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Written on Saturday, posted on Sunday because the ESP32 was posted yesterday (early morning).


I went into a shop called "Action" today. It's kind of hard to describe, it's like a discount supermarket but it sells all the stuff you don't find in other supermarkets.
The first thing I picked up was a USB endoscope (€6,99, I think). The resolution wasn't impressive (640×480), but it claimed to plug into an Android phone using the AN98 app. The app itself was rated poorly, but commenters mentioned other apps that apparently work better. So...

Here is the camera end:

It is rated IP67, so it'll go down to a metre depth. It's not really possible to go any deeper as the cable is only about a metre long, and the other end (LED brightness control and USB connector) aren't going to be waterproof.

There are add-on things - a magnet, a hook, and a mirror for 90° viewing, plus a clip to hold those things in place. There is also a connector to convert the OTG plug into a regular USB plug for use with a computer.
Focal range appears to be from about 3cm to around 8cm (1"-3"). The brightness control is a bit rough, but it'll go from nothing to full brightness. The above picture has the illumination dialled down so it didn't upset the camera.

The endoscope won't focus on things directly in front of it. That's probably a good thing as it'll stop people doing stuff like looking in their ears, nose, etc.
I looked down my throat (getting the camera as far as that dangly thing) but it wasn't anything I hadn't already seen. I didn't fancy going any further without sterilising wipes to ensure the camera was disinfected.

The AN98 app is by some Chinese outfit for another camera, but given this is a Chinese clone of a Chinese thing, the app worked. The app itself is a bit crashy-crashy, but it worked on my S7 well enough to take photos. I'll point out that the video button does not record video. It switches to video mode, and the normal shutter button starts and stops video. Just thought I'd point that out in case you're used to a camera app like the Samsung one where the buttons do as expected without the hassle of having to 'case mode' first.

In use, the images captured are fairly sharp if the camera is kept still. It can be a little hard to position the camera when inside things because the cable may kink or twist. The illumination LEDs are decently bright, but tend to give everything a blueish hue. With a viewing angle of 67° and the short focus range, it isn't good for seeing an overview of what you're looking at, but it's great for close-ups.

Here is inside my HP3630 printer (actual picture and size):

It's the back of the motherboard. The WiFi daughterboard is directly under the camera. This is a case where the 90° mirror would have been useful, but clunking around electronic devices with metal things is not generally considered a great idea.

Another view inside the printer, this time it's the controller for the LCD and buttons:

I saw the guide under the print head was covered in waste ink. What the hell HP? Is that how you implement borderless printing? Just carry on printing when there's no paper there?

Finally, here's the USB/network sockets of the PC. The endoscope is useful for seeing what's plugged in where:

I would imagine it has many other domestic uses like shoving in cracks/holes in walls, down drains, and other inaccessible spots. To it's credit, I had lost my Silvercrest FM/MW/LW/SW radio, and poking the camera behind the bookshelf showed it lurking behind some books. No idea why it was there, but it was good to find it. And, hey, I didn't do anything stupid like leave batteries in it!


Arcade game

It's a little arcade game in an arcade box, featuring a 2.5" LCD and claiming to have 240 games onboard. It cost a tenner and, let's face it, I was wondering if I could repurpose the LCD or somesuch.

I remember when you used to have rooms full of these things (full size, of course!). Too much of my childhood was spent feeding coins into arcade machines, and Outrun was the only one I didn't suck at. There was a table-mounted (look down) PacMan game in one of the tea rooms on the SS Canberra. I got to know that game quite well. And I also discovered a bug in AfterBurner where if you went to the upper left and held the plane there, nothing would touch it.

As to this mini arcade game, it just so happened that I had some AA cells on me. And a small screwdriver. Well, remember who you're talking to. What sort of geek goes anywhere without at least a screwdriver?
Let's just say that I don't remember much of the rest of the journey home. The LCD was bright. It might be a fairly low resolution (at a guess, I'd say 320×240) but the paletted (8 bit?) colour gives a surprisingly good result. On playing games, some of the text was a little small (well, the display is tiny) but on the flip side it didn't have visible pixels.

I have not tried all the games, obviously. The controls are all over the place, it depends upon the game. The fish game is smooth and responsive, the guide-the-guy-around-the-maze often didn't respond to my use of the eight way joystick. But, then, let's face it, some of the games were rubbish. Others I couldn't figure out what was supposed to happen. Also, some of the games were clones of others. The official word is that the levels or behaviour may be different, but in one case it looked like all that was different was the palette.

That said, for a tenner, it is surprisingly entertaining. The games fall into the traditional categories:

  • Aliens/planes/whatever come down from the top. Shoot everything that moves.
  • Aliens/planes/whatever come from the sides. Shoot everything that moves.
  • Top down view of a car/boat/etc, floor it and avoid the obstacles.
  • Various incarnations of Pole Position, including one with bicycles!
  • Numerous Pac-Man style games where you're in a maze and have to collect things while avoiding other things.
  • Platform games, such as a chicken that poops out eggs on to rolling platforms (you have to catch the eggs).
  • Various versions of "avoid this thing while catching these things".
There are no licensed games, so don't expect to see anything you have heard of. Many clones, mind you.

I wonder what actually makes this run. The chip inside is a little flat one covered in hard black gunk (like every games machine I've ever taken apart since the mid eighties). No, I haven't opened it up, I shone a bright torch through the LCD and saw it behind (on the side of the circuit board that I couldn't directly see).
I ask because the video behaviour, the music that is both annoying and catchy, the big list of games - it's almost as if somebody baked MAME into hardware, dumped 240 game ROMs and wrote a front-end menu to choose which to play. It's actually pretty impressive, I'd love to know what's powering it. If it is based upon the VT16 (a knock-off Famicom/NES), then it'll be a 6502 (!) clocking around 5MHz with a mere 4KiB RAM (with 2KiB for video) but a lot of hardware/DMA for sprites and sound.

The controls are simple. A reset button to reset the device back to the games menu. A start button to select a game, and to start/pause the game in progress. A volume button that steps through the available sound volumes: off, quiet, normal, loud. Below is an eight way digital joystick, and finally two buttons labelled A and B, which may or may not be used depending upon the game.

No, the console did not recognise the Konami code when entered at the main menu. Missed a trick there, guys. ☺

However, the reason why I think it is based upon a Famicom/NES clone is because I sort of remembered there was another well known secret button sequence with some of the clone games. In this case, Up, Down, Up, Left, Right, Left, B which, on the game Little Witch (among others) resulted in a brief credits screen:

And, of course, pressing reset (or turning on) while holding down A and B goes to a button test screen...

Here's a screenshot if a fish game. Pretty much the only one so far I didn't completely suck at. I'm the yellow fish, I die if I touch the blue fish, smaller fish (like the green one) give me points. 2000 points is a level up, with more dangers (a freeze octopus on level 2, a killer-bubble shark on level 3, etc).
The display is uniform blue (like on the right) all the way across. The camera is a lot more sensitive to the backlight than the human eye. It's a TFT so you need to look at it straight on for best results.

My final verdict? A reminder of the eight bit era that I've already wasted a lot of time on already today. The batteries claim to last around about five hours. I may well, by the end of the weekend, have used them up. And, extra kudos for quite likely being based upon something related to the 6502 processor!


Crazy stuff in the paper

Mom found two crazy things in the local regional newspaper Ouest France.

Here's the first. It's a death notice. We kind of hope that's a typo because if not, family reunions would be insane...

And, finally, just to show that life in rural France isn't boring...

Come on. Admit it. You can totally picture that llama in a gangsta hat and wearing shades, am I right?



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Rick, 20th January 2019, 01:37
Oops - the newspaper got it wrong. It was, in fact, an alpaca and not a llama. 
I'm still going with the hat and shades though... 🙂
David Pilling, 20th January 2019, 15:06
As it happens I got one of those endoscopes last week and spent Saturday poking it around the "crawl space" under the floor. It is a standard USB webcam, and on Linux I used GTK UVC. I did not fancy the supplied CD - even if it is not full of spy-ware no desire to upset Windows. The problem is that the USB cable is quite springy and there is no way of guiding it where you want. I ended up taping the cable to a stiff piece of metal (as in old wire coat hanger) which at least kept it pointing downwards. If you pushed it down a pipe the lens would soon be obscured. Although it is very clever to have a camera and lights in such a small device (mine is 5.5 mm) turning up the illumination to maximum produces "lens flare" and you can't then see.
VinceH, 23rd January 2019, 09:58
Cripes. My nephews and nieces number somewhere in the high 20s, and I thought that was a lot!
J.G.Harston, 10th March 2019, 03:56
From the picture it looks like I've got one of those endoscopes, and I specifically bought it exactly to go digging around in my nose (and throat) to prove to myself I wasn't imagining my lumps coming back - and to take a printout to my newly-qualified GP who admitted he'd never seen a "live" one before. 
It's not quite small enough to get the pictures my ENT consultant gets with his one though.
J.G.Harston, 10th March 2019, 04:02
The dangy thing - that's your uvula. I say "your" as I don't have one any more. :( Transnasal ablative excision of uvula papiloma does that for you.

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