Feature Article – Wiring a house for Ethernet

Introduction

There may be a question that may come up when you build your new home or do renovations on an existing home. This question is whether to wire you premises for Ethernet or not and how to go about it?

What is involved when you wire for Ethernet

When you wire a house for Ethernet, you are providing a high-speed data backbone for your premises. This is achieved by laying Category 5 or Category 6 wiring from most rooms to a central location where there is a “switch” that moves data around the network at the appropriate speeds for the network devices.

The reason that it makes sense to consider the home-network issue, especially wired-in Ethernet, is because an increasing number of households are using two or more computers. Infact, there is an increasing trend for households to have more computers than TV sets. As well, computers can and have now become entertainment centres for bedrooms and other small areas thanks to DVD drives, sound-card setups and radio and TV-tuner kits that install in or connect to PCs. There is also an increasing common practice to copy CDs to the computer’s hard drive so that these computers double as personal jukeboxes, which is an asset with small areas. This means that there is a desire to have access to resources like the Internet and printers from all the computers that are in the house.

Similarly, there is new interest in the so-called “home theatre PC” where a computer is being used as a primary media center for the household. This is being achieved through the computer being housed in a case that is optimised for living-room use by having reduced operating-noise output and looking like a piece of home-entertainment equipment. These computers run an operating system that is optimised for viewing from a distance and optimised to do home-entertainment duties, plus being hooked up to the main living-room TV and sound system. This concept permits activities like the use of network media receivers as “media extenders” where one can “take” audio or video content to be viewed or listened to in other rooms.

If you have networked your computer equipment by using a “no-new-wires” method like wireless or HomePlug powerline; you may be dealing with a network that isn’t working at its best. This is because the “no-new-wires” technologies work on having the “no-new-wires” segment’s bandwidth shared by all the devices that connect to the segment. This is exemplified by poor response time during a network multiplayer game hosted across the “no-new-wires” segment or slow transfer speed whenever a file is being transferred between two nodes on the same segment.

Typically, when you implement a “no-new-wires” network, you would use a broadband router that connects to an Ethernet segment and the “no-new-wires” segment on the LAN side, like one of the many wireless Internet gateway devices. Also, if you decide to add on extra network devices, you would have to buy extra network bridges so these devices can work as part of the network.The possibility of high-speed Ethernet being available for home-computer users is made real through high-performance Ethernet network-connectivity devices being made affordable and ubiquitous for most users.

For example, there are Ethernet adaptors available for installation in PCI or ISA-based computers, or for quick connection to “sealed-box” computers via the USB port, or the PCMCIA or CompactFlash card slot. As well, allof the game consoles that are capable of online gaming have an Ethernet socket either built-in or as an extra-cost user-installed system accessory. Let’s not forget that most devices that connect to a network for some part of their functionality would have an Ethernet connector on board or on a supplied network adaptor module. Also, most newer computers are being supplied with built-in Ethernet connection abilities as a standard feature and people who build their own computers are now able to base their projects on Ethernet-equipped motherboards.

As well, the switches that are required as part of an Ethernet network are now available at very cheap prices. This all ends up with the Category 5 Ethernet medium being considered as a lowest-common-denominator for network connectivity.

Why wire a house for Ethernet?

You will benefit from the high data throughput that Ethernet provides in its current form – 100 Mbps, with 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) being available now at a slight premium for new and existing small Ethernet networks. This will benefit applications like Internet gaming, network media streaming such as Internet radio; as well as graphics-rich printing.

You also gain the advantage of reliable network behaviour because you are not regularly sharing data transports that are prone to interference. This is due to the way the common Ethernet network switches provide dedicated bandwidth to each port on them. They also scale data throughput to the highest speed available between the client and the network switch that the client is connected to. If different clients are moving data at different speeds, the switch implements a buffer so slower clients can benefit from the data while the data is off the faster clients’ minds very quickly.

As you may have known before when you have worked with the computer network at work, or with your Internet experience, the Ethernet infrastructure can carry lots of different data.

This wiring practice will get the best out of the killer applications for these home networks i.e.

  • Internet access from everywhere in the house;
  • PC or console-based network / Internet gaming;
  • Streamed media around the house using DLNA-compliant network-media equipment
  • Voice-over-Internet-Protocol telephony which is either being provided as part of a “triple-play” service or an alternative low-cost telephony service

amongst other activities as outlined below.

IP-TV / Video-on-demand and the “Triple-Play” goal

There is increased interest in delivering video content over the Internet and being able to view it on the large-screen lounge-room TV.

This is being facilitated on two different grounds – one being to provide content complementary to or an extension of what is offered by broadcast TV providers and the other is for telecommunications companies and Internet providers to distribute multi-channel pay-TV via the same Internet “pipe” as the telephone service and broadband Internet service.

The first situation is to provide “over-the-top” video service where the Internet “pipe” is used by another operator to distribute streamed or downloaded video content independent of the broadcasters. It manifests in the form of “download-to-view” video-content services like Netflix, CASPA and Hulu or “complementary cable services” which provide channel groups that may not interest the main cable-TV providers, such as wholesome family entertainment or overseas / expat content in the US.  Increasingly, network-enabled video products like games consoles, TVs and BD-Live Blu-Ray players are now using apps or extensions that support broadcaster “catch-up TV”, complementary-TV or video-on-demand platforms.

The second situation comes to  “IP-TV” where TV signals are transmitted via an IP-based Internet-capable network. This method is being pitched as a way of using DSL or fibre-optic-based next-generation-broadband to distribute Pay-TV signals to subscribers. This has become more so with the ISPs and telcos moving towards offering “single-pipe triple-play” services with regular telephony, Internet service and multi-channel pay-TV from the same entry point. It involves the provision of a set-top box (STB) or personal video recorder which plugs in to the router via an Ethernet cable.

As far as this application is concerned, a house that is wired for Ethernet is at an advantage for the “IP-TV” service. It benefits security of the conditional-access system because it is harder to unnoticeably “sniff” out conditional-access key values before they reach the STB; and there is high quality of service due to the nature of “switched Ethernet” where high bandwidth and low-latency is assured for full-screen video. Also there is the ability to extend the service either through a “portable” setup where the STB is relocated at will or through having extra STBs connected to secondary TV sets, this being a feature increasingly offered as a value-added option.

Extending or improving the wireless network

Two access points used to extend wireless-network coverage in older house

Improving wireless-network coverage in older house

By wiring your house for Ethernet, you are also laying an infrastructure that can definitely work “hand-in-glove” with wireless networking.

This is whether you have your home network based on a wireless backbone provisioned by a wireless router or you are starting from scratch with a wired backbone. If you were on an existing wireless network, you could set up your “fixed” nodes like desktop PCs to work on the Ethernet system.

This then leads to the wireless network being primarily of benefit to those devices that gain the most benefit from it i.e. portable or transportable nodes like laptops, PDAs and Web tablets.

You are also in a better position to improve your wireless network’s performance by implementing a practice that is performed in corporate, education or public wireless networks. This is to install one or more extra access points in areas where it is not possible to gain optimum reception from your primary wireless access point or wireless router using your existing portable nodes. All these access points are connected to the one wired-Ethernet infrastructure and set to similar network parameters so that the wireless client devices can seamlessly move between these access points depending on which one has the best signal strength. This is illustrated in the diagram above this text and discussed further in my article on improving your wireless network’s coverage.

This situation would mainly affect most pre-1950s brick houses with thick brick walls because such walls can easily attenuate the short-wavelength radio signal that wireless networks use. In some of these houses that have been recently extended, the wall that joins the extension to the main house is often a very thick one because it used to be the outside wall, and therefore becomes the point of attenuation for the short-wavelength wireless-network radio signals. The same situation can affect houses with chimneys that are on interior walls that adjoin rooms. In these houses, especially where there is a fireplace or the remnants thereof in both adjoining rooms, these walls are noticeably thick in order to accommodate the chimney and this situation can lead to poor wireless-network performance. It can also affect buildings that are insulated with foil-reflective

This practice of using two or more access points would also permit optimum coverage of large houses by allowing one to deploy an access point close to each end of the house.

In the same manner, you can use HomePlug powerline  networking to complement the Ethernet network by catering to those devices that can only use this technology. This is done using a HomePlug-Ethernet bridge. This functionality may be built in to those routers that support HomePlug, as well as Ethernet and/or wireless as a LAN medium.

The reason this is going to be necessary in the long term because some manufacturers may decide to make network-capable devices that use an “existing-connection” method of providing network connectivity in order to save on design and manufacture costs. This is because they don’t have to add extra sockets on the device’s PCB for Ethernet or write in Ethernet-adaptor support into the device’s firmware. As far as the user or installer is concerned, there is no need to worry about making sure that there is an Ethernet connection accessible to the device or even connect another cable to that device.

Whether you have one computer or many on your premises; or whether you have broadband Internet or dial-up, the improvement brought about by wiring for Ethernet will be seen as enhancing capital value for your premises. This may certainly pay dividends whenever you sell the house or rent it out at a later date, because of the concept of pervasive broadband Internet becoming a reality. This brings with it a desire to wire up multiple computers to a network in order to share the high-speed Internet connection.

The Ethernet infrastructure has now existed on the same feature level as an intruder-alarm system as far as most customers are concerned when considering their next home.

The best time to wire for Ethernet

The best time to do this kind of work is whenever you are doing works that are involving the house’s electrical system. This would involve rebuilding; refurbishing or extending the building or rewiring the building to comply with modern electrical-safety codes.

This will mean that you may prefer to employ electrical contractors who are competent with telecom and data wiring. These tradesmen will advertise their competence by listing job types like telephones, networks, security and similar work in their advertisements and on their vehicles.

If you have a regular maintenance “sparkie” who does your repairs or other ad-hoc work, he may be able to do this kind of work or know of tradesmen who can do this kind of work on an ad-hoc basis.The reason is that this wiring can be done at the same time as the electrical wiring that is involved in the project.

It comes in to its own if there is “rough-wiring” being done before the walls are plastered or panelled; which is common during building work. Then you just need to have any fitting-off of sockets done when the walls have been covered and decorated.

If the job is essentially a re-wire job, the same electricians who do that job can pull the Ethernet cable through the walls while they lay the new AC wiring. By having the work done at the same time as any other major electrical work, you are in a position to gain maximum value out of your tradesmen who charge by the man-hour.

If you are installing an alarm system or doing similar work where new electrical infrastructure is being laid, you could have the Ethernet wiring laid at this point. This works best if the tradesman that you engage is competent at all facets of infrastructure work and will do this as part of the job.How to go about it

Central location

You will need to choose a location for the network switch, which is where all the data that passes the network goes through. It should be out of the way but easily accessible and shouldn’t be too hot.

The places that would come to mind are any built-in storage cupboards like the broom cupboard, the linen press or a built-in wardrobe in one of the bedrooms. You may use a place like the attic or basement. As I have seen for an alarm-system installation, you may use the wall hidden by the laundry door when it is open as a central location for the network switch. Ideally you shouldn’t use a room which is used for any heat-generating systems like hot water tanks, boilers or furnaces.

Tight central location layout for Ethernet switch

What to avoid when working out the Ethernet-switch location

If you are wiring an existing house for Ethernet and the premises is equipped with a security system, it is a good idea to locate this switch in the same area as this system’s central box. This means that if you decide to upgrade the alarm system to a more sophisticated security / home-automation “hub” that has a network interface, you can connect this unit to the home network cheaply and easily. In most cases, this kind of upgrade can be done with the same system peripherals (PIR and other sensors, siren, strobe light) all intact and able to work with the new system. You may also have to be sure that you have enough space near the system’s central box and room at the power outlet to plug in another “wall-wart” power supply so you can install the Ethernet switch without reliability problems for the network and the alarm system.

It also allows you to establish an installation point for any devices that provide “back-end” functionality for the home like network-attached-storage devices. It then means that you can service all these devices by going to one location.

The network switch

As for the switch, you should purchase a dual-speed (10/100 Mbps) unit with more ports than there are rooms to wire. This allows you to add extra network points at a later date or connect network devices like Ethernet-powerline bridges, wireless access points, network-attached storage or home-automation equipment directly to the switch.

There are many three-speed Gigabit Ethernet switches that are being sold at an extra per-port premium over the common 10/100 Ethernet switches. These would mainly appeal to those users who intend to work with high-bandwidth video or similar applications. They also have to work with network adaptors that are capable of working at the Gigabit speed, some of which are now under the $100 mark for a basic PCI unit. They are still worth considering if you want to have a future-proof high-speed Ethernet infrastructure.

It is also worth being aware of and considering switches that work as Power-Over-Ethernet power sources. These units use the Ethernet wiring to provide power to suitably equipped network devices thus eliminating the need to run a power wire to these devices. This feature would be a boon for wireless access points and network CCTV cameras because it removes the need to make sure that there is a power outlet near these devices or risk them being “down” due to accidental power disconnection.

Rooms to wire

When wiring up for Ethernet, it is a good idea to provide a point in each bedroom as well as the kitchen, living room, dining room / family room and the study or home office. This means that you have covered every primary activity area in your home, thus permitting you to install network devices in each of these areas.

You may not think of wiring the living room for Ethernet but this room is where you will end up using networked entertainment equipment. Such equipment could range from network media clients that either are connected to or are part of the TV and stereo to present digital photos, digital video clips and music files through these devices; through the popular online-ready games consoles like the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, to dedicated media servers that present media that is stored on them over the home network. As mentioned earlier, an increasing number of affordably-priced desktop computers that are being sold by main-street computer stores are being designed to look like and behave like home-entertainment equipment, in order to be considered acceptable in rooms other than the study or kid’s bedroom. For example, you could easily think that a few of the newer home computers like the MSI MegaPC systems (Figure 2) resemble some of those bookshelf music systems that are sold at department stores and discount electrical stores.

Another reason would be that one may want to use a laptop computer in the living room during winter if there is an open fire, pot-belly stove or a radiant-style heater. This is because when these heat sources are in use, they become the focal point of the house.

If you use an open-plan shared-purpose room like the kitchen / family room or living room / dining room, it may be a good idea to have a network point in each logical “room”. This will avoid the untidy look and safety hazard (to person, machine and irreplaceable items) of running long cords across the floor of these rooms.

When choosing the socket type for the room sockets, it is best practice to use a standard wall-mount socket for each of these sockets. You may be tempted to use a side-entry socket, which is similar to some TV aerial points that are commonly used in Australia or the older Telecom Australia telephone connector. The problem with using a side-entry socket is that you may experience difficulty plugging and unplugging the device from the socket especially if the cable has the cheaper crimped-on connector.

If the job is aesthetically sensitive, you may be able to find outlet plates that work with the aesthetics of the room where the sockets are installed. This is easy due to the use of standard wall fitting designs that permit manufacturers to supply a large variety of trim-plates or socket modules. This can be of importance to anyone who owns a period home and wants to keep the fittings in tune with the home’s period.

Broadband Internet

You will usually the network-Internet “edge” router, whether it is an ADSL router or a broadband router connected to a cable modem or similar broadband-technology device, either in the study, the home office or the main lounge area and will most likely have Ethernet-enabled devices located close to it. Here, you would connect one of the router’s Ethernet ports to the Ethernet installation while having the other sockets available for the other Ethernet-enabled devices like a games console, network-attached storage or network printer.

Multiple Points in one room

In some rooms like the kitchen or home office, you will need to be able to have more than one point in that room. This is because you will often end up with multiple devices in that same room.

Extra ports on the main switch

This method involves running extra wires from that room to where the main switch is located and using one of the vacant ports on that main switch. This may allow direct bandwidth being provided to the device that is connected to the port; and can therefore yield better performance for that device. This method also certainly comes in handy when the devices are spread around the room because the room has multiple activity locations such as open-plan living areas.

It would be more fault-tolerant due to the removal of another Ethernet switch that could be a point of failure for the network devices in that room.

Regional switch

This method requires all the network devices to be plugged in to a switch, which is uplinked to the network point that is in that room. This mainly works better for any setups where the devices exist in a cluster; such as a home entertainment centre or a home office / study room.

The only main problem is that if the switch is powered down, those devices lose network connectivity. This can be worsened by the way that “wall-wart” power supplies are often used for powering most switches, routers and other network-infrastructure devices. What this means is that these bulky power supplies can easily fall out of most power boards which have outlets that are spaced wide enough for ordinary plugs rather than these “wall-warts”.

This can be alleviated if there is use of Power Over Ethernet, which uses the same Ethernet cables to run low-voltage DC power to network devices. This avoids the need for power outlets to exist near Ethernet ports for devices like access points. The power is placed into the network via a powered switch or a midspan power injector and devices take the power off the network cables either via their own sockets or through a power splitter which connects to the device’s Ethernet socket and power socket.

The Power-Over-Ethernet setup has been assisted via the use of the IEEE 802.3af standard, which now means interoperability between different device manufacturers. As far as switches are concerned, this could mean that you could have a network-powered 5-port switch with “power forwarding”. This means that the switch can be powered via a network port from a Power Over Ethernet infrastructure rather than a “wall-wart”; and feeds power through at least one of its ports to a network device that is powered over the network.

It can also be alleviated if the switch is powered off its own outlet, which would be the case if it is hidden in a built-in cupboard. This also avoids the temptation for one to unplug the switch in order to run other appliances, which can lead to that part of the network being unexplainably down.

Expandable solution for built-in devices

Expansion loop - current situation

Expansion loop - current needs

One way to assure expandability for future network needs while saving costs on the current project is to create an “expansion loop” in areas where you may want to install built-in network devices. This could be easily done for an Ethernet point that covers the kitchen where you want to be able to install a built-in Internet terminal like the IceBox FlipScreen kitchen entertainment centre at a later date; while catering for existing needs. At the moment, these devices are equipped with an Ethernet socket as their broadband / network connection method. The same practice can also be done for rooms like the master bedroom or the living room where you think that you may add extra built-in network devices or network points at a later date.

By installing two Ethernet sockets in a cupboard such as the pantry or built-in wardrobe, you would achieve this ability to cater for this situation. One of the sockets is wired to a point that is in the main area, such as at the breakfast bar. The other is wired to the main Ethernet switch for the home network.

These sockets could be installed in a “three-gang” or “four-gang” faceplate with blanking panels on the unused panels. Then, in the meantime, a straight-through Ethernet patch cable is plugged into both sockets. This then means that you are able to connect any computers or other network devices to this socket that is in the main area.

When the time comes to add a built-in Internet terminal or similar network device, or add extra network sockets; you or an installer, runs a short run of Ethernet cable from the new device’s or new socket’s location to where the two Ethernet sockets are. Then, a socket is installed at the device’s location and another Ethernet socket is inserted in to the abovementioned multi-gang faceplate and these sockets are connected to the Ethernet cable run. You then use a 5-port switch to connect this device and the existing network socket to the existing network backbone. Here, the switch is uplinked to the main Ethernet switch while the existing Ethernet point and the new device are connected to other ports on the switch.

Expansion loop - satisfying a future networking need

Expansion loop - satisfying a future networking need

This solution, which is illustrated in the two images here can also permit other “back-end” network devices such as security and home-automation “hubs” to be installed in this cupboard. As well, other network devices such as network hard drives and Ethernet-“no-new-wires” bridges can he installed in this location. It could even allow one to run extra Ethernet points in this same area at a later date.

Conclusion

Once you consider the idea of wiring for Ethernet, you would certainly have prepared your house for the connected home future. As mentioned before, this act of wiring for Ethernet will be even considered as a capital improvement, which may add value to your house in the Internet age.

You will also avoid the need to think about extra wiring chores should you think of implementing network-based home automation in the future, especially when most “connected-home” equipment will use a standard Ethernet connection on it.

 

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Product Review – Hewlett-Packard LaserJet M1210 Series laser multi-function printer

Here, I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet M1210 Series laser multi-function printer which is a network-enabled monochrome laser printer with integrated scan, copy and fax functionality.  It will also be the first review where I will be providing a “functionality table” for each of the printers that I review

HP LaserJet M1210 Series multi-function laser printer

PRINT SCAN COPY FAX Document Feeder Paper Trays Connect
B/W Colour B/W B/W Single-side 1 x A4 USB
Laser Xerographic 1200 dpi         Ethernet

 Setup experience

This printer was the second printer that I had come across which didn’t need me loading a CD or finding a file on the Internet for me to set it up. Instead, I could find the file on a separate “drive letter” in Windows Explorer if I connected the printer directly. In the case of network connectivity, the printer lit up in the “Network” folder and I could right-click on its icon to open the printer’s Webpage. Then I clicked on the “HP Smart Install” tab on this Webpage and clicked on the “Download” option to start downloading the drivers that I needed.

My test setup involved the unit being connected via a HomePlug powerline network segment and it has performed equally well with this setup. This has also again proven for me that the HomePlug powerline network can work well where flexibility is desired such as temporary networks.

Printing and Copying

The unit was very quick when it came to yielding the printed output. It could come up from a “cold state” and start printing 5 seconds after receiving a print job and could start copying within 10 seconds of you pressing the “Copy” button. The pages then come out fast and furious at about 4 seconds per page.  Another thing that has impressed me is that if the printer needed to be restocked with paper during a copy job, it will keep scanning the rest of the originals in the document feeder while you load the paper tray.

I have noticed that the pages come much warmer that on the HP LaserJet Pro P1560 due to the fusing rollers (the rollers that use heat to bond the toner to the paper in a xerographic printing setup) running at a higher temperature. This may be a need that is required for the toner that this machine uses but some papers like certain recycled papers may be affected more by this with extra curling. From my observations, there hasn’t caused been any jamming problems with this unit caused by the extra curling with the paper.

Fax

The fax functionality was able to match the requirements for a small or medium-size business. These included operation on the same telephone line, with support for distinctive-ring (Faxstream Duet) or auto-fax-detect operation as well as the ability to send many fax jobs from memory at a later time. Another feature I was impressed with was the “private receive” mode where the machine will receive all the fax jobs to its memory and print them when you enter a “release code” that you define yourself. This can ensure that the faxes that you receive remain confidential by avoiding the situation where received faxes lie in the output tray for anyone to pick up and read.

Scan

The network-enabled scanner has the ability to scan in colour and at 1200 dpi. It can work as part of Windows Image Acquisition or HP scan software primarily on a PC-initiated scan option. There isn’t an option for control-panel-initiated scanning, whether direct or via the network.

Reliability.

I have tested this printer on a large print job and it has worked properly without jamming. I also did a copy job with many pages and had found that the automatic document feeder is reliable with 20 A4 sheets of regular paper. When you are copying documents, the automatic document feeder can make a loud “grating” noise as it handles documents and make the machine sound more noisier during this process.

Limitations

There are a few limitations with this machine. The main one is that the control panel can be improved ergonomically. It has a small alphanumeric LCD display that could benefit from a backlight and the buttons on the keypad could be made larger or spaced further apart. This would allow for increased useability when it comes to “walk-up” copying, scanning or faxing.

HP LaserJet M1210 Series control panel

Small control panel and display

Like the HP LaserJet Pro P1560 laser printer that I reviewed in this blog previously, there isn’t a “disc-free” setup option for the Apple MacOS X platform. This could be facilitated by the provision of the necessary software files in the same storage area which is presented as a USB Mass-Storage device and available over the network as a Web download from the same HTTP server.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend this unit as being useful as an all-in-one printer/copier/fax where quick document turnout is desired and colour printing is not necessary. This would be as a main “reception-desk” unit for small legal offices or medical practices or as a workgroup fax / scanner / printer. It could work well as a highly-functional replacement for a low-end laser or thermal-transfer fax machine that has reached the end of its useful life.

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Reorganisation of the Product Reviews page

Hi everyone!

I am reorganising the Product Reviews page after reviewing a lot of equipment over the last few months. What I have done is to put the review lists for the printers and the laptop / notebook / netbook computers on separate pages that can be accessed from the Product Reviews page or the top menu. This will be a step towards making this list become less cluttered as I receive more products for review.

Also, if you think that the only printers being reviewed in this site are Hewlett-Packard units, there is something coming around soon in the form of a Canon PIXMA MX-350 network-enabled consumer all-in-one inkjet unit that I have received today for reviewing. I am also establishing relationships with other manufacturers in order to review many different brands of product.

WIth regards,

Simon Mackay

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“Electronic hard copy” publishing – should this only be for the iPad platform?

Since the start of this year, there has been some interest shown by traditional hard-copy media publishers and book publishers in the idea of e-books and similar technologies. This has mainly been brought about by the arrival of devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad. This concept has interested the newspaper and magazine publishers who have fund the value of their hard-copy titles dwindling as readers place more value on Web-hosted online news sources.

“Electronic hard copy” becoming only for the Apple iPad

This has intensified with the arrival of the Apple iPad where nearly every mainstream newspaper publisher is offering a subscription-based app for this platform and moving towards placing their online content behind a subscription-driven paywall, The biggest fear that I have about the current “electronic hard copy” situation is that all of the publishers will simply develop their “electronic hard copy” projects so that they only work with the Apple iPad.

Other platforms that exist

There are touch-based Internet-tablet platforms other than the iPad that can do the job of being an endpoint for “electronic hard copy” reading. The ones that come to mind are the Google Android platform which will be evolved into a touch-based Internet-tablet form factor as well as touch-enabled computers that run Microsoft’s Windows Vista or 7 operating systems. Infact I have viewed this site through a Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart “all-in-one” desktop PC at HP’s stand during the PMA Digital Life Expo yesterday in order to show a review of one of their products that was on the stand. This unit had the ability to “click on to” links at the touch of a finger or you could stroke your finger upwards to scroll through the site.

Similarly,there could be other touch-enabled Internet tablet platforms written for other embedded operating systems like Symbian, Bada or Maemo. As well, Microsoft can also provide a “scaled-down” distributions= of their Windows 7 codebase as the basis of a touch-enabled Internet-tablet device.

A common “electronic hard copy” distribution platform

What needs to happen is for the creation of a common “electronic hard copy” distribution that allows for the support of periodical content that is provided for free, “by the unit” or on a subscription basis in a similar manner to regular hard-copy periodicals. It should allow for authenticated distribution, rich-media content such as animation or video, search and interactivity amongst other things. It should also allow the publishers to “brand” their content and see a layout in a similar manner to how the hard-copy form has been presented.

For periodical content, technologies like the RSS Web-feed platform could be used as a basis for “pushing” newer issues to the device through the life of a subscription while there could be support for content-specific paradigms. In the case of comic-strip content, there could be the ability to scroll through each frame which would be variably-sized and perhaps may be accented with multimedia. Some material could allow for searching, filtered browsing and / or dynamic typesetting, such as a “full” dictionary that can be filtered down to provide words considered “legal” for Scrabble or a dictionary that emphasises in another colour “Scrabble-legal” words.

As well, you should be able to buy content for the device from anywhere other than the device’s “app store” like the way a Nokia phone user can get an app for their phone from the developer’s Web site, the Handango app store as well as the Nokia Ovi app store. This avoids the situations that have been occurring with Apple and the way they have been approving or disapproving apps for their iTunes App Store.

Conclusion

Once a common distribution platform exists for “electronic hard copy” content that works in a manner that breeds competitiveness, then more people would be able to benefit from this new way of distributing books, newspapers and magazines.

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Criminal legal action now being taken concerning “scareware”

 Articles

Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice – Microsoft On The Issues

Swede charged in US over ‘scareware’ scheme | The Local (Sweden’s News in English) – Sweden

US-Behörden klagen Scareware-Betrüger an | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

From the horse’s mouth

FBI Press release

My comments

What is scareware

Scareware is a form of malware that presents itself as desktop security software. Typically this software uses a lot of emphasis on “flashing-up” of user-interface dialogs that mimic known desktop security programs, whether as add-on programs or functions that are integral to the operating system. They also put up dialogs requiring you to “register” or “activate” the software in a similar manner to most respected programs. This usually leads you to Web sites that require you to enter your credit-card number to pay for the program.

In reality, they are simply another form of Trojan Horse that is in a similar manner to the easy-to-write “fake login screen” Trojans that computer hackers have created in order to capture an administrator’s high-privilege login credentials. Some of the scareware is even written to take over the computer user’s interactive session, usually with processes that start when the computer starts, so as to “ring-fence” the user from vital system-control utilities like Task Manager, Control Panel or command-line options. In some cases, they also stop any executable files from running unless it is one of a narrow list of approved executable files. They are also known to nobble regular desktop anti-malware programs so that they don’t interfere with their nefarious activities. This behaviour outlined here is from observations that I had made over the last few weeks when I was trying to get a teenager’s computer that was infested with “scareware” back to normal operation.

Who ends up with this scareware on their computer

Typically the kind of user who will end up with such software on their computer would be consumers and small-business operators who are computer-naive or computer-illiterate and are most likely to respond to banner ads hawking “free anti-virus software”. They may not know which free consumer-grade anti-virus programs exist for their computing environment. In a similar context, they may have found their computer is operating below par and they have often heard advice that their computer is infested with viruses.

What you should do to avoid scareware and how should you handle an infestation

The proper steps to take to avoid your computer being infested with scareware is to make sure you are using reputable desktop security software on your computer. If you are strapped for cash, you should consider using AVG, Avast, Avira or Microsoft Security Essentials which have the links in the links column on the right of your screen when reading this article on the site.

If you have a computer that is already infected with this menace, it is a good idea to use another computer, whether on your home network or at your workplace, to download a “process-kill” utility like rkill.com to a USB memory key or CD-R and run this on the infected computer immediately after you log in. It may alos be worth visiting the “Bleeping Computer” resource site for further information regarding removing that particular scareware threat that is affecting your computer. This is because I have had very good experience with this site as a resource when I handled a computer that was infested with scareware.

If you are at a large workplace with a system administrator, ask them to prepare a “rescue CD” with the utilities from the “bleeping-computer” Web site or provide a link or “safe-site” option on your work-home laptop to this site so you can use this computer as a “reference” unit for finding out how to remove scareware from a computer on your home network.

How the criminal law fits in to this equation

The criminal law is now being used to target the “scareware” epidemic through the use of charges centred around fraud or deception. Like other criminal cases involving the online world, the situation will touch on legal situations where the offenders are resident in one or more differing countries and the victims are in the same or different other countries at the time of the offence.

This case could raise questions concerning different standards of proof concerning trans-national criminal offences as well as the point of trial for any such offences. 

Conclusion

Once you know what the “scareware” menace is, you are able to know that criminal-law measures are being used to tackle it and that you can recognise these threats and handle an infestation.

Disclaimer regarding ongoing criminal cases

This article pertains to an ongoing criminal-law action that is likely to go to trial. Nothing in this article is written to infer guilt on the accused parties who are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. All comments are based either on previously-published material or my personal observations relevant to the facts commonly known.

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Criminal legal action now being taken concerning “scareware”

Articles

Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice – Microsoft On The Issues

Swede charged in US over ‘scareware’ scheme | The Local (Sweden’s News in English) – Sweden

US-Behörden klagen Scareware-Betrüger an | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

From the horse’s mouth

FBI Press release

My comments

What is scareware

Scareware is a form of malware that presents itself as desktop security software. Typically this software uses a lot of emphasis on “flashing-up” of user-interface dialogs that mimic known desktop security programs, whether as add-on programs or functions that are integral to the operating system. They also put up dialogs requiring you to “register” or “activate” the software in a similar manner to most respected programs. This usually leads you to Web sites that require you to enter your credit-card number to pay for the program.

In reality, they are simply another form of Trojan Horse that is in a similar manner to the easy-to-write “fake login screen” Trojans that computer hackers have created in order to capture an administrator’s high-privilege login credentials. Some of the scareware is even written to take over the computer user’s interactive session, usually with processes that start when the computer starts, so as to “ring-fence” the user from vital system-control utilities like Task Manager, Control Panel or command-line options. In some cases, they also stop any executable files from running unless it is one of a narrow list of approved executable files. They are also known to nobble regular desktop anti-malware programs so that they don’t interfere with their nefarious activities. This behaviour outlined here is from observations that I had made over the last few weeks when I was trying to get a teenager’s computer that was infested with “scareware” back to normal operation.

Who ends up with this scareware on their computer

Typically the kind of user who will end up with such software on their computer would be consumers and small-business operators who are computer-naive or computer-illiterate and are most likely to respond to banner ads hawking “free anti-virus software”. They may not know which free consumer-grade anti-virus programs exist for their computing environment. In a similar context, they may have found their computer is operating below par and they have often heard advice that their computer is infested with viruses.

What you should do to avoid scareware and how should you handle an infestation

The proper steps to take to avoid your computer being infested with scareware is to make sure you are using reputable desktop security software on your computer. If you are strapped for cash, you should consider using AVG, Avast, Avira or Microsoft Security Essentials which have the links in the links column on the right of your screen when reading this article on the site.

If you have a computer that is already infected with this menace, it is a good idea to use another computer, whether on your home network or at your workplace, to download a “process-kill” utility like rkill.com to a USB memory key or CD-R and run this on the infected computer immediately after you log in. It may alos be worth visiting the “Bleeping Computer” resource site for further information regarding removing that particular scareware threat that is affecting your computer. This is because I have had very good experience with this site as a resource when I handled a computer that was infested with scareware.

If you are at a large workplace with a system administrator, ask them to prepare a “rescue CD” with the utilities from the “bleeping-computer” Web site or provide a link or “safe-site” option on your work-home laptop to this site so you can use this computer as a “reference” unit for finding out how to remove scareware from a computer on your home network.

How the criminal law fits in to this equation

The criminal law is now being used to target the “scareware” epidemic through the use of charges centred around fraud or deception. Like other criminal cases involving the online world, the situation will touch on legal situations where the offenders are resident in one or more differing countries and the victims are in the same or different other countries at the time of the offence.

This case could raise questions concerning different standards of proof concerning trans-national criminal offences as well as the point of trial for any such offences.

Conclusion

Once you know what the “scareware” menace is, you are able to know that criminal-law measures are being used to tackle it and that you can recognise these threats and handle an infestation.

Disclaimer regarding ongoing criminal cases

This article pertains to an ongoing criminal-law action that is likely to go to trial. Nothing in this article is written to infer guilt on the accused parties who are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. All comments are based either on previously-published material or my personal observations relevant to the facts commonly known.

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Why buy a network-enabled printer instead of a direct-connected printer?

Most printer manufacturers are supplying printers and multifunction printer (all-in-one) devices that can connect to computers via a network as well as via a USB port in price ranges that most consumers and small businesses can afford.

This function has initially been provided to higher-end business-grade equipment primarily as a way of integrating them in to the business’s network and allowing them to be used by all the computers in that workplace. Now that home networks are becoming increasingly common primarily due to broadband Internet and Wi-Fi networking, this function is becoming commonly available in all but the cheapest equipment in most manufacturers’ product ranges.

You may think that a direct-connect printer is the only type of printer that you need for your home or small-business computer but it may be worth thinking about the advantages of the network-connected units now that this feature is available at an increasingly-affordable price. Similarly you may think of using a direct-connect printer with a print server such as the functionality integrated in to many recent-model routers. But there may be limitations in how this setup works, especially with the multifunction devices that are increasingly being deployed.

Many computers – few printers

You will typically end up with many computers but fewer printers in your home or small business and may find that there are particular printers that offer capabilities that are unique to them.

A network printer allows each computer to benefit from that printer’s capabilities without any need to shift the unit around or disconnect and reconnect USB cables. You also move away from the temptation to buy and maintain many cheaper printers for each computer and end up saving money in the long run.

This can allow you to invest in printers that are good for particular needs rather than a fleet of machines that effectively do the same job. A good example of this would be a medical clinic’s setup where there is a networked monochrome laser printer that turns out health-insurance forms, patient receipts and similar documents very quickly for a group of reception-desk computers and a networked colour inkjet multifunction printer that does general-purpose printing where speed isn’t necessary.

Network-capable multifunction printers expose all of their functions to the networks rather than just the printing function. This can allow for increased flexibility when it comes to scanning or “drawing-down” images from memory cards because these functions end up being shared by all the computer users. If the machine has fax functionality, there is the ability to “print-to-fax” via the network whenever you want to send a fax from one of the computers.

The “new home-computing environment”

We are also starting to see the arrival of the “new home-computing environment” where the computers in the household are laptops that are connected via Wi-Fi wireless to a wireless router. This has allowed users to use the computers anywhere in the house rather than just in the study or home office.

A network-enabled printer can allow you to avoid the need to locate the printer and connect laptop computers to it whenever you wish to print anything. Rather, you can start a print job from the laptop that you are using at the location you are using it at. You also benefit from the increased flexibility of locating the printer wherever you wish, especially if you use Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug powerline networking to connect the printer to the network.

Conclusion

So if you are wanting to choose a printer that provides for flexibility in your network environment, it would be worth it to consider units that are network enabled.

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Why buy a network-enabled printer instead of a direct-connected printer?

Most printer manufacturers are supplying printers and multifunction printer (all-in-one) devices that can connect to computers via a network as well as via a USB port in price ranges that most consumers and small businesses can afford.

This function has initially been provided to higher-end business-grade equipment primarily as a way of integrating them in to the business’s network and allowing them to be used by all the computers in that workplace. Now that home networks are becoming increasingly common primarily due to broadband Internet and Wi-Fi networking, this function is becoming commonly available in all but the cheapest equipment in most manufacturers’ product ranges.

You may think that a direct-connect printer is the only type of printer that you need for your home or small-business computer but it may be worth thinking about the advantages of the network-connected units now that this feature is available at an increasingly-affordable price. Similarly you may think of using a direct-connect printer with a print server such as the functionality integrated in to many recent-model routers. But there may be limitations in how this setup works, especially with the multifunction devices that are increasingly being deployed.

Many computers – few printers

You will typically end up with many computers but fewer printers in your home or small business and may find that there are particular printers that offer capabilities that are unique to them.

A network printer allows each computer to benefit from that printer’s capabilities without any need to shift the unit around or disconnect and reconnect USB cables. You also move away from the temptation to buy and maintain many cheaper printers for each computer and end up saving money in the long run.

This can allow you to invest in printers that are good for particular needs rather than a fleet of machines that effectively do the same job. A good example of this would be a medical clinic’s setup where there is a networked monochrome laser printer that turns out health-insurance forms, patient receipts and similar documents very quickly for a group of reception-desk computers and a networked colour inkjet multifunction printer that does general-purpose printing where speed isn’t necessary.

Network-capable multifunction printers expose all of their functions to the networks rather than just the printing function. This can allow for increased flexibility when it comes to scanning or “drawing-down” images from memory cards because these functions end up being shared by all the computer users. If the machine has fax functionality, there is the ability to “print-to-fax” via the network whenever you want to send a fax from one of the computers.

The “new home-computing environment”

We are also starting to see the arrival of the “new home-computing environment” where the computers in the household are laptops that are connected via Wi-Fi wireless to a wireless router. This has allowed users to use the computers anywhere in the house rather than just in the study or home office.

A network-enabled printer can allow you to avoid the need to locate the printer and connect laptop computers to it whenever you wish to print anything. Rather, you can start a print job from the laptop that you are using at the location you are using it at. You also benefit from the increased flexibility of locating the printer wherever you wish, especially if you use Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug powerline networking to connect the printer to the network.

Conclusion

So if you are wanting to choose a printer that provides for flexibility in your network environment, it would be worth it to consider units that are network enabled.

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Could this e-government initiative be upsetting the applecart in Europe as far as the Browser Choice initiative is concerned?

Article

E-Government-Offensive im Microsoft-Browser | news.ORF.at (Austria – German language)

My comments and brief interpretation

Judging from my basic understanding of the German language together with use of Google’s machine translation, I had “got the gist” of this situation which would be considered hostile to the European Commission’s agenda concerning Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

What I was reading here was that the federal government in Austria were placing heavy emphasis on Internet Explorer 8 as part of their “e-government” initiative. This was including a downloadable toolbar add-in amongst obvious page-optimisation for this browser.

Most likely, I would suspect that, like most large organisations, the Austrian government uses Internet Explorer 8 as part of their standard operating environment and they expect that most users in that country may have stuck with IE8 even during the “Browser Choice Screen” switchover. One could say that this government could get away with this practice because many public and private organisations supply iPhone client apps to make their “front-end” useable on an iPhone which may be platform-specific.

What I would like to see with this is that if the government sites become less useful or unable to fulfil their function because of the preference for a particular browser is concerned, then the sites should be organised to at least fulfil their function no matter the desktop-computer user agent.

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Not just fibre-to-the-cabinet but fibre-to-the-premises in two rural Lincolnshire villages

Article

thinkbroadband :: Two rural Lincolnshire villages to get fibre-to-the-home

My Comments

Another step has occurred in the right direction for providing homes and small businesses in two rural England villages with city-grade next-generation Internet service. Again, this initiative has been undertaken by a small operator and has allowed the village to be competitive with the city.

Here, Fibrestream are two-thirds of the way there with gaining interest from the potential users which will open doors to establishing the basic infrastructure and “lighting up” the villages. One of the bonuses that have been offered is that there is the option of helping with the installation to your premises as a way to defray provisioning costs.

They have also provided for a cheaper fixed-wireless-last-mile delivery option if they can’t raise enough money for the full fibre-to-the-premises option. Any monies saved from this option would be reinvested so they can establish the infrastructure for the full fibre-to-the-premises deal. This could still be factored in to villages with farms and similar large properties surrounding them so as to service these properties with high-speed Internet.

Like what has happened with other British villages like Lyddington in Leicestershire, this has become another way of bringing these rural villages in to the online age. Come on everyone who is in the country or underserved outer-urban and regional areas and work together to establish local-broadband initiatives.

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