Category: UPnP AV / DLNA

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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Now it’s 3–Technics now premiers their own network CD player

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Technics SL-G700 Network SACD Player press image courtesy of Panasonic USA

Technics SL-G700 Network SACD Player – the first of its kind to fully reproduce SACDs

Panasonic USA (Technics)

Energize music from multiple sources with the Grand Class Network / Super Audio CD Player: SL-G700 (Press Release)

My Comments

Over the past few years Yamaha and Marantz have put forward a relatively-new type of hi-fi component unit in the form of the network CD player. These are CD players that connect to your home network to play audio content hosted on equipment on that network or on an online service.

A core advantage these units have is you only use one line-level input on your amplifier or receiver to serve one piece of equipment that plays a CD or to listen to an online audio service or something held on your network-attached storage device. They also fit in well when it comes to upgrading or replacing an existing CD player that you have and you want to benefit from your home network and online audio services.

For a long time, Technics was the hi-fi arm for the original Matsushita (National Panasonic) brand, offering value-priced and premium hi-fi equipment such as the legendary SL-1200 series of DJ turntables. It was while they were applying itself to musical instruments made by Matsushita. This brand even started the idea of the main Japanese consumer-electronics names running a separate brand for their hi-fi equipment through the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But through the late 1990s and the early 2000s, Technics evolved itself to the musical instrument and DJ equipment market while having value-priced audio equipment under the Panasonic name. A few years ago, they rebuilt the hi-fi image by focusing on equipment destined to the high-end hi-fi market with them supporting vinyl, optical-disc and network / online delivery.

Now Technics have come to the fore at CES 2019 by premiering the Grand Class SL-G700 Network SACD player. This is a network CD player that is optimised for audiophile high-end listening by providing full playback of SACD discs along with file-based or CD-based audio content based on the high-end MQA standard. Here, it is infact the first network CD player to provide full playback of SACD discs.

This unit’s digital-to-analogue path has been worked on through the use of premium DAC circuitry that is built with a dual-mono approach. It is as if two digital-to-analogue signal paths are created within the unit – one for the left channel and one for the right channel.

It also includes circuit-based isolation to prevent digital-processing noise from creeping in to the post-DAC analogue signal path. As well, a separate digital-analogue signal path exists for the unit’s headphone jack. There is an operation mode that effectively provides SACD/CD direct sound when you play a regular CD or high-end SACD.

As far as I know, the network aspect for the Technics SL-G700 network SACD player supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. There is support for AirPlay and Chromecast audio streaming from iOS, MacOS or Android devices. It also has access to Spotify, TiDAL and Internet radio online services.

What I see of this player is that it is another brand’s attempt to focus the network CD player towards the high-end audiophile market who may be maintaining their CD collections but make use of online music services. This is more so if the premium amplifier that they use has as few line-level inputs as possible.

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What are the full-featured desktop NAS units about?

Article

Synology DiskStation DS415play NAS with media transcoding - Press image courtesy of Synology

Synology DiskStation DS415play – an example of these full-function network-attached-storage units

Synology DSM vs. QNAP QTS: Which NAS is right for you? | Windows Central

My Comments

Increasingly Synology and QNAP have become strong rivals when it comes to full-function network-attached-storage devices that do more than what WD, Seagate and others offer. Here, they are made by two NAS specialists who are running high-end NAS-focused operating systems that can be run headless or with a screen and keyboard “head”. Some manufacturers like NETGEAR and ASUSStor are following on with Synology’s and QNAP’s efforts to join in the pack when it comes to

QNAP TS-251 2-bay NAS

QNAP TS-251 2-bay NAS – another example of what a full-function NAS is about

offering full-function NAS units for home and small-business use.

Recent iterations of these devices typically have the same kind of computing power as a relatively-recent low-end regular personal computer but put this power towards file handling and serving. Most of them will support at least a two-disk RAID setup in the low-tier varieties with the mainstream models having four or five disk bays for a RAID 5 setup. The “brain” in these devices will be mostly an ARM-based CPU but higher-spec variants may use an Intel or AMD processor expected in a very low-end laptop computer. You may also find some NAS units like the Synology “play” NAS units running a graphics processor as a co-processor for media transcoding. A significant number of models will even support upgradeable RAM to allow them to work more quickly and handle more data traffic.

But the operating system is of a similar standard to one that would drive a regular personal computer. Most likely it would be a variant of a desktop Linux distribution and would be regularly updated as well as allowing users to install apps from the NAS vendor’s app store. Once you log in through a Web-based user interface or a keyboard / screen / mouse “console” attached to the NAS, you would experience a user interface similar to Windows, MacOS or desktop Linux running a graphical user interface.  But most of these user interfaces can’t allow for cut-and-paste between the host computer and the NAS user interface.

The apps will typically convey particular file-handling functions like syncing to online storage platforms, BitTorrent server functionality and DLNA-compliant media-server functionality. There is also apps that “tie” the NAS to native mobile-platform client apps supplied by the vendor to allow transfer of data between the NAS and a mobile-platform tablet or smartphone. It is typically a way to push a NAS as a “personal cloud” by working with a vendor-hosted “DNS-mapping” arrangement to allow you to upload content from your iPhone to your NAS even while you are out and about and connected to the Internet. This is in addition to various “client-backup” server tools for regular-computer platforms along with NAS-NAS backup tools.

Let’s not forget software like media-player functionality or IP-camera videosurveillance recording functionality. In some cases, there are various server apps for email or WordPress content management so you could easily purpose these units as a business information server. In some cases, adding peripherals to these NAS devices opens up paths for extra functionality with, for example, TV-tuner modules converting these NAS units in to Tivo-style PVRs that can share live or recorded TV content over the network.

QNAP’s QTS and Synology are very similar in many ways but Synology is focused towards simplified operation while QTS is focused towards taking advantage of faster better hardware. There are other similar full-featured NAS platforms like Netgear’s ReadyNAS or the ASUSStor NAS platform existing but there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of third-party developer base built up around these platforms.

But what can be done to make the full-featured NAS market better? One approach could be to allow the licensing of one or more of these NAS operating systems and app platforms to other companies on a “white-label” basis so they can launch their own full-featured NAS product range. This can avoid the need for a company who wants to develop their own NAS product to “reinvent the wheel” when building software.  As well, the creation of one or more large platform bases for NAS operating systems can give software developers the confidence to create software for these devices. Therefore it can avoid the home and small-business NAS market becoming like the games-console market which is focused towards vendor-specific solutions with a limited path for delivering additional software.

Personally, I would recommend the full-function NAS units of the Synology or QNAP ilk as being suitable for those of us who want more out of a network-storage device. In some cases, I would see it as appealing for an upgrade path for people who see their NAS device do more than just host files from your computer and share them to your Smart TV. Similarly it would appeal to those of us who want the basic abilities like DLNA media serving to be done in a more capable manner.

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Marantz answers Yamaha with a network CD player of their own

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Marantz ND-8006 network CD player press picture courtesy of Qualifi Pty. Ltd

Marantz’s higher-grade answer to Yamaha’s network CD players in the form of the ND-8006

Marantz UK

ND8006 Network CD Player

Product Page

My Comments

Previously, Yamaha identified a product class in the form of a full-width network CD player which can either play CDs on its own CD transport or network and Internet sources obtained via your home network.

This product has filled a market niche with people with a hi-fi system equipped with an amplifier or receiver that doesn’t have enough line-level inputs for a network media player and a regular CD player. As well, these CD players can allow a person who is upgrading or replacing a CD player to benefit from the extra network-audio-playback functionality by simply swapping out one device.

It was very similar to what had happened in the MiniDisc era of the late 1990s where Sony, Sharp, JVC, Marantz and others offered a CD/MiniDisc deck as part of their product lineup.. Here, these full-width units housed a single-disc or multi-disc CD player and an MD deck in the same housing and you could simply hook these units up to your amplifier’s or receiver’s tape loop for CD or MiniDisc playback or to record to the MiniDiscs. In some cases, I saw these units as effectively “modernising” old stereo equipment by allowing you to add CD and MD functionality in one action. They also appealed to music playout setups for churches, theatres and the like due to being able to occupy one input on the mixing desk for a regular CD or a MiniDisc which appealed for having pre-recorded material “ready to play”.

As well, it was also similar to the popular DVD/VHS combos where these units were a single box that only took up one input on your TV to be able to play DVDs or VHS videocassettes. In a lot of situations through the late 90s and early 2000s, these machines became the preferred way to add access to the new DVDs and the old videotapes when it was time to set up new TV equipment or replace a broken-down video recorder.

Subsequently Yamaha offered a follow-up model to the CD-N500 network CD player in the form of the CD-N301 which omitted USB connectivity but was “Wi-Fi ready”. It was also offered in the black finish as an alternative to the traditional silver finish to complement hi-fi setups that mostly have black-finished equipment.

This year, Marantz have answered Yamaha by offering a high-quality network CD player as part of this year’s hi-fi product lineup. It was as though they were following on the legacy of their CD/MD decks, especially the CM-6200. The ND-8006 offers the high-quality CD playback that Marantz is known for and this applies to regular CDs as well as file-based CDs full of MP3 or WMA audio files. There is also the ability to play from USB Mass-Storage devices with this unit handling all the common audio file types including FLAC.

But it can connect to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet technology and uses this connection for a variety of applications. This includes access to Spotify, Amazon Music, TiDAL and Deezer “online jukeboxes”, and Internet radio via TuneIn Radio in the context of online audio services. You can stream audio content from your Apple devices or iTunes using AirPlay; but can play content held on your DLNA-capable NAS or media server. The Spotify functionality even supports Spotify Connect playback where a Spotify program tied to a Spotify Premium account can effectively become a controller with the music emanating from the Marantz network CD player.

There is some level of functionality as far as the Denon-Marantz HEOS multiroom system is concerned. At least you could set things up to stream a network or online source across multiple HEOS-capable speakers or amplifiers existing on your home network including the amplifier or speakers this CD player is connected to.

Marantz ND-8006 network CD player - rear panel - press picture courtesy of Qualifi Pty. Ltd.

Very comprehensive level of connectivity shown on the back panel

You can use the Marantz ND-8006 network CD player as a high-quality digital-analogue converter for SPDIF PCM sources connected via Toslink optical or RCA coaxial inputs, which would come in handy with a smart TV, set-top box, DVD/Blu-ray player or MiniDisc deck. Or it could serve as a “virtual sound card” for your computer thanks to a USB Type-B input. There is even the ability for this CD player to stream audio content from your Bluetooth-capable smartphone or other device.

The Marantz ND-8006 network CD player is another example of the hi-fi digital-audio equipment where the manufacturer has invested heavily in the playback sound path in both the digital and analogue domains. The digital-filtering job is looked after by the “Marantz Musical Digital Filtering” circuit which was a home-designed circuit optimised for music quality. Then the digital-analouge conversion job is looked after by a ESS9016 Sabre digital-analogue converter circuit.

Let’s not forget that this network CD player can play “master-grade” digital audio files from USB storage or your home network’s DLNA-capable NAS. It also includes the ability to enqueue any of these files for subsequent play when the current one is finished, similar to building up an “Active Queue List” on some MP3 players. It can also convert “master-grade” digital audio presented over an SPDIF digital audio link.

As far as connecting to your equipment is concerned, you have a fixed-level analogue line output along with a variable-level analogue line output. Marantz even suggested using the variable output as a “pre-out” for connecting directly to active speakers (think Bose Acoustimass or B&O Beolab speakers for example) or a power amplifier. There is also SPDIF digital outputs in coaxial and optical form for connecting to a home theatre receiver, digital-analogue converter or digital amplifier based primarily around discrete componentry.

There has also been some investment in the headphone amplifier which caters for those of us who use high-quality headphones for private listening. Like most other full-width hi-fi equipment, this will require the headphones to be equipped with the traditional 6.35mm stereo phone plug.

Although the Marantz ND-8006 network CD player has a price within “premium-equipment” territory, it is more about being able to answer this product class at the premium level. What would need to happen to build out the network CD player as a product class would be to have other value-priced hi-fi names offer these products as part of their lineup.

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Yamaha’s network-capable stereo receivers can play legacy sources through MusicCast network speakers

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Yamaha R-N402 Natural Sound Network Stereo Receiver press picture courtesy of Yamaha Australia

Yamaha R-N402 Network Stereo Receiver – can even stream audio from sources connected to it into Yamaha MusicCast speakers

Yamaha

R-N602 Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

80W / channel 8 ohms 0.04% THD 20Hz-20kHz

(Analogue Inputs: 1 phono, 2 line-level, 2 tape loops; PCM Digital Inputs: 2 Coaxial, 2 Optical)

R-N402 Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

100W / channel 8 ohms 0.2% THD 40Hz-20kHz

(Analogue Inputs: 3 line-level, 1 tape loop; PCM Digital Inputs: 1 Coaxial, 1 Optical)

R-N303D Natural Sound Network Receiver (Product Page)

100W / channel 8 ohms 0.2% THD 40Hz-20kHz

Analogue Inputs: 3 line-level, 1 tape loop; PCM Digital Inputs: 1 Coaxial, 1 Optical

DAB+ tuner

My Comments

Previously, I had touched on the issue of availability of “full-width” network-capable stereo receivers that have the same expectations as the traditional hi-fi receiver that has been seen as the heart of many hi-fi systems. This was when I had called out the Onkyo TX-8050 network stereo receiver and the Yamaha R-N301 network stereo receiver.

Here I was focusing on people who value the idea of creating a hi-fi system that is about playing music rather than a home-theatre setup that is about showing what Hollywood has to offer. Situations that I think of include creating a formal lounge area where you want to focus your activity on entertaining guests, reading and playing or listening to music; or simply maintaining a separate home-entertainment system optimised for playing music.

Yamaha are still pushing through with stereo receivers that can connect to your home network. The latest examples are underscored with the R-N602, R-N402 and R-N303D Natural Sound Network Receivers which integrate the concept of the stereo receiver with the home network and multiroom audio thanks to the latest iteration of the Yamaha MusicCast network audio technology.

This technology that Yamaha implements in these receivers isn’t interlinked with any overarching multiroom network-audio standard adopted by many manufacturers. But they can also work with network audio sources like DLNA-capable media servers including NAS units, or online sources like Spotify or Pandora. Those of you who use an Apple device running iOS or a recent iteration of MacOS can also use these Yamaha receivers for your device’s audio output.

One of the features I am calling out is the ability to stream audio from a source device connected to these receivers to other Yamaha MusicCast devices. For example, in the case of the R-N602, you could start a record playing on the turntable connected to this receiver in the formal lounge room. Then you use the Yamaha MusicCast Controller app on your iOS or Android smartphone to hear that record through the Yamaha PLUS (WX-030) speaker in the kitchen.

Similarly, these receivers are implementing Bluetooth not just as a source but as an alternate output. For example, one could hear a local radio broadcast on the receiver’s integrated tuner through their Bluetooth headphones without the need to worry about the length of their headphone cord thanks to this functionality.

The Yamaha R-N602 does cater very well for legacy media by providing an integrated phono stage for a turntable equipped with a moving-magnet cartridge, as well as two tape loops which can come in handy if you still record to tapes or other media, including using a computer to archive old recordings. But the Yamaha R-N402 and R-N303D has its analogue inputs being line-level only with one tape loop.

At least Yamaha haven’t forgotten about the network-capable stereo receiver as a product class for devices that serve as a hi-fi system’s hub. Instead, they have made sure that there is a range of equipment that suits different needs and budgets, allowing us to consider how to build out that music system as we want.

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Setting up a mobile NAS to work with your home network

WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS

The WD MyPassport Wireless mobile network-attached storage – can offer data to the host Wi-Fi network when set up in hotspot mode

Increasingly, data-storage device manufacturers are adding to their mobile network-attached storage devices the same kind of network-based data storage and access features typically offered with a standard desktop NAS device. This is rather than these devices just being a lightweight file server for smartphones and tablets connected to the device’s own Wi-Fi access point.

I had previously reviewed one of these devices in the form of the WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS which demonstrated this kind of functionality. In the review, I had called out the DLNA-compliant media server that was part of that mobile NAS’s feature set, where you had the ability to show your photos and videos on one of the latest Smart TVs via the home network the TV is connected to.

Mobile NAS with hotspot mode set for “secure” or “private” mode

As well, some of the increasingly-sophisticated devices like the WD MyPassport Wireless Pro also are offering the same kind of Samba-based (SMB / CIFS) file transfer method that you can do with other NAS devices so you can transfer resources to these devices using your regular computer’s operating-system’s file manager and its network file transfer protocols. Similarly, the devices may implement FTP, WebDAV or other common network-file-transfer protocols primarily to allow you to upload photos and footage from your Wi-Fi-capable digital camera or camcorder to the mobile NAS if the camera honours these standard protocols.

How to have this work properly?

Here your mobile NAS unit needs to be set up for connection to an existing small Wi-Fi network as a client device of that network. It also needs to be set up to share its resources to that client network in addition to the network it creates using its own wireless access point.  Most of this configuration that I would be talking about here would be something you would do using the vendor-provided native mobile-platform app or, perhaps, a Web page that the mobile NAS creates as its management page.

Mobile NAS with hotspot functionality set up for file sharing mode

Typically, you may set this up as part of enabling a “Share Wi-Fi Connection”, “Wi-Fi Hotspot” or similar function that effectively shares a logical network connection between multiple devices that connect to the portable NAS’s access point. This function is similar to what most travel routers offer as a way to share the one logical (and usually permitted) connection to a hotel’s guest-access Wi-Fi service amongst the personal computing devices you and your travelling companions own. Similarly, this same function creates a “trust circle” between multiple devices connected to the mobile NAS’s access point allowing them to be discovered by each other even if the public-access Wi-Fi network that the NAS is connected to is configured properly with client isolation enabled.

When you enable the “hotspot” function on a sophisticated mobile NAS like the WD MyPassport Wireless / Wireless Plus series or the Seagate Wireless Plus, you will have an option to set this function to work in a “private” or “secure” mode or a “sharing” mode.  In the “private” mode, the data held on the NAS becomes available only to devices on the Wi-Fi network created by the mobile NAS’s access point. Conversely, the “sharing” mode will make the data available to devices on the network which has the Wi-Fi segment you connected the mobile NAS to as part of the “hotspot” mode.

Availability of data held on mobile NAS Sharing mode Secure / Private mode
Host wireless network Yes No
Wireless network created by mobile NAS’s access point Yes Yes

To allow the mobile NAS to share its resources on your home network, you need to enable the “sharing” mode or disable the “secure” or “private” mode while setting up the “hotspot” functionality. It is a wise practice not to use the “sharing” mode on a Wi-Fi network used as a public-access network and this function wouldn’t work with these networks that are properly set up with client isolation enabled.

What can the manufacturers do to improve the Wi-Fi bridging functionality on these devices?

The “Wi-Fi hotspot” or “Shared Wi-Fi” functionality could be improved upon by allowing users to create preset operating modes for particular Wi-Fi networks. This would work in a similar way to the way Windows allows the user to classify each network they connect to as being a “home”, “work” or “public” network, causing it to adopt an exposed persona suitable for your home or office network or a private person for that public-access Wi-Fi network. Such parameters could be to determine whether to share resources with the host network or to always clone the client device’s MAC address when connecting along with remembered Wi-Fi network passwords.

Here, as a user connects the mobile NAS to a Wi-Fi network for “Shared Wi-Fi” operation, they are invited to save the configurations they have established for that network. Then, when they reconnect to that network, the mobile NAS assumes the operating modes that the user previously defined. These details can be referenced by the host network’s ESSID or a user-defined name for that network.

Conclusion

Once you know how to set up that highly-capable mobile NAS device and exploit the “private” or “shared” operating modes that these devices offer with setting up the “Shared Wi-Fi” or “hotspot” mode, you can then use them to make resources held therein available to other small networks you connect them to.

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Photos not the right way up on your TV?

Media contents in Dropbox folder available on DLNA-capable Samsung smart TV

Pictures that are copied in using Windows Explorer may not always appear the right way up

A problem that can surface with some photos that you view using your Smart TV, set-top device or similar equipment is that they don’t appear the right way up.

It happens more so with those pictures that come in from an email whether as attachments or downloadable links, or from a cloud-storage service. Similarly it also happens if you transfer the pictures from your device to your computer using the operating-system’s file manager i.e. Windows / File Explorer or MacOS Finder by using the file-copy procedure. This latter process is something most of us do when we want to make digital pictures that we took at someone’s location available on their computer.

These cameras record information about the photo orientation as part of the picture file when you click the shutter

The main problem is that today’s cameras and mobile devices record the orientation of the photo in the file that represents the image as part of machine-readable EXIF metadata. Most of the file managers recognise this metadata and use it for creating the thumbnail that is seen for each file. Similarly, when you upload photos to an image-sharing or social-media site, you will find that these pictures will be shown the right way up thanks to this metadata. It is also true of image management software which even creates copies of the imported files that are the “right way up” as part of the image-import process.

Windows 10 File Explorer

Copying photos from your camera using Windows / File Explorer or other file managers may not guarantee the best results with photo-rotation metadata

But a lot of hardware media players like smart TVs, set-top devices and electronic picture frames don’t recognise this EXIF picture-orientation flag and show the picture with the incorrect orientation. It can be exacerbated with DLNA media-streaming setups where the DLNA media server doesn’t use this flag to rotate the picture to the correct orientation when it is being served to the client device. The same problem also extends to some photo-viewer and presentation software that doesn’t understand the EXIF photo-orientation tag properly.

Another situation that always surfaces with photo orientation is if you are photographing something on a table, floor or similar horizontal surface. Here, the camera or smartphone doesn’t properly register the orientation due to the orientation sensor being driven by gravity. In this situation you would still have to manually rotate the image even if you were importing it with software that understood this EXIF orientation metadata.

How can you work around these problem when you want to show images that are drawn in from email or copied over from that digital camera?

Cast To Device option to show picture on DLNA video player – may not always work properly with the EXIF photo-orientation metadata

One way would be to open each portrait image using a photo editor or bitmap image editor that understands the EXIF photo-orientation tag like Windows Paint or Adobe Photoshop, then save the image as a JPEG file using the software’s Save As command. This will typically rotate the image the right way up and strip off confusing EXIF tags. It would appeal to situations where you are preparing a folder of photos to be shown, perhaps on a USB stick or using “Cast To Device / Play To Device” on your Windows computer and a DLNA-capable video device.

For Windows users, especially those who regularly copy photos to their computer using Windows Explorer / File Explorer, there is a free program that can batch-rotate photos in a folder correctly. The program is called JPEG Autorotate and is freely available from its author’s site. Once installed, it appears as a secondary-menu (right-click) option to allow you to rotate a single image or all the photos in a folder including the subfolders without quality loss.

If you are using a computer as the primary storage or “staging post” for your digital image collection, the best path is to use the photo import functionality that is part of the image management software installed on it. Typically this will be Windows Photos, Windows Photo Gallery or Photos for MacOS (formerly iPhoto) that will be with your operating system. As well, make sure that the “rotate photos on import” option is selected in your software’s import settings.

This information will help you with making sure that digital pictures appear the right way up no matter the device you are using.

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Keeping the download-to-own music market alive

A lot of Millenials are preferring to use Spotify or similar “online jukeboxes” as their main music source, having the music play out of a wireless speaker or a network-capable audio system that supports these services.

What are these online jukeboxes?

Spotify

Spotify – the preferred only music source for many Millenials but can be used as a music discovery tool

These “online-jukebox” music services all work work primarily on a subscription basis where you don’t effectively own your music library, rather you stream down the music from these services after you pay a nominal amount per month or year to use these services. Some of them offer a free ad-supported variant of their music service, usually as an on-ramp to the main subscription-funded service.

But some of us, like myself, use the above-mentioned “online jukeboxes” more as a music-discovery tool so we can identify musical content that can fit in to our library. Examples of this include playing playlists that convey particular musical styles or moods, or discovering and “trying out” artists, albums and tracks that pique our interests.It includes situations where a company may offer a branded playlist with songs that represent what they are about.

In my case, I showed some interest in one of the “yacht-rock” playlists on Spotify and there had been a few songs that piqued my interest, some of which would be hard to find on CD in Australia. What I had done was to visit one of the transactional download-to-own music stores that is run as part of a platform’s app store and subsequently bought these songs as audio files that I could download. This meant I could add them as part of a personal playlist that existed on a microSD card as well as on a NAS that is available on the home network.

How can the “download-to-own” music services fit in

iTunes Store

iTunes – still going strong as a download-to-own music store

The way some of us add this content to our libraries is through a transaction-based “download-to-own” service like iTunes or Amazon Music. Increasingly most of the app stores associated with particular regular-computing or mobile platforms like the Windows Store and the Google Play Store are adding “download-to-own” music as part of their offerings.

Such services allow us to buy songs or albums as common media files to download to our computers or NAS drives, with a similar experience to buying the physical media where we effectively own it, but in a digital form. There used to be many of these services before the subscription-based music-streaming services took over the online music marketplace.

Microsoft Store - Muisc

Microsoft Store -Microsoft’s latest entry in to the “download-to-own” scene, providing music as MP3 files

What used to be an advantage was for these services to sell most of the songs as single tracks rather than require the user to buy a complete album. This was very similar to the era of the 7” 45rpm single where people could buy these records for cheap if they are after a particular song. This appealed to people who were buying to build up playlists of particular songs typically to set a particular mood.

There is also the value that you are not dependent on whether the content you like is still available at the online streaming music service or whether you have burnt up your mobile download allowance by streaming your music while on the road. Some of the online music services provide for offline listening but the files that are stored are kept in a proprietary form that can’t be readily played with anything other than the software provided by the online service.

Viable niches that these services can answer

Some of these services still exist but could be taken further to support a range of viable niches whether in the form of content types or audio-reproduction standards.

Answering new and upcoming talent

The typical answer to this issue is to offer these services as an “on-ramp” for upcoming talent like new musicians, basement bands and DJs. Here, these artists who typically have a handful of content but aren’t discovered could be able to sell their content through these services. They offer a simplified “on-ramp” for this kind of talent and may even provide the promotion that it needs to be exposed.

You may find that some of these “download-to-own” music stores will have their “artist and repertoire” teams who “suss out” local gigs, buskers and community radio to hunt down the new talent whose material they can sell.

Supplying particular kinds of content

To the same extent, there are some suppliers who sell particular kinds of “download-to-own” music that suit particular tastes.

Beatport

Beatport – the dance-music download-to-own store

One of these is Beatport who sell electronic dance music to DJs and those of us who like that kind of music. This is similar to how some dance-music record stores like Central Station Records in Australia existed, catering to this user class and were pulling out the stops to hunt down the latest beats.

Sometimes some record labels that specialise in particular kinds of content may run their own shopfront instead of or alongside the traditional distribution channels. It may be seen as a way to bypass import controls that some distributors and retailers value highly for controlling what is available in certain markets. As well, this approach effectively provides direct access to the talent the labels represent.

High-quality file-based audio

Another way would be that file types that represent high-quality audio could be available either as a standard or premium option. This can appeal for those of us who value high-quality audio or regularly use a top-notch hi-fi system. As well, there could be the ability to obtain high-quality masterings of the recordings that are available, including the ability to obtain a version prepared with or without high dynamic range.

Here, such recordings can be seen as a premium option for those of us who want something that is more special than what the online streaming services offer. An example of this has been the PonoMusic store that Neil Young started out with but is undergoing some renovation.

How can they complement Spotify and co?

But to continue making sure that these services maintain popular appeal, “download-to-own” music stores that want to cover a large market base have to have access to the current and back catalogue offered by most, if not all, of the major labels across the world. This includes being able to sell these recordings in to other countries, which may raise concern with music labels who don’t like the concept of parallel-importing of content in to other markets.

Similarly, they could partner with the likes of Spotify to offer the recordings that these subscription-based “online jukeboxes” provide for playback as a premium download-to-own option. For example, a media-management program that works with a “download-to-own” store and one of the “online jukeboxes” could offer a “buy this playlist offline” function where you can effectively buy your own copy of a playlist. Here, it would check which of the songs are downloaded or “ripped” from your CDs, then allow you to buy the remainder of the playlist from the “download-to-own” stores.

Conclusion

What has to happen is that, like the way radio and packaged pre-recorded music complemented each other, the download-to-own music services and the “online jukeboxes” of the Spotify kind need to be positioned in a manner to complement each other in the file-based music world.

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LG puts downward pressure on OLED TV prices

Article

OLED TV from LG drops to lowest price of the year | CNET

CNET video about the LG OLED TVs – Click / Tap to play

My Comments

LG is pulling out the stops to make the OLED-based 4K flat-screen TVs become in reach for most consumers. These sets use the same display technology as a lot of the high-end Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S and Note series, with this technology allowing for improved contrast and black levels as far as the picture goes. It is because the pixels light up under their own power and turn off when it is black, rather than using white LEDs as a backlight for a colour liquid-crystal display with the corresponding light leakage that can occur wherever it is black.

But another advantage that OLED has allowed for when it comes to product design is that the manufacturer can work towards a very thin product

For example, in the USA, they are offering the B6 series of 55” and 65” 4K HDR-capable sets at the price of US$2000 for the 55” variant (OLED55B6P) and US$3000 for the 65” variant (OLED65B6P). This is effectively a price reduction of US$500 for the 55” model and US$1000 for the 65” model.

Even Australian viewers haven’t missed out on the promotion effort with LG and Harvey Norman promoting the OLED smart-TV range through a TV-advertising campaign ran over the last few weeks, as a run up to the Christmas shopping season.

Personally, I could see this as a sign that OLED for large displays could be coming cheaper and more as a viable competitor to the LCD technology. This is more so for those of us who value the high contrast in the pictures that we see, especially if we work with high-quality photos and videos.

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Arcam follows up the Solo Neo with some network Blu-Ray receivers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Arcam

Product Page – Solo Music and Movie range

My Comments

Arcam Solo Neo CD receiver

Arcam Solo Neo CD receiver

At the Australian Audio and AV Show 2013, I had a look at Arcam’s Solo Neo network CD receiver which is their entry to the high-quality network CD receiver marketplace. But I subsequently had a look for information on the Web about whether the Solo Neo still existed or was superseded by a better unit.

The Arcam Solo Neo was, at that time, the latest in their Solo range of CD receivers and DVD receivers that this British hi-fi name had designed. Then, it was on a par with the likes of the Cyrus Lyric and the Naim Uniti 2 which were systems of this calibre that were being offered by hi-fi’s “names-of-respect” to answer the needs associated with compact high-quality music systems that are simple to operate.

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver - press picture courtesy of Arcam and Robert Follis Associates Global

Arcam Solo Music – latest iteration of the Solo network CD receiver lineup

But I had found that they replaced the Solo Neo with a range of network-capable receivers that also had an integral optical-disc player. Here, they offer the Solo Music which has a stereo output and an SACD player which plays ordinary CDs as well which is to be seen as a follow-on to the Solo Neo. But Arcam also offers the Solo Movie 2.1 which has a Blu-Ray player along with support for a subwoofer for deeper bass along with the Solo Movie 5.1 which has the Blu-Ray player and supports a full surround-sound output through its own amplifier.

What are these Solo Music and the Solo Movie network-capable AV systems about?

Arcam Solo Movie network Blu-Ray receiver press picture courtesy of Arcam and Robert Follis Associates Global - www.robfollis.com

Arcam of Cambridge: Solo Movie system incorporate the latest technology and components from Arcam’s 2016 AVR & Hi-Fi ranges, including the acclaimed Class G amplification, High-End Blu-ray and DVD Replay and full App Controlled music networking / streaming. Either available as a 5.1 full-surround variant or as a 2.1 two-speaker variant

All three of these units require you to supply your own speakers rather than being supplied with a pair of speakers as is common for this breed of equipment. Here, the Solo Music and Solo Movie 2.1 could put up 80 watts per channel RMS across a standard 8-ohm speaker load with 0.2% total harmonic distortion while the Solo Movie 5.1 could handle 60 watts per channel RMS with all channels driven into standard 8-ohm speakers, again with 0.2% total harmonic distortion. Here, these systems could handle most modestly-sized speakers that are in existence, thanks to Arcam’s “Class G” amplification technology which combines the sound quality associated with the Class A linear amplification method and the efficiency of the Class AB linear amplification method, serving as another way to achieve high-quality sound from compact equipment designs.

They all have four HDMI inputs for video peripherals along with an HDMI output for your TV with the ability to feed your TV’s sound through these systems courtesy of HDMI-ARC functionality. There are also SP/DIF digital inputs, one as an optical form and another as a coaxial form for other digital-audio devices like MiniDisc decks. Then there are two line-level inputs, one in the form of RCA connections and the other in the form of a 3.5mm stereo phone jack for connecting up other line-level audio devices.

As well as the aforementioned optical disc drives (SACD in the case of the Solo Music and Blu-Ray in the case of the Solo Movie models), there is a radio capable of receiving FM or DAB+ broadcasts along with the ability to play audio and visual media held on your NAS or other network media resource thanks to DLNA technology. It can also play file-based content that exists on a USB storage device like a memory key as well as being able to stream audio content from your Bluetooth-capable smartphone but using aptX for improved sound quality.

You can connect these Solo music and AV systems to your home network using Wi-Fi or Ethernet (including via a HomePlug powerline network segment). But I would prefer that this kind of equipment is connected to your home network using Ethernet or a HomePlug AV connection to allow for reliable home-network operation.

Why am I giving space to the Arcam Solo Music and Solo Movie systems?

The Arcam Solo Music matches its network-CD-receiver peers in so much that it can be the heart of a high-quality three-piece music system for your apartment, dorm or other similarly-compact living space. Here, you can choose to run it with a pair of high-quality speakers, with the fact that these could be a pair of brand-new bookshelf speakers, the traded-in floor/shelf speakers that the hi-fi store you bought the Solo Music from are clearing out or the pair of good-quality speakers you ended up with at the estate sale.

But the Solo Movie network Blu-Ray receivers take this further by integrating the concept of a network CD receiver with that of those DVD and Blu-Ray home-theatre systems that a lot of people in the suburbs are enamoured with. Unlike the typical “home-theatre” system offered at Best Buy, Harvey Norman and the like which are only supplied with small speakers for the front and surround channels and are engineered so that the subwoofer does all of the work in handling the bass, the Solo Movie units can be connected to bookshelf or floorstanding speakers that can reproduce the bass notes very adequately.

The Solo Movie 2.1 even impressed me more for people who want something with just two speakers but able to do video playback rather than being the full-bore surround system. Examples of this include a system used in a secondary lounge area, office or bedroom; or by those of us who are just satisfied enough with the two speakers for reproducing our video content’s soundtracks. You could even connect your computer through the Solo Movie 2.1’s HDMI connections so that the sound from YouTube and other online audio sources could be piped through the better speakers connected to that unit rather than your laptop’s or monitor’s tinny speakers.

Hotels and the like would even value this system as something to be installed in a guestroom, suite or apartment to provide the ability to play optical discs, network-hosted sources, the radio or smartphones and similar devices that a guest brings along; along with the TV’s sound through better speakers.

Arcam could provide inherent support for online audio sources like vTuner Internet radio, Spotify and Pandora and this can easily be provided using a firmware upgrade that effectively adds these sources.

But what they are doing is to use the Solo product lineup as their way of providing integrated audio and video systems that are about high-quality sound and vision in a manner that appeals to those of us who are more comfortable with this kind of product. They can also encourage others who offer the network-enabled CD receiver in their product lineup to look towards offering similar simplified products that can fulfil video-playback needs.

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