Stick Len’s rail loop, here come driverless cars

As I said earlier this month driverless cars are the future, not stupid stuck on rails trains.

Don’t get too attached to your steering wheel and brake pedal because self-driving cars could be hitting our roads sooner than you think.

The first privately-owned driverless vehicles could start appearing in New Zealand in as little as two years, once European manufacturers start bringing them to market, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

Bridges is in the German city of Leipzig to attend the International Transport Forum’s annual summit, where a lot of the talk has been about the rapid pace of driverless car technology and how it could dramatically reduce the number of vehicles clogging up our roads.

Alexander Dobrindt, the German Federal Minister of Transport, arrived at the summit on Wednesday in a self-driving BMW and predicted the technology would start rolling off German assembly lines as soon as 2017.   Read more »


We don’t need Len’s trains, we need Google’s cars


We don’t need to be sinking billions into 19th century technology when Google is planning on making human drivers obsolete within 5 years.

GOOGLE’S ADORABLE SELF-DRIVING car prototype hits the road this summer, the tech giant announced last week. Real roads, in the real world. The car has no steering wheel or pedals, so it’s up to the computer to do all the driving.

As cool as this sounds, it isn’t a huge technological step forward. The goofy little cars use the same software controlling the Lexus and Toyota vehicles that have logged hundreds of thousands of autonomous miles, and Google’s spent the past year testing its prototypes on test tracks. And, in keeping with California law, there will be a human aboard, ready to take over (with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal) if the something goes haywire.

What’s important here is Google’s commitment to its all-or-nothing approach, which contrasts with the steady-as-she-goes approach favored by automakerslike Mercedes, Audi and Nissan.

Autonomous vehicles are coming. Make no mistake. But conventional automakers are rolling out features piecemeal, over the course of many years. Cars already have active safety features like automatic braking and lane departure warnings. In the next few years, expect cars to handle themselves on the highway, with more complicated urban driving to follow.

“We call it a revolution by evolution. We will take it step by step, and add more functionality, add more usefulness to the system,” says Thomas Ruchatz, Audi’s head of driver assistance systems and integrated safety. Full autonomy is “not going to happen just like that,” where from one day to the next “we can travel from our doorstep to our work and we don’t have a steering wheel in the car.”

Google thinks that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It isn’t messing around with anything less than a completely autonomous vehicle, one that reduces “driving” to little more than getting in, entering a destination, and enjoying the ride.

Read more »

NZ Internet speeds OK? What do you think?

You can never have too  much money, and never have too much Internet speed.  But on the whole, are you happy?

New Zealand’s internet speeds are nothing compared to speed kings South Korea, but we’re not exactly North Korea either.

Game developer Dean Hall says he is moving his business overseas after criticising New Zealand’s slow broadband speeds.

But he won’t do much better if he moves to Germany, Britain or Canada.

And he certainly shouldn’t waste his digital talents in Australia.

According to the broadband testing site Ookla, New Zealand ranks 42nd in the world with an average download speed of 27.4 mega bits per second.

Australia trails well behind at 65th with 16.66Mbs.

The country with the fastest broadband is Singapore (121.81 Mbs) and the worldwide average is 23.3 Mbs. Read more »

So tell me again why we need Len’s train set?

Len Brown and his bunch of useful idiots want to put in 19th century technology to solve 21st century problems.

He is raising property taxes to pour billions into a train set.

Instead, he should be investing in infrastructure to make new technologies usable and enable them to be delivered quicker than anywhere else in the world.

Like self driving vehicles.

The world is one step closer to the day when people can, in good conscience, drive to work while sipping coffee, texting with a friend and working on a laptop computer.

On Friday, Google announced that sometime this summer several prototype versions of its self-driving cars are set to hit the streets of Mountain View, Calif., the search giant’s hometown. The move is still just another round of testing but it is a significant step toward a pilot program in which regular consumers could ride in self-driving cars.

Google has long been testing its self-driving car technology with a fleet of Lexus sport utility vehicles that have driven about a million miles on public roads, and that continue to put in 10,000 miles each week.

Traditional automakers are also pushing the envelope of driverless tech with on-the-road testing of their own autonomous prototypes, and the industry predicts that by 2020 those dreams could come true.

Getting there is now much more about software than hardware. The systems of radar, lasers and cameras currently used by Google and automakers have grown so sophisticated that the vehicles can easily monitor the road in all directions — even beyond what the eye can see. The tough part is figuring out what to do with all that information.

In essence, the cars need an electronic brain that knows how to drive in a world where human drivers, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, often do unpredictable things.     Read more »

Media driven Luddite pseudo-science

I recall a Nelson school protesting a (then) Telecom cell tower erection near their grounds while at the same time having Wi-Fi installed.

We also ran a story a few months ago about Internet Service Providers withdrawing their child from school over WiFi concerns while at the same time being in the business of selling wireless Internet to busineses and helping schools install Internet.

And so, the perennial story comes around once more

Six years ago, Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe moved to the country, stopped carrying a mobile phone and sacrificed a successful career in emergency medicine to focus on a new medical interest – radiation emitted by Wi-Fi, mobiles and other wireless devices.

She is now one of the country’s few professional advisers on medical conditions related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation and other electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

“I was using wireless devices before most people I knew – I loved it,” says Mallery-Blythe, who was ahead of the tech trend even in 1985 when she was handed her first mobile phone, aged 10.

“But as soon as I started digesting the literature on EMFs it was a no-brainer,” she says of her decision to relinquish wireless gadgets.

“I wasn’t willing to take that kind of risk for something that was purely convenient.”

Her interest in EMFs started in 2009 after she began noticing increasing trends in certain symptoms – headaches, insomnia, fatigue and palpitations, but also more serious conditions including brain tumours in young people, fertility problems and accelerating neurological diseases such as early onset Alzheimer’s and autism.

By now you will have gotten the message.   Elsewhere in the article, it says   Read more »


The slow death of Twitter

I have often said, to anyone who asks my point of view about Twitter, that Twitter is irrelevant and useless as a political tool. It has become the domain of bullies and tossers.

Any politician who thinks or says that Twitter is a valuable tool for engagement is bereft of brain cells. Anyone who calls themselves a social media guru is a fraud.

Twitter is not the real world, and this is especially relevant in New Zealand where the reality is just a few hundred people drive most of the traffic and comment and chat and felch each other in a mutual circle jerk waiting for the next target of their circle of hate.

Most people don’t even know what Twitter is much less a hashtag.

Damian Thompson outlines at the Daily Mail his analysis of how bereft of relevance Twitter has become.

The truth is that Twitter has lost its magic. For compulsive tweeters such as me, the system seems fine on the surface — buzzing away as merrily as ever. But the fact is that Twitter is in deep trouble.

Panic set in at the company’s San Francisco HQ long before this week’s fiasco.

Its baby-faced vegan co-founder Biz Stone (real name Christopher Isaac Stone) is a worried man. So are Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass, with whom he launched the project in 2006.

In less than a decade, Twitter has become part of the fabric of many people’s lives.

We users go on to Twitter to post pictures of our children’s birthday parties, to tease our mates about the drunken pass they made last night, to suck up to the boss, to promote our businesses — and, shamefully, to follow the witterings of celebrities.

The American pop star Katy Perry has 68 million followers, making her the world’s number one tweeter. Sample tweet from this week: ‘My heart breaks w/the rising toll from the #NepalEarthquake’ — a shocking tragedy indeed, but also an opportunity for our Katy to cash in by showing off her boundless compassion. Celebs love using Twitter for this purpose.

But Katy Perry also uses Instagram, the photo-sharing app with 300 million users that turned ‘selfies’ into a worldwide fad. And that’s where her target audience of teenagers follows her.

By contrast, Twitter is, like, just so old-fashioned — i.e., ancient history. Tell them that Barack Obama and the Pope are now tweeters, and they’ll just shrug — convinced that Twitter is for old people, meaning anyone over 25.

Indeed, Instagram is ruining Twitter’s business model. Even more deadly is WhatsApp — free for the first year before charging a tiny fee — which enables people to send text messages, photos, videos etc from their smartphones. It has 800 million active users.

The rival social messaging site Facebook predicted that the number could soon rise to three billion and thus bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. And it also owns Instagram.

One of Twitter’s big problems is that it doesn’t gather enough commercially valuable information about its users to target ads as effectively as some of its rivals can.

And although the cool kids now think tweeting is lame, there aren’t enough of them deserting the site to account for Twitter’s dramatic slowing down in growth.

Read more »

Paying GST on overseas digital Internet purchases – Fair or not? [POLL]

Online shoppers will find out within a few months whether they will have to pay GST on ebooks, music, games and television services downloaded or streamed from overseas.

Change appears increasingly likely after Australian treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed Australia would start charging GST on digital imports.

New Zealand Revenue Minister Todd McClay said a report into the steps other countries were taking to collect such taxes had been completed and he expected to “make recommendations to Cabinet within the next few months”, he said.

The report had also looked at the controversial tax-free threshold on physical imports, which currently means people can buy items worth up to $400 from overseas websites free of GST.

Although extending GST to digital services and more overseas online shopping purchases is likely to prove unpopular with many consumers, McClay hinted the Government was prepared to bite the bullet, at least on the former issue. Read more »


The insanity of the left and their propensity towards online bullying

There is an outpouring of anguish from the left after the Tories walloped their best chosen one in the election last Thursday.

They have of course taken to twitter and to Facebook to rampage and rage against anyone who dares speak differently to them.

We see this constantly in New Zealand where Twitter Terrorism is rampant amongst the left who seek to get people sacked, their revenue cut and businesses blackmailed into thinking and acting like them.

This sort of behaviour causes sensible people to quietly abandon platforms like Twitter and talk about other things on Facebook…making analysis of social media in assessing a campaign pointless and wrong.

Lewis Barber explains:

For me, the choice was clear this election but if anything the campaign showed that many Tories were unprepared to espouse their ideals as loudly as a certain strand of the Left do.

So, why is there such hesitancy among Conservative voters to support this record? The simple answer is that for many, particularly students like myself, it is still seen as taboo to support the Conservative Party. F**k Tories signs dotted across university, student unions dominated by the far left – who worry more about solidarity with Peruvian revolutionaries than they do about issues for students on campus – and being called a murderer for expressing  right wing opinions – all combine to make it feel as if the Left has a monopoly on university life.

Nonetheless, nowhere is being a shy Tory more encouraged than on social media, specifically Facebook, where any movement away from the “progressive line” is treated as treason. Tories are seen as inherently bad. Those who support fiscal sensibility are painted as devious or tricksters who have pulled the wool over an electorate made out to be naturally left wing. On an event created to “Stop the Tory Coup” one user claimed the election was “a fix” – and started to organise a protest against the democratic outcome.

After the election such self-righteousness continued. One Facebook user claimed that someone was simply “wrong” when a friend posted he thought Britain had made the right decision. Another Facebook user  claimed the electorate were “simply not ready for someone who knew what they were doing” in reference to the poor showing by Miliband’s party.

Read more »

The fixation with digital campaigning

Labour tried in the last two elections in New Zealand, with Trevor Mallard famously claiming they would win the Twitter campaign.

Ed Miliband also had a “good digital campaign strategy” according to the man who has never won a seat, Andrew Little.

But is Twitter and Facebook the be all and end all for campaigning in the modern era.

I don’t think so and have told many aspiring and existing politician as much. They argue about “engagement” and “connecting” and other gay terms like that, and as yet they haven’t said to me after numerous examples to the contrary that I am right and they are wrong. I have even said as much to the one blogger who monitored social media last election here…whose blog is now silent.

So let’s look at the latest election and some facts.

Over the last three months or so, 257 Labour MPs have tweeted, compared with 303 Conservatives. But of the 229 thousand tweets over that time, 49 per cent came from Labour MPs, compared with 31 per cent from the Tories. There may be fewer of them but they’re significantly louder.

Labour MPs are also more mentioned by ordinary Twitter users: 46 per cent of all tweets mentioning an MP mention a Labour member; compared to 36 per cent for the Tories, and a paltry 5 per cent for the Lib Dems (most of which were for Nick Clegg).

Then there’s the ‘hashflags’ (basically a hashtag with a little flag attached, promoted by Twitter itself). Between the 28 April – 5 May, the Labour party hashflag was the most used of all the parties. Around 41 thousand unique users posted the Labour hashflag compared to 27 thousand for UKIP, 15 thousand for Conservative, 10 thousand for Lib Dem and around 8 thousand for the Green Party.   Read more »

Why companies shouldn’t cave to Twitter Terrorists like Giovanni Tiso

Giovanni Tiso and Pater Aranyi are co-ordinating another Twitter Terrorism attack against companies who support people they don’t like, like Mike Hosking.

It is the way of the left in New Zealand, to bully people into silence by trying cost them revenue or jobs. John Drinnan likes to do it too, but he is far more sneaky about it.

Many companies buckle in the face of the social media storm, but they shouldn’t.

Wicked Campers showed why and there is an article on Breitbart that explains precisely why it is Wicked Campers were right to stand strong in the face of Twitter Terrorists.

Something subtle, yet powerful is happening in the ultra fast-moving, consumer-savvy world of internet-era marketing. In fact, it’s an idea so new, none of the marketing gurus I approached while writing this piece had even really thought about it.

It’s the joyous concept of turning furious Social Justice Warriors to your advantage – and harnessing their rage to make you piles of beautiful dosh.

It runs like this. Consumer A is offended by a product, a company or an advertisement for something they find misogynistic/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/racist/sizeist/whatever.

Consumer A – an Offendotron who would probably never even buy the product in question – rallies like-minded SJWs via an established, global network of Twitter outrage groups. Next, somebody inexorably starts a shaming petition, loudly calling for the product to be banned.

But here’s the rub: when you accuse a product of being homophobic, or promoting violence against women, or whatever’s on today’s rap sheet, you are basically accusing Consumer B – the product’s core customers – of thinking in the same way. And Consumer B starts to get indignant about it. So Consumer B leaps to the brand’s defence and rallies all other Consumer Bs out there – and two tribes go to a capitalistic war.

What follows is a user-generated marketing forest fire, often short-lived, intense and bloody.   Read more »