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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Product Review–Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

I am reviewing the Brother PT-E550WVP TZe-compliant handheld label writer which is pitched at electricians, AV and IT technicians and similar folk who work with different equipment.  This ranges from those who work out of the back of their trucks or vans to the maintenance and IT departments of different workplaces.

One feature that it has beyond the typical label writer is that it can work with other computer equipment via an existing Wi-Fi network segment or its own Wi-FI network. This allows for you to order labels on your smartphone or tablet and have it turn them out.

Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

Price: AUD$329 Recommended Retail Price

The unit itself

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer with back removed

Where to install the battery and the label tape

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is a large handheld device which has a heavy-duty build and an orange-and-grey housing. It is equipped with a large dot-matrix backlit LCD display that lights up when you are actually using the device, along with a rubberised keyboard.

To load the batteries or label tapes in to this label writer, you have to remove the back cover from this unit by pressing a latch on the top edge. Here. you have clearly-identified compartments at each end of the device for the batteries of the tape.

It has what some people may describe as a “three-way” power supply arrangement where you can run it on mains power courtesy of a supplied AC adaptor/charger, a supplied rechargeable lithium-ion battery or 6 AA alkaline batteries of the Duracell kind. This means that even if you run out of power from the rechargeable battery while on the road, you can go to the convenience store and buy some batteries to complete that labelling project. Here, charging the unit’s lithium-ion battery pack is simple as plugging the unit in to mains power using the supplied AC adaptor.

Functionality

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer keyboard

Rubberised keyboard with accent selector

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is based on Brother’s TZe label-cassette platform which means that it can work with all of Brother’s TZe label products which suit different purposes. This includes their HSe series of heat-shrink label tubes that you use to attach to cables.

This label writer has quick access to label templates that are optimised for labelling cables, patch-bays, outlets and the like which can make it an electrician’s or maintenance engineer’s best friend.

As for on-device data entry, the large display makes it easy to see what you are typing in on the unit’s QWERTY-layout rubber-membrane keyboard. The disadvantage with this keyboard is that all the keys are “bunched-up” together rather than spaced out like a calculator’s keyboard. This can be awkward for some users, but you can at least feel which keys are which because each key on the main keyboard has a hemispheric “pimple” shape.

The label writer doesn’t feel extra top-heavy while you are entering text and it still has that comfortable hand-held feel that is expected of this class of device.

You have a dedicated accent key which can come in handy for entering the accents common in most of the Latin languages. This may also appeal to those of you who are learning foreign languages and use labels attached to items as a tool to reinforce your vocabulary. Here, you press the letter you want accented then press the accent key repeatedly until the desired accent appears. In the case of the “ß” used in the traditional German orthography, you type the S letter then press the accent key until the “ß” letter shows up.

As for the output quality, the labels come out of this machine very crisp and clear as has been expected for Brother’s thermal labellers.

You use the Menu and arrow keys to select the advanced functions like the network connectivity, cutting behaviour amongst other things. This leads me to the network connectivity which is one of its key features.

Connectivity

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer can work as a label printer with a regular computer or a mobile device and can connect to the latter via Wi-Fi. This can be handy if you are wanting to run a batch of labels from your smartphone or tablet such as whenever you are out of the right label tape or you have left the label writer behind. Similarly, you can use this link to transfer databases or label templates created using the P-Touch software.

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer network operation menu screenshot

The user can select between direct Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi network

This model has answered a problem that was exhibited by Brother’s PT-P750W Wi-Fi label printer where it would attempt to connect to the last Wi-Fi wireless network it used before working as a standalone Wi-Fi wireless device. Here, the user has to select whether to run the label writer as its own Wi-Fi network or have it join an existing Wi-Fi network by using the WLAN menu option on PT-E550WVP’s menu and selecting “Direct” for working as its own network and “Infrastructure” for working with an existing Wi-Fi network.

As for connecting via an existing Wi-Fi wireless network, you can connect this unit to Wi-Fi network segments that use WPS or classic WEP or WPA-Personal password setup methods. This typifies most Wi-Fi home or small-business networks but would preclude business networks that implement user-specific or device-specific authentication along with public hotspots that implement Web-based authentication.

Comments from other people

Brother PT-E550WVP label writerI showed the Brother PT-E550WVP label writer to a friend of mine who works as a maintenance electrician and let him have a play around with this device. He was impressed with this unit’s rugged design and ease of use. This was so much that he would suggest to his workplace to consider buying these labellers for the team he works with.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A feature that may be considered nice to have for the PT-E550WP would be to allow the label writer’s keyboard to serve as an external keyboard for a tablet or smartphone. Similarly, this labeller could benefit from an optional car adaptor so it can be charged up from the vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket when you are driving between jobs or want to conserve battery power when you work out of the back of your van.

Similarly, Brother can improve on the display’s contrast to augment its useability. Here, they could implement display technologies like EL-backlit LCD displays or monochrome OLED displays which have a similar contrast to the vacuum-fluorescent displays but don’t consume as much power as those displays.

A function that could come in handy for people who use this label writer as part of IT support would be to print out the SSID and, perhaps, the password of the current network. This may be useful for preparing a network-configuration card to give to the network’s owner or attach the SSID to the router or access point they have configured.

Conclusion – Is it a tool or a toy?

The Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer earns its keep for tradesmen and maintenance departments who value a highly-durable label writer and want to have the ability to link it with their portable computing equipment whether now or in the future. Personally, I would consider this label writer to be a viable tool for these kind of users rather than a toy.

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FCC plans to subsidise broadband for low-income households

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

FCC Crafting Plan to Subsidize Low Income Broadband | Broadband News & DSL Reports

From the horse’s mouth

FCC

Commission Document (Press Release)

Lifeline – explanation guide (worth reading for those of you who don’t live in the USA)

My Comments

The Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Tom Wheeler has put a proposal amongst the fellow Commissioners to create a subsidised broadband program for the USA’s low-income households.

This will be a modification of the Lifeline subsidised-telephony program which the Reagan administration started in the 1980s in order to extend its remit to broadband Internet service. The Lifeline program, funded by a universal-service-obligation levy that is paid by the US’s telephone customers or the telco they use, provides a discount on telephony services to eligible low-income households.

The modification will also incorporate stronger anti-fraud measures so that the money goes to the subsidised-communications programs rather than telcos “taking the money and running”.

It has been found that marginalised communities like blacks and Latinos are not likely to as connected as white people. But there is an “elephant in the room” that is not mentioned concerning computer literacy which drives the desire to connect to broadband service. From my recent experience with helping some households with their personal IT, I have seen some cases where computer literacy being linked to general literacy. Here, a subsidised-broadband program could also be about facilitating local computer-literacy programs in the affected neigbourhoods such as through schools offering “after-hours” classes or community centres running workshops.

Oh yeah, you may think that a subsidised broadband program for low-income communities will lead towards waste in the form of constant YouTube-viewing or “one-handed surfing” (viewing of pornographic material). But broadband is become increasingly relevant because it is becoming the norm to do business online including applying for jobs, getting a business up and running, or interacting with government agencies.

The Universal Service Fund programs like Lifeline and eRate have been subject of criticism due to fraud and waste occurring within carriers and other companies. Primarily this is where the companies simply “take the money and run” and the FCC are in the dark about how it is being used. There is also the issue of how to raise this money, especially where new or increased universal-service-obligation levies on Internet and other communications services are not popular with customers where they are paying a premium for these services.

Other factors that the FCC want to consider include redefining the minimum “at the door” bandwidth that constitutes a broadband service along with overriding protectionist state laws that protect incumbent operators by prohibiting the existence of competing broadband service.

The former issue concerns the actual bandwidth that a customer benefits from because of DSL services that are affected by line distance and quality or cable services which are affected by the line quality and number of subscribers. The latter affects cities being able to “open the door” to fibre-optic installations or Wi-Fi hotzones ran by themselves or independent operators like the Google Fiber installations or municipal Wi-Fi hotzones.

I would still like to see this also factor in mobile-broadband setups which will be considered important with homeless and nomadic people. This is more so as the scope of homelessness is encompassing continual couch-surfing or living in emergency and “inn-like” accommodation like refuges, hostels and motels rather than a long-term home. Similarly, the Lifeline program could be evolved to encompass mobile telecommunications for people in these situations.

Similarly, there has to be a minimum level of quality expected for carrier-supplied customer-premises equipment that is used for Lifeline-subsidised Internet services. Here, it would prevent ISPs and telcos supplying underperforming equipment to these customers.

What is really needed for the US broadband market is to see real competition rather than a cosy duopoly or cartel of providers providing the service. This will then lower the prices that people pay for broadband and increase real value-for-money for these services.

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Microsoft answers the reality with your computing environment using Windows 10

Article

How Microsoft Is Bringing Windows 10 Features, Including Cortana, To Android And iOS | Lifehacker

Microsoft furthers Android, iOS integration push in Win10 | ITNews

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft Windows

Blog Post

Video

My Comments

Windows 10 and your smartphone platform work together-1

They now can work together

Manufacturers and platform vendors live in a dream world where customers will have their phone, computer and tablet all on the same or related platforms.

But the reality is that most people will have a personal computing environment based on two or three different operating systems. Typically this is an iPhone or Android smartphone working alongside a regular computer running Windows or MacOS X and, most likely, an iPad or an Android or Windows tablet.

It leads to problems associated with data interchange between the various devices and may require you to use cloud services or folders on a NAS, along with software import / export abilities to exchange the data. Even keeping your phone book or contact list in sync amongst devices of the various platforms can be very difficult.

But Microsoft has taken off from where they have built developer tools to allow you to quickly have apps ready-to-deploy for iOS, Android and Windows. They have taken this further by providing iOS, Android and Windows 10 apps that interlink and share data between your computer, tablet and smartphone. It may go against the dream held by Apple and their fanbois that once you have an iPhone, you progressively move towards an all-Apple computing environment with your regular computer being a Macintosh.

The first of these is the Phone Companion. This determines the corresponding apps you need to download from the iTunes App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) to interlink your phone with our Windows 10 computer on an application level.

These apps make use of Microsoft’s Windows OneDrive as a transfer point between your smartphone and your Windows 10 computer. For example, one of the apps provides a “hook” for your phone platform’s camera app to transfer photos to OneDrive so they show up on your computer.

There is also the XBox Music app which allows you to store your music on OneDrive and stream it to your iOS or Android smartphone while notes you create with OneNote on either your computer or smartphone show up on the other device. Microsoft is even making sure that if you modify a document on its Office mobile applications, the changes are reflected on your Office desktop applications.

Both the main smartphone platforms have their own integrated voice-driven personal assistant software in the form of Siri for iOS and Google Now for Android. But Microsoft has written a gateway app for each of these platforms so you can use Cortana as your voice-driven personal assistant. They are pushing the idea that, with Windows 10, Cortana will work across your smartphone and your regular computer in a platform-agnostic manner instead of just working with your smartphone or tablet..

A situation that can arise with any interoperability solution is that the solution can be engineered to be the hub of your computing life and not work tightly with the other platforms. For example, you may not be able to link your iOS or Android contacts function tightly with Windows nor would you be able to exchange photos between your device’s native photo storage and your computer’s photo collection smoothly. This can be of concern for, say, iOS users who make the Camera Roll serve as their handheld “brag-book” even though they have a PC or Mac having its own photo store or a cloud service like Dropbox being a photo exchange.

It is a step in the right direction to ensure data interoperability across the different mobile and desktop platforms when sharing data between devices along with satisfying the multiple-platform computing reality that affects most people.

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Hyundai to launch the first vehicle to come with Android Auto

Article

Android Auto in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata press photo courtesy of Hyundai America

Android Auto in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata

First production car powered by Android Auto rolls out – and it’s a Hyundai | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Hyundai America

Press Release

My Comments

Android Auto is starting to appear in production vehicles firstly with Hyundai. Here, this isn’t an extra-cost add-on or prototype, rather something that is par for the course for the vehicle’s premium trim levels.

This will be in the form of their 2015 Sonata executive sedan and only on the Eco, Sport, Limited, Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trim levels. As well, you would need to make sure that you have bought the “Navigation” option for your vehicle. These trim levels will come with a large LCD touchscreen as part of an infotainment system that can handle Apple AirPlay and Android Auto.

2015 Hyundai Sonata press picture courtesy of Hyundai America

2015 Sonata

But Hyundai is also extending this option to those of us who have already purchased the eligible vehicles by supplying it as a free upgrade. This is done by you downloading the new firmware from the MyHyundai website and copying it to a USB memory key to install in to your vehicle. Here, I would recommend that those of you who are unsure about this process have the firmware upgrade done by your Hyundai dealership’s mechanics when you have your vehicle serviced by them.

A good question that I would raise would be whether this option will be rolled out across other current-model-year Hyundai vehicles like the Tucson or Veloster that have the high-end navigation / infotainment system as standard for their trim level or can be “optioned up” to this functionality. Similarly, will any of the other vehicle builders offer Android Auto as an in-place upgrade or as standard for existing vehicles with the right infotainment system?

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An operating system rewrite may make it run smoothly on older hardware

Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

After a few versions, operating systems on computing equipment will need to be reworked

Apple iOS 9 upgrade could make old iPhones feel new again | The Age

My Comments

A common practice that takes place when an operating system is being written for a computing platform is that extra code is bolted on to the existing code to give it more functionality or cater to newer hardware. This happens due to newer peripheral types or connection methods being available to the computing platform or these devices being improved; along with security and stability questions that are raised through the software’s lifespan being answered.

But after a succession of releases, the operating system’s software-footprint becomes increasingly larger and ends up being slower to run. In the case of battery-operated equipment like smartphones, tablets and laptops, this same situation places a strain on the amount of time you can run this device on its own batteries.

This is more true when the operating system is partnered with older hardware that can be slower or not have enough storage capacity. It then comes to a tipping point in the operating system’s life that the software has to be rewritten from the ground up for improved performance and to have the newer abilities factored in to the software’s codebase.

This had happened with Windows when the security enhancements that were added on to Windows Vista made that version of the operating system become too slow and unwieldy. Microsoft subsequently rewrote the Windows codebase to provide for a highly-stable highly-secure operating system in the form of Windows 7.

It also happened with Android where version 4.3 Jelly Bean and 4.4 Kitkat became unwieldy with certain functions like handling Bluetooth or security-related functions. Android 5 Lollipop had a lot of this functionality written in to its codebase rather than being tacked on thus making for an operating system that was more stable.

Now it is happening with Apple’s operating systems – the iOS mobile operating system and MacOS X operating system. Both these operating systems will be undergoing a rewrite with minimum emphasis on new functionality but more to iron out the bugs. The Age article highlighted the fact that iOS 9 will work more “tightly” on older iPhones like the iPhone 4 Series, giving some sort of freshness to these devices.

A reality that can happen after one of these major overhauls is that as the computer scene changes and the operating system undergoes further revisions to accommodate the new changes, it could end up being bloated again. Again, this is the time that one of these major rewrites would have to take place in order to keep devices of that platform running smoothly.

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Panasonic launches network-capable stereo equipment with full multiroom streaming

Article

Panasonic SC-ALL5CD CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable one-piece music system press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL5CD CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable one-piece music system can stream CDs or the radio to AllPlay-capable wireless speakers via your home network

Panasonic has a second go with multi-room, streams CD and radio | Gadget Guy Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Panasonic Australia

Press Release

My Comments

Panasonic SC-PMX100 CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable 3-piece music system press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

… as can the Panasonic SC-PMX100 CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable 3-piece music system

Panasonic has pushed on the Qualcomm AllPlay specification as a way of having your favourite music or TV audio streamed around the home network to AllPlay-compliant Wi-FI wireless speakers. This takes advantage of new functions added to this specification such as streaming Bluetooth, line-in or other local audio sources to these setups or setting up a group of speakers for stereo or surround-sound reproduction with improved separation.

Panasonic SC-ALL70T AllPlay soundbar press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL70T soundbar can stream TV audio to your AllPlay-compatible wireless speakers via your home network

They have released the SC-ALL70T soundbar and SC-ALL30T TV speaker base which enhance your flat-screen TV’s sound but they can do more than what a soundbar or speaker base can do. If you use the newer SC-ALL2 wireless speakers, you can upgrade these speakers to become a full 5.1 surround-sound system with the front left, front right and centre audio channels coming out of the soundbar or speaker base. As well, if you connect your flatscreen TV’s headphone or analogue line-out jack to the soundbar’s or speaker base’s AUX input, you can set it up to stream the TV content’s sound to all of the AllPlay-compliant wireless speakers on your home network.

Panasonic SC-ALL2 wireless speaker courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL2 AllPlay wireless speaker

Those of you who love local broadcast radio or buy your music on CDs can have these sources streamed around your home network to AllPlay-compliant wireless speakers courtesy of two new stereos that Panasonic has released. Here with these systems, you don’t have to be in a hurry to “rip” that new CD you bought from Amazon or JB Hi-FI to have it come through your wireless speakers around the house.

These are the SC-ALL5CD single-piece music system and the SC-PMX100 premium three-piece micro system, which have a CD player, FM and DAB+ broadcast-radio tuners along with Bluetooth connectivity and an aux input all able to be streamed across your home network. Most likely, you would use the Panasonic iOS or Android remote-control app on your smartphone or tablet to change tracks or stations that you hear when you listen from other speakers.

Let’s not forget that the Panasonic SC-ALL2 speaker, which has an integrated alarm-clock display, can be paired with another of these speakers for improved stereo separation. Here, it is pitched for bathroom, bedroom or similar “auxiliary” speaker use, but shows that Panasonic could take this concept further.

For example, they could pitch a three-piece micro music system similar to the SC-PMX100 but equipped with a Blu-Ray player. Then an AllPlay-compatible wireless subwoofer and the SC-ALL2 speakers could make for a surround-sound system for a master bedroom or small lounge area with the SC-ALL2 speakers able to provide “close stereo” sound suitable for listening to music in bed.  Similarly, these could go with a Smart TV like one of the Panasonic VIERA models, offering to provide increased stereo separation or a full surround-sound setup again suitable for the small lounge area.

These stereos and speakers will still play music from the online music services of the Spotify ilk, the “new short-wave” that is Internet radio as well as music that is piled up on a NAS and made available via its DLNA media server.

What is showing is that Panasonic, a mainstream consumer-electronics brand, is still demonstrating faith in the Qualcomm AllPlay network-based wireless sound distribution platform rather than going for systems that are totally focused on equipment sold by that same vendor.

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Pre-baked operating systems to be the norm for the Internet Of Everything

Article

Google reportedly building an OS for the Internet of Things | Engadget

My Comments

As part of developing Windows 10, Microsoft released a variant of the operating system for small-form embedded devices such as what would represent the “Internet Of Things” or “Internet Of Everything”. Now Google has fronted up with a similar operating system that is pitched for the same purpose.

But why these operating systems? Designing a device that is to be “connected” typically requires the manufacturer to shoehorn a task-specific operating system for this device and typically these devices require one that has a small storage, memory and power footprint.  There is also the expectation that the device will have very limited user interaction capabilities, perhaps only a switch and LED.

These operating systems won’t require the manufacturer to reinvent the wheel for functionality like communications or power management. Rather they can concentrate on what the device is all about and build the code necessary for its functionality. This may also allow them to concentrate on differentiating the device they build from the “rest of the pack” and make it more compelling.

But could this bring forth a level playing field for the “Internet Of Everything” which assures connectivity and interoperability along with devices that are secure by design?

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Hyperoptic brings wired broadband to one of London’s marinas

Articles

Pleasure-boats at a marina in Melbourne

Fibre-to-the-basement broadband could be seen as a way to add next-generation broadband to a marina

Hyperfast broadband for boats in London’s South Dock marina | ThinkBroadband

Fibre to the barges: Hyperoptic connects houseboats to gigabit broadband | Recombu

UK ISP Hyperoptic Touts Hyperfast 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Boat Broadband | ISPReview.co.uk

London marina boats get faster broadband than most UK homes | Cable.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

Hyperoptic

Press Release

My Comments

There are some of us who use boats for more than just sailing around. For some of us, they are our residences but whether you are at a marina or tying up at a quiet shore, the issue of broadband can be a limitation.

Typically, if a marina provides broadband Internet service to its tenants, this would be in the form of Wi-Fi provisioned in the same vein as a hotel’s or caravan park’s public-access Wi-Fi service. This typically involves a few Wi-Fi access points over the marina’s area and a Web-based login experience. On the other hand, if there isn’t any Wi-FI Internet, the sailor would have to use a USB wireless-broadband dongle or a Mi-Fi router to get broadband on the boat and most of these services aren’t very good value for money especially for those who live on a boat.

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

A dual-WAN router like thsi one coudl earn its keep on a houseboat or yacht

Now Hyperoptic have worked with the Southwark Council in London to provide a more exciting broadband service to sailors who live at the South Dock Marina. They have implemented the same technique used to provide “fibre-to-the-building” or “fibre-to-the-basement” next-generation broadband to multi-tenancy buildings, work they are familiar with, to setting this marina up for wired broadband.

Here, they have a communications hub installed at both the South Dock marina and the Greenland Dock marina along with Cat5e Ethernet cabling toe each of the residential berths. The resident sailors would need to drop an Ethernet cable between the facilities box on the berth and their boat and use a wireless broadband router with Ethernet WAN connection to distribute the broadband across their craft while they are moored at the dock. Of course, the “Mi-Fi” would still be needed when you are out sailing, but this need could be served better through the use of a dual-WAN router that uses a USB connection for mobile-broadband modems as a WAN option.

They subscribe to a private Internet service similar to what we would subscribe to at home or in our businesses and can benefit from broadband and landline packages with 20Mb/s, 100Mb/s and 1Gb/s bandwidth depending on the package. At the time of the press release, there has been at least 50% takeup of these services which I see as being of promise for this kind of service.

Here, this dodges the bullets associated with the metal construction associated with most craft or mobile-broadband plans that are either capped or charged at exorbitant rates.

Using the fibre-to-the-building method of deploying broadband to a marina that has a significant number of people living “on-board” could make for a value-added extra especially in any of the “new shoreline suburbs” cropping up in most of the cities where each of these developments has to have a marina. Tie this with next-generation broadband service plans that are sold “by-the-month” or in a manner that appeals to occasionally-occupied premises and this could appeal to more sailor types.

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Claverton assists BT in providing real broadband to that village

Kennet and Avon Canal near Claverton, Bath, Somerset © Copyright Clive Barry and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons LicenceArticle

UPDATE Tiny Village of Claverton co-Funds BT Fibre Broadband Rollout | ISPReview.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

Claverton Parish Council

Broadband rollout web page

My Comments

I have previously covered some community efforts that have taken place in the UK to see real broadband Internet be available in various rural villages such as some of the Gigaclear efforts.

But the 115-strong community in Claverton, a Somerset village just a stone’s throw from Bath, have been the first community of its kind to co-fund British Telecom to establish a “fibre-to-the-cabinet” broadband network to cover that village. Here, BT responded with laying 2 kilometres of underground ducting and 4 kilometres worth of overhead and underground fibre-optic cable. This was terminated with 2 new street cabinets with one delivering regular ADSL and telephony services and the other serving as the fibre off-ramp for the next-gen FTTC broadband of up to 80Mbps.

Previously, the broadband service that covered the Claverton community was a joke with bandwidth of less than 1Mbps. This village was one of those communities that would be considered too small for the UK Government’’s “Broadband Delivery UK” programme and of course too small for commercially-viable rollout.

This was about a community that can work together to get something real done about their broadband service, making the village more viable economically. As well, it was about forcing an incumbent carrier like BT to adapt to the needs of a small community. Similarly, the infrastructure that is laid as a result of servicing Claverton can be used as a thoroughfare to service communities that are further out from there.

 

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North American XBox One users can receive over-the-air TV via their console

Article

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

The XBox One now to be DLNA-capable

Xbox One Digital TV Tuner hits the US and Canada today | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft XBox

Press Release

Hauppauge

Product Page

My Comments

Microsoft had integrated in to the XBox One software access to broadcast TV via add-on tuner modules or broadcast-LAN tuner devices as part of making it a general media hub rather than just a games console.

But, for a year, Microsoft offered a USB-connected DVB-T tuner module for XBox One consoles used in Europe and Oceania where DVB-T digital broadcasting is the norm for over-the-air TV broadcasts. This put its home market, the USA and Canada, at a disadvantage because these countries use ATSC for their over-the-air TV broadcasting.

Now Microsoft and Hauppauge have worked together to develop a USB TV-tuner dongle for the XBox One so it can work with over-the-air TV in North America. They are even offering a package with this tuner module and an indoor HDTV antenna so you can get ready to go if you don’t have an outdoor TV antenna.

Microsoft’s addition of TV-broadcast support allows for “picture-in-picture” viewing, an integrated program guide with social-media support, “pause-live-TV” functionality along with the ability to change channels by voice using Kinect. It cab also allow you to stream over-the-air TV to your smartphone or tablet courtesy of the XBox SmartGlass app for iOS, Android, Windows and Windows-Phone platforms. The current limitation is that it can’t work as a full-fledged PVR to record over-the-air content.

In the US, this feature has some appeal to the “cord-cutting” community who prefer to watch TV content from online sources or the over-the-air networks rather than cable TV. Similarly, this also may please those of us who have the XBox connected to an HDMI-capable monitor or projector and want to use this to watch broadcast TV.

It is furthering the idea that a games console can be used as an entertainment hub rather than just for gaming.

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