Monthly Archives: April 2013

HP ElitePad 900: a tablet that is easy to disassemble thanks to magnetic screen attachment

I saw the HP ElitePad Windows 8 slate at a trade show last week and was impressed by a feature I had not heard about before: easy serviceability.

Tablets are usually intimidating to disassemble, thanks to screens that are either glued in place or which require alarming force to prise away. The ElitePad is different. It is a slate which is actually easier to take apart than most laptops, thanks to magnetic attachment. HP supplies a  depolarising jig into which you slot the tablet, whereupon you can easily remove the screen with a suction handle. There are a couple of screws to undo first, but it looks like an easy job.

Here are a few screen grabs from the explanatory video (embedded at the end of this post) which show what is involved. This is the tablet in the jig with the screen about to be removed.

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This is the screen coming away.

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And here is the unit with screen removed.

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Once opened up, HP says you can replace these parts:

  • Dock connector
  • speaker system
  • SD and Sim card connector
  • webcam
  • NFC (Near Field Communications) sensor
  • battery
  • wireless LAN
  • antennas
  • power board
  • motherboard
  • processor
  • memory card

According to the video, the motherboard “contains the SSD” which sounds disappointing, since one of the first things you might want to do is to replace the rather small 32GB or 64GB SSD with a larger one.

Unfortunately this feature is not aimed at home users wanting to modify or fix their own tablets; you need the jig and HP training. At least, that is the official line; but I imagine that the DIY community will also benefit from this approach.

The ElitePad has a 10″ 1280×800 screen, dual core Z2760 Atom processor, 2GB RAM, and 32GB or 64GB SSD. It also supports memory expansion via an SD card, and there an option for a SIM for mobile broadband. Battery life is around 8 hours.

HP is using expansion jackets to adapt the ElitePad for specialist tasks – a throwback to the iPaq (remember that?) handheld computer which used the same concept. This includes jackets with additional battery, a productivity jacket with a keyboard and stand, a jacket for medical use, a retail POS (point of sale) option, and a rugged case for outside use. I hated the iPaq jackets, which were horribly bulky, but these look like a better proposition, though it is still a shame to bulk up your nice slim slate with fat case.

According to HP, a key selling point of the ElitePad is enterprise manageability thanks to Active Directory support. Of course this is x86 Windows 8, not Windows RT which cannot be domain-joined.

I do get the impression that HP has put considerable effort into the ElitePad which is not just a me-too Windows 8 product. Good to see.

The main snag with the ElitePad is its high price. It starts at $699 in the US, or £520 + VAT in the UK, and considering the lowly specification in terms of processing power, and the extra cost of the accessories, it looks poor value, though if it is a perfect fit for your business it might still be worth it (and no doubt you will get a better price if you buy in quantity).

Getting Windows 3.1 connected to the internet (in DOSBox of course)

What if, for historical reasons, you wanted to test early Windows internet software?

You would do well to run up DOSBox. Better still, the Megabuild version which includes an emulated NE2000 network card.

Then you install DOS and Windows 3.x. Not too difficult if you can find copies of the software.

What next? This is where I wasted a certain amount of time. I found this information:

Run ne2000.com 0×65 3 0×300 and winpkt 0×65 before starting Windows

I found ne2000.com from the above link, but where was winpkt? Eventually I found it in many-other-drivers.zip on crynwr.com.

I still was not up and running. Then it dawned on me that I needed WinPcap on the host PC for the NE2000 emulation to work.

Next, I took a look at the DOSBox configuration file, which for this build is dosbox-SVN_MB6.conf. Nothing will work until you edit this file, since you need to specify which real NIC DOSBox should use. By default it is set to “list”, which means you get a list of candidates when you start up DOSBox.

I use Windows 8 with Hyper-V virtual networking installed, which complicates matters. It was not obvious which NIC to use, since three of mine are distinguished in the list only by GUIDs. I got it right on the second attempt.

Now I was getting somewhere. I had already added the driver initialisation into autoexec.bat. I installed Trumpet winsock which is still for sale though you get 30 days trial.  You just have to configure it. No DHCP but not too difficult:

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Note that the values here are examples; yours will be different.

IP address: a valid, unused IP address on your internal network

DNS server: the same as used by the host PC

Domain suffix: optional, your internal domain

Vector: this must match the first argument you gave to ne2000.com, without the 0x

Netmask: same as you use on the host PC

Gateway: same as you use on the host PC

The other values I left at the default. Then you can try a ping to check that it works:

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Happy retro computing!

Review: Plantronics Voyager Legend UC B235 Bluetooth Headset

A high quality wireless headset is a valuable accessory for frequent phone users. The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC (87670) is a high-end device suitable for softphones like Skype as well as smartphones and tablets, and replaces the Voyager Pro UC. The UC means Unified Communications and means it comes with a USB Bluetooth adapter for wireless desktop connections; it is also bundled with a dock and charger case.

If you want to use Microsoft Lync, look out for the special B235–M (Microsoft) version (87680). If you only want to use it with mobile devices, look for the Voyager Legend (without the UC).

I have been impressed by Plantronics headsets in the past, and this one too is an excellent device though I encountered a few niggles getting started.

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In the box is the headset and USB adapter within a dual-purpose case/charger, a USB power adaptor, a desktop dock, a USB cable, and a few different sizes of ear gels and foam covers.

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The headset itself has a similar basic design to the earlier Voyager Pro, though the call/answer button has been repositioned and there is an additional button on the microphone boom.

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I am happy to see the call/answer button repositioned, since I found it awkward on the Pro. The ease of use of the buttons is critical, since you will often be operating them with the headset fitted, which means by feel alone. It takes practice of course, but the buttons on the Legend are well designed in this respect.

Another difference between the Pro and the Legend is the USB connection, for charging or wired connection to a PC. Whereas the Pro had a standard micro USB port, the Legend has a recessed magnetic connector. There is an adaptor supplied which converts this to a micro USB

The magnetic connector also enables the Legend to connect when in the case. The case has an external micro USB port so you can charge it in the case.

Note that the case also has a battery. According to Plantronics, if the case is fully charged, it can charge the headset twice before needing its own recharge, greatly increasing the effective talk time of the headset.

If that is not enough, you can also charge by sitting the Legend in a small desktop dock.

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The buttons on the Legend Pro are as follows:

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On/Off: self explanatory

Volume: a rocker switch which lets you increase or decrease volume to one of 9 positions. A tone sounds when you adjust the volume, and a voice announces when you reach maximum or minimum. Maximum volume is not that loud, perhaps to protect your hearing. It is fine provided the input volume from your device is reasonably loud, so check that if you have problems.

Call/Answer: Multi-function button. If there is an incoming call, tap to answer. During a call, tap to end call. Press and long hold to enter Bluetooth pairing mode. Press and hold for 2 seconds (indicated by a tone) to enter voice dial mode, or on iPhone, Siri. Double tap for redial of last inbound or outbound call.

Voice: Multi-function button, new in the Legend. Tap to use voice commands. During a call, tap to mute or unmute microphone. During music streaming, press and hold to play or pause.

The multi functions take a little bit of learning, but this does not take long.

Using the Voyager Legend Pro

There are apparently three microphones, nose-cancelling digital signal processing, and stainless steel windscreens in the Legend, and it shows in good voice quality; the results I got were consistently clear.

Pairing with the devices I tried – two phones and a PC – was straightforward. I used voice control (other than with the PC which is pre-paired using the supplied USB receiver). Tap voice, say “Pair mode”, go to Bluetooth devices on the phone and connect.

You can pair with two phones simultaneously. If you are making a call using voice control, and two phones are connected, it seems to default to whatever it thinks is “phone 1”.

I got good results both with the smartphones and with Skype on the PC. On the PC, the only thing that caught me out initially was that I had to press the Call button to enable Skype audio, even though Skype thought it was connected to the headset.

The incoming sound quality is fine for voice but disappointing for music. You cannot expect a mono headset to compete with high-end ear buds for audio, but I recall the Pro being a little better in this respect.

When I first connected to an Android phone, some features did not work properly. The basics worked, but voice dialling always seemed to call the wrong person, and pause/resume of music did not work. I connected to a Windows Phone 8 device, which proved more reliable. Then I reconnected to the Android phone, and everything now worked there too. The reason, I suspect, for some unpredictable behaviour is that many of the clever features of the Legend depend on the Bluetooth stack on the mobile device, hardware and software. Note that the things you can do with voice dialling and how well it works depend mainly on your mobile, not on the headset, though a good microphone like this one helps.

The headset is comfortable and I can happily wear it for long periods. As mentioned above, the button placement is better than on the Pro, and for this reason alone I prefer it.

Smart features

The Legend has a few smart tricks which distinguish it:

1. Voice commands. There are 9 voice commands you can use after tapping the voice button, such as “Pair mode”, “Check battery”, “Am I connected”, and “Redial”. Since the number of commands is limited, accuracy of recognition I found good. Note that voice dialling is engaged using the Call button, not the voice button, which is confusing. The reason is that voice dialling is more a feature of whatever mobile you are connected to, than it is of the headset itself.

2. Sensors. The Legend recognises when you put it on or take it off. Putting on the headset will answer a call, taking it off will pause streaming audio, for example. The call button is locked when the headset is not being worn.

3. Vocalyst is a subscription service you can use with the headset. A code for a year of basic service is included in the box.  You can connect to email, Twitter or Facebook, check news and sports, and so on. I did not try this; it does not look business-ready with limited Exchange support, for example.

4. Headset update. If you download the MyHeadset updater you can customise the Legend. I used this to replace the US voice with a UK voice, a nice feature.

5. Apps. I installed a couple of Android apps, MyHeadset which shows battery life, and FindMyHeadset which plays a tone if you have lost your headset but it is within range. The Spokes PC app also shows battery life and enables UC presence features and other settings.

Conclusion

This headset is excellent. The charger case is a great idea, but note that it does not hold all the accessories; I would like to keep the USB adaptor in there.

The new voice button is on the whole successful, within its limited goals.

I liked the ability to pair with two phones, the option for a UK voice, and the improved call button placement over the Voyager Pro.

There is still scope for improvement in usability and features, but much of the experience is down to how well Bluetooth is implemented in your particular mobile device, and how up to date is its specification.

On the desktop this is ideal for Skype and other softphones.

Specifications

Bluetooth version: 3.0 with A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution), AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control), HFP (Wideband Hands-free) 1.6, HSP (Headset) 1.2, Phone Book access (PBAP), SSP2 (Secure Simple Pairing).

Headset weight: 18g.

Battery life: 7 hours talk time, 11 days standby.

Charge time: 90 minutes.

Operating distance: 10m.

    

Linn music downloads: is the Studio Master worth the extra cost?

I was interested to note from this feature in the Financial Times that more than half of the music downloads sold by Linn, a UK audio company, are of the “Studio Master” at 24 bit, 192kHz, rather than the cheaper MP3 or 16 bit, 44.1kHz as used for CDs. Apparently the MD Gilad Tiefenbrun had projected that the Studio Masters would only be 5% of sales, but in fact:

Even though Studio Master albums cost £18 compared with £5 for an MP3 version, these highest-quality recordings account for more than half of all downloads. That proportion rises to 90 per cent for classical recordings.

The question: why? Here are sample prices, in this case for Claire Martin’s Too Much in Love to Care:

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The prices range from £8.00 in 320k MP3 to £18.00 for the Studio Master. CD quality is £10.00. These are substantial differences. You could have more than twice as much music for the same money in MP3, and 80% more music in CD quality.

Linn says of the Studio Master:

If absolute sound quality is what you want then this file is best for you.

However, whether a Studio Master is audibly different from CD quality, if mastered to sound the same, is disputed. A well-known study, which has never been disproved as far as I am aware, found that music could be played through a 16/44.1 analog to digital to analog loop without listeners being aware of the difference. Science bears this out, to the extent that for music at normal listening levels the Shannon/Nyquist theorem indicates that the entire original music signal can be recovered up to half the sampling frequency, in this case 22kHz which is beyond the range of human hearing.

MP3 uses lossy compression, making the choice of CD quality over MP3 understandable (especially for only 25% extra cost), but even here most people struggle to hear the difference between MP3 at 320k and its original source. The folks at Hydrogen Audio have studied this obsessively; there is plenty of objective evidence.

Why then do people buy the Studio Master? Here are a few contenders.

1. Ignorance. Linn says (or strongly implies) that it sounds better, and Linn should know.

2. Anxiety. The buyer wants the best sound and is not sure whether or not the Studio Master might sound better, so rather than take a chance decides to cover herself with the premium download.

3. For further processing. When you process digital audio, the quality degrades. Studios therefore work with high resolution audio as they may process the audio multiple times. Given that most listeners are not running studios, I think we can dismiss this for most purchasers.

4. The Studio Master is mastered to sound better. This is an interesting possibility. Here is a comment from Linn’s forums:

When I converted the original 24bit FLAC file into an MP3 myself I was unable to hear any differences between them. But When comparing the Linn MP3 and 24bit FLAC versions I can hear a difference. This suggests to me that the difference I hear is due to Linn using two differently masterered versions for their MP3 and 24bit FLAC files.

The implication is that the MP3 and lossless versions could sound the same, for practical purposes, as the Studio Master; but either by accident or design it does not.

5. Is it possible that contrary to the evidence referenced above, high resolution audio (ie more than CD quality) does sound better? Certainly many people believe this. However, in my experience the number falls dramatically if you include only those who have done objective blind listening tests to verify it. Further, those who do experiment with objective tests invariably discover that the audible differences (if they exist) are very small.

The frustrating aspect of this is that in practice most CDs that you can buy, or MP3s you can download, sound worse than they should. There are many reasons for this, of which the biggest is probably the “loudness wars”, in which the dynamic range of 16/44.1 audio is squandered for the sake of the overall loudness of the audio, using compression and clipping to reduce the difference between the loudest and quietest passages.

Other common problems are that the best source tapes are not used, or that (in the case of older recordings) noise reduction damages the audio quality, or that the frequency response is adjusted for increased “boom and tizz” in the belief that this may sound more impressive.

High resolution recordings, such as those available on SACD, are generally (but not always) less prone to these problems, because they are designed for a more discriminating market. In other words, they sound better not because of high resolution itself, but for other reasons. Purchasers however may attribute the quality to the high resolution, making them inclined to purchase Studio Masters from Linn.

On the other hand, if Linn masters this music to sound the same in all formats, there is no reason the same logic should apply.

My suggestion: try one of Linn’s sample downloads. Do your own conversion of the Studio Master to CD quality or 320K MP3 and see if you can hear the difference using something like Foobar ABX. If you cannot tell the difference, there is no reason to buy the Studio Master unless Linn is deliberately making the other formats sound less good.

Review: Three-in-one Jabra Revo headphones and headset: wired, wireless and USB

If headphones are judged on versatility, the Jabra Revo wins the prize. It works wired and wireless, it’s a USB audio device, it’s a headset with remote control, and as a final flourish it folds into a moderately compact size that you can slip in the supplied bag.

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You might think that the result of this flexibility would be a fiddly and complex device, but this is not the case. The Revo has an elegant design and looks modern and sleek. The construction feels high quality as well; these headphones are lovely to handle.

In the solid plastic box you get the headphones, a drawstring bag, a USB cable, an audio cable (with four connectors on each 3.5mm jack, suitable for a headset connection to a mobile phone or tablet. The cables are braided for tangle-free connections, and bright orange so you will not miss them.

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There is also a “Getting started” leaflet which I recommend you read, since not everything is obvious.

Step one is to charge the headphones. This is done using the USB cable. No charger is supplied, but you probably have a few of these already, or you can plug into any PC or Mac. A red light comes on while charging, and turns off when charging is complete, which takes about two hours from flat.

Step two is to pair the headphones with your mobile device. For this you can put a three-way on/off/pairing switch, tucked under the right-hand earphone, into the pairing position, for pairing in the normal way. Alternatively, just put it to the On position, and touch an NFC-enabled device to the left earphone (as I noted, not everything is obvious). This should then pair automatically, subject to a prompt on your mobile device.

I had mixed success with NFC. A Sony Xperia T smartphone failed twice, with a message “Could not pair Jabra Revo”, but worked on the third attempt. A Nokia Lumia 620 worked on the second attempt.

More than one device can be connected simultaneously, though only one at a time will play. I found this worked; I could play music on one device, then press play on another device and it automatically switched.

The good news is that Bluetooth audio worked well for me, with no skips or stutters, perhaps thanks to Jabra’s long experience with mobile communications. Volume was low to begin with, but note that the back of the right-hand earphone is also a touch volume control, and with a few strokes you can get more than enough volume.

There are also buttons at the centre of each earphone.

The right-hand button is multi-function, and does play/pause, or answer/end call, or reject a call if you hold it down, or redial last number if you double-tap.

The left-hand button is for the Jabra Sound App for iOS or Android. It is meant to launch the app, but this did not work for me with the Sony Xperia.

If you want to use the headphones wired, just plug the audio cable into the headphones. No battery power is required. If you want to use them as a USB device, attach the USB cable to a computer, wait for the drivers to install, and it works. I tried it with Skype and got reasonable results, though the microphone quality is less good than that of the headphones.

Jabra Sound app

If you have an Apple iOS or Google Android device, you can download the Jabra Sound app. This is a music player which claims to optimise sound for the headphones. The app is free but requires a code, supplied with the headphones, to activate it.

Using the app, you specify which Jabra headphones you are using. Next, you can set Dolby Processing, Mobile Surround, and Equalisation. If you turn Dolby Processing off, the other options are disabled as well.

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I am a sceptic when it comes to this kind of processing, and the Jabra Sound app did nothing to convince me that it is worthwhile. I listened to I.G.Y. by Donald Fagen, which is a well-recorded track, and found that adding “Mobile Surround” made it noticeably worse, less natural and less clear. The equalizer could be useful though, particularly as the Revo are not the most neutral headphones I have heard.

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Jabra Sound is a music player and only works with local music files. You cannot use it with Spotify or Google Play or other streaming services.

Revo in use

The comfort of these on-ear headphones is good, though tastes vary and I found them just a little stiff. Then again, wireless implies mobility and a firm fit is no bad thing.

How about the sound? There are a couple of points to note. First, all connections are not equal. I found that the wired connection sounds best, followed by the USB connection, followed by the wireless connection. That does not mean that wireless sounds bad, but I did find it slightly grainy in comparison. Only slightly; if you think Bluetooth audio means low quality sound, think again.

Second, the Revo seems to accentuate the bass, a little too much for my taste. This may be good marketing as many people seem to prefer this kind of sound, but if you want to hear what the mastering engineer intended you may prefer a more neutral sound.

These points aside, the sound is sweet, clear and refined. They are not reference quality, being easily bettered by, say, high-end Sennheisers, Judged purely on the basis of sound quality for the price, the Revo is nothing special. On the other hand, this is a bundle of smart technology, considering that it is also a wireless headset with a built-in touch volume control. This makes it hard to make a fair comparison. Given the capabilities of the product overall, the sound quality is decent.

I have mixed feelings about the touch controls. The ability to control volume and skip music tracks using taps and strokes is elegant, but inevitably there is more scope for mis-taps than with conventional buttons, and I found the volume control imprecise. That said, it is great to have volume and play/pause on the headphones themselves.

Conclusion

The Revo has a lot going for it. Elegant design, high quality construction, good wireless performance without any skips or stutters, and unmatched flexibility – remember, this is a headset that you can use for phone calls as well as for enjoying music.

On the negative side, the tonality is a little bass-heavy and the sound quality good but no better than it should be considering the premium price.

If the flexibility is something you can make use of, the Revo is a strong contender.

Specifications:

Driver size 40mm
Impedance 32 Ohm
Frequency response (no tolerance given) 20Hz – 20,000Hz
Sensitivity 119 dB at 1v/1kHz
Weight 240g
Battery life 12 hours playback/10 days standby
Charge time 2 hours
Wireless range 10m

 

Review: RHA MA350 Earphones

I have just spent a happy few hours comparing earbuds, ranging from a freebie supplied with a budget smartphone to my favourite Digital Silence DS-421D.

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The reason was to assess the RHA MA350 earbuds. These are well-specified for the price, made of aluminium and supplied with a small bag and three sizes of tips.

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The cable is braided for tangle-resistance. There is no microphone, but if you want a headset you can get the similar MA 350i which does have a microphone and remote but costs about £15 more.

Comfort is good and the earbuds felt secure. With three sizes of tips you will probably find one that fits nicely.

What about the sound? This is what counts from my perspective, and for the money I am impressed. No, they are not the equal of the Digital Silence which has active noise cancelling and costs four times more. They are miles better than the worst models I tried though.

Cheap earbuds can be really nasty, with a small, boxy, shouty sound. These by contrast sound sweet, clear and crisp. The soundstage is a little constricted and the depth limited compared to the best, but they are never harsh or annoying.

Like many earbuds, they are bass-shy, but not in the least tinny.

The MA 350 are advertised as “noise isolating” and I think that is fair. In a noisy environment they do an excellent job at shutting out sound, as good as you can expect from earbuds without active noise cancelling.

The tangle-free cable works well, but there is one small annoyance. The right and left markings are faintly inscribed on the cable protector rather than on the body of the earbud, and you have to squint closely to see which is which.

If you are looking for decent earbuds at a reasonable price, these are easy to recommend. I also noticed the generous 3 year warranty, and the fact that replacement tips are easy to get hold of.

The Manufacturer’s specifications are as follows:

Drivers 10mm Mylar
Frequency response (no tolerance given) 16-22,000Hz
Impedance 16 ohms
Sensitivity 103dB
Rated/Max power 3/10mW
Weight 11g
Cable 1.2m braided

 

Make your iPhone a close-up or wide-angle camera with Olloclip

Here’s a gadget I came across at Mobile World Congress earlier this year. The Olloclip is a clip-on supplementary lens for the iPhone or iPod Touch, giving it three new modes: wide-angle, Fisheye, and Macro.

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In the box you get the reversible lens with covers for each end, an adapter clip for the slimmer iPod Touch, and a handy bag.

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The lens clips onto the corner of the iPhone, covering the on/off button. There are different models for the iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, which is a drawback. Every time you upgrade to a new iPhone, you will have to buy a new Olloclip, or do without it. You also lose use on the on/off button when the Olloclip is attached.

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Still, that is a small price to pay if you get amazing new photographic capabilities, and to some extent you do. I was particularly impressed by the macro mode. Here is my snap of a coin getting as close as I could quickly manage with the iPhone 4 alone:

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Snap on the Olloclip, and I can capture a world of detail that was previously unavailable.

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I also tried the wide-angle and fisheye modes, both of which work as advertised.

The twist here is that the Olloclip gives your iPhone camera features which your purpose-built compact camera may not have. If you want or need to take the kind of shots which the Olloclip enables, it is a great choice, spoilt a little by the inconvenience of clipping and unclipping the lens.

   

You cannot resell music downloads, says New York court. Bad news for ReDigi

A New York court has concluded (PDF) that you cannot resell music downloads.

The case is Capitol Records vs ReDigi, a web site which lets you trade in pre-owned legal downloads.

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The argument from District Judge Richard Sullivan is that reselling a music download is impossible, because you cannot transfer your download, you can only copy it:

Simply put, it is the creation of a new material object and not an additional material object that defines the reproduction right … the fact that a file has moved from one material object – the user’s computer – to another – the ReDigi server – means that a reproduction has occurred.

But by that argument, don’t you make a “new material object” every time you copy your iTunes download to a new directory?

Sullivan says:

As Capitol has conceded, such reproduction is almost certainly protected under other doctrines or defenses, and is not relevant to the instant motion.

The concept of “fair use” does not protect ReDigi either, according to the judgement, since it is a commercial transaction and not merely storage or personal use.

This is a decision with far-reaching implications. In essence, it says that once you pay for a music download, your money is gone forever. Your download collection has no resale value, nor can you legally transfer it to anyone else. The only way you might get your money back, oddly, is if your collection were destroyed; I have seen provision in some insurance policies for downloaded assets.

Who is going to stop you from transferring your collection to another person privately? That is different, a question of enforceability rather than legality.

You are better off buying a CD; the used CD market is deeply depressed, but does at least exist. Ripping a CD to your hard drive is illegal in some countries (including the UK, as far as I am aware) but I do not know of anyone being pursued for this, and there is a better argument for personal, non-commercial, fair use.

If the music industry could convert us all to streaming subscriptions, that would make more sense in the digital world. That said, it is unfortunate that streaming services like Spotify pay very little to artists in comparison with download services like iTunes.

Review: Logitech K811 Bluetooth Easy-Switch keyboard for iPad, Mac and more

I travel a lot and use a tablet rather than a laptop, and have gone through numerous Bluetooth keyboards. These are a necessity for me, since the tablet I use is either an iPad, which has no USB slot for a wireless transceiver, or a Windows slate that has only one USB slot that is often occupied.

It is surprising how much can go wrong. Some of the issues I have had (NOT with this keyboard let me emphasise) are keyboards turning themselves on in your bag and performing random actions; keys physically coming off the keyboard while in your bag; and tedious reconnection attempts when the Bluetooth pairing somehow breaks.
Another annoyance is that most Bluetooth keyboards can only pair with one device, forcing you to re-pair every time you switch.

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Not any more. Logitech’s K811 keyboard can be paired with up to three devices simultaneously. The first three function keys across the top of the keyboard select which one you want to use.

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This keyboard is designed for iPad, iPhone or Mac, but I found it also worked fine with the Windows tablet subject to few annoyances (keys that are incorrectly marked).

Specifically, on Windows all the alphabetic keys work correctly, as do the numbers, and most of the special characters. The main issues are that backslash types # but can be found on the § key, and @ and ” are transposed. No Windows key of course, but Ctrl-Esc works. Really not too bad.

Note that there is a PC version of the keyboard, called the K810, which seems similar but is a little cheaper. So get that if you only have PCs, but if you have a mix of devices, the Apple one is fine.

While the keyboard is probably not a good choice if you only use a non-Apple tablet, if you have a mix then it can still be useful.

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This is a standard Mac keyboard though too small to have a separate numeric pad. The function keys default to the special functions, like dimming the backlight, and you have to press the Fn key to get the standard functions.

Physically the keyboard feels sturdy and well-made though it can flex just slightly in the middle since it has four small rubber feet. This did not cause me any problems. The keyboard is big enough for typing at speed and in comfort, and small enough that it tucks easily into most bags. It is 29cm on the longest side.

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There are some little details that I like. The Connect button can be depressed easily with a finger, no need to find a small pointed object, though I have never pressed it accidentally. There is an on-off switch that is unlikely to slide by accident, avoiding those bag-typing problems mentioned above.

The keyboard has a built-in, non-replaceable rechargeable battery, charged via a USB cable. Battery life is said to be 20 hours of typing with the backlight on, or an impressive one year with the backlight off. You can adjust the brightness of the backlight using the function keys, though it resets when you next switch off and on, so you will probably end up with the backlight on most of the time, though it does dim automatically if you do not type for a while.

The coolest feature is a sensor that detects your hands and turns the backlight on, if the keyboard has been idle, before your hands touch the keys. A bit of a gimmick, but you can’t help admiring it.

Bluetooth switching really does work. I tried a test with an iPad and a Windows tablet. Press the key for the 1st device, and typed text appears on the iPad. Press the key for the 2nd device, and typed text appears on the Windows tablet. Reconnection seems quicker than average.

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Overall I love the keyboard, and recommend it. I would have liked a protective bag to help prevent damage to the keys when loose in a larger bag, and suggest care with this as it is a common problem.

If you just want a keyboard for an iPad, you might be better off with one of the Logitech keyboard covers. If you have several mobile devices though, this is great, with a quality and convenience that justifies its price.