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Use shared USB over network remotely with USB Redirector Client

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Flexible USB sharing over a network enables others on the same network to get remote access to a single external drive. This is done via software that helps emulate all the contents of the drive on the client side, creating the exact virtual copy of the shared hardware USB device. It appears as if the device was attached directly to other computers on the same network. This article will help you set up and share your USB storage device through USB Redirector Cient– a powerful solution for remoting USB Devices.

USB Redirector Client Free

USB Redirector is a useful software to use shared USB devices remotely through a LAN, WLAN or Internet, just as if they were attached to your computer directly. The light-weight version of the application – USB Redirector Client can be used to redirect devices between Windows-based computers. It’s completely free for use.

For using this application, install USB Redirector on the main computer. This computer will act as USB server.

Use shared USB over network remotely

Please note that when USB device is shared, it cannot be used locally, because it is acquired for individual usage by remote USB clients! To make the device available locally again, unshare it.

When done, install USB Redirector Client on a PC where you need to use USB devices remotely. This will be your USB client.

Now, establish a direct connection from USB client to USB server or callback connection from USB server to USB client.

USB Redirector Client

From the list of available USB devices appearing on the screen, select the required one and hit the ‘Connect’ button.

USB over network

Now on a remote PC, you can work with the USB device.

A unique feature about USB Redirector is that the application works as a background service, so you do not need to keep the app open all the time.

Once you have configured all the necessary options, you can safely close it. Moreover, you can add certain USB devices to the ‘Exclusion List’ as an extra measure of precaution, against virus infections.

You can download USB Redirector Client Free for Windows from its home page. It is free when connecting from a Windows computer.

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Yamaha’s smart pianos work with Alexa and teach you how to play

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Of the many things we expected to see at IFA 2017, cutting-edge instruments weren’t one of them. But Yamaha is using its time in Berlin to showcase the Clavinova all-electric, smart pianos, which use an iOS device and LEDs above each key to teach you how to play. With the Smart Pianist application, which will also be available on Android next year, you can learn how to play tracks in real-time thanks to blue and red lights that will come on every time you’re supposed to hit a key. (Red LEDs are placed above white keys, blue above the black ones.) Not only that, but if you can read music, there’s a chord chart being displayed on the iPad in real-time for whatever song you’re playing.

In terms of Alexa compatibility, Amazon’s virtual assistant isn’t built into the Clavinova smart pianos. Instead, you’re able to trigger different commands by plugging something like an an Echo Dot to them. The only caveat is that you’ll need to route that through a MusicCast-powered hub, which is essentially Yamaha’s answer to Apple AirPlay and Google Cast. It’s not the most intuitive process, but it’s still fun to see in action — especially if it works quite smoothly, as was the case during our demo. For instance, you can tell Alexa to play you a song on your piano, in case you want rather save a few minutes and not browse your music library.

Here’s the other, and arguably main, caveat: Yamaha’s Clavinova CSP models start at $4,000, depending on your piano configuration And if you’re feeling adventurous, the company also has a Grand Piano that works with a similar iPad app and plays itself for $60,000. It just depends on how much you want to impress.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

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Google’s Hollywood ‘interventions’ made on-screen coders cooler

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Google operates a “Computer Science in Media Team” that stages “interventions” in Hollywood to steer film-makers towards realistic and accurate depictions of what it’s like to work in IT.

The company announced the team in 2015 and gave it the job of “making CS more appealing to a wider audience, by dispelling stereotypes and showcasing positive portrayals of underrepresented minorities in tech.” Google felt the effort was worthy because typical depictions of techies on screen used geeky stereotypes and mostly featured men, “leading to particularly girls and underrepresented boys not seeing themselves in the field.” It also wants to have more people to hire: like just about every tech company it struggles to find good people to hire. But the company has noticed that “Five years after the premiere of the original CSI television series, forensic science majors in the U.S. increased by 50%, with an over index of women.”

The efforts of that team have now been detailed in a study [PDF], Cracking the Code: The Prevalence and Nature of Computer Science Depictions in Media.

The study says Google has worked “to intersect the decision-making process that ultimately leads to the on screen representation of computer science” and “Through engagements with show creators and corporate representatives … has attempted to integrate computer science portrayals into TV movies and ongoing series that deviate from stereotypes and showcase diversity.”

The study finds those efforts have mostly worked. While computer science rarely makes it into films and tellie, “The sample of Google influenced content (5.9%, n=61 of 1,039) had a higher percentage of characters engaging in computer science than a matched sample of programming (.5%, n=4 of 883).” While the study finds that a character involved in computer science is still overwhelmingly likely to be a white man, content that Google influenced featured more women than in shows it didn’t engage.

As it happens, El Reg may well already have reported on the Team’s work: back in 2015 we spotted an episode of made-for-kids cartoon The Amazing World of Gumball, a show the study says Google has “advised.” In the episode we reported, a character says the following:

I bypassed the storage controller, tapped directly in to the VNX array head, decrypted the nearline SAS disks, injected the flash drivers into the network’s FabricPath before disabling the IDF, routed incoming traffic through a bunch of offshore proxies, accessed the ESXi server cluster in the prime data center, and disabled the inter-VSAN routing on the layer-3.

The authors of the study think Google still has work to do, because the content it influenced resulted in shows depicting women as “praised for intelligence rather than attractiveness, and were more often rewarded for their CS activities than males”>. But both the stuff Google influenced and shows it didn’t touch “still primarily depict White, male characters engaging in CS, who are often stereotypically attired. The nature of these depictions also reflects CS stereotypes, namely that friendships are primarily with other CS individuals and a lack of children or romantic relationships.”

Overall, the study’s authors declare the effort worthwhile and say Google’s efforts have been well-received in Hollywood, even if stereotypes persist and CS remains something seldom depicted by the entertainment industry.

Shows Google influenced include Miles from Tomorrowland, The Fosters, Silicon Valley, Halt and Catch fire, The Amazing Gumball, The Powerpuff Girls and Ready, Jet, Go. ®

The Joy and Pain of Buying IT – Have Your Say

Posted on in category News unveils six areas to pilot full-fat fibre, and London ain’t on the list

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Government has revealed the first six areas in Blighty to trial speeds of 1Gbps in a £10m pilot, as previously revealed by The Register.

The areas include Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

In August, the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport had told industry it would trial a scheme to allow businesses to bid for vouchers worth up to £3,000 for “gigabit-capable” connectivity, and will pay the ongoing line rental costs.

That will most likely to be delivered by fibre but not exclusively so, said the documents.

The model is similar to that of the £100m broadband connection voucher scheme for speeds of more than 30Mbps in 2013-15, which was re-scoped after initially experiencing poor take-up from small businesses.

The latest scheme will be funded via the £200m “full-fibre” investment pot announced in the Spring budget and intended to leverage private sector investment in full-fibre broadband. The remaining £190m is due to be spent by 2020/21.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Jones MP said: “Full-fibre connections are the gold standard and we are proud to announce today the next step to get Britain better connected.”

Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock MP said: “We want to see more commercial investment in the gold-standard connectivity that full fibre provides, and these innovative pilots will help create the right environment for this to happen.

“To keep Britain as the digital world leader that it is, we need to have the right infrastructure in place to allow us to keep up with the rapid advances in technology now and in the future.” ®

The Joy and Pain of Buying IT – Have Your Say

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Samsung’s ‘AI-powered’ washer is just trying to save you time

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IFA 2017 isn’t all about smartphones, smartwatches and cute droids. The event is also a chance for companies to showcase their latest innovations for home appliances. Samsung did its part this year with the WW8800M washer, which sports technology called QuickDrive that promises to complete a full load of laundry in just 39 minutes –typically it’s about 70. The company says it’s able to do this without compromising washing performance, energy efficiency and fabric care, something that will matter deeply to people who are extra conscious of how they do their laundry. Oh and it says AI is involved.

Samsung is betting heavily on the "artificial intelligence" powers of its WW8800M to make laundry day less of a chore. The washing machine pairs with an app dubbed Q-rator, which offers modes including Laundry Planner, Laundry Recipe and HomeCard Wizard. The first two features let you do things like pick your desired cycle through the application and adjust the temperature and amount of spins. You can tell the virtual assistant what type of garments you plan to wash too, like if it’s a shirt or a sweater, and then it will suggest the best cycle for it based on the info you type in. HomeCare Wizard, meanwhile, monitors the WW8800M remotely and alerts you if it’s having any issues.

While Samsung’s main goal is to save you time washing your loads, these options could help you take better care of your clothes — all with just a couple of taps on an app. We don’t know if we’d agree with Samsung that the WW8800M is "AI-powered," as the press release suggests, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t smarter than its previous WiFI models.

Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t reveal any pricing or availability details here in Berlin, so we’ll have to wait to judge it by its price.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

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OpenStack Developer Mailing List Digest August 26th – September 1st

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Succesbot Says!


PTG Planning






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I wrote a Snake game in PowerShell. (Requires Version 5.1)

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Cummins unveils an electric big rig weeks before Tesla

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Sorry, Tesla, but someone just stole the thunder from the electric big rig you were planning to unveil this fall. The engine giant Cummins has unveiled a concept semi truck, the AEOS, that runs entirely on the power of an electric motor and a 140kWh battery pack. It’s roughly as powerful as a 12-liter fossil fuel engine and could haul 44,000 pounds of cargo, just without the emissions or rampant fuel costs of a conventional truck. There’s speedy 1-hour charging, and Cummins is even looking at solar panels on the trailer to extend range. It’s a promising offering, although Elon Musk and crew might not lose too much sleep knowing the limitations.

For one thing, range is a sore point. You’re looking at a modest 100-mile range with that 140kWh pack. That’s fine for inter-city deliveries, but it won’t cut the mustard for longer trips. And while there’s talk of extending that distance to 300 miles with extra packs, that would only make it competitive with Tesla’s anticipated 200- to 300-mile range.

And more importantly, this is a concept, not a production vehicle ready to roll off the manufacturing line. There should be a production model in a couple of years, according to CNET, but that gives Tesla plenty of time to get its own EV semi on the road. Not that we’re going to complain about both companies having a fighting chance — more electric big rigs means more competition and fewer polluting trucks.

Via: IndyStar, CNET

Source: Cummins (1), (2)

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New – Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs for Windows

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Today we’re excited to announce the general availability of Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs for Windows. An Elastic GPU is a GPU resource that you can attach to your Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance to accelerate the graphics performance of your applications. Elastic GPUs come in medium (1GB), large (2GB), xlarge (4GB), and 2xlarge (8GB) sizes and are lower cost alternatives to using GPU instance types like G3 or G2 (for OpenGL 3.3 applications). You can use Elastic GPUs with many instance types allowing you the flexibility to choose the right compute, memory, and storage balance for your application. Today you can provision elastic GPUs in us-east-1 and us-east-2.

Elastic GPUs start at just $0.05 per hour for an eg1.medium. A nickel an hour. If we attach that Elastic GPU to a t2.medium ($0.065/hour) we pay a total of less than 12 cents per hour for an instance with a GPU. Previously, the cheapest graphical workstation (G2/3 class) cost 76 cents per hour. That’s over an 80% reduction in the price for running certain graphical workloads.

When should I use Elastic GPUs?

Elastic GPUs are best suited for applications that require a small or intermittent amount of additional GPU power for graphics acceleration and support OpenGL. Elastic GPUs support up to and including the OpenGL 3.3 API standards with expanded API support coming soon.

Elastic GPUs are not part of the hardware of your instance. Instead they’re attached through an elastic GPU network interface in your subnet which is created when you launch an instance with an Elastic GPU. The image below shows how Elastic GPUs are attached.

Since Elastic GPUs are network attached it’s important to provision an instance with adequate network bandwidth to support your application. It’s also important to make sure your instance security group allows traffic on port 2007.

Any application that can use the OpenGL APIs can take advantage of Elastic GPUs so Blender, Google Earth, SIEMENS SolidEdge, and more could all run with Elastic GPUs. Even Kerbal Space Program!

Ok, now that we know when to use Elastic GPUs and how they work, let’s launch an instance and use one.

Using Elastic GPUs

First, we’ll navigate to the EC2 console and click Launch Instance. Next we’ll select a Windows AMI like: “Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Base”. Then we’ll select an instance type. Then we’ll make sure we select the “Elastic GPU” section and allocate an eg1.medium (1GB) Elastic GPU.

We’ll also include some userdata in the advanced details section. We’ll write a quick PowerShell script to download and install our Elastic GPU software.

Start-Transcript -Path "C:\egpu_install.log" -Append
(new-object net.webclient).DownloadFile('', 'C:\egpu.msi')
Start-Process "msiexec.exe" -Wait -ArgumentList "/i C:\egpu.msi /qn /L*v C:\egpu_msi_install.log"
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("Path", $env:Path + ";C:\Program Files\Amazon\EC2ElasticGPUs\manager\", [EnvironmentVariableTarget]::Machine)
Restart-Computer -Force

This software sends all OpenGL API calls to the attached Elastic GPU.

Next, we’ll double check to make sure my security group has TCP port 2007 exposed to my VPC so my Elastic GPU can connect to my instance. Finally, we’ll click launch and wait for my instance and Elastic GPU to provision. The best way to do this is to create a separate SG that you can attach to the instance.

You can see an animation of the launch procedure below.

Alternatively we could have launched on the AWS CLI with a quick call like this:

$aws ec2 run-instances --elastic-gpu-specification Type=eg1.2xlarge \
--image-id ami-1a2b3c4d \
--subnet subnet-11223344 \
--instance-type r4.large \
--security-groups "default" "elasticgpu-sg"

then we could have followed the Elastic GPU software installation instructions here.

We can now see our Elastic GPU is humming along and attached by checking out the Elastic GPU status in the taskbar.

We welcome any feedback on the service and you can click on the Feedback link in the bottom left corner of the GPU Status Box to let us know about your experience with Elastic GPUs.

Elastic GPU Demonstration

Ok, so we have our instance provisioned and our Elastic GPU attached. My teammates here at AWS wanted me to talk about the amazingly wonderful 3D applications you can run, but when I learned about Elastic GPUs the first thing that came to mind was Kerbal Space Program (KSP), so I’m going to run a quick test with that. After all, if you can’t launch Jebediah Kerman into space then what was the point of all of that software? I’ve downloaded KSP and added the launch parameter of -force-opengl to make sure we’re using OpenGL to do our rendering. Below you can see my poor attempt at building a spaceship – I used to build better ones. It looks pretty smooth considering we’re going over a network with a lossy remote desktop protocol.

I’d show a picture of the rocket launch but I didn’t even make it off the ground before I experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly of the rocket. Back to the drawing board for me.

In the mean time I can check my Amazon CloudWatch metrics and see how much GPU memory I used during my brief game.

Partners, Pricing, and Documentation

To continue to build out great experiences for our customers, our 3D software partners like ANSYS and Siemens are looking to take advantage of the OpenGL APIs on Elastic GPUs, and are currently certifying Elastic GPUs for their software. You can learn more about our partnerships here.

You can find information on Elastic GPU pricing here. You can find additional documentation here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some virtual rockets to build.


Posted on in category News is a free automation tool and IFTTT alternative

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Nowadays, everyone is working smarter with various new technologies and automation tools are quite new in the market. Although IFTTT has been available for quite a while now, some other tools like Microsoft Flow, Zapier, etc. were introduced later. If you like automation tools in your daily life, let me introduce you to, which is comparatively new. Free Automation Tool

Since the tool is relatively new, it does not have many app integrations to offer, as Microsoft Flow or IFTTT does. However, the developers have been adding new apps frequently.The tool offers a free version – but it has some limitations.

With the free version, you will be able to:

  • Create only five bots. In other words, you can execute up to 5 tasks having the free account.
  • Those five tasks can be executed up to 250 times in every month.
  • You need to wait for 5 minutes to run another task after executing a task.

Moreover, the free account holders would get access to the following apps only:

  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Capsule CRM
  • ClearBit
  • Constant Contact
  • Drip
  • Dropbox
  • Eventbrite
  • Facebook
  • Facebook pages
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Contacts
  • Google Drive
  • Google Sheets
  • Hubspot
  • Intercom
  • MailChimp
  • Slack
  • And a few more.

If you can cope with all these limitations, you can go forward and sign up for an account. The important thing is, you must have a email ID. That implies,,,, etc. won’t work – and that is a major disadvantage in our opinion.

After signing up, you need to select some apps to get to the next screen, where you can create a new bot. After completing the requirements, head over to the “Bots” tab and click on “Create a Bot.” is a free automation tool and IFTTT alternative

Now, you need to select a Trigger app and an Action app. Click on “Select Trigger app” button > Choose an app > Authorize to access your account.

Based on the app, the trigger will be different. Whichever app you choose, you must select a trigger. Free Automation Tool

After this, you can head over to the Action app section and choose an action that you need to execute. Again, you have to select an action from the given list. After selecting everything, make sure you have saved your changes.

Next, you need to turn it on since the default setting doesn’t allow that. To do so, you should find the toggle button. is a free automation tool and IFTTT alternative

After activation, you will get an option to test the bot you just created. In case, you want to delete any bot, head over to “Bots” tab, expand the corresponding drop-down menu, and select “Delete.” is a free automation tool and IFTTT alternative

You can make changes to the Bot as well, by selecting the “Edit” option.

The advantage of this tool is that you can add multiple actions to a single trigger. For example, if you want to save all tweets in a Google Spreadsheet and send them to Slack, you can combine them into one Bot. If you need to do the same in IFTTT or Microsoft Flow, you need to create different bots.

Head over to the website if you would like to check it out.

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Lost Alan Turing letters found in university filing cabinet

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A huge batch of letters penned by British cryptographer Alan Turing has been found at the University of Manchester. Professor Jim Miles was tidying a storeroom when he discovered the correspondence in an old filing cabinet. At first he assumed the orange folder, which had Turing’s name on the front, had been emptied and re-used by another member of staff. But a closer look revealed 148 documents, including a letter sent by GCHQ, a draft version of a BBC radio programme about artificial intelligence, and invitations to lecture at some top universities in America.

Turing worked at the University of Manchester from 1948, first as a Reader in the mathematics department and later as the Deputy Director of the Computing Laboratory. These jobs followed his pivotal work with the Government Code and Cypher School during the Second World War. At Bletchley park, he spearheaded a team of cryptographers that helped the Allies to unravel various Nazi messages, including those protected by the Enigma code. The newly discovered documents date from early 1949 until his death in June 1954. At this time, Turing’s work on Enigma was still a secret, which is why it’s rarely mentioned in the correspondence.

None of the letters contain previously unknown information about Turing. They do provide new detail, however, about his life at Manchester and how he worked at the University. They also shed light on his personality — responding to a conference invitation in the US, he said boldly: "I would not like the journey, and I detest America." The documents also reference his work on morphogenesis, the study of biological life and why it takes a particular form, AI, computing and mathematics. "I was astonished such a thing had remained hidden out of sight for so long," Miles said.

All of the letters have now been sorted, catalogued and stored by James Peters at the University’s library. "This is a truly unique find," Miles said. "Archive material relating to Turing is extremely scarce, so having some of his academic correspondence is a welcome and important addition to our collection." You can now search for and view all 148 documents online.

None of the correspondence references his personal life. Turing was arrested in 1952 for homosexual acts and chose chemical castration over time in prison. In 1954, he died through cyanide poisoning, which an inquest later determined as suicide. The British government officially apologised for his treatment in 2009, before a posthumous pardon was granted in 2013. Last October, the UK government introduced the "Alan Turing Law," awarding posthumous pardons to thousands of gay and bisexual men previously convicted for consensual same-sex relationships.

Via: International Business Times

Source: The University of Manchester

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Watch 1,069 Dancing Robots Claim New World Record

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A Chinese toy maker has broken the Guinness World Record for “most robots dancing simultaneously.” Yes—While you toil away at your desk for eight hours a day, five days a week, there are […]

The post Watch 1,069 Dancing Robots Claim New World Record appeared first on

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Raspberry Pi HAT spins up RFID and NFC

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Eccel’s rugged “Raspberry Pi-B1” Raspberry Pi HAT add-on provides an RFID B1 module for enabling short-range RFID or NFC communications at 13.56MHz. Eccel Technology, which is also known as IB Technology, has launched a “Raspberry Pi Hat RFID/NFC Board” that is also known as the “Raspberry Pi-B1.” The HAT compatible add-on board has gone on […]

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R-Comp release !DualHead

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If you own a Titanium based machine you may have noticed that it has 2 video output ports. If you plug a monitor into the right port (as you look at the machine from the back), you will get the chemical details of the element Titanium on your second screen. Interesting but not very practical….

Now R-Comp have released !DualHead which allows their Titanium based TiMachine to display RISC OS across two screens (heads). In this article, we will get it up and running with a later look at how well it works. Let us see if two Heads are better than one…

The application is a free download from the R-Comp website (you will need your username and password to access it). It consists of some updates for !Boot, a very helpful !ReadMe, and the actual !DualHead application.

I read the !ReadMe, updated !Boot and rebooted my machine. Nothing changes until you run the !DualBoot software and press space. If anything goes wrong the software is well-designed to revert back to the default single display.

You now have one RISC OS display spilt across 2 screens (with a really long iconbar across the bottom). Windows can also be split across screen as you can see from the alert message. This can take used to along with alerts and dialog boxes popping up on the screen you were not expecting.

As you can see the software is very easy to setup. Next time we will delve into how well it works….

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Drones will watch Australian beaches for sharks with AI help

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Humans aren’t particularly good at spotting sharks using aerial data. At best, they’ll accurately pinpoint sharks 30 percent of the time — not very helpful for swimmers worried about stepping into the water. Australia, however, is about to get a more reliable way of spotting these undersea predators. As of September, Little Ripper drones will monitor some Australian beaches for signs of sharks, and pass along their imagery to an AI system that can identify sharks in real-time with 90 percent accuracy. Humans will still run the software (someone has to verify the results), but this highly automated system could be quick and reliable enough to save lives.

The detection AI is a quintessential machine learning system. The team trains the system to both look for sharks based on aerial videos as well as distinguish them from other life on the water. That approach doesn’t just help it identify sharks, though. It can also flag dolphins, whales and other sea creatures of interest, which could give researchers an additional way to track populations.

Also, the use of drones doesn’t just save helicopters valuable flight time. The drones hold beacons and life rafts, so they can offer immediate help to anyone who’s in distress. Little Ripper is also developing an electronic ‘repellent’ that the drones could use to keep sharks at bay until rescuers arrive.

Australia isn’t relying solely on drones. The country has been deploying nets along its northeastern shores to prevent sharks from entering areas in the first place. However, drones could at least augment those methods, and would arguably be friendlier to the local ecosystem. Instead of fencing off areas and potentially blocking access to other species, authorities could use robotic fliers to deal with sharks only when they pose a genuine threat.

Source: Reuters

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OpenStack Developer Mailing List Digest August 19th – 25th

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SuccessBot Says


PTG Planning

































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Revisting the old Acorn magazines online

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Over the years, a lot of high quality magazines have been produced. Most of these are no longer actively published but their back catalogue still contains interesting and relevant material.

Some companies provide electronic copy. You can buy from R-Comp a CD with the complete Risc User collection and Archive has a compilation CD.

Many magazines are now available online if you do not happen to possess a large attic piled high with old editions.

There is a nice index of the Acorn User magazines on Acorn User website and a partial collection of PDF scanned copies (they say reproduced with permission) here. If you can add any of the missing editions, they would be very pleased to hear from you.

The biggest collection I have been able to find is The Computer Magazine Archives. The site also hosts the waybackwhen archive (which stores snapshots of what website used to look like) and it is not above controversy (it was blocked by the Indian government in 2017). The development of the Internet raises huge questions on what is acceptable use and how copyright should work (in practical and legal terms). So you may still want to stick to your pile in the attic.

It includes not just RISC OS machines but everything. So you can also relive your BBC days. I got a bit side-tracked in my researches revisiting Jim Butterfield explaining how the video works on a VIC-20 (my first ever computer). It is also searchable to you can also find items by topic.

Maybe not as fun as scrambling in the attic, but maybe more practical if you have a browser….

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Lie in Your Out-of-Office Reply to Avoid Spending Time on Your Phone During Vacation

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Vacations are for unplugging, but unplugging can be hard when you carry your work around on your device in your pocket. To keep work-related emails and messages at bay, adjust your “out of office” reply. 

Read more…

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New wearable tracker can transmit vital signs from a soft, tiny package

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Body sensors have long been bulky, hard to wear, and obtrusive. Now they can be as thin as a Band-Aid and about as big as a coin. The new sensors, created by Kyung-In Jang, professor of robotics engineering at South Korea’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, and John A. Rogers, Northwestern University, consists of a silicone case that contains “50 components connected by a network of 250 tiny wire coils.” The silicone conforms to the body and transmits data on “movement and respiration, as well as electrical activity in the heart, muscles, eyes and brain.”

This tiny package replaces many bulky sensor systems and because the wires are suspended in the silicone you are able to create a denser electronic. From the release:

Unlike flat sensors, the tiny wires coils in this device are three-dimensional, which maximizes flexibility. The coils can stretch and contract like a spring without breaking. The coils and sensor components are also configured in an unusual spider web pattern that ensures “uniform and extreme levels of stretchability and bendability in any direction.” It also enables tighter packing of components, minimizing size. The researchers liken the design to a winding, curling vine, connecting sensors, circuits and radios like individual leaves on the vine.

The researchers can power the device wirelessly which means it can sit almost anywhere on the body. Further, the team expects to be able to use this system inside of robotics where a softer, squishier connector is needed.

“Combining big data and artificial intelligence technologies, the wireless biosensors can be developed into an entire medical system which allows portable access to collection, storage, and analysis of health signals and information,” said Jang. “We will continue further studies to develop electronic skins which can support interactive telemedicine and treatment systems for patients in blind areas for medical services such as rural houses in mountain village.”

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Affordable Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

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With a £1000 grant from Santander, Poppy Mosbacher set out to build a full-body 3D body scanner with the intention of creating an affordable setup for makespaces and similar community groups.

First Scan from DIY Raspberry Pi Scanner

Head and Shoulders Scan with 29 Raspberry Pi Cameras

Uses for full-body 3D scanning

Poppy herself wanted to use the scanner in her work as a fashion designer. With the help of 3D scans of her models, she would be able to create custom cardboard dressmakers dummy to ensure her designs fit perfectly. This is a brilliant way of incorporating digital tech into another industry – and it’s not the only application for this sort of build. Growing numbers of businesses use 3D body scanning, for example the stores around the world where customers can 3D scan and print themselves as action-figure-sized replicas.

Print your own family right on the high street!
image c/o Tom’s Guide and Shapify

We’ve also seen the same technology used in video games for more immersive virtual reality. Moreover, there are various uses for it in healthcare and fitness, such as monitoring the effect of exercise regimes or physiotherapy on body shape or posture.

Within a makespace environment, a 3D body scanner opens the door to including new groups of people in community make projects: imagine 3D printing miniatures of a theatrical cast to allow more realistic blocking of stage productions and better set design, or annually sending grandparents a print of their grandchild so they can compare the child’s year-on-year growth in a hands-on way.

Raspberry Pi 3d Body Scan

The Germany-based clothing business Outfittery uses full body scanners to take the stress out of finding clothes that fits well.
image c/o Outfittery

As cheesy as it sounds, the only limit for the use of 3D scanning is your imagination…and maybe storage space for miniature prints.

Poppy’s Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

For her build, Poppy acquired 27 Raspberry Pi Zeros and 27 Raspberry Pi Camera Modules. With various other components, some 3D-printed or made of cardboard, Poppy got to work. She was helped by members of Build Brighton and by her friend Arthur Guy, who also wrote the code for the scanner.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

The Pi Zeros run Raspbian Lite, and are connected to a main server running a node application. Each is fitted into its own laser-cut cardboard case, and secured to a structure of cardboard tubing and 3D-printed connectors.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

In the finished build, the person to be scanned stands within the centre of the structure, and the press of a button sends the signal for all Pis to take a photo. The images are sent back to the server, and processed through Autocade ReMake, a freemium software available for the PC (Poppy discovered part-way through the project that the Mac version has recently lost support).

Build your own

Obviously there’s a lot more to the process of building this full-body 3D scanner than what I’ve reported in these few paragraphs. And since it was Poppy’s goal to make a readily available and affordable scanner that anyone can recreate, she’s provided all the instructions and code for it on her Instructables page.

Projects like this, in which people use the Raspberry Pi to create affordable and interesting tech for communities, are exactly the type of thing we love to see. Always make sure to share your Pi-based projects with us on social media, so we can boost their visibility!

If you’re a member of a makespace, run a workshop in a school or club, or simply love to tinker and create, this build could be the perfect addition to your workshop. And if you recreate Poppy’s scanner, or build something similar, we’d love to see the results in the comments below.

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Amazon UK now lets you easily convert cash into online credit

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The beauty of shopping online is that you can browse and buy without ever leaving the comfort of your sofa. Amazon accepts all major debit and credit cards online, but what if you’ve got a bundle of cash lying around you’d rather use instead? Enter "Amazon Top Up – In Store," a mouthful of a new service that lets you convert cash into online credit.

First, you’ll need to find a local shop, petrol station or what have you with a Paypoint register. These are the ones through which you can pay bills, renew your TV licence and add funds to your pay-as-you-go mobile or prepaid card then and there. Head to Amazon’s top-up site on your phone, or track down the equivalent page on the retailer’s mobile app, and grab yourself a unique barcode.

Get the shopkeeper to scan that barcode, hand over between £5 and £250, and it’ll immediately show up in your Amazon gift card balance. It’s tantamount to using the money to buy a gift card, but with less steps and thus, less hassle — but beware any deposits are non-refundable. You may remember Amazon launched a similar service in the US earlier this year, albeit with the catchier title of "Amazon Cash."

It may seem strange to go through this whole process when it’s infinitely more convenient to make card payments, but not everyone has a bank account and some people would still just rather not hand over financial details to a website. Amazon is in the business of selling stuff, so if there’s a demographic that can or will only use cash, you bet Amazon is gonna make sure they can spend it online.

Source: Amazon, Paypoint

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Microsoft rolls its own hyperconverged appliance program

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Microsoft’s revealed it’s signed up several server vendors to make hyperconverged appliances running Windows Server natively.

Hyperconverged appliances have, to date, nearly always been about giving vSphere a nice place to live. But plenty of those who use vSphere in any environment do it to run Windows Server. Which is a little odd given that Redmond’s server platform includes Hyper-V for compute virtualization, VXLAN for network virtualization and plus Storage Spaces for software-defined storage.

Those three ingredients are the basis of any software-defined data centre and indeed also any hyperconverged appliance. That’s not passed Microsoft by, but the company has been rather busy getting Azure Stack out the door.

Now the company has revealed an effort called “Windows Server Software-Defined” that sees approved hardware partners offer “validated solutions” that wraps Windows Server into three packages, namely

  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Standard: Compute and storage in one cluster;
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Premium: Billed as a “software-defined data center in a box” because it adds software-defined networking and Security Assurance features to HCI Standard.
  • Software-Defined Storage: Software-defined storage built on commodity servers and billed as a replacement for standalone arrays, with support for all-flash NVMe configurations and scale-out.

HPE, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Supermicro and QCT have signed up as partners, as has Windows-centric software-defined storage concern DataON.

Will anyone care? The Register understands that Microsoft people and Redmond’s partners will all emerge with fatter pay packets if they sell Azure capacity rather than anything licensed to run on-premises. Microsoft’s also making rather more noise about Azure Stack than Windows Server these days. And let’s not forget that Hyper-V has been more-or-less free for years, yet VMware kept the majority of the virtualization and hyperconverged infrastructure markets.

The Register‘s virtualization desk therefore expects the Windows Server Software-Defined will be appreciated by some buyers, but won’t markedly change the hyperconverged infrastructure market. That’s Azure Stack’s job and when it lands in September it looks like doing it well. ®

The Joy and Pain of Buying IT – Have Your Say

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Sofa-jockeys given crack at virtual Formula 1 world championship

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Sofa-jockeys given crack at virtual Formula 1 world championship

This whole ‘Esport’ thing looks serious – for games developers looking to boost sales

F1 2017 game

Screen shot from Formula 1 2017, the game/Esport arena

Formula 1 has announced it’s getting into “e-sports”, the preferred phrase for competitive computer gaming, with a new “Formula 1 Esports Series” that will see a virtual F1 champion crowned later this year.

Many gamers think their pastime’s enormous following and facilitation of networked competitions makes a legitimate sport that can stand beside other competitions that test speed, strength and skill. That argument was accepted by the Asian Games, which has made gaming a medal sport at its 2022 event, with a little marketing and promotional help from Alibaba’s gaming tentacle. Even the Summer Olympics is keen on the idea: Paris’ bid for the 2024 games reportedly proposed including e-sports.

Formula 1’s announcement details a virtual race to be run from September, which is co-incidentally when developer Codemasters will release the 2017 edition of the F1 game on PlayStation, XBOX and PC. And guess what? You can pre-order it now.

Players rated among the world’s 40 fastest racers will be summoned to London in October. The top 20 will then score another trip, this time to Abu Dhabi, where the crowning of the first virtual F1 champ will take place at the same time as the winner of that nation’s physical race is revealed.

We’re not told if the virtual champ gets to spray champagne around or drink it from their shoe, but F1 will make the winner a “character in the F1 2018 game” as “a timeless reminder of his or her accomplishment.”

F1 says one reason it’s doing this is a “continued ambition to build a greater connection with wider audiences, especially younger fans.” It’s hard to fault that logic: kids these days raised with on-demand-everything are less likely to tune in to F1’s travelling circus at all hours, potentially shrinking TV audiences and in turn likely lessening the fees F1 can charge broadcasters. All of which makes tapping into a cash stream from games sensible business, even if the timing if the launch of this virtual race series looks like a tawdry tie-in. ®

The Joy and Pain of Buying IT – Have Your Say

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Microsoft Has Problems as They Work to Improve Office 365 Support

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The Challenge of Office 365 Support

A vast variety of organizations use Office 365 from 5-people businesses to the largest multinationals. The experience of the people working in those tenants range from zero IT experience to some of the most experienced technologists. The upshot is that Microsoft receives a massive stream of support requests daily in over 100 languages looking for help with anything from very basic questions to some very deep and specific problems that might take weeks to solve. Microsoft needs to record, work on, and solve all those requests. It is truly a Herculean task.

A team within the Office 365 product organization, called “Satisfy”, is responsible for making the support experience as good as possible for customers. Some of those changes are flowing out to tenants now, but it has been a bumpy ride.

Flawed Switchover for Office 365 Support UI

Over the past few months, several posts appeared in the Microsoft Technical Community to describe problems that people had with Office 365 support. To be fair to Microsoft, any system has a certain volume of ongoing support problems. And the sheer size of Office 365 means that its support load and support issues can be large. Given the scale of Office 365, there are always likely to be some support snafus ongoing at any time.

An April 19 post describes how Microsoft had changed the “support experience” or the UI in the Office 365 Admin Center to allow tenant administrators to file support requests. For some tenants, the change restricted administrators to be able to open no more than a single support request at a time and removed their ability to view open support requests and historical cases.

Anyone who has ever run a moderately large Office 365 tenant knows that it is normal to have multiple open support incidents, some of which stay open for many weeks or even months. Removing this capability, even for a brief time, was not an improvement. Thankfully, you can now log multiple incidents again.

Two weeks after the original post (May 3), Microsoft replied to say that they are updating the support experience (UI) inside Office 365 and that: “For a short time, some customers will not be able to open multiple support tickets or see their support ticket history.“

Poor Support Experiences

Roll forward to July 17 and a response from another user to the original post said that: “I’m sorry but this is by far the biggest fiasco I have ever seen in IT Service Management — ever.” The author also posted a comprehensive note pointing out the flaws in the current Office 365 support experience and recommending that Microsoft use the same support approach as for Azure.

That post focuses in on the lack of knowledge displayed by some first-line Office 365 support engineers: “Finally, while Microsoft justifies that working with one engineer is better because this one engineer (or concierge) “have breadth of knowledge in all services” is wishful thinking to say the least. My experience has proven otherwise. They seem more like 1st level support reps who are often forwarding our queries to the more capable engineers in the background. The resulting experience, at least for me, has been: a) those concierges failing to understand some fundamental technical aspects of the issue at hand; b) confusing issues; c) providing incorrect or insufficient resolutions; and d) taking a significant amount of time to come back with a solution.

I think some truth is here. The size and diversity of Office 365 is such now that it is very difficult for a support engineer to have more than a passing acquaintance with more than one basic workload (Exchange or SharePoint) and some of the applications. As someone who has run support organizations in my time, I know the problems that exist in hiring, training, and keeping good support personnel, especially those who can cope with ever-changing environments. And Office 365 changes faster and in more ways than any on-premises environment.

A Cloud of Darkness Descends

Clearly Office 365 support ran into stormy waters with the introduction of the new support experience and the quality of the support received by some tenants.

Compounding the problem, apart from replies in the Technical Community, no one from Microsoft cared to explain what the change meant and how the updated support processes change (and improve) what tenants used before. Nothing appeared in the Office Blog and no mention of any change to support is in the Office 365 roadmap.

How Microsoft Wants to Improve Support

I spoke about the issues with the “Satisfy” team, a very committed group within Microsoft dedicated to improving all aspects of support within Office 365. They acknowledge that they have not communicated the change well and that some parts of the experience do not work as well as they should.

Microsoft says they have four goals in changing the way the support UI works inside Office 365:

  1. Reducing the friction to open a support ticket.
  2. Reducing the time for initial contact from support.
  3. Reducing overall time to resolve the issue.
  4. Providing self-help that is personalized using telemetry.

The old UI asks administrators to enter some information about the problem (Figure 1) before they can create a service request (support ticket). The UI is straightforward and clear and I do not see much friction. Some administrators might not know what feature is affected or how best to describe a problem, but apart from that, completing the form should not be a problem.

Office 365 Support old

Figure 1: Creating an Office 365 support request the old way (image credit: Tony Redmond)

The new UI (Figure 2) has two tabs. One to create a new service request and the other to look through open service requests or to check the historical record of requests for the tenant.

Searching for Solutions

The immediate thing that strikes you about the new (reduced friction) interface is its demand that the administrator searches for a solution before they click Get Help to file a service request. This is a perfectly acceptable step for a part-time administrator to take because they might not know where to look for help with a problem. However, asking experienced Office 365 Administrators to search for solutions before filing a support request is treating professionals like children, especially as the search only covers solutions found in the site. To be fair to Microsoft, the search is not just a document search as it also takes in telemetry that Microsoft has about a tenant.

Office 365 support new

Figure 2: Creating an Office 365 support request – the new way (image credit: Tony Redmond)

I can appreciate that some people need or want to search for solutions, but when I need help with Office 365, you can bet that I consult the search oracle multiple times to look for a solution and gather the necessary evidence to prove that the problem is real before I go near Microsoft. All I want to do is get to the point where I can log the problem with Microsoft, which is what happens in the old UI. The new UI might be prettier, but it is less effective for experts.

Another annoying feature of the new UI is that it does not allow administrators to upload data relating to a problem to Microsoft when they create a support request. You cannot attach logs, screen shots, documents, or anything else. Thankfully, Microsoft says that they are adding this functionality back.

Greater Use of Tenant Telemetry

Microsoft says that a big advantage of the new UI is the way that incorporates background checking against telemetry data for the tenant to help detect problems and offer solutions. In the example given by Microsoft (Figure 3), an administrator reports that email does not work. A quick check shows that the MX records for the tenant are not configured correctly.

Office 365 Support Telemetry

Figure 3: Telemetry finds a problem (image credit: Microsoft)

I see value in trying to resolve inbound service requests quickly and efficiently by using the telemetry and information available to Microsoft about tenant usage and configurations. If this approach stops 5% of potential requests turning into service requests, it will be good for those administrators.

However, I think this approach only works for part-time or not-very-experienced administrators. I also wonder how effective it can be when dealing with problems in integrated applications like Teams, which relies on components drawn from other parts of Office 365.

Apart from not asking administrators to search for solutions, the UI for support requests in the Office 365 Admin mobile app is consistent with the new browser UI.


The Key to Better Support

Microsoft is aware of the need to continue to improve the quality and effectiveness of Office 365 support. Reducing the number of clicks needed to create a support request is good, insofar as it goes, and using machine learning to make sense of tenant telemetry to find problems is intelligent.

I think Microsoft also needs to allow some way for expert administrators to get right to the point when they create a service request to accelerate the problem resolution process. It would also be good to use the telemetry gathered by Microsoft to give administrators regular health reports about their tenants to proactively identify lurking issues.

In terms of a really great support experience for Office 365 tenants, the real impact comes in the back-end where support engineers pick up the problems submitted by customers and work through to resolution. Unless those engineers have the right knowledge, experience, background, and systems, the quality of support will always be inconsistent and unsatisfying.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Brad Dickinson | Pocket FM: independent radio in Syria

Pocket FM: independent radio in Syria

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When we started thinking about the Raspberry Pi project back in 2009, our ambitions were small, and very focussed on local education. We realised we were doing something bigger than that pretty rapidly, but all the same, some of the projects we come across leave us shocked at their scale, their gravity and their importance. This […]

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