simonmackay Archive

Microsoft brings forth a 2-in-1 that is both a convertible and detachable


Microsoft Surface Book shown at Windows 10 Devices Event, on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 in New York, New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for AP Images for Windows) courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book shown at Windows 10 Devices Event- detached

Here’s our first look at the Surface Book, Microsoft’s answer to the MacBook Pro | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth


Surface Book

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Microsoft Surface Book (detached) press picture courtesy of Microsoft

It can detach ..

Microsoft has just released a 13” 2-in-1 computer that takes this concept further. This class of portable computer was either a convertible notebook that folded over or collapsed in a certain manner to become a tablet; or a detachable tablet where the keyboard was detached from the tablet itself.

With the Surface Book which was just released, the computer is a fold-over convertible like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro which I previously reviewed. Here, it has that same watchband hinge although in a plastic form. But you can detach the screen like you can with the HP x2 family and have it become a tablet.

Microsoft Surface Book press picture courtesy of Microsoft

…. or can fold over to be a tablet

It also has a stylus so you can effectively write and this technology is augmented with features like “Palm Block” so you can rest your hand on the screen without unwanted activity like you can with a regular notepad.

As for the graphics, there is a dual-mode operation method where it can work with integrated graphics processing when detached or with discrete graphics when with the keyboard.

Of course, Microsoft is pitching this Windows-driven notebook in to the same market as the Apple MacBook Pro and even running publicity shots of it in action with graphics arts and even putting forward the idea that it can be used as a music playout computer by a DJ in a nightclub.  This is also playing out with VAIO and could easily play out with other computer names who are after the premium “status-symbol” end of the market.

This could also see the reality of the “2-in-1” convertible or detachable being a significant computing device class that is gaining traction in the personal-computing marketplace.

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An ASUS 2-in-1 with USB Type-C available for AUD$500


Get USB 3.1 Type-C Today On A Sub $500 Laptop From ASUS | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth


ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP200SA

Product Page

JB Hi-Fi

Online Order Page

My Comments

ASUS has released a 2-in-1 convertible subnotebook computer that has been highlighted as being equipped with a USB 3.1 Type-C connector. But what was surprising was that JB Hi-Fi were selling this machine for just under AUD$500 tax inclusive, which is quite astonishing for a computer equipped with this connection and running Windows 10.

The specifications for this unit are pretty baseline with an Intel dual-core Celeron processor, 2Gb RAM and 32Gb storage. This may strengthen its appeal as something that serves for basic personal-computing activities like Web browsing, basic email, social networks, image viewing and personal video playback. For gaming, this may earn its keep with older or basic “mobile-grade” games.The USB ports will earn their keep with memory sticks or USB external hard disks when you are wanting to deal with more data.

But at least a computer of the entry-level or secondary-computer class was able to be kitted out with the USB 3.1 Type-C connector and this could be a sign of things to come.

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Don’t forget about SDIO in the Internet Of Things

SD card

The SD card specification is also an expansion-interface specification

When people talk of the hardware issues concerning the Internet Of Things, a  technology that is being constantly forgotten about is the SDIO expansion connection.

What is the SDIO expansion connection

This is a special SD card slot that also serves as an expansion interface in a similar vein to the PCI Express, miniPCI or ExpressCard slots used on desktop and laptop computers and, in a similar way, the USB port on most computing equipment. There are improved variants based on the iSDIO specification that take the load off the host device and allow it to work at its best.

It does have validity as an expansion interface for low-profile devices due to the size of the standard SD slot and it is then feasible to design add-on peripherals that extend slightly larger than the standard SD card.

But the SDIO technology is sadly being forgotten about as a low-profile expansion interface for many different computing-device applications including the Internet Of Things. This is more so if the goal is to either sell a device at a lower cost with reduced functionality but allow the user to add functionality as they see fit and when they can afford it, or to make a device be “futureproof” and satisfy new requirements.

Where I see SDIO being of value is with wireless network interface cards that add network or other connectivity to a device. This can be performed at the time of the device’s purchase or later on in the device’s lifespan through the user retrofitting a separately-purchased SDIO card in to the device.

An SDIO expansion module wouldn’t take up much room inside the device and can lead to a highly-integrated look for that device. It would appeal to a self-install application where the appliance has a user-accessible compartment like a battery compartment or terminal cover and the user opens this compartment to install the SDIO expansion module. Even a professional-install application can benefit especially if the idea is for a technician to install a highly-comprehensive “upgrade kit” or “functionality kit” in to a major appliance – a circuit board that is part of this kit could have one or more SDIO expansion slots.

This is compared to a USB setup where you need to deal with a relatively-large puck or dongle which can stick out of the device and not provide that finished look. There is also the issue of keeping a USB port open for local ad-hoc mass-storage or input-output requirements.

The issue of being able to add options to an existing device is real when it comes to the “durable” class of devices which are expected to have a very long service life as is expected for most devices targeted at business users or for so-called “white-goods” which are expected to run for at least 7 years, if not 10 years. Here, the ability to add extra functionality to these devices through their lifetime to suit newer needs is important as a way to get the most out of their lifecycle.


Digital photography

SDIO could benefit digital photography by allowing the user to add a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth SDIO card to a high-end digital camera or camcorder. A similar SDIO slot could be integrated in to a Speedlite flash or advanced LED movie light to allow for remote lighting and camera control courtesy of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth link. The concept of camera control from a lighting device would appeal to some photographers who have the camera on the tripod with its shutter locked open and take the flash around different angles to illuminate the subject – the wireless link could also serve to remotely control the camera by using a shutter-control button on the flashgun..

This could lead to remote control of the camera using a mobile device with that device’s screen also working as a viewfinder. In the case of video recording, the camera could also share SMPTE timecode data with an audio recorder and, perhaps, another camera to work well with multi-camera or advanced “sound-off-camera” recording setups.

For sharing the finished product, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cam play their part in this role with the ability to support file transfer to a computer or mobile device. A Wi-Fi setup may also allow the camera to exploit DLNA or Miracast setups to allow one to show the pictures on to a large TV screen. In some cases, a camera may have integrated support for file-share, photo-share or social-network functionality thus using the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology simply to upload the pictures or footage.

Electromechanical door locks

These devices, especially the “smart locks” that are starting to appear on the market, could benefit from the SDIO technology. For example, Assa Abloy offers a tubular deadbolt under the Yale and Lockwood brands which supports a “dual-mode” entry system where you can either enter a user code on a touchpad or use the regular key to open it. This deadbolt also has support for a “home automation” network module based on either Zigbee or Z-Wave technology, something that can be achieved by the user sliding that module in to the inside unit to integrate this deadbolt with a home-automation system.

Here, an SDIO slot in the interior unit in these locks can offer this kind of extended functionality. For example, a Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth Smart) SDIO card could make these locks work with platform-based smartphones or a Wi-Fi, Zigbee or Z-Wave SDIO card could integrate them with cloud-based monitoring and management services.

Similarly, this could come in handy with other usage classes like hotels.where, for example, Bluetooth could allow the card-based door lock to become part of the device ecosystem in the guest room. Here, this could be used to reset heating, alarm times, etc to a default setting when a new guest enters the room or implement Bluetooth Beacon technology to add value to conference settings.

Embroidery sewing machines

The premium “embroidery” sewing machines could implement an SDIO slot in order to allow the user to add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality to these units. This would come in handy with firmware updates or to allow the user to upload patterns and OpenType fonts to these machines for use with particular embroidery and monogramming projects.

This latter application comes in to its own as the manufacturers supply “CAD” software with these machines so that people can create their own unique embroidery designs for their special projects.

Here, the SDIO cards could work as a way to network-enable these machines to work with the computer software and the home network.

Large and small household appliances

Companies who sell advanced household appliances and HVAC equipment could use SDIO to add some form of network connectivity after the appliance is installed. Here, the user can be encouraged to see these appliances, which have a service life of at least 7 years if not more, as being future-proof and able to answer current needs and expectations.

This is more so as these appliances move towards “app-cessory” operation where extra functionality is added to these devices courtesy of mobile-platform apps. Similarly, some manufacturers implement this kind of technology to communicate operating information to other appliances. An example of this is some GE washing machines and clothes dryers recently sold to the US market use a wireless link to transmit information about the load just washed to the dryer so that an optimum drying cycle for that load can be determined by that appliance.

This could benefit people who buy mid-tier appliances that are enabled for this kind of connectivity but purchase the SDIO modules and install these modules in the appliances themselves as they see fit.


The SDIO expansion standard can be valued as a option for adding connectivity to the Internet Of Things, whether at the point of purchase or at a later date. It also preserves a highly-integrated fit and finish for the application before and after the upgrade.

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Synology releases an app-based router


Synology Formally Announces Its Wireless Router | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth


RT1900ac Wi-Fi router

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Synology is best known for their range of highly-flexible network-attached-storage devices but they have taken their first steps in to releasing network hardware, especially routers.

The typical Synology NAS is based on the “Disk Station Manager” or DSM platform which, like QNAP’s QTS platform uses user-installable apps to add extra functionality to these devices. Here, you can deploy these programs from Synology’s Web site via the NAS’s Web interface for a device that suits your needs, with some allowing the NAS to be that “office in a box” server for a small business.

Now they have released the RT1900ac Wi-Fi router which is based on the Synology Router Manager platform, a router-specific derivative of the DSM platform. There is the similar user-friendly graphic interface for the router’s Web dashboard that would be experienced with a Synology or similar NAS. As well, users can downolad and deploy apps that extend the router’s functionality to something that would be akin to other small-business routers or, more likely, the Freebox Révolution.

This is compared to a few attempts that Linksys and others achieved at router platforms that extend these devices’ functionality. One of these was to provide a mobile-platform-centric operation which wouldn’t work well with a heterogenous desktop/laptop/mobile/server operating environment where there is a desire to manage the device from a Web browser.

One of these apps is a VPN endpoint server so that you could run the Synology as part of a client-box or box-box VPN. It can work using the common VPN protocols including OpenVPN. Anothers of these is a RADIUS server that would earn its keep with managing wireless hotspots or enterprise networks with user-based access control. Oh yeah, secondary storage needs are taken care of courtesy of an SD card and a USB port for you to connect a thumbdrive or USB hard disk to.

There are expectations that the app platform can bring on extra functionality to this router such as different application-level gateways, VoIP servers, public-access wireless hotspots and the like. As well, it would be interesting to find out if Synology writes functionality in to the router’s software and their NAS unit’s software to have these device work tightly together, as well as supplying different routers that suit different needs and budgets/

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Xiaomi raises the bar for routers with internal storage

Articles – From the horse’s mouth


A Wireless Router with 6TB Storage? | Digital Den comsumer blog


Mi WiFi Router 2 With 6Tb

Product Page

My Comments

Seagate has helped another manufacturer raise the bar for a consumer-grade router that has integrated storage.

Xiaomi had released to the Chinese market the Mi WiFi Router 2 with 6Tb storage on board. This is provided with a Seagate hard disk that is optimised for video-surveillance applications, with this hard disk able to handle continuous write operations and have a 1-million-hour mean-time-between-failure rate which leads to very high reliability. This is compared to most integrated-storage routers of this kind coming in with 1Tb hard disks typically optimised for regular computers.

The benefit that Seagate drew out was for storage integrated in an Internet-edge router is that the storage can serve as a waypoint for incoming and outgoing data especially if customers are using Internet services with not-so-good bandwidth. This is in addition to being an integrated network-attached storage for documents and media to be pulled up over the home network.

It could show that it is feasible to set up an integrated-storage router with today’s NAS-grade or surveillance-grade hard disks having capacities in the order of at least 4Tb. As well, using application-level gateways and other software can make these devices work as staging posts for such applications as cloud storage services, software updates, content delivery and the like.

As well, the higher-capacity higher-reliability hard disks are showing up as a trend that will affect how network storage is designed.

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Digitally-delivered content now has the same level of consumer protection as other products

ArticleHouses Of Westminster - copy Parliament UK

UK consumer rights laws now cover digital downloads | Engadget

Consumer Rights Act 2015 Could Aid Clarity on Broadband Prices |

From the horse’s mouth

UK Government – Department of Business, Innovation & Skills

Press Release

Consumer Rights Act 2015 (UK)

Chapter 3 (covers digital content)

My Comments

Software delivered via app stores now under the same consumer-protection remit as physical goods

Software delivered via app stores now under the same consumer-protection remit as physical goods

A consumer-affairs issue that often crops up when it comes to goods and services that are digitally-delivered is how customers are protected if things go awry with these goods. This is because software, books and other content are increasingly being delivered “over the wire” from the supplier to the user such as through app stores rather than as a physical package. As well, an increasing amount of computer software including games that are sold through “bricks and mortar” retail stores are being delivered as a “physical+digital” form. This is typically a box containing a CD or USB stick with a download client or a software-entitlement card with a product key number but the full installation requires you to download the software on to your computer.

.. as movies and games delivered to games consoles and set-top devices via the Internet

.. as movies and games delivered to games consoles and set-top devices via the Internet

But a lot of jurisdictions tend to place different standards of consumer protection on the digitally-delivered goods and services compared to physically-delivered goods and services like refrigerators, computer and home-network hardware, books or Blu-Ray Discs.They seem to allow for balky downloads or for a digital-content supplier to implement digital-rights-management technologies to protect their content. Typically this has shown up as electronically-supplied goods being covered under a separate statute with lesser “teeth” while other goods are covered under the main consumer-protection statutes. This also applied to services like broadband Internet, landline and mobile telephony, and Webhosting-type services.

The UK have tackled this issue by amalgamating digitally-delivered goods and services under the same consumer-protection law as regular goods and services when they enacted the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Here, there are legal rights of remediation if the digital items came through faulty like a bug-ridden game, including situations where a feature in that program and was part of the description doesn’t work. This even encompasses situations that may come about if the host device crashed due to a buggy program; as well as assurance of access continuity if the service provider’s equipment went AWOL.

There needs to be a similar level of protection for small businesses and community organisations when it comes to the supply of technology so that these users have the same level of protection as the ordinary consumer. This is because these kind of users will purchase goods in the same manner as the ordinary consumer, including purchasing “residential-rated” goods due to the limited know-how of their staff / volunteers and their budget. As well, they don’t have continual access to legal resources in the same manner that a big business would have, so they wouldn’t be in a position to have supply contracts properly assessed. This also applies to people who are running “micro-businesses” from their home for such activities like blogging / small-time journalism, Web-site development, cleaning services and the like.

Another issue that has to be raised is supply of these goods and services across national borders, which is something that is very common with digitally-supplied goods and services. What would happen if a piece of downloaded software that was bought from an American supplier by a Briton failed or if a British software developer supplied a balky WordPress theme to an Australian blogger?

What I see of this law is for a major jurisdiction to bring the spirit of proper consumer protection normally enjoyed with physical goods to digitally-supplied goods and encompass it under one statute. Jurisdictions that work to the Westminster style of government, like most of the British Commonwealth countries, may find this legislation easier to implement with very few changes.

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AT&T charging less for Gigabit Internet service in some cities–Why?

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

Want cheaper AT&T gigabit service? Move to a Google Fiber city | The Register

My Comments

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

A competitive Internet service market coming to more US cities

Regular readers will know about Google Fiber showing up in an increasing number of US cities and bringing real competition to the US fixed-line broadband Internet market.

Before Google Fiber came to these cities, there was a very cosy cartel between the local “Baby Bell” telecommunications company who provided DSL Internet service and the local cable TV company who provided cable Internet service. This led to a woeful Internet experience where there wasn’t value for money and, in some cases, there was poor customer service, something that affected householders and small-business owners in most of the USA. The big telcos and the cable TV companies even were working with state governments to frustrate the creation of competitive services so that they can maintain the status quo.

Now the presence of Google Fiber has even raised the idea that you could sign up to AT&T’s 1Gbit/s GigaPower service for an ask of US$70 in Nashville or Atlanta while the same service would go for US$110. There was even a situation in Raleigh where the existing ISPs were deploying high-speed networks in that city with a photo of AT&T’s U-Verse announcement door hanger on someone’s front door appearing in the comments trail of that article.

Personally, I would see it become real that any American city that Google Fiber touches will become an attractive city to live or run a small business in because the costs of decent Internet service have reduced due to the arrival of competition.

Keep up the work, FCC and the competing Internet service providers including Google!

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York to become the UK battleground for next-generation broadband


York UK aerial view courtesy of DACP [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

York is intending to become a battleground for next-generation broadband Internet

Battle for your broadband custom in York hotting up | ThinkBroadband

Sky first ultrafast broadband connections | Advanced Television

From the horse’s mouth

Sky Broadband

Press Release

My Comments

York in the UK is showing up as a market where there is some intense competition for next-generation broadband Internet service.

This has come about due to fibre-optic infrastructure being laid down by CityFibre in conjunction with Sky and TalkTalk for a fibre-to-the-premises network capable of operating to 940Mbps. Just lately, Sky had connected their first customer to this network.

It brought out a war of words about what qualifies a city as an “ultrafast” or “gigabit” city when it comes to the presence of next-generation broadband Internet service. The European Union and the UK Government qualified a residential Internet service “ultrafast” as being greater than 100Mbps “at the customer’s door”. But CityFibre were using the term “Gigabit City” to qualify where there is an Internet service with a bandwidth capable of close to a Gigabit per second and is an actual revenue-providing service rather than a trial service.

It is feasible to call many of the UK’s cities as being “ultrafast” when it comes to next-generation broadband deployment because there was services of at least 152Mbps bandwidth penetrating 90% of these cities. Then the other qualifier was the presence of fibre-to-the-premises service with Kingston Upon Hull having 30.9% coverage.

Questions were also raised about BT Openreach providing full fibre-to-the-premises service in York with their central-activities district having native FTTP coverage of 12.4% and the rest of that city having 3.25%. As well, Hyperoptic had wired a large number of apartment blocks in York with FTTP broadband,

The competition issue that may need to be resolved is whether there is any “building-over” taking place where competing infrastructure providers are deploying their infrastructure in to each other’s territory. In a similar vein, there is also the issue of the availability of competing retail Internet service across many or all of the different infrastructures that exist. This could come to a point where the UK will need to determine a policy that affects competing next-generation broadband Internet services delivered using competing last-mile infrastructures in urban areas. This will have to encompass competitors “building over” each others’ infrastructure including access to multiple-premises buildings like apartment or office blocks and shopping centres.

What is happening in York could lead to a very interesting road for delivering fibre-based next-generation broadband in the UK’s urban areas. As well, it could lead to next-generation broadband Internet that is increasingly affordable for most households and small businesses in these areas and yields increased value for money for these users.

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Telstra offers the Android answer to the classic brick phone

Article Telstra T-logo courtesy of Telstra Corporation Australia

Telstra takes on the bush with a rural-friendly phone | GadgetGuy

From the horse’s mouth


Tough Max Android smartphone

Product Page

ZTE (OEM supplier)

Product Page

My Comments

Telstra have shown some interest to the rural community by offering long-distance phone tariffs that are cheaper than their competitors for calls from rural and regional communities to the nearest state capitals which represents the kind of long-distance call someone would frequently make when they live in these areas. Similarly, I have always recommended Telstra or any “mobile virtual network” operator that uses the Telstra mobile-telephony infrastructure as a preferred mobile-telephony service for those of you who are in rural areas or make regular forays to these rural areas such as to visit that “bush bolthole” or maintain that farm that you have a few head of cattle on.

Now they have shown their chops again for this community of telecommunications users by offering an Android-based answer to that classic Motorola “brick” mobile phone that was so beloved of tradesmen and other outdoor types because of its simple ruggedness.

Unlike most Android phones, this phone has the ability to be connected to an external antenna which would improve on reception in rural areas as well as a cellular-network front-end optimised for long-distance reception. It is housed in a rugged casing which absorbs drops and is rated to IP67 which means the Telstra Tough Max is dust-resistant and can survive being dunked in a pool of water up to 1 metre deep.

This phone works on Android 5.0 Lollipop which means it can gain access to the apps on the Google Play app store. It has a 4.7” HD screen which may not match most of today’s desirable Android smartphones, uses removable microSD storage and can link with Bluetooth peripherals or your Wi-Fi home network. But surprisingly, it will support wireless charging when you pair it with a Qi charger. It doesn’t necessarily have all the frills of today’s smartphones but, like the Motorola “brick”, it is pitched towards users who place importance on durability.

The Telstra Tough Max is available for around AUD$500 outright or best paired on a subsidised-equipment contract with any of Telstra’s mobile phone plans to take advantage of what this network has to offer with the cheapest of these starting from AUD$62 per month.

If Telstra keeps going with phones that please the “bush brigade” like this one, they could work towards a phablet-style unit with NFC as a higher-end model to court this market along with similarly-rugged accessories. Similarly, they could work towards a Mi-Fi or wireless NAS that also espouses this same level of ruggedness, courting this same community.

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BT to go IPv6 across their consumer Internet services

ArticleBT brand identity Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369. News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site:

UPDATE3 BT to Deploy IPv6 Across Entire Network by December 2016 | ISPReview

My Comments

Another step towards widespread IPv6 adoption has taken place with BT, one of Britain’s major ISPs, moving their UK customers including households towards IPv6. This is after Comcast had provided a 100% IPv6 rollout to their customers in August 2014 and is a sign of the times for big ISPs who have the large customer bases because they are running out of public IPv4 addresses to issue to customers.IPv6 logo courtesy of World IPv6 Launch program

There is a goal to have half of the UK covered by April 2016 then to have all covered by Christmas that year. They will also want to get this going with a soft launch rather than with a lot of publicity.

This will typically be in a dual-stack setup like most other IPv6 ISP developments but customers who use their Home Hub 5 routers. Home Hub 4 routers will be IPv6-ready after an upgrade.  But this can also work with third-party routers that implement IPv6 in a dual-stack manner, a feature that is being asked of for recent premium and mid-tier equipment but is starting to become more common. Some of you may use a router that can be enabled for IPv6 after a firmware upgrade and it is wise to check at your equipment manufacturer’s Website for any newer firmware that allows for this. Typically, you just have to enable IPv6 on your router’s WAN (Internet) connections to have this function enabled which is something you do via its management Web page.

As for your equipment, your computer, tablet and smartphone will be IPv6 ready if it is running a recent operating system and most of the high-end home and small-business NAS devices will support IPv6. At the moment, if you are after a network-capable printer that supports IPv6, you will probably have to purchase a small-business device from one of the big names.

What it is showing is that IPv6 will become a strong reality for the provisioning and sustenance of your current or next Internet service. If BT can go IPv6 for their Internet services, why can’t Telstra do it for their BigPond Internet services?

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