2022/06/25

Mice should always have worked like this

 Apple Macs use mice and Apple don't give you too many options for configuring them.

System Preferences / Mouse

That does give some control and of course it's optimised for Apple mice (which are really trackpads nowadays as they don't have wheels on anymore). 3rd party mice may well have their own software / system preferences pane to allow some adjustments.

3D Connexion Preference Pane

In their wisdom Apple make scrolling accelerate as it's used continuously, so scroll down a page and suddenly it can jump to the end because the scrolling has sped up (especially noticeable scrolling long pages).

Now there's a helping hand (well a little utility that lives in the menu bar) called LinearMouse and it'a free. It can be directly downloaded from the site (.dmg) or installed via Homebrew

#brew install --cask linearmouse

The source code is also available on Github so it's possible to build the app yourself (more importantly ensure it's not doing anything suspicious in the background).

Once installed a mouse looking icon appears in the menu bar and clicking it brings a dropdown menu showing the mouse options and click on LinearMouse Properties.

LieanMouse Preferences

Reverse scrolling does just that and the scrolling direction will be reversed, but the magic is enabling linear scrolling as this stops the scrolling speeding up. Once you enable it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it, it's a game changer.

One of the best utilities you'll find for your Mac (now of course Apple will integrate the functionality into a future version of macOS).

2022/06/22

Working from home, be Shure to use a MV5C microphone

Shure is known for its professional in-earphones, headphones, microphones and wireless systems and have been around for a long time (since 1925). The in-earphones can produce very high quality audio as they isolate the sound form the outside world and musicians have custom earpieces made so they fit completely into and on to the ear canal (this also allows the audio to play much more quietly which is better for the ear drums and reduces damage).

More recently conferencing systems have also become part of the portfolio very much aimed at businesses.

Now with everyone working from home, Shure has moved into the home office space and produced a microphone to suit video and voice calls, the MV5C microphone.

Shure MV5C box

There is some assembly required (screw the large sphere ended screw through the base into the microphone ball).

Parts from box

The microphone connects to the computer via micro-USB (why not USB-C in this day and age?). There's also a headphone socket at the back for connecting wired (jack) earphones or headphones so it's possible to monitor the raw input.

Back of microphone

The completed unit looks quite professional, though the ball of the microphone is made of plastic.

Microphone with Shure logo on front

The microphone should be placed as close to face of the user as possible (in front of the keyboard, the base can slide under some keyboards and still allow the keyboard to be used effectively). The voice quality is very good.

The main problem is it's very easy to pickup background noise, especially hum from hard disks (i.e. older computers with hard disks inside or backup external disks) and fans. Newer solid state disk (SSD) based systems will sound much better. It would also be possible to mount the microphone on some sound abosrbant material as the hum comes mainly via the base.

The following are 3 recordings made using the MV5C and Audacity (44KHz sampling with 32bit floats).

Desktop


The background hum can be heard, but still great quality.

Off desktop was recorded using some sound absorbing material.


The final version was recording while holding the microphone so isolated from the desktop (which the computer and backup disk is on).


With each video (Blogger doesn't allow just uploading audio) the background noise is reduced. The last one was probably very slightly closer which makes a large difference to the loudness of the audio.

As a desktop microphone and set-up correctly (and near to the person using it), it is a very good quality mic and can make a big difference compared to poor quality mics in headphones or other devices when using video conferencing or telephony applications.

The MV5C also works with the ShurePlus MOTIV mobile recording software (free download for iOS or Android) though it will require the correct cable (i..e device to micro-USB). The software gives tools to chop audio into clips, fade in and out and save in various formats.

It retails for £115 direct from Shure though it can be found online considerably cheaper.




2022/06/09

Bose Soundlink Flex speaker

The Bose Soundlink Flex speaker is designed for outdoor use. It has an IP64 and IP67 rating, so water and dust proof and can be submerged down to 1 metre for up to a minute. The case is metal with a a "soft touch" silicon coating and the grill has a fabric coating. It's a portable size at 20.1cm across by 9cm height and a depth of 5cm and there's a fabric strap so it can be carried.


There's a single USB-C port used for charging (a USB-A to USB-C cable is included), it's a shame the port can't be used to connect to an audio source directly so it could be used as a wired speaker/DAC. It takes 4 hours to fully charge the system.

The audio is only available via Bluetooth (v4.2) and it works up to about 30m.

There are also front facing microphones which can be used for calls and voice assistants.


There are 5 buttons across the top, power, volume down, multi-function and volume up and Bluetooth (with indicator light) that can initiate pairing.

Single pressing the power button turns the device on (and it speaks the battery percentage remaining - which is enabled by default). Single pressing again will turn the unit off. If nothing is playing/connected the unit will auto turn off after 20 minutes, this can be disabled by holding the + (volume up) and multifunction button simultaneously (or in the app), or if disabled this will re-enable it. While on, the amount of battery power will be spoken by pressing the power and keeping it pressed.

The multi-function button does multiple things depending on mode: -

  • When playing audio, single pressing will play or pause, track forwards (double press) and track backwards (triple press).
  • Pressing and holding will activate the voice control capabilities of the connected device (i.e. Siri or Alexa etc). Pressing and holding again will exit voice control.
  • When there's an incoming call pressing will answer, pressing and holding will reject the call. While in a call pressing and holding will end the call.
  • When there are 2 active calls, pressing quickly will switch between them.

If on a call, pressing volume up and down simultaneously will mute the call.

Though not required, there's an accompanying Bose Connect app (iOS/Android) that enables various functions such as party mode (where multiple Bose speakers can be linked and will all play the same audio) or stereo mode where 2 devices will (after having been connected in party mode) play left and right through each device.

Once paired the main screen shows a nice picture and what's playing. Touching the on-screen buttons plays/pauses, rewinds and fast forwards and the volume can be adjusted.



The main screen just shows the device connected.



Settings then shows the various that can be changed such as party mode, voice prompts, voice language etc.


Clicking the user icon takes you into Profile settings where a few user settings can be set.





The USB charging port is visible on the left



and the strap on the right.



NOTE: as can be seen from the photos, the black silicon coating picks up dust very easily which sticks, it obviously doesn't effect the sound, but it can look a bit nasty.

When the speaker is initially turned on, voice prompts are in English, but the speaker supports the following languages: -

  • English
  • Spanish  
  • French
  • German 
  • Mandarin
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Italian
  • Portuguese 
  • Swedish
  • Dutch
  • Russian 
  • Polish
The language can easily be selected in the app, but to change via the speaker, press and hold the multifunction button and then press + or - to cycle through the languages, then press and hold the multifunction button again when you are on the language you require.

The speaker can be paired with up to 8 devices at a time, though only 2 can be used simultaneously and only one can be playing at any time. To switch between two connected audio sources, pause the one playing and then start the other source. To clear all connections, press and hold the Bluetooth button for 10 seconds.

When it's time to party 2 Bose products can be connected in "Party Mode". This allows them both to play left and right or in Stereo mode, one will be left and the other right. Doing this is easy within the app, but can be done through a connected speaker. Make sure both devices are on and one is connected to the Bluetooth audio source and then press the Bluetooth and volume up (+) button together. The speaker will say “Press the Bluetooth and volume down buttons simultaneously on a second Bose device” which should then be done on the other Bose speaker.

Once in party mode to put them in stereo mode press the Bluetooth button and + on either speaker until it announces “Stereo mode”, then one will say "left" and the other "right". Pressing the Bluetooth and + button again will turn off stereo mode. To disable either mode just turn off one speaker.

Only via the app, the speaker can be connected to a Bose soundbar using the sync system and whatever's playing on the soundbar will play through the Flex (limited by Bluetooth range of 30m).

Bose claim a 12 hour battery life, however if the volume is near 100% (which is often required outside or in a large space like a gym), then battery life is considerably reduced to somewhere over 3 hours. An external power source can be used and works well for topping up the internal battery.

The microphones do work, though placement is key and it's quite easy to get a muffled conversation and probably best to use the phone directly for that important work call.

The speaker comes in 3 colours (black, stone blue and smoke white) and costs £149.95

There are cheaper speakers out there, but this does have good base and plays well. Battery life could be better and it's a real shame the USB port can be connected to an audio source for wired playback, but a nice solidly built Bluetooth speaker. 



2022/05/06

Padlock those fingers with a Kitty

This is another Xiaomi (supply chain) product made by Youdian, the Kitty Smart Touch/Fingerprint padlock. It comes in 4 colours (Coral Red, Mica Blue, Gold, Bluestone Green) and is 33mm wide by 15mm which and just under 60mm high (including the steel lock). The body is a zinc alloy and is IPX2 water resistant.

The fingerprint detector is about 1cm across.



In the factory reset state (as shipped) any finger touching the sensor will unlock the padlock. When unlocked an administrator fingerprint should be stored. Hold the required finger on the sensor for 8 seconds until the LED above the sensor goes blue, then 5 successful fingerprint readings will store fingerprint as the admin.



Locking the padlock will now only allow the admin finger to open it (the lock will open and the LED will go green).



If the padlock is unlocked and the admin then holds their finger on the sensor until the LED goes blue, then another fingerprint can be stored (again 5 successful readings are required). Up to 20 fingerprints can be stored.

It's not possible to delete individual fingerprints, but the padlock can be reset to factory default by unlocking, placing the admin finger on the sensor until the LED goes red, then removing it and placing on the sensor again. All stored passwords will then be removed.

There's a 100mAh/3.7V (cobalt polymer) battery inside, which Youdian claim will give a year's worth of standby (i.e. leaving the padlock locked and returning within a year it should still unlock). Multiple unlocks will reduce the time, so probably worth charging from time to time (the LED will stay red until it's fully charged). It is charged via micro USB and a USB-A cable is included.


The padlock does just work and it failed to open with non-registered fingers. Quite useful when you don't want to carry keys around and lock an e-scooter or bike (or even luggage). The padlock is quite secure, though it's probably reasonably easy to break if required.

It's available from your usual Chinese sites and costs around £15 (before VAT etc).


2022/04/12

KardiaMobile means a great time to be Alive(Cor)

Alivecor have been producing small ECG monitors for a while, the initial KardiaMobile had 2 pads and used sound to transfer the data to a phone and this relied on positioning the device near the phone and in a stable position with the phone's microphone towards the device.

The new KardiaMobile 6L looks quite similar to the original, but has two pads on the top and a single pad underneath. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit the data to a phone where the ECG will be displayed in the Kardia app (Apple iOS 10.3.3, or at least Android OS 6.0).

The box is a cardboard sleeve.


The inside section slides out and it holds the KardiaMobile 6L and an instruction manual sitting on top.



The device has two silver pads on the top surface and the AliveCor logo (or arrow).


The base has a single pad (which can be unscrewed and holds the CR2016 battery which is included).




The app should be installed and an account created, the device is then paired with the app.

If taking a 2 lead reading, put the KardiaMobile on a table or other stable position and place a finger from each hand on the two pads. If taking a 3 lead reading, then sit somewhere that is a comfortable stable position, roll up trousers, if required, to expose the knee area and place the device on knee and one finger from each hand on the two top pads. Again it's important to sit as still as possible.


Once the readings have been taken you are notified that the ECG's have been saved to Apple Health (if sync'ed to Apple Health) and can be viewed on your Apple Watch (so it can be shown to a doctor or clinician).



You are also given a summary of the ECG




It's then possible to share the ECG as a PDF and it takes the whole chart like you'd get from a ECG machine in a hospital (but split into pages).

Note the first page often has weirdness at the beginning as you settle down and stabilise the readings.




The next pages tend to be cleaner with just the normal ECG displayed




 The final page is an averaged heart rate




As stated previously it really is imperative to keep as still as possible to get a clean reading. The app will diagnose simple abnormalities such as Atrial Fibrillation, Bradycardia, Tachycardia and a normal heart rhythm. Giving the ECGs to a doctor may help them diagnose arrhythmias and cardiovascular diseases.

The unit is FDA approved as a medical device (which is very different to other wearables that a fitness devices) and acts as though it uses ECG leads I, II, III, aVL, aVR, aVF.

If you're worried at all about heart conditions, this could be for you, it's easy to use and gives good results.

The basic Kardia 6L costs £149 in the UK (direct from the site) and £228 with the addition of a year of KardiaCare which allows advanced determinations (analysis), the results are shared with clinicians and stored in the cloud and you get a heart health summary report. Purchasing separately a plan costs £99 or £179 for 2 years.


2022/01/19

ConceptDraw Office gets an upgrade

 ConceptDraw Office has now been upgraded to version 8 and it contains 3 (well really 4) main packages: -

  • ConceptDraw DIAGRAM v15
  • ConceptDraw MINDMAP v13
  • ConceptDraw PROJECT v12

There is also ConceptDraw STORE which offers access to various ConceptDraw solutions and upgrades to the main packages too.



Diagram offers professional-quality graphic solutions of all sorts for all businesses, Mindmaop is essential to strategic planning, knowledge and team management and Project provides a professional approach to portfolio and project management.

ConceptDraw Office is available both on Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS and are alternative offerings to Microsoft Visio and Project.

Though the applications can run standalone for basic primitives, the flexibility comes when the Solutions are added, all 215 of them. Many are free and can be downloaded via the Store, while some are paid for and new Solutions are being added all the time.

The categories of Solutions are: -

  • Building Plans
  • Business Infographics
  • Business Processes
  • Business Productivity
  • Collaboration
  • Computers and Networks
  • Dashboards
  • Diagrams
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Food and Beverage
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Health
  • Illustrations
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Infographics
  • Management
  • Maps
  • Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Education
  • Software Development
  • Sport
  • Statistical Charts

Some of these are just building blocks, while others can be connected to data to produce charts/infographics based on the data.

Examples of some of the actual building blocks

Divided Bar Chart

Financial Infographics



Sport - Baseball Field


Above infographics may be static or utilise data (such as the divided bar chart) or just a picture like the baseball field.

The applications can import Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Project, Visio, Mindmanager, Xmind and Freemind documents and export pdf, images, Outline, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Project and Visio.

There still are differences between the Windows and macOS versions such as it's only possible to explore pdf layers on the Windows version of the software.

The STORE also allows upgrading the applications and solutions


It's also possible to purchase new solutions (when a new solution is published it will have a green flag on it)


The applications can be purchased individually or as ConceptDraw Office which contains all of them.

Single user pricing is as follows: -

  • ConceptDraw OFFICE 8 £399 (but seems to be £239 now)
  • ConceptDraw DIAGRAM 15 £159
  • ConceptDraw PROJECT 12 £239
  • ConceptDraw MINDMAP 13 £159
  • ConceptDraw MINDMAP 13 & PROJECT 12 £319

So Office seems a bargain at the moment.

The solutions vary in price.

If you need a suite of applications that can do mind mapping and project planning and you don't want to go the Microsoft route, this could be for you.


2021/12/01

Can a cloth be this clever?

Apple came out with new thing called a "Polishing Cloth" which is a microfibre cloth for cleaning screen, being fruity it comes with a fruity price tag.

So now there's Smart Screen an antibacterial, microfibre smartphone cloth.

Smart Screen box

The cloth comes in a box that is obviously designed for retail as there's a plastic tab at the top with a hole in it suited for hanging on something.

Opening the box was a struggle as the internals are behind a tab that looks like it should be pulled to, but only needs to be slightly moved.

Pouch (wrapped in plastic)


The cloth comes out, but it's encased in a hermitically sealed plastic wrap. Which seems unnecessary since it's sealed in the box in the first place. Ripping that open exposes the pouch holding the cloth.

Smart Screen pouch


The pouch is about 2 inches square and holds the folded cloth which is attached by a piece of material and held by a popper.

Pouch with attached cloth

Then the cloth unfolds

Cloth folded in half

The cloth is impregnated with Blue Shield nano silver particles which (according to the manufacturer) will kill 99% of all bacteria and it will survive 15 washes at 30 degrees.

As a cloth it does clean screens (though it wasn't possible to test the accuracy of the bacterial killing properties).

It only costs £9.95 directly from Smart Screen, though an up market "gold" version is available for £11.50 (or a replacement gold cloth for £4.40). 

Standard colours are Navy Blue, Slate Grey, Powder Blue, Saffron Yellow, Polar White and Camel Brown.

I would guess it's as functional as the fruity equivalent (though never tested that particular cloth).