A Lament for the 3.5mm Mini Jack

It seems that Apple has pressed the world into abandoning one of the oldest standard connectors still in use, the 3.5mm mini-jack. Apple, Samsung and others are now offering mobile phones sans mini-jack, much to the delight of the Bluetooth Consortium and those who make adapter dongles.

I’m not going to waste any more ink, digital or otherwise, with respect to the logic of abandoning the ubiquitous little connector. Enough has been wasted on that already, and it changed no one’s mind.

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That said, I am able to comment on the shoddy state of the 3.5mm jack in the past generation of mobile phones. The mini-jack on two of my last three my last mobile phones became defective. Both of those phones, a Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, were made by LG, so perhaps the problem is specific to them.

I have other devices that don’t seem to suffer this fault routinely. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t used a wired headset as much with those devices. Still, over the years I can’t recall as many simple mechanical failures of the mini-jack as I’ve seen with recent mobile phones.

My suspicion is that the lowly mini-jack simply doesn’t get much respect. In the drive to pack more junk into ever thinner handsets, the elderly connector gets squeezed to the point where it’s mechanical integrity can’t be sustained. It’s not a complicated thing. I suspect it’s just gets ignored. Even under-engineered.

It’s a pity since there very reason that the mini-jack has survived this long is the fact that it can be both robust and cost effective. Not to mention that fact that there are millions of existing headsets that use the little devil.

If someone should decide to not include a mini-jack, I get that. I may not agree, but I understand the decision. To include a poor implementation is another matter entirely.

Replacing My One+ One…a not-so-smart-phone

Nexus5 lock screenMy history with Android-based mobile phones isn’t really that long, at least not when expressed by what I’ve owned; T-Mobile G2 (aka HTC Desire Z), Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4 and the One+ One. Transitioning away from a Blackberry 9700 in 2010, I liked the G2, adored the two Nexus models, but I regret the decision to buy the One+ One.

I bought it back in February. There were two motivating factors at play; my Nexus 4 had become unreliable, and I was taken-in by the One+ One’s combination of reasonable price, flagship specs and limited availability.

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Why Create A Micro-USB Cable For DC Power Only?

micro-usb-cableOn a shelf in the garage that adjoins my home office there is a set of shelves with a number of boxes of cables. There are cables of various sorts; BNC type video, RCA audio leads, XLR audio cables, IEC power cords, IEEE-1394, Ethernet, RS-232 serial, USB, mini-USB, micro-USB, etc. I try to not discard anything that might still be useful. Call it recycling if you like. Perhaps hoarding if you’re in a less gracious frame-of-mind.

Recently, I went to the shelf to fetch a micro-USB cable with which to remove some files from my Nexus 4 cell phone. I just grabbed one of the 20 cables in the box, using it to connect the Nexus 4 to my laptop. The Nexus immediately indicated it was charging, but the laptop completely failed to acknowledge the attached device.

I found that to be odd. At first I poked at the laptop a little, but eventually fetched another micro-USB cable from the collection. Using the second cable the laptop issued forth the usual tone, indicating that a new device was attached. Evidently the first cable had only two of the four wires connected, so it provides only power.

That got me to thinking…how much did some manufacturer save by including a cable that was not pin-to-pin connected on a USB-to-micro-USB cable? It had to be a trivial sum, hardly worth considering. It’s certainly not worth having to track a different SKU for the charging cable vs the fully-functional cable that might also be used with products requiring real USB connectivity.

With a true commodity item like this kind of USB cable such a short-sighted approach just seems dumb.

The Passing Of A Legend & Related Fallout

For the past year and a half I’ve used a Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset. It was the evolution of the Voyager Pro UC that I reviewed in 2011. Not long ago I discovered just how many times such a device would survive a pass through the laundry…which is exactly once. A second pass through the laundry caused its’ demise.

The loss of the Voyager Legend left an obvious hole in my arsenal. Such matters I take as an opportunity to try something new, or at least re-evaluate my needs.

There was a time when I made a lot of use of a BT headset while travelling. In that application it’s role was in support of basic telecom use. More recently I have not been travelling at all. My primary use of a headset has been for listening to the local NPR stream while walking our dogs.

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A Simple Test For Verifying Mobile HDVoice

nexus-5-200pxT-Mobile has been supporting mobile HDVoice for over a year. However, my sense is that not very many people are actually experiencing HDVoice. If they are, they might not even know it.

For example, two of my associates have the Google/LG Nexus 5 handsets on T-Mobile’s network. Both are the sort of people who would hear and appreciate the difference that HDVoice makes. That said, both were initially of the impression that the Nexus 5 did not support HDVoice on T-Mobile!

This gave rise to the idea that we should devise a simple way to verify that a call was in HDVoice. If convenient, this would allow anyone interested to make a call between two handsets and know with certainty that the devices and call path was actually delivering HDVoice.

Devising such a test turns out to be very easy in a world of smart phones. All you need is a tone generator or a recording of a specific continuous tone.

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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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