KnewKeys gnu mekanykal quibhord

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2018 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: input, knewkey, rymek, mechanical keyboard, bluetooth

Do you long for the days of mechanical typewriters, but feel that history missed out by not including lighting under the keys?  If so, then the Rymek is perfect for you as it resembles the former and features the latter.  The wheel and carriage return level at the top of the board have been re-purposed, instead of advancing paper the wheel now controls your audio, while the lever switches the board between wired functionality and BlueTooth; which The Tech Report had issues using.  Find out more about the Rymek, including how KnewKey is going to resolve the connectivity issues in the full review.

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"KnewKey's Rymek mechanical keyboard pairs retro styling with modern mechanical key switches and versatile wired and wireless connections. We put its saddle-shaped key caps to the test with a range of devices to see whether it can back up its old-school looks with modern performanc"

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Going back for a third serving of Raspberry Pi

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 22, 2018 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: sbc, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi, gigabit ethernet, dual band, bluetooth, 802.11ac

Tim did a great write up of the new hardware found in the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ which you should check out below if you missed.  Technical specifications are only the first step as we still need to see how the new 1.4GHz Cortex A53's perform in benchmarks and Phoronix have published just that.  They compared the Pi 3 to a variety of chips including the previous model, ASUS' Tinkerboard, the two Jetson boards, a few Celerons and even a Core i3.  Overall the chip showed an advantage over the previous model; not earth shattering but as the price remains at $35 for the Pi 3 that is still a good deal.

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"I've been spending the past few days putting the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ through its paces the past few days with an array of benchmarks while comparing the performance to other ARM SBCs as well as a few lower-end Intel x86 systems too. Here is all you need to know about the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ performance."

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Source: Phoronix

Pi Foundation Releases Refreshed $35 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2018 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: sbc, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi, gigabit ethernet, dual band, bluetooth, 802.11ac

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently released the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ with refreshed hardware. The new single board computer retains its predecessor's $35 price tag while including a tweaked SoC with faster clockspeeds and improved power management as well as moves to modern Gigabit Ethernet and dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking. The Pi Foundation has further managed to shield the board such that it can be certified as a radio board under FCC rules which should make end product certification an easier process.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.jpg

On the outside, not much has changed as the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ has the same form factor and board layout and I/O options as previous models. Digging a bit deeper though, nestled under a new heatspreader lies the Broadcom BCM2837B0 which can run its four ARM Cortex A53 cores at up to 1.4 GHz or run at the same 1.2 GHz clocks as the Pi 3 Model B (BCM2837) while using less power. A MaxLinear MxL7704 power management IC regulates board power and processor clockspeeds to keep it from overheating. Below 70°C the SoC runs at 1.4 GHz, but if it heats up to above that it will reduce voltage and clocks to 1.2 GHz. If the chip continues to heat up past 80°C it trips the thermal throttle, and clockspeeds will be further reduced until temperatures fall. The Pi Foundation notes that the new heatspreader should help it run faster and for longer lengths of time than the Pi 3 Model B. On the networking side of things, the upgraded Wi-Fi is powered by a Cypress CYW4355 and a Proant PCB antenna (similar to the one used in the Pi Zero W) for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy while the Gigabit Ethernet is powered by a LAN7515 chipset.

Note than the wired networking is still limited by the USB 2.0 bus, and the board itself has not been upgraded with USB 3.0 support or any USB 3 ports unlike many of its competitors (which is unfortunate). According to the Pi Foundation, the new SBC can hit 102 Mbps over 5 GHz Wi-Fi and up to 315 Mbps over a wired connection which is a huge boost over the Pi 3 Model B's ~36 Mbps wireless and ~95 Mbps wired performance. Interestingly, the new board features PXE boot turned on by default and support for PoE (802.3af) using a POE HAT which has a switched power supply for converting the 37V DC from PoE sources to the 5V/2.5A needed by the Pi.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ PoE HAT.jpg

The Raspberry Pi 3 with its POE HAT connected via the 40-pin GPIO header.

The Videocore IV GPU, HDMI 1.3, 1GB LPDDR2, USB 2.0, and other features of the small form factor PC remain unchanged. The Pi Foundation plans to produce this model until 2023 and hints at "+" model refreshes for the Pi 3 Model A and Pi CM3 and CM3L compute modules coming soon. The Pi 3 Model B+ is listed for $35 (the same as the non-plus model) and joins the existing lineup of Pi 3s of which the foundation has sold 9 million of so far!

What are your thoughts on the refreshed Pi 3?

Qualcomm Introduces TrueWireless Stereo Plus and Broadcast Audio

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: wireless audio, TrueWireless, stereo, qualcomm, occluded, music, Broadcast Audio, bluetooth

Just ahead of MWC, Qualcomm has a pair of announcements to make regarding new Bluetooth wireless technologies, beginning with enhancements to their TrueWireless Stereo technology; a fully wireless solution for devices such as earbuds and the 'hearables' category supported by Qualcomm's new QCC5100 Bluetooth SoC, introduced at CES 2018. This update to TrueWireless Stereo promises "an easier pairing experience with no need to pair individual earbuds" along with "the ability to autonomously role switch each earbud between primary and secondary roles in order to balance power consumption more evenly between the buds for longer playback time".

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The combination of the new QCC5100 SoC with the Snapdragon 845 is said to offer improved battery life thanks to enhancements lowering power consumption, and the combination of lower latency and a better pairing experience makes this very interesting as we enter a year that will see many Smartphones powered by the new SDM845 platform. Earbuds connected via TrueWireless Stereo Plus each pair with the device individually, rather than the common method of a single earbud connection - "cross-head Bluetooth transmission" - with a second Bluetooth wireless connection from one earbud to the other stereo channel. If that sounds confusing, it really is, and with standard fully wireless options you are at the mercy of the relay connection as far as compression, latency, and channel separation is concerned.

TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design.jpg

TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design

"Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus is an additional mode of the technology designed to eliminate the need for cross-head Bluetooth transmission by simultaneously connecting the mobile device to both earbuds. In this new operating mode only the relevant audio content is engineered to relay to each bud helping to improve robustness and more evenly balance power consumption. When paired with a QCC5100 series based device and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus can help to reduce power consumption by up to an additional 10 percent, typically helping to deliver an extra hour of listening time before recharge is needed. Additionally, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus supports an even simpler pairing experience when connecting earbuds to the mobile device and helps to reduce latency because both buds are connected directly to the smartphone."

Another annoucement on the Bluetooth audio front comes as Qualcomm's Broadcast Audio technology is being made available on the Snapdragon 845 platform. What is Broadcast Audio? We aren't talking LTE or even FM radio here, as it simply allows "one Bluetooth source to stream audio to numerous headsets or speakers with near perfect synchronization".

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As Qualcomm explains:

"The technology is designed to support Bluetooth to be used for one-to-many sound broadcasting – helping to extend the capabilities of traditional Bluetooth. Qualcomm Broadcast Audio supports ad-hoc multi-speaker parties, sharing headphones and listening to the same music from a single smartphone, or for group audio tours."

Qualcomm's list of features for Broadcast Audio includes:

  • Simpler set-up and pairing of devices and device management helping users to more easily manage which devices can join
  • Broadcast to numerous devices within Bluetooth range
  • Built-in robustness, automatic retransmission and packet-loss concealment
  • Encrypted audio stream designed to help reduce the risk of eavesdropping

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This integration will not be limited to the Snapdragon 845, as devices using the new QCC5100 SoC as well as others in Qualcomm's range of Bluetooth chips will support Broadcast Audio.

Source: Qualcomm

CES 2018: Corsair Introduces New Wireless Gaming Peripherals

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2018 - 07:19 PM |
Tagged: MX Red, mechanical, keyboard, key switches, K63, gaming, corsair, Cherry MX, bluetooth, 2.4GHz, CES 2018, CES, wireless

Corsair continues the expansion of their peripheral portfolio at CES, and the focus here is wireless. The new products include a new wireless keyboard and mouse (Corsair's first wireless mouse) along with a Qi wireless charging mousepad and new lap board.

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K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

First up is the K63 keyboard, a wireless TKL design with a trio of connection options. In addition to Corsair's 2.4 GHz connection which offers 1 ms latency, there is also the option of connecting via Bluetooth 4.2 (with a latency of 7.5 ms) or use a standard wired connection via USB (which also charges the keyboard).

The K63 keyboard has Cherry MX Red key switches (no option for other colors, currently), individual backlighting, and battery life that ranges from 15 hours of continuous use with default backlighting (default brightness is 66%), up to a whopping 75 hours of continuous use without backlight. AES 128-bit encryption is also supported, and for gamers who do not want the additional latency this adds (total of 1.08 ms), encryption can be toggled on and off via software.

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DARK CORE RGB Wireless Mouse

Corsair's first wireless mouse offers the same three connectivity options as the K63 keyboard, with 2.4 GHz or BT 4.2 wireless in addition to USB, and there is an SE version of the mouse that also supports the Qi wireless standard with its integrated charging coil, and that is complimented by the MM1000 Qi wireless charging mousepad.

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Not only did Corsair announce the new keyboard and mouse, but also the K63 Lapboard for your slick new wireless peripherals. It's a lightweight design that features memory foam padding and a built-in wrist rest, and the mouse pad is removable for cleaning/replacement.

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All of these new wireless peripherals and accessories are available now, with pricing as follows:

  • Dark Core RGB Mouse: $79.99
  • Dark Core RGB SE Mouse: $89.99
  • MM1000 Qi Wireless Charging Mousepad: $79.99
  • K63 Wireless Keyboard: $109.99
  • K63 Wireless Gaming Lapboard: $59.99
  • K63 Wireless Gaming Keyboard/Lapboard Combo: $159.99
Source: Corsair

CES 2018: Qualcomm Introduces QCC5100 Series Low Power Bluetooth SoC

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2018 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, QCC5100, low power, bluetooth, aptX HD, aptX, ANC, active noise cancellation

Qualcomm has announced a new low-power Bluetooth SoC with the QCC5100 series, a single-chip solution targeting wireless earbuds and other audio devices with the promise of longer battery life and better audio quality than existing solutions. The QCC5100 integrates ANC (active noise cancellation), aptX HD audio, and 3rd-party voice assistant support, among other features.

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Qualcomm Biometric Headset Example Design

Features for the QCC5100 from Qualcomm:

  • Low power design and ultra-small form factor
  • Dual-core 32-bit processor application subsystem
  • Dual-core Qualcomm® Kalimba™ DSP Audio subsystem
  • Support for aptX and aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo, and Enhanced ANC (Feed- Forward, Feed-Backward, Hybrid)
  • Voice Assistant Services, low power wake word detection
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and 2 Mbps Bluetooth® Low Energy support
  • Embedded ROM + RAM and support for external Flash memory
  • 2-ch 98dBA headset class D (integrated amplifier)
  • 2-ch 99dBA line inputs (single ended)
  • 192kHz 24-bit I2S & SPDIF interfaces
  • Flexible software platform with powerful new IDE support

TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design.jpg

Qualcomm Occluded Earbuds Example Design

Qualcomm says this new chip - a ground-up design with a quad-core processor architecture (2x APs and 2x DSPs) - offers power savings of up to 65% and provides up to 3x playback time of current Bluetooth devices on the market.

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Qualcomm has shown device designs using the new SoC including occluded earbuds (no wire connecting the two) and a biometric headset, and while there are no announcements on shipping products Qualcomm expects to have examples for manufacturers in the first half of 2018.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Qualcomm

Skimmer Scanner, a start to protecting yourself at the pump

Subject: General Tech | September 25, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: skimmer scanner, security, bluetooth

If you haven't seen the lengths which scammers will go to when modifying ATMs to steal your bank info you should really take a look at these pictures and get in the habit of yanking on the ATM's fascia and keyboard before using them.  Unfortunately as Hack a Day posted about last week, the bank is not the only place you have to be cautious, paying at the pump can also expose your details.  In this case it is not a fake front which you need to worry about, instead a small PIC microcontroller is attached to the serial connection between card reader and pump computer, so it can read the unencrypted PIN and data and then store the result in an EEPROM device for later collection.  The device often has Bluetooth connectivity so that the scammers don't need to drive right up to the pump frequently.

There is an app you can download that might be able to help stop this, an app on Google Play will detect Bluetooth devices utilizing the standard codes the skimmers use and alert you.  You can then tweet out the location of the compromised pump to alert others, and hopefully letting the station owner and authorities know as well.  The app could be improved with automatic reporting and other tools, so check it out and see if you can help improve it as well as keeping your PIN and account safe when fuelling up. 

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"It would be nice to think that this work might draw attention to the shocking lack of security in gas pumps that facilitates the skimmers, disrupt the finances of a few villains, and even result in some of them getting a free ride in a police car. We can hope, anyway."

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Source: Hack a Day

How To: Add AptX Bluetooth Audio to a Windows PC

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2017 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: windows, sony, qualcomm, mdr1000x, CSR Harmony, bluetooth, aptX, a2dp

Recently, to prepare for a long plane flight I bought a pair of Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth noise canceling headphones. While I won't get into the specifics of these headphones other than that I have been really satisfied with them, when I returned from my trip I wanted to start using them at the office.

Seemingly that would be easy, as these headphones feature a 3.5mm input, but I am frequently walking around the office and I wanted to fully utilize the wireless features. While I could have just used any Bluetooth adapter compatible with Windows, I wanted to test out one of the features of these headphones —  AptX technology.

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AptX is an alternate Bluetooth audio codec from Qualcomm which aims to feature higher audio quality. Sebastian took a look at a pair of AptX-enabled headphones earlier this year, and I have wanted to check out the technology ever since.

I went to Amazon, and did a search for "AptX Bluetooth USB" and found a wide array of options, so I did what anyone would naturally do — I bought the cheapest one and hoped it would work

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After receiving the USB adapter, I first installed the CSR Harmony software from the Azio website. This is a piece of software that sits on top of the Windows Bluetooth Stack and enabled advanced Bluetooth features, including AptX, on certain Bluetooth chipsets.

Once the software was installed, I plugged in the device and found a new Bluetooth icon sitting in my Windows tray.

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From here, you can simply right click the icon and search for a new Bluetooth device.

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Once I put the headphones into pairing mode I was able to pair to them successfully.

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And, that's it! Once you are successfully paired to an AptX device, you should see this popup from the Windows tray confirming that AptX is working. From here, you can use the headphones just like you would with any Windows audio playback device. 

This certainly isn't a review of AptX audio quality, I will defer to Sebastian's analysis for that in which he calls the headphones he tested "audiophile-approved Bluetooth."

For a $12 investment, it seems like a no-brainer for users who already have an AptX-enabled device that they use on their smartphone.

Source: Azio
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Qualcomm aptX

Introduction

Bluetooth has come a long way since the technology was introduced in 1998. The addition of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) in 2003 brought support for high-quality audio streaming, but Bluetooth still didn’t offer anywhere near the quality of a wired connection. This unfortunate fact is often overlooked in favor of the technology's convenience factor, but what if we could have the best of both worlds? This is where Qualcomm's aptX comes in, and it is a departure from the methods in place since the introduction of Bluetooth audio.

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What is aptX audio? It's actually a codec that compresses audio in a very different manner than that of the standard Bluetooth codec, and the result is as close to uncompressed audio as the bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth technology can possibly allow. Qualcomm describes aptX audio as "a bit-rate efficiency technology that ensures you receive the highest possible sound quality from your Bluetooth audio device," and there is actual science to back up this claim. After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject as I prepared for this review, I found that the technology behind aptX audio, and its history, is very interesting.

A Brief History of aptX Audio

The aptX codec has actually been around since long before Bluetooth, with its invention in the 1980s and first commercial applications beginning in the 1990s. The version now found in compatible Bluetooth devices is 4th-generation aptX, and in the very beginning it was actually a hardware product (the APTX100ED chip). The technology has had a continued presence in pro audio for three decades now, with a wider reach than I had ever imagined when I started researching the topic. For example, aptX is used for ISDN line connections for remote voice work (voice over, ADR, foreign language dubs, etc.) in movie production, and even for mix approvals on film soundtracks. In fact, aptX was also the compression technology behind DTS theater sound, which had its introduction in 1993 with Jurassic Park. It is in use in over 30,000 radio stations around the world, where it has long been used for digital music playback.

Qualcomm aptX.jpg

So, while it is clear that aptX is a respected technology with a long history in the audio industry, how exactly does this translate into improvements for someone who just wants to listen to music over a bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth connection? The nature of the codec and its differences/advantages vs. A2DP is a complex topic, but I will attempt to explain in plain language how it actually can make Bluetooth audio sound better. Having science behind the claim of better sound goes a long way in legitimizing perceptual improvements in audio quality, particularly as the high-end audio industry is full of dubious - and often ridiculous - claims. There is no snake-oil to be sold here, as we are simply talking about a different way to compress and uncompress an audio signal - which is the purpose of a codec (code, decode) to begin with.

Continue reading our review of Qualcomm aptX audio technology!

CES 2017: Audio-Technica Expands Wireless Headphone Lineup with aptX Bluetooth

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 10:02 PM |
Tagged: wireless, headphones, CES 2017, CES, bluetooth, aptX

On the high-end audio side of things Audio-Technica has added to its wireless headphone lineup with both on-ear and in-ear models featuring aptX technology for high quality Bluetooth audio.

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ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT headphones

The high-end ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT are Audio-Technica's first wireless headphones with their new Pure Digital Drive system:

This new technology keeps the audio signal completely digital from the audio source to the headphones’ drivers, without the need for D/A conversion stages that typically degrade the sound quality. Traditionally, the digital signal goes through a series of steps that process and transform the wireless signal. This presents several opportunities for distortion in audio quality. Our Pure Digital Drive technology eliminates the opportunities for disruption and distortion that occur in the conversion stages, providing users with a high-quality listening experience.

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SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT headphones

Other new models include a "high-performance/high-value" offering in the SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT on-ear headphones, a compact folding design with a new dynamic driver "to deliver richly detailed sound" that the company says "sets a new value standard for high-performance on-ear wireless headphones" at its $119 MSRP.

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ATH-CKS990BT and ATH-CKS550BT in-ear monitors

In-ear options ATH-CKS990BT ($199) and ATH-CKS550BT ($119) in the Solid Bass series feature "Dual Magnetic Field drivers with Multiple-Transition diaphragms for improved sound", and will provide better wireless functionality and better controls than previous models.

All of these new wireless headphones and in-ear monitors will be available this spring.

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