Useful Consumer Review

Sony has a newish version of their “sporty” headphones branded “Walkman” (or “NWZ-W273”).  They have a built-in mp3 player.  I’ve got big headphones with built-in mp3 players, but it would be nice to have a pair in a more convenient form factor.

IMG_5365I bought the previous Sony iteration, but they were huge and fell out of my ears all the time, so they were basically unusable.  This version is much smaller, so *crosses fingers*.

They come with an impressive number of very small manuals.

IMG_5364 IMG_5363

They also  come with a pretty big cradle (heavier than the headphones). You have to plug the Walkman into the cradle to charge them and transfer data to them.  The cradle is symmetrical, but the headphones have to be put in the right direction, so I got it wrong the two first times.  Tsk, tsk.  Bad design.

IMG_5367Apparently the Walkman doesn’t want me to write anything to the built-in storage in anything but utf8.  When rsyncing to it I get errors like

rsync: mkstemp "/run/media/larsi/WALKMAN/MUSIC/Prize/.06-Ex 
  Pregui\#347a.mp3.vrixrA" failed: Invalid argument (22)

rsync can do anything, though:

[larsi@building ~]$ rsync -av --iconv=utf8,iso88591 \
  --exclude '*.flac' \
  "stories:/music/repository/Arto\\ Lindsay/Prize" \
  /run/media/larsi/WALKMAN/MUSIC/

So what’s the sound quality like?  Surely the Walkman should be charged now after I’ve typed all this…

Geez, there are a lot of teensy weensy buttons on this this…  Ok, after studying it under a magnifying glass, I managed to switch it on.  Oh, nice.  There’s a nice lady telling me what button I just hit.  “Shuffle.”  “Shuffle.  Off.”  She sounds like she’s an actress in a sci-fi tv series.  A slight metallic tinge.

Oh, sound.  Hey, it sounds pretty nice.  There’s quite a lot of bass.  I had never imagined that teensy headphones like this would have so much bass and such “big room” feeling.

There’s a slight hiss if you pump the volume up beyond what’s comfortable.

They block out a lot of external sound.  Since these are in-ear, you end up listening to yourself breathing a bit.  But overall, these are way better than I had thought was possible.

And I tried headbanging a bit now, and they don’t fall out of my ears.  Wow!

Hm…  so there’s buttons to skip to the next/previous track.  And if you press them a longer time, they skip to the next directory!  That’s perfect for skipping to the next album.  Very nice.  Hm.  But when you switch them off and then on again, it starts playing at the start of the current song instead of continuing from where you left off.  That really sucks for listening to podcasts and the like.

But overall I’m really impressed.  I’ll probably start hating them once I start using them for real, but right now, I’m loving them.

Useful Consumer Review

The interwebs have been all abuzz with a funky new Ikea lamp (IKEA PS 2014, designed by D Wahl).  But I bought one anyway.

I love Lego, so putting this lamp together was fun.  It’s over 50 parts.

DSC00661

It made of plastic, so it feels very cheap.

DSC00663It expands/contracts in a very plastic-ey way.  Doesn’t feel very Space Age Material-ey.

DSC00662 But it does look quite nice, I think.  Although gimmickey.  And it’s Ikea, so everybody in Norway has it by now, too.

DSC00664When it’s closed, the plastic bits clicks against each other in the wind.

So, basically, it’s cheap, and it feels cheap.  But I like the way it looks.

 

Useful Consumer Review

I need a wireless USB HID button (to take movie snapshots, of course), so I bought this Logitech Cube “presenter”. I need a range of about five meters, so all wireless input devices are kinda chancy.

Epic unboxing sequence:

So… does it work in Linux? Yes, but no.

It generates a Prior event if you push the button while it’s oriented one way, and a Next event the other way. That’s fine. However, the range is less than two meters. Further away than that, it gets unreliable, and at four meters, there’s no signal what-so-ever. So it’s unusable for me.

I was curious about how well it worked as a wireless mouse if you had it close enough to the receiver. I’d rate it “meh”.

But it’s a nice form factor.  For something that doesn’t really work very well.

Useful Consumer Review

My old tv machine worked ok, but it was too slow to play the files MakeMKV ripped from BluRay disks.

So I bought a new one from QuietPC. I’ve bought a couple from them before, and they seem to make reliable, fanless machines.

So here are the notes on problems getting the video working under Debian Linux. Sigh.

The motherboard is Gigabyte H87N-WIFI, the VGA is “Intel Corporation Xeon E3-1200 v3/4th Gen Core Processor Integrated Graphics Controller”, which is a Haswell HD Graphics thing.

First of all, if you have xserver-xorg-video-modesetting installed, get rid of it. For some reason or other, X -configure prefers this generic driver over the Intel driver, which is pretty nonsensical. It’s not accelerated, so you can’t really use it for much of anything.

After getting rid of it, you’ll get the Intel (i915) driver instead, which works OK. Except if you want to watch video. Then you get lots of tearing. There’s a newer “tear free” version of the Intel xorg driver that fixes this problem, but it’s not included in Debian testing, even.

So go to the Intel page and download the “xf86-video-intel – 2.99.906” package. It compiles easily enough (just need to install some -dev packages). Install it by moving the intel_drv.so file after compiling over the one supplied by Debian. It should work fine. (Unless you’re reading this some time after March 2014.)

Hey! Now you can watch video. Except when the i915 driver loads, the HDMI screen turns all grey. For some reason or other, i915 jacks the backlights on the monitor up to max, leaving me with a very, very pale and bright TV.

After googling for hours, I finally found this. So you have to say

xrandr --output HDMI3 --set "Broadcast RGB" "Full"

to get black to be black. “Yay.”

I got an integrated BluRay slot player in the machine, because I thought that would look tidier than the external USB drive. However, MakeMKV says the following when I try to use it: “Drive BD-RE MATSHITA BD-MLT UJ265 1.00 has RPC protection that can not be bypassed. Change drive region or update drive firmware from http://tdb.rpc1.org. Errors likely to follow.” Indeed. And there is no region free firmware for this drive, so I’ll just continue to use my external BluRay drive.

Anybody know of a region-free slot-in slimline BluRay drive?

The Tellstick control unit didn’t work any more, because they’ve removed the “vendor” and “product” options from ftdi_sio. So this doesn’t work any more:

options ftdi_sio vendor=0x1781 product=0x0c31

Instead you have to say

modprobe ftdi_sio
 echo 1781 0c31 > /sys/bus/usb-serial/drivers/ftdi_sio/new_id

Yeah, that makes sense…

Finally, the machine has tons of USB3 ports, and just two USB2 ports. I thought that would be a plus, but it seems like my tiny USB monitor doesn’t like being plugged in to the USB3 ports. The kernel says “Cannot enable port 3. Maybe the USB cable is bad?” and the monitor drops connection.

Well, maybe the cable really is bad? It’s always the cable’s fault!

(This is where I go to look for a new cable. And I find one, and switches the cable, and everything works perfectly! It’s always the cable!)

Gack.

See? It almost works out of the box. I mean, finding out all this only took me eleven hours…

It’s the year of Linux on the Desktop any… decade… now.

Useful Consumer Review

I’ve got a computer in the kitchen (as one does), but it’s very difficult to get Ethernet

cabling to where it’s at.  So I’ve been using a Devolo dLAN Highspeed Ethernet II home plug network-via-powerline plug.

And it totally sucks.  Sure, it’s slow, but worse is the latency and unreliability.  I’m using it for NFS stuff, and it’s just too crappy for words.

The throughput is pitiful, but it’s acceptable.

[larsi@stories ~]$ scp 07112011002.mp4 sparky:/tmp
07112011002.mp4                               100%  105MB 535.1KB/s   03:21

But the  latency is crappy:

[larsi@stories ~]$ ping sparky
PING sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=29.0 ms
[…]
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=14 ttl=64 time=3.24 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=15 ttl=64 time=4.59 ms
^C
— sparky.gnus.org ping statistics —
15 packets transmitted, 15 received, 0% packet loss, time 14020ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 2.524/8.827/29.004/8.068 ms
So before I went all drill-ey with the Ethernet cabling, I thought I’d try a different poweline model — the Netgear Powerline 200 Mbps Nano Adapter (XAVB2101 (phew)).

And look:

[larsi@stories ~]$ scp 07112011002.mp4 sparky:/tmp
07112011002.mp4                               100%  105MB   3.5MB/s   00:30

It’s like a lot faster!  7x better throughput.  The latency is kinda similar, but more even:

[larsi@stories ~]$ ping sparky
PING sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=11.7 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=2 ttl=64 time=9.04 ms
[…]
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org (80.91.231.5): icmp_req=12 ttl=64 time=3.36 ms
^C
— sparky.gnus.org ping statistics —
12 packets transmitted, 12 received, 0% packet loss, time 11016ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 3.353/7.262/11.787/2.470 ms
So…  it’s better, but it’s not…  good.  A max latency of 11ms, compared to the max latency of 29ms of the Devolo.

Anyway, the comparison isn’t really fair.  The Devolos are a couple years old, so they’re previous generation tech.  But it does mean that if you’ve got old powerline gear, and you want slightly less crappy performance, you may consider buying new gear.