I've had for sometime a Joy-IT 7" IPS display for Raspberry Pi waiting in my drawer and now I got around to put it into use with Ikea Ribba frame. Setting up the touch screen was easy but getting it inverted (upside down) took some extra steps.
The touchscreen is "RB-LCD-7-2" from Joy-IT which is a 7" IPS display for Raspberry Pi with 1024x600 resolution and 5 point capacitive touchscreen and HDMI connector. The manufacturer provides a manual for setting it up but as things have changed during the years it didn't work out of the box for the inverted touch matrix.
I installed Debian GNU/Linux 11 (bullseye) to my Raspberry Pi Model 3 plus and did the following changes:
Information is a great tool in software development and it's useful to have easy access to it. The more obvious you make your problems, the harder you make them to ignore. The more attention they get, the quicker they get solved. One thing developers like to monitor in software development is continuous integration status and metrics from running services. And what better way to achieve visibility and visualize to those metrics than building an information radiator.
I didn't want to invent the wheel again so I got Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with accessories and 7" touch screen to base my project. Using a Raspberry Pi as an information radiator isn't a new idea and the Internet is full of examples of different adaptations with screens, lights, bells and whistles. For the start we just visualized our Jenkins builds and Grafana dashboard but later on we will propably do a custom dashboard.
Setting up the base
The information radiator is easy to get running as you only need a computer which preferably runs Linux. You can use an old laptop and attach it to external screen or if you're like me and want to tinker you can get e.g. Raspberry Pi 3 and couple it with small external screen for portability. Nice and low cost solution which gets you some hacker value. I got the Rpi from our local hardware store and unfortunately the Model B+ was just released on the same day. The extra 15% power, 5 GHz Wifi and less heat and throttling would've been nice.
I got the Raspberry Pi starting package with the official case, power supply, HDMI cable and a MicroSD card with preloaded NOOBS. So I just needed to connect the cables, put SD Card in and click to install Raspbian. Other interesting operating systems would've been Fedberry which is Fedora 'Minimal, XFCE and LXQt' Remixes.
For the screen I used 7" IPS 5 point touch screen for Raspberry Pi with 1024x600 resolution and HDMI from joy-it codename RB-LCD-7-2. Initially I thought I could install the whole system with this display but as it turned out Rpi doesn't understand it out of the box. It just showed some white noise and interference . Luckily some one had already solved this and I got the right config after I had installed Raspbian with real monitor.
Edit your /boot/config.txt:
# uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode (this will force VGA)
# Add line:
hdmi_cvt=1024 600 60 3 0 0 0
And reboot your Raspberry Pi after those changes.
You should also run $ sudo raspi-config to setup for example WiFi country to allow channels 12 and 13 and your current Timezone.
I also updated Raspbian which bumps it to rpi-4.14.y linux tree:
I set up the Raspberry Pi at our local office and at home and there were no problems with WiFi connection. But when I brought it to customer premises the WiFi connection was weak and practically couldn't move a bit. My MacBook worked fine but it was connected to 5 GHz network which isn't an option with my Rpi 3 Model B. The WiFi on Rpi 3 was using channel 11 on 802.11i with WPA2 as shown with iwlist wlan0 scan.
There is a thread on Raspberry Pi forum about Very poor wifi performance which suggest to set up WiFi internalisation correctly to allow channels 12 and 13. At one point the issue was that only channels 1-11 are available on the Rpi 3 but checking out the 'next' branch of firmware/kernel (sudo BRANCH=next rpi-update) apparently fixed channels 12/13. I was on kernel 4.9.80 so it wasn't a problem for me. The other suggested problem is with Atheros chipset based router which doesn't like Broadcom WiFi on Rpi 3.
For some disabling power management solves the connection issues. For RPi built-in Broadcom (Cypress) WiFi there's no control for power management and it's disabled by the kernel. In iw / iwlist / iwconfig you see bug with "Power Management:on".
But nevertheless testing switching it off made my WiFi connection better but it's strength didn't of course change.
$ sudo iwconfig wlan0 power off
To make it permanent you can add something like this in your interfaces file:
The information radiator is usually connected to a TV with no keyboard or mouse attached so accessing it remotely is useful. You can use x11vnc which allows you to VNC into a headless Pi with a VNC client like Apple Remote Desktop, RealVNC’s vncviewer or homebrew’s tiger-vnc.
To test our setup and quickly show some data I just added a Build Monitor view in Jenkins and other view with Dashboard view. I also configured the Rpi to automatically start Chromium browser in kiosk mode after reboots and directed it to Jenkins website so there would be no need for interactions to get things on the screen. To show several sources of data and get things running quickly without customized information radiator we used Revolver - Tabs Chromium extension to rotate between multiple browser tabs: one showed Jenkins Build Monitor other Grafana Dashboard and third Twitter feed.
To automatically start the chromium-browser after Raspbian desktop starts, edit the following lxsession file:
$ cp /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart /home/pi/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
$ vim /home/pi/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
#@xscreensaver -no-splash # comment this line out to disable screensaver
# Disable Xsession from blanking
@xset s off
@xset s noblank
# load chromium after boot and point to the localhost webserver in full screen mode
@chromium-browser --kiosk --no-default-browser-check --no-first-run --disable-infobars "http://localhost/"
Chromium has a feature to show "Restore pages" nagging popup when not grafefully shutdown and you can try the following Stack Overflow suggestion. What was also suggested was doing "chmod 001 ~/.config/chromium/Default/Preferences" but it results to another nagging window.
$ cat ./autostart.sh
sed -i 's/"exited_cleanly":false/"exited_cleanly":true/' ~/.config/chromium/'Local State'
sed -i 's/"exited_cleanly":false/"exited_cleanly":true/; s/"exit_type":"[^"]\+"/"exit_type":"Normal"/' ~/.config/chromium/Default/Preferences
You could use "--restore-last-session" or "--incognito" parameter which also works but it has several disadvantages, such as disabling the cache and login information. Or maybe I should just use Firefox.
It might be also useful to set Chromium to restart every night. When running Chromium for longer periods it may fill Rpi's memory with garbage and after it must be hard rebooted.
Turning the monitor on and off automatically
When running Rpi as a wall monitor it's useful to save energy and extend the life of your monitor by turning the monitor on/off on a daily schedule. You can do this by running a cron script. Get this script and put it in /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh and make it executable: chmod +x /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh. Call the script at the desired time with cron entry:
$ crontab -e
# Turn HDMI Off (22:00)
0 17 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh off
# Turn HDMI On (7:00)
30 7 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh on
If you've problems with the above script try this one which is the original but change "curr_vt=`fgconsole`" to be "curr_vt=`sudo fgconsole`" as fgconsole needs sudo privileges and otherwise you get an error "Couldn't get a file descriptor referring to the console".
From simple dashboard to real information Radiator
Showing just Jenkins Build Monitor or Grafana dashboards is simple but to get more information of things running you could show things like the success rate of the builds, build health, latest open pull request and project Twitter Messages. One nice example of information radiator is Panic's Status board.
There are different ways to create customizable dashboard and one way is to use Dashing which is a dashboard framework and to get headstart you can see Project Dashboard is which shows "build health" for the latest build, the latest open pull request in Github, the success rate of your builds, some free-form text and your project's or company's logo. It uses the Jenkins API to get the ration of successful / non-successful builds as well as the latest build state. It also calls the Github API to get the latest pull request to display the name and picture of the author and the title of the pull request on the dashboard.
For more leisure use you can set up the Raspberry Pi as a wall display to show information like calendar, weather, photos and RSS feeds. One option is to use Dakboard which is a web interface used to display information and is quite configurable with different services. At first Dakboard seems nice but is quite limited on what data it can show and some useful features are premium. Another open source option is MagicMirror² which seems to be more modular and extensible (as you can create your own modules) but needs more tinkering.
Knowledge is power and keeping it secured from unauthorised eyes is important, be it inside of a computer, on external hard drive or on USB flash drive. Especially small external devices are easy to lose and can leave your data vulnerable if not encrypted. Fortunately there are solutions like iStorage datAshur Personal2 which is an USB flash drive with combination of hardware encryption, physical keypad and tamper-proofing. I got 8 GB version of Personal2 for testing (for free) and here's a quick review how the device works.
iStorage datAshur Personal2 is an USB 3.0 flash drive designed to keep your data protected from unauthorised access even if it's lost or stolen. It's operating system and platform-independent and available up to 64 GB. The beef about the flash drive is that user needs to enter 7-15 digit PIN code onto the rechargeable battery powered on-board keypad before connecting the drive to the USB port and accessing the data. All data transferred to the datAshur Personal2 is encrypted in real-time with built-in XTS-AES 256-bit hardware encryption. The device automatically locks when unplugged from the computer or power to the USB port is turned off and it can be set to lock after a certain amount of time. And what's good about hardware encryption is that it (in theory) shouldn't slow the drive down when writing or reading files to or from the drive. The device has protection against brute forcing and it's aluminium housing is dust- and water- resistant.
Personal2 differs from most flash drives in length, being a little longer to accommodate the keypad. Buttons are quite small so large fingers may have some difficulty finding the right key. Overall build quality looks good although the removable USB plug cover is cumbersome and easily lost. The keypad is powered with rechargeable battery and even if the battery goes dead you can just recharge it from the USB port. The keypad on the iStorage datAshur is critical for security as it means the device works independently from a computer and prevents a keylogger from recording a code entered via keyboard. It also makes it operating system and platform-independent and doesn't require any specific software or drivers.
The datAshur Personal2 can be configured with two different PINs: user and admin PINs, making it perfect for corporate and government deployment. If the user forgets their PIN, the drive can be unlocked using the Admin PIN which will then clear the old User PIN and allow the User to set a new PIN. It also ensures that the corporate data can be retrieved from the device when an employee leaves the company.
The device also has a reset feature which clears both User and Admin PINs, deletes all data, creates a new randomly generated encryption key and allows the drive to be reused. To prevent brute-force attacks, if both admin and user PINs have been created and incorrect user PIN is entered ten consecutive times, the brute force mechanism will trigger and the user PIN will be deleted. If the admin PIN is entered incorrectly ten consecutive times, then both the user and admin PINs, the encryption key and all data will be deleted and lost forever. The device will revert back to factory default settings and needs to be formatted before it can be reused.
The device comes with quick start guide which tells you how to unlock the drive and how to change the user PIN. I tested the Personal2 with macOS Sierra and getting started with it was easy. The drive worked just like any other normal USB flash drive and after unlocking it was recognised as usual. I didn't measure the read or write speeds but they seemed fine for that size of a drive. They say that it's up to 116MB/s read and 43MB/s write which is typical for small USB 3 flash drives. Of course decent performance is required but transfer speeds are not the reason why you buy encrypted USB flash drives.
The datAshur Personal2 isn't the first or last encrypted USB flash drive with hardware keypad but it seems to work nicely. It costs somewhat more than a normal USB flash drive (8GB is £39, 64GB is £79) but that's what you pay for keeping sensitive data secured. And what comes to performance, it's always a compromise between security and speed.
Recently I got Jabra HALO2 Bluetooth headset for teleconferences but had problems to get it work with Windows 7 and Dell Latitude E6530. Windows found the device and wanted to install drivers but couldn't find any. The solution was easy: update your laptops' Bluetooth drivers. I downloaded Dell Wireless 380 Bluetooth Application version 22.214.171.12400,A02 from Dell's drivers page and got it working.
Jabra HALO2 is a wireless Bluetooth headset with dual microphone for noise filtering and can be paired with 2 Bluetooth-enabled devices. It can be also used with USB cable and 3,5mm cord and can control music player and sound volume. The battery last for 8 hours talk or music and 13 days on standby.
The wireless headset works with e.g. Windows 7 but some laptops like my Dell Latitude E6530 needs specific manufacturer's Bluetooth drivers before Windows starts to play nice with them. At first I got the "Bluetooth peripheral device driver not found" error when trying to connect a Bluetooth device and as the Jabra HALO2 headset doesn't need drivers it was time to look for them from Dell's support.
Dell's drivers page doesn't have Bluetooth drivers directly so I figured to get the "Dell Wireless 380 Bluetooth Application" version 126.96.36.19900,A02 (31/10/2013) which provides an application for DW380 Bluetooth. After installing the 245 MB package Windows started to install the missing drivers and the Bluetooth headset's hardware functions got found: AV, Hands-free, Headset and Remote Control. I can't say that updating the drivers will help everyone but what I searched about this issue it was the solution which got these and other Bluetooth headphones working with different laptops.
The start with my new headset wasn't the easiest but after I got it working the Jabra HALO2 Bluetooth headset works nicely and is pleasant to use for teleconferences with Lync and with my Lumia 800 mobile phone.
The days of draggable and humongous laptops are past as the Ultrabooks have taken over the market place and there's plenty of different models to choose from. Last year I tested Fujitsu's first generation Ultrabook and now it's time to check out the second generation with LIFEBOOK U904 as part of the Master your business campaign. During the spring I will put this nice Ultrabook through different tasks and write about how it performs. Also also the readers can take part and win an overnight stay at a Marriott hotel.
First impressions of Fujitsu LIFEBOOK U904
The Fujitsu LIFEBOOK U904 at first glance is marble black with aluminium and magnesium housing which makes it robust and light. Behind the 14" screen there's brilliant IGZO touchscreen with 3200 x 1800 resolution and it's run by Intel Haswell Core i5-4200U -processor and integrated HD Graphics 4400. It comes with Windows 8.1 Professional and 6 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD drive. To make it a perfect for mobile office the U904 is equipped with embedded 3G/4G modem. You can also find full size Ethernet port, WLAN, Bluetooth and dock connector.
Unboxing the LIFEBOOK U904 in 16 seconds:
After couple of weeks Fujitsu's second generation Ultrabook is very promising and feels good. The touch screen brings more usable scenarios for Windows 8 but it would be better if it could be turned around for tablet like use with pen. The chiclet keyboard works nicely and is responsive but doesn't have as precise and sharp feeling as in my Macbook Pro. The stereo speakers' sound is a bit cold and hard but using headphones is fine. Although LIFEBOOKs are meant for business applications they can be also used for entertainment like gaming. The graphics chip could be Iris Pro series but also the 4400 has enough power to run for example Mark of the Ninja, Dead Space, Rocksmith and Alan Wake.
During the spring I will put this nice Ultrabook through different tasks and write about how it performs to the Master your business site. I will also do a short review later with more insights to the U904 and with some test results.
I'm testing the LIFEBOOK U904 as part of Fujitsu's Master your business campaign with 16 other bloggers around the Europe and Middle East. Part of the participants tests the ESPRIMO Q920 minicomputer. The campaign will last about three months until 11.4.2014 and there will be 15 tasks for the bloggers to solve. If I do two thirds of the tasks I get to keep this nice Ultrabook. Also the readers can participate and win an overnight stay at a Marriott hotel.
Tablets have become more and more common in recent years and I have thought about getting one but haven't quite got myself to buying one. Too many choices and didn't know if I really needed one. When Fujitsu suggested to test their new Stylistic M532 Android tablet in part of their Lifebook4Life project i gladly took the opportunity. Couple of days later the postman brought their brand new 10" Android tablet which is powered by quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and has 1280x800 resolution screen, 1 GB memory, 32 GB flash and weights 560 grams. In Finland it costs about 612 euros.
Fujitsu Stylistic M532
In short Fujitsu Stylistic M532 is a 10" business grade Android tablet powered by quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB memory, 32 GB flash and has 1280x800 resolution Gorilla Glass protected LED backlighted and glossy screen. By 8.6 mm thickness and 560 grams it's a bit slimmer and lighter than Apple's new iPad (660g, 9,4mm). It runs vanilla Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and has 8 Mpix and 2 Mpix cameras. The black bezel has no physical buttons, is rounded by a red metal trim and the back is covered by rubber like material which gives you a good grip. Physically and visually it stands out from the crowd of Android tablets. In positive sense. The connectivity is enabled with Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G and you can extend storage with microSD card. Charging is handled by proprietary dock-connector at the bottom. There's also microUSB connector (can't be used for charging) and 3,5mm audio plugin.
The tablet's performance is great and test results are in line with other Tegra 3 powered tablets (see results below). Movies and games ran without problems and with 32 GB storage plus microSD extension it would be a great traveling companion. But the most surprising thing is that the tablet has only 3,170 mAh battery as almost any other manufacture has over double the power. New iPad has 11,560 mAh and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has 7000 mAh. And as the charging is done only by docking connector you always have to carry it around on longer trips. And depending on what you want to do with your tablet the camera isn't so good. In general tablets are lousy devices for taking pictures and although M532 has an 8 Mpix camera I would use any other available camera (test picture), eg. my HTC Sensation. You need a steady hand and good light to take decent pictures. I take the 2 Mpix front camera is fine for video conferences.
In overall, during my couple of weeks use of the Stylistic M532 tablet I found it convincing with visual appearance, physical structure, feel of robustness and performance and although it stands out of the crowd it isn't really something to be excited about. Just like you could imagine a business grade tablet to be. And after work you can take it home with you for entertainment use. It's light enough to hold easily and was pleasing to use for reading ebooks, news and seeing lecture videos. Also the games ran fast. Battery life is moderate compared to competition but I didn't find it as a problem in my use but the glossy screen was sometimes annoying. The preinstalled apps are good extra for corporate users.
Fujitsu markets the tablet for businesses and as a Bring-your-own-device tablet and thus provides it with some preinstalled software for work related tasks. Otherwise it is just like any other Android tablet and isn't equipped with manufacturer's user interface customizations like Samsung and HTC tends to do.
For office documents the tablet is equipped with ThinkFree Office which provides MS Office 2007 (OOXML) compatible document, spreadsheet and presentation editing. Remote access to business applications can be done with Citrix Receiver, VMWare View Client and iTap Mobile RDP apps which are Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) applications. Nitrodesk TouchDown keeps you email, contacts and calendar in sync with Exchange ActiveSync.
Norton Tablet Security with one year subscription keeps the tablet free of malware and viruses and combined with Norton Anti-Theft you can keep track of it in case of theft. Also with Absolute Computrace Mobile you can track the device and secure the data on the tablet.
Other preinstalled apps are ES File explorer for browsing and managing the files in the tablet and you can also access files from servers like Fujitsu Q700 NAS server. And for multimedia center there's CyberLink's PowerDVD.
One essential application for tablets is splittable keyboard which doesn't come with Android 4.0 or preinstalled. The default on-screen keyboard is way too wide to use comfortable and by splitting it by half you get separate numpad and arrow keys. One possible free app for this is Open Split Keyboard.
Fujitsu Stylistic M532 is business grade Android tablet which also works for home and entertainment use. It convinces with good performance, build quality, feel of robustness and visual appearance. It stands out of the crowd but isn't really something to be excited about. Which is a good quality for a business grade device. Battery life is moderate compared to competition and glossy screen is sometimes annoying. The preinstalled apps are good extra for corporate users but most of them can be bought from Google Play. Both WiFi and 3G connectivity enables you to connect easily where you want and microSD slot provides more storage if needed. It lefts little to be wanted and is a sleek and accomplished device.
Robust and build quality
Connectivity: 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth
Moderate battery life
Fujitsu Stylistic M532 is a robust 10" Android tablet and it would be interesting to compare the Stylistic M532 against the competition from eg. Samsung and Asus. Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 tested by The Verge sounds on paper very interesting with pen functionality and all but at least The Verge said it was "Disappointing although S Pen works well". Mostly the issues were with TouchWiz and build quality but the better drawing ability would make a big difference with prototyping applications and stuff. Other interesting devices are Asus' Transformer Pad hybrid tablets like TF300 and TF700T which are more or less comparable in specifications, performance and price with Stylistic M532. And some people would compare Apples to oranges but as iOS provides features you can't get with Android tablets and likewise the comparison isn't meaningful.