Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

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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Setting up Apple iChat for Facebook Chat and Messaging

Windows users have been able to use the Facebook Messenger as a desktop option for gaining access to Facebook’s chat and messaging features. Similarly, users of the iOS and Android mobile platforms have benefited from having access to the Facebook Messenger app as a dedicated path to this same service.

But how can you gain full-time access to the Facebook chat and messaging functionality on your Apple Macintosh without the need to open your Web browser? You can when you use the iChat software that is integrated with the Mac OS X operating system.

Here, the Mac has to be equipped with iChat AV 3 or later which is part of the operating system from 10.4 Tiger to 10.7 Lion. It will provide an “always-live” messaging and “green-dot” presence feature that you would expect with the Web-driven Facebook messaging interface.

  1. To set this up, you click on the “Preferences” item in the iChat menu.
  2. Click on the “Accounts” option in this window, then click the + icon at the bottom of this window as if you are adding a new iChat account.
  3. Select “Jabber” as the account type.
  4. Supply the credentials as:
    Screen Name: <Your_Facebook_User_Name>@chat.facebook.com
    Password:<Your_Facebook_Password>
  5. For the Server Options, make sure that “Automatically find server name and port” option is checked. If this doesn’t work, you may have to fill in “chat.facebook.com” in the Name and 5222 in the Port for the Server details
  6. Then click Done to add the account.

For this acoount to work automatically, you have to select the “Enable this account” and “Log in Automatically” options for it to log in and show you as online when you use your Mac. Here, you will see the list of all the Facebook Friends who are currently online with that green dot.

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What was network gaming about before online gaming?

Before the rise of Internet-hosted online gaming setups, we saw the existence of multi-player multi-machine gaming setups that existed either peer-to-peer with a cable or a local area network.

What was valued about these setups was that you could establish ad-hoc local games challenges ranging from connecting up a pair of PlayStations to each other towards the huge “LAN party” frag-fests with players playing various games on many overclocked PCs connected via a business-grade Ethernet network to a games server in a large room that is hired for that party. In some cases, it could include a Bluetooth link between two phones or PDAs to play a game while on a train or over a coffee at that café/

There were advantages like being able to play against people you know well, through having the network game become a feature for a party to the ability for a venue to host their own challenges based on these games.

As we have moved towards the online games model, we have drifted from the localised multi-machine gaming model. But we can re-integrate the localised model with the online model if the game or situation allows for it.

One approach would be to create local teams, gaming challenges or play spaces for your immediate area. These would require users with the online accounts to be aware of and play with the teams, challenges or spaces. They could be locally authenticated using GPS, network discovery or manually through the user entering in a seat number or room number for the local challenge.

Another way of facilitationg these local challenges is to “go hybrid”. This is where you have the online gaming setup but you also have a local games server available to a local network, which could be the function of a high-end network-attached storage device. This local server can team with the online server either to cache activity when the online link is a slow link or to host the local challenges.

This concept of local-network gaming may go against the dream for the purely cloud-driven online lifestyle but can allow for increased opportunities for developing the network-gaming concept further. It doesn’t matter whether you are at home, run a public-access network or want to take gaming further than the online gaming services.

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Your smartphone’s camera can take your pulse courtesy of Fujitsu

Article

Fujitsu tech takes your pulse with your camera phone – popular science, mobile applications, mobile, Fujitsu – PC World Australia

My Comments

The platform smartphone or tablet is starting to play an increasingly important role on personal health and wellbeing without the need to be dependent on extra peripherals. It is becoming increasingly relevant for these devices so you can keep an electronic record of observations or easily send the data to a doctor or clinic via email or cloud data service. This would lead to these devices becoming part of various home-based healthcare setups like management of chronic illnesses or catering to the idea of “ageing at home” where older people can stay at home independently or under the care of their relatives, friends or paid carers.

Previously I reported on the use of a smartphone camera and app that implements machine vision for “reading” certain urinalysis sticks, avoiding the need to check against confusing charts. I even put forward the idea of using similar “fluid-analysis” sticks and a smartphone app to check other liquids like drinks for “spiking” or “loading” or to check the pH level in a swimming pool.

Now Fujitsu has developed software code that makes a small digital camera like that installed in a smartphone or tablet as machine vision for taking someone’s pulse.This may be seen to displace the medical skill where you “pinch” the patient’s wrist near their hand and count the beats that you feel for a minute measured by a stopwatch or watch with second hand.

This concept works on the fact that the brightness of one’s face changes slightly as their heart beats and uses the presence of green light to look for haemoglobin which is part of the red (just oxygenated) blood cells. The procedure requires 5 seconds versus a minute with the orthodox method and the software can assess when patient is still for improved accuracy.

Fujitsu hopes to commercialise the technology in 12 months but there are questions on whether they will implement it in their own equipment or license it to other developers. For it to be popular, they would have to license the algorithms to other software developers to integrate in to their projects and / or release a finished software product to the platform app stores for people to use on their devices.

They also see this technology as facilitating unobtrusive measurement of one’s pulse using the camera on a PC, smartphone, smart TV, or tablet this being part of long-term observational-healthcare situations like chronic illness management.

What I see of this is the ability to use the cost-effective and ubiquitous hardware i.e. the multi-functional smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook to work as part of remote health care and allied applications with minimum need to use extra peripherals.

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Using a smartphone app and a QR code to determine the provenance of that beef in France

Article – French language

Flashez votre barquette de bœuf et retrouvez son origine

My Comments

The recent meat-substitution scandal in Europe where a significant quantity of processed beef and beef-based “heat-and-eat” products sold in that area were filled out with horsemeat has put the meat industry, especially the beef industry, on edge.

But how is the meat industry going to restore consumer confidence in the beef that they are going to purchase especially from the supermarket?

A group of organisations in France have put their heads together to provide a way of checking the provenance of that tray of beef. This involved a group of beef farmers in the Pyrenees, the Vignasse et Donney software developers and the Auchan supermarket chain. With this project, there would be a database that has information on the provenance of the retail packages of meat available for sale. As well, each tray of that meat has a QR code that represents the link to the database about the meat. This would be read by a platform smartphone that runs the “Boeuf Blond D’’Aquitaine” app that shows up information about the meat package whose QR code is scanned.

It could work in restoring the necessary consumer confidence in the meat but this concerns more the sausages, the “cut-up” beef like minced (ground) beef or stir-fry strips as well as the ready-meal products like bolognese, lasagne and moussaka. Here, a lot of this class of food is prepared by third parties and it could be feasible to “balloon” the beef product with pork, oodles of fat or offal or, at worst, horse. This is more so with cheaper versions of these products; and this scandal was primarily anchored around the mislabelling of the product at various points of the preparation process.

I would see the QR-code labelling program and the provenance database being more effective with the sausages and “cut-up” beef which was prepared through the known chain of production established by the partners such as “on-demand on-site” preparation of these cuts by Auchan for example. Similarly, the DNA could be worked out for the meat and meat products and represented in to a smartphone-readable label that can be used by customers to determine the origin of the meat they are to purchase.

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The second screen is now becoming relevant for console-based video gaming

Article

PS4 to get companion social app for tablets, PS Vita |Engadget

My Comments

Just today (21 February 2013), Sony was premiering the PlayStation 4 games console at their press event in New York City. They were promoting advanced “polygon-free” graphics which yielded realistic game views as well as support for “cloud-driven” console gaming.

This included various social-gaming options including the ability for an experienced astute player to help a novice player by effectively adding “dual controls” to the novice player’s controller. It is a feature that could have come in handy during a time when a friend of mine brought around the original PlayStation and rented a cricket game to play on the console. A person who lived with us had very keen interest in cricket and showed interest in this game but needed assistance with the video-game implementation of the sport.

But this console supports the new trend of the “second screen”. This option, which is implemented using apps on mobile-device platforms, is being explored by broadcasters and others with regular programmes but is being taken further by Sony for the PlayStation platform.

Most likely this concept would be positioned for social gaming, persistent scoreboards / inventory lists, alternate views such as overview maps, and similar activities to gain more out of the game. Of course, there will be the doubters that will say that the second screen is irrelevant especially for first-person shooters and similar games.

It will also be interesting to observe how much “in-sync” with the gameplay the second screen hosted on a separate device connected to the home network would be especially if extra action is to be viewed on this screen. Personally, I would make sure that you have the proper bandwidth available to your tablet when you want this function to work properly with the PS4.

A good idea would be to make sure that the Wi-Fi is strong to the games room and this could be achieved through the use of an access point with the wired network backbone. For that matter, most of the HomePlug AV wireless access points also have the Ethernet connections which can make this task easier with the PS4 connected to an Ethernet socket on the HomePlug access point while the HomePlug AV segment serves as the backbone.

Of course, this new console has a lot to be expected for its role in the lounge room, or the games room.

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How about encouraging computer and video games development in Europe, Oceania and other areas

Most computer and video games are written in USA or Japan, mainly through larger studios like EA, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and others.

This is typically because of the common platforms such as the main console platforms where the barriers of entry to the platform are very significant. The regular-computer (PC / Mac) and mobile platforms aren’t as exacting as the main console platforms and are in a better position to nurture more games developers. This is although Microsoft was running the XNA game-development program for their XBox 360 console which opened up game development for this platform.

The regular-computer and mobile platforms are opening up the “indie” game-development community which is independent of the main US and Japanese studios. A key example of this is Rovio, a Dutch games studio who built up the successful “Angry Birds” game franchise for the mobile platforms.

Europe has had a chance at the development of computer games through the 1980s while computing platforms like the Commodore Amiga which had an open-access software development environment existed. Similarly, when the Philips CD-I format gained a bit of a foothold in the European market in the mid 1990s, a few European games studios developed games like Burn Cycle for that format. But these were systems that had some level of popularity primarily in Europe.

Typically most of these efforts see their results achieve some sort of “domestic” popularity where the game is popular in its home market. But Rovio, a Finnish independent games studio, had cut through this barrier by releasing the popular “Angry Birds” game franchise, initially to the iOS and Android mobile platforms. But this was so popular worldwide that they ported it out to other non-mobile platforms like the PlayStation Portable and the two main regular-computing platforms, Windows and MacOS X.

The Android-driven OUYA games console is in a position to allow the independent games studios to write for the large-screen console market because it has access to the Google Play app store and the Android knowhow. This could open up paths for games studios in the under-represented areas like Europe and Oceania to cut in to the gaming mainstream. Similarly, there were a few other games consoles such as the “Steam Box” being premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show early this year. These console platforms, along with the Android and iOS mobile platforms, could light up the independent gaming scene and encourage the development of games titles in these areas.

As well, governments and local industry associations could establish incubation programs for the computer and video games industry in these areas. This could come in the form of, per se, a culture ministry treating gaming / interactive-entertainment development in a similar manner to other arts and culture endowment programs. On the other hand, an entertainment-content district like India’s “Bollywood” extending their brand and concept to interactive entertainment like what has happened with Hollywood.

Once you have other countries and areas having interactive-entertainment studios and engaged in computer and video games, it can allow a lot more to occur. For example, games can be reflective of different cultures rather than a Hollywood-led “aggressive” culture. Similarly, a game that is set in the modern era like some adventure and strategy games can be set up to reflect a locale other than the suburbia of USA.

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An all-in-one PC now with gaming credentials

Article

Maingear introduces first boutique gaming all-in-one PC | Reviews – Desktops – CNET Reviews

My Comments

Previously, a computer that had serious gaming credibility, commonly described as a “gaming rig”, was a full-size tower-style PC that was decked out with “hotted-up” processors, highly-strung graphics-card circuitry and other components. These setups needed intense cooling and, in some applications, used elaborate cooling systems as part of some wild case designs. They were typically connected to large displays and gaming-optimised input devices as well as intense surround-sound systems.

Now Maingear have redefined how a gaming computer should be designed by releasing the Alpha 24 Super. This is an “all-in-one” computer that is able to take a full-size PCI Express graphics card and use it to drive the main screen. It has a similar kind of expandability as the HP Z1 all-in-one workstation which, although pitched as a CAD or graphics-arts workstation, can be built out as an intense gaming rig.

It can support a 256Gb mSATA SSD and 3Tb regular hard disk as its main secondary storage as well as having 2 miniPCI Express slots for further function expandability. Maingear are offering it with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX-650 or the GTX-680 which have Optimus automatically-selectable graphics “overdrive”. This means that it can save on energy costs and cooling needs when undertaking regular Web browsing or office work. As for the display, this unit supports a 24” HD touchscreen for Windows 8 and has an HDMI input so it can work as a display for video peripherals.  North-American users can have this computer equipped with a CableCard-compliant TV tuner for use as the “all-in-one” bach-pad entertainment setup when it comes to regular computing use, games, TV, DVD or online video.

What I am impressed about this computer is that it is another “all-in-one” that allows you to upgrade / expand / repair it yourself, this allowing the computer to have a very long useful life. I would also reckon that it could be considered as a “poor man’s” alternative to the HP Z1 Workstation.

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Is this what the new super slim PlayStation 3 is all about

Articles

Sony unveils super slim PlayStation 3 | Crave – CNET

Sony PlayStation 3 2012 up close and personal eyes on | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

US Press Release

European Press Release

My Comments

The press have been afield with the news about Sony’s latest PlayStation 3 games console. But this one is a major redesign to cope with the smaller space that newer consolidated electronics can occupy. This has yielded a smaller console that is significantly lighter and doesn’t use as much power as the existing units.

One main difference is that it has a top-loading Blu-Ray drive for your games and movies. This uses a sliding lid in a similar vein to some CD players like the B&O Beocenter 9000 series music systems rather than the hinged lid that, in my opinion, is asking for problems. 

There are two main design variants – one with a 500Gb hard disk and a cheaper variant with 12Gb flash memory with the ability to add in an optional 250Gb hard disk. The American market would have the console come with the 250Gb hard disk in the box. The cheaper version may work with occasional gamers and those of us who use the PS3 more as a network media client rather than as the full-on games console.

Of course there will be access to the PlayStation Network and the local video-on-demand services that has allowed the PS3 to earn its keep as a network multimedia terminal rather than just a games console for teenagers and young men. It will also have the same performance expectations as the current-generation PS3.

But could these variants be a way to bring the PlayStation Experience to more households or allow one to increase the feasibility for more of the multi-player multi-machine gaming from this console?

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

Articles

Twitter, Facebook must be more diligent | Technology | BigPond News

Expert says Dawson broke the first rule of social media: don’t feed the trolls | Sydney Morning Herald

My Comments

The Charlotte Dawson saga that has been over the Australian news media over the last week has become a wake-up call regarding the nature of the Social Web and the Internet in general when it comes to the ability to leave unverified irrational comments against people or organisations.

This is where social networks, bulletin boards, forums and similar services are used as a platform to launch an attack against a person. Here, it can manifest in ways such as a caustic remark left on a Facebook profile or a forum; through a barrage of tweets or instant messages of abuse fired at a person or, at worst, a Facebook Page, YouTube video or something similar can be set up to pillory that person.

Even before the Social Web became mainstream, there was the issue of free Web hosts and the “export to HTML” function in recent word processors and affordable desktop-publishing software being used to quickly set up defamatory Web sites against people. This situation was then underscored by the use of cost-effective camera-equipped mobile phones to create distasteful videos to appear on these sites or to send across to others via email or MMS.

Some press articles raised the issue of how easier it has become to leave improper comments on the Social Web, Web-hosted forums and the like without being traced back easily. This is even though most of these services have mechanisms for the Webmaster or others in charge to control scurrilous behaviour, including a reporting mechanism for others who are aggrieved by the behaviour to let those in charge know. As well, these mechanisms are underscored by the terms and conditions that users have to assent to when they become a member of these services.

Even before the rise of the Internet, there was common advice that was offered regarding nuisance phone calls and similar behaviour involving communications services/ For example, one was advised to simply to hang up on a nuisance call and, if the activity persisted, to report the matter to the telecommunications company and the police.

This was also underscored by most countries having laws in place that proscribes the use of a “common carriage service” to harrass, menace or threaten others. The reference to the “common carriage service” is a legal term used to describe telephone, post or similar services used by everyone as a communications tool.

What can you do

What most of us have to be aware of is not to satisfy the cyber-bully’s wants by leaving responses to the caustic remarks or passing on the comments in the common space that the platform offers.

If the behaviour persists, we have to know how to “block” or “unfriend” the troublemakers in the case of social media. There is the ability to report the matter to the social-media platform’s “report this” option where it draws the behaviour to the attention of the platform’s administrators.

In the case of forums, blogs or wikis, you should contact the site owner or administrator through the contact options that exist on the site. There will usually be a “Contact Us” link somewhere on the forum, usually on the login screen.

The only situation that can be difficult is a Website that is hastily built up to pillory another person. It may be difficult to track down the owner of the domain name if the domain name isn’t an obvious hosting domain like wordpress.com associated with a particular Web host. Here, you may have to do “whois” searches oh the domain and locate the entity owning the domain. In the case of a subdomain of a hosting domain, you may have to go the the “www” site of that hosting domain to track down who is operating the site.

Aggrieved people should also be aware of local support services especially where there is a risk of depression being brought on by this activity. Some of these services focus particularly on the cyber-bullying menace and provide online or telephone-based advice.  Of course, your friends or family whom you trust can help out with these situations.

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