Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2016-01-14

Nexus Player

Our latest little film-playing box is a Nexus Player. It's good.

We have it connected to an Epson 1920×1080 projector and a Musical Fidelity amplifier.

The most remarkable features of the Nexus Player are that its remote control is simple and does not require line of sight, and that as of Android 6.0.1 it supports USB audio. Our amplifier happens to have USB input, so we get really good sound quality when we watch films.

Compared to the Popcorn Hour A-300 that's also connected to the same projector and amplifier, the Nexus Player has a real selection of apps and a much less confusing remote control. The A-300 can do better upscaling given the right video source, though, and has better support for playing from a local NAS.

Compared to the Roku 3 we have stopped using, the Nexus Player has better apps and no advertising. Roku really, really wants to display advertising to its paying customers. The Nexus Player (unlike the Roku 3) has a few annoying preinstalled apps, but it's possible to uninstall or disable all of those, and ours currently runs only Mubi and Plex.

2015-05-12

The year of linux on the desktop

Clearly, 2016 is the year of linux on the desktop. I bought a new box and everything just worked. My three screens all work without needing any configuration, the fans are silent normally but spin up if needed, the temperature sensors all deliver reasonable results.

(Well, pulseaudio doesn't work.)

2015-01-17

Two headlines on Hacker News

This headline appeared in my Hacker News feed this morning: Why systemd is taking over. I fear it's right, systemd is taking over, and it's not good. I had a terrible time getting linux to work on my new laptop, which is why I have sworn to try Devuan on that laptop as soon as it's installable.

But what is systemd taking over, exactly? The next headline was Chromebooks spank Windows and might have added while traditional linux laptops disappear from view. Half my friends have switched to Mac laptops and last September I couldn't find a single ten-inch laptop with ≥4G RAM and capable of running linux. Not even one.

Depressing.

2014-07-07

Custom filofax paper

The two pictures show things I usually bring along in my hand luggage on the plane. Guess which one the security screeners want to look at most often.

Correct! The razor gets a brief glance or no attention at all (usually), the organiser looks odd on their screens and is often inspected. Mine was going to become a 9600bps modem when it grew up, as I have told many a security screener.

Ever since I got my first duplex printer I've made my own paper for it. Nothing very fancy, really. Four constraints only: ⓐ I like to write on the right-hand side, ⓑ occasionally I want to measure something so there should be a ruler, (more…)

2013-10-29

Typing on an outsourced keyboard

I'll need to test something with a bluetooth keyboard. I really like the Nexus 7 tablet, so off to Amazon: nexus 7 2012 keyboard. Ah, hm, since I don't like QWERTZ keyboards, best try amazon.­co.uk too: nexus 7 2012 keyboard. There were many contenders, including what I bought and will return: (more…)

2013-07-18

Sitting down to work

This is my answer to so how should the office be, then? and so how does your office look?, both of which are are entirely reasonable things to say to me, particularly this month. If you haven't talked to me about work environments and productivity, this post may be one to skip. (more…)

2013-02-27

Advertising-supported purchasing

Some things I buy from Amazon Marketplace seem to cost less than the cost of the envelope, postage and the labour of putting the thing into the envelope. Ten LR41 button cells for less than €1.

When that happens the envelope is invariably full of advertising.

There is something very appropriate about this. Advertising has nothing to do with my accompanying my daughter to school, so why should there be billboards along our route? But it has everything to do with buying things. And because of it, it's easy and cheap to get hold of odd cables, lightbulbs and whatnot.

I think I need a new pen.

2013-02-20

Comparing Roku and Popcorn Hour

I have a Roku 2XS in the office and a Popcorn Hour A-300 in the living room. The Roku is small — the Popcorn Hour is as big as a book, the Roku fits on the palm of my hand. I can almost close my hand around it.

The Roku doesn't have as many connectors as the Popcorn Hour. Getting a digital sound signal from the Roku to an amplifier won't be easy, and the box is small and light enough that it won't sit properly on my desk, which annoys me more than it should. The ethernet and HDMI cables are too heavy for it. Wiggling helps.

The Popcorn Hour is friendlier at setup time. I was able to play my ISO images (I rip all my DVDs at purchase time and play from a NAS) without giving anyone any credit card number. Roku demanded one, and the Roku privacy policy notes (in the small print) that information about anything I watch will be logged to their servers (and the NSA's, I suppose). That makes me want to cook up some attention-getting stream names.

The Roku shows advertising on the main screen, while the Popcorn Hour abstains from such ignoble behaviour.

Roku wins on UI (apart from the advertising). In particular, the remote is smaller, friendlier and doesn't suffer from button overdose syndrome. Both boxes are quiet.

Video quality isn't directly comparable: The Roku plays network streams to digital output, and the video quality depends mostly on the network connection. (There's an app to play files from USB sticks, which I haven't tried.) The Popcorn Hour also plays ISO, Matroska, AVI and MP4 streams from NAS, and scales them up to 1920×1080. The upscaling quality varies from astonishingly good in the best cases to not very good in the worst. (Some MP4s encoded directly from high-resolution masters are scaled up well, ditto most of my ISOs, but not all. Matroska files I made from the same ISOs are scaled up poorly.)

Sound quality is identical when comparable. The Popcorn Hour also has analog sound outputs (of poor quality), which the Roku does not.

Update: The Roku has more apps. None I really care about, partly because I use a projector and a largish canvas. For some reason, a large canvas demands a high bitrate in order to look good, and the streaming services generally stop below 3Mbps so the apps I've tried are useless. If you use a screen or small canvas, app availability may be an important factor to you.