Category Archives: gadget

@FlyWireCameras on The Geek Beat

Geek Beat- Flywire Cameras While visiting the Capitol on Opening Day, I saw Rep. Angus McKelvey with his GoPro strapped to his head recording his conversations with visitors. It was cool, but that GoPro was quite noticeable on his forehead. I wondered what local company FlyWire Cameras had as an alternative. One thing lead to another and we had a opportunity to showcase FlyWire on our Geek Beat segment on Hawaii News Now's Sunrise. In setting up the segment I thought it would be fun to initially wear the FlyWire and then hand it off to Dan Cooke to wear. In the handoff, the cameraman zoomed into the camera, eyewear and the DVR unit giving us a chance to talk about it. Dan then puts it on to conduct the interview. Here is the FPV of the segment. You can watch the Hawaii News Now segment here and compare. It's interesting to watch from the point of view of the interviewer. You get the behind the scenes view from inside the scene itself. If you want to find out more about FlyWire Cameras please visit their website and their Youtube channel. Ryan also did an excellent piece about FlyWire and the experience on his blog. The company just completed their demo day pitch at 500 Startups today, Friday, Jan 30, 2015 in the Bay Area. We wish them the best of luck. I would not be surprised if investors start throwing money their way. Oh and finally, I got an email from Rep. McKelvey today saying he bought himself a FlyWire!
I went ahead and bought a Flywire camera to use because better picture and sound (and because you recommended it).

bGeigie & iGeigie

Local tech company Oceanit and the Honolulu Hackerspace group HI Capacity are collaborating to help Japan with its radiation problems after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant this past March. They recently met up with Peiter Franken one of the co-founders of an organization called Safecast that is helping to map out the zones in Japan that are affected by the radiation fallout. Safecast's mission is to empower people with data, primarily by building a sensor network and enabling to both contribute and freely use the data. One of the main issues is that there aren't enough Geiger counters to survey all of Japan for radiation particles. Franken is working with grassroots programmer groups like the Hackerspace in Tokyo and LA to help build the necessary sensor tools. In Hawaii, Ian Kitajima, Marketing Director at Oceanit drove around central Oahu and Waikiki testing out one of the "bento box" Geigers called bGeigie built by the Tokyo Hackerspace. Kitajima told Bytemarks Cafe, "It is a multifaceted problem and Safecast is looking for a variety of ways to get this technology in the hands of the Japanese citizen." According to Franken, the Tokyo group built 15 of these bGeigie units and volunteer groups are driving around the affected region taking readings. They are also looking at both stationary and mobile sensors. The LA group Crashspace is building a geiger counter interface for the iPhone called the iGeigie. Back at home, Ryan Kanno said that the Honolulu Hackerspace group is looking at ways they can help aggregate the data into a central website. This would allow field workers to easily upload their data for instant analysis and visualization.

Yodobashi Camera

If you are into electronics, cameras or gadgets in general Yodobashi Camera is the place to be. Knowing my geeky interests, @Sophielynette cued me on to Yodobashi. There are about 21 of these stores scattered around Japan, each one consisting of multiple floors of electronics gear. The one we went to in Umeda was 8 floors, jam packed with everything electronic you can think of. I recall mentioning to Bert Kimura, one of our guides on this excursion, that it was an assault on the senses. There were racks stacked full of gear, signs pointing you in every direction and people everywhere. You could get lost in there and your family would never find you. I was impressed with the vast assortment of gear on display. But it wasn't just the assortment, it was the depth. For example I happened onto the section of the store featuring telescopes. Yodobashi not only had a vast selection of telescopes and binoculars but in addition they had microscopes and scientific accessories. I couldn't even think of a place in Hawaii that sells microscopes. The camera department is the signature section of the store. It's a photographers heaven in there. Dallas Nagata White asked if they had the Leica M9 and sure enough, there it was. My measure of a store's worth is the amount of tripods they carry. Not just any tripod, I am looking for quirky Gorillapods. Yodobashi had tiny little tripods, big huge tripods and this rack full of Gorillapods. Okay, I am done gushing over Yodobashi. We had to pry ourselves out of there and get Dallas to the train for the airport. If you want more on our Osaka adventure check out Dallas' excellent photo gallery and Mari's delicious foodie video. You can also check out my Flickr set of our Day 3: Osaka. ** Mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines who sponsored this trip on their inaugural flight from Honolulu to Osaka, Kansai.

Motorola XOOM

Motorola Xoom - AndroidIt's a little ironic that I get a demo unit from Verizon Wireless of the Motorola Xoom the day before Apple's iPad2 launch. Since I was planning to stand in line for the iPad2, I felt I had ample time to check out the features of Motorola's new tablet. It is uncanny how these two devices are release at right about the same time and there is good reason for that. The Xoom is the top contender for the spot currently being held by the iPad. As you can imagine comparisons are popping up all over the place. To Apple's advantage, the iPad's been around for more than a year and it's going to take a lot of fire power to unseat the iPad. Out of the box the Xoom seemed a little heavier than the iPad but the NVIDIA Tegra dual core processor is much more snappy and Android's Honeycomb operating system is optimized for the tablet. I like how you can flick from one screen to the next and have different content elements on each screen, like videos on one and apps on the next. The screen is like a browser. In the lower left hand corner is the back, home and window buttons for easy navigation. Motorola Xoom - AndroidWith a brand new Xoom the first thing you are going to want to do is load up your favorite apps from the Android Market. Purely for testing purposes, I loaded up Angry Birds, Twitter and Facebook, yes in that order. Angry Birds played just the way I expected it to. I was reliving the joy I had playing this addictive game. Prying my fingers off the Angry Birds slingshot I moved on to Twitter. With Twitter, I am accustomed to the tiled columns so when the Android version only presented the landscape format for my tweets it was a little disorienting. I could not easily view @replies, DM, and custom searches in the same window. TweetDeck had this same problem. TweetDeck even crashed a couple of times. The Facebook app also had a similar problem. Facebook initially launches in News Feed mode and presents it in landscape (if you are holding it horizontal). When you tap the Facebook logo in the upper right hand corner it forces the screen in portrait mode, whether you are holding the Xoom that way or not. There is no reorienting it to landscape. This was a little annoying but I suspect it was because the apps have not caught up to the new release of Honeycomb. You will have to wait for upgrades to your favorite apps before experiencing the intended user interface. Another function I tested on the Xoom was the ability to create a blog post. I found the experience limiting with the original iPad since it would not properly display the visual option from the WordPress dashboard. With the Xoom the WP dashboard looked and functioned identically to my laptop. I like the idea that the Xoom is getting close to laptop functionality. Unfortunately, Flash support on this version of Honeycomb did not work so any embedded videos would not play. Just another indicator that this tablet race is all about timing. Motorola and Google Android can't wait for the software to catch up and potentially lose more ground to Apple. Finally I got a kick taking a few pictures with the Xoom at the iPad2 launch. It's a little conspicuous shooting pictures with a 10in tablet. It's also not exactly the easiest thing to whip out for the quick snapshot or video and heaven forbid you start fumbling around and drop that thing while shooting. Nevertheless, that front facing camera will come in very handy for the video voice calls and video conferencing. In summary, given the price points with the new iPad2 (same as the iPad) and the maturity of the apps and the Apple ecosystem, I would stick with getting the iPad2. With that said, the Xoom is a definite contender and as the software and OS catch up, Apple's market dominance will start to erode. But isn't that what makes this business so exciting. I can't wait for the iPad3 rumored to be out this Fall.

Tech in Arita, Japan

This is just a short post while I sit in the hotel lobby on the only Internet workstation in the hotel. I am currently in Arita, Japan, a city known for its porcelin ceramics. Very beautiful stuff and a great history on how the skill was brought to Japan. While in a old historic building converted to a musuem they told us where the toilets were and that they were very high tech. I have pictures and will post them later. This toilet had a control panel to manage all manner of function. It was complex enough that you had to figure out which button flushed it. Very impressive. Right next to the restrooms was this 21st century elevator with a cut in to the side of the two story building. It showed the bamboo scaffolding from the original structure. That is it for now. I like this free internet workstation but need to move on. The only thing missing from this hotel is the wifi access. So far, no wifi to speak of on the path we're taking through Kyushu. Japan 2010**Nov. 21, 2010 - Just uploaded a bunch of photos from my Japan trip. Here is the control panel from the toilet I was referring to. Gone are the days with just the single flush handle (unless of course you are living in the U.S.). This photo as all the instructions necessary to operate the toilet. Being that I cannot read Japanese, I resorted to pressing all the buttons. I also mentioned the elevator in this restored building. In this photo you can see a cutaway of the wall where they built the elevator. If you look closely you can see the bamboo used in construction. The elevator needed a lot more than bamboo to hold it up. I thought it was nice how they highlighted the traditional with the modern in this display.

HTC Incredible

These Android phones are coming out fast and furious. Late last year I got to touch a Motorola Droid. It was a little heavy compared to the iPhone and it had a built in keyboard that nobody liked. Next up, the Nexus One was sold by Google early this year with quite a bit of fanfare as the tech pundits predicted how Google was going to disrupt the cell carriers distribution model. Less than four months later Google pulls the plug on their online sales strategy. Despite all these fits and starts the Android phone, independent of manufacturer, is gaining fast on the iPhone. Obviously people are looking for an alternative and the competition is good for the smartphone marketplace. What I like about Android is how Google and the carriers are willing to try new models and offerings. Some things work, others don't, but innovation continues. In spite of its clunky keyboard, Verizon Wireless and Motorola are now pitching Droids for a special two for one sale. Over the past two weeks, Verizon Wireless loaned me a demo HTC Incredible to play around with. I will admit, I am a staunch iPhone fanboy but am a little infatuated with the Android operating system. Its Google app (Voice, Goggles, Maps, Gmail) integration and open architecture are enticing. And now, with HTC's streamline design I am about to come out of the closet. The HTC Incredible does not have a hardware keyboard making it a very light unit. Lighter in fact than the iPhone. Anybody used to typing on the screen will easily adapt to the Incredible. The 480x800 touch screen is very sharp. Some of my geek friends complaint about HTC Sense, the overlay UI (user interface) that connects you to Android, but I found it quite responsive. The power/lock button on the top of the unit is slight to the touch (compared to the iPhone) and I found myself putting the device in sleep mode inadvertently. I love the 8 megapixel camera that comes equipped with a flash. The addition of an FM tuner was also a nice treat. What I did not like about the HTC Incredible was the lack of Mac support for syncing. I connected the USB cable to my Mac Mini and the unit indicated it was recharging. Outside of that there, was no recognition by my Mac of the device. Others on the HTC Forums seem to have similar problems. One person suggested a third party application for syncing to the Mac but paying for an app that I think should be a basic feature with the phone goes against everything I believe in. All in all a nice job engineering the HTC Incredible in to a compact package but still lacking elements that make it ready for prime time. If HTC/Google fixes the syncing problem I might reconsider, but for now I am sticking with my iPhone. Update: 6/1/10 - I got a chance to talk to Verizon Wireless today and found a way to connect to the phone's disk drive. Forget what they say in the Quick Tips Guide. To get to the drive you need to plug the USB in and watch the top menu bar on the phone. You can drag that bar down to reveal additional options. One option is "Disk Drive". Once selected you can see the unit in Finder and it also automatically launchs iPhoto for picture downloads. Not too intuitive but it does work. My appreciation for this phone just went up a notch.

Oceanic Cable Launches 3D

Oceanic Cable 3D service Oceanic Time Warner Cable and Sony Electronics held a joint press conference showcasing consumer 3D television viewing. If you have digital cable and select channel 1217 you can watch highlights from the Masters Gold Tournament in 3D beginning today through April 30, 2010. You will also need a 3D television.  Oceanic plans to roll out out more 3D programming over the summer. In addition, Sony will roll out their 3D Bravia LCD TV in the summer. In the meantime, Sony is outfitting hospitality suites in Augusta, GA with the monitor and holding "private screens" across the country. While at the press conference Nate Smith, President of Oceanic Time Warner Cable, talked about supporting 3D with the existing network and implied delivering 3D is an additional demand on the cable network. I pulled Met Lebar, Transmission Systems Director on the side and asked him if Oceanic will have to build out the infrastructure to support 3D. He said not at all. The 3D signal requires about 15Mb of bandwidth which is what is delivered over their current digital service. I am curious how many televisions this service can support in one household. I suspect it is only a couple since delivering 3D on one tv and HD on another will require more than 15Mb. Met also mentioned that this service was available 10 years ago but at that time the major television manufacturers were not building 3D monitors. The ones that did were ahead of their time and have since gone out of business. An element that has not changed from the 3D experience is the requirement to wear 3D glasses. Sony requires these Active Shutter Glasses that run on batteries and communicates with the 3D LCD monitor. The active shutter switches very rapidly depending on the content being viewed. The glasses are heavy and costs around $133. Karl Okemura, Sr. Vice President at Sony Hawaii, said two glasses will be provided with the purchase of a 3D Bravia LCD but did not say how much the monitor would cost. Gizmodo puts this price around $3900. Just like the first generation HD televisions, these 3D monitors are expensive but will likely go down in price as more units are sold.

Motorola Droid

Motorola DroidFor the past week or so I've had the pleasure of using a Motorola Droid courtesy of Verizon Wireless. It's a loaner so I have to return it shortly. As these are my first impressions, I am going to make the obvious comparisons to the iPhone 3GS which I will admit I am in love with. The first question I have is without an iTunes like interface, how does one sync all the content to the Droid? At first take it is not intuitively obvious. Neither is it on second take. I thought I might be able to drop content into the Droid if I plug it into my laptop but Finder on my MacMini did not see any Droid device or storage. The Droid did recognize the Mac as a power source, though. So loading music and podcasts will have to wait. The next thing I did was search for applications. The Droid menu includes something called a Market launchable from an icon that looks like a little briefcase. Clicking that brings up the Android marketplace. From here you can search and select from thousands of Android apps. The big difference from the iPhone is Google is not restricting any apps from being made available for the Droid. The vetting process that Apple subjects all the apps getting into the iTunes Store is a big sore point for many developers. As will all things there is a plus side and a downside. For Google Android it is open to anyone wanting to develop for their Droid phones.  The downside is that there exists the possibility for some nefarious applications to be downloaded to your phone. In the Apple case, they control access but with the promise that it will be a user friendly environment. Once you find an application you like in Market you just click on it and Install. The app gets downloaded directly to your phone from the Verizon 3G network. I tried a few of the popular titles like Seesmic for Twitter access, Yelp for restaurants and ShopSavvy for barcode reading. All worked fine except Yelp did not have the augmented reality feature as found on the iPhone version. I did like the Google Goggles app just announced last week. With it you can snap a picture of a book, a product, a landmark, even a face. Goggles will then scan the image and return search information based on your image. Very cool. The Motorola Droid phone is solid, even a bit heavier than the iPhone 3GS. I've heard a lot of people complain about the physical keyboard but people complained about the iPhone screen keyboard when it first came out. My only comment is since the Droid has a screen keyboard, it could do away with the physical keyboard and reduce some weigh and complexity. The screen for the Droid is very crisp making for clear images. I also like the Voice activation capabilities with the Droid. I must also mention, last week there was an upgrade to the Android operating system to 2.0.1. The phone automatically prompted me of the update and proceeded to download it. Quite seamless. All in all a very nice phone. One that will be a major player in the smartphone market. Right now though IMHO, the Droid is more suited for the early geek adopter. The true test is the Mom test. Moms are more incline to get immediate benefit from the iPhone before the Droid. I'll update this post as I get more information. Unfortunately I will have to return this phone shortly. Stay tuned to the Dec. 30 edition of Bytemarks Cafe where we will have a couple of gadget geeks on to talk about their impression of the Droid.

Digital Imagery Exhibit

I just got word of an upcoming show called Digital Imagery in Hawaii 2009 featuring local photographers. The show is juried by David Ulrich and Jerry Omo, Jr. and will be held at the Canon Gallery, 210 Ward Avenue, Suite 701. The exhibition is sponsored by Pacific New Media and is designed to provide a snapshot of the "state of the art" of digital media in Hawaii. According to the requirements, you must have taken the image digitally; i.e., cell phone, digital camera, or scanner. Image must have been created within the past two years and not previously exhibited. The show runs from March 2nd to March 31st. The exhibit opening is on Monday, March 2nd from 11am to 2pm. Several friends of mine are in it including Craig Ellenwood, Lisa Hoang (@windwardskies) and Carrie Matsunaga (@oreogirl). It sounds like a cool show and certainly a great way to spend a lunch hour getting lost in the imagery.

Woopra

WoopraAfter moving the Bytemarks blog from Blogger.com to WordPress, I felt compelled to spend a little more time with Woopra, the web analytics tool. When Lorelle VanFossen was here in October with Mactoberfest and Podcamp she was singing the praises of Woopra. I love the fact that it has a ready made plugin for WordPress. You just ftp it into the plugin folder and away you go. There's a lot to be said about Woopra. It provides live updates to your website stats. The Dashboard is the obvious place to start with the complete snapshot of what is happening with your site. It gets interesting when you click on the Live tab in the left-hand menu bar. That view shows you the activity on your site at that very moment. You can watch as people (and bots) visit your site. You can even chat with them although I haven't tried that feature yet, opting to respect people's browsing privacy. I think it might be a little weird if someone was browsing the site and I popped in to say "Howzit". Another feature I like is the Search tab. Here is where you get a history of your recent visitors, where they've linked from and their general location. All this happening live. Woopra is still in beta (what isn't) and you will need an invite code. I had to beg Lorelle for mine. If you are nice to her maybe she will send you one or you can try signing up directly with Woopra. The four day Thanksgiving weekend is coming to a close. It's been an interesting 4 days with a lot of time to think about what is important and to give thanks to all the blessings I've been fortunate to recieve. I am thinking about my wife and her group who are still waiting to get out of Thailand. They went on an art tour to the country when shortly thereafter the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters occupied the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. My wife and her friends are fine and when she called yesterday they were having fun and still in vacation mode. I expect them to be back home on Thursday, four days longer than planned. I am sure they will have some stories to tell.