“Avoid Ghetto”

9 01 2012

CBS Seattle has a story about one of Microsoft’s latest GPS patents. Apparently, this patent is aimed at pedestrians who use GPS on their phones to find walking directions. When recommending a walking route, the software directs you around unsafe neighbourhoods (or open air areas that are subject to harsh temperatures). On the surface this seems like a great feature, but you have to wonder how Microsoft (or anyone else) defines “unsafe.”

As The Consumerist points out there is a strange sounding “reward scheme” in one of the claims for pedestrians or advertising providers. Perhaps this opens up the door to GPS systems that deliver preferred routes as deemed by advertisers that pay for pedestrian traffic – and not the GPS routes that are the most efficient.  So you can avoid the ghetto and get rewarded for walking by a business: win, win.

Check out the CBS story here – or The Consumerist version here.


SOPA opera

16 11 2011

The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) is set to be debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives – and it’s bound to be an interesting discussion. The proposed legislation would give new powers to content producers and copyright owners as they battle against online piracy. One side of the debate features major content producers like the music and film industries, who obviously want more control over how their content is consumed. If this legislation passes as is, then they will be able to seek court orders to make ISPs, search engines and payment processors block access to sites linked to online piracy. The other side of the debate features Internet heavyweights (Google, Twitter, eBay, etc.) who claim that this legislation will wreck the Internet as we know it. Allowing content providers to have this kind of authority in matters of piracy means that some content will be unfairly censored and this practice may stifle longer-term innovation.

Let the lobbying begin (well, let it continue…)

Read a brief update from the BBC here.


R & D Decline

14 11 2011

The CBC has an interesting story on the reduction in R&D spending for Canadian firms. Apparently, companies aren’t investing in research and development like they used to – although if you remove a few of the anomalies (e.g. Nortel) the picture isn’t quite as bad as the headline suggests. The article contends that universities and governments (at all levels) in Canada are doing their part to push the innovation agenda and now it’s time for the corporations to step up. When you look at the companies who are investing in R&D, Research In Motion (RIM) out invests everyone by a long shot. Although RIM has had some rough times recently, they still remain one of this country’s most important companies – especially when it comes to the government’s much vaunted innovation-agenda.

Read the full story here.

Anonymous Intro

9 11 2011

Considering that we’ve been looking at online security issues in class it seems appropriate that Wired has two features on Anonymous this week. If you’re interested, have a look:

Anonymous 101 (the article)

Anonymous Playlist (the videos)

iPods and Thermostats

26 10 2011

Although this isn’t the typical “news” story that I might include on this blog, I think Steven Levy’s article on the new thermostat designed by Nest Labs is worth the read. The story discusses some improvements in thermostat technology that will help us save money (and the environment!) by managing our air conditioning/furnace/HVAC systems more efficiently. In particular the thermostat learns to adjust our heating/cooling requirements from our own patterns (not full artificial intelligence, but neat nonetheless). I originally read this article because the Nest Labs founder, Tony Fadell, designed hardware for the iPod and headed the iPhone team. In the end, I guess I just love good design (both user interface and physical objects). Who knew that my next thermostat could be a piece of modern art?

Read the story from Wired here.

Stuxnet 2.0

19 10 2011

A number of news outlets are reporting on another sophisticated piece of malware that has appeared online. Apparently this piece of malware (called Duqu) is based on the Stuxnet worm from months ago. For those who don’t recall, Stuxnet was an advanced piece of malware designed to target specific industrial control systems (in this case, experts believe that the target was nuclear facilities in Iran). You can bet governments and corporations that run core systems (water, power, nuclear, etc) are watching this one closely.

Read more from the BBC.

Fast and loose with facts

2 10 2011

The BBC has an interesting video/short article on the fact that young people are a little too reliant on the grand old Internet. Instead of doing a little bit of digging, most young people simply believe whatever they encounter online. Check the source? Who has time for that?

After watching the video I was struck by the sentiment that the websites and stories must be true because they were delivered by Google – as if Google performs some sort of “fact-check” for us when we search. Relevancy algorithms and popularity rankings don’t necessarily deliver the best quality information on the first try (it’s called re-search for a reason).

Here’s the story from the BBC, or check out the video on YouTube below