The happiest people live in rural areas, study finds

Various media outlets reported on a study by UBC and McGill University that showed people who live in rural areas are happier than those who live in cities.

Researchers said the results highlighted the significance of strong communities to combat social isolation.

Stories appeared in the Daily MailCBC (also on Yahoo) and in the Globe and Mail (hereand here).



PyCon UK 2018 will take place on Saturday 15 September to Wednesday 19 September in the splendid Cardiff City Hall, just a few miles from the Sony Technology Centre where the vast majority of Raspberry Pis is made. We’re pleased to announce that we’re curating this year’s Education Summit at the conference, where we’ll offer opportunities for young people to learn programming skills, and for educators to undertake professional development!

PyCon UK Education Summit logo

PyCon UK 2018 is your chance to be welcomed into the wonderful Python community. At the Education Summit, we’ll put on a young coders’ day on the Saturday, and an educators’ day on the Sunday.

Saturday — young coders’ day

On Saturday we’ll be running a CoderDojo full of workshops on Raspberry Pi and micro:bits for young people aged 7 to 17. If they wish, participants will get to make a project and present it to the conference on the main stage, and everyone will be given a free micro:bit to take home!

Kids’ tickets at just £6 will be available here soon.

Kids on a stage at PyCon UK

Kids presenting their projects to the conference

Sunday — educators’ day

PyCon UK has been bringing developers and educators together ever since it first started its education track in 2011. This year’s Sunday will be a day of professional development: we’ll give teachers, educators, parents, and coding club leaders the chance to learn from us and from each other to build their programming, computing, and digital making skills.

Educator workshop at PyCon UK

Professional development for educators

Educators get a special entrance rate for the conference, starting at £48 — get your tickets now. Financial assistance is also available.

Call for proposals

We invite you to send in your proposal for a talk and workshop at the Education Summit! We’re looking for:

  • 25-minute talks for the educators’ day
  • 50-minute workshops for either the young coders’ or the educators’ day

If you have something you’d like to share, such as a professional development session for educators, advice on best practice for teaching programming, a workshop for up-skilling in Python, or a fun physical computing activity for the CoderDojo, then we’d love to hear about it! Please submit your proposal by 15 June.

After the Education Summit, the conference will continue for two days of talks and a final day of development sprints. Feel free to submit your education-related talk to the main conference too if you want to share it with a wider audience! Check out the PyCon UK 2018 website for more information.

Feds hope legislation makes vaping’s appeal go up in a puff of smoke

OTTAWA—A year ago vaping wasn’t all that cool, Grade 12 student Laurence Lafleur says of the rising trend among teens, but it’s become “super popular” and it’s viewed as an alternative to cigarettes.

Tropical fruity flavours are all the rage.

After the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act receives royal assent in the coming days, selling vaping products to anyone under 18 will be banned and marketing flavours to teens will be prohibited.
After the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act receives royal assent in the coming days, selling vaping products to anyone under 18 will be banned and marketing flavours to teens will be prohibited.  (STEVEN SENNE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Holy Trinity Catholic High School student is in good company when she suggests it’s “cool” — that’s why most teens say they do it.

But eliminating that “coolness” factor is the aim of new federal legislation which passed this week and targets teens.

After the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act receives royal assent in the coming days, selling vaping products to anyone under 18 will be banned and marketing flavours to teens will be prohibited, along with marketing that features health claims or “lifestyle” themes or seeks to appeal to youth. Existing legislation in Ontario already bans sales of e-cigarettes and accessories to anyone under 19.

“It will lose its coolness, especially if there are more restrictions put on it and something else will probably pop up,” said Marion Wright, the executive director of Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services.

Vaping is another term for electronic cigarettes or vaporizers. Proponents of vaping tout it as a healthy alternative to cigarettes or an option to help adults quit, but it has suddenly been taking high schools by storm, prompting legislation to help address its use.

Siri winning battle of the virtual assistants in Canada: poll

TORONTO — In the heated battle between Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft to get consumers hooked on their virtual assistants, Siri seems to be enjoying the first-mover advantage.

Just shy of 40 per cent of Canadian adults recently used a virtual assistant, according to a report by the Media Technology Monitor, which polled almost 8,200 Canadians by phone late last year.

About 25 per cent said they had used Apple’s Siri in the past month, 15 per cent had said “OK Google” to interact with one of the search giant’s devices, four per cent had used Microsoft’s Cortana, and one per cent had chatted with Amazon’s Alexa.

Rene Ritchie, the Montreal-based editor-in-chief of the Apple-focused website iMore, said he expected Siri would have the lead given that it’s been available to consumers the longest, since 2011.

But Apple does face challenges given that Siri’s competition has leapfrogged it in some respects, he added.

“Siri famously had networking issues early on and now sort of doesn’t match up well against Alexa from Amazon or Google Assistant,” Ritchie said.

He expected that Alexa’s usage numbers are likely higher today given Amazon’s recent push into Canada.

“Amazon was slow in getting Alexa to Canada and when they did, it didn’t do very much at first. But if you checked today, because of the low price (the company’s Echo Dot device with Alexa sells for $69.99) and the convenience of being tied into the Amazon ecosystem, I would guess it would not be significantly higher yet, because it’s still so new, but certainly (the adoption) would have a huge amount of acceleration.”

Ritchie, himself a fan of using virtual assistants, believes it’s a trend that will only grow in popularity.

“As things become more automated you get used to having ‘ambient computing’ in your life — like in my house I have almost everything automated, I can say ‘turn on the blinds,’ ‘turn off the lights,’ ‘unlock the door,”‘ Ritchie said.

“It becomes this entirely different interface level, it starts to become transformative and once you start doing it, it becomes habitual.”

Forum Research Inc., polled 8,189 Canadians on behalf of the Media Technology Monitor between September and December of last year. The results are considered accurate with 1.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Turn a wall outlet into a wireless charger with the Legrand Radiant

A clever idea that’s completely impractical for a lot of people

Wireless chargers are cheaper than ever, making it easy to put charging pads throughout your house. But what if instead of just putting charging pads everywhere, you built them straight into the wall?

That’s what Legrand envisions with the Radiant charger, which is designed to replace your regular wall outlet with a wall-mounted Qi charger (via 9to5Mac.) It’s an interesting idea with a slick look to it, but it also seems like it’d limited in actual practice.

First off, it assumes that you actually have a wall outlet that’s conveniently located at a height near eye level. (In my apartment, I’d basically be charging my phone by sticking it behind a bookshelf.) Next, if you do happen to have an outlet that’s in a good place, you’ll need to sacrifice it by converting it into a Qi charger. The Radiant charger is a full replacement box for your outlet, and it’s not a simple plug-and-play solution for your existing plugs, so it’s a far more permanent decision than just plugging in a regular wireless charger.

The Radiant is also being sold in a way that’s pretty inconvenient. While the charger itself works in just a single electrical box, you can only buy it in a $70 bundle that includes a second, regular outlet that also has a 3.1-amp USB port on it. It’s nice, but there are also more functional outlet replacements out there with more ports that are probably more worthwhile to install once you’re putting in the effort.

The Radiant wireless charger probably isn’t a perfect fit for everyone, it’s nice to see that companies are taking the wireless charging idea and running with it. And while this particular version might not work out, it’s easy to see how a more removable variant might be a good solution for keeping your phone handy and charged up by a desk or kitchen counter.

MIT teaches self-driving cars to change lanes like real drivers

Minus cutting people off.
Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Autonomous vehicles really don’t know how to switch lanes as well as people do. They tend to rely on either relatively static data models that are difficult to study in the thick of traffic, or are basic enough that the car might only change lanes when it’s absolutely necessary — that is, hardly at all. MIT’s CSAIL has a better way. The school has developed an algorithm that changes lanes more like humans do while respecting road safety.

The new technique is a modification of a familiar concept of “buffer zones” that determine where other cars are going and how likely the driverless vehicle is to avoid a collision. Earlier systems calculated those zones in advance to save time, but MIT uses a “mathematically efficient” approach that creates new zones on the spot if performance falls well below that of a human driver. The process is skewed by speed and can even be customized based on the level of aggression, although there’s always a “safety guarantee” that should spare you from having to swerve.

This is just an algorithm and may not reach the road for a long while.Toyota is backing the project alongside the Office of Naval Research, though, suggesting that it’s just a matter of time before this enters real-world service. And it might be more important than it seems at first. If self-driving cars are going to coexist with humans, they’ll need to blend in with human traffic patterns — and that means changing lanes more often, even if it’s just to get around slow drivers.