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Amazon Sidewalk Approaches

As a household that has several Amazon Echo devices, I feel obligated to share the news about Amazon Sidewalk, including how to disable it.

What is Sidewalk?

Sidewalk is a “feature” in the latest firmware for the current generation of Amazon smart home products, including; Echo smart speakers, Ring doorbells & security cameras, and Tile trackers. When enabled, Sidewalk capable devices used by neighbors, visitors or passers-by are able to leverage your local internet connectivity.

Amazon says that these Sidewalk interlopers are allowed a limited amount of bandwidth, just 80 kbps, which is about the same as a tradition VoIP phone call.

Why Sidewalk?

That’s simple – ubiquitous connectivity is very convenient. Amazon knows this from years of experience. For example, their WhisperNet was a mechanism leveraging AT&T’s 3G mobile network to provide ubiquitous connectivity to early Kindle e-book readers.

Tile tracker

Imagine someone who uses Tile Pro to track their car keys. They are, as so many do each day, dropping their child off at Travis Elementary School, which is across the street.

It could be very handy if their Tile Pro found our front room Echo Dot, allowed it to ping Amazon servers. If they later lost their car keys, Amazon would know they had been near our home. Presumably, Amazon would have a more detailed record of their location that might otherwise be possible.

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Measuring The Real Impact Of Smart TVs

Skype-For-TVSince the introduction of “Smart HDTVs” a couple of years ago I’ve been wondering just how much impact the built-in applications have on the purchase process, and the user experience. A new report from NPD Group sheds some much-needed insight into this area.

The headline of the report states very plainly that, “Internet Connected TVs Are Used To Watch TV, And That’s About All.” Beyond the traditional role of TV the leading role of the smart HDTV seems to be for using “Over-the-top” services like Netflix. Fully 60% of smart TV users report taking advantage of this feature.

The next most common use of the Smart TV is for listening to OTT music services, but that’s only reported as used by around 15% of the installed base. All other applications, including “video calling” services like Skype and Google Chat see use by less than 5% of users.

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CompuLab Strikes Again; Intense PC Looks Sweet!

 

CompuLab, the company that brought us the Fit-PC series have a special place in my heart. Their little super-small-form-factor PCs hold an attractive quality that’s hard to describe.

I rather impulsively bought a Fit-PC2 even though I really didn’t have any need for it. The little 4″ square box is actually mounted on a VESA bracket on the back of an LCD monitor. It essentially turns that monitor into a net-top.

As cute and appealing as they were, a Fit-PC was never going to be my primary desktop. Sporting an Intel Atom running at 1.1 GHz they just didn’t have the CPU power to fill that role. However, that may be changing. The introduction of their latest offering, Intense PC, might make a viable replacement for my ailing desktop.

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Wired Headset Happiness: The Return Of ETY.COM

Despite the fact that I have a couple of very good wireless headsets I still find that a wired headset can be handy. This is true both in the office and on the road. While lately I’ve been traveling with a Plantronics Voyager Pro UC cordless headset I also keep an Etymotic ETY.COM wired headset in a my laptop bag.

I’ve mentioned the Etymotic ETY.COM wired headset previously. It remains my favorite wired headset for mobile use. It sounds great and has a boom that reaches around to the corner of my mouth, which is ideal for use in a noisy environment.

However, since I changed cell phones back in November 2009 I’ve not been able to use the ETY.COM with my cell phones. Whereas the Blackberry Pearl has a four conductor 2.5mm jack for the wired headset, the newer Blackberry Bold2 (9700) has a larger 3.5 mm headset jack. The ETY.COM doesn’t fit the 9700 without an adapter.

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