simonmackay Archive

Bluetooth Fast Pairing–to be part of the Android platform

Articles

Android main interactive lock screen

Most recent Android smartphones may be able to support one-touch pair-up for Bluetooth accessories

Android ‘Fast Pair’ will quickly connect Bluetooth devices | Engadget

Announcing Fast Pair – effortless Bluetooth pairing for Android | Android Developers Blog

My Comments

Google has answered the setup method that Apple has implemented for their AirPod wireless in-ear headset by implementing a software-driven “quick-pair” setup that will be part of Android.

This method, called Bluetooth Fast Pairing, works on Android handsets and other devices that run Android 6.0 Marshmallow onwards and have Google Play Services 11.7 or newer installed and support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) connectivity. You will have to enable Bluetooth and Location functionality in your handset, but you don’t have to look at Bluetooth device lists on your smartphone for a particular device identifier to complete the setup process.

Google Fast Pair in action - press image courtesy of Google

Click or tap this image to see Google Fast Pairing in action

It is meant to provide quick discovery of your compliant Bluetooth accessory device in order to expedite the setup process that is involved with new devices or to “repair” Bluetooth connections that have failed. This latter situation can easily occur if data in the device regarding associated Bluetooth devices becomes corrupted or their is excessive Bluetooth interference.

The user experience will require you to put your accessory device like a Bluetooth headset, speakers or car stereo in to Bluetooth-setup mode. This may simply be through you holding down the “setup” or “pair” button till a LED flashes a certain way or you hear a distinct tone. On the other hand in the case of home and car audio equipment that has a display of some form, you using the “Setup Menu” to select “Bluetooth Setup” or something similar.

Then you receive a notification message on your Android device which refers to the device you just enabled for pairing, showing its product name and a thumbnail image of the device. Tap on this notification to continue the setup process and you may receive an invitation to download a companion app for those devices that work on the “app-cessory” model for extended functionality.

Google implements this by using Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” technology to enable the device-discovery process. This is similar to the various beacon approaches for marketing and indoor navigation that are being facilitated by Bluetooth Low Energy, but they only appear while your accessory device is in “Bluetooth setup” mode.

The Google Play servers provide information about the device such as its thumbnail image, product name or link to a companion app based on a “primary-key” identifier that is part of the Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” presented by the device. Then, once you tap the notification popup on your Android device, the pairing and establishment process takes place under Bluetooth Classic technology.

I see this also as being similar to the various “Plug And Play” discovery process implemented in Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS whenever you connect newer peripherals to your computer. This is where Microsoft and Apple keep data about various peripherals and expansion cards that are or have been on the market to facilitate installation of any necessary drivers or other software or invocation of class drivers that are part of the operating system. For Google and the Android platform, they could take this further with USB-C and USB Micro-AB OTG connectivity to implement the same kind of “plug and play” setup for peripherals connected this way to Android devices.

This system could be taken further by integrating similar logic and server-hosted databases in to other operating systems for regular and mobile computer platforms to improve and expedite the setup process for Bluetooth devices where the host device supports Bluetooth Low Energy operation. Here, I would like to see it based on the same identifiers broadcast by each of the accessory devices.

The Bluetooth Fast Pairing ability that Google gave to the Android platform complements NFC-based “touch and go” pairing that has been used with that platform as another method to simplify the setup process. This is more for manufacturers who don’t have enough room in their accessory device’s design to provide an NFC area for “touch-and-go” setup thanks to very small devices or where NFC doesn’t play well with the device’s aesthetics or functionality.

It may be a point of confusion for device designers like Alpine with their car stereos who place their devices in “discoverable” or “pairing” mode all the time so you can commence enrolling your accessory device at your phone’s user interface. Here, the device manufacturer may have to limit its availability to certain circumstances like no devices paired or connected, or you having to select the “Bluetooth” source or “Setup” mode to invoke discoverability.

At least Google have put up a way to allow quicker setup for Bluetooth accessories with their Android platform devices without the need to build the requirement in to the hardware.

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AMD now launches the Ryzen processor for portable computing

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

AMD

Ryzen Processors (Product Page)

Video (Click or tap to play)

My Comments

Just lately, Intel released their 8th generation Kaby Lake R family of “Core i” processors which are targeted at portable computers. These powerful CPUs that were optimised for portable use were issued with an intent to compete against AMD’s upcoming release of their Ryzen processors, pitched at a similar usage scenario. Various press articles even drew attention towards being able to play more powerful PC games on these lightweight computers rather than limiting their scope of activity.

Now AMD have released this silicon which also integrates the Radeon Vega graphics-processing silicon for the laptop market. This is where they are targeting the Ryzen 7 2700U CPU and the Ryzen 5 2500U 15-watt processors and instigating a race against Intel’s Kaby Lake R horsepower and QHD integrated graphics.

What I see of this is that Intel and AMD will make sure that this generation of ultraportable computers will be seen to be more powerful than the prior generations. Think of using an Intel Kaby Lake R Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 powered 2-in-1 for most photo-editing tasks or as a “virtual turntable” in the DJ booth, activities that wouldn’t be associated with this class of computer.

At the moment, Intel hasn’t licensed the Thunderbolt 3 connectivity standard across the board including to AMD, which will see it as a limitation when it comes to allow users to upgrade graphics capabilities on their AMD Rysen-equipped laptops using an external graphics module.

One way Intel could approach this is to divest the Thunderbolt standards and intellectual property to an independent working group like the USB.org group so that manufacturers who implement Intel, AMD, the ARM RISC-based vendors like Qualcomm or other silicon can use Thunderbolt 3 as a high-throughput external connectivity option. This could be a way to establish an even playing field for all of the silicon vendors who are providing processor power for all the various computing devices out there.

At least Intel and AMD are taking steps in the right direction towards the idea of mixing portability and power for computing setups based on regular-computer platforms. It may also make this kind of performance become affordable for most people.

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It is time for YouTube to face competition

Amazon Echo Show in kitchen press picture courtesy of Amazon

Google not allowing Amazon to provide a native client tor the popular YouTube service on the Echo Show highlights how much control they have over the user-generated video market

Over the last many years, YouTube established a name for itself regarding the delivery of user-generated video content through our computers. This included video created by ordinary householders ranging from the many puppy and kitten videos through to personal video travelogues. But a lot of professional video creators have used it to run showreels or simply host their regular content such as corporate videos and film trailers, with some TV channels even hosting shows for a long time on it.

After Google took over YouTube, there have been concerns about its availability across platforms other than the Web. One of the first instances that occurred was for Apple to be told to drop their native YouTube client from iOS with users having to install a Google-developed native client for this service on their iOS devices.

Recently, Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show device ostensibly due to it not having a good-enough user interface. But it is really down to Google wanting to integrate YouTube playback in to their Google Home and Chromecast platforms with the idea of running it as a feature exclusive to those voice-driven home assistant platforms.

YouTube Keyboard Cat

Could the Web be the only surefire place to see Keyboard Cat?

These instances can affect whether you will be able to view YouTube videos on your Smart TV, set-top box, games console, screen-equipped smart speaker or similar device. It will also affect whether a company who designs one of these devices can integrate YouTube functionality in to these devices in a native form or improve on this functionality through the device’s lifecycle. The concern will become stronger if the device or platform is intended to directly compete with something Google offers.

There are some video services like Vimeo and Dailymotion that offer support for user-generated and other video content. But these are services that are focused towards businesses or professionals who want to host video content and convey a level of uninterrupted concentration. This can be a limitation for small-time operators such as bloggers and community organisations who want to get their feet wet with video.

Facebook is starting to provide some form of competition in the form of their Watch service but this will require users to have presence on the Facebook social network, something that may not be desirable amongst some people. Amazon have opened up their Prime streaming-video platform to all sorts of video publishers and creators, positioning it as Amazon Video Direct. But this will require users to be part of the Amazon Prime platform.

But for people who publish to consumer-focused video services like YouTube, competition will require them to put content on all the services. For small-time video publishers who are focusing on video content, this will involve uploading to different platforms for a wider reach. On the other hand, one may have to use a video-distribution platform which allows for “upload once, deliver many” operation.

Competition could open up multiple options for publishers, equipment / platform designers, and end-users. For example, it could open up monetisation options for publishers’ works, simplify proper dealing with copyrighted works used within videos, open up native-client access for more platforms, amongst other things.

But there has to be enough competition to keep the market sustainable and each of the platforms must be able to support the ability to view a video without the user being required to create an account beforehand. The market should also support the existence of niche providers so as to cater to particular publishers’ and viewers needs.

In conclusion, competition could make it harder for YouTube to effectively “own” the user-generated consumer video market and control how this market operates including what devices the content appears on.

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Another attempt at security for the Internet Of Things

Article

Google and others back Internet of Things security push | Engadget

My Comments

An issue that is perplexing the personal-computing scene is data security and user privacy in the context of dedicated-function devices including the Internet Of Things. This has lately come to the fore thanks to the KRACK WPA2 wireless-network security exploit which mainly affects Wi-Fi client devices. In this situation, it would be of concern regarding these devices due to the fact that the device vendors and the chipset vendors don’t regularly update the software for their devices.

But ARM Holdings, a British chipmaker behind the ARM RISC microarchitecture used in mobile devices and most dedicated-function devices has joined with Google Cloud Platform and others to push for an Internet-Of-Things data security platform. This is very relevant because the ARM RISC microarchitecture satisfies the needs of dedicated-function device designs due to the ability to yield greater functionalities using lean power requirements compared to traditional microarchitecture.

Here, the effort is centred around open-source firmware known as “Firmware-M” that is to be pitched for ARMv8-M CPUs. The Platform Security Architecture will allow the ability for hardware / software / cloud-system designers to tackle IoT threat models and analyse the firmware with a security angle. This means that they can work towards hardware and firmware architectures that have a “best-practice approach” for security and user-friendliness for devices likely to be used by the typical householder.

There is still the issue of assuring software maintenance over the lifecycle of the typical IoT and dedicated-function device. This will include how newer updated firmware should be deployed to existing devices and how often such updates should take place. It will also have to include practices associated with maintaining devices abandoned by their vendors such as when a vendor ceases to exist or changes hands or a device reaches end-of-life.

But at least it is another effort by industry to answer the data-security and user-privacy realities associated with the Internet Of Things.

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Intel’s 8th Generation CPUs give ultraportable laptops more performance

Articles

Computers like these won’t be considered puny when it comes to what they can do thanks to Intel 8th Generation Core horsepower

HP Unveils Its Most Powerful Detachable PC The ZBook x2 | Gizmodo

Dell gives XPS 13 and Inspiron laptops a boost with Intel’s eighth-generation processors | Windows Central

Four Cores for Ultrabooks: Core i7-8550U Review | TechSpot

From the horse’s mouth

HP

ZBook x2 (Product Page, Press Release)

My Comments

Intel are releasing the eighth-generation lineup of CPU processors which have been considered a major step when it comes to performance from the “engines” that drive your computer. This is affecting the the Core i family of processors which are used in most desktop and laptop computers issued over the last few years.

There are three classes of the 8th Generation lineup – the Coffee Lake which is pitched at desktops, the Cannon Lake which is pitched at mobile applications and the Kaby Lake Refresh which also is pitched at most of the ultraportables including the 2-in-1s.

This class of CPU has impressed me more with the arrival of ultraportable computers, especially 2-in-1 detachables and convertibles, that could do more than what is normally associated with this class of computer.

It is brought about through an increase in the number of “cores” or processor elements installed in the physical chip die, similar to the number of cylinders in your car’s engine which effectively multiply the power available under that hood. In this case, the improvements that Intel were providing were very similar to what happened when the “V” configuration was implemented for engine-cylinder layouts that allowed more power from a relatively-compact engine, allowing the vehicle builder to offer increasingly-powerful engines for the same vehicle design.

In this case, there was the ability to use low-power processors like 15-watt designs with the increased “cores” but not sacrifice battery runtime or yield too much waste heat. This opened up the capability for an ultraportable or tablet to be able to do more without becoming underpowered while running for a long time on battery power.

For example, HP just released the ZBook x2 detachable tablet computer which has the kind of power that would work with advanced graphics and allied programs. Some could see this as a typical detachable tablet that could be considered not so powerful but this handheld workstation can use these programs thanks to use of the Intel 8th Generation Core i7 Kaby Lake R processor and NVIDIA Quadro discrete graphics. There is even the option to have it specified with 32Gb of RAM.

Then there’s Dell who have refreshed their XPS and Inspiron ultraportables with Intel 8th-generation horsepower with the XPS 13 benefiting from that extra performance, making the whole XPS 13 clamshell Ultrabook lineup show its relevance more.

What is to happen with the ultraportables is that you won’t need to think of them as being unfit for heavy-duty computing tasks while on the road. You may even find that you could do things like watch a season of downloaded TV episodes or play an intense round of Civilization 6 while you are flying one of the new Qantas non-stop long-distance flights to London or Los Angeles without worrying about the battery dying out.

It will be up to the software vendors to make games and other software that take advantage of these high-performance 2-in-1 computers by exploiting the touchscreens and the higher power offered by these machines. How about a Civilization, SimCity, one of the mobile “guilty-secret” games, or more being available through the Microsoft Store for one to install on that 2-in-1?

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KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability–what is affected

Telstra Gateway Frontier modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

A wireless router set up in the ordinary way as a base station or hub for your home network isn’t at risk of the KRACK exploit

The computing press has been awash with articles regarding a recently-discovered security vulnerability that affects Wi-Fi wireless networks. This vulnerability, known as KRACK, compromises the authentication process associated with the WPA2 security protocols that most Wi-Fi home and business networks implement.

What is affected

But it mainly affects client devices like laptops, smartphones and the Internet of Things which connect to Wi-Fi networks using WPA2 facilitated through software that isn’t patched against this risk.

It also can affect Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that serve as a repeater or client-side bridge in a Wi-Fi wireless network segment – this encompasses Wi-Fi client bridges used to connect desktop computers or smart TVs equipped with Ethernet connectivity to a Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi repeaters, distributed-Wi-Fi setups and mobile devices implementing “bridge-to-Wi-Fi” functionality.

Data security risks

The security and privacy risk occurs at the media level of your network connection which would represent the Wi-Fi wireless link to the access point / router.

If you use higher-level encryption protocols like gaining access to Internet resources through SSL / TLS encryption which includes “https” Webpages, implementing a client-based VPN or using IP telecommunications apps that implement end-to-end encryption, you have reduced the risk factor for your data security that the KRACK vulnerability poses. Access to LAN-based resources like your NAS or printer from within your network can be a risk with Wi-Fi clients that aren’t patched to mitigate this risk as with unencrypted Internet resources.

Current remediation efforts

This situation has been rectified for regular computers running Windows 7 onwards through a patch that Microsoft rolled out as part of the October 10 security update. Here Microsoft didn’t disclose this vulnerability until there was a chance for all of industry to have patches in beta testing or “ready to roll”.

Just lately (1 November 2017 AEDT) Apple released patches for MacOS High Sierra, Sierra and El Capitan versions; and iOS 11.1 (iPhone 7 onwards, iPad Pro 9.7″ (2016) onwards); tvOS 11.1 (4K Apple TV onwards) and watchOS 11.1 to address this issue.  The Intego Mac Security Blog post that I culled these details from was miffed about the fact that the large number of iPhone 6 and earlier devices that are still in operation have not been addressed. I would also extend this concern to the older iPad and iPod Touch devices that are also in operation such as those iPod Touches the kids use or the iPad in your living room.

On December 2 2017 US PT, Apple released the iOS 11.2 update which provided this protection for iPhone 5S, iPhone SE and all model variants of the iPhone 6. This update also applies to the 12.9″ iPad Pro (1st generation), the iPad (6th generation), the iPad Air, the iPad Mini 2 onwards; and the iPod Touch (6th generation).

Other regular-computer and mobile operating systems are being updated with security patches that are coming online through the next two months or are already online.

There will also be various pieces of client-side security software that will be updated with extra code that provides extra defence against the KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability for both the software and the host computer.

The devices you will find as having a strong risk factor for your network are “dedicated-purpose” network devices like Internet AV devices, “smart-home” devices, videosurveillance cameras and the like that don’t benefit from regular firmware updates. This will mainly affect those devices that manufacturers are declaring “end-of-support” on or a lot of “white-box” devices sold by multiple vendors. But check your devices’ manufacturers’ Websites for new firmware that will patch the device against this vulnerability.

This will not affect the typical home or other small network that is based around a wireless router. Nor will it affect networks that implement multiple Wi-Fi access points connected to a wired (Ethernet or HomePlug) backbone. This is because you are dealing with devices that serve as a Wi-Fi base station for that particular wireless network segment.

But if you have Wi-Fi infrastructure devices using some sort of repeater or bridge functionality, check with the vendor for a firmware update for your device.

As well wireless router and access-point manufacturers, especially those courting the business and allied markets, will offer newer firmware to harden their devices against the KRACK vulnerability.

Remember that well-designed devices will implement at best an automatic software-update process or you may have to visit your device’s Settings, Setup or Configuration menu to download new firmware.

As well, the Wi-Fi Alliance have updated their certification tests for network hardware to be sure that such hardware isn’t vulnerable to this risk. These certification tests will be required before a product can show the Wi-Fi Certified logos and will affect products being introduced from this month onwards.

Keeping your network secure until new software is available

If you run Wi-Fi network infrastructure hardware that implements repeater or bridge functionality, disable the Wi-Fi client mode or repeater mode on these devices until your device is running firmware hardened against this vulnerability.

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor can help with mitigating risks associated with the KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi network vulnerability

You may also have to set up your home network with multiple access points linked to a wired backbone as the preferred way to extend the network’s coverage or reach to another building as has been done with this man-cave. A good example of this is to use a HomePlug wireless access point kit which uses your home’s AC wiring for this purpose. If you use a “Mi-Fi” mobile router that supports Wi-Fi data offload, disable this functionality until it is loaded with the latest secure firmware.

Similarly, use a wired network connection such as Ethernet or HomePlug to connect sessile devices like desktop computers, Smart TVs, printers and the like to your home network. This may not be feasible with those devices that only support Wi-Fi connectivity as their network-connection option.

Conclusion

You can mitigate the risk of the KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi network vulnerability as long as you keep your computer equipment running software that is patched with the latest security updates.

If you use Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that work as a Wi-Fi client like repeaters or client bridges, these have to be updated with the latest firmware from their vendor. As well, use of wired backbones and access points for expanding your home network’s coverage will achieve the proper level of security against this risk if you are dealing with client-capable Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that aren’t updated with the latest software.

Let’s not forget that higher-level encryption protocols like SSL or client-side VPNs do mitigate the risk of data theft through this vulnerability.

Updated (1 November 2017 AEDT) to reflect the latest concerning what is happening with the Apple platforms.

Updated (11 December 2017 AEDT) to reflect the increased number of iPhones and iPads protected against the KRACK exploit by the iOS 11.2 update

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Smartphones and voice-activated home-assistant platforms help with managing your prescribed medications

Article

‘Alexa, order my meds’ — start-up NowRx pioneers prescription refills through Alexa and Google Home | CNBC

My Comments

There are steps that are taking place to interlink today’s technology with the chore of ordering your prescription medicines from the local pharmacist.

A system that has existed for a few years in Australia and is continuing to run is eRx Express which works with a mobile-platform app and QR codes that are printed on prescriptions. In this setup, a user could send a prescription order to their local pharmacy by scanning that QR code. But they would have to go to that pharmacy to collect and pay for their medicines, unless the pharmacy has established a home-delivery arrangement for the patient.

The main benefit is to allow a person to start things happening for a prescription to be filled from home, work or a shopping-centre’s food court and not have to wait around at the chemist’s while it is being filled. This system is part of an IT solution that is being offered to Australian doctors and pharmacists to improve the prescription-management workflow.

NowRx, a Silicon-Valley startup, have taken this further by providing a Skill for the Amazon Alexa and Google Home so you can use these voice-driven home-assistant platforms to order your prescription medicines. They want to make it feasible for you to request, refill or renew your medications with the last four digits of your prescription number.

Like the rest of Silicon Valley with their approach to traditional business models, they see it as a way to take on the traditional local chemist’s shop by running a robot-driven warehouse and home-delivery service, and at the moment, they have 400 Bay Area doctors as part of their network. NowRx uses Amazon and Google as a facilitation path so that their patients’ medical data isn’t held by the home-assistant platforms; something that is set up to avoid storing that data on systems that aren’t compliant with the US’s standards concerning medical-data privacy.

There are some people who could see these systems as trampling on what the pharmacy is about, including the management of a patient’s medication and the face-to-face interaction with the pharmacy’s customer base. But if these systems are set up as something that augments a local pharmacist’s workflow such as providing an express path for the supply of medication integral to a patient’s continual-therapy requirement, they can be seen as legitimate by most communities. This is more so where pharmacists are able to and encouraged to provide supplementary health-care services like vaccinations or first-aid as well as dispensing medication, a practiced performed in some European countries.

One of the analogies that can be related to with these services is when the financial industry started implementing automatic teller machines. There was the initial fear of these machines were about replacing bank teller staff but they ended up being primarily as an express option or an all-hours option for a customer to withdraw cash. In this case, the eRx and NowRx platforms would serve more as an express path for a patient to get to the medicines they need as part of their long-term therapy requirements.

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Yamaha’s network-capable stereo receivers can play legacy sources through MusicCast network speakers

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Yamaha R-N402 Natural Sound Network Stereo Receiver press picture courtesy of Yamaha Australia

Yamaha R-N402 Network Stereo Receiver – can even stream audio from sources connected to it into Yamaha MusicCast speakers

Yamaha

R-N602 Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

80W / channel 8 ohms 0.04% THD 20Hz-20kHz

(Analogue Inputs: 1 phono, 2 line-level, 2 tape loops; PCM Digital Inputs: 2 Coaxial, 2 Optical)

R-N402 Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

100W / channel 8 ohms 0.2% THD 40Hz-20kHz

(Analogue Inputs: 3 line-level, 1 tape loop; PCM Digital Inputs: 1 Coaxial, 1 Optical)

R-N303D Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

100W / channel 8 ohms 0.2% THD 40Hz-20kHz

Analogue Inputs: 3 line-level, 1 tape loop; PCM Digital Inputs: 1 Coaxial, 1 Optical

DAB+ tuner

My Comments

Previously, I had touched on the issue of availability of “full-width” network-capable stereo receivers that have the same expectations as the traditional hi-fi receiver that has been seen as the heart of many hi-fi systems. This was when I had called out the Onkyo TX-8050 network stereo receiver and the Yamaha R-N301 network stereo receiver.

Here I was focusing on people who value the idea of creating a hi-fi system that is about playing music rather than a home-theatre setup that is about showing what Hollywood has to offer. Situations that I think of include creating a formal lounge area where you want to focus your activity on entertaining guests, reading and playing or listening to music; or simply maintaining a separate home-entertainment system optimised for playing music.

Yamaha are still pushing through with stereo receivers that can connect to your home network. The latest examples are underscored with the R-N602, R-N402 and R-N303D Natural Sound Network Receivers which integrate the concept of the stereo receiver with the home network and multiroom audio thanks to the latest iteration of the Yamaha MusicCast network audio technology.

This technology that Yamaha implements in these receivers isn’t interlinked with any overarching multiroom network-audio standard adopted by many manufacturers. But they can also work with network audio sources like DLNA-capable media servers including NAS units, or online sources like Spotify or Pandora. Those of you who use an Apple device running iOS or a recent iteration of MacOS can also use these Yamaha receivers for your device’s audio output.

One of the features I am calling out is the ability to stream audio from a source device connected to these receivers to other Yamaha MusicCast devices. For example, in the case of the R-N602, you could start a record playing on the turntable connected to this receiver in the formal lounge room. Then you use the Yamaha MusicCast Controller app on your iOS or Android smartphone to hear that record through the Yamaha PLUS (WX-030) speaker in the kitchen.

Similarly, these receivers are implementing Bluetooth not just as a source but as an alternate output. For example, one could hear a local radio broadcast on the receiver’s integrated tuner through their Bluetooth headphones without the need to worry about the length of their headphone cord thanks to this functionality.

The Yamaha R-N602 does cater very well for legacy media by providing an integrated phono stage for a turntable equipped with a moving-magnet cartridge, as well as two tape loops which can come in handy if you still record to tapes or other media, including using a computer to archive old recordings. But the Yamaha R-N402 and R-N303D has its analogue inputs being line-level only with one tape loop.

At least Yamaha haven’t forgotten about the network-capable stereo receiver as a product class for devices that serve as a hi-fi system’s hub. Instead, they have made sure that there is a range of equipment that suits different needs and budgets, allowing us to consider how to build out that music system as we want.

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iTunes downgrade to permit tethered iOS app deployment–Apple could do better here

Article

iTunes Store

iTunes losing its ability to install software to iOS devices from version 12.7 onwards

Apple Releases New iTunes 12.7, What You Should Know | AppleToolbox.com

My Comments

An issue that will face iOS device users who make use of the iTunes desktop media-management applications is that starting from iTunes 12.7 onwards, they won’t be able to upload iOS apps from their regular computer to their iOS mobile device in a tethered manner using this software. This is in addition to omitting the iOS App Store from the iTunes Store shopfront integrated in iTunes. It is also part of a direction that Apple is enforcing with iOS where you manage your iPhone or iPad from its screen and update its software “over the air”.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Apple could still provide desktop management of their iOS devices through separately downloadable software

Tethering is where you connect a computing device that can normally function alone to another computing device, typically a regular computer, by a wired connection. This is typically to allow a smartphone to be a modem for a regular computer or to transfer data stored on one device to the other device. In this case, it is to transfer iOS apps stored on your regular computer running macOS or Windows to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that you have connected to the computer.

But there are people who use a Mac or Windows regular computer to deploy iOS software to iPhones and iPads. For example, in your business or household, you may want to deploy the same app to multiple iOS devices and want to save bandwidth by caching the app to your regular computer’s hard disk then deploying the same app by tethering each iOS device to your regular computer. As well, some of us may use this as a way to get around a dodgy Internet connection by downloading to a laptop used at a location with known-to-be-good Internet service then deploying where it’s more convenient.

Apple offered a make-do update for iTunes by offering the iTunes 12.6.3 software. This has the feature set associated with iTunes 12.6 including access to the iOS App Store and tethered app deployment for iOS devices. But it has under-hood improvements which allow it to work with iOS devices that are running iOS 11 or newer versions. This is alongside iTunes 12.7 which is focused as a media-management tool and iTunes media storefront.

Personally, I would like to see Apple approach this situation in a better manner for both the Mac OS and Windows operating systems. This would be in the form of a separately-installable “iOS-desktop-manager” program that provides add-on functionality to either the Mac OS operating system for Macintosh computers or to the iTunes Windows port. It would at least provide desktop access to the iOS App Store along with tethered app deployment for iOS devices.

As well, the “iOS-desktop-manager” program could provide device backup and management abilities so you could do things like backup an iPhone or reset a faltering iPod Touch. This is more so where the Wi-Fi or wireless-broadband modem in an iOS device or its network connection can be a point of failure and it isn’t realistic to restore from an iCloud backup if the iOS device’s Wi-Fi is so slow or intermittent.  Similarly, using something like your local backup infrastructure such as your NAS or a USB external hard disk of your own means that you aren’t necessarily ceding control of your mobile-created data to others, something that can be of importance when it comes to privacy.

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Lenovo does a Wurlitzer with their iconic ThinkPad laptop

Articles Lenovo ThinkPad 25 Anniversary laptop press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Releases Retro ThinkPad At 25th Anniversary Celebration | Lifehacker

Lenovo’s retro-inspired ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25 now available to order | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo

ThinkPad 25

Product Page

Happy 25th Birthday ThinkPad (Press Release)

My Comments

.. just like this classic Wurlitzer 1015 One More Time juke box

There are always those times where a design that celebrates a particular product type and what it’s about is revisited. With technology, this is approached by maintaining the look of the legendary original design but implements newer technical expectations on the inside.

IBM released what they defined as the ThinkPad laptop in 1992 with the black-finished clamshell housing, the red thumbstick, the blue Enter key and the 7-row keyboard. This was an effort to define what a portable business computer is to be about.

But like Wurlitzer with their legendary 1015 juke box which symbolised the rock’ n’ roll culture of the 1950s where these machines were playing the latest hits at the diners and “greasy spoons” where teenagers worked at and met up with their friends after school, this computer ended up being seen as an icon for highly-portable business computing in 1992.

Lenovo, who had taken over IBM’s personal-computing business, had just lately released their equivalent of the Wurlitzer 1015 One More Time juke box. The “One More Time” illustrated here kept the look of the original 1015 rock’ n’ roll machine but implemented higher-power solid-state stereo amplification along with the ability to play from 50 7” 45-rpm singles rather than the original’s 10 78-rpm record capacity and low-power valve-amplification technology.

In the case of the ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25, Lenovo kept the look of the 1992-original ThinkPad but implemented today’s expectations in it. These manifest in the form of Intel Core i7-7500U providing the horsepower along with 16Gb RAM and 512Gb solid-state storage and discrete graphics processing handled by NVIDIA GeForce 940MX GPU with 2Gb display memory serving a 14” Full HD LCD screen. Let’s not forget that this laptop is much thinner and lighter than the original machine.

There is also other new expectations like the use of a Thunderbolt 3 connection, enhanced security with an Intel RealSense camera and fingerprint reader, dual-stream 802.11a/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, 3 USB 3.0 sockets, HDMI video output and Gigabit Ethernet.  This totally underscores that the Lenovo ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25 is really the “One More TIme”.

At the moment, Lenovo is releasing it as a limited edition for US$1899 from their Website. But they will be releasing it through other local online storefronts under similar conditions including pushing it as a limited edition.

Happy 25th Anniversary to the ThinkPad laptop design that defined what a business laptop is about!

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