04/04/2021

It's time to move those bits at 2,500 Mb/s

 No idea why people like quoting figures like 2,500 mA (2.5A) for chargers and other devices, well thankfully D-Link have announced the DUB-E250 a USB-C to 2.5G Ethernet adapter.

D-Link DUB-E250 box


Opening the box reveals a large plastic holder into which the adapter is firmly held in place (though a complete was of plastic packing) and a paper limited warranty in many languages (that no-one is likely to read).


The adapter has a plastic rectangle with Ethernet socket at the end and a standard USB-C connector at the other.

It just works, plug it in to the USB C ports of a PC, Mac or Linux box and a Ethernet device appears supporting up to 2.5Gb/s networking. No drivers, no installs.

Unfortunately there was no 2.5G infrastructure to plug it into at the time, but it also works perfectly happily with 1G network switches just operating at 1Gb/s speeds. Will probably try in on a iPadPro with USB-C port to see if anything is detected and upgrade the blog if it does.

It costs around £30 on-line and if you have a lot of data to get on or off a PC device and a network to support it, then it's a good option, though most consumer hardware is still only 1Gb/s and there won't be any gain to upgrading.

In future as consumer does move to 2.5G or even 10G then this could be for you (probably more realistically a good device for 'techies' who need to plug into Dada Centre networks and monitor and access services or as companies go back to work and update their networks.


08/03/2021

Fingerprints, It's all about the FAP

 Isorg is a French company that develops large scale image sensors. They can produce Organic Photo Diodes (OPD) on to a thin film transistor (TFT) backplane.

This is being used for a FAP10 compliant fingerprint sensor (with a surface area of 1.27 by 1.65 cm).

FAP 10 is a complete solution, incorporating an image sensor, dedicated light source, optical filters and driving electronics. To support customer product development, Isorg will provide a reference design with its latest integrated ROIC (Read Out Integrated Circuit) and software processing for image quality enhancement that is optimised with Isorg’s OPD sensor technology.


The sensor can withstand bright light sources such as indoor spot lighting and direct sunlight. It has now received approval from the FBI for use in secure applications such a door control, voter ID and other applications.

The sensor can also be used on mobile devices.

The next device will be a FAP60 product which allows identification based on 4 fingers and then palm ID.

12/02/2021

Your computer can now smell

The new Smell Inspector is launching on Kickstarter. The developers call it an "E-Nose Developer's Kit and End-User Gadget".

It's based on a 16 multichannel chip based on nano technology called the IX16 and there are 4 mounted on the Smell board giving 64 channels which reads data every 1.8 seconds. The output is in ASCII and be be used by any type of computer like Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

The actual IX16 chips is very low power using less than 1uW and uses 16 chemiresistor-type nanomaterial based gas detectors, Kapton foil, particle filter. It has a high sensitivity to various gases and VOCs (<80 ppb for NH3, PH3, H2S).

Software is available for Linux and Windows and will be for Android and iOS though your own applications can be developed too.

Super Early Bird pricing is finished, but Early Bird is available for €269

11/02/2021

Don't want to use your card, K-pay

K-Pay is a wearable with an embedded NFC chip that allows you to pay for things using contactless payment, like taping you credit card. The limit is the same as using a credit card too.

There are several options including a bracelet as below, other types of bracelet and pendants.

K=Pay bracelet

 The side are metal and there's a carbon effect middle piece with the NFC chip behind.

K-Pay bracelet

The box that they come in is well built and looks like there's a quality product inside.

K-Pay box

Paying for things is just a matter of placing the NFC part of the bracelet over the card reader. If worn like a watch, it makes it really easy to do touchless payments and it will work through, say a jacket.

The actual payment service is provided by Pingit and it's necessary to sign-up for a Pingit account via their mobile apps (both iOS and Android). Pingit is the evolution of B-Pay and the previous incarnation of Pingit, both provided by Barclays and now a single app. As well as K-Pay, Pingit also sell hardware devices.

The K-Pay device has a tag attached which is it's serial number / ID. Don't lose it.

In the Pingit app set-up a JAR and then it's possible to add the device (using the number on the tag) to that jar. It's then necessary to top-up. This can be a single top-up, scheduled top-up or low balance top-up. They are reasonably self explanatory i.e. single just add funds to the jar, scheduled allows setting the 1st to  28th day of every month, or Mon-Sun weekly. Low balance will top-up with a specified amount when the balance falls below a specified amount (both in multiples of £5).

Pingit will ONLY allow debit cards to be used for top-ups (money can be BACS transferred into the Pingit account), Of course Pingit allows other functions such as paying other people using Pingit, businesses who've set-up a "bank pay" code and various others as well as playing the National Lottery.

It's also possible to request money from others using various methods, including a payment link set-up through the app.

Assuming there's credit in the jar that the K-Pay device is associated with, then it will just work like a contactless card. It can also be frozen and reported as lost/stolen through the app.

The only thing that's not possible is disassociating the K-Pay device from Pingit. Once added, that's it forever. It's not possible to resell or give to a friend if no longer in use. K-Pay NFC chips may also have an expire time built-in (it's not clear, but there's a buy another and return your old one offer on the K-Pay site).

The K-Pay Monaco bracelet costs £86 (others cost £75 or £120) and other bracelets up to £135.

Pendants are £103 and key fobs (a pendant without the necklace but a key ring) £65. A strap tag (just a silicon strip with the NFC in it and loops at the end) is £17.

They are very easy to use once set-up, but annoying that they can only be attached to debit and not credit cards and once activated can't be given to anyone else (well without charging to your account).

There are other solutions to there such as the K Ring which is a pre-pay MasterCard but allows topping-up via credit or debit card (as well as BACS etc).

24/11/2020

How can something something so remarkable be improved? Welcome the reMarkable 2

The original reMarkable tablet was just that, a pretty (sic) tablet that was Internet connected and had an e-ink 'paper like' display that used a stylus that almost felt like writing on paper too. There was some lag, but it was much better that trying to write on, say, an iPad.

The original slip on case buckled, but after writing to support, it was replaced without question.

The software on the tablet was updated on an infrequent basis, which improved usability and functionality.

Companion apps became available for mobile and desktop and documents and templates could be uploaded via the apps and would appear on the reMarkable. There's even live sync where updates made to a document on the reMarkable would appear instantaneously on the apps. The cloud storage is also free.

The reMarkable can read ePub and PDF files and PDFs can be annotated and then sent back to the cloud. This is actually incredibly useful as PDF forms can be filled in or documents signed with a real signature without printing and then scanning.

The last main feature to be added with script to text i.e. write on the reMarkable and press the convert icon and the hand written script is converted to text. It seems to cope with pretty atrocious handwriting too.

Now the new reMarkable 2 is out and it really is a major improvement over the first version. Immediately noticeable is the lack of lag and - well apart from the looks of the tablet itself. It's thinner (4.7mm), the buttons have gone and the bezel is thinner and it feels much sturdier too.

The tablet runs Codex which is Linux optimised to support low latency e-ink displays. It runs on an ARM dual core 1.2GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage (enough for 100,000 handwritten pages).

There's a 3000mAh battery and USB charging via a USB-C port (charger isn't supplied).

The reMarkable 2 is 187 x 246 mm and the display is 10.3" (approx 26 cm) with a resolution of 1872 x 1404 at 226DPI.

There's also a Marker (passive so no charging required) supporting 4096 pressure levels, it's possible to upgrade to the Marker Plus which has an eraser.

Connectivity is via WiFi supporting 2.4 and 5 GHz. If connecting to a computer via USB-C, then there's actually a web server running and documents can be viewed by using a browser.

The reMarkable 2 is full of magnets, these allow the stylus to attach to the side (make sure it's in the correct position or it can fall off) and also to attach the tablet to the folio case which snaps on.


It fits very snugly and protects the tablet when closed.

 
It almost looks like a (thin A4) book with the stylus just protruding on the right hand side.

When using the tablet the case folds backwards so it can be used to rest on and is out of the way for accessing the display.

The initial screen shows any documents that are on the tablet, though folders are now supported. There are lots of templates supplied, though it's possible to use any PDF (or ePUB) and upload it, then copy it and annotate the copy. This way the original can be kept as a template.


Though it's likely that documents will be annotated for rework back on the source, reMarkable makes a very nice score sheet for something like softball, where the names and inning data can be annotated (though in the UK it would be nice if it was waterproof).


Though not available yet, it would be nice if the reMarkable supported (and linked into) web apps that could use the interface (i.e. the UIzard service that allows building wireframes from hand drawn mockups, if the reMarkable could be used as the mockup device it would be a game changer).


Closed it looks pretty neat and the stylus is held reasonably securely. A huge improvement over v1 and hopefully it will continue improving with regular software updates.

It's available on pre-order for £399, the marker is £49 or marker plus (eraser) £99, then basic folio case/sleeve £69 or the book folio in polymer weave £99 or premium black or brown leather £149. Ordering now should get you one in January '21 (as of Nov 2020)


23/10/2020

Mi Air 2S

This is definitely a Xiaomi product, though not available from the Mi UK store. The earphones are very similar to the Xiaomi True Wireless Earphones 2(TWE2) that were previously reviews. The main difference is a larger battery in the case (440mW compared to 300mW), the case supports wireless charging and play time is longer (the ear buds last 5 hours compared to 4 hours and with the case 24 hours compared to 14 hours).

Both support Bluetooth 5.0 and LHDC/SBC/AAC coding and BLE/HFP/HSP/A2DP/AVRCP though some are LHDC may only supported with Xiaomi phones or using the Xiaomi  MUIU app.

In terms of looks, they are virtually identical, except on the Air 2S's the side stub doesn't extend beyond the top of the earbud while on the older model they do.

The Air 2S do support a new dual core chip which in conjunction with the dual mics (per ear bud) improves latency considerably when noise cancelling.

There is a USB-C socket in the base of the case, which also supports the Qi wireless charging standard (the case needs to lie on its back).

Pairing is easy, just press the button the side for about 5 seconds and the white LED on the front of the case will start blinking and is then connectable from a phone/PC/etc. Once paired, opening the case (or clicking the button) should allow a previously paired unit to connect again (you may need to press the side button, opening the case doesn't always connect the buds).

The earbuds sit just outside the ear canal and can fall out if your heads moves violently, but they generally are comfortable and the sound quality is pretty good.

Tapping the earbuds will do the normal pause music, answer a call etc.

They are nice ear buds though maybe not worth the additional price compared to the TWE2 unless paired with a Xiaomi phone using the MUIU app and getting the enhanced latency.

Including the silicon case, available for about £50 from your Chines import site (and cheaper than the TWE2 from the UK site).

Now that the Bluetooth SIG have released the LC3 codec, which is better quality than the SBC, maybe manufacturers will issue a firmware update to support it.

15/10/2020

Give some Tenda love to your WiFi

Tenda is Chinese company that specialise in networking products for home and office. They have been making WiFi MESH products for a while under their NOVA brand and have released the NOVA MW5C 

In the box there are 3 WiFi MESH units, 3 USB power supplies and one Ethernet/LAN cable. All the units are identical and plugging one in and connecting to the network, then makes it the primary unit. Only one unit should be plugged in while configuring. Each unit is 91 x 91 x 93 mm and are white with an LED in front which shows the status of the device (green operating correctly) and 2 Ethernet ports (WAN/LAN) each port supports 1Gb/s speed.



In order to configure the units, the Tenda app must be dowloaded (available on iOS and Android, it would be nice if there was a desktop version). Turn on WiFi and scan for the network that starts with NOVA (NOVA_XXXX), connect and then the app will allow configuration. The first thing is setting the wireless settings (i.e. SSID and password) and then reconnecting to the new setting, the device is given a location which will be visible on the home screen. It's possible to setup the system to be a full blown router and it can connect to a Ethernet modem using PPPoE. However, most people will probably just use bridge mode which just means the unit will bridge the WiFi to the wired network and that's pretty much all the configuration required (it will use DHCP to get an IP address/router/etc). There are 2 x 10/100/1000Mb/s Ethernet ports, WAN and LAN. The WAN port should be connected to the WAN side of the network (or the network connected to the main router) and the LAN port can be connected via a switch to local devices.

The WiFi supports 802.11 a/ac/n at 5GHz supporting 867Mb/s and 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n 300Mb/s and MU-MIMO with beamforming.

NOVA back


Once the initial unit is configured and working then plug in the other units and they will automagically connect to the mesh and be visible in the app (and the user just needs to assign a location). That's it, the mesh units require no configuration at all which is a major plus.

In the app the main screen shows the condition of the units and if they are meshing and the number of connected devices. At the top left of the screen there's a 'figure' where you set-up a Tenda account and on the right the WiFi network.

The bottom shows My WiFi (which is the initial entry screen)


The up and down bandwidth settings are zero as the unit is in bridge mode, if PPoE or other mode were used, they would display the settings from the connected modem.

Settings in which there are the following sections:



Internet Settings sets the mode of the system, Bridge is easiest as that just bridges the WAN to LAN side, though it can be used to work with PPPoE, Dynamic IP, Static IP.

Add nova allows adding of more mesh units.

Fast Roaming allows devices to switch between the nova units using Tenda's proprietary protocol but it doesn't support older devices (such as pre iOS 5).

Capacity-oriented Mode allows more than 30 devices to work reliably.

Smart Assistant switches the system to 2.4GHz only allowing the system to scan for devices that can only connect on 2.4GHz.

Date & Time is just that.

Firmware update will check to see if all the units are on the latest firmware and if not offer to upgrade them.

Maintenance Schedule sets a time when the systems will reboot, can be set at a specific time on any day (Monday through Sunday).

Account Authorization allows adding another account that can manage the system.

Three NOVA MESH units should cover around 3500 square feet (300 m²).

In order to use the Tenda app remotely a Tenda account is required. the units do send information back to Tenda in China (connected devices, IP and Ethernet addresses) and the Tenda app will say how many devices are connected overall and to each device. Tenda say that everything is GDPR compliant and that the information is only used for the user's own use.

The 3 system unit can be found for around £100 from your local on-line retailer, which is pretty good value for reliable WiFi around your home or home office audit really does just work. devices like Google's NEST and Amazon Echo's happily connect and the connection is a lot stabler than an older router that was handling all the WiFi previously.

It is a shame there's no desktop app and also that the system only meshes over radio when some locations will have Ethernet locally to more than one node and a major disadvantage is it only supports WPA/WPA2-PSK which Apple devices report as weak security. It's also slightly odd that there's a maintenance schedule where the units will reboot (though that can be turned off by just not ticking any days or time), modern day devices shouldn't need to reboot at all.