Hitachi-LG optical-reader / solid-state drive combo for laptops

Articles

Hitachi-LG teases HyDrive: an optical reader with loads of NAND (video) – Engadget

Web site

http://www.mysterydrive.net

My comments

The main thing that impressed me about this was that both the tray-load optical drive and the solid-state drive wore integrated in to the same low-profile chassis that would suit installation in to a laptop. There are many benefits that I see with this.

One would be that you could have a laptop specification that has both a large-capacity hard disk that is used for data and a lower-capacity solid-state drive used for the operating system and applications. It could then allow for battery economy and quick starts while the high capacity on the hard disk can exist for the user’s data and this hard disk is only spun up when the user’s files need to be loaded or saved.

As well, if Hitachi and LG move towards higher solid-state capacities, this could allow for low-profile laptops like the “thin-and-light” segment to have the SSD as the main system drive while supporting an optical drive.

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Product Review – Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4520s

I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4520s business-class notebook which may be the first such computer that has come across in this blog. It is one such machine that I am assessing as whether it fits the purpose of a “work-home” laptop for a small-business owner or not.HP ProBook 4520 Series laptop

The unit I am reviewing has a recommended retail price of AUD$1299 but you may be able to get the the same specification for a bit less if you shop around. Cheaper models in this lineup would have a smaller hard disk, run Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Professioamnal, come with a standard battery which has a shorter runtime amongst other differences.

The laptop itself

The unit is finished in a brushed satin-bronze finish on top of lid and keyboard surround, but some variants have a dark-satin black finish. There is a a black screen escutcheon which also hides the Webcam for face-recognition security and Skype communications.

The large keyboard has a feature that is not seen on may laptop computers – a separate numeric keypad. This will please accountants and others who work with figures. It is of a “chiclet” square-key stile but is spaced enough so as to permit accurate touch-typing.

Laptop keyboard with numeric keypad

Laptop keyboard with numeric keypad

There is a multi-touch touchpad which may take some time to get used to for people who haven’t used this kind of control before. It has the primary and secondary buttons as part of the bottom margin in the same way that the HP Envy has for its touchpad.

It is powered with the Intel Core i5 processor “engine” and is supplied with 4Gb RAM with 1Gb set aside for display memory. The graphics “engine” is a highly-robust ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4350 series which would be good enough for most business tasks, even video playback.

The secondary storage options are on a par with a current-issue laptop of this class. It has a 500Gb hard disk with 1.8Gb partition for HP software. It also has a tray-load DVD burner that can label LightScribe optical discs and a memory-card reader for removeable storage.

You also get good things when it comes to connectivity with 3 USB ports and 1 eSATA external-disk port as well as an ExpressCard 34 slot for additional functionality. External displays can be connected using a VGA or HDMI connector.

Business software complement

The operating system for this laptop is Windows 7 Professional which is the version of Windows or7 I would recommend and have recommended in this blog for small business and professional use. It has the features of Windows 7 Home Premium plus other features that make it  business-friendly.

The unit is supplied with a very good business software complement with an inplace ready-to-enable distribution of Microsoft Office Professional, McAfee Total Protection web-managed desktop security software as well as WinZip 12. Hewlett-Packard have also put in their own branded system-protection tools which are developed by Digital Persona, which provide password management, facial-recognition, secure-erase, device-usage control amongst other things.

Observations and Ecperiences

The computer doesn’t run hot too quickly after extended periods of use, thus allowing it to be comfortabie to use. If it gets hot, the heat is passed out the left hand side rather than being felt on the bottom of the machine.

Its battery has a lump which can tilt the laptop up slightly also to allow better cooling and comfortable use. This lump has a rubber ridge to protect the good dining-room table but the design could extend to full width of battery for better protection

The extra-length battery that came with this machine allowed it to complete a feature move on DVD with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Infact there was 41% of power available after the movie was completed and these tests were done with Windows Media Player playing “Munich” and the computer running on the HP-defined default power configuration. This then would mean that it could run a long time without you needing to look for a power

The other thing I also admired about this machine is that the metal finish keeps its look even if it is well used unlike a lot of the glossy finishes used on laptops that attract fingermarks and the like. It also feels cool to handle and is the kind of finish that would cope with long-time use.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The main limitation with this computer is that it is too heavy for frequent public-transport travel, which may cut it out for frequent air travellers. Some people may find that the long-run battery’s large size and lump may be a limitation for packing and could be improved with a battery that is more cell-dense.

Other than that, there aren’t any other limitations that would impact on its positioning as a business-home home laptop computer.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend this as a business-home laptop or desktop replacement for professionals and small-business operators who are likely to take the unit between home and their place of work. It also comes with business-grade security software that is available at prices and licensing quantities that small business can stomach.

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Heads-up: Google Chrome is now at version 5.0

Articles

Chrome 5.0 en version finale | Le Journal du Geek (France – French language)

Google veröffentlicht Chrome 5 für Windows, Mac OS und Linux | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

Google ships “fastest-ever” Chrome out of beta | The Tech Herald

Download link

http://www.google.com/chrome

My comments

Google have updated their Chrome browser to the next major version. It has been fine-tuned “under the hood” for speed in a similar way to what has happened with Windows 7 and MacOS X “Snow Leopard” and is intended to be faster than the prior versions.

There is also improvements in how it handles the new HTML5 language, which will make it ready for the Web’s new direction. Other improvements include “experience synchronisation” between different computers, a must have if you are upgrading computers constantly or operating two different computers like a desktop and a laptop.

At the moment, there isn’t a stable Adobe Flash plugin for this version but it will be provided as part of the browser’s update process.

This may appeal to you if you have jumped from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome, whether directly or through the Browser Choice screen in Europe.

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Product Review – HP LaserJet Pro P1560 Series desktop laser printer

I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Pro P1560 Series desktop laser printer which is part of a range of monochrome laser printers offered by HP for “quick-form-turnout” applications like invoices or health-insurance forms at a medical clinic.HP LaserJet Pro 1560 printer

This model, which costs AUD$329, that I am testing is an entry-level desktop unit that is directly-attached to the computer via a USB cable.  The P1600 Series is the “step-up” version that has the same functionality but is equipped with network-printing ability as well as a duplexer for printing on both sides of the paper. This is in a similar practice to how most vehicles are sold with extra options being part of increasingly-expensive “trim levels”.

It works with an HP CE278a toner cartridge which has an average page yield of 2100 pages and costs AUD$94.60 each on the streets. This would lead to a running cost of approximately AUD$0.04 per page.

Set-up and Operation

The main feature that impressed me about this laser printer was that I didn’t need to find a CD or download files from HP’s Website to get the printer going with my Windows 7 computer. Once it was plugged in to the USB hub, the computer discovered a USB Mass-Storage device on the printer and mounted it as a drive letter. Then I went to that drive letter with Windows Explorer and ran the Setup file whereupon the drivers were in place and the printer clicked in to action with the Windows Test page on the output tray on the printer very shortly. I have touched on this earlier in my blog as a separate article because it was a “dream come true” when it comes to printer setup. The P1600 would allow me to “hit” its Web front-end to load the necessary driver files at least when installing it on the network.

The other thing I am impressed about is a very quick “cold start”. I have often seen older laser printers and copiers require a warm-up time of a few minutes before they are ready to print. This is mainly to have the fuser rollers warm enough and able to melt the toner in to the paper. Here, the printer was able to be ready to print from “cold standby” within four seconds.

Once underway with a print job, it took four seconds to print each page and wasn’t running very hot. This is even though I ran a copy of the PDF user manual as a large “reliability-test” print job. There may have been some steam coming out of the output slot but this may be to do with moisture buildup in the machine which had been unpacked shortly before this print run.

The printer has an automatic “energy-save” function where it powers down to a “cold standby” mode whenever there are no print jobs coming through for a few minutes. It only uses enough power to “listen” to the USB port for print jobs from the host computer.

Maintenance

The printer is very easy to maintain, especially when it comes to replacing the toner cartridge. Here, you just pop the lid open then pull out the used cartridge from the bottom of the cavity without much force. Then you put the new cartridge in to the bottom of the cavity without any need for any extra pressure.

This unit is at least an example of improving the design of the equipment to make it more useable for all people.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

Beyond the need to provide CD-free setup for the Apple Macintosh platform, there haven’t been any further limitations that I have come across with this direct-connect printer.

Conclusion and Positioning Notes

The HP LaserJet Pro 1560 Series printer could be best positioned for single-computer workstations like reception desks in small clinics and the like for use as a printer for “turning out” documents like invoices or similar forms. It would be best used as an “exact replacement” for an older direct-connect monochrome laser printer that has come to the end of its useful life.

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Your Android phone now can control the UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Network

Web site

AndroMote – An Android UPnP Remote Control

You can pick the software up at the Android MarketPlace using your Android device.

My Comments

Previously, TwonkyMedia have released a version of the TwonkyMedia Server for the Android platform but this program presents media that is held in your Android device to the UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Network. It doesn’t offer any way for you to play media already available on the network through your Android device nor does it allow you to “push” media to another UPnP AV / DLNA device for playback or control its playback on that device.

Now another German developer have shown up with a UPnP AV control point / media player for the Android platform. This will allow you to use phones like the HTC Desire to control playback of media on UPnP MediaRenderer devices or “bring down” media available on your UPnP MediaServer to your phone for instant playback.

I had observed on the site that there is a wish for people to copy a “collection” of media like an album from the UPnP MediaServer to the Android phone’s local storage. But could this function be available for an upcoming version?

It is now becoming very real that a programmable mobile phone platform like the iPhone or the Android can be part of the UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Network once people write software that provides media-service, media-control or media-playback functionality for the platform.

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Regenerating the Carmarthenshire towns should include providing proper broadband Internet

News article

BBC News – Plans to regenerate four Carmarthenshire towns

My comments

I had been reviewing this BBC News article about plans to regenerate some Carmartheshire towns but had found scant information about improvements to broadband Internet service in those towns.

If there are plans to regenerate a country town, these plans should also include improvements to infrastructure that provide broadband Internet access. This could range from reassessing the telephony infrastructure so that ADSL2 broadband is capable of 2Mbps “at every door”, through improvements in wireless broadband coverage to provision of next-generation broadband in that town.

It could then allow for the town to become competitive as far as technology-driven businesses, such as R&D or universities, are concerned. As well, the town can also allow other small businesses that operate therein to “come on to the map” and be competitive on the world stage. It will also benefit the outlying properties and neighbouring villages / hamlets by exposing them to proper broadband service rather than just horrible old dial-up Internet.

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Another one for the Android-based TV platform

News Article

Sony Internet TV Has An Intel Atom Processor And Runs Google TV, Chrome, Flash 10.1 | Sony Insider

From the horse’s mouth

Sony’s official Internet TV Website – Sony Style

My comments

Previously, I had written in my blog about People Of Lava introducing an Internet-enabled TV that was based on the Google Android Platform. This is a brand that may not be on everyone’s lips, especially when it comes to consumer electronics.

But now Google had determined an Android-based app-driven TV platform to go alongside their Android app-driven mobile phone platform and described it as “Google TV”. They have pitched this at digital TV sets and various set-top applications, primarily as an open platform for delivering Internet-enabled interactive TV.

Sony have become the first mainstream TV manufacturer to implement this platform, which will give it an air of legitimacy in the consumer-electronics space. This is eve though the interactive-TV space has been dominated by various closed or limited platforms like the games consoles, the PVR boxes such as TiVo, and various pay-TV platforms.

I often wonder that if Google keeps the Android platform as an open platform, they could provide many interesting applications and uses for many devices.

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Someone’s listening to my call for CD-free printer setup

I have mentioned in this blog about the need for printer manufacturers to move away from supplying CDs or USB memory keys full of printer drivers with their printers. What I was wanting to see was the driver software being held in separate memory on the printer that is accessible as a USB Mass-Storage Device for direct-attached printers or through common network protocols for network printers.

At last, Hewlett-Packard has answered this need as far as Windows users are concerned with the LaserJet Pro 1560 and 1600 Series monochrome laser printers, one of which will be reviewed in this blog. The review printer which is the LaserJet Pro 1560 – a low-end direct-attached printer, was set up without me needing to find a CD in the box.

The setup experience went like this:

1. Once the printer was connected to my computer’s USB socket and to the power, Windows 7 discovered the printer and mounted an extra drive letter for that printer.

2. I then visited the extra drive and ran the setup file, whereupon the printer’s driver set was installed and I was offered the ability to print the Windows Test Page.

The networked versions allowed you to log in to the printer’s IP address from your browser, once you have printed the network information page, in order to download the driver software.

No mess, no fuss!

No need to worry about the printer setup CD anymore!

Points of improvement

Some improvements that I would like to see include a driver set for the Apple MacOS X Macintosh computers available on the “CD-free install” memory and that the printer’s “CD-free install” memory mounts as another disk on the Macintosh Desktop.

Another improvement would be to let Windows discover the driver set without any user intervention once the printer is connected to the USB port. This could then lead to true plug-and-play printing for this class of printer.

Furthermore, I would like to see this function made available in more of the consumer multifunction printers because the people who use these printers are more likely to end up with grief because they of driver-install issues.

The function can be augmented by allowing for driver update procedures to include in-field refreshing of the driver set available on the printer. This can lead to support for newer operating platforms or improvements that are provided in the current operating platforms.

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Feature Article – Moving your closed-circuit TV surveillance to IP technology

WARNING THESE PREMISES ARE PROTECTED BY VIDEO-SURVEILLANCE

The typical video-surveillance system

You have established a video-surveillance system in your business premises and have had it going well for many years. It would be based on four to nine analogue cameras located through the business premises and all of these cameras are connected to a multiplexer, commonly known as a “quad”. This device, which presents video images from the cameras in a sequence and / or as a matrix of four images on the one screen, is then connected to a VHS time-lapse video recorder that is recording whatever is going on in the premises. You are able to see the output of the cameras through one or two monitors, whether dedicated video monitors or a spare TV that is pressed in to service as a monitor.

If you are lucky enough to do so, you may have used a dedicated digital video recorder instead of the VHS time-lapse video recorder as the system’s video recorder. These units would have a built-in hard disk and may copy images or video segments that are needed for reference to a DVD using an integrated DVD burner. There is also an increased likelihood of these units being able to work with multiple cameras without the need to use a “quad”.

But now you have heard talk from people in the IT or security industry, such as your system’s installer, about the concept of network-based video surveillance and perhaps seen other businesses and government sites being equipped with this technology. What with the ability to have the increased expandability and flexibility that it provides at all points of the equation.

What benefits does the new IP technology provide?

For example, you could have the recording functionality located away from the premises so employees can’t handle the recording media or to permit security firms to offer offsite video monitoring as another service. In some cases, an IP-based video-surveillance system can make it easier for business partner groups such as police officers or your landlord’s security team to easily “patch in” to your cameras as needed and upon you agreeing without upsetting your existing system’s setup.  As well, you may want to benefit from advanced handling of the video feed which can lead to functions like video motion detection, automatic vehicle number-plate (license-plate) recognition or people-counting being part of your system, whether integrated in to the cameras or as part of extra software in other system devices. These systems may also offer the ability to use high-resolution cameras which may appeal to you in certain security scenarios like fraud detection.

The technology is becoming available at a cost that most small business users can afford. One of the reasons is because most of the infrastructure may already exist due to the data network being laid down for Internet access and computer networking. Similarly, you may benefit from your network-attached storage device or business server being able to work as a DVR device simply by you adding cheap or free software to that device. On the other hand, there are some DVR devices that work with network cameras and offer a lot more video-surveillance functionality and integration in the long run, with some of them offering a Web-based system dashboard available over the network. As well, your regular desktop or laptop PCs can work as cost-effective system-control and monitoring terminals through the addition of cheap or free software or the computers’ Web browsers being pointed to the cameras’ Web sites. This may then make you think that your closed-circuit TV system is simply “too old” for today’s requirements. How should you go about moving towards the technology?

The IP network infrastructure

The network infrastructure that is part of your IP-based video surveillance system should be based on Cat5 Ethernet cable, which can be used as your business’s wired data network. This can provide for a reliable system and permit you to move towards “Power Over Ethernet”, which allows a single Cat5 Ethernet cable to carry power to the cameras as well as the data back from the cameras. This is infact a scenario you should look towards deploying, with a multi-port “power midspan” or “powered switch” providing the power-supply needs for the cameras and obtaining its power via a good-quality uninterruptible power supply that has adequate power capacity.

You could use other network media like Wi-Fi or HomePlug powerline for supplementary camera installations such as additional event-specific cameras or test-run cameras that you may use as part of building out your system.

Standards and setup issues

When you choose your equipment, make sure that your equipment works to common standards such as video codecs that are commonly in use or Internet-standard protocols. You may also want to make sure that each camera is accessible by either a known IP address or host name through the logical network at all times so as to make it easy to set up or revise your system.

If you are thinking of remote access, it may be worth using a dynamic-DNS service or fixed IP service; and establish port mapping so you can navigate to the cameras from outside of the network. This is to allow you to use a known IP address or fully-qualified domain name to refer to your system from outside.

The main objective with a proper IP upgrade is that you don’t lose any functionality that your existing system has provided you. Rather, you gain more in the way of functionality, expandability and security from the new setup because of the new features that the IP-based equipment and software will provide.

The upgrade path

Check your DVR for additional network functionality

If your system uses a DVR rather than the VHS time-lapse recorder as its recording device, find out if the DVR offers access to stored footage or live camera streams via industry-standard network setups. It also includes the possibility of the DVR sending images or footage to nominated people by e-mail or MMS in response to an alarm event. As well, the extra functionality could also include the ability to record images or footage from network cameras.

This functionality may be available through hardware and/or software that you may be able to retrofit, whether done by yourself or a competent computer or security technician. The software may be available for a very low price or, in some cases, for free from the manufacturer’s site or a respected third-party developer.

Network video encoders

These devices are used to connect the existing system to your network. They come in one-channel or multi-channel versions. The one-channel version can service one existing camera or the “MONITOR” output of an analogue system’s multiplexer, whereas a multi-channel version can service multiple cameras. The latter solution can come in handy if you want individual access to your legacy system’s camera outputs via your network.

It is also worth noting that some of the high-end network video encoders come in the form of an expandable infrastructure where there are many encoder “blades” that are installed in a rack-mount “master chassis”. This could allow a user to increase the number of channels in the encoder simply by replacing the “blade” which has fewer channels with one that has more channels. These units may appeal more to installations where there are many serviceable analogue cameras.

If any of the cameras in your system use “pan-tilt-zoom” functionality, the network video encoder that you use for these cameras should have a compatible “PTZ” interface so that you don’t lose this functionality. Similarly, if your system uses alarm connectivity for changing how it records the video information, the network video encoder should support this same alarm connectivity.

Recording

The IP-based video-surveillance system has increased recording flexibility compared to the legacy systems. Here, you could have the images captured on a network-attached storage unit that exists within the logical reach of your business network. For example, you could have one of QNAP’s multi-disk “muscle-NAS” units located in your premises AND a D-Link two-disk NAS at home or in another premises under your control set up to record images from the same lot of cameras  You also benefit from the fact that most of these NAS units can be upgraded to higher capacity in the field through the purchase of larger capacity OEM hard disks from independent computer stores.

In some cases, you can set up some of the NAS units like most of the QNAP range to work as network video recorders by installing software applications in these units. This usually allows the cameras and the recordings to be viewed from the NAS’s management Web page.

It may be worth knowing that there are some special NAS units that are optimised for IP-based video-surveillance setups. These will usually have functions like a Web-based dashboard, improved user interface for indexing and, in some cases, video-analysis functionality not available in the cameras. These are worth considering for larger video-surveillance systems.

Alarm integration and POS Exception Monitoring

Your system may be set up so that your video recorder works in real time if, for example, the building’s alarm is triggered or a staff member presses the duress-alarm button during a hold-up. You can make sure you don’t lose this functionality when your system is network-enabled. As well, you may benefit further from this through network cameras sending through pictures to specified e-mail addresses or MMS-enabled phone numbers upon alarm events.

To achieve this, you need to make sure that your cameras that are in the alarm’s scope have alarm-input terminals and that the signalling devices are properly wired to these terminals as specified in the documentation. In some cases, you may need to use a relay or optocoupler as a way of achieving a compatible connection that operates properly. An alarm installer or electronics technician can do this kind of work easily.

If you are a retailer who integrates POS Exception monitoring where certain normal or abnormal transactions cause your closed-circuit TV system to register them as alarm events or overlay transaction data on the video information, you should make sure you can integrate this functionality in your network-enabled system. The network-based system may allow for transaction-searching or exposure of transaction data independent of the video and could work with network-based POS systems.

Scenarios

These scenarios avoid the need to replace any equipment that is in good working order ahead of its time and prefer that the IP-based technology be “bolted on” to a video-surveillance system in a manner to enhance the system without losing any of its functionality.

Simple network enablement

You may simply start out by connecting the monitor output of your existing system to a single-channel network video encoder. This may be of use if your current-term objective is to view the system’s output on your network-connected PC or your mobile phone.

On the other hand, you may use a multi-channel network video encoder to network-enable all the cameras in a small 4-camera system or, for a larger system, a few cameras that you consider important as well as the monitor output. Then you add another multi-channel network video encoder to network-enable more cameras. You then run a video-surveillance manager program on your general-purpose PC so you can easily view the cameras and set up your network-based recording options.

You will still keep your “quad” and VHS time-lapse recorder or DVR going as a “failover recording setup” until that hardware breaks down irreparably.

Additional or replacement cameras

When you “build out” your video-surveillance system with extra cameras or replace any of the existing cameras, the newer cameras that you deploy in this scenario should be network-capable units. As mentioned before, you run a video-surveillance program on your PC to set up the recording and viewing options.  If you have enough room on your existing system’s multiplexer for extra channels or are replacing existing cameras, you have the option to connect these cameras to the multiplexer because they will have video outputs as well as network outputs. This setup will then appeal to those of us who have plenty of mileage left on the older equipment and still want to use that equipment to record the footage; or haven’t yet run Ethernet wiring out to the new cameras.

Moving away from tape or proprietary DVR

Your VHS time-lapse recorder may be just at the end of its service life and you may be thinking of where to go next. Similarly, you may have had enough of that proprietary DVR that cannot be expanded easily and want to look for something better. This could be a time to network-enable your existing video-surveillance system. Here, you could deploy a multi-channel network video encoder and a network-attached storage like a QNAP unit on your network dedicated for the video surveillance system. Then you use video-management software on your PC to direct the cameras to record to the NAS and to make DVDs of footage that you need to provide.

Complete system upgrades

You may be in a position to upgrade your video-surveillance system, such as through new premises, renovations, newer security requirements placed by government, insurance or company needs; or a large number of the components coming to the end of their useful life. Sometimes, the government may financially assist you in improving your system whether through a grant, loan or tax break towards the cost of the equipment as part of a compliance or “safer cities” program.

This upgrade may give you the break to move towards an “all-IP” system with IP-based cameras, one or more recording devices being network-attached storage devices, computers running video management software; and all of them interconnected using the business’s Cat5 Ethernet cabling.

Conclusion

Any business who has the premises protected by a video-surveillance system should be aware of the IP-based video-surveillance setups. As well, they should know when to evolve to the IP-based technology and how to do it without unnecessarily replacing existing equipment.

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Why are we using email client applications over Web-based email

Articles

What draws people to Windows Live Mail and other email applications | The Windows Blog

My comments

Previous use of desktop email clients until Web-based email matured

Ever since the start of the Internet, we mainly used desktop email clients which were often part of a larger electronic-mail infrastructure like CompuServe or AOL or a corporate messaging platform. Some of us who used terminal-based email like email applications running on corporate or university mainframes; or through viewdata services like MiniTel may have had the opportunity to send Internet-based email by adding a special Internet-mail qualifier to the address.

These desktop email clients had become more sophisticated by inheriting personal organisation or word-processing abilities. It also included HTML-based email as well as easy-to-manage attachments.

The Web-based email services started to appear in 1997 with the likes of Hotmail and allowed people who use Internet cafes to send and receive mail from any computer without configuring email clients. These email services were considered as an auxiliary or temporary email service for people with their own computers as well as primary email services for nomadic people.

Mature Web-based email services

Over the years, GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail improved their Web-based email services that they became a similar standard to a desktop-client experience and some computer users had moved towards these services rather than setting up a POP3 inbox and a desktop email client. Similarly, most Internet service providers and companies are also running Web-based email front-ends for their email servers.

It has also been intensified because of Internet service providers locking down their SMTP outbound-mail services in order to make it harder to send spam and this has put various limitations on travellers and others who move between locations with their own laptop computers. It also became easier for multiple-computer users to see what was read on each terminal synchronously – if it was read on one PC, it was treated as read on the other PC. This was more so as the home network became more popular as people signed up to affordable always-on broadband Internet.

Return of client-based email

We are now seeing the return of client-based email due to varying factors.

One is that Web-based email services are increasingly becoming oversubscribed and their front-end servers are taking a longer time to respond to user-generated activity. It has led to the service providers scrambling to increase bandwidth and server power to service an increased user base.

Similarly, there is an increasing number of free desktop email clients that come with either the operating system or available for download, whether as part of a Web services platform or a sidekick application to one of the many Web browsers. These clients are becoming as good as either one of the current Web-based services or as good as a premium desktop email client of a generation or two ago. They include functionality like calendar / taskpad management and RSS feed-reading support which provides for a highly-valuable highly-affordable personal-information-management solution.

The same email clients are being integrated in to handlheld devices like smartphones which have Wi-Fi or wireless-broadband support. Similarly, the size and cost of laptop computers has reduced due to the arrival of netbooks and ultraportable notebooks that have integrated Wi-Fi and, perhaps, wireless broadband. These lead to the ability to check on your email anywhere you go rather than operating a large computer for this purpose.

In the same context, Web-based email services now offers SMTP/POP3 or IMAP support either as a free service or as an add-on for a small extra cost. ISPs are also setting up secure portable access mechanisms to their SMTP servers, such that users have to log in to these servers with their mailbox credentials before they can send mail through them. This has now made client-based email become increasing relevant for more users.

Why use a desktop email client

The desktop email client provides for use of standard email application protocols and allows the messages to be held locally on the computer’s hard disk.

The speed and performance of the desktop email client is consistent to that of the local computer device rather than combination of Internet bandwidth and a busy Web-based email server.

Similarly. the experience provided by these programs is consistent to that provided by the local computer device and you can even use keyboard shortcuts that are provided by the local computer device for expediting most tasks.

People who use portable computing devices like smartphones or laptops “on the road” can benefit from creating emails offline then sending them out when they choose to go online to update the mailbox. This is also of similar benefit for rural users who are stuck with dial-up Internet and who should be getting broadband Internet service.

Why use a browser-based email experience

A browser-based email experience would suit users who have to use shared computers such as Internet cafes, public libraries or friends’ houses. It can also be used as an adjunct to client-based email setups for quick creation of supplementary email accounts.

What needs to happen further

A major flaw that currently exists with most client-based personal email setups is that there isn’t support for synchronous multi-terminal access. That is if you read an email on one computer or other device, it is marked as read when you see your emails on other devices.

This could be achieved by allowing people who subscribe to personal email services like ISP-provided email to use IMAP4 or “hosted Exchange” mail protocols as alternatives to the POP3/SMTP protocols. These protocols are being supported by most email clients that are currently in service. These protocols allow for “header-only” view for skimming email lists on low-memory devices as well as synchronous multi-terminal access.

They, especially the IMAP4 protocol, could be provided for free by most personal / residential ISPs and there could be an “auto-negotiate” routine which prefers the best option available for the user as part of email client setup.

Conclusion

Now that client-based email use is returning to common use, ISPs and third-party email providers should consider operating a speedy AJAX-driven Web-based interface with “best-case” rendering as well as a client-based interface that works with secure implementations of the POP3 /SMTP, IMAP4 and “hosted-Exchange” protocols. 

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