Integrating a Bluetooth headset in to a beanie

Article

Get Your Hipster On with Bluetooth Beanie | Bluetooth Blog

From the horse’s mouth

TRNDLabs

Bluetooth Beanie

Product Page

Video

My Comments

I was surprised to come across a beanie-style hat that doubles as a Bluetooth headset for your smartphone. The copy in the Bluetooth SIG article highlighted it as being part of the hipster’s image including being able to shift around that trendy inner-urban area like San Fran, Newtown or Fitzroy on a bicycle.

But what was interesting was how the headset was integrated in to something that would normally be knitted. Here, the Bluetooth receiver module had one of the speakers and the microphone along with a group of buttons as its control surface and was connected to a secondary speaker which served as the other speaker for the stereo headset. These were inserted in to pockets knitted in to the beanie so as to allow one to remove them when they wash the hat – avoiding any damage to the electronics while it is being soaked in water and Wool-mix.

This device, which can be charged by a USB charger, can run for six hours on talk / music activities and works according to Bluetooth 3.0 with Handsfree (communications) profile and A2DP / AVRCP (music playback) profiles. It has an operating range of around 10 metres (33 feet), effectively ticking the boxes for essential Bluetooth headset functionality.

It is an example of how one can design mobile electronics for integration into clothing and footwear but making sure you can remove it when you want to wash the clothing. The Bluetooth receiver and speaker could be offered as a separate “short-form” accessory for those of us making our own headgear to convey our own identity or for those of us making and selling such headgear.

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Now a program to help with troubleshooting your computer’s keyboard

Article

Desktop keyboard

Now you can check whether you need to replace that keyboard

Switch Hitter Helps You Diagnose Keyboard Problems | LifeHacker

From the horse’s mouth

Elite Keyboards

Switch Hitter Keyboard Diagnostic Software (Product Download Page)

My Comments

As well, you can determine whether you need to take the laptop in for warranty repair because of the keyboard

As well, you can determine whether you need to take the laptop in for warranty repair because of the keyboard

You may find that your computer’s keyboard may not be behaving in a consistent manner and this may be an issue that may have you taking your laptop computer in for warranty service or buying a new keyboard. Or you find that you are losing those battle games and find that the keyboard isn’t allowing you to demolish the enemy.

But there is a Windows utility that helps you to troubleshoot your keyboard. Switch Hitter gives a visual display similar to a touch-typing tutor program to show whether any of the keys are responding as you press them and identifies which keys are stuck down. This can also work with identifying contact-bounce problems which surfaces as repeated keypresses as well as keys that don’t respond and can be symptomatic of a keyboard that has had the life bashed out of it.

It also shows up which keyboard layout you are using and what keystroke combination you are sending, which may be an issue with area-specific layouts.

This can allow you to supply to a repair agent a more qualified diagnosis of the problems you are having with the keyboard, especially when it comes to that warranty service. As well, you can know if you are actually dealing with an improper setup, a dodgy keyboard-computer link or a keyboard that is to be replaced.

This can also be used to check whether that gaming keyboard is being responsive and satisfying the claims that the manufacturer is touting, thus being suitable for that online fragging session.

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Product Review–Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

I am reviewing the Brother PT-E550WVP TZe-compliant handheld label writer which is pitched at electricians, AV and IT technicians and similar folk who work with different equipment.  This ranges from those who work out of the back of their trucks or vans to the maintenance and IT departments of different workplaces.

One feature that it has beyond the typical label writer is that it can work with other computer equipment via an existing Wi-Fi network segment or its own Wi-FI network. This allows for you to order labels on your smartphone or tablet and have it turn them out.

Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

Price: AUD$329 Recommended Retail Price

The unit itself

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer with back removed

Where to install the battery and the label tape

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is a large handheld device which has a heavy-duty build and an orange-and-grey housing. It is equipped with a large dot-matrix backlit LCD display that lights up when you are actually using the device, along with a rubberised keyboard.

To load the batteries or label tapes in to this label writer, you have to remove the back cover from this unit by pressing a latch on the top edge. Here. you have clearly-identified compartments at each end of the device for the batteries of the tape.

It has what some people may describe as a “three-way” power supply arrangement where you can run it on mains power courtesy of a supplied AC adaptor/charger, a supplied rechargeable lithium-ion battery or 6 AA alkaline batteries of the Duracell kind. This means that even if you run out of power from the rechargeable battery while on the road, you can go to the convenience store and buy some batteries to complete that labelling project. Here, charging the unit’s lithium-ion battery pack is simple as plugging the unit in to mains power using the supplied AC adaptor.

Functionality

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer keyboard

Rubberised keyboard with accent selector

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is based on Brother’s TZe label-cassette platform which means that it can work with all of Brother’s TZe label products which suit different purposes. This includes their HSe series of heat-shrink label tubes that you use to attach to cables.

This label writer has quick access to label templates that are optimised for labelling cables, patch-bays, outlets and the like which can make it an electrician’s or maintenance engineer’s best friend.

As for on-device data entry, the large display makes it easy to see what you are typing in on the unit’s QWERTY-layout rubber-membrane keyboard. The disadvantage with this keyboard is that all the keys are “bunched-up” together rather than spaced out like a calculator’s keyboard. This can be awkward for some users, but you can at least feel which keys are which because each key on the main keyboard has a hemispheric “pimple” shape.

The label writer doesn’t feel extra top-heavy while you are entering text and it still has that comfortable hand-held feel that is expected of this class of device.

You have a dedicated accent key which can come in handy for entering the accents common in most of the Latin languages. This may also appeal to those of you who are learning foreign languages and use labels attached to items as a tool to reinforce your vocabulary. Here, you press the letter you want accented then press the accent key repeatedly until the desired accent appears. In the case of the “ß” used in the traditional German orthography, you type the S letter then press the accent key until the “ß” letter shows up.

As for the output quality, the labels come out of this machine very crisp and clear as has been expected for Brother’s thermal labellers.

You use the Menu and arrow keys to select the advanced functions like the network connectivity, cutting behaviour amongst other things. This leads me to the network connectivity which is one of its key features.

Connectivity

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer can work as a label printer with a regular computer or a mobile device and can connect to the latter via Wi-Fi. This can be handy if you are wanting to run a batch of labels from your smartphone or tablet such as whenever you are out of the right label tape or you have left the label writer behind. Similarly, you can use this link to transfer databases or label templates created using the P-Touch software.

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer network operation menu screenshot

The user can select between direct Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi network

This model has answered a problem that was exhibited by Brother’s PT-P750W Wi-Fi label printer where it would attempt to connect to the last Wi-Fi wireless network it used before working as a standalone Wi-Fi wireless device. Here, the user has to select whether to run the label writer as its own Wi-Fi network or have it join an existing Wi-Fi network by using the WLAN menu option on PT-E550WVP’s menu and selecting “Direct” for working as its own network and “Infrastructure” for working with an existing Wi-Fi network.

As for connecting via an existing Wi-Fi wireless network, you can connect this unit to Wi-Fi network segments that use WPS or classic WEP or WPA-Personal password setup methods. This typifies most Wi-Fi home or small-business networks but would preclude business networks that implement user-specific or device-specific authentication along with public hotspots that implement Web-based authentication.

Comments from other people

Brother PT-E550WVP label writerI showed the Brother PT-E550WVP label writer to a friend of mine who works as a maintenance electrician and let him have a play around with this device. He was impressed with this unit’s rugged design and ease of use. This was so much that he would suggest to his workplace to consider buying these labellers for the team he works with.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A feature that may be considered nice to have for the PT-E550WP would be to allow the label writer’s keyboard to serve as an external keyboard for a tablet or smartphone. Similarly, this labeller could benefit from an optional car adaptor so it can be charged up from the vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket when you are driving between jobs or want to conserve battery power when you work out of the back of your van.

Similarly, Brother can improve on the display’s contrast to augment its useability. Here, they could implement display technologies like EL-backlit LCD displays or monochrome OLED displays which have a similar contrast to the vacuum-fluorescent displays but don’t consume as much power as those displays.

A function that could come in handy for people who use this label writer as part of IT support would be to print out the SSID and, perhaps, the password of the current network. This may be useful for preparing a network-configuration card to give to the network’s owner or attach the SSID to the router or access point they have configured.

Conclusion – Is it a tool or a toy?

The Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer earns its keep for tradesmen and maintenance departments who value a highly-durable label writer and want to have the ability to link it with their portable computing equipment whether now or in the future. Personally, I would consider this label writer to be a viable tool for these kind of users rather than a toy.

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KFC puts forward the idea of a flexible Bluetooth keyboard as a tray-mat

Article

KFC Puts Keyboards In Trays So Greasy Chicken Fingers Can Keep Texting | Gizmodo

My Comments

The fast-food industry are always working on ways to promote their wares and one way they have always used is the “tray-mat” which is a sheet of paper with promotional material printed on it that is placed on the serving trays. In some cases, especially with McDonalds, this is also used as part of a sweepstakes or competition where you can win prizes and, of course, these end up as a take-home collectable or souvenir.

But the KFC franchises in Germany have taken this further by integrating a Bluetooth keyboard in one of these tray-mats. Here, they pitch the idea of keeping your greasy fingers off the smartphone screen while you type out replies to SMS, social-media or other messages. This exploits the standard Bluetooth HID Device Profile supported by the mobile operating systems and pairs with the host device when powered on.

Do I see this as being more than a promotional gimmick or toy? It can be an alternative to various’”laser-projector” ideas that project the keyboard to a surface like a table or desk and could have appeal for wherever you have to enter text in a dirty environment. It is also a way to prove that Bluetooth can be integrated in paper, flexible plastic, cloth and similar materials and can be implemented with these materials as a human interface device.

In this context, the flexible Bluetooth keyboard could work well as a “roll-up” keyboard or as part of a loose-leaf folder system whether as a binder, divider or a leaf. Use of different layouts could come in handy like a piano keyboard for music input or a group of buttons that work with particular apps.

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Keeping your portable equipment safe through the summer

Beach shotThrough the summer, we are likely to take our portable equipment with us more frequently as we spend more time outdoors. This is whether to play music off an MP3 player in the car, use our smartphones on the road more frequently, take heaps of pictures with our digital cameras at the beaches and beauty spots we visit, or entertain our kids during the long road trips using a tablet or laptop.

Device security

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Smartphones are so well used during summer yet misfortune can happen to them

When we are on the road, we are likely to carry our gadgets with us more frequently. But this becomes a temptation for light-fingered thieves to get their claws on our stuff. This has ranged from gadgets like smartphones disappearing at the beach to cars being broken into and possessions being stolen.

You can store your devices securely in your car. As well, making sure you don’t leave handbags, backpacks, laptop bags or similar luggage lying around in the car. This is because thieves can deduce that these bags contain items of value and break in to the car to steal these bags.

A locked car trunk (boot) can be the safest place to store your mobile technology when you are out and about

A locked car trunk (boot) can be the safest place to store your mobile technology when you are out and about

If you are using a sedan (saloon) or similar vehicle that has a separately-lockable luggage compartment i.e. the boot or, in the US, the trunk, this is the safest place for these valuables if you are not using them at your destination. This can apply to tradesmen’s utes (pickup trucks) where there is a lockable box that is securely attached to the cargo bay on these vehicles.

Volkswagen Golf hot hatch

Hey, do you know where the luggage blind is for your hatchback or 4×4?

Hatchbacks, station-wagons (estate cars) and SUVs (4-wheel-drives / 4x4s) aren’t all that secure in this context but using the luggage blind or removeable luggage shelf that may come with your vehicle can make it easier to keep the valuable items “out of sight, out of mind” but these aren’t necessarily secure. For that matter, where is that luggage blind or luggage shelf that came with your car if your car came with that?

The glove compartment in the dashboard or the box in the centre console that doubles as an armrest serves well as a secure storage location for small items like MP3 players, smartphones or small digital cameras. This is more so  especially if you can lock it with a key.

If you are at the beach, pool or beauty spot as a group, you may be tempted to keep all the smartphones, cameras and similar equipment in a pile near the drinks or picnic food especially as some of you go off for a swim or to admire the beauty. In these situations, make sure there is a trusted adult near that pile of equipment at all times to keep watch on it. Also hiding the equipment amongst bedding, towels, picnic rugs, the picnic basket or in common-looking bags may work as a way to make it less attractive to thieves.

Avoiding damage

One major cause of damage to a lot of the portable gadgets during the summer is water and other fluids; or sand getting inside the devices.

If you find that there is a greater risk of this kind of damage happening to these devices, it is a good idea to have liquid-tight containers for the devices. For cameras, you can purchase weatherproof cases from your favourite camera store. These come either as a generic case that suits cameras of the type or a manufacturer-designed case that suits a particular camera model. You may also come across weatherproof containers for smartphones and tablets like the iPad.

The common zip-lock sandwich bags that you can get from the supermarket can work well with smartphones, portable media players and remote controls that are more likely to be baptised in swimming-pool water or have a drink tipped over them.

Avoid the temptation to carry a smartphone or MP3 player in your pocket or wedged in on your swimwear when you are near the water unless it is kept in a zip-lock bag or something similarly waterproof.

The battery, SIM and memory cards have to be removed from the device if it gets wet

The battery, SIM and memory cards have to be removed from the device if it gets wet

Attention hotels and similar establishments: You could make sure that your Housekeeping department keeps a supply of the zip-lock bags of varying sizes on hand! This can come in handy with guests as a way to contain leaks from toiletry bottles or allow guests to protect their smartphones from water damage.

Water or other fluids inside device

The battery should be removed from a waterlogged camera while they are switched on so the lens doesn't retract

The battery should be removed from a waterlogged camera while they are switched on so the lens doesn’t retract

If water does get inside a device, these steps may help in mitigating the damage that this may cause to the device. Situations like the device falling in to sea water, a swimming pool or accompanying a load of laundry through the washing machine can make things worse due to chemicals being part of that water.

Shut down the device fully. In the case of a camera with a lens that retracts when it is turned off, remove the battery while the camera is on and the lens is extended. With smartphones and tablets, this may involve following the operating system’s shutdown procedure like pressing the sleep button for a long time to bring up a shutdown menu, then selecting the Shut Down option.

SIM card

Dry SIM and memory cards with a soft tissue or micro-fibre cloth

Remove all batteries, memory and SIM cards from the affected device if possible. Dry off the memory and SIM cards with a tissue or micro-fibre cloth before you consider installing them in another device like a spare mobile phone.

Shake as much of the water out of the device as you can. Avoid the temptation to run a hair-dryer over the device or run it under that hand-dryer in the public restroom. This introduces extra heat to the device which can damage some components very easily.

Smother the device in a bowl of raw rice or place it in a zip-lock bag with a dessicant pouch or plenty of raw rice. Make sure that all of the covers and doors for the various compartments on that device are open when you do this. Leave it in this bowl or zip-lock bag for three days in order for the device to dry out effectively. This procedure effectively mitigates the damage that the water does to the device’s circuitry, switches and mechanisms.

Sand or dirt in your equipment

You can get dry sand or dirt out of your electronic equipment either by shaking it out, using compressed air to blast it away from the equipment or using your household vacuum cleaner to suck it out. If you use the vacuum cleaner for this purpose, you may find that the crevice nozzle that isn’t perforated on each side may give you better results.

Before you do this with a camera, smartphone or other device that has small removable memory or SIM cards, make sure you remove these cards from your device before you clean it out.

Dealing with insurance

Smother the wet device with dry rice and leave for a few days

Smother the wet device with dry rice and leave for a few days

When you purchase any device, make sure you have the receipt or the instruction manual for that device. In the case of a smartphone, MiFi or similar communications device that you have bought as part of a subsidised-equipment contract, keep the details about the contract that you bought this device under. These documents are useful for your insurance claim as a way of proving you own that device.

As for home / contents insurance policies along with travel insurance policies, make sure that the policy does cover for accidental damage to portable electronics while they are used on the road. Beware of those policies that require you to pay a large excess on accidental damage claims because these large excesses may be more than equipment of a similar standard is worth in the case of small devices. In some cases, an insurance policy that offers excess-free coverage for theft and accidental damage to portable equipment on the road for a modest extra on the premium may be worth its salt.

Similarly, some mobile carriers may offer a specialised policy that covers smartphones and associated devices for theft and accidental damage, usually for equipment that is part of an ongoing subsidised-equipment contract. These may be worth investigating especially if they offer coverage for associated accessories, “on-the-road” damage or “other-device” coverage; along with excesses that you pay during a claim. The main limitation with these policies is that they provide cover for specified devices, namely the smartphone or tablet that is part of a particular contract.

Conclusion

Once summer comes, it is worth making sure you don’t run in to trouble regarding your valuable electronic equipment.

This article will be published around May to coincide with summertime in the Northern-Hemisphere countries like the USA, Canada, UK and Europe, but will be re-published during November for summertime in the Southern-Hemisphere countries.

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DisplayLink demonstrates a USB-C dock setup for all notebooks and tablets

Article – From the horse’s mouth DisplayLink Corporate Logo courtesy of DisplayLink

DisplayLink

Press Release

My Comments

DisplayLink has extended its reference design for a “video-over-USB” setup to USB-C and designed a dock that can work with all notebooks and tablets just by having them connect to the device via a USB-A or USB-C cable.

This is hot on the heels of Apple announcing their latest MacBook Air and Google announcing their Pixel 2 Chromebook, both of which implement the new USB Type-C connector. Here, the dock will support multiple-screen video using DisplayLink technology. They also underscore the ability to use the dock (and multi-screen setup) with existing equipment courtesy of the DisplayLink standard and the legacy USB Type-A plug.

One way I see this progress is that the dock could be equipped with the USB Type-C socket and equipment that has this connection is hooked up using a Type-C cable while legacy equipment is hooked up using a Type-C-to-Type-A cable. I also see it as a way to innovate with these devices especially if we are thinking of desktop docks that come in to play when you are using a portable computer at your office.

The idea can be taken further with the dock having MHL software abilities so as to work with Android phones and serve as a simple external-screen device for all computing devices.

What I see of this is the ability for the standard to be raised when it comes to the design of “single-connect” docks or expansion-modules that make it easer to engage in desktop-portable or “work-home” computing.

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Product Review–Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset

Introduction

Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset - boom removed

The headset with a removable boom

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset is a traditional-look headset with a detachable boom microphone. Here, this allows you to use it as a pair of stereo headphones or as a “full-on” stereo headset. This includes using it in the plane thanks to an “in-flight-entertainment” two-plug adaptor so it can plug in to your seat’s armrest.

It also comes with a USB sound module so you can use the headset with your computer when playing games and this provides claimed surround-sound abilities as well as supporting the audio input and output required of the headset.

The headset is available with a choice of either red accents or grey accents to suit your style.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset

Price

RRP: AUD$149

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (over the ear with sound-containing foam wall)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position Boom attached to headphone assembly
Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm four-conductor phone plug
Adaptors USB sound module
Two-pin airline inflight-entertainment adaptor

The headset itself

Connectivity

The headphones that are part of the Kingston HyperX Cloud II come with a four-conductor 3.5mm phone plug which can work with most smartphones and stereo equipment.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset USB adaptor

USB headset adaptor for your regular computer – separately adjustable input and output levels

But Kingston provided a USB-connected sound module that presents to Windows as a logical sound-output device and a logical sound-input device. This is done using the class drivers that were provided out of the box with Microsoft Windows and is something you would experience with your Macintosh or your Linux computer. This works properly and is more to allow you to have a separate communications channel for games while you have the sound effects coming through the computer’s speakers.

For Windows users, it is worth reading an article I have written about how you can manage multiple sound devices like headsets especially if you want this to be a private-listening or communications headset.

Comfort

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset does feel securely tight on your head and is comfortable to wear. This is thanks to the padded headband and the ear cushions which also don’t feel sweaty.

This means that you can enjoy wearing the headset for a long time without any fatiguing even on hotter days or intense gaming sessions.

Sound quality

Music

As far as the bass response is concerned, it is there but not overpowering. It doesn’t overpower the vocals nor does it overpower melodic or harmonic instruments in the mix. Here, this means that you still have that “kick” that is desireable for a lot of music but it doesn’t boom.

Video content

I watched some video-on-demand content using a review-sample laptop and have found that the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset does treat dialogue and sound effects very well. The headset even handles ambient effects clearly and gives bite to the “sounds that matter” like the aggressive engine sound of a vehicle used in a hit-and-run scene in the show I was watching. This gives it some worth when it comes to using the headphones with your laptop for watching video content or playing games.

Communications use

I have made and taken some calls with this headset and do hear the caller clearly and have used it with the microphone for a video call on my computer. Here, I had to raise the volume on the supplied USB adaptor to get my voice heard by the caller when I was making a Skype call.For portable use, you still need to run the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset hard with some devices to obtain a decent loudness and this may also have an impact on your device’s battery life. With laptops, I could get a decent sound out of the headset without running it at a high level.

Noise reduction and handling in noisy environments

I have used the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset as a travel headset and integrated a bus journey as part of my travels. Here, I sat up the back of a typical transit bus and used the headset there to determine whether the engine noise was reduced while I used it.Here, I noticed a significant amount of noise reduction while being able to hear the program material that I was listening to and concluded that you can benefit from this somewhat for bus or train travel but may not be effective for air travel especially when the plane is in flight.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

One feature I would like to see for the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset would be to have a detachable cable and the availability of replacement cables. This is because whenever you are engaging in heavy gaming, you may pull on the headset and this could cause the connection to become unreliable.

Similarly, the USB adaptor could be offered as a standalone accessory for use with headsets so you can connect a headset of your choice with your computer for gaming, videocalls or voice recognition. Here, it could be switched between the Apple configuration or the OMTP configuration so it can be used with headsets destined for the iPhone or open-standards devices. This is something that will be important for the Windows platform as Cortana comes to the Windows 10 operating system as a voice assistant or for businesses who want to use softphones as part of their IP-based telephony needs.I would also like to see the headset plug able to be switched between Apple and OMTP configurations to work with smartphones, along with a switch on the cable or headset for call control.

Conclusion

It is easy to think of the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset as strictly a gamer’s headset but it can work well as an all-round headset you could use with your laptop or your smartphone. This is more so if you are on a budget but you still want some “kick” from your music or sound-effects.

As for value-for-money, I do find that this headset does offer that especially if you want to see it in use beyond your games console or “gaming-rig” computer, such as for Skyping friends, listening to music or watching videos using your tablet or laptop.

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HP joins with Bang & Olufsen for optimised notebook sound

Article

HP taps Bang & Olufsen for audio tech now that Apple has Beats | Engadget

HP Partnership With Apple’s Beats Officially Ends as HP Moves on to Bang & Olufsen | MacRumors

From the horse’s mouth

Bang & Olufsen

Press Release

Hewlett-Packard

Press Release

My Comments

B&O will start to appear in HP computers very soon

B&O will start to appear in HP computers very soon

Over the last many years, most of the Windows-based laptop manufacturers have been working with companies in the sound-recording and sound-reproduction space to improve the way these computers have sounded. This is whether through the integrated speakers or when they are connected to external speakers or headphones and was seen as a way to compete with Apple for music recording and reproduction.

The knowhow associated with this sound system will affect how the next HP laptop is designed

The knowhow associated with this sound system will affect how the next HP laptop is designed

As I have seen with the Hewlett-Packard laptops that I have reviewed, HP had partnered with Beats by Dr Dre, known for headphones and speakers with a very impressive bass response, to improve the sound from their laptops. But lately Apple bought out Beats and HP realised they couldn’t continue this partnership.

Bang & Olufsen Form 2 headphones

Bang & Olufsen Form 2 headphones

Bang & Olufsen has been well known for some very impressive hi-fi and video equipment, speakers, and audio accessories that are works of art in themselves for a long time.  For example, I had cited their single-piece music systems such as the Beocenter 7000 series, the Beocenter 9000 series and Beosound 9000 CD changer as being above their peers for sound quality even in their days.

They also have designed the ICEPower power-amplification modules to allow sound to be amplified by a compact device that is efficient with power and heat. Of course, B&O has related to a wide range of music from the classics through jazz and classic rock to current popular music and made their brand have that same kind of appeal as the Jaguar or Range Rover cars. This is where a premium brand like these isn’t just about being a status symbol, but is about enjoying the legendary expertise that the brand is all about.

But they have dabbled with sound tuning for ASUS, initially on a project basis but had applied the technology to a larger range of laptops under this brand.

So B&O have decided to pick up the mantle and offer the sound-tuning expertise to HP. This will also be about sharing the design expertise that is associated with how the Beomaster 1900 or Beosound Ouverture were designed. This includes preventing audio-noise sources like the power supply or other control circuitry from adding noise to the signal path.

Let’s not forget the way they have designed their speakers, headphones and similar equipment where they use a special cubic room for measuring the acoustic characteristics for the device they are designing. Here, this could lead towards being able to answer the question about how a laptop or tablet’s integrated sound system can be improved upon, making for a product that is more listenable.

The “Bang & Olufsen” brand will appear on the premium HP computers such as the Envy, Omen and Spectre lineups while the B&O Play lifestyle-focused brand will appear on the Pavilion computers, the tablets and accessories. Here, the B&O influence will affect HP computers that are being released through this year onwards.

I would see this partnership celebrate the expertise that both HP and B&O are about when it comes to their proficiencies rather than the bragging rights that is associated with a particular brand. Could that newer HP Envy or Omen complement that Beocenter?

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Legacy analogue audio to today’s needs–can this be done?

Problem

Linn Sondek LP12

You can bridge the old turntable to today’s digital needs

Most of you will be wanting to link legacy audio media like vinyl or cassette to today’s needs. This will be true for people who have lived through the time period between the 1950s to the 1990s where vinyl records, tapes in the open-reel, 8-track cartridge or cassette form, or newer digital-recording formats like DAT, DCC or MiniDisc were part of one’s music-listening life and you have built up a collection of music on one or more of these formats. On the other hand, you may have started to dabble in the classic audio formats such as participating in the return of vinyl courtesy of the recent “Record Store Day” effort or had shown interest in cassettes courtesy of “Guardians Of The Galaxy” with the Awesome Mix Vol 1 tape (CD at Amazon / JB Hi-Fi, Spotify, MP3 on iTunes / Google Play ) in the Star Lord’s Walkman.

An "on-ramp" digital media adaptor for a network-based multiroom audio setup

An “on-ramp” digital media adaptor for a network-based multiroom audio setup

Similarly, you may find that it is hard to acquire particular recordings or kinds of music on anything other than the aforementioned legacy media. This holds especially true for the “easy-listening” music of the 1950s to the 1970s which has been retroactively dubbed “lounge” or “space-age bachelor-pad” music, or some world or folk music that was turned out through that same era. This leads to you rummaging through second-hand music stores, charity-run thrift stores, eBay and the like for this content and picking it up on records, musicassettes, or similar media.

But there are the new trends like network-based multiroom audio or the ability to copy the music to a file-based audio format to enjoy on your smartphone or via a DLNA-capable home media network. Similarly, you may want to use a computer-based audio-editing program to digitally salvage an old recording before it goes to waste.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module press image courtesy of Creative Labs

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module – useful for copying old media to your home network

What you want to be able to do is bridge these classic media to the new requirements, whether by operating a turntable to play records through your network-based multiroom system or copying that old open-reel tape to your computer to digitally salvage it and have in a ready-to-play form.

The multiroom system can be catered for through the use of an “on-ramp” module which may also be part of a speaker or network-media-player module. This device takes an incoming audio signal and converts it in to a bitstream that suits the multiroom system it is designed to work with. then presenting it to that system via the home network. Then you use the multiroom system’s control app to select that input and have it play through the speakers.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

A Windows laptop can be used for “digitizing” old irreplaceable media

You could use a USB sound module, PCI sound card or an integrated sound module along with a recording program like Creative Media Toolbox, WavePad or Audacity to record from legacy media to file-based media. These tools have functionality to allow you to “clean up” recordings that had come through below par such as to clean out tape hiss or clicks and pops.

Solution

The classic vinyl record

Turntables that have an integrated preamplifier could be connected directly to equipment that has a line-level input but there is an increasing number of these, typically offered for peanuts, that aren’t really kind to records. These have flimsy construction for both the plinth and the tonearm and use a cheap moving-magnet cartridge. Their “automatics” (mechanisms associated with automatic arm return, automatic stylus cueing (fully-auto setups only) and stylus lift) may not behave properly placing undue pressure on the stylus or even permitting the stylus to drop on a spinning platter rather than the record. This also applies to a lot of USB turntables that are pitched as a way to “dump” records to file-based audio media.

VinylPlay - an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

VinylPlay – an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

There may be exceptions to this rule like an integrated music system like a 1970s-era “music centre” that has a turntable that you trusted with your records and have kept in good running order. Some of these systems, especially a lot of the good-quality music centres, will also have a line output, typically so you can connect an outboard tape deck. On the other hand, you may be able to have a good system modified to obtain a line output.

But you may want to use a good-quality turntable or a turntable that you have trusted with your vinyl for a long time especially when vinyl was the main audio medium. Here, you use a regular hi-fi amplifier or receiver that has a phono input and a tape loop that you customarily hooked up a tape deck to.  Even that old amplifier that used to be in your hi-fi system but you use for the computer or have left in the garage can do the job. On the other hand, you can purchase a dedicated phono preamplifier to do this job. As well, some USB sound modules like the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium HD have an in-house phono stage.

You connect the turntable to the PHONO input on the amplifier and the sound module to that amplifier’s tape output and have the amplifier’s input selector set at PHONO. Here, the amplifier works simply as a phono preamplifier in the context the sound module or multiroom “on-ramp” module.

Tapes, digital media, etc

MiniDisc and cassette decks can also be used to bridge these formats to file-based computer audio or multiroom setups

MiniDisc and cassette decks can also be used to bridge these formats to file-based computer audio or multiroom setups

This is a simpler affair because you can connect the line output (playback output) of these devices directly to a line-level input on the sound module or multiroom “on-ramp” module. Most of the digital decks like that work with DAT, DCC or MiniDisc do expose a digital output which can be connected to the sound module’s digital input. For that matter, some DCC decks like the Philips DCC-900 do use this output even when playing standard cassettes.

In the context of the tape-based formats or MiniDisc, you may use them as a “workspace” when you are doing a recording effort. For example, you may find that these could work well in the “capture” context such as “how long is a length of tape” applying to reliably recording live or radio content. Then you would transfer the content to file-based media for post-production and network playback,

You may find that an amplifier can come in handy if you are feeding multiple sources of this kind to the one sound module or multiroom “on-ramp”. On the other hand, you can get away with a switch-box to select amongst the different sources of this kind. This is because they are typically used as the “switchboard” in a hi-fi system. Here, you connect the sound module up to the amplifier’s record output where you would typically connect up a tape deck to record and could even use an RCA “Y-adaptor” on the same outputs if you are serving a tape deck and the sound module from the same outputs.

Other concerns

You may have to be sure that the equipment you are dealing with is mechanically sound so that it doesn’t damage or destroy irreplaceable media. This is more so if you are playing the legacy media through the setup on a regular basis.

For tape equipment, this may also making sure that the heads are kept clean with an appropriate non-abrasive cleaning tape that is in good condition or, in the case of open-reel or some cassette equipment, using a cotton bud (Q-Tip) soaked in rubbing alcohol (methylated spirits) rubbed across the heads. For turntables, it would also mean that the stylus isn’t chipped or damaged in any other way and is kept clean; and the tonearm is set up properly to follow the record’s groove accurately with the right amount of pressure.

Conclusion

You can bridge the classic music media with today’s audio technology once you are sure that you are dealing with equipment that is in good order and know how to connect it to the modern equipment.

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SanDisk releases the first USB memory key with a Type-C connection

Article

MWC 2015 : la toute première clé dotée de la prise USB réversible de demain ! | 01Net.fr (French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

SanDisk

Press Release

Product Page (Dual Drive Type C)

My Comments

The USB Type C connector

SanDisk Dual Drive Type C memory key press picture courtesy of SanDisk

SanDisk Dual Drive Type C memory key

has been ratified as a small reversible connector for use with low-profile devices. It will start to appear primarily on the next wave of tablets, smartphones and, perhaps, ultraportable notebooks due to its small size.

But the device that ends up in most USB ports is the USB memory key, also known as a memory stick, thumb drive or jump drive. These are the same size as a typical house key or stick of chewing gum but contain an integrated flash drive that plugs in to a computer’s USB port, presenting itself to the operating system as a removeable disk.

SanDisk has anticipated the arrival of these devices and has launched at Mobile World Congress 2015 a USB memory key that can plug in to a USB Type-C socket. The 32Gb Dual Drive has on one end a Type A plug to plug in to most computers in operation and on the other end a Type C plug for the up-and-coming tablet or ultraportable. Of course, the USB 3.0 device will present itself logically as a removable disk like other memory keys.

This could cut out the need to carry around a Type-A to Type-C cable along with a memory key when you want to move data to your tablet or want to expand capacity on that same device. Who knows who will be the next kid off  the block to offer a peripheral for the USB Type-C connector.

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