Product Review–Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Android tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Android tablet which is styled on the same look as Lenovo’s Yoga lineup of “fold-over” convertible laptops. This 10” tablet is pitched more as a something that would appeal to home users and businesses who want something that can answer the Apple iPad.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Price
– reviewed configuration
AUD$249
Screen 10” (1920×1200) LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb Micro SD card
Operating environment Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (reviewed version)
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n dual-band
Wireless Broadband Optional or standard
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
USB MicroUSB OTG
Audio 3.5mm stereo jack

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 standing up

How it looks standing up

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet is an example of a tablet that has strong build quality with metal housing. As well, the Lenovo doesn’t exhibit any problems with overheating even if you are watching video content.

The integrated kickstand works properly and smoothly allowing it to be free-standing and could support applications like an electronic display frame. As well, the Yoga Tablet 2’s “hinge-pin” which is part of the kickstand is used effectively for the audio jack and for the on-off button.

Display

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Sharp display

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 comes across with a bright sharp display that is very responsive but it is very glossy which is something common with a lot of consumer tablets. It has performed well for video material and also for games.

Audio

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 implements Dolby audio tuning in conjunction with the two inbuilt speakers that are positioned far apart thus allowing for improved stereo separation when you are watching video material. But, like with a lot of tablets, they come across with sound that has very little bass response.

Connectivity and Expandability

Hinge pin detail on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2

The headphone jack is positioned in the centre of the hinge pin

The only data port that the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 has is the microUSB charge / data port like what is expected on most Android phones. Here, this one also supports USB On-The-Go connectivity which provides for extra storage connectivity with USB flash-drives and memory-card adaptors at least. The omission here would be that it doesn’t support connectivity to external displays via MHL technology.

As for storage beyond the 16Gb flash memory, there is the ability to install a microSD card in a cavity behind the kickstand for this extra storage. There is also a 3.5mm stereo headset jack in the “hinge pin” so you can connect your headphones to the Yoga Tablet 2.

As for wireless networking, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 works to 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi networking along with Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready connectivity.

Performance

A friend of mine has a soft spot for Plants vs Zombies 2  on the iOS platform, so I downloaded the Android port of this game and gave him a chance to play a few rounds of this game on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2. Here, his experience with device performance was very similar to what he experienced on an iPad 3 Retina which he was regularly playing the game on. There was still the same level of responsiveness that was required for that game.

As for video play, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 worked properly for YouTube playback and wasn’t draining the batteries even after a three-hour Microsoft video presentation about WIndows 10.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Lenovo could offer an increased number of model variations of its Yoga Tablet 2. This could be in the form of a model that has increased storage capacity, a high-performance “gamer-grade” model that suits the new wave of mobile gaming along with one or more models that are equipped with integrated wireless broadband. This means that people can choose the model that suits their needs rather than being stuck with one model.

As well, to be considered up-to-date, Lenovo could implement 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless technology and deliver the Yoga Tablet 2 with Android 5 Lollipop.

Conclusion

Android-based lifestyle tablet

I would position the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 as a viable Android-based alternative to the iPad, especially if you want something that can be freestanding especially for showing pictures or engaging in videocalls. Here, I would best describe it as an Android-based lifestyle tablet.

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What are the multiple drive layouts available in your NAS

WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

WD MyCloud EX2 2-disk NAS – has a 2-disk RAID setup

All network-attached-storage units that have two or more drive bays in them offer different ways to make use of the hard disks installed in these drive bays. These are primarily about creating one logical disk volume out of the many disk drives.

You may also find multiple-disk arrays being implemented in so-called “Direct Attached Storage” devices which connect to your computer as if they are a peripheral or are integrated in the computer. These are typically used for computer setups where read-write performance for secondary storage is considered important like video editing or for computers that work as servers.

WD MyCloud EX4, WD MyCloud EX2, WD Red 6Tb hard disk

WD MyCloud EX4 NAS – can be set up as a 4-disk RAID array

The most common setups are described as “RAID” or “Redundant Array Of Independent Disks”. These setups gang multiple hard disks (or solid-state drives) to improve data throughput, effective disk capacity or system fault-tolerance.

Multi-Drive Disk setups

RAID setups

It is important to remember that a RAID setup that is about fault tolerance doesn’t obviate the need to back up the contents of a NAS. This is something you can do with a USB hard disk connected to the NAS, another NAS on the same network or connected via the Internet or an online storage or backup service.

RAID 0

RAID 0 Data striping data layout

RAID 0 Data Striping across disks

Here, this creates one logical volume with the data spread across the disks, a method known as “striping”. Each block of data is sequentially stored across each physical disk rather than a disk being filled with data then another disk being subsequently filled with data.

This allows for increased capacity and read / write data throughput, but loses on fault tolerance because the disk array is no good and the data is lost if one of the drives fails.

Volume Capacity: Number of Disks x Size of smallest disk

RAID 1

RAID 1 disk mirroring data layout

RAID 1 – Disk Mirroring

This setup creates a logical volume with the data duplicated on each physical drive. a method known as “mirroring”.

The main advantage here is increased fault-tolerance because if a disk dies, you still have access to the the data on the other disk. There is also another advantage of increased read throughput because both physical disks can be read at the same time.

The only limitations here are the volume capacity which is the size of the smallest disk in the array along with the write speed because the disk controller has to write the same data to multiple disks. It is infact a preferred RAID array setup for a 2-bay NAS due to the fault-tolerance.

Volume Capacity= Size of smallest disk in the bunch

RAID 5

RAID 5 Data Striping with parity Data layout

RAID 5 Data Striping with a parity block

This setup works between data capacity and fault tolerance in a very interesting way. It is because the RAID 5 setup creates “parity” data. This is used in computing as a fault-tolerance measure because an algorithm can use this data along with the “known-to-be-good” data to reconstitute data lost in transmission.

Here, a RAID 5 array stripes data across the physical disk collection but inserts a block of parity data at regular intervals as part of this “striping” so as to create some form of fault-tolerance. Then the RAID 5 disk controller reconstitutes data from parity and available “known-to-be-good” data if things start to go wrong with a disk.

The advantages in these setups are the disk capacity, the read throughput and the fault tolerance but there is a performance reduction for those systems that do a lot of data writing.

Volume Capacity: (Number of disks – 1) x smallest disk size

RAID 6

RAID 6 Data striping and two-block parity data layout

RAID 6 Data striping with two-block parity

RAID 6 works in a similar manner to RAID 5 in that it stripes data across multiple physical disks and creates a parity block for fault-tolerance. But a RAID 6 array creates another parity block to increase the amount of fault tolerance in the setup.

Volume capacity: (Number of disks-2) x smallest disk size

RAID 10 (1+0)

RAID 10 data layout

RAID 10 A combination of data striping and disk mirroring

A setup that is used with 4-disk RAID arrays is the RAID 10 array also known as the RAID 1+0 array which is a combination of both the RAID 1 setup and the RAID 0 setup.

Here, there are two collections of disks with one collection keeping copies of the data held on the other collection. Each collection has its data “striped” across the disks for capacity and performance.

The core benefit with a RAID 10 setup is that there is increased write throughput which can come in handy with write-intensive setups like databases. This is in addition to the fault tolerance provided by mirroring along with the read performance provided by striping.

Volume Capacity: Combined size of two of the smallest disks

Non-RAID setups

JBOD data layout

JBOD – Disks as separate volumes

JBOD

This setup, known as “Just a Bunch Of Disks” is simply about each physical disk being treated by the NAS as a separate logical volume. It can be useful if you want to maintain separate data on each disk under a separate volume name.

Spanning

Disk Spanning data layout

Disk Spanning, sometimes known as JBOD by some manufacturers

The “spanning” setup simply is based on data filling up one disk then filling up another disk in that same volume.

Array Type Disks Capacity Performance Fault
Tolerance
RAID 0 Min: 2 Yes Yes
RAID 1 Min: 2 Yes
improved read
Yes
Copied disks
RAID 5 Min: 3 Yes Yes
improved read
Yes
Parity
RAID 6 Min: 4 Yes Yes
improved read
Yes
dual parity
RAID 10 Min: 4
Even number of disks
Yes
improved write
Yes
Copied disk arrays
JBOD Logical volume / disk Yes
Spanning Min: 2 Yes

Different options available

Automatic RAID setups

Netgear ReadyNAS

The NETGEAR ReadyNAS on the right can implement X-RAID automatic RAID setup

An increasing number of manufacturers use an “automatic RAID” setup like Synology’s Hybrid RAID or NETGEAR’s X-RAID. These are RAID setups that are optimised to mix different-sized hard disks so that these arrays work to maximise useable capacity, disk performance and fault-tolerance.

Manufacturers pitch these RAID setups for people new to NAS or disk-array management who are thinking about how much redundant storage is needed to balance capacity and fault tolerance. They also encourage the customers to “build out” a RAID array as and when they can afford the extra disks.

Hot-spare disks

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

Thecus N5810PRO small business NAS is able to implement a hot-spare disk for high RAID availability

Another feature offered mainly with small-business NAS units is the addition of a hot-spare disk. Such RAID arrays will have a separate hard disk that isn’t used unless one of the disks in that array fails.  These setups are preferred for environments where there is emphasis on a multi-disk array that is to be highly available at peak performance.

Hot-swap setups

An increasing number of prosumer and small-business NAS units come with a “hot-swap” functionality where you can swap out the hard disk while the NAS is in operation. This is more so for replacing faulty disks that are degrading a RAID array’s performance and is more relevant with RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and “automatic RAID” setups.

Upsizing a NAS’s RAID array

QNAP 2-disk NAS

QNAP 2-disk NAS – capable of setting up a highly-available high-performance RAID1 array

Upsizing a RAID array is something you could be tempted to do, especially as hard-disk prices gradually become cheaper and the time when one hard disk in a RAID array fails may be the time to upsize it.

But this can be difficult. Here, you would need to copy out all of the data to storage with the same volume capacity as your NAS’s current RAID array. Then you would have to simultaneously replace the disks in that array with units of the same but higher capacity before copying back the data. This may be easy to achieve with a 2-bay NAS.

Or you could migrate a 2-disk RAID 1 array in a 4-bay NAS to a RAID 5 array while adding a higher-capacity disk to that array. Here, you get increased capacity on the new disk due to the smaller disks being combined for real data use while space on the larger disk is allocated for parity data. Then you would need to swap out the small disks in that array with the larger disks as a way to gradually increase the volume’s useful size.

The automatic RAID setups make it easier to upsize your NAS as you can afford it and manage the right amount of redundant storage needed for your data.

The best RAID array setup for your needs and your NAS

The RAID array that you set your NAS up with depends on the number of drive bays the device has along with the number of disks you have. But these suggests are based on setups that are cost-effective yet yield high availability . They would also yield high read performance especially for multimedia applications. It is also a good idea to populate your multiple-bay NAS with drives of the same capacity when you are setting a new unit up.

A 2-bay NAS would be best set up as a RAID-1 array in order to implement the mirroring ability for high availability and increased read throughput which is necessary for video files streamed using DLNA.

A 4-bay NAS would be best set up as a RAID-5 array of at least three disks of the same size. There is the ability to make use of the capacity yet use the parity blocks to keep the data available should one of the disks keel over.

Conclusion

Once you understand how the various RAID and other multi-disk arrays work, you can choose the most cost-effective way to have your data stored for capacity, performance and high availability with your NAS.

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More classes of premium drink are protected by NFC bottle caps

Articles

Remy Martin thinks an NFC bottle cap is the key to authentic cognac | Engadget

Video

Smart liquor bottles can keep tabs on your bourbon collection | Engadget

Previous coverage

NFC technology to determine if that good wine or whiskey is the real McCoy

My Comments

I had previously covered the use of NFC as a tool to check if that bottle of premium wine or whiskey is the real McCoy and is filled with the real drink. This is based on a technology where an NFC chip is integrated in to the drink’s bottle cap is able to signal to a companion mobile app on an NFC-capable mobile device to indicate the veracity of the drink and what it’s about. As well, these tags become defunct or change their status if the bottle is opened.

Selinko developed the NFC bottle cap as a solution to a problem that has been happening in Asian markets where customers were being sold a “pig in a poke” when it comes to buying premium liquor. This is where a bottle of premium liquor had its contents diluted or swapped for poor-quality drink and is similar to where customers in the Asian countries are buying knock-offs of clothes, luggage and similar products made or designed by respected brands.

Remy Martin, a well-known cognac distiller, is partnering with Selinko to verify the authenticity of cognac bottles and check that the drink hasn’t been substituted with cheaper poorer quality liquor. As well, they are using this technology to allow their customers to find out more about the drink and participate in a promotion. As well, Diageo is using a similar technology designed by Thinfilm to check the veracity of Blue Label bourbon whiskey.

This could lead to you having to install an app on your mobile device for each drink brand you have in your liquor cabinet but each of the companies could also provide a generic interface and API for stock-management systems. Here, consumers, the licensed trade, hoteliers and others can check if a bottle is opened and what is meant to be in that bottle.

As I have said before, I would like to see this technology have applications beyond liquor such as to check the veracity and provenance of other branded items like soft drinks, pantry items and toiletries also at risk of substitution. That is, is the bottle of Coke full of the actual Coca-Cola, that jar of Vegemite full of the real Aussie thing or that bottle of premium aftershave or perfume containing the stuff with the real distinct scent that you love.

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Moving those games to another hard disk without breaking them

Article

Windows Explorer (File Explorer) - two or more hard disks

Two or more hard disks or partitions on your computer may make you want to move games to the larger disk

How To Move A PC Game To Another Hard Drive (Without Re-Downloading It) | LifeHacker

My Comments

You may have two hard disks in your tower-style desktop computer, or the main hard disk is partitioned in to two spaces and you want to move your games to the secondary disk or partition. Or you are running a laptop with a small hard disk and want to use a USB external hard disk for your games.

External hard disk

An external hard disk could be useful for offloading games from your laptop

This may come across as being very difficult for games based on game managers like the Steam or Origin systems, which typically put all the software on the main disk or partition i.e. Drive C: . But how can you move an existing library out to the other disk or partition or to an external hard disk?

Steam startup screen

Steam – one of the most common games managers

One way is to use a utility like the “Steam Mover” utility to move the files and create symbolic links (system references) to them.

Another way would be to use the game manager to logically move the games across to the other storage location. This is simply by redefining where the game library should be for each of the games.

Steam

  1. Steam - Settimgs - Downloads menu

    Steam – Settimgs – Downloads menu

    In Steam, you use the “Add Library Folder” option in Settings>Downloads>Steam Library Folders to do this task.

    Library Folders list in Steam

    Library Folders list in Steam

  2. Then you would need to add a “steamapps” folder to that folder you created in the previous step and insert in to that a “common” folder using File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and earlier). Then you copy the game folders using File Explorer from the existing steamapps\common folder to the newly-created steamapps\common folder.
  3. Using Steam, you then right-click on the game and select “Delete Local Content” to logically uninstall the game at its old location, then click the Install button to logically install the game at its new location. This routine is about creating new logical references to the game’s new location.

Origin

  1. In Origin, you just create a folder in the new location for the games using File Explorer then copy the games over to that location.
  2. Then you start Origin and go to the “Application Settings>Advanced” menu and update the Downloaded Games option to reflect the games’ new locations. This step tells Origin where to download games files for newer games purchases.
  3. Then you would have to go to the My Games view and tell Origin to re-install the games by clicking “Download”. Here, the games aren’t being drawn down from Origin’s servers but are having logical changes to point to the new location.

Different game installers may use different methods for shifting the logical position of your game library or allowing to move games between one or more libraries.

A problem that may surface with this kind of routine is that if Windows decides to allocate a different drive letter to your removeable storage device every time you connect it, you may end up with unreliable operation. Here, you may have to run the “Download” or “Install” routine to logically update the game manager to the current drive-letter location.

This situation could be easily redressed by integrating library management functionality in to game-manager or app-store software so you can determine where to shift games or other programs. As well, the game manager could reference volumes by volume-names as well as drive letters.

Similarly, game managers or app stores focused on games could simplify the process of setting up games to run entirely from USB memory keys or USB hard disks in a manner to facilitate portable play. This could include installing a copy of the game manager on the medium, managing multiple titles on one medium along with storing the state of play on that medium.

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C Spire and Google Fiber increase fibre-based competitive broadband coverage

Articles US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Google Fiber

Google Fiber Gets Approval For Expansion Into San Antonio | Broadband News And DSL Reports

San Antonio’s size proving to be a challenge for Google Fiber | San Antonio Business Journal

C Spire

C Spire Deploys Gigabit Service to a Fourth City | Broadband News And DSL Reports

My Comments

Some communities in the US’s south are about to face the end of the cable-TV / Baby-Bell duopoly courtesy of some fibre-optic Gigabit broadband services being rolled in those areas.

Google Fiber has received approval to start deploying in San Antonio which is their second Texas-based deployment. But they are facing logistical issues that are caused by that city’s geography, especially the land mass and topography. They still insist that they can surmount these issues and what I see of this is that they can learn from this deployment on how to roll out fibre-optic Internet in to cities that have difficult terrain and can share it with the rest of the industry.

While down in Mississippi, C Spire have been at it themselves rolling out Gigabit-capable fibre infrastructure to offer competing Internet service in nine cities in that state. They are an independent provider who offer mobile-telephony service in some of the US”s Deep South but are cutting in to fixed-infrastructure Internet service.

One of these that has “lit up” this week is Clinton where they offer Gigabit Internet for US$70 per month, double-play Internet + phone for US$90 per month, double-play Internet + super HDTV for US$130 per month and a triple-play phone, Internet and TV for US$150 per month.

The deployment is supposedly based on interest and they are focusing on Southern communities which are in their mobile-telephony footprint and are capitalising on their existing fibre infrastructure. C Spire could also follow in Google FIber’s footsteps by sponsoring various computer-literacy programs targeted at disadvantaged communities and older generations.

As long as there are more companies offering to compete with the Baby Bell or the cable-TV company by offering better broadband for the US’s neighbourhoods, it could be a chance to raise the standard for Internet service value and quality.

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A set-top box could aggregate the Internet Of Things

Article

Set top boxes could work as the hub of an "Internet Of Things" network

Set top boxes could work as the hub of an “Internet Of Things” network

The cable box might solve the Internet of Things’ biggest problem | Engadget

My Comments

This article suggested that a set-top box or PVR could do more than select channels or be a customer interface to a pay-TV system.

There is a problem that exists with the Internet Of Things where manufacturers herd their smart-home devices in to “silos” that are controlled by the apps they develop or work on a particular physical link like Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This makes it hard to create a heterogenous system based around these devices and either requires many apps on your smartphone or requires many gateway boxes to be connected to your home network.

Draytek Vigor 2860N VDSL2 business VPN-endpoint router press image courtesy of Draytek UK

.. as could modem-routers

But it suggested that a cable box or similar device could do a better job by aggregating the different “silos” that exist in the Internet Of Things. They even suggested that an advanced set-top box could work as a control/display surface such as to pause what you are watching and throw up a video of whoever is in the garage, courtesy of a security camera installed therein, when your garage door opener is actuated. Another application I could think of would be that if you start your kettle boiling or coffee dripolator making coffee, you could then start watching your favourite show knowing that a message would pop up on the screen letting you know that the kettle or coffee pot is ready. You could even use the TV remote to adjust the heat or air-con to your liking with the current setting appearing as a pop-up message.

This has been highlighted in the concept of cable companies and telcos offering “multiple-play” services with fixed-broadband Internet, fixed-line telephony, pay-TV and/or mobile telephony in the one package, encouraging customers to have all their “eggs in one basket”. The telco or cable company would then be able to realise that Integrating a home-automation / security service in to their service mix is another way to keep customers loyal to them. This is even if a customer dispenses with a service like pay-TV or fixed-line telephony. Here, a set-top box for their pay-TV and/or an Internet-gateway device like a modem-router that they lease or sell to customers could be the actual device that does the bridging.

A data-security advantage has been found where all bridging functionality is confined to one device because that device can be hardened against cyber attack. But I also look at the fact that two “hub” devices can work in tandem, offering some functionality to each other. In this case, the aforementioned set-top box could work as a rich control / display surface for the modem-router and other devices in the IoT ecosystem as well as serving as a repeater or secondary access point for wireless systems that support this functionality.

At least the idea has been thrown about regarding adding functionality to existing devices like set-top boxes and modem-routers rather than having a home network riddled with dedicated-function devices.

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Apple have fixed the iPhone message bug once and for all

Article

Apple releases iOS 8.4 with new Music app, fix for crashing bug | ARSTechnica

My Comments

Apple have just rolled out version 8.4 of the iOS mobile operating system and the main headline feature that this came with is the Apple Music streaming-music service which came about due to their takeover of Beats by Dr. Dre.

But this version of iOS also fixes a bug that placed iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches at risk of crashing if a specially-formed message came in via iMessage or other message services. This was due to problems associated with handling standard ASCII and Unicode character combinations. To get their iOS devices back to life after a crash, they had to do things like ask correspondents to send pictures.

Any iOS user can update their devices either over the air by visiting the Settings screen then selecting “General” before clicking on “Software Update”. Or they could use the USB charge/data cable to plug the iDevice in to a regular computer equipped with iTunes and use that software to deliver the update to the device.

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UK ISPs take steps to assure Internet service quality for small businesses

Article

Pantiles - Royal Tunbridge Wells picture courtesy of Chris Whippet [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pantiles at Royal Tunbridge Wells – representative of a shopping strip with small businesses

BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to Work on New Business Broadband Code | ISPReview

My Comments

All too often, when there are discussions about assuring Internet service quality, these discussions focus on consumers who are primarily downloading content from the Internet. But small businesses and telecommuters are easily left out of the equation.

These users have particular needs as far as Internet service goes. For example, they frequently upload data; whether to transfer data between colleagues using an online file exchange like Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync, to use a cloud-computing service, or to use IP-based telecommunications services like Skype to talk with colleagues in town or across the world. Similarly, they rely on these Internet services to “keep the pot boiling” and if these services underperform or fail, their earning potential is reduced very heavily and the “pot doesn’t boil”. But they don’t have the bargaining power that a big business has because they work on a very small cash flow and have fewer employees with some relying on one who is the “chief cook and bottle washer”.

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

Decent internet at a reasonable price is essential for small businesses

ISPs have often forgotten about this class of user by having them either use consumer-grade Internet services or prefer them to sign up to a leased-line or similar “big-ticket” Internet service for their business needs. This is typically shown up by product lists for small-business Internet service having the only action that a potential subscriber can do is to request a quote for their service rather than looking at a tariff chart to compare costs. It is even though some services like leased-line services have prices that are particular to the business’s location and needs. Similarly, small businesses, telecommuters and similar users may not have the need or be able to afford a “big-business” service like a leased-line.

The main ISPs in the UK have taken this head-on by working on a code-of-practice for provisioning Internet to a small business or similar user. This factors in upload speeds, the availability of next-generation broadband “at the door” and service-level agreements. As well, at the moment, ISPs that use BT Openreach’s infrastructure have the ability to sell a service-level-agreement option with faster repair times but it is not always that quick to have problems remediated.

There is a call in the UK for certain small-business Internet services that can be provisioned on a self-install basis using existing infrastructure like ADSL2, fibre-copper (FTTC/VDSL2) and the like to have the tariffs and packages listed on the ISP’s Website. Similarly, Ofcom is requiring ISPs who use the Openreach infrastructure to support the simplified switch-over arrangements for their small-business services where these services use the same infrastructure. As well, they want Broadband Delivery UK to set targets for the level of reach for business-grade next-generation Internet.

Personally, I would like to see small-business broadband that uses existing infrastructure be offered at reasonable prices and these services to come with a decent bandwidth for uploading and downloading along with a service-level agreement that covers the contracted throughput and the time it takes to remedy service faults. If the service requires new infrastructure to be pulled from the street or the building’s infrastructure hub such as FTTP fibre-optic or cable Internet, there should be a published quote for this kind of requirement.

As well, small businesses, whether working from home or other premises such as a shopfront should be factored in when it comes to assessing the quality of Internet service and the level of competition available to these users. Similarly, multi-tenancy business developments like office blocks or shopping areas need to factor in access to business-quality broadband service for their tenants as a key drawcard feature.

At least there is somewhere where action is being taken to provide proper value-for-money Internet service to small businesses, start-ups, telecommuters and similar users.

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Gigaclear increases their Essex footprint

Article

Epping Forest   © Copyright tim and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence tim [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Epping Forest – to get fibre-to-the-premises Internet

Gigaclear Deal Brings 1Gbps FTTP Broadband to 4,500 Essex Premises | ISPReview

From the horse’s mouth

Superfast Essex (Essex County Council)

Press Release

My Comments

Gigaclear has put their foot in Essex’s door to offer fibre-to-the-premises broadband Internet.

Here, they were selected by the Superfast Essex project team initiated by the Essex County Council as a break from BT deploying most next-generation Internet projects in the county. It is part of the new “Rural Challenge” effort covering the Epping Forest area and receives funding from public and private sources with public money coming from the UK Government and from local government in the form of the Epping Forest District Council and the Essex County Council. The private source of funding comes primarily from Gigaclear.

They will deploy fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband to 4,500 properties in the Epping Forest area which will encompass Fyfield, Stapleford, Tawney, Bobbingworth and closely-located communities. The project will get off the ground in November 2015 and be complete by December 2016 if things go to plan and Gigaclear were awarded GBP£7.5m to have it running. As regular readers will know, Gigaclear’s fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure supports the same bandwidth for both uploading and downloading and they are capable of offering Gigabit transfer speeds for the Internet services.

If this project is deemed successful, the Essex County Council could consider covering more of that county with the fibre-to-the-home technology courtesy of Gigaclear. The wider Superfast Essex project is still based on FTTC fiber-copper technology provided by BT Openreach and this covers 87% of the county.

A good question that is worth raising is whether these rollouts could technically and legally support infrastructure-level competition including allowing one provider to provide infrastructure for FTTP broadband while another can provide infrastructure for fibre-copper broadband services. It also encompasses whether a retail provider would be able to have access to one network or all of the networks and I would find it worth looking at how the French have been rolling out fibre broadband on an infrastructure-competition basis and is something that Ofcom could investigate when it comes to assuring a sustainably-competitive best-value Internet service for urban-living and rural-living Britons.

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Lenovo revives a classic laptop design

Article

Lenovo’s proposed ThinkPad Retro is like stepping back into 1992 | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo USA

Blog Post

My Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

The Lenovo keeps the same look for the ThinkPad laptops

There is something about classic industrial design that never dies. This has been augmented by a lot of items like the Mini, the Fiat 500, the AGA cooker, the Wurlitzer 1015 juke box amongst other things. These examples have been evolved and reworked over longer times with newer technological improvements but have maintained their shape.

Now the IBM ThinkPad has entered this line of classic designs. Here, it was about the black housing, the blue ENTER key, the red thumbstick to move the pointer around and the 7-row keyboard. These computers became a statement for what is expected of the corporate laptop that carries through the business sense of an office in New York or Chicago..

This has been carried through even when IBM sold their personal-computing business to Lenovo as part of their computing-hardware-business divestment effort and has been shown as a way to convey the bloodline that is underscored by the ThinkPad name.

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel with the dog in front of it

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel always underscored with the dog in front of it

A very strong analogy that comes to my mind is the AGA cooker which for many decades kept a particular design but had  many technical improvements such as being able to use oil, gas or electricity as a fuel or work under timer control. There were still the two hotplates with the distinct insulated metal lids sitting on the black top and two or four ovens with the distinctly-shaped insulated doors, the chrome towel rail on the top front edge (with many tea-towels hanging on it) and the thermometer above the top oven door. The AGA stove still carried through the homely feel in the kitchen, consistently warm and comfortable and has often been associated with the British farm houses and cottages and the cosy lifestyle endemic to them.

One of the machines that was being celebrated and is being considered by Lenovo for a “One More Time” treatment is the highly-portable IBM ThinkPad 700c which was issued in 1992. I use the expression “One More Time” to allude to what Wurlitzer had done with the 1015 jukebox. The original design could only make 10 78-rpm records for play through its valve amplifier. But Wurlitzer issued a newer machine with the same arch shape and decorations as the original unit, but was able to have 50 45-rpm records available to play via a solid-state amplifier and used microprocessor technology to fetch the records to be played. This newer model was called the 1015 “One More Time” to reference the preservation of the same industrial design but having newer improvemts.

The IBM ThinkPad 700c had a “cigar-box” look with the black housing, the red thumbstick and the distinct keyboard layout. But it had a 4:3 display that had a resolution low by today’s standards along with the processor power, memory and storage that was okay to 1992 standards for a secondary machine. It also had a 3.5” floppy-disk drive as its removeable storage. Here, they would revise this computer with a 16:9 widescreen display with Full-HD resolution at least, a few USB 3.0 ports as the main connectivity option, current-spec horsepower like Intel Core M or i-Series processors, 4Gb RAM and 128Gb SSD secondary storage at least, and more to suit today’s expectations.

What I like of this idea put up in Lenovo’s blog is to revisit a classic design and look at how it can be made relevant to today’s requirements rather than tossing it away.

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Simplified hand-switching for pointing devices

What is the problem?

Work needs to be done to make it easier for left-handed and right-handed users to use the same computer

Work needs to be done to make it easier for left-handed and right-handed users to use the same computer

A feature that I notice is sorely missing from Windows is the ability to switch between left-handed and right-hand use of the mouse without having to go to the Control Panel and select the Mouse option there.

It would be OK for a person who has a normal hand to “switch” the computer to work to their hand using this method, but would be difficult in some circumstances.

One of these circumstances would be where a computer is shared amongst multiple users with one of the users being left-handed and others being right-handed. Examples of these include workplace, school or public-access computers or computers shared amongst members of a household including houseguests such as the common “his ‘n’ hers” setup.

Windows mouse control panel

Mouse Control Panel dialog – Windows 7

Another circumstance is where a user has to switch between left-handed and right-handed operation as part of a physiotherapy requirement for their hands or simply to keep their hands supple. It is something that is becoming common with older people who want to stay active with their hands.

But having to head to the Control Panel or similar preference settings in your operating system each time you have to do this can bewilder people who don’t have much confidence with technology.

There are ways that Apple, Microsoft and the open-source community could facilitate this.

What are the possible solutions?

Hot-key selection

One would be to use something like a hot-key combination or a simultaneous-mouse-button combination to switch between the operating modes. This could be an option that one could enable in the preferences settings for the pointing devices.

Having this feature would earn its keep with shared computers, workplace computers and public-access computers because users only need to press a certain key combination or operate the mouse buttons in a certain way to “switch hands”. It would also earn its keep with users who find navigating dialog boxes very bewildering and intimidating.

Maurice Tejado wrote an “add-on” utility for Windows (available through CNET Download.com) that allows you to “switch hands” using a hot-key routine.

Set preferences on a pointing-device basis

Another way that could work even better would be to set the operating mode for different pointing devices. Here, you could have two mice connected with one sitting on the left hand side of the keyboard and one on the right hand side. Or you could resolve to use your laptop’s integrated trackpad as a “left-hand” device and a Bluetooth mouse as a “right-hand” device or vice versa. Here, you could set one device to be left-handed while another device is right-handed.

This function is supported by some desktop Linux distributions but isn’t supported on Windows or Mac OS X. But there is a third-party free utility that can support this in the form of EitherMouse which supports multiple pointing devices in use at the same time with different settings.  This can cater also for users who are slow with trackballs and trackpads but quick with mice.

How can this be done better?

Having to use add-on programs to achieve this goal can become awkward, especially when it comes to computer performance and stability and operating systems could go better by baking this kind of functionality in to their pointing-device code.

As well, some computer users and IT departments don’t have confidence in the use of add-on programs because of the fact that these programs can be poorly written or can contain questionable code that can jeopardise computer stability and security. This is more so with those of us who had passed through the “bulletin-board” / “download-site” / “CD-ROM” era of computing where there was a lot of poor-quality software for download.

Rather, operating system developers could write this functionality in to a subsequent version of their products to answer these needs more effectively and especially cater towards older users who are still using today’s technology.

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Integrating a Bluetooth headset in to a beanie

Article

Get Your Hipster On with Bluetooth Beanie | Bluetooth Blog

From the horse’s mouth

TRNDLabs

Bluetooth Beanie

Product Page

Video

My Comments

I was surprised to come across a beanie-style hat that doubles as a Bluetooth headset for your smartphone. The copy in the Bluetooth SIG article highlighted it as being part of the hipster’s image including being able to shift around that trendy inner-urban area like San Fran, Newtown or Fitzroy on a bicycle.

But what was interesting was how the headset was integrated in to something that would normally be knitted. Here, the Bluetooth receiver module had one of the speakers and the microphone along with a group of buttons as its control surface and was connected to a secondary speaker which served as the other speaker for the stereo headset. These were inserted in to pockets knitted in to the beanie so as to allow one to remove them when they wash the hat – avoiding any damage to the electronics while it is being soaked in water and Wool-mix.

This device, which can be charged by a USB charger, can run for six hours on talk / music activities and works according to Bluetooth 3.0 with Handsfree (communications) profile and A2DP / AVRCP (music playback) profiles. It has an operating range of around 10 metres (33 feet), effectively ticking the boxes for essential Bluetooth headset functionality.

It is an example of how one can design mobile electronics for integration into clothing and footwear but making sure you can remove it when you want to wash the clothing. The Bluetooth receiver and speaker could be offered as a separate “short-form” accessory for those of us making our own headgear to convey our own identity or for those of us making and selling such headgear.

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