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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

Consumer Electronics Show 2009 Comments

Kitchen / laundry appliances, building control and security

Unlike the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2008 in Berlin, this show hasn’t headed towards exhibiting kitchen / laundry appliances and building control / security devices. But a show like this could head down that direction under various mandates like the “green” energy-efficiency mandate and the “smart home” mandate.

The main reason that this has been put off is because of the financial downturn in the US where many of these companies who rely primarily on the “new building” market are simply not selling many of these devices, therefore cannot afford to spend on this kind of activity.

Windows 7 Goes Beta

This has meant a major milestone for Microsoft in having Windows 7 legitimately enter the public beta stage. It has allowed the blogosphere to talk about improvements to the way Windows will be working under this operating system.

One major improvement will be the Device Stage where there will be an integrated user interface for all of the peripherals that the computer benefits from. It doesn’t matter whether the device is connected by a USB or other peripheral-connect cable or is accessed over a wireless peripheral link or the IP network the computer is a member of. This interface will provide access to the standard tasks for managing the device as well as any manufacturer-specified tasks for that device.

Another highlighted connectivity improvement is the Windows 7 “Home Group” which simplifies how a home network is set up and represented. This also includes any “non-computer devices” like network media players, network-attached storage units, games consoles and IP cameras.

Large colour bit-map display as a preferred user-interface display for “fixed” consumer electronics

Previously, we have seen “fixed” consumer-electronics devices like stereo / home-theatre equipment, computer network equipment and similar hardware having either a vacuum fluorescent display, monochrome liquid-crystal display, monochrome LED display or lately an OEL display as their user-interface display. Such a display would take up a small area of the device’s front panel and typically show textual information. If they show graphical information, it would be a low-resolution display which represents a “current-function” icon or a bar-graph representing a quantity like sound level.

Now manufacturers are supplying some of their devices with high-resolution colour LCD or OEL displays. Examples of this include the D-Link DIR-685 Wireless-N router / electronic photo frame / UPnP Media Server; Linksys’s Network Home Audio products and Linksys’s new media-focused DLNA NAS boxes. This has been because of high-resolution colour LCD modules of sizes up to 17 inches becoming more cost-effective.

This has allowed the “fixed ”consumer-electronics devices to have a user interface that is very similar to that provided by the coolest portable devices. It has also allowed manufacturers to look towards equipping their devices with touchscreens and iPod-style “spinwheels”. The user-interface menus on these devices are starting to have the same kind of experience that is accepted on the latest set-top boxes or portable media players.

It will certainly make those monochrome user-interface displays look so tired and “yesterday” as far as product user-interface design is concerned.

SDXC – the next-generation high-capacity SD card

The standard SDXC card can hold up to 2Tb, and being part of the SD Card lineup, be available in the three physical card sizes available for these cards. This iteration of the SD card would primarily appeal to portable devices like laptops, DSLRs, HD camcorders, etc. Could the SD card be the replacement for the hard disk especially in small portable computers like netbooks or as a large firmware storage for electronic devices?

The only limitation about this technology would be that SDXC cards wouldn’t be able to be read in the existing SD or SDHC devices.

LCD TVs – 7mm thick, Plasma TVs – 8.8mm thick

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/4159682/Worlds-thinnest-television-unveiled.html

Thinner flat-panel displays based on the common large-screen technologies are appearing. This will allow for improved consolidation for the display unit, thus allowing also for lighter sets and reduced “bill-of-materials” costs for this class of electronics. Manufacturers can allocate more room for extra functionality and there will be less of the overheating that occurs in these sets because of improved airflow over the chassis. This also leads to improvements in operational efficiency thus reducing the accusation about the large-screen flat-panel TVs being as inefficient as a 4-wheel-drive “Toorak tractor”.

MoCA being launched to the consumer

Mostly this will manifest in the form of “Ethernet-Coax” bridges in a similar form to the common “homeplugs” which are simply “powerline-Ethernet” bridges. Read more about MoCA in this article in this blog.

US-market TVs equipped with Netflix and similar service

In the US, Netflix and similar video-on-demand companies are “buttering up” to the “brown-goods” companies to integrate support for their service in their TV sets and similar devices. Similarly, some TV manufacturers are moving towards providing mid-range and premium equipment with built-in large-screen Internet viewing functionality. This will typically require the TVs, PVRs or set-tops to have Ethernet ports or WiFi connectivity.

If a customer wants to use this kind of feature, they should use the wired means (Ethernet, MoCA, HomePlug) rather than WiFi because this will provide increased reliability with these services.

An ideal feature for these sets would be to have DLNA / UPnP AV functionality with “Play-to” support. This can allow one to view or listen to their own media library whether it is held on their own PC or network-attached storage unit. It is more so because a lot of the NAS units pitched at the home market are being equipped with DLNA server functionality.

Linksys DLNA-compliant music systems and NAS boxes

1 music system with CD player, 1 network music system and 1 network audio receiver, all able to be controlled by a Linksys WiFi remote controller. Linksys is also selling “media-optimised” DLNA-compliant NAS boxes, one of which has a memory card slot for “dump to NAS” ability and a colour LCD display.

The “dump to NAS” memory card slot featured on the mid-range and deluxe units could come in handy with digital-camera memory cards and SlotMusic cards by making the content that exists on these cards available to the home network at all times.

Premiere of USB 3.0

The first few devices will be out, mainly in the form of external hard disks. Could this be an alternative to eSATA as an external hard-disk connection? Could it work as a “fat pipe” for a WiFi-N network adaptor.

The situation will be the same as what has happened with the launch of USB 2.0 where it will be available in a “retrofit” form for existing computers. This option will then end up being available as part of computer hardware introduce from next year onwards.

Premiere of eCoupled

Fulton Innovation had officially promoted the eCoupled inductive power-coupling system, providing it as an alternative to corded power for portable devices. They had set up a proving ground at the CES for wirelessly charging mobile phones, cordless power tools and remote controllers.

This technology will benefit portable entertainment and IT devices by achieving a standard wire-free power source for these devices. They also had proven the idea of “parking” a remote control on a set-top box or TV set so it can be charged quickly. It could allow for the TV or set-top box to perform required tasks like shut-down whenever the remote is parked on or removed from the unit.

12 January 2009 Posted by | Consumer Electronics Show (January - Las Vegas USA), Trade Shows, UPnP AV / DLNA media-playback hardware), UPnP AV / DLNA media-server hardware | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USBCheck – First Line of Defense Against Bad USB Ports

USBCheck – First Line of Defense Against Bad USB Ports

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My Comments on USBCheck:

This device is one that I would consider important for anyone who is building or repairing computers such as building that dream gaming rig. It allows them to check if each of the USB ports are wired properly, thus making sure that the installation is going to work properly and to plan before they put the side panels back on the computer’s case.

In a similar vein, a person who has taken apart a USB hub to build it in to something else can make sure that it is wired up properly as far as the USB infrastructure is concerned. All that is needed is more USB hubs and 5V 2.1A power-supply circuits (working from 12V – 24V DC or 110V-250V AC) in “short-form” versions for thos of us who want to build custom USB hubs or add USB hub functionality in to existing devices like desk lamps.

1 December 2008 Posted by | Computer building and repair | | Leave a comment