Windows 7 hardware intended to upstage the Apple Mac hardware

News articles and links to campaigns

HP Envy premium laptops – HP US site

Acer Aspire Z5610 spotted in the wild – Engadget

Windows 7 launch day hardware spectacular – Engadget

L’Acer Aspire Z5610 également multi-touch – Journal Du Geek (France – French language)

My comments

Last night, I was checking on my blog and had noticed that Hewlett-Packard had taken a vertical image ad on one of the AdSense ad units that I have running on the blog just close to when Windows 7 was launched. This ad had an image of the Envy laptop and the words “The Power Of Envy” written down the ad as well as the HP and “Intel Inside” logos. So I did a search using Bing on the terms used in the ad and this led me to HP’s series of Windows-7-based Envy premium laptops, rather than clicking on the AdSense unit so I don’t commit click fraud. Judging from the photos of the HP Envy laptops that I saw on the campaign site, the look of this computer reminded me of a recent-model Apple MacBook Pro laptop.

Similarly, there was an Engadget post about the Acer Aspire Z5610 all-in-one PC which had the look and functionality that could upstage the newer Apple iMacs. As well, the “all-in-one” computers listed in Engadget’s Windows 7 launch day hardware list were styled to look like a tabletop version of a European-built premium flat-panel TV. Similarly, Sony had just launched a VAIO all-in-one computer that mimics the industrial design of one of the small-screen BRAVIA flat-panel TVs

These hardware product launches were intended to be hot on the heels of Apple’s recent iMac and MacBook prduct-range launch and most of these machines would appeal to Windows buyers who like the look of Apple’s computer range.

In my honest opinion, the Windows 7 launch has heralded one of the biggest consumer-computing platform showdowns ever.

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Invitation to comment about Windows 7

Anyone who is reading this blog and has Windows 7 running on a new or existing PC is invited to post their experiences about the operating system in the Comments thread after this post. It doesn’t matter if you bought the operating system as an upgrade or full-version package, or had it as part of a newly-bought computer. This also includes those of you who work at workplaces that have had Windows 7 rolled out as part of a technology upgrade.

If you are reading this blog in the European Union and have installed Windows 7 on the computer or bought a computer with Windows 7 as standard, did you have to go through the "browser ballot” screen and, if so, what Web browser have you elected to use as your standard browser?

How did you go about installing it, whether as an upgrade over an existing XP or Vista installation or as a clean install of the C: drive? If you bought a new computer with it preloaded, how did the experience go with first-time setup?

How easy is Windows 7 to use compared to your previous Windows XP or Vista experiences? Was there an increased learning curve when it came to doing the tasks that you want to do?

How did your Windows 7 computer co-exist with Windows XP or Vista computers on the same network? Was it also easier to bring a work-home laptop home and integrate it in to your home network?

All comments on this post are moderated, like other comments on any post in this blog and I will remove any comment spam, or comments that attempt to humiliate other users about their operating environments.

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New product launches – Windows 7, new Apple Macintosh range

Windows 7, the operating system that all of the Windows user community have been waiting for is now out on the shelves.

This is not Microsoft propaganda, but I have heard from some hardcore PC enthusiasts who have tried pre-release issues of the operating system and they have found that it was worth its salt. They have considered it as a very stable and capable operating system for “standards-based” Windows computing environments.

At the same time,Apple had launched new hardware for their Macintosh platform, which would be seen as a way to steal Microsoft’s thunder. This hardware lineup was hot on the heels of MacOS X being brought to Snow Leopard, thus allowing newer Macs to work at their best. But I also see it as a coup for diehard Mac users running older PowerPC hardware to consider a Snow-Leopard-driven hardware upgrade.

The activity that I have seen for both the Windows and MacOS X platforms has certainly showed me that this year is definitely a big year for the two most popular general-purpose computing platforms.

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A UPnP AV / DLNA media gateway for the Apple MobileMe service

I have had a look around the iTunes App Store to find out if there are any more programs that bring the iPod Touch or iPhone to the DLNA Media Network in any capacity, and this program had peeked my interest.

It is the ceCloud iPhone app which brings photos held in the user’s MobileMe account to a  DLNA-capable electronic picture frame, TV or network media adaptor. The MobileMe service is a content-syncing service run by Apple as their platforms’ answer to the Microsoft Exchange, Windows Live SkyDrive and Mesh services. This app can be useful if you maintain the MobileMe service as a primary photo library or use it to just hold pictures captured using your iPhone’s camera or downloaded from your digital camera to your Macbook laptop; yet want to make them available to the DLNA-compliant equipment.

For the program to work, the iPhone will need to be connect to a WiFi network segment which is in the same logical network as your DLNA-compliant media playback device. It would also be a good idea to keep the iPhone or iPod Touch connected to AC power at all times while you run the program.

What had impressed me about this program is that there was the idea of building in a UPnP AV / DLNA media gateway in to a smartphone in order to connect to a “cloud” service that the smartphone’s platform can benefit from.

Web site: http://www.ceapps.com/cecloud/

iTunes App Store Direct

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Special Report – 10 Years Of the UPnP Forum

Originally posted 9 September 2009, Reposted Tuesday 20 October 2009 in conjunction with the official press release

From The Horse’s Mouth

Official press release from the UPnP Forum – PDF

In the media and blogosphere

UPnP celebrates 10 years of existence | eHomeUpgrade

 

No need to configure the router every time you want to play a PC-based or console-based online game or use Skype and Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger).

You can navigate music, pictures or video held on a computer or network-attached storage device from a network media player device like an Internet radio with the same ease as navigating music on an MP3 player or using the computer’s media-management software.

How has this been brought about? It has been brought about with UPnP, which is a standard for controlling and monitoring devices over an IP-based network. The standard, which is held together by the UPnP Forum, is about a known device network architecture and known device classes that are determined for particular device types.

Microsoft had been one of the founding companies for this standard but the Open-Source software movement had welcomed it with open arms and developed many endpoint programs based on this standard. The only company that has not welcomed UPnP as a technology is Apple who still prefer to keep everything within their own fences.

Now the UPnP Forum are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. The celebrations were part of their regular Steering Committee meeting at Microsoft’s head office in Redmond, USA.

Achievements – from personal Web research

The UPnP Device Architecture specification has now been taken to Version 2, which allows a device to service 2 networks and prepares UPnP for IPv6 networks. The AV specifications have been taken to version 3 for the MediaServer device so that a UPnP AV-based home media network can support broadcast recording whether immediately or on a scheduled basis, handling of premium content using digital rights management techniques, as well as support for “follow-me” functionality. It has then made the specifications more relevant to TV-based devices like digital TVs and set-top boxes / PVRs.

Most standards concerning the design of consumer network-Internet “edge” devices such as routers like CableHome 1.1, DSLHome TR064 / TR068 and Home Gateway Initiative include UPnP Internet Gateway Device as part of the mandatory set of specifications for these devices. As well, more Internet-based programs like BitTorrent clients, games and instant-messaging / VoIP programs are designed to take advantage of the UPnP Internet Gateway Device standard by being “self-configuring” at the edge. This is infact one of the primary reasons that whenever I buy or specify a router for someone’s home network, I make sure that it does properly support the UPnP Internet Gateway Device specification.

The two main games consoles that just about every teenage boy or young man has or wants to have – the Microsoft XBox360 and the Sony PlayStation 3 – both have inherent support for UPnP-based home networking. This is with automated port-forwarding for online games and now support for media playback from UPnP AV / DLNA media servers.

This leads me to the fact that the Digital Living Network Alliance have pushed forward the UPnP AV specifications and encouraged the development of server, playback and control devices based on these specifications. This development has been supported by the devices having the DLNA branding which will help consumers purchase the right products.

These situations have also been augmented with Windows XP and Vista having integrated UPnP functionality “out of the box”. Even Windows Media Player had the support for UPnP AV sharing “out of the box” since version 10. Windows 7 has taken this concept by working as a UPnP AV Media Control Point “out of the box” with functions like “Play To”.

Some standards have been achieved for the building control and security sector, mainly in the form of lighting and HVAC control, control of powered blinds and setup of network CCTV cameras. Further development will be likely to happen with the impetus of the smart-grid concept and the desire for energy efficiency and environment consciousness. This will be assisted if these standards are part of a known platform used for these applications.

Common standards have also been achieved for managing quality of service, device security and power management by define Device Classes for the applications. These can allow the creation of an application-level functionality for these particular functions.

All in all, the UPnP concept has come a long way since 1999 but there still need to be a lot more work to do to make it pervasive.

Celebrations – from communication with Toby Nixon

People that had established the UPnP Forum such as Karen Stash (original UIC President), Jawad Khaki (original executive sponsor from Microsoft) and Salim AbiEzzi (original UPnP Steering Committee chair) appeared for the celebrations.

Six people had received “Outstanding Contributor Award” – Shivaun Albright of Hewlett-Packard (Chair of Imaging Working Committee & Architecture Committee), John Ritchie of Intel (long time chair of AV Working Committee & Technical Committee),Hans-Joachim Langels of Siemens (co-chair of Home Automation & Security Working Committee), Tom McGee of Philips (second president of UIC), Karen Stash of Microsoft and Toby Nixon of Microsoft. They also gave recognition to Karen Reff of VTM who has left that company in September 2007 and moved on.

As part of the dinner party, they also viewed a slide show of images from past UPnP events and a presentation on the history of the UPnP Forum and various key milestones associated with the technology.

There will be more information “from the horse’s mouth” when the UPnP Forum run the official press release on October 18 which is the actual 10th anniversary date.

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Legal right to 1Mbps broadband Internet in Finland

Finnish government promises fast broadband by 2015 | Helsinki Times (Finland)

Finland says that 1Mb broadband is a right, not a privilege | Engadget

Broadband a legal right from 2010 in Finland | ThinkBroadband

Applause For Finland: First Country To Make Broadband Access A Legal Right | TechCrunch

Le haut débit devient un droit fondamental en Finlande | DegroupNews (France – French language)

My comments on this step towards universal Internet access

Most countries who implement universal Internet access take it to a similar level to how electricity or telephone are provided to everyone. But Finland have done what would be typical of a progressive Scandinavian country with a tech economy. They have made this a legal right for Finnish inhabitants to have 1 Mbps broadband-grade “hot and cold running” Internet by July 2010 and the minimum to be raised 10Mbps to 2015.

This has put an impetus on the government to set up the necessary programs in an orderly manner rather than adopting a “Monte Carlo” approach to providing universal broadband Internet service. As well, Finland is setting themselves as an example to other states when it comes to providing universal broadband Internet and assuring its access by all citizens.

A lot of the blogosphere have made comments on this achievement by describing it as a right to download BitTorrents of movie and TV material but they don’t think of such concepts as triple-play or “over-the-top” video, improved telephony or the ability to run competitive business.

At least this is an example of a country being a “proving ground” for broadband Internet access being as much a protected right as running water.

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The Wi-Fi Personal Area Network is getting closer

Blogs and News Articles

Wi-Fi Alliance Peers into the Future with Ad Hoc Replacement | Wi-Fi Net News

Wi-Fi Gets Even Better | Wi-Fi Planet

Wi-fi to get a whole lot better | BBC News – Technology

Wi-Fi Direct : un sérieux concurrent pour le Bluetooth | DegroupNews (France)

From the horse’s mouth

http://www.wi-fi.org/news_articles.php?f=media_news&news_id=909

My comments

A while ago, I had mentioned in my blog about Intel and Ozmo designing chipsets that support a Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) personal area network. As well, Microsoft had built support for this kind of activity in to Windows 7 so the operating system can manage these networks if the computer’s chipset has inherent support for this. Now, the Wi-Fi Alliance are defining the “Wi-Fi Direct” standard that allows the establishment of these personal-area networks. They have also said that the “Wi-Fi Direct” personal-area network can be catered for on some existing equipment through the use of a driver or firmware update downloaded from the manufacturer’s site.

Wi-Fi Personal-Area Network concept diagram

Wi-Fi Personal-Area Network concept diagram

A Wi-Fi personal-area network is based around a computer, typically a laptop general-purpose computer, providing a single low-power Wi-Fi service set for a small number of devices while being able to link with an existing Wi-Fi service set using the same Wi-Fi networking chipset. The computer is essentially acting as though it is a wireless router with a Wi-Fi backhaul.

One main near-term benefit of operating a Wi-Fi personal-area network is to use a Wi-Fi-enabled device that doesn’t have the full screen, keyboard and Web browser, like a digital camera or Internet radio at most wireless hotspots which typically require you to establish your session through a Web page. Similarly, you can do network-based activities like transfer files, make your music library available to your DLNA-capable media equipment or engage in multi-player multi-machine gaming while using a public Wi-Fi network like a wireless hotspot.

The main benefit of this method beyond using the classic “Ad-hoc” mode that is part of the 802.11a/b/g/n standards. The “ad-hoc” setup often provided poor security and was very unstable, especially if it was being used to transfer large amounts of data like files between colleagues’ laptop computers.

This technology has also been designed to suit all classes of network deployment, ranging from home and small-business networks to large corporation and government networks. The needs of a large corporation or government department with sensitive intellectual assets have been taken care of including the ability for the access points in these networks to detect Wi-Fi Direct networks and, where policy dictates, to shut down these networks. There is only one security fear that I have in that the technology could be used to create an “evil-twin” rogue access point at a wireless hotspot. The way I would mitigate this problem would be to limit the power of a Wi-Fi Direct network and give hotspots the ability to detect these networks. Further still, I would support the use of SSL-style verification mechanisms being part of the SSID beacons in enterprise and hotspot networks as mentioned in my article on keeping the WiFi public hotspot industry safe.

Some of the computing press see the technology as a competitor to Bluetooth especially when it comes to linking devices with general-purpose computers. This is although Bluetooth have established small-size low-power chipsets for integration into peripheral devices like headsets and mice. It may also be seen as a chance for companies to work on low-power small-size Wi-Fi radio chips for use in these kind of devices, which can also benefit devices that deal with Wi-Fi on a LAN perspective like Internet-enabled consumer electronics.

Also, if the pundits see that this technology is going to work for human-interface devices (keyboards, mice, remote controls, game controllers, etc) and similar applications, they need to have this concept developed and proven across an IP subnet. This is because Wi-Fi is simply being used as one of many physical network media for IP networks; and there haven’t been any device classes and application-layer protocols established for human-interface devices, sensors and similar applications to operate across these networks.

Once this technology is worked out properly, I would see Wi-Fi Direct being an enabler for network activities involving Internet-based consumer electronics or working alongside a colleague rather than being another wireless medium for keyboards and mice.

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“Over-the-top” video services – a new direction for TV

http://jviptv.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/cisco-rovi-stb-2009/

Previously, if you wanted extra broadcast content for your television experience, you would have to subscribe to a cable or satellite pay-TV service which would provide many channels of content for a monthly fee. This hasn’t pleased many people because, if they wanted particular sports fixtures or good-quality TV content, they had to subscribe to packages filled with a lot of channels they didn’t really want.

Additional content was available through collectable videocassettes or DVDs; or lately through content-provider Websites which you had to view through a computer.

Increasingly, the broadband Internet service with its content-streaming and file-sharing abilities has opened up a new path for independent broadcast or on-demand video content and led towards “over-the-top” video services.

What is an “over-the-top” video service?

An “over-the-top” video service is an IP-based video service provided in a manner primarily independently of established broadcast TV infrastructure. The customer doesn’t have to sign up with a cable or satellite pay-TV service to benefit from the content. The reception arrangement is typically a set-top box, PVR or IP-enabled TV that is connected to the Internet via the home network. In most cases, especially PVRs and IP-enabled TVs, they will have a built-in digital broadcast tuner that is pitched at receiving free-to-air TV channels or, at the most, the equivalent of basic-tier cable TV.

These services had started out with Web-based services like Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster Video and similar “video-on-demand” platforms being made available to network media adaptors and “personal-TV-service” devices like Tivo. These services typically provided either pay-per-view or “download-to-own” content, usually encompassing cinema feature movies or television serials. Lately, there has been the arrival of Sky Angel who have set up an IP-based streamed-channel collection based around Christian-focused family-friendly entertainment.

What paths could this open up

These services could open up the concept of “boutique television” which is about a supplementary-TV service providing “only what you want” without paying for “what you don’t want”. In the context of broadcast content, the viewer groups that would be touched would include families who want “clean wholesome entertainment”, ethnic groups who want content in their own language and culture, people interested in sports that aren’t covered in the country they reside in like AFL football or cricket, and those of us who like good-quality television content. As far as on-demand content goes, these programs could open an alternative to hiring DVD from the local Video-Ezy, provide a highly-strung catch-up TV service for people who follow TV serials, amongst other things.

Similarly it could allow content providers like established free-to-air TV networks to offer subscription-TV services and content without being limited by the dominant owners of cable and satellite-TV infrastructure. This was more so when, in Australia, Foxtel (the dominant pay-TV provider in Australia) made it very difficult for the Seven Network to establish a subscription-driven premium TV channel. This had led to a long drawn-out legal dispute and even broke down relations between both services with such behaviour as Foxtel not rebroadcasting the Seven Network to subscriber households that receive their service directly off the satellites; and Seven not providing programme data for Foxtel’s on-screen electronic programme guide.

What needs to be done

Most implementations require the use of a set-top box loaded with specific software, including a content directory in the case of broadcast services. There is the likelihood of a worsening problem if a household likes many different “over-the-top” video services, especially boutique-TV services, where there will be multiple set-top boxes in the AV rack.

One way to go about this would be to establish a standard for provisioning of broadcast and on-demand IP-TV services to subscribers. This could be based around DLNA standards and require at the most a common browser plugin or lightweight application to handle provisioning-manifest files that may be sent by email or downloaded from the service’s Website. As well, the industry needs to act upon content protection / conditional access standards like DTCP-IP when protecting premium services; and accept the idea of covering all receiving devices in a household under one subscription. This is in a similar way to how the TV licence is handled in the UK where ONE TV licence covers all TV-receiving devices in the same household.

How could this affect the TV landscape

For production studios, content providers and “boutique” channels, the “over-the-top” video services will provide these groups, especially small operations, with more opportunities to expose their content. This is in contrast to content being judged on whether it will suit the mainstream audience of a particular market, which is becoming more so in a highly-consolidated highly-controlled market like the USA.

For consumers, it will provide an increased choice of television that gives value for money as in “pay only for what you want to watch without paying for what you don’t want to watch”. This is more so in difficult financial times where one needs to factor in such events as the possible loss of their job or business and need to save as much as possible.

There is an increased likelihood of the commercial TV establishment being threatened by the concept of viewers taking back control of their viewing and the content produced “outside of the establishment” becoming available to most people. They, especially the cable-TV companies and similar companies who run pay-TV services on the same bandwidth, may try to block data streams associated with this new form of video content or implement traffic-shaping rules to Internet service. This would have these companies fall foul of “net-neutrality” rules that are established by governments. On the other hand, these services could force the TV establishment to “lift their game” with content production.

Conclusion

Once “over-the-top” video content comes to your home network and your TV set, it could become a watershed moment for TV broadcasting.

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UPnP AV (DLNA) for the Apple Macintosh platform

Introduction

I am writing this to help Apple Macintosh users know what is available when it comes to integrating their computers with the UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Network, especially as a way of providing cost-effective way of distributing music, pictures and video over the home network. This is also because most of the DLNA-compliant equipment is available at prices that most people can afford and that most manufacturers that sell premium-grade consumer AV equipment like Linn or Loewe are running at least one unit capable of playing at least music from a DLNA-compliant media server.

Similarly, the article is also pitched at people who have decided to move to the Apple Macintosh platform from other computing platforms that would provide inherent DLNA MediaServer support like Windows.

Apple doesn’t provide any software to bridge the Apple Macintosh platform to the DLNA Home Media Network, whether as a server, playback or control program. One of the primary reasons is to keep the platform tightly integrated with Apple’s multimedia products like the iPod, Apple TV and Apple Airport Express. As well, some Apple Macintosh diehards may consider the UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Network as an anathema to the “purely Apple” IT lifestyle that they desire.

So this need is fulfilled by software written by third party developers. The software is primarily in the form of media servers that can provision user-defined libraries or the iTunes and iPhoto libraries to the DLNA Home Media Network. Programs that provision user-defined libraries can be pointed to iTunes and iPhoto libraries once you know where these programs store their files.

DLNA software for the Apple Macintosh platform

TwonkyMedia are supplying a version of the TwonkyMedia Server to MacOS X, which can work from any user-defined folders. This program is available through www.twonkymedia.com .They are intending to port the TwonkyMedia Manager to the Apple Macintosh platform in the near future.

Allegrosoft have had Allegro Media Server for a while and this works directly with the iTunes Music Library. This program is available from www.allegrosoft.com/ams.html .

Elgato EyeConnect is available at any Apple Macintosh dealer who sells Elgato EyeTV TV tuner cards and is tightly integrated with the Apple iLife system. This means that it can share the folders used by iTunes, iPhoto and other Apple software over the DLNA Home Media Network in a more polished manner.

NullRiver Connect360 and MediaLink. These shareware products are pitched at integrating iTunes and iPhoto with the XBox360 and PlayStation 3 games consoles, but can provision content to DLNA Home Media Network devices. Infact, some friends that I know are using the NullRiver MediaLink to bring their online video collection which is held on their Apple Macintosh to a PS3 to view on their flatscreen TV in the main lounge area of their home. They are available through www.nullriver.com .

Songbook Mac is another iTunes UPnP AV / DLNA server, but this program also is one of the first UPnP AV Control Point programs available for the Macintosh. It is mainly targeted at people who run any of Linn’s network media players on their network, but can be run on with any UPnP AV MediaRenderer device. It is available at http://www.bookshelfapps.com/songbookmac.php ,

Yazsoft Playback is another program that is highly integrated to the Macintosh platform and can handle all of the high-definition video that a lot of Mac users will be dealing with. It can also work with user-nominated folders and is available at www.yazsoft.com.

Use of third-party NAS devices

If you use a third-party (non-Apple) network-attached storage device like the Netgear ReadyNAS, the QNAP units or the Buffalo TeraStations, you can use these devices as a UPnP / DLNA media server. They will also offer iTunes music server functionality as well as Time-Machine backup.

DLNA Media Controller Software for the iPhone

Most of you who own an Apple Macintosh will own or are wanting to own an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch by now and these devices can work as Media Controllers for Media-Renderer Devices that accept “pushed” content. They are the iMediaSuite (iTunes direct) and iNetFrame (iTunes direct) (blog mention) by CyberGarage, PlugPlayer (iTunes direct) (blog mention) and Songbook Touch (iTunes direct), which are all available through the iTunes App Store.

Conclusion

Staying loyal to the Apple platform doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the abilities that the DLNA Home Media Network offers, especially now that more and more consumer-electronics manufacturers are making DLNA-compliant networked media equipment available at all price points and markets.

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Buffalo ships world’s first USB 3.0 hard disk drives this month – Engadget

Buffalo ships world’s first USB 3.0 hard disk drives this month | Engadget

My comments on this article

What has pleased me about Buffalo releasing the world’s first USB 3.0 external hard disk is that they have taken a “systems” approach to getting the standard off the ground. This is through supplying a USB 3.0 PCI-Express interface card for use with recent-issue desktop computers with a vacant PCI-Express x1 slot on the motherboard as well as, of course, the necessary cables.

It may appeal to those of us who like to take apart and put together desktop computers a lot and are likely to build “homebrew” server systems. But wait for 6 months to a year and the USB 3.0 sockets will appear as part of the next generation of motherboards and be integral to laptop computers and other small-form-factor systems.

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