Sunday, 28 October 2012

The new audio wave: Pure One mini DAB+ radio

Brisbane was (possibly one of) the first markets in Australia for the roll-out of DAB+ - digital radio.  Whilst some digital radio is receivable by DVB-T set-top-boxes, DAB+ is not.

In February 2010, having heard the advertising on the local stations whilst commuting, I had some spare pocket-change and lashed out on a (relatively simple but far from cheap) digital radio.

As well as DAB+ it also has a tuner for FM, as is common.  This one has audio jacks for headphone / line out, and line in.

The indoor performance is not fabulous, and being digital it either works or doesn't.  Start the microwave oven and it can just cut out.  Ditto for any electric motors nearby.

However the variety of specialist stations (more than 30) is great:
  • Having been a teenager in the 1980s, I particularly enjoy the 97.3 80's station.  (97.3 refers to the FM frequency of the station that broadcasts 3 different digital channels).
  • 4KQ Plus used to have a pattern of playing one artist's repertoire for a week, or a month, on repeat.  Great if you enjoyed the artist, not so good if you didn't.
  • ABC Grandstand gives live sport commentary when the main radio stations are presenting other things.

One remote to control them all: Logitech Harmony 525

As promised in my post on my television, here is the universal remote control I've been using for at least the last 6 years.  More recent models have fancy colour touchscreens, but are limited to a few activities and fewer devices.  I have had as many as 10 different devices and 10 activities configured with mine.

Want to watch digital TV using a digital set-top-box or PVR tuner? One remote, properly configured, sets it all up, sending the volume IR codes for the TV and the channel IR codes for the tuner device.  Again, watching a DVD, sending the audio through a surround amp, or whatever.

Some less obvious (but very helpful) uses have been:
  • Controlling one of my laptops that came with an IR interface - I've used this for presentations (aka PowerPoint, but using OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) Impress).  I've also found it great when sick in bed and using the laptop to play DVDs
  • Controlling Air conditioning - both the split system type that have ubiquitous remote controls, but also the portable, hook-up-to-the window type.
The backlit keys (a function called "Glow") are great in a dark room.

Some of the keys that have seen a lot of use (e.g. the coloured red/green/yellow/blue function buttons) are now a little bit hard to distinguish. Other than that, it still works perfectly, and every time I add a gadget, or change configurations, it's very little trouble to reconfigure the remote.  Highly recommend!

Still a CRT-TV - Sony WEGA 28 inch widescreen

Sometime around the end of 2005 I spied this TV on sale. Having made do with a 12 inch TV with no remote and no inputs save RF/Antenna since 1991, a model with somewhat better capacity was attractive.

Since Plasma and LED flat-panels were - already then - all that anyone wanted to buy, this was being dumped. Down from an original price approaching AUD 2000, it went for about one third of that, or maybe a little less.

Of course, 7 years on, you can hardly give them away.  A brief google search showed me that someone sold one for NZD 25 (less than AUD 20) last month.

It is, however, a fantastic bit of kit.  Yes, it's very deep (being a CRT).  No HDMI, of course, but component analog video for DVD connection, 4 analog inputs (3 at back, one behind the front fold-down flap), 2 of which also offered S-video as an option (1 front, 1 back).  1 analog output (great for driving infrared headphones), and direct speaker input, allowing the TV to play the centre channel in a 5.1 or 7.1 audio installation.

The sharp-eyed will note that there is no antenna connected. Of course, there is only an analog tuner built in.  It's a been a long while since we watched any analog TV!

Juggling multiple devices does, of course, mean a universal remote control is desirable to prevent juggling of remotes. Watch this space for more on that.

Lexmark E-120N laser printer: the start of serious networking

Some time in late 2007 or early 2008 I spied this printer at an ALDI Grocery store.  The asking price was a mere AUD 99.  Granted, it came with a small toner cartridge only.  However it was significant because from the first I  have used it exclusively as a network printer.  I can't honestly say whether I have ever hooked up a USB connection to it; I think not.

Until this purchase, network tinkering was a hobby thing for me.  Crawling under the floorboards to install CAT5 cable was "because I can" and "because I want to tinker" rather than "because I need to."

The attraction of this printer was that it promised high quality and reliability, and didn't require a host computer, because it connected directly to existing 10/100 Ethernet.  Yes, it's only mono, but now, 4½ to 5 years later, it is still printing reliably and well.  It has had one overhaul due to paper dust issues, and I now only feed it paper that has been laser-cut (as opposed to blade cut).  In Australia, Reflex is the most heavily marketed copy/print/office paper, but is not necessarily the best quality!

Starting with this tech toy a home network became an essential part of our tech infrastructure; hitherto, it had been just one more tech toy.