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Winter sales and vide grenier

At a vide grenier today, an LCD monitor for a fiver. Could I resist? Of course not, it would be worth it just for the cables. As it happened, the monitor appears to work okay, and is a little brighter than the 1280×1024 that I use with the Pi, and since the resolution was the same, I simply swapped it around. It is useful to have a flat screen monitor as a spare - especially given that I just don't have space on my desk for a CRT, nor have I powered up any CRT device in the past half decade so I don't even know if any of them work, or if they'd support a resolution in the range of 1280 or 1440 pixels across. My CRTs are from the 800×600/1024×768 era.
It is a Fujitsu Siemens K17AN, otherwise known as a Scaleoview C17-7. A 17" TFT LCD capable of 1280×1024 at up to 75Hz, via analogue RGB; supporting the typical [S|V|X|SX]GA display resolutions, plus automatically adapting to horizontal frequencies between 30kHz and 81kHz, or vertical frequencies between 55Hz and 76Hz.
They both think they're at 6500K. Somebody is wrong. ☺


I lost the hands-free kit from my phone (since found) so I picked up a Bluetooth headset for €6. It functions. Connects to the phone for both audio during calls, or for audio from the music/video player. It is not great, the ear lugs don't have much bass capability, and the built-in microphone overcompresses so the sound at the other end of a phone call sounds a bit robotic. I'm not sure how the single +/- control is supposed to control both the track playing and the volume. I think the instructions are wrong, but then the instructions don't make a lot of sense (translated from Chinese?). There is no place-a-call option, holding down the action button turns the headset off.
However, it is useful for making calls and stuff when I lose my hands-free the next time...

Cheap box, marked with "Intempo" on the product. Probably a Chinese import rather than anything that somebody would want to brand. As it was a clip-together casing, opening it up to observe the Airoha SoC was simple.


Given that the Bluetooth headset seemed to be useful, if a little crappy sounding, I decided to try a set of Bluetooth headphones. At €14, it didn't seem a bad idea compared to the prices I'd seen quoted in Amazon previously (as my wired sound-cancelling headphones are getting old and worn out). Okay, a Manhattan range from Campus (honestly, I've never heard of them before), the blurb on the box goes to lengths about how cool you'd look wearing these in Central Park; which rather takes the p!$$ as Central Park is 3.41km² (843 acres) and planet Earth's habitable land totals approximately 63,824,447km² (~15.8 billion acres). There's about 57% more if you include mountains, deserts, etc. Anyway, American Arrogance at its finest, no?

While the style isn't bad, the glossy plastic finish is awful. Every fingerprint and bit of grease (of which there is a fair amount on the average human) shows up. A matt finish would have been more stylish. Plus glossy plastic tends to look at bit cheap.
Pairing is fairly simple. I have switched to and from my phone and the EeePC with ease. On my phone, there can be stutters from time to time when WiFi is in use, I am guessing Bluetooth headphones use a fair bit of processing power? It seems odd that I can use the graphic equaliser, but I can't set bass mode. That doesn't make a lot of sense. The bass can be surprising, some times it sounds weak ("Siren's Call" by Cats On Trees, live version), while other times the sound is rich and likeable ("Piano Song" by Erasure). For general use, these have completely replaced by normal headphones. It is great to not have a bit thick wire getting in the way.
On the PC, while pairing was simple, getting sound out of it was a different proposition. VLC will output to DirectX (Bluetooth device) as long as I watch the video from beginning to end with no interruptions or place changes otherwise the sound stops. SMPlayer fares much better, outputting to the dsound 2 (Bluetooth) device, it doesn't lose sync if I skip around the video. In both cases, I need to reconfigure the audio output if I want to use wired headphones or speakers afterwards. It is a bit of a faff, but I'm guessing XP SP3 sort of predates these sorts of things, I bet it is a lot simpler and more integrated using Windows 10.
There are five controls on the right ear (left in the picture, just to mess with you). The action button turns the headphones on and off, answers phone calls, plays/pauses music, initiates pairing, and if you hold it for a couple of seconds it will initiate the terrible Google Voice Dialler which is a pretty poor effort. It would also be better if the Google option could be a bit more Siri-like but be capable of offline work. There is Google Now but that appears to work by passing your voice data across the internet - that's the same reason why I never set up Samsung's own S Voice. In the '90s I had some degree of voice understanding working on a 90MHz Pentium box in Windows 95. My phone? It's a goddamn quad core 1.4GHz processor - there is no excuse it can't be taught to understand some basic commands without needing to get third party machines involved...
The upper and lower buttons control the volume. Interestingly, this seems to be independent of the phone's volume controls, meaning that you can have maximum volume that is quite quiet (headphone max, low on phone) and maximum volume that will make your ears bleed (max on both devices). Better to set the headphones to a midway point, then adjust the phone until it is good, then use the headphones to tweak according to environmental conditions. I don't understand, though, why there is no direct control of the volume in the phone. Two independent controls seems...silly.
The left and right buttons go to the previous/next track.
Some of this works in Windows too, but it depends upon setting up the video player. I had one of them (VLC?) set up so the volume controlled the volume, left and right could do small skips backwards and forwards, and the action button was play/pause.
The left earphone contains the battery, and there is a button that you can press at any time to see the charge level of the battery as four painfully bright LEDs. That's a nice touch. I just need to remember to charge the headphones when they're low. But it isn't the end of the world. I have a special cable that has a 3.5mm stereo jack plug on one end, and a micro USB plug on the other. I don't know how this is wired up, but it can be used to listen to music when the batteries have run out. A clever touch.
But I really really like being able to abandon clunky wires.


A clearance item for a tenner was a Microsoft media keyboard. Using a USB device and presenting itself as an integrated HID device, I thought that this would be useful for the Pi. I wanted to avoid a Bluetooth keyboard as hell will freeze over before RISC OS gets a functional Bluetooth stack.
A small adaptor would plug into the Pi and the keyboard would function as a keyboard and the little touchpad as a mouse. I'd need to do something in order to get the menus working - probably a low level hack to switch the middle and right buttons - so I wouldn't have ADJUST but I'd have MENU. It's really important on RISC OS.
Anyway, no go. The keyboard works, but using the mouse freezes RISC OS. The pointer still moves (it moves on interrupt) but the callbacks cease (my OLED is updated on a ticker) so this means something has gone horribly and irrecoverably wrong inside the USB driver.
The keyboard seems to work okay on the Pi with an older version of RaspBMC.
Right now I have it hooked to my EeePC for testing - many of the media keys seem to work well with XP which is interesting given that it is designed to work with Windows 8 or later.

An oddity with the keyboard is that the uppermost row of keys performs the enhanced function (labelled in blue). If you want the F keys (labelled in white) you need to press the FN key. This is, for want of a better word, ass-backwards.
The volume up/down keys don't work. There doesn't appear to be any command control for adjusting the volume that way in XP. Those that do (like the EeePC's extended keys) have a specific driver for it. TweakUI exposes the Explorer media keys and there is only a way to turn the microphone up and down. Useful, Microsoft! At least mute works.
I have altered the Explorer (directory) key to run Explorer listing My Computer with drives, instead of My Documents. The shortcut is the imminently memorable "C:\Windows\Explorer.exe /e,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}".
I cheated and disabled the automatic firing up of MSIE and replaced it with hooks to use "whatever browser" by running a web address. The command for the Search key is "C:\WINDOWS\system32\cmd.exe /c start". This means a command window appears on the screen for a fraction of a second, but it is better than nothing. Going to the /ncr version of defeats Google's desire to kick me to and speak to me in French. If I wanted that, I'd have gone to in the first place...
Related, the WebHome key's shortcut is "C:\WINDOWS\system32\cmd.exe /c start", and the media player button starts SMPlayer.
The keys are not that much smaller than a regular keyboard, but the keys themselves are a bit weird. To be honest, it reminds me of the Oric-1. I wonder if there will be issues with keypresses not being 'seen'? For some reason, the touchpad has a 'click' behaviour, even though it isn't necessary as it senses gentle finger taps. This makes it feel 'cheap', like the touchpad is about to fall out. There is also no visual indication of Caps/Scroll/Shift lock.
I would like to use this keyboard with RISC OS, but I don't expect the problem to be fixed in a hurry - if ever - and I'm not familiar enough with USB to stand a hope in hell of fixing this for myself. So I'll probably shove the USB receiver into the P4 box and use it with that, instead of nicking the keyboard/mouse from the Pi when I want to rip a DVD...


This cost a euro. One end is a squishy prodder for use with tablets and smartphones. The other end is a laser. It runs off of an AAAA (yes, quad A) cell. The squishy end works, the laser is capable of placing a spot on a tree from nearly one side of the property to the other. Maybe seventy odd metres? It could probably do better, but my visual acuity is not suitable to see a red dot less than a centimetre across from further than that.
The one that got the most out of the laser pointer was Tiny (the cat). She passed a good ten minutes hunting and wishing to capture that red dot. Climbing up doors, walls, humans, chasing it around the floor, under tables, and so on. Obviously one must take special care not to point it in the eyes. The laser is activated by a press button, not a switch, so it was easy to turn it off if she was turning her head towards the light.


Global warming?

Went out and took some pictures of the flowers today. Today, the 17th of January.

First up is a rose. Called Ghislaine de Feligonde (or something like that). Doing what making flowers in January?

I think mom said this was a Celandine, growing there against the wall of the house.

Some bulbs. No idea what they are (mom said, but there was a memory parity mismatch), but mom said that they are supposed to be doing this in early March.

The Daffs are on the way:

Here's the Hazelnut. Are those flower buds?

The Almond has buds starting to form, but it'll be a while before flowers. Likewise for the Willow.

The coldest it has been here so far this year has been -0.5°C. There have been some ice and frosts, and some snow to the north and east (as usual) but nothing particularly cold, and so far no snow days. I hope winter just sort of fizzles out and spring hurries in its place.
If this is Global Warming, then Bring It. Forget the reality of melting Arctic ice likely pushing Europe into a mini ice age, and let's have the weather be like Spain, huh? ☺



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Zerosquare, 17th January 2016, 23:36
"I'm not sure how the single +/- control is supposed to control both the track playing and the volume." 
I used to have a Chinese-made media player with a simiar control scheme. IIRC, a short tap would change tracks, and a longer press would increase/decrease the volume. 
"I don't understand, though, why there is no direct control of the volume in the phone. Two independent controls seems...silly." 
Not sure, but maybe there's no standard way of controlling the volume that works on all devices (phones, PCs, etc.). In that case, having a redundant volume control is less worse than ending up with a non-working volume control on the headphones. 
"The volume up/down keys don't work. There doesn't appear to be any command control for adjusting the volume that way in XP." 
Strange. I have a Microsoft keyboard that's a few years old, and the volume up/down keys definitely worked back when I was using XP, and I never had to install any driver. I think those keys are even defined in the HID standard. Maybe they changed the keycodes in newer keyboards for some reason? Anyways, with key-remapping software, you can probably get them to work.

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