Intel and NVIDIA release new silicon for high-performance portable computing

Article

Intel Tiger Lake H Series CPU press image courtesy of Intel Corporation

This to be part of affordable increasingly-powerful laptops

Intel aims high and Nvidia aims low with laptop chip updates | bit-tech.net

From the horse’s mouth

Intel

Intel Launches New 11th Gen Core for Mobile

NVIDIA

New GeForce RTX Gaming and Studio Laptop Models Now Available – Over 140 In All, Including New RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti Models | GeForce News | NVIDIA

My Comments

Intel and NVIDIA had just released new processing silicon for laptops and similar use cases that is about high-performance computing. This is although there is a processor-chip shortage that is affecting the computing, automotive and allied industries.

Intel is offering the newer performance-focused 11th-generation Tiger Lake H-Series Core CPUs. This is in addition to business-focused H-Series Core CPUs that come with vPro security / management facilities. All of these will at least support Thunderbolt 4 connectivity for increased expansion.

But NVIDIA have released the RTX 30 series of discrete graphics processors optimised for mobile and low-profile use cases. These GPUs, especially the RTX-3050 and RTX-3050Ti variants are pitched as affordable capable mobile units to court the gaming and creator market segments.

They are optimised to offer screen refresh rates of more than 60fps for a Full HD 1080p display. That understands the preference for laptops being equipped with Full HD 1080p screens for their built-in displays due to that offering battery efficiency for this use case.

Lets not forget that these GPUs will offer ray-tracing abilities at affordable prices and in the mobile context. This will benefit computer games and similar graphics applications where realism is important.

Intel and NVIDIA are pitching this silicon combination to budget gamers, creators especially the “prosumer” type and high-performance thin-and-light laptops. I would see this more as laptop manufacturers offer performance variants of their mainstream product lines that can appeal to university students. budget gamers and similar users where cost and performance matter.

But I would see NVIDIDA’s new graphics silicon also appealing to external graphics modules especially in the form of highly-compact types that use soldered-in GPUs. As well, this mobile-focused silicon could also appeal to ultra-compact NUC-type desktop computers where a performance variant  is important.

Here, most of the computer manufacturers refreshed their lineup of performance-focused Windows laptops with this new silicon. This included creator/prosumer 15” and 17” thin-and-light laptops intended to compete with Apple’s MacBook Pro.

All this new silicon is about bringing desktop-class graphics performance to mobile use cases especially where you don’t have to pay a lot for this kind of performance. NVIDIA was even putting forward the idea of increased graphics power at a price students can afford, but I see this as an all-round GPU that doesn’t depend on their continued interest in engineering, architecture or statistics for example. It is also about being suited to rest-and-recreation gaming as well.

It is another example of the increased investment in regular computers that run desktop operating systems that has taken place over the last six months. This is underscored by the increased use of these computers during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns to work, learn, play and communicate at home. As well, an increased and continued interest in working away from the office on a part-time or full-time basis is driving more interest in this class of computer.

Here, the laptop form factor is being preferred due to its combination of portability and power and the investment in more power mobile silicon is showing this reality for most computer users.

Being aware of astroturfing as an insidious form of disinformation

Article

Astroturfing more difficult to track down with social media – academic | RNZ News

My Comments

An issue that is raised in the context of fake news and disinformation is a campaign tactic known as “astroturfing”. This is something that our online life has facilitated thanks to easy-to-produce Websites on affordable Web-hosting deals along with the Social Web.

I am writing about this on HomeNetworking01.info due to astroturfing as another form of disinformation that we are needing to be careful of in this online era.

What is astroturfing?

Astroturfing is organised propaganda activity intended to create a belief of popular grassroots support for a viewpoint in relationship to a cause or policy. This activity is organised by one or more large organisations with it typically appearing as the output of concerned individuals or smaller community organisations such as a peak body for small businesses of a kind.

But there is no transparency about who is actually behind the message or the benign-sounding organisations advancing that message. Nor is there any transparency about the money flow associated with the campaign.

The Merrian-Webster Dictionary which is the dictionary of respect for the American dialect of the English language defines it as:

organized activity that is intended to create a false impression of a widespread, spontaneously arising, grassroots movement in support of or in opposition to something (such as a political policy) but that is in reality initiated and controlled by a concealed group or organization (such as a corporation).

The etymology for this word comes about as a play on words in relation to the “grassroots” expression. It alludes to the Astroturf synthetic turf implemented initially in the Astrodome stadium in Houston in the USA., with the “Astroturf” trademark becoming a generic trademark for synthetic sportsground turf sold in North America.

This was mainly practised by Big Tobacco to oppose significant taxation and regulation measures against tobacco smoking, but continues to be practised by entities whose interests are against the public good.

How does astroturfing manifest?

It typically manifests as one or more benign-sounding community organisations that appear to demonstrate popular support for or against a particular policy. It typically affects policies for the social or environmental good where there is significant corporate or other “big-money” opposition to these policies.

The Internet era has made this more feasible thanks to the ability to create and host Websites for cheap. As online forums and social media came on board, it became feasible to set up multiple personas and organisational identities on forums and social-media platforms to make it appear as though many people or organisations are demonstrating popular support for the argument. It is also feasible to interlink Websites and online forums or Social-Web presences by posting a link from a Website or blog in a forum or Social-Web post or having articles on a Social Web account appear on one’s Website.

The multiple online personas created by one entity for this purpose of demonstrating the appearance of popular support are described as “sockpuppet” accounts. This is in reference to children’s puppet shows where two or three puppet actors use glove puppets made out of odd socks and can manipulate twice the number of characters as each actor. This can happen synchronously with a particular event that is in play, be it the effective date of an industry reform or set of restrictions; a court case or inquiry taking place; or a legislature working on an important law.

An example of this that occurred during the long COVID-19 lockdown that affected Victoria last year where the “DanLiedPeopleDied” and “DictatorDan” hashtags were manipulated on Twitter to create a sentiment of popular distrust against Dan Andrews.  Here it was identified that a significant number of the Twitter accounts that drove these hashtags surfaced or changed their behaviour synchronously to the lockdown’s effective period.

But astroturfing can manifest in to offline / in-real-life activities like rallies and demonstrations; appearances on talkback radio; letters to newspaper editors, pamphlet drops and traditional advertising techniques.

Let’s not forget that old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising for an astroturfing campaign can take place here like over the neighbour’s fence, at the supermarket checkout or around the office’s water cooler.

Sometimes the online activity is used to rally for support for one or more offline activities or to increase the amount of word-of-mouth conversation on the topic. Or the pamphlets and outdoor advertising will carry references to the campaign’s online resources so people can find out more “from the horse’s mouth”. This kind of material used for offline promotion can be easily and cheaply produced using “download-to-print” resources, print and copy shops that use cost-effective digital press technology, firms who screen-print T-shirts on demand from digital originals amongst other online-facilitated technologies.

An example of this highlighted by Spectrum News 1 San Antonio in the USA was the protest activity against COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in that country. This was alluding to Donald Trump and others steering public opinion away from a COVID-safe USA.

This method of deceit capitalises on popular trust in the platform and the apparently-benign group behind the message or appearance of popular support for that group or its message. As well, astroturfing is used to weaken any true grassroots support for or against the opinion.

How does astroturfing affect media coverage of an issue?

The easily-plausible arguments tendered by a benign-sounding organisation can encourage journalists to “go with the flow” regarding the organisation’s ideas. It can include treating the organisation’s arguments at face value for a supporting or opposing view on the topic at hand especially where they want to create a balanced piece of material.

This risk is significantly increased in media environments where there isn’t a culture of critical thinking with obvious examples being partisan or tabloid media. Examples of this could be breakfast/morning TV talk shows on private free-to-air TV networks or talkback radio on private radio stations.

But there is a greater risk of this occurring while there is increasingly-reduced investment in public-service and private news media. Here, the fear of newsrooms being reduced or shut down or journalists not being paid much for their output can reduce the standard of journalism and the ability to perform proper due diligence on news sources.

There is also the risk of an astroturfing campaign affecting academic reportage of the issue. This is more so where the student doesn’t have good critical-thinking and research skills and can be easily swayed by spin. It is more so with secondary education or some tertiary education situations like vocational courses or people at an early stage in the undergraduate studies.

How does astroturfing affect healthy democracies

All pillars of government can and do fall victim to astroturfing. This can happen at all levels of government ranging from local councils through state or regional governments to the national governments.

During an election, an astroturfing campaign can be used to steer opinion for or against a political party or candidate who is standing for election. In the case of a referendum, it can steer popular opinion towards or against the questions that are the subject of the referendum. This is done in a manner to convey the veneer of popular grassroots support for or against the candidate, party or issue.

The legislature is often a hotbed of political lobbying by interest groups and astroturfing can be used to create a veneer of popular support for or against legislation or regulation of concern to the interest group. As well, astroturfing can be used a a tool to place pressure on legislature members to advance or stall a proposed law and, in some cases, force a government out of power where there is a stalemate over that law.

The public-service agencies of the executive government who have the power to permit or veto activity are also victims of astroturfing. This comes in the form of whether a project can go ahead or not; or whether a product is licensed for sale within the jurisdiction. It can also affect the popular trust in any measures that officials in the executive government execute.

As well, the judiciary can be tasked with handling legal actions launched by pressure groups who use astroturfing to  create a sense of popular support to revise legislation or regulation. It also includes how jurors are influenced in any jury trial or which judges are empanelled in a court of law, especially a powerful appellate court or the jurisdiction’s court of last resort.

Politicians, significant officials and key members of the judiciary can fall victim to character assassination campaigns that are part of one or more astroturfing campaigns. This can affect continual popular trust in these individuals and can even affect the ability for them to live or conduct their public business in safety.

Here, politicians and other significant government officials are increasingly becoming accessible to the populace. It is being facilitated by themselves maintaining Social-Web presence using a public-facing persona on the popular social-media platforms, with the same account-name or “handle” being used on the multiple platforms. In the same context, the various offices and departments maintain their social-Web presence on the popular platforms using office-wide accounts. This is in addition to other online presences like the ministerial Web pages or public-facing email addresses they or the government maintain.

These officials can be approached by interest groups who post to the official’s Social-Web presence. Or a reference can be created to the various officials and government entities through the use of hashtags or mentions of platform-native account names operated by these entities when someone creates a Social Web post about the official or issue at hand. In a lot of cases, there is reference to sympathetic journalists and media organisations in order to create media interest.

As well, one post with the right message and the right mix of hashtags and referenced account names can be viewed by the targeted decision makers and the populace at the same time. Then people who are sympathetic to that post’s message end up reposting that message, giving it more “heat”.

Here, the Social Web is seen as providing unregulated access to these powerful decision-makers. That is although the decision-makers work with personal assistants or similar staff to vet content that they see. As well, there isn’t any transparency about who is posting the content that references these officials i.e. you don’t know whether it is a local constituent or someone pressured by an interest group.

What can be done about it

The huge question here is what can be done about astroturfing as a means of disinformation.

A significant number of jurisdictions implement attribution requirements for any advertising or similar material as part of their fair-trading, election-oversight, broadcasting, unsolicited-advertising or similar laws. Similarly a significant number of jurisdictions implement lobbyist regulation in relationship to who has access to the jurisdiction’s politicians. As outlined in the RNZ article that I referred to, New Zealand is examining astroturfing in the context of whether they should regulate access to their politicians.

But most of these laws regulate what goes on within the offline space within the jurisdiction that they pertain to. It could become feasible for foreign actors to engage in astroturfing and similar campaigns from other territories across the globe using online means without any action being taken.

The issue of regulating lobbyist access to the jurisdiction’s politicians or significant officials can raise questions. Here it could be about whether the jurisdiction’s citizens have a continual right of access to their elected government or not. As well, there is the issue of assuring governmental transparency and a healthy dialogue with the citizens.

The 2016 fake-news crisis which highlighted the distortion of the 2016 US Presidential Election and UK Brexit referendum became a wake-up call regarding how the online space can be managed to work against disinformation.

Here, Silicon Valley took on the task of managing online search engines, social-media platforms and online advertising networks to regulate foreign influence and assure accountability when it comes to political messaging in the online space. This included identity verification of advertiser accounts or keeping detailed historical records of ads from political advertisers on ad networks or social media or clamping down on coordinated inauthentic behaviour on social media platforms.

In addition to this, an increasingly-large army of “fact-checkers” organised by credible newsrooms, universities and similar organisations appeared. These groups researched and verified claims which were being published through the media or on online platforms and would state whether they are true or false based on their research.

What we can do is research further and trust our instincts when it comes to questionable claims that come from apparently-benign organisations. Here we can do our due diligence and check for things like how long an online account has been in operation for, especially if it is synchronous to particular political, regulatory or similar events occurring or being on the horizon.

Here you have to look out for behaviours in the online or offline content like:

  • Inflammatory or manipulative language that plays on your emotions
  • Claims to debunk topic-related myths that aren’t really myths
  • Questioning or pillorying those exposing the wrongdoings core to the argument rather the actual wrongdoings
  • A chorus of the same material from many accounts

Conclusion

We need to be aware of astroturfing as another form of disinformation that is prevalent in the online age. Here it can take in people who are naive and accept information at face value without doing further research on what is being pushed.

Project Kuiper about to compete with Starlink

Articles

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Amazon’s Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite service could compete with Starlink very soon

Bezos vs Musk: Let battle commence | (advanced-television.com)

Musk Vs. Bezos: The Battle Continues – SatNews

Previous Coverage about low-earth-orbit satellite Internet

Low Earth Orbit satellites to improve rural broadband opportunities

My Comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has on the 21 April 2021 made his Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite effort ready to launch. This, like OneWeb, will be in competition to the SpaceX Starlink low-earth-orbit satellite effort driven by Elon Musk of Tesla fame.

This will be about providing affordable reliable credible satellite broadband Internet service primarily to rural and regional areas.

Initially the satellites will be launched using Atlas V rockets owned by the United Launch Alliance that is established by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But Amazon are wanting to work with other space-tech consortia like Arianespace, Bezos’s own Blue Origin company or Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The Kuiper constellation consists of 3236 satellites that work at an orbit of 590-630 km. The customer’s installation for the Kuiper setup will be based around a 12” flat-dish antenna, something equivalent to the size of an LP vinyl record. It will be about making such equipment affordable and portable for most users.

But Musk’s Starlink service has a head start with coverage of the Earth, Earth-station installations and service licensing in a significant number of countries. As well Starlink even has got going with seeking regulatory approval for mobile equipment intended to be installed in road and rail vehicles, maritime vessels and aircraft.

But to achieve the desireable amount of competition for the satellite Internet service, there will be a significant number of hurdles. There will be the launch frequency issue i.e. how frequently Jeff Bezos can get satellites in to space to cover the Earth. There is also the issue of establishing ground stations and licensing end-user device designs and legitimately providing service in many jurisdictions. It also includes the design and licensing of mobile stations for installation on vehicles, vessels and aircraft to allow use of Kuiper on the move.

Both the tech visionaries are in a bitter fight to the end with the FCC regarding licensing of satellites and similar technology. But when in full flight, expect competitive service and low prices for broadband at your bush block.

I do still see a significant number of questions come about regarding low-earth-orbit satellite broadband in its current form. Firstly, there needs to be a wide variety of customer equipment that suits different use cases, such as satellite modems that work with broadband routers that have Ethernet WAN connections,

There will have to be the issue of assuring the legitimacy of satellite-broadband service within peri-urban rural areas. These are the rural areas that form the hinterland of a city or large town and some of these areas do not have access to broadband service of a decent standard due to the settlements being relatively sparse. Here, if there is a requirement to assure “rural-only” service for a satellite-broadband service, the peri-urban areas could be deemed legitimate based on the absence of wired or terrestrial wireless broadband service providing a minimum bandwidth.

Similarly there will be the issue of facilitating mobile and portable satellite broadband services whether to serve campers or to serve airlines offering inflight Wi-Fi. For countries with international land borders or airlines and ships that offer international transport, it will encompass providing mobile satellite broadband on an international form.

But what I see of the Starlink and Kuiper efforts is that they are about providing decent and affordable broadband service to rural and remote areas of the world. This year could effectively be the year of a race for this goal.

Some apps on your Android device crashing lately? WebView may be the culprit

Article

Android main interactive lock screen

Apps crashing frequently on your Android smartphone or tablet? Check out Webview – it may be the culprit.

Android apps like Gmail are crashing and ‘WebView’ is to blame | Engadget

My Comments

You may have found that with your Android phone some apps like news apps, email apps or online banking apps are crashing lately. It will also affect apps or games that use advertising and the app or game crashes when an ad appears.

This is to do with the Webview system app that allows a native Android app to utilise Google Chrome’s logic to show Web-based HTML content within the app’s user interface. But a recent version of this app has been found to be buggy and is responsible for causing these software crashes.

A temporary fix that has been put forward is to uninstall the latest Chrome updates on your Android device. Or you go to the Google Play Store or the Settings – Apps menu to uninstall Android System Webview.

But Google have lately worked on a bugfix for this problem and are now rushing this out as a software update for Chrome and Webview. These are expected to be delivered as part of the latest Google Play software updates and should be delivered by 24 March 2021. On some devices, you may find that these updates are delivered as separate packages.

Once these are updated, you shouldn’t find your apps that use Web-based content crashing frequently.

Zoom to provide privacy notifications for video conferences

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

Zoom to introduce privacy disclosure for enhanced functionalities during a video conference

Zoom

Zoom Rolls Out In-Product Privacy Notifications – Zoom Blog

In-Product Privacy Notifications – Zoom Help Center (Detailed Resource)

Previous Coverage on videoconferencing platform security

A call to attention now exists regarding videoconferencing platform security

My Comments

As the COVID-19 coronavirus plague had us homebound and staying indoors, we were making increased use of Zoom and similar multi-party video conference software for work, education and social needs. This included an increased amount of telemedicine taking place where people were engaging with their doctors, psychologists and other specialists using this technology.

Thus increased ubiquity of multi-party videoconferencing raised concerns about data-security, user-privacy and business-confidentiality implications with this technology. This was due to situations like business videoconference platforms being used for personal videoconferencing and vice versa. In some cases it was about videoconferencing platforms not being fit for purpose due to gaping holes in the various platforms’ security and privacy setup along with the difficult user interfaces that some of these platforms offered.

During August 2020, the public data-protection authorities in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Switzerland and the UK called this out as a serious issue through the form of open letters to the various popular videoconferencing platforms. There has been some improvement taking place with some platforms like Zoom implementing end-to-end encryption, Zoom implementing improved meeting-control facilities and some client software for the various platforms offering privacy features like defocusing backgrounds.

Zoom has now answered the call for transparency regarding user privacy by notifying all the participants in a multi-party videoconference about who can save or share content out of the videoconference. This comes in to play with particular features and apps like recording, transcription, polls and Q&A functionality. It will also notify others if someone is running a Zoom enhanced-functionality app that may compromise other users’ privacy.

There is also the issue of alerting users about who the account owner is in relation to these privacy issues. For corporate or education accounts, this would be the business or educational institution who set up the account. But most of us who operate our personal Zoom accounts would have the accounts in our name.

Personally, I would also like to have the option to know about data-sovereignty information for corporate, education or similar accounts. This can be important if Zoom supports on-premises data storage or establishes “data-trustee” relationships with other telco or IT companies and uses this as a means to assure proper user privacy, business confidentiality and data sovereignty. A good example of this could be the European public data cloud that Germany and France are wanting to set up to compute with American and Chinese offerings while supporting European values.

Another issue is how this will come about during a video conference where the user is operating their session full-screen with the typical tile-up view but not using the enhanced-functionality features. Could this be like with Websites that pop up a consent notification disclosing what cookies or similar features are taking place when one uses the Website for the first time or moves to other pages?

It will be delivered as part of the latest updates for Zoom client software across all the platforms. This may also be a feature that will have to come about for other popular videoconferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams or Skype as a way to assure users of their conversation privacy and business confidentiality.

Google to participate in setting standards for mobile app security

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Google

A standard and certification program now exists for mobile application security

A New Standard for Mobile App Security (Google Security Blog post)

Internet Of Secure Things Alliance (ioXT)

ioXt Alliance Expands Certification Program for Mobile and VPN Security (Press Release)

Mobile Application Profile (Reference Standard Document – PDF)

My Comments

There is a constant data-security and user-privacy risk associated with mobile computing.

And this is being underscored heavily as a significant number of mobile apps are part of “app-cessory” ecosystems for various Internet-of-Things devices. That is where a mobile app is serving as a control surface for one of these devices. Let’s not forget that VPNs are coming to the fore as a data-security and user-privacy aid for our personal-computing lives.

Internet of Secure Things ioXT logo courtesy of Internet of Secure Things Alliance

Expect this to appear alongside mobile-platform apps to signify they are designed for security

But how can we be sure that an app that we install on our smartphones or tablets is written to best security practices? What is being identified is a need for an industry standard supported by a trademarked logo that allows us to know that this kind of software is written for security.

A group called the Internet of Secure Things Alliance, known as ioXT, have started to define basic standards for secure Internet-of-Things ecosystems. Here they have defined various device profiles for different Internet-of-Things device types and determined minimum and recommended requirements for a device to be certified as being “secure” by them. This then allows the vendor to show a distinct ioXT-secure logo on the product or associated material.

Now Google and others have worked with ioXT to define a Mobile Application Profile that sets out minimum security standards for mobile-platform software in order to be deemed secure by them. At the moment, this is focused towards app-cessory software that works with connected devices along with consumer-facing privacy-focused VPN endpoint software. For that matter, Google is behind a “white-box” user-privacy VPN solution that can be offered under different labels.

This device profile has been written in an “open form” to cater towards other mobile app classes that need to have specific data-security and user-privacy requirements. This will come about as ioXT revises the Mobile Application Profile.

Conclusion

The ioXT Internet-of-Secure-Things platform could be extended to certifying more classes of native mobile-platform and desktop-platform software that works with the Internet of Everything. The VPN aspect of the Mobile Application Profile can also apply to native desktop VPN-management clients or native and Web software intended to manage router-based VPN setups.

At least a non-perpetual certification program with a trademarked logo now exists for the Internet of Everything and mobile apps to assure customers that the hardware and software is secure by design and default.

The Internet fridge–still considered very mythical

Samsung Family Hub Internet fridge lifestyle image courtesy of Samsung USASince the “dot-com” era of the late 1990s, there has been a very mythical home appliance often cited by Internet visionaries. This is the Internet fridge or “smart fridge” which is a regular household refrigerator equipped with Internet connectivity and a large built-in display.

It is expected to provide access to a wide range of online services like online shopping, online photo albums, email and messaging, and online music services. It is also expected to keep track of the food and drink that is held therein using a simple inventory-management program.

In the context of the smart home, the Internet fridge is expected to be a “dashboard” or “control surface” for lighting. heating and other equipment associated with the home. Often the vision for the smart home is to have as many control surfaces around the home to manage what happens therein like setting up HVAC operating temperatures or turning lighting on and off according to particular usage scenarios.

The Internet-fridge idea is based on the concept of the typical household refrigerator’s door ending up as the noticeboard for that household thanks to its role as the main food-storage location for the people and pets therein. There is the thriving trade in “fridge magnets” that people use to decorate their fridge’s door. Let’s not forget that some households have even put a radio or TV on top of the fridge that they can flick on for information or entertainment in the kitchen.

Who is making these appliances?

At the moment, Samsung and LG are making Internet-fridges in production quantities available to the market. These are typically positioned as American-style wide-format fridges that also have the integrated ice makers. Samsung offers theirs in a few different compartment configurations with the cheapest being a two-door fridge-freezer arrangement.

But most of the other white-goods manufacturers exhibit examples of these Internet fridges at trade fairs primarily as proof-of-concept or prototype designs. These are typically based on common fridge-freezer designs already on the market but are modified with Internet functionality.

But the Internet-fridge idea has not become popular with most people. Why is that so?

One issue is to do with the computer hardware associated with the Internet-fridge concept. These setups typically have a separate computer from the microcontroller circuitry associated with keeping the appliance’s compartments to the appropriate temperature or managing ice-maker or chilled-water functionality. But this computer hardware is effectively integrated in the appliance in a manner that makes it hard for users to upgrade to newer expectations.

This means that if this computer fails or gets to a point where it is “end-of-life”, the user loses the full functionality associated with the Internet fridge. The same thing can happen if, for example, the touchscreen that the user uses to interact with the Internet fridge’s online abilities fails to work.

It is underscored by the fact that a household refrigerator is in that class of appliance that is expected to serve a household for many years. As I have seen, many households will buy a new fridge when an old fridge fails to operate properly or when they are making a new house and want to upgrade their fridge. This is even though a lot of consumer IT equipment isn’t expected to provide that length of service thanks to rapidly-advancing technology.

Another factor is the software and online services associated with the Internet fridge. Typically this is engineered by the appliance manufacturer to provide the “branded experience” that the manufacturer wants to convey to the consumer.

The questions associated with the software focus around the appliance manufacturer’s continual attention to software security and quality over the lifetime of the Internet fridge. It includes protecting the end-users’ privacy as they use this appliance along with allowing the appliance to do its job properly and in a food-safe manner.

I would also add to this the competitive-trade issues associated with online services. Here, appliance manufacturers could easily create exclusive agreements with various online-service providers and not allow competing service providers access to the Internet-fridge platform. It can extend to online-shopping platforms that tie in with the inventory-management software associated with the Internet fridge platform.

Such exclusive partnerships with online service providers or online-shopping platforms will make it difficult for customers to use their preferred online-service or online-shopping platform with an Internet fridge. In the case of online-shopping platforms, it will become difficult for smaller, specialist or independent food suppliers to participate in these platforms especially if the platform has “tied up” a significant customer base. That can be achieved with excessive fees and charges or onerous terms and conditions for the merchants.

Let’s not forget that the Internet fridge ended up, like the Aeron-style office chair, being seen as a status symbol associated with the dot-com bubble.

For that matter, householders are using alternative approaches to the same goal touted by the Internet-fridge suppliers. Here, they are using smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home or, if they are after a display-driven solution, they will use a smart display like Amazon Echo Show or a Google-Assistant-based smart display. Let’s not forget that the iPad or Android-based tablets are offering the idea of a ubiquitous control / display surface for the smart home.

What can be done to legitimise the Internet fridge as far as consumers are concerned?

As for the hardware, I would recommend a long-tailed approach which is focused on modularity. Here, newer computer, connection or display modules can be installed in the same fridge by the user or a professional as part of an upgrade approach. It could allow the appliance manufacturer to offer a cheaper range of standard-height household fridges that can be converted to Internet fridges at a later time when the user purchases and installs an “Internet display kit” on their appliance.

Furthermore, if the hardware or connectivity is of a standard form, it could allow a third-party vendor to offer this functionality on a white-label basis to appliance manufacturers who don’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel. It can also apply to those appliance manufacturers who offer products in a “white-label” form under a distributor’s or retailer’s brand.

One approach I would recommend for software is access to ubiquitous third-party software platforms with a lively developer ecosystem like Android. The platforms should have an app store that maintains software quality. This means that users can install the software associated with what they need for their Internet fridge.

The problem that manufacturers may see with this approach is providing a user interface for controlling how the fridge operates such as setting the fridge, freezer or other compartment temperatures. Here, this could be facilitated by an app that runs as part of the Internet fridge’s display ecosystem. It may also be preferred to provide basic and essential control for the Internet fridge’s refrigeration and allied functionality independent of the Internet display functionality and create a secure firewall between those functions to assure food safety and energy efficiency.

Using open-frame approaches for building Internet-display functionality in to fridges may help with reducing the cost of this kind of functionality in these products. It could also encourage ubiquity in a low-risk form as well as encouraging innovation in this product class.

Identifying the end-of-support date for your Chromebook

Article

Dell Chromebook 13 press image courtesy of Dell Inc.

You can find out the end-of-support date for that Chromebook or other Chrome OS computer

How to check a Chromebook auto-update expiration date before you buy – CNET

Resource

Auto Update Expiration date for most Chrome OS computer models (Google)

My Comments

Google has defined for your Chromebook or other Chrome OS based computer an end-of-support date where they will stop providing software updates to that computer. This date, known as the Auto Update Expiration date, is agreed by Google and the device manufacturer due to Google not being able to guarantee Chrome OS support for particular hardware setups after that date.

This is important if you are passing on a Chromebook to someone else or buying one on the secondhand market. As well, there is a common issue especially with Chrome OS devices where manufacturers, distributors and retailers get rid of excess inventory representing last-year’s models during the peak shopping seasons.

You may find that some systems, especially those that are part of a “managed” Enterprise or Education setup may have longer support lives as far as software-quality updates are concerned. But this kind of extended support may only apply while the machine is part of that setup which can be of concerned when a school or workplace sells its Chromebook fleet as part of a tech upgrade.

Google maintains an ongoing list of Chromebook, Chromebase and Chromebox models that are in circulation and are approved by them on this page. If you are dealing with a Dynabook-branded device, you will have to look for the Sharp brand because Toshiba had sold their personal computing business to Sharp under the Dynabook brand.

But if you have access to the Chromebook in question, you can check the AUE date for that particular machine.

  1. Open the Settings menu by clicking on the time then click on the gear-shaped Settings icon.
  2. On the left navigation panel which you may have to bring up by clicking the three-bar icon, you should see the “About Chrome OS” information. Click that option to see more details about the current version and other details of your Chrome OS setup on your Chromebook.
  3. The Additional Details area in that screen, which you may have to click on, will show the AUE date for your particular Chromebook.

In November 2020, Google has realised that the Chrome OS platform is a viable third force when it comes to the regular computer. Here, one of the changes they are offering is that Google will assure longer support lives for newer Chromebooks typically in the order of 7 or 8 years. But they should also look at ways to extend this date for earlier Chromebooks that are in current usage.

A USB-C hub may take your Chromecast with Google Play further

Article

You can do more with your Chromecast with Google TV if you use a USB-C hub or dock that offers Power Delivery pass-through

Use a USB-C Hub to Upgrade Your Chromecast With Google TV (gizmodo.com)

My Comments

The Google Chromecast with Google TV device is actually an Android TV set-top box which has a lot of what Android can offer.

This includes being able to work with external peripherals thanks to device class support for some peripheral types that are connected via USB. It is thanks to Android TV having class drivers built in to the operating system in order to support these peripheral types.

What do I need?

USB-C hub must have Power Delivery pass-through connection

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt dock product image courtesy of Dell

USB-C hubs and docks can be used to expand your Google Chromecast with Google TV set-top device

The USB-C hub or dock must have at least one USB-C port set up for Power-Delivery pass-through connectivity. This connection arrangement, which may be known as “Charge-through”, passes power from a USB-C PD charger to the host computing device that is connected to the upstream connection. This is in addition to providing power to the hub itself and any USB bus-powered peripherals connected to that hub.

USB PD-compliant charger with at least 45 watts power output

The USB charger that came with your Chromecast with Google Play device would not be able to power anything beyond the Chromecast device itself. This is because it is rated just for that device.

Rather you use a USB-PD compliant charger that offers at least 45 watts output and is something you would get with most of today’s ultraportable laptops that just use this connection. Using a USB-PD charger offering 65W or more may give you more flexibility especially if you are dealing with USB mass-storage devices or Webcams.

You may find that some if not most business-grade USB-C hubs and docks have their own power-supply arrangement and can provide power to the host computer in a USB Power-Delivery compliant manner. That is typically to provide power to an ultraportable laptop that is connected to these docks. These can be used without the need of a separate charger to connect to these hubs or docks – you just use the hub’s actual power supply and associated transformer to power your Chromecast setup.

What can I do?

Play multimedia files held on USB mass-storage devices

If the USB hard drive, memory key or other mass-storage device (including memory cards in a memory-card reader) is formatted to FAT32, you may be able to view or play image, audio or video files held on that storage.

You may have to use a higher-powered USB PD charger if you are dealing with something like a portable hard disk or SSD. As for apps, software like VLC media player that can navigate the Android directory tree can work for finding content. There are also file managers available to the Android TV platform so you can see what is there on the storage devices.

A question that can be easily raised is whether this Android-TV-based Chromecast can support USB mass-storage devices that represent themselves as multiple volumes in one physical device. It is a situation that will come true with multi-slot memory-card readers, USB devices that have internal and external storage or USB storage devices partitioned in to multiple logical volumes.

Similarly, Android TV would need to support exFAT and the other open-source ext-based file systems in order to handle the high-capacity mass-storage devices as they should be handled.

Use of keyboards and mice as input devices

Connecting a USB keyboard or mouse, including a wireless one that uses a USB receiver dongle, provides an alternative input method for your Chromecast with Google TV.

For example, a keyboard can avoid the need to “hunt and peck” with your remote control when logging in to something like Netflix. This can also apply if you make heavy use of the search functionality within your favourite video-on-demand platforms. It can even apply if you are using an Android-TV-optimised Web browser to work the Web on the big screen.

This may even encourage Google to see Android TV as a viable TV-based gaming platform especially if they provide device-level support for wired or wireless games controllers be it USB Human Interface Device class controllers or device-specific support for XBox or PlayStation controllers. It also can lead to the creation of Android-TV-based hardware that has real gaming performance along with games that can take advantage of this performance.

To the same extent, Android TV support for USB-MIDI music devices could open up support for music-based applications and games on that platform. This could be ranging from music-based games through computer-based music training apps to music performance software.

Chromecast with Google TV as a group videophone

You can connect a Webcam to the USB-C hub so you can run this device as a group videophone. But you may find that some Webcams do need a bit more power and will need a stronger USB-PD charger on your setup.

As for software, Google’s Duo is the only videocall platform capable of supporting Android TV with the proper 10-foot “lean-back” user experience. You do need the app to be open and in the foreground when you are expecting a videocall on the Duo platform.

Google needs to encourage software developers who have videoconferencing software for the Android platform to write in Android TV support with the “lean-back” user experience. This could then have any TV or set-top device based on the Android TV / Google TV platform work well as a group videophone.

Infact Skype should reinstigate support for TV-based videocalling after they had many group videophone clients written for various smart-TV platforms.

More reliable Internet connectivity for your Chromecast

An increasing number of USB-C hubs are being equipped with Ethernet ports, primarily so that you can connect that ultraportable laptop to an Ethernet or HomePlug powerline network segment.

Let’s not forget that Google offered an Ethernet adaptor for their previous Chromecasts so these devices can be run from a more stable wired network segment. But they omitted an official Ethernet adaptor for the Chromecast with Google TV as part of its official aftermarket accessories lineup.

But the Ethernet connection on a USB-C hub is also available to the Google Chromecast with Google TV. It would be useful as a means to bring a reliable wired network connection to this device, especially if your home is wired for Ethernet, you have a HomePlug powerline network setup or your TV is next to your home network’s router.

Conclusion

Once you have USB-C hubs and docks that support common standard device classes for their internal connections or allow connection of peripherals honouring standard device classes, this could make Internet-of-Things and similar devices become very capable.

But these setups show a few glaring weaknesses within the Android TV ecosystem like lack of support for high-capacity file systems. It can be a chance for Google to take the Android TV platform further and turn it in to a highly-flexible large-screen set-top platform.

TP-Link jumps in to Wi-Fi meshing with HomePlug AV2 backhaul

Articles (Product Reviews on other Websites)

TP-Link Deco P9 distributed Wi-Fi kit with HomePlug AV2 powerline backhaul press image courtesy of TP-Link

TP-Link Deco P9 distributed Wi-Fi kit with HomePlug AV2 backhaul

TP-Link Deco P9 mesh router review: blanket your whole home in speedy Wi-Fi | T3

TP-Link Deco P9 Powerline Mesh WiFi System Review – Blacktubi

From the horse’s mouth

TP-Link

Deco P9 Wi-Fi / HomePlug AV powerline Mesh Network set (USA Product Page)

My Comments

A problem with most distributed-Wi-Fi setups is that certain building materials and construction techniques can reduce their performance. Examples of this include where an extension is built on to a house that has double-brick or sandstone walls, or you have foil-lined insulation or metai-based window tinting as an energy-saving measure.

Here, your distributed-Wi-Fi system may support Cat5 Ethernet as a backhaul option in lieu of Wi-Fi wireless technology. But you may find problems with, for example, having Cat5 Ethernet pulled through the double-brick wall. Or you simply are renting your premises and cannot easily have additional wiring installed there.

You would then have to consider using HomePlug AV2 powerline technology to create a wired backbone for your setup. Most setups would require you to buy a pair of “homeplugs” which simply bridge the powerline network segment to a Cat5 Ethernet segment and use these devices to create that wired backhaul. Only a handful of manufacturers have dabbled in the idea of mixing HomePlug-based powerline technology and distributed Wi-Fi technology at the moment.

TP-Link Deco P9 Homeplug AV2 distributed Wi-Fi operation diagram courtesy of TP-LinkAVM offered a firmware upgrade for their Fritz! devices including their Fritz!Powerline HomePlug adaptors and access points for this purpose. Here, you could manage the distributed Wi-Fi network through your Fritz!Box Web management interface and this exploited the different backhaul options like Wi-Fi, Ethernet or HomePlug powerline that the devices offered.

Now TP-Link has implemented Wi-Fi 5 and HomePlug AV2 1000 to create a credible flexible distributed-Wi-Fi setup. This system, known as the Deco P9, can work with other TP-Link Deco distributed Wi-Fi devices using the best Wi-Fi backhaul or, where applicable, Ethernet or HomePlug AV powerline wired backhaul that the device offers. It does combine the wired and wireless technologies for use as a wider-bandwidth backhaul or as a failover measure.

One of these review articles said that the HomePlug setup offered by the TP-Link Deco P9 system excelled when it came to latency which they considered for gaming use cases. The other review described the P9 system as being fit for purpose with houses that have cellars and garages, more as a way to do away with those range extenders. I would add this this as being fit for extending Internet to bungalows, granny-flats, converted garages or similar outbuildings that have AC wiring to the main house — the HomePlug AV2 technology may do this job better due to its increased robustness. This kit’s use of HomePlug AV2 technology may even come in to its own with that static caravan or campervan used as a sleepout and connected to the main house by AC wiring.

Cable TV in the man-cave

.. and may work well for that man-cave garage or barn

More companies could come on board with distributed-Wi-FI devices that use HomePlug AV2 MIMO technology as a backhaul option to answer these needs. Similarly, they could offer HomePlug AV2 adaptors that can work in tandem with their distributed Wi-Fi devices that offer Ethernet as a backhaul option.

At least there is another company offering HomePlug powerline network connectivity as a wired backhaul option for their distributed Wi-Fi setups.