Home Networking And IT Information And Discussion

Articles about home, SOHO and small-business IT and networking issues

HP Unveils the First Web Connected, TouchSmart Printer for the Digital Home | eHomeUpgrade

HP Unveils the First Web Connected, TouchSmart Printer for the Digital Home | eHomeUpgrade

My Comments on this Web-enabled printer

When I first read about Hewlett-Packard’s Web-connected printer in this article, I thought that the idea may not be real but they have followed the same path as the recent crop of Web-enabled TVs and the smartphones that are part of most currently-running mobile-phone service contracts. This all-in-one printer could be the start of another development arena for these devices, allowing for a new scope of applications that are “printer-based”. These could include “print-on-demand” like the initial offerings from Google (calendars), Web Sudoku (sudoku puzzles) and DreamWorks Animation (colouring-in sheets) and extend to such applications as image-upload interface points for photo-sharing / social-networking sites and online file storage services.

If this idea pulls off for printers and “all-in-one” devices, then it could lead to other devices that are capable of working with the home network being able to work with the Web and the home network in a manner beyond their obvious design. For this to be achievable, the devices would have to work on platforms like the Windows CE / Windows Mobile platform, the Symbian S-series or UIQ platforms or the Android platform and allow an easy yet secure way of installing the software.

25 June 2009 Posted by | Future Trends, Network hardware design | , , | Leave a comment

Thecus NAS server ( Network attached storage ) | Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device

My comments on the Thecus “midget” NAS server

I had posted comments on this blog in response to a “SmallNetBuilder” article regarding this “midget” NAS device and its relevance to the small network.

The main issue that I touched on is its small size and the use of the low-power 2.5” hard disk as part of a network-attached storage device. I had mentioned about the key advantages of this application being the small size and reduced power consumption and quieter operation that this class of device will offer.

A point of innovation that I had raised for further development of this device would be to have the device work from an automotive or marine power supply, thus supporting “office on wheels”, DLNA in the car and mobile video surveillance applications.

Actual Press Release from Thecus follows

Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device

Thecus N0204 NAS03/30/2009 – Big things are happening in the world of NAS devices. Today, Thecus® is proud to introduce the N0204 miniNAS device – the world’s smallest fully-featured NAS device.

Measuring a tiny 132 x 88 x 63 mm exterior, one could easily mistake the N0204 as a regular external hard drive. But look closer and you will see a very capable two-bay NAS device that fits right in the palm of your hand. The N0204 houses two 2.5” SATA hard disks, providing up to 1TB of storage. You can manage this storage with your choice of RAID 0, 1, and JBOD, making the N0204 the most robust pocketable storage device in existence. And because its drive bays are hot-swappable and feature auto-rebuild, you can change a hard disk without powering down the unit. The N0204 even comes with Thecus®’ Nsync for remote replication as well as the Thecus® Backup Utility for total data security. With huge storage, RAID functionality, and advanced data safeguards packed into a tiny device, the N0204 miniNAS is in a class all its own.

Tiny but mighty, the N0204 comes with many of the features and functionality possessed by its much larger cousins. For starters, the N0204 can function as a complete media hub with its built-in iTunes server, photo web server, and media server. With the built-in media server, you can enjoy your videos, pictures, and music with the N0204 by using any DLNA compliant media players. Plug in a USB web cam, and the N0204 turns into the world’s tiniest home surveillance server, allowing you to preview, capture and schedule image snapshots up to 640 x 480. Add to that support for both Windows and MAC OS operating systems and a whole new user friendly Windows Utility to easily set up and link the N0204 with your PC, and you’ve got some serious storage that you can whip out of your pocket and plug into virtually any network.

The N0204 miniNAS is a marvel of engineering. With advanced energy-saving capabilities, the N0204 only uses between 25~30% of the power compared to traditional two-bay NAS devices. You can even schedule power on/off for better power management. The N0204 also features whisper-quiet cooling, which means low temperatures and even lower noise during daily operation. A convenient USB 2.0 port in the front and the one-touch copy allow you to copy the contents of a USB storage device to the N0204 with a single button press. You can also copy data from the N0204 to any USB disk for data exchange. The N0204 supports USB printers, external hard disks, USB web cam, and even works with USB WLAN adaptors, allowing you to give this tiny NAS device wireless capability.

A complete NAS device in a form factor smaller than a paperback book, the N0204 miniNAS proves that great things do indeed come in tiny packages.

“When we tell people what the N0204 miniNAS can do, the most common reaction is disbelief followed by awe,” notes Thecus General Manager Florence Shih.  “We’ve essentially created a fully-functional NAS device in a package that you can take anywhere. With the N0204, you can enjoy the power and convenience of NAS storage anywhere life takes you.”

For more information on the N0204, check out:  
http://www.thecus.com/products_over.php?cid=12&pid=137&set_language=english

18 May 2009 Posted by | Network hardware design, UPnP AV / DLNA media-server hardware | Leave a comment

SmallNetBuilder – Thecus Adds Dual-Bay Hot-Swap Mini 2.5" SATA NAS

SmallNetBuilder – Small Network Help – Thecus Adds Dual-Bay Hot-Swap Mini 2.5" SATA NAS

My comments on this “midget” NAS

The 2.5” laptop hard disk as part of a highly-portable dual-drive network-attached storage has matured as a form factor with Thecus competing with Buffalo Technology in this product class.

The reason that these network-attached storage devices, which would be nearly the same size as a regular single-drive unit that works with a 3.5” hard disk is that they can offer what the what the regular single 3.5” hard disk units offer but with more advantages like reduced power consumption and operating noise as well as the advantages of being able to work as a RAID device.

The Thecus NAS has improved on the Buffalo design by offering BitTorrent support and the ability to work with a USB webcam as a time-lapse video recorder / network camera server as well as the usual file storage and DLNA media-server functionality.

As more companies sell these small dual-disk NAS boxes that use laptop hard disks, this could open the floodgates for network data storage applications where size or reduced power and operating-noise matters. It doesn’t matter whether you are dealing with

Point of innovation

An opportunity for innovation that can exist with this class of NAS devices is for them to work on an automotive or marine power supply environment. This is a power supply which runs nominally at 12 or 24 volts DC but would typically have varying-voltage conditions due to situations encountered in these situations like whenever the engine is started. These units would also need to shut down if the power is below a critical level for vehicle use so the engine can be started. As well, it may be desirable to support “ignition sense” so the unit can go in to different operating modes depending on what position the vehicle’s ignition switch was set to.

If this is achieved, these NAS devices could provide data storage to an in-vehicle LAN (which may have a wireless wide-area-network router at the edge) in a cost-effective manner. It could then lead to DLNA-based media handling on the road and improved network-based local data storage for “office-on-wheels” applications. With the Thecus NAS mentioned in the article having USB webcam support, it could allow for the use of a cost-effective USB webcam-based “black box” video-surveillance system for mobile applications like, for example, buses operated by community organisations and schools; or delivery vehicles.

At least there are signs of progress towards the small-form-factor NAS boxes becoming a reality and increasing the application space for these devices.

2 April 2009 Posted by | Network hardware design, UPnP AV / DLNA media-server hardware | , | 1 Comment

Mobile Industry Unites to Drive Universal Charging Solution for Mobile Phones ~ GSM World

 

Mobile Industry Unites to Drive Universal Charging Solution for Mobile Phones ~ GSM World

My comments on this standard

This will hopefully eliminate the clutter of mobile phone chargers that exist in most households and the worry concerning lost mobile phone chargers leading to mobile-phone downtime.

The standard can also allow a self-powered USB hub to be re-purposed as a “charging bar”, which would be a boon to the food, beverage and hospitality industry as well as householders. I had heard mention during ABC 774 Melbourne’s coverage of the Victorian bushfire crisis of a pub which was being used as a relief centre having its tables covered with phone chargers. This setup, like most homes and offices, would have one or more powerboards with three or four chargers plugged in to each powerboard. The different chargers would only be able to fit particular phones. A self-powered USB hub working as a charging bar would be able to service 4-7 phones from one power outlet. That would be enough to cover all the phones used by people sitting or standing around an average dining or bar table used in most cafes, bars and similar places. Larger tables like picnic benches, banquet tables or standard tables pushed together can be catered for with a few 4-7 port hubs powered from one standard powerboard.

This also leads to a smaller physical footprint for charging multiple phones and less need for powerboards for this purpose.

Another problem this will also solve is the common problem caused by two or more “wall-warts” plugged in to a double power outlet or powerboard. Here, you have the “wall-warts” not being able to be close together without one of them falling out or making poor contact with the AC supply, thus leading to erratic operation or damage to the charger, mobile phone or AC supply.

Once this interface standard is implemented on mobile phones, this can encourage other personal-electronics manufacturers to use the same connection for powering or charging devices like VoIP phones, MP3 players or digital cameras.

Another improvement would be to simply design innovative power supply concepts without having to factor in different voltages or plug types in their design. Examples of this could include pocket solar panels for personal-electronics devices or powerboards that have built-in USB hubs for low-voltage power supply to gadgets.

Yet another benefit would be that the same socket on the one device can perform two different functions – power supply and data transfer. This is a bonus not just for end-users but for people designing these devices, because devices like mobile phones have fewer holes to be catered for in their design. In fact, an MP3 player or mobile phone could just have a standard “headset” jack for analogue audio sent to and from headsets and a micro-USB socket for external power and data transfer.

The only company whom I think will keep away from the standard or postpone its implementation would be Apple. This is similar to how they treated UPnP and DLNA standards – if it wasn’t created by them, they are not in a hurry to implement it.

Look forward to fewer chargers and adaptors filling our drawers or cluttering our powerboards!

19 February 2009 Posted by | Network hardware design | | 3 Comments

Adding Optical Drives to Non-Computer Devices Using USB – What Can Be Done?

The typical network-attached storage, electronic picture frame or printer is now equipped with a USB host port, typically for connecting USB flash drives and other similar devices. Even a lot of boomboxes and clock radios which have a dock for an iPod have a USB host port so they can play MP3 files held on a USB flash drive. But what about connecting a USB-attached CD or DVD drive.

This could allow, for example, a typical network-attached storage to work like the RipFactory RipServer and “rip” audio CDs to the hard disk so they can be shared to DLNA-compliant media clients. Similarly, those CDs that we “burn” photos on to for sending to other people or viewing on our JPEG-compatible DVD player can be viewed on an electronic picture frame or select pictures can be printed from these discs using an “all-in-one” printer or the pictures that are on these CDs can be copied on to a network-attached storage so they are available on the home network. Approved DVD-playback software could be installed in an electronic picture frame so that one can turn it in to a personal DVD player by adding an optional DVD-ROM drive. Similarly, an MP3 player that doesn’t have a built-in optical drive could become a CD player once a CD-ROM drive is connected to it. The same holds true for such players that have a built-in optical drive but the optical drive has failed, thus extending the useful lifespan of these devices.

The main problems about this is the ability for these devices to support optical drives as part of the USB Mass-Storage device-class specification. Then there is the issue of providing enough power at the USB socket to support a “single-cord” USB optical drive of the kind sold as an accessory for portable computers like laptops or netbooks. This is because the USB cord in these drives is required to supply power as well as data. The power-supply problem can become more intense with devices such as electronic picture frames that are built to a limited size budget and have to work from internal batteries or an external power supply.

If this is implemented, the idea of an “add-on” optical disk drive for the likes of network-attached storage units, electronic picture frames and “all-in-one” printers that the user can buy at a later date can extend the value of these devices through their working life.

5 February 2009 Posted by | Computer setups, Network hardware design | , | 1 Comment