Advanced Wireless Streaming A Key Feature Of The New HTC One X

At last week’s WMC event in Barcelona, all eyes were on HTC for their announcement of a new flagship Android device, the HTC One X. This handset has a number of features which make it worthy of flagship status. In this article I will look at a couple of its less publicised, but equally impressive features.

Multi Tasking Overview
The HTC One X benefits from one of the most powerful smartphone processors out there, with a quad-core chip on hand to provide an awesome amount of computing power to the hardware and software alike. One of the many benefits of a quad-core processor is that the phone can multi task efficiently. This means that you can run several applications at once without sacrificing the performance of any of them. As part of the new HTC Sense UI, you can now get an overview of all apps which are currently open and running; in a similar way to the Windows Phone Mango OS, or the MeeGo Harmattan OS found on the Nokia N9. To view the multi tasking overview, simply tap the capacitive Android shortcut key at the base of the screen. This will then display the interface of each open app, and can be scrolled through. Tap any of them, and the app will then open, where you can use the app or close it. This is a very handy and easy way to stay in control of all your apps, as you can close any unnecessary apps which may be using battery power or your data allowance.

Enhanced Wireless Streaming
Many previous HTC smartphones have the DLNA connectivity capability installed as standard. This allows you to wirelessly stream content from your phone onto a compatible TV. This provides a great way to share your photo albums, movies and other content with groups of people as you do not have to crowd around the screen to get a good view. The HTC One X has a new enhanced version of DLNA, which requires a MediaLink unit. This is a device which acts as a wireless receiver for the phone, and plugs into the TV. In order to mirror the content of the phone’s screen, you are simply required to swipe the phone’s screen in an upward motion using three fingers simultaneously. The screen will be mirrored on the TV allowing you to carry out any tasks you wish. This function also goes beyond standard DLNA connectivity, in the fact that you can stream a movie or slideshow from the phone onto the TV, and go back to using the phone for any other task, without interrupting the movie stream being displayed on the TV.

The HTC One X is a very exciting smartphone indeed. Although the features covered in this article are relatively insignificant in comparison to the more publicised features like the quad-core processor, Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, and advanced 8 megapixel camera, it goes to show the user experience you can expect from the device. The HTC One X is currently only available on O2 in the UK, but deals from other networks will be announced shortly.

Streaming – Music and Movies on Demand

Streaming technology has made listening to music or watching movies on the Internet as easy as turning on the radio or TV. Here’s how the technology works.

The first music and movie files you could find on the Internet were just short clips because you had to download the whole file before you could play it. Nowadays, however, you can start playing the file as soon as the first bytes begin to arrive… thanks to streaming.

This immediacy is possible because streaming does not send files on the Internet the same way as most other files are sent. It uses a different protocol.

User Database Protocol

A protocol is a set of rules defining how two computers connect with each other and how they send each other data.

Most data that is sent through the internet is first broken up into packets (small blocks of data). The packets are sent separately and are the rejoined at their destination so that the receiver gets the whole file.

The sending of most data on the Internet is governed by a set of rules called the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Streaming however uses the User Database Protocol (UDP).

These two protocols are quite different. The crucial difference is in how they check for errors.

If one packet gets damaged when downloading is being controlled by TCP, downloading will be suspended while that packet is resent. That way, once the download has been completed, you can be sure that you have the entire data file.

When you are streaming files, however, UDP allows packets to get lost now and then without interrupting the downloading. This is fine because, when an occasional packet is lost, you are unlikely to notice any interruption to the music or movie. But if everything froze very briefly while a lost packet was being resent, you probably would notice the interruption.

With streaming technology, you don’t have to wait for files to be downloaded entirely before you can begin listening to audio or watching a video. You can listen to a concert on the other side of the world in real time, make a video call or watch a movie just like on TV.

Here’s how.

Listening to music

Streaming audio, or listening to music or speech on the Internet, is bringing joy to many. How audio streaming works is easy to understand.

When you click on a link to an audio file, your web browser will contact the relevant server on the Internet. The server will then send a metafile to your browser.

Metafile is a general term for a file format that can store multiple types of data.

The metafile will tell your browser where it can find the audio file you are looking for. This may be on the same or a different server. The metafile will also deliver instructions on the type of audio file that will be delivered and how it should be played. The file will tell the browser to launch the particular audio player needed to play the sound file.

The player that you need will be a plug-in, an app or mini-program designed to work with a particular browser such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox. Well-known plug-ins for browsers include Adobe Flash Player, QuickTime Player and Java.

If your browser does not have the particular plug-in needed to play the sound file you want to hear, you’ll have to download and install it before you can listen to the audio.

Once it’s ready to go, the plug-in will contact the audio server that is going to send the audio file and will tell it how fast your Internet connection is. The audio server will use this information to decide which version of the audio file it will begin sending.

If you have a fast connection, ie, you have plenty of bandwidth, the audio server can send you a high-quality sound file. However, if your connection is slow, it will send a lower-quality sound file.

Once it knows which version of the sound file to send, the server uses the UDP rules to send the audio in a series of packets.

Buffering

A buffer is a part of a physical memory device where data is stored temporarily. For audio and video files, it is a section of your computer’s RAM (random access memory) where the data can go in and out quickly.

When the sound packets arrive at your computer, they are decompressed and decoded, and placed in the buffer in RAM. This buffer can hold a few seconds of sound.

Once the buffer is full, the audio player starts using your computer’s sound card to turn the data into music, voices and other sounds. As the audio is played, the data in the buffer empties while the audio server continues to refill the buffer by sending the rest of the sound file.

The flow of the audio data through the buffer can go on indefinitely. However, the flow can be interrupted occasionally when, for example, the buffer has not received enough data to replenish it.

This can happen if the speed of our connection starts to drop or Internet traffic suddenly becomes very heavy. The buffer can also end up empty if you are processing other files or otherwise using up a lot of your computer’s resources, while you are listening to music.

When the buffer empties, the audio will pause for a few seconds while the buffer is being refilled. Once the buffer is full again, playing will resume.

The effect of a pause on your listening pleasure will depend on the source of the sound file. If you are listening to music being broadcast in real-time, ie as a concert is actually taking place, you will miss a little bit of the music. But if the sound source is a pre-recorded concert, the music will resume from the point where it stopped.

Watching a movie

Streaming video works in a similar way to streaming audio, except that the video has to be divided into its separate audio and video components when it is in the buffer in the RAM.

The server that holds the video for streaming will have a video capture expansion card which can capture either a live feed from a video camera or a pre-recorded video. The capture board turns the analogue signals it receives into digital data and compresses it.

At the same time, it employs a trick to avoid having to capture more data than it needs in order to make transmission easier.

When the camera used to record the video is stationary, ie, it is not panning, the amount of data created can be reduced. This can be done because all moving images are made up of a series of frames (still images) that change in rapid succession to give the illusion of continuous movement. The rate is usually 30 frames a second which gives the video a smooth look.

The compression system reduces the number of frames needed by comparing adjacent frames and only taking account of pixels that change from one frame to another. It does this by establishing what the background looks like.

As long as the camera remains still, only the changes in the frame, such as the movement of the actors, have to be transmitted. The background only has to be transmitted again once the camera starts to pan and the background changes.

Video streaming will also skip frames when your Internet link is slow, which may make the video jerky. Thus the faster your connection, the smoother the video will be.

When your computer receives the video signals, it will decompress them and load them into a small buffer in RAM as it does for audio.

At this point the signals are split into separate video and audio components which are sent to the video card and sound card respectively, whence they are output to your monitor and speakers so you can watch the movie and hear the sound-track.

Entertainment on demand

We’ve come a long way since the Internet began as a text-only medium. Though streaming technology is relatively young, millions of users flock to streaming sites every day to watch and record all sorts of multi-media.

Thanks to streaming, you can listen to good music… attend a lecture… watch the finals of the 6-nations cup or a baseball game… get training in a practical skill… attend a conference… make a video call… watch breaking news… and so on… in real-time as it happens.

Roku Streaming Player

If you love watching motion pictures and videos, but can’t stand to create the constant journey to the video retailer or loathe to view video on your very small laptop screen, innovative technology is making these scenarios obsolete. Via the application of video streaming technology, you’ll be able to watch a number of video and movie alternatives on your own HDTV screen.

One of the pioneers in video streaming innovation, Roku has produced a line of streaming players that offer a seamless connection between on-line video or movie sites and your TV. Utilizing wireless connectivity, a Roku streaming player enables you, the viewer, to quickly stream movies, videos, and also music from favorite on-line sites – Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, Major League Baseball, Netflix, Vimeo and others, all with just the click of a button.

Roku provides a choice of three streaming player models, with simple to advanced features.

Roku HD. One of the most simple model, the HD offers the regular attributes of built-in wireless connectivity and HDMI video output for HDTVs. At a retail cost of only $59.99, it’s the most economical option.

Roku XD. In the event you desire to make the most of your set’s HDTV top quality, you’ll need a more robust feature set. With incorporating 1080p HD video top quality, also as extended-range wireless capability as well as an enhanced remote control with instant replay, the mid-line player takes the basic player’s functions up a notch, for a reasonable $79.99.

Roku XD/S. The top-featured Roku model brings together the XD functions with dual-band wireless technology, both component video and optical audio ports, plus a USB port to allow streaming music, photos, and video from a thumb drive or portable disk drive. The player sells for $99.99.

Among the best attributes of the Roku brand is its basic plug-and-play capability. You connect the Roku player to your TV with composite cabling and wirelessly connect it to your high-speed router. Two actions, period. Then use your remote control to make a selection from obtainable subscription and on-demand websites. And you never want to touch your computer.

The dimensions of the Roku player are really small: much less than 5 inches wide and 1 slender inch tall. It will fit everywhere, unobtrusively.

Unlike some systems; e.g., DVRs, there’s no payment per month for the service. You simply pay for web site subscriptions or for your individual purchases, depending upon the web site. Many no cost channels are also obtainable, such as Pandora, Flickr, and Vimeo.

All Roku players supply a 30-day money-back guarantee as well as a full one-year warranty.

Much like almost any first-generation technology product, there are periodic glitches. A review of user forums and review internet sites shows that the Roku is no exception. Primary issues seem to be with wireless connection going in and out. Glitches are occasionally attributed to recurrent and automatic firmware updates. An unscientific review of user compliments and grievances, nevertheless, shows that far more than three-quarters of buyers give the XD/S unit kudos.

Customer service. On the very same web sites and message boards, you’ll find regular problems about poor consumer support. Luckily, the bulk of users don’t appear to have problems with the player or service. (And, if needed, replacement expenses are low.)

No recording functionality. Until you might be able to purchase all television programming on-line, you’ll still be connected to your cable or dish. And in case you have to use a DVR for keeping programs for later viewing, do you need a Roku as well? Dependent upon your watching tastes, it might still make sense for you, especially should you watch a lot of movie and videos.