Category: Social issues involving home computing

Use of the Ekahau Real-Time Location System in a residential or small-business environment

I have been talking by e-mail to Mika Kouhia from Ekahau about the use of their WiFi-based real-time location technology in the typical home or small-business network. The applications that may come to mind here will typically cover an emergency-response / nurse-call system that is an integral part of the at-home care of elderly, infirm or convalescing people; or small businesses, especially those who are partners to large business, who need to track assets in a similar manner to what is done by large organisations.

What is the main complication that concerns the Ekahau Real-Time Location System

The main complication that limits this technology is the fact that most of the wireless networks deployed in this space only have one access point, typically the one that is integrated in to a wireless router. You may be lucky to use this technology on a wireless network that has an extra access point such as a wireless router that is repurposed as an extension access point and connected to the main router via a HomePlug powerline link or one of those access points that work with a HomePlug powerline backbone.  On the other hand, you would have to deploy “infrared beacons” around the premises and rely on the Wi-Fi wireless link provided by the router as primarily a communications link.

The infrared beacons work on a similar infrared frequency to the remote controls used to control the majority of TV sets and other consumer-electronics devices in circulation. Thus they won’t interfere with the passive-infrared sensors used in most security systems or automatic “sensor-light” setups because these sensors are tuned to an infrared frequency emitted as part of body heat.

The primary reason for implementing the technology in the home

Ekahau T301BD Wi-Fi Pager Tag

The primary implementation that I was talking about with Mika was to use their T301BD Wi-Fi Pager Tag which hangs around the neck of a person. This tag has an integrated display and two function buttons that also work as emergency-call buttons. As well, if the tag is pulled on the neckstrap, it can initiate an emergency response. The tag supports direct paging with push-button response, which can allow it to work with a “response-check” setup where if the user doesn’t respond within a certain time to a call, the system initiates emergency action. The display could come in handy by showing the person’s name, which would be a good help with people who have memory-loss disorders.

In this implementation, there may be the need to establish Internet access to the pager tag in order to permit this device to work as part of a solution provided by an external service provider. This may involve use of hardware or software on the network that provides at least dynamic DNS functionality and integration with UPnP IGD-enabled routers to provide access to the tag. The functionality could be extended to provide local nurse-call functionality with in-house location display through a local screen and / or Web page available through the home network.

Similarly, the pager tag could work with other technology to assist people who have memory-loss disorders by enabling the use of electronically-generated “reminder screens” for particular tasks. This is relevant to an article that I wrote about in my blog concerning technology that is to assist the elderly in their daily lives. Here, I had talked about a kitchen equipped with various technologies like pico-projection systems, RFID and Wii-style motion sensors to provide reminders through different food-preparation tasks.

How this could be taken further

Ekahau should then consider studying this application as a technology that suits the current home-driven health-care direction.

Here, we are dealing with an older population as people of the baby boom move in to the later years of life and more people live longer. As well, there is more emphasis on home-based health-care so as to provide patients with the dignity of being looked after in their own home environment. This also includes an emphasis on independent living for elderly people, including having younger relatives be part of the older person’s life in a support role.

Similarly, there are disabled or chronically-ill people who want to be in the familiarity of their own home and family and these people can be able to work as carers, whether alone or alongside paid staff members who work on a rostered system.

The supporting software could be integrated in to computing devices that work on any of the common desktop-computing, handheld-computing, set-top box or embedded-device platforms in order to establish an assistive-technology ecosystem in the home.

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Facebook – Who sees what I write and where do I write that post

I have been approached by Facebook newbies (novices) about messages that they write or read as part of their Facebook sessions and have thought about publishing this “at-a-glance” guide about who sees what you write. Feel free to print this off and pin it near your computer or keep the permalink as a ready URL on your browser’s Favourites / Bookmarks or intranet page. Nowadays the Facebook Wall is referred to as a Timeline but still serves the same purpose.

When I write here on Facebook, who sees it?

Place Intended Recipient Other readers
My Wall (Timeline), as a Status Update Myself My Facebook Friends
My Facebook Friend’s Wall (Timeline) My Facebook Friend My Facebook Friends, The correspondent’s Facebook Friends
“Send <Facebook Friend’> a message” The Facebook Friend who is receiving the message No-one
A conversation with my Facebook Friend in Facebook Chat The Facebook Friend at the other end of the chat
The Wall (Timeline) of a Group I am a member of All Facebook users who are members of that Group My Facebook Friends
The Wall (Timeline) of a Page I am a Fan of – Just Fans Facebook users who visit the “Just Fans” tab of the Page
Comments that you leave about a Post on the Wall (Timeline) Facebook Friends who can see the Post Your Facebook Friends – reference to comment, details if they click through

Where should I write this in Facebook?

Object of Conversation Where to write Notes
Direct private message to correspondent “Send Correspondent A Message” Arrives in correspondent’s Facebook Inbox
Facebook Chat (if they are online)
Message to correspondent which isn’t intended to be confidential Correspondent’s Wall (Timeline) Appears on my Wall and my Correspondent’s wall
General comment or broadcast message My Wall (Timeline) Think carefully before you write. You may intend it for your Facebook Friends but the wrong comment may be perceived by a Facebook newbie (novice) as embarrassing in front of their Friends.
Comment in response to a Status Update, Photo, Link or whatever you see on Facebook Comments option for the Status Update, etc Think carefully before you leave that comment. As above, it may be intended to the author of the comment, posted photo, etc but the wrong comment may be perceived as embarrassing or hurtful.
Message for a Group or Fans of a Page The Group’s Wall (Timeline) or the “Just Fans” part of a Page

Free PDF file of this information sheet available here to print or copy to your smartphone, tablet or e-reader.

Printing hints: Print each page on separate sheets for attaching to a wall or noticeboard near the computer, or print using your printer’s automatic duplex function for use as a page to keep in a loose-leaf reference folder.

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Facebook Tip: Is someone saying things “off the wall” on the (Facebook) Wall about you? Who can read it?

Today (November 26) , a close friend of mine had a very bad experience with Facebook where he was pilloried by one of his Facebook Friends. He had become aware of this through viewing his Homepage and feared that he was going to be embarrassed by the post-writer in front of his other friends who have Facebook presence. This may be the usual reaction of many social-network users, especially Facebook users, when someone else posts something stupid on their Wall or page about the user.

If someone writes a post to their Wall, all of the post-writer’s Facebook Friends can see that post on their Home Pages which they see when they log in, and on the author’s Profile. But this post doesn’t appear on their own Profile. Nor can any of their other Facebook Friends see this post unless they have the post-writer as their Facebook Friend. A different situation may occur if someone writes the remark on someone else’s Wall. This may have it that the friends of both parties may see the remark.

It still is worth checking for mutual friends between the post-writer and yourself, especially if any of the mutual friends have become “sworn enemies” such as through a personal, workplace or business fall-out. A good utility to install on your Profile is the “Friend Wheel”, which allows you to see “who’s got whom” of your Friends in the Friend List. This tool, which I have on my Profile, draws a circle with all your friends as “nodes” and rules lines that indicate Facebook links between your friends. When you click on the “Click to enlarge” option, you will be provided with a dynamic circle where you can highlight a person’s name and it will show just their friends.

Similarly, browsing in the post-writer’s Profile may be of use so you can determine who are their Friends, especially any Mutual Friends. This is especially true where people browse around friends’ profiles to find out if the person they are after is on the social network.

Once you understand this situation, you can reduce the panic that you may feel with yourself in front of your friends if someone says something “off the wall” on their Wall.

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Avoiding “online scalping” when buying event tickets online

Buying concert tickets online can be risky warns Consumer Direct : Directgov – Newsroom

My comments

After I heard the radio ad on Heart 106.2 London about consumer rights concerning online ticket sales in the UK while testing out an Internet radio that I was reviewing for the blog, I thought that this is an issue worth touching on in an international context.

As well, a friend who I know very well told me that whenever an alternative-music festival sells its tickets, all of the tickets are sold out within 10 or 15 minutes of them being available.As soon as this fact is announced, the tickets are immediately hawked on bulletin boards and similar locations on the Internet at heavily-marked-up prices.

I had gone through the advice but looked at it from an international and trans-national perspective so as to allow for those travellers who buy tickets for events they want to attend while they travel.

Advice – from UK news release but suited for international application

The first thing to do is to check the event’s or venue’s official website for information concerning ticket availability. Then prefer to deal with online box offices that are well-known.

If you are buying for an overseas event, find out whether your local online box office can sell the tickets for the overseas event? It may be possible if the event’s ticket agency is part of a chain with an international footprint. If the tickets are only available through ticket agencies located in the country where the gig is, find out how you can make sure you can get the ticket. Some agencies may forward it to your home or business address or they may forward it to the address of where you are staying. In most cases you could arrange to collect the ticket at the event’s box office or have the ticket sent to you as an e-ticket. It may also be worth asking whether you can pay for the tickets now so you can lock the transaction to the current exchange rate. If you are organising your travel through a travel agent, it may be worth getting their help in organising tickets to the overseas event.

As well, shop around the reputable online outlets for the best prices for the event. Check for a full street or postal address – don’t just rely on an e-mail address.

Don’t rely just on “domains of credibility” like nation-specific top-level domains usually associated with your country or established Western nations such as “.com.au” or “.co.uk” to determine the geographic location of the company. This is because there aren’t methods to check this location and it can be easy to set up a forwarding address and "out-of-country" phone number to fool authorities. It may be wise also to do a “whois” search on the domain to locate its owner’s details.

The website, especially the form where you enter your credit-card details, should have encryption. This is indicated with https at the start of the URL and a closed padlock on the address bar or a complete key icon on the  bottom of the browser’s user interface. If you use Internet Explorer 7 or 8, Firefox, Safari or other newer browsers, you are at an advantage if the address bar is green or you see a similar indication on the address bar because of extended-validation SSL certificate. These have stronger credibility and authenticity tests than the regular SSL certificate.

Find out what you are being charged for in the transaction – the seat price, booking fee, transaction charges as well the seat you are being allocated or class of patronage you are in for.

Check for delivery costs if they deliver the tickets by post or courier. These shouldn’t apply for “collect-at-venue” tickets or “e-tickets” that you print out on your printer.

A credit card is your ally because in a lot of cases your credit-card issuer can offer you protection. This is often facilitated by various consumer-protection laws in most countries as well as business agreements that the card networks have established.

It may be worth checking “secondary agency” and anti-scalping laws in your location and/or the location where the event is hosted in (if the event you are buying tickets for is overseas) to be sure whether the tickets are meant to be sold.

Make sure that you can get a refund of all fees if the event is cancelled. This is more important for some sports events that may be cancelled if there is adverse weather.

If you do have queries about the tickets being sold, it may be worth checking with your local government-run consumer-affairs department or the similar department in the country you are travelling to if the event is overseas. In the latter case, it may also be worth visiting the country’s “online-government” portal or contacting their embassy or consulate in your country.

Conclusion

I have often found that a campaign that concerns online consumer protection that is ran in one country can have merit when it concerns transactions that are performed from or within another country, It may differ in certain details like local contact details or country-specific practices but the basic elements are the same the world over. Sometimes, if you listen to an ad for a campaign like this one via Internet radio or see it as an ad in an overseas Web site or “expat’s” newspaper, the basic elements may be conveyed in the ad, with location-specific details when you “descend further” to the associated Website.

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Telstra’s Mum 2.0 Videos about social networking

This series of short video lessons produced by Telstra gives a very good explanation about social networking sites like Facebook and how to use these sites sensibly. They are mainly pitched at older folk who most likely don’t understand these sites and describe a Facebook profile in a similar way to your home that you had just moved in to.

They talk of the primary concepts such as

  • adding online friends such as Facebook Friends to your profile
  • uploading pictures to your profile and what pictures you should upload
  • use of the social network site’s applications like FunWall, FarmTown, the many Facebook Gifts application and online “love meters”
  • joining online groups and “fan pages” within the social network and
  • tuning your privacy settings for your needs

If you are viewing the videos from this blog post, there will be a series of video thumbnails at the bottom of the video screen when the videos finish.

This will augment some of the posts that I have put up in my blog about getting the most out of Facebook and other social networks.

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Social-networking sites help families in touch

 Networking sites help families in touch | The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

My comments on this topic

This article describes how the social-networking site is existing in the context of keeping the family in touch. A common but obvious application may be a teenager who is travelling overseas during “gap year” or a child who is on an exchange-student placement or similar program wanting to keep “home” up to date with whatever is going on during their travels.

Similarly, some users use these services as another tool to keep in touch with long-distance relatives and friends. This can help in reducing the number of long-distance phone calls needed to keep in regular touch.

The article talked of the possibility of parents doing something embarrassing on the teenager’s Facebook or MySpace page such as putting up embarrassing photos best reserved for the 21st or making embarrassing comments about the child’s status updates or photos, which could lead to parents and teenagers not establishing the electronic friendships that are part of the social networking service. It talked of adopting a “look but don’t touch” attitude to these pages and only commenting if you have something witty to say for example. If you do need to contact them directly, use the social-networking service’s direct-messaging function or, if they are online, use the text chat function. These techniques can also be used to set up a VoIP chat session using Skype, Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger.

Other key factors that I have observed is the technological confidence barrier that exists between the young and the old, especially those didn’t experience computer technology in their younger lifetime. This is often exacerbated through fears of privacy abuse, the shock of others knowing your wider circle of friends and relatives amongst other things when using a social-network site.

Similarly, some of these social networks are now partnering with most application and content-delivery platforms to provide a direct interface to electronic picture frames, smartphones / PDAs, set-top boxes and similar devices. This may be in the form of a “widget” or server-updated slide; direct-link to a suitably-sized Web front; or a client-side application; and can allow a summary view of what is going on with Facebook from these devices. Some of the applications may allow a quick update or photo upload from the device’s user interface. These can be useful for monitoring what is going on with your family at all times without needing to visit the desktop or laptop computer regularly.

Once you can understand what the social network site is all about, you can then use it as another tool for keeping your family circle together.

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Facebook Tip: Sending a private message or “does the message need to be on your Wall or your Facebook Friend’s Wall for all to see”

Through my use of Facebook, I have seen some other users post messages intended for a particular recipient on that recipient’s Wall. Some of the messages are meant to be particularly confidential between the sender and the recipient. There is a way of sending a 1-to-1 message privately between Facebook Friends. What you do is either to go the the Friend’s profile and click on the “Send <Friend’s name> a message” option under their picture; or click on the “Inbox” option and select “Compose New Message”. In the “To” box, type in the Friend’s name or e-mail address – this is made quicker through the use of “auto-complete” data entry based on your Friend list.

When you send your message, the recipient will get a notification of a “new message” with a number beside the Inbox header. As well, if the recipient has it so configured, the recipient’s Facebook account will send the message to their e-mail address.

I have written a short note about this in my Status Update on Facebook so all my Facebook Friends are reminded of this issue, but have updated my Status Update with another Facebook topic. I am sorry that this will appear again on Facebook because I have set up this blog to be simulcast on my Wall and this kind if information may be of use for those who follow this blog through other channels.

The same issue will appear with other social-networking Websites like Twitter or MySpace and you will have to know how to send a 1-to-1 message to a particular member of the site.

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Preventing a suicide that is happening on the other side of the world

 Aussie 999 call stops UK suicide | The Sun |News

Suicidal British man saved by online friend in Australia | Daily Telegraph (UK)

My comments about this issue and how it can be done

Recently there have been a few incidents where a person who is taking part in an Internet chat, instant-messaging or social-networking session observed that one of the participants was about to commit suicide and intervened by contacting their local police via the local regular emergency number or contacting a Netizen who is in the same country as the incident.

You may think that the Netizen contacting the police locally to intervene in an emergency on the other side of the world isn’t feasible but it can be feasible. The local police force who works with the local emergency number can connect with your country’s federal police force or gendarmerie and even use your country’s foreign office to connect with the remote country’s national and local police forces. The local or federal police force may also establish contact with other international police forces through the use of Interpol. They can also use the IT knowhow used for handling money-laundering, child-pornography and similar computer-assisted crimes to locate the origin of suicide notes placed on the Internet.

To make this work effectively, you would need to give the local emergency operator any useful information about the origin of the note or its sender, as well as details about the facility that you witnessed the event on. If you have to use contact(s) local to the incident, give the contacts as much information as possible for them to pass on to the local police.

The local police forces, especially those officers involved in answering the local emergency number must know how to respond to emergency calls that have an international dimension such as this Internet suicide note that had just been witnessed in Australia or the earlier Facebook suicide note that was witnessed in America during April.

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Long-distance Internet friendships and relationships – what to be careful of

Originally published: 28 April 2009 — updated: 4 June 2009

You may want to establish an Internet-based friendship with someone who lives a long distance from you or dabble in the Internet-based dating and relationship game.

The main problem is that, with the Internet, there are many different pretenders out there. They will use “faux foreign language” and names peculiar to particular ethnicities to impress those who are looking for people from a particular ethnic background like a Continental European background. Pictures that they supply may not portray who they are. For example, they could be lifted from other photo collections or “photoshopped” to make a person appear older or younger, of a different race or at a different location. As well, the details they make available don’t match to whom they are.

The main group of people who are easily deceived by these pretenders are typically lone people, especially lone young women who are looking for a full-time relationship.

It would certainly pay to do your homework about the prospective Internet-based correspondent. If they send pictures, pay some attention to the detail and look for signs of alteration or inconsistency in the pictures. You can detect the “foreign-language” pretender by being or knowing someone who is familiar with the foreign language and looking for inconsistencies with the way they write the language.

Another good practice would be to send a postcard or letter through the post to them and have them send a postcard or letter to you through the post. You can then check for the origin of the postcard or letter by looking at the stamps and the postmark. The stamps will typically be priced in the country-of-origin’s legal tender and the postmark will have information pertaining to where the letter was posted from and when it was posted. These are protected by various laws that govern the operation of the country’s postal system and the country’s anti-counterfeiting laws.

This is a step that will need to be taken if you or they are considering travelling to meet up. It can avoid a situation which happened to a close friend where they flew to the USA to meet an American friend whom they had been in regular conversation with over the Internet. They had arranged to meet each other at the airport in the USA but the American friend didn’t show up to meet the close friend.

Similarly, it may be a good idea to engage in a voice conversation using either the classic fixed / mobile telephone service or VoIP (Skype, MSN Messenger, etc) in order to ascertain whom they are. This allows you to identify whether their voice matches the picture that they have provided by virtue of gender, age and native accent or whether they are proficient in the language they profess they are proficient in.

It also pays to visit government Websites that deal with romance scams because these sites can provide information about handling the Internet-based liars that are part of these scams.

For children, it is important to have their parents and/or another trusted adult “in the loop” when they establish an Internet-based friendship.

If we can work together to make it hard to be a pretender, then the crime rate for crimes involving the Internet like child pornography and immigration offences would reduce significantly.

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Recent research projects that lead to independent and dignified living for the elderly and disabled

The kitchen that keeps an eye on Alzheimer’s patients by using digital technology | Mail Online

Elderly shoppers to get ‘sat nav’ gadget to find their way around supermarkets | Daily Telegraph

My Comments

These projects that have been recently developed in the UK are implementing technologies that may be trivialised by most of us in order to help elderly and disabled people gain the right to a dignified lifestyle.

For example, the kind of motion detectors used in the Nintendo Wii’s controllers or those new pocket projectors that may only have trivial uses are being implemented in the kitchen to help Alzheimers patients know their way around cooking processes. Similarly, the use of GPS and cellular location technology is being implemented to help older people navigate the typically-large supermarket which has layouts that change at the whim of the product managers.

The home network can be the key backbone of these assistive technologies by being a data conduit and a gateway to the Internet. It doesn’t matter whether it is based on hardwired Ethernet, WiFi wireless technology or existing-wire technologies like HomePlug power-line or MoCA coaxial cabling; or a mixture of these technologies.

Yet there are some challenges that need to be achieved to make this kind of idea feasible at a cost-effective level and in a wife-friendly attractive manner.

One challenge could be one or more standard computing platforms for building security and automation applications, in a similar vein to what has happened for home and office computing setups; handheld devices like smartphones and PDAs; and network-attached storage devices. This would allow for heterogenous systems that work with hardware and software from different manufacturers to suit the specific and evolving needs of householders and building owners.

Another would be to encourage the development and commercialisation of indoor location technology in conjunction with common smartphone platforms as a way of allowing one to navigate large shops. This could then be implemented through a piece of software that is loaded on to a common smartphone device and the maps being available through the Internet or similar means.

Another would be to encourage the support of  building security and automation as well as home IT as a key to improving the quality of living for the elderly and disabled amongst us. This would have to include encouraging the state’s social-welfare arm and the charity sector, both secular and faith-based, to provide access to these technologies.

The effort would certainly go a long way to providing a dignified and independent lifestyle for an older population which will certainly increase as the baby-boom generation enters the senior years.

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