A Cautionary Tale of Meshes & Networks

ubiquiti amplifi 300pxEveryone wants great Wi-Fi. That much is a given. Our homes occasionally make achieving this difficult, either by way of their sheer size or manner of construction. This is a cautionary tale about a project I undertook around our home, and its unexpected impact on our Wi-Fi.

In recent years wireless mesh networks have become quite fashionable. And why not? Providing reliable coverage in a large home may require multiple wireless access points. Pulling Ethernet cable to each of those locations (yeah, baby!) is beyond all but the most ambitious of DIY homeowners.

For the average Joe installing one central router, then plugging in a couple of more distant wireless repeaters seems so much easier. That’s a Saturday morning chore that might well ingratiate you with the family.

Continue reading “A Cautionary Tale of Meshes & Networks”

The Pixel Tells Me About HD Calls

Google Pixel In-callThroughout 2016 I carried a Nexus 5 mobile phone. So did my wife. Hers is the red one. She loves it.

My Nexus 5 suffered a crack in the display the very week that I bought it. In fact, that happened the very day that the screen protector was to arrive from Amazon. In frustration, I merely applied the tempered glass screen protector and kept using the phone for a year!

Over that time, although the phone worked perfectly, the crack grew. By the end of the year it was something of an embarrassment, so I broke down and bought a Pixel from Google.

Some have heard me rant that the move from Nexus to Pixel was disappointing. I maintain that the Nexus phones were an outstanding value, whereas the Pixel, while a fine instrument, is just another costly device.

My experience with the Pixel has been great. It’s a big step up in performance. Nougat is nice. I really like the fingerprint unlock feature. Battery life is exemplary, at least in my use case. USB C fast-charging is ok, although I do miss wireless charging.

One of the things I liked about the Nexus 5 on T-Mobile was that I enjoyed HDVoice calling to the few people I call most often. They are also T-Mobile customers, with suitably capable handsets.

This morning, for the very first time, I noticed that the Pixel indicates when it’s connected in HDVoice. I’m not sure if this indication is a new thing, or I simply never noted previously.

There aren’t too many people who get excited about HDVoice. I still do. It’ll be great we can pass HDVoice between carriers. Some say that’s happening now, but I see no evidence of it.

Surveying the state of small desktop computers

The fact is that I’m in need of a new desktop computer. My current desktop was purchased an embarrassingly long time ago. It was an impulse purchase, inspired by an attractive offer at Woot.com.

These sorts of transitions are no surprise. I’ve been on the lookout for suitable replacements for a year or more. I know that I don’t want just another huge box. I want something potent, but small and hopefully very quiet.

Is that what they call, “out of the box thinking?” Here are some thoughts about a few notable candidates.

1. CompuLab’s Airtop PC

I’m still seriously enamored with the Airtop PC from Compulab. It’s a fine piece of engineering.

It’s completely fanless, so dead silent. It has both Intel Iris Pro 6200 onboard graphics and an nVidia discrete graphics adapter. It’s capable of driving 7 (!) displays.

The 5th generation Intel i7-5775C CPU might be getting older, but it still measures well against the current crop of Skylake and Kaby Lake processors.

It accommodates six storage devices while maintaining a compact footprint. It even has one PCIe slot to handle my HDMI capture card.

Continue reading “Surveying the state of small desktop computers”

Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro

There’s a new webcam in the house…errr…home office! Yes, I have received a sample of Logitech’s latest, the Brio 4K Webcam Pro.

Even before the sample arrived I had a great conversation about the Brio with Dave Michels. Dave captured that discussion for publication on his blog.

I’ve put the Brio through a few simple experiments and learned a few things. At least superficially, it does what it says. Connected via USB 3.0 it delivers a 2160p30 (aka 4k) stream using MJPEG encoding to vMix and OBS.

Continue reading “Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro”

Introducing VB-Audio’s Spectralissime

It’s been said that, “You can’t manage what can’t be measured.” While this idea is most generally true, it’s definitely true with respect to various types of signal systems. Throughout my career I’ve focused on audio and video production, so I find myself drawn to new tools in that space.

A couple of years ago I discovered Vincent Burel’s VB-Audio software. His Virtual Audio Cables, VoiceMeeter, and later VoiceMeeter Banana, have fundamentally changed how I handle sound on my computers.

A short while ago he released a new software package called “Spectralissime.” This program is a real-time audio analyzer (RTA.)

RTAs are used to evaluate the spectral makeup of a sound. That is, they create a visual representation of the loudness (Y axis) vs the frequency (pitch) along the X-axis.

RTA’s are profoundly useful. In the most simple case, I’ve used them to evaluate a signal path for HDVoice capability. I’d send a white noise tone across a SIP link between two soft phones, comparing the the result against the original tone.

A more common use would be to setup a music playback system. It would help you to balance the low, mid- and high-frequency playback elements. They’re routinely used to analyze the acoustics of a room for unwanted resonances.

Continue reading “Introducing VB-Audio’s Spectralissime”

Logitech Launches A New Flagship: The Brio 4K Pro Webcam

With a commanding 73% market share, Logitech is the leader in webcams. They’ve been very successful at diversifying their product range, introducing the ConferenceCam, GROUP and PTZ Pro models aimed at business users.

These business oriented offerings have vaulted the company to new heights in the VC/UC space. Yet the meeting/huddle room focus left desktop users clinging to the HD Pro Webcam C920 and C930e. While these are both excellent products, they have been around a very long time.

All of that changes today with the launch of the Logitech Brio 4k Pro Webcam, their first completely new model in a long while.

This new model is a new flagship, offered to both business and consumer users. At first glance, Brio looks to be the webcam that we might have been expecting when the C922x launched last fall.

Continue reading “Logitech Launches A New Flagship: The Brio 4K Pro Webcam”