Lets face it, Reviewing stuff is cool. From time to time we get stuff in the mail that we can tweet or blog our opinions about. This lets us play with some pretty cool stuff, and sometimes we even get to review stuff that you can’t just ship. So when LG asked us to review their 55 inch 4K Oled TV, we thought we were going to need a bigger mailbox. It turns out WE got to go and review IT for a night in a fancy penthouse suite in Brussels. The life of a blogger is hard.
After we had settled into the little penthouse and managed to tear away our eyes from the wonderful view, it was time to check out the tv. The lightly curved 4K 55 inch monster is quite elegant for its size. No overdone “HERE I AM” pimped out casing, no blinking lights.. Just a 55 inch slightly curved monolith … and its “full of stars” !
Black is Black.
Once you turn it on you see what OLED is all about. For those of you who don’t know. Regular LED tv’s have “lightbars” at the edges of the screen, “lighting up” the pixels as it where. This means that pixels that are set to “black” still “bleed” some of this light through resulting in dark grey tones instead of actual black. Depending on the quality of your LED tv this might vary.
With Oled every pixel generates its own lightsource. So when the pixel is told to go BLACK it just switches off … resulting in true black. This is of course a lot of technobabble, so what is the result ? The end result is that the colors are amazing and that black is really black. During our first demo, a scene from “House of Cards”, where Claire is standing with her back to the edge of the frame wearing a black dress, there was no way to distinguish the black dress with the black edge of the tv. Impressive !
So how about this 4K stuff ?
Double the resolution of an HD Tv and you get 4K. That’s a resolution of 4096 by 2160 pixels. Result ? Watch yourself some 4K Netflix and you get to see a whole new level of detail. During the pilot episode of “The Blacklist” we saw small motes of dust floating through the scene. Each individual hair that was somehow out of place on the head of the lead character was visible. 4K will be a makeup artists nightmare ! The level of detail is so uncanny that at some point we noticed a booger (yes a booger) up the left nostril of one of the characters. We seriously shit you not: Much resolution, So 4K wow !
One thing that was familiar on the LG was the Smart OS that runs it. One could not tell by the looks but the “smart” part is actually HP’s WEB OS. Yeah, that’s the OS that never made it to the tablet space and died in a dark corner at Wallmart. But its offspring is alive and kicking. You can control it with the remote, using the buttons OR using it as a pointer. The interface is fine and responds pretty snappy. We liked it.
The only thing we were not that impressed with was the sound. Although the Tv features Harman Kardon speakers, the sound was a little ‘flat’. But I guess when you have the budget to buy one of these beauties, getting a 600 euro sound bar is peanuts.
So in the end ?
The LG 4k TV is a little bit like driving a Tesla for a day. Its awesome, its fantastic, its the best of the best and .. its also the price of 3 kidneys. At 3999 euro’s for the 55″ model and 5999 for the 65″ model, things might be a little bit outside our price range. We worry a little about the amount of 4k content that is available right now. Sure there is some on Netflix (Costs you a little extra though) but does it satisfy the purchase today ?
Our review of the LG 55EG960V Ultra HD 4K TV (as it is officially called) showed us a peek in whats to come in the near future of TV entertainment. Bight colors, solid blacks, awesome resolutions and hopefully a more affordable price range. And lets not forget new drinking games where you have to take a shot every time you see a booger up the nose of one of the lead characters !
This edition of the knightwise.com podcast brings another product review. This time Knightwise cracks into the Dell XPS 13. This laptop brings with it one distinguishing feature that not many mainstream laptop vendors provide: it’s preloaded with Linux.
Pop in those earbuds or crank up the car speakers. It’s time to dive in with the Dell XPS 13.
This week we have a special treat. We have a chance to listen to Knightwise answering some questions instead of being on his usual side of the microphone. This week’s show is an interview that Knightwise gave on a recent episode of Podnutz Daily.
This week’s show is an in-depth look at the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft. We tackle the hardware, the software and the applications that make this device a contender for a daily driver. We also have another great track from Daniel Messer. Let’s get into it!
- Project Scorpion – Heaven and Earth
This week Knightwise travels to the Acer Green show and brings a couple of interviews with from the show floor as well as some “live” music.
- Acer Aspire Switch 10 E
- Acer Aspire Switch 11
- Acer Aspire R11
- Acer Aspire R13
- Acer S7
- Acer M220
- Acer Liquid Jade Z
- The Map Trio – Facebook
This week’s edition of the Knightwise.com podcast brings another installment of Storytime. Sit back and relax to some tunes selected by the Cyberpunk Librarian, Daniel Messer, and two stories from the archives: “Offline” and “When Wanting is More Pleasing than Having”.
This weeks guestblog is brought to us by Daniel Messer, aka the Cyberpunk librarian. Find out more about Daniel, his podcast and his awesome website over at Cyberpunk librarian.Com
Digital signage is a passion of mine which is odd because, for the most part, I hate advertising. When you think “digital signs” you have to think about advertising because the two go hand and hand, right? You see them all over the place from your local big box store where they use monitors on end-caps to sell you stuff you don’t need to the trendy Apple store where they’ll use an iPad Air 2 as a digital sign.
That’s a baseline US$500 device sitting there. It kicked off the tablet revolution and ushered in a so-called “Post PC Era.” And there it is, bolted to a table, telling you why you’d want to buy a PC. That’s irony so thick you could spread it on toast.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
As a public library webmaster, one of my jobs is managing the digital signs in our branches. I don’t create the content so much anymore, but I handle the tech side when needed. These things run off of small, dedicated PCs running Windows 7. Their administrative interface is lousy, the PCs are overkill as they’re rolling glorified PowerPoint presentations, and the big screen monitor and PCs kick out enough heat to keep you warm in the winter.
For the record, I live in Phoenix. We really don’t have a winter here.
When I first got my hands on a Pi, I knew this would be better for getting the library’s messages out on digital signs. They’re tiny, produce little heat, could be velcroed to the back of a monitor, and they run on free software. Diving into different software packages I played withScreenly OSE, Concerto, RiseVision, and others before landing on something I really liked — an idea I got at an airport.
The Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport, aka AZA, uses Pis for almost all of their digital signs from the ones dropping ads to the ones that tell you when your flight departs and from what gate. Even the monitors beside the gates use Raspberry Pis to display the gate number, flight number, destination, and so on. I talked with a couple of their IT staff to find out what they used and the answer was surprising and refreshing.
They use a web browser. When you look at those signs, you’re simply looking at a website, in a browser, in full screen mode. The website refreshes itself every so often, and there’s a quick blank screen while it does this, but then you’re presented with the latest information.
I went back to my desk and got to work.
An old server bound for surplus found new life in our racks with an Ubuntu Server installation. I knew I’d have to do things slightly different as our library district covers a huge area while the airport covers a single large building. Instead of using the Pis to call a website, I’d have them bring up web content stored locally, but synced from the server.
I installed Chromium on the Pis because I like how easily you can feed it switches through a command line. That’ll be useful later. I also need to make sure that the screens don’t go blank or into power-save mode. Turns out there are a couple of ways to worry about this, but an easy way to handle it is to simply install XScreenSaver and then disable it.
My Pi OS of choice is Raspbian, which uses LXDE as its desktop environment. That’s excellent because to make all the necessary changes I just need to edit a couple of files, maybe three if you’re running the latest version. Opening up LXTerminal and then running
sudo nano /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart
I added the following lines:
@xset s off
@xset s noblank
@chromium --kiosk --incognito /home/pi/display/index.html
(Depending on your version of Raspbian, you might need to put the @chromium line in
The other three can go in the first file.)
The first three lines disable all the screen blanking stuff that Raspbian would normally do, which forces our screen to stay on. The last one launches Chromium, in a full screen kiosk mode which. When you launch Chromium in incognito mode it won’t remember any previous shutdown errors and thus, never throws an error on startup. Then it displays my index.html in a local directory. Since we’ve put these in the autostart file(s), they will automatically happen when the pi user logs into the GUI. (Which you can set to happen immediately after boot up through
But how to update it?
Since the geographic area covered by the library district is bigger than some east coast states, I wanted things to update quickly, in the background, on a schedule, while reliably pulling down the data and resuming the odd failed transfer. Fortunately, you can do all of that with rsync and cron.
Remember that old server now running Ubuntu? That’s the only place I update the code and content. I can change and add slides, modify the code, save everything, and ten minutes later all the Pi displays are updated. Here’s how that works:
On each Pi, I set up rsync to talk to the server. To do this without a password you need to set up a keypair for the Pi and the server. First thing to do is make sure ssh works between the Pi and server. If so, generate a keypair on the Pi using ssh-keygen. Don’t use a password to generate the keypair and don’t use sudo as the user pi will be doing all the work. Once you have the keypair transfer it to the server using:
ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub user@servername
Replace the user@servername with the user on the server where you’re hosting these files. In this case, the syncing directory is under my own username, dan, in a directory called display.
ssh-copy-id will ask for your login password to the server and, if all goes well, that’ll be the last time it asks for it. Once the keypair is set up between the Pi and the server, you should be able to ssh and rsync without a password.
Now we’re ready to sync things up! Set up a cron job using:
crontab -e -u pi
This will launch nano and you can set up a cron job to call rsync as you like. Me, I do it every ten minutes. That means that, on the very outside, any change I make to the master files will take up to twenty minutes to reflect on the monitors in the branches. I could set it to go more often, but there’s nothing so critical as flight information on those screens. So my cron job looks like this:
*/10 * * * * rsync -az --partial dan@piserver:/home/dan/display /home/display/
Looking back, let’s see what we’ve built. We’ve got a Raspberry Pi, connected to a monitor in a remote location. It’s running a slide show through Chromium and all the content is local, so it comes up fast with no lag. That content is synced to a server via rsync running as a cron job and everything updates every ten minutes, both the browser and the content.
So in the end, we’ve used no software geared specifically towards digital signage. The digital sign is powered by open source operating systems, running open source software, on open source hardware. As a librarian into open access, that’s the kind of thing that really makes my day.
“Wanting is more pleasing then having” : It’s not logical, but it is the truth. It’s a line Spock must have quoted in some long gone Star Trek episode somewhere (please don’t ask me, I can’t remember which one). For some reason it has stuck in my mind for the longest time. “It’s not logical but it’s the truth” is the follow up line .. completing the entire statement and lifting it to the realm of existence-pondering quotes out there.
I don’t wear sandals and have a neck beard.
We kick off season 10 of the Knightwise.com podcast with a hands on review of the BQ Ubuntu Phone. We review the hardware, talk about the fledgling OS and see how the phone holds up in “daily use”. Splice in some cool tunes selected by Daniel Mesner and you have yourself the first episode of the Knightwise.com podcast, season 10.
- The BQ Aquaris
- The Ubuntu Phone App Store
- Ubuntu “Next” (Fusion between the desktop and the Touch OS)
“There is an app for that ! “. How many times have you heard that phrase, probably uttered by some smartphone waving geek who instantly shows you how to fix problem Xyz in your life using a pre-packaged app. And there is nothing wrong with that.. as long as there IS an app. But what if there is not ? What if you spend hours online looking for an app that doesn’t exist or doesn’t quite do what you want it to do ? Wouldn’t your wish to be able to TELL your computer exactly what to do ? Well there is ! It’s called programming. Don’t worry if it sounds weird but before the time of beard-sporting iphone hipsters with 5997 apps on their smartphones we used to PROGRAM our machines to work for us.
A great way to start to learn how to program is by using a raspberry pi. The inexpensive mini computer is a great place to start when you want to learn how to program. The Pi is geared heavily towards the Python language and offers great tools which you can use when you want to learn how to code (or teach your kid on how to code). But where do you start ?
The Full Circle magazine has been running a series on “how to program in python” for quite some time. They have collected all these articles into 3 PDF Issues of their magazine that you can download for free. Its a great way to start your first baby steps into Python scripting and discovering you don’t always need an “app for that”. Even with a few basic programming skills you can upstage those app-jockeys by saying ” I WROTE a script for that !”. So download the tutorial, grow a beard, put on sandals and start screaming profanities towards closed source software, because you’re on your way to becoming a Python Programmer !