Google’s Self-Driving Cars

Recently, Google’s self-driving cars have been moving on the city streets of Mountain View, California.

Google has been working on self-driving cars for some time now, with cars logging over 700,000 autonomous miles. Self-driving vehicles can register obstacles or distractions simultaneously, and could potentially do so more easily than a human driver.

Check out Google’s Youtube video, here:

What do you think of this innovation? Would you get behind the wheel of one of Google’s self-driving cars?

ScienceDaily offers this video commentary and, for more information, check out these sites:

The Solutions Project

Energy consumption is a huge issue for our world—you’ve probably heard about the energy crisis, sustainability, etc. But the media tends to have a lot to say about what’s wrong, and they don’t often say what to do about it.

Enter the Solutions Project. Shots of Awe recently did a video talked about this project, formed by a collective who are trying to create a plan that, by 2015, would completely power the US using renewable energy and technology that’s already available now.

The Solutions Project aims to eliminate combustion as a source of energy. It’s a project that combines the best of science, business, and culture in an effort to accelerate the transition to renewable energy (who wouldn’t want to stop paying $350+ for gas? Or stop the ever-increasing rise of the cost to heat/cool one’s house, use electricity?)

The Solutions Project has created 50 plans, tailored to each of the 50 states, to help the transition to renewable energy, with aims to stabilize energy prices, create jobs, minimize air pollution, and deal with climate change.

Watch the Shots of Awe video, here:

Or check out The Solutions Project at their website,

Passwords—Protecting Your Information Online

Passwords are the keys to essentially all of your online information. You wouldn’t hand a burglar your house keys! In this day and age, you also probably—hopefully—wouldn’t leave your house key in the most popular hiding place (under the doormat).

Just like you wouldn’t make it easy for intruders to break into your house and steal your TV, you don’t want to make it easy for them to break into your computer and steal your information.

(And if you don’t think you have valuable information on the internet, just think: have you ever bought a plane ticket online? Ever entered your passport number, SSN, debit card info? You’ve got important info out there.)

So what do you do to keep your online passwords away from potential intruders?

• Create strong passwords—minimum of 8 characters with a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. If you can add a space, do so (some sites don’t allow spaces in passwords).
• Don’t create easy passwords—did you know that password and 12345 are the two most popular passwords? Don’t let intruders in that easily! Make passwords that won’t be guessed. Don’t use your birthday, for example, because that information can be easily obtained, but the month/year you bought your dog would be an acceptable date to use.
• Write down your passwords—the good old fashioned way, with pen and paper, or use a secure storage space like
• Don’t use the same password for everything—that’s just a bad idea and, if one site is compromised, you risk your information being stolen from the other places as well.

All of this information is particularly important in the wake of the Heartbleed bug, which has been causing ripples in the tech community for weeks. If you’re just tuning in, check out our breakdown of why the bug is a big deal, here.

What You Need to Know About the Heartbleed Bug

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who use the internet in any capacity, you’ve probably heard about the Heartbleed bug that rocked the tech world last month. But do you know what it is, and what it means for the technology in your life? Here’s a basic run-down on what you need to know:

The Heartbleed bug is a serious security vulnerability within OpenSSL cryptographic software (this is popular software, and you probably use it). It opens the possibility for information that is normally protected by the SSL/TLS encryption to be stolen.

Websites indicate that they are “secure”—with OpenSSL encryption—by https:// instead of http://, but the Heartbleed bug means that hackers could break the SSL encryption. It allows the memory of the systems protected by this software to be read. This exploitation leaves no trace of abnormality or hacking, and the Heartbleed bug is being treated very seriously.

A fixed version of OpenSSL has been released, but the vendors of operating systems, appliances, and independent software have to adopt the fix and notify users.

Most sites—particularly giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon—immediately took steps to fix the breach. If you routinely use a website to send and receive information through email, social networking, or shopping, you should have gotten some sort of notification through that site about security and changing your passwords. If a site hasn’t notified you, it could still be vulnerable.

According to CNET, only 39% of Internet users are making efforts to protect their information, in spite of the widespread awareness of this vulnerability. If you’ve been notified of the breach by a website you use and asked to change your password, protect your information and do it today.

For more information on the Heartbleed bug, check out some of these links:

Sharing Sensitive Information Online

Last month, we talked about sharing misinformation online and how to prevent the spread of false news. This month, we’d like to talk about over-sharing the kind of information you don’t want anyone to see.

Sensitive information can be anything: usernames and passwords, social security numbers, credit card information, and pictures best kept private. Thanks to the effortlessness of the internet, it’s become easier than ever for information like this to become more public than you ever intended.

But what’s the best, most secure way to share this information?

For simple information like passwords, credit card numbers, and other single lines of text, try protecting your information by breaking it up into smaller chunks. For example, send the password through one channel (iMessage) with no context and, in an email, send the username with a message like “I’ve texted you the password for ___.” It’s not foolproof but, by separating the context from the information, you decrease the chance that those who might misuse the information will know what to do with it if it falls into their hands.

An even more secure way to share is LastPass, a great password management service and one of the most secure ways to share and/or store passwords, but you’d need your recipient to have one as well in order to share information.

If you’re looking to send full documents, like job or tax paperwork, you’ll need an external service. Dropbox is a secure, free way to share files. They encrypt everything you upload or download over a secure HTTPS connection. (Note: Dropbox’s mobile app doesn’t use an encrypted connection, so don’t use it to send or open sensitive files.)

Do you have your own smart way to share sensitive information?