Corona-virus and webcams

If there is one thing that the current pandemic of COVID-19 shows us, it is that the world is more connected than we feared.

We think that the modern world is isolated by social networks and technology, but the surprising rapidity of international contagion seems to say just the opposite: that a storm somewhere else in the world can rapidly affect multiple and many countries. It seems that we are still very close to each other.

One strange side-effect has come home to me today. I went searching for webcams for my personal use and potentially to use at work. I work as a building caretaker for a large church with multiple buildings and a 500-seat auditorium. Waypoint Church – check them out, they are awesome! As travel restrictions come into play the core team are thinking of recording videos and sending links via email to church members. I think we should look at doing live streaming and webcasting. However, even Amazon was short of supply on webcams!

As we discuss this it brought into play the digital generations. We commented that some church members don’t have email addresses, some don’t use specific social media platforms, and some don’t even have computers! While most will have mobile phones even this cannot be assumed for the very oldest and vulnerable. Part of the crisis means that schools are looking at using webcams to delivery lessons to their pupils and of course this has created a run on the supply of cheap, sensible webcams such as the Logitech C270 or C920.

While I’m replete with webcams of all types (having used them previously for monitoring 3D printers and the like) the shortage does show the results of unintended consequences. The government announces school closures, and sales of webcams, or cheese, or blankets goes through the roof. Strange times, strange times indeed!

Travel kit just got weird

I used to travel regularly and extensively, until I realised that I just got older and although it was fun, so too was sleeping in my own bed.

One of the techniques I used during that time as a “road worrier” was to keep a list to check off items so as not to forget important things.  Well it so happens that I’ve another trip in my future and decided to dust off the old list to assemble my things.  What a surprise!  Seems like digital archeology isn’t dead and the insight it gave me to previous behaviour (and technology) was insightful.  Take a look:

Shoes 1 1 1
casual Jeans a a
Casual shirt a a
Hat Opt
Shoes 1 1
Jacket a a a
Entertainment Painting Pad a a
Watercolour kit a a
Swimming trunks a a a
goggles a a a
Workshop Marker pens a a a
Camera a a a
Whiteboard Opt Opt Opt
Flip chart paper Opt Opt Opt
Laptop Laptop a a a
Product CDs Opt
Blank CDs Opt Opt
Lock a a a
Charger a a a
Battery a a a
Ethernet cord a a
Telephone cord Opt Opt a

The 3 last columns are for short, medium and long-stay trips (2-3 weeks and so on) and the increasing levels of gear meant that I could quickly take the essentials such as passport without bagging up the baggage.  Traveling light is the best way of travelling and extra stuff is the bane of comfort.  Don’t have it?  Just buy it when you’re there if really needed.

A couple of things stand out – I used to paint for relaxation sitting in some hotel rooms alone.  It was better than watching the TV or reading a book (- too heavy to take enough at the rate I read).  Nowdays, of course, I take an e-reader (not convinced about tablets yet, too heavy and batteries don’t last) but alongside the bulky camera for taking pictures of workshops and process diagrams, there were CDs and telephone cords.  Telephone cords!  Who uses those now?  Everyone uses WiFi in hotels and I haven’t seen a need for ethernet for ages.  Sounds crazy but my kit has just got whole lot lighter and between my smartphone and the Apple MacBook Air I think I can reduce my carry load of 10 years ago by 40%.

Do you have any similar stories?

Mark of the Beast

In the collection of books known commonly as the Bible there is an apocalyptic sci-fi one called “Revelation”, in which a commercial identity device known as “the Mark of the Beast” is necessary for day-to-day existence in buying and selling things. It is described as “being a mark on the hand or forehead”.

The experience of a new smartphone may just be that event.

I recently realised just how important these devices are becoming. My secondary bank (the one where I save up money out of sight from the prime one!) asked me to sign up to a new security device – either a little calculator-type thing with small keypad and locked to my account, or an app on my smartphone. I started down the route with my smartphone and realised when it asked me for yet another long and complicated password that I really didn’t need the ability to generate new direct payees whilst mobile, and it could all wait until I was in front of a better input device, for example my desktop computer at home. So I aborted and went down the ‘little keypad device’ instead of the app.

Now I have to transfer to a new smartphone, and one hour into it I have documented all the reload points for my enterprise services, downloaded all the *.apk files (Android installation files), deleted unnecessary apps, copied the SD card to another computer, and ready to ‘wipe and reset’ after removing the SIM card. It takes planning!

Android helps of course – Google has provided a cloud backup service which increasingly backs up all installed apps and which the app developers can take advantage to back up settings or files, however it is not seamless yet and still requires lots of re-registration and reloading. Enterprise apps are worse as they don’t participate in this Google cloud and all need entry of userids, company registration, and long difficult passwords to set them up. Often the user ids are different which means going back to the original emailed instructions – which may be years old – or finding the new ones in the morass of online information. None of this is easy … and woe betide anyone who gets the sequence of delete/de-register/install/register wrong.

With our devices becoming so critical for identification, identity, access and authentication I can see that building it into the body somehow with facilities to upgrade the core identity section as needed, will become more attractive over time. I just don’t see it happening yet.