The Null Device
When North Korea played at the World Cup, part of the audience was its football fans. Only they weren't North Korean or football fans. The North Korean authorities decided that they couldn't risk the possibility of any North Koreans defecting once outside their national borders, and thus recruited Chinese "volunteers" to attend matches, play the roles of North Korean football fans and give the impression of North Korea being a normal country with sports fans who travel to follow their team. Only, being the kingdom of the world's last God-Emperor, they left nothing to chance; the volunteers were recruited individually by their government, and conductors were on hand to direct their cheering:
One Brazilian fan said: "I spoke with them. They had come from Beijing and knew nothing about football or the World Cup. They said they were supporting their Communist cousins and were happy to be there."
Some good news from London: Transport For London, who run the city's public transport networks, have announced that they will be opening access to all their data by the end of June. The data will include station locations, bus routes and timetable information, and will be free from restrictions for commercial or noncommercial use.
The data will be hosted at the London DataStore, a site set up to give the public access to data from public-sector organisations serving London. A few sets are already up, as well as a beta API which returns the locations of Tube trains heading for a specific station. Which could probably be worked into a mobile app to tell you when to start walking to the station. If they had something like this giving the positions and estimated arrival times of buses (whose travel times are considerably more chaotic than those of trains, and which often run less frequently, especially at night), that would be even more useful. (Some approximation of this facility exists in the LED displays, which are installed at some bus stops and sometimes are operational; a XML feed and a mobile web app would probably be a more cost-effective way of getting this information into the hands of commuters.)
Another thing that would be useful would be an API for the Transport for London Journey Planner; being able to ping a URL, passing an some postcodes or station names, a departure/arrival time and some other constraints, and get back, at your option, a maximum journey time or a list of suitable journeys, in XML or JSON format, would be useful in a lot of applications, from device- or application-specific front ends (i.e., a "take me home from here" mobile app) to ways of calculating the "inconvenience distance" between two points by counting travel time and changes (i.e.,in terms of travel convenience, Stratford is closer to Notting Hill than Stoke Newington, despite being further in geographical terms, as it's a straight trip on the Central Line).