Pre-flight Checklist – Stream Deck Plugin

What started as a checklist on paper morphed into a digital format.

After I saw the benefit in using the Stream Deck Mini that I won back in 2019,within a year I had decided to upgrade from that to the standard 16 key version. It was well worth it as having more actions per page is great for having more options readily available without having to go between page more often.

One of the things that I was rubbish at doing before stream was, well Everything, I would invariably forget to do something, either forgetting completely or remembering a few hours into stream, such as eating food, checking my peripherals or updating my title and game. I used to have a physical list of things to complete, but invariably I would lose it.

So I decided to build a plug-in for the Stream Deck to digitise this pre-stream checklist, aiming to achieve exactly the same thing, but less likely to misplace it between streams.
Once I had the working prototype working it dawned on me that I could theme it in the style of togglable switches like you might find in a cockpit.

It can however be used for anything that required a checkable list of tasks, so the name change to pre-flight rather than pre-stream allowed it to be no prescriptive but also a familiar enough concept for people to understand.

I haven’t really devoted too much time to getting the plugin into a releasable state but it’s something I’d like to do so other folks can set up their own lists and hopefully get the same benefit I get from it.

Hotdesk Solution

A bit of background to start with, Munki and I had set up accounts on our own PC’s for when Little Troll (LT) started using the PC for Netflix, CBBC iPlayer & playing games, so we are accustomed to locked down browser accounts with white-listed websites and where possible games weren’t linked to an socially active account like Steam or Origin, GOG is a blessing.

After a recent upgrade I had nearly all the parts for another PC that we could build as a dedicated machine for Little Troll that we could have the games installed as needed, lock down the websites & applications, time limit the usage. This get around LT having to install minecraft mods on both Mine and Munki’s machines, not to mention game saves and settings.

Additionally we have a Steam Link sitting in the Living Room that just needs to connect to Big Picture mode which isn’t possible when a machine is in use by another account, so having a seperate machine would be beneficial in that regard too.

So it was decided to crack on with project.

Plan A

We have limited desk space so adding an additional monitor/mouse/keyboard on a permanent basis wasn’t practical, so the plan was to devise a system that would allow the most flexibility when it came to being able to hot desk.

I am familiar with using KVM switches as they allow the same Mouse/Keyboard/Monitor & Speakers to be shared between machines, so Plan A was to look into the possible use of HDMI KVM switches.

Plan B

So when I started to look into the details of Plan A it turns out that that a HDMI KVM switches would result in:

  1. a mass of wires to manage
  2. generally more expense
  3. no easy way toggle three machine between 2 monitors

So Plan B came into existence which was to move away from splitting mouse, keyboard and sound, focusing on the Video output.

This meant some a cost buying a wireless Keyboard\mouse bundle, a Bluetooth headset and 3 HDMI splitters, however the cost was less than the HDMI KVM switches, so we opted for this approach.

The result

I am happy to report than the solution has worked very well, allowing hot desking to work seamlessly. The HDMI splitters are actually switches which have a toggle button so they don’t automatically switch, additionally they are bi-directional, so the same type could be used for the 3 devices needed for the project.

Now at the touch of two buttons, and carrying of a keyboard and mouse swapping between seats is rather easy.


Extended PI

So last year I used part of my bonus to by myself a Raspberry PI, it’s something I’ve wanted for a while now and I thought I’d get a head start to learn the ropes well before Little Troll set his sights on one.

If you aren’t aware of the Raspberry PI, it’s a tiny single-board computer, primarily aimed at teaching computer science, the revision of the board I own (3) has built in wireless, so doesn’t require a separate dongle. The HDMI output is the primary method of seeing feedback from the device, when you are using it with a GUI, this is fine with you have a spare TV or Monitor to use, however in a home with only one TV, it’s a little rude to commandeer the TV especially when you are a guest at someones home.

Luckily for Christmas I was gifted some money and amazon vouchers so, I decided to push the boat out and purchase an official  7 inch touchscreen and a case to hold both the PI board, the screen and the additional wiring.

I liked the idea of the screen and it’s been perfect for the small projects I wanted to attempt while travelling for New Years, one of these was of course firing up Retro PI, which definitively works well on the smaller screen and with some controllers hooked up. I was also pleased that it can all run off a USB Power Bank, allowing us to play games where-ever we fancied.

The only issue with the screen housing is that swapping OS/Boot MicroSD cards isn’t too easy.

My next project is Assembling the AIY Voice project from Google which is effectively a voice controlled assistant, this was my Christmas Present from Little Troll so may try and get it built with him tagging along, before he starts back to school after the Christmas break.

Future projects include getting my Blink(1) working with the PI and learning more Python.

Shipping Forecast

In early December I decided to run the pending updates on my HTC M9, I usually let them build up for several days before installing them. However the following day the phone was acting a little odd so I decided to restart it. That’s when some of the core android files appeared to stop working altogether. So after following the clear cache reinstall applications, complete wipe and then a factory reset I gave up.

The ultimate result was that my phone was screwed. I contacted HTC using their online chat system (spoke to someone named Christine) and after walking through the same steps I had already taken (but you know in an official capacity this time). They ultimately came to the same conclusion as I had, it appeared that one of the updates had gone wrong and had updated into the recovery store.

So they raised a report to start the process for me to return it, only after waiting the allotted 2 days without any confirmation emails, I contacted them again to find out what the issues was, again Christine was on the chat client, (small world) after attempting to send the email, I eventually get it sent to another email address due to reasons. YAY

Only the email states, you will get two additional emails after this one, so I wait another day, then have to contact them again, this time I get another operator, I explain the issue again and we attempt to get the emails resent. Result! the first additional email arrives to my original email address, the next will be along shortly I’m promised.
No such luck, this goes on for another 2 sessions ( only one of which was with Christine) and eventually they have to send the packing label in the chat client as their system refuses to email it to me.

Wiley Fox

With Christmas fast approaching and me likely to be without a phone I decided that I would pick up a phone as a temporary measure. Now I didn’t need something that was going to run high end games, it pretty much needed to do the basics:

  • Phonecall & texts
  • Email & twitter
  • Music Playback
  • Bluetooth
  • Alarms

I have wanted to try the UK brand Wiley Fox out for some time so I bought the Spark+ which was actually on offer at the time, it’s the mid-range offering that seemed to offer a good product and a decent price, especially for a “temp” phone ( possible longer if HTC find issues).

The phone does everything that I need, can handle videos or streaming without too much effort, the screen is a 5 with an average resolution but doesn’t feel too cramped. The phones build quality is good and not overly plastic the camera is ok buy don’t expect any of the bells and whistles you get with high-end devices.

My HTC is apparently heading back to me soon so we’ll see if it’s fixed. Fingers crossed.

Logitech K380 Keyboard

I use my Nvidia K1 Shield as my main interaction device when I’m away from my PC for extended periods of time, as with any touch screen device using the onscreen keyboard takes up a chunk of real-estate, that shrinks the content that you are viewing. To circumvent this I bought a bluetooth keyboard to allow me to type blog posts and the like a whole lot easier and to also keep the screen size maximised for application usage.

Over the Christmas period I found that my existing bluetooth keyboard had stopped powering on correctly.
So rather than try to figure out how to fix the weird power switch issue (that would most likely need some soldering), I used some money I was gifted from my Grandparents to get a new device.

I wanted to pick up the device ASAP so I could use it over Christmas when I would be using my tablet more heavily, but rather than waiting for a delivery, which around Christmas could have a 3 to 10 day delay, I hit the shops to attempt to find a replacement. After checking in a number of stores and weighing up the devices that were on offer, I finally settled on the Logitech K380 (UK Qwerty) which is a Cross-Platform and Multi-Device bluetooth keyboard.

Powered by two AAA batteries (expected to last around 24 months) the K380 is lightweight device weighing in around 420g, but the craftsmanship feels solid with the keys moving fluidly and comfortably within their recesses. The device has 4 rubber feet that hold the device in place when used on a flat surface, however the lightweight nature means that the device isn’t uncomfortable resting on your lap.

Out of the box the keyboard functions in a basic manner, with nearly all core keys performing their expected function, however characters that require the use of shift key function as if the keyboard layout is defaulted to use the US layout so the @ key is on shift 2 by default rather than it being “.

I have to admit that it took me a little time to figure out that I needed to download an additional application to the device in order to utilise those advanced features. If you need the Android version it can be found here: Logitech Keyboard Plus. One of the core features of the keyboard is the multi-device setup and quick switching keys, I didn’t really have much cause to use this but I tried it out connecting to my Phone on the second profile, then swapping between them using the dedicated keys.

I used the keyboard quite a bit over the Christmas break for typing into slow moving environments like forums or sending tweets, I also found it very useful for chatting on faster paced environments such as Discord and Twitch. It was nice to have cut and paste functionality and once I had it figured out plus the ability to auto-complete functionality for names and the like.