A couple of months ago the folks at Freakonomics did a fascinating podcast called Why Is My Life So Hard? It discussed what is technically called headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry; a phenomenon that gives us the (mental) illusion of having more troubles than fortunes, because our troubles require our energy and focus. This week in my world of development of the train alerting system I definitely had fortunes…..and they did not go unnoticed!
Fortune #1: Technology
This week actually started out as a struggle. Not only was I having significant issues with camera disconnects from the ZoneMinder software, but experts in the forums didn’t have suggestions for resolving the issue. I went to my “backup” option of using iSpy for motion detection. Initial testing of iSpy went very well. But I also discovered iSpy has the ability to launch actions when motion is detected. With the help of a blog documenting some PowerShell scripting, along with a reminder from my spouse on how emails can be sent as text messages, I can now send a text to my phone (via gmail) upon the detection of motion.
The transition to iSpy necessitates the acquisition of a 2nd camera. Discerning northbound/southbound train direction using iSpy will be a two-camera affair, with some additional scripting to tie it together.
Fortune #2: New Perspectives & Encouragement
Sam Solt, a former manager and current mentor, reached out to me after I described this project via this blog, expressing interest in what I was doing. Sam is a career coach focused on the changing nature of the employee/employer relationship. Sam, like myself, grew up in Ft. Collins. He knows well the challenges the trains create. We’ve talked a couple of times about various aspects of this project. This week he arranged a discussion with his neighbor, who is a Railfan (the term used to describe those who pursue trains as a hobby). He helped me understand various aspects of the Ft. Collins trains and their behavior in town. Most significantly, I became aware of an additional user segment for this solution: Those who seek out trains. My assumption had been train alerting was going to benefit those that wanted to avoid the train. But there are people who drive around trying to find trains….to watch them go by….or photograph them. To these people knowledge of an approaching train is a good thing.
Beta Test Signup
If you are interested in being part of the beta test of the TrainAlert system we’d love to have you! Please sign up here. As a quick reminder: The purpose of TrainAlert is to notify people when a train is approaching Ft. Collins so the resulting disruption in traffic can be planned for and/or avoided.