Logitech Squeezebox receiver with flashing red light

December 24, 2010

squeezebox_red.jpgGot a Logitech squeezebox receiver the other day and after plugging it in to my switch, I assumed it would just acquire an IP (using DHCP) and just start working.

After 2 hours of changing network cables, restarting various network devices and a little bit of cursing I retreated to Google for some help.

Turns out that the Squeezebox receiver is not to be used on its own. It is to be used together with a controller and the controller is required for initial configuration.

The only reason Squeezebox receivers are sold on their own is for people that want additional receivers for their rooms.

In my case I knew there are mobile applications that can control the music playing or that one can even connect to the web interface of the Squeezebox Server.

The controller is twice the price of a receiver and being the cheapskate I am I didn't want to fork out extra money just to configure my receiver.

Two options:
1) Borrow a controller from a friend
2) Use Net::UDAP to find your SqueezeBox receiver on the network and to configure it

Net::UDAP is a Perl module so if you are not familiar with Perl programming just download the following executable:

UDAP command shell

For a wired configuration (not WiFi), you can use the below command sequence:

conf 1
set interface=1

Followed by:

conf 1
set squeezecenter_address=[ip address of your computer running squeeze server]

For a wireless configuration use instead:

conf 1
set interface=0 lan_ip_mode=0 lan_gateway= lan_network_address= lan_subnet_mask= primary_dns= wireless_SSID=3Com wireless_wep_on=1 wireless_keylen=1 wireless_mode=0 wireless_region_id=14 wireless_wep_key_0=[WEP key] wireless_channel=11 squeezecenter_address=[ip address of your computer running squeeze server]

You will obviously have to be connected to the receiver via a network cable to be able to configure it.

Type help or fields to list all device fields along with some documentation of the values they can take.

Check out the Net::UDP project page for more information and don't forget to donate if this solves your problem!

Will you buy the Apple iPhone in the UK on November 9th?

September 18, 2007

iphoneThe news is officially out from Steve Jobs' mouth: the iPhone will be available in the UK from November 9th, 2007 and exclusively with O2 and Carphone Warehouse.

Congratulation to O2 and Carphone Warehouse ;-) for securing the deal.

It would be interesting to know how much O2 paid for this exclusivity and how this exclusivity will pay off with the recent iPhone unlocking and the iPod touch release.

In case you are still deciding whether or not to get the iPhone in the UK I have summarised a few points for you to consider that may help you to make up your mind.

The cost
£269 and a 18 month contract at (minimum) £35 / month.

What unique features does the iPhone have
+ a multi touch user interface
+ visual voicemail
+ Free Wifi at The Cloud hotspots (£12 / month normally)
+ high fashion status

What doesn't the iPhone have which is found on recent mobile phones
- 3G (the most recent high speed mobile data connection)
- Video recording
- Video calling
- MMS (picture messaging)
- A2DP (bluetooth stereo profile)
- MP3s as ringtone
- 3+ megapixel camera
- voice recording
- voice dialing
- copy and paste
- Macromedia flash support
- USB mass storage device usage
- saving images or files from browser
- bluetooth file transfer
- ability to delete individual text messages
- 3rd party application development (j2me, symbian, .net)
- bluetooth modem

I think you'll find the iPhone lacking if you are a mobile power user and used to the features listed above.

If on the other hand the priority for you is design, usability and top class support then the iPhone will be a good match.

PS The O2 "unlimited" data plan is limited to "1,500 internet pages per day". Whatever that means :-)

Wishlist: GPS enabled mobile phones

May 11, 2007

I am all for device convergence and over the last few years I have seen more and more devices blend into the mobile phone and disappear from my pockets.

With the SonyEricsson K800i I find my self listening to music (MP3 and radio), securely reading company emails, browsing the web for news, watching short video clips, taking decent digital photographs, playing games and even doing the occasional phone call.

While the mobile phone hasn't completely replaced a digital SLR, a portable game device or a portable music device (iPod) it is perfectly good at those tasks for everyday usage.

One last thing missing is GPS support so I still have to carry a GPS enabled stop watch during running sessions, rent a car navigation device when abroad, geotagg photos manually and have a separate personal locator for our child.

What I would like is future mobile phones to have integrated GPS functionality (but not at the cost of size or price).

When GPS on future mobile phones is as common as Java support is on today's phones, a wide new range of possibilities will open up.

I have experimented with j2me application development on my mobile phone and it turned out to be a piece of cake. With integrated GPS a host of mobile applications can be created personally or in an open source environment:

  • personal tracking for the whole family
  • workout performance measuring
  • simple tourist sightseeing (never be lost in a foreign city again)
  • automatic geotagging of photos
  • location based games
  • and much, much more

Nokia N82It looks as if my prayers may be answered with the rumored Nokia N82:

Quad-band GSM, GPS, Wifi, 3G, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, FM radio, 5-megapixel digital camera with Carl Zeiss lens, auto focus and Xenon flash.

One familiar with SonyEricsson phones will see that the form factor and feature set of the Nokia N82 is a identical to a K800i with added Wifi, GPS and an upgraded digital camera.

The N82 is rumored to ship Q4 2007 and thus one cannot be sure it will materialise with all the mentioned spec. Also by Q4 I wouldn't be surprised if SonyEricsson had an upgraded K800i with added GPS on the market.

In any case the holy grail of convergence is near, very near.

[via Symbian-Guru]

Globalsat TR-102: personal GPS/GSM tracker and locator

May 09, 2007

globalsat tr102 personal GSM GPS locatorA palm sized device with built in global positioning (GPS) and mobile phone connectivity (quad band GSM). Put it in a pocket and you can be located anywhere in the world where there is mobile phone coverage.

The tracking can be done either by SMS messages or with a continuous flow of of positions in GPRS mode.

In SMS mode you can either send an SMS or call the device and it will send back an SMS with the current position. This mode is the easiest one to set up and to use.

SMS is universally supported by all mobile operators whereas GPRS isn't.

In GPRS mode the device sends the current position at predetermined intervals (for example every 60 seconds) to a server.

GPRS mode is great for when you need continuous updates like in a sailboat race or during logistics tracking.

This mode can also be the safest option in personal tracking as in the case of a lost GPS signal, you can view the latest acquired positions.

GPRS mode requires a PC running the supplied "Call Center" software or a server with custom software to collect and publish the data.

Incidentally I have developed such custom software to collect TR-102 data from multiple devices and a Google Maps front-end to view it. This allows me to use GPRS mode without maintaining a PC and to monitor a device from any browser in the world (more details about this later).

The GPS unit in the TR-102 consists of a SirfIII chip which is a top of the line GPS chip. It is highly sensitive to allow tracking even inside a building.

The GSM module is quad band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) which means truly global support. Still you should look into the GSM and GPRS support of an obscure country before traveling there.

Globalsat TR-102 can also serve as a rudimentary phone because it can receive calls and make calls to up to 3 predefined phone numbers.

Finally the TR-102 personal locator unit also features an SOS button. If pressed, the unit sends an SOS SMS message with the current location to 3 predefined numbers.

Charging is done with 5V and a 4mm plug with same dimensions as for a Sony PSP. This means you can use a PSP USB synch and charge cable for charging the unit on the go.

All in all the unit is a fantastic piece of technology but it has some issues. Hopefully some of the issues can be addressed in the next version of the device.

1. Non-standard mini USB connector. If you misplace the original USB cable that came with the unit you have to get a replacement from Globalsat as standard mini USB cables will not fit. Update: the connector appears to be a 4-pin mini USB. It does not appear to have a specific name but has a single grove that allows it to be identified.

2. The TR-102 does not support commands OTA (over the air). It would be useful being able to send an SMS to instruct the unit to switch from GPRS mode to SMS mode.

You have to connect the unit to a PC to be able to do any kind of set-up.

I would suspect such functionality can be supplied in the future with an updated firmware.

3. Not yet a truly transparent solution due to the size of unit and GPS signal loss issues. Transparent personal GPS tracking will only be possible when devices can be worn as a wristwatch or be integrated into personal clothing.

Dimensions: 115 mm, 45 mm, 22.5 mm, 100g

Update 14 May 2007
In a twist of faith the unit was stolen last weekend. The unit was switched off or else I would have been able to locate it and together with it the thief.

This incident points out additional weakness of current personal locator devices: if the unit is switched off or batteries are dead or if it is discarded or destroyed by the perpetrators it is rendered useless.

Oral-B Braun 9500 Triumph DLX Electric Toothbrush review

February 07, 2007

Braun Oral B Professional Care Triumph 9500 DLXIn Sweden there is a saying that goes "A Dear Child has Many Names" and were that true, this electric toothbrush would be very loved indeed.

Call it OralB, Braun, PC9500, Professional Care or just Triumph, I found it to be well designed, doing a great job but ultimately not a £169 (recommended street price) worth of job.

The brush uses oscillating action as in opposite to ultrasound action. I researched the issue for 5 minutes before the purchase and found reports that oscillating action is more effective so opted for it.

Four different brushing modes are available. They are all just different combinations of speed and pauses. Soft mode is lower speed, Clean mode is the standard fast mode, Polish is a mode where speed keeps increasing and decreasing and Massage is a pulsed mode.

The novelty of the different modes wore off very quickly and the brush is now always in Clean mode.

While brushing you teeth, the brush signals you every 30 seconds with a short pulse. After 2 minutes it switches itself off.

The digital battery indicator is really handy to see how much juice there is left in the brush and will save you from half-finished brushing sessions. At the moment our battery refuses to charge to more than 50% but I hope this will improve with more usage.

braun-Oral-B-Professional-Care-Triumph-9500-DLX-kit.jpgThe box contains all of two brush heads; one for whitening action and one for flossing like action. In addition the box contains the Oral-B Braun 9500 Triumph brush, a sleek charger, a base to rest your brush in and a handy travel case which fits the brush and two brush heads. Oh yeah, there is a manual as well :-)

The price of the Oral-B Braun 9500 Triumph ranges from online prices of £70 to a high street price of £169. I find this price difference a bit worrying as it suggests that the product is over valued. If you are keen on this top of the range dental hygiene equipment, don't spend any more than £70 on it!

Siemens Gigaset SL565 cordless phone review

December 13, 2006

siemens gigaset sl565The Gigaset SL565 is the latest cordless phone from Siemens. It features a colour display, an answering system, bluetooth communication and much more in a sleek design. How does it perform though?

I upgraded to the SL565 from our previous SL555 that had been molested by the dogs. The only difference I was able to see between this SL565 and the previous SL555 was the addition of Bluetooth.

Let me quickly explain these similar model numbers to avoid any confusion.

The SL550 and SL560 are the two respective base stations with a handset. No answering machine on those base stations. The SL555 and SL565 are same as above but with added answering machines.

The SL55 and SL56 are just the handsets for the above base stations. I am happily using the old (damaged) SL55 handset with the new SL565 base station.

The handset sits nicely in the hand and feels comfortable due to it's glossy finish. The colour display is very clear and readable due to it's high contrast, 65000 colours and a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels.

With a growing list of contacts and multiple entries per contact I was looking for a phone with excellent phone book features and synchronization options with a PC.

The SL565 supports synchronisation with a computer running for example Outlook.

There was however no data cable included in the SL565 box and had to be purchased separately. I found the compatible DCA-510 on eBay and it came with required drivers and software (Mobile Phone Manager - MPM).

It was fairly straight forward to set up the connection between the phone and our PC but during the transfer of images, the connection kept failing intermittently. This was very frustrating and resulted in much more time spent than should have been necessary.

I remember experiencing similar issue with the previous SL555 even though a serial cable and a different PC was used there. Could this be a persistent problem with the SL55 and SL56 handsets?

Synchronisation and sending of images over Bluetooth was a much better and reliable experience so I recommend you to use that before opting for the optional DCA-510 USB data cable.

Images transferred to the phone have to be bitmaps (BMP) and can be used as wallpaper backgrounds or caller images.

The SL565 promises easy usage of Bluetooth headset. I tried it with two headsets that I own, the SonyEricsson HBH-660 and the Motorola HT820, but both failed.

I was able to pair the devices but the phone refused to connect when the call button was pushed on the Bluetooth headset. Neither did the phone direct any incoming calls to a paired headset.

So at the moment I am not able to confirm whether the SL565 actually supports the bluetooth headset profile. Maybe a specific Bluetooth headset is required but that defeats the purpose of universal Bluetooth communication.

Coupled with the Siemens M34 USB adapter, this phone can be connected to a PC and be used as a Skype phone. This allows for cheap or free international calls with Voip.

When the M34 is connected to your PC you can call it from your handset by an internal call. Your Skype buddy list is then displayed on the handset and with a single click you get connected.

All in all the Siemens Gigaset SL565 is a great looking phone that fulfills all our needs. It is a bit buggy however and does not live up to it's high specification and price.

Sony Ericsson k800i on Vodafone review

July 19, 2006

k800i frontThe K800i is one of the latest phones from SonyEricsson and it offers almost an overload of features. A 3.2 megapixel auto focus camera, 3G (UMTS) support, highly visible QVGA display and powerful MP3 playback being some of the most prominent ones.

The phone has received a face lift from last year's K750i. It is noticeably heavier and a shade bulkier due to larger display and a beefier lens cover.

SE must have listened to disappointed users who found the k750i a bit "plasticky". Several plastic panels have been replaced with discreet brushed steel and the squeaky plastic buttons have been replaced with rubber covered ones.

With the 3G (UMTS) comes services like mobile TV, faster data transfers and video calling. A second lower grade camera (CLI) has been fitted on the front side of the phone to be used during video calls. You can also follow your favourite TV show (Big Brother?) in low quality but it will cost you.

k800i back3.2 megapixels allows for even better quality pictures than with the previous 2.0 megapixel model. Further added photo features are Sony BestPic-TM and a proper Xenon flash.

BestPic-TM is a term for automatically taking 8 pictures during a second when the shutter button is pressed down. The user can then choose one or more best pictures to keep from the set.

A Xenon flash is normally used in traditional digital cameras and is much more powerful than the previous LED flash used in current mobile phones. One downside is that the Xenon flash cannot be turned on in continuous mode like the older LED flash. I for one will miss the emergency torch feature the LED flash offered.

Here is an unprocessed sample shot from the K800i 3.2 megapixel camera.

Naturally the phone supports the standard messaging formats like SMS, email, MMS and etc. A new addition is a basic RSS feeder. You can add your favourite RSS feeds and schedule automatic updates. The phone will alert you when there are new entries and show short excerpts.

The built in web browser has been improved and together with 3G speeds the browsing experience is even closer to a standard PC. Despite the browser improvements, I prefer the new Opera Mini which is supported on most j2me phones.

k800i m2 memoryThe phone uses the latest Sony memory format Memory Stick Micro (aka M2). If this is your first Sony product you will be pleased with the physical size of the memory; it is the size of a finger nail!

If you however have a few memory stick formats laying around at home you may be annoyed at having to purchase yet another one. The current largest capacity is 1GB and for a brand new format the price is surprisingly affordable (£42).

Vodafone does not supply a M2 memory stick with the phone so if you think you will require more memory than the built-in 62MB make sure to purchase it ahead to avoid disappointment.

Vodafone has yet again branded the phone heavily with their icons, themes and alternative short cuts (majority of them leading online to Vodafone Live!).

It is possible to use an online service to re-brand the phone to original SE settings but I am cautions to do this and maybe risking loosing data connectivity. At least this time Vodafone did not cripple MP3 ring tones capability like they did on the k750i.

One of the easiest ways of transporting contacts to a new phone is via Outlook. Create a new contacts folder in Outlook, set up to sync your phone with that folder and synchronise your old phone. Follow up by connecting your new phone, make sure to select "Outlook overwrites phone" when synchronising and sync the new phone. All your contacts should be preserved.

Update April 2007
I have just discovered the coded memo feature and find it very useful.

It lets you enter multiple codes with a descriptive name and a code field. For example "bank account x" and "1234 1111111".

The information is protected by a 4 digit password. If the wrong password is entered, all the codes are presented scrambled.

This means that a potential information thief can never be sure whether he/she guessed the correct 4 digit pin.

One reservation would be that there is no information on what kind of algorithm is used for the protection nor how well the code memo feature would withstand a hardware attack.

Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS and heart rate monitor watch review

June 27, 2006

forerunner 305The new Garmin Forerunner 305 is a GPS receiver and heart rate monitor in a single watch. It is a wonderful addition to any activity where you want keep track on distance, pace and heart rate such as running, cycling, triathlon or trekking.

Update August 2008
In a recent firmware update Garmin added the ability to add locations manually.

I find this very helpful when using the watch as simple navigation tool in a foreign city or country.

Say for example that you are travelling to Rome. Now you can enter a few favourite locations (hotel, restaurants, sights) on your Forerunner 305 and then walk or drive around Rome and being confident which direction you should go and how far it is left.

Not to mention always being able to find your way back home (hotel) no matter how lost or drunk you are.
End update

The unit features new design and new features compared to the older Forerunner 301. The Forerunner 305 is smaller, has better GPS reception, has a higher resolution display and better water proofness.

The watch shows time, pace, average pace, distance, heart rate, calories burned, location, course and much more. Choose to display the information on several default screen provided or create your custom screen to show the stats you want.

A few work out modes are built in like intervall training, heart rate zone, minimum pace, distance, time or against a friend's stats for the same course. Due to accuracy issues I find it bit frustrating to use the minimum pace or heart rate modes and instead just do my own work outs.

While the older unit had the mini-USB port on the watch it self covered with a rubber cap, the 305 has 4 copper pads used for charging and data transmission together with a miniature cradle. This makes the unit completly sealed.

Triathlon athletes will especially like the new water resistant design. While the unit may survive a longer swim under water the reception would suffer. The triathlon community is recommending to put the watch in a ziplock bag and keep it under the swimming cap.

In the box you will find the Forerunner 305 watch, a heart rate chest strap, an USB to mini-USB cable, an extension arm band, a tiny cradle and the standard manual, Windows USB drivers and workout software.

garmin-trainingcenterThe accompanying workout software (TrainingCenter) let's you summarize various kinds of logged data and to overlay runs with maps. The strength of the software is analysis of captured data.

I was however not pleased with the accompining software and instead prefer SportTracks.

sportstrackSportTracks is free (at the moment). It has a more intuitive interface, a more powerful integration with Google Maps and a one click integration with Google Earth.

You need to have Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 installed to use SportsTrack.

The Forerunner 305 can also be used while travelling. Be it to find your way back to the hotel after an ambitious sightseeing tour or to map a jungle excursion (open in Google Earth).

Forerunner 305 NavigationThe unit does not have any maps so full fledged navigation is out of the question but you can leave a digital "trail of bread crumbs" while you are trekking and always be able to find your way back.

By using the latest GPS SirfIII chip the watch is able to be smaller and consume less battery.

The older model 301 suffered from bad GPS reception while being worn as it had optimum reception while being placed with display up (not ideal while running).

With Forerunner 305, by placing the GPS antenna on the bottom of the watch optimal GPS reception is instead achieved when the watch is worn normally.

A good place to purchase the Forerunner 305 in the UK would be at Globalpositioningsystems.co.uk (£ 240 inc VAT).

SkyHD installation: first impressions

May 23, 2006

skyhd sampleFinally May 22nd arrived and with it the first official installations of one of the first HDTV services in the UK: SkyHD.

In my case the actual installation was just a matter of unplugging the previous Sky+ box and replacing it with the new SkyHD box - easy peasy.

Currently I have the SkyHD box connected to an older Pioneer Plasma 433 (43"). The TV supports 1080i over component and that is how it is connected at the moment.

A HDMI to DVI cable has been ordered and I am looking forward to comparing the picture quality of HD over component vs. over HDMI.

skyhdbox.jpgThe SkyHD Box
SkyHD has a 300GB internal hard drive but only 160GB is allocated to the customer, the rest is "reserved" for Sky. Recorded HD content obviously requires more HD space than standard definition (SD) content and there is a risk of running out of HD space quickly. Star Wars III in HD requires around 10% of the SkyHD available space!

SkyHD comes with a new remote but my multi-remote that was programmed for the previous Sky+ box is working fine. This seems to suggest that Sky+ and SkyHD share remote control codes but I have heard reports of SkyHD remote not being able to control a Sky+ box.

The box has internal fans but sitting 6 meters away from it I was not able to hear it over the TV sound.

You can choose to output in 1080i, 720p, 576 or leave it on Automatic where the SkyHD box will switch according to the source.

The Automatic option may seem best but unfortunately the switching between HD and SD channels creates a flicker.


Picture Quality
First channel any new HD viewer should browse to is the BBC HD Preview (145). It is transmitted in very good quality and shows just how good HDTV can be.

Overall HD content is pretty scarce and often mixed with upscaled video. Upscaled means that Sky has converted a SD source and broadcasts it as HD.

Currently the only true HD programmes on Sky One HD seem to be 24, Rescue Me, Enterprise and some episodes of Malcolm In The Middle. The upscaled content is easily spotted as it is a bit narrower than the standard 16:9 aspect ratio and has black bands on the sides (it is more like 14:9).

National Geographic, Discovery and Artsworld have dedicated HD channels but again there is mixed true HD and upscaled content.

The Star Wars III: Return of the Sith is running on Sky Box office in HD and is reported to be of much better quality than the DVD version.

When 1080i is selected the SkyHD box upscales everything in SD to 1080i. This removes the annoying flickering but I find the upscaled picture a bit soft. Most likely due to the fact that the TV has to downscale once extra time and additional conversions are never good.


Do I like SkyHD? Yes. Am I blown away? No.

This may be because for the last year I have been spoiled with HD content sourced on the Internet. A recent HDV camcorder purchase (HDR-HC3) has also allowed me to create my own HD content.

The fact that there is so little true HD content on Sky at the moment does not help either.

In my opinion Sky+ was a more radical improvement because it added PVR (personal video recording) and all the goodness that comes with it: pause live TV, watch one channel record a second one, fast forward past commercials and similar. It also added Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound which makes for a great TV experience.

It seems as if Sky has oversold the SkyHD service as many customers have been told their installation has been delayed. New customer asking about SkyHD are being told August as the first available date (BBC News has more about this).

sky hd image samplesky hd image samplesky hd image sample

PS The previous 80GB Sky+ is for sale

Is your TV ready for High Definition (HDTV)?

May 09, 2006

hdtvreadyWith the looming introduction of first HD TV content in the UK (SkyHD and BBCHD) and release dates available for HD media players (HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc) you might be wondering whether your 2-3 years old Plasma or LCD TV will support it.

HDTV will mainly come in two resolutions: 1280 pixels horizontally by 720 pixels vertically progressive (aka 720p) and 1920 by 1080 pixels interlaced (aka 1080i). Your TV should have at least 1280 by 720 pixels to take advantage of all the details in the signal (1024x768, 1024x1024 and 1366x768 will be fine too).

If you choose to connect a HD signal to your traditional TV you will just end up using the SD (standard definition) version and miss out on the details. You may get a better picture due to less compression artifacts. This is the case especially with satellite TV.

In addition to resolution, you have to look in the technical specification of your TV for what frequencies are supported. It is quite common for older TVs to accept 1080i at both 50 and 60Hz but to accept 720p only at 60Hz. In the UK, SkyHD has confirmed they will broadcast in 50Hz only which means the 720p signal would not be accessible on older TVs.

There are various ways to feed a HDTV signal into a HDTV and your TV should accept one or more of the following inputs: Component (analog), DVI (digital) and/or HDMI (digital).

I believe that analog component outputs will be removed from second generation of HD units but at the moment SkyHD boxes and Sony Blu-ray Disc players will feature component out.

HDTV introduces content protection of the signal on the wire. This is achieved with the encryption named HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection). Ideally your TV should support HDCP on digital inputs (DVI or HDMI) but again first generation of HDTV content will be unencrypted so for a limited time not supporting HDCP is OK.

Some TVs support extension boards that can provide recent HDTV requirements like 720p at 50Hz and HDCP. Due to the high price of extension boards, falling HDTV prices and limited life time of Plasmas and DLP Rear Projection TVs you may be better of investing in a new HDTV.


  1. At least 1280 by 720 pixels
  2. Accept 720p and/or 1080i signal at 50Hz
  3. Component and/or DVI and/or HDMI inputs
  4. Ideally HDCP on DVI or HDMI

Best picture is always achieved if the input signal can be shown without any scaling. This means that a 1080i signal will look best on a screen with 1920x1080 native resolution.

The "holy grail" of HDTV are 1080p screens that will be able to display a true progressive 1920 by 1080 pixels signal whenever that becomes a broadcast signal. Some manufacturers know this and market their top-end displays as 1080p but buy with caution as there is a discussion whether these first generation 1080p displays are true 1080p.

So what do I have? An almost 4 year old Pioneer Plasma 1024x768 display. No HDMI nor HDCP but I have confirmed it accepts 1080i at 50Hz and has component and DVI in. Due to the age of the screen I am not considering available extension boards. Instead I will get a decent 1080i screen/TV later this year.

My SkyHD installation is scheduled for May 22nd so I will let you know shortly thereafter what HDTV looks like on an old beast like that..

Linksys WAG54G (v1) as a repeater using WDS

April 29, 2006

wag54g_wds.jpgThe flaky WAG54G finally gave up one fine morning. It had been struggling for a few months but that morning the final flat line was there.

Actually, it wasn't a total death but more of a coma. While the ADSL port and the 4 network ports were dead, the wireless functionality was still present and allowed me to connect and do a configuration.

Obviously the device could no longer be used for connecting to the internet nor for any LAN routing and I was about to bin it. Meanwhile it was collecting dust for a few weeks while I was playing with the new Billion BiPAC 7402VGP VOIP router.

What a relief it was to finally use a stable router that did not overheat frequently and did not require consequent restarts every few hours.

I have a spare internet web camera and I was hoping to set it up at the front of the house. Unfortunately there is no WiFi coverage which meant a WiFi repeater would be required and I was not willing to spend additional money to get up that spare internet camera.

Then it hit me that the WiFi-only capable router might just be able to serve as a repeater. Especially since the newest 1.03.0_beta4 firmware supports WDS (Wireless Distribution System).

WDS is used to link multiple wifi routers or access points together to serve as a single wifi access point. In theory a device will connect to the strongest available point. Expect to get only half through put since all traffic needs to be forwarded to the main router. This should not matter at all for internet traffic which is usually slower that the 802.11g connection speed (at 54Mbps).

Configuring the old Linksys router to the new WiFi settings was a hassle because every time a wifi parameter was changed on the router, the wifi settings had to be changed on the laptop as well. The WAG54G also kept clashing with the Billion router until I got the WDS settings right.

One important thing to remember is that a router often has several MAC addresses for the different components. One for the WAN adapter, one for the LAN adapter and one for the WLAN adapter.

You have to use the WLAN MAC address when configuring WDS peers. This took me a while to realize. On the WAG54G, you'll find the correct MAC address in Status > Wireless > MAC Address.

oh, joy

The secrets of iTunes and iPod recording

March 15, 2006

A recording engineer from KenRockwell.com has spent some time evaluating the various options in iTunes when copying (ripping) CDs.

His conclusion was that 128kbs AAC is indistinguishable from the original CD source; especially when combined with variable bit encoding (VBR).

Use following codec: 128kbs VBR AAC

Further he emphasises to always use error correction; something that is left out by default.

To enable error correction:


He finds AAC to be a more efficient codec than MP3 as it produces better quality audio with same size files (or smaller files with same audio quality).

It is not worth it converting all old MP3s to AACs but AAC should be used for new encodings.

I myself prefer MP3 due to it's transportability (more devices support it) and absence of digital rights management (DMR). Even if I have to create larger files to achieve good audio quality (192kbs VBR).


Fix iPod click wheel problem is not working

November 10, 2005

ipod clickwheelThe iPod is a little more than a year old, just out of warranty. After using it extensively on the Bose SoundDock, the click wheel stopped responding.

This is a reported iPod bug and the common fix is to reset it. With this 40Gb, 4th generation model you flip the hold button to on and back to off. Following that you push and hold the select and menu buttons simultaneously... and pray.

The problem was that the iPod did not want to reset it self, no matter how hard and for how long I pushed. Next step was to flash it with updated software. This did not help. Following step was to restore it from the computer and deleting all music on it. That did not help either.

I was desperate so I bowed my head and entered the Apple church shop on Regent's street, London. It was full of prospective Appleheads (or is the expression Macheads?) fingering G5's with monstrous flat screen displays.


There was a presentation of iMovie HD going on. The presentation was watched by 50 or so people, all crouched over their Appletops and clicking away.

The so called Genius Bar was all booked up. Almost. I could get an appointment 5 hours later but I had evening plans by then. Subsequently I tried booking a slot online but 3 days in a row all day was booked out just 5 minutes after opening time. Do people camp outside the store to get support?

A trendy assistant was passing by me so I caught his attention and explained the problem. He put on a fantastic smile and informed me that "iPods are so cheap nowadays that it's better just buying a new one instead of trying to repair a faulty one". I asked whether this was the official Apple company policy and was told nervously that "no, just his personal opinion".


Five days later during which time the iPod had been turned off and unused I turned it on by performing the above mentioned resetting ritual. To my amazement the click wheel was back and working.

If you need to copy any music back to your PC you may have noticed that iTunes does not allow that. You can browse for the music directly but it's all in hidden folders, highly unorganised.

The best way to copy music back to your computer in my opinion is to use WinAmp media player with the ml_iPod plug-in. Once you have tried it out, you may even prefer it's media library to iTunes and just get rid of iTunes!.

Here is a great advice from the reader Tim:


"I had the problem with the click wheel not working . Sure enough after switching it on hold andwaiting a few minutes then turning it back on the click wheel would work but only for a few minutes. The answer is to get something very thin but quite tough (I used the corner edge of a blister foil pack of pills I had) and very carefully go around the outer and inner edges of the click wheel. You will notice that small debris gunk will come out. After having done that switch to hold and wait for a couple of minutes and then switch the hold off and away you go. Completely fixed. I'm over the moon"

PSP firmware 2.0 is out

July 27, 2005

psp_browseri.jpgFirmware 2.0 is out for the PSP and it has a wide range of new functionality.

  • A web browser has been added. It is fairly modern and supports CSS, HTTPS (secure browsing), JavaScript and graphics intensive web sites. It does not support Flash. GMail works but Ebay doesn't.
  • You can customise your PSP with themes and wallpapers
  • WiFi networking now supports WPA (much better security than WEP).
  • Atrac3+, WAV and MP4 (AAC) support (you may have to change the extension of your tracks to *.mp4)
  • UMD video viewing enhancements (go-to, 4:3 mode and more)
  • Support for more image formats (TIFF, GIF,PG, BMP)
To update: download the file from the Japanese site (translated press release). Transfer the file to your PSP and place the file in F:\PSP\GAME\UPDATE\EBOOT.PBP. Restart your PSP. It will detect the new firmware and proceed to update. Your media files (mp3s, photos, videos) will remain intact during the update process.


The Japanese update even works on US PSPs. It is reported that the US 2.0 firmware will be identical, it is just being held of for "political" reasons. I guess this means that the UK PSP will be shipped with 2.0 and all this new functionality as well.

If you own an US PSP, then use the IGN version of the firmware instead (a few people have reported The game could not be started. (80020148) errors when using the Japanese firmware on their US PSP).

One possible drawback with the 2.0 firmware is that Sony has locked down all the loopholes that people were using to run unauthorised code. Home brewn code such as emulators (ScummVM), utilities and pirated games that worked on versions up to 1.5 will not work. It may however just be a matter of time before people exploit some buffer overflow in the new browser or other design flaws.

Now back to the garden and reading /. on the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP).

Update 25/08/05
Comments have been closed. Any more questions see the PSP forum!

SonyEricsson K750i on Vodafone

June 07, 2005

SonyEricsson kt50i Vodafone brandedThe good news is that the new SonyEricsson 2 mega pixel handset is available on Vodafone UK. The bad news is that it is heavily Vodafone Live! branded and has limited functionality compared to a standard SE handset.

1. Vodafone has disabled MP3 ring tones.
2. The user interface is different from the SE original. Buttons have been reassigned, menu icons are Vodafone versions (uglier) and have different positions.
3. Vodafone logo on bottom of phone, Vodafone button above joystick.
4. This "special" edition handset is in silver (brushed metal) unlike the standard black.
5. Vodafone Live! is accessible from at least 5 different points (buttons and menu options).

Orange has also branded the K750i. While the branding is not as heavy as the Vodafone one, the icons have been replaced with low quality version.

O2 is currently the least branded k750i, unless you get a SIM free version.

Some of these issues can be remedied. To be able to play MP3 tones, MP3s can be altered with the SonyEricsson DRM (digital rights management) packager. The packager will add the digital rights in a quick step (less then 5 seconds/ song). The files will get the dm file extension and can be used on the Vodafone Live! branded K750i as ringtones.

Location 1

After using the phone for a couple of days I find the features of the phone to outweigh the Vodafone branding so I can still recommend it, especially if it is a "free" upgrade.

The 2 MP camera is very good for a mobile phone. Maximum resolution is 1632x1224 pixels. Auto focus has been added which lets you focus on certain items by pressing down the shutter button half-way. Macro mode actually works and a light has been added to be able to take pictures in dark environments.

The phone records decent mp4 video clips as well. All can be stored a Memory Stick Pro Duo (that's a mouthful) card which nowadays are available up to 2 GB.

Please use the Vodafone branded SonyEricsson K750i forum to post any questions.

Update 05/01/06
Just a note that I have successfully flashed my SonyEricsson k750i with the R1AA008 non-Vodafone firmware using the standard USB cable and the DaVinci Team software.

Total Vodafone debranding. The standard SE icons are much nicer. The middle button functionality is restored. Can use mp3s as ringtones. No "risk" of accidentally connecting to Vodafone Live. No annoying game demos were included. A few fully functional games and apps were included. I even chose a language combination that includes Swedish so that I can use Swedish T9.

Highly recommended!

Related: SonyEricsson k800i on Vodafone

Unlocking your mobile phone for free

May 24, 2005

Our lovely mobile networks have for the last 2-3 year been locking mobile phones provided by them. The "network lock" renders the mobile phone unusable when a SIM card from a different network provider is inserted. Using multiple SIM cards is especially handy when abroad because using a SIM from a local network is so much cheaper that roaming.

When you sign up for a mobile service contract (as opposed to Pay As You Go, PAYG), the network often gives you the chance to purchase a heavily subsidies phone.

I can understand that the operator wants to recuperate the cost of the phone but to keep recuperating that costs indefinitely I think is uncalled for.

There are "unofficial" methods to unlock your SonyEricsson phone but they cost, will most likely void any warranty and may in rare cases damage your phone. Nokia phone owners are more fortunate as Nokia phones can be unlocked without the need for any hardware and there are even sites that provide Nokia unlocking codes for free.


Instead I wanted to pursue a free and more civilised approach and thus decided to contact my Vodafone customer support and start arguing.

During the last 3 days I have been given several answers from Vodafone customer service:

  1. It cannot be done
  2. We do it because all other networks do it
  3. We have to contact the manufacturer (SonyEricsson), it will take weeks and cost you £30
  4. Just pop into a Vodafone shop and they will do it for you for £15
  5. Of course sir, your contract has expired and as such you have the full rights to your mobile phone. Here is the unlocking code
It was the customer support responsible for "Using your phone abroad" that was finally able to help. I recommend you to navigate (via the multiple choices phone system maze) to them if you are at the end of your contract and would like to reclaim your mobile phone.


Regarding the other UK operators such as T-mobile, Orange and O2 (BT) and I can only hope that they are reasonable enough.

The whole mobile phone locking reeks of anti-competitive practises that might possibly be contested with EU laws but nobody has chosen to take a mobile operator to court for those £15-£30.

Huzah, another consumer victory!

Update 18/08/05
Comments have been closed, please use the unlocking your mobile phone for free forum to post any questions or requests.

Imported Sony Playstation Portable (PSP)

April 11, 2005

pspWith an unconfirmed European release date of July 2005, many European gamers are certainly eyeing imported alternatives. They are however weary to how an imported system will perform in Europe and UK. I picked up a Sony PSP value pack during a recent trip to Japan and can report that using the console and one Japanese game has been very easy (and highly enjoyable).

My main worry was whether the Japanese console supported English menus. I was happy to see that when you turn on the PSP for the first time, it let's you choose between 15+ languages (English being one of them). From then on, you will not see a single reference to Japanese.


I purchased the much raved about game Lumines. The game is 99% in English making it very easy to play. All in all I have seen two "pop-ups" in Japanese but they were not relevant to the game. Good news. There were several RPG games on the shelves that seemed to be in Japanese only so I avoided them.

Previous PS console games had region encoding which meant that a game purchased in USA would only work in North America. Sony decided to unlock the PSP to make it a truly portable system: if you travel from Europe to USA, you should be able to purchase games in the USA and be able to play them on the way back. With the recent PSP release in USA, you can now get hold of many new English titles.

The UMD movies are region encoded at the moment. The Japanese PSP is region 2 which suggests it is better suited for future European UMD movie titles. USA is region 1 as usual.

The PSP is delivered with an electricity adapter that supports 100-240 Volt and 50/60 Hertz. This means that it can be used in most (all?) countries provided you have a socket adapter. The end that plugs into the socket can even be removed and replaced with your local version.


So is the Sony PSP any good? So far I have been mighty impressed with the big bright LCD screen, graphics, sound, photo and video viewing from memory stick, MP3 listening and WiFi support. Dead pixels seems to be a common problem so it is good being able to switch on the unit before purchasing it to test for any dead pixels. However 2-4 separated dead pixels are very difficult to spot during game play.

At the time of writing a PSP value pack was YEN24,000 which is roughly £120. It will be interesting to see how much the PSP will sell for in "rip-off" London when it finally launches.

Comments have been closed. Please use the Sony PlayStation Portable PSP forum to ask any questions.

Fortuna Clip-On Bluetooth GPS Receiver review

March 07, 2005

Fortuna Clip-On Bluetooth GPS ReceiverIf you want to get started with GPS navigation and you already own a Bluetooth enabled PDA then the Fortuna clip-on is a good alternative. A bonus is that you will be able to use the GPS device with other Bluetooth enabled devices like smartphones and laptops (notebooks in some countries).

There are many Bluetooth GPS devices on the market but currently only the Fortuna devices supports dual SiRF modes: both the standard low-power SiRF Star IIe/LP chipset and the latest high sensitivity SiRF Xtrac chipset.

SiRF Star IIe/LP mode is good while the unit has view of clear sky. The unit will lock on to fewer satellites and transmit less data resulting in faster scrolling maps and lower battery consumption.

This is great while you have view of clear sky but if you are moving in weaker signal areas such as under heavy leaf cover or between tall buildings older GPS will loose the satellite signal.

With the Fortuna clip-on you can switch to Xtrac high sensitivity mode which can even provide a signal lock while indoors.

I have been using the Xtrac mode exclusively and have found very quick lock-on times and good precision. Since I am using the unit for short trips only, I have never had any problems running out of batteries. Reported battery life is 8 hours in the Star IIe/LP mode.

The major deciding factor whether you will have a great or bad GPS navigation experience is what navigation software you choose. This is another discussion but I am using TomTom 3 and have had only minor problems.

Now it seems that some users have problems connecting their Fortuna clip-on to an iPaq running TomTom navigation software. You need to select the NMEA 0183v2 38400 from the list of selected drivers and choose Bluetooth serial port COM 8 which is the "in" port. Don't forget to place a tick in the little square box on the left hand side of the two settings (driver and com port).

In rare cases the clip-on needs to be resetted and the only way to do so is to remove the batteries for up to 24hrs. This has helped all other users that have had connection problems.

The button to switch between Star IIe/LP and Xtrac modes is tiny and you need a sharp pencil or pin to move it. You can only switch between the modes while the unit is turned of.

Feel free to use the Fortuna Clip-On Bluetooth GPS Receiver forum for any questions, discussion or feedback.

Sony HBH-660 bluetooth headset review

November 03, 2004

Sony HBH-660 bluetooth headsetYet another Bluetooth headset. I sure hope that this one sticks with me for a while.

The main feature that sold me the Sony HBH-660 was the caller info.

The headset has a tiny 6 character LCD display. Besides showing battery status, volume level and other good information it also display a caller's number or name if you have the number stored in your phone as a contact.

The headset comes with a strap so that you can wear it around your neck. Much better than loosing it in a pocket somewhere. While wearing the unit around your neck, the caller info is really handy.

The battery life has improved slightly from my previous HBH-60. This could also be just a perception due to the new battery indicator.

The HBH-660 is tiny bit heavier than the HBH-60 and HBH-600 but it did not result in any discomfort.

On a downside, my HBH-660 has worse voice quality than my old HBH-60 and HBH-30. This could be due a faulty device but I recommend you to try it out before purchase!

iTrip FM transceiver for 4th gen iPod review

September 14, 2004

The Griffin Technology iTrip for iPod is a very good gadget if you want to listen to your iPod via a car stereo or a friends sound system.

Older car stereos that take cassettes can use cassette adapters with good results but many newer car stereos only have CD slots and no auxiliary input. The iTrip sends the music on a custom FM radio channel and may be your only option in that case.

All you have to do is to tune in to this channel and you have a wireless connection. There are slight differences between the FM band used in USA, Europe and Japan but the iTrip supports all three formats.

Since the iTrip gets it's power from the iPod (see the little connector next to the micro jack) there is no need for extra batteries. iTrip turns it self on when you start streaming music and turns it self of after 30 second of silence.

The design of the iTrip is very good. It fits like a glove on the iPod and looks like it should have been there by default.

To tune your iTrip to different channels you play short sound files that command iTrip to use a different frequency. The installation CD comes with UK channels from ~88-108MHz in 0.1MHz steps.

The iTrip costs around £30..

DLink DCS-2100+ Internet Camera review

June 01, 2004

DLink dcs 2100+D-Link DCS-2100+ is a WiFi enabled web camera with a built in web server, FTP and mail sending functionality.

This means it can "easily" be connected to an existing wireless network (WLAN) and only needs a near by power outlet to be connected. The built in web server makes it fully functional on its own, not requiring a PC to be on constantly.

The setup is fairly straight forward. Connect the camera with the supplied network cable to a router. Set up the wireless parameters such as IP address, SSID and WEP encryption.

Unplug the network cable, power cycle the camera and it should connect to your WLAN. In theory. In practice you may have some connectivity issues, as always with WiFi.

It wasn't mentioned ANYWHERE but the camera works only with a broadcasted SSID. I figured this out the hard way, only being able to connect after many, many trials of various setups on the camera and my router. Not too happy about this fact because of all the exploit possibilities of WEP but I am hoping that a future firmware release will fix this issue.

The camera has a web interface that will let you modify everything you need. First thing will be to create some user accounts that will be able to view video from the camera but not be able to access the setup.

The FTP functionality lets you upload a snapshot to a web server in arbitrary intervals. If you instead prefer to be emailed with a snapshot as an attachment just enter an SMTP server and email address. The latest firmware supports SMTP authorisation if your SMTP server requires that. It doesn't seem to be possible to both FTP and send email.

When you connect first time to the web camera you will be asked to download 1-2 ActiveX components to be able to view streaming video and audio. This works very well in IE on Windows but any other browser or OS is not supported.

Once connected, you have the choice between UDP, TCP and HTTP connection. UDP results in best quality but may be blocked by corporate firewalls. HTTP is video only but should work even if behind a firewall.

The camera comes with a IP surveillance software that is run from a PC. It supports up to 20 (!) cameras if you are interested in a thorough CCTV solution.

Motion detection is a feature with great potential but I found it too complex to set up and not working very well anyway. In theory, you should be able to receive an email with attachment when motion is detected.

Via the web interface you can adjust standard video settings like video quality, white balance, image size, brightness and etc.

There are many smaller enhancements I'd like to see in future firmware releases. A separate SMTP and FTP functionality. Better motion detection setup. HTTPS support for administrative functions. Cross browser compatible connectivity. Support of non-broadcasted SSID. Leaner user interface.

No PC required
Included monitoring software

Broadcasted SSID required
Complicated motion detection setup
Supports IE only

Example image from the camera (the page is a custom page made by me).

Comments have been closed, Please use the DLink DCS-2100+ Internet Camera forum for any questions / feedback.

Linksys WAG54G 802.11g ADSL Modem VPN Router

February 11, 2004

Hello you world of wireless fun. Here I am, please take me in with open arms. I have been a believer for a long time but never really got around getting the right equipment. Now I have.

The Linksys WAG54G is a handy 4-in-one device for an ideal home broadband and wireless solution. The device is full of features

With the built-in ADSL modem the device connects to broadband Internet. The device comes with a micro filter and a phone cable so it's all in the box, ready to run.

The device has a router with 4 switched ports to let you connect PC, laptops, printers and etc. via network cables. All computers connected to the router will be able to shares resources creating a home network. By plugging in additional hubs you can create as large network as needed. Of course, all computers will have access to the broadband connection.

The 802.11g (WiFi) access point lets you connect wirelessly from other devices. The g standard supports speeds of up 54Mbps and is backward compatible with the older b standard in case you have any such devices. The access point supports 128-bit WEP encryption and MAC address access list making it decently secure.

To complete the picture there is a firewall to fend off any hack attempts. The firewall is configurable for port forwarding and DMZ if you need more control over what services would be available inside your network. An extra security is time based access control. With this feature you can limit certain devices (like your child's PC) to access the Internet only during certain hours.

The Linksys WAG54G can be set up to create a VPN connection to a VPN server. This is ideal If you are working from home and need to connect to your office. All devices inside the Linksys will automatically be able to access the LAN at work.

Included in the box is one network cable so that you can set up the device and start using it straight away. Connect to, browse through all the settings and set them accordingly.

ADSL setup: account, password and ADSL parameters
WiFi: change SSID, turn off broadcast, turn on WEP 128-bit encryption, set up a MAC access list
Change the administrator name and password

Takes around 15 minutes and is very straight forward. The Linksys WAG54G can be purchased for just above £100.

Update 15/02/04
The newest firmware update from Linksys corrects incorrect system time and adds WPA security. Definitely a must.

Check out the the Linksys WAG54G forum.

Belkin F8T003 Bluetooth USB adapter

October 03, 2003

After recently moving to a Sony VAIO without IrD I needed a Bluetooth adapter to be able to continue synchronising my mobile phone and being able to access the Internet on the move.

An USB adapter is an elegant solution due to its small form factor. It will let you communicate with your Bluetooth device securely and without any wires.

How to connect your Plasma TV

September 10, 2003

A plasma screen is really a computer screen and thus not as easy to connect to your video units as a traditional TV. After a lot of researching and browsing and asking, below I have summarised how to do it.

Ranging from lowest quality to highest these are various video signals that a Plasma TV should handle. Since you have invested in an expensive TV you should really try to use RGB quality or above:

  • Aerial antenna.

  • Composite video. Usually one single cable with yellow connectors

  • S-video lead. Is usually a black lead that actually carries the video information on two separate leads.

  • RGB SCART. Carries the information on 3 separate leads (red, green, blue).

  • (Progressive) Component video. Also carries the video on 3 separate leads but has more bandwidth for the signal due to better use of colour space.

  • DVI. Digital video from a computer


Just do it

  1. Identify which of your video devices can do RGB out. Your digital TV, sky digital, DVD player, PlayStation 2 and Xbox should be able to do this. Your VCR will not

  2. Get enough SCART leads that are fully wired to support RGB and connect the devices to each other, resulting in one SCART

  3. Get the RGB to Plasma VGA converter form The Media Factory. This will convert your SCART contact to a VGA contact with correct synchronisation signal that your Plasma TV needs. Expect a cost of £125

  4. Get a good quality VGA lead. Around £50

  5. Connect the devices that do not support RGB with S-video or composite in the worst case

  6. Use a cheap SCART switcher if some devices lack a second SCART socket

Theoretically you should be able to us a SCART-to-3 or 5 leads converter and plug this into your Plasma TV. The problem is that Plasma TVs require a stronger synchronisation signal than most SCART carry so even if you find a Scart-to-5-RCA lead it does not guarantee success.


My case
One progressive DVD player that connects straight to the Plasmas BNC contacts. Playstation 2 via Sky and a second satellite receiver to a SCART switcher, via the above mentioned RGB to VGA converter and then to Plasmas VGA contact. Composite and S-video leads connected to a video switching amplifier for easy connecting of portable video sources, e.g. camcorder and digital camera.

Update 28/01/04
The comments are now closed. Please post any new questions in the forum.

Sony Ericsson HBH-35 vs HBH-60

September 04, 2003

After stepping on my HBH-60 blue tooth mobile hands free, I had to look for a new one. I had been very pleased with the HBH-60 but a new product was on the market, a new version of HBH0-30, the HBH-35.


Sony DVP-NS730

August 18, 2003

Our old trustworthy samsung dvd-709 gave up after recent refurbishment. I suspect the large amount of dust to be the reason :-)

I set out to search for a replacement with the following criterieas:

    Must haves
  • Multi-region
  • Progressive scan
  • Component video out
  • Below 200
    Nice to haves
  • JPG viewing
  • MP3 support
  • Dual scarts

For 160 (high-street price) this Sony is a bargain and delivers great quality video and sound.

Pioneer 433MXE plasma TV

August 17, 2003

How about a flat, skinny, 43", high-resolution TV? If this is your vice then a plasma TV is your medicine.