Author: simonmackay

Politics creeps in to the world of the voice-driven assistant

Articles

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Is Amazon Alexa and similar voice-driven assistants becoming a new point of political influence in our lives?

Amazon’s Alexa under fire for voicing gender and racial views | The Times via The Australian

Alexa, are you a liberal? Users accuse Amazon’s smart assistant of having a political bias after she reveals she is a feminist who supports Black Lives Matter | Daily Mail

Amazon’s Alexa is a feminist and supports Black Lives Matter | Salon

My Comments

An issue that has started to come on board lately is how Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana respond to highly-polarising political questions especially in context to hot-button topics.

This talking point has come up just lately in the USA which has over the last year become highly polarised. It has been driven by the rise of the alt-right who have been using social media to spread their vitriol, the fake news scandals, along with Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. Even people from other countries who meet up with Americans or have dealings with any organisation that has strong American bloodlines may experience this.

Could this even apply to Apple’s Siri assistant or Google Assistant that you have in your smartphone?

What had been discovered was that Amazon’s Alexa voice-driven assistant was being programmed to give progressive-tinted answers to issues seen to be controversial in the USA like feminism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTI rights, etc. This was causing various levels of angst amongst the alt-right who were worried about the Silicon-Valley / West-Coast influence on the social media and tech-based information resources.

But this has not played off with the UK’s hot-button topics with Alexa taking a neutral stance on questions regarding Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May and similar lssues. She was even challenged about what a “Corbynista” (someone who defends Jeremy Corbyn and his policies) is. This is due to not enough talent being available in the UK or Europe to program Alexa to achieve answers  to UK hot topics in a manner that pleases Silicon Valley.

The key issue here is that voice-driven assistants can be and are being programmed to answer politically-testing questions in a hyper-polarised manner. How can this be done?

Could it also apply to Cortana on your Windows 10 computer?

The baseline approach, taken by Apple, Google and Microsoft, can be to give the assistant access to these resources that matches the software company’s or industry’s politics. This can be pointing to a full-tier or meta-tier search engine that ranks favourably resources aligned to the desired beliefs. It can also be about pointing also to non-search-engine resources like media sites that run news with that preferred slant.

The advanced approach would be for a company with enough programming staff and knowledge on board could programmatically control that assistant to give particular responses in response to particular questions. This could be to create responses worded in a way to effectively “preach” the desired agenda to the user. This method is infact how Amazon is training Alexa to respond to those topics that are seen as hot-button issues in the USA.

Government regulators in various jurisdictions may start to raise questions regarding how Alexa and co are programmed and their influence on society. This is with a view to seeing search engines, social media, voice-driven assistants and the like as media companies similar to newspaper publishers or radio / TV broadcasters and other traditional media outlets, with a similar kind of regulatory oversight. It is more so where a voice-driven assistant is baked in to hardware like a smart speaker or software like an operating system to work as the only option available to users for this purpose, or one or more of these voice-driven assistants benefits from market dominance.

At the moment, there is nothing you can really do about this issue except to be aware of it and see it as something that can happen when a company or a cartel of companies who have clout in the consumer IT industry are given the power to influence society.

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Hey Cortana! You can work with GMail

Article

You can now connect Gmail to Cortana for calendar, mail, and contact support | Windows Central

My Comments

Windows 10 Cortana Notebook menu

Select “Connected Services” in Cortana’s notebook

Some of you may just use GMail simply as another Webmail account but you can have client-side access to it from certain email clients like Windows Mail, Outlook or your Android email client. Here, if you are using Windows Mail for example, you may find that you could have Cortana work your account from their simply by adding it to the list of accounts your Windows Mail installation works with.

But you may also just use the Web-based user interface for your GMail account and simply use it also as a contacts and calendar storage for your Android phone, especially if you do upgrade your phone frequently.

Add a Service menu in Windows 10 Cortana Notebook menu

Select GMail as the service to add to Cortana

Here, you can create a direct link between Cortana and your GMail account so you can summon her for information from that account. This can be of importance if you buy the Harman-Kardon Invoke smart speaker which is powered by Microsoft’s Cortana voice-driven personal assistant.

To do this, open Cortana on your Windows 10 computer and click on the Notebook icon. Then click on Connected Services in the menu that pops up. Select “Add a service”, then select “GMail”. Here, you will be asked for your Google username and password that you operate your GMail account with. Enter these credentials and Google will then ask you whether you want to allow Cortana access to your account. Once you assent to this, your GMail details are available to Cortana.

This will become more of a trend as an increasing number of social networks, Webmail services and the like provide the necessary “hooks” to allow the various voice-driven personal assistants to work with their services.

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GM creates a marketplace from your dashboard

Articles

GM Marketplace lets your car buy donuts and coffee | CNet

GM thinks you’ll buy stuff through your car’s dashboard | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

GM (USA)

Press Release

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

General Motors is bringing a new trend that will affect the connected car. This is to create a “marketplace” on the dashboard’s touchscreen-based user interface to sell goods and services to the driver and passengers. The technology that is used will be the 4G LTE mobile broadband link but will most likely be facilitated through GM.

Typically, the kind of goods and services that will be pitched initially are fuel from Shell and ExxonMobil; food and drinks from Starbucks, TGIF and a few other vemdors; parking; along with data service, OnStar subscriptions and servicing from GM.

There will be the ability to bind the accounts, loyalty programs and payment cards you use with these merchants to this system so that you can pay for the goods and services through the dashboard including accruing or redeeming loyalty points.

The GM Marketplace will be available with 2017-2018 GM North-American-nameplate (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC) vehicles that are equipped with the correct advanced infotainment setup. As well, there will be the limited

Let’s not forget that other vehicle builders and aftermarket infotainment manufacturers would be showing interest in creating their own “in-dash” marketplace for selling goods and services through their advanced infotainment systems. In some cases, an alliance of vehicle builders or infotainment manufacturers could set up a marketplace that appears on all of their

But this can lead to fragmentation if partner businesses have to associate with the multiple “in-dash” marketplaces. Similarly there is the issue of independent suppliers like standalone motels and restaurants or independent fuel brands finding it difficult to come on board typically due to lack of bargaining power. This may be facilitated through alliances who can represent these businesses in order to bring them on board.

Other issues that will also need to be raised include the ability to maintain accounts particular to individual drivers as well as to a vehicle. It will also have to include support for “guest” operation where a person could purchase goods or services through an in-dash marketplace without needing to register with that marketplace; along with the ability to support split ordering for things like drive-through food.

At the moment, GM is proving the concept of the in-dash marketplace and could encourage other companies to build up this concept.

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Most iPhones and iPads now in circulation to be safe from the KRACK exploit

Article

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Most iPads and iPhones updated to iOS 11.2 now safe from the KRACK exploit

Apple fills the KRACK on iPhones – at last | Naked Security

Previous Coverage

KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability–what is affected

My Comments

There has been intense computing-press coverage regarding the KRACK WPA2 exploit against otherwise-secure Wi-Fi wireless network segments. As my previous coverage highlighted, most of the major regular-computer and mobile operating systems were updated to rectify the vulnerability associated with this exploit.

Check the Settings App on your iPhone for the update

But, as I called out in the article, the iOS 11.1 update that Apple rolled out for their iPhones and iPads only remediated the vulnerability on certain newer devices. Here, it was ignoring a larger installed base of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches by not providing the remediation for devices earlier than the iPhone 7 or the iPad Pro 9.7 (2016).

Now Apple has rolled out the iOS 11.2 update to extend this remediation to more iOS devices in the field. These include:

  • iPhone 6 encompassing the S and Plus variants, the iPhone SE, the iPhone 5S,
  • 12.9” iPad Pro (1st generation), the iPad mini 2 and its successors, the iPad Air, the iPad (5th generation)
  • iPod Touch (6th generation)

Here, it means that those commonly-used recent iPhones and iPads are now safe against the KRACK exploit. Check your Settings app on your iOS device to be sure it is up to date with this patch.

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What is the eSIM all about for mobile broadband

Articles

SIM card

These SIM cards will be embedded in subsequent generations of mobile devices including Always Connected PCs

It’s time to embrace the eSIM | Engadget

What Is an eSIM, and How Is It Different From a SIM Card? | How-To Geek

‘Telstra One Number’ Is Telstra’s New eSIM Tech | Gizmodo

eSIM feature to arrive with Windows 10 Version 1803 for always connected PCs | WinCentral

My Comments

A trend that will have an impact on devices that use cellular-based wireless broadband technology is for them to implement eSIM authentication.

What is the eSIM technology?

It is effectively an embedded SIM which is a hardwired equivalent of the SIM card that authenticates you to a mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband service as a customer.

One of the key advantages to this approach over the traditional user-replaceable SIM card is that there isn’t a need to design a large user-accessible space in a mobile device to accommodate one of these cards. Instead, the customer’s wireless-broadband service is provisioned to their device “over the air” rather than having to encode a SIM card to hand over to the customer to be installed in the device. It is similar to the online provisioning and service activation process implemented for some prepaid mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband services sold through ordinary retailers in some markets.

What devices will this appeal to?

This approach appeals to the wearables market where size does certainly matter but is also appealing towards the connected car where there isn’t a desire to create a cavity for a SIM to be installed. Just lately, the eSIM technology is also appealing to the “always-connected” ultraportable laptops thanks to the next major functionality iteration of Windows 10 having software support for this functionality baked in.

Let’s not forget that newer smartphones, USB modems and MiFi routers including multiple-WAN routers will become equipped with eSIM support, especially where multiple-service functionality is to be part of the feature set. It could allow one to design, for example,  an Android smartphone with a classic SIM slot and an eSIM along with a microSD card slot. Here, a user could then benefit from the advantages of multiple services while using a microSD card to provide “infinite” storage for music, photos and videos.

The main disadvantage that the eSIM will offer to some people will be that they can’t switch SIM cards around quickly, which may be of concern with people using a “decoy” number associated with a prepaid service or people who are troubleshooting mobile devices.

What does this allow?

It was brought on board in 2013 but recent improvements to the eSIM standard allowed for a customer to maintain multiple eSIM services from the same or different carriers in the one device. It is similar to how users are switching SIM cards around to maintain multiple service accounts, such as to maintain separate “business” and “private” services, to sign up with “destination-local” mobile-telephony services with a “destination-local” number and payment options, amongst other reasons.

This provides simplification for these users by providing “over-the-air” provisioning for additional services including varying these services or re-instigating dormant services. The user-experience that may be offered is to choose the network that provides the service you want to use then enter an activation code of some sort to “turn on” that particular service. Typically this would be something you receive in an email if you are enrolling online or receive from a staff member at a “bricks-and-mortar” store.

Some carriers and service providers are exploiting eSIM by offering a “one number one account multiple devices” option for their mobile services such as Telstra’s “One Number” service. But there are other ways that mobile-telephony service providers can exploit the emerging eSIM setup. But the carriers can look at exploiting the eSIM further such as tying it in with BYOD business setups, mobile services that can be “parked” when not needed amongst other things.

In some business environments, it could allow a single shared device to be associated with multiple service accounts with the accounts in operation dependent on who is logging in to the device. This could tie in with the “portable desktop” approach towards business telecommunications where one’s computing and telecommunications setup is moved amongst multiple devices but your boss or clients call you at the same extension number.

Conclusion

The eSIM approach for authenticating mobile-telephony and broadband service can open up a wide range of approaches both for device design and for service delivery.

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Windows 10 on Qualcomn ARM chips–to be real

Articles

Snapdragon smartphone electronics in 2-in-1 laptop press picture courtesy of Qualcomn

Implementing high-end smartphone electronics into an ultraportable laptop

Smartphone Guts Are Coming to Windows Laptops, and It Could Triple Your Battery Life | Gizmodo

Microsoft reveals ‘Always Connected PCs’ from HP and ASUS with Windows 10 on ARM | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Always Connected PCs enable a new culture of work (Windows Experience Blog)

Qualcomn

Qualcomm Launches Technology Innovation with Advancements in the Always Connected PC and its Next-Generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platform (Press Release)

A day in the life with the Snapdragon 835 powered HP Envy x2 PC (OnQ Blog)

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

Microsoft had made some attempts at bringing Windows to the ARM RISC microarchitecture with a view to bringing forth cheaper computers. But they had failed thanks to silicon based on traditional Intel x86/x64 microarchitecture being offered at very cheap price points and able to natively run a large roster of software already available for that platform.

But they, along with Qualcomn who supply the silicon for most of today’s smartphones, have re-approached this through the vision of an ultraportable laptop computer or tablet that implements the same technology as one of the recent high-end smartphones and phablets. This has been drawn out alongside the recent crop of highly-capable 11”-14” 2-in-1 laptops that are making a strong appeal as a highly-capable alternative to the iPad and Android-based tablets.

But the computers that represent the “Always Connected PC” product class integrate a large battery along with the LTE-based wireless-broadband modem, both of which allow for a long time of computer activity without the need of Wi-Fi or daily charging. These would also support eSIM which allows for over-the-wire provisioning of mobile broadband service, including the ability to provide “international-focused” service for people roaming around the world. HP and ASUS have premiered a detachable 2-in-1 and a convertible 2-in-1 which are based on this technology.

Microsoft is pushing the Always-Connected PC for the workplace with a focus towards a managed computing environment. Here, it is about avoiding the need to connect to insecure public-access Wi-Fi networks or worry about whether you have the laptop’s power supply with you when you head to work or make that business trip.

I see it more as an answer to Apple’s iOS platform, Google’s ChromeOS platform and Samsung’s interpretation of the Android platform where the goal is to cater to a mainstream productivity-focused computing environment for work or school.

Here, the focus would be about interacting with cloud-based business / education software whether as a Web app or as platform-native software or simply working with information using standard office-productivity software, perhaps with some video playback or mobile-grade gaming. I also see this as a way for Microsoft to aggressively compete against the iPad in the household, education and business environment by encouraging its partners to offer tablets and 2-in-1s that have the same operational qualities as that tablet.

But it wouldn’t displace the Intel / AMD x86/x64-based computers which would be focused towards applications where performance is of importance such as serious gaming or photo / video editing. But as for running Windows software, the ARM-based variants of Windows will be implementing an x86 emulation layer that allows 32-bit Windows software to run on these computers. This is while Windows software developers who package software for the Windows Store will be encouraged to deploy code native to x86, x64 and ARM microarchitectures.

The big challenge now is for software developers and games studios to port the software that is on the iOS or Android platforms towards the Windows 10 platforms on all the microarchitectures. It would them make it viable for Windows to continue as a third force for “non-handheld” mobile computing.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-L2713DW multifunction laser printer

Introduction

I am reviewing Brother’s latest approach at a light-duty monochrome laser multifunction printer in the form of the MFC-L2713DW. It is one of these machines that you could use for a small office or shop, especially if you are intending to replace a light-duty fax machine. Some of you also may see this machine or its peers as a routine document printer for your home office.

It may also appeal to professionals and the like who want to have a light-duty document-focused printer or fax-capable multifunction in their office as a “private” machine while their workplace has a heavy-duty multifunction in the common areas.

Brother MFC-L2713DW light-duty multifunction laser printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
B/W Colour B/W A4 x 1(standard) USB 2.0
Laser xerographic 1200 dpi ID Copy Multi-purpose tray capacity Ethernet
Wi-Fi
Own-access-point Wi-Fi
Auto-Duplex ADF IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Real-Time Super-G3 Fax via phone
Email-based Scan-to-email TIFF-FAX
JPG
PDF
Walk-up Printing
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
MoPria support
Brother Print Service plugin support
Online Services Print From Scan To
Multiple Users for Online Services N/A
“Own Account” Guest Access for Online Services N/A

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$249

Inks and Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$81.00 1200 AUD$141.50 3000

Servicing and Other Parts (Laser Printers)

Price Pages
Drum Kit AUD$150.00 12000
Belt Kit (Colour lasers)
Waste Toner Bin

Brother MFC-L2713DW light-duty multifunction monochrome laser printer

The printer itself

Connectivity and Setup

I had connected the printer to the home network via Ethernet and this meant that I could effectively be “on board” very quickly. As far as I am concerned, I really wouldn’t use the Wi-Fi ability on these printers to connect to an existing network because you may have Wi-Fi issues in your home or small-business location, rather I would connect via Ethernet or HomePlug AV powerline.

This printer, like the other small monochrome laser printers that Brother offers, uses a separate user-replaceable drum unit along with the toner cartridge rather than following HP’s path of an integrated print cartridge that has the drum unit. But if you have to add toner to the printer, you have to remove the drum unit from the machine before you detach the spent toner cartridge from the drum unit.

Here the installation process was simple enough to do. But I also like the way Brother offers a higher-yield toner cartridge for these printers, a feature I definitely applaud for people who want to choose the right yield to suit their needs and budget.

Paper Handling

Like with most of Brother’s budget-priced and value-priced printer models, this printer uses a single-page bypass feed which would be limiting if you are running multiple-page print jobs that use special media. This would also be used if you are dealing with pre-printed forms such as when a doctor is turning out prescriptions or test / treatment referrals.

Personally, I would like to move away from the single-page approach towards having a five-page approach to cater for jobs where a handful of pre-printed forms or label sheets are being turned out.

The A4 paper tray worked properly and didn’t feel flimsy to the touch, making it a machine that can satisfy most users.

Walk-up functions

The Brother MFC-L2713DW has an on-machine with a bright text-based LCD display and rubber-feel keys. Here, the text-based LCD display is a high-contrast “black-on-white” type which makes it very readable under many different lighting scenarios. But I would like to improve on the D-pad’s design by using illuminated arrow legends that come alive when you are using the menu options.

The copying process for a single page fed through the automatic document feeder came through as being very quick even when the machine wasn’t used for a while. Here, by the time the document left the ADF, the printer was turning out the copy.

The quality of the copies came out good for documents printed on plain paper but I wouldn’t expect a high-quality copy for photos or similar material. It also holds true for material printed on glossy paper such as ID or business cards whereupon you may find that the copy comes out paler than the original.

There is a one-touch “duplex copy” function that allows you to copy both sides of an original on to both sides of the copy’s paper, but you have to turn over the original to copy the other side. The ID copy functionality works as expected although there is the issue of not scanning “to the edge”. Brother answers this issue by a scrolling text message to tell users to put the original 1/4″ from the edge

The Brother MFC-L2713DW can serve as a basic monochrome phone-based fax machine with a limited-capacity “fax vault” function suitable for overnight / weekend use.

Here it omits the T.37 email-based store-and-forward fax functionality which may be an approach for some of us who want to move towards IP fax. Most likely, when you move towards an IP-based telephony service and use an analogue-telephony-adaptor with machines like this one, you may be also setting up for T.38 real-time Internet fax.

Like with all of the Brother MFC-series fax-capable multifunction printers that have duplex printing, you can set this machine up to print the faxes it receives on both sides of the paper as a way to save on paper.

Computer functions

I had installed the drivers on my Windows 10 computer from Brother’s Website and they were in place very quickly. Here, you would have to install the full software set to enable printing, scanning and fax management including “print-to-fax” functionality.

The ControlCenter4 scan monitor does take time to come in to action when you start a scan-to-computer job from the printer’s control surface. This is a continual problem with most of the scanner software offered by most scanner and MFC manufacturers and, personally, I would like to see the host computer’s operating system look after this functionality for both direct and network setups.

As far as mobile devices were concerned, the Brother MFC-L2713DW worked properly with the Android print-service plugin that I installed on my Samsung Android phone. Here, the app was quick to recognise the printer’s capabilities and have the document turned out quickly. Of course it does support Apple AirPrint for those of you who run your business from an iPad.

Print / scan speed and quality

The Brother MFC-L2713DW came alive and started printing documents very quickly, whether from the computer or a mobile phone. It also led to a quick turnout of the document, something very similar to most of the small monochrome laser printers.

The printer was able to handle a double-sided print job but it doesn’t turn them out as quickly as a simplex print job. This is something you would notice more with light-duty monochrome lasers that have this functionality. It turned out these documents without jamming or dropping pages.

The Brother MFC-L2713DW does satisfy the output-quality requirements for a small entry-level monochrome laser printer. Here, it would yield clear easy-to-read text that would be part of an office document.

But I wouldn’t expect it to yield high-quality output when it comes to photos and similar presentation-grade work. Here I noticed banding along the narrow edge of the sheet when I printed out a picture of a landscape, but it was able to maintain proper fidelity when it came to the image’s contrast.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

A feature I would like to see continual improvement on for the Brother small laser printers is to have auto-duplex printing with a speed similar to simplex printing jobs. Similarly, I would like to see Brother move away from the “single-sheet” approach for the manual bypass function on these printers so as to cater for multiple-sheet print runs using special stationery.

A feature that could benefit this class of light-duty monochrome laser multifunction would to permit “two-machine” copying across the network. This is where you could scan a document on a multifunction like this one and it is then printed out on a colour printer or multifunction connected to the same network. This would also allow for other applications like enlarging documents to A3 / Ledger with the A4 / Letter or smaller original on a machine like this and the large A3 copy emerging from an A3-capable printer or multifunction. This feature could make use of setups where you have multiple document machines with complementary capabilites whether in page size, printing type or colour / monochrome printing.

As well, the Brother MFC-L2713DW and its peers could benefit from at least SDXC card storage to provide enhanced fax-storage functionality such as to cater to busy workloads, large documents and the like. Brother could also work towards creating a T.38 IP-fax endpoint functionality in their fax-capable multifunction printers and push the telecoms industry to lead towards simplified provisioning for this technology.

Similarly, Brother could exploit the separately-replaceable drum unit approach that applies to their laser printers by providing heavy-duty variants of these parts as an upgrade option. This would please users who buy laser printers suited for their current duty levels but install heavier-duty parts in them if they are faced with a heavier workload.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would position the Brother MFC-L2713DW monochrome laser multifunction printer as an economy-priced office printer for workplaces that don’t have a heavy document throughput. This would also include it serving as a “private” document printer / copier for a professional’s or manager’s office or simply as a document-focused multifunction for a home office.

Here, it would earn its keep as a replacement for a small inkjet multifunction that is used just for turning out documents or a small plain-paper fax that uses thermal-transfer printing. I would also see it as a direct upgrade for an economy laser printer or multifunction that isn’t able to do duplex printing.

I have also compared the price for the Brother MFC-L2713DW against the price of replacing its drum unit with the genuine replacement part and found that it is worth buying that part rather than replacing the machine with one of the same standard and functionality level when it comes up for replacement.

Update: I have updated the prices to the manufacturer’s recommended retail prices for the consumables.

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France takes steps towards a YouTube competitor

Articles – French language / Langue Française

Map of France

France sowing the seeds for a YouTube competitor

Nouveau monde. Un YouTube “libre” à la française | France TV

From the horse’s mouth

Framatube.org

My Comments

I have previously raised the issue of people and companies based in Europe building online services that compete with what Silicon Valley offers but respect European values. This has been more so in respect to the European Commission taking legal action against the Silicon Valley IT titans like Google and Facebook due to issues like user privacy and respect for European values.

Subsequently, in answer to Google denying Amazon access to YouTube for their Echo Show product, I wrote an article about YouTube needing to face competition when it comes to online video services.

Here, I was calling out issues like individuals and small businesses needing affordable options for sharing their video content while they maintain effective control over it. It also includes issues like monetisation options for video content providers along with proper fair dealing for content creators and rightsholders when it comes to using copyrighted works in the content creators’ videos. The latter issue focuses on users using a relatively small part of a copyrighted work like a phrase from a song or a few seconds of vision from a film or TV show in an incidental manner.

Amazon Echo Spot press picture courtesy of Amazon

Could this be a chance to make user-generated video available on devices like Amazon’s Echo Spot?

In the same context, I was calling out the availability of native-client apps for various IT platforms, whether as a separately-installed app for a regular-computer or mobile operating system or as something baked in to firmware for a device like a set-top box or smart speaker. This is so you aren’t always heading down an inefficient path of using a browser to view videos or find that you can’t use the platform’s or device’s assets for this task.

The French have taken off with this goal with Framasoft, a French open-source software developer, working towards a peer-to-peer approach.

The “PeerTube” approach is based on free open-source software and implements a “federation” model. This is where a host could store video uploaded to it directly but also share video uploaded to other hosts. This can please media companies, the education sector, Webhosts and other companies who have multiple servers or data centers in differing geographical locations and make sure these hosts serve viewers closer to them.

It is being driven by the “WebTorrent” concept of integrating BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing technology to video streaming in an effort to reduce latency. Again, it is implementing free open-source technology to achieve the same goal.

At the moment, the “PeerTube” effort is at an alpha stage but there is a goal to have it to beta by March 2018. Framasoft are raising money to get this idea off the ground and have raised EUR€16,032 at the time of writing. There is also the issue of creating a Web-based portal to show what’s available along with providing source code to make native clients for a PeerTube content delivery network.

Personally, I would see the “PeerTube” concept working tightly with Webhosts, content delivery networks and the like to make audio and video distribution affordable for the small-timer. There will also be their idea of data centers including edge computing being used as a way to expedite reliable access to “catch-up TV” and similar video content pools.

What needs to happen once PeerTube is proven is that it needs to be sold as a viable alternative for YouTube when it comes to offering user-generated video content.

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Windows to introduce quick-pair for Bluetooth

Articles

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Intel 8th Generation CPU at QT Melbourne hotel

Quick pairing to come to Windows 10 to simplify connecting Bluetooth headsets to these computers

Bluetooth quick pairing feature in the works for Windows 10 | Windows Central

Bluetooth “Quick Pair” Feature is Coming to Windows 10 | Thurrott blog

Previous coverage on Bluetooth quick-pairing

Bluetooth Fast Pairing–to be part of the Android platform

My Comments

Google Fast Pair in action - press image courtesy of GoogleApple and Google have put up a simplified Bluetooth pair-up approach for commissioning newly-purchased Bluetooth headsets and other accessory devices with host devices based on their mobile operating systems.

This approach has the Bluetooth device sending out a short range “beacon” to compliant host devices, causing them to pop up a notification inviting the user to instigate the pair-up procedure. Google even had the ability to invite users to download and install any companion apps for devices designed with the “app-cessory” approach.

It is rather than having the user head to the Bluetooth menu on their host device and to make sure they choose the Bluetooth peripheral device they intend to pair to. This can be arduous where Bluetooth device names appear to be very confusing such as to only show a model number or the device is being set up in an area where other Bluetooth devices are being setup to be discoverable such as “always ready to pair” default setups like Alpine car stereos.

Now Microsoft is working on similar functionality that will appear in the next or subsequent feature release of Windows 10. In this case, Windows users will have the ability to enable or disable this feature and the notifications will appear as pop-up messages.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones

.. to make these easy to set up

The Windows 10 host computer would need to be equipped with a Bluetooth interface compliant to Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) standards for this function to work. It effectively makes the user experience for Bluetooth devices very similar to the “plug-and-play” experience that Microsoft achieved for peripherals directly connected to a Windows host computer.

Why would I suspect that a user be required to put a “fast-pair” Bluetooth device in setup mode?

One reason that I would see some manufacturers require a user to place a “fast-pair” Bluetooth peripheral device in a setup mode or specifically enable this feature on that device would be to conserve battery runtime on a portable device. Here, having a device broadcasting the beacon signal all the time may be taking power away from the device’s main functionality thus shortening the battery’s runtime.

It could also be a device security requirement to cater for environments where multiple compliant host devices are likely to exist and you want to make sure that your accessory device isn’t ending up pairing to someone else’s host device. It is an important issue with health and allied devices like fitness bands which work with your smartphone and these devices are dealing with very personal information. This can also be a user-experience issue regarding pop-up notificatiosn for other users’ devices.

What is showing up now is that a simplified user experience is being made available whenever you are commissioning a newer Bluetooth device.

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Editing favourites with Microsoft Edge

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Edit URL item in Favourites context menu

Edit URL item in Favourites context menu

Windows 10 Tip: Edit any URL in your Microsoft Edge Favorites | Windows Experience Blog

My Comments

A situation that can affect many Web users is to have a “favourites” or “bookmarks” list with out-of-date links in it. This can be brought about by a Website moving to a new domain or its link directory being reorganised. The latter situation can be brought about due to implementation of a new content-management system or substantial renovations to the site layout.

Most Web browsers have the ability for you to edit a Web address in the Favourites or Bookmarks list, typically through you right-clicking on a link, selecting an “Edit” option, and manually editing the Web address.

But the Microsoft Edge Web browser that is part of Windows 10 didn’t have this kind of in-place editing functionality. It was in a vain attempt to achieve a reduced-clutter user experience for viewing Web pages on your Windows 10 computer. This would have caused you to navigate to the resource’s new location, add it as a Favourite then delete the old reference from the Favourites list.

Microsoft has added in-place link editing to their Edge browser that is delivered with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update onwards. Now what you can do is to right-click on the resource’s link in your Favourites list, then select “Edit URL” in the context menu to make the Weblink for the resource editable.

If you are using a touch-only arrangement like a 2-in-1 convertible laptop in a “tablet”, “presentation viewer” or “tent” position, you need to dwell your finger or stylus on the Web resource’s link until a square or circle appears, then remove your finger to expose this context menu. There are some stylus implementations that may have a button that you use to enable the context menu.

But now you can revise that Web link in Microsoft Edge’s Favourites list without having to add the new link then delete the old link.

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