HipStreet E-Reader Review… plus some

Well, I was in the local Wal-Mart the other day and spotted this little device in the E-book reader section. It is the HS-M700-4GBBK version of this particular device. Here’s a shitty picture.

It’s a reasonably well laid out device. It seems to function reasonably well but has some problems. Remember though, it has quite a low price of $78 so it was a reasonable purchase. First, let’s state the features stated on the product listing and write a review on each of the features:

7″ TFT Screen (800×480 res.)

Well, this was a bit of a disappointment. The screen works ok but it is pretty dim. Any kind of ambient sunlight, even near dusk, will render this screen dark.

The touchscreen itself is pretty bad too. Well, it’s not the touchscreen per say but the responsiveness of the software is pretty poor. When switching through stuff especially when running an app, the software doesn’t seem to register hits very well. That said, it does respond just well enough to function but it is frustrating.

4GB of internal storage

Yep, it does have that and the transfer rates seem reasonable. not much to say on this.

Built-in rechargeable battery

The battery is quite large as you’ll see in the pictures later. I haven’t been able to test it’s battery life but I would say it’ll last quite some time just playing music.

Loud internal speaker

Yes, they described it as loud. the speakers aren’t bad for how small they are and play loud enough so you can hear what’s being played. A point for Hipstreet.

Dual 3.5mm headphone jack

Yes, it has dual jacks. I suppose thats for if you have a friend that wants to listen in on another set. Both jacks appear to work fine for both line out uses and headphone.

USB 2.0 interface

Yes, it runs at USB 2.0 speeds, not much to say about this.

MicroSD slot (up to 16gb)

This too appears to function adequately.

Multi-task operation compatible

Yes, you can play music and browse through the menus or photos. not much else really to do. It does become a bit slower while this is occurring.

Ebook reader functions: TXT, PDF, EPUB, FB2, HTML

Ok, here is the real crux of the issue, the EBook capabilities. Let’s just say the reading is less than stellar for PDFs. While it does render them more or less properly, you can’t make it zoom page-wide . That means that even if you set the tablet to read sideways along the long portion, it’ll simply squish the pdf page into a smaller space. With a standard pdf you have two choices, barely readable and unreadable unless the text is large print.

With TXT, EPUB and PB2’s it seems to render OK, however the rendering is really slow. flipping pages can sometimes take quite a bit of time. Changing the font size with the +/- keys can take some time too, especially with a larger text file. Though, I must say, reading with it in the dark is quite OK.

So, in closing with this feature. Don’t use pdf’s.

Music: MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, APE, OGG

As one might expect with a device like this, the music playing is actually quite good. I tried MP3, WAV and OGG. They all played flawlessly. There is some lag between songs but it’s acceptable.

Video: MPG, AVI, MOV, RM

I tried some MPG’s and AVI’s. They played flawlessly. Some high resolution or low compression formats seemed to lag the player but it would get over it’s hiccups eventually. The player itself is decent, however, again, the screen is really dim so it’s really only good as a nighttime player.

Photos: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG

Well, not much to say here, it displays all of those formats fairly well and has a slide show format. The interface isn’t terribly intuitive for panning but other than that, it is a picture viewer.

Voice recorder

Can you say “WSHHHHHHHsdgfsdgklfsdgjlfdg” That’s about all you’ll hear. The mic really suck so the recording suffers. Why they include these features is beyond me. Nobody uses them.

File Browser

Yes, you can cut, copy paste and delete. not a bad feature actually. Though there is no directory creation so I can’t fathom any real reason why you’d want to perform any of those operations.

Calendar

It really is just that. A calendar. No days of interest, no scheduling. Time and date. Nothing more. meh.

Summary

For a little under $80 bucks it’s not a bad device. If you have some EPUB books or something this might be OK. It does differ from the Kindle in the fact that you can use it in the dark, this may be it’s only redeeming feature in the EReader market. However, it does excel at playing music and video files so I suppose it has its charm there. So I give this device a 6/10 . I only give it a 6 because it was so cheap.

Plus some!!!

So decided to crack this puppy open. Here are some pics


This is the full unit open to the elements. As you can see the battery is quite large and the circuitry is quite minimal.

This thing is the CPU. I tried digging up info on the BOXCHIP F15 and it was unable to find a manufacturer. It looks as though this is a very common device for pre-packaged music/video players on the market today. It probably contains both a CPU and a bunch of decoding hardware for various file formats. While it’s running it does run somewhat warm to the touch but not very. must be quite efficient.

This is the K9GBG08u0a 4gb nand flash chip. this is what provides data storage. looks like you could put another chip on and extend the storage.

This is the K4H511638J-LCCC. It is a 64MB SDRAM chip. This of course provides the working ram for the BoxChip CPU.

Well, there ya’ go. The HipStreet Ereader.

It’s been 4 years!

Yay! this site has been around and updated semi-regularly for four years now. Having just paid the bill for another 2 years, hopefully it’ll be around for a while longer.

Looking back through this site I can see some of the things I’ve worked on and recall the state of my life at each of those times. I’ve gone through three jobs and one period of pseudo-unemployement. Some tough times and some good ones. I’ve learned a lot both professionally and personally.

Here’s to another 4 years of half-finished but fun projects. 🙂

Timer lamp, Part Deux

Anyways, as I promised, here is the almost finished. A couple days later than I said but, still, I did finish it for the most part.

The lamp standing and working
The lamp standing and working

So Basically what we have here is a $20 lamp that’s been outfitted with buttons to control its power status. I have to warn people first, the methodology of affixing the stuff in here is very sloppy. If you follow these methods of hot gluing stuff, use caution to support the boards in other ways.

Inside of the lamp, gutted out
Inside of the lamp, gutted out and re-purposed

As you can see, I busted the box off of a wall wart to use as the power supply and used a terminal block to handle all of the mains stuff. It got pretty crowded in the enclosure so I’ll have to make a new cover for the bottom. Also, without the weight that was inside of it, it’ll topple. Anyways, it seems to work well.

Buttons and light
Buttons and light

So, after this is all done and a cover is made, I’ll also have to secure all of the boards a bit better and cut the prongs off of the wall wart, That’s a tad bit dangerous to have those prongs exposed.

So, whenever I get around to part three, I’ll take some pics and show them. Thus ends one application for the PIC10F200.

As an aside, I’ve been doing some of the work at a local hackerspace here in Edmonton. I was extremely surprised to find one here in Edmonton, land of the rednecks! Well, here are some pics of the place. It’s only been around for two years and  could always use some new members.

Here it is on the outside, nothing to make note of here.

Edmonton New Technology Society
The outside of the Edmonton New Technology Society

And here is the inside of the common area of the ENTS.

Edmonton New Technology Society Pano
Edmonton New Technology Society Pano Inside

Pretty messy, but that goes with the territory of a shared common use area I suppose. If anyone is interested, visit Ents.ca here in Edmonton.

The timer lamp Redux, Part one.

Well, in the vein of the spirit of the low-end microcontroller, I decided to make a timer lamp based around the PIC10F200. I did one years ago and it was based on a pic16f505 which is a low end MCU as well but it has quite a bit more ram and rom.  Also, oddly enough I shall actually share both the circuit diagram (which is dead simple) and the .hex file so people can use the program to make their own timer lamp if desired.

So here’s the quick rundown

The LED blinks very slowly so that you can see the lamp in the dark, but not so rapidly to become annoying. The power button turns the lamp on and off. the timer button turns on the timer. the increments are 1, 5 and 30 minutes.

Here is the circuit diagram.

Circuit diagram of Timer Lamp
Circuit diagram of Timer Lamp

Also, here is the HEX file: Timelamp hex file

Also, here are pictures of the boards in development.

Timer lamp on the breadboard
Timer lamp on the breadboard

This is messy but, it worked for dev purposes.

Timer lamp Circuit on the PCB
Timer lamp Circuit on the PCB. Kinda tight but it works.

And here is the finished board. Not bad for a couple hours of work. Yes, it’s messy, like everything I do.

So, tomorrow I’ll be going to my Hackerspace and drilling the holes and installing switches into a lamp I bought. Part 2 tomorrow, or the next day. 🙂