Back-up cameras to become mandatory for cars in May 2018

15 Jan

Back-up cameras to become mandatory for cars in May 2018

Transport Canada says new cars and small trucks will have to be equipped with rear-view camera systems starting in May 2018.

The new regulations have been formally posted in the Canada Gazette for a 75-day comment period.

The requirement for back-up visibility brings Canadian standards in line with those in the United States.

The department says it’s a safety measure because children, disabled persons, the elderly and others are vulnerable to back-up mishaps.

It estimates that such accidents killed 27 people and injured more than 1,500 from 2004 to 2009.

The new requirement applies to new light vehicles, including passenger cars, light trucks, three-wheelers and small vans and buses.

“This helps children be seen and provides Canadians with one of the best safety technology systems to reduce back-over collisions,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

The United States made a similar announcement in 2014, with a 2018 deadline for compliance.

“The objective of this proposal is to align the Canadian and United States safety regulations, to provide Canadians with the same level of protection under the law related to back-over crashes offered to residents of the United States and to satisfy vehicle manufacturers’ call to eliminate regulatory differences between Canada and the United States,” Transport Canada said.

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13 Jan

Apple’s iPhone 7 won’t have a headphone jack. What it means for consumers

Yes, the talk is true: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 7 will not have a headphone jack.

What does this mean for consumers? Read on.

Why is Apple doing this?

The company line? “Courage.” That’s according to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing, who spent part of Wednesday singing the praises of audio via Lightning port.

But also, the tech giant is trying to funnel consumer cash to other products.

Chief among them are new wireless headphones known as AirPods.

Scrapping the headphone jack may also drive some consumers to purchase wireless headphones from Beats Electronics, which Apple purchased for $3.2-billion (U.S.) in 2014.

Will I have to buy new headphones?

No. The purchase of an iPhone 7 will come with a new set of headphones that plug into the Lightning port, which is also used for charging the smartphone.

I like my current headphones. Can I still use them?

Yes. If they’re wireless Bluetooth headphones, you’re fine. But if they’re intended for a traditional jack, you’ll need to plug those headphones into a dongle.

What on Earth is a dongle?

A dongle is a small piece of hardware that plugs into a device to allow for expanded functionality. In this case, the dongle will plug into your Lightning port, and your “old-school” headphones will plug into the dongle. Apple is including a dongle with the purchase of an iPhone 7.

What if I need the Lightning port for multiple uses simultaneously?

Good point. Apple didn’t address that situation. (Presumably, the company would like you to use AirPods or wireless Beats headphones while charging your phone.) But some tech sites have proposed a multiuse dongle – yes, another dongle – as a potential workaround.

Was scrapping the headphone jack expected?

It was. In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s Apple event, sources were telling various media outlets this would happen.

Not to mention that an Amazon webpage of iPhone 7 accessories was published shortly before the event. The page touted Bluetooth headphones, among other products, and photos showed a lack of headphone jack next to the Lightning port.

What was less certain is what would be included in the iPhone 7 box. ‘Yes’ to Lightning-port headphones and dongle. ‘No’ to AirPods.

Are people freaking out?

Some definitely were.

Here’s what Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge, wrote in June, as evidence of the change was piling up: “What exciting times for phones! We’re so out of ideas that actively making them shittier and more user-hostile is the only innovation left.”

Of course, there was much snickering on Twitter about the potential to lose AirPods and dongles. Here’s some of that reaction:

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11 Jan

Bieber’s Instagram deletion reflects social media’s harassment problem

The most famous Justin on Instagram is no longer named Bieber. The Canadian pop singer appears to have deleted his account following incidents of harassment and bickering with fans. Millions of Beliebers anticipating photos of his latest beach vacation, backstage guest or shopping trip are now warned “Sorry, this page isn’t available.”

The Biebs didn’t just lock his account (which would make it available only to the people he has also followed), he deleted it. This deployment of the nuclear option marks the latest example of a celebrity breaking up with a social network that previously acted as a useful tool for fan interaction.

How could the 22-year-old pride of Stratford, Ont., do this to the 77.8 million followers he had accumulated on the photo-based social network? What appears to have happened was an uproar by “stans” – the portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan” that has come to define social-media users who post primarily about an object of their obsession – who disapprove of his new girlfriend, 17-year-old Sofia Richie (daughter of singer Lionel).

The trouble started in the last few weeks while Bieber was on tour. He began posting pics of the two hanging out doing couply things in Japan, and his stans responded by suggesting Richie kill herself, among other unmentionably extreme messages.

“I’m gonna make my Instagram private if you guys don’t stop the hate this is getting out of hand,” Bieber declared on his account. “If you guys are really fans you wouldn’t be so mean to people like that.” Late on Monday, he made good on his threat.

(It probably didn’t help that his high-profile ex Selena Gomez – who has 95 million Instagram followers – left comments on the post suggested that a) he didn’t value his fans and b) he was a cheater. She later deleted her comments.)

The relationship that obsessive teens – now wondering if it’s too late to say sorry – form with their heroes is always fraught, but what Bieber’s case shows is that social-media companies are also still failing to get the balance right between allowing free and open communication among users without letting it degenerate into a rage-filled pile-on.

Twitter has earned a reputation for coarseness: there are several high-profile examples of celebrities, journalists and others (mainly women) quitting the network because it hasn’t done enough to stamp out harassment. Examples include Leslie Jones of Saturday Night Live, who received a barrage of racist hate for her role in the Ghostbusters reboot, and New York Times editor Jon Weisman, who suffered a barrage of anti-Semitic attacks.

Just this week, U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas shared her frustration with attacks that have dogged her since she won gold in London four years ago. “When they talk about my hair or not putting my hand over my heart or being very salty in the stands, really criticizing me… for me it was really hurtful,” she told the Associated Press.

It’s not a new thing, and not new to Twitter. Back in 2014, Zelda Williams quit after she was harassed about her recently deceased father, beloved funnyman Robin Williams. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said “We suck at dealing with abuse” as far back as February, 2015.

More recently, trollish behaviour is taking its toll on Instagram stars, too. A few weeks ago, newly minted Star Wars star Daisy Ridley shuttered her Instagram and Twitter accounts after she was attacked for posting an anti-gun message (she later wrote that she just wanted to be on her phone less).

Twitter is now 10 years old, with 313 million users; the Facebook-owned Instagram is younger, at five years old, but also bigger and faster-growing (500 million users, 8.5 million in Canada). Both suffer from the same problem – a reluctance to moderate content aimed at users with large followings and a basic bias to let users say whatever awful thing they want.

In Twitter’s case, it’s not for lack of ability. A recent BuzzFeed investigation about the platform’s struggles with abuse included an extraordinary detail: the company previously used algorithmic pre-moderation of troll accounts, as well as a team of human moderators, to stop a live Q&A with U.S. President Barack Obama from turning into a racist tire fire – a plan that was kept secret even from some members of the Twitter product team. But it still has no plans to make such a feature available to regular users.

Instagram’s community standards documentation, on the other hand, says that talk that might get a user banned when aimed at a regular person — which includes “credible threats or hate speech … personal information meant to harass someone, and repeated unwanted messages” — is fair game if directed at a celebrity.

“We do generally allow stronger conversation around people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience due to their profession or chosen activities,” it reads. Basically, public personalities are asking for it.

In July, Instagram rolled out a “comment moderation” feature for all users, which is based on filtering posts with keywords that are “reported as offensive,” an opt-in feature that should help the company stop clearly racist, sexist and hateful language. It’s also testing a feature with select celebrities that would help them ban customized words, which is useful given that keyword filters often become a cat-and-mouse game, with determined harassers finding new ways to say cruel things.

Another feature the company is testing, according to a spokesperson, is a way to simply turn comments off on publicly available Instagram posts. That kind of simple comment-limiting step has been available to newspapers and other online publishers for more than a decade, but is still not available to the average Instagram user. Richie appears to be part of the test group for that system; she still has a public account with pictures of her with Bieber, including one with 195,000 likes but no comments. Further down her feed, the stans have begun to post hundreds of comments on unrelated photos that blame her for Bieber’s move, posts that also frequently contain snake and poop emojis.

But this solution, and those Twitter has made widely available, have one thing in common: They still require the average user to do most of the work of manually deleting unwanted comments and blocking or reporting unwanted posters. The only real solutions for individuals who are overwhelmed is to go private (which would dramatically limit celebrity connections with fans) or, like the Biebs, delete their accounts entirely.

Famous people aren’t the only reason people join social media, but it’s pretty bad marketing when your most influential users tell their fans “this platform is not for me.” On the bright side, Bieber fans missing more than just his body on Instagram may note that there’s another Canadian Justin prone to taking his shirt off. One Mr. Trudeau, a politician of some sort, is now in sole possession of the top “Justin” related search result.

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