Current and Future Trends Archive

Next generation HTTP afoot

Article

Engineers rebuild HTTP as a faster Web foundation | Deep Tech – CNET News

My Comments

HTTP has been the standard transport protocol since the dawn of the World Wide Web and effectively became the backbone for most file transfer and streaming activities of the modern Internet.

But there is a desire in the Internet industry to bring this standard to 2.0 and bring some major improvements to this standard to cater for today’s Internet reality.

Data multiplexing between client and server

One key capability is to implement the SPDY protocol which supports multiplexing of data between the Web server and the Web browser. This is to provide for faster and efficient data throughput by shifting the data using one “channel”; as well as providing support for managing quality-of-service.

This may involve the deployment of audio and video material under a high quality-of-service while text data and software downloads can pass through on an “as-needed” basis.

Inherent end-to-end encryption support

The SPDY protocol that is to underpin HTTP 2.0 also provides support for end-to-end transport-layer encryption. But Microsoft wanted this feature to be optional so it is implemented according to the needs, such as a blog not needing encryption whereas an Internet banking or device management Web page would need this level of encryption.

But I would also like to support in this feature the ability not just to encrypt data but to authenticate the same data using a digital signature. Here, it could permit users to be sure that the Web site they are visiting or the file they are downloading is authentic and would be especially of importance with field-updated BIOS and firmware deployments, as I raised in my commentary about a lawsuit involving HP concerning this practice and its security ramifications.

Caching support at network level

Another feature that is being proposed is to provide for network-level caching of HTTP data. This is intended to provide for environments like mobile networks where it could be desirable to cache data in the service network rather than on the user’s mobile device; rather than introducing proxy servers to provide this kind of caching.

It will also allow mobile and embedded devices to avoid the requirement to have Web caches for quick loading of Web pages. Of course this will not be needed for those Web pages that have regularly-updated data such as Web dashboards, Web mail or similar applications.

Other issues

It also is worth investigating whether the HTTP 2.0 standard could support applications like client-server email delivery or advanced document authoring such as version control.

Of course this development will take a long time to achieve and will require some form of HTTP 1.x backward compatibility so there isn’t the loss of continuity through an upgrade cycle.

Send to Kindle

Delivering purchased content collections to the home network

Apple and others may have us streaming content on a temporary basis in to our homes after we subscribe to them or another content provider but we will still want to download content to our home networks. This is so we can believe that we really have bought and owned the content rather than perpetually renting it. As well, an increasing number of content providers will take advantage of the digital environment to affordably distribute content under a “to-own” philosophy where we can buy that content in a digital form for cheap.

An example of this would be a few of the US’s well-known magazines, especially National Geographic, offering their back-issues as a collection of PDF files on a CD collection or a USB hard disk. Similarly, we would purchase digital albums of our favourite recordings from various online stores including iTunes. As well, when I went to a travel fair on Sunday 19 February, a country provided an optical-disc-based “slide collection” of images of that country at their stall.

The question that many will ask is how can it be made easier to deposit this content so it is available across the home network. Here, we could copy the files to a public “media folder” on a network-attached storage unit that is on the home network. But we would have to know where that “media folder” exists and how we should present the media to the network. As well, we would need to make it easier for a collection of PDF or other “electronic-book” files to be discovered on a mobile computing device such as a tablet.

A secure network installation routine for small networks

There typically are installation routines in place for provisioning software to computers but these look after putting the software in place on the computer from a user-carried, network-hosted or downloaded package and making the software discoverable in the computer’s operating system. The practice is also similar for delivering software updates and add-ons for network-attached storage devices and other similar devices.

Most media that is purchased online for download is typically downloaded to the user’s regular computer or, in some cases, their mobile device and manually copied to the network-attached storage using the operating system if it is to be shared. It also holds true for digital photos that are downloaded from one’s digital camera or content held on a “carry-through” physical media container like an optical disc or USB memory key. This can be a pain for people who don’t have much computer experience or patience.

One way to make this easier would be to provide a secure simple network installation routine for content collections. This could be based on the routine knowing common variables that represent the content collection and where particular content classes should go. It could manifest in a download handler associated with an online music store that knows the location of the download-music folder on the NAS.

Such routines would need to have a high level of security in order to prevent questionable software from being made available to the network. They will also have to properly support and handle permission systems that are part of most network operating systems.

These routines could allow the copying of “new” media files from the source to particular folders or, in some cases, mount the content collection to the NAS’s file system if it was in something like a USB hard disk such as the National Geographic example. Then it would force the media to be annexed to the index created by the NAS for searching and browsing the media. Of course, there will be the desire to install a skinned microsite which allows one to browse or search a media collection and this would work if the NAS uses a Web server.

Making “electronic-hard-copy” formats discoverable over the network

With DLNA at its current point, it is now feasible to provide images and audio-visual content to nearly every network-enabled audio and video player, allowing users to search or browse for the content they are after. This can be done using the device’s control surface or a control point hosted on another device and the browsing and searching can be performed against many different attributes such as the artist, title, date, user-assigned keyword or genre or a combination thereof.

But this concept hasn’t been extended to the “electronic hard-copy” document that is used for e-publishing. This will become more relevant as we purchase e-books and similar documents and create our own “e-libraries” and store them on NAS drives on our home networks. This will be of importance as large collections of works are made available in electronic hard-copy format for sell-through download or supply on a physical medium like a USB hard disk or optical-disc collection.

Here, PDF, ePub, XPS and other electronic-hard-copy files could support standardised metadata and the DLNA specification could be extended to permit discovery of content held in these electronic hard-copy formats. This would allow people who use e-readers, tablets and smartphones equipped with the right software to discover and download this material to these devices without having to know the file hierarchy of a NAS or use file managers to “pick up” the content. This software could then be integrated in to these devices in a similar manner to how DLNA media player software is becoming de rigeur for the standards-based tablet or smartphone.

Conclusion

The main issue here is that to be comfortable with newer content-delivery methods, we need to he able to do what we used to do in acquiring and annexing the content to household-common content pools so that all members of the household can gain access to the material. This then has to be made easier to d when it comes to file-delivered content especially for people with limited computer skills and what has been made available for photos, music and video content must extend to e-books and similar content. It also must allow the use of standards-based technology that doesn’t tie the user down to a particular vendor.

Send to Kindle

What is the sound-tuning that is now implemented in laptops all about?

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - keyboard highlightedA trend that I have seen with laptop computers and some all-in-one desktop computers is for them to have their sound output “tuned” by a company involved in the recording or reproduction of music. In a similar vein to how a motor-racing team will work a car destined for street use to improve its performance, these firms, such as Harman (JBL), Bang & Olufsen or Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio,  will work on the sound-reproduction systems to improve the computer’s sound reproduction, whether through its integrated speakers or through headphones attached to the computer.

The main issue that these efforts are trying to conquer is the tinny sound that emanates from the typical laptop speakers. Previously, these computers used just a pair of small speakers installed in their small chassis that didn’t yield good bass or midrange reproduction and they were driven via a low-power stereo amplifier in the computer. The setup was just good enough for audio prompts and, in some cases, speech from people without accents, yet did a horrendous job at reproducing music or sound effects in video or game content.  This is compared to the way even a cheaper portable radio or tape player that is equipped with the traditional 3” cone speaker can reproduce most frequencies “across the board”.  It is made easier due to these sets having a larger cabinet that isn’t crammed out with circuitry and reproducing sound through a larger speaker with a deeper cone. End-users are asking a lot more out of their computers as they use them as personal jukeboxes, movie players and games machines or businesses make heavy use of them as voice and video telephony endpoints.

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop at a Wi-Fi hotspotThe challenge is to keep these computers slim yet yield a proper and desirable sound across the audio spectrum. Typically the modifications will focus on the sound-reproduction and amplification circuitry as well as the integrated speakers. For example, there will be digital-sound-processing circuitry that works as a tone control for the computer, with the ability to improve the tone for the integrated speakers.

There will be the implementation of Class-D power amplifier circuitry that is designed by people in the audio industry and the sound will emanate from a multi-way speaker system. An example of this is the ASUS Ultrabooks implementing Bang & Olufsen ICEPower audio amplification. Most systems will use a 2.1 speaker setup with a separate bass driver that may be separately amplified, but some may use a multi-way speaker setup with many speaker units to achieve the sound of larger traditional speakers. As well, there would be some work on planning out the speaker-enclosure area to allow the sound to come out of the system properly.

From what I have noticed when I reviewed many of the laptops, I have come across some setups where the speakers can be muffled easily when you rest your hands on the palmrest, or some computers may sound better when placed on a harder surface. I have also noticed that the screen area isnt necessarily used on most laptops as a place to locate speakers because when you have speakers there, you can improve the stereo separation and sound localisation there.

There are still the many challenges ahead for these sound-tuning projects, where there is an expectation to yield that punchy bass from the built-in speakers. This is usually the kind of stuff that the marketers hype on about when they promote the computers that are equipped with these sound-tuning efforts. Other than that, these efforts have succeeded in putting the life back in to sound reproduction from the larger “new-computing-environment” laptop computers.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle