Australian Hi-Fi And AV Show 2016

Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system

A Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system representing all of the music sources – vinyl, CDs and file-based audio

The Australian Hi-Fi and AV Show, previously known as the Australian Audio and AV Show appeared this past weekend at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel. This attracted a significant number of hi-fi and home-AV names even though some of them had exhibited at another competing hotel-based hi-fi show that was held on July 1-3 at the Pullman Mercure Hotel near Albert Park.

Core trends

Most manufacturers were running equipment setups that had a turntable and a network media player and, in some cases, a CD player connected to the setup’s main integrated or control amplifier. This was to demonstrate their equipment’s prowess with both analogue and digital material while underscoring a reality with most of us heading between these different media for regular listening as some time in our lives.

Hi-Fi speaker designs

This year has been a chance for some manufacturers to showcase some interesting hi-fi speaker designs as these actually utter the music being played through the hi-fi system. There is still a strong interest in the traditional stereo setup rather than surround-sound audio, typically associated with watching Hollywood movies.

Active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

During the 2013 show, a few manufacturers were demonstrating active speakers that had integrated power amplifiers as viable pieces of hi-fi equipment, breaking the mould of “computer speakers, lifestyle audio and PA speakers” for this class of speaker. It included Linn even demonstrating “digital-active” speakers, a concept that Philips had pioneered with the DSS-930 and DSS-950 digital-active speakers that could be fed from an SP/DIF digital signal source.

This year, there were some more manufacturers presenting active-speaker designs including some “digital-active” designs coming from Linn and Bang & Olufsen. Here, this was more about proving that the speakers can house the amplification circuitry and, in some cases, digital-signal processing and conversion circuitry yet yield clear hi-fi sound without “stressing”.

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18

The B&O Beolab 8000 “pencil” in a new form – the Beolab 18

For that matter, Bang & Olufsen had been a stranger to the hi-fi show circuit especially in Australia until this year where they occupied one of the banquet rooms to present their Beolab 90 digital-active speakers (14 ICEPower amplifiers and 4 Class-D amplifiers serving 18 speaker drivers)  along with the Beolab 18 which is the latest iteration of the Beolab 8000 “pencil-design” speakers and the Beovision 14 flat-screen TV. Typically, they didn’t want to compete with the traditional hi-fi industry and pitch towards the traditional “audiophile” mindset, but focus towards those who appreciated very good music and flim and those who valued the design they were known for.

A glass speaker housing

Spunc Sound presented a cube-shaped speaker design at this show. Here, it was using speaker drivers back-to-back to create a powerful clear sound for speakers in a glass housing rather than a traditional wooden housing that would normally require insulation to work against standing waves.

I even heard these speakers playing a Lady Ga Ga track from a CD to underscore how they responded with highly-rhythmic electronic-dance-music content as well as demonstrating the way they used sound-cancellation techniques to yield that clear sound. It underscored that rare possibility of being able to see through the back of the speaker that was in full flight.

Old speaker legends rediscovered

But some manufacturers have been rediscovering legendary speaker designs that have had a subsequent influence on how the stereo speaker was designed over the years.

The BBC influence

Harbeth speaker

The Harbeth speakers based on the legendary BBC monitor speakers

Two manufacturers had been demonstrating speakers that were based on their involvement with designing “near-field monitor” speakers for the BBC through the late 1960s. These were tools that came in to being for any radio or TV show that the BBC had a hand with, whether through the sound-production or the broadcast process.

One of these were the Harbeth speakers which were designed by the BBC as part of their R&D efforts and the first to implement polypropylene speaker cones. The other was the KEF LS50 50th Anniversary bookshelf speaker which was based on KEF’s LS 3/5 monitor speaker that was designed by the BBC to be used in their outside-broadcast vans, but implemented coaxial drivers which is something often associated with automotive sound.

Yamaha brings back their 70s-era speaker classic

Yamaha NS-5000 Speakers

Yamaha NS-5000 speakers that were based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974

Yamaha had presented the NS-5000 floor/shelf speakers that were being launched at the show. These are a pair of speakers based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974 when Supertramp released their “Crime Of The Century” album. But there have been a lot of today’s improvements built in to these speakers such as newer material for the speaker drivers.

I had heard these in action with Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” played from FLAC-based audio via a Yamaha CD player serving as a USB DAC, connected to one of Yamaha’s latest integrated amplifiers. Here, the song came through very clearly and underscored what the legendary design was about.

Open standards being used for network-based audio

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

There were two main paths for passing through computer-based audio – a Windows or Mac laptop connected to a DAC, CD player or digital amplifier which worked as a USB-based sound module; or a small network linking a NAS or other media server to one or more a network media players and implementing DLNA network media discovery technology.

Here, most of these setups were dealing with FLAC audio files which have effectively been “opened up” to Windows users through Windows 10 providing operating-system support for these files, whether for playback or “ripping” from regular CDs. It could be very feasible to use Windows 10’s Media Player software to play a high-grade FLAC file in to any USB DAC shown at this year’s show without the need to add extra software.

Bricasti M12 Dual Mono Source Controller

Bricasti M12 Dual-Mono Source Controller – an example of a USB-capable digital preamplifier

Some setups even exploited TiDAL as an online music source, even though there is the difficulty with running network-capable consumer AV equipment with a hotel network based around the notion of logging in via Web-based authentication. But IHG worked around this issue by providing the equivalent of a “home Internet connection” to most of these rooms for the duration of the show.

The fact that most of these setups implemented standards that aren’t owned by particular vendors meant that there was the ability for the companies to innovate. This was more so with the ability to focus on writing software and designing hardware that was about sound quality but without the need to reinvent the wheel.

Network-based lifestyle audio

There is still some interest amongst a few manufacturers in audio equipment that exploits the home network as a media-distribution path while fitting in with your lifestyle. But the idea of high-quality sound still exists for this class of equipment, whether in the form of a multiroom speaker system or a network CD receiver or network audio receiver that is the hub of a high-quality three-piece stereo system.

Denon had launched their latest generation of the Heos multiroom platform which included some speakers and network media players with one of these devices being able to stream audio content out from existing equipment to a cluster of Heos speakers.

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim were also showing the mu-so multiroom speaker systems including the mu-so Qb which is a cube-shaped take on the original mu-so soundbar. As well, the latest iterations of their network media players can serve as master or client devices in a Naim-based multiroom setup.

But there is still the problem with the network-based multiroom audio scene where it is totally dependent on customers using equipment from the same equipment manufacturer or with the same chipset platform. There hasn’t been any effort in the AV industry to provide a standard for distributing real-time content like audio or video content in sync across a network to multiple endpoint devices of different types from different manufacturers.

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

There is still some interest in the high-quality lifestyle music system from some manufacturers. Marantz exhibited their CR611 network CD receiver which was paired up with a set of Jamo bookshelf speakers as their entry in to this scene, following from the previously-issued CR603 network CD receiver that was seen at the 2011 show. Here, it was highlighted with a Sound and Image award as the best “system solution” of the year for 2017, representing this class of equipment that can easily be sidelined by some peiple in the hi-fi scene.

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam used this show to premiere the Solo Music network CD receiver which is the follow-on to the Solo Neo and was previously mentioned on HomeNetworking01.info. This was a chance for me to try it out and I played one of the CDs from the ABC Classic 100 Swoon collection on it. I had “this unit play “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams and this unit, paired with the previously-mentioned KEF LS50 speakers, proved what these systems were about with this kind of music, something that would underscore one of the use cases that I highlighted for this class of equipment.

George Robertson, who represented Arcam even highlighted the way the Solo Music and its stablemates were built, underscoring the use of traditional electronics-building techniques along with Class-G amplification design. He even asked me to attempt to lift up the unit and I had found it very heavy, which showed how it was built to last.

Naim Uniti Atom and Uniti Core

Naim Uniti Atom network media receiver and Naim Uniti Core “ripping NAS” media server

Naim used this show to premiere the new Uniti range of lifestyle audio equipment. The first two products and the ones that were shown were the Uniti Core which is a media server or, should I say a “ripping NAS”; and the Uniti Atom which is a compact network media receiver that can be wired up to a pair of speakers. This even went as far as implementing a touchscreen user interface on the main unit along with a volume control located on top of that set – easy to find! But this doesn’t omit the high-quality sound associated with this brand.

BenQ treVolo electrostatic Bluetooth speaker

BenQ treVolo portable Bluetooth electrostatic speaker

I was even able to hear one of the BenQ treVolo Bluetooth electrostatic speakers that proved that the electrostatic speaker design isn’t just for the highly-esoteric hi-fi setup preferred by audiophiles with too much money to spend. Here, this setup yielded a very clear sound that could encompass all music types from your mobile computing device that is playing out those FLAC files.

Headphones

The “HeadZone” that existed during previous years where headphones were being premiered and demonstrated had gone but some manufacturers were still promoting premium headphones.

For example, BeyerDynamic had used their room to promote their newest range of headphones but the range they were exhibiting while Naim demonstrated a range of premium music headphones along with their headphone amplifier.

What was really becoming the case was that the headphone market has become very saturated with many different sets of “cans” on the market although there are some that do certain tasks well. Here, this show had focused on the headphones that were about listening to music through headphones at home rather than during your public-transport commute for example.

Conclusion

The Australian Hi-FI And AV Show kept the reality alive regarding how recorded music is played, whether through the familiar vinyl records or CDs, or file-based media streamed from a computer or NAS connected via a home network, or even a high-quality audio streaming service. But it has underscored that each of these music-reproduction paths can yield high-quality sound with the right equipment.

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Plans to see West Sussex as a Gigabit County

Article UK Flag

West Sussex UK Moot County-Wide 1Gbps Fibre Optic Broadband Roll-out | ISP Review

My Comments

There are plans to make West Sussex a “Gigabit County” where there is ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises broadband in the order of 1Gbps or similar available to every premises across that county.

They initially want to start work on this in Adur & Worthing by deploying a “dark fibre” network in that area. The West Sussex county council and the Adur & Worthing local council are behind this effort as a way to see improved productivity for businesses and local government, with an inherent desire to invest in that county plus the volumetric increase in business rates. But this could also affect the value of residential property across the board due to fibre-optic broadband being considered a deciding factor for home purchasing.

But it is being seen as an aspirational idea especially if the whole of the county is to be covered. It is very similar to how some towns in the UK are seeing themselves as “Gigabit” towns due to availability of Gigabit-throughput next-generation broadbad; along with New Zealand seeing itself as a GigNation due to Chorus offering Gigabit next-generation broadband across most of the major urban areas who have their FTTP infrastructure. Here, you could be thinking of issues like covering West Sussex’s rural areas or even getting other local authorities on board in that county to establish similar infrastructure.

The major idea with this project would be to maintain the local councils, in this case Adur & Worthing, as an anchor tenant who would be the main user of this infrastructure. They use the reference to a shopping centre having a few large stores like supermarkets or department stores as their “anchor tenants” who catch most of the centre’s traffic and supply the lion’s share of the rental income. But they also want to have this infrastructure made available to businesses who need the high-throughput network and Internet connectivity to connect their premises. Another driver would be to have the public-service offers for the UK’s central government come on board for this infrastructure.

One idea that was achieved with a fibre rollout in York was to have a large ISP like Sky Broadband or TalkTalk providing Internet service to customers using this infrastructure, with this being viewed as a way to provide retail Internet service in this area. Personally, I would look towards having multiple ISPs have access to the infrastructure to sell their Internet service to their customers so as to allow for retail-level competition.

Here, you could also think of services like Hyperoptic or Gigaclear who are providing “focused” coverage in to particular areas like multiple-dwelling units in the case of Hyperoptic or rural villages in the case of Gigaclear.

The rollout could begin in UK Spring 2017, and take 12 months to complete for the local council’s sites. But, after this rollout, they also want to see a continual deployment over the whole of West Sussex.

These kind of rollouts will be needing to involve public money with an encouragement for them to benefit the public purse through efficiency improvements. But they will also be about providing affordable high-throughput Internet service for households and businesses as long as there is real sustainable competition.

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Facebook videos can be thrown from your mobile device to the big screen

Article

AirPlay devices discovered by iPad

Facebook videos can be directed to that Apple TV or Chromecast device

Now you can stream Facebook video on your TV | Mashable

My Comments

You are flicking through what your friends have posted up on Facebook and have come across that interesting video one of them put up from their trip or family event. But you would like to give it the “big screen” treatment by showing it on the large TV in the lounge so everyone can watch.

Now you will be able to with the Facebook native apps for the iOS and Android mobile platforms. Here, you can “throw” the video to a TV that is connected to an Apple TV or Chromecast / Google Cast device on the same home network as your mobile device. This will apply to videos offered by your Friends and Pages that you follow including any of the Facebook Live content that is made available.

A frame from a Facebook video that could be given the big-screen treatment

A frame from a Facebook video that could be given the big-screen treatment

Here, when you see the Facebook video on the latest iteration of your Facebook native client, you will see a TV icon beside the transport controls for the video. When you tap that icon, you will see a list of the Apple TV or Chromecast devices on your network that you can “throw” the video to. Once you select the device you want to stream the video to, then it will appear on the TV.

Facebook also values the idea of you being able to continue browsing the social network while the video plays, something that can be useful for following comments left regarding that videoclip.

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

One of these devices could take Facebook on your iPhone further

The article also reckoned that Facebook exploiting Google Cast and Apple AirPlay rather than creating native apps for the Android TV and Apple TV platforms is a cheaper option. But I also see it as an advantage because you don’t need to support multiple sign-ons which both platforms would require thanks to the large-screen TV being used by many people.

A good question to raise is whether you could do this same activity with photos that have been uploaded to Facebook. This is because, from my experience with Facebook, people who are travelling tend to press their presence on this social network and Instagram, its stablemate, in to service as an always-updated travelogue during the journey by uploading some impressive images from their travels. Here, you may want to show these images from these collections on that big screen in a manner that does them justice.

At least Facebook are making efforts to exploit the big screen in the lounge by using Apple TV and Google Cast technology as a way to throw videos and Facebook Live activity to it.

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Audio and AV articles that may be of interest

Naim NDS network audio player

The Naim NDX and NDS network media players are an example of what high-end network-based audio is about

I have purchased tickets to the Australian Audio and AV Show 2016 that will be held at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel and am running this list of articles regarding audio and AV content in the context of the connected lifestyle.

Some of these are about using Windows 10 with its inherent support for the FLAC file; bring legacy audio media like vinyl to today’s technology; or simply to highlight some AV trends. There is also a few relevant buyer’s guides which relate to buying for online or network-based audio or simply buying your next set of headphones for your smartphone or laptop.

Windows 10 and the FLAC file

Those of you who have upgraded your computers to Windows 10 will realise that it can handle the high-quality FLAC audio file format. This covers both playback and ripping audio content from CD to files, although when you rip from CDs the sound will be regular CD quality.

FLAC studio-grade audio files to be supported by Windows 10

You can rip CDs to FLAC using Windows 10’s Media Player

FLAC – now the audio filetype for archival use

Legacy audio formats and today’s needs

Linn Sondek LP12

You may want to get those old familiar records on to your computer to play on your home network

This article is about how you can set up your equipment to play vinyl and other older media to your network-enabled multiroom system or for digitally salvaging old recordings with your computer.

Legacy analogue audio to today’s needs–can this be done?

Using audio-editor software to salvage recordings on legacy media

Equipment trends worth highlighting

There are some trends that are affecting the high-end audio and AV market that I will be calling out here.

Network media players that serve as control amplifiers – Some manufacturers are running network media players that can connect to any power amplifier or active speaker and work as a control amplifier in their own right.

Why do I give space to the network-capable CD receiver – An article about the network-capable CD receivers, especially those that are being offered by the respected hi-fi names, and the fact that these are continuing on the idea of the high-quality integrated music system.

Relevant Buyer’s Guides

Buyer’s Guide – Component Network Media Adaptors – How to go about buying devices that can add network or online media playback to your existing audio or AV system

Buying an Internet radio – What to look for when you buy an Internet radio or network-capable sound system.

Buyer’s Guide – Network Attached Storage – How to choose the right network-attached storage for your home network especially if you are “ripping” your CDs to your computer hard disk and wanting them available around the network.Denon UrbanRaver AH-D320 headset

Buyer’s Guide – Headphones and earphones – Understanding the kind of headphones or earphones you can get for your laptop, smartphone or tablet and how to go about purchasing them.

Buyer’s Guide – Giving your portable computer equipment better sound – How to go about using the right speakers, sound modules and similar equipment to enhance the sound that your laptop, tablet, smartphone or other equipment provides.

Should I buy a soundbar rather than a surround-sound system to improve my TV’s sound – Considering a soundbar rather than a fully-fledged surround-sound system as a way to improve your flat-panel TV’s sound

Your DLNA Home Media Network

This series of articles will be important to you whenever you buy that Smart TV or network-capable home audio system because most of these devices offered by most manufacturers provide this kind of functionality.

Getting Started With DLNA Media Sharing – How you can use your computer with media-server software to share your music, photos and video to your DLNA-capable AV equipment. Also have a look at this Assistance Journal about making some travel pictures available to a Smart TV so they are shown to a mother-in-law – this can be done out of the box with Windows XP onwards.

Setting Up PC-Less Network AV – How to go about using a dedicated media-server device like a NAS to share your media without the need to have your computer on and available to your network all the time. This is very important for those of you who have a laptop computer and want to move that computer around the house, pack it away when not needed or take it with you to work or when you travel.

The Three-Box DLNA Network Model – How you can use another device like a smartphone, tablet or computer to have content held on a DLNA server appear on a DLNA media player. This is more of a reality with tablets and smartphones appealing as a control surface for network-based media.

Integrating Classical Music Into Your Digital Music Collection – How to integrate serious classical music in to your digital music collection so you can find and play particular complete multiple-movement works easily. This is important when you buy and rip classical-music CDs that come with two or more multiple-movement works like concerti, quartets or sonatas on them.

Making Cloud-Based File-Share Solutions Work With Your DLNA-capable NAS – How you could use a DLNA-capable NAS to show content held on selected folders in Dropbox or similar services on your DLNA-capable media players. This is important when you, for example, use these services as a media pool for special occasions.

General Articles

Why do I buy and rip CDs for my online music library – An article that allows you to justify your position in buying your music on CD in this day and age of file-based audio, Spotify and “back to vinyl”. This includes “ripping” your CDs to a NAS or your computer’s hard disk for an online music library.

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EU wants to establish a security baseline for Internet Of Things

Article

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

The security of network connectivity equipment is now in question thanks to the Krebs On Security DDoS attack

The EU’s latest idea to secure the Internet of Things? Sticky labels | Naked Security Blog

My Comments

The European Commission wants to push forward with a set of minimum standards for data security especially in context with “dedicated-function” devices including the “Internet Of Things” or “Internet Of Everything”. This also includes a simplified consumer-facing product-label system along with a customer-education program very similar to what has taken place in most countries concerning the energy efficiency of the appliances or the nutritional value of the foodstuffs we purchase.

This issue has been driven by a recent cyber attack on the Krebs On Security blog where the “Mirai” botnet was used to overload that security blog, the latest in a string of many attacks that were inflicted against data-security journalist Brian Krebs. But this botnet was hosted not on regular computers that were running malware downloaded from questionable Internet sites, nor was it hosted on Web hosts that were serving small-time Websites running a popular content management system. It was based on poorly-secured “dedicated-function” devices like network-infrastructure devices, video-surveillance devices, printers and “Internet Of Things” devices that had their firmware meddled with.

Nest Learning Thermostat courtesy of Nest Labs

… as could other Internet-Of-Things devices like these room thermostats

There will be issues that concern how we set network-enabled equipment up to operate securely along with the level of software maintenance that takes place for their firmware. A question always raised in this context is the setup or installation procedure that you perform when you first use these devices – whether this should be about a “default-for-security” procedure like requiring an administrator password of sufficient strength to be set before you can use the device.

But I also see another question concerning the “durables” class of equipment like refrigerators, televisions, building security and the like which is expected to be pushed on for a long time, typically past the time that a manufacturer would cease providing support for it. What needs to happen is an approach towards keeping the software maintained such as, perhaps, open-sourcing it or establishing a baseline software for that device.

Manufacturers could be researching ways to implement centralised simplified secure setup for consumer “Internet-Of-Things” devices along with maintaining the software that comes with these devices. This could be also about working on these issues with industry associations so that this kind of management can work industry-wide.

But the certification and distinct labelling requirement could be about enforcing secure-by-design approaches so that customers prefer hardware that has this quality. Similarly, a distinct label could be implemented to show that a device benefits from regular secure software maintenance so that it is protected against newer threats.

It usually just requires something to happen in a significant manner to be a wake-up call regarding computer and data security. But once a standard is worked out, it could answer the question of keeping “dedicated-purpose” computing devices secure.

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What is my computer’s file-storage system about?

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

How is your data organised on your computer, whether on its main disk or any removable storage connected to it>

A computer always needs to be able to hold programs and data in a non-volatile manner so users can get back to this data when they switch the computer on again. Here this has evolved through different methods and technologies that answered these needs in different ways.

What were these technologies that were available for home computers?

Initially, home-computer users used to have to use audio cassette tapes to store this data. Subsequently, the magnetic diskette, commonly known as the floppy disk due to it being like a piece of card, became the preferred storage method for computers. Typically, the better computer setups would end up with two floppy-disk drives so that two disks can be accessed at once.

USB external hard disk

A USB external hard disk

The early 1980s saw some manufacturers offer high-capacity fixed-disk drives, which were known as “hard disks” as a storage option for computers with this being preferred by business users. These storage devices earned this name as them being seen as an alternative to the old floppy disks.

Subsequently, Sony brought forward the hard-shelled 3.5” “micro-floppy” and this was brought out alongside a similar technology offered by Hitachi and a few other companies. It was to provide a higher-capacity smaller data-storage magnetic disk that was more rugged than the previous designs and appealed to the design of highly-portable computers.

The optical disk, which is based on CD technology, came in to being as an affordable software-distribution and large-data-distribution technology during the mid 1990s. Subsequently, solid-state non-moving flash storage came to fruition from the late 90s as a removable storage medium for digital cameras and PDAs but became more viable for regular computers since the late 2000s.

Since the magnetic disk came on the scene, there was an increased importance placed on organising where the data existed on these storage systems, with an emphasis on such concepts as file systems, volumes and folders or directories. This was because the various magnetic-disk systems were becoming more and more capacious and users needed to know where their data existed. Here, the file system effectively became a hierarchical database for the information you store on your computer and provided a logical relationship between the files and where the bits and bytes that represented them existed on the storage medium.

Desktop computers required the ability for the user to insert and remove any removable media at a moment’s notice but this required the user to be sure that all the data that was written to the medium before they could remove it. This is in contrast to what was required of mainframe and similar computer systems where an operator had to type commands to add the disk to the computer’s file system or remove it from the file system as part of physically attaching and detaching these disks.

This concept changed when Apple brought in the Macintosh computer which used the Sony 3.5” microfloppy disks. Here, they allowed you you to insert removable media in to that computer but required you to “drag it to the Trashcan” before the disk could be removed. Some advanced removable disk types like the Zip disk implemented this kind of removal in the Windows and other operating system by providing what has been described as a “VCR-style” eject routine due to its relationship to how you used an audio or video recorder. Here, you pressed the eject button on the disk drive which would cause all the data to be written back to the disk before the disk came out.

Now the modern computer has at least one hard disk and / or solid-state disk fixed inside it along with USB ports being used for connecting USB-connected hard disks or memory keys. You may also be inserting your camera’s SD card in to an SD-card slot on your laptop computer or in to an SD-card reader module that plugs in to your computer’s USB port if you were downloading digital images and videos. Some of you may even have an optical drive integrated in your computer or connected to it via a USB cable and use this for archiving data or playing CDs and DVDs.

Your operating system’s file manager

Windows 10 File Manager - logical volumes

All the logical volumes available to a computer – representing hard disks with their logical partitions along with removable media

The operating system that runs your computer will have a file manager that allows you to discover and load your files or move, copy, rename and delete files amongst the logical volumes available to your computer. In Windows, this used to be known as File Manager, then became known as Windows Explorer but is now known as File Explorer. The Apple Macintosh describes this file manager simply as Finder.

This used to be a command-line task but since the arrival of the Apple Macintosh, the file manager is represented using a graphical user interface which shows a list of files, folders or logical volumes that you are dealing with.

Clicking on a folder or logical volume will bring up a screen to show you what is in that folder or logical volume. But clicking on a file will cause it to be opened by the default application or, in the case of a program, cause that program to run.

Moving or copying files nowadays is simply a drag-and-drop affair where you drag the files from the source to the destination, but you may have to hold down the Shift key or use the right-hand mouse button to modify a default move or copy action.

As well, the modern file managers have a “two-stage” delete action for files on a hard disk or other fixed storage where they end up in a “holding-bay” folder known as the Trashcan or Recycle Bin when you delete them. This is to allow you to find files that you may have unintentionally deleted. But to fully delete them for good, you have to delete the contents of this “holding-bay” folder, something you can do by right-clicking or Ctrl-clicking on this folder to bring up a context menu and selecting an “Empty” option.

What is my computer’s file storage system about

The logical volume

Most operating systems represent as their storage system every logical volume be it a removable disk or each partition of a hard disk as its own element. It was the only way to work in the early days of computing because each fixed or removable disk didn’t hold much in the way of data and was its own element. As hard disks became more capacious, there was a requirement to partition them or break a single physical hard disk in to multiple logical volumes because the operating systems of the early days couldn’t hold much data per volume. You can also set up some operating systems to present a folder on a NAS or file server available to you over a network to appear as a logical volume, a practice that was important before networks were commonplace and personal-computer operating systems could address network resources directly. All removable media are still represented with one logical volume per disk, card or stick.

Each logical volume would have the ability to be given a volume name and be represented as a distinct icon which is part of a “Devices”, “Volumes” or similar cluster in the file-management system that is part of the operating system. The icon is typically a crude representation of the storage medium that the logical volume exists on.

Windows, harking back to the Microsoft MS-DOS days, would also assign each logical volume a “drive letter” owing to the fact that each disk drive on the original IBM PC was assigned its own letter with A and B reserved for the floppy disk drives.

The Apple Macintosh represented on the right side of the Desktop screen a “disk” icon for each logical volume currently available to the system. But recent iterations of the Macintosh’s operating system provided a setting so that all of the logical volumes that represented the computer’s fixed storage didn’t appear as desktop icons.

The mid 1980s showed up a situation where an operating system had to identify what kind of disk a logical volume was on because hard disks were becoming more viable and a computer could have multiple disks of different kinds. This was also being augmented by the arrival of networks and file servers where you could “pool” your files on a common computer with larger storage, and CD-ROMs in the early 90s being a cheap way to deliver large amounts of software and data. Thanks to the graphical user interface, this was represented via an icon that represented the kind of disk being handled.

How are they represented?

In Windows, each logical volume, whether fixed or removable,is represented in Windows Explorer or File Explorer by an icon in the left hand panel under “This PC” or “Computer” or something similar depending on the version. If you click on this icon, you will see a list of all the logical volumes available to your computer.

On the Macintosh, you would normally have each of these volumes represented by an icon on the right hand side of your desktop, where you would click on that volume to invoke a Finder window to see all of the files in this volume. On the other hand, Finder would represent all of the volumes in a separate left-hand-side pane.

In both cases, each logical volume would be represented at least with its logical volume name and icon. With some systems, if there is a device that can hold removable media like an SD card reader, floppy disk drive or an optical drive, you will see that device listed but greyed out or de-emphasised if there is nothing in it.

Some operating systems like MacOS X may represent a removable volume like an SD card, USB memory key or optical disk with a distinct icon to highlight their removeability. This will typically be an “eject” symbol which you can click to safely remove that volume. Windows even lists the “eject” word in the right-click option menu for all of the volumes that are removable.

Folders

The folders that exist on a system disk

All the folders that exist on a hard disk, this time the system disk

The Macintosh and, subsequently, MS-DOS and Amiga brought around the concept of directories or folders as a way of organising data across increasingly-larger data volumes. Here, you could organise the data in to smaller clusters that relate to a common theme or purpose with the ability to create a folder within another folder.

Some operating systems like some versions of the Macintosh operating system allowed you to represent a folder with a graphical icon but this was used mainly by software developers when you installed software on the computer.

But all of the computers typically allocate a special folder on the main logical volume for storing all the programs that you run and, in some cases, even create a temporary folder for keeping data that a program stores on an as-needed basis.

How are they represented

On the graphical-user interface, these were represented as a folder icon that is  a part of how the contents of a logical volume was represented. Clicking on this folder icon will allow you to see the contents of that folder.

What is the main or system disk of your computer?

The Main Disk or System Disk for a Windows computer

The Main Disk or System Disk for a Windows computer

The main disk on your computer, which is a hard disk or fixed solid-state-device, stores all the files that are to do with its operating system and all the applications you run on your computer. Such a disk is listed as C: in Windows or MACINTOSH HD on the Macintosh. It is also described as the system disk or the boot disk because it has the operating system that the computer has to load every time it is started, a process described as the “boot” process.

Where the programs that you run exist

It will also contain the data you create but all of the files needed to run the operating system and the applications will be kept in particular folders. For example, the  “Applications” or “Program Files” is kept aside for the applications and games the user installs, with each application you install creating its own subfolder of that folder. This is while a separate folder like “Windows” or “System” is kept for the operating system’s files. Some operating systems like MacOS may also use another folder for keeping plug-ins, fonts and similar common application resources while others may keep these with the applications / programs folder, usually as a subordinate folder.

Where the Desktop is represented

As well, all the icons and files that you store on the Desktop will be kept on a “Desktop” folder which represents everything that exists there.

The data you have created

But you will also end up with user-data space like “Documents”, “Photos” and the like where you save all of the data you create with your computer’s applications. Your e-mail program may store your emails in that folder or in a separate folder on this same disk.

Some operating systems, most notably Windows and earlier iterations of the Macintosh operating system, even let you create folders on the System Disk that aren’t earmarked for a purpose for you to use as your data folders. This also includes other programs keeping the user-created data in their own folders.

The secondary holding place for deleted files

Then there is the “Trashcan” or “Recycle Bin” folder which is used as a holding space for files you delete should you regret deleting them. When you delete a file from one of your folders on the main disk or other fixed disks in your computer, these files will end up in this “holding space”. Then if you want to remove them permanently, you have to delete them from this folder.

Removable Storage

USB memory key

USB storage device – an example of removable storage

All of the removable storage devices work on a freeform method of organising data across each of their logical volumes because there typically isn’t a requirement to keep certain folders for certain system processes.

This is except for memory cards associated with digital cameras because of the digital photography industry’s desire to implement a “Digital Camera File System”. Here, you have a DCIM folder for all digital-camera images and your camera will keep the pictures and videos you take in a subfolder of that DCIM folder, This was to simplify the searching process for digital images when you used a printer, photo-printing kiosk or electronic picture frame. There is also a MISC directory where DPOF print-order files are stored when you order photos to be printed using your camera’s control surface and either insert the camera card in to you multifunction printer or a photo-printing kiosk.

When you delete a file from removable storage, it is gone for good. As well, you need to make sure that you properly remove memory cards, USB memory keys and similar removable storage because most operating systems won’t write back all of the data changes to that storage device as they occur. Some operating systems like Windows allow you to immediately remove the classic floppy disks but most of them require you to use a “safely remove” or “eject” routine to properly write all the data to the removable medium before you can remove it. The Macintosh even allows you to drag the removable medium to the Trashcan to safely remove it.

Conclusion

The file system that your computer has is one of the key tenets of managing your data on your computer and it is about how your data is organised across multiple storage devices and within these storage devices.

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Chorus brings Gigabit throughput across all its Kiwi Fiber territory

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Chorus New Zealand map

Blog Post

My Comments

Previously, I wrote an article about New Zealand having its Internet infrastructure being built around competitive operations and next-generation forward-looking approaches rather than pushing out older copper infrastructure as the backbone.

Chorus are providing fibre-to-the-premises broadband in most of New Zealand’s major urban areas. This is in conjunction with the NZ Government pushing this technology across these areas in conjunction with this wholesale telecoms provider and the local electric utilities, along with the “fibre-to-the-node” fibre-copper deployments in these areas being converted towards FTTP, rather than the traditional wisdom pushed in the UK and Australia of “sweating out” copper infrastructure.

But Chorus were offering Gigabit service as a service option for FTTP customers based in Dunedin. This was initially to prove that Dunedin could be turned in to a “Gigatown” with Gigabit-level Internet service available everywhere. Now they are offering this same level of throughput as a service option for all of their customers who are connected to FTTP services in New Zealand. Here, they are underscoring the desire for New Zealanders to have the whole country become a “Gignation” or “Giganation” where everyone has access to Gigabit broadband speeds.

Here, in the blog article they published, they mentioned the need to offer Gigabit broadband as a service option. This is with the benefit of high throughput with the ability to, for example, upload 25 high-resolution images to Facebook or Dropbox in a second or concurrently stream 40 different ultra-high-resolution videos. For people who work from home, this technology would benefit them especially if they are using cloud-based “…as-a-service” computing approaches or desiring high-reliability IP-based voice and video telecommunications.

At the moment, they offer a headline speed of 1Gbps download and 500Mbps upload but could work better by offering a symmetrical 1Gbps speed as a service option. This kind of service offering is being made available by some service providers such as Gigaclear in the UK and could heavily please small-business owners.

They also raised the issue of popular Web services being oversubscribed which could impair the perceived performance along with your home network being equipped with older or less-reliable hardware. They also highlighted the fact that speedtests may not hit the headline speed exactly and reckon that you should be able to have close to that for the download speed at least.

Here, New Zealand is proving that home and small-business networks can be connected to Gigabit-level fibre-optic Internet service that is forward-thinking.

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Google now offers a VR tour of 10 Downing Street

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Google Arts And Culture 10 Downing Street door by Jdforrester crop from original by Prime Minister's Office, HM Government. (2010 Official Downing Street pic.jpg) [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Blog Post

Virtual Tour – 10 Downing Street

My Comments

One of the most important halls of power in the world has been 10 Downing Street, where the British Prime Minister lives and the most important rooms of this place have been taken further with Google’s virtual-reality tour.

Here, Google had made this place, normally off-limits to the public, available in a manner that you can browse around the public rooms associated with Britain’s political life, especially where they were underscored by two key Prime Ministers – Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher.

It works just as well with your regular computer or a mobile device and you can enjoy this with the Google Cardboard virtual-reality viewer. If you use a regular computer that doesn’t implement a touch screen, you can get a similar benefit using a scrollwheel-enabled mouse or a multitouch-capable trackpad. Here you can zoom in on some of the pictures in the rooms or the Grand Staircase using that zoom gesture for the touchscreen or multitouch-capable trackpad or operate the scrollwheel on your mouse.

Anyone who is studying British history or the politics associated with countries that follow the Westminster system should have a look at this virtual-reality tour that underscores where one of the most important politicians has always lived.

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ARCEP is heading towards an IPv6 France

Article – French language / Langue Française

L’ARCEP propose un plan d’action pour migrer vers l’IPv6 | Freenews.fr

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

The Freebox Révolution – the sign of an advanced Internet in France

France is intending to take bigger strides towards an IPv6 Internet.

Here, the ARCEP who is the country’s telecoms authority are expediting this process through a series of steps.

Firstly, they will be moving the government’s public-facing Web sites towards IPv6 operation. Most likely, this will be a dual-stack affair to allow legacy networks to touch these sites.

Then they will run a public-awareness and education campaign about IPv6 including identifying obstacles associated with not moving towards this newer set of Internet protocols. Two main obstacles in this case would be computers running operating systems that don’t have IPv6 dual-stack operation, and routers that don’t provide for IPv6 operation. This may not be an issue with the latest “n-boxes” that each of the French ISPs are offering to their customers like the Freebox Révolution.

IPv6 logo courtesy of World IPv6 Launch programThe next stage would be to facilitate moving towards IPv6 by having it work across all of the providers competing with each other in that country.

Users will also benefit from improved information especially about maintaining the IPv4 equipment and networks. This is more so with maintaining the legacy IPv4 addresses, but the endpoint issue could be resolved with various routing or tunnelling setups that IPv6 offers.

Last but not least, the French Internet backbone will move off IPv4 towards IPv6, probably only allowing IPv4 “at the edge”.

But some, if not most, of the ISPs serving the French market, especially Free, may be stepping forward towards IPv6 as part of the competitive marketplace. This includes releasing “n-box” routers that have support for this technology or adding this level of support to some existing equipment through a firmware update. Let’s not forget that most operating systems for regular and mobile computing devices will provide for IPv6 in a dual-stack form. Here, it is underscoring that France has been identified one of the first countries to head towards IPv6 technology.

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Should I use Windows Photo Viewer or my presentation program to show those photos?

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint can do the job easily for some applications

Previously, I wrote an article about how to use Windows Photo Viewer to show a collection of digital images on the large screen like your projector. Usage classes I was targeting this at included churches and other houses of worship who were showing digital images from the mission field, businesses with a lot of new products to show, people going through a large collection of newly-taken images and the like.

But you think about whether the dedicated presentation or playout program like PowerPoint, EasiSlides or Screen Monkey does the job better in this situation compared to something like Windows Photo Viewer.

Image in Windows Photo Viewer

Windows Photo Viewer comes in to its own with a collection of many photos

The problem with these dedicated presentation or playout programs is that there is more rigmarole involved in putting an image in to the presentation and this can open up room for mistakes. This may not be an issue if you are only needing to deal with an image count of between five and 10 JPEG images being necessary for your event. You also may be factoring in using the presentation or playout program to handle the rest of your program’s visual content like PowerPoint presentation material, textual material or song lyrics.

But Windows Photo Viewer would come in handy where you are dealing with a collection of many digital images that you took with the digital camera but want to show on the screen. A good rule of thumb to work with may be at least 11, perhaps 24 to 36 images which was the equivalent of the number of slides that could fit in the slide boxes that mounted 35mm slides came in after the film was processed. Here, you would be wanting to show those images in a manner equivalent to the old-time slide show, showing them in a sequence that matches the flow of your presentation.

Here, different programs can answer different needs and this is more true when you are dealing with presentation or AV playout needs in your small business or community organisation.

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