Work-in-progress: Sayso Globord audio decoding

You may still be able to get surplus Sayso Globord programmable LED signs in surplus stores. It’s a 7×24 LED scrolling sign that you can program with a lightpen or with audio input.

sayso-001The unit comes with no software, but has a link to https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q1q9yhahwtblb23/AACpMeXQjYyD8ZWC-65vNgcxa printed on the box. It’s an archive of the programming software, manual, and canned audio files for a whole bunch of standard messages. Here’s an archive if the dropbox link goes away: SaySo.zip

The audio files used for programming the display are clearly FSK-encoded, but I haven’t quite worked out the relationship between the tones and the display bits. Here’s what I’ve worked out so far:

  • Files are made up of 12 audio blocks, each about 0.9 seconds long. Each block appears to correspond to one 7×24 display screen.
  • Mark (1 bit): Three cycles, 96 samples at 44100 Hz: 1378.125 Hz
  • Space (0 bit): Four cycles, 256 samples at 44100 Hz:  689.0625 Hz

The editor runs nicely under DOSBox, so you can experiment and save samples as WAV files. Here’s a sample display with its corresponding audio linked underneath:

sayed1_0_003I’m not sure how much extra work I have time or inclination to put in on getting this working, but I hope that my preliminary work will be useful to someone (maybe this person).

aah! my eyes!

Seems that Shangri-La Toronto wants to surround their building with a bright magenta billboard. This is the view from my office:

It’s so bright everything vaguely reflective on my desk appears to be pink. I’ve made a couple of calls to the City of Toronto – Sign By-law Unit and Toronto 311 and await developments.

GO Transit, you suck!

I discovered last week that GO don’t have a central announcement system. That means that unstaffed stations like Kennedy and Exhibition always leave their passengers in the dark. Plus, the e-mail announcement system only alerts you if the train is more than 30 minutes late. I think by that time I would have gone home.

No sign of that train yet …

All the printers I’ve ever owned …

bird you can see: hp print test

  • An ancient (even in 1985) Centronics serial dot-matrix printer that we never got working with the CPC464. The print head was driven along a rack, and when it hit the right margin, an idler gear was wedged in place, forcing the carriage to return. Crude, noisy but effective.
  • Amstrad DMP-2000. Plasticky but remarkably good 9-pin printer. Had an open-loop ribbon that we used to re-ink with thick oily endorsing ink until the ribbons wore through.
  • NEC Pinwriter P20. A potentially lovely 24-pin printer ruined by a design flaw. Print head pins would get caught in the ribbon, and snap off. It didn’t help that the dealer that sold it to me wouldn’t refund my money, and required gentle persuasion from a lawyer to do so.
  • Kodak-Diconix 300 inkjet printer. I got this to review for Amiga Computing, and the dealer never wanted it back. It used HP ThinkJet print gear which used tiny cartridges that sucked ink like no tomorrow; you could hear the droplets hit the page.
  • HP DeskJet 500. I got this for my MSc thesis. Approximately the shape of Torness nuclear power station (and only slightly smaller), last I heard it was still running.
  • Canon BJ 200. A little mono inkjet printer that ran to 360dpi, or 720 if you had all the time in the world and an unlimited ink budget.
  • Epson Stylus Colour. My first colour printer. It definitely couldn’t print photos very well.
  • HP LaserJet II. Big, heavy, slow, and crackling with ozone, this was retired from Glasgow University. Made the lights dim when it started to print. Came with a clone PostScript cartridge that turned it into the world’s second-slowest PS printer. We did all our Canadian visa paperwork on it.
  • Epson Stylus C80. This one could print photos tolerably well, but the cartridges dried out quickly, runing the quality and making it expensive to run.
  • Okidata OL-410e PS. The world’s slowest PostScript printer. Sold by someone on tortech who should’ve known better (and bought by someone who also should’ve known better), this printer jams on every sheet fed into it due to a damaged paper path. Unusually, it uses an LED imaging system instead of laser xerography, and has a weird open-hopper toner system that makes transporting a part-used print cartridge a hazard.
  • HP LaserJet 4M Plus. With its duplexer and extra paper tray it’s huge and heavy, but it still produces crisp pages after nearly 1,000,000 page impressions. I actually have two of these; one was bought for $99 refurbished, and the other (which doesn’t print nearly so well) was got on eBay for $45, including duplexer and 500-sheet tray. Combining the two (and judiciously adding a bunch of RAM) has given me a monster network printer which lets you know it’s running by dimming the lights from here to Etobicoke.
  • IBM Wheelwriter typewriter/ daisywheel printer. I’ve only ever produced a couple of pages on this, but this is the ultimate letter-quality printer. It also sounds like someone slowly machine-gunning the neighbourhood, so mostly lives under wraps.
  • HP PhotoSmart C5180. It’s a network photo printer/scanner that I bought yesterday. Really does print indistinguishably from photos, and prints direct from memory cards. When first installed, makes an amusing array of howls, boinks, squeals, beeps and sproings as it primes the print heads.

penticentenary (if that’s the right word)

I’ve been driving for 20 years. Seems a long time since I took that Mini Metro (which stank of Insignia aftershave – the instructor used it to clean the glass) from the BSM depot in
Pollokshields and puttered around the south side.

No speeding tickets, no parking tickets, and only one insurance claim. The insurers must be making a fortune from me.

Dexit® INSTEAD? No, Dexit is dead

dexit tag

I see that the number of Dexit terminals has reduced to almost nothing, and now they’re offering refunds of outstanding balance. Looks like it’s dead.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Dexit. It was almost a great idea, but offered no significant advantage over cash from the bank machine. I wonder how long it will be before you can buy the old terminals in Active Surplus?

computer joy

Uhoh, there’s a huge Canada Computers opening just up the road; next to this sign, in fact. I’m glad I no longer commute past it; the temptation would be too strong.

a good reason to blog less

Yesterday went to The Twelfth Fret and traded in the Goodtime for this:

Bob Carlin BC-350

It’s a Gold Tone Bob Carlin Signature. It sounds beautiful, and unlike me, plays like a dream. So if I’m not blogging so much, this might just be the reason.

fake plastic trees

They’re setting up some kind of christmas filmset in the parking lot – an ad, maybe? There are many fake trees in the parking lot, some with lights, and what looks like rolls of fake snow. There are also a hotdog stand and a London Underground sign – wha?

stones, as current vernacular would have it

Finatics' sign, by Big Al's

I’m no fan of billboards, but I have to congratulate Mike of Finatics for sheer gall when he put up this sign. See the plastic shark on the building behind? That’s Big Al’s, one of the biggest aquarium stores in Canada. Mike’s probably not going to get any favours from them any time soon.

about the only place

The pier is about the only place in Goderich that you can’t see a “Go Kati Go!” sign.

While I write this, I am being observed by a young gull. A phalarope bobs around the breakwater rocks.

Pittsburgh: I’m only hea for AWEA

In town for the AWEA 2006 Conference. Pittsburgh looks like it has some interesting topography, and has some huge buildings downtown. Trying to get a GPS signal for the map (amid a bemused high-school prom crowd) was hard.

I’ll be your terrorist for the evening…

I’m at YYZ, and despite the Canadian passport, I’m still Mr Designated Searched Guy. Thought that the passport might’ve changed things, but no. Sigh…

It does mean I no longer have to do those dumb visa waiver things, yay!

And it didn’t help that part of one of the lighting panels started to fall off inside the cabin before takeoff, so we had to taxi back, get it fixed, and head back out an hour later. Gotta love Air Canada.

… with raspberry vinaigrette!

Paul and I often talked of doing this, but I see someone’s done it for real: they hacked the GO Train scrolly LED signs to read Stephen Harper Eats Babies.