Category: Current and Future Trends

Qarnot uses computers to provide free room heat for buildings

Qarnot Q.Rad press image courtesy of Qarnot

Qarnot Q.rad heater is actually a computer

One of the common ways of using electricity to provide room heat in a building is to use a panel or column heater that has a material like oil heated by an electric element.A variant that existed in the UK and, to some extent, Australia was a “storage heater” or “heat bank” that used a heavier material like bricks that stored more heat and was heated during overnight when the power was cheaper. Then this material diffuses this heat in to the room. These kind of heaters are able to provide this diffused heat to take the chill off a room but were expensive to run.

But Qarnot, a French cloud-computing firm, have looked at the issue of using the waste heat from a computer integrated in this heater to heat a room or building. Here, they have designed the Q.Rad which connects to your home network and electrical power and works as a data-server for their distributed-computing effort while using the waste heat to heat a room.

It also implements an integrated power meter so that you can be reimbursed for the power that it uses as part of the cloud-computing network, effectively providing “free heat”. But a question that can be raised for implementation in markets like Australia, New Zealand or, increasingly, the USA is the requirement to calculate transferred data and establish a mechanism to refund users’ bandwidth charges for this data. This is because of the practice where ISPs are either charging for data transferred or throttling users’ bandwidth if they transfer more than an allotted amount of data.

Qarnot Q.Rad exploded view press image courtesy of Qarnot

Processing power inside this heater – the waste heat from that goes to keeping you warm

The data that Qarnot processes using these heaters is typically for the likes of research labs, banks and animation studios where they “offload” calculations in to this cloud-computing array. They also have the ability to seek out distributed-computing research projects of the SETI or Folding@Home kind to keep the network alive and generating heat where needed. For data security, these heaters don’t implement any storage for the distributed-computing client’s data while implementing end-to-end encryption for this data,

Qarnot will implement an “upgrade and replace” program so that higher-speed processors are used in the Q.Rad computing heaters and there is the ability to deal with failed equipment quickly and easily to assure high availability.

Householders are still able to adjust the heater to their preferred comfort level and make it reflect their lifestyle by using a smartphone app or the controls on the heater. This kind of thermostatic control is achieved by deflecting some of the workload away from the heater that is not needed when there isn’t the need for heat output.

They rate the output of a single unit to around 500 watts which would cover a 150-300 foot area in an insulated building. Qarnot are also pitching these heaters as part of the smart-building concept by having them able to be equipped with sensors and being programmable for any IoT / building-automation application. Similarly, Qarnot have added functionality like USB or Qi wireless charging to these heaters so users can charge mobile devices on them.

At the moment, these heaters are being issued to large buildings in Europe and the USA where 20 units or more need to be deployed. But in 2017, Qarnot wants to release these heaters to individuals who want to take advantage of this heating concept. For householders, this may be seen as being advantageous for “always-needed low-output” heating applications such as kitchens, downstairs areas in split-level houses and similar areas.

In some cases, Qarnot could make it feasible to have the Q.Rad heaters provide services to a network, whether as a router, NAS, home-automation hub or something similar. This could be achieved through the use of extra hardware or software to fulfil these tasks.

What Qarnot has done is to harvest waste heat from computing processes and use this for heating rooms in buildings with little cost to the building owner.

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Panasonic continues with a CD-capable multi-room system that respects most of us who keep CDs

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Panasonic

SC-ALL7CD Music System

Blog Post

Press Release

Specifications

My Comments

Panasonic are still furthering the QualComm AllPlay multi-room audio platform, this time with another music system that can share CDs or broadcast radio to other AllPlay speakers. Here, they are underscoring audio-content formats that may not be considered the way to go in these days thanks to Internet-derived audio services.

The Panasonic SC-ALL7CD can be set up to be a content source for the AllPlay-compliant speakers by offering CDs played on the integral CD player or recorded on the integral 4Gb storage, content held on a USB memory key, broadcast radio from FM or DAB+, Bluetooth A2DP from a smartphone or similar device; or this same system can be used to play anything offered up by other AllPlay sources on the same home network.

As for network connectivity, this music system which looks like the traditional clock radio is able to be connected to your home network via 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi wireless or wired Ethernet which also allows it to work with HomePlug powerline networks when you use it with a “homeplug” adaptor. As for file-based audio, it can handle FLAC Hi-Res audio files and can work with most online audio services as long as you use the Panasonic-supplied AllPlay app on your mobile device.

The integral storage capacity is rated at 4Gb and you can store up to 5 CDs at best quality or 25 CDs at a normal quality, with the ability to have them play sequentially or in random order.

The Panasonic SC-ALL7CD is rated with a power output of 20 watts per channel (1 kHz, 8 ohms, 10% total harmonic distortion) and plays the music in to a stereo speaker setup which implements a 2-way speaker arrangement for each channel.

But this system is about continuing the ability to link a multi-room system based on the Qualcomm AllPlay platform with legacy sources like CDs and traditional radio, something that I see only Panasonic doing. This is unless others contribute integrated music systems to this platform that maintain one or more similar sources.

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DLNA 4 and Vidipath facilitate elaborate TV user interfaces for network devices

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

NAS units will be required to provide a rich user interface on the big screen without the need of an app

I have had a look through the DLNA 4.0 and VIDIPATH standards and found a feature that these standards do provide for in the form of a “remote user interface”. This is where another server device can provide a graphically-rich user interface on a separate client device typically in the form of a Smart TV or video peripheral. It works very much in a similar frame to how Web browsing, where you have Web pages hosted on Web servers and streamed over a network to a Web browser existing on a client device.

The standards that are supported in this context are HTML5 and RVU (pronounced R-View) which facilitate this graphically-rich user interface. It was pitched more at pay-TV operators who provide their customers a PVR or media gateway and want to share the same user interface across all of the smart TVs, connected video peripherals (Blu-Ray players, games consoles, network media players), regular desktop/laptop computers and mobile computing devices (smartphones, phablets and tablets).

Here, this would facilitate operator-provided video-on-demand, interactive TV services, the electronic programme guide and value-added services but allow the operator to present these services with their “skin” (branding and user experience) on all of the screens in a customer’s household. This is in contrast to services like programme guides, PVR content collections and recording schedules being presented using the device manufacturer’s user interface which may not be consistent especially at the lower end of the market. It wouldn’t matter whether the server device was “headless” (without a display or control surface) like a broadcast-LAN tuner or had a display and control surface like the typical set-top PVR with its own remote control and connected to the TV in the main lounge area.

But this technology appeals to another class of devices beyond the pay-TV set-top boxes and media gateways.

Increasing network-attached-storage vendors are partnering with software developers to develop and deploy advanced media-server software in their consumer-focused NAS products. Examples of these include the Plex Media Server being packaged with newer Western Digital premium consumer NAS products and the media server software that Synology are packaging as part of their latest DSM 6 NAS software. Typically these offer functionality like rich media information or improved search / browse functionality.

Some of the NAS devices offer PVR software that works with USB digital-TV-tuner modules or broadcast-LAN tuner boxes and are targeted towards markets where free-to-air TV or pay-TV delivered without operator-supplied equipment is highly valued.

As well, a lot of consumer-focused NAS devices are being marketed in the concept of the “personal cloud” and these devices could benefit from a rich user interface that takes advantage of smart TVs.

It also includes the possibility of Secure Content Storage Association pushing their Vidity “download-to-own” platform as a way to deliver the same kind of collectability and rich user experience that the DVD and Blu-Ray box-sets are known for when supplying sell-through video content “over the wire” or allowing customers to download DVD and Blu-Ray content to their home networks. This could also encompass using a NAS as an “offload device” for extra binge-watch content that you bring in using a PVR.

More and more, manufacturers will look at ways to add value to NAS devices or broadcast-LAN tuner devices as a way to have customers buy the newer devices rather than hang on to older devices.

When NAS suppliers want to offer this kind of functionality, they either implement a Web user interface which may work best for regular computers and tablets with you needing to know IP addresses or device network names, or you are having to download and install companion client apps into your client devices. This doesn’t really work well with any 10-foot “lean-back” experience.

But the reality is that this software can exploit RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface standard technology to realise the user-interface images on to the regular television screen. Typically, all it requires is that the devices exploit their Web server software to implement the RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface technology and use UPnP which is already used for the DLNA content server functionality to expose this content to TVs and similar devices.

For that matter, the ability to print out content from an interactive-TV show should be integrated in to RVU or HTML5 technology because some shows and advertising like cookery shows encourage the printing out of value-added content for users to benefit from this content.

To the same extent, the hotel applications could take this further by opening up virtual content sources for things like in-house video-on-demand or gaming; or even provide a user interface to services like in-room dining or booking use of day-spa facilities.

What needs to happen is that the remote user interface technology can be exploited beyond the set-top-box or media-gateway application and taken further to NAS or other server-role devices on a home or business network for a proper 10-foot experience.

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DLNA 4.0 to support server-based media transcoding

Article – From the horse’s mouth

DLNA

Synology DiskStation DS415play NAS with media transcoding - Press image courtesy of Synology

Synology DiskStation DS415play – demonstrating the value of transcoding content to provide to DLNA devices

Press Release

My Comments

An issue that can easily beset DLNA / UPnP-AV content-delivery setups is the fact that digital-image, audio and video content can be delivered in newer file formats and that it could be packaged for high-quality setups. A case to point could be 4K UHDTV video content which would work with the newer 4K UHDTV sets; or you could have audio content packaged in the FLAC lossless-compression file formats rather than MP3 or WMA file formats.

But the problem that exists is that you will likely to have older or cheaper equipment that can’t handle the higher-quality content types. Some devices that can handle the higher-quality content type may not be able to handle it in the file format it is delivered in unless the device’s firmware was updated to take the newer filetypes. Typically, this may ruin the experience because the device will typically throw up a confusing error message or show nothing.

A few UPnP-AV / DLNA Media servers do support some form of filetype or content transcoding with some Synology NAS units implementing this functionality at the hardware level. But there isn’t the ability to be sure that the NAS, broadcast-LAN tuner or similar device provides this kind of transcoding. The new DLNA 4.0 specification mandates that compliant server devices have to transcode the content that they serve if the client device can’t handle it directly.

The questions worth raising about this required function is whether this applies to filetype transcoding only or if it also includes functionality like downscaling a 4K video to Full HD for existing HDTVs for example. It shouldn’t also be about whether the transcoding takes place in the background for stored or downloaded media or only in a real-time fashion whenever legacy equipment wants the resource, something that would work with broadcast-LAN applications.

As far as NAS and DLNA media-server software design goes, one differentiating point that will exist would be the ability for the hardware and software to implement hardware-based transcoding. This is where a separate processor and RAM, like a GPU setup, is provided to transcode video content rather than the device’s main processor and RAM being used for the task. It is similar to what would happen if you use a computer equipped with a discrete video card or chipset to transcode some video content and this permits the main processor in the NAS to continue serving the files without having to transcode them at the same time. At the moment, the Synology DS416play, the successor to the DS415play which was the first NAS to offer this feature, is the only one that implements hardware transcoding.

Personally, I would like to see these devices offer transcoding for QuickTime and Motion JPEG video as used by some digital still cameras, and FLAC and ALAC lossless audio which is now valued as a high-quality audio format for “ripping” CDs or buying download-to-own music. This is because these formats are not universally handled in the DLNA network media sphere.

Other functions that are part of this version include catering to IPv6 networks which is fast becoming the way to go, inherent support for 4K and HDR video content, the requirement for a DLNA MediaServer to expose HD variants of more video filetypes and the VIDIPATH functionality being baked in to the standard which would be important especially for Pay-TV applications.

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Google to bring Chrome and Android as a third major computing-platform force

Article

Dell Chromebook 13 press image courtesy of Dell Inc.

Could these Chromebooks be the third force in personal computing

Here Are the Security Implications of Android Apps Coming to Chromebooks | Supersite For Windows

My Comments

Could the Google operating systems be the third mainstream computing force?

Google’s Chrome OS operating system has initially been pitched as a low-cost Web-browsing cloud-computing platform with not much in the way of applications or games written for that platform. Typically this ended up with the platform ending up in the cost-conscious K-12 education market, most likely computers used in the classroom and in a similar vein to how Acorn had various computer systems pitched towards the UK’s education market.

Sports scoreboard app

.. like these Android phones

But lately there have been some efforts to have Android apps and games run on the Android mobile-computing platform work with the Chrome OS platform so that the game I play, the Evernote front-end I use or the sports scoreboard app I keep tabs on that football match with on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 could be easily be run on a Chromebook. Here, Google is encouraging the development of apps that implement responsive layouts and the ability to work with a traditional keyboard and pointing device which may not require much effort for most app types.

One of the core issues that has always concerned computer use has been data security including proper program behaviour. Here, Google will implement the same kind of sandboxing that was used on Android apps sold through the Google Play app store also for Chrome OS. This will be more so as Android apps will be able to run on Chromebooks in a “just-works” manner, something that will appear initially on the Chromebook Flip but is to appear on a subsequent version of the Chrome OS.

Google will also follow Microsoft’s and Apple’s lead towards a monthly software-update cycle for both Android and Chrome. This will include them taking over the software maintenance process so that OEMs and mobile carriers can’t control the process to push through their bloatware and branding. The OEMs and mobile carriers are wanting to still cry out for their launchers and apps but it may have to be about separately delivering them such as running them as Play Store apps so that an operating-system update isn’t contingent on the update working properly with their apps.

They will also be efforts to “clean up” the Play Store to get rid of dangerous apps and have it in a similar standard to the Microsoft Store and iTunes App Store – a “rubbish-free” app store. Corporate and educational IT admins will rejoice about the ability not to have the Google Play Store appear in their Chromebook or Android deployments or restrict their deployments to a whitelist of approved apps.

This is very similar to desktop computing in the late 1980s where there were three main forces for popular desktop-computing platforms i.e. the IBM platform running MS-DOS offered by many different manufacturers, the Apple Macintosh platform. and the Commodore Amiga platform. The different platforms coexisted for a while then because of their particular attributes and specialities such as graphics and multimedia.

The big question to raise for Chrome OS is whether it will be brought up to the same level of performance and flexibility as Windows or MacOS or will this platform be kept as an entry-level baseline computing platform?

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What will Bluetooth 5 be about

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Bluetooth SIG

Press Release

My Comments

Bluetooth are to release the 5th major version of their wireless personal-network specification by between late 2016 to early 2017. But what will this offer?

This is more about increasing broadcast capacity, data bandwidth and operational range for Internet of Things applications while working with the unlicensed 2.4GHz ISM waveband. The extended range will be seen in the smart-home context as reaching beyond the walls of a typical house while there is the improved operational robustness affecting this class of application.

One of the key benefits is to reduce the need for “device + app” setup for Internet-of-Things setup. This typically requires that you go to the mobile platform’s app store to download a special “enablement” app for your Internet-Of-Things device to your smartphone or tablet and then logically associate that device with your mobile device before you can benefit from that device. This applies also to “beacon” setups where the venue has to develop a mobile-platform app to make sense of the beacons that they use for indoor navigation / location setups.

The question that could be raised is whether this will lead towards a “Web-app” setup where beacons and Internet-of-Things devices will run their own mobile Web pages for showing data about themselves or their current status. Similarly, could this also lead to the creation of a platform-detecting “interface page” which leads people to install mobile-platform apps from the correct mobile-platform app store.

There will also be the question about assuring the privacy and data security for end-users and their mobile client devices so as to prevent Bluetooth 5 beacons and IoT devices from being a malware-distribution vector. Here, it may be about implementing a “trust-based” system which is based on factors like suppliers, venues, software developers and the like. Similarly, it may be more valuable to have this kind of setup based around “pull-based” content acquisition where the end-user is involved in the process of acquiring the data rather than the data being automatically delivered to the end-user’s mobile device.

There are other use cases that can take advantage of this large data capacity in the context of beacons and the Internet Of Things especially if the “device+app” setup is still maintained. One of these would be to allow field-based software and data maintenance where a new Webpage or firmware could be supplied to a Bluetooth 5 IoT device from a mobile client. Similarly, you could upload and download operational data between the IoT device and a mobile client or portable computer with building security, data-logging or smartwatches being a key application. For example, it could be a simple and quick task to deploy a rich watch-face or app to a smartwatch while syncing data like contacts-lists and health data to your smartphone at the same time.

The Bluetooth 5 technology will benefit the smart-home, enterprise and industrial applications. Some of the use cases being called out in the form of indoor navigation for airports and shopping centres, asset or warehouse-inventory tracking, improved emergency response like the “enhanced 911” service that benefits mobile-phone users along with the ability to assist visually-impaired people around the cities. An advertising-based application may involve a beacon-type device at an event being used to provide further information like a PDF or HTML “e-brochure” hosted on that device.

Like with every evolution of the Bluetooth standard, this will require newer Bluetooth 5.0 compliant hardware on the client device and this will typically be provided with newer client devices after mid-2017. Regular computers could be upgraded to this standard thanks to USB Bluetooth modules which could be seen as a way to upgrade Windows laptops, 2-in-1s or tablets. This also applies to some embedded devices that provide some form of “after-the-fact” functionality upgrading like the Yale and Lockwood smart deadbolts that use a wireless-connectivity module for smart-home functionality.

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Bone-conductivity technology rises in the common space once again

Article

Check out these cool sunglasses with built-in bone conducting headphones | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Zungle

Kickstarter campaign

Video – click or tap to play

My Comments

In the early 1980s, an electronics company tried out a common application for bone-conductivity personal audio technology by selling to a mail-order gadget-supply company and to Radio Shack (Tandy) an AM/FM stereo headphone radio that implemented this technology. This radio, known as the “Bone Fone” and powered by 4 AA batteries, dropped around your neck like a shawl and used bone-conductivity technology to bring your favourite broadcast’s audio to your ears.  You were able to hear your music privately through the sound being transduced through your neck clavicle bone to your ears.

It was found to be heavy but the technology has resurfaced in another application that would be seen to be popular. This time it is a pair of sunglasses that use an integrated Bluetooth headset that exploits this technology. These Zungle Panther sunglasses, modelled on the Oakley Frogskins, don’t require you to wear headphones or an earbud to hear your music or caller due to this technology. Rather they use your skull bone as the transducing surface.

These glasses link to your smartphone using Bluetooth 4.1 technology as a way to save battery runtime for both devices. They also implement a jog wheel to allow you to control audio playback as well as implementing a noise-cancelling microphone when you make and take calls or ask something of Siri, Google Now or Cortana.

For their power, the bone-conducting Zungle Panther glasses implement a 300mAh battery that uses the same microUSB charging connectivity as most of the current Bluetooth headsets.

Because of what they do, they may be considered to be bulky like a set of 3D glasses used for watching a 3D movie at the cinema but they weigh in at 45g. They were found to earn their keep for cyclists and other road users who want to keep their ears open to hear for traffic.

There is actually a Kickstarter campaign to get the bone-conductivity glasses idea off the ground with a starting price of US$99.

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Dell now offers the first 17” 2-in-1 convertible laptop

Articles

Dell announces new Windows 10 2-in-1 laptops starting at $249 | Windows Experience Blog (Microsoft)

Dell Debuts World’s First 17-inch 2-in-1 | Laptop Mag

Laptop Mag Video – Click or tap to view

Dell zeigt 2-in-1-Geräte mit 17-Zoll-Display | Netzwoche.ch (Switzerland – German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Dell

Computex 2016 Press Release

My Comments

Dell Inspiron 17 (Model 7778 Starlord B) 17-inch Touch notebook computer.press image courtesy of Dell

Dell Inspiron 17 (Model 7778 Starlord B) 17-inch Touch notebook computer.

Dell took advantage of Computex 2016 in Taipei to launch the Inspiron 17-7000 which is the first 2-in-1 laptop to have a 17” screen. It is a 360-degree Yoga-style convertible with a Full-HD (1920×1080) wide-angle display and backlit keyboard. Dell also offer 13” and 15” variants of this computer which would also suit most peoples’ needs and are part of their high-end laptop computer lineup.

The question that would often be raised about a 2-in-1 computer with a 15” or 17” display is whether these screen sizes are considered too large especially when used as a tablet. This is because most of us are used to the 10”-13” tablets like the iPad or the small 2-in-1s. Personally, I would see them earn their keep in a tablet form whenever you are in a chair, couch or bed and are using the system by yourself or with someone else. But the Yoga-style convertible approach also opens up other usage arrangements like a “tent” view or a “viewer” arrangement with the keyboard facing downwards, which can appeal to activities like viewing photos, videos or presentations with the computer on the table

Dell Inspiron 17 (Model 7778 Starlord B) 17-inch Touch notebook computer.press image courtesy of Dell

Dell Inspiron 17 (Model 7778 Starlord B) 17-inch Touch notebook computer.

It also ticks the boxes for a computer having newer expectations like USB Type-C connectivity and the ability to work with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless network segment while having an expected battery runtime of 6 hours. The horsepower behind these computers is mostly of the 6th-generation Intel Core variety and you can spec it with an NVIDIA discrete-graphics setup fit for gaming or video editing.

What is happening with Windows 10 and our exposure to the mobile-platform tablets of the Apple iPad ilk is that we are becoming more accustomed to the idea of touch-based computing and the tablet computer style rather than thinking of a clamshell style just for content creation. As well, the “Continuum” style of multi-faceted computing which shows up in the Tablet Mode on a Windows 10 computer underscores the ability to work between those modes.

Who knows whether more of the 2-in-1 laptops at the 15” and 17” will show up on the market as a way to challenge the likes of the Microsoft Surface range.

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Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone is for real

Article

Google Project Ara modular phone - for real

Google Project Ara modular phone – for real

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

My Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article

Advertising of predatory financial services

Google Will Start Banning All Ads From Payday Lenders | Mashable

Advertising of online tech-support scams

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

My Comments

Google clamps down on advertising of predatory financial services

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

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

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

Bing clamping down on online tech-support scams

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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