The Roku Remote

I feel like I might want to add some constructive criticism, about the new playback device, of which I just bought one, as described in this posting.

The designers have made some progressive statements in how they designed this hardware, that range from only taking up circuit-board space with modern, HDMI output, to designing a novel remote-control. I think that although I like many of the concepts that wen into the remote, there is some room for improvement.

This remote has a headphone-jack, so that we do not need to plug any headphones into our TV or into our stationary devices, which may be located on the other side of the living room, from where we sit. The first thing I would typically test about that, is whether the sound from the TV actually does mute, when we plug in headphones. And in fact, this works as it should.

That headphone jack came bundled with headphones for me to use, right out-of-the-box. I suppose this comment might seem petty, considering that this is a standard jack, into which I could plug an any headphones I supply. But in the included headphones, the Right ear-piece could be labeled more clearly, to distinguish it from the Left ear-piece. They look nearly identical, and the tiny ‘R’ stamped into the Right piece, might be hard for people to read, whose vision is not 100%.

Okay, but now I am done with the trivial details.

The remote has 4 pre-assigned buttons, for 4 possible channels, which the designers felt that their users would want to visit most-frequently. Netflix is one of them, but there are 3 more. These buttons save us the possible hassle, of navigating a menu, to the channel we want to view most-frequently.

The problem with this is, that depending on what a certain user prefers, the other 3 channels might not be set up. They are, as usual, free to install, but then we need to enter the log-in information into our , to connect to each of the accounts. What if we do not have these accounts? For example, ‘‘ was randomly chosen to deserve a button on its own, and yet I would find it impractical to set up a account, to use for the duration.

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NoMachine NX

When people connect to their VPN, this could simply allow them to access shared files. But alternatively, this could also mean that they wish to create a virtual session, on the remote desktop of one of their servers. The latter exists under the terms VNC, RDP, XRDP, and several others.

On my main Linux server named ‘Phoenix’, I have the XRDP service installed, which is the Linux equivalent of RDP. But one main drawback of this method, of remotely accessing a desktop, is the fact that XRDP does not allow file-sharing, specifically in the version of this protocol that runs out-of-the-box from the package manager. I have read that certain custom-compiled versions support this, but do recall that this service is a mess to custom-compile, and to set up in such a way that it runs reliably. So I stick to the packaged version for now, and do not obtain file-sharing.

There exists a closed-source application named , which we could use to bridge this gap. But while their paid software subscriptions are very expensive (from my perspective), their Free software version has some big disadvantages.

First of all, even their Free version can be run in client or in server mode. I think that this is terrific. But in server mode – which affords access to the local machine desktop from elsewhere – there is no built-in support for SSH protocol. There is only the unencrypted NX protocol, for which their service listens.

Secondly, not every computer is strong enough to run in server mode. On the computer ‘Phoenix’ I have a fragile X-server, and this service has actually crashed my X-server. Not only that, but allowing this service to run on reboot, consistently prevents my X-server from starting. It gets its hooks into the session so early on boot, that the X-server crashes, before the user is even asked for a graphical log-in.

On the plus side, there are ways of solving both problems.

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I am also satisfied, with the Tone And Talk app.

Together with my new LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, there is a recommended app on Google Play, named “Tone & Talk”. It is not strictly necessary to use this app, when using the headphones, but it provides an advantage. This app will only activate, if it detects that one of the LG Headphones is BT- connected, that the app has on its supported devices list. The HBS-750 Headphones are on that list, and work in my case.

What this app does today, is somewhat different from what earlier versions of it used to do. The name of the original app was “LG BT Reader”, but when people download BT Reader, the latest version of it only tells them, that their membership has been migrated to the Tone & Talk app, which we should now install instead. There is a subtle difference in what these apps did.

LG BT Reader, had app-specific support, which enabled it not only to read out the text of notifications, but which also allowed it to read out the body of Facebook, Twitter, SMS and certain other messaging apps. Some users were interested in that, because people today do a lot of social networking – on their computers and phones.

In order to be able to do this, LG BT Reader needed to be enabled as an ‘Accessibility Aid’, which gave the app the ability, effectively, to observe how we tap, and then to tap in our place, on buttons within each app.

Tone & Talk has a slightly different approach. It supports a wider variety of apps, but only reads out the text part of notifications displayed by those apps. Just as with LG BT Reader, the user gets to enable specific apps which we want served. But with Tone & Talk, the list of supported apps is longer. As a trade-off, Tone & Talk will no longer go into each app, and read the screen of each app to us, which the earlier app used to do, to convey the body of the SMS or the Twitter announcement… Therefore, at least with Android Lollipop, Tone & Talk also no longer requires to be enabled as an Accessibility Aid, but only to have permission, to ‘Read Notifications’, as can be granted from the settings panel of our phone.

I had set up Tone & Talk as an Accessibility Aid, before launching it, and once it had detected the connection to my headset, it politely told me to unset this. It no longer needed this.

Now, there are some users who are upset about this change, because while they do a lot of SNS reading, they can no longer get the full messages of their Social Networking (Service) apps.

I, personally, am not even used to getting a lot of SMS messages, or other types of IM messages, and so the fact that Tone & Talk will not read those out, is no loss to me. I do receive a lot of email, to the 3rd-party app “Kaiten Mail”, and have this app enabled in Tone & Talk. What this means, is that Tone & Talk does factually read the subject line of any emails I receive, but not their body, and the former, only because the Kaiten Mail app makes the subject-line of received emails, a part of the notification text it displays.

I can actually appreciate that every time I receive a regular email, Tone & Talk will only announce the subject line to me, and that it will not attempt to read out the text of the entire email. I have Kaiten Mail set, to receive all the regular emails which I would also receive to my PCs and laptop.

Also, with the new app, I can set sundry other apps, so that Tone & Talk will read the notifications of each one. I already know which of my apps send me notifications which I am interested in receiving, possibly without taking the phone out of my shirt pocket, so that I can make this selection pretty much according to my taste.

What this means, is that some users have an understandable disappointment in the ‘Tone & Talk’ app, and have also not been given the option, to stay with the ‘LG BT Reader’ app. But I, for one, am not among the disappointed users, because I was never intending to use my headphones, the way those users were doing.

Dirk

Note: There is one app, which the Tone & Talk app has specific support for, and that is the Phone app. These headphones, and / or their software, have a complex system in place, such that if we receive a phone call – which was the primary purpose in having BT Headphones not long ago – and if the caller-ID of the person phoning us was in our Contacts List, the headphones will play the name of the person who is trying to call us.

Well, because the Phone app is also an app, it appears in the long list of them, which we can check off, to have notifications read to us. To check off the Phone app here constitutes an error. It might lead, to a primitive series of digits being read to us, that the Phone app displays as part of its notification text, while the more-specialized software is also trying to read the name of the caller to us.

I have discovered that If I do check the Phone app, as one of those, from which I am to receive regular notifications, the Tone & Talk app recognizes this as an error, and un-checks the other app again.