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What You Need to Know About Blue Light on Your Screens

CNN reports that Americans spent up to seven hours and 22 minutes on screens each day in 2019 — not including screens used for school work. And that was before the pandemic pushed people’s social lives onto Zoom video chats. There is are risks in all that screen-time. One common concern is the light that

Blue Front Closing

The 90-year-old Blue Front store at the corner of Packard Street and Arbor Street in Ann Arbor is shutting down for good Saturday. When I was on campus in the mid-80’s, Blue Front at 701 Packard  Street sold beer, wine, newspapers, sundries and snacks. In 2014 the campus tradition was converted to a craft beer

VR You Can Taste

During the COIVD-19 lockdowns and social distancing every generation has increased the use of their devices to inform and distract more than ever before. Wouldn’t it be great if our devices could encompass all of our sense? Well that time is coming. Homei Miyashita a researcher at Meiji University in Japan has developed the Norimaki Synthesizer

5G in the D

During the COVID-19 lockdowns work from home saw a 34% growth. Gartner reports that in the in the post-COVID “new normal” (when ever that is) era 74% of bushiness will move some of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions .This signals problems for many Detroiters who live in one of America’s worst connected

No More Facial Recognition From IBM

Updated 06/19/2020 – Redmond is reporting that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has uncovered evidence (PDF) that Microsoft was pursing sales of its facial recognition technology to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) six days after Microsoft president Brad Smith claimed the firm would stop selling facial recognition tech to U.S. police agencies until

What You Need to Know About Blue Light on Your Screens

What You Need to Know About Blue Light on Your Screens CNN reports that Americans spent up to seven hours and 22 minutes on screens each day in 2019 — not including screens used for school work. And that was before the pandemic pushed people’s social lives onto Zoom video chats. There is are risks in all that screen-time. One common concern is the light that emanates from digital devices.

PrismAll visible light falls on a color spectrum based on the frequency of a wavelength and energy levels produced by each color. Blue light is a short wavelength high-energy, visible (HEV) light. Darker colors blue are the closest to more dangerous UV wavelength and strength. Lighter colors like red are on the opposite end of the spectrum with longer wavelengths and lower energy levels.

Light spectrum

Blue light can be harmful the same way having too much salt in our diet is harmful. Our bodies are naturally adept at absorbing and dealing with blue light exposure, but like anything else, too much can be bad.

We are surrounded by blue light in our natural environment our whole life. We tend to only worry about blue light coming from display screens, it also :come from:

  • Naturally from the sun,
  • Fluorescent lights, and
  • LED light bulbs.

LED RGB pixelsMost computer monitors, cell phone screens, and flat-screen TVs are additional sources of blue light. HP explains this is because white light LED combines with blue LED to create a solid-state light which uses significantly less energy and power than alternative sources of light, making it ideal for electronic devices. It is these digital devices that causes excess  blue light exposure and the concern.

Our skin doesn’t have much of a problem dealing with blue light, but our eyes don’t have the same level of adaptation. Because the wavelength of blue light is short and powerful, it can penetrate past the cornea to reach the retina, which is the most light-sensitive part of your eye.

Parts of the eyeOne of the most common side effects of blue light exposure is digital eye strain also known as computer vision syndrome. It is caused by staring at a computer screen for too long and may lead to dry, sore, red eyes and blurred vision. HP warns that with prolonged exposure, blue light can harm your eyes and lead to macular degeneration.

You can take some easy steps to avoid permanent damage to your eyesight.  Here are several suggestions to control your blue light exposure. Our bodies are naturally conditioned and programmed to fall asleep when it gets dark and wake up when we’re exposed to light. A 2018 study by Harvard Medical School found that it is important to limit your screen time. Because blue light suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as green light and shifts circadian rhythms by twice as much.

The same Harvard study found that green light may be just as hard on your eyes as blue light. They warn that the two lights are so similar in terms of strength, and there are few remedies for green light exposure, it’s important to limit the amount of screen time – even if you use a blue light filter. 

Get your eyes checkedIt’s not just blue light that can affect your vision. As we age, the lens inside our eye can lose flexibility, resulting in the inability to change focus from far to near. Getting regular comprehensive eye exams are an important component to maintaining eye health, no matter how much time you spend in front of screens.

If you already have prescription glasses, you can move to multi-focal lenses and have your optometrist add a blue light filter on your glasses. If not, “cheaters” from the drug store may be enough – for a while. 

Blinking is our body’s natural defense, it lubricates and cleans our eyes. Normally, we blink 10 to 20 times per minute. However studies have shown that when we concentrate, our blink rate drops. We only blink 3 to 8 times per minute when reading, watching TV, or looking at a computer screen. Dry eyes are irritated eyes. 

Take time to rest your eyes every 20 minutes. Look away from the computer and focus on something distant – out a window.

  1. the average person blinks 10 to 20 times per minuteClose your eyes gently,
  2. Squeeze and hold them shut for a moment,
  3. Open and relax them.

Try to remember to blink more often in between, and when you are thinking, instead of squinting at the screen, turn away and blink a few times. 

A blue light filter can be a physical barrier or an application blocks out blue light. Physical blue light filters work by blocking short, high-frequency waves and allowing long, low-frequency waves through. HP says physical blue light screen filters are the easiest and best way to reduce your blue light exposure. Some are just a clear piece of plastic material that covers your monitor. 

blue light filtering glassesWearing blue light filtering glasses for 3 to 4 hours before bedtime is the easiest way to keep your melatonin levels in check and your retinas protected. You can get an inexpensive over the counter pair online for $10.00 and up to $80.00. The original Blue Blockers cost $19.95 back in the day.

Many prescription and over-the-counter cheaters have blue light filters in the lenses. It may be a waste of money to invest in a physical blue light filter if you regularly wear prescription glasses.

You can also reduce your blue light exposure by adding an app to many of your digital devices. Microsoft (MSFT) Windows 10 comes with a built-in feature Night light that can control blue light.  To use Windows 10’s app:

  1. Microsoft logoClick the Start button,
  2. Go to Settings,
  3. System,
  4. Display,
  5. Toggle the Night light switch to turn the feature on.
  6. Click the link for Night light settings where you can:
    • Set a schedule that controls the lighting on your computer screen,
    • Adjust the levels of blue light reduction by setting the screen temperature – warmer colors filter out more blue light – experiment with setting to see what works best for you.

If you are an Apple (AAPL) Mac user, Apple’s built-in blue light filter app Night Shift requires macOS Sierra 10.12.4 and specific systems. If you can, follow these steps to enable Night Shift:

  1. Apple logoChoose Apple menu,
  2. System Preferences,
  3. then click Displays,
  4. Click the Night Shift tab.

On your Apple iPhone or iPad, go to

  1. Settings,
  2. Display & Brightness,
  3. Tap the Night Shift setting. 

As with all things Google (GOOG) Android the availability of a built-in blue light filters depends on your specific device and version of Android. To see if this feature is on your Android device go to:

  1. Goggle Android logoSettings,
  2. Display,
  3. Look for an option for Night Light or Blue Light filter. 

If your Android does not have a blue light filer – consider using Grayscale mode an accessibility setting in most smartphones.

F.lux is a popular third party blue light filter application. F.lux has apps for Windows, Apple, Linux and even Phillips Hue lighting system

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Please be aware that all of these blue light blocker apps require you to turn on Location services to get the automatic schedule.

Blue light blocking apps can diminish the quality of your viewing experience. HP says that in side-by-side comparisons of blue light filter applications and physical blue light blockers physical devices diminish the quality of the picture and color far less than apps.

Try one of these solutions to save yourself the discomfort and strain caused by blue light.

Stay safe out there !

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Ralph Bach has been in IT long enough to know better and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow him at LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Blue Front Closing

Blue Front ClosingThe 90-year-old Blue Front store at the corner of Packard Street and Arbor Street in Ann Arbor is shutting down for good Saturday. When I was on campus in the mid-80’s, Blue Front at 701 Packard  Street sold beer, wine, newspapers, sundries and snacks. In 2014 the campus tradition was converted to a craft beer store.

Blue Front - Ann Arbor

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I remember the Blue Front as the place I would stop to get batteries for my Walkman, an extra roll of TP, beer and munchies going to or form campus.

This is not surprising to me when you combine campus being deserted due to COVID-19 lock downs with the decision to move to a $20.00 a bottle craft beer model in a student area with no parking.

Stay safe out there !

Related article

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT long enough to know better and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow him at LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

VR You Can Taste

VR You Can TasteDuring the COIVD-19 lockdowns and social distancing every generation has increased the use of their devices to inform and distract more than ever before. Wouldn’t it be great if our devices could encompass all of our sense? Well that time is coming. Homei Miyashita a researcher at Meiji University in Japan has developed the Norimaki Synthesizer which can make the tongue sense tastes without eating anything.

It was once thought that tongues had different regions for each taste.It was once thought that the tongue had different regions with concentrations of specific taste buds for each taste. Now we know that there are five basic tastes are sweet, sour (or acidic), salty, bitter, and umami. Bitter flavors are sharp, like coffee, unsweetened chocolate, or the peel of an orange or lemon. Umami is derived from the Japanese word for a pleasant savory taste, was added to the basic tastes group in 1990.

Taste buds have tiny openings that take in very small amounts of whatever we’re eating. Special “receptor cells” in the taste buds can then have a chemical reaction to the food, creating one of five basic tastes. The way these basic tastes combine creates the overall flavor of the food we’re eating.

SVCOnline explains this better understanding of how the tongue works is crucial to the new device. In order to trick you tongue, the device uses electrolytes inserted into five gels that trigger the five different tastes when they make contact with the human tongue. Gizmodo reports the color-coded gels, made from agar formed in the shape of long tubes to create tastes. The device uses:

When the device is pressed against the tongue, the user experiences all five tastes at the same time. But, by using a small box with sliding controls, the amount of different tastes can be lowered, creating different flavors. Sadly, it can’t produce the effect of spicy foods.

To create the different flavors the device is wrapped in copper foil so that when it’s held in hand and touched to the surface of the tongue, it forms an electrical circuit through the human body, facilitating a technique known as electrophoresis.

Electrophoresis is a process that moves molecules in a gel when an electrical current is applied. In this case, this process causes the ingredients in the agar tubes to move away from the tongue end of the tube, reducing the ability to taste them. It’s a subtractive process that selectively removes tastes to create a specific flavor profile – from gummy bears to sushi.

The device’s creator, Homei Miyashita, was inspired to create his “taste display” by experiments that proved our eyes can be tricked into seeing something that technically doesn’t exist. He wondered if the red, green, or blue pixels that make up the screens on your smartphone, PC and TV could fool the eye, could he create something that could fool the tongue? Mr. Miyashita used a similar “pixel” approach o trick the tongue.

In his abstract, Professor Miyashita acknowledged the 2011 research of Hiromi Nakamura, who achieved “augmented gustation” by sending electrical charges through chop sticks, forks and straws to create tastes humans could not perceive solely with their tongues.

Other inventors have tried to expand the senses for the media. In 1959, Charles Weiss, a public relations executive, created AromaRama. AromaRama distributed scents of horses, grass, exploding firecrackers, incense, and burning torches through the theater’s air-conditioning system during the first showing of “Behind the Great Wall.” But the NYT panned the movie, “Check off the novel experience as… a stunt. The artistic benefit of it is here demonstrated to be nil.”

Smell-O-VisionThe next year, inventor Hans Laube introduced an improved Smell-O-Vision with the movie “Scent of Mystery” which was augmented by smells such as freshly baked bread, wine, an ocean breeze or a skunk delivered through beneath-the-seat tubes. Certain smells offered clues to imminent activity on the screen. But viewers complained of uneven or delayed distribution of smells, and the distracting noises of viewers struggling to sniff each scent. For fans and critics, the movie was a stinker. Famed comedian Henry Youngman quipped, “I didn’t understand the picture. I had a cold.

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It’s called a taste display because it was inspired by the way RGB pixels accumulate on a screen form an image of something that isn’t there. These electronic “taste pixels” can be manipulated to simulate any taste. Why? No idea. – But there will be an app for that too!

Stay safe out there !

Related article

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT long enough to know better and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow him at LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

5G in the D

5G in the DDuring the COVID-19 lockdowns work from home saw a 34% growth. Gartner reports that in the in the post-COVID “new normal” (when ever that is) era 74% of bushiness will move some of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions .This signals problems for many Detroiters who live in one of America’s worst connected areas.

Verizon 5gVerizon may be one part of Detroit moving forward in the “new normal.” FireceWirless is reporting that Verizon (VZ) is now offering its fixed wireless access (FWA) 5G Home Internet service to customers in the metro-Detroit area. The telco says the 5G Ultra-Wideband Network will initially be concentrated in the following areas: Detroit, Dearborn, Livonia, and Troy, around the Oakland-Troy Airport.

Detroit
Dearborn
Livonia
Troy

The Detroit 5G Home service will use millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and is expected to deliver speeds of about 300 Mbps. There are several factors affect the speed of 5G networks. Notably, the more people that are connected to a network, the slower speeds will be. Not only that, but your distance to a 5G node may impact speeds too. It also uses the same network the operator is building for mobile 5G which means the FWA product is dependent on mobile 5G being available in your area.  

Verizon is working on higher-powered customer premises equipment for 5G Home that’s expected to expand the coverage area supported by the fixed wireless service. But the improved CPE is not part of the initial 5G Home rollout in Motown.

5G small cell site

Detroiters will get a new “enhanced” form of the product  which uses industry standard 5G-NR transmission standard that, among others things, supports a customer self-install model (a cost savings for VZ). Detroiters signing up for 5G Home will get the new router.The router supports the Wi-Fi 6 standard, promising peak speeds up to 1 Gbps and allowing multiple devices to run at the same time. It also features Amazon Alexa built-in, so customers can control their smart home devices and ask questions, hands-free.

The no-contract 5G Home service starts at $50 per month for Verizon customers and $70 per month for everybody else. The operator is sweetening the deal with an offer of no cost content options to get customers sign up. Among the perks being used to entice consumers to 5G Home, Verizon is offering:

  • One month of YouTube TV,
  •  One year of Disney+
  • Three months of Google Stadia (Google’s new cloud gaming service).

New customers can also get a free Stream TV device. The device is an Android TV-based, 4K-capable streaming product from Verizon. The device is also integrated with the Google Assistant platform and Chromecast “built-in,” which enables users to cast video from the smartphone to the TV screen. .The Stream TV device gets subscribers access to a library of OTT channels, apps and entertainment, including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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Verizon has said it plans to expand 5G Home Internet to have coverage for 30 million households. Verizon predicts that by 2035, 5G will enable more than $12 trillion in global economic revenue, and support 22 million jobs worldwide driven by the digitalization of industries such as transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Not everyone is convinced that these new attempts at delivering fixed wireless broadband will be a success. Lynnette Luna, principal analyst with GlobalData, told FierceWireless that Verizon needs to provide some clarity on its strategy. “They don’t want to deploy it in places with a lot of broadband competition so they look for markets where they have an advantage but I don’t understand their formula.” 

However, she added that she thinks it’s smart for Verizon to bundle the service with other things. In particular, the demo access to Google Stadia because it showcases one of 5G’s key use cases — cloud gaming.

Stay safe out there !

Related article

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT long enough to know better and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow him at LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

No More Facial Recognition From IBM

Updated 06/19/2020 – Redmond is reporting that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has uncovered evidence (PDF) that Microsoft was pursing sales of its facial recognition technology to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) six days after Microsoft president Brad Smith claimed the firm would stop selling facial recognition tech to U.S. police agencies until there is a national law in place that’s “grounded in human rights.”

The article calls MSFT’s Smith’s “stand” last week “as a bit hollow or misleadingly narrow” and “opaque transparency.”

Updated 06/12/2020 – CNN is reporting  that Microsoft has fallen in line with IBM and AMZN and announced it will not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States, at least until there is a federal law to regulate the technology.

Following IBM’s stand, Amazon has  announced it will stop providing its facial recognition technology to police forces for one year.  TechCrunch makes the point that the AMZN announcement did not did not say if the moratorium would apply to the federal government, the source of most of the criticism against Amazon’s facial recognition technology. Amazon also did not say in the statement what action it would take after the yearlong moratorium expires.

Both firms are calling for national regulation of the tech. As I predicted below.

No More Facial Recognition From IBMIBM has made a step in the right direction in the fight against structural racism. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna sent a letter to the U.S. Congress citing concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition software and related technologies could be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling, IBM will no longer sell general purpose facial recognition or analysis software.

The company is not abandoning facial recognition. Reuters cites an IBM source that says, IBM will “no longer market, sell or update the products but will support clients as needed'” As Engadget points out The move comes in the midst of protests over police brutality and discrimination capped by the apparent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

The use of AI and facial recognition has a history of privacy and bias problems. In 2019, Pew Research reported  that  50% of US adults said they did not trust tech companies and 27% said they did not trust law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition responsibly. There are good reasons for the distruct of facial recognition. Many reports have found that facial recognition systems can be biased against non-whites and women, particularly if the training data includes relatively few people from those groups. 

The Verge documents some of the defacto bias’ in facial recognition. In 2018, AI researchers Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru, Gender Shades project was first to reveal the extent to which many commercial facial recognition systems (including IBM’s) were biased. This work led to mainstream criticism of these algorithms and ongoing attempts to address bias.

Clearview AI Inc., which sells facial recognition software that identifies people by comparing their faces with 3 billion images many scraped from social media sites including from Facebook, YouTube, and Venmo . The facial recognition tool, is widely used by private sector companies and law enforcement agencies. Clearview has since been issued numerous cease and desist orders and is at the center of a number of privacy lawsuits.

Facebook was also ordered in January2020 to pay $550 million to settle a 2015 class-action lawsuit over its unlawful use of facial recognition technology.

The Verge points out that IBM is not without a share of blame. IBM was found to be sharing a training data set of nearly one million photos in January 2019 taken from Flickr without the consent of the subjects . IBM told The Verge in a statement at the time that the data set would only be accessed by verified researchers and only included images that were publicly available. The company also said that individuals can opt-out of the data set.

A December 2019 NIST study found:

empirical evidence for the existence of a wide range of accuracy across demographic differences in the majority of the current face recognition algorithms that were evaluated.

Notably, NIST’s study did not include Amazon’s facial recognition software Rekognition. Rekognition, has also been criticized for its accuracy. In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union found that Rekognition incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress to faces picked from 25,000 public mugshots.

Despite Amazon’s system providing what the ACLU called a disproportionate number of false matches of congress embers of color, Amazon posted a statement expressing concern over the “inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country.” But  the richest man in the world  Jeff Bezos and his company are part of the problem. Amazon is profiting off racial profiling of Black people by police.

Using Amazon Ring cameras and its Neighbors app, the company has built an almost nationwide surveillance network of our homes and communities — and then handed its data over to police.

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Mr. Krishna should be applauded for his public stand. But call me cynical – this is also about business. Morgan Stanley predicts that AI and automation will be a one trillion dollar industry by 2050. Change is coming and big tech – IBM, MSFT, GOOG, FB are trying to get in front of it. The titans are pushing for reform – not abolition for two reasons.

First they want to use new regulations as a barrier to entry into this market. They want to upstarts like Clearview AI and 45+ other small to multi-national firms who may have new ideas out of the $1T market.

Second – Big tech knows they can buy the politicians in DC cheaper than having to fight off regulations in 50 different states. Big business has done  this time and again. they will sit in front a a congressional hearing – say mea culpa and maybe congress will pass some lame regulation that the lobbyist wrote and nothing will change because their is too much money on the table to do the right thing to stop the structural racism that led to George Floyd’s death.

Stay safe out there !

Related article

Ralph Bach has been in IT long enough to know better and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow him at LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.