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The Geek’s Reading List: Week of January 30th, 2015

The Germans take their auto industry very seriously, which is a good thing to know if you have ever driven on the autobahn.This has been a very slow week for tech news as much of it was dominated by companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon reporting financial results. There were a number of interesting articles about self driving cars and some interesting scientific developments, but no really exciting (or amusing) stories.

Germany Set to Open Up Autobahn to Self-Driving Vehicles

While Google has gotten a lot of press for its efforts developing self driving cars, such a thing must, first and foremost, be a car, and cars are not as easy to make as some would have you believe. I have complete confidence it is easier to add technology to a car than it is to make a car around technology, therefore the market will be led by automobile manufacturers and not tech companies. The Germans take their auto industry very seriously, which is a good thing to know if you have ever driven on the autobahn. Opening up a stretch of that roadway for real world testing is an important signal as to how important the industry takes the project. Note that both the road and the vehicle will be in communication, which is probably how things will go eventually.

“Prototypes of driverless cars are set to get the go-ahead on a stretch of Germany’s busy A9 autobahn. For years, the country’s car makers have been developing models with “autonomous driving” technology —passenger vehicles and trucks that can self-drive in cities and on highways without human interference. According to an internal memo, Germany’s traffic ministry hopes to create a network in which traffic jams and pollution can be reduced, while road safety will be increased. “We will start with a digitization of the test section,” a spokesman for the ministry told NBC News. “The goal is to introduce measuring points with which we will allow vehicle to vehicle and road to vehicle communication.””

If a Car Is Going to Self-Drive, It Might as Well Self-Park, Too

From what I have observed, the act of parking appears to be the greatest challenge faced by most drivers. It seems difficult to actually manage to position your vehicle between the lines, rather than diagonally, and, more or less centered without blocking other people’s doors. And don’t get me started about parallel parking. This solution seems a bit contrived (after all, having a map of the parking lot and all) and I rather doubt a Dick Tracy style watch to chat with your vehicle is likely to catch on. Of course, these numerous deficiencies and limitations will eventually be worked out.

“TECHNOLOGY may soon render another skill superfluous: parking a car. Sensors and software promise to free owners from parking angst, turning vehicles into robotic chauffeurs, dropping off drivers and then parking themselves, no human intervention required. BMW demonstrated such technical prowess this month with a specially equipped BMW i3 at the International CES event. At a multilevel garage of the SLS Las Vegas hotel, a BMW engineer spoke into a Samsung Gear S smartwatch.”

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Net neutrality: CRTC bans Bell from subsidizing data usage for mobile TV app

This was such a blatant example of anticompetitive business practices I was shocked to see it continue as long as it did. Well, not so much shocked because Canadian regulators have the get up and go of a sloth with the collective competence to boot. Note how, rather than fining the companies (or, at a minimum, demanding they disgorge their ill gotten games) and demanding they immediately stop the service they regulator very kindly offered them to continue until the end of April 2015. Welcome to the Broadband Backwater of Canada.

“Canada’s telecom regulator has ruled against a billing practice by cellphone providers that exempts certain television content streamed on wireless devices from customers’ monthly data caps. The decision, which applies specifically to mobile television applications offered by Bell Mobility Inc. and Videotron Ltd., sets a new limit on how companies that own both media and communications businesses can use television and sports content to bolster their wireless or Internet divisions.”


James Webb Space Telescope Deployment In Detail

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to Hubble. It has a much larger mirror, meaning it can gather much more light and have much higher resolution than Hubble. This is a comparison of the mirrors of Hubble and JWST http://i.imgur.com/MluczLu.jpg. I was very curious as to how they managed to fit such a large mirror array on a spacecraft and found this fascinating video.

“This video shows in-depth what will happen when James Webb Space Telescope deploys after launch. For more information, see this description on our website: http://jwst.nasa.gov/faq.html#howdeploy”

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