Category: Computer Hardware

Samsung launches two monitor models that have Smart TV abilities

Articles

Samsung M7 Smart Monitor press image courtesy of Samsung

The new Samsung M7 and M5 monitors also double as Internet TVs with direct access to Netflix & co

Samsung’s latest monitor is a smart TV with PC features | Engadget

Samsung’s new Smart Monitor is like a TV for your PC | The Verge

Samsung’s M7 Is A Monitor And A Smart TV All-In-One | UberGizmo

Samsung Releases its New M7 Smart Monitor | ETeknix

From the horse’s mouth

Samsung

Samsung Announces Global Availability of New Lifestyle Smart Monitor (Press Release)

Samsung 32M70A M7 32″ 4K UHD Smart Monitor (Product Page)

My Comments

Samsung is launching two computer-monitor models that have Smart TV capabilities. It is similar to the likes of LG offering some computer monitors with integrated broadcast-TV tuners.

Samsung M7 Smart Monitor press image courtesy of Samsung

Good enough for that personal space where you work and live in

This class of computer monitor addresses use cases where one would put one of these monitors to service not just with their computer for work or advanced gaming but also for ordinary entertainment purposes. The classic examples of this use case include a bedroom or den that serves as one’s office and personal space; or a person who moves in to a small apartment or bungalow where one large room serves as their living room, dining room and office.  It also includes university students who live on campus in a student-accommodation facility like a dorm or residence hall or workers who live in employer-provided accommodation facilities as part of their job.

I did some previous coverage on this topic in an article about having a TV serve as a computer monitor or using a computer monitor as a TV and nowadays some TV manufacturers are offering large-screen TV models that are optimised for computer games with the video electronics equivalent to what is offered in a current-spec gaming monitor. This is due to a realisation that one could be bringing that Windows-based gaming rig or that current-spec games console in to the living room to play games on the big screen TV.

But the Samsung M7 (32” 4K UHD) and M5 (27” or 32” Full HD) monitors have Samsung’s Tizen-OS-based Smart Hub smart-TV platform. These include access to apps for locally-popular video-on-demand entertainment services delivered through that platform. Both sets connect to your home network via Wi-FI 5 technology and they support peripheral connectivity via Bluetooth 4.2 or USB. The Wi-Fi functionality even goes further to work with Wi-Fi-based mirroring technologies and allows the monitor to be part of your DLNA Home Media Network. As well you can stream audio and video from supported Apple devices using the AirPlay 2 protocol.

There is even support for Samsung’s Wireless DeX capability where your Samsung Galaxy S8 or newer Android phone uses the TV as a desktop-style interface. Add to this a virtual-machine which works with Microsoft Office so you can work with Office-based documents stored in the cloud.

The monitors have a remote control so you can manage the smart-TV interface in a “lean-back” manner. This even has the ability to work with the Samsung Bixby voice assistant thanks to a microphone integrated in the remote control. As well, they have two HDMI inputs that support HDR10 and HDMI-CEC. That means you have room to connect your computer and another video peripheral like a set-top box or games console. The M7 model also has USB-C with 65W Power Delivery, Display Port alt connectivity and USB-hub functionality to boot.

A question that will come up is whether the monitors will have an integrated broadcast-TV tuner of any sort. As far as I know, they don’t have that kind of feature although the initial models are being launched in to Canada, the USA and China. But this may be a feature considered of importance for customers in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. This is because these countries place significant importance on access to free-to-air TV especially from their national public-service broadcasters.

On the other hand, the DLNA ability that they offer may work hand in glove with broadcast-LAN boxes and PVRs that support this standard. Or Samsung could build SAT>IP client support in to these monitors where they are targeted to British and European markets at least. This is due to this standard being supported for satellite broadcast-LAN devices and, in some cases, terrestrial and cable TV within those markets.

But what I do see of Samsung’s effort with the M7 and M5 monitors is that they are maintaining interest in the market niche where a computer monitor is expected also to serve as a TV for entertainment purposes. This market niche can be further supported through having a wide range of these types of monitors including some game-ready variants and units that can work well with multi-display setups.

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A business Thunderbolt 3 dock that is also an external graphics module

Article

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock product photo (UK package) courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics dock – a Thunderbolt 3 business docking station that has external graphics module functionality

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock review: Glorious external NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics | Windows Central

My Comments

In the average business context, Thunderbolt 3 is seen primarily as a powerful “connection pipe” for port-replication docks. The external-graphics-module benefit isn’t considered an advantage in this use case unless the user is doing multimedia editing, computer programming or number-crunching workloads involving large data sets.

But in 2018, Lenovo issued to the US market and some other markets their Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock (model: G0A10170UL) that has external-graphics-module functionality as well as port-replication dock functionality which includes RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. This uses a soldered-in NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics processor and 4Gb display memory, with this GPU considered as the economy model in NVIDIA’s desktop-class dedicated graphics processor lineup.at the time of release.

The Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is not just seen as being fit for a desktop workspace but also being fit for travel. This is due to its relatively small size compared to the typical “card-cage” external graphics module. It is because the device has the same size and weight as the typical business-class port-replicator dock with the power supply unit being of a similar size to those that accompany this class of product.

The article mentioned that, at the time of review, there were issues with software bugs including not cooperating with onboard dedicated graphics setups in some laptops. Usually this will have been rectified through firmware, BIOS and driver updates that should have taken place by now.

But, like a lot of small external graphics modules that have soldered-in graphics silicon, the capability may be enough to give your laptop a bit of extra “pep” for some non-demanding graphics-based tasks. This may be about lightweight photo and video editing or people who aren’t really “core” gamers.

The Windows Central article also raised the prospect of number-crunching activities with large data sets. But the problem that shows up here is that regular office productivity software, especially spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, doesn’t offer the ability to take advantage of high-performance computing setups like discrete graphics processors.

As I have mentioned before, the combination of Intel integrated graphics and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for a laptop computer can encourage the use of external graphics modules as a fit-for-purpose upgrade path. This is being underscored with Intel Tiger Lake silicon that comes with Intel Xe integrated-graphics silicon that is highly capable compared to before along with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity compatible with Thunderbolt 3 hosts and peripherals.

It is also another example where Lenovo thought outside the box when it came to offering external graphics modules. Here, the Lenovo Legion BoostStation “card-cage” external graphics module didn’t just come with the space to install a graphics card, but it also came with space to install a 2/5” or 3.5” SATA-connected hard disk or solid-state drive. This is compared to a lot of “card-cage” types that only have capacity to install a graphics card and can woo those of us moving away from desktops to laptops.

By seeing the idea of external-graphics-module products pitched towards everyday business users and their cost-conscious IT departments, it could legitimise this product class towards mainstream computer users. But further work needs to take place to see a wider range of business-class eGPU docks with differing peripheral-connection and graphics-silicon options, including whatever offers mid-tier multimedia-creation abilities, and to see multiple vendors offer these docks to the market.

Mainstreaming these external-graphics-module devices can also make them appeal to user classes who don’t necessarily have the disposable income to spend on high-performance computing. This is due to downward pressure on these devices’ prices and can be facilitated by Intel becoming a third force when it comes to performance-level graphics silicon.

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Product Review–Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer that uses USB-C or Bluetooth host-device connectivity to print out labels using Brother’s TZe family of label tapes. This means it doesn’t use your home network for this purpose, rather it uses local peripheral connectivity approaches.

Brother PT-P910BT Cube Bluetooth label printer

The Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer

Brother PT-P910BT Cube P-Touch Bluetooth label printerThe Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer is similar to the PT-P710BT label printer that I have previously reviewed. Here, these devices work on an USB power or a user-replaceable battery pack installed within the unit. They talk to the host computing device via a USB or Bluetooth connection working in a similar vein to a direct-connected printer.

They are dependent on Brother’s P-Touch software for regular Windows or Mac computers or the iPrint&Label for iOS and Android mobile-platform devices. As well, the use Brother’s TZe cartridge-based direct-thermal tape platform.

Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer with 36mm tape cartridge inside

This can use the 36mm TZe label tapes that are wider

But the similarities stop here. The PT-P910BT which is finished in white is capable of working with TZe label cartridges that use 36mm-wide tape in addition to the narrower label tapes. That is compared to the PT-P710BT using label tapes with a maximum width of 24mm. Even if it appears to be thicker to accommodate wider tape, the Brother PT-P910BT label printer can be laid flat or be stood upright.

Brother PT-P910BT P-Touch Bluetooth label printer USB-C socket

Uses a USB-C socket for data connectivity or power charging

The PT-P710BT label printer used a USB micro-B port as the equipment-side connection. But the PT-P910BT label printer implements the USB-C port as the equipment-side connector and is furnished with a USB-C to USB-A cable so you can connect it to regular computers or USB chargers using the traditional USB-A fitting.

Here, it has become the first Brother label printer that I have had for review that uses a USB-C connection for charging or wired connection to host computing devices.

Setup

Setting the Brother PT-P910BT label printer up with a mobile-platform device was simple. Here, you held down the power switch until the light flashed to make the printer discoverable by the mobile device, then you had to use iOS or Android to pair the printer to your smartphone or tablet.

Brother PT-P910BT connected to Samsung Galaxy S8+ Android phone

This can connect directly to your USB-C-equipped Android smartphone using a USB-C cable. You have to select USB as the connection type on iPrint&Scan in this case.

After that, I had to make sure that Brother’s iPrint&Label Android software was downloaded from Google’s Play Store and installed on my Android smartphone. I also tried connecting the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer to my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Android smartphone using a USB-C to USB-C cable and used the same iPrint&Label app to make a label using this connection. This was feasible once I tapped on the device name and then selected USB as the connection type to use within the same app.

For your Windows computer, you had to download then install the Brother P-Touch software, with an installation step having you connect the printer to your computer via USB. The Bluetooth setup process became awkward at some point because the Brother software invoked Windows and failed to discover even when the printer was in Bluetooth-discovery mode and the computer could “hunt” for Bluetooth devices.

Use

Once set up, the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer was able to turn out labels very quickly and clearly. It

Brother PT-P910BT P-Touch label printer and Samsung Galaxy S8+ Android smartphone

But it still works as a Bluetooth labeller

didn’t matter whether were working with the P-Touch Editor on Windows or iPrint&Label on Android.

The printer can work with two Bluetooth-connected host devices concurrently but you will need to wait until it has finished printing before you can submit your label job from the other device.

The single light can be very confusing when it comes to knowing whether the unit is on an active Bluetooth connection or not, or if there is enough power in the battery. There is a second light near the USB socket to indicate whether it is charging or not. Personally, I would like to see a steady blue light glow during a Bluetooth connection and flash while it is in discoverable (pairing) mode as a way to make Bluetooth setup easier.

Limitations and Points of improvement

The Windows driver software needs to adopt a simplified setup approach that is agnostic of whether the device is connected to the host computer via USB or Bluetooth. It could allow you to install all the software then begin the Bluetooth pair-up process using the Find New Device option in Windows 10’s Settings menu.

As well, it will also be of concern for those of us who switch between USB wired and Bluetooth wireless connectivity on a whim. This may be to allow a user who forgot to charge the Brother P-Touch Bluetooth label printer up before doing a labelling run to connect to the host computer via USB for that job with that computer powering the labeller. This is even though the user uses Bluetooth as a preferred connection for their setup.

Brother could also set a good example for USB-C peripheral devices like labellers by fully implementing USB Power Delivery for charging or powering these devices. This could allow for fast-charging using ordinary USB PD hardware, like what is being expected for Android phones.

Conclusion – Is it a tool or toy?

This is an example of Brother offering an incremental update for a P-Touch labelling product and offering it as an updated variant that works with the largest of the TZe tape sizes. Again, this Brother PT-P910BT labeller comes across as a tool especially when you are wanting to do any labelling “on the go” while you are using

It is more about taking an incremental approach to improving and updating products rather than taking a radical new design approach. But the Brother PT-P910BT underscores the idea of using your smartphone or tablet and its Bluetooth connectivity or USB connectivity in the case of recent Android USB-C-equipped smartphones to turn out labels.

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Windows 10 to offer greater control over graphics processors

Article

Dell XPS 17 laptop press picture courtesy of Dell Australia

Microsoft will be introducing support for better management of graphics processors in computers like the Dell XPS 17 that have Thunderbolt 3 and onboard discrete graphics processors

Windows 10 to give power users more control over their GPUs | Bleeping Computer

New Windows 10 Build 20190 brings default GPU & GPU per application settings along with new post-update experience in Dev channel | Windows Central

My Comments

Previously Windows provided operating-system-level support for handling multiple graphics processors. This is due to the reality of many mainstream laptops being equipped with a discrete graphics processor along with the integrated graphics chipset, providing the ability for users to switch between high-performance or power efficiency depending on whether the computer is on AC power or batteries.

Akitio Node Thunderbolt 3 "card cage" external graphics module - press image courtesy of Akitio

.. so users can choose whether an app uses the onboard discrete graphics processor or a desktop graphics card installed in an external graphics module like this Akitio Node unit

This was achieved either at hardware or graphics-chipset level with special software like NVIDIA Optimus achieving this goal. Then Microsoft recently added this functionality to Windows to allow you to determine whether an application chooses the higher-performance or power-efficient graphics processor.

But in an upcoming feature upgrade, Microsoft will allow fine-tuned control over which graphics chipset applications use. The function is in testing through their Windows Insider beta-testing program.

It will cater towards users who run more than two discrete graphics processors on their system such as a gaming rig with two graphics cards or a laptop / all-in-one / low-profile desktop that has a discrete GPU and Thunderbolt 3 and is connected to an external graphics module. This kind of configuration is primarily offered on Intel-powered premium consumer and business clamshell laptops with a screen size of 15” or more as well as most of the Intel-powered performance-focused laptops.

Here, the users can specify which graphics processor is the one for high-performance computing or can specify that a particular application uses a particular graphics processor.

It is also being driven by the rise of USB4 and Thunderbolt 4, where there will be an effort to make these high-performance USB-C-based peripheral-connection ports ubiquitous and affordable. This could then open up the path for laptops and low-profile / all-in-one desktops to have these ports with their presence being sold on the ability to upgrade the computer’s graphics with an external graphics module.

In the case of a laptop equipped with a discrete GPU and Thunderbolt 3, users may find that the onboard discrete GPU is really a “mobile-grade” type that is intended to be power-efficient but doesn’t perform as good as a desktop graphics card. Here, they would install a desktop graphics card in to a “card-cage” external graphics module and connect it to the computer for better graphics performance.

This may work as a way to allow the use of “fit-for-purpose” graphics processors like a mobile-workstation GPU for a CAD program alongside a gaming-grade GPU for a game. Or a user could run a video-editing program specifically with a graphics processor that is good at rendering the video content while they have another graphics processor available for other tasks.

Personally, I would also like to see Windows offer the ability for users to create an order of preference for high-performance graphics processors either for default high-performance use or for a particular application’s needs. This would come in to its own for graphics-card reviewers who are comparing against their “daily-driver” graphics card, or people who are moving a Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptop between multiple external graphics modules.

Similarly, the control over multiple-graphics-processor setups that Windows is to offer could also evolve towards “task-specific” GPU use. Here, it could be about focusing a graphics chipset towards batch calculation workloads rather than display-focused workloads. This is because people involved with video-editing, media transcoding, statistics, cryptocurrency or similar tasks may prefer to use the kind of chipset that is a “number-cruncher” for those tasks rather than one that excels at interactive computing.

At least Microsoft is working towards answering the needs of power users who deal with two or more graphics processors as part of their personal-computing lives.

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Apple to use the ARM microarchitecture in newer Mac computers

Article

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple Mac platform is to move towards apple’s own silicon that uses ARM RISC microarchitecture

It’s Official: The Mac Is Transitioning to Apple-Made Silicon | Gizmodo

My Comments

This week, Apple used its WWDC software developers’ conference to announce that the Macintosh regular-computer platform will move away from Intel’s silicon to their own ARM-based silicon. This is to bring that computing platform in to line with their iOS/iPadOS mobile computing platform, their tVOS Apple TV set-top platform and their Watch platform that uses Apple’s own silicon.

Here, this silicon will use the ARM RISC instruction-set microarchitecture rather than the x86/x64 architecture used with Intel silicon. But Apple is no stranger to moving the Macintosh computing platform between microarchitectures.

Initially this platform used Motorola 680×0/PowerPC silicon which used a Motorola RISC instruction set microarchitecture. This platform initially had more chops compared to Intel’s x86 platform especially when it came to graphics and multimedia. Then, when Apple realised that Intel offered cost-effective microprocessors using the x86-64 microarchitecture and had the same kind of multimedia prowess as the Motorola processors, they moved the Macintosh platform to the Intel silicon.

But Apple had to take initiatives to bring the MacOS and Mac application software over to this platform. This required them to supply software development tools to the software-development community to allow programs that they write to be compiled for both Motorola and Intel instruction sets. They also furnished an instruction-set translator or “cross-compiler” called Rosetta to Mac users who had Intel-based Macs so they can run extant software that was written for Motorola silicon.

For a few years, this caused some awkwardness with Mac users, especially those who were early adopters, due to either the availability of software natively compiled for Intel silicon. Or they were finding that their existing Motorola-native software was running too slowly on their Intel-based computers thanks to the Rosetta instruction-set-translation software working between their program and the computer’s silicon.

Apple will be repeating this process in a very similar way to the initial Intel transition by the provision of software-development tools that build for Intel i86-64 based silicon and their own ARM-RISC based silicon. As well they will issue Rosetta2 which does the same job as the original Rosetta but translate i86-64 CISC machine instructions to the ARM RISC instruction set that their own silicon uses. Rosetta2 will be part of the next major version of MacOS which will be known as Big Sur.

The question that will be raised amongst developers and users of high-resource-load software like games or engineering software is what impact this conversion will have on that level of software. Typically most games are issued for the main games consoles and Windows-driven Intel-architecture PCs over Macs or tvOS-based Apple TV set-top devices, with software ports for these platforms coming later on in the software’s evolution.

There is an expectation that the Rosetta2 “cross-compiler” software could work this kind of software properly to a point that it can satisfactorily perform on a computer using integrated graphics infrastructure and working at Full HD resolution. Then there will be the issue of making sure it works with a Mac that uses discrete graphics infrastructure and higher display resolutions, thus giving the MacOS platform some “gaming chops”.

I see the rise of ARM RISC silicon in the tradition regular computing world and having it exist alongside classic Intel-based silicon in this computing space like what is happening with Apple and Microsoft as a challenge for computer software development. It is although some work has taken place within the UNIX / Linux space to facilitate the development of software for multiple computer types thus leading to this space bringing forth the open-source and shared-source software movements. This is more so with Microsoft where there is an expectation to have Intel-based silicon and ARM-based silicon exist alongside each other for the life of a common desktop computing platform, with each silicon type serving particular use cases.

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Product Review–Brother DSMobile DS-940DW mobile scanner

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner which is a highly-portable pure-play document scanner pitched towards the mobile office.

This battery-powered mobile scanner can scan to a regular computer via a USB connection or via a Wi-Fi link , whether you are using the one it creates or an existing small or home Wi-Fi network. As well, you can use it to scan documents to your iOS or Android mobile device using a Wi-Fi link, either one it creates or an extant small network.

As well, you can use it offline to scan documents to a removable microSD card so you can then download them as files to your computer at a later stage. In this case, you can remove the card and install it in your computer’s SD card reader to get at your documents or while you have the scanner connected to your regular computer you see that SD card as a removable storage device with all your scanned documents.

Photo – Insert high-resolution photo of product INLINE

Brother DSMobile DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner

Scan Connections
Colour USB 3.0
600dpi x 600dpi

Single-pass auto-duplex

Wi-Fi
Own-access-point Wi-FiIPv6

Price

Scanner

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$299

The scanner itself

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner scan heads detail

Two scan heads allow the Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner to scan both sides of a page simultaneously/
The clamshell design makes it easy to remove jammed paper.

The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner is powered from an internal rechargeable battery or an external USB-based power supply which you have to provide. That could be through your computer, a USB charger or a USB powerbank. But the same USB power supply also charges the battery whether you are running the scanner or not.

Connectivity and Setup

The Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner has an easy-to-find slider switch on the right-hand side that selects between SD card operation, direct USB connection and Wi-Fi network connection. This makes it easier for the user to switch between the mode appropriate to their scanning needs, be it to scan to their laptop via USB or to their mobile device via Wi-Fi or simply to scan to the installed SD card.

Direct connection

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner USB 3.0 microB socket

You connect the scanner to the host computer or a power supply using a USB 3.0 or USB-C cable with a USB 3.0 microB plug on it

If you intend to use the Brother DS-940DW scanner with your regular computer via USB, you connect it to the host computer using a USB 3.0 cable supplied with the scanner.

But if your computer is equipped only with USB-C connectors like some new Ultrabooks or you use a USB-C charger to power your scanner, you would need to purchase a USB Type-C to  USB 3.0 microB cable (OfficeWorks Australia, Office Depot USA, B&H Photo Video USA,Walmart, Amazon) rather than use the supplied USB Type-A cable.

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner microSD card slot

microSD card slot for offline scanning to microSD cards

In this case, if you did use the scanner offline and scanned documents to an SD card installed within the machine, the SD card will be presented to your computer’s operating system as another logical storage volume. This is similar to what happens when you are using a USB memory stick or an SD card reader.

Wi-Fi network connection

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner operation mode switch

It is easy to change between WI-Fi, dirrect or offline scanning at the flick of a switch

The scanner can be connected to the computer via a USB cable or via a Wi-Fi network, whether one that it creates or an existing small network. But setting it up to work with an existing Wi-Fi network requires you to work it as its own Wi-Fi access point then log in to a specified Web page which has a “Wireless Setup Wizard” to associate it with the existing network. You can use WPS-based push-button or PIN setup if your access point or router supports these methods. For this function, there is a hardware button located on the side of the scanner near the operation mode switch.

I am identifying the issue of having this mobile scanner on an existing small Wi-Fi network due to the idea of setting up these mobile devices as part of a mobile network where there are more than two devices to be on that network. It is in addition to having this same device work as part of your home or small-business network.

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner control panel detail

Control panel with buttons to start scanning, determine whether to scan in colour or black and white or scan both sides of the page. Another button allows you to determine whether the scanned results are to be a JPEG image file or a PDF document file

When the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW mobile scanner is connected to the host computer via USB, it exposes a Mass Storage device class for the internal microSD card reader. This is in conjunction to vendor-specific devices that depend on the host computer running a Brother-supplied driver and scan-monitor software.

There is a default arrangement that if you enable Wi-Fi mode on the scanner, it will check for previously-configured networks before it goes to own-access-point mode which is indicated by a steady Wi-Fi light. Successful connection to a previously-configured network is simply identified by a steady Wi-Fi light after a bit of flashing.

Software installation

If you are setting the Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner to work with your regular computer, you would need to install the drivers from the Brother support Website for this machine to work. You will also be supplied with the Brother iPront&Scan software which can do most of the essential scanning tasks.

Brother throws in complementary software like a business-card scanning app so you can scan your pile of customers’ or business partners’ business cards in to a contact-management database. This is software you can install when you download the driver and software package or install at a later date.

Mobile users will need to install the Brother iPrint&Scan app from their mobile platform’s app store. Here, they will need to use this simple software to scan the documents in to their device and “take them further” as they see fit.

Document Handling

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner ready to scan A4 page

Scanning a standard A4 or letter document page

The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW can only handle one page at at time but can scan both sides of that page at once. The double-sided scanning approach is similar to some of Brother’s multifunction printers that use single-pass duplex scanning.

When you scan a document, you need to make sure that the black paper guide is lined up against the original document’s edge before you start the scanning process. Here, you are making sure that the document isn’t skewing or likely to jam.

To deal with paper jams, you press the front of the scanner above the document-feed slot in order to expose the scanning heads to remove the misfed original. Here, the “clamshell approach” makes it easier to rectify any paper jams.

Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner ready to scan an ID card

Ready to scan an ID card of standard “credit-card” thickness and with embossing – it can.

The Brother DS-940DW was able to scan ID cards, even those with embossed characters properly. I would see this as being important where users have to scan them to prove a customer’s identity during an “on-the-road” transaction.

Walk-up functions

The Brother DS-940DW has a built-in SDHC-compliant microSD card drive so you can scan documents offline to a microSD card. This is presented to the host computer as a standard USB Mass Storage Device and you use your operating system’s file manager to get at your scanned files which exist on that SD card.

I wouldn’t really expect this to work properly with the idea of showing your scanned photos through a smart TV or similar device that has its own USB port. It is because most of these dedicated-purpose devices don’t do a good job at handling multiple-function devices connected to their USB ports thanks to their firmware not supporting USB hubs as a device class.

Computer functions

I have used the scanner with the Brother iPrint&Scan software and found that it is competent as a basic scanning package whether to store the scan to your computer’s file system or to an online storage service.

At the moment, the Brother iPrint&Scan desktop scanning software works on a “pull-scan” approach where you have to start the scanning job from the software rather than a “push-scan” approach pressing the machine’s START/STOP button to initiate the scan job. This is due to the scan monitor software associated with the machine and providing this functionality not installing properly. I have addressed this issue previously on this site due to various scan-monitor programs taking time to respond properly when you start a scan job on the printer or scanner, with the idea of operating systems undertaking this role.

The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner works with the Brother iPrint&Scan mobile app available on both the Apple and Google app stores. Here, it worked properly where you can simply save the scan to your mobile device or share it with other apps that handle the supported file types using the “share to” shortcut that iOS and Android provide.

Scan speed and quality

The machine can scan the pages you feed through it quickly and yields a high-quality reproduction of these pages. I had tried it with an ordinary A4 document, a snapshot photo, two till receipts and two ID cards and this was proven for each of them. With the photo, there wasn’t any difference with the colour saturation that was yielded.

If you are scanning till receipts with the scanner, it is a good idea to set the machine or your scanning software to scan the receipt single-sided. This will avoid problems with reverse-side text that may “come through” during the scan which may be a problem with receipts coming from devices that are loaded with “branded” paper that has advertising material printed on the back.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

A key issue that I found with the Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner was a poor user experience when I enrolled it with an existing Wi-Fi home network from my smartphone. This could be improved upon through having a native mobile platform app for configuring this scanner’s network connectivity. It can include the ability to transfer a network’s connection details that are stored in your mobile device to the scanner as part of configuring that device.

For those of us who use a regular computer and the scanner’s Web user experience for configuring it to work with an existing Wi-Fi network, that user experience could be improved with an indicator that highlights successful connection to that network. As well, a hardware switch could be used to toggle between the scanner’s own network and an existing network, which may come in handy for troubleshooting or if you don’t want to use an existing network that you set up the scanner for.

It could also benefit from the full set of USB 3.1 specifications including the Type-C connection and USB Power Delivery for quick charging. Most likely I would see Brother offer this connection in a newer portable printing devices as the USB Type-C connection becomes the norm for portable computer equipment.

I also see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner being an ideal device to implement Mopria Scan driver-free scanning technology (Mopria Alliance press release PDF) which is currently implemented as an app for Android devices.

As well, it could support a transparency-scanning mode that capitalises on the single-pass auto-duplex scan method. Here, one of the scanning heads could simply be a white backlight while the other simply reads the image on the film. This would come in to its own with a wide range of applications like photographers with their negatives and slides, the medical profession with their film-based X-rays or businesses who have archived documents using microfilm and similar technologies.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I do see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner as an agile highly portable pure-play document scanner that can answer many different needs. Here, it works well with anyone whose office is the driver’s seat of a car or the back of a van and can even answer the requirements to use mobile-platform devices as one’s primary workplace technology.

It is easy to consider a mobile scanner, especially a network-capable machine, to be a toy but I do see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW mobile scanner as a tool. This is more so for mobile workers who need to scan receipts for work transactions incurred while travelling or to scan documents such as work authorisations and customer ID at the customer’s premises.

The fact that you can switch between scanning to an SD card, a USB-connected host or a Wi-Fi-connected host using a hardware switch makes the job of selecting the right mode for the job easier. For example, a mobile professional could switch the scanner over to “scan-to-card” mode and scan the fuel receipt to an SD card installed in the unit and serving as a “digital receipt shoebox”. Then they scan that work authorisation that their customer had signed when they visited and use the Wi-Fi link with their iPad running an email app to send the signed authorisation to their office.

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Logitech improves on the XBox Adaptive Controller with a cost-effective control package

Articles

Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit press picture courtesy of Logitech International

Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit has what you need for the XBox Adaptive Controller

Logitech’s $100 kit for the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes accessible gaming cheaper | CNet

Microsoft went all in on accessible design. This is what happened afterwards | FastCompany

Previous HomeNetworking01.info coverage on the XBox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft runs a Super Bowl ad about inclusive gaming

From the horse’s mouth

Logitech

Adaptive Gaming Kit (Product Page, Press Release, Blog Post)

My Comments

Recently, Microsoft launched the XBox Adaptive Controller as an accessible games-console controller for people who face motion and dexterity-related disabilities. They even promoted it in a TV commercial ran during this year’s Super Bowl football match, which would have been considered to go against the grain for the usual sporting and video-game audiences.

This has been part of Microsoft’s step towards inclusionary gaming and I had written in the article about that controller not just to focus towards providing video gaming for disabled people. But I also called out the therapeautic value that some games can have for elderly people as well as disabled people with Microsoft offering a lower barrier to entry for independent game developers to create games that underscore that concept.

It has actually been underscored in a recent CNET video article about the XBox Adaptive Controller being used to help a US war veteran who lost some of his motion and dexterity in a motorcycle accident.

Click or tap here to play the video

But Logitech have taken this a step further by offering an accessory kit with all the necessary controls for US$99. This kit, known as the Adaptive Gaming Kit, makes it more affordable for these people so you can have an accessible gaming setup to suit your particular needs without having to choose and buy the necessary accessories. Here, it is important especially if a person’s needs will change over time and you don’t want to have to buy newer accessories to suit that need.

The package comes with rigid and flexible mats with Velcro anchor points for the various buttons and other controls. The flexible mats can even allow the controls to be anchored around a chair’s arms or other surfaces while the whole kit can allow for the equipment to be set up and packed up with minimal effort. The controls all have their own Velcro anchor points and screw holes for anchoring to other surfaces.

Logitech used their own intellectual capital in designing the kit while working with Microsoft to evolve the product. Here, they implemented their own mechanical-switch technology that is part of their high-end keyboards including their low-profile switches used in their low-profile keyboard range. The large buttons have stabilisers built in to them so you can press them from anywhere on the button’s surface. This leads to them not reinventing the wheel when it comes to the product’s design or manufacture because of the use of common technology.

What I have liked about Logitech’s Adaptive Gaming Kit is that the idea of accessible gaming comes at a price point that represents value for money. This is compared to various assistive-technology solutions which tend to require the user to pay a king’s ransom to acquire the necessary equipment. It has often led towards the government or charitable sector not getting their money’s worth out of their disabled-person support programs due to the high cost of the necessary technology.

Welcome to the new age of making assistive technology become more mainstream, not just for disabled users but for the realities associated with the ageing population such as ageing Baby Boomers and people living longer.

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Using a TV as a computer monitor

A regular TV may not serve well as the only computer monitor for your computing and video-entertainment needs

An issue that will crop up with home computing nowadays is whether to use a TV as the only display device for your computer as well as providing video entertainment.

This is an idea that tends to appeal to those of us who are living in small areas like college dorms or small apartments or simply have this kind of space as our own personal living space in a shared environment.

In this context, I am assuming that you are using the screen as part of a desktop computing setup whether by using a traditional desktop computer or by connecting your laptop computer to the display and having it serve as the primary display. I am not talking about running the display you want to use as part of a multiple-screen setup or for occasional group-viewing use.

There will be issues that will preclude this kind of use for a TV serving this role for your computer.

Pixel Density

An issue you will need to pay attention to is the pixel density your display device offers especially if you are intending to use it as your only display device for your computing and entertainment needs.

A 15” Full HD laptop would offer a pixel density of 141.2 pixels per inch while a 32” Full HD TV would work at 68.84 pixels per inch. Apple’s iPhones that implement the Retina screen would work at 326ppi while their MacBook Pro Retina screen would work at 227ppi.

Here. the display that works at something like 141.2 pixels per inch or more would make text or graphics look sharp and clear especially if you are working close to the screen. It may not matter if you are playing video games or viewing multimedia content at a “lean-back” distance.

Here, if you are buying a TV or monitor with a screen size of 27” or less, make sure you are looking for a model that uses Full HD (1080p) resolution. Larger screen sizes can be served through the use of a value-priced 32”-55” 4K UHDTV device.

Your computer’s display infrastructure needs to have an HDMI 2.0 output, preferably HDMI 2.0a for HDR10-capable displays. This may be fulfilled by most recent discrete GPUs and some recent Intel integrated graphics setups may also support this specification. If your computer or external graphics module uses a DisplayPort video output, you may need to use a DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor. Beware some of these devices may require the use of an active DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor.

Input Lag and Display Responsiveness

This is an issue that will affect gameplay where you are expected to respond quickly to the situation that is taking place in a game you are playing. It is more of concern when you are playing any fast-paced game.

The input lag problem is the time between when you do something with your game controller, keyboard or mouse and when the effect of that is painted on the screen. Then there will be issues where the screen doesn’t appear with the latest activity or isn’t quick enough to represent all of the activity including what your opponents are up to.

This is brought about due to most domestic TVs being equipped with a lot of video-processing circuity logic that deals with the incoming signal before it is painted on the screen. The time it takes may be just enough for dealing with video content but not interactive gaming content.

Some sets will offer a “gaming mode” to minimise lag times and this typically reduces the use of video-processing circuitry or optimises it for fast response. Also be aware that a significant number of large-screen TVs are appearing with features and graphics performance very similar to gaming-class computer monitors. This is due to the fact that games consoles and “gaming-rig” computers including Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptops connected to gaming-class external-graphics-module setups are connected to the large screen TV for impressive multiplayer game play.

In a lot of cases, most TVs wouldn’t work well as a sole display device, with this applying more towards small cheap HDTVs. But they can work well as a secondary screen or for large-screen group-viewing use.

What about purposing a computer monitor for TV use

Lenovo ThinkVision X1 4K monitor

You could purpose a computer monitor with built-in speakers as a TV by adding a set-top box or similar peripheral

Another approach would be to use a suitably-sized monitor as your TV set, especially if it is equipped with integrated speakers. In most cases, the monitor won’t have a remote control for “lean-back” viewing because you intend to use it with your computer.

You may come across a “TV monitor” which is a computer monitor that has an integrated TV tuner and is pitched for desktop use. These are available in countries with strong support for free-to-air TV like UK, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Typically they will have a Full HD screen with a size of 32” or smaller but have display electronics optimised for computer use.

On the other hand, your computer monitor would need to be equipped with a spare HDMI input that has HDCP support. Here, you use a set-top box or PVR that has an HDMI output to receive TV broadcasts.

If you subscribe to traditional pay TV, your pay-TV provider will lease you a set-top box or PVR as part of the service and this can work well if free-to-air TV is provided via the pay-TV platform. On the other hand, your local consumer-electronics store will have set-top boxes or PVRs that work with free-to-air TV and these units will display high-definition channels at their proper resolution.

A broadcast-LAN setup like SAT>IP can work with your computer if it is running the appropriate client software. As well some platforms like SAT>IP are supported by set-top boxes that connect to your monitor’s HDMI input. You may also find that some Internet-based set-top-box platforms will offer access to real-time video streaming through the broadcasters’ video-on-demand platforms or a similar application.

You may find that some games consoles like the XBox One will have a TV-tuner module supplied as an option. Similarly, you may be able to use a USB-based TV-tuner module or a TV-tuner card as a way to purpose your computer for TV-viewing.

On the other hand, if you are just content with Netflix and similar online services, you can just get by with using the service’s Website and viewing the video content on the monitor in a full-screen arrangement. As well, AirPlay (facilitated with Apple TV) or Chromecast can work when it comes to “throwing” the video content from your smartphone or tablet to the monitor.

Conclusion

You will find that using one display for your computing and video entertainment needs may cut it for some applications but not for others like full-on gaming.

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USB 4.0 is to arrive as a local-connection standard

Articles

Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port on Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Thunderbolt 3 like on this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 paves the way for USB 4

USB 4.0 to adopt Thunderbolt 3 with 40Gbps data transfer speeds | NeoWin

With USB 4, Thunderbolt and USB will converge | TechCrunch

USB 4 Debuts With Twice the Throughput and Thunderbolt 3 Support | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

USB Implementers’ Forum

USB Promoter Group Announces USB4 Specification (Press Release – PDF)

Intel

Intel Takes Steps To Enable Thunderbolt 3 Everywhere – Releases Protocol (Press Release)

My Comments

Intel and the ISB Implementer’s Forum have worked together towards the USB 4.0 specification. This will be primarily about an increased bandwidth version of USB that will also bake in Thunderbolt 3 technology for further-increased throughput.

USB 4.0 will offer twice the bandwidth of USB 3.1 thanks to more “data lanes”. This will lead to 40Gb throughput along the line. It will use the USB Type-C connector and will take a very similar approach to the USB 3.0 standard which relied on the older USB connection types like USB-A, where a “best-case” situation takes place regarding bandwidth but allowing for backward compatibility. There will also be the requirement to use higher-performance cables rated for this standard when connecting your host system to a peripheral device using this standard.

Opening up Thunderbolt 3

Intel is opening up Thunderbolt 3 with a royalty-free non-exclusive licensing regime. It is in addition to baking the Thunderbolt 3 circuitry in to their standard system-on-chip designs rather than requiring a particular “Alpine Ridge” interface chip to be used by both the host and peripheral. This will open up Thunderbolt 3 towards interface chipset designers and the like including the possibility of computing applications based on AMD or ARM-microarchitecture silicon to benefit from this technology.

This effort can make Thunderbolt-3-equipped computers and peripherals more affordable and can open this standard towards newer use cases. For example, handheld games consoles, mobile-platform tablets or ultraportable “Always Connected” laptops could benefit from features like external graphics moduies. It may also benefit people who build their own computer systems such as “gaming rigs” by allowing Thunderbolt 3 to appear in affordable high-performance motherboards and expansion cards, including “pure-retrofit” cards that aren’t dependent on any other particular circuitry on the motherboard.

It is also about integrating the Thunderbolt specification in to the USB 4 specification as a “superhighway” option rather than calling it a separate feature. As well, Thunderbolt 3 and the USB 4 specification can be the subject of increased innovation and cost-effective hardware.

Where to initially

Initially I would see USB 4.0 appear in “system-expansion” applications like docks or external-graphics modules, perhaps also in “direct-attached-storage” applications which are USB-connected high-performance hard-disk subsystems. Of course it will lead towards the possibility of a laptop, all-in-one or low-profile computer being connected to an “extended-functionality” module with dedicated high-performance graphics, space for hard disks or solid-state storage, perhaps an optical drive amongst other things.

Another use case that would be highlighted is virtual reality and augmented reality where you are dealing with headsets that have many sensors and integrated display and audio technology. They would typically be hooked up to computer devices including devices the size of the early-generation Walkman cassette players that you wear on you or even the size of a smartphone. It is more so with the rise of ultra-small “next-unit-of-computing” devices which pack typically desktop computer power in a highly-compact housing.

Of course, this technology will roll out initially as a product differentiator for newer premium equipment that will be preferred by those wanting “cutting-edge” technology. Then it will appear to a wider usage base as more chipsets with this technology appear and are turned out in quantity.

Expect the USB 4.0 standard to be seen as evolutionary as more data moves quickly along these lines.

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The MicroSD card undergoes evolutionary changes

Articles

1TB microSD cards will boost the storage of your device, if you can afford it | TechRadar

From the horse’s mouth

SD Association

microSD Express – The Fastest Memory Card For Mobile Devices (PDF – Press Release)

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

The microSD card which is used as a removeable storage option in most “open-frame” smartphones and tablets and increasingly being used in laptops has gained two significant improvements at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The first of these improvements is the launching of microSD cards that can store 1 terabyte of data. Micron pitched the first of these devices while SanDisk, owned by Western Digital and also a strong player with the SD Card format, offered their 1Tb microSD card which is the fastest microSDXC card at this capacity.

The new SD Express card specification, part of the SD 7.1 Specification, provides a “best-case high-throughput” connection based on the same interface technology used in a regular computer for fixed storage or expansion cards. The microSD Express variant which is the second improvement launched at this same show takes the SD Express card specification to the microSD card size.

The SD Express specification, now applying to the microSD card size, achieves a level of backward compatibility for host devices implementing orthodox SD-card interfaces. This is achieved through a set of electrical contacts on the card for PCI Express and NVMe interfaces along with the legacy SD Card contacts, with the interfacing to the storage silicon taking place in the card.

As well, there isn’t the need to create a specific host-interface chipset for SD card use if the application is to expressly use this technology and it still has the easy upgradeability associated with the SD card. But most SD Express applications will also have the SD card interface chipset to support the SD cards that are in circulation.

This will lead to the idea of fast high-capacity compact removeable solid-state storage for a wide range of computing applications especially where size matters. This doesn’t matter whether the finished product has a smaller volume or to have a higher effective circuit density leading to more functionality within the same physical “box”.

One use case that was pitched is the idea of laptops or tablets, especially ultraportable designs, implementing this technology as a primary storage. Here, the microSD Express cards don’t take up the same space as the traditional SATA or M2 solid-state storage devices. There is also the ability for users to easily upsize their computers’ storage capacity to suit their current needs, especially if they bought the cheapest model with the lowest amount of storage.

Photography and videography will be another key use case especially when the images or footage being taken are of a 4K UHDTV or higher resolution and/or have high dynamic range. It will also be of benefit for highly-compact camera applications like “GoPro-style” action cams or drone-mount cameras. It will also benefit advanced photography and videography applications like 360-degree videos.

Another strong use case that is being pitched is virtual-reality and augmented-reality technology where there will be the dependence on computing power within a headset are a small lightweight pack attached to the headset. Here, the idea would be to have the headset and any accessories able to be comfortably worn by the end-user while they engage in virtual-reality.

Some of the press coverage talked about use of a 1Tb SD card in a Nintendo Switch handheld games console and described it as being fanciful for that particular console. But this technology could have appeal for newer-generation handheld games consoles especially where these consoles are used for epic-grade games.

Another interesting use case would be automotive applications, whether on an OEM basis supplied by the vehicle builder or an aftermarket basis installed by the vehicle owner. This could range from a large quantity of high-quality audio content available to use, large mapping areas or support for many apps and their data.

The microSD card improvements will be at the “early-adopter” stage where they will be very expensive and have limited appeal. As well, there may need to be a few bugs ironed out regarding their design or implementation while other SD-card manufacturers come on board and offer more of these cards.

At the moment, there aren’t the devices or SD card adaptors that take advantage of SD Express technology but this will have to happen as new silicon and finished devices come on to the scene. USB adaptors that support SD Express would need to have the same kind of circuitry as a portable hard drive along with USB 3.1 or USB Type-C technology to support “best case” operation with existing host devices.

This technology could become a game-changer for removeable or semi-removeable storage media applications across a range of portable computing devices.

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