Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Silicon Valley starts a war against fake news

Article

Facebook and Google to block ads on fake news websites | Adnews

Facebook Employees Are In Revolt Over Fake News | Gizmodo

Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites | New York Times

Does the internet have a fake-news problem? | CNet

Google CEO says fake news is a problem and should not be distributed | The Verge

Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid | Los Angeles Times

My Comments

Since Donald Trump gained election victory in the USA, there has been some concern amongst a few of Silicon Valley’s tech companies regarding the existence of “fake news”.

This is typically a story that is presented in order to refer to an actual news event but doesn’t relate to any actual news event. In some cases, such stories a hyped-up versions of an existing news item but in a lot of cases, these stories are built up on rumours.

The existence of Internet-distributed fake news has been of concern amongst journalists especially where newsroom budgets are being cut back and more news publishers and broadcasters are resorting to “rip-and-read” journalism, something previously associated with newscasts provided by music-focused FM radio stations.

Similarly, most of us are using Internet-based news sources as part of our personal news-media options or or only source of news, especially when we are using portable devices like ultraportable laptops, tablets or smartphones as our main Internet terminals for Web browsing.

Silicon Valley also see the proliferation of fake news as a threat to the provision of balanced coverage of news and opinion because they see this as a vehicle for delivering the populist political agenda rather than level-headed intelligent news. This is typically because the headline and copy in “fake news” reports is written in a way to whip up an angry sentiment regarding the topics concerned, thus discouraging further personal research.

But Facebook and Google are tackling this problem initially by turning off the advertising-money tap for fake-news sites. Facebook will apply this to ad-funded apps that work alongside these sites while Google will apply this as a policy for people who sign up to the AdSense online display-ads platform.

There is the issue of what kind of curating exists in the algorithms that list search results or news items on a search-engine or social-media page. It also includes how the veracity of news content is being deemed, even though Google and Facebook are avoiding being in a position where they can be seen as “arbiters of truth”.

The big question that can exist is what other actions could Silicon Valley take to curb the dissemination of fake news beyond just simply having their ad networks turn off the supply of advertising to these sites? This is because the popular search engines are essentially machine-generated indexes of the Web, while the Social Web and the blogosphere are ways where people share links to resources that exist on the Web.

Some people were suggesting the ability for a search engine like Google or a social network site like Facebook to have its user interface “flag” references to known fake-news stories, based on user or other reports. Similarly, someone could write desktop or mobile software like a browser add-on that does this same thing, or simply publish a publicly-available list of known “fake-news” Websites for people to avoid.

This is infact an angle that a US-based college professor had taken where she prepared a Google Docs resource listing the Websites hosting that kind of news, in order to help people clean their RSS newsfeeds of misinformation, with some mainstream online news sources including the New York Magazine providing a link to this resource.

The issue of fake news distributed via the Internet is becoming a real problem, but Silicon Valley is looking at different ways to solve this problem and bring to it the same level of respect that was associated with traditional media.

Send to Kindle

Allowing for niche SVOD providers to exist

Google Play Android app store

App stores like Google Play could be the place to set up shop as a boutique SVOD provider

An issue that will face the subscription video-on-demand market will be the existence of niche players. These are boutique SVOD providers that provide current and back-catalogue content that focus on particular tastes and interests. Examples of these could include a provider who runs European, Asian or other foreign films in to English-speaking markets; a specialist in art-house cinema, documentary movies or low-budget fare of the 60s and 70s that was run at a “flea-pit” cinema or drive-in, or even an extension of a Christian bookstore chain that runs Christian movies.

This is similar to how home video evolved through the early days where video content providers worked with particular vertical markets even though the major film studios saw this new distribution medium as too risky. This allowed, for example, the low-budget independent content to gain more of a foothold with some of the names listed in these movies’ credits to head towards bigger better-paid gigs.

Very hard to compete in the successful mainstream SVOD world

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix – the sign of a saturated SVOD marketplace

What has been noticed recently is that only a few mainstream SVOD providers that “cover all the bases” can exist in one market at one time. This was recently exemplified when QuickFlix fell of the tree because they were trying to pitch the Australian market against Netflix, Presto and Stan. Similarly, the SVOD model has been proven to be successful as this article from Advanced Television shows, underscoring concepts like increased perceived value and customers signing up with multiple SVOD services.

From my experience with Netflix, I had noticed that the subscription video-on-demand services were able to come across in an exciting manner especially with their user interface. For example, they offered a recommendation engine which allows you to discover content you may be interested in; along with a carousel-style user interface that encourages browsing.

Ability to divide the niche genre in to sub-genres

A niche SVOD provider would be able to license particular kinds of video content that serve their niche and even break this content collection down in to multiple sub-genres. Examples of these could include the Australian “Ozsploitation” movies that could be part of the “grind-house” low-budget movie niche; or there could be a Christian SVOD provider offering the “testimony” movies as a separate class of movie. Or a foreign-language provider could run language-focused genres like, for example, a European provider running the Nordic-noir content as a distinct class of content.

Ability to sell the content in other forms

Inspector Morse DVD box set

Collectable optical-disc box sets could still be sold by niche SVOD providers

A situation that can easily give the niche SVOD provider an edge over the traditional SVOD provider of the Netflix ilk is that they could work directly with studios and distributors servicing that niche, typically indie studios, to take the content further.

For example, they can offer “download-to-view” or “download-to-own” as a content-acquisition option along with the streaming option. This can be facilitated through the use of the SCSA Vidity secure-content-delivery mechanism. Similarly, the niche SVOD provider, especially if they work alongside a bookstore, video store or similar outlet, could allow for online or “click-and-collect” selling of content on physical media like Blu-Ray Discs. This is becoming more so as the niche bookstores and “collectable” DVD stores are still hanging on even though there is a reduction in the number of mainstream content stores in the “bricks-and-mortar” form.

Specialised information including playlists

The specialist nature also has the ability for a niche SVOD provider to supply more detailed material about the content or even offer themed playlists that viewers can work through. Such playlists could be created based on an occasion like an anniversary or awards ceremony that affects the niche; or even films based in a particular location.

But what would these providers need to do to put themselves on the map?

As well as acquiring the necessary server space on optimised servers around the world and licensing the catalogue of movies and TV shows to have available, they would need to work on making Web and platform apps available to gain access to this content.

Apple TV and Chromecast – a foot in the door

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

An Apple TV device could be a foot in the door for niche SVOD providers courting iOS users

Some platforms, namely the iOS and Android mobile platforms support streaming to the large-screen TV via a home network thanks to the Apple TV and Chromecast devices that connect to your regular TV. This may dodge a problem associated with catering to most of the smart-TV platforms where the content provider may have to be allied with the platform’s vendor or approved by that vendor to get the content app in their app store. It is because the user interface can be focused on the iOS or Android devices with the app “throwing” the stream from the SVOD service to the Apple TV or Chromecast device.

But some Web-based platforms may be able to work with the big screen thanks to Apple TV (in the case of MacOS or iOS) or Chromecast (in the case of Android, Chrome OS or any operating system with the Chrome browser). In some of these cases, you may be able to have it that the video content goes “full screen” while it is playing.

Platforms that would succeed for app-based approaches

XBox One games console press image courtesy Microsoft

XBox One – the games console / multimedia box accessible to niche SVOD providers

The platforms that I see as working well for niche SVOD providers would be the Android and Windows 10 platforms due to being able to show a larger variety of content without the risk of being removed from the platform’s app store. Similarly, the Android TV platform supported by the Freebox mini 4K set-top box, some of the newer Sony smart TVs and the NVIDIA Shield games console; the XBox One games console or the Kodi open-source set-top-box platform could be seen as TV-based platforms that facilitate niche SVOD providers.

Bringing new customers on board

Another issue that needs to be raised is that the onboarding experience for new subscribers has to be simplified. This may involve a Web-based or app-based experience including the ability to allow TV-based or set-top-based apps to cater to multiple users and accounts. It may also involve whether the niche SVOD provider has to implement social sign-on, perhaps as an option, where one can use a social network’s user interface to sign on to the service.

This could be facilitated through the initial onboarding experience being facilitated with a secure Web-based user experience where the user ends up creating their own account and setting up a subscription plan. Then they log in to the mobile-based or TV-based user experience with this account that they created in order to enjoy the content.

Promoting the service

To reach out to the audience base that would value the content, the potential niche SVOD provider would need to run advertising and PR campaigns focused on that audience class. They may also be discovered through feature-app functionality provided by the different app stores, especially where the app store creates thematic app lists to expose particular content to particular users.

In this case, the blurb that the niche SVOD provider supplies to the app stores for their platform apps needs to mention the kind of audience that the SVOD provider is intending to reach. This includes using the keywords that best describe that audience and the sub-genres that the content is classed to.

Conclusion

When a subscription-video-on-demand service market becomes saturated, it may have to be the time to create this new medium’s equivalent of a specialist bookstore, art-house cinema or specialist video store. This also means that there has to be the ability to utilise different ways to nurture the enthusiasts who are willing to spend more on this kind of content.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle