The HDMI Mojo

nearly as good was cheaper to purchase and maintain. The influence of the pornographic film industry on the three formats, which included the Phillips 2000 was also noticeably focused on the VHS market. As the technology evolved through the 70s and 80s quality improved but unfortunately by the 90s the writing was on the wall, the optical disk format was obvious first choice. Like the VHS and Beta debacle, we were suddenly thrown into the deep end: DVD-R or DVD+R? HD or Bluray? VGA to SVGA to 16:9 aspect ratios, plasma or LCD now to LED. If one thinks this is confusing, think now of the myriads of cable types now flooding the market. I can purchase a HDMI cable but my plasma is DVI. I need a converter. I now have a second TV which is the older 4:3 aspect CRT television receiver plus a Samsung 23”LCD which has an HDMI input. Throw in a Phillips LCD 4:3 with a standard D-sub 15 pin connector. Never before has one seen such a wide range of different receptacles been used in a household where each technology is different but all (mostly) current. CRT monitors and television receivers are a thing of the past but can still be picked up at the corner store. I know of at least three graphics design and CAD power users that stick with 21” CRT monitors, not because they are cash strapped but because they prefer the colour ambience of these monitors over LCD. Also CRT monitors can change their native resolution through switching circuits – LCDs cannot. They have a native resolution and any resolution outide this resolution makes text difficult to read. Confused? So am I. Here’s some gen on connectors used in the audio video industry.

Electrical connector:- Wiki: “An electrical connector is a conductive device for joining electrical circuits together”.

RCA Connector:

rca

 An RCA connector is used in both audio and video, good quality connectors are often gold plated to reduce resistance losses. The outer connector is often the shielded part which is grounded. The centre electrode transfers signal.

The D-Sub 15 pin connector

 dsubconn

 

Display Data Channel or DDC comes in two distinct varieties: DDC 1 which allows for one direction only, from the monitor to the graphics card – monitor recognition. DDC2 is bi-directional and has a data clock. DDC1 and DDC issues are rare – open circuit lines are often the cause of the monitor not functioning to full capability or non display of monitor type. My own experience is that pins 1, 2 or 3 are often the most prone to user damage. Pins 1, 2, 3, 13 and 14 going open circuit because of customers pulling on the cable and not the connector are the most visible on display. How many times have technically minded people scratched around in the H-Sync circuitry only to find a bent pin or open circuit cable – this includes myself.

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The DVI Connector

 dviconn

And now for the latest, at least from 2002: HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface).

 

hdmiconn

HDMI switches and splitters.

After extensive reading up on this matter there seems to be an element of confusion . a) switches are like the old KVM, Keyboard, Video and Mouse – likewise the switch can take more than one source and apply it to the display or displays b) splitters are the opposite – they take one input (or more) and apply it to more than one display (or only one). There are some hurdles to overcome. The perfect switch will not have any contact resistance so circuits should theoretically be electronically bypassed. By this I mean that a DIYer should not use mechanical switches – rather use a configuration of electronic gates. The perfect splitter must look at what all is required to drive more than one display e.g. does one require the CEC (consumer electronics display), the DDC (display data channel) – in most cases this may be very important. Can one use a standard cable in a Y-configuration, which at basic level means that the cable outputs are just bridges to two or more separate output? Unfortunately, although an inexpensive solution it is not advisable – the reason why we want HDMI is because of the bandwidth factor – we want the hi-definition. Outputs can be switched between more than one display which essentially should not hinder performance but running all displays off the same input is bound to impact the quality – it would be a recommendation to build in a buffer of sorts which does not load the source output. Are there schematics available? Well, to test the theory that the web is full of advertisements that is exactly what we found. There are some entry level designs from about 34U$D to some pretty expensive solutions, popular unit costing 1400U$D but very little of value with regards to schematics. Note: You will get what you pay for my friend. I’m all for having one good quality splitter and not one that has to be controlled/switched on through your PC. For technically minded people wanting to learn more and experiment, a PC based home entertainment centre is the obvious choice but not for the person on the street wanting to come home, switch on his digital satellite decoder and have the outputs piped through to all the household/office television receivers/monitors.

To kick off with you may need to do a little bit of research first of all on HDTV – Texas Instruments has laid out a fairly good description here. Video Design Line has some pretty hot information as well. Go here.

Well after some pretty much fruitless searches I can honestly say that there’s a lot more information on switches than splitters – is this because of the Intel HDCP? – Digital Copyright Protection. Giving the DIYer an inside look at the schematics might make the enquiring mind kick into overdrive – but that HDCP seems to be a spanner in the works. Forums are full of posts from users wanting an inexpensive solution to splitting their signals – a very common complaint is that in most cases the split signal will only communicate with the first device and not the second. And then some complaints about lack of audio. Abig problem may be the very fact that the source needs to communicate with the load. 

I don’t think so…

Wiki: “HDCP does not address whether copying would be permitted by ‘fair use’ laws. The specification is proprietary, and implementing HDCP requires a license”. Ad nauseam, etc, etc.

I am going to do some research this month and get some real answers. In the meantime, readers of this article are welcome to drop us a line. The ideal respondents should be manufacturer programmers of course.

 

FIFA Round of 16

Well blow me down, I would have loved to see New Zealand listed here. Here’s a country that is without argument the world’s powerhouse of rugby, football a distant cousin but yet they played some of the most impressive games in the world cup that I can only hope for more in time to come. Continue reading “FIFA Round of 16”

FIFA Results

25/06: This last week went pretty quickly, shock exits by Italy and France (France weren’t destined to much better things according to the media but it’s still sad to see such a great team brought to their knees by in-house fighting and disrespect) Continue reading “FIFA Results”

FIFA Soccer 2010

 

Groups:

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic and Greece
Group C: England, United States, Algeria and Slovenia
Group D: Germany Australia, Serbia and Ghana
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia
Group G: Brazil, Korea DPR, Cote d’lvoire and Portugal
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile

 Will Brazil take it? So far we have Spain that we have been promised by the experts to take the crown.

2006:

Teams: 32
When: 09 June 2006 to 09 July 2006
Final: 09 July 2006
Matches: 64
Goals Scored: 147 (average 2.3 per match)
Attendance: 3359439 (average 52491)

Winner Italy resized_italy
2nd France resized_France
3rd Germany (Hosts) resized_Germany
4th Portugal resized_Portugal

Adidas Golden Ball: Zinedine ZIDANE (FRA)
Adidas Golden Shoe: Miroslav KLOSE (GER)
Yashin Award for the Best Goalkeeper: Gianluigi BUFFON (ITA)
Best Young Player Award: Lukas PODOLSKI (GER)
FIFA Fair Play award: Spain, Brazil
FIFA Award for the Most Entertaining Team: Portugal

 
   

The FIFA power requirement

Actually, there have been problems up in Gauteng – the media have been complaining bitterly about the lack of reliable power, colleagues in South Africa, especially the Johannesburg region complain about the same thing – specifically the Johannesburg industrial areas e.g. the Midrand. Power there is absorbed like a sock in water, the mines are obviously the biggest users but how is this affecting other regions? Well in Cape Town there have not been blackouts since 2008. Their tried and trusted nuclear power station at Koeberg has recently been refueled and there are no more sinister media leaks. Koeberg supplies the coastal regions up to Durban so if you are staying around these areas you should not have any problems. Believe it or not most of the visitors will be up in the Gauteng region so this may not be a good omen. Again, it’s reputed that most private establishments have backup power – the stadiums have as well.  

Local communications giant Telkom have their own backup power so there should not be a problem in all likelihood with lost commuincation. The unions have threated various forms of disruption and the one most worrying is that of the employees of Escom, the national power supplier. We have it in good faith that that too would be sorted out before the big kickoff on the 11th. Let’s wait and see. Having lived in South Africa for 3 years I found a lot of the issues stemming from the international media are all hype. In a lot of ways South Africa is not a developing nation, they have infrastructures that surpass many first world countries. The national power grid has been under duress – the lack of planning from the ANC government sucks but that will hopefully be water under the bridge in a few years time. They certainly are making up for it in profit and price hikes – but then again they are been taught by Telkom, another parastatal. In a geographical sense South Africa is safe, only one fault line running through part of Cape Town. The South African Police Force may be inefficient but they are geared up for this event – like any where else in the world (I have experience in this field), stay away from areas not designated for visitors or tourists. Hey, Italy and Spain also have their fair share of bag grabbers and theft. I do have it in good authority that tourists will be looked after like kings (and queens). Go there and have a look.

Don’t worry about having a good time – it will come naturally. South Africans are a thirsty bunch, akin to their Australian and New Zealand neighbours and very friendly.

As for the power crises up in Johannesburg – I think you’ll be 100%. 

Famous visiting spots?  The Cape is known for harbouring tourists whom buy up the land. Get a good look at Cape Point, Grabouw,  Hermanus, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay the West Coast and the Cape in general.

The power problem won’t affect your appetite for more.

The Green Mile – Part II

View the website for Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (Royal Philips Electronics Inc), here. Their LUMILED product range is well documented. You may be interested to know that Philips is over 100 years old and this great capitalistic venture was started by the cousin of Karl Marx, Gerard Philips in Eindhoven, a leader in the EU industrial design field. One company that I always remember fondly will be Texas Instruments – they have been pioneers in many aspects of electronics, from the integrated circuit to the pocket calculator (figures), DLP Cinema® technology and of course cellular technology. Although originally founded for geophysical exploration of oil through the use of signal processing they acquired Commergy Technologies (Ireland) for energy-saving power supply innovation in 2008.  TI is been accredited for their work in green energy resources. When it comes to devices that store energy we seem to still have many more years to go before we can discover a cheap alternative to the alkaline, Ni-Cad, Lead-Acid and Li-Ion batteries in use today. The question that is often asked then is why a flat battery cannot be made fully charged by simply adding fresh electrolyte?  Unfortunately a charging current must be passed through the cells to make the cells ‘active’again. Try it and see! An old trick to keeping a battery in storage is to fully charge the battery and pour out the electrolyte into a storage container. Why do I mention this? 

Because a great solution to our energy problems would be simply to add electrolyte to a flat battery to harness it’s energy again. So is there an alternative? Yes there is! In comes our fuel cell, a device which like the electrochemical battery has an electrolyte, an anode and a cathode. Fuel cells are different from conventional electrochemical cell batteries in that they consume reactant, such as hydrogen which must be replenished. Wiki has, as per normal, a very interesting article on fuel cells and readers are advised to read this to make the subject matter clearer. And who are the leaders in hydrogen fuel cells or stacks?  Here I must admit I am a wee bit biased.  Motor manufacturers seem to be all falling over themselves to make the first economically viable vehicle for our roads but they are also at the mercy of the fuel dispensers (or the lack thereof). This is costly, very, very costly. Hydrogenics is a company that has 60 years experience in the use of commercial hydrogen systems so they definitely deserve a front row seat. My money currently lies with one of these two nations: India or China. There seems to be just too much promise shown in India – bright young academics, much to gain and lots of rivalry. I always bet on the underdog so would really like to see India been the front runner. The Chinese have a mighty economy behind them, have the technology and if they don’t have the expertise they soon will. They are at the mercy of oil suppliers and in a country with over a billion people they have everything to gain by manufacturing (or discovering) an alternative fuel source. At present a web search will reveal a lot of activity in China regarding fuel cells – one being the Beijing Fuyuan Fuel Cell Group.

Readers are encouraged to comment on this post. Give us your views as to where we are heading, what we can do about alternative fuel and make the earth a happier greener place.  

The Green Mile – Part I

It has been brought to our notice, that starting from this year they are hiking the prices by 30% per year over the next three. Sadly this won’t be the end either. Their reasons are possibly well founded – South African people have been paying almost the lowest rates internationally for the last few years and the time was to up the tariff to be in line with overseas energy suppliers. Interesting we say. Interesting that our only reactor is nearly 20 years old and should be moth-balled. Why haven’t they built other sources of power since the ANC took over our beautiful country and turned it into a ‘blackout’ hell hole up in Gauteng where most of our energy gobbling industry exists. There have been many theories, one is that maintenance is at an all time low. The other is that nobody knew how fast our economy would grow. These and many other theories may possibly be correct but what is 100% spot on is that the citizens of our land have all decided to look for a means to cheapen their daily power consumption. Again, what do we really have that can lighten our burden?  Batteries? Solar? Wind? Wave Motion? Hydrogen? We can knock our national power commission but they have tried to do their bit with the free supply of geyser blankets and free trade-ins of your domestic lighting to more energy efficient lighting. Well today they released their year end profits – a mind staggering 3.5B rand (just over 500M U$), not bad for a long suffering company, albeit government owned.

Well enough from the electric grim reaper. What can we really do about it. At present our electricity tariffs are around 80c (0.8 Rand) per Kw/Hr depending where one resides. If one takes into consideration that our average population don’t care if they leave a 40 or 60W light bulb or two on over a month they may be shocked to see the savings if they had resorted to possibly an LED equivalent or even CCFL. My power at home costs us R600.00 per month (90U$) which I think in U$ terms must be as low as one can go consiering that there are exorbitant amounts of wastage taking place. The geyser was set to 72 degrees C which was turned down to 55 degrees C which alone saves us quite a bit. We can skimp here and skimp there but next year the prices are hiked again by another 30% which doesn’t bode well with all that skimping – you’re back to square one. Gas by the way is out of the question – it’s very expensive. Now we have gel stoves. I wonder if anyone has looked at the costs involved?  Why not compressed human excrement? Ummm, wouldn’t use that myself.  No, the time has come to look seriously at first of all wastage and then alternative sources of power.

If one does a search on the internat it’s very easy to become disillusioned. Plenty of advertisements, plenty of hype, plenty of promises and plenty of BS. I stick to pages where someone shows you how he built a wind powered generator which really works, shows you pictures, schematics and of course, the savings. Has anyone really looked at your power requirements to run an electric cooker, possibly using only two plates over a period of one hour per night. I’ll leave out the Sunday roast because that alone is enough to give the heart muscle spasms. Two plates consume about 4Kw when switched to maximum heat – if you are prone to heating your plates up to max and leaving it there, one is looking at 4Kw/Hr (if left on for an hour). Thats 120Kw/Hr a month. You do the maths. Conventional electric stoves also come with two types of plates, chiefly spiral and solid. They both have their advantages, the spiral heating quicker and the solid keeping it’s heat for longer. But have you thought about old plates, the third but nastiest plate of all. They consume more electricity because they no longer are as efficient as a new plate. Have you ever replaced an electric kettle and wondered why the water boils quicker than the previous one (same power rating of course). I mention the electric stove here because that with the electric geyser are power hoggers. People use them inefficiently and forget about maintenance. Looking at the two plates on full heat alone will make you cringe – one cannot get that kind of ‘green’ power cheaply. Cheap alternatives for the incandescent light bulb, yes, but not for the electric stove, geyser and kettle. This is the first and last stop in my mind. At present we only have a means to cut down on wastage but not a viable alternative. Or do we?

Before I commence on the second part of this article I do want to leave you with this link:  Otherpower (the Cutting Edge of Low Technology). I found the site VERY informative and educational with lots of links. And oh, yes, it’s powered by Linux.

The GreenPowerEasy website is another interesting look at the challenges facing the consumer. The contents are not free, but do have a look. Decide for yourself.     Click Here!

Our next part will cover current trends, what is in store for us, trends, economical solutions, power: bit by bit and where we may be going wrong. I.e. are we heading in  the right direction…. I don’t think so!

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