Author: simonmackay

Dell now has the XPS 13 laptop in two different screen aspect ratios

Article

Dell XPS 13 9305 Ultrabook laptop press image courtesy of Dell Australia

The new entry-level Dell XPS 13 9305 Ultrabook with 16:9 screen

Dell XPS 13 9305 goes global: Cheaper and lighter than the XPS 13 9310 but at a considerable screen-to-body ratio cost – NotebookCheck.net News

From the horse’s mouth

Dell

XPS 13 9305 Ultrabook laptop(Australian product page – Click to buy)

My Comments

As Intel launched the Tiger Lake mobile CPUs and Xe integrated graphics silicon, Dell launched the XPS 13 9310 Ultrabook laptop which followed on from the XPS 13 9300 model but refreshed with the newer silicon.

Dell XPS 13 press picture courtesy of Dell Australia

Dell XPS 13 9310 with 16:10 aspect-ratio screen

It was about Dell keeping strong with an ultraportable laptop computer that has the features you need while offering value for money. This model uses a 16:10 aspect-ratio screen and two Thunderbolt 4 ports, following on from the approach they had about having the “right mix” of features to get the job done. Infact the use of two Thunderbolt 3 ports in recent iterations of this model which also equate to USB-C with DisplayPort alt and Power Delivery functionality allowed for a slim chassis but can he connected to Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C peripherals and docks including those that can supply power to the computer.

But Dell just lately launched the XPS 13 9305 which has a 16:9 aspect-ratio screen with Full HD resolution (for Australasian users). This would have a larger bezel under the screen with the Dell brand on it. It also gains an extra USB-C port with Power Delivery and DisplayPort alt functionality. It also comes through as a more lightweight version of the XPS 13 laptop. The use of a 16:9 aspect-ratio screen for this model of laptop allows Dell to use cheaper commonly-available display panels rather than a custom design for the screen, thus lowering the computer’s cost.

The goal with this model is to offer a “foot-in-the-door” model to what the XPS 13 “portable-typewriter-sized” ultraportable laptop is all about. Of course, you still had the same Intel Tiger Lake silicon including the Xe integrated graphics along with the Thunderbolt 4 ports. Here, Dell is keeping an a feature combination that I see ideal for mainstream laptop computers i.e. up-to-date Intel integrated graphics and Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports.

It would mean that you can consider the use of an external graphics module if you want more out of the graphics performance, but a significant number of popular games can be played to an acceptable standard using that silicon and the Full HD screen.

What is happening is that Dell is offering a range of 13” ultraportable computers under the XPS 13 banner and with the right mix of features in the basic design but providing different types for different price points. It also shows that Dell with still keep investing in the traditional “regular” computer which was its bedrock, enforcing value for money for their products.

Google improving on their simplified cross-platform software development platform

Article

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8" business tablet press picture courtesy of Samsung

It will become easy to develop apps to run on smartphones..

Microsoft helps with Google’s Flutter 2 update to improve apps on Surface Duo | Windows Central

Google’s Flutter 2 update could be a major win for apps on Windows 10 | Windows Central

My Comments

Now with three major desktop computing platforms and two mobile computing platforms on the market, there is a demand to create software that can run on all of them. It also means that the software has to operate in a manner that suits the different user experiences that different computing devices offer.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

.. and tablets

The differing factors for the user experiences include screen size and general aspect ratio as in “portrait” or “landscape”; whether there is a keyboard, mouse, stylus or touchscreen as a control interface; or, nowadays, whether there are two or more screens. Then you have to think of whether to target a mobile use case or a regular-computer use case and optimise your software accordingly. You may even have to end up targeting “small mobile” (smartphone), “large mobile” (iPad or similar tablet), “desktop” (desktop or laptop computer including 2-in-1 convertibles) or “lean-back” (smart TV / set-top / games console) use cases at once.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake

.. and laptops with the same codebase

Google and Microsoft have established a partnership to make Google’s Flutter 2 software development platform as something to create desktop+mobile software solutions. It is building on Microsoft’s foundation stones like their BASIC interpreters which got most of us in to personal computing and software development.

Here it is about creating common codebases for native apps that target iOS, Android, Windows 10, MacOS and Linux; alongside Web apps to work with Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge. But the question that could be raised is if an app is targeted for Google Chrome, would this work fully with other Chromium-based Web browsers like the new Microsoft Edge browser, the Opera browser or Chromium for Linux.

The creation of Web apps may be about being independent of platform app stores which have a strong upper hand on what appears there. Or it may be about reaching devices and platforms that don’t have any native software development options available to average computer programmers.

Some of the targeted approaches for this new platform would include “progressive Web apps” that can run on many platforms using Web technology and omit the Web-browser “chrome” while these apps run.

The new Flutter 2 platform will also be about creating apps that take advantage of multiple-screen and foldable setups. This is in addition to creating fluid user interfaces that can run on single-screen desktop, tablet and smartphone setups. The idea of creating a user interface for multiple-screen and foldable setups is seen as catering to a rare use case because of fewer foldable devices like the Microsoft Surface Duo on the market let alone in circulation. Another question that can crop up is multiple-screen desktop-computing setups and how to take advantage of them when creating software.

What I see of this is the rise of software-development solutions that are about creating software for as many different computing platforms as possible.

Chrome OS to gain a slew of new features for its 10th birthday

Google Chrome OS 10th Birthday artwork image courtesy of GoogleArticles

Top 6 New Chrome OS Features Coming in Build 89 (droid-life.com)

Google Is Bringing a Handoff Feature to Android and Chromebooks (gizmodo.com)

Google Chrome OS adds a Phone Hub, Nearby Share, and Tote files | PCWorld

Google working to solve Chromebook’s support problem – PC World Australia (idg.com.au)

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Get new features with automatic updates – Google Chromebooks

Chromebooks announces new features for 10th birthday (blog.google)

My Comments

Dell Chromebook 13 press image courtesy of Dell Inc.

The Chromebook platform is gaining more credibility as a computing platform and celebrates its 10th birthday

Google is celebrating the Chrome OS platform’s 10th birthday by investing in more features for that platform and for the Chromebooks and similar devices using that operating system.

As I have said before, the last year has seen a growth in takeup of the Chromebook as a regular computing device especially as COVID-19 and its associated stay-at-home orders have had us make more use of regular computers using desktop operating systems. Google took advantage of this by adding more functionality to Chrome OS in January 2021 thanks to it being valued as a desktop operating system, especially by families and the education sector.

Now they have laid on more features for Chrome OS with Build 89. One of these is to interlink your Android smartphone with your Chromebook. Here, this feature called Phone Hub offers the ability to mute or “ping” your phone from the Chromebook or enable the Android hotspot function. You have tbe ability to “hand-over” Websites you started browsing on your Android phone to you Chromebook’s display. It doesn’t seem to offer yet the ability to continue “chatting by SMS” from your Chromebook or move photos you took with your Android phone to your Chromebook yet, but it could be seen as a future direction for Phone Hub,

There is the ability to sync the list of Wi-Fi networks that you have set your Android phone or Chromebook up with so that both devices have the SSIDs and passwords for all these networks.

Android and Chrome OS now support Google’s “Nearby Shareacross-the-room data transfer so you could move that photo or PDF between your Android phone, Android tablet or Chromebook without using the Internet. The same goes for when another Android or Chrome OS user has that Weblink or photo they want to share with you and you want to see it on your Chromebook.

There is the ability for Chrome OS to remember the last five “copy-and-paste” Clipboard entries. This is taken advantage of if you press the “Everything” key (concentric rings or magnifying glass key) and the V key together to dump everything from the last five “cuts” or “copies” to your document.

The “Tote” bas been added to Chrome OS’s file manager’s default view to bring up frequently-used, new or “pinned” files. For Windows users, this is similar to the Quick Access screen which shows frequently-touched folders or files you have recently touched.

There is an option to have the context menu show up further relevant information about something you highlighted and right-clicked. This will allow you to bring up options like unit, currency or time-zone conversions, definitions or translations in the context menu.

Google has even worked on the lock screen further by allowing you to customise it further. This will include having it interactive in the context of media controls and similar functionality.

It is part of newer directions for Google’s Chrome OS desktop operating system. For example, there will be a direction for Google to offer meaningful functionality updates to Chromebook users every month. But I see issues with this approach where buggy conde can be rushed in to Chrome OS in order to get that PR-worthy feature in to the operating system.

Another issue is to make the Chrome OS platform a long-tailed desktop computing platform like what happens with Windows and MacOS. There were concerns about older Chromebooks missing out on Chrome OS updates due to arbitrary cut-off time periods like five years to eight years from manufacture. It was affecting people who purchased second-hand Chromebooks or were taking advantages of seasonal specials where manufacturers were offloading surplus prior-generation Chromebook inventory at cheap prices.

For subsequent Chrome OS builds, Google will revise the policies regarding end-of-support when dealing with older equipment. This may be about code availability for longer than 8 years from manufacturer or to cater towards Windows-like hardware / software independence when it comes to continual support for that platform.

Here, Google will work with computer manufacturers to answer this problem. For example, they have to ship Chromebooks with a realistic long support life and OEMs have to have Chrome OS equipment capable of having very long service lives like what is the norm with Windows for example. Google will even work out a way to push the latest code in to Chromebooks even at the browser level if not the operating-system level.

They also have a view to bring back other form factors like the Chromebase “all-in-one” and the three-piece “Chromebox” form factors.  Here, it is to prove that Chrome OS isn’t just about cut-price mass-market laptops anymore.

It shows that Google is seeing Chrome OS as a fully-fledged mass-market “open-frame” platform for regular desktop and laptop computers. What needs to still happen is for more software including rich powerful software like games to be written to run natively in this platform.

Google’s effort with Chrome OS and the Chromebook platform may see us heading to the days of the late 1980s when there were three dominant desktop/personal computing platform i.e. IBM-based computers with MS-DOS, the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga. But compared to that era, more hardware vendors will offer computers for both the Windows and Chrome OS platforms rather than platforms being based around hardware and software offered by a particular vendor.

WhatsApp and Signal are bringing forth desktop video calling

Articles

WhatsApp desktop with videoconference support press image courtesy of WhatsApp

WhatsApp now does one-to-one video videocalls on the desktop

How to Make WhatsApp Voice and Video Calls on Desktop (lifehacker.com.au)

From the borse’s mouth

WhatsApp

Introducing private and secure calling from the desktop – WhatsApp Blog

Signal

A new platform is calling: Help us test one-to-one voice and video conversations on Signal Desktop (Blog Post from Signal)

My Comments

Signal desktop one-on-one videoconferencing press picture courtesy of the Signal Foundation

… as does Signal

WhatsApp and Signal, both messaging and calling systems that implement end-to-end encryption, are dependent on a primary client which is the user’s smartphone. But both platforms also implement secondary software native to most desktop operating systems so that users can interact with these platforms on their regular computer.

But the desktop programs for these services are dependent on the primary smartphone which has the user’s mobile number and encryption keys to work properly. The software was initially set up for personal and group chat abilities only but has now been “built out” to support one-on-one audio and video calls using the desktop client software.

WhatsApp and Signal's relationship with their desktop clients

How WhatsApp and Signal work with their desktop client software

Some users prefer to use a desktop or laptop computer to make or take videocalls due to the larger screen these devices offer. As well, there is an increasing number of Windows-powered 2-in-1 convertibles that can easily answer this need.

What has now happened for WhatsApp and Signal is that the latest versions of their desktop client software is now supporting voice and video calling. At the moment, this will support one-on-one voice and videocalling.

Signal have even worked on the WebRTC real-time-communications protocol and contributed their improvements to the source code for that protocol. This is to make things work smoothly for one-user many-device operation, something that could apply to a lot of videocall apps based on this technology.

Both companies will need to work towards supporting group videocalls on their desktop software as well as on the primary mobile devices. This is more so as the desktop computing environment shows appeal towards multiparty videocalls.

As well, the WhatsApp and Signal efforts are about implementing voice and videocalls in a multiple-device sense where there is a primary device operated by the user. This may legitimise other similar use cases like automotive or group-videophone (connected-TV / set-top device) use cases.

The Thunderbolt technology turns 10

Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon USB-C Thunderbolt-3 detail image - press picture courtesy of Lenovo USA

Happy 10th Birthday to the Thunderbolt standard

Thunderbolt turns 10 | PC World

My Comments

The Thunderbolt high-throughput data connection specification that Intel launched and pushed with Apple’s help has turned 10 this year. And a laptop that I reviewed on this site nearly 10 years ago gave a sign of things to come when it comes to how Thunderbolt is being implemented today.

Sony VAIO Z Series and docking station

This (Sony) VAIO Z ultraportable notebook with its accompanying Blu-Ray writer media dock used a technology that has defined the Thunderbolt standard, especially Thunderbolt 3.

When I reviewed the Sony VAIO Z ultraportable laptop during 2012, I was dabbling with a technology that would be known as Thunderbolt. This was the Intel Light Peak technology that was adapted for copper connectivity but was to be known as Thunderbolt. But this setup underscored what Thunderbolt 3 would be about as a popular use case.

This computer setup had a “Media Dock” expansion module with an integrated Blu-Ray writer, a USB 2 connection, a USB 3 connection, Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, and HDMI and VGA outputs for a TV or monitor. But this “Media Dock” also served as an external graphics module for the  Sony VAIO Z Ultrabook. These devices were connected using an Intel Light Peak cable which had a USB Type-A connector that plugged in to the host computer, but to safely detach the expansion module, you had to press a button on the USB plug and wait a moment before you could disconnect the laptop.

Here this setup which I used in 2012 underscored the use case for what Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C and newer generations of this connection would be about. It was about a high-speed connection between a laptop, all-in-one or low-profile desktop computer and an expansion module of some sort. That expansion module would power a laptop computer but provide connectivity to a cluster of peripherals connected to it, house data-storage media of some sort and / or have better graphics processing horsepower within.

Dell XPS 13 9360 8th Generation Ultrabook - left side ports - Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type C port, USB Type A port, audio jack

Thunderbolt 3 is the preferred connection on the current range of Dell XPS ultraportable premium laptops

Initially this technology appealed to workstation-based use of Apple Macintosh computers that were being used by people involved in film and video production. Here, this was about RAID disk arrays being worked as “scratch disks” for rendering edited video footage or digitally-created animations. Or it was about high-resolution screen setups necessary as part of editing workstations. It also appealed as a path to bring in raw video footage from cameras after a day’s worth of filming in order to prepare “daily rushes” for review by producers and directors, or edit the footage in to a finished product.

The technology finally evolved to become Thunderbolt 3 then Thunderbolt 4 which worked not on its own connector type but using the USB-C connector. That made for a high-speed cost-effective implementation of this standard. As well, the bandwidth has be multiplied by 4 to allow more data to flow.

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt dock

The Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt 3 dock is an example of what this standard is about

Here the USB Type-C plug underscored the docking use case that Thunderbolt 3, USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 brought on. This became a real advantage with designing “thin and light” ultraportable laptops so these computers have a slimline look yet can be connected to workspaces that use docks based on these standards.

Razer Blade gaming Ultrabook connected to Razer Core external graphics module - press picture courtesy of Razer

Razer Core external graphics module with Razer Blade gaming laptop – what Thunderbolt 3 is about

The external graphics module that this specification encouraged has maintained a strong appeal with gamers but I often see these devices as opening paths towards “fit-for-purpose” computing setups with enhanced graphics power based around ultraportable or cost-effective computers. This is more so with the latest Intel integrated graphics silicon offering more than just very limited “economy-class” graphics abilities.

What Intel needs to do is to make Thunderbolt 4 and subsequent generations become more ubiquitous as a high-throughput “equivalent to PCIe” wired connection between computer and peripheral.

Here this could be about affordable laptops and all-in-ones equipped with at least one Thunderbolt 4 port along with Intel-silicon motherboards for traditional desktop computers using this same connector. As well, Intel needs to keep the Thunderbolt standard “silicon-independent” so that AMD and other silicon vendors can implement this technology. It includes the ability for ARM-based silicon vendors to implement Thunderbolt-based technology in their computing designs.

Thunderbolt 3 and 4 can even open up ideas like using “standard-form-factor” computer designs like the ATX or Mini-ITX families to create so-called “expansion chassis” setups based on these designs., opening up paths for construction of devices like external graphics modules by independent computer stores or computer enthusiasts. Or it could open up the path towards a wide variety of docks and external graphics modules that have different functionalities and specifications.

This recommendation can drive down the cost of add-on external graphics modules for those of us who want better graphics performance out of our computers some time down the track.

What Thunderbolt has meant is the rise of a very-high-throughput wired interface that can offer external devices the equivalent of what would be built in to a computer.

European businesses still value data protection for their online services

Article Map of Europe By User:mjchael by using preliminary work of maix¿? [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Europäische Cloud-Anbieter profitieren von Datenschutzbedenken (European cloud offerings profit from data protection) | Netzwoche.ch (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

I am following the scene as far as European online services and cloud computing for both business and consumer use is going. This is based on how I see that Europe could compete with the US establishment when it comes to offering any online service and ensure it respects European values.

I have just read a Swiss article which talked about the US and Chinese hyperscale cloud platforms dominating the European cloud-computing scene. But this article is stating that European cloud-computing / online-service providers are catching up with these behemoths. Here these companies are using data protection as a selling point due to data-protection and user-privacy concerns by European businesses and government authorities.

An example I saw of this is Germany and France working towards creating public-cloud computing services with the goal of being able to compete against the public-cloud services offered by the USA and Asia.

A recent survey completed by the French IT consultant Capgemini highlighted that the German-speaking part of Europe (Germany, Australia and Switzerland) were buying minimal European IT services. But the same Capgemini survey were saying that 45 of the respondents wanted to move to European providers in the future thanks to data protection and data sovereignty issues.

Data security is being given increasing importance due to recent cyber attacks and the increased digitalisation of production processes. But the Europeans have very strong data protection and end-user privacy mandates at national and EU level thanks to a strong respect for privacy and confidentiality within modern Europe.

COVID-19 had placed a lot of European IT projects on ice but there has been a constant push to assure business continuity even under the various public-health restrictions mandated by this plague. This includes the support for distributed working whether that be home-office working or remote working.

But how is this relevant to European households, small businesses and community organisations? I do see this as being relevant due to the use of various online and cloud IT services as part of our personal life thanks to the like of search engines, email / messaging, the Social Web, online entertainment, and voice driven assistants. As well, small businesses and community organisations show interest in online and cloud-based computing as a means of benefiting from what may be seen as “big-time” IT without needing much in the way of capital expenditure.

It will be a slow and steady effort for Europe to have online and cloud computing on a par with the US and Asian establishment but this will be about services that respect European privacy, security and data-sovereignty values.

How to use RSS Webfeeds effectively nowadays

RSS Webfeed iconThe recent saga involving Facebook denying Australian users access to news content has shown up a requirement to have multiple paths for following your daily news online from respected sources. This is more so where we want to use a single-view approach to aggregating content from multiple news services.

Often the solution is to subscribe to multiple email newsletters or load your mobile devices with news apps provided by multiple news outlets. This becomes an issue if you follow multiple news outlets and you want that “aggregated news view” from the different outlets. It means to have in the one screen view a list of headlines or articles from multiple sources in the one screen view.

The technology that I see regaining currency for this goal is RSS or “Really Simple Syndication” Webfeeds. This is where a Website provides a special always-updated XML file representing new and updated content.

This technology had a lot of currency in the early 2010s with popular Web browsers having RSS Webfeed management with that particular orange Webfeed icon. At the same time, Google ran an online RSS Webfeed reader but its death had sidelined the popular takeup of this technology.

RSS Webfeeds are still being used as a way to syndicate and synchronise content across the Web. Here, most Websites like this HomeNetworking01.info Website you are reading use this approach to facilitate “master” synchronisation for applications like email newsletters or content discovery such as “sitemaps”. It is also used very heavily in the podcast ecosystem to alert users when they have new episodes available of a podcast they subscribe to.

There are still some RSS feed readers out there that are worth using so you can craft your own personal newsfeeds.

Two methods of operation

Feedly screenshot

Feedly – an example of an online Webfeed reader that shows a custom newsfeed

But I see these Webfeed readers and podcast managers as falling in to two different categories based on where the subscription and synchronisation data is held. Such data represents the Webfeeds you are following and what articles you have read or podcasts you have listened to.

The first type is the “device-based” reader that keeps this data on the device that the user uses to read these Webfeeds or listen to podcasts. Examples can include email clients with RSS Webfeed reader functionality, Web browsers wtih built-in RSS Webfeed reader functionality or Webfeed reader and podcast manager apps that don’t work with an online-based user account.

In this case, anything you have read on that device is deemed read as far as that device is concerned. As well, if you add or delete Webfeeds on that device, these changes only apply to that device.

The second type is the online reader that is associated with a remote online backend of some sort. This can be a purpose-built online news aggregator or podcast manager that has an online infrastructure built up by its vendor. Or it could be part of an email or similar service that integrates RSS Webfeed management and is tied to the user’s service account. That also encompasses business cloud-computing backends offering this function or a NAS or file server that runs RSS feed-manager or podcast-manager software.

This type of RSS feed reader will be increasingly seen as the way to go for managing and viewing RSS Webfeed and podcast collections. This is due to most of us having multiple computing devices of some form or another, with a desire to view our Webfeeds across the different devices.

A popular example of this is Feedly which works on a freemium approach with a generous free-use allowance. This uses a Web view but has native clients for mobile platforms. It also has social sign-on for Google and Facebook accounts as well as the ability to create a unique acclount.

Here, it would work with user accounts that hold Webfeed subscription and synchronisation details. The end-users gain access to these feeds through a Webpage or a first-party or third-party native software client written for that end-user’s platform.  This approach supports multi-device use in such a way that what is read on one device is deemed read on other devices. As well, if you add or delete Webfeeds on your account, these changes are reflected on all devices associated with your account.

What to look for in an RSS feed reader

A well-designed RSS feed reader should allow you to group feeds in a hierarchical order. This may come in handy to make it easier to organise your Webfeeds based on common factors like country source, interest or whatever.

For online feed readers, you need to make sure there is a client app that suits your device properly. This includes a user interface commensurate to your device type be it a smartphone, tablet or regular computer.

How to discover a Webfeed

You may find that your Web browser has support for detecting RSS Webfeeds. This may be in the form of a button that glows orange when the browser detects a Webfeed. This then opens up the Webfeed in your browser or you may find that your Webfeed reader app launches so you can add the Webfeed to that site.

Desktop Web browsers based on Google Chrome and have access to the Google’s app store for Chrome extensions can run a Chrome extension that detects RSS Webfeeds.

The popular news Websites will have a page which shows what Webfeeds are available from their Website. Here, you can then click on these Weblinks to open these feeds or right-click on each feed to copy them in to your feed reader.

Let’s not forget that most RSS feed readers will have a Webfeed-discovery option where you enter your site’s URL in to a “search” dialog box. This will cause the feed reader to show you what feeds are available so you can add them to your feed list

What needs to happen

There needs to be a number of polished capable online RSS feed reader services that are made aware to business and consumers in order to allow people to make their own news views effectively. As well, there has to be a return to simplified Webfeed discovery for news Websites.

The cohort of smart TVs, set-top boxes and the Internet of Things needs to come on board the RSS Webfeed bandwagon as much as regular and mobile computing devices. This could be in the form of a Webfeed-driven “teletext” experience for smart TVs or simply smart displays of the Amazon Echo Show or Google Smart Hub ilk being able to show your custom RSS-driven news feeds at your command.

Conclusion

It is still worth remembering that the RSS Webfeed is still to be valued as an information service in its own roght. It is more so as a way to create your own custom news views without relying on the big names of the Social Web to provide that feed.

Spotify to add hi-fi streaming to its music service

Articles Spotify HiFi person image courtesy of Spotify

Spotify finally adds one of its most-requested features – Android Authority

Spotify Will Launch a HiFi Streaming Tier Later This Year | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Spotify

Five Things to Know About Spotify HiFi (Press Release)

Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

My Comments

Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system

Now Spotify is to offer a streaming music service fit to play through hi-fi equipment

Initially Tidal offered a subscription-driven music streaming service that had a sound quality fit for high-end audio equipment. Deezer had followed up with a similar service catering to that same market. Subsequently Amazon launched a service tier to their streaming music service that offers this same hi-fi sound.

Here, it wasn’t just appealing to hi-fi enthusiasts who have the premium high-quality audio gear to appreciate this sound quality but to musicians who wanted their listeners to hear their music at its best.

Now Spotify has come on board by working towards a hi-fi-grade music service tier. This is especially as most of us use Spotify as our “go-to” online music jukebox service. It will use lossless audio streaming technology to yield CD/DAT-quality sound from this service.

There is an intent to have it work on any Spotify endpoint including Spotify Connect devices. It is because a significant number of hi-fi components that have network-media playback functionality provide support for Spotify Connect.

Spotify has an intent to have it start to roll out by the end of this year and there may be questions about whether Spotify software or Spotify-Connect-enabled firmware needs to be updated to support this functionality. Of course you would need to use Spotify HiFi with equipment and connection types that answers the call of reproducing high-quality sound. It may even push Sony, Bose, B&O and Apple to consider how the Bluetooth setup involving their high-end Bluetooth active-noise-cancelling headsets can work with this service on any smartphone.

There will be questions about how Spotify HiFi will be priced and whether all of Spotify’s library will be available at the CD-quality sound that this tier will offer. Some reckon that a subscription to this tier will be between US$15-US$20 per month similar to what Tidal and Amazon are charging for their hi-fi level services. But they may look at ways to undercut Tidal and Amazon whether through a cheaper deal or offering more than what they both offer for their hi-fi-grade streaming services.

I also see this as a chance for Apple and Google to bring through high-quality-audio streaming services as part of the audio-streaming packages if they don’t want to be left behind. This will be important for Apple especially if they don’t want to lose their image as courting the premium “status-symbol” end of the technology market.

Gainsborough TriLock appears now as a smart lock

Articles –From the horse’s mouth

Gainsborough Hardware

FreeStyle TriLock smart lock

Product Page

Product Microsite

Press Release from Allegion (parent company of Gainsborough Hardware)

Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

My Comments

During the 1990s, a type of residential door lock had come on the market which conveys the look of a mortice lock but has the simple quick installation approach associated with the “bore-through” cylindrical or tubular form factors.

One of these entrance locksets that came about was the Gainsborough TriLock entrance set. This offered double-cylinder “deadlock” security demanded in the Australian market but had the ability for users to just lock the outside handle from the inside by pressing a button.

But Gainsborough Hardware have revised this lockset to become a smart lock. This entrance set, known as the FreeStyle TriLock, has a concealable keypad for users to enter their access codes when they want to enter, no matter whether it is locked from both sides or just the outside. There is an intent behind this lock’s design to allow a householder to replace a TriLock lockset that was on their front door without needing to drill new holes or refinish the door.

As well, it used Bluetooth connectivity with manufacturer-supplied smartphone apps so you can control the lock from your smartphone, including being notified of someone arriving at your home and letting themselves in. Of course, the FreeStyle TriLock allows you to use the traditional metal key to unlock the door, with this existing as a failsafe measure as well as for those of us still comfortable with the traditional key.

This unit can support up to 20 users and has the ability to schedule individual users’ access to your premises. The optional Gainsborough Bluetooth-Wi-Fi network bridge paves the way for remote management of this lockset, something that would pleas holiday-home or short-let premises owners.

There will be the issue of whether this smart lock will “tie in” with other smart-home systems like Amazon Alexa / Google Assistant (Home), Samsung SmartThings and similar platforms. This will be more so as we expect more out of these smart locks beyond letting ourselves and others in to our premises.

PocketBook introducing an ebook reader with a 7.8”colour e-ink display

PocketBook InkPad Color eBook reader press picture courtesy of PocketBookArticles

Pocketbook InkPad Color Has a New Kaleido E-ink Screen, Costs $330 | The Digital Reader (the-digital-reader.com)

German Language / Deutsche Sprache

PocketBook InkPad Color: Großer eReader in Farbe – COMPUTER BILD

Inkpad Color: Neuer E-Reader mit Farbdisplay – PC-WELT

From the horse’s mouth

PocketBook

PocketBook InkPad Color: meet the first 7.8-inch e-reader with color E Ink new Kaleido™ screen (Press Release)

InkPad Color reader (Product Page)

Video – Click or tap to play in YouTube

My Comments

Previously, PocketBook who is a Switzerland-based eBook reader manufacturer, offered the first colour eBook reader which has a very useable colour e-ink display. This unit was with a 6” display.

But they have extended this to an eBook reader with a larger 7.8” display but achieving the same “dot-per-inch” resolution as the 6” model. The frontlight is even designed to work properly with E-Ink Kaleido and yield the best visual performance even if it is turned down to the lowest level.

Most of the features for this PocketBook InkPad Color are the same for both the PocketBook Color eBook readers with things like text-to-speech, Bluetooth connectivity, and support for audio files based on MP3, Ogg Vorbis and AAC codecs. But it also has Wi-Fi which would come in to its own for downloading eBooks and other “electronic hard copy” material from PocketBook’s own electronic bookstore, Dropbox and ReadRate. It also has a built-in RSS-based Webfeed reader for those of us who follow blogs and other online services using this standard technology.

The large colour display may come in to its own with graphic novels or other illustrated material. I would see this more so in France and Belgium where the “BD” visual novels  and comic albums are an artform unto themselves. Even business and education would value the large colour screen for illustrated materials delivered in electronic hard copy.

The PocketBook InkPad Color will weigh in at 225g even though it has the large screen. It will cost EUR€299 in Europe or US$330 in the USA.

It will be interesting to know how the E-Ink Kaleido technology will be taken further. In the near term, it could be about moving towards larger colour e-ink displays. But it could also lead towards work on photo-quality colour e-ink displays, making for electronic photo frames that use this technology or even towards colour digital signage.

What needs to happen is for more eBook readers to license and implement colour e-ink technology. Here, a colour display can be seen by an e-book reader manufacturer as a product differentiator just as size or network / Internet connectivity is used for that purpose. It can encourage authors and publishers to use colour as a drawcard for their eBook versions of their works.