Australia still trailing Thailand in broadband coverage

Australia still trailing Thailand in broadband coverage

Wither now comms in Australia? With the National Broadband Network or NBN a certified failure, Australia seems to be working hard to ensure that to make the NBN look reasonable, any emerging 5G network must be made to hobble by banning technology companies like Huawei from providing the same kind of support it has been giving over the past 15 years to the local telcos. The given reason is a lack of trust in any Chinese company, keeping the spying eyes of China out of the country. To be fair, there is some justification for this, as China has not been the poster child of espionage abstinence across the globe. What earth-shattering useful secret info they might get from the Australians is debatable, but it looks like the Land Down Under will not be improving their communications any time soon. Thailand is still well ahead on that front.

The next Windows 10 will be called the "Windows 10 October 2018 Update". I guess they are all out of clever code names and instead have gone with the most obvious name they could find. So far I'm having trouble finding any newsworthy content in the next update. If that changes, I'll let you know.

In the modern age of mobile video recorders built into your phone it can be handy to convert your default format into something else. If you have a Linux, Windows or macOS operating system then your first stop should be Handbrake. It has improved a lot since the early technophile-only versions and it supports all manner of video formats, including H.265, which the AVS Video Converter still doesn't. The latest version comes with a bunch of presets that will do most of what the average person needs and tweaking options are plentiful. There is also a nifty preview option to convert a small part of your file to see what it will look like. Windows-only users might also like to check out MediaCoder HQ that also supports H.265 and is fast. Another one to check out that also covers macOS is Any Video Converter. If you do happen to try the latter, make sure to watch the install selections, as they include some extra utilities that you probably don't want or need.

IFA, the world's leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances, took place recently in Berlin, Germany. To use a Sesame Street example, the word of the show was blockchain, along with the letters A and I. You guessed it, the marketing buzzword of the year is Artificial Intelligence. AI could probably be rendered "Annoyingly Intrusive" because AI isn't there yet. Instead, every vendor on the planet is trying to release AI-branded devices that are costly, complex and come with annoying prompts anticipating your every non-wish. It is an expanded version of the way Microsoft products try to help you and end up doing the opposite of what you wanted most of the time.

Speech recognition has improved, except in the cases where it hasn't. White goods makers are still trying to sell us a smart refrigerator to add to their margins. Companies like LG have adopted the tag line ThinQ and applied it to everything they make as if a label will do what 40 years of development has failed to achieve. A "smart kitchen" will give you voice prompts for recipes. Remote controls have been rebranded as intelligence engines. OK, I made that last one up. I hope.

Many are using Amazon Alexa in their devices, but Samsung's Bixby is one challenger. Alexa is winning, because it isn't trying to fake at being smart, it just does what it's told or asked. There is a new golden rule I wish I had thought up when it comes to current products: "Does it interrupt or divert the individual from what they wanted to do?" When I buy a cup, I don't expect to train it to hold my coffee, but modern AI touts seem to believe that this should be true for everything you own.

On the other side, there are some rules-based engines that do the job very well, sometimes better than their human expert counterparts. One example might be in the field of medical diagnosis. CALIBER, the clinical research project in the United Kingdom, combined the data from 80,000 patients. It then applied a series of rules-based algorithms resulting in a system that can predict when your next heart attack will be, better than the doctors can. We are talking 0.801 versus 0.793 so it was close, but data can be added over time and algorithms refined to increase this gap.

To round out this issue: drones. My brother uses one in his job to map out features for 3D mapping. We are starting to see them used in the latest movies to get that interesting overhead shot without the need for an expensive helicopter and stabilisation gear. If you change the target a little, you have inexpensive surveillance but still with limited flying time, it isn't all like in the movies where they seem to fly forever. This is a technology to watch, pun intended.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at

James Hein

IT professional

An IT professional of over 30 years’ standing. He has a column in Bangkok Post tech pages and has been writing without skipping a beat every week all these years.

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