Category: Wireless Networking

Assistance Journal–Dealing with a laptop’s Wi-Fi that failed after a Windows 10 upgrade

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

If you find that your computer doesn’t work as it should after an operating-system upgrade, check for newer device drivers from the system’s manufacturer

I had become part of a “men’s shed” community which encourages men to get together and engage in meaningful activities while being a chance for them to open up to each other easily. Here, it became a point where I could “put my skills on the table” and one of the men came to me about an underperforming laptop.

After I had gone through and removed some bloatware and updated the display-card driver on that laptop, the man approached me about this same notebook not connecting to his home network’s Wi-Fi segment since he upgraded it to Windows 10 as part of Microsoft’s free-upgrade program. I had noticed that it could connect to other Wi-Fi networks including the community’s own Wi-Fi network but he mentioned that it wouldn’t list his home network’s ESSID at all.

Subsequently I came around to his home to see the problem for myself and noticed that my Android phone could see the home network’s SSID but not this laptop. I used Windows Device Manager, part of the Windows operating system, to identify what kind of Wi-Fi adaptor was being used in that laptop and had previously researched this problem as something that could be driver-related.

Windows 10 Device Manager

Device Manager – a catalogue of all of the hardware in your computer

After that, I had hunted down a newer device driver for the Wi-Fi adaptor from the computer manufacturer’s Website and downloaded it to the computer. Then I ran the updated driver’s installation program and, after this update was performed and the computer restarted, Windows 10 properly listed the home network’s Wi-FI ESSID. I selected that SSID then used the WPS “push-to-connect” function to fully connect the laptop to the home network and it worked properly.

I even completed an Internet-connection “acid test” of having the client load a social-network session and check that it reflected the latest activity. By loading a site that is frequently updated with changing information, it avoids the Web browser loading material held in its cache which can be common with a site that doesn’t change frequently which makes me think that the Internet connection is working properly.

If you find that something like your computer’s Wi-Fi functionality misbehaves after an operating system upgrade, identify the kind of device performing the function using Windows Device Manager or a similar tool. Then track down the latest driver software from the computer’s, adaptor’s or chipset’s manufacturer and install that software. Typically this can fix the problem once and for all or make the hardware work better with the operating system.

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How to effectively establish that Wi-Fi-based mobile network

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wi-Fi mobile printer – one of the mobile peripheral devices pitched to smartphone and tablet users

A major trend that has become strong over the last few years is the arrival of mobile network devices that connect to each other and to client computer devices via Wi-Fi wireless networking technology.

These are represented in the form of:

  • mobile network-attached-storage devices
  • mobile printers
  • wireless speakers, and
  • mobile broadcast-LAN tuners that work with terrestrial or satellite broadcast systems,
Network setup for mobile NAS and smartphone

Network setup for Wi-Fi-based mobile peripheral devices

What is common about all of these devices, and is treated as a key marketing feature by their vendors, is that they can be set up to be their own access point with their own DHCP server as well as being client devices to existing wireless networks. Some of these devices like most mobile NAS devices are able to work effectively as bridges or routers between an existing wireless network and the network that they create.

This may work well if you are just using the one mobile peripheral device with your mobile client devices but may not work well when you intend to run two or more mobile peripheral devices. Here, you will end up switching between different wireless networks just to benefit from the different mobile peripheral devices.

Mobile NAS as bridge setup

Wireless NAS as a bridge between mobile client devices and another Internet-providing network

But you may want to run one or more of these wireless mobile devices together to serve multiple laptops, tablets or smartphones. Situations that may come about that will call for these setups would be where you are using a mobile NAS and, perhaps, a camera that has Wi-Fi functionality or one of the new Wi-Fi-capable mobile printers. This will call for you to create a proper mobile wireless network for all of these devices.

Use a router-class device as the main device

Here, you would have to run one wireless network device as a DHCP server and “master” access point and this function can be best served by a router-class device.

"Mi-Fi" portable wireless router

A typical “Mi-Fi” portable wireless router for a mobile-broadband service

The most common examples of devices of this class that apply to “on-the-road” use are the “Mi-Fi” mobile routers that work with a mobile broadband service or one of the travel routers pitched to work with a hotel’s wired Internet service. Some mobile NAS devices may also do this wireless-bridging functionality in an adept manner and could be the hub of your “travel network”. Similarly, one of the mobile-broadband wireless routers being integrated in to some new cars by the likes of BMW and Chrysler may also answer these needs.

You may think of using your smartphone’s Wi-Fi mobile-broadband-router functionality but this may encumber your smartphone for what you want to really use it for.

Some highly-sophisticated “Mi-Fi” and travel-router devices may also expose an Ethernet connection for LAN use, perhaps through an optional extended-functionality dock. This can come in handy if you want to increase your coverage area with another wireless access point or want to use devices like games consoles with your mobile network.

You may find that you don’t need to run the Internet connection on the Mi-Fi or travel router if you are simply establishing a link between multiple mobile peripheral devices and client devices and aren’t reliant on Internet functionality for their operation. Similarly, by having your mobile devices working this way, you avoid the need to authenticate with a Wi-Fi hotspot that implements Web-based authentication to do something like gain access to your mobile NAS’s data from your iPad.

Set up known wireless network parameters

Mobile network wiht "Mi-Fi" router and 2 Wi-Fi-capable mobile peripheral devices

Mobile wireless network for two or more mobile devices and mobile client devices – uses a router-class device like a “Mi-Fi” router

When you set up your “Mi-Fi” or travel router, you make this device the hub of your mobile network and have every device “point” to this device’s local-network by associating with its SSID (wireless network name) and security parameters.

Most of the mobile network devices that work on an “open-frame” approach can be quickly associated to this “mobile hub” thanks to WPS-based push-button setup. For devices that don’t support this quick setup mode like most Apple devices, you will need to note down the “mobile hub’s” SSID and security passphrase. Some “Mi-Fi” devices that have a display may be able to show these details on their display, perhaps at the request of the user.

For that matter, a good practice would be to assign a unique SSID for your “mobile hub” device i.e. your Mi-Fi or travel router. This is important when you use these setups in campgrounds, caravan parks or hotels where many of these devices will be used at once.

All wireless devices to link with router-class device

It will also mean that the mobile NAS, mobile printer or other similar device has to work as a client device rather than as its own access point. This also applies to your computing devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones which also associate with the “mobile hub” device.

When positioning your mobile-network devices, make sure that they are in the range of your “mobile network hub” device i.e. the Mi-Fi or the travel router. All the wireless traffic that goes between these devices will pass through the “mobile network hub” device rather than between the devices themselves.

You may find that if you want to avoid draining your “Mi-Fi” router’s battery too quickly, it may be a good idea to have it run from a USB charger that runs from house current or your vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket. Similarly, a high-capacity USB power-pack can also earn its keep with these devices if you are away from power.

What I stand for when reviewing or researching mobile devices

When I review any device for this Website that is capable of being its own wireless network such as a mobile NAS or mobile printer, I test the device with my home network’s Wi-Fi wireless segment as if it is a client device. This is so I am sure they can work in this kind of setup as well as the highly-promoted “own access point” setup. As well, as part of researching a mobile device that uses Wi-Fi wireless technology as part of its link with client computer devices, I verify that it can work as part of an existing wireless-network segment as well as being its own segment.

Similarly, when I research a mobile router-class device like a Mi-Fi or travel router, I would expect the device to support WPS single-push connectivity along with other essential Wi-Fi connectivity and security standards. Similarly, such a device would have to be easy to configure including setting up the SSID and passphrase. As well, the Mi-FI device can’t be very thirsty with its battery if the goal is to have it as a “hub” device.

Conclusion

Once you are able to set up a mobile multi-device network, you can then be able to use it to store or print data while you are “on the road” without needing to constantly switch networks for each different task.

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Infographic: Different methods to connect multiple buildings to your network

Previous Coverage

Feature Article: Multi-Building Home Networks

I have covered the issue of bringing your home network and Internet service to other buildings on your property, whether they be a garage, barn or granny flat (mother-in-law apartment).

You may consider this as being of value to, for example, achieve a quieter house by having your teenagers playing their video games in the converted garage; bringing Netflix and similar services to the man-cave or just simply allowing whoever is sleeping in the guest-house to have access to the Internet.

Europeans will benefit from the fact that one right-sized satellite dish could cover your property’s satellite-TV needs including the ability to watch from that granny flat thanks to SAT>IP technology that exploits your home network as a satellite-antenna link.

This will provide what I have been talking about as a single diagram that you can understand.

Methods to link buildings in a multiple-building home network

Methods to link buildings in a multiple-building home network

 

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Another router answers the needs for a secure home network

Article

eero: A Mesh WiFi Router Built for Security (Product Review) | Krebs On Security

My Comments

A common issue raised in relation to home-network routers is that they aren’t really designed for security. It applies more to the equipment that is sold through the popular retail locations like the electronics chains.

This is due to issues like firmware that isn’t always kept up to date along with an insecure “out-of-box” management-console login experience. The latter situation manifests typically in the form of a default username and password that is common across a product range rather than unique to each device.

The eero router which is effectively a Wi-Fi mesh system has answered these issues courtesy of the following: firmware that is updated automatically and a secure-setup routine based around an enabling code sent to your phone. The former method has been practised by AVM with their latest firmware for the Fritz!Box routers with these devices automatically updating. The latter method has been practised through the use of a mobile-platform app where you enter your name, email address and mobile phone number. This requires you to receive a one-time password from your smartphone by SMS. You enter this to the mobile app before you determine your home network’s ESSID and passphrase.

This kind of login experience for the management Web page could be very similar to a well-bred two-factor authentication routine that comes in to play for some online services whenever you add another device or, in some cases, as you log in. Here, the FIDO U2F standard or support for Google Authenticator could be implemented in a router to permit secure login to the management page.

As for Wi-FI implementation, this router implements a proprietary mesh technology with each extender implementing separate radio transceivers for both the backhaul link and the client-side link. This allows for full bandwidth to be served to the Wi-Fi client devices. Each router device also has two Ethernet ports with one of those being configured for WAN (Internet) connection. Personally, I would like to see both ports switch to LAN mode on an eero router if it is serving as a repeater. This would earn its place with video peripherals, printers or desktop computers.

What I see of this is a step in the right direction for improved security for small networks and other manufacturers could learn from eero and AVM in working on a secure setup routine along with automatically-updated firmware.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2016–Part 2 Accessories, Peripherals and the Home Network

I am continuing to write up about the trends that have been presented at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas, USA.

 

Just before, I had covered the trends affecting desktop and mobile computing with such things as 4K and OLED screens, narrow bezels, Intel Skylake internals, business computers appearing at a consumer-focused show, and gaming computers that are rated for Oculus Rift.

Now I will be covering various peripherals, accessories and how your home network will evolve.

Display Monitors

The display monitors for your computer are following a similar trend to what is happening for TV. This includes 4K ultra-high-resolution screens and curved displays. But a few manufacturers are rolling out OLED screens in their product lineup. This will mean that you could see the benefit of increased contrast and colour definition on your computer’s display whether it serves as a secondary or “desktop” monitor for your laptop or primary or secondary monitor for your desktop.

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year's computers

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year’s monitors and peripherals

One of tbe trends starting to appear is for a display monitor to have a USB Type-C connector, more so with DisplayPort over USB-C connectivity. This capitalises on the fact that the monitor will be connected to a suitably-equipped laptop, tablet or 2-in-1 and will be this cable is the one cable that will provide power to charge or run the portable along with a physical link for data and video. Most of these monitors will have a self-powered USB hub along with an integrated Webcam and speaker system. On the other hand, there are the 15”-19” portable monitors with USB-C connection and powered by the host computer which will serve as portable “extra-screens” to use with these computers.

ASUS has presented the latter type of these displays with their MB169C which is a 15” portable monitor that features a 15.6” Full HD LCD screen and connects to the host computer via a USB Type-C connector. They also launched the MX27UQ which is a 27” 4K UHDTV screen with Bang & Olufsen ICEPower amplification for the sound and can stream sound from your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth. This is available in an Icicle Gold finish. They also launched a 34” curved monitor with a UQWHD (3440×1440) resolution that has a Qi wireless charging base and has its sound amplified using B&O ICEPower technology.

Lenovo ThinkVision X1 4K monitor

Lenovo ThinkVision X1 4K monitor

Lenovo has added the ThinkVision X1 monitor to their premium “X1” computing product lineup with this one being equipped with a 27” 4K IPS screen set against a very narrow bezel. It is intended to be an “at-base” companion to the latest crop of laptops thanks to a USB Type-C connection that provides power to the laptop that it is connected to as well as being a USB hub. It also comes with a 1080p Webcam that has a microphone array, LED lighting and mechanical privacy filter; along with a stereo pair of 3W speakers. It can also be connected to other devices thanks to an HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 connector.

The Lenovo ThinkVision X24 Pro adds on an Intel RealSense camera and the option for a WiGIg connection bar for wireless connectivity with suitable laptops and tablets. Gamers will relish in the fact that Lenovo has catered for them with the Y27g Razer Edition curved gaming monitor which has a 27” Full HD display and RGB lighting on the back to providing interesting effects. This also can work tightly wiht G-Sync-capable display cards.

LG advanced the 27UD88 27” 4K gaming monitor that optimises itself to work with the latest AMD graphics subsystems.

Dell has not been quiet on the display monitor front with them offering a range of 21” and 23.8” wireless monitors that can work with Windows and Android devices. These also have a Qi / PMA wireless charging base with the smaller variant having 2 three-watt speakers and the larger variant having a narrow bezel and improved colour accuracy.

They alos premiered the UltraSharp 30 which is a 30” 4K OLED monitor that also uses a USB Type-C connector as a way to connect to the host device.

Computer Peripherals and Accessories

With the computer manufacturers releasing more devices that are equipped with USB Type-C connectors, especially as a way to power these devices, the peripherals and accessories scene has responded with a range of devices that have USB Type-C connections.

Lenovo will be fielding the WriteIT 2.0 which adds pen capabilities to any Windows-based tablet or 2-in-1 that implements a touchscreen. This could then allow you to benefit from pen-based operation without paying dearly for that function. Wacom are also selling this same stylus as the Bamboo Smart and thsi works with “active electrostatic” or capacitive touch screens.

The Lenovo Link 32Gb memory stick celebrates mobile and regular open-frame computing very finely by allowing you to connect your Windows and Android devices to each other. This allows you to mirror your Android phone’s display on your Windows computer and provides local file transfer between both platforms. It will work with Android 5.0, Windows 7 and newer versions of these operating systems and your smartphone will have to have a USB On-The-Go connection or USB Type-C connection.

Lenovo also added to the ThinkPad Stack an external battery pack and a pico projector.

Samsung 2Tb solid-state external storage device press picture courtesy of Samsung USA

Samsung 2Tb solid-state external storage device

Samsung used their expertise in developing solid-state flash storage to prepare a USB portable storage device that can hold up to 2Tb of data, the same quantity as a lot of USB hard disks. This connects to the host device using a USB 3.1 Type-C connection but you could connect it to existing devices using a USB Type-C adaptor cable.

Griffin are known for aftermarket accessories and peripherals that are typically pitched to the Apple ecosystem but, in a lot of cases, can work wiht omst computers. They have fronted up with the BreakSafe cable which gives USB Type-C connections the same “safe disconnect” abilities as Apple’s MagSafe connection, a boon to those of you who own the latest 12” Apple MacBook that uses this connection. They also launced an external battery pack that attaches to your keyring so you can charge up your Apple Watch when out and about. They also launched the Survivor Slim Case which is a ruggedised case for the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Seagate have launched one of the slimmest USB external hard disks around in the form of the Backup Plus Ultra Slim external hard disk. This device has a thickness of 9.6mm and is about more data in a slimmer package. As required for Seagate external hard disks, this unit has backup software with one-touch or scheduled host-system backup. Similarly, LaCie have launched an external hard disk that has Porsche design and connects to your host computer via USB Type-C. But this unit has another USB Type-C connection so you can charge your MacBook or other USB Type-C computer without forfeiting hte ability to use the external hard disk.

Scosche have also launched a lineup of USB Type-C cables, port hubs / chargers and adaptors. One of these is the StrikePort USB-A + HDMI + USB-C adaptor which has a USB Type-C connector for charging while another of these is the StrikeDrive USB-C car adaptor which plugs in to your vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket so you can charge your USB-C devices – this can charge or power 2 12-watt USB-C devices. There is also a range of StrikeLine charge-and-sync (data) cables with ones that connect a USB-C device to a USB-A device and another that connects a USB-C device to a MicroUSB device.

Panasonic have established the case for BluRay optical discs as a “cold-storage” medium for archived data and this is based on what Facebook is storing those selfie snaps, holiday pictures and other images that you tender to the social network. They have started with 100Gb disks bot are moving towards 1 Terabyte disks which they are calling “Freeze Ray”.

Braven have come forth with a slew of accessories for your smarpthone or tablet. One of these is the BRV-BANK Pro LE which is an ultra-rugged modular battery pack . This pack has a 300-lumen LED torch and is built in aircraft-grade alumium housing and can charge devices via a 1.4A USB port and a 2.1A USB port. The device has a waterproof rating for IPx7 and houses a 6000mAH battery.

Braven BRV-PRO LE modular rugged power bank press picture courtesy of Braven

Braven BRV-PRO LE modular rugged power bank

But it is part of a Braven accessory ecosystem with a solar charging panel, speaker, multi-tool, GoPro action mount and a stacking plate. A smartphone app which links to this battery pack via Bluetooth supports a “Find Me” function which causes the torch to flash SOS in Morse code. Campers will also appreciate the “Bear mode” that uses the smartphone’s motion sensors to alert the BRV-BANK Pro LE and cause it to flash the torch light and sound an alarm if the phone is disturbed. Here, the idea is to pack the phone with your food supply and be alerted if the local wildlife starts raiding your food supply and is a problem that faces North American campers because of bears being too dependent on campers’ food supplies.

Razer have even provided Intel RealSense technology in to an add-on Webcam in the form of the Stargazer 3D Webcam. This can give existing desktop computers that don’t necessarily come with integrated RealSense abilities this kind of sensing and could open them towards Windows Hello facial recognition along with 3D scanning.

In an out-of-the-ordinary move, Black & Decker, know for those power drills, have integrated USB device-charging functionality in to their power-tool batteries. They also implement an app to support a “find-me” functionality along with the ability to support a “check-in / check-out” function and the ability to control when the batteries are used.

Your Home Network

Yhere are a few trends that are affecting the home network and how it is set up. One of these is 802.11ac Wave-2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO operation. The MU-MIMO function effectively creates dedicated bandwidth for each MU-MIMO device that uses the network but also frees up more bandwidth for ordinary Wi-Fi devices. This function is moving down towards the mid-tier routers and starting to appear in wireless range extenders with this function being about optimised bandwidth on the backhaul link and the device-side link.

It was also the time that the IEEE and Wi-FI Assocations have cemented the 802.11ah 900mHz “HaLow” wireless-network specification. This uses a lower frequency than 2.0GHz 802.11b/g Wi-Fi thus having a longer range and lower power but it doesn’t have the same data bandwidth as the Wi-Fi standards that we currently use for the home network. This will be pitched towards the “Internet Of Things” application case where a lot of sensors and allied devices will rely on batteries expected to run for a long time.

As far as HomePlug AV2 is concerned, the concept of the HomePlug access point which supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and HomePlug AV2 has finally hit American shores thanks to Netgear.

Linksys have released their EA9500 4×4 802.11ac MU-MIMO router with Gigabit WAN and 4 x switched Gigabit LAN. This uses eight antennas to provide the MU-MIMO function. There is also the EA7500 3×3 802.11ac MU-MIMO router which is similar to the EA9500 but has reduced MU-MIMO abilities.

The Linksys RE7000 4×4 MU-MIMO range extender optimises the bandwidth used for the downstream devices whin it is linked to a MU-MIMO access point. As well, this multifunction range extemder has a Gigabit Ethernet port and can be set up to serve as a wired client bridge for a wireless network or as a MU-MIMO wireless access point – the latter being a way to upgrade your wireless netowrk to MU-MIMO abilities without throwing out your existing router. They also offer a MU-MIMO USB wireless network adaptor so you can join MU-MIMO wireless netowrk segments using your existing laptop.

Linksys have released DOCSIS 3.0 cable-modem hardware including a cable modem-router. They also exhibited the X6200 which is an ADSL2/VDSL2 modem router works on the 802.11ac standard.

D-Link have sold the AC4300 MU-MIMO wireless router and AC1300 MU-MIMO range extender as a kit in order to appeal to those of us who have larger houses.

Netgear have released the R7800 Nighthawk X4S Smart Wi-Fi Router whcih handles MU-MIMO with four streams and a processor improved on the previous model. This device also has the ability to work on 160Mhz channel bandwidth.

They also released the C7000 which is an AC1900 cable modem router that is part of the Nighthawk router lineup.  For that matter, new firmware that will be available for the Nighthawk router lineup will offer native support for Netgear’s Arlos lineup of network cameras.

As for range extenders, the EX7300 Nighthawk X4 is a wall-plugged AC2200 unit with MU-MIMO for both the upstream and downstream paths. There is the EX6400 range extender which is the first wall-plug AC1900 range extender. Both these range extenders  can also serve as access points to work wiht Ethernet or HomePlug wired backbones or as client bridges to serve wired network devices like smart TVs.

The PLW1000 HomePlug AV2 wireless access point can establish an 802.11ac wireless segment and can provide a HomePlug AV2 SISO (two-wire) backbone to the router. This functionality was offered by Devolo and was available only within Europe. But now, the Netgear device is the first device of its kind that is offered by a major home-network name to offer this kind of functionality to the North American market.

TP-Link have demonstrated a router that may have ordinary capabilities but be a “smart home” hub. The SR20 offers a throughput of 1300Mbps on 5Ghz 802.11ac and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz 802.11n and implements beamforming along Gigabit Ethernet for WAN and LAN. But it can be a “smart home” hub for Z-Wave and Zigbee devices and works alongside the Kasa mobile-platform dashboard app. This is similar to the Securifi Almond series of routers which have this kind of functionality and is the first of such devices to be released by a major home-network name.

Conclusion

After seeing a USB-C-driven direction for peripherals, OLED starting to light up computer display monitors, along wiht MU-MIMO increasing the throughput on Wi-Fi home networks,  I will be covering in the next article about photography, audio and video trends from CES 2016.

Next, I will be covering the trends affecting digital photography and videography along with audio and video recording and reproduction technology.

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Devolo releases a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Devolo

dLAN 550 WiFi

Press Release (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English language)

Product Page (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English Language)

My Comments

Devolo have released a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point that only takes up the space needed to plug in an ordinary appliance in to that power outlet.

The dLAN 550 WiFi works with HomePlug AV500 powerline network segments and is a Wi-Fi access point for 802.11g/n N300 two-stream wireless networks along with having a single Ethernet socket.

But the dLAN 550 WiFi is a small cube which has the same effective volume as a typical AC plug-head on the end of an appliance’s cord or a small plug-in nightlight in Europe or Australia, something I have observed with the situational photos that Devolo has published on their Website. This means that it only occupies the power-outlet space needed to plug in an appliance, thus avoiding problems that can occur with most HomePlug devices where you can’t plug in other devices in to a neighbouring socket on a double outlet when one of the sockets is occupied by a HomePlug device. There isn’t the temptation to unplug the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi from that power socket (then leave it unplugged) because you couldn’t plug the hoover in to the neighbouring power socket .

It also answers situations where there isn’t much space around a power outlet, typically due to furniture being located nearby or a power outlet that is near shelving where you crowd out that shelving with books and other objects. As well, the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi looks more discreet this pleasing whoever is in charge of the house’s aesthetics.

The Wi-Fi access point has a specified radio range of 300 metres which would make it good enough for improving coverage in that Wi-Fi dark spot in your home and it supports a simplified “push-to-setup” routine when you want to extend a WPS-capable router’s coverage. Let’s not forget that this unit supports WPS device enrollment for setting up “open-frame” computers and devices that implement this function – press the WPS button on the nearest access point to have that Windows laptop or Android smartphone on your network in a snap.

What I see of the Devolo dLAN 550 is that it could be a step in the right direction towards making HomePlug access points effectively become less obtrusive yet are able to extend the coverage.

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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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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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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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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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