Category: Annual Summary

Another year of


Mobile Computing platforms

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet with stylus

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – fit for business

The Android mobile computing platform has, over the past year, become an increasingly-credible platform that overtakes the Apple iOS mobile computing platform. This has been exemplified through the Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note phone-tablet bridge device and the Google Nexus 7 tablet. This has even had apple take Samsung to court concerning “trade dress” and similar patents that Samsung copied in their earlier Galaxy S and SII products.

Regular computing platforms

Another set of major technology changes over the past year had come about in the form of new versions of the Windows and MacOS X regular-computer operating systems. These versions, known as Windows 8 and MacOS X Mountain Lion respectively, have introduced various mobile-computing concepts such as touch-driven operation and the app store to the regular computer.

Fujitsu Lifebook LH772 notebook at Rydges On Swantston

The long-lasting battery can allow the Fujitsu to work well for a long day of hotspot surfing at inner-city cafes and bars

As for the hardware, Intel had launched the third-generation “Ivy Bridge” classic-instruction-set processors with improved integrated graphics. This has raised the stakes for regular-computer graphics especially in the portable-use arena.

Bluetooth Smart Ready

The Bluetooth standard now embraces the 4.0 “low-power” variant which supports sensor and control devices that can work on 2 AA batteries or a watch battery for something like six months. This requires that the sensor devices work with a host device that implements Bluetooth 4.0; and this feature is slowly creeping in to all of the credible smartphones and tablets as well as some regular computers like Apple’s latest MacBook lineup and some of the Windows-based computers.

Awareness of malware targeted at the Macintosh platform

It is also the era that the Apple Macintosh platform is gain a similar user base to the Windows platform as far as regular computing is concerned. It doesn’t matter whether the core task for that computer is to be office work or creative work like media editing or playback, with some Windows computers being used for the latter purpose.

This has drawn malware creators to the idea of using the Macintosh platform as an attack vector, mainly through the use of cross-platform runtime environments like Java or Adobe Flash. This is due to the ability to quickly write and deploy the same version of software to run on both Windows and MacOS, with the runtime module liaising with the file system and other operating-system services/ Lately this vector has been taken further with zero-day attacks because the Java runtime isn’t updated as quickly and as regularly as the native-code software for the main regular-computing platforms.

We are being encouraged not to implement these runtime platforms unless necessary and I have raised the idea of compiling Java-written code to platform-native logic when writing for a regular-computing platform rather than creating intermediate code that requires the runtime component. This is so one doesn’t have to run a Java runtime component which can be used as an attack vector or allow a slow operating environment. Similarly, there will be a requirement by Symantec and others to write “security runtimes” that check for malware in Adobe Flash or Java intermediate code.

Network technology

802.11ac wireless networking

As for the small network, there have been a few trends concerning it. For example, a pre-release version of 802.11ac Gigabit wireless networking has been released but this is intended to work on the 5GHz radio spectrum.

Wi-Fi Direct wireless-network setup

Similarly, we have become more aware of the Wi-Fi Direct wireless-network setup concept. This is more about creating a Wi-Fi “personal-area network” either as an alternative to Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting peripherals to a host computer or setting up a temporary “on-the-road” network for mobile devices, laptops and network-connected peripheral devices.

I had reviewed a device which was an example of this concept in the form of the Kingston Wi-Drive, one of the “wireless portable storage servers” that are being promoted for use with smartphones and tablets. Another class of device that is exemplifying this concept is some of the recent crop of network speaker systems that can play music from a computer device via a Wi-Fi network that it is part of or can create itself. They use either Apple AirPlay or the open-frame DLNA standards to transfer the audio content from the computing device to the speakers.

HomePlug AV 500

Another trend for “no-new-wires” networking is the use of HomePlug AV 500 which is a high-throughput variant of the HomePlug AV powerline network. This will have the same situations as the HomePlug 1.0 Turbo network where all the endpoint devices that exist on that segment have to he the high-speed variant for the segment to work at the high bandwidth.

WPS in a multi-access-point wireless network

A question I have answered myself in the course of troubleshooting and optimising a home network was how the WPS easy-setup solution would cope with a multi-access-point wireless network. These kind of network setups are often required where there are building setups that could impede radio-wave transmission, such as interior walls made of double-brick, stone, reinforced concrete or the existence of metal walls.

The above-mentioned networks would have two or more access points which are linked to each other via an Ethernet or HomePlug AV wired backbone. All the access points operating on the same band are set to the same SSID and security parameters but are set to different radio channels so that the wireless client devices can roam between the access points seamlessly.

Here, I found that as long as the access points that have this feature are set up to persist their current setting when you engage the WPS push-button setup function, this function won’t affect the proper operation of this extended service set. What’s more, you can use this quick-setup routine at the access point closest to where you are intending to use the new device you are setting up.


Two milestones have happened over the past year. One was the death of Steve Jobs who. along with Steve Wozniak, founded Apple in the mid 1970s. This led to the arrival of one of the first credible personal computers in the form of the Apple II, the commercialisation of the graphic user interface with the Macintosh and eventually a credible mobile computing platform with the iPhone and iPad. When I heard that Steve Jobs was falling ill with the cancer, I saw it in a similar light to Bill Gates leaving Microsoft – the foundation stones of personal computing coming away.

Another milestone that was celebrated this year during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics was Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Her was the founder of the World Wide Web and, effectively, the Internet as we know it today.

This site

I have increased the quantity of Ultrabooks and similar computers reviewed on this site, focusing on them being secondary travel computers rather than main or sole computers. I have also revised the laptop buyers’ guide to encompass this class of computer.

Similarly I am increasing the amount of coverage dedicated to the online lifestyle. With this, I have given special coverage to the sports scoreboard apps that you can download to your smartphone or tablet so these devices can become sports scoreboards. I have tied it in with some of the main sporting events.

As well, part of giving some more time to travel and lifestyle is to establish a “travel and lifestyle” page which will have useful information for travellers and for people who integrate their IT in to their lifestyle.

My post on the Australian Audio & AV Show 2011 has allowed me to sum up the trend towards network-driven audio and video, especially as it is being considered of respect at the top end of the market. This has intensified my interest in the DLNA-compliant home media network because of it being respected by hi-fi manufacturers of respect.

I have spent some time writing some advisory  articles on common computer-usage topics. One of these was a two-part “Email Essentials” series (1, 2) where I explained about basic email-usage concepts, something I have often had to help people who aren’t competent with computers on. I augmented this with another article about using email for sending messages to be “taken further”, which was targeted at people who regularly use Facebook, Skype, iMessage, SMS and other messaging systems.

These two articles are based on work that I have done whenever people ask me for assistance with their computers. I have also written up an article about dealing with that “hair-trigger” mouse which can happen with different mice and as they get used more.

As well, I have written an article on how to keep your computing skills alive and relevant when you retire from active work life. This encompasses what computer system to use as your main computer setup, including the idea of buying out your laptop or desktop that you have used at your work; as well as keeping the skills alive.

Because I have reviewed some business-grade laptop computers and other computer targeted at the business user, I have written an article about this class of equipment becoming relevant to the small-business and SOHO user. Typically, the distributors tend to pitch this class of equipment at the “big end of town” i.e. the larger corporations who have a large fleet of these computers, and these products are not made easily available to the smaller operator even though they can do the job as well for them.

I had written up an article about setting up for Internet when you move to a location in France. This is due to the highly-competitive Internet and triple-play market that exists in that country and I have encompassed some coverage about the Freebox Révolution Internet gateway and set-top box as being an example of what is being offered as carrier-provided equipment in France.

I have given a fair bit of coverage to the cloud-computing trend especially as this is frequently referenced in the computing press and bandied about by people selling IT solutions to small business. This was instigated by an interview that I did with — regarding secure computing in the cloud-computing age and had written an article about what small business needs to look for when they sign on to this kind of service.

I have given some coverage to the issue of device firmware updates and field-delivered software to computing devices. This is in response to legal action that was taking place in the US concerning the device firmware updates that were being applied to HP printers. This legal action was raising the possibility of loading modified firmware in to a device that could facilitate espionage or other undesirable activities. Here, I was describing the trends that occurred with the firmware-update practice over the years and raised security and updating issues concerning this practice, and the fact that the firmware-update ecosystem must deliver a secure update for the device and when we deliver the first update for a device, we deliver one that brings it to expected functionality once and for all.


Expect a very interesting next year for regular and mobile computing life as Windows 8 and MacOS X Mountain Lion merge the context of mobile and regular computing with different devices suiting different needs occupying particular spaces in the home and small business network. Annual Summary

Another year has passed for and a lot has happened over the past year, both with technology and with the content that has been written on this site.


Major “under-the-hood” changes to the laptop computer

One major computing technology that has been influential over the past year are the combination CPU/GPU processors from Intel, with the Sandy Bridge and AMD with the Zacate APU. These processors have yielded a major energy-saving benefit without much significant tradeoff in graphics performance. This has allowed for most graphic-intensive tasks like modest gaming or multimedia playback to be performed on laptop computers without the fear of the battery running out very quickly. Here, the battery runtimes are approaching real-world requirements especially where one intends to consider video playback on the plane or train journey for example.Fujitsu Lifebook TH550M convertible notebook at a Wi-Fi hotspot

This has also led to the increased arrival of “dual-mode” graphics where a laptop computer can work either with a high-performance discrete graphics chipset or the integrated graphics system. It is more like operating a vehicle which has an overdrive or a transmission system that supports a “performance” operating mode alongside a “standard” or “economy” operating mode and being able to change between these modes by operating a switch of some form.

I have reviewed some laptops which have these new functions at their heart. These are in the form of two “desktop-replacement” units — Dell XPS L702x which has NVIDIA graphics and the HP Pavillion DV7-6013TX which has ATI graphics.

Toshiba Tecra R850 business laptopBut I have reviewed some laptops that use single-mode graphics such as a mainstream 15” business laptop in the form of the Toshiba Tecra R850 which has single-mode ATI discrete graphics as well as an ultraportable in the form of the Toshiba Portege R830. This notebook is an example of what an ultraportable notebook can achieve on this technology, especially when it comes to extended battery life.

Notebook design approaching the “King of Cool”

This year, some computer manufacturers are designing notebook and laptop computer that have a lot of design similarities to Apple’s MacBook range of notebooks. This is an attempt to show up which computers can trump the Apple computers as far as having the coolest laptop computer at the Wi-Fi-equipped cafe is concerned.

This year, Dell has come up with a 15” laptop which answers the Apple MacBook Pro range of laptops in aesthetics and functionality. There is a lot about this computer in the way it makes you think of the MacBook Pro, such as the speaker grilles flanking the keyboard and the similarly-styled trackpad. As well, Acer have lined up a 13” ultraportable that looks just like the Apple MacBook Air series of ultraportables.

Activity on the Apple Macintosh front

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Even so, the Apple Macintosh platform is not asleep as far as innovations go. They have launched the MacOS App Store which is based on the successful iTunes App Store for the iOS devices. Here, one can buy and download Macintosh applications through this storefront rather than buying physical media for the programs or downloading from the developer’s Web site.

A fear that I find with this trend is that it won’t be feasible for developers to supply Macintosh software through their own storefront. This would include hardware manufacturers who need to provide software sets for their own devices. Nor would it be feasible for system integrators to pre-load software on to a Macintosh computer as part of setting up a standard operating environment for this platform.

It is also worth knowing that Apple has released the MacOS X “Lion” operating system which offers a lot more visible improvement than what “Snow Leopard” offered. “Snow Leopard” was primarily all about “under-the-hood” improvements for the Macintosh operating system, especially tuning it for the multicore Intel microarchitecture. Here, Lion has offered a user experience that, in a lot of ways, approaches the Apple iOS platform as experienced on the Apple iPad. This includes applications delivered via the aforementioned App Store, “full screen” user interfaces without the customary top-of-screen menu bar, as well as iOS-style icon grids.

The tablet and smartphone cause a major seachange in mobile computing

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerOne major change that has come about for mobile computing is the arrival of many smartphones and tablet computers. Infact the smartphone or tablet computer doesn’t have to be an Apple device anymore. This is due to an increased range of smartphones powered by Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphones and tablets powered by Android, especially the 3.0 “Gingerbread” version. I have reviewed an example of one of these tablets in the form of the Acer Iconia Tab A500.

Apple has answered this trend by releasing the iPad 2, a 10” tablet that is slimmer and lighter than the original iPad. It still runs their iOS operating system which has been upgraded to 5.0. Here, existing iPads and other iOS devices will have the benefit of having system updates done without the need to tether the device to a computer.

As well, the tablets are placing the netbook “on notice” because they could do the same job as these computers yet run on batteries for a long time.

Smart TV gains momentum

Another major connected-lifestyle change has been the arrival of Internet-enabled television experiences. Most of the TV industry have been focusing on the 3D viewing experience but there has been increased action on the connected TV front.

At the moment, it has been driven by manufacturers building up their own application platforms for their product lines. This is primarily in the form of user interfaces for the popular Internet video services that are optimised for “lean-back” enjoyment on larger screens. It is also including the integration of the social-networking sites in a manner that can be enjoyed that way, such as through “Twitter / Facebook tickers” or the ability to “page through” Facebook Photo Albums that you have access to.

It is also worth noting that most of these platforms are offering a Skype client which works with a camera that plugs in to these TVs. This is to allow the smart TV to provide corporate-style videoconferencing to small businesses and households.

Sony BDP-S380 Network-enabled Blu-Ray playerAn example device that I have just reviewed is the Sony BDP-S380 Blu-Ray player which offers the Internet video functionality in a form that I prefer. This is a video peripheral that can endow existing televisions with the new trend of the “smart TV” and is more relevant as TV sets are known to last a very long time.

IPv6 and Next-Generation Broadband

I have written a basic primer about IPv6 and how it will affect the home and small-business computer user. This is because of the recent World IPv6 Day where web sites were encouraged to engage in “dual-stack” IPv6 hosting and there was all the talk about the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses. It is also a reality as the next-generation broadband networks that are based on fibre-optic technology come about ad they may want to work towards IPv6 as a symbol of being a “cutting edge” service.

Speaking of which, I have been covering the issue of next-generation broadband, especially as Australia and other countries are rolling out or planning these kind of Internet services. Typically these services are based on fibre-optic technology, with most of the desired setups centred around “fibre-to-the-home” / “fibre-to-the-premises” technology where the fibre-optic cable is run to the customer’s premises. There are other “part-fibre part-copper” services that are in deployment with copper-cable runs to the customer, usually from the street or the building. This technology is based typically on VDSL which is a short-run DSL system that uses telephone lines or Ethernet twisted-pair cabling.

Website Content

Industry Interviews

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

During the last week of October and the first week of November last year, I had visited Sydney. One of the main points of the trip was to engage further with the industry. Here, I had done interviews with two staff from Brother, a staff member from Bush Australia and a staff member from Sony’s public-relations agent, Hausmann Communications. This allowed me to gain better insight in to what is going on with the industry and I will be making a point to work further with the companies and their PR firms when it comes to doing industry interviews.

Product Reviews

As I have mentioned earlier, I have reviewed some of the Sandy-Bridge-powered laptops and these have lived up to the promise for Intel’s new chipset architecture.

I have also improved my review strategy by seeking out equipment from different manufacturers that serves a similar purposes. Examples of this are the 17” desktop-replacement multimedia laptop computers as well as “small-business-grade” monochrome laser multifunction printers. This allows me to compare equipment offered by different manufacturers in a better manner.

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Another review milestones that I have achieved over the past year include the first HomePlug product review for this site. My chance to review the WD LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch has allowed me to affirm support for the HomePlug AV technology as a flexible reliable no-new-wires network technology.

I am increasing the number of network-enabled media devices and am looking for devices beyond the tabletop Internet radio class. One of these is the Rotel RCX-1500 stereo CD receiver which represents an attempt to get more of the network-capable “big stereo” equipment for review. These are the stereo systems and components thar are intended to stay in the same position, serving as a household’s main music systems rather than as an auxiliary music system.

Other activity

As far as printing goes, I have been exposing printing technologies that allow most small organisations to be able to promote themselves more effectively. The technologies are the high-speed colour laser printer and the A3-capable colour inkjet printer.

I have established a “Small Business Technology” page which is a landing page for technology articles that will appeal to the small-business. This has included the abovementioned printing technologies, setting up public-access wireless networks as part of giving your cafe, bar or similar business “the edge”, business-optimised laptop computers amongst other things.Small businesses - Belgrave shopping strip

I still cover issues that will pertain to home and small-business computing technology such as the recent crop of phone calls that people have received from companies purporting to be genuine IT firms. As well I have prepared a quick-reference page for Twitter in the same vein to what I have done for Facebook. This is so that people can know who will see what they post when they Tweet or direct-message a person, especially as Twitter is becoming Facebook’s sidekick.


Expect to see a lot more coming through as different technologies start to appear. There will be equal focus on home-based “lifestyle” computing as well as computing for the small business owner who has to call the shots about their organisation’s information technology.