Author: simonmackay

Clipsal offers a built-in USB charger that fits most Australian wall plates

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Clipsal

Clipsal Saturn USB double power outlets press image courtesy of Clipsal

Clipsal Saturn USB double power outlets

USB Charger Mech Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Clipsal have recently issued a packaged-short-form USB charger module that can fit in most, if not all, Australian electrical wall plates. Here, it occupies the same space and cutout as a switch mechanism or module used on any of the recent-issue wall plates that are commonly used in Australian buildings. But they also offer this as a solution that can be integrated into control panels where the goal is to have a USB charger that can be wired to 240V AC wiring that exists behind that panel.

They are pitching it as an alternative to people plugging USB chargers in to power outlets so we can charge our smartphones, or to create multiple USB charging outlets which can be a bonus in rooms like the kitchen, office, hallway or bedroom where many of these devices and their accessories are charged at once.

The classic household example would be a kitchen where you want to free up standard power outlets for those benchtop appliances like the KitchenAid mixer or the kettle, but you still want to charge that iPhone or iPad. Here, you can have the best of both worlds by installing a double USB power outlet where you can plug in a coffee machine, kettle and charge your iPad without dealing with an easy-to-lose double adaptor and USB charger.

This USB charger module serves one smartphone or tablet per module and serve a USB charging current of up to 1.2 amps. This would charge most smartphones and provide enough power to an iPad or similar tablet to avoid compromising battery runtime. As well, it is compliant to the USB Battery Charging Specification 1.2 and also factors in the length of the cable between the charger and the device, with the resulting resistance and voltage drop.

They are pitching it as a standalone module that can be fitted to existing or new wall plates or panels; or as part of different pre-assembled ready-to-install packages with one or two power outlets and / or multiple USB chargers. Here, they even describe the packages that have the regular power outlets and the USB charger outlets as “USB power points”. They also are offering different-coloured bezels for this module to allow them to be matched to the plate or panel they are installed in, something that will be considered of importance when it comes to décor.

A question that will soon surface is whether there will be a USB Type-C charger module compliant to the USB Power Delivery specification become available for this same kind of installation. This is as we see more computing devices come on the market that are being equipped with this newer connection as a power source. Similarly, a 2.1 amp variant of these modules could earn its keep with households who have many tablet devices or want their smartphones charged up very quickly.

What is happening at last is that integrated USB-charger solutions are arriving to the Australian market in a highly-flexible manner. It is worth asking your regular “sparkie” if they have these devices available to install when you next have him around so as to reduce the chaos associated with the many chargers.

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Finnish building-management systems cop the brunt of cyberattacks

Article

There needs to be a level of cyber-security awareness regarding the design and maintenance of building-automation systems

There needs to be a level of cyber-security awareness regarding the design and maintenance of building-automation systems

Finns chilling as DDoS knocks out building control system | The Register

My Comments

Two apartment buildings in Finland became victims of distributed denial-of-service attacks which nobbled their building-management systems. This caused the buildings’ central heating and domestic hot water systems to enter a “safety shutdown” mode because the remote management systems were in an endless loop of rebooting and both these systems couldn’t communicate to each other. The residents ended up living in cold apartments and having cold showers because of this failure.

What is being realised is that, as part of the Internet Of Things, building-management equipment is being seen to be vulnerable, due to factors like the poor software maintenance and an attitude against hardening these systems against cyber-attacks. Then there is the issue of what level of degraded-but-safe functionality should exist for these systems if they don’t communicate to a remote management computer. This also includes the ability for the systems themselves to pass alarm information to whoever is in charge.

This situation has called out data-security issues with design and implementation of dedicated-purpose “backbone devices” connected to the Internet; along with the data-security and service-continuity risks associated with cloud-based computing. It is also an issue that is often raised with essential services like electricity, gas and water services or road-traffic management being managed by Internet-connected computers with these computers being vulnerable to cyberattack.

One of the issues raised included the use of firewalls that run up-to-date software and configurations to protect these systems from cyberattack.

I would also look at a level of fail-safe operation for building management systems that can be implemented if the Internet link to remote management computers dies; along with the ability to use cellular-telephony SMS or similar technology to send alarm messages to building management during a link-fail condition. The fail-safe mode could be set up for a goal of “safe, secure, comfortable” quasi-normal operation if the building-local system identifies itself as operating in a safe manner.

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MyRepublic launches an NBN Internet plan to game on with

Article

Gaming rig

An Internet service provider offers a next-generation broadband service fit for owners of these “gaming rigs”

MyRepublic Says Its Gamer NBN Plan Is Actually For Gamers | Gizmodo

Previous Coverage

A Singapore telco sets the cat amongst the Australian pigeons

From the horse’s mouth

MyRepublic

Personal Internet Services product page

My Comments

Singapore-based ISP MyRepublic launched last week an “all-you-can-eat” single-tier high-performance plan on to the NBN with the goal to offer something more than what Telstra, Optus and co can offer on the same infrastructure. But there is a gaming-optimised variant of that plan that isn’t a “gaming” plan by name only.

Here, they are asking AUD$59.99 per month for this level of service and will have it available across all NBN connection types. As well, they are offering a discount on a PlayStation 4 console for the first 500 subscribers to sign up.

This plan, with a bandwidth of 100 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload, is associated with a network that provides optimised network latency for real-time gaming and an optimised path to the popular game servers. This is important for “massive multiplayer online” games which exchange a lot of real-time data as each player plays their moves in the games.

MyRepublic started out as a specialist gaming ISP who understands what online multi-machine multi-player gaming is all about including the requirement for game-server and connection reliability. They had found that gamers aren’t readily understood by established ISPs and want to focus on this vertical market. For example, issues that face games enthusiasts would include server availability and reliability along with data latency between their machine and these servers.

They also create a gaming hotline so that gaming-related questions can be answered by those who are knowledgeable on these topics. As well, MyRepublic also partner with gaming-hardware vendors like Razer and SteelSeries, especially as they realise that more of their customers use Windows-based regular computers (think “gaming rigs”) rather than consoles for gaming.

An issue that could be raised concerning the development of online games is whether to support an edge-computing approach where multiple local servers can effectively become one large server. It can include redundancy / fail-safe operation along with the ability to handle many players including having particular machines process locally-generated game data.

Of course, they are also pushing the competition agenda when it comes to retail Internet services especially in the context of value for money. Here, they want to underscore an above-average performance expectation for next-generation broadband Internet service with this being offered at a reasonable price.

MyRepublic could also take advantage of the recent infrastructure-level market liberalisation with the likes of TPG and DGTek laying down competing broadband infrastructures at particular neighbourhoods and buildings and offering them to competing retail providers.  Here, they could do things like offering symmetrical broadband services including Gigabit-level services to the same level as some European services.

Once there is a sustainable amount of infrastructure-level competition taking place, including the ability for retail ISPs to offer their services across multiple infrastructures, it could lead to Internet service value being raised for home and small business.

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Orange offers a highly-capable Livebox next-generation triple-play package for 20 euros

Articles – French language / Langue Française

Orange : la Livebox fibre à moins de 20€ | Degroupnews.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Orange (France Télécom)

Product Page

My Comments

The competitive French market has underscored another first with Orange (France Télécom) offering a baseline next-generation broadband triple-play service for EUR€20 per month. This is available to people who have Orange FTTP fibre-optic connectivity in their street or building.

Here, the baseline service has a symmetrical bandwidth of 100Mb/s, which may be considered a rarity for baseline Internet services offered by most telcos or Internet service providers. There is also included 10Gb of online storage, with the option to buy on 1Tb of “personal-cloud” NAS storage using the DLNA-capable Livebox Play modem router.

The fixed-line telephone service, which is VoIP-based, has all landline calls anywhere in France and its “Départements Outre-Mer” territories and 110 other countries including the commonly-called destinations included in the package. With this service, you can even call any mobile user in the US or Canada for as long as you like without paying extra. But Algeria and Tunisia are provided as “option-on” countries as far as this package is concerned.

The TV service includes 160 channels with 40 of these available in HD, and users can have multiple TV sets supported as an option. This is alongside the ability to option-on PVR-style recording.

But Orange are offering this service as a turnkey install for new subscribers with the ability to have 24-hour access to their support lines.

The device that is considered the bub of this service is the Livebox Play which supports VDSL2 or Gigabit Ethernet on the WAN (Internet) side and 802.11a/b/g/n dual-band WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi and a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch on the LAN (home network) side.

The fixed-line telephony service is facilitated using a CAT-iQ base station for DECT or CAT-iQ compliant cordless handsets and a traditional analogue connection for regular telephones. You can also connect USB Mass-Storage devices to the Livebox Play in order to have their data on the home network.

What this package is highlighting is the benefit of sustainable competition on a market where there is an emphasis on value rather than a race to the bottom. It also includes the ability to target “sweet-spot” price points with service packages that have increased value and pitch these packages at users who see these price points as something they won’t go above. As well, the extant telco or ISP is forced to change its ways when it comes to providing a service like multi-play Internet service.

At the moment, the question to raise is whether France Télécom (Orange) will kill this deal after 16 November this year or simply let it roll on as the entry-level fibre-based triple-play package?

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Android Auto now for every car independent of the head unit

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Android main interactive lock screen

Your Android phone could become its own driver-friendly interaction screen for Android Auto

Google

Android Auto Available In Every Car (Blog Post)

My Comments

Android Auto provides a driving-friendly “extension” for your Android-based smartphone on your car’s dashboard. This yields a simplified user interface for audio, navigation, communications and allied apps so you can use them at the wheel.

Increasingly most of the vehicle builders are offering Android Auto compatible infotainment setups for most of the models with a few car-audio manufacturers running with aftermarket head units that have this functionality. But not everyone can benefit from this technology at the moment, perhaps due to a vehicle builder like Toyota not providing support or you maintaining an existing car that doesn’t have this functionality.

Google has answered this problem with version 2 of Android Auto which has the ability to use your Android phone’s screen as an Audroid Auto user interface. This is being rolled out during the current major update cycle for the Android Auto app.

Cassette adaptor in use with a smartphone

An Android phone running Android Auto 2.0 can bring this cassette-adaptor-based setup for classic car stereos to current expectations

Here, you would install your phone on an in-vehicle mounting kit such as the kind that uses a suction cup to anchor to your vehicle’s windscreen. This will allow for your phone to be operated in a stable and road-legal manner while you are driving.

But you can have the sound come through your car’s speakers via a hands-free kit or car stereo that has Bluetooth communications-level or multimedia-level audio compatibility. Or you can use a 3.5mm auxiliary cable or cassette adaptor connected to your smartphone to have its sound through your car stereo. For those of us who have the Bluetooth-based setup, you can set the app to start automatically when your phone connects to the Bluetooth in-car audio device.

This update is infact taking advantage of the Android phablets and smartphones that have the larger display, making it viable for us to use them as a control surface for Android Auto setups. As well, some accessory builders are even taking advantage of this ability by offering Bluetooth-capable mounting kits that provide automatic enablement for Android Auto setups.

I also can see this benefiting the “two-wheeled” community once appropriate mounting kits become available for installation on to bikes and motorcycles. Here, they could use a Bluetooth headset or helmet and benefit from the reduced-interaction abilities that Android Auto offers so their hands are effectively on the handlebars and their eyes on the road all the time.

A good question to raise would be whether Android 2.0 could support a dual-device setup where an Android tablet could serve as a Android Auto display/control device, which could please those of us who want to integrate a 7”-8” tablet to bring Android Auto to our vehicles. Similarly, implementing Android Auto over a MirrorLink setup could open up paths for increased compatibility with infotainment setups.

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You could be using your phone to sign in to Facebook on the big screen

Article

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

You could be able to log in to Facebook on this device using your smartphone’s Facebook client

Facebook Login Updated for tvOS, FireTV, Android | AdWeek SocialTimes

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Developer News Press Release

Improving Facebook Login For TV and Android

My Comments

A holy grail that is being achieved for online services is to allow users to authenticate with these services when using a device that has a limited user interface.

TV remote control

A typical smart-TV remote control that can only offer “pick-and-choose” or 12-key data entry

An example of this is a Smart TV or set-top device, where the remote control for these devices has a D-pad and a numeric keypad. Similarly, you have a printer where the only interface is a D-pad or touchscreen, with a numeric keypad only for those machines that have fax capabilities.

Here, it would take a long time to enter one’s credentials for these services due to the nature of the interface. This is down to a very small software keyboard on a touchscreen, using “SMS-style” text entry on the keypad or “pick-and-choose” text entry using the D-pad.

Facebook initially looked at this problem by displaying an authentication code on the device’s user interface or printing this code out when you want to use it from that device. Then you go to a Web-enabled computer or mobile device and log in to facebook.com/device and transcribe that code in to the page to authenticate the device with Facebook.

Here, they are realising that these devices have some role with the Social Web, whether to permit single sign-on, allow you to view photos on your account or use it as part of a comment trail. But they also know that most of us are working our Facebook accounts from our smartphones or tablets very frequently and are doing so with their native mobile client app.

But they are taking a leaf out of DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) which is being used as a way to permit us to throw YouTube or Netflix sessions that we start on our mobile devices to the big screen via our home networks. It avoids a long rigmarole of finding a “pairing screen” on both the large-screen and mobile apps, then transcribing a PIN or association code from the large screen to the mobile client to be able to have it on the TV screen,

This is where you will end up authenticating that big-screen app's Facebook login request

This is where you will end up authenticating that big-screen app’s Facebook login request

What Facebook are now doing for the 4th generation Apple TV (tvOS) and Android-based TV/video peripheral platforms (Android TV / Amazon FireTV) is to use the mobile client app to authenticate.

Here, you use a newer version of the Facebook mobile client, the Facebook Lite client or the Google Chrome Custom Tabs to authenticate with the big screen across the home network. The TV or set-top device, along with the mobile device running the Facebook mobile client both have to be on the same logical network which would represent most small networks. It is irrespective of how each device is physically connected to the network such as a mobile device using Wi-Fi wireless and the Apple TV connected via HomePlug AV500 powerline to the router for reliability.

What will happen is that the TV app that wants to use Facebook will show an authentication code on the screen. Then you go to the “hamburger” icon in your Facebook mobile client and select “Device Requests” under Apps. There will be a description of the app and the device that is wanting you to log in, along with the authentication code you saw an the TV screen. Once you are sure, you would tap “Confirm” to effectively log in from the big screen.

At the moment, this functionality is being rolled out to tvOS and Android-based devices with them being the first two to support the addition and improvement of application programming interfaces. But I would see this being rolled out for more of the Smart TV, set-top box and similar device platforms as Facebook works through them all.

Spotify login screen

This kind of single-sign-on could apply to your Smart TV

One issue that may have to crop up would be to cater for group scenarios, which is a reality with consumer electronics that end up being used by all of the household. Here, software developers may want to allow multiple people to log in on the same device, which may be considered important for games with a multiplayer element, or to allow multiple users to be logged in but with one user having priority over the device at a particular time like during an on-screen poll or with a photo app.

Another question that could be raised is where Facebook is used as the “hub” of a user’s single-sign-on experience. Here, an increasing number of online services including games are implementing Facebook as one of the “social sign-on” options and the improved sign-on experience for devices could be implemented as a way to permit this form of social sign-on across the apps and services offered on a Smart TV for example. It could subsequently be feasible to persist current login / logout / active-user status across one device with all the apps following that status.

Other social-media, messaging or similar platforms can use this technology as a way to simplify the login process for client-side devices that use very limited user interfaces. This is especially where the smartphone becomes the core device where the user base interacts with these platforms frequently.

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LG puts downward pressure on OLED TV prices

Article

OLED TV from LG drops to lowest price of the year | CNET

CNET video about the LG OLED TVs – Click / Tap to play

My Comments

LG is pulling out the stops to make the OLED-based 4K flat-screen TVs become in reach for most consumers. These sets use the same display technology as a lot of the high-end Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S and Note series, with this technology allowing for improved contrast and black levels as far as the picture goes. It is because the pixels light up under their own power and turn off when it is black, rather than using white LEDs as a backlight for a colour liquid-crystal display with the corresponding light leakage that can occur wherever it is black.

But another advantage that OLED has allowed for when it comes to product design is that the manufacturer can work towards a very thin product

For example, in the USA, they are offering the B6 series of 55” and 65” 4K HDR-capable sets at the price of US$2000 for the 55” variant (OLED55B6P) and US$3000 for the 65” variant (OLED65B6P). This is effectively a price reduction of US$500 for the 55” model and US$1000 for the 65” model.

Even Australian viewers haven’t missed out on the promotion effort with LG and Harvey Norman promoting the OLED smart-TV range through a TV-advertising campaign ran over the last few weeks, as a run up to the Christmas shopping season.

Personally, I could see this as a sign that OLED for large displays could be coming cheaper and more as a viable competitor to the LCD technology. This is more so for those of us who value the high contrast in the pictures that we see, especially if we work with high-quality photos and videos.

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A Surface Book variant is actually a portable gaming rig

Article

Should you buy the Surface Book with Performance Base for gaming? | Windows Central

My Comments

Microsoft Surface Book press picture courtesy of Microsoft

A performance variant of the Microsoft Surface will show up as the stealth gaming rig

There have been the rise of gaming-grade laptops that have enough CPU and graphics-processing acumen to handle the latest games on the market with the full performance expectations. Here, most of the manufacturers are releasing at least one model with these abilities but most of these are styled like a muscle car or street rod.

But a few manufacturers are approaching this by offering performance computers that have a “stealth” look where their looks don’t betray the performance under the hood. Microsoft has now joined the party with a performance variant of the Surface Book which works with a “performance base”. This uses a keyboard base with the same graphics ability as the baseline variant of the Surface Studio all-in-one PC.

As with other Surface Book variants, the tablet detaches from the keyboard base so it can simply be a Windows 10 tablet but, when attached, it becomes a convertible laptop. Microsoft could provide the Performance Base not just as part of a system variant for how you wish to order the Surface Book, but as an upgrade option for existing Surface Books for those of us who want to upgrade them as a full-bore gaming or multimedia PC.

It is very similar to what can be done with Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C where manufacturers can offer a graphics module that connects to portable, all-in-one or low-profile computers to enhance their graphics performance. But this idea could be taken further with the use of coprocessors that are part of “performance modules” that could improve existing computers’ performance for gaming and multimedia tasks.

Personally I would find that the trend for portable and “all-in-one” computing is to offer gaming-rig performance as a model variant in one or more product lines rather than as its own product line. This is even though the manufacturer will offer a dedicated premium product line or brand that is focused towards gaming. Such products would appeal to those of us who value the performance angle for multimedia creation or gaming but don’t think of it like owning a “street-machine” car.

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Australian Hi-Fi And AV Show 2016

Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system

A Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system representing all of the music sources – vinyl, CDs and file-based audio

The Australian Hi-Fi and AV Show, previously known as the Australian Audio and AV Show appeared this past weekend at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel. This attracted a significant number of hi-fi and home-AV names even though some of them had exhibited at another competing hotel-based hi-fi show that was held on July 1-3 at the Pullman Mercure Hotel near Albert Park.

Core trends

Most manufacturers were running equipment setups that had a turntable and a network media player and, in some cases, a CD player connected to the setup’s main integrated or control amplifier. This was to demonstrate their equipment’s prowess with both analogue and digital material while underscoring a reality with most of us heading between these different media for regular listening as some time in our lives.

Hi-Fi speaker designs

This year has been a chance for some manufacturers to showcase some interesting hi-fi speaker designs as these actually utter the music being played through the hi-fi system. There is still a strong interest in the traditional stereo setup rather than surround-sound audio, typically associated with watching Hollywood movies.

Active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

During the 2013 show, a few manufacturers were demonstrating active speakers that had integrated power amplifiers as viable pieces of hi-fi equipment, breaking the mould of “computer speakers, lifestyle audio and PA speakers” for this class of speaker. It included Linn even demonstrating “digital-active” speakers, a concept that Philips had pioneered with the DSS-930 and DSS-950 digital-active speakers that could be fed from an SP/DIF digital signal source.

This year, there were some more manufacturers presenting active-speaker designs including some “digital-active” designs coming from Linn and Bang & Olufsen. Here, this was more about proving that the speakers can house the amplification circuitry and, in some cases, digital-signal processing and conversion circuitry yet yield clear hi-fi sound without “stressing”.

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18

The B&O Beolab 8000 “pencil” in a new form – the Beolab 18

For that matter, Bang & Olufsen had been a stranger to the hi-fi show circuit especially in Australia until this year where they occupied one of the banquet rooms to present their Beolab 90 digital-active speakers (14 ICEPower amplifiers and 4 Class-D amplifiers serving 18 speaker drivers)  along with the Beolab 18 which is the latest iteration of the Beolab 8000 “pencil-design” speakers and the Beovision 14 flat-screen TV. Typically, they didn’t want to compete with the traditional hi-fi industry and pitch towards the traditional “audiophile” mindset, but focus towards those who appreciated very good music and flim and those who valued the design they were known for.

A glass speaker housing

Spunc Sound presented a cube-shaped speaker design at this show. Here, it was using speaker drivers back-to-back to create a powerful clear sound for speakers in a glass housing rather than a traditional wooden housing that would normally require insulation to work against standing waves.

I even heard these speakers playing a Lady Ga Ga track from a CD to underscore how they responded with highly-rhythmic electronic-dance-music content as well as demonstrating the way they used sound-cancellation techniques to yield that clear sound. It underscored that rare possibility of being able to see through the back of the speaker that was in full flight.

Old speaker legends rediscovered

But some manufacturers have been rediscovering legendary speaker designs that have had a subsequent influence on how the stereo speaker was designed over the years.

The BBC influence

Harbeth speaker

The Harbeth speakers based on the legendary BBC monitor speakers

Two manufacturers had been demonstrating speakers that were based on their involvement with designing “near-field monitor” speakers for the BBC through the late 1960s. These were tools that came in to being for any radio or TV show that the BBC had a hand with, whether through the sound-production or the broadcast process.

One of these were the Harbeth speakers which were designed by the BBC as part of their R&D efforts and the first to implement polypropylene speaker cones. The other was the KEF LS50 50th Anniversary bookshelf speaker which was based on KEF’s LS 3/5 monitor speaker that was designed by the BBC to be used in their outside-broadcast vans, but implemented coaxial drivers which is something often associated with automotive sound.

Yamaha brings back their 70s-era speaker classic

Yamaha NS-5000 Speakers

Yamaha NS-5000 speakers that were based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974

Yamaha had presented the NS-5000 floor/shelf speakers that were being launched at the show. These are a pair of speakers based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974 when Supertramp released their “Crime Of The Century” album. But there have been a lot of today’s improvements built in to these speakers such as newer material for the speaker drivers.

I had heard these in action with Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” played from FLAC-based audio via a Yamaha CD player serving as a USB DAC, connected to one of Yamaha’s latest integrated amplifiers. Here, the song came through very clearly and underscored what the legendary design was about.

Open standards being used for network-based audio

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

There were two main paths for passing through computer-based audio – a Windows or Mac laptop connected to a DAC, CD player or digital amplifier which worked as a USB-based sound module; or a small network linking a NAS or other media server to one or more a network media players and implementing DLNA network media discovery technology.

Here, most of these setups were dealing with FLAC audio files which have effectively been “opened up” to Windows users through Windows 10 providing operating-system support for these files, whether for playback or “ripping” from regular CDs. It could be very feasible to use Windows 10’s Media Player software to play a high-grade FLAC file in to any USB DAC shown at this year’s show without the need to add extra software.

Bricasti M12 Dual Mono Source Controller

Bricasti M12 Dual-Mono Source Controller – an example of a USB-capable digital preamplifier

Some setups even exploited TiDAL as an online music source, even though there is the difficulty with running network-capable consumer AV equipment with a hotel network based around the notion of logging in via Web-based authentication. But IHG worked around this issue by providing the equivalent of a “home Internet connection” to most of these rooms for the duration of the show.

The fact that most of these setups implemented standards that aren’t owned by particular vendors meant that there was the ability for the companies to innovate. This was more so with the ability to focus on writing software and designing hardware that was about sound quality but without the need to reinvent the wheel.

Network-based lifestyle audio

There is still some interest amongst a few manufacturers in audio equipment that exploits the home network as a media-distribution path while fitting in with your lifestyle. But the idea of high-quality sound still exists for this class of equipment, whether in the form of a multiroom speaker system or a network CD receiver or network audio receiver that is the hub of a high-quality three-piece stereo system.

Denon had launched their latest generation of the Heos multiroom platform which included some speakers and network media players with one of these devices being able to stream audio content out from existing equipment to a cluster of Heos speakers.

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim were also showing the mu-so multiroom speaker systems including the mu-so Qb which is a cube-shaped take on the original mu-so soundbar. As well, the latest iterations of their network media players can serve as master or client devices in a Naim-based multiroom setup.

But there is still the problem with the network-based multiroom audio scene where it is totally dependent on customers using equipment from the same equipment manufacturer or with the same chipset platform. There hasn’t been any effort in the AV industry to provide a standard for distributing real-time content like audio or video content in sync across a network to multiple endpoint devices of different types from different manufacturers.

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

There is still some interest in the high-quality lifestyle music system from some manufacturers. Marantz exhibited their CR611 network CD receiver which was paired up with a set of Jamo bookshelf speakers as their entry in to this scene, following from the previously-issued CR603 network CD receiver that was seen at the 2011 show. Here, it was highlighted with a Sound and Image award as the best “system solution” of the year for 2017, representing this class of equipment that can easily be sidelined by some peiple in the hi-fi scene.

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam used this show to premiere the Solo Music network CD receiver which is the follow-on to the Solo Neo and was previously mentioned on HomeNetworking01.info. This was a chance for me to try it out and I played one of the CDs from the ABC Classic 100 Swoon collection on it. I had “this unit play “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams and this unit, paired with the previously-mentioned KEF LS50 speakers, proved what these systems were about with this kind of music, something that would underscore one of the use cases that I highlighted for this class of equipment.

George Robertson, who represented Arcam even highlighted the way the Solo Music and its stablemates were built, underscoring the use of traditional electronics-building techniques along with Class-G amplification design. He even asked me to attempt to lift up the unit and I had found it very heavy, which showed how it was built to last.

Naim Uniti Atom and Uniti Core

Naim Uniti Atom network media receiver and Naim Uniti Core “ripping NAS” media server

Naim used this show to premiere the new Uniti range of lifestyle audio equipment. The first two products and the ones that were shown were the Uniti Core which is a media server or, should I say a “ripping NAS”; and the Uniti Atom which is a compact network media receiver that can be wired up to a pair of speakers. This even went as far as implementing a touchscreen user interface on the main unit along with a volume control located on top of that set – easy to find! But this doesn’t omit the high-quality sound associated with this brand.

BenQ treVolo electrostatic Bluetooth speaker

BenQ treVolo portable Bluetooth electrostatic speaker

I was even able to hear one of the BenQ treVolo Bluetooth electrostatic speakers that proved that the electrostatic speaker design isn’t just for the highly-esoteric hi-fi setup preferred by audiophiles with too much money to spend. Here, this setup yielded a very clear sound that could encompass all music types from your mobile computing device that is playing out those FLAC files.

Headphones

The “HeadZone” that existed during previous years where headphones were being premiered and demonstrated had gone but some manufacturers were still promoting premium headphones.

For example, BeyerDynamic had used their room to promote their newest range of headphones but the range they were exhibiting while Naim demonstrated a range of premium music headphones along with their headphone amplifier.

What was really becoming the case was that the headphone market has become very saturated with many different sets of “cans” on the market although there are some that do certain tasks well. Here, this show had focused on the headphones that were about listening to music through headphones at home rather than during your public-transport commute for example.

Conclusion

The Australian Hi-FI And AV Show kept the reality alive regarding how recorded music is played, whether through the familiar vinyl records or CDs, or file-based media streamed from a computer or NAS connected via a home network, or even a high-quality audio streaming service. But it has underscored that each of these music-reproduction paths can yield high-quality sound with the right equipment.

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Plans to see West Sussex as a Gigabit County

Article UK Flag

West Sussex UK Moot County-Wide 1Gbps Fibre Optic Broadband Roll-out | ISP Review

My Comments

There are plans to make West Sussex a “Gigabit County” where there is ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises broadband in the order of 1Gbps or similar available to every premises across that county.

They initially want to start work on this in Adur & Worthing by deploying a “dark fibre” network in that area. The West Sussex county council and the Adur & Worthing local council are behind this effort as a way to see improved productivity for businesses and local government, with an inherent desire to invest in that county plus the volumetric increase in business rates. But this could also affect the value of residential property across the board due to fibre-optic broadband being considered a deciding factor for home purchasing.

But it is being seen as an aspirational idea especially if the whole of the county is to be covered. It is very similar to how some towns in the UK are seeing themselves as “Gigabit” towns due to availability of Gigabit-throughput next-generation broadbad; along with New Zealand seeing itself as a GigNation due to Chorus offering Gigabit next-generation broadband across most of the major urban areas who have their FTTP infrastructure. Here, you could be thinking of issues like covering West Sussex’s rural areas or even getting other local authorities on board in that county to establish similar infrastructure.

The major idea with this project would be to maintain the local councils, in this case Adur & Worthing, as an anchor tenant who would be the main user of this infrastructure. They use the reference to a shopping centre having a few large stores like supermarkets or department stores as their “anchor tenants” who catch most of the centre’s traffic and supply the lion’s share of the rental income. But they also want to have this infrastructure made available to businesses who need the high-throughput network and Internet connectivity to connect their premises. Another driver would be to have the public-service offers for the UK’s central government come on board for this infrastructure.

One idea that was achieved with a fibre rollout in York was to have a large ISP like Sky Broadband or TalkTalk providing Internet service to customers using this infrastructure, with this being viewed as a way to provide retail Internet service in this area. Personally, I would look towards having multiple ISPs have access to the infrastructure to sell their Internet service to their customers so as to allow for retail-level competition.

Here, you could also think of services like Hyperoptic or Gigaclear who are providing “focused” coverage in to particular areas like multiple-dwelling units in the case of Hyperoptic or rural villages in the case of Gigaclear.

The rollout could begin in UK Spring 2017, and take 12 months to complete for the local council’s sites. But, after this rollout, they also want to see a continual deployment over the whole of West Sussex.

These kind of rollouts will be needing to involve public money with an encouragement for them to benefit the public purse through efficiency improvements. But they will also be about providing affordable high-throughput Internet service for households and businesses as long as there is real sustainable competition.

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