Random: Happy 2nd Anniversary to goughlui.com

In late December, I warned that the site might get a little bit quiet. That wasn’t an empty threat, as for the past month, there really hasn’t been anything new on here. Here’s a little update as to what has been going on in the interim, which will go to explain as to why it’s been so quiet.

Happy 2nd Anniversary

Yesterday (25th January 2015) marked the 2nd anniversary of my website at goughlui.com. Despite the recent quietness, visitorship remains strong, with the total views slated to tip the 600,000 view count by the end of the week.

alexa-analytics 0296650

Even more interesting is that despite the quietness, the site’s popularity ranking continues its upward trajectory, eclipsing the 300,000 rank. It feels like I have really achieved something with all of my time spent running the site.

Here’s to many more years, hopefully successful!

Return from Overseas Trip

Through the period from 27th December to 18th January, I was overseas in Hong Kong and China. It was a very busy period, where I took the opportunity to meet with my relatives on the way to the Elsevier/IWA 3rd Water Research Conference at Kylin Villa in Shenzhen where I was slated to present some of my research.

Unfortunately, the problems with my left ankle continued to affect me throughout the trip, and as a result, despite taking copious amounts of drugs and suffering through numerous side effects, my enjoyment was severely restricted.

Thankfully, I was accompanied by a family friend who was willing and able to help me around in a wheelchair to try and improve the condition of the ankle prior to the conference and make the most of my chance to enjoy myself. As a result, I did spend over half my days in my hotel room, but it was not entirely unproductive (as you will come to see, if time permits). More posts about the holiday are forthcoming!

My trip was also made a success only because of the unending help from my relatives in Hong Kong who were very accommodating and helped arrange and pay for private transfers between hotels, and across the border, to avoid issues with luggage and walking.

This picture below was taken just after registration, in my hotel room, the day before my presentation.

DSC_2820

The next day, I was very fortunate to be able to walk again, despite a little pain. This eased the burden of arranging assistance, to which the conference staff were very unclear about. I only found out there were three steps to the elevated stage with no handrail merely two hours prior to the session beginning.

In the end, it was a very successful appearance, where I presented a presentation titled  “Understanding Solar Disinfection using Action Spectra and Solar Irradiance Modelling” (shortened from “Toward a Better Understanding of Solar Disinfection using Action Spectra and Solar Modelling“). I was also very honoured to meet A/Prof. Kumiko Oguma of Tokyo University who has been doing research in UV LED applications, and had a quick chat about the technology with her. It’s very fascinating to talk with others who do research in a similar area.

Recovery

To say that an overseas holiday is relaxing is definitely one way of looking at it. Another is to see it as an exercise in packing and unpacking, which has definitely consumed much of my time over the past week. Being a technology nerd, I have to deal with the physical unpacking as well as the digital unpacking – i.e. downloading, collecting and backing up all your “well earned” holiday data (photos, etc). Needless to say, as a bit of a data person, I’ve managed to collect data-sets which many people might not have considered doing so when on holiday. It weighed in at just 55Gb short of a full 2Tb hard drive.

The physical unpacking is also a drain, and it definitely doesn’t help when your ankle is busted and you’ve got the flu from all the changes in climate. The feeling of fatigue doesn’t really inspire you to do much, but you know if you leave it lying there, it will never be cleaned up!

Regardless, I went in for an MRI on the ankle to find the news rather sobering – a large capsular multilocular ganglion cyst with a grade II sprain injury. Treatment awaits meeting with a rheumatology specialist.

Conclusion

It’s been a solid two years of being around, with the number of views vastly exceeding my expectations. It’s also been a good learning experience for myself, and hopefully for the readers.

If only you knew just how many things I’d have liked to put up, but haven’t had the time or energy to do so – I just hope I can get it out there one day.

In the near future, expect to see some more holiday related postings using the special red watermark with a scattering of technology related postings when I get around to them. Then … maybe a bit more quiet time again … who knows …

Posted in Event, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Project: Audio Induction Loop Receiver (Part 3: More Sydney Trains)

In the previous part, I had began a small project to collect samples of digital voice announcements from Sydney Trains Millenium and Warratah sets. In fact, I had continued to collect more samples just out of my own interest, but I never had the time to process them and get them site-ready. In this part, we will continue this little project, but also take a look at some of the other things I discovered along the way.

On-Platform Announcements

Cityrail’s on-platform announcements are very predictable and rigid. They begin with the standard chimes, and are followed by word-fragments which are played back at a very regular, albeit, slightly robotic cadence.

To date, capturing such announcements has been the domain of microphones, along with all the noise involved in the background. Imagine my surprise, when tripping around the network, I saw this at Macarthur.

20141013_134636

In fact, it all became clear because it seems that Macarthur had just undergone a station upgrade, and part of that must have been fitting an induction loop transmitter for the station’s PA system. It would also explain why I was able to receive a small fragment of audio while passing through Newtown station – another newly renovated station. It seems Sydney Trains are in the process of retrofitting such equipment into designated zones on the platform to aid the hard of hearing.

20141013_134715

The installation of the loop, of course, requires a metallic wire loop to be installed. Here, we can see the cut in the bitumen where the loop was likely installed – circling around the benches in the centre of the platform.

As a result, I was able to record my first set of samples from on-platform announcements:

I also managed to go to Riverstone, where they also have an Ampetronic sign, indicating the availability of loop audio, but I didn’t stay long enough to catch a full announcement.

20141013_161559

In-Car Noise

I mentioned in an earlier post that the older C-sets and Tangaras, amongst others, do not carry onboard induction loop transmitters due to the electromagnetic noise the electronic control gear spews out.

Here’s some very nice samples of that:

With this very loud signal in the background, it really makes no sense to actually run any induction loop audio.

Station Names and Announcements

Around mid October, I spent some more time riding the network, which resulted in another 100-or-so audio samples. I have updated the station matrix table, with new samples added in bold.

I’ve also managed to catch the “doors closing, please stand clear” message as well.

OSCAR Set DVA Samples

Interestingly, while the above represents what users will hear when they ride the Millenium and Warratah series of trains, we also have the OSCAR sets which have a slightly different voice and cadence. I was lucky enough to board one with my equipment, but the audio amplitude was rather low, and the noise from other passengers was rather high (think mobile phones).

As a result, I only have a small limited-number of samples, which should still give you an idea of the difference in the voice between the systems.

Next Stop

This Station Is

This Train Will Stop At

Special

Conclusion

There is a reassuring nature to automated, digitally synthesized announcements that play day-in and day-out. The further deployment of magnetic audio loops further improves the reach of these announcements to those of the deaf and hard of hearing, who have telecoil enabled hearing aids. It provides another way of getting the audio, albeit rather “low-fi” and simple, but it also means that anyone else who is interested doesn’t need a lot of expensive equipment to be able to resolve (and record) the signals.

Through some further dedication, I was able to improve the size of my collected audio samples to cover some more stations, on-platform announcements, and OSCAR set announcements although I think I’m not likely to have the time to collect any more samples than this.

It’s probably only something a crazy, nerdy guy like myself would do, but it’s rather fascinating to listen to the electromagnetic fields, with both intended and unintended emanations. Hope you all enjoyed it!

Posted in Audio, Electronics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Review: Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint

Working with capacitive touch screen devices has often been a compromise of input accuracy. Having previously trodden down the path of capacitive stylii, I have always been impressed by Adonit’s products, which began with their innovative “plastic disc” style design. Having previously received an Adonit Jot Script and Adonit Jot Touch 4 digital stylus for a gift, and done a review on them, it was interesting to see a new alternative called PixelPoint come to the fore.

Adonit’s innovation continues, with the release of the Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint, released sometime mid-2014. I’ve been lucky enough to have been gifted one, so lets give it a spin.

Unboxing

The Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint is available in two colours – a black (which is sort of charcoal grey), and white. They come packaged in Adonit’s standard clear plastic shell, for full visibility of the product inside.

DSC_9820

DSC_9821At first glance, it would be easy to confuse this with the Jot Script, noted before, but there are a few key differences which will be explained along the way.

One of the first main differences is that this Jot Touch brings 2048 level pressure sensitivity to the Pixelpoint tip. The Jot Script doesn’t have analogue pressure sensitivity at all.

Secondly, the Jot Touch has two short-cut buttons available, whereas the Jot Script only has the one power on/off button.

Thirdly, the Jot Touch has a rubberized grip, whereas the Jot Script has a ribbed plastic finish.

Finally, this Jot Touch contains an internal rechargeable battery and charging stand, whereas the Jot Script is happy to run off a AAA battery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_9822

Unfolding the case gives us a clearer view. With the pen on full exhibition, we can clearly see the LED indicator window above the two short cut buttons which indicate status. Unlike former LEDs, this one is now tri-colour, flashing green for pairing success, blue for waiting for pairing, red for charging or powering off and green for fully charged. To turn on/off the stylus, you must press and hold the bottom button, but unlike previous Adonit stylii, you must hold the button for a lot longer (12-15 seconds) to force it to power off (red flashes).

DSC_9823

The full inclusions are pictured above – there is a magnetic USB charging base similar to the one provided with the Jot Touch 4, but note they are not directly interchangeable, as the diameter of the Jot Touch with Pixelpoint is larger. As a result, you could charge the Jot Touch 4 with this one, but you must carefully centre the pen on the charger. There is a quick start leaflet, which is inside a black plastic wallet.

DSC_9825 DSC_9824

Above are more close-ups of the pen, including the removable regulatory label, which I’m sure most users will remove right away.

The pen itself, while described as Pixelpoint, has a different Pixelpoint to the Jot Script. It has a dark, smooth ceramic coating, with a “bevelled” edge shape, rather than a rounded one. The tip itself is somewhat larger as well.

DSC_9828

The barrel itself is not as thin as the Jot Touch 4, and is “chunkier” like the Jot Script. The difference in the charging base connector can be seen in the photo below.

DSC_9830

As such, it seems the Jot Touch with Pixelpoint is a bit of a “hybrid” between the Jot Script and Jot Touch 4 stylii – a combination we knew was inevitably going to come to market sooner or later.

In Action

As usual, Jot Touch pens work best with iOS devices, especially with apps that are “Jot Touch Ready”. In this quick demo, I will be using Procreate, a paid-for sketching app running under iOS 8.1.2 on a 3rd generation iPad.

The pen itself was pretty much fully charged as received, only spending a minute in the charging dock before going green.

pressure-sens

benefitsSuffice it to say, powering the pen up was all it took for Procreate to immediately connect with and start receiving the pressure data. As a result, it was able to render handwriting with personality, although the pressure “falloff” seemed to be a little slow on the uplift of the pen. This might have something to do with my brush choice as well, but it definitely feels better than the Jot Script for drawing purposes.

The biggest advantage of the Pixelpoint technology is the hard-wearing tip, that does not require a cap to protect it. There is also no disc to scratch, or lose inadvertently, which can be a costly replacement exercise if lost often enough.

In general, the pen glides smoothly across the screen, even if it’s a little dirty, quite like how the Jot Script did. In Procreate, palm rejection is not available/is a bit funny, so careful manipulation of the canvas and stylus is necessary to ensure no stray marks. Other applications, such as Adobe Ideas, may work better when it comes to this.

However, it seems, the Pixelpoint is not without its drawbacks. When held perfectly vertically, the pen performs quite well and the registration is pretty much exact.

DSC_9833

But as soon as you start tilting the pen, as is natural when sketching, the registration is offset.

DSC_9835

This can make precision sketching and drawing a little more difficult. This comes about likely because the projected capacitance is a function of the tip and the conical metal collar around the tip. When at an angle, the screen perceives the centre of the “projected” shape of the tip and conical collar as the “finger”.

See how this doesn’t happen with the Jot Touch 4, because the screen perceives the disc as the finger, and the centre of the disc as the location. This one taken with the pen held vertically.

DSC_9839

And this one held at an extreme angle, limited by the disc itself.

DSC_9840

goodpen-fwWhen connected to Procreate, it identifies itself as a device 01P00JTPP with version 1.04 firmware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quality Control Issue?

With the release of the Jot Script, some users have reported issues with quality control with some defective pens reaching some unhappy users. Unfortunately, the same thing seems to have happened this time, and it affects the white pen.

DSC_9836

I have powered down the pen and rebooted it (powering down takes 12-15s of pressing on the lower shortcut button). It connects and shines green to indicate connection, but the pressure data doesn’t seem to be sent, and thus nothing is “drawn” on the canvas. The shortcut buttons work. After a short time, a message comes on the screen indicating the pen has disconnected, despite not being commanded to do so. The battery was confirmed as fully charged, so it’s likely this one is defective.

badpen-fwChecking the connection, it seems that the device ID is not being passed, and the firmware version is an earlier 1.03.

This might indicate a failure to program the internal microcontroller correctly at the factory, or apply the latest firmware to the device.

Unfortunately, it seems this device has to be returned to manufacturer for replacement.

 

 

 

Conclusion

The Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint is very much the product of hybridizing the Adonit Script and Adonit Jot Touch 4. While it has the functionality conveniences of an internal rechargeable battery, pressure sensitivity and two shortcut buttons from the Jot Touch 4, it inherits the no-disc Pixelpoint from the Script (albeit a little larger) and chunkier body.

While in theory, that is a marriage of positive points, the actual experience seems to be a little different. Primarily this seems to be down to a limitation in the way the Pixelpoint technology interacts with capacitive touch-screens – the loss of the disc causes a reduction in accuracy especially when using the pen at a tilt. This slight loss of precision varies as a function of the tilt angle, and is not particularly welcome where a user has an expectation that the pen will draw where the tip is placed.

As a result, it’s a good try, but the conveniences do come with their drawbacks, and users will have to decide whether precision (at the cost of fragile plastic discs which can be lost or scratched) is important, or convenience is the aim (at the cost of precision). Furthermore, they will need to hope that they aren’t unlucky and receive a dud.

Posted in Tablet | Tagged , , | 3 Comments