Tag Archives: technology

How Things Move On

IMG_3827.jpgI am sure that there are countless examples around of how things progress leaving something that we used to think was impressive looking horribly dated. This is not something unique, then, but it did amuse me. While going through some old camera bits to find an old connector, I came across this compact flash card. My first digital camera was a Canon EOS10D and it actually came with a card included. This was it. 32Mb of awesomeness.

Even then that wasn’t enough and I immediately got a couple of 256Mb cards. However, given that I tend to have 64Gb cards in the camera these days – 2000 times the capacity – is a sign of how things change rapidly.

What’s in a TiVo?

wpid6174-IMG_1483.jpgNot so long ago, my TiVo packed up. This was part of a string of technology failures I suffered in a short space of time and about which I have previously posted. I was getting ready to dump the old box but, the engineer in me can’t just throw something like that away before having a poke around inside it to see what was there. Consequently, I fished out a selection of Torx fittings for my screwdriver and opened up the case to see what was inside. Not a huge amount really. It is no wonder that the replacement box is considerably more slimline!

wpid6176-IMG_1484.jpgThe hard drive was the most obvious element. It was a “massive” 250Gb unit. No wonder too many HD recordings meant it started to fill up. I removed that since I figured it was probably worth trying to find out what files were on it later. After that, the board is in two parts. One of them is a very simple looking board and the other is something far more old school with a selection of more traditional components. I don’t know how TiVo design their system but it looked like the first board could deal with the digital signal processing while the other board was an analog tuner since this TiVo had the capability to manage old analog signals. (The new unit is digital only which is fine since we don’t have analog broadcasts anymore.)

wpid6178-IMG_1485.jpgThe connection between the two halves seemed to have a lot of cables but I have no idea what they all achieve. My assumptions about the functionality may be completely wrong. I am not an electronics guy so I have an excuse and a blog is a perfect place for making guesses about stuff with nothing to back you up. That is what the Internet is based on! However, if you do know about this stuff, do comment below and let me know what the various bits are for. Now, to see what is on that hard drive…

Technology That Won’t Die

A moment for an odd rant today.  I had an experience recently with a business (a big company, not some small operation) where they had got some information incorrect on something they sent to me.  I contacted them to arrange for it to be updated.  It related to taxes so getting it right seemed pretty important.  First I should note, they were perfectly happy to fix the error.  The thing that amused me was that they asked me to amend their document, add a covering note and fax it to them.

I asked whether it was possible to scan it and email it across but no, they required it to be faxed.  I don’t have a fax machine, nor do I live in the 1990s any more.  However, it turns out our building does have a fax machine so I could use that to complete my time traveling experience.  This got me thinking.  Why do fax machines still exist.  They only produce a copy of something so there is no proof of something being genuine.  I can create an electronic document, print it and fax it.  It will be harder to check because the quality of fax is not brilliant.  Making a PDF of the document and emailing it seems far more effective and, you can always resend or forward the file further if required.  If anyone knows why fax still exists, please let me know in the comments.  I would love to understand.

Cool Kit If You Are a Video Person

I shall start by pointing you at a blog that is far better written and far more informative than this one. Not a huge challenge of course. However, the author of this blog is a fantastic photographer and now also a director – Vincent Laforet. Vincent’s blog can be found at blog.vincentlaforet.com and he posts quite frequently on the subject of film making, techniques and equipment. Vincent started out as a photographer and a very good one at that. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a Canon Explorer of Light. I first saw him at an ISAP event where he talked about his aerial photography as well as a very moving description of his experiences after Hurricane Katrina.

His life changed dramatically when Canon released the 5D Mk II. Vincent had early access to the camera and made a short called Reverie to demonstrate the video capabilities. This short went viral and suddenly making motion pictures with SLRs was a big deal. Now he has moved geographically and professionally and works in the film business. (As an aside, if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do go as he has some fascinating experiences to share and may well move you in the process.)

Recently, on his blog, Vincent talked of some new device that he considered a game-changer that he would be announcing. The anticipation got quite a few people interested and, when the announcement came, it did not disappoint. The device is called the MOVI (there is a cool stylized way in which MOVI is written that this blog is not going to do justice to I’m afraid) and it is made by Freefly. It is a stabilized mount that is handheld and provides the ability to get smooth shots with a single hand allowing some very creative approaches to moving the camera.

I am not much of a video guy. However, when I had my first SLR with video capability, I started experimenting with shooting video and this has progressively become more important on the projects I am working on. Video provides a very different way of presenting some subjects and it complements the stills well. My video shooting and editing skills might not complement my stills quite as well but we have to keep learning.

Since I am not investing in a significant amount of video equipment but, instead, I shoot video as part of my stills efforts, I have to be limited in how adventurous I can be. Steady handheld shots without a rig are a challenge but can be achieved. Moving is out of the question without making the viewer feel very uneasy. I recently shot some cockpit video from a jump seat during the takeoff roll and during refueling and the vibration made the majority of the footage unusable. A few small excerpts showed the experience but not long enough to make people uncomfortable.

Getting a stable platform in difficult situations is a great step forward. The MOVI is a very cool piece of gear. It is not cheap but, compared to other pieces of equipment, I think it is very affordable. More importantly, it is the start of something new. People will take this concept and run with it and we are likely to end up with many types and levels of complexity of stabilization that will suit different pockets. This could mean something that works for me. This is why I am so excited. The MOVI is great and I would love one. I don’t have the justification for one for my projects but I feel confident I will see something come from this that will make my work easier in due course.

Arghh!! Technology Hates Me!

Time for a quick vent.  It seems I have brought down upon myself the curse of technology.  Being a techie type, there are plenty of forms of technology in my life.  Recently, they have been conspiring against me.  I am not a superstitious type of person.  The world has more than enough of those so it doesn’t need me to add to the list.  However, even a rational person could begin to wonder.

First, the TiVo packed up.  It had been misbehaving for a while.  Finally, it gave up and could not be restarted.  It just kept running through the beginning of the start cycle but never got any further.  Time for a new TiVo.  I had been pondering an upgrade for a while so a repair did not seem the way to go.  Plus, I wanted to have TV back quicker than the repair would manage.  While working on this, I go to the computer to look something up and it is off.  It shouldn’t have been.  A reboot brings up a warning about the CPU fan failure.  Crap!  That is a lot cheaper to fix but still, CRAP!

Next day a new TiVo and a new CPU fan are in my possession.  I need cablecards for the TiVo and have two from the previous unit.  Only one is needed for the new one but it has to be the M-Card, not the S-Card.  I start thinking this is going to be the next problem.  I must have the old card type rather than the one I need.  A quick Google on my card tells me it is an M-Card.  Hurrah!  Plug it in and the TiVo is not so convinced.  I need an M-Card.  Quick cal to cable company says no problem.  Place isn’t open until tomorrow but it is an easy swap.  Meanwhile, I can replace the CPU fan.

Next day, a quick swap is performed and I have an M-Card.  The TiVo likes it.  I get some details and call to activate.  Done.  No picture yet but I’m sure it takes a while.  Later on, still no picture.  A call to cable company and we run through some stuff.  Should be working they say.  It isn’t.  All tricks tried.  No luck.  We’ll send out a guy – tomorrow.  Okay.

Next day guy arrives, tries all I tried and no luck.  He is confused.  Calls the office and they un-pair the card and my account and then re-pair them.  Bingo!  We have pictures and sound.  Something is working.  Shame we couldn’t have tried that yesterday but never mind.  Is everything working now.  Appears to be until, oops, a couple of days later, the website – this website – seems to have vanished.  A little tech support from the hosting company and it turns out the database password has miraculously changed to something different in one of the website config files and it is nothing like the password I set up years ago when I created the site.  (This is a password I have not needed since so do you think I know what it is supposed to be??  Of course not.)

All of these things are now fixed.  The question now is, what’s next?  Place your bets on the next thing to go wrong…