Tag: telecommuting

COVID-19 brings back interest in the regular computer


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.


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.

Upload speeds are very important for provisioning broadband Internet


The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

Skype with uncluttered Modern user interface

Skype, Viber and Dropbox which require the ability to upload as important as YouTube.

Increasingly, Internet service providers focused on the download aspect of their customer’s bandwidth because most customers use this for downloading or browsing the Web. Typically, they provided a smaller capacity for uploads because of smaller data requirements used for interacting with the Web.

But they are realising that the upload bandwidth is as important especially as we enter the age of cloud computing, IP telecommunications and the Social Web and are highlighting the requirement to give upload speeds as important a footing as download speeds. This is of importance when ISPs are highlighting their offerings’ headline transfer speeds which typically emphasise the download speed only.

Key applications

IP telecommunications

A key requirement for decent upload speeds is IP-based telecommunications. These range from households implementing Skype or Apple Facetime to have long-distance free videocalls with relatives and friends through businesses using VoIP setups to save on telephony costs, The videocall is not just confined to being an element of 60s-70s science fiction anymore.

The upload speed is being considered important as technologies come on to the scene to enable high-quality voice and video telephone with AM-radio-grade voice calls or high-resolution videocalls.

Online storage services and cloud computing

WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

Good upload speeds give the remote access abilities on these NAS units a lot of mileage

An application that is drawing attention to the need to consider upload speeds is the prevalence of online-storage and cloud-computing services. These also include “remote-access / personal-cloud” functionality that is a part of many home and small-business network-attached storage devices.

In a similar vein, the Social Web is encouraging us to tender photo and video content to one or more social-network services or image/video-sharing services.

Here, the ability to use these services without frustration can only be achieved when you have a high-throughput upload bandwidth. This is more so as we transfer files with increasingly-large file sizes like “master-quality” image, audio and video content that is to be shared, stored offsite or “taken further”.

The Web-based cottage industry

Increasingly there are people who are running their own Web site or blog. This cottage industry has become increasingly cost-effective for most with Web hosts that provide an always-alive hosting service either for free in some cases or you renting the space that you need for a modest sum of money.

The content-creation and publishing effort has been simplified thanks to the many content-management systems like Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki and vBulletin that is hosted on these Web hosts. It also has been simplified through the use of word-processing software that implements XML-RPC functionality

Telecommuting and working from home

An increasing workplace trend is to work from home. This can manifest in the form of a person who works for an employer by doing some or all of the work from home, through a professional who has their home office as their sole workplace to small-organisation operators who have a shopfront or similar public point of contact but use their home as their office.

These users are expected to upload large work files, especially if they are in the creative industries. As well, the concept of cloud computing, including “thin-client” cloud-computing setups, has encouraged small businesses to be able to “think big”.

Communications is also being considered of importance for the professional or small business to maintain a competitive edge. This is more so as business catches on to video conferencing and unified communications technologies which are more data intensive.

How is this being factored in

Some “last-mile” technologies do support symmetrical download-upload speeds such as “fibre-to-the-premises”, Ethernet-based setups and symmetrical DSL setups. But asymmetrical “last-mile” setups can support increased upload capacity when they are adjusted for this, typically with these services being provided for larger businesses.

What can be done

The ISPs can use upload speeds as another way of differentiating their services and expose the services that offer the higher upload speeds to residential and small-business users. One example of someone stepping in the right direction is Gigaclear who are promoting symmetrical bandwidth for their fibre-to-the-premises installations in some Home Counties villages which are attracting the “work-from-home” crowd.

As well, the ISPs who promote decent upload speeds could be ending up courting a lot of usage cases like professionals working from home and expatriates who maintain a strong loop with overseas contacts.


Making sure that the upload speed is highlighted as a feature for an Internet-service package may allow the telecommunications carrier or Internet service provider to maintain a competitive edge and satisfy new Internet usage realities. After all, it’s not just about downloading YouTube videos anymore.

How Will We Benefit From Super-Fast Broadband (BBC 5 Live interview)


BBC News – How will we benefit from super-fast broadband? (Audio – radio interview)

My Comments

I have listened to a BBC Radio 5 Live radio broadcast that was available on-demand from the BBC Website about how we will benefit from the next-generation broadband Internet technology that is being rolled out now.

The BBC Radio 5 Live interview compared the current situation with what happened 10 years ago when broadband “hot-and-cold running Internet” came on the scene. At that time, the primary method of connection to the Internet was dial-up, typically with a second PSTN phone line for Internet use. The primary personal Internet applications were emailing and Web surfing, with some instant-messaging thrown in. There were questions about whether we needed the higher bandwidth of the always-on broadband services or not.

Nowadays, the norm for Internet connectivity is an “always-on” broadband service of at least 1Mbps, more like 2Mbps and we are doing more with these services. Here we are using the Social Web, with services like Facebook and Twitter; as well as multimedia-driven computing applications like YouTube and IPTV / Web video. It would also include IP-driven telephony applications like VoIP including Skype; where you benefit from low-cost long-distance telephone calls, FM-grade voice telephony and the arrival of the videophone which was only thought of in science fiction.

This is although there is a persistent group of naysayers who continue to doubt the need for next-generation broadband. They would reckon that the current technology would satisfy current usage needs. Personally, I have seen the effects of Moore’s Law where the capacity increases and the cost decreases for a technology, thus opening up new applications or enhancing the experience of current applications.

One main application group that the broadcast talked of as being feasible with super-fast broadband was health and well-being applications mainly in the form of telehealth services. This included the idea of “independent ageing” which I would see as a reality as people live longer and the age-associated degradation takes longer to set in.

Personally, I would find that as the next-generation broadband Internet services light up in many neighbourhoods, it will be more about an enhanced and rich Internet experience.

Jetstar unveils thin client, BYO laptop vision | Australian IT

Jetstar unveils thin client, BYO laptop vision | Australian IT


The Jetstar engineering group recently embarked on a BYO model with much success, he said, buying 60 Toshibas at $825 each rather than the corporate standard (Lenovo) Thinkpads.
"We gave each staff member a 16GB memory card with a complete PC virtual image — all the engineering manuals, software and drivers," Mr Tame told an Accenture media roundtable in Sydney.


Why does this impress me?

Most companies, especially larger companies, as well as schools prefer to run a fleet of laptops that are the company’s property and work on an operating environment specific to the company’s needs and line of business. These rapidly-depreciating assets are often supported by the company’s IT staff or an outside IT-support company contracted by that company. Often there will be rules and constraints on how these units are operated. Once the machines have finished their tenure in the business, there is the problem of disposing of them. They may be sold off through auctions, given to charity groups or some businesses may permit employees to buy the machines from the company at a greatly-reduced price.

There are some problems with that setup. Typically these laptops are often taken between work and home or are taken around the country or world by business travellers and also end up being used to store personal and family data. They also end up being used as games machines either with online games or games bought through a computer store or video-game store. This is usually to while away the time during a long flight or placate restless children. As well, the hardware setup typically encountered in most homes is different from that which exists in the workplace. The network will have a consumer-grade router at the network-Internet edge and the printers that exist at home will be the typical consumer-grade all-in-one inkjet printers that may be connected directly or via the home network.

Women can take advantage of laptops that reflect their personality and style rather than the “same old same old” machine. This is more so because of manufacturers who are releasing models that are designed with aesthetics in mind, such as a choice of different colours or finishes. Similarly, some power users can look towards buying computers that are the equivalent of an American “muscle car”, with all the power and aggressive looks.

By providing the employee with a memory card with the virtual image, Jetstar had kept the operating environment separate from the laptop’s own storage, thus avoiding mixing company data with personal data. Similarly, the company workspace can be transferred between computers if a computer dies or is infested with malware; or the employee upgrades the computer.

This is certainly a break from the standard computer culture that has engulfed business computer life. As well, this concept could be looked at for computer setups at primary and secondary schools, especially where students may end up with “hand-me-down” equipment.

Teleworking Best Practices

Pandemic Preparedness: Teleworking Best Practices | Wi-Fi Planet

My comments on this topic

In the article referenced from this post, the last few paragraphs talked about being prepared for teleworking whatever the “raison du jour” was. This was because whenever there was a national security incident, a natural disaster or a plague, the concept of telecommuting would be raised through business discussions. But whenever these risks subside, telecommuting falls off the agenda.

I personally consider the concept of teleworking as something to be factored in to everyday office life no matter the national or global situation. One application I think of very heavily would be for workers who end up doing double-duty as family carers, such as for ill or convalescing children; or elderly parents.

As well, it may appeal to people who are approaching the end of their tenure at the business to be able to increase being used to staying home rather than at the office. This is more so with family-run businesses where there is an increased risk of “living in the office” even as their active tenure comes to a close.

Similarly, it could also allow larger office-based employers to reach talent pools that exist in rural communities for some of their office jobs. The employers can be able to then work from home for most of their working month, but come in to the office for meetings and similar activities.

The way to technically prepare for teleworking would be to ensure that there is a good-quality secure Internet link to the office, such as a VPN, and consider the use of a VoIP or other “virtual extension” setup for the telephone. A webcam can be handy if you intend to do some video-conferencing with the office.

As far as the printer is concerned, make sure that you can print out any workplace documents with it. This may involve making sure that any “remote-desktop” programs can work with your local printer.

Small businesses can look towards using LogMeIn or GoToMyPC as a quick-setup remote-desktop tool, especially if you use “home” versions of Windows operating systems in the office or you don’t have much computing knowledge. If you use a “pro” or “business” version of Windows and have a fair bit of computing knowledge, it may be worth knowing how to use the Remote Desktop functionality.

As far as your VoIP or “virtual extension” setup is concerned, it may be worth making sure that your system can be capable of allowing the same extension number to be easily switched between two or more physical terminals, like a softphone program, VoIP handset or classic fixed or mobile telephone. This can permit the phone system to work with your work-home life.

Once you have a setup that allows you to do your work at home, you can be ready to work from home at a moment’s notice.