Geekly Update - 23 December 2015

Category: Tech-News

Are driverless cars just too darned polite? Should you have your next business meeting in a public restroom in China? And what happens when smartbulb makers do dumb things? Get answers to these burning questions, and the scoop on the latest tech news, in this edition of the Geekly Update. It's guaranteed to make you 146% smarter. Read, think and comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

Do you have trouble waking up, even with an alarm clock? Try one of these annoying alarm clock apps that are guaranteed to get your attention.

SanrioTown, the online home of Hello Kitty fans, was hacked. Names, birth dates and email addresses of three million users were exposed. A lot of Japanese kids are going to have bad credit.

Tired of looking at pictures of what your Facebook friends ate for lunch? National Geographic says these are the top 20 photos of 2015. (No kitties here, I promise.)

Driverless cars are racking up collisions with other vehicles at double the rate of human-driven cars. The problem is that driverless cars are programmed to obey traffic laws, always. So, for instance, a driverless car merges onto a highway at the posted speed limit, and gets hit in the rear-end. Developers are working on when to follow the law and when to follow the crowd.

Geekly Update 12-23-2015

Maybe this will help... Google and Ford are reportedly involved in a joint venture to build autonomous (driverless) cars. An official announcement is expected at the January 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Or maybe you should just let someone else do the driving. Uber and Lyft give you rides. Zirx, Luxe, and Carbon give you parking and concierge service. Their apps summon a valet who will park your car and bring it back when you need it, and even give it a wash or oil change while you’re wining, dining, or whatever.

Dim and Dimmer... Philips, the lighting manufacturer, pushed out a software update to its Philips Hue smart-lighting controllers that blocked use of cheaper, non-Philips smart lightbulbs on December 14. The ensuing hue and cry from customers forced a rollback of that update on December 16.

China is upgrading public restrooms in select cities with Western-style toilets, urinals, and even food and drink vending machines (in rooms separate from the commodes). The restrooms are also equipped with ATMs and WiFi, so folks can take care of business, while taking care of business.

Epson has demonstrated a prototype office paper mill that accepts used documents and creates clean, blank sheets of recycled paper in various sizes and even card stock thicknesses.

Dr. Sicknote is a new Australian Web site through which workers can obtain medical certificates of illness to satisfy their employers’ sick-leave policies, for only $20. That beats the cost of an office visit, avoids exposing other patients in your doctor’s office to your flu, and saves your doctor the time usually wasted on such things.

A teenage hacker broke into the reservations database of an unnamed Chinese airline, stealing about a million customers’ flight records including future itineraries. Then he conned several hundred victims out of $150,000 by telling them their flights had been cancelled and charging bogus “rescheduling fees.”

Infamous “identity theft protection” service, Lifelock, has been hit with a $100 million fine for violating a 2010 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to refrain from deceptive marketing practices.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 23 December 2015"

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

12/23/15 Re "Driverless cars racking up collisions...". As much as I hate to point out the obvious, the U.S. of A. would be much better off implementing decent mixed-mode regional mass transit in this country before making such a big deal about integrating autonomous vehicles. If we had decent nationwide mass transit consisting of systems that we could have built 5 times over for, say, a small share of the last 10 years' military budget, there would be substantially less automotive and truck traffic. In that future scenario, ironically, driverless cars might actually be feasible.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

You'd think Philips would have learned from the Keurig fiasco, but no.
Rampant greed clouds any common sense judgment in stockholder boardrooms.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

It would be interesting to know what Epson would charge for that recycling machine.

Merry Christmas to you Bob.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

Re Mass Transit: Of course politicians can ruin anything if the wrong ones are elected, which seems to happen a lot. Bus systems actually work well in some cities. Anyway, I was thinking more along the lines of a decent national passenger rail system, which this country lacks and about every other halfway developed country in the world has. Personally, for a trip of 3 or 4 hundred miles, I'd like to have the choice of taking a high-speed passenger express train which could make the trip in a couple of hours—enjoying a bourbon while zipping by all those ridiculously well-behaved driverless cars...

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

May I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Bob.
Looking forward to receive more good tips and news from you in the New Year.

Posted by:

Clive McCloughan
23 Dec 2015

A very happy and holy Christmas (holiday if you don't want to offend anyone over there .... and toe the whitehouse line) and all the best for 2016.

Bob, thank you for a terrific newsletter. Full of really interesting stuff and it has something for everyone. Ta a lot.

My best wishes to you and your family and staff and, may the flowers keep blooming.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2015

Re Dr Sicknote: from their website: “Web services which provide medical certificates are of obvious concern to employers,” he said.
“Obvious reasons, in most cases a doctor will be unable to conclude that a person is genuinely sick without having any physical contact with the person."

No, really? People would fake being sick so they can use sick pay instead of vacation pay? Say it isn't so!

Sorry, as an administrator, I see in-person visits abused. These would be worse.

Posted by:

Jay R
24 Dec 2015

I can only imagine meeting a friend in a non-upgrading Chinese restroom. Would he ask me, "What are you doing in a dump like this?"

Posted by:

Kuldip Singh
24 Dec 2015

Bob, Thank you for being generous with your knowledge.
Wishing you and all your staff a Merry Christmas.

Posted by:

Mike J
24 Dec 2015

When it comes to proprietary abuse, I think Hewlett Packard is one of the worst as their printers will not work in any capacity when after-market ink is installed. I do hope people boycott them until they either reduce their ink cartridge prices to a reasonable level or allow the use of after-market ink cartridges.

Posted by:

Linda Crawford
25 Dec 2015

I have a HP laser printer for eight years and have always used refurbished cartridges with no problem. It works just as good with them as the originals that came with the printer.

Posted by:

Sandy Papavasiliou
25 Dec 2015

You're the best Bob. I have been teaching computer to oldies as a volunteer (I also work part time) for 8 years. I quote you to them. If Bob says it is, then it is.
Thankyou for your always timely advice and info.
Happy New Year from 'the land downunder'.

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