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Chromecast Tricks

As a participant in the Android ecosystem and committed early-adopter I was quick to order a Chromecast when they were introduced in 2013. Sadly, our older Sharp Aquos HDTV lacked the input switching to make the little dongle convenient in my intended application. Since then I’ve struggled to find a use for the little guy.

This week I stumbled upon a new use case for the Chromecast…digital signage! This was inspired by a couple of apps for Chromecast I found in the Play store; Big Tweets and Countdown.

Both of these apps would have been tremendously useful in my past life. I surely would have used them in staging trade show presentations.

Big Tweets cycles through a tweet stream with a selection of nice graphic themes. It even allows custom themes for the graphically handy. Just plug it into a monitor or HDTV and set it up via an Android device. No keyboard or mouse. Low power. Reliable. Lovely.

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Ubiquiti Networks Announces New VoIP Hardware

uvp-feature-hd-touchscreen-300Several folks have reported that yesterday Ubiquiti Networks sent out a marketing email announcing a new line of VoIP products under their UniFi brand. A quick look at the information offered online reveals some very nice looking hardware. Very nice indeed.

The hardware includes a trio of handsets; UVP, UVP-Pro and UVP-Executive. All are Android powered, reported run Kit Kat (v4.4.2) on dual core Cortex A9 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. They all sport 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of local storage.

The entry-level UVP model is a bit feature constrained in order to hit a $149 MSRP.

The UVP and UVP-Pro are more-or-less mobile phone-ish in that they feature a 5” capacitive touch screen resolving 640 x 960 pixels. The UVP-Executive is more tablet-like, with a  7” capacitive touch screen resolving 1024 x 600 pixels.

Audio codec support includes; G.722, Speex, iLBC, PCMU,PCMA and GSM. Thus they are capable of wideband telephony.

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Our DoorBot has Been Decommissioned: Part 3

DoorBot-Looking-Left.jpgFor the several weeks we’ve had the new “Extended Range” Doorbot installed in place of the original device. The only apparent difference between the two is the addition of a short external antenna to enhance the Wifi connectivity.

Happily, the new unit does seem to stay better connected to our WLAN. In the past I was not comfortable evaluating the behavior of the Doorbot+client application given the questionable connectivity. At present the network connection seems sufficient to examine the behavior of the system as a whole.

I have the DoorBot client application installed on a variety of devices:

  • Nexus 4 Android mobile phone (Me)
  • Nexus 5 Android mobile phone  (Mrs)
  • Nexus 7 Tablet (2013)
  • 4th generation iPod Touch
  • iPad with Retina display

The fact that I’m using so many devices may be a little unusual, but I would expect that many families will use 2-3 devices, most likely a couple of cell phones (his & hers) and a tablet. Although a family with kids may well have more than this.

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Capturing The Video Output Of A Nexus 7 Tablet

DoorBot-in-Nexus5There are times when it would be handy to capture the video output of an Android device. This is typically what I need when writing something about an app that does something dynamic. For example, AudioTool by J.J. Bunn. As a tool for simple audio test & measurement capturing its output in real-time is the ideal way to communicate the measurement being taken. A static screen shot is fast & easy to accomplish, but video can be much more illuminating.

Both my Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 (2013) support the use of a Slimport USB-to-HDMI adapter to connect to a monitor. The output of that adapter is 1080p60. The BlackMagic Design Intensity Pro HDMI capture card that I’ve used for the past couple of years can capture streams up to 1080i60, but not 1080p60.

Quite recently I swapped out the Intensity Pro for an AVerMedia Game Broadcaster HD. This card has the ability to capture a 1080p60 stream. In so doing it drops every second frame to actually save a 1080p30 stream to disk.

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Mobile HDVoice; A Post In Three Acts

Act 1: The Future – Sprint To Offer HDVoice Nationwide in July

iPhone-SprintSprint,  the nation’s number #3 mobile carrier, has announced nationwide rollout of HDVoice in early July. At present they have just a few test markets HDVoice enabled. While some met the announcement with enthusiasm, HDVoice observer Doug Mohney has taken a justifiable wait-and-see approach to this news as Sprint has made such promises more than once in recent years.

Ever curious, I thought it worth looking into what kind of HD Voice-capable devices they would be offering. The list of twenty handsets seems quite comprehensive. That bodes well for customers someday actually getting to experience HDVoice.

Just as significantly, the HD Voice capable handsets was easy to identify. The company lists “HD Voice” as a key feature that can be used to search through the entirety of their handset offering. Thus new customers can easily reference this feature while in the process of selecting their new handset.

That brings me to…

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Binaural Fun With AmbiExplorer For Android

AmbiExplorer_framedMy issue with use of the term 3D with reference to binaural voice conferencing service stems from the fact that I’ve been having some fun with real 3D audio over the past couple of months. This has come about since Hector Centeno released AmbiExplorer for Android, an application that lets us decode Ambisonic recordings for binaural playback in headphones.

AmbiExplorer plays back first-order B format files as well as UHJ encoded stereo files. As opposed to simply left, center, right, etc. a B format file is actually comprised of four channels known as W, X, Y & Z. These correspond to three directional signals and an omnidirectional reference signal.

By performing some matrix math on these signal in a coordinated fashion the entirety of the soundstage can be transformed in 3D space. AmbiExplorer decodes the four signals into a binaural feed, allowing the user to rotate their listening perspective in real-time. You can think of it as a 3-axis “balance” control.

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