SmartiPi Touch Case

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A friend of mine decided to build one of those Raspberry Pi based arcade consoles.

That got me thinking. I had a Pi 2 and Touchscreen that never got used for anything so maybe I'll do the same.

Haven't had much time for gadgets, let alone building a custom case. Luckily, I stumbled across the SmartiPi Touch Case.

Very happy with this housing. Obviously it supports the official Raspberry Pi Touchscreen, along with any version of the Pi, and has access for riser boards. Pegs on the front and back allow for even further expansion, or just Lego fun.

After a few minutes of setup I was all ready to go and installed RetroPi for classic gaming fun.

Pebble Time

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So I picked up a refurbished Pebble Time watch from Woot a few weeks ago.

Having owned a Moto 360 I can say this is a much nicer watch for me.

Pebble watches are not OS specific so it works great with my iPhone. The screen is always on with variable back light depending on ambient sensor. Battery life is 4 or 5 days easy. Its lighter and smaller than the 360. I prefer a leather band so might have to upgrade at some point but the included silicon one is very comfortable.

Screen resolution is much lower than other smart watches so the faces are not nearly as fancy. I did find a very nice LCARS theme I use as my daily.

The included phone software is super easy to work with. As notifications to your phone happen the software adds them to a list. At this point you can then decide if you want to forward them to the phone or not. Very slick.

Also, if you dismiss anything on the watch it does not mark it read on the phone. This works great for me as I would always forget to go back and check old notifications with the 360.

After a week of use I would not hesitate to recommended the Pebble watch to anyone needing simple notifications but not native apps.

Linksys E1200 N300 Router

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So a friend built a very nice barn last year, and has been struggling with low wireless signal.

Upon investigation I realized he used metal siding and roofing. Well of course there is no signal, its a huge faraday cage.

We ran a network cable from the home router out to the barn, and then I used the Linksys E1200 as a secondary access point.

This was VERY easy to setup. Picking bridge mode from the setup screen and assigning an IP from the home router subnet was all it took. After that I configured the wireless to match the house and he was up and running.

The unit itself isn't anything special, but for this use you can't beat it.

Thinkpad 11e

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Over holiday break a friend bought some AMX automation equipment and needed help learning how to program it.

I picked up an ASUS T100 a while back to be my carry around tablet with a keyboard for just such tasks. Except for using it to test some HDMI connections this was the first time I tried to program with it ... and the last.

Woot has daily sales that I keep an eye on. Last week they listed a Lenovo Thinkpad 11E on sale for 65% off retail. Too good a deal to pass up.

This is a rugged laptop marketed at students that has passed military specification for durability. It delivers as advertised shipping with a N2940 quad core CPU, 4gig ram (8gig max), and 128gig SSD. I agree with other reviews that the 11.6" screen is a little lack luster, but ok for the price I got it.

It also comes with Windows 10 Pro and very little bloatware. So after the usual hour of updates things were up and running pretty quick.

Being a Thinkpad I was a little disappointed at first it didn't have a trackpoint, but the touchpad is large and works well so I shouldn't miss it. Also having owned other Thinkpads I was looking forward to using their legendary keyboards again. The chicklet style keyboard on the 11e is not what I was expecting, but also turns out to be very good.

Everyone I've shown this to is impressed with the quality. I've done a little work on it today and am happy with the unit. As for the poor T100, you will be listed for sale soon.

Fedora Linux

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So it looks like I am going to be wearing this hat for a while on my work machine (see what I did there?).

LTS distros are great until they fall far enough behind in software versions to not get critical patch/updates. I was running Linux Mint 17.x, which is super stable and works very well, but ran into this pitfall forcing the change.

During my Zaurus development I needed to emulate the ARM system under QEMU. I built my file system, installed QEMU-ARM, and then fought for days trying to track down a system crash. When I posted my work to a forum another user got it to run immediately without modification but on an updated version of QEMU.


Sure enough I was still on 2.0.0 where the newest was 2.4.1. I looked to see what the latest version shipped with Ubuntu current was and it still lagged behind at 2.3.x

Manjaro was current, based on Archlinux. I tried a few times to get this installed and every time my desktop settings were fubar. I know it is because my /home has existed for many years and something is conflicting but I didn't have the patience to track it down.

I also gave Archbang a go, but it won't load off CD and I didn't have a USB drive handy.

So here we are, running Fedora, and so far so good. I haven't run a RPM system since 2003 so there is a little learning curve, but nothing major causing my day to day to suffer.

Gnome Desktop is a little different but it's like Yoda said "You must unlearn what you have learned". As long as I approach it with the attitude of "how does this work" instead of "how do I make it function like (fill in any other desktop environment)" things are good.

Sharp Zaurus SL-C3100

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My Sharp Zaurus SL-C3100 is arguably the best gadget I ever purchased. You can look up the history here if interested as it was a device far ahead of its time.

Every so often I bust the Z back out because someone has done something amazing that I need to try.

This is one of those times.

I keep in touch with a handful of users from "the old days". It was about nine months ago I helped compile apps on my Z for OpenBSD 5.6 beta. One person from that group shot me an email saying there was an attempt at getting ArchLinux running and I needed to be in on it.

I am a huge fan of ArchLinuxARM on my pogo plugs, so I jumped on the forums to see how things were going. Ends up a user named danboid had complete install instructions ready to go.

An hour later I had a working ArchLinuxARM system running on my Z, including network card. I can't explain how great it is to have a current OS running on 10 year old hardware.

Continued development is ongoing as device specific issues are now being addressed to hopefully get more graphical software functional.

iPhone 5s

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This is the second time writing this post. The first took so long my login cookie timed out and nothing got saved. My bad for not clicking the "save as draft" button more often, or at all.

Basically I had explained how in my search for a new Android phone I was turned off by the size of the current options. I don't need a tablet, I have one, I need a device to make calls, send some texts, and run the occasional weather or twitter app that fits in my pocket and can be used with one hand comfortably.

About this time my wife had seen the new iPhone 6s rose gold saying "wow that looks nice" which basically translates into "we are buying that". So after a trip to the Apple Store her old iPhone 5s was up for grabs.

My friend had recently posted how he hates the new iPhone 6 his company makes them use. But another said he loves his 5s, also coming from Android.

I decided to give the iPhone 5s a try and this is what I found after a few days of use.

So far every app I used on Android had an iOS version except for Series Guide. Luckily it is just a front end for so I installed iSeries for iOS and after linking my account all worked fine.

I get better reception, my accuracy on the keyboard is better, and I love the fingerprint unlock feature. Camera has also performed well, not as many focus issues as my LG G2.

Battery life is a little less, but considering this is a 2 year old hand me down a quick purchase from iFixit will take care of that.

Not being able to plug into a PC to transfer photos for work was a little hiccup. I ended up installing Microsoft OneDrive to transfer files, and so far it is working great.

Customizing the home screen, or the lack there of, is a downer, but not a show stopper. In fact the only real casualty so far is my Moto 360 smart watch.

Google released Android Wear for iOS, but it is near useless compared to the native version. Hopefully some things improve over time but coincidentally I stopped wearing the watch because it bothers me in anything long sleeves.

All in all I am pretty happy so far and expect to continue with the 5s as my daily phone. Any changes to this opinion, like usual, will be posted here.

Raspberry Pi 7” Touchscreen

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The people at Raspberrypi came out with their own touch screen display last week.

I picked one up to play with for the following reasons.

1) As an official product so I expect 100% support from most if not all OS distributions.

2) It doesn't use the HDMI port on the Pi.

3) Touchscreen! Python GUI already available via Kivy

4) Low power, I can use the same wall charger for both the screen and Pi.

I got the kit from MCM because they are a local company and shipping was cheaper than other resellers.

The unit is very nice. Assembly was easy enough following the video here. I do need to fabricate some brackets to mount it or better stand it up.

The only down side so far is the 800x480 resolution. If I design a touch interface this will not be an issue, but for a full desktop it is a tad cumbersome.

As with most posts time will dictate if/when I get to continue tinkering with this.

WeTek OpenELEC

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Review - Update

So this weekend I planned to work on some DVR features of this unit. That did not happen for the following reasons.

I moved the device upstairs and plugged it into my main TV which has the antenna feed. When turned on the time/date had reset to 1970 for some reason.

My local media configuration was still there, but the unit could no longer see the network shares. I checked the wireless settings and it did pull an IP, but I reset the configuration anyway to be safe.

I had to add a NTP server for time/date to update properly. I was then able to browse one of my servers, but not the other (both identical configurations). After a few minutes, the local workgroup was no longer browsable.

A reboot of the WeTek helped as it now updated the IMDB plug-in and prompted me about the Beta 3 update. The shares were still not accessible, even though I verified they were working on my laptop without issue.

By now I was too tired and half upset the box had so many issues so turned it off.

I am going to check forums to see what the feedback on the Beta 3 update is like. Maybe a clean install will fix these issues, but I hate to blow away the what seems to be a custom 5.1 install and break more than what gets fixed.

Tendak HDMI2AV

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tendak hdmi2av

This is something a little off the wall but I was so impressed with the results a short review is in order.

I do a lot of video conferencing. I have been putting standard definition Osprey video capture cards in PC's to allow the use of higher quality cameras and/or other video devices.

While upgrading to HD PTZ cameras I found out that a lot of applications will not support HD capture from anything other than webcams.

After trying many expensive HD capture cards, I was about to give up when I noticed good reviews for this device.

Tendak HDMI2AV converter promised to let me plug in my HD source on one side and output composite video on the other for $20.

No way was this going to work, but I purchased one to try anyway and guess what? It's darn near perfect.

Some reviews did mention the devices dying after a few weeks of use, so I have it doing a 12 hour burn in as I type this, but so far things work as advertised.

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