Category: Technology


FitBit

When I started this blog I wanted to do something fun. I somehow lost interest over time and I sure that happens to everyone. But I want to do something that I can maintain. I like new gadgets and love testing them. I doubt I ever get picked to be a real reviewer or get those free items to review them but that should not stop me.simple.b-dis-png.h4621896b75431a4c9499334fb64c3247.pack

I found a new gadget I really like… No a group of object. So I am making a new run at keeping this blog going. I am not just going to review the product but my progress using it. So I purchased a FitBit Flex and FitBit WiFi scale.

First I wan to talk about the FitBit Flex activity band. I found it easy to use. It comes with a USB charger, 2 bands and the USB wireless dongle. You simply chard the device, install the sync software and then create your online profile. The flex is easy to use because you jus put it on and you are ready to go. Tap it twice to get your current status. Tap it quickly for about 2 seconds to put it in and out of sleep mode. You can at any time sync it to your PC/MAC using the wireless sync adapter or your smart phone.

The software sends your info to the online profile you create and give you the current stats. It tracks these daily so you can see where you are. It tracks your steps, distance and sleep. I have to say it is not always accurate just typing this I am most likely getting some steps in according to my flex but I think overall it will motivate the user to get up and move. It should also be noted that you can get different color bands for your flex.simple.b-dis-png.h90165c3211e4edcba5f3ffc6f98427ad.pack

The FitBit scale is the second gadget. It links through your WiFi Network and transmits your weight and body fat to your online profile. It will allow up to 8 different users. The operation is simple and is a great addition to your flex band. The scale is sleek and clean looking in black or white.

The online profile allows you to add friends and share info with them. You can share the number of steps, sleep, weight ect. The system has a dashboard that you can customize with different

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tiles. You set goals and you are awarded badges for meeting and exceeding your goals. In addition to the dashboard you have a log for food, sleep, activities, blood pressure, glucose levels and journal entries. This allows you to track your entire fitness goals in one simple program.

One thing many people want is a support system or a buddy to workout with. This is like a social media app and allows you to invite friends. You can congratulate your friends when the get badges or taunt them as you beat their goals. It creates a completive buddy system online or support system depending on how you use it. There are also groups you can join on this site so there are a lot of support systems in place to help you be more successful in your goals. The software is very user friendly overall.

So….no I am not a fitness person. In fact I have been told by my doc to loose weight, exercise and eat better. As a diabetic I struggle with this so I bought this to help me. So far in the month I have had this device I’ve kept on track. In fact I have gotten several badges for exceeding my goals. So this device is helping me a lot. I have decided to share some results this next year to help me keep going and may to get me to use my blog a bit more. So if you get a fitbit friend me and help me do better!

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DXG-5F9VK HD 1080p 3D Camcorder

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A 3D camcorder for under $200 US, are you kidding? Yes this is a sub $200 3D camcorder. I first saw this when I was looking for a pro model camcorder to do stock videos with. I dismissed it as I really needed a camera with a high quality lens and sound recording ability. Later I decided to revisit the possibility of 3D video just for fun. The price was right so knowing it was just a fun toy I took a chance on it.

The camera is light weight and I’m sure for most this will be a good thing. I like my cameras to be a bit heavier as the weight helps to steady the camera. The controls are simple as is the menu. It stores video on SD media, I used a class 10 16gig scandisk for my testing. It has an almost instant on. Just flip the lens then open the view screen. The view screen is in 3D, no need for 3D glasses. The only issue is when the lens is open you can’t tilt the screen too much.

The camera has really good image quality. It may be a bit awkward at first because of the stereo lens but that isn’t too bad. Video is sharp and crisp with very nice color and contrast. I was shocked to see what this camera could do. The only real issue I had was a choppy zoom. I really wish the zoom was smooth but for the price and the image quality I can deal with the slightly jerky zoom.

The microphone is stereo and located in the front part of the monitor door. This does well as long as the sound that is right in front of the user. If there was one thing that would really make this camera sell better that would be the addition of an external microphone, but they did not add the plug. Since I did buy this camera to just play around, for me that missing feature was not a big deal.

So here are the pros
· Good image quality
· Light Weight
· Simple Operation
· Live 3D viewer
· Good Color

Here are the Cons
· Choppy Zoom
· No external Microphone jack
· Limited viewer tilt
· Average to poor images in low light

Conclusion – If you want a fun little camera to create 3D video with this is the camera for you. It has a low price and great image quality. I really enjoy using this camera. If you need features like an external microphone and smooth zooming then you may want to look at some other cameras. Again I would recommend this to users who want a fun camera or those who want to dabble in 3D. It would be hard to beat the quality at the price of this camera.

Review – Nikon AW100 water-proof sports camera

A while back I wrote about the GoPro camera. I have used my GoPro for many things and intended to use it for some underwater shots while on vacation. After reading reviews I found it was limited on quality underwater. Further research lead me to the Nikon Coolpix AW100. Water proof up to 33ft and shock proof up to 5 feet. This camera was made for mild sports action yet still remains stylish.

The camera looks like a simple point and shoot. Many of the features you would find on most with a couple differences. First the button for the shutter and video are separate. Each has a unique texture so you can feel what is what. Next the batter and memory card door had a rubber seal but also uses a double lock to be more secure from accidental opening. Next the camera has a built in GPS allowing you to GEO tag your images or use it as a functional ground GPS. Finally you will find a underwater setting in the presets for diving.

Dolphin Flight - Discovery Cove, Orlando FL

Going through the presets and doing some tests I found the “simple” mode to be annoying. I switch it over to “auto” for playing. During vacation I used several presets like “underwater”, “Beach” and “Night Portrait”. These are easy to change using the scene mode button on the back of the camera. All in all I found the scenes to be quite adequate for most of my images. Remember this is a point and shoot. The zoom range work well for most situations. The one drawback was the speed between shots. The manual boasts 2.5 frames per second but even with my extreme 30MB/s SD card I could not get shots that quickly.

The image quality during daylight was above average to outstanding in the point and shoot category. I think the color and contrast in the daylight images were spot on. I also could not see any real issues with noise in these images. I was a little disappointed in the night images. They seemed to have a lot of noise and took time to fix in photoshop. I would say a 5X7 would be the largest you could get a usable print from using night settings. Overall for a point and shoot the camera performance was above average. ** note I tested the zoom lens but did not use the digital zoom feature.

Video was also handled very well with this little camera. It takes 1080p HD video with great color and contrast. I also took several night videos and amazingly the quality of night video was much better than the photos. I was able to snorkel taking video and stills again with great results. The camera was easy to manage underwater. I did notice one difference here that should be noted. Using the underwater mode the still images look nice, corrected color but to me look a bit dull. The video looks great, especially compared to the GoPro but the color looks off a bit. I have included a video shot entirely using the AW100. (stills and video use the Coolpix AW100, Edited in Final Cut X Pro)

My overall opinion of the Nikon AW100: If you need a camera that can take some light abuse and for all weather situations I would recommend you check this camera out. The image and video quality are excellent in most situations. The controls are simple to use and it has safety locks keeping the camera weather tight. The drawbacks are minimal unless you plan to do lots of low-light images. For under $300 (USD) this camera is well worth a look.

Thanks for reading!

Service and Support a thing of the past….

Customer service is becoming a thing of the past. In today’s market many companies claim to provide great customer service but the cold hard fact is money is more important to them than the consumer. We buy a technology product and the first time we have issues we are on the phone with the help desk in India. You try to explain and all they do is say “sorry”, offer no real solution or resolution. If you manage to talk to someone who does understand and can assist you then you have more than likely spent hours on the phone repeating the same thing over and over. To me this is happening at more and more companies. I have to say ANY company that subjects their customers to these call centers just doesn’t care or value that customer.

Help desks and call centers are not the only places I take issue with. The other day at a popular electronics store I witnesses one of the “Nerds” who should be an expert having to get a supervisor because she didn’t know how fast PC3200 memory was. I thought really, it says it right on the back of the package 400MHz. I guess I will really think twice about EVER buying one of the store warranties or allowing them to work on my PC/MAC. In fact I was buying my iMAC at the time and they wanted to load Norton AV. I declined to allow it. I said “just give me the key I can do it”. I know I’m just a lowly MCP but I will manage over your “Qualified” people, um “Nerds”. I ended up buying my firewire drive and memory from another reseller because the techs were much more knowledgeable. I paid more but the service was worth it.

The corporate world is no different. Customer service managers are now called “Service Managers”. No room for customer in that title. They are all about fix what is under contract and not making it right for the customer. You might hear “we can’t load that document reader even thought you paid for it because it is not covered in your contract”. Followed by “we can’t give you rights to load software again because that is not in your contract”. It is this foolishness and lack of respect for the customer that drives me crazy. I have been in the IT field for over 15 years and it gets worse and worse when companies outsource support. Outsourcing companies have no respect for the customer and make the customer wait on them sometimes for hours just because the “contract” allows them too. To them it all about money not about the customer.

I have been in customer relations and service for over 30 years. I consider being in IT support the same as customer service. I don’t understand why companies think customer service doesn’t matter. If you take care of your customers they will come back. Do you need a quick lesson? First, have a call center in the country that the product is sold. If the hold times are too long then provide a call back system using outside resources to “log calls only”. Next train your “Nerds” and make sure they have at a minimum basic “industry” certifications. In store product training is for sales people not professional technicians. Only certified tech’s with customer service training and experience should be allowed to work with customers directly. It is just that simple!

Finally take care of the customer. The customer support person should be fluent in the language of the customer and understand the culture. Customers you are NOT always right but it is the job of the customer service and support person to resolve the issue in a calm manner. Customers you should not take out your frustration on customer service person but calmly ask for a manager and start by saying “your customer server person tried very hard to resolve my issue but I felt I needed someone with more authority”. No point in taking poor company policy out on the service person, especially if they tried to help you. If the company, be it retail, support or corporate doesn’t respect you and take the time to understand what you want or need then go to a company that does. If you are a business reading this take note that you better have trained people. As a customer you have many options so use them. Post on social media be experiences. That tells 100’s of friends not just 10. File a complaint with the better business bureau because companies have to follow on these or loose ratings. If we don’t stand up and expect, no demand better customer service it will become a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading.

ToonCamera – Cartoon Filming with your iPhone 4GS

If you have seen those TV commercials that have cartoon like people and wondered how they created those realistic looking toons then this is your lucky day! There’s an app for that! The ToonCamera app for your iPhone does a good job creating cartoon like images or video without the need for expensive editing programs. There are several modes from color to line (pen & ink) style. This app is easy to use then import into your iMovie for editing. This fun little app has many possibilities and turns the everyday into a bit more fun and exciting. This app has simple controls and does have its limits but for less than $1 (USD) you really can’t go wrong. Go ahead you know you want to be a cartoon character!!
Thanks for reading!

The following movie was shot using ToonCamera and iMovie both on the iPhone 4S

iStopMotion – Still Images in Motion

I embark now on a new bit of photographic fun. Not only photo’s but video as well. I decided to play with iStopMotion. This was a very fun tool to use. The interface is simple and takes very little time to learn. Like those Claymation holiday movies this program creates a video from still frames. You position your character/object then snap an image. The program imports the file (if you have a web Camera/live view video camera you can see the image preview) then you move your character/object a little and take a picture. Repeat this process and your character comes to life.

The program has several tools to assist you like color correction and tilt shift controls. You can use a grid layout to help track motion. The program can also be use to capture time lapse photography. Additional tools like onion skin lets you overlay the current image over the previous on to insure you movement is fluid and not off. One of the other useful tools is the robo sync. You can for instance record an actor then use the footage to mimic the actors motion with the character/object. The program also comes with some preset foregrounds and backgrounds. Over all I say if you enjoy those old Claymation movies and want to create your own then you need to try iStopMotion.

Below is my first sample movie. I used iStopMotion then imported the project in After Effects to give it that night look and create the ghost. It was fun to make, hope to make another one soon! Thanks for reading!

iPhone 4S – My circle is now complete!

IT has arrived!!

Yes, that’s right, today (Oct 14th 2011) I was #1 in line at my local carrier. I got the store’s FIRST iPhone. I’ve only play a little but SIRI seems to work very well. I asked to add some appointments to my calendar…done. It was just as simple as they said. As for speed my 3G android and my 3G iPhone side by side. By the time android loaded the carrier home page the iPhone was 3 screens in. So far speed is A+ compared to android. Next I looked at signal. Inside the carrier store you would expect full bars, iPhone yes……android 2 bars(fail!)

All my apps from my iPad for iPhone were as expected simple and quick to sync. I had already setup iCloud so once I logged in, BAM!!, all my contacts were ready to go. I still have to sync up my iTunes but I have to say so far the device has been a breeze to setup and almost seamless to transfer my information over to. The only thing I really need to do now is get my main apps reloaded if there are versions of them for the iPhone.

Tonight I’ll play a little with the video camera and iMovie (iPhone edition) and see if I can get something together and posted back on this page. So far I have to say I do not regret getting rid of that P.O.S. android phone. I will never go back to android, too many issues and no resolutions! My circle is now complete (for now), iMAC, MACBook Pro, iPad, iPhone… Update – iPhone video posted below taken indoor with nothing but window lighting.


Lucy Loo Talks Back – Shot with iPhone 4s and no additional lighting

iPad, iMAC, iTunes, iPhone, MACBook, iCloud,iMovie, SIRI are all registered trademarks of Apple inc - This post is from my MAC blog

GoPro Fun With Dobie at Woof Stock 2011

Each year the Kansas Humane Society puts on an event called Woof Stock.  I thought what better than to have Dobie put on the GoPro and make a new addition to Dobie Cam.  You don’t get the most stable footage when you attach the camera like a collar but it is all in fun….right??

 

Now you do have to change some settings.  I use the upside down mode for recording and since you never know what Dobie will get into I also use the full back so the camera is waterproof.

 

Now, just remember the footage will be unstable so you may have to run it through a filter like I did.  I also used a movie trailer mode like in the iMove demo http://classmact.com/?p=32  Hope you enjoy the video, remember to have fun and if you don’t shoot something you get nothing.

 

Thanks for Reading!

GoPro Go FUN!!

I decided to get a GoPro camera.  If you have not heard of these it may be due to the fact the main purpose of this camera is for extreme sports.  I myself don’t do crazy sports or stunts but still I though I could have some fun with the camera.

Lets start with the basic stuff.  You want to have good light.  So far the performance has not been too great in low light.  In daylight the color and quality are top notch.  I like the widest view as it give a semi-fisheye effect to the video.  I also like to use the 60 frames so I can slow down my video and not loose quality.  The drawback is only shooting in 720 not 1080.  If you don’t plan to use slow-motion effects then I say go all out and use the 1080p mode.

I have the helmet kit so it came with a lot of different mounts and a headband mount.  I also purchased the roll-bar mount and the wrist mounts.  The camera case has 2 backs.  One is open allowing better sound while the solid back is better suited for high-speeds and rated up to 160’ under water.  Did I mention this is a sports camera?  Other mounts for surf boards, skateboards, suction cup, and different adhesives are available as well.

I have posted a couple quick videos I put together.  1 is using a helmet mount and attaching it to my dog’s collar  and the other I used different mounts on my motorcycle.