The very very first impression of the nüvi was favourable. The first thing you see when you open the box is the unit itself. It’s a slim and sleek device and fits neatly into your pocket. Furthermore – although I wouldn’t discover this until later – it attaches and detaches from its windscreen mount assembly quickly and easily. If you’ve ever pulled in at a motorway service station and been faced with the choice of trying to squeeze the TomTom and mount into your pocket or just leaving the damn thing in the car and hoping no one steals it, you’ll appreciate the Garmin’s design.
I bought a Garmin nüvi 360T satnav to replace my TomTom ONE v2 which met a somewhat unfortunate demise after I left it "temporarily" on top of my car’s engine, forgot about it and drove off. It wasn’t long before I noticed the funny smell from behind me but that was long enough to melt the unit’s plastic casing and irreparably destroy it.
The TomTom was a very good piece of kit. It was intuitive and easy to use yet boasted a number of cool advanced features such as plotting itineraries with multiple stops and planning routes from A to B via C even if you were operating the unit at D.
It did however have a number of niggling problems. The GPS receiver seemed to take forever to update, leading to common situations where I would be advised to take an exit I was already negotiating, and the Teleatlas maps were, to be frank, rubbish. You can forgive a brand new road not being recognised. When you’re travelling down a straight road that’s been open for several years and the satnav is telling you that you’re in a field and should take the next left, it gets a little frustrating.
I decided that the Garmin unit, which had received favourable reviews, couldn’t be worse. Although the TomTom is a nice product, if I’m cursing it every time I use it then a change is definitely on the cards. Especially if I’ve just incinerated the thing.
It isn’t fair to make a direct comparison between my old TomTom ONE and the nüvi 360T as the the comparison is not like-for-like. The 360T is more comparable to a TomTom Go 510, offering a hands-free mobile phone kit, an integrated FM traffic receiver and various other goodies. It also comes with maps from Navteq and carries full European coverage. My TomTom only covered the UK whereas the more expensive TomTom ONE Europe also boasts European maps from Navteq.
Keeping these differences in mind, I set out to see how the nüvi stacked up against the TomTom. For these posts I’ll be assuming that the reader has some familiarity with at least one of the products.
CSR have some machines running Vim 4 (over ten years old). I could deal with it complaining about unsupported features in my vimrc if all it did was whine. However for some reason it ignores the :quit command after reading a bogus config file. Killing Vim every time I forgot this soon got old.
This evening I spent an hour or two refactoring my vimrc so that it parses correctly in versions 4, 5, 6 and 7. I didn’t test Vim 3 because it’s so ancient it I couldn’t get it to compile. We’ll just assume it would choke on the file.
Idempotent is one of those words you often forget. The ones where you find yourself asking "what was that word which means X?" and then you remember and vow never to forget it again. Except of course that you do.
An operation is said to be idempotent if the result of applying it twice is the same as applying it only once. In mathematical terms we can say that a function f is idempotent if f(x) = f(f(x)). In other words if you apply the function to a variable and then apply the same function to the result, there is no further change.
I saw – and was reminded of – the word during my investigation into cfengine where the author describes its actions as idempotent. If a rule is supposed to ensure that your system is in a particular state and it already is in that state, running the rule should have no effect. In this context you can think of idempotency as the property of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
I remember the word (or at least I remember that I forgot it) from my student days. My stats professor had a particularly nice example of idempotency. He said that dropping a pencil was an idempotent operation and would demonstrate this by holding a pencil between his thumb and forefinger and dropping it on to his desk. "If I drop this pencil," he said, "it falls on to the desk. But if I drop it again," at this point he would again grip the pencil between his thumb and forefinger, taking care not to disturb its position, "it stays dropped." And he would let go.
I don’t remember very much about his course (something about matrices and Bayes Theory rings a bell) but I remember his pencil and the explanation of idempotency. Even when I forget the word.
I had another lecturer – I don’t even remember what course he covered – who had an anecdote about the very subject of remembering trivial sidenotes and forgetting the things you were supposed to be studying. He recalled how he forgot everything about his American Studies except the name of Abraham Lincoln’s dog.
I don’t remember what the course was, what his name was or what I was supposed to be learning. I don’t even remember the name of the dog. But I remember that he remembered it.
This post was to be a rant. The subject of my ire was to be Ruby, a programming language about which I know next to nothing. I know so little about Ruby that if you kicked down my door, put a gun to my head and demanded that I code up Hello World in Ruby, I’d ask you to pull the trigger there and then so I wouldn’t get blood all over my monitor when you finally ran out of patience. In any case I almost certainly don’t have the interpreter installed on any of my machines.
Given that I knew so little about this language, how could I be girding my loins for an epic moan at its expense?
After several years’ service, one of the CSR IS staff left the company on Tuesday. His manager praised him in a very eloquent speech and, after a hearty round of applause, he was given a card and a leaving gift … a Nintendo Wii.
At which point some wag piped up "Hmmph, that’s a Broadcom chip!"
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