Category: Network Management

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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Bluetooth to benefit from speed and range improvements

Articles

Bluetooth is getting big range and speed boosts in 2016 | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Bluetooth SIG

Press Release

My Comments

There is some talk about Bluetooth issuing a new major specification that will be tweaked further for the Internet Of Things. There have been some devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0 in this context, primarily in the form of some smart locks, but there are some limitations with operating range for example, especially when these devices work with network bridges to enable cloud-based control and monitoring.

Here they want to pitch it as a competitor to ZIgbee and Z-Wave for “smart-home”, industrial automation and location-based-service applications. The goal with this is to provide an increased operating range (typically 4x the current operating range) and 100% speed improvement but give the devices increased power efficiency. This may allow for operation for a long time like six months on commodity batteries – think of 2 or 3 AA-size or AAA-size Duracells or one coin-size battery of the kind used with watches or car-alarm keyfobs.

Similarly,Bluetooth wants to add “mesh support” where some devices act as radio repeaters for other devices to allow for building-wide coverage. This is something already practised with Zigbee and Z-Wave and could bring about Bluetooth as another option for that smart-home or building-automation system.

But with Bluetooth in the equation, a network bridge for an “Internet Of Things” setup may have to work with Z-Wave, Zigbee and Bluetooth if the goal is to provide an on-ramp to mobile or Internet control. On the other hand, it could be feasible for a device to be designed to work with smartphones and tablets while servicing a building-automation setup, using only one radio transceiver and a well-known data communications standard.

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Google celebrates Hedy Lamarr who is behind how Bluetooth works

Articles

Hedy Lamarr: Five things you didn’t know about the actress and inventor in today’s Google doodle | The Independent

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Celebrating Hedy Lamarr (Blog post)

Video

My Comments

Google is celebrating Hedy Lamarr who was an Austrian film actress who moved to France then America where she gained her footing as one of Hollywood’s most beautiful film stars. They have done this using their animated “Google Doodles” which shows you the pathway from a film star to the home network.

But it wasn’t all about being the most beautiful woman in Europe or starring in these films that made her significant. When Hedy was with her first husband who was a German arms dealer, she had taken an interest in applied science which was part of what made military technology work.

After fleeing Germany, she also wanted to contribute to the Allied war effort during World War II in a more useful way than selling war bonds. She realised that Hitler was using his U-Boats to sink passenger liners and wanted to do something about that.

Hedy Lamarr worked with George Antheil, an avante-garde composer who was her neighbour in Hollywood, to invent a frequency-hopping system for radio communications. This was a tool to allow successful communications to take place without being at risk of radio jamming which the Germans were good at. 

The proof of concept was based around a player piano a.k.a. a pianola and its perforated rolls that had the music and taught the instrument how to play. Here, a piano roll was used to unpredictably change radio equipment between 88 different frequencies with the setup only operating on the frequencies for a short time. The sequence was only known between the controlling ship and the torpedo and it would require a lot of power in those days to jam a large swathe of frequencies. 

This was not implemented by US Navy until the early 1960s where it earnt its keep as part of a blockade of Cuba. But this technology and the spread-spectrum ability that it allowed for ended up as an integral part of today’s digital-radio communications techology. Examples of this include Bluetooth, CDMA used in some cordless phone and mobile phone applications and COFDM which is used in Wi-Fi wireless networking which nearly every home network runs with, DAB and digital satellite radio and DVB-T digital TV.

Here, it is about a film star who appeared through Hollywood’s Golden Era but also contributed to the features essential for mobile computing and home networking.

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Assistance Journal–Linking a desktop computer to a home network

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor – a no-new-wires network best for that desktop computer

This last Saturday, my church’s pastor opened up to me that he was running in to difficulties with connecting his desktop computer to his home network. This happened after he moved to a new location due to a new ministry placement.

In his previous location he ran an integrated Wi-Fi setup because the router for his home network was located in the lounge area, next to his home office and this wasn’t causing any problems for him. But the new location required the computer and router to be further away from each other.

A follow-up call led me to find that he had bought a wireless range extender with an intent to use as a wireless-Ethernet bridge but found that this device was difficult to configure. Here I suggested something better in the form of a HomePlug AV500 powerline network segment which is something I have always advocated on this site as a “no new wires” solution for situations involving desktop computers and similar devices. He was confused about how these network segments worked because he was used to either a “new-cables” Ethernet setup or a wireless setup as a network setup and though this technology wasn’t going to work in his situation.

After the church service, we went out to lunch at a local shopping centre and afterwards, he and I went to a local JB Hi-Fi store in the shopping centre and he bought a HomePlug AV500 kit upon my recommendation. I had him have a look at the concept diagrams that were on the boxes of some of the other HomePlug devices stocked nearby this kit to understand what these devices were about and how they work.

Later on, my pastor rang me for assistance in setting up the HomePlug AV500 network and I helped him over the phone through the setup process where you have to press the SimpleConnect paring buttons to pair the adaptors over the AC wiring and establish the connection. This involved holding down the SimpleConnect button on one device for 10 seconds then pressing the SimpleConnect button on the other device for 2 seconds but watching for the lights to flicker in a certain way.  I also suggested that this procedure is done on power outlets that are located close to each other before finally connecting them to the desktop computer and the router.

I also stressed that these adaptors had to be plugged directly in to the wall or in to an ordinary powerboard or double adaptor that doesn’t have surge-protecting or line-conditioning features. A few minutes later, I received a text-message of success that he had established the HomePlug AV500 powerline segment and set this up with the desktop computer and router.

Here, this support situation illustrated the fact that Wi-Fi wireless networking doesn’t suit all network needs and situations; and that a HomePlug AV500 powerline network can provide a better “no-new-wires” solution for sessile devices like desktop computers or home entertainment equipment.

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Netgear sells a router and HomePlug access point as a package through Best Buy

Article

Best Buy, NETGEAR Partner On Distributed Wi-Fi System | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR

Nighthawk R7300DST Router and DST Adaptor

Product Page

Best Buy

Product Page – GET THIS HERE! (US$299)

My Comments

Most of us think of filling in our home network’s Wi-Fi dark spots where there is poor wireless reception or extending its range through the purchase of a wireless range extender. But these devices can be a headache to use and, as I have heard for myself when I talked with a friend regarding their home network, these devices are likely end up being returned to the store very quickly.

As well, when I advise someone on filling in that Wi-Fi dark spot, I recommend using an access point that connects to the router via a wired backbone i.e. Ethernet or HomePlug powerline.

NETGEAR and Best Buy has answered this problem by offering the DST package which consists of a NightHawk R7300DST wireless broadband router and DST adaptor. The DST name stands for “Dead Spot Terminator” which is about eliminating these dark spots in a home network’s Wi-Fi segment. This will also get rid of frustrations that Best Buy face with handling the number of wireless range extenders that come in as returned stock.

Here, once you have set up the Netgear DST router and given your Wi-Fi network segment its ESSID name and WPA2-Personal passphrase, you can simply plug the DST adaptor which is really a HomePlug AV2 simultaneous dual-band access point in to the power outlet in the area you need to expand Wi-Fi coverage to. Then you press the WPS and DST Sync buttons on both these devices to effectively transfer the settings to extend the network.

You could “revise” your network using the router’s interface and have these settings transmitted to the DST Adaptor. As well, you can separately purchase extra DST adaptors so you can cover that large house easily. The HomePlug AV2 segment created by this router can be used for other HomePlug AV, AV500 and AV2 devices but, as far as I know, you don’t have the ability to transfer Wi-Fi network parameters from the router to other HomePlug access points.

I would like to see Netgear offer this feature across more of their routers including the modem routers and offer these products beyond the USA. This feature can be augmented through manufacturers implementing nVoy in to their consumer and small-business networking equipment to allow for simplified network setup using the best network medium for the job,

As well, the Netgear NightHawk DST router supports up-to-date requirements like IPv6 dual-stack operation and the system supports operation up to AC1900 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and HomePlug AV2.

It shows that it is feasible to have one-touch setup of multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks and that there is a future in maintaining the concept of access points with a wired backbone as a way to assure Wi-Fi coverage across a home. Who else will come up with such a package. As well, it is a first for a major appliance chain to encourage a supplier to factor in HomePlug technology as a valid solution for a problem.

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BT to go IPv6 across their consumer Internet services

ArticleBT brand identity Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369. News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre.

UPDATE3 BT to Deploy IPv6 Across Entire Network by December 2016 | ISPReview

My Comments

Another step towards widespread IPv6 adoption has taken place with BT, one of Britain’s major ISPs, moving their UK customers including households towards IPv6. This is after Comcast had provided a 100% IPv6 rollout to their customers in August 2014 and is a sign of the times for big ISPs who have the large customer bases because they are running out of public IPv4 addresses to issue to customers.IPv6 logo courtesy of World IPv6 Launch program

There is a goal to have half of the UK covered by April 2016 then to have all covered by Christmas that year. They will also want to get this going with a soft launch rather than with a lot of publicity.

This will typically be in a dual-stack setup like most other IPv6 ISP developments but customers who use their Home Hub 5 routers. Home Hub 4 routers will be IPv6-ready after an upgrade.  But this can also work with third-party routers that implement IPv6 in a dual-stack manner, a feature that is being asked of for recent premium and mid-tier equipment but is starting to become more common. Some of you may use a router that can be enabled for IPv6 after a firmware upgrade and it is wise to check at your equipment manufacturer’s Website for any newer firmware that allows for this. Typically, you just have to enable IPv6 on your router’s WAN (Internet) connections to have this function enabled which is something you do via its management Web page.

As for your equipment, your computer, tablet and smartphone will be IPv6 ready if it is running a recent operating system and most of the high-end home and small-business NAS devices will support IPv6. At the moment, if you are after a network-capable printer that supports IPv6, you will probably have to purchase a small-business device from one of the big names.

What it is showing is that IPv6 will become a strong reality for the provisioning and sustenance of your current or next Internet service. If BT can go IPv6 for their Internet services, why can’t Telstra do it for their BigPond Internet services?

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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015–Part 2–Wearables and the Home Network

IFA LogoPreviously, in Part 1 of my series about the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015 in Berlin, I had covered the trends affecting regular computers, tablets and smartphones especially with Intel just releasing the Skylake processor silicon which yields better performance for the same amount of power used. This has caused manufacturers to effectively refresh their desktop and portable computer lineups. As well, nearly every computer manufacturer is offering a lineup of desktop or portable computers that shine on gaming-grade performance to appeal to the core gamer and e-sports communities.

Wearables

ASUS ZenWatch 2 press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS ZenWatch 2

The smartwatch scene is slowly maturing with manufacturers offering more of these watches in their product lineups. The key trends here are about smartwatches that are designed to “look right” for the user and occasion. Here, we are seeing premium smartwatches that would look the part if you are to “dress to impress” on that date or in the corporate boardroom, but there are a few sports smartwatches with the rugged look along with a few “ladies’ watches” that look the part on her wrist.

Samsung had just launched the latest Tizen-based Gear S2 which has a traditional-looking round face and they have co-opted Alessandro Mendini, a well known Italian designer, to design accessory bands and watch faces for this watch.

ASUS has come along with the Zenwatch 2 Android Wear which uses an OLED display and Gorilla Glass protection and comes in 2 different sizes. It even has an add-on battery pack for if you want to get that more runtime out of the watch. Fossil has come up with another Android Wear watch as part of their range.

 

Moto 360 ladies smartwatches press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Motorola 360 smartwatches for her

Motorola have built out their Moto 360 range of Android Wear smartwatches with the Moto 360 Sport which is their smartwatch equivalent of the sports watch along with a slender “ladies’ watch” variant that will look good on her wrist. There are different finishes available such as a rose-gold look, a gold look, a silver look and a black-metal look with these watches up for preorder. This is also accompanied with a 1” TV commercial which they used to promote this watch.

LG Watch Urbane Luxe press picture courtesy of LG

LG Watch Urbane Luxe – fit for the boardroom

LG have also brought out the LG Watch Urbane Luxe which is a more premium variant of the LG Watch Urbane. This comes with an OLEP flexible display that works like the OLED displays and has a 24-carat gold finish. Huawei’s Android Wear watch can be had gold plated for US$800, gold with a leather band for US$649, black metal for US$449 and a stainless steel look for US$349.

The home network

The main trend affecting the home network is the availability of 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless-network technology which implements the MU-MIMO multi-path technology. This has led to some very powerful routers hitting the European market lately which have four MIMO streams and support the “multi-user” feature that effectively creates a Wi-Fi “switch” out of the access point.

ASUS RT-AC5300 router press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS RT-AC5300 router

ASUS has launched the RT-AC5300  which is considered the world’s fastest Wi-Fi router. This router, which uses spike-shaped antennas can run 1Gbps over the 2.4GHz band and 2.167Gbps over the 5GHz bands.

NETGEAR also fielded the 7800 Nighthawk X4S which is the first modem router to offer this kind of performance. This modem router has a DSL modem on the WAN (Internet) side that can work with ADSL2 or VDSL2 (fibre-copper) networks alongside a Gigabit Ethernet connection for fibre-to-the-premises, fibre-coaxial or Ethernet-based fibre-copper networks; and has on the LAN side, Wi-Fi capable to AC2600 4×4 MU-MIMO dual-band standards along with 4 Gigabit Ethernet connections. It is available in Europe and Australia for a recommended price of AUD$529, EUR€299 or GBP£269. The American press were moaning that they didn’t get this modem router first but they work on a service provisioning method very different to Europe and Australasia where self-install or BYO-modem provisioning of DSL based services is the norm.

D-Link have fielded some home-network hardware in the form of the DIR-885L router which supports 4×4 MU-MIMO AC3150 for its Wi-Fi functionality. They even fielded a USB Wi-Fi network adaptor which can allow any computer to work with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless network. This device’s best-case abilities is to work with Wi-Fi network segments up to 3×3 MIMO AC1900 standards.

AVM Fritz!Box 6820 LTE "Mi-Fi" press picture courtesy of AVM

AVM Fritz!Box 6820 LTE “Mi-Fi”

AVM has been very productive with its home-network hardware although this has been very much “in the comfort zone” with existing technology. They have launched the Fritz!Box 4020 which is a small Internet gateway with an N300 dual-stream single-band Wi-Fi access point along with the Fritz!Box 7430 VDSL Internet gateway that has an N450 three-stream single-band Wi-Fi access point. They also launched the Fritz!Box 6820 which is a “Mi-Fi” that can work with LTE mobile-broadband services and implements 802.11n Wi-Fi and a Gigabit Ethernet connection on the LAN side.

AVM Fritz!Powerline 1220 HomePlug AV2 adaptor press photo courtesy of AVM

AVM Fritz!Powerline 1220 – AVM enters the HomePlug AV2 fray

They have bought in to the HomePlug AV2 MIMO arena by offering the Fritz!Powerline 1240E HomePlug wireless access point along with the Fritz!Powerline 1220E HomePlug adaptor with pass-through AC outlet. This is in conjunction with the Fritz!WLANRepeater 1160 which is a dual-band Wi-Fi repeater.

Devolo haven’t been quiet lately. Here, they are pitching custoem HomePlug-based powerline solutions including HomePlug access points to ISPs and telcos so they can provision these devices to customers for optimum Wi-Fi coverage. They intend to sell these solutions more likely on an OEM basis. As well, they have launched the dLAN 550 WiFi which is a HomePlug AV500 wireless access point that can establish a single-band N300 Wi-Fi segment. They also used this show to exhibit their existing dLAN 1200 HomePlug AV2 hardware including the dLAN 1200+ WiFi AC which is a wireless access point that answers to the HomePlug AV2 MIMO and 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi.

Next I will be talking about the home-entertainment trends that are expected to cover Europe and Australasia such as the ultra-high-resolution TV and networked audio. Stay tuned!

Part 1 – Personal Computing Trends

Part 2 – Wearables and the Home Network

Part 3 – Home Entertainment

Part 4 – Home Automation and the Internet Of Things

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Telephone Interview–UPnP Forum (Wouter van der Beek)

Introduction

UPnP Forum logo courtesy of UPnP ForumI have had the chance to interview Wouter van der Beek who is the Vice President of the UPnP Forum which defines the standards and specifications associated with UPnP technology. This interview is primarily about the direction that the UPnP Forum and this technology is heading in the face of current personal-computing trends like cloud computing and the Internet Of Things.

What is UPnP

This is a collection of standard for interlinking network-connected devices at an application level. It is to facilitate discovery of the devices by other devices on that network along with the ability to benefit from what the device has. The idea had been seeded 15 years ago when the home network was becoming commonplace thanks to affordable but powerful computers along with affordable broadband Internet services, but there needed to be foolproof ways to allow most people to set up, manage and benefit from these networks without requiring extensive computer skills.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution – an example of equipment designed with UPnP in mind

This has been facilitated initially with the Internet Gateway Device which has simplified management of Internet access for devices on a home network. If you use a UPnP-capable router and have its UPnP IGD function enabled, you don’t have to meddle around with different settings to get an online game or Skype to work via the Internet.

DLNA collections listed as sources on the TV

DLNA content collections listed as sources on a Samsung Smart TV

It has also been facilitated with DLNA-capable media devices which use the UPnP AV MediaServer or MediaRenderer device control protocols. This is where you could use a smart TV or a Blu-Ray player to discover photos or vides kept on your computer or network-attached storage device or “push” music from a Windows computer, NAS or Android smartphone to a Wi-Fi-enabled wireless speaker. Here, it has become to that point where UPnP and DLNA have become so synonymous as an expectation for anything that uses the home network to provide or play / show multimedia content in a similar way that Dolby noise reduction was an expected feature for good-quality cassette players.

The foolproof way of setting up and using UPnP-capable network equipment has, for that matter, had me look for devices that support these specifications when I am involved in buying or specifying network equipment.

New Directions for UPnP

UPnP’s New Zones of Relevance

Previously, the Universal Plug And Play technology was confined to the home network which encompassed computers and related devices that existed in one’s home and connected to a router which served as the network’s Internet “edge”.

Thanks to trends like the highly-mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops; the online services and cloud computing, and the increasing role of social media in our lives;  the UPnP technology and, to some extent, the home network has changed its zone of relevance. This encompasses the following zones of relevance:

  • Personal, which would encompass the devices we take with us or have on ourselves like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and fitness bands
  • Home, which would encompass what we have at home such as computers, routers, NAS units, home AV, appliances and the like, even encompassing devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Car, which encompasses the technology associated or integrated in our vehicles like infotainment systems or powertrain-management systems
  • Workplace / Business which encompasses the computing and communications technologies used in the office and would also encompass devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Industry which would encompass systems that provide the backbone for the modern life.

It also encompasses the Internet Of Things where devices can be required to be sensors or actuators for other devices and services in a universal manner.

An example of this was to establish some Device Control Protocols like the Telephony DCPs with a view to look towards the many zones of relevance and increase the UPnP ecosystem’s relevance to more users.

Cloud and Remote Access now part of UPnP

One major change is to integrate cloud computing, remote access and online services in to the UPnP ecosystem. Previously, a UPnP ecosystem was encompassing just one network, typically your home network and required each endpoint to be on the same network.

Different zones of relevance

UPnP is now about online services and remote access

Now situations have risen such as the desire to gain access to your content held at your home from your friend’s home or a hotel, or exhibit pictures held on Facebook or Dropbox on our smart TVs at home. Similarly, even in the same home, not all devices are connected to the same home network such as portable devices drifting in to Wi-Fi “dark spots” where there is very little reception or devices that are connected to a “guest network” on our routers.

Now cloud and remote access were written on as an annex to the UPnP Device Architecture but support for this is a requirement for UPnP+ certification. This is to factor in the ability for a UPnP “realm” to transcend across multiple logical networks.

One of the key additions was to integrate XMPP in to UPnP as part of the Cloud initiative in order to provide a level open playing field for cloud-driven applications. This also will provide for secure transport of the necessary data. It is more centred around the concept of creating virtual rooms which UPnP devices and services are invited in to as needed with these rooms being part of different logical networks or IP subnets.

Making UPnP “safe for business”

Empire State Building picture courtesy of <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/photographer/604482/araswami">araswami</a> and <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/">New York Pictures</a

UPnP – to be safe for business

You may also wonder whether there are steps to make UPnP technologies “safe for business”? There are some steps that have taken place to assure this goal because the different zones of relevance like workplace / business and industry place a key emphasis on security.

One of these is the DeviceProtection DCP which allows the creation of a “network of trust” amongst UPnP Devices and Control Points. This will be mandatory as part of UPnP+ certification whereas it was simply an optional feature for UPnP networks. Other DCPs that will become mandatory for UPnP+ certification include the “management” DCPs: DeviceManagement, ConfigurationManagement and SoftwareManagement which look after how a device is set up and updated.

Of course, these are considered “retrofit” solutions which assure secure links and setups and any security concept is primarily about “buying time” from hackers.

As well, DLNA had integrated various content-protection measures in to the VIDIPATH specification which encompasses UPnP AV standards to assure secure content delivery for premium content like Hollywood films and big-league sports.

The Internet Of Things

Rethinking Device Control Protocols

Previously the UPnP Forum placed emphasis on the Device Control Protocol as being the way to describe a UPnP device and what it can do. This ended up with each of these protocols taking a long time to develop, whether at the initial stages or as they were being revised.

Examples of these were the UPnP Internet Gateway Device which described what a modem or router was about and this was shaped by telcos and network-equipment vendors; and the AV Device which described media storage, playback and control with this being shaped by most of the main consumer-electronics names.

As well as the long time it took to develop a Device Control Protocol, there was the risk of focusing these protocols on an application-specific vertical plane with functionality being duplicated amongst multiple protocols.

The new direction was enshrined in the “Internet Of Things Management And Control” DCP which is focused around the particular tasks a sensor or actuator device can do. This also enshrines language and data models that can be used to define applications. But it allows a sensor or actuator which does the same thing to be described the same way.

There were two examples we talked of: – a temperature sensor, and a lamp used as part a home automation or building automation setup. A temperature sensor measures temperature but it could be part of a room thermostat, a weather station or a fridge, but it does the same job by measuring and reporting the current temperature. A lamp is turned on and off or has its brightness increased or decreased but this could work as part of a “smart home” setup or as part of a building automation setup for an office building or an apartment block.

As well, the data models can be evolved for particular applications and there is a short turnaround time required to set a data model in stone. This could allow one to define an application-level device class based on a collection of sensors and the kind of measurements to be used.

Network Bridges

Another reality that UPnP would face is devices based on other standards. This encompasses sensor and similar devices that work on networks like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth that don’t work on an IP/Ethernet-based structure or Ethernet-based technology that doesn’t implement IP as a way to liaise with devices at higher levels. In a lot of cases, these networks have come about due to an expectation that battery-operated sensor and similar devices are expected to run for six months or more on a single set of commodity “dry-cell” batteries like AA-size Duracells or CR2035 “button-size” batteries.

The UPnP Internet Of Things effort also includes Device Control Protocols to address Network Bridges so they can work in a UPnP or UPnP+ ecosystem. This should solve a very common problem with “smart-home” devices typically smart locks and central-heating controls, where Internet-connectivity bridges for these devices are supplied by the manufacturer and are designed to work only with that manufacturer’s devices.

Achieving vendor universality

The UPnP Forum has made big strides in achieving vendor universality but it still relied on the use of logo programs like DLNA or Designed For Windows or potential buyers pouring through specifications to achieve this goal when buying or specifying devices. But some competing ecosystems typically required one physical device such as a wireless speaker to have physical and logical support for each of them, thus the row of logos that adorn the top edge of a device.

But they would like to use concepts like Network Bridges to provide support across different logical ecosystems and have UPnP as a “glue” between the ecosystems.

Conclusion

By stripping the UPnP platform to functions that are on an elementary level, it means that the ecosystem can be evolved to newer requirements that work across any computing zone-of-relevance independent of where the data source or destination is.

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At last an Ethernet adaptor for the Chromecast

Articles

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor can now work with your Chromecast courtesy of the new Ethernet adaptor

Google adapter puts your Chromecast on wired networks | Engadget

Google Releases A $15 Ethernet Adapter For Chromecast [Update: Out Of Stock] | Android Police

Chromecast gains wired Ethernet dongle | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Google Chromecast

Ethernet Adaptor Product Page (Order Here)

My Comments

Out of the box, the Google Chromecast connects to your home network via its integrated 2.4GHz Wi-Fi circuitry. But what use is this if the TV you are using it with is in a lounge area furthest away from your home network’s router. And the situation is made worse because you are dealing with a double-brick wall between what was the existing house and the newly-built extension. This is while the TV’s circuitry and chassis materials effectively attenuate the radio signals coming from the front. You end up with heaps of buffering because the Wi-Fi wireless signal is very poor.

You might try a cheap wireless range extender but find that you are taking it back to the store because it isn’t really effective and is a lot more difficult to deal with.

But Google has answered your need by providing an adaptor accessory that effectively gives it an Ethernet port which opens up some paths to improve the situation. This means that you could take advantage of the Ethernet infrastructure if you wired your house for Ethernet, or could use a HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 powerline-network kit to effectively provide a wired link between your home network’s router and the Chromecast-enabled TV. Even using a wireless-Ethernet client bridge that is positioned for best reception or supporting newer Wi-Fi technologies can work wonders with this device.

This adaptor is effectively a power supply for the Chromecast along with a USB-connected Ethernet network adaptor and connects to the Chromecast dongle via its microUSB port.  As far as I know, the installation involved for this device would simply be a “plug-and-play” affair.  But, if you are using HomePlug powerline networking, I would recommend a HomePlug adaptor with integrated power outlet to save on power outlets or a HomePlug adaptor with integrated Ethernet switch so you can allow the PS3 or Blu-Ray player to take advantage of the same wired backbone.

It didn’t take long for Google to sell out of this device in the USA so if the link says “out of stock”, check back later. This could mean that they would have to ramp up the number of units being built and reckon that it is tome to release it in to other markets.

As well, anyone who is designing a network media receiver of the kind that directly plugs in to a TV’s HDMI socket and connects via Wi-Fi wireless could make sure there is a way to connect an Ethernet adaptor to these devices and such an adaptor is available.

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Wi-Fi now the expected feature for digital cameras and camcorders

Wi-Fi as a feature for digital cameras and camcordersRecently, I have been going through news articles about the digital cameras that are being launched or premiered this year and most of them are offering a common feature. What is this feature?

It is Wi-Fi wireless-network connectivity which allows you to link your smartphone or tablet with your camera using the same technology that is used to link these devices to your home network and the Internet when you are at home.

One of the key advantages that Wi-Fi wireless connectivity offers is that it offers a wider bandwidth than Bluetooth which would earn its keep with transferring the high-resolution RAW or JPEG pictures to your computer or mobile device.

Camera set up as access point

The camera serves as an access point for the smartphone or tablet

The typical situation is that you have to install software on your smartphone, tablet or computer that is written by the camera’s manufacturer to take advantage of this feature. This software would allow you to transfer photos and video from your camera to your computing device or have the computing device’s screen work as a viewfinder for the camera. In a lot of cases, it could serve as a remote control for your camera such as to be able to trip the shutter remotely. If the computing device is a smartphone or tablet, you may have the ability to geotag the shots you took using your camera with the smartphone’s GPS sensor providing the information. As well. some Panasonic camcorders use this software to create a multiple-camera setup using your smartphone’s camera along with the camcorder’s own camera function.

Using your smartphone's wireless-tethering feature as an access point

Using your smartphone’s wireless tethering feature as an access point

As I have highlighted before, Ricoh uses an integrated Web page rather than a client-side app for their GR II digital camera when it comes to remote control. This would appeal to those of us who use regular computers or Windows smartphones as partner devices for our cameras.

In some situations, the camera may offer an “on-ramp” to a manufacturer-hosted Web gateway which allows you to upload and share the pictures using the Web. As well, some of these Web gateways may offer a further “on-ramp” to social-network, image-sharing or file-exchange services that you have accounts with so you can take advantage of these services.

Using an existing network

Your Wi-Fi-capable camera as part of an existing home network

But how can these cameras work with Wi-Fi? Most of these cameras can be their own access point, typically serving one device like a smartphone or laptop. But they also have the ability to connect to an existing access point. This can be of benefit when you use a phone with Wi-Fi-based tethering, a “Mi-Fi” router or your existing home or small-business network.

How to get the most out of this technology

Interlinking with your smartphone

Facebook and Dropbox desktop

Facebook and Dropbox can benefit here

If you use your smartphone or tablet to post pictures on Facebook, Instagram and the like, you can take the pictures you want to post using your Wi-Fi-capable camera rather than the smartphone’s rear-facing camera and these pictures could impress people more. This is because the good digital cameras implement optics that are better than what would be integrated in a smartphone’s integrated camera.

Instagram Android screenshot

… as can Instagram

Similarly, when you take those holiday pictures, you can take advantage of your smartphone’s GPS to geotag the pictures and use them as part of an interactive map that a social network may offer.

Here, you use the camera for most of the photography while your smartphone’s camera can work as a fallback if your application calls for something small and light and you don’t care about the quality. Similarly, your smartphone’s camera would earn its keep with video-conferencing.

The best network setup for the job

The Wi-FI feature along with the “remote-control” functionality will come in to its own when you dig out that tripod. Here, you could be able to interact with the subject yet keep tabs on how it will look in the viewfinder and how the exposure will come off using your smartphone.

An existing network served by a powerful router could earn its keep here if you need to be further away from the camera such as filming a presentation or interacting with a subject. If you are “out and about”, a Mi-Fi could serve this role easily because of it working as an access point on its own battery rather than you finding that the battery is being depleted very quickly during a long shoot.

What needs to be done

DLNA integration

Once you have NAS units, especially mobile NAS units being equipped with the Upload and Download functionaliy for their DLNA MediaServer functionality, these cameras would have to support DLNA MediaUploader functionality to allow you to deliver the pictures you took on to these devices.  Similarly the idea of “throwing” images and footage you just took to a DLNA-capable smart TV via your home network would need to be investigated as a feature for these cameras.

Here, this could be approached through identifying standards and specifications that apply to the photography and videography ecosystem. As well, this concept could be taken further to allow different software to gain access to the camera’s sensor or controls for different applications.

Wi-FI Passpoint support

Another area that may need to be worked on for these digital cameras and camcorders is support for WI-Fi Passpoint. This allows for a simplified yet secure login experience when you use these cameras with a public-access Wi-Fi hotspot like what your favourite hotel or café provides. Here, you are not dealing with a login Webpage which would be difficult, if not impossible, to use with a digital camera because of the absence of a Web browser and reliance on “pick-and-choose” data entry.

The concept of a “trusted device cluster” could be looked at in the context of Wi-Fi Passpoint so you can provide a surefire “local-network-link” between two or more devices that are using a public-access network. Here, it would earn its keep when you are controlling your tripod-mounted camera from your smartphone during a presentation or downloading those pictures to your Ultrabook or tablet while you are in your hotel room.

Wi-Fi as another path to control lighting and other peripherals

Serious hobbyists and professionals will be dealing with advanced lighting setups in order to get the best out of their photographs and footage. This may involve continuous-light devices like video and photo lights along with flash-based devices like Speedlites or studio flash units. LEDs are also making it more feasible to vary the lighting colour of a particular lamp at an instant.

Here, Wi-Fi along with some of the “Internet Of Things” proposals being put forward by the UPnP Forum and AllSeen Alliance could open up the ability to use your smartphone or camera as a control surface for your lighting setup. This would also include being able to trigger flash units manually or in sync with the shutter.

For video applications, Wi-FI technology could also earn its keep with picture-sound synchronisation by working as a “common path” to transmit SMPTE synchronisation data between audio recorders and video camcorders. This could allow for “best-quality” sound recording and multiple-camera setups with devices having their own recording transports.

Conclusion

What I see of this year’s trend for cameras and camcorders to have Wi-Fi wireless network abilities is something that will make them increasingly capable.

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