05/12/2016

Canon EOS 5D Mark III - The Guide to Understanding and Using Your Camera

This post should have been published a LONG time ago.

O'Reilly are known for their computing books, but they also do technology on other subjects through Rocky Nook. Here's a review on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III - The Guide to Understanding and Using Your Camera from Paul Clark (a professional photographer).

Having worked through the EOS range from 40D, 50D, 5D2 and now to the 5D3, this book has unlocked many things I thought I already knew about Canon digital cameras, even before we get to the new features of the 5D3. It's usefully laid out - in part, going through each menu feature much like the manual does, but adding a lot of When and Why to the How of the manual's basic descriptions. For the first time I really understood what the stopping down preview was all about, and some of the Live View functions. As well as the feature dissection, the book also goes into great detail on some of the really complicated areas that benefit from a chapter to themselves. Focus, and in particular the 5D3's sophisticated autofocus settings are really well explained. I suspect that the actual range of functions is so vast and complex to set up that in the field one would hardly ever have time to do more than a couple of familiar settings, but it's nice to know what's on offer anyway.

The illustrations are clear and plentiful, and the text very readable. I'm a big fan of the style, but if I could pick out one area for improvement it would be a stronger steer towards "what really works" for different shooting scenarios - e.g. which of the many options on focus point selection might work best for a particular settings, or what three custom settings should be the shooter's priority when preparing. There are a few of these "opinions and tips", such as whether the Rate button really offers any value, but there's always room for more in a book like this.

Overall: excellent.

Next time publishing will be in a more timely manner.

24/11/2016

Tide, now washing the web

Tide, the on-line business account has now moved into beta. The app can be downloaded from Apple's App Store and it's now possible to access Tide through the web (through it ties into the mobile app and certain things will be authorised through the app).

Tide is a new kind of business account designed for small businesses, it's incredibly easy to sign up (takes under 3 minutes), you immediately get a sort code and account number and you can set-up sub accounts too (so say one is your main business and one for consulting). A card arrives a couple of days later which can be used in ATMs, stores and on the web to pay for things.

As posted before there's an invoicing part of the app and the template can be customised with your logos etc and then if it gets paid, it will tie the payment to the invoice, if it isn't paid, the invoiced person can be automagically reminded from time to time.

All transactions can be tagged (like Sales, Loan, whatever) so easy to see what's happening with your money.

If you haven't signed-up, do it now.

p.s. there are no bank charges as such, though some transactional fees will be taken (like in future when accepting card payments through the app).

Geek? Get some cheap ebooks

There's a deal on at the moment at Hummbebundle, you can pay what you want (starting at $1), but paying more unlocks more books.

The basic bundle contains: -

  • Unix in a Nutshell, 4th Edition
  • sed & awk, 2nd Edition
  • lex and yacc, 2nd Edition
  • Learning the bash Shell, 3rd Edition
  • Linux Pocket Guide, 3rd Edition

Increasing to $8 gets you: -

  • bash Cookbook
  • Classic Steel Scripting
  • Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition
  • Unix Power Tools
  • Learning the vi and Vim Editors, 7th Edition
  • Bash Pocket Reference, 2nd Edition
  • Learning Unix for OS X, 2nd Edition

And then for $15 you further get: -

  • Essential System Administration, 3rd Edition
  • TCP/IP Network Administration, 3rd Edition
  • DNS and BIND, 5th Edition
  • Network Troubleshooting Tools

The are all O'Reilly books, DRM free and come as Mobi and ePub.

Useful arsenal of tools and for $15, a real bargain.

AliveCor Kardia band for Apple Watch

AliveCor make things that can read your ECG (EKG) and they've now released the Kardia band which is an Apple Watch strap.

It's easy to install, just press the release buttons on the underside of the Apple Watch, slide the original straps out and insert the Kardia Band ones (the sensor band goes into the one at the bottom of the Watch).

The watch rebooted after the sensor strap was inserted, but it came back fine.

You need to have the Kardia app installed and register an account, then make sure it's installed on the Apple Watch.

Running the app on the phone doesn't do much (it's designed to work with other AliveCor products). Opening the app on the watch then gives you the option of recording an ECG. It's best to have your hand resting somewhere and not moving much (there are options in the app to select which region you're in and whether you're in a 50Hz or 60Hz mains area).

The sensor strap has two sensors, one underneath the strap and one on top. Say the watch is on your left hand, lay that flat somewhere and place the right hand on to it and your finger on the top sensor. Hit record (well you'd probably do that before, you're given some time before a reading is taken) and a countdown timer starts, stay as still as possible until it finishes. After the reading is taken is does some calculations and you can scroll through your ECG and the watch app tells you if it's normal or not (couldn't test the not normal reading) and you can save the results.

It's possible to allow another user to use the app, but the watch needs to be placed on them.

The band costs £99.00 direct from the AliveCor site in both 388mm and 42mm versions. It's a nice quantified self device to have, but expensive and unless you have a heart problem, don't know if really worth it and have to wait to find out how it affects battery life of the watch.

23/11/2016

Intel Genuino 101

Well there seems to be a bit of a battle going on in Arduino land, so some of the boards are now known as Genuino (outside of the USA). This board, the 101, is produced by Intel and has a Curie processor (Quark architecture) and a 32bit ARC CPU (not ARM, this is a CPU based on the Argonaut Risc Core - remember Argonaut Software and Jez San), they're both clocked at 32MHz and are 32bit.

Though the board will act like a 'standard' Arduino and can be completely driven through the Arduino IDE, it actually runs an Intel Real Time Operating System (RTOS) that Intel has open sourced and is available through their download centre. When the IDE compiles the code it will do the right things and put the right bits on the correct core.

The 101 should support most UNO and Zero shields, though it's a 3.3V board (though Intel say it will tolerate 5V boards). It's powered either through a dedicated 5V socket or through the USB port. It's NOT microUSB but the older chunky USB B socket.

As well as the 2 cores, there's also a 3 axis accelerometer and 3 axis gyroscope so the board can sense it's spacial direction and movement and it also supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) meaning it can do things like become a beacon or talk to your phone.

The tech specs are

Operating Voltage3.3V (5V tolerant I/O)
Digital I/O Pins14 (of which 4 provide PWM output)
PWM Digital I/O Pins4
Analog Input Pins6
DC Current per I/O Pin20 mA
Flash Memory196 kB (though on-board 384KB rest for RTOS)
SRAM24 kB (80KB on-board again rest for RTOS)
Clock Speed32MHz
LED_BUILTINpin 13
FeaturesBluetooth LE, 6-axis accelerometer/gyroscope

So altogether a nice little Arduino (sorry Genduino) which is pretty fast and pretty compatible.

Pricing varies considerably on-line and it's available from around £16 all the way up to £35, and its available in a variety of kits.

26/10/2016

Ring your bell, ring your Oi

Another day, another Kickstarter project. This time it's a bicycle bell made by Australian firm Knog who seems to make a variety of bike accessories (lights, locks, computers, toolsets) and now bells.

The Oi bell is different from other bells, it's circular and fits around the handlebars (it's easier just to look at the picture).

The bell materials available are aluminium, brass, copper, and black (though only copper and brass seem to be available at the moment) and it was also available in Titanium via Kickstarter.

It comes in two sizes, small and large - fitting 22.2mm and 23.8 to 31.8mm handlebars respectively.

The chime is quite pleasant and the design is definitely different.

It's available to buy on-line for €19.99 through the Knog site

Kobo Aura ONE eReader

Kobo have been making eReaders for a while, but have never quite got the market penetration (compared to their book selling rival).

The Aura ONE is a nice unit. It's bigger than the competition (the screen is a 7.8 inch Carta E.ink display with a resolution of 1872 x 1404 at 300ppi). It weighs 226g. So it's about the same size as a paperback book and weighs about the same (195.1 x 138.5 x 6.9 mm). It charges via microUSB and battery life is up to a month (varying by usage of course). The display is backlit and it has a light sensor which will adjust the colour of the front light to suit ambient surroundings (and time of day, so it will reduce the blue content at night - which can potentially affect sleeping technology called ComfortLight PRO).

Several standard book formats are supported, including the most popular ePUP, ePUP3, PDF and MOBI. It can also display several image formats and comic book formats (CBZ and CBR).

The main new feature however is the water resistance, it can survive getting wet (IPX8 i.e. an hour in up to 2 meters of water). If reading in the bath is your fancy, this is the reader for you (or even in the shower, though that's less practical). It's probably usable on a beach too, though salt-water tends to mess things up really badly if it does get into the electronics.

When plugged into a Mac/PC it appears as an external USB disk and books can just be dropped on to the device. Once unmounted (ejected) the books are 'processed' and put into the library ready for reading. Trying both a ePub and MOBI version of the same book (O'Reilly tech book), though the Kobo would read both, the MOBI version caused the Kobi to become very sluggish and reacting to page changes or going back 'home' took a while. The ePub version reacted quickly without problems. PDF's were sluggish too and caused various bits of the screen to flash as pages loaded and moved between bits of the screen.

If you have an account on the Kobo store, it's easy to download a book, just find the one you want, tap on it and it will download.

It's also possible to borrow books from your local library (assuming there's still any left in your area) using the Overdrive service. All you need is a library card and books can be requested. You'll be warned (3 days) when the book needs to be returned, then you can re-request it if you haven't finished it. The list of libraries is available here.

Assuming you stick to ePubs it's not a bad eReader and being waterproof is a nice feature. It's a shame MOBI/PDF aren't handled better.

The Kobo Aura ONE is available on-line for £189.99 which is a lot cheaper the Amazon's top of the range eReader, but a lot more expensive than their basic ones, though it's bigger and more book like. Oddly the Kobo site doesn't have availability at the moment.

12/10/2016

Adonit Pixel - it's no pencil (but close)

Adonit have been making styluses for iPads for a while. The latest incarnation is the Pixel (which is slightly longer and thinner than the previous Script so it feels more like a pen). It still uses a 1.9mm pressure sensitive point at the end, but it's been improved so it feel more like a pen on paper.

It has rechargeable battery which is charged via a small USB adapter which plugs into a USB port and then the Pixel can "sit" on that.

It can work with any iPad or iPhone as a dumb stylus, but the magic happens when you power it up and then use it with applications that know about stylus' (there's usually an option is the settings area of the application to enable it).

As it uses Bluetooth it only works with iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro 12.9 (don't quite know why it won't work with the smaller iPad Pro). Packages that support it are Photshop Sketch, Concepts, Procreate, Illustrator Draw, Autodesk Sketchbook, Astropad, Picture Photo Studio, Goodnotes, Penultimate, Notes Plus, Noteledge Cloud, Noteshelf, Myscrypt Smart Note plus many more (and more being added all the time as Adonis have an open SDK that people can use to integrate the Adonit features into their apps).

In terms of features, the Pixel's nib is pressure sensitive so things like line widths or increased/decreased shading will correspond to the pressure being applied, there are also two short-cut buttons that can be defined within the application (say to change brushes or undo/redo). Supports apps also support palm rejection (you tell it your pen holding style) and that can make a big difference as putting your palm on the screen will normally confuse the app and may apply paint (or whatever's being drawn) where your palm is. This can allow a much more comfortable drawing position without worrying about where your palm is resting.

The only gripe is that if you have a screen protector on your Apple device, it can make it feel a bit squidgy (the screen protector in use has a soft texture, a glass screen protector would fair better).

If you're into drawing or note taking on an Apple device, this could be a useful addition for you.

Amazon stock the Pixel for £79 but it can be had online for £59 if you look (it's also cheaper than the Apple Pencil which is only supported on iPad Pros).

18/08/2016

There's a new business bank in town and it'll wash the competition (it's called Tide)

There's a new business mobile first bank which will be launching soon. It's called Tide and it looks pretty good.

Though there are a slew of new banks coming on-line, Tide is aiming for the business market with no fees (they make their money on various services that a banking customer might use and they're not unreasonable).

The first thing to say is it very easy to sign-up. Just present a valid ID to the app and take a photo of it, then clever magic works out who you are (which you confirm) and then it asks what company you're going to use (it looks up your details in Companies House).

You then get an account (a real account number and sort code).

Once set-up you can do all sorts of things through the app, like invoice customers, pay invoices from suppliers etc. When invoicing it can track incoming payments and send out reminders if the customer doesn't pay. If you need to take a credit card payment, it can do that too, just scan the customer card, it will then ask the customers for the CCV (the number on the back of the card) and that's it (there's a fee for handling the payment, that's where Tide take a small percentage), but no card readers to worry about etc.

The service is currently in alpha to a few select customers (the alpha client looks very nice, though the version tested was a sandbox'ed version so not doing live transactions, the real alpha client does the same thing in a live environment) and it will hopefully launch in beta very soon.

Though it's mobile first, all services are also available on-line (web access) and there's a (developing) API on to everything, so if you want to build your own client and offer new services, you'll be able to do so.

If you want to sign-up for access, use this link Tide Preview.

21/07/2016

Blink (and the thieves are gone)

There's a new home security security system, it was originally a Kickstarter project and was delayed a long time. But now it's here and it's called Blink.

There's a sync module and then camera units (the system can cope with 10 camera units in total). Currently it all works over WiFi, but as there's an Ethernet port on the sync unit, it's expected that it will be enabled with some future version of the firmware.

Set-up is relatively simple, install the iOS (or Android) app, create an account and then it will look for the sync unit (it initially uses its own WiFi), connect to it and select the WiFi network you want it to work with.

It then asks to set-up the cameras, which is done by adding the number printed inside them (you have to open them to put the batteries in anyway), they then get added (and you can name them) and they also connect to the WiFi network.

The camera install is relatively straight forward too, open the back, put in the batteries, push out the bit of plastic in the hole where the mount goes, put it all back together (snaps), put the mount on, then affix the two sided pad and stick it on a wall (or wherever suits).

Though they're battery powered, they should operate for a year under normal operating conditions (a new software update now takes this to 2 years). The cameras have a motion detection on them (infrared) and also an LED flash (for night time usage) which is VERY bright. If a burglar were to break in, they'd probably be more put off by being blinded rather than a camera being in the room. The cameras can take a photo or video (720p with audio) and the system can be alarmed and when triggered, your phone will notify you and get a video or photo.

People have used the cameras outside, but they're not waterproof so if that's required, mount them somewhere where they'll be protected from direct rain (like under the eaves or similar).

A single sync module and camera costs $99 (available from Amazon.com or directly from Blink), a 2 camera kit is $159, 3 camera kit $219 and 5 camera kit $399. Additional cameras are $70.

Update, all the Blink modules are available from Amazon UK, The sync module with 2 cameras is £189.99 and sync module with 3 cameras is £259.99 and an add-on camera is £89.99.

Watch this space for a new external camera which is coming out in 2017.

15/06/2016

Plazmatic X dual beam lighter

There are lighters and then there are lighters, the Plazmatic X dual beam lighter definitely falls into the second category.

The lighter is 7.3cm x 3.6cm x 1.25cm which makes it about twice as high as it is wide (which feels slightly wrong, being used to a Zippo to size), this is probably needed to fit a decent battery and the high voltage electronics.

Amazingly the lighter doesn't use any fuel (no gas or petrol to worry about) as it uses plain old electricity to produce a dual plasma beam. Say lighting a cigarette, you hold it near the beam and suck and the beam bends and quickly ignites the cigarette. Very satisfying experience. It's also mean to be able to light all sorts of other smokables (no judgement here).

The lighter can also be used in all sorts of weather conditions including wind as the plasma beam will still be generated (as long as there's a charge of course).

A full charge will give 50-100 lights (though it's so pretty that it's likely people will just click on the button to see the effect. It charges via a micro USB port (USB cable supplied) and charges to full in about 2 hours.

The lighter comes in various finishes (though they seem to be skins attached to the same base model rather than say anodising the body itself).

The lighter is available directly from the Elementium website for $59.95 (there's free shipping at the moment to the US). This may seem a lot for a lighter, though never having to buy fuel should offset it.

Rate: 9/10 (only because of the case).

02/06/2016

Garmin Dashcam 35

The Garmin Dashcam 35 is a little camera that can be mounted on your card dashboard and then as soon as power is applied it will start recording. It's size is 9.43 cm x 4.85 cm x 3.89 cm and it has a 3" TFT LCD display and weighs about 113g.

The supplied mount need to be pushed into the socket on the front of the camera (it takes a fair bit of effort to snap it in) and the mount then attaches to the windscreen with a sticky pad. Unfortunately that means the mount is pretty well permanently attached to the the windscreen as it's pretty strong glue, it's a shame there aren't other types of mount that say attach to a heating grill or some other part of the dashboard that can easily be removed. A bodged mount can work by attaching some sticky tape to the mount and the bottom of the camera and it will just about sit on the dashboard with an unobstructed view ahead.

The system records HD video (1080p or 720p) and will stamp the video with GPS coordinates and the system records in a continuous loop i.e. if it runs out of space it will overwrite older video. The system should come with a 4GB microSD card (though the unit supplied didn't have one) which is enough for about an hour of video. It supports up to 64GB cards.

It also has a microphone which records what's happening in the car!!! There's also an accelerometer which will detect a collision (and start recording if it isn't and log GPS coordinates) which is detected as an "event". However when it's recording an event can be pushing the mount into it or it falling off the dashboard on to the car floor.

There's no software in the box, though Garmin's Dash Cam Player is available for download (for Mac and Windows) through their site. This will show the video and the GPS route next to it (when run it will look for an attached camera or videos on the SD card and import them on to the PC/Mac). The actual video files are MP4 so can be viewed in pretty much any video player. The player shows the route taken, speed and time (there is a pointer on the route that moves as you play the video).

A quite nice feature is that it's possible to select Bing (default)/ Baidu or OpenStreetMaps for the map display. It's also possible to convert any unsaved videos to saved (on the PC/Mac), export GPS positions to a GPX file and take a screen shot.

It's also possible to by a Cyclops subscription from the Garmin store (for various countries including UK/Europe) which will alert the user to speed cameras etc.

Apart from the niggling permanent windscreen mount, it's a nice little unit. It retails for £159 from Garmin, but can be had on-line for at least £20 cheaper.

28/04/2016

Misfit Ray, it might actually be the first wearable that actually looks like jewellery

A while back, Misfit released the Ray. Basically a tube with a single LED and straps coming out either side (initially only silicon, which are a bit ugly, but now leather straps are available, which look much nicer - though obviously not made for sports/water). The tube is made from aluminium and comes in Carbon Black or Rose Gold.

Apart from the lack of LED's, the Ray has pretty much the same functionality as the Shine2 and measures steps, activities and sport and works with Misfit Link to trigger actions (and can link to IFTT to trigger pretty much anything).

Progress is tracked by the LED flashing different colours (under 25%, 25%+. 50%+, 75%+ and 100%+ i.e. goal met) and it flashes blue when syncing with the Misfit app over Bluetooth (it supports Bluetooth version 4.1). It will;l also indicate incoming calls, incoming texts and wake-up alarm.

The Shine2 uses a single CR2032 battery while the Ray now uses 3 x 393 button cells (which should also give 6 months usage).

The Ray is also 50m water resistant so can be used for swimming.

Misfit are promising a range of new straps and other accessories so it can be worn, say, as a pendant.

The sport band version retails for £72.87 and the leather for £87.45, not the cheapest units out there, but probably (at least for now) the prettiest.

08/02/2016

Speed-up your headless Mac Mini

The Mac Mini is Apple's smallest Mac and though it can be used as a workstation, it's often used as a server for offices/workgroups and even in datacentres. Apple even supplies software to make it function as a server (unsurprisingly called OS X Server - currently v5.0.15 is the release version and the beta variety v5.1 beta 2).

The server software supports various functions including a mail server and even remote Xcode compilations. However sometimes it's useful to remotely access the Mac Mini using Apple's remote desktop so getting a virtual screen on to the unit itself. Unfortunately if it's in headless mode, the on-board GPU is not enabled and all graphics is handled by the main CPU, which can make the system seems extremely slow as the CPU is spending it's time rendering the screen, animations and doing screen refreshes etc.

Now there is a solution to this and Newertechnology have produced an HDMI Headless Video Accelerator (t's about the same size as a small Bluetooth or WiFi adapter) that is plugged into the HDMI port and then the Mac Mini then thinks a screen is attached and thus the GPU is enabled meaning all screen handling is done by the GPU rather than the host CPU and everything runs smoothly again.

The adapter supports a maximum resolution of 1080p (and up to 3840 x 2160 on a late 2014 model). Other models supported are Mid 2010 through to the latest. OS X 10.6.8 is the earliest version of the operating supported (no drivers are required).

It can be found on-line for around £21.99. A really useful little edition if using a Mac Mini in headless mode and accessing it remotely (it's also true for using it for remote animation and anything that uses the GPU).

25/01/2016

Techstars London opens applications for next cohort

Techstars has opened applications for their 5th London program which will run from June 20th with the demo day taking place in September.

They will be accepting 10 to 12 teams and interested companies should apply on-line through F6s.

Techstars has some great mentors (there may be some bias here) and some great companies have come out of the program. It's progressed a lot since Springboard days.

The Gadget Show Live show returns to the NEC

The Gadget Show Live once again returns to the NEC in Birmingham on 31st March to the 3rd April 2016.

Channel 5 Gadget Show presenters Jason Bradbury, Jon Bentley, Ortis Deeley and Amy Williams will be on the stage and this year a TV episode will be filmed giving members of the public a chance to appear on the show on TV.

There will be 5 areas (including the main stage): -

  • Better Life - Products that can help people or are beautiful in the home
  • Power Up - technology to power their lives which is anything from wearables, fitness devices and in-car kit
  • The Lab - Future/inspirational tech
  • The Arcade - which is all about gaming

Tickets are available on-line and cost

Child (Thurs) £9.99
Adult (Thurs) £16.99
Child (Fri, Sat, Sun) £11.99
Adult (Friday, Sat, Sun) £18.99

15/01/2016

Ofcom publishes regulations for 'TV whitespace' tech

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, (in December) published the new regulations for TV Whitespace technology which came into force on the 31st December 2015 allowing equipment that meets the regulations to operate on a license exempt basis.

In the new digital era of terrestrial TV, there are digital multiplexes across the UK, these multiplexes use different channels, so neighbouring transmitters don't interfere with each other, which means there is a lot of potentially unused spectrum in a particular area. Multiplex sit in the UHF band which covers 470 - 790 MHz.

In order to avoid interference with existing (licensed) spectrum users, devices will need to communicate with databases which apply rules, set by Ofcom, to put limits on the power levels and frequencies at which devices can operate. There is also a 'kill switch' function whereby the database can tell a device to stop operating completely if interference is found to be occurring.

The UHF TV band is currently allocated for use by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasting and Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE). Currently, Freeview TV channels are broadcast using up to ten multiplexes. Each multiplex requires an 8 MHz channel. Multiplexes are transmitted at different frequency channels across the country in the frequency range 470 to 790MHz.

Whilst a total of 32 channels each 8 MHz wide are reserved for DTT in the UK, normally only one channel per multiplex is used at any given location. In other words, the majority of channels are unused for DTT transmission at any given location. This is required because high-power TV broadcasts using the same frequency need geographic separation between their coverage areas to avoid interference.

The channels that are not used by DTT at any given location can be used by lower- power devices on an opportunistic basis. This opportunistic access to interleaved spectrum is not new. Programme making and special events (PMSE) equipment such as radio microphones and audio devices have been exploiting the interleaved spectrum for a number of years, and Ofcom issues more than 50,000 assignments annually for this type of use.

Ofcom refer to the spectrum that is left over by DTT (including local TV) and PMSE use as TV White Spaces (TVWS). By this we mean the combination of locations and frequencies in the UHF TV band that can be used by new users, operating in accordance with technical parameters that ensure that there is a low probability of harmful interference to DTT reception, PMSE usage or services above and below the band.

The following organisations have signed contracts and completed qualification to run the white space databases (WSDB): -

The 'master' devices that talk to the databases should report their height, if they don't the database will use a use conservative default values for the purpose of calculation of operational parameters i.e. it will use height values that would result in operational parameters that are equal or more restrictive than they would be had the device reported its height.

Though the regulations do not specify an update time (for master devices to communicate to the databases), Ofcom has stated a maximum time of 15 minutes which strikes an appropriate balance between the need to be able to act quickly in the event of interference and limiting the practical burden on databases of maintaining frequent communications with potentially large numbers of devices. This may be revised if found to be unsuitable.

The WSD Regulations apply to the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. They do not extend to the Channel Islands.

A master device is a device which is capable of communicating with and obtaining operational parameters from a database for the purpose of transmitting within the frequency band 470 MHz to 790 MHz.

A slave device is a device which is capable of transmitting within the frequency band 470 MHz to 790 MHz after receiving slave operational parameters from a master device.

Type A equipment as equipment which has an integral antenna, a dedicated antenna or an external antenna11 and is intended for fixed location use only.

Type B equipment as equipment which has a dedicated antenna or an integral antenna and is not intended for fixed location use.

WSDs must not be used airborne.

WSDs must be configured in such a way that a user is unable to input, reconfigure or alter any technical or operational settings or features of a device in a way which (i) would alter the technical characteristics of the device which are communicated to a database (this includes the master and slave device characteristics), or (ii) would cause the device to operate other than in accordance with master operational parameters or slave operational parameters, as applicable. An example of (ii) would be the antenna gain. If this parameter is set to be smaller than the actual gain of the antenna, then the device could radiate at a higher level than the limit communicated by the WSDB.

A master device:

  • must be able to determine its location
  • must provide device parameters (defined now as its ‘master device characteristics’) to a database, in order to obtain operational parameters from the database. The device parameters include the location and the technical characteristics of the device listed below. The operational parameters indicate to the device the channels and power levels that it can use, together with other constraints.
  • must only transmit in the UHF TV band after requesting and receiving operational parameters from, and in accordance with, operational parameters provided by a database
  • must apply the simultaneous operation power restriction (described at paragraph 3.23 above), if it operates on more than one DTT channel simultaneously and the master operational parameters indicate that this restriction applies
  • must report back to the database the channels and powers that the WSD intends to use – the channel usage parameters – and operate within those channels and powers.
In addition, where its operational parameters stop being valid, a master device must tell slave devices that are connected to it to stop transmitting and must stop transmitting itself. The operational parameters stop being valid if:
  • a database instructs the master device that the parameters are not valid
  • a master device cannot verify, according to the update procedure, that the operational parameters are valid.

In order to support more WSDBs Ofcom also intend to publish on our website a machine-readable version of that list on a website hosted by Ofcom so that it can be selected by a WSD through a process known as “database discovery”. Ofcom would expect that list to include those database operators which have informed Ofcom that they are ready to start providing services to white space devices.

It is interesting that Sony is moving into this space, which probably means they will start producing equipment that uses white space technology for short range communication, such as say a PS4 to its peripherals.