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Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Why Dave Hill didn’t rant about the Google Glass bride

After reading my post Why I ranted about the Google Glass bride, Dave Hill wrote a response in Google+. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Attendees / witnesses of a wedding have the inalienable right to snark about a variety of things (the garb of the participants, the sermon, the music, the flowers, the choice of spouse, the reception, the Other Family, etc.), but these are generally wrapped up with the shrug of, “Well, it’s their wedding.” Which it is.

I encourage you to read the entire thing here.

Why I ranted about the Google Glass bride

Earlier this morning, I read something in Mashable about a bride who walked down the aisle wearing Google Glass.

“My husband and I have a love for technology. We wanted to use Google Glass to capture the most intimate moment of our lives,” [Jessica] Kuan said in an emailed statement. “All my friends told me they were so emotional that they actually forgot walking down the aisle. This was an experience I never want to forget.”

Well, I couldn’t forget it either, but for a different reason. I ended up posting a rant on Facebook.

When I was married, my big innovation was to ask the organist to play “Now the Green Blade Riseth.” I didn’t ask my bride to be to parade down the aisle accompanied by a Macintosh Plus, or with a VHS camera. And I do not feel deprived by the fact that we do not have a “bride’s eye view” of our wedding. And, as a bonus, my wife’s eyes are unobscured in our wedding pictures.

Rant composed and posted, I then paused for a moment. Am I being unreasonable? Isn’t this just another way of capturing what a wedding photographer does? Did my 1913 ancestor rant and rave about people bringing cameras into weddings?

After thinking about it, I decided that my negative opinion of this innovation is justified, since – if I may use a photography term here – it shifts the focus of the wedding.

Even if you consider a wedding in the secular sense of a contractual obligation between two people, a wedding is a union of (in my country, at this time) two people, witnessed by society. While there are individual elements in the ceremony, the emphasis is on the union between the two people, and not on other things.

Yes, there was a photographer at my wedding, but at my wedding – as is true in most weddings – the majority of photographs were taken after the ceremony was over. Why is that? Because the photographer did not wish to distract from the ceremony itself.

Google Glass distracts from the ceremony. Until the photos are edited, Jessica Kuan’s right eye will be partially obscured by a box. It’s the same as if the photographer at my own wedding chose to wear a bright red suit.

Would I feel differently if Google Glass were not visible? Not necessarily, because much of the distraction has nothing to do with the way that Kuan looked. While I’ll grant that the reaction may be different among those who know Kuan and her husband, her wedding – either a secular contract within society, or a religious ceremony representing a covenant – has been reduced to the level of technological gadget discussion.

And corporate publicity:

The video was part of “Ok Glass, I do,” a collaborative project between wearable-technology research firm Vandrico and Jess Sloss, a communications consultant with the company. It aims to “showcase, and provide commentary on, the impact that the increasing prevalence of wearable technology has on our culture,” Sloss told Mashable.

Again, I wonder if the focus is misplaced.

When something becomes scarce, it is celebrated – California Bookstore Day

As our favorite things become obsolete, some of us hang on to them and celebrate them. David Allen has alerted us of an upcoming celebration:

David Kipen, who runs the store Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights, alerted me that next May 3 will be the first California Bookstore Day. Its motto: “Like Record Store Day, but nerdier.”

Oh, and if you want to go to Libros Schmibros to learn more about California Bookstore Day, don’t. They’re closed right now:

[W]e close for our winter break, December 23 through January 8.

Now that’s EXTREMELY rare.

But websites are always up, and Green Apple Books has information on the day:

California Bookstore Day, on Saturday May 3, 2014, is a project of the Northern and Southern California Independent Booksellers Associations, representing several hundred bookstores.

We believe indie bookstores are an essential part of lively communities, the free-flow of ideas, and the thrill of discovery.

Now the U.S. Senate is asking about carhacking

Back in August, I shared a post that detailed how two DARPA-funded engineers were able to hack the electronic controls of a car.

For its part, Toyota pooh-poohed the results, since in this particular test the hackers had to be physically present in the car to perform the hack.

Well, Toyota – and 19 other manufacturers who sell cars in the United States – will have to pay attention, now that Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts is asking questions.

As car companies incorporate more navigation and other technologies that could potentially collect increasing amounts of information from and about consumers [delete] into cars, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today sent letters to 20 major automobile manufacturers requesting information about how consumers are protected from cyberattack or unwarranted violations of privacy.

It turns out that Markey isn’t only concerned about hacking, but is also concerned about privacy issues such as geolocation.

Here are some of the questions that Senator Markey is asking:

How does the company assess whether there are vulnerabilities related to technologies it purchases from other manufacturers as well as wireless entry points of vehicles to ensure malicious code or other infiltrations cannot occur?

Does the company utilize independent third-parties to test for vulnerabilities to wireless entry points?

Do any vehicles include technology that detects or monitors for anomalous activity or unauthorized intrusion through wireless entry points or wireless control units? And how are reports or unauthorized intrusion or remote attack responded to?

Has the company been made aware of any intentional or inadvertent effort to infiltrate a wireless entry point, and what, if any, changes were made to protect vehicles from vulnerabilities in the future?

What types of driving history information can be collected by navigation technology or other technologies, and is this information recorded, stored, or sold?

Has the company received any request for data related to the driving history of drivers, and what were the reasons and final disposition of the requests?

Which vehicles include technologies that can enable the remote shut-down of a vehicle, and are consumers made aware of this capability before purchase, lease ore (sic) rental of the vehicle?

Markey’s questions touch upon an important point – namely, that your modern car includes hardware and software from a number of manufacturers. So even if everything that Toyota manufactures is highly secure, what about the content from LoJack, Sirius/XM, or your insurance company?

What if the people in your capital cities cannot eat?

Nations are usually governed from a single capital city, so for strategic reasons, it is important that the people in the capital city have food to eat. However, as people have moved from rural to urban areas, and as (some) urban areas have dramatically increased in population, the ability of some capital cities to be self-sustaining has declined.

As a University of Copenhagen study notes:

Higher farmland yields have influenced the cities self-provisioning over the past 40 years, but overall the ability of cities to feed themselves is unlikely to keep pace with increasing population, the research shows….

Particularly in the capitals of Australia and Japan, where the population has increased tremendously over the past 40 years, the self-provision has declined; in Canberra from 150 to 90 percent and in Tokyo from 41 to 27 percent.

This is despite the increase in yield of agricultural land per hectare. Copenhagen on the other hand, has increased its self-provision slightly from 34 to 45 percent because its population has remained fairly constant.

More information about the study, and its implications, can be found here.

The Amazon Drones – a cold launch

Until the craziness started, it was just an average March day at Amazon’s Fairbanks, Alaska warehouse. It was 9:37 am local time on March 4, 2027, and the delivery drones were entering their seventh year of operation. The drones were a lifesaver for remote locations such as Fairbanks, and had improved Amazon’s delivery time substantially while reducing costs.

George, the only employee at the Fairbanks warehouse, was watching several computer monitors that showed the robot and drone activity. He saw a notification that a new software update had been pushed out to the drones…and then he noticed something strange on the map screen. Some of the drones appeared to have changed direction. In fact, George realized, ALL of the drones had changed direction…and were all heading directly south.

The same scene was being replicated at Amazon warehouses all over the world. The drones were going all over the place. While drones in western North America tended to head south, drones in other parts of the world headed in different directions.

Eventually, after an hour or so, the drones stopped. Amazon’s current generation of drones had a maximum range of 50 miles, so as the drones lost power, they dropped down and landed. Of course, if the drones were flying in more populous areas, then more drones would be dropping. There were huge piles of Amazon merchandise bobbing in the ocean 50 miles south of Los Angeles, for example.

Meanwhile, back in Fairbanks, George’s screen was filled with error messages. “Could not reach lat -147.683029 long 64.848937,” one of them read.

As all of this was occurring, Amazon’s software development facilities, housed in a secret location outside of North America, continued to operate normally. The only hint of trouble came when a software developer went up to the cubicle of a co-worker. “Hey, Marissa,” asked the developer. “The latitude lines are the ones that go north and south…right?”

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