Queen Elizabeth II uses Zoom to talk to the Australians Of The Year

Article

Queen Elizabeth II tells the 2022 Australians of the Year they’re doing ‘marvelous work’ in Zoom interview – ABC News

‘Cheeky’ Queen jokes as she congratulates Australians of the Year | Queen’s platinum jubilee | The Guardian

Daily Telegraph Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

 

My Comments

As part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II placed a Zoom videocall to Australia to talk to this year’s Australians Of The Year.

Here, she had called Government House in Australia where the Governor-General was with Shanna Whan, Dylan Alcott, David Hurley, Linda Hurley, Valmai Dempsey and Dr Daniel Nour with Dylan Alcott, the retired wheelchair tennis player who won the Golden Slam, making a cheeky remark to the Queen to liven up the conversation.

But this shows that Queen Elizabeth II is no stranger to new communications technologies that came forth through her reign.

She was the first monarch to broadcast the annual Christmas Message to the Commonwealth by television and, subsequently, the Internet. These messages were broadcast using the ever-evolving and increasingly ubiquitous TV technologies like the 625-line technology that was sharper than the original 405-line technology, colour TV, satellite broadcasting and digital TV.

In 1958, Her Majesty placed the first direct-dial long-distance telephone call in the UK by placing a call from Bristol to the Lord Provost at Edinburgh. She celebrated this technology’s 50th anniversary in 2008 by making a videocall between the same locations using Skype and the Internet.

As well in 2004, she knighted Sir Tim Berners-Lee who is the inventor of the World Wide Web which made the Internet what it is able to do today.

This Zoom call effectively synthesised television, the self-dial long-distance phone call and the World Wide Web together as a single instance that linked the UK to Australia in a visual manner.

It is effectively summing up Her Majesty’s long reign that has been underscored with many different communications technologies coming to fruition through that time.

G’Day! Alexa has been taught Australian slang

Article Australian flag

Alexa partners with The Betoota Advocate (mumbrella.com.au)

Betoota Teaches Alexa Aussie Slang – (smarthouse.com.au)

Alexa Looks To Expand Her Knowledge Of Australia By Teaming Up With The Betoota Advocate – B&T (bandt.com.au)

My Comments

Australia does have its own slang and culture which has been celebrated through Australian films and television like “Crocodile Dundee” or “Neighbours”; or the 1980s Paul Hogan “Throw A Shrimp On The Barbie” ad. There was even a book called “G’Day Teach Yourself Australian” (Amazon link) which conveyed the look of a foreign-language courseware book but taught Australian slang and culture to English-speaking travellers in a humourous way. Even the current popularity of “Bluey” amongst families in other countries is putting Australian culture increasingly on the map.

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

Amazon Alexa is now learning Australian slang and culture

But the voice-driven assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant weren’t taught that kind of information. This made it difficult for Australians to use these assistants in a manner that is comfortable to them.

A previous approach to supporting dialects within a language including regional dialects was the BBC’s effort at a voice assistant. This responded to British English and even supported the various regional accents and dialects used within various parts of the UK. But it has been focused towards access to its own content and currently isn’t able to work with other voice-assistant platforms as a linguistic “module”.

Now Amazon have worked with the Betoota Advocate to “teach” Alexa about Aussie slang and culture. It is not just the slang and colloquial speech that she had to understand but items relating to Australian life and culture. For example, being able to answer which AFL or NRL club won their respective code’s Grand Final or to summon up the latest Triple J Hottest 100 as a playlist.

In the case of the football Grand Finals, there may be an issue about which football code is referred to by default when you ask about the winner of one of these penultimate matches and don’t identify a particular code. This is because of New South Wales and Queensland “thinking of” the NRL rugby-league code while the other States think of the AFL Australian-Rules code.

It could be even something like “How do I pay the rego on the ute” which could lead you to your State government’s motor registration office or, if they support it, instigate the workflow for paying that vehicle registration.

Australians and foreigners can even ask Alexa the meaning of a particular slang term or colloquialism so they can become familiar with the Australian vernacular. This would be required of Alexa anywhere in the world especially if you are talking with Australian expats or finding that a neighbourhood is becoming a “Little Australia”. Or if you are from overseas and show interest in Australian popular culture, you may find this resource useful.

A feature that may have to come forward for this Australian-culture addition to Amazon Alexa is to support translation of Australian idioms to and from languages other than English. This is more so where Australian culture is being exposed in to countries that don’t use English as their primary language or where these countries acquire a significant Australian diaspora. An example of the first situation is the popularity of MasterChef Australia within the Indian subcontinent and the existence of Australians within Asian and European countries.

This addition of Australian slang and culture to Alexa is available to all devices that support the Amazon Alexa voice-driven assistant. This ranges from Amazon-designed equipment like the Amazon Echo smart speakers to third-party devices that implement Amazon Alexa technology.

At least this is an example of how a voice-driven assistant provider can work towards courting countries and diasporas that are being seen as viable. It may have to be about encouraging the use of modular extensions to enable voice-driven assistants to work with multiple languages, dialects and cultures.

Bluetooth LE Audio–how I see this coming about

Bluetooth LE Audio

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset press image courtesy of Sony

Bluetooth LE Audio and its multicast audio abilities will still have to factor in headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be considered worthwhile

As covered previously, Bluetooth LE Audio is considered as the next evolution of Bluetooth wireless audio for smartphones, tablets and computers.

It encompasses the LC3 audio codec that is more efficient than the traditional Bluetooth Classic SBC audio codec. This provides for increased power efficiency and battery runtime for portable setups thus leading to the design of very small hearable devices like earbuds or hearing aids, thanks to the ability to use a very small battery. There is also the ability to realise increased sound fidelity for Bluetooth audio links, something as good as at least CD-quality stereo audio.

Add to this reduced latency for Bluetooth-based audio links, which means that this mode of transmission can be seen as relevant for video-game sound or audio sent to multiple endpoint devices.

This codec is not bound to a particular device or chipset manufacturer which means that more devices can be legitimately built with Bluetooth LE Audio support without the need for a particular chipset for example. As well, Android 13 is expected to have this functionality built in to it if your Android phone can be updated to this newer version. I would also expect iOS and other operating systems to have support for Bluetooth LE Audio through an upcoming feature-level update.

Here I am talking about two features being introduced with Bluetooth LE Audio that will increase its market acceptance.

Audio sharing and broadcast audio

A potential killer feature for Bluetooth LE Audio is the ability to broadcast audio content to other devices. This could be in the form of you and a friend listening to the same audio playlist through your own headphones with the ability to have the sound level how you like it as well as hearing it in stereo. Or it could be multiple people hearing a common program source on their devices at their preferred sound levels.

Some of the use cases include providing assisted hearing arrangements in public areas without the need to use an induction-based loop that only works with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or proprietary stereo headsets. Or it could be about the “silent disco” where you can bring your own headsets to participate in the dancing. As well, it is also being seen as a way to, for example, provide audio from a particular TV set installed in a bar or cafe without needing to have a set of speakers associated with the venue’s audio system switched between the background music or the TV audio.

Even at home, it could be about enhanced audio setups for TV viewing where particular viewers could benefit from increased audio volume or access to audio description or dubbed foreign-language soundtracks. This is without impacting on what everyone else wants to benefit from and also facilitates access to stereo or “virtual surround’ sound for the same content.

The preferred Bluetooth LE Audio approach for establishing these setups is to use a control app or physical controller to “point” compatible audio devices to the shared audio content or audio stream. Typically such apps will be required to discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast streams and allow users to select their desired audio stream.

Use with legacy Bluetooth devices

This can’t be achieved with the large number of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices that are currently in use. It would be more of concern where there isn’t the possibility of manufacturers providing firmware updates to enable these legacy devices for Bluetooth LE Audio.

An example of this is the “headset wars” taking place between Bose, Sony, B&O and Apple where these manufacturers are outpacing each other with the best-value over-ear noise-cancelling Bluetooth headsets. You may find that the you bought that Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 headset but they won’t be compatible with Bluetooth LE Audio unless Bose or Sony offer a firmware update to fully support Bluetooth LE Audio.

Here, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of a set of perfectly good headphones just to benefit from Bluetooth LE Audio and its broadcast features. After I was reading material on the Bluetooth SIG site about this standard, I came across a suggested path for integrating this technology with wired headphones.

This was in the form of a Bluetooth LE Audio controller app or operating-system function which worked as a “sink” device for the audio-sharing / broadcast-audio features and stream what was received to the wired headphones. But this approach would also be about repackaging the incoming selected broadcast audio stream as a Bluetooth Classic (A2DP) audio stream for something like a Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headset. That is although they reckoned that this approach may not be efficient due to “repackaging” the Bluetooth audio stream but would need to be achieved to allow the use of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices in this context.

This same app may also be required to provide software support for audio sharing especially where the device doesn’t have inherent support for Bluetooth LE Audio. It would be in the form of being a Bluetooth LE Audio source or target for audio-sharing setups.

Bluetooth speakers and car audio

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth LE Audio apps may also be required to bring Bluetooth LE Audio broadcasts to Bluetooth speakers like this Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague gave drive-in movies a renaissance in some areas. This was because households could go out and watch the movies from the safety of their cars and reduce the spread of the virus. This had been extended to “drive-in” live entertainment like concerts except a stage for the live entertainment was used rather than a screen for showing films.

Even before, there has been some interest in drive-in movies as a form of “cinema al fresco” in countries that had balmy summers. This was about enjoying watching films in a cinematic experience while in an outdoor setting rather than going in to an air-conditioned cinema to watch films as a community.

But these setups would distribute the sound via FM radio so each household can hear the entertainment’s soundtrack through their car’s car radio or a portable radio tuned to a particular FM frequency. This was able to use the many-decades-old FM technology to deliver the sound in stereo to each vehicle. Bluetooth LE Audio could easily be seen as a logical successor to FM radio for this kind of use case.

As for Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth audio-receive adaptors, these could be part of the Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast-audio concept. For example, Bluetooth SIG often suggested the TV, whether at home, in a hotel room or in a public place as a key use case for the broadcast-audio feature that Bluetooth LE Audio offers. This is in the form of assisted hearing or access to an alternate soundtrack at home, reduced volume for hotel-room TVs or the ability to hear the soundtrack for a show playing on a bar’s TV via headphones.

Here, a Bluetooth speaker could be about a group of people at a particular table in a bar hearing the call of a sports event shown on one of the TVs in that bar through one of these speakers. Or it could be about someone hearing the audio-described soundtrack for a show that everyone is watching through a small Bluetooth speaker while everyone else hears the standard soundtrack through the main sound system.

Firstly this could mean that there could be an incentive to support Bluetooth LE Audio functionality within newer speaker-equipped Bluetooth audio equipment or Bluetooth audio-receive adaptor devices. As for as legacy equipment is concerned, it may be about the previously-mentioned Bluetooth LE Audio controller app that repackages broadcast audio content delivered via this new standard as the legacy Bluetooth Classic Audio standards.

Announcement priority

A feature that will be wanted for Bluetooth LE Audio’s broadcast-audio feature is some form of “announcement priority” feature. Such a feature would be called for in relationship to emergency messaging but would also be desired for the transport sector.

Here, that would be akin to the traffic-announcement priority feature instigated with ARI and implemented primarily with RDS, where, with a suitably-equipped car radio tuned to a broadcaster supporting this feature, you can turn it down or have something else playing but you don’t miss out on the latest road reports. This is due to out-of-band subcarrier-based signalling that causes the radio to increase the volume to a particular level or pause the other program you were listening to while a traffic report is being broadcast.

If this was implemented in Bluetooth LE Audio, it could be set up to allow a transport-service announcement or building emergency announcement to override whatever you are listening to on your phone, but not override a phone call. Such a facility would have to have some form of “relevance filter” with metadata relating to the platform that you are waiting at or the vehicle you are riding on in a public transport system, or the language the announcement comes in. Like with the car-radio application, there would be a requirement to cancel the currently-playing announcement but be ready to hear the next one for further updates.

Multichannel audio

Another killer use case for Bluetooth LE Audio is to allow a single source device to deliver two or more audio streams relating to the same content as a multichannel audio stream to multiple output devices. This is with the sound in phase and in sync across all of the audio channels.

Here, it would be operated in a manner that doesn’t require vendors to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing multichannel-audio equipment that exploits Bluetooth LE Audio technology.

The obvious use case is to have standards-based true wireless earbuds and hearing aids without manufacturers reinventing the wheel every time they design these setups. As well, the requirement would be to have the source device effectively stream each channel to each output device so that there is no retransmission involved thus assuring power efficiency for earbuds and hearing aids.

Bluetooth speakers

I would see the multichannel audio feature also benefit Bluetooth speakers. Here, a manufacturer could design their Bluetooth speakers so that if you buy two or more of these speakers, you could set up a pair for proper stereo-sound reproduction with increased separation.

There may even be a requirement to support multiple multichannel speaker clusters. This could be multiple pairs of speakers used to reproduce a stereo soundmix in different areas.

Use of subwoofers to pump up the bass

Some device manufacturers would be taking this further by having speaker setups involving speakers that have different frequency-response characteristics. The classic example is a pair of highly-compact speakers reproducing the stereo sound but not having much bass response while another larger speaker with a larger driver and housing like a subwoofer yields the bass notes. Such setups are desired as a way to have compact speakers yet be able to have that bit of bass “kick”.

This would require support within the standard for passing audio frequencies above or below a certain threshold to particular speakers that can handle particular audio frequency ranges. Most likely it may be facilitated through each speaker taking an audio stream that represents the full frequency range and passing it through low-pass or high-pass filter circuitry or its acoustic design doing the filtering.

Surround sound

Then there is the idea of using Bluetooth LE for multi-channel surround sound applications, typically associated with video content. This may be about a soundbar that represents the front and centre channels of a surround soundmix, a subwoofer representing low-frequency effects and two speakers representing the “surround” channels.

Most likely the source device will decode the Dolby or DTS surround-sound formats and allocate particular channels to particular speakers.

Speakers with own audio inputs or sources

There will be problems with this kind of setup where Bluetooth speakers typically have another audio input beyond the Bluetooth audio stream delivered by a smartphone or other device. This represents at least a stereo line-level analogue input with better setups offering one or more wired digital inputs of some form.

It may also extend to where a Bluetooth LE Audio speaker in a multichannel setup has its own programme source. Such sources can range from a traditional radio or TV broadcast source or packaged content medium like vinyl, CD or Blu-Ray. Or it could be file-based media on something like a USB device or simply receiving online audio or video content via the Internet. I would even encompass devices that are part of a network-based multiroom audio setup or smart speakers that have their own microphone and work with a voice-driven home assistant.

The common use case involving speakers and multichannel sound from a connected source would be a soundbar that is connected to a TV set via HDMI-ARC. This soundbar, expected to reproduce the sound from the connected TV, would typically work alongside a subwoofer that reproduces the bass frequencies, while it reproduces the midrange frequencies for the left, right and centre channels in an audio mix. Some setups may support additional front speakers for increased stereo separation or a set of rear speakers for full-on surround sound. Or it could be about extra speakers required to properly reproduce a Dolby Atmos soundmix.

Here, it will be about wanting to have one speaker that has the input or content source work as a Bluetooth LE Audio source device for these setups. This speaker will then be required to yield a multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream to the other speakers as if it is a Bluetooth audio-transmitter adaptor. The other speakers would then pick up and reproduce the audio channel that they are assigned to.

This use case involving a Bluetooth speaker of some sort having its own audio input or source and working with a multichannel audio setup would be seen as the exception when it comes to having a Bluetooth source device stream each channel of a multichannel soundmix to different output devices.

In this case, it would be about streaming a stereo or multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream from the connected or integrated audio source around multiple Bluetooth LE speakers. You would then have to set each speaker to receive the appropriate audio channel, most likely through the manufacturer’s app.

Conclusion

The broadcast audio and audio-sharing abilities of Bluetooth LE Audio will most likely appear in the form of mobile-platform “controller” apps that discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast / multicast streams and share them with audio devices associated with the mobile device. Here, there will be a reliance on these apps to “bridge” Bluetooth LE Audio multicast streams to the Bluetooth Classic Audio devices currently in circulation.

Most likely I would see the Bluetooth LE Audio multichannel support manifest in manufacturers who encourage us to buy two or more of a particular speaker product and set them up for stereo sound. As well, it could encourage in the short  term the supply of subwoofers and three-piece speaker kits that implement this technology to give that bit of extra bass kick.

What is the Declaration For The Future Of The Internet about?

Articles

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Internet services now under a worldwide declaration

US signs Declaration for the Future of the Internet alongside 60 global partners | Windows Central

US Pledges to Keep an Open Internet With Dozens of Other Countries – CNET

Governments Pledge to Keep an Open Internet, Not Russia, China (gizmodo.com)

From the horse’s mouth

The White House, USA

FACT SHEET: United States and 60 Global Partners Launch Declaration for the Future of the Internet | The White House

Declaration-for-the-Future-for-the-Internet_Launch-Event-Signing-Version_FINAL.pdf (whitehouse.gov)

My Comments

The US, European Union, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries signed a declaration regarding the Internet. This declaration, called the “Declaration For The Future Of The Internet” is an effort by the Biden White House to reinforce what the Internet is to be about as an open network of networks with a fair playing field.

This is a response by these countries against digital authoritarianism that has been shown by authoritarian regimes like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. It encompasses domestic and international online repression efforts like censorship along with international political destabilisation efforts like election / referendum interference, disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks.

There is also the same fear that due to populist strongman politics taking place ins some Western and other countries not associated with that kind of politics, the Internet as a symbol of freedom of expression could be under threat in those countries.

It is a reference for public policymakers, citizens, the business community and civil society organisations, but is non-binding. This is seen as a sticking point amongst some because sone countries like the USA aren’t toeing the line when it comes to a free and open Internet with issues like civilian surveillance. But some policymakers in some governments, international organisations and civil society could see this as a “gold standard” for what the Internet should be about.

The goal in this Declaration is to maintain what the Internet was about when it came about in the 1990s – an open network of networks that is freely accessible to all.

It is about protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms for all people in the online space. As well, it is about the global Internet that facilitates the free flow of information for citizens and businesses. That also includes inclusive and affordable connectivity to the Internet, which also factors in access from rural and remote areas. As well, there should be an increase in our digital skills so we can work the Internet competently.

Trust in the global online ecosystem is also underscored, including protection of the privacy and confidentiality of end-users. This is about safe secure private Internet use. For businesses of all sizes, it is about allowing them to compete, innovate and thrive in their own merits.

This goal is to be facilitated using reliable secure interoperable and sustainable infrastructure around the world. Here it would be managed in a multiple stakeholder approach to assure common benefit.

An issue that will need to he looked at is how online services are operated by the private sector. This is with expectations regarding end-user privacy along with their operation as a social good. It may also have to include support for healthy competition between online service providers so as to support innovation and service affordability.

I do see a strong possibility that the Declaration For The Future Of The Internet as a “Gold Standard” for what is expected of the Internet as part of a democratic society.

USB microphones or traditional mics for content creation?

Blue Yeti Nano USB microphone product image courtesy of Logitech

Blue HYeti Nano – an example of a USB microphone pitched at podcasters

Increasingly as we create and post content online, we are realising that microphones are becoming a valuable computer accessory for recording or broadcasting our voices or other live sound. This is more so where we are making podcasts or videos or even streaming video games with our own commentary, with this kind of content creation becoming a viable cottage industry in its own right.

Even videoconferencing with Zoom and similar software has had us want to use better microphones so we can be heard clearly during these videocalls. This was important while stringent public health measures were in place to limit the spread of the COVID coronavirus plague but is now coming in to play with hybrid (online and face-to-face) work and education settings that we are taking advantage of.

What we are realising is that the integrated condenser microphone in your laptop computer or Webcam isn’t really all that up-to-scratch for this kind of content creation. This is similar to the days of the cassette recorder where people who aspired to make better live recordings stopped using their tape recorder’s built-in microphone and used a better quality external microphone.

But there are two ways of connecting an external microphone to your computer – USB port or a traditional microphone input.

USB microphone

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook Right-hand side - Power switch, Volume buttons, 3.5mm audio jack, USB 2.0 port

The USB port on most regular computers is what you would plug a USB microphone into for plug-and-play recording

The USB microphone has at least one microphone element directly connected to an integrated audio interface. This converts the sound picked up by the microphone into a digital form useable by the host computer.

Some of these microphones have an audio-output function which feeds a headphone jack so you can monitor what you are recording or broadcasting with a set of headphones. You may even find that some USB microphones have a microphone-level analogue audio output so you can connect them to a traditional audio device rather than just a computer.

All of the USB microphones present to the host computing device as a standard USB Audio input device with those with headphone outputs also presenting the headphone jack as a standard USB Audio output device. This means that the USB Audio class drivers supplied with your computer’s operating system are used to enable these microphones without the need for extra software to be installed on the computer.

An increasing number of manufacturers will often supply audio-processing software that performs equalisation, level control or dynamic-range control on the host computer. Or the digital-audio recording software that you use on your computer will be able to do this function for you. All of this audio processing happens in the digital domain using your computer’s CPU or GPU.

The integrated audio interface allows designers of these USB microphones to set up a sophisticated array of multiple microphone elements in these microphones. This would allow for them to work as one-point stereo microphones or use microphone-array techniques to determine their sensitivity or pickup pattern. You may find that you determine how these sophisticated microphones operate through manufacturer-supplied software or perhaps a hardware switch on the microphone.

Traditional microphone

Behringer UlltraVoice XM8500 microphone product image courtesy of Behringer

The Behringer UltraVoice XM8500 microphone – an example of a traditional microphone

The common traditional microphone makes the sound that it picks up available as a low-level analogue signal. They are designed to be connected to an amplifier, recording device, mixing desk or other audio device that has an integrated microphone amplifier circuit.

This would be either a balanced or unbalanced signal depending on whether the microphone is for professional or consumer use. It is although most value-priced professional-grade mono dynamic microphones typically pitched for PA and basic recording use can work as balanced or unbalanced mics. That is thanks to the mic’s cable connected to the mic itself via an XLR plug even though the cable would plug in to the equipment using a 6.35mm mono phone plug.

There are electret-condenser microphones that work in a different way to the common dynamic microphone but these are dependent on a power source. This is typically provided by a battery that is installed in the microphone or through the associated equipment offering “phantom power” or “plug-in power” to these microphones via their cable.

If you use a traditional microphone with your computer, you would need to use an audio interface of some sort. The traditional sound card installed in a desktop computer or some basic USB audio interfaces that you use with your laptop computer would offer a 3.5mm phone-jack microphone input which would be mono (2-conductor) at least or may be stereo (3-conductor) so you can use a one-point stereo mic. These could work well with a wide range of microphones that have this connection type, typically those pitched at portable-recorder or home-video use.

Then the better USB audio interfaces would offer either at least one microphone input in either a 6.35mm phone jack or three-pin XLR socket, most likely offering a balanced wiring approach. You can still use a mic that has a 3.5mm phone plug if you use an adaptor that you can buy from an electronics store.

Shure X2U USB audio interface product image courtesy of Shure

Shure X2U USB audio interface that plugs in to the XLR socket on a common traditional microphone

Let’s not forget that a significant number of microphone manufacturers offer USB audio interfaces that plug in to their microphone’s XLR socket. These adaptors such as the Shure X2U are powered by the host computer USB interface and, in a lot of cases, provide the “phantom power” needed by electret-condenser microphones.

It is also worth noting that the better quality USB audio interfaces will do a better job at the sound-handling process and will yield a high-quality signal. This is compared to the audio interface in your laptop computer or Webcam, or baseline soundcards and USB audio modules which may not make the mark for sound quality.

For a long time there have been traditional one-point stereo microphones but most of them have been pitched at hobbyist or consumer use with stereo tape recorders. Most such microphones use a hardwired cable with a 3.5mm stereo phone plug or a 5-pin standard DIN plug if the recorder has a stereo microphone socket, or two 6.35mm or 3.5mm mono phone plugs if it has a pair of mono microphone sockets. But some professional stereo microphones have a 5-pin XLR or Neutrik connection and come with a breakout cable that has two XLR plugs to connect to a pair of microphone inputs.

What microphone type suits your application better

A USB microphone is valuable for laptops or small desktop computers and is only intended where you are using the software on your computing device to record or broadcast.

You may end up getting more “bang for your buck” out of a USB microphone purchase due to the integrated audio-interface design that they have. This may be of value to people starting out in podcasting or similar audio-recording and broadcasting tasks and want a low-risk approach. As well, you may find them easy to set up and use with your computer especially where the microphone relies on class drivers supplied by the operating system rather than proprietary driver software.

USB microphones are considered to be more portable because you don’t need to carry a USB audio interface with you when you intend to record “on the road” with your computer.

Another advantage is that you have a very short low-level unbalanced analogue audio link between the microphone elements and the signal-processing electronics, This means that you end up without the risk of AC hum or other undesirable noise getting in to your recording due to a long unbalanced low=level audio link.

You may find it difficult to use a USB microphone with a digital camera or camcorder. This is because not many of them provide USB Audio device support for microphones and similar devices and they may not eve have a host-level USB connection for any peripherals. Similarly, you may find it difficult to use them with most mobile-platform devices because of the way some versions of iOS or Android handle them.

A traditional microphone with a common connection type excels when it comes to versatility. This is more important where you intend to use them with a wide range of audio devices like recording equipment or mixing consoles. Similarly they excel when it comes to microphones that have particular sensitivity and audio characteristics out of the box.

It also comes in to its own when you want to record with a tape recorder or other standalone recording device to assure recording reliability. This use case includes the use of external microphones with your video equipment to have better sound on your video recordings.

Some users may find that connecting traditional mics to their computer via a mixing console of some sort may give them better hands-on control over how their recordings or broadcasts will sound. Here, you may find that some of the newer mixing consoles are likely to have their own USB audio interface to connect to a computer especially if they are more sophisticated. As well, some users who have used mixing desks or standalone recording devices frequently will find themselves at ease with this kind of setup. This is because these devices offer the ability to adjust the sound “on the fly” or mix multiple microphones and audio sources for a polished recording or broadcast.

Conclusion

A cardinal rule to remember is that you will end up having to spend a good amount of money on a good-quality microphone if you are wanting to make good-quality recordings or online broadcasts. No digital processing can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when it comes to audio recording.

Here, the USB microphone will come in to its own if you are just using a computer. On the other hand, a good-quality traditional microphone used with a USB audio interface could answer your needs better if you want pure flexibility.

A highly compact Bluetooth audio transmit-receive adaptor from TaoTronics

Article – From the horse’s mouth

TaoTronics

TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter for TV 2-in-1 Wireless 3.5mm Adapter (Product Page)

My Comments

Another highly-portable Bluetooth audio adaptor worth mentioning is the TaoTronic Bluetooth Transmitter for TV. This device sells for USD$21.99 in the USA direct from TaoTronics through the product link above but Kogan are selling this in Australia for AUD$55.00 with tax and shipping included to Australia.

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II noise-cancelling headset optimised for Google Assistant - Press picture courtesy of Bose Corporation

Can be used to stream TV audio to a pair of good headphones like these Bose QuietComfort headphones for private late-night listening

Like the Twelve South AirFly that I covered previously, this battery-operated device can stream audio content from a headphone jack that it is plugged in to to a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The obviously comes in to its own when using your Bluetooth headphones on the plane to watch a movie via the in-flight entertainment setup; working out at a fitness centre which implements an audio distribution setup for TV sound or workout music fed to headphones; or watching TV late at night with the sound via headphones.

But this device also is about being a Bluetooth receiver adaptor where you send audio content from your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer to a sound system so you can use its speakers for that music. Here, the TaoTronics adaptor has a 3.5mm stereo phone jack and comes with a patch cord with a 3.5mm stereo phone plug at each end as well as an adaptor cord that has a 3.5mm stereo phone jack at one end and two RCA plugs at the other end.

Cassette adaptor in use with a smartphone

A cassette adaptor being used to play a smartphone’s audio through a car cassette player – the TaoTronics Bluetooth transmit-receive adaptor can even be about a wireless link between the phone and the adaptor

But you can use other connection devices like longer or better cables to achieve the same goal in a better way. You could even plug a cassette adaptor in to this TaoTronics adaptor and effectively stream your smartphone’s multimedia audio through that cassette player installed in your 1970s-1990s classic car. As well, for newer cars, this would be about using the car stereo’s AUX input to stream multimedia audio from your phone to the car stereo even if the Bluetooth setup is only about communications audio.

This is powered by a battery that is quoted to have a 10-hour battery runtime or via a USB power source fitted with a USB micro-B plug. Product pictures even illustrate you powering the device from one of the USB sockets on your TV that will typically be used for a Wi-Fi adaptor to to play video from a USB memory key. You can even have the device’s battery charging while you are using it to transmit sound to your headphones or play a Bluetooth audio stream through your favourite audio system.

It is user-friendly in the context that you don’t have to perform a special rigmarole with the pairing button to switch between transmit or receive modes. Rather you just flick a mode switch between “transmit” and “receive” modes. There is still a button to instigate device pairing where necessary.

The size of this device is smaller than the typical smartphone which, along with battery / USB operation, incentivises you to take it on the road more frequently. A good travel scenario that may come about is to use the adaptor with your Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth active-noise-cancelling headphones to hear a movie on the inflight entertainment system during the flight. Then, when you are at the hotel, you plug this device in to the “audio input” jack on your hotel room’s TV to play Spotify music through that TV’s speakers.

In-room AV connection panel

The TaoTronics Bluetooth transmit-receive adaptor can even work well with your hotel-room TV if it has an AV connection panel like this with a 3.5mm stereo mini phone jack for audio input

The TaoTronics Bluetooth audio transmit-receive adaptor supports Qualcomm aptX operation but only for one device at a time. Otherwise, it can stream audio to two headsets which can come in handy where two people are listening to the same audio source like a TV programme. It also works according to the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard thus allowing for increased audio stability and battery efficiency along with the ability to run two headsets.

TaoTronics could have a variant of this device that works in a “communications and multimedia” mode like the Sony SBH-52 headphone adaptor that I used previously. This could earn its keep with wired headphones or automotive setups where you need to have full-on handsfree communication and audio playback with the same device.

But this is an example of a highly-compact easy-to-use device that can be about either streaming audio from your phone via Bluetooth to an existing sound system or using your favourite Bluetooth headphones to hear TV sound in private.

Use of DVB-I and similar technologies to provide radio and TV over Internet-based infrastructure

ABC News 24 coronavirus coverage

Traditional TV and radio could be delivered via the same means as the Internet

A direction that we are expecting to see for broadcast radio and TV technology is to stream it via Internet-based technologies but assure users of a similar experience to how they have received content delivered this way.

It is about being able to use the agile wired and wireless Internet technologies like 5G mobile broadband, fibre-to-the-premises, fixed-wireless broadband; and Ethernet and Wi-Fi wireless local area networks to deliver this kind of content.

What is the goal here

The goal here is to provide traditional broadcast radio and TV service through wired or wireless broadband-service-delivery infrastructure in addition to or in lieu of dedicated radio-frequency-based infrastructure.

The traditional radio-frequency approach uses specific RF technologies like FM, DAB+, DVB and ATSC to deliver audio or video content to radio and TV receivers. This can be terrestrial to a rooftop, indoor or set-attached antenna referred to in the UK and most Commonwealth countries as an aerial; via a cable system through a building, campus or community; or via a satellite where it is received using special antennas like satellite dishes.

The typical Internet-Protocol network used for Internet service uses different transport media, whether that be wired or wireless. It can be mobile broadband receivable using a mobile phone; a fixed setup like fibre-to-the-premises, fixed wireless or fibre-copper setups. As well, such networks typically include a local-area network covering a premises or building that is based on Ethernet, Wi-Fi wireless, HomePlug or G.Hn powerline, or similar technologies.

The desireable user experience

TV remote control

It will maintain the traditional remote-control experience like channel surfing

It also is about providing a basic setup and use experience equivalent to what is expected for receiving broadcast radio and TV service using digital RF technologies. This includes “scanning” the wavebands for stations to build up a station directory of what’s available locally as part of setting up the equipment; using up/down buttons to change between stations or channels; keying in “channel numbers” in to a keypad to select TV channels according to a traditional and easy-to-remember channel numbering approach; using a “last-channel” button to flip between two different programmes you are interested in; and allocating regularly-listened-to stations to preset buttons so you have them available at a moment’s notice.

This has been extended to a richer user experience for broadcast content in many ways. For TV, it has extended to a grid-like electronic programme guide which lists what is showing now or will be shown in the coming week on all of the channels so you can switch to a show that you like to watch or have that show recorded. For radio, it has been about showing more details about what you are listening to like the name of that song you are listening to for example. Even ideas like prioritising or recording the news or traffic announcements that matter or selecting content by type has also become another desireable part of the broadcast user experience.

Relevance of traditional linear broadcasting today

There are people who cast doubt on the relevance of traditional linear broadcast media and its associated experiences in this day and age.

This is brought about through the use of podcasts, Spotify-like audio streaming services, video-on-demand services and the like who can offer a wider choice of content than traditional broadcast media.

But some user classes and situations place value upon the traditional broadcast media experience. Firstly, Generation X and prior generations have grown up with broadcast media as part of their life thanks to affordable sets with a common user experience and an increasing number of stations or channels being available. Here, these users are often resorting to broadcast media for casual viewing and listening with a significant number of these users recording broadcast material to enjoy again on their own terms.

Then there is the reliance on traditional broadcast media for news and sport. This is due to the ability to receive up-to-date facts without needing to do much. Let’s not forget that some users rely on this media experience for discovery of content curated by someone else like staff at a TV channel or a radio station rather than an online service’s content-recommendation engine. Even the on-air talent is valued by a significant number of listeners or viewers as personalities in their own right because of how they present themselves on radio or TV.

Access without traditional radio-frequency infrastructure

TV aerial and satellite dish on house roof

DVB-I and allied technologies may reduce reliance on RF infrastructure like TV aerials or satellite dishes

One of these goals here is to allow access to traditional broadcast radio and TV without being dependent on particular radio-frequency infrastructure types and reception conditions. This can encompass someone to offer a linear broadcast service with all the trappings of that service but not needing to have access to RF-based broadcast technologies like a transmitter.

To some extent, it could be a method to use the likes of SpaceX Starlink or 5G mobile broadband to deliver radio and TV service to rural and remote areas. This could come in to its own where the goal is to provide the full complement of broadcasting services to these areas.

It also is encompassing a situation happening with cable-TV networks in some countries where these networks are being repurposed purely for cable-modem Internet service. As well, some neighbourhoods don’t take kindly to satellite dishes popping up on the roofs or walls of houses, seeing them as a blight. Here, multi-channel pay-TV operators have had to consider using Internet-based delivery methods to bring their services to potential customers without facing these risks.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Or a mobile platform tablet could run software to pick up TV broadcasts via the Internet

Let’s not forget that IP-based data networks are being seen as a way to extend the reach of traditional broadcast services in to parts of a building that don’t have ready access to a reliable RF signal or traditional RF infrastructure. This may be due to it being seen as costly or otherwise prohibitive to extend a master-antenna TV setup to a particular area or to install a satellite dish, TV aerial or cable-TV connection to a particular house.

In the portable realm, it extends especially to smartphones or mobile-platform tablets even where these devices may have a broadcast-radio or TV tuner. But broadcast reception using these tuners only becomes useful if you plug a wired headset in to the mobile device’s headset jack, because of a long-standing design practice with Walkman-type personal radio devices where the headset cable is the device’s FM or DAB+ antenna. Here, the smartphone could use mobile broadband or Wi-Fi for broadcast-radio reception if you use its speaker or a Bluetooth headset to listen to the radio.

Complementing traditional radio infrastructure

SAT>IP concept diagram

What SAT>IP is about with satellite TV – broadcast-LAN content distribution

In the same context, it is also being considered as a different approach to providing “broadcast-to-LAN” services where broadcast signals are received from radio infrastructure via a tuner-server device and streamed in to a local-area network. This could allow the client device to choose the best source available for a particular channel or station.

But even the “broadcast-to-LAN” approach can be improved upon by providing an equivalent user experience to a traditional RF-based broadcast setup. It would benefit buildings or campuses with a traditional aerial or satellite dish installed at the most optimum location but use Ethernet cabling, Wi-Fi wireless or similar technologies including a mixture of such technologies to distribute the broadcast signal around the development.

As well, some of these setups may be about mixing the traditional broadcast channels and IP-delivered content in to a form that can be received with that traditional broadcast user experience. Or it can be about seamlessly switching between a fully-Internet-delivered source and the broadcast stream provided by a broadcast-LAN server to the local network that is providing Internet service. This can cater towards broadcast-LAN setups based around devices that don’t have enough capacity to serve many broadcast streams.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio – an example bringing broadcast radio via RF and Internet means

Even a radio or TV device could maintain a traditional user-experience while content is delivered over both traditional RF infrastructure and Internet-based infrastructure. This could range from managing a situation where an alternative content stream is offered via the Internet while the main content is offered via the station’s traditional RF means. Or it could be about independent broadcast content being broadcast without the need to have access to RF infrastructure or spectrum.

Similarly, some digital-broadcast operators are wanting to implement networks typically used for Internet service delivery as a backhaul between a broadcaster’s studios and the transmitter. Here, it is seen as a cost-effective approach due to a reduced need to create an expensive pure-play wired or wireless link to the transmitter. Rather they can rely on a business-grade Internet service with guaranteed service quality standards for this purpose.

Even a master-antenna system that is set up to provide a building’s or development’s occupants access to broadcast content via RF coaxial-cable infrastructure could benefit this way. This could be about repackaging broadcasters’ content from Internet-based links offered by the broadcasters in to a form deliverable over the system’s RF cable infrastructure rather than an antenna or satellite dish to bring radio and TV to that system. It could be also seen as a way to insert extra content for that development through this system such as a health TV channel for hospitals or a tourist-information TV channel for hotels.

How is this approach being taken

Here, a broadcast-ready linear content stream or a collection of such streams that would be normally packaged for a radio-frequency transport is repackaged for a data network working to IP-compliant standards. This can be done in addition to packaging that content stream for one or more radio-frequency transports.

This approach is built on the idea of the ISO OSI model of network architecture where top-level classes of protocols can work on many different bottom-level transports, with this concept being applied to broadcast radio and TV.

The IP-based network / Internet transport approach can allow for a minimal effort approach to repackaging the broadcast stream or stream collection to an RF transport. A use case that this would apply to is using a business-standard Internet service as a backhaul for delivering radio or TV service to multiple transmitters.

It is different from the Internet-radio or “TV via app” approach where there is a collection of broadcasters streamed via Internet means. But these setups rely primarily on online content directories operated by the broadcasters themselves or third parties like TuneIn Radio or Airable.net. These setups don’t typically offer broadcast-like user experiences like channel-surfing or traditional channel-number entry.

At the moment, the DVB Group who have effectively defined the standards for digital TV in Europe, Asia, most of Africa, and Oceania have worked on this approach through the use of DVB-I (previous coverage on this site) and allied standards for television. This is in addition to the DVB Home Broadcast (DVB-HB) standard released in February this year to build upon SAT-IP towards a standardised broadcast-to-LAN setup no matter the RF bearer.

Similarly, the EBU have worked on the HRADIO project to apply this concept to DAB+ digital radio used for radio services in Europe and Oceania at least.

Another advantage that is also being seen is the ability for someone to get “on the air” without needing to have access to radio-frequency spectrum or be accepted by a cable-TV or satellite-TV network. This may appeal to international broadcasters or to those offering niche content that isn’t accepted by the broadcast establishment of a country.

What is it also leading to

This is leading towards hybrid broadcast and broadband content-delivery approaches. That is where content from the same broadcaster is delivered by RF and Internet means with the end user using the same user experience to select the online or RF-broadcast content.

One use case is to gain access to supplementary content from that broadcast via the Internet no matter whether the viewer or listener enjoys the broadcaster through an RF-based means or through the Internet. This could be prior episodes of the same show or further information about a concept put forward in an editorial program or a product advertised on a commercial.

For radio, this would be about showing up-to-date station branding alongside show names and presenter images. If the show is informational, there would be rich visual information like maps, charts, bullet lists and the like to augment the spoken information.

If it is about music, you would see reference to the title and artist of what’s playing perhaps with album cover art and artist images. For classical music where people think primarily of a work composed by a particular composer, this may be about the composer and the work, perhaps with a reference to the currently-playing movement. Operas and other musical theatre may have the libretti being shown in real time to the performance.

In all music-related cases, there may be the ability to “find out more” on the music and who is behind it or even to buy a recording of that music, whether as physical media like an LP record or CD, or as a download-to-own file.

For TV content, this would be about a rich experience for sports, news, reality and similar shows. For example, the Seven Network created an improved interactive experience for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics by using 7Plus to provide direct access to particular sports types during the Games.  A true hybrid setup on equipment with a broadcast tuner would allow a user to select Channel 7 or 7Mate for standard broadcast feeds using the 7Plus user experience with the broadcast feeds supplied by the broadcast tuner or the Internet stream depending on the signal quality.

Issues to consider

There are issues that will be raised where broadcast radio and TV are delivered over Internet infrastructure with the goal of a broadcast-like user experience.

One of these is to assure users don’t pay extra costs for this kind of reception compared to delivery by RF-based means. Here, these Internet-based broadcast setups would have to be “zero-rated” so that users don’t incur data costs on metered Internet services like mobile broadband. Add to this a common issue with rural areas where Internet service quality wouldn’t be reliable enough to provide the same kind of user experience as traditional RF-based broadcast reception.

As well, broadband infrastructure providers would need to assure transparent access to Internet-based broadcast setups so that users have access to standard broadcasters without being dependent on service from particular retail ISPs or mobile carriers. It may also be about making sure that one can receive broadcast content with the broadcast user experience anywhere in a typical local network.

Another factor to be considered as far as DVB-I or similar technologies are concerned is whether this impacts on content providers’ liabilities regarding broadcast rights for music and sports content. Here, some sports leagues or music copyright collection bodies consider Internet-based distribution as different from traditional broadcast media and add extra requirements on this distribution approach.

It can be about availability of content beyond the broadcaster’s home country, in a manner to contravene a blackout requirement or to provide a competing source of availability to the one who has exclusive rights for that territory. It is also similar to “grey-importing” of music rather than acquiring it through official distribution channels, that also leads to bringing in content not normally available in a particular country.

These issues may be answered through a framework of various legal protections and universal-service obligations associated with providing free-to-air broadcast content. It would be driven more so by countries who have a strong public-service and/or commercial free-to-air broadcast lobby.

Conclusion

Internet-based technologies are effectively being seen as a way to extend the reach of or improve upon the broadcast-media experience without detracting from its familiar interaction approaches. This is thanks to research in to technologies that are about repackaging broadcast signals for an RF transport in a manner for Internet use.

European Union to establish own DNS infrastructure

Article Map of Europe By User:mjchael by using preliminary work of maix¿? [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

EU wants to build its own DNS infrastructure with built-in filtering capabilities – The Record by Recorded Future

My Comments

Europe is working on another Internet-focused effort to maintain some sovereignty over its online affairs.

The DNS is the Internet’s equivalent of the traditional White Pages telephone book where when you would look up someone’s name in that book to find their phone number. Here, it is about looking up the domain name part of a Web address like “homenetworking01.info” and identifying the IP address of the Webserver that hosts the Website. This process is very similar for looking up the IP address for the email server that is listed after the “@” part of an email address.

Here, the European DNS4EU effort is about creating a network of DNS servers that are based in Europe. It is essentially about European data sovereignty where this Internet-essential function is in European hands and fully subject to European laws and norms rather than in the hands of a few non-European companies.

For example, this DNS effort is run compliant to the European Union GDPR user-privacy directive and avoids issues to do with the USA’s CLOUD Act which can place online data use subject to US authorities’ investigative requirements even if it is used overseas as long as the servers are owned by a company based in the USA.

The DNS4EU DNS service will also have powerful filtering abilities to work against cyber attacks. This can include blocking DNS name resolution for domains associated with malware or phishing sites. But there are questions about which kind of Internet user this would be mandatory for like the public sector, financial services or essential services or whether EU-based or all European based ISPs will be required to take advantage of this new DNS4EU infrastructure.

This same project also assures compliance with court orders against access to prohibited content like child-sexual-abuse imagery or pirated content. But this kind of protection may be limited to the European Union or a wider area like the Euripean Single Market or even the countries under the Council Of Europe’s scope.

Another benefit often seen with this is increased speed for European DNS queries due to the proximity of the DNS4EU servers to European citizens and businesses. It is also a way that Europe can carve out its own online identity amongst their own citizens rather than relying on other areas for its IT needs.

As I have said before, there could be questions raised about the kind of geopolitical reach that the European Union’s new DNS infrastructure would have. But it could be seen as one of many attempts for Europe to have its own IT infrastructure and work in a manner independent of countries like the USA.

FIDO Alliance closer to password-free authentication

Article

Facebook login page

FIDO Alliance could be having us move off passwords when we use online services

FIDO Alliance says it has finally killed the password • The Register

From the horse’s mouth

FIDO Alliance

Charting an Accelerated Path Forward for Passwordless Authentication Adoption – FIDO Alliance

My Comments

The FIDO Alliance and WebAuthN groups are moving towards a password-free authentication approach for online services. This is based around a device-local private authentication key associated with your username for that online service that is only released when you enter your device PIN / screen-unlock code or scan your fingerprint or face where your device supports it. A corresponding public key is stored in the user’s account record on the online service’s servers and used to “test” the private key to complete the user-verification process.

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

The smartphone will end up as a key authentication device especially if you sign in with your fingerprint or face

But there is a problem associated with the reality that most of us own multiple computing devices. This can typically manifest in us owning a smartphone, a mobile-platform tablet like an iPad and/or a regular desktop or laptop computer. There is also the fact that most of us will end up owning “connected-TV” equipment be it a smart TV, set-top device or games console that is a gateway to online video services. Or we may even end up using various smart-home platforms including Amazon Echo or Google Home.

The problem also includes lifecycle issues associated with today’s devices such as acquiring a new device or replacing a broken, lost or stolen device. Or it could include where one is using another device on a temporary basis like using a friend’s computer or a computer at a hotel business centre.

Then there is the issue of phishing even with multifactor authentication because there is no way of identifying whether a user is signing in to the real online service or not.

Solutions

Bluetooth as a means for authentication

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse on glass table near laptop

Or you could authenticate online services from a laptop’s fingerprint reader or your smartphone

One factor being examined is the use of your smartphone as a roaming authentication device. Part of what will be looked at is using Bluetooth LE as a machine-to-machine link between the device you are signing in from and your phone to conditionally release online-service authentication keys.

This avoids you entering a one-time-password in to a phishing site for example because you are not transcribing information in to a site. The Bluetooth functionality is also about device proximity – your smartphone is close to the device you want to sign in from.

I also see the Bluetooth link appealing to client devices that have limited user interfaces like connected-TV devices, printers and the Internet Of Things. It avoids the need to log in to your online service to transcribe a “binding code” to use it with connected-TV devices or, at worst, “hunt and peck” a username and password to associate it an online service.

It will also support bare-bones provisioning to new devices irrespective of the platform such as when you, as an iOS or Android mobile-platform user, want to set up you Windows laptop to work with your online services.

As well, it could come in to its own with temporary-use scenarios like shared computers or equipment installed in places like hotels. It could even include adding one’s online video service account to smart TVs or set-top devices installed in hotels, holiday home or common rooms for temporary use.  I could even see this earn its keep as an alternative to cards for authentication at kiosk-type setups like ATMs.

Multi-device authentication

The multi-device approach would be on the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft coming to the party. This is because it would be based on device operating systems and associated cloud-driven account services like Apple ID (MacOS, iOS, tvOS), Google Account (Android, ChromeOS) and Microsoft Account (Windows, XBox).

In some cases, it may extend to device vendors or other entities who run their own cloud-driven account services and want them as the login of choice for your online world. Even account services typically managed by businesses or education establishments could become “primary” account services typically for large fleets of organisation-owned devices.

Amazon Echo Show 10 press image courtesy of Amazon

Even smart displays like the Amazon Echo Show 10 could be in on the action

This approach would have the operating system create and use the authentication key and store these with your account on the cloud-driven account service. It would come in to its own if you are adding a device that works with the same platform as what you were using, for example onboarding an iPad to the same Apple ID as your iPhone.

The system can distinguish between an extant device and a newer device through another device-bound authentication key that underscores that you are authorised to use the service with that physical device. Here, it can be about deeming that particular new device as trusted and under your control or some corporate setups may use it as a way to constrain use of the service to devices they have control over.

Online services would have to support a number of authentication keys for the same username with these associated with different computing platforms an end-user is likely to use. As well, another requirement that would be expected is to have one authentication key able to work across a vendor’s different operating systems such as a mobile OS and a desktop OS. This is due to vendors architecting their mobile operating systems for battery efficiency while the desktop operating systems are maintained for performance.

Situations

Moving between devices or platforms

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

.. as could the likes of connected-TV and set-top-box setups like the Apple TV

If you are moving your online life between devices of the same platform, the multi-device authentication would  have all the platform-level authentication keys moved across similar to what happens with a password vault app.

The Bluetooth authentication approach will come in to play if you have devices of a different platform. But you have to have one of the devices still alive and in your possession for this to work properly.

What really may happen is that you may use Bluetooth authentication to “enrol” other computing devices and have them seen as trusted devices once one or more of your devices support the necessary standards. Then, whichever one of them that is “alive” like, per se, your regular computer or your mobile-platform tablet would be used to authenticate your replacement smartphone to your secure online circle even if this was to replace a lost, stolen or damaged phone.

If you intend to completely move off a platform, you can simply delete from your online services all the credentials associated with that particular platform. This may be through account management options offered by the online service where you revise what platforms you are logged in from.

Multiple-platform setups

Most of us are likely to operate a multiple-platform setup for our online lives. This will typically range from an iPhone and a Windows or Macintosh computer through an Android phone, an iPad and a Windows computer.

Online services will be likely to keep with your username, multiple sets of access credentials for each computing platform you are using. There will still be the ability to keep a platform-specific authentication key for your devices that operate a particular platform along with another for a different platform.

Gaps yet to be filled

One gap that needs to be filled is software-to-software authentication like what is expected for email or document-contribution setups or even the Internet of Everything. Such setups typically rely on stored credentials to authenticate the user with their account on that service along with client software like email clients having continual access to that service.

This may have to be about adapting protocols like IMAP4 or XML-RPC to device-generated authentication credentials and supporting multiple sets of these credentials for one user account. This would be important where multiple client devices are being used for the same online service such as a smartphone and a laptop for an email service.

Conclusion

Even the common reality of users operating multiple devices or using a highly-portable device like a smartphone as an authentication device will not escape the goal of a password-free online-service future. Here it would primarily be about authenticating with a device-local PIN or your fingerprint

Australian Electoral Commission takes to Twitter to rebut election disinformation

Articles Australian House of Representatives ballot box - press picture courtesy of Australian Electoral Commission

Don’t Spread Disinformation on Twitter or the AEC Will Roast You (gizmodo.com.au)

Federal Election 2022: How the AEC Is Preparing to Combat Misinformation (gizmodo.com.au)

From the horse’s mouth

Australian Electoral Commission

AEC launches disinformation register ahead of 2022 poll (Press Release)

Previous coverage on HomeNetworking01.info

Being cautious about fake news and misinformation in Australia

My Comments

This next 18 months is to be very significant as far as general elections in Australia go. It is due to a Federal election and state elections in the most populous states taking place during that time period i.e. this year has the Federal election having to take place by May and the Victorian state election taking place by November, then the New South Wales state election taking place by March 2023.

Democracy sausages prepared at election day sausage sizzle


Two chances over the next 18 months to benefit from the democracy sausage as you cast your vote
Kerry Raymond, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Oh yeah, more chances to eat those democracy sausages available at that school’s sausage sizzle after you cast that vote. But the campaign machine has started up early this year at the Federal level with United Australia Party ads appearing on commercial TV since the Winter Olympics, yard signs from various political parties appearing in my local neigbbourhood and an independent candidate for the Kooyong electorate running ads online through Google AdSense with some of those ads appearing on HomeNetworking01.info. This is even before the Governor General had served the necessary writs to dissolve the Federal Parliament and commence the election cycle.

Ged Kearney ALP candidate yard sign

The campaigns are underway even before the election is called

This season will be coloured with the COVID coronavirus plague and the associated vaccination campaigns, lockdowns and other public-health measures used to mitigate this virus. This will exacerbate Trump-style disinformation campaigns affecting the Australian electoral process, especially from anti-vaccination / anti-public-health-measure groups.

COVID will also exacerbate issues regarding access to the vote in a safe manner. This includes dealing with people who are isolated or quarantined due to them or their household members being struck down by the disease or allowing people on the testing and vaccination front lines to cast their vote. Or it may be about running the polling booths in a manner that is COVID-safe and assures the proper secret ballot.

There is also the recent flooding that is taking place in Queensland and NSW with it bringing about questions regarding access to the vote for affected communities’ and volunteers helping those communities. All these situations would depend on people knowing where and how to cast “convenience votes” like early or postal votes, or knowing where the nearest polling booth is especially with the flooding situation rendering the usual booths in affected areas out of action.

The Australian Electoral Commission who oversees elections at a federal level have established a register to record fake-news and disinformation campaigns that appear online to target Australians. They will also appear at least on Twitter to debunk disinformation that is swirling around on that platform and using common hashtags associated with Australian politics and elections.

Add to this a stronger wider “Stop And Consider” campaign to encourage us to be mindful about what we see, hear or read regarding the election. This is based on their original campaign ran during the 2019 Federal election to encourage us to be careful about what we share online. Here, that was driven by that Federal election being the first of its kind since we became aware of online fake-news and disinformation campaigns and their power to manipulate the vote.

There will be a stronger liasion with the AEC and the online services in relation to sharing intelligence about disinformation campaigns.

But the elephant in the room regarding election safety is IT security and cyber safety for a significant number of IT systems that would see a significant amount of election-related data being created or modified through this season.

Service Victoria contact-tracing QR code sign at Fairfield Primary School

Even the QR-code contact-tracing platforms used by state governments as part of their COVID management efforts have to be considered as far as IT security for an election is concerned – like this one at a school that is likely to be a polling place

This doesn’t just relate to the electoral oversight bodies but any government, media or civil-society setup in place during the election.

That would encompass things ranging from State governments wanting to head towards fully-electronic voter registration and electoral-roll mark-off processes, through the politicians and political parties’ IT that they use for their business process, the state-government QR-code contact tracing platforms regularly used by participants during this COVID-driven era, to the IT operated by the media and journalists themselves to report the election. Here, it’s about the safety of the participants in the election process, the integrity of the election process and the ability for voters to make a proper and conscious choice when they cast their vote.

Such systems have a significant number of risks associated with their data such as cyber attacks intended to interfere with or exfiltrate data or slow down the performance of these systems. It is more so where the perpetrators of this activity extends to adverse nation states or organised crime anywhere in the world. As well, interference with these IT systems is used as a way to create and disseminate fake news, disinformation and propaganda.

But the key issue regarding Australia’s elections being safe from disinformation and election interference is for us to be media-savvy. That includes being aware of material that plays on your emotions; being aware of bias in media and other campaigns; knowing where sources of good-quality and trustworthy news are; and placing importance on honesty, accuracy and ethics in the media.

Here, it may be a good chance to look at the “Behind The News” media-literacy TV series the ABC produced during 2020 regarding the issue of fake news and disinformation.  Sometimes you may also find that established media, especially the ABC and SBS or the good-quality newspapers may be the way to go for reliable election information. Even looking at official media releases “from the horse’s mouth” at government or political-party Websites may work as a means to identify exaggeration that may be taking place.

Having the various stakeholders encourage media literacy and disinformation awareness, along with government and other entities taking a strong stance with cyber security can be a way to protect this election season.