Chinavasion Pico Projector

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A Wi-Fi-enabled pico projector that runs Linux? Find out what our Hack Editor thinks of the hackability of this device.

It seems like Linux runs on just about everything these days from phones to televisions, and as my August 2010 column shows, it even can power a refrigerator. In fact, I bet many Linux users have become a bit jaded about it and almost expect electronics to have Linux under the hood—I know I have. Even so, I found myself surprised and intrigued when I heard about a pico projector sold by Chinavasion that runs Linux (www.chinavasion.com/product_info.php/pName/mini-projector-with-wifi-wireless-remote). Once I read the specs and discovered it had built-in wireless networking, an SD card slot and supported USB host mode, I started daydreaming about all the possibilities. Sure, you could use the projector for its intended purpose—playing media files—but imagine if you could access the Linux user space underneath. I knew I had to get one, and I had to try to hack into it. Read on for my review of the device and a chronicle of my adventures with it so far.

In a sense, this article is two reviews. First, I review the product as it's sold, then I discuss what I found when I looked under the hood. Chinavasion was kind enough to send me a review unit and was even open to my hacking on it, as long as I made it clear that taking it apart or messing around under the hood would void the warranty. At the time of this writing, the projector costs $235 and includes the projector itself, an IR remote control, a small IR keyboard, the power cable and adapter to US outlets, a tripod and an RCA cable. The projector itself has the following specs as listed from the product page:

  • Dimensions: 137mm x 77mm x 23mm

  • Projector: 10 lumen LED projector at 640x480

  • 802.11b/g wireless support

  • SD card slot

  • USB port with USB host adapter support

  • Two-hour battery life

  • Two-thousand-hour lamp life

  • Video: VOB, MPEG1/2/4 AVI, XVID

  • Audio: MP3, WMA, AAC

  • Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP

Pico Is Not Just a Text Editor

I have to say, I'm still new enough to pico projectors that I'm amazed they have been able to fit a projector into such a small space (Figure 1). I mean, I can fit this projector in my back pocket, and it's about the size of a pack of cards only longer. However, that small size comes at a price—brightness. Where your average full-size projector might sport more than 2,000 lumens, this projector sits at a fraction of that with 10 lumens. That means you will want to use this in a rather dark room, preferably at night. Also, although the Web site lists the projector as supporting up to a 70-inch projection size, you'll find better results the closer the projector is to the surface.

Figure 1. The Projector on Its Tripod with Both Remotes and a Decorative Shell Necklace

The Fan

The first thing you notice when you power on the projector isn't the brightness—it's the sound. No, that's not a jet engine—it's the fan. It turns out that the LED lamp gets quite hot, and as any overclocker knows, when you want to cool a computer quietly, you want a large fan so the blades can spin at a lower RPM. When you have a small space and must use a small fan, you have to resort to very high RPMs to pull enough cool air through the system. It really sounds a lot like the fans you'll find in many 1U servers. Even with the fan, you'll notice after the projector has been on for a while, the metal surface gets quite hot. Apparently this is expected, but I still wouldn't put this projector on a bed or your lap. Luckily, the speaker is loud enough to drown out most of the fan noise. I personally find the sound of fans soothing (I spent many years sleeping near a full-size desktop with fans running 24x7), but I imagine the fan noise will bother some people.

The Interface

The projector has a simple interface that you can navigate either with buttons on the device itself or through the included IR remote control or keyboard (Figure 2). Basically, you move left and right through the different operating modes and press Enter to select a particular mode. The device I received included modes to play videos and music, display photos, do limited video and music streaming, and had a calendar and a weather app. I have to say that the interface itself isn't impressive or flashy at all—it's just a few icons and simple menus to get you to the media you want to play.

Figure 2. Sample User Interface Screens

______________________

Kyle Rankin is a director of engineering operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the author of a number of books including DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and is a columnist for Linux Journal.

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x431

OBDII's picture

X-431 PCCENTER is an inclusive data management software kit integrating monitor, diagnosis, analysis, waveform display, update notice and remote service functions. Through the interfacing of X-431 scan tool and PC with the help of Bluetooth technology, it can display, monitor and process waveform and trouble code information in the diagnosis process. The vehicle information can go into the database together with the record of the car owner in support of future maintenance. In addition, X-431 PCCENTER comes complete with software upgrade information and upgrade tools. It will also allow the users to send their diagnostic information to the company website to get solutions from specialists.Product characters1. Real-time Monitor: The real-time display of X-431 interfaces on a PC screen enables the technician to give instructions from PC for X-431 to carry out and to capture the interfaces for further analysis.2. Diagnosis: Linking with X-431 and running the diagnostic program will bring waveform and trouble code on the PC screen, which can be studied together with the previous diagnostic information of the car.3. Data Import: The diagnostic information can be saved in .x431 format and imported to PC for analysis. The same document can also be sent to Launch website to get help from specialists.4. Notice for Upgrade: Notices for the release for the model and version information will be given.5. Upgrade Tool: This function gives more convenience in the upgrade of X-431.6: Maintenance Information: Electric diagrams of the electronic control system and layout of the common models are available.

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