Friday, September 28, 2012

California Allows Self-driving Cars

So on Sunday I got my first ticket in over a decade, for talking on my cell phone.  I know that it was a completely irresponsible act on my behalf and a well deserved infraction.  To the point that before the officer reached my window I had already admitted to him that he caught me red handed.  This will be one of those things that you chalk up to a pricey life lesson, very pricey.  I mention this less than flattering personal episode to highlight that no matter what the law says, we as human beings will always try to multi-task.  Whether it's using the time behind the wheel to catch up with loved ones, eating lunch at your desk while replying to emails, or chewing gum and walking at the same time, we just don't seem to be made to mono-task (just made that up).  Maybe it's just a survival trait from our caveman days that will remain ingrained.  If so, then Google is a step ahead in enabling that trait.

On Tuesday September 25th California Governor Jerry Brown paid a little visit, with pen in hand, to Google HQ and signed into legislation a law that will allow for the testing of self-driving cars on California roads.  That means that Google's fleet of autonomous vehicles have the green light to be stuck in traffic just like the rest of us.  But that doesn't mean that it's a dead end of sorts.  On the contrary.  The testing will pave the way for safer roads and safer automobiles by removing human error from the equation.  Which is, after all, the largest factor in any accident.  Not only is the idea to make driving safer, but also to enable transportation for the disabled, blind and let's not forget the intoxicated. 

This, of course, brings me back to my less than flattering admittance above and something that Google has in mind as well.  If our cars can drive themselves, than we are at liberty to use our commute time to our liking.  Soon you'll be able to let your car do the driving while you read a book, play a video game, get some work done, or even talk on your phone.  This, of course, won't be an option for about another decade so in the meantime I recommend a hands-free option and yes, I will be taking my own advice on that.  On a side note, when the officer asked for a phone number I could be reached at I gave him my cellphone number and warned him that if they called while I was driving that I would not answer.  At least I made him laugh, even though it didn't get me out of a ticket.  Also, I apologize for the puns in the second paragraph. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Record Temperatures or Summer Overtime?

 If you're the type of person to always have a space heater and lap blanket at your desk then this might be good news.  If you happen to be the one with the mini fan always on, then not so good news.  So here it is.  This year will almost definitely be the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States.  That will be the fourth time that records have either been totally broken or almost broken in the last 14 years.

Tomorrow is the first day of fall with the Autumnal Equinox happening at 6:49 a.m. EDT, yet it still feels just as hot as it did in the middle of summer.  This is like the groundhog seeing its shadow making for a longer winter, but now it's a longer summer.  If this keeps up we'll have to come up with some animal mascot and tradition.  Maybe a prairie dog in Arizona can be the unofficial judge.  Personally I look forward to autumn with the turning of the leaves, crisp breezes and harvest moons, but I think all of those things will come a little later this year.

For those of you who might be part reptile, you thrive in this lit-up aquarium type climate and I envy you on days like this, but that is beside the point.  That being said you have been gifted Summer Overtime.  Now you have a few, maybe more, extra weekends to spend at the beach, poolside or having Summer Overtime BBQ's.  So take advantage of the warm (hot!) sunny days and balmy nights with your favorite people, food and most importantly music to celebrate the first day of fall like it's the first day of summer. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Brief History of the iPhone

The year 1980 gave us one of the greatest films ever made entitled The Gods Must Be Crazy.  In the film the San, or bushmen, of the Kalahari Desert have their peaceful nonmaterialistic existence disrupted when an empty coke bottle falls from the sky (a littering pilot).  Since the coke bottle was unlike anything the San had ever seen they thought that it might be a gift from the gods to help them.  Everyone in the kinship found a unique use for the glass bottle and thus it became an indispensable tool.  That is of course until they all began to feel an individual sense of ownership, which caused the following 2/3 of the movie.  If you want to find out what happens next I highly recommend the film, a wonderful watch.

I use that opening as an example of what the world must have been like in the summer of 2007 when the masses got their hands on the iPhone.  Even when it was first announced in January of the same year the media referred to it as the "Jesus phone" and have since revered Apple and its wares.  The following year saw the release of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS in 2009, iPhone 4 in 2010 and the iPhone 4S in 2011.  Each successive year saw changes, additions and improvements.  These included USB 2.0, voice control and a sassy assistant by the name of Siri who has some fantastic comebacks.

On Wednesday, Apple fans waited with bated breath to see what the minds of one of history's leading companies would present as the iPhone 5.  Now that the announcement has been made the frenzy will commence as Apple fans clamor to get their hands on the newest can't-live-without tool.  Already the iPhone 5 pre-orders are over, they sold out in one hour!  So hold tight, it's just a matter of time before you will be able to sing the praises of what is already being called the best iPhone ever.  Remember, good things come to those who wait.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Which candidate will you choose?

It's time to weigh the candidates.  No, not the Presidential candidates, the tablet candidates.   The current leader is the Apple iPad which has been the leader in tablets since it's release in 2010.  Many slates and tablets from several companies followed soon thereafter but none has come close until now. 

This week Amazon announced the new line of Kindles including the all-new Kindle Fire HDs.  Typical reaction would be cheers for improved ereaders and high-quality, affordable media devices, which it was, but this time Amazon showed up to the game with an ace up it's collective sleeve.  That ace is the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE.  Go ahead and grumble that a Kindle is no iPad but see the facts and then decide.  So let's compare the two and weigh our decision.

Apple's iPad has a 9.7 inch display with 264 ppi, Kindle Fire HD is slightly smaller at 8.9 inches with 254 ppi.  Kindle wins in storage by offering 32GB for the same price Apple charges for the 16GB iPad.  Both offer 4G LTE data services with Kindle offering one year of LTE service at $50 a year for 250MB a month.  Both iPad and Kindle support Wi-Fi, but Kindle has MIMO (multiple input/multiple output).  MIMO increases the number of antennas at both the transmitter and receiver, which transfers more data without the need for more power or bandwith, making for less dropped connections and faster streaming.  Kindle has a 1.52Ghz dual-core chip, where as Apple runs an Apple dual-core A5X.  Camera and battery life are still up in the air since Amazon has yet to release specs.  Apple, as always, wins in apps.  But here's where it gets good.  The starting price for a new iPad 4G with 32GB of storage, same as the Kindle Fire, is $729.  Compare that to $499 for the Kindle Fire 4G LTE. 

When it comes to choosing your new tablet weigh your options and keep in mind that choosing between these two will make you part of either Android's OS or Apple's IOS party.