Category: Current and Future Trends

The Telstra T-Hub can now become a fully-fledged Internet radio

News article

Tune into the world with the latest T-Hub software update – Radio, Software, Global | Telstra Exchange

My comments

Previously, the Telstra T-Hub multipurpose Internet device had an Internet radio function but this was limited to receiving the Internet streams of Australian radio stations. Most of us would think that this is limiting because of radios like the ones reviewed on this site being able to pick up Internet streams from overseas radio stations or the fact that we could use vTuner or Reciva web sites to “tune in to” these streams.

There had been a lot of discussion about this on Telstra’s “Exchange” website especially as they were about to release new software for this device, especially with a desire to have this functionality on board. Now Telstra have answered these calls by integrating the fully-fledged Internet radio functionality in to the T-Hub as part of the latest (version 1.10k) firmware update.

Someone raised in response to this article an issue about whether the Internet-radio service would be counted towards one’s Internet-traffic limit and there is a fear that it may not be so for overseas stations. Another key issue that also has to be resolved would be the quality of service that one gets with Internet radio because, as from my experience, there are times where there is increased jitter and latency with Internet radio stations especially when the station’s home country or we enter peak Internet-use times.

This news is also of interest to manufacturers, distributors and users of other multipurpose Internet devices that are intended to supplant or supplement landline-telephone functionality.

How to update the T-Hub to the latest version

  1. Touch the “Settings” icon on the T-Hub’s second home screen
  2. Touch the “Software Updates” icon.
  3. Touch “Check for New Software Updates”. This will identify if the T-Hub is on the latest firmware or whether there is an available update.
  4. If an update is available, touch “Download Now” to start the update process.
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Ozmo’s low-power Wi-Fi technology now with real silicon proof-of-concept

Articles

News articles

Ozmo’s WiFi PAN available Q4, is this the end of Bluetooth’s reign of terror? – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Ozmo Devices Announces Revolutionary Solution Powering World’s First Wi-Fi Mouse and Keyboard

Related Articles in this site

The Wi-Fi Personal Area Network is getting closer

Ultra-Low-Power Wireless Networking

My comments and questions

Previously I have covered the topic of WiFi technology being used as a “personal area network” for a computer, which comprises of peripheral devices like mice and keyboards communicating to a particular computer via the WiFi technology. rather than that technology being used to transfer data between computers and other devices in a local area network. What has happened is that Ozmo have come up with a real chipset for use in these devices that can use this medium as well as run for a  long time on batteries. At the same time, Ozmo had built reference designs of wireless mice and keyboards that use this technology to communicate with their host devices.

One main question that I have about Ozmo’s effort is whether the same technology can be applied to devices that link directly to a Wi-Fi local area network’s access point rather than a particular computer? One main application that I see here with this technology would be Wi-Fi as a sensor / control network medium with devices like those that Ekahau had made as part of their Wi-Fi-driven real-time location technology, such as the pager tag which I had talked about in this site previously. Another application would be Internet radios, Wi-Fi-connected speakers and similar multimedia terminals that would be able to work on batteries as well as digital cameras that can upload to network storage or Internet sites or present to DLNA terminals without a severe penalty on battery life.

Another issue would be for a dedicated-function device like a set-top box or games console to support this kind of technology, whether as part of integrated Wi-Fi LAN functionality or as a Wi-Fi PAN setup as an alternative to Bluetooth or infra-red as a way of connecting peripherals, especially control peripherals.

It would be very interesting to see what comes of this technology once the silicon becomes fully available.

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“Electronic hard copy” publishing – should this only be for the iPad platform?

Since the start of this year, there has been some interest shown by traditional hard-copy media publishers and book publishers in the idea of e-books and similar technologies. This has mainly been brought about by the arrival of devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad. This concept has interested the newspaper and magazine publishers who have fund the value of their hard-copy titles dwindling as readers place more value on Web-hosted online news sources.

“Electronic hard copy” becoming only for the Apple iPad

This has intensified with the arrival of the Apple iPad where nearly every mainstream newspaper publisher is offering a subscription-based app for this platform and moving towards placing their online content behind a subscription-driven paywall, The biggest fear that I have about the current “electronic hard copy” situation is that all of the publishers will simply develop their “electronic hard copy” projects so that they only work with the Apple iPad.

Other platforms that exist

There are touch-based Internet-tablet platforms other than the iPad that can do the job of being an endpoint for “electronic hard copy” reading. The ones that come to mind are the Google Android platform which will be evolved into a touch-based Internet-tablet form factor as well as touch-enabled computers that run Microsoft’s Windows Vista or 7 operating systems. Infact I have viewed this site through a Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart “all-in-one” desktop PC at HP’s stand during the PMA Digital Life Expo yesterday in order to show a review of one of their products that was on the stand. This unit had the ability to “click on to” links at the touch of a finger or you could stroke your finger upwards to scroll through the site.

Similarly,there could be other touch-enabled Internet tablet platforms written for other embedded operating systems like Symbian, Bada or Maemo. As well, Microsoft can also provide a “scaled-down” distributions= of their Windows 7 codebase as the basis of a touch-enabled Internet-tablet device.

A common “electronic hard copy” distribution platform

What needs to happen is for the creation of a common “electronic hard copy” distribution that allows for the support of periodical content that is provided for free, “by the unit” or on a subscription basis in a similar manner to regular hard-copy periodicals. It should allow for authenticated distribution, rich-media content such as animation or video, search and interactivity amongst other things. It should also allow the publishers to “brand” their content and see a layout in a similar manner to how the hard-copy form has been presented.

For periodical content, technologies like the RSS Web-feed platform could be used as a basis for “pushing” newer issues to the device through the life of a subscription while there could be support for content-specific paradigms. In the case of comic-strip content, there could be the ability to scroll through each frame which would be variably-sized and perhaps may be accented with multimedia. Some material could allow for searching, filtered browsing and / or dynamic typesetting, such as a “full” dictionary that can be filtered down to provide words considered “legal” for Scrabble or a dictionary that emphasises in another colour “Scrabble-legal” words.

As well, you should be able to buy content for the device from anywhere other than the device’s “app store” like the way a Nokia phone user can get an app for their phone from the developer’s Web site, the Handango app store as well as the Nokia Ovi app store. This avoids the situations that have been occurring with Apple and the way they have been approving or disapproving apps for their iTunes App Store.

Conclusion

Once a common distribution platform exists for “electronic hard copy” content that works in a manner that breeds competitiveness, then more people would be able to benefit from this new way of distributing books, newspapers and magazines.

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Hitachi-LG optical-reader / solid-state drive combo for laptops

Articles

Hitachi-LG teases HyDrive: an optical reader with loads of NAND (video) – Engadget

Web site

http://www.mysterydrive.net

My comments

The main thing that impressed me about this was that both the tray-load optical drive and the solid-state drive wore integrated in to the same low-profile chassis that would suit installation in to a laptop. There are many benefits that I see with this.

One would be that you could have a laptop specification that has both a large-capacity hard disk that is used for data and a lower-capacity solid-state drive used for the operating system and applications. It could then allow for battery economy and quick starts while the high capacity on the hard disk can exist for the user’s data and this hard disk is only spun up when the user’s files need to be loaded or saved.

As well, if Hitachi and LG move towards higher solid-state capacities, this could allow for low-profile laptops like the “thin-and-light” segment to have the SSD as the main system drive while supporting an optical drive.

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Another one for the Android-based TV platform

News Article

Sony Internet TV Has An Intel Atom Processor And Runs Google TV, Chrome, Flash 10.1 | Sony Insider

From the horse’s mouth

Sony’s official Internet TV Website – Sony Style

My comments

Previously, I had written in my blog about People Of Lava introducing an Internet-enabled TV that was based on the Google Android Platform. This is a brand that may not be on everyone’s lips, especially when it comes to consumer electronics.

But now Google had determined an Android-based app-driven TV platform to go alongside their Android app-driven mobile phone platform and described it as “Google TV”. They have pitched this at digital TV sets and various set-top applications, primarily as an open platform for delivering Internet-enabled interactive TV.

Sony have become the first mainstream TV manufacturer to implement this platform, which will give it an air of legitimacy in the consumer-electronics space. This is eve though the interactive-TV space has been dominated by various closed or limited platforms like the games consoles, the PVR boxes such as TiVo, and various pay-TV platforms.

I often wonder that if Google keeps the Android platform as an open platform, they could provide many interesting applications and uses for many devices.

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The first of the “netvertibles” or convertible netbooks – a possible challenge to the Apple iPad perhaps

News article

Acer launches 11.6-inch Aspire Timeline 1825PT netvertible – Engadget

My comments

This computer is becoming one of the first netbook-class notebook computers to have a multi-touch screen. The main problem with these machines is that consumers will forget about them because they are so entranced by Apple’s iPad.

If you want to make this class of netbook come up very well with consumers, you will have to provide touch-enabled book-reading applications for the main e-book and online-comic platforms to work with Windows and other “freely-programmable” operating systems. As well, machines like this Acer should use a “tilt-sensor” to determine the display orientation in order to provide a “broadsheet” or “tabloid” view.

As well, anyone who provides an “online newspaper” platform will need to make sure that people can subscribe to their papers from any platform as long as the appropriate reading software is in place and the software should be ported to many platforms like Windows, MacOS X and Android.

Then they could effectively challenge the iPad in providing an online reading platform for books or newspapers.

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The HTML5 vs Flash debate

The computer press have been running articles regarding the use of Flash or HTML5 in highly-interactive Web sites such as video sites.

It has started off with Apple wanting to move iPhone and iPad towards HTML5 / H264 video by proscribing Flash runtime engines from these platforms and forcing developers to move to the HTML5 / H264 platform. This caused Google to write YouTube client-side apps for these platforms and develop an HTML5 site. Then Microsoft and others worked towards implementing HTML5 in their next browser issue, with some browsers being equipped with HTML5 interpreters.

The debate about HTML5 vs Flash has been more “video-centric” because Adobe Flash was mainly used by YouTube to display the many videos hosted on that site.

It is worth noting that the FLV files used in YouTube and similar Flash applications are container files with the video and audio encoded using the H.263 video codec. The HTML5-based video applications will use FLV, MOV or AVI container files with H.264 video codecs which are becoming the standard for high-resolution video.

Applications beyond video

Adobe Flash has been used for applications beyond video. Primarily it has been used for high-interactivity applications like games such as Farmville on Facebook or the casual games on MiniClip because it offers a quick-response user interface and easy development that these applications needed. Here, it has offered a “write-once run-anywhere” platform for these Web-centric applications with plenty of “rapid-application-development” tools.

It is also worth knowing that most of these games refer to back-end databases and / or “client-local” cookie files to persistently store game-state and other user-generated data. These programs will then have to work with the different data stores as they are used.

Web-based runtime environments for partially-linked programs

HTML5 has a variety of inherent elements that allow for vector-graphics and interactivity for highly-interactive applications. It also may be of benefit to open-source software developers and Linux advocates/

But there are some developers, most notably games developers, who want to keep their source-code closed in order to control reuse of that code. These developers also want to provide programs in a manner where the target machine doesn’t have to interpret or compile code before it is of use, which will benefit high-interactivity applications where quick response is desired.

These developers typically want to provide these programs as either an executable file or a “p-code” (partially-linked) program file which is run by an interpreter or just-in-time compiler program, known as a runtime module, that works with these files on the target platform. At the moment, there isn’t a mechanism for delivering a compiled HTML5 file in a “write once, run anywhere” manner.

Java

An interactive-applications developer could work with the latest version of Java to develop these kind of applications in a “write-once run-anywhere” platform. This platform is natively supported by the Blu-Ray Disc system as part of providing interactive video from discs and/or the Internet through that system. It could then lead to someone writing a games disc that runs classic games types on any old Blu-Ray Disc player without the player being a games console.

The main issue with this is that not all platforms, especially tablet and handheld platforms, support Java natively. As well, desktop support for Java may require the Java runtime software to be downloaded separately from Sun.

Microsoft Silverlight

As well, Microsoft is wanting to advance their Silverlight runtime platform for client-executed Web applications but this platform has not yet been ported for anything outside general-purpose computers running the Windows operating-system family. Again, this is another platform for Web-based highly-interactive content that requires the client machine to work with a “runtime module”.

Apple’s control over what runs on their platforms

One of the main cornerstones in this debate is what Apple wants out of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch platforms. They want to maintain control over programs and highly-interactive content that runs on this platform and preserve the requirement that all such content is obtained through the iTunes App Store. The practice of supplying a “runtime module” for pre-compiled “p-code” software available elsewhere, such as what happens with Java and Flash, works against this ideal because Apple can’t see the program’s code before it runs on an iPod or iPhone. Therefore Apple have proscribed the creation of such modules for this platform.

Some Apple skeptics may also have a fear that Apple may change their desktop platform away from the Macintosh (MacOS X) platform where their is a “free-for-all” for software development towards a platform not dissimilar to the iPhone or iPad platform with a controlled development environment. This is like how they retired the Apple II platform in the early 90s in order to focus on the Macintosh platform.

The open question

Therefore, there is an “open question” concerning Web-based software development. It is whether the likes of Farmville or Bejewelled should be developed using HTML5 and in a vulnerably-open manner or whether they should be packaged as “p-code” and delivered to a runtime environment? It also includes whether Apple should expect developers to create a separate client-side app for their iPhone / iPod / iPad devices for each game or highly-interactive site that they work on.

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Arrival of e-paper-based sun-resistant displays for portable computer devices

News articles

Sonnenresistente Displays gehen in Massenproduktion – Der Standard (Austria – German language)

From the horse’s mouth

Pixel Qi – web site

My comments on this technology

If you have ever tried to use your laptop, mobile phone or digital camera outside on a bright sunny day, you will have found it very difficult to read the device’s screen in that bright sunlight. Some users may have fashioned up loupes or shades to force the sun away from the screen and others may have preferred to work in shady areas like under a tree or in a shadow.

Pixel Qi have designed a colour display which uses a combination of LCD and e-paper technology to avoid this washout problem. It has the advantage of the always-backlit standard colour LCD display but uses the e-paper technology to enable reflective viewing in brighter lighting environments. This has also allowed for the backlight to be used only as needed, thus saving power and allowing for a longer operating time when on battery power.

Some people may think that these advanced displays won’t work well with video or games but they have the same refresh rate as the current-generation standard LCD display thus will work properly with these applications.

At the moment, the only screen size that is being built with this technology is the 10.1” widescreen which will be pitched at e-book readers, netbooks, subnotebooks, tablet devices and high-end large-screen electronic picture frames. This is mainly because they are supplying this technology to the low-power laptops that are part of the “One Laptop Per Child” project. They are yet to make smaller and larger screens for the other display applications like standard laptops, regular electronic picture frames digital cameras or HDTVs.

What I am definitely pleased about with this technology is that there is a colour LCD display that is friendly to all lighting environments and can allow portable devices to run longer.

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32GB MicroSDHC card from SanDisk – What could this provide

News articles

SanDisk flips out 32GB mobile phone card • The Register

My comments

Can your device handle 32GB or larger cards?

There may be issues with SDHC-compatible devices not handling cards that are 32Gb or larger. This may result in the device refusing to mount the card (make it accessible to its operating system for storage) or file-system activities may take a long time to complete.

This may be rectified through an operating system or firmware update for your computer or device. In the case of computers, it may be worth checking the online update program for drivers or middleware that can do this job. For devices such as smartphones, check for “field-deployable” firmware updates that can allow the device to properly work with large SD cards.

There may be a limitation with devices that don’t work with a field-update procedure for their firmware and, in some cases, the manufacturer may not revise the firmware at all through the device’s lifespan. These situations may limit your ability to work with the large cards and you may have to wait for newer models to come out to take advantage of them.

Use beyond smartphones

Achieving a small neat nice design for portable equipment without forfeiting capacity

The 32Gb MicroSDHC card may also yield a valid reason for camera manufacturers to implement MicroSD cards in smaller camera designs when they equip these devices with high-resolution still or video capabilities.

This could similarly benefit handheld audio equipment like “digital notetakers” and personal media players where there is a desire to store a high quantity of higher-quality recordings yet achieve a pocketable design.

Similarly, manufacturers could cram more circuitry or room for batteries into other portable devices like portable GPS units without forfeiting storage capacity.

A compact solid-state storage alternative to the 2.5” SSD.

The SD card technology is optimised as a random storage medium in a similar way to the hard disk or the classic floppy disks. In this case, the microSDHC card can be used as a compact solid-state storage medium which is occasionally removed.

For example, a 32Gb microSDHC hidden behind a service panel could be useful as a system drive (boot, operating system, applications, hibernate file and registry) in a laptop or notebook computer with a regular 2.5” hard disk being used for user data. For printers and all-in-one devices, this card would work as a larger temporary storage for applications like keeping the print or fax queue for reliable and convenient printer operation.

Conclusion

The main reason I am blogging on the 32GB MicroSDHC card is because it is an example of the direction that solid-state secondary storage is taking, whether in a removeable or fixed form

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What is happening to the common household telephone nowadays?

What was the common household telephone?

The household telephone became common during the years of prosperity that occurred after World War II ended and technology made it affordable for most householders to have a telephone service. This was a telephone handset that was installed in a common area of the house like a kitchen, hall, main lounge room or dining room. This phone, which was initially black, was allocated a number by the monopoly telephone provider and family, friends, employers and neighbours of any of the household’s members knew this number to contact the household’s members. These same members could place calls from that phone or receive calls on it whenever anybody who knew the number rang in. Sometimes it was seen as part of the wedding celebrations for a married couple to list their names in the standard telephone directory as “<husband’s first name> & <wife’s first name> <surname>”.

Using the common household phone

Using a common household telephone in the kitchen

There wasn’t the expectation of privacy from other members of the household during a phone call and, in a lot of cases, whenever the phone rang, members of the household would be “on edge” if the call was for them or not and whether the call had anything to do with them or not. If the intended call recipient wasn’t available, it was the job of whoever answered the phone to write down any messages that the caller may leave and, in some cases, call out those messages to the intended recipient. Typically this involved making sure there was a notepad or message book and a working pen near the phone and there were may occasions where there would be frustration due to the pen that was meant to be near the phone going missing. This has led to companies manufacturing pens that are tethered to a holder that is attached to the phone.

There used to be the option of having extra phone sockets installed around a house so you could move the phone amongst particular locations. On the other hand, some households installed an extra phone in the master bedroom, home office or similar locations so they could make or take calls from these locations. One person whom I know who used to run a dairy had 4 or 5 phones with three in the main living area, one in the office and another in the bedroom so he could take milk orders as soon as possible.

The cordless phone, which became popular through the 1980s and the 1990s, had changed the dynamics of the common household telephone and had allowed for some privacy and for handling calls in one’s preferred location.

This was the way with telephony for everyone until the 1990s when the mobile phone became affordable for most people due to competing service providers, subsidised handsets and prepaid mobile services. Similarly, there are many households with two or more lines where another of the lines is used as a household member’s private line because of the cost of telephone service going downhill.

What is now happening with the common household telephone

The mobile phone has made the common household telephone less relevant for engaging in personally-sensitive calls because the person can give out their own mobile phone number for such calls and can take these calls in their bedroom or outside with their mobile phone. Therefore these phones just end up being used for calls where there aren’t any privacy expectations.

In some households, especially share-houses with many young people, there isn’t a common household telephone installed. Instead, the phone line is used primarily for Internet access or other data-based activity. In other households, the common household telephone is simply seen by adults and teenagers as a failover line or a “call-anyone” line for that household.

The reduced traffic on these lines due to the mobile phone and VoIP-based low-cost-calling services has made the telecommunications companies (telcos), especially incumbent telcos who traditionally provided this service, worried because of the loss of call revenue that these lines yield. Some of these companies who run Internet or mobile services make up for this loss through the revenue derived from these services, but they have to maintain the infrastructure that is part of this elementary phone service.

The arrival of the sophisticated multi-function telephone

Now electronics manufacturers and telcos are developing implementations of the sophisticated multifunction home telephone. These are Internet-connected telephone devices which have a regular phone handset or cordless phone unit, but have a large colour touchscreen for many different purposes. Examples of these include Telstra’s “T-Hub” cordless phone with touchscreen base and the DSP Group’s Android-driven Wi-Fi cordless phone that looks like a smartphone.

Telstra T-Hub cordless multifunction telephone

Telstra T-Hub cordless multifunction telephone

The main driver behind the arrival of these terminals is the arrival of “single-pipe triple-play” fixed-location communications services which encompass Internet, landline telephony and multichannel television. These phones are being pitched as a more-sophisticated alternative to connecting a regular telephone to the Internet gateway device and using that device’s analogue telephony adaptor as the VoIP on-ramp.

These phones are able to work as a landline SMS terminal, email terminal and gateway to the popular social-networking Websites. A lot of them will have a general Web browser that works in a similar manner to how one browses the Web on a smartphone. Some of them will be able to play streamed or downloaded audio and video material with the sound coming out of a speaker that would normally be used for speakerphone applications; and the vision appearing on the phone’s touchscreen. It may also include the ability to use content held on local storage or network storage. These features are being used as a justification for replacing the phone that was placed in the kitchen or other common area because of their relevance to that area.

The phones that are part of a VoIP-based setup will also offer functionality not dissimilar to that of a business phone system with such call-handling functions like call transfer and park, conference calling, free intercom calling and the like. Some operators who sell the classic switched-circuit phone services will also offer hybrid VoIP-switched-circuit services with VoIP providing extra sophisticated functionality and a switched-circuit as a fallback.

Individualised communications

Another trend that is shaping the role of the common household telephone is the concept of individualised communications. This has started off with mobile telephones and businesses signing up to “direct-inward-dial” numbers for their staff members, but is now being made real with VoIP-based landline telephony services. It was also augmented with the idea of locale and device-independent “personal” telephone numbers being made available to people.

Here, a VoIP-based landline telephony system could allow users to determine which phone will ring and in what way (tone or cadence) if a particular personal number is called. This may be achieved through an interactive “log-on” routine that the user performs when they want to use that phone. It may also allow for individualised call accounting including the concept of “own telephone account”, which may be useful for households with teenagers, lodgers or small businesses.

In the same context, users who already maintain their own mobile phones could annexe these phones in to a VoIP-based landline telephone system that supports individualised communications and elect to make or take calls from the system’s phones or their mobile phone with connection-appropriate charging taking place to their account.

Action being taken to standardise these concepts

The Home Gateway Initiative is a trade group who are establishing reference standards for network hardware for the home and small business. They have established a reference standard for home network gateway devices like the routers, but more so the Internet gateway devices that have integrated VoIP functionality. They have also looked at the device setup scenarios where there are external modems like most cable Internet setups, but will encompass next-generation Internet setups. They are working on reference standards for VoIP telephony and could end up determining such standards for the multi-function telephones.

Conclusion

If these companies can look at ways of extending value out of the common household telephone by integrating it in today’s online world, they could stand a chance at seeing it more than just a communications device for the sidelined communities.

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