Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Facebook launches a “Safety Check” program for use during emergencies

Facebook Safety Check iPhone notification screenshot courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check notification on iPhone

Articles

SAFETY CHECK: Facebook Tool Simplifies Users’ Communication During Disasters, Crisis Situations | AllFacebook

Facebook’s new Safety Check lets you tell friends you’re safe when disaster strikes | NakedSecurity (Sophos)

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Introducing Safety Check (Press Release)

Feature Description

My Comments

Facebook has just released a system which works during natural disasters or other civil emergencies to allow people to be sure that those friends of theirs who are in the affected areas are OK. This system, known as Safety Check, was born out of a “notice board that Facebook built in to their system during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It would still complement other methods like phoning or texting those you know in the affected areas.

If an emergency happens, this would affect a known geographical area and Facebook would determine if you or your friends are in that area or not. Typically, this would be brought on by emergency services and the media advising Facebook of these situations. This would be based on the City data in your Profile or rough-gauging where you are interacting with it from. It would also use the Last Location details if you opt in to and implement the “Nearby Friends” app as another metric.

Facebook Safety Check dashboard screenshots (regular computer and mobile) courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check dashboard- regular and mobile (handheld) views

Here, you will have a notification that will pop up if you are in the affected area and you mark this as “I’m Safe” if you are OK and safe, or mark as being “Out Of Area” if Facebook miscalculates your location and determines that you are in that area when you are are not in that area. The latter situation can happen for people who are in a large metropolitan area or conurbation and the disaster or crisis situation only affects a small part of that area.

This status will show up to your Friends as a Notification and in their News Feed to reassure them.This is augmented by a special “dashboard” page created for the emergency that shows a filtered list of your friends who are in the area affected by the crisis so you cab know who has “called in” to say they are OK,

This same setup also benefits those of us who are outside the affected areas and want to simply be sure that none of our friends have been affected by that crisis. Here, we receive the News Feeds and Notifications about our Friends who have “checked in” as being safe or out of the affected area and can also see this on that same “dashboard” page.

As for the privacy issue, these updates are only visible to those people who are currently your Facebook Friends when it comes to “coarse” coverage and to those of us who have reciprocally enabled the “Nearby Friends” functionality on Facebook for each other.

Although Facebook is the dominant consumer-facing social network and is able to achieve this goal, various other messaging and social-network services could learn form this setup to allow “at-a-glance” notification of our loved ones’ welfare during natural disasters and other crises.

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The XBox One to be the first console to support home-developed games

Article Project Spark Editor screenshot press image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft’s Project Spark Finally Out Of Beta | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft (XBox)

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Project Spark screenshot press image courtesy of MicrosoftOne item that Microsoft has had as its foundation stone was to allow people to develop their own computer software through the provision of the necessary tools to do this.

This started from Bill Gates writing a BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer and effectively writing the BASIC interpreters for a few subsequent personal computers of the era like the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the IBM PC. In the 1990s, Microsoft had developed the Visual BASIC software to allow one cost-effectively develop software for the Windows platform that took off through that era.

Now Microsoft have fully released Project Spark which is a software-development kit to allow one to develop games for the XBox One games console along with regular computers running Windows 8.1 . People who have tinkered with the earlier beta versions of this software have used it to create extra game levels for their favourite games.

It may appear that you would have to work within boundaries when building a game or level but I would see this as a way for Microsoft to work on a games-development platform for both regular computers and the XBox One games consoles. This may also lead to a marketplace for “lean-back” console games which are developed by individuals and independent studios and, hopefully open up the console-gaming world.

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Web-page advertising needs to adopt a secure-ads strategy

Article

Beware of Risky Ads on Tumblr | MalwareBytes Unpacked

My Comments

Online ad - to be respected like advertising in printed media

Ads on sites like here need to be secure to obtain the same respect as magazine ads

Most of us who use the Web are making increased use of ad-sponsored Web sites for news, blogs, social media and the like.

In most cases, the banner advertising that appears on these Websites or on advertising-funded mobile-platform apps and is delivered in a tasteful manner provide a similar experience to the display advertising we see, accept and take for granted in newspapers, magazines and other printed media. That is where pop-up or pop-under advertising isn’t used or you don’t hear noisy video commercials playing through. It could be enough to see an animated or slide-show ad appear within the confines of the banner. Here, the advertising doesn’t interrupt the reading experience unlike with TV advertising or online-video advertising where it interrupts the viewing experience.

Such advertising, like the Google AdSense ads you see on this site, is sold on a contract that is based on cost-per-click which the advertiser pays when you click on the ad to follow through with it, or cost-per-impression which is based on simply on the ad being loaded and appearing on the site.

The malvertisement threat

But there is a security problem cropping up here in the form of “malvertisements”. These are online advertisements that are delivered to lead users to Websites that host malware. Typically they use enticing copy and graphics in the advertisements to attract users to view content on these sites and download software of questionable provenance.

Security vendors run a rhetoric that encourages us Web users to use ad-blocking software to keep our computer secure by masking all online advertising. But this can get in the way of honest advertisers and the publications that depend on them for revenue because the software works on an “all or nothing” approach.

But what can the online advertising industry do about this?

If a Website author has control over all of the advertising they admit, they can easily “fence out” malvertisements and distasteful advertising by examining what their potential advertiser is tendering at the start of and through the life of their advertising contract.

But this is not the case for most Websites where they will rely on one or more ad networks like Google AdSense to supply all or the remainder of their ad inventory. These ad networks typically source the advertising themselves and pay publishers a cut for each advertisement that appears or when someone clicks on an advertisement.

Ad networks

Malware sites advertise through these networks on a “pay-per-click-only” contract because it is a “low-risk high-return” option. But the networks could make life harder for them by, for example, vetting the creatives (advertising text, graphics, scripts and links) offered for an ad campaign before accepting them for display and through the life of the campaign. Similarly, they could make it harder to establish or sustain advertising contracts for “fly-by-night” operations like distributing malware such as implementing the ability to break-off ad contracts if the advertiser engages in deceptive conduct or not offering “very-low-risk” advertising options such as “pay-per-click-only” text ads. One way would be to require all ad contracts to be based on the requirement to pay for a particular time length or minimum number of impressions.

Ad networks can also exchange details about advertisers that engage in deceptive business practices so that the advertisers don’t go “shopping around” different ad networks to hawk their wares at the lowest risk. This is similar to a lot of proper business practices where companies are able to exchange details about known credit risks for example.

This could be part of an online advertising code of conduct to protect the validity and legitimacy of the online display advertisement as part of an advertiser’s campaign mix and as a way for Web publishers to raise some income.

Webmasters

Webmasters can work with the ad network’s control panel to reduce the kind of advertising that gets through to their ad spaces. For example, they could opt to keep the advertising that appears to tightly reflect the content and tone of their Website. The Webmaster can also exercise a tight level of control over any advertising they directly sell for their Website such as offering contracts with a minimum level of risk to the advertiser or vetting the creative material tendered by the advertisers.

As well, they can take out security measures over the Website to stop undesireable activity from occurring with their Website. This could include implementing hardened login procedures such as brute-force lockout or two-factor authentication on the critical admin and editor accounts.

Conclusion

Like most online-security issues like Wi-Fi security, it isn’t just up to end-users to do the “heavy-lifting” to keep their Web experience secure. Other stakeholders like advertising networks need to join in the game to keep a secure Web with respected online advertising and avoid exposure to liability.

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Lightweight and gaming agree for a new Alienware gaming laptop

Article

The New Alienware 13-inch Laptop Promises Pro Gaming Without Backache | Gizmodo

My Comments

Quite a few examples of laptops with enough “grunt” to satisfy tasks intended for desktop computers are appearing. These are typically showing up either as “mobile workstations” for serious activity like CAD work or as “gaming laptops” for core game-playing activity. This is also happening in a similar vein with “all-in-one” desktops like the HP Z1 Workstation.

The integrated screens that these computers have appeal to users who want to quickly set up a multi-display arrangement using an external monitor, flat-screen TV or a projector. This plays well with those of us who may want to move between different setups like a desktop setup with an external desktop monitor, a presentation setup with the projector or a quick-to-setup gaming environment in a common lounge area using the flat-screen TV located there.

Some of us may think of a games-focused high-performance computer as being fit for a “starter” workstation for tasks like multimedia creation or may consider a low-tier workstation as being fit for core-level game-play because both these activities demand the use of high-performance computers. The main issue there may be factors like the way the system is physically designed or the choice of graphics chipset which may be optimised to either professional graphics or fast-paced games.

In the gaming sphere, Dell’s Alienware brand is having to face Razer when courting mobile gamers and they have fielded a 13” gaming laptop which is considered lightweight as far as the product class is concerned. Most gamers may consider this a waste because of the small screen but I would see this work well for gamers who would use it for, for example, a dual-screen “regular-computer” gaming scenario in a lounge area like the living room at home or a common room in the college dorm using its screen and the ordinary flat-screen TV in the lounge area.

Like most computers under the Dell umbrella, this will be offered in a highly-customisable form that allows one to effectively tailor it to their needs. It is another example where Dell is attempting to push the boundaries of normal product-class-specific computer design to effectively “fill the holes” left in the marketplace by other computer manufacturers.

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Mashable shares an ultra-smooth jazz playlist for Louis Armstrong’s birthday

Article

45 Jazz Numbers for Smooth Listening | Mashable

My Comments

Can you play Spotify on that good hi-fi? Check! Any gaping holes in your jazz music collection? Check!

Mashable have worked out a 45-track Spotify playlist that celebrates what would be Louis Armstrong’s birthday, but can be a way to familiarize yourself with the jazz genre and determine how you should build out your jazz music collection. Some of you may find that this may play well for a bit of casual jazz listening like during a dinner party or to get yourselves in the mood before visiting that local “jazz dive”.

This playlist encompasses key jazz performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Walker, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald with recordings made over the years that the genre had evolved. At least it is worth a listen.

Your Technology Serves Your Lifestyle Here!

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Swatch to bridge the Swiss watchmaking craft to the new connected wearable technology

Articles (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

Swatch bringt seine eigene Smartwatch | PCTipp.ch

Swatch arbeitet an Fitnessuhr | Netzwoche.ch

My Comments

The Swiss aren’t far behind on the smart-watch bandwagon but are taking it a different path so as to preserve their craft and identity.

Swatch is developing a fitness-focused smartwatch that is totally different from the rest of the crowd. Here, this is more a watch that tells the time but is equipped with fitness sensors to measure how healthy you are. They are drawing on EM Microtechnology who is part of the Swatch Group and this company also have worked on GPS technology for a variety of fitness-driven applications.

But Swatch and Tissot, both part of the Swatch Group, are focusing on simpler fitness-focused smartwatch designs rather than the current equivalent of the 80s-era digital multifunction watch. They are approaching watch design on a “horses for courses” basis where different watches suit different people and different occasions. I see this as being highly important because, for example, a woman may want a watch that looks the part on her slender wrist or a man may want to have a dress watch for going out to impress along with a fitness watch for long walks and a utility smartwatch for day-to-day use.

Apple have been “picking Swatch’s brains” about their watch-construction methods but Swatch deny the idea of forming a partnership with them, especially concerning the iWatch idea that has been floating around. As well Swatch are trying to achieve the “best smartwatch” goal rather than being the first.

What I see of this is that the Swatch group are being the first of the Swiss watch legends to link their special craft with today’s smart-wearable technology development.

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Be sure about that property sale being conducted over the Internet is kosher

Article

Scammers sell Canberra house without owner’s knowledge | ABC News (Australia)

My Comments

House

Is the sale of the house meant to be?

Recently, a news item was run by the ABC News concerning scams involving the sale of houses and other real-estate property via the Internet without the owner’s knowledge. This was affecting people who own a property in another country such as a “expat” who is maintaining their former home as a rental property. I also reckon that this can also happen with other high-value high-risk transactions such as the sale of financial instruments, vehicles or collectable rarities.

What was highlighted with the scam was there was no face-to-face contact between the parties. Typically the trasaction was based around email messages, instant-messaging posts or other similar technologies, especially where the contact addresses were always changing. This could highlight the use of disposable email accounts to facilitate the transaction and avoid repudiation.

If you can’t meet the other party face-to-face because you and them are separated by distance, it would be a good idea to make voice contact, whether through the classic telephone setup or through Skype or a similar VoIP setup. I would even go as far as conducting a videocall using Skype, Viber Desktop or a similar technology as a way of confirming the identity and veracity of the other party.

As well, it is essential that you have the documents and signatures concerning the transaction verified. For an international transaction, you could engage the services of your country’s diplomatic presence in the remote country. You may also have to engage an official translator if you are dealing with documents written in a foreign language.

One thing to remember is that if there is undue urgency to complete the transaction or you find that the transaction is on terms that is out of place for one of that kind, including prices that are ridiculously high or low for the property or properties of a similar type, location or condition, you could be falling foul of a scam. As well, seek counsel from experts relating to the kind of transaction that is taking place like real-estate agents, valuers or banks.

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Swiss Customs agency to have own mobile-platform app for travellers

Swiss Customs sign - courtesy Wikimedia CommonsArticle – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

Zollverwaltung plant Smartphone-App | Netzwoche (Switzerland)

Verzollung per Smartphone geplant | PCTipp.ch

From the horse’s mouth

Swiss Customs Authority (Eidgenössische Zollwerwaltung EZV)

App download site

My Comments

The country who turns out the most precise and most premium traditional watches has taken anther step further with e-government. Here, the Swiss customs authority have worked on a mobile-platform app that overseas travellers use for calculating customs duty and VAT on goods they intend to bring back to Switzerland or registering these goods. This is also part of a simplification effort concerning how Swiss citizens have to deal with importing goods privately such as part of online shopping.

There are questions on what level of functionality this app will provide such as provision of other customs-related information or whether this will work just for private importers only with different software for businesses.

But at least it is an example of a customs authority implementing their e-government goals to more than just large importers. It also is a government department implementing the mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets in this role rather than just using a Web view on a desktop computer for this kind of e-government application.

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Getting girls and women to develop computer games using the summer-camp model

Article

Inaugural ‘Girls Make Games’ Summer Camps Fight Industry’s Gender Gap | Mashable

My Comments

Women and girls are increasingly dabbling in computer games, especially the strategy and casual types on mobile platforms, as I have seen lately with the likes of Candy Crush Saga and Piano Tiles being played by them on iPads and similar devices. But a lot of games, especially “core” games are being developed by men for men.

Just lately, there is activity taking place to encourage women and girls to develop these games and this is taking place in the form of a “summer-camp” or “school-camp” model where groups of them stay at particular locations to work together on this goal. This is an attempt to fight an industry gender gap and increase interest in this activity amongst under-represented groups. One of the issues that was raised was creating interest in “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects amongst women and girls to have them show interest in programming and related disciplines/

It is also being cultivated through the existence of “indie” game development which is brought along with the rise of mobile devices, especially tablets like iPads and the Sony VAIO Tap 20, as a gaming platform along with the increased capabilities that these devices offer.

But could the participation of women and girls change the landscape of game content? Personally, I would find that they could provide games that appeal to more users such as middle-aged and older people along with other younger women. As well, they could work towards opening up computer gaming as a leisure activity for more people across the board. One thing to be aware of is to encourage the use of the platform’s abilities when it comes to graphics, sound and interaction rather than being “basic” with the games.

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It’s “Game on” for the two major mobile platforms

Article

Apple: New ‘Metal’ Platform to Improve iOS Gaming | Mashable

My Comments

Android has come a long way ahead with mobile games performance courtesy of the NVIDIA Tegra chipsets and similar high-performance chipsets being implemented in the top-end tablets. This has also be brought up with variants of that operating system being compiled and shoehorned to exploit these chipsets leading to tablets showing up with the kind of performance expected of by hard-core gamers.

Now Apple’s not leaving itself behind with their iOS platform. They have written in to iOS 8 some code that takes advantage of their latest A7 chipsets by implementing the “Metal API”. This allows the operating system to have the games work directly with the iPhone’s or iPad’s processor to yield smooth performance rather than using OpenGL for this purpose, which could allow game developers to target the latest iPads as a games platform for the “full-on” titles. There was even a “demo” of this being shown today at the WWDC Apple-platform developers’ conference based on the Unreal Engine 4 gaming engine to prove what this was about.

There are questions that have to be raised about the “Metal” API regarding battery runtime because some of the games may ask more of the iOS device when in full flight. Similarly, games for the mobile platforms may only be seen to work well for “short-play” casual or strategy titles where continual interaction may not be seen as important.

Could this mean that all of the main mobile platforms could come up with the kind of gaming expected of console and regular-computer platforms, where there is the high level of responsiveness being expected?

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