Meters Music OV-1 – My Opinion

For anybody that has been living under a rock since CES 2017, there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to prosumer headphones. The Meters Music OV-1 by Ashdown Engineering.

I recently purchased a set of these headphones after watching countless interviews with Ashdown at CES, and reading some reviews of the headphones by tech websites. The reviews weren’t all 100% but that’s expected in this day and age, and I tend to listen to different styles of music than the reviewers, so I decided to give them a try all the same.

Packaging

Opening the packaging wasn’t awe-inspiring like some high-end products I receive, but it was a pleasant experience all the same. The inclusion of two cables, one including an inline mic and one not, was a nice touch and they were decently built cables. The included Micro USB for charging on the other hand was just some generic cable you can probably buy from eBay for a few pence.

The headphones themselves were in the included hard case but lacked any additional packaging. The inclusion of some sticky protective plastic on the alloy cups would have been nice, and would have probably prevented the small scuff mark on the left cup. It looks like the box might have been dropped in transit and the holder for the cup has hit the cup. It’s hard to see under normal use, but I know it’s there!

OV-1 Scuff mark on cup.jpg

Aesthetic & Build Quality

The headphones are pleasing on the eye with good industrial design, and the inclusion of the VU line meters on the ear cups is cool but a bit of a gimmick. The overall look of the sweeping, single mount cup holder, coupled with the stylish, albeit plastic, hinge mechanism is a well designed and engineered look for these alloy headphones. The transition from alloy to protein leather, with its neatly stitched seems, is also well executed.

The biggest let down from an aesthetic perspective is the use of black plastic on the hinge and hangar mechanism. even just colour coding the plastic to the alloy would have served their vision better in my opinion.

The headphones feel well constructed though and I can’t really knock the build quality other than the slightly over tightened hex screw holding the left ear cup in, which I had to file a couple of burrs off to appease my OCD.

IMG_1907.jpg

A bit more consideration of the positioning of the three-way switch (EQ, Passive, Active Noise Cancelling) would have been nice. It is currently located under the ear cup holder, meaning you have to remove the headphones to change the mode. I feel it would have made the experience just that little bit more pleasing if it had been somewhere a little easier to reach during use.

Comfort

From a comfort perspective, they take a bit of adjustment and getting used to, but after a couple of days you barely even notice they are on your head. During the initial honeymoon period where they were on and off my head every few minutes for adjustment, the clamping force of the sprung steel headband was a bit overwhelming and didn’t ease any until I had forced the headband apart a few times over the course of a day.

The headband also applied pressure to the top of my head until I found the correct hight for the height adjustable cup sliders. Unfortunately the mechanism on the sliders is too week and the cups tend to lose their position whenever I stretch the headphones enough to put them over my head. This is annoying and needs to be fixed in any future release.

IMG_1906.jpg

To give Meters their due, the fake “protein” leather on the ear cups is comfortable, but isn’t sweat proof as claimed. However the sweat is a lot less noticeable to the point it didn’t bother me like it does on other headphones.

Noise Cancellation

In the interest of full disclosure, I am yet to try the noise cancelling feature (ANS) on any mode of transport, which is the main use case for such technology. I have, however, tried it out in some server rooms where the constant drone of server fans are drowned out to the point of being almost silent while using the headphones without an audio source connected. The slight hiss of the ANS system doing it’s thing is just audible though, until I start playing some music, of course.

All in all I’m happy with the ANS system and would even stretch to call it the best I have used yet, although I’ve probably only experienced a total of five other noise cancelling systems in the past.

Sound Quality

I’m no audiophile, but I do appreciate great sounding music. I also listen to a wide variety of music so I’ve put the headphones though their paces with a few genres, from Heavy Metal to UK Hardcore and everything in between.

The headphones sound great and have decent volume when listening in passive mode (or off). They offer crisp high ends, prominent mid range and deep bass. Switching the ANS on reduces volume somewhat, and dampens the high ends a little but still maintains a decent sound quality with adequate volume.

EQ mode, the final sound option, sounds terrible. It’s pointless beating around the bush, the bottom end is far too overpowering and crushes the high-end. I can’t find a single song that sounds good while using the mode so I just don’t use it. I seriously wish the headphones allowed the user to tune and tweak the EQ setting using the USB connection.

Summary

All things considered, I like the OV-1 headphones. They are the best sounding headphones I have used (apart from the EQ setting) and they are extremely comfortable for prolonged use at work. As a developer I often spend hours on end listening to music to drown out the bustle of the office. They also give a bit more depth to podcasts and significantly improve the usually mediocre sound quality of them.

I’m still not sure If I would wear them in public though. Maybe if Meters allowed you to control whether the VU meters were on or off independently of the noise cancelling feature I might be more inclined to, but as they stand, they could look a bit obnoxious in certain environments.

In conclusion, if you are an audiophile, don’t bother. If you are a run of the mill prosumer who likes gadgets and great sounding music, then these headphones are good bang for your buck. Plus they don’t feed more of you hard-earned cash into Apple’s coffers.

Workflow Manager Configuration Error

I recently attempted to configure Workflow Manager 1.0 and Service Bus 1.0 for use by SharePoint 2016, using a certificate issued by our domain CA instead of self-generated certificates. I ran into the following error though.

System.Management.Automation.CmdletInvocationException: Could not successfully send message to scope ‘/WF_Management’ despite multiple retires over a timespan of 00:02:07.8300000.. The exception of the last retry is: A recoverable error occurred while interacting with Service Bus. Recreate the communication objects and retry the operation. For more details, see the inner exception..  —> System.TimeoutException: Could not successfully send message to scope ‘/WF_Management’ despite multiple retries over a timespan of 00:02:07.8300000.. The exception of the last retry is: A recoverable error occurred while interacting with Service Bus. Recreate the communication objects and retry the operation. For more details, see the inner exception..  —> System.OperationCanceledException: A recoverable error occurred while interacting with Service Bus. Recreate the communication objects and retry the operation. For more details, see the inner exception. —> Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.MessagingCommunicationException: Identity check failed for outgoing message. The expected DNS identity of the remote endpoint was ‘WFMServer1.contoso.com’ but the remote endpoint provided DNS claim ‘WFMServer3.contoso.com’. If this is a legitimate remote endpoint, you can fix the problem by explicitly specifying DNS identity ‘WFMServer3.contoso.com’ as the Identity property of EndpointAddress when creating channel proxy.  —> System.ServiceModel.Security.MessageSecurityException: Identity check failed for outgoing message. The expected DNS identity of the remote endpoint was ‘WFMServer1.contoso.com’ but the remote endpoint provided DNS claim ‘WFMServer3.contoso.com’. If this is a legitimate remote endpoint, you can fix the problem by explicitly specifying DNS identity ‘WFMServer3.contoso.com’ as the Identity property of EndpointAddress when creating channel proxy.

To cut a long troubleshooting story short, the problem was with the certificate I had requested from the CA. More specifically the DNS extension. I had the following DNS entries in the certificate.

  1. *.contoso.com
  2. WFMServer1.contoso.com
  3. WFMServer2.contoso.com
  4. WFMServer3.contoso.com

For what ever reason, WFM only seems to look at the final DNS entry when trying to add the host to the WFM farm. To confirm this, I tried the installation from all three hosts and it worked fine on WFMServer3.contoso.com, but not the other 2.

I’m still not entirely sure if it was WFM or SB that was causing this issue, but I fixed it by simply revoking the certificate on our CA and re-installing SB and WFM using a certificate with wfm.contoso.com as the Common Name and DNS entries in the following order:

  1. WFMServer1.contoso.com
  2. WFMServer2.contoso.com
  3. WFMServer3.contoso.com
  4. *.contoso.com

 

Making SharePoint Trust Enterprise CAs

If you have an enterprise PKI, or even just a single CA, that issues certificates to services such as ADFS or Workflow Manager that you intend to use with your SharePoint Farm, it might be worth while importing you Root and Intermediate CA Certificates into SharePoint to make it trust the other services.

Currently we have a PKI setup similar to the following:

-Enterprise Root CA (Offline)
—Enterprise Intermediate CA (Offline)
——Web Services CA (Online)
——Authentication CA (Online)

The Root and the Intermediate CA are offline and secured except for planned maintenance, such as publishing new certificate revocation lists. The Web Services CA is the CA that issues the certificates we use for web services like Workflow Manager, and the Authentication CA issues the ADFS signing Certificate, which also needs to be trusted by SharePoint.

First of all, you need to grab a copy of the certificate of each CA in the Chain. If you have your PKI configured correctly, they should be readily available so I won’t go into that process. If you are exporting them from the CA servers, DO NOT export private keys, SharePoint doesn’t need them and that would be a major security concern. Once you have them, copy them to a directory on your SharePoint server(s).

Then, make sure the certificates are in the trusted root certificate authorities on every server in your farm. the easiest was to do this is to publish the certificates using group policy, but you can do this manually if you like. Simply follow these steps on each server in the farm:

  1. Double click the first certificate.
    cert_overview.jpeg
  2. Click Install.
  3. Select “Local Machine” and click Next.
  4. Click Yes on AUC prompt.
  5. Select “Place all certificates in the following store”.
  6. Click Browse and select “Trusted Root Certificate Authorities” or “Intermediate Certificate Authorities” depending on if the certificate is at the root of the chain.
  7. Click Next.
  8. Click Finish.
  9. Repeat for each certificate in the chain.

On your SharePoint server execute the following powershell commands for each certificate, changing “C:\RootCA.cer” to the path of each certificate, and “Enterprise Root CA” to a friendly name for each CA.


$path = “C:\RootCA.cer”
$root = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2($path)
New-SPTrustedRootAuthority -Name "Enterprise Root CA" -Certificate $cert

If you don’t like powershell or are unable to access powershell for whatever reason, you can also install the certificates from Central Admin.:

  1. Navigate to Central Admin -> Security -> Manage Trust.
  2. Click “New”.sharepoint_ca_add_trust.jpeg
  3. Add a friendly Name for the certificate.
  4. Click Browse and select your certificate.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Repeat for each certificate in your PKI chain.

 

C# WinFroms Splash Screen

One fo the first challenges I faced as a C# developer writing windows forms applications was the concept of a splash screen with a progress bar. While in principle it seemed simple, opening a different form in a separate thread and making its controls updatable from the first thread was alien to me.

I decided to (finally) write this post after seeing a lot of requests for help around this subject on various forums. The main thing new developers struggle with when attempting their very first splash screen are delegates.

To start with, either create a blank Windows Forms Application in Visual Studio or follow the steps below in the project you are adding a splash screen to. If you are creating a new project, you will find Form1.cs, which we will leave as is for this tutorial. Imagine that Form1 is going to be the main window of your application.

Now go and add a new Windows Form to your project and call is SplashScreen.cs. Add a Progress Bar control to your new form and resize the form around it. Now change the FormBorderStyle property for the form to None and StartPosition to CenterScreen. I’ve also changed the BAckColor property to red to make it a bit more visible for this tutorial.

SplashForm.jpeg

Now head into the code view for SplashScreen.cs (right click it in the solution explorer windows and click View Code).

The code for the splash screen is reasonably straight forward if you know how delegates and threads work. Check out the comments for some information on what each section does.

using System;
using System.Threading;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace SplashScreenTutorial
{
public partial class SplashScreen : Form
{
//The delegates required to invoke methods from a different thread
private delegate void CloseDelegate();
private delegate void UpdateDelegate(string txt);

private SplashScreen _splashInstance;

//The initializer for the SplashScreen Class
public SplashScreen(int max)
{
InitializeComponent();
progressBar1.Minimum = 0;
progressBar1.Maximum = max;
}

//Private method used to display the splash creen form.
private void ShowForm(object max)
{
_splashInstance = new SplashScreen(Convert.ToInt32(max));
Application.Run(_splashInstance);
}

//Public method that spawns a new thread and calls the ShowForm() method to lauch the splash screen in the new thread.
public void ShowSplashScreen(int max)
{
if (_splashInstance != null)
return;
Thread thread = new Thread(ShowForm);
thread.IsBackground = true;
thread.SetApartmentState(ApartmentState.STA);
thread.Start(max);
}

//Public bool to check if the splash screen is ready.
public bool Ready()
{
return (_splashInstance != null) && (_splashInstance.Created);
}

//Public method used to update the progress bar progress and text from your main application thread.
public void UpdateProgress(string txt)
{
_splashInstance.Invoke(new UpdateDelegate(UpdateProgressInternal), txt);

}

//Public method used to close the splash screen from your main application thread.
public void CloseForm()
{
_splashInstance.Invoke(new CloseDelegate(CloseFormInternal));
}

//The private method invoked by the delegate to update the progress bar.
private void UpdateProgressInternal(string txt)
{
_splashInstance.progressBar1.Value++;
_splashInstance.progressBar1.Text = txt;
}

//The private method invoked by the delegate to close the splash screen.
private void CloseFormInternal()
{
_splashInstance.Close();
}

}
}

Next you need to add a bit of code to your Program.cs file to call the splash screen and update it between each task during your application startup process. Make sure it goes before Application.Run(Form1).


static void Main()
{
Application.EnableVisualStyles();
Application.SetCompatibleTextRenderingDefault(false);

//Instantiate a new instance of SplashScreen
SplashScreen splash = new SplashScreen(4);
//Display the splash screen with a max value for the progress bar
splash.ShowSplashScreen(4);

//Wait for the form to be loaded.
while (!splash.Ready())
{
//Loop to wait for the splash screen to be ready before trying to
update it. We will get a null reference exception if the splash screen isn't ready yet.
}

//Update the progress bar
splash.UpdateProgress("Loading Step 1");
//Perform action
Thread.Sleep(1000); //Lets pretend this is doing something constructive
//Update the progress bar
splash.UpdateProgress("Loading Step 2");
//Perform action
Thread.Sleep(1000); //Lets pretend this is doing something constructive
//Update the progress bar
splash.UpdateProgress("Loading Step 3");
//Perform action
Thread.Sleep(1000); //Lets pretend this is doing something constructive
//Update the progress bar
splash.UpdateProgress("Loading Step 4");
//Perform action
Thread.Sleep(1000); //Lets pretend this is doing something constructive
//Close the Splash Screen
splash.CloseForm();

//Launch your main application form
Application.Run(new Form1());
}

That’s all there is to it. I’m not going to go into a load of detail about threads and delegates in this post. To be honest it’s mainly because I can’t be bothered because both subjects are tedious and boring.

And for all those who are still reading, the example project is available here for download.

Controlling the Startech VS421HDPIP with C#

As part of a project I have been working on to spec and install a video conferencing solution I purchased a couple of Startech VS421HDPIP units to switch between camera inputs. I chose this unit for a couple of reasons; it has enough inputs for the project, it’s capable of doing picture in picture, it can be controlled via telnet or RS232, our supplier could get it for half the RRP and it’s made by Startech, who’s kit has never left us in an awkward situation.

When I first hooked it up it just worked and the presets that were built-in were decent. Unfortunately it didn’t have presets to support the use cases I required, but I expected that from reading the manual prior to purchasing them. The presets can be changed from the web interface, which is the only downside to this unit… its utter pants. Fortunately it supports some pretty advanced commands via telnet so all is not lost. After playing with the telnet prompt for a while I figured that I could probably write some form of application to change the video output layout from a PC, which would certainly make it more user-friendly. The VC solution is going to be installed in a remote office and anything to make operation easier for the end users is a big plus. This will also allow me to have basically unlimited “presets” to cover more use cases without reconfiguration. Bonus.

Driver

I decided that the application should probably allow control of the PTZ cameras too to encompass the entire VC solution in one control panel, so a simple “driver” style API would be the best bet for controlling each component. The driver for the Startech VS421HDPIP only took two hours to write, including an application to test the class, and is incredibly simple to use. It is available to download at the end of this post. Here’s an example of how to use it.

//create a new instance of the VS421HDPIP class.
VS421HDPIP Conn = new VS421HDPIP();

//set the unit IP address and port
Conn.Ip = IPAddress.Parse(“192.168.1.6”;
Conn.Port = 23;

//open the connection to the unit.
Conn.Open();

//execute commands. See list of commands in the accompanying blog post.
Conn.PowerOn();  //Power on the unit from standby
Conn.Recall(VS421HDPIP.WindowState.Fav1);  //Recall the Fav.1 Preset
Conn.SetImagePosition(VS421HDPIP.InputChannel.Input2, 1420, 790); //Sets the possition of channel 2.

//always close the connection when done. The unit only allows one session at a time and not closing a session will result in you having to reboot the unit or waiting for the session timeout on the unit before opening a new connection.
Conn.Close();

Unfortunately the telnet prompt doesn’t let you retrieve information. Maybe this is something Startech will add to future models but it is what it is.

Commands

The commands I implemented are basically identical to the commands listed in the manual for the VS421HDPIP. I won’t go over available parameters for each here. The parameters are similar to those listed in the manual as well so I’m sure they’d be easy to figure out with intellisense.

  • PowerOn() – Power on the unit from standby.
  • PowerOff() – Place the unit in standby.
  • SetOutResolution(Resolution res) – Sets the output resolution.
  • OsdDisable() – Disable the On Screen Display.
  • OsdEnable() – Enable the On Screen Display.
  • OsdHOffset(int offset) – Sets the horizontal offset of the OSD.
  • OsdVOffset(int offset) – Sets the verticle offset of the OSD.
  • OsdTimeout(int timeout) – Sets the timeout of the OSD.
  • OsdGain(int gain) – Sets the gain of the OSD.
  • SetBrightness(InputChannel chan, int level) – Sets the brightness level of an input.
  • SetContrast(InputChannel chan, int level) – Sets the contrast level of an input.
  • SetSaturation(InputChannel chan, int level) – Sets the saturation level of an input.
  • SetHue(InputChannel chan, int level) – Set the hue level of an input.
  • Mute() – Mutes the audio output of the unit.
  • Unmute() – Unmutes the audio output of the unit.
  • SetImageSize(InputChannel chan, int h, int v) – Sets the size of a channel.
  • SetImagePosition(InputChannel chan, int h, int v) – Sets the position of a channel.
  • ChannelImageOn(InputChannel chan) – Turns a channel on.
  • ChannelImageOff(InputChannel chan) – Turns a channel off.
  • ChannelPriority(InputChannel chan, int priority) – Sets a channel’s priority.
  • SetChannelLabel(InputChannel chan, string label) – Sets a channel’s label.
  • StoreCurrentConfiguration(Favorite loc) – Stores current settings to a preset.
  • MirrorOn() – Makes the unit mirror it’s output (rear projection).
  • MirrorOff() – Disables the output mirror feature.
  • SetOutputRotation(Rotation value) – Rotate unit output (ceiling hung projector).
  • SetFadeDuration(Fadetime time) – Sets fadetime between windows.
  • SendTelnetCommand(string command) – Send a telnet command to the unit.

Download

I have provided the driver I wrote in case it is useful to anybody. I do so with absolutely no warranty or support and you use it at your own risk.

Compiled DLL
Visual Studio Project Files