Avatars – My Digital Selfie

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The ability to create avatars has been around for sometime, but more recently more platforms have provided this ability to create them. Facebook being one of the latest to introduce a create an avatar based on some standard forms that you can then modify to your nearest look. This has caused a recent splurge of posts on the social media channel as everyone is keen to show off their new avatar.

Some people find using an avatar more comfortable than using their real picture

Other systems use a photo of yourself either uploading or taking a selfie to create your avatar and try to make the avatar more realistic to you.

Most avatar systems are based on a set of generic shapes and colour choices. One of the challenges with using a fully custom avatar in channel where the avatar is an active part of the actions, such as in Virtual Reality and Gaming is the downloading and rendering of the images. Multiple versions of avatars may have an impact/slowdown on a system as it tries to cope with the additional images and polygons to render and process.

I have brought some of my avatars together below to show the different types. These are by no means a comprehensive list of avatars, but a sample of whats available.

In brining these together the differences in how the systems either see me or allow me to interpret my face and features. There is quite a difference across all the systems.

Ready Player Me

The avatar from Ready Player Me is my latest one and create as I needed a virtual version of myself for a virtual experience. Running the web page from your PC/Laptop or phone and take a selfie or use an existing photo creates an avatar that you can then change appearance and colour on.

The output is a .glb file that can be used in creating virtual environments.

Avatar in https://readyplayer.me/

Spatial.io

The avatar from spacial produces a floating version of yourself using a photo of your face using this as a skin to the model. Out of all my avatars this is the most realistic, but is platform specific.

Avatar from Spatial.io

Samsung

The Samsung Avatar runs on a Samsung phone (Using an S9 to create these). Taking a selfie you can create a set of AR Emojis/stickers for use in your social channels. It creates a avatr that you can then customise.

Avatar from Samsung Phone

Facebook

Using the facebook avatar creator within the Facebook application you can choose from a number of face shapes and skin tones to set your initial version that can then be customised to be as near as it can to your image.

Avatar from Facebook

X-Box

The X-Box Avatar is built up from a standard avatar set that you can then customise the look. This was the nearest I got to myself using the platform.

Avatar from XBox

There are lots more platforms out there that you can set and customise your avatars in. For me there is a lot of variation in the avatars and only a couple are near realistic for me. The others are good fun though.

The future may see the option to standardise on a set of avatars. Until then happy avataring.

Everyone needs good Cyber Security knowledge

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Padlock Gates“Everyone needs strong good Security knowledge”. With the increase of connected devices that are entering our lives and the number of vulnerabilities being found in technologies that are becoming common place in our homes, people will need to be more savvy around Cyber Security and know what is going on with our devices and information.

Recent times have also seen an increase in the usage of devices, applications, social media and video calls. It has also seen an increase in the number of scams and security issues increase.

Sales of technology to allow remote working and to stay in touch with family and friends was rapid at the start of the pandemic and this also saw the cost of some devices increase as stocks reduced. The rush to buy was huge and lots of items were quickly plugged into devices to get online and talking. A lot wont have looked at updating any versions of these add ons firmware, drivers etc to the latest versions, which may cause issues later.

Security however cannot be an after thought and should be one of the first things you think about. Also helping your family and friends to make sure that they have updated to the latest versions and are secure.

Our devices are only as good as the last updates/patches applied and security measures that we have in place. The UK Government has previously reported planning new laws to cover smart gadgets sold which includes stronger passwords and length of time before an update. There are already a large number of devices already installed and in use. A number of these wont have had any updates or changes applied since first being installed if they are a manual process for the user to initiate.

Good practices to adopt are

  • Check the manufactures website for firmware or driver updates on a regular basis
  • If the device software allows a check to be made for updates on a regular basis make use of the tool.
  • Use strong passwords
  • Change any default passwords
  • Don’t use the same password on different systems
  • Use passwords on your video calls
  • Use a VPN if working from home
  • Turn on two factor authentication on applications that allow it

If this is all second nature to you thats great, however it may not be to others. Reach out to your family and friends and talk them through what they need to do so it becomes second nature to them.

Further Reading

 

 

Your Digital Exhaust – The data we share

Dont say a wordEveryone who uses a computer or mobile creates their own digital exhaust in the form of data that we leave behind and spew out of our devices – from location data to social media posts and videos. Other things we own such as cars and houses are also generating data from SatNavs to Smart Meters.

If we could measure individual volume of data and information against todays climate change measures and visualise it, we would probably call it an ecological disaster on a person by person scale, however we go about our daily lives creating data with and without knowing it.

To be clear creating data does have a climate effect as there are systems behind what we create and they all need power, cooling etc. However, putting any talk to the side around the ecological effects of this as there is enough said already about climate and climate change and focusing on the data itself.

At the beginning of 2020, the digital universe was estimated to consist of 44 zettabytes of data, which is 44 trillion gigabytes and growing. That’s a lot of data!

We go about generating data without knowing or thinking until a news article catches our attention about something someone said many years ago. Recent times have seen an almost doubling of the use of the internet. This in turn increases the amount of data being created as people discover ways to help elivate lockdown with video calls to new dances on TikTok.

To put this into perspective a bit, with a trolley full of phones you can create a virtual traffic jam, but dont try that at home. This example illustrates the data being generated from a device and how others are using it, in this case to look at traffic patterns

In this increase of posts and data about people across the many different platforms available, are you stopping to think about what your posting?  We go about generating data without thinking until a news article catches our attention about something someone said many years ago that has been found on a social platform somewhere.

Sci-Fi moment alert! – Having watched an episode of “The Orville” by Seth MacFarlane called “Lasting Impressions” where the crew of the Orville open a Time Capsule and recreate someones life in a holodeck using just the data from a iPhone (after accessing a video on the phone where the person who’s phone it is, gives their consent for the data to be used in the future) and recreate and interact with the phones original owner. This provides the crew with a view into that persons life and what they were like.

Have you through about what would happen to your data in the future?

This concept can easily be recreated today and there are TV programs that investigate and look at people to check who they really are (Catfish the TV show). Its easy to see how people leave a trail of digital evidence and clues from what they post and are not secure on what they do or think about what they post.

Here are some good tips to help secure your online presence:

Privacy and security settings exist for a reason: Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way.

Once posted, always posted: Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. Recent research found that 70 percent of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online.

Your online reputation can be a good thing: Recent research also found that recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So show your smarts, thoughtfulness and mastery of the environment.

Keep personal info personal: Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data or commit other crimes such as stalking.

Know and manage your friends: Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups or even have multiple online pages. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know and trust) up to date with your daily life.

Be honest if you’re uncomfortable: If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or seems inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them respect those differences.

Know what action to take: If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them and report them to the site administrator.

Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.

Own your online presence: When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

Source: https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/securing-key-accounts-devices/social-media/

Additional tips are available at this source.

 

Further Reading

Tips on being Social Media Savvy

 

 

 

Covid-19 and the World of the Digitally Disadvantaged

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Adjusting to life at the moment can be hard, for many they can turn to the internet, face time, news, online entertainment, statistics etc. A world outside at our fingertips. For some however this isnt an option as they dont have the technology or means to buy it.

mindthegap

Bridging the gap to the Digitally Disadvantaged is a challenge that modern society faces but often ignores. Its easy to concentrate on the mainstream and push aside those challenges that are hard to address. In normal times access to technology through a library, a friend or  internet cafe type place was possible, but current measures means these are not available.

For some a TV and Radio are a lifeline that provides them the information they need and they can rely on a landline phone to speak to people, family and friends. For others they may rely on a newspaper. Not everyone has a smart phone, laptop/computer they can use.

The UK Government sent out letter to every household with information in to help those who cant access it. A move that some questioned as to why, probably as they have access to technology. For some people this is the information that they need to help understand what is going on and why we need to take these drastic measures to keep everyone safe.

Digitally Disadvantaged doesnt have to mean that you dont have access to technology either, just the types of technology you have. For example parents who are now home schooling having homework set by teachers and some of this may be to make and build things, print things out etc. Lots of people have smart phones and do alot of their daily lives on it, but not everyone has a printer they can use and in times like these not everyone has everything at home to complete the work they need to do and some things needed are not classed as essential items so cant be easily purchased. There is a mindset that this issue highlights of  “I can do this so others must be able to” or naturally assume that everyone can do it. This is just an example I have seen though some social media posts over the past couple of weeks.

There are no easy way’s to address these issue and many issues to address. It will take time, however as a Society we must think about these issues going forward and look for solutions to help others.

There is some help at hand if you know anyone who is over 70 and is isolating and doent have any TV/Radio, the BBC has teamed up with and organisation called Wavelength to provide digital radios to help fight loneliness, and you can nominate people for help.

https://wavelength.org.uk/

Taking Scouting OnLine – 1st YouTube Scout Group

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ScoutsWith all that is going on in the world a the moment everyone is thinking outside the box to work differently and interact virtually. As some of you may have seen from some of my posts I spend some of my free time as a Scout Leader providing experiences and opportunities to young people.

Now that regular Scouting nights have rightly been stopped to help with the stay at home directives Scouting is rethinking itself and moving on line. As such initatives such as The Great Indoors have been created.

https://www.scouts.org.uk/the-great-indoors/

With the current situation in mind I was asked by a friend to help him set up and co-host an online Scouters meeting for all the sections (Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers). From our discussions, 1st YouTube Scout Group was created.

We have now run three sessions online and also had some guests on. The engagement of these sessions has helped young people earn badges towards their Chief Scouts and Queens Scouts awards which for each section are top awards they can achieve.

We will continue to stream each week and help keep your people engage and provide activities for them to do whilst at home. Parents are also joining in to help.

Stream each Thursday at: https://www.youtube.com/bigmaninthewoodsuk

Session 3

 

Session 2

This session was effected by some internet issues at the time

 

Session 1

 

 

3 Resources for Entertaining your Children whilst Working from Home

imaginationIn these unprecidented times everyone who can is staying at home. Firstly a big thank you to all those essential front line staff our Health Services and those key workers that keep the country working and support the national infrastructures around the world.

With Schools closed and Working From Home (WFH) becoming a normality for the time being, it can be hard to keep young people entertained, so here are some free resources to help that are work a look.

Reading

World Book Online have made over 3,000 ebooks and audio books available for children of all ages and can be searched by age.

https://worldbook.kitaboo.com/reader/worldbook/index.html

Zoo Cams

13 Zoos have WebCams to view a selection of the animals online

https://www.holidaypirates.com/travel-magazine/13-zoos-that-offer-live-streams-see-giraffes-koalas-pandas-tigers-penguins-more_35765

Virtual Museum

Take a trip around Pitt Rivers Museum and look at the artifacts in a virtual museum

https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=ns3yCKpUzSq&help=1&fbclid=IwAR2gx2M7UoASHQ9Fy6cIns7oAIQEe-r2yvrq7rD2V4ECcXHyNrPmiExKI80

STEM Activity 2018-19

STEM-Ambassadors-30-hoursHaving just received my STEM Badge for 2018/19, I was very pleased to be awarded a “30 Hours of Engagement” badge.

Over the year I have visited schools, events and other youth organisations such as Scouts to promote STEM, run and take part in activities and show why STEM subjects are important for young people to learn in School, College and University.

Being a STEM Ambassador is an important role and and its not just the young people that gain from sessions but teachers as well learning how businesses are using these skills for students in their possible future careers.

Here are a couple of videos and pictures from some of the events I have helped with.

Stemettes Hack Chorley with DXC and Stemettes

Chorley Hack with Chorley Council

 

Coding with Scouts for their Digital Badges

 

The Distraction of our Digital Eyes

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Digital EyeAs the world evolves our need to consume information grows at an exponential rate. Since the advent of the screen our  for appetite for smaller, better screens to display information has increased.  Developments in Virtual and Augmented Reality have provided a way of displaying information in different formats.

We have in recent times been distracted by the mobile phone and the ability to view information 24×7 on what we want and need. This has become a distraction to many whilst walking , eating and unfortunatley whilst driving!

Recent developments in technology have introduced smart glasses that can project information from your mobile device on to the glass such as Focals 2.0 by North which will soon be available as version 2.0. If glasses are not your thing then contact lenses maybe and Mojo Vision recently announced a smart contact lens.

Used in the right way and environments these advancements will bring great benefit to us, such as giving work instructions, directions whilst walking, words to a speech whilst presenting. The list goes on.

The risk of using these technologies with things we should not is already known in some cases, such as Mobiles and Driving.

Tracking of eye movement is also becoming more main stream and are being added to cars to check our ability to look at the road and also control things. Companies such as SmartEye is developing solutions that are looking at identification, alertness to sleepiness for vehicles.  Within business use the latest version of the Hololens uses eye tracking to help display and select items within the headset. Perhaps this type technology will detect the use of Smart Eyes technology in the future and not start a car until removed.

Heads Up Displays are being used to project information to glass in the car to allow the driver to maintain road contact with their eyes whilst seeing vital information such as speed.

I hope that the future should see the next level of developments bringing interaction with the environment or things we are interacting with. For example the ability for a device for our eyes to switch off automatically whilst driving or at least display information in a Heads Up Display format from the car.

Intergration will be key between these types of systems going forward to increase the usefulness in the right environment and reduce the distraction elements in the wrong environments.

 

 

 

 

 

Sageous Advice from Daily Stoics

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See Hear SayFurthering my Personal Journalling I have decided that for 2020 I would give the “Daily Stoic” book and journal a go.

I am doing this along side my normal daily journaling and keeping the two separate for now at least.

I’m up to Journal number 28 with 4380 pages written so far and still going strong.

A couple of colleagues have tried the Daily Stoic before and gave it good reviews. The books basically take passages and quotes from Philosophers/Stoics  Epictetus  55 – 135 AD, Seneca 54 BC- 39 AD and Marcus Aurelius 121-180 AD and provide translations into modern life.

Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world – Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

3 Days in and its going well so far starting my day with the relevant dated page in the book, followed by writing down some Morning and Evening reflections into the Journal. It will take all year to complete the book so will need some habit forming to do this morning and evening. I can see times where this is not practical and would need some planning as carrying the books around is not something I really want to be doing too much. This is where some of it may end up as a digital entry added in at some point in the future.

The advice so far has been on self reflection on choices, learning and saying no to get to those things that matter. You could say it is common sense, but for me its getting the right mindset using some guidance.

Is it worth doing this? At the moment I would say its a bit early in the journey and writing to decide, however so far I have found the advice to be good and the use of the reflection time to be worth while. Writing down notes on what I have read/learnt is a great method of remembering and does reinforce my thoughts. It will be interesting to see if I am still doing this in a few months time and look back against what I have written.

I would like to hear if you have used these books and your thoughts.

Links

The Daily Stoic Website

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living: Featuring new translations of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius

The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living

 

Personal Knowledge Management System – Revised for 2020

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As the new year has begun, its time to review my Personal Knowledge Management System (PKMS) on how I consume information and knowledge, I have blogged about this before and have updated for 2020.

I still split and keep apart my personal and professional lives on Social Media, although occasionally they may cross where appropriate.

Since the last time I wrote about this the amount of information and data that is available has grown and multiplied on a huge scale. Keeping track of what you need to drink from the fast flow of the firehose of information is itself something that needs managing. This is why I have set up my feeds in the manner illustrated below.

PKMS

Personal Life

Personal Journal

Journalling in both a Personal and Work life is a useful tool to keep notes on your thoughts and ideas. In my personal life I still opt for recording these in a Moleskine – See my blog post No batteries required for further details. I find the Moleskine a great notebook to use and the pocket version a good size to use.

Social Media

I separate from my work life from my personal life using things like Instagram and Facebook for friends and family with appropriate security settings in place. Even with those settings you still need to consider that once something is online, it could be public in the future. Wikipedia lists 186 Social Media Websites and this list is out of date. I choose a few mainstream that I am comfortable with. 2020 may see me have a look at some of the others to see if there is any benefit or other data I am missing.

Professional Life

Research

This is split into several areas and these are a few of the inputs that I use to grab information, feeds, data from:

  • Podcasts
  • Audio subscriptions
  • Videos
  • RSS Feeds
  • Web Searches
  • Blog Posts

Podcasts cover both Audio and Video casts that I watch/stream online or download to my Media Player (Audio and Videos) to listen to on journeys (Audio). The mobile is a great device for using as a media player across these casts.

Flipboard

Flipboard provides another stream of data that I consume bringing in news feeds from many sources around a series of topics. It does work well on a mobile device allowing you to flip the pages through the articles.

Feedly

Feedly provides an aggregation tool which I use to collect the stories from blogs and web sites I regularly pull information from.  This provides a list of stories that can be scanned tin a few minutes on a single screen without going via multiple sites. Clicking on a story will bring up a snippet from the source site and provide the link to read the source article if required. Using a series of key strokes you can read the headlines, then move down the articles at a reasonable speed, stopping and opening when needed.

Sources can be categorised to allow an all view or just whats new in a category.

IFTTT

IFTTT (If This Then That) provides a level of automation to my lists from saving articles to creating alerts on topics and triggering different actions as needed to my devices. I would like to automate more of this PKMS to bring the information I need, but it can also help to scan other information to help innovate and see other points of views.

Thinking / Learning Time

This is where view the data streams through the tools and assimilate and think about what has been reported/said. I also use this time to learn and take courses.

Courses

Coursera is a great site to used, but there are lots of others from Industry and Vendors to open learning sites that I use as needed. Relative exams and certificates are then added to my LinkedIn pages.

Blogging and Being Social

From thoughts and research I will write about things through my blogs and publish these into Social Media streams such as Twitter and Linkedin.

I have also been producing a few podcast episodes with other technologists and will look to do some more in 2020.

I have been using GitHub to mainly support some courses but its there as an option to publish data and code in the future.

Do you have a Personal Knowledge Management System or using tools not mentioned above?