Will self-driving cars spontaneously reboot?

A common rebuke to self-driving cars are thoughts about cars behaving like computers – like freezing or rebooting while driving. Those make amusing sound bytes or twitter comments, but there is a grain of truth to it. Self driving technology has come a long way, but while computers and software can follow programmed instructions, and can learn over time, humans are still better at many things.

An article in the New York Times entitled Why Robots Will Always Need Us does a good job of putting this in context, in part by the experience of aircraft.

Author Nicholas Carr points out that:

Pilots, physicians and other professionals routinely navigate unexpected dangers with great aplomb but little credit. Even in our daily routines, we perform feats of perception and skill that lie beyond the capacity of the sharpest computers. … Computers are wonderful at following instructions, but they’re terrible at improvisation. Their talents end at the limits of their programming.

and

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration noted that overreliance on automation has become a major factor in air disasters and urged airlines to give pilots more opportunities to fly manually.

That’s not to say that we should smugly dismiss automation or technology. Lawyers, for example, who dismiss the ability of software to replace certain things we do are in for a rude awakening.

In general, computer code is never bug free, is never perfect, and is not able to do certain things. (You can say the same for us humans, though.) For example, the aircraft industry spends huge amounts of time and money testing the software that operates aircraft. On the other hand, the types of things computers can do well are increasing, and will increase over time. At some point there may be breakthroughs that make computers more reliable and better at the things us humans are more adept at. But we are not there yet.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Is a self driving car in your future?

Depending on how you define a self driving car – probably sooner than you think.

Sometimes new technology seems to come out of nowhere, but it often creeps up on us.  Legal disruptions that new tech spawns often follows the same path – usually a combination of lagging behind new technology, and getting in the way of new technology.

Current advances that come to mind include smart watches, drones, electric cars, and Tesla’s Powerwall.

Take self driving cars for example.

Its not as if we will go directly from a totally human driven car to a totally autonomous car.  They will creep up on us.  The Google self driving car gets a lot of press, and understandably so, but mainstream auto makers are rolling out these features now. We already have cars with features such as self parking, adaptive cruise control, cross traffic alerts, and lane departure warnings.  Over time these will morph from warning systems to taking control for a brief time to driving for longer period of time.  Self driving will start on highways before it moves to city driving.

Actually, self driving trucks might become prevalent sooner than self driving cars.

truck

Cross-posted to Slaw.

Google search favours mobile friendly sites

Is your website mobile friendly? As of yesterday, Google search ranks mobile friendly sites higher in search results.

This means that if someone does a google search from a mobile device, a site that is mobile friendly will appear higher in the search results than one that is not mobile friendly and would otherwise rank the same.

Given the high and trending higher percentage of time people use phones and tablets for search compared to PC’s, it is increasingly important that web sites be mobile friendly.

You can test a URL for mobile friendliness on this google page. In case you are wondering, Slaw, my elegal blog, and the Harrison Pensa web site all pass the test.

So take the test for your web site, and if it doesn’t pass, talk to your web developer.

Cross posted to Slaw.

The smartwatch era is here

If you are an Apple fan, April 24 2015 marks the beginning of the smartwatch era – the date the Apple Watch is available. (Preorders start Apr 10th.) Smartwatches have been around for a while, but given the Apple reality distortion field, they will initially sell in large numbers, even though they are the most expensive ones available. The basic Apple watch is functionally the same as the most expensive gold watch edition that starts at $10,000. (Someone said that if you can afford a $10,000 watch, you probably don’t need to know what time it is.)

But there are alternatives, including several Android versions, the Pebble, and the Microsoft Band. Version 2 of several of these are expected soon.

Smartwatches are designed to be an interface to your smartphone. But if you want something that comes at this from a different approach, check out the Neptune – from a Canadian company that takes the intriguing approach of making the device on your wrist the main computer. There are still a few days left to take advantage of their indiegogo campaign.

Personally – as much as I want one – I’m waiting for the upcoming second gen Android versions. But then again that Neptune is rather cool…

Cross posted to Slaw

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

Is your logo favicon friendly?

A favicon is the small image that you see beside a web address in a browser tab. Similar images are sometimes used with social media names. Slaw, for example, uses as a favicon “Sl” in a particular font, Harrison Pensa uses its “HP” design (which, by the way, is a registered trademark), and my own blog uses my initials.

Because they are so small, they must be simple. If someone has a simple logo to begin with, it might be usable as is. But more complex logos won’t work. They need to be simplified, or edited so only a portion is used.

If one’s logo has been registered as a trademark, the trademark protection may not be effective if the logo is modified in any significant way. It may be necessary to register the favicon on its own as a trademark.

Anyone designing a new logo should keep favicon use in mind. It will not always be practical to design a logo that can be used in its entirety as a favicon, but that is a laudable goal. At the very least some thought should be turned to what portion of it might be used, whether people will recognize it as the same brand as the full logo, and whether there is merit to registering it separately as a trademark.

Cross-posted to Slaw

David Canton

Happy World Backup Day

Today is world backup day, a reminder of how important it is to back up our data – and to do it daily.

(I have not been able to figure out the origins of this day – Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for it – but the sentiment is a good one.)

For just one example, if your defenses are down and you get hit with a Crypto Virus that locks up all your files, you can restore your files from yesterday’s backup, rather than paying the ransom.

For practical thoughts on some things to consider about how and why to back up all your data, take a look at this article by David Bilinsky.

Also take a look at this infographic by Cloudwards – a cloud storage promoter – that has some info about the causes of lost data, and issues to consider around backup solutions.

Cloudwards.net – World Backup Day 2015
Courtesy of: Cloudwards.net

.sucks TLD Sunrise Period Starts March 30

New TLDs (top level domains) continue to become live.  There are hundreds to choose from.  Gone is the day that there were only a handful, and a business could tie them all up for their corporate name and brands.

Also gone is the day that they are all inexpensive. Some of the new TLDs command a premium price.  A .lawyer TLD, for example, costs US$6500.  A .guru domain is a bargain at US$29.

This Yahoo article talks about the .sucks TLD, which will be in the sunrise period on March 30, and generally available 60 days later.  Some think brands should pay the US$2500 to secure their brand.sucks domain name to keep it out of the hands of others, while some think that’s a waste of time and money.

Most of the new TLDs would be irrelevant to businesses that are not in the niche intended for the TLD, such as .vacations or .guitars.  But others, such as .sucks or .help are more generic and could be used by almost anyone.  Businesses and celebrities have obtained their own names for TLDs that could be used for purposes that could be derogatory or contrary to their image simply to park them and prevent their use.  And there might be merit in getting ones like brand.help for one’s own use.

But there is a limit to what makes sense and what is affordable.

Cross-posted to Slaw

The Surveillance Society is already here

Canadians often look at intrusive, anti-privacy surveillance in other countries, and at things like the NSA and Patriot Act in the United States and think we are above that. But it is becoming apparent that Canada is just as bad. We need to do better than this and move the pendulum back towards individual rights and freedoms, and away from a surveillance society that does very little if anything to actually protect us.

For example, it recently came to light that the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA, monitors and stores emails sent to Canadian government agencies.

This kind of surveillance is usually justified as being necessary to deal with terrorism and threats to national security, and its effects are downplayed by comments like its just metadata, or Canadians aren’t targeted. But there does not seem to be any evidence that all this surveillance and collection actually prevents anything bad from happening. Metadata is every bit as personal, private, and informative as the data itself. Who is targeted does not change the fact that personal information on citizens is being collected and retained, and that this information has the potential to be abused and used for undesirable purposes.

Mathew Ingram puts it well in an article in the Globe entitled We can’t accept Internet surveillance as the new normal.

The only good news is that the ongoing revelations about the nature and type of spying – largely because of Edward Snowden – are creating a growing public backlash, and tech companies are working to make it harder to intercept communications. Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism bill currently in the hearing stage is a case in point, which has attracted a huge amount of criticism – both over a lack of oversight, and as to the intrusiveness and potential abuse of authority that could result.

See, for example, this Huff Post article entitled Edward Snowden Warns Canadian To Be ‘Extraordinarily Cautious’ Over Anti-Terror Bill, and Michael Geist’s article entitled Why The Anti-Terrorism Bill is Really an Anti-Privacy Bill: Bill C-51′s Evisceration of Privacy Protection 

There is even a website dedicated to stopping the bill.

Cross-posted to Slaw.

CRTC announces first CASL anti-spam penalty – $1.1 million

The CRTC issued a press release on March 5 announcing that it has issued a Notice of Violation to Compu-Finder including a penalty of $1.1 million for violating CASL.

The Notice of Violation has not been made public, and we don’t know all the facts or exactly how CASL was applied. It relates to email messages sent to promote corporate training programs.

This should be a wake-up call to those who are not yet taking CASL seriously.

Unfortunately, though, until we see a decision containing the facts and how CASL was applied, it does not help those of us who are trying to understand how this difficult piece of legislation is going to be interpreted in practice.  It contains far too many unclear provisions, inconsistent provisions, and gray areas, and actual decisions would be most helpful to see.

March is fraud prevention month – let’s be careful out there

Let’s be careful out there.  We have all received fraudulent emails or phone calls.  To reduce the chances of being a victim, here is a Global News article on the Top 10 scams to watch out for this Fraud Prevention Month, and Tips to Protect Yourself from Fraud from the Competition Bureau.

MasterCard offers the following tips for credit card security:

Today 88% of face-to-face transactions in Canada are Chip & PIN or contactless, and thanks to the layers of security built into the MasterCard network, Chip & PIN and contactless are safe and fraud rates for Canadian face-to-face transactions have sharply declined.

While consumers should feel safe using their card all the time, they can further protect themselves by remaining diligent and taking precautions. Here are a few simple tips:

 1>     Don’t underestimate the strength of strong passwords. Make them complex with upper case, numbers and symbols and change them from time to time.  Use different passwords for different purposes and ensure you have a means to recover passwords, where applicable, such as a separate registered email address.

2>     Shop with confidence online and visit reliable websites. eCommerce makes shopping more convenient than ever, but consumers should do their homework. Look for the SecureCode symbol  from MasterCard at checkout, which adds a layer of security and ensures you are who you say you are online.

3>     Be skeptical of unsolicited phone calls, email, text messages, or social media messages if they request credit card data or personal information such as passwords, date of birth, social insurance number etc.

4>     Do not click hastily on links contained within emails or on any email attachments sent by an unknown or un-validated source no matter how harmless or familiar the title appears. Instead delete the message unless you can confirm the sender.

5>     If you followed an email link to a website (or a text message to a voice recording system) and provided card data that later seemed suspicious, contact your card issuer immediately so your account can be protected

6>     Always use Chip & PIN, and tap to pay where applicable. You should be the only one with knowledge of your PIN number, and shield it from sight at checkout.

7>     Keep an eye on your card statement. Sign up for online/e-statements and check regularly to make sure an unauthorized purchase was not processed. If you notice something, call your bank immediately. The number is always on the back of your credit card.

8>     Be informed; know the facts about the layers of security built into your card’s payment network.

Cross-posted to Slaw