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Posts Tagged ‘bbc’

A Day at Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0

December 6th, 2017 6 comments

The Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0 is now taking place until December 9, and I went there today, as I was especially interested in the scheduled NB-IoT talk and workshop to find out what was the status about LPWA in Thailand. But there are many other activities planned, and if you happen to be in Chiang Main in the next few days, you may want to check out the schedule on the event page or Facebook.

I’m going to go though what I’ve done today to give you a better idea about the event, or even the maker movement in Thailand.

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Booth and activity area should be the same over the 4 days, but the talks, open activity, and workshop will be different each day. Today, people could learn how to solder in the activity area.
The even was not really big with manufacturers/sellers like ThaiEasyElec, INEX, or Gravitech closer to the entrance…


… and slighter higher up in a different zone, companies and makers were showcasing their products or projects. I still managed to spent 5 interesting hours at the event attending to talks and checking out the various projects.

I started my day with a talk entitled “Maker Movement in South East Asia” presented by William Hooi, previously a teacher, who found One Maker Group and setup the first MakerSpace in Singapore, as well as helped introduce the Maker Faire in Singapore in 2012 onwards.


There was three parts to talk with an history of the Maker movement (worldwide), the maker movement in Singapore, and whether Making should be integrated into school curriculum.
He explained at first the government who not know about makers, so it was difficult to get funding, but eventually they jump on the bandwagon, and are now puring money on maker initiative. One thing that surprised me in the talk is that before makers were hidden their hobby, for fear of being mocked by other, for one for one person doing an LED jacket, and another working on an Iron Man suit. The people around them would not understand why they would waste their time on such endeavors, but the Maker Space and Faire helped finding like minded people. Some of the micro:bit boards apparently ended in Singapore, and when I say some, I mean 100,000 units. Another thing that I learned is the concept of “digital retreat for kids” where parents send kids to make things with their hands – for example soldering -, and not use smartphone or tablets at all, since they are already so accustomed to those devices.

One I was done with the talk, I walked around, so I’ll report about some of the interesting project I came across. I may write more detailed posts for some of the items lateron.

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Falling object detection demo using OpenCV on the software side, a webcam connected to…

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ASUS Tinker board to handle fall detection, and an NVIDIA Jetson board for artificial intelligence. If fall is detection an alert to send to the tablet, and the system also interfaces with Xiaomi Mi band 2.

Katunyou has also made a more compact product, still based on Tinker Board, for nursing home, or private home where an elderly may live alone. The person at the stand also organizes Raspberry Pi 3 workshops in Chiang Mai.

I found yet another product based on Raspberry Pi 3 board. SRAN is a network security device made by Global Tech that report threats from devices accessing your network using machine learning.

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Nordic Technology House showcased a magic mirror based on Raspberry Pi 3, and a webcam to detect your dance move, but their actual product shown above is a real-time indoor air monitoring system that report temperature, humidity, CO2 level, and PM 2.5 levels, and come sent alerts via LINE if thresholds are exceeded.

One booth had some drones including the larger one above spraying insecticides for the agriculture market.

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There was also a large about sewing machines, including some smarter one where you can design embroidery in a table before sewing.

There were also a few custom ESP8266 or ESP32 boards, but I forgot to take photos.

The Maker Party is also a good place to go with your want to buy some board or smart home devices.

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Beside Raspberry Pi Zero W / 3, ESP8266 boards and Asus Tinker board seem to be popular items in Thailand. I could also spot Sonoff wireless switch, and an Amazon Dot, although I could confirm only English is supported, no Thai language.

BBC Micro:bit board and accessories can also be bought at the event.


M5Stack modules, and Raspberry Pi 3 Voice Kit were also for sale.

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Books are also available for ESP32, Raspberry Pi 3, IoT, etc… in Thai language.

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But if you can’t read Thai there was also a choice of book in English about RPi, Arduino, Linux for Makers, IoT and so on. I then attended the second talk of the day: “NB-IoT” by AIS, one of the top telco company in Thailand. Speakers included Phuchong Charoensub, IoT Marketing Specialist, and Pornsak Hanvoravongchai, Device Innovation Manager, among others. They went through various part include a presentation of AIS current M2M business, what IoT will change (e.g. brings in statups and makers), some technical details about NB-IoT, and the company offering for makers.

I’ll go into more details in a separate post tomorrow, but if you want to get started the good news is that it’s now possible to pre-order a 1,990 THB Arduino Shield ($61) between December 6-9, and get it shipped on February 14, 2018. NB-IoT connectivity is free for one year, and will then cost 350 Baht (around $10) per year per device. However, there’s a cost to enable NB-IoT on LTE base stations, so AIS will only enable NB-IoT at some universities, and maker spaces, meaning for example, I would most certainly be able to use such kit from home. An AIS representative told me their no roadmap for deployment, it will depend on the business demand for such services.

If you are lucky you may even spot one or two dancing dinosaurs at the event.

Embedded Linux Conference & OpenIoT Summit 2017 Schedule

February 4th, 2017 1 comment

The Embedded Linux Conference 2017 and the OpenIoT Summit 2017 will take place earlier than last year, on February  20 – 23, 2017 in Portland, Oregon, USA. This will be the 12th year for ELC, where kernel & system developers, userspace developers, and product vendors meet and collaborate. The schedule has been posted on the Linux Foundation website, and whether you’re going to attend or not, it’s always informative to check out the topics.

So as usual, I’ll make a virtual schedule for all 5 days.

Monday, February 20

For the first day, the selection is easy, as choices are limited, and the official first day it actually on Tuesday. You can either attend a full-day paid training sessions entitled “Building A Low Powered Smart Appliance Workshop“, and the only session that day:

  • 14:30 – 15:20 – Over-the-air (OTA) Software Updates without Downtime or Service Disruption, by Alfred Bratterud, IncludeOS

Millions of consumers are at risk from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software. In theory all devices should update automatically, but in practice, updating is often complicated, time-consuming and requires manual intervention from users. IncludeOS is a unikernel operating system that enables over-the-air (OTA) software updates of connected devices without downtime or service disruption.

The talk starts with a brief introduction to unikernels, their capabilities and how they can be very beneficial for IoT products from security, performance and operational perspectives. Then we give an overview of the IncludeOS Live Update functionality, which we use to demonstrate an atomic update of a device using Mender.io.

Tuesday, February 21

  • 10:30 – 11:20 – Bluetooth 5 is here, by Marcel Holtmann, Open Source Technology Center, Intel

The next version of Bluetooth has been released just a few month ago. This presentation gives an introduction to Bluetooth 5 and its impacts on the ecosystem. It shows new and exciting use cases for low energy devices and IoT with the focus on Linux and Zephyr operating systems.

With Bluetooth 5, the wireless technology continues to evolve to meet the needs of the industry as the global wireless standard for simple and secure connectivity. With 4x range, 2x speed and 8x broadcasting message capacity, the enhancements of Bluetooth 5 focus on increasing the functionality of Bluetooth for the IoT. These features, along with improved interoperability and coexistence with other wireless technologies, continue to advance the IoT experience by enabling simple and effortless interactions across the vast range of connected devices.

  • 11:30 – 12:20 – Embedded Linux Size Reduction Techniques, by Michael Opdenacker, Free Electrons

Are you interested in running Linux in a system with very small RAM and storage resources? Or are you just trying to make the Linux kernel and its filesystem as small as possible, typically to boot faster?

This talk will detail approaches for reducing the size of the kernel, of individual applications and of the whole filesystem. Benchmarks will you show how much you can expect to save with each approach.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – Moving from IoT to IIoT with Maker Boards, Linux, and Open-Source Software Tools, by Matt Newton, Opto 22

In this session, developers will learn how to use the open-source tools, maker boards, and technology they’re already familiar with to develop applications that have the potential to deliver a massive positive impact on society. There are billions of devices–sensors, I/O, control systems, motors, pumps, drives–siloed behind proprietary control and information systems, waiting to be tapped into. This workshop is geared towards teaching the developer community how to use the tools they’re already familiar with to access, monitor, and manage these assets to create a potentially huge positive impact on our way of life.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – Debugging Usually Slightly Broken (USB) Devices and Drivers, by Krzysztof Opasiak, Samsung R&D Institute Poland

USB is definitely the most common external interface. Millions of people are using it every day and thousands of them have problems with it. Driver not found, incorrect driver bound, kernel oops are just examples of common problems which we are all facing. How to solve them or at least debug? If you’d like to find out, then this talk is exactly for you!

We will start with a gentle introduction to the USB protocol itself. Then standard Linux host side infrastructure will be discussed. How drivers are chosen? How can we modify matching rules of a particular driver? That’s only couple of questions which will be answered in this part. Final part will be an introduction to USB communication sniffing. Krzysztof will show how to monitor and analyze USB traffic without expensive USB analyzers.

  • 16:20 – 17:10 – SDK in the Browser for Zephyr Project, by Sakari Poussa, Intel

Starting a development for embedded IoT system can be a tedious task, starting with the tools and SDK installations. You also need to have proper operating system, cables and environment variables set up correctly in order to do anything. This can take hours if not days. In this tutorial, we present an alternative, fast and easy way to start IoT development. All you need is your Zephyr board, USB cable and Web Browser. The Zephyr will be running JavaScript Runtime for Zephyr including a “shell” developer mode and Web USB. The Browser has the IDE where you can edit and download code to your board. No compiling, flashing or rebooting is required. During the tutorial, we have few boards available and participants can start developing applications for zephyr in 5 minutes.

  • 17:20 – 18:10 – Fun with Zephyr Project and BBC micro:bit, by Marcel Holtmann, Open Source Technology Center, Intel

This presentation shows how Zephyr empowers the BBC micro:bit devices and its Bluetooth chip to do fun things.

  • 18:15 – 19:00 – Yocto Project & OpenEmbedded BoF, by Sean Hudson, Mentor

Got a comment, question, gripe, praise, or other communication for the Yocto Project and/or OpenEmbedded technical leaders? Or maybe you just want to learn more about these projects and their influence on the world of embedded Linux? Feel free to join us for an informal BoF.

Wednesday, February 22

  • 10:40 – 11:30 – Journey to an Intelligent Industrial IOT Network, by Giuseppe (Pino) de Candia, Midokura

There are 66 million networked cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? With the use of open systems, open networking, open IOT platforms of course!

Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud while non-essential data is recycled. The system captures all flow information, current and historical.

Pino will draw from real IIOT use cases and discuss the variety of operations and maintenance tool to support proactive policy-based flow analysis for edge computing or fog nodes enabling IT and OT end to end visibility from a network perspective.

  • 11:40 – 12:30 – SecurityPI: IronClad your Raspberry Pi, by Rabimba Karanjai

Raspberry Pi has garnered huge interest in last few years and is now one of the most popular Linux boards out there sparking all kinds of DIY projects. But most of these function with the default settings and connect to the Internet. How secure is your Pi? How easy is it for someone to take over and make it part of a botnet or sneak peek on your privacy?

In this talk Rabimba Karanjai will show how to harden the security of a Raspberry Pi 3. He will showcase different techniques with code examples along with a toolkit made specifically to do that. This cookbook will harden the device and also provide a way to audit and analyze the behavior of the device constantly. After all, protecting the device finally protects us all, by preventing another dyndns DDOS attack.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – IoTivity-Constrained: IoT for Tiny Devices, by Kishen Maloor, Intel Corporation

The IoT will be connected by tiny edge devices with resource constraints. The IoTivity-Constrained project is a small-footprint implementation of the Open Connectivity Foundation’s (OCF) IoT standards with a design that caters to resource-constrained environments. It is lightweight, maintainable and quickly customizable to run on any hardware-software deployment.

This talk will present IoTivity-Constrained’s architecture, features, APIs, and its current integration with a few popular real-time operating systems. It will end with a discussion of IoTivity-Constrained’s adaptation for the Zephyr RTOS.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – RIOT: The Friendly Operating System for the IoT (If Linux Won’t Work, Try RIOT), by Thomas Eichinger, RIOT-OS

This presentation will start with RIOT’s perspective on the IoT, focusing on CPU- and memory-constrained hardware communicating with low-power radios. In this context, similarly to the rest of the Internet, a community-driven, free and open source operating system such as RIOT is key to software evolution, scalability and robustness. After giving an overview to RIOT’s overall architecture and its modular building blocks, the speaker will describe in more detail selected design decisions concerning RIOT’s kernel, hardware abstraction and network stack. Furthermore, the talk will overview the development and organizational processes put in place to help streamline the efforts of RIOT’s heterogeneous community. The presentation will end with an outlook on upcoming features in RIOT’s next releases and longer-term vision.

  • 16:20 – 17:10 – Graphs + Sensors = The Internet of Connected Things, by William Lyon, Neo4j

There is no question that the proliferation of connected devices has increased the volume, velocity, and variety of data available. Deriving value and business insight from this data is an ever evolving challenge for the enterprise. Moving beyond analyzing just discrete data points is when the real value of streaming sensor data begins to emerge. Graph databases allow for working with data in the context of the overall network, not just a stream of values from a sensor. This talk with cover an architecture for working with streaming data and graph databases, use-cases that make sense for graphs and IoT data, and how graphs can enable better real-time decisions from sensor data. Use cases covered will include data from oil and gas pipelines and the transportation industry.

Thursday, February 23

  • 9:00 – 9:50 – Android Things: High Level Introduction, by Anisha Dattatraya & Geeta Krishna, Intel Corporation

An overview of the basic concepts behind Android things and its structure and components is presented. Upon completion of this session, you should have a good overview of how Android Things brings simplicity to IoT software and hardware development by providing a simple and secure deployment and update model. This presentation provides the context needed for the Android Things Tutorial and other deep dive sessions for Android Things.

  • 10:00 – 10:50 – 2017 is the Year of the Linux Video Codec Drivers, by Laurent Pinchart, Ideas on Board

Codecs have long been the poor relation of embedded video devices in the Linux kernel. With the embedded world moving from stateful to stateless codecs, Linux developers were left without any standard solution, forcing vendors and users to resort to proprietary APIs such as OpenMAX.

Despair no more! Very recent additions to V4L2 make it possible to support video codecs with standard Linux kernel APIs. The ChromeOS team has proved that viable solutions exist for codecs without resorting to the proprietary options. This presentation will explain why video codecs took so long to properly support, and how the can be implemented and used with free software and open APIs.

  • 11:10 – 12:00 – Embedded Linux – Then and Now at iRobot, by Patrick Doyle, iRobot

Mr. Doyle will review the history of the use of embedded Linux at a commercial company (iRobot) and discuss the challenges faced (and overcome) then and now. While home routers and WiFi Access Point developers have enjoyed the benefits (and risks) of deploying Linux based products, that has not always been the case for other products. With the advent of low cost cell phone processors and vendor support for Linux, it is now possible to embed a Linux based solution in a consumer retail product such as a vacuum cleaner, minimizing risk and development time in the process.

  • 12:10 – 13:00 – Mainline Linux on AmLogic SoCs, by Neil Armstrong, BayLibre

Inexpensive set-top boxes are everywhere and many of them are powered by AmLogic SoCs. These chips provide 4K H.265/VP9 video decoding and have fully open source Linux kernel and U-boot releases. Unfortunately most of the products based on these devices are running an ancient 3.10 Android kernel. Thankfully AmLogic has put a priority on supporting their chips in the mainline Linux kernel.

Neil will present the challenges and benefits to pushing support for these SoCs upstream, as well as the overall hardware architecture in order to understand the Linux upstreaming decisions and constraints. He will also detail the future development plans aiming to offer a complete experience running an Upstream Linux kernel.

  • 14:30 – 15:20 – OpenWrt/LEDE: When Two become One, by Florian Fainelli, Broadcom Ltd

OpenWrt is a popular Linux distribution and build system primarily targeting the Wi-Fi router/gateway space. The project has been around for more than 12 years, but has recently experienced a schism amongst the developers over various issues.  This resulted in the formation of the LEDE project.  This split has caused confusion among the community and users. This presentation will cover what OpenWrt/LEDE projects are, what problems they are solving in the embedded Linux space, and how they do it differently than the competition. We will specifically focus on key features and strengths: build system, package management, ubus/ubox based user space and web interface (LuCI). We will demonstrate a few typical use cases for the audience. Finally, the conclusion will focus on the anticipated reunification of the two projects into one and what this means for the community and the user base.

  • 15:30 – 16:20 – Unifying Android and Mainline Kernel Graphics Stack, by Gustavo Padovan, Collabora Ltd.

The Android ecosystem has tons of out-of-tree patches and a good part of them are to support Graphics drivers. This happened because the Upstream Kernel didn’t support everything that is needed by Android. However the Mainline Graphics Stack has evolved in the last few years and features like Atomic Modesetting and Explicit Fencing support are making the dream of running Android on top of it possible. In other words, we will have Android and Mainline Kernels sharing the same Graphics stack!

This talk will cover what has been happening both on Android and Mainline Graphics Stacks in order to get Android to use the Upstream Kernel by default, going from what Android have developed to workaround the lack of upstream support to the latest improvements on the Mainline Graphics Stack and how they will fit together.

  • 16:30 – 17:20 – Developing Audio Products with Cortex-M3/NuttX/C++11, by Masayuki Ishikawa, Sony

Sony released audio products with Cortex-M3 in late 2015. Considering development efficiency, code reusability, feature enhancements and training costs, we decided to port POSIX-based open source RTOS named NuttX to ON Semiconductor’s LC823450 by ourselves, modified the NuttX for fast ELF loading, implemented minimum adb (Android debug bridge) protocols for testing purpose, DVFS in autonomous mode with a simple CPU idle calculation, wake_lock and stack trace which are popular in Linux/Android worlds. Middleware and Applications were developed in C++11 with LLVM’s libc++ which are also popular for large software systems. To debug the software, we implemented NuttX support for OpenOCD so that we can debug multi threaded applications with gdb. In addition, we used QEMU with the NuttX to port bluetooth stack and in-house GUI toolkit and finally got them work before we received LC823450 FPGA.


That’s all. I had to make choice, and did not include some sessions I found interested due to scheduling conflicts such as “Comparing Messaging Techniques for the IoT” by Michael E Anderson, The PTR Group, inc, and “Improving the Bootup Speed of AOSP” by Bernhard Rosenkränzer, Linaro.

You’ll need to register and pay an entry fee if you want to attend the Embedded Linux Conference & OpenIoT Summit:

  • Early Registration Fee: US$550 (through January 15, 2017)
  • Standard Registration Fee: US$700 (January 16, 2017 – February 5, 2017)
  • Late Registration Fee: US$850 (February 6, 2017 – Event)
  • Academic Registration Fee: US$175 (Student/Faculty attendees will be required to show a valid student/faculty ID at registration.)
  • Hobbyist Registration Fee: US$175 (only if you are paying for yourself to attend this event and are currently active in the community)

How to Use IPVanish VPN Service on an Android TV Box to Stream Videos from Anywhere

February 2nd, 2017 9 comments

A few days ago, I completed the review of EBox T8 V Android TV box geared towards the UK market and/or people who want to watch UK content. However this time I did not spent that much time on the IPTV / streaming apps, as I had already checked out in EBox T8 4 TV box review last year, and many apps and/or TV programs required an IP address in the UK to work. For example, BBC iPlayer would throw the following error message each time I tried to play a video.

Normally, you can work around this using a DNS or VPN service, but it’s not something I really need so I did not investigate further. However, IPVanish contacted me a few days after EBox T8 V review, and I asked whether I could get a test account for their VPN service to try it in EBox T8 V, especially since both IPVanish and BBC iPlayer apps are pre-installed in the device. However since they are free downloads, it would be easy to reproduce the setup of this review.

Before going further, three remarks:

  1. While I’m using BBC iPlayer, VPN services should work with other application or website that us IP geolocation to limit where users can access their service or data, but such services can always decide to block IP addresses originating from VPN service. So there’s no guarantees it will always work.
  2. You need to be a UK resident and pay your yearly TV license to watch BBC iPlayer. One example of valid use case would be a retiree living in the UK for 9 months of the year, and 3 months in his vacation home in Spain.
  3. VPN is just illegal in several countries whatever your purpose, most recently in China, so by using such services in the wrong country, you may end up in jail and/or have to pay a fine.

Now that I’ve got a temporary account, I reconnected the TV box, launched IPVanish Android app, and logged in with my email and password.

The next page asks you whether you want to go through the tutorial, but the app is so easy to use, it’s not really necessary.

The tutorial basically explains you need to select a country, and click connect. I think it’s safe to skip it for most people.

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You should be in IPVanish configuration showing your IP address and country of residence. Now click on “County” in “Quick Connect Preferences” to bring the list of countries that starts with Albania, and ends with Vietnam.

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I selected United Kingdom for my purpose, and clicked Connect. However, the “Connection status” would just switch between “Reconnecting” and “Authenticating” in a never ending loop. I went to Google Play, and found out the app was not the latest version, so I updated IPVanish, and I could connect straightaway through a server located in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

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That was rather easy, I only add to make sure the app was updated. Let’s see the performance of the connection over Internet using OOKLA speedtest.

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I have a 20/10 Mbps broadband service, and through VPN connected, OOKLA reports 5.79/4.74 Mbps when connected to a London server. Note that this can’t be used to determine the actual performance of the VPN, as the bottleneck could be anywhere on the way between South East Asia (where I stay) and the UK. The important part is that it should be good for streaming SD videos. Let’s start BBC iPlayer app pre-installed on EBox T8 V. Bummer! I need to update the app. No problem, just click on the UPDATE link to launch Google Play, and …. noooo… Re-bummer!

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“This item isn’t available in your country”, and the VPN service is running, so it does not help for that part… So I would recommend you make sure you update the app before leaving the UK. If you are outside the UK, when this happens you’ll need to check the version number in Google Play…

.. and then find the apk somewhere on the web. I found it on apkpure.com, but obviously this will change after each update. Then I copied it back to the TV box and installed it without issue. Please note that when you are connected to the VPN, you won’t be able to access your local share. I downloaded the apk from my PC, disconnected from VPN, copy the apk to the TV box, installed it, and reconnected to VPN.

I launch BBC iPlayer and could access the app and the list of program like I would do when I had no VPN service, but instead of getting an error message while starting streaming, I get another message asking me whether I “Got a TV License?”.

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So this confirm you need to have TV license (UK) to watch the BBC even online. I had then a second warning about parental guidance for the program, but then I could watch the program without issue. I could also access TV series like EastEnders, which amazingly is still being broadcast since I left the UK 16 years ago…

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I could also watch Sports program such as Match of the Day on BBC ONE.

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Quality feels like between SD and HD, but closer to SD. However, I kept the video playing for about one hour while writing this post, I had no problem with buffering, it just played smooth all along. Pretty impressive, especially evening time when oversea Internet access may be a little slow or unreliable.

Beside Android, IPVanish also works on other operating systems, including Windows, Ubuntu, Mac OS X, iOS, Chromebooks, Windows Phone, and routers, basically any device where you can configure VPN.  If you are interested in IPVanish VPN services, subscriptions start at $10 per month, or $77.90 annually ($6.49 per month). If you stays on the Pricing page for about a minute, you may also get an extra “one time offer” for 20% discount.

Ebox T8 V Octa-Core Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, EBMC, and Benchmarks

January 25th, 2017 1 comment

EBox T8 V (version 5) is the new EntertainmentBox.com  TV box specially geared towards the UK market with its choice of apps and online shop based in the United Kingdom. It’s an upgrade to EBox T8-4 I reviewed last year, replacing Amlogic S905 quad core processor by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, but keeping most of the same features including the SATA bay and EBox user interface. Since we’ve already checked out the hardware, likely based on Zoomtak U Plus, I’ll focus on the firmware in the second part. It will be a shorter reviewed than usual since I have already tested many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and I’ll refer to T8-4 review when the user interface is identical, and instead focus on what has changed, and the usual suspects like audio pass-through, 4K video playback, DRM support, WiFi performance, etc…

EBox T8 V Setup Wizard, Setup, OTA Firmware Update, and Default Apps

I had already plugged the provided 1TB SATA drive into the device during the unboxing post, but I’ve also connected another USB hard drive, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, the RF dongle for S77 Pro air mouse that came with the box, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and finally the power cord.

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The power button on the box should be red, so if you want to start the TV box, press the button on the box, or the power button on the IR remote control, the power button will change to blue color, and the display will show “boot”. If you want to use the air mouse to turn on the device, you’ll need to use the IR learning function to learn the power key from the IR remote control. I’ve tried and it works well. The boot normally takes around 30 to 35 seconds. Note that the boot animation includes some music, which can be annoying if other people sleep, and you forgot to turn the volume down…

The first time, you’ll go through a setup wizard for language, screen scale network, since nothing has changed here, I invite you to check EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration section of my previous review for details.

Beginners Launcher – Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher is also the same, but you now have an option to switch between the “beginners launcher”, which includes Ebox Apps Hub and Ebox app for support, and the more barebone “experienced launcher” shown below.

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The Experienced Launcher setting interface is exactly the same as in T8-4, but the company made another Settings app for the Beginners Launcher.

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As fas I could tell however, all settings were the same, but just presented in a different way. The Speed Test is new, but it’s just an Ookla speed test to check your ISP performance. Note my fiber optic connection is 20/10 Mbps to the bandwidth was maxed out in that test.
The Advanced icons redirect to the familiar Amlogic Settings app.

It’s also interesting to quickly check out the system info that shows the model number is q201_9377, which can be useful in case you’ll want to use an alternative firmware. Few people will likely try that, since you pay extra for firmware and support for the box.

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The list of app is what makes this box further different from the competition with UK specific apps such as BBC iPlayer, FilnOn Live, and WookieSports, with the latter not present in T8-4.

The company did not include TVCatchUp app this test, but for people who wants to watch UK programs but live outside the country, IPvanish app was added to let you setup VPN. You may want to check Installed App & IPTV streaming section in T8-4 review for details about the UK streaming apps.

Finally, I went to EBox OTA, it could find a new firmware, and the upgrade went smoothly.

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Check out OTA firmware section of my previous review for more info about that.

Power consumption is fine with 0.2W is power off mode with the two hard drives connected, and around 8 Watts at idle. The air mouse also worked well, and once you’ve programmed the IR remote control’s power button to the air mouse, you won’t need the IR remote at all. If you exclusively run Kodi (EBMC) then the IR remote control might be a little better since you can access some features like Zoom, aspect radio, and audio directly from the remote, and you won’t need a mouse pointer at any times.

The user experience of the new T8 V was very much like the one of the previous model with the firmware working well, except that I had a “App not Responding” window appear twice, and the mouse cursor is quite small when you set video output to 4K.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1) & DRM Info

EBOX Media Center (EBMC) is based on SMPC 16.4, itself a fork a Kodi 16.1 with optimization for Amlogic processors.

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Before playing any videos, I disabled amcodec as instructed in a paper included with EBOX T8 V package.

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching via “Adjust display refresh rate” option….

… as well as audio pass-through, with Dolby and DTS. Note that DTS-HD and TrueHD options are missing, and as we’ll see below not working, so you’d better enable Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding too.

I played 4K videos over a SAMBA share using Gigabit Ethernet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – plays, but not perfectly smoothly
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (OK, not supported by Amlogic S912)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK, but not perfect at all times.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be smoother

4K video playback working about as well as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, but automatic frame rate switching does not work, so if the video output is set to 4K @ 60 Hz, and you play a 24 fps video it might not be as smooth as it could be.

HDMI audio-pass through works but is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1. Tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 with audio *
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD HR – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1 only

* If you set “Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding” in the settings, audio will be transcoded, and output Dolby D 5.1 audio.

DRM Info – Click to Enlarge

DRM Info apps shows Widevine Level 3 is supported.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

I’ve run Antutu 6.x to make sure the system did not have any issue with performance, and T8 V achieved above 41,000 points, in line with the scores of other Amlogic S912 TV Boxes.

The 1TB internal hard drive (NTFS) shipped with the device was properly recognized with performance ~30 MB/s you’d expect from USB 2.0, while my external hard drive NTFS and exFAT partition could be mounted, and also delivered as expected with the recurring low write speed (5.88 MB/s) on exFAT partitions typical of the vast majority of Android TV boxes. Note that the 44.50 MB/s read speed for the exFAT partition is likely wrong, and affected by the slow write speed.

Click to Enlarge

Internal storage performance (35.01MB/s & 12.15 MB/s) is OK without being outstanding, and works well enough.

My very first experience with WiFi did not quite go accordingly to plans, as the box hung when I enabled WiFi in the settings. My second attempts was successful with a 433 Mbps connection to my 802.11ac router. Performance was however underwhelming with an average of 2.4 MB/s transfer rate, that’s quite typical of Amlogic S905X and S912 TV boxes.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

EBox T8 V offers user experience very similar to EBox T8-4, with slightly faster performance, decent 4K video playback which adds VP9 support, better support for audio pass-through albeit limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and a few pre-installed video streaming app for the UK. I did not have any issues with the internal hard drive this time, but WiFi performance is not quite as good as on EBox T8-4.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Easy to setup & e thanks to setup wizard, and bundled Air mouse.
  • 4K video playback in EBMC (based on SPMC) with H.264, H.265 and VP9 well supported
  • HDMI audio pass-through working for DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1
  • Pre-installed IPTV apps for the UK market such as BBC iPlayer and Filmon, as well as a VPN app.
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through does not work for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • WiFi performance could be better
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses
  • Small mouse pointer when 4K is selected
  • Boot animation includes some music (potential issue at night).

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + 1 TB HDD bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 185.87 GBP including VAT (~$234 US), but you can also purchase the box with the standard IR remote control only for 104.99 GBP including VAT (~$132 US), or select other bundles with gamepad and/or wireless keyboard.

EBox T8-4 Review – A 4K Android TV Box Bundle Geared Towards the UK Market

July 24th, 2016 2 comments

I’ve already taken some pictures of the device and board in part 1 of EBox T8-4 review, so today, I’m going to report my experience with the Android 5.1 firmware for this Amlogic S905 TV box, air mouse, and wireless gamepad, specifically targetted to users leaving in the United Kingdom, but since the hardware is based on Zoomtak T8V, it may also be informative to international users, although the firmware, mostly launcher and IPTV services, will be different.

EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration

Since I’ve already inserted an internal SSD into the SATA bay of the device, I did not connect an external USB harddrive, and only connected HDMI and Ethernet cables,  plus the RF dongle for the included air mouse, a USB keyboard to easily take screenshots, and of course the power cord. The power button will be red at this stage. If you want to start the TV box, you either need to press the button on the box, or the power button on the remote control, the power button LED will change to blue, and the display will show “boot”.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A typical boot takes around one minute, but for the very first boot, you’ll be asked to go through setup wizard similar to what we find in few others boxes like WeTek Core or ARNU Box.EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard

Click Next to “select” your language.. English only for now.

EBox_T8-4_Language_Selection

Next window is to adjust the screen in order to remove any black orders on the edges of the screen. If you are using HDMI output, most TV should have a setting to underscan. For example it is called “Just Scan” on LG televisions. That way you don’t need to adjust the screen at all, and you can keep it at 100%.

EBox_T8-4_Adjust_ScreenThe next step is for network configuration for either Ethernet or WiFi.

EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_Ethernet_Configuration EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_WiFi_ConfigurationThe system correctly detected my three access points @ 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz, but I carry on with Gigabit Ethernet, and click on Finish button to access the main user interface.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The launcher include EBOX MC fork of Kodi 16.1, EBOX APPS Hub folder with custom apps from the company including EBox  App to access support channels, EBox Apps app store, EBox OTA for firmware update, etc…, as well as icons to access all apps, the browser, settings, and to clean the memory.

Sadly, that’s another wizard that does not ask you to set your timezone, but maybe in that case it is understable since it’s designed for the British public and already set to the right timezone. Any I went through the settings, which looks quite similar as other Amlogic TV boxes.
EBox_T8-4_Settings_Network

You can change network configuration as needed, as well as display settings.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Display

HDMI auto-detection is ON by default, and it set the resolution to 1080p50 by default, so I disabled it and manually selected 4k2k-60Hz mode. Sadly it looks like it does not always remember that setting after a reboot.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Advanced

Advanced options are for Miracast, CEC Control is not working for me (same results as with all other Amlogic TV boxes I’ve tested), and you can also configure audio output to PCM, SPDIF or HDMI.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Others

Other settings show some system information: Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 running on p200_2G platform. More Settings lead to another familiar setup menu.
EBox_T8-4_Settings

This is where I enabled HDMI adaptation (automatic refresh rate) via Play back settings, and set the correct timezone (Date & Time). You can access Android Lollipop settings by selecting “More setting”, so you’ve got three different settings user interfaces, which should really be unnecessary….

EBox T8-4 OTA Firmware

The company informed me by email of a new firmware update, so I updated it right before going further, by entering the System Update menu, but you can click on EBox OTA to enter the update app too. After clicking to check updates, I got a popup window “ROM update available”.

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Update

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So I start the download…

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Download

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Which was reasonably fast, and been asked whether I want to Wipe Data and/or Wipe Cache when installing the firmware. I always wipe the cache, but I avoid wiping the data since I like to keep my data (screenshots) and apps installed via Google Play.

EBox_T8-4_Wipe_Data_Wipe_Cache
Once I click on Install, I get another window explaining the box will reboot into recovery mode, flash the ZIP file, and automatically reboot.

EBox_T8-4_Install_Firmware

So I click in Install against and this time the box reboots, shows me an animation with a green Android logo amd a progress board, and after 3 to 5 minutes, reboot the the main launcher and the update is complete. That part was flawless.

Entertainmentbox.com Customer Support

However, I had a big hiccup with the firmware, after spending much time taking screenshoot, and testing apps, I tested on and off, and power consumption, and all of a sudden the device would not boot to the launcher, and all I could see if a blueish background photo (the vertical line is just an issue with my TV).

EBox-T8-4_DeadI sent an email to my contact in the company about the issue, but since it was a Saturday, I was not sure when I’d get an answer, so I went to their website, and saw a “Chat Now – Online”  section on the bottom right of the page, so I decided to give it a try and asked my question about the box being stuck at boot time.

Within a few seconds, a support person called Vikram told me to try to factory rest the box, and provide a link with detailed instructions, and the chat was over in about one minute. I followed the instructions, which involved wiping the data, but I tried to only wipe the cache as I wanted to keep my data, and I did not work.

I wanted to try to re-install the firmware without wiping out the data instead. So I went back to start a new chat to ask about the firmware since I could not find T8-4 on their firmware page. Again Vikram answered within a few seconds, and said he was aware of the issue, and forwarded to the persons in charge. Again efficient, polite and to the point, so my experience with support was very positive, although my problem was not resolved.

Eventually, I got answer from my contact, as they had uploaded T8-4 firmware with clear instructions. So I copied the file to a USB flash drive, went into recovery, and flashed the firmware apparently successfully, but it did not resolve my issue. So I ended up wiping out the data, and lost all my files and installed app, wasting a few hours of work.

The reasons was that EBox Play app (now removed from the firmware) that allows you to play retro games was not compatible with Android 5.1, and messed up with the firmware.

Anyway, while I was clearly not happy about that annoying firmware bug and wasted time, Entertainmentbox.com customer support appears to be very good. They also have support forums.

Installed Apps and IPTV Streaming

The TV box comes with some interesting apps including popular video streaming and on-demand app in the UK such as BBC iPlayer, FilmOn, and TVCatchUp.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_1BionicTCP should be interesting too on other devices, especially if you have troubles with streaming videos, as it allows you to tweak TCP buffers to allow for larger buffers possibly improve the streaming experience.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_2
So I had a quick try of the IPTV apps, although I’m not based in the UK.

Let’s start with Filmon.TV app which sorts live TV streams by country or categories.

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Click to Enlarge

You can then select one category, and a stream from the list to watch live TV, in full screen or within the interface.

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There’s also an online TV guide (EPG) available from the app.

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After a while, the app will ask you to register. I think it’s free to watch SD channels, but you may have to pay to watch HD TV. (TBC)

TVCatchup is a service that allows to watch live TV even if you missed the right time when it was broadcasted. When the app start I’ve been asked to confirm I’m indeed based on the UK… to which I agreed…

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Click to Enlarge

I could get the list of channels, and programs, but was unable to play any videos, most probably because I’m not actually in the UK…

TVcatchUp_ChannelsYou can also access the EPG from the app. You’d think free channels like Aljazeera would work from anywhere, but it did not play either.

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Click to Enlarge

Finally, BBC iPlayer.. It asked me to install BBC Media Player, which I did, but then I could not stream any video due to geo-blocking.

BBC_iPLayer

BBC_iPLayer_Content_Not_WorkingSo the pre-installed app are interesting if you are based in the UK, and wants something easy to setup. If you live overseas, you’d have to use a VPN, or some DNS services like StrongDNS.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1)

EBOX MC (EBMC) used Confluence skin with a different background image.

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Click to Enlarge

It is based on Kodi 16.1 with possible some customizations under the hood.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S905 TV boxes, I’ll just try 4K videos, and audio capabilities (e.g. HDMI pass-through). All files will be played from a SAMBA share.

4K video samples:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Won’t start to play, and stays in UI.

So no problem playing most 4K video samples with the codecs supported by Amlogic S905 SoC (i.e. excluding H.264 4K @ 60 fps, and 10-bit H.264) expect a very high bitrate H.264 video. However, please note that automatic refresh rate switching is not working, even after it is configured in both the system and EBMC.

Time to test audio.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi/EBMC)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi/EBMC)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Audio OK but video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (OK), but frequent short noise
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS:X OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise

As expected Ebox T8-4 does not have the DTS and Dolby licenses for audio down-mixing since it’s using Amlogic S905, and not S905-H, but that’s a disappointment to find out that HDMI pass-through is basically unusable even for 5.1 channel audio due to a short noise that happens every 5 to 10 seconds, at least with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Gaming with Ipega PG-9028 Bluetooth game controller

I’m normally using Tronsmart Mars G01 RF gamepad in my review, but since the bundle I received includes a Bluetooth gamepad, that’s what I used with Riptide GP2 installed from Amazon Underground. At first, I had troubles pairing the gamepad as I only pressed the Home key, but then I was asked to press Home and X blue buttons together, and the gamepad would show a new device Bluetooth MAC address, and once paired show it as PG-9028.

PG-9028_Bluetooth_PairingSubsequently, you’ll just need to press the Home button to connect the gamepad to the TV box. I had then no issue navigating the user interface with B button for “Back”, A button for “Accept”, and the top left joystick to move around the launcher, and start Riptide GP2.

The game was a fluid as on other good Amlogic S905 TV boxes, so I set the graphics setting to the maximum, and played for over 15 minutes without any degradation of performance over time. The device stayed cool at all time, and the top and bottom temperatures of the case were respectively 36° C, and 39° C.

Other interesting features of the gamepad include the touchpad area to control the mouse pointer, and the five buttons at the bottom for volume, play/pause, back and next, which makes it suitable to control Kodi/EBMC. It is also possible to place your smartphone on top of the gamepad, if you want to play games on the phone instead of the TV box. You’ll find detailed pictures of the controller in the first part of the review.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

Amlogic S905 is a now extremely well known platform, so I just ran Antutu 6.1.4 to double check there wasn’t any issue.

EBox_T8-4_Antutu

35,473 point is typical for this kind of device. All good.

I also tested internal storage performance A1SD bench, and the eMMC flash is reasonable fast @ 26.21 MB/s for sequential read, and 14.80 MB/s for sequential write.

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

One of the key selling point of the device is the presence of an internal 2.5″ SATA bay. I started by inserting an SSD with both NTFS and EXT-4 partitions, but it was mounted as a USB device with 0 MB size, so I switched another 1TB hard drive formatted with NTFS inside a Linux machine, which was a little loose in the SATA bay but still inserted to the SATA connector, and this time it was not detected at all. When I removed it, it was warm so I assume it got power. It’s quite possible the hard drive needs to be prepared inside a Windows computer to work with the box, based on a video for their older T8-3 box. That part was very disappointing.

Let’s switch to network performance with Gigabit Ethernet and iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d command for full duplex transfer.

So the system cannot handle full duplex transfer very well, with the speed in one direction very fast (as it should), but very slow in the other direction. That test is worse case scenario though, and unless you plan to use the box as a server too, it should not be an issue, and I had no problem streaming 60 Mbps+ videos.

I’ve tested 802.11ac by transferring a 278MB file from SAMBA to the flash and vice versa 3 times using ES File explorer. For some reasons download was much faster than upload @ 5.67 MB/s vs 2.89 MB/s, and on average the transfer rate was a decent 4.27 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Other remarks

The included air mouse is very convenient with mouse mode, remote side, and QWERTY keyboard side, and while usually I have to switch to the IR remote control to power on other devices, T8-4 can be powered on with that air mouse too. The air mouse function works well, the keyboard includes the media player keys (play/pause, etc..), and the only two downsides I found is the lack of tabulation key, and Alt key Blue on black markings are hard to read, at least with my eyesight (I need to remove my glasses to read them).

Power handling have been properly implemented too, but with only power on and power off modes. Power consumption is 0.2 watts in power off mode, 5.0 watts at idle with SSD, and 5.2 watts at with (non-detected) HDD.

I had no problem at all with Google Play with free and paid app, and Amazon Underground.

Conclusion

EBox T8-4 Android TV box performs well over time (no overheating), delivers good video playback performance in Kodi (EBMC), include pre-installed IPTV streaming app for the UK, and provide a good overall user experience, but there are still some issues that need to be fixed such as very poor HDMI pass-through implementation, and problems with internal SATA bay.

PROS

  • Complete easy to setup and use bundle with TV box, air mouse, and wireless Bluetooth gamepad
  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Good 4K video playback performance in Kodi with both H.264 and H.265 videos
  • (Legal) pre-installed IPTV app for the UK market like BBC iPlayer, Filmon, and TVCatchup
  • Gigabit Ethernet and good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay (see CONS too!)
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through is not working well, with only 5.1 channel audio support, and I got short white noise for almost all videos.
  • No Dolby / DTS licenses
  • My 2.5″ SSD (NTFS + EXT-4) and HDD (NTFS) were not recognized by the system
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • (Minor) Settings are spread over  3 menus
  • (Minor) Somewhat slow boot (One minute)
  • I loss all my data and installed apps after a while due to a bug in the firmware (But it should be now be fixed, and I could not reproduce the issue).

The main thing I like about EBox T8-4 bundle is that it’s easy to setup and comes with everything you may need to watch local and live TV (in the UK), the included air mouse and Bluetooth gamepad just work out of the box, without headache due to potential interoperability issues.

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + Ipega Bluetooth gamepad bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 108.33 GBP exc. VAT ($142 US), but you can also purchase the box alone for 79.16 GBP exc. VAT (~$104 US), or select other bundles with different input devices and/or an included 1TB hard drive (which could mitigate the issues I had).

You can now buy BBC micro:bit board for $19

June 1st, 2016 12 comments

BBC recently distributed micro:bit boards to UK schools to get student interested in electronics and help them learn more about this subject, but so far it was not for sale to the general public, but this has now changed since the British broadcaster now launched the board for 13 GBP (~$19) via Element14/Farnell and others distributors.

Microbit_descriptionThe board is powered by Nordi Semi nRF51822 SoC with ARM Cortex M0 micro-controller and Bluetooth LE connectivity, features motion sensors, plenty of LEDS, a few buttons, a micro USB connector for power & programming, as well as a header for LiPo batteries.  There are various ways to program the board either interpreted languages such as Python or JavScript, or graphical drag and drop programs such as Microsoft Block Editor. All technical details and example projects available on Micro:bit official website.

Beside the board only, several kits are being offered included micro:bit Go with a USB cable, battery holder & 2x AAA batteries, and a Quick Start Guide, micro:bit Club with 10 “Go” kits, and each reseller seems to have its own kits.

Element14 only accept orders over 90 units, so if you just want to play around and pre-order one or two, you’ll have to go through smaller UK distributors such as Kitronic, Pimoroni, or Technology Will Save Us that also sell the board for 13 GBP ($19),  and kits for up to 37.50 GBP ($54).

Microbit on Pimoroni

Microbit on Pimoroni shipping to Thailand

Even though there are only British resellers, you can buy the board from anywhere in the world. For example, micro:bit will sale for 16.33 GBP ($23.70) shipped to Asia on Pimoroni. Shipping is scheduled for July.

Thanks to Zoobab for the tip.

BBC Micro:Bit Board is Now Getting into the Hands of British Students

March 24th, 2016 6 comments

After several delays, BBC is now giving free Micro:Bit Bluetooth LE enabled boards to UK students with the goal of getting them interested in coding and electronics in a way that’s even easier and cheaper than using a Raspberry Pi board.

Micro-bit-board-description

Click to Enlarge

Micro:bit specifications:

  • MCU – Nordic nRF51822 Bluetooth SoC based on Cortex M0 core @ 16MHz with 16KB RAM
  • 2x user buttons, 1x reset button
  • 25x red user LEDs  in a 5×5 matrix
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth LE
  • Sensors – Compass, magnetometer, accelerometer
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for port and programming
  • Expansion – 20-pin edge connector, 5x “rings” for 3V, GND, and 3 digital/analog I/Os
  • Power – 5V via USB or battery port to connect two AAA batteries
  • Dimensions – 4cm x 5cm

There are four ways to “code” the board: Code Kingdoms JavaScript  graphical ‘drag and drop’ and text-based programming, Microsoft Block Editor graphical, drag and drop code editor, Microsoft Touch Developer text-based programming language, and Python. I was unclear on how they’d use the rings, until I found this picture showing crocodile clips connected to the board, and Kitronic has made add-ons boards and kits using the 20-pin edge connector.

Micro-bit_crocodile_batteryThere’s currently now way to buy one of those yourself, but if you have kids in the UK, the BBC is giving the board directly to young students, i.e. they don’t belong to the schools, so you might be able to play with it at home. According to BBC News, some people have complained that the board can come to late for teachers to integrate them in the curriculum before the end of the school year, so we’ll have to see how it turns out. Some projects have already been showcased with a school sending a micro:bit at the edge of space.

BBC Micro Bit Educational Board Features nRF51822 ARM Cortex M0 MCU

July 7th, 2015 3 comments

The BBC announces its intention to give away 1 million Micro Bit to British schoolchildren a few months ago, but at the time, the specifications were not completely frozen. The broadcaster has now finalized the design which is based on an ARM Cortex M0 micro-controller.Micro_Bit

 

Micro Bit board specifications:

  • ARM Cortex M0 micro-controller (Nordic Micro nRF51822 Bluetooth SoC)
  • 5x holes for 3V, GND, and 3 GPIOs
  • 2x user buttons, 1x reset button
  • 25x red LED indicator lights in a 5×5 matrix
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth LE
  • Sensors – Compass, magnetometer, accelerometer
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for port and programming
  • Power – 5V via USB or battery port to connect two AAA batteries
  • Dimensions – 4cm x 5cm

Micro_Bit_Back

On the software side, the BBC has partnered with Microsoft to develop a web based, drag and drop interface for programming called TouchDevelop. Samsung is also involved in the project as they are developing the Android app, and an iOS app is also planned.

The BBC will send 1 million pieces of the board to schools in the UK this autumn, but they also plan to sell the board to the general public, although pricing and availability information is not available yet.

Via Hexus