Video demonstration clip of Nokia’s Terminal Mode in action

Previously I have mentioned about Alpine showing interest in implementing Nokia’s “Terminal Mode” mobile-phone interface standard in their car stereos, mainly as a competitor to the iPhone. Now more vehicle builders, including Volkswagen are registering interest in this technology to “show the mobile phone display” on the car dashboard and have come up with this video demonstration clip that VW had supplied.

The application that was mainly illustrated was to set up a phone call and plan a journey with your hands on the VW car stereo’s touch screen and all of this going via a Nokia N97.

 
It would be interesting to see whether other smartphone platforms like Android will implement the Terminal Mode technology as a way of providing control through the car’s touchscreen dashboard UI.
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Another tablet-PC platform in the works, this time from Microsoft with a Windows-based solution

News Article

BBC News – Microsoft announces Windows tablet PC plans

My comments

Windows has provided for tablet and touch computing abilities ever since the Windows XP operating system where there was a special “Tablet PC” edition delivered only with computers that used stylus-driven “tablet-style” operation. These computers came in the form of a “slate” where the only user interface was the stylus-operated screen or a “convertible” notebook computer that can be operated as a conventional notebook computer or a “tablet-style” computer just by swivelling a stylus-operated screen 180 degrees. Most of these computers weren’t available in price ranges that most people would consider when it comes to buying portable computer equipment.

They didn’t extend the availability of this operating system to other “tablet-style” or “stylus-driven” setups like interactive whiteboards, “digitizer” tablets or display and light-pen / interactive pointer.

But, when Windows Vista came on the scene, Microsoft integrated touchscreen and stylus-driven “tablet” operation as part of the operating system for all of the mainstream versions. This has opened up the floor for more touch-enabled computer setups or the ability to provide such setups in an aftermarket manner. Windows 7 has extended this further with the support for multitouch screens, again baked in as part of the mainstream versions.

Apple has cast their first “punch” in the fight for commodity-priced touchscreen computing devices with the arrival of the iPad. This has been built on “consuming” material that is normally distributed as print material and, in the case of periodical content, uses client-side “apps” delivered through Apple’s iTunes App Store to “draw-down” the material.

Android and, now, Microsoft have started taking action in providing a platform that does what the Apple iPad does but in a more competitive way for both customers and developers. Microsoft has, on their side, an increasing array of “netvertibles” (netbooks with swivel touch-screens) and low-cost convertible notebooks as a hardware starting point and the touch and tablet functionalities in Windows 7 as a software starting point. They also have been known for establishing an affordable and accessible software-development infrastructure ever since the company started with the BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer in the 1970s, by providing the Visual Studio software-development suite which can allow programmers to write touch-enabled software.

Microsoft could then provide extra “shell” functionality with Windows 7 to enable full touch operation but they will need to work this in so it can work with low-cost hardware in order to make their platform affordable for most. This platform would be like the Android platform where many different hardware manufacturers provide different units that run this operating system.

Personally, the “tablet” computer race will become like what has happened during the late 1980s when there were at least five GUI-based operating platforms on the desktop computing scene. What then happened was that some of the platforms “fell off the branch” or serviced particular user classes, as certain platforms became dominant in mainstream computing life.

As I have said before. there has to be standard interactive “electronic hard copy” platform that permits “publish once, read anywhere” content authoring with the full benefits that these tablet computers offer for the new platform to succeed.

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

News article

NETGEAR Adds Gigabit PoE Smart Switch – SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR GS110TP Gigabit PoE switch product page

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE-supply Smart Switch

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE 8 Port Smart Switch

My comments

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

What are VLANs

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

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

NETGEAR’s role in this equation

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

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

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

Limitations with this class of switch

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

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

Other benefits to take note of

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Another country hamlet in the UK equipped for next-generation broadband

News article

thinkbroadband :: Fibre broadband is coming to Broughton, near Huntingdon

From the horse’s mouth

Vtesse web site

My comments

Previously, I have commented on Vtesse setting up a fibre-to-the-cabinet next-generation broadband Internet service servicing two villages in Hertfordshire. This was based on underground deployment of the necessary fibre-optic links to the cabinets and VDSL2 copper links via “sub-loop” unbundling between these cabinets and the customers’ premises.

Now Broughton, a small country hamlet located near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, has moved towards next-generation broadband with the help of the same company. This has been done with two differences – one using FTTH technology which may be known as “fibre-to-the-premises” technology. The other involves the use of overhead poles used for electricity distribution and telephone service in this area to support the fibre-optic cables.

Through the planning stages of this development, issues have been raised about ownership and control of infrastructure like poles or ducts used for providing electricity, telecommunications or other services and whether competing service providers should have access to this infrastructure if an established service provider set it up in the first place. Issues that could be raised include right of access by the competing service-provider’s technicians and whether a competing service provider’s technicians have access to the lead-in wiring on a customer’s private property up to the point of demarcation where the wiring becomes under customer control.

Another issue worth raising is whether an FTTH setup is more likely to suit larger country properties where the main house is set back further from the road and whether it will suit larger country estates that have many individual-customer households yet remain as a cost-effective next-generation broadband-delivery method.

At least what I am pleased about is that there is action being taken to bring rural Internet access out of the back-waters.

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Understanding the new DisplayPort video-connection standard

A few years ago, the VESA consortium who manage standards concerning video display equipment have released the DisplayPort video connection standard to connect a computer or similar device to a display. This has yielded increased improvement over the legacy VGA, DVI and HDMI standards that are currently in use for this purpose.

At the moment, it has been mainly deployed by Apple in their recent-issue Macintosh computers and monitors and I have known that the iMac all-in-one computers have the ability to work as a DisplayPort monitor. Now, other manufacturers are releasing laptop and desktop computers as well as aftermarket graphics cards equipped with this connection in to their model lineups. This is also being augmented with a trickle of monitors and “business” projectors that come with this connection and this trickle will turn in to a flood as this connector comes down the model lineups.

Improvements

Small-size connector

There is a standard connector that is similar to a USB plug for applications where space doesn’t matter like display cards or most regular monitor and projector designs. This connector also has a “latching” design that allows for high-reliability connections in applications where this is desired.

Then there was a “MiniDisplayPort” connector that is half the size of this connector and is intended for applications where space is limited like laptop computers, sleek monitors and ultra-low-profile computer housings. This is actually the standard being implemented by Apple in their current-issue Macintosh platform hardware.

Single pipe

This standard, like the SCART and HDMI video-connection standards, allows for a single pipe for high-resolution video, digital audio and bi-directional communications. Some applications like multi-function monitors with integrated sound, Webcams and USB hubs; touchscreen displays and projectors with integrated cursor-control functionality will benefit from this functionality because there is only one cable needed between the host device and the display.

The latest version (1.2) of this standard also allows for multi-display setups from one connection on the host, whether as a daisy-chain or in a “hub and spoke” manner. This then allows for simplifying multi-monitor display arrangements or monitor / projector setups.

It is also worth knowing that the DisplayPort standard also allows for IP-based network connectivity between the host and the display, which could benefit those displays that have some form of network functionality.

Increased performance

High-resolution, High colour depth (digital photo and video)

Increased distance between host and display

The distance between the host device and the display has been increased to 15 metres without the need for repeaters or amplifiers. This would benefit large video-display setups where the display computer would need to be away from the display screen or projector unit, such as meeting rooms, churches, cinemas and the like.

Adaptors available for legacy displays

If you buy a DisplayPort-equipped computer or retrofit your desktop computer with a DisplayPort-equipped video card, you can still connect your computer or video card to your existing monitor. This is feasible through the availability of DisplayPort – VGA / DVI / HDMI adaptors.

Issues to be careful of

Use of DisplayPort – HDMI adaptors

If you want full proper HDMI operation such as “single-pipe audio” with a DisplayPort-HDMI adaptor, you will need to make sure that the DisplayPort host computer is capable of DP++ behaviour. This is to ensure that the proper logic is going to occur between the host device and the HDMI display setup which may include a separate HDMI “sink” device for sound like a home-theatre receiver.

DisplayPort 1.2 multi-display setups

A DisplayPort setup which is established in a daisy-chain fashion requires a DP 1.2 host at the head of the chain and DP 1.2 monitors down the chain, but a DP 1.1a monitor can be used as the last display in the chain. Alternatively, DP 1.1a monitors can be used as the “spokes” displays in a DP 1.2 setup if they are connected directly to the hub.

It is also worth knowing that the DisplayPort 1.2 multi-monitor setups support “multi-streaming” with displays showing different images from one host. This can suit most multi-display applications such as editing environments, “extra-wide desktops” or “operator screens” for projector setups where each monitor must have different video.

What to look for

If you want to make sure that your system can support the display requirements of now and the future, make sure that the display subsystem can support DisplayPort 1.2 with DP++ functionality. This can cater for multi-screen displays, the current crop of HDMI-equipped display and audio hardware amongst other things.

Whenever you buy or specify a DisplayPort monitor for a multi-screen display or as an “operator screen” for your DisplayPort projector, make sure that it supports at least DisplayPort 1.2. You can get by with a DisplayPort 1.1a monitor or projector at the end of a “daisy-chain” setup on as a “spoke” from a hub-based setup with a DisplayPort 1.2 hub.

Conclusion

Once you are aware of the caveats outlined above when buying or specifying DisplayPort hardware, you can be sure that you can benefit from the DisplayPort standard offers.

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Another two villages provided with full broadband service – this time in Hertfordshire

News articles

thinkbroadband :: Vtesse Broadband bring next-generation broadband to Hertfordshire

From the horse’s mouth

Vtesse Broadbandpress releases

My comments

The initiative has been taken again to establish full broadband service in the UK countryside. This time, two villages in Hertfordshire, north of London, are equipped with fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband with sub-loop unbundling. The villages, Birch Green and Hertingfordbury, are located too far from the local telephone exchange for guaranteed high-speed ADSL broadband Internet service, so Vtesse have established a fibre-optic backbone for both of the villages and set up the cabinets there.

Another step that has been taken is to have customer feedback to determine where the demand is and where there is poor coverage. The network has been made future-proof so that they can provide fibre-to-the-premises service when the time comes to provide that level of service.

I had a look at the Vtesse website and was impressed with the network-Internet “edge” router that customers would be supplied with as standard. It is a Comtrend ADSL2/VDSL2 wireless modem router that doesn’t just work with 802.11g like most provider-supplied equipment does. Instead, this unit can work with 802.11n Wi-Fi network segments

Again, what I am so pleased about is that this is an example of small companies in the UK have taken the initiative to provide full-ADSL-quality to “next-generation” broadband to the “backwaters” of that country. This then puts farmers and small businesses in those towns on a competitive level with those that have proper broadband Internet service and with the big business operators.

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Finland – the first country to actually have a universal broadband Internet service obligation in place

News Articles

Internet for all, declares Finland | The Age Technology (Australia)

Finland the first country in the world to make broadband access a legal right | Engadget

Is Broadband a Basic Right? Finland Says Yes! | GigaOM

My comments

Previously, I had written a post on this blog about Finland proposing to establish universal access to broadband Internet with a minimum speed of 1Mbps as a basic right. This was in response to the usual blogosphere comments about a legal right to download BitTorrents of movies and similar content in that country when this news was initially broken, and I was stating it as a preparation ground for IP-based video services, VoIP telephony and the ability to use the Internet to do business competitively.

Now this goal has become real with the Finnish government with them establishing certain Internet providers as “universal service providers” who have to provide the service for 30-40€ / month. Another issue that hasn’t been raised in the press coverage is how Finland will finance this universal-service obligation.

This is whether through:

  • spending by the government out of the country’s annual budget
  • a levy on telecommunications or Internet services (current practice in the US for the universal telephone service)
  • annexing the TV-licence or similar audiovisual-service fee used to fund the public broadcast service (UK’s proposed solution) or
  • simply letting the universal-service providers charge more for discretionary services (current practice in Australia with Telstra).

One of the articles was also looking at idea of the US adopting a similar “bill-of-rights” method for protecting the standard of Internet service in that country. This is even though there is a lawsuit filed by Comcast against the FCC that is currently in progress concerning Net neutrality and the right if the state to have their hand in the provision of Internet service.

What I see of this is that Finland has led the pack by being the first country to write in their law books that broadband Internet be provided as a universal service in a similar manner to mains electricity or the telephone service. It will be interesting to see who will be the next country to take tbis step seriously.

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Another step towards affordable touch-enabled “convertible” notebooks

News article

Fujitsu Lifebook TH700 brings convertible tablet magic at a more affordable price — Engadget

My comments

I had previously mentioned in this blog about a “netvertible” computer design which is a netbook with a touch screen that swivels, being considered an affordable Windows-based alternative to the Apple iPad.

Just lately, Fujitsu have upped the ante with a convertible subnotebook / ultraportable computer that has a “convertible” touchscreen design and have pitched it at a more affordable price. This is showing that the convertible touchscreen is appearing in the netbook and subnotebook / ultraportable classes of Windows-based portable computers which represent affordable implementations of this technology and as the cost to integrate a touchscreen into a laptop-class computer reduces, more of the computers in this class will end up with a swivel-head “convertible” design for a significantly-reduced premium.

Now, the only step that needs to happen for them to convincingly make Apple take notice would be to see e-publishing platforms that are used with the iPad be available for the Windows 7 platform. This is so that publishers can achieve the goal of “e-books”, “e-newspapers” and similar publications in a “design once, view anywhere” manner with their rights protected.

As a blog writer, I would like to see a heterogenous environment exist for tablet-based e-publishing that allows for innovation, competition and affordably-priced user-improvable equipment.

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The Cisco Cius business-pitched Android tablet – could this provide a platform to compete with the iPad?

Cisco Cius in useNews Articles

Cisco Unleashes Cius iPad Killer For Business Users | SmallNetBuilder

Cisco unveils Cius Android tablet with HD video capabilities | Engadget

Cisco uncloaks Android video tablet for suits | The Register (UK)

From the horse’s mouth

Press Release

Product Page (PDF brochure)

My comments

There have been a few features that impressed me about the Cisco Cius Android tablet judging from the news articles that I have read. One was that the tablet was able to work as a fully-fledged Android tablet with access to the Android Marketplace in a manner that makes it compete with the Apple iPad. The other one was that Cisco had taken a different market – the business user – and used the Android platform to make a tablet-style computer that fits the market.

This has then allowed Cisco to develop a hardware product that can offer the necessary functionality by adding on microphones, video cameras, an interface to a speakerphone / handset dock amongst other things. They could easily take this unit further with concepts like the “next-generation home phone” or simply make a competing tablet MID based on Android under the Linksys consumer brand.

This can also lead to a Cius tablet having a longer service life beyond the business because of its ability to benefit from the Android Marketplace which could yield many consumer-focused applications like Android ports of applications like Skype or may iPhone apps.

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Product Review – Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

I am now reviewing the Sony VAIO P-Series netbook. This is a computer that is of a similar size to a chequebook wallet of the kind that many busy women like to keep in their handbags. The review sample cam in a bright orange colour but is available in blue or white. All of the units have a black bezel around the display and as a strip above the keyboard as a common feature.

This review unit’s colour scheme reminded me of a similar colour scheme used by Electrolux on a vacuum cleaner sold on the Australian market in the early 1970s where the unit was this same orange colour with black trim.

Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

VAIO alongside woman's wallet

VAIO alongside woman's wallet

 

Price AUD$1599 recommended  
Processor Intel Atom processor  
RAM 2Gb Shared with display
Secondary Storage 64Gb solid-state drive Card readers for SDHC and Memory Stick
Display Subsystem Intel Graphics  
Screen 8” widescreen LCD
Network 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless  
  Ethernet (via connectivity adaptor)  
Connections USB 2 x USB 2.0 port
  Video VGA (via connectivity adaptor)
  Audio 3.5mm headphone jack

The computer itself

Because the computer is intended as a personal portable computer that is intended to be small and run for a long time on batteries, the specification set will be very minimal, alongside that of a low-end netbook.

Processor and RAM

Like other netbooks, the VAIO P-Series computer is based around the Intel Atom processor which is pitched at this class of computer. It works on 2Gb of RAM with some being used for display memory.

Display

The display is powered by an Intel Graphics chipset and appears on an 8” widescreen LCD display. This can be a limitation for any long-term computing activity due to the way regular-sized fonts come up on this display. It will then require the user to adjust the “dots-per-inch” setting in the Display menu in Windows Control Panel. You may alos have to use Windows Magnifier and / or reduce the number of toolbars running in Web browsers and similar applications.

Keyboard and pointer control

The keyboard uses a “chiclet” style and may look similar to some of the “pocket computers” of the early 1980s. The unit also uses a “thumb-stick” mouse similar to what has been commonly used on IBM / Lenovo laptops with the primary and secondary “click” buttons under the spacebar.

Secondary storage

The VAIO uses a 64Gb solid-state drive which is based on flash-memory technology as its primary secondary-storage space but there is a memory card reader that works with SDHC and Memory Stick cards available for removeable storage.

Connectivity

There is wireless connectivity for 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks as well as Bluetooth peripherals, which would appeal to this computer’s user base.

Peripheral connectivity is limited to two USB sockets (which you may have to use one of for a 3G wireless-broadband modem) as well as a headphone socket for audio playback applications. There is a dongle that connects to a special I/O connector which provides for connection to Ethernet networks or VGA displays.

I/O adaptor dongle for Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

I/O adaptor dongle for Ethernet or VGA connections

Observations

During the review period, the woman of the house had shown some interest in this computer because of the orange housing and had wanted to wish-list it to her husband. She also had use of the machine to type up a test document and browse her Web-based email account and found that it can be cramped but was enamoured about it as a “handbag companion PC”.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

One main point of improvement that could be provided for is the default use of a desktop setup that allows for readability on this display. The computer could also benefit from being provided with an integrated 3G wireless-broadband modem with software mobile-phone functionality, which could make it attractive to mobile-phone carriers to sell at a subsidised price with a 3G service plan.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

The small display and the large price tag may put this machine out of the reach of most people. But some people who want a handbag-sized computer with a proper keyboard for doing contact management, e-mail, Web browsing on a fully-functional browser and similar activities may appreciate this unit.

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