Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Quality control to arrive for regular-computer gaming

Article

PC Gaming Alliance Launching Certification Program in March | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

PC Gaming Alliance

Program Page

My Comments

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

Quality is now part of the games experience on these computers

A major part of the personal computer’s history has been about integrating the playing of games on these computers and every personal-computer platform had ended up with many different game titles available in a retail context or, in some cases, available for download. This has been the basis for heroes like Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego in the late 1980s and early 1990s let alone people practising flying and golfing or solving puzzles on these computers as a spare-time activity.

There are those of us who still like to game on with our regular computers, be they desktops, all-in-ones or laptops or that they run Windows, MacOS X or Linux. This is although mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, along with games consoles of the XBox One and PS4 variety are being viable alternatives to the regular computer. Similarly, newer tablet and touchscreen-equipped convertible computers have been showing up, working under Windows 8.1 which is still considered a “regular-computer” operating system. This has extended to the likes of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 and its ilk which have a strong gaming appeal.

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer – now to be a viable games machine

Of course, a significant amount of time on a regular computer is spent on various games whether they be conquering many worlds, setting up many empires, mimicking real life or engaging in car races or test flights. And I wouldn’t put it past flight attendants who work the long-haul flights to see these games being played on laptops through these flights.

But, unlike the games consoles and the mobile platforms where there is oversight through the companies behind these platforms, there hasn’t been a strong level of oversight when it comes to game quality. Some people have continued to raise issues about EA’s software quality especially in the light of the recent SimCity fiasco.

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

These “adaptive all-in-one” computers like the Sony VAIO Tap 20 are ending up as games machines

There have been a few quality-assurance programs out theire like the Microsoft “Games For Windows” program and Apple’s developer-assistance program for the Macintosh platform along with Valve’s Steam ecosystem. But the PC Gaming Alliance want to have a quality-assurance platform that is open and not bound to a particular developer in order to keep with the open nature of the regular-computing platforms.

One technical goal is to have a regular computer paint the graphics for a game to the 720p HD specification at 30 frames per second under load as a median requirement. This could allow the game to run on a modest processor like the Intel i5 processors which could typify a modest computer. Similarly, games titles that benefit from a console-style game controller as their user interface should benefit from these controllers and the games should take advantage of large-screen displays. The latter requirement would come in to its own with someone who wants to connect their laptop to a large-screen TV or projector to get the most out of their game.

Personally, I would like to see this apply across Windows, Macintosh and Linux builds of a game title so that no matter the platform, there is consistent software quality across the games. The companies representing these platforms could then be part of this alliance in order to encourage quality games development for their platforms.

Similarly, the games would have to be as though they are a part of the operating environment like what used to happen with Sierra’s and Broderbund’s output where these games worked smoothly with their host platform, exploiting what these platforms offered. It could also encompass network-game compatibility whether online or local-hosted and encompass multi-platform games where console players cam play alongside regular-computer or mobile-device players or play part of a game across different devices.

Could this be a chance for EA and others to lose their tarnished image when it comes to software quality for regular-computer gaming?

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CSIRO to use mobile-platform app as part of system to support ageing at home

Article

CSIRO app to help older people live at home safely | Aged And Community Services Australia

My Comments

Increasingly, the home network is becoming a key feature to support the “ageing at home” concept where an older person can live in their home yet is monitored for signs of ill-health or is assisted as they complete regular tasks using the technology supported by these networks.

One of the main goals is to support the concept of deinstitutionalisation in aged care and allied health care, which is becoming more relevant as we see an increasingly-ageing population accelerated by the baby boomers reaching the old age. This concept also reduces the need to build many aged-care facilities which also reduces the costs associated with building them.

There have been efforts in the UK to provide for dignified independent living for older people including the use of projected text to remind Alzheimer’s patients of stages in a cooking procedure and a GPS system to help with shopping. Similarly, IRIS who is a company in the US is distributing through an American chain of  hardware stores products and services that also are about keeping tabs on one’s elderly relatives. This is being augmented by Fujitsu refining technology that makes a digital-camera image sensor measure one’s pulse which comes in handy with in-home aged care.

In the latest effort, the CSIRO have established a system to help with this concept. This is based around a mobile-platform tablet that works along with a system of sensors to observe the health and well-being of the senior citizen.

Energy sensors aren’t just to “be green” in this case, but to monitor use of appliances as part of a healthy daily lifestyle. For example, knowing if they have used the kettle to make a cup of coffee or tea at all or the use of a “cooking device” such as the stove, the microwave oven or toaster oven indicates if the person is well and looking after themselves. Similarly, knowing if they have left the oven or stove hob on for too long can indicate a dangerous situation.

Similarly, those motion detectors that are part of a security system can also identify whether the person has entered particular rooms like the kitchen as part of their regular activities. These work alongside various health sensors like blood glucose monitors or pulse monitors to observe the health of the older person.

This information is presented on a mobile-platform tablet to allow the person to see how they are keeping with life and a carer or the person’s loved ones can know what is going on if there are abnormalities. There are options in this system to help with assuring data privacy so that people only have access to this data only if they need it as part of the health-care plan for the elderly person.

Some other devices can work as part of this same equation such as the new breed of residential “smart locks” that effectively work as a business-grade access-control system for our homes. Here, they could be able to identify whether the door was locked or not and, preferably, identify whether it was locked or unlocked from inside or outside. This could, for example identify whether they got up and went outside to get the paper or mail for example thus knowing if they are well.

There can be questions raised about the use of technology as part of “ageing at home” in the context of over-monitoring the elderly population or stripping out the personal aspect of the care that is to be provided to this population. What needs to happen is that relatives and friends, along with professional carers need to engage with the older person for their health and welfare and not just have these systems monitor them for abnormalities.

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Why do I support DropBox and where do I see it be relevant?

Through this Website, I will cite and highlight Dropbox when I am talking about cloud-based file-share services and how they can be used.

One feature that I like about Dropbox is that it is not tied to a particular vendor like Microsoft or Apple. Here, you can benefit from the fact that you can share or exchange files with other users no matter their desktop or mobile computing platform. This includes the provision of first-party and third-party software that strengthens the link between the operating platforms and Dropbox.

This is extended to some NAS vendors providing software support for the Dropbox platform through desktop software or software that is part of the NAS’s operating system. Increasingly, Dropbox integration is becoming a function for many network-enabled multifunction printers where you could print from or scan to a Dropbox folder.  To the same extent, there are people who are building server-side software that integrates their server to the Dropbox platform, making it become an “on-ramp” or “shadow store” for Dropbox.

Like similar file-storage services, Dropbox is not a social network although it can work with Facebook and Twitter. For example, it can work as a file store for Facebook Groups as well as supporting single sign-on with these services.

There is a free entry-level allowance but you can buy more capacity or do things to increase capacity like inviting others to the Dropbox ecosystem so they integrate it with their regular computer. Some vendors like Samsung also provide free extra capacity to users who integrate it with their devices.

Dropbox has answered business’s needs by offering a business package that has secure encrypted storage, the ability to remotely unlink devices and other manageability expectations. This has even extended to having on one login a Dropbox personal account for personal data and a Dropbox For Business account for work data.

The main use I see for DropBox is to exchange a large number of files or large files like videos between two or more different people rather than serving simply as personal or business offsite storage.

For example, I would upload a large collection of photos or videos to a folder on Dropbox and share this folder with other people that I choose. Or it could be to pass a large document between two or more people as part of the revision process for that document. or want to work the one document across two different computers such as a desktop and an Ultrabook. Similarly, I may use Dropbox to create a reference library of documents such as reference manuals for business or for that shared property that you are responsible for.

What I see Dropbox as is simply a agile cross-platform invitation-only file exchange for individuals and small businesses.

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A Wi-Fi-based clinical observation thermometer appears on the scene

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Solwise

http://www.solwise.co.uk/wireless-cadisense.htm

CadiSense

Product Page

My Comments

There have been some trends taking place to make the home network become part of in-home health care. One of the previous trends was Fujitsu using a digital camera like what is equipped in a smartphone or Webcam as a tool for measuring your pulse. Similarly, another company implemented a set of urinalysis “control sticks” that can be assessed not through a reference chart on the packaging but by a platform smartphone app that uses the phone’s camera to read these sticks.

Now a device has been launched in the UK through Solwise which uses a wireless temperature sensor to provide continual body temperature monitoring using the home network. This device, known as “Cadisense” implements a wireless temperature sensor that attaches to the patient’s nappy (diaper) or undergarment and touches the lower abdomen to measure the temperature. This device sends these temperature readings to a plug-in network bridge that connects to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, with the network bridge keeping a long-term record of these observations that are taken every 30 seconds.

The data can be viewed on a Web server integrated in the network bridge that is accessible through the home network or via a remote link like what is used for most network devices that implement “remote access” or “cloud” functionality. The “dashboard” Website hosted by this Web server is optimised for viewing on a regular computer, tablet or smartphone and has the ability for regular-computer users to download the observations to the hard disk as a CSV file to import in to a spreadsheet application or email to their doctor. There are also the mobile-computing apps that work tightly with the iOS and Android platforms

At the moment, this device is focused towards observation-based clinical temperature measurement but shows that this concept can be proven beyond this application. There is a current limitation where the Cadisense temperature sensors can only work with the supplied network bridge but it is made up for the fact that the network bridge is a “3-way” wireless network device that can be either a Wi-Fi client bridge, a Wi-Fi range extender or an infill Wi-Fi access point.

For that matter, Cadisense are on a good wicket with their design because they could work this platform for a lot of in-home health-care applications including “ageing at home”. For example, their network bridge could come in to its own with the Ekahau Wi-Fi Pager Tags to be the core of a network-based “emergency-call” system that is a necessary part of caring for older people.

Once a system like this is built around industry-accepted standards like Z-Wave or Zigbee, it could mean a lot more for at-home health care and wellness applications amongst other applications like security and home automation.

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Skully to develop a motorcycle helmet with heads-up display

Articles

Skully demonstrates GPS, rear-view camera in motorcycle helmet | The Car Tech blog – CNET Reviews

Skully fits heads-up display into motorcycle helmet | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Skully Helmets

Home Page

My Comments

Those of us who use cars often take features like GPS satellite-navigation and rear-view cameras for granted. But motorcyclists feel left out because there isn’t a way to implement these technologies in a safe manner that works well for two wheels.

If a motorcyclist wants to use GPS navigation while riding their bike, they have to buy and use an expensive portable navigation device that is designed for motorcycle use and mount this to their machine’s handlebars. Or they have to seek out and purchase a smartphone dock that is designed to mount on a motorcycle’s handlebars and install their smartphone in that dock. Some of these accessories may not even look the part on certain bikes such as European-style scooters or “open-style” tourer bikes such as the Harley-Davidsons or Yamaha Viragos.

Now Skully have developed a motorcycle helmet that has an integrated GPS and rear-view camera. Here, this device uses a heads-up display that works independently of how you position the helmet’s visor to show the navigation graphics or the picture from the rear-view camera.

It has a Bluetooth link to your smartphone for updating map data but also provides access to telephony, music and voice-control features that your smartphone offers. THink of having a long ride while listening to your favourite music then telling your smartphone via Siri, S Voice or Google Voice to call the people whom you are seeing to let them know you’ll be there.

The Android-driven helmet has a battery runtime of 9 hours and can be charged using a microUSB data/charging cable connected to a computer or USB charger. It certainly shows that this is an invention that solves a problem many motorcyclists face and brings them on an even par to car drivers.

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The latest Facebook feature is to create photo albums which your Friends can add photos to

Article

Facebook Allows Multiple Users To Upload Pictures To Albums | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

My Comments

Previously, Facebook, the social network that has a lot of people having a love-hate relationship with, has led the field with the concept of people tagging in its early days and has improved on the privacy issues with that. This concept has been taken further with some image-management software like Windows Photo Gallery

A classic scenario that encompasses every Facebook user is a group event like a party or holiday. Here, each member takes plenty of photos of this event with their smartphone or digital camera and most if not all of the members have each other as Facebook Friends. But what do we do with these photos and how do we share them?

Typically, each of us would create an album in our own Facebook Profiles, having it set as “Friends Only” or “Friends Of Friends”. Then we would add the photos that we took at the event to this album. These photos and any subsequently-added photos would then be advertised in each others’ News Feeds and each of us could view each other’s albums of the same event.

One way I thought that this situation may be mitigated would be to create an event-specific tag that you attach to photos or albums and support browsing along photos and albums that contain this tag no matter who created them. This could effectively created a “super-album” for that event or place.

But Facebook have recently added a feature where other Friends can contribute images to an album. Here, the owner of the album can specifically invite others to add the photos or make it a free-for-all; yet be able to edit the images as required. There are three privacy levels for the album – public (everyone can view), friends of contributors (contributors and their Facebook Friends) or contributors only can view the whole album.

In the case of someone who “came in to town” or you went on a trip, they or you could create one album which encompasses the shots around town plus one or more albums with public events which they own. Then, when they are invited to a dinner party or other event by local friends, they (or the hosts) create an album set up for contribution in their Facebook Profile with appropriate settings and use that album for images of that event.

If you hosted a party like a 21st, you or a guest could run one of these albums so that guests can contribute images from that party. The large album size that is being part if the equation can allow you to see the album become Facebook’s equivalent of the photowall that some hosts may use for major parties.

A problem that I do see with the contributable album is Facebook making it difficult to move or copy photos between albums. This is of importance with the “mobile” albums that mobile Facebook implementations always insist on creating such as “Mobile Uploads” or “iOS Photos”; along with generically-named albums that Instagram and other apps like creating. I would suggest that this feature is augmented with the ability to move or copy photos between albums.

As well, Facebook allowing the use of user-determined tags could allow for the creation of “super-albums” for events or places without the need for one person to create contributed or other albums.

Similarly, the ability to create shortcuts to albums or photos between one’s own profile and a Page that one is administering could work as a way to avoid the need to upload pictures twice for a page and one’s own profile.

As for client software, I would like to see Facebook mobile clients be DLNA servers / control points so that one could “throw” single images or collections of images such as the albums to a Smart TV or TV attached to a DLNA-capable Blu-Ray player if you want them on a large screen or for group viewing.

At least Facebook are taking better steps to making it easier to “pool” photos of group events in order for all of the members of that group to enjoy them.

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Microsoft’s XBox One to satisfy the games-console reality

Articles

Microsoft unveils Xbox One as home entertainment hub | The Australian

Xbox One moves Microsoft closer to living room hub | CNet

Video of press launch

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My Comments

Just lately, Microsoft had launched the XBox One games console which underscores the role of games consoles as a device for watching content and playing games on the TV screen.

This console uses up-to-date computer hardware and software including elements of the Windows and XBox operating systems. As well, it implements up-to-date requirements like USB3.0 connectivity, Wi-Fi Direct wireless connectivity as well as a Blu-Ray optical drive. Similarly, the main unit implements design cues from premium consumer-electronics sold during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This underscores the fact that the XBox One is designed to work as a multimedia box for the TV as has occurred commonly with the XBox 360 and the PS3 games consoles. This includes an HDIM input for passing video from a set-top box through the console. At the moment, this functionality may have questionable support with various free-to-air and pay TV setups. Personally, I would like to see this function underscored with an add-on digital-TV tuner module in order to pick up digital broadcast TV services.

It also has Kinect which provides motion and voice control and the user experience for changing content is expected to be as quick as flicking between broadcast channels.

Microsoft underscores the use of cloud-hosted functionality for gameplay such as persistent worlds, multiplayer multi-machine play and content “drop-off” points. But they still allow users to watch video content from TV or disc and play games without needing to be online.

Questions have been raised about whether users can sell / give games to others and take games between consoles such as playing at a friend’s home. Another issue I would like to see raised is whether Microsoft will provide an on-ramp for small-time and independent games developers like what has happened with the XNA program for the XBox 360. If such a program existed for this console, it could allow Microsoft to keep their credentials as a company whose founding stone was small-time software development.

Similarly, there were issues raised about the integrated secondary storage that the XBox One came with. Some of the press were disappointed with the hard disk and would like to see it come with solid-state storage and the ability for users to add on extra hard-disk space by connecting or installing a hard disk.

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Facebook uses the trusted-person concept to help you get back to your account

Articles

Locked Out Of Your Facebook Account? Trusted Contacts Will Save You | Gizmodo Australia

Facebook puts account security in the hands of your friends |CNet

My Comments

Commonly most of us leave a set of keys for our home with someone else that we trust like a close friend or neighbour. This is to allow us to get back in to our home if we lock ourselves out, which can be easily done if you can lock that front door without the need for a key typically by flicking a thumbturn or pressing a button.

Facebook has taken this practice to their account-security procedures by allowing us to work with a “trusted person” to gain access to our accounts. Here, you let Facebook know the contact details of the three to five trusted people and if a lockout occurs, Facebook would send the codes to these people and you contact these people preferably via phone or SMS for these codes. This can come in handy with older people who forget their Facebook credentials or if someone’s account was hacked and the password was changed.

Facebook are in a position to do this not just because of them being a highly-popular social network but users are using their Facebook parameters to sign in to a large number of consumer-oriented Websites and mobile apps. I wouldn’t put it past Microsoft or Google to implement this in to their account systems, especially more so with Microsoft using the Web-hosted credentials as the key to our Windows 8 computers.

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An increasing number of home systems and personal health devices link to our mobile devices

Article

Home, health devices controlled by apps on the rise | The Age (Australia)

My Comments

A trend that is becoming very real in this day and age is for more appliances, home systems and personal healthcare devices to be linked to the home network and the Internet.

This is typically manifested in the form of the devices having control apps being made available for smartphones and tablets that run on common mobile-computing platforms, especially iOS and Android. Typically the device would like to the smartphone or tablet either via a direct Bluetooth link or the home network with the mobile computing device linking to that network via Wi-Fi wireless. Some of these devices that promote “cloud-driven” or “remote-access” functionality make use of the Internet connection offered by the home network or the mobile computing device.

Of course, you have to remember that the use of the “cloud” word is primarily about the vendor or service provider providing either simplified remote access to the device or having user data being stored on the vendor’s servers.

A lot of the apps offer various device control or monitoring functions, with some of the apps linking to a remote Web server for storing user data. This is more so with personal healthcare devices where the goal is to keep a record of measurements that the device obtains on behalf of the user.

Of course, the mobile-computing-platform app may not he the only way to benefit from the connected device’s online abilities. Here, the device could work with a Web-based dashboard page that users can view with a Web browser on their regular-platform or mobile-platform computing device. This situation would come in handy if the concept is to provide more information at a glance or provide greater control of the device.

There is a reality that by 2022 a household with 2 teenage / young-adult children will maintain 50 Internet-connected devices compared to 10 such devices in 2013 according to OECD data and this situation is being described as the “Internet Of Things”.

But there are some issues here with the current ecosystem for these devices and apps. For example, if a user has more appliances and other devices from different manufacturers or service providers, the smartphone or tablet will end up being crowded out with many different apps. The same situation may occur as a device comes to the end of its useful life and is replaced with a newer device which may be from a different vendor. It can lead to users finding it difficult to locate the monitoring or control apps that they need to use for a particular device.

Here, the situation could be rectified through the use of application standards like UPnP so that one can develop apps that can manage many devices from different vendors.

This could also encourage innovation such as the design of “car-friendly” apps or voice-agent (Siri / S-Voice) plugins so that one could benefit from a monitoring or control app when they leave or arrive in the car. Similarly, the software would need to exploit the abilities that iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 / 8 / RT offer within their platforms for “at-a-glance” viewing or user notifications.

It is a change that could take place over the years as the home network exists to be the easy-to-manage small network for an increasing number of devices.

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The relevance of broadband Internet for the expat and migrant community

A group of people that I do come across a lot are the expatriates and migrants who move from one country to another on a medium to long term basis. Some of them move out on a permanent basis whereas others do move on a temporary basis such as establishing a business in the new country.

One example that I deal with regularly is my barber who is an Italian and who has family members who are at home in Italy. Here, I spend a fair bit of time with him making sure his computer and home network works properly because he uses Skype and Facebook a lot to communicate with his relatives in Italy rather than using the telephone service.

But this class of user is very dependent on communications with their home country. This can be underscored by regular telephone and email communications between relatives and friends in their own country along with a desire to benefit from content that reflects on what is going on in that country while they exist in their new abode.

One technology that I have noticed that has swept expats and migrants off their feet lately is Skype. These people can engage in long video chats with their relatives who are based in their home country for nothing. The software is available across nearly all regular and mobile operating systems and an increasing number of smart TVs are being equipped with Skype, with the user just buying an accessory camera-microphone kit in order to have these videocalls on the big screen.

Similarly, an increasing number of network-capable video peripherals like Blu-Ray players are being equipped with Skype functionality which comes alive when the user buys the accessory camera-microphone kit. Here, this enables people to add Skype to their existing large-screen TVs in a similar manner to what the video recorder has done for older and cheaper TVs.

Another technology that pleases this market is the availability of newspapers and news services online through the Web or the mobile interface, provided by the news publishers themselves. This allows the expat to know what is going on at home and benefit from the publisher’s look and feel that has the “homely” taste rather than the weekly print editions that appear at some newsstands. In some cases like Britain’s Daily Telegraph, this is augmented by the establishment of a dedicated online department who furnishes resources targeted at this market.

Yet Another technology that also helps the expat and migrant community is Internet-based broadcasting. Typically this allows these people to benefit from content that is broadcast from home in their new country. It manifests in the form of the Internet radio with access to Internet streams of radio stations that broadcast to particular towns and neighbourhoods. This has been assisted through the use of TuneIn Radio, vTuner and similar Internet-radio directories.

As for TV, some companies and groups have targeted the expat market well with the AFL providing an overseas-only IPTV service for Aussies away from home wanting to know what the team they barrack for is up to. As well a few companies are running similar IPTV services but there needs to be a lot more work done on discovery and provisioning of these services. This includes integrating them in to the main smart-TV platforms, allowing for “buy from the couch” opportunities and providing a good-quality service.

At least the broadband Internet is showing itself as being highly relevant to the expat and migrant community and I always recommend the establishment of a good broadband service and home network for such groups.

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