19/12/2013

USC develops restoration software

The University of Southern California (USC) hosts the Shoah Foundation and it's video testimonial archive (set-up by Steven Spielberg).

The archive has video testimonials of 52,000 survivors (including my father's testimonial which was so long it was in two parts which can be seen here and here), unfortunately around 5% of these had degraded audio and/or video due to errors in the recording equipment in use at the time (Betamax SP video cameras which is 20 year old technology).

Ryan Fenton-Strauss, video archive and post-production manager at ITS was takes with the restoration project. He worked out that the videos could be broken down into sequences of individual frames and used Google's Picasso which could do facial recognition and then duplicate previous good frames into where a frame was corrupt.

The system now uses Nation Instruments Vision Builder to automate the process which now requires almost no manual intervention and Ryan hopes to go into production with this system early next year.

06/12/2013

Ofcom produces "Easy Read" guide to mobile phones

Ofcom, the Super regulator, has produced and Easy Reading guide to mobile phones for people with learning difficulties. The guide uses the Easy Read system which uses pictures as well as text to explain things. The guide can also be used by people with limited English skills.

The guide offers advice on mobile phone use and costs as well as information: -

  • the different types of mobile phone handsets available
  • the costs of mobile phone calls and ways to pay
  • free services available for disabled customers
  • how to complain when things go wrong.
Ofcom has printed 5,000 copies of the guide which is being made available to every social services Director in the UK. It can also be made available in braille and ordered in large quantities on request.

The guide is also available on-line.

03/12/2013

Maybe Blackberry will get a reprive

Blackberry moving into the consumer space was a bad idea on many accounts and rushing out BB10 with many features that were standard with BBOS while adding bells and whistles was also maybe not so clever.

However, now with all the fuss about the US's NSA and UK's GCHQ snooping everybody, businesses and Governments may now seriously be thinking about returning to the venerable Blackberry platform as it's the only phone with an encrypted end-to-end email service.

The German Government has already ordered 40,000 secure Blackberry Z10 phones (who knows why they didn't go for Q10's - maybe a bargain basement sale?). This trend could continue as other governments must also be worried about email snooping.

Blackberry seem to be moving back away from the consumer market and concentrating on what they're good at, encrypted secure communication devices which can meet regulatory approval for organisations such as banks and governments, maybe they'll survive after all, but in smaller markets where people are prepared to pay for the secure services they need.

22/11/2013

Ofcom consults on mobile data strategy

Ofcom, the Super regulator, is holding a consultation on its mobile data strategy, potentially looking as far forward as 2030.

Ofcom has recently sold off spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands and is looking to award spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz in the near future as well as opening up the use of TV whitespace and even the 700MHz band (which is currently used for DTT) which would mean moving the DTT band to 600MHz (and using MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 technologies).

This can be summarised in a table: -

  
Relative priority for potential releaseBands for consideration
Current priorities700 MHz, 2.3, 3.4 GHz, UHF white space
High1452-1492 MHz, 1980-2010 / 2170-2200 MHz (2 GHz MSS), 3.6-3.8 GHz, 5350-5470 MHz, 5725-5925 MHz
Medium-High2.7-2.9 GHz, 3.8-4.2 GHz
Medium450-470 MHz4, 470-694 MHz, 1350-1518 MHz

Some of these bands are in use and therefore current users will have to migrate off them or shared use is being considered.

Newer WiFi technologies make more use of the 5GHz band (Ofcom have noted the 2.4GHz band is already congested in many areas), however the 5GHz band would have to be extended (currently the bands are either licensed or lightly licensed as some of it is used for things like military radar).

Other parts of the spectrum would be expected to be used to extend mobile usages for 4G and 5G services.

The full statement (PDF) can be found here (it's 113 pages long).

Stakeholders can respond on-line.

28/10/2013

Thinfilm develops smart sensor label

Thinfilm based out of Oslo, Norway, has developed a method of using specialised inks to print smart electronics onto labels, the first of which is a temperature sensing label for monitoring the temperature of perishable goods.

The labels are thin and flexible, contain the sensors, batteries, display and memory, connected by printable ink. This also means they can be both manufactured on continuous roller production lines and then placed on goods using roller systems to remove the labels and place them.

It is expected that the market for thermo sensor labels will be over $3.2 billion USD by 2020.

The technology uses full addressing logic for multi-bit read-write of printed memory, memory write based on detection of temperature thresholds and low-voltage display driver based on complementary organic logic. The memory should remain readable for at least 10 years.

Products based on the combination of these technologies is expected to be market ready by the end of 2014.

Printable electronics can significantly reduce costs and will permeate many areas that currently use discrete electronic systems that are more expensive and not suitable for rolling production.

There are also many other uses that can be used for the Internet of Things.

27/10/2013

LinkedIn Intro, one mailbox to rule them all

Last week LinkedIn introduced a new iOS app called Intro. It seems a really good idea by scanning your email and showing how the person sending the email is connected to you, their LinkedIn details etc.

Unfortunately it does this by modifying the iOS mail connection profiles and pointing them all at a LinkedIn's IMAP proxy, thus intercepting ALL your email. This means that LinkedIn suddenly have access to all your email accounts and also every email that your iOS device has access too and of course they'd never do anything sinister with all this data (forget the NSA and GCHQ tapping emails, this is LinkedIn doing it with your permission).

Of course LinkedIn strenuously deny that they're doing anything dubious and their IMAP proxy is heavily secured (including connections to and from it using SSL/TLS), however it must suddenly be a great target for hackers as within the proxy itself all emails will be at some point held in clear-text.

Various mail providers are already looking at blocking LinkedIn's IP blocks to their mail services (listed below).

    199.101.161.0/24
    199.101.162.0/24
    199.101.163.0/24
    216.52.242.0/24
    69.28.147.0/24
    8.22.120.0/24
    2620:0109:C00D::/48
    2620:109:C00D::/48

And for the geeks, their AS number is AS20049.

Nice try, just be scared.

18/09/2013

Get on your SMART e-bike

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to invited to test ride a SMART e-bike. There are some things I should point out: -
  • I'm not really a bike rider
  • I haven't properly ridden a bike for many years
  • Riding through London terrifies me
However saying that, the e-bike is pretty, we used the white and green version (it also comes in grey with orange trim - which I thought looked prettier).

The bike is quite heavy (though having an aluminium frame, and the metal drive chain replaced by a carbon-fibre drive pulley), it weighs 26.1Kg. It comes with hydraulic disc brakes front and rear (and mud flaps). The seat is quite comfortable as it contains a gel liner to pad your sensitive bits. There's also an air shock absorber on the front section (which is adjustable) to smooth out those bumps.

In the rear wheel there's a 250W brushless DC motor that can move the bicycle up to 15Mph.There's also an 'automatic' gear system (from 1 to 3 where 1 is the easiest and 3 is the least gearing).

The rechargeable battery (mounted in bit that the seat fits on to) is lithium-ion 48V with a capacity of 423Wh which can be removed. It comes with a normal mains charger (that can charge the battery in situ) and a full charge takes around 5 hours. The battery is guaranteed for 500 charging cycles and will retain 80% residual charge for 2 years. The management unit also has a USB port (for diagnostics/software upgrades/etc) and can also change a device like a smartphone, useful with the optional smartphone holder that mounts in-front of the unit allowing a user to use GPS/maps/etc.

There's also a display mounted between the handle bars that is the 'brains' of the e-bike. It has a trip counter, shows the battery charge remaining, speed and also the amount of power applied to the motor (from zero to 4 units at max power). The unit can also put the motor into charge mode (from -1 to -4) where the the motor will then act as a brake.

When riding from stationary, the motor won't actually kick in until the pedals have completed around 2 revolutions, this is to stop the bike say lurching forward when traffic lights go green, straight in to the back of a vehicle in front.

Riding isn't effortless - a rider still has to pedal, though when the motor kicks in it;s certainly easier riding. Also when climbing a steep hill, putting the e-bike into low gear and turning on full motor assist does make a life a lot easier.

If then going down a hill, put the motor into charge mode and as well as the motor acting as a smooth brake, it also charges the battery. The battery is also charged when the front-brakes are applied (i.e. the motor assists with breaking).

I managed a ride of 13.9 miles in about 4 hours (with a break) and wasn't particularly sore afterwards (apart form soft fleshy bits, but that's just not being used to bike parts rubbing me). It really did make riding easier. The bike has a range of 60 miles (I'd assume normal road riding conditions), though this will vary depending on how much the motor is used and how much the motor is used as a brake (which will charge the battery).

There was one major flaw with the bike, the controls for the management unit are on the unit itself, when they should have put them near the handles of the bike (maybe an extension system). Changing the controls meant taking your hand off the grip and fiddling with the control unit, which isn't the safest thing in the world.

The bike is also heavy, so manoeuvring at slow speed (like going through cycle gates) was hard as it meant moving a heavy bike and trying to navigate odd turns etc. and at low speeds 9without pedalling) you're on your own.

The e-bike isn't cheap, it costs £2,600 without any of the accessories - coming from Mercedes, they're not cheap either.

NOTE since writing this SMART have updated the e-bike and put the controls for the management unit into the handlebars, they've obviously listened to feedback fro early users. Maybe the next version will be made out of carbon-fibre and thus reduce the weight too.

TomTom devices gives access to engine info for smartphone use

TomTom Business Solutions is launching a new device the TomTom Link 100. This connects to the engine management unit (EMU) via the standard CAN-bus and has a built in 3D accelerometer. This then can connect to a smartphone device via Bluetooth allowing easy diagnostics in the event of a crash or even the vehicle breaking down.

All modern cars use the standard bus interface so it should work will most cars on the road.

The device can also be used by insurance companies to track driving habits etc (though no GPS information is available), drivers could also use the device to improve their driving.

TomTom have not said what data is exposed (apart from RPM, load and temperature), though the EMU provide a lot more information and with the right application many minor faults can be reset by such a device making trips to the garage less frequent (and also allowing drivers to check what faults garages etc are charging them for and whether it is a major or minor fault).

If the all the data is exposed and TomTom allow read and write information it could allow app vendors to make interesting solutions to make the driving experience better, though of course insurance companies will want these devices to ensure drivers drive better.

Ofcom consulting on releasing public sector spectrum

Ofcom, the Super regulator that has responsibility for spectrum allocation, is consulting on the planned release of MoD spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.

The bands being made available are 2350 to 2390 MHz (40MHz) and 3410 to 3600 MHz (150MHz). It is expected that these bands will be licensed for use by mobile network operators for 4G/LTE services, though other broadband services could also be offered.

Unfortunately these bands are also used by amateur radio and it is likely that severe interference can be expected. Therefore Ofcom has proposed three recommendations to minimise interference.

  • i) Remove access to the adjacent bands
  • ii) Retain access to the adjacent bands on the current terms but with clarification of the notice period required for future amateur use to cease if amateurs cause interference to other users in the release band or the adjacent band
  • iii) Restrict amateur access to a smaller part of one or more adjacent bands.
Of these 3 Ofcom's preferred option is ii) whereby Ofcom will require amateurs to stop using these bands if there is interference to licensed users (with a notification period).

Ofcom wants to make changes to amateur licenses such that if the proposals are accepted would

  • i) remove the frequencies of the release bands from the licence.
  • We have set out three options for the adjacent bands and are recommending option two which if implemented would:
  • ii) introduce a procedure to enable removal of additional frequencies (i.e. the adjacent bands) to quickly if harmful interference arises in the future.
Though this will adversely potentially affect amateur radio users, the benefit to the overall population will be increased with access to more spectrum for LTE or other services.

The consultation has now closed.

Ofcom consults on whitespace co-existance

Ofcom, the Super regulator that handles radio spectrum as part of its remit, is holding a consultation on the coexistence of whitespace devices.

Whitespace is the spectrum that is unused in certain areas due to geographic transmission systems that can not overlap and in this case relates to the UHF TV channels (470 MHz to 790 MHz). As there are multiple transmitters across the UK, adjacent transmitters can not operate in the same frequency bands (especially for digital TV) or the transmitters would interfere with each other.

This leads to large chunks of the UHF spectrum not being used in a particular geographic zone, which could be used for other purposes (as long as it was low power and didn't reach neighbouring areas).

Current plans are that whitespace devices will monitor what bands are in use (by listening to those frequencies) and thus not use them, in the UK they must also contact a central database, report their location and the database will specify what frequencies are available and what power they can transmit at.

There are other services that can also be interfered with such as program making and special events (PMSE) - things like outside broadcast units which can use some of the spectrum for remote TV cameras and such like, which also have to be catered for.

Ofcom have already said they will allow whitespace use on a license exempt basis, but they also must ensure that there will be no harmful interference to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and PMSE.

Whitespace technology is new and thus there is some uncertainty on how whitespace devices may interfere with DTT or PMSE services. However Ofcom doesn't want to overly constrain whitespace use such that large amounts of spectrum go unused, or that power levels/etc are so restrictive that reaching any sizeable population is unrealistic.

Ofcom will currently err on the side of caution and setting parameters that can be relaxed in future. Later this year there will be a set of pilot trials across the UK with a number of service providers where the increased power levels can be used for limited periods of time to ensure interference doesn't occur. The trials (and stakeholder consultations) will continue until Summer 2014 and will help Ofcom set the parameters for future national whitespace roll-outs starting in Q3 2014.

Ofcom has set the parameters and algorithms for use in trials to minimise the effects on

  • Digital Terrestrial Television services
  • licensed users of equipment for Programme Making and Special Events
  • services above and below the UHF TV band.
Ofcom have also noted that whitespace availability will vary in areas across the UK i.e. London has relatively low DTT issues with whitespace use while Glasgow has much less spectrum available, however Glasgow has very little PMSE use while in central London (and areas like Wembley Stadium) there is a large amount of use.

Though it is yet early days, whitespace spectrum should allow high bandwidth services with good propagation characteristics (coverage) which could be used to provide mobile network operator capacity off-loading, broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) services.

Companies such as Neul (a CSR - now Samsung spin-off) are betting their futures on whitespace.

The consultation closes on 15 November 2013 and stakeholders can respond on-line.

Ofcom consults on Spectrum Management Approach in the 70/80GHz bands

Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after spectrum management is holding a consultation on proposals to change the management and authorisation approach used to manage the bands 71 - 76 GHz and 81 - 86 GHz (70 / 80GHz). These offer 2 x 4.75 GHz of bandwidth allowing very high capacity links (over 1Gb/s) which are not supported in lower frequency bands. These bands have been available for use since 2007.

Currently the spectrum is not managed at is up to the users of these bands to co-ordinate amongst themselves on use (self coordinated spectrum), though currently use of the spectrum is minimal compared to lower frequency bands. However with the rapid adoption of 4G services and the bandwidth that will be required to remote cell-sites, usage can be expected to rapidly increase and operators are now worried that self-coordinated management will not suffice as links in these bands will have to provide 99.99% to 99.999% availability, so any interference could be disastrous for mobile networks.

Ofcom is proposing to manage the spectrum in a mixed manner offering partial self-coordinated use and partial managed use.

    • Ofcom coordinated approach: 2 x 2 GHz
      Guard band: 2 x 250 MHz
      Self coordinated approach: 2 x 2.5 GHz
  • NOTE Image (C) Ofcom.

    This will allow non-critical links to be operated as now in the higher part of the bands while more critical services will be in the lower part of the bands managed by Ofcom (using the same regulatory environment as for fixed links in lower bands).

    This should be good news for users and backhaul links get very expensive very quickly and can limit the growth of a mobile network (in terms of coverage), so being able to use protected spectrum to maintain high bandwidth links to cell-sites and allowing the networks to provision more 4G cells.

    The full consultation is available on-line and stakeholders may respond here, the by 5th October 2013.

    30/08/2013

    Qualcomm sells Omnitracs but buys Orb

    Qualcomm the company that makes chips such the Snapdragon and Powerline electronics (after acquiring Atheros) has sold it's mobile tracking unit Omnitracs to Vista Equity Partners for $800m. Omnitracs makes vehicle tracking systems that are used for fleet tracking and other automotive solutions like for consumer insurance systems (i.e. the insurance company can track the user's driving behaviour).

    Orb Networks offered the free media streaming service MyCast as well as Orb Live along with the Orb TV and Music MP-1 devices. These will all be discontinued. It's assumed Orb services will be integrated into the Atheros media and home automations lines (such as Powerline and other devices).

    06/08/2013

    Ofcom consults on changing local number dialling in 5 areas

    Ofcom, the Super regulator, is holding a consultation on how local numbers must be dialled in 5 areas which are running out of local numbers.

    The areas affected are Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908). In these areas, the full number (including the area code) will have to be dialled - which will allow around 200,000 new numbers to be made available in these areas, which should satisfy demand for at least 10 years.

    The change means the affected areas will use closing local dialling and will allow numbers starting with 0 to be issued i.e. for Aberdeen numbers will be able to be allocated like 01224 0XXXXX and 01224 1XXXXX. If the area code 01224 was not included there could be clashes with numbers starting with 0 or 1 such as 100 for operator assistance or 118xxx directory enquiry services.

    The consultation closes on September 13th 2013 and the change is expected to come into force in October 2014.

    Ofcom's statement is available here and stakeholders may respond on-line.

    05/08/2013

    Ofcom trials DAB based on open source software

    Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after radio spectrum management and broadcasting amongst other things has reported on a trial that used open source software to run a digital audio broadcast (DAB) transmission.

    The trial was based in Brighton and used Linux software and an software defined radio (SDR) to broadcast DAB signals in the Brighton area, though the trial was only low power (the output of the SDR was set to 5mW) a signal could be received over 7Km away. There was also no detectable interference to the BBC local DAB multiplex which was around 3Km away from the trial transmitter.

    The trial was carried out privately under Non-Operational Test and Development licence issued by Ofcom.

    The full report is here, Ofcom doesn't endorse any software or hardware used, but the report contains references to all the hardware and software used.

    Initially the trial was conducted using 2 laptops, but the software was integrated on to a single (rack mount) PC running xubuntu. It would also be possible to run at least some of the software (multiplexor etc) on a RaspberryPi.

    Maybe this will lead the way for other Ofcom 'approved' trials such as running lower power GSM networks also using open source software.

    22/07/2013

    C&W (Vodafone) and Urban WiMAX get 28GHz license variations

    Ofcom has issued a statement with respect to the 28GHz Broadband Fixed Wireless Access (BFWA) licences of Cable and Wireless (now Vodafone) and Urban Wimax.

    The licenses were due to expire on 31st December 2015 and now they will be made indefinite.

    The licensees can use the bands for equipment that complies with Interface Requirement 2048 (IR 2048) in-line with other licensees.

    From January 2016, there will be new pricing set which incentivises the licenses to utilise the spectrum. Pricing has not be set yet.

    28GHz allows high bandwidth point-to-point links which can be used for backhaul and with Vodafone's purchase of C&W it makes sense to use their own spectrum for mobile backhaul.

    Ofcom awards new TV spectrum

    Ofcom, the super regulator has issued a statement on the award of the 600MHz band (550 to 606 MHz). This has been awarded to Arqiva for the provision of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) multiplexes. Arqiva will utilise MPEG4 video encoding and DVB-T2 transmission services (as used by Freeview HD).

    This is a temporary license, though it will run through until 2026, unless Ofcom give Arqiva 24 months notices in which case it can be revoked in 2018.

    The ability to terminate the license is to allow migration of DTT services from the 700MHz band to the 600MHz band in line with EU harmonised spectrum regulation and will allow the 700MHz band to be used for wireless broadband services.

    10/07/2013

    Ofcom opens 2G and 3G bands for 4G use

    Ofcom, the Super Regulator that oversees radio spectrum (amongst its many duties) has published a statement allowing mobile network operators (MNOs) to utilise their 2G and 3G bands for 4G use, without applying for a license variation.

    This affects the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands. Ofcom has also allowed an increase in power of 3dB in the 900MHz band to align it with power levels in the 800MHz band.

    This is in-line with Ofcom's policy to liberalise licenses and make them technology neutral and will allow the MNOs to roll-out 4G (LTE) services on any of their spectrum without regulatory hinderance.

    01/07/2013

    Michael Birch re-acquires Bebo for $1m

    Michael Birch originally founded Bebo and sold it to AOL for $850m on May 19, 2008 making him one of the most successful UK entrepreneurs with his wife. AOL then sold the ailing company to Criterion Capital Partners in June 2010 for around $10m.

    Birch then rejoined company as a strategic advisor on December 9, 2010.

    Birch today announced on twitter that he has re-purchased the social media site for $1m.

    Though the site has been left behind other social media sites like Facebook, Birch can maybe bring it into the forefront again and do something clever with it.

    Plastic Logic joins forces with Cambridge University Graphene centre

    Graphene is the new wonder substance that could replace silicon for a new generation of integrated circuits and other devices. It is also much more conductive than steel and stronger.

    Plastic Logic are leaders in the field of flexible e-ink displays (both colour and monochrome) which use their organic thin-film transistor technologies.

    Cambridge Graphene Centre investigates the science and technology of graphene, carbon allotropes, layered crystals and hybrid nanomaterials.

    With this collaboration, Plastic Logic have donated large scale deposition equipment to support the acceleration of manufacturing scale-up of developments on graphene which will then: -

    • To develop graphene as a transparent, highly conductive layer for plastic backplanes, used to drive unbreakable Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) and flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays; a market forecast to be worth $40bn by 2020 (IHS 2013).
    • To develop novel transistor structures with graphene-like materials as the active layer, delivering a step change over the device performance currently possible on plastic, while retaining the ultimate flexibility of the devices.
    • Leverage Plastic Logic’s expertise in the industrialization and volume manufacture of electronics on plastic, exploiting the commercialisation of graphene for flexible electronics. This will include key high value segments in the developing new market for flexible plastic sensors, forecast to be worth $2.2bn overall in 2020 (IDTechEx 2011).

    The UK is a world leader in graphene research and this could push the UK into the forefront of usable technologies actually using it.

    Ofcom make more spectrum available

    Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after (amongst other things) radio spectrum allocation has made the bands 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz available for use by short range devices (SRDs) and radio frequency identification (RFID) use. This is in-line with European (CEPT) policy. The bands are commonly used for RFID tags in the US.

    Ofcom will hold a further consultation in Q4 2013 after CEPT publish their work on interference in these bands and will then publish the draft technical requirements and the full license exemption statement by early 2014.

    Ofcom is also making the 24 GHz (21.65 to 26.65 GHz) license exempt for Short Range Radars (SRRs) for automotive use, in line with EU policy. Devices have been allowed to use this part of this band (24.25 to 26.65 GHz) on a temporary basis (since 2005), which was extended to the full 21.65 to 26.65 GHz in 2011. The regulations came into force in June 30th 2013.

    26/06/2013

    Innergie mMini DC10 (review)

    The Innergie mMini DC10 is a car 'cigarette' charger. What makes this different to other chargers is that is has 2 USB sockets that allow charging of 2 devices simultaneously.
    There's also a nice blue LED between the USB slots showing that there's power.

    It can output 5V at 2.1A making it suitable for charging tablets and other devices.

    It comes with a cable that has a clever connector, if snapped together it will power an iPhone/iPad through the Apple dock connection, however if the connector is pulled apart, there's also a micro-USB connection suitable for charging non-Apple products. It's also powerful enough to charge a Blackberry device (which lots of other chargers fail to do).

    This really is a useful device and has saved the day on many occasions and it actually does manage to produce a full 10W output.

    Online prices vary widely, but it can be had for as low as £12 + shipping.

    Definitely 10/10

    Ofcom makes more spectrum license exempt

    Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after radio spectrum amongst other things, has made more spectrum license exempt.

    In the UK there is no such thing as unlicensed spectrum and all devices (whether they broadcast or receive radio transmissions) must be covered by a license as per the Wireless Telegraphy Act. Ofcom can issue a Standard Instrument (really an Act of Parliament) to cover certain frequency bands and uses making that spectrum license exempt, which means if the equipment is used as per the SI, it doesn't need a specific license.

    Ofcom has made new spectrum available for SRDs (short range devices) such as range finding equipment for cars. There is now 5MHz of spectrum available between 10.575 to 10.6 GHz which will add to the existing range of 10.577 to 10.597 GHz and this came into force on 26th June 2013.

    The existing band 10.675 to 10.699 GHz can continue to be used by existing systems, but it will be closed for new systems on 30 December 2014 giving manufacturers 18 months to switch to the new band.

    Mobile terminal handsets using WiMAX or LTE in the 800MHz, 2011MHz and 2.6GHz bands will be license exempt (when connected to a licensed mobile network i.e. BT, EE, 3UK, O2 or Vodafone).

    Various satellite terminals will also be license exempt in the 1518 to 1525 MHz, 1525 MHz to 1559 MHz, 1626.5 MHz to 1660.5 MHz and 1670 to 1675 MHz bands.

    14/06/2013

    Vizz(ualise) your LinkedIn contacts

    There's a really nice little iOS app (currently iPhone only) called Vizz that visualises your LinkedIn network.

    You can see what industries your connections are in, where they're located, what companies they work for and who's changed roles recently.

    Quite a useful little app, all for the princely sum of £0.69 (69p).

    Admittedly I do know the author @hakimmobile, but that doesn't change the usefulness of the app.

    04/06/2013

    Everything you wanted to know about (upgrading to) BB10, but were afraid to ask

    A few weeks ago I received a Blackberry Q10 that I had won in an EE competition. It was sent directly to me from Blackberry in the UK. Unfortunately it was locked to EE and I am an O2 customer, but with help from Blackberry an unlock code arrived in Email the same day.

    The Q10 was sent out with various bits configured for EE, which I queried and was told "once the new SIM works, the device gets the settings from the network", so again all well and good.

    Next install Blackberry Link which is the new desktop software from Blackberry, again all well and good, except though it can now sync photos/music/documents/etc with the desktop (a Mac user) it no longer (compared to Blackberry Desktop Software for Mac) syncs Calendars and Contacts. The new BB10 devices (Z10 and Q10) are completely device centric and all email/calendar and contacts synchronisation is done by the mobile device itself.

    I plugged in the old Blackberry Bold 9900 (which Blackberry Link recognised as a OS7 device) and it asked if it would like to transfer the databases, to which I confirmed.

    All seemed well, except you have to set-up all the old email accounts/etc on the new device before it actually works and it seems not all of them were working (GMail specifically, luckily the set-up of a BB10 device can be done using WiFi so it doesn't need a SIM in the device to actually set it up).

    The email accounts were all working, try the transfer again and all went well.
    Then (after reducing the SIM from a normal size to a uSIM using a SIM cutting tool) put the old (u)SIM into the Q10 and bang, everything works (well at that point the phone needed unlocking, but that was very simple and just required entering the unlock code - though not in the way Blackberry had stated, go into settings, then security, SIM and then you are asked to unlock).

    On the Mac iCloud is the default system for contacts and calendar, so on the Q10 just add a new Email account (i.e. iCloud account). That's where problems started. There is a known problem using iCloud for newer versions of BB10. The Email account is set-up fine as is contact sync, however it fails to set-up the calendar sync (with a credential issue).

    It's also possibly to directly add a Caldav account in the advanced Email set-up, again the forums were awash with suggestions but it should be possible to just add caldav.icloud.com as the calendaring service, but again this failed with a credential issue and would not complete.

    Search the forums and lo and behold there's a Blackberry knowledge base entry which states "there's a known issue with Apple's caldav services" (Apple uses CALdav for calendar synchronisation, it also used to work on older versions of BB10, the phone upgraded itself to v10.1.0.273 via the WiFi, some earlier version of 10.0 used to work). The forums also stated that after speaking to Blackberry users had been told to report the fault to their carrier who could then escalate to Blackberry, the more users/carriers reporting the fault would increase the escalation.

    So decide to phone O2 and report the fault and managed to get through to the Blackberry specialist team, explaining that I had upgraded from a Blackberry Bold 9900 and was now using a Q10 and wasn't able to sync calendars. They explained they would look at the problem and get back to me, which they did. Unfortunately they wouldn't escalate the problem as it was a known issue by Blackberry and thus couldn't escalate. I tried to explain that even Blackberry themselves were telling users to go through their carriers to report the fault, but they were adamant that they wouldn't be able to report the fault as it was already "on the system".

    So no calendar synchronisation, but the phone seemed to be working well apart from that, email coming through, twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn all seemed to be doing the right thing.

    There are some immediate quirks though: -

    • On the old Blackberry you can delete an Email on the device or delete it on the device and the Email server. this is no longer possible and deleting an email deletes it completely. This isn't disastrous it just means you get a lot of emails on the device, the Email icon turns grey if read, but it's still there. After 90 days it is possible to to set a shorter time) older emails will disappear.
    • The old twitter client used to support multiple accounts, the new one in BB10 only supports a single twitter account, this is a real pain. Direct Messages (DMs) and mentions (@) appear in the hub, which is fine, but the actual twitter client only supports a single twitter account itself. Would be happy if the Hub just supported DMs and mentions from the active twitter account, but the actual twitter client should support multiple accounts and the user can select which twitter account to be active.

    So only a single twitter account, no way to delete emails off the device without deleting them on the server, and no calendar synchronisation, but all is work.

    Now the fun really starts

    On the 30th of May I get an email/text from O2 saying my bill is £470 more than it is usually.

    I contacted customer services and ask about the problem and am told that it's data charges, so I tell them my settings (Blackberry Unlimited tariff and APN set to mobile.o2.co.uk) and it's confirmed those are the correct settings, but the customer services agent has started a "Network Investigation" and I wont get anymore data charges.

    I am not convinced, but hope that all will be good.

    On the Saturday I get another email/text now saying that my bill is £580 over my normal bill.

    Unfortunately it wasn't until Sunday that I managed to contact customer services again. This time I'm told that I should move to a normal data tariff and that the old Blackberry Unlimited tariff is very old and not available to new customers and I should move immediately (the tariff has a 750MB data limit, which I've exceeded in the first week). I refrain saying I will wait for the network investigation.

    I then decide to do some of my own investigations and find that the new BB10 devices don't work how the old pre-BB10 devices work (the old BES and BIS connections went through a "hardwired" blackberry.net "private" APN that was embedded in the Blackberry software itself). The new devices (at least for a BIS - which is the Blackberry Internet Service) now do use the actual Internet data connection and don't have the cludgery that was the old style BIS connection. The devices have become completely device centric ...

    However on some forum it's stated that setting the APN to wap.o2.co.uk works and as it's with the Blackberry Unlimited service, it's free. So I plug that into the Blackberry and lo and behold no more data charges.

    I also phoned O2 support to check and they agree that setting will work.

    I still have a massive data bill and there is an on-going network investigation.

    Twitter to the rescue

    I have had a few conversations with @O2 on twitter, who are very responsive to tweets and good for sorting technical and other issues and get into a discussion with the "web team" who DM me and ask for details of the problem, which I duly sent them. It seems they have a massive influence and today (Tuesday 4th of June) I get a call from O2.

    Unfortunately I do have to move to a standard new tariff (that only comes with 750MB of data), but they are going to wipe the data charges (eventually £600+ +VAT).

    As soon as the tariff is changed (should come into play tomorrow), it looks like I'll have to ask for a PAC code and move to a new network, one that does unlimited data.

    I've been a loyal customer with O2 on this number since 2005 (and on another number - moved to GiffGaff a year ago, since 1984). It will be a shame to move, but unlimited Internet is unlimited Internet.

    So long and thanks for all the fish as they say.

    03/06/2013

    ARM Mali now has DRM on-chip

    ARM the company that designs microprocessors and micro-controllers that are used in high-end smartphones down to dishwashers has announced a new range of graphics co-coprocessor with digital rights management (DRM) built-in.

    ARM has been forging relationships with bodies to support its TrustedZone security implementations in its ARM cores, now it is extending this with DRM backed into its video processing hardware (Mali) and it has just announced the Mali-V500 which supports 1080p/60 encoding and can decode up to 120 frames per second with a resolution of 4K. This should make the chips appealing to video companies like Netflix who want modern hardware, but also want to appease Hollywood with native DRM support.

    ARM have also released new CPU cores, the Cortex-A12 (mid-range smartphone, faster than current Cortex-A9 technology). ARM also boast the performance of the Cortex-A15 supersedes Intel's low power core technology, even though it's based on their new 3D transistor at 22nm.

    Newer ARM chips will migrate to 20nm technologies and even 16/14nm designs and they say that will keep them ahead of Intel for the foreseeable future.

    27/05/2013

    NVidia Tegra4i chip upgraded before it's released

    NVidia has upgraded it's all-in-one system-on-chip the Tegra4i to support Category 4 LTE before it's even been commercialised.

    Category 4 LTE supports 150Mb/s download speeds and is already being implemented by other vendors.

    This should give NVidia a better chance against its main competitors (in the Smartphone markets) Qualcomm, Broadcom and LTE-only specialist Altair.

    NVidia gained LTE experience by acquiring UK company Icera which uses a software defined architecture and though this technology has been used alongside Tegra4 CPU devices as a separate package, the Tegra4i integrates the technology on to the system as the Tegra4. As Icera's technology is software defined, no actual hardware modifications were required to implement the enhancements.

    Currently no mobile networks actually support Category-4 LTE (or LTE Advanced), though Japan's NTT Docomo has said they'll be announcing services by the end of the year.

    Qualcomm's Mirasol may have a reprieve

    Qualcomm last year said it was not pursuing direct sales of it's colour e-ink solution Mirasol and would license the technology to partners.

    Mirasol uses MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology and is very low power, works in direct sunlight and low light conditions though it has been criticised for washed out colours.

    At the SID Display Week event in Canada last week, Qualcomm seems to have reversed its decision and was very publicly displaying the latest version of the Mirasol technology and said it could appear in devices with small screens later this year (less than 1.5 inches - speculation is on some form of smart watch).

    There was also a demonstration of a 5.1 inch screen with a resolution of 2560x1440 which equates to a pixels per inch (ppi) value of 577, while Samsung's Galaxy S4 has a resolution of 1920x1080 with a ppi of 440.

    The Mirasol technology is really nice and it would be a shame if Qualcomm didn't maximise its market position and push the technology out soon.

    22/05/2013

    EE and 3 may share 800MHz spectrum

    Both EE and 3UK won 2 x 5MHz chunks of 800MHz spectrum in the recent UK spectrum auction for deploying LTE/4G mobile services. O2/Telefonica and Vodafone both won 2 x 10MHz chunks (with O2 having a coverage obligation).

    EE currently has deployed LTE in their 1800MHz spectrum and they will relinquish some of this (2 x 15MHz) to 3UK by the end of 2013 when 3UK can deploy their own LTE services.

    Generally the minimum requirement to deploy LTE is a requirement of at least 2 x 10MHz, so the two lots of 2 x 5MHz may cause EE and 3UK issues, so they are considering joining their efforts and sharing their joint spectrum, giving them access to a joint amount of 2 x 10MHz.

    Currently this is just in the planning stage and it may not be technically feasible, though there is no reason why it shouldn't be.

    14/05/2013

    Google up storage to 15GB

    Google announced on Monday 13/05/2013 that it was increasing the storage for GMail and GDrive customers to 15GB (this is shared if both are being used) and the upgrade will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks. Google App users also get an increase to 30GB as standard.

    This should suit users who have say small mailboxes, but large image files or vice versa.

    Customers can still upgrade and 100GB is $4.99 per month, or 200GB is $9.99 per month.

    This will surely put pressure on other cloud storage providers such as Dropbox - who only offer 2GB as standard (though this can be increased by referring people and other methods to around 25GB).

    13/05/2013

    Camden to offer 'free' WiFi

    Camden Council in partner ship with Arqiva will offer WiFi throughout the borough, with roll-out starting in June/July 2013.

    The roll-out will take place in 3 phases, with the 1st phase covering South Camden (highest footfall), with phase 2 covering Camden Town and Kentish Town and phase 3 moving to Kilburn, Finchley, Hampstead and Belsize Park. The service is expected to be fully finished by the end of 2014.

    The WiFi access points will be attached to lamp posts in streets and public places and Camden is aiming to make the borough "one of the most connected place in the country".

    The first 30 minutes of access are free and following that users can elect to pay for more time, though access to Camden's own services can be accessed at any time.

    Users will have to register their devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) in order to use the WiFi, which must be in order to limit abuse which can occur through open WiFi networks.

    Arqiva have a 10 year contract with Camden to provide enhanced digital services and the WiFi access points may well be enhanced int he future with 3G/4G small cells etc to offload traffic from the mobile network operators (assuming Arqiva gain access to licensed spectrum).

    Camden are leading this effort which will eventually encompass 17 other Councils.

    09/05/2013

    Ofcom consults on License Exempt spectrum in the 2.4GHz band

    The 2.4GHz band (2400MHz through 2483.5MHz) is used by license exempt devices as it's an international ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) harmonised band. Common uses for this band in the UK are WiFi and Bluetooth devices.

    The Government is hoping to free 500MHz of spectrum by 2020, mainly by re-allocating spectrum currently held by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The first part of freed up spectrum is in the 2300MHz band (2350MHz to 2390 MHz) which should be released in 2014.

    Though Ofcom will issue a technology neutral license, it's expected that the spectrum will be acquired for Long Term Evolution (LTE) services.

    Ofcom is requesting that stakeholders in the 2.4GHz band let Ofcom know how releasing the 2300MHz band might affect them.

    The statement is on-line here and stakeholders may respond using an on-line form.

    The consultation closes at 5pm on the 19th June 2013.

    08/05/2013

    Ofcom consults on future use of 700MHz band

    Ofcom , the Super regulator is holding a consultation on the future of the 700MHz band (694 - 790 MHz). This band is being used for Wireless Broadband in several countries and the EU is proposing to harmonise this band across the EU for the same purpose.

    The band falls within spectrum used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) also know as the UHF band IV and V which spans 470MHz through 862MHz. After the digital switchover the 800MHz band was cleared (channels 61 through 69) and this was recently auctioned off for use by mobile network for 4G/LTE services.

    The lower end of the band (channels 21 through 30) starting at 470MHz is used for interleaved spectrum, local TV broadcasts (from 2013), Program making and special events (PMSE) and whitespace services (from 2014).

    The band between channels 31 to 37 - the 600MHz band was cleared as part of the digital switchover.

    Channel 38 is used for PMSE exclusively and now allows high power devices in the lower end of the spectrum.

    The current 700MHz DTT band extends from channel 39 through channel 60 and will also be used for whitespace services from 2014.

    If this spectrum is made available for mobile broadband use, it will have very good propagation characteristics and be good for rural broadband and other uses.

    Though Ofcom is consulting now, the 700MHz band won't be available until 2018 at the earliest as use of the band must be in-line with International policy.

    Ofcom have produced a nice picture describing the changes.

    Ofcom has a duty under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to have regard to: -

    • the extent to which the electromagnetic spectrum is available for use, or further use, for wireless telegraphy
    • the demand for use of the spectrum for wireless telegraphy
    • the demand that is likely to arise in future for the use of spectrum for wireless telegraphy.

    and using the 700MHz band falls into these duties.

    Unfortunately it does mean all DTT transmissions will have to move into the cleared 600MHz (channels 31 through 37) band and the lower end of the current 700MHz band (channels 39 through 48) so in 2018 there is likely to be a second TV switchover. It's also likely that set top boxes will have to use DVB-T2 and MPEG4 (rather than the less efficient DVB-T and MPEG2 that is currently used by standard definition broadcasts today, though DTT in High Definition or HD already uses DBV-T2 and MPEG4).

    The full statement is on-line here and stakeholders may respond through an on-line form.

    02/05/2013

    Ofcom announces Whitespace trial

    Ofcom the super regulator is planning to hold a Whitespace trial later in the year. Whitespace is just spectrum that is not used in certain areas as it may interfere with other services in neighbouring areas (such as TV station broadcasts, the country is divided into areas such that neighbouring TV broadcasting transmitters don't use the same frequencies as their neighbours).

    The unused spectrum is therefore 'wasted', but with careful management, can be used for localised services such as wireless broadband.

    Neul is a technology leader based out of Cambridge (spun out of Cambridge Silicon Radio or CSR, now owned by Samsung) and already have systems available to use whitespace frequencies. Neul even have a chipset available for end-user devices.

    There are (and have been) several whitespace trials, but these have been limited to localised technology trials.

    One of the features that is required for whitespace to work is a centralised database of locations, frequencies and power levels. Generally there will be a central base station which will have to contact the database and report its position and it can then use that information to select the frequencies and power levels to use. End-user devices will just scan the whitespace bands and look for a carrier and can just use that as a base, from which it can then retrieve information about what other frequencies to use.

    A quirk of the system is that Ofcom has mandated a kill switch so that if interference with commercial TV or other is found, all devices using whitespace can be shut-off in an area.

    Ofcom has not specified how the database should be implemented, just the queries and responses that should be supported, it will be up to the market to decide how to implement. Database operators will be able to charge for running the service (again not specified, but it may be based on queries of the database).

    This trial will again test the technology but also database implementations etc.

    Ofcom's statement is on-line and any interested party wishing to take place in the trial can email TV.WhiteSpaces@ofcom.org.uk

    Ofcom consultation on Automotive Short Range Devices

    Ofcom is holding a consultation as it is proposing changing the Wireless Telegraphy Act for Automotive Short Range Devices (SRDs) that currently operate in the 24GHz band in line with EU harmonised spectrum policy.

    Current SRDs operate in 24 GHz (21.65 to 26.65 GHz) and existing devices in vehicles can continue to use these frequencies until 2018, however new equipment will now have to support the range 24.25 to 26.65 GHz.

    The current license exemption for 21.65 to 26.65 GHz SRDs will be revoked on 30 June 2013, except for devices that were installed in cars between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2013 in which case they can continue to use this band.

    After 30 June 2013, SRDs will need to operate in 24.25 to 26.65 GHz and this band will be made license exempt.

    The full statement is available here and the on-line consultation for interested stakeholders here.

    01/05/2013

    Android apps must play nicely

    Google has updated its terms and conditions so that all apps on the Play store must use Google's update mechanisms and are not allowed to directly update themselves.

    This will directly affect Facebook's Android app, which had a persistent message displayed to users that a new version was available and took the user to a download link directly from Facebook.

    Forcing users to only update through Google Play is a good move as it also allows Google to ensure apps can be removed from the store and thus users will no longer be able to access updates, which is especially useful if they are found to have malicious code or break other T&Cs. It also allows Google to track downloads etc.

    Duedil goes premium

    Duedil, the site that is becoming the site to visit for company information has started offering premium payment options for access to some of it's services. It has been possible to download company reports on a pay-as-you go basis, but now it's possible to download company credit reports, official company documents, CSV financial table downloads and more using pre=paid credits. Members who subscribe are also given an ad free experience.

    It's possible to subscribe on a monthly or annual basis which give the following options: -

    FeatureMonthly £24.99 pmAnnual £249.99 pa
    Document downloads500 pmunlimited
    Credit Reports15 pm180 pa
    CSV account downloads5- pm600 pa

    All of Duedil's basic services will remain free and users can still access a wealth of information without paying for anything, however the new paid for services will now give the company a nice revenue stream which should see them well into the future.

    18/04/2013

    Artrage 4 hits the streets

    Artrage has released version 4 of its painting program, available for both Apple's MacOS X and Microsoft's Windows 8.

    If it's run on on a Surface Pro tablet it makes full use of the touch capabilities and of course it fully uses pen systems on non-touch systems.

    The package is easy to use (even for a non artist) and it doesn't take much time to get used to the various controls and painting techniques such as smearing and blending of oil paints and watercolours that flow into each other.

    There's also nice features such as stencils (which can be painted on, but the paint only applies to the empty spaces on the stencil) and stickers that are just stuck onto a painting.

    A nice feature is tracing where an image is loaded as the background - but not as part of the image being painted - and then it can be traced. When it's saved, it's only the tracing and not the original image, though the same process could be achieved using layers.

    Artrage also fully supports Wacom features available with some of their stylus' such as Pressure, Tilt, Barrel Rotation, and the Airbrush Wheel.

    It's available for $49.90 from the Artrage Store. There is also a version available for Apple's iPhone/iPad.

    Opensignal launches iPhone app

    Opensignal the company behind Opensignal Coverage Maps has released an iPhone app available on the iTunes store.

    The Android app (available in Google Play) has been around for some time and the iPhone app is unfortunately a poor cousin in terms of functionality due to the limitations of Apple's restrictions in iOS.

    The iPhone app is more of a WiFi locator app, though it does have access to Opensignal's coverage data as a map overlay. This is pulled from Opensignal rather than being able to read any information (apart from signal strength and connected network) from iOS itself.

    In order to better coverage data, users will still have to download the Android app and use that to map WiFi and cellular signals which are directly exposed in the underlying operating system.

    Opensignal could release a Blackberry app as much of the underlying network is also exposed, though whether they will do this is as yet unknown.

    HP Leaps ahead

    HP has collaborated with Leap Motion to being Leap's 3D motion control to HP workstations.

    Initially HP will bundle Leap Motion's Controller with their workstations and in future embed the controller hardware and software within the workstations.

    Leap Motion have just announced the availability of their Software Development Kit (SDK) which will allow 3rd parties to add motion control to their applications.

    Initially motion control will used to control the operating system itself, though apps will be available through Leap Motion's Airspace app store.

    The stand-alone Leap Motion controller (which is attached to a PC/Mac through USB) is available for pre-order from Leap Motion for $79.99 (plus shipping).

    RFEL announces HALO for video processing applications

    RFEL Ltd a UK company has announced it's HALO video processing system based on FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) designed for military and counter terrorism use.

    The HALO system is offered in a ruggedised enclosure, board only OEM unit and system on module unit for value add systems integrators. As the system uses FPGAs, new functionality can be added to the module at anytime. HALO supports the following video features: -

    • Intelligent fusion of multi-modal imagery, such as from a visible and IR sensor.
    • Image stabilisation, even when the platform is subject to severe vibration, and when imagery is sparse in features or of low contrast.
    • Contrast enhancement to maintain high performance operation in marginal lighting conditions -- visible and IR.
    • Noise reduction for optimising operation in low ambient light and for ensuring robust image fusion.
    • Digital zoom, lens distortion correction, image overlay and support for compression standards.

    It supports voltages from 4V to 27V DC.

    Netflix dumps Silverlight

    Netflix the video on demand service has dropped Microsoft's Silverlight in favour of using HTML5 vide extensions.

    Though Microsoft have said they will support Silverlight until 2021, Netflix have been ready to migrate for a while and users can be unhappy with the browser extension that can be troublesome to install.

    The video extensions Netflix will use are Media Source, Encrypted Media and Web Cryptography API which will be implemented in Google's Chrome browser and ARM based Chromebook and are likely to be native to other browsers soon. As the extensions are part of the W3C HTML5 specifications, users wont have to install any browser plug-ins to support them.

    12/04/2013

    Redbull Amplifier an accelerator for music start-ups

    Redbull Amplifier is a new type of accelerator that will plug music start-ups that might just change the face of music into Redbull's global channels.

    Applications close on April 22nd 2013 and then will be screened by a panel of experts including Mercury-nominated Ghostpoet; former hip-hop mag editor and Red Bull Music Academy’s own Davide Bortot, Venturebeat’s Ciara Byrne, and SoundCloud’s Dave Haynes.

    Anyone can apply (with as many ideas as they want) as long as their product is innovative, and enhances the music experience for fan or artist (or both).

    Applications should entered on-line at Redbull Amplifier.

    Zigbee targets Internet of Things

    The Zigbee Alliance has published its latest spec allowing huge numbers of Zigbee devices to directly connect which is seen necessary for future Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

    Zigbee (the path a bee flies) is an IEEE standard (IEEE 802.15.4) and the new IP Direct Internet Connection addition adds support for network and security layers and an application framework that is scalable with IPv6 connected devices. The Zigbee Alliance state it is the first IPv6 open wireless mesh standard.

    The main advantages of Zigbee against other systems is that it's very low power, automatically meshes new nodes and supports a wide range of standards such as 6LoWPAN, IPv6, PANA, RPL, TCP, TLS and UDP as well as supporting end-to-end encryption. It operates in the licence exempt 2.4GHz band as well as other bands in other regions.

    NVidia delays Tegra4 and revenues will be "flat"

    NVidia the chipmaker famed for its high performance graphics cards and now low power Tegra smartphone chips has delayed the introduction of the Tegra4 for about 3 months so it can ensure the integrated LTE is fully ready (in the Tegra4i version). The Tegra3 is used is tablets like Google's Nexus 7.

    LTE is seen as a must have for next generation tablets and integrated on to the CPU rather than a separate radio chip.

    The delay will give Qualcomm who are already market leaders in the integrated CPU market with their Snapdragon series of cores - and they already have a 4 core chip on the market which will be used in high-end devices like Samsung's Galaxy S4 (in Europe at least).

    Though NVidia has been reasonably successful with its Tegra3 chip, it's been a difficult journey with them having to make significant re-designs along the way to fix design issues with the chip. Getting the Tegra4i right will mean long term cost savings.

    01/04/2013

    Range Networks may offer commercial GSM services

    Range Networks are mostly known for developing the open source GSM networking stack based on the OpenBTS platform (initially a GNU product as a software defined radio), it has famously been known for creating a working GSM (DCS1800) network at Burning Man.

    Though currently supporting GSM (2G) and 2.5G networks, Range Networks are working on both 3G WCDMA and LTE networks.

    Systems have been deployed in a research station Antarctica and a cattle ranching cooperative in Patagonia as well as a couple of hundred other rural environments.

    The company has been self funded by the owners, but attracted funding in December 2010 and more recently a series A round which should help Range commercialise their systems and offer them to Tier 1 type operators for rural use. A core GSM network can be built for less than $100,000 while a base-station costs between $30,000 - $40,000 (both are around 1/3 the cost of current commercial offerings). The development will include SS7 connectivity and IMS functionality to connect to existing networks, though GSM endpoints appear as SIP endpoints.

    Range are also competing with the advantage that all their systems are developed in the US (while competitors like ZTE are Chinese) which might appease the US Government who don't want US operators to rely on Chinese equipment which may have security issues and back-doors available to the Chinese Government.

    18/03/2013

    Blackberry Balance arrives on Android and iOS

    One of the best new features of Blackberry's new BB10 operating system is Blackberry Balance. This allows a corporate user of Blackberry to maintain two profiles, one completely secured and tied-down by the office using Blackberry's Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) and the other for personal use. The user can switch between the two, but cant, say, install their own apps in the secure environment.

    Since BES 10 now supports non Blackberry devices such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android, the Secure Work Space service has been made available to them and includes protected client applications for email, calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, secure browsing and document editing. Unfortunately due to operating system differences the service won't be as secure on non Blackberry 10 devices (though there are now 3rd party enhancements to Android to do similar things).

    If Blackberry can regain their enterprise customers while allowing users to have access to other features they may actually be able to hold on to the market which they've been losing over the last few years.

    12/03/2013

    Getting Started with Raspberry Pi (review)

    O'Reilly (via Make:Magazine.com) have published Getting Started with Raspberry Pi the $35 ARM power Linux computer from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

    The book is 10 chapters with 3 appendices.

    • Chapter 1 - Getting Up and Running
    • Chapter 2 - Getting Around Linux on the Raspberry Pi
    • Chapter 3 - Python On The Pi
    • Chapter 4 - Animation and Multimedia in Python
    • Chapter 5 - Scratch on the Pi
    • Chapter 6 - Arduino and the Pi
    • Chapter 7 - Basic Input and Output
    • Chapter 8 - Programming Inputs and Outputs with Python
    • Chapter 9 - Working with Webcams
    • Chapter 10 - Python and the Internet
    • Appendix A - Writing an SD Card Image
    • Appendix B - Astral Trespassers Complete
    • Appendix C - Analog Input

    Though it's a "Getting Started" book, it quickly gets difficult for non-technical users and very quickly loses them. The first few chapters are helpful and allow people to get a Raspberry Pi up and get started with it, though some essential information (like getting the operating system on to an SD card) is in the appendices which would have probably better been placed in the first chapter.

    Someone who has programming knowledge will find the book useful as they should be able to get to grips with the environment reasonably quickly (it is Linux), but it should maybe have been split into 2 books or a just into 2 major sections, one really for beginners and then an advanced user section.

    The book is available in paper or via O'Reilly's Safari store, it's also available on Valobox.

    07/03/2013

    Nominet ditches direct.uk plans

    Nominet is the registry for the .uk country domain. They had wanted to offer domains directly under .uk rather than the existing .co.uk, .org.uk subdomains.

    As well as proposing some sensible policies (like only supporting DNSSEC the secure version of the domain name protocols) others didn't go down so well, so Nominet is re-thinking the their policies and will offer ;-

    • A revised phased release mechanism based lrgely on the prior registrations of domains in existing third levels within .uk and in which contention between different applicants for the same domain name should be reduced or eliminated.
    • Measures to improve security across the whole of the .uk namespace. This would include increased focus on encouraging the adoption of DNSSEC.
    • A firm focus on registrant verification and some form of UK presence.
    • Further investigations into the impact on the SME sector.
    • An appropriate pricing model.

    Which will be reviewed at the June board meeting.

    If the new direct.uk system is implemented, Nominet have still committed to supporting the existing .co.uk space.

    Digia announces enhanced BB10 support for Qt

    Digia, the company that acquired Qt from Nokia has announced enhanced support the Blackberry's new Blackberry 10 operating system.

    Qt is a framework that works across many platforms (both desktop and mobile) and allows developers to use the same front-end code which will work across all the supported platforms and Qt is used in Blackberry's Cascade framework which is used to develop native Blackberry applications.

    Digia maintains the commercial version of Qt and also the open source version that is available from the Qt Project which is where any Blackberry enhancements are upstreamed to.

    Ofcom consults on Short Range Devices

    Ofcom has decided that short range devices (SRDs) should move from the band 10.675 to 10.699 GHz to 10.575 to 10.6 GHz in line the frequency allocation policy.

    This new band will be made license exempt, but that requires a change to the Wireless Telegraphy Act which Ofcom is progressing.

    The band was extended after the 2nd consultation (the 10.5GHz band consultation) as respondents complained there was not enough bandwidth in the proposed 10.577 to 10.597 GHz band and Ofcom has now extended this band.

    No new SRDs will be allowed to operate in the existing band.

    Ofcom will issue a consultation on the proposed regulations shortly.

    The full statement can be found here as a PDF.

    06/03/2013

    Euro Tech News goes live on Blackberry World

    This blog can now be read in an app on Blackberry devices (on OS7 or BB10), it works both on smartphones and the Playbook and it's available on Blackberry World.

    Developing an app for Blackberrys is notably hard, but Blackberry have come to the rescue with Blackberry App Generator (actually developed by Mippin) which does all the hard work for you. No code required, but there is a bit of work getting logos and icons in the right size. In the app generator just specify the feeds (it works with ATOM and RSS) and the app is built for you.

    There are a few hoops to go through, initially a Blackberry Vendor ID is required (free sign-up, but company documents are needed as proof) from Blackberry Vendor Portal and that takes a while. Once the app is built, it needs to be approved, which can take a few weeks. Once approval is gained, the app must be published through the vendor portal and it's put into the app stores which can take up to 24h.

    Though it's a nice feature and easily allows a website with news feeds to easily convert them into an app, could it be that Blackberry is just using this to swell the number of apps in Blackberry World?

    It's really a 'no brainer' for anyone with a website that has regular updates presented as a feed and wants their own app.

    01/03/2013

    Ofcom announces 4G frequencies awards

    Ofcom, the super regulator today announced the awards (and subsequent prices) for the 4G spectrum awards. Everything Everywhere Ltd, Hutchison 3G UK Ltd and Telefónica UK Ltd (O2) did not have to pay anything following the original auction and awarding of their spectrum.

    Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc) paid £15,061,179 to be allocated the spectrum bands 2,520 to 2,535 MHz and 2,640 to 2,655 MHz.

    Vodafone Limited has paid £8,060,020 to be allocated the spectrum bands 801 to 811 MHz and 842 to 852 MHz, and an additional £4,039,123 to be allocated the spectrum bands 2,500 to 2,520 MHz and 2,620 to 2,640 MHz.

    O2 was awarded 811 to 821 MHz and 852 to 862 MHz in the 4G spectrum award and has an obligation to cover 98% of the UK population by 2017.

    The original auction raised £2,341,113,000 for the UK Treasury, this additional bidding has raised an extra £27,160,322 bringing the total raised to £2,368,273,322 for the UK coffers.

    The licenses are now free to deploy 4G (LTE) services on these bands.

    Last week Ofcom announced the winning bidders for 4G spectrum and amounts bid for it.

    Everything Everywhere Ltd2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz and 2 x 35 MHz of 2.6 GHz£588,876,000
    Hutchison 3G UK Ltd2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz£225,000,000
    Niche Spectrum Ventures2 x 15 MHz of 2.6 GHz and 1 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)£186,476,000
    Telef√≥nica UK Ltd2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz (coverage obligation lot)£550,000,000
    Vodafone Ltd2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz, 2 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz and 1 x 25 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)£790,761,000

    CADScan launches affordable 3D scanner

    CADScan has launched a project on Kickstarter to produce an affordable 3D scanner, which can scan 3D objects into an electronic format suitable for 3D printing.

    The aim is to produce the scanner for £650 ($1,000) which puts it into the realm of companies and serious home users allowing objects sized up to 25cm x 25cm x 25cm (10" x 10" x 10") to be scanned.

    With the combination of affordable 3D printers, it will now be possible to duplicate objects for under $2,000 which also brings interesting thoughts on affordable piracy of objects.

    CADScan is based in Chester in the UK.

    Sky buys O2 Broadband

    BSkyB the media giant has agreed to acquire O2/Telefonica's O2 broadband service (this also includes the Be broadband service that O2 originally acquired to launch their broadband services). Sky will initially pay Telefonica £180m followed by another £20m following the successful migration of the customer base.

    O2/Be have 560,100 broadband customers which added to Sky's 4,235,000 customers gives them 4,795,100 customers and pushes Sky into 2nd place in the UK broadband market following BT Retail with 6,569,000 and putting VirginMedia into 3rd place with 4,465,000.

    The acquisition also covers O2's fixed line telephony unit and will increase Sky's consumer offering.

    Though there is overlap in terms of infrastructure, O2's network will be migrated on to Sky's existing network - though it's likely there will be some exchanges that O2 have unbundled that Sky haven't - which means Sky's LLU (local loop unbundled) network will grow slightly as they move into those exchanges.

    Sky will maintain O2's LLU offering (i.e. wholesale broadband service offered to other operators), but O2's LLU business will be migrated on to Sky's network. This should be a 'good thing' as O2's network reach will increase as they get access to Sky's unbundled exchanges, however some operators are worried that the quality of the underlying network will decrease and thus the customer experience may deteriorate.

    The deal still has to get regulatory approval, but assuming there are no objections it should complete by April.

    The added cash (which cant hurt as Telefonica/O2 has just spend a chunk on buying 800MHz spectrum in the recent 4G spectrum auctions) will be used to accelerate the rollout of 4G services.

    12/02/2013

    Neul introduce witespace single chip solution

    Neul, the spin off from Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR), today announced a single chip solution for whitespace use based on their weightless standard.

    The ASIC known as Iceni works across the whole UHF band (470 – 790MHz) and is easy to interface to micro-controllers and CPUs such as the ARM M3 making it ideal for M2M solutions. The chip is also small, low power and low temperature.

    It can operate using both 6 or 8 MHz channels and uses daptive digital modulation schemes and error correction methods can be selected according to the trade-off between data rate and range required for a given application as well as supporting over-the-air encryption. The chip also supports programmable IO allowing it to control external parts of the solution including the RF stage and thus the transmit power (which is essential to meet any local regulations).

    Neul currently dominate the whitespace arena and the technology is well suited to M2M applications - probably more sure than cellular based systems using 2G or 3G. The Neul solution can support thousands (if not more) end points and support large distances between devices (the greater the distance, the lower the bandwidth, but this generally isn't an issue for M2M installations).

    Neul are conducting trials in the UK as well as other countries, however although Ofcom has made whitespace devices license exempt, it mandates a central database that contains geo-information about locations, frequencies supported and power levels. Unfortunately Ofcom have not yet implemented the central database solution.

    08/02/2013

    Ofcom allows high power PMSE devices

    Ofcom, the Super Regulator that deals with radio and broadcasting (amongst other things) has published a statement on the use of high power devices for Program making and special events (PMSE).

    Before the digital switchover devices such as radio mikes and other PMSE devices could use channel 69 (which lies in 800MHz) and their licenses expired at the end of 2012. However Ofcom is continuing to allow their use until this spectrum is awarded to a new licensee after the current 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions end (the award is expect by March 2013).

    Ofcom allocated channel 38 for PMSE devices (606 - 614 MHz), but only for low power devices (under 50mW EIRP), now Ofcom is also allowing higher power devices (up 10 10W EIRP) to operate in the lower 2 channels (within channel 38), i.e. 606.7 MHz and 607 MHz.

    Most PMSE is low power use (such as radio mikes), however outdoor events such as golf or other sporting activities can use higher power. Ofcom has performed a risk analysis and found that the possibility of interference with other low power devices (which can use another channel) or neighbouring services is minimal.

    The statement is available here and stakeholders can respond on-line.

    07/02/2013

    Ofcom proposes new DTT multiplex in 600MHz

    Ofcom the super regulator that covers many operations including broadcasting and spectrum allocations is proposing to open up the 600MHz band for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasts. The 600MHz band is actually made up of frequencies from 550-606 MHz in 8MHz channels (known as channels 31 to 37). This band was cleared when the analogue transmission services were switched off.

    The new DTT service will utilise DVB-T2 and MPEG4 which allows more spectral efficiencies than older DVB-T technology and MPEG4 compresses video more efficiently than MPEG2 which current non-DS DTT services use. Program making and special events (PMSE) services will still be allowed to reside in the band as will whitespace technology (this uses localised unused spectrum to offer wireless broadband/communication services).

    Ofcom is acting in accordance with EU spectrum policy, whereby the current DTT services which operate in 700MHz should move to the 600MHz band and 700MHz will be used for wireless broadband services, though migration will not happen before 2018.

    Thopugh this is a proactive mode for Ofcom, many set-top boxes built for DTT will not operate in 600MHz and new systems will have to be purchased.

    Ofcom is proposing to make the license available immediately at a cost of £180,000 with a minimum period until 2018 but with a 12 month notice period so Ofcom can migrate current services into this band.

    The consultation is available here and interested stakeholders may respond on-line.

    05/02/2013

    Ofcom proposes to allow 4G on all 2G and 3G bands

    Ofcom, the Super regulator, has opened a consultation to allow the liberalisation of all existing 2G and 3G bands so they can also be used for 4G (LTE) services.

    This would mean O2 and Vodafone can refarm both their 900MHz 2G spectrum and their 2.1GHz 3G spectrum, EE (the combined entity of Orange and T-Mobile) have already started refarming of their 1800MHz spectrum, but they will be allowed to also refarm their 2.1GHz 3G spectrum. 3UK only have (currently) 2.1GHz 3G spectrum but will be able to refarm this and when EE transfer around 25% of their 1800MHz spectrum to 3UK they will also be allowed to use this for 4G (though this is not expected to happen until September 2013).

    This is separate from any spectrum that is currently being auctioned (800MHz and 2.6GHz) though Ofcom has not yet announced who is bidding for what spectrum.

    3UK have announced that when they launch 4G services, they will not differentiate on price between 4G and 3G services. The consultation is available here and interested stakeholders can respond on-line.