Category: Current and Future Trends

Corning’s future vision of glass

Videos

 

A Day Made Of Glass 1 (link to this)

 

A Day Made Of Glass 2: Same Day (link to this)

My Comments

I had heard about Corning’s new series of videos about glass being more than just windows, mirrors and drinks containers. Their vision in these videos was to have windows, mirrors and similar objects as display surfaces for computer-hosted data; as well as for other applications like photovoltaic (solar) cells or electrochromic uses like tinting or frosting on demand.

Some of these visions include windows that are clear but become frosted “on demand” for privacy or show images or text such as a themed photo cluster or a diagram, with some being touchscreens for interacting with the display or being a control surface for lighting for example. The applications were being extended to automotive use like the glass displays being part of a dashboard for example.

This has been made feasible through efforts like the “Gorilla Glass” technology that is now being implemented in smartphones, tablets and large displays like TVs. Here, this glass is about an increasingly-tough surface or about a thinner glass surface for an LCD or OLED display application (including a touchscreen) being as tough as a glass surface of regular thickness.

It is even worth noting that Philips was also involved in “taking glass further” with mirrors that are displays and lately with an OLED light  / solar-cell combination which is transparent one moment and a light-source another moment while supplying extra power during the day. This latter application was pitched again at cars with a way of bringing more light in to the car but also working as an interior light when it is darker.

At least this shows that there will be many different game-changers when it comes to the design of display and similar technologies.

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Making sure your small business is ready for IPv6

Article

HP Blogs – 6 steps for SMBs to become IPv6-ready – The HP Blog Hub

My Comments

There is all the talk of us running out of IPv4 public IP addresses for the Internet, and an increased awareness of IPv6 Internet technology. One major driver for the IPv6 technology is the rolling out of next-generation broadband services; where this feature will be seen as being part of the “next generation” mould.

In the near time, the typical IPv6 network will operate as a “dual-stack” setup where there is an IPv6 network and an IPv4 network operating over the same network space. A device such as an IPv6-ready router will typically bridge the gap between the dual-stack devices and the IPv4-only devices by assisting in the discovery of the devices and transferring data between the two different network stacks.

Outside IT contractors

If you do regularly engage outside contractors for your IT needs such as your POS / property-management technology, it would pay to ask whether the technical staff know about IPv6 and how to deploy it. Most of these contractors may think that small business doesn’t need IPv6 but as the Internet moves to this technology, it pays to be future-proof.

ISPs and Webhosts

It is worth making sure that your business’s ISP and Internet hosted services such as your Webhost are ready for IPv6 or have intentions to roll out a customer-facing IPv6 service.

Most ISPs and Webhosts are likely to have the backend of their services working on IPv6 technology but their customer-facing services like the Web services or Internet service may not be ready. This may be due to the presumption that most customer setups will fail when confronted with IPv6. The exception may be the ISPs that serve a “switched-on” audience that knows their way around the Internet technology; or ISPs and Webhosts that offer customer-facing IPv6 service as a limited-user beta test and they may offer a “dual-stack” setup.

It also pays to check that your domain host supports domain records that are compatible with IPv6 setups. This includes having AAAAA-form DNS records that can resolve your domain name to IPv6 addresses.

Hardware

Computers that run Windows Vista or 7, MacOS X Lion or recent Linux distributions will be ready for IPv6; with Windows XP having support through a downloadable module from Microsoft’s Web site. Relatively-recent computer equipment can be upgraded from prior operating systems to the newer IPv6-compliant operating systems. For the mobile platforms, the IOS (iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch), Android, Symbian and Windows Phone 7 platforms do support IPv6. They will typically operate on a “dual-stack” arrangement by being able to service an IPv4 network and an IPv6 network at the same time through the same network interface,

Similarly, most network printers pitched at the business end of the market that were released over the last few years would have support for IPv6 in a dual-stack setup.

As for routers, managed switches, access points and other network hardware, I would suggest that you check for firmware that supports IPv6 for your existing equipment. Keep an eye on the manufacturer’s Website for newer firmware updates that support IPv6.  If you are purchasing or specifying newer network equipment, make sure that it does support IPv6 or has future support for this in a planned firmware update. Most unmanaged switches, HomePlug-Ethernet bridges and devices that don’t use a Web or SMNP user interface would not need to be compliant with IPv6. This is because these devices work at levels below the IP stacks.

In the case of routers, the device should work as a “dual-stack” unit with support for routing between the two different IP network types. It should also be able to cope with working with a dual-stack Internet service especially as the business Internet services that provide IPv6 will do so in a dual-stack manner.

When I review any network hardware including printers, I will identify those pieces of equipment that are IPv6-ready so as to help you know whether the equipment will be future-proof.

Software

As for software on these computers, any desktop firewall software or other network-utility software that you run would need to support IPv6 operation. This is something that recent versions of this software would cater for, but you should make sure of this when you specify new software. It also holds true for any other network-management programs that need to work on an IP level.

The application software that serves office functionality or line-of-business needs wouldn’t be of concern in relation to IPv6 because the operating system would be handling the network-resource requests for these programs.

Conclusion

The key issue with assuring IPv6 compatibility for your small business network is to make sure that your computer equipment works on dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 software and / or there is a router that works as n IPv4/IPv6 bridge on both sides of the network-Internet “edge”. As well, the IT contractors and services that you engage would need to be knowledgeable about IPv6 and the impending rollout for your business.

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Renault debuts in-dash Android system concept with app market

Article

Renault debuts R-Link, an in-dash Android system with app market — Engadget

My Comments

The Android operating system isn’t just in your hands anymore with a tablet or smartphone. Renault has made sure it will be in the dashboard of the car, together with an app store to back the concept.

There is a main questions that I have about the concept at the moment. One is whether the system will use an updatable wireless-broadband link or a Wi-Fi network or both for data transfer to and from the network?

But what I see of the idea is the main use of the apps for driver and passenger entertainment, in the form of DLNA-based synchronisation of media with the home network, Internet radio (vTuner and similar Internet-radio directories, Last.FM, Pandora, etc) and similar applications. But there are other app ideas like advanced navigation including “book-ahead” functionality and roadside-telematics integration, and car statistics monitoring.

There could even be the ideas of using this Android platform to integrate the vehicle with home automation. The most obvious scenario that would come to mind would be looking at the dashboard to know whether the garage door that should be closed is infact closed and then touch a button to close it. This could avoid the need to look at the rear-view mirror as you drive out to check on the garage.

At least this effort by Renault with the Android platform could become a platform for developing in-vehicle infotainment and telematics systems and applications.

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DLNA in the hotel room

Article

Ericsson’s proof-of-concept solution for DLNA in the hotel room (PDF)

Harbourside Apartments - one of those serviced-apartment blocks that could benefit from DLNA

An example of a hotel or serviced apartment block which would be relevant to DLNA

My comments

Why DLNA in the hotel room?

Increased availability of affordable DLNA-compliant entertainment equipment

Most manufacturers who sell consumer electronics are offering electronic entertainment devices that can be connected to a home network and can pull down content from that network or the Internet. When it comes to obtaining media from the home network, these manufacturers will use the established UPnP AV / DLNA technology rather than reinvent the wheel. This feature is being promoted as a distinct product differentiator and will soon end up being offered across all of a manufacturer’s lineup except, perhaps, the very-low-end models.

Some of this equipment is available in form factors that would suit the typical hotel room, suite or serviced apartment. Examples of this include the Sony CMT-MX750Ni / CMT-MX700Ni and the Rotel RCX-1500 music systems that I have reviewed on this site as well as the increasing number of “smart TVs” offered by LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony. In the same context, a DLNA-compliant network media adaptor could displace a solution-specific option as the gateway to premium content in the hotel as has been investigated for residential cable TV.

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled micro music system

Sony CMT-MX750Ni – an example of a DLNA-compliant music system for a hotel room or serviced apartment

In the case of some of the network media adaptors and “smart TVs”, it could be feasible to integrate site-specific apps or Web links to facilitate interactive services like room-service ordering or in-room checkout that have been part of hotel-based video systems.

Access to online content through mobile computing devices

Most people are making use of online content services like Internet radio, Last.fm, YouTube and Netflix on the mobile computing devices that they take with them all around the world. This also includes use of the Social Web where Facebook and Twitter profiles and pages are replete with photo and video content hosted or referred to by the profile’s / page’s owners.

Multimedia content held on users’ mobile computing devices

Another fact is that guests want to be able to bring their own content. Examples of this include music that is held on a smartphone or reviewing just-taken digital images or footage held on a digital camera or laptop on the large-screen TV.

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computer

Acer Iconia Tab A500 – an Android example of a platform tablet computer

This is being taken further by the fact that platform smartphones and tablets have DLNA controller abilities either with them or as a low-cost or free app; and that mid-range and premium cameras will be equipped with Wi-Fi and “show-on-DLNA” functionality as a product differentiator.

This concept can allow better use of site-specific media like the pay-per-view movies. For example, a movie that is started on the lounge TV in a suite or apartment could be completed on the bedroom TV or a guest could view one of those pay-per-view movies on their iPad or similar tablet.

Personally I also see this concept as part of the desire by the hospitality sector that your hotel room or apartment is your home away from home.

Requirements Of This Setup

Different Media Pools

There are three different media pools that one has to consider when implementing DLNA technology in the hotel environment.

“Own media pool”

This represents the media files that are owned and maintained by the guests. They would be held on secondary storage in a portable computer, mobile device or camera or held on a network-attached-storage device.

Examples of these include music and image collections held on a notebook computer or just-taken digital images and movies held on a camera, camcorder or mobile phone. This could encompass content that is offloaded to a compact NAS device like Thecus’s N0204 “pocket rocket” NAS.

Property-local media pool

This media pool represents all media available to the guests courtesy of the hotel. It would typically be held on servers located within the property and the most obvious application would be those pay-per-view movies that guests can buy and view on their room’s TV.

But it can encompass any “broadcast-to-network” feeds used for distributing regular, cable or satellite TV through the building via the LAN or line-level media feeds used to pipe audio or video content from cabarets, conference suites or similar locations around the hotel.

Global media pool

The global media pool is representative of media that is owned by third parties and held on servers accessible to the hotel via Internet. The guest would simply select the content from the service provider and have it appear on their TV.

Examples of this would include IPTV services; Internet radio; online-media services like catch-up TV,YouTube or Netflix; the Social Web or cloud-driven remote access to one’s home media pool like Skifta.

A distinct logical realm of control

The room or apartment where the guest stays has to be seen as a distinct realm of control for the guest. This also includes situations where two or more rooms or apartments are hired by the one guest to be used effectively as one room, such as the common “connecting rooms” setup.

This means that the guests have to be able to push the media they want to view to any of the DLNA-compliant devices in their room, whether they bring the devices themselves or use the hotel-supplied devices. It also means that they have access to all of the content they can use, whether it’s the media on their laptop, the pay-per-view movies in the hotel or content on their Netflix or YouTube subscription.

But they can’t push the content to neighbouring guests’ TVs without invitation nor can they gain access to content pools they aren’t normally entitled to.

Ericsson’s proof-of-concept solution

This is a “proof-of-concept” setup that works on the assumption that there is no Wi-Fi Internet service in the premises and the mobile device is using wireless-broadband i.e. a 3G data plan for its Internet.

The hotel will need computer equipment on its network that performs the following functions: a Residential Gateway which links the hotel network to the Internet; and a Residential Control Device which controls access to DLNA devices in the guest rooms or apartments.

The guest’s smartphone will need a handler app which is part of the process of establishing the relationship between the mobile devices and the room devices and is performed whether the Internet connection is via Wi-Fi or wireless broadband. This app maps the DLNA equipment in the hotel room to the “global media pool” available through the online media service based on a unique identifier which is generated when the guest checks in for their hotel stay.

This identifier could be obtained by the handler app through a QR or similar code that is shown on the room’s TV screen when the guest enters the room; or printed on the room keycard that the reception staff hand to the guest. A phone capable of working with near-field-communication setups could obtain the identifier through this path, again at checkin or when the guest lets themselves in to their room if the room lock uses NFC technology; such as some of the newer VingCard RFID setups.

Then the handler would list out the DLNA devices in that room as “content sinks” for the guest to enjoy their content on.

Missing Factors

In-house public Wi-Fi

There is a missing factor with the Ericsson proof-of-concept setup. Here, most hotels will want to provide Wi-Fi Internet service as a value-added or extra-cost amenity. As well, all smartphones and tablet computers have integrated Wi-Fi wireless functionality.

The typical way of provisioning Wi-Fi in the hospitality industry is to implement a site-wide public Wi-Fi extended-service-set covering the whole of the building. As well, if the public Wi-Fi network is properly setup, there isn’t the ability to link data between the Wi-Fi-enabled computing devices, so as to assure privacy and security for each computer user. I have raised on this site the idea of evolving this secure-network setup further to allow clusters of device

There hasn’t been work done on the idea of implementing a room-unique or guest-unique network setup for the hotel industry. This is although some hotels were trying out the use of “MiFi” routers to provide guest-unique network setups, which I learnt of in an article in the HotelChatter blog; as well as the many Wi-Fi routers that I had seen set up at the Australian Audio & AV Show in the Melbourne Marriott Hotel in order to provide DLNA media networks for demonstrating network-driven music distribution.

Access to local media

Another missing factor is the ability to provide content that is held in the guest’s own media pool to the room’s DLNA ecosystem. Here, we may want access to the media held on our devices, whether it is music held on a smartphone, videos held on a tablet or just-taken images held on our Ultrabook.

Here, there wasn’t any question about gaining access to media held on these devices via the hotel’s public-access network infrastructure either through “pull” (access through DLNA playback device’s controls) or “push” (source device’s control app) methods.

Multiple rooms

The last factor that wasn’t considered is the desire to pass media between rooms of a cluster such as guestrooms hired by a family or a conference room hired by a business alongside the guestrooms for the conference guests as part of a “block booking”.

These multi-room bookings may provide for arrangements like allowing users to shift the content to other rooms under limited circumstances. Similarly, it could be feasible to have content held on one device in one room viewable on devices in other rooms used by the group.

On the other hand, it would be desireable to prevent content being push-played by one group member to the room of another group member as a way to assure privacy and security for that member.

This situation can be catered for using the Residential Control Device software by allowing bridging between the unique IDs under certain circumstances.

What would be essential for successful DLNA setups in the hotel sector

Local logical network serving one or more physical networks

Here, you would need to create a local subnet (logical network) for each room / apartment or cluster or rooms. The physical Wi-Fi networks that are part of this local subnet would need to work with a unique SSID and stay-unique Primary Shared Key for their security. They would be served by a local Wi-Fi router that would be managed by the hotel’s “back end” software.

This software would bootstrap the router so that it is set up to the guest’s needs and allow guest-supplied equipment to simply and securely enter the subnet, linking it to the Internet and the hotel-supplied DLNA equipment. This would be set up with NFC or QR-Code technology or WPS-PBC setup when the guest enters their room.

Upon checkout, this router would be set up to a “ground-zero” mode which doesn’t provide casual access to the Internet or the DLNA devices until another guest subsequently checks in.

A consistent connection and discovery experience

When you connect your computer equipment to this network, the discovery experience for DLNA-compliant equipment must be the same as for when you use your computer at home.

The local logical network can make this feasible by exposing only the DLNA-compliant AV equipment that exists within the guest room / apartment at the exclusion of equipment and computers in neighbouring rooms. Yet the content-discovery experience is what would be expected for the class of equipment. This includes the use of control points to “push” content to playback devices.

IPv6 – a main facilitator

A major facilitator for this setup would be the use of IPv6 networks. The address pool offered by this standard is much bigger than the address pool offered by the legacy IPv4 technology and there is inherent support for secure tunnels between logical networks.

In this application, an IPv6 setup can comfortably create local logical networks for each and every guest room in a large Vegas-class resort or downtown (central business district) hotel. There is no need to implement network-address-translation to permit the local logical networks and the back-end systems aren’t destabilised. There is the ability for IPv6 routers to create v6-v4 links to legacy IPv4 devices which represent most DLNA media playback devices and this has to be supported and functioning properly in these devices.

Conclusion

What needs to happen to facilitate the concept of DLNA-based media management in the hotel environment is for further research and study to take place. Here, it would need to be based on technologies that are currently available to the hotelier and potential guests, such as in-house public Wi-Fi networks and near-field communications.

The functionality could also be implemented in network-infrastructure equipment through the use of software that is deployed to the equipment while it is in use, rather than through replacing or adding new hardware. Any DLNA-enablement setup should not preclude the use of media devices that are available to the consumer marketplace.

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Laser and LED xerographic printing–what is the difference

When you are looking at laser printers to buy for yourself or specify for an organisation, you will come across printers that are known as “LED printers”.

What are these LED printers?

A LED printer and a laser printer are very similar types of printers in so much as how the paper is marked. They use the same dry-process xerographic / photostatic printing method that has been used for years with photocopiers, where there is an electrostatically-charged imaging drum which attracts powdered toner depending on whether it has been subject to light or not. Then this toner is transferred from the drum to electrostatically-charged paper and “ironed on” using hot fuser rollers.

But the main difference is how this imaging drum is illuminated with the digital representation of your document. A laser printer uses a laser beam and swivelling mirrors or pentagonal prisms to scan the document’s image on to the drum. On the other hand, an LED printer uses a fixed row of light-emitting diodes that turn on and off to scan the image to the drum. This LED array would be similar to what is used to illuminate a document when it is being scanned in the typical scanner and each LED light represents a horizontal pixel that is part of the line being printed.

This has benefits for printer design due to the elimination of the complex light path that laser printers use. Here, you don’t need to use mirrors and servo motors to control the laser’s light path, thus you reduce the number of parts that can go wrong. It also leads to the ability to design xerographic page printers that are more compact and lightweight compared to the laser-based units.

Further comments with OKI Data about LED printers

I had engaged in an email interview with Chris Thorley from OKI Data’s Australian head office to learn more about this. Here, I had learnt that they had pioneered this xerographic printing technology in 1981 and are now on their ninth-generation LED print engine.

Most other printer manufacturers use this LED technology on some of their low-end models. The main reason is a reduced part count allowing for reduced material costs; as well as the impact of unforseen technological issues not being considered significant for this market position, compared with using the trusted laser technology on their mid-tier and high-end models.

But OKI Data have implemented this technology across the board with their colour LED printers known to be yielding high colour production quality. It may also be known that some other manufacturers implement the OKI technology in to their production printing devices on an OEM (Other Equipment Manufacturer) basis. This practice is where a manufacturer uses an already-designed subsystem from anther manufacturer (the OEM)  in their own project.

Conclusion

It is worth considering the LED printers for your page-printer needs as long as they have the kind of specifications that you have in mind. This includes machine reliability, image quality, print speed including colour and auto-duplex print speed, functionality and running costs including availability of toner cartridges at differing capacity levels.

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How is an Ultrabook different from the typical ultraportable notebook computer?

There is a new class of ultraportable notebook computer that is being defined through this year and next year by Intel in response to the success of the Apple MacBook Air. You may think that it is no different from ultraportables like the Toshiba Portege R830 that I reviewed on this site.

But these computers, known as “Ultrabooks”, will be intended to put the idea of a “portable-typewriter” size of laptop in the laps of most public-transport and air travellers rather than business executives.

What is the Ultrabook

Like the typical ultraportable of the same ilk as the Toshiba R830, these computers have the 13” screen and the same footprint that makes them useable on that bus or economy-class airline tray table. Yet they will be usable for creating content like typing up those documents and blog posts on the move.

But what makes them an Ultrabook is that they will have an ultra-slim chassis which has to be less than 1.8cm thick when closed and weigh in at 1.4kg or less. The battery runtime has to be longer than five hours which would cater for useable time on a long-distance air trip or a day of hotspot surfing.

The required maximum price for these units is around US$1000 which would put them in to the hands of most users. This price would be applicable to the base model in an “Ultrabook” lineup, with increases in price for extras like increased RAM, faster processors or increased secondary storage.

Functionality requirements

The goal of the functionality requirements it for an Ultrabook not to be an underpowered ultraportable computer just for document creation and basic Internet activity, but to be on a par with a typical 15” laptop that can excel at multimedia or basic gaming.

The main drivers in the design are the use of Intel Core i3,i5 or i7 processors providing the horsepower with the images on the screen painted by Intel HD integrated graphics. These units will have to use solid-state storage technology rather than the orthodox mechanical hard disk for their main secondary-storage system. They will also forego the optical drive as an integrated removable-storage option, so you will have to use a USB DVD drive if you want to view rented DVDs or turn out DVD copies of your photos. Of course there will be an SD card slot so you can download your digital-camera pictures to your Ultrabook for reviewing and editing.

Most such computers wont have the Ethernet or VGA connectivity. Here this will mean that you will need to use Wi-Fi to connect to your home or small-business network 

As well, you will have to connect the Ultrabook to the economy-priced data projector using a DisplayLink USB-VGA adaptor. Of course these units would use either a DisplayPort or HDMI external display connector, usually of the mini form factor.

These connectivity issues will typically be mitigated through the availability of multifunction docking stations that connect to the Ultrabook via a DisplayPort or USB connection. 

The typical Ultrabook will be housed in a sealed case that precludes easy upgrades. But this will typically support the “push-down and replace” practice when users want better functionality or performance. Here, the computer would be disposed of to a user with lesser needs while the user purchases a machine with the specifications that suit their current needs.

Purchasing notes

If you maintain a desktop or larger laptop computer as your main computer, it may be OK to skimp on the secondary-storage capacity if you only intend to use it as a “travel computer”. Then you use the home or small-business network, cloud-services like SkyDrive or USB-attached external storage to keep the data you are working with in step with your main machine.

Other comments

I would like to see AMD and others define a similar name and standard for ultraportables that make this goal so that the computers don’t have to be all Intel-driven. This could then lower the price bar for computers of this class.

Similarly what Windows 8 will offer with touchscreen operation may open up paths towards convertible “Ultrabooks” that are a feasible alternative to a tablet computer.

As well, I would like to see manufacturers avoid making this class of computer become a class of “MacBook Air copycats”. This could be achieved through the use of different colours and finishes or even different materials and textures.

Conclusion

What I like more about the Ultrabook concept is that it puts the idea of a lightweight travel-friendly notebook computer that works well for content creation as a credible alternative to netbooks or tablets.

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Tablets–another screen for the TV viewing area

Article

The tablet will be the center of the connected lifestyle — Online Video News

My comments

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerThis article is affirming the idea of using a tablet computer like the Apple iPad or the Acer Iconia Tab in the lounge room as you watch TV. Some people may object to this because of the “too many screens” argument. But of course, you will still look at the big screen for the video content.

Small personal TV

One of the most common TV-related apps for the iPad and tablets of its ilk is as a personal screen for viewing content. This could be in the form of downloading or streaming the content to the tablet device and has been subjected to various legal strangleholds with Hollywood.

But it also has been taken further with broadcast-LAN tuner adaptors which tune in and stream TV content to these tablets once controlled via a special app. As well, the use of DLNA media player software can allow you to view video content held on your home network through these devices.

Remote control for large screen

Another application of interest is for the tablet to work as a remote control for the large-screen TV. Here, this would work with apps delivered by TV and set-top-box manufacturers to the various app stores for the tablet platforms.

It would work hand in glove with programming your PVR, use of interactive-TV applications or even using the interactive functions of a Blu-Ray disc; as well as navigating an increasing array of TV channels.

Of course, I have a doubt about this when it comes to activities where you need instant response. I would like to be sure that you tap MUTE on the tablet and you are sure that the racecaller voice that is part of that commercial isn’t heard the moment you press it for example.

As well some manufacturers may limit this function to their tablets, especially if the tablet is the same brand as the TV in question; usually as a way to reinforce brand loyalty.

Show downloaded content on large screen

In a similar way to the previous “small personal TV” application, a tablet computer can be used to show content on the large television or video projector. This can be through a direct connection from the tablet’s miniHDMI socket or AV-out jack to the TV or by pushing the content to an Apple TV or DLNA network media player.

But wait there’s more:

Internet browsing concurrent with TV viewing

A very common application that I have noticed with smartphones and tablets is to engage in Internet use while watching TV. Examples of this include researching a TV programme on IMDB or a concept that was used in the TV program; using the tablet as a persistent scoreboard during a sports game or updating the Social Web during a TV show. I have expanded on the “persistent scoreboard” application in this site by mentioning an increasing number of “scoreboard apps” that are available for most sports codes and leagues and the role of these apps in enjoying your favourite sports fixtures.

The persistent scoreboard could be an app in itself or simply an always-refreshed Web page; and could remind you of where the players stand in that match you are watching. In some cases, the apps provide access to player / team information as well as on-demand video replays or interactive progress maps. Of course, you could head over to other commentary sources for comments other than what the TV commentators are barking about.

As I have seen, a lot of TV shows are integrating the Social Web very tightly in to their programming fabric. This can be typified with selected Twitter and Facebook comments being read out by the compere or a ticker with Twitter comments crawling across the bottom of the screen. Even news and public-affairs events will have official or unofficial tickers running on Twitter or Facebook as people post up comments on these events using the Social Web.

The tablet computer may work better than the “smart TV” Social-Web apps because the TV usually works with one account at a time and you won’t see the show’s video occupying the screen as you post your comment. One or more tablets (or small computers) can perform this function in an individual manner for individual viewers,

Setup requirements

In most cases, a Wi-Fi connection to the home network and broadband connection is all that is needed if the tablet is just being used at home; and would be necessary for network-media-adaptor use. This could allow you to buy a Wi-Fi-only model if it is to stay primarily at home or not be used with an external wireless-broadband router on the road.

Conclusinon

As I have said, the tablet is now working as a supplementary screen in the TV lounge area rather than just as an ebook reader and email terminal.

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QR Codes–a useful tool for promoting your organisation

What are QR Codes

QR code used in a newspaper to link to its mobile site

QR code used in a newspaper to link to its mobile site

A QR Codes is a two-dimensional monochrome barcode that is designed to house a long text string. This may represent contact details or Wi-Fi network parameters but is commonly used to provide a link to a Web-hosted resource. These barcodes may be printed on a newspaper, business card or flyer; or even shown on a Website; the latter method being used to show links to software for the Android platform.

Typically, a person who has a mobile phone equipped with a QR-code reader app can then just point the phone’s camera to the barcode and “take a picture” of that barcode. This then leads to the contact details being put in their contact list or the user being taken to the Web site or Web-hosted resource. This function has even been extended to supplying GPS coordinates to a device for navigation (think of geocaching) or, in the case of Android phones, supplying Wi-Fi service parameters to these phones as part of provisioning hotspot service.

QR Code used on a poster

A QR code as used on a poster to advertise this site

They are popular in Europe especially with cafes and restaurants but are slowing increasing in popularity in other countries. As well, some commentators have described the QR code as a way of providing a machine-readable hyperlink in the field. It is also worth having a look at various QR-code blogs like this one so you can know what the trend is about.

Infact, when I promote HomeNetworking01.info using posters or business cards, I make sure there is a QR code pointing to the site so that people can use their phones to head to the site.

Why QR codes for your organisation

One major benefit that QR codes have for your print-based campaigns is that you can insert a direct link to your Webpage or a resource on that Webpage. Your audience then can visit that resource without having to memorise a URL or transcribe the URL in to the phone using a small touchscreen keyboard or SMS-style with the phone keypad.

The QR code is better than using Bluetooth transmitters to provide content. This is because the user isn’t likely to be annoyed with “accept this” Bluetooth responses from these transmitters when they come in to range of the transmitters. As well, the user doesn’t have to remember how to enable or disable Bluetooth discovery mode on their device. As well you don’t need to make sure there is a transmitter at the advertisement and make sure there is power to the transmitter, which can make the QR code acceptable even for posters on that noticeboard or shop door.

It is also better than using any of the proposed “near-field communication” technology for linking to Web resources because you don’t need to buy and integrate near-field transmitters in your promotional materials for the technology to work.

Direct Link to deep Web resources

You may want to provide a sound clip, video or PDF file to your mobile users. As well, you may want to link the user to a particular Web page about a product or promotion. But mobile users may find these resources difficult to gain access to on your site because of being required to enter a long URL into that numeric or small alphabetic keypad.

The QR code can provide the direct link to your campaign page, PDF file or audiovisual resource in a manner that is ready to download “there and then”. If the resource is a YouTube video, you can provide the link to the video clip as it appears on YouTube and the site or local YouTube client can open when the QR code is scanned.

Appropriate for the Social Web

Here, the QR code can augment your Social Web campaign because most active Social-Web users tend to work their Facebook or Twitter presence more from their smartphones. This is especially as I have noticed a lot of small businesses promote their Facebook presence online through posters and flyers that have the “Like us on Facebook” slogan.

What a simplified way of doing this by pointing the latest ultra-cool iPhone to the QR code on the poster attached to the trendy cafe’s espresso machine or refrigerated display cabinet in order to “like” that cafe on Facebook. It certainly makes it certain that you are seen with that iPhone.

Reading QR Codes

Some mobile-phone carriers and manufacturers will supply a QR-code reader with their Internet-enabled camera phones. But iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 users can come across many free QR-code readers at their platform’s app store. One example that comes to mind is the free i-Nigma which started becoming available for the iOS platform but lately became available for the Android and Blackberry platform. There are others like Barcode Scanner for the Android platform, BeeTag for the Blackberry platform and ScanLife for most of the platforms.

A main difference that may sort the “sheep from the goats” as far as QR-code reader programs go is whether they can read a light-coloured QR code that is printed on a dark surface. Similarly, there may be differences in how well a difficult-to-read code like a double-sided sign that is backlit can be understood.

At the moment, most QR-code readers are pitched at handheld mobile phones for immediate viewing of the resources on these devices. But it could be feasible to provide “capture-store-sync” transfer of Web URLs or downloaded resources to desktop operating systems or tablet computers as a feature of a QR-code reader. This could then allow a person to view the Web site on their laptop computer using their favourite Web browser at a later time.  It would also be of importance with QR codes being used for presenting Wi-Fi network parameters to Android phones, where the same parameters can be passed up to a laptop and integrated in to the Wi-Fi networks list for that computer.

Preparing QR codes

There are many QR-code generator sites and programs, most of which are free to use. Typically these sites may allow you to provide a URL to a resource as the input text or prepare contact details. A good resource to start from is this blog’s list of the top 10 free QR-code generating sites. As well, i-Nigma also offer a free QR-code generating page as well as their QR-code reader. Yet another resource is the QReateBUZZ Webpage which I have used for the QR codes for promoting this site.

These codes can be yielded as a small, medium or large size. Here, you could use a small size code for business cards and flyers here you don’t have much room or just want a discreet code on the corner of the poster. You could then use the larger sizes if you want people to notice that there is a QR code in the signage’s artwork or need to be far from the artwork to scan it.

Most sites will yield high-resolution PNG or JPEG bitmaps but some may yield EPS Postscript files or PDFs that are vector-images of the QR codes. You typically will then copy-and-paste or import the mage in to your artwork. As well, a lot of the sites will generate a JPEG image that you copy from the site using Ctrl-C / Command-C and paste to your artwork using Ctrl-V / Command-V.

Of course, there are some desktop QR-code generator programs which will run on a regular computer but most of these are Windows-only and a lot of them are offered at “large-business” prices.

It is still good practice to work with dark-graphics-against-light codes because most QR-code readers cannot work effectively with light-graphics-against-dark at the moment. If you are setting a QR code on a dark background, you could use the dark graphic on a light background and have a distinct light-background margin around that barcode.

Conclusion

Once you explore the creation and use of QR codes as part of your online and offline marketing strategy especially where you have online resources

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Home automation and security–now the differentiator for ISPs and telcos

Article

La Bbox seA lance dans la domotique – DegroupNews.com (France – French language)

My comments

If the marketplace for “triple-play” Internet service is so cut-throat, what can a telco, cable-TV firm or ISP offer to their loyal customers to increase service value? Could it be an Internet terminal like a T-Hub, or an Internet-connected device like an online picture frame or Internet radio?

No, it is another service that customers have previously bought through separate providers with names like Intamac or Chubb. This service is home automation and security, with monitored alarm systems and Internet-driven energy dashboards for residential users.

These solutions will typically link to servers or monitoring stations via the Internet link that the telecommunications company provides as part of the package. In some cases, there may be home-automation / security services that work “wholesale” and engage the telco or ISP as a reseller like they do with people like alarm installers. This is with the main goal of having these services available as an extra-cost a-la-carte option or as part of one or more premium communications service plans.

People in the security industry may discredit this move because of reasons like lack of “alarm-event response service” with security guards responding to alarm events, deployment of cheaper “quick-install” hardware rather than fully-installed systems, amongst other things. As well some of them may discredit single-box security/home-automation “panels” that can yield a single point of failure for both these functions.

The example cited in the DegroupNews news article is Bougyes Telecom providing a basic DIY system that links to their Bbox Internet gateway and uses a wireless link to the various peripherals.

This is available in two packages, with one focused on energy monitoring and remote control of appliances and the other focused on security, comfort and energy monitoring/ remote control. The first package, costing EUR€5 per month,would come with a home-automation “base”, a few plug-in appliance controllers and an electricity-meter interface which works with the newer smart meters being deployed in France. The second one, costing EUR€9 per month, has extra sensors for temperature and humidity, PIR motion detectors and a magnet-reed door-contact sensor; with the ability to send an SMS alert in case of alarm conditions.

The article described the provision of these services in a telecommunications package as “quintuple play” ï.e: fixed telephone, Internet, pay-TV, mobile telephone, home automation / security.

This effort of ISPs and telcos providing home automation could make the concept become mainstream and appealing to most householders. This is rather than the DIY “tinkerers” who have the time to mess around with these systems or rich people who own pimped-out “MTV Cribs” and have the money to have professionals design highly-customised home-automation systems.

For this to work effectively, the hardware and software infrastructure needs to work with known standards in order to permit these systems to be evolved through their long lifecycles. As well, these systems must work in a manner where they “just work” properly and exhibit graceful degradation to primary functionality when other systems in the network or key network links fail.

As well, a professioally-designed system must be able to be “re-worked” by other knowledgeable professionals or the householder. This is so that if anything happens with the regular or original installer, the system can be kept in good working order or evolved to newer needs.

I would think that the trend of telecommunications companies and Internet providers providing home automation and security services will become an interesting trend to observe.

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IEEE P1905–A standard to make the heterogenous small network easy to manage

Articles

HomePlug® Powerline Alliance Announces Support for IEEE P1905 Convergent Digital Home Network Standard – HomePlug Powerline Alliance

IEEE P1905 Standard page

My Comments

Realities

More home networks implementing two or more media backbones

As the typical home network evolves, there will be a time when another interface type will be implemented in that network.

There are two examples of this common situation. One is where a person who has run an Ethernet network from the network-Internet edge to their computer decides to “go wireless” with their laptop computers and upgrades to a wireless router yet maintains the Ethernet connection for desktop computers. Another example that is increasingly common in Europe and will become so with the prevalence of IP-delivered TV would be a household that has a Wi-Fi network for the laptop but implements a HomePlug powerline network to serve the set-top box or IP-enabled TV in the lounge.

Infact I have advocated these kinds of network setups in this site in order to encourage a flexible home or small-business network that suits all situations that are thrown at it. This includes handling radio-difficult environments like double-brick walls or foil-lined insulation that can exist in many houses.

Network endpoint devices with multiple network interfaces

An increasing number of network-endpoint devices like computers, printers and Internet media devices are being required to support multiple types of network interfaces. This may be provided out of the box; or the user may have to install a hardware network adaptor for a particular network interface in to the device even though the device has an integrated network adaptor for another interface.

A very common example that I have seen for myself is laptop users switching between a wired Ethernet connection and a Wi-Fi wireless connection. Typically the laptop user who is getting used to the “New Computing Environment” and what it offers will plug their computer into the router’s Ethernet socket while they work at their desk; then disconnect from the Ethernet socket and “go wireless” when they want to use the laptop in other parts of the house. This typically can cause problems due to network storms or switchover problems; and often requires the user to disable or enable Wi-Fi on the laptop as they change connections.

Similarly, most of the network-enabled multifunction printers that I have reviewed at HomeNetworking01.info are equipped with an Ethernet socket as well as an integrated WPA2-secured Wi-Fi interface. This is becoming very common with most network-enabled media players, especially “smart TVs” and BD-Live Blu-Ray players.

Setup and management difficulties with these networks

These networks can yield their fair share of difficulties as users have to set up each network segment or device for secure reliable operation. This can include initial provisioning needs that a media type has like SSID and WPA-PSK security keys for Wi-Fi segments to management of segment-specific problems like Wi-Fi reception issues.

It will become more difficult as advanced networking requirements such as quality-of-service, synchronous media streaming, multiple logical networks and robust security are required out of these small heterogenous networks.

In the case of the devices, it will include making sure that the device works with the best network interface available even if both interfaces are physically connected. The most common example of this is making sure that the Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or printer works on a wired link if connected to the network via that link and works with the Wi-Fi link in other cases without the need for a manual switchover procedure.

What is this new standard intending to provide

You may think that there are standards out there to help with managing a computer network but most of these standards work to a particular network media type. As well, a lot of them require management by an IT team, something which few households or small businesses can have on hand all the time.

One major benefit is simplified media-level control across different media types on the same network. This isn’t achieved through the use of higher-level configuration routines managed by IP or application-level protocols like SNMP or UPnP, but these protocols can be adapted for this standard.

There will also be a focus on end-to-end performance such as allowing a device to choose the network interface that provides best throughput and quality-of-service. It can also allow “end-to-end” quality-of-service to be achieved from the network-Internet “edge” to the end device for IP telephony, multimedia streaming or Internet gaming.

Similarly, there is the ability to manage the media-level network security and energy-management needs that are required for the network in an easier form. This includes coordinating device wakeup across different media types so that a device can exist in an energy-saving quiescent mode yet “come to” when someone else on the network need it no matter how it is connected.

This standard recognises the reality that no one network type suits all needs, different horses for different courses.

Here, a typical setup may use Cat5 Ethernet as a high-speed backbone between floors or across the house, a HomePlug AV segment as a high-reliability wired “no-new-wires” setup for temporary applications and a Wi-Fi wireless segment that is primarily for portable devices.

The main focus that will be achieved is that bridge or switch devices that work across the multiple media types can perform these jobs more efficiently without needing to use higher-level protocols to achieve this goal; and be assured that the requirements for the network data are met as the data travels these devices.

Unanswered questions

Support for and management of VLAN networks

An unanswered question about this standard is whether it can support a VLAN network. This is a network that hosts multiple logical networks across the same physical infrastructure. It would be relevant in the small network space for “guest / hotspot networks” and IPTV setups where end-to-end content protection is required.

Features that may be considered of importance in this regard include replicating VLAN setups across the network as infrastructure devices are added to the network. An example of this could b to use an extension access point to “build out” a Wi-Fi network yet maintain the “guest network” and the “private network” as separate entities with separate SSIDs.

It also includes multi-tenancy-building environments where there is common “LAN” network infrastructure like cable runs that exist to interlink units (apartments, shops, offices, etc) or multi-SSID access points installed to service common areas (common gardens, swimming pools, food courts, etc). Here, it would be required to establish a VLAN interlink between two or more premises under the control of the same entity or establish a link to a common multi-SSID access point with the same SSID and security parameters as your main access point.

Wi-Fi devices and their operating mode

Another questiom that may affect the management of Wi-Fi devices is what kind of operating mode the device should be in. This is whether it is a client device or an access point; or to implement “direct link” or WDS or newer-standard network repeater functionality.

This would cater for an increasing number of “multi-function” access points which was a trend brought about by newer firmware versions for the Linksys WAP54G wireless access point. Here, the access point could be set up to be on the end of a direct wireless link, or be a client bridge for an existing Wi-Fi segment, a Wi-Fi repeater as well as being an access point.

This standard could provide support for a wireless endpoint such as a "multi-function” access point or the Wi-Fi functionality in a printer or other device to work as a client device or as an access point. It could then allow for these devices to quickly serve as infill access points when they are connected to a wired backbone after working on the Wi-Fi network.

Conclusion

At least the IEEE P1905 standard will make some effort towards making the establishment, management and development of the typical heterogenous small network become an easier talsk that is less painful.

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