Author: simonmackay

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

Article

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

From the horse’s mouth

USB Implementers Forum

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

My Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another fibre-based broadband service competes with NBN

Article

Lot 3 Ripponlea café

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

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

From the horse’s mouth

DGTek

Product Page

My Comments

Lot3 Ripponlea Wi-FI

Could this mean high-throughput here?

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

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

Elwood streetscape

This neighbourhood stands to benefit from competitive fibre-optic broadband

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

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

Apartment block in Elwood

Fibre-optic connectivity to each apartment

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

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

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

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

This includes:

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

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

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

Article – French language / Langue Française

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

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

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

My Comments

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

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

Qarnot Q.Rad press image courtesy of Qarnot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

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

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

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

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

Windows 10 Device Manager

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

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

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

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

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

Article New Zealand map

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

My Comments

What is the broadband Internet scenario in New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Broadband

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

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

Next-generation broadband effort

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

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

Why push ahead with fibre broadband?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

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

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

Yamaha

CD-N301 Network CD Player

Product Page

My Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Using audio-editor software to salvage legacy media

Linn Sondek LP12

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

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

What do you need?

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

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

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

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

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

Audacity audio-editor software recording

Audacity – a typical and common audio-editor program

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

How do I go about this?

Create a software monitor path using your audio-editing software

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

Audacity - audio inputs

Audio inputs on Audacity

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

Audacity - audio outputs

Audacity – audio outputs

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

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

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

Setting recording level and parameters

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

VU meters on Philips DCC-900 in play mode

VU meters that indicate playback output level

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

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

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

Assuring proper computer performance

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

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

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

Recording

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

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

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

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

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

Changing the media during recording

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

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

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

Editing

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

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

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

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

Editing techniques for legacy media transfer

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

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

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

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

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

Exporting

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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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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