Category Archives: AV

Broken Handwriting Using SMART Board Interactive Flat Panel/TV


A little off topic this one, but here’s the answer to something that’s been puzzling me for a while. Why is it you get gaps in the lines when you write on some SMART Board interactive flat panels and not others?

I originally thought it must something obscuring the leds that run round the side of these flat panels, so I gave them a good dust. No joy. Then I tied fiddling about with the PC’s graphics properties, making sure my resolution was full HD, and the image was fitting the panel perfectly. No joy. So then I convinced myself it was the driver software, so reinstalled the latest version of it. Still no joy.

Finally I realised the answer is simple: its the pen you are using. Teacher’s occasionally lose the two (yes two!) pens that come with SMART Board flat panels, so decide to use something else instead. Most of the time this is fine. A finger works perfectly. But occasionally, they decide to use something with a fine nib. Well who doesn’t like writing with a fine nibbed pen? And it’s the fine nibbed pen that causes the gaps in the lines. So there you have it, a simple solution to what at first appears a complex technical problem.

Not sure if this is an issue with all other flat panels/TVs, but I can say for certain it also happens with Prowise panels, because I tested one. So if your handwriting is breaking up, take a look at the pen you’re using first, before you spend hours working your way through technical fixes.


Old style (thin nibbed) SMART Board pens on the left don’t work well with interactive flat panels. Note that the new style pens on the right (they give you two to lose!) have much wider nibs.

UPDATE: You also need to check the SMART Board driver has detected the correct model of flat panel/TV. Right click on the SMART Board monitor in the system tray and select ‘SMART Settings’ then run the ‘Connection Wizard’. Check the model it detects is the same as the model you have. The model number is printed on the top right of the flat panel/TV.


iplayer radio app for Windows Phone

I’m usually a fan of Windows products. I’m not technically-minded enough to go to the trouble of installing and using an open source OS e.g. Linux or Ubuntu and I’m not silly enough to think I can justify spending £800 on a Mac Book when I can get a refurbished laptop running Windows, with similar specs for a third of that price.

A couple of years ago I finally got myself a smart phone and opted for a Nokia Lumia 625 running Windows 8. This has served me reasonably well, apart from the ridiculous situation when I pulled my phone out of my pocket one day to read the dreaded error message “Your Phone has been locked. Try again in 700140 minutes” which required hours of trawling the web to find a fix; a fix involved manually resetting the phone and losing ALL the data stored on it: photos, videos, music etc… Anyway, as Virgin Media have helpfully reminded me EVERY DAY for the last 2 weeks, I’m soon due an upgrade and, having considered the options I’ve decided to ditch the Windows phone and switch to a phone running Android. The main reason for this is the poor quality of apps designed for Windows phones in comparison to the same apps on Android and IOS. In particular, the much heralded BBC radio iplayer app.

As a music obsessive, I was delighted to hear that the BBC had finally introduced a version of the  iplayer radio app for Windows phones, I also heard that the app would feature a download function, making it possible access downloaded shows in their entirety without having to be connected to the web. As I understand it, the file is downloaded to your device temporarily and deleted by the app after 30 days.

iplayer_winSo it was with great excitement that I downloaded this app to my Windows phone only to be met with a clunky looking, awkward to navigate interface. There is no obvious way of adding favorites, meaning I was having to search the whole BBC archive for a particular show/presenter every time I used the app. When I’d managed to locate the show I wanted the download feature was nowhere to be found. It turns out that this function is simply not available on Windows phones and, although I found this fairly irritating, I thought I’d give the app a chance a try listening to catch-up shows by streaming them. My experience was one of huge frustration; having cued up the right show and got my headphones on I started working (painting a bedroom) only to find the audio would repeatedly cut out for minutes at time causing me to have to restart the whole stream. I experienced this same thing over and over again, each time with a fast and reliable wi-fi connection, leading me to the conclude that the fault lay with the app.


Then, last week, I decided to try the same app out on my partner’s Sony phone (running Android) and there was simply no comparison!On an Android device, the app’s interface looks fantastic, it’s fast, responsive and YES it includes the download feature I’d been so keen to try out.

Once a show is downloaded, the play/pause interface is extremely user friendly, allowing you to skip forward/back 20 secs or drag a slider clockwise/anti-clockwise to the point in the show you want and, because the show has been downloaded, there is no buffering whatsoever…bliss!


In short, it’s an absolute pleasure to use this app on an Android device and I’m sure that the same could be said for it’s performance on an iphone. So for this reason and several others (a particular favourite being: ‘Your Device doesn’t support media playback’) I’ll be happily saying goodbye to my Windows phone for good and hopefully enjoying hours of fantastic music at my own convenience.

Apple to ditch 3.5mm audio jack?

I recently heard a report on the World Service tech show about the possibility of Apple removing the 3.5mm audio jack when it rolls out its next version of the iphone. The reasons suggested for this are rumored to stem from a desire, on Apple’s part,  to make the new device even thinner than it’s predecessor (like it isn’t thin enough already?!) and to remove the port altogether by channelling audio and power through the same Lightning port.3.5mm jack

Not being an iphone user it doesn’t really concern me, however I do find it fascinating that Apple seem determined to do away with tried and tested technologies purely for the sake of ‘innovating’ and thereby moving things forward.

Of the many arguments against this decision I have come across so far, here are a few of the strongest: The technology behind the 3.5mm audio jack was invented in the 1800’s for use in telephone systems and has been in use ever since, it was widely praised for it’s durability due to it being robust enough to be rammed in and out of telephone switchboards thousands of times a day. Compare that to the flimsy USB or, even worse, micro usb connections which bend or disintegrate as soon as any pressure is put on them.

The 3.5mm connection is one of the most universal in all electronics. In this room alone I can see two mobile phones, a DAB radio, an ipod, a laptop, a separates CD player and tape player….what do they all have in common? The 3.5mm audio jack which enables me to plug headphones directly into any of them or (with a male to male cable) take the signal out to be recorded on an external device, something I spent far too long doing when I got my first mini-disc player.

Another point I have heard raised is that with the headphone market so big at the moment it seems odd to introduce a device which would not allow users to connect their £300+ ‘Beats’ or ‘Bose’ headphones without some proprietary converter cable. Finally, and perhaps I’ve missed something here, but if the Lightning Port serves both for the power and the audio on the phone then wouldn’t this mean that users wouldn’t be able to listen to music while the phone is charging which, judging by the majority of smartphones in the marketplace, would be fairly often? If Apple plan to get around this by supplying the latest iphone with wireless headphones, this will of course mean that users will have to ditch their existing headphones altogether.

As mentioned above, not being an iphone user, I couldn’t really care less one way or another, however it would appear that the 288,000+ iphone users who have so far signed an online petition urging Apple to retain the 3.5mm audio jack feel differently.