Posts Tagged Digital Cultures

My set up for a height adjustable working environment

That in many professions, workers use a posture that is primarily sedentary has become a regular topic in the medical and professional publications. These highlight the risks and dangers that come about consequence of having a primarily sedentary occupation.
This led me to research options about changing my own home study/office area to be more flexible in this respect.
I no longer wanted to be limited to a single option:-
  • only seated
  • only standing
I wanted the ability to change the height of my workstation, which meant the additional monitor which provides me with dual monitor setup, had to be height adjustable too.  It also meant any cables, power and connection, would need to be able to accommodate any changes in height or action as a consequence of re-positioning either the workstation, the monitor or both.
The most adaptable and flexible solutions, are based around motorised height adjustable work tops.  Typically having some sort of switch/rocker in a convenient location to let you raise and lower your work surface.  However, most of these are cost prohibitive. And even though IKEA provides a solution in the UK, for many years this wasn’t available.

The Solution:

What I eventually arrived at, uses the following items of furniture and office equipment.
The Desk: IKEA – Galant (Bekant) Beech (IKEA now have height-adjustable version : Bekant – but I didn’t get that)
This desk has a curved aspect which fits well with my requirements for an additional monitor, space for the laptop, printer and general auxiliary workspace.
Height adjustable and flexible monitor stand by AllcamGSD110D (Monitor Arm)
Additional Height Adjustment components:

Here is the desktop set for standing height, seated desk and showing the height adjustable mechanisms:

Standing Desk - Standing Set-1

Standing Desk – Standing Set-1

Standing Desk - Standing Set -2

Standing Desk – Standing Set -2

Standing Desk - Seating Set

Standing Desk – Seating Set

Standing Desk - Adjustable Mechanisms

Standing Desk – Adjustable Mechanisms

So how is it working out?

Since I’ve had this setup, I’ve been working roughly half the day, with the standing set up and the rest of the day in a seated position. Generally standing at the desk in the morning, and moving to the seated position just before or just after lunch time. What I am particularly pleased about, is the laptop stand and height adjustable monitor arm. The gas sprung monitor arm, is very stable, yet very easy to move and adjust.  Equally easy is the laptop stand, I just use two positions, so moving between the two and tidying it away behind the monitor is straight forward.

So what about you, do you have a height adjustable desk setup at home?

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How Google is Useful

Recently I blogged about Orientating around Android Devices.   While I did mention the use of applications and services in that post, I didn’t call out any in particular.

However, this screen shot, demonstrates one really useful service, I have become increasingly fond of and reliant upon.

That service is Google Now

Screenshot_2014-07-31-13-25-05

As a reasonably frequent traveller the information provided is succinct, timely and ultimately useful in assisting me plan, and schedule my actions.

As it covers a number of topics, including sport, useful local information, etc, and it is available on the desktop too – it is a pervasive, multi-device digital assistance.

Certainly in terms ecosystem and service, lock-in and increasing consumer dependency, I think Google Now, leads the field.

What do you think?

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Visual Magic with Word Lens

Google recently acquired Quest Visual – the developers of Word Lens – the incredible language manipulating app, that translated language in real-time while using input from the mobile device’s camera.

Word Lens

The app is currently available for free via Google Play.

To see how amazing it is – have a look at the video

It is currently available for Andriod, iOS and even Google Glass

For any traveller or language enthusiast this has a must have app.

And for Google  this plays very nicely into the Language and Translation service portfolio e.g. Google Translate

  • Have you used Word Lens?
  • What other mobile language tools would you recommend?

 

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The Humble Table of Contents & Hypermedia Navigation

A favourite topic of mine for blogging about is on tools and techniques to help personal productivity or group collaboration.  So you may wonder why mention the “Table of Contents”?

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Well since Quintus Valerius Soranus was credited with a little-recognized literary innovation: Pliny the Elder says he was the first writer to provide a table of contents to help readers navigate a long work.  The Table of Contents has been an invaluably useful tool to assist in content navigation since that introduction.  And remains an expected item to appear in any rendition of literary content whether physical or digital print form.

The advent of computer software and the Internet have brought adaptions, and automation.   Such as dynamically created TOCs in Microsoft Word or in Wikis such as Wikipedia’s (TOC info).

The core principle being the use of hypertext and hyperlinks (reference points) to form the navigation structure and format, so presenting the user with a method of navigation through the document contents.

With the advent of collaborative, content management systems, like Jive and Microsoft SharePoint,  while it is possible to render a TOC within an individual document, to navigate it’s own headings and sub-headings.

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What I find is actually lacking is an automated or dynamic inventory of the content of space, e.g. the actual records or documents that exist within that same.   At this point in time I’m not aware of either existing in the named example of content management systems I’ve given above.  I would be interested to hear of system that supports such a service.

I do create these myself, as a way of recording a breadcrumb trail, to be a record for my own use, and feel it does serve in ease my own navigation around self-service content libraries or document repositories.

It serves me well to store contextual material around such artefacts and I have benefitted from productivity gains by easily finding the article and context around is origin or purpose for storage, long after it has passed from my activity memory.

These manual document TOCs are part of Personal Knowledge Management kit bag.

Here’s an example I call “Key Links”

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I was slow to realise that Evernote has a “note link” functionality, and again these can be constructed and utilised as a manner to navigate and move between notes.

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See this help note “How to use note links to connect between notes” to understand how to create and set these up.

As it says:

One of the coolest things you can do with Note Links is create a Table of Contents for a set of notes inside of a notebook. This is particularly useful if you are sharing a notebook with other individuals.

And the Evernote Blog article:

Quick Tip: How to Use Note Links

Here is a youtube describing the functionality.

Evernote Note Links

My recommendation is always add a link back to the TOC document you have created, so you have the ability to go and return via hyperlinks with equal ease, there is no point linking somewhere and ending up stranded.

Like this:

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Do you use TOCs in this manner, in Evernote or elsewhere? 

Have you found an automation tool to do this?

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Music Streaming – Time to go with the flow?

Spotify grandly announced (on Dec 11th 2013) that Led Zeppelin’s albums are now available on the popular music streaming service.

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Having such a globally recognised musically brands as Led Zeppelin, in addition to recent additions such as Pink Floyd, Metallica and The Eagles, in the Spotify stable has demonstrated the weight and momentum behind the music streaming service model.

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Though a number of popular artists still hold out such as: AC/DC, and the Beatles though as these articles point out on-line distributions and sales services (such as iTunes) are being patroned.

I think is significant that these bands which initially held out against music streaming services such as Spotify, RhapsodyRdio etc., are now coming on board.  While there may be real concerns and issues in terms of payment arrangements | terms to the artists (see BBC article “Spotify reveals artists earn $0.007 per stream”) – other services from Google Play (All Access) not forgetting Youtube, Apple (iTunes Radio) and Amazon (Cloud Player).  Admittedly that may be a considerable shrink in terms of pay per stream instead of pay per song (9.1 cents (per song) – via wikipedia (don’t believe everything you read!)) – but the comparison of music streams to actual physical albums sales are subject to drastically different economic models and trajectories.  And certainly from these charts, someone is making money from this.

I am a Spotify subscriber, so I’m not out to rip-off artists, in fact my subscription to Spotify is my way of supporting the music industry.  I now pay something every month, rather than occasionally buying a CD.  For me as consumer the model has great benefits, primarily being no longer limited to the physical copies I have to hand (actually purchased and own). So I am able to enjoy and sample a immeasurably wider spectrum of music than I ever had before (even the radio stations play ‘carefully selected’ playlists)… whereas with Spotify I can enjoy the full range | catalogue of an artist as I wish.   Also I can’t lose or break the copy of the music I have, it’s there when I need it.

Certainly with digital stores and streaming services, the model of distribution and marketing for artists has changed irrevocably, and while it may not be as fair or mature enough in the commercials; I think it’s fair enough to say ‘the tide has turned’ – music streaming (and media streaming for that matter) is here to stay.

For example look at the new digital service from the BBCBBC playlister

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The new digital service allows listeners to tag any piece of music they hear on the BBC and listen to it later.

At a launch event, senior executives from YouTube, Spotify and Deezer explained why the music streaming companies have decided to collaborate on the service.

Do you agree? 

Do you use streaming service – or stay away?

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Speaker Dock for Android

Since I’ve had a Google Nexus 7 tablet.  One item I’ve looked out for is a Speaker Dock solution.

However, whilst Android based mobile devices are leading market share, in the Mobile docking market, Apple compatible devices are still dominant.

But I’ve recently acquired a Philips Fidelio docking speaker (AS351) with Bluetooth® for Android

The product page has a lot of images, videos and detail on the product so I recommend having a look. Here are a couple of product images.

What I find particularly thoughtful and innovative of Philips is the FlexiDock part of docking solution design – which the following image shows in more detail

The Philips FlexiDock is perfect for Android powered phones. Its unique design cleverly docks most Android powered phones – whether the phone’s connection socket is at the bottom, on the side or even on the top. This extreme flexibility is the first of its kind, catering to Android powered phones that are made by different manufacturers with no standardised position and orientation for the micro USB connection socket.

This I’ve put to good use by adjusting it to simply dock the Google Nexus 7  – which you can see in the following image

IMG_4149

In Review:

It’s a recent acquisition but my first impressions are favourable,  it has a solid feel to it, and a re-assuring touch of quality about it.   Sound wise it seems fine to me, it’s not a hi-fi system or top of the range dock, but the audio quality is reasonable and meets my expectations.  A nice feature is that it charges the device without being “switched on” itself, so the tablet is always charged and ready to go.  Of course it receives the audio signal over Bluetooth so support playback from any Bluetooth compatible device and even has an audio input jack too.

The specifications mention –

  • Shielding technology to block mobile phone interference
  • Precisely tuned bass pipes for deep, tight bass reproduction

Which are sensible design features to reduce noise interference and enhance the quality of the audio playback.

The Philips Fidelio (AS351) is what I think of as the mid of range device this list is the full range of Philips Android docking stations:

One of the things I recommend is if you’re interested in an Android docking system is to check recommendations posts like:

Also hunt around for the best price – there are good deals out there!

Let me know if you thinking of getting some like this as an Android device owner.  I certainly think the market will see more options come available as more and more Android devices are in the hands of consumers.

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Updated Spotify Discovery View with Audio Preview– Big Data in Action

Spotify the online music streaming service has updated their client discovery page, with a Pinterest-like scrolling magazine view with an audio preview function built-in.

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The click and hold Preview action as shown above, makes easy to sample a recommendation and discover more artists and their music, with the slick UI and making it simple and straight forward to move through the recommendations. 

Behind the scenes it shows that Spotify are paying attention to the usage profile of their users, and displaying recommendations and suggestions based on tunes played and playlist content.  While an individual users’ play history and playlist settings may be quite small digitally.  As Spotify has millions of subscribers to the service, cumulatively this must equate to a significant data-set and require Big Data hosting and analytics services behind that to drive recommendations and observe other trends within their user base.

For further information on the Spotify’s analytics set-up see this blog post from Spotify Labs

Analytics at Spotify

Some quotes from that post:

At the heart of Spotify lives a massive and growing data-set. Most data is user-centric and allows us to provide music recommendations, choose the next song you hear on radio and many other things.  We do our best to base every decision, programmatic and managerial, on data and this extends into the culture.

Most of our recurring data is added to our analytics pipeline by a set of daemons that constantly parse the syslog on production machines looking for messages we have defined along with the associated data for each message. Matching data is compressed and periodically synced to HDFS.  Typically data is available in our Data Warehouse and Dashboards within 24 hours, but in some cases data is available within a few hours or even instantly through tools like Storm.

So there you go, Spotify bring music, culture and Big Data together.  I for one appreciate this useful combination.

Have a look at Spotify through their looping video here.

Do you use Spotify, what do you like about it?

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