Microsoft cuts down the out-of-action time users face during the Windows upgrade cycle

Article

Windows will be improving the time it takes to upgrade the operating system

Microsoft is tweaking the Windows 10 upgrade process to reduce downtime | Windows Central

My Comments

A common situation that we face when we update or upgrade the operating system on our computers including our mobile devices is that the device is out of action for some time while the update take place.

Here, the holy grail for operating-system maintenance is that the updates take action once they are delivered rather than needing us to restart the device at all. In the context of business, this means that workers and business owners are able to stay productive without waiting for an update cycle to complete.

Most of these processes involve downloading the necessary files that contain the newest software code then performing fail-safe procedures. This is before the device is rebooted as a measure to make sure the extant software files are unencumbered before they are replaced with the freshly-downloaded files. Then the update procedure makes sure that everything is in place before allowing the user to interact with the system.

Microsoft identified some of the problems associated with the upgrade cycle associated with their Windows operating system and found that a lot of the preparatory work could take place before the system has to be rebooted.

Previously, the user-created configuration and other data had to be backed up and the operating-system files were prepared for installation after the computer was rebooted to instigated the software-update cycle for Windows. Now, from the Windows 10 Fall (Autumn) Creators Update onwards, these procedures will take place before the system has to be restarted. This is because most of these procedures are simply about copying files between locations on the System Disk.

The data-migration action will take place after the system is restarted and the user data will be restored once all the downloaded files are in place. Then the system will be restarted in order to make sure all the functionality is effective and, like with major functionality upgrades, the user may have to interact with the system further to enable this functionality.

The idea behind this move is to have all the preparatory work done while you are able to work with your computer so that it is out of action for a minimal amount of time.

The question here is whether this improved software-update process will take place for maintenance-level updates like the regular software patches and security updates that are delivered to keep Windows secure.

There is still the issue faced with all of the operating system update procedures, especially with significant updates or where mobile devices are concerned. This is where the update requires the device to be rebooted twice and spends some time out of action during that cycle. It also encompasses the requirement for regular computers to boot at least once while patches and security updates are being deployed.

But Microsoft’s step with improving the software-maintenance cycle for the Windows 10 operating system is getting us one step closer towards cutting down on the downtime associated with this process.

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What is Bluetooth Mesh networking all about

Articles

Bluetooth mesh networking could connect smart devices city-wide | Engadget

Bluetooth Mesh Networking will usher in huge connected environments | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Bluetooth SIG

Blog Post

Video – click or tap to play

My Comments

Bluetooth SIG have publicly launched the Bluetooth Mesh specification which adds on to the Bluetooth Low Energy specification to create a multi-device wireless mesh network, It is in addition to the “one-to-one” Bluetooth topology typically used for linking your smartphone to that Bluetooth speaker or the “one-to-many” broadcast-driven Bluetooth topology used for Bluetooth wayfinding beacons.

Such networks place importance on a “many-to-many” network topology where data can be shared amongst multiple network member devices while a member device can receive data from multiple other member devices. The signal paths effectively represent the lines of wire that make up a piece of wire meshing like “chicken wire” while each corner in that mesh represents the member devices in that network.

The “Internet Of Things” is being seen as a key application driver and I see it as a competing wireless-link technology to Zigbee and Z-Wave which are used for this similar application. Security will be designed in to this network technology to protect data from being listened to or modified by unauthorised parties, thanks to improved link-level encryption technology.

It will still have the same use cases as other technologies pitched at the “Internet-of-Things” space such as the smart home, building automation, health monitoring and industrial automation. But it takes advantage of the fact that Bluetooth technology is commonly integrated into the design of highly-portable host computing devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops, something that has been taken advantage of with some Bluetooth-based “smart-home” devices like the Kwikset Kevo smart deadbolt lock. Here, the host device can interact directly with one or more of these sensor or controller devices no matter how far it is from the host.

What will this mean for existing Bluetooth LE setups

The new Bluetooth Mesh network technology will be based on Bluetooth 4.0 LE Smart technology and extant Bluetooth chipsets that support in-field firmware updates can benefit from this functionality. Issues that may be faced include the memory capacity and computing power that the chipset may have, which may affect some designs, and will raise its head with chipsets deployed in a lot of sensor or controller devices.

Devices like smartphones or computers will need to be equipped with mesh-specific add-on software as part of their Bluetooth application-programming interface. Initially this may be delivered in the form of extra software tied to Bluetooth chipsets. But this functionality would be rolled in to operating systems through a subsequent functionality update.

The act of provisioning new Bluetooth Mesh devices will be driven by a host device running a configuration app or, more likely, an extra setup option in the host’s operating system. This is more about enrolling new devices to a Bluetooth Mesh network as well as removing devices surplus to need from that network, which also includes obliterating security keys associated with that network frim the surplus device.

The Bluetooth Mesh technology will be rolled out over the subsequent few years as newer capable chipsets come on board with this functionality and the firmware is made available for suitable extant chipsets. As well it may require each of the major operating systems to acquire a major functionality update to take place before more host devices can work in the Bluetooth Mesh.

At least the Bluetooth Mesh technology will be on a similar position to Zigbee and Z-Wave for wireless infrastructure that answers the needs of the Internet Of Things.

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Why I refer to desktop and laptop computers as “regular” computers

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop

Why I refer to computers like this as “regular” computers

Through this Website, I refer to the desktop and laptop computers that run Windows 10 PC, macOS, desktop Linux or Chrome OS as regular computers and refer to these operating systems as regular-computer operating systems. This is in a manner to distinguish them from the smartphones or tablets that run iOS, Android or similar mobile-platform operating systems, or devices like Smart TVs, games consoles or vehicle infotainment systems that run a dedicated operating system.

It is based on the fact that these desktop and laptop computers have their design roots in the original personal computers that were built and sold from the late 1970s. Here, the goals were to concentrate all of your computing power to a box that existed at your workspace while you were using it with the system able to do whatever task you wanted it to do once you loaded the appropriate program.

Another factor that is also underscored is the way that the “regular” computer can be optimised to suit one’s computing needs more easily through the use of an operating system designed to be highly configurable from the outset. This includes the ability to choose computers with the right amount of performance for what you want to use them for, the ability to connect devices to them so they can answer your needs better or even modify them to suit newer needs.

It was compared to the previous idea of computing which was centred around large mainframes kept in special computer rooms and users interacting with them using “green-screen” VDU terminals. As well, they have been seen since that period as the example of what desktop or personal computing was about.

It is compared to the mobile-platform devices that had their design roots in the handheld mobile phones and PDAs that came through in the 1990s. Here, it was about a battery-operated device you could hold in your hand and carry personal information with you or use as a communications device.

It is also compared to the likes of games consoles, Smart TVs, set-top boxes and vehicle infotainment systems that are designed around a particular goal. These implement a particular operating system or variant of a desktop operating system highly shoehorned for high-reliability “always-alive” operation in their chosen primary task.

The reason I use the term “regular computer” rather than “personal computer” for this class of traditional computer design is because there may be an argument that the mobile-platform devices like today’s smartphones are more of a personal computer than the traditional devices. There is also the fact that businesses have purchased these computers and implemented them as the workspace-based all-in-one solution for your office tasks since the late 1980s.

Here, it is to distinguish these desktop and laptop computers, including the tablets and 2-in-1s, that are using the traditional computing architecture and running the likes of Windows, macOS or desktop Linux from the other classes of personal-computing devices that have become more popular.

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How to look after your video projector properly

Praise and worship at church

Making sure your video projector is looked after properly will mean that it will serve your organisation for many years to come

You have bought that new video or data projector for your small business or community organisation and are excited to have it as the “go-to” device to show large images on that wall but you need to make sure it lasts a long time. This is easily achievable if you look after it properly.

This also applies to those of you who purchase a video projector for that home-theatre setup that you invest time and money in to.

With projectors that aren’t based on solid-state “lamp-free” LED/laser-based lighting technology, the lamp that shows the image on the wall or screen also generates a significant amount of heat while it is on. Preventing a build-up of heat in the projector avoids damage to the machine’s lamp and other electronics installed in the unit.

I have written out this information especially for situations where your projector is likely to be used by many different people such as a small business with a high staff turnover rate or a community organisation that has many different volunteers coming through. It is also available as a download-to-print PDF reference sheet that you can keep with your projector’s documentation or operating procedures for your AV setup.

Make sure you set up the projector on a sturdy surface before you turn it on.

This is especially important for transportable setups where you set up the projector before each showing and pack it away when you are finished with it. The table or desk that the projector is to sit on must be stable and in good order. As well, if you use something to raise the front and/or back of the projector to get the picture right, make sure that the setup that you use is sturdy.

Economy data projector with VGA input sockets

The projector has to be on a sturdy surface

In the case of an integrated installation, you must use a good-quality mount kit and make sure that the projector is properly anchored to the mounting surface which should be installed properly.

Make sure you properly shut the projector down at the end of the session

Projector remote control - power button called outUse the standby switch on the projector’s control panel or its remote control to shut down the unit.

At this point, the projector’s fan will run for some time to remove the built up heat from inside the unit while the lamp and electronics is switched off. This will be indicated with a different light that flashes or glows during this process.

You are ready to disconnect the projector from the AC power when its fan stops and only the “standby” light glows or no lights glow on the projector that indicate operation.

Avoid the temptation to turn the projector on and off too frequently

If you need to blank the screen during your show, such as while you are preparing other material to be shown, use the Mute or Blank button on the projector’s control panel or remote control or use the similar “blank-display” function on your display computer’s software or source device.

If your projector uses filters that are easily replaceable, clean them on a regular basis.

Also cleaning the projector’s ventilation grilles on a regular basis can also help towards maintaining proper cooling for that machine especially if it is used or stored in a dusty area. This can be done with your vacuum cleaner’s nozzle.

Be aware of how your projector’s fan sounds while you are using the unit or shutting it down.

The fan should be making no more than a quiet whirring or whooshing sound. If you hear excessive noise like a grinding, buzzing or squealing sound from the projector’s fan, it is a telltale sign that the fan’s bearings are on the way out and it could cease to do its job as well as distracting your audience. This leads to unreliable operation and excessive heat buildup.

When you hear the excessive noise from the projector’s fan, have the projector taken to a repair workshop to have the fan replaced.

Conclusion

Once you know how to look after your projector by avoiding unnecessary heat buildup, you can be sure it will serve you reliably for a long time.

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Two ways to put indie games on the map

Article

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

One of the indie games markets out there

Calling all indie developers in the US & Canada: sign up for the Google Play Indie Games Festival in San Francisco | Google Android Developers Blog

Google Play announces 2017 Indie Games Festival for US and Canadian developers | 9to5 Google

Jump aims to be “Netflix for indie games” while still benefiting developers | KitGuru

Previous coverage

Competition arises for the online games storefront

My Comments

An issue that may face a games developer who wants to work the independent path is how they can put the game on the map as far as the public is concerned. For some developers, the importance is about avoiding heading to the “Hollywood of electronic games” where computer games become very similar in quality to the Hollywood blockbuster movies or popular American network and cable TV shows which ends up with the same-old content amid questionable ethics.

Google Play Store

Google Play Store – a step towards the indie game market

One way would be to put the games on one or more platform-specific app stores like the iTunes App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store. On the other hand, if the game is to be targeted at regular computers, it may be about offering the games to indie-focused software markets like GOG Galaxy or the upcoming Jump subscription-driven market.

The second option appeals to those who want to keep it purely without mainstream influence, as if it is like offering indie-music records through the inner-urban record stores and having it played on community radio stations or by venues visited by the target audience like the cool cafes. It may also include making the games downloadable through the developer’s own Website. But it may only appeal for Windows, Linux or Mac regular-computing platforms. This approach may simply appeal to those who

But Google has taken a process similar to a mainstream full-line music outlet running and promoting an “indie” genre. Here, they are running the “Indie Games Festival” in San Francisco to draw out indie games developers and have them offer the Android platform the best software they can provide. What I see of this is it is a way to stimulate the indie games market especially courting those developers that are writing for mobile platforms.

I even see the Microsoft Store in a better position to court the indie games developer who doesn’t mind going down the second path by encouraging them to develop games for the Windows platform and the XBox One console in a “write-once” approach. Here, they could take a similar approach to Google by running a dedicated festival for indie games developers who want to approach regular-computer and games-console platforms.

At the moment, when it comes to the games for the regular computer, being able to use a dedicated indie-game market or using an established games market like Microsoft Store, iTunes Mac App Store or Steam are the viable games options. But when it comes to targeting other devices like mobile devices, games consoles or set-top devices, the only way would be to use the platform-specific app stores and unless the platform encourages quality independent software development, these will be very limiting for the indie games developer.

There still needs to be interest in and support for the indie games market from many app stores and games markets so that electronic gaming is an environment for high-quality electronic games that appeal to all people.

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Challenges that face the Windows 10 2-in-1 user

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 in viewer mode

These 2-in-1s are as important as the iPads and Android tablets out there

The Windows-10-based 2-in-1 portable computer like the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Series that I reviewed just lately is appealing as a viable alternative to the iPad or Android tablet. For some users, it may be about a single device that they can use for creating material like writing that memoir; or enjoying content including playing some casual games like Words With Friends or watching online video. The same can also hold true for people who use clamshell laptops, especially the thin-and-light or entry-level variety and want to engage in these activities.

Here, these computers are seen by Microsoft and developers as another “PC-class” device i.e. a regular computer in the same vein as the typical desktop or laptop computer. It is in contrast to how the iPad and Android tablets are seen by their respective operating systems as a distinct mobile device which can be developed for separately.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

But there is a lot more casual games, catch-up TV front-ends and other software being developed for these devices

But the mobile platforms have acquired a large range of software behind them that appeals to people who want to consume content. Here, the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store are replete with many respected social-play and casual games along with official native client apps for various media and information services including catch-up TV or video-on-demand services.

As well, most if not all, communications platforms and social networks implement a native client for the mobile platforms with a large percentage running a Windows 10 native client that can work on a regular computer and available through the Microsoft Store.

Let’s not forget that the Microsoft Store is full of the well-known games with different variants providing different user experiences and capability levels for these games, For example, no personal computing platform has ever existed without one or more variants of the common board games like chess or backgammon that you play against a hard-to-beat computer opponent.

SBS On Demand Windows 10 platform app

SBS On-Demand – one of the few catch-up TV / video-on-demand apps on the Windows 10 PC platform

But there are some online media services, games and apps that have been engineered for the touch experience but haven’t been ported to Windows 10 as Universal Windows Platform applications that can run on the 2-in-1 computers. If an app or game is ported to Windows 10, it typically may just be ported to the Mobile variant which means the Windows-10-based mobile phones. This affects some of the popular mobile-platform games like Plants vs Zombies or Piano Tiles, along with the “TV Everywhere” or “catch-up TV” apps that TV broadcasters and pay-TV platforms offer.

Similarly, a lot of the smart-home devices that work on the app-cessory model offer most of these apps only on the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. Here, I have had to run an article about how to use the Web to set up or manage an Amazon Echo but most of the other devices wouldn’t work further without an app from these stores.

The only other option that people have for playing a favourite casual game or using an online media service is to use Web-based resources such as playing a Web-app version of the game or visiting the service’s Web page. In some cases, the pages aren’t really optimised for a touch-driven user interface like what these computers offer, nor do they take full advantage of what Windows and your 2-in-1 computer has to offer. Similarly, some of these services use Adobe Flash as the preferred advanced user interface rather than HTML5 and this has been highlighted as a security and performance risk.

Time to port those apps to Windows 10 PC

Microsoft is now simplifying the process for porting mobile-platform apps from iOS or Android to the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform and having them available through the Windows Store thanks to Xamarin or Apache Cordova or various Windows Bridge frameworks. Some of these tools also simplify the process of writing and targeting an app to Windows 10, iOS and Android all at once, something that can work for those of us who are writing an app from scratch with the goal to target those platforms.

The challenge here for developers who have written iPad or other tablet apps would be to port them to Windows 10 and maintain a similar user experience to the iPad package. Then the developers would benefit from making tweaks to the app to exploit the Live Tiles and other Windows 10 user-interface features.

There also has to be some importance towards maintaining the same level of “touch-ability” between the tablet platforms thus yielding the same experience. Let’s not forget the issue of maintaining the same level of performance and playability across the different platforms so you are not finding that the Windows 10 port of that iPad game appears more sluggish than the original version.

By making sure that the mobile apps and games are available across iOS, Android and Windows 10 UWP including PC users who use the 2-in-1s, it can be feasible for app developers to cover all their bases and reach every platform effectively. In some cases, it could place the likes of the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 as viable personal-computer devices for the family house where Grandma lives.

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Microsoft dropping features from Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Article

Acer Switch Alpha 12 2-in-1 with keyboard press image courtesy of Acer

There is the risk of over-promising and under-delivering when there is a short time between major operating system updates

Where do we stand with features for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update? | Supersite Windows

My Comments

An increasing trend for regular-computer and mobile operating systems is for them to be updated on a regular basis along the model of “software-as-a-service”.

With this model, the companies behind these operating systems will typically license the operating system with new hardware, but not require the user to pay to acquire newly-developed functionality. It is in conjunction with making sure that all bugs and security exploits are removed from the system.

A problem that has been found with this method of delivery is that it can be easy to over-promise and under-deliver as what Microsoft commonly does. This has shown up more so with the Fall Creator’s Update of Windows 10 where Microsoft removed Windows Timeline and Cloud-Powered Clipboard, two highly-promised features, from the feature list for that update.

What is underscored here is the frequency of major updates that add significant amounts of functionality to an operating system, along with calling out the promised improvements for these updates. Apple and Google implement a yearly cycle when it comes to delivering major operating-system updates that are about adding extra features while Microsoft undertakes this on a six-monthly basis.

The advantage of the long lead-time that Apple and Google run with is that they can deliver on their promises by writing in the code and subjecting it to a long debug and optimisation cycle including delivering it in publicly-available beta-test packages. This is conversant with Microsoft calling out features for a major functionality update and having to have all of them work to expectation by the time the update is considered “feature complete”.

But how can Microsoft and others who implement the short lead times for major functionality updates avoid the issue of over-promising? Here they could announce that some features are being destined for the upcoming functionality update while others are being destined for the subsequent update.

Similarly, they could deliver the functionality in an “out-of-band” form such as free-to-install apps provided through the platform’s app store, a practice Google is undertaking with the Android platform. In the case of functionality dependent on a particular peripheral class, it may be delivered as part of the onboarding process that the operating system performs when that peripheral is connected for the first time.

Personally, I would like to see some effort put towards fine-tuning the peripheral and network interface software code to encourage more “driver-free” peripheral connectivity that occurs in a secure stable manner to the latest specifications for that device class.

What is being highlighted here is the risk of over-promising and under-delivering when it comes to delivering major functionality updates for an operating system.

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The EU are now pursuing the right-to-repair issue in Europe

Article

Europeans want to see the ability for people to have consumer electronics repaired by independent technicians so they can see the equipment have a long service life

EU lawmakers call for a right to repair electronic equipment | PC World

My Comments

An issue that recently has been raised in the US is “right-to-repair”. This is to allow consumers to have their equipment repaired or upgraded by an independent technician rather than a manufacturer-approved technician.

Here it’s about avoiding the need to replace equipment once it breaks down or live through a fault like a cracked screen because it costs too much to repair. It also affects the ability to see a device serve us for the long haul such as not being able to upgrade it with higher-capacity data storage or improved functionality through its service life.

It also includes the availability of repairers who can keep our equipment in good repair such as being able to take our smartphones to the repair kiosks in the shopping malls when the screen breaks or the battery dies out.

Saeco GranBaristo Avanti espresso machine press picture courtesy of Philips

Could that church or other community organisation use this espresso machine as part of their coffee-stall fundraiser without its use being questioned by the machine’s manufacturer?

For small businesses and community organisations, there is the issue of being able to use high-quality cost-effective equipment pitched at the domestic market yet be able to seek repairs at a cost-effective price even though the equipment such as a microwave oven or premium “bean-to-cup” espresso machine  is used in what is seen by the manufacturer as “commercial use”.

There is also the issue of seeking insurance coverage for repairs done to equipment that had suffered damage, something that can affect policies that provide accidental-damage coverage or industry-specific liability coverage associated with providing services. In this case, there is more incentive to have the repair covered without any party needing to be slugged extra when it comes to premiums or excesses.

The European Union have tackled this issue under many fronts when it comes to equipment being maintained in Europe.

Here, it encompasses the availability of spare parts, tools and knowledge to independent European-based repairers, including the ability to easily dismantle the product rather than having parts like batteries glued in to it. This includes having the spare parts available for the product’s lifespan and function. In some ways I would also see it as encouraging “parts-common”design approaches where equipment uses parts that are common with prior designs or maintaining a particular design platform for a very long time but providing incremental improvements.

Personally, I would also like to see the availability of “official” optional-function modules and accessories for the product available also for its lifespan. This is important with European-designed electronics, especially television sets, where the manufacturers were providing modules to add functionality to these devices like teletext reception, viewdata terminal functionality or picture-in-picture functionality once a technician installed the required module.

The Europeans also demonstrate an interest in the “right-to-repair” issue because they want to see more European-based employment of technicians in European-based repair workshops along with the sale of second-hand equipment within Europe. Let’s not forget a call-back to European values when it comes to how consumer electronics and similar items offered in that area by European firms are designed and manufactured. It is infact something I have noticed with equipment that has a strong European pedigree like the Freebox Révolution, and the AVM Fritz!box routers or even the Revox B77 open-reel tape deck which I had regarded as the “Technics SL-1200” of open-reel stereo tape decks – a model that existed for a long time with a large parts base and given respect by personal and professional users. This is where there is an emphasis on a long service life and the ability to see a continual product-improvement cycle over a long time even for existing products.

Here, the Europeans are also using another angle to approach the “right-to-repair” issue. They want to provide an incentive for manufacturers to offer repairable products by requiring them to extend the warranty period on the product if it takes more than a month for a warranty repair job to be completed.

They also want to see some form of standard consumer-facing identification of products prior to purchase to highlight their durability and repairability. This also includes the continual availability of updated firmware for these products so there is a committment to data security but also the ability for a device to adapt to newer circumstances.

At least Europe is joining in with the USA to push for “right-to-repair” along with having equipment designed for a long service life rather than ending up as e-waste.

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The case for a future-proof fibre-broadband setup

Article – From the horse’s mouth New Zealand map

Chorus Broadband NZ

Blog Post

My Comments

Chorus, New Zealand’s broadband infrastructure provider, highlighted why their fibre-to-the-premises broadband setup has been designed to be future-proof.

Here, they highlighted the time when New Zealand acquired colour television and households were getting their claws on to one of the new colour TV sets that were being released. This was concurrent with the 1974 Commonwealth Games being hosted in Christchurch, New Zealand and the Kiwis were wanting to watch this event in living colour. Then they highlighted the up-and-coming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with the possibility of it being delivered using 8K UHDTV technology thanks to NHK in Japan being able to deliver 8K UHDTV broadcast feeds to broadcasters who have local rights to the event.

But they were mentioning about the feasibility of upgrading their infrastructure from 1Gbps to 10Gbps. They are prototyping such a setup in their Auckland-based Chorus Fibre Experience Lab but came across with the fact that it would only require replacement of the electronics at each end of the connection.

This would be the optical-network terminal in their exchange or street cabinet and the optical-network terminal in your home that connects between the optical fibre and your router’s WAN (Internet) socket. At the time that 10Gbps fibre-optic connectivity is needed, newer and better routers would be offered with a 10Gbps Ethernet connection of some sort on the WAN side, in addition to LAN-side wired and wireless connectivity that suits these expectations. If the exchange-side setup is totally modular, it could allow for a gradual service upgrade initially to those who are after that bandwidth like business users or “tech-head” early adopters.

Some other areas like Hong Kong, Norway, Qatar, and South Korea are dabbling with the 10Gbps fibre-optic idea and offering it as a service. Mostly this is offered by the local ISPs as a premium or business-class service.

But Chorus and other FTTP providers can see other upgrade paths for their fibre-optic services without the need to replace the optical fibre. Here, they could convert from passive-optical-network architecture to active-optical-network architecture to provide full bandwidth to each premises. It also allows the infrastructure to support full quality-of-service for real-time applications like online gaming, IP telephony or video streaming as well as a highly-flexible service for households and businesses.

Chorus are also underscoring the reality that there will be more Internet traffic over their infrastructure especially with the smart home and the Internet Of Things. This is more so if these devices become dependent on cloud services and provide frequently-updated data.

Here, what is being highlighted is the use of futureproof technologies that can allow for long-term investment in the same infrastructure and an upgrade path that costs relatively little to implement.

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Amazon chasing the numbers when it comes to Alexa’s Skills

Article

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Amazon needs to assure quality for the skills they offer to Echo users

Alexa is learning more new skills every day | Engadget

My Comments

At the moment, Amazon is adding many skills to the Alexa voice-activated home assistant ecosystem every day with at least 15,000 skills available for your Echo by the time this article is published. This is in contrast to Google offering 378 apps and Cortana offering 65 apps. Apple yet hasn’t shown up the number of skills or apps that they have added to Siri as part of her role as a voice-driven home assistant.

But the problem with this approach is that Amazon can easily end up “chasing the numbers” where they don’t care about software quality. This is very similar to what has happened with the app stores like Microsoft Store where these stores filled up with many poor-quality and, in some cases, worthless apps. Here it is seen as a quick way for Amazon to dominate the voice-driven home assistant landscape alongside offering the multiple devices and extra capabilities.

Amazon yet haven’t had much experience in building up a platform app store with a goal towards achieving a significant number of quality apps. This is compared to Google, Microsoft and Apple who have learnt by experience when it came to building up their platform app stores which Google Home, Cortana and Siri will be based on. In most cases, it was about leaving the gates wide open and admitting too much trash or “dribbling in” very little software and putting across an image of very little choice. It is symptomatic of a technology being at an immature state where much hasn’t been worked on to have the right mix of features and software.

As regards with the software quality of skills or apps for a voice-driven home assistant platform, there will be issues about preserving proper software behaviour, assuring proper taste and decency in a family environment, along with assuring end-users’ data-security and privacy. It is more so with the fact that these skills will be relating to smart-home devices and these devices can be used to represent a household’s lifestyle. This will need to be achieved through software and consumer-protection policies and a feedback loop between end-users and the platform developer.

Of course, there needs to be the ability for Amazon and co to highlight high-quality skills and apps to users such as through an “editor’s choice” or “product spotlight”, along with a user review and rating system.

Other issues yet to be raised include how a developer can monetise a skill, whether through having customers buy the skill through Amazon’s storefront or through an advertising platform. In the case of advertising, there will be issues regarding user privacy, the kind of advertising that appears along with when the ads appear in your interaction with that skill.

I would see the sign of maturity for the voice-driven home assistant technology as higher-quality skills or apps being available along with the platforms being offered in more territories on more devices with the expected feature sets.

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