Super Bowl 2021 ad for Logitech’s latest products

Article

Logitech made so much money during the pandemic it could afford this Super Bowl ad – The Verge

Video

Logitech Super Bowl ad – Click or tap to play in YouTube

My Comments

In North America, the NFL Super Bowl is the penultimate final match for American “Gridiron” football. This also has the half-time entertainment with some big-time stars performing but it is also seen by the TV stations as the most valuable TV show there. It is thanks to many people watching it wherever they can on their TVs and this same football show ends up as a showcase of the best TV commercials that Americans have seen.

Most years I have highlighted and commented on consumer-technology ads that have appeared in this advertising showcase, incase you were overseas or were at a Super Bowl viewing party but missed that ad while reaching for that chicken wing or dipping those chips in that special dip. For example I had cited an ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller with its focus on inclusive gaming.

This year, Logitech had joined the Super Bowl advertising showcase with an ad highlighting their current computer-peripheral product range in a creative context. Logitech is one of those brands I value due to their consistent use of Bluetooth as a wireless-connection option for all of their wireless input devices rather than just the dongle-based wireless approach. As well, the development of Darkfield technology has impressed me due to the ability to use suitably-equipped optical mice on glass surfaces.

Logitech had made so much money during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague. This is due to them selling computer peripherals like mice like the MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse I have reviewed, keyboards and Webcams for us to equip our home offices with. For example, a lot of these devices would have been used to build out a desktop workspace for that laptop as mentioned in this HomeNetworking01.info article. Some of the pundits were evens saying that Logitech could even produce and run a Super Bowl ad on the back of their profits of these sales.

The Super Bowl ad carved out a message about determination in the face of what may be perceived as logic. This may be due to Lil Nas X (Wikipedia article) and his life including coming out as gay and hitting out against homophobia in hip-hop music, or fusing country-and-western music with elements of the hip-hop style especially rapping.

The vision in the ad underscored the use of a wide range of Logitech input devices like mice, styluses and keyboards with differing computing devices for creative purposes. There wasn’t any highlighting of certain products within their latest product lineup but it was about showing the whole lineup working together.

It is showing a distinctive direction for tech-focused advertising where the technology is for use by everybody no matter who they are, along with the idea of running these campaigns during key sports events where everyone would be watching.

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Wi-Fi EasyConnect and EasyMesh are now updated further

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

Wi-Fi EasyConnect to be upgraded to simplify Internet-of-things setup

Wi-Fi Alliance debuts improvements to Wi-Fi mesh and IoT device onboarding | Wi-Fi NOW

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi Alliance® connects and expands home Wi-Fi® (Press Release)

My Comments

Improvements to EasyConnect

Most of us may think of Wi-Fi EasyConnect as simply scanning a QR code with your smartphone to get your smartphone on to a Wi-Fi network that you want to use. Or it could be about using a smartphine app to scan a QR code on a device you want to bring on board to your home network that your phone is connected to.

But this week the Wi-Fi Alliance have cemented in stone ways of using WI-Fi EasyConnect to bring devices on board to your network. You still have to use a “configurator” program which could be an app on your smartphone to bring devices, known as “enrollees” on board to that network or to join that network yourself.

A Wi-Fi EasyConnect setup can support multiple “configurator” programs which will cater to environments where different software has different capabilities. As well, the standard allows a “configurator” program to work with multiple networks, allowing for realities like an individual ESSID for each waveband or people who are responsible for multiple networks.

Telstra Smarty Modem Generation 2 modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

.. and to even build out Wi-Fi EasyMesh distributed-wireless networks simply

Here, NFC “tap-and-go” pairing and Bluetooth LE pairing is part of the standard. As well, you can transcribe a PIN or passcode shown on the device or attached to a label on that device to enrol the device to your home network. For cloud-driven device platforms like Amazon Echo, the cloud platform downloads the device identifying details to your computing device to facilitate binding it to your Wi-Fi network.

Android users may be familiar with NFC-based device pairing when they set up some Bluetooth headsets with their phones or tablets. That is where you touch your Android smartphone or tablet to the headset to start the pairing and setup process.

But there currently isn’t support for showing a PIN or passcode on the configuration software for you to transcribe in to your device you are intending to bring on board your Wi-FI home network. Such a procedure could come in to its own with devices that have a keypad or keyboard as part of their control surface, examples being smart locks or TVs that have “many-button” remote controls.

For people who manage enterprise and building networks, Wi-FI EasyConnect is updated also to allow you to onboard devices to your WPA3-Enterprise Wi-Fi business network. Here the network would have to support EAP-TLS and implement X.509 digital certificates. It is to cater towards a reality where business owners and building managers want to bring “Internet-of-Everything” devices which don’t have a rich user interface on to these networks while keeping these networks secure.

For that matter, users of devices running Android 10 or newer versions stand to benefit from Wi-FI EasyConnect in some ways without the need for extra apps to be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Here, they can use their smartphone or tablet to scan a QR code that represents their target network’s Wi-Fi details to accede to that network. Or they can scan a QR code on a Wi-Fi-capable device they want to bring to the network they are using as long as this device supports Wi-Fi EasyConnect.

It is part of making sure that Wi-Fi EasyConnect works as part of the Wi-Fi WPA3 link-layer security specifications which will be required for a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6 wireless-network segment to operate to specification.

The support for Wi-Fi EasyConnect that needs to come about is to have other mobile and desktop operating systems support this standard in some capacity, preferably in a native form. This would have to include using Bluetooth as an alternative to QR codes as a method of sharing Wi-Fi network credentials from a mobile device to a laptop or tablet.

Improvements to EasyMesh

Wi-Fi EasyMesh distributed-wireless setups now support onboarding of new access points using Wi-Fi EasyConnect methods. This means that the same user interface that is needed to get a computer or IoT device on your home network applies to Wi-FI network-infrastructure devices compliant to this standard. It will also be part of making sure that a Wi-Fi EasyMesh network works to the current WPA3 security expectations.

This is in addition to each of the access points in an EasyMesh setup being able to share advanced metrics about how the network is performing as a whole. Here, it will come in to play with those Wi-Fi networks that are managed or supported by other entities like business Wi-Fi.

Conclusion

The revisions to the Wi-Fi EasyConnect and EasyMesh standards are more about simplifying the process to bring Internet-of-Things devices on board to your WPA3-compliant home or business network. It is also about simplifying the process to build out your EasyMesh-compliant distributed wireless network with multiple satellite repeater units.

But what needs to happen is for more software and hardware support for these standards in order that they become increasingly accepted within the marketplace.

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Product Review–Logitech MX Anywhere 3 wireless mouse

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouseAs part of a gradual upgrade to a new workspace centred around my new Dell XPS 13 laptop, I have decided to buy a Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse. This is a very small portable mouse that is pitched for laptop use while on the road.

This mouse connects to the host computer via a USB-A “Unifying” receiver dongle. But it can connect to a Bluetooth-capable host, presenting itself as a Bluetooth human-interface device, which is the method I have preferred. This means that if your computer is equipped for Bluetooth like most laptops, all-in-ones and some low-profile desktops are, you don’t need to worry about using or losing a USB receiver dongle. That is infact a feature I look for with wireless mice and keyboards for that reason.

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse - low profile

Low profile mouse

The setup routine for the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse was very quick especially when I was wanting to use it via Bluetooth. Here, this was about pressing a button underneath the mouse to make it discoverable then having your Bluetooth host device “find” a new device in the form of this mouse, whereupon you select that device using the host device’s user interface.

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse - underneath view

Button underneath to select which host device the mouse works with or instigate Bluetooth pairing

Windows 10 even led me to download the Logitech companion software that provides extra functionality for the mouse. This software even showed me the features of this mouse and what I can set it up for including working across two different computers.

It also supports three-host operation so you can use it with three different host devices, no matter the platform. This will please those of us who run two or more computers or similar devices and want to use a mouse with them. A button underneath the mouse exists to select between the three different host devices you have set it up to work with.

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse on glass table near laptop

Able to work on a glass table thanks to Logitech’s Darkfield tracking technology

This MX Anywhere mouse uses Logitech’s Darkfield optical technology which allows the mouse to work with glass surfaces like . That is compared to most optical-mouse technologies where they don’t work reliably with glass surfaces, be they having a glass top across an opaque material under that surface or them having a glass pane as the table or desk top. I have tested it with a glass coffee table which just has a glass top and have found that it works when I move it on the glass surface.

It is a very shallow compact mouse which fits under an adult’s palm easily. This also means that it can be stowed in your laptop bag or briefcase without taking up much room, making it more travel-friendly.

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse

Scroll wheel and switch to select detented or smooth operation

The mouse’s scroll wheel has the feel of a Swiss watch’s crown and can provide a smooth feel or a detented “click-click-click” feel. This can be determined you you pressing a “mode shift” button on top of the mouse near the scroll wheel. There are also two buttons for horizontal scrolling or other functions you determine using the Logitech companion app.

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse - front view with USB-C socket

USB-C socket to charge your Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse

The Logitech MX Anywhere mouse is powered by internal rechargeable batteries which means you don’t have to worry about buying many AA or AAA Duracells to keep it going. Here, you connect the mouse to a USB charger via its USB-C socket and it comes with a USB-A to  USB-C cable for this purpose if you use existing USB chargers.

Here, I have found that I could get a few days of significant use out of the mouse before I needed to charge it up again. Then it takes just a few hours to charge it up. You may find that charging your mouse for the duration of, say, a lunch break may be good enough to get it back in order for the rest of your workday.

Limitations and points of improvement

I would like to see Logitech and others who offer input devices like the MX Anywhere mouse that are charged via USB to take this connection further. If the peripheral uses a USB-C socket, it could support full Power-Delivery compliance to allow for quick charging.

As well, the USB connection could permit wired operation so, in the case of this mouse, it can work as an ordinary wired mouse. That arrangement may be seen as being relevant where wireless operation of input devices is not really desired such as in aircraft or with secure workstations where use of wireless devices isn’t desired.  It can also simply be a way to keep the mouse useful to you if the battery dies out while you are working.

Tips

If you are travelling with the Logitech MX Anywhere mouse, it is a good idea to make sure it is properly turned off using the slide switch when you have it packed in your laptop luggage. You then turn the Bluetooth mouse on when you intend to use it.

This avoids the risk of the battery depleting suddenly while you are travelling and you having to end up charging it before you intend to use it.

Conclusion

The small size and the use of Darkfield glass-compatible tracking technology makes the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse a highly-capable laptop mouse. Here, you are not worried about what kind of surface you will end up resting that laptop on and using this mouse with when you head out and about.

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The US now takes serious action about electoral disinformation

Article

Now Uncle Sam is taking action on voter suppression

US arrests far-right Twitter troll for 2016 election interference | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

United States Department Of Justice

Social Media Influencer Charged with Election Interference Stemming from Voter Disinformation Campaign (Press Release)

My Comments

Previously, when I have talked about activities that social media companies have undertaken regarding misinformation during election cycles, including misinformation to suppress voter participation, I have covered what these companies in the private sector are doing.

But I have also wanted to see a healthy dialogue between the social-media private sector and public-sector agencies responsible for the security and integrity of the elections. This is whether they are an election-oversight authority like the  FEC in the USA or the AEC in Australia; a broadcast oversight authority like the FCC in the USA or OFCOM in the UK; or a consumer-rights authority like the FTC in the USA or the ACCC in Australia. Here, these authorities need to be able to know where the proper communication of electoral information is at risk so they can take appropriate education and enforcement action regarding anything that distorts the election’s outcome.

Just lately, the US government arrested a Twitter troll who had been running information on his Twitter feed to dissuade Americans from participating properly and making their vote count in the 2016 Presidential Election. Here, the troll was suggesting that they don’t attend the local polling booths but cast their vote using SMS or social media, which isn’t considered a proper means of casting your vote in the USA. Twitter had banned him and a number of alt-right figureheads that year for harrassment.

These charges are based on a little-known US statute that proscribes activity that denies or dissuades a US citizen’s right to exercise their rights under that country’s Constitution. That includes the right to cast a legitimate vote at an election.

But this criminal case could be seen as a means to create a “conduit” between social media platforms and the public sector to use the full extent of the law to clamp down on disinformation and voter suppression using the Web. I also see it as a chance for public prosecutors to examine the laws of the land and use them as a tool to work against the fake news and disinformation scourge.

This is a criminal matter before the courts of law in the USA and the defendent is presumed innocent unless he is found guilty in a court of law.

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Chrome OS to gain some credible features

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Dell Chromebook 13 press image courtesy of Dell Inc.

These Chromebooks stand to benefit from WebAuthn Website authentication and improved lockscreens

Your Chromebook now doubles as a smart display – Android Authority

Chrome OS 88 offers a faster way to sign in to websites – by using your fingerprint or PIN code (chromeunboxed.com)

My Comments

The operating system that runs your Chromebook or Chromebox computer has now gained some more key capabilities. This is being seen as important as the Chromebook has gained importance for COVID-19 home-education computing needs.

One feature that is highlighted is the provision of a rich pre-login lock-screen for that platform. Windows 10 users have some sort of richness with their pre-login lock-screen where there is the opportunity for applications to show useable information on that screen.

Now Google has added this functionality by taking cues from their Assistant-powered Smart Displays by showing information like local weather or attractive visual works. You can use the Personalisation option to determine which images will appear on the lock screen, be they images from Google Photos or an art collection that is offered through that platform.

There is some interactivity beyond descending to the login screen in the form of music-player transport controls, something that would be convenient if you are using the Spotify world-wide cyber-jukebox on your Chromebook.

But once you log in to your Chromebook, you can have it provide simplified login with Websites that implement WebAuthn simple-yet-secure login. Here, you need to go to “People” then select “Security & Sign-In” to enable device-based PIN entry that is available on all Chromebooks or use of the fingerprint reader in your suitably-equipped Chromebook. Here, most of the other desktop and mobile operating systems and browsers have support for WebAuthn in some form for their current versions.

The question with Chrome OS is what kind of work will be taken to make this operating system less of an “Android tablet in a laptop housing” or an early-1950s British or European “people’s car” but something that satisfies current expectations for work, home, study and play.

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One of AVM’s FritzBoxes is a sign of what a modem router would be about

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AVM FritzBox 5530 Fiber FTTP fibre-optic router product image courtesy of AVM

AVM shows an example of what the home network router will be about with the FritzBox 5530 Fiber

Neue FritzBox: AVM bringt neuen Router in den Handel (New FritzBox: AVM brings new router to market) | Inside Digital (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

FritzBox 5530 Fiber (Product Page – English / Deutsch)

My Comments

AVM is offering to the German market a Wi-Fi router that is a sign of things to come for home-network routers.

This unit, known as the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has a built-in optical-network modem that works with current-specification fibre-to-the-premises networks. It doesn’t matter whether the network implements active or passive topology, which would cater for situations where the infrastructure provider or ISP upgrades the service to active technology for increased capacity.

The fibre-optic cable for the network would have to be equipped with SFP fibre-optic plugs which allow the user to plug it in to the FTTP service. Depending on the FTTP installation, this may be a captive fibre-optic flylead that you plug in to the modem or fibre-optic cable you plug in to the equipment and a wall socket.

Here, this kind of router would come in handy where fibre-to-the-premises services are able to be delivered on a “bring-your-own-equipment” basis. Here, this may be a self-install setup for those premises which have extant FTTP infrastructure for the network that provides the desired service. Or it could be for professionally-installed “new-infrastructure” services where the customer supplies their own equipment or the equipment is supplied under separate delivery.

It would also appeal to ISPs who want to provide a router with integrated optical-network-terminal functionality as their customer-premises equipment.

Connections on AVM FritzBox FF30 Fiber router image courtesy of AVM

On the left is the SFP fibre-optic connection for your FTTP fibre-optic Internet service while the Ethernet socket in the middle outlined in white is the 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet socket.

On the LAN side, there are three Ethernet connections with one being a 2.5 Gigabit connection for “multiple-Gigabit” Ethernet networks along with two Gigabit Ethernet connections. The Wi-Fi segment is a two-stream Wi-Fi 6 setup which allows for high-throughput wireless networking. Of course, these connections work at the stated speed if equipment matching these specifications is connected to them.

The Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has VoIP adaptor functionality including a DECT base station for six handsets along with an analogue-telephony-adaptor for one regular telephony device, including a fax machine. This setup is SIP compliant for setup with most Fixed-Line IP services that are the way to provide landline telephony in the era of fibre-to-the-premises broadband.

It runs the AVM FritzOS operating system and like other Fritzbox devices, implements automatic software updating. There is support for the AVM FritzMesh arrangement that allows the use of AVM’s network-infrastructure hardware to become part of a wired and/or wireless mesh setup to assure proper network coverage across your home.

At the moment, the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber sells to the German market for a recommended-retail price of EUR€169. But the fact that it provides a fibre-optic WAN and at least one multi-gigabit Ethernet LAN connection to answer the trend of high-throughput Internet and home-network connectivity.

This could become in the near future the path to go for home-network routers as fibre-to-the-premises Gigabit broadband Internet takes hold. It also underscores what is going on with the design of consumer IT hardware within Europe.

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COVID-19 brings back interest in the regular computer

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Lenovo Legion Slim 7i gaming laptop press image courtesy of Lenovo

The Lenovo Legion Slim 7i gaming laptop representing the kind of investment taking place for regular computers in this era

The PC is suddenly cool again … for now | CNBC

The pandemic has made it harder to buy a new laptop | The Verge

My Comments

Due to us having to stay home more due to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague, we have had to rely on online services for our work, education and social life.

What this has meant is a stronger interest in the use of desktop and laptop regular computers that have more powerful silicon and run desktop operating systems. These purchases are justified more due to increased usage of these systems and a longer lifespan that they typically have. Let’s not forget that these computers typically have or are able to be connected to larger screens and better input devices suited for long usage sessions.  As well, the money that people have saved by not going out or travelling is financing the purchase of these systems.

Short supply early in the pandemic

This high demand for newer computers has caused problems in the supply of these computers due to factories in China that supply parts or subassemblies for these systems shutting down during the first few months of this pandemic. Another factor that slowed down the supply of thee computers was the logistics associated with their parts being limited due to various restrictions on the transport modes and ports / airports to limit the spread of the virus. But once it became a known quantity and factories were able to adapt to the bug in a prophylactic manner, the backlog of computer orders was able to be fulfilled by the major vendors.

The steady rise of Chrome OS as a viable alternative

Google’s Chrome OS is coming to the fore in this context due to schools and workplaces implementing Chromebooks as a viable computing platform. This is due to it having a limited third-party software base, although it can run Android software, and its support for a secure computing environment. But even these machines are becoming more capable with them acquiring faster silicon and more memory.

But could this mean that more software providers, especially games studios, will have to write software for the Chromebook? Similarly will there be requirements to create software development environments that target many platforms including Chrome OS at once?

Laptops still hold their ground with ever-increasing computing power

There is a strong interest in the portable form factors like laptops because of their innate flexibility. As I have mentioned before when raising the issue of whether to buy a desktop or laptop computer in this era, this could suit household members who don’t have a dedicated workspace and end up using the dining table; people who prefer to use the computer to suit seasonal needs like outside or by the fire.

It is leading towards a significant trend for increased computing power in these computers, especially the ultraportable units like Ultrabooks or MacBook Air units. Around September, this meant the arrival of Intel’s Tiger Lake silicon with the Xe graphics infrastructure. Here the Xe integrated graphics processors were on a par with low-tier mobile dedicated graphics processors and could offer elementary games-grade graphics performance with a Full HD screen.

For example Intel have just premiered at CES 2021 the Tiger Lake H35 silicon which is their attempt to bring on gaming-grade performance to Ultrabooks. This is in addition to opening up Chrome OS to Tiger Lake performance silicon.

This has come about because the computer industry has found that over the past year that it is increasingly justifiable to invest in regular-computer platforms. That is thanks to these units being able to last and be relevant for the long term. It also has been underscored over the past ten years with laptops, all-in-ones and low-profile desktop computers being found to exhibit real computing power for primary workday use.

Continual post-pandemic interest in the regular computer

There is doubt whether the demand for regular computers will last long as more of us return to work or school. It may not be an issue for laptop users if your workplace or educational institution implements “bring-your-own-device” policies or they have bought the device for you to use during your tenure with them, and you are able to take your computer between there and back.

Similarly, some pundits may be seeing the increased and continual interest in remote working with this maintaining a need for the regular computer. This may be enforced by offices being required to work at reduced capacity to avoid the risk of contagion until we are sure this pandemic is totally under control. It is also along with businesses looking towards downsizing their office premises or moving away from inner-urban areas due to the reduced need for on-site staff.

Here, this could evolve towards the use of local “third places” like libraries and cafes as alternative workspaces with, perhaps, interest in local flexible shared-working facilities. Similarly, hotels are seeing renewed interest in offering their guestrooms for day use and pitching this towards remote workers. These will continue to exist as an alternative to working from home, especially where one wants to avoid home distractions.

This may be also augmented by a desire to “move away from the city” and only visit there for regular but infrequent workplace meetups, as those pundits in the real-estate game are underscoring. Here, you would have to have a decent Internet connection and a decent computer at your new country house to be able to work from there.

Conclusion

Again these will be about maintaining interest in the regular computer, especially laptop computers.

This is due to them being conducive for long working sessions thanks to properly-sized hardware keyboards and larger screens that these computers have. As well, most of these units will also appeal for use beyond work like playing powerful rich games, doing further learning or supporting entertainment needs.

Here, the laptop will maintain its space for those of us who like flexible working whether at or away from home.

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How to adapt to multiple-screen computing

Desktop workspace with Dell XPS 13 laptop computer

The computing setup with multiple screens – now very ubiquitous

Computing setups that are equipped with two or more screens are becoming more ubiquitous due to the affordability of these setups. As well, it is becoming more acceptable in general business and personal computing to operate with multiple displays at your main workspace thanks to a range of productivity benefits.

You may find that there is a steep learning curve as you set up your workspace for multiple-screen computing. This is something that I am facing as I move from a traditional desktop computer centred around a traditional PC tower to a laptop computer that is connected to a dock and I want to keep the existing monitor going.

An example of this is when you move away from your desktop computer with the traditional single-monitor approach to a laptop-centred computing setup and retain your desktop computer’s monitor because it has plenty of mileage left in it. It can also happen if you are using an all-in-one desktop computer like the iMac that has an integrated display and you use a similarly-sized monitor to create a multiple-screen computing setup.

Those of you who use a traditional desktop computer may head towards multiple-screen computing if you decide to buy a new monitor and keep the existing monitor going. You will find out if this is feasible for most of these computers if there are two or more display outputs on your computer, especially its graphics card.

Praise and worship at church

Using a computer in conjunction with a projector to show material to a large audience like this church setting will have you working a multiple-screen setup due to the use of a smaller screen for control or cueing purposes

This can also happen when you are using a projector or large-screen TV as the “big screen” in your display setup, something that is commonly done for multimedia or games applications or to show content to large audiences.

Occasionally I have had to deal with multiple screen computing setups. This was either as part of helping some people out with their computing setups. Or it was to help a small church with their AV and IT needs which has been the basis of some articles I have published and targeted to that same audience.

Now, thanks to a computer upgrade towards a laptop, I have headed towards regular use of a multiple-screen setup by maintaining my existing monitor as a second screen for that setup. In this case, I use the larger-screen second monitor for working on documents in my primary laptop-centric workspace.

Why go multiple-screen for your computing needs

Most computer users who make heavy use of their productivity software will want to benefit from multiple screens. This is due to the effectively-large working area that these setups offer.

.. as will using your laptop with your TV to watch Netflix

For example, a person who is building a document or presentation from online research will be having multiple programs running so they can add content from the online research in to their “magnum opus” easily. Some of these users will even have multiple Web-browser sessions running concurrently along with the program they are using to build their content. Or a user could engage in a videoconference and look up relevant material or take notes on another screen during the call.

People who work with large spreadsheets will also benefit especially if the spreadsheet becomes wide. It also applies to those of us who use desktop publishing, illustration or photo-editing programs to lay out publications or create our computer-graphics masterpieces. You may come across an increasing range of monitors that can be switched between landscape and portrait orientation, which may allow you to adapt them to support a wide or tall project.

Those of us who make use of online news services will benefit from multiple-screen computing> This can be about being able to monitor a current event that appears on an online news service while engaging in another activity like creating that document, spreadsheet or presentation.

Multiple-screen setups also are about a larger screen that is used to show material to other people. This is very common with projector-based setups or where the large-screen TV set is used. Increasingly a lot of software focused to this kind of effort is being designed to take advantage of multiple displays.

This same application is being extended to videoconferencing setups like with Zoom’s Multiple Monitor setup. Here, that allows a “gallery” view to exist on one screen and the current speaker to appear on the other screen, and to allow shared resources to appear on the secondary screen. It also extends to those of us who use text-based “chat” or social-media platforms and want to follow them while doing other computing activities including browsing the Web.

Some games are even exploiting multiple-screen operation in order to provide multiple concurrent views of the same action. Or they even use this to effectively create larger and wider views of the action.

Typical configuration

Here, you are typically implementing the multiple-screen display setup in the “extend” operating mode. This has the screens set up as one large display area or “canvas” but most operating systems make one screen become the primary screen where programs appear by default when they are launched. Typically it is the screen that will be used during the boot process and will show the startup images like the interactive login screen or operating-system splash screen. If you use a laptop or all-in-one computer, the integrated screen will always be deemed the primary screen.

Even with projectors or TVs, you may have to implement “extend” behaviour and work your computer’s regular display as your primary display to allow some presentation, multimedia or games software to work properly with multiple screens. In the same context, some users may have the computer’s primary display working as a “content preview” screen and shift the content to the large screen when it is ready to show.

For laptop users, they may use the “external monitor only”” display option but run multiple external monitors, This would come in to play if you are connecting multiple monitors to an outboard dock of some sort.

Laptop users will also need to be used to switching frequently between single-screen and multiple-screen setups. This is due to themselves using the laptop’s screen as the only screen when they use it in a portable context away from their desktop workspace but work with multiple screens while at the desktop workspace. They will also have to cope with being able to “go multiscreen” at a moment’s notice if they choose to connect the computer to a large-screen projector or TV.

Your mouse pointer

Mouse Options in Windows Control Panel - Pointer Trails called out

Using “pointer trails” a.k.a. “comet tails on your mouse pointer can make it easier to discover across the multiple screens

The first issue you will face is locating your mouse pointer. In this situation, you need to know which screen it exists on at the current time, or whether you are moving from one screen to another. This can be very difficult with screens of different sizes like a setup involving your laptop screen and your large-screen monitor. It can also be difficult where you have two screens that are separated from each other including dealing with monitors that have large screen bezels.

These kind of options are introduced in to the main regular computing platforms as a measure to increase accessibility and useability of these platforms for those of us with limited abilities. This is due to these platforms being used by an ageing user base for both work and play along with younger people that have limited abilities wanting to he productive with these platforms.

One way is to enable “comet tails” on your mouse pointer. This has a decaying trail of the pointer arrow which will appear as you move your mouse pointer with your input device. Windows has this as part of its Mouse control options in the Control Panel. MacOS X requires you to use a third-party app to have this same functionality for locating the mouse pointer.  You may also find that adjusting how your mouse pointer looks such as its size or colour may help you with making it more discoverable for you.

Another technique that you will have to perform frequently is to bring up the secondary or context menu simply as a way to locate your mouse pointer. Here, the large area occupied by the context menu stands out more visibly than a small mouse arrow or I-cursor. People who use a pointing device that has a secondary button can use this button on all desktop operating systems. But Apple Mac users who use a pointing device without a secondary button, as what was part of the original Macintosh setup, can achieve this same function by holding down the Ctrl key on the keyboard and clicking their pointing device.

The two main desktop operating systems also have their own tricks to make the mouse pointer discoverable at a moment’s notice through a special mouse-action or keypress. Here, it can be useful for identifying where your mouse pointer is across that large area.

Mouse options in Windows Control Panel - option to highlight mouse pointer when you press CTRL

Windows users can set things up to quickly highlight where the mouse pointer is when they press the CTRL key

Apple Mac users can set their computer to quickly enlarge the mouse cursor when you move the mouse (or your finger on the MacBook’s trackpad) vigorously. Here, you click on the Apple menu, then click on System Preferences, then click on Accessibility then click on Display, You subsequently select Cursor and tick the “Shake mouse cursor to locate” option. Windows users have to go the the Mouse control options in the Control Panel and select “Show location of cursor when I press the CTRL key“. Here, when you press and release the CTRL key, a large circle appears then reduces in size around where the mouse cursor is.

Laptop users who run a multi-screen setup comprising of their laptop’s screen and the large monitor in an “extended” arrangement may find that the small screen could be kept for “parking” application user interfaces that they aren’t giving all their attention to. They then keep the large screen for the applications they are focusing on at the moment. An example of this could be a Web browser with a page they are reading or an office application with the document they are working on existing on the large screen. That is while an email client, messaging application or media player that only needs occasional attention could be visible just on the laptop’s smaller screen.

Moving apps between screens with the keyboard

People who are new to multiple-screen computing or switch between single-screen computing and multiple-screen computing will come across situations where the app they are using doesn’t appear on the screen they want to use. This may be of concern where a user starts a program they previously ran on a multiple-screen setup doesn’t appear on a single-screen setup due to the absence of the screen they were using. Or they want to quickly move an app to another screen.

This situation will come in to play for those of us with laptops who work only with the laptop screen while away from the main workspace. Here, you may find that a program you use on your external monitor isn’t visible on the laptop’s screen but appears on the Windows Taskbar or MacOS Dock as an app that is in use. This may happen where an app doesn’t adapt to different multiple-screen setups properly.

Here, software that adapts properly between single-screen and multiple-screen computing setups will, for example, move to the single screen in a single-screen setup if it was last operated on other monitors in a multiple-screen setup.

It also applies to those of us who are using a computer as part of an AV playout setup and have to move a program’s screen between the cue / monitoring screen and the main screen. That also extends to people using the big TV screen to view videos or pictures or play games on a laptop. It is more so with Web browsers or other programs that don’t handle multiple screens properly.

Windows simplifies the process of moving apps between screens with the keyboard. Here, Windows users need to Alt-Tab to the program you are trying to bring back in to view in order to give it logical focus. Then you use the Windows + Shift + left or right arrow keys to bring the program to the integrated screen.

Apple Mac users would then have to invoke Mission Control by pressing the F3 key. Then they would have to use the trackpad or other pointing device to move the program between screens. As far as I know, there isn’t an approach to using the keyboard to move an app or window between screens on the MacOS.

Screenshots

You may find that the procedure for taking full-screen screenshots may be very different here. In most cases, the operating system will encompass what is seen on both screens in a full-screen screenshot.

In the case of Windows, you may find that PrtScr may yield you something to large for your screenshot. Here, moving the cursor in to the screen where you want to take the screengrab then pressing CTRL+ALT+PrtScr would “grab” what is on that screen and store that to the Clipboard. If you want both screens, you would press CTRL+PrtScr. Then, you simply past that in to Windows Paint or your favourite image editor, redact it then save it as a file. Other operating systems will use a similar means to take screenshots of a particular screen in a multiple-screen shot.

But mostly you will have to resort to window-specific screenshot commands like Alt+PrtScr for Windows or Cmd+Shift+4 then Spacebar for MacOS to grab screenshots of the relevant windows.

Conclusion

As you head towards multiple-screen computing, take your time to get used to it. Here, it is about moving an application window between the different screens or working out how to quickly locate that mouse pointer.

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A Sharp Alexa-enabled microwave could be about task-driven cooking

Article

Sharp Smart Countertop Microwave Oven press picture courtesy of Sharp USA

Sharp’s first smart countertop microwave oven features Wi-Fi connectivity and certified Works with Alexa compatibility for hands-free operation using voice commands.

Sharp’s New Alexa-Powered Microwave Is Even More Confusing Than Amazon’s | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Sharp USA

Sharp Launches its First Smart Countertop Microwave Ovens (Press Release)

My Comments

Most of us who use a microwave oven tend to specify cooking times and power intensities for each cooking job. This is even though most of today’s microwave ovens use job-specific cooking functions that are available to us. But some of us may decide to use a “popcorn” cooking function to cook most microwave popcorn.

These functions can confuse most of us due to different approaches to invoking them that exist between different makes and models of microwave oven.  As well, other differences that will crop up include how long these tasks are expected to take. It is also analagous to working from any recipes that are part of your microwave oven’s documentation, because these may not work out correctly if you end up using a different appliance.

Here, this issue will be considered important as more of us place value on the microwave as a cooking option for something like, perhaps, those green vegetables. It can also bamboozle anyone who uses traditional cooking techniques like the conventional oven but finds themselves in a situation where they have to primarily rely on the microwave oven for cooking needs like when they stay in a serviced apartment or AirBnB.

Amazon had released to the US market the AmazonBasics microwave that works with their Alexa voice-assistant ecosystem. But this is seen as an elementary appliance, answering most common cooking tasks. Sharp has now come to the fore with two of their microwaves that are released to the US market.

Here, the difference is to use Alexa as a gateway to the advanced cooking tasks that these microwaves offer. The press release talked of us saying to an Amazon Echo device “Alexa, defrost 2 pounds of meat” and the microwave will be set up to thaw out two pounds of frozen meat. The larger model of the two will have the ability for you to ask Alexa to set the microwave up for something like cooking broccoli or other veggies.

I see this as being about using voice assistant platforms to open up a common user interface for the advanced microwave-cooking tasks that your microwave would offer. But for this to work effectively, the user needs to know what the expected cooking time would be for the task and when they need to intervene during the cooking cycle.

As well, more of the voice assistant platforms need to come on board for this approach to advanced microwave cookery. Let’s not forget that the display-based voice assistants can even come in to their own in this use case such as to list ingredients and preparation steps for what you intend to cook.

Here, the voice assistants will become a way to lead users to use the microwave beyond reheating food, melting butter and chocolate or cooking microwave popcorn/

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Is fixed-line broadband still relevant in the era of 5G wireless?

Articles

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

A fixed-line connection like this Gigaclear fibre-to-the-premises setup ….

Will 5G kill off home broadband as we know it? | TechRadar

5G vs Fiber: Will 5G make fiber obsolete? | NetMotion Software

My Comments

This year will see a question about whether Gigabit or faster fixed-line broadband Internet services will be relevant in the face of 5G cellular wireless broadband services.

5G wireless broadband will have a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 10-50Gbps and an average bandwidth of between 100Mbps to 200Mbps. This average speed will start to increase as it becomes less dependent on 4G wireless broadband technology. But these figures are affected by the kind of reception your 5G endpoint device is getting from the service.

Cellular antenna in street

… or 5G wireless cellular broadband (whether fixed-wireless or mobile broadband) – what is relevant?

This typically is delivered in the form of mobile broadband services that are used with smartphones, tablets and other portable devices. But it is also being delivered as a “fixed-wireless” broadband service where the customer connects a more-powerful 5G modem to their home network. Optus is providing this kind of service offering to declare independence from Australia’s NBN service but it is offered in areas where it isn’t technically feasible or too costly to deploy fixed broadband service.

Current-generation fixed-line broadband services are capable of at least 1Gbps upload/download n the case of fibre-to-the-premises services. The ideal setup or “gold standard” for this kind of service is fibre-to-the-premises but various fibre-copper setups are being used that can deliver close to this speed. These are based on DOCSIS 3.x cable-modem technology, RJ45 Ethernet cable technology or G.Fast DSL-based telephone-cable technology with the copper run covering a small neighbourhood or a multi-tenant development.

The 5G technology would be cheap to establish but costly to maintain and upgrade. This is compared to fixed-line broadband technology that would be expensive to establish but cheap to maintain and upgrade. In most cases, an upgrade would be about new equipment in the racks at the headends at least. Or a fibre-copper service may be upgraded through a change of topology towards a full-fibre (fibre-to-the-premises) setup.

Typically, fixed-line broadband would be the preferred solution for those of us living in larger built-up communities. It is although there are efforts like B4RN who are pushing fibre-to-the-premises fixed-line broadband in to rural areas within the UK. Sparser areas may prefer to implement 5G wireless-broadband technology with a few large low-frequency 5G cells covering those areas.

Both technologies can complement and serve each other in various ways.

Since 5G technology is based on a cellular-wireless approach, each base station needs to link to a backhaul to pass the data to each other and to other communications devices connected to wired infrastructure around the world. As well, the 5G wireless technology operates at radio frequencies up to 6GHz thus requiring many smaller “cells” (base stations for a cellular-wireless network) to cover a populous area. Even the use of many of the very small cells like picocells or femtocells to cover buildings or shopping strips would require the use of a backhaul.

In this case, fixed-line broadband networks especially fibre-optic networks can be used to provide this backhaul.

Increasingly, Wi-Fi network segments connected to fixed-line broadband setups are being considered as a complementary wireless-network solution. This may be about providing load-balancing for the 5G-based cellular service, even as a failover mechanism should the user not experience ideal reception conditions or the network underperforms. The classic example here would be indoor settings where building materials and the like obstruct 5G cellular coverage using the typical smartphone’s own antenna.

On the other hand, the 5G technology will maintain its keep for mobile / portable use cases while fixed-line broadband networks will serve in-building network use cases. 5G will also satisfy those use cases where it is technically unfeasible or cost-prohibitive to deploy a fixed-line broadband network.

For that matter, the mobile / portable use cases are what the technologists are banking on for 5G wireless-network technology. Here, they are envisaging the likes of self-driving vehicles, drones and the like depending on this technology for communication with each other. This is along with it being as a data backbone for the “smart city” that is driven by the “Internet of Everything”, facilitating improvements for things like service delivery, public safety / security, transport, energy efficiency and the like.

But 5G and fixed-line broadband, especially fibre-to-the-premises broadband, will exist on a “horses for courses” approach. Here, one technology may be about data reliability and infrastructure upgradeability or the other may be about mobile / portable or transient use.

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