Some of you who have a traditional “three-piece” desktop computer system where there is a separate box where all the activity takes place, may refer to this box of your computer setup as the “hard disk” even though it is known as a “system unit”. This is because the hard disk, amongst the other key computing subsystems like the CPU processor and the RAM exists in that box.
This infographic shows what the key parts of your computer are and is based on one of the newer small-form-factor designs that are common in the office and home.
I have decided to augment the last post on turning a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation to high-resolution PNG or JPEG files as a SlideShare presentation so you can “flick through it” as a slideshow. I have created this using … wait for it … PowerPoint, which most fo you may be using in the office and is what I am talking about.
Hmmm… What if there was a way to bridge SlideShare to the DLNA-capable TVs and video equipment.
I am reviewing the Western Digital MyCloud EX2 dual-disk network-attached storage device that has the ability to run with two hard disks as a RAID 1 setup or a RAID 0 setup. This is a unit that is pitched at users who want a highly-capable and configurable NAS for their home network or to have as a sidekick multimedia NAS for their small-business network.
4Tb (2 x 2Tb)
6Tb (2 x 3Tb)
8Tb (2 x 4Tb)
Consumer Network Attached Storage
4 Tb (2 x 2Tb)
2 hard disks
RAID 0 or 1, Separate disks
Set up as RAID 1
USB Device Connection
USB 3.0 x 2
UPnP Internet Gateway Control
Features and Protocols
SMB / CIFS
DLNA Media Server
General Web Server
Remote NAS Sync
Same model only
The Network-Attached Storage System itself
The Gigabit Ethernet and USB connections on the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS
The WD MyCloud EX2 can connect to your home network via a Gigabit Ethernet connection which would work at full speed with the upmarket routers that are pitched at the next-generation broadband Internet service.
As well, it comes with 2 USB ports so you can “hang” extra USB hard disks off the unit. They can be set up as extra storage capacity including to share resources held on these disks across the network, or to transfer data between the USB storage device and the NAS, typically to import data to the network or to backup data held on the NAS.
I found that the WD MyCloud EX2 was easy to set up and integrate with your home network. This was due to its management interface being available using UPnP standards. You could download the client software simply by right-clicking on the hard disk icon in Windows and selecting the download option. This software is mandatory if you want to take advantage of the “MyCloud” remote-access functionality, which means that you don’t need this software to get your MyCloud NAS going.
Here, you are abile to set up things like a management account and password, give it a distinct device name, find out the state of the unit including disk capacity and health amongst other things.
2 user-replaceable hard disks
The WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS can be set up to run a JBOD setup with each hard disk as its own logical volume, a RAID 1 setup with both hard disks ganged together as a single volume so that the data is replicated on each disk or as a RAID 0 setup where both hard disks are ganged together to effectively use both drives’ capacity as one logical volume.
Of course, this NAS ticks the boxes when it comes to SMB/CIFS access and DLNA / iTunes media serving. The latter function is looked after by TwonkyMedia Server 7 for the DLNA aspect, which also supports DLNA-based upload for those cameras that support it along with multiple-DLNA-server aggregation.
The computer-backup functionality can be facilitated with WD’s software or with the operating-system-supplied solutions such as Windows Backup or Apple Time Machine.
When testing the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS, I had run it as a RAID 1 setup, which provides for increased fault-tolerance and network-to-disk data throughput. Here, the setup has data mirrored on each physical hard disk which is of the same size.
A mixed-size file transfer between my computer and this device allowed this NAS to achieve a throughput rate of around 11Mbps. As well, even putting this NAS to use with streaming some short MP4s via DLNA yielded a very smooth experience courtesy of the TwonkyMedia server software.
I had noticed very little operational noise or vibration while the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS was in use especially while the unit was doing the test file transfer. This means that I would find it suitable for home or similar environments where a quiet system is required. It also showed that the NAS was a very well-built unit and was able to avoid unnecessary heat build-up.
Limitations and Points Of Improvement
Personally, I would like to see the availability of a front-end app that can work with most of the cloud-storage services like Dropbox or OneDrive so that the NAS can work as an independent “on-ramp” or “off-ramp” for these services. This is although Western Digital are pitching this and other personal NAS devices as a “personal cloud” storage alternative to these services.
Similarly, as I have often said, the “personal cloud” that WD and others promote with these devices should be able to accommodate multiple NAS devices at multiple locations. This is whether to provide data availability at each location or provide a level of resilience against power or connection failure by, for example, having a copy of your data held at another physical location like your shopfront. It can also exploit the idea of allowing customers to use equipment with different capabilities at different locations or for different purposes.
I would recommend that one purchases the WD MyCloud EX2 series dual-disk NAS as a “step-up” unit for where one wants increased data throughput or increased fault-tolerance out of these devices. The ability for a user to replace the hard disks can be a bonus but you will have to copy the data out to another storage device like a USB hard disk or NAS of the same capacity or greater before upsizing the hard disks when you intend to upsize the NAS.
I am reviewing the Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker which is effectively the “out-and-about” equivalent of the Braven 710 Bluetooth speaker. This unit is designed for rugged outdoor operation and even has a sound-optimisation mode for use when outdoors and you want to cover a large area. As well, it has the ability to charge other devices, mostly smartphones, Mi-Fi routers and the like, from its own battery as what most of the Braven speakers could do.
The unit itself:
RRP including tax AUD $299.99
Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo socket
Digital Audio Input
A2DP and Hands-Free Profile with NFC setup
Watts (RMS, FTC or other honest standard) per channel
The unit itself
Rear view with screw cap that covers connections and NFC touch-to-pair area
The Braven BRV-X Bluetooth speaker is designed from the outset to be rugged and suitable for use outside. It is housed in a rubber enclosure with a metal perforated grille and some rubber pads act as the speaker’s control surface. The screw cap, which reminds you of a jar’s cap protects the sockets on the back of the speaker from water and other contaminants. These lead to another Bluetooth speaker that excels when it comes to build quality. As well, they supply a carry strap which you thread on to the speaker to make it easy to carry. Unlike the Braven 710, this unit is charged using a supplied “wall-wart” power transformer rather than being connected to a computer or USB charger.
Connections – USB power out for phones, AUX IN for wired audio connections, battery level indication, INDOOR-OUTDOOR tone switch
The unit is easy to set up and integrate with your phone, tablet or computer. Here, you can pair your Android or Windows NFC-capable device to the speaker using NFC-based “touch-to-pair” setup. On the other hand, you would have to pair Apple devices and other devices that don’t implement NFC by holding down the PLAY button until you hear a distinct tone before scanning for it using your device and the speaker will show up as “BRAVEN BRV-X” on the device list.
Like other Braven speakers such as the previously-reviewed Braven 710, you can pair the BRV-X with another Braven speaker to establish a wirelessly-linked stereo speaker pair for better stereo channel separation. As well, it can work as an external battery pack for most smartphones, “Mi-Fi”devices and the like, whether to offer “boost-charging” or extended run-time. This has the same power capabilities like the Braven 710 previously reviewed.
The Braven BRV-X speaker does sound clear but doesn’t come across with tight bass even for today’s bass-heavy popular music. It can be set for indoor or outdoor operation through a simple two-position switch. When set for indoor operation, it can come across as being a bit rich for bass while the outdoor position gives a brighter sound, apparently to cover a larger area.
Rubberised control buttons for your smartphone, tablet or laptop
I can adjust the speaker to just about the maximum level before it sounds awful but this would cover a small room or be good enough for listening while you are close to that speaker. Most likely, I would say it comes across as sounding like a lot of mid-sized portable radios commonly available during the 1970s or like a lot of the Internet radios previously reviewed on this site.
Limitations and Points Of Improvement
As I have said with the Braven 710, this could be released as a variant with an integrated radio tuner to serve as an FM or, perhaps, DAB+ digital radio.
Braven could implement an easy-to-attach carry-strap setup to improve on the useability of this unit with its carry strap. This could be achieved in a similar manner to the way the seatbelts work in your car where they clip in to place but are released when you push a button on the buckle.
I would recommend the Braven BRV-X Bluetooth speaker as a unit that would appeal to those of us who engage in a lot of outdoor activity and want to see it as a Bluetooth answer to the typical small portable radio that ends up being used outdoors.
Increasingly, a lot of smartphones and tablets don’t come with user-replaceable batteries anymore. But Samsung have stayed away from the trend by making sure their mobile phones still come with batteries you can replace. This came as an advantage with my previous Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone which I was using a lot as a phone, email terminal, music player, Web terminal and navigation aid amongst other things. Here, the battery wasn’t holding its charge anymore and I was able to go to a phone accessories shop and buy and install a replacement battery which allowed the smartphone to perform better.
Now Lumsing have made available through Amazon a range of extended-capacity batteries for recent Samsung smartphones. This has a similar advantage to how it was feasible for most manufacturers to supply extended-capacity batteries as first-party aftermarket accessories for your mobile phone so you get that extra run-time out of the phone. It is also similar to how you can choose to buy higher-capacity AA batteries for your gadgets so you aren’t thinking of having to replace them sooner. Similarly, some computer manufacturers offer extended-capacity batteries in their range of accessories for some of their laptop models with some models implementing “dual-battery” setups that work with these aftermarket batteries.
At the moment, some of the batteries are offered for USD9.99-USD$10.99 but this is before shipping and any relevant taxes. People who are part of the Amazon Prime program or have established orders of above USD$35 can buy the batteries free of shipping charges.
The only limitation with this is that you cannot buy extra batteries and charge them outside your device. Rather you would need to charge them in the device before you can use them and you would also fear the batteries self-draining if you keep them as spares. Personally, I would look towards the availability of “off-device” chargers for these batteries for those of us who like to keep one or more reserve batteries.
If Samsung can see these high-capacity batteries offered by a third party work properly and safely in their phones, it could be a chance for them to consider offering extended-capacity batteries to their aftermarket.
Can you play Spotify on that good hi-fi? Check! Any gaping holes in your jazz music collection? Check!
Mashable have worked out a 45-track Spotify playlist that celebrates what would be Louis Armstrong’s birthday, but can be a way to familiarize yourself with the jazz genre and determine how you should build out your jazz music collection. Some of you may find that this may play well for a bit of casual jazz listening like during a dinner party or to get yourselves in the mood before visiting that local “jazz dive”.
This playlist encompasses key jazz performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Walker, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald with recordings made over the years that the genre had evolved. At least it is worth a listen.
Regular readers will have noticed my comments about the lack of real competition in the US fixed broadband market thank you to very cosy deals arranged by incumbent cable-TV and telecommunications companies and various governments on a state and federal level.
Google have just rolled out their Google Fiber FTTP broadband service, known for offering headline data-transfer speeds of a gigabit each way, into Kansas City. Now Comcast and Time Warner Cable, for fear of hemorrhaging cable-broadband customers to Google, have upped their cable Internet service’s headline data-transfer speeds without charging their customers a single penny extra for the upgrade.
Issues have been raised about the pricing and customer-service behavior of cable-TV companies when they are faced with real competition beyond the DSL service offered by the incumbent telco. This has come in to play during discussions concerning the proposed merger between Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, as well as the issue of Net Neutrality.
As well, I would see the Google Fiber rollout as a boost for local government in Kansas City because the properties in the area that have Google Fiber past their doors become increasingly valuable to live in or do business there. It is a similar situation that has happened in various UK neighbourhoods where houses are assessed by prospective buyers on whether next-generation broadband is passing their doors or the property is connected to a next-generation broadband service.
Who knows what this means for other US cities who are pushing Google for their fibre-optic service?
The Swiss aren’t far behind on the smart-watch bandwagon but are taking it a different path so as to preserve their craft and identity.
Swatch is developing a fitness-focused smartwatch that is totally different from the rest of the crowd. Here, this is more a watch that tells the time but is equipped with fitness sensors to measure how healthy you are. They are drawing on EM Microtechnology who is part of the Swatch Group and this company also have worked on GPS technology for a variety of fitness-driven applications.
But Swatch and Tissot, both part of the Swatch Group, are focusing on simpler fitness-focused smartwatch designs rather than the current equivalent of the 80s-era digital multifunction watch. They are approaching watch design on a “horses for courses” basis where different watches suit different people and different occasions. I see this as being highly important because, for example, a woman may want a watch that looks the part on her slender wrist or a man may want to have a dress watch for going out to impress along with a fitness watch for long walks and a utility smartwatch for day-to-day use.
Apple have been “picking Swatch’s brains” about their watch-construction methods but Swatch deny the idea of forming a partnership with them, especially concerning the iWatch idea that has been floating around. As well Swatch are trying to achieve the “best smartwatch” goal rather than being the first.
What I see of this is that the Swatch group are being the first of the Swiss watch legends to link their special craft with today’s smart-wearable technology development.
There has already been some action in the Home Counties when it comes to providing rural communities with full-fibre broadband courtesy of Gigaclear. But a proposal has been put up for another provider to provide a whole county in the UK with fibre-to-the-premises broadband with involvement from its local government.
The Shropshire County Counccil previously warned that they could ’t cover Shropshire with next generation broadband if they went the BT Openreach fibre-to-the-cabinet way which was based on VDSL2 for the copper run. But they have approached a rival provider to provide a “fibre-to-the-premises” service at a cheaper rate than the BT FTTC solution.
This would be inherently a public-private project with private investors where they could prove that they could even cover Shropshire’s rural properties with full-fibre technology. Readers who are in the USA or Australia may find this fanciful but the UK have rural properties that are relatively smaller than what is seen as common in these countries with a lot of small villages scattered around the country being the norm for the UK.
It will be initially a two-stage effort with a fibre-wireless effort with fixed-wireless technology in some areas but will evolve to a full-fibre technology in all areas. There is also the ability for a local village to pitch their own funding to go fibre all the way rather than a fixed wireless solution in Phase 1.
A good issue to raise with these community-focused developments assisted by other companies is whether they will give BT Openreach a “kick in the pants” to provide next-generation broadband at a more cost-effective price point. It also relate this to other markets like Australia, it could raise the issue of having competing providers working alongside local government to achieve the same goal.
As well, could this allow for the start of a competitive market when it comes to the provision of next-generation broadband in urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
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