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D-Link Omna Wire-Free Indoor-Outdoor Camera Kit

D-link’s Omna Wire-Free kit packs two weatherproof wireless cameras, base station and a year’s cloud recording.

If you need home or small business security cameras, D-Link has a kit that will have you set-up in no time. The Omna Wire-Free Indoor-Outdoor Camera Kit makes what could be a tricky task dead simple.

It took about as long to get the home surveillance system working as it will take you to read this review. About six minutes from opening the box to being able to check two remote wireless cameras. Of course, mounting them in a permanent spot will take a little longer.

Not cheap, but worth it

At NZ$900, Omna Wire-Free isn’t cheap, but if you need security in a hurry, it’s hard to go past D-Link’s kit.

The ensemble comes in a sizeable box. Inside there’s a base station, D-Link calls it a hub. It looks a like a Wi-fi router. In effect, that’s what it is.

You need a spare power socket for the hub and an unused Ethernet port on your router. Neither of these are givens in modern homes. It makes sense to place the hub close to your router. If your router is near your home entertainment hardware, you’ll have to live with more distracting flashing lights.

Two cameras, hub Omna D-link kit

The box also contains two wireless cameras. They’re about the size of a large apple or orange. Both are curvy, but have a flat base. D-Link supplied some mounting hardware, but there is only a single outdoor mount.

You connect the hub to power and your network. Then, you hit a sync button on the side of each camera and it will connect to the hub.

The next stage is downloading the Mydlink app. There are versions for iOS and for Android.

This brings us to the trickiest and most long-winded part of the set-up. You need to sign-up for a mydlink account and wait for a confirmation email to arrive. You may also need to scan the QR code on the back of the hub to get the software running.

At this point you should be in business and able to see what the two cameras are picking up.

Motion detection

Both cameras can handle motion detection. This feature can work in darkness. The cameras are robust and waterproof enough to put outside. That includes, say, up a tree in the garden.

When the cameras detect movement they capture the scene in 1080P resolution. It’s higher definition than you’d expect. You can choose to send the video footage to D-Link’s cloud storage. Or, you can capture it on a local SD-card or even an old-fashioned hard drive.

D-Link is following the now-common practice of adding online services to hardware. You get a year’s subscription to a basic cloud storage service when you first install the system. After that it costs. The price goes up depending on who long you want to store videos. If you have ten cameras and want to store 30 days of video the cost is US$100 a year.

There’s obvious value in this. If criminals rob or trash your place, there’s a chance they will find or even steal your hard drive or the SD card. If they are at all clued up about home security they may even look for it so they can destroy the evidence.

Local storage

The flip side is local storage is free. There’s no subscription to remember and you can get immediately at the data.

It wasn’t possible to test D-Link’s claim that the camera batteries will work for 11 months between charges. Yet after a few weeks there was no sign of them running down. Even so, if you mount the cameras in hard to reach places, recharging them could be painful. You have to unmount them and take them close to a power supply.

One nice touch is that you can buy extra cameras to expand your security network. D-Link doesn’t appear to sell spare matching cameras. It offers a range of options from A$150. It’s not clear from the documentation if you can add any existing home cameras to the hub.

Phone app

D-Link’s Mydlink phone app works well enough. Yet the 1080p resolution is overkill given the size of most mobile phone screens. The pictures are crisp and clear, even in low-light conditions. It’s hard to fault the product in the set up of video capture department.

That said, there doesn’t appear to be an option to watch live footage on a PC or laptop. If there is, it passed me by. It does work with Google Home, so it may be possible to Chromecast images to a large screen TV. I didn’t test this.

A more subtle shortcoming is the weird latency in the system. It can take ages for the camera image to appear on the app.

In testing on different occasions it would take two or three minutes to get from waking the phone to a live feed. Sometimes the app would appear to hang at this point only to spring back into life. Even a two-minute hold up feels like this could be long enough for a home invader to get through the front door and on their way to your bedroom.

As an aside, I’m also not comfortable with the assumption I keep my phone next to my bed at night. I’ve found that’s a surefire way to interfere with a good night’s sleep.

One last niggle, D-Link needs to work on the phone app. The user interface is poor at the best of times. If you’re panicking as someone crawls about outside it isn’t good enough.

Verdict: D-Link Omna Wire-Free Indoor-Outdoor Camera Kit

D-Link’s Omna Wire-Free Indoor-Outdoor Camera Kit takes the hard work out of getting a home security system up and running. Buying separate devices, mixing and matching them, then making them work with software is not for the fainthearted. The price is good considering the amount of work you won’t need to do.

The hardware performance is impressive. It’s better than I’ve seen on any home system. D-Link still needs to work on the software; both the user interface and the time lag to get images on screen. Still, I’d recommend this for anyone who needs home or small business security.

Microsoft third-quarter 2019

Microsoft announced its third-quarter 2019 results in a press release. Highlights are

  • Revenue was $30.6 billion and increased 14% percent.
  • Operating income was $10.3 billion and increased 25 percent.
  • Net income was $8.8 billion and increased 19 percent.
  • Diluted earnings per share was $1.14 and increased 20 percent.

An impressive result by any standard. In the last five years or so, the big story at Microsoft has been the rise of the company’s Azure branded cloud services. The latest quarter was no exception:

“Demand for our cloud offerings drove commercial cloud revenue to $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41 percent year-over-year”.

Amy Hood, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Microsoft.

But the next part of the release was more of an eye-opener. Microsoft Office is also on a roll. Quoting from the press release:

Revenue in Productivity and Business Processes was $10.2 billion and increased 14 percent, with the following business highlights:

  • Office Commercial products and cloud services revenue increased 12 percent driven by Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 30 percent.
  • Office Consumer products and cloud services revenue increased 8 percent and Office 365 Consumer subscribers increased to 34.2 million
  • LinkedIn revenue increased 27 percent
  • Dynamics products and cloud services revenue increased 13 percent driven by Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 43 percent.

Back in the first division

In other words Microsoft is firing on all cylinders. The turn around in the five years since Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer is astonishing.

Not so long ago the company looked like a has-been. Nadella rebooted the business to focus on the cloud and today it is primed for an optimistic future.

No surprise that the company’s share price jumped 5 percent after the announcement.

What wasn’t part of the popular narrative of the last five years is the pain Microsoft went through as its shifted its focus. The company needed to invest vast sums in cloud capacity to get where it is today. That was a huge risk. Similar investments have not paid off for the likes of IBM or Oracle.

Windows advantage

To a degree Microsoft is still playing catch up with Amazon, which invented cloud computing as we now know it. It had one huge advantage over Amazon; its installed base. Windows was, in some cases still is, loaded onto millions of servers the world over.

As these workloads move from on-premise hardware to the cloud, customers know it’s not hard to move Windows apps and data from a local server to Azure.

There’s a downside for Microsoft. Cloud margins are small compared to Windows licences. Microsoft could rely on gross margins as high as 90 percent when it sold licences. It’s lucky to get half that from selling cloud services. Still, 40 percent or thereabouts is still a healthy margin.

Audiofly AF56W mk2 headphones

Audiofly’s AF56W is another take on the Bluetooth wireless headphone. Here I look at the updated mark II version. 

Now the 3.5 mm jack socket is an endangered species, Bluetooth wireless headphones are the way to go. At NZ$200, the Audiofly AF56W is an expensive option, but not at pricy as Apple’s AirPods 2 which cost another NZ$80.

The money buys a pair of in-ear headphones connected to each other by a Cordura fibre-braided cable. There’s a built-in microphone and a basic controller on the cable.

Elsewhere in the box is a selection of tips so you can get the headphones to better fit your ears. There’s also a magnetic charger on a micro-USB cable and zip case that Audiofly says is waterproof.

Interesting twist

Connecting the two headphones with a cable is an interesting twist. Audiofly says this makes it harder to lose the headphones. Maybe. There have been reports of people losing Apple AirPods, so it could be a useful feature.

However a funny thing happened when I was preparing to write this review. I temporarily lost the AF56W. So, the cord is not that helpful.

The cord is about 400mm. You can adjust the actual length with a clip device at the centre of the cord. At first I wore the headphones with the clip under my chin, which looks dorky. Then I figured it works better when the cord goes around the back of your neck.

Hard to lose the AF56W

While I didn’t have problem with the buds falling out of my ears, more about that in a moment, the cord means they won’t drop to the floor if that happens.

You’d have to be unlucky for both to be dislodged at the same time. This means the AF56W might be a better choice of headphones if you want to listen to music during a vigorous run or workout.

Audiofly’s choice of tips means you get a better fit. That’s important because the headphones don’t have noise cancelling. Instead you have to rely on a tight fit to reduce ambient noise.

The box says the batteries are good for eight hours. That’s pushing it a little. In testing I found seven hours was about all I could get.

Charging takes 90 minutes according to the information on the box. That squares with my experience. It’s nothing like as easy as the Apple AirPod charging arrangement.

Audiofly AF56W headphones magnetic charging

The magnetic charging pad on the cord snaps onto a connector that, in turn links to a 300mm micro-USB cable. The other end of the cable has a standard USB plug, so you might be able to charge the headset from your PC or laptop. I used a phone charger. But the 300mm cable means I had to leave everything on the floor next to a power socket.

That’s far from ideal. Although micro-USB is still fairly common, the move to USB-C means the AF56W could get left behind.

Sound quality

Enough of the details. How do the headphones sound? I found them to be surprisingly good. There’s clear blue water between the sound quality of the AF56W and the cheaper earbuds. That must be down to the 13mm neodymium driver — I read that from the blurb on the box.

Music comes across far better than the spoken word. There’s enough at the top and the bottom to fill out a wide range of music. After hours of listening I can’t tell you if the sound is better or worse than Apple’s AirPods. I can tell you they sound different.

One area where the AF56W lags AirPods is dropouts and glitches. I get almost none on the AirPods, quite a few on the Audiofly headphones even when I’m only a metre or so away from the phone, laptop or tablet.

Another oddity is the spoken voice used to tell you the phones are connected. It’s been recorded at a low bit-rate so it sounds glitchy, which is a bad advertisement for the actual sound quality.

Audiofly AF56W verdict

At NZ$200 the AF56W headphones are expensive. More so considering there is no noise cancellation. Mind you, the sound is noticeably better than you’d find on low cost Bluetooth headphones.

That said, the product and the experience feels cheaper and not as complete as Apple’s AirBuds. In terms of overall quality, ease of use and so on that extra NZ$80 for the Apple alternative starts to feel like a bargain.

In other words high-end audio, mid-range user experience at price somewhere between the mid-range and high-end.

New Zealand and France will work together to make it harder for terrorists to broadcast violence through social media. The move is a response to the March 15 attack in Christchurch which the terrorist streamed live.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet in Paris next month to discuss plans. They timed their meeting to coincide with a G7 digital ministers Tech for Humanity event and a separate Tech for Good summit.

A media statement from Jacinda Ardern says:

“We all need to act. That includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared.

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism. This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies.”

Social media terrorist toolkit

This nails the problem. Facebook and other social media outlets have become part of the terrorist’s toolkit. In part they have spent recent years encouraging ever more extreme and violent content on their sites.

Social media companies know that extreme material resonates with audiences. In effect, they have turned people’s anger into rivers of gold. Rather than calm things down, they have learnt that ramping up fear and hate is a lucrative business.

Profit explains their reluctance to act in the past.

Inevitable

Given this, it was inevitable that a terrorist would one day choose to live-stream the murder of dozens of people. It happened in Christchurch, but the live atrocity could have been anywhere.

It’s good to see Jacinda Ardern work with Macron on this. Neither New Zealand nor France are able to fight these battles alone. It’s also good to involve the G7. The more allies the better. It will take co-ordination from many governments to rein-in the social media giants.

Until now the likes of Facebook, Google with YouTube and Twitter have acted amorally.

Above the law?

If they appear to believe they are above the law, that’s because in a sense they are.

The social media giants are all US-based. They can point to that country’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech as a justification for not policing content loaded on to their sites.

What’s more, the US gives them Section 230 protection. In effect, they have legal immunity for what they publish, although there are exceptions. This sets up a climate where the big social media companies act as if they can do whatever they want.

Reputation not considered

In an ideal world, these companies would fear their reputations and long-term business prospects are risk if they don’t take more responsibility. We’re not at that point yet.

Australia has laws which could see them prosecuted for actions like showing the Christchurch terrorist attach video. Incidentally, there’s a report this morning saying these images are still online and easy to find.

Facebook, Google and Twitter can afford to laugh in the face of small governments. To a degree that’s been their strategy until now. Even medium-sized countries like the United Kingdom are openly disrespected by social media executives. Facebook even dismisses ad hoc groups of countries working together.

New Zealand, France and the G7 are a more powerful combination. They can act together. Yet that last sentence has an important word act. The countries must do more than just bat ideas around in a talk fest. They must take collective action if anything is going to change.

I talked to Lynn Freeman on RNZ Nine-to-Noon about the NZ, France effort to tackle violence on social media

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung has postponed high-profile Galaxy Fold launches in Hong Kong and Shanghai. That’s after review phones sent to journalists had screen failures.

Samsung can ill-afford a second major phone launch disaster. In 2016 the company’s Galaxy Note 7 had battery problems that caused the phone to explode. There were two product recalls. Samsung had to withdraw the phone.

The most humiliating aspect of this came every time an airplane took off. Cabin crew would remind passengers of the explosion danger.

Lasting brand damage

If the Galaxy Fold fails on the same scale, and it looks as if it could, there could be long-term damage to Samsung’s brand.

This is a pity. Folding phones were the star attraction at this year’s Mobile World Congress. If they work as promised, they will give the business the biggest shake up since Apple’s first iPhone.

When folded, folding phones look much like today’s premium phones. The difference is they can fold open to give you a much bigger, tablet-like screen. This makes reading and working on a phone far easier.

Galaxy Fold expensive

Foldability comes at a high price. When, or if, they hit the market the early models will cost the thick end of NZ$4000.

Samsung and Huawei both had models on show at MWC. Some other brands demonstrated folding phones that are still in the pipeline.

Huawei gave New Zealand journalists a brief Mate X demonstration. It was long enough to get a feel for how the phones look. The display is impressive, but you do have to live with a slight crease or line down the centre of the larger screen. The hands on session wasn’t long enough to test the phones in any meaningful way.

Across the aisle, Samsung displayed its Galaxy Fold phone in a glass cabinet. There was no opportunity for the adoring crowds to get closer.

Samsung Galaxy Fold, part folded

Folding phones are impressive

At first sight both phones looked impressive. When folded they are at the large end of the phone spectrum. You could fit one in a jacket pocket. They weigh a few grams more than premium other phones. Opened, they are about the size of an iPad mini.

Most modern phone have toughened glass screens. Samsung covered the Galaxy Fold screen with a protective, flexible layer of plastic. The idea is that this stops the screen from getting scratched. If necessary, Samsung can replace this without the need to replace the rest of the screen.

In some cases review devices failed because journalists pulled off this protective layer. This left the screens vulnerable and easy to break.

Battle of the Galaxy Fold bulge

Yet that only accounted for some of the review screen failures. Journalists reported other screen problems. Some has models where half the unfolded display stopped working. At the Verge, Dieter Bohn’s review phone developed a bulge. This broke the screen.

Samsung cranked its communications machine into damage control mode. It issued a statement saying it durability tested phones to withstand 200,000 folds. It also said the problems were with a limited number of early samples.

If that’s true, the company still has a sizeable public relations disaster on its hands. Sending out half-finished breakable products is, at best, irresponsible. Remember, this is the company that once risked airplanes with exploding phones. Samsung should have learned to take extra care with launches.

Huawei Mate X

Meanwhile Huawei is prepping its Mate X for sale. If the company is prudent it will give the first batch extra testing before sending phones out. After all, Huawei has its own publicity problem caused by incompetence to deal with.

It’s starting to look as if Samsung could have a serious cultural problem. It’s not clear if the problem is engineering, marketing or management. One criticism is that management is rigid and unwilling to listen to warnings when things aren’t going well. Staff fear being punished for “disloyalty” and say nothing.

The company is capable of delivering stunning products. Every so often it can claim to have the world’s best phone. Yet, the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Note 7 have not been the only missteps. They happen to be bigger and more noticeable.

Otherwise impressive

The incident is disappointing on another level. Folding phones are amazing technology. They are a sight to behold.

I’m a hardened old campaigner when it comes to new products. Often at product launches I’m the grouchy one who isn’t impressed by demonstrations of slight improvements. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than an enthusiastic employee inviting me to praise a product when I’m working hard to stifle a yawn.

Folding phones weren’t like that. They charmed and impressed me. Sooner or later I’m going to want to own a folding phone.

It’s a cliché in the tech business to say that Apple is often late with the newest ideas, but that when it moves it gets things right. Yet, if Huawei’s Mate X fails to take off, we may have to wait for the iPhone Fold before folding screen technology is ready for prime time.