Assistance Journal–Dealing with a laptop’s Wi-Fi that failed after a Windows 10 upgrade

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

If you find that your computer doesn’t work as it should after an operating-system upgrade, check for newer device drivers from the system’s manufacturer

I had become part of a “men’s shed” community which encourages men to get together and engage in meaningful activities while being a chance for them to open up to each other easily. Here, it became a point where I could “put my skills on the table” and one of the men came to me about an underperforming laptop.

After I had gone through and removed some bloatware and updated the display-card driver on that laptop, the man approached me about this same notebook not connecting to his home network’s Wi-Fi segment since he upgraded it to Windows 10 as part of Microsoft’s free-upgrade program. I had noticed that it could connect to other Wi-Fi networks including the community’s own Wi-Fi network but he mentioned that it wouldn’t list his home network’s ESSID at all.

Subsequently I came around to his home to see the problem for myself and noticed that my Android phone could see the home network’s SSID but not this laptop. I used Windows Device Manager, part of the Windows operating system, to identify what kind of Wi-Fi adaptor was being used in that laptop and had previously researched this problem as something that could be driver-related.

Windows 10 Device Manager

Device Manager – a catalogue of all of the hardware in your computer

After that, I had hunted down a newer device driver for the Wi-Fi adaptor from the computer manufacturer’s Website and downloaded it to the computer. Then I ran the updated driver’s installation program and, after this update was performed and the computer restarted, Windows 10 properly listed the home network’s Wi-FI ESSID. I selected that SSID then used the WPS “push-to-connect” function to fully connect the laptop to the home network and it worked properly.

I even completed an Internet-connection “acid test” of having the client load a social-network session and check that it reflected the latest activity. By loading a site that is frequently updated with changing information, it avoids the Web browser loading material held in its cache which can be common with a site that doesn’t change frequently which makes me think that the Internet connection is working properly.

If you find that something like your computer’s Wi-Fi functionality misbehaves after an operating system upgrade, identify the kind of device performing the function using Windows Device Manager or a similar tool. Then track down the latest driver software from the computer’s, adaptor’s or chipset’s manufacturer and install that software. Typically this can fix the problem once and for all or make the hardware work better with the operating system.

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Using audio-editor software to salvage legacy media

Linn Sondek LP12

You may want to get those old familiar records on to your computer to play on your home network

A task that you will want to do is to record content held on vinyl, cassettes and other legacy media to your computer. This may be to copy it to a CD or have as audio files that you can play on a computer, mobile device or through your home network. It is a task you will end up doing either for family-memory recordings or recorded material where there isn’t a chance of it being reissued on modern audio formats.

What do you need?

Here, you will need to use an audio-interface device such as a sound card or sound module to connect the turntable or tape player to the computer; along with an audio-editing program which records the sound and allows you to edit these recordings.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module press image courtesy of Creative Labs

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module – useful for copying old media to your home network

Audio-interface devices need to be equipped with line-level input connections so you can connect them to an amplifier’s tape-recorder connections or to a source device like a tape deck that has these kind of connections. On the device’s side you will typically have a 3.5mm stereo audio phone jack that is typically highlighted in green or marked LINE IN or some better sound modules may be equipped with a pair of RCA sockets that are similarly marked.

If you are using a laptop computer, an “all-in-one” computer or a small desktop computer, it is a good idea to purchase a sound module that connects via USB, Thunderbolt or similar connectivity technology and use that as your audio-interface device because most of these computers don’t implement line-level input connections on their integrated sound hardware. Similarly, a dedicated sound card may work wonders for sound quality and computer stability if you are using a traditional desktop computer that can be outfitted with standard expansion cards.

Audacity audio-editor software recording

Audacity – a typical and common audio-editor program

One common software tool is the open-source Audacity program which is highly capable advanced tool but may take a bit of time learning. On the other hand, there is NCH’s Wavepad which comes across as a “free-for-personal-use” program for basic tasks or you can buy a fully-function program for under $100. This one does provide an interface that you can easily get a grip of for most editing tasks. It is also worth noting that you may have ended up with an audio-editor program if you bought an audio-interface device for your computer like a USB sound module; or it may have been bundled with a comprehensive multimedia package or perhaps your computer.

How do I go about this?

Create a software monitor path using your audio-editing software

Here, you create a “confidence monitoring” path to be sure that the sound that you want to record is getting from the source device to the software. This can be useful if you want to hear the source coming through that software or as a troubleshooting tool.

Audacity - audio inputs

Audio inputs on Audacity

Select the “recording device” or “source input” that your source device or amplifier is connected to directly on the audio-editor software. Typically this refers to the actual jack on the sound-card or sound-module that your source device is connected to. Then you select the “playback output” or “playback device” directly on audio-editor software if the software allows you to do so.

Audacity - audio outputs

Audacity – audio outputs

If you use a hi-fi amplifier with a “tape-monitor” switch, connect the sound module’s audio input and output to the amplifier’s tape input and output connections. Then you select the source you want to record using the input selector and enable the tape-monitor function on the amplifier if you want the monitoring ability.

Some highly-sophisticated amplifiers have the ability to select which audio source is recorded by a connected tape deck such as through a “record select” switch, or there are amplifiers and receivers that have two tape loops but have a “dubbing” switch that determines how the sound flows between those connections. In the former situation, you may have to set the “record select” switch to the appropriate input and in the latter situation, you may have to select “Source” on the tape-dubbing switch unless you are recording from a tape deck connected to the other tape loop, where you would select that recording device using the tape-dubbing switch.

For the software, you would have to select the sound-module audio input connected to the tape output as the recording device and the sound-module audio output connected to the amp’s tape input as the playback device. Then you would have to enable software monitoring, also known as “software playthrough” in the audio-editing software to verify that the sound is coming through. On the other hand, modern Windows operating systems have the “Listen” tab in the Recording Devices Properties dialog box to allow you to “listen” to the source through your computer’s default audio-output device or an audio output device of your choosing, again useful for verifying your setup.

Setting recording level and parameters

Most of the software will have a level meter but this may require you to enable a “monitor” function on the software to see the meter in action. It is also the time where you can troubleshoot any connection problems.

VU meters on Philips DCC-900 in play mode

VU meters that indicate playback output level

If you are playing a a recording on a playback device equipped with VU meters that show the output level during play, check these meters for audio output coming from that recording. As well, if the equipment uses an adjustable level for its line-level outputs, adjust this control to at least 75% or 80% of its maximum level. Then you use the software’s level meters to determine the recording level, making sure you allow a bit of headroom on the meters. On the other hand, you may try adjusting the software’s recording level to maximum and winding back the source equipment’s output-level control to achieve the right signal level if the source equipment is connected directly to the audio-capture device.

As well, you set the digital-recording parameters to 16 bit quantisation and 44.1 kHz sampling rate for all legacy recording media if you use an analogue signal path. Also set up the recording parameters to record in stereo unless the recording was recording from a mono source or recorded with mono equipment, whereupon you set the parameters for mono recording. Using 44.1 kHz sampling rate works properly for burning to CD, or you could use 48 kHz if you are working towards using the material in a video project, but you can use either

You may find that using one of the audio filter functions on your amplifier like a “subsonic filter” may come in handy when recording vinyl for example. Similarly, using the Dolby noise-reduction function on your cassette deck may benefit the transfer process for a suitably-recorded tape.

Assuring proper computer performance

It may be a good idea to make sure that as few applications and tasks are running on your computer before you commence recording. This is because you need to dedicate your computer’s processor and RAM resources to the recording task and make sure that it will record reliably and properly.

This may involve closing email clients, games, office applications and Web sessions before you commence the recording session. Then, while you are recording, you make sure you aren’t using any other app on the computer that is doing the recording.

For laptops, it may be better to have them connected to AC power so that the recording session isn’t destroyed due to the battery dying. Sometimes, you may have to set your computer’s power-usage behaviour to “full-on” or “high-performance” for your recording job so that it doesn’t go to sleep during recording.

Recording

When you are ready to record, start the software recording then start your legacy media playing. Once the recording is complete, make sure that you save the sound file or project depending on the software so you don’t lose the recorded sound.

Use your turntable's cueing lever or button to lower the arm when you start playing that record

Use your turntable’s cueing lever or button to lower the arm when you start playing that record

If you are recording from vinyl using a manual or semi-automatic turntable, use the cueing function if it has one to lower the stylus to the record rather than actually lifting the arm on. It is typically represented by a lever at or near the arm’s pivot or some turntables have a button on the front of the base or near the front edge. This will protect the stylus from being chipped and avoids unnecessary loud clicks.

What you will end up with is a large WAV or AIFF uncompressed PCM file for the whole recording or a side of the recording if you record different files for each side or program.

Changing the media during recording

If you have to attend to the medium such as to change sides on a record or tape, you could pause the software’s recording function before you turn the record or tape over. This has all of the album recorded as one file and may be found to reduce glitches.

On the other hand, you may want to stop and save the recording before you attend to the medium then start recording the other side to a new file. This can work well with most studio recordings which are centred around individual tracks or where each side represents a logical part in the recording.

Some audio-editing programs support a silence-based automatic pause or stop function so as to have the recording stop when the source material hits the end of the side.

Editing

Most such software offers the ability to edit a recording that you have made. This can range from simple “cut-and-splice” editing such as to split a recording in to multiple files, combine two recordings in to one recording or remove unwanted noise from a recording.  Anyone who has worked with open-reel tapes or MiniDisc will be familiar with these editing techniques. Your first recording will be a time to become familiar with how your software implements these editing techniques and the way you perform them.

Audacity and some other audio-editing tools allow you also to “mark up” a recording file with index markers kept as a separate file or as part of a logical “project” file. This may be used to facilitate exporting of the file as individual tracks, but allow you to use the effects to adjust the sound across the whole of the audio recording. On the other hand, you may use the cut-and-splice editing techniques to break up the audio files in to individual tracks.

These audio-editor programs also offer the ability to adjust the sound of the recordings courtesy of built-in “effects” or audio-processing routines. There are the elementary effects like equalisation (tone adjustment) or dynamic-range compression but a lot of the programs offer routines geared towards this activity like audio-level normalising, noise-removal and speed adjustment (handy for tapes that have been recorded on portable equipment with half-dead batteries or using a turntable that is only capable of working at 33rpm and 45rpm to work with 78s).

A good practice is to save your recording when you get your editing perfect. Sometimes you may want to save the recording as a copy if you are trying an edit or effect out so you don’t ruin your original recording or a successful edit or effect treatment. This may be an important practice as you become familiar with your editing software and will be of value if you are trying to “bring out” poorly-recorded material like cassette recordings made using portable recorders with their integrated microphones.

Editing techniques for legacy media transfer

A good editing technique would be to trim off silence at the start and end of the whole recording and excess silence that has existed between sides or programs of that recording.  For example, some recordings especially those that are on a tape have a longer silent period before the end of the side to preserve a logical program break but have extra space available on the medium for that side.

You could also be removing unnecessary clicks and pops, especially those that are loud and are typically of equipment being started or stopped.

As well, you use the normalising function to bring the tracks’ peak volumes louder but preserve any dynamic range that exists in the recordings. You may have to set up channel-independent normalisation if you have recorded form most consumer-focused equipment because there is a tendency to make one of the stereo channels stronger than the other.

Similarly, the amplify function can come in handy for those recordings that have come through very weak but this is simply about multiplying the volume in that recording and can lead to clipping and distortion if you aren’t careful.

Various filter and equalisation function can be of use to remove unwanted noise such as tape hiss or vinyl rumble. Here, you may have to save a “reference” version of your file and toy around with these filters if you are trying to remove the noise.

Exporting

Most audio-editing software allows you to export the audio content in to different file formats like MP3, FLAC, WMA or AAC compressed forms or a WAV or AIFF uncompressed form. Some of the programs even allow you to “burn” an audio CD from the files you create thanks to an integral CD-burning software engine.

If you use another program to burn audio CDs, make sure that you export your audio content to WAV or AIFF uncompressed PCM files with one file per track. These are the best-quality audio files you can work with when you are targeting these CDs.

Most exporting procedures also allow you to add metadata to CDs as CD-Text data or to files as integral ID3 data. Here, fill in as much metadata as you can about the recording and assign genres particular to the recording’s content. It is important when you copy the files to your DLNA media server or smartphone, or make use of CD-Text when you burn CDs.

Then, you can get away with exporting your legacy-media salvage effort to FLAC files which are a lossless file being handled by most good-quality audio equipment. Similarly, you could export the recording to a 320kbps MP3 file if you want widest compatibility with older MP3-playing equipment.

Conclusion

Once you use a suitably-capable audio interface device connected to your hi-fi equipment along with audio-editing software, you can use your computer as a tool for recording LPs that won’t ever be released anymore or salvaging family memories thus having them on your home network.

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Showing photos on the large screen in your dual-screen setup

You may want to show pictures from a laptop to a big TV screen

You may want to show pictures from a laptop to a big TV screen

You have ended up with a collection of photos on your computer that you want to show using the video projector or large-screen TV. This may be like having that carousel of slides ready to show on the old slide projector – here you had this collection of slides ready after you came back from that trip or event.

This situation can apply to a range of use cases such as:

  • A person who is previewing pictures they have taken on a large screen so you can assess them in a better manner
  • Returning travellers who want to show their relatives or friends pictures they have taken during their travels
  • Businesses showing pictures of their latest products or pictures from a trade show
  • Churches who are showing their congregations the photos taken during outreach or missionary events

You may think that your presentation, AV-playout, worship-lyrics-projection or similar software may do the job for you but this will typically involve copying or importing each and every photo to a presentation and creating a presentation file which can be very inefficient. This is more so if you have had the images properly edited and sequenced so they are in a ready-to-show manner on another computer, then transferred them to the computer you are showing them with using some form of removeable media.

Similarly, you may be going through the pictures that you just took with your digital camera then imported to your computer and want to use the large screen such as your home or hotel-room TV so you can assess them more critically.

What do you need to be sure of

Windows folder with pictures in numerical sequence

Pictures in numerical sequence in known folder

The pictures, which are of a bitmap format that your computer’s  operating system can handle directly like JPEG or PNG, need to be kept in a known folder anywhere on your computer’s file system. This means that they can exist on your computer’s hard disk, on an optical disc that you or someone else “burned”, on a USB memory stick or an SD card such as what you took out of your camera. In some cases, it can also extend to online storage services if they are in sync and you are using native software to integrate them as part of the file system. As well, this may apply to your camera or smartphone if you have “tethered” it to the computer using a USB cable and it works to PTP requirements.

Photos on your camera's memory card

Pictures on your digital camera’s memory card or downloaded from your camera will be numbered in this order

The pictures will also be in a known numerical sequence. If they came off a digital camera or mobile phone, they will have a file name with a number that increases with every shutter-click. If you have edited them or had images from other sources, you will most likely make sure they are numbered to reflect the order in which they are shown as highlighted in the illustration.

What I refer to as the “large screen” in these instructions is a projector or a large-screen TV/monitor connected to your computer as a secondary display and what you want your pictures to be shown on. This display has to be configured to “extend” your computer’s main operating screen which I refer to as the “computer screen”.

Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 with Windows Photo Viewer

Here, you use Windows Photo Viewer which comes standard with Windows from version 7 onwards. This program can run a slide show based on image files without taking up too much computer resources/

  1. Open the folder where the pictures that you want to show are located
  2. Open the first picture in the folder or the first picture you want to show in the case of a large collection with Windows Photo Viewer 

    Image in Windows Photo Viewer

    First image of the collection opened in Windows Photo Viewer

  3. Click Play or press F11 to have the picture full screen on the computer’s screen. This will also start the pictures automatically advancing
  4. Pause this slide-show by right-clicking the currently-showing image and selecting Pause
  5. Press “Windows”-“Shift”-“Right Arrow” together to throw the image to the projector or large screen. This step is important or you won’t have it on that big screen.
  6. To manually advance the pictures, press the right arrow key to go forward or the left arrow key to go back. This option is useful when you are showing the pictures to accompany a presentation in order to avoid them being “out of sync” with the presenter, or if you are going through a collection of images like what you just took.
    When you have finished, press ESC on the keyboard to close the program
  7. To automatically advance the pictures, right-click the picture on the large screen and click Play or press F11 (auto advance). This is the option best used for images to be shown in the background.
    Image on screen

    One of the pictures now up on the screen after you follow this procedure

    You have the ability to vary the slide show will appear by clicking on “Shuffle” to have the slides shown in random order (useful when showing as background “wallpaper”) or to vary how long they stay on the screen by clicking the “Slow”, “Medium” or “Fast” options.
    Press “Windows” to regain control if you want to use the computer during an automatic slide-show. You will also see a square “picture” icon in the Taskbar on your computer screen, which is an indicator that Windows Photo Viewer is running.
    To stop, click on that “picture” icon that represents Windows Photo Viewer and press ESC on the keyboard

Once you know how to quickly run a slide show with a pre-edited collection of images and using software that doesn’t require you to “prepare” them for showing, you can make use of the large screen more easily to show those photos.

This article will be updated as I gain more knowledge on how to use other cost-effective or supplied software in other platforms to quickly show a bunch of image files on the large screen without having to prepare a presentation.

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What is a GPU all about?

Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

The GPU, whether dedicated or integrated is what paints the picture on your computer screen

What Makes A GPU Different From A CPU? | Gizmodo

My Comments

A graphics processing unit or GPU is a special data-processing chipset that effectively “paints” the images that you are to see on your computer screen. This is compared to the central processing unit or CPU which is focused on handling the data that your computer is dealing with at your command and being the system’s “commander” processor.

The idea of a separate processor is to effectively work with the shapes, pixels and colours that constitute what you see on the screen and the highly-sophisticated GPUs handle this using multiple “cores” or unique processors. Another factor worth considering is that video editing, animation and transcoding programs are making use of the GPU to transcode the video material between different formats or rendering an animation or a sequence of shorter video clips in to one longer video clip.

Gaming rig

A “gaming rig” tower desktop computer equipped with high-performance display cards

The higher-performance GPUs, typically offered as display cards that are installed in desktop computers especially “gaming rigs” set up by computer-games enthusiasts, use multiple “cores” or unique processors so they can realise the high-resolution graphics very quickly and responsively. Some of these cards even implement setups like “Crossfire” with the ability to gang two display cards together for increased performance.

Integrated vs dedicated GPUs

Typically the difference between an integrated or dedicated GPU is that a dedicated GPU has its own memory and other resources for “painting” the graphics images while an integrated GPU “borrows” resources like RAM memory from the system’s CPU. As well, a lot of these dedicated GPUs are designed and developed by companies who specialise in that field.

The benefit of a dedicated GPU is that it can turn out the graphics images required by demanding applications like games, video editing, CAD and the like efficiently because its resources are focused on what you see while the CPU and system RAM are focused on working out what is to happen.

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable STAMINA-SPEED switch

Sony VAIO S Series – equipped with dual graphics with an easy-to-use operating-mode switch

For example, a game needs the use of the CPU to answer the players’ commands, apply the game’s rules and position each of the elements while it needs the GPU to visually represent where everything is. Here, the dedicated GPU can handle how everything is represented without encumbering the CPU’s tasks relating to how the game runs.

The main disadvantage with dedicated GPUs that affects laptops and other portable computers is that they can quickly drain the computer’s battery. This has been answered in a few ways like equipping laptops with integrated and dedicated graphics chipsets and adding logic like NVIDIA’s Optimus to switch between the different chipsets, in a similar vein to how the overdrive or “sports mode” in some cars work. In most cases, this logic engaged the dedicated graphics if the computer was running a graphics-intensive program like a game or video-editing program or was running on external power.

External GPU docks

Alienware high-performance laptop computer with Graphics Amplifier external GPU module

Alienware high-performance laptop computer with Graphics Amplifier external GPU module

A new trend that is starting to appear and benefit laptop-computer users is the “external GPU” dock or module that connects to the laptop computer. These appear in two different forms – a “card cage” like the Alienware Graphics Amplifier where a user can install a desktop graphics card, or a graphics module which has the graphics hardware installed by the manufacturer.

Initially these devices were connected to the host computer using a connection that was proprietary to the manufacturer but now they are implementing the Intel Thunderbolt 3 via USB Type-C connection due to it offering PCI-Express data-transfer bandwidth, thus allowing for increased interchangeability between computers and docks. Most of these implementations will have the ability to send the graphics back to the host computer’s screen or to an external display that is connected directly to the external GPU module.

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

A graphics expansion module that could option up budget and mainstream laptops

These devices have appealed as a way to “option up” laptop, all-in-one and similar computers for high-performance dedicated graphics. It is more so where you don’t need to have dedicated graphics all the time, rather when you have that laptop or 2-in-1 “back home” and ready to work or play.

Conclusion

The graphics processors or GPUs, whether integrated on a computer’s motherboard, installed on a display card or housed in an external GPU module, are processors that look after “painting” the images you see on your computer’s screen.

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Creating “download-to-print” material for a distributed-printing campaign

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer – could work with “download-to-print” campaigns

Increasingly, it is becoming feasible to turn out flyers and other print-ready material that can be printed on a distributed basis. That is where people can use their own inkjet or laser printers to turn out the material, underscoring the role of these printers as a small-business short-run printing press, or deliver it to a print shop for higher-capacity better-quality printouts. For that matter, the big office-supply-store chains like Office Depot, Staples and Officeworks do this kind of printing for reasonable prices.

Churches and similar organisations can use this method as a way to distribute documents like monthly calendars because the congregants can turn them out using their own printers and pin it up on the fridge. Similarly, the Country Fire Authority used “download-to-print” as a campaign tool in their fight against the reduction of the volunteer firefighters’ role in this fire service.

How do you achieve this?

But how do you do this? Here, you author your document to a known common paper size using your favourite word-processing, desktop-publishing or presentation software and when it is finished and approved, you export it as a PDF file. This file is then placed on your Website for your supporters to download then print or take to a print shop.

Brother HL-3075CW colour LED printer control panel detail

You can print PDF documents from a lot of printers’ control panels

This is because the Adobe PDF file format has become the de-facto “electronic hard copy” format and most print shops and copy shops can print from this format. Most printers like a lot of the equipment reviewed on this Website have the ability to print from PDF files held on a USB memory key or similar storage medium just by you selecting the document using the machine’s control panel.

You can use this procedure with email-based campaigns by attaching the PDF file to the email or providing a link to the PDF file on your Website in the email. Here, you need to be sure that the PDF file is a properly-formed PDF file because malformed PDF files can be used to transport malware.

What paper sizes to use

If you are in a country that uses the ISO 216 “A” series of paper sizes such as A3, A4 or A5, the job is made much easier. It is because this paper standard implements what is known as the “silver rectangle” which has the aspect ratio of 1:1.4142135 (square root of 2), thus allowing you to print on a page size smaller or larger in the series than what it was authored for. Here, you can get away with authoring a document for an A4 sheet yet it turns out properly on the large A3 sheet or smaller A5 sheet. This will also appeal because an increasing number of office inkjet printers, especially from Brother, are offering A3 printing.

Countries like the USA may require you to author the document for the targeted paper size like the common Letter paper size. On the other hand, you may have to have a Ledger or Tabloid paper size for something that is to be large or “half-letter” for something that is to be smaller than Letter.

The DL and similar paper sizes are hard to print from an office printer because most of these printers and the PDF software don’t readily support multiple-copies-on-one-sheet or require the operator to perform a lot of trial and error to print these sizes. These are best turned out by a print shop who can then print and cut the documents. On the other hand, you may have to engage staff or volunteers to cut out the documents and this can take a fair bit of time especially with odd-shaped documents.

Use of colour in your campaign

An issue that may crop up with your “download-to-print” effort is the ability to print colour. This will be of concern if one or more people are using monochrome laser printers to turn out their documents.

Here, your goal is to turn out a “best-case” document that looks the part in colour but yields a high-quality black-and-white output when you use that mono laser printer. This is similar to what was achieved for TV through the early years while colour TV came on the scene – the picture had to look adequate on a black-and-white set while being able to look the part on a colour set.

This may not be of concern with documents that are primarily text-based and you use colour to highlight certain words, but if you are using background graphics like photos to decorate the page, make sure that you have good contrast especially around text. You could configure your colour printer’s driver to print the document in greyscale to see how it will look when you print it on a monochrome printer.

Conclusion

Once you know how to choose the proper page size for the “download-to-print” documents and can turn them out as PDF files, you can easily establish that distributed printing campaign whether participants use their office printer or ask a print shop or the local office-supply store to turn out the documents.

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Product Review – Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Previously, I reviewed the Brother PDS-6000 sheet-fed document scanner which scans both sides of a document at once very quickly. This model connects directly to a host computer and would work with most document-management software. Now Brother have released the ADS-2800W which is a network-capable sheet-fed document scanner that allows you to direct a scanning job to a computer or a file server / NAS, and this is the machine that I am reviewing now.

RRP AUD$899

There are some more expensive variants of this network document scanner that can scan at higher speeds but I am reviewing the entry-level model.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Scan Scan to Connection
Sheet-fed

600 dpi

Single-pass Auto-duplex

USB Mass-Storage

CIFS/FTP/HTTP network storage

Online Services

SMTP E-mail

USB 3.0

Ethernet

802.11g/n Wi-Fi

The scanner itself

Setup

Brother ADS-2800W document scanner document path

Single-pass document scan, easy to service if anything goes wrong

Brother have avoided the tendency to create a separate setup regime for the ADS-2800W network document scanner, which will be a bonus if you have stuck with this brand for your multifunction printer. Here, the software interface both at the scanner and at the computer are very similar and you can even use the ControlCenter 4 software to process your documents.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi connectivity

It was simple to connect this scanner to the home network although I used the Ethernet connection which is what I would prefer for normally-sessile devices. Here, it can be connected to a Wi-Fi wireless network segment or a wired Ethernet network segment (which also works with a HomePlug network segment) with the former network type working properly if nearer the wireless router. Personally, I would recommend that you use the wired network (Ethernet or HomePlug) at your home or office as I would recommend for sessile equipment.

Walk-up and mobile operation

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner - Web services

It scans directly to Dropbox

There is the ability to use a Web-based interface to set the Brother ADS-2800W network scanner to be able to scan to a computer, file server or NAS without the need to run a scan monitor on that computer. Here, the unit deposits the files to a known directory on the destination device in a predetermined form. As well, it can be set up to “scan and send” where it can send a document via SMTP-based email.

It also exploits the Brother Web Connect infrastructure to allow you to enrol it with Evernote, OneDrive, Dropbox, Facebook and other online services so you can use them as a destination for your scanned documents. You can also scan documents and images to your mobile device as long as you run the Brother iPrint&Scan mobile app, which is how I scanned some snapshots to be destined to Dropbox. An improvement I would like to have would be to see the scanned picture appear on the scanner’s screen so you can have the picture or document the correct way up.

Computer-based operation

The fact that this scanner makes use of Brother’s ControlCenter 4 software and uses the same scan monitor if you are running a Brother MFC alongside it means that you are not having to install extra software on your computer. When I ran the CD to install the drivers because I had issues with the Website, the installer detected the existence of the driver software associated with Brother printers and effectively updated the scan monitor to work with this scanner.

I even had the software set up so that blank pages were skipped even though the Brother scanner scanned both sides of the document when I was handling regular documents. This allowed for a single-side document to be worked on yet be ready to scan double-sided documents when dealing with “print-sign-scan-send” documents.

Scanning results

The Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner, like its stablemate the PDS-6000 implements a straight-through document feed which makes the scanning job quick but is kind to the documents because there is no curved path involved.

A job that I have been putting the Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner to over the past week is to scan a collection of snapshots due to the passing of someone whom I knew well. Here, I had set the Brother scanner to scan at the normal-for-35mm-snapshots “10x15cm” size with a resolution of 600dpi and fed the minilab prints in vertically. The document scanner had turned out the high-quality images while it was able to handle small batches of prints at a time like as though I was handling a multiple-page document. But I would like to see a “photo-optimised” scanning profile that copes with the glossy snapshots and works at a high resolution. As well, there could be the ability to determine whether a photo has a landscape or portrait orientation.

I had found that a bit of dust had ruined a scan of a photo and it was a cinch to remove that bit of dust from the scan head simply by opening up the scanner so I can see the scan heads. Then I was able to blow off the dust from the scan heads.

When I scanned a regular “print-sign-scan-send” document, the Brother ADS-2800W scanner made light work of this job and turned out the right number of pages based on what was marked. This avoided the creation of a 2-page PDF for a document that was written on one side only.

Limitations and points of improvement

A feature that would benefit the Brother sheet-fed document scanners, especially the network-capable units, would be to have functionality that gains the best out of photo scanning. This could be in the form of a “photo-optimised” high-resolution scan mode for scanning snapshots and / or a transparent-media scan mode with negative conversion for scanning film strips such as negatives.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Brother ADS-2800W network sheet-fed document scanner as a network-focused high-speed document-scanning solution especially if you want a high-speed dedicated-purpose scanner that can work independent of a regular computer.

For example, this could work well if you destine documents to the like of Evernote or Dropbox or to a NAS. Similarly, if you are wanting to get that hard copy document to be able to be viewed on something like an iPad, the Brother ADS-2800W and its peers can do the job properly.

But these devices would earn their keep if you scan many documents rather than the occasional few documents that have few pages and I would see it perform well with most businesses including tax agents who scan the receipts that are part of their clients’ “shoeboxes”.

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August responds to its smart lock’s security weaknesses by patching its software

Article August Smart Lock press picture courtesy of August

IoT manufacturer caught fixing security holes | The Register

Here’s what happened when someone hacked the August Smart Lock | CNet

My Comments

The Internet Of Things, along with network hardware focused at consumers and small businesses, has been considered a thorn in the side of people who are involved with data security. This is because of a poor software-maintenance cycle associated with these devices along with customers not installing new software updates for these devices.

Recently, at the DEFCON “hack-a-thon” conference in Las Vegas, a few of the smart locks were found to have software weaknesses that made them vulnerable.

But August, who makes one of these smart locks which are retrofitted to existing “bore-through” single-cylinder tubular deadbolts, answered this issue in a manner that is considered out-of-place for the “Internet Of Things”. Here, they issued software patches to rectify these security issues and offered them as a user-downloadable firmware update.

What is a sad reality for a lot of these devices is that the manufacturer rarely maintains the firmware that runs these devices, if not at all. Some manufacturers think that this practice is about having to “add functionality” to these devices which they would rather do with subsequent models or product generations. But this kind of updating is about making sure that the software ecosystem associated with the product is secure and stable with all the “bugs” ironed out. Similarly, it is also about making sure that the product is complying with industry standards and specifications so as to work properly with other devices.

August uses the latest iterations of their smartphone apps to deploy the firmware updates to their products, typically requiring that you place your phone with the app running near the door that is equipped with these locks.

The computing security industry and computing press congratulated August on responding to the security weakness in its products through a firmware update with “The Register” describing it as being beyond the norm for the “Internet Of Everything”. But they wanted more in the form of them disclosing the nature of the threats in the lock’s firmware in a similar manner to how Microsoft, Google or Apple would disclose weaknesses in their operating-system software.

This issue also is something that is applying to home-network equipment like routers, along with toys and games that connect to the Internet. What is being called out for is a feedback loop where bugs and other software deficiencies in all these devices are called out and a simplified, if not automatic, in-field software-update process takes place whenever newer firmware that answers these problems is released. This also includes the manufacturers disclosing the security issues that have been found and explaining to customers how to mitigate the risks or update the affected software.

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A logo-driven certification program arrives for USB-C chargers

Article

USB-IF announces compliance for USB Type-C devices | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

USB Implementers Forum

Press Release (PDF) Certified USB Charger Logo and Compliance Program Infographic courtesy of USB Implementers Forum

My Comments

Previously, the USB standard has become effectively a “DC power supply” standard for smartphones and tablets. This has avoided the need to end up with a desk drawer full of power supplies and battery chargers with the associated question of which one works with which device. It has also led to various points of innovation like USB external battery packs and multiple-outlet USB “charging bars”. Similarly, gadgets like lights, fans and cup warmers have also appeared that can be powered from a computer’s USB port or a USB charger.

There was also the environmental view that we will see less chargers destined to landfill when devices are finally retired or less need to supply chargers with mobile phones. But a common reality is that most of these USB chargers end up being kept near or plugged into power outlets around the house more as a way of allowing “convenience charging” for our gadgets.

But the problem has surface where particular USB chargers don’t do the job properly when charging particular devices, especially high-end smartphones or tablets. Here, you need to be sure that you use something like a 2.1A charger for these devices and have them connected using a cable known to work.

The new USB Type-C standard is bring this concept as a low-profile connection for newer smartphones along with using the USB Power Delivery standard to extend this convenience to larger tablets and laptops. But there have been situations where substandard USB Type-C leads and chargers have been appearing on the market placing our new gadgets at risk of damage due to them being improperly powered.

Now the USB Implementers Forum have brought forward a certification program for USB Type-C chargers and leads with this program augmented by a logo. What will happen is that a charger or external battery pack will have to show this logo and state its power capacity in watts so you can be sure it will charge your Ultrabook or 2-in-1 as well as your smartphone.

What should be required is that the logo and the power output is stamped on the charger body itself and also a colour code is standardised for the power output. Having such a colour code could be useful when recognising which charger from a bunch of chargers could handle your gadget or which one is the right one to buy when you look at that display rack.

At least something is being done to make it easier to be sure we end up with the right USB Type-C power-supply device for that 2-in-1 Ultrabook or smartphone without the risk of the computer not charging or being damaged.

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Another fibre-based broadband service competes with NBN

Article

Lot 3 Ripponlea café

It could be feasible for this café to benefit form high-throughput Wi-Fi

Ten times faster than NBN: DGtek brings gigabit fibre to Aussie suburbs | The Age Technology

From the horse’s mouth

DGTek

Product Page

My Comments

Lot3 Ripponlea Wi-FI

Could this mean high-throughput here?

It is taking a long time for most of the suburban areas in Australia’s capital cities to have NBN next-generation ultrafast broadband. But DGTek wouldn’t wait around for this to happen and are to provide their own fibre-to-the-premises broadband service in a similar manner to how Google Fiber are rolling out their own broadband service in some urban areas in the US.

Initially this service will cover Elwood and slowly roll out to some of Melbourne’s inner south-east bayside suburbs. This is because these areas have been placed on the back-burner as far as NBN are concerned. DGTek will also start covering Adelaide, Sydney and regional Victoria with Geelong as the first of the regional cities.

Elwood streetscape

This neighbourhood stands to benefit from competitive fibre-optic broadband

This FTTP service will be similar to how Google Fiber is deployed with use of GPON technology and the fibre cables being mounted on the power poles similar to how Optus rolled out their HFC-based pay-TV infrastructure in the 1990s. One of the main goals is that every premises in the coverage area will be able to benefit from this service rather than the pay-TV rollouts not be available to all streets or premises.

Even multiple-occupancy buildings like apartment blocks and shopping centres with less than 100 premises will be provided with full fibre-to-the-premises rather than the fibre-to-the-basement deal with copper wiring to each apartment, office or shop.

Apartment block in Elwood

Fibre-optic connectivity to each apartment

David Klizhov, who is DGTek’s founder, was involved in GPON fibre-optic rollouts in Russia and had come out 10 years ago to form this business. This has led him to be able to put this experience across in developing a competing “own-infrastructure” broadband setup using this technology. Rather than using space in Telstra’s telephone exchanges, DGTek will build their own exchange centres so they can make sure of the network’s quality in an “end-to-end” fashion. They also underscored that they can upgrade this network to XGPON technology (or other better technologies like switched fibre) without the need to deploy new fibre cable in the network.

At the time of publication, the projected connection fee is to range between AUD$275-AUD$500. The monthly cost for a baseline service with 250Gb allowance at 100Mbps symmetrical bandwidth for AUD$80 per month but there will also be a premium package with unlimited “all-you-can-eat” data at Gigabit symmetrical bandwidth for AUD$150 per month. These packages will be offered on a by-the-month “no-contract” basis. The prices and “value-for-money” aspects of this service can easily change when NBN or other competing infrastructure providers come on the scene in DGTek-covered areas.

This has come about because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision have handed down a ruling that effectively opens up the next-generation broadband market to competition, something I have been standing for as a regular Internet user and as the editor of HomeNetworking01.info . This requires that high-speed landline broadband networks can no longer be monopolies, but are to offer wholesale Internet access to other retail ISPs. DGTek are want to offer this kind of wholesale service but they require the ISPs who buy this service to provide fair and auditable billing and  proper tech support as part of the customer-service requirements.

I did some further study in to the ACCC declaration and this placed the requirement on ISPs who are selling next-generation broadband Internet using their own fixed-line infrastructure. This was targeted with the view of having the Telstra-owned fixed-line infrastructure being subjected to NBN ownership and control in the same vein as Openreach in the UK. Here, they would have to resell access to this infrastructure on a wholesale basis while they offer a retail service. But it doesn’t place any sort of declaration on access to the “pits, poles, pipes and towers” associated with providing a communications service to allow for more infrastructure-level competition.

This includes:

  • whether a power utility can limit access to their street power poles to one ISP or telco;
  • whether Telstra or NBN are required to “open up” the urban telecoms pits or rural telephone poles to competing ISPs and telcos who are setting up their own infrastructure; or
  • whether an apartment building’s owners corporation or a building manager is required to “open up” the building’s communications room to competing service providers.

What I see of this is the possibility of European-standard competition for next-generation broadband Internet in Australia, at least in its urban areas. But to see this happen, there has to be strong government oversight regarding the next-generation broadband Internet market especially where this kind of service is provided to households and small businesses. Here, I wish DGTek and other similar ISPs luck with creating a vibrant competitive next-generation broadband market with affordable value-for-money services.

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Pokemon Go and other similar situations may underscore the need for local micro-data-centers

Article – French language / Langue Française

A small server in an apartment block's basement communications room could be part of a distributed computing setup

A small server in an apartment block’s basement communications room could be part of a distributed computing setup

Le phénomène Pokémon GO révéle nos besoins en datacenters de proximité | L’Usine Digitale

My Comments

This year has shown a few key situations that are placing traditional data-center technology under stress. This is based around fewer large data centers placed sparsely through a geographic area and used primarily to store or process data for many businesses.

One of these is the popularity of Pokemon GO. As people started playing this augmented reality game on their smartphones, there was the need to draw down data representing the app from the different data centers associated with the mobile platforms’ app stores. Then, during play, the game would be exchanging more data with the servers at the data centers that Niantic Labs controls. In some cases, there was problems with underperformance due to latency associated with this data transfer.

Qarnot Q.Rad press image courtesy of Qarnot

.. as could one of these Qarnot Q.rad room-heater servers

Then lately, there was a recent attack, purported to be a denial-of-service attack, against the data centers that were being used to collect the data for the census taking place in Australia on Tuesday 10 August. It is although the census is being targeted towards an online effort where households fill in Web pages with their data rather than filling out a larger book that is dropped off then collected.

Both these situations led to data-center computers associated with these tasks failing which effectively put a spanner in the works when it came to handling these online activities.

What is being shown is that there needs to be an emphasis on so-called “edge computing” or the use of small localised data centers also known as “cloudlets” to store and process data generated in or called upon by a particular area like a suburb or an apartment block. These data centers would be linked to each other to spread the load and pass data to similar centers that need the data.

One application that Netflix put forward was their “Open Connect Appliance” which as a storage device that an ISP or telco could install in their equipment rack if they end up with significant Netflix traffic. This box caches the local Netflix library and is updated as newer content comes on line and older locally-untouched content is removed. Such a concept could be taken further with various content delivery networks like Cloudflare or those implemented by the popular news services or social networks.

The trend I would initially see would be suburban telephone exchanges, cable-TV headends or similar facilities being seen as a starting point for local micro datacenters that serve a town or suburb. Then this could be evolving to street cabinets associated with traffic signals, FTTC/FTTN services and the like, or the basement telecommunications rooms in multi-tenancy buildings being used for this purpose with these smaller data centers being used to serve their immediate local areas.

Qarnot, with its Q.Rad room heaters that are actually data servers, weighed in on the idea that a cluster of these room heaters in a premises or town could become effectively a local “micro data center”.

As for applications that I would see for these “micro data centers” that implement region-focused data processing, these could include: distributed content delivery of the Cloudflare or Netflix kind; localised “store and process” for data loads like a nation’s census;,  online gaming of the Pokemon GO kind; and distributed-computer applications that ask for high fault-tolerance. There will still be the need for the “virtual supercomputer” that would be needed for huge calculation loads like sophisticated financial calculations or 3D animation renderings which a collection of these “micro data centers” could become.

Similarly, the issue of distributed localised computing concepts like edge computing and local “micro data centers” could reduce the need for creating large data centers just for handling consumer-facing data.

What could be seen as affecting the direction for cloud-based computing would be the implementation of localised processing and storage in smaller spaces rather than the creation of large data centers.

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Why is New Zealand pushing forward with fibre-optic broadband?

Article New Zealand map

New Zealand reaps fibre benefits as copper-choked UK risks digital exclusion | Computer Weekly

My Comments

What is the broadband Internet scenario in New Zealand

Like Australia, UK and a lot of European countries, New Zealand started off with Telecom NZ which a telecommunications monopoly that was initially run as part of a government-run post / telephone / telegraph service. In order to assure competition, Telecom NZ was split in to an infrastructure entity called Chorus and a retail services entity called Spark in 2011, something that is very similar to how Openreach in the UK and NBN in Australia are operating.

Chorus provide a DSL-based wholesale broadband Internet service with the infrastructure being provided on an unbundled local-loop basis. There is the ability for these services to be sold with a classic dial-tone telephony service or as a “naked” or “dry-loop” service that doesn’t have this service.

They provide a fibre-copper next-generation broadband service for 91% of New Zealand’s households with a throughput of at least 10Mbps – could most of these services implement VDSL2 technology? But they are also providing fibre-to-the-premises in some cities with some services benefit from Gigabit throughput in a few neighbourhoods.

Vodafone New Zealand are providing competitive Internet service in some of New Zealand’s urban areas namely Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch but this is based around cable-modem technology thanks to them taking over TelstraClear’s HFC cable service. But they want to make sure of a fibre backbone infrastructure throughout both of the islands. Citylink also provides their own infrastructure to Auckland and Wellighton central-business districts.

New Zealand’s main ISPs are Vodafone, Spark, CallPlus with Slingshot and Orcon, 2degrees, Trustpower and REANNZ.

Rural Broadband

New Zealand are approaching the rural broadband situation through use of fixed-wireless technology with Vodafone and Spark offering retail broadband to those markets. But Vodafone and Chorus are setting a goal of at least 5Mbps bandwidth to 86% of rural customers. This includes Chorus implementing fibre backbones to Vodafone’s mobile towers, and most of the schools, libraries and health providers in New Zealand’s rural districts. It also includes establishing more of the cabinets associated with FTTN fibre-copper service in to rural districts to “push out” the bandwidth coverage.

Chorus even started off a Gigatown competition where a town could be set up for Gigabit broadband as the norm in a similar manner to some of the “Gigacities” that are happening in the UK. The town that won the competition ended up being Dunedin.

Next-generation broadband effort

The New Zealand Government are behind the provisioning of fibre-to-the-premises in all of New Zealand’s main urban centres that have a population of at least 10000. This is being backed by Chorus and the local electricity utilities, with an initial goal of 75% but now 80% since 2015.

This has been achieved through having more of the FTTN (fibre-copper) areas converted towards FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) along with placing the FTTN cabinets nearer more of the rural population areas – it could be feasible to benefit from decent cost-effective broadband down at that bach you use as a “bolt-hole”.

Why push ahead with fibre broadband?

An article that I read called out why New Zealand is pushing ahead with fibre-to-the-premises rather than “sweating out” copper infrastructure for their broadband infrastructure. This in in comparison with what Openreach is doing in the UK and, to some extent, NBN in Australia where they are preferring to deploy fibre-copper technology seeing it as being cheaper to deploy than fibre-to-the-premises.

Here, it called out the situation in the UK compared to what is happening in New Zealand where the UK central government along with Openreach haven’t been supporting innovation when it comes to providing Internet service.  They highlighted the fact that the Kiwi government were willing to risk more money with a view to see a prosperous country with the benefit of an increased tax base thanks to increased Internet bandwidth and the fact that it could draw more business there. They also were seeing a network that was also cheaper when it came to operational costs such as being more energy-efficient. They also underscored that cellular-technology mobile networks can benefit thanks to many smaller base stations (microcells and picocells) connected by fibre-optic backbones rather than few large towers for the same coverage.

Conclusion

Governments on a national, regional and local level need to support deployment of next-generation technology that can do the job properly. It also includes supporting and protecting a competitive Internet-service marketplace at the infrastructure and retail levels in a manner that empowers value-for-money and service differentiation.

The benefits that these governments can achieve include a stronger financial benefit including a GDP uptick courtesy of the newer technology and businesses wanting to set up shop in that country; along with a future-proof technology approach that answers many realities.

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Yamaha supplements the CD-N500 network CD player with an affordable model

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Yamaha CD-N301 Network CD Player press image courtesy of Yamaha Music Australia

Yamaha CD-N301 – a more affordable network-capable CD player

Yamaha

CD-N301 Network CD Player

Product Page

My Comments

I have been keeping an eye on and given space on this site to the Yamaha CD-N500 which is a CD player that also doubles as a network audio adaptor and is a device I have called out for those of us who want to add CD playback and network media playback to our favourite hi-fi systems.

But Yamaha have also supplemented this player with the CD-N301 which is offered at a cheaper price than the CD-N500. It is also offered in a variant that has a black finish that would go along with hi-fi racks that had that same finish.

Both this player and its older brother, the CD-N500, connect to your amplifier or receiver via a line-level analogue input, occupying just one input on your amplifier’s source selector. But if you have a digital-analogue converter, home-theatre receiver or digital amplifier, these units also provide an SP/DIF PCM digital output via an optical or RCA coaxial connection. They connect to your home network using the tried and trusted Ethernet connection which also allows for you to use a HomePlug AV adaptor if your house isn’t wired for Ethernet or your router isn’t near your hi-fi system.

They also can pull in file-based audio content from a NAS according to DLNA 1.5 specifications or can stream Internet radio courtesy of the vTuner broadcast-stream directory. The file-based audio content can be handled all the way to “master-grade” quality (24-bit 96kHz WAV or FLAC files). If you run iTunes on your Mac or Windows computer or use an iOS device or recently-built Macintosh with recent version (Mountain Lion or newer) of the MacOS operating system, both these players support Apple’s AirPlay network-audio-streaming protocol.

The CD-N301 is based on newer construction but is what I would describe as being “Wi-Fi ready” where you can connect it to a Wi-Fi wireless-network segment of the home-network kind if you use an optional wireless-network adaptor module. There is also inherent software-level support for Spotify Connect and Pandora along with support for vTuner Internet radio and content held on your DLNA-capable NAS.

But it doesn’t have the USB connection for audio playback from USB storage devices or iOS devices. This may not be an issue if your network-based music exists mainly on a DLNA-capable NAS or an online service.

Yamaha shows again that a network-capable audio CD player does exist as a viable option for those wishing to upgrade or replace their existing CD player and add network-audio playback to their hi-fi system. Similarly they also see these players earning their keep for those of us wanting to add CD and network-audio playback to an existing hi-fi system at the same time.

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Network media players that serve as control amplifiers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Auralic

Altair Wireless Streaming Bridge (Product Page)

Technics

SU-R1 Network Audio Control Player (Product Page)

My Comments

Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier press image courtesy of Panasonic USA

Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier

I have reserved my tickets for the Australian Audio And AV Show 2016 to he held at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto on 21-23 October this year. As I have noted in my coverage of previous shows that I have attended. there has been equal space given to the classic vinyl record, CDs and file-based digital audio at these shows. This includes some manufacturers playing music from the different media through the same hi-fi setups.

One of the main trends that is surfacing in the high-end audio department is the network audio player that is actually a control amplifier (pre-amplifier) and designed to be connected directly to a power amplifier or active speakers.  This capitalises on the fact that serious hi-fi buffs have shown a liking towards the idea of hi-fi setups that implement the separate control amplifier connected to either a separate stereo power amplifier or a mono power amplifier (monobloc) serving each channel.

Technics SE-R1 stereo power amplifier press picture courtesy of Panasonic USA

Technics SE-R1 power amplifier – a contemporary take of the legendary Technics stereo power amplifiers of the 70s, 80s and 90s

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, a typical hi-fi stereo power amplifier was built on a large chassis and had a pair of large “power meters” which indicated how much power these beasts were putting up. In some cases, these power amplifiers were considered one of hi-fi’s status symbols and Technics carried this forward in their design of the companion SE-R1 power amplifier illustrated on this site.

Similarly, there has been some interest in some of the sound-reproduction community concerning the design, manufacture and use of active speakers beyond the “computer-audio, designer-lifestyle-audio and PA-system” use cases thanks to right-sized frequency-specific amplification like biamplification and similar design techniques implemented in these speakers. This was something I had noticed at the Australian Audio and AV Show in 2013 when one of the manufacturers presented a set of active speakers as traditional hi-fi speakers. As well, some users may even use an active subwoofer along with speakers served by a power amplifier or a set of active speakers in order to put some extra bass in to the sound.

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

I have called out two network media players – the Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier which is intended to work with the SE-R1 power amplifier but can work with other power amplifiers / active speakers; and the Auralic Altair Wireless Streaming Bridge. Both of these units tick the boxes, not just for network connectivity and online source playback but for the kind of connectivity that can exist between them and a power amplifier or active speakers. These are designed to connect to any of these devices due to use of standard connectors and are proving that this class of device isn’t just for “lifestyle-class” equipment anymore.

JBL EON active PA speaker - this can work with the Auralic and Technics network media player / control amplifiers

JBL EON active PA speaker equipped with XLR connections – this can work with the Auralic and Technics network media player / control amplifiers

Firstly, they work using UPnP AV / DLNA technology for discovering content on media servers or NAS units. Similarly they also provide access to some online audio services like Internet radio, Spotify and others depending on the unit and the firmware in place at the time. Apple iOS users can use the AirPlay function to stream sound in to the sound system connected to these network media players. They also work as USB digital-analogue converters with them serving effectively as sound modules for your regular computer or Android mobile device.

.. as can this B&O Beolab active speaker

.. as can this B&O Beolab active speaker equipped with RCA connections

As for connectivity to a power amplifier, they implement the traditional RCA outputs which work with most, if not all, power amplifiers on the market that are pitched for domestic use. These connectors also allow for someone to use active speakers like the Bang & Olufsen Beolab range or the Bose Powered Acoustimass range of active speakers, both of which are known for high-quality sound.

Aktimate bookshelf active speakers

.. and Aktimate active bookshelf speakers with RCA connections

But they also implement the balanced line-level connectivity with the three-pin XLR plugs associated with professional audio and PA systems. This connection type is also being valued in the high-end hi-fi space for connecting control amplifiers and power amplifiers due to reduced interference but you could even get away with connecting these network media players to active PA speakers of the JBL EON kind.

It could raise the audio-reproduction question about the comparative sound quality of a high-end domestic-use power amplifier or active speaker; and a PA/sound-reinforcement power amplifier or active speaker as similar sound-quality expectations are being required for both classes of equipment.

What is showing up is that these network-media-player devices are being highlighted as a hi-fi option for those of us who want to build a sound system for file-based or Internet-hosted audio content and base that around high-quality active speakers or separate power amplifiers.

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Australia looks towards integrating Internet as a universal service

Article

Broadband router lights

Could broadband be considered part of the Universal Service Obligation in Australia?

Making Internet Access A Right, Not A Privilege | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Productivity Commission

Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Inquiry Page)

My Comments

An issue that I have previously covered is the universal service obligation being extended to broadband Internet service. The universal service obligation is a minimum standard for providing telecommunications services across a country or other jurisdiction with it being funded through different paths like government funding and/or a levy on telecommunications services that are being provided with this funding subsidising financially-difficult service-provisioning scenarios such as rural areas. In some cases, it also includes having the jurisdiction’s welfare system cover the provision of these services to eligible disadvantaged people through a special benefit or subsidised services.

Some jurisdictions have started taking action towards this goal such as through establishing a minimum bandwidth for Internet services. Now Australia’s Productivity Commission are investigating the possibility of extending the Australian Universal Service Obligation beyond landline voice telephony to broadband Internet service of a minimum standard. This is due to a reality that most of the business that people engage in, especially the essential tasks like applying for jobs or government services, is being performed via Internet-based technologies rather than by voice phone calls.

The Productivity Commission’s goal is to make sure that a reasonable-standard broadband Internet service is accessible to all Australians. This includes assurance of access by people living in rural, regional or remote areas where it would normally be costly to provide proper broadband service; along with assuring access to these services by disabled people or those who have financial hardship.

They want to have a technology-neutral approach but with a minimum upload and download bandwidth. This also includes a minimum benchmark for assured reliability and data throughput. Like the original Universal Service Obligation, this extension to encompass broadband Internet service will be publicly funded in various ways.

A good question that can be raised is whether the Universal Service Obligation will cover fixed telephony and Internet services only or will be extended to mobile setups which can be considered by some as a “discretionary service”.

Personally, I would recommend that there is investigation regarding how other countries have approached Internet service as part of the Universal Service Obligation, including the kind of benefits that have been provided to disabled or disadvantaged users for this service by the nation’s welfare platform. As well, investigating the role of competition including at the infrastructure level in providing decent broadband Internet that is affordable and accessible for all.

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