Mobile Computing Archive

GM creates a marketplace from your dashboard

Articles

GM Marketplace lets your car buy donuts and coffee | CNet

GM thinks you’ll buy stuff through your car’s dashboard | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

GM (USA)

Press Release

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

General Motors is bringing a new trend that will affect the connected car. This is to create a “marketplace” on the dashboard’s touchscreen-based user interface to sell goods and services to the driver and passengers. The technology that is used will be the 4G LTE mobile broadband link but will most likely be facilitated through GM.

Typically, the kind of goods and services that will be pitched initially are fuel from Shell and ExxonMobil; food and drinks from Starbucks, TGIF and a few other vemdors; parking; along with data service, OnStar subscriptions and servicing from GM.

There will be the ability to bind the accounts, loyalty programs and payment cards you use with these merchants to this system so that you can pay for the goods and services through the dashboard including accruing or redeeming loyalty points.

The GM Marketplace will be available with 2017-2018 GM North-American-nameplate (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC) vehicles that are equipped with the correct advanced infotainment setup. As well, there will be the limited

Let’s not forget that other vehicle builders and aftermarket infotainment manufacturers would be showing interest in creating their own “in-dash” marketplace for selling goods and services through their advanced infotainment systems. In some cases, an alliance of vehicle builders or infotainment manufacturers could set up a marketplace that appears on all of their

But this can lead to fragmentation if partner businesses have to associate with the multiple “in-dash” marketplaces. Similarly there is the issue of independent suppliers like standalone motels and restaurants or independent fuel brands finding it difficult to come on board typically due to lack of bargaining power. This may be facilitated through alliances who can represent these businesses in order to bring them on board.

Other issues that will also need to be raised include the ability to maintain accounts particular to individual drivers as well as to a vehicle. It will also have to include support for “guest” operation where a person could purchase goods or services through an in-dash marketplace without needing to register with that marketplace; along with the ability to support split ordering for things like drive-through food.

At the moment, GM is proving the concept of the in-dash marketplace and could encourage other companies to build up this concept.

Send to Kindle

Most iPhones and iPads now in circulation to be safe from the KRACK exploit

Article

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Most iPads and iPhones updated to iOS 11.2 now safe from the KRACK exploit

Apple fills the KRACK on iPhones – at last | Naked Security

Previous Coverage

KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability–what is affected

My Comments

There has been intense computing-press coverage regarding the KRACK WPA2 exploit against otherwise-secure Wi-Fi wireless network segments. As my previous coverage highlighted, most of the major regular-computer and mobile operating systems were updated to rectify the vulnerability associated with this exploit.

Check the Settings App on your iPhone for the update

But, as I called out in the article, the iOS 11.1 update that Apple rolled out for their iPhones and iPads only remediated the vulnerability on certain newer devices. Here, it was ignoring a larger installed base of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches by not providing the remediation for devices earlier than the iPhone 7 or the iPad Pro 9.7 (2016).

Now Apple has rolled out the iOS 11.2 update to extend this remediation to more iOS devices in the field. These include:

  • iPhone 6 encompassing the S and Plus variants, the iPhone SE, the iPhone 5S,
  • 12.9” iPad Pro (1st generation), the iPad mini 2 and its successors, the iPad Air, the iPad (5th generation)
  • iPod Touch (6th generation)

Here, it means that those commonly-used recent iPhones and iPads are now safe against the KRACK exploit. Check your Settings app on your iOS device to be sure it is up to date with this patch.

Send to Kindle

What is the eSIM all about for mobile broadband

Articles

SIM card

These SIM cards will be embedded in subsequent generations of mobile devices including Always Connected PCs

It’s time to embrace the eSIM | Engadget

What Is an eSIM, and How Is It Different From a SIM Card? | How-To Geek

‘Telstra One Number’ Is Telstra’s New eSIM Tech | Gizmodo

eSIM feature to arrive with Windows 10 Version 1803 for always connected PCs | WinCentral

My Comments

A trend that will have an impact on devices that use cellular-based wireless broadband technology is for them to implement eSIM authentication.

What is the eSIM technology?

It is effectively an embedded SIM which is a hardwired equivalent of the SIM card that authenticates you to a mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband service as a customer.

One of the key advantages to this approach over the traditional user-replaceable SIM card is that there isn’t a need to design a large user-accessible space in a mobile device to accommodate one of these cards. Instead, the customer’s wireless-broadband service is provisioned to their device “over the air” rather than having to encode a SIM card to hand over to the customer to be installed in the device. It is similar to the online provisioning and service activation process implemented for some prepaid mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband services sold through ordinary retailers in some markets.

What devices will this appeal to?

This approach appeals to the wearables market where size does certainly matter but is also appealing towards the connected car where there isn’t a desire to create a cavity for a SIM to be installed. Just lately, the eSIM technology is also appealing to the “always-connected” ultraportable laptops thanks to the next major functionality iteration of Windows 10 having software support for this functionality baked in.

Let’s not forget that newer smartphones, USB modems and MiFi routers including multiple-WAN routers will become equipped with eSIM support, especially where multiple-service functionality is to be part of the feature set. It could allow one to design, for example,  an Android smartphone with a classic SIM slot and an eSIM along with a microSD card slot. Here, a user could then benefit from the advantages of multiple services while using a microSD card to provide “infinite” storage for music, photos and videos.

The main disadvantage that the eSIM will offer to some people will be that they can’t switch SIM cards around quickly, which may be of concern with people using a “decoy” number associated with a prepaid service or people who are troubleshooting mobile devices.

What does this allow?

It was brought on board in 2013 but recent improvements to the eSIM standard allowed for a customer to maintain multiple eSIM services from the same or different carriers in the one device. It is similar to how users are switching SIM cards around to maintain multiple service accounts, such as to maintain separate “business” and “private” services, to sign up with “destination-local” mobile-telephony services with a “destination-local” number and payment options, amongst other reasons.

This provides simplification for these users by providing “over-the-air” provisioning for additional services including varying these services or re-instigating dormant services. The user-experience that may be offered is to choose the network that provides the service you want to use then enter an activation code of some sort to “turn on” that particular service. Typically this would be something you receive in an email if you are enrolling online or receive from a staff member at a “bricks-and-mortar” store.

Some carriers and service providers are exploiting eSIM by offering a “one number one account multiple devices” option for their mobile services such as Telstra’s “One Number” service. But there are other ways that mobile-telephony service providers can exploit the emerging eSIM setup. But the carriers can look at exploiting the eSIM further such as tying it in with BYOD business setups, mobile services that can be “parked” when not needed amongst other things.

In some business environments, it could allow a single shared device to be associated with multiple service accounts with the accounts in operation dependent on who is logging in to the device. This could tie in with the “portable desktop” approach towards business telecommunications where one’s computing and telecommunications setup is moved amongst multiple devices but your boss or clients call you at the same extension number.

Conclusion

The eSIM approach for authenticating mobile-telephony and broadband service can open up a wide range of approaches both for device design and for service delivery.

Send to Kindle

Windows 10 on Qualcomn ARM chips–to be real

Articles

Snapdragon smartphone electronics in 2-in-1 laptop press picture courtesy of Qualcomn

Implementing high-end smartphone electronics into an ultraportable laptop

Smartphone Guts Are Coming to Windows Laptops, and It Could Triple Your Battery Life | Gizmodo

Microsoft reveals ‘Always Connected PCs’ from HP and ASUS with Windows 10 on ARM | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Always Connected PCs enable a new culture of work (Windows Experience Blog)

Qualcomn

Qualcomm Launches Technology Innovation with Advancements in the Always Connected PC and its Next-Generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platform (Press Release)

A day in the life with the Snapdragon 835 powered HP Envy x2 PC (OnQ Blog)

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

Microsoft had made some attempts at bringing Windows to the ARM RISC microarchitecture with a view to bringing forth cheaper computers. But they had failed thanks to silicon based on traditional Intel x86/x64 microarchitecture being offered at very cheap price points and able to natively run a large roster of software already available for that platform.

But they, along with Qualcomn who supply the silicon for most of today’s smartphones, have re-approached this through the vision of an ultraportable laptop computer or tablet that implements the same technology as one of the recent high-end smartphones and phablets. This has been drawn out alongside the recent crop of highly-capable 11”-14” 2-in-1 laptops that are making a strong appeal as a highly-capable alternative to the iPad and Android-based tablets.

But the computers that represent the “Always Connected PC” product class integrate a large battery along with the LTE-based wireless-broadband modem, both of which allow for a long time of computer activity without the need of Wi-Fi or daily charging. These would also support eSIM which allows for over-the-wire provisioning of mobile broadband service, including the ability to provide “international-focused” service for people roaming around the world. HP and ASUS have premiered a detachable 2-in-1 and a convertible 2-in-1 which are based on this technology.

Microsoft is pushing the Always-Connected PC for the workplace with a focus towards a managed computing environment. Here, it is about avoiding the need to connect to insecure public-access Wi-Fi networks or worry about whether you have the laptop’s power supply with you when you head to work or make that business trip.

I see it more as an answer to Apple’s iOS platform, Google’s ChromeOS platform and Samsung’s interpretation of the Android platform where the goal is to cater to a mainstream productivity-focused computing environment for work or school.

Here, the focus would be about interacting with cloud-based business / education software whether as a Web app or as platform-native software or simply working with information using standard office-productivity software, perhaps with some video playback or mobile-grade gaming. I also see this as a way for Microsoft to aggressively compete against the iPad in the household, education and business environment by encouraging its partners to offer tablets and 2-in-1s that have the same operational qualities as that tablet.

But it wouldn’t displace the Intel / AMD x86/x64-based computers which would be focused towards applications where performance is of importance such as serious gaming or photo / video editing. But as for running Windows software, the ARM-based variants of Windows will be implementing an x86 emulation layer that allows 32-bit Windows software to run on these computers. This is while Windows software developers who package software for the Windows Store will be encouraged to deploy code native to x86, x64 and ARM microarchitectures.

The big challenge now is for software developers and games studios to port the software that is on the iOS or Android platforms towards the Windows 10 platforms on all the microarchitectures. It would them make it viable for Windows to continue as a third force for “non-handheld” mobile computing.

Send to Kindle

Bluetooth Fast Pairing–to be part of the Android platform

Articles

Android main interactive lock screen

Most recent Android smartphones may be able to support one-touch pair-up for Bluetooth accessories

Android ‘Fast Pair’ will quickly connect Bluetooth devices | Engadget

Announcing Fast Pair – effortless Bluetooth pairing for Android | Android Developers Blog

My Comments

Google has answered the setup method that Apple has implemented for their AirPod wireless in-ear headset by implementing a software-driven “quick-pair” setup that will be part of Android.

This method, called Bluetooth Fast Pairing, works on Android handsets and other devices that run Android 6.0 Marshmallow onwards and have Google Play Services 11.7 or newer installed and support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) connectivity. You will have to enable Bluetooth and Location functionality in your handset, but you don’t have to look at Bluetooth device lists on your smartphone for a particular device identifier to complete the setup process.

Google Fast Pair in action - press image courtesy of Google

Click or tap this image to see Google Fast Pairing in action

It is meant to provide quick discovery of your compliant Bluetooth accessory device in order to expedite the setup process that is involved with new devices or to “repair” Bluetooth connections that have failed. This latter situation can easily occur if data in the device regarding associated Bluetooth devices becomes corrupted or their is excessive Bluetooth interference.

The user experience will require you to put your accessory device like a Bluetooth headset, speakers or car stereo in to Bluetooth-setup mode. This may simply be through you holding down the “setup” or “pair” button till a LED flashes a certain way or you hear a distinct tone. On the other hand in the case of home and car audio equipment that has a display of some form, you using the “Setup Menu” to select “Bluetooth Setup” or something similar.

Then you receive a notification message on your Android device which refers to the device you just enabled for pairing, showing its product name and a thumbnail image of the device. Tap on this notification to continue the setup process and you may receive an invitation to download a companion app for those devices that work on the “app-cessory” model for extended functionality.

Google implements this by using Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” technology to enable the device-discovery process. This is similar to the various beacon approaches for marketing and indoor navigation that are being facilitated by Bluetooth Low Energy, but they only appear while your accessory device is in “Bluetooth setup” mode.

The Google Play servers provide information about the device such as its thumbnail image, product name or link to a companion app based on a “primary-key” identifier that is part of the Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” presented by the device. Then, once you tap the notification popup on your Android device, the pairing and establishment process takes place under Bluetooth Classic technology.

I see this also as being similar to the various “Plug And Play” discovery process implemented in Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS whenever you connect newer peripherals to your computer. This is where Microsoft and Apple keep data about various peripherals and expansion cards that are or have been on the market to facilitate installation of any necessary drivers or other software or invocation of class drivers that are part of the operating system. For Google and the Android platform, they could take this further with USB-C and USB Micro-AB OTG connectivity to implement the same kind of “plug and play” setup for peripherals connected this way to Android devices.

This system could be taken further by integrating similar logic and server-hosted databases in to other operating systems for regular and mobile computer platforms to improve and expedite the setup process for Bluetooth devices where the host device supports Bluetooth Low Energy operation. Here, I would like to see it based on the same identifiers broadcast by each of the accessory devices.

The Bluetooth Fast Pairing ability that Google gave to the Android platform complements NFC-based “touch and go” pairing that has been used with that platform as another method to simplify the setup process. This is more for manufacturers who don’t have enough room in their accessory device’s design to provide an NFC area for “touch-and-go” setup thanks to very small devices or where NFC doesn’t play well with the device’s aesthetics or functionality.

It may be a point of confusion for device designers like Alpine with their car stereos who place their devices in “discoverable” or “pairing” mode all the time so you can commence enrolling your accessory device at your phone’s user interface. Here, the device manufacturer may have to limit its availability to certain circumstances like no devices paired or connected, or you having to select the “Bluetooth” source or “Setup” mode to invoke discoverability.

At least Google have put up a way to allow quicker setup for Bluetooth accessories with their Android platform devices without the need to build the requirement in to the hardware.

Send to Kindle

Smartphones and voice-activated home-assistant platforms help with managing your prescribed medications

Article

‘Alexa, order my meds’ — start-up NowRx pioneers prescription refills through Alexa and Google Home | CNBC

My Comments

There are steps that are taking place to interlink today’s technology with the chore of ordering your prescription medicines from the local pharmacist.

A system that has existed for a few years in Australia and is continuing to run is eRx Express which works with a mobile-platform app and QR codes that are printed on prescriptions. In this setup, a user could send a prescription order to their local pharmacy by scanning that QR code. But they would have to go to that pharmacy to collect and pay for their medicines, unless the pharmacy has established a home-delivery arrangement for the patient.

The main benefit is to allow a person to start things happening for a prescription to be filled from home, work or a shopping-centre’s food court and not have to wait around at the chemist’s while it is being filled. This system is part of an IT solution that is being offered to Australian doctors and pharmacists to improve the prescription-management workflow.

NowRx, a Silicon-Valley startup, have taken this further by providing a Skill for the Amazon Alexa and Google Home so you can use these voice-driven home-assistant platforms to order your prescription medicines. They want to make it feasible for you to request, refill or renew your medications with the last four digits of your prescription number.

Like the rest of Silicon Valley with their approach to traditional business models, they see it as a way to take on the traditional local chemist’s shop by running a robot-driven warehouse and home-delivery service, and at the moment, they have 400 Bay Area doctors as part of their network. NowRx uses Amazon and Google as a facilitation path so that their patients’ medical data isn’t held by the home-assistant platforms; something that is set up to avoid storing that data on systems that aren’t compliant with the US’s standards concerning medical-data privacy.

There are some people who could see these systems as trampling on what the pharmacy is about, including the management of a patient’s medication and the face-to-face interaction with the pharmacy’s customer base. But if these systems are set up as something that augments a local pharmacist’s workflow such as providing an express path for the supply of medication integral to a patient’s continual-therapy requirement, they can be seen as legitimate by most communities. This is more so where pharmacists are able to and encouraged to provide supplementary health-care services like vaccinations or first-aid as well as dispensing medication, a practiced performed in some European countries.

One of the analogies that can be related to with these services is when the financial industry started implementing automatic teller machines. There was the initial fear of these machines were about replacing bank teller staff but they ended up being primarily as an express option or an all-hours option for a customer to withdraw cash. In this case, the eRx and NowRx platforms would serve more as an express path for a patient to get to the medicines they need as part of their long-term therapy requirements.

Send to Kindle

iTunes downgrade to permit tethered iOS app deployment–Apple could do better here

Article

iTunes Store

iTunes losing its ability to install software to iOS devices from version 12.7 onwards

Apple Releases New iTunes 12.7, What You Should Know | AppleToolbox.com

My Comments

An issue that will face iOS device users who make use of the iTunes desktop media-management applications is that starting from iTunes 12.7 onwards, they won’t be able to upload iOS apps from their regular computer to their iOS mobile device in a tethered manner using this software. This is in addition to omitting the iOS App Store from the iTunes Store shopfront integrated in iTunes. It is also part of a direction that Apple is enforcing with iOS where you manage your iPhone or iPad from its screen and update its software “over the air”.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Apple could still provide desktop management of their iOS devices through separately downloadable software

Tethering is where you connect a computing device that can normally function alone to another computing device, typically a regular computer, by a wired connection. This is typically to allow a smartphone to be a modem for a regular computer or to transfer data stored on one device to the other device. In this case, it is to transfer iOS apps stored on your regular computer running macOS or Windows to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that you have connected to the computer.

But there are people who use a Mac or Windows regular computer to deploy iOS software to iPhones and iPads. For example, in your business or household, you may want to deploy the same app to multiple iOS devices and want to save bandwidth by caching the app to your regular computer’s hard disk then deploying the same app by tethering each iOS device to your regular computer. As well, some of us may use this as a way to get around a dodgy Internet connection by downloading to a laptop used at a location with known-to-be-good Internet service then deploying where it’s more convenient.

Apple offered a make-do update for iTunes by offering the iTunes 12.6.3 software. This has the feature set associated with iTunes 12.6 including access to the iOS App Store and tethered app deployment for iOS devices. But it has under-hood improvements which allow it to work with iOS devices that are running iOS 11 or newer versions. This is alongside iTunes 12.7 which is focused as a media-management tool and iTunes media storefront.

Personally, I would like to see Apple approach this situation in a better manner for both the Mac OS and Windows operating systems. This would be in the form of a separately-installable “iOS-desktop-manager” program that provides add-on functionality to either the Mac OS operating system for Macintosh computers or to the iTunes Windows port. It would at least provide desktop access to the iOS App Store along with tethered app deployment for iOS devices.

As well, the “iOS-desktop-manager” program could provide device backup and management abilities so you could do things like backup an iPhone or reset a faltering iPod Touch. This is more so where the Wi-Fi or wireless-broadband modem in an iOS device or its network connection can be a point of failure and it isn’t realistic to restore from an iCloud backup if the iOS device’s Wi-Fi is so slow or intermittent.  Similarly, using something like your local backup infrastructure such as your NAS or a USB external hard disk of your own means that you aren’t necessarily ceding control of your mobile-created data to others, something that can be of importance when it comes to privacy.

Send to Kindle

Bose offers headphones optimised for Google Assistant

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset optimised for Google Assistant - Press picture courtesy of Bose Corporation

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II noise cancelling Bluetooth headset optimised for Google Assistant – a sign of things to come for mobile audio accessories

Google

Headphones optimized for the Google Assistant (Blog Post)

Bose

Redefines Sport Headphones with Truly Wireless SoundSport Free (Press Release)

QuietComfort QC35 II Wireless Headphones (Product Page – USA)

– Bluetooth circum-aural closed-back noise-cancelling headset

My Comments

A trend that will be surfacing with the voice-driven personal assistants is that the speaker or headset device doesn’t need to be directly connected to a home network to access the Internet.

Here, some of these devices will connect to a computer or mobile device via Bluetooth or a similar technology but work in an “app-cessory” manner with a vendor-supplied app. Here, this app will serve as a gateway to a voice-driven personal assistant platform which can be hosted natively or through an add-on app, with this function activated through a dedicated button on the audio accessory device.

The first example of these is the Bose QuietComfort QC35 II which is an active noise-cancelling over-the-ear headset, but this setup will also appear with more headphones products from Bose. In this case, the headset connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth and works with a Bose-supplied control app but works hand in glove with the Google Assistant app, available for Android and iOS.

But all audio accessories should be able to work with Siri, Google Now, Bixby and Cortana

There is a special button on the Bose QuietComfort headset that is mapped by the control app to trigger Google Assistant while messages that come in are read by Google Assistant in a text-to-voice manner. You will expect the Google Assistant to do what it can including providing voice-driven access to resources. This is while the headset is optimised to work at its best with voice recognition even when faced with noisy environments like public transport.

As I was highlighting in the last paragraph, such devices will be acoustically optimised for error-free voice recognition, preferably with the chosen platform. One method that will be commonly used would be to implement a microphone array that uses the multiple microphones to focus on the user’s voice.

This will be augmented with dynamic sound enhancement for the voice-driven personal assistant platform so that you can hear the personal assistant clearly when it replies.

But could these headphones and speakers be seen as a gimmick when any wired or Bluetooth headset can work with your mobile platform’s integral voice assistant without the need for any extra software? This is where you can, for example, dwell on the “call” button on your headset to invoke Siri or Google Now, then interact with that assistant to make a call or send a message for example.

Personally, I would just like to see the voice-recognition abilities of an audio accessory improved so that they can work with whichever voice-driven personal assistant you use. This would be in the form of something like microphone arrays or something similar, along with a standard function mapping for voice-assistant buttons. Similarly, audio adaptors and wearables like smartwatches and fitness bands could be focused towards supporting the “visual component” of voice-driven personal-assistant platforms by showing visual information on their displays that augment the voice-driven experience.

Send to Kindle

Controlling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your iOS 11 device

Articles

If you can’t manage your iOS 11 device’s WiFi or Bluetooth from the Control Center, you may have to go to the Settings App.

iOS Control Centre’s Wireless Toggles Don’t Turn Off Wireless Radios | Lifehacker Australia

My Comments

Apple has just rolled out iOS 11 as an update for your iPhone’s or iPad’s operating system and, as expected with “.0” versions of operating systems’ major functionality updates, there will be a few bugs and issues here and there. This is typically due to Apple, like other software vendors, rushing the major-functionality version of the software out the door to satisfy the vendor’s marketing team’s needs. In this case, the goal here is to get the new iPhone X and new iPhone 8 range, which will be loaded with this operating-system version, ready to sell to the crowds queueing outside the Apple stores and mobile phone retailers on the day they are released i.e. 22 September for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and 3 November for the iPhone X.

One of these is the inability to manage Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from the Control Center on your iOS device even though the buttons do exist there to enable and disable this function. Here, you may want to disable one or both of these functions for your privacy when in the vicinity of Wi-Fi networks you don’t trust, to save battery runtime when you are not connected to a Bluetooth peripheral or a Wi-Fi network or simply as part of troubleshooting a Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth peripheral connection.

The symptom shows up in the form where pressing the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icons in the Control Center has no effect on the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality. But you can work around this by going to the Settings app on your iOS device. Then you tap on WiFi or Bluetooth to select the appropriate function you want to control.

Disable the appropriate function by sliding the switch to the Off position whereupon you will see no references to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi activity and the green marker will disappear. Or enable the appropriate function by sliding the switch to the On position where you will see the green marker appear and references to the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi activity appear.

Of course, keep an eye on the Settings app for newer “point-release” versions of the iOS operating system and update your iOS device with these newer versions as they arrive. Here, these versions will typically rectify bugs, security exploits or weaknesses that become knowledge to Apple.

Send to Kindle

Setting up a mobile NAS to work with your home network

WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS

The WD MyPassport Wireless mobile network-attached storage – can offer data to the host Wi-Fi network when set up in hotspot mode

Increasingly, data-storage device manufacturers are adding to their mobile network-attached storage devices the same kind of network-based data storage and access features typically offered with a standard desktop NAS device. This is rather than these devices just being a lightweight file server for smartphones and tablets connected to the device’s own Wi-Fi access point.

I had previously reviewed one of these devices in the form of the WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS which demonstrated this kind of functionality. In the review, I had called out the DLNA-compliant media server that was part of that mobile NAS’s feature set, where you had the ability to show your photos and videos on one of the latest Smart TVs via the home network the TV is connected to.

Mobile NAS with hotspot mode set for “secure” or “private” mode

As well, some of the increasingly-sophisticated devices like the WD MyPassport Wireless Pro also are offering the same kind of Samba-based (SMB / CIFS) file transfer method that you can do with other NAS devices so you can transfer resources to these devices using your regular computer’s operating-system’s file manager and its network file transfer protocols. Similarly, the devices may implement FTP, WebDAV or other common network-file-transfer protocols primarily to allow you to upload photos and footage from your Wi-Fi-capable digital camera or camcorder to the mobile NAS if the camera honours these standard protocols.

How to have this work properly?

Here your mobile NAS unit needs to be set up for connection to an existing small Wi-Fi network as a client device of that network. It also needs to be set up to share its resources to that client network in addition to the network it creates using its own wireless access point.  Most of this configuration that I would be talking about here would be something you would do using the vendor-provided native mobile-platform app or, perhaps, a Web page that the mobile NAS creates as its management page.

Mobile NAS with hotspot functionality set up for file sharing mode

Typically, you may set this up as part of enabling a “Share Wi-Fi Connection”, “Wi-Fi Hotspot” or similar function that effectively shares a logical network connection between multiple devices that connect to the portable NAS’s access point. This function is similar to what most travel routers offer as a way to share the one logical (and usually permitted) connection to a hotel’s guest-access Wi-Fi service amongst the personal computing devices you and your travelling companions own. Similarly, this same function creates a “trust circle” between multiple devices connected to the mobile NAS’s access point allowing them to be discovered by each other even if the public-access Wi-Fi network that the NAS is connected to is configured properly with client isolation enabled.

When you enable the “hotspot” function on a sophisticated mobile NAS like the WD MyPassport Wireless / Wireless Plus series or the Seagate Wireless Plus, you will have an option to set this function to work in a “private” or “secure” mode or a “sharing” mode.  In the “private” mode, the data held on the NAS becomes available only to devices on the Wi-Fi network created by the mobile NAS’s access point. Conversely, the “sharing” mode will make the data available to devices on the network which has the Wi-Fi segment you connected the mobile NAS to as part of the “hotspot” mode.

Availability of data held on mobile NAS Sharing mode Secure / Private mode
Host wireless network Yes No
Wireless network created by mobile NAS’s access point Yes Yes

To allow the mobile NAS to share its resources on your home network, you need to enable the “sharing” mode or disable the “secure” or “private” mode while setting up the “hotspot” functionality. It is a wise practice not to use the “sharing” mode on a Wi-Fi network used as a public-access network and this function wouldn’t work with these networks that are properly set up with client isolation enabled.

What can the manufacturers do to improve the Wi-Fi bridging functionality on these devices?

The “Wi-Fi hotspot” or “Shared Wi-Fi” functionality could be improved upon by allowing users to create preset operating modes for particular Wi-Fi networks. This would work in a similar way to the way Windows allows the user to classify each network they connect to as being a “home”, “work” or “public” network, causing it to adopt an exposed persona suitable for your home or office network or a private person for that public-access Wi-Fi network. Such parameters could be to determine whether to share resources with the host network or to always clone the client device’s MAC address when connecting along with remembered Wi-Fi network passwords.

Here, as a user connects the mobile NAS to a Wi-Fi network for “Shared Wi-Fi” operation, they are invited to save the configurations they have established for that network. Then, when they reconnect to that network, the mobile NAS assumes the operating modes that the user previously defined. These details can be referenced by the host network’s ESSID or a user-defined name for that network.

Conclusion

Once you know how to set up that highly-capable mobile NAS device and exploit the “private” or “shared” operating modes that these devices offer with setting up the “Shared Wi-Fi” or “hotspot” mode, you can then use them to make resources held therein available to other small networks you connect them to.

Send to Kindle