Why I don’t like Sat-Nav devices

I’ve been brewing this post in my head for a while so I’ll do my best not to turn it into a rant, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like sat-nav devices.

As I’ve previously blogged, I am a bit of a gadget geek, so the actual technology I find fantastic. I do look at the likes of devices from Tom Tom and Garmin and can appreciate their shiny gadget appeal. I can also appreciate that many people will find them very useful, it just doesn’t ring true to me.

My main gripe is that they are a technology which ultimately degrades the sense of forward planning that personally I like to have in certain aspects of my life. I am known by my family and friends as being able to generally find my way around by a combination of luck and judgement. Part of this comes from years spent following Watford to over 70 football grounds around the country which gives me a very good knowledge of the national motorway network, and part of it comes from the fact that I seem to have a reliable internal compass which enables me to at least work out the general direction I need to head in.  With 5 minutes of Google maps before I leave I can be quite accurate in both finding my way to somewhere new, and just as importantly estimating the amount of time it will take.

In this respect I fear that sat-nav could have the same effect on society that mobile phones had on the art of planning a night out. Remember back to the time when people made plans they would stick to, agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time? Well if my experience is anything to go by the mobile phone has put paid to those days of common decency as the more tardy members of society just rely on the fact that they can phone up and find out where people are.

Of course, the numerous other benefits of mobile phones outweigh this downside, but I don’t yet feel the same way about sat-nav. Whilst sat-nav features such as speed camera detection and being able to find the nearest petrol station are undoubtedly useful, these are not yet enough to convince me.  From what I’ve seen on the roads however a lot of people disagree, which leads me onto the slightly more irrational part of my dislike…

A number of times over the past few weeks I’ve been perplexed by the actions of the car in front of me as its unpredictable and erratic driving starts to grate. It might suddenly slow down at a junction as if unsure whether to turn or not. This might continue for a few turns until it finally finds the exit it was looking for. More often than not nowadays the car in question has a sat-nav device stuck to the windscreen. Putting aside the laws which state that a car is un-roadworthy if it has so much of a crack in the “A zone” of the windscreen but having a widescreen display stuck onto it is ok, it seems that some people appear to be using a sat-nav device in preference to actually looking at the road ahead. My guess is that the typically British trait of not liking being told what to do is coming to the fore, and that these people simply use the sat-nav as a moving map display, turning off the nice voice that will actually give them adequate warning of when to turn. Either that or they can’t actually figure out/be bothered to program in their destination. The net result being that instead of looking at the road, other road users, and the large clear things we call road signs, they peer at a small screen to determine if Acacia Avenue is the next left or the one after.

So apologies for those reading this who have one (Andy!) and I’m sure you are all responsible sat-nav users who really get benefit from the device. Maybe someday I’ll join your ranks, but not just yet. Now DSLR’s that’s a different matter. Canon 400D or Nikon D80? Choices choices…

WebSphere Service Registry and Repository

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks, but my blogging has suffered as it’s been particularly busy at work recently.

Talking of which, IBM is gearing up for our big SOA launch and announcements on October 9th, and after that I’ll be using this blog to start to discuss some the the ESB related aspects of what we will be announcing in more detail.

One thing that sneaked out in advance of the launch is the first release of our new WebSphere Service Registry and Repository. WSRR provides the tool to tackle one of the thorny issues of SOA, namely the management of metadata. At the most basic level services require description of what they provide, and WSRR provides the repository to hold these enabling your ESB to dynamically discover and route to these services. WSRR extends beyond the like of UDDI to enable management of much more than WSDL. It can manage arbitrary XML, XSD, BPEL and SCA metadata for instance.

However WSRR provides much more than a simple repository by enabling you to define relationships and categories of services, the data they use and much more into an ontology which is relevant to your business. Features such as impact analysis enable you to quickly identify what impact changes to a service will have.

All this helps to tackle the issue of SOA governance. If you can use WSRR to hold the definition of services within an organisation and use a meaningful categorisation scheme then you can go a long way to fostering an environment in which your SOA implementation can deliver on the promise of reusable business services.