Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Why is there interest in Internet-assisted in-home healthcare

There is a strong interest in using Internet-based connectivity as a tool for facilitating in-home healthcare.

Bluetooth-connected pulse oximeter

A Bluetooth-connected pulse oximeter in action

This involves the use of a mix of sensor types that are typically used to observe a patient along with the use of regular, mobile and other computing devices to process and present this information to the carers and to the medical professionals. It also includes implementing voice and video telephony to allow medical professionals to communicate with the patient without the need to frequently travel to where they live.

Why the interest?

Ageing at home

This is where a senior citizen is able to live independently at their home as much as possible but have supporting care from relatives, friends and professional carers.

tablet computer used as part of in-home telemedicine setup

A tablet used as part of an in-home telemedicine setup

One of the reasons driving “ageing at home” is the fact that the generation of people born through World War II and the post-war Baby Boomers will be entering their senior years which will place strong demands on health care and welfare facilities that cater to this group of people.

Another is that an increasing number of aged-care facilities have been associated with substandard quality of care“I don’t want to end up in the nursing home”.  This is brought about with more of us being aware of this level of care either through observing how those we have known in our life’s journey that were looked after in those facilities were being treated, or hearing about instances of substandard care in the media such as the infamous “kerosene bath” incident that hit the news in Australia in the early 2000s.

This has also been driven by the trend towards health-care deinstitutionalisation affecting geriatric and palliative care where there isn’t a desire to rely on large facilities for this kind of care.

Other healthcare needs

Increasingly hospitals are looking towards “hospital in the home” or similar programs as a way to provide ongoing care for convalescent patients and those with illnesses that require long-term attention. Here, the care associated with what would typically be provided in a hospital, typically nursing-focused procedures, would be offered at the patient’s home but with visiting nurses, doctors and allied staff.

Even obstetric care is also affected by this trend, with an increased preference for minimal hands-on professional care for low-risk mothers when they go in to labour. Similarly, low-risk psychiatric care is being delivered at home thanks to telecommunications-based technologies.

The advantages that are being put forward for this kind of care is that the patient can stay in the familiar surroundings of their home and, again, has been underscored by the concept of deinstitutionalisation in healthcare. Governments and others also see it as a cost-saving because they can focus a hospital’s beds towards those needing acute care.

The rural community are seeing an application for this kind of technology so as to avoid the need for frequent long-distance travel which would be of importance when it comes to specialised or advanced healthcare.

How is the kind of healthcare delivered?

Here, the focus is on observational healthcare where medical professionals can assess the situation based on either the data that is collected or through communications with the patient. In some cases, it may be based on an event-driven principle where the professional is alerted if the situation goes beyond certain limits.

This is facilitated through the concept of “telemedicine” where the data is conveyed through an Internet connection and has been facilitated through various technologies.

One of these is “machine vision” where one or more cost-effective high-resolution cameras feeds images in to a platform-based computer which runs software that recognises and interprets these images for medical use. One application that was put forward was to observe a patient’s pulse using a camera that observed the brightness of one’s face as the heart beats. Another application is to use a smartphone’s or tablet’s camera to read fluid-analysis strips as part of assessing urine or blood while an app in that device interprets this information rather than a person comparing what is seen on the strip against a chart.

Another of these is the implementation of common communications technologies like Bluetooth, Zigbee or Wi-Fi in sensor devices. This can lead towards the existence of cost-effective sensor devices that can work with existing computer devices with a minimal need for extra hardware, while these devices can use cost-effective software to interpret and present this information. This has led to startup companies and tech innovators developing devices like “wandering-alert” socks that work with Bluetooth and apps.

What needs to be done?

An issue that will affect in-home telehealth is where device manufacturers and health providers legally stand when it comes to providing these services.

One of the questions that is being raised is the use of non-medical sensor devices for medical applications. One of the scenarios is the use of a general wellness device like a fitness band or a wellness-focused thermometer as a medical sensor for clinical purposes. Another scenario would be the use of a “non-wellness” sensor like a security system’s PIR and door sensors, a home-automation sensor, or a smartphone’s camera for medical-observation purposes with these devices feeding their data to software running on a platform-based computing device.

These questions are being examined by the US’s Food and Drug Administration with respect to wellness-focused devices serving as medical devices in this context. But implementing home automation and security in this context may require a case-by-case assessment based on the actual installation and would only work with geriatric, psychiatric or allied situations where observational healthcare is the order of the day.

Similarly, software that uses devices like cameras for medical reasons like “machine vision” may have to be certified by medical-device authorities to be sure that the software provides accurate results no matter the input device. In the case of software that uses cameras, there would be a requirement for a minimum resolution for the camera to turn out consistently accurate results.

Conclusion

Once the issues that affect the provision of Internet-assisted in-home health care are identified and worked out, then it could be feasible for the home to be a place to deliver continual health care.

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Blu-Ray, HBBTV and app-based NAS systems can take documentary content further

Increasingly the Internet has been used as a “cyber-library” of information that is being used to create many interesting feature-length documentary films.

Wikipedia - could augment many of these documentaries

Wikipedia – could augment many of these documentaries

But most of these shows have been augmented by a micro-Website dedicated to the film, which may just contain some public-relations material like press releases. But some of these sites contain more detailed information on the topics covered in these films and/or provide a pathway to a “call-to-action” like engaging other entities that relate to the documentary’s subject. The classic example may be to have viewers contact a particular advocacy organisation for assistance if the subject relates to them personally; or to engage local, regional or national politicians to have the issue covered in the film raised by their government.

In some cases, the Website is the only resource used to keep the film’s viewers updated on the topic. This may be augmented with a site-based newsfeed or email list so viewers can keep “in the loop” with what is going on.

Similarly, there are other resources like the “reference sites” like IMDB, Wikipedia, Bible Gateway and the like which provide useful reference tools for viewers to use. Let’s not forget YouTube or Vimeo being used simply as a video repository for supporting video material.

But how can these resources be brought to the large screen?

The Blu-Ray Disc family of optical discs

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

Blu-Ray players can provide pathways to online content

The DVD had opened up some ways content can be taken further thanks to providing a standardised way to add interactive content like a graphical menu tree along with the ability to package supporting video and image content. There is even the ability to provide supplementary audio tracks that have extra narration that can be played alongside the main audio track.

But the Blu-Ray disc family has taken this concept further with a few features that earn their keep with the documentary film.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray player remote control

A remote control that comes with a Blu-Ray player – a pathway to interactivity

One of these is BD-J which is a variant of Java written for Blu-Ray applications and can be run an all Blu-Ray players currently in use. This can allow for interactive content that is more than just a fancy menu, a photo gallery or some extra video material. For example, the “coloured” function buttons on every Blu-Ray player’s remote control could be exploited to allow the viewer to pull up “explain more” screens or movies if they need to understand concepts. A skilful Java programmer who is good at creating full-screen graphics could even create an experience not dissimilar to a computer game to highlight various concepts in a graphically-rich manner.

Another feature available to the Blu-Ray format is BD-Live which connects the Blu-Ray player to online resources. Here, this could range from a Web-hosted resource list through “download-to-view” movies and trailers that take it further. A BD-J script could exploit the RSS Webfeed associated with Webpages or blogs relevant to the film or show up the Wikipedia page about the topics of relevance. These same scripts can even provide pathways to advocacy Websites in a localised form or even provide that link to an online petition.

HBBTV and similar “broadcast + broadband” technologies

Panasonic VIERA AX900 Series 4K UHDTV press picture courtesy of Panasonic

HBBTV-capable TVs can provide the same level of rich interactivity with broadcast content

Another path for a lot of these shows to be exhibited is through broadcast TV, often with public-service broadcasters being associated with showing documentary and other allied content to inform the populace.

But in Germany and a large part of Continental Europe, along with Australia, Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV is in full flight. This works with TVs or set-top devices that are connected to the broadcast-TV infrastructure (aerial, cable-TV or satellite dish) along with a broadband Internet connection. This standards-based setup allows broadcasters to transmit information that leads to access to interactive-TV content via the Internet with a focus on “lean-back” presentation.

These systems could make it feasible that a user can have access to the online resources while the content is being broadcast. This could be facilitated by using the so-called “red button” concept being implemented with interactive TV where users can bring up this content by pressing a red button on the remote control. But there will be a requirement to provide access to a simplified user experience such as using the coloured function buttons for direct access to the “calls to action” for example.

File-based media distribution

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

App-based NAS units that exploit RVU and HTML5 remote user interface can provide a high level of interactivity for these movies

If the content is to be delivered as file-based video, it may be about implementing an RVU-compliant media server and using a “file-of-files” like an ISO file or BitTorrent Bundle file to deliver video material along with a “lean-back-friendly” Web page that can be presented with this media server. An example of a server that could tick these boxes is the Plex advanced media server being made available to a few current-issue NAS units but this doesn’t implement RVU and HTML5 remote-user-interface technology nor does it allow for “file-of-files” delivery. Here, this issue will crop up if Vidity is being considered as a “sell-through” format for delivering file-based video content or if BitTorrent Bundles, part of the BitTorrent Now platform, are being valued as a way to deliver indie documentary content.

Where HTML5 is used skilfully, it could he feasible to create a highly-interactive media interface in the same guise as either a well-designed Website or Blu-Ray BD-J user interface. Again this leads to tapping in to external resources like the “reference hub” sites (Wikipedia, IMDB & co), the film’s Website or blog, “call-to-actions” and the like. There can also be the ability to use animations and other graphics to “tell more”, as well as ways to control playback of the film like “diving in” to particular portions or adding narration tracks.

What are the issues to be faced?

Handling the 10-foot lean-back user experience

The main problem with Webfeeds, Wikipedia and the like is that these resources are typically formatted in a “lean-forward” manner associated with working with a tablet, laptop or desktop computer. But these resources may not appeal to the 10-foot “lean-back” viewing experience associated with watching TV and video content on the household TV set.

The traditional “lean-forward” layout for computer use involves a “dark-on-light” colour scheme that doesn’t really work well for the large screen, the use of serif typefaces in the copy text that can be hard to read from a distance along with a navigation experience that is focused towards a touchscreen or a keyboard and mouse rather than a D-pad on a remote control.

It is compared to the “lean-back” experience where larger bright sans-serif text is set against a dark background and any highlighting is made more distinct. There is the expectation that the user interface has to be navigated with one hand using the D-pad on a remote control. The same experience can also be achieved if one used a projector to show a Website or similar interface to a group of people such as in a boardroom.

But most of these attributes are being shared by mobile-compatible user interfaces as viewed on a smartphone due to the requirement for reduced clutter and the ability to be operated by one hand.

The problem could be answered through the use of “application-specific” interfaces dedicated to presenting the interactive content in a 10-foot experience. Here, a resource like a blog or a Wikipedia article would need to be presented in a market-up text form. Then a BD-J interface for a BD-Live Blu-Ray Disc, or an HTML5 or RVU interface Website that accompanies a file-delivered film package would be used to “set” these external resources to a 10-foot user interface.

Similarly, the definition for “responsive” or “adaptive” Website design or user interfaces could encompass a variation for 10-foot lean-back applications. This is where a Website could be required to work on a regular computer’s screen, a smartphone, a tablet or a TV screen with the variation being described as “large-screen” or “lean-back”,

Conclusion

As independent and other filmmakers build out documentary content especially with the help of the Internet, it could become feasible to use the Internet and interactive-content technologies as a way to provide more detailed information with these shows that the viewer can summon. It can also allow the filmmakers to build up a call-to-action for their viewers while the film is fresh in their minds.

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The CSIRO considers the Internet Of Things a viable alternative to the alarm pendant

Article

Why the CSIRO is building smart homes for elderly Australians | IT News

My Comments

The typical situation to assure the welfare of an  elderly, disabled or chronically-ill person who is living alone at home is to have them wear a pendant or wristband panic-button that signals carers or loved ones if they need help.

But issues have been raised about these devices being, for example, left somewhere in the home because the person forgets to wear it after they have finished an activity which may not play well with these devices. As well, these wearable devices are only of value if they trigger the device in response to an emergency situation like a fall.

The CSIRO are looking towards the use of the “Internet Of Everything” as a way of monitoring the welfare of these people, a use case which I do frequently refer to in the context of this technology.

Here, they would use commonly-available sensor technology like the motion sensors that are part of every intruder-alarm system, or flow meters and power meters on appliances; or door-contact sensors on wardrobes or kitchen cupboards to observe for normal activity.

Along with this, the CSIRO effort also wants to use health sensors like blood-pressure monitors or scales to register a person’s health statistics and it has been valued because the patients will be wanting to know how they are doing along with the ability to provide more knowledgeable information to their doctor about their symptoms.

They want to use knowledge of past health incidents affecting elderly, disabled or chronically-ill people to train the machine-learning algorithm to identify the abnormalities at an earlier stage rather than when a serious incident occurs. Of course, any machine-learning setup needs to be able to adjust to newer legitimate changes so as to avoid any “false positives”.

A question that will always be raised is the cost to set up this kind of observation with it costing less than AUD$3000 because of the use of common technologies and components rather than specialised hardware.

The topic of privacy has also been raised because the CSIRO monitoring system is based on cloud technology and Internet-based data access, and is of importance to reduce the risk of elder abuse. Here, the goal is to allow the patients to control their data so that it is exposed to whoever they trust in a granular manner. This is more so with relatives because they may be trusting of certain people within their family.

As well, the features that have been raised as being of importance to the elderly community for this personal-health monitoring setup include the ability to know who is at the door, the ability to engage in videocalls with family and friends along with the ability to know if one has forgotten to turn off a tap or appliance. This can easily affect older people who may become increasing forgetful about these things such as a burner on the newer gas cooker being left on but turned really down or not being able to hear clearly that the washbasin tap is still running.

The effort that CSIRO is undertaking is to be able to allow an elderly or other vulnerable person to live independently yet be able to know that help is at hand while their loved ones are sure that they are well.

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The gaming sub-brand is now considered part of the computing scene

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock - press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock

Most of the personal-computing industry are courting the core gamer as a highly-valuable market. These are typically young male but increasing female players who see computer gaming, especially games played on PCs (Windows-based regular computers), as a hobby and will focus a lot of disposable money towards building that dream performance-focused “gaming-rig” computer.

The personal-computing scene is focusing a lot of attention on this highly-valuable niche, typically by creating a range of computers, parts and accessories that appeal to this demographic. Initially this was looked after by businesses that exclusively court this demographic such as Razer but increasingly companies like Dell, ASUS and Acer are running their own brands or model names that are focused on gaming performance such as Alienware, Republic Of Gaming, and Predator. Lenovo has been the only company not to create a model name or brand for this demographic so for, typically using the Y name as the gaming-focused brand.

Most of these names reflect the traditionally-young-male gaming culture that is focused around playing MMORPGs, first-person shooters and similarly-aggressive games. It is being seen that this group of gamers have a large amount of disposable income to spend on their gaming hobby and is symptomatic of the way the marketing of goods and services is focused on the young.

A lot of these games are very dependent on instantaneous response and most of these computers and peripherals will be expected to yield performance that reduces unnecessary lag when playing these games.

But there is hope for some of these brands targeting female and mature-aged gamers who bite the bullet for engaging in computer games thanks to independent software developers and mobile platforms. It is because these user groups are using mobile platforms like tablets to play various casual games while independent game studios are answering the need to satisfy a market gap that is forgotten by the mainstream games studios and distributors.

AOC has now joined the party by creating the AGON brand which represents monitors and other accessories focused towards core gamers. The brand AGON represents AOC representing their leadership in monitors, Gaming that enhances the latest technology, Outstanding performance for that competitive edge and New standard of gaming. This bas been fulfilled with a range of QHD and 4K monitors that can easily complement that gaming rig with features like improved ergonomics for gameplay, a headset hook, highly-portable design; along with a remote control that makes it easier to switch between display modes for the games you play.

I do see this progressing onwards with every computer-hardware vendor running at least a product line focused on the gamer market with a lot of technical development taking place to squeeze as much performance out of these products. This could be where, for example, laptops, all-in-ones and low-profile desktop computers are equipped with support for external graphics modules or graphics-card cages thanks to the Thunderbolt-3 (USB-C) connection.

Similarly, Microsoft is progressing the idea of games developers being able to write a games title that can play properly on a Windows 10 regular computer or the XBox One gaming console thus allowing for games developers to cater to PC and console gamers at once.

It is showing that computer gaming isn’t just a casual pastime but becoming a serious hobby and the computing industry is having to cater for this.

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Microsoft makes a step to all-platform online gameplay

Article

Microsoft is stepping towards online gaming's holy grail - a federated cross-platform online gaming experience

Microsoft is stepping towards online gaming’s holy grail – a federated cross-platform online gaming experience

Microsoft will allow Xbox gamers to play against PS4 and PC players } The Verge

Microsoft wants PS4 and Xbox One to connect online | CNet

My Comments

Most core games which have any form of multi-machine multiplayer competition, whether online or across a local network, require all games machines involved in the competition to be on the same platform.

That means that a Windows-based regular-computer user couldn’t play against an XBox or a PS4 console. In a lot of cases, the online component of a game was managed via a platform-specific online-competition platform like PlayStation Network or Steam. In the case of consoles, you had to determine which console platform your friends were using and buy a console commensurate to that platform.

Now Microsoft has raised the question of platform-agnostic multi-machine competition by encouraging their game developers to enable this feature. This is because Microsoft effectively is associated with two platforms i.e. the Windows-based regular computer or PC as a games platform and the XBox family of games consoles. But they are inviting Sony, Nintendo, Apple and others to create the necessary cross-platform bridges to allow this kind of play. This includes allowing a player to discover other players to compete with as well as managing the state of play during a game or tournament.

If this worked, it could allow a person to choose whatever console they wanted to play especially if a title is released across multiple platforms. Similarly, this could allow for options like local-network play, whether peer-to-peer or server-based, including local-online hybrid play such as local tournaments or teams. For games developers, they don’t have to decide whether to set up their own online gaming network if they want cross-platform play.

Another issue that could be highlighted here is the ideal user interface for different game genres including the common user interfaces that the platforms use. The article cited the situation where a regular-computer with its keyboard (W-A-S-D keys) and mouse may have the advantage over a gamepad that typically comes with a console when it comes to playing certain games like first-person shooters or strategy games.

This could be used either to open up the idea of games written to be played across multiple platform types and user interfaces, including those that give players an advantage if they play a part of the game on different devices. On the other hand, there could be the feasibility for games consoles to work with mice and keyboards connected via (preferably) Bluetooth or USB.

What Microsoft is doing is to raise the issue of creating platform-agnostic core game play rather than requiring gamers to be tied to a particular platform.

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HP offers a gaming laptop that neither commands gaming looks and gaming prices

Article

HP’s newest gaming notebook is for more casual users | Engadget

My Comments

The Intel Skylake processor lineup launched this year has opened up the idea of more performance for the dollar and this has shown up in more high-performance gaming laptops. But there have been a few computers enter this clan without having to look aggressive or command higher prices.

This may appeal to people who are after high performance equipment but don’t necessarily want to pay top dollar nor do they want to have something that is like a Dodge Challenger. It will also appeal to college students who want that machine that can suit study activities including multimedia work along with something that they can play one of the latest advanced games on.

Acer premiered at the IFA 2015 in Berlin their Aspire Nitro lineup of high-performance laptops that have the performance without exhibiting the aggressive looks. But Hewlett-Packard has shown up with a gaming notebook that is part of their mainstream Pavilion computer lineup rather than their premium Envy or Spectre lineups.

This computer has an ask for US$900 and bystanders may see the green backlit keyboard as the “giveaway” regarding its gaming chops. It is a 15” form factor unit with an HD (1366×768) screen as standard and a Full HD 1080p screen as an upgrade option, but there is an HDMI connection to connect the laptop to the flat-screen TV. This is driven by an NVIDIA GTX950M graphics processor while using an Intel Skylake processor as its engine. There is the ability to have it specced to 16Gb RAM and storage either as 1Tb hybrid hard disk, 2Tb hard disk or 2Tb hard disk alongside a 128Gb solid-state disk. The battery can run for eight hours of gameplay. Beo-enthusiasts will rejoice that this laptop has Bang & Olufsen sound tuning for the integral speakers.

Personally, I would like to see this class of laptop equipped with the Intel Thunderbolt 3 connection via USB Type-C sockets more as a way to allow people to add higher-performance graphics to these systems at a later date courtesy of a graphics-card expansion module.

What it is showing is that there is the ability to have the high-specced performance without necessarily requiring a high-performance price or a system that looks like a “street rod”. Here, it would be like an ordinary car that has been tweaked for performance but not having “racing” or “street-rod” looks or a loud growl from the exhaust.

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An add-on microphone is available to turn existing headphones in to a headset

Article (Product Review)

Audiophiles Like Games, Too: Hands On With Antlion’s Detachable ModMic 4.0 | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Antlion Audio

ModMic product page

My Comments

There are situations where we want to purpose a pair of good headphones like hi-fi-grade headphones to become a stereo headset with microphone. Here, you may want to use these “cans” for gaming or communications and they have a captive cable so you can’t install a microphone cable to use them as a headset. Similarly, you may have a wired stereo headset that has a broken mike but works well as headphones.

Antilion Audio has supplied an add-on boom microphone that clips to an existing pair of headphones using a magnetic clip that you fix to your headphones. The ModMic uses a long microphone cord to connect to your computer which would have to have a separate microphone jack. It can be adjusted to suit best sound pickup as with other boom-capable headsets.

If you deal with a laptop, tablet or other increasing number of devices that uses a four-conductor headset jack, you would need to purchase a headset Y-adaptor from an electronics store so you can use this same jack to connect your headphones and the ModMic to the device. Personally, I would like to see Antilion Audio offer a headset jack adaptor so you can use this mike and your cans with devices that have headset jacks.

At least this is a way to add another usage case to your good headphones whether for gaming or for communications setups that support HD Voice sound quality.

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Gaming with a regular computer and the big screen in the lounge?

Article

How To PC Game From The Comfort Of Your Couch | Gizmodo

My Comments

Alienware gaming laptop

An Alienware gaming laptop that bridges performance and portability

Gaming on the big-screen TV isn’t just restricted to the likes of the XBox One or the PlayStation 4 consoles. You can engage in these games using your PC especially if you are using a laptop or dare to bring the tower-style gaming rig in to your lounge area. This is more so as the regular computer platforms i.e. Windows, OS X (Macintosh) and Linux still maintain a strong level of open-frame software deployment and become more the areas to try out gaming ideas.

This is brought on by the increase in the number of portable computers that have performance-computing chops whether in the form of mobile workstations or gaming laptops is making this kind of gaming more real. The manufacturers see this as a valuable niche for people who value performance and portability for work or play.

Dell Precision M2800 Mobile Workstation courtesy of Dell USA

Dell Precision M2800 – a mobile workstation that also bridges performance and portability

This will apply to those of you who are at home or at a friend’s house because you could bring your gaming computer in to the living room or games room and play that game on the big screen from the comfort of your couch. Those of you who are staying at a college dorm (university residence hall) or similar location can use the big-screen TV in the common lounge area for playing that epic game on your gaming laptop.

What do you need?

TV and sound system

The TV or home-theatre system would need to have a spare HDMI connection for you to plug in another video peripheral.

Here, you are relying on HDMI as your audio and video connection and the equipment must be able to play the sound from an HDMI connection rather than just be a switcher. Recently-made home-theatre receivers will most likely be able to satisfy this requirement but beware of lower-end equipment that can’t achieve this goal.

One of the big-screen TVs that is worth playing games on

One of the big-screen TVs that is worth playing games on

If you are buying a newer large-screen TV and you expect a regular computer to be connected to it, you should look for sets that have a high refresh rate like what would be expected for most well-bred monitors. As well, if your gaming setup is of a temporary nature, I would recommend that the equipment concerned has an HDMI connector on the front panel for a home-theatre receiver or similar device or on the side edge of a TV so that it is easily accessible without you needing to shift the equipment out or grope around the back whenever you want to play games.

Your computer

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook left-hand-side connections - Ethernet, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

HDMI connection on a laptop

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor – a no-new-wires network with gaming chops

The computer should have HDMI as a video output option and be capable of directing the sound through that output. This is to achieve the goal of one cable between the computer and the TV or home-theatre receiver rather than worrying about many cables, with this cable carrying a digital audio signal along with the high-resolution video signal.

When you set up the sound, make sure that you know what your equipment can handle at best. If you use a home-theatre system, make sure that you set the audio output for Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream or a similar codec that your equipment handles so you can take advantage of games that implement surround sound. As well, it may be worth paying attention to an article that I wrote about multiple sound devices in Windows.

Control devices

Games that require frequent interactive activity would benefit form a console-type controller if you are leaning back on the couch. There are some wireless controllers out there but you can use an XBox 360 controller that works with Windows courtesy of an adaptor that is sold for “pennies worth” by Microsoft.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (open) press photo courtesy of Microsoft

These Bluetooth keyboards also earn their keep on the couch when gaming in the lounge

If you are needing to use a keyboard or mouse, it may be preferable to use wireless peripherals so you avoid cable clutter. Personally I would prefer to use Bluetooth equipment because you only need to use one transceiver dongle across them all and if the computer has integrated Bluetooth, you don’t need to worry about any of these transceiver devices. Sometimes a wireless keyboard or mouse pitched at tablet use can work as a wireless keyboard for gaming use.

Network

It is preferable to have an Ethernet socket in the lounge area but this may not be a reality. For your home or a friend’s, you may find that setting up a HomePlug AV500 powerline-network segment may work well in these circumstances.

Some college dorms and similar places may have an Ethernet socket connected to the premises’ network and Internet service not far from the common lounge area  HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 may work well in using a no-new-wires setup to bring the connection closer. In some cases, this connection may be locked down for specific devices and uses and it doesn’t hurt asking the staff about whether the connection is a “general-use” connection or can be set up as such.

At a pinch, you would need to use Wi-Fi wireless and make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection at your computer. Wi-Fi networks that use Web-based login can be tricky to use and may require you to keep the “login successful” Web page minimised while you play that online game.This is best done with a Web browser that doesn’t take up much memory space.

Similarly, if you are playing against multiple computers across a public network, it may be difficult to discover the opponents’ computers because these networks are most likely set up to provide client isolation.

Setup

There are some things you will need to be sure of when you are setting up for gaming in the living room or other lounge area.

One would be to use a rug to cover long cables that travel between the computer and the TV or home theatre so as to avoid the situation of people tripping over the cables. This is important for situations where the area between the couch and the TV equipment is part of a thoroughfare.

A tray-table is also a good place to position your gaming laptop or to use as a mouse mat. On the other hand, you may want to use the coffee table for that same purpose. This is to assure stability. Even those “Stable Table” trays with integrated cushions can come in handy as a mouse mat.

As for online game managers, Steam is the only such platform that provides a “big-screen” mode courtesy of their “Big Picture” mode. This will allow you to manage it while viewing the display from a distance. But when you are actually playing the game, this may not be a problem.

Conclusion

Once you know that you can game on with the big-screen TV and your gaming rig or laptop computer, you could be able to add that bit extra to your solo or group gaming experience.

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New online-abuse Website launched in the UK

Articles

UK government tackles online abuse with anti-trolling website | We Live Security blog (ESET)

Cyberbullies: Anti-trolling website launched to help victims | The Independent

Government launches anti-trolling website to help victims of online abuse | The Guardian

Previous Coverage

What can you do about people who use the Social Web to menace

Dealing with Internet trolls

From the horse’s mouth

Stop Online Abuse (UK-based)

My Comments

The UK government have launched a Website focusing on online abuse and how to deal with it, including legal remedies and resources.

It is focused more towards women and the LGBT (gay/lesbian/bi/trans) community who are facing these issues because, from various surveys, these user groups are often copping it the most. This covers online abouse related to domestic violence, sexism and sexual harassment, along with homophobia and related anti-LGBT abuse. But there are other situations where people do suffer in silence such as general racism, issues-focused or business-level disputes.

I see the “Stop Online Abuse” website applying to all situations where the Internet is involved and a lot of the commentary is very generic. But I do see some limitations with the legal remedies because there may be difficulties with applying them when situations happen across jurisdictions as is the norm with the Internet.

For example, the crime of “sending messages using any public electronic communications network such as Twitter or Facebook, which are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” that is part of the UK’s Communications Act 2003 may have a legal equivalent in your jurisdiction. This may be in the form of one or more national communications statute that proscribes the use of a communications service or “common carriage service” to harass others. Similarly, there are court injunctions that were cited for the UK like the Family Law Act 1996 Non-Molestation Order or the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 restraining order that have equivalents under your jurisdiction’s criminal, civil or family law but with different names.

It is worth contacting your local citizen’s advice bureau or similar government or voluntary organisation for more resources. Infact, locating an organisation that specialises in your particular circumstances like a domestic-violence support organisation may provide you with better information suited to your exact needs.

Similarly, it is a wise move for these organisations to “bone up” on the issue of online abuse so they can provide the right advice to suit their clients’ situations and needs. National, regional and local governments along with the judiciary can also see this site as a chance to provide a Web-hosted “one-stop shop” for their constituents to know more about these issues. This is in addition to creating legislative remedies for online-abuse problems. As well, as each case is litigated in a family, criminal or civil context, the knowledge created from the legal action can be used to tackle this situation better in the courtroom.

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Older people using the Internet to link with relatives and friends

Article

The rise of the ‘GranTechie’: closing the generational gap | NBN Press Releases

My Comments

Skype Android

Skype for Android – one of the popular videoconferencing clients

It is now being identified that older people are finding computers and the Internet as valuable communications tools.

One technology that has allowed for this is videocalling that has been facilitated by Skype and Facetime. Both these popular IP videocalling applications have been engineered for simplified operation such as not needing any setup or configuration as far as the network is concerned. As well, Apple baked Facetime in to newer versions of the iOS mobile platform and made sure it had hooks to the user’s contacts directory on their iPhone as well as providing integrated behaviours for this solution. Similarly, Skype is being written to take advantage of application-programming interfaces that the various platforms offer as regards with directory management and other things are concerned. As well, there are smart-TVs and video peripherals that can work as Skype videophones once you add a camera / microphone accessory. These have made the process of making and taking videocalls more simplified and task-focused.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet – good for Skyping to relatives

As the article has said, the main driver with this is for people and families to communicate with relatives and friends who are separated by distance. An example of this that I have seen for myself was seeing a friend of mine in an armchair at home using their iPhone to engage in a long Facetime videocall conversation with another interstate friend who had a young child. Here, she talked to that friend’s child as though she and the child were in the same room. Similarly, an Italian who is my barber and whose computer I regularly support also makes use of Skype to keep in touch with his family in Italy.

Old lady making a video call at the dinner table press picture courtesy of NBNCo

A video call at the dining table

Other technologies that were being embraced were Facebook and email as ways to share messages and photos. They were also raising the issue of the Internet being used to allow this kind of connection on a highly-frequent basis such as every week. The article also highlighted the smartphone and tablet as an enabling form factor due to their highly-portable nature – they can use these devices from where they are highly comfortable as I have cited before. In some cases, it has become possible to show the distant relative around the house simply by carrying one of these devices around during the videocall.

A technique worth investigating and showing to older people and their families is the use of Dropbox and similar services as a way to distribute high-resolution photos and video footage in a manner that allows the relatives to “take it further” like creating high-resolution prints. I highlighted this in an article about making Dropbox and similar services work with a DLNA-capable NAS highlighting the applications like printing, showing on a DLNA-capable TV, or maintaining occasion-based photo/video content pools consisting of images contributed by many people.

What has been shown in the article is that a killer application has been identified for personal-computing and Internet technology amongst a certain class of users. This killer application is for older people to use this technology to maintain contact with distant relatives and friends in an improved manner.

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