Geeking out /dev/car – QR codes and plastic widgets

A few months back, I bought a new car. It’s a 2010 Kia Forte SX. In black. In Phoenix. Hey, pimpin’ ain’t easy! It starts out geeky, with a 6 speaker stereo that supports MP3 CDs, audio input jack, and a USB input (for USB sticks or, less elegantly, iPods). It has Bluetooth speakerphone/voice dial built in too. I named her Jezebel and, of course, slung my license plate from her nicely-curved posterior: UIDZERO. None of that is enough geek for me though, so I have decided to bump it up a notch.

Now, with the addition of my Droid(which I have nicknamed Cherry 2010) to the realm of gizmos, gadgets, whozits and whatzits in my posession, I have learned the special joy that is a QR code. What’s a QR Code? It’s basically a 2d barcode that can encode, amongst other things, a URL or contact information. In my case, it’s going to be a url. Specifically, for now, this very page.

QR Code on my car

While that may look ugly to you, it’s actually pretty cool. If you snap this with a barcode-sensitive iPhone or Android(or a few dozen other web-capable camera phones), it will pop up the link and ask if you want to go there. Here. Whatever. If it had been a contact QR code, you could have added my contact info with no troublesome keying or typoes. Nifty, huh? But why do it?

For years now I have been fascinated by data. Our entire world is made of it, described by it, enriched by it and guided by it. It’s all around us- yet strangely, perversely, insultingly inaccessible to mere mortals. Often, driving down the road, I have thought “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if I could know more about the people around me in traffic?” Yes, I am frequently bored silly in Phoenix rush hour. No, this thought was not always spurred on by an attractive female. Then, the other night I ran across Semapedia. Simply put, you insert $noun into Wikipedia, then take the URL of that page and plug it into Semapedia. Semapedia produces a QR code, ready to print, for the object in question. Yes, that’s right- it basically aims to contextually link the real world to Wikipedia. Not convinced? Check out some sightings. These two thoughts cooked into my brain and I instantly thought “DUDE. I can hyperlink my blog on a sticker on my car. EPIC.” Well, OK, I’ll admit it- my first thought was more like “DUDE. I can hyperlink goatse on stickers all over town. EPIC.”

Regardless, I now have the image. Soon I will get the stickers and apply them- look forward to pictures!

The second geeky mod arrived in the mail today. It’s a Droid car mount. This is cool because the Droid knows (by way of magnets and, I assume, reed switches) it is in the mount and pulls up the Car Home app, which provides a pretty interface to the functions you want in a car (Voice Search, Navigation, Map, Contacts and Search) with notably bigger buttons. Once I find a good mounting spot (preferably not permanent, though it comes with a sticky disk you can then suction-cup the mount to), I will neatly run a cable to it. My major beef at present is that the phone doesn’t have any kind of profile ability beyond this. I’d like it if I could make the screen timeout different and disable locking and enable automount read-only automatically when the Droid detects it is in the car mount. I’d also like it if the car mount had a docking plug a la the bedside “media” stand I also got in the mail today- as it stands you have to plug in the cable separately.

The cool thing, though, is that the Kia has a feature above that ties in nicely with this mount: A USB port. In other words, my car stereo can access sound files on the Droid, and the droid can charge itself, all without using one of my two existing lighter plugs. This, dear reader, is serious win for me. After I find a home for the mount, I will probably plumb a long micro-USB cable to it and have a home for my phone and myself, while still retaining the Blackberry charger for the corporate work phone.

It’s a cool time to be alive. The world is becoming more and more connected, with IT more and more integrated in our daily lives. I am enjoying riding this wave and look forward to seeing where it goes!

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