Tag: mobile internet devices

NEC implements your smartphone’s camera to detect knock-off goods


NEC smartphone tech can spot counterfeit goods | PC World

NEC wants you to spot counterfeits using your phone’s camera | Engadget

My Comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

The camera on these smartphones could work towards identifying whether that handbag at the flea market is a knock-off

Previously, I had covered some applications where commodity-priced camera modules have been used for machine vision. These applications, which were mostly based around the cameras that your typical smartphone or tablet are equipped with, were more than just reading and interpreting a barcode of some sort in order to look up data. Rather they were about interpreting a control stick typically soaked in liquid that is used as part of urinalysis or to observe the character of blood vessels on one’s face to read one’s pulse.

But NEC is implementing machine vision using one’s smartphone to determine whether an object like a luxury handbag or a pair of name-brand sneakers is a “knock-off” or not. Here, they use the camera with a macro-lens attachment to identify the “fingerprint” that the metal or plastic material’s grain yields through its manufacture. This typically applies to items made of these materials or where an item is equipped with one or more fasteners, trim items or other fittings made of these materials.

NEC wants to see this technology not just apply to verifying the authenticity of new goods but also be used to allow the manufacturers to check that repair and maintenance of goods is “up to snuff” or follow the distribution and retail chain of these goods.

The manufacturers have to “register” these items in order to create the “reference database” that relates to their goods. As well, users would have to use a macro-equipped device such as a smartphone equipped with a macro-converter attachment or a “clip-on” camera with this kind of lens. They will offer the lenses as a 3D-printed attachment to suit most of the popular handsets and tablets. It could also open up a market for small-form Webcams and similar cameras that come with macro lenses or multi-function lenses.

A missing part of the question would be whether the technology would apply to goods made out of soft materials like cloth or leather. This would take it further with identifying clothes, footwear and “soft-material” luggage or checking whether the material used to upholster furniture reflects what the manufacturer or customer wants for the job.

The Femtocell is to be part of the competitive French Internet-service market

Article – French language / Langue Française

Freebox Révolution : Free intègre les boîtiers Femtocell – DegroupNews.com

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution now to come with a femtocell

The French have taken another step of advantage with their competitive Internet-service market. This time it’s Free who have provided a minimal-cost femtocell to their Freebox Révolution subscribers.

What is a femtocell? This is effectively a cellular-telephony base station in a small box that can provide cellular-telephony and data coverage in a premises. These boxes typically use a broadband connection as their backhaul to the service provider and are typically used to “fill in gaps” for mobile coverage in a subscriber’s home. The devices typically sold to a residential user typically provide “selected-device” coverage, namely for the devices owned by the customer’s household.

Most of the other French operators like Bouygues Télécom  have offered femtocells but at a significant extra cost. On the other hand, Free are offering the femtocell to existing Freebox Révolution subscribers for a delivery charge of EUR€10 but will be offering it as part of the equipment bundle for newer subscriptions. This is something that I see as pushing the price very low for a service like this and, like what Free had done with Internet services and mobile telephony in France, could lead to others pushing the price down for a femtocell service or including it as part of an “n-box” triple-play deal.

These will support up to 4 phones but I do see a limitation also with any femtocell product that is integrated in a modem-router. This is where you can’t relocate the femtocell device to wherever the better coverage is really needed such as to work around a “radio shadow” affecting mobile telephony.

This may be part of a trend to make cellular phones work effectively like cordless phones and work on “fixed-line” tariff charts at home but use mobile tariff charts when “out and about”. This is more important with all of the “n-box” triple-play services where the telephony component is described as being with “appels illimité” where calls from the fixed telephone to France and a lot of other destinations come part of the deal.

It is another example of what the highly-competitive French telecommunications market is all about.

A Mi-Fi device that is the size of a USB stick courtesy of Telstra


Telstra Launches 4G USB + Wi-Fi Device | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth


Product Page

My Comments

I never knew this would happen when it came to the design of wireless-broadband access devices. Here, Telstra had launched a 4G access device that was the size of a typical USB wireless-broadband modem but was able to work as either a typical wireless-broadband modem or as a “Mi-Fi” router.

In the latter mode, you could just plug it in to one of many USB power-supply devices ranging from a self-powered USB hub through a AC-powered or 12V-powered USB charger typically for your phone to even one of the USB external battery packs. This gives it a level of power-supply flexibility on the same par as a typical smartphone, and the supplied AC adaptor can also work as another spare smartphone charger.

In some ways, this “Mi-Fi” could be used along with the Pure One Flow Internet radio and a USB battery pack of the kind used to charge up mobile phones to provide a truly portable Internet-radio solution that is if the price is right for Internet access. It is similar to what may be expected for in-car Internet applications as what BMW, Chrysler and others are proposing.

Who know what can happen for networking and Internet use as we end up on the road with these kind of “sticks”.

Multi-line mobile contracts or fixed-line plans for partially-used buildings–what’s happening

There are two main usage classes that ISPs and telecommunciations carriers will have to cater towards when it comes to providing fixed or mobile communications and Internet service.

One is a “multi-line” mobile contract that allows multiple post-paid mobile devices to exist on the same account at cost-effective tariffs. The other is catering to fixed-line communications services that serve secondary locations, especially those that aren’t occupied on a full-time basis.

The multi-line mobile contract

The reason that the multi-line mobile contract needs to be available to home or small-business users is that most mobile-wireless-communications users will end up maintaining at lest two, if not three or more mobile communications devices.These kind of plans are typically sold to larger businesses who have a large fleet of mobile devices and are sold for a large premium with a large minimum-device requirement but they need to be available for the small number of devices that a householder or small-business owner would own.

The typical scenario would be a smartphone used for voice, SMS/MMS messaging and on-device Internet use; alongside a data-only device like a tablet or laptop that either has integrated wireless broadband or is connected to a separate wireless broadband service via a USB modem or “Mi-Fi” wireless-broadband router.

Feature that are typically offered in these contracts include a data allowance that is pooled amongst the devices and / or reduced per-device plan fees. In some cases,  the services may provide unlimited “all-you-can-eat” voice telephony and text messaging or a similar option.

An increasing number of mobile-telephony operators are tapping this market by offering these plans. For example, the two main mobile-telephony players in the USA, AT&T and Verizon are putting up shared-data plans from US$40 per month for 1Gb of data to up to US$50 for 500Gb of data on AT&T with similar pricing from Verizon. Both these companies offer unlimited talk and text for phones connected to the plan. Similar efforts have taken place with Bougyes Télécom in France and Airtel in India where they are offering shared-data plans as part of their tariff charts. There has even been rumours that Telstra was to be the first Australian mobile phone provider to run a shared-data plan for the Australian market.

Fixed-line plans for partially-used secondary locations

This user class represents people who maintain city apartments, holiday homes and seasonal homes like summer houses but don’t live in these locations on a full-time basis. Typically they are occupied for shorter periods like a weekend or a week at a time or, in the case of a seasonal home, a few consecutive months. It is known for some of these properties to be shuttered for many consecutive months at a time.

On the other hand, this market isn’t serviced readily by the fixed-line telephony, pay-TV and Internet providers, save for Orange (France Télécom) who offer a “by-the-month” package for Internet and telephony to the French market. Here they got in to a spat with SFR because SFR, who was buying wholesale service from Orange, wanted to offer a similar “by-the-month” service for these customers. On the other hand, users are sold plans that have lesser call or data allowances and may be lucky to have the option to have all the service locations on one account.

Again, larger enterprises who have many services and a large amount of call traffic fare better than smaller businesses or residential users.

These users could be satisfied with a “by-the-month” service or a seasonal plan that provides full service for a time period that is predetermined by the customer with limited service outside that time period. Such a limited service could be specified to cater for security and home-automation equipment used to monitor the secondary premises or keep it in good order.

If a plan works on call or data allowance and the user maintains services provided by the same provider at each location, there could be the ability to offer plans that have the allowances pooled across the locations. Similarly, if a user has the same service provider or a related company provide communications services to all the locations, they could offer a reduced price for all of the services. It doesn’t matter if the secondary property is on the same service plan as the primary property or on a lesser plan that has fewer services or smaller allowances.


What needs to happen is that telephone and Internet companies need to pay attention to customers’ needs and look for the “gaps in the market” that currently exist. This could allow for a range of tariffs that is more granular and able to suit particular needs. It also includes situations where a user is responsible for a small number of services of the same kind whether as multiple wireless-broadband devices or fixed-line services serving two or more properties.

Consumer Electronics Show 2013–Part 3


In Part 1, I had covered the home entertainment direction with such technologies as the 4K UHDTV screens, smart TV, and the presence of alternate gaming boxes. Then in Part 2, I had covered the rise of touchscreen computing, increased pixel density the 802.11ac Wi-Fi network segment amongst other things. Now I am about to cover the mobile-computing technology which is infact a strong part of the connected lifestyle.

Mobile technology


A major direction that is showing up for smartphones is the 5” large-screen devices that have been brought about by the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones. These are described as “phablets” because they are a bridge device between the traditional 4” smartphone and the 7” coat-pocket tablet.

Sony are premiering the new Xperia premium Android phones which are the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL 5” standard with 1080p display. The Xperia ZL is a dual-SIM variant of the XPeria Z. As well, Huawei have increased their foothold in the US market by offering more of the reasonably-priced regular smartphones.

There has been some more effort towards standardised wireless charging for the smartphone. This is although there are two groups promoting their standards – the Power Matters Alliance and the Wireless Power Consortium who maintain the Qi (chee) wireless-charging standard. Examples of this include Toyota implementing the Qi standard in their 2013 Avalon vehicles and Nokia integrating it in to their Lumia 920 smartphones.

On the accessories front, Invoxia had launched an iPhone dock which connected two desk phones to the iPhone. The original device used the iPhone as an outside line for the desk phones whereas the current version launched here also works as a VoIP terminal for the desk phones. It also works with a supplied iOS softphone app to have the iPhone as a softphone for the VoIP setup.


Now there is an increasing number of the 7” coat-pocket tablets which were previously dismissed in the marketplace but made popular by the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire. The Windows-RT-based devices were showing up more as a 10” tablet or a detachable-keyboard hybrid device.

Polaroid, trying to keep their brand alive in consumers’ minds after the demise of their legendary instant-picture cameras, have launched a few of the Android tablets. One is a 7” unit pitched for use by children. Here, this model uses 8Gb onboard storage and microSD expansion, 2-megapixel camera and works only with 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks. It is built in a rugged form to withstand little ones’ handling but can work well for environments where a coat-pocket tablet device could cop a lot of hard wear-and-tear. The M10 is a 10” variant with a brushed-metal finish.

RCA fielded an 8” Android tablet that is made by Digital Stream and has integrated TV tuners. Here, it could pick up conventional ATSC digital TV and mobile ATSC (Dyle) broadcasts and works to the Android ICS. Personally, I would suspect that this device could be sold out to other markets, perhaps under other brands and equipped with local-spec tuners like DVB-T tuners.

Mobile technology

The ARM-based microprocessor has raised the ante for more powerful work by offering the same number of processor cores as the newer IA-32 or IA-64 processors used in regular computers. Yet this could allow for increased computing power with less power requirements thus making the embedded devices, smartphones and tablets that use RISC processing do more.

Here, NVIDIA launched the Tegra 4 which is a4-core ARM CPU that can yield faster response from tablets and smartphones. Samsung raised the bar with their Exynos 5 Octa which is an 8-core ARM CPU.

Samsung used this event to show a prototype 5.5” (1280×720) flexible screen and a 55” flexible screen as a proof-of-concept. As well, LG increased the pixel density by exhibiting a 5.5” 1080p smartphone screen.

The connected home

There has been very little happening concerning home automation and security through the past years of the Consumer Electronics Show but this year, the connected home has increased its foothold here.

This is demonstrated through the concept of mobile apps being used to control or monitor appliances, thermostats, security systems and the like.

Here, Motorola demonstrated a “Connected Home” router being a device that allows you to control a network-enabled central-heating thermostat using an app on an Android phone. What I liked of this was that the mobile device used to manage that thermostat wasn’t just the Apple iPhone and you were able to move away from that hard-to-program wall thermostat.

This has been brought about through the Nest thermostat opening up the market for user-friendly thermostats for heating / cooling systems. Here, this could lead to a commercial-style heating-control setup with a small wall-mounted box that works as a temperature sensor but may have a knob or two buttons for you to adjust the comfort level “on the fly”. Then you use your smartphone, tablet or computer that runs an easy-to-understand app to program comfort levels for particular times of particular days.

Alarm.com, a firm who provide monitoring for home automation and security sold through large retailers, has provided a “dashboard app” for their equipment that works on their platform. This app runs on the common mobile-phone platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 8) so you can use your phone to check on the state of things with your Alarm.com setup.

Similarly, the Securifi Almond+ 802.11ac Wi-Fi router was exhibited at this year’s CES. This is a regular home network router but has integrated Zigbee / Z-Wave wireless home-automation-network support. Here, this device can be seen as a dashboard for the connected home and they are intending to fund this with a Kickstarter campaign.

As for appliances, Dacor integrated a 7” Android tablet into their high-end wall oven and this provides for guided cooking including recipe lookup. Of course, Samsung hasn’t let go of the Internet fridge dream and exhibited a four-door fridge with an integrated app-driven screen that can work alongside their Android phones and tablets. They also exhibited a top-loading washing machine that uses an LCD control panel and is able to be controlled with a smartphone.

This is part of the “Internet of things” and this concept was underscored by a few manufacturers becoming charter members of the “Internet Of Things Consortium”. It is about an open-frame vendor-independent infrastructure for interlinking home automation / security, consumer entertainment, and computing devices using the common standards and common application-programming interfaces.

Automotive Technology

Of course the car is not forgotten about at the Consumer Electronics Show, and is considered as an extension of our connected lives.

A main automotive drawcard feature for this year are the self-driving cars; but the core feature for now are the app platforms for vehicle infotainment systems. Infact, Ford and GM are encouraging people to develop software for their infotainment setups. This is exploiting the fact that midrange and premium cars are increasingly being equipped with Internet connections and highly-sophisticated infotainment systems that have navigation, mobile phone integration and media playback.

Here, you might think of navigation, Internet radio / online content services and communications services. It may also include “one-touch” social destination sharing amongst other things.

For example, Google Maps to come in to Hyundai and Kia cars as part of their UVO connected infotainment platform. The first vehicle to have this is the Kia Sorrento (model-year 2014). Similarly Hyundai are implementing the MirrorLink smartphone-user-interface-replication technology in the infotainment setups.

As well. TuneIn Radio and Apple Siri integration are to be part of model-year 2013 Chevrolet Sonic & Spark cars. Ford has implement the Glympse social-destination-sharing software as part of their SYNC AppLink platform.

Similarly, Pioneer are extending the AppRadio functionality across most of their head-units so you can have certain iOS apps managed from the dashboard. They have also provided connectivity options for Apple’s iPhone 5 device with its Lightning connector and iOS 6 platform.

Last but not least

Pebble were showing a Kickstarter-funded concept of an E-paper smartwatch that interlinks with your smartphone. Here. I was wondering whether E-paper and E-ink could become the new LCD display for devices that can rely on an available-light display. It was also a way where these “smartwatches” were having us think back to the 80s where the more features and functions a digital watch had, the better it was and you could start showing off that watch to your friends.


This year has underscored a few key trends:

  • the 4K UHDTV display and displays with increased pixel density being mainstream,
  • the acceptance of touchscreen computing with regular computers courtesy of Windows 8,
  • the arrival of very lightweight laptop computers,
  • NFC becoming a common setup method for smartphones and consumer AV,
  • the draft 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi network segment being exhibited with relatively-mature equipment,
  • the 5” smartphone and 7” tablet becoming mainstream mobile options

and has shown up what can be capable in our connected lives. Who knows what the next major trade shows will bring forth, whether as a way to “cement” these technologies or launch newer technologies. Similarly, it would be interesting whether these technologies would catch on firmly in to the marketplace.

Another example of Android’s pro-competition prowess–the Web browser


Three cheers for Android browser competition | Webware – CNET

My Comments

In the early days of the Internet browser, there were competing Web browsers but this was choked by Microsoft integrating Internet Explorer in to the Windows distribution. This raised various anti-trust and competitive-trade issues especially in Europe where the European Commission handed down an order requiring Microsoft to allow users to deploy competing Internet browsers on the Windows 7 computers.

As far as the mobile (smartphone and tablet) computing platforms are concerned, only the Android platform allows for competing Web browsers to be deployed on smartphones and tablets. The iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Windows 8 RT (AMD deployment) only work well with the browsers supplied by the platforms’ owners and this has become of concern to the free open-source software community who want the availability of Mozilla, Opera and similar browsers on the mobile patform.

This augments the last article which I wrote about the Android platform supporting a pro-competition culture in various ways such as media management, support for removable storage and removable batteries in devices; and a customisable user experience. What was covered here could be used as a way of defending the use of Android devices on a competitive-trade issue and some people who have a progressive mindset could stand for this platform due to its support of app and media stores that can underpin progressive trade ideas like free speech and nurturing the actual content creators.

Improving the landscape for in-vehicle navigation using the home network

I was talking with a friend about the status quo with in-vehicle navigation options and what can be done about it. He was remarking about the way the vehicle builders don’t provide a smooth path for improving these systems through the vehicle’s service life.

The current situation

Typically the feature is rolled out in to mid-range to high-end vehicles as a standard option or an add-on option depending on the vehicle’s trim level. Then, if the vehicle owner wants to keep the maps in the system up to date, they have to take the car to the vehicle dealership and have the data updated there, which knocks them back by a decent amount.

It can be a problem when, in some countries like Australia where the roads aren’t likely to be icy, the service life of a vehicle i.e. the number of years between the time the vehicle leaves the factory and the time it ends up on the scrapheap tends to be in the order of ten years or more. In this situation, there isn’t the guarantee that an OEM navigation platform could be supported by the manufacturers for that duration whether in the form of new software or map data. As well, technology marches on with many improvements in this space and users of these systems can feel as though they are effectively “stuck” with these systems in their current form.

Similarly, people who buy portable navigation devices aka “GPS units” or “sat-navs” have to purchase map updates from the device’s manufacturer at a princely sum. It doesn’t matter whether the update is to add extra coverage or functionality to the device or update the maps therein.

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Toshiba AT1So 7″ Android tablet – an alternative to in-car or portable GPS units

The smartphone or tablet is making these devices less relevant due to the integration of a navigation solution which has constantly-updated maps that can be downloaded for free via the Internet. Drivers can then go to mobile-phone accessory stores and purchase aftermarket mounts that attach to the dashboard or windscreen (windshield) of the car no matter how old it is so they can easily and safely operate the smartphone or tablet from the driver’s seat.

What can vehicle builders do

If a vehicle builder wants to make these options relevant to the smartphone / tablet user, they could take one of a few paths.

One path that can be used as a cheaper option would be to use the MirrorLink system which allows the dashboard-based control surface to become a control terminal for the smartphone or tablet. This could use an Android or iOS app that works as a MirrorLink server for the handset or tablet.

Another, would be to provide a user-removable 7” Android tablet in a similar form to the previously-reviewed Toshiba AT1S0 tablet that installs in to a dashboard space and works as a car navigation system but updates itself from the home network or a 3G link. The tablet could also be a loading point for various “trip-computer”, advanced-navigation and infotainment apps like TuneIn Radio. This method also has the advantage of being sold as an option that dealers can supply to customers as a deal-maker when the vehicle is being sold.

The last option would be the integrated navigation option that has the ability to be updated via a home network or a 3G link. This setup could be monetised through the provision of advanced-navigation apps like branded “find-nearest” tools, tour guides or directories. As well, this can be used as an app platform in itself for developing software that appeals to all users or a subset thereof. Of course, the apps can be downloaded via the abovementioned home network or 3G link.

What can be done for aftermarket car infotainment

The aftermarket infotainment scene can use similar paths for improved smartphone / tablet relevance. This class has to appeal to vehicles built across a very long timeframe typically since the 1950s and, in the case of new vehicles that had integrated infotainment options, is catered for with conversion kits.

One path could be to supply 2-DIN “media” head units that work as MirrorLink terminals that work with MirrorLink mobile devices. This can be varied through the use of a 1-DIN unit with a retractable or satellite screen.

Another path would be a “media” head unit that has an app platform and the ability to update via a 3G or home-network connection. This could be furnished in the form of a 2-DIN unit or a 1-DIN unit with a retractable or satellite screen.

The last option would be a 1-DIN head unit that supports full integration with 5” smartphone or 7” tablet. The smartphone or tablet would be able to be installed in a dashboard or windscreen mount and link to the head unit via Bluetooth or USB, similar to the status quo for most smartphone / in-car infotainment setups. In this environment, both these devices can work together with navigation looked after by the smartphone or tablet and the head unit offering basic control options like volume control or content selection offered by knobs and buttons.


What needs to happen with OEM and aftermarket vehicle navigation and infotainment is that there has to be support for updating, upgrading and improvement. This could be facilitated through the use of open-frame platforms like Android or Windows RT; as well as constant update paths with access to complimentarily-available map data for Google and similar sources.

It also includes encompassing the vehicle in the home network when it is at home as well as linking it with affordable mobile-broadband services.

Product Review–Toshiba AT1S0 7” tablet


I am reviewing Toshiba’s Thrive AT1S0 7″ Android tablet, which is also known as an AT150 tablet. This unit is pitched as a “coat-pocket” or “e-book” tablet rather than the the “cradle-around” tablet that the iPad and similar 10″ products are, essentially offering higher performance and capability than a typical “e-book” reader or similar device.

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Price AUD$399
Screen 7” widescreen(1280×800) LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb Micro-SDHC
Operating environment Android 3.02 Honeycomb
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Bluetooth  2.1 + EDR
USB Mini-USB 2.0,
Proprietary Apple-style docking connector
Audio 3.5mm headset jack,
Digital audio via Micro-HDMI
Video Micro-HDMI
Cameras Front 2Mp on short edge
Rear  5Mp

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Toshiba AT1So 7″ tablet is a well-built thick unit with a black-plastic ribbed back, in a similar vein to most of the good-quality 7″ Androiod tablets. It can easily fit in to a coat pocket which improves on this device’s portability credentials.


The LCD display is an easy–to–view unit that has highly responsive graphics. The only letdown about the display here is that it is very glossy and can attract fingerprints easily.

Audio and Video

The AT1S0’s AV subsystem does perform properly even as I was watching video-on-demand content from the SBS Website. As typical for portable devices, the speaker quality leaves a lot to be desired due to the requirement for allowable size in these devices’ design. But, once used with headphones, the Toshiba tablet just performed very well with the audio reproduction.

This tablet, like most of its similarly-priced Android-powered peers, has two cameras – one on the front and one on the back. But if you do want to use Skype or other Android video-conferencing software, you have ot have it in the portrait arrangement for it to work properly.

Connectivity and Expandability

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet connections

Connectivity and expansion options - micro-HDMI socket, mini-USB 2.0 socket, microSDHC card slot

With most Android tablets, there is the ability to expand on these tablets’ function very easily.

There is a microSDHC slot so you can increase useable memory up to 32Gb or use the microSD cards as swappable media. There is a miniUSB socket so you can connect the unit to a computer or transfer data between other devices; or you can use the Toshiba “docking” connector for this same purpose. As well, you can connect the tablet to an external display using a micro-HDMI connector for that big-screen view. These are hidden undar a rubberised plastic strip on the same side of the unit as the volume and on-off buttons.


It still performs very snappily for most Android devices and has been able to work with online photos and videos very quickly. Even activities like browsing between screens is very quick and smooth.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Toshiba could use the standard micro-USB connector for power and data in addition to the Apple-style docking connectorm so you don’t have to worry about having to use or not lose a special cable for this unit. The docking connector that Toshiba implemented here could be licensed out to all Android and Windows Phone 7 devices as a standard “data/digital-audio/power” connection with docking stations and accessories. This is especially if they have to compete with Apple’s iPad platform when it comes to allowing others to design docking stations and similar accessories for these devices.

They could also deliver this unit with Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” as the standard operating environment, which could take advantage of what this platform has to offer.


Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" Tablet I would recommend this tablet more as a highly-portable coat-pocket-sized solution for most tablet-based activities like reference material, video playback while on crowded trains and similar activities.

It could also work with apps that that utilise the screen as a remote control or a remote camera viewfinder if you place emphasis on that 7″ coat-pocket-size form factor.

Setting up your smartphone or tablet for email

You may have your Web-based or client-based email system going strong on your regular computer but you have just joined the hordes and bought a new iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet.

One of the main advantages of these devices is that you can use them to check on your email and send simple email messages or replies. But you need to set up your email to work with these devices before you can use this benefit.

What you need to know

You will need to know the following details:

  • what kind of email setup you are using
    This could be your the name of your Web-based email service or one of the following kinds of client-driven email services (POP3 / SMTP – common in email services with residential Internet services, IMAP – used as a client-side access method for some Web services or an alternative to POP3 for some residential and small-business services and Microsoft Exchange – used in most larger business setups)
  • your full email address 
  • your password for that email service. For email services that are part of your Internet service, this will be the same as your login parameters for that email service.

POP3 (SMTP) email services

If you are using a POP3 email service, which most consumer and small-business email services are, you will need to go to the email client on your regular computer and make sure the option to “Keep messages on server” is selected. If you regularly work your email from your regular computer as well as your smartphone or tablet, you could set the option to clear messages from the server after a month.

Setting up the smartphone or tablet

You will need to open your email app on the smartphone or tablet and go to “Account” options. In the Android platform, this would be “Email” whereas the iOS devices would know it as “Mail” on the iPhone and iPad.

Touch the “Add Account” function and enter your email address and password. In the case of the Apple devices, you will have an option with the graphics that represent the Web mail services and Exchange service as well as an option for an “other” service. Android users would have to use the Gmail app to work their Gmail account. Where prompted, enter your full email address and password. At that point, enter your name in the “Name” field if you are setting up your Apple device.

Here, the smartphone or tablet will obtain the setup details for your email account and set itself up for that account if you entered in the correct email address and password. This is where Android users would be asked to enter their name, which will appear on the email others receive from them.

If you maintain multiple accounts, you can add these accounts to your device so you can monitor them. This is done using the same procedure.

I would still make sure that any taglines like “Sent from iPhone” or “Sent from Samsung smartphone” are kept so your recipients know that you were replying or sending that message from the smartphone. This may be of concern for people getting used to the touchscreen keyboard on these devices.

Your email application

Android users will find that the arrival of new email is marked by an “envelope” on the top of the screen. They then “draw down” the “blind” which shows a notification screen with any notifications still outstanding. Touch on the “new email” notification so you can see all the new mail that has arrived. As well, the email application will be visible on the first home-screen or the first screen of the “Applications” library screen.

For iOS users will see the email application always at the bottom of the screen alongside the phone application. This will have a red bubble indicating the number of new emails that have arrived.


What POP3 users need to know

People who use POP3 email services and want to keep a record of an email that they sent may need to send a BCC (blind carbon copy) to themselves of the message because the old POP3 protocol doesn’t allow for proper multi-terminal access to these accounts with a synchronous view.

Similarly, an email that is marked as read or deleted on your smartphone may not be marked as read or deleted on your regular computer and vice versa. This is also to do with the same “single-computer” mentality around this protocol.

Setting your phone up for your Wi-Fi network

It is also a good idea to set your phone or tablet up with your home’s or small-business’s Wi-Fi network so you can make use of the better wireline broadband access plans rather than relying totally on your 3G provider’s tight wireless-broadband tariffs for your email.


Once you have your email set up on your smartphone or tablet device, you can find yourself liberated from your desk when it comes to checking on the arrival of important email.

Using your smartphone or tablet with your network-attached storage

Why use your smartphone or tablet with your NAS

There are times when you want to upload or download files from your network-attached storage device using your smartphone or tablet computer. Examples of this include offloading files from a low-capacity device, through making media that you took or acquired through your device available at all times from your DLNA-equipped NAS to simply backing up data held on your device.

Of course, you may simply treat that NAS simply as a network transfer point for your data. Examples of this may include working with documents that you start on an iPad and want to complete on your regular computer or conceptual “rough-shot” pictures that you take you your phone’s camera and want to work with further using Photoshop and other software on your computer.

How is it done

But how am I able to do this with my network-attached storage and my mobile devices? Some network-attached storage devices may use a Web front for the file collections where as others may implement certain extensions to DLNA for uploading and downloading some media files. This latter situation is infact a long-term goal for the DLNA Home Media Network, especially when it comes to shifting or syncing multimedia files like music or images.

These environments don’t necessarily provide a consistent or ideal user experience for the mobile device user. This can typically be due to a Web front that is optimised for desktop use only to DLNA server and client apps not offering the proper sync or file-transfer functionality.

SMB file-manager apps

The preferred method that I would use is SMB/CIFS network file handling which every network-attached storage device supports thanks to Linux’s SAMBA software. Even the USB-linked file servers that are an increasing part of high-end routers like the Freebox units do support SMB as well as the Internet HTTP and FTP file transfer protocols. This has been a standard for regular computing devices with the Microsoft Windows Platform since Windows For Workgroups 3.11, then was exposed to Linux regular computers through SAMBA and has been exposed to the Apple Macintosh platform since MacOS X.

The platform-based mobile devices now can join the SMB party through the use of SMB-enabled file-manager apps. These are typically low-cost or free apps that expose the mobile device’s file system and the SMB file shares (entry points) made available by computers or network-attached storages. Some of them have file-viewer functionality for file types not supported by your device’s file handlers.


Intuitive Commander (App Store – $0.99)

FileBrowser (App Store – $4.49)

Syncsellence (App Store – $5.49, free limited version App Store)


ES File Explorer – I use this on my phone (Android Market)

File Expert (Android Market)

File Manager (Android Market) / File Manager HD (Android Market) – Rhythm Software


File Expert (Blackberry App World – US$1.99)

File Manager Pro (Blackberry App World – US$4.99) – Terra Mobility

ArrangeIt File Manager (Blackberry App World – US$1.99) – Conceptual Designs

The various app stores for the popular mobile-device platforms will list more of the file manager apps with SMB file transfer and you can find them using the terms “SMB file transfer” in your search query.

It is also worth noting that your NAS’s vendor may offer file-transfer apps for their device on the iOS and/or Android platforms so you can transfer the files to their device. These programs may also work with the remote-access functionality that some of the consumer and SMB NAS units provide, thus keeping login credentials for the devices and streamlining the remote-access experience.

Other issues worth highlighting

iTunes-purchased content

You may have problems copying content that you purchased with iTunes on your iPhone or iPad directly to the NAS due to Apple’s setup for these devices. But they have improved the iTunes and iOS setup to allow a user to download the purchased content to an instance of iTunes run on a regular computer even though they purchased it on the iOS device. This works best if the regular computer’s iTunes library is referencing the NAS in question.

People who use iOS platform devices that aren’t updated to iOS 5 will need to tether the device to their iTunes-enabled regular computer. Then they will need to use the “Transfer Purchased Content” option in iTunes to copy the content they bought on the device to the regular computer or NAS.

It will also be important to make sure that audio content is downloaded as MP3 files rather than protected M4A files.

One way that Apple can work this situation out better is to implement read-write ability to iTunes (DAAP) servers for the iPod media-management app in their iOS platform. Here, the software could then support improved “offload” functionality. This may not come about due to Apple’s investment in and their fanbois’ preference for the iCloud as a large-capacity storage service.  But practically-minded Apple enthusiasts could place more value on a NAS as an extra-capacity data store so they know where their iTunes content is all the time.

File-transfer operating conditions

When you transfer files between your mobile devices and the NAS, make sure that you have a strong Wi-Fi signal at your mobile device and that the device has sufficient battery strength. This could be achieved through having the device connected to its charger while the transfer goes ahead.

NAS setup conditions

If you are transferring media files to the NAS, you would need to transfer them to the media folders that are referenced by the media-server software on that device. This may be made easier by using the file manager software’s “bookmark” or “favourites” options to point to the start of the NAS’s media folder tree.

It is also worth keeping other personal and workgroup shares on the NAS simply for backup or transfer purposes and referencing these with your file-manager app.


Once you are able to know that you can use the SMB file transfer method for moving data between your NAS, tablet and smartphone, you can see more value out of these mobile-computing devices.