Monday, 5 October 2015

So you want a self driving car? The government wants one too - your one!

From the comp.risks Usenet group comes this thought provoking piece from Lauren Weinstein.

The main thing you should know about autonomous vehicles is that they are utterly inevitable.

Leaving aside technical, financial, and cultural issues for the moment, the question I'd really like to see us thinking about now -- before we really need the full answers -- is how we're going to prevent mass government abuse of these vehicles.

The amount of video and other data these vehicles will be collecting will be immense. You can bet governments will want it, both in individual cases and en masse. Governments will want to know where every car is or was, every moment. They will make license plate scanners totally obsolete.

They will want remote control capabilities. Whether or not vehicles can be started. Whether they will keep running or automatically pull over to the side of the road to await a police vehicle (or drive into the nearest police station, with the windows and doors locked?) if they believe a suspect is inside. Whether or not you can drive if you haven't been paying your bills or are having a legal dispute. They will want the ability to block all vehicles from areas where they don't want to be observed, and shoo all vehicles already there out of the area. This means individual and en masse remote control. Pretty powerful stuff.

And remote control is likely to come irrespective of law enforcement, because it's the most practical way to deal with situations beyond the scope the car's AI (unusual weather or road conditions, accident and construction sites with authorities giving voice instructions to drivers, etc.), assuming a human driver capable of taking over in such situations is not present.

Remote control capabilities for authorities are also likely to be mandated at some point due to LEO concerns (already being widely discussed) of unoccupied vehicles (the "vehicle on demand" scenario) being used in criminal or terrorist plots.

Most of these issues have already been covered quite convincingly by prescient science fiction for many decades.

Autonomous vehicle proponents would do well to consider how they're going to respond to government demands along these lines. 'Cause you can be sure that there are teams already in governments around the world brainstorming about their side of this equation.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Catching up on photos

I posted some sailing photos a few weeks ago, then completely forgot about the photos I took in our 4 days in Brisbane city. I've made an album on Google Photos, now I'm trying to add captions to the pictures. In the meantime, try this link.

Big city, big buildings
After lots of searching, I'm admitting defeat. I can't find any way to add captions to the photos in the Brisbane album. In fact, I'm totally confused, after trying to work out how Picasa, Google Plus, Google Drive, and Google Photos relate to each other.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Approaching the end

My retirement is now official - I've filled out the forms and set the date. My last day at UC will be Friday 18 December, then I'm a free agent. I'll miss the company, and the University is a very interesting place to work, but it's time to  to revise the position description and to bring someone new into the team.

My role has changed a lot over recent years, and I'm doing a lot less support for lecturers and more project work. We don't need "expertise with Windows NT" in the description either; in fact we don't deal directly with the Moodle servers any more, so that technical area is much less important.

What's next? A January holiday in Napier, house sitting for friends, then a few months of domesticity leading to a major adventure in France and Italy during April. We'll have five days in Paris, a week cycling around the vineyards of Burgundy based in Beaune, then two weeks being tourists in Italy. There'll be lots more news as the time gets closer.
Beaune, Burgundy
I hope there will be some part time work to help our finances, and I have lots of projects to keep me busy. And I'll be the chief cook and bottle-washer, of course.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Back from Oz

We got back after midnight on Thursday night, and I've now managed to sort out some photos. Click here, I hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Latest and Greatest?

My Acer laptop has been upgraded to Windows 10, and so far I really like it. The design is clean and quick, and they've tried to make things easy for people. Unlike the Microsoft of old, they don't stomp all over your settings, and the user prompts are helpful, if a trifle condescending at times. Telling me to "Go and relax" when it did the 4th restart didn't do much for my blood pressure, but it's been pretty smooth so far.

After a couple of hours, some brief observations:
  • The interface looks clean and crisp. No fussy borders or shading, just plain boxes with text.
  • You may have to reconfigure your home networking, I can't connect to the main PC in our study at present.
  • The new web browser Edge is quick and smooth - but I'll stick with my old mate Chrome for now.
  • My favourite programs all run just fine.
Watch this space...

Friday, 31 July 2015

Boat sold

I'm happy and sad to report that Impulsive was purchased by a young couple who've decided to take up sailing. As long as they don't scare themselves silly in the initial days, it's a boat that will suit novices well for quite a while, as their skills grow. I didn't get the price I was hoping for, but in my experience you never do...

Summer cruising in Impulsive
What's next? We'll start tidying up Omega, a 25ft extended Noelex 22, and sailing it next summer. The finer points of ownership are still being sorted, but we'll have plenty of time for those details. Omega has room for two or three to sleep quite comfortably, so we can start exploring further around Banks Peninsula - maybe even the Abel Tasman.

Omega is a much roomier boat

Omega hasn't been sailed much recently

Thursday, 16 July 2015

A week off

A Bastille Day (Tues 14th)  drama: one minute I was riding in a cycle lane on Innes Rd by Mairehau HS, the next minute I was returning to consciousness on the pavement, being helped by some motorists who'd kindly stopped after I hit an icy patch and crashed on my right side. An ambulance arrived, checked me out, and said I should get myself to A and E for a thorough check. Heather arrived to collect me and the bike, and off we went.

My helmet is cracked from the force, trousers and jacket are well scuffed, and I've cracked a rib. The concussion has faded as the day's gone on, thankfully, but the rib is pretty tender. I'll be at home for the rest of the week while it starts healing. 

Apparently I was one of many having ice related crashes on Tuesday. There were three from our area of the Library and Grant Bush from IT has stitches in his forehead. Let's be careful out there!

UPDATE: several days of rest and careful use of analgesics and I'm ready for work tomorrow. No biking for a couple of weeks, though, until the rib heals up. And by then we'll be sailing in the Whitsundays, no bikes required. Good timing!