Category Archives: Hardware

Super High Frame Rate Video From A Las Vegas Hotel Room

Tom Guilmette was in Las Vegas for work & had access to a Phantom Flex, which is a super high frame rate video camera.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it’s the same sort of technology that provides the super slow motion footage of a tennis player striking a ball from the Australian Open tennis championship or similar.

However, the Phantom Flex isn’t just any run of the mill high frame rate camera, with enough light it can shoot at over 2,500 frames per second in 1080p! If you can ‘tolerate’ a less than full high definition picture – you can capture a speeding bullet at 10,000 frames per second – wow.

That sort of video camera isn’t the sort of thing that videographers ‘just have access to’ like a normal high megapixel digital camera. So while Tom had access to the beast, he thought he should make the most of it and shot a whole raft of cool footage from within his hotel room in Las Vegas Nevada.

Apple iPhone, Why I Love Thee

After patiently waiting for my contract on my Samsung Blackjack to expire, then repeatedly being turned away from Vodafone stores right across the Gold Coast due to severely low stock – I finally managed to get my hands on a white 16Gb iPhone 3GS toward the beginning of October 2009. Not long after I got one in my hot hands, I gave a pithy review and said that they rock but that there was more to come – here are a few more thoughts.

  1. High Quality Screen
    While using my Blackjack mobile phone, I thought the quality of the screen was actually quite good. Of course, as soon as I bought my Apple iPhone, it highlighted just how poor the screen quality was by comparison.
  2. Kick Arse Interface
    Probably a little subjective, not everyone gels with the iPhone OS user interface and usability. Fortunately for me, it fits with me just nicely and I find it really efficient to move around and the user experience of multi-speed scrolling lists, varying length touch sensitivity and more make it a joy to use.
  3. Richer Applications
    My Samsung Blackjack had a really good spread of applications and was really, quite a capable phone. The difference with the iPhone is that the market place is open and thousands of developers around the world are investing their energy building applications for the Apple App Store – which means that there is probably an existing application to do what you want and it’ll be free or low cost.
  4. Photos
    While I did take photos with my Blackjack, it was generally an after thought. The quality of the images weren’t that fantastic and viewing them on the phone using such a mediocre quality screen just compounded the issue. Fortunately the iPhone 3GS has a 3.5″ screen with a resolution of 480×320 pixels and provides good quality colour reproduction – makes viewing photos that much nicer.
  5. Video
    Over the 2 or more years that I owned the Samsung Blackjack, I think I used the video feature less often than I used it to take photos – which means basically never. Compare that against my ongoing use of the video capturing on the iPhone and it is a stark contrast. The single greatest thing about having reasonable quality video and audio recording ability on the iPhone is that you can capture a lot more things than you could normally. While the video quality certainly doesn’t rival our full HD camcorder, the iPhone is infinitely more accessible – in that you have it with you nearly all the time – which makes it great for capturing impromptu moments.
  6. Ubiquitous Web Access
    The Samsung Blackjack was a 3G capable phone with internet browsing capabilities. However, I virtually didn’t bother using the internet as the user experience was so poor. The physical screen was small, screen quality and colour reproduction wasn’t that great and the compatibility of the web browser itself wasn’t fantastic. Since buying my Apple iPhone, I now use the internet regularly – often more than once per day, I have my various personal and work email’s delivered to it as well and because the uses the Apple web browser Safari, which is standards compliant – virtually all web sites just work out of the box.

I could probably go on and on about why I think the iPhone is a great phone, but I honestly think it transcends a simple phone handset now. It is positioning itself as a hyper mobile personal computer, as the raw device is very capable, quite feature rich and with a staggering ecosystem of applications just a click away – there isn’t a lot it can’t do.

Without a doubt, it is the best mobile phone I have ever owned and it wins by a significant margin.

Gremlins

Toward the end of February I mentioned that we replaced our Mazda 323 SP20 with a 2004 Ford Falcon XR6 in preparation for the arrival of our next child in May. When we first took ownership of the vehicle, the car was in immaculate condition inside and out.

Since that time, we’ve managed to find a few little gremlins within the vehicle that needed to be addressed, some more severe than others:

  1. Accelerator Stopped Working
    Claire, Hugo & Lucy were driving along on the M1 motorway when the accelerator stopped working. The majority of people aren’t aware but the Ford Falcon was one of the first cars to offer drive by wire throttle or in plain terms, an electronic accelerator with no direct connection to the throttle body on the car.
  2. Rattle
    When you start the car and it is either idling or at low RPM, there was a periodic rattle that sounded as though it was coming from the engine bay somewhere. You didn’t hear it when you were driving, either because it wasn’t there or was masked by road and wind noise.
  3. Break Shudder
    For the first couple weeks we had the car, the breaks were working as you’d expect. However after taking a trip out to Chinchilla we noticed a severe break shudder on the way home while driving down the Toowoomba Range.
  4. CD Player
    When I took the car for a test drive, I had the radio on for part of the drive just for something to do. I didn’t have a CD with me, who does that really, so I didn’t think to check and assumed that the CD player was working.

I dropped the car into Hinterland Toyota Nerang at 7:30AM on Thursday before the Easter long weekend and Jacob met me there to chauffeur me to work. Only about 10 minutes after we arrived at work, I got a call from Nerang Hinterland Toyota to inform me that while they can service my car, they were unable to do the repairs under a statutory warranty claim as it needs to go back to the place of purchase – which was Hinterland Toyota Burleigh Heads. I told them that was horribly inconvenient and to see if there was anything they could do for me and they arranged to handle the warranty work on behalf of the Burleigh Heads dealershsip which was great.

The afternoon rolled around and I had expected to get a call to pick up my car, however instead the call informed me that they had taken the disc rotors off the car and had them machined to resolve the shudder but it hadn’t fixed it. I needed the car for the long weekend, so picked it up anyway and the shudder was in fact worse than when I took it in which I didn’t understand. On Tuesday after the long weekend I dropped it back in again and they again took the disc rotors off and inspected everything but didn’t find anything wrong, so put the brake discs back on the machine to recheck they were smooth and they were. After putting them back on, still a sever shudder when breaking at any speed and in the end they replaced the disc brake rotors and pads – no more shudder.

When I first arrived home with the XR6, Claire immediately noticed a burble in the exhaust and mentioned that she is now a bogan mother. Well it turns out the rattle at idle was in fact the catalytic converter, which should have been an easy replacement. However when the new catalytic converter arrived, it didn’t fit because the exhaust on the car isn’t standard – so they had to take it to an exhaust specialist to have it refitted – but now no more rattle.

The throttle stopping was weird and I’d never heard of that happening before. A combination of dash lights turned on when it happened, so it was a known fault in that respect – which is good. The strangest thing is though, after pulling over, turning the car off and back on – the start up checks all passed without any warnings and the accelerator was working again and we haven’t had the problem again. Nonetheless, Hinterland Nerang hooked up the equipment to the onboard computer but it wasn’t registering a fault at the time – so there was nothing for them to fix as far as they could tell. If it happens again, I’ll have to take it back down to them as soon as possible so they can investigate again.

The last remaining thing to get fixed was the CD player which appeared to have a CD stuck in it, though the display didn’t indicate that there was a disc in there at all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get that repaired while it was in with Hinterland Nerang as it isn’t covered as part of the statutory warranty claim apparently but I’ll give the Burleigh Heads dealership a call and see what they can do about it.

While it took three days with Hinterland Nerang to resolve the brake shudder and the rattle, they were really helpful and kept me in the loop which was good. The only thing that was an inconvenience about it was that they weren’t able to supply a courtesy vehicle because they were booked out – so unfortunately Claire and Hugo were home bound for a couple of days.

Primary Hard Drive Failure

After rebuilding my desktop computer in January 2008 to reestablish my geek-fu, I subsequently had a really bad run of luck with my CoolerMaster power supply and my Asus GeForce 8800GT video card. In August 2009, my 500Gb hard drive began to throw errors and I scampered out and bought a replacement just in time to get the data off it and not lose anything.

Over the weekend my super fast Western Digital 74Gb Raptor hard drive that Windows is installed on decided to give up the ghost. It passes the POST on boot up and attempts to load Windows but never succeeds and reboots on its own. I suppose I should be happy that I managed to get over two years out of that Western Digital hard drive, the Raptor series of hard drives spin much faster than a standard hard drive and provide superior performance but do tend to wear out sooner as a by product.

Now if only the cost of a solid state hard drive technology had come down far enough that I could afford it without feeling guilty, I’d never have to wait for something to load again!

Parrott AR.Drone, The Ultimate iPhone/iPod Accessory

Parrott have just released the Parrott AR.Drone, a four bladed helicopter or quadricopter, which is controlled by an iPhone or iPod Touch. They utilise the motion sensitive nature of the Apple products to make controlling it intuitive, with the connection handled through WiFi. It gets better though, much much better – the AR.Drone has two video camera’s, one is used by the quadricopter to aid in flight, the second streams in real time straight into the iPhone or iPod Touch.

No pricing has been released for it yet but if they can manage to make it even passingly affordable, I can’t even begin to imagine how many of them they are going to sell. While everyone thought that micro-helicopters and planes about the size of a deck of cards were incredible – the AR.Drone and its derivatives are taking that to a whole new level.