Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A mixed bag post this time. In the office, October was security awareness month. Even though the processes and procedures should be practiced on a daily basis, it is always good to remind ourselves why we do this. Of course when you are trying to gain access to your phone quickly, and you have a 2-step passcode set up, I wont lie, it becomes very frustrating!

My issue is not with the complexity or elongated process of inputting the password, it is using a touchscreen to do it with. I may have said this once or twice, but I hate touchscreens! They are so unbelievably counter-productive. I need to be sending quick email responses in seconds, not minutes and the differences between a hard keyboard and a touchscreen when typing are severe in comparison. With a hard keyboard my proofing tome is minimal. A few years ago, some colleagues and I worked out when they changed our phones from Blackberry to iPhone, it took six times longer to respond to emails Six times! This is significant when we receive 50+ plus emails per hour that have to be actioned. Decreasing productivity, means the tool is inefficient.

Well it was inevitable, but I recently had to change from Blackberry to a Samsung S7 Edge. This is my morning commute:

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “poxy phone”

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “ffs”

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “I hate you, you stupid phone”.

If I’m really annoyed then I launch the phone across the room. Needless to say that by the time I get to work, I’m really in a pleasant mood. Therefore, I have reached the conclusion that touchscreens were not made for productivity, or those with severe dermatitis, because I can’t set up the fingerprint recognition to access my phone either.

Next stop is a clip on keyboard for the phone. Watch this space.

But I digress. 

Back to security, I have been subject to Hello Kitty desktop backgrounds before, normally without my authorisation, due to leaving my computer unlocked in my professional work environment. Many times my colleagues of the past have had emails sent on their behalf, when they have left their screens open, but in all of the gest, it does send a clear message, we need to keep our data private especially as many firms have chosen to go paperless. If a fraudster was trying to obtain details, their only option is to go for electronic devices.

On the topic of electronic devices, it is worth knowing your company procedures and what you should do in the event of your mobile devices being stolen or lost. This is not just the case with work data, but also personal. Everyone is at risk. If you need to do work on the move, make sure you use privacy screens and make sure your passwords are not set to briefly show as you type. With touchscreens (as – elegantly listed above), it can take several attempts to type in a password. If the characters are on preview while typing, someone only has to be standing over your shoulder paying attention on the train.

Also, while most office doors are card key locked, you can still get tailgaters and how many of us are really happy about shouting “stranger danger”, not many I’m guessing.

The GDPR (General Data Protection Rules) will be coming into place soon, and while many are not expected to know them off by heart, unless that is your job of course, a good understanding of data protection in general is good to know particularly if you are sharing every post and every picture you take online. Find out how accessible you are, keep your data safe as that can be used in identity left, and be careful of wi-fi devices and webcams as these can be used in reverse.

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I’ve been looking for a new phone for a while, and saving up for it, but at the same time trying to keep my BlackBerry Classic (which I love), going for as long as possible. This is not only to get my money’s worth, but because I have to vet the next phone to make sure it can deal with everything I throw at it. It has to deal with several email accounts, marketing apps, draft books and of course blog entries.  At the same time, I need to ensure that the phone will not slow me down (I type really fast), and having used an iPhone for business, I knew that that was definitely off of the cards, if only for data inputting reasons.

I was expecting to change my phone in December and had been looking at the Samsung S7 Edge, I didn’t expect to be buying it this week though.

My BlackBerry went terminal at the weekend, I am sure it had nothing to do with being at Oktoberfest, it was just a coincidence. We went on the Saturday in London, and that night when we got home, my phone started going crazy – of course this has to be the same month as the kitchen floor needing refurbishment, and I mean it needs work! Considering the kitchen was only fitted in March, taking on rectification work several months later was not what we had in mind. In addition, we are going away for a week and that always costs, then of course both cars needed £450 spent on them respectively (even after pre-MOT services were carried out a month ago).

All in all, a busy and costly month!

Back to the BlackBerry, from Saturday night, it was unusable. The menus looked like they were being controlled by an outside source, and I couldn’t take control of the device. So I broke all connections, wrapped it up in tin foil, connected it to a non-networked computer and did a factory reset.

This didn’t work! 48 hours and another £450 later, hello new Samsung S7 Edge.

While for me it is not the end of the world not to have a phone, albeit incredibly inconvenient considering the amount of correspondence I carry out on a day to day basis, I have never, nor do I plan to, treat my mobile like it is a surgical attachment to my body, or some other form of life line.

I know it is hard to believe, but up until 20 years ago, people got by without mobile phones, and social networking. I was 18 when I had my first phone, prior to this, they were not popular, if you had one in school, you (or your family) were doing very well.

Having said this, I now know exactly how much I use my phone, for example, my time on the train is sometimes the only downtime in a day that I will get, so I will clear my mind by browsing general gossip on Facebook, or browse/purchase something off of Amazon (I purchase a lot of off of Amazon actually, normally Paw Patrol related items for the little human), I will Tweet and go on Instagram, or just listen to music. Well when I was without a mobile for nearly 48 hours, I couldn’t do any of this, and train journeys are so unbelievably boring, how did we every cope before. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think mobiles and MP3 players saved commuters lives!

As time has progressed with mobile devices, we have seen the benefits of productivity, for example, when BlackBerries were first introduced in the workplace, it was like a revelation. I still remember one of the associates at a law firm I worked at in 2006, showing a trainee, this is what you do with a Blackberry, and back then they even looked like flattened blackberries. I am still, and probably will alway be pro Blackberry but unfortunately, looking at predicted mobile device evolution, they may not be around for much longer. This meant that sooner or later I would have had to have moved on to a more competitive device, but the good thing is, I can attach a keyboard to the Samsung S7. I will see how I get on without one for the time being, and then perhaps get one in a month or so.

The benefits of having severe dermatitis in a touchscreen world (yay me), on the face of it people think I’m anti-change regarding touchscreens, but when you have fingers that don’t work on touchscreens or biometric scanner, then your mobile device options are somewhat limited. But it is more than that, the advantages of a hard keyboard is that I can type and talk, I can walk and type, I can think about something else, while my fingers are typing out something completely different, and I don’t have to look at the screen. I don’t need to correct the text after I’ve typed it with a hard keyboard as I would need to with a touchscreen, because I know the keys I am touching are the right keys. Additionally, when people say, well you can dictate instead of type, when you deal with confidential information and you are walking from one floor of a building to another, you do not want to be saying certain things aloud, you never know who it listening and with the change in data privacy laws, keeping tabs on the information you are responsible for, has never been more crucial.

Picking the right case is also as crucial in my mind. With the Blackberry it was never a problem dropping it because those things are virtually indestructible but I wasn’t sure about the Samsung as it has been several years since I owned one. I opted for the following in blue to match the phone. So far I am impressed with it. It is sturdy and not inhibiting.

Depending on how things go with the touchscreen a clip-on keyboard may be in the phone’s future. However, I don’t know if one of these will work as well as the Blackberry, I shouldn’t compare really, but I would interested to find out if they help or hinder progress.

So far I’m very impressed with the S7 but time will tell. I don’t feel like I’m slowed down by the device and I have access to far more apps on Android, so hopefully this might be a silver lining type situation. However, one thing I have learned which is a disadvantage is my Bluetooth headset is no longer compatible. Apparently, this is to do with Android 7.0 and should be rectified with the upgrade, but it is undecided when that will take place, so I had to buy another headset. The following, which is a variation to the previous headset I had works really well.

Well it’s been four weeks since our little human arrived and even at this early age it is quite extraordinary seeing the world through their eyes. Everything is new and this of course is only the beginning of a series of ‘first times’. It is the first time they see family, toys, animals, scenery….and television.

One thing I have found so far is that everyone is so unbelievably eager (eager in the sense of an excited puppy), to offer so much advice, the dos and don’ts and the all-time Nos of parenting. In fact I am so sick of hearing ths so called ‘advice’ based on ‘good intentions’ that my head is spinning, and let’s face it we all know what road is paved with good intentions.

So this opens the doors to the latest controversy, should you let your baby watch television?

If you asked this question to my in-laws they would say definitely not and would be unanimous, adamant and any other firm declaration you can think of. If you asked my mother she would say providing it was not being used as a babysitter, in small doses, television is fine. It contains moving images which stimulates the mind, and you can use it as an educational portal where you can watch it together, learn and have fun at the same time.

Now I know some would say what can you teach a baby less than 4 weeks old? I was actually surprised what you can teach them. Every day I see Monster’s brain developing more and more, as well as facial recognition, features and coordination. I am convinced that Monster has smiled a few times now (and it is not just wind), but the engagement with humans is fascinating. We were told by the health visitor to hold Monster 9 inches away from our faces so they could concentrate on our facial expressions and ascertain who is who, but Monster was doing this before we were told that. The eyes engage with my own and you can tell the focus is completely there as well – this kid is very sharp (probably due to the fish I ate) and not to mention incredibly strong (probably due to all of the spinach I ate while being pregnant).

I do allow Monster to watch television with me, but it is in small doses and I do filter what is on the television.

A great example of how I think television works is the short films that are currently on Netflix called Moving Art. These 25 minute(ish) films show amazing photography and cinematography accompanied by soothing background music. There isn’t any narration, just a quote at the beginning of the films and they concentrate on underwater, waterfalls, desserts and so on. The one I love to watch is the Moving Art Underwater film and this quite literally concentrates on marine life and anything under the water. It was amazing watching Monster’s face light up when they saw seals and some of the marine animals – clearly takes after mum, and perhaps we have another marine conservationist in the making – though that would be Monster’s choice.

Overall I do not see there being a problem with television, how else could I show my Monster these magnificent animals other than on the big screen or a computer. So the next time someone feels like offering advice based on their own experiences of being parenting, keep this in mind that parenting methods are subjective and what works for one child, will not work for another.

https://vimeo.com/146556794

Image source: https://vimeo.com/146556794

 

Why do we rely so much on technology nowadays? Our parents (depending on how old they are) never had a panic attack if their mobile phones, tablet PCs or music devices malfunctioned – mainly because if they were of my parents’ generation there were no such thing back then.

However nowadays we are so reliant on technology that we have become so trusting and perhaps somewhat complacent that it will always work every time.

Last year was a prime example of this. The Smiler ride at Alton Towers failed where one of the carriages holding passengers did not stop and crashed into the back of another carriage. It has now been revealed that this was due to a health and safety issue and the owner of the theme park has admitted that further precautions could have been taken. However the four individuals seated at the front of the carriage that crashed have suffered life changing injuries. While the owner of the park ensured that those injured and their families would not want for anything, two of the individuals have lost limbs.

The investigation continues and I feel it will be a while before we know the full story about what happened that day both on technological and operational aspects.

Further information about the whole incident along with the investigation can be found on the BBC website.

Smiler

In recent months there has been an emphasis on the debate regarding driverless cars and frankly I can’t help but think that automated vehicles might be a good thing considering the dismal displays of driving I witnessed over Christmas period.

There are many arguments for both sides and The Pathway to Driverless Cars Summary Report provides not only an official but a very good read regarding these.

While I believe that from a safety aspect automated vehicles would be beneficial, given how much people are in a rush nowadays and often let their bad habits take over when behind the wheel, I also question whether these vehicles will hinder the making of progress. For example, would an automated vehicle use evasive driving to make progression in a journey? Presumably it could be trained to know alternative routes like a SatNav, and obviously it would know to avoid potential collisions, but human judgement has always accounted for over half of the skill needed to drive. The rest is the actual tool which is the vehicle one is driving. On the other hand we can argue that humans create technology, therefore we build it based on us.

Another facet to think about would be the resistance to change. How many people would put their faith in this technology, to the extent that they are putting their lives in the automated vehicles, so to speak, hands? Being a part of technology in the legal system for years, I have seen many defy the integration of new technology to the extent that the implementation has been delayed for many years.

However, there is a valid point in the Summary Report which could be a winner, and that is the mention of time. It states that a driver can spend 6 weeks a year driving, and that a driver’s time can be put to more valuable use while travelling, much like a commuter does. While I am paraphrasing, I always thought that it was only lawyers who spoke in the time and money dialect, but that has seemed too evolve into many other fields now.

Perhaps delegating our driving will be welcomed after all.

Source: http://acurrie.me/2014/05/29/googles-autonomous-car/

Google just unveiled its latest autonomous car, and it’s a bulbous two-seater, with no steering wheel, gas or brake. 15minutenews.com

Keyboard warriors and people who are continuously glued to their mobile phone screens walking around like zombies, the wonders of modern technology as it seems that nowadays people always feel braver, or perhaps more comfortable, behind the safety of a screen than properly interacting with other members of the human race.

Being a campaigner for marine conservation and gender equality, I quite often come across the plight of the keyboard warrior so I am relatively immune to it. But let’s have a look at what one really is on urbandictionary.com:

A Person who, being unable to express his anger through physical violence (owning to their physical weakness, lack of bravery and/or conviction in real life), instead manifests said emotions through the text-based medium of the internet, usually in the form of aggressive writing that the Keyboard Warrior would not (for reasons previously mentioned) be able to give form to in real life.

2. The term is a combination of the word ‘keyboard’ (the main tool by which the person expresses his/her latent rage) and ‘warrior’ (due to the warrior-like aggression, tendency towards violence, headstrong nature and propensity towards brute force as a means of resolving conflict rather than more subtle means dependant on finesse).

3. The Keyboard Warrior seeks to use the power imbued in his ‘weapon’ to effect death and destruction (in a strictly-metaphorical sense) upon his foes (other virtual identities he has encountered on the internet). In essence, the keyboard (ie. text input ability) allows the keyboard warrior to manifest his true warrior nature in a safe and removed environment, from which no real-life repercussions.

4. Keyboard Warriors are generally identified by unnecessary rage in their written communications, and are regarded as ‘losers’ by other virtual identities on the internet.

I think we all are guilty of taking on the Keyboard Warrior persona at some point in our lives. It doesn’t mean that we are naturally violent in nature; it can mean a person is passionately trying to get their point across via websites etc and in the process rallies others into an accidental hate campaign. Check out Southeastern train’s Twitter feed, normal people losing their tempers provoked by immeasurable frustration.

Another example is when one of my friends put up a post stating that organ donning should be compulsory upon death, I argued this point saying that everyone should have the choice. The next thing I know I am being criticised for my opinion because it did not match others. I was unnecessarily persecuted and many hoped that I did not have children because of my opinion when if they had actually read my comment, they would have seen that I wasn’t against organ donning, far from it, I just said that people have a right to choice.

This was a classic example of people being overrun by their emotions on the internet and in turn making them judgemental before they have all of the information, they then react in an aggressive manner and inadvertently form a hate storm against someone who was just making a comment the same as them. This often happens in very closed end, influential circles.

Of course you do get the others who deliberately stir up people to get a reaction. Under the ‘Troll’ heading, I see this a lot when involved in online campaigns. These people have no interest in the campaign, they deliberately intervene to either cause a distraction, or just to stir up emotions even more. As there is a high element of maliciousness involved, I think these types of Keyboard Warriors are the worst – they also clearly have too much time on their hands.

Let’s have a look at the closely related mobile zombie. These individuals are high in population and can be seen virtually every minute of every day. I am also guilty of being one and I often see them on my commute to work on the train in the mornings and evenings.

They often form a stance of standing or sitting, neck and head is curved forward and eyes are fixated on the screen of either a mobile phone or eReader device. They very rarely look up to see where they are walking, and if you are in desperate need of a priority seat on the train, don’t be annoyed at these people, subtly get their attention so they move for you.

While these individuals are relatively harmless, the risk comes in when they are walking and staring into their mobile devices, we are not in China and do not have cell lanes after all. I don’t need to say that walking along and not looking where you are going is a hazard to the person doing the walking and the person being walked into.

So where is the resolution here?

Well we could always revert back to the pre-mobile device age, or we could just think before we post and actually look where we are walking. After all, is a post, text, email really that important that you neglect basic manners?

th (1)

I am thinking that my next novel should be called “A train too far” – perhaps it could be a fictional piece, or a combination of Tweets from commuters. Either way, no one would actually believe the events we endure on a daily basis are real, unless of course you are unfortunate enough to be a train commuter.

It seems the New Year has not encouraged resolutions with the train system, they are still as delayed or cancelled as previous years, only this time the excuses have become more imaginative. 

Some of you may remember in one of my recent posts regarding the fun I have trying to get to work by train. Due to the work on the DLR over Christmas and New Year, they were planning not to run services to any stations other than Victoria or Blackfriars – so the high number of people whose destination stations are Charing Cross, Cannon Street, London Bridge, Waterloo and so on, were pretty much…. well inconvenienced so say the least. Lucky for me I was off over the Christmas and New Year period, but if I hadn’t then it would have been a Christmas and New Year just trying to get from A to B spending longer away from the family over the festive period and perhaps having to cancel celebratory plans.

Who knew getting to work could be such a trial.

Well I can top that story as a few weeks ago it got worse due to a landslip in the Barnehurst area which rendered the Bexleyheath line unusable for several days. What did this mean for anyone using the Bexleyhealth line? Well it meant we either had to take a replacement bus service which was ten times longer in duration, pay for taxis knowing that the delay repay compensation would not cover the cost, or use our own cars and park in another train station that used a different train line, incurring extra expenses in fuel and car parking that again the delay repay would not cover. Not to mention the annoyance this would cause the regular commuters of the alternative train lines who would normally park in the stations’ carparks.

I would like to say that since then the trains have improved but if you go on my Twitter feed (@kjfoxhall) you will see that they have in comparison, but there are still continuous delays. So as you can imagine, this was enough to make commuters launch another petition.

I will say at this point that many of us know that Southeastern as not responsible for some of the delays, however they are not good at informing the people/organisations who are. If they did then we could direct our frustrations towards that organisation (i.e. Network Rail), but at the same time we pay Southeastern to provide us with an acceptable and safe service and what we are receiving is not acceptable. Safety is also questionable at times. If my client had an issue with a third party provider, it would be up to me to relay those issues and sort them out so my service and reputation was not affected. I think this escapes Southeastern at times – to the extent that they were voted as one of the top three worst providers (please see article below).

The petition successfully passed 10,000 signatures with ease and a response was received from the Government (also at the bottom of this post).

Why oh why did they bother?!?

The government basically did not sympathise with the commuters, they told us information we already knew and just generally fobbed us off saying that some commuters are unhappy with the service (I would go as far to say that most are unhappy), and how they were putting improvements into place… which they have been saying for years.

By the time we had received a response, the petition had reached over 14,000 signatures. If I was a company with that many against me I would do something about it.

For the petition to be read in Parliament, it would need to reach 100,000 signatures, so if you are frustrated and an angry commuter, please do sign it.

To put it into perspective, I was delayed by over 30 minutes on Thursday 4 February 2016 and 17 minutes the following Friday morning. This is a usual occurrence now and out of habit I have to leave much earlier in the morning to ensure I get to work on time, how do they think this is affecting my personal life? Oh right, they don’t think about it.

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the petition Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition and it is entirely independent of the Government.

The Government’s response is below:

The industry is working hard to improve services and we are reforming passenger compensation. We are determined to provide the service passengers expect across the country.

We know that some passengers are very frustrated about the performance and the service they receive. We expect Southeastern to continue to work with Network Rail in order to minimise disruption and ensure services improve in 2016. The Department for Transport is closely monitoring the performance of the rail network across London and the South East and operators must inform customers properly when things go wrong.

As the Chancellor stated in his Autumn Statement, we are committed to reducing the time threshold for which passengers can claim from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, and the Department is gearing up to reform the compensation arrangements as set out in that commitment.

As part of our robust franchising programme, the current operator of Southeastern is delivering millions of pounds of investment to improve journeys, which includes:

• New high speed and classic services delivering more than 95,000 extra seats, including 1,000 extra seats on Southeastern’s High Speed services every day

• Refreshing 112 trains and updating toilets on a further 190 trains as well as improving accessibility by investing over £10 million in the train fleet over the franchise

• An obligation to improve stations by investing £4.8 million by 31 October 2016 and from January 2015 opening Cannon Street 21 hours a day with additional staff to assist passengers

• Extra staff will be available at stations as Southeastern have committed to ensuring that its gatelines are staffed for 90% in London and 70% of opening hours.

• The new £26m Rochester Station completion was opened on 13 December 2015 and forms part of the East Kent Re-signalling programme, an investment of £145m.

• Strood Station – a £2.6 million project to demolish the current 1960’s style station and replace it with a modern building – Work is due to start in Spring 2016 and to be completed by 2017.

• A programme to deep clean all Southeastern stations and a programme of station improvement works across the franchise.

Alongside this, our record investment in the railways, and the transformative work which the industry is doing on this part of the network, is essential in building a world-class railway, providing more services and better journeys. We understand that passengers are concerned about performance and the service they receive, however we know that Southeastern are working together with Network Rail in order to minimise disruption and to recover services faster where infrastructure failures occur. We would like this work to continue in order that service improvements continue. Southeastern have been working on their fleet of trains to improve capacity in the Metro area, and the Department for Transport is working with Southeastern to look at whether additional capacity can be introduced in the near term and improve the service for passengers.

This Government has long recognised the importance of improving the performance of train operators, and through Network Rail we committed to seeing £38 billion invested in the rail network, and the hugely ambitious infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and HS2, as well the transformation of London Bridge.

We closely monitor the performance of both the operators and Network Rail, and incentivise their performance through the Franchise Agreements and Track Access Agreements. Whilst we understand the frustration felt by all constituents affected by any delay, we would like to assure you that the Department for Transport is determined to see further improvements and provide the service that passengers expect.

trains delays

Here are some entertaining articles from when the landslip happened, all of which are pure fiction:

Southeastern trains boss: I’m sorry for recent delays

Thameslink, Southeastern trains, and Southern rail voted worst in Britain by passengers

And as an adieu dear readers, here are some bags parked in Welling station. I do hope they paid for those parking spaces, until that time 10 lucky commuters are walking to the station.

Parking