Category: Current and Future Trends

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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The electronic door lock becomes more than a door-security device

Article

Vingcard Elsafe Classic hotel room lock

These electronic door locks that hotels use are being seen now also as data-capture tools

Electronic locks as data-analysis tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

A trend that is becoming real is for electronic door locks to serve as sensors or peripherals for other computing applications as well as performing their gatekeeping duties and is going to make this device class become a very important part of the Internet Of Things.

This has been highlighted with the hotel environment because it is often the first place that people experiences these devices when they let themselves in to their hotel room while they stay at their favourite hotel.

An increasing number of these systems work in an “online” fashion where they use technologies like Zigbee to exchange data through the building in a real-time manner. But they also keep operational data like an access log local to the lockset itself.

The new expectations for this class of online-based locking system start with the ability to notify the hotel’s maintenance department if the lockset’s batteries are becoming weak and are able to report system diagnostic issues to this same department if there are other problems. There is also the activity monitoring functionality which can augment how Front Desk or Houskeeping perform their work as well as working alongside energy-management setups to determine occupancy. As well, these locking systems can be seen as a tool to help hoteliers with their job in assuring the safety, security and welfare of their guests such as being able to detect if one or more wrong cards are tried against one or more locks or if a guestroom door is left open.

Personally, I also see the app-based ecosystem place another requirement on these locks where they have to convey user preferences to the other technology in the room. For example, the heating could be set to a particular temperature and fan mode while the clock-radio is set to wake you at a time you have set and the TV lights up and switches to a channel you prefer the moment you tap your phone on the lock and open the door.

The article determined that the core gatekeeping functionality is being reduced to a secondary role and these devices are ending up either as sensors or peripherals for various computer-intelligence systems.

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But could this same trend apply to the new smart locks that are being pitched for the home? In some ways, yes!

Smart locks that connect to the home network and the Internet, typically via a network bridge, will end up being required to support working with a Web-based or mobile-based management dashboard. In some cases, they may be required to notify users of situations like whether a door is left unlocked or not, if a certain person like your teenager has come home or of system-status events like weak batteries.

Another expectation that is being drummed up is for these locks to cause heating and lighting to come on at user-preferred settings courtesy of a home-automation system or turn off the heating when everyone leaves the house. Yale even underscored the idea of one user creating multiple entry codes on their Real Living Connected Deadbolt to support “situation-specific” presets like the possibility of a particular user code that you use when it’s date night. This is because the deadbolt can be linked in to a home-automation system courtesy of an optional Zigbee or Z-Wave module.

Further expectations that would be placed on electronic door-locking devices would include integration with personnel-welfare systems such as ageing at home or independent living for people with mental disorders. Such a system could observe patterns of activity to learn the user’s normal activity pattern such as identifying that the door is opened and closed at particular times, then signal the relatives or a caregiver if activity goes against the grain, such as if there is no activity or a door is left open for too long.

It shows that in some cases, your favourite hotel can be where you find yourself experience a technology that you could end up using at home.

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The traditional TV guide is still relevant in the online era

Article

Age Green Guide TV guide on coffee table

What will become of the TV guide that lives on the coffee table?

Why people still read the Radio Times | Brand Republic

My Comments

The above-mentioned article highlights how the traditional printed TV guide is faring in the Internet, blogging and social-media age. These are typically the magazines or newspaper supplements that have the listings for what’s on TV over the up-and-coming week and typically live on the coffee table or near the TV so one can make an informed choice about “what’s on telly tonight”. A few recliner armchairs and sofas even have large pockets sewn in to their sides expressly for the purpose of storing the TV guide magazine. Some viewers even use these magazines and look at the critique offered in them to determine what to record on their PVR systems so they can be sure they aren’t missing the good-quality content.

The example here highlights “Radio Times” which is the quintessential TV-guide magazine of the UK and the first of this class of magazine ever published but I would also see it extend to other respected TV-guide magazines and supplements such as those that are part of good broadsheet newspapers. They have detailed reviews and preview commentaries about the shows that are appearing over the coming weeks, usually with the reviews supplied by film and TV-program critics. This is augmented with columns full of commentary about past shows, the people who are behind them whether as acting talent or directing and artistic talent as well as influences that affect the small screen.

The magazines and newspaper supplements augment some of the big sporting or cultural events shown on TV with their supplementary written and photographic coverage and, in some cases, some of these magazines run the awards ceremonies for the TV industry such as the Emmys in America or the Logies in Australia. A few of them even implemented technologies like Panasonic’s bar codes and the Gemstar VCRPlus/VideoPlus/ShowView/G-Code number-codes as a way to simplify the process of programming a video recorder to record TV shows and partnered with the proponents of these systems to put the feature on the map as far as consumers were concerned.

But how could their role be augmented in the online era? For example, they could work with PVR platforms to supply lists of “critiqued content” or “TV highlights” for users to book for recording on these devices. Similarly, they could implement a TV-friendly Web interface and smart-TV front-end so that users can view the magazine’s treatment of the show they just watched or see slideshows and commentaries provided by these magazines on the TV screen. This could tie-in with video-on-demand offerings so that viewers can see pre-recorded interviews and featurettes about their favourite TV content.

These resources would also be needing to cover content offered on video-on-demand services especially as these services are producing their own original content. This is because the on-demand services are fast becoming a “go-to” service for video content especially as younger people are moving away from traditional scheduled TV content. Set-top platforms like Roku that implement PVR-style cross-service content aggregation can also benefit from “critiqued content” lists provided by TV guides.

Here, the goal is to put the resources that the film critics have built up when curating the content for these magazines and supplements and extend it towards on-demand viewing.

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Synology releases an app-based router

Article

Synology Formally Announces Its Wireless Router | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Synology

RT1900ac Wi-Fi router

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Synology is best known for their range of highly-flexible network-attached-storage devices but they have taken their first steps in to releasing network hardware, especially routers.

The typical Synology NAS is based on the “Disk Station Manager” or DSM platform which, like QNAP’s QTS platform uses user-installable apps to add extra functionality to these devices. Here, you can deploy these programs from Synology’s Web site via the NAS’s Web interface for a device that suits your needs, with some allowing the NAS to be that “office in a box” server for a small business.

Now they have released the RT1900ac Wi-Fi router which is based on the Synology Router Manager platform, a router-specific derivative of the DSM platform. There is the similar user-friendly graphic interface for the router’s Web dashboard that would be experienced with a Synology or similar NAS. As well, users can downolad and deploy apps that extend the router’s functionality to something that would be akin to other small-business routers or, more likely, the Freebox Révolution.

This is compared to a few attempts that Linksys and others achieved at router platforms that extend these devices’ functionality. One of these was to provide a mobile-platform-centric operation which wouldn’t work well with a heterogenous desktop/laptop/mobile/server operating environment where there is a desire to manage the device from a Web browser.

One of these apps is a VPN endpoint server so that you could run the Synology as part of a client-box or box-box VPN. It can work using the common VPN protocols including OpenVPN. Anothers of these is a RADIUS server that would earn its keep with managing wireless hotspots or enterprise networks with user-based access control. Oh yeah, secondary storage needs are taken care of courtesy of an SD card and a USB port for you to connect a thumbdrive or USB hard disk to.

There are expectations that the app platform can bring on extra functionality to this router such as different application-level gateways, VoIP servers, public-access wireless hotspots and the like. As well, it would be interesting to find out if Synology writes functionality in to the router’s software and their NAS unit’s software to have these device work tightly together, as well as supplying different routers that suit different needs and budgets/

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Xiaomi raises the bar for routers with internal storage

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Seagate

A Wireless Router with 6TB Storage? | Digital Den comsumer blog

Xiaomi

Mi WiFi Router 2 With 6Tb

Product Page

My Comments

Seagate has helped another manufacturer raise the bar for a consumer-grade router that has integrated storage.

Xiaomi had released to the Chinese market the Mi WiFi Router 2 with 6Tb storage on board. This is provided with a Seagate hard disk that is optimised for video-surveillance applications, with this hard disk able to handle continuous write operations and have a 1-million-hour mean-time-between-failure rate which leads to very high reliability. This is compared to most integrated-storage routers of this kind coming in with 1Tb hard disks typically optimised for regular computers.

The benefit that Seagate drew out was for storage integrated in an Internet-edge router is that the storage can serve as a waypoint for incoming and outgoing data especially if customers are using Internet services with not-so-good bandwidth. This is in addition to being an integrated network-attached storage for documents and media to be pulled up over the home network.

It could show that it is feasible to set up an integrated-storage router with today’s NAS-grade or surveillance-grade hard disks having capacities in the order of at least 4Tb. As well, using application-level gateways and other software can make these devices work as staging posts for such applications as cloud storage services, software updates, content delivery and the like.

As well, the higher-capacity higher-reliability hard disks are showing up as a trend that will affect how network storage is designed.

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