Intel to increase chip fabrication presence in Europe

Articles Intel image with faces courtesy of Intel Corporation

Intel plans up to €80bn investment in European chip fabs | total telecom

Semi-conducteurs : Intel va investir des milliards d’euros sur le Vieux Continent – ZDNet (French language / Langue française)

My Comments

Intel is kicking on with increasing the number of semiconductor fabrication facilities around the world in response to the chip shortage. This includes their effort of opening these factories up as semiconductor foundries where they make the silicon chips for other designers and companies.

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

Intel to have two factories within the European Continent

This includes some action within Europe, although Intel already has an operational chip factory within Ireland. Here they are determining the location of two large semiconductor fabrication plants that have foundry abilities within Continental Europe. This could be within France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands or Poland.

It is part of an Intel worldwide plan to have 8 new factories established and turning out silicon chips over the next ten years.This is part of repairing and improving the silicon supply chain so there is less dependence on an Asian-focused supply chain for CPUs and other advanced silicon chips.

For Europe, this is about gaining technological sovereignty especially where European manufacturers are turning out finished products that implement advanced microelectronics. Firstly, today’s vehicles are being built in such a way where they are effectively a computer on wheels and Europe has a very strong automotive industry.

I see it also extending to Europe’s strong domestic and commercial appliance sector. This is where equipment like ovens, fridges and washing machines are effectively controlled by advanced computer technology, sometimes offering advanced user interfaces like touchscreens. Again these appliance manufacturers

France would also benefit strongly in other ways. For example, Toulouse is still seen as the hub of Europe’s aerospace technology thanks to the likes of Airbus. Even for general-purpose computing, France has come to the fore with Qarnot who manufacture server computers that double as room heaters or water boilers by passing off their waste heat for heating a room or giving you a hot shower.

Further on, European governments are behind this effort in order to encourage Europe to gain its prowess in the technological fields. This may be seen as a way to gain their original “clout” when it came to consumer and business tech during the 1960s and before; or it could be a way for European companies to carve out their distinctive technological niches.

Similarly this is about encouraging the development of general-purpose computing, especially server / cloud computing within Europe. Here, it can be about the goal of computing clouds that are owned by European companies and working to European values.

At least Intel is enveloping Europe as a major part of its strategy to rectify the silicon-chip shortage that has come about lately.

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Why do I prefer a smart lock to be able to work with traditional keys?

Kwikset Kevo cylindrical deadbolt in use - Kwikset press image

The Kwikset Kevo is an example of a smart lock which also supports the traditional key

Some smart locks maintain the metal key as an outside-access option, while others don’t have this ability, often being marketed as “keyless or key-free”. The keyless smart-lock setups use external power as a fail-over means of allowing user access if the smart lock’s batteries fail. This is facilitated through 9V battery terminals or a USB power-only socket on the outside of the lock.

The limitation here is that you need to have or acquire the correct external-power means to operate the smart lock if it has dead batteries. This also doesn’t work around logic failures or configuration errors that can affect a smart lock or problems associated with balky smartphones that frustrate user access.

Why traditional keys

There are two obvious cases where the traditional key is valued for a smart lock. One is for rental or other managed-building setups where a landlord, estate agent or property manager need access to your premises at all times. This is typically part of your conditions of occupancy set out in documents like leases. Some of these situations require that the lock be part of a traditional master-key setup that encompasses the building, often with the keying system being a restricted-key setup.

The other is where there are people who reside at or visit your premises who are more comfortable handling traditional keys rather than cards, fobs, codes or smartphones as a means of access. This can be something associated with older generations who are still familiar with this access technique and don’t want to learn a new approach.

August Smart Lock press picture courtesy of August

Even retrofit kits for your existing lock like this August Smart Lock kit for “bore through” cylindrical deadbolts allow use of the traditional key

A smart lock equipped with a traditional-key cylinder is designed so that there is mechanical linking between the cylinder and the bolt independent of the electronic and electromechanical aspects that it has. This allows for sure-fire secure fail-over access with the traditional key that is something most users would be familiar with.

It works around both the dead-battery situation and other situations that can occur with computer-based devices like general hardware and software failure.  As well, if you use your smartphone as the access means for your smart lock and your phone’s battery dies or a software failure occurs within your phone, your keys can be used as a failover measure.

Some manufacturers even establish a “privacy” or “security” operation mode with these locks that disable electronic access and only allow access with the traditional key. The use case outlined with this operating mode is to give a copy of the metal key to those who really need access to your premises at all times such as a close relative or friend. Then you disable the smart-lock functionality with the codes or cards given to other people who don’t always need access to your premises when you want surefire privacy.

How is this being delivered?

The retrofit kits that convert existing bore-through deadbolts or Euro-profile mortice locks to smart locks are designed to maintain use of the traditional key that is associated with the lockset that is being converted.

The Le Poste solution available in France that adds smart lock functionality to a Euro-profile lock

But there are some new-install smart locks on the market that are designed to be able to work with a traditional key from the outside. This is in addition to the electronic access means that the typical smart lock will offer. Most of these come as a deadbolt or key-in-lever entrance set designed for “bore-through” installation. Let’s not forget the Gainsbourough FreeStyle TriLock smart lock that is intended to be able to replace an existing Gainsborough TriLock “bore-through” entrance set or be installed anew.

What this may entail

If you need to maintain the existing key that you were using or have to have the traditional-key-capable smart lock part of your building’s master-key or restricted-key environment, you would need to have a locksmith perform the necessary modifications. This job may be about “transferring” the keying setup from your existing lock to the mew smart lock.

But also be aware if your traditional-key-capable smart lock has a standard interchangeable cylinder part, something that is common with the Euro-profile retrofit kits. Here, you can supply the key or outside cylinder from your existing lockset as a reference for this transfer operation.

How could it be improved on

A major way that traditional-key support in a smart lock can be augmented is for activity relating to the metal-key cylinder being treated in the same way as use of codes, cards or smartphones. That is in the same context as having the internal thumbturn that you use to manually operate the smart lock from inside treated in the same way.

Here, using the traditional key to open the door or locking the door from the inside using the thumbturn could be logged as an access instance or seen as an event in the context of your smart home technology. This could be about letting you know if someone who normally uses the traditional key has arrived. Or it could be about enabling your home in to “occupied” mode thus having the lighting come on or the heating / air-conditioning come on to a comfortable temperature.

Conclusion

The traditional metal key is still important when it comes to the newer smart locks. Here, it is more so as a secure surefire failover access solution or to maintain as a means of access for people who are comfortable with these keys.

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Telstra’s vaccination ad campaign debunks vaccine and 5G myths in one hit

Article

Mark Humphries debunks vaccine myths in latest Telstra campaign (mumbrella.com.au)

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

My Comments

Telstra has joined the large number of private-sector actors including its airline equivalent Qantas in running campaigns for us to get ourselves vaccinated against the COVID-119 coronavirus plague.

Here, Telstra is exploiting its position as a mobile telephony carrier to tackle the 5G mobile-broadband myths that are often run in the same breath as anti-vax myths. This is due to the fact that anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists run other themes like the harm caused by 5G mobile broadband and other non-ionisating radiation sources. 

Mark Humphries who is the voice of this campaign, uses a comic line to underscore the way these conspiracy theorists approach you to spill all their nonsense. He even uses the same humour to play on these remarks so as to have you sort the truth out from the nonsense that they tell you.

Even that line “do your own research” that they quote is turned around to mean to do research from proper knowledgeable sources who are qualified to talk about these things.

But I like the fact that he comes at the vaccination issue from the same kind of approach used by those who peddle this disinformation which can often include people within our social circle.

Here, the proper information is that these COVID vaccines like both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine which I had are delivered purely as a liquid to be injected using garden-variety medical-use syringes and needles. They have been tested for safety and efficacy before being approved and have nothing to do with 5G (or other non-ionising) radiation, microchips or magnetism.

Don’t fall for the nonsense! Get those proper vaccination jabs and stay safe!

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Month-by-month plans available on Australia’s NBN

Article

Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router press picture courtesy of Belkin

There are month-by-month NBN plans available in Australia that require you to bring your own home-network router

Contract-Free NBN: Unlimited NBN Plans With No Setup Fees (gizmodo.com.au)

My Comments

A handful of NBN-based ISPs are offering month-by-month plans to the Australian Internet market.

These kind of Internet plans are not dependent on you being on a contract for say 12 to 36 months but require you to bring your own home-network router rather than use a carrier-provided piece of equipment that you have to pay off. That is equivalent to terms like “no-wires” or “BYO modem” for Internet services where the provisioning is done by the provider at their office without the need for any of their staff to deliver or install any equipment or infrastructure at your premises.

Firstly, you have to have an NBN connection of some sort installed at your premises. You will have to use an NBN-supplied modem or optical-network terminal for installations other than FTTN or FTTB installations, with this equipment being NBN’s responsibility. Here, you would need to use a broadband router with Ethernet WAN connection for setups other than FTTN or FTTB while you would use an up-to-date modem router for FTTN or FTTB installations.

Some of these providers offer a timed-discount approach with a few months at the start of your subscription being cheaper. As well, all of the plans listed in that article have unlimited data allowances and they don’t have any setup fees associated with getting on board the service. But the cost typically comes around AUD$75 – AUD$80 for a 50Mbps “NBN 50” plan. It is worth clicking on the Gizmodo article’s link at the top of this article to have a look at what is available for you bandwidth needs.

One of the providers called MATE even offers an option to annex a SIM-only mobile service to their broadband package and save money on both those services. This is one that is delivered under a mobile virtual network arrangement with Telstra’s mobile network under the context for wholesale service.

Who would want these plans?

They are being pitched for those of us who want to be able to walk away from our NBN Internet deal at a moment’s notice, typically to join a competing NBN or non-NBN ISP. Here, it would be about the pending arrival of infrastructure-level competition in your building or neighbourhood, be it Optus pitching their 5G mobile broadband service as a fixed-wireless setup or something like Spirit Broadband being in your apartment building.

The article even talked of a person who would be likely to go over to mobile broadband or low-earth-orbit satellite broadband like Starlink due to them shifting out to the country or shifting around Australia.

Another usage scenario is to cater towards those of us who are likely to engage in month-by-month placement work contracts where one is likely to be in a different town, city or country at a moment’s notice. This can also apply to people who are likely to move even within NBN’s service-coverage area but may face contract issues due to changing location.

Conclusion

It may become a requirement for ISPs to offer a “bring your own equipment” deal that operates on a month-by-month basis without any minimum-length contract. This may be a way to court users who don’t necessarily want to run a long-term service contract or may want to be able to use competing infrastructure offers.

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Portable monitors–are they worth it?

ViewSonic VG1655 portable monitor press image courtesy of VIewSonic

ViewSonic VG1655 – an example of a portable monitor

Over the last six months, we are seeing a significant number of “portable monitors” being introduced to the personal and small-business IT market.

What are these portable monitors?

These portable monitors are 12” to 17” LCD screens that are designed primarily to be used with a laptop as a second screen. Most of these units are equipped with a USB-C port that takes advantage of power transfer and display data transfer over the one physical cable, a feature that most well-bred laptops issued over the last few years are equipped with. As well, all these displays have a built-in kickstand so that they can be free-standing.

These screens are even being pitched at people who use mobile platform devices for work or play so they can benefit from a larger screen. This is also expedited with the USB-C or Lightning connections supporting display output and power transfer at the same time on these devices.

What can they offer computer users?

ASUS ZenScreen portable touch monitor with laptop press image courtesy of ASUS

A typical use case for a portable monitor – as a secondary screen for a laptop computer

A key selling feature  with these screens for laptop users is to benefit from dual-screen productivity while on-the-go or where they want that minimalist desktop.

Even users who use a multiple-screen setup with their laptop or desktop computer and a larger monitor do stand to benefit from these portable monitors. For example, one of these displays set up in portrait mode could earn its keep with something like an email or instant messaging client. To the same extent, this arrangement could come in handy with a tall spreadsheet or document that you are referring to or a whole lot of source code that is important for that computer program you are working on. This can also come in to its own if the main monitor doesn’t support portrait-mode orientation or you want to have a dedicated portrait-mode display.

Most of these screens will also have at least a standard HDMI connection and / or , perhaps, a standard DisplayPort connection. This can work with computer and video equipment that isn’t equipped with a USB-C with DisplayPort alt connection.

For photographers and videographers, this connection comes in to its own with digital cameras and camcorders equipped with HDMI output connections. That means that the screen serves as a better larger preview screen than what your camera or camcorder offers whether that comes in handy while you compose your shot or review what you have taken.

These portable monitors even serve as small playback / presentation monitors when you want to show something to another person. In a one-to-one meeting, you could be setting the portable monitor to mirror you laptop’s display so that who you are meeting with can see what you are bringing up. Here, this would come in to its own when you are sitting face to face at a table and want to “drive” your computer without always swivelling it around.

Similarly, you could use portable monitors equipped with a standard HDMI input and HDCP support as personal video monitors for devices like DVD / Blu-Ray players or set-top boxes. For example, using one of these portable monitors along with a digital-TV set-top box could allow you to have the equivalent of that portable TV which you use or have previously used for monitoring a news or sports event while in the office, kitchen or garage.

In the same context, they can end up as a portable gaming display for games consoles like the Nintendo Switch, the Sony PlayStation or Microsoft XBox family. This may be for larger-screen personal gaming use. At the moment, most of the current issue of portable monitors aren’t rated for regular-computer gaming due to them being set for 60Hz “productivity-use” frame rates.

Let’s not forget that these screens could simply end up as a “fail-over” display if your laptop’s display doesn’t work. This would be more important for those of us who are pushing that old laptop out further.

It may also benefit mobile-platform device users, especially smartphone users, who want to use them with a large screen at least. Some companies like Samsung are even pushing this idea of using a smartphone or mobile-platform tablet as a full-on productivity device especially when you use one of these monitors and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

What features to look for

The screen that your portable monitor should have is a Full-HD or equivalent resolution and a high-quality display.

The connectivity offered by these screens should be at least one USB-C port with DisplayPort Alt and PowerDelivery support; along with a standard HDMI port with HDCP support. It would be nice to have a second USB-C PD-compliant port as a bonus which means you could plug your laptop’s USB-C PD power supply in to the monitor to supply both the laptop and monitor with power. As well, having a standard DisplayPort connection can be nice to have if you have equipment that has this connection.

Some of these portable monitors will implement MicroHDMI connectors and / or will use the USB-C port as an audio output. Here, you will have to rely on adaptor cables that should be packaged with the monitor in its box.

Most of these screens will have audio support of some sort and most likely have an integrated speaker. But they should have a standard headphone jack so you can plug in a set of headphones or better powered speakers for improved sound. They also should have an easy-to-operate volume control so you can adjust the sound quickly and easily.

If you expect a lot of away-from-AC-power use out of a portable monitor, it should have its own battery with a preferred minimum capacity of 5000mAh. As well the monitor should be efficient on the battery life. As I have said before, I would look towards these monitors having two two USB-C ports with PowerDelivery operation where one can accept power and the other can share power to the host computer. This could allow you to power your laptop and the monitor at the same time.

A nice-to-have feature for a portable monitor is touchscreen input support. This effectively adds touchscreen abilities to computer setups that don’t have this function.

Something worth paying attention to with these portable monitors is that some manufacturers could combine a portable monitor with Android tablet functionality. This is something that Lenovo is lining up with their Yoga Tab 13 tablet that is expected to be launched some time this year.

As well, look out for any of these portable monitors that offer gaming features like 144Hz refresh rate because these could be coming that way as  part of one or more manufacturers’ lineups. They would be important for people who have gaming-grade laptops and want to have the same kind of performance across all displays.

Conclusion

The portable monitor will earn its keep with those of us who want to have multiple-screen computing with our laptops in a portable setup. As well, they will be likely to be of use as an ancillary personal-use large screen for a range of activities.

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GoZone offers a way to onboard IoT devices to guest Wi-Fi networks

Article

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio – some public-access or guest-access Wi-Fi networks could allow you to connect these radios to them and use them fully

GoZone WiFi makes connecting all your Wi-Fi devices as easy as a walk in the park – Wi-Fi NOW Global (wifinowglobal.com)

From the horse’s mouth

GoZone

GoZone WiFi Launches SecurePass™ (Press Release – Blog Post)

SecurePass Feature Sheet

My Comments

There are a significant number of public-access Wi-Fi hotspots set up in places like hotels, caravan parks, convention facilities and the like for guests to use. These networks include “headline” public-access Wi-Fi networks installed in apartment blocks, retirement villages, resorts and the like.

But a lot of these networks implement Web-based “captive-portal” login arrangements to onboard or authenticate potential users. This is typically about assenting to terms and conditions for using a free network, enabling advertising in an advertisement-funded network, you entering something like a room number to use the network or to facilitate payment whether that be directly or through a voucher you buy from the venue.

These setups require you to keep a Web-browser session or page open to “stay valid” on the network. As well, they can be very difficult to implement on devices that don’t have a Web-browser user interface, such as games consoles, set-top boxes, smart speakers, Internet radios and the like. It can even be difficult if you want to bring your own smart TV to that retirement-village apartment you are moving in to.

I came across this through feedback on a review that I did of the Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-capable stereo system and someone couldn’t use that system to its full potential. This was because they couldn’t get get this stereo “on board” the headline Wi-Fi network provided by the European-style “resort apartment” they were living at. Here, they ended up using it with their iPhone and running an app like TuneIn Radio on their iPhone for Internet-radio access.

GoZone, who provide various Wi-Fi public-access-network solutions have just released the SecurePass feature that allows users to use one of these devices with publc-access Wi-Fi powered by their technology.

SecurePass effectively creates a logical wireless VLAN with own SSID and password for each successfully established guest account. This allows a public network user to connect an Internet radio, Amazon Echo, XBoc One or Chromecast to this logical network as if they are connecting the device to their home network or a similar small network. This setup can work with the currently-applicable business model that the public-access network is working on.

– as could connecting that Chromecast to a hotel-room TV

Some businesses may take advantage of SecurePass as a way to connect devices like Internet radios or smart TVs that they or their employees use onsite to their network in a secure manner. That is to keep the line-of-business network purely for those devices relating to the company’s business.

But there are questions about this setup where it may be desireable to establish a connection between a device that was used to provision the connection using the Web-based portal and the device that was connected to the VLAN associated with that service. This may be to enable AirPlay / Chromecast / DLNA streaming from a laptop, tablet or smartphone to your media device or to print stuff out from your laptop using your Wi-Fi-capable printer. Similarly, it could be about creating a private device cluster for sharing files between devices using standard network-file-transfer protocols.

Another question which I see relevant to hotel and similar setups is providing access to network resources that are intended for a guest’s use. Examples of these includes streaming to your room’s or a common lounge area’s Chromecast-capable TV or network printers that support AirPrint or IPP/Mopria and are set up for guests to use. This can include opening up printing access to a business printing infrastructure from guest-owned devices either as complementary or paid-use.

Of course there will be security and privacy issues regarding any approach to create private virtual local-area networks within networks typically set up for public Internet access. This can be about issues like using the network infrastructure for observing data being transferred in a point-to-point manner or providing privileged access to private resources through these networks for example.

But what is being realised is that when you are at a place where there is a public network for residents, guests or the public to use, yon need an experience similar to a typical home network while your privacy and data security is assured.

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Lenovo to compete with Samsung in the high-end Android tablet market

Article

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE Android tablet press image courtesy of Samsung

Lenovo could be competing with Samsung in the high-end Android tablet market

Samsung’s high-end Android tablets could soon be under threat – SamMobile

My Comments

The Android-based mobile-platform tablet is existing as a viable product class for those of us who want to keep our mobile-platform computing options “open-frame” and without being beholden to a particular manufacturer. But Samsung has effectively cornered the high-end part of this market especially with its Galaxy Tab S series of tablets.

Here, these tablets are about highly-strung AMD CPUs running the show, slimline designs and displays that use AMOLED or similar high-quality display technology. Often they are seen by Android users as being their platform’s equivalent to the latest top-shelf iPads that Apple offers.

Lenovo has been making a range of Android tablets including the Yoga variants that have an integrated kickstand. But, compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, they were positioned more as everyday mid-tier  products with something unique in some cases. That is although they were running value-for-money Windows and Chrome OS laptops with product ranges like ThinkPad and IdeaPad, thanks to them continuing on IBM’s personal-computer legacy.

But most other manufacturers have been sticking to mid-tier or low-end products for the Android platform with a lot of such products not offering much in performance, display quality or other desireable attributes. In a lot of cases, these have ended up as utility tablets for use around the home or office.

Now Lenovo is lining up an Android tablet that is set to answer Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab S product. This will have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 CPU and at least 8Gb RAM and use an OLED display. It will be expected to run Android 11. It is due to people considering Lenovo still as a viable Android mobile-platform tablet supplier that innovates. If Lenovo can achieve the same kind of performance, display quality, battery runtime or other attributes as the latest Galaxy Tab S for a lot less money, they could easily kick off a product war of some sort.

What I see of this is pressure upon both companies to yield high-end high-performance mobile-tablets for those of us who like the open-frame computing approach in these products. This would allow increased value-for-money when it comes to this product class and could encourage more innovation to take place.

If it leads to a genuine “product war” taking place between two or more companies for their top-shelf products of a kind like what is happening with Bluetooth active-noise-cancelling headphones and earphones; it could see mid-tier and even budget products also benefitting. But for this to happen, more companies need to effectively answer Samsung’s Galaxy S series tablets when it comes to performance, display quality or value for money.

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Buying refurbished or reconditioned IT equipment

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

You may find that an older refurbished or reconditioned laptop
like an ex-review-sample machine can be a way of saving money on your IT purchases

A significant number of people see the practice of buying reconditioned / refurbished equipment rather than brand-new equipment as a way of saving money or being eco-conscious when buying new capital equipment like IT equipment.

For example, a tertiary student may buy a refurbished laptop or their parents may buy it for them so as to save money and ascertain whether they are still interested in their studies. It may also be about buying a secondary computer where you don’t really expect much from it and don’t want to spend much on it.

Similarly a non-profit organisation may purchase reconditioned or refurbished computer equipment for their office to prove they aren’t spending too much on office / administration costs and spending more on their raison d’être.

Buying refurbished or reconditioned equipment is different to buying secondhand or used equipment through an auction or through online classifieds where you buy the equipment “as is”. It is also different to buying brand-new where the equipment isn’t used in any way and comes with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Where does this equipment come from?

The sources for refurbished or reconditioned IT equipment typically are faulty goods returned by customers; samples that have “done the promotional rounds” like review or display samples; or traded-in / part-exchanged goods. Perhaps some of the equipment I have borrowed for review on this site has ended up being sold in to the refurbished or reconditioned IT equipment market.

It may include ex-lease and ex-rental equipment as well as equipment bought from a government or large business entity who are upgrading their equipment fleet to newer technology. In some cases, the manufacturer or repair workshop who works on the equipment may buy it at an auction or through a broker rather than directly from the prior owner.

What kind of work is done on the equipment?

If the item is refurbished, it is known to work or any failed parts are replaced. Then the item is given a cosmetic clean-up before being made ready for sale. There will still be some symptoms of use like it showing signs of wear.

If the item is reconditioned or renewed, technicians will have done a lot more work on that item. Typically this will be a significant amount of testing and overhauling including replacing those parts likely to fail. This is before it undergoes a thorough clean-up before it is made ready to sell. You may even find that a mechanical device that has been reconditioned has had all mechanical parts replaced.

Who performs the work and what parts are used?

As well, whoever performs the refurbishing or reconditioning will affect the standard of work that took place.

A factory-authorised refurbish or recondition job will be performed by the manufacturer or a workshop approved by the manufacturer. This work will be done according to the manufacturer’s standards including the use of parts prescribed by the manufacturer. Such equipment would come with a manufacturer’s warranty and be supported by the manufacturer.

Here, a question that can arise for older equipment is that if the original-specification part isn’t available from the parts vendor, would a newer part from the same vendor with the same specifications be considered satisfactory? As well, if the parts vendor goes out of business or changes hands and an equivalent replacement part is used, would that also count?

On the other hand, products reconditioned or refurbished by the reseller are worked on by the reseller themselves or a repair workshop appointed by the reseller. This work involves the use of technically-equivalent parts not used by the manufacturer for that model of device. You may find that some of these technically-equivalent parts are not to the same standard as what the manufacturer would prefer or, on the other hand, the workshop has fitted newer and better parts than what the manufacturer would prefer.

Some reseller-reconditioned or reseller-refurbished equipment may be modified beyond the original specifications. For instance with computing equipment, this may encompass upsizing of RAM and storage to higher capacities than what the device came with. Or you are dealing with equipment that has been engineered for a particular use case in its life and has to be re-engineered for general usage or another particular use case.

Where is this equipment sold?

Such equipment ends up being sold through manufacturer “outlet stores” which may also be part of a manufacturer’s main direct-sales storefront. Or it would be sold through independent computer stores or some major technology storefronts who also sell refurbished / reconditioned equipment alongside new gear.

Be aware that some second-hand dealers and pawnbrokers may purchase refurbished or reconditioned equipment from a manufacturer or wholesaler. Here, you may see signage beside that equipment stating that it is refurbished, perhaps with details about the workshop who performed the work; or the shop staff may mention that they are selling refurbished gear.

That holds true for some equipment sold through online classifieds and other second-hand sales channels where the vendor may state they are buying, fixing up and reselling older gear.

What to be aware of when buying refurbished or reconditioned

Check over any listings of work that is done on the equipment as well as what hardware or software including versions of that software is included in the deal. This also includes any parts that have been replaced and what was used for the replacement parts.

When you buy reconditioned or refurbished, expect a warranty on the equipment, preferably a generous warranty. Also expect a proper return policy so you can return equipment that is defective. Infact in most countries, failure to honour a warranty or return policy including the general fitness for use warranty is infact a breach of the sale contract.

Computers that run Windows, MacOS or desktop Linux and made within the past 5-10 years are a safe bet for buying reconditioned or refurbished. Here, you will have the ability to update them to the latest version of the operating system. As well, any software that is part of the deal must be effectively and legally transferred to yourself when you buy the computer.

This holds especially true with standard-form-factor desktop computers, or laptops made over the last four years. They would have to be running Windows, desktop Linux or, in the case of Apple products, MacOS.

Chromebooks and mobile-platform (iOS and Android) equipment aren’t likely to be safe to purchase this way due to the vendors not likely to provide updated operating systems. As well, computers using low-tier AMD or Intel silicon or older microarchitecture like 32-bit Intel microarchitecture are very risky when it comes to today’s computing requirements.

Brother HL-6180DW monochrome network laser printer

If you are buying a printer or multifunction device as a refurbished or reconditioned machine, prefer to buy reconditioned equipment that hsi been mechanically overhauled.

If you are buying a refurbished printer, you need to be sure you can continue to get ink or toner and any user-replaceable servicing parts for the machine you are after. Here, it may be more wise to buy a printer, scanner or similar equipment that has been fully reconditioned with a lot of overhauling work taking place, rather than refurbished with little work done on it if you are buying this kind of equipment that way. This is due to these printers and similar devices being mechanical in nature and having parts more likely to wear out.

An issue that will also come about with refurbished or reconditioned hardware is whether any firmware that drives this equipment is updated to the latest version. This includes the BIOS or UEFI firmware in a computer that instigates the loading of its operating system. It also has to be delivered as if new with any prior user settings and data removed from the system.  Here, it is about making sure that buying refurbished or reconditioned isn’t a security risk for you, your family or your business.

Conclusion

You may find that buying that piece of IT equipment as a refurbished or reconditioned specimen may help you save money. But you have to be very careful about the prospective purchase such as what kind of work was undertaken on it and how old it really is. In some cases, you may find that going refurbished may not be the right way to go.

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Z-Wave can work with the new Matter IoT ecosystem

Article

Z-Wave: Matter is an opportunity for true interoperability (the-ambient.com)

From the horse’s mouth

Z-Wave Alliance

Z-Wave: Matter is an opportunity for true interoperability (Press Release)

What’s the Matter with Z-Wave? (Blog Post)

My Comments

The new Matter Internet-of-Things ecosystem based on Zigbee and CHoIP technology is being established and promoted for the smart home. But the Z-Wave Alliance are not part of this ecosystem. But I see it as not just applying to the Z-Wave platform but to other platforms like the DECT-ULE home-automation platform preferred within Europe.

Here, some people may see this as the creation of a technology war but Z-Wave are seeing it as a complementary smart-home technology that can work with the Matter ecosystem. It is although Matter is providing higher-level and intermediate level bridging between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee (Thread) network interfaces.

Z-Wave and Matter interoperability diagram courtesy of Z-Wave Alliance

How Z-Wave and Matter can coexist in a smart-home setup

How is this being achieved? Here, Z-Wave envisages the use of hardware devices with a Z-Wave interface and software that effectively bridges the protocols and device types between the Matter ecosystem and the Z-Wave ecosystem. In some cases, it can include “presenting” devices existing on one ecosystem to another ecosystem.

It is an idea that key IoT and smart-home industry giants like Amazon, Google, Apple and Samsung are pushing. This is because they want to see this form of interoperability through “central” gateway or hub devices that effectively co-ordinate how the smart home works. Samsung has achieved this goal in some form with their SmartThings smart-home platform by running Zigbee and Z-Wave devices on the same system.

Some devices like this Yale smart lock could be set up either for a Matter ecosystem or a Z-Wave Alliance ecosystem through the use of a retrofittable module

Most likely, the smart home will be reliant on a central “hub” of some sort to facilitate time-driven or event-driven operation of multiple smart-home devices. These may have their own direct control surfaces or can be controlled by a local Web interface, a mobile platform app or even a “skill” or “action” for a voice-driven home assistant.

There is also an industry “want” to see border / edge devices or endpoint devices being able to support the Matter ecosystem or the Z-Wave ecosystem. This may include approaches like what Assa Abloy are doing with some of their smart-lock products by providing different retrofittable modules for different smart-home systems.

It is in addition to keeping Z-Wave relevant to devices like smart locks or sensors that exist on the edge of the network and are likely to run primarily on batteries. It is due to Z-Wave having inherent peer-to-peer mesh support and optimisation for long-term battery operation.

At least the smart-home and Internet-of-Things industry are doing what they can to allow multiple interface technologies to work together.

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Alexa comes to the Internet fridge

Article

Samsung Family Hub with Amazon Alexa concept image courtesy of Samsung USA

Now it’s about integrating Amazon Alexa in the internet fridge

Samsung’s Family Hub fridge now comes with Alexa built-in – CNET

From the horse’s mouth

Samsung

Samsung’s Next-Generation Family Hub Offers Families Even More Convenience and Control (Press Release)

My Comments

Samsung is still pushing the Internet fridge idea further by integrating Amazon’s Alexa as an alternative voice-driven home assistant for that product class.

The Internet fridge, a very mythical product class associated with the dot-com era, is a household fridge-freezer that has Internet connectivity and a large built-in display. It also is expected to provide inventory-management for the food supplies in your pantry and fridge as well as being a digital communal noticeboard for the household and a user interface for the smart home.

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

… obviating the need for an Amazon Echo smart speaker in the kitchen

But Samsung has refreshed the Family Hub internet-fridge platform to the sixth generation and has built in software support to work with either the Alexa or their own Bixby voice-driven home assistant platform.  It is also part of integrating the Family Hub with the Mattter Connected Home Alliance that embeds Connected Home over IP along with Zigbee Alliance.

Alexa users have access to the Amazon online services along with an ever-growing pool of Alexa Skills developed by various third parties, as if you are using an Echo smart speaker. Let’s not forget that the idea of running Bixby and Alexa on the one device is part of a direction Amazon is heading with their Voice Interoperability Initiative and other projects where they want Alexa to work alongside other voice assistants or allow a device manufacturer who has their own voice assistant to run Alexa alongside it.

It is also very similar to Samsung allowing users to choose between their Bixby voice assistant and the Google voice assistant on their Android phones. That is although Samsung hasn’t bitten the bullet and joined the Voice Interoperability Initiative themselves.

This can work with any Samsung Family Hub Internet fridge built since 2017 i.e. the second-generation and newer Family Hub products. Here, you are meant to be able to add this functionality as if you are doing a software update for these products.  It underscores the reality with fridges that they are expected to last a long time.

It certainly shows that Samsung has its mind invested towards the Internet fridge idea and will keep working on it in the form of a platform that works across a range of their fridge types.

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