HSTI Wireless Media Stick™

Harry Diamantopoulos of HSTI presents the Wireless Media Stick™. The Wireless Media Stick™ is able to deliver to playback devices the files stored in PC, Mac and NAS (network attached storage) devices. For example, plug the Wireless Media Stick™ into your HDTV’s USB port and watch a movie or view digital photos stored elsewhere on your WiFi home network. The memory is on your network, not on the Wireless Media Stick™. The Wireless Media Stick™ sells for $119 dollars. HSTI has also announced an app that installs on Android smartphones that is able to connect with the Wireless Media Stick™ to enable instant, easy sharing of photos and videos from the phone.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com and Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Netgear New Routers, Wireless and Powerline Products

Andy and Esby get the latest on Netgear from David Henry, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Netgear consumer products. There’s a range of Netgear products on show including their flagship wireless router, an N600 dual band wireless router with gigabit ports – the WNDR3700 ($169).

David covers some recent advances in router technology and how Netgear is making it easier for consumers to use what are now much more advanced products, whether it’s wifi, firewalls or routers. Frankly even I don’t understand some of the options on the more complex devices. The WNDR3700 uses push-button WPS to the get the wireless all paired up.

Many of you have wireless dead spots in your home, often because of the fabric of the building or else simply because of the location of the inbound cable or telephone connection. You also may not be able to replace your main router if that’s provided by your cable supplier. If you are in this situation, check out their wireless range extenders.

If wireless isn’t for you, David also covers the new 500 Mb/s Powerline (Homeplug) products and how to get your connected TV or media streamer wired up with network connectivity. For HD video, you need fast data rates and these will deliver the data rates you need.

Lots of great info here on what’s new from Netgear so give it a watch.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and  Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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D-Link Unveils Latest Network Products

Andy talks to Steve at D-Link’s pre-press event and gets a rapid-fire look at the latest offerings from the company, including

  • a wireless Powerline router, bundling three functions into a single device;
  • a wireless media router that will take SD cards or USB3 external drives for delivering HD content to media streamers or players;
  • a SmartBeam Wifi transmitter, a directional antenna that can focus the wireless signal to a particular device.
  • a wireless-n IP / Internet camera, integrated with the MyDLink portal, so you can view the picture from your PC, your smartphone, your tablet.

There’s further info on all these products and more at D-Link’s special CES website.

If you’ve not used Powerline (aka Homeplug), the technology converts your home’s electrical system into a data network, so it’s good for places where wireless coverage is poor. It’s very handy.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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InteraXon, Thought Controlled Computing

Andy McCaskey interviews Ariel Garten, CEO of InteraXon – Thought Controlled Computing.  It’s no longer sci-fi, you can now interact with technology using the power of your mind (rather than your thoughts being controlled by computers.)

The system consists of a lightweight headset with two electrodes that detects brainwaves such as alpha and beta waves.  Different patterns are associated with different mental states, e.g. concentrating with beta waves and relaxed with alpha, so as your mind changes states an action can be taken. Trivially, you can link your concentration to a light, so while you are concentrating on reading, the light is on and bright, but as you relax and drift off to sleep, the light dims before finally turning off.

Obviously, it’s early days for the technology and Ariel likens the current state to that of voice recognition 20 years ago. Ariel believes that in the future this will be the main way that users interact with technology.

On show was a game called ZenBound 2 which is available for the iPhone and iPad. Normally, the player uses their fingers to manipulate a rope around a sculpture but with InteraXon the player can use their mind to control the game. You can see this in Andy’s video or the original is here. At the end of the game, you can get a report about how you were able to focus or relax.

Ariel also mentions some of the possible medical benefits which are potentially available now that you have a portable EEG system. It uses both Bluetooth or Wifi to communicate from the headband to mobile devices.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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HSTi’s Wireless Media Stick

HSTi‘s Wireless Media Stick is a Wifi dongle that converts almost anything that can read USB storage into a media streamer. Instead of reading files direct from the disk, the files from network shares are read as if they were local.

It’s perhaps easier if you think of an example. Let’s say you’ve got a PVR or DVD player that has a USB port into which you can plug a memory stick and play .mp4s or .avis.  You have to go upstairs, turn on your PC, figure out what movies or video you want to watch, wait for them to be copied over to the memory stick, trot downstairs and plug it in.

With HSTi’s Media Stick, you leave the Stick in the PVR and the files in shared directories appear as if they were plugged in locally. Select the one you want to watch as normal and the file is streamed over your wireless network to the PVR. Much easier.

The Media Stick is basically a wireless bridge with an SMB client built-in and it doesn’t do anything much beyond that.  So there’s no video transcoding or anything fancy like that.  But it potentially has lots of uses – you could use it to transfer digital photos to a USB-enabled picture frame.

v2 costs $119 and is shipping worldwide now.

HSTi has also introduced at CES an Android app that streams media from the smartphone to the Media Stick, making it very easy to show photos or videos stored in the phone on a TV or PC.  Apparently Blackberry and iOS versions are being developed as well. Available from the Android Market at the end of January.

“We all create memories, and document our experiences with our smartphones. They do a great job of consolidating our lives into one device. But when it comes to sharing it back from our phone, options are limited,” says Ramesh Uppal, HSTi President and CEO. “People want to share their experiences, whether its photos or videos from a trip, or just music selections. The Wireless Media Stick is the natural extension of their smartphone or tablet making it a must-have accessory for everyday life.

TRENDnet Concurrent Dual Band Router

At CES in Las Vegas today, TRENDnet will be showing off the first concurrent dual band wireless 11n router.  This is the first router on the market that can offer full 450 Mb/s by using both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands.

With advanced MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) antenna technology and three streams per antenna, the concurrent dual band technology can generate a maximum theoretical throughput of 450 Mb/s and much improved coverage.

The router also comes with gigabit Ethernet ports to ensure high performance on the wired connections, making this an ideal partner for high-definition video streaming from NAS.

“A true 450Mbps concurrent router will provide networking enthusiast with another great option,” stated Sonny Su, Technology Director for TRENDnet. “With the proliferation of so many wireless networked devices, performance matters more than ever before.”

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) also makes connecting wireless devices straightforward.  Press the WPS buttons on each device and they connect up securely.

The TEW-692GR will be available this coming April for $249 from online and retail TRENDnet partners.

Side note: the Wifi standards 11b and 11g use the 2.4 GHz frequency and 11a uses the 5 GHz frequency.  However the latter never gained widespread adoption. 11n can use both frequencies, though until now most 11n wireless equipment used either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz but not both.

Buffalo AirStation Wireless-N Review

In a little bit of a UK scoop, the folks at Buffalo lent GNC three of their latest wireless “n” products for a first review.  The three AirStation devices were announced and covered by GNC back in October, so we’ll skip the usual pleasantries and get down to business.

First up, was the AirStation N-Technology USB2 adapter (WLI-UC-GNM) which is as small as it looks in the picture.  Installation is very straightforward – run the installation CD first to install the drivers, pop the adapter into a spare USB port and job done.  I was able to connect to an existing 11g network and the 11n network without any problems at all.  There’s also a little application installed which allows selection between the 20 MHz and 40 MHz bandwidths which equates to the 75 Mb/s and 150 Mb/s settings.   There’s more on the real-world data transfer rates later.

Next was the AirStation N-Technology 150 Mb/s router (WCR-GN).  This is actually smaller in real life than the picture would suggest, being only 11 cm high, excluding the aerial.  After connecting the router to the network via an ethernet cable, the installation program allows the user to choose from two different possible scenarios – router or bridge.  Once selected, the installation program finds the router and configures it.  The user is asked to set a device password and to give the device an IP address.  Although a configuration program is included, I found it easiest to use the router’s web interface to set things up.

The configuration for the wireless side was pretty impressive, with support for multiple SSIDs, including one that was passed directly out over the WAN and was unable to access the LAN.  This caters for legacy devices such as media streamers or games consoles that only support unsecure WEP.

The WCR-GN supports WPS and AOSS, Buffalo’s equivalent. Frankly, I could never get the AOSS pairing to work. It’s so little effort to put in an encryption key, I’ve no idea why anyone bothers with these user-friendly time savers, because they never are and never do.

To give the 11n devices a proper evaluation, I carried out some data transfer rate testing using LAN Speed Test for TotuSoft.  The table below gives the nominal and measured data rates for different connection types.

Connection Nominal Data Rate Measured Data Rate
LAN 100 Mb/s 65 Mb/s
11g 54 Mb/s 20 Mb/s
11n @ 20 MHz 75 Mb/s 34 Mb/s
11n @ 40 MHz 150 Mb/s 44 Mb/s

Bear in mind that with all the encryption on the wireless transmissions, the measured data rate will be much lower than the nominal data rate.  These figures are broadly in line with other data rates reported on the Internet.  HD video requires a minimum sustained data rate around 25 Mb/s, so it looks to me that the 11n data rates are good.  Microsoft have an article on HD formats which is worth a read.

Finally, I got out the Nfiniti Dual-Band Wireless-N Ethernet Converter (WLAE-AG300N).  I was most interested in this as it promised to be convertible between an access point, extender and bridge, and a full 300Mb/s device.  The Converter has two ethernet ports meaning that things like Bluray players and IP TVs can connect through the bridge back to the Internet.

As before, the installation was a breeze and in the first instance, I set up the Converter as an access point.  This worked great and I was able to get data throughput in the 44Mb/s range.  Remember that although this was a 300Mb/s device, the USB adapter on the laptop was only a 150Mb/s device so the data rate was limited by the USB adapter.

Setting the WLAE-AG300N as a bridge back to the WCR-GN Router was less successful.  Although I was able to get the two devices to connect, I was never able to establish a 11n level connection; it only connected as if it were an 11g network and throughput was around 20 Mb/s.  I worked with Buffalo’s tech support to try and get a resolution but it wasn’t sorted by the time I returned the device.

Overall, the USB2 adapter and the 150Mb/s router worked well and I think they’re good value for money at RRPs of £19.99 and £29.99 respectively.  Judgement is reserved regarding the Ethernet Converter (£39.99) as it worked well as an access point but the bridging was poor.  If you were only setting up a 150Mb/s network, a pair of WCR-GN routers would actually be a cheaper way of establishing a connection from ethernet-only devices.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan.

Smartphones As The New Facebook

Facebook hit critical mass and managed to move into the mainstream and is now sucking in mass numbers of new users. Much of the value of a many goods and services revolves around mass adoption – it becomes beneificial for people to use Facebook simply because so many friends and family are already on it.

We keep hearing statistics about smartphone adoption rates. No doubt about it, smartphones are increasingly popular devices and are quickly moving into the mainstream.

How does this translate into the real world?

I came across a guy a few days ago that had recently gotten an iPhone 4.0 specifically so he could do Facetime chats with his brother. This guy was in his 50’s and had never owned a computer or dealt with the Internet in any way. I was surprised at how well he had learned to run his phone. He was clearly thrilled with the smartphone and what it was capable of. Even though this fellow had somehow managed to resist getting a computer and the Internet, the smartphone managed to pull him in. Furthermore, this guy was using a lot of data above and beyond WiFi and Facetime. Even as a novice user, he had already purchased a few iphone apps. Additionally he expressed a lot of interest when I was describing Audible.Com audio books.

There’s a segment of the population I run into personally that doesn’t like the idea of or see the need for or perceive any benefit from paying for mobile data connections. These are the people that are hanging onto more basic phone models. I suspect that these same people likely resisted the idea of getting a cell phone in the first place – in other words, they are late adopters when it comes to cell phone technologies and services.

We are now entering the phase of smartphone adoption of where mass numbers of people will get smartphones simply because everyone else has them. I believe smartphones are poised to outstrip even a service like Facebook with the total number of smartphone users.

These new smartphone users are likely to use mass amounts of data. Cell phone companies wanted people to have data plans because of the extra revenue from larger data-enabled bills – now they’d better be prepared to deliver on the promise.

GNC-2010-11-08 #625 Back in the Saddle

Feels good to be back in the full swing of the show. I am having a great trip here in Albuquerque and really enjoying myself, will be doing an Ohana meet up this coming Friday. If you want to come out to dinner and your in the local area drop me an email so I can pass location and time.

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Extreme Social Networking

Want to Facebook on Mount Everest? Maybe Foursquare at the Antarctic? Twitter from 50,000 leagues under the sea?

Wherever we go, we will be able to connect and communicate.

The most recent news – Mount Everest gets an Ncell  tower so you have signal on your climb up. It makes sense – if you get in trouble, you can contact someone to get you. I am guessing Ncell will have a special rental plan for your journey up and down.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard of a connection in an extreme place. Remember Parker Liautaud? The 15 year old who was the first to foursquare the North Pole? He used social media to record his journey. YouTube, Twitter and of course, Foursquare.

It’s a long cry from the days of Gilligan’s Island. No longer will the crew be able to worry about contacting the authorities. Just pull out a cell phone and dial 911.

How many have connected to the Airplane’s WiFi? Tweeting from 35,000 feet is not the mile high club, but it is pretty cool. At least you can watch some Netflix during the flight if you have to suffer through “Confessions of a Shopaholic” again.

Back in CES 2009, we interviewed Spot GPS – a device for extreme travelers to be located if something happens. Not exactly something you will be able to tweet with, but if you are suffering in an extreme situation, you won’t have to be like Aron Ralston and cut off your arm with a Swiss Army Knife to survive.

Even on extreme road trips, you can stay connected. Ford’s SYNC system allows you to jump in a Ford Fiesta and you can have the car tweet your whole trip.

So with all these new places to connect, it begs the question – when will we be able to connect on the Moon? Mars? Maybe just at Grandma’s house?