Author: simonmackay

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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Telstra joins the smart-home bandwagon

Article

Telstra Is Launching A Smart Homes Monitoring System | Lifehacker Australia

Telstra Has A Smart Home Monitoring System Coming Later This Year | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Press Release

My Comments

What can a telco, pay-TV provider or ISP do when they face competition in the Internet-service, pay-TV, mobile communications or similar markets? Some of them have looked towards contributing to the smart-home market, whether offering their own service or rebranding a service offered by a specialist company under their own label.

Telstra is the latest to engage in this practice by offering a subscription smart-home service. Here, they will offer a “Watch and Monitor” security-focused service and an “Automation and Energy” home-automation service. This will be about ideas like knowing things like if a particular person has come home or whether that door that is meant to be locked is locked or whether that appliance like the iron is on or off. It can also be about having the heating turned down when no-one is up and around.

The hardware links to your home network and the Internet via Wi-Fi but most likely may use the Zigbee technology as the “low-power” wireless backbone. Each system will have a “Smart Home Hub” which links all the devices together and to the Internet and you will find that an iOS or Android mobile-platform app or a Web-based user interface will be the main control surface.

The Wi-Fi link also serves an indoor network camera and an outdoor network camera, both of which are HD-capable. There is a smart-thermostat kit which will link to your home’s heating and cooling system which may apply to those of us who use a central heating or cooling system of some sort. Telstra are also offering the Lockwood smart deadbolt which is like the Yale Real Living Connected Deadbolt that comes from ASSA Abloy. There are also the Sengled Element LED touch smart lights which are intended as replacements for most light-bulb setups along with a smart power plug that monitors current being used along with the ability to turn the appliance on or off.

Other sensors include a window sensor, a door sensor which is a magnet-reed contact sensor and a wide-beam PIR sensor that can be set up for “pet-alley” mode with all these devices talking to the Smart Hub wirelessly most likely via Zigbee technology.

Of course, like a lot of these home-automation systems, it will be a self-install package but Telstra may point you towards specialists who can help you with installation and setup requirements.

The system, which will be offered to customers irrespective of whether they maintain a Telstra communications service or not, is intended to be launched later this year.

Personally, I would like to see Telstra offer the subscription-based service as part of a cost-effective “multiple-play” telecommunications + entertainment service for those customers who value the idea of having “many eggs in one basket” by concentrating their business with one provider.

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DLNA 4 and Vidipath facilitate elaborate TV user interfaces for network devices

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

NAS units will be required to provide a rich user interface on the big screen without the need of an app

I have had a look through the DLNA 4.0 and VIDIPATH standards and found a feature that these standards do provide for in the form of a “remote user interface”. This is where another server device can provide a graphically-rich user interface on a separate client device typically in the form of a Smart TV or video peripheral. It works very much in a similar frame to how Web browsing, where you have Web pages hosted on Web servers and streamed over a network to a Web browser existing on a client device.

The standards that are supported in this context are HTML5 and RVU (pronounced R-View) which facilitate this graphically-rich user interface. It was pitched more at pay-TV operators who provide their customers a PVR or media gateway and want to share the same user interface across all of the smart TVs, connected video peripherals (Blu-Ray players, games consoles, network media players), regular desktop/laptop computers and mobile computing devices (smartphones, phablets and tablets).

Here, this would facilitate operator-provided video-on-demand, interactive TV services, the electronic programme guide and value-added services but allow the operator to present these services with their “skin” (branding and user experience) on all of the screens in a customer’s household. This is in contrast to services like programme guides, PVR content collections and recording schedules being presented using the device manufacturer’s user interface which may not be consistent especially at the lower end of the market. It wouldn’t matter whether the server device was “headless” (without a display or control surface) like a broadcast-LAN tuner or had a display and control surface like the typical set-top PVR with its own remote control and connected to the TV in the main lounge area.

But this technology appeals to another class of devices beyond the pay-TV set-top boxes and media gateways.

Increasing network-attached-storage vendors are partnering with software developers to develop and deploy advanced media-server software in their consumer-focused NAS products. Examples of these include the Plex Media Server being packaged with newer Western Digital premium consumer NAS products and the media server software that Synology are packaging as part of their latest DSM 6 NAS software. Typically these offer functionality like rich media information or improved search / browse functionality.

Some of the NAS devices offer PVR software that works with USB digital-TV-tuner modules or broadcast-LAN tuner boxes and are targeted towards markets where free-to-air TV or pay-TV delivered without operator-supplied equipment is highly valued.

As well, a lot of consumer-focused NAS devices are being marketed in the concept of the “personal cloud” and these devices could benefit from a rich user interface that takes advantage of smart TVs.

It also includes the possibility of Secure Content Storage Association pushing their Vidity “download-to-own” platform as a way to deliver the same kind of collectability and rich user experience that the DVD and Blu-Ray box-sets are known for when supplying sell-through video content “over the wire” or allowing customers to download DVD and Blu-Ray content to their home networks. This could also encompass using a NAS as an “offload device” for extra binge-watch content that you bring in using a PVR.

More and more, manufacturers will look at ways to add value to NAS devices or broadcast-LAN tuner devices as a way to have customers buy the newer devices rather than hang on to older devices.

When NAS suppliers want to offer this kind of functionality, they either implement a Web user interface which may work best for regular computers and tablets with you needing to know IP addresses or device network names, or you are having to download and install companion client apps into your client devices. This doesn’t really work well with any 10-foot “lean-back” experience.

But the reality is that this software can exploit RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface standard technology to realise the user-interface images on to the regular television screen. Typically, all it requires is that the devices exploit their Web server software to implement the RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface technology and use UPnP which is already used for the DLNA content server functionality to expose this content to TVs and similar devices.

For that matter, the ability to print out content from an interactive-TV show should be integrated in to RVU or HTML5 technology because some shows and advertising like cookery shows encourage the printing out of value-added content for users to benefit from this content.

To the same extent, the hotel applications could take this further by opening up virtual content sources for things like in-house video-on-demand or gaming; or even provide a user interface to services like in-room dining or booking use of day-spa facilities.

What needs to happen is that the remote user interface technology can be exploited beyond the set-top-box or media-gateway application and taken further to NAS or other server-role devices on a home or business network for a proper 10-foot experience.

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