Category: Geek

US government wants to mandate motor vehicle connectivity

connectivity

The federal government is inching closer to mandating cars have the ability to communicate with each other, in a move regulators say could reduce crashes while still protecting motorists’ personal information..

Called vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V), the technology would use radio frequencies to communicate potential dangers to drivers, and the Transportation Department has begun the rule-making process of possibly making it required equipment in cars, though it could take years for a new law to take effect…

“By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

NHTSA also said vehicle communication could be used to assist in blind-spot detection, forward-collision alarms and warnings not to pass, though many of these technologies are available in today’s cars using other technologies, like radar.

Mindful of recent “hacking” incidents involving major retailers, websites and identity theft, NHTSA said the data transmitted would only be used for safety purposes, and notes the systems being considered would contain “several layers” of security and privacy protection.

On one hand, I’ve been following this development from car manufacturers who wish to use tech like this for accident prevention. Mercedes is a leader on this side of the research.

On the other, is there anyone left in America who trusts the government enough to buy into this technology. Even if security from hackers might be guaranteed, does anyone think the Feds would pass up backdoor access to keep an eye on us?

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Want to post a public rating for the cop you just faced? There’s an app for that.

Three teens in Georgia just made a mobile app they hope will help prevent the next police shooting of an unarmed young person…It’s called Five-O, after the slang term for police, and it’s the brainchild of siblings Ima, 16, Asha, 15, and Caleb Christian, 14, who live in a suburb of Atlanta.

Here’s how it works: After interacting with a cop, users open the app and fill out a Yelp-like form on which they can grade the officer’s courtesy from A to F, check a box if they were verbally or physically abused, and add details about the incident. They can view ratings on other cops and police departments across the country, participate in community forums, and check out a Q&A titled “Know Your Rights.”

Ima Christian says their parents encouraged them to think about how they could respond productively to incidents like Brown’s death. “One of the things they really stress is that we focus on finding solutions,” she told Mother Jones. “We really hope that Five-O will be able to give every citizen a voice when interacting with the police.”

But the Christians say Five-O isn’t just for outing bad cops; they hope it will help also highlight good policing. “We want people to be able to document if the police are very courteous or if they save your cat or something,” Ima says…

The siblings have been honing their coding skills since elementary school by participating in the MIT programs +K12, Scratch, and App Inventor, and they’ve also taken programming classes at Georgia Tech and Emory, all with encouragement from their parents. They’ve started their own app development company, Pine Tart, Inc., and they’re currently working on two other projects…

Solid. Filling a need with modern tech designed by the youngest among us in this online world. I love it.

I’ve been online since 1983, watching the changes, hoping for more real content like this. Yes, there’s lots of other niche products, some serious growing of whole world communications and knowledge out here. But, watching a couple of kid-coders knock out something like this app warms the cockles of this cranky old activist geek.

Removable tattoo doubles as a battery — Huh? Wha?

Scientists continue to unveil impressive innovations at the American Chemical Society’s annual conference, currently being held in San Francisco. The latest is a removable tattoo that doubles as a miniature battery — turning human sweat into storable electricity.

The device is meant to be worn during a trip to the gym. It can monitor a person’s progress during exercise routines while simultaneously powering a small electronic device, like an iPod.

The mini tattoo tracks athletic performance by measuring levels of lactate in sweat secreted by the exerciser…

Currently, lactate testing is done via blood samples. But by installing a lactate sensor in a temporary tattoo, researchers found a way to track performance in a much less evasive way. They also found a way to produce electricity. As the sensor processes the lactate in the sweat, it strips the lactate of electrons.

Engineers designed the sensor so it could pass the stripped electrons from an anode to a cathode, just like a battery.

UC nanoengineering professor Dr. Joseph Wang said the device is “the first example of a biofuel cell that harvests energy from body fluid.”

There must be some way to make money from sex – using this discovery.

Researchers create 1,000-kilobot swarm — self-assembling collective behavior

Robot swarm
Click to see the swarm in action [no sound]

Scientists have created a swarm of over a thousand coin-sized robots that can assemble themselves into two-dimensional shapes by communicating with their neighbours.

At 1,024 members, this man-made flock — described in the 15 August issue of Science — is the largest yet to demonstrate collective behaviour. The self-organization techniques used by the tiny machines could aid the development of ‘transformer’ robots that reconfigure themselves, researchers say, and they might shed light on how complex swarms form in nature…

The robots communicate using infrared light, but they are only able to transmit and receive information with the robots nearest to them — so they cannot ‘see’ the whole collective. However…seed robots act as the point of origin for a coordinate system; information on their position propagates outward through the swarm like fire signals across the peaks of a mountain range. This allows each bot to determine where it is and whether it is inside the shape programmed by researchers. Over a period of about 12 hours, the programmed configuration — such as the letter ‘K’ or a star — takes form, robot by robot.

RTFA. Use your imagination. What might be accomplished.

The Pope thinks kids are wasting time online — he should think about why

Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”.

He argued that the “products of technological progress” are distracting attention away from what is important in life rather than improving us. But even as he made his comments, UK communications regulator Ofcom released its latest figures, giving the opposite message. It celebrated the rise of a “tech-savvy” generation born at the turn of the millennium and now able to navigate the digital world with ease.

So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?

This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema. The media, it has long been said, makes kids stupid, inattentive, violent, passive, disrespectful, grow up too early or stay irresponsible too long. Whatever it is that society worries about in relation to children and young people, it seems that we love to blame it on the latest and most visible technology. Anything rather than looking more closely at the society we have created for them to grow up in.

Fifteen years ago, when children were being criticised for watching too much television (remember those days?), I asked children to describe what happened on a good day when they got home from school and what happened on a boring day. From six year olds to seventeen year olds, the answers were the same: on a good day, they could go out and see their friends; on a boring day they were stuck at home watching television.

And why couldn’t they go out and see their friends every day? Far from reflecting the appeal of television, the answer lies in parental anxieties about children going out. As a 2013 report noted, children are far less able to move around independently than in the past. This is particularly true of primary school children, who are often no longer allowed to walk to school or play unsupervised as they once were. Their developing independence, their time to play, their opportunities to socialise are all vastly curtailed compared with the childhoods of previous generations.

And yet the number of children who have accidents on the road has fallen over the years and there has been little change to the rate of child abductions, which remain very rare.

There is little evidence that children are choosing to stay home with digital technology instead of going out. Indeed, it seems more likely that an increasingly anxious world – fuelled by moral panics about childhood – is making parents keep their kids at home and online. And then, to pile on the irony, the same society that produces, promotes and provides technologies for kids also blames them for spending time with them…

Sonia Livingstone asks useful questions. Questions – in my own experience – not asked often enough. Certainly not asked or answered in conversations with folks in charge of funds for education, funds for recreation, even those in charge of whether or not there will be funds for education or recreation.

Much less what comprises useful education and what roles recreation, sport, fitness and challenge should play in the lives of young people. What to do with communication and a view of the whole world?

Art Deco motoring


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The motorcycling world loves a ‘barn find’—an old, obscure machine wheeled out of the woodwork for the first time. And this is one of the biggest revelations of recent months. It’s a 1930 Henderson that was customized before WW2 by a fellow called O. Ray Courtney and fitted with ‘streamliner’ bodywork.

Thanks, Mike

Knowing me, you know I want a companion Art Deco automobile, as well. My current favorite hasn’t been built – yet – but, the essential design has been readied by the Icon firm in Los Angeles. The HELIOS. Tesla-powered.


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Square getting ready for chipped credit cards

Square announced it was developing a new credit card reader that would allow businesses to begin accepting a more secure type of credit card being rolled out in the U.S. over the next 15 months.

The announcement comes as credit cards embedded with microchips finally begin to reach American consumers. The cards, which have been common for a decade in many other parts of the world, are believed to be harder to clone than traditional stripe cards.

Hustlers in Europe will agree.

Beginning in October 2015, liability for credit card fraud will sit with whichever entity — the issuer or the merchant — is using the less secure equipment. So a merchant would be penalized if it doesn’t have the equipment to accept chip cards and suffers an unauthorized purchase with a card that had a chip in it. On the other hand, the bank would be liable if it doesn’t issue chip cards and one of its customers makes an unauthorized transaction with a traditional card at a store that accepts chip cards…

Square makes the point this will enable expansion into other markets.

I’m not certain how that statement fits into Square’s growth plans. Are they taking advantage of opportunities opening up because they have to make this change, anyway – or is this around the time when they planned on moving into Europe.

Either way, I admit to liking the usability and design of their hardware/software packages.

Impressive construction projects — 2014


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The Dutch have a complex relationship with water – living in a country that floods a lot will do that to you. So one of the most unique new residential buildings in the Netherlands takes a particularly interesting approach to the problem. The Citadel is the world’s first floating apartment complex, consisting of 60 units atop a floating platform on a lake in the “New Water” development in Naaldwijk. Each apartment has a unique floor plan created from modular elements, and when completed the complex will float in water that’s 12 feet deep. It will be connected to the mainland by a floating bridge.

And here’s a link to the site showing all ten of the construction projects.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Microsoft confronts the DOJ and Congress over global privacy


Some folks think this is up-to-date

American law enforcement officials cannot get evidence located in other countries without the help of foreign governments. But can an American company be ordered by a court to turn over information stored on computer servers located in another country? The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York will consider that question this week in a narcotics case in which federal prosecutors want access to a Microsoft email account stored in Ireland.

The case raises difficult questions about the reach of domestic law and the Internet’s global nature. It also points to significant gaps in American laws, which do not address how data stored abroad should be treated. Congress passed the Stored Communications Act, the law at issue in this case, in 1986, when few people could have foreseen cloud computing or imagined that businesses would operate data centers around the world that store messages and documents of Americans and foreigners alike.

I certainly hope you don’t think the lazy bastards we elected would keep up-to-date with changing technology and legal responsibility. Some of these clowns still haven’t figured out civil rights or having a commitment to the whole electorate.

Microsoft is asking the court to quash a warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in December, contending that it cannot be compelled to turn over information located in its Irish data center because American law does not apply there. It argues that to obtain information stored in Ireland, the Justice Department needs to go through the legal-assistance treaty between that country and the United States. Other companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Apple, and public-interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s position.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is fighting Microsoft, argues that going through foreign governments would be far too cumbersome and would allow criminals to evade American law by storing information about illegal activities on foreign servers.

Not much more detail needed. The crux of the case is privacy protection which can affect all of us.