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Today, two people came to visit. John Williams, who you may know from the RISC OS forum, and his wife.
It's been forever since I last saw them. I know exactly the last time, as it was mom's final good day. She wasn't great, but she sat in the wheelchair as I showed her the flowers in the planters out front, and then she sat in a reclining chair in order to enjoy the sun and socialise. The very next day, her "get up and go" got up and went.

Today's weather was a bit fifty-fifty. Fifty percent annoying that it spend a lot of the day chucking it down, with thunderstorms (none of which came close), but it's fifty percent good that the temperature was closer to twenty than thirty. Yesterday was insufferable due to the heat. I kept the living room open (doors and windows) as I was going in and out so much and... ugh. In the late afternoon, I took a shower with cold water (didn't bother heating it up) and that was better. The heat wiped me out a bit, so half seven I was in bed watching random rubbish on YouTube until I was drowsy enough I hit the lights and went to sleep. Only to be disturbed by the bug light sparking like crazy. I wasn't being invaded by bugs. It was near the bedroom window (which was open, with a mosquito screen), so I think there was just so much electricity in the air that the high voltage dodah was freaking out. If you went outside, you could literally feel the hairs on your arms standing up. So I turned the bug light off and expected to be woken by an epic thunderstorm.

No storm came (or I managed to sleep through it?) so I got up early and got stuck into finishing up the tidying. I cut a few corners as, to be honest, I'm getting fed up with it - the outside needs to be seen to, and already I cannot tidy anything else up until at least 2024 (when the pile of black bin bags is gone). But, as was observed, it's a big room when it isn't full o'crap!

I had space and I had two chairs so they could sit inside as it was tipping outside. We talked about various random things. I trust I didn't come across as too weird. At least, keeping at my usual level of weirdness. ☺

They kindly did some shopping for me.

Shopping - British food.

Proper bread rather than that Harry's stuff. Bramley apple pies. Trifle kit. Cake mix. A Battenberg (or "pink'n'white"). Dumpling mix. Chicken in white sauce. And Golden syrup.

French bread comes in two forms. There's the stuff the baker makes fresh, which tends to have a hard crust and a very fluffy (full of holes) interior. I think this gets dipped in coffee or something. It's a different culture to us Brits.
The closest to British bread is Harry's. It's longlife sliced bread that typically has a use by date about two weeks into the future. I left some bread in an old pack on the kitchen counter until it started to go mouldy. It took six weeks. Yikes!

Apple pies don't really exist. There are open topped things about the size of an LP with slices of apple that includes the skin, what we would probably call an apple flan. Small covered pies? If they exist, I've not found them.

Yeah, I know, I could probably make dumplings. Maybe one day I will. Until then...

French cakes seem to be heavier than British ones. I have managed to make a reasonable cake with the Alsa mix (the trick is to completely ignore the instructions and divide the mix between two cake tins and do it for about 20-25 minutes until done; the instructions ask you to fill a single large cake tin and bake it for 45-50 minutes, so it's no wonder the end result is awful). Here in France, flour typically comes in three grades - T45, T55, and T110. Note that others exist (T65, T80, and T150, but these aren't commonly found in a supermarket). The number refers to the mineral content of the flour. The lower the number, the more it has been processed, so a pure white flour would be T45 while T110 contains more of the wheat bran.
White flour is T45 and T55, 'bise' flour is T80, wholemeal is T110, and integral is T150.
Thus, it would seem to me that T55 is a good flour for white bread, pizzas, and things that are white but need a touch more substance, while T45 ought to be for cakes and thickening sauces.
The problem is, the flour used for making cakes in the UK is a white flour but it is very finely milled to make it lighter. Perhaps this would be equivalent to a non-existant T35? So without the lightness of the flour, the cakes will be heavier. Again, this is cultural. The main cake around here is a quarte quarts (four quarters). It's directly equivalent to a pound cake, consisting (usually) of equal measures of flour, butter, sugar, and egg. It is hard, greasy, and you could use it as a brick...

Chicken in a simple white sauce doesn't exist. In ratatouille, curry, southern sun dried vegetables, etc etc, sure. But a simple white sauce? Nope.

It was nice to see them again. It's been four years. I made Tetley, in paper cups. I have been sorting out teapots, not so much teacups. But, hey, the tea is the important part, right?

And, of course, they got a complimentary towel. ☺

Thank you, guys, for stopping by and for the yummies! Thanks. ☺


soomfon HDMI acquisition dongle

The reason they came to visit today was to drop off something that John got for me from Amazon, since it cost less than half the price they're going for over here (~£6 vs ~€16).
This little gizmo.

HDMI video capture
HDMI video capture.

It's remarkably tiny. One side has a standard USB 2.0 plug, the other has a regular sized HDMI socket. The plan was to connect the Pi (running RISC OS) and use the portable (or a tablet) as a monitor.

The initial test was a bit of a failure. I saw a brief flicker of the RISC OS desktop, that was skewed with green lines through it. But the app I was using crashed shortly after displaying that.

I didn't progress any further while I had visitors, that would have been impolite.
But now, on my own and with most of the tidying done (and the floor swept for the fourth time today - I dread to think about what sort of crap ends up in fitted carpets!) I could sit down with a toasted Hovis and cheddar sandwich and fiddle.

The good news? If USB Camera Viewer fails, just try a different app. In this case it was nExt Camera and that worked fine. It warned me that my machine was slow (yes) so I stepped the frame rate back to 20fps and the resolution to straight HD (1280×720) which it seemed happier with.
Switching the Pi to HD (rather than the 1024×600 of my little screen) and this was the result.

The RISC OS desktop on Android
The RISC OS desktop on Android

The black bars are because this is a screenshot (see the Android pointer at the bottom?) and the screen is a weird shape in order to have the status bar at the top and the three usual buttons at the bottom, though both are hidden while the app is in use.
It is more readable than it looks, this image has been scaled down to fit the blog.

Internally, it is a Macrosilicon MS2109 which is a cheap video acquisition chip that came in a lurid green box about the size of a pack of playing cards. It claims to be able to accept up to 4K at 30Hz, and it will capture up to 1080P at 30Hz. I guess over 1080P is downscaled. Certainly USB 2.0 won't be up to real-time 4K video transfer.

The box carries suspiciously not-quite-right CE mark, FCC logo, and UK CA mark. I reckon they're all bogus.

It is self powered from the USB bus, and is USB Audio and Video compliant. The case is metal. This isn't a luxury, it apparently doubles up as a heatsink despite the fact that the chip isn't actually directly connected to it. There may or may not be a little heatsink on the chip. If there isn't, it won't last long as they apparently run hot.

Looking at the data, there is a bit of an oddity with the audio. It seems to be 96kHz mono, which is actually two 48kHz streams interleaved. But this doesn't matter right now, as my portable can't record audio.

The device has two modes. The first is compressed MJPEG, which can offer up to 60fps. I was running the device at 20fps because my Android portable was a freebie, so not exactly high end.
The other mode is YUYV which sends the raw video data. Accordingly, frame rates are the low end of single digits.
The compression in MJPEG isn't too obvious, so I'm going to guess it's somewhere around 90 in the JPEG quality setting.

There may be an issue with setting up the colourspace as the images seem to be rather contrasty. Similar colours (white and almost white; black and almost black) merge. When playing my game, I missed the first teapot because it (being dark grey) was simply not visible.
Fiddling with the controls and settings might allow some of this to be corrected. Of course, it's not going to be perfect given the thing is "cheap as chips" (sorry) but it's actually pretty good for how cheap it is. I was... expecting worse.

Here's what's inside the MS2109 (picture from Microsilicon's site):

MS2109 block diagram
MS2109 block diagram (from vendor website)

The MCU is some sort of 8051 clone, and the firmware is in the EEPROM.

I was also able to make a pretty good recording of me playing Mamie Fletcher's, but sadly this machine does not appear to support the audio capture. It reports that the driver failed to initialise.
It does, however, appear to work on my phone, but I've not tried making a recording.

Here's an annotated version of me playing the first few levels of my game.


The living room

Now looks almost like a living room. Whoo!

The living room
The living room, it's a nice view.


Alors, c'est du boulot demain, donc j'arrête ici et aller faire mon repas - linguine!



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Rick, 18th June 2023, 21:14
Reasons why not to have a surveillance camera operating when I'm home #192... 
I'm in the living room. 
There's space. 
"Bat Out Of Hell" is playing on Antenne Symphonic Rock. 
I've turned up the volume. 
...and I have the poise and grace of a dead donkey (don't try to imagine a dyspraxic person doing that, just don't) 
But, come on, it's a classic. How can you *not* enjoy it? 
Rick, 18th June 2023, 21:18
Nightwish "Storytime" now. 
The kettle has boiled (for the linguine). It can wait. 
J.G.Harston, 19th June 2023, 00:16
I have exactly three tea mugs, which limits the number of visitors I let in. ;) 
If I didn't have to earn a living I could just lounge around coding and sitting in the garden forever, though I've dangerously picked up a girlfriend I feel obliged to socialise with.
Gavin Wraith, 19th June 2023, 10:38
I make dumplings as often as I can when I make a stew, usually with fresh thyme in them. I don't know whether Atora cartons of suet are available in France. In fact I prefer dumplings to spuds, if available. I went to Prague once; a lovely city, and I didn't mind how often I ate goulasch and dumplings.
Anon, 20th June 2023, 01:54
Rick - think I've found you the perfect T-shirt: ead-my-t-shirt-thats-enough-mens-premium-black-t-shirt-1109242.h tml 
There's a whole range of them. My favourite (which I was wearing yesterday) is the one that says "I want to be nice - but then people happen".
Rick, 20th June 2023, 06:50
If somebody can read my t-shirt, they're too damn close. 
David Pilling, 20th June 2023, 12:39
"So was the T-system introduced to help millers and bakers choose flour? 
Err, no, it was introduced to help the French taxman regulate the production of flour milled according to home much of the whole grain it contained." 
David Pilling, 20th June 2023, 12:42
You could study the protein content of the flour, UK at least break down of sugar, fat, etc printed on all food stuff packaging.
John , 27th June 2023, 21:03
You and I carried your mum's lounger to a more suitable position, and it was only later I found out that I had a broken wrist. In fact only when back in the UK! 
You weird Rick? 
I shouldn't let it worry you - and I'm sure you don't! 
Good to see you, and congratulations on progress with the house so far! 
Didn't like the paper cups, tho', I'll bring my own next time!
Rick, 27th June 2023, 22:32
I've had nearly half a century of people thinking I'm weird. I stopped caring long ago... 
Sure, feel free to bring your own cup, but maybe by the next time you come I'll have unwrapped an actual tea service. 
I did get a little fold out table in anticipation (photo on the entry of June 24th), given that having somewhere to *put* the cup was an issue. 

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