ARD takes interactive audio content to Germany

Articles (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

ARD is now on to interactive audio drama for Amazon Echo and similar smart speakers — this time based on Tatort

INFODIGITAL – Der Tatort wird interaktiv: ‘Höllenfeuer’ (infosat.de)

Tatort Interaktiv (ARD Gruppe)

Previous coverage on interactive audio content

BBC introduces interactive radio drama using Alexa

My Comments

The BBC have used their world-famous radio-play craft to create an interactive audio drama that works hand-in-glove with the Amazon Alexa platform. The listeners interact with their Amazon Echo or Alexa-based smart speaker to direct how the story goes.  Here it intermingled the radio-play expertise with those “Choose Your Own Adventure” storybooks or the text-based adventure computer games.

Now the German ARD group of public-service broadcasters have taken on a similar effort but have carried their effort on the back of the “Tatort” crime-drama series that is a mainstay of German-language TV content. The effort would be very similar to the early Police Quest series of crime-themed graphic adventure games that Sierra launched through the late 1980s and early 1990s; or the LA Noire video adventure game released in 2011 and set in late-1940s post-WWII Los Angeles.

They have taken this further by making it work on both the Alexa and Google Assistant platforms including their mobile-platform assistant apps as well as the smart speakers. In addition to this, ARD even provides a Web-based interactive audio adventure so you don’t have to use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for this kind of game.

What is peculiar about Tatort is that this German-language crime series has different investigation teams that are each based in different cities or districts within Germany, Austria or Switzerland who solve the cases within that area. Each episode that comes on in the German-speaking countries through their public-service broadcaster on Sunday night 8:15pm local time will appear with a case from a different city.

This interactive audio play, called Höllenfeuer in German or Hellfire in English, has been prepared primarily by Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) with the help of WestDeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) and uses the Munich-based Tatort crime-investigation team. The player controls the character of Kommissarin Mavi Fuchs who works alongside Kriminalkommissar Kalli Hammermann to solve the case. You have to use voice commands to direct these protagonists in the interactive audio play which can be replayed if you are trying to “get the grip of it” further.

But what is happening is that some broadcasters are discovering the idea of mixing radio plays with interactive elements to provide the audio equivalent of classic adventure computer games. Then they are linking these products with voice-driven assistant platforms. The approach ARD have taken with Tatort is to use this new form of delivering audio content effectively to take their existing intellectual property, especially a tentpole TV show, further.

It can be seen as a way to take am existing content franchise further and implement it in a new form, especially an interactive audio play. This is more so as the smart speakers and other voice-driven-assistant devices become more popular.

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Using USB or Wi-Fi to tether your laptop to your smartphone–which is better

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Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

You can use USB or Wi-Fi to tether your laptop like this Sony VAIO to your smartphone for Internet access with Android making it easier

USB vs WiFi – Tethering 4G Broadband to a Laptop via Android Phones – ISPreview UK

My Comments

You may be having to “tether” your laptop to your smartphone in order to gain access to the Internet. This can be done using a USB cable or wirelessly mostly using your phone as a Wi-Fi mobile-broadband router.

Android users can do this without the need to load additional software on their computer while iOS users may need to run iTunes if they wish to use a USB cable. As well, US-based users may have to have their mobile telco enable tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot use on their smartphone, with these companies likely to charge an extra fee for this service.

An ISPReview article did a comparison test on the performance of a USB-based tether setup compared with a Wi-Fi-based setup using the same late-model Android smartphone (running Android 10) and Windows laptop. The phone was set up with a 4G mobile broadband connection offered by Three UK that is typical of a UK mobile broadband service. Here, the setup was in the same urban area and using the same cell (mobile base station) for the tests.

As well, for each setup, there were two separate tests performed on different days with the results recorded in the article. This catered for different load factors that the Three UK network or the particular cell may be experiencing during the tests.

It was found that both the USB and Wi-Fi connection setups were on a par with each other. This was catering to the situation that the bandwidth offered by the mobile broadband service may not be great especially if you are dealing with 4G broadband.

But the article alluded to users having situation-specific needs for using particular connection types such as preferring to use USB for security, simple setup or where a lot of Wi-Fi connections could compromise performance. On the other hand, it may be about providing Internet to a device that doesn’t support USB-modem / USB-tethering connectivity but has Wi-Fi like a tablet; or creating a mobile local network using your phone.

Here, I would support these kind of setups if you are intending to purpose your smartphone for use as a modem and are not likely to be making or taking many calls with it. This is because you may find that a call may encumber your phone’s use as a modem especially if you like to walk about during that call.

As well, I wouldn’t expect good performance out of a tethered-smartphone setup if you are on a busy commuter train or bus. This is due to the increased competition for bandwidth from the various base stations serving the train’s or bus’s route as many people use their mobile devices while riding this route. This statement would also apply to use of mobile broadband in a rural area where the mobile base stations would be equipped with older technology.

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Low Earth Orbit satellites to improve rural broadband opportunities

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Starlink and similar satellites could give satellite broadband more credibility (Credit SpaceX)

 

Article

Report: Satellite broadband market to triple | (advanced-television.com)

How Is Low Earth Orbit Changing Satellite Internet? – X2nSat

Elon Musk’s Starlink poised to shake up Australia’s broadband (smh.com.au)

Low-Earth-Orbit satellite operators

OneWeb

Starlink

My Comments

A consistent problem associated with bringing broadband Internet to rural and remote places is the cost and time involved in bringing these services there. But there have been various efforts by public and private sector entities to implement satellite broadband to serve this need.

Most of these have distinct disadvantages such as the equipment and service being very costly and a lot of these services not offering great bandwidth and latency. Let’s not forget that the deployment of this technology isn’t all that scaleable.

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague has underscored how dependent we are on Internet connectivity for our business and social lives. The role of rural areas has even been underscored with these areas gaining increased appeal to live or do business within because of the pandemic. A recent Euroconsult report has stated that satellite broadband will gain its value over the next decade as a way to enable access to the Internet from remote areas.

The new low-earth-orbit satellites

Yorkshire Dales By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

… allowing more rural and remote areas to gain real broadband

But a new form of satellite broadband is being pushed out at the moment. This is based on low-earth-orbit satellite technology which uses a very large constellation of satellites that are closer to Earth than traditional satellite technology. This improves on latency and on bandwidth available to the end users.

Silicon Valley visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have been behind this technology in order to have Internet all over the world, even in the remotest areas thereof.

But Elon Musk has got this idea off the ground with Starlink which is a subsidiary of his SpaceX venture. Most of his constellation of Starlink satellites are in orbit now while he has more being manufactured and set up for launch. The service is in beta testing for the USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Germany  at the time of writing but more areas are expected to be covered soon. They have also started establishing their presence in Australia.

Elon Musk’s service isn’t just for rural and remote areas at the moment. He is seeking FCC type approval for equipment that is to be installed on vehicles, ships and aircraft and to be operated while the vehicle, vessel or aircraft is moving. This is to court the provision of Internet service aboard the likes of commercial jets, the merchant navy and long-distance land transport. Who knows when Musk will then have consumer equipment designed to facilitate ad-hoc use of Starlink from caravans, motorhomes or remote camping locations.

Another service being pushed out at the moment is the OneWeb service that is pushed out by a UK and Indian consortium. Let’s not forget that Amazon is working on their Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite service but they want to make sure everything is perfect before a single satellite is launched.

The idea of having many satellites is being made feasible with reuseable rockets like the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, which effectively reduces the cost of launching many spacecraft.

What I see of the low-earth-orbit satellite constellations is that they are intended to be viable competition in the satellite-broadband Internet service space. This could allow the idea of cost-effective high-throughput low-latency broadband to be made available to rural and remote areas or long-distance transport applications.

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How can you use Amazon Alexa to measure room temparature

Article

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

These new Echo speakers can work as temperature sensors for a room

How to Get an Amazon Echo to Tell You a Room’s Temperature (lifehacker.com)

My Comments

Newer Amazon Echo smart speakers are being equipped with room-temperature sensors that contribute this data to the Alexa smart-home subsystem.

Here, the devices you need to use in the rooms you want to measure the temperature of are:

  • Amazon Echo 4th Generation (spherical) or newer generation
  • Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Generation (cylindrical) or newer generation

To confirm your Amazon Echo device’s room-temperature measuring ability, you need to open the Alexa app or http://alexa.amazon.com and log in to your Amazon account. Then you go to “Devices”, then “Echo & Alexa” and select the name of your Echo smart speaker that you want to verify. Here, you need to look for the “Temperature Sensor” field which will come up with the current room temperature if your Echo speaker is suitably equipped.

Each Echo device that you want to use as a temperature sensor has to be given a unique room name. Then to ask Alexa for the current room temperature of a particular room, you say “Alexa, what is the temperature for <desired room name>?”

There are limitations with this setup at the moment. You can’t ask for a house-wide indoor temperature or the indoor temperature of a room cluster like upstairs. This is because Amazon hasn’t worked out what way whether to assess the room temperature of an area covered by multiple devices as an average or what other way. Nor have they added the necessary logic to do so.

But you can create a temperature-based routine that works with this temperature for the Alexa smart home. For example, you may have a fan or heater come on if the room reaches or falls below a minimum temperature. This may be a situation where you don’t have an occasionally-used room that isn’t part of your central HVAC setup and you use portable heating or cooling equipment for this purpose.

Or you want to be alerted if a room of yours falls below a critical temperature level so you can undertake procedures to mitigate frost or pipes freezing up.

What Amazon will need to do for Alexa in relation to this is to make this more useful is to allow averaging of multiple temperature sensors so you can measure areas larger than a room. As well, it could cater to environments where you have multiple suitably-equipped Echo speakers in one room like in a large kitchen / dining area for example.

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Intel to build up semiconductor manufacturing in US and Europe

Articles

Intel Corporation is introducing the 8th Gen Intel Core processor with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics in January 2018. It is packed with features and performance crafted for gamers, content creators and fans of virtual and mixed reality. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

Intel to have factories capable of working as semiconductor foundries for other manufacturers

Intel to spend US$20 billion on US chip plants – Hardware – iTnews

Intel announces massive shift in processor strategy, including making chips for other companies | Windows Central

My Comments

Intel is intending to increase its semiconductor manufacturing capacity within the United States as part of their latest vision speech they held at their American headquarters.

One of the goals behind this push is to challenge Asian dominance in microelectronics manufacturing. This is of concern since most of the silicon used in today’s electronics is being manufactured in Taiwan. Here, if political tensions between China and Taiwan escalate, it could lead to disaster for IT and allied industries including the automotive, aerospace and defence sector thanks to continued concentration of microelectronics manufacture there.

Range Rover Sport

This will be important also for vehicle manufacturers and the like as well as computer and consumer-electronics manufacturers

It also has been underscored by the recent shortage of advanced microelectronics components. This is impacting the manufacture of finished computer hardware products but also is impacting the manufacturer of other products like cars that effectively have their own computers. For example some vehicle builders were even keeping finished cars at their factories until certain silicon chips are available before they could release them to the dealerships.

Intel intends to set up and open two new semiconductor factories in Arizona and mot just use them for Intel’s own microelectronics products. Here, they will be capable of working as semiconductor foundries who manufacture silicon chips for other vendors who are typically “fabless” semiconductor manufacturers like Qualcomm or Apple who outsource their actual manufacturing.

Intel will undertake further work to open up factories within the USA and Europe with the goal of tipping the scales in favour of these areas when it comes to manufacturing advanced silicon. It will underscore these countries’ sovereignty when it comes to advanced microelectronics manufacture allowing them to make their own cutting-edge technology from the drawing board to the finished product themselves.

Another direction that Intel sees for their silicon design and manufacture is for them to license out Intel’s intellectual property to third parties to add value to or turn in to finished product. It will also mean that Intel’s factories will end up making silicon based on RISC-based microarchitectures like the open-source RISC-V technology or the established ARM technology.

If Intel gets this idea up off the ground, it could be a chance for semiconductor foundries capable of advanced microelectronics manufacturer to appear within USA, Canada, Europe and Australasia. This will help these countries with industries dependent on this kind of technology like green tech, consumer electronics or transport.

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Apple to head towards separately-delivered security updates for iOS

Article

Your iPhone or iPad will have security and software-quality updates delivered separately from the main functionality upgrades

Apple Could Soon Split iOS Updates And Security Updates | Ubergizmo

My Comments

A trend that is increasing in relationship to software maintenance and quality assurance is to assure the ubiquitous availability of critical security, software-quality and compliance updates for a device or program. This is through delivering such updates under separate cover from major updates that primarily add features and functionality.

You may think of these critical updates as just security patches for the device or program but these can include general bugfixes, software refinements to to have the program run more efficiently or compliance modifications such as to update daylight-saving-time rules for a particular jurisdiction.

Microsoft, Google and Apple headed that way with Windows 10, Android and with MacOS respectively.  This approach benefits the software developer and the user equally because the security, software-quality or compliance patches are usually small files. The software developer can assure guaranteed delivery and installation even with older devices that aren’t able to take newer versions of the software thus hardening the device’s platform against security exploits.

Similarly the user can choose not to install a functionality update if they don’t see fit or may find that it offers a steep learning curve due to significant user-experience changes. It is more so where a user would rather run with a highly-stable version of the operating system than the latest “rushed-out” version that carries bugs.

Apple will be taking this approach with iOS soon. Previously, the iOS mobile operating system was maintained using the delivery of major versions offering major functionality. But Apple would deliver iOS bugfixes and security patches as a minor or “point” version dependent on a major version, something that was considered orthodox in the world of software maintenance and quality assurance.

But if they were to “reach” older iOS versions with a security or compliance update, they would need to offer a minor or “point” version for a prior major version as a separate software package. This is an issue that affects people who maintain older iOS devices, especially iPads or iPod Touch devices that are less likely to take newer major versions of iOS.

Through the development of iOS 14.5, Apple has looked in to the idea of “splitting” the critical updates from the main software package so that these can be delivered under separate cover. This could also allow Apple to package one of these updates to touch multiple major versions of the operating systems.

It could also be a chance for Apple to see a long service life out of iOS devices especially where older devices may not run the latest major version of iOS. This would be very applicable to iPad and iPod Touch users who see long-term use out of those devices or families who pass down older iPhones to their children. It could also be a chance for Apple to keep multiple hardened codebases for iOS going but able to support different device abilities.

It will also encourage Apple to deliver frequent software patches to iOS users especially if they can be installed without restarting the device. This is more so if Apple wants to create a tighter software-quality-assurance regime for their platforms.

But Apple also has to provide separate critical-update delivery to their tvOS operating system which drives their recent Apple TV devices and their watchOS operating system that drives their Apple Watch products. It can then be about creating a robust software quality-assurance approach across all of their products but catering to people who maintain older products.

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UK passes law to allow gigabit broadband in large buildings

Article

The UK is mandating that apartment-block landlords facilitate infrastructure wiring for next-gen broadband networks

New UK Law Passed to Spread Gigabit Broadband into Big Buildings – ISPreview UK

My Comments

A very common issue affecting multiple-premises buildings like apartment blocks, office blocks and shopping centres is the provision of wireline telecommunications infrastructure through these buildings to serve tenants or lot owners who want to benefit from services offered through the infrastructure. Here, there can be problems regarding the landlord or other powers-that-be who have oversight of the building accepting the installation of such infrastructure.

The United Kingdom are facing this problem with their large multi-premises buildings but in a particular way. There, most of these buildings are owned by a single landlord who leases out each premises i.e. an apartment or retail / office space to a tenant in exchange for monthly rent. But the landlords tend to gain a lot of “clout” when it comes to permitting infrastructure to be deployed through a building.

What has been happening with deployment of next-generation broadband infrastructure in these buildings is that some landlords are not responding to requests regarding this infrastructure existing in their buildings. This is compared to most landlords taking up the offer on next-generation broadband through their building due to this giving the building or the lettable space more marketable value.

It is seen as an aggravating issue as multiple regional broadband infrastructure providers are setting up shop in different villages, towns and cities across the country in order to provide cost-effective Gigabit internet service to its citizens.

A new law, the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act 2021, has been enacted through the whole of the UK to answer this matter. This allows a telecommunications infrastructure network provider to deploy broadband infrastructure through a multiple-premises building or similar leasehold building.

It facilitates an improved tribunal-based dispute-resolution mechanism as well as an obligation on landlords to facilitate the deployment of digital infrastructure through their buildings. These actions come in to play when the landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to requests from an ISP to install a broadband connection that the tenant has requested.

A lot of the talk of this law was focusing on pure-play residential developments i.e. apartment blocks and towers. But there is effectively the idea to extend the scope of this law to cover commercial-focused developments like office blocks and shopping centres. I also see this encompassing mixed-use developments that have commercial and residential premises, as is increasingly the trend especially with apartment blocks having the ground floor or the first few floors having commercial or retail premises.

Of course, the questions that come up include who assumes responsibility for the installation and maintenance of any infrastructure between the communications room and the individual premises. It also includes whether that infrastructure belongs to the landlord or the network provider.

It will undergo periodic review and refinement processes as what a well-oiled legislative instrument should be doing. But I also see this benefiting network infrastructure operators who serve dense urban areas where many large apartment blocks and high-rise developments exist.

An issue that has to be looked at during this review cycle is situations where multiple network infrastructure providers approach a building’s landlord and seek to arrange connection. Here, it will be about whether unnecessary duplication of “communications-closet to premises” infrastructure should take place especially if such infrastructure is of the same medium like optical fibre, RF coaxial cable or Cat5 Ethernet. It is a situation that will come about as the Internet service becomes more competitive in the UK’s urban areas and multiple service providers will knock on a landlord’s door or tout tenants for their services.

Then there will be the question of whether a landlord must rent out roof space on their multiple-premises building for RF-based communications services like 5G small-cell base stations, digital-broadcasting infill repeaters or business-radio transmitters. This question will be distinct due to the building’s premises tenants not directly benefiting from the infrastructure and will encompass the installation of associated power and wireline backhaul infrastructure.

At least there are processes in place to make sure that large multiple-premises buildings in the UK will benefit from ultrafast broadband Internet services.

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

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

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

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

From the horse’s mouth

Dell

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

My Comments

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

Dell XPS 13 press picture courtesy of Dell Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Google improving on their simplified cross-platform software development platform

Article

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

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

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

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

My Comments

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

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

.. and tablets

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

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake

.. and laptops with the same codebase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Chrome OS 10th Birthday artwork image courtesy of GoogleArticles

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

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

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

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

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Get new features with automatic updates – Google Chromebooks

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

My Comments

Dell Chromebook 13 press image courtesy of Dell Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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