Big Tin

Big tin: IT infrastructure used by organisations to run their businesses. And other stuff too when I feel like it…

Innergie mMini DC10 twin-USB charging car adapter

Innergie adapter 1

Clean design


We all travel with at least two gadgets these days – or is it just me? What you too often don’t think about though is that each widget adds to the task of battery management. The Innergie 2A adapter’s twin USB charging ports will help.
Twin USB ports

Twin USB ports


The company sent me a sample to try and I found the design to be clean and tidy, and it all works as expected. It’s also quite compact, measuring 70mm long from tip to tail, and protruding from the car’s power socket by just 28mm. This means it won’t take up too much precious space, an issue especially if the power socket is mounted in the glovebox.
Innergie adapter 2

Nice shiny contact


When activated the front lights up a pleasing blue, and it then allows you to charge your USB-fitted devices to its max 2A potential. This means that if your device’s battery capacity is 2,000mAh, which is reasonably typical, it’ll take an hour (in theory) to recharge from empty.

Officially, it costs £19 (probably less on the street), and there’s more about it here.

Filed under: Consumer, Technology, , , ,

Technology predictions for 2013

The approaching end of the year marks the season of predictions for and by the technology industry for the next year, or three years, or decade. These are now flowing in nicely, so I thought I’d share some of mine.

Shine to rub off Apple
I don’t believe that the lustre that attaches to everything Apple does will save it from the ability of its competitors to do pretty much everything it does, but without the smugness. Some of this was deserved when it was the only company making smartphones, but this is no longer true. and despite the success of the iPhone 5, I wonder if its incremental approach – a slightly bigger screen and some nice to have features – will be enough to satisfy in the medium term. With no dictatorial obsessive at the top of a company organised and for around that individual’s modus operandi, can Apple make awesome stuff again, but in a more collective way?

We shall see, but I’m not holding my breath.

Touch screens
Conventional wisdom says that touchscreens only work when they are either horizontal and/or attached to a handheld device. It must be true: Steve Jobs said so. But have you tried using a touchscreen laptop? Probably not.

One reviewer has, though, and he makes a compelling case for them, suggesting that they don’t lead to gorilla arm, after all. I’m inclined to agree that a touchscreen laptop could become popular, as they share a style of interaction with users’ phones – and they’re just starting to appear. Could Apple’s refusal to make a touchscreen MacBook mean it’s caught wrong-footed on this one?

I predict that touchscreen laptops will become surprisingly popular.

Windows 8
Everyone’s a got a bit of a downer on Windows 8. After all, it’s pretty much Windows 7 but with a touchscreen interface slapped on top. Doesn’t that limit its usefulness? And since enterprises are only now starting to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 — and this might be the last refresh cycle that sees end users being issued with company PCs — doesn’t that spell the end for Windows 8?

I predict that it will be more successful than many think: not because it’s especially great because it certainly has flaws, especially when used with a mouse, which means learning how to use the interface all over again.

In large part, this is because the next version of Windows won’t be three years away or more, which has tended to be the release cycle of new versions. Instead, Microsoft is aiming for a series of smaller, point releases, much as Apple does but hopefully without the annoying animal names from which it’s impossible to derive an understanding of whether you’ve got the latest version.

So Windows Blue – the alleged codename – is the next version and will take into account lessons from users’ experiences with Windows 8, and take account of the growth in touchscreens by including multi-touch. And it will be out in 2013, probably the third quarter.

Bring your own device
The phenomenon whereby firms no longer provide employees with a computing device but instead allow you to bring your own, provided it fulfils certain security requirements, will blossom.

IT departments hate this bring your own device policy because it’s messy and inconvenient but they have no choice. They had no choice from the moment the CEO walked into the IT department some years ago with his shiny new iPhone – he was the first because he was the only one able to afford one at that point – and commanded them to connect it to the company network. They had to comply and, once that was done, the floodgates opened. The people have spoken.

So if you work for an employer, expect hot-desking and office downsizing to continue as the austerity resulting from the failed economic policies of some politicians continue to be pursued, in the teeth of evidence of their failure.

In the datacentre
Storage vendors will be snapped up by the deep-pocketed big boys – especially Dell and HP – as they seek to compensate for their mediocre financial performance by buying companies producing new technologies, such as solid-state disk caching and tiering.

Datacentres will get bigger as cloud providers amalgamate, and will more or less be forced to consider and adopt software-defined networking (SDN) to manage their increasingly complex systems. SDN promises to do that by virtualising the network, in the same way as the other major datacentre elements – storage and computing – have already been virtualised.

And of course, now that virtualisation is an entirely mainstream technology, we will see even bigger servers hosting more complex and mission-critical applications such as transactional databases, as the overhead imposed by virtualisation shrinks with each new generation of technology. What is likely to lag however is the wherewithal to manage those virtualised systems, so expect to see some failures as virtual servers go walkabout.

Security
Despite the efforts of technologists to secure systems – whether for individuals or organisations, security breaches will continue unabated. Convenience trumps security every time, experience teaches us. And this means that people will find increasingly ingenious ways around technology designed to stop them walking around with the company’s customer database on a USB stick in their pocket, or exposing the rest of the world to a nasty piece of malware because they refuse to update their operating system’s defences.

That is, of course, not news at all, sadly.

Filed under: Cloud computing, Consumer, data protection, desktops, Enterprise, Laptop, mobile, Networking, operating systems, Product, Security, Servers, Storage, Technology, , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy birthday Simon the smartphone

IBM Simon

IBM Simon

Today, 23 November 2012, is the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first smartphone. The IBM Simon was a handheld cellular phone and PDA that ended up selling some 50,000 units. This was impressive as, at the time, publicly available cellular networks were a rarity.

In fact, at the London launch of the device, I remember wondering how many people would buy one given the high costs of both a subscription and the phone. In the USA, BellSouth Cellular initially offered the Simon for US$899 with a two-year service contract or US$1099 without a contract.

As well as a touch screen, the widget included an address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock, electronic note pad, handwritten annotations, and standard and predictive stylus input screen keyboards.

Measuring 203mm by 63.5mm by 38mm, it had a massive 35mm by 115mm monochrome touch screen and weighed a stonking 510g, but was only on the market for about six months. The UK never saw it commercially available.

So while it never really took off, this was largely down to timing: it was ahead of its time and it was soon overtaken by smaller, less well-featured devices that were more affordable.

But when you contemplate which shiny shiny is your next object of desire, think about the Simon, and remember, Apple didn’t invent the smartphone: IBM did.

Filed under: Business, Consumer, Product, Product launch, Smartphone, Technology, , , , , ,

AVM Fritz!Box 7390 review

I’ve just acquired a handful of home/small business networking products – the AVM Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7390 router, AVM Fritz!WLAN Repeater, and AVM Fritz!Powerline 500E Set – and I’d like to share the experience.

AVM Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7390

Like any broadband router, the 7390 connects your local area network (LAN) to an ADSL-enabled phone line – but there’s far more to it than that. It’s probably the fullest featured product of its kind.

At its heart, the 7390 runs Linux but you never need to know that unless you like tinkering. It provides a huge range of information about your DSL connection, not just speed but signal to noise ratio, error stats, and a graphical representation of the line’s carrier frequency spectrum.

If your line is noisy, you can adjust the sensitivity of the device to accommodate that, in order to trade off stability for speed. My phone line was very crackly for a few days which at first resulted in the router disconnecting and retraining frequently. Using the 7390’s line settings, I was able to achieve a stable, albeit slower connection until the line cleared.

And as well as the more common ADSL/ADSL2+, it will also connect to a VDSL line, useful for small businesses with a need for high speed uploading.

Telephony is one of the 7390’s fortés. It includes a DECT base station that allows all GAP-compatible cordless phones to connect to it, and you can also use with a SIP service to call over the Internet, with full logging and call quality data available. The telephony module includes an answering machine, a phone book, alarms, call blocking and diversion, and a call logging screen.

WiFi support includes all modern 2.4GHz standards, plus the 5GHz 802.11a standard, all with a full set of security controls, as well as the ability to avoid channels being used by nearby WLANs. Its four LAN ports are now Gigabit Ethernet enabled – its predecessor supported only 100Mbps – so the 7390 is now useful as a full participant of a home or small business network. It also includes a USB port into which you can plug storage, such as a NAS containing video and audio files, to be shared over the LAN via UPnP.

Other features include an energy saving mode, a night service, and daily, weekly or monthly email reports.

Any downsides? It’s expensive at around £185 from Amazon, and some users have complained of poor English language support from the German parent company.

There’s a lot more the device can do but in summary, it’s a highly capable router and a whole lot more.

AVM Fritz!WLAN Repeater 300E

A simple-to-use device, this extends the WLAN, connected either via the WLAN itself or using a wired network connection. Connection is simple, using push buttons on both the router and repeater, and the link is fully encrypted so, unlike some products, you don’t have to drop strong encryption to extend the WLAN. A good way to get a wireless connection in the workshop.

AVM Fritz!Powerline 500E Set

Fritz!Powerline adapters are an alternative to running network cables: instead, use the mains system for networking. The main drawback compared to a standard Ethernet connection is speed: the max theoretical throughput is 500Mbps but much less than that in practice. A batch file-driven data transfer showed a data rate over the Powerline network of 171Mbps, compared to a rate using gigabit Ethernet of 392Mbps.

The pair of devices in the box each sport an Ethernet port, and a security button which enables 128-bit encryption. You must use this or your data could be visible to everyone else connected to the same circuit – including your neighbours. You also get a pair of Ethernet cables, and the adapters are IEEE P1901 compliant, and so should be compatible with adapters from other vendors.

Summary

Both the Powerline devices and repeater are useful for extending your network, or you could combine both for a faster, more robust connection.

Filed under: Consumer

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