MatrixOrbital BLK202A-WB-BK LCD
Before I actually received this LCD, I was entirely clueless about what it took to actually RUN the LCD and display all that custom text etc. After I read the short manual and consulted with Henry, Product Manager of Matrix Orbital, he promptly gave me a key for what is known to be the most diverse and demanded program amongst all LCDs and VFDs? LCDC. Along with the key, he also included a list of other programs which work with the LCD including LCDstats and LCDcenter, but really do not show ALL the functionalities of the product. For this very reason, we decided to stick with the one program with the most support ? LCDC. LCDC can be downloaded for a trial period of 30 days straight from Matrix Orbital?s website or purchased with lifetime updates of v1.x for $17.50 USD. After using this program, I can truly confess that this program is worth it?s every penny. Everything from optional plug-ins to basic functionality makes this program so great. Did I forget to mention how easy it is to program your own software for this LCD?
Upon installation of the program for the first time, I could not help but notice this horribly annoying splash screen with the ?order now? option which appeared at both startup and shutdown of the program. Since this was currently the trial version, I entered my name and key, and the splash was *poof* gone forever!
After that atrocious splash screen had disappeared, I was faced with this screen. The ?Start/Stop display? option applies any changes made to the configuration since the last time the program was run. This also starts the text/screen?s display. ?Virtual Display? is a cool little option which pops up a little box, ghosting what your LCD is currently showing so you can change options without actually looking down at the physical LCD every time you change something. Through the program configuration, the background, as well as text colors, on the ?Virtual Display? may be changed to represent your exact display. ?Screen Builder? is where you go to edit anything that will be shown on the display, as well as GPO functions and the Keypad functions. I will analyze this section in further detail a little later. ?Configure/Test? is where you assign the drivers for the LCD, change brightness, test connectivity with the LCD, set speed, etc. You may also activate or deactivate certain plug-ins.
The first step to SOFTWARE configuration is setting up the LCD type, speed and brightness. I found that 50% Contrast offered the clearest display results (the backlight brightness function will be available soon in the new USB series LCDs). I also set the Definition File/Driver setting to BLK202A. You will also need to define which COM port the LCD is plugged into as well as the speed. The speed MUST be set to 19200 or lower, or this LCD will begin to display very odd characters.
Since I will only be covering basic configuration in this review, I skipped down to the ?E-Mail Configuration? option. This is where you are able to set mail accounts to check and interval for checking, as well as icons and events to trigger on new mail. With this setting enabled you will be able to set a GPO Activity (such as an LED) to light when you have new mail through the ?screen builder? option in the main menu.
The ?Plugin Configuration? is where I setup all the plugins which I wanted to enable. When I found out about available add-ons from LCDC?s website, I shot over there and downloaded the Winamp 2 plugin as well as the Counter-Strike server stats plugin. When you have checked the options to enable, hit the green checkmark in the top left, and then you have the option to manually configure each plugin in fine detail by clicking the ?Configure? button in the top left.
Once those basic settings have been set, it?s time for the fun part ? making the display actually?display! Simply click out of the ?Configure/Test? dialogue box and enter the ?Screen Builder.? With the screen builder, you have the option to create unlimited screens, setup to display whatever you can dream of. In this first screenshot, you see the options to ADD, DELETE and MOVE screens. Once you have added a new screen, name it (or leave it default) and you then have the option to set the length which the screen displays it before switching (0 sets it indefinite). Next, you can change transition types between separate screens, whether to skip the screens or not, and the frames per second at which the text will scroll (if necessary). As you can see, I had plenty of fun with the screens, as I added 5, but many more can be added as well.
Once you have configured each screen?s simple displays, click the ?Lines? option. At first, you will see the screen above. TEXT is where you will type anything you would like displayed. By clicking the diamond to the right of the TEXT box, you can enter the plug-in?s commands which enable you to do the fancy display options such as live bar graphs, CPU type, CPU usage, memory usage, disk space/usage, Winamp track titles, countdowns, Counter-Strike server names, Counter-Strike player names and frags, live weather forecasts, news feeds, seti@home statistics, lice stock status, time, dates etc. The possibilities with this display are limitless, but just remember this is just for line one.
To access the bottom line?s display, click the ?2? above the TEXT field and you will see the exact same screen, except it will be empty. Once you have figured out what to display, for both lines, you can change scroll speeds (I prefer 1/3), style and alignment for text. You can see that this is a very basic sample of what can be done. I simply aligned both lines ?center? and made the first line display ?TwistedMods.com? and the second line display ?Matrix Orbital Review.? More examples follow.
The last and final option is where you are able to trigger screens/LCD functions according to system actions. For example, this is where you will configure each of the 7 keypad buttons. You can see in this particular screen that I applied the ?H? or ?Enter? button (according to button/key relationships listed earlier) to (on the press of the button) turn the backlight of the LCD off and on. Other buttons I configured included everything from opening/closing WinAmp to switching songs in the play list, play/pause and even switching to the next screen the LCD displays. This is also where you are able to configure each GPO (LEDs, fans, etc) to a certain function such as new mail = GPO on. You can see I configured this in my events list but unfortunately never saw the need for this function.
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