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March 2007
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May 2007

Hi, this is your car. I've just been wrecked.

Jon Hilkevitch, a transportation reporter for the Chicago Tribune, writes about a lesser-known feature of in-car automation systems like OnStar. Many of these systems, including those in BMW automobiles, automatically notify their operations center if your car is involved in an accident.

This is so the center can dispatch help to the scene of your accident. I recall an OnStar radio advertisement that dramatized this futuristic scenario from a while back. "This is OnStar. We have detected that your airbags have deployed and are sending an ambulance." Thanks to the GPS-aware system, they know exactly where your car is located.

But in addition to calling for help, the center can (and apparently does) notify your loved ones. The story talks about a man getting a call, on all of his phones simultaneously, when his wife's BMW was involved in a rear-end accident. He was able to rush to the scene and help her; arriving just shortly after the paramedics. A few years ago I was in a bad car accident just a few blocks from home, but I was able to call my wife myself. Having her arrive on-scene was a great relief to me, and I can certainly see where this feature, despite the stress it might introduce, could be very helpful.

Builders addressing how to monitor the elderly

A story in the Chicago Tribune, by Jane Adler, covers various attempts at using home automation technology to assist in monitoring and taking care of the elderly. One builder includes as many as fifty devices in the homes he's building, such as scales that report weight and bed sensors that monitor rising and sleeping times.

For more on this subject, see my article from last year, A watchful eye on aging parents.

Wii Bait at EB Games/Game Stop

Well, this was a disappointing discovery. The corporate wisenheimers at EB Games (aka Game Stop) have decided that suckering customers to come into their stores is a good policy. It all begins with the prominent display of Nintendo Wii system boxes in the window, beneath a big "In Stock" sign. The Wii is very hard to find right now, so this display is sure to catch the eye of desirous gaming geeks, such as myself.

Unfortunately, as you'll discover once you're in the store, they're empty boxes. The "In Stock" sign deceptively refers to the Playstation 3 and XBox 360, which are also displayed in the window. According to the clerk, this empty box ploy is a new mandate from corporate EB. "So people know we have the Wii." Um, except, they don't actually have the Wii. Just like everyone else doesn't have one.

It turns out this store did have a scarce black Nintendo DS, which I've been looking for, but I was too pissed at their deceptive Wii bait to even consider them giving my business. Perhaps, ever.