Computer Hardware Design Archive

InFocus presents a PC as big as a smartphone


Kangaroo is a portable, phone-sized Windows 10 desktop | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth


Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

InFocus, associated with value-priced projectors, has stepped out further with a US$99 Windows 10 desktop computer that is as big as one of today’s smartphones or a small USB hard disk. The idea is picking up from the “Intel Compute Stick” idea with computers as big as a Chromecast and plug directly in to a display’s HDMI port.

The Kangaroo has the same computing power as an entry-level netbook therefor can do some basic computer tasks. This would be in the form of an Intel Atom x5 processor, 2Gb RAM and 32Gb flash storage. There is also a microSD card slot for storage expansion along with a fingerprint reader for improved data security courtesy of Windows 10 Hello.

But the Kangaroo comes with a clip-on expansion module that has an HDMI display connection along with 2 USB ports with one being a USB 2.0 port and one being a USB 3.0 port. It has 802.11ac Wi-FI and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and can run on its own battery for 4 hours.

A feature that was of interest was for a user to connect the Kangaroo to an Apple iPad and use the iPad as the mobile desktop’s user interface. This is facilitated with the iPad and Kangaroo hooked up using the standard Lightning-USB charge / data cable and both devices running OSLinx remote-access software. But I would like to see the OSLinx software also made available for “via-USB” connection to tablets based on other platforms.

It is one of these highly-pocketable computers that may be talked of as a “general purpose” desktop that may be rolled out as an alternative to a low-end Windows notebook or Chromebook. Because it runs on Windows, it could appeal to schools and businesses who want it as part of a standard operating environment for essential computing tasks. This would also include point-of-sale terminals and the like where a small footprint is highly desired.

Other users may also see it as part of one or more special-purpose computing projects like automotive or marine computing applications or simply this computer could serve as a personal sidekick to a tablet like an iPad.

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Could the Android and Windows platforms strengthen each other?


Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Android moving closer ti Windows as a platform for one’s personal computing needs

A Mobile Crossroads – Android and Windows 10 Mobile | SuperSite For WIndows

My Comments

The Android and Windows platforms do have some things in common such as the ability to share URLs and contact cards via NFC or Bluetooth. As well, these platforms offer native out-of-the-box support for various industry norms at the hardware and software level like USB Audio device classes, DLNA network media acces, FLAC audio codecs, and MicroUSB connections for power and data.

This is augmented by another facture that people who value open-frame computing setups that are vendor-agnostic are likely to run a Windows-based desktop, laptop or tablet computer alongside an Android-based smartphone.

But there are some questions about whether both these platforms are coming to a crossroads in both the desktop and mobile contexts. Issues that have been raised is the availability of mobile-platform software for the Windows Mobile platform as well as Microsoft developing for the Android platform.

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 in its desktop and mobile phones will tie in with Android for stronger open-frame computing

This disparity is being addressed by Microsoft releasing the so-called “Project Astoria” software to reduce the effort needed by a software developer to port an Android app to Windows 10 and have it work on both desktop and mobile setups and the XBox One games console.

Another attempt that Microsoft was trying is to include the ability to sideload Android app APK files as part of a leaked preview build of Windows 10 Mobile. Here, these files would run in a sandbox of their own so as to assure system stability and security.

On the hardware side, manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Sony including the VAIO personal-computing spinoff, and Lenovo are increasingly targeting Apple’s customer base by offering 2-in-1 notebooks, tablets and smartphones that have that same luxurious cachet and performance level as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook.

It is also in conjunction with Microsoft porting an increasing amount of their productivity software to the Android platform along with writing Android-specific native clients for their online services. A good question that may be worth answering is whether Google will write native clients for their online services as Windows 10 Universal apps.

I see this ending up where Microsoft and Google could effectively give their mobile operating systems equal functionality for “home” and “work” use and support a tighter integration with Android, ChromeOS and Linux to increase the number of choices for personal computing options. Here, these platforms will end up forming a strong “open-frame” computing beach-head that competes effectively with the vertically-integrated platform that Apple offers.

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Don’t forget about SDIO in the Internet Of Things

SD card

The SD card specification is also an expansion-interface specification

When people talk of the hardware issues concerning the Internet Of Things, a  technology that is being constantly forgotten about is the SDIO expansion connection.

What is the SDIO expansion connection

This is a special SD card slot that also serves as an expansion interface in a similar vein to the PCI Express, miniPCI or ExpressCard slots used on desktop and laptop computers and, in a similar way, the USB port on most computing equipment. There are improved variants based on the iSDIO specification that take the load off the host device and allow it to work at its best.

It does have validity as an expansion interface for low-profile devices due to the size of the standard SD slot and it is then feasible to design add-on peripherals that extend slightly larger than the standard SD card.

But the SDIO technology is sadly being forgotten about as a low-profile expansion interface for many different computing-device applications including the Internet Of Things. This is more so if the goal is to either sell a device at a lower cost with reduced functionality but allow the user to add functionality as they see fit and when they can afford it, or to make a device be “futureproof” and satisfy new requirements.

Where I see SDIO being of value is with wireless network interface cards that add network or other connectivity to a device. This can be performed at the time of the device’s purchase or later on in the device’s lifespan through the user retrofitting a separately-purchased SDIO card in to the device.

An SDIO expansion module wouldn’t take up much room inside the device and can lead to a highly-integrated look for that device. It would appeal to a self-install application where the appliance has a user-accessible compartment like a battery compartment or terminal cover and the user opens this compartment to install the SDIO expansion module. Even a professional-install application can benefit especially if the idea is for a technician to install a highly-comprehensive “upgrade kit” or “functionality kit” in to a major appliance – a circuit board that is part of this kit could have one or more SDIO expansion slots.

This is compared to a USB setup where you need to deal with a relatively-large puck or dongle which can stick out of the device and not provide that finished look. There is also the issue of keeping a USB port open for local ad-hoc mass-storage or input-output requirements.

The issue of being able to add options to an existing device is real when it comes to the “durable” class of devices which are expected to have a very long service life as is expected for most devices targeted at business users or for so-called “white-goods” which are expected to run for at least 7 years, if not 10 years. Here, the ability to add extra functionality to these devices through their lifetime to suit newer needs is important as a way to get the most out of their lifecycle.


Digital photography

SDIO could benefit digital photography by allowing the user to add a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth SDIO card to a high-end digital camera or camcorder. A similar SDIO slot could be integrated in to a Speedlite flash or advanced LED movie light to allow for remote lighting and camera control courtesy of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth link. The concept of camera control from a lighting device would appeal to some photographers who have the camera on the tripod with its shutter locked open and take the flash around different angles to illuminate the subject – the wireless link could also serve to remotely control the camera by using a shutter-control button on the flashgun..

This could lead to remote control of the camera using a mobile device with that device’s screen also working as a viewfinder. In the case of video recording, the camera could also share SMPTE timecode data with an audio recorder and, perhaps, another camera to work well with multi-camera or advanced “sound-off-camera” recording setups.

For sharing the finished product, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cam play their part in this role with the ability to support file transfer to a computer or mobile device. A Wi-Fi setup may also allow the camera to exploit DLNA or Miracast setups to allow one to show the pictures on to a large TV screen. In some cases, a camera may have integrated support for file-share, photo-share or social-network functionality thus using the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology simply to upload the pictures or footage.

Electromechanical door locks

These devices, especially the “smart locks” that are starting to appear on the market, could benefit from the SDIO technology. For example, Assa Abloy offers a tubular deadbolt under the Yale and Lockwood brands which supports a “dual-mode” entry system where you can either enter a user code on a touchpad or use the regular key to open it. This deadbolt also has support for a “home automation” network module based on either Zigbee or Z-Wave technology, something that can be achieved by the user sliding that module in to the inside unit to integrate this deadbolt with a home-automation system.

Here, an SDIO slot in the interior unit in these locks can offer this kind of extended functionality. For example, a Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth Smart) SDIO card could make these locks work with platform-based smartphones or a Wi-Fi, Zigbee or Z-Wave SDIO card could integrate them with cloud-based monitoring and management services.

Similarly, this could come in handy with other usage classes like hotels.where, for example, Bluetooth could allow the card-based door lock to become part of the device ecosystem in the guest room. Here, this could be used to reset heating, alarm times, etc to a default setting when a new guest enters the room or implement Bluetooth Beacon technology to add value to conference settings.

Embroidery sewing machines

The premium “embroidery” sewing machines could implement an SDIO slot in order to allow the user to add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality to these units. This would come in handy with firmware updates or to allow the user to upload patterns and OpenType fonts to these machines for use with particular embroidery and monogramming projects.

This latter application comes in to its own as the manufacturers supply “CAD” software with these machines so that people can create their own unique embroidery designs for their special projects.

Here, the SDIO cards could work as a way to network-enable these machines to work with the computer software and the home network.

Large and small household appliances

Companies who sell advanced household appliances and HVAC equipment could use SDIO to add some form of network connectivity after the appliance is installed. Here, the user can be encouraged to see these appliances, which have a service life of at least 7 years if not more, as being future-proof and able to answer current needs and expectations.

This is more so as these appliances move towards “app-cessory” operation where extra functionality is added to these devices courtesy of mobile-platform apps. Similarly, some manufacturers implement this kind of technology to communicate operating information to other appliances. An example of this is some GE washing machines and clothes dryers recently sold to the US market use a wireless link to transmit information about the load just washed to the dryer so that an optimum drying cycle for that load can be determined by that appliance.

This could benefit people who buy mid-tier appliances that are enabled for this kind of connectivity but purchase the SDIO modules and install these modules in the appliances themselves as they see fit.


The SDIO expansion standard can be valued as a option for adding connectivity to the Internet Of Things, whether at the point of purchase or at a later date. It also preserves a highly-integrated fit and finish for the application before and after the upgrade.

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USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 make it real for outboard graphics expansion


Here’s The Box That Can Turn a Puny Laptop Into a Graphical Powerhouse | Gizmodo

My Comments

Sony VAIO Z Series and docking station

The Sony VAIO Z Series ultraportable with functionality expanded by an add-on module

There have been some successful attempts at developing outboard expansion modules or docking stations that add discrete graphics or a better discrete-graphics solution to a laptop computer which wouldn’t have internal room for this kind of performance.

One of these was Sony with their VAIO Z Series that I reviewed previously which had an expansion module that housed a Blu-Ray drive and an AMD discrete graphics chipset. This used an Intel “Light Peak” connection (Thunderbolt over USB) between the devices to provide for high data throughput between the host computer and the expansion module.

Another of these was one of the new Alienware gaming laptops that could connect to a so-called “Graphics Amplifier” which was an expansion module for some of the Alienware R2 series gaming laptops that could house one or two PCI-Express graphics cards. This brought forward the idea that a laptop could have desktop gaming-rig performance just by adding on an expansion module.

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module that connects to selected Alienware R2 gaming laptops

Both these solutions implemented manufacturer-specific connection methods which restricted which devices can connect to these “external-graphics” expansion modules.

But the USB 3.1 standard with the Type-C connection allowed the same connection to be used to connect other devices via different logical connection methods like Intel’s Thunderbolt. This was effectively “opened up” as a high-performance connection for expansion modules when Intel launched “Thunderbolt 3” which has throughput equivalent to what happens on a computer’s motherboard.

Alienware gaming laptop

An Alienware gaming laptop that can benefit from the Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

This led to some reference designs being presented at the Intel Developers Forum 2015 for external-graphics docks of the Sony VAIO Z or Alienware Graphics Amplifier ilk that are able to work with laptops that have the USB Type-C and Intel Thunderbolt 3 connection. In their own right, they are expansion modules which add extra connectivity to the laptop but also they give it access to improved discrete graphics chipsets. One of these was modelled on the Alienware Graphics Amplifier by virtue of allowing the use of fully-fledged graphics cards of the kind expected in that tower-style gaming rig.

The equipment that was shown proved the concept that you could use Thunderbolt 3 over a USB 3.1 Type C physical connection to provide an external discrete-graphics solution for an ultraportable laptop computer or similarly-small computer design. This proves that it can be feasible to use these modules for an “at-home” or “at-office” solutions where performance is desirable but allow for a lightweight computer system.

Similarly, a manufacturer could offer a laptop or all-in-one desktop with the integrated graphics but allow their customers to buy a graphics expansion module at a later date should they want something with more graphics acumen. Here, they can simply plug in the graphics expansion module and play rather than opening up the computer to install a graphics card. There is also a reality that as newer graphics chipsets come along, the person can purchase a newer expansion module or, in the case of those units that use PCI-Express desktop cards, install a newer graphics card in to the module to take advantage of these newer designs.

It simply underscores that fact that USB 3.1 Type C opens up the concept of expandability for tablets, laptops, all-in-one and small-profile desktops even further by use of external modules that offer different functions to suit different needs at different times.

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How about integrating USB charging in to furniture and appliances?


Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8" business tablet press picture courtesy of Samsung

Gadgets like these could benefit from chargers that are part of interior designs

King Living’s Smart Sofa Charges Your Smartphone, Remembers Your Seating Position

My Comments

King Living had put forward a “home-theatre” 2-person recliner sofa of the kind you would have in a “Gold Class” cinema. But they integrated USB charging in to this sofa so you can charge your smartphone or tablet or avoid compromising its battery runtime while you are using it.

But this kind of idea hasn’t been really explored by companies who manufacture furniture and general appliances for the home. Here, you could have a lamp or electric fan of the kind that sits on a table or desk being equipped with a 2-port or 4-port USB charger that is part of its base  Or you could have a freestanding trouser press that has the ability for you to charge your smartphone from it while your good pants are being pressed.

Similarly, a furniture maker or interior designer could come forth with a USB charging station that is integrated in to the furniture in the same way that some bedheads came with integrated bedside lamps or clock radios or some bedside tables came with clock radios. This was facilitated with various manufacturers releasing products that are designed from the outset to be integrated in to furniture. In a similar way, some people integrated car stereos that were powered by 12V power-supplies in to furniture to provide an integrated look for secondary-area audio entertainment.

This can be approached with so-called “reference-design” USB and wireless charger products that simplify the process of integrating in to existing designs and circuits. The circuits could come in to their own with furniture that has integrated electrical circuitry like a massage chair or appliances like a table lamp. They may have to be factored to allow for use with low voltages or with mains voltages so there isn’t the need for a separate power supply to be designed for applications that just have AC voltages. As well, they would have to be supplied in “short-form”

Once this is achieved, it could cut down the number of wall-warts that have to exist in the kitchen or office just to charge your gadgets.

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Lenovo revives a classic laptop design


Lenovo’s proposed ThinkPad Retro is like stepping back into 1992 | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo USA

Blog Post

My Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

The Lenovo keeps the same look for the ThinkPad laptops

There is something about classic industrial design that never dies. This has been augmented by a lot of items like the Mini, the Fiat 500, the AGA cooker, the Wurlitzer 1015 juke box amongst other things. These examples have been evolved and reworked over longer times with newer technological improvements but have maintained their shape.

Now the IBM ThinkPad has entered this line of classic designs. Here, it was about the black housing, the blue ENTER key, the red thumbstick to move the pointer around and the 7-row keyboard. These computers became a statement for what is expected of the corporate laptop that carries through the business sense of an office in New York or Chicago..

This has been carried through even when IBM sold their personal-computing business to Lenovo as part of their computing-hardware-business divestment effort and has been shown as a way to convey the bloodline that is underscored by the ThinkPad name.

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel with the dog in front of it

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel always underscored with the dog in front of it

A very strong analogy that comes to my mind is the AGA cooker which for many decades kept a particular design but had  many technical improvements such as being able to use oil, gas or electricity as a fuel or work under timer control. There were still the two hotplates with the distinct insulated metal lids sitting on the black top and two or four ovens with the distinctly-shaped insulated doors, the chrome towel rail on the top front edge (with many tea-towels hanging on it) and the thermometer above the top oven door. The AGA stove still carried through the homely feel in the kitchen, consistently warm and comfortable and has often been associated with the British farm houses and cottages and the cosy lifestyle endemic to them.

One of the machines that was being celebrated and is being considered by Lenovo for a “One More Time” treatment is the highly-portable IBM ThinkPad 700c which was issued in 1992. I use the expression “One More Time” to allude to what Wurlitzer had done with the 1015 jukebox. The original design could only make 10 78-rpm records for play through its valve amplifier. But Wurlitzer issued a newer machine with the same arch shape and decorations as the original unit, but was able to have 50 45-rpm records available to play via a solid-state amplifier and used microprocessor technology to fetch the records to be played. This newer model was called the 1015 “One More Time” to reference the preservation of the same industrial design but having newer improvemts.

The IBM ThinkPad 700c had a “cigar-box” look with the black housing, the red thumbstick and the distinct keyboard layout. But it had a 4:3 display that had a resolution low by today’s standards along with the processor power, memory and storage that was okay to 1992 standards for a secondary machine. It also had a 3.5” floppy-disk drive as its removeable storage. Here, they would revise this computer with a 16:9 widescreen display with Full-HD resolution at least, a few USB 3.0 ports as the main connectivity option, current-spec horsepower like Intel Core M or i-Series processors, 4Gb RAM and 128Gb SSD secondary storage at least, and more to suit today’s expectations.

What I like of this idea put up in Lenovo’s blog is to revisit a classic design and look at how it can be made relevant to today’s requirements rather than tossing it away.

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USB Type-C could mean external battery packs for your laptop


Thanks to USB Type-C, external MacBook batteries may finally arrive (update) | Engadget

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USB external battery pack

Laptops could be benefiting from external battery packs like this one

Just after Apple had premiered their latest iteration of the MacBook laptop, the computer press have been focusing on this computer being equipped with a USB Type-C connector as its only connector. Subsequently, Google premiered their latest iteration of the Chromebook i.e. the Chromebook Pixel which also has this connection and were making murmurs about this for the Android platform.

Both these computers use the USB Type-C socket as a data / video / power socket and it is an example of things to come for ultraportable notebook computers, because of the low-profile design of these sockets. What is to be the advantage of this connection and the associated USB Power Delivery device class?

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook left hand side - 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

USB power via a Type C connector to be the norm for ultraportable computers

Look at what has happened with the smartphones which have come with USB-ended power cables and battery chargers having USB sockets on them. It has led to innovation in how the battery charger is designed because there isn’t any worry about different voltages needed for different smartphones or other gadgets.

For that matter, a highly popular charger type for smartphones especially is the external battery pack which connects to the smartphone’s charging socket. Most of them can be connected to another charger that plugs in to AC power or a car’s cigar-lighter socket to charge up, then they can either charge up the phone’ onboard batteries or provide extra runtime power for that device.

This kind of power universality hadn’t reached laptops yet but, thanks to USB Type C and Power Delivery, it will. These designs will call for a standard fitment and set of power specifications which will open up a common requirement for power supply devices.

The article highlighted the possibility of manufacturers supplying power-supply devices that work with a large number of laptop computers without having consumers worry about whether the power device will work properly and safely with their laptop. They even extended the possibility of external battery packs that are terminated with the USB Type C connector so that one can benefit from longer running time from these batteries.

They also highlighted the fact that Apple would be moving away from its MagSafe power connections just like they have with their Apple Desktop Bus connections. What I see of this as well is that it’s not all about keeping within their own universe but “working beyond” with everyone else. The billion-dollar question yet to be asked is whether Apple will dump the Lightning device-side connection on their iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices when they release subsequent generations of these devices, or are this considered by Apple and their fanbois as the “crown jewels” and have to have Apple’s own connections?

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Expecting your printer to be the home or small business printing press? What does it need?

This is an updated version of the article I had published in February 2012

Most small organisations such as micro-businesses and other small businesses will place an expectation on desktop-style computer printers to be used as an “organisational short-run printing press”.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600a Plus all-in-one printer

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Series – a desktop multifunction printer that has been pitched as something that can turn out flyers and brochures

This expectation has been brought around through the availability of software with varying levels of desktop-publishing functionality at prices most people and small business can afford. This ranges from software in a typical office-software package offering elementary desktop publishing functionality like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, through to dedicated mid-tier desktop publishing software of the Microsoft Publisher class that is at a price most people can afford and is easy to understand.

The same expectation has been underscored by the various printer manufacturers with their recent desktop-printer designs, especially with the high-end business models of their product range like HP’s OfficeJet Pro lineup. Here, they are bringing printing abilities, output speeds and document quality associated with workgroup-grade freestanding printers to this class of printer with such examples as Brother offering business-grade desktop inkjet multifunctions that can turn out A3 documents.

It has been underscored in the advertising that these printer manufacturers provide and is more evident with Websites and, especially, TV commercials that are run on prime-time TV which reaches most consumers more easily. Examples include a recent Canon TV commercial for their PIXMA printers, HP’s website for their OfficeJet Pro inkjet printers highlighting their prowess with turning out brochures, or Brother underscoring their business printers’ prowess with desktop publishing through a series of TV commercials.

What features does it need to have?

High-yield printing

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium front-load ink cartridges

The printer should have separate colour ink cartridges and be able to accept high-yield cartridges

It should be feasible for customers to purchase high-yield ink or toner cartridges as an option for the printer alongside the standard-yield cartridges. Some vendors like Brother are known to offer “super-high-yield” cartridges for some of their printers alongside the high-yield and standard-yield cartridges. This is more important for inkjet machines because the ink cartridges are typically very small and aren’t able to hold a lot of ink.

It is worth noting that most of the equipment pitched at business users like the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 will typically have the larger-capacity ink or toner cartridges even for their standard-yield variants and have a higher duty cycle therefore being able to do this kind of work.

As well, you should prefer to use an inkjet printer that uses individually-replaceable ink tanks for each colour. These printers also become more cost-effective to run because you only need to replace the colours that you run out of when you run out of them.

The print mechanism has to be able to support large print runs without failing mid-job. This includes having it perform advanced printing functionalities like auto-duplex or use of anciliary trays. It also has to work reliably with jobs that are based around media other than regular paper.

Automatic duplexing

This brings me to automatic duplexing. An increasing number of home-office printers and small-business printers are being equipped with an automatic duplex mechanism so that the unit can print on both sides of the paper. This is usually to permit you to save paper but people may find this function useful for turning out booklets, brochures, greeting cards and the like where they want to print on both sides of the paper. For that matter, most of these printers have a “booklet printing” function built in to their driver software where they can use the duplex functionality to turn out booklets such as a four-page booklet on one sheet of paper. Similarly, automatic duplexing may come in handy for making flyers and signage that is to be seen on both sides such as a sign that is fixed to a window, or a sign used in a freestanding sign holder.

Brother MFC-J5720DW colour inkjet printer

A Brother desktop printer that can print on A3 paper

A common problem with some of these mechanisms is that they don’t print to the narrow edge of Letter or A4 paper during a duplex print run especially if the paper size determined in the driver software or print job doesn’t match the paper in the printer. The problem has been more so with most Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers except the OfficeJet Pro 8600, which was pitched as a brochure-printing machine. This can cause problems with registration shifting or a requirement to have large margins on the document. Some Canon printers such as the PIXMA MX-870 have improved automatic duplex mechanisms that can work to the edge of the paper.

In the same case, you may find that some automatic duplexers may have problems with page registration. That is where the page is lined up properly on both sides of the paper and can be of concern if you are turning out work like luggage tags, door hangers or bookmarks where it is critical to have the back of the document lined up with the front of the document. You can work around this by allowing a margin on both sides of the design.

Another problem is that there is a time penalty of up to 15 seconds per page with inkjet printers when they use automatic duplexing with this happening when the front side of the document is being printed. This is to allow the ink to dry on the front side of the paper before the printer draws the paper in to print on the back and is being reduced with newer equipment that uses quick-drying ink.

Another limitation that I have found with automatic duplexers is that they don’t handle card stock or similar paper easily because they have to turn the paper around one or more rollers. Here, you may have to use manual duplexing where you reinsert the work in the machine with the other side facing the print head to print it double-sided.

Issues concerning use of the printer

Special printing media requirements

Plastic-based media

Plastic-based media like overhead-projector transparencies, back-print film and vinyl stickers / decals have special requirements when it comes to printing them on your printer.

They range from being able to “hold” ink that is sprayed on to them by the inkjet process or passing through a heat-based printing process such as the xerographic process used in laser and LED printers.

Laser printers and special media
Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

If you use a laser printer, you need to use laser-optimised media for plastic-based media and stickers. This is because the printed documents have to pass through “fuser rollers” that are heated at a very high temperature in order to melt the toner on to the media. This can be a problem with the adhesive and plastic backing associated with stickers or the plastic media melting inside the machine and causing damage that is costly in both money and serviceability terms.

It also can extend to glossy or silk-look “presentation / brochure” paper which uses some form of glazing to provide the sheen, and this can cause problems with different printers.

So you have to use special media that is designed for laser-printer or xerographic photocopier use. This media is designed to work at very high temperatures so it can pass through the hot fuser rollers without damaging the printer.  Some of the media that is made by particular printer manufacturers is designed for the printers made by that manufacturer and, in some cases, printers based on a certain print-engine type. This is due to the manufacturer knowing the operating temperature for the printers in question.

But there are some kinds of special media that is made by third parties and pitched at a range of printers offered by many different manufacturers. Some of these also may be available under the private labels that different stationers and office-supply stores use. For example, Avery make a large range of laser labels that are compatible with most laser printers that are in circulation nowadays.

Inkjet-compliant plastic media

To get best results out of inkjet printers with plastic media, you have to use inkjet-optimised plastic media that has a rough surface on the printed side. This is to catch the droplets left by the inkjet printer as part of its printing process and avoid the ink smearing over the medium as it passes through the printer or is handled by the user.

As well, you will need to set the printer’s driver software to work with “overhead transparencies” or “back print film” when you print to plastic media. This is to allow the printer to optimise its printing process for the media such as slowing the print-head action so as to make sure the ink ends up properly on the medium.

When you load the media, you have to make sure that the rough “printing” side faces the print head as it feeds through the printer. This may be harder to understand with Hewlett-Packard and Brother printers because they use a U-shaped paper-feed path and eject the printed document above the paper storage trays. Here, you would have to put the media in with the rough side facing down when loading the printer.

Card stock, art board and similarly-thick media

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer special-media tray

“Manual-bypass” special media tray in a colour laser printer

Another medium that may prove itself to be difficult for desktop printers is art board, card stock and similarly-thick papers. Most of these papers can cause problems with printers that implement any paper path that has a U-turn in it like most desktop printers.

Here, you may have to use a “straight-through” paper path on them for these papers to work properly and use manual duplexing if you are printing on both sides. Most inkjet multifunction printers have a rear-mounted multifunction tray where you load this paper while laser printers will require you to use a “manual bypass” tray or slot at the front as the loading tray and have a drop-down door at the rear as the output tray.

Increasingly, budget and some midrange printers will have a limit on the number of sheets of paper that you can load through this way with some of them even requiring you to load one sheet at a time in to the printer.  This can be an inconvenience to you if you are turning out multiple copies of the same document.

Use your printer or outsource your printing for that print run

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

The main question that a lot of users will end up asking will be whether to have the print runs made by an outside printing house or print the documents with their printer. Some of you may prefer to outsource your printing rather than use your printer especially with public-facing documents like brochures and flyers. This is because the print shop that you use has better equipment than what you would have and it is increasingly true of large office-supply chains like Office Depot, Officeworks or Staples who provide on-site printing and copying facilities.

I have talked with two men who pastor churches with medium-sized congregations about this issue through the time I was reviewing the Brother MFC-J5720DW desktop inkjet multifunction printer. This is a class of user who could be tempted to use one of these printers to turn out flyers and tracts as a way to make the offering dollar go further. One of these men, who happens to be my pastor, raised the issue of output quality from outsourced work versus work turned out on one of these printers and remarked that the outsourced work is of much better quality. The other pastor raised the fact that these printers wouldn’t work well for turning out large print runs like what would be expected for promoting an upcoming special event at the church.

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 inkjet multifunction printer

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 desktop inkjet multifunction printer

One factor to consider is how many copies you will be eventually needing for your design. If you are turning out up to 20 to 40 copies of your design at a time, you can get by with using your machine. If you end up running more than that, you would need to outsource your printing. This is because of the cost of ink and paper involved in the large print runs, the costs associated with the wear and tear on your machine and the time it takes to run the large print jobs on the typical home-office or small-business printer. This last factor will be of importance with fax-enabled printers serving as fax machines that have to be ready to receive faxes or printers that are required to turn out hard copy as part of business processes.

Another factor worth considering is how often your design is likely to change. This also includes situations where you want to adopt a “print-as-needed” policy such as to run a small-enough quantity of flyers for an appearance like a house inspection. If the design is likely to change frequently or be suited to an occasion, you may have to use your printer for the short runs or outsource larger runs to a print shop that supports quick-turnaround printing such as a copy shop that relies on inkjet or xerographic technology or a printing house that uses digital presses.

Examples of this may include a café, restaurant or bar turning out menus or drinks lists that are centred around particular food and drink specials, a church or funeral home turning out an order-of-service for a particular occasion or an estate agent or auctioneer running flyers about the property that they are auctionning to hand out to customers.

Other factors worth considering include the printing cost per copy if you are intending to use a premium paper stock like coated paper, glossy paper or art board when you are wanting that special look for your public-facing documents.It also includes using finished-document page sizes and forms that are out of the ordinary document-paper sizes like A4 or Letter.  Here, you may have to factor in any extra handling that you our your staff may have to do for manual duplexing or cutting to small sizes.

It is worth knowing that your machine would keep its worth in the equation as part of the design-approval process before you commit to having them printed. This is where you would be turning out proofs so you are sure they are what you want them to be; or to turn out short “test-runs” to assess the effectiveness of a design.

Your printer can also complement the print shop you use for outsourced printing by being able to provide short supplementary print runs of the final document on request. Here, you may want to:

  • do a preview run which you would give to special customers or partners while the main print run is being turned out;
  • turn out a short “infill run” of the documents when you find that you have run short of copies and you don’t want to commit to another large print run due to cost or turnaround-time reasons; or
  • want to keep some copies on hand and ready to distribute so you can get your campaign off the ground without waiting for the printing to be finished especially if you find that your print job has been delayed for some reason.


Here, small businesses can consider the use of a desktop printer as the “small-business printing press” if they know what their machine is capable of and they are using the right media for the job. This includes whether to work it hard on a large print job or assign the job to the local print shop.

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Microsoft to benefit convertibles, detachables and other multi-input computer setups


How Continuum will work in Windows 10 | CNet

Windows 10 ‘Continuum’ mode for hybrid devices showed off by Microsoft (video) | PureInfoTech


Click to play

My Comments

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook - image-viewer view

Windows 10 will play properly with these computers what way you fold them

A problem that was often echoed with Windows 8 was the Start Screen and the Modern user interface that was optimised just for touch interfaces. This is although there are computing setups that can work between a touch interface and / or a regular mouse / keyboard interface.

These range from the so-called “2-in-1” computers of the Microsoft Surface, HP x2 and Lenovo Yoga i which can be known as convertibles or detachables and change between a regular laptop and a tablet, through people connecting keyboards and mice to tablets, including the “Adaptive All-In-One” computers of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 ilk, to touchscreen-enabled regular laptops or regular desktop computers that are kitted out with touchscreen-capable monitors.

But Windows 8 didn’t perform well for the regular mouse / keyboard interface. Here, you didn’t have the “comfort zone” of the Start Menu or desktop interface elements most of us are used to for over the last 20 years of Windows-platform regular computing. Windows 8.1 performed a few upgrades to try to bridge the gap but Windows 10 has approached this more sincerely.

Here they have a new Start Menu that also has active Tiles for Windows Store apps and this can be “shoehorned” to suit your screen layout. It is also optimised for touch-enabled setups like a “2-in-1” set up as a laptop, a touch-screen-equipped regular laptop or a desktop computing setup equipped with a touch-enabled monitor. This is part of a desktop user experience optimised still for the keyboard and mouse.

But if you detach the keyboard from an HP x2 detachable, fold over a Lenovo Yoga or slide the keyboard under a Sony VAIO Duo, the display adapts to a full-screen-optimised “tablet” mode. The same thing happens if you turn off your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that you have connected to your Windows tablet. This has a reduced clutter view and program selection is through the Start Screen “dashboard” that was par for the course on Windows 8. There is the ability to bring this on manually if you like to, at times, mouse around an uncluttered workspace or simply have that “dashboard view”.

At least the folks at Redmond have made the effort to cater for multiple-interface computer users, especially the 2-in-1 users or people who have touch-capable laptops. Let’s not forget that a touch-capable monitor for a desktop computer setup or a touch-enabled laptop doesn’t have to be considered an unnecessary luxury.

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Electrostatic speakers move out of the domain of esoteric hi-fi


BenQ treVolo portable electrostatic speaker courtesy of BenQHands on review: BenQ treVolo electrostatic speaker | The Age (Australia)

From the horse’s mouth


treVolo Portable Electrostatic Speaker

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Speakers mostly turn electrical currents to sound using an electrical coil and a magnet or a piezoelectric ceramic transducer for higher frequencies and these vibrate a cone or dome to make the sound. But another method where a thin panel vibrated using an electrostatic field is used but this remains in the realm of esoteric audiophile hi-fi due to its high cost. Here, it has been valued for reproducing midrange and treble content clearly and distinctly and would play in to the hands of those of us who like jazz, acoustic pop, the classics or a lot of “new-age” and “chill-out” music.

The typical implementation has been a large floor-standing speaker that is connected to a special power supply connected to AC power. Some of these situations were of a design similar to an active speaker and required the use of a control amplifier connected between the source components whereas others required full amplification, usually with an integrated amplifier or a power amplifier connected to a control amplifier. These were setups you couldn’t take with you or have as a single-piece sound system.

But BenQ, along with in2uit, have offered portable single-piece electrostatic speakers that can work from a battery supply. These work with Bluetooth technology for playing audio from your phone or you could directly connect them to another sound system’s or playback device’s line-level audio output. The BenQ treVolo can also serve as USB computer speakers, offering a nicer way to dodge the crummy speakers that are part and parcel of portable computers. They are also optimised to handle different usage environments such as what the weather throws at us, something that a lot of the esoteric speakers wouldn’t handle.

The review pitched them as being suitable for those of us who value Mozart or Miles Davis over popular music and you have had your ears spoilt by you owning an esoteric audio setup with electrostatic speakers or hearing one of these setups in full flight at a boutique hi-fi shop or a hi-fi show like the Australian Audio And AV Shows.

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