Regional Transportation Identifications

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Language Barriers For Transportation

Language barriers can have a big impact on public transportation.  This is a huge issue in cities where more languages are spoken, as well as other transportation hubs such as airports and other facilities.  It is up to the personnel of each to learn the prevailing second and third languages of the area.  This is no easy task, of course, and we think that a commitment to this is a paramount feature of any growing city.

One of the hardest things to ask personnel to do is to learn the languages that are very different, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and others that use a markedly different character system as well as grammar rules.  It’s one thing to learn Spanish or French or German, which share similar words and grammar.  However, it’s no secret that Chinese and other similar languages that are so different are, well, hard.

I was just looking into Rocket Chinese a few days ago in order to get some of the basics of Chinese down, and found that even the first lesson was so hard!

Learning Chinese

So why is it so hard to learn Chinese as an English speaker?  Well, to start, Chinese is a tonal language.  The same word, such as “ma” can have different meanings based on the musicality that you say it with.  An ascending pitch means one thing, and a descending pitch means another.  There are four ways to say that word and four different meanings.

Even Chinese people will admit that their language is a bit difficult to learn.  However, they will say this with a certain amount of pride.  Once they realize just how hard their language is for others, and they can see this from their vantage point of having already learned it as a native, they can kind of take on a role of mastery.

The Character System

One of the reasons that Chinese is so hard is that their writing system is incredibly complex.  Their character system, while very beautiful and mysterious, is a pain in the butt to learn from scratch.  It can take a native Mandarin speaker 7 to 8 years to learn 3000 characters.  Students of other languages such as English and Spanish can achieve comparable levels in half that time.

There is an interesting quote from a blog entry from a graduate student of Chinese:

“My research is really hampered by the fact that I still just can’t read Chinese. It takes me hours to get through two or three pages, and I can’t skim to save my life.” This would be an astonishing admission for a tenth-year student of, say, French literature, yet it is a comment I hear all the time among my peers (at least in those unguarded moments when one has had a few too many Tsingtao beers and has begun to lament how slowly work on the thesis is coming).

This is a huge admission – this is not an easy language to learn.  Extremely smart graduate students unable to read texts after 10 years of study?  Absurd!

The funny thing is, China is vast becoming a global superpower, however the language doesn’t seem to be holding them back.  Does being fluent in Chinese make a person smarter, in a way, because of how their language is?  It’s an interesting question of linguistic relativity.


Keeping Your PC Safe From Malware

happycomputerAs computers encompass more and more of our daily lives it is becoming crucial to protect your computer(s) from all the threats that are out there.  Since it’s almost unheard of to have a computer that is not connected to the internet at all (even utilities are now being connected to the internet as “smart” utilities) the risk of infection by malware or virus is always present.

It really doesn’t matter how good of an antivirus program you have–hackers are always working towards making new ways to get to you.  And this is the reality: a never-ending arms race between white hats and black hats.

Despite the challenges it doesn’t hurt to do the most that you can to prevent infection and other problems associated with malware and viruses.  Here are a few “best practices” that you can incorporate as a business, utility, or private individual.

Use Different Passwords

This is a tricky one, but I recently had an experience with this very thing.  If you use the same password for lots of online accounts with a similar username (aka your email) you will be vulnerable.  I personally thought that nobody would ever guess my password but eventually someone did!  I’m not sure how it happened but he had my password and my email – and therefore could technically access several of my accounts.  I am sure he had some sort of spider set up to go to many common logins to try out the password.  I had to frantically change my password to multiple accounts while I was out at dinner with friends.  And even then I wasn’t sure if I had changed every one – I have a lot of accounts!

Password managers such as LastPass make it easy to maintain multiple complex passwords.  I have started using LastPass and the mobile app and it has made all of my online accounts a lot more safe.

Use Security Software

Having an antivirus software tool is a great start, but the problem is that viruses aren’t the only thing that can take you down.  Malware has many variants, such as adware and spyware.  In order to truly protect your computer and get rid of any software that is lurking you should employ the use of antimalware software.  Programs such as Spyhunter 4 and Malwarebytes are great tools for this.  They can sniff out programs that slip by antivirus software because they pose as actual “programs”.  Sometimes you might even unwittingly agree to their installation!  This has happened to myself and a few clients before.

Don’t Frequent Internet “Bad Neighborhoods”

This goes without saying.  It’s quite well known that gambling, adult, and hacking websites and forums are a veritable treasure trove of viruses, malware, and more.  It doesn’t mean it’s the only place you can acquire a baddie, but it certainly raises the odds.

If you simply must frequent these sorts of sites, buy yourself a cheap netbook that is completely separate from any of your personal computer files and accounts.


The Beginning Of The Internet – Phone Lines

300px-telrecadapterRemember when the internet was largely conducted over simple phone lines?  Nowadays people don’t even use phone lines for phones.  But the reality was that the early internet relied heavily on the phone companies and the connectivity therein in order to grow and flourish.  Now fiber optic data cables reign supreme, and even wireless data is becoming the norm.

This article is a great look at how the connectivity was very important back in the day:


“Try this experiment. Pick up the phone, dial 800-USA-UNIX and ask a question: “Should protocols be inboard or outboard, in hardware or software?”

Then hang up and consider what just happened. You did not know how many independent telephone companies were involved in making your connection, how many switches handled the call, the type of phone equipment at the other end or even the location of the called party.

Nor did you care. You simply wanted an answer to your question, taking the rest for granted. You also assumed the answering party would speak English.

Of course that was a voice connection. But shouldn’t we expect and get the same degree of transparent connectivity in data communications?

Although such service is not universally achieved, it does communicate thousands of messages every day. More than 1,100 networks are connected with Internet Protocol (the IP portion of TCP/IP) to form a network of networks.

While the Defense Data Network (DDN) and Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) are the centerpieces of this community, sponsorship and participation are diverse.

The installed base of TCP/IP users now numbers over 120,000. File transfer and virtual terminal services are in wide use. For example, the Wollongong Group recently used a VT-100 terminal connected to a Digital Equipment Corp. VAX computer in Maryland to communicate over a public data network to a gateway on the West Coast, where it picked up another network to an IBM host on a LAN in southern California.

The TCP/IP implementations in the VAX and the gateway, along with Advanced Computer Communications’ (Santa Barbara, Calif.) implementation in the IBM host, made the terminal in Maryland appear to the IBM in California as a directly connected, full screen 3270-type terminal.

As a practical matter, voice is different from data, because only in certain environments can you type an address on your computer and transparently access a user many networks away.

The reason we get so much more connectivity over the telephone is that the voice network grew up in a regulated environment. Data communications is cutting its teeth in a deregulated environment where open standards are a product of consensus and are slower to develop.

This contrast is apparent in comparing Telenet, Tymnet and other segregated public and private data networks with the interconnected regional Bell operating companies.

Future Data Communications

While the connection in the example above was made as easily and transparently as a long distance phone call, we still have a long road to travel before data interoperability becomes prevalent as it is in the voice world. This road to standardization, with milestones such as TCP/ IP, Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) and Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN) along the route, will take us to a larger and more useful internet.

We are traveling in this direction because data users want the same degree of seamless connectivity that telephone users enjoy today. Data usage will surpass voice usage early in the 1990s.

What will bring together a larger internet is data communications standards. Today, the standard is TCP/IP, the first milestone. But TCP/IP provides a graceful transition to the second milestone, the OSI protocol suite devised by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

While OSI often is written about as though it were already here, in fact it is not. Currently, government standards for the OSI protocol suite are experimental. They call for FTAM, X.400 and TP4 to provide feature-packed document creation, file transfer, administration and mailing over a reliable transport protocol.

But what about internetting? ISO solutions for better internet protocol, routing and gateway protocols, all of which are needed, appear far from completion. Also, there is no virtual terminal application to make every user appear (to a computer) to be using the same type of terminal or PC.

According to the current schedule, these OSI protocols will be experimental for about a year to give vendors and users time to try them out. Past experience would indicate that it will be three to five years before we see wide use of these standards.”

Heiden, Heidi B. “Defense networks strive for seamless connectivity.” Government Computer News 5 June 1987: 54+.