Where do we go from here?

It was a great morning for me in New Town. I let the dogs out at about 4am and the sky was clear, lots of stars, a little bit of a breeze and a brisk 22 degrees F. I actually had to wear my wind breaker to work this morning. It was just the wrong side of cool with the breeze. Most of the leaves are off the trees now. It was a beautiful fall, with some very vibrant colors this year. Going to be really nice for the next couple of days. Today's high is only 41 degrees, but tomorrow it gets up to 55. They are currently saying we may see a few sprinkles on Sunday, but no real rain over the next couple of weeks. The extended outlook shows Thanksgiving here to be bright, sunny and a high temperature of around 50.

St. Charles is getting into the Christmas spirit already. The sixth annual Christmas train event began over this past weekend. This train display will be at the Frenchtown Heritage Museum (1121 N. 2nd Street). This year's layout consists of a Victorian winter scene, a circus theme and a western scene. Call 636.946.8682 for more info. It is open Wed & Thur 12pm-3pm, Fri 12pm-3pm & 5pm-8pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-5pm and runs through Dec 21. Cost is $2 Adults and $1 Children.

Also, the St. Charles City Beautification Commission is sponsoring its 5th Annual Competition. The Commission is accepting applications through November 26, 2008. Applications can be obtained at City Hall, Foundry Art Centre or Convention & Visitor's Bureau on South Main. Applications can be mailed to Mayor's Office, 200 North Second, St. Charles, MO 63301, fax 636-949-3275, e-mail Patti.York@stcharlescitymo.gov.

Coming up on the Friday after Thanksgiving (Nov 28) is the official opening of the Christmas season in St. Charles called Christmas Traditions. The ceremony starts at 11:00 AM at the Gazebo in the 400 Block of S. Main Street in Kister Park. Santa is set to arrive by horse-drawn carriage to open the holiday shopping season. The website is at http://www.stcharleschristmas.com/ with details. Christmas Traditions runs every Wed (6:30pm-9pm) and Fri (6:30pm-9pm), Sat (11am-9pm), and Sun (noon-5pm) from Nov 28 through Dec 27.

Back to the transit issues, as I see them. I don't want you to think I'm an apologist for the Metro. I do think that it is a good idea. I think as far as it goes, they did the best with what they were given to work with. The first line was created in an existing railbed, which kept costs low. The first expansion, in Illinois since St. Charles and St. Louis voters had rejected earlier funding increases, was successful and doubled the line size. It currently stretches from Lambert Airport to Scott Air Force Base. The cross-county line, which basically goes from the Forest Park station, past Washington University, through Clayton and then south to Shrewsberry is where a LOT of the problems really crept in. And it may be nothing untoward actually happened, but it is the perception of something fishy that is driving the issue. When they made the plan, there was no concern about the hauling of dirt and debris through existing neighborhoods. This led to the first lawsuit of many that affected the timing and cost overruns this project had. Looking backwards, I think the other failure on the part of Metro, was the decision to act alone on the cross-county line expansion without any Federal funding. Anyway, long story short the project took longer than anticipated with a huge cost overrun. Lots of finger pointing going on and I'm sure enough blame to share amongst all of them. But one of the most telling aspects was the refusal to allow a state audit of Metro to proceed. All of the bad things were in front of a lot of people this past election cycle. Metro is going to have to convince people that they can manage their budget and spend time rebuilding their reputation.

What does the future hold? Much of my info is over 6 months old, because I haven't managed to keep up with because of work and family issues. Anyway from what I remember, they have several expansion possiblities, 2 of which are in the city. One possibility was an expansion route through north city into Florissant/Ferguson and another possiblity was an expansion into south city. If Prop M had passed, the St. Louis County Council wanted to see the next expansion to come off the Shrewsbury spur and head out towards Westport.

The objective for line expansion (in my opinion) should to hook up service to areas with employers and the neighborhoods where people can take advantage of riding metro to work. Many of the complaints about metro is that it just doesn't go anywhere near enough places. Well, you have to start somewhere. We managed to get what we have built for a lot less than many other locals with LRT (light rail transit) because we've tried to keep utilizing old railbeds. But we're running out of railbeds we can follow and sooner or later to make it succeed we're going to have to spend some serious money acquiring land.

Another thing to keep in mind is the weird way that the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) works. It used to be called the State Highway Department because that's all they took care of. Well that's all they still care about. MODOT doesn't take into account any transportation other than car or truck on highways. Unfortunately, there is the attitude in Missouri (don't know if it exists elsewhere) that the city folks don't care about rural folks and vice versa. What we end up seeing down in the state capitol is that the rural representatives consider mass transit as a city problem (St. Louis and Kansas City) and don't want to see state funds allocated for that purpose. Of course, MODOT has their own issues with running overbudget and losing their reputation. Enough so, that a year or two ago when we had the opportunity to raise taxes specifically for MODOT it was a decisively defeated. We are also seriously behind on maintenance on highways and bridges that we currently have, not to mention the new ones that they want to build.

Which gets me back to St. Charles. It's all about the infrastructure, baby. Employers don't just look at a map and pick a spot at random. They take many things into account before deciding where they will locate: taxes, land acquistion, how easy is it for customers to get there, and where is their potential employee pool. By building a local infrastructure, we can help ourselves. Not only can we help out existing businesses by providing access to potential customers, but we can also increase the ease and size of potential employees. Is it totally all about streetcars/trolleys? No, there has to be a plan to incorporate different transportation methods. The feeder system does work in most circumstances. For taxing purposes though, a fixed rail system does end up providing longer term taxing revenue by increasing the value of businesses along the route. And as pointed out by a friend in a comment to my previous post, trolleys/streetcars have a longer life and less maintenance cost than running buses.

Anyway, I appreciate hearing anything back. Really. Especially if I've gotten any of the facts incorrect. Thanks much!

IT News for today follows:

Critical update to Adobe AIR

The folks at Adobe have released a bulletin and update to Adobe AIR that they classify as critical. It fixes some of the same vulnerabilities announced earlier in Flash player. Time to update if you are using AIR. Details related to that CVE number are not yet available at nvd.nist.gov.

New Tool: NetWitness Investigator

A new freeware version of Netwitness' core product, NetWitness Investigator, was made available today. I was able to get access to it several days ago for a test run. It looks and feels much like Wireshark, but with a lot more capability.

For Symantec CEO, a legacy of growth

Company is poised to weather tough economy with diverse portfolio and strong customer base, analysts say.

Thompson to step down as Symantec CEO

Thompson, who has been at the helm since the late 1990s, will be succeeded by Symantec COO Enrique Salem in April 2009 when Thompson steps down. (Security Bytes blog)

Hacked dental school server compromises 300,000

A hacker used a vulnerability scanning tool to compromise a server at the University of Florida's College of Dentistry, compromising the sensitive information of patients.

Microsoft Security Assessment Tool - Free for Windows

The Microsoft Security Assessment Tool (MSAT) is a free tool designed to help organizations like yours assess weaknesses in your current IT security environment, reveal a prioritized list of issues, and help provide specific guidance to minimize those risks. MSAT is an easy, cost-effective way to begin strengthening the security of your computing environment and your business.

Vulnerability discovered in SSH specification

An error in the secure shell protocol (SSH) specification can in rare cases be exploited to reconstruct part of the plain text. The problem is reported to occur in CBC mode, in conjunction with specific error states

New HP Ethernet Module Aimed at Eliminating Network Switches

Virtual Connect Flex-10 Ethernet module can allocate the bandwidth of a 10Gb Ethernet network port across four network interface card (NIC) connections. HP also claimed that users deploying virtual machines and utilizing Flex-10 can cut their network equipment costs in half.

Yang to Step Down, Yahoo Searches for New CEO

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang will return to his former role at the company once a successor has been found.

HP to Extend Holiday Shutdown to Cut Costs

Hewlett-Packard, the world's top PC vendor, will give employees an additional week off later in 2009 in order to cut costs.

Symantec CEO John Thompson to Step Down Next Year

Symantec CEO John Thompson is stepping down as CEO next April. Thompson will be replaced by Symantec COO Enrique Salem.

PETA cooks up gory game in Cooking Mama protest

Animal Rights group PETA has designed a gory cooking videogame that’s definitely not for vegetarians, because it’s intended to shame the Cooking Mama videogame series which the group’s claimed is too meat focused.

Cybercrooks launch DDoS assault on anti-fraud site

Unidentified miscreants have launched a denial of service attack on a UK-based anti-fraud website.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 spec finalised

USB 3.0 is complete, the group of companies behind the project announced last night. The specification is now officially at version 1.0.

NASA images LA wildfires

NASA has released an image captured on 16 November by its Aqua satellite, showing the extent of the California wildfires which, the BBC estimates, had by yesterday destroyed a total of 800 homes and razed roughly 22,000 acres (8,900 hectares):

Billions of particles of anti-matter created in laboratory

Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear.

The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma “jet.”

MacBooks enter a golden new age of anti-piracy cruft: HDCP for all

It has come to pass that HDCP - High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (or, in this case, DisplayPort Content Protection) - is now built into the new MacBooks to protect iTunes Store media. Most of the content is not protected but it seems some newer videos are, which means you can’t play them over a non-HDCP compliant TV or monitor.

Google’s Voice Search Finally Hits The iPhone

Google’s search-by-voice application is finally available on the App Store. The application was originally announced on Friday, leading to widespread excitement that quickly turned to unrest as the application failed to make its debut on the App Store.

It’s Official. Facebook Is Running A Protection Racket On App Developers

Earlier today Facebook released details on its new Verified App Program for third party developers.

Sun Updates StarOffice 9 For Microsoft Office, Macintosh

With its increased compatibility, StarOffice represents a low-cost alternative for companies looking to save on their IT budgets.

Domino's Offers Pizza Through TiVo Service

TiVo subscribers can set up user names and passwords on Dominos.com, which will enable them to place orders through their TVs using only an account number.

Hurtful Google Docs Study Tied To Ex-Microsoft Employees

The ClickStream report suggests that a mere 1% of U.S. adult Internet users used Google Docs, while Microsoft Office is in use by more than 50% of adult U.S. Internet users.

Mobile TV Sees Little U.S. Interest

Adoption is at only 1% due to limited channels and poor networks, but a Jupiter Research reports shows interest in watching recorded content on mobile handsets is on the rise.

Google powers Safari's new antifraud warnings

Google Inc.'s blacklist powers the antiphishing tool Apple Inc. just added to Safari, links in the new warning indicate.

Citigroup's 52,000 layoffs will impact IT

Expect Citigroup to reach headcount reductions by selling off and outsourcing IT operations where it can, one analyst said

Adobe shows ARM-ready Flash 10; Spansion names Apple in suit

Adobe has pledged to optimize a version of Flash 10 for smartphones using ARM processors like those of the iPhone -- but iPhone itself isn't getting that upgrade. Also, flash memory maker Spansion has implicated Apple in lawsuits against Samsung that could block the import of iPods.

Apple releases fix for quirky MacBook glass trackpads

Apple has released a software update to address an issue where trackpad clicks would randomly go unrecognized on its latest notebook offerings: the MacBook (Late 2008) and MacBook Pro (Late 2008).

Apple flirting with another record quarter for Mac sales

After spending 25 hours counting sales of iPhones and Macs at Apple's US-based retail chain, investment bank Piper Jaffray said it believes the company this quarter could meet or beat last quarter's record 2.6 million Mac sales total while again selling more than 6 million iPhones

Best Buy Black Friday 2008 Ad

A lot of people have been anxiously waiting to see what kind of electronics deals stores were going to offer this year, and one of the most sought-after ads has finally been posted to the Internet. That’s right, the Best Buy Black Friday 2008 ad is available

Intel's 3.2GHz monster Nehalem roars onto the scene

Intel has officially launched Core i7, a.k.a. "Nehalem."

Internet, IP legislation gets promoted to House big leagues

In recognition of the growing importance and influence of Internet- and IP-related legislation, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers is taking over IP issues from the body's Courts subcommittee—and giving it discretion over antitrust issues (including net neutrality) instead.

Study reminds us why we're always fixing our parents' PCs

The American public has a lot of technology‚ and a lot of tech headaches. People have the most frequent problems with their Internet connections, cell phones, and home PCs, according to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Why Apple Won't Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone

Don't hold your breath waiting for the iPhone to support Adobe's Flash software: Apple's terms-of-service agreement prohibits it.

A Starter Guide to Roleplaying with Kids

In my first post for GeekDad I shared some thoughts about gaming with children. This generated many emails and comments which were both inspiring and encouraging. There are many people out there engaged in some old-school dice rolling with their kids. What I am learning through my own efforts is it is never too young to start.

Sci-Fi Writer Wears His Book on His Shirt
The image above may look like a meaningless block of jumbled up pixels to you, but it's actually a multimedia science fiction novel.

The novel's called Manga Man, and you'd access it by snapping a photo of the black-and-white block with your camera phone and a piece of software. Then, the software will direct your mobile browser to the novel.

Fujitsu Laboratories Develops Wrap Around Video for Drivers

Fujitsu technology creates all around view for car drivers to enhance awareness

Evidence For Vast Oceans On Ancient Mars

Data from the Mars Odyssey orbiter's Gamma Ray Spectrometer provides new evidence for the controversial idea that oceans once covered about a third of ancient Mars. Spacecraft images going back to Mariner 9 in the early 1970s and the Viking orbiters and landers later in the 1970s up to the current orbiters and rovers have showed widespread evidence for a watery past for Mars.

Could fertilising trees save the climate?

Should we "dope" trees with nitrogen fertiliser to engineer a cooler global climate? New findings suggest the nutrient could be a switch for determining how much solar energy forests in Earth's cooler regions reflect back out into space.

Ancient grave reveals 'Flintstone' nuclear family

A Stone Age massacre has provided evidence of the earliest known nuclear family. The evidence also suggests that, just like today, some early humans lived in blended families.

Man dies after eating extra-hot chilli peppers

The majority of us have, at some point, been dared to eat hot foods that have resulted in burned taste buds, fateful post-digestion trips to the bathroom and eventually, extreme anguish and generally feeling rather ill.

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