Category: Current and Future Trends

Broadcast TV via the Internet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

I have noticed that every traditional TV broadcaster that is running a “catch-up TV” platform is now streaming their regular TV channels live over the Internet using this platform. It is primarily pitched at those of us who use smartphones, tablets or laptops to view TV content “on the road” without the need for a TV-tuner module or broadcast-LAN tuner box and, in some ways, is being seen as TV’s equivalent to Internet radio.

Local content and advertising

This has opened up a can of worms when it comes to the kind of content available for people to view on their mobile devices, including the issue of regional content. In Australia, for example, the live-TV-over-Internet service primarily offers what is being broadcast to the metropolitan areas for the state capitals and this is ruffling local feathers when it comes to broadcasting news and public-affairs content relevant to the regional areas or providing airtime for local businesses to advertise their wares.

One of the core issues concerning the “live-TV-over-Internet” will be the locality of the editorial and advertising content including where is the content “local to”. If you listen to a foreign radio station’s Internet-radio stream using your Internet radio, you will know what this is about because of the talk and advertising that is local to that station’s city and there are people who like this either as a foreign-language learning tool or to acquire the “fabric” of that city if they lived there or have a soft spot for that area.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

… as could laptops

This issue regarding TV could be rectified using streams that represent an area’s key markets and these streams have editorial and advertising content representative to those markets. The use of dynamic-ad-insertion technology would earn its keep with local campaigns being ran in the commercial breaks which could ameliorate the issues associated with local businesses not able to advertise their wares to their markets.

Area-specific rights issues

An issue that will impact “live-TV-over-Internet” will be area-specific rights for broadcast content. This is where a broadcaster buys exclusive rights to exhibit a particular sports fixture, movie or TV show in a geographic area, especially on a first-run basis. Typically these rights will be protected with

There will be the broadcast and customer-service issues being raised because a show normally available on a particular channel is not shown due to it conflicting with a local network’s existing rights.

Internet-only TV services

Another issue yet to come forward is the ability to gain access to “Internet-only” TV broadcasters which will come about as “live-TV-over-Internet” gains momentum. Such broadcasters are received primarily via your Internet service without having an over-the-air or cable/satellite presence.

These will manifest in the form of extra channels offered by a traditional broadcaster but not on the traditional broadcast platform, or an Internet-only broadcaster who would be able to run boutique content cheaply and easily due to low onboarding costs.

The issue that will show up with running an “Internet-only” TV service is how easy is it for potential viewers to discover these services especially if the goal is to run a scheduled-content service.

Content discovery

Another issue will be whether Internet TV will kill the traditional “channel-surfing” or “flicking” experience where viewers often flicked around the TV’s channel selector or jabbed the channel buttons on the remote control to look for something to watch. This is the main method where a lot of users discover newer radio and TV content. The current implementation would require you to run one catch-up TV / VOD app and browse the channels the broadcaster is offering, then run another app offered by another broadcaster and browse those channels to get the “lay of the land”.

This may be rectified through the use of a directory service similar to what has existed for Internet radio. Here, this could allow for a “channel-surf” experience along with the ability to browse for channels that offer content based on genres or other factors. Such a directory could be part of an electronic programme guide which encompasses all of the broadcasters and may work in conjunction with network or cloud PVR setups.

With Internet radio, multiple providers like vTuner and TuneIn Radio had set up to provide access to the Internet-radio streams, both those of AM/FM/digital broadcasters and of Internet-only stations. This means that an Internet radio or a mobile app would effectively have the same directory and different set manufacturers even had the ability to “brand” their own directories so as to be part of their user experience. This could then apply to Internet-based TV with different ISPs, smart-TV platform vendors, Websites and others running or licensing Internet-TV directories.

PVR recording

An issue that will also crop up is the concept of PVR recording of TV shows streamed via an Internet-based TV service. This will most likely be facilitated via an EPG so you can choose the shows from a programme grid or “what’s showing” list.

This could be achieved via a local-storage effort such as a traditional set-top device or a NAS that serves the home network; or a cloud-based effort based on the “software-as-a-service” model.

As what has happened with video recorders and traditional PVR devices, there will be the need to sort out copyright issues regarding the recording of shows. The new landscape in the context of “PVR as a service” will be highlighted in this context is the concept of “shared recordings” where one recording is made and many viewers view that single copy; or “private recordings” where each household has its own copies of the TV shows in a “digital locker” on the servers. Similarly, another issue that will show up is the portability of these recordings especially if the recordings are taken across national borders which would be a key issue in areas like North America or Europe.

The issue of portable recordings will come to the fore with us using mobile devices or a TV at another location like a friend’s home or a hotel to catch up on favourite TV shows.

Conclusion

What is becoming a reality is that television as we knew it is appearing via the Internet in addition to or in lieu of traditional broadcast-based pathways.

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The latest Apple TV becomes the first video peripheral to offer 360-degree videos

Article

You can now view interactive, 360-degree videos on the new Apple TV | Mashable

Video

From the horse’s mouth

Littlstar

Press Release

My Comments

Increasingly the 360-degree “virtual-tour” video is being seen as part of exhibiting a location or marketing a product. Even real-estate agents are using them as a tool to show off properties for sale, while TV serials are using them to give their fans a look-see in to the environments that the shows are set in.

But they are typically offered on Web pages that are best viewed in a browser with you moving your mouse up and down or dragging your finger up and down around a touchscreen or trackpad to pan around.  You may find that you zoom using your mouse’s thumbwheel or pinch in and out on a touchscreen or trackpad. Similarly navigating may require you to simply click or tap on where you want to go.

In some cases, they may also play properly with virtual-reality headsets of the Oculus Rift kind if you use an app for the device.

But what about viewing these 360-degree videos on that large-screeo TV or video projector. This may work if you throw that Web page on the large TV screen but you may not be lucky with some virtual-reality or 360-degree plugins working properly on the large screen.

Litlstar have tackled this issue through developing an app for the 4th-generation Apple TV set-top device that shows the 360-degree videos on the big screen. This exploits the Apple TV’s new remote control which has a trackpad by you using that trackpad to pan around.

This can be exploited on other smart-TV and video-peripheral platforms especially where some of these platforms are implementing gyroscopic remote controls or remote controls that implement multiple D-pads. Similarly, a games console of the XBox or PlayStation variety could be used as a tool to show the virtual-reality videos on a large screen.

It could also allow for one to watch some video content yet have an opportunity to “break off” in to a personal “walk-through” of that scene or building, yet be able to return to where they left off in the video content.

Who knows when Android TV or a subsequent Freebox décodeur will end up exploiting these abilities to enhance video content.

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Google makes further efforts against unwanted software

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Google

Year one: progress in the fight against Unwanted Software

My Comments

What has become familiar for me after some computer-support tasks was dealing with unwanted software that uses fraud and deception to have computer users install the programs on their systems. Such software like TubeDimmer typically takes over one’s online experience by serving up ads typically for dodgy businesses, slowing down the user’s computer or sending off the user’s private computer-usage data to questionable entities. In some cases, the software pesters users to download other worthless software or pay for worthless IT services.

There have been some efforts in the computing industry to tackle this problem, most notably MalwareBytes Anti-Malware providing the ability to remove this kind of software. But Google has approached this problem in a multi-faceted manner.

Firstly, they have revised the Safe Browsing API used in Chrome, Android and other browsers and endpoint-security programs that exploit this API to detect the unwanted nuisance software. They also provided an online “cleanup tool” for Chrome to remove ad injectors and similar unwanted extensions from that browser.

On the AdSense and DoubleClick advertising-network front, Google have tuned their Bid Manager which is used for buying advertising space on these networks to filter out chargeable impressions that are generated by the unwanted ad injectors. Similarly, they are disabling ads which appear on these networks but are leading to unwanted-software downloads. These include the ads that show the “Download this” or “Play this” kind of text or artwork without referring to what you intend to download and is augmented by an unwanted-software policy that applies to any advertising that is about software delivery.

If you are “Googling” for software, the Google Search Results screen will highlight links that lead to the delivery of unwanted software or advertised software links.

These efforts have paid off for Google in the form of reduced user complaints about Chrome and other Google client software. There has been increased Safe Browsing alerts regarding unwanted software which has placed a roadblock against this software being installed. Chrome users and personal-IT support personnel have been able to get rid of the unwanted software very quickly and easily.

Now Uncle Sam has joined in the fight against unwanted software downloads

Now Uncle Sam has joined in the fight against unwanted software downloads

But there needs to be further action taking place beyond what is happening in Google’s or Malwarebyte’s offices. Uncle Sam has lent his weight behind this effort with the US Federal Trade Commission classing this unwanted software as a form of malware.

Microsoft could help with this effort by extending their security and software-cleanup tools that work with Windows, Office and Internet Explorer to provide a “one-click remove” option. Similarly Web browsers and endpoint-security software can be part of the effort to slow down the deployment of unwanted software, reduce its effect on the system or simplify its removal.

As well, there needs to be efforts taking place within the online advertising industry to clean up its act.This may involve issues like:

  1. managing the availability of low-risk high-return advertising products like “cost-per-click-only” products that appeal to “fly-by-night” operators;
  2. management and supervision of advertisers, publishers and campaigns;
  3. advertising through client-side software rather than Webpages;
  4. advertising campaigns that lead to software downloads, amongst other issues.

Such issues may have to be dealt with via establishing an industry-wide code of practice and/or use of a “seal-of-approval”. Here, this is to make sure that online advertising has the same level of respect as traditional advertising has amongst advertisers; publishers, broadcasters and advertising-surface providers; and the general public.

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Could your computer’s main storage end up being solid-state?

Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

256Gb as a solid-state disk could be the baseline for laptops and 2-in-1s

SSD Prices Are Plummeting, Say Good-Bye To Hard Drives | Gizmodo

My Comments

A trend that is starting to surface is that the cost per gigabyte of a solid state drive is approaching that of a traditional “spinning-disk” hard drive. This has started to appear at the 256Gb capacity-per-unit level but what is also happening is that the traditional hard disk is increasing in capacity per physical unit. This situation is appearing in the form of hard disks having capacities in the order of eight or more terabytes.

Where I see this applying more are desktop computers that implement a dual-disk setup for their fixed storage needs along with modest-specification portable computers that have storage needs with 256Gb or less.

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

NAS units will still have the regular hard disks but these will increase in capacity per unit

The former application would have a solid-state drive containing the operating system and other software programs so as to permit quick loading while the hard disk ends up being used to store user-created data and other “long-term” data. The latter application would be in the form of a modestly-specified modestly-priced laptop computer or 2-in-1 that has the advantages of a solid-state battery like increased durability, no operating noise and the ability to run on its batteries for longer than normal.

As the research increases. this parity could hit the 512Gb mark thus appealing to most computer applications, especially portable computers. There also need to be other issues sorted out like improving disk bandwidth and supporting “scratch-pad” operations with random read-write needs without compromising disk reliability.

Who knows what this could mean for computer design especially with portable or aesthetically-significant applications?

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Another effort towards a more secure home-network router

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

A step towards a secure home network from Czech Republic

Article

This crowdfunded router updates its own security | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Project Turnis

Home Page

Crowdfunding page (Indiegogo)

My Comments

A constant thorn in the side of the secure-home-network effort is the network-infrastructure equipment. This is more so with the router which stands between the Internet connection and the home network.

There have been issues where the firmware on the typical home-network router hasn’t been updated or is riddled with software exploits and bugs that can make it attractive to cyber-criminals. It is in addition to these devices being configured poorly, typically running “out-of-the-box” default configurations like “admin/admin” management passwords or default ESSID names and passwords for their Wi-Fi wireless-network segments.

AVM took a bold step towards this goal by supporting automatic software updating for their Fritz!Box routers. But now a Czech effort, spearheaded by the Czech Republic’s domain-name registry, has taken place to facilitate an open-source router design that also supports automatic software updates and enhanced networks security.

The Project Turnis effort is based around a multi-computer effort which keeps track of security threats that can affect home and small-business networks and uses this to amend firewall rules to protect your network better.

The router supports Gigabit Ethernet for WAN and LAN connections and 802.11a/g/n dual-band for Wi-Fi wireless LAN connections and can even support USB-based failover functionality with a USB mobile-broadband modem. It also has native IPv6 capability which makes this unit futureproof and able to work with next-generation broadband. There is even a view to have this router designed to work with the Internet Of Things as a hub device or to store data.

All of the software and even the hardware design is open-source with the software being a “fork” of the OpenWRT open-source router firmware effort, which can allow for further examination and innovation. This can lead towards more vendors offering home and small-business routers and gateways that are designed for security which would lead to a breakthrough for an affordable secure Internet service for consumers and small businesses.

The router is also about supporting other “central data server” roles such as being a NAS once coupled with a USB external hard disk or even a DVB-T broadcast-LAN server when DVB-T USB tuner sticks are connected. But I would expect a lot more from these devices like VPN endpoints, public hotspot functionality and the like. Who knows what could come about?

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Gigaclear raises the maximum bandwidth to 5 Gigabits

Articles

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

5Gbps comes on the scene courtesy of Gigaclear

Is 5 Giga bits a second enough broadband for you? | ThinkBroadband

Wowzers – UK ISP Gigaclear Trial 5000Mbps Fibre Optic Broadband Service | ISPReview

My Comments

Gigaclear are stepping out of the norm when it comes to providing Internet service in the UK.

Here, they are offering 5Gbps as a bandwidth option for all of their fibre-to-the-premises area as well as their regular Gigabit or lower-bandwidth options. This is due to them implementing a point-to-point fibre network as their data infrastructure which they fully own.

At the moment, a home user could sign up for this bandwidth at GBP£399 including VAT or a small business could sign up for a business-grade service for GBP£1500 excluding VAT. The bandwidth could theoretically allow 100 4K UHDTV channels to be concurrently streamed or allow a 1.5Gb file like a film to be downloaded in 5 seconds.

At the moment, most current download and cloud-computing services can’t provide the throughput necessary to allow these high-performance services to run to their advantage. Similarly, there aren’t any routers on the market affordable to most home or small-businesses that would take advantage of these high-performance services.

The cost was considered to be too rich for most residential consumers except for a few wealthy early-adopters but could appeal to some small businesses like busy food/beverage/hospitality places such as cafes and bars running well-used wireless hotspots. These places can benefit because many users can concurrently transfer data including “high-demand” data like high-grade multimedia. videocalls and large file transfers.

What Gigaclear is showing is that 5Gbps could be ne next step for a high-performing Internet that can satisfy householders’ and small business users’ needs in the future.

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Could you end up determining which country your data is held in?

Article

Microsoft will host data in Germany to hide it from US spies | The Verge

My Comments

Edward Snowden has raised a very significant issue concerning the confidentiality and sovereignty of your data when he leaked what went on with the NSA. This has affected how individuals and organisations do business with American-chartered IT organisations like all of Silicon Valley.

But what has happened was that Microsoft took up a new model for setting up data storage which is in the form of a “data trustee”. This model is similar to how a trust fund operates where a third party who is known as a trustee, is tasked to control funds and assets that come in to that fund for the benefit of the recipients.

In this case, Microsoft is setting up data centers in Germany and delegating Deutsche Telekom, a telco entirely chartered in Germany, to control these data-storage facilities as a “data trustee” for them. But the data stored on these facilities will be Microsoft’s and their customers’ data.

Why Germany? Warum Deutschland? This is because Germany, a country which has been passed through some horrible periods of history where big government abused citizens’ privacy in the form of the Third Reich and East Germany, have enacted some of the world’s tightest privacy laws.

What I see of this is that a person who signs up to a Webmail service, online storage service, Webhost or similar online service could be given the option to have the data held on servers in a nominated country, most likely rated according to the country’s standard of privacy and data sovereignty. Similarly, companies chartered in countries with rigorous data privacy and confidentiality standards could end up doing valuable business in renting data center space or providing online services to local and foreign individuals and companies wanting stronger privacy.

On the other hand, these countries could end up with the same reputation that Switzerland had with its banks. This was where Switzerland’s financial-secrecy laws were abused by people and companies who were laundering or concealing ill-gotten gains in Swiss banks to avoid official scrutiny. In relationship to data, this could allow for data associated with criminal activity such as child-abuse imagery or pirated software to be concealed in countries with high data-privacy standards.

But the authorities in those countries can act as a legal filter to make sure that any official data requests are for legitimate crime-fighting and personal-safety reasons rather than to suppress internationally-recognised core freedoms and liberties.

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4K on carrier-provided IPTV–Free takes the first step

Articles – French language / Langue française

Freebox Mini press image courtesy of Free.fr

Freebox Mini 4K – gateway to 4K UHDTV in France

Free, 1er à proposer une chaîne 4K avec Festival 4K | Freenews.fr

Festival 4K disponible aussi en ADSL et VDSL sur Freebox | Freenews.fr

Ultra haute définition : Free diffuse la première chaîne 4K | ZDNet.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Free.fr

Press Release (PDF)

My Comments

Free.fr, who is a strong player in French multi-play Internet market has become the first multi-play ISP to offer a 4K UHDTV channel as part of their IPTV content.

The channel, called Festival 4K and found on logical channel number 62, is focused on musical theatre, concerts and similar cultural events with these events being transmitted using 4K UHDTV technology.  This will require the 4K UHDTV to be connected to the Freebox Mini 4K set-top box which is based on Android TV software.

The initial subscription technical requirement was for the household to be connected to Free’s services via fibre-to-the-premises technology. But later on, it was discovered that you can use a VDSL2 or ADSL2 connection “dégroupée” (unbundled local loop) to Free and the connection has to have at least 15Mbps for reliable operationj.

This is another step with Free to lead the pack when it comes to competitive multiple-play services by opening up towards cutting-edge technology in the form of 4K UHDTV broadcasting.

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Could the Android and Windows platforms strengthen each other?

Article

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

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

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

My Comments

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

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

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

Windows 10 Start Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What can the Intel Skylake technology bring to the budget notebook

Intel Skylake could offer improved performance for budget and family laptops

Intel Skylake could offer improved performance for budget and family laptops

Intel has used the newer Skylake processor technology as a way to get more out of affordable notebook computers while supporting the high-end of the market.

Intel Skylake technology will allow budget computers to benefit from a performance improvement compared to their predecessors and mainstream 15” family laptops will benefit from this improvement whether they run the H-series i3 or i5 processors. The i5 processors in this series will offer four-core processing which was something that was previously reserved for the premium i7 processors. This will include the use of improved integrated graphics with an example being the Intel HD530 integrated graphics yielding what is equivalent to entry-level discrete graphics. But the let-down here with this graphics chipset is that it is power-hungry which may not be of concern with the so-called “family” laptop computer which will typically be plugged in to AC power while at home.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook on tray table

Ultrabooks that work well for writing up notes on that long flight

The U-Series processors, which come in the Pentium, i3, i5 and i7 variants will be pitched at low-profile machines like 2-in-1s and Ultrabooks. These won’t support a “turbo-boost” performance enhancement and are optimised for long battery runtime. The cheaper processors like the Pentium may have an appeal towards “essential tasks” secondary computers like Ultrabooks that are simply used as “portable typewriters” to type up notes and other material during a flight or small 2-in-1s simply purchased for use as on-the-road “email and Facebook” computers.

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

A graphics expansion module that could option up budget and mainstream laptops

Another feature that I would also admire is the implementation of Thunderbolt 3 over USB 3.1 Type-C. The main benefit that I would like to see would be to allow a budget, ultraportable or mainstream computer to come with integrated graphics yet support discrete graphics when paired with a graphics expansion module. This can be a small box that houses the graphics processor or a card cage that houses one or two regular graphics cards and these devices could also house other extra options like an optical drive, USB 3.1 hub or sound module.

This will please, for example, parents who are buying a senior-high-school student their first laptop. They may not know if the student is going to end up dabbling with advanced graphics in their work, study or leisure activities and don’t need to specify discrete graphics if this isn’t the case. But the student could purchase discrete graphics as an add-on if they are thinking of advanced computer gaming as a recreational activity.

What the Intel Skylake processors could open up is the arrival of highly-capable computers that are at a price everyone can afford.

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