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November 14,2006

Some of us here at RainyDayMagazine wrote the image-processing algorithms for the first commerical image-editing software for the Mac...way back in 1988.  That piece of software was called PhotoMac.  It pre-dated Photoshop.  It had its problems, but it was the first 24-bit image-editing software that started it all.  We guess, in some way, we are partly responsible for the following...

One of our friends asked us back then if we were worried that our algorithms would contribute to a world where nothing was what it seemed.  We were young, just got out of school, and were itching to see what we could do.  Hey, at least we didn't take that job with the Defense Department.

 

October 22,2006 (Weekend@WaldenPond)

Today was one of those amazing New England weekends.  The temperature was perfect for a top-down drive.  We didn't want to spend the entire time on the road, so we packed up the car and took a forty minute drive out to Walden Pond

We also thought it would be a good opportunity to give our new Canon IS2's "foliage" camera setting a workout.  We were quite impressed with the IS2's responsiveness, especially with the speed in which it was able to autofocus and capture this shot of the Great Blue Heron flying across Walden Pond.  The shutter lag was so minimal that we were able to shot reflexively... a key factor in capturing nature action shots.

The "foliage" setting worked well with reflected colors as well as high contrast shots.  Some of the brighter areas did get washed out, but there was quite a bit of detail in the darker sections.  Quite acceptible for an "automatic" setting.

On the grounds is a replica of the 10x15 "house" which Thoreau built in 1845 for $28.  The plans are available in the gift shop ($30) should you want to try your hand at building one.

If you have time and can get out to Walden Pond, we would highly recommend it.  The colors are intense and the trails are quiet.  Spend a few hours experiencing what Thoreau must have felt over 150 years ago, then go get a latte at Starbuck's and get ready for Monday.

 

October 11,2006

After three days of using the Kata Ergo-Tech, we all agreed that this is a well thought out and versatile day pack for today's gadget- loving traveler. 

While the outside of the pack is made of a stiffer shape-holding material, the inside is fully lined with a felt-like layer.  This allows velcro to stick to it easily and is gentle to the shiny surface of some of today's digital gear. Note the special pockets for flash chip storage and strap for securing the camera.

The pockets on the shoulder straps are made of an elastic material.  It will conform to the shape of the intended device (phone, ipod).  Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to get the phone out of the pocket quickly...obviously not an issue if you have a Bluetooth headset :-)

 

October 10,2006

Yesterday we gave you a look at the outside of Ergo-Tech.  Today we are going to examine the sectional design of the Ergo-Tech.  The main compartment of the Ergo-Tech pack are composed of two spacious sections. The top portion has enough room for a lot of different gear (notebook, water bottle, snacks etc..)  There are also pockets for pens and other loose bits. 

The bottom portion has a removable zippered bag, perfect for cables and things of that nature.  It also has a few other special purpose pockets.  Click on the images to get a closer look.

The largest pocket in the Kata Ergo-Tech runs the entire length of the back.  This pocket is for carrying a laptop.  The zipper runs the entire length of the compartment, making insertion and removal of the laptop easy.

Carolyn took the Ergo-Tech out for a hike (no laptop on this trip) when we were up in Maine.  We'll have more comments on the this pack when we let a few more of our staff have a go at it.

 

 

October 9,2006

It would not be a RainyDayMagazine weekend if we did not bring some gear with us to check out!  The main piece of gear we brought was a brand new ErgoTech pack from Kata.  Some readers may remember that we had introduced this pack in mid-September.

The ErgoTech is the first general-purpose pack from Kata.  This pack is very different from others we have used.  First, the shape of the pack conforms extremely well the the body. 

Next, it is well padded, retains its form even when empty, and has tons of special pockets for all kinds of gear.  These dedicated pockets are "stretchy" and will hold the device securely during the most vigorous of activities.  Tomorrow we'll give you a look at the insides of this innovative pack.

September 16,2006

No messing around today...we are going right to the RainyDay Puzzler to start off the weekend.  This great looking back pack is a new product from a company well known to Pro photographers and videographers.  The same company have been achieving strong brand recognition in the consumer space these past few years.  They have just introduced a new line targeted directly at the average everyday backpack user.

So WHAT is the name of is this company?  If you know or think you know...send us email with the subject line "The Shape of Things to Come".  In the email include a URL to the company's new line.  We'll use our usual random and haphazard process to select a winner next Saturday.  Yes, you have a whole week to figure this one out :-)

Here is a big hint...we have reviewed gear from this company before. No guarantees, but we'll see what we can do about wrapping one of their new pack or bag around your gear if you are the lucky winner.

 

September 9,2006

MAKE magazine had a post of this awesome looking macro lens created by one of their readers.  The interns, of course, commented on the post and a little friendly challenge followed:-)

"I propose a macro-off, whoever can blow up a the floating eye triangle on a dollar bill without cropping to the biggest possible (and without using microphotography (though i do have a microscope adapter for my camera, muahahah)) wins :)"

The interns immediately responded to the challenge (click on the image to see the full size version) with a posting of the requested image :-)  They then realized the loupe they used only had a magnification of 8X...so they are out scouring the flea markets for a higher mag slide loupe :-)

 

September 5,2006

 

We had known that CCDs were sensitive to infrared (remember the Sony camcorders that could shoot through clothing?) and that most have an IR filter to block the light.

Recently we read an article on MAKE magazine about how to convert a cheap digital camera into an infrared digital camera by Zach Stern.  Zach's beautiful photos inspired us to give the project a try.

However, unlike Zack's project, the JB-1 did not have a separate IR filter.  The IR filtering was done by a coating which was on the lens itself.  This meant we had to scrape the coating off.

Since it was Labor Day, most of the photography stores were closed.  This is when being a pack-rat has its advantages.  We found some filters sample which we had picked up 15 years ago, but never used.

Once the gels were properly stacked and the lens mount reattached (hot glue gun is really useful for this), then it was time to screw on the reassembled lens. 

The unit snapped back together quite easily.  We reinserted the single screw which held the unit close and the reassembly was basically complete.  This does not mean we are done.  The focus of the lens still needs to be adjusted.

After playing with the focus a bit, we were able to start getting some better results.  Finally, we were able to zero in on the exact spot where we had the sharpest focus for the setup.

Infrared images are really quite interesting since they reveal a whole different perspective of our surroundings.  Here are some examples from just looking out the window.  We'll have more once we play with it some.  We hope this quick project will inspire some of you with older digital cameras that are collecting dust to give them a second life.

 

September 1,2006

Just got done with lunch and came back to a brand new Canon S2 sitting on the chair.  We ordered it on Monday when the deal (ended at 9AM this morning) was first announced.

I guess we'll have yet another thing to play with this Labor Day weekend...work, work, work!!!  Click on the images to get a closer look.  We'll have a write-up on the S2 soon!

 

August 12,2006

Everyone knows there are some gear one should avoid putting in their checked baggage...things like cameras, iPods, cellphones.  However, we may have to check them in the future if security measures continues to be tighten.

A good way to both protect our gear and to make it easy for the folks at airport security to check over our stuff is to put them in a clear protective case.  The ones we use are the strong polycarbonate cases from OtterBox. 

The OtterBox cases are strong, water-tight, and CLEAR.  It makes for a much easier time in the security line.  Should we need to check the items, we know the boxes can take a beating when our bags are being tossed around by the luggage handlers.  Go here to check out other ideas for protecting your gear when trying to get from point A to point B.  If you have tips of your own, share them, and lets see if we can make going through the security checks a little easier for everyone.

 

August 4,2006

On the way back from NY, we realized that Siggraph was in Boston and it was the last day...so we stopped by and checked it out.

In our hurry to get in, we left our camera in the car.  So all the photos in this segment were taken with the Motorola PEBL's camera.

Wacom was showing their new Cintiq tablet.  Unlike most graphics tablets, the Cintiq lets the artist work directly on the display.  We love the idea of being able to work right on the screen and can definitely see how it would be an incredible tool for graphic artist. 

Our only issue is the price.  The screen is beautiful and very high res, but if someone had, say, already spent $2000 on an Apple 22" display, it would be hard to pay another $2500 for a tablet.  Wacom does have a "payback calculator" to show how quickly the increased workflow would translate into savings...thus helping to justify the purchase.  What we would love is for Wacom to make a transparent layer which could be placed over any screen...making it a drawing tablet!

There were also lots of other great stuff like new UI technology, panoramic VR goggles, 3D printers for rapid prototyping, and some very cool large projector technology from an MIT startup. 

The MIT guys figured out how to take multiple low-cost projectors and seamlessly mesh their output to create a scalable projection display system.  Their technology will work with curved walls and other ultra-large display challenges.  Anyone thinking a 300" projection TV for home or office?  We'll have more on Siggraph 06 in a separate write-up.

 

July 31,2006

We got these two tripods just as we were packing for our trip this weekend. We tossed them into the pile of goodies we were bringing to the NY office.

The digital camera tripod on the left is a standard lightweight (plastic) tripod with push-button quick open mechanism. It's pretty handy and worth having in the camera bag for night shots or a group photo.

The other item (we call it the BottlePod) is more interesting. It is a clamp which fits over a standard size bottle cap, converting any bottle into a tripod for small digital cameras.

There is also a slot which will allow it to be used on a car window. THIS item will definitely go into our RainyDayGadget bag! Someday we'll have to show you the contents of this bag :-)

This clamp fit perfectly on the liter bottle we had on hand. In an emergency, it should work with a broom handle or even a large stick. This gadget could be all the difference between a shaky unusable shot or a sharply focused once in a lifetime shot of the Cruise baby for the Enquirer. Oh, don't you think we know it!!!

 

July 28,2006

Naneu Pro may not yet be a the first name to pop into your head when asked about photographer's gear bags.  However, if they continue to innovate as they have done these past few year, we bet they will soon be at the top of the list!

The Goombah has all one would expect from a photographer's gear bag.  It has a tough outer shell, lots of padding, reconfigurable dividers, etc...  There are lots of zippered internal pockets to keep all of the accessories (filters, cables, connectors, batteries, etc...) well organized.

The designer of the Goombah has also incorporated modern necessities such as a padded laptop compartment.  The Goombah's padded pocket was large enough to accommodate our Apple G3.

There is a lot more to this piece of gear. In our next segment, we'll show you how quickly this bag can go from carring camera gear to clothing.  We also took this bag with us to NYC on our last trip and dragged it for 20 blocks for its FirstUse test.  You will just have to wait for our review to see it all :-)

StickyPod has released a heavy duty update to their incredible videocam mount for directors looking to shoot their own version of Fast&Furious: Tokyo Drift.  BTW...major points if you can spot our girl Junko in the movie.

The StickyPod Director is composed of three StickyPod platforms, legs, and all necessary accessories to securely mount a professional video camera on a moving vehicle... all at a price that is about a third of the competition.  We have been using our StickPod for all kinds of stuff here at the magazine.  If you need to shoot from an odd angle or from high up looking down, the StickyPod is SO much easier to use than a traditional tripod.  

 

July 7,2006

Here is something from MAKE that just got us all excited...an underwater DVCam housing made from PVC pipes. 

Most readers know about our affinity for PVC pipe projects.  This project from Bobby_M is perfect one for the Summer.  The interns will be Home Depot bound shortly.

 

July 6,2006

Our first time-lapse movie missed capturing most of the opening of bloom (left movie).  So, as promised, we increased the capture rate to an image every 4 minutes, and this time did managed to capture the Passiflora blooming (right movie).  However, it looks like we have to work on the focus :-)

 

We played around a bit with our "macro" lens trying to get a good close-up.  The problem is the shallow depth-of-field with our set-up.   This flower just have too many layers.  To get everything in focus, we really need to shoot with a much smaller aperture.  We got some usable shots, but situations like this really points out the weakness of a $6 macro lens and a seven year old digital camera :-).

 

July 5,2006 (WowUsWednesday)

Last June a few folks from the RainyDayGarden made a trip to Logee's.  One of the plants they purchased was called a Passiflora or Passion Fruit plant.  This plant has the most amazing flowers...the bloom below opened yesterday.

We had rigged up the Apple iSight to take some time-lapse photos of the bloom.  The capture frequency still needs some adjustment.  We hope to capture a better time-lapse series today. 

Not everyone will be able to replicate our sophisticated setup, but the KEY is to put the camera/plant somewhere out of the way.  The capture software's current schedule is one image every 15 minutes.

 

June 15,2006

Getting good close up photos with a digital camera is not that easy.  There are a few issues (lighting, shutter speed, focus) which can ruin a shot.  We have been using a little $10 trick for the past few years and have found it to be quite effective.

To get that good macro shot, we paired the camera with a standard 8x loupe normally used for examining 35mm slides. 

All of the images below were taken using the loupe and the Canon Digital Elph S-100 in macro mode.  Click on thumbnail to see the full size 2 MegaPixel image from the S-100.  Note the circular drop off in sharpness near the edge of the image.  It is a reasonable trade-off considering the quality of the closeup...and the price :-)

 

If you need to go super wide angle, then take a look at the tip posted by Slacy on MAKE Magazine yesterday.

It is a 160º wide angle lens made out of a peep hole viewer ($11).  We are heading to Home Depot now to pick one up!  Awesome idea!!!

OK...the interns came back from Home Depot with a door viewer from Schlage.  It cost $9.46.  I'm not sure why I didn't get any change for the $20... something about a double venti something.  Anyway, this one does not appear to be as large in diameter as the one used by Slacy.  The diameter of the hole is 9/16", but it does claim a 190º view! 

Sure enough, just shooting through the barrel of the viewer works pretty well.  You do have to hold it against the lens and it does move around a bit.  The shot was taken using the same Canon S100 used for the macro shots.  Click on the image to see it in full resolution.  We'll have to rig up a slip-on mount so the lens will be easier to use.

We knew there was a reason why we saved those 35mm slide canisters!  They would be just right as a mount for the wide angle lens :-)

We cut it to size and added two silicone pads (red arrows) inside the canister so the whole thing would stay on the camera without us having to hold it.  We decided to mount it on the cap because we had this grand vision of being able to swap different lens onto cylinder.

Some work is still needed to get the distance just right so the camera's lens will sit flat against the wide angle lens.  Also take care NOT to shut off the camera before removing the cylinder.  In our  case, the grip was strong enough that it prevented the lens from retracting into the camera.  The camera worked fine after a reset, but this could potentially damage the mechanics of the auto focus mechanism.

 

June 9,2006

Before the days of digital cameras, many of us captured our precious moments using a chemical process involving silver halide coated celluloid matrix...in other words, on Kodak Film (FujiFilm for those who wanted really bright greens).   Most of us accumulated a LOT of images in one or two major formats... 35mm negatives film or 35 mm positive slides.

For the past 15 years, we have been meaning to scan and convert these analog memories to digital.  It is not as straight forward as one would imagine...there are issues of scanning resolution, storage, scratch/dust removal, color correction, etc... All of which meant we have not done a thing.

Plustek has made it easier with the introduction of their high resolution OpticFilm 7200i film and slide scanner. At 7200 dpi, this is one of the highest resolution scanner available.  At around $300, it is within the budget of many amateur and all professional photographers.

How to handle dust, scratches, and other defects on the physical film is one of the major issue with the conversion process.  This scanner has the ability to use infrared scanning (iSRD) to automatically remove dust and scratches from the film. 

Currently, the scanner is Windows only... which is a bummer for some of the Mac folks in the graphic department here at RainyDayMagazine.  Still...we are VERY excited and are looking forward to giving this Plustek 7200i unit a thorough testing.  We are starting a rumor that Plustek will have drivers for this awesome looking scanner for the Mac soon :-)

MonsterPod, the "grip anywhere" tripod which was a hit at March's PMA Expo is edging ever closer to being in production. 

We had reviewed a device called the StickyPod a while back.  The StickyPod is based on good old fashion industrial sized suction cups.  This MonsterPod device is based on something completely different... viscoelastic morphing polymer.  It has the ability to stick to an amazing number of surfaces.  Go check it out on the MonsterPod site.

The thing about having all the cool photographic and video gear is you need something to carry them while out on the job.  We have found a few companies which make great gear bags.  For carrying our camera gear, our favorite bag is from Kata.

So when we needed equipment bags for our video gear, we didn't even look anywhere else.  We went straight to the Kata site and found these two beauties.  The large one (MC-61) is a full size shoulder bag.  It will accommodate most of the larger 3 CCD video cameras.  The smaller one is the waist/shoulder bag (WS-604) which will allow us to shoot from the hips.  We'll have a lot more to say about these bags in a few weeks.

Just when everything was calm with our world...a new product shows up on our doorstep which raises the bar a notch.  We had firmly stated this morning that Kata-Bags are our favorite...and they are.  This afternoon, FedEx dropped of a Naneu bag which may challenge that position currently occupied by Kata.

Like the Kata R102, the Naneu Mini GoomBah is sized to handle a serious amount of gear.  There is plenty of room inside the main compartment for camera bodies, lens, and accessories.

There are also external pockets for smaller items.  In the center are straps and pocket (red arrow) for tying down a tripod.

The Naneu MiniGoomBah is a cross between a photographer's backpack and a rolling travel case.  There are straps for putting the entire pack on your back or rolling it around on the floor.

The backpack mode will be perfect for quickly getting off the plane.  Once in the terminal, extend the hidden telescopic handle and rolling the gear out to the car. There is a lot more to this piece of gear.  You will just have to wait for our FirstLook review to see it all :-)

It looks like we will have enough packs for our photographic and video gear for the Summer Outing.  We'll also be bringing a few portable grills along with us for the trip :-)

 

June 1,2006

The guys at the RainyDayGarage also got a new toy to play for this weekend.  The guys always wanted to add a backup camera to the Boxster.  This last Memorial Day weekend, the local MicroCenter had a sale on their Swann digital security cameras.  The price?  Normally it is $50, the sale price was just $10 after rebates!  Even if it doesn't work out as a rear view cam, it will still be good for lots of other RainyDayProjects!  The sale ends today... so there is still time is you hurry.

This tiny device is a color video camera.  It came with an AC power adapter, 9V battery adapter, and two lens (45º, 90º).  We'll let you know what the quality is like once we get it hooked up later today.

The RainyDayGarage guys did get a chance to hook up the video camera to the Boxster today.  The task was pretty simple since they had already ran a video line out from the retractable LCD screen when it was installed for the Carputer Project.

All that was needed was a coupler and a battery and they were good to go!  They didn't bother to hook up the audio (the camera also has a built-in mic) for this test.

The camera came on right away.  They had to manually adjust the focus, but the image was not bad for a $10 video camera.  It will certainly be fine as a backup camera.

Conveniently, there was an unused magnetic mount already on the dash.  It was originally for a speakerphone, but that thing has long since died.  We had been meaning to remove the mount, but I guess it will stay on until we have a chance to cut a proper camera mount in the rear bumper.

 

May 31,2006

Polaroid, the company that first wow'ed the world with instant photography, announced a 10 megapixel digital camera for $300.  While this is almost a doubling of the price/performance ratio of a just a year ago, we look forward to the day when users can upgrade just the imaging sensor, not have to buy a whole new camera, to get better image resolution.

Not that we don't like new gadgets, but it seems we never get comfortable with a camera if everytime we want a higher resolution sensor, we have to learn a brand new set of buttons.

Wouldn't it be better if we could change CCD sensors similar to how we used to pick different ASA speed films?  Slower speed film for higher resolution, faster speed film for action shots. 

Six year ago, a company called SiliconFilm had a similiar idea.  They even had a vaporware product called (e)Film which would be backwards compatible with film SLR cameras.  It never shipped, but the concept made a lot of sense.  We hope someone would pick this idea up and run with it again.  We think it makes a lot more sense than replacing the entire camera just to get a better photo.

 

May 18,2006

If you are like us, you have a good collection of contact information on a stack of business cards collected from the various conferences, conventions, and trade shows.   We are also willing to bet that you have every intention of entering the information from cards into a contacts database...but have not found the time in the last five years to do so.

Well, procrastinate no more!  Get yourself one of these Plustek OptiCard 820 and an intern.  Give them the stack of cards that have been collecting in a box under your desk and let them go at it!  The scanner is simple to use, works well, and will fit in a briefcase.  What more do you want???  Yes...that is a business card from when John Sculley was the CEO of Apple.  It just goes to show how much work the interns have ahead of them.

 

May 9,2006

Some photographers go out West and bring back beautiful scenic images of big sky, open country, and majestic mountains.  Others capture the ruggedness and realities of living so directly with nature.  Boston MFA's upcoming exhibition, Laura McPhee: River Of No Return (May 13 to September 17), showcases an artist who manages to see something a bit more.

Laura McPhee's images are big...as big as Kodak paper will allow.  Her images are stunning in detail...as detailed as can be when an 8x10 view camera is in skilled hands.  And when those details are examined, the viewer may be startled to find out what the image really is. 

What first appeared to be beautiful mist on a mountain lake actually turned out to be a cyanide evaporation pool from a mining operation.  There are many such images with contradictory realities in this 40-piece exhibition.  We highly encourage you to go see this exhibit when you are in Boston.  Do read the titles carefully, you may be very surprised at what you are really looking at.

Brunton's motto is "Get Out There" and they mean it.  They make a wide variety of high-end adventure gear (optics, GPS, stoves, power packs) specifically designed to enable folks like us to get out, enjoy ourselves, and make it back to tell you, our readers, about it.

When we are "out there," sometimes we like to get a little closer to things of interest...when we can't get there physically, we can now still get there virtually by using a pair of these Brunton Echo binoculars.

 

May 8,2006 (MovieMonday 1:35PM)

We are happy to announce that Stanley Cohen is the winner of the Neuros MPEG-4 Recorder2 giveaway.  Stanley's idea was to place the Recorder2 in a tethered or remote-control aerial balloon with a downward-looking camera to take aerial videos...it is an extension of the KAT project we were going to do this Summer.  

We chose Stanley's idea amongst a pretty strong field of entries.  However, the final point which tipped the voting in Stanley's favor (besides him sending his entry in on the back of a $20 bill) was that his idea is within the skills of most readers...and most of the interns here.

 

May 3,2006

When we came back from the Spring Outing, there were a few cool gadgets waiting for us at the office.  The first item was from i-Rocks USA.  This little gem (IR 8200) is a USB card reader. 

Normally, we don't get too excited over these thing, but this reader is a little bit different.  The design make it similar in size to many of the USB drives on the market.  So instead of being stuck with a fixed sized USB drive, just insert a larger memory card when you need more storage...brilliant! 

 

April 6, 2006

Here is an update on the Neuros2 Giveaway:  To make it easier to move the recorded content around, we have added the IR-8200 Flash card reader from i-Rocks to the prize package!  i-Rocks are the folks that make the really cool illuminated keyboard we reviewed in January.

The IR-8200 is brand new...it is not even up on the i-Rocks site yet.  We'll have more info about the card reader soon.  Keep an eye out for the link in the next few days.  There may be something for the first one to spot it :-)

UPDATE:  Please note the following change...the first reader to send us the URL from i-Rocks with info on the IR-8200 will get a little something in the mail.  This is so WE don't have to keep checking the i-Rocks site because it really cuts into our nap time:-)

 

April 2, 2006

Many of you have written to us about the NeurosCAM project.  Some also have great ideas about other uses for the Neuros 2 Digital MPEG-4 recorder.

Well, here is your chance to get a Neuros2 of your very own!  All you have to do is send in a the most interesting, creative, or unique use for one... as judged by our crack group of interns.  If different folks send in the same or substantially similar brilliant idea, the one with the earliest email time-stamp wins. BTW, bribing the editor is entirely acceptible, but unlikely to help.

Why are we doing this?  We like the Neuros folks.  Also, we might want to use some of those ideas for future projects because the new crop of ideas from our interns (yes... the same group that will be judging the entries) are pretty lame.  So, if you think you'll get rich with your idea, don't send it to us...go get rich and buy one with the money.  If you don't mind us possibly using your idea for fun, then send it in.

We'll announce the winner and the winning entry at the end of April.  If we get a lot of good ones, we might give out some second and third place prizes as well.  If where you live doesn't allow you to win FREE stuff, then you can't enter... and you really should move.  The winner is responsible for complying with any rules and regulations on their end in regards to getting stuff for FREE.

 

March 23, 2006

We reviewed the Neuros MPEG-4 recorder in January.  Since then, we have been finding ALL kinds for fun ways to use this amazingly versatile digital recording device.

The one problem we constantly come up against with the NeurosCAM is finding a convenient way to view the MPEG-4 videos when we are not in the office.  We came up with a partial solution, but had to go all the way to Australia to get the missing piece needed to get it to work!  The missing piece was a SD to CF adapter from Mittoni.

The partial solution is to record on a Sandisk miniSD card and view the video on our Motorola MPX 220 SmartPhone.  In order to do that we need a miniSD card, a miniSD to SD adapter, and a SD to CF adapter! The recorded video then has to be converted from MPEG-4 to .3gp format before it can be played on the cell phone.  Wheww :-)

It all works, but this approach obviously will not work for the NeuroCAM out in the field.  Our next goal is to find a way to view the MPEG-4 videos captured by the NeurosCAM without having to do a format conversion.  It would mean finding a MPEG-4 viewer for the SmartPhone.  The first reader to point us to an app which works will get something from us in the mail :-)

 

March 22, 2006

Many of you have been asking for an update on the MediaCenter Project... so here it is :-)  We'll have a complete write-up once it is fully operational.

After we got FrontRow working on the Mac mini, by following the instructions here, we went about adding local storage, networked backup, and DVD burning gear to the system.  There are still some backup issues we need to be work out, but we have been really impressed with Seagate's MIRRA unit so far.

We also installed and mounted the Keyspan remote control to the system so everything can be controlled from across the room.  The new Intel based Mac mini has a built-in remote, but if you have an older Mac mini, the Keyspan unit is the one to get. It will make FrontRow much easier to use.

We had an extra Hubbell bracket, so we used it to mount the 300GB drive next to the CPU.  This gave us some more space on the bottom shelf...hmmm, what should we add? 

The two remaining pieces to this project are surround speakers and the video display.  For the speakers, we are looking at a few different possibilities.  Send us your suggestion if you have a favorite.  We had considered JBL's escXcite system, but found out that they have been discontinued.  Logitech's Z-5450 Wireless Surround speakers system may be a possibility. 

For the video display, we have the JVC 60" projection TV in house.  However, we are not entirely pleased with the quality of the video from the Mac mini to the TV. We may look at some LCD projection systems to see if we get a better output... in which case, we may add a retractable screen as well :-)   We'll let you know what we come up with in a few weeks!

 

March 17, 2006

If you need to be totally "Off The Grid", you can always hook up the Xantrex XPower Powerpack 100 to a Brunton SolarRoll and power all your digital gear using the sun.  It won't run your air conditioner, but it will power your laptop, PDA, cell phone, and other assorted electronics gear without requiring you to bring along a host of adapter plugs.  However, you will have to bring all the specific AC adapter for all those devices :-)

So if you are looking for a portable AC outlet, this XPower Pocket Powerpack 100 should be at the top of your shopping list.

 

March 9, 2006

We needed a smaller camera bag for times when we wanted to carry just a digital camera and a little bit of gear.

We knew that Kata makes a great line of professional gear bags, and were when we found the S-312 Sling bag.  This bag was everything we were looking for and more.  We think we have found the perfect day bag for our digital camera gear!

Not often, but sometimes when we travel on a plane, we actually try to get some work done.  Once in a while we would catch the person next to us "shoulder surfing." It isn't they are trying to steal some top-secret company info...more likely they are bored having to sit next to us for three hours listening to us type!

3M has developed a "privacy screen" that can be attached to a laptop to thwart such behavior.  We got two different sizes and will be testing them out to see if they work as advertised.

Another thing we can't get enough of when we hit the road is extra power for our gear.  We have tried a lot of different external power solutions.  However, most of them require us to carry special plugs and adapters.

We have found a unit which will power any device with an AC cord.  The Xantrex PowerPack 110 has a built in AC outlet and will directly power most electronic equipment for a few hours. The unit is rechargeable and comes with its own carrying case. We will take this one on the road with us to see if their approach makes it any easier to power all the stuff we haul with us when we venture out :-)

 

March 8, 2006

The movie Minority Report gave us a vision of the future of computer user interface.  A user would gesture to the screen, the specific gestures would be interpreted, and actions would result.

That vision is one step closer with the work from researchers at NYU.  Jefferson Han has been working on a MultiTouch graphical interaction surface which tracks multiple fingers and would react appropriately based on context, position, and movement.

To get a full appreciation of the MultiTouch UI, check out the video.  The potential for this work is really quite astounding.  Take special note of the image sorting and resizing segment of the clip!

If you can't wait until MultiTouch makes it out of the lab into the marketplace, you can always get yourself a huge touchscreen like the SmartBoard.

The SmartBoard will turn a flat screen into a touchscreen so you can use your finger to control the mouse, click, select, draw, etc...  It is not as sophisticated as the MultiTouch, but it is here today.

 

February 27, 2006

The Canon Digital Elph is one of the more popular digital camera series on the market today.  We have been using the Canon S100 for about six years and it has been one of the most reliable digital camera in our collection.  The one problem with the camera is the rechargeable battery does not last very long.

We decided to convert a used up rechargeable battery into an adapter so it can be hooked up to an extended battery to power the camera.  We have written up the steps for those interested in doing something similar for their camera.

The steps should work for most types of digital camera that has an external power option.  Check with your camera for the specifics.

We'll are using the Tekkeon MyPowerAll as our external rechargeable power source.  The MyPowerAll is a very versatile rechargeable power source because of its selectable voltage and changeable tips.

 

February 16, 2006

In January, we showed how to increase the G3's internal drive from 12GB to 100 GB using the Seagate 2.5" drive, but we didn't just swap out the 12GB drive and leave it on the bench. 

We found an awesome $20 enclosure for it.  Now the 12GB drive is a great little pocket-sized external USB 2.0 compliant portable unit!  Go see just how easy it was to do this.

 

February 15, 2006

The Wacom Graphire4 Tablet came with both a wireless pen and mouse.  The tablet itself also has a scroll wheel and buttons.  Each of these different controllers can be individually adjusted to suit the user's preference.

We tested the wireless pen in a few of Painter's brush mode.  The "feel" was quite amazing! Go check out the FirstUse review here.

 

February 7, 2006

Most RainyDayMagazine readers are avid photographers.  We have both professionals (Gary Barsomian, Andy Martinez) and amateurs.  Regardless of their skill level, they will find something of value at the Lexar Digital Photography site.  This site has quickly become our favorite digital photography destination.  We love the huge range of articles available!  Go take a look if you have not already.

We just got a 400GB drive from Seagate yesterday.  We needed some room on the tech bench and were cleaning out old gear when we came across an Apple 2GB hard drive. 

The Apple hard drive was made in 1996.  We thought it was interesting to contrast what 2 GB looks like now in 2006! 

Many of you have asked just WHERE are we going to put that 400GB Seagate drive?  We got it for the MediaCenter project.  So we wanted to find a case that would fit with the look of the Mac mini.

ADS Tech has just the case we needed.  This case will take any 3.5" IDE Ultra DMA 33/66 or ATA-100/133 drive and make it USB 2.0 compatible.  Go take a look here

In the DriveInstall write-up, we'll putting a Seagate 400GB drive into this case.  We'll also be taking a look at the Intech UTILITIES which came with the ADS case a little later in the week.

 

January 30, 2006

We have been working this past week on getting this NeurosCAM to work the way we would like.  There are still a few improvements we need to make to this totally tapeless setup, but it is fairly functional now.

We do wish we had a better mechanism for starting and stopping the recording.  The IR module will be adequate for now, but we will be looking to make a wired controller so we don't have to fish out the recorder in order to start/stop the device.

Another project that has made a lot of progress this past week was the Mac mini MediaCenter.  Once we got FrontRow up on the Mac mini, it was easy to get the rest of the system running.

We'll have more detail on this project soon, but here are the current pieces we have assembled:

We'll be adding a Seagate 400GB drive for video/music storage.  Everything will be tied together by the Belkin USB hub.  We still need to add some kind of IR control to the whole thing.  We may be able to use the Logitech Harmony controller, but we'll need to find a suitable IR receiver for the Mac mini.  We are also looking at how to automate the system using Apple's voice input.  If you have any input or suggestions, feel free to drop us a note.

 

January 25, 2006

Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) has been a growing segment of the panorama photography crowd for the past couple of years.  One of the best "How-To" sites on making your own KAP rig is the one from Scott Haefner.

Definitely check out his 360º Pano gallery!  Scott's photos have us inspired. We are thinking seriously of making our own RainyDayMagazine EyeInTheSkyCAM ourselves!

 

January 23, 2006

The AdventureCAM project started because we needed a way to hike and shoot video footage at the same time. 

We are constantly reworking this setup, but the basic configuration is pretty much the same (digital storage, remote camera, remote trigger, backpack).  Next update to this setup is to completely replace the tape based DV Camcorder with a solid state recording mechanism. 

We will be evaluating how to to use the Neuros MPEG-4 Recorder 2 for this purpose.  There are some control issues, but we think we may be able to configure a setup and get it to work.

 

January 18, 2006

Last year we walked you through how to turn the Mac into a Tivo.  We also showed you how to play back the recording on an iPaq...a full year before the video iPod hit the scene. 

We even showed you how to make your own EyeCAM for recording your extreme sports activities :-)  We hope you used all that knowledge to shoot a lot of videos and make a lot of clips for the PDA.

If you did, you probably realized that while it was fine to use MPEG-2 for recording stuff that you would be watching on the computer, it would have been preferable to use a more space efficient format like MPEG-4 for playback on smaller devices (iPaq, iPod video, etc...). 

We could have showed you how to convert from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 but didn't because the conversion was always kind of a hassle and time consuming.  

You won't have to bother with format conversions any more because of the Neuros MPEG-4 recorder.  With this unit, it is now possible to record directly to MPEG-4!  There have been other devices with this ability, but none so streamlined, flexible, and cost effective!  We just got this unit and we'll have a LOT more to say about it in a few days.  You can read about the specs directly from Neuros.  They also have some new info on how to record for your video iPod!

We here at RainyDayMagazine are excited to give it a try.  It was a good thing we upgraded the Powerbook G3 with the larger Seagate drive!  We'll need that space for editing the new footage.

 

The AdventureCAM project started because we needed a way to hike and shoot video footage at the same time. 

We are constantly reworking this setup, but the basic configuration is pretty much the same (digital storage, remote camera, remote trigger, backpack).  Next update to this setup is to completely replace the tape based DV Camcorder with a solid state recording mechanism. 

We will be evaluating how to to use the Neuros MPEG-4 Recorder 2 for this purpose.  There are some control issues, but we think we may be able to configure a setup and get it to work.

 

 

 


 

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