Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Connecting JBL Flip 4 Speaker to a Chromebook

If you follow my other blog, you might know that I lately obtained a pair of JBL Flip 4 speakers. There were a few drivers behind that decision, first of all the sublime sound quality and secondly that a pair can form a stereo pair. While that was all find with my phone, my Chromebooks, while connecting, had troubles accepting the devices as audio sinks.

For convenience, I gave those things names, as this is possible in the JBL Connect App on Android. Maybe that was the cause of all troubles, I don't know.
The speakers, while working fine, refused to present the settings option on the JBL Connect App at some stage. Also, it turned out to be a hit and miss game when connecting the speakers up into a stereo pair.

So, I decided to reset the speakers to factory setting. This is done by pressing the "+" and "play" bottom, while the speaker is powered on, until the speaker powers off.
Of course, this removed my fancy naming scheme. Well, so be it!

As a result, the speakers are now recognized by my Chromebooks.
So, If you have trouble connecting your JBL speaker to a Chromebook, you might want to try to reset your speaker to factory settings.

As a side remark, you will still need your phone to setup stereo mode. Once that is done, you can connect with the Chromebook and enjoy a clean and neat stereo stage setup by really small Bluetooth speakers.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Down Seizing My Computing

Most likely, I am not the only one who noticed that it is rarely a necessity to maintain high power computing equipment at home. For me, the last resort for this sort of demand would be video editing.
Most of my photo editing is done in the cloud by now, either by moving a finger across the screen of my phone of with the aid of Chromebooks.
While my Chromebooks do a great job, for some applications, I wished to have some other tools available.
So, after a longer struggle, I finally decided to "invest" in a Raspberry Pi. That decision came when I learned that there a at least 2 ways to boot the Pi from USB HDDs. Why is that important, I hear you thinking. Well, first of all I still got a bunch of spinning HDD in my scrap-box, and secondly, SD cards are certainly not the fastest medium in the world what read and write speeds are concerned, but they are the fastest storage medium in the world to wear out. Seen the RAM limitation of a Raspberry Pi, my regular use will heavily rely on swap, resulting in the foreseeable death of many SD cards in the near future.
While my Chromebooks wont be replaced any time soon, the FX-6100 and i7 4770k workstations will see a lot less work soon.
Presently there is a Pi 1 B+ and Pi 3 B+ in my possession.
My junk box further comprises a lot of old USB stuff, e.g. powered hubs, WiFi dongles, sound dongles, etc. So, there are a lot of options to build system around Raspberry Pi boards by recycling obsolete stuff. How exciting!

The Pipe Dreams Driven by Tubes

Dear reader,

please accept my apologies for keeping you in suspense over my latest projects for so long. 2017 was a very intense year for me. During said year, I changed my day-jobs twice, so, the radio hobby and the audio hobby had to take a break. Concerning jobs, I believe to have finally found the position of my dreams with a lot a really nice people in the company... I believe I have never been happier before!
Anyway, this is not about life, this is about driving tubes, PVC that is, with tubes, such as in vacuum.

My pipe dreams, as you know, are employing 3W (8Ohms) broadband drivers, which came with a super-cheap set. By now, I am convinced that those drivers were the most valuable part in the entire kit.

In search for a 2 x 3W class A amplifier, I came across a Chinese kit supplier (Douk Audio, cf. ebay), who sells single-ended class A amp kits based on 6N1 and 6P1 tubes. Said kits are comparably inexpensive and, while provide good quality parts, come without a mains-transformer.

My choice of mains transformer fell on a 100W transformer offered by a supplier in the UK, search for "big.daddy!" on ebay.

The combo works as a charm! The amplifier kit seems to be made for my pipe dreams.

As an audio source, I am presently using a professional grade table top DJ CD player by Numark.
In the future I consider to add a passive equalizer / tone control circuit to the setup in order to allow for compensating deficits from compressed digital audio formats. For now, I am pretty pleased with the raw performance from CDs.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Goodbye Hackintosh!

Yep, you read correctly, I am saying my goodbyes to OS-X and Hackintosh.
My daily computing needs are satisfied by Chromebooks anyways. For the random power-use, Linux and BSD to a great job. And finally, once in a wile, Windows hosts software no available under the previously mentioned systems.
While I still got a Macbook Air and a Time Capsule, I fail to see the need to maintain anything Apple for the time being. I might actually discard the Macbook Air and the Timecapsule in the near future.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Maybe the best Laptop I ever bought

Dear reader,

my apologies for the long break! It has been a while, a while you have not seen me blogging. Will be back occasionally, when there is something to share.

Today, I got some to share with you. It seems my most favorite notebook computer found the way into my home. It probably wont be a surprise to my regular readers that the device is on the less expensive side of life.

While I am still pretty happy with my MacBook Air (11"), I felt to be in need of a higher resolution screen in a smaller sized notebook. For the first time ever in my life, I queued up to get advice from a dealership.
Requirements: daily work with LibreOffice and some documents (mostly PDF).
While we were going a few options I already found on their webpage, we went deeper down their stock... and there it was:
the Acer E 14 E5-475-32LH.
I figure, this is a model of the year passed. The information that my advisor had was: 6 GB RAM expandable (1), 128 GB SSD and 500 GB HDD (2).

This sold me on the particular model!
(1) expandable RAM of an odd size, i.e. 6 GB, means, we are taking modules rather than soldered on chips.
(2) HDD don't come in soldered in, that can only mean that there are exchangeable options in the mass storage department.

Turned out that I was right about the above. On top of that, the SSD is not soldered in either, in contrast to later Acer Notebook Computers. The SSD is an M.2-SATA drive.

The best thing about this notebook is that Acer actually intended it to be user serviceable. Acer opted for providing a portion of the bottom to be removable by unscrewing 4 obvious screws. Nothing hidden here!
Further, unlatching the hatch-cover disable the built-in battery. So, it you are testing, you need to put the cover back in place, screws not needed at this stage.

The notebook came with Windows 10, as you might expect. And guess what, I did not like that!
So, I installed Linux Mint.
Here are a few hints how to do that.
First, you want to disable "secure boot". This requires supplying a superuser password in the BIOS.
When that is done, install an OS of your desire which is capable of EFI booting.
Go back into the BIOS and locate the EFI-file for your OS. Add said file to the trusted boot options. Change the boot order such as to boot your alternative OS first.
Depending on your OS and the options installed thereon, you might might be able to enable "secure boot" again. As a side note: Linux MINT w/o proprietary  stuff will boot in "secure boot" mode, w/ proprietary stuff enable, it won't.
Pick your poison!

On Linux MINT Serena, every single function of the notebook worked OOB.
Now I am on MINT Sylvia Cinnamon 64bit and still everything works.

Linux MINT resides on the SSD, while I kept the HDD in the NTFS format.
This way, Linux sees the internal HDD as an external device which can be mounted and ejected just as needed.
This further allows to have a Windows 10 OS on a separate M.2-SATA drive, in case that OS is needed.

Should dual boot be required, I figure there will be an option to install both OSs alongside one another and be able to select the OS during boot in GRUB.

Back to the particular piece of hardware I selected.
The FULL-HD screen is good, very good, not brilliant though.
The keyboard is great, just to my likings!
The touchpad is responsive and well made, however there are no separate right/list switches. The touchpad is similar to a Chromebook touchpad.
Audio is OK, actually pretty good for a notebook.

I got the Core i3 model, which is plenty of power to me.

Due to the dual mass storage option and easy user upgradability of the notebook, I highly recommend the Acer E 14 E5-475 to anyone, Linux or Windows...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Acer Aspire REVO R3600 - Win10

This little machine came with Win Vista, which I upgraded to Win7 at some stage. At same stage, the box was flagged for a free Win10 upgrade, which never came.

So, I decided to plug in a Win10 install thumb drive and guess what, Win10 upgraded.
However, and here is probably why the upgrade never came via the internet: the Nvidia ION graphics chips was not natively supported by Win10.

No big deal, I though, lets go to Nvidia and download the drivers. Well, no such luck. The Win10 driver package did not install.

What now? Well, there still is this slim chance that Acer provides some drivers. In the respective driver download area, no luck for Win10. However, they still offer the Win7 64bit driver which is called "Chipset Driver For MCP7A-ION". And this package installs on Win10 just fine. After a reboot, all GPU function were available.

So, running Acer REVO R3600 under Win10 is not problem at the end.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Acer Chromebook R11

Readers of this channel might have noticed over time, that I am very open to unconventional things, such as chromebooks. And yes, I am also known to canibalise stuff, e.g. chromebooks to cheap and cheerful Linux Laptops.
Well, the chromebook got a new boost a while ago, when Google brought two of their system together: ChromeOS and Android. So, after a period of struggle, I finally put down the money a bought an Acer R11 quad core chromebook... one of those having a touch screen and allowing for Android applications to run.

Acer got it spot-on! The keyboard is the best I have used in years! Honestly, this device has got a very very good keyboard. On the web, some people seem to dislike the screen and the touchpad. Well, fair enough, not me though. The touchpad is just right in terms of size, the click is a bit mushy, but this is something I can live with. What the screen is concerned, I do not really understand the critics. This screen is brilliant and sharp. The colors are vibrant and the black is really black. In terms of viewing angles, the display could be better, but is much better than many similarly priced products out there.

Talking Android, there is one favorite application of mine, which made a big deal in my decision: snapseed. Snapseed allows you to not only work with RAW files but also allows for local adjustments (brushes). While using snapseed on my Huawei P9 is pretty fun, the screen of the phone is rather small in comparison to my fingers. Now, snapseed is available to me on an 11 inch touchscreen - very very cool!
Originally, and I shared that with friends, I had the 13 inch version of the chromebook, the Acer R13, on my wishlist. However, the R13, having a 1080p screen, lacks in a single but essential feature: a fullsize SDHC card-reader. When using for photography, you want your device to accept fillsize SD cards, no matter what!
Message to Acer: replace the microSD card reader with a fullsize SD card reader.
As added benefit the R11 fits into the bag I am using to go to my classes. "Classes?" you may ask... Yes, I am back to university, sitting classes with peers half my age. Coool, eh?!

There are things I do not like about the device, in particular when the device is in tablet mode. For a tablet, the device is pretty heavy to my taste. When grabbing the "tablet", one grabs into the keyboard or the clicky touchbad, which feels very strange. Yes, those devices are all deactivated in tablet more, but still... it feels just weird.
Multitouch gestures, i.e. more than 2, are a bit confusing and hard to replicate in a productive manner.

The shell of the device is made from white plastics. Which looks incredibly cheap, however, feels pretty solid. Cool move! Who wants to nick a cheap plastic netbook, when there are supreme solid aluminium devices are available? In addition to that... is stolen, my data is still with me, on my account in the cloud.

Concerning compute power, finally there is a chromebook fit for music reproduction. There are a few DJ-applications out there for chrome, however, many of the regular chromebooks, at least the ones I used, struggled severly when throughing high bitrate audio at them... it seem that the 4 Celeron cores are doing a pretty decent job here. I had some frozen screens when audio spectra were processed, but, the music did not stop or stutter at all during the processing. I would go so far to state that I would be confident of play music for an entire night using some USB storage devices and the R11.

Conclusion: if there is a device I would be able to recommend in 2017 it is the Acer R11 (CB5-132T).