Monday 9 May 2022

HARDWARE REVIEW: M-Audio M-Track Solo USB Audio Interface

I had a few issues with my old Digidesign Mbox2 FireWire input boxes (I have two) and decided that I needed an upgrade to a modern USB device, and having looked at all the options, an M-Audio M-Track Solo seemed decent bang-per-buck at around £40. There's also the slightly larger Duo for about £10 more. 


  • 48 kHz audio resolution 
  • Mac, PC or iOS compatible
  • Single Combo Crystal Preamp with phantom power
  • Switchable Line / Instrument input for guitar or microphone. 
  • 2-channel recording - use both line inputs simultaneously  
  • Powered by USB
  • Zero-latency monitoring of the input signal through both the main RCA outputs and 1/8” headphone outputs
  • USB/Direct switch adjusts the balance between the direct inputs and playback from computer software.

Inside the box there's just the box itself, a USB cable and the instruction manual. It's bus powered so there's no need for a power supply, which makes things simple and portable. Although it says on the box it comes with various software, there's no disc in the box, you have to go to the website and download it yourself by registering the device. Sadly I cannot use any of the included apps as I only have Mac OS Lion on my old white Macbook and these require a much more recent version. It's plug 'n' play, so should be no need to install a driver on most modern operating systems.    

When I first tried the M-Track, I had it working in Amplitube (a virtual guitar amp) but then spent ages trying to work out why I wasn't getting input audio in Garageband, despite setting it as the input device in Audio Settings in Mac OS. After much faffing about, I discovered that the issue was that each time Garageband makes a new track, it chooses the first input on the box, which is the mic input, when I almost always want the guitar/line input. Now I just have to remember to select the second input in the advanced section when creating a new track. 

I also tried the M-track on Linux, specifically KDE Neon, and although Plasma desktop automatically switches the audio output to the box, it does not seem to pick the right input, so even when you choose the box as the input source, there's no way to choose between the mic and guitar/line inputs in KDE's Audio settings. I have not tried it in Windows because I don't use it for anything but a few games. It will also work with an Android phone, but I have not tried that yet, as I need to get a USB C OTG cable for my Pixel 4a. Be aware though that, since it's USB powered, it will probably chew up a fair bit of battery power. 

So far then, the M-Track Solo has performed well, there's no lag, unlike the old cheapo USB device I had before and input audio is decent quality, nice and clear, so I am quite pleased with it, it's a good device for the price and compact enough to carry in my bag if I need to.  

Wednesday 4 May 2022

REVIEW: Stainless Steel Metal Watch Strap Wristband Bracelet For Xiaomi Mi Band 4

Having been through several of the original rubbery Mi Band straps, and a few of the third party straps, the last of which broke in several places, I decided to get a metal watch strap for my gen 4 Mi Band.

There are plenty on eBay end i chose one reasonably priced, at £9.76. It was from a UK seller though i suspect they just order from China anyway, but I digress... I chose a blue metal strap, but there are several colours to choose from, including just plain metal.

Upon arrival, opening the package, which was packed reasonably, it came with a little tool to remove the pins so you can take links out to fit smaller wrists. The tool instantly broke, being made from cheap plastic. Never mind, I went the less hassle but more costly route of going to a shop in town that does it for you, that cost £10 but that includes a bit of after care, you can go back to get it sorted again if needed within about 3 weeks. I had 3 links taken out to fit my wrist. 

The other slight issue is that the watch would not stay in place in the strap, until I used my pliers to gently bend the edge in so it gripped the watch a bit better, but it is still easy to remove to charge the device when needed. 

It's been a few weeks since I had the links taken out and have got used to it being on my wrist, as always it takes a bit of time to get used to, until I get to the stage of my wrist feeling a bit naked without it on. 

At first I was not sure if I would recommend this strap but as long as you are prepared to live with a slightly bent edge on one side and the slight fiddly setup, it's decent enough, and it was cheap to buy, even after spending a bit of money getting it fitted, though if you have the right tool you could probably do that yourself anyway. 

Monday 2 May 2022

Hello Endeavour Linux! Goodbye Endeavour Linux?

I finally got round to trying Endeavour Linux on one of my laptops, a Dell Latitude E6500. I have read good things about Endeavour, it often tops "best Arch based distro" lists and has some neat features. Things started out well with the installer working very well, choose a desktop to install and it gets on with it very quickly and efficiently. Upon first boot you are greeted with the Welcome Launcher with its useful tasks and suggestions....

However, when I then wanted to setup KDE Connect, that's when the problems began, followed by hours upon hours of Googling! In Debian and Ubuntu based distros, I've never had an issue with KDE Connect, it just works, picking up local devices and connecting fine, but not on Endeavour. I tried changing firewall settings, and tried disabling the firewall completely through various methods. 

So far I have learnt a lot about how to use the 'yay' and 'pacman' commands to install and remove software and have installed a lot of my favourite apps such as Filezilla, Strawberry music player, net-tools, yakuake etc. Using yay to install apps from AUR is useful for installing stuff that can't be had through pacman but I can't seem to get Webmin to install and run properly. Update - to get Webmin working I have had to install from the tar.gz file using the instructions here.  I've always found it easy to get webmin onto a Debian based machine. I cannot work out why else KDE Connect won't find any other devices. I am afraid that for me, is it curtains for Endeavour Linux? 

Update: I have found out that Endeavour Linux uses Firewalld for its firewall, and I have found the solution here, thanks to user "FaulesArschloch" on Reddit. 

Run these commands to allow KDE Connect through the Firewall:

    sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=1714-1764/tcp
    sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=1714-1764/udp
    sudo systemctl restart firewalld.service

Or alternatively just disabled the Firewall with 

    sudo systemctl stop firewalld.service

And you can also remove it completely with

    yay -R firewalld 

That also fixed the issue with mkchromecast not finding my Chromecasts too, but Gnomecast still doesn't find any Chromecasts, that's if it launches at all. Also BTW, as a sidenote, the equivalent to build-essential on Arch is base-devel, useful if you need to build apps from source. 

Apart from pacman and installing from aur using yay, you can also install flatpak for even more apps, install flatpak with yay -S flatpak. I found flatpak was useful for installing the ProjectM visualisation app (it's similar to Milkdrop) as for some reason the version from other sources doesn't seem to work, but the flatpak version worked straight away. If you need a flatpak installed app to access part of the filesystem outside of its sandbox, you can use Flatseal, instructions for that are here.

Another app I use a lot is Dropbox, there's no package on their site but you can make your own using these instructions and you'll need to import the gpg key from here.

Also, another slight niggle is every other boot, the login screen is at the wrong resolution, leaving black bars either side. Nothing major, just slightly irritating. 

Although I have fixed a fair few issues with Endeavour, I am still not that entirely happy with the distro yet, particularly as if I reinstall I will have to go through all these tweaks to get things perfect again. I am still having issues with Gnomecast, though at least Mkchromecast works decently well. I will persevere for now but if I cannot get everything to work, I will either pick another distro to try or go back to KDE Neon on this laptop.