L.I.S LCD Indicator
I've used few different parallel LCDs at the past and while they were quite easy to work with. There just weren't good programs to support them and you had to wire the displays to your computer by yourself. Today there are few manufacturers that make "plug'n'play" packages. Let's see what VLSystem's hardware/software bundle can do.
Package is very well designed with good paddings protecting the device. Inside the package you will find the LCD display itself, user's manual, credit card size CD with driver/software and interface cable to go between PC and the display unit. The cable is connected to PC's serial and USB ports. USB port is used for power and serial port for data.
Credit card sized CD
One interesting detail is the software CD. Maybe these are those needed little things that make the product stand out from the others. You decide.
Front side of the unit is quite elegant with four shiny brass screws. These screws hold both front plexi and the electronics in their place. One of the screws were tightened so much that it was bending the circuit board so I had to loosen it a bit. There are two buttons visible on the right side. Top button is used to switch unit on/off and other is to switch backlight on/off. All the labels on the front panel are printed on to plexi so they can be removed easily if one likes to have totally clean front on his/hers computer.
On the back we can see the electronics and the wiring. All the electronics fits nicely inside the reserved area and the wires aren't too long or short, just perfect.
|1.||On the left there are the pins which connect the pcb to a HD44780 compatible display unit.|
|2.||Six pins are used to select proper voltage for the backlight. Different voltage for different colors. L.I.S indicator can be bought in three different colors: red, green and blue and all these units use the same contolling circuit.|
|3.||Connector for the interface cable that goes to serial and USB ports.|
|4.||Trimmer that is used to adjust the contrast of the display.|
|5.||PIC processor that drives the display unit.|
Controlling circuitry is sitting on top of the LCD. Only thing holding it in its place are those pins on the left. While it doesn't sound like very good decision, the board feels very solid and firm.
Two holes on each side. Too bad that they don't supply the needed screws to attach this unit to computer. These are those small things that I talked about earlier.
The reason why the image is so dark is that I had to compensate the brightness of the screen with my camera. It is really bright. Maybe too bright. With the dark surroundings the display becomes a bit hard to read and the contrast adjustment for the text ins't enough. Maybe there should be a adjustment for the brightness of the backlight too. Anyway, this is the screen that you will see when the unit it turned on.
After the installation of the drivers and the software you can start up the main program. On the upper half you can see the selection tabs. Just select the section you want and configure it to suit your needs. I will show you few of the screens so you get the idea.
Mother board monitor
I had few problems with the Mother Board Monitor and L.I.S program. I was using MBM5 version 184.108.40.206 and I wasn't able to get any readings from it to L.I.S's program. After checking things from few forums I found out that MBM5 makers had changed the way that shared memory is used. Only way to get this part working was to go back to version 220.127.116.11. After that everything worked just fine.
User can make his/hers own selections which parts will be shown on the screen. For example one could choose that screen will switch between current time and computer's resource information. Next few output shots.
In test mode it's possible to write your own text and see how the display works.
Information about the processor.
Information about the operating system. Can tell you things like DirectX and IE version, hard drive usage, logged user, currently selected IP number etc.
Shows you CPU load, memory and swap usage.
Setup program also installs a plugin for WinAmp. That plugin can be used to show information like play time, song title and spectrum analyser in one or two lines.
I just wanted to know how the screen would look when inverted. I don't have any proper sheet for that so I used my wife's sunglasses. Looks quite nice. It also makes the screen easier to read. Maybe they could sell a strip of polarizing sheet as an option? Just a thought. :)
In short, quality product that is easy to use and looks great. It's nice that VLSystem made a full package that contains mounting for the LCD. No soldering or drilling needed. Just plug in the unit, install software and you are using the system like a pro. There are still a few things to be fixed in the software though. Biggest needed change is the support for new shared memory system in newer MBM5 versions. Also I would like to see more customizing options available for the output. Other than these this is a great product that is one of the best LCD indication systems available these days.
Updated 10.08.2002. There is new version available of the software. It supports new MBM shared memory system and has Autostart etc. You can find the new version from here.
Pros and Cons
+ Looks great
- Quite expensive (~$80)
Where to buy: