AVM moves towards value-priced Wi-Fi 6 with the FritzBox 7530 AX

Article – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

AVM FritzBox 7530 press image courtesy of AVM GmBH

AVM to launch the Wi-Fi 6 version of the FritzBox 7530 modem router in Germany as the FritzBox 7530 AX – an affordable Wi-Fi 6 option

AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX kann vorbestellt werden | Caschy’s Blog

Das ist die neue AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX | Caschy’s Blog

My Comments

This year is being the year where some home-network hardware manufacturers are offering Wi-Fi routers equipped with Wi-Fi 6 to the mainstream user segment. This includes some of these devices being offered either at an affordable price or as carrier-supplied equipment when you sign up to Internet service. As well some of the devices being offered are infact modem routers that have an integrated modem for the broadband service.

Now AVM has joined the party by offering the FritzBox 7530 AX home Internet gateway router initially to the German market. This unit, which will retail there from 1 September for approximately EUR€169 is based on the FritzBox 7530 modem-router family.

But its Wi-Fi access point is compliant to Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) wireless-networking standards and uses a 2-stream approach for each waveband. This means it will offer 1200Mb/s data transfer speed on the 5GHz waveband and 600Mb/s on the legacy 2.4GHz waveband. It has a VDSL modem along with the ability to have one of the four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports as a WAN (Internet service) port for fibre-optic connectivity.

There is VoIP capability with a built-in analogue telephony adaptor for legacy handsets along with a DECT base station for DECT cordless handsets. It supports DECT-ULE-based home automation with a primary intention to work with AVM’s DECT-ULE home-automation devices, namely their smart plugs and thermostatic radiator valves.

Of course, there will be the secure reliable home-network expectations that AVM is know for. This includes keeping these devices automatically updated with the latest firmware, something that was considered out of the ordinary for this class of device.

What is being highlighted is the idea of more companies providing Wi-Fi 6 as part of a commodity-priced home-network router, which will lead to this wireless-network technology becoming more ubiquitous.

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Alfaview brings forth a German competitor to the world of videoconferencing

Article – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

Flag of Germany

Germany now yields its own videoconferencing platform

Alfaview: Sichere Videochat-Software aus Deutschland (Alfaview : Secure Videochat Software from Germany) | Computer Bild

From the horse’s mouth

Alfaview

Home Page (English / Deutsch)

My Comments

A German company has fielded a videoconferencing packaging which is Europe’s answer to what Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams is about. This is part of a variety of efforts by European governments and businesses to create credible mainstream IT service alternatives to what the USA and China are offering while respecting European values. One example is efforts by Germany to create a public data-processing cloud that is within that country’s borders as part of leading an effort towards a Europe-wide public cloud.

Alfaview screenshot press image of Alfaview

This is in the form of Alfaview which provides a Zoom-style experience

This company, Alfatraining Bildungszentrum GmbH which is based in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württenburg, Germany, has released the Alfaview video-conferencing platform. Here, this platform places privacy and European sovereignty first in the way it is engineered.

The Alfaview platform’s servers are based in Germany and the company heavily underscores the spirit of European values especially with the GDPR directive. Videoconferencing data is encrypted using TLS/AES256 protocols during conversations. But they can allow the use of non-German services as long as they are in the EU, again underscoring European values. There will also be the ability for people to join the platform from all over the world, thus avoiding a problem with European technologies and services where they have limited useability from areas beyond Europe.

As well, it answers the weaknesses that are associated with the videoconferencing establishment when it comes to offering this kind of service for consumers and small businesses. This encompasses Zoom not being all that secure, Microsoft not maintaining Skype and focusing the Teams videoconferencing package just for big business. As well, Facebook who has come on the bandwagon with Messenger Rooms is not all that respected when it comes to security and privacy.

Alfaview runs natively on Windows, MacOS, Linux (Debian package), iOS and will soon be ported for Android. But they could simply reuse the Linux package as a code base for reaching out to ChromeOS and Android platforms. As well, I am not sure if the iOS version is optimised for the iPads which is something I consider of importance for mobile platforms that have tablet devices because these devices have a strong appeal to multi-party video conferences.

There is a free package for individuals and families to use which provides for one room that has 50 participants. As well, Alfaview has a Free Plus package pitched towards the education and non-profit sector. Here, this one has most of the features that the corporate package has like 40 rooms per account with 50 participants. There is also the ability to run 10 concurrent breakout groups per room.

This is in conjunction to various paid plans for ordinary businesses to buy in to for their videoconferencing needs. Alfaview even provides the ability to offer the software in a “white-label” form for companies to brand themselves.

But what I see of the Alfaview approach is that the Europeans are offering a Zoom-style service respecting their values and competing with what the Silicon Valley establishment are offering.

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Why use headphones during that Zoom or Skype video conference?

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

Headphones and earphones can improve the sound quality during that Zoom video call

Increasingly most of you are taking part in a multi-party videoconference using Zoom, Skype or similar platforms as part of working or learning from home or keeping in the loop with distant relatives and friends. This has been driven by necessity due to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague and the requirement to stay home to limit the spread of this bug.

But you may find that your correspondents’ audio has that unnecessary echo or reverberation that can make the videocall sound fatiguing and awful. The excessive noise from the reverberation or echo may cause you also to speak louder as a means of dealing with a poor signal-to-noise ratio. As well it can also make a participant harder to understand especially if they have a strong accent that doesn’t cope well with poor signal quality.

JBL E45BT Bluetooth wireless headset

… no matter the kind of headset you use like this JBL Bluetooth headset

This is caused due to latency imposed by the different home-network and Internet connections each party uses and the fact that the sound and vision are being sent around as data packets. As well, most of the parties in the videoconference will typically be using a microphone and set of speakers integrated in or connected to the device for the sound.

Here, the reverberation or echo is heard due to your voice coming out of the participants’ devices’ speakers at a later time thanks to the videoconference setup with its limitations. It can also be magnified if someone is using a speaker setup that is very loud like most desktop speakers or a hi-fi system used as audio output for your computer.

By using headphones during that video conference if you are the only person calling in to the videoconference from your endpoint, you are effectively minimising the echo and reverberation. This is because when a person uses headphones for the videocall, the sound from the other parties is being “funneled” through the headphones exclusively to the device’s user, not likely to be picked up by their device’s microphone.

You will also find that you can hear your participants more easily when you use headphones. This is due to the headphone’s speakers located very close to your ear therefore leading to very minimal audio leakage that can cause further reverberation or echo. Those of you who use active-noise-cancelling headphones may also be at an advantage due to reducing fan or air-conditioning hum interfering with what your callers are saying, allowing you to concentrate better.

Here, any headphones or headset would do, whether they be in-ear, on-ear or over-ear types; or whether they are a wired or wireless setup. For example, if you are using a smartphone or tablet and you have its supplied in-ear wired headset, you can get by with it. Or a pair of good Bluetooth headphones may even do the job better.

This won’t be of use for a group situation where many people like a family or household are joining the videocall from the one device at the one location. It is because they want to talk to the rest of the videoconference as if they are one person. This situation would require the use of the device’s loudspeakers and microphone to be of value.

When you alone are participating in that multi-party videocall and you want to get the best out of it, your headphones may serve you better through that call.

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Do I see regular computing target i86 and ARM microarchitectures?

Lenovo Yoga 5G convertible notebook press image courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Flex 5G / Yoga 5G convertible notebook which runs Windows on Qualcomm ARM silicon – the first laptop computer to have 5G mobile broadband on board

Increasingly, regular computers are moving towards the idea of having processor power based around either classic Intel (i86/i64) or ARM RISC microarchitectures. This is being driven by the idea of portable computers heading towards the latter microarchitecture as a power-efficiency measure with this concept driven by its success with smartphones and tablets.

It is undertaking a different approach to designing silicon, especially RISC-based silicon, where different entities are involved in design and manufacturing. Previously, Motorola was taking the same approach as Intel and other silicon vendors to designing and manufacturing their desktop-computing CPUs and graphics infrastructure. Now ARM have taken the approach of designing the microarchitecture themselves and other entities like Samsung and Qualcomm designing and fabricating the exact silicon for their devices.

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

Apple to move the Macintosh platform to their own ARM RISC silicon

A key driver of this is Microsoft with their Always Connected PC initiative which uses Qualcomm ARM silicon similar to what is used in a smartphone or tablet. This is to have the computer able to work on basic productivity tasks for a whole day without needing to be on AC power. Then Apple intended to pull away from Intel and use their own ARM-based silicon for their Macintosh regular computers, a symptom of them going back to the platform’s RISC roots but not in a monolithic manner.

As well, the Linux community have established Linux-based operating systems on ARM microarchitectore. This has led to Google running Android on ARM-based mobile and set-top devices and offering a Chromebook that uses ARM silicon; along with Apple implementing it in their operating systems. Not to mention the many NAS devices and other home-network hardware that implement ARM silicon.

Initially the RISC-based computing approach was about more sophisticated use cases like multimedia or “workstation-class” computing compared to basic word-processing and allied computing tasks. Think of the early Apple Macintosh computers, the Commodore Amiga with its many “demos” and games, or the RISC/UNIX workstations like the Sun SPARCStation that existed in the late 80s and early 90s. Now it is about power and thermal efficiency for a wide range of computing tasks, especially where portable or low-profile devices are concerned.

Software development

Already mobile and set-top devices use ARM silicon

I will see an expectation for computer operating systems and application software to be written and compiled for both classic Intel i86 and ARM RISC microarchitectures.  This will require software development tools to support compiling and debugging on both platforms and, perhaps, microarchitecture-agnostic application-programming approaches.  It is also driven by the use of ARM RISC microarchitecture on mobile and set-top/connected-TV computing environments with a desire to allow software developers to have software that is useable across all computing environments.

WD MyCloud EX4100 NAS press image courtesy of Western Digital

.. as do a significant number of NAS units like this WD MyCloud EX4100 NAS

Some software developers, usually small-time or bespoke-solution developers, will end up using “managed” software development environments like Microsoft’s .NET Framework or Java. These will allow the programmer to turn out a machine-executable file that is dependent on pre-installed run-time elements for it to run. These run-time elements will be installed in a manner that is specific to the host computer’s microarchitecture and make use of the host computer’s needs and capabilities. These environments may allow the software developer to “write once run anywhere” without knowing if the computer  the software is to run on uses an i86 or ARM microarchitecture.

There may also be an approach towards “one-machine two instruction-sets” software development environments to facilitate this kind of development where the goal is to simply turn out a fully-compiled executable file for both instruction sets.

It could be in an accepted form like run-time emulation or machine-code translation as what is used to allow MacOS or Windows to run extant software written for different microarchitectures. Or one may have to look at what went on with some early computer platforms like the Apple II where the use of a user-installable co-processor card with the required CPU would allow the computer to run software for another microarchitecture and platform.

Computer Hardware Vendors

For computer hardware vendors, there will be an expectation towards positioning ARM-based silicon towards high-performance power-efficient computing. This may be about highly-capable laptops that can do a wide range of computing tasks without running out of battery power too soon. Or “all-in-one” and low-profile desktop computers will gain increased legitimacy when it comes to high-performance computing while maintaining the svelte looks.

Personally, if ARM-based computing was to gain significant traction, it may have to be about Microsoft encouraging silicon vendors other than Qualcomm to offer ARM-based CPUs and graphics processors fit for “regular” computers. As well, Microsoft and the Linux community may have to look towards legitimising “performance-class” computing tasks like “core” gaming and workstation-class computing on that microarchitecture.

There may be the idea of using 64-bit i86 microarchitecture as a solution for focused high-performance work. This may be due to a large amount of high-performance software code written to run with the classic Intel and AMD silicon. It will most likely exist until a significant amount of high-performance software is written to run natively with ARM silicon.

Conclusion

Thanks to Apple and Microsoft heading towards ARM RISC microarchitecture, the computer hardware and software community will have to look at working with two different microarchitectures especially when it comes to regular computers.

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A digital watermark to identify the authenticity of news photos

Articles

ABC News 24 coronavirus coverage

The news services that appear on the “screen of respect” that is main TV screen like the ABC are often seen as being “of respect” and all the screen text is part of their identity

TNI steps up fight against disinformation  | Advanced Television

News outlets will digitally watermark content to limit misinformation | Engadget

News Organizations Will Start Using Digital Watermarks To Combat Fake News |Ubergizmo

My Comments

The Trusted New Initiative are a recently formed group of global news and tech organisations, mostly household names in these fields, who are working together to stop the spread of disinformation where it poses a risk of real-world harm. It also includes flagging misinformation that undermines trust the the TNI’s partner news providers like the BBC. Here, the online platforms can review the content that comes in, perhaps red-flagging questionable content, and newsrooms avoid blindly republishing it.

ABC News website

.. as well as their online presence – they will benefit from having their imagery authenticated by a TNI watermark

One of their efforts is to agree on and establish an early-warning system to combat the spread of fake news and disinformation. It is being established in the months leading up to the polling day for the US Presidential Election 2020 and is flagging disinformation were there is an immediate threat to life or election integrity.

It is based on efforts to tackle disinformation associated with the 2019 UK general election, the Taiwan 2020 general election, and the COVID-19 coronavirus plague.

Another tactic is Project Origin, which this article is primarily about.

An issue often associated with fake news and disinformation is the use of imagery and graphics to make the news look credible and from a trusted source.

Typically this involves altered or synthesised images and vision that is overlaid with the logos and other trade dress associated with BBC, CNN or another newsroom of respect. This conveys to people who view this online or on TV that the news is for real and is from a respected source.

Project Origin is about creating a watermark for imagery and vision that comes from a particular authentic content creator. This will degrade whenever the content is manipulated. It will be based around open standards overseen by TNI that relate to authenticating visual content thus avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to developing any software for this to work.

One question I would have is whether it is only readable by computer equipment or if there is a human-visible element like the so-called logo “bug” that appears in the corner of video content you see on TV. If this is machine-readable only, will there be the ability for a news publisher or broadcaster to overlay a graphic or message that states the authenticity at the point of publication. Similarly, would a Web browser or native client for an online service have extra logic to indicate the authenticity of an image or video footage.

I would also like to see the ability to indicate the date of the actual image or footage being part of the watermark. This is because some fake news tends to be corroborated with older lookalike imagery like crowd footage from a similar but prior event to convince the viewer. Some of us may also look at the idea of embedding the actual or approximate location of the image or footage in the watermark.

There is also the issue of newsrooms importing images and footage from other sources whose equipment they don’t have control over. For example, an increasing amount of amateur and videosurveillance imagery is used in the news usually because the amateur photographer or the videosurveillance setup has the “first images” of the news event. Then there is reliance on stock-image libraries and image archives for extra or historical footage; along with newsrooms and news / PR agencies sharing imagery with each other. Let’s not forget media companies who engage “stringers” (freelance photographers and videographers) who supply images and vision taken with their own equipment.

The question with all this, especially with amateur / videosurveillance / stringer footage taken with equipment that media organisations don’t have control over is how such imagery can be authenticated by a newsroom. This is more so where the image just came off a source like someone’s smartphone or the DVR equipment within a premises’ security room. There is also the factor that one source could tender the same imagery to multiple media outlets, whether through a media-relations team or simply offering it around.

At least Project Origin will be useful as a method to allow the audience to know the authenticity and provenance of imagery that is purported to corroborate a newsworthy event.

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Desktop or laptop computing in the COVID-19 era

Gaming rig

Whether to buy a desktop computer like these gaming rigs…

Thanks to the COVID-19 plague, we are being encouraged if not required by law to stay at home to limit the spread of this disease.

This has led to us using regular desktop and laptop computers that run Windows, MacOS or desktop Linux at home more frequently for work, education, communications and pleasure. Think of those many Zoom or Skype videoconferences you have been making very lately. This may even cause some of us to purchase a new desktop or laptop computer or upgrade an existing one that is long in the tooth.

Intel Skull Canyon NUC press picture courtesy of Intel

or a low-profile NUC computer like this Intel Skull Canyon…

The question that will come about more frequently in this era is whether we should buy desktop computers or laptop computers. The desktop computers are appearing in newer and different form factors like “all-in-one” computers where the computing power is part of the display; or three-piece systems that now use a low-profile system unit like the Intel “NUC” boxes. This is while the highly-portable laptop computers appear in the traditional “clamshell” form or a 2-in-1 convertible that folds over to become a tablet.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510 all-in-one press picture courtesy of Lenovo

or something like the Lenovo IdeaCentre 510 all-in-one or Apple iMac …

There is also the fact that high-performance computers like gaming rigs or workstations are appearing in low-profile or “all-in-one” desktop form, or in laptop form. This is so you can think of having higher performance computing in an aesthetically-pleasing or portable form factor.

As far as a regular computer’s durability and longevity is concerned, it is becoming more plausible for these systems to last for many years compared to a smartphone or mobile-platform tablet. This is furthered by some people gaining more mileage from these computers by doing things like “upsizing” their computer’s RAM memory or storage to suit newer expectations. Or they end up using external or portable USB hard disks and SSDs or network-attached storage systems as a data-offload solution.

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop

or a laptop like the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming high-performance laptop …

But the question that can come about is whether a desktop or a laptop is a more relevant computer purchase at this time.

It is more so as we see schools of thought develop concerning the purchase of portable computing technology like laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. Here, some of these schools of thought may downplay the need to invest heavily in such technology because it is perceived as “something to impress others with” when out and about in a similar vein to cars, bikes or fashion. This is with us spending more time cocooned within our homes thanks to this virus therefore driving a preference for us to lead a simple contemplative homespun life.

Desktop Computers

A desktop computer may be seen as being more relevant in the short term due to us not moving around. It may be more real where there is the expectation to use only one particular workspace for your computing activities and may be augmented by the fact that you use other complementary devices like mobile-platform tablets or gaming consoles for different activities away from the workspace.

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Intel 8th Generation CPU at QT Melbourne hotel - presentation mode

.. or a 2-in-1 like this Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 convertible

Some users who chase high performance at all costs may simply state that a desktop computer, preferably the traditional “tower-style” unit, is the way to go. It is due to a desktop form-factor offering increased performance at a cheaper cost or being easily upgradeable or customisable. This would be preferred by the core gamers who value their custom-built gaming rigs. As well, those of us who are willing to throw down money on the latest CPU and graphics-infrastructure silicon as soon as Intel, AMD or NVIDIA release it would go for the traditional easy-to-upgrade desktop computer.

Laptop and Notebook Computers

Or a laptop or notebook computer, including a 2-in-1 convertible, can be about a long-term view of us coming out of the crisis and being able to get out and about. Here it may be about travelling again or working away from home whether that be your workplace’s office or a “secondary office” that is your favourite cafe.

In the short term, it can also be about the idea of using a highly-portable computer that can be taken around the house or stored away quickly when not in use. This can be driven by seasonal wishes like wanting to use your computer by the fire during winter or outside on the balcony or in the garden during summer.

Let’s not forget that a small home may be about not having a dedicated desk for your workspace and you have to use a dining table or coffee table for that purpose. Similarly you may use a desk types that can be closed up when not in use like a roll-top or slant-top desk or has significant storage space and you could store your laptop computer there.

Or you could take that laptop in to a lounge area to have that casual videoconference between family and friends using something like Zoom or Skype, perhaps hooking it up to the large TV for that purpose.

The transportability issue weighs more in the laptop’s favour because you carrywith the screen, keyboard and pointing device. one piece of equipment that is essentially your useable computer system

A recent trend that has affected laptop-computer use is to create a primary workspace that is equipped with a large display, a full-size keyboard and mouse along with other peripherals. These would be connected to your laptop whether directly or through a USB-connected dock (expansion module). You may follow this path when you want to work in a particular primary location but be flexible to move around for your regular-computing needs.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing that next regular computer during this time, it is important to think of what form-factor really suits your needs both in the short term and the long term. This includes whether you see the possibility of frequently evolving your computer system to suit newer needs or whether you value portability or affordable performance.

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Lenovo to offer a ThinkPad laptop that directly competes with the Dell XPS 13

Article

Dell XPS 13 8th Generation Ultrabook at QT Melbourne rooftop bar

Lenovo is tentatively fielding a computer that rivals the Dell XPS 13 ultraportable

Lenovo ThinkPad Nano leak reveals fascinating features — XPS 13 could be in trouble | Laptop Mag

My Comments

The Dell XPS 13 series of Intel-powered clamshell laptops has been seen by the computer press as what an ultraportable laptop should be about such as durability and value-for-money. I even gave some coverage about this unit on HomeNetworking01.info and reviewed some of these laptops including a 2-in-1 variant.

Now Lenovo is answering Dell by offering a similarly-sized ThinkPad laptop, known as the ThinkPad X1 Nano thanks to leaked information that surfaced on the Internet. Like other ThinkPad laptops, this is finished in the black conservative “IBM” look rather than the silver look associated with the Apple MacBook family and the Dell XPS 13.

  1. Here, this will come with at least 16Gb RAM and implement Intel’s newer Tiger Lake (11th generation) Core CPUs which I suspect will be the i5 or i7 types. It will have a 16:10 display with at least 2K resolution along with 5G mobile broadband and the newer Thunderbolt 4 over USB-C sockets offering compatibility with USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3. The expected battery runtime for its 48Wh battery is to be around 17 hours.

The question here is whether Lenovo will still focus the computer towards the “enterprise” segment of the market with a preference to supply all of the security and manageability requirements desired of by Corporate America’s IT teams. Or will there be a desire to make this equally available to personal and small business users who would like to see an alternative to the Dell XPS 13.

Will there also be a desire by Lenovo to rival Dell with the configurations offered at the different price points for both the ultraportables especially when pitching them at regular users? Will there also be a rivalry between those companies to use the latest silicon to design and offer the best value-priced ultraportable through subsequent model generations?

If this is for real, it could open up a strong rivalry when it comes to the market for 13” ultraportable laptop computers. But I hope that the competition is about innovation in this product class with a goal for value for money centred around good-quality equipment rather than a “race to the bottom” where customers are sold substandard products at a cheap price.

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Freebox routers to support WPA3 Wi-Fi security through a firmware update

Article – French language / Langue Française

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

A firmware update will give WPA3 Wi-Fi security to the Freebox Révolution and newer Freebox devices

Mise à jour du Freebox Server (Révolution/mini/One/Delta/Pop) 4.2.0 | Freebox.fr Blog

My Comments

Free.fr have pushed forward the idea of using a firmware update to deliver the WPA3 Wi-Fi network security standard to recent Freebox Server modem-routers that are part of their Freebox Internet service packages.

This is part of the FreeOS 4.2.0 major firmware update which also improves Wi-Fi network stability; implements QR-based device enrolment for the Wi-Fi network along with profile-driven parental control. It will apply to the Freebox Révolution which I see as the poster child of a highly-competitive French Internet service market and descendent devices like the mini, one, Delta and Pop.

The WPA3 functionality will be configured to work in WPA2+WPA3 compatibility mode to cater for extant WPA2 client devices that exist on the home network. This is because most home-network devices like printers or Internet radios won’t even have the ability to be updated to work with WPA3-secured networks.

At the moment, Free is rolling out updates to their mobile apps to support WPA3 on the mobile operating systems. It is most likely until Google, Apple and mobile-phone vendors offer WPA3 “out-of-the-box” with their smartphone and tablet platforms.

What I like of Free’s software-driven approach is that there is no need to replace the modem-router to have your network implement WPA3 Wi-Fi network security. It is very similar to what AVM did to enable distributed Wi-Fi functionality in a significant number of their FritzBox routers and other devices in their existing home-network product range where this function was part of a firmware upgrade.

It is avoiding the need for customers to purchase new hardware if they need to move to WPA3 network security and I would see this as a significant trend regarding European-designed home-network hardware where newer network capabilities are just a firmware update away.

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ABC touches on fake news and disinformation in an educational video series

Video Series TV, VHS videocassette recorder and rented video movies

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Behind The News – Media Literacy Series

How To Spot Fake News (Click or tap to play in YouTube)

Which News Sources Can Be Trusted (Click or tap to play in YouTube)

What Makes News, News (Click or tap to play on YouTube)

How To Spot Bias In The Media (Click or tap to play on YouTube)

Dishonesty, Accuracy And Ethics In The Media (Click or tap to play on YouTube)

My Comments

Regularly, I cover on HomeNetworking01.info the issue of fake news and disinformation. This is because of our consumption of news and information being part of our online lives thanks to the ubiquity and affordability of the Intermet.

I have highlighted the use of online sources like social media, Web portals, search engines or news aggregators as our regular news sources along with the fact that it is very easy to spread rumour and disinformation around the world thanks to the ease of publishing the Web provides. As well, it is easy for our contacts to spread links to Web resources or iterate messages in these resources via the Social Web, emails or instant-messaging platforms.

This issue has become of concern since 2016 when fake news and disinformation circulating around the Web was used to distort the outcome of the UK’s Brexit referendum and the US election that brought Donald Trump in to the presidency of that country.

Kogan Internet table radioSince then, I have covered efforts by the tech industry and others to make us aware of fake news, disinformation and propaganda such as through the use of fact-checkers or online services implementing robust data-security and account-management policies and procedures. It also includes articles that encourage the use of good-quality traditional media sources during critical times like national elections or the coronavirus and I even see the issue of being armed against fake news and disinformation as part of data security.

The ABC have run a video series as part of their “Behind The News” schools-focused TV show about the media which underscores the value of media literacy and discerning the calibre of news that is being presented. On Tuesday 6 July 2020, I watched “The Drum” and one of the people behind this series described it as being highly relevant viewing for everyone no matter how old we are thanks to the issue of fake news and disinformation being spread around the Web.

It is part of their continued media-literacy efforts like their “Media Watch” TV series run on Monday nights which highlights and keeps us aware of media trends and issues.

In that same show, they even recommended that if we do post something that critiques a piece of fake news or disinformation, we were to reference the material with a screenshot rather than sharing a link to the content. This is because interactions, link shares and the like are often used as a way to “game” social-network and search-engine algorithms, making it easier to discover the questionable material.

The first video looked at how and why fake news has been spread over the ages such as to drive newspaper sales or listenership and viewership of broadcasts. It also touched on how such news is spread including taking advantage of “thought and social bubbles” that we establish. As well, one of the key issues that was highlighted was fact that fake news tends to be out of touch with reality and to encourage us to research further about the article and who is behind it before taking it as gospel and sharing it further.

This second video of the series that touches on the quality of news and information sources that can be used to drive a news story. It examines the difference between the primary sources that provide first-had information “from the horse’s mouth” and secondary sources that evaluate or interpret the information.

It also touches on whether the news source is relying primarily on secondary sources or hearsay vs expert or authoritative testimony. They raise the legitimacy of contrasting opinion like academic debate or where there isn’t enough real knowledge on the topic. But we were warned about news sources that are opinion-dominant rather than fact-dominant. Even issues like false equivalence, bias or use of anonymous sources were identified along with the reason behind the source presenting the information to the journalist or newsroom.

This video even summed up how we assess news sources by emphasising the CRAP rule – Currency (how recent the news is), Reliability (primary vs secondary source as well as reliability of the source), Authority (is the source authoritative on the topic) and Purpose (why was the news shared such as biases or fact vs opinion).

The third video in the series talks about what makes information newsworthy. This depends on who is reporting it and the consumers who will benefit from the information. It also covered news value like timeliness, frequency of occurrence, cultural proximity, the existence of people in the public spotlight along with factors like conflict or the tone of the story. It completely underscored why and how you are told of information that could shape your view of the world.

The fourth video looks at bias within the media and why it is there. The reasons that were called out include to influence the way we think or vote or what goods or services we buy. It also includes keeping the media platform’s sponsors or commercial partners in a positive light, a media platform building an increasingly-large army of loyal consumers, or simply to pander to their audience’s extant biases.

It also looked at personal biases that affect what we consume and how we consume it, including the “I-am-right” confirmation bias, also known as the “rose-tinted glasses” concept. Even looking at how people or ideas are represented on a media platform, what kind of stories appear in that platform’s output including what gets top place; along with how the stories are told with both pictures and words can highlight potential biases. There was also the fact that a personal bias can be influenced to determine what we think of a media outlet.

The last of the videos looks at honesty, accuracy and ethics within the realm of media. It underscores key values like honest, accurate, fair, independent and respectful reporting along with various checks and balances that the media is subject to. Examples of these include the protections that the law of the land offers like the tort of defamation, contempt of court and similar crimes that protect the proper role of the courts of justice, hatred-of-minority-group offences and right-to-privacy offences. There is also the oversight offered by entities like broadcast-standards authorities and press councils who have effective clout.

The legal references that were highlighted were primarily based on what happens within Australia while British viewers may see something very similar there due to implied freedom of speech along with similarly-rigourous defamation laws. The USA may take slightly different approaches especially where they rely on the First Amendment of their Constitution that grants an express freedom of speech.

But it sums up the role of media as a check on the powerful and its power to shine a light on what needs to be focused on. The series also looks at how we can’t take the media for granted and need to be aware of the way the news appears on whatever media platform we use. This is although there is primary focus on traditional media but in some ways it can also be a way to encourage us to critically assess online media resources.

The video series underscores what the news media is about and covers this issue in a platform-agnostic manner so we don’t consider a particular media platform or type as a purveyor of fake or questionable news. As well, the series presents the concepts in a simple-to-understand manner but with the use of dramatisation in order to grab and keep our attention.

Here, I often wonder whether other public-service or community broadcasters are running a similar media-literacy video program that can be pitched at all age levels in order to encourage the communities they reach to be astute about the media they come across.

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USB-C Power Delivery car chargers now exist that are fit for today’s ultraportables

Products

Satechi 72W USB-C car charger used in car - product image courtesy of MacGear Australia

These USB-C PD car chargers are about using or charging your tablet or ultraportable laptop computer in the car or boat

Satechi ST-TCPDCCS 72W Type-C PD Car Charger
MacGear Australia (Australia / New Zealand distributor)
Dick Smith Electronics – AUD$54.99
MacFixit – AUD$49.99
60W PD + 12W Type-A from 12V DC input

Laptop Plus 45W USB Type-C Car Charger (AUD$69)
45W PD + 18W Type-A from 12-24V DC input

Laptop Plus 65W USB Type-C Car Charger (AUD$89)
65W PD + 18W Type-A from 12-24V DC input

Laptop Plus 90W USB Type-C Car Charger (AUD$99.00)
90W PD from 12-24V DC input, captive USB-C cable

Baseus LED (45W) PD USB-C Car Charger for Phone / Tablet
Gadgets4Geeks.com.au – AUD$34.95
45W PD and 18W Type-A from 12-24V DC input

Targus 45W USB-C Car Charger
Officeworks – AUD$97
45W PD from 12V DC input

My Comments

Satechi 72W USB PD car charger - product image courtesy of MacGear Australia

This Satechi 72W USB-C car charger is one of these devices

Previously, I had covered the use of high-capacity USB-C Power-Delivery-compliant powerbanks that serve as an external battery pack for your laptop or tablet. Now I am looking at the idea of USB-C Power-Delivery-compliant car chargers that do the same thing but work from your vehicle’s or boat’s DC power infrastructure.

You may think about using the computer’s AC-based charger along with an inverter but this can be too cumbersome to deal with. As well, there are inefficiencies that this approach comes with due to converting the electric current twice – from 12-24 volts DC to 110-250 volts AC in the inverter then down to 5-12 volts DC in the AC-powered charger for your laptop to use.

But there are a few car chargers compliant to the USB-C Power Delivery standard that put up at least 45 watts. There are even some that can put up at least 60 or 65 watts, if not 90 watts in order to cater towards the more powerful computers that are appearing.

Dell XPS 13 8th Generation Ultrabook at QT Melbourne rooftop bar

Even something like this Dell XPS 13 can be used in the car from the vehicle’s power supply without the need for an inverter if you are using a USB-C PD car charge with at least 45W

All of these plug in to a vehicle’s or boat’s DC accessory power outlet, commonly known as a “cigar-lighter” socket due to the use of these sockets for a “push-in” thermal cigar lighter. But most of these will work between 12 volts to 24 volts DC, allowing for use in large trucks, buses, large boats and the like that work on 24V. The vehicle will have to be wired for negative earthing which has been the accepted standard for vehicle wiring since the late 1960s.

You may also find that some portable solar-power setups pitched at campers will offer 12-volt DC power through the “cigar-lighter” accessory socket, so you could run your equipment from solar power while in the bush.

Some of these chargers have a standard USB Type-A socket to supply power for charging smartphones, mobile-platform tablets or accessories using the traditional USB charging cable. It is of importance if you are using something like a Mi-Fi router or a mobile printer or scanner.

What can you do with these chargers? You can top up a laptop’s battery while you are driving so as to have more power on hand when you are at your destination. This will please field workers who are more likely to work in rural or remote settings where there isn’t the likelihood to have AC power readily available.

If you are a passenger and you use your laptop or tablet while travelling in a vehicle or boat, these adaptors ae still relevant as a way to save battery runtime. For example, you may be catching up with some work while you are being driven to an appointment or a kid may want to play a game or watch a video to while away that long car trip.

Even at your destination, you may find that you want to “spin out” your laptop’s or tablet’s battery runtime by running it from your vehicle’s or boat’s DC power using one of these adaptors.

For mobile workers whose vehicle is their office, it may be about doing some of the site-based “homework” on a laptop or tablet. But you don’t want to run the computer’s battery down deeply during, say, sending off some email or editing pictures.

This may also appeal to motorhome or boat users whose vehicle’s or craft’s main supply of auxiliary power is the 12-volt or 24-volt DC power available from an accessory power socket. Here, a lot of these users would be relying on a laptop or tablet for communications or entertainment while they are travelling.

What I also see of this is newer compact yet powerful power-supply designs also affecting this class of power supply. This is with more of these car chargers providing USB-PD-compliant power of at least 90 watts from 12-24 volts DC power sources including some that provide two or more “rails” of USB-C PD-compliant power from the same power input.

So at least keep an eye out for USB-C PD-compliant car chargers that put up at least 45W, if not 65W, of power and consider them as a viable laptop accessory if you think of your ultraportable laptop being used on the road.

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