Wise Guys on WHO Radio - March 19, 2016
Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.
In the news this week
Stock analysts think Tesla is about to do great things
But as a class, analysts have generally proven to be far too credulous when they should have been skeptical, and often too pessimistic when they should be seeing potential. Investors and other observers should reach their own judgments accordingly.
Amazon takes out patent application for payment-by-selfie
It isn't entirely unreasonable to think that we're close to a time when biometric identification will suffice for a lot of transactions, rather than passwords. Because of the huge number of passwords most people need to keep, the wide range of characteristics that apply (some sites require the use of special characters, for instance, while other sites don't accept them at all), and the inconsistency of practice around factors like the frequency with which passwords must be changed, the whole concept of passwords may not be fatally flawed but it certainly isn't optimal. But the leading problem with biometrics may likely be that many people inherently distrust them and distrust any institution that would record their biometric identifiers.
Google is cutting loose the Boston Dynamics division
Google parent company Alphabet reportedly doesn't see robotics turning a profit soon, so they're looking to get rid of the division, which develops some amazing products and only became part of the larger company a hair over two years ago.
Amazon enters live-streaming to compete with YouTube
Only further evidence that the future of "television" may very well be delivered predominantly via the Internet
Technology is doing amazing things
Automatic brakes should be standard by 2022
20 automakers have agreed to "make automatic emergency braking a standard feature on virtually all new cars" by 2022. Almost all new cars sold in the US should be included. Note that the government itself admits that this voluntary agreement "will make AEB standard on new cars three years faster than could be achieved through the formal regulatory process". That says something rather disappointing about the pace of regulatory standards, but it's pleasing to see that they're willing to circumvent their own policy in order to get to a desirable goal sooner.
Your role in cyberwar
FBI warns that high-tech cars introduce hacking risks
Drivers are specifically being advised to keep vehicle software up to date and to use caution when integrating third-party apps with their vehicles
Windows 7 users are getting auto-updated to Windows 10
Microsoft has been hinting pretty clearly for some time that a move like this was forthcoming -- but it still seems a bit aggressive
Street-smart social media
Take it easy on the social-media posts about your kids
Parents are proud of their children and want to share that pride. They also look for help and the Internet can provide a community level of response. But kids also deserve to control their digital identities, and it makes sense to default on the side of caution -- especially given the permanence and universal reach of the Internet.
Gadget of the week
How to make smartphones truly, deeply helpful
They need to be programmed to recognize when users need help but don't know how to ask for it -- like when they are suicidal, depressed, or otherwise in need of human help (but brokered by artificial intelligence)
GM and Lyft work out a rental deal
Lyft drivers (starting in Chicago, then likely rolling out elsewhere) will be able to rent a GM car for $99 a week. The program will let people who don't currently meet Lyft's vehicle standards still get paid to drive. Chevy will offer its mid-$20,000-range Equinox SUV for $99 a week, or around a fifth of the cost of the vehicle per year -- including insurance and maintenance. GM is already a major investor in Lyft, to the tune of half a billion dollars. On a related note, a research paper says that Uber drivers are much more efficient than taxi drivers, when efficiency is measured by the amount of time passengers are actively being carried somewhere for a fare. The model would tend to bear this out: Uber and Lyft don't rely on their drivers having to hunt for customers -- they're actively being hailed by prospective passengers who aren't visibly waiting on street corners. The cab industry really blew a huge opportunity by not adapting faster to the Internet. Notably, too, higher efficiency means the prospect of lower rates for passengers, since higher productivity pays off faster for drivers.
Dispatches from the flying-car future
General Motors buys software company that programs self-driving cars
Company founder: "[W]e are moving very, very fast" to integrate systems. The path to the self-driving car is going to be more incremental than not -- lane assistance, automatic braking, and the like -- but it can't come fast enough. Eliminating human error from the roadways would save tens of thousands of lives a year.
Politics of technology
In his recent discussion on Reddit, Bill Gates said, "I think very few people take the extreme view that the government should be blind to financial and communication data but very few people think giving the government carte blanche without safeguards makes sense." The government isn't necessarily wrong to try to get its hands on data, nor is Apple wrong to resist. By the same token, the government isn't necessarily trustworthy to have access to people's private data, nor is Apple perfectly patriotic and flag-waving in resisting cooperation with the government. Rather than polemic from people who don't understand what they're talking about, these kinds of issues demand attention from sober people with technical knowledge.
Iowa tech this week
Mediacom says it's bringing gigabit Internet access to Des Moines
At least six Iowa towns already have it.
My Mom & Dad are mid 80's and not tech savvy, and barely can get on the internet or use the computer, so I will be helping then with this. They have thousands of 35mm slides, photos and some 8mm home movies they would like to convert to digital for passing on to family. They got a quote from a local photo shop to convert the some of the slides would be about $ 2,000. Mom said for that price should we buy what we need to do it ourselves and sell it when we are done? I think that would be wise, but I have no idea what to look for or what is the current "standard of the industry" equipment, methods, file format, etc. Could you outline what one should do and set a threashold of minimum standards so one does not get obsolete equipment, file standars or storage media. I have Mac and Windows computers, but will not be keeping them, moving instead to Linux and open source programs, maybe keeping Windows OS as a dual boot option. I woul love to see what you recommend! Thanks, Dan
- Equipment: Slides and photos -- get a good scanner. Consider a dedicated scanner for negatives and slides, if you have them.
- Programs: If you're going with Linux, I can personally vouch for Ubuntu. Even a novice user should find it reasonably easy to use. For photo editing, GIMP is an open-source alternative to Photoshop.
- Methods: Scan in batches. Use naming conventions (yyyy-mm-dd-state-city-description). Save and backup often. Use non-volatile memory.
- Formats: Photos in .jpg. When extremely important, also use .tif or .png. Resolution: Aim for 2000x1600 pixels (that's an 8" x 10" photo at 200 dpi resolution).
- Other notes: Don't forget your old audio recordings (mix tapes, maybe?). Old 8mm films and video recordings might be the one thing to pay a premium to have done by a well-equipped transfer service. Have the resulting DVDs pressed, not burned.
Listen again on-demand
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1 (A personal experience with reviving and old computer)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2 (The FBI worries about hackable cars)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3 (Advice on saving old family movies and pictures)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4 (Automakers will put emergency automatic brakes on all cars by 2022)