Smart Home – WiFi Channels

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SignalsContinuing to build a Smart Home and the number of Hubs increasing, I came across what is a common problem over the weekend. My Hive decided to show a “No Signal” on the Thermostat, a Red light on the Receiver and the Hive App saying that it couldn’t connect to the system.

Luckily the internet was at hand and I could obtain a set of instructions on how to reset everything and connect it back up. Unfortunately this didn’t seem to work. So onto the Hive chat and an operator helped me to reconnect everything. Great…….except the following day the system was back in the same state of not working.

Resorting to speaking to someone and helping me to diagnose the issue, the main issue was that the WiFi channel being used was dropping in and out and the units were not getting a good signal. Strange as nothing has changed recently with my home networks or Smart Home additions.

A full factory reset on the hub and allowing the hub to automatically choose a different WiFi channel that isn’t busy seems to have fixed the issue. Although the Hubs and Smart Devices are supposed to be auto-negotiating it would appear on the surface that there are still challenges that need to be resolved going forward.

As we introduce different Smart Home devices to our homes, the chances of conflicts increase and the challenge to identify whats causing the issue increases.

So what can you do to help?

  • Check all the hubs/Smart Devices are on and talking through the WiFi.
  • Check your bandwidth is okay and has capacity.
  • Scan your WiFi to see what channels are in use. There are lots of tools available to help.
  • Check the signal strength at the location of the Hubs/Smart Devices.
  • Move your router is possible or move Hubs/Smart Devices if your signal isn’t strong enough.
  • Consider WiFi extenders where signal is weak.

I’ve put some links below for further reading.

Further Reading

 

 

Pwned on the Dark Web – Have you checked recently?

DarkwebOne of the Internet’s secret sides is the Dark Web which is one of those places that you may know of its existence from news articles where data hacked from systems is sold. Its one of those places most of us don’t really want to access, but want to know if any of our data is on there. Its certainly a place where the bounds of GDPR can’t reach either.

Some services such as https://haveibeenpwned.com/ allow you to check to see if any of your data exists on the dark web. The main identification normally searched for is an email address.

Its always good when you get the message:

Good news — no pwnage found!

No breached accounts and no pastes (subscribe to search sensitive breaches)

They offer a subscription service that will check to see if you have been breached and be notified if you are in the future.

Firefox have now joined in providing this type of service to its users https://monitor.firefox.com/.

Its good to see the launch of another checking service that allow you to see if your data (Now out of beta testing).

Another good message:

So far, so good

Your account did not appear in our basic scan. That’s good news, but data breaches can happen any time and there is still more you can do. Subscribe to Firefox Monitor for a full report, alerts when new breaches happen, and tips on protecting your passwords.

You can never have enough checking tools.

Further Reading:

Introducing Firefox Monitor, Helping People Take Control After a Data Breach

If your data is found on the dark web, Firefox Monitor will let you know

 

I lost my Job to a Robot

Robot ReplacementMonday morning, I arrived at the office to start the working week. I carried out my morning ritual of turning on my laptop and whilst waiting for it to run it boot up process and load all of its resident security and authorisation software, I grabbed my morning coffee. Upon returning to my desk and logging on, a message popped up for me to go and see my manager.

Knocking on her door, she invited me in, morning pleasantries and what did you do at the weekend conversation, she proceeded to tell me some bad news.

“I`m sorry but we are going to have to let you go. Your employment with the company is being terminated with immediate effect.”

There followed what felt like a long pause as this news sank in.

She continued “As you may know we have been working on a programme of automation within the business and there is now an automated process doing your job.”

I felt the ground open up beneath me and the huge sinking feeling cover my whole body.

I’d been replaced by a robot. Not a shinny looking Sci-Fi robot but a series of robotic processes had replaced me.

I was left asking myself a number of questions….. Why me? Where had I gone wrong? what could I have done? What should I do now?

Okay the above is a story (I haven’t lost my job not as far as I know), but it’s a conversation that people fear may happen with the innovation in todays world.

The world of computing, robots, robotic process automation machine learning and artificial intelligence is progressing at a rate where it could enhance jobs (Cobots) and maybe in the future replace some jobs altogether.

So what can you do to stop this happening in the future?  The key to this question lies with you. You have to have the right mindset and look at continuous learning and reinvention at a personal level.

Standing still in a job is no longer a safe place. The old utopia of a job for life as definitely expired (there may be one or two exceptions to this rule) but in the main its true.

Where ever you are in your career, you need to keep your skills up to date. The younger generations get this concept as they are growing up with it and its enforced from leaving school. The middle and older generations did do this but for the majority a level of complacency kicks in and you reach a plateau where you feel that learning anything new isn’t for you. Why should you spend your own personal time and money investing in your future.

Personal investment in time and some cost might seem like an invasion into your own “Personal Time”, but workplaces are changing/have changed to expect this as others are already doing this.

Access to information, training/courses has changed dramatically over the years with the internet and the growth in free online courses. There are lots of places you can gain skills and knowledge without spending much money or none at all. The ability to buy a full set of AWS or Microsoft course for £10.00 which would have been a lot more in the past (and have to be done in a classroom) is driving an explosion of certified individuals coming on to the market from leaving school, college, university. Experience does play a part in this, however this can be gained online these days. Its not the same for all industries though as some do require apprenticeships to gather the rights skills, but do you know the latest methods and skills to keep up?

Is the investment in time and money really worth it. Would you rather spend that £10.00 on something else and your time doing something else. Yes most probably, but what is the long term investment? For me it’s being employable and keeping the rest of my salary coming in.

Next time your sat on your couch watching TV, think could I invest this time more productively, then watch TV later as a reward for doing that bit of learning?

So you have been investing in your skillset and learning new things. How could that initial conversation have changed.

Monday morning, I arrived at the office to start the working week. I carried out my morning ritual of turning on my laptop and whilst waiting for it to run it boot up process and load all of its resident security and authorisation software, I grabbed my morning coffee. Upon returning to my desk and logging on, a message popped up from my Cobot/Automated Process for me to check some things that it couldn’t understand. I will enter the correct parameters this morning so the ML/AI engine can solve these issues in the future.. Also my manager wants to see me.

Knocking on her door, she invited me in, morning pleasantries and what did you do at the weekend conversation, I proceeded to explain my next idea for automating one of the existing processes and how I could reinvest my time in looking at additional process automation in the business, also doing some R&D into a new product that could help the business increase sales.

“That’s great news. When can you have the details ready by? Congratulations on your latest qualification, we could use your new skills on the Advent project. Would you like to do some work on that project?”

I go back to my desk and start to drink my now warm coffee, with the new tasks in hand and set my skills on changing the ML/AI engine to assist me further to allow some time to further my training on a new course that I want to do.

Related Blog Posts

A-Z of Digital – T is for Twenty First Century Digital

Digital Mindset

The Nature and Cycle of CPD

Recording your CPD

How much CPD/Training should you be doing?

Digital Fit in 2018: Balancing the Noise

A-Z of Digital – K is for Knowledge

A-Z of Digital – S is for Social

 

 

xR (VR/AR/MR) Medical Conditions

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Need Coffee even in Virtual RealityI had an interesting question the other day – “Are there any known health/ medical complications from using VR and headsets”. This is one I had to research so thought I would put up some of my findings.

This is by no means a full investigation and mainly reference other articles, but makes for an interesting topic so I’ll use the TL;DR title as there is a lot of info here.

TL;DR

Firstly a definition – xR  refers to the various types of Reality available

  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Mixed Reality

Secondly – Everyone is different and xR may affect a person different ways if at all

Thirdly – I’m not trying to put anyone off using or trying an xR platform in any way.

Important note though – some if not all makers of xR equipment don’t recommend anyone with epileptic conditions or special sensitivities use headsets. You should check that vendors product details for further information on this.

If you Google (other search engines are available Virtual Reality Medical Complications then a fair few hits come back, but a lot less for Augmented and Mixed if any.

In Augmented and true Mixed Reality, you can see the real world and overlay virtual things on it. As the body can still see the real world it knows the effects are much less than putting a headset on and being immersed in a completely virtual world.

Everyone is different whilst some will feel no effect, some may.  A Business Insider article on the subject list the possible side effects as:

  • Loss of Spatial Awareness
  • Dizziness and Disorientation
  • Seizures (don’t use if you have an epileptic condition or special sensitivities)
  • Nausea
  • Eye Soreness and Trouble Focussing

For me these will depend on :

  • Type of headset used
  • Duration  of session
  • How person adapts to using the device

Eyesight

Will depend on a persons eyesight and prescriptions if any for lenses.  It will depend on the headset used as to if it adjusts automatically for the users eyes or glasses are needed inside the headset. Some headsets you can get prescription lenses for.

VR Sickness

There are stories and articles around the internet about VR Sickness and it does have its own Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality_sickness)

Recent article on Medium.com  https://medium.com/s/greatescape/when-working-in-virtual-reality-makes-you-sick-795a61f5e5dc

Motion sickness can be a factor – http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150814-the-search-for-an-effective-cure-for-motion-sickness

Interesting discovery:

“Last year, a team led by Bethann Hromatka, a biomedical scientist at genetics company 23andMe looked across the entire human genome to see which genetic changes might increase a person’s likelihood of becoming motion sick. The research, published in Human Molecular Genetics, found links between motion sickness and genes involved with balance, eye, ear, and cranial development. In other words: motion sickness seems to be very much hereditary.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150814-the-search-for-an-effective-cure-for-motion-sickness

The longest video game marathon in Virtual Reality at this time is held by Jack McNee in Australia who on the 2nd April 2017 played for 36 Hours, 2 Minutes and 16 Seconds. (don’t try this one at home!).

Although I’ve yet to see the results of a full medical study into the effects of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality to form an opinion.

When using xR you should check:

  • Does anyone have any epileptic condition or special sensitivities
  • First time you put the headset on if you feel strange  take it off.  Try again in a few mins.
  • Take regular breaks

 

 

More Scam Callers – time for some fun

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PhishingIt it just me or is this on the rise? Recently I have noticed an increase in the number of scam phone calls that I have been receiving on my land line and on mobile. All from different countries and trying various scams to get information, money or both.

ts nothing new, calls like this go on all the time and unfortunately people do get scammed as they fall for what is being said on the other end of the line.

The game is how long you can keep them on the phone so they can’t spend time trying to scam someone who doesn’t know they are being scammed.

Recently an automated call with a computer voice called my home number saying that my internet router was going to be shutdown from my service provider as it had been identified as being hacked. Yeah – Right! So I played along and decided to record the call, which I will probably use in a future podcast. I got put onto a woman in India who evidently didn’t know what type of scam front end had put me through. She then went on to tell me my computer had a virus. Eventually I did ask “How many people had she scammed today”. The reply was lots and she put the phone down. – Time on call 30 Mins

Another call today was one of those, insurance accident ones, but this time they tried a different tack. Saying it was a follow up call to my wife about the accident she had. Again scam and I asked the lady who called if she had job satisfaction scamming people. This call came from London so I have reported it to the action fraud centre. – Time on call 5 Mins.

And as I am writing this post another call comes in – Can you spare me 20 seconds to answer 2 questions, then starts to ask me to confirm my phone number and tries to ask me about my home ownership. When I ask whats the end part of the the call, are they trying to sell me something or scam information out of me they hang up. Another call from London so again have reported it to the action fraud centre. – Time on call 5 Mins.

At least that’s 40 mins that other people haven’t been bothered or scammed by these callers.

A lot more can be done though and needs the teleco’s and authorities to go after the numbers where these calls come from and start prosecuting or at least shutting them down. That said the police get these calls as well – here is a great video on youtube of an IRS scammer trying to scam a police officer and he gets the scammer to explain how that particular scam works.

Lots of people already add numbers to online systems such as Who Called Me, and these are normally the first place I go when number comes up I don’t recognise. You can also put the number in the search engine which bring up sites where its been logged as a problem/scam caller.

If you don’t know how to protect yourself on the phone, one of the best place to get tips is from your or other banks websites. Plenty of good information on keeping safe on there.

Just because you call saying your from my bank doesn’t mean I’m going to answer your security questions.

 

 

 

 

 

Challenged to build a Raspberry PI Laptop – Part 2

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Raspberry PIIts been a while since I wrote my first blog post on this (Challenged to build a Raspberry PI Laptop – Part 1) following on from the challenge I had been set by Lewis Richards.

Mainly due to other things taking my time, I’ve not been focusing on it, but have now purchased the relevant parts and am pulling together a design.

I have used fritzing to map out a rough circuit diagram based on research and reading I have been doing on the relevant parts for the laptop.

There isn’t a correct part in fritzing yet for the screen I chose so I have used a different part with a connector to show the relevant connections. Its on my to do list to look at creating the part properly.

Here is the parts list of the laptop. Similar to a lot of the designs on the internet already, although I am thinking about the idea of adding an arduino based board to it as well.

Parts List

  • Raspberry PI Zero W
  • AdaFruit Powerboost 500
  • XPT2046 LCD Touch Screen
  • 2000mAH Battery
  • Wires
  • Switch
  • Bluetooth Mini keyboard

The diagram does not yet show the keyboard wired in. It has its own battery inside so a bit more investigating on best to power using the one battery in the circuit.

Portable PI

Next on the list is to start the case design. I have a few ideas which I will try and write up in another blog post.

References

Challenged to build a Raspberry PI Laptop – Part 1

Digital Fit in 2018: Pack Learning

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Pack LearningHaving been involved with code clubs, STEM and learning in the workplace over many years, I have interacted with different types of learning. Each style has its place and different styles, suit different people.

Since our birth we have been learning and have done so every day since. The subjects and topics change but our ability to take in information is vast.

We have learnt as a pack at School and gained benefit from each others insight. As we move onward’s in our life, we loose some of opportunities to learn in a pack. The days of going on a classroom based course have been few and far between as these day’s the use of the internet and online courses makes solo learning an easy option, but how many of us actually go further and interact with the message boards behind the courses to help others out, perhaps only venturing there when you have a problem that you don’t understand.

Adopting the habit of checking the forums behind a course and helping others learn, does help re-enforce the subjects and topics that we learn and brings in different points of view. Interacting with others in these forums helps drive the Pack Learning mentality and increases the strength of the Pack.

Remember there are no silly questions. It’s just a level of understanding of the subject or topic. Next time you take a course, help someone and re-enforce your own learning. Be part of the Pack!

 

Journey to 21C Human – Getting your head space sorted

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MeditationFollowing on from Episode 4 of Technologist Couch Podcast with Lewis Richards I have started the 10 for 10 that we discussed using Headspace.

However the service has had an upgrade and the Basic Level now includes 3 Basic sections so I’m going to spend the next month doing 30 for 30 instead.

The Headspace website describes these packs as:

  • Basics
    • Train your mind for a happier, healthier life by learning the fundamentals of meditation and mindfulness.
  • Basics 2
    • Discover more about your mind and start to deepen your practice.
  • Basics 3
    • Overcome some of the more common obstacles in meditation and learn how to apply mindfulness to your everyday life.

You can set these for 5 or 10 minute long sessions. 5 seems too short so I’m going for the 10 minute sessions and see what happens.

Andy Puddicombe, the man behind Headspace has a good 10 min Ted Talk as to why you should take 10 mins out a day.

Have you managed to clear 15 minutes in your busy schedule lately?

To confirm, I am no way associated or getting any funding/promotions from Headspace.

Joining the World of Dashcams

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DashcamI have decided to be a lemming and follow everyone in the move to equipping my car with Dashcams. Although not a new thing a recent boom in the use of cameras in vehicles has made this  now a very common practice to have one. It is easy to fit a Dashcam to any vehicle to record the driving habits of the driver and other road users.

These range from cheap Dashcams that can record to an SD Card through to more expensive models that send recordings to the cloud (Servers on the Internet) that can then be viewed through a mobile phone app.

So why be a Dashcam lemming? Following a near miss the other day with a car pulling out of a junction (give way) on me without looking at the traffic coming from the right, whilst I was coming along the road, I have decided its time to add some evidence just in case! Well I get this most mornings as the estate I live on is used as a short cut to miss out the main roads and queues of traffic. Time to join the masses.

Also because this is becoming the next thing on being able to easily upload footage to the authorities.

Dashcam footage submission website goes live

Advice from Cheshire Police on submission Dashcam footage

I have noticed that since getting camera’s on the car that there has been a reduction in the number of people that have tried to drive in my boot.

Perhaps with enough evidence I can get a Give Way Junction changed to a Stop Junction. I’m not looking to increase the number of drivers prosecuted, just make the estate I live on safer to drive.

And where do Dashcams fit with GDPR? Some good advice on the link below.

Dashboard Cams – do you need notify the ICO?

Journey to 21C Human – Refueling my Body

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FoodFollowing on from Episode 4 of Technologist Couch Podcast with Lewis Richards I have decided to give Huel a try for a while to see what it can do for me.

Huel is a powdered food that you mix with water and contains all the nutrients that the body needs. I like the fact that there is no food waste afterwards.

Huel is a nutritionally complete powdered food ​that contains all the proteins, carbs, and fats you need, plus at least 100% of the European Union’s “Daily Recommended Amounts” of all 26 essential vitamins and minerals​. So you know you won’t be deficient in any essential nutrients.

Huel contains a carefully chosen blend of Oats, Pea Protein, Flaxseed, Brown Rice Protein, MCTs from Coconut, Sunflower Oil, a bespoke Vitamin and Mineral Blend, Vanilla Flavour and a Sweetener.

We are in the middle of a food crisis. Modern food production methods are inefficient, inhumane, and unsustainable. The world produces 1.5 times enough food to feed every person on the planet, yet over 800 million people do not have enough food to eat. In the UK, 30% of all food is thrown away. 100 million children in developing countries regularly go hungry and are significantly underweight.

On top of that Britons are getting fatter and more unhealthy. 64% of adults are overweight or obese and obesity related conditions are on the increase. Over 4 million people have diabetes, and over 15 million are classed as borderline diabetics. “Almost two in every three people in the UK are overweight or obese and are therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes” Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK . Something has to be done!

– Source Huel website

I am going to work on a 1-2 meal replacement to begin with to bring my body round to this way of eating and see how it goes. My goals are to loose some weight, get a bit fitter and energy levels.

I have already been using the Huel product for a few days and I can feel some change in energy which is good and some weight loss too as I am watching my food calories correctly.

Following some good advice from Lewis on the breakfast mix:

  • Breakfast: I have Vanilla flavoured Huel in the morning with 2-3 Ice Cubes and a shot of espresso which does make a nice ice coffee drink.
  • Lunch: I have is a Vanilla flavoured Huel with ice if possible. I find it nice slightly cool, or left in a fridge before using.

I have Vanilla and Coffee flavoured Huel and they have now launched a new berry flavour which I might try in the next order. you can use the Huel product as a flour to cook with as well, or add your own flavourings to it.

Will be good to see how this works out over a couple of weeks.

To confirm, I am no way associated or getting any funding/promotions from Huel.