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Michigan begins a test to see how smart cars can be
The U.S. Department of Transportation began a new phase in a project, joining researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, that will track data from vehicles in hopes to make driving safer. The $14.9 million, yearlong study began yesterday will have cars talking to each other on a dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) system, similar to Wi-Fi but operating on a specified band of spectrum the FCC has set aside for autos. Break it down The Verge:
The deployment includes approximately 2,800 cars, trucks and buses, 300 of which are getting aftermarket safety devices to beam data like position, velocity, and acceleration to and from neighboring vehicles and infrastructure ten times every second. Another 64 will be "fully integrated," with safety systems installed during production, while the remainder will have simple transmission-only devices.
Researchers say DSRC is better than Wi-Fi for a couple reasons. First off, it’s faster and more reliable. Also, be able to track you. It’s specifically being deployed for safety reasons. So when a giant bus comes barreling through a red light, getting ready to crash into that tiny two-seater you drive because it fits into more parking spaces than other cars, you won’t be pressed into the city’s newest manhole cover. DSRC will tell your car and the bus about the impending collision with (hopefully) enough time for you to react or for your car’s auto-brakes to kick in. It won’t, however, use information from the bus’ data to give the driver a ticket.
Bonus green points! Again, from The Verge:
… it’s hoped that the project will have green spillover effects for the environment. Drivers will be able to get accurate real-time traffic updates directly from cars ahead of them, and be given alternate route suggestions. If all goes according to plan, fewer accident-induced backups and better use of less-congested roads should lead to less efficiency-sucking idling.
Foxconn gets improved grades from watchdog group
Clearly, Apple’s biggest manufacturer is feeling the heat from Mike Daisey! Okay, probably not. But Foxconn is treating its workers better than it used to, according to a new report from The Fair Labor Association.
The Fair Labor Association said on Tuesday local laws require the companies -- which came under fire over conditions at the plants blamed for a series of suicides in 2010 -- to reduce hours by almost a third by 2013 for the hundreds of thousands working in Foxconn plants across southern China.
Foxconn said on Wednesday it would continue to cut overtime to less than nine hours a week from the current 20, even though that could raise labor costs while also making it difficult to attract workers.
That last bit sounds like a lot of spin coming from Foxconn, presenting the idea that the workers really WANT to work incredibly long hours building iPads. But there might actually be something to it. Foxconn factories are known to be among the better places to work in China, if you have to be working in a Chinese factory anyway. Foxconn is under pressure to meet the demand of Apple and turn a profit in the process. It’ll be interesting to see if there are more reports after production of the iPad Mini really kicks in.
Sites accused of collecting inappropriate data from kids
Big companies want to have successful web sites that draw people in and convert them from web surfers to paying customers. And any marketing professional knows that if you can form brand loyalty early in a customer’s life, you have a shot at putting money in the bank for a long time.
But for crying out loud, folks, QUIT COLLECTING PERSONAL INFORMATION FROM CHILDREN. So goes the complaint against several popular websites as reported in the New York Times. A coalition of privacy groups has filed a complaint with the FTC about the practices of six popular sites, charging the sites with attempting to collect email addresses of the friends of people who visit the site.
From the Times:
At least one company, however, said the accusation mischaracterized its practices, adding that the law allows an exception for one-time use of a friend’s e-mail address. As of late Tuesday, the companies said they had not received copies of the complaints. Obtaining information about adults’ social networks to e-mail marketing messages to their friends is a common industry practice called “tell a friend” or “refer a friend.” But now an increasing number of children’s sites are using the technique by inviting children to make customized videos promoting certain products, for example, and then sending them to friends.
The sites cited by the advocacy groups include McDonald’s HappyMeal.com; Nick.com, the Nickelodeon site owned by Viacom; General Mills’ ReesesPuffs.com; SubwayKids.com; another General Mills site, TrixWorld.com; and Turner’s CartoonNetwork.com.
“It really shows that companies are doing an end run around a law put in place to protect children’s privacy,” said Laura Moy, a lawyer for the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit group in Washington that led the complaints. “Under the law, they can’t just collect e-mail addresses from kids and send them marketing material directly. So they are embedding messages saying, ‘Play this game and share it with your friends,’ in order to target the friends.”
New efforts to fight computer viruses in cars
With the online car, comes online viruses. What, you thought we could just have nice things and NOT somehow pay a horrible price? There’s ALWAYS a horrible price. You can own an incredibly powerful computer that fits in your hand but you’ll miss out on real life. You can be connected to all the friends you’ve ever known but you’ll forget what friendship actually is. Always a price, folks. Always a horrible price.
Reuters reports that hackers employed by Intel’s McAfee security division have been holed up in a garage somewhere on the west coast trying to break into a car. Have you tried the coat hanger trick, guys? Sorry.
Car computer security is causing a lot of worry because the technology surrounding car computers is growing fast. Whenever a technology grows fast, you can be sure that the security element and the regulatory elements will be lagging behind, thus increasing the risk of bad guys.
"You can definitely kill people," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit organization that helps companies analyze the potential for targeted computer attacks on their networks and products.
To date there have been no reports of violent attacks on automobiles using a computer virus, according to SAE International, an association of more than 128,000 technical professionals working in the aerospace and the auto industries.
Yet, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said his company had tasked its security engineers with making its Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant as possible to attack.
Awkward phone call from South Korea to Cupertino
Judge Lucy Koh, who is presiding over the Apple vs. Samsung case, asked that the CEOs of both companies give it one more shot before their case is sent off for a jury to decide. A lawyer on Samsung’s team confirmed that Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Kwan Oh Hyun did speak but were unable to come to any resolution.
As testimony in the trial drew to a close, Koh asked that the CEOs talk, and said she was “pathologically optimistic” they could settle claims over patents for smartphones and tablet computers.
Here’s what I imagine how the phone call went:
TIM COOK: Siri, get Kwan Oh Hyun on the horn
SIRI: dialing Kwan Oh Hyun
KWAN OH HYUN: Is that you Tim?
COOK: Um hmm.
HYUN: Fantastic! Please, you go first.
HYUN: 90 degree angles!
HYUN: Talking device!
BOTH: See you when the jury comes back from deliberating. Bye!
Samsung sinks 4 billion bucks into chip making facility
Patent war or no, Samsung’s investment of $4 billion in a Texas microchip manufacturer proves two things: the company is in this for the long haul and the company has 4 billion bucks in a checking account. Yow. This comes after a 1.8 billion dollar investment in a South Korean plant earlier this year. It all comes down to being ready. Samsung has run into some slowdowns in its supply chain lately as demand for its smartphones and other electronics sometimes outpaces supply. And it comes at a time when Samsung has begun to emerge as the logical second company in smartphones and maybe even tablets. The Oates to Apple’s Hall. The Andrew Ridgely to Apple’s George Michael.
As that business grows and as Android itself perhaps expands the overall lead over iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system), Samsung is well positioned to be huge.
Samsung remains the world's largest memory chip supplier by revenue as its chips -- despite the company's ongoing legal tussles with Apple -- supplies memory chips to the iPhone and iPad maker.
To add a garnish of hope to the jobs at the plant, according to one Austin-based news company, a Samsung spokesperson confirmed the company would be "keeping all jobs intact," and "will be doing a massive training of workers."
Robot telepresence is here, it’s cheap, and boy it looks stupid
Here at Marketplace Tech Report, we’re awfully fond of robot stories. It’s good, we figure, to learn as much as possible about the cold metallic monsters who will replace us.
One of the stories we’ve followed for a while is robotic telepresence, the idea that you will someday be able to skip going in to work because there will be a robot avatar for you there and through it you’ll be able to see, hear, and speak to your colleagues, all while your colleagues wonder why you’re too lazy to bother coming in, jerk.
Well, it’s here. A company called Double Robotics has posted a video of its robot called the Double. Its operated through an iPad app (of course it is) and can basically video chat with anyone it runs into while you’re far away. You can pre-order it now for $2000 or buy it for $2499 when it goes on sale, allegedly later this year.
So it’ll be just like you! Except boy it looks dumb. Like a stick on wheels. Like a rough draft of the robot from Short Circuit but stretched out. And unlike you, it might tip over and then just have to lie there until someone picks it up.
Google must cough up its list of paid commenters
First things first: no one at Marketplace Tech Report has been paid to say nice things about Google. To prove this, please note the many not nice things we’ve said about Google and please note the fact that we don’t sleep each night on piles of million dollar bills like Googlers do.
A judge has ordered Google to be more forthcoming about where its spending its money to get nice things said about it in the media. This is part of the settling up of Google’s lawsuit with Oracle.
From The Hill:
U.S. District Judge William Alsup said Google must submit a list by Aug. 24 that includes "all commenters known by Google to have received payments as consultants, contractors, vendors or employees." Alsup said Google does not need to disclose gifts to universities or advertising revenue received by commenters.
"Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it will be impossible to list them all," Alsup wrote in his order. "Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required. Oracle managed to do it."
Amazon launches cloud based archiving, declares war on tape
You know that big room somewhere at your company with the huge banks of magnetic tape? The room where they back up all the data from the company? The room where you’re probably not supposed to go in?
Yeah, well, Amazon wants to get rid of that room. Amazon wants to replace the data archiving at your company and, ideally, ALL companies with a cloud based archiving system called Glacier. Amazon launched it yesterday.
Because if there’s one thing that’s completely reliable and permanent these days, it’s glaciers! Yes sir, those things are rock solid and totally NOT breaking away from ice shelves and melting and causing chaos. NICE WORK ON THE NAME, AMAZON GENIUSES.
Storing data and maintaining the equipment to do so can get expensive.
From the Register:
Enter Amazon, with its disk and server-based system and pay-as-you-go consumption. Glacier starts at $0.01 per gigabyte for a month, with further charges for data requests and transfers. Amazon says customers get 5 per cent of retrievals free each month.
The new product builds not just on Amazon’s S3 for cloud storage system, but also the AWS Storage Gateway that connects on-premise SANs and ports their contents to S3. Storage Gateway was launched by Amazon in January this year.
Dude, you’re TOTALLY getting that office where the data archiving used to be.
You have until August 30 to get metaphysical
Did you hear that gasp? It was let out by witchcrafters, potion-pawners, and voodoo doll-dealers, all of whom currently sell their wares on eBay. In a routine clean up its site, the company announced that after August 30, it will no longer list auctions for items classified as intangible or metaphysical.
Among the items that will be taken down and prohibited from August 30, 2012, are “advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions; work from home businesses and information; wholesale lists, and drop shop lists.”
I mean really, there is nothing worse than the stay-at-home sorcerer who tries to magic potion a wholesale list through a healing session. Can I get a what-what?!? Uh... how about a hocus pocus?
An online petition has been circulating trying to urge eBay to reverse its decision. But wait a minute, couldn’t they just... I mean, aren’t they... why not just cast a spell and make it so this thing never happened?
Again from Wired:
Though the petition does not use the word discrimination, it does point out that the sales of items reflecting other belief systems that remain unproven are not in dispute. Most significantly, it singles out “rosaries, crucifixes or religious medals, all of which have perceived ‘intangible’ abilities and energies associated with them,” and goes on to say that feng shui items, such as crystals, and magnetic therapy jewellery could also be seen to offer “intangible benefits.”
eBay spokeswoman Johnna Hoff has cleared this matter up, however, explaining that “items that have a tangible value for the item itself and may also be used in metaphysical rites and practices (for instance, jewellery, crystals, incense, candles, and books) are allowed in most cases.”
Coming soon to an auction near you: potion rocks!