Author: simonmackay

Cable One pushes towards a Gigabit Arizona city

Article

Cable One Launches Gigabit Speeds in Arizona | Broadband News & DSL Reports

From the horse’s mouth

Cable One

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

In some areas, a small firm focuses on providing next-generation broadband to those areas, whether be FTTC fibre-copper (VDSL2), FTTP fibre-optic or HFC fibre-coaxial. This allows them to concentrate on enriching those areas’ Internet service and has been taking place mainly in rural UK.

Now this practice is taking place in some parts of the USA, especially Arizona, thanks to Cable One. Here they have rolled out in to Cottonwood and Clarkdale a DOCSIS 3.0 HFC service which can yield 1Gigabit/second downstream and 50 Megabit/second upstream. The cost of this service, known as Gigabit One, will be US$175/month with a 500Gb data plan, but will make sure it is able to be delivered across all of both towns. There are other plans being put up for this service including one that has a 2000Gb allowance.

It is the first of the cable-based firms to offer a Gigabit service and has been seen as a way to call those small towns “Gigabit cities”. But the idea of smaller companies focusing on smaller neighbourhoods allows them to concentrate on making sure that these neighbourhoods can benefit from current technology and may even allow larger businesses to set up shop there especially when they want to encourage telecommuting.

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Product Review – Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

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

RRP AUD$899

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

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Scan Scan to Connection
Sheet-fed

600 dpi

Single-pass Auto-duplex

USB Mass-Storage

CIFS/FTP/HTTP network storage

Online Services

SMTP E-mail

USB 3.0

Ethernet

802.11g/n Wi-Fi

The scanner itself

Setup

Brother ADS-2800W document scanner document path

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

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

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

Wi-Fi connectivity

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

Walk-up and mobile operation

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner - Web services

It scans directly to Dropbox

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

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

Computer-based operation

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

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

Scanning results

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

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

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

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

Limitations and points of improvement

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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SteelSeries integrates OLED in their gaming mouse

Article

SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse press image courtesy of SteelSeries

SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse

SteelSeries ships its OLED-packing gaming mouse | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

SteelSeries

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Audio Adaptor

The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor – OLED display to show time or details about what’s playing like the SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse

Regular readers may have read my review of the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone audio adaptor which implements a monochrome OLED display to show the time or metadata about what what’s playing. Sony has also implemented this concept in a few previous personal-audio players as well as this Bluetooth headphone adaptor because of the fact that this display technology doesn’t take up much room in the device itself and could be best described as a “VFD display for battery devices” where it offers the same brightness as a vacuum fluorescent display while drawing minimal current.

SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse press image courtesy of SteelSeries

SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse – OLED display

SteelSeries have taken this further by implementing a user-customisable OLED display on the Rival 700 gaming mouse. Here, this mouse uses a special program to copy over game stats or a user-defined logo to appear on the display courtesy of the USB connection. Here, it is proving the idea that an OLED display can earn its keep on a small portable device even if the device is powered from another host device.

The Rival 700 gaming mouse also implements tactile feedback during gameplay so you can benefit from that convincing game effect but it is achieved in a manner to avoid disturbing your gameplay. As well, the mouse is designed for increased durability so you can subject it to intense gameplay or office work and SteelSeries offer it as something to equip your gaming rig or workstation for AUD$100.

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Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone is for real

Article

Google Project Ara modular phone - for real

Google Project Ara modular phone – for real

Google’s Project Ara: build your dream phone | The Age

My Comments

There has been some previous coverage about Google’s “Project Ara” modular smartphone, but there was some doubt about this phone being for real.

This mobile phone, like the LG G5 smartphone, can be improved by you buying and adding extra modules that offer additional or better functionality. It is very similar to how the IBM PC evolved where it was feasible to add on extra parts to improve the computer’s functionality.

Google had put the Project Ara concept smartphone on the slow burner and LG advanced their take on a smartphone in the form of the G5 having an improved camera or a hi-fi-grade audio DAC module available as options. Now they have come forth with a firm proof-of-concept to be offered to developers so they can design the modular hardware and to have a system ready for the masses by next year.

Google will push the idea of requiring the modules to be certified by themselves in order to assure quality control and the user experience for installing or upgrading any of these modules will be very similar to replacing a microSD card in your Android smartphone. This is where you tell the operating system that you wish to remove the card before you open up your phone and swap out the card, something I do with my Samsung phone when I want to play different music because I see the microSD cards as though they are cassettes or MiniDiscs that contain music ready to play.

Like with computers, the modular phones will still appeal to those of us who are tech enthusiasts and don’t mind customising our phones to suit our needs. Personally, I would like to see this same modularity looked at for tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops pitched at this same user class who values modularity and customisability.

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You can still claim the Windows 10 free upgrade after July

Article

Making Sure You Are Eligible For The Windows 10 Free Upgrade Before It Expires | Supersite For Windows

My Comments

Windows 10 Free Upgrade screen

This is where you will reserve your copy of Windows 10

Microsoft is terminating the free Windows 10 upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users in July but you may be able to reserve that upgrade and “make hay while the sun shines”. This can be achieved by you clicking on the Windows 10 icon in the Notification tray and going through the processes as if to upgrade to effectively reserve that upgrade for your current hardware.

But if you want to stay with your current operating system, you would have to roll back the update so that you and your current computer are effectively registered with Microsoft as if you have taken advantage of the free upgrade. You can also supply the Windows Product Key for your existing operating system in order to reserve your copy of Windows 10.

Some of you who are in the market for a new Windows-based computer may want to skip this process and focus on benefiting from Windows 10 whenever you have your new computer. But if you are “spinning out” your older computer as, perhaps, a secondary computer existing on your home network while you are buying the newer unit it would be worth proceeding with the upgrade. On the other hand, you can download and apply Convenience Rollup Updates from Microsoft to effectively keep the older computer to a similar security standard as the newer equipment.

Similarly, you could download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft which allows you to create an optical disc or a USB stick as an installation / upgrade media source, then use this tool to deploy the Windows 10 update on to your computer. You could do this as part of registering your computer with Microsoft to reserve the free upgrade.

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Cleaning up online advertising: Google and Bing make life hard for undesirable advertisers

Article

Advertising of predatory financial services

Google Will Start Banning All Ads From Payday Lenders | Mashable

Advertising of online tech-support scams

Bing brings in blanket ban on online tech support ads | Naked Security

My Comments

Google clamps down on advertising of predatory financial services

An issue that has caused a lot of concern with the Global Financial Crisis is the existence of predatory sub-prime financing services like payday and other short-term loans. This issue has been raised as a civil rights issue as well as a consumer-protection issue because predatory lending occurs more with disadvantaged communities and the kind of loan products charge exorbitant amounts of interest.

Google has attacked this issue by prohibiting payday and similar lenders from advertising through their Adwords search-advertising platform. As far as I know, it doesn’t affect any of Google’s display advertising services like Adsense or Admob. This follows similar action that Facebook had taken concerning their online advertising platform, with both these companies being the biggest online advertising platforms encompassing both their own properties and the ad networks that serve other publishers and mobile app developers. It is part of Silicon Valley’s reaction to contemporary issues of concern like civil rights.

This will effect the advertising of loan products that are due within 60 days or have an interest rate of 36% or more in the USA. But the issue that may surface is whether Google will apply this rule to their display advertising networks and if other online advertising services will follow suit and apply it across their products.

Bing clamping down on online tech-support scams

I have given a fair bit of airtime on HomeNetworking01.info about the online tech-support scams due to hearing from people in my community who have had near misses with these scams.

This typically manifested in the form of the phone calls that people received from someone pretending to be the tech-support team associated with a respected IT or telecommunications name, stating that the user’s computer has a virus or something else is wrong with the user’s computer hardware or software.  But they lead you to establish a remote-access path to your computer so they can “fix” the perceived “problem” or “threat” for a fee, with these scammers making off with a large sum of money or installing software of questionable provenance and relevance on your computer.

Most of us have become aware of these scams through the various customer-education efforts by the IT community and consumer-protection organisations, encouraging us to seek IT support from people whom you know and have met in person like your business’s IT department or the IT experts in your household, family or community.

This has led to computer users not answering these calls or simply hanging up when they receive those calls. Now the scammers’ MO has changed towards cost-per-click Web ads or popups that flash up warning messages saying that your computer has problems and instructing you to call a toll-free number. This plays on the fact that you are seeking a problem to be rectified by placing that phone call.

Bing Ads, which is part of Microsoft’s Bing search platform, have banned the advertisement of third-party tech-support services because of the quality issues that are affecting end-users’ data safety. There has been an unintended consequence from this ruling which has made it hard for honest IT-support providers to advertise their services on that platform.

Conclusion

I see it as one of many efforts by the online advertising industry to clean up its act and gain the same level of respect as traditional advertising but there could be a more uniform approach to the problem of questionable online and mobile advertising.

The only way I see this coming about is for the industry to adopt a code of practice with conformance being indicated to end-users, publishers, content-filter software and others through distinct trademarks and symbols. This could address issues like advertising that is allowed, the kinds of ad contracts offered including the tenure of these contracts and the kind of payment received, due-diligence requirements, and liaison with law enforcement, customer protection and other authorities.

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

Article

Windows 10 Start Menu

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

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

My Comments

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

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

Task Manager with Windows Explorer called out

The Windows Explorer process in Task Manager

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

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

Task Manager - Context menu with Restart called out

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

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

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WhatsApp to go native for regular computers

Article

Acer Switch Alpha 12 tablet press image courtesy of Acer

WhatsApp to work natively on your Windows 10 tablet

WhatsApp Has A New Desktop App For Windows And OS X | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

WhatsApp

Blog Post

Download link

My Comments

I have provided some previous coverage about the issue of native client apps that run on desktop operating systems for messaging platforms. As I have highlighted in the article, I underscored the performance issue which will benefit heavy multitaskers and gamers, the ability to work tightly with the operating system’s functions and abilities and the existence of 2-in-1s and ultraportable computers as a viable alternative to mobile-platform tablets.

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

.. or your Apple Macintosh computer

The regular computer was the class of compute that benefited from the instant-messaging app but mobile-platform smartphones and tablets took over the role of personal-communications devices with the different messaging platform vendors focusing on these devices as their terminal of choice. Skype and Viber have kept the desktop (regular-computer) usage case alive and now Facebook offered a Windows 10 desktop native client for their Messenger platform.

WhatsApp Android screenshot courtesy of WhatsApp

for secure online communications so you don’t have to rely on your smartphone or tablet

Now WhatsApp have answered this call for their secure communications platform by offering native clients for the Windows (8+) and MacOS X (10.9 Mavericks + ). Like with Viber, these desktop native clients are pitched to be a secondary user interface for your WhatsApp account that is set up on your smartphone. This means that once you install WhatsApp on your Windows PC or Mac, you then have to bind the desktop app to your WhatsApp account by using your smartphone’s WhatsApp client to scan a QR code shown on your regular computer by the desktop WhatsApp client.

For WhatsApp users, using these native clients rather than the WhatsApp Web application means that you have the benefits of this platform on your regular computer without the unnecessary overhead that the typical desktop Web browser can impose on your session. Nor do you need to keep a Web-browser tab or session open for desktop-based WhatsApp communication.

This is a sign that regular desktop and laptop computer users, including multitaskers and gamers, are not being forgotten about when it comes to mobile messaging networks.

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The CSIRO considers the Internet Of Things a viable alternative to the alarm pendant

Article

Why the CSIRO is building smart homes for elderly Australians | IT News

My Comments

The typical situation to assure the welfare of an  elderly, disabled or chronically-ill person who is living alone at home is to have them wear a pendant or wristband panic-button that signals carers or loved ones if they need help.

But issues have been raised about these devices being, for example, left somewhere in the home because the person forgets to wear it after they have finished an activity which may not play well with these devices. As well, these wearable devices are only of value if they trigger the device in response to an emergency situation like a fall.

The CSIRO are looking towards the use of the “Internet Of Everything” as a way of monitoring the welfare of these people, a use case which I do frequently refer to in the context of this technology.

Here, they would use commonly-available sensor technology like the motion sensors that are part of every intruder-alarm system, or flow meters and power meters on appliances; or door-contact sensors on wardrobes or kitchen cupboards to observe for normal activity.

Along with this, the CSIRO effort also wants to use health sensors like blood-pressure monitors or scales to register a person’s health statistics and it has been valued because the patients will be wanting to know how they are doing along with the ability to provide more knowledgeable information to their doctor about their symptoms.

They want to use knowledge of past health incidents affecting elderly, disabled or chronically-ill people to train the machine-learning algorithm to identify the abnormalities at an earlier stage rather than when a serious incident occurs. Of course, any machine-learning setup needs to be able to adjust to newer legitimate changes so as to avoid any “false positives”.

A question that will always be raised is the cost to set up this kind of observation with it costing less than AUD$3000 because of the use of common technologies and components rather than specialised hardware.

The topic of privacy has also been raised because the CSIRO monitoring system is based on cloud technology and Internet-based data access, and is of importance to reduce the risk of elder abuse. Here, the goal is to allow the patients to control their data so that it is exposed to whoever they trust in a granular manner. This is more so with relatives because they may be trusting of certain people within their family.

As well, the features that have been raised as being of importance to the elderly community for this personal-health monitoring setup include the ability to know who is at the door, the ability to engage in videocalls with family and friends along with the ability to know if one has forgotten to turn off a tap or appliance. This can easily affect older people who may become increasing forgetful about these things such as a burner on the newer gas cooker being left on but turned really down or not being able to hear clearly that the washbasin tap is still running.

The effort that CSIRO is undertaking is to be able to allow an elderly or other vulnerable person to live independently yet be able to know that help is at hand while their loved ones are sure that they are well.

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Increased value for money affecting residential broadband in Germany

Article Flag of Germany

50 MBit/s und mehr: Verbraucher wollen immer schnelleres Internet | Computer Bild.de (German language | Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments`

Recently, German households are gaining better value for money when it comes to purchasing broadband Internet service. This is affecting the higher-speed 50Mbps service packages that are being preferred by the younger people.

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

German Internet customers preferring better value for money for their “50Mbps Talk and Surf” service

These plans are being underscored by their availability as part of multiple-play communications-service deals which include fixed or mobile voice telephony, broadband Internet along with other services. In Germany, the service package that is commonly preferred is the “double-play” service, marketed as a “Talk & Surf” service that encompasses a fixed-line telephone service and a broadband Internet service.

The article highlighted an increase in the preferred connection speed for the broadband services over 5 years with households showing strong interest in the 50Mbps services rather than the “economy” 16Mbps services. As well, the average cost of a fixed-line telephone + broadband service in that country had been dropping slightly from EUR€35.73 per month now to EUR€28.82 per month.

It is being underscored with the increased availability of better-value 50Mbps services in Germany’s larger cities but the 16Mbps “economy” packages are being found to have reduced value for money and this price drop is being described as being a slow one. As is often noted, this kind of value for money when it comes to Internet service doesn’t extend to rural areas which tend to find themselves at a disadvantage in this field.

Personally, I would attribute the increased ubiquity of VDSL-based Internet service in Germany’s urban areas being a factor leading to the improved value for money when it comes to the higher-speed packages.

But the questions to raise regarding the German broadband market is whether there is significant infrastructure-level competition in that country? Similarly, the availability of retail-level competition for residential and small-business telecommunications services has to exist at a sustainable level to assure customers best value for money.

At least something is happening for German households where they are gaining better value for money with their Internet services.

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