Today, Toyota recalled 30,790 of its Prius hybrid cars in the UK because of a software glitch. While no accidents or injuries have been caused by the fault, we couldn't help but wonder what the implications for the I, Robot-style future of self-driving cars might be.
Toyota's issue is in the software that controls the car's hybrid system, specifically the boost converter, which is used when the car is accelerating hard from a standstill. In order to prevent overheating caused by the software pushing the car components too hard, drivers would see their cars operating at reduced power or may even find themselves grinding to a halt.
In order to fix the problem, owners will have to take their vehicle to a local Toyota dealership for a 40-minute software upgrade.
This is fairly upsetting for us at V3. While we don't own any Priuses ourselves, it does put our fantasy future of self-driving cars in jeopardy. Let's face it, Toyota's boost converter is probably a darn sight simpler than software that chooses whether you crash into your neighbour's garden fence or not.
A minor prang – or one serious accident – caused by software problems will surely spell the end of self-driving cars before they've properly begun. No doubt lawmakers and car manufacturers will insist the actual driver should be paying attention at all times, but humans are – for the most part – lazy. And yes, while passenger aircraft fly on autopilot for most of their journeys, their human pilots are (hopefully) awake, alert and ready to respond to any technical failures. The bleary-eyed car driver sipping their coffee on the way to work might not be quite so attentive.
A software update can't undo you writing off your car, or worse. It'll be fascinating to see how this is handled by car makers in the future.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who doesn't even trust auto-correct
Google may have killed off its Reader platform, but users who are looking for another way to manage their news feeds got welcome news from Digg.
The link-sharing site said that its own version of Reader is beginning its rollout to some users.
The RSS Reader feature will be offered as part of the Digg app for iOS. iPhone and iPad users will be able to access the feature and import their feeds from their Google accounts. Additionally, the company has begun to roll out beta versions of the Reader application to users who participated in a survey programme.
Users can also sign up to participate in the beta by adding their name to a waiting list.
“This beta version is aimed first and foremost at Google Reader users looking for a new home in advance of its imminent shutdown,” the company explained.
“Once you connect your Google Account, you’ll find all of your feeds and folders set up and ready to go.”
The decision by Digg to launch its own Reader came after Google revealed that it would be discontinuing its RSS aggregator of the same name. The company said that with interest in RSS readers waning, the project was no longer worth continuing.
Given the early response to Digg's project, however, Google might have been a bit hasty in declaring the death of Reader.
CharityBuzz is offering bidders the chance to have a cup of coffee with Apple chief executive Tim Cook. Bids are currently at $210,000 for the once and a lifetime chance to drink coffee with the guy who introduced the iPhone 5.
So far, 58 bidders have jumped on the chance to spend quality time with Cook. Those interested in the having a cup of Joe with Cook have until 14 May to make their dreams come true.
For those bidders who may try to milk their time with Cook, be warned that the coffee chat will last no longer than an hour. According to the auctions terms, Cook will not have coffee with anymore than two people and the winning bidder must supply their own travel to Apple HQ.
The auction brings up an obvious question. What would you talk about with the leader of Apple? Would you ask him about Steve Jobs? Whether the iWatch is for real? Can you have tea instead of coffee? There are just so many topics to cover and so little time.
No matter what the winning bidder talks about, the winning funds go to a good cause. All proceeds from the auction will go to the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. The group works to increase human rights around the globe.
Hopefully, Tim Cook's charitable nature extends to other past and present Apple executives. V3 looks forward to the day when former Apple chief executive John Sculley offers charitable souls the chance to spend a weekend with him.
Sculley is well renowned for firing Steve Jobs and selling sugar water. Perhaps Sculley could offer someone the chance to hang out for a total of two days in his derelict mansion.
For those unaware, Sculley's mansion is known as a design oddity that puts aesthetics over functionality. Architecture Digest called Sculley's mansion, "the architectural equivalent of the Apple III" and "the worst piece of design they have ever seen".
During your stay with Sculley you could be delighted with stories of the Newton PDA, Macintosh Portable, and what it's like to yell at Steve Jobs.
Communications with the International Space Station and Nasa briefly went offline.
According to Nasa, the loss of contact occurred during an update of the stations communications control software. The crew was eventually able to regain communications by switching controls to a backup computer.
During the communications blackout, the station's team was only able to communicate with Earth when orbiting above Russian ground stations every 90 minutes. Communications were down for about a three hour period in total.
The International Space Station was housing a six member crew at the time of the disconnection. Three Russian cosmonauts, two US astronauts, and a Canadian space explorer are reported to currently be on the station.
This isn't the first time that the space station and its crew have lost communications with Nasa. In 2010, the station and Nasa lost communications for about an hour.
Both cases highlight the annoyance of software updates. Whether you're working IT for a start-up or a scientist on the International Space Station, software updates are a chore.
Of course, if you do work IT at a start-up the chance that your update leaves you stranded in space is rather slim. That being said, if you do work at a start-up that could possibly leave you stranded in space: find new work immediately.
You could almost hear the collective spitting of tea over monitors when it emerged the carmakers were promoting their vehicles on the ability to hook up with a iPod.
Economists were agog that $20,000-plus vehicles were being promoted on the basis of a $200 add-on. But Apple's allure to the carmakers remains undimmed. From next year Chevy will be pushing some models capable of integrating with the iPhone digital assistant, Siri.
From early 2013, the Chevy Spark and Sonic will come in models that support iOS 6 users, so drivers can plug in their iPhone and operate it via Siri. The so-called Eyes Free mode will let drivers make voice-activated calls, play songs, compose text messages or check an appointment. The system which integrates Siri with Chevrolet's MyLink in-car platform, aims to minimise driver distractions by stopping the screen lighting up.
“Safe, easy, reliable and portable connectivity is a top priority for our customers, and Siri complements MyLink’s existing capabilities to help deliver an incredible driving experience,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars.
One can only hope for all the sake of all the Siri-using Chevy drivers that will be out on the roads next year that Siri doesn't come with Apple Maps integration – they might otherwise set off a a journey to the shops and be directed to the Grand Canyon.
TorrentFreak recently released a ranking of the top 50 universities most likely to use file-sharing platform BitTorrent.
The pirate colleges were uncovered using the torrent tracking site ScanEye to see which college IP's logged into BitTorrent the most. TorrentFreak's data reveals that despite continued efforts to curb illegally downloading content at universities students still figure out how to pirate data.
Rutgers University in New Jersey led the piracy pack with 1809 average hits. While New York University ranked well behind with a total of 986 hits to rank second. The top 50 list is surprisingly missing the names of tech savvy schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology.
While many colleges's block access to torrent sites like PirateBay, many students are finding workarounds to get a hold of illegally shared media.
In 2010 the US government implemented rules requiring universities to put measures in place to prevent piracy. However, students are still using university bandwidth to illegally download software, movies, video games, and music.
Many students are illegally downloading thinks like movies and music, but software like Microsoft Office for Mac is also high up on the list of pirated content.
During a recent study from earlier this year it was reported that more than half of all computers were running illegally pirated software. While most of the damage was coming from developing countries, almost 34 per cent of illegally pirated software was coming from first world economies like those in Western Europe.
It seems that despite continuous attempts to prevent piracy many users will just find new ways to illegally pirate content. As consumers become more and more tech-savvy at an early age it looks like piracy will be hard to stomp out going forward.
14 Sep 2012
Ever wonder how many degrees of separation exist between Kevin Bacon and Russell Brand? No? Well, if you did Google will now tell you that answer.
Google has released a new search tool that gives answers for the 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game.
The Bacon Number essentially tells users the degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and all other actors, based on the movies they have been. Just search the words "Bacon Number" followed by the name of any actor and you're off.
It puts the infamous "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (SDoKB) game to the test. SDoKB (an acronym we just made up) hypothesises that every actor that ever existed and Kevin Bacon only has as much as six degrees of separation between them.
For an example, Kevin Bacon has a Bacon Number of zero because he's been in a movie with himself. Russell Brand, meanwhile, has a Bacon Number of 2 because he was in Get Him to the Greek with Rose Byrne, who was in X-Men: First Class with the illustrious actor with the delicious last name.
The new tool uses Google's Knowledge Graph to hunt down the connections. According to Google the Knowledge Graph "will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the 'Star Trek computer' that I've always dreamt of building."
Just for the record Kevin Bacon has never been in Star Trek. However, Patrick Stewart's Bacon Number is only two so that must account for something.
06 Sep 2012
Bing's latest ad campaign has set out to prove its search engine superiority.
The "Bing it On" challenge asks users to compare five search terms between Google and Bing. Voters than get to choose which search engine came up with the better results.
"We're asking people to click and choose which web search results they prefer via a fun, non-scientific blind comparison test called Bing It On," said Bing corporate vice president and chief marketing officer Mike Nichol in a blog post.
"Our mission is to show people it's time to break the 'Google habit' and that Bing has reached a quality level that will make it easy to switch."
The new non-scientific comparison launches today with ads showing users taking on the challenge in the wild. According to the ads, users were at first sceptical but eventually brought around during the ads one minute run time.
Bing also showed off a commissioned study from independent research company Answers which shows users prefer Bing to Google at a 2:1 rate. Answers surveyed 1,000 participants above the age of 18 and gave them a double sized "Bing It On" challenge featuring 10 search quires of their choice.
When the results were compiled 57.4 per cent of participants chose Bing instead of Google.
Bing's latest decrees of supremacy come following a slew of search upgrades from earlier this year. Microsoft, who is behind the Bing search engine, said the upgrades make Bing searches faster and more relevant.