Network hardware design Archive

A serious wireless router / NAS combo from LaCie – ready for next-generation broadband


LaCie Intros ‘Wireless Space’ Wi-Fi Router / Access Point / NAS Media Server All-in-one | eHomeUpgrade


Video direct link

My comments

There have been previous attempts to combine a network-attached-storage device with a broadband router but most of these have resulted in devices having the worst of two worlds unless you build a computer to work as this kind of device. Mostly you have a “storage router” which is a regular wireless “edge” router which can convert a USB-connected storage device in to a network-attached storage or a network-attached storage which can serve two networks and offer elementary routing functionality.

But LaCie have made a better attempt to bring the best of both worlds together. They have released the “Wireless Space” which is a NAS with integrated wireless-router functionality in a beautiful piano-black housing.

The network-attached storage can do what most single-disk systems can do such as offering integrated backup using operating-system-integrated backup functions that are part of Microsoft Windows or Apple MacOS X. Of course, files can be stored using the SMB or CIFS in a network-public share or a private share and the unit can provision media using UPnP AV / DLNA or Apple iTunes. One feature that I would like to know about with the UPnP AV media server is whether it can work with the full metadata for audio, image and video files or simply provide a folder view.

The unit can be set to work as a wireless “edge” router, a wireless access point or a wireless client bridge which provides for high flexibility, no matter whether you want to keep your existing broadband router going or replace it with something better. There are 3 Gigabit Ethernet ports for the LAN side of the connection and one Gigabit Ethernet port for the WAN (broadband) side of the connection, which makes this unit fit for use with “next-generation broadband” setups. The wireless network is based on 2.4GHz 802.11n technology and can use WPS quick-setup options.

When the unit works as a broadband router, it has the full expectation for a mid-range broadband router including UPnP Internet Gateway Device functionality and VPN pass-through. If it works as a switch, it can work alongside UPnP Internet Gateway Device routers to enable remote access to the network-attached storage resources.

It could have support for 4-port switch functionality when in switch mode rather than the 3-port switch + “recovery port” functionality that it has. As well, it could do well with support for WPS-assisted “extension access point” setup so it can work quickly and easily as part of an “extended service set”. Of course, I would prefer to hook this device to a wired backbone or run it as a wireless broadband “edge” router in order to avoid putting your data at risk due to the radio-interference risks associated with wireless networking and the fact that the wireless network is a shared-bandwidth network.

This may raise questions about this device being an “infill” NAS/access-point network device for a small network or being a replacement for an existing broadband router such as to “fatten the pipe” for next-generation broadband.

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Mobile codes to boost Google account security | Security – CNET News


Mobile codes to boost Google account security | Security – CNET News

My comments

Google have worked on a way of improving security for Web-page login experiences because these login experiences are easily vulnerable to phishing attacks.

What is this technology

This method is similar to a hardware security “token” used by some big businesses for data security and increasingly by some banks to protect their customers’ Internet-banking accounts against phising attacks. This is a device that you keep with you in your wallet or on your keyring which shows a random number that you key in to a login screen alongside your user name and password and is based on “what you have” as well as “what you know”.

This time, the function of this “token” is moved to the mobile phone which nearly all of us have on ourselves. It will appear as a smartphone “app” for the Blackberry, Android or iPhone platforms that shows the random code number or will operate in the form of your phone showing an SMS with the token code or you hearing a code number from a call you answer on that phone. Of course, you will register your mobile number with Google to enable this level of security.

The direction for the technology

Google are intending to use it with their application platform which covers GMail, Adsense, Analytics, Picasa and other Google services. Initially it will be tried with selected user groups but will be available to the entire user base.

They will provide an option to avoid the need to use this “Google codes” system on the same computer for a month, which would appeal to users who work with their GMail account from their netbook or desktop PC. They will still need to have this work if they “come in” to their GMail account from another computer and it will work if someone else uses the same PC to check on their GMail.

What I am pleased about with this is that they intend to “open-source” this system so that it can be implemented in to other platforms and applications. Similarly, the “apps” can then be ported to newer smartphone platforms or “baked in” to other PDAs and similar devices. As far as the “apps” are concerned, I would like to allow one piece of code to service multiple service providers rather than loading a smartphone with multiple apps for different providers.

Making the home network secure

I would like to see this technology being tried out as a method of securing devices that use Web-based data-access or management interfaces, similar to D-Link’s use of CAPTCHA for securing their home-network routers’ management login interfaces. This is becoming more so as nearly every home uses a wireless network router as the network-Internet “edge” for their networks. Similarly, there is an increasing tendency to use a network-attached storage for pooling data to be available across the network or as backup storage and most of these units use a Web-based user interface.


One feature that I like about this Google project is that they have applied a security technology normally available to big business and made it available to small business and consumer users.

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Tweet this on your lounge-room TV with Panasonic


Panasonic Adds A Twitter App To Its Viera Cast Plasma HDTVS

My Comments

First, they did it by enabling video conferencing with Skype, now Panasonic are allowing you to Tweet a comment about that show you are watching or follow your Twitter friends on your lounge-room TV. Who knows not if but when Facebook will become the next add-on for Panasonic’s Viera-Cast TVs and Blu-Ray players. These sets will also need to work with a remote control that has a QWERTY alphanumeric keyboard so you you can get those Tweets or status updates out as that show progresses.

This happens to be highly relevant as an increasing number of television shows, mainly sports, talk shows, current-event broadcasts, reality TV and the like integrate Twitter in to their content and have set up a particular hashtag associated with that show. This typically includes the use of a “Twitter crawl” that appears at the bottom of the screen and / or the show’s compere or anchor citing selected Tweets directed at the show.

It is becoming the direction for manufacturers to extend the common social-Web and Internet-driven-communications platforms to a “10-foot” experience on the lounge-room TV or video peripheral (Blu-Ray player or “personal-TV service”) either by providing the function as an “app” that you choose from an “app-menu” or “app-store”; or as part of a firmware update that is rolled out to the device.

This may require a change in the direction on how the remote control for the TV set is designed. This may be in the form of a handset that mimics the Nokia N97 Mini smartphone where the top of the remote swings away to reveal a QWERTY keypad; a handset that looks like a BlackBerry or Nokia E-Series smartphone or simply an app for the common smartphone platforms which provides TV control as well as a link between the phone’s text-entry keyboard and the TV. It may also mean that the infra-red remote control will go the way of the ultrasonic remote control and be replaced by a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi remote control. Other solutions may also include support for standards-based Bluetooth keyboards like the Logitech diNovo Mini or Microsoft’s Media Center keyboards.

In this case, there will need to be an interest in designing more of the multimedia keyboards that appeal to being operated while you are slouching on the couch. This will mean keyboards that are backlit when they are used, small keyboards that can be worked with two thumbs; keyboards resistant to damage from crisps (US: chips) and sweet drinks that are often consumed in front of the telly and elegant-design keyboards.

Now it will certainly mean that the TV isn’t just for watching your favourite shows any more. It will also be about integrating the social Web with the experience.

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Another dockable NAS system from Seagate

News article

Seagate introduces GoFlex Home for household network storage | The Toybox – ZDNet

From the horse’s mouth

Seagate –

Product Page

Press Release

My comments

Seagate had previously released a docking hard-disk system under the FreeAgent name, with a USB dock, media-player dock and the DockStar which is a network-attached storage which works with the FreeAgent docking hard disks.

This unit was based around the PogoPlug technology which has an Ethernet-ended network-attached-storage circuit in the same space as a “wall-wart” AC adaptor. It was able to support these functions:

  • “cloud-based” file sync
  • file backup either with supplied software or operating-system-native software in the form of Apple Time Machine or CIFS
  • a DLNA-compliant media server or
  • Remote file access from the Internet

Now, Seagate have established a new “FreeAgent” docking hard-disk form factor in the form of the GoFlex, which has some different attributes to the previous standard. Why has this action been taken?

One issue that may be of concern is the desire for Seagate to move from one platform to another but keep a few products going to support those who have the established platform.

Whatever, I would consider this NAS design as being suitable for use with a small network or as a secondary unit for a larger network. One application that I would think of for these units would be as a DLNA media server for a small-business network that has a dedicated server computer running something like Windows Server or a Linux business server build for company data. This unit would, as outlined in “DLNA and UPnP AV in the business”, hold media like pictures or videos to show using DLNA-capable TVs and electronic picture frames as part of the business’s visual merchandising strategy without putting business-critical data at risk.

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Another of NETGEAR’s cost-effective but highly-functional switches appears in their latest Gigabit PoE Smart Switch

News article

NETGEAR Adds Gigabit PoE Smart Switch – SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR GS110TP Gigabit PoE switch product page

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE-supply Smart Switch

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE 8 Port Smart Switch

My comments

The concept of VLANs and quality-of-service functionality is now become increasingly relevant to the home and small-business network now that the “single-pipe triple-play” and “next-generation” broadband Internet services are either here in your market or are coming around the corner to your market.

What are VLANs

The VLAN is a separate logical network path within a physical network medium, such as multiple SSIDs from one Wi-Fi access point serving different networks or a HomePlug setup with multiple Network Passwords for different networks. Most business-grade Ethernet switches offer this functionality in order to have particular Ethernet sockets associated with particular logical networks. It is used in many network applications such as interlinking a business with multiple premises through one multi-tenant building or providing Internet-only “guest access” service to business networks.

Now the VLAN is becoming common in small networks as part of either providing “guest access” or “hotspot service” to the Internet without encroaching on the security of the resident network; or providing dedicated “fast-lanes” for quality of service when it comes to A/V streaming or VoIP service.

NETGEAR’s role in this equation

Now NETGEAR have provided the GS110TP Gigabit Power-Over-Ethernet Smart Switch which is an 8-port switch which offers this functionality and Power-Over-Ethernet to all the ports for US$260. This is similar to how this company offered 5-port and 8-port 10/100Mbps Cat5 Ethernet hubs and switches at prices affordable for most people when the idea of home networking and broadband Internet came on the horizon in the early 2000s. Then a few years later, they offered 8-port 10/100Mbps switches with that had 802.3af standards-based Power-Over-Ethernet supply functionality on four of the ports, again at a price that most users can afford.

It may be easy to think of this unit being a candidate “central” switch when you wire your premises for Ethernet and want to make it future-proof for these new requirements. There have been some concessions to allow it to work properly with “triple-play” by the use of a default VLAN matrix with one VLAN for regular traffic, one for VoIP and one for video traffic. There is some “automatic-transmission” logic that shifts data to the different VLANs based on whether the data was primarily multicast in the case of video or one of a few VoIP protocols in the case of VoIP.

The main problem with this is that this switch wouldn’t work in a “plug-and-play” manner with “edge” devices that use certain VLAN setups or QoS methods to assure video and VoIP quality-of-service. For example, most of the “n-boxes” (Livebox, Neufbox, Freebox, Bbox, etc) used by French “triple-play” service providers as network-Internet edges have one Ethernet port for video traffic and three Ethernet ports for regular traffic. These units would expect you to connect the IPTV box to the “video” Ethernet port and you may end up with QoS or installation difficulties if you used this switch with them.

Limitations with this class of switch

For these switches to become easier to implement in a home or small-business network, there would have to be standards that allow an “edge” device to communicate its QoS and VLAN needs to these switches. This may be important if the “edge” device is managed by the service provider or is part of the provisioning chain that a service provider uses.

This may also include the flexible installation and “at-will” relocation of devices like VoIP handsets or IPTV devices as well as the support for multiple devices of this type across an Ethernet backbone. It also includes the support of multiple cascaded switches such as “regional” switches in other parts of the building or other buildings.

Other benefits to take note of

One bonus that I like about this switch is that it has offered 802.3af-compliant Power-Over-Ethernet across all Ethernet ports which allows the Ethernet cable to be a power cable as well as a data cable.This technology, which I will cover in a separate article on this site, has been pitched at business networks as being suitable for powering Wi-Fi access points, VoIP telephone handsets and IP-based surveillance cameras with one cable and from one point. Infact, NETGEAR have released an 8-port “regional” smart switch that has similar QoS and VLAN functionality but can be powered from this switch or other standards-based Power-Over-Ethernet networks.

Another feature that also appealed to me about this switch is that a unit of this price was equipped with optical-fibre LAN connectivity which can reduce the cost of using optical-fibre as a high-reliability long-distance link between buildings, especially on large properties. 


This is another example of NETGEAR offering technology that is deemed “large business” at prices that home users and small business can afford.

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Swedish TV manufacturers implement Android in a flatscreen TV


Swedish TV Manufacture, People of Lava, Intros Worlds First Android-Powered HDTV | eHomeUpgrade

Une TV sous Android chez Lava | Le Journal du Geek (France – French language)

From the horse’s mouth

People Of Lava – Company page

Product Page

My comments

I was not surprised with the Google Android software  being implemented as an embedded-applications platform beyond the smartphone and Internet tablet. Here, “People Of Lava” have introduced a range of Internet-connected main-lounge-area television sets that use Android as their operating firmware. In fact, what’s more is that these sets are open to the Google Android Marketplace so that users can add extra functionality to them by drawing-down the appropriate apps.

What I also liked about this design was that a lot of the design costs were cut out for the manufacturer because they didn’t need to design an operating environment from the ground up when they wanted to design the equipment. It has also provided an easier path for user customisation, which may be of benefit with Internet-based TV services like IPTV and catch-up TV; and sets deployed in hotels and similar businesses.

This has then proven that the Google Android platform can become a serious contender for the embedded and dedicated-purpose operating system marketplace.

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Network-Attached Storage with Built-in Battery Backup

 Thecus NAS server ( Network attached storage ) | Unbeatable Protection with Thecus® Battery Backup Module

Product Page

My Comments

Most of us who run a network-attached storage device will realise that these devices will need to have constant power supply in order to keep the data safe. The common solution that we would take would be to connect the NAS’s AC power supply through an uninterruptible power supply. These devices have a built-in battery to provide enough power to allow for an orderly shutdown of the device or allow the device to run longer through a short outage.

Now Thecus have taken a cue from a common security-system design practice. This is where an alarm system has an integrated battery that is maintained by the system’s power supply. It is so that the alarm system can continue to protect the premises if there is a power outage.

They have extended this concept by providing an optional battery-backup module for the N4200 “muscle-NAS” unit as an alternative to a UPS setup, with the battery allowing enough power for an orderly shutdown or completion of firmware installation. This can also cater for power outages including situations where the device may be accidentally unplugged and may be enough for most home and small-business environments.  If the NAS is used with an UPS, it could allow a larger safety margin for the data through the provision of “dual-layered” battery backup arrangement.

The concept may be worth it for equipment that is used in the home or by small businesses and would be a must for places where the power supply is likely to be unreliable. It also is another example where the manufacturers are racing to build the best example of a top-end network-attached storage device for the home or small business in a similar way to what Ford, GM and Chrysler were doing in the late 60s and early 70s with the “muscle cars”.

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Samsung Super AMOLED explained in pretty moving pictures (video) — Engadget

 Samsung Super AMOLED explained in pretty moving pictures (video) – Engadget

Samsung’s explanatory video clip

My comments on this technology

Same desirable attributes as the OLED displays, but improved in significant ways. Ability for the display to have integrated touch-sensitivity, This leads to slimmer touchscreen handsets which is an increasingly-important application in the now-competitive smartphone market, as well as similar applications like remote-control handsets and personal media players.

They have improved the outdoor viewing ability and display responsiveness for this display, which would be of benefit to mobile phones as well as digital-imaging and handheld-games-console applications. But do I see this technology going further? Another application that I could see the Super AMOLED work well with is a watch which works as an auxiliary display and control unit for mobile phones, like some of the Sony Bluetooth watches that have been surfacing lately. Such watches could then permit a colour display on the wrist with various interesting applications.

An area where this Super AMOLED technology could excel would be automotive and marine applications, especially if the cost of larger-area displays comes to a par with the common LCD displays. For example, the new multi-function displays that are becoming the control point for HVAC, infotainment, navigation, and similar applications in newer cars could move towards this display technology. Similarly, this technology could appeal to personal navigation devices a.k.a. “sat-navs” or GPS units, marine GPS / fish-finder units as well as aftermarket car-audio equipment.

What I see is that the Super AMOLED could be one of the next key display technologies as was the LCD or the LED displays.

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Use of broadcast-network tuners to democratise pay-TV

 TiVo, Sony and others to FCC: ‘gateways’ should replace CableCARD — Engadget HD

My comments on this idea

The common situation with most TV households is that if they sign up to a pay-TV service like Foxtel (Australia), a local cable-TV franchise in the USA, DirecTV (USA) or Sky TV (UK), they can only watch TV through the set-top box provided by the service provider. The TV remote control ends up becoming redundant as they have to use the set-top box’s remote control for their TV viewing.

If they want to use a DVR i.e.. a “personal TV service”, they have to use the DVR option provided by the pay-TV provider rather than get a retail DVR solution like TiVo, a home-theatre PC such as Windows Media Center or one offered by a major consumer-electronics brand. In some situations like some cable-TV implementations in the US, you may be able to use a retail DVR solution along with a special “CableCARD” and, perhaps, a “tuning adaptor”. But this doesn’t provide the full service that the customer has put money up for, such as interactive TV or access to “pay-per-view” or “on-demand” content.

As well, a lot of these providers often charge an extra fee if the user wants to deploy a set-top box in other rooms. This typically means that one TV set, usually the one installed in the main lounge room or family room, is subscribed to the pay-TV service. At best, most users may deploy the second set-top box in a secondary lounge area like the rumpus / games room.

What is the layout preferred by TiVo, Sony and others?

The layout would consist of the following:

  • A “gateway device” or broadcast-network tuner connected to the cable service or satellite dish which “tunes” the pay-TV services and manages access to these services. It then makes them available over the home network using IP-based standards and technologies.  This device can also pass back information relating to “pay-per-view” content orders or interactive television from the endpoint devices. It can also handle on-demand content offered by pay-TV providers in the convention context and fulfil the content to the desired end-devices.
  • Standards-compliant endpoint devices (TV sets, DVRs, etc) that are connected to the home network and discover the services and content using technologies like DLNA. These devices can work with interactive services provided by the TV service provider and provide the viewer’s responses to the gateway device via the home network.

This is similar to the “broadcast-network tuner” setups like Devolo’s dLAN Sat, the Tivit ATSC mobile DTV WiFi tuner and the HD HomeRun tuner, where there is a digital-broadcast tuner that passes the signal via an IP-based home network to a hardware set-top box or software player program in a general-purpose computer so people can view the TV programme. These solutions typically used a non-standard control method and, in most cases, a single RF front-end so that only one TV set could operate at a time and they couldn’t work with a DVR or similar device.

Why develop this layout?

There is a desire for true competition in the multichannel pay-TV industry concerning end-user devices that is similar to what has occurred with telephone hardware since the Carterfone Decision in the USA and the Davidson Inquiry in Australia. One of the goals is to provide a TV navigation interface that encompasses off-air, pay-TV and IP-delivered content in the one electronic programme guide. This guide’s interface would be “skinned” to match the host device’s branding or any user customisations that are available to the device’s user. It also means that the user only needs to deal with one remote control to find whatever they want to watch.

This kind of layout could allow each TV set and each computer in the house to have access to all of the pay-TV services, rather than the common situation of having to deploy pay-TV set-top boxes to each place where there is a TV set.

There is the ability to upgrade the gateway to suit changing technological needs such as change of infrastructure or improvement in transmission or security protocols. That same ability also exists if the user wants to change providers or sign up to a supplementary-content service. Here, in all the situations above, there is no need to replace the end-user’s devices like DVRs or Internet-enabled TV sets, nor is there a need to replace software on any of the computers in the house to accommodate these changes.. In these cases, the software or firmware can discover the new services that are provided through the new hardware.

What needs to happen

One thing that needs to happen is high-profile implementation of common standard technologies like UPnP AV in the broadcast-reception sphere. This includes having endpoint and recording devices work to these standards when discovering and receiving broadcast signals via an IP network. It also includes the recognition of electronic-programme-guide data provided by these gateway devices, especially if the device that benefits from the data is a recording device like a “personal TV service”. It doesn’t matter whether the client device has the programme-guide data or the broadcast-network tuner has that data. This also includes handling situations where the same broadcast service can be received through different paths such as one or more over-the-air channels and / or a cable or satellite service.

In a similar light, broadband routers that work as the network-Internet “edge” could work as a “gateway” for IPTV services by storing channel lineups and service-authority information for these services.  This device may also have to support handling of interactive-TV sessions in situations where the endpoint device cannot handle the sessions itself.

As well, interactive-TV setups would need to work with an IP backhaul irrespective of whether the TV signal is delivered via RF (cable, classic-TV-aerial or satellite) means or via an IP feed. This also includes allowing access to downloaded assets associated with interactive content.


As mentioned before, what needs to happen is the use of common standards and device classes to support broadcast-network tuners; standard viewing and recording devices; and the home network in order to democratise the provision of pay-TV services.

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A laptop that will directly please the Beo-enthusiasts

ASUS NX90: Bang & Olufsen ICEpower Laptop [CES 2010] | Laptop at Hardware Sphere

Dual-touchpad laptop from Asus and Bang & Olufsen – CNET Crave

My comments

Beosound Ouverture There are those of you who may own or have used Bang & Olufsen hi-fi systems or TVs and have become amazed at the beauty of these Danish design masterpieces. Then when you switch on any of these masterpieces, your experience with them is so special, with such benefits as high-quality sound and pictures and a distinct “feel” and user experience.

You may be wondering when this kind of experience will appear on your computer and may have thought of using the Apple Macintosh as a way of coming closer to this experience.

Now Asus have brought this experience closer to the Windows PC user through the release of a laptop computer that has been designed in conjunction with this company. David Lewis, who is a freelance industrial designer who has designed most of the classic B&O masterpieces such as the Beosound 9000 music system and the Beovision LX and MX series of television sets, has been responsible for the key aspects of this design. Similarly, the pictures of this computer when it was open reminded me of the Master Control Panel that was part of the Beosystem 6500 music system, especially with the black keyboard area and the polished-aluminium palm rest. The screen bezel had the speakers integrated in it and was wider than the keyboard area. This made it have the look of one of B&O’s newer flatscreen TVs.

None of this design is complete without there being improvements in the sound-reproduction department. Here, they also used the B&O’s ICEPower Class-D switch-mode power amplification technology, which is known to be one of the few amplifier designs of this type that yield high-quality sound.  The main reason that the speakers are in the screen bezel, rather than facing upwards from the keyboard area, are to focus the sound at the user. This is the common setup practice for sound playing to the audience and is used for hi-fi, TV sound, desktop PCs and other common speaker-based sound reproduction tasks.

With Asus becoming involved with one of the few “audio companies of respect” to design a high-end laptop computer, this certainly shows that there is effort being taken in improving the sound quality of these computers. If this happens further, the quality of the sound that emanates from this class of computer could be improved rather than us having to stick with the usual weak tinny sound or connect these computers to external speakers for better sound reproduction.

These computers also used a “dual-touchpad” design which is often described as being similar to how a master DJ cues up records on his two turntables. This then allows for increased control of the computer, especially when scrolling through material.

Of course, the specifications and software provision are not dissimilar to a high-end multimedia laptop running Windows 7.

This also means that people who work with the Windows operating system can still benefit from classy and elegant computer designs. Once we see computers like this appearing on the market, there will be the desire to offer something that bit extra when it comes to the business-personal laptop computer.

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