So You Want to be Connected….

In today’s world, one of the main buzzwords is “smart”.  This word usually refers to a device that has the intelligence to identify your next request and act to provide the information almost instantaneously.  In order to do so, the device has to be connected to the internet.  Right now, “smart” devices are limited mainly to cell phones and computers.  I just watched a webinar that talked about the “home ecosystem” needed to form a “smart home”.  However, almost nothing was said about security.  Imagine connecting your kitchen appliances to the internet.  From any remote location, you could start a load of laundry, do a load of dishes, or cook dinner and have it ready by the time you get home.  Similarly, you could adjust the temperature of your thermostat so that your home will be cooled or heated when your family gets home.  It all sounds great. But, there is a downside.  No matter how far technology advances and no matter how secure networks become, hackers (as they are known today) will ALWAYS be around to try and break the system.  As long as people are connected, hackers will try to steal information.  With that information, imagine someone taking control of your home, whether it’s listening in, watching you, or controlling your devices.  It’s up to you to decide whether you want such devices in your home.  If you don’t mind somebody spying on you, that’s fine.  Remember, those ads that pop up on your phone or computer just when you happen to be thinking of buying the same item, didn’t just pop up by coincidence.  They popped up because someone has captured information about something that interests you.

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Climate Change, Part 2

About two weeks ago, I posted comments about climate change and the conference that was going on in Paris. The conference is now over and according to the Associated Press, 200 nations have agreed on a plan to “ween the earth off fossil fuels”. Obviously, the net effect is to reduce global warming. The article goes on to cite that we have to eliminate 7.04 tons or 15.5 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide in order to keep the surface temperature of the earth from rising. The goal is to keep the temperature from rising more than 1 degree C (1.8 F) .  Although there are plenty of skeptics that doubt the success of such a plan just as there were with the Kyoto Accord, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what we can now to at least slow down the destructive effect of global warming.  We have the technology to implement solar and wind energy producing equipment.  We must make use of it!   But, as I stated in the previous post, all it takes is money.  Is there anyone out there willing to invest in solar cells or wind turbine-generators?

Electric Power Steering

In a previous blog article, I discussed how complicated products were becoming as a result of the rapidly changing technology industry.  In another example of complex technology, electric power steering is replacing hydraulic power steering.  For the most part, this isn’t news.  Two years ago however, GM began recalling 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt vehicles because the power steering motor would fail.  Keep in mind that in a hydraulic system, pressurized fluid would assist the driver in turning the front wheels either left or right.  In an electric system, the power steering motor does this job.  But, when it fails, power steering disappears.  When power steering disappears, more effort is required from the driver in order to maintain control of the vehicle.  If the driver is unprepared for the additional strength required, then the risk of a crash increases. This is also true for a hydraulic system.  It is understood that the power steering motor depends upon input from sensor(s) in order to determine the steering wheel’s position and whether to move the front wheels right or left.  GM has stated in their recall that the power assist will return the next time that the vehicle is restarted.  This statement implies that somehow, something in the motor has a tendency to fix itself and return to normal until the next time the “something” decides to cause the motor to fail.  It should be noted that although not proven, the power steering motor might have a tendency to alternately stop operating and then start again causing the steering wheel to oscillate back and forth. Doing so, will likely cause the vehicle to move sideways, back and forth.  We are investigating a situation with just this type of movement.  Just one more thing for the driving public to have to worry about. If you have experienced a power steering problem you are urged to have it checked.  The recall for this vehicle can be seen on the NHTSA website or on the GM website.

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