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LIS 2 Indicator

LIS 2 Indicator

Supplied by VL System


The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is a display device the mounts in an open 5.25″ bay. It can be programmed to display certain system information in a variety of ways. This is not much different from other available LCD displays. The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is more than a pretty face. It’s a fan controller too. Virtual Lab System took the LCD display device one step further by incorporating a 4-channel fan controller. The L.I.S. 2 Indicator surpasses other units in aesthetics, price and features but there are areas that didn’t quite measure up.

in_operation_01

An LCD display device puts PC system information up front and center and usually the hardware occupies an open 5.25″ bay but why? It’s not why display the information but why not just display it all on the desktop? The answer varies from person to person. For a PC enthusiast it’s cool. For an IT professional it may provide quick access to crucial system information without the need for a monitor. Whatever the reason the LCD display is becoming a popular addition to a PC system.

All LCD display units are basically the same in what they do. The difference lies in the design, manufacture, how the unit can be programmed and the resolution of the LCD screen itself. For example the SilverStone FP54 has a 16 character x 2 row display whereas the L.I.S. 2 Indicator (Premium) has a 20 character by 2 row display. Another popular manufacturer, Matrix Orbital, has a bay device that matches the character display capability of the L.I.S. 2 Indicator but comes in $10 USD more and doesn’t feature a fan controller.

So not all LCD display devices are equal.

Specifications

Controller
  • USB 1.1/2.0 SUpport
VFD
  • Vacuum Fluorescent Display
  • 5 x 8 dots
  • HD44780 compatible
  • 20 x 2 character
Included Cables
  • USB cable (1 ea. internal/external
  • Power cable
  • 3-pin fan extender cables (3)
  • 4-pin fan extender cables (2)
Dimensions 149.3 x 42.5 x 8.0 (WxHxD mm.)

What’s in the box?

box

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is well packed and includes all the necessary hardware, software and cables.

packing

Included are the two 4-pin fan extender cables, three 3-pin fan extender cables, USB cable and power cable.

wires_02

An external USB cable is also included for those users who wish to/need to route the USB connection to a rear port if the internal USB port is occupied or unavailable.

wires_03

The manual should be read cover to cover to familiarize the L.I.S. 2 Indicator owner with setup and all the features. The manual does provide a sufficient overview but not everything is covered. Learning to use GUI to program the L.I.S. 2 Indicator will be a matter of trial and error.

manual

The mini-CD installation disk contains the necessary drivers and installation software but there were installation issues with WindowsXP Professional. The drivers for the device had to manually pointed to from the Windows Device Manager. The unit came to life once that step was completed.

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is well constructed. The PCB is mounted to the aluminum frame and the face is protected by an acrylic cover.

ws_lis

The PCB is exposed to the rear to accommodate power and fan hookups.

pcb_ws

The blue square houses a brightness adjustment screw for the display. The 8 pins on the black rectangle upper middle of the following image are jumpers for the color of the LCD backlight. The manual says “IMPORTANT. Do not change the setting as this might cause damage to the product.”

The question is why then have it exposed for tampering modder’s hands? The USB connection sits next to it and the power connection is one more to the right.

pcb_cu_left

The other end of the PCB has four 3-pin molex headers for fan connections.

pcb_cu_fan_headers

And there were those screws on the PCB which, of course, came off to allow access to the display itself.

lcd_ws

Interesting to see. Now you know why the specifications said 5 x 8 dots. Each character is displayed on a section of 5 dots wide by 8 dots high. It’s also not a good idea to leave your grubby fingerprints on the glass.

lcd_cu

Inside the bay cover is the colored glass which a handy person could remove and drop in a different color thus changing the color of the display.

inside_glass

What can it do?

lis_angle

  • 4-channel automatic fan controller by temperature (read through Motherboard Monitor) or manually programmed.
  • Can display status of dual and/or hyperthreaded processors.
  • Can display Winamp or Windows Media Player signal in 20-band graphical format.
  • Will automatically update it’s software (Internet connection required).
  • Will automatically check email and alert the user.
  • Can be programmed to issue a reminder on a specific date and time.
  • Can display user created symbols or logos through the CG Builder interface.
  • Desktop display can be skinned.
  • Programmable display features include
    • Time/Date
    • OS information
    • HDD usage
    • Fan speed
    • User programmed messages
    • Media player information
    • CPU clock speed and usage
    • Logged in user information

in_operation_01

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is feature rich but the GUI takes experimentation to discover what the unit is actually capable of and how to program it. The manual does not do an adequate job of this. Installation was hampered by drivers that had to be manually installed by pointing to them from within the Windows Device Manager.

Once up and running the GUI can be accessed from an icon on the taskbar. Now here too the installation process fell apart. The .exe had to be manually moved to the startup folder in order to get the L.I.S. 2 Indicator to startup when booting into Windows.

The GUI is 13 main screens of programming. Only the high points we noticed will be touched upon. Most of the GUI is straight forward such as the text alignment drop downs in the following image. The USER MESSAGE STARTING and ENDING are startup and shutdown programmable messages and not to be confused with custom messages that can be programmed when the unit is in normal operation.

preferences_01

Here we go with the first bit of GUI confusion. STARTING MESSAGE is a programmable one or two text lines and is programmed the same way as USER TEXT but this starting message isn’t the starting message that appears when the unit initially starts up. So is this the starting…starting message or just the message that starts? This entry ended up being deleted in favor of plain simple USER TEXT.

preferences_02

The default list that comes with the GUI is only that…default. Items can be added, configured or deleted from this sequence and any item can be repeated. Adding items is as simple as selecting from the list and clicking ADD. The item can also be moved up or down in the sequence using the TOP and BOTTOM buttons which move the item one level at each click.

preferences_03

The fan controller did work but took a lot of experimentation to configure as the next two screens will show.

preferences_04

Motherboard Monitor is to be used in conjunction with the L.I.S. 2 Indicator software for fan control based on temperature.

preferences_05

The message center is a series of 3 programmable message alarms for a specific date and time or repeatable date and times. The home user may not find this too useful but, if the PC is kept operational all night, it could serve as an alarm clock. IT pros may find it useful to program the unit to sound a message alarm every few days just to remind the IT department to check on the box for a status update.

preferences_06

There are three time and date functions and note how it’s easy to type in front of the “$DATE” command to have custom text display in front (or behind) the displayed time and/or date.

preferences_07

Everything you’d want to know about the processor could be available for the L.I.S. 2 Indicator to display. Again type custom text before or after the $ command or in place of to further customize the displayed information. Note that changing these settings will change the module itself for all users.

preferences_08

Even more system info is available for the unit to display.

preferences_09

A Motherboard Monitor function is incorporated into the GUI for both information and assistance with the fan controller.

preferences_10

The Winamp and Windows Media Player was anticlimactic at first use. It looked complex yet didn’t seem to do anything. The remote control merely ties into clickable buttons on the on monitor display.

preferences_11

There’s an extensive listing of OS/System information that can be programmed to display.

preferences_12

Last is the automatic e-mail feature. It’s questionable for importance as many e-mail clients can be programmed to regularly check for email and alert the user.

preferences_13

The CG LOGO FILE BUILDER is an interface that allows the user to create a logo or shape that can be programmed into the display sequence by calling up that particular file. It’s good for straight lines and diagonals but not so hot for circles and curves.

cg_builder_blank

Clicking on any dot will turn on the corresponding display device dot.

cg_builder_playing

It’s a shame that only one character row is represented and only the first 8 characters of the 20 character line. If the custom shape is going to use two rows then there are only four character spaces available. The $ and corresponding box number has to be typed into line one or line two to form the final shape such as the AMD logo in the following image.

in_operation_03

The text is simply typed after the $(box number) characters to have it display as well. There was one display error as the CG file was being called up.

in_operation_02

It lasted a second or two before the AMD custom file appeared.

Thoughts, conclusions and ramblings

lis_angle

The high points is that the L.I.S. 2 Indicator does quite a lot for a system information display device. It is highly configurable and programmable. Hours could be spent setting up custom display sequences. That’s the first fault is that the GUI isn’t entirely simple to figure out nor is it fully explained what all the capabilities are. There’s a lot of time to be spent experimenting to get it right.

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator is more than a display. It’s a 4-fan controller too. The “cool” function was a programmable minimum and maximum fan speed (by percentage) either by temperature or CPU usage. It worked. Not perfectly but it did work.

in_operation_05

There was one curious issue with the L.I.S. 2 Indicator regarding a possessive USB connection. On the test system it was apparent that the L.I.S. 2 Indicator was “hogging” the port. A motherboard USB header has two “sides”. The L.I.S. 2 Indicator’s USB connector will occupy the four pins of the one “side” leaving the other free. The test system did experience problems where the unused “side” of the port was effectively shut down or blocked while the L.I.S. 2 Indicator was in operation. USB connections do hang on to the pathways until powered down or unplugged. The test system may have had a pathway error or there may have been only one pathway in place for the two usb connections; a cost saving measure. There could have also been issues with Windows XP Service Pack 2. All of which are being tested and discussed with VL System. This article will be updated with the findings.

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator can display a Winamp or Windows Media Player signal graphically and it’s eye candy for a passerby. A eye-catching plugin for Winamp or Windows Media Player but eye-candy nonetheless. What appeared to be missing from the programmable GUI was MP3 tag info. It would have been nice to have that as a display feature. Most of the programmable and configurable features will of interest to all. A few, depending on user, won’t be of any interest.

The L.I.S. 2 Indicator would be 100% perfect for a Home Theatre PC if the MP3 Tag reader worked in Windows Media Player. As it stands now it’s 95% perfect for such a use.

The big picture is that the L.I.S. 2 Indicator from VL System packs in more for less price. The bottom line is that the software and driver installation package could use some work.

Our thanks to VL Systems for
their support of this and many other sites.

Highs

  • Configurable
  • Programmmable
  • System Information Display without a monitor
  • Fan Controller

Lows

  • Some software issues
  • GUI is a tad clunky

Scores Breakdown
Attribute Score Comments
Bonus items & software 8.5 GUI is extensive but could be a bit more user friendly. Some software installation issues.
Design & layout 9 Solid construction.
Documentation 7.5 A good starter manual but lacks a little in the finish.
Features & options 9.5 An VFD/LCD display unit/fan controller/alarm clock/and a whole bunch more all in one.
Fine-tuning features 9 Extensive programming and configuration.
Modding possibilities 8 Think about it. Take it apart. Change the glass color. Paint the frame. Would have been better if supplied with different lens filters for color changes.
Performance & stability 7.5 The Silverstone SST-FP54 VFD display was easier to set up and did not have any software installation issues. The SST-VFD is nowhere near as extensive for display capabilities mind you.
Presentation 9.5 VERY well packed for shipping.
Price / value 8.5 Has longevity. It’s a luxury item at just shy of $100 USD but great bang for the buck.
Total score 77/90 85.6%

Comments

  1. Shorty
    Shorty That's quite damn funky.. :cool:

    Nice review mate :)
  2. MediaMan
    MediaMan Thank you Mr. Shorty sir. :)
  3. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle Neat toy and a neat review. Thanks MM!
  4. Unregistered
    Unregistered One thing missing from all these displays - I would like to be able to send a message to it from a VB program or script. Also, from your review I did not see how to display a message by reading a file, maybe I missed something. Otherwise thanks for the great review. - Dan
  5. petryuno1
    petryuno1
    One thing missing from all these displays - I would like to be able to send a message to it from a VB program or script. Also, from your review I did not see how to display a message by reading a file, maybe I missed something. Otherwise thanks for the great review. - Dan

    Hi. I recently purchased the L.I.S. 2 display and I read your post, actually you can send a message to the LIS2 from a VB program (if what u meant by that is using the VB prgm to change what the LIS displays). if you go into the directory u installed LIS control center in (probably c:\program files\L.I.Scontrol center) and u look at the file called AutoUser.ini it holds all the values for what u programmed the LIS to say in it. so u could simply open that file in a VB prgm and edit it. then when the file is edited and saved, the LIS will automatically load the updated file. hope this helps. :)
  6. max
    max I just digged out the good old display! does anybody still got the drivers for it?

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