Buses, trams, trains and subways – not what they seem

I have always enjoyed the luxury of private transportation.  Tooling around in my own car has satisfied many moments of wanderlust.

I never invested much thought into public transportation. It was always a nice thought in the back of my mind. I thought of public transportation as my safety net should I ever become incapable of operating my own vehicle due to financial or physical circumstance.

As my travel experience expanded into regions (like New York City and Amsterdam) where public transportation was required for my day-to-day exploration, I realized very quickly that public transportation is not designed for patrons with physical limitations.

When people push for public transportation a benefit often listed is the convenience and freedom it offers to those physically unable to get to destinations on their own. Unfortunately, with what I have witnessed in New York City and Amsterdam, this benefit is unfounded (by my standards anyway).

The public transportation I participated in in New York City and Amsterdam were very well run processes. I used a combination of buses, trains, trams and subways. Not only were these vessels immaculate but they were easy to identify from the street, the destinations were easy to understand and each trip was reasonably priced.

My first impression while participating in this transportation was that of efficiency and money well spent. Unfortunately after a few minutes of observing others, I realized that public transportation is is no way designed for members of the public with physical limitations. What I witnessed was something built ONLY for humans who never require assistance at any time for any reason. Time and again I witnessed:

  • elderly people stumble into seats as the public transportation jerked into action without warning
  • young people not feeling well that had to stand due to lack of available seating
  • people of all ages with crutches or a cast on an arm trying to frantically reach a seat or poll to hold onto before the tram lurched forward
  • turnstiles to access transportation platforms were narrow
  • bus and tram stops at street level were often in horrifying and narrow areas where one misstep would land an unfortunate soul in the path of speeding cars or dare-devil cyclists
  • thinly veiled impatience on the face and demeanor of every participant with fully-functional bodies
  • horrified mothers gasp as doors tried to close on strollers while irritated observers grab the stroller and assist getting it into the train
  • seats too close together for easy maneuvering of wheelchairs, luggage, strollers, people of different heights and widths
  • hoards of lunatics rushing onto and off of the public transportation
  • seats designated for the visually impaired remained empty, a clear indication to me that this group found attempts far to horrifying to ever attempt again

If I had my way I would change the priorities of public transportation in the minds of participants and designers. I would like to see the top priority go to those who truly need public transportation due to physical limitations so they may get from point A to point B safely.  Unfortunately this change in priority would require the majority of the population to step back, take a deep breath and exercise compassion and patience.  I am not sure our planet is ready for something like this yet so in the meantime I will try my best to keep compassion and patience at the top of my own list.  I know one day I will need it from others;)

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Handling video surveillance data (while NOT being a complete whacka-doodie)

Video surveillance in and around homes and businesses, whether we like it or not, is the norm now.  True IT professionals are trained in handling all kinds of data and the handling of the data involves very specific rules focusing on integrity, confidentiality, local and federal laws and respect for others.

If you are considering the installation of video surveillance in or around your home or business, know that you will now be the keeper of potentially sensitive data.  If you do not make a conscious effort to treat the data with care, then expect to lose the trust and respect of anyone coming in contact with you or the surveillance equipment.

Keep the following in mind when reviewing the data from surveillance equipment you have installed:

  • Where is the data stored? If it is stored in a free “cloud” then consider the data NOT private and some or all the data at some point may be viewed and/or sold to third parties without your knowledge.
  • How is the data protected? If you “log in” to something to view the data then take extra care in forming complex passwords that change frequently.
  • Avoid sharing the data with anyone unless activity captured is illegal activity (if it is illegal, share the data with law enforcement).
  • Avoid commenting on activity captured.
  • Delete stored data on a regular basis, I recommend deleting data once every 4 months.  This gives a wide enough range should law enforcement ask for assistance from the community in any investigations involving areas near the surveillance equipment.
  • If you capture something memorable (and legal) that you would like to share with the public, feel free to share it however you like after first getting the permission from all humans present in the data captured.

Over the weekend I listened to a homeowner mock a person delivering a package to his front porch.  The homeowner played the recorded surveillance footage of the mundane event for everyone at the dinner table and ridiculed the delivery person for several things (none of which were illegal).  I could not help but wonder the horrid things they would say about myself if I were to ever visit his home.  The homeowner initially had installed the equipment for home security, but the setup has now morphed into disrespecting members of his community in public forums.  This event was a reminder to me that our society is flooded with fun gadgets but the security and ethics training necessary to properly handle the data being captured is absent.

Tech message of DOOM

Most devices and apps are built with good intentions, I think this because I am a computer programmer with a more often than not sunny disposition. I am also a realist. I have been around long enough to know what it means to not know your neighbors.

I have a tech message of doom for the world today: it is fun to bury ourselves in technology. Tech is a lovely escape from accountability, confrontation and reality – it also does amazing things for efficiency, heath, transport – the list goes on and on. However, hiding behind technology will only make us rock stars of our own empty electronic world and nothing more. Human interaction can be complex and often times dangerous but until we invest in the lives of others then all tomorrows are a blue screen of death – tomorrows that no one person can save us from, we all need to do our part for this world.

Invest in the world if you can, you will be glad you did – our world needs you:)

Update your smart TV. Fear not, it will never be as smart as you;)

Is your computer connected to a smart TV? If so, the following information will give you a good idea of how to update your smart TV.

What is a smart TV? A smart TV can access WiFi and run applications just like a smartphone (unlike a regular TV or computer monitor).

A smart TV, just like a computer or a smartphone, requires periodic maintenance in the form of “updates” from the manufacturer for security and performance enhancements. This is an example of how to update smart TVs:

  • Using the remote control that came with the smart TV, select a settings button. Most settings buttons look like a small gear to activate the settings menu.
  • Navigate through these settings menus to find the network options (all smart TVs are different so navigating through the menus to become familiar with them is the best approach if you do not have documentation handy). In the network options there will be features allowing you to connect to a network (it doesn’t matter if your computer that is connected to the smart TV is connected to a network or not, the smart TV is a separate entity and will not use the network connection of your computer – the smart TV needs its own network connection to receive updates). The screen will tell you if you are connected to a network or not. If you are not, then attempt to connect to WiFi, if this does not work then plug a network cable into the back of the smart TV and plug the other end of the network cable into a network port in the wall of your home if you have one or a network port on your wireless router.
  • Using the remote that came with the smart TV, select the settings button again if you do not already see options on the screen for updating the smart TV. Most settings buttons look like a small gear. Click on the setting to download updates to the smart TV. Wait for the download to complete (a message will appear on the screen telling you the updates are complete, depending on the frequency of the updates in the past, the updates can take a few minutes or up to an hour to complete).
  • Once the updates are download, turn the smart TV off, wait a few seconds and turn the smart TV back on for the updates to take effect.
  • Disconnect the smart TV from the wireless network (by using the smart TV remote > settings) or the hard-wired network (removing the network cable from the back of the smart TV and from the network port in the wall of your home or from the network port on the back of your wireless router).
  • Many smart TVs will also read updates from a thumb drive that is connected to the back of the smart TV, this is an often problematic approach for updating some smart TVs due to the number of steps involved (users have to visit the manufacturer web site, download the updates to the thumb drive while the thumb drive is connected to the computer then remove the thumb drive from the computer and place the thumb drive into the back of the smart TV and the smart TV may or may not be able to read the files on the thumb drive or may or may not be able to even recognize the thumb drive).

Our tech world makes it easy to store and babysit useless data, avoid this practice at all costs.

Examples of useless data

  • Storing documents containing data you have not accessed or updated within the last 3 years.
  • Storing phone numbers in your smartphone that belong to humans that have not contacted you within the last 3 years (you may have contacted them within 3 years but they have not initiated any contact with you within 3 years).

Why get rid of useless data?

  • It takes up space that could instead be used to store photos of puppies.
  • It is an obstacle when looking for valuable data (i.e. useless phone numbers are in the way when scrolling or searching to find other valuable phone numbers). Time wasted wading through useless data could instead be used to enjoy nature or go shopping for copious amounts of jewelry.
  • Useless data is as dangerous as a cluttered desk or home, it can shower many of us in a thin mist of anxiety that is difficult to identify in the early stages of discomfort.

Cleaning up your digital life every few years is one easy way to help you focus on the most important aspects of your life.  Start deleting now and do not look back:)

I want blue light blocking screen protectors placed on top of all of my devices. You cannot be serious.

If you have one monitor and nothing else then I guess purchasing a screen protector could be a reasonable purchase (but only if you use the screen protector until your death at a really old age, at which time the screen protector is then passed onto another really young person who is going to live a really long life).

Who only has one device with a screen in today’s insane techy world? I am betting your life’s techy screen inventory looks something like this between your work and play existence:

  • 4 gargantuan monitors
  • 1 Microsoft Surface
  • 1 Apple iPad
  • 1 Kindle
  • 1 iPhone
  • 1 Android
  • 1 laptop
  • 3 digital frames
  • 5 TVs (even one in the bathroom – someone please explain this to me)
  • 3 gps units installed in all of your cars and electric scooters

When someone has this many device screens, it is a tad obnoxious to expect screen protectors be physically installed on top of each device screen. Why? Because blue light blocking solutions can be worn on the user as opposed to the device (in the form of glasses or hanging a huge screen on one’s face) or actually installing software on the device (some newer devices offer this option) instead of purchasing a bunch of screen protectors that physically reside on top of all of the devices.

If you have only one user and 21 devices (this seems like way too much stuff by the way), why would you subject the environment to 20 pieces of unnecessary waste (a physical screen protector for each device screen) when that waste can be cut down to just 1 piece (a wearable solution for the 1 user or, better yet: researching the screen settings of each device for possible software or settings solutions)?

A wearable or software solution for dealing with blue light not only creates less waste for the world but it may also save you or your company time and money.

Pay for a DNA kit? Then pay to access DNA data? What?! Seriously?

The commercials over the holidays touting the sale of DNA kits almost sent me into orbit.  Why in the world would I pay for a DNA kit and then pay to become a member of a genealogy web site?  DNA data is extremely valuable and these companies want me to pay them to take my DNA data and pay to access DNA data?  I have seriously never heard of any business plan so ridiculous but for some reason many people are happy to pay others to take his or her valuable DNA information and then pay others to access DNA information.

DNA data has the potential to make a tremendous amount of money far into the future.  So many people are interested in DNA data and are willing to pay a lot of money for it.  Unfortunately though it looks as if DNA submission participants may not see any of that money with the current state of things.

When arguments such as the greater good and science are voiced when attempts are made to justify a strange business plan such as this, then I recommend carefully scrutinize the profits at each stage of the process.  Who is getting cash in their pocket at each stage? What will they use the cash for?  Answers to these questions will help you determine if paying people to take something so important from you is really worth it.

Here are just a few very simple examples of what DNA data is or could be used for now or way into the future (and there are many more – some we cannot even comprehend yet):

  • Car insurance companies:  determine who is “healthy” enough to operate vehicles or who may be predisposed to certain conditions that one day may or may not impede ones ability to operate a vehicle (anything from depression to brain tumors)
  • Health insurance companies:  base coverage and rates on odds of survival/disease based on genetic makeup
  • Grocery stores:  deny some purchases (like sugar or alcohol) to those customers with genetic predispositions to certain conditions
  • Designer babies:  ability to pick whatever features one would like for a baby
  • School athletics:  determine who is or is not allowed to be on the high school basketball team based on genetic predispositions (i.e. heart conditions, blood pressure)

Can you tell I am just a tad paranoid?  This paranoia of the current state of some of the DNA collection processes stems from my zest for life.  This zest is fueled by many things, including the belief that anything is possible.  Once humans are reduced to genetic categorizations, then the only things that are highlighted as possibilities for ones self are the items listed on a cold print out of capabilities determined by your genetic makeup.   I can think of nothing more detrimental to the human spirit.

 

Day 20,324…aargh!

If you are:  an introvert, extremely busy or not a fan of yammering on the phone, then you have probably been down this familiar road:

  1. You visit a web site that offers a service you are interested in but the web site has very little information regarding the service posted on the web site.
  2. You visit the “contact us” section of the web site and see a phone number or feedback form listed.  Instead of calling the company you fill out the feedback form (you provide your email address as well as several other bits of “required” data) to request more information.
  3. Starting the next day, you ignore two phone calls per day from this company for the rest of your life.

I find a few things strange about this outcome:

  1. The company is aware of how the visitor reached out to them (by feedback form instead of phone call).  The company seems to ignore this critical piece of information.  Instead of emailing the requested information to the visitor, they choose to contact the visitor repeatedly through other methods.
  2. The company is aware that the visitor has not answered the first 9,000 call attempts they have made.  The company seems to ignore this critical piece of information.  Instead of halting the calls and pursuing another method of communication (like email), the company chooses to call the visitor’s number for a long period of time.  When I say long, I mean well after the visitor has died and his or her phone number has been transferred to other humans.  These poor humans of the future find themselves in a constant state of confusion over the daily calls they are receiving from a company they have never heard of .

Is the human voice so miraculous that its sound must be present in order to unlock the wisdom of this company?

Is this company so fearful that their information will fall into the hands of robots that its employees feel they must verify the “humanness” of each inquiry by scrutinizing voices over the phone?

Is a mischievous person intercepting all incoming communication between visitors and the company and then robocalling all visitors in a crude attempt at being a nuisance with the intent of inflicting financial loss for the company and mental anguish for the visitor?

These questions are too complex for my little mind to answer.  I can only hope for a phone-free afterlife.

Door Access Control Systems can create SERIOUS CONFLICT

A door access control system is an electronically based means of entering a building, usually through the use of a card or keypad.

If you have a door access control system at your place of work or at home then you know that a system like this can create serious conflict with your coworkers or neighbors. This access system often places the responsibility of securing an entire structure solely on your shoulders when you are faced with piggybackers or tailgaters. Piggybacking occurs when someone with legitimate access to a building allows someone without access to the building to come in with them. Tailgating occurs when an intruder slips into the building with a person without their knowledge.

If you are uncomfortable with your door access control system or if you are considering having one installed then note the following suggestions and warnings listed below to help you better deal with a security system like this.

  • Understand that people will attempt (and may succeed) to piggyback or tailgate their way into the building.
  • Understand that no matter how much you train employees or neighbors on the importance of the system, many will become infuriated if they forget their access code or badge and are confronted when attempting to piggyback.
  • Understand that every time you allow a piggybacker or tailgater to come into a facility with you, you could be putting the safety of people or property inside the building at risk.
  • Have a plan ready to implement should you be faced with a piggybacker or tailgater:
    • Avoid confronting a person who is attempting entry via unapproved methods unless you are ready for the repercussions of doing so.  Repercussions could be anything from an unpleasant exchange all the way up to being accused of targeting people in some way to even violence, all of which could create long-lasting problems for both of you.   Many humans do not do well with confrontation or having to explain their behavior or whereabouts to others and you questioning motive in times of piggybacking or tailgating may create a very bad situation with someone you might have to see on a regular basis.
    • Scan the perimeter before entry and exit EVERY time. If you see someone lingering then do not go through the door, it is that simple. Just do not go through the door. Instead just smile at them if they have seen you and walk away as if you have forgotten to do something. This strategy is a huge time waster, especially if your arms are full of boxes or groceries, but it prevents confrontation and potential long-term animosity on the part of the person you would be questioning for access. What if the person asks you if they can come in with you? What if, what if, what if. Blah, blah, blah. You are already worrying too much. It does not matter what they say to you if you are implementing the strategy of just walking away instead of going through the door. If they ask you to let them in you can just tell them you cannot because you forgot the code. This strategy can still cause long-term animosity from the person you ignored because they may have a valid reason to gain entry but I have found this to be the calmest method of dealing with people attempting to gain access through alternative methods.  If they refuse to leave then finally break the news to them that you will not let them in.  But do not get angry if someone else lets them in.  You can only do what you can do.  You cannot control the behavior of others and there are always going to be people who do not care about security just like there are always going to be people who forget that it is because of proper security protocol that they are being questioned.
  • I do not recommend a door access control system when only ONE door makes up the whole system. I have been using door access control systems for about 15 years now and I am not impressed with one door just based on the high number of piggyback and tailgating attempts I have witnessed and then the fallout that occurs between coworkers or neighbors should someone be questioned when he or she attempts entry without proper codes or cards.
  • However, I really like a door access control system when TWO or more doors make up the whole system. It is a setup that creates a great deal of work for potentially malicious visitors and it also creates second chances for people with proper access who have concerns about who has entered the facility with them. Here is an example of a setup I like: the outer perimeter of the building has a door access control system. Once people make it through this first door, they are in a waiting area where there is a table and a phone. This waiting area allows a person to compose themselves should they be second-guessing a piggybacker or tailgater. A legitimate person has an opportunity to call someone from this area, set down packages or simply sit down themselves to kill time to avoid letting the questionable party through the second door. Several feet away is the second door access control system that must be used to actually get into the main part of the building. Beware, this waiting area is an enclosed space that could be putting you face to face with a malicious party. This waiting area can quickly become a dangerous space so train to fight like a warrior now should you ever need to protect yourself:)

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