It’s the 21st century, after all

Toyota and Pizza Hut are teaming up to make self-driving cars that could deliver pizza.

Toyota and Pizza Hut are teaming up to make pizza delivery more efficient, which could eventually lead to self-driving pizza cars. The companies announced the partnership on Monday.

“We are focused on technology-based solutions that enable our team members and drivers to deliver even better customer experiences,” Pizza Hut US president Artie Starrs said in a statement. “With Toyota, we are excited to be partnering with an undisputed leader in human mobility with a reputation for innovation, reliability and efficiency, as we define the pizza delivery experience of the future.”

Toyota revealed the e-Palette, an autonomous concept vehicle, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The car may one day be used by Pizza Hut to deliver and possibly cook pizzas. Toyota plans to start testing the vehicle as early as 2020.

Blockchains Are Poised to End the Password Era

It seems consumers cannot trust anyone to keep our personal information private. Maybe this is the answer:

The massive password heists keeping coming, and one thing is certain: the way we prove our identities online is in need of a major upgrade. A growing chorus of technologists and entrepreneurs is convinced that the key to revolutionizing digital identity can be found in the same technology that runs cryptocurrencies.

Their bet is that we are on the verge of a fundamental shift—away from a model in which our valuable digital identities are managed by companies, banks, governments, and other central authorities to one in which this information is kept on a decentralized ledger, or blockchain, under the full control of individuals. Advocates say systems like Bitcoin, which uses cryptography and a network of computers to facilitate the secure exchange of digital coins without a middleman, can do something similar for identity credentials.

Read the whole thing, of course.

News you can use

In Post Password Era, Passwords are the Problem

The standard password has never been less effective or more susceptible to attacks. But some of the U.S.’s leading corporations say they’re also not ready to get rid of it.

Businesses knew that passwords were dead long before the theft of billions of user credentials from Yahoo! and information on more than 140 million people was stolen from Equifax. But for technical executives at some of the U.S.’s leading corporations, the twin events are serving as a long overdue coda for the technology world’s first swing at security: the simple password.

Still, executives speaking at the Akamai Edge Conference* here said that the much maligned password won’t be abandoned any time soon, even as data breaches and follow-on attacks like automated “credential stuffing” make passwords more susceptible than ever to abuse.

Alternatives like fingerprints and retinal scans are more secure, but resisted by the average user as cumbersome. Meanwhile, I recommend the correcthorsebatterystaple philosophy of strengthening your passwords.

Today in history

September 12, 1958–Jack Kilby demonstrates the first integrated circuit (or microchip) at Texas Instruments. It doesn’t look like much, but for this invention Kilby won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small plate (“chip”) of semiconductor material, normally silicon. This can be made much smaller than a discrete circuit made from independent electronic components. ICs can be made very compact, having up to several billion transistors and other electronic components in an area the size of a human fingernail. The half-pitch between nodes in a circuit has been made smaller as the technology advances; in 2008 it dropped below 100 nanometers, and was reduced to around 14 nanometers in 2014

Kilby also invented the thermal printer, and the pocket calculator.


A rotary engine that may actually work

Mazda really tried to make the Wankel engine work in its RX series, but it was unreliable, and a major polluter. So, what is the answer?

The folks at LiquidPiston may have it. So far they only have a small prototype, but it should be scalable. And they have successfully replaced a 40 lb go kart engine with a 4 lb, 3-5 hp engine.

“It’s kind of a Wankel flipped inside out, a design that solves the old problems with sealing and fuel consumption,” says company founder Alec Shkolnik. “The Wankel has a triangular rotor inside a peanut-shaped housing; we have a peanut-shaped rotor inside a triangular housing.”

I am not an engineer or a mechanic, but a rotary engine just seems more efficient, so I am eager to see this thing work.


Have you ever been eaten by a grue?

If you played Zork, one of the early text-based video games, you have probably been eaten by a grue. The game is more accurately described as “interactive fiction”, because there are no graphics.

The first line of Zork is, “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.” Using a series of simple commands, you direct the main character to do something, like “open mailbox.” To which the game will reply, “Opening the small mailbox reveals a leaflet.” Naturally, you would then “take leaflet,” “read leaflet”, and then maybe “walk east” to get to the house. The story unfolds from there as you collect items, like a sword, a lantern, rope, and other adventuring necessities, before entering a vast, underground cave where you’ll face enemies inspired by The Lord of the Rings, like elves, trolls, and the darkness-lurking grue.

The article at the link gives the history of the development of Zork back in the late 70’s at MIT, followed by numerous successor games. Perhaps one of Zork’s longest lasting legacies is the grue, a “sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth,” whose insatiable appetite for adventurers is only tempered by its fear of light from a lamp.

If you have never been eaten by a grue, or wish to experience it again, you can play online here. A Google search will yield other sites, but virus warnings pop up on some of them. Or, you can download the game here. Good luck, and watch out for grues!