments.

Big Things Come in Small Packages

Last week Apple introduced the Mac Mini, and already there’s an enthusiast’s site and speculation on using the Mini as a portable home theater. My own thoughts on the box have tended towards its use in the living room, not so far from the television and audio equipment, because it can fit in the cabinet, connects to the television, and supports wireless input and networking devices.

The television is, after all, only a video output device with an integrated radio frequency tuner.