D-Link Debuts the DIR-685 All-in-One 802.11n Router / Photo Frame / UPnP AV NAS Server | eHomeUpgrade

 D-Link Debuts the DIR-685 All-in-One 802.11n Router / Photo Frame / NAS Server | eHomeUpgrade

My comments about this router

There have been a few features that make this router be different to the typical Wireless-N broadband router. One is the implementation of a colour LCD display that makes you think of the unit being like the typical personal electronics device. This could lead towards the network-Internet “edge” router having a user-interface display with lots if information on board rather than a box with a row of flickering lights.

Another feature that is differentiating this router is the use of the display as an electronic photo frame. This may typically work with pictures held on a hard disk attached to this unit rather than discover pictures existing on the network. This functionality can appeal to the unit being typically placed in the office or den and working as a picture display. Another factor of interest is that if the unit only shows images on the locally-attached hard disk, it can present the pictures over the local network to any DLNA-capable media player.

At least there is a step in the right direction in making the network-Internet “edge” router more special for the home network and could lead to one considering whether to replace the ordinary-old Internet edge.

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BBC NEWS | Technology | Pioneer of cyberspace honoured

 BBC NEWS | Technology | Pioneer of cyberspace honoured

Video Interview with Professor Wendy Hall about Web Science

My Comments

One thing I have seen as a benefit from cyberspace and the World Wide Web is the ability to build a world-wide library of information. It had also given the Internet its breakthrough or “killer” application, in a similar vein to VHS videotape being given its breakthrough application in the form of video-movie rental in the ‘80s. This concept was talked about by Bill Gates in his first book, “The Road Ahead” (Amazon shortcut).

It has eventually led to the use of the HTML-based user interface for controlling network devices from PCs in the home and beyond and the ability to regard the Web browser as an “applications terminal”.

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The end of McColo – OXYGEN 3 (E-bulletin on IT security)

 The end of McColo – OXYGEN 3 (E-bulletin on IT security)

My Comments

Some governments, most notably the UK government, are implementing crack-house or disorderly-premises close-down procedures where they can close down premises which are used for crime or disorder.

This incident where McColo, an ISP frequented by malware distributors and spammers, has been closed down because of the malware and spam that has emanated from that domain means that someone is looking towards using this kind of action in cyberspace. This would be similar to the effect on a neighbourhood whenever a crack house or a bar frequented by criminals is closed down, whether through official mandate or not.

If this kind of thing happens frequently with the Internet, through the watchfulness of the netizens, this could lead towards a safer Internet environment with fewer malware existing and mailboxes free of “fly-by-night” spam.

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A-DATA launches XPG Dual SSD RAID enclosure – Engadget

 

A-DATA launches XPG Dual SSD RAID enclosure – Engadget

My Comments

This enclosure could be useful for two applications where size is important.

One would be to create an SSD + hard disk hybrid disk array for a computer’s main secondary storage. This could allow for an SSD that is small enough for the operating environment (operating system, main applications, etc) and any so-called “work files”  (virtual memory, print queue, hibernate image, system registry, etc)while a 2.5” hard disk can work as a data store.

Another application for this cage would be to set up a 2.5” dual-hard-disk RAID array that can fit inside a 3.5” drive bay. This unit would also please anyone who is building a custom Windows Home Server or Linux network storage system.

The main issue with these enclosures, like MiniITX motherboards, is that they need to be available to the computer hobbyist market. This means having them for general sale through electronics and computer retailers and for sale at computer fairs. This is more so in Melbourne, Australia where the Sunday computer fair is becoming part of the hobbyist computer scene.

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Understanding MoCA – the new no-new-wires network that uses the TV-aerial wiring.

Over this coming year, there will be product launches for MoCA-based home-network devices that are to be sold through mass-market retail. But this article explains what the new MoCA coaxial home networking technology is about.

What is this MoCA thing all about

MoCA has one thing common to the old coaxial-based local area networks – 10Base2 ThinNet and 10Base5 ThickNet, in that they all use RF-style coaxial cable. But the similarity stops there.

Unlike the old coaxial-cable networks, this network uses the 75-ohm TV-antenna cable commonly used in our homes and offices and can work with an ad-hoc cable layout. This means that you can use splitters and have sockets not having anything plugged in to them which is common with TV-antenna and cable-TV setups.

The reason it is designed to work like this is because the MoCA system is meant to use an existing cable-TV or TV-antenna wiring installation for transporting data. It is also meant to share the cable’s bandwidth with regular analogue and digital TV signals from the cable-TV service or the property’s TV aerial (antenna).

This system will come in to its own with such setups where there are multiple antenna or cable-TV sockets installed around a house to suit the installation of many TVs or an easily-relocatable TV set in different rooms.

Difficult installations

RF amplifier setups, including “active amplifiers” driven by digital-TV set-top boxes will need to have a bypass filter working between 875-1500 MHz. This may be more important with inline booster or hub (distribution) amplifiers rather than headend amplifier setups like TV-aerial masthead amplifiers.

In some cases, you may need to install a 850MHz low-pass filter at the entry point of your TV signal infrastructure such as your TV antenna (aerial) or cable-TV entry cable. This may be to comply with government RF-interference laws or to improve signal quality in a cable-TV setup.

A cable-TV provider or a competent TV-antenna technician can perform any of these modifications listed above if your system needed them.

A MoCA installation won’t work properly on a satellite-TV setup because of the sophisticated nature of these setups. These installations are typically on their own coaxial path which is separate from the broadcast TV-aerial path that is common with satellite as a pay-TV medium. This issue may be more of concern where all of the TV service is being received via satellite such as in rural or remote areas.

As well, most of the MoCA-Ethernet bridge devices come with software which determines the operating frequency and network password, which can come in to use when handling difficult installations. As well, you could set another group of units to work on a different frequency and network password if you want to create a separate MoCA network segment on the same coaxial wiring.

If you are installing MoCA hardware, especially Ethernet-to-coax bridges, on TV-antenna systems in countries which are based on the PAL system like Europe, Australia or New Zealand, you will run in to a problem with the coaxial connectors typically used in these areas for such installations. These countries typically use a “push-in” connector, commonly known as a “PAL connector” or “Belling-Lee connector” for the TV-antenna installation, rather than the screw-on “F-connector” used in North America and other countries based on the NTSC system. This problem can be rectified with the use of connector adaptors that either may be supplied with the hardware if it is sold in any of those countries or can be obtained from a local electronics store. It can also be rectified through the use of cables that have an F-connector on one end and a PAL connector on the other end.

Link Speed Comparison

  Theoretical Actual
MoCA 230Mbps 175Mbps
HomePlug 1.0 Turbo 85Mbps 10Mbps
HomePlug AV 200Mbps  

Where is MoCA suitable for and relevant to

The prime application for MoCA would be multi-room “personal TV” service where there is a set-top box for each TV set in the house. In this setup, the MoCA network is used as a data network and a digital streaming network between the main high-capacity “personal TV” device and other “view-only” set-top boxes or low-capacity “personal TV” devices. This can permit functions like setting up recordings from any TV in the house, viewing recorded content anywhere and moving between TV sets without losing the spot in the content.

It is also relevant to households who have cable Internet and one or more cable-TV points (with or without cable-TV service) in other parts of the house. They can then use the cable-TV infrastructure as a network link to that area of the house.

As a network medium, it works well if there is a significant amount of coaxial-cable infrastructure in place, typically at least 1 socket in at least 2-3 rooms. This reduces the “reach” ability of this “no-new-wires” wired-network medium compared to the power-line-based HomePlug medium.

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WiFi tops poll for best technological innovation of last decade – Telegraph

 

WiFi tops poll for best technological innovation of last decade – Telegraph

What has WiFi been about especially for the home IT environment?

One major way WiFi has benefited the home IT environment is the increased sale of laptop computers (http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,24851973-15306,00.html?referrer=email) over desktop computers. This typically would manifest in a home computing environment consisting of one or more laptop computers that have built-in WiFi wireless ability. The network – Internet “edge” device in this environment would be a wireless router that brings the Internet to these laptops via WiFi wireless. In some countries, the standard provider-supplied “customer premises equipment” for Internet service would be equipped with WiFi wireless capability.

Increasingly, nearly every printer manufacturer is running at least one residential-tier multi-function printer equipped with network ability, typically with WiFi network access. This means that the printer can be located in one position wherever the user desires and print documents from their laptop. There also is the increasing number of “Internet radios” or “i-Radios” that use WiFi to bring Internet radio streams to the speakers in these sets.

This may not be strictly a home-IT environment issue but the number of “hotspots” and “hotzones” that are part of public places is now increasing. These WiFi-based public networks are allowing for anywhere computing.

This has also caused most current-model mobile phones and PDA devices to be equipped with WiFi wireless thus allowing for cost-effective portable Web browsing and, increasingly, DLNA-driven music management and playback. These phones will eventually lead to WiFi being another mobile-telephone network usually in the form of fixed-mobile communications for example.

There have been attempts to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” by limiting WiFi or making it unpopular. It has mainly been based on the “electromagnetic waves being dangerous to people” theory being propagated as part of junk science, but real scientific tests have proven that the RF emissions yielded by typical WiFi and Bluetooth setups none or very little detrimental effect on people.

Even without this article, I would certainly agree that WiFi has become an important computer technology for all IT scenarios.

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ASUS and Skype launch dedicated AiGuru SV1 videophone – Engadget

ASUS and Skype launch dedicated AiGuru SV1 videophone – Engadget

My Comments

Previously, I had talked about the concept of Skype / Windows Live Messenger video conferencing as a tool for communicating with distant relatives. I was even citing a television newscast that was broadcast on the night when I published the article where there was an elderly relative in a care home communicating with their family that was a long distance away with this technology. Think of things like presenting the new baby to Grandma who is living a long way away or simply celebrating Christmas with distant relatives.

This device is one step in delivering Skype’s videophone functionality in a reliable, easy-to-use box that can appeal to technology-shy users who may find using a computer a very daunting task.  Similarly, the Skype or Windows Live Messenger video-conferencing functionality could be ported to a set-top box platform so that it can be implemented in to a set-top box or PVR (“personal TV” device) sold or leased out as part of an advanced TV service. The user then connects a good-quality webcam compliant to the USB Video Device Class so they can use the regular TV set for this kind of video-conferencing.

This kind of setup would definitely appeal to families who want to use it along with the large-screen TV set to celebrate the family occasions over longer distances.

Another form factor that would appeal to this device class would include electronic picture frames that are VoIP-based Skype-compatible speakerphones. The device could be able to work alongside an existing VoIP handset such as a WiFi phone; have a DECT cordless-telephony base so it can work with a digital cordless handset or have an RJ-11 FXS phone socket so it can use a regular telephone as part of a VoIP / videoconferencing system. This form factor would come in handy in the kitchen or on the desktop as an alternative to the orthodox videophone form factor which is based on the desktop telephone.

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Broadcom's New 802.11n Chip Includes Bluetooth and FM | WiFi Planet

 

Broadcom’s New 802.11n Chip Includes Bluetooth and FM

My Comments

I see this design as being increasingly relevant because of the way major electronics manufacturers are building “best of class” personal-electronics devices in all of the device classes (mobile phone, personal digital assistant, personal media player, etc) that they offer such devices in. The main issue that has plagued people who use these devices is the increased likelihood of the device’s battery dying on them when they want to get the best out of the device.

I see this design as a step in the right direction regarding long battery run-time for these devices because, as the article has said,  of integrating the WiFi N, Bluetooth and FM radio circuitry in to the one circuit with improved power consumption. This is certainly important if the device is to be used in a wireless network and with a Bluetooth headset for example.

It also encourages device builders to consider not just Internet-hosted services but network-based services like DLNA-based media server / control / play functionality. Now that this version of the chip integrates low-power FM transmission, this could appeal to the idea of a “music phone” or personal media player with DLNA media play functionality playing music from its own collection or a DLNA network media server through an ordinary FM radio.

At least this chipset will be a step in the right direction for “raising the bar” in personal-electronics design.

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Merry Christmas from Simon Mackay

I am wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

There are some important issues to think of during this gift-giving season, especially when you open those computer-related gifts on Christmas Day.

1: When you set up that new router, make sure that you set it up in a secure manner. The wireless network segment must be secured to WPA-PSK standards and using an SSID unique to the premises as described in the “Making Sure Your Home Wireless Network Is Secure” article.

2. Make sure that the administration front-end for the router is secured with a good password rather than the default “admin” password that the manufacturer sets it to. This should also be set up for any other network devices like network-attached storage boxes that are able to be managed from the Web browser.

3. When you set up a new computer, make sure it is running the latest version of an anti-malware program and that there is a desktop firewall in place. A good anti-malware program that I would recommend for home use would be the free AVG program (http://free.avg.com) or the Avast Home Edition (http://www.avast.com/). Also make sure that Apple Macintosh computers are running anti-malware programs because of the latest crop of malware that is now targeting this platform.

It is worth knowing that the recent crop of anti-malware programs integrate “sure-surf” functionality that warns you if you are heading to dangerous websites or if an item in a Google search list is a trap Website.

4. Make sure that operating systems are set to obtain update files automatically. This can be achieved by going to the “Live Update” menu in Windows or going to the “Software Update” under the Apple menu in MacOS X.

5. Don’t think that the Webcam is just for weirdos. Think of it now as a tool for communicating with distant relatives and allowing them to be part of your life. Consider them being on Skype or Windows Live Messenger and you could easily save heaps on the phone bills.

6. Enjoy a safe and happy New Year

With regards,

Simon Mackay

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Making VoIP easier for the home, SOHO and small-business user

A new networking trend that is approaching the small network user is VoIP (Voice Ovr IP). It will typically include IP-based videoconferencing and offer such benefits as free or very low-cost calls, “local number anywhere” and wideband (FM-grade) telephony. Businesses of all scales are moving away from the classic PABX or key system which has its own wiring infrastructure and moving towards an IP-based business telephony system which uses existing local-area-network infrastructure. For them it also reduces the need to rent extra telephone lines for such requirements as inter-location “tie lines”.

The main problem with current VoIP setups is that they are hard to configure. Typically, you have to determine the network configuration for your VoIP service provider and work out particular “dialling plans” such as whether to use VoIP or standard telephone to make a particular call. The other factor you have to work out is which number your VoIP handset rings to. Most of these setups involve awkward interfaces and terms, including remembering certain parameters to be set across multiple devices. In some situations, this kind of work still needs one who has technical knowledge of all things to do with business telephony.

A lot of VoIP service providers have responded to this issue by selling pre-configured VoIP hardware that is locked down to their services. This situation ends up with the hardware being useless if you decide to move to a better deal offered by a competing service provider or decide to expand and evolve the system.

One way of improving the setup is to provide service-plan data packages that can be uploaded to VoIP hardware. This can be useful when it comes to signing up to a new service provider or upscaling the existing VoIP service. Another improvement that can exist could be preset outbound dial plans such as “VoIP for calls other than local & emergency / service”, “VoIP for calls other than emergency / service” or pre-defined “VoIP tie-lines”. These can be selected through a wizard-style interface.

The inbound call plan would be set up through a service-extension map for “direct inward dial” or simple “one-click” options for basic “all-call” setups.

As far as the provisioning of new VoIP telephone extensions goes, VoIP systems should consider use of UPnP and similar IP-based technologies for this purpose. The other issue that also needs to be considered is a standard data package for supplying the extensions (VoIP handsets or analogue telephone adaptors) with the necessary data. This avoids the requiement to have a system that can only work with telephones from a few vendors and can allow innovation in this field. It is more of concern as far as WiFi-based VoIP handsets, including “fixed-mobile convergent” mobile phones, are concerned.

The data packages would be an XML-based configuration file that contains information about SIP / STUN provider details, handset identity details and outbound / inbound dial plans.

Once measures are taken to make VoIP telephony easier to deploy, this can lead to system owners being able to have home and business telephony their way.

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