Texas’s Speed Zoning Procedure

For my ENCE 7392 (Urban Transportation Planning) class I made a flowchart of the current procedure used for speed zoning in Texas. This chart has three sections:

  1. A convoluted chart that shows how arbitrary and loopholed Texas’s speed zoning practice really is.
  2. A simple chart that shows a “best practice” that is free of political interference:
  3. Reality (see the feedback loop?):

Impressed with Dallas

Dallas has a web site where you can submit nonemergency requests such as animal control requests, potholes, zoning violations, etc.

About a year ago I used this site to submit a few requests. If I remember correctly, they were about graffiti, a pothole or two, and a missing street sign. I never got a response, and the missing street sign still has not been addressed.

Fast forward to early September, 2004. I reported two potholes and some signage problems (nonworking traffic signal head and badly faded signs). Amazingly, the potholes got fixed right away. And more amazingly, I got emails and calls back on almost all of my requests!

Wow, Dallas seems to be doing its job and pro-actively responding to customers! Maybe this city isn’t so bad after all.

Please don’t misread this as saying that everything is hunky dory. Dallas has some severe challenges, including a crime problem that’s out of control and an tight fiscal situation with little easy revenue enhancement opportunities. But, hey, this one thing is a silver lining. Even an imperfect but responsive city government sure beats no response.

Outlook’s Search Folders

I am trying something new with Outlook at work.

Before Friday I had a ton of rules that would sort messages into folders. Emails from coworkers got sorted into folders representing major groups in my workplace. Emails on certain listservs got shoved into listserv boxes.

This approach isn’t perfect. If a coworker sent a message to a listserv, Outlook puts a copy of message in both the coworker’s folder and a listserv folder. Physically dividing up the messages sometimes makes searches more cumbersome. It is sometimes difficult to track my responses to messages; I have to rifle through my Sent Items folder.

Now I have turned off most Outlook rules, and I am instead trying out Outlook’s search folders. Search folders “filter” messages based on a criteria I choose. For example, I have a search folder just for the ITS Systems group. This search folder provides an alternate view into my email, but it only includes emails to or from coworkers I have defined as ITS Systems Group workers.

Because this is a “filter”, there are no duplicate copies of messages. This search folder is simply an alternate view into my message store. If a message shows up as unread in the inbox, it will also show up as unread in the corresponding search folder. If I “read” the message in the search folder, it gets marked as read in the inbox. If I delete the message from my inbox, it no longer shows up in the search folder.

I no longer have to worry where messages are stored. Most messages now just end up in my Inbox folder. (I kept the message-moving rules for certain listservs such as SMU’s bulk announcements spam.)

Since this view shows all messages “to” and “from” identified people, I am able to easily trace discussions on a particular topic. Thanks to this enhanced grouping, Outlook’s nifty “sort by conversation” feature is very useful.

It is possible to create search folders whose criteria are about as refined as the Advanced Search feature. This could open up some interesting possibilities.

I have a search folder just for messages flagged for follow-up.

This search folders feature isn’t perfect. It is not possible to nest search folders. Outlook only sorts the folders alphabetically. There is no “catch all” search folder; messages not represented by a search folders just show up in the Inbox.

I’m committing myself to using this feature for at least a few weeks.

Linksys Drivers and Web Folders

I have to take a work break to whine about two things.

First, the drivers for Linksys‘s WMP11 802.11b PCI wireless cards suck. I was banging my head against the desk at a client’s house for upward of half an hour with this card. I went to the client’s main computer and checked the web for solutions. I stumbled across a discussion forum thread at www.dslreports.com with the solution. The WMP11’s drivers added a registry key that loaded the card’s main .SYS driver from a CD! This means that unless you had the installation CD in the drive at reboot, the card was not going to work. Hacking the registry fixed this problem. Whew! I was afraid the client’s Windows XP install was corrupted!

Second, Microsoft‘s Web Folders technology is way too fragile, and when it breaks it is nearly impossible to get it working again.

In Windows XP, Web Folders is what you get when you go to My Network Places on the Start Menu. Any time you open a web site over HTTP in FrontPage, the opening action “passes through” Web Folders. If Web Folders gets corrupted, FrontPage can’t open web sites!

My XP’s Web Folders feature was so corrupted that even a Microsoft-endorsed 3rd party hack, Jimco Open Web, couldn’t open this web site!

So last night I reinstalled Windows XP, installed Office 2003 and its Service Pack 1, and installed Windows XP Service Pack 2. Argh, after all this work I still had the same problem! Even though this was a true reinstall, not simple a Windows “refresh,” the same problem still happens! I wonder if not deleting the Program Files tree is the problem?

Tonight I am going to disconnect my primary drive, make my slave drive my primary, and install Windows XP on the slave drive. That may make sense anyway since the slave drive is only about 2 months old. The primary drive is about 3 years old. Plus the slave drive has no Windows, Program Files, or any other traces of a Windows install. It just has backup files.

Back to making UML class diagrams for a project at work.