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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you need to be sure of

Windows folder with pictures in numerical sequence

Pictures in numerical sequence in known folder

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

Photos on your camera's memory card

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

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

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

Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 with Windows Photo Viewer

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

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

    Image in Windows Photo Viewer

    First image of the collection opened in Windows Photo Viewer

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

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

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

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

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

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What is a GPU all about?

Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

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

What Makes A GPU Different From A CPU? | Gizmodo

My Comments

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

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

Gaming rig

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

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

Integrated vs dedicated GPUs

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

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

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable STAMINA-SPEED switch

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

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

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

External GPU docks

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

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

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

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

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

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

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

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

How do you achieve this?

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

Brother HL-3075CW colour LED printer control panel detail

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

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

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

What paper sizes to use

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

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

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

Use of colour in your campaign

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Product Review – Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

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

RRP AUD$899

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

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Scan Scan to Connection
Sheet-fed

600 dpi

Single-pass Auto-duplex

USB Mass-Storage

CIFS/FTP/HTTP network storage

Online Services

SMTP E-mail

USB 3.0

Ethernet

802.11g/n Wi-Fi

The scanner itself

Setup

Brother ADS-2800W document scanner document path

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

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

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

Wi-Fi connectivity

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

Walk-up and mobile operation

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner - Web services

It scans directly to Dropbox

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

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

Computer-based operation

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

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

Scanning results

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

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

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

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

Limitations and points of improvement

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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Windows 10 Tiles not functioning? You may have to restart Explorer

Article

Windows 10 Start Menu

If you are seeing blank tiles in this view, you may have to restart Windows Explorer

Windows 10 Tip: Fixing Live Tile Counts and Blank Tiles | Supersite For Windows

My Comments

If you are running Windows 10 and are enamoured by the “tiled interface” that is part of its Start Menu or Tablet Mode view, there are times where you may find it not working “up to scratch”.

With this interface, you may find that the Live Tiles that are regularly updated simply go blank or are stagnant. The normal response to this situation would be to restart your computer, which would then fix the problem.

Task Manager with Windows Explorer called out

The Windows Explorer process in Task Manager

On the other hand, you may only need to restart the Explorer process to fix this problem without the need to reboot your computer. This can also apply to other user-interface abnormalities.

Here, you run Task Manager by either right-clicking the Taskbar or holding your finger on the Taskbar in the case of a tablet or 2-in-1, then clicking Task Manager, or pressing Ctrl-Shift-ESC together on the keyboard. Then you find Windows Explorer in the list of processes. Right-click this item and click Restart and it won’t take long for it to come good.

Task Manager - Context menu with Restart called out

Click the Restart option on the context menu to restart Windows Explorer

At this point, the Windows Explorer process will recover and update the tiles including reloading the data that populates the tiles from its source rather than working of corrupted data.

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How to effectively establish that Wi-Fi-based mobile network

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wi-Fi mobile printer – one of the mobile peripheral devices pitched to smartphone and tablet users

A major trend that has become strong over the last few years is the arrival of mobile network devices that connect to each other and to client computer devices via Wi-Fi wireless networking technology.

These are represented in the form of:

  • mobile network-attached-storage devices
  • mobile printers
  • wireless speakers, and
  • mobile broadcast-LAN tuners that work with terrestrial or satellite broadcast systems,
Network setup for mobile NAS and smartphone

Network setup for Wi-Fi-based mobile peripheral devices

What is common about all of these devices, and is treated as a key marketing feature by their vendors, is that they can be set up to be their own access point with their own DHCP server as well as being client devices to existing wireless networks. Some of these devices like most mobile NAS devices are able to work effectively as bridges or routers between an existing wireless network and the network that they create.

This may work well if you are just using the one mobile peripheral device with your mobile client devices but may not work well when you intend to run two or more mobile peripheral devices. Here, you will end up switching between different wireless networks just to benefit from the different mobile peripheral devices.

Mobile NAS as bridge setup

Wireless NAS as a bridge between mobile client devices and another Internet-providing network

But you may want to run one or more of these wireless mobile devices together to serve multiple laptops, tablets or smartphones. Situations that may come about that will call for these setups would be where you are using a mobile NAS and, perhaps, a camera that has Wi-Fi functionality or one of the new Wi-Fi-capable mobile printers. This will call for you to create a proper mobile wireless network for all of these devices.

Use a router-class device as the main device

Here, you would have to run one wireless network device as a DHCP server and “master” access point and this function can be best served by a router-class device.

"Mi-Fi" portable wireless router

A typical “Mi-Fi” portable wireless router for a mobile-broadband service

The most common examples of devices of this class that apply to “on-the-road” use are the “Mi-Fi” mobile routers that work with a mobile broadband service or one of the travel routers pitched to work with a hotel’s wired Internet service. Some mobile NAS devices may also do this wireless-bridging functionality in an adept manner and could be the hub of your “travel network”. Similarly, one of the mobile-broadband wireless routers being integrated in to some new cars by the likes of BMW and Chrysler may also answer these needs.

You may think of using your smartphone’s Wi-Fi mobile-broadband-router functionality but this may encumber your smartphone for what you want to really use it for.

Some highly-sophisticated “Mi-Fi” and travel-router devices may also expose an Ethernet connection for LAN use, perhaps through an optional extended-functionality dock. This can come in handy if you want to increase your coverage area with another wireless access point or want to use devices like games consoles with your mobile network.

You may find that you don’t need to run the Internet connection on the Mi-Fi or travel router if you are simply establishing a link between multiple mobile peripheral devices and client devices and aren’t reliant on Internet functionality for their operation. Similarly, by having your mobile devices working this way, you avoid the need to authenticate with a Wi-Fi hotspot that implements Web-based authentication to do something like gain access to your mobile NAS’s data from your iPad.

Set up known wireless network parameters

Mobile network wiht "Mi-Fi" router and 2 Wi-Fi-capable mobile peripheral devices

Mobile wireless network for two or more mobile devices and mobile client devices – uses a router-class device like a “Mi-Fi” router

When you set up your “Mi-Fi” or travel router, you make this device the hub of your mobile network and have every device “point” to this device’s local-network by associating with its SSID (wireless network name) and security parameters.

Most of the mobile network devices that work on an “open-frame” approach can be quickly associated to this “mobile hub” thanks to WPS-based push-button setup. For devices that don’t support this quick setup mode like most Apple devices, you will need to note down the “mobile hub’s” SSID and security passphrase.

For that matter, a good practice would be to assign a unique SSID for your “mobile hub” device i.e. your Mi-Fi or travel router. This is important when you use these setups in campgrounds, caravan parks or hotels where many of these devices will be used at once.

All wireless devices to link with router-class device

It will also mean that the mobile NAS, mobile printer or other similar device has to work as a client device rather than as its own access point. This also applies to your computing devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones which also associate with the “mobile hub” device.

When positioning your mobile-network devices, make sure that they are in the range of your “mobile network hub” device i.e. the Mi-Fi or the travel router. All the wireless traffic that goes between these devices will pass through the “mobile network hub” device rather than between the devices themselves.

You may find that if you want to avoid draining your “Mi-Fi” router’s battery too quickly, it may be a good idea to have it run from a USB charger that runs from house current or your vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket. Similarly, a high-capacity USB power-pack can also earn its keep with these devices if you are away from power.

What I stand for when reviewing or researching mobile devices

When I review any device for this Website that is capable of being its own wireless network such as a mobile NAS or mobile printer, I test the device with my home network’s Wi-Fi wireless segment as if it is a client device. This is so I am sure they can work in this kind of setup as well as the highly-promoted “own access point” setup. As well, as part of researching a mobile device that uses Wi-Fi wireless technology as part of its link with client computer devices, I verify that it can work as part of an existing wireless-network segment as well as being its own segment.

Similarly, when I research a mobile router-class device like a Mi-Fi or travel router, I would expect the device to support WPS single-push connectivity along with other essential Wi-Fi connectivity and security standards. Similarly, such a device would have to be easy to configure including setting up the SSID and passphrase. As well, the Mi-FI device can’t be very thirsty with its battery if the goal is to have it as a “hub” device.

Conclusion

Once you are able to set up a mobile multi-device network, you can then be able to use it to store or print data while you are “on the road” without needing to constantly switch networks for each different task.

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Network media players that serve as control amplifiers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Auralic

Altair Wireless Streaming Bridge (Product Page)

Technics

SU-R1 Network Audio Control Player (Product Page)

My Comments

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

Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

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

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

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

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

.. as can this B&O Beolab active speaker

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

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

Aktimate bookshelf active speakers

.. and Aktimate active bookshelf speakers with RCA connections

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

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

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

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Australia looks towards integrating Internet as a universal service

Article

Broadband router lights

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

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

From the horse’s mouth

Productivity Commission

Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Inquiry Page)

My Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Qarnot uses computers to provide free room heat for buildings

Qarnot Q.Rad press image courtesy of Qarnot

Qarnot Q.rad heater is actually a computer

One of the common ways of using electricity to provide room heat in a building is to use a panel or column heater that has a material like oil heated by an electric element.A variant that existed in the UK and, to some extent, Australia was a “storage heater” or “heat bank” that used a heavier material like bricks that stored more heat and was heated during overnight when the power was cheaper. Then this material diffuses this heat in to the room. These kind of heaters are able to provide this diffused heat to take the chill off a room but were expensive to run.

But Qarnot, a French cloud-computing firm, have looked at the issue of using the waste heat from a computer integrated in this heater to heat a room or building. Here, they have designed the Q.Rad which connects to your home network and electrical power and works as a data-server for their distributed-computing effort while using the waste heat to heat a room.

It also implements an integrated power meter so that you can be reimbursed for the power that it uses as part of the cloud-computing network, effectively providing “free heat”. But a question that can be raised for implementation in markets like Australia, New Zealand or, increasingly, the USA is the requirement to calculate transferred data and establish a mechanism to refund users’ bandwidth charges for this data. This is because of the practice where ISPs are either charging for data transferred or throttling users’ bandwidth if they transfer more than an allotted amount of data.

Qarnot Q.Rad exploded view press image courtesy of Qarnot

Processing power inside this heater – the waste heat from that goes to keeping you warm

The data that Qarnot processes using these heaters is typically for the likes of research labs, banks and animation studios where they “offload” calculations in to this cloud-computing array. They also have the ability to seek out distributed-computing research projects of the SETI or Folding@Home kind to keep the network alive and generating heat where needed. For data security, these heaters don’t implement any storage for the distributed-computing client’s data while implementing end-to-end encryption for this data,

Qarnot will implement an “upgrade and replace” program so that higher-speed processors are used in the Q.Rad computing heaters and there is the ability to deal with failed equipment quickly and easily to assure high availability.

Householders are still able to adjust the heater to their preferred comfort level and make it reflect their lifestyle by using a smartphone app or the controls on the heater. This kind of thermostatic control is achieved by deflecting some of the workload away from the heater that is not needed when there isn’t the need for heat output.

They rate the output of a single unit to around 500 watts which would cover a 150-300 foot area in an insulated building. Qarnot are also pitching these heaters as part of the smart-building concept by having them able to be equipped with sensors and being programmable for any IoT / building-automation application. Similarly, Qarnot have added functionality like USB or Qi wireless charging to these heaters so users can charge mobile devices on them.

At the moment, these heaters are being issued to large buildings in Europe and the USA where 20 units or more need to be deployed. But in 2017, Qarnot wants to release these heaters to individuals who want to take advantage of this heating concept. For householders, this may be seen as being advantageous for “always-needed low-output” heating applications such as kitchens, downstairs areas in split-level houses and similar areas.

In some cases, Qarnot could make it feasible to have the Q.Rad heaters provide services to a network, whether as a router, NAS, home-automation hub or something similar. This could be achieved through the use of extra hardware or software to fulfil these tasks.

What Qarnot has done is to harvest waste heat from computing processes and use this for heating rooms in buildings with little cost to the building owner.

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Kogan are offering a highly-capable USB dock for $120

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Kogan

Wavlink USB 3.0 Multi-task Universal Laptop Docking Station & Hub (WL-UG39DK1) (Product Page)

Wavlink

USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station Dual Video Monitor Display

My Comments

I had come across in my email a Kogan ad where they were offering a highly-capable USB dock with integrated video support for 2 displays. Here, they are offering the product for AUD$120 including tax but excluding shipping.

This device has 2 USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports, which can come in handy with a mix of USB input devices and USB storage devices along with an integrated USB sound module and USB-Gigabit-Ethernet network adaptor.

For video, there is a DVI connection and an HDMI connection for displays that work to DVI or HDMI specifications. From the manufacturer’s site, there is also meant to be a DVI-VGA adaptor so you can use it with that VGA-only display or projector. This functionality is supported according to Displaylink standards for USB-video adaptors.

It is targeted at laptop users who use current-spec laptops but want to maintain a desktop workspace with “full-bore” peripherals like full-sized input devices or larger monitors, let alone a reliable Ethernet or HomePlug AV500 connection to the network. Here, the idea is that a person who uses a “work-home” laptop can quickly connect and disconnect the laptop to and from this expansion module using one plug while all the peripherals are in place, connected to this device.

In some cases, it can also be of benefit to those of us who use small desktop computers like all-in-ones or “Next Unit Of Computing” devices where there isn’t much in the way of connectivity; or for those of us who carry around a laptop that doesn’t have much in the way of external-device connectivity but don’t want to worry about losing adaptors left right and centre when you move from place to place.

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NBN now offers British-style infrastructure-upgrade programs

Article – From the horse’s mouth

NBN

Area Switch product page

My Comments

You may have seen some articles on HomeNetworking01.info about how various local entities in the UK have gone about bringing an underserved community like a rural area up to current Internet-service expectations.

Here, an entity that is either a community collective in the case of B4RN who are pushing out FTTP fibre broadband to Northern-England villages or a private company in the case of Gigaclear pushing FTTP fibre broadband to small towns and villages in the Home Counties has worked alongside local government and the local citizenry to achieve these goals.

Australia’s NBN have headed towards a mixed-technology approach similar to BT Openreach in the UK. But they have offered an “area-switch” technology upgrade that can affect areas ranging from an apartment block to a town or suburb. This can be co-ordinated by a representative group like a building’s owner-corporation, a neighbourhood association, a local council or even a state government.

This will allow a area covered by satellite or fixed-wireless NBN technology to be upgraded to a wired technology or allow a fibre-copper setup (FTTN, FTTB or HFC) setup to be upgraded to FTTP full-fibre technology.

Like the other rollouts, the areas concerned must be contiguous such as having all premises in a street or all units in a multi-premises development covered. Similarly, there will be a requirement to have the work performed when the area of concerned is being prepared for the NBN deployment or, in the case of a satellite or fixed-wireless upgrade, a neighbouring town is being equipped with a wired setup.

The main problem with the NBN approach is that it’s like BT Openreach offering a similar service in the UK – they could wrap communities around their thumbs by, for example, charging too much or delaying rollouts. The Australian Government need to look at what has been going on in the UK with the likes of B4RN, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic where these organisations have established their own infrastructure to answer broadband-service problems by compete with the established provider.

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Sky reduces prices on fibre broadband in York

Article

York UK aerial view courtesy of DACP [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sky offering cut-price next-generation broadband in York

Sky Broadband Cuts Ultra Fibre Optic FTTH Pilot Service Price in York UK | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

Sky are increasing their fibre-to-the-premises foothold in York, North Yorkshire but also are reducing the price of these services for households along with marketing the services as “Ultra Fibre Optic” services. This is based on infrastructure being rolled out by them, TalkTalk and CityFibre across that city/

They were asked about whether they have a plan to build out their own FTTP infrastructure across the UK but had denied having that kind of ambition. But they are running separate FTTP pilot deployments across Basingstoke and Derbyshire with the same kind of technology, products and tariff charts.

Sky’s cut-price plans offer in common unlimited data use along with a router being supplied although customers have to fork out GBP£6.95 for delivery.

The plans are listed below:

  • 50Mbps for GBP£5 per month for 12 months, GBP£10 per month therafter
  • 100Mbps for GBP£10 per month for 6 months, GBP£20 per month thereafter
  • 940Mbps for GBP£20 per month for 6 months, GBP£30 per month thereafter

The customers are still charged the GBP£17.40 line rental, which has raised questions for an FTTH/P service run by Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre. Here the question that may be raised is that if BT Openreach had anything to do with this, they may have had Sky put this in their tariff charts.

If Sky is a TV-content supplier, they could be in a position to run a single-pipe multiple-play service with their pay-TV content delivered via the fibre-optic infrastructure which could allow for the satellite dishes to go from the balconies. As well, it can become a foothold for Sky to roll out 4K UHDTV services to their customers as television is heading down that path.

The issue of the line-rental charge is still a thorny issue for a lot of UK providers because there isn’t a way to allow ISPs to provide a “naked” or “dry-loop” service where you don’t have to pay BT line-rental charges. On the other hand, Sky could start offering telephony over the fibre services for those of us who value the landline telephone service.

But what is happening is that some providers are reducing the price of fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband so as to allow users to justify taking advantage of the high speeds that it offers.

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Raising the bar for triple-play Internet in France

Articles – French language / Langue Française Flag of France

SFR lancera une nouvelle box en septembre… pour contrer Free ? | O1net.com

SFR : une nouvelle box fibre pour septembre ? | ZDNet.fr

SFR annonce une nouvelle box ! | Ere Numérique

From the horse’s mouth

SFR

Product Page (French language / Langue Française)

My Comments

It looks like there will be a tight showdown between two of the French telcos when it comes to the multiple-play “n-box” services.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

The Freebox Révolution to be replaced with better-performing equipment soon

Free.fr did a bit of initial murmuring this month (July) about the Freebox v7 that will be surfacing on the French market in September. This is a powerful unit that can handle 4K UHDTV and is intended to replace the Freebox Révolution which was known to set the standard for carrier-supplied routers and set-top boxes.

Now SFR have made mention about a triple-play “n-box” service with hardware that is said to be on a par with, if not better than, Free’s setup. Here, this will be about improved Wi-Fi technology of the 802.11ac order, a new design and, like the Freebox, support for 4K UHDTV. This is in conjunction with more sports content and VoD content being made available to their subscriber base on 4K UHDTV.

It will be released in September, concurrently to when Free will put their new Freebox on the market. SFR want to also allow their existing subscriber base to upgrade to this new service for EUR€49 with a 12 month contract.

In the UK, British Telecom had raised the bar for Wi-Fi performance offered by a carrier-supplied wireless modem router. Could this also mean that the French telcos could join in and offer highly-powerful carrier-supplied wireless modem routers for their services as a way to compete against each other.

What is now happening is that the calibre offered for carrier-supplied home-network equipment could be another way where telcos and ISPs in a highly-competitive market could compete against each other. This is in addition to what you could get for your landline or mobile telephony service, your pay-TV service’s channel lineup or your Internet bandwidth and included services for the monthly charge that you stump up.

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More malware being discovered for the Macintosh platform

Article

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

Even Apple Macintosh users need to keep secure computing habits

Mac Malware Opens OS X Backdoor to Attackers | Tom’s Guide

My Comments

A lot of Apple Macintosh users have jumped to this platform based on an initial fact that there was very little malware written for it. But now, as more people are using Macs, they are becoming a target for malware including some “backdoor” software which weakens the MacOS’s defences against other malware.

This time, what was being called out was a Trojan-horse program that pretends to be a file-conversion program, the kind of program that is easily downloaded in a hurry.

Keep your Mac’s operating system and software patched and updated

A good practice regarding keeping your Mac secure, as with other computing platforms, is to make sure that the MacOS operating system is up-to-date with all the patches that Apple releases. This is because Apple may have released bug-fixes or remedied exploits that have been discovered in your version of the MacOS operating system.

Preferably, I would recommend you have this set up to work automatically so that when you are connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, your Mac is kept updated and patched.

You can set this up to be performed automatically by going to [Apple] – [System Preferences]. Then you go to the App Store panel if you have one of the newer versions of MacOS (Yosemite onwards) then check the boxes for “Automatically check for updates” and “Download newly available updates in the background”. This will then make the “Install OS X Updates” option available which you should check.

For Macs that run prior versions, you would still go via [Apple]-[Software Update] and set the appropriate options to automatically patch your version of MacOS X.

You can manually update and patch your Mac by visiting the App Store if you are in Yosemite or newer versions and tick off all of the software that needs updating in the Updates panel. For prior operating systems, you would need to visit the [Apple]-[Software Update] menu and click the option to download and install the latest patches for your Mac.

You can still visit the Updates panel in the App Store and go through all the apps that need updating so you can be sure they are up-to-date. If you have software that isn’t delivered via the App Store, use its interface or the software developer’s Website to keep it up-to-date. This is also important because older versions of application and other software can carry bugs or exploits.

This is something you should do when you switch your Mac on if you haven’t used your Mac or haven’t connected it to the Internet for a significant amount of time, such as with a secondary-use MacBook or a Mac that you use as part of multi-platform computing.

Upgrade your Mac’s operating system if you can

It may be worth upgrading your Mac’s operating system to a newer version if your computer can handle it. In most cases, you can update the system for either pennies’ worth or for free. Here, you could check the App Store or Apple’s website regarding newer operating systems for your Mac.

The main advantages that these new operating systems offer encompass system-wide hardening including the availability of the Mac App Store where the software is verified before it is made available.

Make sure you download software from reputable sources

For all computing platforms, one requirement for safe and secure computing is to obtain computer software from known reputable sources.

In the case of the Macintosh, either download new software from the Mac App Store where the software is verified or from the website of a trusted and known developer. Even when you obtain software from the Mac App Store, check the quality of the software by looking through the reviews that are posted about it and checking the reviews also for other software offered by the same developer. I have written an article about obtaining software from app stores because there has been a risk of them turning in to the equivalent of bulletin boards and download sites that host poor-quality software.

When it comes to software delivered in a packaged form, avoid the temptation to install from anything unless you have bought it yourself from a reputable dealer.

Consider desktop-security software for the Mac

This may sound foreign to Apple Macintosh users but you may also find that it may be worth considering the installation of a desktop-security / endpoint-security program on your Mac. It is more so if you or others who use your Mac are not astute when it comes to downloading software or handling the Internet.

Most of the developers who have written these kind of programs for the Windows-based computers have now written versions of these programs for the Macintosh platform because of the rise of threats against this platform. Like with Windows, the better desktop-security programs also offer protection against Internet-borne threats such as site-reputation checking, content filtering, and spam filtering. Similarly, better-quality software runs in a manner that doesn’t impinge on your Mac’s performance.

Conclusion

Like other computer platforms like DOS / Windows, the Apple Macintosh needs its users to be careful about keeping their computer and data secure. This includes keeping the operating system up-to-date along with being sure about what software you have on your computer.

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Panasonic continues with a CD-capable multi-room system that respects most of us who keep CDs

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Panasonic

SC-ALL7CD Music System

Blog Post

Press Release

Specifications

My Comments

Panasonic are still furthering the QualComm AllPlay multi-room audio platform, this time with another music system that can share CDs or broadcast radio to other AllPlay speakers. Here, they are underscoring audio-content formats that may not be considered the way to go in these days thanks to Internet-derived audio services.

The Panasonic SC-ALL7CD can be set up to be a content source for the AllPlay-compliant speakers by offering CDs played on the integral CD player or recorded on the integral 4Gb storage, content held on a USB memory key, broadcast radio from FM or DAB+, Bluetooth A2DP from a smartphone or similar device; or this same system can be used to play anything offered up by other AllPlay sources on the same home network.

As for network connectivity, this music system which looks like the traditional clock radio is able to be connected to your home network via 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi wireless or wired Ethernet which also allows it to work with HomePlug powerline networks when you use it with a “homeplug” adaptor. As for file-based audio, it can handle FLAC Hi-Res audio files and can work with most online audio services as long as you use the Panasonic-supplied AllPlay app on your mobile device.

The integral storage capacity is rated at 4Gb and you can store up to 5 CDs at best quality or 25 CDs at a normal quality, with the ability to have them play sequentially or in random order.

The Panasonic SC-ALL7CD is rated with a power output of 20 watts per channel (1 kHz, 8 ohms, 10% total harmonic distortion) and plays the music in to a stereo speaker setup which implements a 2-way speaker arrangement for each channel.

But this system is about continuing the ability to link a multi-room system based on the Qualcomm AllPlay platform with legacy sources like CDs and traditional radio, something that I see only Panasonic doing. This is unless others contribute integrated music systems to this platform that maintain one or more similar sources.

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Detroit now benefits from 10Gb competitive Internet service

Article

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

More it’s about access to real competitive broadband in the USA

Detroit Rock(et Fiber) City: Startup brings 10Gb service to Motown | The Register

My Comments

Another US city is now to benefit from high-speed competitive Internet service. This time, it is Detroit, Michigan which excelled through the automotive boom, carrying along the Motown funk, soul and disco music with it, but went seriously downhill thanks to the recent financial turmoil.

But two former Quicken Loans employees built the Rocket Fiber startup to provide 10Gb FTTP fibre-optic broadband in to Detroit’s central business (downtown) district. This had been pitched at both householders and businesses and became a way for Detroit to regenerate itself by attracting newer startup businesses in to that city. But there are plans to take this further to Detroit’s Midtown district and then further out to the rest of Detroit which I would say places the cable-TV company and the Baby Bell telco operating in that area “on notice”.

At the moment, the called price for these services is US$69 per month for a 1Gb service and US$299 per month for a 10Gb service. Rocket Fiber are also investigating an IPTV service that will work on these lines. Rocket Fiber also want to raise the bar for support by providing exact appointment times for service calls along with phone support with “walk-through” troubleshooting.

Personally, could this be about raising the bar for Internet service in Detroit especially as a way to reinvigorate that city and bring it out of the doldrums? If so, this could be an example for towns and cities which suffered financially but want to get back to prosperity.

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