Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

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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Venice’s independence referendum is the proving ground for e-voting

Article

E-voting comes of age in Italy with Venice independence referendum | PCWorld

My Comments

Venice - Creative Commons  2.0 - Courtesy of word_virus

Venice – a city that could be legitimising the online vote

As you think of wafting down those canals in Venice in a gondola, or listen to that piece of classical music by Vivaldi who was born in Venice , you don’t know that this area has just been a turning point for a change that could affect how you vote.

This neighbourhood became fed up with the way the Italian state was taxing them but not putting much back in to that area. The sentiment whipped up some interest in the secessionist movement and, due to an increase in the IT industry in that area, the idea came across to run a referendum for secession using the Web.

This required that each person registered to vote receive a unique identity number for that election where they logged in to a Web page using that number to cast their vote online with a computer, tablet or smartphone. There was also the ability to use a regular telephone to cast your vote for the referendum. There were measures in place to detect and prevent voter fraud using this system and it would also have used the SSL technology to assure a secret vote on the Web front.

Of course, the mainstream Italian media, most of whom was controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, called the vote a farce but this was able to be seen in Italy and other areas as a mature proving ground for the Internet-driven e-voting concept. Other areas like Switzerland have implemented e-voting for various referenda and Norway has eyed this technology as something to implement in their municipal elections.

Some countries may still cast doubt over the idea of electronic voting technologies, usually due to breaking perceived “comfort zones” or fear of an increased risk of electoral fraud. Even postal voting in Australia has been considered acceptable only as an “away-from-home” voting option or on a municipal level by all but a minority of councils.

What would be considered important for any online voting system would be to have a unique number for each registered voter relating to a particular election or referendum, not correlating to other “primary-key” numbers used as part of public service or commerce like tax numbers, social-security or public-health (NHS / Medicare) numbers. As well, this number is provided to each voter by regular post with one envelope for each voter even though multiple voters reside in one household such as parents and children of voting age. This would be considered a “use-once” number to assure “one person one-vote one-value” and not relate to the vote being cast.

As well, an online system would have to have highly-scrupulous security measures like use of SSL (https) Web pages with even the option of an on-screen keyboard to deter keystroke logging to assure everyone of the secret ballot. Even making sure that client-side software such as mobile-platform apps are approved would be considered important to avoid the creation of “Trojan horse” apps that work against democracy by betraying users’ votes.

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Scalextric releases a power module to connect your slot car set to your smartphone

Article

App-Connected Slot Cars Give You Mario Kart-Like Power-Ups and Damage | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Scalextric

Press Release

Product Page

New Scalextric RCS system

Digital RCS Pro Power Base

Digital RCS Air Power Base

My Comments

The smartphone is about to be married with the slot-car race set by providing a way to help you improve how you race with these sets. The functionality allows for simulation of various motor-racing conditions like fuel-supply. tyre-wear and vehicle damage, yellow-card conditions and the like. It also allows for one to engage in a variety of different motor-race competitions like Grand Prix races, “qualifying” races, drag races and endurance races.

This is achieved through the use of an iOS/Android smartphone or tablet that links to the power-base via Bluetooth 4.0 LE a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart technology. This is facilitated with an app that provides the advanced control abilities. They also use a wireless link to the handheld controllers which are still used by the competitors to control their vehicle’s speed on the track.

This unit is able to work with any standard 1:32-scale slot car track by allowing a user to replace a power base used in the existing layout with this power base. Here, the user just has to swap in a “full-straight” part of the track for this device. The Digital RCS Pro system, which offers more control, uses a special chip to be installed in the actual cars themselves, with most of the recent cars having “plug-and-play” installation.

What this has been highlighting is that today’s smartphones are being able to work with some of the “old-school” hobbies by offering extra functionality and capabilities.

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Alliance to provide a level playing field for Internet Of Things

Articles

A New Alliance Will Let "Internet Of Things" Devices Talk To Each Other  | Fast Company

Home Appliance Makers Connect Open Source Internet Of Things | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

AllSeen Alliance

Web site

My Comments

As the hype builds up about the “Internet Of Things” where devices can use a heterogenous network for exchanging data or receiving commands, there is oomething that can easily go wrong here. This is where particular vendors see the “Internet Of Things” as being the “Internet Of Things Around Our Products”, something that can stifle competition and, especially, innovation.

But steps have been taken towards creating a truly heterogenous Internet Of Things which is similar to what has happened with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless technologies. Here, it involved the creation of industry-based multiple-vendor alliances who put forward what is required for all devices working to a technology to communicate with each other.

The Linux Foundation have set up the AllSeen Alliance in conjunction with Qualcomm with their AllJoyn protocol which was just lately made “open-source”. The goal is about implementing heterogenous transport layers that work without need for Internet connectivity and work in a vendor-independent manner.

At the moment, they are working on modular services that look at the following functions: discovery, pairing / set-up, message routing, and data security. THis will include proper user interface requirements including a rich user experience with the Internet of Things; along with an application-specific requirement  for streaming audio over many connected speakers.

There will still need to be an effort to assure secure interoperability on a function-based level so that a system based on units from different vendors can work as a system rather than having he need for software or hardware function bridges to allow devices of one manufacturer to work with those of another.

Once this happens, this can allow the Internet Of things to be affordable for most users and be a breeding ground of innovation.

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