Useful Consumer Review

My wifi saga has been long and painful. Using a single AP, no matter how monstrous, just hasn’t worked in this flat: I’d get miserable bandwidth whenever not within two meters of the AP, and some parts of the flat got no coverage at all no matter where I put it. I guess wifi doesn’t like brick walls?

So I tried mesh setups, and that helped: I got coverage in the entire flat, but bandwidth was miserable. I mean, like 5Mbps and stuff. The last iteration was with Ubiquiti Amplifi, and I could probably have lived with the miserable bandwidth, but a bigger problem was that is was unstable: It required rebooting from time to time to force the units talk to each other again.

But! Earlier this year I finally put in some VLAN switches so that I could watch Netflix. (It totally makes sense.) So now I could install a real multi-AP wifi network where the nodes communicate with each other over cables, like god intended.

So for a few months now I’ve had Ubiquiti Unifi, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I’ve got three nodes, which gives me complete coverage, and I get like 125Mbps from the couch I’m sitting now.

Setting things up was a breeze once you get past all the strange neologies Ubiquiti uses, calling the controller a “Cloud Key Gen2” and “2.4GHz” for “2G” and calling the APs “devices” and etc etc etc.

And they try to upsell you on switches. All the gadgets are powered over ethernet, which is really handy, but any PoE switch will do.

But it’s been completely stable: Haven’t had to reboot the network even once, which is a first for me with wifi.

Of course, Ubiquiti are asshats, but eh whatevs. I assume that everything on the wifi is unsafe anyway, so I don’t care that much. What I do care about is this:

The APs are extremely sticky. If my laptop is connected to one AP, it’ll stay connected to it, even if it drops to 1 bar and 2.4GHz, and I have to either reconnect on the laptop or in the app. (It’s pretty easy in the app — there’s a “reconnect” menu item that’s quick and speedy.)

One problem with the app, though, is that it usually crashes when you open it.

Details! It’s not like anybody expects a hardware maker to be able to write functioning software.

So I give this thing all the thumbs up, because this is probably as good as it’s going to get, because: Wifi sucks, and it always will.

Useful Consumer Review

I’m always in the lookout for new smart remotes, so when I saw this Turn Touch wooden thing, I thought it might go better with my living room table:

Than the old remote I use to control the stereo (and the lights):

Eh? Eh? Slightly better, huh?

That Targus thing there has worked reliably for me for almost a decade now. I use the pointer thing to control the volume and the other buttons to skip and stuff, so I wondered whether this Turn Touch thing would be as flexible.

The Targus thing appears as a USB HID device in Linux, so it’s very easy to interface with. And it has a nice range: It doesn’t drop that many events. I’m almost always disappointed by the range and reliability of wireless things, but we’ll see…

But first of all, I wondered how the Turn Touch worked. There was no manual included, so I wondered how this thing is even charged and how you open it, because there are absolutely no screws.

But it’s all held together by magnets! How brilliant! Prying it apart was trivial, but it still feels nice and solid when it’s all put back together.

And it’s charged by a normal button battery that’s supposed to last about a year. That’s nicer than having to recharge it, I think.

Anyway! How do you interact with this thing?

Python to the rescue!

# pip3 install TurnTouch
# pip3 install typing

and then a script like this:

from turntouch import TurnTouch, DefaultActionHandler

class MyHandler(DefaultActionHandler):
    def action_north(self):
        print("Up button pressed.")
    def action_east_double_tap(self):
        print("Right button double-tapped.")
    def action_south_hold(self):
        print("Down button held.")

tt = TurnTouch('e5:b6:51:8e:f4:50')
tt.handler = MyHandler()
tt.listen_forever()

where that address can be detected by saying

# bluetoothctl
scan on

and waiting for a line mentioning “Turn Touch” to show up. Apparently you don’t have to pair things explicitly and stuff… These low-powered bluetooth things are a mystery to me…

However, as that this shows, the responsiveness is, what’s the technical term… Oh, yeah: “EEEK! THAT”S HORRIBLE!”

A second after you’ve hit the button, you get an event on the computer?

So, in the /usr/local/lib/python3.4/dist-packages/turntouch/turntouch.py file, there’s a line saying

MAX_DELAY = 0.75

that sounds suspiciously like the one-second delay I’m seeing, and reading through the code, I understand why it’s there: Each key is supposed to be able to give you three actions: Single tap, double tap and hold. You see this in mobile interfaces, too: If you want to support double tap (and mobile UX people thought that was going to be a thing), you have to wait a while to see whether the first tap was all there’s going to be, or whether another tap is to follow.

But I think that’s pretty horrible, and I can live with either single tap and very-quick double taps; I don’t need “hold”. Especially if the holds are going to fuck the UX up this much.

I changed MAX_DELAY to 0.1, and:

Now, that’s almost acceptable. It does mean that I get a tap event before I get a hold event, but I think that’s OK for my use case here… I think…

Hm… no, it’s janky and doesn’t really work properly.

And… I can’t really understand why it’s programmed this way at all. As far as I can tell, the device itself sends over events like “West” and “Off” and “West Double Tap”…

Oh, right! When you hold a button, you get “South”, “South hold” and then “Off”… But… when you tap a button, you get “South” and then “Off”. And on double taps you get “South” and then “South double tap”.

Uhm! No! OK, now I’ve added proper debugging, and I understand why the library is doing what it’s doing. If you double tap, these are the events you get:

North
Off
North
North double tap

So you can’t fire the “North” action on the “Off”, but have to wait and see whether you get a “North double tap”. And the built-in delay in the device is 0.75 (i.e., if you hit the button faster than that, you get a double tap event), so single taps can’t be executed faster than that if you want to have double taps.

The library almost has support for this: There’s a “debounce” parameter that’ll call the action immediately, but that’s also wrong: Then you can’t have a separate “tap” and “hold” action, either.

I think… I can live without double taps. A “hold” gives me these events:

East
East hold
Off

So I can have immediate for single taps (i.e., on the “Off”), and also support holds without introducing delays. So I’m going to fork and hack the TurnTouch library.

Man! Do I have to learn Python?!

*time passes*

Well, that was trivial enough. The TurnTouch library is written in a clean and nice fashion, so ripping out all the logic was easy.

My version is on Microsoft Github.

So after that slight detour… ahem… Is the Turn Touch any good?

Yes!

I’ve only been using it for a very short while, but the signal range seems pretty good: From the couch to the stereo (with a bluetooth dongle on the back of the computer; about three meters) it doesn’t lose any events. If I go to the next room, I’m able to send some events through the wall, but then it loses the connection.

But that’s a lot better than I expected.

And! It’s an open platform with good documentation, which is very nice indeed. And, with libraries like the one I forked here, you have pretty good access to the events and can construct your own workflows based on what’s important to you.

So, while I have no idea whether it works well over the long haul, I’m giving it all my thumbs up.

Paperlike HD

Since the first time I heard of e-ink products, I was pretty enthused: Imagine having something with the resolution of paper and the convenience of a very light tablet to read from! What a marvel!

And then I saw an e-ink e-reader.

They’re horrible! The resolution is way less than paper, and when you flip the page everything blinks and inverts and dances around!

Seemed like a bad joke to me, but I assumed that surely they’d get their shit together and then one day e-ink e-reader products would take over.

Then years later, not much has happened, except that e-books have fallen in market share as people are moving back to paper books. Because those e-readers are horrible.

So, of course, when I read that somebody had made an HDMI e-ink monitor, I had to have one.

Because I’ve got an Emacs-based alarm clock in the bedroom, and the light from the screen is annoying. Even the OLED screen I bought isn’t black in the black parts. And its response curve goes from, like, #202020 (as black) and then jumps to #808080 as the next-darkest colour it can display.

The e-ink display emits no light, so perhaps it can be used here?

The manual from Dasung is pretty funny. “It should be said that Paperlike is an innovative product with high courage and honesty.”

“Video display and gameplay shall be prohibited.”

I mean, I know what they’re trying to say: That this isn’t a perfect product, and that there are severe restrictions to what you should expect this thing to do. Because of ghosting and the other problems this tech has.

It’s a thoughtful product. For instance, you need just one cable: It’s a mini-HDMI connector at the screen side, and at the computer side it’s a full HDMI and a USB connector for power. Perfect.

So let’s look like what the screen looks like:

Yup, that’s some severe ghosting, alright.

And this is what it looks like when it’s displaying nothing. Not a screen to display secret things on for sure.

But there’s a “C” button on the screen that flashes to white, and then back to black, and then all the ghosting is gone:

Nice. And it’s supposed to be possible to control this from software, too, so perhaps this is usable as an alarm clock…

It turns out that this screen has several modes for doing conversion from colour/greyscale to black and white, and one of them are based on dithering. You get kinda fun effects by dragging things over the images, so it’s half the real image, half after images, and…

And whatever’s happened here? Kinda solarised? Cary Grant looks very sci-fi.

Wow, that’s really out of focus, dude.

ANYWAY.

The software-refresh thing is available on Linux, so kudos to Dasung for that. However, it doesn’t work on Debian, only Ubuntu. And it’s not a command line program, but a GUI. However, it does bind a “hot key”, so I could definitely work around that by just sending the program some software-emulated keys.

The software refresh isn’t as thorough as the hardware button… and the program uses 100% CPU while running. Dasung hasn’t made the source code available, either, and people are trying to decompile it to figure out how to work with it.

What to do…

OK, let’s just try to use it without the software and see what it looks like.

So I plop the new little computer into the Box Of Electronics in the bedroom…

And… Hm. There’s definitely refresh issues, but not quite like I imagined. You can see the missing “08:00” (that was there before), but the time itself is very clear?

Oh, yeah. If you stare at it really hard, you can see the “8” that has been where the “9” is now, and if you stare even harder, you can see the faint ghosts of other numbers.

That’s not bad at all, I think?

Uhm… I found this connector in that box… it’s an… HDMI to DVI to DVI to HDMI connector?

Yes! Useful!

This is what it looks like from some distance. Can’t really see the ghosting at all. Nice!

But then I tried to use this thing tonight, and it turned out that I couldn’t really make the clock out… because it’s too dark! Duh. So I need some lights that I can flick off and on.

Do USB-based lights allow that? It depends? Seems like only very specific hubs has support for this stuff? Are there any USB lights that you can program? That like expose a serial interface you can say “off” to? No?

For now, I’ll just use a small Ikea lamp and control it via the Tellstick interface.

There! I have the on/off light switch by the bed, so perhaps this’ll work… Perhaps a light that can be mounted on top of the screen would be better, but there’s some glare from the screen, so I’m not sure whether that’ll work. Worth a try, though.

I’m going for a Designers Republic kinda vibe with the design. What you’re looking at is, of course, an Emacs buffer, but I’m using SVG to get things lined up better now.

I mean, not lined up. But better.

Adventures in Netflix

I’ve been watching a buttload of 40s movies over the past few months, and I was thinking about watching something really modern next.

And then it occurred to me: How about if I watch all “Netflix Original” movies released in 2019? Sizzling fresh movies!

And if you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ll know there’ll be complications, right? Prepare to scroll for days!

According to Wikipedia, there were about 70? 80s? of these movies in 2018, so presumably there’ll be a similar amount this year.

What counts as a “Netflix Original” varies a bit, apparently. Some of these are produced (i.e., financed) by Netflix directly, and others are picked up for exclusive distribution by Netflix after it’s already been made, apparently. So perhaps I’ll be adjusting the criteria after having watched a few of the movies… or not? We’ll see.

But how to watch these movies? I have an Apple laptop now, so I could plug the laptop into the TV and watch it that way, but it turns out that Netflix limits the resolution on real computers to 1.4K (or, as some people quaintly call it, “720p”). That’s annoying, because the majority of Netflix Originals are available in 4K. I’d be getting, what, 15% of the pixels I could be getting?

(/ (* 4000 2000) (* 1400 720))
=> 7

Sad.

My TV is “smart”, but I’m not insane enough to ever let it go on the interwebs. I don’t want to 30kg brick in my TV room after an update or virus has had its fun with it.

But! I have a Chromecast Ultra! And Netflix allows 4K media on the Chromecast!

And I mean, I have to blog this thing, so I have to screenshot, right?

Right.

And you’re not supposed to be allowed to do that because that’s the whole point of Netflix limiting the resolution to devices that they control, and the HDCP 2.2 line to the TV is supposed to be unhackable OOOH DRM WOO WOO.

But of course people have been making devices to defeat all this nonsense.

First of all, I got an Ezcoo 4K HDMI splitter. It promises to be able to take a 4K input source and pass the HDCP 2.2 woo from a 4K TV to the device, thereby fooling it into thinking that it has a secure line.

Meanwhile, there’s another output on the splitter (that can either be 4K or 2K (some people quaintly call this “1080p”)) and you can put an HDMI recording device there.

I got an HDML Cloner Box Evolve, which promises to take a 2K input and has a remote that you can screenshot with. It can also record the entire video, but that’s not really what I’m interested in… And it’s probably called “HDML” to avoid having the HDMI people sue them? I’m just guessing.

Let’s plug all this in!

So pretty.

And the Chromecast is apparently satisfied: It allows 4K to pass to the TV, according to the TV.

But!

When looking at the output from the HDML Cloner Box Evolve, all the screenshots just said “INVALID FORMAT”.

And so the passthrough HDMI output on the Cloner Box says.

Is that coming from… the Cloner Box, the Ezcoo HDMI splitter, or from the Chromecast? And what’s invalid? The format on the SD card it’s writing to? The … HDMI format? What!??!!

But then I noticed this dip switch on the Ezcoo splitter. Downscaling to 2K is apparently not the default setting. The Cloner Box claims to be able to take a 4K signal (even if it only records in 2K), but perhaps this is the problem anyway?

Yes! Now it’s screenshotting!

OK, now I have a 4K path from the Chromecast to the TV, while being able to screenshot in 2K. Let’s see what the Netflix app thinks about all this!

As the control device, I’m using an Android tablet, and as the test movie, let’s go with Okja, because it’s in 4K and I’ve already seen it.

Let’s see… there it is…

I tap the Chromecast icon, and it offers to connect to it and stream from it.

Yes! On the TV!

Aha! Once I tapped the screencast logo, the “Ultra HD” (code word for 4K) popped up in the Netflix app.

And there’s Okja! Well, that’s not actually Okja but it’s Jake Gyllenhaal and that’s close enough.

And there’s Okja! On the screenshot from the Cloner Box. The image looks quite nice… The screenshot is 2K, of course, but whatevs.

And the TV says that whatever it’s getting from the Chromecast is still in 4K. But… is it?

Apparently, there’s no way to make the Netflix app say what resolution it’s streaming in, or what the bitrate is. Both are important for the video quality, of course: If you have a 4K video with a bitrate of nothing, you’ll get a really ugly picture. (I’m looking at you, Amazon Prime Video!) This looks pretty fine, I think? No obvious issues? And it’s at least 2K, I think.

Telling the difference between 2K and 4K can be pretty difficult. It’s just that when you’re watching in 4K you go “whoa” a lot more, but a lack of “whoa” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not 4K: It might just be the director not going for “whoa”.

(Cue Dear Reader going “if you can’t tell the difference, whyyyy!” and to you I just have to say: Phooey.)

What does the firewall say?

Hm…

It seems to vary between 3MB/s and 60MB/s? Oh, yeah, it’s buffering and then playing, so it’ll vary a lot… And I’m usually used to thinking about this a bitrates, not byte rates…

OK, let’s write a simple script:

#!/bin/bash

duration=$1
device=enp1s0
direction=TX
times=0

start=$(ifconfig $device | grep "$direction packets" | awk '{ print $5; }')
while [ $times -lt $duration ]; do
    sleep 1
    times=$(( $times + 1 ))
    end=$(ifconfig $device | grep "$direction packets" | awk '{ print $5; }')
    echo $(( (($end - $start) / 1000 / $times) * 8 ))
done

And then compare a “HD” thing to a “Ultra HD” thing. As the “HD” thing I chose the Teen Titans TV show.

Ermagerd. I’ve never used the Chromecast before… why is everything so washed out? The blacks are supposed to be black, not totally gray.

Oh, well, I’ll have to investigate that too, but not while doing the bitrate thing.

Ok, I got 778… er… so that’s less than 1MB/s?

Let’s try it again but multiply by 8 to get bitrate.

OK, now it says 24560, which means that it’s a bitrate of 24Mbps? Hm. Perhaps one minute is just too short a time to measure, what with all the buffering. Let’s give it ten minutes.

And while I’m waiting I can try to investigate the washed out/low saturation thing going on. Apparently there’s a lot of people on Google having the problem… Hm… One internet says that it’s a problem with TVs and Chromecast not managing to convey to each other what HDR format to use. OK, on my Sony A1E OLED TV I switched HDR from “auto” to “HDR10”, aaaand…

Yowza! That’s some black blackness and some super-saturated colours. But… is it right? The colours are way crazy…

Aaand… it says “5088”, so I guess 5Mbps. That sounds about like what I expected.

Let’s try with some “Ultra HD”. Like the Punisher TV series.

HDR10 seems to do the right thing there too. But is that 4K grain?

The script says that it’s streaming in 9064, i.e., 9Mbps. That’s not a lot for 4K media: A 4K bluray is about 35-50Mbps.

Let’s try to reproduce our findings!

  • Okja (UHD): 9.5Mbps
  • Men in Tights (HD): 7.6Mbps
  • Police Academy (HD): 7.6Mbps
  • Ready Player One (HD): 5.7Mbps
  • Bird Box (UHD): 6.6Mbps
  • Okja (again) (UHD): 6.1Mbps

Well… that was… inconclusive? When the bitrate varies by 50% on the same movie when playing at different times, that’s not very… helpful.

Perhaps I should have a device other than a Chromecast to do this. Or… perhaps the Chromecast should use ethernet and not wifi? The wifi network should do 30Mbps easily (and does when I test with a laptop), but who knows what the Chromecast is able to do?

Unfortunately the Chromecast can’t be on ethernet and wifi at the same time, and the wifi is on a separate “secure” network.

Everything is so complicated!

OK… what I should do is something I’ve wanted to do for years: Get some VLAN switches and create two separate wired networks, too.

I’ve had these dumb HP Procurve 1400-8G switches for more than a decade (as you can tell by the dust), and they’ve worked flawlessly. And I’ve had some flaky ones before that…

So what to buy? I’m extremely satisfied with the Procurve switches, so getting similar ones, but managed (i.e., with VLAN) instead would be an idea.

My additional requirements: The absolutely have to be fanless, and it would be nice if the power supply was internal, or at least small. I’ve had some HP switches where the power adapter is a huge monster, bigger than the switch, and that’s… just so… cumbersome? I mean, my network isn’t physically star-shaped, and involves three switches in series, and they’re all placed in pretty small spaces, so small and uncomplicated is better than big and complicated.

The first requirement should be a no-brainer: Virtually all of these small switches are fanless. But! HPE has this weird tendency to create lineups of switches with the same model name, and then there’s 8 port, 24 port, 48 port versions (in different form factors). And the larger ones have fans. So just going through all the spec sheets (because HPE helpfully just does one per series) is a hassle. And some of the models don’t explicitly say “no fan”, while other says “fan”, so…

And determining whether they have internal power supplies is impossible. There’s no pictures of the backs of the switches, and absolutely no pictures of the (possible) adapters.

But then I stumbled on this Netgear 8-Port Gigabit Web Managed Click Switch With 4-Port PoE+ (phew). The specs say that it has an internal power supply! The specs say “fanless”! *click* *buy*

See what doing proper specs do for sales, HP? SEE?!?!?!

So now I have three of these Netgears. I’m not sure whether Netgear makes good net gear or not, but I guess we’ll see.

Look! I’m being all proper and stuff and labelling the ports!

Setting up the VLAN stuff is really nice and trivial:

Couldn’t be simpler: The switch responds to a static IP address, so it’s easy to find, and has a built-in web server (which is nice and fast). Setting up a VLAN has never been this easy. Perfect.

The only thing that seems a bit janky here are the actual power connectors. They feel rubbery and don’t “click” in place, so it feels like they could, like, slide out without wanting to. It’s probably not a problem in practice, but that could have an improved feel to it.

Anyway! Chromecast now plugged into the “wifi” VLAN, so it can stream via ethernet while I control it from a WIFI tablet. Let’s see what bandwidth it uses now…

  • Okja (UHD) 17Mbps:
  • Men in Tights (HD): 7.8Mbps
  • Police Academy (HD): 8Mbps
  • Ready Player One (HD): 8.1Mbps
  • Bird Box (UHD): 16Mbps

Well, that’s better! The highest I had with WIFI was 9Mbps, so using ethernet it’s almost doubled. That’s a lot more bits to look at!

Meanwhile!

I bought an Apple TV because I just don’t trust Google not to fuck up. Especially since the Chromecast doesn’t seem to want to switch HDR on on my Sony A1E TV. Let’s see whether the Apple TV manages…

Hey, the Apple TV 4K isn’t as small at the first-generation Apple TVs used to be…

Let’s see whether it’s easy to set up…

Er… what? Uhm. *five minutes pass* Oh, you can click the top of the remote control! Apple UX discoverability is on point: Unless you know what you’re supposed to do, there’s absolutely no hint about how these devices are supposed to work…

Oh, never mind. There’s a manual included here. Oops. Yet another anti-Apple rant derailed by facts!

Uhm… it wanted to use an existing device to get the WIFI parameters etc, so I pulled out my Ipod Touch, which helpfully just said the above. Do you think “OK” takes you to the passcode setting? No? Correct.

After some googling I found out where it was hiding (in the obvious place), and we’re off!

And after getting the credentials transferred, I could switch the passcode on the Ipod Touch off again. So UX!

Hm… when it switches HDR on, the TV goes black? That’s not good…

As with the Chromecast, on “HDR Auto” everything is super-washed out, and when I switch HDR10 on, the blacks become properly black, but the colours are…. too much…

Hm… Oh! If I try to do 4K @ 60Hz HDR via the Ezcoo splitter box, it complains that the cable doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth. But if I do 4K @ 30Hz HDR, then it works fine, and the TV automatically detects the HDR and everything. Nice!

The Apple TV is certainly easier to deal with than the Chromecast which is extremely

But let’s do some benchmarking! Let’s do some of the same UHD movies and add some new ones:

  • Okja (UHD): 15Mbps:
  • Bird Box (UHD): 18Mbps
  • Alex Strangelove (UHD): 18Mbps

Well, that’s not too bad. A normal 4K Bluray usually is somewhere around 40-50Mbps, and taking into account that Netflix is probably using a slightly more efficient codec, I’m getting an acceptable product.

Well, OK, this seems to be the way to go: Apple TV 4K @ 30Hz HDR. See, it simple!

So now I just have to have a convenient way to get the screenshots onto the computer. I mean, I don’t want to have to futz around with an SD card that I have to plug into the HDML Cloner Box and then transfer to the laptop…

I mean, I’m bone lazy.

I thought I had a solution here: Use a Flashair SD card. I use them in my cameras, and I’ve set it up so that I snap a picture and then the picture is pulled down into this Emacs buffer I’m typing in now. It’s great.

But unfortunately, I can’t use that with the HDLM Cloner Box: First of all, the cards use the exfat file system, and the box only understands FAT and VFAT. And I can’t reformat the Flashair card, because then the OS on the card goes AWOL and there’s no longer any WIFI on it.

The second problem is that there’s a partition table on Flashair cards, and the Cloner Box wants to write to it partitionless (i.e., the difference between /dev/sda1 and /dev/sda).

So that’s no go.

I was momentarily excited about the Sandisk Connect Wireless Stick, but it turns out that you can’t talk to it wirelessly while it’s plugged in as a USB memory stick, so that’s a pretty useless thing.

Other WIFI SD cards exist, and I guess I could give them a go, but during my last investigation into those, I all the non-Flashair ones to suck in one way or another.

So I started thinking about whether Linux can emulate a USB mass storage device via a USB-A to USB-A cable somehow.

And the answer is… sort of? Normal USB chipsets in normal computers do not support this kind of tomfoolery, but the Raspberry Pi Zero W does via its USB on-the-go (OTG) port, which is wired directly to the CPU, so it can do whatever it wants. Or something.

So I’ve got a USB-A to USB-OTG adapter cable…

And the Zero W.

It’s so tiny! (Grapes for scale.)

And I got a case for it, and a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter

The problem is that the case makes the mini-HDMI too recessed, so I can’t get any HDMI signals out of it. I wondered whether the Zero was broken or something, but…

So then I got HDMI and could see what I was doing. The HDMI seems to drop out whenever it’s doing something strenuous, but it’s good enough to do some setup stuff, at least.

Getting the thing to speak wifi took me hours and hours. I followed all of the how-tos on the net, but no matter how I tweaked the wpa_supplicant.conf file, iwconfig said that it hadn’t tried to connect to the access point.

Finally, I tried to do the simplest thing possible:

# wpa_supplicant -i wlan0 -c <(wpa_passphrase Beige PASSWORD)

And then it paired and got DHCP and everything!

So I just

# wpa_passphrase Beige PASSWORD > /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

and then it works after reboot.

This is with Debian Jessie Raspbian, because one of the million discussion threads about wifi not working on Raspberry Pis said that it was marginally less non-working.

So, after all that wasted time, it’s time to get USB gadget mode working! Should be a breeze!

I’m using this guide.

Let’s see… this isn’t, like, working…

But then a wise person on irc asked me “why are you using an OTG adapter if the Pi has an OTG port?” That was a very good question. I switched to a normal USB-A to Micro-USB cable, and immediately:

Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.095533] usb 1-2: New USB device found, i
dVendor=0525, idProduct=a4a5
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.095540] usb 1-2: New USB device strings:
 Mfr=3, Product=4, SerialNumber=5
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.095545] usb 1-2: Product: Mass Storage G
adget
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.095549] usb 1-2: Manufacturer: Linux 4.9
.35+ with 20980000.usb
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.095553] usb 1-2: SerialNumber: deadbeef
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.096757] usb-storage 1-2:1.0: USB Mass St
orage device detected
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.097256] usb-storage 1-2:1.0: Quirks matc
h for vid 0525 pid a4a5: 10000
Feb 14 14:26:25 marnie kernel: [1271626.097412] scsi host1: usb-storage 1-2:1.0
Feb 14 14:26:26 marnie kernel: [1271627.123226] scsi 1:0:0:0: Direct-Access     
Linux    File-Stor Gadget 0409 PQ: 0 ANSI: 2
Feb 14 14:26:26 marnie kernel: [1271627.124775] sd 1:0:0:0: Attached scsi generi
c sg1 type 0
Feb 14 14:26:26 marnie kernel: [1271627.125370] sd 1:0:0:0: [sdb] 4194304 512-byte logical blocks: (2.15 GB/2.00 GiB)

Success! The Pi shows up as a mass storage device.

But having the file system open on the Pi while the other host is writing to the backing file isn’t a good idea: Things get very confused. So only one thing that writes should have it open at a time.

So let’s try it with the HDML Cloner Box:

You can clearly see the USB-A cable from the Cloner Box going to the Pi Zero, right? Right.

And… it works! I got two screenshots over!

Uhm… I hope that status line goes away…

So my script is basically:

ssh $host mount /mnt/usb
rsync -av $host:/mnt/usb/ ~/films/"$film"/
ssh $host umount /mnt/usb

And that seems to work pretty reliably? At least during the ten minutes I’ve been testing.

Let’s see… Click on the remote, run the script and then this is here:

But… that looks really, really washed-out? Hm… Oh, yeah. It’s HDR? So I should probably run it through something to get to a better colour space?

Perhaps if I do

convert -contrast-stretch 0.20x0.10% IMG_53.JPG norm.jpg

Well, that’s better! But is that the right transform for HDR-screenshot-to-8bit? Probably not? I tried googling this pressing, universal problem, but didn’t find any ready-made solutions…

Excuse me?

Well, that went well! See how easy it is to watch 4K content from Netflix?

I mean, if you’re me?

Anyway, in conclusion:

I’m looking forward to watching some new movies, and I think it’s annoying that Netflix makes it so difficult to see if you’re getting what you pay for.

I realise that this makes things much easier for customer support: They don’t have to field calls from customers saying “I’m on the 4K plan, and I’m watching a Star Wars movie, but the bitrate says 6Mbps”. Understandable! But if you sold a product in a different arena, and made it virtually impossible for any normal customers to check whether you get what you’re paying for, then there’s be consequences. Perhaps?

Perhaps not.

Useful Consumer Review

I’ve had an Epson Expression 10000XL for over ten years, and it works very well.

I mainly use it to scan covers of LPs and the like, so the A3+ size is perfect. It’s only got two problems: It’s slow, and it has a noisy fan. I can live with the latter, because the fan only goes when I’m actually working with the scanner.

And since I’m usually only scanning a few covers, the slowness doesn’t really bother me that much.

However, a couple of months ago I had a major scanning project, and if I were to use the slow scanner I would still have been at the job for the next three years.

Instead I got an Epson DS-50000. It has no fan, and it’s really fast. It can scan a grey scale A3 image in about six seconds, which is great.

Scanning project finally over, last night I was going to replace the old scanner with the new one and donate the old one, but after installing the new scanner in the cubbyhole…

DISASTER!

The imaging area isn’t as big as on the 10000XL! It’s like 15mm narrower!

That’s the 10000XL…

And that’s the DS-50000.

How useless, Epson! Fie!

I guess this mean that I’ll have to find room for both of the scanners… somehow…

*sigh* So many vitally important problems!

Useful Consumer Review

In the last episode, I whined about how useless wireless earbuds are, with the main problem being that the typical range of these earbuds extends all the way from your left ear to your left shirt pocket, and not any further (when you’re outdoors and the blutooth signal doesn’t have walls to bounce off of).

But a few weeks back, I read a review for the Jabra Elite 65t, which claimed that these were the best wireless earbuds ever (when it comes to range), so I thought it was worth a go.

And it is! These are larger earbuds than I’ve been using, which probably explains the extra range. They have a little sticky-outey bits that probably has an antenna, and it seems to help: I can now semi-reliably keep my phone in my left pants pocket while having an earbud in my right ear, which was pure sci-fi with the older earbuds.

The UX on these is also quite satisfying: I pick an earbud out of the charging case, and it connects to the phone almost immediately, and then clearly tells me it’s done that. And it has a physical button that can be used to pause/unpause the audio, and switch the earbud on/off (if you don’t have the charging case with you).

If you’re just using a single earbud, that has to be the right one, but they are quite comfortable to wear, so I’ve gotten used to listening to stuff with my right ear only.

The user interface basically can’t be improved upon for my use case, which is walking around listening to radio dramas in one ear. The battery time seems to be good, too: They haven’t run out of juice once while I’ve been using them.

Which brings me to the one annoying thing, because everything has to be annoying, right?

Right.

The charging case itself is just horrible. If you open it a bit stridently, the earbuds are liable to go flying all over the place. And there are no magical magnets to keep them in place, or to guide you to inserting the earbuds back into the case, so you really have to concentrate while doing that.

Here’s an interpretative video:

Which is a shame. This is almost a perfect product, but in daily use, the bad charging pod design is an annoyance.