A Novel Widget: fit-statUSB from Compulab

Here’s a cute new widget from Compulab, makers of my beloved Airtop-PC. A first glance, fit-statUSB looks like a very small USB memory key, but it’s actually a programmable color status LED.

Costing just $12 this wee LED looks like a serial port to the host computer. You can send simple commands to the com port to set its color, brightness, make it sequence, etc.

fit-statUSB

It’s easy to think of many possible use-cases. I can imagine a rack of gear where a servers process status is indicated by a front mounted fit-statUSB. When a critical process goes down the LED indicates this immediately, without requiring a sophisticated management or monitoring system. Just a few scripts.

Might be fun to play with one (some?) of these one day soon.

Replacing My Desktop Computer

Wanted: New Desktop PC. Must be the strong, silent type. Windows only. Laptops need not apply.

Warning: The following may well be a rationalization.

The arrival of the Logitech Brio webcam reminded me that my computers are now aged. Neither my desktop, nor laptop, are capable of reliably producing 1080p or 4K video streams.

In the case of the laptop, a second generation Lenovo X1 Carbon circa 2013, I’m not particularly bothered by this reality. I don’t expect a laptop, especially an ultrabook, to do such things.

Given that I optioned it well originally (8 GB memory, 256 GB SSD) the Lenovo is still a lovely device for the various tasks where I truly need portability. I can get another year from it without issue.

The desktop is another matter entirely. Its time has past. It has started to let me down in some significant ways. I’ve tinkered with its internals over these past five years. Its lone, traditional hard drive was augmented by an SSD boot volume early in its tenure, a third physical drive a little later on.

Its AMD FX6100 CPU, with 6 cores, first appeared in 2011. Clocked at 3.6 GHz it draws 95 watts. Upgrading the CPU would require a new motherboard, which in turn dictates a new power supply. While memory and storage can easily be upgraded, swapping out the host CPU is rarely worth the trouble on a system this old.

Never fear, we’re big believers in technology recycling. Our older computers often get demoted to lesser service hereabouts. For example, my previous desktop is our current music server. Alternatively, they may get wiped and gifted to someone who might have use of them despite their age.

Now, looking ahead…

Not long ago I revisited the state of small-form-factor desktops. I remain certain that I want a desktop. I just don’t want a hulking big box. After all, those big sheet metal boxes are mostly empty.

After much consideration (some would say waffling) I ordered an Airtop-PC direct from Compulab. Those of you paying attention will note that this is just over a year since I first mentioned the little wunderputer.

Weighing it against the competition I found it to be the best option for my purposes. What follows is an explanation of that thought process.

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Tip: Faking an HDMI Connection

FITPC-HeadlessLast week I once again saw a need to share the output of an Android device. As I’ve described previously, this requires the use of an HDMI splitter to feed both a monitor and the HDMI capture card in my vMix PC. The monitor satisfies that HDCP handshake, which allows the PC to see the video stream.

However, there are times when it’s just not convenient or practical to have an extra monitor involved. This came up recently in a thread in the Wirecast support forum. Someone wants to capture the screen of a number of Mac Mini’s in order to bring multiple Skype video calls into a streaming production. They run the Mac Mini’s headless, accessing the Mac desktops using a software screen sharing application.

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Compulab Airtop: The strong, silent type of desktop computer

airtop-isometry-cutout-300pxI can’t really explain it, but fanless, small form-factor computers have always held a lot of appeal. Over the years I’ve twice selected SFF models as my desktop. Compulab, and Israeli company, has consistently offered very interesting SFF platforms, including the Fit-PC and Intense PC Series.

I bought an original Fit-PC simply because it was interesting and relatively affordable. However, novel as it was, Fit-PC was destined for industrial and signage applications. With hardware common to a netbook it simply didn’t have the grunt to be more than a plaything. While the Intense PC models were more powerful, they were also considerably more expensive than a traditional SFF desktop. I admired them from afar.

This week Compulab noted that they are beginning to produce their newest model, the Airtop-PC. It looks like their most innovative design yet.

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Oh, Yeah: DIY Room Systems!

DIY-Room-System-200pxPrognosticator extraordinaire Dave Michels recently post some observations of things he saw at InfoComm. In so doing I think that he may have coined a new buzz-phrase, “DIY Room Systems.” I must admit that I am smitten with the concept.

For those not versed in enterprise video conference jargon a “room system” is a video conference end-point of the sort that might be found in a meeting room. That covers a broad swath of territory, basically everything between desktop video conference clients and telepresence suites.

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CompuLab Strikes Again; Intense PC Looks Sweet!

 

CompuLab, the company that brought us the Fit-PC series have a special place in my heart. Their little super-small-form-factor PCs hold an attractive quality that’s hard to describe.

I rather impulsively bought a Fit-PC2 even though I really didn’t have any need for it. The little 4″ square box is actually mounted on a VESA bracket on the back of an LCD monitor. It essentially turns that monitor into a net-top.

As cute and appealing as they were, a Fit-PC was never going to be my primary desktop. Sporting an Intel Atom running at 1.1 GHz they just didn’t have the CPU power to fill that role. However, that may be changing. The introduction of their latest offering, Intense PC, might make a viable replacement for my ailing desktop.

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