FCC passes rules to enforce Net Neutrality

Articles

US to enforce net neutrality – Strategy – Telco/ISP – News – iTnews.com.au

FCC Passes Strict Net Neutrality Regulations On 3-2 Vote | TechCrunch

FCC Votes ‘Yes’ on Strongest Net-Neutrality Rules | TIME

From the horse’s mouth

FCC

Press Release

My Comments

He's spoken up for Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service

He’s spoken up for Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service

I have previously given a fair bit of covered to the issue of Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service in the USA.

Now the FCC have voted 3:2 to pass rules that place Internet service providers in the USA under the remit of Title II of the US Communications Act. This treats them like regular communications services rather than as information services and proscribes discrimination of data traffic sent to their customers.

It has been part of an ongoing battle by FCC, human-rights organisations, technology lobby groups and Internet content providers against established telecommunications and cable-TV companies to assure a level playing field for Internet-hosted data traffic. This is because of the existence of “over-the-top” TV and telephony services like Netflix, Hulu, Skype and Viber offering services competing with established cable and telephone services.

The rules ban paid prioritisation and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services and are described as the “bright-line rules”. They also include forbearance so that certain rules like telephone operator service requirements don’t apply to data carriers like ISPs.

But, as I have observed, incumbent telecoms and cable-TV firms along with conservative pro-business reduced-government lobbies have been standing against the Title II rules. The counterclaims offered include increased government regulation of Internet service with the inability to innovate and I would see them being valid as long as sufficient and sustainable real competition exists in the Internet service market.

The other gap that hasn’t been looked at is establishing a mandate for universal broadband access especially in to rural areas where there isn’t the likelihood of gaining decent broadband service. This includes provision of this goal using cost-effective technology.

What then needs to happen is for action to take place to assure real competition for telecommunications, pay-TV and Internet service in the USA and to proscribe redlining of communities that are deemed to be unworthy of decent Internet service. This can be taken on not just by the FCC but by other federal government departments like the Department Of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.

What will also be interesting to see is whether these rules will withstand a legal challenge that Comcast, AT&T and the like put up in the US Supreme Court.

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Porsche releases a navigation radio head unit for its legendary classic cars

Article

Porsche offers to put modern tech in the dash of your classic 911 | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Porsche

Press Release

My Comments

Those of you who are keeping that legendary Porsche 911 alive may want to have a multimedia system that has the best of both worlds – something that doesn’t look out of place in your sport’s car’s dashboard yet is able to work smoothly with your smartphone.

Cassette adaptor in use with a smartphone

This may be the way to use your smartphone with your classic car’s stereo

This is rather than maintaining the Becker, Blaupunkt or Eurovox radio that came with the car and coupling your smartphone to a cassette adaptor or, worse still, an FM transmitter to have it work with the radio; using a Parrot multimedia smartphone adaptor installed between the existing radio and the speakers; or running a third-party head unit that may be considered by some to be out-of-place in the sports machine’s dashboard.

This radio is manufactured for Porsche Classic which is a division within Porsche that focuses on supporting the fleet of classic Porsche sports cars still on the road in that “stylish yet cool” manner. Activities include supplying original spare parts, technical literature and specially-refined motor oil for Porsches over 10 years old, and they even engage in restoration work to make these cars be young again.

The new radio that Porsche offers maintains the traditional car-radio look with two knobs flanking a control-panel “nose-piece” in the centre that typically had the dial and push-buttons for a radio and a tape slot and applicable transport controls radios that had a tape player. This layout was common for equipment installed in cars of the 70s and before with cars issued since the early 1980s having radios with controls that were located across the unit’s face. But there are six short-cut buttons on the outside and a colour touchscreen on the inside.

It has an FM RDS radio optimised to work with OEM whip aerial along with integrated sat-nav function with the data stored on a MicroSD card. As we; the radio can be connected to a USB memory stick or iPod full of music; as well as serving as a Bluetooth handsfree unit for a mobile phone. There was scant mention of whether it can do Bluetooth A2DP-compliant multimedia playback.

At the moment, the price for this radio is EUR€1184 VAT inclusive with the premium being for integration to the Porsche legacy. I also see this as a way to allow older drivers who spent most of their driving career through the 1960s to the 1980s or people who grew up with these drivers maintain the “comfort zone” associated with the traditional car-radio layout.

Porsche’s effort with this radio could be the start of a big question on how car-audio manufacturers and vehicle builders can court the classic-car scene with today’s technology and will come to the fore while people like retired mechanics see the idea of fixing up and driving classic cars including members of the 1960s-1980s fleet as a viable hobby.  Here, this could be about maintaining that look that complements the classic car’s dashboard. Similarly, it is also about vehicle builders who want to keep in touch with their moving legacy.

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Removing Superfish from your Lenovo computer

Article

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

Removing Superfish from this Lenovo laptop

Lenovo offers tool to remove hidden adware ‘Superfish’ | BBC News

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo Support

Advisory page with list of affected laptops

Removal-tool download (Run or copy to “toolbox” USB memory key)

Removal Instructions

My Comments and Instructions

If you bought a Lenovo computer through 2014 that was positioned at consumers like the G50-70 or the Yoga 2 Pro, you may have had Superfish’s Visual Discovery software installed on it. This is part of a common practice especially with consumer and small-business computers where they become loaded with software you most likely don’t really want.

Here, the variant of the Visual Discovery which is meant to be an enhanced “machine+Internet” search tool has been behaving like adware. It even has been jeopardising the security of your SSL-based secure-browsing sessions. Here, they were highlighting it as a software-driven client-side “man-in-the-middle” security threat that can intercept data that passes through your computer.

But you can remove the software form your G50-70, Yoga 2 Pro or other Lenovo laptop, and is a very similar practice to what I have done with a lot of adware that ends up on peoples’ computers.

Lenovo offers a single-purpose download to remove the Superfish software but if you have the patience to work through Windows to “root it out” or a computer-literate relative or friend can do this for you, here are the instructions which I have paraphrased from their Website.

Remove Superfish software

  1. In Windows 8.1, use the Search Charm in the Modern View to search “remove programs”, then select “Add Or Remove Programs”. On the other hand. right-click on the Windows icon on the Taskbar and select Programs And Features.
  2. Hunt for “Superfish Inc. Visual Discovery” and uninstall it by clicking the Uninstall option. This is a good time to go through all of your software that is on your computer and remove any questionable programs.

Remove Superfish certificates from the Windows Certificate Store

This is to remove the Superfish certificates from the main Certificate Store that Windows uses and is the “go to” certificate location for Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and co.

  1. In Windows 8.1, use the Search Charm to search “Certificates”, then select “Manage Computer Certificates
  2. Accept Microsoft Management Console’s request to change your computer data
  3. Select “Trusted Root Certificate Authorities” in the Certificate Manager then select “Certificates
  4. Hunt for items with the “Superfish Inc.” name and delete them. When the Certificate Manager asks that you want to delete them, click Yes.

Remove Superfish certificates from Firefox, Thunderbird and other Mozilla software

Mozilla operates a separate certificate store for Website certificates rather than using the Windows Certificate Store. Here, you would have to interact with each Mozilla program separately to remove the certificates.

  1. Open Firefox and, if the address bar and toolbar isn’t visible, click on the orange Firefox button.
  2. Select the Settings drawer with the three lines, then click on the Options gearwheel, then click on the Advanced gearwheel.
  3. Select the Certificates tab and click or touch the View Certificates button.
  4. In the Certificate Manager screen, select Authorities
  5. Hunt for “Superfish Inc” and select that certificate
  6. Click the Delete or Distrust button and click OK to delete the Superfish certificate from Mozilla’s certificate store.

Restart your computer

Immediately, restart your Lenovo computer as you would normally do.

This may be a tipping point for manufacturers to be part of a feedback loop when it comes to the software they supply with computers especially those that are sold to home and small-business users. It involves a requirement to test the software for vulnerabilities before packaging it for installation.

It will also become a time to question the practice of supplying third-party-supplied trial software and demoware with computers, especially notebooks, marketed to consumers.

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Windows 10 to benefit from the FIDO authentication standards

Article

Microsoft to support Fido biometrics | NFC World

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Windows For Your Business blog post

FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance

Press Release

My Comments

Microsoft is to enable Windows 10, which is the next version of Windows, to work with the FIDO (Fast Identity Online) Alliance standards for its authentication and authorisation needs.

But what is this about? FIDO is about providing a level playing field where authentication and authorisation technologies like biometrics, electronic keys and the like can work with applications and sites that support these technologies.

The goal with FIDO is to remove the need for drivers, client-side software and certificate-authority setups for 2-factor authentication or password-free authentication. As well, one hardware or software key can be used across compatible services and applications without user parameters being shared between them.

There are two standards that have been defined by FIDO Alliance. One is UAF which supports password-free login using biometrics like fingerprints; USB dongles; MiFare NFC cards; Bluetooth-linked smartphones and the like as the key to your account. The other is U2F which allows these kinds of keys to serve as a “second factor” for a two-factor authentication setup.

But what could this mean? With a UAF setup, I could set things up so I could log in to Facebook using my fingerprint if the computer is equipped with a fingerprint reader but not have to worry about using a password vault that plays nicely with that fingerprint reader. With a U2F setup, I could make sure that I have a tight two-factor login setup for my Website’s management account or my bank account but use a preferred method like a USB key or a smartcard reader that reads my EMV-compliant bank card.

The current implementation tends to ride on client-side software like browser plugins to provide the bridge between a FIDO-enabled site and a FIDO U2F-compliant key and this can impair the user experience you have during the login. It is because of you having to make sure that the client-side software is running properly and you use a particular browser with it before you can interact with the secure site. There is also the risk that the software may be written poorly thus being more demanding on processor and memory resources as well as providing an inconsistent user interface.

Microsoft will bake these authentication standards in to Windows 10 for the login experience and authentication with application-based and Web-based services. This will cut down on the client-side software weight needed to enhance your Internet security and allows those who develop the authentication methods to focus on innovating with them, just as Microsoft has done with other functionality that it has baked in to the various Windows versions. It will apply to Azure-based cloud-hosted Active Directory services and on-premises Active Directory services for business users; along with the Microsoft Account which is used for home and small business users with Windows 8 login and Outlook.com (Hotmail).

The question yet to raise with FIDO UAF and U2F functionality is whether this will be provided for application-based “client-to-server” authentication for situations like word-processors being used to upload blog posts or native clients for online services like Dropbox and Evernote. Similarly, would this technology allow a device to serve as a temporary or conditional authentication factor such as a smart lock that has just been used with your electronic key; or allow a card like a SIM card already installed in our smartphone or a MiFARE-compliant transit pass to serve as an electronic key for our Webmail.

Personally, I find that Windows implementing FIDO Alliance standards will allow us to make more use of various authentication technologies on our home or business computers.

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Telephone Interview–Connecting Up (Mathan Allington)

Connecting Up logo - courtesy of Connecting UpThe year before last, I heard about Connecting Up from my former pastor in relation to cost-effective licensed copies of Windows 8. I did some online research on this not-for-profit organisation and found that it supplies technology to the non-profit organisations at prices that fit well within these organisations’ budgets so they are not making “bricks without straw” and ran an article about them on HomeNetworking01.info.

Subsequently, I had decided to organise an interview of some sort with Connecting Up to find out how they are approaching this goal and contacted Mathan Allington who is their Community Engagement Coordinator.

How are they providing cheaper IT resources?

Worship in a small church

A small church that can benefit from organisations like Connecting Up

One question I raised was how they are going about providing these organisations access to cost-effective technology. They supply refurbished recent-issue computer equipment along with hardware and software that is either donated or offered at a discount to non-profit organisations. This includes the ability to license a regular computer to Windows 8.1 Pro for AUD$10 per computer ex tax or a Dell Latitude E5510 (Intel Core i3 370M horsepower, 15” screen, 2Gb RAM, 160Gb hard disk, Windows 7 Pro) for AUD$235 ex tax. These are provided to organisations that are approved by Connecting Up or participating suppliers as non-profit organisations.

How are you approaching the non-profit organisations?

Another question that I raised was what kind of outreach was Connecting Up doing to expose themselves to the non-profit sector? They mainly engage in database-driven email marketing along with social-media-based campaigns such as some Facebook-based presences that they use to touch particular organisation groups. As well, they run events and training that are pitched at this sector.

For example, they run regular webinars with their membership and run face-to-face events on a reasonably-frequent basis as well as running blogs on their Website. They want to work on ways to reach more of the non-profit sector such as establishing presence at various conferences that these non-profit organisations run or attend.

When do non-profit organisations come to you for help?

Another question I raised was whether there was difficulty in encouraging a non-profit organisation to think towards newer technology especially when they are running with older technology that they see as being “good enough”. Mathan and I reckoned that the time that these organisations consider themselves in need is when they are seeking newer equipment that is to replace current equipment that is about to break.

Conclusion

What I have gained from this interview is that Connecting Up is making an effort to make sure that a group of organisations who are normally at risk of using inappropriate resources for their information and communications technology are able to benefit from appropriate resources without it placing a significant dent in their cashflow.

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Hyatt offers free Wi-Fi at all of its hotels

ArticleHyatt House - press photo courtesy of Hyatt

Wi-Fi officially free at Hyatt-branded hotels | Hotel Management

From the horse’s mouth

Hyatt

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Increasingly hotel users are demanding access to Wi-Fi Internet service but a lot of big-name American hotel chains favoured by business travellers weren’t providing this for free. This was typically provided by independent operators or some European, Australian or other hotel chains. If you did want Wi-Fi without paying extra, you had to “look further” such as booking directly with whoever you were staying with.

Hyatt House suite living room - press photo courtesy of Hyatt

Home away from home – Internet acces free at Hyatt

This same amenity may be provided by some hotels as part of a frequent-lodger program usually if you were at one of the “elite” tiers in that program. Or it may be integrated in to one or more business-focused “bed-and-breakfast” or “half-board” package deals or available to people who rent a club or concierge-level room. Increasingly hotels are offering free Wi-Fi “across the board” to guests who stay there but this has been limited to one device per room which doesn’t cater for the reality that most of us will maintain two or three devices such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Hyatt have become the first of the big-name American hotel chains to offer free Wi-Fi service to an unlimited number of devices per room on an “across-the-board” basis. This is available in the Hyatt and Andaz brands along with the various Hyatt-derivative brands like Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt; and is to be available around the world from February 14 2015.

They are offering it independently of the booking path you use to book your room there or whether you participate in their Gold Passport frequent-lodger program. For those of you who are on this plan and are at either the Diamond or Platinum elite levels, Hyatt are replacing the free Internet access that was the “elite advantage” with access to the premium-grade Internet service. Regular users will still be able to purchase that same premium-grade Internet service which will most likely offer a higher bandwidth.

Guests can use this Wi-Fi internet service “upstairs” and “downstairs” i.e. their rooms or the social spaces like the lounges, bars and lobbies. This has been driven by guest demand for Internet service not to be treated as a luxury but to be like what the are used to at home or work.

Personally, I would like to see the premium Wi-Fi service more in the form of something that can play nicely with devices of the Chromecast  Apple TV, and Sonos ilk. where there is the feasibility to operate them in your room as if you are running the equivalent of a home network with a room-specific ESSID. This could play in with the basic-tier offering public-access Wi-Fi “around the place” using a facility-wide ESSID and, preferably, Wi-Fi Passpoint authentication. The premium Wi-Fi service could be offered as “standard faire” for long-term stays or to those of us who rent certain suites.

At least Hyatt is breaking the mould associated with American hotel chains where they nickel-and-dime their guests for essential public Internet access or place onerous limitations on this service for most of us who carry along two or three gadgets. It could be a chance for the rest of them to answer Hyatt by offering similar-standard baseline Internet access.

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Expecting your printer to be the home or small business printing press? What does it need?

This is an updated version of the article I had published in February 2012

Most small organisations such as micro-businesses and other small businesses will place an expectation on desktop-style computer printers to be used as an “organisational short-run printing press”.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600a Plus all-in-one printer

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Series – a desktop multifunction printer that has been pitched as something that can turn out flyers and brochures

This expectation has been brought around through the availability of software with varying levels of desktop-publishing functionality at prices most people and small business can afford. This ranges from software in a typical office-software package offering elementary desktop publishing functionality like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, through to dedicated mid-tier desktop publishing software of the Microsoft Publisher class that is at a price most people can afford and is easy to understand.

The same expectation has been underscored by the various printer manufacturers with their recent desktop-printer designs, especially with the high-end business models of their product range like HP’s OfficeJet Pro lineup. Here, they are bringing printing abilities, output speeds and document quality associated with workgroup-grade freestanding printers to this class of printer with such examples as Brother offering business-grade desktop inkjet multifunctions that can turn out A3 documents.

It has been underscored in the advertising that these printer manufacturers provide and is more evident with Websites and, especially, TV commercials that are run on prime-time TV which reaches most consumers more easily. Examples include a recent Canon TV commercial for their PIXMA printers, HP’s website for their OfficeJet Pro inkjet printers highlighting their prowess with turning out brochures, or Brother underscoring their business printers’ prowess with desktop publishing through a series of TV commercials.

What features does it need to have?

High-yield printing

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium front-load ink cartridges

The printer should have separate colour ink cartridges and be able to accept high-yield cartridges

It should be feasible for customers to purchase high-yield ink or toner cartridges as an option for the printer alongside the standard-yield cartridges. Some vendors like Brother are known to offer “super-high-yield” cartridges for some of their printers alongside the high-yield and standard-yield cartridges. This is more important for inkjet machines because the ink cartridges are typically very small and aren’t able to hold a lot of ink.

It is worth noting that most of the equipment pitched at business users like the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 will typically have the larger-capacity ink or toner cartridges even for their standard-yield variants and have a higher duty cycle therefore being able to do this kind of work.

As well, you should prefer to use an inkjet printer that uses individually-replaceable ink tanks for each colour. These printers also become more cost-effective to run because you only need to replace the colours that you run out of when you run out of them.

The print mechanism has to be able to support large print runs without failing mid-job. This includes having it perform advanced printing functionalities like auto-duplex or use of anciliary trays. It also has to work reliably with jobs that are based around media other than regular paper.

Automatic duplexing

This brings me to automatic duplexing. An increasing number of home-office printers and small-business printers are being equipped with an automatic duplex mechanism so that the unit can print on both sides of the paper. This is usually to permit you to save paper but people may find this function useful for turning out booklets, brochures, greeting cards and the like where they want to print on both sides of the paper. For that matter, most of these printers have a “booklet printing” function built in to their driver software where they can use the duplex functionality to turn out booklets such as a four-page booklet on one sheet of paper. Similarly, automatic duplexing may come in handy for making flyers and signage that is to be seen on both sides such as a sign that is fixed to a window, or a sign used in a freestanding sign holder.

Brother MFC-J5720DW colour inkjet printer

A Brother desktop printer that can print on A3 paper

A common problem with some of these mechanisms is that they don’t print to the narrow edge of Letter or A4 paper during a duplex print run especially if the paper size determined in the driver software or print job doesn’t match the paper in the printer. The problem has been more so with most Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers except the OfficeJet Pro 8600, which was pitched as a brochure-printing machine. This can cause problems with registration shifting or a requirement to have large margins on the document. Some Canon printers such as the PIXMA MX-870 have improved automatic duplex mechanisms that can work to the edge of the paper.

In the same case, you may find that some automatic duplexers may have problems with page registration. That is where the page is lined up properly on both sides of the paper and can be of concern if you are turning out work like luggage tags, door hangers or bookmarks where it is critical to have the back of the document lined up with the front of the document. You can work around this by allowing a margin on both sides of the design.

Another problem is that there is a time penalty of up to 15 seconds per page with inkjet printers when they use automatic duplexing with this happening when the front side of the document is being printed. This is to allow the ink to dry on the front side of the paper before the printer draws the paper in to print on the back and is being reduced with newer equipment that uses quick-drying ink.

Another limitation that I have found with automatic duplexers is that they don’t handle card stock or similar paper easily because they have to turn the paper around one or more rollers. Here, you may have to use manual duplexing where you reinsert the work in the machine with the other side facing the print head to print it double-sided.

Issues concerning use of the printer

Special printing media requirements

Plastic-based media

Plastic-based media like overhead-projector transparencies, back-print film and vinyl stickers / decals have special requirements when it comes to printing them on your printer.

They range from being able to “hold” ink that is sprayed on to them by the inkjet process or passing through a heat-based printing process such as the xerographic process used in laser and LED printers.

Laser printers and special media
Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

If you use a laser printer, you need to use laser-optimised media for plastic-based media and stickers. This is because the printed documents have to pass through “fuser rollers” that are heated at a very high temperature in order to melt the toner on to the media. This can be a problem with the adhesive and plastic backing associated with stickers or the plastic media melting inside the machine and causing damage that is costly in both money and serviceability terms.

It also can extend to glossy or silk-look “presentation / brochure” paper which uses some form of glazing to provide the sheen, and this can cause problems with different printers.

So you have to use special media that is designed for laser-printer or xerographic photocopier use. This media is designed to work at very high temperatures so it can pass through the hot fuser rollers without damaging the printer.  Some of the media that is made by particular printer manufacturers is designed for the printers made by that manufacturer and, in some cases, printers based on a certain print-engine type. This is due to the manufacturer knowing the operating temperature for the printers in question.

But there are some kinds of special media that is made by third parties and pitched at a range of printers offered by many different manufacturers. Some of these also may be available under the private labels that different stationers and office-supply stores use. For example, Avery make a large range of laser labels that are compatible with most laser printers that are in circulation nowadays.

Inkjet-compliant plastic media

To get best results out of inkjet printers with plastic media, you have to use inkjet-optimised plastic media that has a rough surface on the printed side. This is to catch the droplets left by the inkjet printer as part of its printing process and avoid the ink smearing over the medium as it passes through the printer or is handled by the user.

As well, you will need to set the printer’s driver software to work with “overhead transparencies” or “back print film” when you print to plastic media. This is to allow the printer to optimise its printing process for the media such as slowing the print-head action so as to make sure the ink ends up properly on the medium.

When you load the media, you have to make sure that the rough “printing” side faces the print head as it feeds through the printer. This may be harder to understand with Hewlett-Packard and Brother printers because they use a U-shaped paper-feed path and eject the printed document above the paper storage trays. Here, you would have to put the media in with the rough side facing down when loading the printer.

Card stock, art board and similarly-thick media

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer special-media tray

“Manual-bypass” special media tray in a colour laser printer

Another medium that may prove itself to be difficult for desktop printers is art board, card stock and similarly-thick papers. Most of these papers can cause problems with printers that implement any paper path that has a U-turn in it like most desktop printers.

Here, you may have to use a “straight-through” paper path on them for these papers to work properly and use manual duplexing if you are printing on both sides. Most inkjet multifunction printers have a rear-mounted multifunction tray where you load this paper while laser printers will require you to use a “manual bypass” tray or slot at the front as the loading tray and have a drop-down door at the rear as the output tray.

Increasingly, budget and some midrange printers will have a limit on the number of sheets of paper that you can load through this way with some of them even requiring you to load one sheet at a time in to the printer.  This can be an inconvenience to you if you are turning out multiple copies of the same document.

Use your printer or outsource your printing for that print run

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

The main question that a lot of users will end up asking will be whether to have the print runs made by an outside printing house or print the documents with their printer. Some of you may prefer to outsource your printing rather than use your printer especially with public-facing documents like brochures and flyers. This is because the print shop that you use has better equipment than what you would have and it is increasingly true of large office-supply chains like Office Depot, Officeworks or Staples who provide on-site printing and copying facilities.

I have talked with two men who pastor churches with medium-sized congregations about this issue through the time I was reviewing the Brother MFC-J5720DW desktop inkjet multifunction printer. This is a class of user who could be tempted to use one of these printers to turn out flyers and tracts as a way to make the offering dollar go further. One of these men, who happens to be my pastor, raised the issue of output quality from outsourced work versus work turned out on one of these printers and remarked that the outsourced work is of much better quality. The other pastor raised the fact that these printers wouldn’t work well for turning out large print runs like what would be expected for promoting an upcoming special event at the church.

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 inkjet multifunction printer

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 desktop inkjet multifunction printer

One factor to consider is how many copies you will be eventually needing for your design. If you are turning out up to 20 to 40 copies of your design at a time, you can get by with using your machine. If you end up running more than that, you would need to outsource your printing. This is because of the cost of ink and paper involved in the large print runs, the costs associated with the wear and tear on your machine and the time it takes to run the large print jobs on the typical home-office or small-business printer. This last factor will be of importance with fax-enabled printers serving as fax machines that have to be ready to receive faxes or printers that are required to turn out hard copy as part of business processes.

Another factor worth considering is how often your design is likely to change. This also includes situations where you want to adopt a “print-as-needed” policy such as to run a small-enough quantity of flyers for an appearance like a house inspection. If the design is likely to change frequently or be suited to an occasion, you may have to use your printer for the short runs or outsource larger runs to a print shop that supports quick-turnaround printing such as a copy shop that relies on inkjet or xerographic technology or a printing house that uses digital presses.

Examples of this may include a café, restaurant or bar turning out menus or drinks lists that are centred around particular food and drink specials, a church or funeral home turning out an order-of-service for a particular occasion or an estate agent or auctioneer running flyers about the property that they are auctionning to hand out to customers.

Other factors worth considering include the printing cost per copy if you are intending to use a premium paper stock like coated paper, glossy paper or art board when you are wanting that special look for your public-facing documents.It also includes using finished-document page sizes and forms that are out of the ordinary document-paper sizes like A4 or Letter.  Here, you may have to factor in any extra handling that you our your staff may have to do for manual duplexing or cutting to small sizes.

It is worth knowing that your machine would keep its worth in the equation as part of the design-approval process before you commit to having them printed. This is where you would be turning out proofs so you are sure they are what you want them to be; or to turn out short “test-runs” to assess the effectiveness of a design.

Your printer can also complement the print shop you use for outsourced printing by being able to provide short supplementary print runs of the final document on request. Here, you may want to:

  • do a preview run which you would give to special customers or partners while the main print run is being turned out;
  • turn out a short “infill run” of the documents when you find that you have run short of copies and you don’t want to commit to another large print run due to cost or turnaround-time reasons; or
  • want to keep some copies on hand and ready to distribute so you can get your campaign off the ground without waiting for the printing to be finished especially if you find that your print job has been delayed for some reason.

Conclusion

Here, small businesses can consider the use of a desktop printer as the “small-business printing press” if they know what their machine is capable of and they are using the right media for the job. This includes whether to work it hard on a large print job or assign the job to the local print shop.

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Product Review–Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro which is Lenovo’s latest premium iteration of the Yoga Pro family of 360-degree “fold-over” convertible notebooks, one of which I have reviewed before as the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. This still has the ability to work as a tablet or a laptop simply by you folding it over like a book or hinge.

Through the review, I had a good chance to write up the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 series of articles (1, 2, 3, 4) using this laptop and found it a good chance to test it as an on-road notebook especially with creating copy when out and about.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

 

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$2099
Form Factor Convertible 360-degree “hinge”
Processor Intel Core M 5Y70
RAM 8Gb shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb solid-state drive,
extra-cost: 512Gb solid-state drive
SDXC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD5300 integrated display
Screen 13.3” widescreen touchscreen (3200 x 1800) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD integrated audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 dual-band
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 3.0 x 3
Video mini HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo input-output jack
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Watch-band hinge

Watch-band hinge

One fieature that I would describe as the equivalent of the “pop up headlights” on a sports car is the watchband hinge. This works also as an effective heatsink which dissipates the heat that builds up at the top of the keyboard when the system is used. But it doesn’t compromise on how easy it is to switch between a tablet and a laptop.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne - Viewer mode

Viewer mode

There is a distinctly tactile rubber surround around the keyboard that, at times could be a dirt trap. Otherwise it is a system that is easy to keep clean especially if your second office is your favourite café or bar.

User Interface

The keyboard is roomy enough for touch-typing like most 13” notebooks,but Lenovo needs to make the home keys easier to feel There is the proper tactile feedback while typing which allows you to type quickly and is even accurate even when I used the Yoga 3 Pro on my lap to type up some copy. It is also easy to clear dirt from around the keys which is something you would have to do if you have been munching on some food while typing up something on the Yoga at that “second office”.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - tablet mode

Tablet mode

The trackpad works as expected but could benefit from a switch to disable it if you are using an external pointing device

The touchscreen is responsive as expected but a few bugs with some Windows 7 software doesn’t make it behave with proper cursor location when using these programs.

Audio and Video

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook left hand side - 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

Left hand side – 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

There is the sharpness that is part of the high-resolution display but a lot of Windows software doesn’t exploit this capability properly. But it still works properly with most video content in that there isn’t any change with colour balance or saturation. As well, the display shows the images very smoothly which can come across for multimedia and games.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook right had side - USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Right had side – USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Like a lot of notebook computers of its class, the sound quality will be compromised by the speakers integrated in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. But it was able to come across properly with the sound that is expected for computers for its class.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Tent mode

Tent mode

There is a 256Gb solid-state storage device serving as the main secondary storage and the capacity is enough to allow you to have plenty of work on board when you are on the road. This is augmented by 3 USB 3.0 ports and an SD memory card drive with the USB ports being able to support

One of the USB 3.0 ports on the left side and is highlighted in yellow serves as a power input port for the supplied charger. This predates the USB Power Delivery specification which is being purposed for powering small “secondary-use” laptops but the setup used with the Yoga 3 Pro wouldn’t be compatible with newer equipment.

There is also an 3.5mm audio input / output jack as well as a mini HDMI port for connecting to external displays.

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro has Wi-Fi that supports 802.11ac dual-stream but I don’t have access to a network that proves this new functionality. What I like of this is that it is ready for home networks that are tooled up with this new Wi-Fi technology. If you have to use it with Ethernet or HomePlug, you would need to purchase a USB-Ethernet adaptor, preferably a USB 3.0-Gigabit Ethernet adaptor or an expansion module (dock) that has this functionality.

Battery life

For day-to-day regular use, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro was able to run for a long time without needing to be charged. This may be a point of confusion for those of us who are used to charging notebook computers overnight and starting off with a full battery at the beginning of the day. But you can get away with running it one or two days of regular Web-browsing, email and typing-up without worrying about whether you have taken the charger with you.

Other usage notes

I have noticed that the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s convertible design and touchscreen user interface still impresses most people especially when they haven’t been exposed to this concept with laptop computers that are in circulation. One of the men in the church I go to was impressed by the “watch-band” hinge that this computer has, more as a sign of luxury and quality.

For a time, convertible notebooks of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s league will remind me of a situation with a man that I once knew through the 1980s who worked in a car showroom that sold Japanese cars as part of its stock. This is where the high-end sports cars that had the features that awed and impressed people, but these were out of the range of most peoples’ budgets.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is expensive if Lenovo is to target it as a successor to the Yoga 2 Pro, but is the right price if they are to pitch it as the ultra-premium convertible laptop. They could keep this model as the lead model of a group of convertible notebooks.

Personally, I would like to see Lenovo use the Yoga 3 Pro as a leading model for a range of 11” and 13” “360-degree” convertibles pitched at either home users or business users. Here, some of the models can be positioned at prices that most of us can afford, but are still preserved as a secondary personal-computing device. This is because there is an interest in the idea of the convertible or detachable “2-in-1” laptop computer being considered as an alternative to the tablet or a secondary laptop.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro as an option for a premium easy-to-use multifunction notebook that can serve well for those of us who do a lot of travelling on public transport. It is more so if you also appreciate the idea of a tablet being 13” which may appeal if you are showing something to two or more people.

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A smart-lock solution arrives for the Euro-standard mortice lock

Article – French language / Langue Française

La Poste vend aussi des serrures connectées (The Post Office also sells smart locks) | Le Figaro (France)

From the horse’s mouth

La Poste

PostAccess Product Page

Press Release

Video (Click to play – French language)

My Comments

At the moment, most smart-lock solutions are catering towards the “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt that is common in the USA and some other countries.

But there is an established “open-frame” cylinder-mortice-lock platform, known as the “Euro-profile” platform, which has a strong presence “across the board” in most of Britain and Europe and has some presence in Oceania. This is based around a single-piece module that houses the key cylinder and / or a thumb-turn which slides in to a mortice lock or multi-bolt locking system already installed in to a door. This platform hasn’t been served by this technology until now.

La Poste, the French post-office, have started marketing a smart-lock kit as part of their foray in to the connected-home scene. This is based around a “swap-in” module that replaces the cylinder module or cylinder / thumbturn module that is part of a European-standard mortice lock or multi-point locking system and, like some of the other smart locks, works with a fob or your Bluetooth-linked smartphone dependent on the package.

Here, the hardware based around a high-security outside cylinder module which “drives” the lock’s bolt and provides access using a traditional key. This interlinks with an inside module that has a thumbturn along with the electronics including the Bluetooth Smart radio subsystem that is part of the PostAccess system. It also has an integrated door-alarm which can be set up to work as a simple “buzzer alarm” that sounds when someone opens the door, or it can simply be set to sound if someone attempts to force the door open.

It also works with an NFC card reader that looks like a wireless doorbell and comes with the PostAccess Sérénité package. This card reader actually links with the lock using Bluetooth Smart technologies so it can read NFC cards, badges or wristbands and use these as keys.

People who buy the PostAccess Services Connectée package also receive a Wi-Fi – Bluetooth bridge that links the lock to your home network, This allows for you to manage your PostAccess lock remotely through a Web portal that is set up by La Poste in France. The standards around the online service encompass a high-security data transfer setup between the PostAccess smart lock and the servers which are located in France.

What I like of this smart lock is that it is the first product of its kind to work with the Euro-profile cylinder-mortice-lock platform purely on a retrofit basis in a manner that suits a “screwdriver expert”. As well, it is the first product of its type to be a hub for two peripheral devices i.e. the NFC card reader and a home-network bridge while working with smartphones for authentication and management purposes.

Like other early entrants in to the network-based connected-home or “Internet Of Things” idea, it will show the problems and bugs associated with these devices. This is where you rely on particular vendor-supplied equipment, smartphone apps and services to get the full benefit from them and they don’t work on an “open-frame” platform. To approach this better, the manufacturers would need to make the PostAccess smart lock software-upgradeable to newer “open-platform” standards

La Poste could be seeing this as a way to get their foot in the door to the connected home rather than trying to run their own “n-box” triple-play Internet service in to a highly-competitive Internet-service market. They could take this further with other products of the connected-home class and / or build out their Services Connectée package for remote home management.

To make the “smart-lock” idea work, there has to be an emphasis on seeing more products of this class appear on all of the commonly-used form-factors that the typical door lock appears in. As well, there has to be the ability to see the connected-home “Internet-Of-Things” concept mature on a level playing field along with encouraging a distinct role for these devices in the connected home.

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BMW delivers a security update to its ConnectedDrive cars

Articles

BMW 120d car

BMW cars with ConnectedDrive will benefit from an over-the-air software security patch

Your BMW just downloaded a security patch | Engadget

BMW patches in-car software security flaw | IT News

BMW Group ConnectedDrive increases data security | BMW Blog (BMW enthusiasts’ online magazine)

From the horse’s mouth

BMW Group

Press Release

My Comments

BMW ConnectedDrive user interface press picture courtesy of BMW Group

BMW ConnectedDrive user interface – where you can manually draw down that update

An issue that is constantly being raised regarding the Internet Of Everything is data and network security, including making sure the devices work to end-users’ expectations for proper, safe and secure operation. One of the constant mantras associated with this goal is to have a continual software-update cycle for these devices with the ability for customers to place new software in these devices in the field like you can with a regular computer or a smartphone.

BMW had brought about the ConnectedDrive online vehicle management and infotainment system to their newer BMW, MINI and Rolls Royce cars. But they discovered a flaw in the software and wrote a patch to rectify this problem. You would normally think that to have this patch delivered in to the vehicle management system, you would need to bring the car in to the dealership and this would be done as part of its regular preventative-maintenance servicing.

Here, it would typically involve you having to book the car in with the dealership including determining whether you need to use the courtesy car or not, drive it there at the appointed day and time and pick up the courtesy car if you needed it, then make a point of heading back to the dealership before they close to collect your car when it is ready.

But BMW had worked on delivering the software patch to the car via the mobile broadband link that the ConnectedDrive system depends upon for its functionality. Here, you would be advised that the update is taking place and at an appropriate time, the software patch would be applied. If you had garaged the car, you can manually “draw down” the update to your car once you drive it out of your garage.

What I see of this is the proactive way that the BMW Group have been able to use what is taken for granted with most computer operating systems to roll out critical software patches to their vehicles, which is something to be considered of importance when it comes to data security. This has to work not just through the life-cycle of a vehicle but beyond especially in markets where vehicles are likely to benefit from long service lives.

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