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Inexpensive USB LCD With Linux Drivers For LCDproc

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the on-the-side dept.

Displays 121

An anonymous reader writes "The Windows Vista SideShow technology shows some promise. But what about Linux devices that can present snippets of information independent of the main display? Here's a review of the picoLCD-4x20, a relatively inexpensive USB device ($50) that supports both SideShow on Vista and LCDproc on Linux."

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first nigger (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24993951)

nigger please!

first jew (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24995135)

Oy Vey!

Dont forget... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24995411) pay your $699 licensing fee you cock smoking teabaggers!

Or maybe... (-1, Offtopic)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24993955)

Just go with as many USB Monitors [] as you need, eh?

Re:Or maybe... (4, Insightful)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24994067)

According to the article you posted, support for *nix is patchy:

Windows XP (the drivers for Vista were under development at the time of our tests; the support for alternative OSes was not even on the agenda

Furthermore, using an entire monitor defeats the entire purpose of these devices. These are small, compact devices that are meant to show some vital information at all times with minimum power drain. Running a monitorless server? Put the server load onto one of these things. The server's a spam filter? Put the number of rejected emails per hour on it.

It doesn't serve as a substitute for performance alerts, but for $40 it's not bad for real-time monitoring when you don't have a monitor or terminal available

That fine article is old. (0)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24994125)

A year and a half old. Even if Samsung hasn't released specs for it it's easy enough to spy on the USB port and get the protocol. That means that the only way there's no kernel driver for it is that it hadn't caught the attention of some kernel hacker enough to motivate him to write the code.

If it hasn't happened already, the granparent post, your post and this one should do the trick.

Behold the power of open source: where pointing out cool stuff is the same thing as hiring a crack team of engineers.

Re:That fine article is old. (5, Insightful)

jmpeax (936370) | about 6 years ago | (#24994133)

it's easy enough to spy on the USB port and get the protocol

Your definition of easy isn't the same as mine!

Re:That fine article is old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994225)

it's so hard to just wire a HD44780 compatible LCD to a USB to parallel adapter? i bet there is a lot of code for paralel LCDs...

Re:That fine article is old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994235)

Leave the delusional alone!

Re:That fine article is old. (0)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 6 years ago | (#24994319)

it's easy enough to spy on the USB port and get the protocol

Your definition of easy isn't the same as mine! []

There are a few more than just those, at least one of which is completely $$-free, I'm just too lazy to dig them up.

Re:That fine article is old. (2, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24994433)

I would probably have gone with USBspy [] because I'm not afraid of commercial software, I just prefer the other kind. I'm sure Sourceforge [] has something to solve the problem but I'm not actively seeking an answer today so it's better if the grandparent does the rest of this work himself.

Re:That fine article is old. (1)

n3xg3n (994581) | about 6 years ago | (#24997259)

I've no personal experience in the field, but I have heard good things about USB Snoop [] which is open source.

Re:That fine article is old. (1)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24994499)

So even if you happen to be a Computer Science major and reverse engineer your own drivers, you're advocating using an entire monitor to replace a $50 4x20 LCD that runs entirely off a USB port. Why?

Re:That fine article is old. (1)

daenris (892027) | about 6 years ago | (#24995213)

Am I the only one that feels like $50 for a 4x20 character USB LCD is too expensive? I mean, I understand how it would be useful in situations where you don't want/need a full monitor, but the Samsung USB monitor runs from $225-$300 depending on where you get it and runs at 1280x1024. I'd feel better about it if the 4x20 display would come down to $25-30.

Why? (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24995323)

Because you could do the same job with a 320x200 USB photo frame for $50, and do it with color images?

Was that not the answer you were looking for?

Re:Why? (1)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24995531)

No, you can't "do the same job" with a $50 photoframe. The $50 USB photo frames you talk about [] are not real time displays. The USB link is to transfer photos to/from the memory card. If you want to get real time on a USB photo frame you need one capable of Vista SideShow, and that will set you back $200 [] .

Re:Why? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24995681)

If you want to get real time on a USB photo frame you need one capable of Vista SideShow

I can guarantee you that no display I recommend will require Windows Vista. If you need to do that, you're doing it wrong.

Re:Why? (1)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24995709)

Then recommend a $50 USB frame that supports platform independent real time display instead of USB monitors that require Windows XP. That's the only way to "do the same job".

Require Windows XP (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24995901)

"Requires Windows XP" Is a good way to say "is insufficently examined." Especially if it's a USB device.

The USB port can be spied. There is no USB device that can withstand thorough inspection. If there is a USB device you would like to use that is not available now, it will soon be because there exists someone somewhere who also needs it who is also good with code and who does not mind to share in hope that you too might have some good ideas.

Re:Require Windows XP (1)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24995917)

I read your entire post over three times (just to make sure) but couldn't find a $50 USB frame that supports platform independent real time display.

Re:Require Windows XP (1, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24996019)

I'm sorry. This is /. so I assume some stuff. Forgive me.

Ok, so what you do is click the address bar and type "" (without the quotes) and press the enter key. Then in the search box on the page you type your heart's desire. If what you're looking for isn't on the first page, click the "2" and so on until you find it.

I hope this has been helpful.

Re:Require Windows XP (2, Informative)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24997233)

I hope this has been helpful.

So helpful was your advice that I travelled back in time and availed myself of Google to make this post [] .

If you had bothered to Google this you would have seen that cheap, platform independent and real time frames do not exist. They are not real time, they are not platform independent and they are not in the $50 price range.

Do not make a recommendation for a platform independent, real time, $50 USB frame when they do not exist

Then again, the only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself, so I guess it's forgivable that you did not know that real time, platform independent, $50 USB frames do not exist, right?

Re:Or maybe... (1)

Boricle (652297) | about 6 years ago | (#24995159)

According to the article you posted, support for *nix is patchy:

According to the link for the product [] included in the article specs include:

* Linux drivers and OpenSource SDK

I'm no expert, but it sounds like at least Linux is supported (though for all I know, the drivers could be next to useless - I've never used them) - the article does a poor job of mentioning this

The thing that really confuses me about this device is this: USB 2.0 full speed device - if you send USB 2.0 full speed data (at full rate) at a display that only has 80 characters to display, it will be every bit as completely unreadable as a USB 1.0 display also being sent at full rate.

I think you're right that this is great for headerless servers as you wander around the server room - but some of non 1U servers (especially compaqs) used to have something similar built in (I don't know if they still do).

This would be great for a normal desktop computer so you can check for new emails, or have admin reports of how many of the servers are down, etc - that you can see without having to turn your monitor on, or to avoid having to remote / kvm to a management machine. That way, you don't have to interrupt your lunchtime WolfET!

Re:Or maybe... (2, Informative)

ajlitt (19055) | about 6 years ago | (#24996181)

In USB parlance, "full speed" means that the device supports 12Mbps transactions. It has no bearing on the throughput the device must sustain. And the 2.0 part is just marketing fluff: any full speed device is compatible with the 2.0 spec by way of legacy support for 1.1. For the record, "high speed" is the official term for 480Mbps USB, not 2.0.

Standards organizations are weird.

Re:Or maybe... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 years ago | (#24997545)

There are already such devices and have been for years...
I have several servers with LCD panels on the front of them, and they display various things like hostname, IP, kernel version, loadavg etc... I think most of the old cobalt raq servers had such panels built in and a few buttons to cycle through different information.

Re:Or maybe... (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | about 6 years ago | (#24998239)

I think you are missing the point here though. It can display stock quotes. So when you enter that server room and want to see the hostname, IP, kernel version, etc, now you can see stock quotes along with the other important info. Not only that, but you can check the weather. Damn that's sweet.

I know what you're thinking, "but I can easily do those things through Vista Gadgets, OSX Gadgets, iGoogle Gadgets, and so on and so on". Well my response to that sir is, can you do those things while spending $50 to do so?

Re:Or maybe... (1)

elgaard (81259) | about 6 years ago | (#24998507)


I could use this my OpenWrt Access Point that have USB but no VGA/DVI.

E.g. for new emails, missed calls on my SIP-phoneø,

Re:Or maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994215)

Just go with as many USB Monitors [] as you need, eh?

Hmm, this could solve the problem with trying to play content with proprietary codecs on Linux systems. Integrate the chip this monitor uses with the chip(s) used in DVD players, then just stream the encoded data out the USB port to the monitor and let it deal with the decoding.

You're confused. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24994471)

Hmm, this could solve the problem with trying to play content with proprietary codecs on Linux systems.

The solution to this problem is to ignore proprietary codecs. In time they all go away, stranding all the content encoded on them. All the smart people are done converting their data from one proprietary format into another. Once media are encoded in open standards they can remain there forever and you avoid the reencoding work for the rest of forever. If you have the White Album on MP3, you don't ever need to buy it again unless you lose all your backups. If you have it in Plays For Sure and you reencode it into AAC don't expect us to feel bad for you when your new format is deprecated.

Re:You're confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994783)

So mp3 is an open standard? You sure have a funny definition of "open".

Re:You're confused. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 years ago | (#24995065)

Open: Everyone and their grandma's cat has a competing implementation.

            Alternately, implementing the standard can be treated as a class
            project for first year CIS undergraduates.

Whether or not it's "patent encumbered" is another matter.

Re:You're confused. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 6 years ago | (#24995075)

I see. So when exactly did MP3 go away? I must have missed it.

Re:You're confused. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#24995447)

If you have the White Album on MP3, you don't ever need to buy it again unless you lose all your backups.

So when exactly did MP3 go away?

Huh? Reading skills? I know on /. it's not expected you would read TFA, but please do try and read the post you're responding to.

Re:You're confused. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 6 years ago | (#24996777)

My reading skills seem to be fine, thank you. You wrote:

> The solution to this problem is to ignore proprietary codecs.

MP3 is patented in various ways, and still remains an extremely popular, perhaps even the most popular, audio codec. It hasn't 'gone away', and ignoring it will ignore a huge amount of both the available audio material and the available hardware. Simply 'ignoring' it doesn't work.

And unfortunately, 'ignoring' codecs by converting files from one codec to another can run you afoul of the DMCA in the USA, for breaking the protection on the original documents. So you can't just 'ignore proprietary codecs' any more than you can 'ignore traffic laws'. You may not get caught, but you're taking a real risk if you just ignore them.

Re:Or maybe... (2, Informative)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 6 years ago | (#24997851)

Or you could hack a digital picture frame : []

Now *that* could be nice. Full color, tiny screen on the front of the device. Now make a touchscreen out of it and ...

Homebrew angle. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24993979)

If you are interested in doing this yourself, look into "character LCDs" using the "HD44780" microcontroller. These are easily attached via the serial port...

Some example character lcd's and pricing []

Instructable on doing a character lcd []

and for the lazy among you,

Google search for "character lcd hd44780" []

Grab your soldering irons and have some homebrew fun! It isn't that hard at all!

Re:Homebrew angle. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994063)

What's a "serial port"?

Re:Homebrew angle. (1, Funny)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 6 years ago | (#24994241)

it's the port that you pour your milk into in the morning.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | about 6 years ago | (#24995231)

Dammit now my server has the Cap'n Crunch virus. Thanks a lot.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

Whiteox (919863) | about 6 years ago | (#24995341)

Ha ha! That's funny!
No Virginia, it's where you screw the mouse.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

kcelery (410487) | about 6 years ago | (#24997313)

many laptops nowadays don't come with a RS232 port. A pricy USB-> RS232 dongle is needed to connected to the legacy hardware.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

toddestan (632714) | about 6 years ago | (#25000147)

Pricy? Newegg has several models under $10. My main complaint is that they tend to be flakey and timing with them is very problematic.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 6 years ago | (#24996053)

These are easily attached via the serial port..

Bad news, I'm already using one serial port for my IR receiver, and the other to set the channel on my Tivax STB-9 Digital TV converter for recording with my PVR.

So I guess I'm just too geeky for the HD44780 microcontroller. Wow.

(But seriously, do these work with USB to Serial converters?)

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about 6 years ago | (#24996189)

Got a parallel port? It's even easier. A 44780 based display won't work with a serial port unless you have a separate micro to do translation.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

JoSch1337 (1168265) | about 6 years ago | (#24996557)

also try Futaba VFD [] they are damn bright [] and sold by various resellers on ebay for not many $$. depending on the device those can be programmed via serial or parallel. all one has to do is a little wiring. i bought myself a 2x40 character display [] and after figuring out [] how it [] works [] it's just plain fun.

Re:Homebrew angle. (1)

garlicbready (846542) | about 6 years ago | (#24997391)

There's also crystalfontz []

there's some more colours available but I think the price tag is a bit more

What Linux Device? (5, Interesting)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24993995)

what about Linux devices that can

What about them? How is this a Linux "device"? It doesn't run Linux, it comes with drivers that make it compatible with LCDproc.

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but if we're going to set the bar that low I'm going to go out and tell my friends that my Microsoft mouse is a "Linux device" because there's driver support for it on that platform.

Re:What Linux Device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994239)

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but if we're going to set the bar that low I'm going to go out and tell my friends that my Microsoft mouse is a "Linux device" because there's driver support for it on that platform.

Your mouse is a device. If it works with Linux, it's a Linux device. That seems fair enough. If it doesn't work with Linux, it's clearly not a Linux device. So off you go, tell your friends.

Re:What Linux Device? (1)

Kawahee (901497) | about 6 years ago | (#24994459)

Your mouse is a device. If it works with Linux, it's a Linux device. That seems fair enough. If it doesn't work with Linux, it's clearly not a Linux device. So off you go, tell your friends.

I just got one-upped by my friend. While I have a Microsoft "Linux Device" mouse, he has an Intel "Windows Vista Chip" ICH7 Southbridge controller.

Zero-click information retrieval (2, Interesting)

compumike (454538) | about 6 years ago | (#24994001)

It may seem a bit "retro" to be using a character LCD for information display, but from a user interface perspective, there's lots of data that is still textual (e-mail subjects, news, etc) that is nice to have outside of the main work area of our primary monitor displays. Even as resolutions have increased particularly for desktop monitors, the idea that there's a separate device dedicated for a separate stream of information can be a useful notion because it's a "zero-click" way of getting to that knowledge, without dedicating primary monitor real estate there or making annoying popups.

There's really just a lot of information streams that don't deserve sexy RGB pixels on one's display, and the mental association of looking at a specific gadget to get a specific stream of information is a strong one. Until we have ultra-cheap projectors everywhere and make better use of display surfaces, this is a step in that direction.

Electronics kits for the digital generation! Microcontroller, LCD, gcc compiler, and more. []

Re:Zero-click information retrieval (1)

jav1231 (539129) | about 6 years ago | (#24994065)

I could see this in a workplace environment. We use leaderboards to stream data about things like queue information for callers. A manager could have this on their desk and get the same information.

Re:Zero-click information retrieval (3, Interesting)

perlchild (582235) | about 6 years ago | (#24994099)

I just wish we'd go back to a bios-based LCD, for when the screen won't work, the ram won't load in, or something similar. A way to indicate a crash without using beeps... Some environments are so noisy it's just not possible to distiguish some combinations.

Using with Windows XP? (1)

MBCook (132727) | about 6 years ago | (#24994081)

Does anyone out there actually HAVE one of these?

I wrote them on Friday but they haven't responded yet (which isn't too surprising). I'd love to have one, but the computer I want to use it with uses XP, not Vista or Linux. I've used LCDProc before, but there is no Windows port. I looked at the driver for this thing but it looks like it sends direct USB command (i.e. it doesn't just appear as a serial port). I spend my time in Java (due to my job) so that's what I'd like to program it in, but the main Java->USB API for Windows (jUSB) hasn't updated their page since 2003.

The only other solution I see is called JCommUSB and it's a paid library. If I'm going to spend $50 on an LCD, then add shipping, then $35 for the personal edition of the library, I may as well just buy a USB LCD from CrystalFontz or Matrix Orbital that costs $100 and will be easy to program.

Does anyone have one of these? Have you messed with them? I'd really love one, it's half the price these kind of things usually are.

Re:Using with Windows XP? (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | about 6 years ago | (#24994419)

I spend my time in Java (due to my job) so that's what I'd like to program it in, but the main Java->USB API for Windows (jUSB) hasn't updated their page since 2003.

According to their site, jUSB, despite being dead, never worked on Windows. Have you tried libusbjava [] ? I'm neither a Java nor Windows developer, so this is a suggestion and not a recommendation. I can vouch for libusb on Unix though.

!cheap (2, Informative)

bradgoodman (964302) | about 6 years ago | (#24994095)

$50 for a 4x20 Text LCD is not cheap!

Re:!cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994363)

A 20x4 dot matrix display with a standard controller is $5 on eBay []
Add a cheap USB enabled microcontroller or use the otherwise useless parallel port. That's all.

Re:!cheap (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994503)

Sure, and I could program up a $2 ATtiny for the interface, then another few bucks for connectors. Of course you'd need a case which would also cost money and time. By the time I was done, I'd be pretty close to $40, if I only payed myself minimum wage. If you think you can produce them cheaper, why don't you give it a try? I can hear it now, "But, but, but, it's still too expensive." Talk is cheap.

Re:!cheap (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994575)

Add a USB cable, a few buttons and a plastic shell. With the display and the controller, that's a total of maybe $10 in parts, retail, one-of prices. $50 for the final product is an acceptable price, if you must have the small form factor or the low power consumption, but it is not "inexpensive" or "cheap". You can buy 1024x768 TFTs for $50...

Re:!cheap (2, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 years ago | (#24994913)

What I wanted to say as well, $50 at this date for something that shitty is expensive as hell, you get a replacement touchscreen LCD for the DS for like 3.5 dollar or something, and that one is 18 bit 256x192. Who cares about text on LCDs of today? You can probably get that Logitech keyboard with display for that price and use that instead ...

It has a tail, buttons, and features. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24995755)

Try and make that DS screen dance.

The real work is already done - and $50 for the convenience is easy to justify for enough people who don't want/need a fancy-ass keyboard connected to get that feature.

I challenge you to come up with an external, USB-driven display with support for two platforms, with buttons, based on that $3 DS screen. At this level of quality.

Granted, the title of this post should read "1999 called, it wants its uberdevice back.", but I wouldn't get to make that other point. The price, the features, all too-little, too-late.

Re:It has a tail, buttons, and features. (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 years ago | (#24999187)

I'm well aware it probably don't contain any sort of controller, but still $50 is really expensive, I have no idea what the components may cost but probably not much in the amount of 1000+.

Re:!cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24995205)

$50 is the new $20.

Re:!cheap (2, Interesting) (595837) | about 6 years ago | (#24997113)

Yep! Generic 17" LCD => $75

This LCD has 4x20x8x5 = 3200 pixels
That's over $15 per 1k pixels

Standard color LCD 1024*800 = 819200 pixels
That's less than $0.1 per 1k pixels

So you pay x150 more for those pixels without color just to have a few buttons ?

Not cheap enough for sure !

Re:!cheap (1)

radish (98371) | about 6 years ago | (#24998097)

Well, actually, yes it is. Please point me to somewhere where you can get a USB connected standalone 20x4 backlit display, with control buttons, for anywhere near that price.

For example, crystalfontz are one of the better/cheaper suppliers of this kind of thing typically and their closest equivalent is this [] which is $133!. Just the display, without any controls or a case [] is $70. MatrixOrbital, the other big supplier, cost even more.

So please stop comparing this to a monitor or a keyboard, it's not one of those, and if you want a standalone display with buttons which hooks up to USB and is LCDproc compatible, this is a steal.

too little, too much (5, Informative)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 years ago | (#24994113)

As far as I can tell, this device is only alpha numeric, no real graphics capabilities.

While I'm sure that a very small number of people will buy into this, I find it very disappointing and very limited, and pretty damn expensive for what you get. I compare this to my Logictech G15 LCD graphic display device. I paid $60 for mine a little over a year ago, it runs on USB, has similar input buttons near the display, but it does full graphics, and a number of nice aplets are already written for it (although far too few). Oh yea, it also happens to include a full illuminated keyboard, multimedia volume knob and mute button, and 18 user definable macro keys (expandable to 54 or more using the 3 "bank" buttons - but unfortnately the newer version of the Logitech G15 reduces this to just 6 user definable buttons). And they throw in a few extra USB ports too. While some people might not want to use a keyboard with their computer, I kind of suspect that most do, and that mounting a full graphic capable similar sized LCD on a Luminated keyboard is a far better way to go for the vast majority of users, and that a $50 price for just an alpha-numeric display is a bit expensive. Too bad they didn't make it Logitech G15 [] compatible and put it out at a lower price, but I don't see a likely broad use for this gimic when the G15 is still available, even with it's reduced number of fumction keys in the new version.

Re:too little, too much (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 6 years ago | (#24994153)

How's that keyboard work velcroed to a server rack so you can read CPU frequency and server load without firing up a monitor?

Devices like this are kind of like the Eee PC. If you get it, it's great. If you don't, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Re:too little, too much (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 years ago | (#24994249)

While you may have identified a very small niche market for this thing, I would suggest that if you have a server farm, there are far better ways to monitor such information remotely from a central point that greatly beat out buying one of these gimmicks for each server. And you should be doing that before playing with this toy. If you actually have to walk up to the server, you very likely do want to be able to see a real monitor (likely a smallish LCM monitor that may not cost much more than this box if you shop around). I also wouldn't bet on the future availability of this device, there just isn't a big market for it at the price. So I would be very cautious about designing a server farm that depended on it, unless I had so much cash that I could afford to buy enough units to cover any future growth and a reasonable allowance for device failure.

Re:too little, too much (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 years ago | (#24997611)

If you have a rack full of servers, you really should buy proper server grade equipment and not hack your own homebrew machines together...
And you really should never need to enter the server room except to replace hardware.
Any decent server will have a serial port or virtual serial over ethernet, through which you can power the hardware up and down, and interact with the system firmware regardless of the state of the OS.

I was able to fix a server that wasn't booting properly yesterday by sshing from my phone, attaching to the serial console and changing boot parameters. Much more convenient and quicker than driving to the data center.

Server rooms are hostile environments, cold, incredibly noisy and very uncomfortable... You don't want to spend any more time than you have to in there.

Re:too little, too much (2, Informative)

Zerth (26112) | about 6 years ago | (#24994381)

Or you could just get one of those LCD picture keychains that has something like a 65c02 with a usb interface. 1 or 2 inch graphic lcd that does 20-30 frames per second.

And you can get them for under $30. Some as low as $15. []

Although last time I checked the software was linux only.

Re:too little, too much (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 6 years ago | (#24994827)

You got a good deal on that keyboard. I can't find one on-line for less than $80 right now.

Re:too little, too much (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 years ago | (#24994873)

The good deal was that it was the first version. The first version is extremely hard to find now, I can't find it for anywhere near that price now (I don't deal with the Evil Bay of Thieves). The newer version can be easily found around $70 with some simple searching, at east it could about a week ago when I last looked). For $20 more than the 4 line text gimmic, I think the illuminated keyboard, graphical LCD display, 2 extra usb ports, and even just 6 extra function keys (and a really handy place to mount the LCD) is a far better deal.

Re:too little, too much (1)

bakedpatato (1254274) | about 6 years ago | (#24995701)

dang it you got me, I was about to talk about the G15. However,the G15 is not SlideShow or LCDproc compatible(correct me if I am wrong), so its of limited utility for non gamers(yes there is that plugin for Miranda IM, etc but still)

Re:too little, too much (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 years ago | (#24995957)

I keep seeing the terms SlideShow and LCDProc thrown around, but I'm not clear on the exact applications. It seems curious to me that something that is 4 lines of alphanumeric text can be used by something called SlideShow. Anyway, I can concede that to my knowledge the G15 display doesn't work dierectly with these applications, but the development kit is available and I would expect that if there was a reason to do so someone would build the software (or perhaps already has). Certainly the G15 display can display anything that this thing can, while this little box can't come near doing what the G15 display will. As to limited utility for non-gamers, that's not quite accurate. Along with the handful of small utilities that come in the G15 package, there are several free ones available on-line. One will display any bitmap (of suitable size), so it shouldn't take much work to wrap whatever you want displayed around that. Others include a utility from AMD that gives info on the CPU (I suspect it doesn't work with Intel CPUs though but have no way to try that). There's a great utility for showing lots of status information called SirReal's panel that is configurable as to what info it shows (mine is currently showing time and date, cpu and memory usage, network bandwidth, network statistics, a stopwatch, any hung program (and a button that will kill it), and my Teamspaeak status (yea, that last one is rather gamer related). All this at one time on a graphic display. There are network monitor utilities, email monitors, weather monitors, stock monitors (I'm pretty sure I've seen one but can't find it now), multimedia based utilities, and many system based utilities. The last few versions of PCwizard will optionally display their system status to the G15 display when the program is minimized. And, since the development kit is available and free, you certainty are free to program anything for it that you want. So rather than spend time making SlideShow or LCDproc display what you want, you could be coding for a much nicer display built right into a pretty nice keyboard. But the choice, of course, belongs to the user. I just can't see this price as being inexpensive in contrast to what else is available (the G15 being a pretty good alternative). This "story: just strikes me as another example of the editors letting an advertisement for a dubious product slip through as if it were a real story. Nothing new there.

Re:too little, too much (1)

bakedpatato (1254274) | about 6 years ago | (#24996095)

No sarcasm intended, but thank you for enlightening me on the plugins for the G15, as the Wiki page does not have any mention of many of those plugins. Silly me, I shoulda assumed that some guy would've made this stuff. Still, the SDK is Windows only, while LCDProc runs on Linux and the BSD's (OS X as they mention Darwin?). SideShow is a M$ product though. SideShow has M$ product linked features(WMA,etc), but I'm sure that the Logitec SDK will allow you to do the same thing sans pictures(and that's fine). The G15, for those of you following at home, is $100 MSRP, not that bad.

Re:too little, too much (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 years ago | (#24996257)

The Linux geeks are not going to miss out on the G15. There's been a G15 linux toolkit [] for several years now. And a search on Google for G15 and Linux gets over 400,000 hits (no, I have not read all of them, yet). Yea, The MSRP is a bit high, but I've seen the keyboard (newer style) for around $70 at several sites in the last week. Picked up mine at $60 on sale when I was looking for a USB keyboard. Those willing to wait and search should likely be able to find a similar sale or some kind of store coupon that will get it at about this price.

If cost is no object (it is to me), then Logitech also has a Keyboard / Mouse combo called the MX 5500 that also includes a LCD display. I don't know much about this display, and suspect it may not be completely compatable with the G15 display, but it's a nice looking Keyboard. Should be at a MSRP of $170.

Re:too little, too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24997091)

something called SlideShow

It's called "SideShow".

Re:too little, too much (1)

truthful cynic (525883) | about 6 years ago | (#24997293)

This "story: just strikes me as another example of the editors letting an advertisement for a dubious product slip through as if it were a real story. Nothing new there.

I agree 100%. The g15 is remarkably easy to figure out ( even got the linux driver to work under solaris without adding any new dents to my head ). Once you get the daemon running, dealing with the button bindings is relatively simple. The *only* drawback (and it is a significant one) that is worth mentioning is that this keyboard is not kvm friendly - if you do a USB switch while it is in the middle of updating the display, something WILL get confused. Not really the keyboard's fault as practically all usb devices will get upset if you yank it out in the middle of the transfer, but it's easy to forget when you are used to a usb switch.

Needs to be a bit larger for $50USD (1)

pembo13 (770295) | about 6 years ago | (#24994129)

While I have been looking for such a device for quite some time, I could build one for $50. For $50, the screen needs to have a higher resolution, and be a bit bigger.

Article translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994203)

As Windows sideshow is a total failure due to the inclusion of dual monitor support on 75% of any computers built since 2004
and the massive supply of low cost lcd monitors from China here is an article where we try to attempt to convince^H^H^lie^H^H^beg to suckers^Hgeek^H^H^H friends into buying one of our hugely overpriced offcast LCD displays available from a grand total of 3 manufacturers (who actually bought our marketing spiel back in 2003, LOL) as we would like to somehow drum some interest in our crappy idea as the manufacturers are giving us grief (and pestering my secretary) about when they will see a ROI before they sue us and never answer the phone from us again

so for everybody here we present a commercial^H^H^Hslashvertism^H^H^Hunbiased article loosely connected to Linux (it wanst my choice but the marketing guys said it would work) in a pathetic attempt to sell our old idea to a bunch of geeks and nerds on slashdot who have huge disposable income and a penchant for new toys , oh and Star Trek,Star Wars, Kernels, TCP,UDP and hot grits

regards ..C....F.

What I would like... (1)

WillRobinson (159226) | about 6 years ago | (#24994261)

There are tons of DYI's for this stuff out there. But what would be interesting, is taking a dead laptop display, and being able to rig it up to my pc, maybe hanging off the wall near the base, being able to display pictures, or data, not like being a second monitor which I have, but as a display of information like weather from my local station, or remote, or pictures or whatever.

Now that would be interesting...

Re:What I would like... (1)

glarbl_blarbl (810253) | about 6 years ago | (#24995585)

Not exactly what you're asking for, but there's this. []

Mouser has a crapton of these for cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24994461)

A metric crapton of LCD displays on Mouser:*lcd*+*display*&N=1323038&Ntx=mode%2Bmatchall&Ns=P_SField&OriginalKeyword=lcd+display&Ntk=Mouser_Wildcards []

Many can be had for $5 for a basic one, to $10 for a pretty nice backlit one.

I was considering using a little 8 bit microcontroller (also just a few dollars) to buffer RS-232 chars from the 'puter and then convert and send the right command set for the display. You can get the command set from the display's datasheet. Usually they're simple; you just set some lines high to send a command (such as clear display, or draw a character and move one position), and then wait for a line to go low before sending the next command.

I am planning to get one and fit it into a 5 1/4" drive bay faceplate for an HTPC.

4x20? luxury, when I were a kid... (2, Informative)

hack slash (1064002) | about 6 years ago | (#24994517)

...4x20 was the screensize of your LAPTOP! []

I got a working one of those kicking about in my shed, any ideas what I could do with it? besides trying to find replacement rechargable batteries.

Logitech G15 anyone? (2, Interesting)

lattyware (934246) | about 6 years ago | (#24994669)

For that price, just buy a Logitech G15. I have one and there are drivers [] and a variety of software [] .

I find the possibility... (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | about 6 years ago | (#24994757)

Of reading /. eighty characters at a time intriguing...

Oh for cryin out loud (0, Troll)

stevenm86 (780116) | about 6 years ago | (#24994785)

$50?? Come ON.

A random HD44780 LCD - $10 on Sparkfin
PIC18F4550 - Free sample from Microchip
20MHz crystal - $0.05
USB connector - Free if you splice one of the billion cables that comes with all of your stuff
A piece of perfboard to build it on - $3 at radioshack
Building it all yourself - Priceless

Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#24995129)

Save the planet with diskless installation. The device doesn't come with a driver CD, instead when the picoLCD is first connected (self powered USB device) it convinently displays an URL where you can download the latest picoLCD driver!

Why doesn't every USB device come with its drivers embedded in the device itself, accessible out of the box over the basic USB driver that any OS should come with, which just retrieves the real device driver across the USB, installs it, and then uses it to access the real device? A good device would indeed install to the desktop a URL for updated drivers, and a really good one would even allow storing the updated drivers in the device's storage for installation at a later host, too. Drivers for each platform, whether Windows, Mac, Linux, or any other for which a driver is available.

Why do I have to ever see a driver, or install any SW, for these peripherals at all?

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 6 years ago | (#24995223)

Probably because flash still costs money. Not gigantic amounts, to be sure; but moving up from 8 or 16k embedded in some tichy little controller to 32-64 megs hanging off an expansion bus costs enough that it just isn't really worth it when you can get CDs pressed for approximately nothing in quantity.

There are also the security issues. Does the world really need even more things that execute blobs of mystery code when you connect them?

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#24995311)

I don't think these drivers are going to take more than a 64MB Flash ROM, which can't cost more than $1 wholesale. If every USB client chip had "driver Flash" in it, the whole cost couldn't go up much. And saving on the entire process of burning and including a CD would cut into that extra expense, while lowering support costs. USB is more expensive than RS-232, but has taken over because of those kinds of savings and marketable benefits.

The security issues are exactly the same with the driver embedded in the USB device as with a CD - the "autoplay" feature is an executable part of the OS, not the USB device. In fact, since it's embedded, there is less to go wrong, like sabotaged CDs.

What the world needs is devices that are truly plug and play, with SW installation and configuration by mere users a vanishing rarity.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 6 years ago | (#24995481)

Of course then we have to decide what kind of driver to put onto the machine. Do we use regular OS-specific drivers? For which OSes? Will there be a convenient way for people to obtain the driver wthout using this feature? Or do we use drivers in some kind of common format? Will drivers using that compatibility layer be performant enough? Which format will we use? Will that format be open? After all, Microsoft is going to invest a lot of money to have the Vista driver model be the standard because that means less work for them - and parts of the Vista driver model might be encumbered.

And so on and so on and so on. True Plug and Play is doomed to remain a pipe dream, I fear.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#24995753)

We put drivers for the version of Windows, Mac and Linux on the device, if we think those markets justify the cost.

Why would we need any other way than embedding and a website to get the drivers?

The only part of the driver model that needs to be standard is the one that gets the real driver off the USB device.

This problem isn't nearly as complex or hard as you make it out.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

RulerOf (975607) | about 6 years ago | (#24996799)

Expose 3 partitions to the host OS via USB mass storage. One NTFS, one ext2, one hfs.

Throw an autoplay compatible script in there that takes care of the rest.

No extra formats. No DRM wars. Just hardware "working."

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 6 years ago | (#24997431)

Partition formats aren't the issue. Everyone and their dog can read FAT32 and you don't really need a journaling filesystem with multiple datastreams for a read-only 64 meg chip containing some files.

I think however, that we're not likely to see wide support for this stuff. Most people will probably only add the Windows driver (to flash size and thus keep cost down) and have the update URL point to a part of their website that gets reorganized (and thus invalid) six months later. Most corporations don't get the concept of nonvolatile URLs. And of course the technology has to be suported by Windows - ad unless Microsoft gets the idea on their own they're not likely to implement it. Apple might do it (because Apple loves improving usability through technology) and the Linux devs might (because they can), but Microsoft probably wouldn't care until either they come up with an incompatible version of their own, the technology becomes an ISO standard or (most likely) both.

If we really want this to happen, we need to work it out, have a company submit it to ECMA and have ECMA submit it to ISO. And of course, we need to find some way to pay for all of that.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about 6 years ago | (#24996315)

I agree that driver installation is an unnecessary evil, but I don't see that going away any time soon. Standards bodies for interfaces like USB can only come up with so many standard device classes, so inevitably some new and innovative (or old and unpopular as in this example) product will come out that won't fit into one.

But I don't think companies will find it practical to use your method. Once you've paid for a flash chip, a micro with enough oomph and extra I/Os to run USB mass-storage and talk to a flash chip in addition to your intended application, factory programming for the flash, extra board space and testing costs, you might as well have paid the 25 cents or so for a pressed CD.

The only application I can see for something like this is where the need for software's physical portability is part of the usage model. There are Vonage branded USB sticks out that not only have Vonage's app and drivers on the stick's mass storage device, but also have analog audio in/out for a headset.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#24997753)

I don't think you understand how this works. There doesn't need to be standard USB drivers or interfaces for all classes. Only one: the USB transfer of the stored data that is the device's unique (and arbitrary) driver itself. That driver and storage/IO HW and its programming would be exactly the same (or with just a few simple and standard variations) for every USB client chip in the world. In the hundreds of millions of USB chips sold each year, that cost per item would probably be $0.25 or less. And have much greater benefits: the actual benefit of USB, which is plug and play. Which not only sells more devices to more unsophisticated users, but also to cut costs of packaging, delivery and support.

Since so many people in the PC world don't seem to get this simple point, maybe it won't arrive in that industry. The new USB spec doesn't seem to have it, which would have been the time: once a decade. So I'd just bet that the equivalent of USB for mobile "phone" peripherals will include it. Probably part of a future BlueTooth spec, so the user doesn't even have to do anything, not even plug it in: just approve the installation. If adding a new peripheral were a matter of just saying "OK" when it's available, that opens the market to literally billions of people, without hardly any support costs. Much cheaper and more profitable than installing a driver from a CD, with all its special cases.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about 6 years ago | (#24997997)

The USB standard for transferring driver code from device to host is not the issue. That already exists in the USB mass storage class. The trouble is that it takes both design resources and additional hardware cost to distribute what are usually out of date drivers.

What I could see happen in the future is the use of an existing class (say, usb comm) to transfer some XML data to the host that would direct the host's USB driver stack to a URL to download compatible drivers. Hardware vendors, be it the finished goods manufacturer, the product OEM, or the peripheral chip's manufacturer usually provide drivers on their website, so delivering drivers this way incurs little extra cost (the cost being increased bandwidth usage) and no extra design effort. Of course the USB host stack and the peripheral would both need to support this standard, but given the rising popularity of devices that have no driver CD in the box (Apple, I'm looking at you) this might gain acceptance quickly.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 6 years ago | (#24999475)

What you clearly do not understand is let's say the ROM with the driver added only $0.10 to the cost of the device. Fine. The company that is making 100,000 consumer devices has a decision - CD at $0 additional cost or embedded storage at $10,000.

See, the marginal cost per unit needs to be pushed down as far as possible when you are making consumer hardware. Every nickle that is added is $50,000 if you are making a million units. That is a whole additional engineer in the US or EU and it is 10 people in China. Increasing engineering time is a single occurrence, adding cost to the device adds up very quickly.

This is why consumer electronics is generally very hard to work with and unbelieveably difficult to program sometimes. Sure, they could make it easier with a few more parts. But the costs go up astronomically.

Re:Embedded USB Drivers? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 years ago | (#24997803)

More and more systems are coming out without optical media drives...
CD/DVD drives are large and clunky these days, and entirely impractical on a small laptop.

help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24997669)

Does anyone know of a motherboard that comes with a display like this? I'd rather not mess around with the drivers, and it would be nice to have it flick on when the power key is pressed and not when the OS is mostly loaded.

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