IP Cameras – trouble with plugins for viewing

I install rather a lot of IP cameras for security. I’ve been seeing a recurring issue with manufacturers using plugins in order to view the camera feed. For example, when viewing a Samsung (now Hanwha) camera via its IP address, it first pops up a screen with a link to install a plugin. Once this installs, the browser is supposed to close and reopen and be able to view the camera. Sometimes that works, like on my laptop. But other times, it keeps going back to the plugin install page. On those computers, I’ve never been able to get the browser to view the camera. I can view an RTSP stream, just not the built-in program for configuring the camera. No idea what the difference is between the two systems. If Samsung would drop the plugin and go with HTML5, then the program would be compatible with any browser.

Vicon uses built-in Java for viewing and configuring their cameras. But the version of Java on the camera is older day by day, and so Windows does not trust it and each camera has to be entered into the Java exception screen in Control Panel. Ridiculous waste of time just to be able to configure the camera.

Netgear switches (GS110TP) that I use to hook the laptop to the IP cameras also use a Java plugin to view the switch layout. Clicking the link doesn’t install the plugin, it just redirects to the Sun Java homepage, which is useless. Besides 64-bit Firefox cannot install such a plugin. Browsers are moving away from such approaches and going with HTML5. Thus there is a part of the switch I have that I cannot access due to the manufacturer deciding to use a plugin instead of a standard web page or HTML5. I can’t get my laptop to install the plugin because I have 64-bit and Firefox. I can still do most functions on the switch menu, but am blocked from other sections.
I’ve read on Netgear forums that this problem is marked “solved”, but all they said was “please open a trouble ticket” and then closed the thread. Yo Netgear, that isn’t solving the problem! So what if you “are aware” of the issue. You’ve “been aware” for YEARS now. Hire some programmers and dump plugin entirely.

Harumph!

Moz-extension entry in Firefox history

Recently I noticed an odd thing appearing in my Firefox history. Whenever I would first start the browser, a line would appear in history:

moz-extension://25baf6db-c60b-4714-90e8-c029954fa2b6/_blank.html

A search yielded no result. I did find one discussion about a similar case where an add-on (extension) was causing this. I did other searches based on just “moz-extension” and “blank.html”. Eventually, I disabled a handful of add-ons and restarted Firefox. No odd entry! One by one I enabled them until I found the one that causes this entry:

“FBPurity”

I am writing to them to see if they know why this is happening.

Android g900vvru2dpf4 update, no Linux connect

After I upgraded to the latest Android g900vvru2dpf4 software, it no longer wants to show any files when I connect via USB to my PC. Tried reconnecting physically several times. No joy. I’ll keep messing with it in case I missed something.

EDIT: Had to go into developer mode and change USB setting from charge to connect. It will still charge but now the computer sees it as a device and can connect.

Form colors in Firefox 46

When I updated Firefox to 46, I noticed that something odd happened. The browser now had an odd brown/gray color and some forms (like on Yahoo news) had white text on a white background. I had recently used an addon called Stylish that allows the colors for certain websites to be changed, which I had done for the bright white of Google, changing it to a darker theme. But after the upgrade, Firefox continually had a dark upper menu area and the forms on Yahoo had white text. I even removed the Stylish addon, but the changes remained.

The most pressing part was the form text color. It made them basically unusable. One person suggested using a CSS file, and I tried that and it worked once and then not. No idea why it stopped. But Firefox has its own way to set form text colors, and that always works.

In the about:config page, I typed in browser.display to see the various options. These are the ones I set:

browser.display.focus_background_color;#FFFFFF (sets form background to white)
browser.display.focus_text_color;#000000 (sets the text color to black)
browser.display.use_focus_colors;true (tells Firefox to use the colors I specify)

The effect is immediate.

I gotta go, someone is wrong on the Internet…🙂

Update: As of FF 47, all the coloring returned to normal.

Nurse call station replacement

I was asked to repair or replace an old nurse-call station in a medical room. The current device was discontinued back in the 1980s (Rauland PCS-7351A), but has been working fine until the pull-string was pulled too forcefully. The purpose of the unit is simple: If a patient needs help, pull the string and a switch clicks and turns on a light and buzzer in the nurse station corresponding to the room number of the patient. A light on the switch also illuminates, indicating that it is working.

Rauland PCS-7351A 1

I took it out of the wall and realized that I had already repaired this unit once before, and it was likely going to break again. So I went online to see if I could find a replacement. I found a variety of call stations from various vendors that said they were equivalent. I finally settled on a suitable model and bought it. I knew the biggest challenge would be getting the back wiring correct. Since nobody who installed the original system had labeled anything, I had to guess at the purpose of some of the wiring.

Alco

Happily, the new unit came with a diagram that should give a 1-for-1 idea of where the wires should go. But I noticed a difference in how the old one was wired compared with the diagram. I guessed that it was simply a slight difference and made up my own diagram to take with me to the room.

Diagram2

Diagram1

I hooked it up according to my handwritten diagram and it worked! Happy camper. The new unit is a much simpler toggle design than the old one. Time will tell whether it will withstand use and abuse. The most obvious flaw I saw was the simple nut on the face plate that keeps the switch in place on the new unit. A disturbed patient could unscrew that, push the switch into the cavity and cause a repair call, though the switch would probably still work.

old unit

new unit

If it turns out to be a problem, I may have to find a smooth surfaced unit to replace it. I did see one such unit in service in the same ward, but haven’t had time to examine the wiring. This is the Rauland PBS113, also discontinued, though we have a spare or two. No idea what the various wires do, and no diagram to help this time. However, an old tech at Rauland kindly sent me a PDF with text that describes which wire goes where on a call station, and that will prove useful.

Rauland PBS113

Diagram3

I did find a waterproof (WP on the diagram) design by Crest that uses a magnetic reed switch. I am guessing at the wiring, and show it here as a possible solution since I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

wp_frontwp_diag1

wp_diag2

Static or electronic noise with mic input on PC

I was trying to record a vocal track on my computer using Audacity, but kept hearing an odd chirping hiss in the background. I did some digging and found that for several years people have been having trouble with the Realtek ALC889 and related audio chipset and Linux. There are a variety of work-arounds, and none worked for me. I even booted into Windows 7 and heard the same electronic buzzing in the background. This led me to look at a hardware solution instead of a driver nuance.

My microphone is connected to a Mackie ProFX8 v2 mixer and then the board feeds out of the mains to the microphone plug on the front of my PC. Any wiggling of the connection going into the PC led to more pronounced electronic buzzing. That seems to be the weak link. I recalled that this mixer board has a USB interface also, so I hooked that up and disconnected the PC’s mic input. I checked in System, Preferences, Sound, Input and saw that the input device was now listed as “Analog Input PCM2903B Audio CODEC”.

I went into Audacity and looked on the input devices, and this was not shown. Hmmmm. I went ahead and left the input set to “default: Front Mic:0” and hit record. It worked, and with no background noise at all. This is great, because now I can have multiple mics and sound coming through the mixer board with reverb and pipe it all through the USB connection.

You may need to set levels using the alsamixer command.

Here are some things I have discovered about this setup. Mackie doesn’t really document the USB output very well at all. It can be an input or an output without any sort of switch, apparently. There is NO volume control for the USB output.

I’m using the following configuration:
Mic is on XLR 1. Gain is set to nearly full. Slider is set to U.

USB connection from board to computer USB
(NOTE: output from the USB port is not related to the MAIN slider at all, but to the mic gain and slider. MAIN slider controls output to the MAIN Out and to XLR out on the back, I think. USB Thru button has no effect on USB output, nor does the knob USB Input Level.)

The only way I can increase or decrease mic volume is via mic gain or slider. No other volume control seems to affect the USB output on this board.

Just for kicks I did try the Main Out with an unbalanced dual 1/4-inch to stereo 3.5mm to my computer’s mic input. I got so much noise in the background that it was useless.

I also recorded using the Main Out to a handheld Sony digital voice recorder ICD-AX412 and it sounded very good indeed.

This leads me to conclude that the computer audio hardware is at fault. (ASUS P6X58D Premium motherboard with built-in audio). I’ll have to look into an add-on card from Soundblaster or other.

 

Foam Windscreen On Microphone Or Not? (Audio Geekery)

I am a jazz singer in my spare time, and have been talking mics with various musicians. There is a sharp division between those that think the foam “clown nose” on a mic is a good idea or a bad idea.

I perused several Internet forums and there are endless discussions of what people think and feel it does to audio quality, and how well it stifles sibilance (the “essss” sound) and plosives (the popping sound of B, G, T, and P consonants). Some simply don’t like the appearance with the foam cover. Others feel it is important for keeping spittle out of the mic, especially if it is used by other singers. Much easier to clean the foam cover than get crud out of the mic itself. And keeping the foam clean is stressed, since a dirty cover will stifle sound quality.

Some feel it ruins the sound entirely, some feel it cuts off too much of the high end, some say it cuts of just a tiny bit of the high end while doing a great job of making the singer sound like he or she isn’t using a mic.

Lots and lots of theory and emotion are bounced around, but even when they talk about testing the differences, I don’t see them published. So I decided to do my own tests by recording the mic with and without foam, singing, purposefully using plosives and sibilance, and then speaking normally. I don’t have the equipment to do graphs of frequencies, so my tests were subjective. And that is ok. I was not going in with preconceived notions of what it will do besides reducing “wind” sounds. And cutting off a tiny bit of the high end is intentional when using the foam, since that is where sibilance happens.

I recorded a variety of my singing and speaking using Audacity, comparing similar lines with and without the foam cover. I also varied the distance from the mic and the amount of gain on the mixer. I’m comparing my mic with a friend’s mic I have used previously.

RESULTS
I’ll tell you right up front that it depends on the microphone. I’ve used a few different mics, and own a Heil PR-35, a dynamic mic with a large diaphragm. I have a friend who uses the Shure Beta 58a for doing regular gigs. On her mic, I sound really clear with no foam cover, and the sibilance and plosives are minimal even when I’m up on the mic where the richness of my voice comes through the best.

On my mic (Heil) with no foam cover, I have to carefully control my speech to avoid over-popping P’s, and the sibilance is easy to hear (a common complaint with the sensitivity of this mic). However, when I add the foam cover to my mic, most of those issues disappear. I do lose some volume which can be easily adjusted on the mixer. But unless I were switching back and forth between foam and no-foam, that wouldn’t be an issue. I would simply do the mic check with the foam on and go from there. I didn’t really notice a quality of sound change except at the far high end. Another thing I noticed was that my mic picks up more volume by the nature of the larger diaphragm size, so I also had to adjust the volume down on the mixer to compensate for the difference between the two mics.

Some forums advise backing away from the mic overall to control plosives, and cranking the gain to compensate. I found that this led to a more tinny sound unless I was doing full-voiced singing (and I’m often doing much more intimate singing styles). I did comparisons of foam and no-foam at 8-10 inches and found that plosives were still an issue with no-foam.

I found that being right up near the Heil PR-35 WITH the foam cover yields the best result with the this mic. I have to keep the gain on the mic down because I’m so close to the mic, but I get a richer sounding bass quality when I’m up close. But again, that is with THIS mic. With the Shure, I didn’t need a foam cover for sibilance and plosives. The EQ can also be adjusted a bit to add in more mid and high range if you feel the sound quality has changed.

I still need to do a test between the two mics to hear which I like better with my voice. And that is the best approach to buying a mic for yourself. Test them at a local music store doing the style of singing you do. Some mics pick up bass better, but if you are a soprano, you are more interested in a clear high range. Having a good matching mic is one of the most profound changes you can make to your singing, as is a quality sound system (and knowing what the knobs do to your sound).

FOLLOW-UP:
Doing some side-by-side comparison, my friend said the foam made my voice sound muddy compared to no foam, so we removed the foam, adjusted the mic gain down, and it sounded fine with my lips about 3-inches from the mic.