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I got a Bluetooth audio device a week or so ago that I backed on Indiegogo. I prefer this kind of gadget -- a device you clip on your lapel and plug in your own favorite headphones or earbuds -- because I'm hard on headphones. I don't really like earbuds; I find them uncomfortable. I really like the clip over the ear style of headphones, and Sony makes some nice ones with good sound and retractable cords. The wires are what break over time, so I usually keep a spare set or two around for when the inevitable happens.

I've been using a Sony SBH-20 Bluetooth device for a few years now, but the battery is giving up in it. The charge only lasts a few hours at best. I haven't found a better device on Amazon, or even another SBH-20 for a reasonable price. It seems everyone stopped making this kind of device, probably because BT chipsets are getting so tiny and cheap, they can put 'em in a thick spot in the cable on a set of joined earbuds and forget it. But I really wanted something to replace my elderly Sony, and I spotted the Airlink on Indiegogo.

It was good looking, and claimed good performance, so I backed it. It was about the same price as the Sony was when I bought it, and it's really snazzy. It has a much longer battery life, made more so by a half-hour automatic shutoff if idle. That can be annoying if a phone call comes in and your headset is turned off, but it does make the battery last longer if you're not using it. And it only takes a second to power it up. I wish there was a settings mode to turn off or lengthen the timeout, but oh well.

I think this is the first thing I backed on Indiegogo that actually delivered sometime near on time and was actually a good product. They did a nice job on it, and the device itself is very attractive, a black with a deep gold, almost bronze coloration for the controls.

I hope they start producing these for regular purchase soon, as I'll want a spare tucked back for emergencies, if this type of device is going out of vogue. I just hope that lack of other similar products doesn't mean they'll stop making them!

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Dave Jones of EEVBlog released a video a few weeks ago, about a series of pre-built modules for benchtop power supplies. They're extremely cheap, with lots of features, and a little display screen to show the current settings.

All you need to supply is an enclosure, an input power source, and the binding posts you want to use. I got a 12v, 6A wall wart, a black plastic project box, and some combination banana/screw posts, and assembled it all together.

It supports voltage limiting, current limiting, and will do the appropriate buck/boost conversion necessary to supply 32v or 15A, juggling one to provide the other. The interface is pretty straightforward, using a rotary encoder with a built-in momentary contact switch if you push it in, and an on/off button for the output.

I checked it with my Fluke meter, and it's right bang on whatever you set it to. I could have bought a supply for just a bit more, but this gave me the satisfaction of building it, and I bought extra parts so I've got lots of coaxial power jacks and plugs, and some extra binding posts. They'll go into our parts stock. The supply is on my workbench, the little color LED screen quite pretty.

Here's the listing on Ebay for the modules. Select the one with the range of voltage/current suited to your needs. Keep in mind that you'll need a constant input power supply of some sort to feed into the module.
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This is a fascinating article on an interesting problem in wearable design. It's also nifty for anyone into horology.

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This is utterly hysterical.

Some of my earliest electronics escapades were with telephone equipment. I wired up two old rotary phones as an "intercom" to and from my room to the hall. I of course had my own phone, rotary, to call friends. (This was back in the Ma Bell days, so I had to have the ringer disconnected so the Phone Cops wouldn't know about it. Just ask Johnny Fever about the Phone Cops.) My dad's Apple II had an autodialer for its modem courtesy of a little gizmo I wired into a game paddle port with a little relay to pulse-dial the phone line. It was useful for dialing bulletin-boards or time-share lines.

This is a delightfully retro piece of imagination. Love it to pieces.
The Internet Phone lets users "call" websites using a hacked rotary handset.

(via +Dezeen)

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Fran Blanche is one heck of a cool person. I'm sure there's folks out there who will find this project as fascinating as I do.

I used the upgrade feature on my Chromebook's Crouton install of precise, ostensibly to raise it to Trusty. Unfortunately, due to a bug in the implementation, this totally roached the superuser account by essentially establishing a password I didn't know on the root. It's a well-known bug, I just didn't know that using the version upgrade was one of the things that would trigger it.

So I took the opportunity to powerwash it, resetting it to factory. I reestablished my user on the Chromebook, and this time installed the Crouton chroot as Trusty. (Well, actually I tried installing Xenial first, but that fell over because of some problem with the script. So I dropped back 10 and punted.) It installed just fine, and I set it up with Unity instead of XFCE because I'm used to Unity on the Linux laptop on my workbench.

I set it up with all sorts of development tools for the different languages I'm studying online, including R, RKward (because I couldn't figure out how to install RStudio), the Eric IDE for Python, Scala, and IntelliJ IDEA with the Scala plugin. They all seem to run just fine, much more easily and sprightlier than the same programs installed on my C.H.I.P. (No surprise, the Chromebook is a beefier processor, and has more memory. I also don't have to tunnel X11 over SSH to use the Chromebook.)

I recently splurged on some bundles of online training courses, mostly on StackSkills and Udemy. They were cheap, and might even be entertaining.

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This is a damn shame.

IoT can be an excellent paradigm...if it can be adequately secured. That so little effort is spent either securing the devices or securing the data FROM the devices is either stupid incompetence or outright malicious intent. It's only Hanlon's Razor that makes me spit and say it's more likely the stupid incompetence.

Hanlon's razor is an aphorism expressed in various ways including "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity," or "Don't assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding." It recommends a way of eliminating unlikely explanations for a phenomenon (a philosophical razor).

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This makes me happy as a clam.

I've got Kicad running on my CHIP, and am using it to take an online class on Kicad. I'm pleased as punch with how well this little beast is working for some fairly complex operations.

I also installed TMUX, which seems vaguely familiar. Either I worked with it before many moons ago and just don't remember, or there was an MS-DOS program that worked much like it. I can't remember what it was called, and it's driving me mad. Some sort of multi-screen thing, but it was before Windows was popular.

I'll bet Dave Jones from +EEVblog would find this interesting. He likes little cool electronics projects, and learning how to do this on a +Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P. should be right up his alley.

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I have achieved a certain degree of success with my CHIP over the past day or so. I have the X11 working very stably, tunnelling it through SSH to the CHIP over a USB Ethernet connection to reduce latency (though the wifi connection works pretty well, if a tad sluggish). I have both Xming and VcXsrv as X Servers on my PC, and connect to the CHIP using PuTTY.

I had to set up the keep-alive setting on PuTTY to keep the connection from falling over when left idle, and the recommended time of 1800 seconds was a bit long so I reduced it to 600 (10 minutes). That held steady overnight, with a Python IDE running on it, something that used to fail if I left it for a while.

I took a screenshot of the Xwindow and a bunch of different applications running, including a terminal window with htop running, so the histograms with load can be seen. That window is in the top left.

The other windows are:
Abiword with a resume template loaded
A terminal window running the R language processor
An output window running a graphics plot demo from R

It was also supposed to be showing the Geany IDE running Python, but I forgot to shuffle it into the foreground. The X server is set to have everything in its own floating window so it can coexist well with my Win7 environment.

The CPU load on the CHIP is very low, a load average of .10 to .19 with these apps just sitting and running. RAM is running about half full.

Uptime was around 16 hours at the time I took the screenshot, which isn't bad given it was going down if I left it for 20 minutes before. The keep alive setting really helped.

I've still got some tweaking and peaking and shuffling of apps to do for a while, but this is a good proof of concept that the device is stable and robust enough for some pretty interesting uses.

C.H.I.P. -
VcXsrv -
R statistical language -
Python language -
Abiword -
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