back to article How an augmented reality tourist guide tried to break my balls

Tech-enhanced tourism can be tough on your testicles. An hour ago I was striding along hallowed corridors once paced by 14th century popes. Now I am hobbling across the halls like a medieval court chimpanzee. And it's all because a tourist guide decided to get a little too interactive with my nuts. More on that later. This …

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Trollface

Surprised that ...

... anything could dent your <<glaouis en platine>> Mr Dabbs.

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Anonymous Coward

Palais des Papes

I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I must say their AR guide is one of the most rermarkable things I've seen in Tech for years.

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Re: Palais des Papes

Try the new Roman archaeological museum in Nîmes. Some very impressive tech in there, applied intelligently and very effectively IMHO.

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Paris Hilton

Dead trees never failed anyone

It will be a cold day in hell before I trust solely on an app coded for peanuts (probably by monkeys) for my transportation or lodging needs in a foreign country. It is preferably to carry the equivalent of half an Amazonian forest in printouts.

It is very telling of the state of the industry that people who works on IT are the first to doubt the technological capabilities of... well, anything. I wonder if aeronautic engineers travel everywhere by horse because they don't trust planes....

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

https://xkcd.com/2030/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

" I wonder if aeronautic engineers travel everywhere by horse because they don't trust planes...."

Most aerospace engineers I know will mostly travel by car, or by a private plane (usually one they are piloting, there is a large overlap between working in aerospace and having a pilots licence). Make of that what you will.

Sometimes peeking behind the curtain is a bad idea for your piece of mind. When talking about the computerised infrastructure running modern society, ignorance is truly bliss.

Also, "proper" engineers are accredited, and if you want to work in aerospace or other such engineering professions, you have to have the proper credentials from a reputable (as recognized by your potential employer) institution.

Software engineering is a bit of a free for all. Nobody can officially call themselves an "aerospace engineer" unless they have the credentials, which takes time, effort, brains and money.

However anybody who picks up a book of "Coding for dummies" can call themselves a software engineer, and apply for such jobs (without their applications going straight to the cylindrical filing cabinet).

The result is wages driven down to the lowest common denominator globally, a massive body of poor quality software, and it being very difficult to judge how good someone is by their CV (which is why so many "top end" software positions put you through a bunch of examinations to show your competency).

The question is what is better? The barrier to entry for a "proper" accredited engineer is high. You have to have the money and time to do all the study, get the grades and diplomas they want, and then study, pay and work more to pass their accreditation criteria. Including ongoing tests, new tests for new developments, etc... plus in many cases you need to have liability insurance when working on a project. On the upside, because of the high barrier to entry, your have more secure long-term jobs, overall higher pay, and less worry that you are always one step away from being outsourced to some cheaper country. Same as the medical profession, architecture, etc...

The barrier to entry for software engineering is very low, and there is no personal liability for poorly developed software causing issues or not working as intended.

Indeed there are people out there with no formal education, or just up to A-levels, but who had a talent for software engineering and became good through being self taught. Many of them may not have been able to afford higher education, or becoming accredited, so would not have been able to do what they do now. It also means some really useless people can become software engineers too, but is that a price worth paying?

I guess you can say software engineering is more of a "free market" type system (for better or worse), where anyone can call themselves a software engineer, and it is up to the market to decide what level of competence/price they want to pay. Turns out, 90% of the time the market is happy for the "cheapest and most cheerful" of software project quotes, and as long as the software runs long enough to get paid for it, that's good enough.

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

I worked as an airframe engineer on light aircraft some decades back, I was the only guy in the company who liked going for a test flight with the chief in anything. The usual comment was 'I'm not going up in that, I worked on it'.

One of my tasks as 'co-pilot' on a test flight was to go through the check lists so I knew if anything had been missed.

I also had lots of free flying hours in my log in a wide range of light aircraft up to and including a BAC 111 belonging to a Saudi prince.

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

Travelling by train in Sweden two years ago, paper wasn't an option. Getting on at an unmanned station with no ticket machine, the only option was to buy online and display it to the ticket inspector on the 'phone.

Fortunately their system worked. Via a regular browser: no reinvent-the-wheel app needed.

When I got off the train - at the main station in Sweden's second city - was where I encountered trouble. Finding my onward bus (to the airport) and buying a ticket for it was a total nightmare: ticket machines out of action, and a vast, non-moving queue for about two human staff. Airport was a nightmare too. Grrrr....

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

"It is very telling of the state of the industry that people who works on IT are the first to doubt the technological capabilities of... well, anything."

There's a lot of things that shouldn't work but do. The idea of 100% defect free is comparatively new, in fact*. Approved products have AQLs, being kitemarked doesn't make them all perfect.

The fact that my mobile phone often goes months without restarting and yet behaves itself is something I wonder at, because I have some idea of just how many things can go wrong, from obscure software bugs down to inadequate CPU tracks eventually failing through metal migration.

But, and this is my point, it's all kept going by those of us who do doubt the reliability and capability of things.

*In the days of Lucas ignition, it was not at all unusual for an engine to misfire 5% of the time, which was why electronic ignition would produce a sudden power and economy boost. It was just accepted as part of the natural order of things. One of the things that sunk the Velocette company was that when the magneto supply for their big singles dried up, the coil ignition just didn't work well enough.

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

'Most aerospace engineers I know will mostly travel by car, or by a private plane (usually one they are piloting, there is a large overlap between working in aerospace and having a pilots licence). Make of that what you will.'

I make of that that they're idiots, they're swapping the safest form of transport per passenger mile for two of the least*. After 6 years of working in Air Safety the main thing I know is that people are rubbish at assessing risk, even if you show them the numbers, actually especially if you show them the numbers.

*Although motorbikes are 1 or 2 magnitudes worse so it could be worse.

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

"I make of that that they're idiots"

You are assuming their motivation is safety. In reality I suspect its an opportunity to enjoy the journey while you are stuck in the flying cattle truck because its safe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dead trees never failed anyone Re: xkcd .....

I love the popup text/caption:

'There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.'

:) ;)

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

Indeed there are people out there with no formal education, or just up to A-levels, but who had a talent for software engineering and became good through being self taught.

Sounds like every engineer responsible for the industrial revolution , thinks Stephenson (pere et fils) , Trethevick, Newcomen, Bazalgette, Edison, Otto

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

' In reality I suspect its an opportunity to enjoy the journey while you are stuck in the flying cattle truck because its safe.'

I'm generally stuck in the flying cattle truck because I'm f***ed if I'm driving to the middle east or the USA.

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Re: Dead trees never failed anyone

"Sounds like every engineer responsible for the industrial revolution , thinks Stephenson (pere et fils) , Trethevick, Newcomen, Bazalgette, Edison, Otto"

I eventually made a career out of stuff that did not exist when I was at university. But without the "learning how to learn" I wouldn't have done it. I believe you can become a programmer by teaching yourself, but not a software engineer. You might become one through working alongside better qualified and more experienced people who are willing to instruct you, but that's de facto apprenticeship, just another form of learning from other people.

As counter examples I offer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (French university and apprenticeship), Dr. Rudolf Diesel (German universities and apprenticeship), Benjamin Baker (grammar school and apprenticeship), Charles Parsons (Trinity Dublin and St. Johns Cambridge.

Watt notoriously had the idea for a separate condenser (his actual contribution) but then had to find people who could actually make it for him.

The tl;dr is that the actual problem with the Industrial Revolution in England, and why they were overtaken by Germany, is that the self taught engineers were too slow to adopt scientific method. By the time engineering was professionalised in the UK, Germany and France had caught up.

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Anonymous Coward

"Can I get a refund? "Non." He gives a gallic shrug and wanders off. Perhaps I should be grateful he didn't fine me for allowing his SNCF colleagues to rip me off. Merci, les culs."

A refund at SNCF is *way* more difficult than traveling to Mars. I suspect any of those idiots is tortured to death in their basement, should he refund 1 single euro.

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You can easily get a refund if you have access to one of their ticketing machine and a dead tree ticket.

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Pint

Have Beer. Or Vin Rouge. Molto Vin Rouge.

I made the mistake of reading this whilst dialled into a very dull conference call, sat in a very quiet but populated office (I know it's beer o'clock but it ain't happening today!). I now have two sets of people trying to work out why I've fallen off my chair, with my legs crossed, tears rolling down my cheeks and a hand pressed over my mouth to stop the inarticulate squeaks and random noises escaping...

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Pint

Re: Have Beer. Or Vin Rouge. Molto Vin Rouge.

Damn, why can't I both upvote and downvote a post? Upvote for the anecdote, downvote for linguistic horror. I shall have to forego both of them to cancel it out.

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apps

<rant>I've seen many apps which appear to have been 'designed' (or 'coded') by teenagers. Perhaps I am too harsh, by people who have no idea of of what used to be called human-computer-interfaces (showing my age, sorry), or who even read Apple's guidelines issued back in the balmy days of the Mac. So much has been lost. Another factor comes from games, where lots of interesting features are hidden, waiting for you to achieve the next level. It's not really Grand Theft Auto.</rant>

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Re: apps

I think is part of outsourcing. The app writers (certainly can't call them programmers) attend a few classes, get some paper that says they graduated, and suddenly are not working at outsourced jobs with no clue about what they do. Second thought.... they have a clue. They get to sit around, drink tea, and call home to the family and get paid for it. Any working code is shear luck.

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Re: apps

*sheer.

Shear is what you do to sheep.

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cd

Two software engineering problems in one column, nice work.

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I've taken an SCNF train a dozen of time this year and had no problem. But I had steered clear from their app and had all my train tickets mailed, free of additionnal charges, to me. The only time I didn't do that, I received a pdf to print with a QR code, but apparently showing the pdf on your smartphone also work, so no app needed.

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Paris Hilton

You are old, Father Dabbs

And here i thought you were going to have Mme Dabbs give it a kiss to make it feel better.

Paris completely understands.

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The French - in one answer

Whilst skiing in the Alps, I noticed ALL of the French instructors were wearing Atomic skis; so I went to my French ski instructor and asked the question.

"When I was looking for my new skis, every review for Atomic skis was poor, with people regularly reporting they snapped in two, after a couple of runs down the piste; so why are all of you using them??"

"They are made in France."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The French - in one answer

""When I was looking for my new skis, every review for Atomic skis was poor, with people regularly reporting they snapped in two, after a couple of runs down the piste; so why are all of you using them??"

"They are made in France.""

I have yet to see an Atomic pair of skis, alpin or cross-country, snap in 2. And given how hard the instructors go down, at the end of the day, they'd be deaths every day ! Your reviewers were probably paid for, from all over north africa ...

As for the reason they all wore the same, it was because ESF, their employer, chose them in a grouped purchase, like it happens. Rest, no comment, it's probably true.

A french

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CT

Seat reservations in bike compartment

SNCF kindly reserved us coach 12, seats 11 and 13, on the intercity train to Boulogne (don't ask). Unfortunately, the numbering in coach 12 started at 21 and went upwards, as the first compartment (presumably with seats numbered 11 upwards) had had all the seats removed to be converted to a bike compartment.

As my other half suffers from saddle soreness at the slightest mention of a bike ride, we picked some random empty seats in the next coach, expecting an interesting conversation with the inspector.

Neither sight nor sound of the inspector for the 1h30 journey, and we could have had a free ride in first class.

We picked the print-at-home option, with two A4 sheets giving a nice large barcode, rather than the app.

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Almost SNCF but not quite

Instead queuing up for an hour to see a bit of France's cultural heritage, I decided it would be a bright idea to buy my tickets from www.monuments-nationaux.fr, download the PDF files, and breeze past the queue which looked like something from an MC Escher painting.

As I use Firefox Focus for the small number of payments I make using my mobile phone as it forgets everything afterwards, it waited right to the final payment page to tell me that... well, not tell me, but dump me at an all-purpose 'I give up' page.

So then I tried Firefox which thankfully did work because the alternative was Chrome which probably sends the whole lot to Google. PDFs downloaded, success, hour of queue avoided, gold star earned.

Later on I decided the same trick would work again only I forgot my password which was hastily thought up before. So I hit the 'Mot de passe oublié?' button and was cheerfully informed of my password in a plain text e-mail.

Really, perhaps they should have just stuck with Minitel.

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Re: Almost SNCF but not quite

Mintel . . takes me back . . . I am now officially old enough to remember things no-one should be old enough to remember. I was 10 when I plugged a phone into a cradle so that the noises coming out (and in) gave you a network connection. And only a geeky ten year old gave a shit.

We have come a hell of a long way.

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Re: Almost SNCF but not quite

@We have come a hell of a long way.

Yes! It no longer makes a noise!

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Europe is overrated

I used to love mainland Europe, as someone from the UK. Then I moved to Canada and travelled around the Americas and Asia.

Now every time I go to Europe I just find myself annoyed. The people are often meh. Except for the Swedish and Portuguese. They're both awesome. Everyone else, somewhat including my fellow Brits, offer very poor service compared to America and East Asia, and occasionally are extremely unfriendly.

Even in conservative Asia no hotel staff made any comments or looks about the fact that my other half is also another guy. The one time we went to the UK, the hotel receptionist exclaims "The same bed?!". Pretty much had to whisk my Canadian bf away, as he was hangry and began proclaiming the entire UK was a piece of sh!t island over and over. It didn't help that the next day our train to my parent's was 2 hours delayed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Europe is overrated

Paper,

What you suffered was not a UK specific problem BUT a Facebook/Twitter/Whatsapp/etc problem.

So many people who use the above & similar, have got used to idea of not filtering what they think/say, because they are conversing with their friends and they also lack any filter.

I am *not* your 'Best Friend' and do not expect to be treated like I am IF I am in a situation where it is expected that some sort of 'service' is being provided, for which I have paid. i.e. Hotel, Restaurant etc etc

I am not asking for some sort of old victorian style subservience BUT I do want you to be at least aware that your own personal views and biases are NOT always going to be appreciated and following the company policies MIGHT be a safer bet !!!

If you work in a service industry you should at least be aware of the service you are expected to provide and how that should dictate your interactions with your customers.

If this is too difficult .... perhaps a different job may be more appropriate or at least some urgent Customer Service training.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Europe is overrated

"What you suffered was not a UK specific problem BUT a Facebook/Twitter/Whatsapp/etc problem.

So many people who use the above & similar, have got used to idea of not filtering what they think/say, because they are conversing with their friends and they also lack any filter."

True that, so true. It made society go back to middle age !

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Facepalm

You plum*

You could have put a knot in the lanyard to make it shorter.

*pun intended.

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