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Suspected smuggler caught at China border with iPhone ‘armor’

Many American consumers had to jump through hoops to buy a new iPhone 6 when the device was released in September.

But waiting in lines and paying huge no-contract penalties pale in comparison to the challenges faced by Chinese fans of Apple’s latest must-have phone.

The New York Times’ China reporter Chris Buckley and the Sina News service first reported yesterday the story of a man caught at the China/Hong Kong border with 94 of the phones taped to his body.

Initial reports indicate authorities were tipped off when the man approached a metal detector walking stiffly. The man reportedly made no attempt to avoid the detector before he walked through, tripping the alarm.

Sales of the new phones were delayed several weeks in China after first going on sale in America in September. A flourishing black market emerged, with some paying as much as $2,400 for the devices, according to technology news outlet CNet. Smugglers at one point even included schoolchildren.

Media reports have not identified the man or indicated what criminal charges, if any, he faces.

Is there any gotta-have-it device that you would tape to your body and risk arrest to own or sell? I’ve always wanted a mint condition Virtual Boy, but I don’t think it would fit inside my overcoat.

Bing homepage features North Cascades Highway

PUBLIC LANDS — The North Cascades  Scenic Highway (SR 20) is featured today on the Bing homepage, which is displaying an interactive photograph of headlights coming down the stunning highway through the national park.
The highway travels through 9 different regions across the state, from the Cascade mountains to the Columbia River Valley.
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, presents unique images from around the world each day.
Viewers can click on hotspots throughout the picture to learn more about the highway and the surrounding area.
Bing For Schools will help teachers create lesson plans about Washington, in conjunction with the homepage image – check it out here. 

Hayden School Targets Technology

Hayden Meadows Elementary second-grader Josey Damron uses an iPad in class Tuesday. Students, parents and teachers are embarking on a new curriculum emphasis: technology. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Some North Idaho fifth-graders sat in their school library earlier this week and chatted with students across town on a brand-new video-conferencing system. Before long they may use the high-end equipment to embark on virtual tours of distant museums, drop in on classrooms around the world or watch a team of surgeons at work. “It’s very exciting. This opens up so much for us,” said Lisa Pica, the principal at Hayden Meadows Elementary School. Down the hall, second-graders sat quietly on their classroom floor, absorbed in interactive math programs on new iPads. They handled the tablets with the skill of a teenager. These are the first steps Hayden Meadows is taking toward an embrace of technology as a central focus of the school, like science and art are emphasized at other schools in the Coeur d’Alene district/Scott Maben, SR. More here.

Question: Isn't this what controversial Supt. Tom Luna was pushing with Students Come First?

“Big Brother” arrives downtown, wants your quarters

Over the last month or so, high tech "smart" parking meters have appeared in downtown Spokane, equipped with coin slots and credit card readers.

But yesterday, workers began installing sensors that will detect when a car comes and goes, zeroing out the meter when it leaves and beginning a countdown when it parks. Though the technology will also allow people to add a few extra minutes from afar via a smartphone app, the sensors have caused a stir among parkers.

In an earlier story, two members of the City Council referred to the sensor technology as "Big Brother," but both said they supported the new meters.

The sensors don't look like much. They're just simple grey boxes strapped to the meter's post. But parkers beware: They're watching you. 

Yikes? Technology to keep seniors driving longer

We’ve all seen the cliché elderly person in a powder blue Cadillac doing a righteous 48mph on the freeway with their turn signal on.  It’s annoying, dangerous and according to several new studies these active members of the greatest generation should be allowed to drive even longer with the help of technology. 

“For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence, giving them the freedom to get out and about without having to rely on others,” said Professor Phil Blythe of Newcastle University.

“But we all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.”

“What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected.”

As part of nearly $20million program under Blythe’s direction a team of Newcastle researchers converted an electric car into a ‘DriveLAB’ outfitted with tracking systems, eye trackers and bio-monitors to gather information on what contributes to senior drivers’ unique challenges.  The systems track things such as eye movement, speed, reaction, lane position, acceleration, braking and driving efficiency.

The Newcastle team tested older guinea pigs from the North East and Scotland in the DriveLAB as well as the University’s driving simulator to shed light on their driving habits, fears and ways to possibly mitigate them with technology.    

Dr. Amy Guo, the leading researcher on the study, explained: “…Most of us would expect older drivers always go slower than everyone else but surprisingly, we found that in 30mph zones they struggled to keep at a constant speed and so were more likely to break the speed limit and be at risk of getting fined.”

“We’re looking at the benefits of systems which control your speed as a way of preventing that.”

Other vehicle technologies the DriveLAB team is developing include night vision systems and a navigation tool dubbed the “granny nav.” 

Versus instructing drivers to follow directions by street names and distance cues the granny nav tells them to turn at landmarks that are easier to notice, such as a gas station, McDonalds, mailbox, etc.  

Hold on a second… I’m twenty seven years old and that sounds like a technology I would use.  According to an eye test I squinted through at the DMV when I was sixteen I don’t need glasses.  But that doesn’t keep me from cursing SAT NAV systems when I miss their verbal turn cues; street signs are hard to spot when navigating traffic.    

DriveLAB researcher Chris Emmerson, explained: “One thing that came out of the focus groups was that while the older generation is often keen to try new technologies it’s their lack of experience with, and confidence in, digital technologies which puts them off.  Also, they felt most were designed with younger people in mind.”

I wish the granny navy actually was designed for me – I would use it. 

I see a trend forming here. In September of this year The Harford and MIT AgeLab released a study listing their top technology recommendations for mature drivers: 

1. Smart headlights: adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic and to reduce glare and improve night vision

2. Emergency response systems: offer quick assistance to drivers in the case of a medical emergency or collision, often allowing emergency personnel to get to the scene more quickly

3. Reverse monitoring systems: warn of objects to the rear of the vehicle to help drivers judge distances and back up safely, and helps drivers with reduced flexibility

4. Blind spot warning systems: warn drivers of objects in blind spots, especially while changing lanes and parking, and helps those with limited range of motion

5. Lane departure warning: monitors the vehicle's position and warns the driver if the vehicle deviates outside the lane, helping drivers stay in their lane

6. Vehicle stability control: helps to automatically bring the vehicle back in the intended line of travel, particularly in situations where the driver underestimates the angle of a curve or experiences weather effects, and reduces the likelihood of a crash

7. Assistive parking systems: enable vehicles to park on their own or indicates distance to objects, reducing driver stress, making parking easier, and increasing the places that a driver can park

8. Voice activated systems: allow drivers to access features by voice command so they can keep focused on the road

9. Crash mitigation systems: detect when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision and can help to minimize injuries to passengers

10. Drowsy driver alerts: monitor the degree to which a driver may be inattentive while on the road and helps alert drivers to the driving task

Just about every recommendation on the list is a safety option that’s becoming more standardized on upper-end cars.  Whether you’re a senior citizen who needs some help keeping up with younger motorists or just a crappy driver they’re designed to compensate for human error.

This list also spotlights the fact that with these new technologies cars are moving closer to being able to drive themselves.  That’s good news for seniors who can’t rely on Access buses or a caretaker to get them out of the house for every trip.   

Exactly when seniors become too old to drive is a matter of discretion that needs to be regulated more closely and researched further to do so.  For now let’s hope powder blue Cadillac’s of the future will come standard with a ‘senior’s technology package’.


Newcastle University

The Hartford


Picture: Automedia.com

Hedberg: Computers Make Me Crazy

One morning last week I turned on my computer and at first everything looked fine, but within a few minutes I could tell it wasn't. My mouse wouldn't work. And then the computer, which has been suffering lately from some form of narcolepsy, konked out and I couldn't revive it. So I called the computer guy and he came right over. I think he has me tagged on his caller ID read-out as "high-maintenance customer" because whenever I call it's like a summons for an ambulance."HELP ME. I CAN'T GET THIS DARNED COMPUTER TO WORK AND ALL MY STORIES ARE STUCK AND I NEED TO CHECK MY EMAIL," I screech in that panic-stricken tone I use whenever an inconvenience strikes. … But I will say this in my defense: I never used to behave this way when I used a plain old typewriter and paper/Kathy Hedberg, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Are you more impatient today as a result of being exposed too long to the quirks of home computers?

Goodbye, Paper. Hello, Pixels!

Are electronic book devices in the near future for reading?

The e-book industry has remained a silent secret for almost a decade, but now, due in part to sky-rocketing advertising efforts on Amazon.com, e-books’ sales will launch.

Although the book industry and technology have always been tightly linked what with online libraries, web sites, reading lights, and the ability to download documents onto iPods and iPhones, Kindle hopes to introduce a new connection.

Kindle is a wireless device with the ability to display electronic books like any other traditional print copy. The approximated cost is $359; the popularity of the product is credited mostly to Oprah Winfrey, who featured the product on her show, and in part to Amazon.com by analysts.

From the New York Times’ article on the subject:

“The perception is that e-books have been around for 10 years and haven’t done anything,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division. “But it’s happening now. This is really starting to take off.”…

 …“E-books will become the go-to-first format for an ever-expanding group of readers who are newly discovering how much they enjoy reading books on a screen,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.