Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – October 27, 2017

Talking NBN in a 5G world, the iPhone X is inbound, how you can help crack cancer, and what makes Nespresso’s new machine so different. It’s an extra long Wrap.


For the last week of October, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology podcast, now with much fewer Halloween jokes. In fact, we’ve never really had any, but we can talk scarrrrillllyyyy about our internet situation in Australia, because this week, the news has kind of been about the scary joke the National Broadband Network has become.

This has been a bit of an ongoing thing, and while quite a few in the tech community have been fully aware of this, a Four Corners program on the ABC brought this to light once more, as the NBN is not only taking its time, but not working for quite a few Australians.

To give you a bit of history, around ten years ago, the NBN started going into planning. It was a national issue, part of what people were voting for when they were choosing between the two parties at a federal election, and when Labor won, it was decided Australia would get a fibre to the premises connection to every home. That’s a direct fibre link to every home, and that’s what started to roll out.

However, politics can change everything, and so when Labor was knocked out of government and replaced with a Liberal-led Coalition, the plan changed to a fibre to the node concept, a plan that cut out the fibre directly to your home and instead sent you to a node in your street, making the old copper phone lines do the rest of the work.

Since then, the NBN roll out has been marred with problems. The nodes could be too far away and not giving people the connections they expect, some neighbourhoods have a mixture of fibre and node making people angry, and there’s also the addition of the cable technologies NBN is relying on, as well as satellite, essentially creating what is a bit of national bungled broadband network, a mess of technologies that hardly offer every Australian the same connection.

And while this commentary does little to add to the solution, here’s where it gets interesting: with the roll out of 5G on the way, the NBN is reportedly under threat.

Back when the NBN was being rolled out, you can almost guarantee someone saying “just use mobile access, it’s faster” and that would be fair, except you always want a proper fibre backend, something that really delivers the speed, especially when it comes to rural communities, which Australia not only has quite a few of, but that mobile broadband doesn’t always penetrate because of distances and tower needs, and so on and so on. Back then, the NBN rollout was geared at rural communities, and should have been, ideal for Telehealth and the internet of things and so on.

But now with 4G data costs falling and 5G networks beginning to be built, the NBN finds itself in an interesting position, conceivably under threat from a system that could offer better speeds and a more ubiquitous connection type, provided you can get access.

A report from Deloitte was released this week suggesting all the ways 5G will help, and it’s not just about speed, but about everything that can be connecting being connected, like your smartlights or the smart car or your smart appliances or anything else in your life with the word smart tacked onto the front because it has a connection to the internet.

5G will conceivably get us there, and it will do so wirelessly with new connection mechanisms, and while it shouldn’t kill the National Broadband Network or any solid wired connection for homes, there is a chance now that our national solution could end up beaten by a way for homes to connect using these 4G and 5G options.

We’ll have to wait and see, but we’ll have to anyway, because with the NBN being late across the board and costs blowing out, people without the NBN have to wait to receive it, and they don’t get much of a choice, unless they want to fork out thousands of dollars to fix their NBN to be something better, if anything at all.

Hey, at least you won’t have to wait too long for the next iPhone, with the iPhone X going into preorder status this weekend. We don’t talk much about preorders — it seems too sales and markety for us — but the iPhone X is important not just because it’s Apple’s most future-friendly device in ages.

In fact, we wouldn’t be shocked if the iPhone X had eaten into the iPhone 8’s sales, because while the iPhone 8 Plus is one hell of a phone, with a great camera and battery life, the iPhone 8 feels like it needs that camera and that battery life, which it doesn’t have. It’s still a good phone, but it’s hard not to get the feeling that Apple wants iPhone 8 buyers to take on that newer option, kind of like what Samsung did in the Galaxy S7.

In 2016 when Samsung released the Galaxy S7, it made a flat version and a curved edge version, and the curved version reportedly sold better. That might explain why this year’s S8 and S8+ were both curved edge phones with long screens, so we could be seeing Apple kind of make the same decision.

In any case, preorders for the iPhone X will go into effect from tonight — that’s Friday October 27 for all you time travelling listeners — with the orders beginning to be shipped from next Friday, November 3rd.

Now speaking of telcos, Vodafone has this week relaunched an app that can help people while you sleep, essentially turning you — yes you — into a cancer researcher.

It’s a cute little use of what the world has seen many times over in distributed computing, a technology that sends your device small chunks of data to decode with the idle time it has, and then sending it back.

For Vodafone and the Garvan Institute, the DreamLab app sends out information that it’s trying to decode and translate about cancer, and while you can’t see it work, DreamLab uses the time your phone is charging while you’re asleep to do its job, stopping when the phone comes off the charge.

And the project for DreamLab has been running for over a year, but with the latest push, both the Garvan Institute and the Vodafone Foundation hope that the inclusion of a “Cancer Researcher” title on people’s LinkedIn profiles will help them want to keep it up, continuing to share their distributed computing power and help its scientists break cancer well and truly open.

And speaking of breaking something well and truly open, let’s break open a review on something a little different for Pickr.

You know we’ve been doing this whole reviewing thing for a good decade now. Not at Pickr — that’s only been a website for a little over a year — but before it, we did lots of reviews. Phone reviews, laptop reviews, camera reviews, headphone reviews — I really like headphones, and there are a whole bunch of those coming up — but we’re also one of the few folks that does coffee machine reviews. Why? We’re geeks. You know the answer to that. Caffeine fuels us. That should be pretty self explanatory.

Within the next few weeks, however, a new coffee machine is coming to Australia, as Nespresso shifts its encapsulated coffee system more fondly known as “coffee pods” to something a little different.

For the past few years, Nespresso has been churning out its espresso machines, and with the help of ambassador George Clooney, it’s kind of clinched the whole coffee pod thing, competing against some strong work from Aldi’s system, as well.

However, Nespresso’s Vertuo system is a little different. The pod is bigger, and there’s only one button on the VertuoPlus we reviewed, because it works a little bit differently.

Now instead of buying just blend of coffee, you’re also buying the size of how much you want to drink. We’re not talking solely espresso sizes, but you can buy those. No, we’re talking larger mug sizes of 230mls, or an Alto which is a taller thermos-style giving you 414ml.

In fact, if you drop a bit of milk in the cup before the machine starts — say 5 or 10ml — the coffee will blend nicely, without you needing one of Nespresso’s magnetic Aeroccino milk frothing things.

And that’s the really the point of this system: easily milk-based or long-mug coffees with good crema, and all through one button.

There is a catch, but it’s one that might not bother you. It’s really going to depend on the style of owner you are.

If you like buying coffee pods from other coffee makers like at Coles or Woolies, this is not the machine for you, because while other coffee makers eventually cracked the capsule code from previous Nespresso machines, the Vertuo works a little differently.

Under the lip of each of these new pods, which are also shaped differently, is a barcode. That barcode is scanned by the Vertuo system and it determines how much water and pressure the pod receives, guaranteeing the long mug as opposed to the short espresso. You can always stop it earlier, but the barcode tells the machine what to do, puncturing the pod, running the water through while it spins the pod and pours the coffee through the front to your cup.

The barcode therefore serves two purposes, providing a specific way for the machine to make the coffee, but also likely locking out companies from making their own pods.

For now anyway. We have to wonder how long until Nespresso’s Vertuo’s line-up has been cracked.

And for all of you with the original Nespresso pods, have no fear, they’ll still be around, too.

There’s a full write-up complete with a video at the Pickr website, and we gave the Nespresso VertuoPlus a good review, thanks in part to a fairly economical price.

And now we’re wired, which is great because we have so much to talk about and no more time to talk about. Which is great. Super. Fantastic.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, the official podcast of and Australia’s fastest technology podcast. We’ll be back this time next week with more news and a review, and likely a little less caffeination. Until then, take care and have a great week.

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